Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

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I was inspired to write this post after the J had a crying fit because she didn’t want Mummy to put her to bed. She only wanted Daddy. And I have to say, it hurt my feelings (I may have the beginnings of PMT today, but I still feel this is a justified response).

We as Mothers don’t often have to play second-best with our children. In the traditional family model, it was the Mum who primarily looked after the kids (and so got to be the favourite) – it was certainly like that when I was growing up. These days things are very different and have certainly changed for the better in terms of shared parental duties etc. I always wanted Grump and I to have equal responsibility for the J and he is a very ‘hands on’ dad (I don’t like this phrase, as it implies that being ‘hands on’ is extra special and not just part of his job as a father, but you get my gist).

As Grump is a teacher, he has more time off than the average father to spend with our daughter. This works well for me, especially with freelancing, as it means I can take on more work in the school holidays, with free childcare to boot!

However, I have noticed that during those times when I am working more and Grump is in charge, the J goes off me. She constantly asks for Daddy, runs to him for cuddles and just seems disinterested in me.

She did this once before at around age 1. I vividly remember being at a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party that had a children’s entertainer. All the Mums were sat on the floor with the children, singing and joining in and the dads were stood at the side chatting. I tried to sit with the J, but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted Daddy. And so I took on the role of a spectator with the other Dads and felt really left out. It hurts when you are not wanted. Granted it was nice to have a break and scoff down some party food, but I was embarrassed when every time I tried to pick up or cuddle my child she cried. I had spoken to a friend about this problem beforehand and she came up to me after the party and said that she had no idea how bad it was. Of course, over time things got better. Grump went back to work and Mummy was favourite again. But that party always sticks in my mind. I wonder if this is how many Dads feel on a regular basis?

As she has got older (now almost 17 months), the J has become more confident and now has close relationships with Grandma, Granny and her childminder. She is happy to be left with them, as well as myself and Grump. As her affections are split between more people, she tends to be happy with whoever is happy to play with, feed or cuddle her.

Over the last week or so, Grump has broken up on school holidays and he has become the firm favourite. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that he gives her more treats (fruit juice from his glass, chocolate etc), whereas I am perhaps a bit more strict (water only!!).

Tonight, it was me who spent 20 minutes singing songs with her, throwing balls down the hall way, and getting splashed during bath time. When we tried to get her ready for bed she kept running off and wouldn’t get dressed. Grump was unsuccessful at getting on her PJs and he admitted to me that it had taken him half an hour to get her dressed this morning. I decided to show him what I normally do, which involves firmly holding her down and putting clothes on her.

She cried a little, but nothing major and then Grump put his arms out for a cuddle and said “Horrible mummy”. Now I know he was joking, but the J is taking everything in at the moment and understands a lot. She looked at me with a heartbreaking stare as if to say, “I don’t like you”. Then she wouldn’t come to me for a cuddle. I had to tell Grump to leave the room and force a crying child to be cuddled until she had her milk and settled down. Not fun at all.

The only way I can describe that feeling is when you were younger and you fancied/had a massive crush on a boy, and you found out that they didn’t like you back. That sad sinking feeling. Your affections are not returned.

But when you’ve carried a baby for 9 months and gone through labour, you expect to get the best cuddles and kisses from your child – not Daddy who didn’t go through any pain (apart from a squashed hand). It’s not fair.

Now I’m sitting on the sofa, feeling put out. The answer…?

There isn’t one, except the knowledge that at some point the tables will turn and I will be her favourite again. Although it makes me sad to think that Grump will feel like this at some point, or has done in the past. Being number two just isn’t fun. A big shout out to all the Dads or Mums out there who know how I feel. But when they do run to you for a cuddle or desperately call you name, that feeling is so amazing and special that it makes all the other tough times worthwhile.

 

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Women at Work: Customer Services & Business Owner

Women at Work: Customer Services & Business Owner

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This week we meet Becky, another busy mum (are there any of us who aren’t busy?) who works part-time in customer services as her ‘day job’, as well as running her own meal-planning company in her spare time!

Name: Becky Hulme

Current profession: Day job in Customer Services. Every other moment: Creator of Mums Meal Planner (mumsmealplanner.co.uk)

Town or county you live in: Near Blackpool

How did you get into being Creator of Mums Meal Planner?
While feeding baby no. 2 at approx 3am one morning, I was wondering what to make for tea that day, when I had the idea for Mums Meal Planner. I’ve always liked a challenge and there it was: create a business and make it work – eeek!

