How many plates can you carry?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, on certain days, parenting is a little like one, long waitressing shift.

Except for the fact that you don’t get paid and the only ‘tips’ on offer are stroppy about-to-start-school ones along the lines of: ‘Mummy, I need more blueberries,’ and ‘You need to buy more chocolate biscuits.’

I know – I can’t believe it took me this look to make the connection either.

Maybe it’s something about turning four, but Mini-me’s diva demands are definitely on the rise. And considering that her favourite ‘hobbies’ include picnics (garden, park and woodland based naturally), frequenting cafes and seeing how many snacks she can wheedle out of relatives and close friends, I’m starting to feel like a plate balancer as well as spinner.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain, after all ‘waitressing’ these days keeps me constantly on my toes and thus provides at least a grudging form of exercise, and I don’t have to wear short skirts like I did ‘back in the day.’

And actually Mini-me requesting that I pause the TV so she can take a quick ‘snack break’ has been the cause of much hilarity. (I know, I need to get out more to somewhere without swings and buggies.)

But let’s face it, fetching, carrying, raising voice when perfectly capable offspring is just being lazy, and wiping up spills with one foot whilst clearing dirty plates with hands is bloody knackering.

I have fairly painful memories of my pre-children waitressing ‘career’ – which actually constituted the revenue source of one university summer.

I was a pretty awful ‘restaurant attendant’ as I recall. I could only carry two plates at a time, would forget to put some meals through the till and then blame the chefs for their lateness and objected to having to plaster on a huge smile when I was quite often massively hungover.

Also I wasn’t shagging one of the managers which, if I remember correctly, was the only way to bag yourself decent tips!

Now of course I can cater to numerous demands in minutes and am brilliant at anticipating the customers’ needs.

Time for your bottle of milk sir? Here’s one I microwaved earlier.

More carrot sticks madam? Of course, here are some extra ones I prepared just in case.

You’d like a third custard pot of the day you say? You must be joking!

At least I’m not alone in this business of order taking and continual washing up.

One of my best friends now enjoys the delights of her child shouting ‘rubbish!’ when he’s finished consuming something on an outing and needs the remains disposing of.

Another has crisp packets thrown at her when her kids have finished munching. Obviously they are incapable of putting them in the bin themselves you understand.

Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what Mini-me tries to get away with at school mealtimes.

I’ll bet we’re the only parents called in because their child wishes to dine atop a blanket in the playground with her teddy bears.

And due to concerns over worrying custard pot addiction…

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!

Not getting better with age…

They say a fine vintage only improves with the passing years.

Probably not the case with buying whichever white is on offer in the supermarket eh?!

Anyway, wine consumption aside, it’s been a ‘prop those eyes open with matchsticks’ sort of week in the Neat Freak household.

Mini-me has valiantly fought, and scratched, off ‘the pox’ and we now wait with anticipation (more like total dread) for some sign of the small, itchy little sods blooming on poor blue-eyed boy.

Hubby’s friend, who has children almost exactly the same age as us, regaled him with a heart-warming tale yesterday of how they thought they’d got away with it with bubba number two. Until the pox re-appeared, like some sort of scary Jim Carrey sequel, when enough time had passed that they’d allowed themselves to relax.

‘Now he’s been exposed he’s bound to get it,’ said the voice of doom.

Oh goody!

More lack of shut-eye and passing out on the sofa because I’m so exhausted then, before blearily staggering up the stairs at 2am.

Last Sunday I woke up on the sofa at 4.30 in the morning. It was light outside. Birds were singing. Ridiculous!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to read a news article about how, if you get by on only six hours of sleep a night, this will play havoc with your health.

Think dark circles hovering like bean bags under the eyes and skin a flattering shade of grey.

One expert said six hours of snooze time was the equivalent of driving your car over the same pothole every day. Apparently we should be getting eight or nine!

Now, correct me if I’m mad, but I thought six hours was pretty good when you have pre-school age children?!

And it’s even worse news for hubby, as when I finally do lumber into bed I’m a notoriously heavy sleeper, so more often than not he ends up getting up first with the kids.

Yes even kicking me in the ribs doesn’t work so I’m told…

I’d never really worried about obvious signs of ageing until mini-me approached her first birthday.

