Thursday, 28 April 2016
The mornings never quite go as I’d like, or hope. While I have visions of six children and a baby in his highchair sitting around the breakfast table laughing gaily as they eat breakfast in a relaxed and cheery fashion the reality falls very short of this. It takes five or six attempts to gently rouse my children from their deep slumber every school morning, the sort of deep slumber that never seems to occur at the weekend, before the fishwife in me leaps out and starts roarin, “GET UP NOW OR YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE!” We’re not off to a good start. As the kids trundle down the stairs some more happily than others, there is shoving and shouts of “leave me alone” and “maaaaaaam he’s annoying me!” Meanwhile I’m rushing around the kitchen calling random children’s names to come and collect their cereal toast and juice. My ever independent two year old insists “I do it mineself”. I can see what’s going to happen but I can’t stop it….
I mop up the orange juice as quickly as I can before he takes notions of “jumping up and down in muddy puddles” and move quickly to console my snot filled nose bubble blowing baby boy who is grizzling miserably in his high chair. Like his father, he is not a great patient! Next I move on to trying to cajole the troops up the stairs to clean their teeth before they head to school. It is quite incredible the amount of distractions that can be encountered en route to the bathroom. Several more fish wife impressions later they’re down the stairs and almost ready to leave the house.
My final morning battle begins and a disagreement ensues as to whether or not a coat is necessary. My insistence it’s freezing is shot down as ridiculous, but, as I am mammy, they have to do what they’re told. To the tune of “hurry, hurry hurry” most of the kids put on their coats and get ready to head out the door. In scenes reminiscent of Home Alone 2 I do a head count and realise there’s someone missing. It’s the curly haired one. I turn around to find him coatless, standing about three feet away from the coat rack , holding his hand out. “Why are you not wearing your coat” I say, in a less than calm fashion. “I’m getting it” he replies, “I’m just using the force”. I look at him for a few minutes incredulously…….…….before I burst out laughing. Ah well, at least the tension is gone and tomorrow is Friday! #starwarsistakingovermylife #morningchaos #mamatude
Monday, 25 April 2016
The longer evenings are here but school’s not quite out for summer. With another two months plus for the primary schools still to go, homework is still very much on the agenda. Doe eyed children gaze wistfully out the window these evenings, in between giving their brothers and sister a sly dig, longing to be free with their lightsabers and dreaming of a galaxy far far away. To help make homework a little less stressful and hopefully get it finished that little bit more quickly I am sharing my top five tips for taking on the time of day that we all dread…….
1. Make sure the kids have a snack, get changed, use the bathroom etc, to ensure whatever little opportunities to escape the task in hand that might be proposed by unwilling participants, are taken care of in advance!
2. Decide prior to beginning, who is doing their homework where, before any arguments start. If, like me, you have more children than tables, some of your kids may need to share a homework space. Use the force, or your mammy inside info if you prefer, to know which pairings are likely to result in least distraction and prove to be most productive.
3. Make sure the homework area is as clutter free as possible. A clear desk leads to a clear mind (and those of you who know me can stop laughing now). It will also help you avoid being called 20 times in the space of 5 minutes to locate a “missing” maths book which is just buried beneath the weekend newspapers!
4. In this house, stop – starting homework doesn’t really work. Where possible try to allow for a straight run at the homework. Set a realistic target time for the amount involved and don’t allow your child to go over that. Explain in advance that you will be stopping them after 45 minutes, 1 hour or whatever time you have set and stick to it. Kids can take as long as they’re allowed to especially if you have daydreamers. Setting the clock gives them a timeframe to work within.
5. Positive reinforcement. We hear this term brandished about all the time but it can be a very effective tool when trying to encourage your children to get stuck in and get it done, properly! Whether it’s a comment about how well they are working or the promise of playing outside when they’re finished the carrot definitely works better than the stick here. Even if you feel like banging your head off a wall with frustration about how things are going, try to keep things positive. It can mean the same thing effectively but it’s the way you phrase it that matters. “If you finish that in the next fifteen minutes you can go outside and play with your friends” is much more likely to motivate your child than “you’re not going out with your friends unless you finish that within the next fifteen minutes”. The latter sentence just associates yet another negative with homework.
