5 stay at home parent survival tips

1: Buy a Sophie la Giraffe. Not because it’s popular or the ‘done thing’, or even because of any supposed benefits to your child during teething (because let’s face it, nothing really reduces that particular misery for anyone involved). Buy it because it’s made of that satisfyingly semi-soft plastic, and you can crush its little head in your bare hands when things get a bit too much.

2: Hide all photos of yourself pre-baby looking happy/with friends/looking thin. These will only serve to increase your misery and self-loathing. Instead, go on the internet, find and then print off pictures of biscuits and cakes, and put them up around your house. These are your only true friends now, you might as well welcome them in to your life with open arms.

3: While you’re at it, you might as well cover up any mirrors you have. Even when you think you look good, this new ‘good’ is the equivalent of ‘shit’ from the old days. Luckily the person you will spend most of your time with can’t speak/doesn’t care/prefers it when you’re covered in porridge and sick anyway.

4: Make sure you know all the various Neighbours start times, and the channels showing it, just in case you’re out/cleaning up a poo explosion/have a power cut during your usual viewing time. Missing an episode is like the equivalent of missing an amazing night out with every single one of your best friends that you don’t even have to pay for. It is unthinkable. Toadie has become like a second husband to me, such is my emotional attachment to him. Don’t get me started about the jeopardy surrounding his recent car accident (he was run over by a grandmother having a heart attack because she had just discovered her estranged granddaughter – who she gave away at birth in an illegal adoption and told the baby’s mother, her daughter, the baby had died – was living in Ramsey Street using a false identity to spy on her family). I was on the edge of my seat, the fear of losing Toadie, it’s just too much to bear. In case you’re wondering – c5 13:45 and17:30, c5+1 14:45 and 18:30, 5* 15:00 and 19:00. Sometimes I watch it at all these times. And then I watch some old episodes on YouTube too. Please don’t tell anyone, I know I have a problem.

5: Find the wangy-est, tinny-est, most awful and annoying version of ‘I’m a little teapot’ and set it as your ringtone. Being that it is used on EVERY ‘musical’ toy available (you know the kind of toys I’m talking about here, the ones your kid is magnetically attracted to, despite your best efforts to hide/bin/burn the bloody things), it will become the soundtrack to your life, so you might as well embrace it. When my phone goes now I start humming along and mouthing the words to the nearest person whilst smiling like a maniac. Regardless of whether or not Baby R is with me.

Obviously this list was written as a silly little something to make you smile, and I am in no way suggesting this as a way to live your life. Please just laugh, be happy, and do what you need to do to get through each day!

So I married a mess-maker

WARNING: this might get sweary.

I know I am a touch obsessive about how I keep my home, how I live my life, how I go about things. I appreciate that some people think it’s weird to put things away, but I don’t. In my corner of the world, everything has a place. That’s just how I roll.

Sadly, this philosophy is not shared by everyone in my house. My husband is a long-term and fully committed messy-un. He loves the ‘leave it where it falls’ approach to life. It has been years since he put something on a hanger. His attitude is what I refer to as ‘shit blind’. He can literally sit in a room littered with complete crap, and be blissfully unaware of it. He walks past nappy bags full of actual wee and poo, put by the front door by him with the intention of putting them in the outside bin (‘I’ll take that out later’, the biggest piss-taking-waste-of-oxygen lie I’ve ever heard). When I point out the piles of bagged up human turds in our house he just goes ‘oh yeah’, as if seeing them for the first time. Even when ants and flys flap and crawl around him, attracted by his stig-in-the-dump ways, this still does not provide him with enough motivation to actually pick his shit up. Although we are similar in so many ways, this is one of the main differences that divides us, and is a cause of the majority of our disagreements.

*and breath*

Someone I know told me her husband does all the housework. I think my open-mouth stare gave away my disbelief. I questioned her further and she confirmed it. The cooking, ironing, washing, hoovering, food shopping, bill paying, dusting, tidying, everything. Fucking unbelievable. How the hell did she manage that?! If my husband spontaneously put on a load of washing I might die. When I was in hospital with Baby R for the first week, he didn’t even flush the toilet. True story. I came home, couldn’t wait for an actual hot shower to wash away the grime and yukkiness, but sadly couldn’t because the bathroom was a vile stinking no-go zone, rancid with the stench of a weeks worth of wees left festering in the loo. I heaved; he hadn’t even noticed. I shudder to think about how he might be living if left to his own devices.

