Having It All: Faking It

Confessions of @A_WorkingMum

Month: April 2017

Bartering with Bridezilla

The MumsNetter’s post below recently went viral after being called her rude for wearing one outfit to two weddings:

https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/2895060-Was-I-U-to-wear-the-same-outfit-to-two-weddings?

Over 400 messages’ worth of responses saw people generally judging said crazy cousin to be seriously in need of Getting A Life.

The conversation reminded me of stumbling into my own Wedding Wear Minefield last summer.

My problems began when I foolishly decided to actually READ the wedding invitation.

Prior to this idiocy, everything had been going swimmingly.

I was excited to be told to save the date for the upcoming wedding of my cousin and his Glamourous Girlfriend.

This was not just any girlfriend, she was the ultimate KEEPER.

  • She attended family events, remembered names, bought thoughtful gifts.
  • She was intelligent, driven and successful.
  • She was fun and easy to talk to.
  • She was glamorous.
  • She was social media savvy – regularly observed posing glamorously at all manner of events/holidays, officially Living The Dream.

On my more deluded optimistic days I imagined her as my ten-years’-younger protegée.

Back in my pre-Instagram pre-children heyday, I was(okay still am) guilty of indulging in my share of Social Media Narcissism.

I could be found regularly posting beautiful pictures of Long-Suffering Husband and I on Facebook as we travelled the globe.

(Thia may have been pre- official filters, but I certainly knew how to edit the lighting to share the most flattering version of our lives)

N.B. Long-Suffering Husband wanted no part of my vanity but complied with occasional requests for selfies against exotic backdrops. I believe he was following advice received from a work colleague: “Happy Wife = Happy Life.”

(As I have mentioned previously – on occasion, my husband can be a very wise man)

So, Glamorous Girlfriend reminded me of my former self.

Perhaps I even stretched as far as to imagine that she thought of me as a role model of sorts.

Maybe I represented where she hoped to find herself in ten years’ time?

Well-travelled, adventurous, effortlessly juggling a successful career and bringing up our beautiful brood?

(Alternatively, in the real world, Glamorous Girlfriend was probably enjoying her child-free existence and would have shuddered at the suggestion that she could ever lower her standards of personal grooming to the levels I now find acceptable)

I digress.

I was very excited to receive this “Save The Date.”

It would be a rare opportunity to dress up and a fantastic summer reunion for all our party-loving relatives scattered around the globe.

We then found out that were expecting Baby Number Three and I would be just over eight months’ pregnant at the wedding.

I would be less of a glamorous older-sister role-model than a hot, sweaty, beached whale.

Never mind.

This was nothing that couldn’t be remedied with some timely planning.

I investigated the options for glamorous maternity wedding-guest attire.

After much online browsing I decided that The Outfit needed to come from Tiffany Rose.

http://www.tiffanyrose.com/maternity/clothing/

Unable to reconcile myself to the idea of spending the best part of £200 on a dress to be worn once, I turned to EBay.

I was outbid multiple times (popular items, these dresses) but eventually won a similar Dream Dress for a price I was willing to pay.

I was thrilled when the parcel arrived.

  • I tried The Dress on at regular intervals over the next few months.
  • I tested the matching Shoes.
  • I planned The Bag.
  • I chose a Fascinator.

I had never been so well-prepared for a wedding so far in advance.

The formal wedding invitation arrived and was thrown unread into a drawer, other than a cursory glance when returning of the RSVP.

This brings us to one week before the wedding, when an idiotic compulsion took hold of me to double-check the details on the invitation.

I suddenly spotted a previously un-noticed dress code specification.

“Ladies -please no white, ivory or cream, in keeping with tradition.”

Hmmmm.

In keeping with tradition?

No dressing like a bride, yes, but I didn’t think those colours were traditionally banned outright?

My beached-whale dress was dark bronze but it did have a layer of cream lace over the top.

What if this constituted a contravention of the dress-code?

Surely not.

Practically every formal daytime dress for sale that summer included an outer layer of cream lace.

What could possibly look less bridal than an eight-months pregnant beached whale, ten years older than the bride, sporting a knee-length dark bronze stretchy tent-dress?

I wondered what might happen to guests who turned up in a forbidden outfit:

  • Clothes-police on the door refusing entry?
  • Bouncer Bridesmaids scouting for disobedient guests, quietly asking them to leave?
  • Bouncer Bridesmaids carrying a supply of Dress-Code-Compliant Outfits, supervising enforced changing sessions?

Dare I risk it? The mind boggled.

I confessed my concerns to Long-Suffering Husband.

He promptly dismissed them as ridiculous.

There was nothing wrong with my outfit and there would not be a problem. No-one would ever confuse the heavily pregnant older woman for a bride.

“I’m sure you’re right.. but I think I will feel better if I just check with her to make absolutely sure…”

He snorted.

So.

How best to go about checking?

The problem was the tiny chance that she might say no.

I set out to make it crystal clear that I would look nothing whatsoever like her, and that finding another dress at this late stage would be nigh-on impossible.

I composed my message (multiple times), included a selfie of me in the dress (looking suitably whale-like) and eventually pressed send.

Immediately I felt as though the weight of the world had lifted from my shoulders.

  • I had Officially Done The Right Thing
  • She would tell me the dress was fine
  • I would be free from bridal disapproval

All was well with the world.

All was well for five minutes that is, until I received her reply.

It was a No.

(Unless I could find a way to butcher the dress by detaching the overlying lace, thereby leaving me as a beached whale dressed in a long stretchy bronze tube)

I must have failed to sufficiently communicate the impossibility of the task of finding another dress at this stage.

I had a three year old son, a one year old son, no childcare beyond my full-time work hours, no idea what dress size I was and the wedding was a few days away.

  • Deep breath
  • I told myself that this was fixable
  • Perhaps I just needed to explain myself better

I sent her another message explaining in full detail, clarifying that I could try but may not be able to find anything wedding-appropriate, on the off-chance that she may change her mind.

(I think I already knew this was futile but was still in the Denial phase)

Apparently my beached-whale dress matched her wedding gown and was therefore an absolute no-go.

I sighed.

Good bye, Glamorous Girlfriend, how I miss you.