There are some days when even the best laid plans go awry so don't lose heart. A little consistency can really help, especially when it leads to everyone getting a bit more of their evening back! #allinthesameboat #homeworkbattles #mamatude
Sunday, 24 April 2016
Our dog will be sixteen later this year. He was our first “baby” and is called Rodney (we’re huge Only Fools and Horses fans here!). He is a black and white border collie cross with two different colour eyes. He has an incredibly gentle nature which is tested on a daily basis by an over enthusiastic two year old who tries to use him as a horse and a five year old who tries to coax him into his bubble car. He greets the children excitedly every day when they go out the back to play with him and they in turn never fail to include him when asked about the number in our family – ten of course! They love to find him asleep in the morning time and take turns to give him a doggy treat or some warm milk on the colder nights before they go to bed themselves. He has worn birthday hats at their parties and has his own Christmas sock complete with embroidered name. He is a much loved part of our family.
But he is old. These days I can see that he doesn’t have the energy to play with the children as he did before. Now, after a comparatively short while running around with them, he escapes to his kennel to rest and, try as my two year old might, cannot be coaxed back out. His breathing is louder and more laboured, and he’s definitely more grey around the temples. He has been checked over by the vet and is in good health – for his age. Sometimes during the day when I see him lying in the sun, a little bit too relaxed, I bang on the window and disturb the poor fella, just to check……to check what I know is possibly not that far away.
Rodney has met every single one of our children as they came home from hospital. He accepted his fate, as over the years, he moved further and further down the pecking order. He has been through everything with us as a family, playing excitedly through good times and sitting quietly by our feet through the sad ones. My back garden looks as if we own as race horse rather than a dog and we curse him daily for that but my children have learned a lot through having a family pet. They have learned responsibility, compassion for animals and to always check where you play for dog poo first (definitely the worst part of having a dog!) They have also learned a special type of love.
While my older children are aware and fearful somewhat of Rodney’s advancing years and we’ve tried to prepare them for what might not be too far away, the younger kids remain oblivious. I know when the day comes there will be heartbreak in this house, after all Rodders has been there their entire lives. While it seems strange to be considering his obituary just yet, I feel compelled to try protect them from what’s coming, but I can’t. I can’t even bear to imagine him not being here myself. Seems daft, he is after all an animal, not a person, but he’s our Rodders, a plonker in his own right, but still our gorgeous black and white sixteen year old puppy dog. #hestilltakesmeforawalk #puppylove #mamatude
Saturday, 23 April 2016
It’s been a long week. The plague – aka a vomiting bug, hit this house and still hasn’t left yet. I am drowning in bed sheets and towels and every time I turn around another ashen-faced child is looking at me saying “maaaaam – I don’t feel very well”. In spite of strategically placed basins at bedtime and constant checking, not one child has so far managed to make it to the bathroom, or even the strategically placed basin. Middle of the night showers, floor scrubbing and bed changing have been a frequent occurrence this week and no amount of open windows, air freshener or scented cleaners can convince me that there’s not a smell of vomit lingering upstairs. School pick ups have been more than slightly challenging, trying to work around AVTs (anticipated vomiting times) and it has been a lonely week as a house with a vomiting bug most definitely makes us personae non gratae among basically, just about everyone. Not saying I blame them, but, I thought the close friend of mine who did me the enormous favour of collecting my junior infant from school one day this week and basically catapulted him in the door and ran away screaming might have slightly overreacted to the risk involved….
I’m clinging on to the hope that having taken almost everyone down at this stage, it will be gone soon, or at the very least, those yet to get it, have a better aim than their predecessors!
