Working mum

I know I’ve gone on about this before. I will undoubtedly go on about it again.

There are so many articles I see that point towards the stay at home parent, how their “jobs” are valuable, how they don’t even earn minimum wage for the work they do, and really I don’t doubt it. I’d kill for the opportunity. I run round wondering what it must be like to not have the work anxiety everyday. The guilt. The ability to attend every last minute assembly or school meeting, but when I read those articles, my gut response is “Oh do fuck off”.

I have to go to work. I’m proud of what I do, and how hard I work, I’m not taking away from the value of the stay at home parent, but honestly? Fuck right off.

Most of my annual leave is to cover school assemblies, meetings, INSET days and of course the endless holidays.

I still do all of the things stay at home parents do, but with an added level of exhaustion. I do the washing, ironing, food shop (thank fuck for online grocery shopping), days out, school admin, homework nagging, reading, singing songs, shouting about messy bedrooms, baths/showers, hairdresser trips, drs, dentists, opticians, play dates, parties, presents, baking, screaming, crying and laughing endlessly…. but I also have to earn a wage.

I’m sat on a train now, travelling 100 miles away hoping I can wrap this meeting up inside of an hour so I can be back in time for the school pick up. Friday, the early finish day where we can all leave at 2… except me who is nearly always in London that day. I’ll have to run. I’ve already done the breakfast club run in my car that’s literally on its last legs. Any day now it is going to recreate the end of the car chase in the Blues Brothers and just collapse into a heap of junk.

I’m tired. It’s been a long few weeks. I’m skint. My eldest is 12 next week and I’m doing the money shuffle to buy her presents. It’s fine, I’ve done it for years.

I’ve been trying to sort the mortgage out, and honestly the speed at which Barclays operate could be compared to the speed at which Brexit is being organised.

We have a party to attend on Sunday and I’m wondering of the car will get us there and back.

*sighs* at least running for the train will burn a few calories.


Home sweet home 

When we had our 1st child we split costs. My (now ex) husband took on the mortgage and I took on the nursery fees. Ignoring that at the time he earned more and had no commuting costs and I travelled 90 miles a day, still my outgoings seemed slightly more. Having grown up on a boat and only moved out to live with him, I was quite naive in the costs and needs of running a house and so trusted all he said.

When our 2nd child was born, he said there was no way he could take on more and so, all nursery costs were to be covered by me. (He once told me that It was my choice to return to work and so childcare costs were my responsibility. I won’t bore you with him not paying for food or clothes for the kids when I was out of work though).  

I covered care. I covered food and clothes. On reflection, as is very often the case in families, the mum (me) was the only person going without. The needs of the children were met 1st. The needs of the man next and if there was anything left, my needs too. He would spend £50-60 on video games in the blink of an eye, buy shoes for £100, I would deliberate for hours over what I could afford or least afford to go without for a few pounds. My Mum would buy me clothes from charity shops that I’d spruce up and make do with. Anything needed for the house was way way down on his list. I would dream of decorating how I’d like. I would show images and designs, but having no spare cash meant I could not contribute, I couldn’t just buy it. My design ideas would be scrutinised. Judged. Deemed unfeasible. From a funky red and white retro kitchen I ended up with shitty green tiles. If it didn’t come from B&Q it didn’t exist. Slowly after pleading for something I’d be shown another option of what I could have. It’s not that as a household we couldn’t afford it, but having no cash myself meant I had no control. Over years it became apparent that control was the main factor in our relationship. Fastforwrd a few years and through an unpleasant divorce, and finding a new man who has learned to put up with my crazy taste, we are reaching the end of doing up, decorating and redesigning our house. 

What most people fail to understand is that the goal means so much more to me than having a beautiful home. 

I’m quite a creative person. I’ve been able to plan colours, themes, designs and see them turn into a reality. We still have a little way to go, but seeing our home turn into something I only imagined, fills my heart with so much joy. Seeing all of my ideas become real, no matter how simple, has made me so proud. I’ve sanded, painted, wallpapered, dealt with multiple workmen – all out of my comfort zone… but I did it. I threw the wallpaper table away afterwards, vowing never again…. but I did it.

