Monday, 21 December 2015

A Year of Facebook - THANK YOU!

This time last year, after dabbling in the bloggersphere via Twitter, I decided to set up a Facebook page. I was mortified at the thought of having a page that crashed and burned so I messaged all my friends-with-kids and gently begged them to like my page. I also pimped the page out to my existing Twitter followers.

I had no expectations, really. In fact, as I sat with a glass of wine creating the page I very nearly didn't bother publishing it. What would be the point? Twitter seemed to be the heartland of blogging and I had reservations about creating another account I'd have to update regularly. Still, there wasn't a lot on telly that evening and I had absolutely nothing to lose...

Just twelve months (and 325,000 followers, WTF?!) later, I think it's fair to say that the wine-fuelled decision to put the blog on Facebook will go down in history as one of the better life choices I've made (much better than my life choice as a teenager to pluck my eyebrows into tiny squiggles, I've spent a decade trying to encourage those skinny bastards to grow back).

Largely off the back of the whole social media explosion, 2015 has been a year of firsts.
  • I have realised, for the first time, that it really is possible to change career direction in favour of doing something you love. I have spent six months writing a book, the final proof of which is being sent to me over Christmas. Who knew, ey. Who bloody knew.
  • I have realised, for the first time, that sometimes people say mean things online. I struggled with negative comments at first - it's an indescribably shitty feeling to read nasty comments that make you want to crawl into bed and sob. But it's okay, really it is, because I've also realised that you cannot please all of the people all of the time - nor should you try to. Onwards and upwards (wankers).
  • Most importantly, I have realised for the first time that I am not alone in finding motherhood more than a bit testing at times. It turns out there are a fair few like-minded parents out there experiencing the feelings mash-up of 'I've never known love like it' and 'I'm not cut out for this shit.' Oh how I wish I'd known this when the Doubt Cloud first descended almost four years ago.
So, this post is simply a THANK YOU. For picking me up after a bad day, for making me wet myself with laughter (genuinely wetting myself at least twice) and without exaggeration for changing my life a little bit.

Happy Christmas, and here's to 2016.

Much love

PS - I do realise my blog page is temporarily looking a bit weird - I fucked up the template and quite frankly cannot be arsed to rectify it until the New Year.

PPS - I also realise it's not New Year's Eve yet but this is probably my last blog of 2015 as I plan to spend the next week drinking Prosecco and shouting, "WELL SO COULD ANYONE" along to The Pogues. Always drink responsibly though folks. Hic.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Why Is Christmas So Fancy These Days?

I absolutely loved Christmas as a child and I am keen to recreate the same level of magic and excitement for my boys. Yet as I begin to feel Christmassy, I can't help but wonder whether expectations are being set slightly too high nowadays. And I don't mean the expectations of our kids, I mean the expectations we set for ourselves.

I blame the internet. And the telly. A quick browse of Facebook and a watch of the adverts between Emmerdale and Corrie tells me that Christmas prep is no longer just about buying presents, stockpiling alcohol, decorating the tree and choosing which bird* to have. HELL NO.

Firstly, it seems there are a million and one 'essential Christmas food' items you need to buy. Like Stollen and Panettone. When did these things become Christmas essentials? I'm not disputing that they are treats traditionally devoured around this time of year but I have quite happily survived three decades of Christmasses without Panefuckingttone. Does nobody whip out the Viennetta anymore?

And actually, the internet suggests we should all be making some Christmas goods too. Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and don't forget the all-important Gingerbread House with intricate icing and jelly sweet detailing. You can buy these things, of course, but people will ask you if you've made one so it might be best to come up with an excuse you're comfortable with (I find 'God no, I can't be arsed with all that shit' gets mixed responses).

I'm already breaking out into sweats about having to make an elaborate sheep onesie when Henry starts school next year, after witnessing parents stressing out on social media about nativity costumes. I was Mary in the nativity play once and I'm pretty sure I wore a bed sheet. Everybody else wore tea towels on their heads. It did the job.

When I was little, I always thought our Christmas tree looked magical. In actual fact, it was probably a bit naf (uneven spread of decorations topped with that god-awful angel hair - does anybody else remember that?) but I can vividly remember standing and looking at the lights with a happy Christmassy glow in my heart. Sadly, a multipack of baubles from BHS and some paper-chains across the ceiling doesn't seem to cut it anymore. Nowadays, I'm told, it's all about hand crocheted decorations, elaborate fairy light displays and sophisticated colour schemes. (I have experienced the frustration of watching a toddler aggressively plonk decorations on the tree, but a quick redistribution to less crowded branches when they are in bed soon fixes that).

My sister and I often got pyjamas for Christmas (always from M&S, "yay, thanks Nan") but we didn't get a special pair delivered to wear on Christmas Eve. We didn't open Christmas Eve boxes with a personalised ceramic plate for Rudolf's carrot nor did we have a Christmas family photo shoot uploaded to Christmas cards.