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I work part time at my ‘day job’, so on a work day it’s up early and prepare for the challenge of getting everyone fed, washed, dressed and out of the door in the hope I get to work on time! Once at work, I have a cup of tea (a hot one) then start work. I deal with customer enquiries and whatever is required. Come home time, it’s another rush to get home to make sure I get there before nursery closes. Once we’re home, family time closely followed by bed time, then I start again with work for Mums Meal Planner. Anything from creating menus, to social media posts.

What is the best part of your job?
The creation of Mums Meal Planner was exciting. I had input into each and every aspect of the business, from website colours to email marketing. I get such a buzz each time I have a new customer. I’m looking forward to when I can afford to make it my full-time job, which will (hopefully) allow me the flexibility to work around my children.

And the worst?
The business is in the very early stages at the moment, so it’s hard work holding down a job, looking after my family and also doing everything needed for Mums Meal Planner. I could really do with another ‘me’ for a few days a week. (Not sure my husband would agree though!)

How many children do you have?
Two.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
My eldest was five months when I went back and my youngest was nine months.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It was hard and enlightening. I realised I’d changed, but wasn’t quite sure who I was. I still loved work, but also had a little person at home that I couldn’t bear to be away from. Having a baby made time so much more precious. It made me better at my job, as time was a luxury I didn’t have anymore and I made every second count at home with my family.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to the same job. I’d been there since the company started and a career change didn’t enter my head. After having baby no 2, I knew I couldn’t go back as the Manager, as I couldn’t give the role the time it deserved, but I still needed to be challenged.

Who provides childcare for you?
Grandparents and nursery.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I am lucky to have an understanding boss, who is also a family man. He was very accommodating when we discussed my working hours after my return to work.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
YES! Before it was work 1st, 2nd & last (hubby came somewhere in the middle). Now, it’s family 1st. They’re only small once. You can always make more money, but you can never get the time back.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Try to enjoy every moment. It’s hard, hard work and a constant fact-finding mission, but you will be OK. (And baby & toddler groups are a God send!)

Women at Work: Marketing & PR Manager

Women at Work: Marketing & PR Manager

 

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Nicola with her son RLT, who is 10 months old

Ever wondered what it’s like to work part-time in marketing and PR, as well as raise a child? First-time mum Nicola tells all about her return to work after having her son…

 

Name: Nicola Crabstix from iamcrabstix.com

Current profession: Marketing & PR Manager

Town or county you live in: Durham

How did you get into Marketing & PR?
I was originally a marketing and student recruitment manager where I was in charge of marketing and sales for an education establishment. However, the business strategy changed five years in; we went from recruiting students regionally to nationally and my job got MASSIVE. Like 55 hours a week massive. So they split the department in two and I took the marketing side as it was more strategic and a better fit for what I prefer to do!

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
There isn’t one! Depending on where we are in the recruitment cycle I could be writing copy, redeveloping a website, sitting in meetings to plan new courses, project planning recruitment campaigns or art directing photography for recruitment campaigns.

What is the best part of your job?
That no day is the same!

And the worst?
Always being the bad guy. Because with marketing there are infinite possibilities of what you can do, everyone has ideas, but sadly my job is to do what has maximum impact within the resource we have. Because many of the things I do can’t be seen such as SEO, I tend to spend half of my life justifying my existence. I take it to heart every single time too, as I know how much effort I’ve put into my job and the sacrifices I’ve made.

How many children do you have?
I have one, a little mini gent called RLT. He is 10 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
RLT was eight and a half months. I went back on 3rd March 2017.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
I’m still adjusting. My maternity leave cover vanished about three weeks before I returned and my graphic designer left while I was off, so I’ve got a massive black hole of 10 months of information. It’s been so hard as I have to hit deadlines, but there is 10 months strategy missing. I could cry most days.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to the same job. Work have been pretty great approving my flexible working, I’d consider early retirement if it were an option, but not a new career.

Who provides childcare for you?
I work full-time but compressed hours over four days, my mum has RLT three of those and my partner has him the other day. He is a journalist, so having weekend cover is great for his business and also good for our family!