Looking back on photos I’m amazed at what we have achieved, and through it all, I only fell off the step ladder once. 

Hold the line caller 

Sometimes being a working mum (maybe just being a “mum” full stop), makes you feel like your own life is on hold whilst you look after everyone else’s. 

    You prepare meals for every one.  Plan how you can build something of vague nutritional value into the day whilst they have friends, hobbies, fun in general. Your day is snatches of time. Snippets of what you might like to do, but always interrupted by looking after everyone else. 

    Time spent in the garden might be paused whilst you prepare a meal. Food shop. Hang up washing. Fetch washing in. Iron washing. Distribute the piles of clean clothes amongst the hotel guests, sorry, family members. 

    I carry crochet around thinking I’ll do some later. It gets moved from room to room more times than I pick it up and do it. Days off are to get shit done. Spare time is a thing of the past, lunch times are internet shopping for kids and/or food. 

    I could scream at people who say they can never leave work on time, they’re far too busy. Try having a stressful full time job with kids waiting for you. You don’t know what busy is. I also have to travel for work, I can’t just book it in. It’s a series of calls, bookings, negotiations, planning, who will have who when? Who will pick the kids up? What parties do they have whilst I’m away? Who will cover what? Pleading with their dad to PLEASE go to that assembly because I’ve never missed one whilst he’s missed them all and it feels like only I care about it. 

    I work late some nights to enable me to run round for kids on others. I attend school meetings, miss one “open afternoon” at school and get greeted with sad faces from the kids. Use 90% of my holiday covering kids stuff and the other 10% doing DIY. Texts from school inviting us to assemblies THAT FUCKING DAY leaving me shouting “I’M AT FUCKING WORK”. More and more texts from school asking for money and wondering how I’m going to pay for that, plus new uniform, plus birthday oh and fuck, remembering you forgot to enquire about drumming lessons. Juggling money from cards to accounts in interest free. 

    I’m told our team in the office would sink without me. Sometimes I want to scream “just open your fucking eyes”! Not only do I do my job but I’m also pc fucking support for people who fail to fucking learn shit because it’s easier to ask me.

    I volunteer for Girl Guides and only berate myself for the little we manage to achieve but I feel like I work hard at it. 

    It’s taken me a couple of years to change the name on my passport and driving licence and honestly I just feel like I only just got divorced. I’d love a p.a. Doing things for me is not forefront in my mind. 

    I’m paying over and above for gas and electric because I’ve just not been able to make the call and negotiate a new deal. It took me 4 months to redo my mum’s magazine subscription that ran out (now on direct debit), and I know she’s pleased but I feel guilty and at the same time want to scream. 

    The kids dad berates me for booking play dates on his time (accidentally) and how he “never gets to see them” when they’ve just had a week in Menorca, he gets them every other weekend and does sod all with them. My time without them is getting shit done for them. And why the fuck do all their extra activities have to be on my time you lazy cunt? 

    I honestly feel like I get a barrage of constant criticism for what I don’t do. What I don’t achieve. When someone steps in to help it’s pretty much because I’ve done a shit job at something or haven’t managed to get something done. It mostly feels like it’s a constant circle of trying and failing. I often wonder if I’m going just hit a wall of exhaustion one day when this all catches up on me. 

    I’d love a night out with friends but really when? I’m so tired and insomnia is my new friend. I try and visit friends but it puts such a strain on my time. Friends visit me and then I’m making drinks, looking after them. 

    You know, 18 months ago I stopped my mum coming to my house. She sent me an email after a visit she left telling me how untidy my house was. Not once does she offer to help. 

    My life is one big apology. For not doing things how people would like it. Not doing things on time. Not being able to attend something. Not being able to cover that trip because of family commitments. Not putting that egg shell in the bin. Not being able to find the coffee when a friend comes round. Not buying dreamies for the cats. Not making a packed lunch. Not cleaning the car. Not washing that top you want to wear. Not being able to have friends after school because I have to work. Not reading to you at bedtime because I can’t keep my eyes open.  Not being able to think straight because my head is splitting, again. Not getting more shit done because I sat down “for 10 mins” and struggled to get going again. 

