Mummy’s In A Half State.

‘Quality Time’. The ultimate phrase that basically kicked off the era of parent guilt.

My kids are now 9 and 3. While most parents seem to lament every year, month, week that passes I would place myself firmly at the other end of the scale. I relish every week, month, and year that passes. If that sounds callous, hear me out.

Kids Rock

Kids are awesome! Unless you spend a significant amount of your time around children (which I’m sure most of us here do, actually) it would be difficult to accurately describe how astoundingly amazing the little beastlings are.

They learn at a rate of knots, and all at once. While us dinosaur adults need to focus on one skill at a time, children are constantly learning. They draw upon every tiny experience and they’re always looking for more.

Let me pause here to make it clear that I am not talking about school. My 9 year old who has been a proficient reader for years now when faced with a change of teacher exclaimed ‘What if the new teacher doesn’t give us as much reading time?!’ also is the person who reads the least out of us all at home. Including my 3 year old. But even though she chooses not to read at home yet confesses to love it at school she is still constantly learning and changing. Not all learning comes from books.

…my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week.

Anyway, I digress, my point is that my kids really astound me. Watching them learn and grow is genuinely incredible. My 3 year old can tell you the name of almost every dinosaur just because he’s really interested in dinosaurs and my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week. Her world view is changing and her thoughts are beginning to reach more outside of herself. Whilst my 9 year old considers how big the world is and her possible place within it, my 3 year old is practising gross motor skills. He likes playing football and catch. Most recently, he’s really into sorting and measuring. He sorts his cars into colour groups and tips things from one container to another to see what happens, completely independently. We saw a stick insect today and he asked if he could touch it. I mean, he had no clue if it would bite, jump, or sting, he just decided ‘I wanna know what that thing feels like’. I love it.

Babies are cute and all but…

I must confess to feeling a bit confused when people say they miss their babies. Especially when they’re still only little kids. I mean, I can imagine wanting to jump back a few years when you’re dealing with teenagers! I think I’m a bit peculiar in this way and I don’t mean they shouldn’t say it at all, in fact I think it’s really sweet but when I remember my kids as babies I feel like I had that time and it was good at the time, you know?

Another indisputable plus is that the bigger they get the more freedom I have. Breastfeeding has stopped and I’m no longer the only person in the whole world who can put my son to bed. I can explain to him that I’m going out and I will be back for bedtime, or Daddy will put him to bed that night and he understands that.

I can arrange an evening coffee with a friend. I can do a ten week evening course. I can go for a weekend breakfast date with another friend. I can take a ten minute shower in the day while he plays with his toys. I even went to Venice for two nights. And I bloody loved it.

I Am Home

“I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung.”

BUT. What is this post about – Mummy’s in a half state? I am still the main carer. Numero Uno. I’m a stay at home mum while my husband works full time. It’s the way we’ve always done things since we had our first baby all those 9 years ago. That is pretty amazing in A LOT of ways (see above) but it also means that I’m the fall guy. As in, I am base, I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung. I am unmovable, reliable, constant. The top end of my allocated range is a two night city break.

Let me just intercept this bit here by saying…I really wouldn’t like to have it any other way. My kids are my life and fuck anyone who says they shouldn’t be.

I’m Not All There

I’ve realised that a lot of the time I’m with the kids I’m in a half state. Half reading a story, half folding laundry. Half washing dishes, half dancing in the kitchen. Half making a meal, half playing cars. I’m hardly ever all there. My attention is not all theirs. When Daddy is home that’s the only time there is a possibility I’ll get a break from 24/7 mum-ing. I might go upstairs to write or have a bath or meet a friend for a coffee.

If it’s been a trying week I might bury my face in my phone rather than get us out to the park (and then feel guilty about it). Or if I’ve had a titful of laundry and making meals and all the other stuff I might say to myself ‘right, now I’m going to sit down and have a break and go on Instagram’ whereas my 3 year old is thinking ‘Mum I’ve been entertaining myself all this time you’ve been faffing about and now I need some attention’.

We have the best time when we’re out of the house together and I’m free from the distraction of menial house labour. Even though feeling the pressure to wash up or get tea ready when we get back is inevitable.