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
My boss was great; I discussed flexible working with him informally and he agreed instantly. I never had a ‘return to work’ meeting that I know other people had. I’m not sure why.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
I tried to not get so frustrated by it and leave it at work. That lasted about a week. My third week back someone had a go at me for simply doing my job and said I’d come in to something at the end because I was off ‘bearing children’ and made me feel like I wasn’t committed to my job because I’d chosen to have a family. I called in sick the next day; I got very upset by that.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy every second. You don’t have to go out and spend loads of money, just appreciate the everyday things. Oh and get a cleaner, you’ve got better things to do!

 

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Nicola’s advice for new mums is to enjoy maternity leave and get a cleaner!

 

Women at Work: Engineer

Women at Work: Engineer

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Name: Stephanie Jenkinson

Current profession: Engineer

Town or county you live in: Kent

How did you get in to engineering?
I loved physics and maths during school, plus was surprisingly good at it. I also love learning how things work and Mechanical Engineering seemed at the time like a logical next step. I went to a defence university on the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border, so my second passion then became defence and security. I love the feeling that I might actually be making a difference

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I am currently on a secondment doing more of an administrative role for the senior management. But before this, a typical day would involve designing items and working with the workshop staff to see them built. I would also be involved in research projects and conducting explosive trials on site.

What is the best part of your job?
They occasionally let me blow things up! Being involved in making a difference to the defence and security of the UK.

And the worst?
I hate being bored and working for the civil service seems to have two speeds – rushed off your feet or barely enough work to get through the day.

How many children do you have?
One daughter.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
She was about 7/8 months.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
I actually cut my maternity leave short; I was supposed to take 11 months off, but I found I was starting to chomp at the bit with wanting to have adult conversations that didn’t revolve around children. I adore my NCT and other mum friends, and there is no way I would have got through the past 15 months without them. However, I also spent a really long time at university (eight years). I am highly qualified and, on the whole, love my job and was desperate to go back to it. I wanted something that was just for me. While I was off on maternity leave (and to a certain extent the months leading up to it) I ceased to become the qualified person that I am and suddenly just became a mum. Hats off to anyone who does do the stay-at-home mum thing, I so admire you. However, I am aware that I do not have the patience for it and honestly thought (and still do) we would all be better off if I returned to work.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to a different job, which has been a change. It has been fascinating to learn about how the whole organisation works and I think this will make me more efficient and more aware of what I am doing when I go back to the science. I am now looking for a job back in the science and technology areas, so I can use my brain fully. The past six months have been great to ease me back into working.

Who provides childcare for you?
I am very fortunate to have gained a place at a charity nursery that is also conveniently located a short walk from where I live. It has made returning to work possible financially, as it considerably cheaper than the other nurseries around our area. I have recently become a trustee of the nursery as well to try and help them with their upcoming relocation to a new site.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I am exceedingly fortunate to work for the civil service, so returning to work was completely on my terms. Due to accrued leave I was able to return to work three days per week for three months, but get paid full time and use annual leave for two days per week. I am now back up to full-time hours (again, I wanted to do more, so it was my decision), but I work four days in the office (with an extra hour tagged on each day) and half a day at home with my daughter one day per week. I still use my annual leave to have days at home with my daughter when I want to. Again, I am very lucky that my job allows me the flexibility to be able to take time off, as and when I want, and to be able to work from home, but most importantly understand that my family must and always will come first now.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Yes! As much as I would still love to be able to do the extra bits and pieces that meant staying late, or working an occasional weekend. My time with my family is precious, so when home time comes along I am out of that door and on my way to nursery to pick her up – something that I look forward to all day.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Get yourself a good group of parent/mum friends. There are plenty of free groups around, if you didn’t do any pre- or post-natal courses. Go along to them, find likeminded individuals and make friends (I know this is easier said than done. I struggle massively with this due to anxiety, but for my daughter’s sake I forced myself to do it). I would have been lost without the friends I have made through courses and playgroups – just make sure they have similar views to you on parenting. They have been a source of comfort when my husband doesn’t understand those nitty gritty things that play on your mind. I have a lovely group of friends who I know I can call on for anything (including babysitting frequently, as I have no family nearby) and I hope they know that I would also do anything for them!

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Women at Work

Women at Work

I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts called Women at Work. Each one will take the form of a short interview with a working mum. I faced many challenges when going back to work after having the J and I wanted to share my own and other women’s experiences in different job roles. I also want to highlight the different options out there and to bring up some of the things mothers go through when thinking about their new working arrangements. To kick things off, I’ve answered my own interview questions.