    I dread post coming through the door. It’s either a bill or more demands on my time. I’ve had a Direct Line letter for a week unopened because that means both of these things and neither of which I have. 

    Berocca, iron and B12 are my daily boost, and after giving up coffee 2 years ago I wonder if I actually need something like that to keep me going. Lack of it hasn’t helped me sleep anyway and the headaches haven’t diminished…

    Anyway, today on 4 hours sleep, the cycle will begin again. I will shop for birthdays, pack for a school trip, buy cake – but not eat it and keep moving forwards. If there’s something you want, take a ticket and.wait in line. I’ll get to you eventually. But I’m sorry you might need to remind me a few times. 

    The final turning of the leaf 

    It’s been a very hectic weekend and quite a shitty day. 

    Following on from messy divorces and house sorting, we are in the final throws of decorating the house in which we now all live. It occurred to me recently, that during my adult life, I’ve only lived in a “finished” house once, with my ex husband, & only “finished” because we were selling. I’m looking forward to having a nice house to come home to. A house the kids can be proud of, today it’s started to be realised, with curtain pole hanging and wallpaper hanging. 

    Unfortunately during our pushes to work hard, the kids have had a neglectful weekend. Today alone, the 7yo decided to take herself off around the village on her bike. Thinking she was scooting up and down the pavement outside, I went other to “check on her”. No where to be seen. We ran in shouting her name. The 10yo became fraught with worry. So was I and I was SO angry. Why didn’t I look sooner? 10 said “I couldn’t find her before”. “THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING??” I shouted. Bren shot off in his car. Shouting and frankly, scared as fuck, I rang the police. I was giving the description as Bren drove round the corner sticking his thumbs up. Shortly after, 7 sales round the corner on her bike. It maybe wasn’t even 2 minutes but it felt like hours. I’m sorry I wasted, albeit briefly, police time but God I was frightened and all I can say is, for the briefest off moments, the world seemed huge and I felt lost.

    Then on what now seems a much smaller scale, 10 changed her phone pin to a password and hasn’t been able to type it in correctly since. Phone now on lock down, currently on a mammoth factory reset with apple. 

    I hope this is the grande finale on what has been a tough couple of years. I feel so sorry for 10. She’s a delicate petal as it is and she’s emotionally exhausted!

    Tomorrow our floor fitter arrives and our home becomes homely. Our house starts to become one of which we are proud. Soon we will be able to draw the curtains instead of pinning and tacking remnants to the windows, we won’t be dodging tacks and staples in bare floorboards or struggling around paint pots. 

    We are nearly there and by God we deserve to revel in it once we are. 

    Sweaty Betty – help is here!

    I worked with a woman once who told me she only had to apply deodorant every couple of days and she only did then because she thought she should. Equally, my significant other half barley even gently perspires on the hottest of days. 

    sweat. I sweat enough for the 3 of us. 

    I always have. I mean, it’s not pouring off, but I have had to make lifestyle changes throughout my adult years in order to manage this. During my early 20’s things got so bad I had to use prescription deodorant. Some days I would go to work, run out at lunch to buy a new top, change & bin the 1st one in embarrassment and shame. I smelt. I shower every day, my clothes are always clean. I was clean, I am clean. But I sweated. Once I even cut out the armpits of the top I was wearing and then just kept my cardigan on so no one would know. 

    Prescription deodorant is awful stuff and it burns. For years I had red burn marks under my arms. If any got anywhere other than where your hair grew it burned your skin, you had to apply it every couple of weeks as well as your daily deodorant. If you shaved before hand, it burned. I’ve tried every type of antiperspirant there is.  

    Still now, tight fitting tops don’t have a long life with me. Cottons are always best, I avoid synthetic fibres – they’re the worst. 

    People don’t know. I manage it, less dramatically as before, but I manage. I no longer have to wear prescription deodorant but I can’t wear any perfumed antiperspirants otherwise it’s like the scent is amplified beyond anything that was mildy pleasant when first applied. 

