Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Poo - viewers of a sensitive nature may find some scenes distressing

I'm not sure what the dictionary definition of "potty-trained" is, but assuming it's along the lines of "has control of bowel and bladder movements and can relieve oneself when and where one wants",  L is potty trained.

It's just not working out quite how I'd like.

We did it in June - we were staying in a house with a downstairs loo and no carpets so it seemed wise.  She was great.  We cracked the wees pretty much straightaway with the help of some haute couture Iggle Piggle pants, and the poos seemed fine too.  She's still in a nappy for her nap and at night so the fact that we occasionally had a poo in a nappy didn't seem to be a problem.

Only now it's the end of October, and we don't seem to have got any further.  It's not that she can't control it,  she's in 100% control (which I think maybe the driving force behind it), it's just that she does her poos where and when she'd like (in her nappy, five minutes after I've put her to bed) and not where and when I'd like (on the loo, at a time of her choosing).  Oh and yesterday she tried to clean herself up too....

I've resorted to the parenting books (not normally my preferred reading unless I want to feel more guilty than I already do), and they say helpful things like "it is important to find out the reason your child is doing this".  How do you do that with a 2 year old?  L is pretty articulate, but I don't think she knows why she's doing it, much less has the vocabulary, or self-awareness to put it into words.

We've had lots of conversations about it, so she knows that she's a big girl, and big girls use the loo and she knows that babies use a nappy, and she's not a baby, and that her friends use the loo; and she agrees and smiles and goes on her own merry way.  We even resorted to bribery:

Me: "L, what could I give you that would make you do a poo on the loo"
L: (thinks hard, for the most outlandish and exotic thing she can imagine) "a lollipop"
Me: (very relieved, having been slightly concerned at having to explain acquisition of a puppy to non-dog-loving husband) "well, as it so happens I have a lollipop downstairs, if you do a poo on the loo, you can have a lollipop"
L: "I don't want a lollipop".


I know, because I've learned this over the last 2 1/2 years, that this too will pass, and when she's 15 she won't still be in nappies, but I just can't see how. Presumably at some point she will just decide that she's ready, but oh, don't I wish she'd do so soon!

Plan B - first attempt - millinery

I may, today, have taken my first teeny steps to an alternative way of life (sounds like I'm going to live up a tree, but you know what I mean).

I've signed up for a millinery course. Evenings, of course, and only one of them a week, so it'll probably take me about ten years finally to finish one hat, but if I like it and if I'm good at it, who knows what might happen...

And when I'm a milliner to the stars, remember you read it here first.

In the meanwhile, here's a picture of the only hat I've made so far.  The dress was navy and white if anyone's interested.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Baby weight

Not mine.  S and A's.  They're ten months old and I'm worrying about their weight...

When they were born, they were seven ounces apart.  Whenever I've had them weighed A has been heavier, but never by much.  The last time was at their ten month check. To nobody's great surprise, A was still heavier, by 11 ounces.  Which isn't much, even if you only weigh 20 pounds...

They're identical, so I could sit here wondering why A is always heavier, but it's not very complicated:  she eats more.

Now if I had just one baby and she ate like A, I'd think "great, she eats plenty"; and if I had just one baby and she ate like S, I'd think "great, she eats plenty".  But now I'm fretting about how much A eats.

Why? Because I really, really don't want her to be "the fat one".

Neither B nor I are what you might call slender, and we both come from families where doctors look at you slightly disapprovingly and say "well, you could do with losing....", so none of my girls is ever likely to be naturally slim.  But that's fine. It's taken me a long time to accept that I'm ok as I am, extra half stone or no, and I am adamant that one of the things I most want to teach the girls is to have the mythical healthy relationship with food:  to eat when they're hungry, and not eat when they're not, and to be happy with the way they look.

And it seems to me, that if you've got a pair of identical twins and one regularly eats more than the other, that's going to show, and then that's going to become the distinguishing feature.  And I'm not sure how you teach a girl to have my idealised "healthy relationship" with food if she's constantly referred to as "fat" for being a few pounds (or ounces) heavier than her sister...

But then nor do I want to put a ten month old baby, or indeed a child of any age, on a diet.  So I guess I just have to let nature, and their natures, take its course.  And hope I can give them both the confidence just to be who they are.  Help!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Fertility on show

One of the good things about going back to work is that I get to go on the tube again.  Tubes aren't designed for harrassed mothers with three small children all intent on getting really close to the mouse they can see "down there, in the hole, mummy".  This means I get to find out what's happening in the world.  Because I see the ads for it.