Hello Bridezilla.

Browsing the internet dejectedly, I discovered the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term Bridezilla:

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bridezilla

“A woman whose behaviour in planning the details of her wedding is regarded as obsessive or intolerably demanding.”

I even found a website giving examples of Bridezilla-esque behaviour, citing one example as being banning guests from wearing certain colours:

http://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/weddings/style/wedding-beauty/10-signs-youre-turning-into-bridezilla8.htm

Fascinating reading, but this clearly wasn’t helping.

It was quite clear that there would be no Bartering with this Bridezilla.

I would be finding another dress.

Aaarggh.

I cast my mind back to my own wedding, a lifetime earlier:

  • Planning the biggest event of your life
  • Anticipating being judged on its success for all eternity
  • Negotiating endless price-hikes every time the word “bridal” is used
  • Chasing relatives who don’t RSVP

I recalled multiple last minute frustrations including:

  • Absconding chefs
  • Local boutique hotel accommodation booked by my bosses turning out to be a swingers’ hotel
  • The venue’s wedding planner losing all accommodation reservations and calling a week before to ask “any chance you have kept a back-up list?” (I had)
  • Receiving a phone call 3 days before the wedding explaining that yes, I had booked for sixty guests to all have breakfast together in the orangery the morning after the wedding with my new husband & I, but actually, they didn’t have enough staff to put the tables and chairs out the morning after, so presumably it would be fine if they delivered a lovely breakfast hamper to everyone’s individual cottages so the guests could all have breakfast separately instead?

All of which occurred whilst people kept asking  if I was having fun, to be met by a fixed smile and my standard reply of “oh yes, wedding planning is so much fun!”

(For the record, that suggestion of changing the breakfast plans was NOT fine. I informed them that the communal breakfast was happening and that if there were no staff to put the tables out, we would do it ourselves. That suggestion was initially met with enthusiasm, until I pointed out that there would be trouble if any of our guests injured their backs moving heavy tables. I suggested it may therefore perhaps be wisest if they dug a little deeper to find their own staff to DO THEIR FRICKING JOB. The problem disappeared and staff were miraculously found)

I shuddered at the memory.

Perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, I had quite a lot of personal experience of Becoming Bridezilla.

Maybe it was nothing more than a necessary coping strategy.

I had a stern word with myself.

  • Glamorous Girlfriend probably had a lot more on her mind than my maternity dress
  • She was unlikely to be deliberately attempting to make my life difficult
  • It was her wedding, not mine
  • Absolutely NO-ONE was going to care what I was wearing
  • They were likely spending a small fortune paying to feed and entertain the lot of us so really, she could tell the guests to wear whatever she wanted
  • She had not only invited both of our children but had thoughtfully sent out children’s menus for us in advance, a luxury indeed after the number of child-free wedding invitations we have had to negotiate childcare around (another tale for another day)
  • So in summary … MAYBE I should stop being a wet weekend whining about the dress and instead, look forward to celebrating their Big Day?

My talk worked.

Over the next few days I re-gained my sense of humour and couldn’t wait for the wedding.

I was excited to meet up with relatives flying in from around the globe and was fascinated as the drama unfolded further:

  • Multiple tales of rejected dresses
  • Frantic last minute outfit changes
  • Relatives who were too scared to ask permission for fear of encountering the outfit veto, hoping to take their chances on the day instead.

Turned out my rejected dress and I were in good company.

Some relatives planned to ask our cousin to reason with his Bride-To-Be.

I was interested in this strategy and awaited his response.

He said:

“I am staying out of this … talk to her in charge.”

My cousin was clearly going to make a FANTASTIC husband.

I searched  through my wardrobe and eventually discovered an unworn cheap bargain New Look dress (£15).

(I had bought it optimistically envisaging summer evening dinners, of which I had attended none… I had therefore planned to return the dress)

On consideration, I could just about get away with wearing it to a wedding.

Problem solved, no shopping required.

Bonus!

The gloriously sunny day of the wedding dawned.

We all arrived outside the Church, where we were treated to quite the impressive catwalk show of illegal cream and ivory dresses.

Amidst the loud happy reunion, cousin after cousin sidled over to me to point out the multiple fashion faux pas committed by various family members and friends.

We eyeballed the Bouncer Bridesmaids, eagerly anticipating their intervention.

Nothing.

Quite the anti-climax.

Long-suffering husband, not usually one to notice such things, was awaiting his first glimpse of this Bridal Gown – the one that allegedly looked virtually identical to my reject.

The bride arrived and she was….

  • …Breathtaking.
  • Truly, truly, stunning.
  • Tall, slender and tanned in a slinky, fitted, backless gown….

A glamorous gown that bore no resemblance whatsoever to my rejected maternity sack.

Long-suffering husband tried desperately to catch my eye.

I couldn’t look at him for fear I would start laughing.

By this point, my rejected dress really didn’t matter any more, did it?

In the end a wonderful wedding was had by all, with the added bonuses of:

  • All-day entertainment in the competition to spot the most illegal wedding wear
  • Eating as much as possible because my cheap Plan B dress was far more spacious than the expensive Plan A
  • Multiple glamorous family reunion photos for the requisite Social Media oversharing
  • Both dresses were successfully sold on EBay

So for anyone out there thinking of being organised and planning your wedding outfit before you receive the formal invitation ….

A word of caution.

Check the dress code.

Weekend Part Two: A Sunny Saturday

6.30am

I hear someone crying. I close my eyes tightly .

6.45am

Long-suffering husband speaks. I am too tired to understand the words.

7 am

Someone is passing me a crying baby.

Aha.

I remember now.

It is the morning after my epic fail of a Big Friday Night Out (for the full story, see below).

http://havingitall.family/2017/weekend-part-one-the-big-friday-night-out/

I have been asleep for around three hours.

I attach Baby Girl to my nipple and sigh thinking of the day ahead.

Long Suffering Husband will be away helping his elderly parents, Being A Good Son.

I therefore cannot justify feeling annoyed about being left on my own.

How can I be annoyed with someone who is clearly Doing The Right Thing?

I find the inability to justify feeling annoyed is in itself very annoying.

