Smug Mums Incorporated

It’s been a rather stressful few weeks in the Neat Freak house.

A seemingly never-ending bout of illness finally culminated in a spell in hospital for blue-eyed boy, and although everything’s pretty much back to normal now it’s been a case of muddling along as best we can for a while.

My never-ending ‘to do’ list is now the length of a short novel and I’m actually getting genuinely scared of being eaten alive by the laundry pile.

Being a long-time convert to the philosophy that a tidy home equals a calmer, happier person, I think what I find hardest about being a parent – apart from the lack of personal space – is the lack of space in general.

The plethora of ‘toddler tat’ in our lounge often feels like my biggest bugbear, that and how my kids manage to leave their sticky fingerprints and footprints on everything. But hey, it goes with the territory.

What’s harder to admit is that sometimes I find it hard to remain serene in the face of mini-me emptying out every toy she owns. Or that I love the fact that she does cake making and potato printing at nursery so I don’t have to at home.

Personally I think the sanest thing you can do as a mum is to accept the fact that you’ll never be ‘perfect’, try not to feel guilty about the decisions you make and above all never forget to laugh at yourself – whether at home or in public.

After all being a good mum is many things, but it’s certainly not black and white.

So why do the smug mums brigade, Smug Mums Incorporated if you will, seem to feel it’s okay to look down their noses at the rest of us?

You know the type, the ones who wouldn’t know self-deprecation if it bit them on the arse and who recoil in horror at the thought of feeding their offspring anything that’s not locally sourced, organic and prepared from scratch.

Queen of the Smug Mums, or at least the celebrity face of the campaign, has to go to Gwyneth Paltrow, her of Goop, or as I prefer to call it Gloop fame.

You know that lifestyle website with ‘useful’ tips on the perfect capsule collection wardrobe, the importance of owning a black designer jumpsuit and hearty recipes. Chickpea soup anyone?

To be fair Gwyneth herself has waxed lyrical about how we mums don’t cut each other enough slack. But then she always goes and spoils it by dropping clangers such as how office jobs are easier if you’re a mum than being paid millions to make a film. Or how she only allows her children to watch TV if it’s in French or Spanish.

And while describing herself as a ‘working mom’ as she did recently at a political fundraiser – of course we all host these regularly where I’m from – might be technically correct, in reality she presumably has staff and nannies by the dozen on standby.

Oh Gwyneth if only instead of writing about the benefits of juice cleansing on Gloop you could recount that time when you broke wind in a baby sensory class and blamed your unfortunate offspring.

Or when you let your kids have cheese and a bag of maltesers for tea one night because you couldn’t get them to eat anything else.

Or when you stuck them upstairs for some ‘quiet time’ with the iPad so you could indulge in 30 minute’s uninterrupted trash TV.

We’d like you, and the other Smug Mums, so much more…

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Coughing over the dilemma of ‘basic human rights’ (pre-kids)

The Neat Freak household is one full of sickness at the moment.

Mini-me has managed to take down everyone within a five mile radius with a particularly lovely hacking cough/streaming cold/ what I like to refer to as ‘cotton wool head’ combo. (So apologies if the following doesn’t make total sense!)

Poor blue-eyed boy is particularly stricken and looks so sorry for himself that it makes me want to cry. Horrible.

Having spent the weekend being sprayed with snot, tears and projectile vomit (don’t ask!) all this got me thinking about what it was like being ill before children. You know when you were actually allowed and had time to be ill.

I have vague memories of lying on the sofa with a selection of films to watch on telly and a ready supply of chocolate to hand, hubby checking in to see how I was and bringing home my favourite food for dinner.

Whereas now you’re lucky if you get time to swallow some pills to tackle your own temperature before donning your virtual nurses’ uniform and starting a seemingly never-ending shift of mopping brows, fetching juice, finding favourite Ben & Holly episodes, trying to coax little people to eat something, reaching for the Calpol, doing the fourth pyjama change of the day etc. etc.

Being ill is in fact one of those things you consider a ‘basic human right’ before having children. There are lots of others too…

*Drinking a hot drink while it’s still hot – some days I lose count of the number of times I re-boil the kettle. Either that or pretend to ‘enjoy’ my semi-cold, stewed cuppa that’s been sitting waiting 20 minutes for me with a piece of kitchen roll over the mug.

*Not dreading twice-daily teeth cleaning – this may of course not be universal but as mini-me has a hatred of brushing it’s become something I truly despise. Nothing like trying to clamp your daughter’s head in one position so you can clean her teeth as quickly as humanly possible after 15 minutes of trying to coax her into letting you do it in a less stressful fashion.

*Wearing stain-free clothes – It doesn’t matter how many aprons I use, how many muslins I attempt to hold up as a ‘human shield’ I still always seem to end the day speckled in food, formula, milk, mud and other unidentified substances.

*Being able to pee alone – God I miss ‘using the facilities’ without having to do any one of the following: Singing a selection of show tunes to provide ‘entertainment’ from behind the bathroom door, answering questions from behind the bathroom door, trying to pacify a screaming baby from behind the bathroom door, mini-me yelling ‘Mummy, I need a poo!’ from outside the bathroom door, taking mini-me and blue-eyed boy into the bathroom with me…

*Packing for every possible eventuality before leaving the house like some mad bag lady – I find this one is particularly enhanced by hubby nagging about why it takes me so long to get ready, and then later tutting because I didn’t think to bring a football, third change of clothes for blue-eyed boy, the kite, the preferred nappy cream, a wider selection of snacks and drinks etc. etc.

