There are 17 school days left.
You know what that means, don’t you?
Yes, that’s right. That means only 17 more POXY school lunches to make.
Oh God the absolute DRUDGERY of the school lunches. I only have one kid and I don’t work outside the home and still the bloody school lunch sticks in my craw every single day. It’s my nemesis, the Lex Luther to my Superman, the Ares to my Wonder Woman.
I had never really paid attention before when parents talked about making school lunches.
I’d see features in magazines and newspapers about how to make the perfect school lunch and what to put into a lunchbox and how to persuade the kids to eat them and I’d think ‘what’s the big fuss, it’s only lunch’.
But now I know. Now I know what the fuss is about. The scales have fallen from my smug unbelieving eyes and now I understand.
It’s not the lunch itself, per se. Though, it is soul destroying if you make something for your little person, at their request, and then they don’t eat it.
But the thing that I find the biggest killer is the actual having to make the actual lunch. It’s the making of it, d’ya see?
Kids need to eat EVERYDAY, did you know that? They sit there looking at you with big mournful faces and you’re thinking ‘I just FED you two days ago’. But no, it’s every day. Several times a day.
Hence the having to make the actual lunch.
No matter what time it is when they go to bed you have to drag your carcass back downstairs and fill up that bloody bastardin’ lunchbox. Or, if you make your lunches in the morning, you’ve to shlep down the stairs at a reasonable hour to do it. You can’t send them to school unless it’s done, it simply cannot be skipped and left until tomorrow. Unlike say, washing your windows, which I haven’t done here since 2011. Lunches are compulsory, there’s no escaping it.
Last year I wrote a post about how I missed Fridays now that I’m a parent, as when you’re parenting, Fridays mean very little. Still up a the crack of dawn, still beholden to a tiny dictator, Saturday is no different to Wednesday.
However a wiser Mam than I told me that once you kid starts school you get your Fridays back in a small way, as every Friday night you don’t have to make a school lunch! Saturdays too! It’s a small freedom from the daily grind. And you know what, she was right.
Every Friday night I come down the stairs after wrangling The Beast into bed and I’m free as a bird to do whatever I want. Which is basically stay in and watch TV, but, you know at least I’m not making lunches, hey?!
So anyway, in a few more weeks, the ultimate Friday will be upon us. School Holidays Friday. No more school lunches for two blissful months.
Seventeen more days.
Just seventeen more days to freedom.
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.
Pox Mam lives in the Family Tree
With her Pox Husband Love and her Pox Beasty, wee.
One day she wakes early, for a bagel and lox.
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, beware of the Pox.
A Mam! Cried Chicken Pox. A well rested Mam.
Let’s change all that, I don’t give a damn.
I’ll push up the temp and bring out a spot,
Why stop at one, I’ll bring out a LOT.
I’m not just a Mam! Why can’t you see,
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me
And I want to burn down the family tree.
I’m not a Mam who needs sleep at night,
Sleep is for the weak,
I’ll stay up and fight.
I can go on, who needs a rest?
I’ll stay up with Pox Beast, it’s for the best.
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it and then,
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it again!
Pox Mam is lonely. Pox Mam is lost.
Pox Mam forgot her slippers, at her own cost.
She sits by the bed, stroking a feverish nose,
Trying to comfort, but dying to doze.
She cuddles the Pox Beast, wanting to cure
Then suddenly remembers, Calpol for sure!
She checks the time and sees it’s ok,
He can have another dose, hip hip hooray!
She squirts and she spoons and she gets it all in,
Another smear of Pox cream, why not, for the win.
The Beast’s breathing slows, he’s sleeping at last
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, get to bed fast!
Early next morning, after sleeping a while,
She checks on the Pox Beast, there’s more spots, by a mile
She thinks it might be a very long week,
Chicken pox really is not for the meek.
Still, Pox Beast is smiling, he’s really alright,
These pox won’t last for ever, a few more days (and a night!)
Pox Mam will get through, the best she will make
But also, fuck it all, she’s making a cake!
Because it’s her birthday, yes really, today
Chicken Pox bedammed, what do you say?
Chocolate or lemon or vanilla, oh my,
And coffee too, obvs, so she doesn’t just die
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me!
And I’m baking right here, in the family tree.
(This is ripped off from the wonderful Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, ‘Stick Man’ which is available here if you haven’t already got it. It’s one of The Beast’s favourites!)
THERE was a knock on the door the other week and it was a little lad from across the road looking for The Beast.
‘Is he comin’ out to play?’ the child asked, looking disappointed when I said that The Beast was with his Nana that day but would come out to play the next afternoon.
