Hubby had an exciting announcement to make the other day. Brace yourselves, it’s really worth waiting for this one…

‘I don’t like doing ironing during the week,’ he informed me, during a ‘put-upon partner’ lament about his lack of work shirts and why more hadn’t been washed, hung up and basically draped over the ironing board for him in preparation for some steam-filled action in front of Sunday’s ‘must-watch’ football match.

This week it actually featured his own team too which makes a change. Of course they threw away a two goal lead, causing much muttering and gnashing of teeth, but what do you expect if you support West Ham?!

Don’t worry, I of course calmly explained that no one ‘likes’ ironing – even neat freaks such as myself – regardless of what day of the week it is.

The difference is of course that while men expect a gold medal, or at least some sort of badge of honour and a beer, if they help out with humdrum household tasks at weekends (or whenever) we harassed mums expect (and get) nothing in return for juggling a million different menial tasks a day.

It’s just assumed that when something needs rinsing, washing, fetching or filing we’ll do it. Yes that’s right because we’re female.

It’s the unwritten rule of family life that no one ever tells you. Your body has gone to wrack and ruin pushing out a few children, so now you get to celebrate by washing up for the next two decades!

Take this constantly manic freelance journalist and copywriter for example.

While hubby would never need factor sock washing, hoovering or doing the weekly supermarket shop into his working day, I’m just expected to do it. Yes that’s right, because I’m female.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s great at picking the odd thing up on his way home, but when it comes to all those little ‘invisible’ chores that keep family life ticking over, you guessed it it’s down to you. That’s right, because you’re female.

One of my best mum friends summed up the whole sorry scenario very well this week. Apparently her other half is suffering from a serious case of dishwasher-phobia. You’ve probably come across it – the chronic inability to put anything actually inside the machine, just in its vague vicinity.

Hubby does it with his clothes at night. They don’t get hung up, rather slung over the sofa. Clearly they plan to walk back to the wardrobe by themselves.

Now, as I said, I’m pretty lucky that hubby is a fairly ‘new-age man’ – in the sense that he chips in a lot of the time – but I do still wonder what would happen if I went on strike for a few days.

Would he realise that empty loo rolls need to actually be thrown away, and replaced, for example?

The trouble is that my fear of dirt and chaos means I’d crack within hours of course, which is his psychological warfare weapon.

But I’m still not ironing any bloody shirts…


Pondering on the politics of childcare

While I like to think I know what’s going on in the world I certainly wouldn’t call myself a ‘political animal’.

Although I do quite enjoy watching Question Time on a Thursday night – especially when someone like Kirstie Allsopp makes a guest appearance.

But with the General Election lumbering into view the issue of who and what to vote for is suddenly becoming more of a dilemma.

And after having been to the cinema to see Selma t’other night on a rare date outing with hubby, both of us agreed that abstaining just isn’t an option. Not when you consider what hardships other people went through just to be able to put a cross on a ballot paper.

Sorry this is all sounding rather serious isn’t it, but listening to a lively discussion about the soaring costs of childcare yesterday morning on Woman’s Hour (yes, am sad and ageing) only underlined for me that this could well be the issue that swings my vote.

As an ‘always under it’ working mum it constantly amazes me just how much stress, juggling and expense we have to go to in order to simply go about our daily profession.

Yes it’s a choice you make to go to back to work, but when you consider that the Government wants us to return to the daily grind but there’s been a whopping 27 per cent increase in childcare costs in the UK over the last five years (according to the Family and Childcare Trust) it’s no wonder that so many women are actually wondering whether it’s all really worth it.

Now I’m fortunate enough to love my job so much that sometimes I’d happily write for free, but let’s face it that’s just rubbish economics.

Plus when I spoke to a top educational psychologist a few years back for a feature on pre-schools, she insisted that sending your kids to some kind of formal day care setting before primary school is hugely beneficial to them developing good communication and negotiating skills and independence.

So frankly it should pay not only for you to work, if you want to that is, but also for them to go to nursery.

The worrying part about all this is that it’s Labour that has pledged to extend free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per work.

Not worrying in the sense of supporting this policy you understand, but HUGELY concerning that this would mean actually voting for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister.

This is after all a man who manages to look uneasy and a little surprised no matter what he’s doing and who, to be blunt, I wouldn’t trust to run a bath, never mind the country.

I mean come on, even Declan Donnelly says he can’t picture him as PM.

Have always had something of a crush on Dec. Hubby also used to get mistaken for him when he was younger and once fraudulently signed an autograph as Dec whilst on a cross channel ferry. I know, shocking behaviour!

Now he gets mistaken for Richard Hammond which massively irritates him and amuses the rest of us. Not that I’m going off on a tangent here or anything…

So getting back to the childcare issue, this is surely going to be one of the biggest factors in any or all of the parties winning women’s and family votes in 2015.

And what I’d like to know is which of them will really be putting the money where their mouth is…

Toast Jenga – and other ‘finger food’ revelations

Working as a journalist for over 15 years means you do encounter slightly bonkers stories from time to time.