Early '90s M&S PJs. I've still got that bear.
I'm fairly certain all the Christmas crafts (Father Christmas with his cotton wool beard and all that jazz) were reserved for school or playgroup. These days we're expected to paint reindeer out of baby footprints and, according to an article I read a week or so ago, Christmas origami is a fun activity to engage in with toddlers. Origami with toddlers! I'll just let that sink in.

I wasn't convinced about the Elf on the Shelf until loads of you reported that elves had proved a powerful tool in encouraging good behaviour (this sounds a lot like bribery, which is where I tend to live as a parent - so we got one). He didn't arrive in time for December 1st and instead arrived on December 5th - on paper this is a Christmas parenting disaster, but in reality it didn't matter one bit.

And when it comes to presents, well, I'm never going to be one of those 'all your children need is love' types, because my son has been sleeping with the Smyths toy catalogue so is clearly hoping for more that just my love. But I see no need to go bananas on the gift-buying. A fat OAP in a red suit takes all the credit anyway.

This isn't a dig at households who go The Whole Christmas Hog. I'm just commenting on the pressure to do it all. The way I see it, you should opt in (or opt out) of the things that suit you and your family. The things you enjoy doing. I won't be making gingerbread houses or handmade crackers anytime soon but if I enjoyed baking and crafting then maybe I would.

When Christmas Eve arrives, you should be able to kick back with a glass of wine in front of the Vicar of Dibley, or do some last minute wrapping to NOW That's What I Call Christmas! without having to worry about rustling up another batch of mince pies.

Do Christmas your way. Don't stress out about the small stuff. Remember to buy sellotape, batteries and Prosecco and it will all be fine.

The Unmumsy Mum
[*Apparently people aren't content with eating just one bird anymore, either. These days it's all about having a pigeon inside a chicken inside a dog inside a horse. What the chuff is that all about?]

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

My Darling Boy, If Only You Knew...

If only you knew, as you scream blue bloody murder at my retraction of your spoon, that I am merely going back to get you some more yoghurt. 
If only you knew, as you crumble to the floor in pure RAGE at the harness and reins you’ve discovered attached to your chest, that I am merely trying to stop you getting squished by a lorry. I wouldn’t like for you to get squished, you see.

If only you knew, as you twist your body into an impossible yoga pose, that I don’t get much enjoyment from our daily nappy wrestle either. It is not me versus you. It is the two of us versus the massive turd you have deposited, for the second time in half an hour. (The same goes for your hatred of wearing clothes and disgust at being forced into a sleeveless sleeping bag before bed - these are processes we follow to stop you from freezing.)
If only you knew, as you pull on your ears and rub your eyes, that it is not entirely my fault that you are tired. I gave you two opportunities to nap earlier in the day and you chose 5:15 p.m. to start snoozing, which is a Code Red Terrible Nap Time. One day, perhaps when you are a daddy, you will realise that opportunities to nap are golden, and discover that you would in fact sell a kidney and/or the telly to have a nap (by this point it will be too late.)

If only you knew, as you launch your upper body backwards against my collarbone and I shout ‘OWWWW YOU BASTARD!’ it is, in fact, not you that I am calling a bastard. It’s just a bastard situation – I live in hope that you will sit nicely on my lap for a book and a snuggle but it turns out you’re not really into books or snuggles right now.

If only you knew, as you look up from trying to eat your brother’s shoelace, that I’m only about to confiscate the shoe because it might have dog faeces on it from our park trip. I’m not a deliberately setting out to ruin your fun and steal all your treasure.

You are a rather strange being, my darling, but I love the bones of you. I love your laugh and the way you indiscriminately use ‘BAAAAAA’ as the sound for all farmyard animals. I love your crazy hair and the fact that you always smell of Cow & Gate Spaghetti Bolognese, even when you’ve had a wash. When you are mad at me I am usually just trying to do my job as a mummy and look after you.

If only you knew.

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Barbie and the Pumpkin - Expecting Too Much

A couple of weeks ago, in the run up to Halloween, I commented on the disastrous afternoon I was having, which had kicked off with a tantrum over a naked charity-shop Barbie and ended with me dragging a howling Henry home by his coat hood. To add insult to injury the hood was detachable and popped off as I tried to juggle the angry child with a pumpkin.
It has taken me a fortnight to realise that said afternoon will go down in family history as a story to treasure. Oh how we'll laugh about barbiepumpkingate. The whole situation was ridiculous - from his insistence on me buying him the naked Barbie (whose previous owner had obviously hacked half her fringe off) to the moment he deliberately dropped to his knees on the floor of the shopping precinct prompting a total stranger to walk past and sarcastically mutter, 'Nice.' (That was truly inspired by the way, it really helped. Twat). 