But let me clarify for a minute, he didn’t create a rank wee stink-bomb on purpose. He doesn’t actively ignore things, and he doesn’t make decisions to deliberately make my life more difficult, that’s just how it seems to me sometimes. I must also say that he actually does help me with the housework, it’s just that I have to delegate and micro-manage every task, often re-doing his work to bring it up to my standard. I actually wish I could be more like him at times. Very often in the day I don’t have lunch or a rest whilst Baby R is napping, because I have a list of jobs in my head that I feel I have to get done before I allow myself a break. I don’t know why this is. If I didn’t do it, no one else would give a fuck, it’s just my stupid brain that tells me I have to do it. Keeping on top of things proves to the world that I am coping, I still have a purpose. If I ever actually made a new mum friend I could invite her around. I am always ready for impromptu coffee mornings that never actually happen.

I wonder what Baby R’s approach to housekeeping will be when he is older. Recently, he has started pointed at food and other debris he drops from his highchair and gestures for me to pick it up. I dutifully crawl around beneath him with an anti-bacterial wipe, cleaning the area, putting things straight. He claps and smiles, we repeat this at every meal time, day in, day out. At first I was excited that he wanted a clean home, but now I’m wondering if, in fact, he just fancies me as his slave. Who knows what he really think of us adults, one making mess and the other tidying up, both busy working on bringing the other round to their way of thinking, becoming ever more determined for their way to rule in the house.

Anyway, enough musing for one day. No amount of analysing things will make them change. I know my way isn’t the right way, but it’s the way things are for now. Husband is babysitting this afternoon to give me a break, so I’m off to reorganise the under-bed storage, after all, it is my day off!!

Ps a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog recently, you have made me mighty happy.

Time to be a little kinder to ourselves

So last week a weird thing happened. I went to sainsbury’s to buy a new outfit (as you do when you’re both poor and achingly bored), and my little shopping trip ended up with me crying in a changing room. And not the usual despairing tears which happen after seeing myself in the mirror. These were different tears. Weird tears. Unashamed, free flowing and happy.

So I began as I always do, mulching around, half-heartedly looking at the rails, scanning the sale section for the light and dark blue sizes, ignoring the size 10 mannequins in the skinny cropped jeans that should never be seen on a woman with an arse like mine. When I had gathered a handful of garments I headed over to the changing rooms, but as there was no space for me to fit in with the pushchair, I stepped into the end cubicle and left the door open, so I could keep an eye on Baby R whilst he cooed and smiled bashfully at the assistant.

In the time honoured way, I chucked the first dress on over the outfit I was wearing. I know for some people it would be a sin not to see properly how the clothes hang and fit, but for me the process of trying something on is simply to confirm whether the garment has adequate stretch to pass over my enormous mass, and that there is enough fabric to make me feel just comfortable enough that my numerous front and back lumps and bumps are covered.

I felt relatively satisfied with the second dress, and turned and exclaimed to Baby R that shopping was over. The shopping assistant was standing close to the pushchair and she looked and asked if she could offer some advice. Here is comes, I thought, she’s noticed how repulsive I am. She’s going to say the dress doesn’t fit, doesn’t suit me, makes me look like a whale that’s floated in to an enormous sack. She’s going to say I can’t be seen in Sainsburys clothes because I’m so vile. She’s going to ask me to leave and not come back. Oh god, I want to die.

What she said was unexpected. “What’s going on love?” I didn’t know how to respond. She probably noticed my stupid expression, the absence of thought. “Why are you doing this?” She moved around the pushchair, she touched my arm. “It’s time to be a bit kinder to yourself love”, she said, and that was it, the tears flowed out of me. She didn’t say anything else but gestured for me to take the dress off, which I did, and she took it and returned with the same style in a smaller size. She handed it to me and smiled, then went back to distracting the baby. I tried it, it fitted, I took it off and we left. I said thank you to her but she was busy talking to someone else, offering advice and kindness.

It occurred to me later how much of an impact those few words had on me, how restorative that fleeting moment of positivity was, how much I had really needed it.