    Because I work in the garment trade, I’m lucky enough to see some new innovations, designs and ideas. 

    A couple of weeks ago I met a father and son team who had taken old technology initially developed by the MoD and applied it to textiles. 

    An odour absorbing pad, as thin and light as tissue, as strong as fabric. 

    If I saw these in a shop I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have given them a second glance. However, I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of samples…

    Maybe you have smelly feet. Maybe your kids PE kit is fragrant for all the wrong reasons, maybe your cat’s bed stinks, maybe you react badly to synthetic fibres like me or maybe you feel self conscious about being smelly, what ever the problem, please try these, they are truly amazing. 

    For me in my 20’s, they’d have been life changing, and in a small, less dramatic way, they still are. 

    Thank goodness for people like these guys who probably don’t sweat a drop.

    A house full of pussy 

    Our house is full of pussies. We went from 0 to 4 in 6 months. Oh God. Sorry, this isn’t the blog you’re looking for. We are talking the furry kind, no wait! The feline kind.  

    We have 2 girls that we “rescued” from the RSPCA in April guesstimated at 1 year old & 2 boys “rescued” in September at only a couple of months old. 

    As one might expect, the characters between the boys and girls vary enormously. 

    The girls are, naturally, cool, calm and collected, natural born killers that will think nothing of devouring small creatures. They have a general air of “don’t fuck with me” about them and you can stroke them when they see fit.

    One of the boys last night spent 10 minutes alternating between attacking his own tail and wondering who the fuck bit him on the tail when it was, indeed, himself. 

    And repeat. 

    We suspect the boys are slightly ferrel, their behaviours are slightly out of kilter and they are, for want of a better word, simple. 

    But then again, they’re boys. 

    Our once almost calm, ok sometimes normal house has turned in to comedy central. We get woken in the night with cats nonchalantly walking over our heads who then express surprise “oh! You’re awake!! I’ll just sit here and PURRRR ferociously for half an hour”. 

    There’s getting home to a dark house and having to shuffle to a light switch for fear of treading on one. Then there’s feeding time…  We’ve given up on kitten Vs cat food. Half way through they’d all play musical bowls anyway, but trying to manage 4 hungry mouths all meowing like you haven’t fed them for 3 days is always fun. I’m in no doubt that if we all died in the house, they’d eat us.

    Kitty feeding time

    One thing is for sure though, rescuing 4 previously abandoned kitties and watching them slowly take over your life and home warms your cockles. We had wanted a cat for a long time, we had toyed with a pedigree, whilst I’m sure we would have loved it/them to the end of time, we wouldn’t have the satisfaction from doing a good deed nor the appreciation for the work done by the teams at the rescue centres. 

    I thoroughly recommend rescuing a kitty in need of a new home. I think they rescue you in return.  

    So tag me 

    I mostly reserve Facebook for people I actually like. There are exceptions of course, family for example. I’m joking! Ok a bit. But I have girl guide groups on there, selling pages etc… It’s a useful tool. It’s a handy way to share photos quickly, to share ideas. We’ve tried loads of videos shown for crafts and food.  It’s a good way to pick up tips. 

    However. As we are all too aware, it also seems to be the place for others to convince the rest of the world how amazing their life is. Look how big my house is. Look how much my husband loves me. Oh my God my child won the “most amazing kid in class in the history of the world ever” I can’t believe it!!. Blah blah blah and fuck off. 

    It’s also full of the whingers. The best I saw in the last few weeks was a mum complaining how her younger daughter was being bullied in class. How she “can’t believe the dreadful behaviour” whilst her eldest daughter bullies my eldest daughter. Blah blah blah and really? Fuck right off with that one. 

    So I’m taking a break. I’m not posting and I’m certainly not reading yours or anyone’s time line. And you know what? It’s fucking marvelous! I’ve also suspended my twitter account. Permanently? Maybe not. I like my twitter name and I’d like to keep it. But instead of reading timeliness, I’m reading the news. I’m on line grocery shopping, reading things made of PAPER. Doing crochet. Most of all? I’m not giving a flying fuck about your amazing life or indeed your problems. 
    *not yours though. I actually like you.