Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The end of an Era

In a few short weeks, days even, I shall shut the door on this stage of my life and move completely into the next stage.  I've been hovering in and out of this stage for a good 18 months or so now, but I must make the leap for good very soon. Yes, my Baby leaves pre-schooler-hood behind forever and goes to school. 
I meet this stage with mixed emotions..on the one hand I'm glad to be leaving behind the often bizzare and competitive world of the under 5 scene, but on the other, I know she is moving ever swiftly out of my lap and out into the real world, and I feel a bit redundant!
I had a small taster of what my "new life" would be like in the fouth term of last year. You see? I did it there. School Mums divide the year into terms..maybe I'll be ok..... Anyway.  Non parents have no. idea. about terms , nor about the significance of Term Four. For the unintiated, term four is also known as CRAZY TERM, and last years was more crazy than most, due to it's shortness. The year is divided into 4 terms of around 10 weeks apeice. Last year, being Rugby World Cup year, we had 3 longer terms and term four was just 8 short weeks. 8 weeks into which we squeeze Christmas, Nativity plays, school concerts, summer sports, end of year breakups, Dance concerts that require daily practice, often into the night, parties and then there is the actual school stuff. And work.  I left home most days before 8.15 and more often than not, wasn't getting home til after 5pm, tired children in tow. By the time school had actually finished I was super tired and super stressed out. And not keen on repeating that level of insanity for a long time. So you can see why I have been hesitating about taking the leap into school mum-hood. However, It's inevitable. Seasoned professionals assure me that insanity is purely a term 4 disorder, and I'll enjoy this new phase of life.
The Small Elf, on the other hand, can't wait. She's not keen on leaving behind her favourite teachers, but she is very much looking forward to being a "Big Girl".  She's ordered a Princess Party and tried on her (size 3) school uniform many times, she asks the Big Elf a tonne of questions daily about the ins and outs of the school day.  She has friends waiting for her and she is looking forward to learning how to read. I looked through her baby album the other day and I cried. She might be ready, but I am not.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The coffee group mine field.

There’s one in every class…. You know, the one who’s going to do the whole birth thing with no pain relief, breastfeed ‘til school days, cloth nappies ‘til toilet trained at one, only home made organic baby food, all while studying child psychology to better understand the two year old when he/she arrives in the nursery.
The one who makes you feel woefully inadequate as a first time parent without actually meaning to.
The reason why sometimes in the pit of your stomach there becomes a knot whenever coffee group time rolls around.  You don’t know WHY she does it but you do know it makes you feel bad.
Ante Natal class is a bit like that minefield you thought you had escaped when you left high school.  Suddenly, all of the different cliques are thrown together in one big melting pot because you all have one common denominator—you all had a baby. After you have all had your babies, you need to navigate which  clique you fit into.  You may have changed cliques since high school, you might just slot back into your clique with ease. Lets refresh. There’s The Cool Mum – all “it” buggies, the “right” merinos, the casually cool seemingly effortless outfits, driving the cool car that neither says Mum Bus or compromise… then there’s the Nerds – the ones who have read and memorised every parenting book and theory, turning themselves needlessly inside out when their “Sanguine” baby turns out to be a “grumpy” baby. The Sporty Gals – the ones doing the next women's tri– are going for casual jogs just weeks after childbirth with their super jogging strollers. The Natural Mum (aka The Hippy) – all free parenting, non vaccinating and cloth nappies, The Class Clown—The mum whose glassy eyes and loud laughs belie the fact she is struggling to cope on three or four hours of sleep a night and then of course, there is the above mentioned Supermum. 
Supermum is a clique all of her own.  She is probably also known as “Competimum” The mum who turns every age and stage into some kind of competition.  Love her or hate her, you probably all know her or maybe you ARE her.  Supemum doesn't mean to be the way she is.  Supermum quite possibly takes the whole “Happy Mum = Happy baby” saying to the letter and quite possibly subscribes to the “Fake it til you make it” school of thought as well.  Clichés aside, Supermum is pretty hard to stomach when your own baby journey isn’t rocking along as nicely as you thought it might. After a 24 hour labour that ended in an episiotomy or a c section and the stiches made you yelp for weeks after, or even after an 8 hour labour during which you had gas or *shock horror* and epidural, supermum likes to trot out her “didn’t feel a thing” textbook story which ends with the baby breastfeeding perfectly first time and no past partum blues. As time moves on, cloth nappies and organic home made baby food become the next items on the list, and super baby is crawling by 5 months, teeth at 9 months and walking to the toilet on their own at 12 months.  While reciting Shakespeare in Latin.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that we all take immense pride in what we are doing, which is the hardest job in the world.  Regardless of if we breast or bottle feed, if we had “natural births” or asked for the pain relief to wear off around the Childs 20th birthday, feed your child store bought food while s/he sits in plastic nappies till age 3 we are all doing the very best job we can in the best way we know how and it might even be *gasp* different to how you are doing it. No matter which clique you slot into (and don’t say you don’t because you do—just think about it for a minute..) You will have your trials and tribulations.  Don’t judge “cool mum’ because she has “the toys” and “the look” down pat.  Cool mum has her worries, doubts and insecurities just like every one else.  Nerdy mum is a great point of reference when you need to figure out the “sleep/feed/play” thing.  Hippy mum is probably onto a few good things if you open your mind enough and Good old Supermum probably has the biggest hang-ups of them all.  Not everyone’s lives are that perfect all the time.  YOU can be the refreshing change in your coffee group.  Own up if things suck. Wear your tears with pride. Admit to disliking this lark. Admit to finding it hard.  You opening your mouth—and your mind– could be just the thing those other mums need the most.  To hear that it’s not always perfect and it’s ok to really hate the job some days. Especially Supermum.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fat girls friends...