7.10 am

Long-suffering husband thoughtfully brings me a cup of tea.

I am sure he is annoying me on purpose.

EVERYTHING is annoying when you are this tired.

7.15 am

Long-Suffering Husband brings 2 yo and 3 yo boys into our bed.

They are happy and chatty.

I mumble incoherent orders:

“Stop that. Don’t kick there. You’ll hurt your sister. Be careful, hot tea. I said be CAREFUL. You will burn yourself.”

No-one is listening.

I close my eyes.

7.30 am

Long Suffering Husband asks if there is anything he can do to help.

Clearly I should take advantage of this offer and get my day off to a good start by:

  • Showering in peace while he is still at home watching the children
  • Asking him to get the children dressed
  • Going downstairs to start breakfast early
  • Get the bags packed ready for the boys’ Rugby Tots lessons

I consider this sensible plan of action.

I close my eyes instead and pretend I can sleep through the chaos.

I am not a morning person.

8 am

I am still lying in bed with three children.

We are all in pyjamas.

I have achieved next to nothing in the last hour.

On the plus side, the caffeine from my cup of tea has kicked in and I am now able to communicate effectively with other human beings.

8.15 am

It is time for Long-Suffering Husband to leave.

I manage to thank him for the tea and wish him a safe journey.

8.30 am

I need to be at Rubgy Tots at 9.30 so I really need to get moving.

Instead I bribe the two boys to stay still with electronic devices and write a Facebook post about my Epic Fail of a Friday Night Out.

To cheer myself up I include a selfie of the moment I had makeup on.

8.40 am

My phone buzzes with a reply to my Facebook post.

It is Social Media Mum (she who was responsible for the birth of this blog – see the full story below).

http://havingitall.family/2017/killing-katy-the-birth-of-a-blog/

Her son Jude* is in 3 yo boy’s Rugby Tots class at 9.30 am.

“See you at rugby then ?! 😉”

I reply to her:

“Absolutely. Right on it. Very motivated and have got the kids all ready.”

I attach a photo of the four of us lying in bed in pyjamas, complete with 3 yo fully absorbed in the bribery electronic device.

8.45 am

Phone buzzes with another reply.

“Ha ha! It’s going to be a busy 45 minutes.”

She makes a good point.

I finally get up.

9.30 am

Predictably the last 45 minutes have passed in a blur of:

  • Shouting at the boys to stop fighting while I am in the shower
  • Getting out of the shower and dripping water all over the floor to physically separate them
  • Bribing both boys with stickers on charts to get dressed/sit on the potty/ sit on the toilet/ hurry up
  • Feeling guilty when Baby Girl cries as I don’t have enough arms to pick her up
  • Repeating myself endlessly in the daily recitations:
    • Less talking, more eating
    • No pouring
    • Put that down
    • That is not a toy
    • Stop doing that
    • Drink some more
    • Open your mouth
    • Show me your teeth
    • Put your shoes on
    • Stay still
    • Come here
    • Go there
  • A last minute poo from someone requiring a clothes change
  • Removing them from the house one by one and transferring them to the car

Thankfully they are all now in the car.

There is something so satisfying about knowing that they are safely imprisoned in their respective car seats, unable to harm themselves or each other.

I return to the house to sit down and finish a cup of tea in soothing silence.

I LOVE the rare luxury of being alone in my own house.

(I know it is just an illusion of being alone because there are three children sitting moments away from me in my car parked on the driveway, but that doesn’t matter, it is close enough)

I savour the silence and remind myself that I love my three incredible children and that I am lucky to have the day ahead with them to look forward to.

Leaving them abandoned in the car for five minutes has made me a better, saner parent already.

9.35 am

We arrive at the Rugby Tots car park.

I walk 3yo to the door and tell him to go and join in the lesson.

I enter the building two minutes later with Baby Girl in one arm and 2yo Boy in the other.

9.40 am

I am surprised to find 3yo boy lurking in the hallway peering through the door.

“We missed it Mummy. I can see the baby lesson in there now. Mine is all finished.”

  • How is that possible?
  • Have I got the time wrong?
  • Am I really an entire hour late instead of five minutes?

I walk into the room and the mystery is solved.

2 yo’s friend from the younger 10.30 am class (age 2 – 3.5 years) is now exactly 3.5 years old and has moved up to the older class today.

Hmmm.

3 yo boy does not like change.

One wrong move on my part and this could result in tears and tantrums.

I tread carefully.

(Luckily I have plenty of patience and sanity left over from my solo cup of tea)

I explain calmly that this is not the baby class, but that his younger friend is now a bigger boy because he is three-and-a-half years old and has moved up to join the big boys’ class.

He smiles, understanding my explanation, gives me a hug, says “I love you Mummy” and goes off happily to join in.

I sit down triumphantly and congratulate myself on my parenting skills.

Moments such as this are as rare as hen’s teeth.

They are to be treasured.

9.45 am

Two people say Good Morning to me and tell me how great I look.

I am initially surprised and then remember that I did not bother to remove any eye makeup at 3am and have had so little sleep that my hair remains styled from the night before.

I do look quite glamorous for a Saturday morning, courtesy of my epic failure of a night out and my laziness in the makeup removal department.

A silver lining of sorts.

Life is good.

9.50 am

“Good morning!”

says Enthusiastic Helpful Dad.

I smile back until realisation strikes.

Oh Crap.

Usually I rely on Social Media Mum to help me with the first Rugby Tots Class, and Enthusiastic Helpful Dad to help me with the second class.

Enthusiastic Helpful Dad leaps up at the merest mention of parental participation and whisks at least one (if not both) of my boys away and entertains them along with his own son, throwing and catching simultaneously to all three whilst I breathe a sigh of relief and feed Baby Girl peacefully at the side of the room.

It had suddenly dawned on me that Enthusiastic Helpful Dad was now HERE, at the earlier class, as his son had moved up.

Both of my trusty helpers were now here at the same class.

This meant no helpers for the 10.30 class with just-turned-2 yo boy, he-who-chooses-not-to-follow-instructions.

Oh dear.

I may have to  control my own children, alone.

On the plus side, I had a lovely chat and catch up with Social Media Mum by largely ignoring 3 yo boy who was busy playing with Enthusiastic Helpful Dad.

