I hate soft play 

When your kids start school, they suddenly get invited to a lot of parties. O has a much better social life than I do. Next month he’s going to two parties on the same day. I’m totally dreading that day and I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to survive. But yeah, you get the idea; LOTS OF PARTIES. And these parties often take place in one particularly hateful environment: THE SOFT PLAY CENTRE.

Here’s a list of the things I hate about soft play centres. It is not a long list:


Absolutely everything. I hate the noise. I hate the shitty coffee. I hate seeing one of the workers carrying a roll of blue paper towel, a plastic bag and a bottle of disinfectant into the playframe, because it is an obvious sign that someone’s kid has just puked somewhere in there and I pray to god that my own wasn’t anywhere nearby.

Yeah. I fucking hate the places. I’m sorry. I know that probably makes me a total party pooper, but there it is.

However, I quite often have to set aside my hatred of them – and my rampant anxiety surrounding their germ-spreading potential – and take O to a soft play party. And usually I sit there with the other parents and we talk about the kids and drink the horrible coffee and I try not to swear.

Actually, to be honest, sometimes that part of the soft play party is kinda reassuring for me, because I see the eye rolls exchanged between exasperated mums as they comfort their tired, cranky children while they whinge about some other kid being mean. And we all sort of circle around the fact that we are completely knackered until someone says, “God, I’m so tired today. The kids were up at five. FIVE. Why do they do this?!”, which suddenly makes it okay for us all to join in and admit that we are winging it, not winning it.

All of that is fine. Once I’m over my social awkwardness, I’m generally okay in the soft play setting. Until O emerges and drags me in the direction of the playframe while I desperately try to remove my shoes. I hate that part because I always end up smacking my head on something or getting a really bad case of indigestion from trying to squeeze through those fucking awful roller things. Or I end up being the parent who has to convince a bunch of other people’s kids that they will not, in fact, die if they go down the Death Slide. Which usually requires a physical demonstration. And I can’t dick about up there because all of these kids are watching me and counting on me to prove that it is safe and I am not a wuss. But I actually am a bit of a wuss and I don’t really like that slide much at all.

Why am I always that parent?

It’s great for O, of course, because then all of the other kids think his mum is really cool, rather than just a bit of an idiot.

But I learnt something today after my Death Slide stunt, which is that we all wish we were a little bit more of some things and a little bit less of others sometimes.

I wish I was a little – or a lot – more organised. I wish I felt a little better equipped to guide my children into adulthood. I wish that I didn’t always feel a little bit startled every time one of my kids shouts “MUMMY!!!!” And I wish, more than anything, that I could be a little less ridiculous.

But there are other mums who wish they were a little bit more ridiculous and a little bit less afraid of the big slide at the soft play centre.

It’s funny what you can learn on a Sunday morning at a soft play party, isn’t it?

But… I still fucking hate the places.

Standing there alone

Dear dads in the playground,

I see you standing there and I know by your body language that you feel a bit awkward and out of place. Like you don’t really belong, because all around you is a sea of mums. We’ve had some kind of progress over the last ten years, but you’re still a minority here.

Don’t stand there on your own, though. Come and talk to me. Because you might feel like an outsider, but I feel like an imposter.

Sure, I’m the same gender as most of the other parents here, but I don’t think of myself as one of them. We have the same credentials on paper, which is to say that we are mothers and we are here to collect our children. But I look at these other women and I don’t feel like I’m part of the clan.

It’s hard to explain why that is, really. I could say it’s because I’m a “young mum”, but I’m not far off turning 30 now and I don’t really think that applies anymore. Maybe it’s because I perceive these other women to be more successful than I am, both as mothers and in their working lives. It could even simply be the fact that they look like they’ve got their shit together and I don’t feel like I ever will.

Or it might just be the difference between their expensive Ugg boots and my battered Converse.

But the thing is, you dads make me feel at ease. I don’t struggle to make conversation with you. When you’re having a shit time and you’re tired and running out of patience, you don’t grit your teeth and pretend everything’s fine. You own it. You’re not in competition with anybody, but I feel like us mums always are. We are always trying to be better than the mum next to us.

