As a single working mum, I often find myself bogged down in the day-to-day nitty-gritty of parenthood, so busy finding everyone matching shoes and remembering to at least offer fruit regularly, that I forget to notice the wonder of life.
One of the joys of having children though is that they make you stop, think, and see things through their eyes. Their enthusiasm and imagination is infectious and if you spare some time to step into their world, you can gain a whole new and inspiring perspective on what you would normally take for granted.
Take last night for example. Yesterday was a busy day, and in my rush to meet deadlines I forgot to buy yeast for the breadmaker. A forgivable crime I’m sure in the grand scheme of things. On our way home from Badgers therefore, Belle and I stopped off at our local newsagents for a loaf of bread.
When we got home, I gave Belle the bread to carry in, and as she picked her way carefully to the front door (I obviously haven’t done anything sensible like clear the snow from the path) she looked at the bread curiously.
“Mummy,” she asked me, “is this bread sliced?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Already?” she asked, a look of amazement on her face.
“Yes,” I said again.
“Wow!!” she exclaimed.
If only we could all see the wonder in something so simple…
Flickr image from nettsu
As many of you know, I have something of a soft spot for Lib Dem politicians… if you haven’t already, you can read about my Clegg-crush here at Mookychick.
Clegg’s appeal increased further today then when he openly scoffed childcare guru Gina Ford and her controversial childcare routines. Talking about his experience of using Ford’s ‘Contented Little Baby Book’, Clegg is quoted in the Times as saying “With our first one, like all new parents, we religiously followed Gina Ford. Instructions like, stick him in a broom cupboard at 7.46am. At 7.48am, take him out, do not look at him . . . Absolute nonsense.”
I couldn’t agree more! Although millions of parents swear by Ford’s strict regimes, I have always been shocked by her attitude to raising children – not just because of the trauma I believe her harsh routines can expose babies to, but also the pressure it puts on parents. How can it feel good to have someone tell you to just sit and listen to your baby cry??
Books like Ford’s take the power away from parents, making them question their own judgement and instincts. As a species, we have managed to survive for thousands of years without parenting manuals like these – as women, we are designed to bear and nurture our children. We don’t need anyone to tell us how to do it.
Ford hit back at Clegg, warning him that his outburst could cost him much-needed support at the general election. I think she’s wrong – anybody who is prepared to stand up to Gina gets my vote.
Make cup of tea, stare vaguely out of the window for a little while, check emails in case someone interesting has decided to spontaneously offer me work and/or a love affair…
And so begins my first day back at work.
I work at home, and most of the time I love it. It can be difficult sometimes to get motivated, and admittedly a lot of my time is spent in forums, obsessing over blog stats, or compulsively refreshing my emails, but I’m pretty sure that’s what most people do in offices anyway, I just have the bonus of not having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder.
School holidays are hard though. My study is right there at the top of the stairs, trying to lure me in every time I go to the bathroom. My laptop stares at me, sometimes I swear it winks – it is trying to seduce me.
I want to switch off, to be spending Quality Time with the children, baking cookies, toasting things on sticks around an open fire and other such wholesome activities I am led to believe happen in other families. But it is difficult. How do you leave work behind you in the holidays when your office is inside your house??
Today Belle went back to school and I had six whole hours in the house on my own, the solitary day to myself that I have been craving for nearly three weeks. Oh the joy! The decadence of roaming the house alone, no Disney channel soundtrack to my day, nobody asking me things or wanting things! It is bliss.
For an hour or so anyway. And then it gets a bit dull and I wish there was someone there to gossip with, to look over my shoulder and ask if facebook really constituted work. Perhaps I’ll just have a little check of my emails, who knows what the last twenty minutes may have bought me…
“Please wear your coat to school today,” I beg of my teen as I leave the house at eight this morning.
“Why?” she replies, a look on her face of genuine bemusement, tinged with disgust at the very notion of dressing sensibly.
I hesitate for a moment and the ridiculousness of this as a response. “Um… the sub-zero temperatures?” A solid argument I feel.
“Ergh,” not a very witty comeback, “but where am I supposed to put it?” she asks.
“The general idea is that you wear it,” I reply.
This kind of exchange is endlessly frustrating and demoralising. I really feel I am being quite reasonable in requesting that she doesn’t make the two mile round trip to school through icy winds in just a thin shirt and unbuttoned blazer, (it is apparently a complete faux pas to actually do it up), and yet I am made to feel like that most irritating of all mothers – a nag.
It is very tiresome to have to repeat this sort of conversation over and over, and it can often leave me feeling lonely. On the family battlefield I am, quite literally, one man down – one woman on her own against two children. Two very opinionated children at that. It is in these kind of situations that I miss the voice in the background, the often ineffective but nevertheless reassuring deeper voice, dispensing supportive one liners – “Listen to your mother!”
When you parent alone, you have to be good cop AND bad cop, maintain friendly relations yet still command respect. Maybe I could try developing a multiple personality disorder? Or recording an authoritative male voice off the radio – John Humphries perhaps – to be played back in times of crisis. Hmmm. Or maybe not. I’ll get my coat…
Flickr pic by Dangerpup
Tonight I spent a tedious hour and a half sat cross-legged on the hard floor of a freezing church hall, my senses overwhelmed by the din of 30 noisy badgers. Not the striped, hairy type – this was the ‘small children learning useful skills’ variety – a group run by St John Ambulance. It’s along the lines of scouts, but with a rather simpler and more elegant black and white uniform.
This was Belle’s first taster session, an effort on my part to engage her in some kind of non-tv based out of school activity.
The minute we step into the hall my exuberant, often overwhelming seven year old transforms into a timid bundle of nerves. At home, grown men and feisty teenagers have been known to cower in fear – some have actually fled. The one day I am banking on her over confidence to carry her through and she bottles it.
It takes half an hour to persuade her to join in at all – a half hour with her spent clinging to my arm – and only then with the promise that I will remain sat in the corner, shivering, just in case.
An hour in and I can’t feel my nose or my feet. It’s alright for the kids, they get to warm up with parachute games. I think of it as an investment. I get her established here and I buy myself 90 minutes every Monday evening to do whatever I want – drink cocktails, learn Salsa, take a lover… Or maybe just go to Sainsbury’s on my own, which in single parent land is the biggest treat of all…
Parenting alone can be dull at the best of times – you don’t get out much in the evenings and find yourself taking pleasure in the simplest of things. A quiet cup of tea alone becomes a ‘treat’ and the anticipation of sitting down on your own to watch Come Dine With Me is what gets you through the day.
Tonight then I am in heaven. I am watching The Big Fat Quiz of 2009, I have a cup of tea in one hand and a box of After Eights in the other. Belle is in bed reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – very wholesome – and Bee is barricaded in her room on msn, probably swigging from a can of Relentless – not quite so wholesome, but out of my way at least.
And I get to spend two hours imagining what it would be like if David Mitchell were my actual real life friend… I indulge myself with a fantasy that we casually meet at a party and David is impressed with my ready wit, laughing out loud at my sarcastic take on the news events of the day. Maybe one day I will get to go out in the evening and then who knows. A girl can dream….