It's only now that I have worked out why barbiepumpkingate upset me so much. It wasn't the tantrum - I don't give two hoots about the public meltdowns anymore and I was actually quite glad I hadn't had £1 for the Size Zero wonky-fringed Barbie (I may otherwise have given in to keep the peace rather than delivering the valuable "I WANT" doesn't get lesson.) It certainly wasn't the first time I had steered an angry child home by his coat hood. Nothing about that afternoon was particularly out of the ordinary (except the one-armed pumpkin-carrying, which was proving a challenge).

So why did I go home and cry?

Well, maybe it boils down to expectations. You see, Henry and I don't usually have any time just the two of us anymore - it just so happened that after shifting childcare around that week we were left with a window of three hours after he finished his half-day at preschool . Not wanting to waste this opportunity I had built up an idyllic afternoon in my head. I had it all planned:

Pop into the library to choose some new books!
Stop off at local café for a milkshake!
Buy a pumpkin to carve together!

For once I would be able to hold his hand and properly chat to him without simultaneously having to steer the pushchair and placate the baby with some yoghurt raisins. It was going to be perfect.

But Henry didn't get the memo about the idyllic afternoon. He didn't know I had been looking forward to it and that so much was resting on him behaving nicely. Unfortunately for me he didn't much fancy looking at books, he didn't like the rocky road slice I bought him at the café and after that charity-shop meltdown we undoubtedly should have gone straight home. The fact I further tormented myself by nipping to the Co-op to select a pumpkin (which I chose, he couldn't be arsed) was a mistake on my part. I was trying to squeeze too much into those hours in the name of being Fun Mum.

The truth is, Henry would have been quite happy to have come straight home after pre-school and played in his room with me. We could have devoted an uninterrupted couple of hours to Lego (without me nervously checking the baby hadn't stuck a brick down his windpipe). We could have snuggled on the sofa watching Scooby Doo.

Instead I had built our afternoon up to be something that later left me disappointed. Hence the crying.

Sometimes I think I probably expect too much. I was angry with Henry for letting me down that day, for spoiling our 'special afternoon.' Yet in reality he was in a bit of a shitty mood and simply didn't appreciate my itinerary. He's three. I don't think that registered with me at all  two weeks ago - I was blinded by the Barbie and the pumpkin and the sodding detachable hood.

Of course it's lovely to plan nice things - sometimes those things will work out just fine and you'll end up holding hands and taking selfies. But sometimes they'll leave you wondering why you fucking bother. Next time I'll try to keep in mind that there is simply more to go tits up when you make grand plans.

And next time I'll carry £1 ;-)

The Unmumsy Mum

Thursday, 29 October 2015

What Would You Do?

This morning I went over for a cuppa with a mum who lives near me. We had never actually met before today but had exchanged a few emails so I was not at all surprised to find that she was warm, honest and funny and within minutes of meeting we were sharing stories about our boys – their insistence on running around naked, their obsession with Lego, the time when Henry said the F word to the man from British Gas (no not that one, the fanny one). In many ways the chat on her sofa felt much like any other coffee or playdate (I mean that in a good way - those chats have become the underpinning of my daily survival as a parent; nothing beats a brew and a good moan!)

But this was not just another coffee or playdate. In fact, from the moment I met Jo this morning there was a gigantic elephant in the room and after chatting some more about motherhood it was time for me to invite the elephant into the conversation. I wish I hadn’t had to acknowledge him at all.

You see, Jo is dying.

I have typed and deleted dying several times in the writing of this post because it kept jumping out at me from my laptop as being too direct, too frank perhaps, yet I’ve re-typed it because it’s the reality. It’s a very difficult reality to process.

At 37, and a mummy to five-year-old Rudey, Jo is the only known person in the world to be suffering from not one but TWO terminal illnesses and she is dying.

How fucking unfair is that?

In April, Jo was given just weeks to live. Nearly seven months later and she is still here, chatting, smiling, wrapping her arms around her boy and pulling him in for a snuggle in the way only a mum can. Rudey, who chirpily wakes Jo up every day with his signing and says he loves his mummy ‘up to the castle at the top of the hill,’ remains her focus and motivation.
Jo is desperately ill but she has not been beaten thus far and after months of research has found a scientist in America who she believes can help. His approach in a nutshell is to run hundreds of tests and extensively study Jo very much as an individual case to try and get to the bottom of the root cause or causes of her illness.

Jo is determined to get to him, in fact she IS going to get to him and sets off for America next week where she will spend the best part of three months in Arizona. This is far from a holiday. As she is too poorly to fly she will be undertaking a mammoth 12 day voyage by boat, train, bus and taxi with best friend Sarah who has been heading up the Breathe for Jo campaign which aims to raise £70,000 to cover the cost of the trip (including tests, resulting treatments, travel and accommodation).

