Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Hold it…

So, I know I said I wasn’t going to blog until after my long weekend away, but a tweet of Noble Savage’s gave me the urge to write about wee. I know not quite my normal high-brow (cough) material, but you really can’t ignore the urge to blog about wee.

As opposed to the actual urge to wee which, when you give birth, you become almost immediately able to ignore for hours on end – though if you forgot to do your pelvic floor exercises, this can become quite dangerous.

We hold it in for fear of waking a baby sleeping in arms. We hold it in while we change nappies. We hold it in just a bit longer while we put that load of washing on. We hold it in while fight to get children dressed, fed, washed. We hold it in while read just one more bedtime story.

I have gone through a whole day of not managing to fit a pee in, finally managing it after Rosemary’s in bed. I wonder if the constant need to pee during the night when pregnant is setting us up for the years of not being able to pee enough.

And if stretching our bladders to their outermost reaches isn’t enough, we have to add to that the indignity of rarely getting to actually pee alone. I wonder if all those trips to the loos with girlfriends in pubs and clubs was preparation for having to share our every urinary evacuation with the masses – albeit teeny tiny masses.

Do dads have the same issues, I wonder?

[Normal service may return next week, though I won’t make any rash promises.]

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Jetting off to Lincolnshire

Rosemary and I shall be joining all you half-term holidayers on Friday (yes, right at the end of half term – what?). We will be getting the train up to Lincoln, thence a bus to Horncastle and from there to a small village called Tetford, where two of my aunts and one of my cousins live. This is where Rosemary went to stay with my mum at the start of the month and she enjoyed it so much we thought we’d go there at least twice a month. Only kidding.

The impetus is a fairly uncommon visit from my cousin, who lives in America (and is, I believe, now an official US citizen), along with her two children, who I have never met. The last time she was here, which was before her youngest was born, I wasn’t able to get to see her (can’t remember why), though managed a quick lunch in London the time before.

We’re only going for two nights. We won’t get there till mid-afternoon on Friday and will have to leave fairly early Sunday morning. I probably won’t get to see much of my cousin, as she has so many people to catch up with, but even if I only manage a 10-minute chat it will be worth it. I’ve also never seen my aunts’ houses, even though they’ve been there for years. My sister has been there loads. She was there when my waters broke, in fact, and had to rush to get on a train to get back in time to be there with me (she was one of my birth partners). And there are lots of people I’ll get to see who I haven’t seen since either my dad’s funeral or my wedding. And four new children to meet.

Rosemary adores her cousins (not the American ones, who she hasn’t met yet – though I’m sure she’ll love them, too), as well, and is looking forward to getting to see them again. I have to admit to feeling quite jealous when she and my mum were up there at the start of the month. I could hear her having such a good time and hear lots of familiar voices in the background and really wanted to be there, too, instead of sat slaving at my computer. And now I get my wish.

The train journey should be interesting. As we’re not going for long, I don’t have to pack too much, but it will still be a bit more than I’m generally carrying about these days. My leg/hip has been very good over the last week, since the physio showed me another technique, so hopefully I won’t be in agony! Rosemary was really, really, really good for my mum on their journey. But she does have a tendency to mess about more with me than pretty much anyone else, so we’ll see how she is for me. We only have two changes on the way up, which is good, but four on the way back and an hour and twenty minutes wait somewhere, where they had better have a cafe at the very least!

I, of course, have a bunch of work that I have to get out of the way before leaving (at 7am on Friday!!) and I need to buy the tickets and a birthday present for my (other) cousin’s one-year-old. And, when I get back, I’ll have a bunch of work to catch up on, so will be extra busy next week. But I don’t care. I get to go away. And Chris gets to sit slaving over a hot desk and look after the dog. Poor guy. Or lucky guy, depending on how you look at it!

So, sorry, the award post will have to wait. The next post that makes Emily from Maternal Tales say ‘Interesting!’ will have to wait. And the review of Bedtime Stories will also have to wait. Hopefully I’ll manage at least one of them some time next week.

Hope you all have fun half terms and manage some time away or doing something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Working from home: Is it worth it?

As some of you will know from reading some of my manic, late-night tweets, I’ve had a pretty busy work week. I’ve worked every evening since some time last week (probably whenever I wrote the last post here, in fact). This work-fest (that pales into insignificance next to the ones I used to push through pre-Rosemary) culminated last night (or this morning, really) when I finished the final big deadline (there were four in total) and uploaded the files to the client’s FTP site at 3.30am.

I know at least two other WAHMs who’ve been struggling with workloads/juggling lately – Home Office Mum wrote a poem about it and Perfectly Happy Mum recently decided to take a step back from her business in order to maintain her happiness.