I mean, that’s not the case once you’ve scratched the surface and cultivated a proper friendship with a fellow mum. Then the warts-and-all of motherhood comes out and I feel like it’s okay to admit that some days I struggle. But when you’re just chatting in the playground, you laugh off the fact that your toddler has scribbled all over your linoleum floor, even though you feel like you’re dying a little bit inside every time you look at it. You don’t admit that you’ve ever lost your shit and shouted, or wondered for just a fleeting second if it was such a good idea to have children after all.

But you dads do, and I admire you so much for that. Here are three recent conversations I’ve had with dads:

Dad 1: “I’m so tired I feel like my eyelids are turning inside out. When is he ever going to just sleep through the night?!”

Dad 2: “How was your summer? Ours was looooooonnnngggg.”

Dad 3: “I know all of the parenting books tell you that you shouldn’t do it and it doesn’t work and it’s the worst parenting fail ever… but the only time he listens to me is when I shout at him!”

I’ve never heard any of the mums in the playground say any of those things to each other. And it’s not that I don’t think they ever do, it’s just that they do it in the evening over dinner with their partners or during a rare outing for drinks with their trusted mum confidantes. But I’m not like them; I’m more like you. I don’t see the point in pretending, because I don’t understand why we perpetuate this competitive culture.

So come and talk to me. Tell me you’re tired and struggling and your kids drove you to despair last night when they flatly refused to get out of the bath and go to bed. I won’t judge you; I’ll empathise completely. I love my children. I love them so much that when they hug me, I never want to let them go. I look forward to seeing their faces and hearing their little voices every single morning when I wake up.

But I am not sailing through this and I can’t be bothered to try and keep up the facade that I am.

You’re all brilliant dads, and I can see that you love your children just as fiercely as I do my own. I can see it in their faces when they are so delighted that daddy is picking them up today, and in your own when you sweep them up into your arms. But your honesty comforts me, and I hate to see you standing there alone.

And if you’re reading this as a fellow mum and you feel like you don’t belong, it’s not just you; I’m right there with you. I’ll be the awkward to your uncomfortable, if you like.

We’re all in this together, aren’t we?



The Alternative Motherhood Challenge

Does everybody remember the Motherhood Challenge? That whole thing where you got tagged by a fellow mother (I never did, by the way) and had to post a certain number of photos to social media showing why you loved being a mother? You were then supposed to nominate a bunch of your “awesome mummy friends” to take part as some kind of dubious accolade. Suffice it to say that I didn’t really get it. For me, the real challenge of Motherhood is not found in posed photographs of my offspring (although it is a challenge to get them to stay still), but in the other myriad shit that comes along with the job title. 

So! Without further ado, this is a collection of photographs from my Alternative Motherhood Challenge.

Dry-wipe pens: These bastard things. I know they’re washable, but they don’t come out of the fucking carpet. Believe me. And I can’t even take them away because they are part of a very useful educational tool. Fuck these things. This is why kids in my day only had pencils.
Potties: You wouldn’t think there’d be anything more gag-worthy than a shitty nappy, would you? Especially one of those really sticky, smeary ones. But then there’s the potty, in the bottom of which sits a freshly dropped turd that you are going to have to now watch slide gracelessly into the toilet, leaving a nice, long skid mark. So now you have to wipe the potty and wash it out. Not a whole lot different from wiping caked-on crap off your kid’s bum, really. Even worse when your curious toddler decides to fill it with toys and present it to you like a particularly horrible and unsanitary gift.

Sippy cup valves: You know that moment when your kid tips up the sippy cup, waterboards himself and then sits blinking, spluttering and glaring at you with an impressive degree of loathing? That’s the precise moment when you realise you forgot to put that clever little valve back in the lid of the cup after you spent three hours mucking it out with a pipe cleaner. Just three seconds later than you probably should have remembered.