So that is why I am writing this post. Jo is asking for help. I’m going to be open with you because I have always pledged honesty on this blog and if you make a donation because you have read this post I want you to do so for the right reasons. Donations are not funding a miracle treatment. There is no guarantee that Jo’s trip to America will be a success. It could be fruitless.

But Jo wants to go. Jo has pinned her hopes on this trip, a trip she has admitted is her last chance to do something proactive in her fight to see her boy through more of primary school than just his first year. I’ve never truly understood the term ‘fighting spirit’ but I saw it today.
Rudey will fly out with family to join Jo when she has settled in Arizona so they can spend Christmas together. Despite knowing that his mummy is poorly, he is too young to appreciate what that means. When discussing the trip to America he has only really expressed two concerns:

1) Will there be a swimming pool?
2) Can he take his Lego?

Of course those are his concerns. He is five. His Mummy was told she wouldn’t make his 5th birthday but she did. She has been told she won’t make his 6th birthday. Maybe she won’t. But she wants to give this a shot and I would like to help her. I am sharing in case you would like to help her too.
There will be no endless plugging of fundraising appeals here on the blog and I am not going to ask you to donate in the same way I do not ask you to share my blogs – you will like and share only if you want to and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I went over to Jo’s for a cuppa because when somebody in your neighbourhood is dying it’s kind of instinctive to ask them if there is anything you can do. I am shit at making casseroles and as 300,000 people are mad enough to follow my ramblings about wonky-fringed Barbie tantrums (and the fucking pumpkin) I figured this is all I can do.


You can read more about Jo’s story and donate to the campaign here. Campaign video below.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sometimes That'll Do is All You've Got

I never had much of a need for that'll do before I became a parent.

There was no 'that'll do' during my schooldays when I was the geekiest child (I was a straight A student, I did extra homework for fun and aside from the beautifully brainy boy in my maths class I never so much as looked at the opposite sex until I was fifteen and had started dabbling in hair mascara and Smirnoff Ices and tops from Tammy girl).
(No prizes for guessing which one's me. I know).
There was no 'that'll do' at University either when I was hell-bent on getting a First class honours degree and would crawl into 9am lectures with the mother of all hangovers because the thought of borrowing somebody else's notes just wouldn't do.
There certainly wasn't room for 'that'll do' when, as a graduate, I joined the Fast Track scheme of a bank and spent my days seeking to prove to myself (and everybody else) that I deserved to be 'fast tracked'.

I gave it my all. All of it. I gave it all my all.
Motherhood, I anticipated, would be no different. I would invest the same level of time, energy and get-up-and-go that I'd successfully displayed in the preceding twenty-five years. I'd no doubt feel an element of healthy competition when surrounded by other mothers and my desire to do my best, to be the best would see me through. I would totally boss it.
And I have totally bossed it and been a fucking legend of motherhood ever since.
The end.
Just kidding. You see, I have done a bit of a U Turn on my aversion to that'll do since becoming a mum. A gradual one, it has to be said. I wanted so badly to be the best, to get glowing reviews, to get Straight A grades in Baking, Housewifery and Motherly Amazingness but it turns out it wasn't as simple as that. Or as easy.

It was much harder.

I just couldn't maintain the same get-up-and-go. My get-up-and-go got up and went and now when it periodically returns I appreciate it, I think YES this is a good day and I am doing a good job.

On the other days I am plodding. I have never been a plodder but I'm starting to think that there is something to be said for plodding. That'll do has become part of my life. Not because I'm lazy, or because I'm happy to settle for a compromise but because sometimes it's all I can manage.

When the house is an absolute shit tip and I do the one-minute Express Baby Wipe of all surfaces and run the hoover around just the visible bits of the floor I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

When we're all tired and the baby is screaming and the three-year-old is hungry and I've got a cough and I resort to cereal for tea (then compensate by giving them fruit for pudding which they don't eat but it makes me feel better) I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

When I wake up with grand plans to take them to the beach and run around with our arms outstretched like aeroplane wings but then for one reason or another we end up at the park AGAIN before coming home to watch Paw Patrol AGAIN I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

It's an interesting feeling. To settle for less, to settle for not being the best, to type message after message of responses back to mums who tell me they are 'terrible parents.' They are not terrible parents, I tell them. They are doing their best. Sometimes your best is not ideal but it's enough.

That'll do.

All hail the plodding.

The Unmumsy Mum

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Can't Be Arsed Workout for Busy Parents

10 everyday exercises for busy parents:

Squat to enjoy 0.2 seconds of sofa-sitting. Return to standing immediately when you hear shouting (repeat x infinity).