Clearly I'll never go and see any of the films, or buy any of the stuff, they're advertising. I'm out of the target market these days.  The ads they aim at me are the ones that come on between Property Ladder and the X Factor, not the ones for people who go out.

Anyway, one of the ads that has caught my eye now that I am allowed out of the house is the one for the "Fertility Show".  At Olympia.  Two days and 80 exhibitors.

Now, I realise that I have absolutely no right at all to comment on this, because we, and I am eternally grateful for this, to my great astonishment and despite my PCOS, didn't need any help to conceive.  So bear with me while I comment and forgive me if I say something insenstive or inappropriate.

But surely, the point of the various "shows" (Baby Show, Wedding Show, Bike Show, Tinned Soup Show whatever) is that they're not "shows", they're trade fairs.  They are designed for people to market stuff they want to sell, and to sucker in the punters into thinking that yes they really do need to give everyone who comes to their wedding a box of matches with the date on it. 

And it seems to me that there is something very wrong about treating fertility (or, let's be honest, infertility) as just another opportunity to make money . However much people are prepared to pay.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Working mum again - week 2

Week two starts tomorrow (yes, I know it's a Wednesday, that's when my week starts.)

I've had a really lovely couple of days with the girls on my own. We've done nothing very exciting, but it's been fun, and as calm as life ever gets around here.  Even L's monumental tantrum on being woken up in our bed (she was still asleep at 4pm and even I, a firm believer in don'twakethebabyupever, decided enough was enough) somehow didn't faze me.

So is that because I'm back at work and 2 days with the children is easier than 5?  Or am I beginning to see that childcare can be a choice, and a choice I can choose to enjoy?

I didn't mind my two days at work last week (let's be honest, three years ago a two day week would have been, literally, a holiday),  but I didn't actively enjoy being there.  Good things: sitting on the tube reading my book, several cups of coffee, several conversations that didn't have to get interrupted to wipe someone's bottom/nose, having to think about what I wanted to do next and being able to choose, a whole day with no sick on my clothes...

The problem is that none of these are directly related to my job.  They're just more about having some space for me.

Let's see how I feel tomorrow.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Twin Thing

I'm not a student of marketing or economics, but even I, fountain-pen using, non-i-phone-owning dinosaur that I am, have noticed that everything now seems to have a "USP".

And if this blog has a USP, to separate it from the hundreds of other "mommy blogs" that are apparently out there, I suppose it's the twin thing.  I don't know how many women out there are fretting about the same decisions as me, but it's probably tens of thousands, if only a small percentage of them blog, an even smaller percentage (presumably 1.25% or the one in eighty pregnancies which is twins) will also have twins.

Yet, I haven't, as yet, blogged about the twins.  Why not?  Well, the pc answer is because they're not "the twins", they're A and S and should be treated, by their mother possibly above all other people, as the individuals they are.

Sadly the true answer is probably closer to: "because I'm selfish and so far have pretty much only blogged about memememememememe"; the girls, whether twins or not, have only been mentioned in passing.

So here we go: my first blog exclusively on the subject of twins.  Here's the stuff I should print out and hand to everyone who shows the whites of their eyes when they see me, before stuttering out "goodness, you've got your hands full":

  • No, twins don't run in my family.  Or at least they do, but that's not why I had S and A.  They're identical and identicals aren't (or at least aren't thought to be) hereditary.  That said, my dad's a non-identical twin and my brother- and sister-in-law also have identical girls.  Seems unlikely that that's not hereditary? Statistically it must happen every now and then (someone else can do that bit of maths).
  • Their mother can't "always tell them apart". It took me about seven months to be able to do it all the time and I still make the occasional mistake.  Small rant alert: it is not in any way helpful to the new mother of twins who's already comprised entirely of maternal guilt and stress to say "oh, well of course you can tell them apart".  She probably can't and even if she can she'll have got it wrong at least once a day since they were born.  All you're doing is making her feel like a cr@p mother.
  • That said, I am 100% certain that A is A and S is S.  A has nail polish on one of her toes, and has done since day 1.
  • It is most definitely not "2 for the price of 1". It's 2 for the price of 2.  Or, more often, more expensive than that because all the stuff that you bought for number one child thinking you could use it again for number 2 you have to buy all over again because number 3 wants to use it at the same time.
  • They don't wake each other up.  This is amazing and astounding and utterly, utterly, brilliant.  Ours shared a cot (snazzy modern parenting lingo: "co-slept") for about six months until they got too big for the cot, and one of them could be screaming her little head off while the other slept on, stirring only to breathe.  I never worked out in those situations which one of them was "sleeping like a baby".
  • I, for one, never get bored of talking about them.  They're two of the three-equal-best babies in the world, how could I?  
  • Parents, and families, of identical twins find them just as fascinating as the rest of the world. It doesn't get less interesting and amazing when you see them every day.  It gets more.  How can they be so alike and so different?  S and A are genetically identical, and, at least at the moment, eat and do pretty much the same stuff at the same times, yet they need totally differing amounts of sleep.  How does that work? And why does A have a double crown and S not?  Surely that at least must be genetic - they can't blame our parenting for that one, can they?
  • Not all twin pregnancies end in total bed-rest, can't move, can't walk, can't eat, major high-risk delivery panic panic horror.... despite what the consultants say, and whatever happened to your neighbour's sister-in-law's second cousin once removed. I know I was very, very lucky because I've met lots of twin mums who have had an awful time, and I am wordlessly grateful for it,  but despite being 4 foot round the waist, I was mobile, comfortable and happy right up to the day they emerged wailing, through the sunroof (am too posh to push, naturally), with everything where it was supposed to be. We were home in 2 days.
And now here we are, ten months later, still very definitely learning about these two astoundingly different, astonishingly similar little people.  Every day they amaze me, and every day they make me smile. Sometimes they even let me write things like this. Can't complain really.