I have to admit, I am addicted to spending money.  I just can’t stop.  Pre mortgage, babies, responsibilities etc, I shopped for myself.  Shamelessly squandering money on whatever pretty things took my fancy, clothes, make-up, perfume and those Fantastic Fat Girl friends- shoes, handbags and wallets. I say “Fat Girl Friends” in the nicest way possible.  I am a girl of a “curvy” body type, so shoes, wallets and handbags are the three things guaranteed not to bunch or ride up in unflattering places and do not require you to forgo lunch to look good – in short, they always fit and they always look great.
Upon having Jacob, I discovered little boy’s clothes. SQUEEE!!!!!!!! So cute! Who can resist a fat little tummy in overalls? Oh, and hats! And All Blacks all in ones! I could go on.
However, the older they get, the less cute the boys stuff gets.  Once they get out of baby sizes, everything is plastered in truck, skateboard, dinosaur and skulls decal or, worse still “licensed” stuff like Tonka, Bob, Spiderman, etc, and I am not a fan of the decal. No, sir. And overalls? Not so good when toilet training. Not created for ease of removal for the small boy who leaves it until the VERY last minute to go to the bathroom.
Lucky for me (as I already have a large collection of shoes, wallets and handbags) I had a baby girl. Children’s clothes have become the new Fat Girls Friends. More specifically – for me, anyhow- baby girl’s clothes.  I read somewhere on that interweb thing that the most prolific spenders on girls clothing are ladies of a curvy nature. Something about “living vicariously”? Who cares! Have you SEEN little girl’s clothes? I hoard my Pumpkin Patch catalogues from seasons past to trawl the online outlet store and furiously bid on trade me for coveted items. I sell and trade stuff to get a fix of “new”.  I count down the sleeps till the new ranges are out in the stores and I’m like what I can only imagine a crack addict must be like when I get in store to see those puppies. I cannot help myself. And not just Pumpkin Patch.  Any new seasons range of little girls clothes. I am in heaven. I carefully avoid the yucky trademarked stuff and the mini streetwalker gear and go for as much pink, purple, red, flowers and polka dots that a normal person can stomach. Oh man. And let’s not even go there about tights, hats and jackets. I haven’t bought stuff for myself in ages, well; I lie, but only out of absolute necessity.  Himself gives me some money to get something nice, so I do.  For the children….
My kids may just be the best dressed kids in town, but I haven’t changed out of a pair of threadbare wide leg jeans or ¾ pants and a long sleeve t shirt or old winery polo shirt in about 3 years now. And I couldn’t be happier.

Public Property?