Weight lift children who are refusing to move of their own accord (it's not really possible to do reps here, you simply have to carry them forever unless you can find some bribes in the change bag).

Sprint to stop your toddler free-falling from the deadly corner of the climbing frame he would otherwise topple off.

Challenge muscles you never knew you had by climbing up endless rope ladders whilst carrying straw mats to access shit slides.

Hurdle over discarded items like regurgitated banana and naked Barbie. When it's no longer possible to dodge all the crap in front of you it might prove easier to dive right in and swim through it.

Lunge to pick up flattened raisins off the floor (WARNING: exercise caution if you spot chocolate raisins you don't remember buying).

Hop the length of the landing in agony after stepping on bastard Lego.

Commando crawl to the fridge for healthy snacks wine*.

Invest in a punch bag and pretend it's Topsy and Tim's mum and/or your husband when he is more than ten seconds late home.

Bounce a teething baby on your hips (WARNING: once you have practiced this exercise a few times you may find yourself repeating it involuntarily  at the checkout when you have no baby with you. Like a bouncy weirdo).

Well done! Refuel with some custard creams.

The Unmumsy Mum

Monday, 28 September 2015

A Change Is As Good As a Rest (Our Caravan Holiday)

This blog has always been a snapshot of my everyday reality at home and sometimes I feel like I'm being a right mardy cow. I finish every other sentence with, "For fuck's sake" and in part I think this is because I'm simply far more compelled to write about stuff that has wound me up. I've made no bones about finding motherhood more than a bit tough at times and writing is a bit like therapy; the comments from you guys quite often feel like a reassuring pat on the shoulder which says, 'You're doing alright.' For that, I am eternally grateful.  

Anyway, as you know my vow has always been to document the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the 'I've-Watched-So-Much-Twatty-Paw-Patrol-I-Might-Kill-Someone' truth. So as we jetted off drove down to our caravan in Cornwall I made the same vow about the holiday. I'd give you the warts and all rundown.

Well here's the thing. The holiday warts were much less warty (totally not talking about a nasty STI here, just to be clear). It's true I've given the virtual Screw You to 'Supermum' many times before and I stand by that gesture (Supermum is not a real person, she's a mythical beast much like Ruth from Shelly Parkinson's daughter's comprehension homework). However, this weekend I came the closest I probably ever have to dabbling in Supermumdom.
Not outwardly, I don't suppose. Supermum would never have rewarded her child's shitty behaviour by giving him a Twister.

Supermum would never have said, "Oh you don't need to buy a poncho my darling they're just trying to rip us off!" as her unsuspecting three year old (and husband) set off on the log flume only to return five minutes later soaked to their underpants.

Supermum would never have forgotten to pack her son's bedtime toy nor would she guiltily have bought an extortionately priced toy cow from a gift shop as compensation (no the original isn't a cow, I did what I could with limited resources).

Supermum would not have whispered, 'Do what you fucking like' under her breath when her son didn't want the sausage he had chosen from the chip shop and instead wanted a jumbo sausage (even though after much shouting it soon became clear that in actual fact he simply hated all sausages. Since when? Since that exact moment, obviously).
So whilst I didn't rock up to the beach with well groomed children and organic healthy snacks and a list of 101 ways to be the best fucking mum ever there was something about being on holiday that just felt great.
It felt different.

I had more patience. I swore under my breath far less. On several occasions I caught myself  laughing so hard it was dangerous (maybe one time it was more than dangerous). I got stuck in. I went on water slides and built sandcastles and made hot chocolate and let Henry stay up late to look at the moon.

So if you want to know if I'd recommend squeezing small people and luggage into a car to embark on a mini-break adventure then absolutely I would.

Was it easy? No, but somehow it felt easier than being at home.

Was it relaxing? No. (I optimistically packed not one but TWO books for a three night break. I also packed running trainers. I read five pages of one book and I didn't go for a run, I watched the X Factor with a beer instead).

Was it worth it? Yes. Truly, it was worth it. For once the Scales of Parenthood Woe were tipped in my favour and I've come home feeling a bit bloody fantastic. I might even do some crafty shit tomorrow (just kidding, unless putting Mister Maker on counts as craft time).

My best friend described holidaying with kids as 'Same Shit, Different Location' and she wasn't wrong. Yet somehow I felt more positive about the shit. I had more shit-fighting motivation in my locker and with it came fun and laughter and memories.

After all, memories aren't solely about the glossy stuff, are they? In fifteen years when I sob nostalgically as Henry heads off to University or wherever I'll probably say, "Do you remember that summer when you were little and we took you and your brother to Cornwall and drank hot chocolate under the moon and went on water slides but then fell out because you were being a total wanker about a chip shop sausage?"