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Few expeditions test our skills and patience as a parent in the same manner as a trip to the supermarket with our children does. An outing anywhere there are trolleys, treats and queues is not for the faint hearted but it’s a necessity for most of us at some stage during the week. Recently I’ve realised however, that a trip to the supermarket can also teach you a lot about the type of parent you are and those around you. Taking the familiar titles we hear frequently brandished about here are a few of the types I’ve seen in action in recent weeks
1. The Tiger Mum
Determined that no opportunity will be missed to educate and further her child’s development she can regularly be seen in the aisles asking her two year old to add up the cost of a bag of carrots and two avocados. She also encourages her little one to repeat the name of every vegetable in three different languages, loudly so that everyone can appreciate how wonderful her child is and more importantly how wonderful a mother she is. Tends to have very well behaved kids, in the supermarket anyway.
2. The Helicopter Mum
Dives sporadically in front of oncoming trollies and keeps her hand on the side of own trolley occasionally catching her knuckles on the treacherous shelves littering either side of the aisle, ensuring her precious offspring come to no harm throughout the perilous task that is doing the weekly shop. Wide eyed children look all around behaving impeccably. They have no alternative, mum is by their sides every second of the way, warding off dangerous old ladies who might come over and admire or speak to them.
3. The Attachment Parenting type Mum
This one is very easy to spot. She’s generally in the organic section singing to her children. Difficult to tell how well behaved her children are because she’s still wearing the seven year old in a sling.
4. The Free Range Parenting type Mum
Basically this is the anti-helicopter mum. She can be spotted strolling along while her children run, no gallop, up and down the aisles, discovering themselves as they play piggy in the middle and donkey with tins of beans and a chocolate fudge cake. She is not stressed by events. She is at one with the supermarket. Her children’s behaviour could be described as wilful or playful if you were feeling particularly kind.
5. The bit of every type mam/mum/mom
This is majority of mums/mams/moms shopping. Slightly, (ok a bit more than slightly) frazzled, dishing out orders and threats to her various children, placating toddlers on the verge of tantrums and willing strangers not to engage with those already mid tantrum. She can be observed expertly manoeuvring the trolley single handedly, up and down the various aisles, knowing exactly what she needs without having to refer to a list, while answering the twenty questions per minute directed at her by her children looking to purchase various items. She smiles weakly and knowingly at other “bit of every type mam/mum/moms” hoping the baby won’t wake up for a feed before she’s finished and willing the queue at the checkout not to be too long. Her children’s behaviour depends on the humour they’re in!
6. The Dad
Immediately identifiable by the dazed and confused look on his face. A supermarket’s dream, he can be seen regularly referring to a list drawn up by his other half, without which he would spend twice the amount and bring home half the essentials. He can also be heard asking of his children, “how many of you did I bring with me again?” His unease in the unfamiliar surroundings is palpable. His children’s behaviour is typically supportive. They know this can be an overwhelming experience for him.
Who would have thought shopping could be such an eye opening experience!
Sunday, 17 April 2016
Finding out you’re pregnant is often one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. From the time the test confirms it, our heads are filled with dreams, ideals and plans about how life will change and immediately we mentally prepare for the nine months ahead. Impending parenthood beckons for the first time or again, all going well - but sadly, sometimes it doesn’t.
It’s estimated that roughly one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, though it has been suggested that the rate may well be higher taking into account the fact that many miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. With statistics like this it’s not surprising that most of us will know someone who has been affected by miscarriage or maybe will have been through it ourselves. Even armed with the numbers, if it happens to you it can be one of the saddest and loneliest times. A dream shattered, a heart broken, a baby lost.
I have been pregnant eleven times. I have seven children. Nothing could have prepared me for the first time I had a miscarriage. I was young, with a toddler already and it was the furthest thing from my mind. I will never forget hearing the sonographer confirm that there was no heartbeat. I will never forget moving into the doctor’s room to discuss whether or not I wanted an ERPC or to wait for “nature to take it’s course”. I will never forget that surreal feeling leaving the hospital and going home to my toddler daughter, looking at her knowing the sibling we thought she would have earlier, was not to be. I will never forget the emptiness I felt the next day when I woke from the anaesthetic after the “procedure” and I remembered my baby was gone.
