Things you never really get until having kids

In the dim and distant past, otherwise known as the years before children, I vaguely remember an old boss once making what, at the time, I thought was a really fatuous comment.

I seem to recall that I’d been moaning about how knackered I was. She as a busy, working mum-of-three no doubt thought that, with me then being 28 and childless, it was one of the most stupid complaints she’d ever heard.

‘Wait until you have kids,’ she told me. ‘Then you’ll really know the meaning of being tired.’

And much as I feel like I’m betraying my younger self by admitting this, boy was she right!

Not that I’m here to preach to the un-converted you understand, but one of the secrets of having a family that you never really ‘get’ until living through it, is how you will learn to survive on hardly any sleep – and copious amounts of caffeine to slightly deaden that ‘insomnia’ tension headache.

Blue-eyed boy seems to be teething again at the moment – judging by his grumpy night-time moods and extensive drooling. Which means he isn’t sleeping – so neither are we.

And incidentally what’s with that thing where those pesky one-year-olds like to throw you off guard? You know with one good night where you think it’s either over or you’ve finally cracked it, followed by five bloody awful ones!

Anyway, lack of shut-eye aside. All this sleep deprivation torture/ extra early hours analysing time, has got me thinking about those other scenarios that you never fully relate to until having pushed out a sprog or two.

It’s a little like suddenly being able to speak a new language.

Firstly there’s the fear of causing a scene in a public place. Yes you care less as time goes by (party because you don’t have the energy) but don’t pretend you ‘enjoy’ being the mum of the offspring having a hissing, kicking tantrum in your local shoe shop or public library.

Then there’s the associated family tension caused by eating out. Yes that previously enjoyably leisure pursuit now compromised by everyone’s fear of causing a scene in a restaurant.

And by the way ‘friends’ who tell you their immaculately behaved children sit nice and quietly doing colouring before using their knife and fork properly only make it worse!

There’s the worry about your kid being ‘the one’ in the toddler music class (and this is true of any class, birthday party or ‘toddler social setting’ with other parents you don’t know well) who either runs around screaming causing total carnage or knocks another child over.

And it’s guaranteed to be the one belonging to ‘Judgy Mummy’ who will look down at her nose at you while you apologise profusely.

There’s the thing where you feel like laughing in the face of the health visitor who advises you to cut out drinking several nights a week – or altogether. And so what if that welcoming glugging sound occasionally happens before bath-time…

These little ‘parenting club’ scenarios are endless so sure to be revisited here on the Neat Freak blog.

But the final one for now is one that recently reared its head with my poor sister and her two lovely boys. Namely the horrible feeling that comes with being ‘put in your place’ just because your children are, well, being children.

In this case it involved them going out for breakfast, an obviously childless couple shooting her evils for the entire meal and muttering about ‘terrible parenting’ and then when she politely approached them and said they were making her feel uncomfortable she was sworn at.

It’s something that in the days before kids I would never have fully appreciated the awfulness of. But now I do.

So, in the spirit of goodwill, I hope the bastards choked on their eggs!

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The ‘relaxing’ art of eating out with children

Last week some friends and I took the sprogs to our favourite local children’s café to sample lots of caffeine (us) and a spot of African drumming (them).

Yes mini-me, blue-eyed boy and I are very global in our choice of leisure pursuits don’t you know… (Not really, unless you count me shamefully watching Teen Mom 2 on MTV after they’ve gone to bed. Trash-tastic yes, but I maintain great entertainment with the added bonus of making you feel like the world’s best parent!)

Still the drumming sounded like a brilliant idea, something a little different and a good way to wear the rugrats out while we adults, hopefully, got to drink our still-hot beverages and catch up a little. (Otherwise known as having a good old mum moan.)

The trouble was that we’d forgotten that dining out of any description involving pre-school children can and usually does descend into total chaos. You know, of the food flinging, kiddie whinging, baby screaming, exploding nappy variety.

Now add an hour’s worth of percussion into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s anything but relaxing.

As usual my friends and I tried to maintain yelled conversations over the madness whilst wet-wiping various offspring, lifting luke-warm tea out of the path of marauding toddlers, doling out rice cakes to babies and averting potential toy injuries before they happened. I’m tensing up just thinking about it.

Then later we texted each other to say: ‘So nice to see you, sorry we didn’t get the chance to chat properly.’ And the fact is we never really do. In fact, the last time I really caught up with a friend was when Rachel, my pal from Light Monkey Photography came round – and that was only because the sprogs were playing nicely for the cameras!

Still, it doesn’t stop the other halves from casting aspersions on how we spend our days though, you know in those precious few hours between wiping arses, performing numerous household tasks and fitting work in as well.

‘I’d love to stay home and drink coffee with my mates,’ hubby has been known to mutter on various occasions to the soundtrack of me grinding my teeth in frustration.

‘God knows what they think we do at these meetings,’ one of the mum BFFs said in exasperated tones. ‘We ought to install ‘nanny cam’ to reveal the reality.’

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

As a mum I suppose you are just more used to the whole rigmarole of ‘café culture with kids’ so your tolerance level for dirty looks received from other diners and increasing numbness to treat bribery are naturally just higher.

(Incidentally my personal ‘treat equation’ for mini-me has been known to extend to three bags of pom-bears in the quest for good behaviour. Goodness, I do hope Gwyneth ‘mung bean’ Paltrow isn’t reading this – she’s bound to report me!)

Well, parental guru that I am, I say load yourself up with high-carb snacks, chuck some raisins in to make yourself better, and get them grazing.

With any luck you’ll manage to slurp down a cuppa and consume a chocolate biscuit in the space of three seconds and the outing can be declared a success. Hooray!

Never mind the indigestion pains. You’re used to it by now…