My little family has had a lovely day overall today. We had some good friends over for Sunday dinner, we saw their gorgeous little boy and met their adorable baby girl for the first time, and had a walk in the park. When they left we went to town to get some more baby milk and decided, as it was such a pleasant day, to stop in a pub on the way home – one which we had been to before on our own and wanted to revisit with our little girl because it had a lovely beer garden. We were about half way through our drinks when we got chucked out because our calm, happy and cheerful little girl had the cheek to be a baby rather than a grown up.
Now, I’m not against pubs, restaurants etc. that have a no-baby policy. There are some well-known bars which I have been to in the past specifically because they have had an over 25s policy and I didn’t want to get surrounded by a bunch of teenagers getting blotto over alcopops when all I’ve wanted was a quiet drink. Likewise, I used to be – and in fact still am – the kind of person who HATES going into a pub, restaurant, whatever and having to listen to a child kick off. At the end of the day pubs and restaurants are, by and large, for adults – unless they are marketed as being for families – and so it’s irritating when all you can hear is MUUUUUMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!! or a cry that just never ends. That’s not what we pay £4 a pint for and that is why when, we have managed to get out with our baby (which is often a massive effort anyway) we leave when she starts to kick off. Other people may disagree but we think that is the right thing to do.
So you can imagine how upset we were when, after a wonderful day, we stopped for a drink in this pub, found a quiet spot away from others, and parked our happy little daughter’s pram in the corner. She was no trouble at all and yet we were still asked to leave despite the place being virtually empty. The only other people around were a bunch of 50+ people who had clearly been drinking in the sunshine all afternoon and were a bit lairy as a result. Who was more likely to cause a problem???
When I left I told them that they need to erect a sign saying that families aren’t welcome. The sad part for them is that we will never be back and that the pub down the road welcomed us with open arms so will probably see us back there at some point. The sad part for us is that our lovely afternoon was spoilt and that we were made to feel scummy and embarrassed for wanting a quiet drink with our daughter.
The pub in question is the Park Tavern in Eltham and is the only place I’ve been to with my daughter where we’ve not been made to feel welcome.
I was reading the two guest blogs and they got me thinking about the differences between having a baby now and when our Mums and Grandmas had babies. You would think, really, that there wouldn’t be too many of them – after all, babies are still babies (they haven’t evolved in some Darwinian way to feed themselves or anything) and mothers are still mothers. The human race continues and women have babies every day – apparently there were 138 million births in 1980 and there have been around 134 million each year since. Just think how many nappies that is….
That brings me to the first difference. Nappies (diapers, that is. We Brits call them nappies, which make me laugh because in other parts of the English speaking world a nappy is a napkin. Believe me you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with one of my daughter’s nappies…..). Disposable nappy, how I love thee. Not because of your contents (although bizarrely I do get pleasure out of changing the smelly ones) but because you can be thrown away when used. Now, just before I had by baby I had this vague fantasy that I would be some kind of eco mother and use reusable ones. HA HA HA. Frankly I don’t know how my mother coped with the old terry ones. My poor Nana had 5 children – I can’t imagine the amount of disgustingness she had to go through with those bad boys. Earth, I am very sorry that I am clogging you up with my daughter’s skanky poo receptacles. I will try to save you in a different way.
Next difference – support. I mean human beings, not boulder holders/bras (although actually things have improved in that department too). I suppose my Mum had relatively little of this; she is an only child and lived miles away from her family when I came along, and my dear Grandma died when I was just 8 months old. She had her friends of course, but I think that most women of her age, and certainly most women of my Grandma’s age, lived fairly close to family and friends they had known for years. So if the darling little baby was screaming its head off Mum, Grandma or the next door neighbour (whose name and clothing size you inevitably knew in the 1980s) could relieve you, or at least cook you a nice stew. The world is more mobile now and it’s not always the case today, so there aren’t as many people to help out – though to be fair it’s easier to chat on the phone and computer than it used to be. So now we have various groups that we can join and this fantastic blog to help us stay in touch and get that vital support we all need.