Future pregnancies were overshadowed by my real fear and knowing, that something could go wrong and in between the births of other children, it did indeed go wrong three further times. People often don’t know what to say to you at the time and even well intentioned comments and remarks can really hurt. I just wanted to have someone to talk to and recognise that I should have had that baby. That’s one of the difficult things about miscarriage, people deal with it differently and it can be hard for the person looking in to know what to do and for the person going through it to know if their reaction is “appropriate” almost. There is no right or wrong way to feel. There is only the way you do feel.
Four different angels hang on our Christmas tree every year, alongside individual decorations belonging to my seven children. Our eleven precious decorations take pride of place and make us smile now instead of cry. I know what a lucky woman I am. My beautiful rainbow babies came but, the four who started their journey and never completed it, live always in my heart. ~Jen
Thursday, 14 April 2016
There is no one size fits all when it comes to mothers in law. The butt of comedians’ jokes since time began, the mere mention of them can cause a “you know yourself” eyeroll by understanding company. For many sons in law, the mother in law can be viewed rather indifferently. They’re their partner’s mother, a bit annoying perhaps, the devil incarnate at worst, but not really worthy of a conversation with their mates. Us women however, can have a very different take on things and entire friend meet ups can revolve around their antics!
As I was dropping my children to school today I met another mum to whom I mentioned my mother in law had come to visit. With a sympathetic look she asked me “oh, how’s that going?” In fairness, I’d probably react similarly to someone who mentioned that their mother in law had come to visit, uncertain whether to empathise or celebrate! I’m one of the lucky ones. My mother in law has almost forgiven me for stealing her firstborn and is a wonderful support to me and a doting grandmother to my children. As a very precise and organised woman I’m sure she is baffled by the chaotic scenes she encounters when she visits but she mucks in and generally supports me as I do things my way. Some of my friends are as lucky as me while others have, shall we say, more “challenging” relationships!
From differing opinions on children’s discipline, family size, insistence that the grandchildren bear not even a passing resemblance to their mother (well except maybe for their feet and even at that only maybe) to out and out mud slinging, it seems everyone has a tale to tell about their partner’s mother. For some people it’s a bit more than a passing annoyance and they may never be bosom buddies but for others, mother in law difficulties can be enough to put a real strain on the family. I have laughed at some of the stories my friends have told when we have got together and cringed at some of the others. Not everyone seems as bothered as I am when I hear of some of the more difficult situations but I think that might be because of my tendency to personalise things. While one particular friend shrugs off her relationship with her mother in law as a lost cause, I imagine a “what if” situation for myself in the future.
Having, as I mentioned before “a fair few boys” I could potentially be the paternal mother in law on several occasions. I’m not sure I could be as forgiving as my mother in law of anyone who steals my second, third or even seventh born. The phrase “a daughter is a daughter for all of your life, a son is a son until he takes a wife” rings in my ears and scares the bejaysus out of me to be honest. Although in all likelihood my opportunity to be a mother in law is many years away I have decided on a new motto for the future “keep your enemies close, keep your daughters in law closer”! Forward planning and all that
Monday, 11 April 2016
When my first child was born and I realised the pain of childbirth, I found a new respect for my mother. And when my baby never slept and I had to function in a zombie like state, I found a new respect for my mother. When my toddler threw tantrums in the supermarket, doctor’s surgery, bus, school gate and every other place imaginable I found a new respect for my mother. And when the never ending mountain of homework started to arrive and preparing dinner and clearing a bomb site had to be fit in around it, I found a new respect for my mother. When I became the mother of a teenager and found myself in the alien territory of mood swings, strops and general hormonal breakdowns, I found a new respect for my mother BUT since my dishwasher has broken down and I have to wash the dishes myself on top of everything else, I’ve realised that woman, was a bloody saint!!!!
Saturday, 9 April 2016
I am in the very fortunate position that I have worked part-time (mornings only) since the birth of my first child. It has helped somewhat with the mammy guilt, enabled me to remove my school aged children from the childcare conundrum and has created a situation, for my school going children anyway, that I am home when they are home. Through the use of parental leave and family friendly policies in my place of employment, I have managed to cover most school holidays (obviously at my own expense) with a few days left for sick days, hospital appointments and school shows. My leave is as precious as gold dust. I never take a day off just because I fancy it – I never know what could crop up and I might need it.
