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!
I REFER to him as The Beast here and I’m sure some of you must be imagining a great hulking Conor McGregor type – but the reality is my little man has always been a small wee chap.
Even when he was in the womb he was teeny – at one stage during a scan the sonographer said ‘Stand up, you’ to my husband while making measurements on the screen. Running her practised eye over Yer Man – who in fairness is on the shorter side – she nodded knowingly and laughed when we said we had an idea our baba wouldn’t ever be a supermodel.
When he was born he was an average 7lb and a half an ounce. Not small by any means, but the 0-3 month babygros we’d bought were swimming on him. Nana came to the rescue with some teeny Newborn sized ones which fitted perfectly and fitted for ages. Well meaning visitors brought clothes aged 6-9 months saying that their own kids were wearing six month old clothes by time they were eight weeks. Not so for us, those clothes didn’t go near him for months and months and months.
He stayed in his Moses basket for months, was in the bassinet part of his pram for ages too. And stayed in his high chair for years as well, he just fit fine and was happy to stay there.
When we did eventually move him up a size in clothes or into the buggy setting of the pram and into his cot from his Moses basket I was always struck at how tiny he seemed in the new setting. So used to seeing him nestled in the close confines of the Moses basket, for example, I thought he looked miniscule in the vast cot.
It’s been like that for his whole life.
Until recently. Until he stopped looking tiny in new settings and started looking just normal. Just as you’d expect a boy to look. I had started to accept that he was growing up – he had moved out of his cot to a junior bed and started preschool after all and I knew my baby was growing up. But he was still my tiny wee chap, I hadn’t noticed the physical differences.
And now it’s all I can see.
It started in April, when he got a bike from his grandparents for his birthday. I couldn’t wait to see him on it. I thought he’d look so cute and tiny. Only he didn’t. He looked like a preschooler. If anything a bit too big for the bike.
Long legs tumbling to the ground. Arms easily able to reach the handlebars. A sturdy broad chest.
We had to adjust the saddle and the handlebars, all the way up.
Then we went on holidays and visited some playgrounds and pet farms that we had gone to last year. And The Beast was able to use all the playground equipment with ease. He was tall enough to climb things, reach things, he didn’t need any help at all.
Clothes bought a few months ago are too small now, his feet are growing at an alarming rate (I’m keeping bloody Clarks in business), very shortly we’ll be getting him a new car seat.
And then last weekend we moved him from his junior bed into a regular adult single bed. He was excited, he had new PJs and brand new Transformer sheets, as well as Batman posters on the walls.
I was excited too. I thought surely, surely, I’d see my tiny little scrap again. Surely he’d look teeny in the big adult bed.
Reader, he didn’t.
He fit. He fit in the big bed. Ok, he’s not filling the bed by any means, but it doesn’t look ridiculously enormous. He’s not my baby in a huge bed. He’s just my boy in his comfy bed.
And last night, almost the last vestige of babyhood disappeared when he left his soothers for the Fairies to take away. His comfort and his joy and his lifelong love, easily left by his Fairy Door. It was his decision, he said big boys in big beds don’t need soo-soos anymore and he’d rather have a present that the Fairies would leave instead.
So the exchange was made. My big brave boy went to sleep, and stayed asleep and that was that. The end of an era.
My tiny man is gone. My little scrap is no more. Some bastardin’ fairies are flying around with his soo-soos in their mouths.
And I’m sobbing over newborn pics.
YOU know your four-year-old isn’t a baby any more when he turns to you and his grandparents in the middle of dinner and says: ‘Hey, what are you losers talking about?’
I could have died. In fact, I did. This post is being written from *Derek Acorah voice* beyond the grave. I was so mortified that I just upped and died from morto at the dinner table.
Well, I didn’t die, so much as laugh. Because I am a terrible parent and I don’t know what any of you are doing here looking for advice from me because I am the last person who should be giving it.
I’m blaming the PJ Masks. And myself of course, because when isn’t challenging behaviour the mother’s fault?
But mainly, yeah, the PJ Masks. They’re just such smart, smug little fuckers. Solving crime – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT when children are supposed to be IN BED – and being all sarky and smug with the Night Ninja and the Ninjalinos. It’s all losers and ha! and whatever you’re having yourself.
It’s not the only time Cat Boy et al have got him into trouble either. There was the ‘bozo’ incident in school a couple of months back as well.
It was another child’s birthday and The Beast had been invited to his party that weekend. Upon leaving school on the Friday he turned to the Birthday Boy and said ‘See you Sunday, you big birthday bozo!’.
Big birthday bozo.
Big. Birthday. Bozo.
In full view of the other parents too. All of whom looked like they were halfway between bursting out laughing and marching him up to the local juvenile detention centre themselves.
I spent a good lot of that weekend whispering ‘big birthday bozo’ to myself and biting my fist in agony.
So we’ve had a lot of Very Serious Conversations about appropriate language outside the home and while it’s ok to mess here and call me a Pooh Pooh Head for example, it wouldn’t go down so well in the playground. I’m hoping it sticks for later years when he’s bellowing ‘fuck you fuck face’ at his friends out in the street. I’m hoping by cracking down on bozos and losers at this age, that he’ll think twice before swearing like a sailor on the street when he’s 12.
I’m hoping. (Though, judging by my own language, I’m not very hopeFUL.)
It’s all a sign that he’s growing up and while sometimes my arms ache for the tiny soft helpless baby that he once was, it’s also a positive sign. Well as positive as calling his grandparents losers can be. (Sorry again lads. And sorry for laughing!)
In the same vein we were on holidays recently and noticed that for the first year he was really able to participate in the holiday and ‘get’ that we were on holidays.
He was so much more independent, more able to use the equipment in the playground for example, clambering over the rocks on the beach without help; entertaining himself with stickers while we finished dinner. It was blissful. Ok, it was still a holiday with a kid, so more a work trip than a relaxing retreat, but it really felt like a break this time.
Next month now he’ll go back to preschool for his final year before Big School. We’re not ready for Big School yet, either of us. Much as I’m enjoying his new-found independence, I’m not ready to let him go just yet. I’m happy to keep him where he is for the time being and I’ll deal with uniforms and school bags and classrooms in September 2018.
Which is ages away, right losers?
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.