2/5 This much I know.

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So, parenting.

I don’t know, I’m sure some people manage it, but in my experience it is impossible to have a baby, and then not let said baby take well and truly over your life. Pregnancy, birth, feeding and raising tiny humans has utterly dominated my every waking moment for the past 4 years and has made up the fabric of my day, every day. Which has been both wonderful and totally bonkers, inspiring and, well, intense.

Right now though, I feel like some of the fog is lifting. I can sustain my attention for more than 60 seconds on topics other than cloth nappies and the best strategy for getting your toddler into their car seat without giving yourself an aneurysm. I am beginning to prioritise myself more, and my need to get fit and use my brain in different ways, rather than always feeling at the bottom of the pecking order. There is, oh my God imagine, space in my life for more than just babies. A dog! Why will no one let me get a dog?

Part of the reason for saying farewell to this blog is that the impetus to write incessantly about parenting has waned. But while I am still here, not quite clear of those all encompassing toddler years, I thought I would write down the most important stuff that I have learned. The pearls that I want to pass on, to other people still very much beneath the mist, trying to figure it out, with only 4 hours sleep and a strong coffee to their name.

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The very most important thing I know: We all fuck up. Like, you can read all of the Janet Lansbury you like, rehearse all the right things to say in the midst of an epic toddler tantrum, be the most zen and empathetic earth mother to your three year old who has very specific cup preferences, but at some point, you will lose your shit. Not in a ‘I’m strategically raising my voice to get you to listen’ way, but in a ‘Dude, I am exhausted, my patience is in the gutter, you are pushing me to my goddamn limits and I am just yelling because I am full blown ANGRY with this TOTAL LACK OF COOPERATION YOU ARE TAKING THE PISS MY GOD!’. This is not a thing that any parent is planning on, and shit, when it happens on the way into Sainsburys with a thousand judgey old people staring at you, know that it will be one of the low moments of your life. But guys, we are human, and while I LOVE positive parenting sites like Janet’s, I think we need to be honest that sometimes a situation will just push a button and we will yell and it will be ugly. It’s okay, our children will not be emotionally broken as a result of this, and it absolutely does not undo all the other good stuff that we do. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I am officially cutting us some slack.

Parenting though, it’s a judgey game. Actually I think it begins way before we are even parents and we are in a restaurant and there is a family on the table next to us. Ipads are on, pasta is being thrown and the parents are just benignly drinking wine and pretending not to notice the breadsticks that are being crushed and then liberally sprinkled about the floor. And we sit there and we think, ‘That will never be me, I will never be that parent, I will do so much better than that’. It carries on when we have had our baby, and you see an eighteen month old in the pushchair chowing down on a packet of Quavers and you act all aghast, because suspiciously cheese flavoured reconstituted corn shall NEVER pass the lips of YOUR preshus angel. And then again when you’ve got a toddler and you see those big kids dominating the bouncy castle, bumping yours right out of the way and onto their faces, while their parents drink beer and literally could not give less of a shit, and you vow to never let your children be such obnoxious little brats that leap all over babies without a care in the world. We all judge, of course we do. Judgement is useful! When you are thrust into the oblivion, I think it is good to look around at what others are doing and syphon off the things that you like, and want to emulate, and the paths that you swear you’ll never go down. This is all a healthy way to work out the parent we want to be. But also, shit happens. The afore mentioned shit in the last paragraph for example. And it helps precisely no one if you are there, looking on, at parents having a hard time or wilfully ignoring their children, because they’ve had ENOUGH that day, and passing judgey judgement. I am trying my best to remember that, and to not be a dick.

So if we have ascertained that we are all going to have bad times, and that we will refrain from being too harsh on others who are having bad times, what about the rest? Repeat after me: there is no right way. I know amazing parents who put a ton of effort into their interactions with their children, set up wonderful Montessori style activities, and are mindful of everything they do. I also know amazing parents who work full time and drop their kids of at child care every day and let them watch a ton of TV in the evenings because they are all freaking tired. I have written a lot about the guilt that suddenly descends when you have kids and makes you feel like whatever you’re doing? Not good enough. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH. But the conclusion that I have drawn is that if it is working out for you and you’re family? Probably good enough. I am definitely the geekiest parent on the block and if there is stuff in our family that is bothering me (my kid has started waking up in the night again, my kid hasn’t eaten any vegetables in a month, my kid has an all consuming obsession with sharks at the expense of any human interaction, let’s say, just as an example), then you can bet I will be up all night scouring the internet for ways to improve the situation. But I do try and separate out the stuff that bothers me, because it bothers me, and the stuff that is driven by what I think I should be doing, because a Mormon lady in New York is doing it.