I barely managed to close the door before I burst into hysterical sobs – imagine, a friend calling for my boy. He has friends now. Kids that greet him on the street when we go to the shops, that run over to our garden when they see us out playing with trains on the driveway.
It’s too much for me, he’s growing up too fast, he’s not my baby any more, he’s a boy. A BOY!
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
I had barely recovered when we got some post from his new pre-school, which he’ll be starting in September. Forms about allergies and vaccinations, names and addresses, boxes to tick. I can hardly believe the time has come around already but here we are, he’ll be heading off with his bag on his back and his lunchbox in just a couple of weeks.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
To send me further over the edge – sure why not – then we went to the shop and got all the stuff we needed to turn his cot into a toddler bed, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, the works. He hops in by himself now, he doesn’t need his little sleeping bag anymore, he has a big boy blanket. He’s delighted with himself while I’m doubled up with grief, sobbing into his pre-school forms trying to remember did I actually get him his 13-month vaccinations or did I forget. It’s all a blur.
And then today, Yer Man brought him off to get his hair cut in preparation for school, a good tight cut, a man’s cut, to last him until the mid-term break.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
Maybe it’s because I’m hepped up on pain pills from a tooth extraction yesterday (fairly brutal it has to be said) or maybe it’s because I’m a sap but I really just want to put a brick on his head and stop him from growing up and freeze him at this age forever.
It’s odd because when he was a newborn, I couldn’t wait for that stage to end. To be fair, it’s a really tough stage, particularly on a first baby as you’re totally flying blind and haven’t a notion what you’re at. But still, I kind of wished it away, I couldn’t wait for him to get a bit more independent, couldn’t wait for the night feeds to end, that sort of thing.
And it did end of course and once he started walking and talking I really found my groove with him and he with me and we’ve muddled along really nicely. And now I look at him and see that the baby stage is well and truly over, I’m sending him out into the world and he is truly a ‘big boy’ now.
It’s too much. My heart is broken. BROKEN! Pass me a few more Nurofen Plus there, go on, they can’t hurt, I AM BUT A SHELL OF A WOMAN!
I suppose I have to let him go, though, don’t I? Keeping him as my baby isn’t really an option. much as I’d like to. And I know that he’ll always be my baby even when he’s 40 and I know that even though he’s a big boy now he’s still only three, he’s still so tiny and still needs me so much. And I know that his having friends and going to school and having his own proper bed are all good things. They bring him joy and make him happy which is the most important thing.
Bye bye baby, baby goodbye …
WE took advantage of the break in the rain today and went on a jaunt to the Lavender Farm in Wexford to enjoy the sun.
Situated off the N11 just outside Gorey, it only costs €2 per car which is great value if you’ve a few kids or even a Granny to take with you.
There’s the beautiful field of lavender to stroll in, a gorgeous playground, a friendly goat, donkey and few ducks to chat to as well as a cafe/shop and beautiful woodland walks.
The Beast made a beeline for the playground and we had a hard time dragging him away. As well as the usual slides and swings there’s also a small obstacle course and a wooden tractor to climb on. (The sign says the playground is suitable from age two upwards, but personally I felt it was geared towards kids slightly older than that. Our three year old needed help with the ladder for the slide for example and there’s no baby swing, so it wouldn’t be great for very young visitors, but perfect for pre-schoolers up, in my opinion.)
There’s a motorised bull train that runs a few times a day (The Beast got on, but then decided at the last minute that he most certainly was NOT going to stay on) and you pay extra for that, but judging by the squeals of delight coming from the passengers, it’s totally worth it.
We had a stroll around the delicious smelling lavender field and then had our lunch in the cute cafe, which has a fairly extensive menu. My open sandwich was delicious, but Yer Man’s roll was just average, a bit dry and tasteless, though he was hungry so he ate it. The cakes and tarts on display looked fabulous and other diners seemed happy though, so one bad sandwich isn’t the end of the world and was probably just an oversight.
I picked up some lavender honey made right there on the farm as well as some pouches of dried lavender and a pot of fresh lavender to bring home as gifts which were all reasonably priced.
After our lunch we had intended to go on one of the woodland walks across the property (there are 2km, 4km and 6km walks on offer depending on how energetic you’re feeling) but we only got to have a quick stroll as far as the field of sheep before The Beast yanked us back to the playground where he spent another very happy hour whizzing down the slide and staring suspiciously at any other kid who dared to have a go.
Overall we spent a couple of very happy hours there, enjoying the sun and the peaceful atmosphere and we’ll definitely go back.
Other things to note: The farm is closed on Mondays; dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead; the lavender field and cafe itself is wheelchair accessible but the woodland walks are not; there are baby changing facilities plus a toddler step and toilet seat available in the accessible toilet. There’s a whole lot more information on what’s on offer here.
