Tag Archives: guilt

All change please!

29 Aug

Life changes

A few months back I made a momentous decision. I decided to leave the company where I had worked for 12 years (ie since I was young) and set sail on the choppy seas of being a freelance. This is my first week of living that decision. Whilst my head is spinning and I’m rattling between excitement and fear, sometimes you just have to grab life with two hands and have a bit of a tussle.

Since the brood arrived, I’ve always worked: full-time after my first then part-time after my second. I never really considered not working (aside from if I won the lottery obviously). I know that I don’t have the patience or organisational skills to be a stay-at-home-parent – and lashings of credit to those that do. It wasn’t until after my second child was born that I started to have pangs about missing out on spending more time with my rapidly growing kids. When we started to look at primary schools last year it suddenly struck me that the school years were really, truly, frighteningly close. No longer was I simply looking backwards at what I achingly thought I had already missed but I was suddenly conscious of what I might miss in the future.

Although I know most people manage it, the thought of having to organise pre- and after-school care for my eldest filled me with horror. I realised how important it is to me to be able to drop my daughter off (and pick her up of course – really, what kind of parent do you think I am?!) and to be there to help with reading and homework. Perhaps I am too idealistic. In reality I may end up cursing the school run, scuttling away from the gates because I can’t fit into skinny jeans or because another mother has looked at me in a funny way. Visions of sitting at the kitchen table doing sums together may turn out to be running battles over the TV remote and whether it’s okay to substitute a packet of Haribos in place of tea. Do you know what though? If I don’t try then I will never find out. Life is too short.

Continuing my current career as a freelance allows the flexibility I need as my daughter skips off into the education machine without a backward glance at me. Her brother will follow her in two years’ time but until then I am looking forward to spending more one-to-one time with him – something he hasn’t had over the last two years. He will continue to go to nursery three days a week to give me some ‘work time’. I believe strongly that nursery is a great social environment for children and that my two have benefited enormously from it. Yet I still struggle with the guilt that I should be doing that job, especially now I have opted to work from home, and wonder whether advocating nursery simply serves to make myself feel better. When I drop my son off at nursery and return home to my desk I know I will feel an overwhelming urge to go back and get him and wrap him in my arms (gorgeous little chunk that he is). It seems that parental guilt is never ending even when you’re aiming to do the best for everyone.

Now I just have to persuade my husband that it isn’t acceptable to guffaw when I say I’ve been working. But that’s another post and another strain of guilt entirely …

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Review: Walkers Hoops and Crosses

8 May

crisp snacks

My kids like eating crisps but, in my well-meaning motherly way, I’d rather they didn’t. They think happy thoughts; I think tooth decay and the obesity epidemic. Yet I’m a firm believer in not denying food stuffs that err on the naughtier side as long as it’s in moderation and stops my kids from developing a forbidden fruit complex. It was with excitement and some trepidation then that I let a new crisp product through my door and into the mouths of my kids.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses are a new baked corn snack aimed at children but also at parents like me who are keen to have their guilt allayed by the promise of wholegrains (a wholesome 56% in the case of Hoops and Crosses). Apparently some kids don’t get enough wholegrain – unlike my offspring who are able to consume their own body weight in Cheerios. If you’re less than 4 foot tall and easily seduced by something in a shiny packet then it might as well be a snack that gives a nod to the dark side of healthy. Hoops and Crosses are free from artificial colours and preservatives and are only 85 calories a bag – tick, tick, tick.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses

Monkey not always included. 😦

My 4-year-old and 2-year-old didn’t need much persuasion to give Hoops and Crosses a go, particularly as they’re shaped like … hoops and crosses. (Novelty factor – tick!) We got our grubby mitts on the Roast Beef flavour and, once we’d discussed that not every packet comes with a toy monkey (thanks Walkers!), the packet was almost evenly divided between brother and sister. Sister was full of praise: “yummy”, “they taste like carrots” (errrr …) and “no, NO, they’re mine!” Her brother doesn’t say much yet but I assume his silence was evidence of both happiness and a rather full mouth.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses

You can even eat them out of shoes.