It is a strange thing to live your most of your waking life without adult human interaction, and to exist under a blanket of blackness caused by isolation and loneliness, but it gives me hope to know there are still places where people are willing to reach out, to be generous with their love, to take the time to give hope to a depressed fat girl, to notice me.

I have worn and felt better in this new dress, in fact I even got complimented in it this weekend, so I thought it was time to pass the message on. If (like me) you are tempted to think less of yourself, to feel miserable about how you look or act, or if you dwell on every embarrassing moment until it is elevated up to confidence-crippling proportions, then let’s take a moment to stop, reflect on the positives, and be a little kinder to ourselves.

And if you can’t, have a coffee and a bourbon. That also helps me feel better! I highly recommend it!

Is it ok for stay at home mum to want a day off?

Let me begin by providing a little bit of information about my personal circumstances. I am a stay at home mum. It was my choice, I had a job to return to, but I resigned. My monthly salary minus petrol and childcare would have been nominal, I would have been going to work as a hobby, and truth be told, I just didn’t love my job as much as I love my baby.

My return to work date was arranged for the middle of August, about a month from now. Throughout my pregnancy and even during the first months of motherhood I had always intended to return to work. It was only during a badly timed visit to work with baby which resulted in us commuting home during rush hour (about the time we would leave work together each day) and having to experience the hell of a hot car in a traffic jam with a screaming infant for an hour, that I really thought about not going back. From there on, my desire to return diminished day by day until I felt sick at the thought of leaving my darling. Husband and I made the decision for me to resign together – I am so very fortunate that he supports me and is able to support our family financially – and so I said goodbye to my job, the career I had worked years to achieve, my colleagues, and very possibly, my sanity.

To help me justify my unemployed status to myself, and to try and maintain some dignity and feeling of accomplishment day to day, I started to mentally draft a kind of job description for being a stay at home mum. This included things like always cooking from scratch a meal for my husband to be ready for him as soon as he gets home; taking my baby to at least one activity per day; keeping the house to (admittedly my own self-imposed) high-standard inside and out; doing at least 3 extra jobs per day (in addition to the everyday washing, cooking, washing up, tidying, etc). Living within these guidelines gave me some structure, something to aim towards, something to prove my existence. But recently I have been finding it hard. I feel tired a lot, run down. I feel the sadness I thought had gone starting to return.

Friends who have returned to work joke that it gives them some relief. One of my friends has used some holiday whilst her baby was in nursery and had an actual break.. Others have been away on hen weekends and spa days, or their babies have spent time with grandparents or other family members. Of the 388 days that Baby R has been alive, I have had 4 significant periods of time (more than 1 hour) away from him. Twice when I was late-night food shopping during the early days when we never slept; once when I went to hospital for my breast biopsy and abscess drain; and an hour and a half last weekend when I went fabric shopping for my new business. Of course husband takes him out for walks etc, but these have primarily been to allow me to achieve some household chore, never for relaxation or rest.

And so with each day and week and month that goes past, I find myself more and more in need of space. Except the guilt of ‘doing nothing’ sends me in to overdrive each weekend, and instead of taking time off I keep adding lists of ever more specific jobs to my list of jobs to do, and I keep doing things that lead to other things. Instead of accomplishing anything or feeling settled or satisfied, I feel that I am paddling upstream and getting nowhere. I am desperate for husband to rest after his week out at work, to recuperate, spend time with Baby R, and enjoy himself. I am also desperate to be a model wife and mother, to appear as if I am coping, and to prove my value as a stay at home mum. Each weekend is like a one-to-one with my manager and I feel as if I am still on probation. I can’t afford to slip now.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way, but it has made me think that perhaps the pressure on us stay-at-home-ers is just as intense as those mummy’s who return to work, and maybe (in some ways) it is more. There is no return to the ‘adult world’, no validation from performance reviews, no conversation or lunch breaks or hot coffee. But there is an expectation that being at home is fun, full of play dates and Costa coffees. That it is the easy choice, after all, it involves doing nothing.

My returned-to-work friends are slowly drifting apart from me, the differences in our choices and our lifestyles mean they now gravitate towards other return-to-work-ers. They want to go out after work and get drunk; I can’t get over the guilt of the idea of not being home, not working on the house or getting my business ready, let alone actually doing it.

