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Monday, 19 November 2007

Why it is All Worth It

Have been trapped in a nightmarish parallel universe in which I am unable to stop cleaning up projectile vomit from the walls, floors and furniture and I am woken on the hour each night by wailing children, usually covered from head to toe in... you've guessed it, projectile vomit. Oh, the Joys of Parenthood. Those pastoral visions in which you float about in a flowery, fifties-style frock dishing out home-baked gingerbread men seem somehow so naive in the middle of the night as you wring out the third cot sheet of the night over the bath. But I still wished I could stay with the miserable creatures as I instead joined the world of publishing and the media again this morning, which today was busy getting itself into quite a lather over the launch of Amazon's Kindle. Of course, staying out (stupidly) late dancing to celebrate Keely's 36th Birthday on Saturday night didn't do much to relieve the exhaustion caused by the night time hourly sick-clearing. I stand firmly by my philosophy not to let being a parent get in the way of some occasional adult fun, but sometimes, I really do pay the price. But this evening, Eden reminded me of why it is all worth it. She was extemporising over dinner about how much better it would be if one could remain a child forever (I know, existential angst, aged 6) when she remarked, "If you could go back to being a kid again, Mummy, I'd choose you to be my best friend at school, and I'd sit next to you every day and I'd always choose you to sit on Top Table* with me at lunch time, cos I can't imagine having a better friend than you." Sometimes I can't reconcile her version of me ("Best Mummy in the World") with mine ("Crabby, exhausted, left-over-after-work-on-no-sleep Mummy"). I am going to enjoy it while I can, though, because I know it already; I'm going look back at this when she's fifteen and I'm going to cry.

* a privilege to reward good behaviour at Eden's school.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Sick House

The two wee ones, Nath (two and three quarters) and Ava (one), have been sick. Sick, sick, sick. Last night when I walked through the front door, Nath quite literally collapsed into my arms, feverishly hot, and curled his little body, foetus-like, into mine, his damp head sticking to my neck, his breathing loud and rasping. I sat there like that, clasping him close to me, my coat still on, for a good half an hour, while Ava, who was also starting to go down with the same nasty cold, stood shakily, clinging on to my knees and crying loudly, competing for a cuddle. As I sat there I honestly felt I might cry for the love of them. And for the guilt I felt for having been away all day. And for the feeling of not knowing which one to pick up and comfort first. There is only one good thing about sick children, and that is that they become very, very cuddly and affectionate. Actually, there's one other good thing: they make you suddenly feel like a healing goddess, as if by your mere presence you can make them feel better. When I walked through the front door tonight, Nathan ran up to me, full of beans, asking for a lolly. How things can improve in the space of 24 hours. That's the great thing about kids; they can really bounce back.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tres Bella

Last week was the Week Of Waiting. Waiting for my brother's first child to enter the world; for my kids' first cousin on my side of the family to emerge. We were all bloody impatient about the arrival, so goodness knows how impatient my bro, Matt, and wife, Becky were feeling. On Monday night a gang of us took our kids out to the firework display in Crystal Palace, where we met up with Matt and Becky and a group of their pals. It was funny observing them as they poured scorn on the poor standard of the display with their mates, while the Mums and Dads amongst us simply vicariously enjoyed the excitement of our kids, who are all still young enough to enjoy fireworks of pretty much any variety, especially if it means staying up really late and standing in a field in the dark with all their schoolfriends and eating popcorn. We whooped and cheered almost every firework, whilst the non-parent gang started to boo in disappointment. It highlighted to me just how their lives were about to change so radically - and so much for the better. But that was Monday night, and they were still living on The Other Side. Looking back, it was ironic, as apparently Becky's contractions had already started, and by the next day they were well on their way to parenthood. Early on Wednesday morning, after a wonderfully straightforward labour (thank goodness, and lucky for her!), Becky gave birth to the most beautiful little baby girl, Abigail Bella. My brother rang me in the middle of the night to tell me, with that typical new father tone in his voice, part euphoric, part adrenalin-fuelled, part phased, part excited, part wonderment. It was lovely to hear. Holding my new niece in my arms later that day I was so delighted for them, so in love with her, so .... well, just so relieved that the birth part was over, that Becky had got through it relatively unscathed, that the baby was OK and that finally, now, they might just begin to understand and to know the earth-shatteringly positive difference that being a parent can bring to your life. Fireworks will never be the same again. They'll just always be wonderful, even if they are just a few squiddly ones in the back garden, because they'll always be seen through the eyes of the children.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

House Husband Heaven

This blog is all about being a mum of three and somehow holding down a job in publishing at the same time. Every now and then I mention a chap called Paul, who is my husband of thirteen years, and who has taken the route less travelled as a house husband, at first rather begrudgingly - for largely economic reasons rather than by personal choice - and latterly with a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication and energy and humility. It has undoubtedly been difficult for all of us living this reversal of traditional roles, and I think both of us have done our fair share of moaning, but it has also been rather wonderful. Our children have spent a great deal of time with their Dad, which is something many of us didn't get as children; I've been enabled to continue to follow a career that I love; Paul has learned how to cook (finally, at 50); I have forgotten how to use a washing machine (a liberation with which I am quite delighted), and through flexible working hours and a four day working week I still also manage to squeeze in a considerable amount of time with my kids while - just about - managing to continue to pay the mortgage. The challenge for Paul has been to find some work which he finds worthwhile and fun and which he can fit in around the need for him to manage the majority of the childcare. Last week he started just such a job, working part-time for a friend who runs a gardening business. You should have seen him on Friday morning as he virtually skipped down the drive in his work clothes. And later, when he returned home, all sweaty and muddy, he was so, so happy it nearly made me cry. It brought home to me how much he has sacrificed to stay at home with the children. Work can give you a sense of purpose and definition in the world. It is very empowering to be free to go and do work that you enjoy. Paul hasn't had that for quite a while, but he's given me the ability to go off to work unworried, knowing my children are in the best and safest hands they can be in. And now, just on Fridays when I am at home with the kids, he'll get a little slice of the same.