10.30 am

We wave good bye to enthusiastic helpful Dad and son.

I install 3 yo at the side of the room with a bribery electronic device and take Baby Girl along with me to sit cross-legged on the floor for 2 yo boy’s warm up.

Full parental participation achieved.

Social Media Mum looks pityingly at me.

She offers to stay to help me but her son Jude* is not on board with that plan and wants to leave.

We agree to meet later on at the free Fun Day being hosted by a local Church.

10.50 am

The lesson is going much better than I expected.

2yo is happy with my participation and Baby Girl is quite enjoying being carried around with me.

11 am

Enthusiastic Helpful Dad returns briefly bearing a bag from the village bakery. His son delivers Gingerbread Men for my two boys.

This really is an amazing village full of amazing people.

The Gingerbread Men work effectively as bribery tools for completing the class with minimum complaining all round.

11.15 am

We arrive at the Fun Day.

A lovely person gives me their unused parking ticket.

It is pouring with rain so the event has been moved indoors – I tell the boys that there is a bouncy castle and all is well.

I spy Social Media Mum waving at me across the room and envisage a nice hour or two of sitting down while the boys run off some energy.

11.20 am

A woman comes to talk to me as I attempt to manoeuvre the pram through the tables.

(I do this with all the finesse of someone who is driving a pram for the very first time, rather than continuously for the last four years)

“Hello! Did you enjoy the acting? Was is good?”

I look at her blankly.

I am trying to make sense of her words whilst quietly hissing orders:

  • Take your shoes off before you go on the bouncy castle.
  • Don’t stop there, you are in everyone’s way.
  • Move this way.
  • No THIS way.
  • No don’t leave your shoes there, people will trip over them.
  • Just give the shoes to me. TO ME.
  • Now remember, no fighting, be kind, no pushing…

The woman is ignoring my attempts to control the boys and is still smiling expectantly me, awaiting an answer to her bizarre acting question.

I am exceptionally bad at remembering both names and faces but I am certain I do not know her.

“Acting?”

She looks disappointed.

“Oh no…did you miss the play? Don’t worry, it will be on again this afternoon!”

I am very confused and have given up trying to control the boys. They run off in the direction of the bouncy castle. They have found Jude* and are busy roaring and chasing each other like maniacs.

Social Media Mum arrives and saves me.

“Oh the play was wonderful. Thank you very much.”

She steers me away from the woman to one of the tables and helps with the pram.

“What perfect timing. You have just missed the play.”

I look around the room.

I see a standard fun day.

Bouncy castle, face-painting, craft tables with colouring in.

What play?

“It was very …  intense. There were costumes, long robes, and loud shouting about killing all the firstborn babies, followed by ladies with babies dropping down. It was all a little bit … much.”

A play about killing first-born babies in the middle of a Fun Day, albeit one run by a Church?

“And the worst bit was that they turned the bouncy castle off to make sure everyone was watching. Deflated it completely. The children were all going mad.”

I shuddered.

Turning off the bouncy castle to ensure the small children paid attention to a serious spot of religious acting featuring the baby-slaughter Bible story?

I could only imagine the level of the tantrums relating to the flattened bouncy castle and the questions that would follow:

  • So is it alright to kill babies then?
  • What happens to the babies when they are dead?
  • Why do we kill babies?
  • Can we try killing babies?
  • Can we play a game about killing babies?

I know my limitations.

That scenario is way beyond my level of parenting expertise.

I would need to ensure that we were NOT still in this room at the time of the repeat performance.

Behind me I overhear a woman muttering to a friend quietly:

“It’s a bloody good job my husband wasn’t here. He thinks this place is cult-like enough already, and that was BEFORE the play about slaughtering the firstborns…”

11.30 am

I do one of those routine parental auto-pilot scans of the room to identify what the children are up to.

Baby Girl: Previously asleep in pram. Now starting to wake up. Moving but not yet crying.

Plan: Leave alone.

2yo Boy: Still bouncing on bouncy castle. Not currently involved in any altercations or overtly dangerous activity.

Plan: Leave alone.

3 yo Boy: Previously on bouncy castle. No longer there. Currently…currently WHAT? Standing by a table waiting patiently in a line for face-painting. ALARM BELLS – he does not usually want his face painted and does not do patiently waiting. Something suspicious is going on.

Plan: Intervene immediately.

“What are you doing?”

He looked insulted that I needed to ask.

“Waiting to have my face painted. I want a tiger just like Jude.*”

Oh but of course.

If Jude* has a face painted like a tiger, he must have one too, even if we have been avoiding face painters for a year.

(A year ago we joined a queue at a birthday party for a face painter. As a very excited two year old he waited in my arms for the best part of an hour, watching all the other children get their faces painted and when we arrived at the front of the line, the face-painter smiled at me and explained that her time was now up and she would not be painting any more faces. I narrowly avoided murdering her, he sobbed uncontrollably for 30 minutes or so, and I have avoided face-painters ever since.)

I eyeball this face painter.

She seems young and pleasant.

I check with her that she is not planning to finish any time soon and she confirms that she is not.

All appears well.

I leave my newly-patient 3yo boy in the queue and go to get Baby Girl who is crying.

12pm

Uncontrollable sobbing is occurring at the face-painting table.

My previous scans of the room had revealed 3yo boy patiently waiting with no sign of trouble.

I speed over to see what has changed.

Apparently the face painter finished a face and then three different children all assumed they were next.

The face painter cheerfully informs us all that she has not been looking at the queue and has no idea whose turn it is.

3yo boy is distraught:

“Mummy,” sob, sob, “it is my turn next and that boy tried to push in.”

I look at the offending children.

One is a nice-looking young boy whose father identifies that he is the younger sibling of the girl who has just finished. He would like to get both children done at the same time.

This seems reasonable.

One is an entitled-looking toddler boy who is standing next to his Pushy Mother.

He was not there when 3yo boy began waiting.

Pushy Mother is busy telling everyone how she is sure that her son is next and how he does not deal well with disappointment, or some other such crap.

I sigh.

Those three hours of sleep last night seem a lifetime ago.

