Please, Please, Please, Judge. Off.

I love reading other mum blogs. Especially those of the ‘honest parenting’ variety that I hope Neat Freak Mum peddles. Or tries to anyway.

It can be a bit overwhelming trying to juggle work and small people and blogging, but having a good ‘ole vent on here is indeed therapeutic stuff. And I love it!

Anyway, this particular blog is called ‘Mama Said’ (http://boganette.me/) and one post ‘Mama’ penned recently really struck a chord with me. It was all about those times in the wee small hours of the morning, where you’re sharing your bed with several offspring, someone needs a bottle, someone needs (another) change, hubby needs a good kick in the shins so he’ll stop snoring (and farting) and, well, you just want to SCREAM!

For a few minutes your yearning for your pre-child life is so overwhelming that you can almost taste it, and you just want one good night’s sleep and to wake up to 30 minutes’ of uninterrupted bathroom time.

So, being as it’s the middle of the night, you pen something to the above effect on social media – only to be greeted by comments from ‘well meaning’ people about how you should be grateful for this time because it goes so quickly. (As if you weren’t aware of this yourself.)

Now, I’m not looking to make a new career out of cribbing other peoples’ blogs I promise you! This just got me thinking about all those ‘well meaning’ comments I’ve had from people about my freelance career.

These have ranged from queries as to why I don’t simply give up my job ‘for my own sanity’. (Do they know me at ALL??!) To whether I should be turning work down, spending more time doing laundry, to ‘helpful’ input about the amount of childcare I’m using.

The childcare thing in particular really, REALLY gets my goat – mainly because putting my children, particularly blue-eyed boy, into nursery a couple of days a week already drives me insane with guilt.

I feel guilty literally all the time. Guilt about whether I put them in too much, guilt that I can’t devote as much time to work and that looming deadline as I should on a particular day, guilt about wanting to work, guilt about needing something in my life that’s mine other than being a mum, and major, major guilt about still being driven and inspired by my job even though I have now also procreated.

The thing is that these comments, however kindly intentioned, are a form of passing judgement on me as a mum, and believe me they can make the daily juggling act of working and parenting even harder than it already is.

I know for a fact that good friends who are stay-at-home mums are also on the receiving end.

I think most mums feel like they come under the microscope at some point – and who wants to be analysed?!

This is precisely why I try never to pass judgement on how other people choose to parent. Because we’re all different and what works for you may not for me, but good luck to you.

After all some days it’s about just getting to the end.

Now the above ramblings would have come in very useful during our Mother’s Day lunch out. If I could have packaged them into a perfectly honed yet concise argument that was just acerbic enough to slightly sting.

The recipients would have been a table of pensioners sitting across from us who tutted, raised their eyebrows and unsubtly and loudly talked about hubby and I behind the backs of their hands throughout our entire meal.

And the reason for their disgust? The fact that we put Night Garden on hubby’s iPhone to keep blue-eyed boy entertained while we ate for 20 minutes because he’s currently teething, miserable and very, very clingy.

Yes being judged for being a ‘bad’ parent throughout the meal made me feel great. And I probably should have said something to them, but I didn’t.

Well I am now.

Anyone reading this who likes to post ‘helpful’ comments on social media about their golden days of parenting… Judge Off.

If you feel the need to give me your ‘top tips’ for how to cope with freelancing whilst being a mum… Please Don’t.

And if you have strong views about the occasional use of ‘technical’ products to entertain my pre-school brood and keep me sane… Keep Them To Yourself.

In fact blue-eyed boy is at this precise minute watching Night Garden in his cot while I finish this because he woke up early from a nap…

And so ends my Party Parent-ical Broadcast!

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.

The Primary School Equation: How do you choose?

Am I the only one who’s ever thought that old saying: ‘Your school days are the best of your life’ is a little bit glib? Or at least too black and white?

I have many very happy memories of my own school days but I was also bullied at various points so making sure mini-me ends up somewhere she feels loved, happy and accepted is hugely important to me.

Plus to be honest I can’t quite believe that we’ve actually got to the stage of picking a primary school for my beautiful baby girl – evidently not so small anymore! It all feels like a huge responsibility.

Where we live there’s one main village school that mini-me should automatically get into, which makes things easier and also harder in equal measure. Less stress over choice but more pressure to like it if you see what I mean.

Well last week hubby and I joined a big group of other potential parents on a tour of the school led by the headmistress about who we’d heard great things. First impressions were that she was quietly assured and trendy and reminded me of a ‘PR type’ who might work in Soho (not that you stereotype when you work in the media!)

Hubby was already stressed as I’d forgotten to book blue-eyed boy in for an earlier start at nursery so he was accompanying us in his sling complete with the hacking cough he has yet to shake off.

‘What if he starts screaming? What am I supposed to do, walk off and do a circuit of the school building? How’s that going to look?’ he asked indignantly.

It got the stock response. ‘Um, it’ll be fine.’

Fortunately I was saved by blue-eyed boy’s famous good nature and a few other parents who’d also accessorised with their under-ones. Plus the youngest was working his cuteness to our advantage – trendy headmistress even commented on how lovely he was!

Also BFF was there and both offspring prefer her to us anyway. Mini-me is frequently asking when she can move in…

Anyway us and the other parents were taken on a loop of the school umming and ahhing over the music room and the new library, trying to filter ‘quietly’ into various classrooms where we were followed by many pairs of small eyes as if animals in the zoo.

Quite freaky to think that hopefully next year mini-me will be one of them.

It also, and hopefully I’m not the only one to admit to this, got my competitive hackles up a bit. I found myself commenting to hubby that mini-me is ‘very musical’ so the school would be perfect for her.

Also I was quite pleased with myself for asking a semi-intelligent question about whether parents can get involved with school life, helping with reading etc.

Silly really, but I suppose as a parent you want to be accepted too just like you did when you were at school.

It’s all coming back to me now. My mum running the book stall every year at my school’s autumn fair and dad helping out with various things.

Waiting nervously for them to return from parents’ evenings to see what my teacher had to say about me.

That’s going to be me and hubby soon. Scarily grown up, for both us and mini-me…