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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Two of the things my husband hates with a passion are light-hearted orchestral music and musicals – which, let’s face it, go together like “rama lama lama, ke ding a de dinga a dong”.  

So you can imagine his horror when he recently walked into a room to find me teaching MM, our only friend with way-serious rock credentials, a routine from “A Chorus Line”. 

People who know me outside the moniker of Not Drowning Mother might well wonder how I came to know said routine – and this is where I must confess all: of a Monday evening, I have been dancing my little heart out in a “Broadway for Beginners” class.

You see I was *supposed* to be doing iyengar yoga on Monday nights. I was *supposed* to be sitting solemnly in a dimly lit room, trying not to let my sense of inner peace be nullified by all that stress over equipment management (“This next position requires three bolsters, four straps, a dining room set and a blanket folded like an origami crane”). 

Instead, I find myself driving, with chakras distinctly unaligned, to the Right Side of town with my dear friend KT to practice my jazz run (an important – and CV-enhancing – life skill). And all in the pursuit of Fun – and not fun of the domestic kind, such as discovering a new way of folding the kids’ undies or making robots out of toilet-paper rolls. We’re talking Extra-Curricular Out-of-the-House Child-Free Fun.

And fun it certainly is – if strangely competitive. I guess that’s bound to happen when you get a bunch of women together in front of a wall of mirrors. One girl – KT’s Sworn Dance-Class Enemy (every girl has to have one!) – has a way of always standing front and centre, right next to the instructor. You see KT likes to be up front and centre, too, and she claims that her SDCE is always ‘in her space’. As a mother of two small children, I would have thought that KT didn’t have any personal space to surrender. But then, KT is a woman on a mission. Next week, in her capacity as a singer-slash-actress, she starts rehearsals for a musical where she will have to dance alongside trained dancers in their early 20s. It’s the stuff of a Not Drowning Mothers’ nightmares. 

As for me, I skulk at the back of the class, muttering to the women alongside me things like “Stick with me, kid. I’ll make you look good”. And I do make them look good. Very good. Those mirrors tell no lies and any illusions that I might have had of myself as a dancer, I’ve had to surrender with my money at the door. I’m the class’s answer to John Travolta – but not the Travolta in a natty white suit burnin’ up on the dance floor in “Saturday Night Fever”. I’m the middle-aged Travolta, cross-dressing in a fat-suit in “Hairspray”. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. 

I hate those mirrors. Since when did my body have fold-lines? At first I thought it was just my clothes, which I had fished out from the bottom of the laundry basket – but then I realised it’s my actual body that’s creased (although the clothes certainly do enhance the effect). And when I jazz-run, I’ve discovered there’s a part of my stomach (known as the “apron”) that moves, independently of me, about half a beat behind the rest of the class. And when we handjive’n’jump across the dance floor, I can feel that my pelvic floor is in serious danger of collapsing for good. And then there’s having to look at the fetching tomato-hued glow of my sweating face less than 30 seconds into the warm-up. It’s enough to make a Not Drowning Mother want to trip a 20-year-old, wearing a ra-ra skirt and legwarmers without a hint of irony, just to see her sprawled face-down on the floor. 

Thankfully, I haven’t had to resort to violence to improve my self-esteem. You see, I discovered the secret of dealing with those mirrors – if I stand just where the mirrors join, I instantly shed all post-baby weight and look fabulously svelte. Unfortunately most routines involve some side-to-side movement so it’s often a case of step (ugh!), step (eeearrrgggh!), step (oooh, lovely!). Problem fixed!

But the *real* reason my self-esteem is still largely intact is this: after every class, I go home and perform the night’s routine to my husband. And, despite the fact I’m dancing to light-hearted orchestral music, he still loves me. So, really, I’m doing all right.

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Every Thursday afternoon I get together with some other mums in the area and we eat fine foods and drink a pre-schooler’s body weight in champagne under the guise of “Mothers’ Group”. 

Because it’s quite a large group, my turn to host only comes around every couple of months. I enjoy – even savour – almost the whole process: the menu-planning, the buying of obscure ingredients (Chikiang vinegar, anyone?), the prepping and even the cooking. I wake up on the day feeling quietly confident that I’ll be able to pull everything together more seamlessly and effortlessly than if I was sitting on a valium-induced cloud. Why, I’m the hostess with the mostest, of course!

Ah, but then there’s the problem of my house. For someone whose house looks like it’s about to cave in on itself, I’m terribly house proud. My husband – a remarkably sane man for someone who lives with such a mad woman – is always delightfully relaxed about such matters:  “Let them see how we live!”, he says. Now, it’s not that I mind people seeing how we live. It’s just I’d like them to see a slightly tidier version of how we live. 