Being a work at home parent means a lot of juggling and attempting to find a balance between needing to keep that roof over your head/the debt collectors from the door and giving your children the attention they need. Working for yourself, regardless of whether you have children, means you are almost always going to have some horrible periods of working far too much, as well as periods of twiddling your thumbs, wondering what you should be doing with the empty week you suddenly have free, because Project X has slipped.

I do know people who manage, for the most part, to book in exactly the right amount of work. People who work 25 hours a week and stick to it. But even they will face the dilemma of a slipped project clashing with an already-booked one. If they refuse to take on the slipped project, they miss out on money they had been counting on, unless they can find something last-minute to fill the gap. If they agree to do it, something will have to give, as they will suddenly have 50 hours’ work to do in a 25-hour working week.

If you add children into the mix, there’s now something else that might have to give. Is it going to be your morning trip to toddler group? Is it going to be your baking afternoon? Is it going to be the weekly swimming outing? Or is it going to be your sleep? Whichever you choose, everyone loses out a bit. You might still do the baking, but you’re more likely to snap at your child for spilling flour on the floor or sticking her fingers in the butter. You might get your full night’s sleep, but you’ll miss the laughter and the fun of the pool.

And sometimes you might miss out on it all. Yesterday, I spent maybe half an hour of quality time with Rosemary. And a quarter of an hour of snapping at her for dawdling (for ever!) after playgroup. It’s not enough. She had a lovely day. Chris had a lovely day. The house was all clean and tidy. But I missed her and wanted so much not to be sat in front of my computer, but to be playing doctors or singing songs or reading books with her.

Times like that I wish for a 9-5 job, or maybe even the ability to be a SAHM. Times like that I think that I should never recommend anyone try being a WAHM or a WAHD. Times like that I yearn for a holiday (ooh, and I’m actually getting one this year!). Times like that I wish I could crack open a bottle of Baileys and drown myself in alcoholic cream.

Fortunately, though, there are other times, often quite close to the horrible ones, when I am so happy to have the flexibility that only really comes from working for yourself. Times like today, when I checked what else I had to do this week and realised I could do it tomorrow morning, without breaking a sweat. Times like today, when my husband asked if he could take me out for lunch, and then did so. Times like today, when, other than spending about half an hour answering emails, I have taken the whole day off from work. Times like today, when I played with my daughter and didn’t scream or snap. Times like today, when I had fun giving my daughter her bath. Times like today, when I got to go back to bed for three hours in the morning (kind of necessary after three and a half hours’ sleep, but still nice). Times like today, when I get to finally update the blog and will shortly get to sit down for my weekly fix of US TV (Bones at 9pm, ER at 10pm) and not do any work.

So… Yes, it’s still worth it. I would still recommend it. It’s a really good thing for family life – especially if you’re lucky enough to have your husband as a business partner. There are probably going to be times when you pull your hair out trying to meet deadlines. There are probably going to be times when you pull your hair out trying to bring in enough money to cover all the direct debits leaving your account. But there will probably also be lots of times when you thank your lucky stars that you can put your work down and go and see your child’s school play or take him to the doctor without having to beg your boss for the time off. There will probably be lots of times when you can pop into town to get your hair done and pick up the slack by doing a couple of hours in the evening or go and see the new big film in the cinema in the middle of the day. There will be many times when you can walk your children to school and pick them up again at the end of the day. And if you’re organised enough and put money away, you’ll be able to cope with those unexpected quiet weeks by going and doing something fun for you or with your family – or even both.

Yes, it is still worth it.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Talking to pre-school staff

As many of you will know, I’m not the most pro-active person in putting myself forward and speaking up. This seems to follow through to talking to playgroup leaders and nursery school staff. I can manage the quick drop-off ‘notes’, such as ‘She didn’t sleep well last night, so might be a bit grumpy.’ ‘I’ve packed two changes of clothes, just in case.’ ‘My mum will be dropping her off, tomorrow.’ But I find it difficult to ask questions about how she’s doing or tell them about her progress at home.

It seems that children can often behave quite differently in pre-school and school to at home. A talkative energetic child can be almost silent at pre-school. A quiet, sensitive child can run around and be boisterous in the different environment. And frequently our children don’t show their genius at school, only to us. (Though perhaps that’s down to our perceptions!) I know children who can read fluently at home and do pages and pages of sums, but their teachers have no idea and send them home with books way below their level. And, of course, there are children who need extra help with certain tasks, but their teachers don’t know about it or are not fully aware of the best way to help them.