After wrestling the packet from the children, I also tried a few. I couldn’t taste roast beef, although I rarely can in a non-meat format. I wouldn’t buy Hoops and Crosses to eat myself but I can see why my kids enjoyed them.  They are also pleasantly free of the voluminous (and luminous) crumb dust that other well-known children’s snacks emit – the death knell of many a white t-shirt. I’m not overly convinced though by the flavours that Walkers have chosen: roast beef, prawn cocktail and salt and vinegar. I would have preferred the blander classics like cheese and ready salted. After all, kids relish bland, as evidenced by the roaring trade in those tasteless little ricecakes.

Would I buy Hoops and Crosses again? Yes. I’m not sure they will replace our beloved Pom-Bears (another product that proves that kids like shapes as much as, if not more than, taste) but Hoops and Crosses will be an appealing alternative. If my kids will on occasion insist on turning their noses up at fruit in favour of crisps then I say “hooray” for a snack that will force a little element of something good into them.  And who am I to argue with this face?

Eating crisps 

This is a sponsored post for Walkers crisps and I received the products pictured as well as compensation for writing this review. However, all opinions are my own and I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

Me! Me! Me!

17 Jan

Raising considerate children

A day off work waiting at home for a delivery is not without its dangers. First, there is the guilt over sending the kids to nursery whilst you put your feet up and enjoy visiting the toilet in peace. Secondly, stuck inside and craving interaction with the outside world, your usual defence mechanisms are weakened and this can lead to you answering the door in a reckless fashion. Cue people of a certain denomination ‘spreading the word’. Cue a parenting blog post. Yes, really. Inspiration moves in the most mysterious ways.

I don’t believe in God myself but I do make time to listen on the doorstep. I will inevitably shut the door clutching a selection of leaflets and, because I feel guilty at having taken leaflets that could have gone to someone more likely to be converted, I do try to at least flick through them. (Thus, I expect, earning myself brownie points should there turn out to be a god.) Amongst the latest batch of leaflets, little did I expect to find a whole pamphlet on parenting. Whilst it didn’t leave me questioning my lack of faith, it did leave me questioning my parenting skills.

The feature article was entitled ‘Raising Considerate Children in a Me-First World’ – “If you are a parent, how can you help your children to reap the benefits of being kind and to avoid being contaminated by the self-absorbed culture that surrounds them?” I was transported back to Christmas Day and an image of my 4-year-old surrounded by piles of toys and wrapping paper. She asked “Are there any more presents?” whilst I sat thinking about how lucky my children are and wishing she could find contentment and happiness in a lump of coal. Everyone wants their children to be happy but how can you ensure this without the negative consequences of them believing that they are at the centre of the universe?

The article outlined 3 “traps” that can create inconsiderate, self-centred children:

1. Overpraising

“Do not dole out praise just to make your children feel good about themselves” – a slapped wrist for parents who “have been unduly influenced by the self-esteem movement”. Of course, you shouldn’t praise your child for everything and bad behaviour should be addressed in an appropriate way. If my 4-year-old threw a plate of spaghetti at the wall I certainly wouldn’t praise her for the wonderful mural she had created. However, as someone with low self-esteem who is terrified of passing on my own neuroses to my children, please do excuse me if I choose to lavish praise on them to make them feel good about themselves, however small the achievement. A lack of self-confidence has the tendency to saddle you for life. That self-doubt (whether it be a drop or an ocean) can permeate everything you do and hold you back rather than propel you forward. I would much rather my children approached everything believing they can do it well, rather than wondering whether they will do it well enough.

2. Overprotecting

“Whilst it is natural to want to protect your children, overprotecting them can send the wrong message – that they do not need to take responsibility for their actions.” In my opinion, there is a difference between protecting them against the consequences of their own actions and protecting them against adversity in the world around them. My children are both under 5 and are firmly wrapped up in the cotton wool I have spun just for them. Every day in the car I have to switch the radio off when a news bulletin comes on describing death and destruction in the world. Yet my 4-year-old still picks up odd words and asks questions – as much as I can sensitively bat away those questions, I know that little snippets will be sticking in her mind and sowing seeds of worry. She is not old enough yet not to be overprotected from the world around her. As for my children’s own actions, no, I won’t completely ignore it if, for example, they fail a test. However what I will do is ensure they understand how they can do things differently in future. I hope I can give them the confidence to accept responsibility and move forward, learning on the way.