I'll remember that I found having small kids unbelievably rewarding and totally bloody impossible all at the same time; it's only natural that my holiday memories will reflect that too.
The Unmumsy Mum

Trevella Park, Crantock
We stayed at Trevella Park and whilst this is not an official review post our caravan was just the ticket (and just down the road from the best beach I have ever been to). I was very sad to leave.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Job Advertisement: Parent

We are seeking a Parent to join our team of UK Parents.

About The Role
Hours: 168 hours per week
Location: Home-based, though access to a car or public transport is desirable as visits to the park and/or soft play hell labyrinths may be required.

Key duties/responsibilities:
- Imaginative use of baby wipes.
- Accepting graciously that you are never ever playing Lego right. You are doing it wrong.
- Negotiating with a small person who is protest planking amongst the home accessories in Debenhams.
- Clearing up poo, snot and vomit.
- Mind reading (you will need to know why the baby is crying and during the toddler years you will need to understand that just because he said he wanted cheese sandwiches it doesn't mean he wanted cheese sandwiches though when you take the cheese sandwiches away he will cry hysterically about the loss of the cheese fucking sandwiches).
- Mediating arguments over who gets the best beaker.
- Overseeing the Witching Hour/s (usually 5pm-7pm, this often involves food being lobbed from highchairs and general arsiness about nothing at all).

About You
The ideal candidate will have a degree in Patience, an NVQ Level 3 in CBeebies and the dexterity of an octopus on speed. You should possess a strong desire to be accompanied everywhere (including the toilet) and a high level of irritation tolerance for programmes like Peppa Pig and Twatsy and Tim. You should not possess a strong desire to:
- Sleep
- Get shit-faced
- Laze around in your PJs
- Sit down with a cup of tea
- Browse Accessorize
- Sunbathe 
(Unfortunately these activities are not compatible with the role).

Remuneration Package and Benefits
Salary: The square root of fuck all
[This role is very much an investment, non-financial rewards include a warm fuzzy feeling and pride so overwhelming your heart could burst].

*The small print
Due to the nature of this role we regret we cannot facilitate any annual leave and there will be no designated breaks throughout your 168 hour weekly shift, though in exceptional circumstances it might be possible to organise cover through our relief agency Grandparent Staffing (extra teeth-brushing will be required as a result). In line with our Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle policy no training will be provided. This is a permanent position and you cannot ever resign.

The Unmumsy Mum

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Somebody's Daughter, Somebody's Son

For months I’ve seen and heard news reports about refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Daily pictures of families packed into boats, total chaos at train stations and mass distress at borders.

It’s often difficult to process. Difficult to make sense of just what is happening. And why it is happening. It’s so far removed from our daily lives that it just doesn’t seem real.

Photo credit: The Economist

I already knew that people were dying, that people are dying as they seek a better life in Europe. I feel ashamed writing this because I knew and yet I ignored it. I’d probably heard it time and again on the news but turned over when it was time for the CBeebies Bedtime Song.

How very lucky we are to be able to turn the channel over, to gather our happy and healthy babies in our arms and wave goodnight to Charlie Bear at the end of a lovely day.

But today there was no switching off.

Today I have struggled to come to terms with the picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi whose tiny body was washed up on a beach in Turkey. Today I have witnessed outrage on social media from people who don’t think this picture should have been shared. People who weren’t expecting to see a photo of a drowned boy between a post about make-up contouring and a wedding selfie.
They didn’t want to see it.
They would rather not have seen it.
They wish they hadn’t seen it.

But I’m glad I saw it. Because it brought it home. Aylan was the same age as my boy, he was a similar size to my boy, he was wearing similar clothes to my boy. He drowned alongside his mother Rehan and big brother Galip, who was five. His grief-stricken father, Abdullah, has since spoken of his desire to lie in a grave with his wife and his beautiful babies.

No amount of shitty CBeebies can make that go away.

I can’t turn the image off. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s sitting behind my eyes when I close them and now instead of writing a mildly amusing but ultimately fucking valueless blog about the perils of weaning I’m writing this with a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart.

I’m not politically sharp enough to write a letter to David Cameron. But my heart tells me that the greatest risk to our nation, over and above the ‘swarms of migrants' descending on our shores, over and above the UK becoming a ‘magnet’ for such 'migrants,' over and above our prejudice towards people whose lives we will never truly understand, is the risk that we’ll have to live with the human tragedy of failing to allow people sanctuary in their hour of need.

An hour of need so dark and desperate, so full of unspeakable horrors, that parents are prepared to load their vulnerable children into boats that may never make the shore.

I may not know a lot about war-torn Syria or indeed our current ‘refugee quota’ but I know that people are dying trying to reach safety and I’m finding it hard to understand how we are letting this happen.

I’m not starting a petition. I’m not creating a call to action. But after months of doing absolutely nothing, of turning the channel over, of blocking it all out, I am finally seeing it. I am hearing it. I am feeling it.

