Monday, 23 June 2014

Why my house never quite makes it to spotless.

Damn, Dom's finished his dinner already.  That was quick, I was hoping to have him distracted for a bit longer while I cleaned the kitchen.  Well, it was only a sandwich.  I'll see if he wants some fruit for afters.  

"What's that, my love?  Neenor?"  Hmmm.  Is he getting a bit too obsessed with neenor?  I don't want him watching too much telly.  I suppose an episode of Fireman Sam only lasts 10 minutes.  I can settle him down with that and a banana and I can get stuck into the dishes before we go out.

Right, that's that sorted.  He's happy.  Let's crack on with this kitchen.  Crap, forgot to give him his banana.  Where's the tea towel?  Oh sod it, a bit of soapy water never hurt anyone.  

Surely we can't have eaten all those bananas?  I only bought new ones the other day. I've told him he can have fruit now... maybe he's forgotten.  He IS pretty engrossed in Fireman Sa - "Yes my angel?  I'm sorry, we haven't got any bananas, my love.  Hang on, let's see what else we've got... pears, apples, cherries... OK, cherries?  OK, I heard you!  Go and sit down and I'll bring you some cherries.  I know!  I know you want cherries!  I'm bringing them in now!"

Must buy a cherry pitter.  In the meantime, where's the little knife?  Oh, at the bottom of the sink under all the other dirty dishes.  Fine, no worries, I've got nails.  Oof, I need a wee.

"Here you go, babyface."  Right, dishes.  What's that over there?  Ah, THAT'S why he was so quick to finish his sandwich.  Half of it is under the coffee table.  Let's just grab that brush from the kitchen.  There, sorted. That'll do for now, I'll brush properly later.  Dustpan... where is the dustpan?  Why isn't the dustpan WITH the brush?  Isn't that the logical place for it to - oh, no, apparently the logical place is under the bed with the dustbunny population of the world.  I'll just grab that brush.

"Oh, Dom, really?!"  Note to self - don't leave a toddler with a pile of crumbs.  They can't resist. So it looks like I AM brushing properly now.  Might as well brush my way into the kitchen.  

It's getting a bit too hot to leave the butter out now, I'd better stick it in the fridge.  Jesus, what's that?  Has it got legs?  Cloth, cloth, where's the cloth? This fridge needs a good cleaning.  I'll do it later.  For now, let's just wipe up whatever this is and get back to the dishes.  Ooh, strawberries!  Forgot they were there.  I'll have them when Dom goes for a sleep.  Well, might as well have a couple now, keep me going.

Didn't I have a cup of tea?  Ah, there it is.  Bit cold but nothing the microwave won't sort out.  God, that microwave is vile.  Whatever Mat defrosted for his tea last night appears to have taken violently against the process.  Would it kill him to clean it BEFORE it encrusted itself to the glass?  I'll have to put it in soak.  After I've warmed my tea up.  

Dom's very quiet, that's ominous.  Let's see if I can see him without him seeing me or it's game over.  CHRIST ALMIGHTY IS THAT BLOOD?  Oh, thank God, it's only cherries.  Bloody cherries.  Shit, there's some on the wall.  Better get that off before it stains.  Please come off.  PLEASE!  Crap, looks like we're repainting.  Again.  Should just do it black and have done with it, except he'd probably just wipe his nose on it if we did.  Can't win.  What was that saying about cleaning the house with kids around being like snow or something?  No, it's gone.  I'll Google it.  

Where's my phone?  When did I last have it?  I was looking up the number for the dentist this morning, then I put it in my bag, which is in the hall.  "Dom, what have we said about emptying Mama's bag?".  Half of this stuff needs to go in the bin anyway.  I don't know why I'm carrying it around with me.  No wonder my back hurts.  I wonder if I can wangle a back rub tonight?  If I don't pick on him about the microwave he might go for it.