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I don’t have any photos of me ‘at work’, so here’s a nice one of me on my 30th when I was about five months pregnant, but could just about pull off looking glam. 

Georgina Probert – freelance journalist

How did you get in to journalism?
I studied English Literature and History & Theory of Art at University and, as part of my degree course, undertook a three-month internship at a contemporary art magazine. I loved the process of creating a magazine, from conception to printing, and realised that was what I wanted to do.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
Now that I am freelance, no day is the same. On a work day, I get up early with my daughter and get her dressed, fed and off to childcare. I usually make myself a coffee and start work in my office at home. Sometimes, I go in to my local high street and work in a coffee shop. There is something comforting about being around people and I am very good at tuning out background noise. I also find that there are too many distractions at home, such as washing, cleaning and looking in the fridge (I do this a lot!).

What is the best part of your job?
The flexibility: being able to choose who I work for and when.

And the worst?
The uncertainty of how much money I will bring in each month and having periods with no work. This then leads me to panic and say yes to everything I’m offered, which means I have crazy busy times, too.

How many children do you have?
One daughter called Imogen or ‘the J’ on my blog, who is 14 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I took on some freelance work when she was eight months old, but I didn’t properly go back until she was about a year.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
Exciting, stressful, challenging, but all in a good way. I think it was more about changing career than being away from my daughter. Very selfishly, I like having a purpose other than wife, mother and housekeeper.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
Before I got pregnant I was working for an interiors magazine in London. I decided not to return to my old job, as the cost and time spent commuting just wouldn’t work with a young child.

Who provides childcare for you?
My mother-in-law looks after the J two days a week and, as my workload is increasing, she will also be going to a childminder one day each week. My Mum also gives us ad-hoc babysitting – we are very lucky to have so much support.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I had already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to return to my old job, so there wasn’t any negotiating (apart from with my husband about whether or not to try freelancing). Returning to work was easier than I thought it would be in some ways, but it is more of a challenge juggling work, my daughter, and the general chores/life admin that come with being a grown up.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Yes, 100%. I am much more efficient now that I’ve had a child. And I’m less worried about the pressures of work. Perhaps because I am my own boss, but also because there are things in life that are so much more important than whether your boss/colleagues/clients like you. I also work harder, mainly because my time is more precious these days, but also because I am just starting out as a freelancer and want to build up my client base, so need to make a good impression.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Don’t jump to hand in your notice. Wait until you really have to make that decision. Speak to your company and discuss flexible working, even if you think they won’t be open to it, it never hurts to ask. And if what they offer doesn’t work for you, think about a career change or look for a company that does offer flexible hours. Just because you want to go part-time, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your career.

Why 13 months is my favourite age

Why 13 months is my favourite age

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Like mother, like daughter – I always knew she would have a shoe obsession from an early age!

So it turns out, I’m not really a baby person. They are cute, but also quite boring. They just don’t do much. I have only recently come to realise this, as I am absolutely loving the J at the moment. She is almost 14 months and she is so much fun. She’s just started walking and she’s trying her best to talk (it’s mostly random sounds, but she really goes for it with the baby babble as if she is having a proper conversation).

Her personality is starting to come through, which is slightly unnerving as she really is her mother’s daughter – we are talking tantrums, mood swings and hanger. She is fascinated with everything and has this pure, ecstatic joy when she likes something, such as going on the swings, playing with her best dog pal Alfie, and getting a biscuit. There is something pretty special about watching your child discover the world. The crazy thing is, I know that she is hitting all the normal milestones at the normal times, but every time she learns something new, I feel like she is some sort of child genius and I am so amazed by her. She has this thirst for life, which is infectious.

The bond she has with both sets of grandparents is just lovely to watch. She wants to spend time with them and they seem to love being with her. They have that same sense of joy at watching her learn. It is almost as if they haven’t had children of their own and are experiencing it all for the first time. We all sit there, getting excited about the fact that she pointed at the dog and said “woo woo”. (Ignoring the fact that she also pointed at the chair and said the same thing.) She must be a bright! A child-genius in the making!

Typically, this period of fun has coincided with me working almost full-time and Grump being on Easter holidays – so he is off having great fun with the J and I am slaving away in the office. To be honest, I can’t complain. I love being back at work, and although it is tiring, I feel like I have a higher purpose. I really like being part of a team again and I’m finding pride in being my own boss, bringing in a bit of extra cash (and planning how to spend it), managing my own invoices and getting advance bookings.