Amongst the baby scan pictures and mindless celeb gossip on my newsfeed today was an article from the Guardian about genuine ways to help. Things that can help now. So if you have been as moved as I have by what you have seen maybe take a look.

We can’t help Aylan, or Galip, or Rehan. We can’t help Abdullah who has lost everything and must kiss his whole family goodnight for the last time.

But we might be able to help others who are just like them. Who are just like us.

Abdullah described his boys as the most beautiful in the world and they were. They were his babies and I’m so very sorry we couldn’t save them.

It's remarkably sad that it took a photo this harrowing to wake up the masses. I hope Aylan's legacy is one of change.

Sleep tight little man.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Level Baby: Complete

I'm not really one for getting caught up with milestones.

Because amazing stuff happens all the time, doesn't it? All around us, every day. Crap stuff happens all around us too. So sentimentality at first teeth and unaided rolling over and such like has never really been my thing.

But this week the looming First Year milestone has been dancing around the periphery of my brain (alongside the mental reminder to book a smear test and buy some Olive Oil, the latter of which I've forgotten the last three times I've been to Tesco.)

My baby is one in a couple of weeks and all of a sudden it just feels so milestoney. Much to my surprise I've gone all knobheadish and smushy about it. I feel like I want to sniff his hair and drink in his babyness before he starts lobbing lightsabers at my head and asking me to pull his finger.

There are two explanations for this. I'm either broody, and should start making extra babies right away (having never felt broody before I think this is unlikely, no need to rush home husband). Or, and I'm fairly confident this is the reality, it has dawned on me that I've nearly completed the baby bit. For good. Like a level in a video game.

Level Baby: Complete.

Okay I know he's still a baby. But at 11 and a half months old he's walking and babbling and has 6 teeth and just isn't a baby baby. And once they turn one well that's it, isn't it? People start referring to their age in years, ("He's one, right?") and I'll probably find myself replying, "Well he's 14 months/17 months/22 months, actually." I mean how long can that go on for? "Yes he's 216 months old and living in Halls at University. Yes he's well thanks, still on the 50th percentile in the red book weighing 168 lbs."

The truth is, I've never much rated the baby bit.

My little pudding face, nearly a year ago
Some people love babies and feel the urge to give them a squish. I'm just not a baby squisher. I'm actually far more at ease with a child who lobs lightsabers at my head and demands I pull his finger.

This is probably just as well, because before long I will have two such children and no babies.

I won't miss the pasta-encrusted highchair and the reflux and the 5pm-7pm incessant whinging which makes me want to bash my skull in with the Leap Pad. I won't miss the need to cart around backpacks filled with baby paraphernalia.

But a milestone it is nevertheless.

He'll always be my baby, of course. As will his brother, who is three and a half. They will still be my babies when they are in their mid-forties with receded hairlines and mortgages. But they won't need me then.

Not like a baby needs his Mummy.

So I'm going to sniff his hair and sigh a few more times in the run up to his birthday. And then celebrate with a G&T in a tin (forever classy) and try to reassure my startled husband that I'm not angling for another one...

The Unmumsy Mum
[Unsurprisingly I forgot the Olive Oil (again) but I did book my smear test. Don't put it off ladies.]

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Parenting Rollercoaster

The wise philosopher Ronan Keating once sang, “Life is a rollercoaster,” and I'm pretty sure he was talking about parenthood. 

It's true I was fairly emotionally expressive even before having kids. I have been known to shout, "Pick a lane, any fucking lane, you wanker," whilst driving. I have also been known to laugh hysterically on drunken nights out and cry at those Britain's Got Talent VTs because it's the first time they've had the courage to sing since their cat died. 

I knew there was an emotional range there to start with.

But Christ Alive I’ve never known a rollercoaster of emotions quite like the last 3.5 years. 

Gone are the 'good days' and 'bad days'. Days are less easy to emotionally rank now. Sometimes I encounter the full spectrum of emotions in the same day. Sometimes I encounter the full spectrum of emotions in the same hour.

There are times I feel angry. 

Because try as I might to suppress those feelings of fury there is only so much food-refusal, sofa dive-bombing and incessant whinging that one mortal can take. I mutter, 'For fuck's sake,' at least 127 times a day (whilst sighing).

There are times I feel guilty.
Bastard sodding guilt creeps up on me and smacks me around the face. At times it's just a niggle of guilt but other times I swear it is trying to suffocate me, punishing me for getting angry and feeling bored and sometimes wishing I was at work. Guilt tells me I'm hands down the shittest mother in the entire history of shit mothers.

There are times I feel happy. And really bloody thankful.
Not just averagely-pleased happy but overwhelmed-with-joy happy, bursting with pride and gratefulness for all that I have and all that we are as a family. Times when I find myself laughing at hilarious things the boys have done or smiling like a loony from ear to ear, wondering what I could possibly have done to deserve so much greatness in my life.

