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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Ladies and Gentleman of the Interwebs. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I stand before you as the recipient of the Best Australian/NZ Web Log in the 2010 Bloggies.

Oh? You hadn’t heard that I won? I find that hard to believe, especially since I could be heard four suburbs away when I hollered down the phone at my friend MM : “I WON! I FUCKING WELL WON!” followed by: “I’M SORRY, BUT I DON’T APPEAR TO BE ABLE TO STOP SHOUTING – I’M THAT FUCKING EXCITED!”.

The three year olds I was in charge of at the time were also excited about the news. But they were equally excited about the squashed sultana they found between the pages of the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book a few minutes later. AND they still expected me to make them their lunch, Bloggies win or not. Honestly, some preschoolers have no sense of occasion.

Still, I continued to celebrate (and shout) as I made sandwiches and cut up fruit. For example: “Do you want the crusts on or off – OH MY GOD! – what about some grapes – HOLY CRAP I WON!! – careful with your water there – YAHOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEE!!”. Eventually, however, I found it within myself to stop the shouting because even I could see that I was starting to frighten the children.

I then decided to go out and celebrate by taking my posse of three-year-olds to their scheduled Acting Class. Yes, you read that right: these three- year-olds are studying the dramatic arts, darling. But before you start thinking the teacher’s dressed in a black polo neck saying shit like “Anastacia, this is Brecht we’re doing here: you need to present the audience with the line, not represent it…”, let me assure you it’s more about running around the room pretending to be a monster or a farm animal or a celebrated blogger (that last one’s just me). Why, last week I got to play “The Prize Cow” in a role-play exercise, which some people are now claiming was typecasting. (Interestingly enough, The Pixie can only write three words by heart: her name, my name and “COW”. In the first week of school she drew a picture of her teacher with the word COW written in large letters. I told her teacher that it happened all the time to me and I tried not to take it personally. But I digress.)

Anyway, on the way to the acting class, I cranked up the mix tape my husband had made me for our recent mini-break and before I knew it, I was singing at the top of my lungs to The Divinyl’s “I touch myself” while stopped at the traffic lights. With the windows wound down. And three small children in the back seat. And yes, there were onlookers and everything. Result.

A few people have asked me how I feel now and if everything feels “different”. I may be still air-punching on the inside but life goes on as usual for the Bloggies Winner:  there are still bottoms to be wiped, fights to be broken up, Wii treaties to be negotiated, dishes to be done and blog posts to be written. A mother’s work is truly never done…

But nothing drove this home more than yesterday morning when I went to the Children’s Hospital for a routine appointment.  There, I saw many amazing mothers just carrying on with their daily lives as they wheeled, carried or just held their sick and sometimes fading children.  And I realised that no matter how much I complain sometimes and how much of a  drama I make of things, there are others who have to work a lot harder than me at mothering and not drowning.

I’d like, therefore, to accept my award on behalf of all mothers, but those mothers in particular.

______________________

Anyone planning to send me cash in the mail, please send it to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation instead – they’re far less likely to blow it all on cheap champagne and chocolate.

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I recently remarked that all people ever seemed to do on facebook was take quizzes, most of which give grammatically-challenged and yet cutting insights into my personality such as “Your eyes always has a smile in them!! Your all about having fun and parting the night away…”. I’m still unsure how I might “part the night away”, unless, of course, there had been an outbreak of lice at the school and I was having to check the entire family’s heads with a fine tooth comb until after 9pm. In which case, I’m not sure where the “having fun” bit comes in. To be quite honest.  

Anyway, a couple of people told me that I wasn’t being very fair about facebook. People do plenty of other things there, they claimed. For example, they join groups (did you know that I counted 27 separate groups called “Stupid” and seven of them have only one member… now that’s stupid!) and they also become “fans” of things (my favourite ever was the invitation to become a fan of “I Hate Waking Up In The Morning!” because it laughed brazenly in the face of grammar and logic). People also like to circulate lists of things about themselves – “25 Random Things About Me” was a popular one a couple of months back, which was shortly followed by “25 Random Things About Myself That You Probably Don’t Want To Know” and then “25 Random Things I Wish I’d Never Read”.