I am regularly told that I have the ideal situation. I have to be honest, as grateful as I am to have the time with my children in the afternoons, I am left exhausted by the demands. I am here for the morning chaos as I try to get my older kids to school. I feel dreadful leaving my younger children at a time when they should have the advantage of more of my attention while their older siblings are at school and I walk out of a house that looks like a tornado has gone through it and will be waiting for me to tackle when I get back from work. I face the heavy morning traffic everyday, do my job and then leave at lunch time (without having lunch obviously). I go straight to collect my younger children and from there on to the school to pick up my junior infant. I am immediately in full time mammy mode. The smallies are delighted to see me, there’s a mountain of breakfast dishes and the older kids come home, forgetting I’ve been to work at all, with their homework and after school activities to be fit in.
A UK school principal recently caused uproar when she suggested that we shouldn’t be leading our girls to believe that they can have it all. This came on foot of a senior UK gynaecologist reiterating the importance of women understanding their biology and fertility. Nature waits for no career! In an age where women’s rights have progressed, there’s no denying we still have a way to go and this particular issue is a difficult one to navigate. Trying to build or progress a career without the distraction or commitment of children means postponing a family to a time when things might prove more challenging.
My daughter is now old enough to be giving serious consideration to the career she would like in the future. The path she wants to follow is pretty specific and naturally I hope it will be the right one for her. I also, as a mother and her mother, knowing how difficult it is to juggle everything, find myself wondering how family friendly it will be. Throughout school and college I had an ideal in my head as to how my life would be. When the little people came along, my priorities changed – as did my perspective.
I don’t want to admit that there might be a glass ceiling for my daughter but I don’t think I believe you can have it all. I think somebody is paying the price. I’m not sure how much things really have moved on for women now that they’re largely expected to do all the things their mothers did for their families and hold down a job on top of this. The demands on working parents emotionally and physically are huge. The guilt leaving your children can be enormous, the commitment to your employment challenged. The work of a stay at home parent however, is hugely undervalued in spite of being one of the most relentless, exhausting jobs there is. Sadly, enough importance is still not given to the role of a carer in spite of the workload and sacrifices involved.
I don’t want my daughter, as she considers her future life, to believe that there is anything she can’t achieve that her brothers can. She is however, bound by her biology and may have to make some difficult and different choices to them. I don’t know what the answer is, or if the principal’s suggestion really is as outrageous as it first appeared, but it certainly gives food for thought. All I do know is, that from my point of view, when my maternity leave comes to an end, the chaos here will become that bit more chaotic…..
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Research or no research, I’m not buying this claim that parents have a favourite child. My five year old, on the other hand, would beg to differ. Somewhere along the way he has become convinced that he is my favourite child and if he’s annoyed at me threatens to withdraw this honour. “I won’t be your favourite child anymore” can be said to me for all number of reasons from insisting he eats his carrots to telling him Superman is cooler than Batman. It has become quite the standing joke with the older kids in our house at this stage, while the younger ones remain oblivious to his claims. I’ve no idea where he got the idea from but he’s happy enough to argue the point with his Gran, who in her loyalty to my other children tries regularly to convince him that I don’t in fact have a favourite. He won’t entertain the notion, however, and remains confident that he holds the most privileged position in my affections.
Most definitely there are certain aspects of my children’s personalities that I find easier to live with (and certain aspects that drive me to the brink of insanity) but that’s human nature. I’m aware of my different children’s strengths and difficulties. I’m aware of the fact that even though the same ingredients went into making each of them, the end results couldn’t be more different. They might look alike but their personalities and temperaments are as individual as they are. We have a couple of them we call the “charm offensive”, the kids we send to meet and greet when we want to make a good impression. We have another couple we hang back on introducing to a scenario until that same impression is made! There are some in which I see a lot of me, both in mannerisms and interests and some so much like their father it’s uncanny. Having more in common with one or more children does not change how I feel about the others.
