THERE’S a sweet spot in the middle of my day that makes this staying at home lark easier.
It’s only a short period of time, just 45 minutes, maybe an hour but it’s precious and wonderful and grounding and I look forward to it every day.
It starts when I pick The Beast up from preschool at noon. We walk home slowly, hand in hand. There’s no rushing, we’ve no where to be. Unlike the rushed walk TO school in the morning there’s time here to stop to examine leaves and sticks, maybe pet the odd stray cat.
We get home whenever we get home, sometimes the journey takes ten minutes sometimes 20, there’s no hurry.
Once we’re in the door it’s coat off and school clothes changed and then he gets down to the serious business of unwinding and playing. And I get down to the serious business of sitting. Maybe blogging. Maybe tweeting. Maybe reading. Maybe nothing.
He’s content to play with his toys, telling them all about school, picking up where he left off from a game he started that morning. Sometimes he’ll ask for something on Netflix and will curl up on the couch to watch silently. He doesn’t need me. Not for that hour. He wants some space, some down time.
Everything is quiet. Everything is still. Just for that hour. More often just for that 45 minutes. But however long it lasts, it is peaceful and content.
I have a rule that I do no housework during that time. No work at all. No phonecalls, no appointments. I spend the morning that he’s in preschool doing all of that so for that precious hour, I just sit.
Sometimes we’ll play board games together. No TV, no radio, just Hungry Hungry Hippos and Crocodile Dentist on the sitting room floor, enjoying the company, enjoying the peacefulness.
Mostly though we just relax and take a breath. As much as any mother is able to, I get to switch off. Briefly.
Before it all starts up again.
He’s hungry so it’s time for lunch and our afternoon revs to life again, full colour, surround sound. Playgrounds and parks and libraries and feeding the ducks and baking and arts and crafts and playdates and flu-jab appointments and shopping and chopping and cooking and cleaning and answering questions about Iron Man. Always the questions about Iron Man.
And the sweet spot is over.
Until the next day.
I LOVE the internet and social media.
I like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram – though I’m bewildered by SnapChat and Pinterest – I love blogging and commenting and chatting, the whole shebang.
For someone who is at home all day with often only a small boy to talk to, social media has been and is a lifeline for me. A way to connect with other people, other Mams a lot of the time, to bounce ideas off, to ask questions, to have some fun.
Sometimes though social media can be too much. The Internet as a whole can be too much – I don’t know lads if it’s just me but I don’t think human beings are built to absorb this much information all the time and all in the one go.
And that’s not to say we should be ignorant of the world, of the news, of what’s going on around us, of course not. We have a duty as members of the human race to pick up a newspaper, to watch the news, to acknowledge the suffering of others and to bear witness to that and to do something about that, if we can. But that doesn’t mean we have to take the entire wealth of human suffering onto our shoulders all the time. Which is hard not to do, when you carry the entire wealth of human suffering in your pockets or handbags in the shape of your phones, all the livelong day.
Sometimes it gets too much and lately I’ve been trying to find ways to counter that, to take a break.
And that’s where the Shite Christmas Fillums come in. Endless shite fillums filled with 90s actors and actresses where everyone is young and beautiful and where there’s always a happy ending.
I love them. I DEVOUR them. Chewing gum for the mind, candyfloss for the mind, I don’t CARE, they are brilliant and they make me happy. I know it’s only September, believe me, I know, but on the Hallmark channel it’s all Christmas, all the time.
I think it might be the simple grind of motherhood that has me feeling a bit jittery, the endless routine, just the fact that you are entirely responsible for another human being – it’s been making me feel a bit anxious lately. For the last year if the truth be told. Nothing huge, nothing I can even really identify or put my finger on, just an anxiety that truthfully I think all parents suffer from. But the Shite Fillums help.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the cast of Saved by the Bell? Sabrina the Teenage Witch? Party of Five? The original 90210? Sister Sister? Lois and Clarke? Mariah Carey?