Quality Time

We always have great fun in the summer holidays and I think that’s why, because we get out a lot and go on days out together. Marvelling at the beetles and running down inclines, feeding goats, touching stick insects and going on bumpy tractor rides.

Maybe that’s partly why I love holidays so much as well, because we’re all together and we’re all present in the moment. Or as the ‘parenting experts’ from 2006 might tell you, spending quality time.

So yeah, sorry kids you’ve been speaking to a half me all this time, I promise I meant to give you my all.

P.S. Am I the only one who reads this title as ‘Mummy’s in a half state – turtle power!’??

Mum Talk – Talk Mums!

I went out to the cinema last night with a female friend. I haven’t done that for ages, it was lovely. We were chatting in the car ride there and back (because we drove 20 minutes to get to a cinema that only charges £3.50 per seat) and the conversation turned to how challenging general life can sometimes be as a mum. Life as a mum is full of joyful moments and full of happiness in the main part but sometimes it is hard. There’s no getting away from it. But do we as mums talk about it enough?

Picture Perfect

Mum Talk

Life as a mum can be hard in many different ways but we were generally discussing the juggle of all. The. Things. I have a lot of thoughts about community and support network and how vital and simultaneously lacking they are in modern motherhood but I’m sure you’ve read a lot of that lately. What we got into last night was the all-pervading idea that when you’re a mum everything should be picture perfect.

I personally felt very vulnerable when I was pregnant. It’s not something I bring up a lot because often when I talk about being pregnant it’s because I’m with a pregnant friend and I feel like I don’t want to put a downer on things. I don’t talk about my second baby’s traumatic birth unless it’s with people who were around me at the time. I certainly don’t talk about it to pregnant women because I don’t want to scare them or make them think it might happen to them. Interestingly, the last time I opened up to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while about it she explained that she had in fact experienced a similar birth. The odds of which are so very slim it was almost funny. Almost.

Mum Talk

I have more than a couple of life experiences I keep in a hidden lock box particularly relating to my life since becoming a mum. I think we all do, and isn’t it a shame? Because maybe if we all talked more about the difficult experiences as well as the amazing we would all feel more empowered as mums.

Hopefully you have those friends you feel you can have a moan to and you don’t feel judged by if you say you’re having a rubbish day. Perhaps those friends are in a similar position to you in their lives. I hope you have those friends. But perhaps we also need to be bolder in sharing the big things with mums we don’t know so well?

I’m not even entirely convinced it’s the right thing to do. Maybe there’s a balance? For instance, maybe if I had been more forward in sharing my baby’s birth story it could have helped another pregnant woman feel braver to ask for an extra scan. Yet also I know there was a time when it was just all too raw to talk about at all.

Help or Hindrance?

I think we also need to consider is it relevant? If a mum is having a hard time breastfeeding and we share how we got over some obstacles that may be helpful. Do you think it is still helpful to go into detail about the hard journey you had with breastfeeding if mum is doing just fine? I’m not so sure. When I was pregnant first time round I had a lot of women tell me how hard they found breastfeeding (sometimes completely unsolicited) to the point where I was under the impression that breastfeeding was nigh on impossible. I would say “I’m hoping to breastfeed” rather than “I’m going to breastfeed” because 1. I felt like I was being naïve to say it absolutely and 2. I didn’t want to offend anyone who had found it hard!

Pregnancy and motherhood are such an emotional time in our lives. Things like birth and breastfeeding are emotive topics. Perhaps being vocal about our difficult times needs thoughtful timing. But I do think if we were all just a bit braver in sharing our bad experiences it would help to alleviate some of the immense pressure to be perfect.

Holding Space

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all learned how to listen to one another without taking the other person’s experience as a reflection on ourselves or what we do? I’ve heard this referred to as ‘holding space’ and I think it is one of my all-time favourite phrases. If we were all able to ‘hold space’ for one another, the bad experiences might get mixed in more with the amazing and that would facilitate a more universally realistic reflection of the experience of motherhood.

Talk to your mum friends today. It might bolster them. Let’s chase down the picture-perfect ideal and kick it back to way back when!

How do you feel about this topic? Do you feel OK talking about the big things as well as the everyday? Do you think you would feel more comfortable sharing your hard experiences if you heard other women doing the same?