I dig deep, searching for some reserves of patience, and then say to the group:

“My son will be fine with any order as long as he knows what to expect. So, how about that younger brother next, then you (to my son), then your son?” (directed at Pushy Mother)

No-one disagrees with my plan.

3yo boy calms down slightly, still sniffling at the injustice of it all, and I try to continue breastfeeding Baby Girl.

This is tricky, given that 3 yo boy wants hugs so I am squatting down next to him and balancing her on one knee.

12.15 pm

The World’s Slowest Face Painter has finally finished her work of art on the younger sibling’s face.

The boy gets off the stool and predictably, Pushy Mother shoves her child into the chair.

Even if I wanted to engage in a war of who can push their child into the chair first, it would not have been physically possible without throwing Baby Girl to the ground as an incidental casualty of the battle.

I enquire academically to Pushy Mother:

“I thought we had agreed that my son was next?”

She approximates some form of eye contact.

“Oh, do you mind? It’s just that he won’t manage to wait much longer…”

Quite clearly I DO mind and she knows that, so I ignore her utterly pointless question.

I turn my back on her and reassure my child that I am very proud of him for waiting so well.

He amazes me by not crying.

I give myself a quick reminder:

  • There are hundreds of genuinely lovely people I have come across in this bizarre sleep-deprived alternative universe of those caring for young children
  • Most of these people are much better people than I am and cannot do enough to help
  • I survive with three children largely due to support from these wonderful strangers
  • Statistically, it is therefore inevitable that I will also come across one or two people I want to punch in the face
  • I do not know this woman but rationally or irrationally, at present I DETEST her
  • Even though the feeling MAY be related to sleep deprivation, it is still okay to feel that way

I feel much better after my pep talk.

I make sure I am exuding obvious waves of cold, calculated hatred in the direction of Pushy Mother.

This cheers me up no end.

12.30 pm

Another Mona Lisa of a face later, it is finally 3 yo boy’s turn to get his face painted.

He is thrilled.

He sits still for 15 minutes and is delighted with the final result.

I have a cheerful chat with the face-painter, with a selection of other parents and remind myself that I am a big fan of 99% of the people in the room.

Life is good again.

12.45

Social Media Mum’s Tall Helpful Husband wanders into the room with their elder son. He comes over to me.

“Let me give you a hand to move the pram and we can all go for lunch in the café next door.”

I am confused.

Had we made a plan to leave?

Admittedly the children must be getting hungry and I hadn’t really made a lunch plan.

He leaned closer and whispered conspiratorially:

“She mentioned something about a play that you really should avoid…”

Oh yes, the second showing of the baby-murdering play was about to start.

I gave him the pram and we ran for it.

12.50 pm

My boys are happily playing with Jude* and I am waiting to order food.

There is only one person in front of me.

I am surprised at how well the children are all behaving in the toy corner.

1pm

I am still waiting in the line to give my food order at the counter. I am confused as to how it can possibly take this long. Social Media Mum holds Baby Girl so I have free hands to look through the menu.

Miraculously the children are still playing nicely.

1.05 pm

I finally order food.

I choose the easiest things I can find on the menu:

  • Two lunchboxes for the boys
  • A baked potato for Baby Girl (she has just started weaning onto solids and is a big fan of mashed potato)
  • A full fat milkshake for me.

I get a strange look as they ask if I want whipped cream and marshmallows on my milkshake.

I patiently explain that I want EVERYTHING.

This day appears to be lasting for an eternity.

I am going to require as many calories as humanly possible to make it through.

1.10 pm

I finish ordering food and turn around to see Pushy Mum chasing her obnoxious son around. I am surprised to see that his face-painting has already been wiped off.

“That’s her,”

I hiss to Social Media Mum.

“The Pushy Mum.”

Social Media Mum smiles at Pushy Mum and calls out cheerfully:

“Hello there! Oh, that face painting didn’t last long did it? What a shame, after he was so desperate to have it done!”

Social Media Mum’s wide eyes are twinkling and she seems to be enjoying herself.

“Oh yes, he hated it, and I had to wipe it off. A bit of a waste.”

Pushy Mum sees me and has the decency to look apologetic.

“Oh….was your son okay with the waiting in the end?”

I smile politely.

“Yes thank you, he was fine.”

I am unimpressed.

“You know her? Friend of yours?”

I glare at Social Media Mum.

Traitor.

“Oh yes, from some playgroup or another years ago.”

I glare at her.

“More of an acquaintance.”

She is now definitely enjoying herself.

I take a mental step back and imagine how this looks to a sane person.

I am a sleep-deprived wreck, consumed with hatred towards someone I don’t even know, on the grounds of us both having emotionally labile toddlers who desperately wanted their faces painted.

It is not difficult to see why Social Media Mum’s eyes are laughing at me.

She has the decency to compose her face into a sympathetic expression but the eyes remain a dead giveaway.

1.15 pm

I get my things together to leave the counter and the woman taking food orders has a final message for me.

She calls out:

“Just to let you know…..”

She has the facial expression of a woman about to Break Bad News.

“The food is going to be a very, VERY, long time.”

Silence.

“Okay then.”

I walk away and sit down.

I ponder the mystery of the “long, long time” comment.

The café is not full.

I have ordered lunch boxes which are pre-prepared sandwiches and fruit with a packet of crisps and a carton drink.

What could possibly take such a long time?

I remind myself that this is a Church café run by volunteers for the good of the community.

I try to stop being so critical.

Given that I have a table, the children are playing, and it is too late to go anywhere else, I have very little other choice than to wait.

1.30 pm

The miracle of the three energetic and hungry boys playing nicely in the corner of a crowded room has finally (and unsurprisingly) come to an end.

They begin roaming the café, looking for entertainment.

Their roaming progresses to chasing.

Out of the corner of my eye I am aware of people tutting at them.

I scan their behaviour – no-one killing each other. Annoying nuissances – yes; overt danger –  no.

I ignore them and try to soothe Baby Girl who is tired and hungry.

The background complaining about the unruly children gets louder.

I decide to join in.

“Honestly, some people should really learn to control their children,”

I lament loudly and disapprovingly.

I sigh, tut, roll my eyes and shake my head in the direction of our three boys.

