Working mum of three

Figuring it out as we go along. Blogging is cheaper than therapy.

Relaxation and guilt

For a blog about working and parenting, this one covers neither. Or rather, the absence of both. The kids are having a week with their Grandparents (thanks Rich’s mum and dad!) while we have four nights in Madeira.

Time for yourself is something you lose when becoming a parent. Everything is interrupted. Kids have a different urgency: Help with the potty, nightmares, bumps, bashes, scrapes, jigsaws.

So imagine the luxury of having all this time to ourselves. How we chuckled smugly to ourselves as we watched parents battling to entertain their kids on the flight. How we revelled in long sleeps and then took more naps during the day. We changed our plans on a whim. Ate at weird times. Ate weird food. Slept even more.

We had time to bond with the bump, musing over names, wondering how our family will change and recognising the neglect it was already suffering (and I thought being a second child was bad!). We relaxed and talked. Often about the boys, sometimes about politics (Thatcher just died), history and about nothing. There is so much to get out of an uninterrupted conversation.

Rich and I aren’t bad at taking time out. We alternate who does the early morning shift with the kids. We try to do activities of our own every now and then. And let’s not forget that we both work full time, and although that brings its own challenges, it also provides a break from childcare.

But i wasn’t prepared for the emotion and the guilt. Missing the boys has been terrible. When we arrived, the apartment wasn’t quite as perfect as it looked online, the weather wasn’t so good and we were further out of town. We’d spent 2 hours walking into the town, the vegi food options were limited, but the cold shower was the last straw. In tears, I explained to Rich that the holiday needed to be perfect in order to get rid of the guilt I felt about leaving the boys. After all, it’s such an indulgent, selfish thing to do.

When my mum and I went for a birthday treat to the floatation ‘relaxation’ tank, I couldn’t relax. In fact, I spent the hour wondering when the time would be up, running through my to do list and thinking about what the kids were doing. For the last few minutes, I sat in the pitch dark pool, sobbing and worrying about why I couldn’t relax. Relaxing stresses me out. Too many balls in the air. If I relax, they’ll all hit the ground.

Rich is better at separating it all out. First time back to work was so overwhelming, everything overlapped and felt so muddled. Rich didn’t have that problem: mornings were all about getting everyone dressed and out the door. Time on the bus was alone time (usually filled with reading a novel). Work was work. More bus time. Then family time (feeding, playing, sleeping). He didn’t worry about kids development during business meetings, or well up when someone asked how nursery was going. He just divided it all up. It gets easier with practice, but I still can’t spend time thinking about my boys during the day without losing it.

That’s what’s so wonderful about pregnancy. You can provide round the clock nourishment, comfort and survival for baby whilst functioning as an independent human being. So you can never explain the challenges of parenthood to expectant parents. It’s so abstract. Much as you obsess over baby in utero, you have no idea how much they will change you and impact your life.

As it turned out, the kids survived our week away. Nothing crashed to the ground. No worlds collided. They had a fantastic time with their Nanny and Grandad and we got some rest. Guess it’s ok to take time out then. When’s the next holiday? Only another 18 years or so.

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The dog is stuck in my bum

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Woken by screams early last Sunday morning, I jumped out of bed to find a panic stricken 4yo: ‘the dog is stuck in my bum’ he cried. My mind raced through our box of toys like life flashing before my eyes. What plastic crap (or should that be crappy plastic) was I about to have to dig out from my child’s anus? How far can a dog get? Wait, why the hell did he put something up his bum?

Turns out that he had put slinky dog down his pyjamas and managed to pinch his scrotum. Ouch. Apparently this type of thing is common amongst young boys: A story went round my school about a boy who masturbated into a glass milk bottle. Unlucky for him the pressure built up and formed a seal, forcing him to make the tough decision; to smash or to seek help. At least we’re not at that point. Yet.

We’re trying to teach our boys not to be embarrassed about these things – sex is normal, experimentation is healthy, kids do weird things. He asked recently how the baby was going to get out of my tummy, was it ‘through my willy or through my bum?’. Honesty has to be the best policy here. Sex education, gender differences, it’s all part of the same conversation. Both boys now completely understand that the baby will come out of my perfectly designed, fit for purpose, women only ‘bagina’.

I’ve been revelling in the wonder of our 4yo recently. It’s fascinating to watch the development; cultural influences being absorbed and processed by these innocent minds.

Tonight though, he asked about guns. There had been a visit from the Army at nursery. “There was a special hole in the truck for a gun to shoot people… Only the bad people” he said, fully convinced. ‘How do you know who the bad people are?’ I asked ‘like lions and bears, we should shoot them… Can we get a toy gun?’ he replied. This is worse than experimenting with your genitals. Explaining to an excited 4yo why guns are bad is much more difficult than I expected. Especially because we’ve been talking a lot about the recent anti-fascist rally where my parents went to tell the ‘bad’ people they were not welcome in Swansea.

We had another interesting conversation about death when he asked where Dylan Thomas was now. It was a balanced, gentle chat, but it ended in him saying ‘I don’t want to die’ which was not my intention. Then there was the Sandy Hook school shooting a couple of months ago. Several times he played quietly at our feet while adults talked about the horrors that took place. We talked carefully but he listened closely.

These conversations are much harder for me. When he asked about shooting bears I went off on some tangent about endangered species rather than addressing the futility and horrible loss of war. When he flippantly announced recently that his teacher has really big nipples, it was me who fumbled around explaining that it’s not very nice to talk about other people in that way. So I’m learning not to get too hung up on it. 2yo asks ‘can I look at your willy’ in the same breath as ‘don’t look at my poo’ or ‘can we do a puzzle?’. And both are far more concerned about having another cartoon/yoghurt/toy/chocolate than how babies are made.

I’ve also learned not to let them take slinky dog to bed.

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