May 6, 2013
My son’s best friend isn’t his friend any more. It’s been that way for a while. I’ve noticed, gradually, in the school playground. Ex-best friend doesn’t look out for my son any more, doesn’t respond when he calls his name. Ex-best friend has other friends, high-value friends. For a while I wonder if I’m just being paranoid. Maybe that’s just what five-year-olds are like, I think, but no.
“It’s okay,” my son tells me. “He says I’m allowed to sit next to him on a Tuesday if no one else is there.”
Fuck that, I think.
“It’s not for him to decide where you sit,” I say. “Aren’t there better people to sit with anyhow?”
My son says yes but looks unconvinced.
May 1, 2013
I am the mother of two boys. I know I’m not perfect but I do try to be a good parent. Unfortunately it appears that for the past five years I have been remiss. I have failed to “channel” my sons’ boisterousness.
According to James Delingpole – now the Ross Kemp of posh rightwing journalism – “we seem to have forgotten that boys will be boys”. I for one am guilty of this. I look at my boys and think “they’re boys”. But rarely do I go on to conclude “and thus they will be boys”. This might sound like a minor omission but it’s not. What it actually means – and this is a serious fact, because the Telegraph says so – is that they’ll grow up to beat the shit out of other boys. And possibly also girls. And maybe even household pets. Basically, because my boys have not been allowed to “be boys” (as defined by the Victor Book for Boys circa 1964) they will grow up to be violent hooligans as opposed to men of courage – the kind of men who win wars, slaughter beasts and present Top Gear.
March 10, 2013
Posted by glosswitch under Employment
| Tags: childcare
, gender stereotypes
, gender stereotyping
, Mother's Day
|  Comments
Until this week I had no idea that Hugo Chávez formally recognised the economic value of traditional “women’s work” . To be honest, I didn’t know much about Chávez. The one Venezuelan I know didn’t like him, but then none of us like our political leaders, do we? The most I’d assumed was that Chávez didn’t like women overly much, given the state of abortion law in Venezuela. Seems I was wrong, at least where a certain type of woman is concerned. It appears Chávez acknowledged that women who, to use the terminology of the average pay gap apologist, “don’t work because they’re raising children”, were bloody essential to a country’s welfare. Even if things were a bit more complex than that, as a basic principle that seems brilliant. Globally, we pay lip service to the devotion of mothers, yet so often stop short of saying you could actually put a price tag on it.
With Mother’s Day coming two days after International Women’s Day, I can’t help wishing it was more about that – genuine, heartfelt recognition – and less about a bunch of flowers, a pat on the head and yet another year of being horrendously undervalued. Don’t get me wrong, on a very personal level I love it. The card my five-year-old has written for me (“Thank you for all the love yoof givan me”) is just marvellous and I’ll treasure it forever. But as a cultural event, I wish Mother’s Day kicked a bit more arse. The commercial focus of it these days all feels rather KFC “Mum’s Night Off” in how it values what mothers do, bigging up inequality as a noble sacrifice in return for which you get, if not a bucket of chicken, then the only marginally better box of Thornton’s Continentals. It celebrates a particular type of motherhood – twee, self-effacing, repressed, waiting for that one day of the year when it can truly let rip with a half-bottle of rosé wine and a Lush bath bomb. It has got, let’s be honest, fuck all to do in appreciating what a wide range of mothers, all of different backgrounds and with different needs, do for their own children and society at large. If it did have, it would at least offer some form of meaningful response to all the things which piss us off. (more…)
February 19, 2013
This evening my eldest son and I had our worst ever fight. Or not even really a fight. A contretemps (me), or “Mummy being mean” (him). It ended with him sending me to my room because I wouldn’t get his cherry tomatoes - a sustitute for the lasagne being described as “poo” - out of the fridge. To be honest, I think he was surprised at how eagerly I accepted my punishment, but there had been worse moments than that and I was rather glad to retreat to my duvet and kindle while he stomped around downstairs throwing alphabet fridge magnets onto the floor.
February 8, 2013
Top tip for partners: If you and your partner have children together and there’s one bit of parenting you don’t usually do – let’s say it’s getting everyone ready for the school and nursery run – and it just so happens that one day you get to do it – let’s say you’re setting off for work a bit later – and it turns out it’s really, really difficult, do you:
- think “crikey, this is stressful” and make a note that while your partner may not have to start work as early as you do, that doesn’t mean life’s necessarily much easier?
- stomp about wondering why no one has got a better routine established, intermittently asking the kids pointed questions that start with “but don’t you usually …” or “doesn’t Mummy get you to …”?
The correct answer is of course (1). The second one does NOT accurately describe the way my partner behaved this morning, but it just felt that way. Because I’m stressed and tired and so is he. We’re really, really tired and even though our children are lovely, they don’t half whine about irrelevant crap. (more…)
December 21, 2012
Come Christmas Day, my three-year-old will be getting the pink doll’s house he’s been asking for for weeks. Or rather, he’s been asking me for it for weeks. I’ve only recently discovered that his whims seem to change depending on who’s around.