Shite Christmas Fillums, that’s what happened to them. Made for TV, Hallmark or Lifetime Shite Christmas Fillums. (There are also Shite Wedding Fillums, Shite Romance Fillums and Shite Drama Fillums, but the Christmas ones are my favourite.)
Do you know how many Shite Christmas Fillums Lacey Chabert is in, do you?
Five hundred and eighty seven.
Followed closely by Dean Cain (458), Melissa Joan Hart and Tori Spelling (398) and Mark Paul Gosselaar (267). All your teenage fantasies, right there, all grown up and ready for the taking.
Nothing bad ever happens in Shite Christmas Fillums. The guy always gets the girl. The family always reunites. The executive always eschews the promotion in favour of realising that family is what counts. Santy always brings the puppy. And my particular favourites are the remakes of A Christmas Carol – and there are SO many of them – where the main character realises it’s not too late, they’re not going to die bitter and alone, that it’s Christ-a-mas Day and the goose is still in the butcher’s window.
I mean what’s not to like?
Shite Christmas Fillums are my anti-anxiety jam, year round, and I’m not ashamed to say it.
Altogether now – Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too …
I’VE been sitting at the table trying to write this post for the past 30 minutes, only I kept forgetting what it was I wanted to write about.
Then I remembered.
Baby brain. I wanted to write about baby brain and ask if it can still be a thing four and a half years after having a baby? I know science says it doesn’t exist, but I beg to differ.
I’m destroyed with it lads, destroyed. I can barely remember my own name some days and what KILLS me is that I actually used to have a brilliant memory.
In a former life I was a journalist for a local paper and part of my job was to attend meetings and write them up for the paper afterwards. I always took decent notes but I also had an almost photographic memory for quotes, remembering even the intonation in someone’s voice when they said a certain word or sentence. I was a ten in the aul memory department.
Then I got pregnant and it was all downhill from there.
People would add me on Facebook claiming to have worked with me years ago and I wouldn’t have a breeze. I was added to a school reunion group and honestly, I’ve never laid eyes on these people in my life, but they seem to know me.
I went to my friend’s house for dinner about 18 months ago and she invited another friend of hers who, it turns out, went to school with me. As soon as this new friend came into the kitchen she knew me. She knew what year I left school, who my friends were, the works. I didn’t know her from Adam.
Thankfully she forgave me and is still my friend and I remember her name now (hi Anne!) but I have zero recollection of her at school.
I rang the credit card company in an absolute fouler after there was an item on the bill that I didn’t recognise. I’d never even BEEN in that shop, I ranted, I’d never even been on that street, there is no way I spent money there, this is ridiculous, oh hang on wait. I remembered. Actually I had been in that shop and I had spent the money. I faked my own death on the line and hung up.
It happened again this morning.
I was on my way home after the preschool drop off when another parent greeted me and started walking down the road with me.
‘I know you!’ she exclaimed, delighted with yourself, ‘you used to go to the play centre about six or seven years ago. You used to have a little girl with you that you were minding, I think she was your niece.’
‘Oh yeah!’ sez I grinning wildly ‘of course, how are you?’
Reader, I was lying.
I hadn’t a clue. Not one. She was right, I DID used to go to the play centre and I did bring my niece who I was minding and it was six or seven years ago but I had never seen this woman in my life before this moment. Never.
Only it appears we were Playzone BFFs.
I was crucified with mortification. Crucified. She asked after my niece, calling up little details of the art class and dance class we used to do up there.
I couldn’t remember if she had a boy or a girl. Or what her name was. Or what my name was. Or what planet this is.
I faked it, but I’m sure she knew. Or if she didn’t she’ll find out tomorrow when she talks to me again and I can’t remember her name. Which she told me today, and spelled for me. And I’ve already forgotten. *bites fist in mortified agony*
There’s just so much to remember when you’re a parent (and Jesus, I’ve only the one child!) that it pushes everything else out. Your day is so focused on your child that it doesn’t leave room for much else, you really have to try to carve out some time for yourself. And it’s not always an easy thing to do, no matter how vital.
Well that’s my theory anyway.