The missing super-toddler

L still has a sleep during the day.  Often it's not a sleep as such but "playing quietly with [her] friends" (of the small and stuffed variety).  Today she really didn't want to go but I dumped her into bed anyway, because this is MY time.  Since then, I've washed up, cleared up and even had a look at some property porn on the web.  No noise from upstairs.

A has just woken up and started wimpering, so I went up to get her (S sleeps on, oblivious). I popped my head into L's room to check she was asleep and she wasn't there!

Cue bemused, supressed, panic.  She's not there, she's not in A and S's room, but she can't have left the house, so where is she...?

Answer: in our room, in our bed, fast asleep with her head under the pillow (if you'd just walked in and weren't looking for her you wouldn't even have noticed she was in there), and her pants on (back to front, of course) over her pyjamas.  Supertoddler, always there to keep you on your toes....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

What's the point?

I've been wondering why I'm bothering to do this. 

The thing is, I'm mortifyingly, cringingly, horrendously embarrassed that I've got a blog.  If the point of having a blog is for people to read it, then you have, presumably, to tell them that you're doing it.  Only I can't bring myself to do so.  So they aren't, and unless I start telling them, they won't.

So then why am I bothering?

This isn't, to be fair, my idea.  My friend AK came up with it, and she's American... but I think the point is that here I am, endlessly rotating the same questions, choices and arguments in my head:  to work, not to work, to look after the children, to get someone else to do it, to find an intellectual pursuit, to enjoy yourself, to be fulfilled, to have a happy marriage, to be so bored you argue with your other half just for something to do, to do what you were trained to do, to follow your heart... and somehow I have to resolve them into a plan that's right for me and my family, regardless of what my parents, my friends, my employers, or society at large may think.

And somehow, I get the feeling I'm not alone.

It's a bit teenage to write down all your thoughts and feelings, and my days of doodling little hearts above my "i"s are long behind me, but perhaps by committing them to type, I can work out how I feel and get myself on the track to that elusive Plan B; a nirvana in which I am happy and fulfilled, still manage to bring some income into the house and have time to give my husband and children the attention and love they deserve.

So maybe this is just a cheap (and silent) therapist and life coach. 

But if I am right and there are other mums out there feeling the same way, maybe it could be that, and more, for all of us.  Maybe I'm doing it in the hope, despite the luddite shame, that it will be read.  And maybe, if it is read, those others out there can help me (and I them) towards our own individual Plans B.  With (hopefully) some ranting and swearing along the way.

Nursery v. Nanny

Of course it could be argued that part (or all) of today's problems are caused by our (admittedly unusual) decision to send three children to nursery rather than get a nanny.  If there were a nanny, L wouldn't have to go anywhere so wouldn't kick up a fuss (this is ignoring the fact that she's two so is perfectly capable of kicking up a fuss about being given the wrong pair of socks, much less being left with a nany), and S & A could stay home with the nanny and their conjunctivitis, while Mummy swans off to her Proper Job.

Which is perfectly true.

So did we make the wrong decision?  I'm still not sure.

L has been in nursery for over a year now.  She was there when I went back to work before I had A and S and we kept her there for a couple of days a week when I was off with them.  She loves it, she has lots of friends and she does stuff there that I just wouldn't or couldn't do with her - I can't play pass the parcel with just her and me, and I won't upend a tin of beans on the floor and let her squish her feet in them (maybe I'm a bad mummy, but...).   Despite this, when we first started thinking about childcare for three we just assumed we'd get a nanny.