So how do we impart the necessary information? How do we find out what we need to find out? Rosemary’s playgroup has something called Wow vouchers, on which you can write when they’ve done something momentous at home to put in their folder at playgroup. And you’re supposed to be able to look at the folder any time. (I don’t actually know where the folder is, but I’m sure I could find out, easily.)

The staff are very approachable at both places, but the problem is time. Everyone wants to talk to them at drop-off and pick-up. You can usually get in a quick mention of essential information, but there’s no time to have a full-on discussion about anything. Chris often mentions things at pick-up, some of which is taken on board, but much of which seems not to be.

What I think I would like is a parents’ evening, like you get at school, with the opportunity to have a proper talk about everything, not a rushed conversation where you are both trying to make yourself heard over the shouts and screams of small children.

Do any of you have strategies for information exchange with pre-school staff? Do you use the Wow vouchers, or equivalent? Is there anything that you’d like to talk about, but can’t manage to?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Eating together

As I mentioned in a recent post, there are many parenting choices that we all make. I think that we all probably have one or two parenting things that we're very determined about. This might be something basic like never smacking, or something coming from underlying principles, such as bringing a family up vegan, using reusable nappies or never (or only) considering private school. There are things that we think we're going to be determined about before giving birth (one of mine was no TV - hah!), until reality kicks in. And there are some that we end up sticking with, despite setbacks and suggestions/advice to the contrary.

One of ours is eating together. We started right from the moment Rosemary was remotely considering food - and, I have to say, it's a lot easier to manage if you're going with baby-led weaning, rather than spoon-feeding purees. At first she sat on our laps, while we ate, occassionally trying a carrot or bit of brocolli from our plates. Then she moved into her high chair and was presented with a selection of things to try - the same things we were eating. The dog got much of it - he put on a lot of weight when Rosemary was first discovering food. After a while, she moved into a booster seat and started using cutlery and keeping food on her plate (for the most part - she still sometimes puts food she doesn't want on the table or experiments with mixing her food and juice). More recently, she just sits or kneels on an ordinary chair and, mostly, eats with fork and spoon, even cutting up her own food. All this has been done at the same table as us, eating (dinner) at the same time as us and eating the same food as us.

We've had to bring dinner time forwards, gradually. At first, she was eating with us at our normal mealtime, between 8 and 9. Then it got earlier so we could fit in a longer bedtime routine. Then it got even earlier, because she was going to bed at a 'normal' child time. These days we eat between 5pm and 5.30pm, occasionally as late as 6pm. This is not our ideal mealtime. We both prefer a later dinner and often end up nibbling on things in the evening, anyway. And lately Rosemary seems to need more sleep, often falling asleep in the afternoon, or very soon after dinner. Last night, in fact, she fell asleep five minutes before dinner. She did polish the whole thing off for breakfast. She can be so tired that she hardly touches her dinner, or plays with it and gets down from the table and runs around. On the very rare occasions when she's allowed to eat in the living room (she now has a little table and chair in there), in front of the TV, she seems to eat much more (this is not something I want to turn into a habit!).

So, I wonder sometimes whether we're wrong to make such a big thing out of eating together, or whether we should do it at lunchtime instead and just let her have a light tea in the afternoon and an even earlier bedtime. I know we're very lucky to have the opportunity to eat together. In these days of long hours at work and commuting, having both of us here to start cooking at 4pm and sit down to eat as early as 5pm, is a real luxury. I always feel sorry for friends who don't get home from work until 7pm and just about manage to squeeze in a bath and bedtime story, if that, so giving that up, even for a few years would just seem wrong. Other friends miss out on it during the week, but make a big thing of family dinners at the weekend, perhaps enjoying it more because it's not an everyday occurrence.

Or, should we perhaps encourage an afternoon nap and go back to a later evening meal, all together? When I lived in Spain as a child, we'd have a two-hour siesta in the middle of the day (as I recall, we went home from school at lunchtime to do so and then went back again for a couple of hours after, though my memory may be faulty) and I would stay up and eat with my parents, often as late as 8.30pm 9pm. So maybe aiming for a more continental routine would work better for us. I certainly enjoy having an afternoon nap (sorry, siesta!) when I can fit it in these days!

So... what do you do? Would you prefer to do something different, but can't due to work? Have you found a good balance that you're all happy with? Do you just do whatever needs to be done to get something resembling nutrition into your children?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

While the kid’s away, the grown-ups will… work

Rosemary has been away for the weekend; she’s due back into the train station in just over an hour. She’s stayed away at my mum’s for a weekend before, but that’s a 10-minute taxi ride away. This time, she went with my up on the train up to Lincolnshire, to visit my aunts and cousins.