We are also blessed with a far more developed health care system. When my parents were born expectant Mums only went to hospital when their baby was coming because there was something wrong. Everyone else was born at home – National hospitals were a really new thing. In fact my Dad remembers his brothers being born in the room next to him – now that would be some scary stuff for an 11 year old boy to listen to….. Now, whether you choose a home birth or not, and whether or not you think hospitals could be better, and whether or not your midwife is bonkers, our babies have a far greater chance of survival simply because of the decade they were born in.
Another thing which I am personally very thankful for is fertility treatment – that’s how we ended up with our little girl. It didn’t exist back then (mind you neither did contraception in any great way) so if you couldn’t have children you were stuffed. The world will certainly be thankful when she grows up to be some fantastic inventor of wonderfulness that saves the planet from all of the nappies that she filled that got sent to landfill.
I could go on and on and on about the differences but, when it comes down to it, I’m not really convinced that having a baby in the 2010s is actually all that better. Life was simpler and more straightforward then, and it seems that modernity and choice just give rise to complexity and confusion. Take childcare, for example. Mother who stays at home vs mother who goes to work – what’s best? Should Daddy stay at home instead? Should Mummy work part time? Get a job closer to home? Who looks after the baby when she is working – nanny, nursery, childminder, grandparents…. I understand from my Mum that when she was a little girl my Grandma expressed an interest in finding a job and Grandad had a really hard time understanding why- her job was looking after my mum and the house and although Grandad’s job wasn’t fantastically paid it was enough to keep them all in food and clothes and have a drink at the weekend. I can just imagine how the conversation would go now if I said “Husband, I want a job” and he said “Wife, no”. “WHAAAATTTTT? WHYYYYYYYY? I HAD YOUR BABY, I NEED SOME INDEPENDANCE, I DIDN’T MARRY YOU FOR THIS, I AM MORE THAN JUST A BABY MACHINE YOU *SSHOLE!!!” (I hasten to add that this isn’t an actual conversation). Stuff might even get smashed and there would definitely be an argument. Actually I don’t have a choice now – kind of ironic when you think that when I was born you would have to resign from the job I’m in if you got pregnant – though I still think I would work if I did have a choice.
Anyway enough of my ramblings. We don’t, of course, have a choice in all of this unless someone has invented a time machine. But I think that, for me, there are a lot of advantages to having a baby now as opposed to back then that’s only because we have learnt from people who have done it before us – so perhaps it’s worth reflecting on it a bit more before we have to learn the hard way…..
Let me know what you think about which era was best for having a baby in by voting in this poll….!
Babies, when they are around 6 months old, often start to get anxious when their mother or father leaves the room. They will reach a stage where they will scream until she comes back, wailing as if the world will end just because she has gone to the kitchen and then hold their arms up desperately as if they have been waiting all day to be picked up. This is something which is, for the parent in question, upsetting, annoying and probably slightly gratifying at the same time. I say probably because, though I have seen several other people go through this, Hannah hasn’t reached that stage and hopefully never will. But this post isn’t about Hannah. It’s about me.
I think my baby is the most beautiful baby that was ever born, even more gorgeous than Prince George, and he is seriously cute (I wonder if Hannah will ever have to wonder whether it’s wrong to fancy the King …) and I am totally in love with her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me and we have been together for 15 months- longer than some marriages. And while I started this journey not having much of an idea at all about how to look after her, I am pretty sure I know what’s best for her and would bite the head off anyone who told me how to raise my child. Raising her is the sole responsibility of me and my husband and always will be.
