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.

 

Women at Work: Stay at home mum

Women at Work: Stay at home mum

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This week, the mum I have interviewed has an extremely demanding job that involves long unsociable hours, temperamental work colleagues and is completely unpaid. Yes, she is a stay at home mum (SAHM) or (as my cousin who is also a SAHM likes to say) she is working in the home!

Name: Victoria Whitewood

Current profession: Stay at home mum (SAHM)

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks, Kent

What was your profession before you had children?
Deputy Headteacher

Why did you decide not to return to work?
A few reasons contributed to this:

  • I have loved being at home with my daughter Kitty full time much more than I had thought I would. I had thought I might want to return to work in some capacity, although I definitely knew I would not want to be full time again. As the time drew closer to go back, I knew I didn’t want to.
  • Teaching is not set hours and I didn’t want to go back to marking all hours once I am back at home. Now we have a baby, I want to make sure that my husband Chris and I get some time together of an evening.
  • I can easily go back to teaching at a later date. (Especially if the worrying shortage of teachers continues.)
  • I have a health issue and decided that at this moment, returning to teaching would not be the right thing for us as a family.

How many children do you have?
One.

Briefly describe a typical day…
Sometime between 6-7am we wake up and I get Kitty changed and dressed, head downstairs and get her morning bottle ready. I normally give her to her Dad so he can feed her bottle while I feed our animals (we have cats and rabbits). I try to jump in the shower while Chris is still at home, as Kitty is at that stage where grabbing the shower screen and throwing things into the running water constitutes fun for her (and nobody else).

In the morning we normally do an activity, could be a class or playgroup, but if we aren’t going out then I will try to do a messy play or an activity at home to break up the day for us both. Lunch is sometime between 12-1pm, depending on what time she wakes up. Sometimes she naps in the morning, or sometimes after lunch; her routine isn’t quite set yet. In the afternoon we do lots of play and always lots of listening to music, which is one of Kitty’s favourite things to do; thankfully I have quite a few CDs for her, which keeps it fresh for me!

Dinner about is about 5.30pm and afterwards, we play in living room, but this playtime can be more subdued than earlier in the day as she is often starting to get tired (although sometimes she can suddenly find a ton of energy!).

Bath time every other day at about 7pm; bottle around 7:15pm; and bed time about 7:30pm.

What is the best part of being a SAHM?
Not missing out on anything that my gorgeous girl does. At this moment in time, laughing every day with her is the best thing in the world. She is so funny and loves playing games and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And the worst?
Occasionally losing sight of the fact that I am not just a mum. There are tough times and, when things are tricky, it is easy to get bogged down in it all – especially if there is a severe lack of sleep involved. I had a few days away recently and that has totally reinvigorated me.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it, whether you are returning to work or not. Spend time with other mums, as that support network can make such a difference in the early, often disconcerting days, but also as time goes on. Baby classes are a great way to get out and about. I had some quite tough times with Kitty’s tongue-tie affecting feeding and then she had awful reflux; it would have been easy to stay home and not see people, but getting out definitely made it all seem better. Even being able to hand over my baby to someone else for five minutes made a huge difference. Getting out of the house can be hard, but it is totally worth it, even if you are very late for something.

Do you have any tips for other SAHMs?
Take some time for yourself each week if you can; I know this isn’t always possible for everyone depending on family and/or partner circumstances or support, so it is easy to say, but for me, it makes all the difference. Buddying up with another mum can work to give each other a short break if you don’t have the family support available.

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: Science teacher

Women at Work: Science teacher

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This week we have a post from a busy mum, teacher and blogger, who wishes to remain anonymous.

 

Current profession: Teacher

Town or county you live in: Staffordshire

How did you get in to teaching ?
Once I found out at the age of 10 or 11 that I really couldn’t deal with other people’s bodily fluids, my dreams of becoming a doctor were quickly changed. At the same time, I discovered my quite bossy nature and the thought of 30-odd teenagers being forced to listen to me ramble on for an hour was quite appealing.

To be truthful, my teachers were my rock at a time when all I needed was a place to just be myself. They were always there for me and school was a place where I could develop on a personal and intellectual level the way I wanted to – something that, oddly, I felt unable to do outside of school. I wanted to put back into the system what I’d got out. In my home country, I couldn’t combine my love of languages with my love of science and teach both, so I ended up emigrating to England and teach science here. I’ve always been one for compromises.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
My working day starts at 7am with the half-hour commute to work. By 7.30am I typically collect all the paperwork from my various in-trays, check whether I’ve been put onto the cover list, prepare my lesson resources and catch up with colleagues about student issues.

I then teach five one-hour lessons and a tutor session, with little time in between to have food or pop to the loo at break time. We usually have an after-school club, revision sessions or meetings going on after school, so my day at work usually finishes around 4.30pm and I can collect the children by 5pm. After I have successfully got my baby to sleep, I have to cram in 2-3 hours’ worth of marking, planning and paperwork before it’s time for bed.

What is the best part of your job?
The children. No two days are the same and they always come out with a gem or two during the school day. I also love preparing resources and seeing the children’s faces when their hard work pays off.

And the worst?
Apart from the massive workload, it is probably the knowledge that there are still some people who don’t see all the hard work we put in to make our students as successful as we can. It is disappointing when you do everything in your power to do the best job possible and have some people questioning your competence over issues out of your control.

How many children do you have?
I have two children – a daughter aged 9 and a son, who is 8 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I was still at university with my first, but went back when she was 11 months old. My son was 7 months when I started work again.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It can be stressful, but I just try to be really organised. I have all my son’s lunches batch-cooked and frozen for the week ahead; I put all his clothes for the week in little organiser pockets for each day; and I prepare everyone’s sandwiches the night before. I do the washing exclusively at weekends and my husband and I stick to a strict routine during the week, with set tasks for each of us. I’ve just realised how stressful that sounds, but because we know exactly what needs doing, it actually works rather smoothly.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I have gone back to the same job for a term, but when I was on maternity leave I interviewed for a new job – still in teaching, but a promotion to the next higher position. Money was a big consideration, as was the increased job satisfaction, which comes with greater responsibility.

Who provides childcare for you?
We have organised a childminder. Childcare is by far our biggest cost.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
Yes; all I had to do was fill in a form.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
It has, in a way. I have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day to do my job, so work has to contract to fit around everything else. I also try to use the weekends and the holidays to spend time with my family and work extra efficiently during the week to compensate. I have to be organised and know exactly what I am doing. It helps that I have been teaching for quite a while, so I can put a lesson together pretty quickly.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Make the most of it! Towards the end I did question whether I had done enough with my boy, whether I had spent enough time with my daughter and exposed both to enough experiences. Some things have changed so much since I have been back at work. I stopped breastfeeding and didn’t even realise it would be the last time I fed him one night. So I would say, enjoy every moment. And get your partners to take those pictures.

A well as being a teacher, this multi-tasking mum writes a positive parenting, lifestyle and cooking blog called How to Rock at Parenting.

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.

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.

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.