Typically, when faced with the prospect of cleaning the house for mother’s group, I find myself moving through the five stages of grief:

1. DENIAL: I’ve got plenty of time! It’s not so bad! I’ll just need to do a quick tidy up in the loungeroom, sweep the kitchen floor, mop, wipe down the cupboard doors, empty the recycling, wipe the bird crap off the trampoline, clear a path through the agglomeration of cheap plastic toys on the kids’ floor and, oh look, there’s the remains of a cupcake from the last time I hosted… and…oh god, hang on a moment here…

2. ANGER: Stupid Mothers’ Group. Why do *I* have to host? Don’t they know I have small children???

3. BARGAINING: Maybe someone can swap with me with 15 minutes notice? Maybe I can host it at the local TAB? The kids will enjoy watching the horse races…

4. DEPRESSION: My house is such a tip. I’m the world’s worst housekeeper. Will I ever see the floor again? Where is the brushpan and broom, anyway?

5. ACCEPTANCE: The house will just be trashed by the first set of kids who arrive, anyway, so logic dictates that there is nothing to be gained in tidying up. I’m off the hook!

Yesterday, it was my turn to host and – as is now my tradition – I reached Stage Five at about 2:55pm, 5 minutes before people start to arrive. And after the first bottle of cheap fizz was popped, I was back to my original premise: I’m the Hostess with the Mostest!

By the time the last guests left at 8pm, I realised that a good party wasn’t about a freshly-wiped fridge or an alphabetised (and dust-free) CD collection where all the disks are not only in a case, but in the *right* case. After all, the food was good, the drink was in abundance, the conversation lively. And, more importantly, my children are healthy, happy and reasonably well-behaved so I’ve obviously got my priorities straight, right? There’s just the small matter of the whereabouts of their shoes… (see Herding Cats).

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People often say to me “If you’re not drowning, as you claim, then why are you three hours late and where the hell are your kids’ shoes and socks?”.

The following step-by-step guide to leaving the house with three small children offers some explanation to these nay-sayers.

STEP ONE: Find matching socks (allow 20 minutes, at the very least).

STEP TWO: Find matching shoes (allow another 20 minutes).

STEP THREE: Find matching child to shoes and socks (timing depends on how big your house is).

STEP FOUR: Put shoes & socks on Child One, recreating that classic slapstick routine where every shoe or sock you hold out, he holds out the wrong foot. (allow 5 minutes – but feel free to milk it for laughs)

STEP FIVE: Put shoes & socks on Child Two, who is insisting on lying on her stomach but is helpfully holding her feet up for you so you have to put her shoes and socks on backwards & upside down. (allow 10 minutes – 3.2 degree of difficulty)

STEP SIX: Put shoes & socks on Child Three, who simultaneously kicks you in the appendix. (allow 5 minutes plus a further 5 minutes recovery time)

STEP SEVEN: Discover that Child One has taken off his shoes and socks and is now bouncing on the trampoline (allow 15 seconds for sinking heart feeling). 

STEP EIGHT: Discover that Child Three has done a poo in his nappy and will need changing (and thus shoes & socks removing) and that Child Two has taken her socks and shoes off because she’s decided that she wants to dress as a Pink-Fairy-Princess-Ballerina today (allow at least a full 10 minutes to savour the taste of rising bile and feel free to indulge in some hair pulling, silent screaming, etc. Come on, you know it will make you feel better).

STEP NINE: Repeat all of the above (allow 1 hour+).

And after all that, if you’ve got it in you, try tackling hats, coats and drinky pots. 

As for people who have three small children and yet arrive punctually – what’s their secret? They either made their children sleep fully-clothed and with their shoes & socks on OR they set out to leave the night before. It’s the only way I can explain it.

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In the spring of 1984, my father, stepmother and sister attended a three hour Ye Olde Music Hall sing-a-long inflicted upon them by my school choir. To add insult to injury, I think they may even have been forced to don period costume. In any case, somewhere between “Our Lodger’s Such A Nice Young Man” and “I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I am”, I was disinherited. 

Now, some 24 years later, the real payback began as I sat through my first School Concert as a parent. 

I should stress that the main problem with the School Concert format is not the acts themselves – it’s the sheer volume of acts.

“Mr Justice”, my eldest and only school-age son, was scheduled to be 11th in a line-up of twenty acts. Upon first glance, this didn’t seem so bad: 20 acts of roughly three minutes duration each, 7pm start, perhaps a minute between acts to get everyone on and off… We’d be out of there by 8:30pm at the latest, *surely*.

As the clock hit 7:45pm and we were only up to the Act 5, I began to wish I’d brought that hip flask after all. Shortly after Act 9, the lovely Religious Education teacher sitting behind me bailed – it’s a sad and sorry situation where even Christian kindness can’t go the distance. I began to feel desperate.

Act 10 was a solo performance filled with those cringingly awkward moments created by having the wrong music put on and then having the right music inexplicably fade out well before the end. The performer gestured furiously to the Mr Music in the wings sparking fears of a revival – but luckily the audience had the act quickly euthanased with a thunderous round of applause. 

Finally it was time for Act 11 and, as 40-something prep students filed on stage dressed up as characters from The Little Mermaid, everything changed. 