During my son’s nursery Christmas Party last week Father Christmas asked each of the childen what he or she would like to receive. Much to my surprise I discovered that “a pink doll’s house” becomes “a lorry” when other children are around. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t all that surprising. He’s at the age at which one starts to learn what it means to be a girl or a boy within a highly gendered culture. He’s starting to realise he’s not really “allowed” to like pink things, at least not in public. From now on his beloved Suzy Sheep socks are for bedtime only. (more…)
December 12, 2012
I like to watch the clouds roll by,
And think of cherubs in the sky;
But when I think of cherubim,
I don’t know if they’re her or him.
The Cherub, Ogden Nash
I haven’t studied theology and I’m not a great reader of the Bible. Thus when it comes to the nature of angels in a Christian context, I’d say I’m pretty ignorant. I think there’s some debate about whether they are male, female, intersex or none of the above, but I’m worried this is just me confusing Christian representations of the divine with the above Ogden Nash poem. I’m pretty sure one was called Peter Gabriel and that Satan used to be an angel before the Emperor turned him to the Dark Side or something like that. But that’s about it. If you want a definition of angels (and you don’t mean the Robbie Williams song or the 1970s hospital drama) please don’t ask me. And yet, despite my professed ignorance, here’s one thing I don’t think angels are: simpering girlies in pretty white dresses, all trying desperately hard to look like Beyoncé while swishing their hips in a saucy manner. (more…)
December 6, 2012
Author’s note: when reading this post, it’s important to imagine each word read out in as whiny, annoying a tone as possible. Plee-eee-eeease.
It starts first thing in the morning, at around 6:30am. The request could be anything – “can I go to the toilet / can I go downstairs / can I have a drink of water?” On cue I respond with “how do you ask nicely?”, thereby getting the required “please” .* I wouldn’t mind any of this. Okay, I would, a bit, but they are reasonable requests for little people to make. It’s just the tone that gets to me. I can’t stand the tone. Reader, my children whine. (more…)
November 19, 2012
“If working parents didn’t feel guilty enough about leaving their children at nursery, now new research has found …” starts the 1,00,695th Daily Mail article on the crapness of “working parents” (aka mothers in paid employment). Yes, fellow “working mums”, it’s our turn again. Just when you thought all eyes had been turned on stay-at-home mummy bloggers, it appears we’re back in the firing line. Bring it on! (more…)
November 8, 2012
When I had children, it was not an accident. I wanted them. I’ve always wanted them. Two people would not exist were it not for my selfish, hard-to-justify yearning for them. So, world, what are you going to do about this?
The fact that I made the decision to reproduce and did not merely have little people thrust upon me is something of which I’m often reminded, usually by people who don’t like any of the following things to be suggested:
- mothers should not face discrimination in the workplace
- public spaces ought to be more child-friendly
- parenting is hard work
But you CHOSE to have children, they cry. Yes, I did. But is that a reason not to question our treatment of parents and their offspring? Does choosing a particular path in life mean one cannot question the conditions that pertain to it? Is discrimination against mothers justified on the basis that they could have rejected parenthood entirely? And is antipathy towards the young entirely reasonable since it’s down to those who brought them into existence to protect them from it? (more…)
November 4, 2012
As a parent, with five full years of parenting experience behind me, I’ve come to hate one thing in particular: people who refer to being a parent as though it offers them some divine insight into the meaning of life. “As a parent …”, they will begin, before going on to tell you how the arrival of Jake and Isabella totally changed their worldview, finally making them aware of what really matters. These people don’t mean to suggest that non-parents are inferior, but they do so anyhow. In addition to this, they make all other parents feel crap, since if we don’t agree with their “as a parent” positions, this somehow suggests we’re not doing enough to rise to the parenthood challenge. It drives me mad, this fake parental insight; just the sight of one Calpol “if you’ve got kids you’ll understand” slogan is enough to have me spitting feathers (as if non-parents are incapable of understanding that giving kids pain relief might mean they’ll be in less pain). Yes, I’m a sodding parent, but I don’t need this constant ego-stroking. Give me cheaper childcare and I’m happy. (more…)
November 3, 2012
I am a middle-class mother of two, educated to PhD level. I work in an education industry. You’d think that when it comes to my own kids, I’d be hothousing like mad. Nonetheless, when it comes to sending them to school, I can’t help feeling I have let them down. I mean, I send them (the eldest one, at least – the other’s still too little). And I help them with their reading and whatnot. But so far I have singularly failed to do any of the following things:
- save enough money for an emergency private school fund
- make a tactical home purchase in a sought-after catchment area
- pretend to be a Christian in order to get my sons into the voluntary-aided “outstanding” school down the road (which is actually closer than the school Eldest ended up in)
The last of these things is partly down to laziness, partly down to a desire not to be a hypocrite (and okay, a teeny bit down to the fear that if God does exist, namedropping Him in order to get a school place might make him rather wrathful come Judgement Day). The first two are down to money. I don’t have enough cash to play the system. So I get to keep my principles, but only because I’m too skint to sell out.
