So here we are, 2 months into this whole parenting malarkey.
Both of us are much more settled and happy. We have found a rhythm, we are both sleeping MUCH better, we have found some lovely toddler groups that we like, and we are basically just having the best time!
She is back in her cot all night now and although she still wakes in the night, I am sleeping in the single bed in her room so it’s much easier to settle her and we both get plenty of sleep. She pretty much wakes up, needs a quick cuddle in her cot, and then lies down and goes back to sleep again while I sing a little song. In fact she loves to sleep so much that I often have to wake her up! One morning in particular she slept until 9.15am! I got up, made a cup of tea and brought it back to bed, read my book for a bit, popped a load of laundry on, fed the cats, hung out the laundry, had a 2nd cup of tea, and had a lovely and relaxing morning pottering about! I did occasionally have to poke her and check she was still alive (it’s a delicate balance, poking her hard enough to make her snort or move, but not hard enough to wake her up!). Most mornings she wakes up between 7 and 8, which is magic for me as I am getting to lie in most mornings!
Anyhow, as we chug gently along, here are a few random reflections and anecdotes from our lives so far. Apologies that this post is rather long and waffly!
A friend and I were chatting recently about how they were looking for a nice story book as a gift, but realised how the vast majority of children’s books show white families, typically with a mum and a dad, and they were surprised how hard it was to find more diverse books (both in terms of skin colour and different types of families).
I have been lucky enough to find a fairly decent selection of books with people of colour, including a fab set of fairytales illustrated by Rachel Isodora (I mean, who says Rapunzel has to be white? We all just assumed she was because most of the books we grew up reading were illustrated with white princesses). And I have also recently purchased a couple of lovely children’s books on adoption and different types of families that show a whole range from two dads or two mums, to adoption and step-families, and single parents. Although most of our storybooks currently involve animals so it’s fairly moot!
(Although I was intrigued to see that my local Tesco has painted over their “Parent and Child” parking spaces, which used to show two adults and a pushchair, and replaced it with a single mother and child! Speaking to their local demographic perhaps?)
What is far more worrying is how hard it is to find children’s books that show women in a more diverse set of gender roles. So many children’s books still show men as doctors and women as nurses, men as firefighters and women as teachers. Even in 2019, this kind of subliminal gender stereotyping is so damaging and helps to support a patriarchal system, which of course, bugs me.
That said, there are increasingly more books about women in history, as so many of women’s pivotal roles in history (in terms of scientific discoveries and more) have been glossed over. Most people in my high school would have heard of Charles Darwin, Christopher Columbus, Edison, Newton and Einstein, but few would have heard of Ada Lovelace, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole or Rosalind Franklin. Thankfully efforts are finally being made to ensure these pioneering women are brought back into the fore – the movie Hidden Figures was a great example of this, and of course the book Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, which we have! Baby steps but we are getting there, smashing the patriarchy one children’s book at a time…
Also, now that I am watching more CBeebies (the BBC children’s TV channel), I was impressed by a show called Catie’s Amazing Machines, in which a female race car driver gets to drive diggers, formula one cars, boats and hovercraft each day. So refreshing to see a woman in such a non-traditional role and normalising it for children – good for them!
While we are on the subject of CBeebies, my little one when she first moved in didn’t really “get” tv, but has slowly been drawn in and started to be transfixed by the screen – which I’m actually ok with as it means I can get the odd half hour to myself cooking dinner, or washing up or reading a chapter of my book etc. But I must say while some shows are sweet and nostalgic (they’ve brought back The Clangers!), others are downright creepy. There’s a show called Moon and Me, in which dead-eyed little toys come to life at night that just terrifies me. It’s simple stop-motion, and when the Collywobble slowly turns and fixes his cold dead eyes on you to say goodnight it gives me goosebumps – Steven King couldn’t create a scarier children’s toy.
And of course she LOVES In the Night Garden – for some reason it’s a huge hit with children. Mostly it’s pretty harmless and I don’t mind it. We both quite like the Tomblyboos and the Pontypines, though I find the giant Harhoos pretty creepy. But the worst part of In the Night Garden is the song.
I’ll be washing up, or in the shower, and suddenly find myself singing “Yes my name is Iggle-Piggle, Iggle-Piggle Wiggle Niggle Iggle. Yes my name is Iggle-Piggle, Iggle-Piggle Wiggle Niggle Woo!”. If you know the tune, I’m sorry, that’ll be in your head for a while. It’s a real earworm…
My internet has never been great, and I recently switched providers and decided to pay more for a better, faster internet package. They tell you to wait 10 days after setting up the box while they adjust the signals and things, to settle on the best frequency or something. However after 10 days my internet was noticeably slower and it was driving me bonkers – I upgraded and paid loads of extra money and it was even worse than before. I literally couldn’t load a web page or watch Netflix at all.
After several calls to the company where we tested the line, and ran checks and speed tests over several days, they concluded that there was nothing wrong with the signal coming into the house, and the problem was coming from inside my house. Confusingly it works fine during the day and then suddenly slows right down at night. Eventually after running loads of diagnostics the technician told me that sometimes electrical gadgets can cause interference with WiFi signals. I thought it was very unlikely but we started running through what I could do. He suggested turning lights off one by one to see if any LED or Fluoro bulbs were affecting it, and I mentioned I’d been running my washing machine a lot more often in the evenings since switching to cloth nappies. Seemed preposterous that my washing machine could kill my internet, but then again, this is me we are talking about – and the machines hate me.