I don’t want you to get the impression that I am some kind of over protective lioness; I’m really not. The first time I left her – to go to the hairdressers over the road- I briefly cried and then an enormous sense of freedom came over me. In the end, while I didn’t enjoy leaving her, I was comfortable with the people who were looking after her and knew that I would be back in 3 hours. On that occasion I was more upset about the disastrous highlights I ended up with that I had waited a year for. I’m very happy for her grandparents to look after her, and made the decision about 2 months ago to join a gym and leave her in its crèche while I worked out (you wouldn’t know it to look at me). That was weird but I knew that it was a good crèche and that I would be back in a couple of hours. But the other day I took her for a settling in visit at her nursery and I think that is what has set me off….
The nursery in question has an excellent reputation and I am totally convinced that the staff there will take great care of my little girl; more so because they did an excellent job with my wonderful nephews who are growing up to be happy, confident and capable young men. I want the same for her. So why was I getting tearful when they started to look for a date for a home visit? Was it because my house is a complete tip? No. It was because putting her in nursery is now getting very real. There’s only a month to go now. I know I’ve written blog posts that are along similar lines in the past but as D Day approaches I find myself feeling more and more guilty, more and more like I want to kiss her all the time and less and less like I want to leave her with anyone- even when she is being a complete toerag and I feel like putting my head on a blender. Even today at the gym I couldn’t get into it as much as I would usually and I think it’s because she was crying when I left….
I clearly need to toughen up and accept that while no one will love my daughter like I do, no one can ever love me like she does either and that other people can enrich her life and advance her development far more than I can alone. So my fervent hope is that we are now bonded for life- me to her and her to me (at least until she leaves home) and that when she comes home in the evening she will still need me and love me as much as she does now. It will be OK because it has to be OK, and if so many other women can rear a happy baby and bring home the bacon I know I have that capacity too. But I tell you right now, one of the hardest things I will ever have to do will be that first drop off at nursery, and I pray it will get easier. My boss had better prepare himself….!
Perhaps you have had similar concerns or could even offer me some pearls of wisdom…..?
Hannah is asleep IN HER COT DURING THE DAY. This is remarkable, however I have a delivery due and am on tenterhooks as to whether the doorbell will wake her. By the end of this blog we will know…….
I am still very much the kind of mother who worries that her baby has somehow managed to injure herself or suffocate while I haven’t been supervising her, despite being in a grobag, and not having the ability to walk or even roll over. I probably take it too far – in fact I know I do. I have a video monitor which I check nearly all the time, I do 15 minute checks on her and I will always be suspicious of silence. It’s my OCD way of being on the safe side.
Hannah has always gone to sleep in my arms during the day until recently when I decided that enough was enough and that she would just have to go down in her cot. The house is a tip (see Anna’s earlier post), the bins need to be put out, and more importantly she won’t be able to rely on me to get her to sleep when I go back to work. Easier said than done – it takes a pretty strong woman to listen to a baby crying their heart out because they are tired and want to be held. However I will persevere because, for us, that’s the best thing to do for our girl.
For me “Sleep Policy” is an issue where lots of parents disagree, and that in the end your parenting style will tell you what’s best for your baby. It’s been the toughest thing for me to think through so far. But our sleep policy also got me thinking about the parameters around the daytime sleep – Hannah is the centre of my world, but I don’t turn the TV off, I don’t speak in hushed tones (actually I’m on my own at the moment so I’d be worried if I was shouting) and I haven’t dismantled the door chime. I’m concerned that doing all of those things will encourage poor sleeping habits, and if I’m honest I want to carry on with my day and sometimes that involves noise. I don’t mean to say that the house shouldn’t be quiet and I know that Hannah needs a calm and quiet environment in which to sleep. I have turned the TV down, the curtains in her room are drawn and when I go upstairs I tiptoe as if the stairs are about to fall in. I just don’t want to take it to extremes and I want Hannah to know that Mummy is in charge (or at least tries to be).