The Favourite Cuddly: Its bedtime and your kid’s favourite snuggly creature/blanket is nowhere to be found. You’ve looked behind the curtains, under the sofa and in the washing machine. You’ve even gingerly lifted the lid and peered into the toilet, just in case. But the thing has completely fucking vanished. It has left planet Earth. It will never be seen again and your child will never, ever stop crying about it. You’re actually crying yourself as you sink onto the sofa after spending two and a half hours rocking your bereft baby to sleep. Wait, why is this seat so lumpy? Is that…? Ah. There it is. It was behind the bloody cushion all along. Attachment objects are, of course, an absolute essential for any child, but can they just remember where they’ve put them every once in a while? I’m so sick of wandering around the house at 9pm muttering “where the actual fuck is the bloody fucking bunny?!” to myself on repeat every other night. Oh, and don’t even think about washing it. Just accept the fact that your child is dragging a germ-rag around and tell yourself it’s good for their immune system.

Of course, there’re also stickers, tantrums, hidden shoes and when the car seat straps get twisted and you have to take the whole buggering thing apart to fix it, but the four things I’ve chosen here are the ones that get on my tits the most.

It’s a good job they’re cute, isn’t it?

I’d love to hear about your Alternative Motherhood Challenge, so feel free to get in touch on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or leave me a comment on this post.

This is real life

I can’t quite believe that it is November already. It doesn’t feel like more than five minutes have passed since we were last here, gearing up for Christmas and hiding the Argos catalogue from our children.

Our year has passed in a blur of breakthroughs and setbacks, from the triumph of watching O settle gradually into school after a rocky start, to the misery of seeing F continue with his food struggles. This is the nature of family life, of parenting children with different personalities and issues. O can suffer from social anxiety. F may well feel the reverberations of his battle with reflux for the rest of his life. But we do the best we can. As parents, I believe we all repeat the same mantra to ourselves at irregular intervals: It will get better. We tell ourselves that nothing can be challenging or worrying or downright shit forever.

When O clung to me, sobbing, as we walked through the school gates at the beginning of his third week, his anxiety and sadness unchanged from the previous two, I told myself: It will get better. And it did. Now he runs to join his friends with barely a backward glance. He’s part of a trio of boys who are all mischievous, buoyant and sharp as tacks. He is learning to read and write, he brings home artwork and stories of the games he has played and new skills he has learnt. He is happy and settled in his new school, and I am content to have become a background character in this chapter of his life.

It got better.

When I finally realised that F was vomiting during mealtimes not because he couldn’t stop himself, but because he didn’t want the food I had put in front of him, I told myself – through my horror that a child would do such a thing to himself – It will get better. And it has. Ish. Mealtimes are still a battleground and my victories are few, but that there are any victories at all is progress itself. Once there was nothing I could do to persuade him that food was not his enemy. Now he will try new things. Last week he finally started eating porridge and I felt elated. At last, a good start to the day! It was such a small thing. It was the biggest thing in the world.

It is getting better.

Life with children is a kaleidoscope; colourful and changeable in equal measure. There are blissful moments, snapshots of our expectations as parents. A Sunday morning cuddle in bed with both kids, both cats and nobody fighting. A walk through the woods, kicking up the Autumn leaves and collecting conkers to be preserved in a jar as a physical reminder of a magical afternoon. A peaceful hour as my children play happily together while I claw back some time to put the house in order or catch up on laundry. In these moments, we could be a family from a photograph in a magazine. In these moments, we are the family I always imagined I would have.

Our autumn adventures

Then there are the other moments, far less blissful and, currently, much more numerous. My kids rolling around on the floor, beating the shit out of each other as my attempts to referee fall on deaf ears. An epic tantrum in the middle of Sainsbury’s over who gets to carry the receipt back to the car. The flooded bathroom floor. Again. These moments often happen all in the same day and leave me exhausted and wondering if I’m really cut out for this whole motherhood thing. But these moments are also totally eclipsed by the love I feel for and joy I find in my children.

The truth is that I probably recite my mantra at least a few times a day, every single day. Sometimes it is not easy. Sometimes as I close their bedroom doors at the end of a long day, I breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes I just wish they would stop fucking winding each other up all the time.

But they are still so little. Their emotions and ability to handle life’s complications are still developing. For them right now, being given something different for breakfast than what they were expecting is a big deal. For them, it’s not unreasonable to throw a blistering wobbly because they got Rice Crispies when they blatantly asked for Coco Pops.

This is life with young children.