The microwave!  My tea!  Shitting hell.  One day I'll learn to put it on for 30 seconds at a time.  At least the crusty cheese has had a bit of a soak now.  Still need a wee.  Let's just check on Dom.  Yep, he's fine.  Toilet, here I come.  Oh, God that's nic- "What?  Milk?  You need milk RIGHT NOW?  OK, just let me get off the toilet and we'll - oh, OK, no, we're breastfeeding right here."  On the toilet.  That's sanitary.  There's a meme in here somewhere.  

When did I last put the mould stuff around the tiles?  Looks like it needs doing again.  I thought the point of it was that it KILLED mould?  I wasn't aware that mould could resurrect itself.  Maybe it's been reading the Bible.  Or Pet Sematary.  Yeah, this bathroom is definitely more Stephen King than hallelujah.  

"Dom, shall we play with your blocks?  No?  OK, you play on your truck.  Mama's just going to start the kitchen.  Nappy change?  Come on then."

Christ, that stinks.  How can one tiny, beautiful person produce such a stench?  Quick, into the bin before it explodes or something.  Bin needs emptying.  Binbags?  Oh, don't say we've got no binbags!  Ah, there they are.  I'll have to leave this outside the back door until we're going out.  At this rate, we'll be lucky to make it before it bio-degrades.  Worst case scenario, Mat can take it down when he gets in.

Speak of the devil.  "Hiya babe, you're home early!  Fancy a brew?  I'll make you a sandwich if you want, there's some cheese left.  Just let me - WHAT WAS THAT?!"  No harm done, just a shock.  And that's why we don't pull Mama's books off the shelf.  

"Mat, remember to use a chopping board, I've just wiped that down.  Sorry, sorry, I know you're not stu- GET A PLATE!  How many times!"  Good lord, it's like having two kids sometimes.  Did I say that out loud?  Phew, don't want to jeopardise my back rub. 

How can one man make such a mess in 45 seconds rubbing butter onto bread and applying cheese?  I swear it looks like Armageddon in here.  I give up.  Let's just go to the park.


Shit, forgot the binbag.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

In defence of my phone.

Don't worry, I KNOW that excessive use of a mobile phone can be damaging to our interpersonal relationships.  I'm not advocating for gluing ourselves to our phones 24x7, but nor am I a huge fan of the slightly sanctimonious backlash that makes us feel like criminals for checking our notifications.  I'm here to provide a bit of balance.

I keep seeing all of this judgement online 
Critical of how we're all spending our time 
Assuming because I've got hold of my phone 
I'm socially inept and feeling alone 

I have to admit, I dislike your assumption 
That our use of these tools is purely consumption 
Mindless and brainless and begging for more
You've no way of knowing what I use it for

From the brief glimpse you have, there's no way you can know
If I'm allowing the creative juices to flow
Writing a novel or completing this poem
In case I forget it before I get home

Connecting with family who live over the sea
Brought closer together by technology
Or maybe I'm disproving cosmic expansion
Is that important enough to warrant your sanction?

I think most of all I feel sorry for mothers
They seem to have it worse than the others
If they glance at their phone they're ignoring their child
Neglecting the baby or letting kids run wild

Maybe you think I'm being defensive
For finding your judgement a little offensive
I do understand that too much can cause damage
But I resent that you feel that my life's yours to manage

The irony is, now your video's gone viral
You're a contributor to the downward spiral
Every time you walk past someone and judge what they do
The chances are, they're watching YOU.

Friday, 13 June 2014

My reason for everything

It's easy to talk about the hard parts of our lives, the struggles we go through in raising our children, the tantrums and financial worries and the endless burden of guilt.  It's almost unfashionable to say we had a good night's sleep, or are getting on really well with our other halves right now, or enjoy being a stay at home mum or love having a job that involves getting dressed and leaving the house every day.  

Don't get me wrong, I can understand why.  It can be perceived as being a bit smug if we talk too much about how wonderful things are, and there's a level of bonding that comes from discussing our emotional war wounds.  Playing the "Bet my husband is messier than yours" game or playfully competing over whose washing machine is switched on the most is much more likely to win friends than waxing lyrical about how perfect your life is, which can quickly escalate into a dangerous contest of one-upmanship that results in snide comments and hurt feelings all round.  Plus, as someone who likes to write and usually wants to make people laugh, I can't deny that the miniature disasters of everyday life hold far more humour than a constant recounting of all the reasons that life is great, aren't you jealous of me, blah blah blah.