People kept asking me “Oh, NDM. When are you going to do your ‘25 Things’?” but personally, I couldn’t think of 25 things about myself that would even be worth sharing (she says as she publishes her 231st blog post). I decided I should create my own facebook list meme such as “25 things I could have done differently to have avoided a Late Pass this morning” or “25 recipes that take over 30 minutes to prepare that my daughter will dismiss out of hand as bisgusting” or even “25 unidentifiable things found under my son’s bed” (a hard one to do since the things are unidentifiable). But in the end, I felt they all lacked a certain universality…

And then, some four long months after the “25 random things” craze that swept the Facebook nation, I finally compiled the following list:

25 RANDOM THINGS MOTHERHOOD HAS TAUGHT ME (SO FAR)
  1. The school run is a called a “run” for a reason. As in “Run! Run! RUNNNNNNNN! WE’RE SHITTING-FUCKING LATE!!!”
  2. Never feed the children something saturated in sugar and food colouring shortly before doing the grocery shopping or having them interviewed on national television. 
  3. The parenting motto “Be persistent and consistent” only works when you can actually remember what you’re being persistent about. Damn that short-term memory-loss-due-to-long-term-sleep-depriv… What was I saying again?
  4. Those Japanese women were onto something by wearing kimonos: the tiny steps they have to take is all good training for pushing the pram with one of those toddler skateboards attached and/or moving about the house with a small child wrapped around both your legs. 
  5. Being a mother means that both hot and cold drinks will always be drunk as luke-warm drinks and any sentence conveying vital information will never be fini
  6. Never do the school run on foot in your ugg boots: your feet get hotter than the sun and you look Like A Fool. 
  7. Children snacking on sultanas (known as “raisins” to my US reader) may give you that warm fuzzy Good Mother Feeling about them having actually eaten something from the Health Foods aisle of the supermarket but do not be fooled: those sultanas will reappear entirely intact out the other end. Just think re-hydrated grapes. 
  8. Follow your instincts, except when your instinct is to run naked and screaming from the house. 
  9. Once you’ve had children, you will never be able to remember a time before them – and not just because “they change your life” (etc) but also because you really won’t be able to remember. Something to do with long-term-sleep-depriv…whatever.
  10. Adjust your expectations of yourself and what you are able to achieve with small children around. A 5 minute errand without kids will be a 45 minute errand with kids. And a 25 Random Things List will become a 10 Random Things List. For example.

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Yesterday morning I sent Some Guy In Paris the following message:

At the risk of sounding like your mother: “Ring your mother. It’s Mother’s Day”. Although, if I was *really* going to sound like your mother, I’d have to say “Ring me. It’s Mother’s Day”. But then I’d have to add that you don’t actually have to ring me [the NDM] but your actual mum. BECAUSE IT’S MOTHER’S DAY.

What some people might regard as out-and-out harassment, I consider to be a gentle nudge of sorts. Having spent years living “abroad” (darling), where Mothers Day was celebrated on a different date from Australia or, worse still, not celebrated at all, I often missed it altogether. A reminder, like the one I gave Some Guy Living In Paris, would have been much appreciated, if just a teensy weensy bit annoying.  

Now that my children are “in the system”, I’m on Cruise Control. I’ve got the teachers priming my children and weeks of the furtive whispering of “Plans” (always done in that Stage Whisper-kind of way where you could hear from the back of His Majesty’s) and the not-very-successful concealment of large packages behind the back to remind me that Mother’s Day is indeed a-comin’.  

In fact, last week Mr Justice just came out and asked me directly for money to buy something at the school’s Mother’s Day Stall. I decided to overlook any etiquette issues inherent in asking for money to buy a gift for the person you’re asking money from and gave him $5. 

“Oh, $2 is enough,” he replied. 

“Why don’t you take $5 just in case $2 is not enough,” I said, hopefully. 

“Oh, no it’s okay. I saw something for $2 that I want to buy you,” he insisted. But I put $5 in his school bag “just in case”.

Cut to: Mother’s Day when I open a lavender-scented candle set, which he handed to me, explaining how he’d wanted to – but been unable to – buy a “special super-strong light so you can still read a book when there is a power cut!!”, which might just well be an angle the makers of the Itty Bitty Book Light might like to explore with their marketing plan. 

My husband gave the candle pride of place in the bedroom until I pointed out it was an anti-aphrodisiac. At which point he swiftly snuffed it out and spirited it away to take pride of place in the toilet. 

In any case, Mr Justice had planned Mother’s Day very carefully – his schedule of events, which I found carefully hidden in one of my recipe books, read:

schedule

Translation:
1. Cake 2.00PM
2. Song: Happy Mother’s Day to you! 7:00AM
3. Flowers 7.01AM
4. Realax 5:30PM
5. Roast Dinner 5.40PM
6. Card 7.01PM

I don’t know about anyone else but I particularly like the fact that there is a whole 10 minutes allocated for “realax” before the roast dinner is served. Considering how much time I usually get for relaxing it was at least realistic. 