There will be bad days.

It will get – and is getting – better.

It’s NOT okay. Okay?

When I tell nosey people who ask when I’m “having another one” that I can’t have any more babies, they unanimously do this incredibly fucking rude thing where they ask “WHY?” whilst salivating over the possibility of a story about some peculiar uterine wasting disease which has rendered me infertile. So I suppose it’s kind of disappointing when I explain, through gritted teeth, that my husband has had a vasectomy. But then they bypass social etiquette altogether and say – with a cheeky wink that never fails to make me feel sick – “HE can’t have any more children, but YOU can!” Are you fucking kidding me? In what universe is it okay to even vaguely suggest that I might as well just go ahead and get myself knocked up by someone – anyone, apparently – other than my husband? Thanks and everything, but no. JUST NO.

Of course, the next thing they ask me is, “Don’t you want any more babies?” You know what? Yes. YES. I DO want more babies. In fact, whenever I think about the fact that I’m not going to have any more babies, I feel a certain sense of grief. But there’s a difference between what I want and what I know is good for me and my family. So, Random Stranger full of personal questions, thanks a fucking bunch for that. I didn’t get sad and wistful about it quite enough by myself.

And then there’s my favourite question:

“So why did your husband have a vasectomy if you wanted another baby?”

Really? You really want to talk about this? Alright. I’ll bite. Let’s do this.

Because we both have shitty jobs and we can’t afford another baby.

Because our house is too small and we don’t really want to move ’cause we’ve spent a fuckload of money on this one.

Because I like my car and I don’t want a people carrier.

Because SPD and constant nausea aren’t really my idea of a good time.

Because the first six months of F’s life passed in a blur of misery and sleeplessness and, although I’ve tried really hard to block it all out, I know I’ll never quite forget how shit it really was.

Because we might actually get divorced next time.

The truth, Random Stranger, is that my husband and I made the decision for him to have a vasectomy together. But he walked into that procedure room alone, both physically and mentally. I, on the other hand, sat in the waiting room trying to write and occupy my mind while it screamed things like “you’ll never feel a baby move inside you again” and “you’ll never see your newborn for the first time again” and, my personal favourite, “you’ll never have another chance to put right everything you did wrong”.

Do I want to talk about it? Do I want to tell you all of this? Do I think you need to know? No, no and er, NO. And I wonder, if I did have three children, would you still ask? At what point do I have enough offspring for you to just stop fucking asking already?

I don’t know what it is about motherhood that makes it perfectly acceptable for everyone to make such blunt, frankly unacceptable statements with nothing short of aplomb. It’s not like anyone has ever asked me what position I conceived my babies in or whether I did that legs-up-in-the-air thing afterwards. But I’m not really sure why the Personal Inquisition Squad get that those aren’t appropriate questions and yet see nothing wrong with suggesting that I start shagging random men in the name of completing my family. Whatever the fuck that means.

So, do you know what? I’m changing my story, Random Stranger. I just need to come up with a realistic-sounding name for a fictional uterine wasting disease first…

On growing up

Yesterday marked a pivotal moment in my adult life. Yesterday I had to admit that I am getting older. Not old, because I’m not even 30 yet and it would be ridiculous for me to consider myself “old”, but there’s no denying the fact that I’m not exactly “young” anymore either.

This moment happened in the car on the way to buy wallpaper for O’s room. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve came on my iPod and the following exchange took place between O and me:

O: I don’t like this song.
Me: What?! This is one of the greatest songs ever made!
O: Is it old?
Me: Yeah, I guess it kinda is.

When I was a teenager listening to Limp Bizkit at an obnoxious volume in my bedroom, I wondered what the songs I loved would sound like to my children someday. Would they find them dated? Would they hear them and wonder what I ever loved so much about them? Would they beg me to put something “cooler” on? And I feel like now I know.

Sometimes I notice the changing times myself when I watch a movie I once loved and realise how jumpy and unrealistic the special effects are. Or I’ll catch myself wondering if the picture was always that fuzzy. But there was a time when it would have seemed perfectly normal to me. When the green screen broomstick flight in the first Harry Potter movie would have been seamless to my eyes.