There is, of course, an opposite side to the coin. About 2 years ago I was visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. In fact I had never met her 2 year old boy but I was vaguely surprised when she told me to text her when I was outside her door because her little guy was asleep. When I got in to the house I was asked to whisper instead of speaking normally (I thought this was odd because the little boy’s bedroom was at the other side of the (big) house) and was given special slippers in case I wanted to move from the settee. Am I cruel or mean for thinking that was extreme? Likewise I was amused when she told me that she sometimes affixes notices to her door asking callers to ring her mobile instead of knocking on the door when her son is asleep. I still don’t really understand why she wanted to advertise her mobile number to the whole neighbourhood but each to his own.
For me, so long as you aren’t holding a disco in your front room it should be fine to make a little noise during the day. In fact some noise can help babies – I know some mothers who swear that their vacuum cleaner helps their babies to nod off. I haven’t tried that one yet but I might do. If you have any other tips or advice, do let me know. I’d be really interested to know which side of the fence people tend to come down on so I’ve added a poll to this blog to find out.
OK, so this post is nearing its end and I am sure you are dying to know whether Hannah is still asleep. When the delivery man came she did stir but then drifted off again so I am yet to discover whether the new sleep policy will work. Lucky me – I now have time to empty the dishwasher….
Before continuing, I should point out that I am writing this post on the basis that you know and I know that mothers of babies find poo fascinating and could probably talk about it all day, so let’s not pretend we think that this post will really be disgusting.
On the way back from the monthly weigh-in (baby, not me) today I was chatting to one of the other gorilla mums about how quickly our babies are growing up. I found it rather frightening to be sat in the waiting room for the weigh-in to see at least 2 “baby babies” as I call them – that is, little babies who are probably only a few months old. I was frightened because that was Hannah just a few weeks ago, and that in that same amount of time I will be back at work, and back into my own routine. It made me think about just how true the advice was that I was given by sooooo many people that I should take time to enjoy Hannah when she is so small because the time flies by so quickly.
Anyway, I digress. Me and the other Gorilla Mum (it was Anna, actually) were talking about poo – as one does – and the effect on it of our babies eating solids. I, like Anna, was entertained and amused by the particular effect that banana has on it – poo with little black streaky dots in it, what’s all that about? The conversation then developed into how the substance of the poo has changed (a lot more solid than it used to be) as well as the colour (mainly orangey) and that we missed that oddly cute smell of a baby’s milk poo. My husband and I still quite like changing her nappy, and it’s even a favourite Grandma (my mum) and Nanny (his mum) task to perform.
Now, I’m a clever lass (or clever enough to think at least) and I know this is not going to last. I have very clear visions of the future based on the experiences of dealing with my (gorgeous) nephews for a start. However, I just don’t want the future to come too quickly. The poo is just one issue which, for me, symbolises the pace at which life is moving now. Hannah is in size 3s at the moment, but not for that much longer and there will be no going back. My little girl is growing up. Do I want this to happen? Yes of course – I want her to develop and grow into the fantastic young woman I know she is going to be. But not too fast please, because she can never go back.
My grandma, after whom Hannah is named (one of her middle names), used to say to my mum that each age has its rewards and I think that’s true. There’s nothing like the wonderfulness of a newborn, but then you don’t get the fun of playing with a newborn that you do with an older baby. I guess Hannah will, as I am to my mum, always be my baby, but I’m not half going to miss those early days. Especially when she hits the terrible twos……..
I’ve been off work since the end of October, and I’m due to go back in July. I won’t dwell on that here; the thought of it isn’t pleasant for a number of reasons and most of them are to do with Hannah. However, when I was having one of my little wobbles yesterday, I got to thinking about what I could bring to my job rather than what I would be taking away from her. Here are a few of my thoughts (let me know what yours are…).
1. I work smarter. Note that this isn’t the same as harder, or more. To me it means that I have a fresher approach to prioritisation and that I therefore work more efficiently, using the tools at my disposition as they are really needed. I feel more confident now about deciding what needs to be done and when, and whether it needs to be gold plated or whether a quick and dirty job will allow me to get on with other things. Baby and home management basics?
2. I delegate more effectively. I don’t need to do everything and I don’t need to control everything either. Tesco can deliver the shopping. My husband can clean the loo (it doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect) and I will spend time making puréed food for my daughter because I know what she needs and how much.
