You can have it all. It just might kill you…

Have you ever played that game where you imagine what your dream dinner party line up would be?

You know the one, where you can invite anyone you like to sit around ‘the table’. (A bit like a normal Saturday night must be for Amal Clooney.)

Well along with Lauren Graham, Bill Bryson, Tom Hanks, Nora Ephron (yes I know she’s dead) and Kirstie Allsopp, I’ve always thought mine would include Emma Thompson.

Because along with being brilliant, funny, just the right amount of bonkers and a great British export, she always comes across as nice, normal and someone who wouldn’t be above feeding crispy chicken dippers to screaming offspring.

But then a couple of years back she gave an interview where she spoke about the perils of trying to have it all as a mum. She talked about how hard it is to juggle career and being a parent, and how having it all at once might not be good for you.

What’s she on about?! I thought to myself.

Surely you should be flying the flag for working parents who are trying to have it all Emma, I muttered to myself. After all I’ve always thought of you as someone who does that.

I said the same to hubby who quickly became bored by the conversation…

Anyway, a while further down the parenting track, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Emma’s words were actually very wise ones.

You see I’ve spent the last two months trying to have it all and the plain fact is I’m bloody knackered, the laundry pile in the house is now so large that it is soon to be named a local landmark and quite simply it hasn’t brought me happiness. It’s made me, and most people around me, stressed.

I haven’t had the time in my life for all the little things I used to love, such as blogging, and what I’ve realised is that, at least for me, having it all at once has not been a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, going back into an office has definitely had its upsides. Tea rounds, office banter and child-free lunch hours being three of them.

But trying to manage full-time hours with other freelance writing jobs, the school run, seeing friends and family, trying to have quality time with Mini-me and Blue-eyed boy and all those little bits of ‘life admin’ that you have to do to keep things ticking over has been really hard.

Plus on top of everything else Blue-eyed boy is facing challenges of his own (more of which another time), and I need and want to be around to give him all the help and support he needs.

So the upshot is that I’m going back to freelancing – for the next couple of years at least.

When I realised that this was the only decision that made sense for us right now I couldn’t help feeling like a failure. After all so many parents juggle much more than I do on a daily basis, and they manage, so why couldn’t I?

Fortunately a very good friend was around to mop up a few tears and give me some more wise words.

‘You tried it, it didn’t work for you at the moment and so you’re making a change,’ she said. ‘At least you gave it a go, and that’s something to be proud of.’

A much better way of looking at it – and another thing this whole journey has reinforced for me.

Like most mums I really rely on my friends, and I’m lucky because they are a bloody brilliant group.

In fact Amal really should invite them over…

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.