There are times I feel scared.
Scared of how much I love them. Scared about letting them go out into the big wide world (okay pre-school, but it is bigger and much wider than the living room). I feel scared when I can't see them or hear them. Even when they had a sleepover at Nanny's I couldn't bear to look at their empty beds because I knew it would trick my mind into thinking what if.... what if the unthinkable ever happened. I can't even type it. 

And it all takes its toll, doesn't it? The laughing, then crying, then shouting, then worrying and then laughing some more. It's not surprising parents feel tired.

But I think I'm learning to accept it.
To take the crushing lows with the pretty remarkable highs and heed Ronan's advice about the rollercoaster.

We just gotta ride it.

The Unmumsy Mum

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Twelve Reasons I'm The Last Person You Should Ask For Blogging Advice

I'm always flattered when I'm asked for my advice around starting a blog/reaching more people/my 'top social media tips' but the more messages I receive the more I realise just how unprofessional I am at this thing we call blogging.

Here are twelve reasons I'm underqualified to show anybody the blogging ropes:

1) I don't know what Bloglovin is.
Serious question, do I need this in my life?

2) Facebook is the lifeblood of my blog.
Though I have always felt like Twitter is the spiritual home of parent bloggers, my Facebook page is much busier. Sometimes I feel like I am on Facebook island, with the real parent bloggers hanging out in the other blue room with the birdy wallpaper.

3) I blog sporadically.
Sometimes twice in one week, sometimes just once a month. Occasionally I see other bloggers tweet, 'I'm behind on posting this week, sorry guys' and I think, 'fuck, I haven't posted for 5 weeks'. Is there an unsaid obligation of post regularity? Am I failing at that too?

4) I'm not on Pinterest.
I don't really have any interests outside of wine and Tom Hardy.

5) I have a blogspot website address.
I recently read something which said the most important thing about being taken seriously as a blogger is having your own website address. I missed that memo early on and I'm not going to change it now.

6) My blog design is shite.

Equally important is the professional design of your blog page - the first impression created when people 'land' on your page. Usually there is a fancy header and customised social media buttons. Well bollocks and arse. My 'design' is a bloody shambles because I did it myself so it looks like a Year 9 IT project. I genuinely need to do something about that...*puts the kettle on instead.*
I know, I know. 'Tis a bit crap.
7) I don't do reviews.
In fact, I think I might be a bit PR unfriendly because I find it all a bit awkward so I just say no to everything. Thank you, but no thank you. And then later think shit, I should have taken the free stuff. Just to be clear I sometimes do mention stuff I've been given, I also mention stuff I've paid out for - but I don't review anything, it's just stuff I would have bought or used regardless.

8) I'm not making any money from my blog.

When somebody asked me, "how do you monetise your blog?" I was like, "Sorry what?" No idea what you're talking about, unless you mean from adverts which I decided against. I've also had messages asking me how many followers I had to attract before I could 'make a living' from my blog. Again, WTF? I make the same money from my 150k social media followers as I made from 50 followers i.e. the square root of fuck all.

9) I don't know what the Tots100 chart is.
I logged on once to find I'd 'dropped' down the rankings but have no idea what this means. I've now forgotten my password and I got distracted checking eBay the last time I thought about resetting it. I'll probably never check it again.

10) I've never hosted a 'linky' or come up with a weekly hashtag .
I'm looking at parent blogging legends like you BrummyMummyof2 with your #WickedWednesdays and you Al (The Dad Network) for your overall ease with all things Proper Parent Blogger. Hats off to you all, I'll just eat some crisps over here.

11) I've never scheduled a tweet.
Nor would I know how to do this. I tweet when I'm on hand to respond, is that not a good idea? I probably clog up the feeds of my followers with mass tweets in two hour stints when I'm chain-drinking wine tea on the sofa. I don't understand why I need to spread my tweets out? Again, this is a serious question. Answers on a postcard.

12) I've never been to a blogging event/do of any kind.
In fact the MAD blog awards do in September will be my first ever outing in my capacity as a 'blogger'. I've only ever met one other parent blogger. I am rubbish.

Basically, I don't really feel like a proper blogger. But in my own slightly unprofessional and rookie way I'm having a great time. Maybe there aren't any hard and fast rules, just guidelines that it probably makes sense to follow because they are mostly very sensible.

So to all the new bloggers who have messaged or emailed me to ask for tips I would say this: just do what you fancy.*

[*and maybe ask the slightly more proficient bloggers for genuine help, because jokes aside the blogging community is a bloody lovely one and if you rely on me for help you're drawing the short straw. Not a clue.] 

The Unmumsy Mum