I remember once asking my dad when he’d been proudest of me, and he’d replied that it was the first time he ever saw me on stage – I was six and playing the Dove of Peace in the school production of Noah’s Ark. All I did was flap across the stage one way, and then back the other way with a fake leaf in my mouth. I didn’t even have any lines. Whoopy f*ing shit, I’d thought in response to his choice. I had won prizes at university! I had been (albeit briefly) producer on the biggest internet project in Australia at the height of the dot com boomI I had endured a caesarean section without an adequate anesthetic! I had climbed bigger mountains and crossed wider seas than that piddly little stage!

But when I saw Mr Justice’s face up there in the stage lights of the YMCA, it suddenly all made sense. His earnest and unabashed concentration as he sang and waggled his arms was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I quite simply wanted to bottle it.

The euphoria I felt after Act 11 was more than enough to get me through the rest of the concert. I even managed to look upon Act 20 – the teaching staff singing the local football club’s song not once, but twice – with a benign and indulgent smile upon my face. Ain’t School Concerts grand?

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Sex and the Suburbs

It’s hard not to feel all Sarah Jessica Parker in “SATC” when I sit down to write my blog. 

But then who am I kidding. That infamous tutu of hers would be lucky to fit around my wrist and the soundtrack as I type is not all BoHo vibes, it’s The Wiggles punctuated by shouts and cries and the sound of plastic toys being crushed under foot.  

Still, I hasten to add that some of my friends do live the Glamourous Life and I cling to them like a drowning sailor.

Perhaps my most glamourous friend is the lovely GT. Not only is she a real-life fashion journalist and jazz singer, but she is still gracious enough to be one of my best friends, despite our increasingly disparate lifestyles.

To illustrate: when I was pregnant with my third child, I met her in the city for a drink. As we stepped out of the bar onto the street, we realised it had begun to rain. GT instinctively pulled her natty right-side-of-ironic shawl over her head and said “Oooh, I don’t want my blow dry to spoil before tonight’s champagne reception. I’d better catch a taxi to my hotel”.

Which, in one foul swoop, embodied everything that *wasn’t* my life as a Not Drowning Mother: 

  • Blow Dry.
  • Champagne Reception.
  • Taxi.
  • My hotel. (not even just ‘the hotel’ but MY hotel).

Somehow, I found it in myself to nod sympathetically and, muttering something about having to catch the Metlink back to the western suburbs in time to make dinosaur-shaped pasta with Heinz Tomato Sauce for dinner, made my exit. 

Luckily my daughter – aged almost four – seems destined to live a far more glamourous life than her mother. Here follows a transcript of a conversation that Actually Took Place last weekend between her and my (visiting) sister:

DAUGHTER: (approaches with an armful of soft toys) I have nine babies.

SISTER: Wow. That’s a lot of work for you.

DAUGHTER: No it’s not. They’re only little babies.

SISTER: Well you have to change their nappies, dress them, play with them, feed them…

(After a pause, my daughter thrusts all the soft toys into her aunt’s arms)

DAUGHTER: *You* look after them. I’m going shopping. 

You go, sister girlfriend. And don’t forget to pick up some milk and nappies while you’re out.

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I don’t socialise with adults much these days – at least not without marauding hordes of screaming kids in the background. But recently I got invited to a bona-fide party-for-grownups (I had taken to referring to it as an ‘adult party’ but realised that this was giving the wrong impression). There was adult food, adult music, adult alcohol (which means alcohol that can be consumed freely without the added burden of being responsible for anyone other than yourself while doing it) – there was even interpretive dancing (but that’s a story for another post). 

And then there was an interesting exchange of words with a single gentleman, a species which rarely crosses my path these days. The following conversation (an approximate transcript thereof) took place whilst a raffle, held at the party to raise money for the homeless, was being drawn from a hat:

Single Gentleman: Did you buy a raffle ticket?

Me: No. I live around the corner and all I brought with me was my keys. I thought about throwing them in the hat but I didn’t think it was *that* kind of party.

Single Gentleman: Actually I put my keys in the hat so it looks like we’re going home together. [Pause]. But I should add that I live with my parents.

Me: That must really work for you as a chatup line.

Single Gentleman: It’s not too bad because they can make breakfast for us in the morning.

Me: Well I live with my husband and three children so we’ll have to get up in the morning and make *them* breakfast.

Single Gentleman: We’ll just have to go to a motel, then.

I think the conversation finished shortly thereafter with me saying something along the lines of “Did you meet my husband? He’s a big big man” or “I think I hear my mother calling me”.

Now to the single gentleman’s credit, I have to say this increasingly uncomfortable exchange was, in its way, a welcome change to the usual change of topic which follows my admission that I am a stay-at-home mother. Or worse still than the change of topic, is the uneasy silence which I then feel compelled to fill with inane babble about the ages, names and recent bowel movements of my three children, thus confirming everyone’s prejudices about women who actually *choose* to be Happy Homemakers. 

Frankly, I’ve had marketing jobs I’ve been more willing to admit to in response to the dreaded “And what do you do?” question that gets bandied about in adult social situations (usually by people with glamorous or well-paid occupations).

And yet it’s the most challenging, most noble, most important job I’ve ever had and ever will have. It just doesn’t have the sex appeal that other professions have – unless, of course, you’re talking to my friend, the single gentleman.

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