Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Parklife - An Homage

My daughter and I have begun making a pilgrimage to the park on almost a daily basis.

Most days it's just us, sometimes Daddy comes too, and recently we even met up with some other mother and baby buddies (when I discovered I apparently push the swings shockingly high for a nine-month-old... But she loves it!).

Anyway, I was thinking of a way to pay tribute to our new ritual in blog form, and have decided to take inspiration from one of the great poets of the Twentieth Century, Damon Albarn. 

So here is my reinterpretation of Parklife, through the eyes of a parent. Well, life is all a bit of a Blur these days...

Distraction is a preference for the habitual subscriber to what is known as...
And late afternoon meltdown can be avoided if you take a buggy straight to what is known as...
Jane's got neurotic mother syndrome, she gets intimidated by the rowdy older children on the roundabout, they love a bit of danger.
Who's that woman doing lunges with her pram?! You should cut down on your exercise mate, have an ice cream.
All the parents,
So many parents,
And they all go in desperation,
Exhaustedly through their Parklife.
Know what I mean?
I get up when I want, except pretty much everyday when I get rudely awakened by my baby shouting for attention.
I put my dirty leggings on, have at least three cups of coffee and I think about leaving the house.
I feed the ducks, I sometimes feed the pigeons and the seagulls too,
Forget feelings of well-being, it fills up the morning until lunchtime.
And I try to keep her happy for the rest of the day, safe in the knowledge there will always be a bit of time, once she's in bed, which I can devote to Netflix.
All the parents,
So many parents,
And they all go packed-lunch-under-the-pram,
Sleepwalking through their Parklife.
It's got nothing to do with the children's enjoyment, you know?
It's just something to do while every sodding baby group shuts down for the summer holidays and the weeks until September go on and on and on...
Altogether now:
All the parents,
So many parents,
And they all go hand-in-hand
With a tireless child through their Parklife. 
Admissions Of A Working Mother
Rhyming with Wine
Pink Pear Bear
The Pramshed

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Twilight Zone

It's late afternoon. At least it feels like it is.

My daughter is starting to get tetchy. She's lost interest in every single toy she owns, she doesn't fancy any of her favourite games such as Peepo, looking in the mirror or emptying Mummy's handbag all over the floor and even The Wheels On The Bus seems to have lost its appeal.

"It must be about 10 past four", I think. "If I can just try and keep her amused for another half an hour.

"Then she can come into the kitchen and watch me make her supper. The change of room will distract her for about five minutes. Then I can bribe her with a few breadsticks until the food is ready.

"She'll inhale that in about 10 minutes, maximum... Both courses.

"Then I just have to drag out bathtime for as long as possible without her turning blue. Get her ready for bed, say goodnight to Daddy if he is home in time, story, feed, and she'll be down by 5 to 6. That can't be too early to put a nine-month-old to bed, can it?"

I steel myself and look at my watch.

It is only half past three!

The point is, I've been wondering, when IS it too early to put a child to bed?

It seems there is a cut off point when it comes to too late. But too early?

Sometimes when she's gone into meltdown and I'm tired and hungry and itching to watch Celebrity Masterchef with a glass of wine, I start to wonder if this all could have been avoided if I'd just got her tucked up in bed as soon as she started to show signs of tiredness.

Is going to bed at 5.30pm once in a while really such a bad thing? Perhaps 5pm would be pushing it.

Over the last couple of weeks, bedtime has been gradually creeping further and further forward.

My daughter has never been a napper. She gets in about an hour of sleep in the morning and hardly ever naps in the afternoon.

The summer holidays have started and there is no longer Rhymetime at the local library or Messy Play at the children's centre to fill our day.

If she's lucky we arrange to meet some other babies in a park somewhere, or I just take her to the swings on her own. Otherwise it's a trip around Lidl and watch Mummy hang washing on the line for entertainment.

And these long hot days haven't helped. She's worn out and whinging by late afternoon, refusing to admit defeat and have a rest, and so the best way to satiate her seems to be to start feeding her and winding down for the big sleep.

I'm beginning to wonder if the health advice for the number of hours children are recommended to sleep is really for the wellbeing of the parent.

From about four o'clock onwards we've both had enough of each other and the countdown begins to when I can get some precious time of my own to read a book, watch television, or just go to the loo.

The weekends are even worse if we're at home all day. Her father suggests opening some wine or some snacks, but I know I won't really get a chance to have any until the baby is far away in the land of nod.

Then she and I both become increasingly restless as the evening drags on, and I dream of the moment I tiptoe out of the nursery door and shut it behind me.