So what is my point? I have said before to husband (during arguments) that the job I left gave me 38 holiday days per calendar year plus bank holidays, weekends, evenings and nights off. What does my new role offer? An occasional uninterrupted watch of lunchtime Neigbours when the fates align so that dinner is prepared and Baby R is napping. Is that a rest? Have I given up my entitlement to hope for or expect anything more when I gave up work? I don’t really know the answers to these questions at the moment but they burden me and whilst unanswered they add to my exhaustion.

I think it is inevitable that both sides of the return to work vs stay at home debate will, at times, look upon the other with envy and jealousy, a longing to chuck it all in and defect. There is no right path in life, just what is right for you, and as I am learning, even what you think is right for you may actually only be what is right for you, right now.

I am ready to ask for a Saturday morning or afternoon off now. I know my babe will survive without me and I have a handful of people I trust to care for him in my absence, although they mainly live a few hundred miles away. I hope that some separation will help me to live as myself again for a few hours, to reconnect with who I am, to be a mum without having to actually stay at home. I’m not sure when I will book my mini holiday just yet, perhaps it will be this month or next or in the autumn or winter, but I will make the most of it, and will treat it as a day off from work. And yes, I probably will drink wine!

Poor Tiger

There’s a nappy on the Wheelybug’s head.

A year ago if someone had said that sentence to me I would have made my best wtf face at them. These days, it’s the kind of thing that just rolls off my tongue.

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Baby R is having something of an awakening.  He has realised that there are parts of himself that get covered up by his nappy.  At the same time, he has realised that he has the ability to make choices, and he is starting to learn how to make his opinion heard.  These two developmental milestones colliding have resulted in a very unwelcome situation.  A nappy wearing revolution.

And so I find myself living in a funny old house, one where it is common to find a nappy stuffed down the back of a sofa or hidden inside a Mega Bloks dumper truck.  Baby R’s protest against nappy wearing is underway, and his determination to defeat his restrictive enemy is unmatched.  No matter how much singing and fun I try to inject during nappy change time, he still responds with screams piercing enough to rouse all cats within a 10 mile radius.  I half expect to see social services pulling up outside my house any day, called in by my horrified neighbours.  “Excuse me madam.  We’ve received an alarming report that you’ve been trying to change your child’s nappy.  Please desist immediately or face severe consequences.”

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And so change time comes round again.  It’s a bad one, the kind you can smell from 10 feet, not the kind you can ignore.  We face off.  He knows it’s coming, he tries to run away, he fakes left then crawls past me on the right.  The change mat is our battlefield.  I remove the offending stink bomb, I’m winning, I’m halfway to victory but then – nooooo!  I’m out of ammunition!  There’s no clean nappies on the shelf!  How can this be?  They we’re washed yesterday, we can’t have used them all already.  I panic and lose my grip on him.  He wriggles away from me, starts to make his getaway, he is smiling, heknows that without the nappy, I am powerless.

Baby R celebrates his win by standing up and clapping himself for being so clever and for outwitting me.  His quest to live a nappy-free life has begun.  I see it in his eyes that he is proud of himself for making such a good plan, I can see his commitment to the plan growing, I will hide the nappies, I will hide the nappies! 

I am secretly proud too, proud of my clever and determined baby, but I know I can’t allow this madness to continue for long.  I collect up the nappies and ready myself for the next showdown.  Let’s hope this phase passes quickly, before the cream carpet becomes the first casualty of our mini-war!

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Have I become a Boden mum?

I admit that I am in the middle of some sort of almost-mid-life crisis. Perhaps it’s because I turned 30 this year. Or because I am an unemployed mum, neither of which I have ever been before. Or because I inadvertently moved to the epicentre of what I like to call the ‘super-mum’ phenomenon; a place where all the other mums have conspired to make it their sole mission to make me feel alienated and inadequate in every possible way. That vibe wears a girl down after a while, and after experiencing a range of emotions from sadness to rage to fully-blown PND to jealousy, I now find myself feeling rather weird. I think I want to be like them.