I don’t like to think about how long it’s been since I left school. Sometimes I’ll be driving somewhere and wonder how I ever got to be old enough to drive a car. There are days when I think about all of my responsibilities – a mortgage, a job, bills, getting new shoes for the kids – and suddenly it’ll feel like there’s a little less air in the room. And it’s only now that I’m beginning to realise that being an adult isn’t something you just know how to do; it’s something you learn and relearn every day.

It’s the same with parenting; what worked yesterday isn’t working today. So you try something else. Your kids suddenly hate their favourite food and you’ve got shitloads of it in the fridge. So you resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to have to eat it, whether you like it or not. That tantrum-taming trick that worked a treat yesterday isn’t even touching the epic meltdown happening in front of you right now. So you sigh, scream silently in your head and wrack your brains for another way – any other way – to diffuse the child bomb before everything within reach becomes collateral damage. It’s 1000 degrees in the house and no one has slept for weeks. So you desperately search the Internet for “ways to cool down hot bedroom” and reserve an industrial-sized fan at Argos.

This is life. This is growing up. This is motherhood.

The truth is that I always saw myself as a young mum. I wanted to have children while I was full of energy and the vitality of youth. I didn’t realise that those things would be quickly quashed by continuous months of sleep deprivation. I just thought for sure I’d have my shit together enough by 25 to make some sort of decent mother. Hell, 25 was OLD to me back when I was 15 and first started wondering if marriage and babies might be in my future one day. Being 25 meant being a real, live ADULT.

Turns out that I’m just getting older, my musical tastes somehow and inexplicably dated, and I still don’t feel any wiser than I did the first time I looked into O’s angry, purple face and thought to myself “what the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

Turns out that sometimes, when I’m feeling really lost and confused, I still find myself looking around for an adultier adult, because I figure there’ll always be somebody who has a better idea of what they’re doing than I do.

Turns out that I’ll probably still be blundering my way through adulthood when I’m old and grey.


“I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing…”


An open letter

An open letter to anyone who has ever thought they could do better,

When O was born, I had very definite ideas about what kind of mother I wanted to be. I went to all the classes and read all the books and I was determined that I was going to be brilliant. I would sail through the experience like a magnificent ship on a calm and beatific sea.

Of course, life – and especially motherhood – doesn’t often go to plan, and I don’t expect you to always agree with the way I parent my children.

You would probably feed them different things. Maybe organic recipes, cooked from scratch. But you’re probably a better cook than I am. You can try and make me feel bad about this if you like, but I might as well tell you now that I’ve felt bad enough over the last few years that I’ve finally reached the point of “Don’t Give A Shit”. My children are healthy and happy. Some days they eat well and other days it’s all I can do to persuade them to eat half a decent meal and a biscuit.

tea time snack

I was actually really proud of this meal

That whole “boys should look like boys” rhetoric – what does it even mean? I get this all the time because F’s hair is quite long and he wears leggings a lot. The suggestion has even been made that I “dress him like a girl” because I wish I had a daughter. I can’t even describe to you how angry this makes me. Firstly, no, I do not dress him like a girl – whatever the hell is even meant by that. Secondly, no, I don’t wish he was a girl, nor would I trade him for one if I could. Why is his hair long? Because he’s not keen on having much done with it, and on the few occasions when I have allowed it to be cut, he’s just ended up with a mullet. And why does he wear leggings? Why does anybody wear them? They’re comfortable and unrestrictive. It’s as simple as that. Don’t you have anything better to worry about?

long hair, don't care

Long hair, don’t care

So tired am I of the suggestion that I don’t do enough with my children that I have now started taking them out most days. Of course, this means I don’t get anything done in my house – which I’m sure you’d also love to berate me for -, but fuck it; the kids are getting out and having fun. That being said, because of the judgement cast on all mothers who “don’t do enough” with their children – by the way, who gets to decide what is enough? – I’ve started to embark on outings which can only be described as suicide missions. Solo beach trips. Taking them out for lunch on my own. Attempting to turn a trip to B&Q into an educational experience with the promise of a park or feeding the ducks afterwards. The endings of these outings were, respectively, THAT lost bag disaster incident. Food on the floor, in my hair, all over the children but not, at any point, in anyone’s mouth. Also; TUTTING. And, lastly, F attempting to get me arrested by hastily making for the exit whilst clutching a fistful of pilfered goods. On Sunday when I explained to my mother that I would be taking the boys up into the woods for a ramble while N was at work, I finally accepted the offer of an extra pair of hands. But I didn’t half feel ashamed for not tackling it by myself, which is all your fault for being so bloody judgy in the first place.

woodland walk

If I’d gone on my own, I wouldn’t have this awesome photo!