By then the inherent exhaustion that goes hand in hand with parenting had set in, and since then there have been (many) more grey hairs, more crinkly lines on my face and more ‘middle-aged spread.’

Yes, I’m clearly transforming into exactly Bradley Cooper’s type of woman. (Probably only if he actually was the Elephant Man… and even then he’d trade me in for someone younger, and firmer.)

The good news of course is that hubby will have to get over his Jessica Alba fetish as well!

The final insult hit home though, like a verbal punch to the chops, when mini-me was playing ‘families’ with her dolls and stuffed animals.

‘I’m the mummy, Mummy,’ she explained. ‘Baby brother is the baby and Moo Moo Cow is the daddy.’

‘Lovely. Who can I be?’ I asked.

She pondered for a few seconds.

‘You can be the granny,’ she beamed.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

If anyone could send me the number of a reputable face lift surgeon I’d be much obliged.

Spooked

Hello readers and fellow harassed parents, if some of you are in fact still out there.

Firstly massive apologies for the long radio silence. All work and NO play has recently turned Neat Freak Mum into a shadow of her former self. (Or to be correct one with slightly less sense of humour and massively bigger eye bags…)

I’ve probably mentioned that alongside my adventures in blog-dom I’m also a journalist and copywriter, and as well as tap, tap, tapping away on features and regular commissions, I’ve recently launched a new copywriting business venture.

All very exciting but quite stressful too, so if anyone has worked out how to pack 30 hours into a 24 hour day I’d be very grateful for some tips!

The good news is that should I get totally fed up of penning features at 2am and throw my laptop out of the office window I now have another employment option to turn to.

Yes apparently a parliamentary report – don’t zone out just yet, Ed Miliband wasn’t involved in this one – has declared that spy chiefs at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ should start recruiting spies from Mumsnet.

Apparently the drones of middle-aged men ‘secret agents’ are causing an uncomfortable sounding condition, ‘permafrost’, and we mums would bring a new breadth of skills, intuition and more emotional intelligence to the job.

Where they think we’re going to find the time to jet off to some dark, dingy (because they always were dark and dingy on Spooks) former Soviet state and crack a code, infiltrate a criminal gang and free some hostages or defuse a bomb I don’t know.

Hmm, perhaps I could fit it in after sticking on the fish fingers. If hubby was around to turn off the grill and turn on the saucepan of spaghetti hoops that is.

Neat Freak Mum, double ‘Oh no not another bloody nappy change, blue-eyed boy!’ Sounds good doesn’t it.

One thing’s for sure, our supreme multi-tasking, general juggling and ability to clean up poo at the same time as fixing a bottle would certainly give us the edge.

Thinking back to Rupert Penry-Jones in Spooks I seem to remember certain qualities were required of ‘good’ spies.

*Keeping unsocial hours – Well that’s hardly going to be a stretch is it. Once you’ve got to bed at 2.33am having finally finished a piece of work only to be raised again at 2.35am by a teething baby, working through the night isn’t going to phase you.

*Always being on call – ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Muuummmmy, MUMMMMAAAAYYYY…..’ Need I say more?

*Able to respond in a flash to the messiest of emergencies – Yes once you’ve simultaneously mopped up ‘the trots’ at the same time as baby sick, or had to soak those grubby items of clothing nursery send home in a little plastic baggy, even Lisa Faulkner having her head shoved in a pan of boiling oil would probably all be in a day’s work.

*Always being prepared – Mums are famed for their ability to think ahead.

Whinging pre-schooler? Whip out the notebook and crayons you’ve brought to the restaurant, and if that fails the iPad.

Permanently hungry baby? Yes hubby of course I stashed a second bag of rice cakes in the change bag.

Other half falling asleep in his dinner? Where’s that can of Diet Coke I threw in earlier.

Yes this is sounding more attractive by the minute. Especially if RP Jones is still on the job too.

What’s that you say? We’d have to do this spy malarkey on top of the supermarket shop, nursery run, cleaning pen off the wall, washing hubby’s pants and fishing toys out from under the sofa.

And we’d be expected to make most of the tea rounds for the ‘permafrost’ gang.

Oh, s** off.