Social Media Mum joins in enthusiastically.

It works.

A few people look openly surprised as they had assumed the badly-behaved children must belong to us.

They realise the error of their ways and the disapproving looks stop landing at our table.

Perfect.

We continue to ignore our children in peace.

1.45 pm.

Aaaargh.

Social Media Mum’s food arrives but mine does not. Jude* sits down to eat.

My boys are now tired, starving, and fast becoming feral.

2 yo starts a new game of trying to escape the front door of the café. 3 yo joins in.

An Evil Cow Café Woman masquerading as an older volunteer waitress appears out of nowhere and shouts at them.

“For Goodness’ Sake, how many times do I have to tell you two? STOP opening that door.”

I am surprised.

Most people stick to a certain code when telling off other people’s children, and by most people’s standards, that is pretty harsh.

Unless lives or limbs are threatened you generally keep things as mild-mannered as possible.

Christian volunteer or not, this woman has now declared war.

I walk towards my children, fixing Evil Cow Café Woman with an icy stare.

She sees me approach and looks away swiftly.

Clearly annoyed, she mumbles,

“Do you think you could make your children sit down.”

Do I think I can make my children sit down???

She is working/volunteering in a child-friendly café, complete with toy corner, and it is an hour since I ordered sandwiches for two hungry small people.

Surely this is not a surprising or unusual scenario, them having had enough?

I stare at her accusingly.

“They are extremely hungry and bored. They have been waiting a VERY. LONG. TIME for their food.”

She looks vaguely apologetic.

“Well, yes….”

“I will see what I can do.”

I return them to the table and bribe them with colouring and the promise of treats if they sit still.

1.50 pm

One of the women from the serving counter is hovering behind my shoulder.

She is foodless.

“Yes?”

She looks nervous.

“Well….the kitchen have decided that they are not going to be able to make your milkshake.”

I wait for her to tell me that they have run out of some essential ingredient.

“They say that because the café is just too busy today, they are not going to have time to make it.”

I look around the room incredulously.

It is a small café, and there are empty tables.

The café is TOO BUSY for them to make a milkshake? And it took them an HOUR to realise this?

Social Media Mum is watching me intently and I notice that she is shaking with silent laughter.

I tell the woman that this is fine, I won’t have a drink after all.

She looks relieved and departs hastily.

“Perhaps I should have offered to go into the kitchen and make the milkshake and lunch boxes for them,”

I mutter darkly.

Social Media Mum Smiled.

She keeps saying sympathetic things and helping me control my children, whilst finding the saga enormously entertaining.

Her son has finished his lunch.

1.55 pm

A cheerful woman from the Fun Day next door pops her head into the café.

“Do come along next door everyone, we are about to start a play!”

Silence ensues around the café.

No-one moves.

Social Media Mum to the rescue.

“Oh what a shame…we would have loved to come and watch but we are still waiting for our food.”

Phew.

2 pm

The world’s most eagerly awaited lunch boxes arrive.

I take out the sandwiches to hand them to my children.

I cannot quite believe my eyes.

I sigh and look at Social Media Mum.

“I DO know that this café is run by volunteers and that it is attached to the Church and that it is a very worthy cause…”

I begin, cautiously.

“But even given that …. would you consider THIS to be an acceptable standard of sandwich to pay money for?”

I hold the sandwich out to her, genuinely interested in her opinion.

The “sandwiches” look as though they were made two days ago, rolled up in a ball, placed in a sauna to make them sweat, and then squashed between someone’s grubby fingers to make sure that every morsel of bread was a soggy as possible.

They were limp, lifeless, and unappetising, even by my undiscriminating standards.

Social Media Mum leant in to inspect them.

“Quick,”

she said.

“Take a photograph.”

A photograph?

What on earth for?

Surely she was not going to suggest that I begin a Social Media Campaign naming and shaming the Café for its poor service and terrible sandwiches?

Admittedly the service today had left a LOT to be desired and the sandwiches were terrible BUT… that seemed a little harsh for a well-intentioned Church café run by volunteers. After all, they were all working there in an attempt to Do Good Deeds for the local community, not to win awards for food or service.

Plus the food was usually very good.

Surely such a campaign would see me sent straight to Hell.

“Why?”

I finally enquired.

“For your blog post about this weekend.

Quick.”

I obediently took a photograph and considered this suggestion.

Write a blog post about this most mundane of weekends?

Who on earth would want to read such a thing?

Me, being tired, grumpy, and annoyed with the world? With my chronic inability to be concise?

My description of this weekend in written word would be less of a blog post and more of an endless, soul-destroying novel.

On second thoughts, I looked at how happy Social Media Mum was.

Watching me struggle through the day seemed to be reminding her with some relief that she had passed this challenging stage of parenthood.

She was positively glowing with the joy of no longer dealing with toddlers.

Perhaps she was onto something.

Maybe sharing my weekend would provide boundless joys for those who recall such events from their recent past and allow them chortle happily to themselves that they are now safely out of the other side of toddlerhood.

2.30 pm

The baked potato for Baby Girl arrives.

(One and a half hours after I ordered it, but who was counting?)

She tries to seize it and I narrowly avert the burning of her hand given that it was the hottest potato I have ever seen. Steam billowed upwards towards the ceiling.

Social Media Mum assists me in trying to cut it into many tiny pieces and blow on it whilst Baby Girl screams in hunger.

2.45 pm.

Officially. Had. Enough.

My children are all behaving badly and I am too tired to care or work out how to manage them effectively.

I need to leave immediately.

I attempt to pay.

I cannot pay because the till is not working. Something to do with the receipt roll having run out.

Social Media Mum is laughing.

“I am worried about you,”

she said.

“Why?”

Did she think I was headed for a breakdown because I could not pay for my lunch?

“I really hope that when you get home… you have alcohol waiting for you. I think you are going to need it.”

I’m not sure that I know what she means.

Surely this is just a standard three-young-children day?

I must look worse than I thought I did.

2.50 pm

“I need to pay and leave now because there is a supermarket delivery of food arriving at my house in 5 minutes.”

This truthful strategy works.

We pay and head for the door.