No, actually, I don’t have enough “mummy friends”. You’re absolutely right. But how does one procure “mummy friends” if one’s existing friends do not have children? You have to go out and try and make them, don’t you? And that is, to be blunt, absolutely fucking terrifying. The whole thing can be so Mean Girls sometimes that I can’t even bear to try. I’m sort of friendly with a mum who is also friends with a lot of other mums who were absolutely petrifying when I was at school with them. And they might be really nice now – who knows? – but I don’t want to find out, to be honest. I have recently made friends with the very lovely mum of one of O’s playgroup buddies and we took our boys out to the park together yesterday, but it’s taken me FOUR YEARS to pluck up the courage to suggest “we should meet up with the boys and go do something” to someone I haven’t previously known. Who knows how long it could take for me to find that courage again? So I probably won’t be making another mummy friend for a while, but I’m actually okay with that and I don’t get why anybody else even cares who my friends are anyway.

If I can be completely serious for a moment, I can’t post this without mentioning that it wasn’t anybody else who saved us when F started to get sick. Nobody came charging in with advice or empathy or love. It was me who fought that battle. Every breakthrough happened and continues to happen because I have pushed so damned hard to get him the help he needed and to bring our family through to the other side of what his illness did to all of us. I know that I could have done better in the beginning, but I was out of my depth, lost, had no idea what was happening and didn’t seem to be able to make anyone understand that we needed HELP. So if I could have done better then maybe you could too.

So if you ever happen to watch me with my kids and think to yourself “she’s making such a shit job of raising those boys”, first of all, realise that somebody else is probably thinking the exact same thing about you and that doesn’t feel very nice, does it? Second of all, understand that there are some days when I really do agree with you.


Know with absolute certainty that no one could love them more or better or harder than I do.

And that they like me best of all anyway.

motherhood love

What love looks like


Motherhood IRL

The “advice” nobody wants

Do you know what I hate the most about parenting? More than Judgy Mummy and her Perfect Darlings. More than realising that the last two slices of bread are mouldy when I’m rushing to make O’s pack-up. More, even, than a shit in the bath that I have to fish out with my bare hands.

I hate unsolicited “advice”.

Why the quotations marks? Well, because it’s not really advice, is it? When somebody comes at you with an opinion about your parenting, it’s not advice. It’s a loud, wailing siren accompanied by the words “YOU ARE DOING IT ALL WRONG”.

“No, don’t breastfeed like that; you should be doing it like this.”

“No, you shouldn’t be weaning with purees/doing baby-led weaning. Your baby will end up obese and you’ll have to purée everything forever/isn’t getting enough to eat.”

“No, I’ve read really bad reviews about that car seat. You should get this one instead.”

And then there’s today.

“OMG OMG OMG it’s too hot in F’s room! Put him somewhere else!”

No shit. I fucking know it’s hot in his room. Guess where else it’s hot? Every other room in the house. Should I put him in one of those instead, just in case the exact same temperature is somehow cooler somewhere else?

I really don’t know why other people feel the need to tell mothers how to be mothers. Motherhood seems to be the one thing that everyone has an opinion on, but do you know what? Being a mother is actually hard enough, thanks. We don’t need to be told that we are doing everything wrong and making all of the wrong choices.

We can be doubtful and worried and second guess ourselves all by ourselves.
We don’t need someone else to make us feel guilty about what we’re feeding our children; we probably already do. It’s not necessary for you to tell us our car seat isn’t as good as yours; it’s highly likely that we are already worried about it, even though we researched it for hours and it cost more than our monthly mortgage payment. And that guilt trip you want to lay on us about whether or not our kid should still have a dummy at bedtime? Yeah, we’ve read all the same articles you have, cheers.