Yet sometimes, it's important to just focus on the positives, revel in the wonder of what we're doing as we bring up these little people who are hell-bent on causing chaos.  I don't say it as often as I should, but I could say it a million times a minute and it wouldn't be enough.  I'm the luckiest woman in the world to have the privilege of life with my son.  Every day of his life is a sheet of paper off this extraordinary game of "pass the parcel", and every day I see another tantalising glimpse of the incredible gift that lies beneath the layers of his developing accomplishments.  He brings sheer, absolute, undiluted joy to my soul and renews my energy even as his uncompromising sense of his own truth threatens to eclipse and overwhelm my weak morning-time composure. 

Personality-wise, we're starting to see the person emerge from the babyish appearance.  He's funny, in a way I didn't know people could be without language.  In fact, he is side-splittingly hilarious; bringing tears of laughter to our eyes and the sharp pain of overwhelming love to our hearts on a daily, hourly basis.  His affection is a goal we pursue every minute of every day and his attention is the sun on frozen limbs.  His new-found opinions, as critical to him as oxygen, are unshakeable and forceful, and when he loves, he does so with every drop of energy his miniature little body holds.

Mid-tantrum, he is as majestic as he is woefulas ridiculous as he is vulnerable, helpless against the weight and force of his own emotions.  He comes back to earth after these episodes a briefly wiser, weakened baby, ready to accept the circle of arms and love to which he was welcome all along.  In rest he is, quite simply, beautiful, to the point where eating my own kneecap seems easier than tearing my eyes away from his flawless face, eyelashes curving peacefully down to peach-skin cheeks; tiny, perfect teeth; ears a masterpiece of curves; plump baby lips that invite kissing over and over and over again.  His hands, so small, hold potential and my heart with the same fierce grasp that belies his tiny size when clutching his toys.  The chubby part above his toes that makes buying shoes so difficult makes not nibbling those delicious digits impossible.  He is, head to toe, a tour de force, the achievement I'm most proud of and my life's work made flesh.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Yes, it is fucking special

I have an acquaintance who objects to pregnant women being offered seats on public transport.  He considers himself a well-mannered individual, but strongly believes that pregnancy is not a medical condition and that, because a woman can choose to become or remain pregnant, doing so negates any claim she may feel she has to "special treatment".  

As you can probably guess, this attitude elicited a fierce response from me.  ("Fierce" being the word I choose when describing things to people like, say, my mother.  "Profane" would work just as well).  In the ensuing heated exchange of views, I concurred that yes, pregnancy in itself is not a medical condition.  However, leaving aside the myriad medical conditions that can and frequently do tag along with this "normal part of life," a pregnant woman is the most vulnerable she will ever be.  Physically larger, slower and clumsier, she is also permanently aware of and responsible for her cargo in a way nobody who has not carried a baby, either in their arms or their womb, can ever fully understand.  Try holding an egg on public transport at rush hour without breaking it.  Now imagine that breaking the egg will lead to your physical and emotional destruction.

During the course of the discussion, a recurring theme emerged from the spilled words of my opponent - oops, fellow conversationalist.  It's one I recognised, one I've heard before from other people - not directed at me in particular, but always at unspecified "women".  "Women," apparently, have an inflated sense of their own importance when they're pregnant.  "Women" expect special treatment for doing what billions of women have done before.  "Women" should just get on with it; and stop making such a big deal about it.  "Women" think the world should bow down to them, just because they've had sex and have a bump to prove it.  Never a name; never a person; nary even an example as proof of these accusations.  

