No. 18 – Things I should enjoy as a Mum, but don’t!

Before we start, this post may sound mega negative, but that wasn’t my aim at all – I do love being a Mum (most of the time!).  It’s just that I promised myself at the start of this year that I’d keep my blog posts true to life, avoiding as much Instagram-worthy nonsense as possible. Anyone can take a picture of their kids playing beautifully together, or eating a delicious home cooked meal (believe me, I capture these moments for posterity too here!) but that’s just a moment in time, a snapshot, a memory to treasure. I’m more interested in the day to day grit and grind of everyday life. If this hasn’t put you off, please do read on…

Recently, I’ve been questioning my Mum-worthiness a little, as I’ve come to realise that there are quite a few parent and child type activities, events and occasions that I really don’t enjoy. Not one little bit. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say I detest them on occasion; I dread them; I’m a little bit scared of them. What could possibly make me feel this way, you ask?

Mealtimes – I love to eat and cook, and food is a really big part of family life for us. As I’m not working (out of the house) at the moment, I try to prepare dinner from scratch every day, testing out new recipes, and thinking up interesting and delicious ways to cram as much good stuff into my family as possible. And having fun mealtimes, all sat around the table together, sharing stories about our days is something I always looked forward to from when the boys were babies. It’s a real Mum thing I think. Mama hen clucking around her brood and all that.

My boys are big eaters, well the older two at least, so we get through a shed load of food in our house. I get the boys involved in cooking where I can, let them have a choice when working out our weekly meal plan (yes, I’m a proud meal planning geek!), and serve up tasty and nutritious grub, but the majority of mealtimes in our house start well enough, but disintegrate rapidly and soon become a mess of bribery, threats and tears. And I can’t stand it!

To be fair, my eldest will eat anything, and demolishes whatever I put in front of him within minutes.  He eats like a horse, yet is skinny as a beanpole. The middle one immediately turns his nose up at everything, unless its straight from the freezer processed rubbish. Or pizza 🍕. Or cereal. He’d live on Shreddies if I’d let him. Every morning, without fail, he moans and groans his way through his porridge, complaining that it’s too hot, or I’ve mixed the banana 🍌 in too much, or that I’ve given him too much, or not enough. It’s the same at dinner time. Well-loved family favourites, that I know he likes, are picked at, pushed around and whinged about, until we start issuing warnings (which get increasingly serious), and he suddenly develops an appetite and clears his plate in record time. The two of them bicker when at the table, resulting in regular pleas of, ‘just shut up, the both of you’. The baby is doing that typically picky 11 month old eating thing, where most food is rejected or thrown over the side of the highchair (apart from sweetcorn 🌽). I’m a real sucker for it, dashing off to the kitchen every few minutes to get another food for him to try, getting increasingly fraught with each attempt. Aaaarrrgggghhhh!

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…the majority of mealtimes in our house start well enough, but disintegrate rapidly and soon become a mess of bribery, threats and tears

We’ve tried lots of approaches to try and make mealtimes less stressful. All eating together; just letting the kids eat on their own; being more relaxed about manners at the table; being super strict; having music on and lots of chat; insisting on silence; responding to their bad behaviour; ignoring it completely; you name it, we’ve tried it! We are eating out less frequently than we’d like to, and choosing places carefully when we do eat out, making sure that they are quite noisy and there are other families in there, most of whom have the same, slightly stressed expression on their faces that we do! Friends with older kids tell me that it’ll get better as the boys get older, but that feels a long way off at the moment. Send help!

Park – It’s not going to the park as such that I have a problem with; it’s going to the park when it has been raining. As in, if there has been any rain in the past week. At all. It’s the mud, the puddles, and the potential to get properly filthy within such a short space of time that I can’t stand. And if anybody can manage to track down some squelchy, oozy, smelly mud, it’s my middle son. He’s permanently got that slightly grubby urchin look about him, all unkempt floppy hair, mucky chops and grimy knees. Only this week we went for a walk through the park with his baby brother in the sling as I attempted naptime. Within 10 minutes of arriving at the park he’d managed to coat his shoes in mud and had it splattered all up the back of his Batman cape too. Cue a quick walk home and me making him strip off in the hall so I could bundle his costume straight into the washing machine before the mud got trailed through the entire house.