A word on parenting blogs: There are some amazing women out there who write inspirationally and honestly about their time with children (shout outs to Renegade Mothering, Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures and Recipe Rifle for keeping it so real). For the most part though, once a blog has paid sponsorship, they have to maintain their brand, and their brand is usually them, being a completely perfect parent. Of course they are dealing with the same crap as the rest of us, OF COURSE THEY ARE, but they are photographing and writing about fun trips to the pumpkin patch, or how they just weaved their own yurt out of felt. Which is cool, I love those blogs! I love felt yurts! But the phrase ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, has never been so apt.

Here are some other things I know:

Never tell the mother of a new born to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, ‘savour every moment’ or that is all ‘goes so fast’. It does go so fast but a day when you’re up at 5am and your partner is away and it’s raining and the internet has broken also lasts a thousand years, so that kind of makes up for it.

Instead, take the mother of a newborn food: cake, coffee and meals she can reheat. Literally the only gifts worth giving.

This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass. They will stop doing that annoying thing that they do eventually. Sure, they’ll start doing some other annoying thing instead, but a change is as good as a rest right?

And seriously, if I was to pass on one piece of actual advice to the parent of small children it would be this: Ignore them sometimes. I am cultivating a style of parenting I like to call ‘conscious neglect’ (admittedly i might need to work on my branding), because honestly, it’s okay for kids to fend for themselves for a good chunk of the day. I think a lot about my Grandma, who raised three children in the North of England during the 1950s. She had a job and did all of the domestic chores without even a goddamn vacuum cleaner or washing machine, while her husband worked away a lot. Seriously, how was this even possible? Well she sure as shit wasn’t putting together colour match wheels and busy bags and making toast that looked like a little bear (although that bear toast? OMG). And yet she was still an amazing mother. So I think about her when I tell my kids that they have to entertain themselves for a while so I can cook, or get dinner ready or mess around on my iphone and feel thankful that I don’t have a mangle and that it’s no longer an expectation that I scrub my front steps every day. They’ll be okay on their own for a while, and it makes me appreciate the times when I sit down to do something nice with them all the more.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things. How to do a one handed nappy change on the parcel shelf of your car for a start, but that’s okay, you’ll figure it out. I need to go and do some other stuff: Plant some cabbages, swoon over yellow kitchen tiles, read a BOOK, Snap Chat a friend, secretly buy a dog. Stuff that still exists, waiting for you, when you emerge from the fog.

Over thinking and Instagramming.

I have, as I am prone to, been over thinking things. I cannot, it seems, just be a normal person and embrace social media and the future, no. I need to constantly dissect what I am doing online and the purpose of it and the legacy of it, especially when it comes to my children.

A long time ago now I deleted My Facebook and Twitter accounts and decided to concentrate anything I wanted to write or share about life with my kids into this blog. It has worked well, and I am happy that any friends I have who are interested in that aspect of my life read along, and those that aren’t, don’t. I am grateful too to have made some wonderful friends online, who also share their parenting stories somewhere in the vast chasm of the Internet, and connect over oceans, through shared experience.

But then recently I got lured into Instagram, with its pretty filters and how easy it is to snap a picture in the park and have it uploaded in seconds.

Cue the overthinking.

On the one hand it has been cool to take a quick snap of the sky or some trees, tag it, and have a bunch of strangers like it. On the other, I began to find it a little uncomfortable if those strangers then scrolled through my feed and liked a photo of my kid on the beach. I like the community aspect of sharing photos on a particular theme, but I’m not sure that it marries up that well with also sharing personal photos in the same space.

