12 things I’ve felt guilty about this week as a mum

A new study has claimed that working parents are riddled with guilt – but that we needn’t worry as all it takes is 12 minutes to “reconnect” with your child. But I think it going to take a bit more than a few question about their day to rid me of my mountainous remorse.

Is it just me or does having children somehow give you a new found ability to feel guilty about anything? I don’t remember amid the endless lie-ins and selfish consumerism of pre-parenthood being dogged by this constant sense of self-reproach.

In response to those psychological experts at Ribena and their 12 Minute Manual. I have thought of 12 things I have felt guilty about this week. What are yours?

1. Scraping my screaming child off me into the hands of an inanimate nursery nurse = guilt I am not staying at home to look after my child and am not going to be there when she cries.

2. At work I find for an hour or so my guilt has drifted out of my mind and I actually enjoyed my job = guilt that I forgot about my guilt

3. Get home and dish out a dinner of fish fingers and frozen veg = guilt I have not already defrosted a home cooked meal or had the slow cooker on all day.

4. Off work with the kids = guilt that by 9am they are already doing my head in and I wish I was at work

5. Partner gets home and starts hoovering = guilt I am a rubbish mum/wife and should have done this already.

6. Spend the morning cleaning while kids mope around = guilt I am not giving the kids attention.

7. Cook up a delicious home cooked meal for family dinner when hubby gets in = guilt I am not being a feminist, am letting down womenkind and should have been out pursuing the career I worked hard for instead of letting it go down the pan by going part-time and watching the younger employees overtake me in seniority, grrr.

8.Kids claw at my computer and crawl all over me asking to do some typing too = guilt I am being selfish enough to blog about guilt

9. Daughter didn’t get invited to nursery birthday party = guilt I should be making for of an effort to mix with the mums

10. Look over at my daughters and they are hugging and laughing – why am I complaining? = Guilt that I don’t deserve these precious little people.

11. Go on a rare night out and ring home and daughter of course has been sick. Continue drinking, have amazing time, massive hangover, have spent a fortune that I could have put in the girls trust fund = guilt.

12. Know I need to live in there here and now, seize the moment, not waste my life with ‘what if’s’, enjoy what I have, relax and chill out = guilt that for some reason I just can’t do it!

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The stress of primary school admissions

toddlerschool

I often find it difficult to reach a decision on such mundane dilemmas
such as what to have for dinner, so I pretty much neared meltdown
earlier this year when I had to decide which primary school to choose
to apply to send my daughter.
It seemed incredible that I was even in this situation at all. Wasn’t
she only just born a few years ago? How was it already time to start
school?
Following the advice I read the Ofsted reports and booked in a couple
of visits. What an eye-opener. Having not stepped inside a primary
school in several decades, I just couldn’t believe how many of the
little mites are packed into a tiny classroom. How a teacher manages
30 kids when I can’t entertain two for a day is awe inspiring.
None the wiser I wrote down the pros and cons and bored everyone
including myself with my quandary. Was I losing perspective? It’s just
a primary school for goodness sake. But don’t people move home,
discover religion, lie, invent siblings or special needs just to be
nab a spot at a “good” school? So it must be a serious business.
Last week, I found out, along with millions of other anxious parents,
whether we had been offered a place. All I can say is what a massive
stress. I was very lucky, my chosen school was not very over
subscribed and therefore I had a pretty good chance of getting in. But
when the day finally arrived on Tuesday and by mid afternoon I still
hadn’t heard I was starting to sweat. Had I actually submitted the
online form in the end? Was I going to find myself home-schooling my
daughter? I had a peek at some online parent forums to see how others
were getting on. Big mistake. What a world of agony. It was awash with
phrases such as “biting my nails off” “baited breath” “frenzy” and
“worst nightmare”.
I read the tale of one mum who had been offered the “19th primary
school away from us” that was graded unsatisfactory by Ofsted.
Another told how her son had not been offered a place in his sister’s
school and she now faced a double school-run everyday.
The whole choice-based process does seem a bit needlessly cruel. But
 then, after all that, I read an article claiming that the most important
determining factor when it comes to how well a child does in school is
parental involvement. So, I guess, even if I’ve passed the first
stage, my work is not done just get.