So while she is still too young to understand the concept of time, I steal it from her while she slumbers and relish every moment.

How early do you think is too early to put a baby to bed?
Pink Pear Bear
A Mum Track Mind

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

A Provençal Life

We spent last weekend in Provence for a friend's baby's Christening.

I had been dreading it.

Waking my daughter up in the middle of the night to travel to the airport for a 7.30am flight was actually one of the least of my worries, far down the list below the stress of knowing what to pack, remembering to pack it and then stressing it would be lost en route.

I don't enjoy travelling. I'm alright when I reach my destination, it's the getting there that bothers me. So many connections to miss, so many things to forget and go wrong.

Only this time, because we had a baby in tow, we booked a taxi to take us to the airport. And it was worth every penny.

My daughter was not too pleased about being woken up at 4.30am but as soon as she was offered some banana she sat back and enjoyed the ride.

I felt positively zen as we rocked up at baggage drop with hours to spare and were told that now our buggy had been tagged we could keep it until we boarded the plane.

I had thought I would have to lug my baby through security and around Duty Free until take off. But I was able to whizz her around in a pushchair that seemed light as a feather, since I had emptied out all the toys, wet wipes, stale rice cakes and general junk.

They even have a special security section for people with babies. You're allowed to take as much food and liquid through as you need, and the staff are understanding and sympathetic to the difficulties of unloading a buggy, juggling a baby, and why you might need an excessive number of purée pouches and bananas.

Our flight was delayed by an hour, but the novelty of all the new faces at the airport kept my daughter amused. She waved at all the security guards, tried to grab scarves off racks in Duty Free, and gazed in wonder at all the bright, flashing screens.

She was even more excited by the time we boarded the plane, and was delighted to see the woman sitting in front had long curly hair just waiting to be pulled... But I breastfed her for take off to stop her ears popping and she dropped off for most of the flight, while I actually managed to read more than half a page of my book.

The house where we were staying was amazing. I only wish we'd taken them at their word when they said, "Come and stay for as long as you like."

By 1pm we were cooling off from the blazing sunshine with a dip in the pool, before we were called to lunch.

Bowls of salad, plates of roast chicken legs and baskets of bread were laid out on a long table outside the back of the house, flanked on either side by several generations of a huge French family and their guests.

As I sat down someone poured me a glass of iced rosé that never seemed to get empty.

I felt like I was in a Woody Allen film, one of his later works, painting an impossibly idealistic view of life in a European country.

After splashing away happily in the pool and rolling about on the grass in her nappy all afternoon, my daughter went to bed with no fuss.

As I descended the stone stairs from our top floor room, I fleetingly thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea to have travelled so light and left the baby alarm at home.

But as I stepped back outside and saw the long table all laid out for another spectacular feast and was handed a glass of champagne, I decided she would probably be fine.

When she did wake up in the morning we joined in the walk to the Boulangerie to buy fresh croissants and baguettes for breakfast, stopping to pick fresh figs from the tree on the way back.

The long days eating far too much bread and cheese, and then wallowing beside the pool, seemed to last forever. And yet, at the same time, the hours disappeared all too fast.

After three blissful days in paradise we said our goodbyes and were dropped off at the airport.

As we checked in our luggage we were told our flight was already delayed by an hour and a half.

When we landed in Gatwick at 1am, over three hours late, I found myself swinging my hyped-up child from hip to hip as the back-breaking Passport Control queue in front of me seemed to get longer and longer.

The dream was over. C'est la vie.
Pink Pear Bear

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Absolutely Scrabulous - A review of baby cinema

We went on a mother and daughter outing to see Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie this week.

We hadn't been to Baby Cinema since she was about four months old, when she had mainly suckled and slept throughout the main event. Now, at almost nine months, she was not going to be so docile.

Dress code was everything, darlings, so I selected a pink tartan frock my mother had bought from a charity shop with a frilly underskirt, but couldn't persuade her to keep on the tiara I had left over from an old fancy dress costume.

I wore a striped nursing t-shirt dress covered in snot. I was definitely the Saffy out of the two of us.

I packed her most distracting but least noisy toys, and a lunch box containing a large tub of sweet potato cubes, cream cheese finger sandwiches, breadsticks, rice cakes and a banana.

Before the trailers had begun she had eaten all of the sweet potato and most of the sandwiches.

Fortunately, I managed to nab a seat on the front row. Not just the only place to be seen sweetie, but in the world of Baby Cinema, the best spot for maximum play space.