I know that freelancing can be tough and I certainly found that out when I had two and a bit months with not much work. Plus the hours can be unsociable – I stayed up working until 11.30pm the other night, because the client didn’t send me the work until 8pm and I had to finish it that night (if you are a non-parent reading this, 11.30pm is VERY late for tired mummies and daddies to go to bed. In fact, 10.30pm is late. My ideal bedtime is 9.30pm and if I’ve had a really busy day 9pm. Oh how times have changed!). I also find that I do bits of work at the weekends and on my ‘days off’ (I’ve put this in speech marks as it may be called a day off, but I’m looking after a now fully-mobile toddler, so it can’t really be considered a break). But I’m enjoying the work, the responsibility and the flexibility that being freelance brings.

But back to the main subject – the best age so far. I’m sure as the years go by there will be other ages that I love and there are elements of each stage that have been fun, frustrating and bloody hard. I miss those lazy days of cuddling your newborn baby on the sofa, watching endless episodes of Downton Abbey/Games of Thrones/(insert favourite box-set here), drinking hot chocolate and ordering Grump to bring me things because I was breastfeeding and couldn’t move. I liked taking the J to baby sensory and watching her lay on the floor (not rolling over or crawling away) and staring up in wonder at the pretty lights and floaty mobiles. I liked watching her learn to crawl and discovering the different tastes of baby rice, puree and solid foods (now she only eats sweetcorn, peas and blueberries – and she will not be spoon fed).

All of these things I liked, but at this age, right now, I am so in love with my little girl. In the past, every now and again, I would get a moment where my heart melted and I felt this surge of love for her. I get those moments every day. Perhaps it is amplified, because I am at work from 9am-5.30pm and so the time first thing in the morning and in the evening is precious? But she is constantly surprising me, making me laugh and showing me her new skills. She seems so much cuter, more fun, more herself.

She has suddenly gone from baby to child. It is as if she has found herself and is loving it. When she catches her reflection in the mirror and gives herself an almost flirty look. When she hears music and starts to do her funny little bobbing dance. When she knows she is about to do something that she’s not supposed to and she turns to look at me and gives me a cheeky, knowing grin, and then does it anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, having a child with a big personality means that she also goes big when she’s in a bad mood. And my goodness, she lets you know if she’s not happy. Things that upset her include:

  • Having her nappy changed

  • Being given food she doesn’t feel like eating

  • Having anything taken away from her (toys, stones, the dog’s ball, dirt she picks up from the floor)

  • Pointing at something and you not bringing her the correct thing right away

  • Getting dressed, undressed, basically any removal of clothes

  • Having her face and hands wiped (I think this is true for all children, though)

And sometimes, there’s just nothing wrong at all and she throws herself down on the floor in a rage as if the whole world is ending. I thought tantrums didn’t start until they hit two years old? But I wouldn’t change her for the world, even if it made my life a bit easier. So here’s to enjoying motherhood – it’s only taken me 13 months, but I can finally say that I’m properly enjoying it… for now

The five stages of buying your first children’s music CD

The five stages of buying your first children’s music CD

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Yes, some of us still buy CDs to listen to in the car. Credit: Mpho Mojapelo/unsplash.com

The J has spent the last year of her life listening to a bit of Radio 2 (first thing on my clock radio and at mealtimes), but mostly Kisstory when we are in the car. For those of you who do not have a DAB digital radio, unlucky for you. Kisstory is the most amazing mix of old-school garage, pop, RnB, etc. Basically all the songs that were in the clubs when I was a teenager. But, seeing as I don’t want the J’s first words to be “gangsta”, “flava” or “thong”, I decided to buy her a children’s CD for the car. After purchasing said CD, I went through what can only be likened to the five stages of grief (not in the proper order) when listening to it. Here they are:

Stage 1: Anger

The utter horror at how annoying listening to children’s songs are – bring back Kisstory, I don’t care if my baby can rap before she can talk!

Stage 2: Denial

I do not like this CD (or do I?). I think I can blank it out… la la la la. Then all of a sudden you are surprised at how many of the words you know and how fun it is to sing along. I should also add embarrassment when you wind down the window in public or are in a traffic jam and get caught doing to the actions to Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Stage 3: Bargaining

How about 10 minutes of baby songs and then 10 minutes of Kisstory? Or baby songs until she falls asleep and then Kisstory all the way…

Stage 4: Depression

Ok, so listening to baby CDs doesn’t make you depressed, but you do feel miserable at the annoying repetition in each song and the stupid happy lady’s voice (who is also Australian on this particular CD).

