The Daddy Appreciation Society

For a fairly long while, maybe nine months or so, I had been quite convinced that my daughter didn’t particularly like me. Or rather, that I was fine, but that she would much, much rather spend time with her “dada” than with me. This wasn’t just hormonal, sleep-deprived paranoia. The evidence was incontrovertible. She would cry if I, rather than my husband, gave her cuddles. She would cry if I, rather than my husband, helped her with her meals. She would cry if I, rather than my husband, changed her nappy. She would cry if I, rather than my husband, sat next to her. You get the gist.* She learnt to say duck, dog, light, car, cat, lion, tiger, up and “dada” (obviously), before she came up with “mama” (and even then only because circumstances forced the issue, on which see below). The only thing she was agreeable about me doing rather than him was breastfeeding. (Which was useful, as he is a bloody good father but he absolutely needs to work on his lactation.)

My husband, of course, found this completely brilliant.

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Stop insulting my cunt

I love to swear. I really (fucking) do. Expletives add so much to our language. They can be creative, lyrical, emotive… I certainly don’t regard swearing as evidence of a lack of imagination, as some teachers used to chide; indeed, my most inventive moments have often been celebrated with a veritable firework display of the obscene.

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New Year: New Starts or Same Old?

New Year’s resolutions seem to be getting a bit of a bashing on my social media this year! I have no interest in obsessing about my weight or adopting a crazy diet or giving up booze or any such nonsense, but personally I really enjoy the ‘new term’ feeling of January and the opportunity to reflect and plan for positive change. I might not keep up everything over the whole year, but some things usually stick and I feel better for them.

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Gender Expectations: A Tale of the Unexpected

Clearly I’m biased, but I think my daughter is seriously cute. A little bundle of pale skin, gappy teeth and chubby thighs, with a smatter of ginger-ish hair on top. Recently she’s become a bit suspicious of anyone new, but if you can win her over, her smile will make you grin. She was strikingly similar to my son when first born; they have diverged a bit now – in particular my son has deep brown eyes that remind me of chocolate buttons (somewhat cruelly given that his allergies were responsible for my dairy-free diet for more than three years) and the colour of my daughter’s eyes is hard to pin down but seems to be settling into a steely sort of grey/blue – but they remain pretty similar. Which is perhaps one of the reasons that she is mistaken for a boy approximately 90% of the time. Although, come to think of it, that would make more sense were it not for the fact that my son is mistaken for a girl around 30-40% of the time.

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Material Girl

I realised recently that I had slipped into a bit of a rut, in terms of my appearance, and that perhaps it was reflective of a sense of exhaustion and maybe even futility about life currently. Not in a dramatic way; just in a kids-tag-teaming-through-the-night-and-I’m-completely-knackered sort of way. And I realised that my lack of effort in terms of my appearance was not only reflecting my ennui but also feeding it. So this week I have been taking a bit more care: drying my hair rather than scraping it into a ponytail, wearing shoes other than my trusty Nikes, putting on some lipstick… and it feels good. I’ve felt more confident, eager to face the world, and that makes me happier.

I don’t want to overthink it, as I am clearly prone to do. I’ve been mulling over a post  on self-esteem, body image, and being a good role model for my children (my daughter in particular), but the soul-searching is proving a bit… bleak. So, I’m actually going to let myself enjoy the process of making an effort for a while, instead of lamenting my inability to separate my appearance and my sense of self-worth! And instead of fighting our image-obsessed, patriarchal society (I’ll do that soon though, I promise), I thought I’d share some of the things that have been improving my mood this week…

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Village People

It’s become something of a cliché to talk about a parent’s need for a village to raise their children but, as I lie in my bed failing to sleep off a debilitating bout of infective mastitis and I hear my wonderful nanny taking care of the children downstairs, it feels like an omission not to talk about it.

I live far from my parents in Scotland, and quite far from my husband’s parents in the south of England. I didn’t go to school or university in London. Many of my friends from law school or work have since moved to the sticks to raise their kids: escaping terrifying stabbings on the doorstep, choking pollution and exorbitant house prices in search of charming village greens, enormous back gardens and (it would seem) a fucking hideous commute.

My sister moved to south London a couple of years ago; though it’s not really *that* far, it involves a day trip, organised in advance, rather than popping in to see each other. (My other sister moved to Mexico, so it’s a good job she’s so lovely or I’m not sure we’d be on speaking terms.)

So to where/whom do I turn, when my left boob turns a blazing red, I have a dizzying temperature and I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck?

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No offence intended, but…

You may have noticed a bit of a gap since my last post. I started blogging full of enthusiasm and feeling as though I had something I really wanted to share. And I was surprised by the kind response and the extent of engagement, from friends, acquaintances and some complete strangers. But then, if I’m honest, I felt tired, and worried about writing anything more. I found myself stuck on the question of why it is so hard to address the different ways in which we reconcile motherhood and life beyond. In particular, I thought it would make sense for my next post to discuss why I am currently a stay at home parent, but I felt apprehensive about broaching the topic. And then, in fairly time-honoured tradition, I allowed my anxiety to spiral, wondering if I could continue to talk about any of my personal experiences of motherhood – breastfeeding my toddler, co-sleeping with my baby, possibly delaying the school start of my August-born son until he is five, etc – without inadvertently offending someone or instigating a stressful debate.

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Balance

I hesitated for a considerable time before sharing my first post. I wondered if it made me seem miserable. I wasn’t sure if my honesty might be misinterpreted as unhappiness. I was also concerned that I might be crossing a line in terms of the sanctity of our family life. I share a lot on social media, Instagram in particular, but I have always been very mindful not to post anything that I think could upset or humiliate my children later. I asked myself: what would they think if they read this?

Would they worry that they weren’t enough?

As I said in my first post, these reflections on my life, and my confusion as to my identity presently, don’t stem from feelings of sadness or regret. So why the need to (over)share them now?

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Where to start

I feel like I want to start a blog, but I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps I’d just like to start a conversation; have a chat. I know there are so many blogs out there. What would make mine different? Me, I suppose. There’s only one of me.

I recently read an article in the Guardian about mothers who regret becoming mothers: one of the final taboos.

The article quotes Sarah Fischer, who writes, “The reality of motherhood… is incontinence, boredom, weight gain, saggy breasts, depression, the end of romance, lack of sleep, dumbing down, career downturn, loss of sex drive, poverty, exhaustion and lack of fulfilment… [The father] fall[s] in love with an independent career woman who turns into a cook-clean-bake mummy; or suddenly only wants to talk about the children; or becomes depressive; or ignores you.” Whereas, she says, “when a mother is born, the person she used to be is left by the wayside”.

It hurt to read this. I adore being a mother and I absolutely do not regret it. But this does ring true.

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