As it turned out, not much went to schedule on the day itself. The three children did sing “Happy Mother’s Day to you…” but neither the cake nor the flowers transpired and the “roast dinner” got downgraded to a barbeque. However, I managed to milk that relaxation period for more than ten minutes, I can tell you. 

In my humble opinion, it would seem that the whole point of “Mothering Sunday” (as it is known in some parts of the world) is to do as little mothering as you can get away with. And for one day of the year, I think that is entirely acceptable. But perhaps not to the point you find yourself drunk at 7:30PM at night, on twitter, gibbering about dead cats. But that’s a story for another day.

To all the Mothers Of The World who are doing a sometimes difficult, often underrated and always important job: hope you all got a chance to sit back, “realax” and be spoilt. Happy Mother’s Day. 

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After seven straight years of back-to-back pregnancy and breastfeeding, I’m finally getting rid of my maternity and nursing bras. 

And for those more Frugal Types who are no doubt thinking “Surely you could get a few more years wear out of them”, I’d like to present you with an arty shot I took of my two “skin” coloured ones (which these days would only match my skin tone if, say, I had been struck down by the Black Plague) as taken through the hole in one of my black ones, which has been sprouting small white elastic hairs for about a year now like an old lady’s chin. 

bras

Signed and framed prints available.

And so with the departure of these dear friends, a rather large vacancy has opened up in my wardrobe – and with it, the excuse to do something I have not done in years: to gaze upon my reflection under the unforgiving lights in the fitting room of the David Jones lingerie department. And my, what a sight I am to behold! All helped, no less, by some slip of a girl in the next cubicle saying to the shop assistant: “Yeah, the 10B fits just fine but I think I’ll have to go the size 8 in the g-string”. For the record, the last time I wore a g-string, Eiffel 65 was still in the charts and it only made me feel like I was giving myself a day-long wedgie. 

ANYWAY, people who know me well will know how hopelessly sentimental I can be and how I like to imbue objects and actions with capital S Symbolism. So with the metaphoric burning of these bras, I’ve been feeling I’m just one step further away from those child-bearing years I started lamenting in my recent post “The First Official Sleep-over“.

Gone now are those days (and nights) where the Mystery Guest inside my burgeoning belly  kicked and squirmed and even punched my husband in the head (Fact.) and when my stomach quite frankly looked its best (recently I tried on a dress and actually thought “If I was pregnant I could carry it off”).

No more shall I have those tell-tale wet spots on my shirt that announced “It’s dinner time!” and have little eyes look up at me so intently and solemnly while the Very Serious Business of breast-feeding was in progress – until, of course, I made a silly noise or tickled the feeder’s feet, in which case those eyes turned all merry and the milk ran out the corners of a smiling mouth.

And never again will I sit night after night in that feeding chair holding a baby and wondering how I managed to make something so utterly and divinely beautiful or why the hell this Thing never seems to want to sleep. Or both.

And so this is goodbye. Goodbye, goodbye to the crazy, beautiful, exhausting intensity of it all…

Recently, when I was watching my cousin L-Beer holding the little hands of her 10 month old daughter (the beautiful Baby C) and walk around and around the house, all with her back just slightly hunched over in that special way that all spinal-health experts advise against, I saw how far along I had come that parenting road. My children can walk around and even climb large unstable structures by themselves (without any help, thank you mum), they can now feed themselves (mostly), they are better at telling me when they feel sick or sad or angry or even bored (mostly bored), and I can even have a brief shower while alone in the house with them (with the door open, of course).

I know that there are many (many!) new dangers and delights on that road ahead: my son’s first forays into Saturday morning sports, navigating those Hannah-Montana and Bratz-infested waters, being able to have a shower or go to the toilet with the door closed and much much (much!) more… But here it is: that mummy-intensive time, when I was their entire world and they were mine, is over. 

So goodbye old friends. Thanks for the mammaries…

bras2

They never let me down during my let-down.

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It’s hard to imagine why a car’s central locking system would automatically lock itself if the drivers’ seat side was not the first door to be opened. And yet that’s one of the features of KT’s station wagon, which she has kindly lent me while the Love Bus is in Time Out at the mechanics (see “Road-Testing Times“). And it is a feature that she has warned me about in no uncertain terms, repeatedly advising me to always put the car keys on the top of the car while I strap the children into their seats.  And each time, I’ve said “Yeah, yeah, sure, okay, whatever,” in that casual way of mine which gives the very correct impression that I haven’t quite listened to what she has told me. No offence, KT. But lock the keys in the car… Moi?

Moi, indeed. Well, let’s just refer to the incident report that our neighbour the Mason might have submitted to the authorities, had he been peering through his net curtains  yesterday  morning (which he wasn’t) and had he overheard KT’s stern warnings about her car’s locking system (which he didn’t).  