I am well aware that this blog is extremely public and that I write very personally and share a lot here. But somehow to me this (perhaps naively, I don’t know), feels like a protected space. Readers only come here if they have a genuine interest in reading what I have to say. I say that mainly becaus it takes a lot of effort to wade through all of this content, as opposed to the ease of scrolling through someone’s Instagram feed, double tapping as you go. You are, if you have even made it to this point in the post (to which I say congratulations!), engagjng on a level that goes way beyond just hitting the like button because you think a random kid is cute.

So I decided to hold back. I will keep the photos and ramblings about my family here, on my blog. They might pop up occasionally on my Instagram, but I mainly want that to be a space where I just share some nice photos of where I live. It has been a great motivation to seek out beauty in my surroundings, which I am enjoying, but the rest stays here.

As such I’ve decided to start a semi regular (everything is semi regular at best with me, as you may have noticed), ‘Life Lately’ style post to share the moments that I capture with my family. I used to do a similar thing called ‘Five Photos’, but I want this to be a little looser, a bit of a dumping ground for photos and moments that I don’t want to get lost in the abys, but I don’t necessarily want on Instagram either.

Below are a few you might have already seen. The next one will be a bit less about my ability to drain the spontaneity and joy out of everything, and a little more about what we’ve been up to lately.

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^^A trip to the park, A few snaps from the beach in Portugal, a poorly Mancub when we returned and exploring the woods and cliffs where we live.

What Women Blog.

Apparently there are now in excess of 40 million active blogs on this place we call the Internet, and I’d hazard a guess a sizeable chunk of those are parenting blogs. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now: putting my life (or small increments of it at least) into the public domain, and I’m still not sure… why?

Mainly it’s as a record. Of the things we do, the things they say, the things that rile me and that make me happy. I like to think that we will look back on it when we’re old and it will help us to remember. Plus I like the connections that I have made online. Other parents who think similarly and parent similarly, even though they might be the opposite side of the world, sharing information and details of our days. Liking and commenting and reblogging, so that we know we’re not alone. It’s weird, but it’s nice.

I read a bunch of blogs myself and for all different reasons. There are those that are cynical and self deprecating and make me laugh with tales of disarray and misadventure, those which are brutally honest, almost uncomfortably so, and those which paint a picture of life so perfect it can barely be believed. Those are the ones I really love.

Of course no one’s life is like that really. Behind all the dappled evening sunlight and trailers adorned with home crocheted bunting and cronuts in Central Park are just, people. People who go through the same shit we all do, but choose which bits to share. Which bits not to share. Because the Internet is not your friend who you meet for coffee and cry on. It’s the fucking Internet, so you hold some of that shit back. And post the photo of your kids running in the flowers instead.

I’m saying this because I heard, through a blogging friend no less, that there are whole message boards dedicated to the character assassinations of so called ‘Mommy Bloggers’. Which is just absurd right? To get kicks out out of hating on women who love their kids so much they make a hobby out of taking photos of them and writing goofy stories. Not women who abuse their kids, or neglect them, or do anything bad, just women who get a little too excited about cloth nappies and playdough recipes. A strange subject for anybody’s vitriol.

I can only imagine that there must be a whole lot of low self esteem going on if you actively seek out these blogs, these spaces that women have created to portray their lives, so that you can take pleasure in pulling them apart, call them out for being too smug, too fake, too perfect.

Of course they’re not perfect.

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The end of last year was just about as shit as it could be for my family. We suffered a terrible, terrible bereavement and in the midst of it we had a baby and I can barely even remember that time because it was so riddled with grief and darkness. I felt acute guilt that instead of basking in the glow of my beautiful newborn, I was shackled by the loss of his Grandfather.

I didn’t blog about that.

I blogged about his first smile and the first time I took him to the park.

Because life isn’t perfect, but neither are our memories. When I look back, when my children look back, I want a record of the good shit, the funny stuff they said, how sometimes they sat giggling together in the bath, how sometimes I baked them bread. And how a lot of the time, most of the time, we were happy.

Does that make me dishonest? Does it make me smug?

I think it just makes me the same as most other people who chronicle their lives in diaries and scrap books and blogs. Selective I guess.

And if you don’t like it, or if it makes you feel bad? Well there’s always the option to stop reading. Fancy that.