I’ve often considered what would happen if I went up to some random fat lady (or man) and patted their tummies uninvited and launched into the million questions along the lines of what they eat and why and offered my own advice free of charge and unasked for.
I’d probably get a smack in the head and read my pedigree before being taken away by the police.
So why on earth do strangers think it is their God given right to manhandle random pregnant women? And then offer their advice?
I have to admit, I was a captive audience, being stuck behind a counter and being paid to be nice.
By the end of my 22 month pregnancy I had had about enough of strangers well meaning advice and had had more than enough of the stock standard questions people ask when making polite conversation with a pregnant lady, who because of her large bump, has quite obviously lost part or most of her brain, so can only talk in loud s-l-o-w sentences about babies and the like. In my last few weeks at work, I began to play a little (NEVER make a pregnant woman angry).
“So….. Do you know what you are having?” (As if I’d tell you!) To which I would reply “Well, I am kind of hoping for a new dog, but I think it’s a baby...”
“Oh! You’re pregnant!”
“No, I’m just fat!”
“Oh, you won’t need pain relief; women in China give birth in the rice paddies and just go back to work after”
“Do you get your teeth pulled without pain relief?”
Chances are, if you are reading this, you will know “The questions” and their variations.
I’ve also noticed the minefield of veiled comments, meaningful questions and well meaning but sometimes misguided advice.
The most loaded questions usually start days after birth, and usually come from an aunty or grandma…. “So… is he a good baby?” which actually means “So… is he sleeping through the night yet?” and “So… are you feeding him?” (as opposed to starving him, of course) which actually means “So… are you breastfeeding him” That question turns into “ are you still feeding him?” at around 4 or 5 months and (shockingly true) “Don’t you think its sick and disgusting to be still feeding when they can walk?” The inference is that if baby is not or you are not doing these things, then you are not doing things right.
The thing that makes me shake my head the most is that most of these veiled questions to our parenting ability is that these often come from our fellow sisters. Women. And usually ones who have themselves been on the receiving end of these endless questions that make us sometimes doubt our ability to be a good parent. So we make up or fudge a little so as not to seem completely useless. “Yes, he sleeps through. Has been since 2 weeks” (LIE!)  We are our own worst enemies in a time when we need the help and support of other women the most. Like it somehow makes us seem like better parents if we can make another woman feel a teensy bit bad about their situation. So come on Mums, lets not ask if baby is “Good” lets just say, companionably, Gosh it’s hard, isn’t it?. Would you like me to make you a drink?

Santa, are you out there?

So, as you read this, you will have probably begun the descent into Christmas Chaos, and if you are anything like me, you will be totally loving it. I am a freak for all things Christmas, and I have been known to blast my Christmas Cds for waaay longer than is considered tasteful. I now have the added bonus that my two little elves love the Christmas music almost as much as they love my “Bogan – Best rock anthems from the pub jukebox” CD – no, really!
And joy to the world! Christmas combines 2 of my favourite pastimes – Eating and spending money!
And then there is the presents. I have to admit, when it comes to husbands and presents, I have well and truly won the jackpot.  I have always received great pressies from him, although I don’t believe anything will top the pressie I got for Christmas last year, which was a diamond ticket to see Bon Jovi that was a dream come true.  This year, however, I think we are bypassing pressies as we have recently been in Fiji and are now putting in a new kitchen, so we are “on a budget”.  (I have “heard” that before, though...)
This year, though, what I want is simple, and I am sure many other mothers out there are after the same thing. It’s fairly rare, and I am told if you get one (or both, even) you are the envy of mothers the world around.
What is this gift? The uninterrupted toilet break and the unsupervised shower. Oh, yes, I long for the day I can peacefully sit on the toilet, contemplating the problems of the world without one or both of my children hammering on the door, asking for something to eat, fighting, howling, or now that he can reach, opening the door….
And shower? Wow, what I wouldn’t give to have one of those without seeing through the steam the door cracking open and two little elves appearing at the (luckily for their eyesight) steamed up shower door..its worse if I haven’t planned ahead and removed the items from the top drawer of the vanity (usefully the only one without a safety latch), because if I don’t act fast enough, the small one is off quickly to paint the carpet with toothpaste (which doesn’t come out) and the bigger one is chasing her so he can cut her fingernails with one of the 4 sets of nail clippers in there…
If, by some small miracle I can get the lock on the door to work, it ends up with the same screaming/crying/fighting scenario as the toilet door does and as an added bonus, I often can’t get out because the lock is jammed, and the phone will be ringing and if I am even luckier, the bigger one will have taken it upon himself to “answer” it…
So, Santa, if you are reading, I have been VERY nice this year, and EXTREMELY good, do you think you can wrangle this for me??? Just once???

To TV or not to TV

Ok, so this motherhood lark is all about the guilt.  We are constantly bombarded with messages, even pre conception, on what and what not to do to raise the brainiest, healthiest uber baby in the block.  Eat this, drink that, don’t go near them, read this, watch that, or rather don’t watch that…

So I’d like to put my hand up and say, I let my toddler watch TV. He doesn’t watch CSI, or Survivor, not interested in Home and Away. His tastes run a lot nosier and repetitive than that, he’s a fan of The Playhouse Disney Channel - Mickey Mouse and The Wiggles in particular.

TV was one of “The Great Evils” to be avoided, when I was pregnant first time around.  No TV for us, and I made sure he couldn’t even see it in his line of vision if I was watching it when he was a baby.  I would position his play mat, with the baby genius flash cards and all the learning toys in front of our huge solid coffee table, so he got all brainy while I watched Dr Phil or Oprah.