If you want to give me some advice about something, you could go back in time about two and a half hours and tell me that my makeshift air conditioning unit of a bowl of ice water in front of a fan in F’s room is going to lead to him seeing if he can throw all of his stuffed animals into the bowl. Because you’d think I would have seen that one coming.

But I did not.

And there were no survivors. Even Favourite Bunny got his ears wet.

So maybe I am just as inept as you already assume I am when you come at me with your words of wisdom after all.

homemade air conditioning

Why didn’t I use the humidifier first?!


Most of the time I look at F and I think that you’d never know he’d ever struggled. You’d never know that there was a time when he spent whole days just screaming in pain. You’d never know that his weight had ever started to nosedive down the centiles. You’d never know that he had to sleep in a swaddling bag for the first year of his life just to feel comforted.

But every now and again, I see glimpses of the things that reflux has left behind.

F has a sensitive gag reflex. So sensitive that he gags on most foods apart from yoghurt. Sometimes he still throws up, especially if he isn’t keen on the taste of the food to begin with.

He also still seeks out the comfort of that swaddling bag sometimes by pulling his arms into his sleepsack, particularly when he’s not feeling well.

F is clearly thriving and, despite a very slight developmental delay caused by his reflux, most of the time he eats well. But mealtimes are when his past battles show their most obvious scars. Most of his meals are still puréed at 21 months old. He will eat finger foods – breadsticks, fruit, rice cakes – quite happily, but offer him baked beans or scrambled egg and he will try it, gag on it and refuse to have anything further to do with it. It means that I am often the subject of judgemental stares and scathing stage whispers when I take my children out for a meal. I’ve learnt to block it out for the most part, but sometimes one of those comments still gets through. Sometimes I still feel those stares.

“Why is he still eating baby food? He must be almost two?”

“Why is she still trying to get her kid to eat? He’s crying. He’s obviously not hungry.”

“How come the other kid is eating normally?”

There are days when I wish the ground would just swallow me up during these outings. But there are other days when I want to get up, walk over to these people and ask them why the fuck they think they have a right to judge my parenting when they don’t know a damned thing about my child.

hungry baby

Here’s the thing: sometimes this is hard for all of us. Sometimes I lie awake and I worry about the future. I wonder if there will ever be such a thing as a “normal” meal for F and I worry. He didn’t start to get teeth until he was over a year old – which was a good thing, because if he had gotten them earlier they would have been ruined by stomach acid -, but people don’t know that. They don’t know that he isn’t the same as his brother. They don’t know how hard some days are for him, and that’s the point: this is hard for him.

Yes, the stares and the whispers are horrible for me. But it’s not myself I feel the hurt and the anger for; I feel it for him. I feel it because I wish that he didn’t have the legacy of this condition to deal with. I feel it because I want to protect him from that judgement. And I feel it because I love my children more than anything on this Earth and I don’t want them to find out how cruel people can be just yet.

The truth is that I don’t really know whether or not these things are permanent, and I wish that there was something I could do to fix it. But I think this is just what we’ve been left with, and it’s okay really. It feels like a long time since I would stagger out of bed at 1AM, 2AM, 3:30AM and so on just to sit in the dark beside his cot and whisper that it would be okay while he struggled to sleep and grizzled through the discomfort.

I know that we’ve come a long way and that F will continue to get better, and I know that we will keep finding our way as we go.

That’s just what we do.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Parental sex & me

Parental sex is something we just don’t talk about, isn’t it? Or is it just me? To be honest, it’s a wonder I’ve ever even had sex considering how utterly impossible I find it to talk or write about it. I can’t even talk to N about sex. I rationalise this by telling myself “sex is something you do; not something you talk about doing”, but I did once have this boyfriend with whom 75% of our relationship consisted of exchanging filthy text messages. The other 25%, however, was made up of not actually doing the vast majority of the things we had been texting about because, frankly, they involved a lot of effort and there was also a pretty marked height disparity between us, which would have rendered some of them impossible anyway. And I’m blushing furiously now, so I’ll leave that there.