And so I find myself covertly observing and studying the super-mum species in the style of a 90’s cartoon private detective, watching their every move and admiring their glossy hair and immaculate look. How do they do it I ask myself. The answer to this question, the findings of my research, the holy grail of super-mum-ness, Boden.

Browsing their website it all suddenly becomes clear. Beautiful women, successful looking, well groomed, co-ordinated. I realise I’ve found it, my way in, the secret super-mum bible. I can’t believe it! No wonder they don’t want anything to do with me in my ancient Tesco dresses and the bits of maternity wear I can still get away with. What a fool I’ve been all this time, thinking its acceptable to carry on in this way. My poor baby, my poor poor child, being seen out with me like this. I fill my basket, I hold my breath. I can change. I will change.

But then, something, a little doubt. The women on the website don’t really look that much like me. I haven’t noticed any blobby bits or hairy knees or chipped nail varnish. Hmmm. Actually, now I look closer, none of these women have porridge in their hair or bingo wings. They are posing with children but their lack of sagging stomach makes me think the children didn’t come out of them. Perhaps these amazing clothes won’t actually look that good on my size 18 fat, flabby, pasty and disproportionate frame. Perhaps despite wearing the clothes, the super-mums will still know (I’m just an imposter).

Anyway, away intrusive thoughts. It’s entirely likely through wearing the badge and expressing my devotion to the one true god (Bod?) that I’ll be welcomed with open arms. We’ll laugh together as they tell me their first impressions of me, or the time when they saw my breast pad fall out in the children’s centre, or the time they saw my sitting on my own and crying. Haha we’ll say, what a twat you looked doing all that in your supermarket scruffs.

I am excited for my parcel of clothes to arrive and for my new life to begin. Who knows, now I have spent money on useless disposable bits of fabric that I will probably ruin in the first wash, maybe someone will actually speak to me! Fingers crossed friends, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Please lie down, please lie down, please lie down

It’s important (mostly for my own benefit) for me to begin this post by saying my baby does sleep better than he used to. Things have improved. Napping is not going to get the better of me, oh no. I will crack it, and my babe will sleep.

(Please just lie down, just rest your little head, yes that’s it, no don’t get up again, ahh!)

There is one thing I can guarantee will happen to me every day, and that is that I will spend time sat on the stairs holding the tiny baby monitor screen, praying and cursing in equal measures, and repeating the mantras above. Still, even trying to focus on the positives doesn’t make listening to my stubborn and headstrong baby screaming and stomping to avoid sleep any easier.

(Please lie down, please lie down, oh god he’s never going to lie down)

He has many different strategies for trying to lure me back upstairs. He has the loud scream and the painfully hushed wimpers; the super angry face and the save-me-mummy-I-need-you face. I persevere, stay strong, don’t give in. He hits the bars of the cot, jumps up and down, throws himself around. He makes as much noise as possible, making sure I am completely aware that at this moment I am an awful mum, an awful person, I have abandoned him.

(Please lie down, lie down for mummy, come on you can do it, snuggle up with your ridiculously expensive comforter, feel soothed by your starry night projector and your lullaby player. Why are you doing this to me? Come on, just lie down already!)

Once this battle of wills reaches around ten minutes, we enter a new phase: dirty warfare. The crying reaches choking intensity. Reaching begins. The threat of vomit on a clean GroBag. Do I go up and prevent this? Do I ignore it? I try to remain calm, I try not to think about the smell.

(Come on now, mummy needs a coffee, mummy’s going crazy, mummy needs a break)

The crying subsides for a second. He lays down. Could it be? Yes, he is settling! I creep into the kitchen, silently fill the kettle and put it on. Is that… Oh there is a god! A long-forgotten Galaxy Caramel reveals itself from behind something in the cupboard! Oh happy day! Now this is living!

And then, just as the fantasy version of me has reached her sun lounger on her perfect fantasy beach and in the kitchen the kettle boils and clicks off: a noise. A scream from above. A glance at the screen and he is pulling himself up to standing. I’m sure I spot a knowing smirk at the camera as he pauses to take breath before the explosive screaming begins again.

Big, big sigh.

Fantasy happiness and real-world tea abandoned, I might as well go an get him.

Nap time has evaded us this time, but we will try again tomorrow.