Then I had another baby. 

I often found it difficult to have a shower before tea time once we got past that sleep all day party all night newborn stage.

So he was the grand old age of 22 months, and out of sheer desperation, I popped the Playhouse channel on to see what would happen…. It was the Wiggles, and he was hooked. Colourful, catchy (read annoying and loud) and unfailingly happy, Murray, Geoff, Anthony and Greg/Sam soon became welcome guests in my home.

At a meeting I attended over  the winter, we were talking about what we could do with the children over the v-e-r-y long wet days of winter, when one brave soul piped up that the Disney Channel had been a real lifesaver, and, after that (shock) admission, about 90% of the mums admitted to using the TV to get much needed time out (or showers and a hot cuppa), and it made me realise that even super mum sometimes needs 4 insanely smiling men in brightly coloured skivvies to help out with the kids!

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It took quite a while for me to make peace with the fact that not only does having a baby change your life, but that it also changes the way non baby people treat you, no matter how much you insist you are still the same person.
I always said—in that grant sweeping statement manner that only non parents can master- that having a baby would not change my life and that Baby would have to fit in with us. I had all these ideas that I would carry on as before, with my full fabulous life and that the Big Elf (who was “Elvis in the Pelvis” at the time) would just rock along with me, being a cool cruisy kind of kid that everybody adored. And then I actually HAD a baby.
Starting off with the small fact that we did our antenatal classes elsewhere, so didn’t really have a coffee group, I just carried on as usual and carried the Big Elf along with me. I was the first of all my friends to have a baby, so it was a bit of a novelty and most people didn’t mind.  After all, he was small and cute and his hair spiked up naturally in a “faux hawk” that matched his cute bandanna bib, teeny tiny baby Nikes and sweet little pumpkin patch overalls. This strategy worked well for the first month or two, then the trouble started. Once he got out of that new born stage where they sleep all the time, things got a bit more difficult and I soon realised that it would be less stressful for all parties involved if I stopped trying to “make” The Baby Elf “fit in” with me, and went with his flow for a change. I noticed Saturday morning “coffee dates” soon dried up and invites out at the weekend slowed down to a trickle as well.  I didn’t understand! I was still fabulous! Even better than that, I was now skinny! (thanks breastfeeding!) I still liked to gossip! I was still me! I had only had a baby! Nothing life changing or anything! To my complete and utter horror, I realised that my non baby friends had closed ranks and I was now the outsider. Despite my protests that I was still the same Annie, “you’ve changed” seemed to resonate really loudly everywhere I turned.  I know they didn’t mean it in a bad way, but how else can you word that phrase without it sounding bad?! Yeah, I guess I had changed. I had become a little less self centred, I had discovered that my single friends revolving bedroom door stories had me heading off to dreamland, and two beers sent me doolaly, but apart from that, I was STILL ME!
The turning point for me came, when an invite to a dinner party was issued by a good friend and work colleague.  I hummed and ha-ed about accepting it, but when my friend promised we would eat early so we could get the baby elf to bed before midnight, I decided that it was my ticket back into civilised society. The less said about that night the better, really, but driving home, in tears, starving, with a starving teenager , a snoring man of the house in the passenger seat, and an over tired baby, I had an epiphany of sorts. Yes, I had “changed”. I no longer thought that 10pm was a reasonable time to begin cooking a meal.  Wine wasn’t a good appetiser to this après 10pm meal. Babies find it hard to sleep in dark rooms not of their own when drunken shrieks pierce the air with alarming regularity and I wasn’t the same girl I thought I was.
I was upset about this night for weeks, possibly months later.  Not because of what happened, but  because it signified to me that that part of my life was, if not over, definitely different to before, and that was something that I wasn’t sure I was ready to let go of! I didn’t want to become “Elf's Mum”, wearing a uniform of tight  ponytail and a polar fleece ‘n’ crocs combo, who spoke of nothing but her offspring's toilet habits, updating facebook with every nap and fart, however it seemed that I had  been lumped into that group regardless of how cool I still thought I was.
I eventually made my peace with the fact that some people treat you like you have had a lobotomy once you give birth.  Sometimes it still bites me in the butt and I have to fight the urge to issue a slap upside the head to someone who slows down their speech and over simplifies their conversation once they find out I am “domestically disabled”.  I know a lot of you will have to do this too, at some stage,  so take comfort knowing that you are not alone and you are not domestically disabled, you are in fact a domestic diva and still FABULOUS!