Stage 5: Acceptance (the best one)

The utter joy when you see your child smiling, clapping and doing the actions to Wind the Bobbin Up – it was worth it after all.

Baby’s first birthday: it’s their party, but you can cry if you want to

Baby’s first birthday: it’s their party, but you can cry if you want to

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Let them eat cake! Credit: Stephanie McCabe/unsplash.com

Can you remember your first birthday party? No, me neither. It’s a very special day for us as parents, we kept a little human alive for a whole year – that’s pretty impressive and should be celebrated. But why do we go to all that stress and effort when, let’s face it, our child doesn’t really understand what’s going on? It is nice to make a fuss for yourself and for friends and family, and we all love to brag a bit on social media, but is it really worth the expense and stress?

Let them eat cake

For starters there’s the cake. I have fond memories of all the amazing cakes my Mum used to make. But actually, I don’t really remember them. I just look back at old photographs. There was the hedgehog one with Kit Kat spikes and I’m sure many of you had the one with a Barbie in the middle and the cake was her skirt. There’s no way I have the time or the inclination to make a cake that epic. Perhaps a fun job to delegate to Granny? In fact, I asked my Mum to make a cake for the J’s birthday and she agreed. I’ve since found out that she’s making a plain fruit cake and has asked her friend to make the proper cake. I think she has wised up to the hassle/pressure of icing and decorating.

On another note, we have tried really hard to keep the J from eating too much sugar and salt. I know at some point she will try cake/sweets/crisps and fizzy pop, but is it fair to make her a lovely cake, let her blow out the candles and then not let her eat any? I’d definitely get the hanger if someone did that to me! Should I make a separate baby-friendly cake for the children (when I say I, what I actually mean is get someone else to make) or is that just being a bit too fussy? I feel like it is way too fussy and I don’t have time for that shizz. Obviously when your kids are older they will no doubt be eating lots of cake. But a one year old? I tend to think that if they are only going to have a little taste then bake a full-fat, full-sugar, proper tasty one and let the adults enjoy it. We deserve it!

Who do you invite?

When you start thinking about who you would like to invite to your child’s first birthday party, the guest list can grow at an alarming rate. There’s your close family, friends who have babies/kids, NCT couples and their babies, new friends from baby classes/playgroup with babies, extended family (I’m talking our aunties, uncles and cousins), godparents and well-meaning work colleagues and all of a sudden you’ve got 100 people and need to hire a hall. Basically, it’s mine and Grump’s fault for being too darn popular.

Seeing as we don’t have the budget to hire a portaloo, let alone the village hall (totes my fault for launching freelance career and not having enough work…yet), we’ve decided to have a small gathering for the J’s birthday, with our parents, my brother, Grump’s sister and their partners (and the J’s new little cousin). I’m planning a chilled afternoon with a bit of cake and some presents (although my parents have informed me that we should also provide finger sandwiches and crisps, or we are just being rude).

Then, because all of my NCT friends are having gatherings/parties for their children and I felt like a mean old scrooge, I’ve decided to invite them all over for some cake (I bought this one from Sainsbury’s) and to play with the J’s toys, which I know she hates. She will probably sit in the corner sulking and giving them all evils, while five sugar-crazed one-year-olds run riot in my living room. (I’ve written this for dramatic effect – love you guys and your babies and the J loves sharing her toys too…).

Present and correct

Then there’s the present etiquette? If, like me, you’ve got lots of friends who have had babies in the last 18 months, who do you buy for? I’ve worked out that I have around 15 people I could potentially buy a present for if I was being mega generous. And how much do you spend on each child? One of my pals whose little boy is a few months older than the J told me that she had at least seven birthday parties last year. She set a budget of £10 per child, but that’s still £70! Now that she knows who she needs to buy for next year she is going to stock up in the January sales and get toys on 2 for 1 deals. That is savvy parenting! I probably sound stingy, but when you’ve been on maternity pay for months, or if you choose to be a SAHM, money is a little tighter than when you worked up in London full time and would happily spend £4.50 on a fruit smoothie from Crush and eat lunch at Pret every other day.