We were all a bit worried that she’d be too much of a handful for my mum on the train, because she’d been a little bit *cough* contrary recently, but she was really good. No problems at all; no tantrums at all; did everything she was asked to do pretty much immediately.

And she had a wonderful time over the weekend, playing with two of her second cousins, one of whom is a year older and the other three years older (I think that’s right). She ate all her meals, went to bed easily and slept well (though she did wake up at 4am one night needing Panda, who was out in the garden). She ran the adults ragged when her cousins were not there (they live a good few miles away), but was apparently very lovely the whole time. Think she will be going back to visit over the summer, and maybe I can go too, this time.

So what did Chris and I do with a long child-free weekend? Did we go out for meals and to the cinema? No. Did we spend the weekend making the garden look pretty? No. Did we do lots of DIY? No. Did we laze around watching DVDs and playing board games? No. We worked. For the whole weekend. Including evenings. We both took on extra work over the weekend because we knew we’d miss Rosemary and we’d need to keep ourselves occupied. We did make about two weeks’ worth of money in one weekend, which is pretty good going and we feel quite satisfied. But the house could certainly be a lot cleaner.

And we can’t wait to see our little girl and give her huge hugs and kisses and hear all about her weekend adventure (though, if it’s anything like when she comes back from nursery school, she’ll say she did either ‘Nothing’ or ‘Everything’).

What did you spend the bank holiday weekend doing? 

Friday, 1 May 2009

Only good girls get ice cream

Rosemary is on a bit of a boundary-testing run at the moment. Of course, she never completely stops testing our boundaries, probably because she knows full well that we can both be inconsistent. At the moment, though, it is very difficult to keep in my head the knowledge that this is all part of growing up and a necessary phase to go though. Because, mostly I just want to scream and shout and send her to boarding school.

Example 1: Yesterday, her cousin came to visit for about an hour, while my aunt went to a physiotherapy appointment. Usually, they play very nicely together and she's enjoying that he's able to run around now and is gradually developing some language so she can understand him a little. Usually, she loves sharing her toys with him and with her young visitors. Yesterday, everything he tried to play with she tried to grab back off him, shouting 'No! That's mine! You can't have it!' At one point, she was even trying to hit/push him away so that he couldn't take her toy saxophone back, when she'd managed to grab it off him. She spent a lot of the time he was visiting in her room having time outs followed by an explanation of why what she was doing was not nice. Didn't make any difference. They did sit happily together while eating lunch, and were fine for the ten minutes he was still there afterwards.

Another example: My aunt brought round a lovely table and chair for Rosemary, yesterday. Rosemary loved it and thanked her profusely. She played with it, sat at the table, watched Charlie and Lola at the table (on my netbook), jumped off it and generally really enjoyed it. But she also decided that it was far too nice, and needed to make her mark on it - with crayons and pink highlighter. The first time she did it, the crayon was taken away from her and the table wiped (it did come off, thankfully) and she cried for a while but was then fine. The second time, the highlighter was taken away from her and she cried for even longer.

Last night, she ate most of her dinner and so was expecting ice cream. It's not a rule that she gets ice cream if she eats all her dinner; it's a rule that she definitely doesn't get ice cream if she hardly touches her dinner. She wasn't allowed ice cream, because she hadn't been very good during the day. 'But I want it! I need it! I want it... NOW!' She got yoghurt as a compromise and a reminder to think about the lack of ice cream today, and try to be as good as possible.

So, this morning, she told me 'When Rupert comes to visit, I will let him play with my saxophone and then I can have ice cream. Right?' She got some kind of message from the lack of ice cream, but I don't think she's quite got the concept of being good all day. She still refused to get dressed, something she hadn't done for a while, but has started up with this week. She still drew on her new table (highlighter incident above). She still screamed when I brought her bread and butter and peanut butter, because 'I didn't say that! I don't like that!' (and gobbled it down five minutes later, saying 'I love it now').

I know I need to be patient and not scream and shout. I know we need to make sure we work consistent punishments and rewards, so she can know and understand what to expect. I know that this is part of the next stage of learning rules and understanding how to follow them. But couldn't she have done this at some other time, when I'm not feeling almost constant nausea, exhaustion and a fair bit of pain in leg from the pelvic girdle pain. Like six months ago, or in two years? Two and a half years would be good, because then we could combine it with Baby Number 2's jumping into the terrible twos.

If anyone has any tips or tricks on dealing with this stage, and somehow keeping from screaming (remembering that I cannot turn to alcohol at the moment), I will be all ears.