I’m starting to have a newfound respect for Mammy Dunne, particularly when she calls me all my siblings’ names before she gets to mine, we wrecked her so we did! The poor divil.
Anyway, I’m assuming it gets better as they get older and are more able to look after themselves, right? Lie to me in the comments, PLEASE!
I’m so chuffed to announce that Beating Myself Into a Dress has been shortlisted in this year’s V by Very Blog Awards Ireland in the Parenting Category. It’s a great list of fabulous blogs and I’m so honoured to be included. Thankfully there’s no public vote this year so I won’t be hounding you for votes, but thank you to all you readers who encourage me to keep rambling here, even if it’s not as regularly as it should be. Cheers!
WHEN we moved into our house eight years ago there was a rectangular space in the hall, just at the bottom of the stairs, the same as millions of houses all over the country.
And like millions of homeowners all over the country, when we moved in first that space was filled with a lovely table and lamp, sometimes a vase of flowers and, more often than not, big piles of junk post.
As the years went on the table was moved out in favour of a baby buggy, baby bag, baby car seat and all the paraphernalia that goes with a newborn.
Then the buggy was replaced by a big boy stroller and now that The Beast is four and no longer using a stroller of any kind, that space in our hall now houses his brand new bike.
In a couple of years if Santy is feeling generous, that bike might be replaced by a bigger one but after that it’d be a tight squeeze to get a big kid bike in there, so it’ll probably have to go out the back.
Leaving the space in the hall empty.
In other homes there’s always another buggy (or four!) to fill the hole. Always a sibling’s bike to sit neatly on the tiles. In other homes their space in the hall rarely empties.
But in this house, once the space is empty, that’s it, it’s empty.
Of passing years and growing up. Of leaving babyhood behind. Not this coming September, but the following one, The Beast will head off to big school, leaving the space in the hall empty for even longer each day, with not even a school bag to fill it
And once the babyhood is over, once we’re in the midst of growing up, once the bikes get bigger and the rooms are emptier for more hours each day – where does that leave me?
According to newspapers and magazines and overheard conversations on the playground, it’ll mean I can get back to work, it’ll mean I can finally have my life back, it’ll mean I can break free of the chains of mothering and finally ‘do’ something again.
But here’s the thing:
I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of those things. And I’m enormously privileged that financially I don’t have to.
I’m happy. I like me, just the way I am. For the first time in my life I can say with absolute conviction that I am content, that I am fulfilled, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which is not to say that it is easy, because it is not. Being a stay at home mother can be wonderful and exciting and boring and monotonous all in the one day. All in the one hour. Which is not to say that I have embraced motherhood entirely and never struggle with it, because I do. Of course I do. Sometimes the walls of this well proportioned, large house feel very close together. Sometimes I question everything. But always, always, the answer to the question is that I am in the right place. For me.
For other mothers, it is the exact opposite, they are chomping at the bit to return to work, to do something outside of mothering and to that I say bravo. Every parent should be able to do what they want to do.
I have friends returning to work and education after 20 years at home. I have friends writing books and designing jewellery and opening delis and I am so fucking proud of them that I feel as though my heart is going to burst.
But I want to be here. At home. My ambitions are less. That might seem wasteful and shameful to some of you, but it’s the bald truth. My ambition is to be at home, with my son, for as long as I want to.
Maybe in a few years things will change. Maybe I’ll still be a stay at home Mam when The Beast is 15. I don’t know. Do I have to decide now? Is it not ok if my five-year plan simply says ‘To be happy’?
What I do know though is that my work here in my home is worthwhile. It’s important and it means something to me. It means everything to me. And that shouldn’t be under estimated. And it shouldn’t be seen as second best.
So no, I won’t be looking for part-time work once The Beast starts school. I won’t be going back to college. I won’t be changing the life I have here, right now. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
And as for that space in the hall – well, maybe it’s ok if it just stays empty.
I THINK The Beast is going to be an only child.
Nothing in life is 100 per cent guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be sticking at one and that we won’t be giving him any brothers or sisters.
Oh God, he’s going to hate me forever and put me in the Bad Home, isn’t he?