Lies and ladybirds

As one dad famously found out last week, you can’t get away with
anything when your kids are about. After an impressive 10 years of
telling porkies that perhaps he almost began to believe himself,
disgraced and now former MP Chris Huhne had to fess up that he did in
fact break the speed limit and asked his then wife to take the points
to shirk a driving ban.
And why did he change his story on the day of the trial? Was it guilt
that he’d lied to his family, friends and constituents? Shame that the
mother-of-his children could face a jail sentence? Nope, it was
because his teenage son basically “told on him” and handed over text
messages that exposed the truth.
It is a lesson Mr Huhne should surely have learnt by the time his son
had reached 18.
Thankfully in my case the exposure of my little secrets and white lies
have had less catastrophic consequences, yet have left me red-faced
just the same. From the chocolate cake or extended TV viewing I gave
my daughters as a bribe as long as they didn’t tell daddy – which of
course then did as soon as he walked through the door, to slippages
about the quality of the cooking of certain family members, I have
found the truth will out. Recently whilst navigating the minefield
that is children’s birthday invites I was reminded it is pointless to
try to keep plans quiet as there is no way on earth a child is going
to keep stum about their party.
Saying that however, in the last few months my four-year-old has just
started to experiment with the trick of lying herself, which
apparently is a developmental stage. Thankfully though she is pretty
rubbish at it. “Right, who drew that stick man on the wall?!” “It
wasn’t me mummy it was a ladybird.” Hm. Even though she is now
learning that blaming her little sister is slightly more convincing
than pointing the finger at an insect I think she’s got a way to go
yet before she perfects the technique that will no doubt in years to
come convince me she has been doing homework with a friend when she
has in fact been drinking in the park with some disreputable young
man.
I looked online for advice for what to do when you catch your child
lying. Apparently you should not make a big deal as it is natural for
them to want to avoid getting into trouble and instead focus on
solving the problem in hand eg. cleaning up the spilt juice.  Then
when they finally admit it, praise them for being honest, thereby
encouraging them to tell the truth in the future. As Chris Huhne sees
his political career and family life lying in tatters and faces a
possible prison sentence, I bet he wishes real life took a leaf out of
parenting books.

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How long does it take to put on a pair of gloves?

snowball

There’s something about snow isn’t there that turns us all into a bit
of a kid? Hitting the slopes with my daughters at the weekend I wasn’t
the only foolhardy parent to say “Go on then I guess I better have a
go then.” And it was great, even if I ended up face down after a bit
of oversteer to avoid a collision with my toddler who was wandering
around wondering who had nicked her sledge.
Then there’s the snowball fights. It was like an outdoor therapy
session. It’s the one time of the year when you can fling things at
your other half without being told you need to go on an anger
management course. Although I did feel a bit guilty when my
four-year-old got caught in the parental crossfire and emerged wailing
from behind the parked car where her dad was (cowardly) taking
shelter, looking like a little snowman. My poorly aimed lob had landed
right on top of her head. “Waah, mummy hit me with a snowball!” Well,
take that for waking me up at 5am.
Whilst it’s brilliant when you look out of your window and everything
is all white and pretty, it’s not so great when you actually have to
go anywhere. Generally getting out of the door with two young children
takes long enough as it is and involves of a colourful array of
bribes, empty threats, tears and tantrums. But in winter it just gets
ridiculous.
There’s the waterproof trousers, the extra jumpers, the waterproof
coats, the wellies, the hats, and just don’t get me started on the
gloves. How hard is it to get five fingers into five holes? And then
you can guarantee that once all that is on one of them will decide
they need a trip to the bathroom and we have to strip it all off and
start all over again.
Anyway on Saturday, geared-up like they were trekking off to the
arctic, we finally left the house, sledge in tow. For a blissful
little window of about 30 minutes of frolicing fun I felt this was
what having kids is all about. But then in an instant the youngest
fell face down in the snow, the cold set in and the fun was over and
we were left with dragging two tired, red-cheeked, whinging children
all the way home again. I’m sure they enjoyed it really. Maybe I can
sneak back out one evening when they’ve gone to bed for some flood-lit
sledging?

Furbies, plastic dogs that poop or lip gloss for 4-year-olds: weird and wonderful xmas presents

Raleigh_Molly_12_14_inch_girls_Pink_BikeAs my daughters are three and two I have escaped lightly this
Christmas when it comes to presents as the oldest is still mostly
oblivious to the whole shenanigans. She has asked for a bike and for
some reason a triangle, so it has all been pretty straightforward. But
after browsing the internet and shops for other things that I might
put on their Christmas lists for family and friends, I have been drawn
into a whole new and sometimes frightening world.
The top present is something called a Furby. It made me feel
especially ancient to learn this is a “retro” toy, having previously
been a must-have in the distant past of 1998 and is now making a
come-back.  These robotic hamster-like creatures who speak “furbish”
and cost around £60 apparently develop their own personality and even
give you backchat.  As I have two children whom I’ve already lost
control of, I definitely don’t want responsibility for giving one of
these a pile of issues too.
It also unsettled me that apparently I should soon be buying my
children their own tablet computers. These child versions are only
recommended for the age of up to seven, after that an iPad or similar
is deemed more suitable.
From the sublime there is also the ridiculous. One of the top games
involves players throwing the dice to squeeze a plastic dachshund’s
lead, with each squeeze pushing plasticine poop nearer to fruition.
When the deed is done the player holding the lead cleans up with a
little spade. First to three wins.
The one thing that lifted my spirits was spotting in the top 10 the
familiar face of a pop-up pirate, where you take it in turns to prod
him with a sword until he shoots out. That’s more about my level.
I have ranted before about the prevalence of pink toys for girls and
the prize for most sexist toy store has to go to Hamleys who have
launched  a new “Luvley Girls Boutique.” There you can find a lip
gloss and mirror set for the recommended age of four to eight or a
hair curler that claims will have six-year-olds wondering “how did I
ever live without it?” They are followed by the Early Learning Centre,
where under the fancy dress “I Want to Be” section boys can be a
doctor, police officer, fireman, racing driver, chef and construction
worker and girls can be erm… a princess.
Of all the stereotypical girly toys it is good old Barbie who is
actually the feminist role model with the “I Can Be Range” including
an architect, pilot and even president (albeit a pink one).
So after more anti-pink ranting what is my daughter getting for
Christmas? The pinkest girliest bike you have ever seen, complete with
sparkly tassels and a seat for her doll on the back. I will have to
blame Santa for the mix-up…