We did the whole advertise, interview, offer the job, get turned down, advertise again, offer the job thing and found someone lovely and experienced.  Not Mary Poppins, but nearly.  And then I changed my mind.

Weirdly, although nursery is more expensive, it was sort of about the money.  Nannies in London want £10 net an hour.  That sounds not unreasonable until you realise that you also have to pay her tax and national insurance.  When you've done that you actually end up paying £14 an hour. Or £140 a day.  Plus heat and light and food and activities...  Even ignoring the latter, if I were to pay my nanny £10 net an hour, I worked out I would be earning £5 net an hour.

Somehow I just couldn't get my head around the fact that my nanny was going to be taking home twice as much as me for doing my job.  And when I thought about it it did feel like my job and I suddenly couldn't bear the idea that there would be someone else in my house looking after my children.

Which is a silly and emotional reaction, but there it is. 

So we approached the nursery, who've come up with a fantastic deal. I can't reproach them as they've been great.  They're still more expensive (I'm earning £2.50 an hour - about which inevitably more later) but we do feel that the girls will get more from the nursery than they would from a nanny.  If I were a marketing nonsense person I'd talk about costs and benefits.  There's a greater cost but I think the benefits are greater.

But, as I'm rapidly discovering, there appears to be a downside too.

It's not going as well as I thought it would.

Here we are, day 2.

If you'd asked me, three days ago, what were the things that I thought could potentially go wrong with this whole workingmumof3 thing I'd have said:

  • I might not like my job any more; or
  • One or all of the girls might get ill and then I can't go to work because I have to stay home and look after them; or
  • One or all of the girls might be difficult about nursery
We haven't quite hit the jackpot yet, but by 6pm yesterday we'd got two, maybe two and a half going strong...

Work was ok, dull but ok. My big boss is on holiday so there isn't really much for me to do at the moment which is probably a good thing as I think I've forgotten most of what I ever knew.  It was nice to see people, but I can't say I was filled with delight at being there.  It was just a job. 

So that's maybe half.

And the other two we've got right on the money: L is acting up big time; she refused to come home from nusery last night and refused to go there this morning.  She made her feelings clear as only a two-year-old can.  And A and S have conjunctivitis, are on antibiotics and not allowed in the nursery.

So hence here I am, 10 am, day 2 of my resumed career, sitting at home on the sofa with flip flops on.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Plan A - or where we are now.

I'm going back to work tomorrow.  I've had eleven months off: a roller coaster of love, misery, panic, and all the things that come out of various bits of babies.

I never questioned the wisdom of going back to work before.  After L I had thirteen months off, went back without looking back and loved it.  Of course I was only there for seven months which may have helped, but still.  This time round I'm having second thoughts. Or third.  Or fifty-seventh.

If I were my grandmother, I wouldn't be having this debate with myself (not to mention anyone else who'll stay still long enough to listen).  I wouldn't have had a choice; I'd have got married, and if I'd had a job I'd have given it up then and there.  If I were really unusual, I'd have hung on with my job until I got pregnant, but then that would be it.  Full-time motherhood the only option.  Instead, and courtesy of the women who flung themselves under horses, tied themselves to lamp-posts and burned their bras, I'm boring even myself with the endless question of what is right: for the girls, for me, for us as a family, for rabbit's friends and relations...

Sometimes I wonder if choice is all it's cracked up to be.

So here I am, going back to work. Because I have a job, and it's a good one.  A Proper Job, with an office and a secretary and everything. I even have to wear a suit.  I have a degree too, and somewhere in there the remnants and remininscences of a brain.  So clearly my only option is to use them. 

And I'm going to.  Roll on tomorrow.

If this is Plan A, what's Plan B?

When you're standing in the queue in M&S with three screaming children, and you haven't got any spare nappies or snacks and you then realise they're going to charge you for a plastic bag, you don't mind, or at least not much, because it's for Plan A.

Because there is no Plan B.

Which is kind of a problem from where I'm coming from...

Plan A: Go to school, go to university, get a degree, get a Proper Job, find a lovely man, get married, get a house (not necessarily in that order), get pregnant, get pregnant again, get twins, get back to work, get juggling, get tired and stressed and confused about whether this really is it.

Or Plan B: ...

Erm well, that's the problem, there doesn't yet appear to be a Plan B.

So here I am. Starting a blog in the hope, probably faint, that it will be my first teetering, tentative step on the path to Plan B. Whatever that may be...