10.00 AM: the NDM is sighted leaving the house with her children in a great rush and heads straight for the passenger side, which she merrily opens BEFORE the driver’s door, DESPITE ALL WARNINGS TO THE CONTRARY. 
10.01 AM: the NDM seems to realise her mistake and makes a mental note to keep the aforementioned passenger door open FOR THE DURATION 
10.02 AM: the NDM throws her handbag ALONG WITH ALL KEYS IN HER HAND onto the front seat, DESPITE ALL WARNINGS NOT TO DO SO.  
10.15 AM the NDM has managed to finally strap her two younger children into their childseats. 
10.16 AM the NDM runs inside to retrieve a forgotten item, giving her oldest child explicit instructions to run around to his side of the car and let himself in. 
10.17 AM: the NDM emerges from the house less than 30 seconds later to find the car alarm going off, all car doors firmly shut and her oldest child standing by with a “I didn’t do it!” look on his face. 

Sheesh! You’d think the Mason might have been included the events that occurred between 10.16 and 10.17 AM so that I might find out what the hell happened there. In any case, there we were, with all the car doors shut and locked, the alarm going off, and with the keys and two small children on the inside of the car. The alarm thankfully stopped pretty quickly, but those doors remained locked. Luckily the Pixie was able to reach the lock on her door from her seat so was able to ostensibly unlock it. But when I lifted the door handle, I found that it did not open the door at all, but instead rather kindly set off the car alarm again. Of course we had to repeat this little dance no less than three more times before I finally realised that it wasn’t going to work – all I needed to have done was to punctuate each time with a “Doh!” and the scene would have been complete. 

Stirred, but not shaken, I quickly ran inside for the handsfree phone to ring KT but without luck – she wasn’t home or answering her mobile phone. Doh! It was then that I proceeded to gently coach the Pixie on how to do a series of tasks she’d never done before (well, as gently as one can be when shouting through a glass window): undoing the button on her childseat harness (“Push and pull! Push and pull!”), wriggling out of the childseat altogether, lengthening the straps of the harness (“Pull and pull!”), and turning the window handle. She was trying so hard but getting absolutely nowhere – her Houdini skills have always been far less honed than her brothers’ – and I could sense she was on the verge of giving up all together and hitting the thumb Big Time after over three months on the wagon. 

It was then that I got the call from KT and got the green light to ring that Roadside Assistance company that I seem to be hangin’ out with a lot lately. And it was while I was on the phone that my 2IC Mr Justice took up the coaching role – but less in the style of a gently encouraging mummy and more akin to the father character in “Shine” – and he quickly whipped The Pixie into a Rachmaninov-style breakdown. And when the Pixie cracks it, she normally takes T. McGee with her – so by the time I was off the phone, I had the two of them absolutely bawling inside the car and the Roadside Assistant guy at least 15 minutes away. 

It was then I realised that I needed Flat Foods and I needed them fast (anyone who has read Douglas Coupland’s “Microserfs” will know what I’m on about). After furiously rummaging through the Treats Cupboard, I found some individually-wrapped Lindt chocolate squares to slide through the tiny gap at the top of the window. Which seemed to calm everyone down until I made the mistake of slipping through one of the 85% cocoa ones that tastes worse than dog shit to a young palette and McGee started wailing again, taking The Pixie with him. 

Luckily it was at precisely this moment that the Roadside Assistance guy turned up and, within a few minutes, my now chocolate-coated children were free and the whole ordeal was over.  

Now, not to blow my own horn or anything, I have to say that I was incredibly calm throughout the whole thing. And not just calm but Field Nurse Calm. It wasn’t until later, after I’d run my errands, dropped Mr Justice off at his play-date and thought to ring my husband with the news of what had just gone down, that I suddenly remembered the sight of those little crying faces trapped inside the car and me on the outside unable to help them or even hug them and the reality of it all hit me like a tonne of bricks. If this had happened two days previously when the air temperature outside soared to 38 degrees (that’s 100.4 for you fahrenheit types), I wouldn’t have had any time up my sleeves for gentle (or otherwise) coaching or flat foods. Instead I would have had to take a brick and just smash my way through the furthest window from my children without any thought of the inconvenience or costs of getting it fixed. That’s what mothers do: they go to any length to protect their children from danger. They just can’t help themselves. It would help, though, if that primal urge to protect extended itself to the careful listening to and obeying of sternly delivered instructions to avoid that danger in the first place… Just sayin’, NDM. Just sayin’. 

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Or at least I hope I do.