I HAVE a few minutes spare to write this post as I’m waiting for the washing machine to finish.
We’re going on holidays this month you see and that means acres of washing.
Sometimes the preparations for a holiday can start to feel like more trouble than it’s worth, can’t it? Of course holidays are lovely and we’re so lucky to have the chance to get away but, particularly when there are kids involved, it’s a lot of work.
A fellow Mam pointed me in the direction of this great article on the Huffington Post which declared that once you have kids, particularly in the early years, holidays cease to be holidays and become ‘trips’. And if you’re a stay at home parent, a business trip. And I wholeheartedly agree.
You know the way when you work in a company that sends you off on business trips and people say that you’re so lucky to get to see the world and you smile and nod but the reality is that you mainly get to see the airport and the inside of a hotel conference room?
You get to spend several awkward hours with Keith from Accounts – or worse, your boss – you eat copious amounts of limp BLTs and chips because that’s all that’s on the menu and you spend most of the trip in a security line at Heathrow wishing, frankly, that you were dead.
Well, that’s kinda how a stay at home parent (well, THIS stay at home parent anyway) feels when they go on their family holiday.
You wash and iron and pack and tidy and clean and make sure you have everything that you need, only to set off to your destination and do EXACTLY THE SAME THINGS ALL OVER AGAIN when you get there.
Kids still need to eat on holidays, they still need their toys, they still need naps and nappy changes or to pee 67 times a day. They still cry and wail and get bored and puke and won’t sleep. The only difference is you’re in a hotel room with one tiny overheated bathroom, instead of being in your own home.
Or – as in our case – you go self catering which is BRILLIANT in a lot of ways as you’re not reliant on hotel menus so can be flexible with meal times and dishes, but can be drudgery in other ways as you do the same amount of cooking and washing up as you would at home. Only you’re expected to smile about it because you’re on holidays.
I don’t know if it’s JUST because I’m a moany oul bitch (ah, I am, it’s grand, I know you all hate me) but even the activities that we tend to do on our holidays aren’t filling me with joy mainly because I do a lot of them at home with The Beast all the time anyway.
Take for example, the playground. Near to where we’re going is a fabulous playground, in the grounds of a hotel, that has a kind of a pirate ship set up with a twirly whirly slide that The Beast is mad about. You have your lunch and then can run out to play in the pirate ship, which is great.
Yer Man is all excited about this, keeps clapping his hands and saying he can’t wait to play with The Beast out on the pirate ship and won’t it be great, to be in a playground at 2pm instead of stuck at work. And that’s true, of course.
But for me, I go to the playground twice a week at home. Seen one slide, seem ’em all.
Going to the playground IS my work. That’s what I do as a stay at home parent, I cook and I clean and I play and I go to the playground and I feed the ducks, that’s my job. Do you see?
I don’t know why it’s hitting me harder this year, or why the whole holiday thing seems more like a drudge, it’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for. I knew when we decided that I would be the one to stay at home that it would be a)an enormous privilege and b)a lot of hard work, but for some reason I’m having a harder time accepting it this year.
In truth, it’s an awful way to feel about something as nice as a break away, when there are plenty of people who would love any sort of holiday and when there’s so much bad news in the world, so I’m trying to change my mindset on it.
I’ve decided to accept and acknowledge that my feelings on this are valid, because they are. Holidays do change when you become a parent. And they change further, I think, when you’re a stay at home parent. You do lose some of the fun, some of the excitement, it’s less of a break than when you were 20 and going on a sun holiday with your mates. And it’s ok to feel sad or frustrated at that.
However, like anything at all, a holiday, no matter what sort of holiday, is what you make it.
Fellow blogger Bumbles of Rice told me that what she does in the run up to her family holiday is get her little people all excited about what they’re going to do on their holiday and then in turn, she gets pulled into their infectious excitement. For example she’ll remind them that on holiday it’s the law to eat ice-cream EVERY DAY prompting squeals of delight. So I’ve decided to take a leaf out of her book and do the same thing here.
We’re going to go to the beach at least four times a week. We’re not going to worry about bedtimes. We’re going to go to three places/do three activities that we have never done before. We’re going to bring our raincoats and welly boots and actively go out in the rain and jump in muddy puddles. We’re going to go to the shops and treat ourselves to something new. We’re going to cuddle under a blanket and watch family movies for an afternoon and then say sod dinner and order a pizza.
Mainly, I think, we’re going to switch off and give our poor tired brains a bit of a rest.
And eat ice-cream. Every day. Fuck it, we’re on holidays.