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It’s not that I don’t have the answer

12 Feb

Dear God!
Sometimes I feel like a moron. I’ve always been bad at quizzes, but tonight I watched University Challenge for the first time in a decade or so.
It’s not that I didn’t know the answers to the questions.. hell I can hardly pull an answer out of my mental bag for a local pub quiz, let alone compete with Trinity Cambridge.
My disappointment in myself lay in the fact that I could barely concentrate on or even understand the question. “In 1800 when the sum of xxx was y squared what in fact was the sum of the article… and so on and on.

Totally incomprehensible. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop myself from halfway through the question, thinking “Jeremy your hair’s really grey now” or “oh this green and blacks dark chocolate is really quite orangey.”

Clearly the fact that I can’t even focus on the question means I will never make the dizzy heights of UC or anything remotely intellectual.

Having said that it equally – hopefully – means I won’t ever have to don the Neil-from-The-Young-Ones 70s style hair cut that one boy was sporting on the show.

Cheap shot I know, but it’s one of the few strings left to my bow when the only quiz questions I have confidently answered in the last few years have been …

1. Who lives on the island of Sodor?
2. What fictional mouse dreams up a monster who turns out to exist?

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The third baby – Time’s a ticking

8 Nov

And so it begins.

Just 4 months after my 40th birthday and swearing blind that I’ll never have another child, I can feel that tickety tock thing kicking off somewhere deep inside my ovaries. It’s a weird feeling. It’s totally irrational. We’re very lucky. We have a boy and a girl, both healthy, both happy. We’ve talked about it, having a third – but we don’t have the money – or inclination. That is, until now.

This summer was the first holiday we’ve taken since we started the baby-thon that we didn’t need to pack nappies or bring a push chair. We travelled lighter, went further, could eat later, stay out an enjoy a pizza at night with friends without total melt-downs. It was a watershed moment. The hubs and I exchanged smug glances of “that phase is over” here comes a brave new world.

Enter small cute newborn. And another. And another. It seems like fate is throwing them at me faster than my poor aged ovaries can produce eggs. My smallest ‘baby’ is nearly four. The infant I think I have is, in reality, a giant when compared to a newborn, full of willie waggling gestures, poo-rhyming songs and general jumping to which 4 year old boys are want. The newborn by comparison, sleeps a lot on a shoulder, is tiny, beautiful, perfect – and yet to form a personality which requires you to chastise, reprimand, commend or praise.

The placidity (word?) has an appeal in a world filled with chaotic 4 and 6 year olds – and whilst I must admit I’ve spent the last few years realising that I’m not an earth mother and enjoy children much more once they are able to communicate – I now look at these tiny sleeping angels and think – “I’d do better next time, this time I know not to get stressed, I know what to do, when and how to juggle it all. Maybe I’d actually get it right with number 3.”

So in creeps the doubt. They look so tiny, so harmless, so completely incapable of turning life upside down, inside out. How could that happen. Surely not. Tick tock.

 

It’s all about willies now

14 Oct

“Stop fiddling with your willie”,

“I don’t care if you like it when your willie is ‘strong'”

“No, you cannot show your teacher your ‘strong’ willie”

“Stop prodding your sister with your willie”

“Go on then, pee out the car, but don’t hit the door or drip into the car”

The ‘willie’ has become the focal point of my son’s world. He’s only 3. After two and a half years of oblivion, there’s fiddling, thrusting, humping, tweaking, pulling and general permanent touching. It’s incessant and nothing I say seems to be able to put a stop to it. Sentences I never thought I would have to say, such as the ones above, now come out on a regular basis… to no avail.

I know boys will be boys, but girls just don’t do this kind of thing (please don’t say they do!)  As a girl growing up with just a sister, I’m new to this whole willie-centric world of little boys but I’m learning it has its uses too. It’s not just all about the fiddle. This evening, sitting in the car in the pouring rain, J announces he desperately needs a wee but we’re five minutes away from home. “Can you hold it in darling?”

“No, mamma, really no,” comes the unwelcome reply. So with my mummy-quick-wits about me (but also a reluctance to get wet again), I pull over, stretch back, unclick his seatbelt and open his door with the infamous words, “Go on then, pee out the car, but don’t hit the door or drip into the car.”

A truly fine ‘mummy moment’ akin only to my slummy mummy NCT award, when I wiped up Ellie’s baby vomit with her baby-grow clad bottom, knowing that five minutes later it would be in the washing anyway – to the horror of all around me. I had unwittingly overstepped the funny-slummy-mummy to slummy-slummy-mummy grey line.

Just for the record, despite having to contend with Ellie and me dissolving into a mess of giggles whilst he ‘performed’, he managed it!

 

 

 

 

Turning psychotic neurotic means I need a job

13 Oct

Eeek! As I chastised my long-suffering husband for “wiping the crumbs off the granite in the wrong way” I realised I probably need to get back in the real world, get a real job and get a sense of perspective.

It’s not that I don’t work. I do. Not only do I do all the mumsy stuff: to-ing and fro-ing kids to school, swimming, back n’ forth from playdates and parties, I also do all the cleaning, shopping, cooking and even hold down the remnants of a sort of journalistic career.

So far, so average. But what’s tipped me over the edge I fear, is that after 3 years of working by myself, for myself, I’ve hit an impasse – not the first woman to do this by any means, but it’s hit me rather by surprise I must admit.

As my children slowly become embroiled in full time education, I’m left with the ‘freelance career’ that used to fill the gaps in between sporadic childcare, but which now seems an odd dead end. I’m lucky to get enough work to get by but not lucky (talented?!) enough to yet get a proper career from a column or book etc. So I find myself in unchartered waters career-wise. Quite odd for a girl who for the best part of the last 20 years has defined herself by her career – well in my own head at least.