At the time, I focused my arguments on simple facts, details that really should be common knowledge and common sense.  I provided information about the debilitating fatigue, constant nausea and dizziness that can strike women during the first trimester; the back ache, heaviness and sheer exhaustion of dragging around an extra ten pounds of baby, liquid and placenta in the last few months.  I mentioned the more severe side effects, the women with hyperemesis gravidarum whose stomachs forcefully reject everything that enters for the entire nine months, those who suffer from symphysis pubis dysfunction and find walking incredibly painful; the multitude of other conditions that can be caused or aggravated by this "perfectly normal" part of life.  

Of course, all of the above makes pregnancy sound like nine months of relentless misery.  For many people, this isn't the case.  Some women (I was lucky enough to be one of them) sail through pregnancy with only a bit of heartburn or a few sore ribs to mar the experience of creating new life.  However, there is no often way of knowing whether the tired-looking woman with the rounded stomach on the train looks a bit worn because she was tripping the light fantastic until 3am (though chances are, she wasn't); or because her energy has been drained from her like blood from a leeched wound by the almost unbearable agony of simply standing on a bus.  There's no way to know, and I'd always prefer to err on the side of caution.

Thinking about it now, there is something I wish I'd said.  I wish I hadn't tried to defend my pregnant sisters simply by listing all of the medical reasons for being a decent human being, but had stood up strong in acknowledgment and pride against what the world seems to think of as the cardinal sin of the pregnant woman - the accusation that we "think we're special".  There’s a trend nowadays to downplay this everyday miracle and pretend that it’s nothing more important than dealing with a crappy customer or a botched business deal – inconvenient, annoying and potentially able to ruin your day, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I wish I'd responded that yes, it is special.  It's special and it's brave and it's fucking wonderful.  Every woman going through it deserves a medal, never mind a seat on a smelly old train.  In fact, fuck that - what would we want with a medal?  It's just one more thing to clean.  We deserve a daily massage, a bubble bath, our favourite meal cooked for us and someone else to take care of the laundry.  We're bloody amazing.  We're courageous, heroic and strong, every one of us doing this thing that happens every day.

Most of all, we're brave.  We're dealing with the symptoms listed above and more, day in, day out.  We're going to work in discomfort that would have most people taking a personal day, because we want to save our time off for when we really need it.  We're getting up and going about our business in pain, because the boss is someone who doesn't give up his seat, much less his time, for pregnant women; or because the dog won't walk itself.  We're accepting that at the end of the longest and shortest nine months of our lives, our body is going to become a battleground and we'll know untold agony and fear death, or be pumped full of chemicals and fear death, or be cut open through skin and muscle and organ and fear death.  We'll welcome it, because it signals the end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new life, and because that battle is where we find the strength for the hardest battle of our lives – being a mother. 

We're brave because we knowingly and with intent put ourselves completely at the mercy and in the service of another human being, one who knows no compassion and has no social skills.  We embrace chaos, bid goodbye to life as we knew it and become at once the protector of innocence and more dependent and vulnerable than we knew it was possible to be.  We commit ourselves 100% to a venture that all the books and classes in the world couldn't possibly prepare us for, and we do it on no sleep.

But you know what the bravest thing of all is?  We love, adore, worship, and set our entire being around SOMEONE ELSE.  We remove our hearts from our chests and our sleeves and send them out into an unpredictable world which really couldn't give a shit about any of this.  Anyone who hasn't loved a child can't come close to the fear, the obsession, the addiction, the love.  You think you love ice cream or your mother?  You think you'd be lost without your husband or your best friend?  Multiply that by a million, then imagine that your mother is completely fucking helpless, that your husband is constantly, suicidally obsessed with electricity or crawling off high tables onto tiled floors, that your best friend has to be trusted with strangers who may or may not want to shoot or kidnap or assault her when she can't even open her fucking mouth to tell people that her shoes are on the wrong feet.  Now imagine signing up for a lifetime of this and doing it while loving every terrifying minute.

Yeah, we're fucking brave.  Yes, it is special.  And no, I don't give a rat's arse if you agree with me or not.  Now step away from the seat, matey, and go and call your mother to tell her you love her.