3. I can walk away from things that aren’t important. It’s easy for me to say now but I will be able to set aside petty issues in favour of the major stuff and at will be able to leave work where it belongs at the end of the day. My family is my world and work will always play second fiddle. A smile from my little girl would make me far happier than praise from my boss (although that will also be pleasing. If indeed it happens).
4. I can do loads of things single handed….. For the healthy minded readers of this post I mean that I am rather surprised that I can, for example, open bottles with one hand. I hope to have my eyes open to the possibility that I will discover new skills at work too.
5. I have rediscovered things I had forgotten. I am a right hander, but do certain things left handed such as pulling pints, and am ambidextrous with others such as using cutlery. I had forgotten this until I started to eat food with a fork in one hand and a baby in the other. Again, I’m rather hoping I will remember other skills that I had forgotten on my return.
6. I have more patience than I thought I had.
7. Other people have hidden talents too. They just need to be confronted with a new situation for them to be revealed. My husband is, for example, great at bathing and massaging our baby. Let’s see if I get any people to manage who I can test my theory on.
8. I’m more comfortable than I used to be with my competitors- who aren’t actually competitors at all. I’m perfectly happy with the kind of mother I am and with the way my daughter is progressing. The same will apply to my career- I will worry about me and my job rather than other people and theirs.
9. I am far more chilled out than I used to be. A former manager once told me in my annual appraisal that I needed to “change my face”. When I asked why she said it was because I “look stressed and unapproachable sometimes”. Perhaps, therefore, having a baby has given me a motherly and relaxed look that will encourage colleagues to come hither….
There will be more, I’m sure/I hope. I don’t want to go back to work; I have to. And leaving my little girl at nursery makes me feel sick. But knowing that I can bring great new skills to the workplace gives me some professional comfort after 8 months off in a climate where jobs aren’t secure, not to mention the fact that because of Hannah I will always have the best job in the world anyway.
I am very fortunate to have parents who have a lovely house on the Costa Blanca, even more fortunate that they let me use it, and trebly fortunate that this year they said they wanted to come with me and my husband to help us, and spend time with, Hannah so that we would get a break.
So you can imagine our excitement when the date finally came around. A WHOLE WEEK of sunbathing, swimming, stuffing our faces and drinking and all the while our darling would have at least 2 responsible adults looking after her. For a whole week we would have our old lives back. For a whole week we could mix the joys of having a beautiful baby with the irresponsibility of being able to bar hop and gorge on food that takes longer than a 5 minute microwave ping to prepare. And it wouldn’t be talking the complete p*** out of my parents because they wanted to help us; they wanted to spend precious time with Hannah and it would be fantastic for her to have some quality grandad and grandma time.
I was, of course, forgetting that we are rearing a strong-willed young girl who, like her mother, has a mind of her own.
Flying out with my mum, I found that the holiday had not quite started. Hannah was physically strapped to me and, while she was a very good girl, there were inevitably a few glances of the “can’t you shut your baby up” variety. Hannah 1, Mummy nil. On arrival at the house I immediately unpacked everything of hers, set up a changing station in her room, began sterilising etc so that everything was prepared. 1-1.
I could go on, suffice to say that by the time we got home from the restaurant that evening it was about 1-3 to Mummy (there’s that third person talking again…). And by the morning Hannah had most certainly given Mummy a pasting- she was winning hands down at 7-3 and I had thrown in the towel. Mummy would not be drinking red wine the next night. She would not be staying up past 10pm. She would not be settled by Grandma, and she had instead decided that Mummy would be sleeping in the living room to prevent everyone else hearing her scream.