3. Overproviding

“In a survey of young adults, 81 per cent said that the most important goal of their generation is ‘to become rich’ – rating it far above helping others.” This is about stuff. Stuff and money. Stuff and money and things. It is also where I hold my hands up and look shiftily at the floor. I acknowledge that I am guilty of buying my children things as treats to make them happy and – okay, okay, I admit it – things that they ask for. I also acknowledge that I’m not doing a good job of trying to instill in them a sense of the value of things or that treats sometimes have to be earned. Am I creating monsters? If I am watching a full-on tantrum in a toy shop then I would say ‘yes’, I am. If I am watching my oldest sellotape tissues to a toilet roll and use it as a sword to attack her brother then I would say, most definitely, ‘no’. Like all children, they take pleasure in the most modest and unexpected of things and, thankfully, are not complete slaves to the best that money can buy.

The emergence of a generation of self-centred individuals seems to be weighing heavily on society’s conscious. The policy in China of only one child per couple has, it is commonly believed, created children who, being used to being the sole focus, have grown up selfish and prone to neglect their parents. Indeed, China has recently introduced a law to force children to visit their elderly parents. In the last few days, research in the US has suggested that high-self esteem in students can actually lead to less successful lives. (Of course, the definition of success is debatable – if my kids end up scraping gum off the pavement for a living but are happy, healthy and contented then I would consider that a success.) My own recent experience in a very rich foreign country (which shall remain unnamed) and the proliferation of kids there with an enormous sense of entitlement and a complete lack of manners left me very conscious of the little people I am bringing into the world. Reminders of my duty as a parent to help my children become considerate members of society appear where I least expect them – and for that reason my door will always be open.

Bagging up the baby years

20 Dec

Bagged clothes

Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was the day off work with no kids and the associated mountain of guilt. It could have been the duck slip-sliding across the icy pond with the Andrex puppy (if indeed that advert were being shown this year instead of the peculiar mating ritual of two snowpersons). Perhaps it was just plain old hormones. Whatever it was, today I sorted a bag of clothes for charity and it made me cry.

It wasn’t any old bag of stuff. It was a bag of my now 4-year-old daughter’s clothes through from the amazingly poo-stain free baby gros of her first few months to this summer’s t-shirts that, thanks to a recent growth spurt, would quite likely now restrict her breathing and strangle her digestive system. The process of holding up, sniffing, cuddling (was she really that small?) and folding brought the tears a-rolling. And don’t get me started on the pulsating ovaries.

When did she get so flipping big?!

When did she get so flipping big?!

Getting rid of items that hold memories is, of course, never easy. The giving away of your child’s clothes is a process that acknowledges a period in your life that has been lost and will never be regained. As you watch the rapid pace at which they grow and lose their baby features (and, in the case of my 4-year-old, start using teenage expressions such as ‘wicked’ and ‘random’, god help me) you grapple with the urge to slow time down. (Okay, maybe not everyone does – it’s frequently said that the first year with a baby can be quite sh*t and so roll on walking, talking and cow’s milk.) For those of us who have nursery artwork from the year dot bulging out of every cupboard, to hand on those little tights that went with that little dress is to begrudgingly shake the hand of Old Father Time and congratulate him on winning.

But back to the ovaries. (And apologies to those people reading this who know me in ‘real life’ and may not be able to look me in the eye again.) Filling a bag with baby clothes is now, for me, not for storage (as is often the case after your first child) but is (after a second child) for clearing the way for the paraphernalia that school children, teenagers and, ultimately, young adults bring. All that future thinking and the joys to look forward to aside, the fact remains that at some point you draw a line in your life, gently rub your stretch marks and decide to hang up (bingo wings flapping) your maternity tops. Your family is complete.

Bear with me now whilst I’m a touch morose (it’s the end of the world tomorrow apparently so no better a time to plunge into the depths of despair). Major life events – first job, meeting the one you love, marriage (or not), kids – are heavily loaded towards the first half of your life. It is inevitable then that when these are complete you start to wonder whether there is anything to look forward to. Things stop happening to you and they start happening to your children. All whilst your womb slowly withers. Don’t get me wrong, there is an awful lot to enjoy still to come – and retirement is a mere three decades away.