On the way out of the door I spy Evil Cow Café Woman.

I whisper into 3 yo boy’s ear, instructing him what to say (along with a quietly hissed threat that if he does not say it, he will never be allowed back to this cafe again).

He approaches Evil Cow Café Woman and gives her an angelic look.

“Thank you very much for my food. It was yummy. I am very sorry for being naughty.”

She is genuinely shocked.

“Oh.. you’re welcome.”

I leave, entertained by at her open disbelief that my feral monster can be polite.

3pm.

I arrive home and the supermarket delivery driver is already parked outside the house waiting for me.

I leave the children in the car and unload the shopping.

The delivery contains chocolate and cider.

3.10 pm

Miracle of miracles.

The holy grail of parenting.

All three children are in bed asleep for an afternoon nap.

As far as they are concerned, the day has been an enormous success.

Rugby, bouncy castles, face painting, lunch out, playing with friends… they have had a fantastic time and are all exhausted.

The rain has stopped and the sun is shining.

3.30 pm

I have hung the laundry out to dry, tidied the kitchen and I have taken a bottle of cider and a cheap bar of chocolate out into the garden.

I immediately eat the entire bar of chocolate and then photograph the evidence to send to Social Media Mum to reassure her that I do indeed have alcohol.

I drink my cider in serene sunshiny silence.

My sanity creeps back.

I reflect upon how this is the beauty of days like these.

The moments when the camera comes out are when the sun is shining, when the kids are thrilled with their face-painting, and when we are all happy.

Despite the fact that it has been raining all morning I will look back at the photos and remember a lovely Sunny Saturday.

The moments I choose to record are those that allow me to look back and reflect that:

  • I adore my children
  • Every second is precious
  • I have totally got this
  • I am doing a great job as a parent

Because who in their right mind would ever intentionally make a record of all the other shit that comes in between?

Those who blog, that’s who.

 

*Names changed

Weekend Part One: The Big Friday Night Out

Last weekend began with a long overdue NCT Girls’ night out.

It had been in the diary for months.

For anyone not in the know – the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) run antenatal classes around the UK.

https://www.nct.org.uk/courses/antenatal

The experience of Surviving The NCT Antenatal Course where we bought our “Bought Friends” is a separate story, see link below:

Surviving The NCT Antenatal Course – Buying The Bought Friends

Fast forward four years and don’t worry, we are still getting our money’s worth out of those Bought Friends.

Our initial investment of around £200 has so far yielded the following returns, amongst many others:

  • A Private Facebook group where every relevant childrens’ event/group/outing is shared and immediate plans formulated
  • The “Bought Friends” WhatsApp group: all six women spewing a mutual outpouring of maternal neuroses
  • Three annual NCT weekends away – all six couples and as of this year, we are up to eleven children
  • Multiple children’s birthday party invitations (with a handy “no presents exchanged within the NCT group” rule)
  • A two week holiday to a villa on Elba Island to attend an NCT wedding

My five bought NCT friends had been a very wise investment indeed, and currently form an essential part of maintaining my sanity.

Which brings me back to last night’s Long-Awaited Girls’ Night Out.

The NCT boys have been on a few boys’ nights out in their time (initially involving much alcohol drinking and comparing of notes on topics such as “just HOW crazy has your wife become since having a baby?”) but the girls’ nights out have been hindered by the perpetual cycle of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Expectations were high given that Girls’ night out number one was infamous.

When our first babies were around three months old, everyone was in agreement that we all deserved a night off, dammit.

We expressed fridge-fulls of breast milk and left the Dads in charge.

After pre-dinner cocktails we shared varying levels of anxiety over how the Dads would cope.

  • Would the babies take the bottles?
  • Would they get settled back to sleep?
  • Would their routines be forever disrputed by their negligent mothers indulging in a night out?

We ate dinner and marvelled that we were out in town like real (childless) human beings.

We ordered a few drinks.

One of the six of us (Kind Communications Mum) returned home at a sensible hour.

She has regretted that decision ever since.

The remaining five of us stayed out for “one more.”

Fast forward a few hours and there we were, sitting barefoot at 4am on the pavements outside a nightclub, singing, chain-smoking (none of us smoke) and shouting happily at passers by.

(It could have been worse…unlike Hurrah For Gin’s allegedly “completely fictional” night out, we did at least stay the distance)

http://hurrahforgin.com/2016/10/05/mums-night-out/

I awoke in my spare room at 8am the next day, shuddering, with vague memories of:

  • Downing cocktails out of pineapples
  • Many shots
  • Buying & smoking many cigarettes (all non-smokers)
  • Dancing with a group of what appeared to be young male hispters (they looked roughly aged 12) wearing trendy hats.

The adolescent hipsters had asked us “girls” what we did.

We answered truthfully: Detective/Haematologist/PR company owner/Surgeon/Clinical Psychologist.

They found that answer hilarious and congratulated us on the good joke. (We were puzzled as to what was funny about our jobs and did not realise until later that they assumed we were lying)

Thankfully I had expressed enough milk for 24 hours because that is approximately how long the hangover took to subside to levels where I could contemplate breastfeeding my baby without poisoning him.

I felt as though neat alcohol may be oozing from my pores.

Incidentally, this experience prompted a middle of the night Google Search for the evidence behind the levels of alcohol transmitted via breastmilk.

I found a fascinating post by a dedicated scientist who got herself drunk then analysed the levels of alcohol in her breastmilk every hour and posted her results online.

The results?

Alcohol levels in breast milk negligible even when very drunk.

(Good to know, but I fear the problem is probably less the alcohol content in the breastmilk than the question of why are you looking after a small baby if you are drunk enough to worry about the alcohol levels in your breastmilk?)

Having just quickly searched online again now four years down the line to see if I can find the link to that experiment (I can’t), I am amazed to note how much technology has marched onwards.

There are now test strips available to test your breast milk alcohol level.

Who would have thought it?

I digress.

That First Girls Night Out had achieved legendary status.

There were therefore high hopes for this weekend.

I thought it best to be honest with the others from the very first mention of this night out in the Bought Friends WhatsApp group.