A breastfeeding mum writes

In the last week, many changes have happened in our family. Baby R has turned 1, going from a baby to a toddler, and with this milestone I too have changed – from a breastfeeding mum to an extended breastfeeding mum.

This has been an interesting transition. I have been aware for a while that my choice to continue to breastfed my now quite large and wriggly infant has met with some disapproving looks when out and about, and some family members have not been discreet in sharing their opinion that it is time to stop. It is a strange feeling that something that was once encouraged and praised is now frowned upon. This amazing gift which was once ‘natural’ and ‘beneficial’ and ‘miraculous’ is now damaging and strange and freaky. And just to make sure there is a clear distinction between the ‘good’ breastfeeding and the weird breastfeeding, someone has decided to give it a different name.

It occurred to me whilst thinking about this that there aren’t many good activities that get re-labelled when you decide to do them for a little bit longer. When I go swimming, I normally try to do 30 minutes of lengths. Sometimes I can barely manage this, but sometimes I have a little bit extra energy and try to keep going for another 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Never once has a lifeguard approached me at the end of the 30 minutes and said “are you sure you want to continue extended exercising?”

I’m sure that if you’re reading this then you’re probably familiar with the breast vs bottle feeding debate, so I won’t bore you with details of the beneficial components of breast milk, or the bonding and attachment opportunities of feeding from mum, or the money and energy efficiency of direct breast feeding; just some of the reasons why I value and continue to breastfeed. I will, however, remind you that only 1% of babies born in England are breastfed beyond 6 months, despite the widely reported (and WHO recommended) benefits of breastfeeding for the first 2 years of life.

So I’ve decided that whilst I am elated at being able to continue breastfeeding my son, I am not so happy about becoming an extended breastfeeding mum. Instead I have chosen to just be a mum who is breastfeeding, plain and simple.

The mummy competition

Being a mum is a competitive business.

Firstly, there’s the material decisions – what to buy, from where, and what it says about you. There will always be a newer version of a car seat, a more expensive pushchair, or more beautiful or exclusive baby clothing that you just haven’t got.

Then there are the strange comparisons made between children. “I can’t believe how big/small/noisy/quiet/clingy/confident your child is.” “What age did he start walking? Mine was walking independently at 6 months.” “How many words can he say? My 1 year old has a vocabulary of 250 words, and can count to 10. In 15 different languages,”.

Hmmm. Ok.

And finally there is the strangest competition of them all. The contest to prove who is suffering most as a mum.

After attending a few baby groups and mummy meetings you start to recognise this beginning of a passive aggressive showdown. In the early days of motherhood you might be tempted to enter the ring, but as you focus less on your own misery and begin to look at the world as a functioning human being again, you try to avoid these conversations at all cost, because you know there are no winners.

They always begin the same way. Discussions about birthing experiences. Someone soldiered through with only gas and air. That’s nothing; someone else only got one paracetamol to help her manage through birth and getting her stitches. Then a trump card is played – someone only just made it to the hospital, they laboured in the back of a taxi because they couldn’t get hold of their partner, they forgot the batteries for their tens machine and to add insult to injury they stubbed their toe when picking up heir hospital bag. You can see where I’m going with this.

But these badges of honour don’t just get awarded for physical endurance and suffering. Every miserable detail of pregnancy, labour, birth and baby-related traumas are fair game to be shared out over coffee and exchanged in return for sympathetic looks and hugs.

Now don’t get me wrong, after only just surviving the past year with Baby R, and at times desperate for some recognition, I am as guilty of the next mum for sharing my horrors and seeking comfort from the sympathy of strangers. I would go so far as to say that I think it is healthy and therapeutic to talk through these experiences with other mums, and that engaging in these discussions can make it easier to let go of some of the pain.

But there are some mums I have met who are unwilling to act to make changes to their lifestyles which might alleviate some of their suffering. An example of this is a mum I know who is still getting up to sooth and feed her 18 month old baby 5-10 times per night, despite working full-time. She has the support of a partner, extended family and friends, as well as professional resources at her disposal; and yet she is unwilling to actually do anything to improve her family’s sleep situation. She is addicted to the sympathy elicited from her peers, the reward for her ongoing misery.