Who would’ve thought that giving baby clothes to charity would spark such a deep pondering of the meaning of life and of the hanging up of the reproductive organs? I’d just have cleaned the bathroom or picked my nose if I’d known.  No wonder I cried. Maybe my brood is now complete – that said, never say never.  Kids’ clothes are cheap to come by and there’s always the charity shop.

 

Faulty parenting

12 Nov

Long gone are the days when my daughter would actually listen to me. Something has happened since she turned 4. A fracture in the time continuum occurred on Tuesday 25th September 2012 and added a ‘1’ to the front of her true age and left her a teenager imprisoned in a pre-schooler’s body. And that angry teenager is trying to get out …

Forgive me if I’ve said it before (and if I have it may well be evidence of a paranoia that I can add to a long list of others) but as I freewheel uncontrollably down the cycle lane of parenting it is blindingly obvious that being a parent brings with it an awful lot of guilt. As soon as the placenta has been delivered (or sooner if you want to count the ‘natural’ birth versus c-section debate) you’re faced with an ongoing volley of (apparently) moral dilemmas. Breast or bottle? Attachment parenting or send them to live with the in-laws 400 miles away? To return to work or not to return to work? These be the questions.

When you’ve had enough of other parents thrusting their views on you the last thing you need is your own child turning round and lobbing a nappy bucket full of guilt in your face. But that is exactly what has happened since my daughter turned 4. Completely incapable of accepting any responsibility for any of her actions, and truly in the spirit of the teenage years, the finger of blame now points firmly in the faces of me and her father. An example:

“Mummy! You’ve made me drop the huge bogey I was playing with.”

“Daddy! You made me do that!” [As she falls over attempting something that would make Sportacus split his lycra pants. Daddy cannot answer as he has been in another room for the last ten minutes. You get my point.]

If we were in the US she’d be suing our butts off. We daren’t move. We daren’t talk. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has social services on speed dial on her Barbie phone. I cannot fathom where this desire to lay the guilt on Ma and Pa has suddenly sprung from. Oh … hold on. To blame others is of course one of the best forms of self-preservation. My little girl cannot stand even the merest hint of being told off. To open one’s mouth in the shape of a potential retribution causes tears to shoot from her eyes and you are forced to carefully reconsider the tone of your voice (“Mummy, you said it in a cross way, not in a loveable way”). She has decided to take a massive baseball bat to Mummy and Daddy’s authority.

This is my little girl becoming independent. She’s discovered the blame game and the time it can buy you. (Long may that skill continue into her adult life.) Of course she has no understanding of the externally imposed and internally inflicted guilt that her parents shoulder (gawd, I’ve just seen an advert for Kirstie’s Vintage Home), but she has spotted our weakness and that’s our desire to be perfect parents. What’s another layer of guilt to add to the mille-feuille of parenting?

How to break a child’s heart in one easy ballet step

30 Oct

We’ve just returned from holiday. In the days leading up to the journey home there were the inevitable groans about our imminent return to cold, grey reality. The 4-year-old didn’t want to go back to nursery. The 18-month-old didn’t want to leave our hosts’ endless supply of Swiss Chocobits cereal. I knew that an English supermarket could probably sort the latter, but what to do about the former? Obvious answer: give her something to look forward to when we got home.

And so it was that for several days before our return I buoyed my daughter up with the prospect of her Monday ballet class. As expected, this resulted in the tongue-rolling, dress-lifting, wriggling excitement that normally only a Disney princess can elicit. Pat on the back to Mummy. I was on to a winner.

Back at home on Monday morning disaster struck. A faulty gas supply left us without heat and hot water and the prospect of a day stuck in the house waiting for help to arrive. As the plumber (yes, the same plumber as in that post) got steadily more grumpy and the hours ticked by the likelihood of getting to ballet started to dissipate like the waft of gas from a dodgy gas pipe. Like any good parent, I deliberately didn’t mention the impending trauma to my daughter lest by some miracle all should come good.

An hour before the class and things weren’t looking promising. Tears, tantrums and utter devastation loomed. I called Mr Crumbs & Pegs in the hope he’d be able to pop home from work for an hour thus releasing us from the purgatory of infernal waiting. Success! We were back on track.