What’s in a name?

gazza

Maybe it is because I am a journalist and have suffered many a
berating over the years for rogue spelling mistakes that have crept
into the paper, but I do like words to be spelt correctly. And that
includes names.
I just don’t understand how after someone has gone through all that
effort of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary and endless books on
baby names, when it comes to choosing a name for children people
suddenly think they can spell it however they want or even just make a
new one up completely. Am I just being an old pedant?
Names are back in the spotlight this week following the announcement
that Royals William and Kate are going to have a baby. Luckily for
them, in the UK we have some of the most relaxed laws in the world
when it comes to naming our children.
In many countries parents can only choose from a set list and names
have to be approved and spell-checked.
In Germany the authorities consult the “International Manual of the
First Names” and any name must indicate gender. Iceland has its own
naming committee, but whilst rejecting Pluto and Money in their wisdom
they did approve Benson and Hedges for twins and Midnight Chardonnay.
Sweden’s strict laws have seen names Metallica, Superman, Veranda and
Ikea, all binned.
But here in the UK there are already several young Supermans, along
with numerous Gandalfs and even Gazzas.
The modern trend for hyphened names has actually been around for a
while. The Puritans got there first coming up with such gems as
“If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst- been-damned” and
“Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes.”
Among the handful of restrictions in this country are that the name is
not offensive, does not contain numbers or symbols. is not impossible
to pronounce and does not imply rank or honour like Sir, Lord,
Princess or doctor etc.
It may be argued that all names were invented once. But they are all
based on some kind of meaning – personal traits, occupations,
circumstances of birth or have links to religion or mythology.
However maybe in a google and social media-driven world it does help
to stand out from the crowd? Apparently in 1800 a whopping 24% of all
girls were called Mary, that must have been confusing.
With so much choice and media pressure the couple are in a tight spot.
Charged with the responsibility of modernising the monarchy, a
traditional name is bound to be a disappointment. But could they go as
far as celebs like Jamie Oliver who named his son “Buddy Bear?”. At
least Royals tend to have plenty of names.  William’s is William
Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. So maybe along with Diana and
Elizabeth or George and Arthur there will be room to sneak in a Gazza
too?

Can you change a tyre?

Having two daughters I have written before how it can be all too easy to succumb to the pink sparkly stereotype of girliness. For whatever good it does I at least try to make sure they have a couple of cars and trains amongst their toys and that they dress up as pirates not just fairies. Yet I didn’t set them much of an example this week when they had to come with their dad to rescue me as I sat stranded with a flat tyre on the side of the motorway.
I was a total cliche from the moment my car first started to make an unusual noise, just turning the music up so I couldn’t hear it.
Even when it began to lose power, I kept hitting the accelerator thinking if I could just reach home everything would be ok. It was only when people started flashing me and I could smell smoke that I finally pulled into a layby and found my tyre ripped to shreds.
At first I thought my banger had had it, as after passing the 100,000 miles mark the old dear is about ready for her bus pass, so I was relieved to find it was just a tyre. At least I did manage to use the manual to get to the stage of jacking her up and trying to prise loose the wheel nuts, but I just couldn’t get them to budge.
But worse embarrassment was to come when I went to get a new tyre as the outside of my car looks like a Ferrari compared to the inside. When I saw the mechanic putting a plastic sheet on the seat I thought it was because he didn’t want to get grease on it. But then I realised he was actually pretty clean and I think he just thought it looked like a health hazard. Maybe he didn’t see the empty Haribo packets stuffed in the driver’s door that I pocketed out of the children’s party bags and ate myself. And I am sure he won’t have noticed the rotten apple core that I had been meaning to remove for the last few days or maybe a week, or the cheese sandwich crusts discarded on the floor of the backseats. But to my mortification he did see the opened tampon that my daughter had found in the glove compartment and as it kept her happy thinking it was mouse I had thought what the heck and let her keep playing with.
The one plus side of my tip of a car is that if I ever do break down with the children on board, at  least I could scrounge something edible or a long forgotten toy to play with buried somewhere under the seat.
However, this has been a wake up call. I have now practiced changing a wheel and cleaned out the inside and it looks semi-respectable. But I am not sure I should be let loose on the brake pads just yet.

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