I have chosen a little plastic tea set for the J that was only £10 from ELC. She gets so spoiled by our families (I’m going on their generosity at Christmas) that I don’t feel the need to buy her lots of expensive gifts. However, after setting my budget of £10, I have since gone on to buy her a unisex puzzle (it’s got tractors on it and ‘boy’ stuff) and some 12-18 months clothes from Sainsbury’s, because I cannot say no to their cute colour-and-pattern combos. Total birthday spend: under £30.

Celebrate parenthood

Am I being a Scrooge? Maybe. Perhaps if we had more disposable income, I’d be up for a big party and lots of pressies. But I also don’t want a spoiled child. Or a hyper sugar-high baby who won’t sleep. I’m not having a go at people who go big for their baby’s first birthday. Good for you! I just don’t like the idea of parents feeling that they have to organise something for other children and keep other parents happy. This is your special day (OK officially it is your child’s special day, but YOU deserve a party). In fact, what about an alternative to the traditional first birthday party? How about a party for the parents to celebrate getting through their child’s first year? It could involve a long lie in, full English breakfast, a massage and drinking copious amounts of Prosecco with your pals and then dancing the night away to some old-skool classics, among other treats. I never got a ‘push present’ (to be fair, I find the notion of this slightly ridiculous. Surely the push present is the baby?), so maybe an expensive piece of jewellery. Oh wait, I’ve not been working for the past year and all our money has gone on Aptamil and Pampers… scrap that.

Whether you are going the whole hog with a proper party or just having something a bit more intimate with family, it is important to not to get stressed or overwhelmed and to focus on the reason you are celebrating. Your little bundle of joy is having their very first birthday. Hopefully a wonderful time that is the start of many great years to come. If you have the time, make a nice cake (and finger sandwiches, obvs), decorate your home/hall/function room with balloons and banners, choose a pretty card and fun present (or anything that will keep them quiet for five minutes) and take lots of photos, so that when your child is all grown up they can look back on their first birthday with fond memories.

Grumblings of a Granny

Grumblings of a Granny

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This is not actually my mother, but I thought it would annoy her to include a photo of a ‘Granny’ as an old lady! Pic credit: Alex Harvey/unsplash.com

Preface

My Mum, the J’s Granny has expressed an interest in writing a guest blog post for me. I have decided to let her write what she wants, even though most of it is a passive-aggressive dig at me and my mothering skills. We have come to a happy-ish conclusion that she will continue to interfere/nag me and say things like, “We didn’t do that in my day” and I will tell her to sod off when it gets too much. It seems to be working for now. So here is her first-ever blog post, titled Grumblings of a Granny by Granny Pip (have no idea why she is Pip, this is not her name, her name is Jane…).

Grumblings of a Granny

What a wonderful gift a grandchild is. I thought that as a trained Nursery Nurse (now well retired) I would be well equipped to cope as a new Granny. How wrong could I be. So much seems to have changed in the intervening years, for example:

  • Sleeping: No longer do you put your baby to bed in a cot with warm blankets and covers. Everyone seems to use these grow bags with no covers at all. I grew tomatoes in a grow bag!

  • The pram: I was looking forward to proudly pushing my grandchild around the village in a Silver Cross, a good solid upright pram that is built to last. Oh no, G had her mind set on a three-wheeled, all-terrain contraption that seems to do everything in every position for every age. However, I find kerbs are a nightmare and it leaves lots of mud in the back of my car when folded up (that in itself is quite an achievement). To be fair, you would have never got a Silver Cross in a car.

  • Bottles: Well that can’t have changed much, I thought. Dream on. We made up the bottles in the morning for the day ahead and kept them in the fridge, which is definitely not recommended now. G has an expensive machine that makes up a bottle when required, heats the water to the exact temperature, mixes the milk powder and produces the perfect bottle ready to use. Pity it doesn’t wash the bottles up as well and make the tea! Now that would be handy.

  • Snacks: These are another eye opener. In my day (she hates me saying that) a snack was a Farleys rusk and not much else. Now you can get all types of puffs, biscuits, wafers, etc, in all flavours and shapes. I have found one I rather like, a carrot-flavoured stick thing that looks like a Wotsit. I had to try them first and unfortunately made my way through half the packet before J got a look in. And why is it, when the J has lunch at my house it happens to be spaghetti bolognese, which she duly flicks across the room in all directions, landing on my white table cloth. Thankfully, a spot of Vanish got her out of that one.

I have so many stories and so little space. But I will say I am loving having a grandchild and all that it entails, and I promise to listen and learn (again) how to bring up a child.