The one that smells perpetually of cabbage, with scary nurses who are scabby with the Xanax.
He’ll resent me all his life and I’ll turn into one of those stage Moms, with high heels and hard make-up, pushing him forward for every opportunity, bellowing about how ‘you’re all I have’.
Or I’ll try to be his friend, following him around the world backpacking, getting my Lorelai on, fast talking my way around Thailand like a fucking eejit.
He’ll end up having to nurse me in my final years as I succumb to liver failure from all the gin I’ll have to drink to blot out the regrets I’ll have for not having had any more kids.
And then he’ll leave my body to science and sell all my jewellery to a Cash 4 Gold place, all the while cackling maniacally.
All joking aside though, here’s the thing – I love being my son’s Mama, I just don’t want to be anyone else’s Mama.
I haven’t embraced ‘Motherhood’. I think that’s it – I struggle with motherhood and the responsibility of it and the sheer weight of it, while at the same time revelling in mothering my son.
That’s odd, isn’t it? I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother and now I am but I’m holding my hand up and saying: ‘This is great. But that’s enough now.’
All around me friends and family are on their second and third and fourth pregnancies and children. And truthfully I’m almost searingly jealous.
It’s not that I want what they have – it’s more that I wish I wanted what they have. I wish I had the room in my heart that they have, but I don’t.
I have a limit and I’ve reached it already with my beautiful blonde boy.
Maybe he’ll miss having siblings, and maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll love having us all to himself, and maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll push the boat out and put both of us in the Good Home. Who knows?
All I know is that families come in all shapes and sizes and the most important thing is love. So we’ll be a small family who are big on love.
And I think that’ll be enough.
SOMETIMES I don’t think I’m like other mothers.
It’s the start of the long Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland today and I’m looking forward to it greatly.
Not because I’m going anywhere or have any great plans for a barbecue (an Irish one, under an umbrella in the pissing rain, obvs) or am jetting off on holidays.
But because the baby is going on HIS holidays. For three glorious days and two glorious nights. Without me.
I’m literally almost sick with excitement.
He’s being brought down to Wexford by his Nana and Gaga from Sunday until Tuesday night and I’m not going with him.
I’m staying at home. In the silence. With my book. And my laptop. And my HOT cup of coffee and MY programmes on the TV. Three days with no Bala-fucking-mory. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.
(Here though, while we’re on the subject. What IS the story in Balamory? How come they’re all single yet can afford big massive houses? How does Josie Jump make a living? Or Archie for that matter? There’s something amiss about that place, I’m telling you.)
Anyway, so yes, The Beast is off on his holliers and I can’t wait. And I can’t help but wonder (Carrie Bradshaw reference) if that makes me the worst mother in the world?
I’ll miss him, of course. I adore him, of course. But I need the break.
More than that though, I WANT the break. That’s the crucial difference, I think, between me and other Mams that I talk to. They all agree that a break is necessary but many of them don’t look forward to one.
If they go out for a night they say things like ‘Oh I suppose I’ll enjoy it when I get there’, whereas I’m almost psychotic with excitement at even the THOUGHT of a night off.
Other Mams rush home from a day at the shops to gather up their little ones, whereas I dawdle.
Other Mams curse traffic jams if it makes them a little late picking up the baby from Granny’s house – I relish the extra few minutes of peace.
Reading back over that, I sound like a monster.
I’m not really, I swear. Well, ok, I am probably a BIT of a bitch, but I do actually love my son. Truly.
I just find motherhood to be very full on. You’re always on. It really is a 24-hour day when you’re a mother. And sometimes I get a bit touched out. And I just need to clock off.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out, when I wave my son off without a backward glance. I wonder if I SHOULD feel something more, miss him more, think about him more, be more like the other mothers. Sometimes I wonder if I really AM a bad mother. Perhaps I am.
But then other times I think that maybe I’m not so bad and that enjoying the break, as opposed to just tolerating it, isn’t the worst thing in the world. And I wonder if perhaps, sneakily, all those other mothers wish they could be a little bit more like me.
Minus the fat arse though, naturally.