The lights are not all the way down at Baby Cinema, so you can see what they get up to, and the sound is lowered to a level safe for their ears. There is a host who sits in on the screening and can request for the lights and volume to be turned up or down if there is a problem.

I forgot to bring the blanket in, but the floor is immaculately hoovered, and as everyone around had brought theirs, there wasn't even room for them all anyway.

I plonked her down among the crawlers and managed to watch a good 15 minutes of the film uninterrupted as she played with her toys and exchanged some head pats with a very jolly and agile little boy who had crawled all the way along from the other end of the row.

As well as being very amiable, he was also extremely generous, and kept offering her the rice cakes his mother gave him. The boy next to us kept throwing his on the floor too, so she ate at least four rice cakes that didn't belong to her, as well as all her packed lunch.

Sadie Frost's fleeting appearance in the film did make me think for a second that I should probably be a little bit more careful about her eating things off the floor in public... But I was pretty confident she was only hoovering up crumbs of puffed rice and not Class As, Patsy style.

When she'd tired of toys and there was no more food to stuff into her mouth, I resorted to giving her her lunchtime breastfeed early, which meant I was able to watch much more of the film in peace and appreciate many of the visual 'in jokes' Ab Fab is, well, fabulous for.

And then when she'd had enough of that I decided to take an Eddy Monsoon-style relaxed attitude to screen-time and let her sit on my lap and watch the film.

All those bright colours and patterns meant she seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

It's hard to give a full critique of Jennifer Saunders' effort on the script as I spent 40 per cent of the, conveniently short, 91 minutes being distracted by a small child.

But overall, I enjoyed the film.

It was better than the last series of Ab Fab, which had started to lose it a bit I thought, and certainly had enough of the witty social observation, pithy one-liners and brilliantly-placed cameos to make me laugh out loud.

I'm not sure I would recommend baby cinema if your child is past six months though, you just can't concentrate enough on the film. Unless they are absolutely fabulously behaved.

Barbican Parent and Baby Screenings are on Mondays at 11.30am and cost £6 for a parent and child under 12 months.

What A Way To Make A Livin'

A feeling of anxiousness has been creeping up on me over the last few weeks.

My daughter is approaching her nine month milestone and while for some this could also be the time when they begin to worry about going back to work, for me it has brought a different worry. 

Fear Of Not Going Back To Work.

I accepted redundancy four months into my maternity leave. The previous four months had felt dominated with long emails and phone calls to a solicitor as I struggled to cling on to my job. And though there are laws in place to protect women who choose to become mothers and want to keep working, I was put in a position where it was impossible for me to return to my former employment.

When it was finally all over I felt shaken. But then I resolved to put it all to one side and focus on my daughter and our time together, now the cloud was no longer hanging over my maternity leave.

Only now the time has come when I would have begun negotiating how I would return to work, and instead I must begin looking for a new job from scratch.

I really want to go back to work.

I loved - sorry LOVE, present tense - being a journalist. It was the career I had dreamt of since I was a little girl. Well, maybe not quite how I pictured it would be, but I set my sights on my goal and I achieved it.

I love my daughter. And I really do enjoy spending my day handing her sticky bits of banana to stuff in her face, building towers for her to knock over, pushing her on the swings, letting her splash bath water all over me and watching her sleep.


And this has been really hard to admit, because I do not want, or mean, to say that, "I don't want to be just a mother."

There is no such thing as "JUST" a mother. 

It is an incredibly hard, demanding, important and fulltime job. I don't care what people say.  (And I have met Katie Hopkins, and was surprised to find that I actually quite liked her. She is secretly a very friendly, caring and considerate woman. But that doesn't mean I agree with much that she says, especially when it comes to Stay At Home Parenting.)

But I DO want to be a working mother.

I want it all. I want to kiss my daughter goodbye in the morning and trundle off to work with all the other folk, work 9 to 5, three days a week, and then spend the rest of the time being a parent.

And I know it doesn't work like that.

First of all I've got to actually find a job, or some freelance work, that will let me do those hours and still pay me enough to afford the nursery fees.

And it is scary. Especially in this post-EU Referendum economy where doom and gloom is forecast in every direction.

It's not like it was easy for mothers to work before. I have lost count of the number of people I have met who have been told that it will be cheaper for them not to work, than pay for child care.

And as I scour the job ads for those two magic words, "part time", my feeling of anxiousness grows ever stronger.

I am not giving up.

But I am starting to consider that I might be PURELY a mother for a little while longer than I anticipated.
The Pramshed
Pink Pear Bear