So the psychotic neurotic temperament has slowly grown to the point where the poor old hubs gets short shrift for misplaced crumbs, the cleaning takes on a weird priority and daily meals become a focal point to fixate on conjuring up the perfect family scene.

To worry about or do these things is not in itself an issue of course, but to fixate on them is. The road to bored housewife must surely be paved with lack of fulfilment. Meaningful things to do where you feel valued for who you are in a professional capacity – not as a mum, cleaner, cook or wife – must be key to that.

So here begins the search for the next chapter in my life. Full-time mum, full-ish time worker. Lets’ see what happens. Any tips welcome.

Working 9-5 – it’s no way to make a livin’

28 Mar

I’m no Guido Fawkes, raging political commentator or even Dolly Parton (sadly) but it seems to me we really need to radically rethink the way both women and men work for the next generation.

Clegg’s latest suggested working mother benefit is tinkering around the edges pure and simple, with a grand here and a grand there.  It is just a distraction from the main event. We will never solve the problem of women returning to work after children unless the entire working culture is changed.

Clegg’s stab at it has enraged stay at home mothers as their hard work seems to’ve been ignored, while many working/career mothers would probably give the money up in a flash to have working life that was more sympathetic with their home life or more flexible hours, without damaging their career prospects.

The male dominated workplace –and its 9-5 culture – is the culprit and nothing else really matters before this issue is addressed. And it needs to be radically rethought. In this age of instant messaging, working from home, internet, skype etc, it cannot be beyond the wit of man (or women) for employers to embrace part time work properly once and for all. So that means accepting that many women – who are highly skilled in all sorts of areas – can do a serious job, but within the hours of 9.30am t0 3pm.

Let me take a step back. We all know that many women fall off the career cliff and there’s a dearth of estrogen at senior management and board levels. This is due in a large part to the child-rearing issue. Many women I know were heading up the ladder and doing very well, keeping up with men and doing better than men in many cases, before the babies arrived.

But now, five years later with our toddlers, pre-schoolers, and reception kids in tow, many of these ladies have gone back in some way shape or form to their former employers or to new jobs but in a smaller, more junior role – doing the grunt work and picking up the other projects that no one else wants to do, because at it’s safe, it’s something and it’s better than nothing.

But what a waste of a great talent pool. We are missing out on these excellent minds which have been well educated, learned from experience in the workplace, learned about life from becoming a mother – plus have often become much better multi-taskers and much better people managers in the process too.

If forward thinking employers could only look at women returning to work as assets and allow them to work around their family but in jobs that are at use their level of expertise– I would be very surprised if many were let down. It’s a bank of talent that’s waiting to be tapped and the first employers to do so will surely reap huge rewards.

We are not all Sheryl Sandeburgs. Many of us, myself included, just want interesting work that makes the most of all our skills, experience and knowledge, which is fairly paid, and that we can do while the children are at school.

It can’t be right that so many women to have to take huge backwards steps and accept lesser roles in order to try and achieve some semblance of work-life balance.

 

Women are rubbish at sport

15 Mar

Really?

Well if you talk to the mums and women I know, that’s what you’d believe. Recently I set up a weekly training session with ‘Ron’ – a fabulous trainer who I’d met while working on a feature.

But as a sex, I must confess we are rubbish. Not one of the women I spoke to said: “yeah but watch out as I get really competitive, so be prepared to eat my dust.”

It was all: “Well… I’m really bad at sports/I’m really unfit/I haven’t done any exercise since the birth of Tiddles/ I can’t run….” you get the picture. And I’m not judging them because I include myself in this. I regularly use the lines: “I make a ‘grapevine’ look like Spaghetti hoops” and “I gave up aerobics as I knew my super-bad co-ordination would never improve so I’d be able to actually go in the right direction as the rest of the class.” to belittle my abilities – which as it turns out are not quite as awful as I remember.

It’s just insane and I’m coming across it ALL the time – Many of the women I now know are the women all those articles were written about over International Women’s Day – we are the lost mummies – the professional women who had good careers up till about 35, then had kids and are now floundering in the ridiculous ‘you-can-have-it-all’ mantra we were promised as children of the 80s but clearly doesn’t exist.

But it’s not just these women who have this self doubt – and it’s not just in sports – this was just the latest example.

Over the years I’ve interviewed many successful women (often not mothers) and I would guestimate that at least 80-90% of them have self doubt and are constantly scared that they are going to be found out as frauds and will be ‘discovered’ as inept or incapable of doing their job.

What is it in the female psyche that makes us put ourselves down so much… and so often? I just can’t imagine men saying those things. We limit ourselves by our own put-downs. Surely there are enough external influences out there in the big wide world to put us down and challenge our success, we shouldn’t need to sabotage ourselves and our own potential as well.

I don’t know what the answer is, it seems no one does – but it sure isn’t belittling ourselves and our abilities. Every one of the women I’ve come across is not only super-capable, intelligent, charming but they are also adeptly juggling more than most circus performers. That’s not to be sniffed at, or belittled. Ever. Especially by ourselves.

Middle Aged Drunk Dialling

9 Oct

I’ve long been a fan of Caitlin Moran, and having enjoyed her articles & book, I then finally got round to reading this piece “I got the infant from Time Out drunk”

I would just like to point out to the juvenile puker at Time Out, that although he may have vommed, Ms Moran was not exactly immume to the effects of the vino. As any slummy-mummy will know, Boden shopping to mums is essentially mummy porn for the middle class, slightly tipsy mother – or maternal drunk dialling if you will, for want of a better equivalent.

Better we shop online & spend a small fortune while fantasising about perfectly coiffed kids than fantasise about other men, dialing up old flames or generally causing more trouble for ourselves than need be.

Boden can always be returned & refunded. No harm done.