October 19, 2012
Earlier this year my partner, kids and I stopped for tea in a Little Chef.* For reasons I cannot explain, my boys were being exceptionally well-behaved, so much so that one of the waitresses came over to compliment us, the parents, on this. For further reasons I cannot explain, my youngest then decided to hold his chicken nugget aloft and pronounce “I’m like a dog eating poo off the floor”. I can totally see him as a future Sunday Times restaurant critic. He has that way with words. Back then, however, it was less than impressive. Thankfully the waitress took the feedback in far better grace than it deserved.
There are times when my kids have been total sods in cafés. Real little
fuckers annoyances. I mean, they’re ace and everything – this morning I even over-egged the positive parenting pudding by calling them “the best little people in the world” – but now and then they turn to the Dark Side. And when that happens, there’s no reasoning with them at all (okay, I tell a lie – there sort of is. But it’s the kind of reasoning that ends with someone going “waaaaaahhhhh!” and it’s not always me). (more…)
October 16, 2012
Posted by glosswitch under Feminism
| Tags: childcare
|  Comments
I’m launching a new campaign to support much-maligned sector of society. Everyone, I give to you: Feminists For Yummy Mummies!
Now it might sound like I’m being sarcastic but actually, I’m not. I’m deadly serious. If there’s one group which suffers due to a very specific form of sexism which is rarely identified, let alone challenged, then it’s … Well, to be honest, there are many such groups. But well-kept upper-middle-class SAHMs definitely form one of them. It’s about time we did something about it. (more…)
September 20, 2012
Is there a single collective noun for aunties and uncles? I’ve no idea but anyhow, them – my sons have three. And while I don’t think that’s a terrible number, I still don’t believe it’s enough.
On my partner’s side there’s Auntie Perfect and Uncle Manly. They are a dentist and a doctor, respectively (which is such a cliché it sounds like a joke, but it’s actually true). They have two sons of a similar age to mine and offer my kids an insight into what life would be like if Mummy and Daddy were better organised / richer / less annoyingly liberal (kind of like a very minor version of Blood Brothers, based not on actual wealth but on whether you read the Guardian or the Telegraph). (more…)
September 8, 2012
Sometimes I wish I’d called one of my sons Johnny. This isn’t because I particularly like the name; it’s just so that the next time some child-phobic misanthrope saw fit to comment on his less-than-adult behaviour, I could say, in an exaggeratedly mumsy voice, “just you leave my little Johnny alone!”. I bet that’d really piss them off (for good measure, the other son would be called Timmy Timpson, after Spoilt Bastard in Viz. Obviously it’s too late now. Why do I never think of these things at the time?).
Two children I imagine are NOT called Johnny and Timmy are a pair of 14-week-old twins whose parents took them on flight and provided “apology” gifts to all the other passengers, to excuse in advance the shocking behaviour of those who’ve had fewer than six months on Earth in which to learn the rules of polite society. I read about this in an excellent blog post from Scribbles from the Middle. Mummy and Daddy – “AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer” – are clearly feeling uneasy about the intrusion of their offspring into other people’s quiet lives (not that I recall adults on plane flights as ever having been particularly quiet. In fact, do you know what I’d find really cool? If all those people who are scared of flying and get totally pissed in the departure lounge were to scrawl barely legible “apology in advance” notes on the back of their boarding passes. Each ending with “ah fuckin’ luv u”, obviously). (more…)
August 27, 2012
This morning I invented a new game! If you’re a parent of young children, why not give it a go? You might even get a full house (I managed it!).
Print out the list supplied below and wait for tantrum to occur (if impatient, break TV). Once tantrum is in full flow, go through list, ticking off each moment as it occurs. This can be in any order (although list is roughly chronological) (more…)
August 19, 2012
Planning a trip to a theme park? Here is my top tip for having a brilliant day: go to Disneyland Paris in early December. Do not, whatever you do, bring any children with you. At this time of year you’ll be able to go on all the rides with a minimum amount of queuing and since this is not America, you’ll be able to drink beer and wine in the actual park. Without any children to stress you out, the combination of Christmas spirit and Disney artificiality will prove utterly intoxicating. You might look like a self-indulgent kidult on your own but believe me, the minute you add genuine youngsters into the mix, it all goes horribly wrong. (more…)
July 22, 2012
I’m in the middle of writing up my mid-year appraisal, a task which is of course harder than doing the actual work which is being appraised. It’s especially difficult if, like me, you fear that writing anything more positive than “I’m crap at my job” will make you sound like an arrogant knob. So you twist and turn and faff about, finding ever-more convoluted ways in which to say “I’m alright, really, I suppose”. And then you get to the question which asks you where you’d like to be in five years’ time.
In five years’ time I will be forty-two and five years’ closer to death. Obviously I’d prefer it if this wasn’t the case, but putting “I’d like to have discovered the secret of eternal youth” on your appraisal form is not the done thing. I know this because the form even suggests the criteria by which you should be assessing five-years-hence you: “career progression, training, aspirations, work-life balance”. Looking on the bright side, I can think of things to write for all of these, apart from the last one. (more…)