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Two bloggers. Two different hemispheres. One vision (largely impaired by too much clutter, dirt and booze). Exposed for all the world to see as Housekeepers Of Ill-Repute, Proprietresses of Dubious Maternal Instinct and Woefully Neglectful Wives.

Here they are, flashing their dirty bits yet again in the second of three simultaneous postings. Click here to read the sister post.

_________________________________________

I recently came home from doing an emergency dash to the supermarket with the three children in tow when I suddenly stopped and took stock of how they had dressed themselves for our little excursion.

Something's not quite right or left here

Something's not quite right (or left) here

knickerbockers

What's that poking out the top of those natty knickerbockers, Mr J?

Whoops! They're not knickerbockers for a six year old but rather trousers for a one year old...

Whoops! Turns out they're five sizes too small for you and not knickerbockers at all AND they're made in China...

Yet another memorable trip to local shopping centre “Party Central” to add to our growing collection, including: me with my trousers inside out, me still wearing an apron tied around my neck like a cape from a previous game of Super Heroes, and The Pixie with her skirt tucked very determinedly into her underpants. And then there are those many times we’ve gone there ostensibly to buy milk but have ended up putting on one hell of a show for all the other patrons, featuring songs from the Choir of the Primal Scream and some good old-fashioned Rock’n’Wrestling moves by the $2 rides.

However, one shopping trip stands out above all others. A few years ago, I was in Coles with a barely-born McGee wailing inconsolably in his pram when Mr Justice and The Pixie got a bad case of the Gumps and started running, running, running up and down the aisles, leaving me screaming after them like I was having some kind of Scream-Off with my infant son. By the time I had herded everyone to the checkout, I was feeling distinctly frazzled (to put it mildly) and an old lady who I was *sure* was about to tut disapprovingly instead smiled kindly at me and said “It’s hard work, isn’t it.” All I could do was nod and try to hold back the tears. 

I think mothering has always been hard. But I quite frankly don’t care to count the number of times I’ve heard the older generation make remarks about how lucky we have it these days because of this, that or the other. Regardless of what we have or don’t have now, the truth is that it still feels damn hard. Is it because so many of us have lived Other Lives before we chose (or fell into) this one and we’re so acutely aware of what we’ve given up? Or is it because in this Age of Information™, we are bombarded with so much conflicting advice that whatever you end up doing, you can find at least seven university studies that prove  you’ve done Totally the Wrong Thing?

And let’s face it: us womenfolk don’t exactly make it easy for each other. I once sheepishly admitted to a group of women that I had become so angry with a two-year-old Mr Justice’s balloon antics with his newborn sister that I had confiscated it from him and popped it with the nearest sharp implement I could find – which happened to be a knife. A very sharp and very big knife. Mr Justice had cried and cried and I had felt desperately sorry for what I had done as well as deeply ashamed that I had lost my temper so completely over a mere balloon. One of the women who I was telling this chose to comment on how it was unlikely Mr Justice would ever forget such a violent image – in fact, she really could not stress this enough to me. She might have said something more constructive like “Whenever I get that angry, I remove myself from the room and remember to breath and count to 10 very slowly until I’m no longer seeing the world through a thick red mist” rather than just get the boot in. No wonder everyone feels like we have to pretend our children sit around playing quietly with wooden toys, snacking on macrobiotic treats (the use of the word “treat” with word “macrobiotic” seems strangely disingenuous) while we smile benignly at them from our gleaming white kitchens, ready to leap into action at the very second they require our help, love or attention. Needless to say, there haven’t been any further knife attacks on balloons in this household since that awful day, but even if there had been, do you think I would tell anyone about it? 

You see, that’s where we’re all wrong not to be honest with each other. Isn’t it better to admit these things, these small failings as mothers, discuss them, learn from them, and never repeat them? If we just bottle it all up inside and maintain our Stepford facades, we run the risk of exploding – like one of Tiddles mid-gastro nappies. In two words: Not. Good. Not good for us and not good for our children. 

So for the record: Yes, I sometimes shout at my children. Yes, I have been known to let them eat junk food. Yes, I have on occasion slapped them on the leg. No, I don’t always brush my children’s teeth in the morning. No, I very rarely introduce reunite my daughter’s hair with the hairbrush. And no, I don’t often – if ever! – manage to stick to the prescribed two hours of screen time per day. 

So sue me. Judge me. Call me names. Alert Social Services. Avoid me on the street. Stop reading my blog. But truly, no-one can accuse me of not loving my kids more than anything else on this planet and not always trying my absolute utmost to be the Bestest Mummy Ever. And if sometimes I fail, it’s because I’m only human. And oh so very human at that.

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