  • I would arrive late as I would be feeding 6 month old baby girl and putting her to bed before leaving
  • I would definitely be driving
  • It would be a miracle if I were there at all, as Long-Suffering Husband did not relish the idea of staying up all night persuading she-who-does-not-drink-milk-from-bottles that she should drink milk from a bottle.

I had no plans for a big night out for the following reasons:

  • I no longer lived in the city centre (having since sold the Beautiful City Centre Duplex Waterfront Flat in exchange for the Perfect Family House in The Perfect Village)
  • Transport in and out of the city was tricky
  • Long-Suffering Husband was away the following day from around 8am
  • I would therefore be alone with three children all Saturday
  • Saturday’s plans included 3 year old’s Rugby Tots class at 9.30 and followed by 2 year old’s Rugby Tots class at 10.30, possibly followed by a local fun day
  • Rugby Tots classes involve an unfortunate amount of expected parental participation – tricky when you are alone with three children even without a hangover

None of these things were in any way compatible with a late night, never mind a drunken night out.

I felt quite smug to have arrived at an age where I could recognise my limitations.

I was therefore very happy with the plan to drive into town late, miss the cocktails, have a civilised dinner with my friends, then get home in time for the 1am breastfeed.

Friday evening: 7pm

The beeping from the WhatsApp group informs me that four of the others have already met in a cocktail bar. I am wearing tracksuit bottoms with sick on them, persuading 3 yo boy and 2 yo boy to go upstairs and brush their teeth. I tell  myself this is okay. I have the youngest baby in the group as well as the most children. I will get there in the end.

Friday evening: 7.15pm

Long-suffering husband to the rescue. He takes the two boys off my hands and does their bedtime routine.

Friday evening: 7.20pm

I consider feeding 6 month old girl and putting her down. I have an irrational attack of guilt about leaving the dishes in case long-suffering husband is up with screaming baby for hours. Therefore I load the dishwasher one-handedly, carrying curious baby girl round the kitchen whilst he reads the boys their bedtime story.

Friday evening: 7.40pm

I finally stop fannying around and feed Baby Girl, reading WhatsApp chat. The late arrival has just found the others after warning them they may not wish to be seen with her inappropriately tight top.

Friday evening: 8pm

Dinner is at 8.15pm. The restaurant is a 45 minute drive away. Baby girl has just gone to sleep, and I am still wearing tracksuit bottoms. I am sorely tempted to put on my pyjamas. I give myself a pep talk.

Friday evening: 8.15pm

Second wind. I have managed to get dressed in skinny jeans, very high heels, jacket, straighten my hair and put makeup on. I do not recognise myself in the mirror. I wave good bye to long-suffering husband. He tells me I look nice and waits for me to walk out the door. I lurk around nervously wondering what I have forgotten and if it is wise to go out, then eventually make a run for it before I change my mind.

Friday evening: 8.30 pm – 9.15pm

I am genuinely having the time of my life.

Not downing shots or dancing on tables…

I am driving on the motorway, ALONE, in the DARK, listening to very, VERY loud music.

Because I can.

Friday evening: 9.15pm – 10.30pm

I arrive. I find the others. I can’t believe I am here! I am eating dinner in a restaurant in town on a Friday night, wearing high heels, with a small handbag.

It’s great.

Friday evening: 10.30pm

Two sudden departures. Apparently Power PR Mum and Sympathetic Psychologist Mum are getting the last train home (both also now moved away from the City Centre to Family Friendly Locations). Who knew the last trains on a Friday night were so early?

Friday evening: 10.45pm

Departure number three. Happy Haematologist Mum can’t stop yawning. I ask her what is wrong – her second child has gone insane in the growing of a tooth.

Friday evening: 11.30pm

We have gone to a cocktail bar, and I have had my token cocktail. I need to leave to get home for the 1am feed.

Kind Communications Mum seems disappointed. She still regrets going home early 4 years ago and missing the “Epic Girls Night Out” and she was hoping to go dancing.

Sarcastic Detective Mum and I cannot be bothered.

Friday evening: 11.50pm

After dropping the last two off at home I join the motorway for my now 20 minute drive home.

Friday: Midnight

STANDSTILL.

A complete, total, standstill of all three lanes of the motorway.

I assumed there was an accident and waited.

Saturday: 12.30am

Still no movement.

Saturday: 1am

I have crawled forwards just enough to find out that this is a PLANNED motorway closure for roadworks.

I try not to lose the plot in the car.

PLANNED, to close the ENTIRE MOTORWAY, at midnight? With no signs warning anyone to take a different route? WTF?

Did they not realise I have Very Important Places to be, i.e. breastfeeding my daughter who would surely be screaming at Long Suffering Husband by now?

Sure enough, a message arrives saying that she is awake, screaming and refusing the bottle.

My stress levels rise.

I find myself screaming at the empty car about how this is totally unacceptable traffic management.

Saturday: 1.30am

I reach the front of the epic queue, which is nothing more than three lanes of angry drivers all stubbornly refusing to give way as we merge. Eventually someone lets me in and we crawl onto the diversion route. I escape and drive through a quiet back route to re-join the motorway.

Saturday: 2.10am

I arrive home, stressed and exhausted.

The house is strangely silent.

I creep upstairs into our room and find Long-Suffering Husband awaiting me.

No sign of her-with-the-giant-lungs.

I am confused.

“Everything alright?”

He is half asleep.

“She screamed refused the bottle. I tried everything, gave up, then messaged you. Then she stopped screaming when she saw the glow of my phone. I put a baby app on, she stared at it and downed the whole bottle.”

Problem solved.

Who would have thought?

Unfortunately my breasts felt like rock-hard painful grenades, ready to explode.

There was no way I was going furtling around in the kitchen sterilising things to express, so despite Long Suffering Husband having miraculously managed to feed her and get her back to sleep, I then woke her back up to feed her anyway.

Saturday: 2.50am

Four hours until all the children will be awake, at least one more night feed to go before then and a day of solo childcare ahead complete with Parental Participation Rugby Tots.

Arrrrgh.

All for a big night out sitting alone on a motorway.

The moral of the story?

Next time – don’t drive.

Just drink.

Weekend Part Two: A Sunny Saturday…

Weekend Part Two: A Sunny Saturday