Hannah did eventually settle and we all had a lovely time, but thinking back it struck me just how selfish I had been. Not so much because I had been looking forward to a break, or even because I had initially agreed that my parents would help out (they really did want to, and are good at it to boot), but because I had somehow expected a 5 month old baby to relax and enjoy the holiday too. To Hannah, this was – at least to begin with- a nightmare. It wasn’t her home, it wasn’t her bed and the plane was most definitely not her playmat. She was in unfamiliar territory and it was unsettling for her to say the least but, when she got used to it she was fine. Kind of reminds me of me when we first got her. And that I’m glad I’m not still the person I was before I became her Mummy.
Last night me and most of the gorillamums (one of us had the enviable excuse of being in Canada) were are my house watching the Eurovision Song Contest while our other halves looked after the babies. I was rather nervous about this- the usually well-behaved Hannah had been crying all afternoon and I had a sneaky feeling that it would be a prelude to the otherwise baby-free evening. In case you are wondering, my husband wasn’t looking after her because that would have meant that he would have stayed at home and that simply couldn’t happen. We were there to drink wine and laugh at our European Cousins (the contestants, that is- not the Finnish, Swedish and Romanians that are part of our number) and that couldn’t be done properly with a bunch of straight men.
Anyway, I was wrong. She fell asleep 20 minutes in and after that she stayed asleep nearly the whole time. She is, at the moment, gurgling happily away on her playmat while mummy drinks a BIG cup of coffee. Thank you Hannah, you were a star.
Walking to the shops, or round a park, is really rather a battle these days. My pram (buggy) is relatively compact. I deliberately use the car seat attachment to push my daughter around for this very reason, so it annoys me when the general public fail to make way or sneer as I go past them on the street sometimes. Now to be fair I am making the assumption that they don’t want to move of course. It might be that they are sneering at me, or worse still my choice of pram design. But either way I’ve found the lack of tolerance for prams to be quite astounding. I exclude, from this rant, the sweet old ladies and broody women who gaze into the pram to offer their compliments on how beautiful my baby is, and the gentlemen who open doors for us and help us down steps. I’m talking about everyone else- the people who are so desperately busy going to the pound shop and need to walk in a zig zag up the road, for example, the city boys on a train who are too immaculately dressed to even consider moving aside on a train, and the winos who have been waiting in their bus queue for far too long to stop smoking their fags and move from the spot on the pavement that they have worked so desperately hard for. Or- and this is my personal favourite- the bus driver who parks just far enough from the kerb to stop you getting the pram out safely or who goes around a roundabout as if he is in charge of a fairground attraction. Just be kind instead of being a moron. I generalise of course, but you know who you are. It will make my day a bit easier and give you an enormous, albeit temporary, sense of well being.
I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I’m so tired. That’s all I can think about these days (when I’m not occupied with Hannah of course). I’m no princess; I can cope with a bit of yawny yawny from time to time. Likewise I know I’m not special- we are all tired, let’s face it. But I feel I have to actually say it, because everyone else is bored of hearing it but the feeling is still there.
It’s certainly true that you get used to feeling tired and that weird malaise just sort of hangs over you, such that if I do get a rare chance for shut eye I’m out like a light. But it doesn’t last for long and the nap only just takes the edge off. I haven’t felt properly rested in over a year.
We had recently just got to the stage where Hannah was sleeping though, thanks, in our opinion, to The Routine. However life had other plans for us and when poor Hannah got her cold The Routine was shattered because she kept waking up to cough. So it’s back to square one, like looking after a 2 month old again.
Or gorgeous little bunny woke me up at 3 last night; just for the hell of it, it seemed, since she didn’t want her bottle. And she refused to go back to sleep, even when I actually cried at her saying “Mummy loves you darling but I need to sleep”. In the end I just put her down, listened to her whinge for 15 minutes and then assumed the silence meant that she had dropped off. But of course, that meant I couldn’t possibly do the same. What if the silence meant she had choked to death? What if she had literally frozen? What if there really was a monster under the bed that had got her? So of course I had to get up and check her. And so it continues. The best bit of course is when she properly wakes up and wants to play, all the while I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. But then, it’s all worth it when I see her beautiful smile.