I try my best to be fair to them all (though I’m sure they might disagree) but I don’t treat them all the same because they need different things from me. I don’t parent them all the same because they need different parenting from me. I do however love them all completely and utterly equally with all my heart….except for the ones who do their homework with least complaining….I probably love them a bit more…and my five year old of course!
Sunday, 3 April 2016
The Easter holidays drew to a close here yesterday in pretty busy style. We had visitors in the shape of my parents in law and my sister in law with her family. Our nine year old returned from a friend’s sleepover after having far too much fun to sleep and so was in the sort of form you’d expect from a walking demon. Our teenager went to the last disco before her Junior Cert which started at 8 o’clock so obviously she had to start getting ready from 2 o’clock, (that certain shade of tangerine they all like to be, takes a while to take hold) while the “in between” kids played happily with their cousins without any regard for the Department of the Environment noise pollution guidelines.
While eating we were treated to a floor show by my two year old who is well capable of using the toilet but preferred to show the accuracy with which he can aim at the potty , the sort of accuracy you tended to see from the person who answered the questions on bullseye. The five year old meanwhile imitated Dusty Crophopper, complete with sound effects and actions from the Planes movie which was being shown simultaneously on RTE and the seven month old looked on bemused but definitely not fazed by the whole spectacle. It was a lovely afternoon.
When everyone was gone home and most of the kids were in bed, all that was left to do was wait for my daughter to come home. The baby, who doesn’t rate sleep, kept us company and greeted his sister with a big smile as she came in the door. It’s an almost surreal feeling sometimes to have a child old enough to go to a disco and have a child so young he needs propping up with cushions on the floor. It’s funny to have children who keep you up at night for very different reasons.
Today, much to my kid’s disgust will be about getting ready for the return to school tomorrow. Trying to reel back in bedtimes which have gone more than a little askew over the last couple of weeks and making sure everything is ready for the week ahead. I have loved the break from the routine, the freedom from homework and afterschool activities and the reclaiming of our afternoons. There has been lots of fun had and far too many rows too but all good things must come to an end. Now how to convince them that the return to school is not all bad…… #atleasttheresagrandstretchintheevenings #mamatude
Friday, 1 April 2016
I have read a huge amount online in recent weeks about episodes of breastfeeding shaming which still seems to happen on a much larger scale than I would have expected. My son is almost seven months old and is breastfed. No big deal in my eyes. He’s a baby. He gets hungry. He gets fed - pretty much wherever and whenever necessary. He’s slightly (very slightly) more predictable now that he’s older but, in the early days, I knew that any kind of an outing would most likely involve me having to feed my baby in public. Now, I’m not a whip ‘em all out kinda girl, (except that time I walked into my daughter’s school for a presentation and hadn’t put them completely away after feeding the little guy in the car – however, that wasn’t deliberate and she’s slowly recovering from the trauma and embarrassment I caused her) but then again I don’t know any breastfeeding mother who is. A huge amount of the time, no one would even know I was feeding the baby and I think this is the case for most mothers. It has happened, however, and usually at the most inopportune time, that my son has decided to suddenly stop feeding, turn around, give a gummy grin to a passerby and expose my boob to any poor unsuspecting and potentially easily offended individual sitting or standing in my line of vision.
I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding my baby in public. I’ve never had a disapproving look, someone moving seat or a comment about whether or not an appropriate proportion of my breast is on show. I hope it’s not just a case that I’ve been lucky. I hope the stories of breastfeeding shaming, while apparently plentiful at the moment, are a collection of isolated incidents. I would hate to think that something so natural could cause offence to so many people. To paraphrase a midwife I met while expecting my first child “Breasts have a function. They are there to feed your baby, even if men like to play with the empties!” For me breastfeeding is hugely convenient in that it allows me to adopt the motto “have boobs, will travel”. It saves me a huge amount of time in an already chaotic life. The biggest inconvenience it causes me actually, is the restriction in my wardrobe choices. I am now a wearer, almost entirely of separates! #remembertoputthemawayafter #sorryhoney #mamatude