I don’t know about anyone else, but sex isn’t something that happens very often for us these days. I suppose I should have known that this would happen, given that it took me 10 weeks to get back on the horse after O was born. When you’ve spent weeks grimacing every time you sit down, you really don’t want anybody poking around down there once things finally start to feel better. Eventually, I realised I’d just have to woman up and get it over with or risk developing such an aversion that we’d never actually have sex again. Now it’s not fear of discomfort getting in the way. It’s not even lack of libido. It’s the fact that I’m just so fucking TIRED.

The thing is, once we’re in a position where sex might be a possibility i.e. in a quiet house with children either sleeping or not present, I start to think about how late it is or how the kids could wake up any second and wouldn’t it be awful if we were in the middle of something if they did? So I tend to grunt something approaching a negative, N sort of sighs like “ah, this neurotic shit again” and goes to sleep and then I’m lying there in the dark, awake anyway because I’m fed up and frustrated because this just feels a little endless sometimes.

Go figure.

I have this “quality not quantity” approach to sex as a general rule. Like it’s better to have one really mind-blowing encounter every couple of weeks than sex that is just a little bit meh every few days. So I’ll pull this one out for N every now and again and he’ll nod and then say, somewhat sadly (possibly for effect), “That’s true, but I don’t bloody remember anymore because it’s been five fucking weeks.”

Well. At least no one’s counting.

When you’ve been married for a while, people must assume that this kind of thing happens because they’ll start telling you how important it is not to “let that stuff go”. Which actually makes me really uncomfortable, to be honest, as if I must look like a person who hasn’t gotten laid for a while. But, infuriatingly, these over-familiar individuals are not wrong; sex is an important tool for keeping couples close. I’ve noticed that N and I get much more easily aggravated with each other when it’s been a while, and I don’t think it has much to do with anything as basic as “sexual frustration” or whatever; I think it’s because it can feel sometimes like our connection has come loose. Like we are just roommates who happen to have shared custody of small humans. And sometimes it’s been so long that I actually don’t know how to get things started up again, which often strikes me as incredibly weird because… well, because it shouldn’t be that difficult.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that when N and I first met, a lot of our interaction was physical. Of course there were times when we would just sit on the sofa together and talk, but we would always be physically connected somehow. My feet in his lap, his hand on my thigh, my head on his shoulder. We made an unconscious effort to be close to each other because it felt natural to us then. But now it’s different. Now there are nights when I will go to bed and realise that we haven’t hugged or kissed all day. Now he sits at one end of the sofa and I sit at the other. We don’t cuddle in bed because ugh! I’ve had kids climbing all over me all day and I just want my personal space back so can you just Go. The fuck. Away. Please.

I don’t say this to him. It’s an internal monologue, but he generally gets the point when I wriggle away and create a duvet buffer in the middle of the bed.


Before the “duvet buffer” days.

The thing is, it’s not that I don’t want to have sex with him. It’s really not. It’s just that… It’s a lot of effort, isn’t it? Clothing to remove, some kind of prelude, the thing itself and then that godforsaken clean-up operation (speaking of which, if you haven’t read this thread about the “penis beaker”, you really should). Maybe you don’t mind falling asleep in the wet patch, but I absolutely refuse to. Eurgh. NO.

I’ve actually heard about parents who schedule sex one or two nights a week, and I don’t mean to be dismissive because hey! If that works for you then that’s awesome, but doesn’t scheduling nookie kinda take the fun out of it a little bit? I can just imagine how that would go in our house:

N: “It’s sex night.”
Me: “I know, but I’m tired and I don’t really feel like it.”
N: “But it’s sex night. It says so ON THE CALENDAR.”
Me: “We need to get a new fucking calendar.”


I think that this is just going to be how it is for a while. A relationship counsellor would probably start talking about “making time for each other” and “nurturing your relationship” – GAG -, but we’ve been on the brink of divorce before and I genuinely don’t believe we’d let that happen again. It’s fine to not have sex for a few weeks at a time if we can still remember to appreciate each other. It’s completely unnecessary to get my knickers in a twist over this.

It’s just.

My knickers haven’t seen a whole lot of action other than twisting lately.

R is for Hoppit