As I was glancing around the house looking for culprits, it finally dawned on me that the one thing I have been using ever since switching providers, exclusively at night, was the baby monitor! Bingo! Turns out every night I was turning on my baby monitor after the kid is asleep and then my internet slowed down to 1990’s dial-up modem speed. The technician did some manual tweaking and switched and split various channels and frequencies so it’s much better now. Who knew a baby monitor could kill the internet in your house? NOW we know!
A lot of the toddler groups we have been trying out are run by churches. Most toddler groups are around £3 per session, some up to £5, while some of the church-run ones are much cheaper at £1. They often have lovely halls and spaces for toddler play, and a wide selection of donated toys and games, and helpful volunteers willing to staff the sessions.
It has occurred to me that without churches, there would be significantly less to do during the week, and the remaining non-church groups would be prohibitively expensive for most people living on benefits or minimum wages. My parents are not religious and one of them is an ardent atheist, so attending churches recreationally has never been a thing in our family. And apart from enjoying the odd cathedral for the history and the architecture, I’ve never really engaged with any churches or organised religion.
Yet suddenly I’m in churches, on a Thursday, on a Friday, here and there, and for £1, my kid can play with a wide range of lovely toys for a couple of hours, there are wonderful volunteers who sing songs and nursery rhymes, and they will even make you a cup of tea and bring it to you! AND THERE ARE FREE TAMPONS IN THE BATHROOMS! After years of vague suspicion about organised religion being somehow not for me, it turns out they are lovely, kind, and welcoming places where £1 gets you a cup of tea, a biscuit, a tampon if you need one, some friendly chatter, and excellent childcare support, come rain or shine.
I have always suspected that the community aspect of organised religion might be really wonderful. If it weren’t for the whole believing in God part I think I’d be converted.
What kind of mum are you?
You never know what kind of mum you are going to be until you are one. It turns out I am the kind of mum who will unashamedly wear matching headbands with my gorgeous baby girl. It’s super-lame and I don’t care at all – I can see us being the kind of saddo’s that will wear matching outfits some day soon. Plus think of all the shopping I can do in the meantime searching for our perfect matching outfits?
Speaking of shopping, my cloth nappy journey has sped up somewhat.
In a mid-August there was a sale on at Aldi and I bought 3 new cloth nappies to try out. Then I joined the Cloth Bum Mums, and learned a lot, and discovered the second-hand market for nappies, and saw all the gorgeous colours and prints and patterns. And then my shopping gene kicked in, and even for me, it escalated quickly!
Here’s my stash now:
Aren’t they pretty?
It is safe to say I am now fully converted, I drank the Kool-Aid… #ClothBumMums4Life
Thankfully I have not invested in a poo spoon though. That’s a step too far for me…
I am ambivalent towards bananas. I don’t especially like them, but I also don’t particularly dislike them. However because I don’t actively like them, I tend not to buy them for myself. I reckon it’s probably been 20+ years since I last purchased or ate a banana (except on rare occasions when one is bananas-fostered or in a crepe smothered in Nutella).
However as the parent to a toddler I am suddenly buying bananas constantly. It feels like every 3 days I think “Christ are we out of bananas again? How is that possible I JUST bought some 5 minutes ago!” Bananas and Milk are things we go through like they are going out of style. But my tiny person, while she loves a banana, is quite small and often can’t manage a whole banana, and I hate waste, so I end up eating half a banana almost every time.
I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever had this much potassium in my body at once.
Also, I’m suddenly inundated with fruit flies, which I’ve NEVER had a problem with before, they’re flipping everywhere! And bananas, like pears, are green, hard and unripe for 3 days, ripe for 15 mins and then overripe and brown for 3 days. It’s impossible to buy bananas at the correct level of ripeness unless you plan to eat 7 in one day. That is my newly-discovered banana fact. Also I’m guessing this is why mums are constantly baking banana bread, as a way to use up all the overripe bananas before the fruit flies rise up and gain total control of the kitchen.
Here’s what happened the other night:
Me at 10.30pm: closes all the windows, doors, shuts the cats downstairs for the night, goes to bed.
Me at 1.30am: God the cats are being noisy outside tonight. Sharrup!
Me at 3.30am: That’s bloody Tiggy meowing the house down. I wonder if she’s got stuck in a cupboard or bedroom again. *staggers round the house to check. No sign of her, if she was upstairs she’d have jumped on my bed by now, she must be outside, wish she’d shut the hell up.
My neighbour at 8.30am: Um, did you know your cat is stuck on the roof?
She’s such a bloody eejit!! Snuck out onto the roof through the bedroom window, which I then closed when I went to bed. Serves her right quite frankly!
I’m now teaching my daughter to shout “Eejit!” when she sees Tiggy…
And finally, back to the issue of diversity, since becoming a mum to a mixed-race little girl, I have been paying much more attention to race and colour around me, and have been pleasantly surprised that the area we live is so diverse. Almost everywhere I look I keep seeing white mums with mixed-race kids, and families from Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. I always knew it was an ethnically diverse area, but the other day, at a toddler group of around 15-20 kids, I realised there was only one white child in the hall!
All of which makes me feel happier and more comfortable raising my daughter in a community where she can fit in and feel comfortable, and where she won’t stand out even a tiny bit.
(Did I mention we are just having the best time together?)