I’m sure there are many, many more of these. To be continued when my brain loses its current fuzzy status and returns to ‘normal’ – whatever that is…

Property of a shopaholic…

So there I was t’other afternoon watching mini-me fighting with one of her best friends over a plastic car – or wait, was it a plastic monkey or a plastic penguin…

Whatever, it was the usual scenario. In a house rammed full to the gills of shiny toys and new-fangled toddler gadgets, mini-me and her much beloved companions will always, ALWAYS find one tiny piece of plastic tat to start a game of tug of war over.

There’s the: ‘Mummy, I had it first…’, the: ‘Mummy, XXX (fill in with name of one of mini-me’s many friends) isn’t sharing…’, and then invariably the whining starts. At which point my mum friend and I, usually a kindred spirit, will threaten to park them on the dreaded ‘time out step’ if they don’t shut up and stick Beebies and the kettle on, in that order.

Now you’re thinking, but what the hell does this have to do with shopping? Well forgive the illogical leap of thought, but all this got me thinking about my own propensity to covet the property of others.

Of course mine tends to be of the gorgeous coat, bag, cushion or framed print variety, rather than miniature Peppa Pig merchandise, but is toddler grappling over other children’s toys just the start of that very human trait of comparing yourself to others, and their ‘stuff’?

Don’t get me wrong I’ve never been one to count other people’s money, but I am certainly guilty of lusting after anything from coaster sets to cardies – and of course this now includes toys and clothes for the kids.

As hubby sighs, ‘Whenever you go to Shell’s house you come back with a shopping list as long as your arm.’ And he’s got a point.

You see the coveting also extends to other people’s houses. I’m a total sucker for seeing how someone has painted a room, where they bought their curtains from, asking how long it took to put up those shelves or that picture wall, and, ooh, where that lampshade is from.

Probably why I’m addicted to property shows like Location and rather a fan of Kirstie Allsopp (I actually think we’re destined to be great mates some day!).

I love spending an hour a week dissecting another couple’s house search with hubby, heckling at the telly that what they clearly need is some period features and not to buy that ugly house which has lots of space but is in a dodgy neighbourhood.

(By the way Kirstie if you’re reading this, please can you find us the ‘forever home’ – preferably with a walled garden?! I’ve just always wanted one.)

Anyway, getting back to mini-me and that plastic tat, I suddenly realised that perhaps I should be practising what I preach when it comes to our seasoned post-tug of war ‘chat’.

After all if I’m asking my three-year-old why she constantly wants what someone else is playing with, and can’t she be content with her own myriad of toys, perhaps I should be doing the same…

Hmm, still might ask Shell to come round and frame some pictures for me though.

The thrill of the morning routine

It should be a truth universally acknowledged that those people who were always running late in their life before children, or LBC if you will, are not going to somehow magically change their ways on leaving the labour ward.

My other half and I have a long-held reputation for horrendously tardy behaviour and arriving at appointments, social engagements, coffee dates and even weddings red-faced from sprinting with literally seconds to spare.

We’re routinely the last people to arrive anywhere, have missed planes, only just made it to several funerals and on one memorable occasion tried to sneak in at the back at the nuptials of a close friend without realising the door we’d chosen would actually reveal our faux-pas to the entire congregation and result in a last-minute speech addition for the groom.

(That was eight years ago and the memory is still cringe-worthy!)

It’s not that we mean to be late. We always have good intentions, discuss when we should depart home  and build in extra time for ‘emergencies’ – now translated as nappy dramas, vomiting incidents and hunting for mini-me and blue-eyed boys’ comfort toys – but it never seems to go according to plan and we still end up rushing.

So it stands to reason that mornings in our house are not calm affairs.

Trying to get two small people to nursery and hubby to the station on time should be simple right? So why does it so often end in frayed tempers and raised voices?

As I work from home I could write in my PJs if I wanted to, but most freelancers I know actually find this rather depressing. Plus I’m quite often rushing to get somewhere myself so add to the mix me getting ready as well as packing everyone’s bags, making breakfast, brushing hair, cleaning teeth, finding shoes and it can often feel like I’ve run a marathon before sitting down to type.

(Not that I’ve run an actual marathon you understand – that would constitute some sort of miracle. And breathing apparatus.)

While it’s too soon to tell with blue-eyed boy, mini-me has definitely inherited her parents’ procrastinating tendencies. Whether it’s ‘approving’ an outfit or saying good morning to her brother it seems to take her an age to do anything before 9am.

I always try to remain calm while glancing with increasing anxiety at the clock, tell myself that getting agitated will achieve nothing, but by the fourth time of asking her to ‘please sit on the potty and do a wee’ the tone of my voice may have reached an octave higher.

Even bribing her with ‘special brioche’ – her favourite food in the world – doesn’t always work anymore. Oh no, mini-me likes to take her sweet time.

Now I have more selfless mummy friends who would happily forgo their own shower in order for their offspring to have a more leisurely start to the day, but I don’t claim to be one of them.

So until some other harassed parent invents some kind of all-natural yet highly effective toddler fast-forward supplement (unlikely!) morning rants in our house are probably here to stay.

And by the way has anyone seen bloody ‘Doggy’??!