Half an hour before the class and I got one very excited little girl into her ballet outfit. All was progressing as normal – the usual explanation of why she must wear her skirt pulled as high as Simon Cowell’s trousers rather than skimming the bottom of her buttocks like a gangsta, the foot stamping as locks of hair escaped from her hair band, and of course the frenzied tumbling into the car when we discovered we were running late. No surprises then when we pulled away from the house with one/some/all of us fraught and in tears. That aside – we were on the way to ballet!

Under stress I seem to have the knack of turning my daughter into a blubbering and uncooperative wreck. (Four years in and I am yet to learn that shouting does not make children go faster. Some red underlining is clearly required in the Bad Mother’s Notebook of Things I Must Do Better. ) Dragging two children into an empty leisure centre reception area I stopped in my tracks. Where were the pushy mammas in their boots and skinny jeans?  Where were the siblings who were usually sprawled across the corridor playing Top Trumps and tripping up the attendees of the Blind Badminton class? Hell no! It was half term. No ballet class.

The receptionist looked at me with pity (or was it disgust?) as I made the walk of shame back out the leisure centre doors, crying ballerina and confused toddler in tow. Guilty doesn’t do full justice to how I felt as I explained to my daughter that her mother – who was obviously always right – had got something terribly wrong. In the car I proffered a trip to a café by way of an apology but was told that her “tummy hurt too much from crying to eat cake”. Make it worse why don’t you.

A day later I am still apologising. A day later, when reminded of the incident, my daughter still looks at me like her heart has been broken by an idiot. A complete idiot. Welcome to parenthood.

Brave new 4-day week

3 Jul

For the last 3 months I have, rightly or wrongly, been feeling guilty. (Don’t worry Mr C&P, I’m not about to reveal a terrible truth.) I’ve been feeling guilty because since the birth of my second child 13 weeks ago my daughter has remained at nursery full-time. There, I’ve told you. I’m a lazy, selfish mother. Well that’s how some people’s reactions have made me feel. The majority of friends/family/strangers in the street (don’t tell me no one else occasionally hangs around in the baby section of Boots looking for adult conversation??) don’t bat an eyelid. Yet I still find myself justifying the decision to other people (in fact, see below…).

Despite the guilt, the decision to leave the little lady in nursery has worked out well and I’ve been able to devote special time to the boy child. Looking back at the ‘dark days’ of the first 6 weeks (well, what I can remember of them and that’s very little) there’s no way I’d have made it through all the constant feeding, colic/reflux panics and general mental chaos a newborn brings with a toddler at my heels 24/7. (If anyone says that the newborn period is easier the second time round then they’ve reached the rose-tinted glasses stage. For those of us who’ve declared ‘never again’, it’s the same stage where the thought of having another baby starts to creep in and seem a lovely idea. But I don’t want Mr C&P getting wind of this vulnerable period.)

I’m not cut out to be a full-blown stay-at-home mum juggling the needs of a demanding brood. And I can say that without guilt. Thankfully, these days this admission doesn’t make me a freak or someone who doesn’t deserve to propagate. I take my hat off to those who are full-time mums – I just don’t think I have the necessary (and immense) energy, imagination and, above all, patience. Furthermore, I don’t think I can provide the educational experience that nursery does (or at least not as well). As for the emotional experience, well, my daughter feels none the less loved for not being with me all the time. I know some will beg to differ but each to his own I say.

All that said, tomorrow my daughter drops a nursery day and starts to spend Mondays with me. It’s a brave new world. (Deep breaths … I’ve done it before … [pant pant] … I can do it … feel the fear and do it anyway, etc etc). I confess that I’m daunted by the prospect of planning activities to keep her busy (especially whilst her little brother is still so ‘me, me, me’) that don’t involve CBeebies. (Although it’s a comfort to know that if all else fails we can watch the ‘Big Bear in a Spin’ episode of Everything’s Rosie for the umpteenth time.) I feel slightly sad that William and I are going to lose our Chilled Mondays (god, I’m selfish), and replace them with Manic Mondays. Then again, if I wasn’t able to endure stress and chaos then I wouldn’t be much cop as a mum. Wish me luck.

POSTSCRIPT: Mr C&P wants our daughter to be a nuclear-quantum-particle-physicist-wotsit so I was delighted to hear of the Science Sparks blog. I’ll be using some of the ideas on here for Monday activities and will no doubt have a mini female Professor Brian Cox on my hands in no time (hopefully minus the Legoman hair do).

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