As much as I despair every time I meet this mum, the sadness I feel for her runs deep. It frustrates me to have the same conversation with her over and over again, for her to tell me how exhausted she is and that she is broken and that she would do anything for some rest. I remember that feeling – Baby R has only been sleeping reliably for 2 months so it was not that long ago that I was not coping myself – but I also remember making the decision to end the misery and work towards trying to improve my life. Unlike this other mum, I acted on good advice and tried different things. I did more and talked less, looked for the improvements and not the setbacks, and slowly happiness not desperation became my everyday reality.

One of the unifying truths of motherhood is that it is hard. It is hard in ways you don’t know and simply cannot appreciate before having children. And it is lonely, and it hurts, and your body hurts. We all know this, we have all experienced this to some level, and we all find a way through it. No one should feel like they have to deliberately extend their suffering for attention or to justify themselves, to feel like a good mum or a proper mum.

All our experiences of motherhood are different. For some, the pain begins and ends in the delivery suite, but for others it endures and starts to define many aspects of their lives and themselves. Everyone thinks they want to participate in mummy misery top trumps, but there is no real glory in winning the competition for the most unhappy mum or the mum who worries the most. We need to remember this – I need to remember this -and we need to remember to be as kind as we can be to one another.

Car seat woes

Oh my head hurts. My brain is full of thoughts and facts about car seats; questions and information and more questions! I’m not sure if there answers or solutions, but below is some of the things I’ve been thinking about…

So here’s what I want: an extended rear facing isofix car seat that fits in the back of a vw polo. This, it seems, is the holy grail.

Baby R and I have been back and forward to mothercare 3 times. The staff have tirelessly carried car seats and bases in and out to my car. They have put them in (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) and out, smiled through some major stroppy meltdowns (mostly from the boy, although the 20 mins it took to get the one out that technically should not have gone in our car did push me to the edge), and they’ve patiently stood by and kept silent about the grubby state of my vehicle even though I know they’ve noticed the empty food wrappers and dirty muslins and discarded toys. My lasting impression of these shopping experiences (other than frustration about the fact that I still have not got a new car seat) is that I strongly believe the way car seats are sold needs to be improved, and my observations and suggestions are below:

>information from staff needs to be consistent. I have asked various members of staff the same question (which is one I am struggling to answer at the moment): is it safer to put my child in an extended rear facing belted car seat, or in a forward facing isofix car seat. I have had conflicting answers to this which has confused me further.

>additional information about car seats – particularly safety ratings and the results of crash tests – should be available for customers from all car seat retailers. This is the focus of most parents when choosing a seat, and without it you are relying on the sales persons opinion which may be biased by a number of factors. I asked one sales person about safety ratings and she told me all car seats are as safe as each other, they just differ in design and style and I should base my decision on the one I prefer the look of as they all essentially do the same thing. Which? does not agree with this statement and neither do I. This is a dangerous message for parents, particularly those without the time to do their own research.

>manufacturers need to be aware of how the seat is fixed in the car and the impact this has on the parents ability to get their child in and out of the car. In both belted rear facing car seats and isofix using a top tether car seats, the fixing passed between the car seat and the door, cutting the space in half and meaning I had to ‘post’ Baby R through a tiny gap to squeeze him in. This was highly unpractical and surely must be unsafe in the event of an accident or other situation when getting the child out of their seat quickly is important. We have ruled these seats out for this reason, I’m sure no parent would be be able to use them rear facing for long.

>the only car seat that met our criteria and that fitted in our car was at such an angle that when my son was secured in the seat he was dangling forward and his head was further forward than his knees. It was obvious that if he fell asleep his head and arms would dangle forwards, and the sales person said she was shocked and said it seemed dangerous, although it was correctly installed. I cannot believe that this is truly a safe or comfortable way for anyone to travel, particularly someone so small and precious.

In summary, my experience has been extremely disappointing, not at all because of the service from mothercare – they have been patient and helpful and lovely, but disappointed at the lack of choice and the barriers preventing me from keeping my child safe. I am shocked to discover that I have almost no option but to put my child forward facing, when all the recent research I have read is clear that rear facing is five times safer in the event of an accident.

Parents and grandparents and carers and friends – we need to demand better for our children. For now, we will not be taking Baby R in the car until we have found an acceptable solution, if such a thing exists!!