Especially working in the UK, where people love to sell tales to the tabloids of how they bought a vegetable that looks like Santa Claus, or a tortilla that looks like Jesus. Ahem…

My personal highlight has to be when hubby was made to strip off so he could be photographed pretending to be a naked ‘hermit’ living in some cave in the North of England. The hermit was famous for some reason, I forget why, but still it must have been a fantastically slow news day.

Fortunately hubby was only ‘on show’ from the waist up poor thing. (And poor snapper come to that!)

But given all that I was still highly amused, and a little shocked, when a story popped up in my inbox yesterday about a dad resorting to desperate measures to get his two little girls to eat a proper breakfast. Apparently the poor sod has to start each day by crafting and then playing an elaborate game of toast Jenga…

After painstakingly building each tower of toast fingers, which he creates in three different flavours by the way, he and his one and three-year-old then battle it out to see who is ‘top of the toast’

Apparently this is a good way to ‘spice up’ the most important meal of the day.

One wonders if he’s considered offering his pre-schoolers eggs with chilli flakes. Or last night’s left over curry?!

In all seriousness I have great admiration for parents prepared to go to extreme lengths to ensure their offspring are chomping on a perfectly balanced daily menu, probably because I seem to have lost the inspiration to do it myself.

I have vague memories of poaching and then lovingly flaking fillets of fish for mini-me, which would then be mixed with diced, de-seeded tomatoes and pre-charred aubergine.

And then of her throwing it at the wall.

Now hubby and I are more of the ‘spaghetti hoops and cheese on toast for tea okay?’ school of thought. And we are also big consumers of brioche.

Oh dear all this is sounding very ‘un-Gwyneth’… Or at least like Caroline Aherne’s character from the Royle Family who used to make ‘her Dave’ Dairylea on toast for dinner.

I do actually cook from scratch pretty often, but it’s usually a fairly safe selection of ever-rotating meals, like meatballs, chilli, sausage casserole and spag bol.

Probably why when my dad, a brilliant cook, offers mini-me options such as frittata that she has absolutely no idea what he’s on about and proceeds to request fish fingers and ice-cream please.

And poor old blue-eyed boy is not likely to encounter a toast Jenga tower in the Neat Freak kitchen any time soon.

Having worked right through with him and now juggling two businesses as well as the kids I have to admit that toast with a choice of two toppings is about as exotic as it will probably ever get for him.

That reminds me I’m sure someone told me recently that they make their children home-made waffles. Hmm, must cross them off the Christmas card list immediately.

Beware the dreaded ‘three-teens’…

Has anyone seen a three-and-a-half-and-a-bit year old?

Hubby and I seem to have mislaid mini-me you see. Our once always smiling, constantly cute toddler has been replaced by someone else – at least for 50 per cent of the time.

This indignant intruder exhibits behaviour we thought we wouldn’t be dealing with until well into the teenage years and it’s quite disconcerting.

There’s the continual, and I do mean constant, whining, liberal use of the word ‘no!’ often accompanied by comedy foot stamping, frequent screaming when faced with parental decline of ridiculous requests for never-ending snacks and screenings of Frozen at 8pm (Please, spare me!!) and plenty of hands-on-hip scowling with curled bottom lip for full ‘displeased’ effect.

Yes the Neat Freak household would currently be prime fodder for a visit from Supernanny. Although thinking about it she’d probably leave after a hastily slurped cuppa.

It is without doubt joyous to enter your offspring’s bedroom in the morning issuing good mornings and enquiries as to whether they slept well (even though their presence in your bed from 4 to 6am means you know they didn’t) to be greeted by a chorus of charming grunts. And demands as to when breakfast will be served.

Then there’s the heart-warming scenario of going to pick them up from nursery when you’re really looking forward to seeing them and hearing about their day and they run and hide in the corner, before telling you: ‘No Mummy, I want to stay and play.’

Add in an ‘early adolescent’ addiction to the iPad and various other appliances made by a certain famous brand and hubby and I are often to be found scratching our heads as to just how ahead of the behaviour game mini-me actually is.

Mini-me was without doubt a dream baby – slept well, always in a good mood, could be relied upon to sleep through coffee dates, meals out and also baby classes of any and all types.

‘You’ll pay for this later,’ we were often told, but despite occasional hideous tantrums, bizarrely without fail whenever we had to buy her new shoes, mini-me was also on the whole a fairly chilled out toddler.

But then we hit the ‘three-teens’…

Now people tell hubby and I that the current frustrating trend is because she’s so bright, and that feisty, independent and driven at three rising four will equal intelligent, articulate and driven in the secondary school years. (Presuming we haven’t been driven round the bend by then of course!)

Fortunately we don’t seem to be the only family dealing with the three-teens. In fact running around in a circle while issuing ear-piercing shrieks at the same time seems quite a popular hobby amongst mini-me’s little circle.

Also begging parents to order food when out and about and then either refusing to eat it, playing with it or using it as missiles.

Don’t get me wrong the old mini-me frequently resurfaces for periods of time before retreating back into the wheedling and whinging, so hubby and I are hopeful, if not confident, that the three-teens will soon be a thing of the past.

After all doesn’t the fourth birthday issue the arrival of the ‘constantly sunny’ phase?!!

Time to cross those fingers…