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It’s the mud, the puddles, and the potential to get properly filthy within such a short space of time that I can’t stand.

I’m so on edge when we go the park and it’s muddy, and I feel like I’m constantly saying ‘don’t step there’ and ‘watch where you are going’. And cringing at the sight of them getting steadily muckier and muckier. And the washing! Oh my god! Two loads a day is pretty standard in our house. Add in a park trip when there’s mud around, and there’s at least another load to contend with. Make it stop! I know I should probably chill out about the whole thing and enjoy the sight of the boys running carefree across a muddy field, wind blowing their hair, laughter ringing out, but I just can’t bear it!

Craft – In theory I should be a crafty Mum. My Mum is massively crafty, designs and makes fabulous toys, clothes and homewares here, and I’m actually pretty artistic myself. It’s just the combination of small boys and paint/scissors/glitter that send a shiver down my spine! I try to do craft activities with the boys when we go to toddler groups and parties, but as soon as they start interpreting the activity in their own style, i.e. not doing it properly, I can’t stop stepping in and trying to get them to do it properly again. ‘You are supposed to colour in the lines’, ‘his eyes need to be level’, ‘spiders only have 8 legs you know’, that sort of thing. And I never do craft with them at home. Do you think I’m mad? The potential for a whole load of mess and lots of arguments puts me right off. Crayons, felt tips, maybe even a glue stick if it’s a special occasion, and I’m ok with that. Anything more free flow and messy is banned from the house. Like playdough. And paint. And sparkly sequins.

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And I never do craft with them at home. Do you think I’m mad?

I’m lucky that my Mum indulges their creative impulses when we are at her house. Her workroom is basically a small version of Hobbycraft, a treasure trove of sparkles, swatches and yarns. And whenever those dreaded notes come home from nursery and school, ‘your child needs to dress as an [insert obscure costume here] for the upcoming performance’, I simply ring my Mum and she says, ‘I’ll see what I can do’, before presenting me with a cracking costume just a few days later. Who needs to be crafty when you’ve basically got a dressmaker on speed dial?

My own kids party – If there is a more stressful, but supposed to be fun, way to spend an afternoon as a parent, I’m yet to experience it. I’m an anxious party planner and host at the best of times, worrying unnecessarily about whether people are having a good time, if they are enjoying the food and drinks, if everyone is mingling etc. But when it’s a party for one of the boys my anxiety goes into overdrive. Will everyone turn up? Will they play nicely together? How to avoid the inevitable tears when the party games start? Pass the parcel politics are a minefield!

When my eldest son turned 4, we hired a local hall and went all out on a jungle party theme. The room was decked out with cardboard animals, blow up palm trees and hanging vines. My son was dressed as a tiger, there was face painting and animal themed games. I’d baked animal shaped cookies to greet everyone with, stuffed homemade party bags with loads of plastic jungle tat, and we’d even bought a CD of jungle animal sounds to have playing in the background. Seriously, what was I thinking?! I blame this madness on the fact that I’d only got 1 child at this point so clearly had waaaaay too much time on my hands! Within half an hour the kids were just tearing round the hall, ignoring my forced cheerfulness and suggestions that they line up to play ‘pin the tail on the elephant’. The food wasn’t quite ready in time so we had cake before party food by which point the kids were no longer hungry. Too. Much. Stress!! I like to think I’ve come a long way since those dark days.

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Plus, my kids ALWAYS cry at parties. Their own or anybody else’s; they’re not fussy. I picked my eldest son up from an amazing Nerf war party last weekend, and as I walked in he burst into tears. He’s nearly 9! Oh god….he’s nearly 9. That means it’s almost party time again. Plus, his baby brother turns 1 the day before, so it’s a double header. I think I need a lie down at the thought of it. Or a glass of wine 🍷 (I’m writing this at 10.12am, so it’s maybe a tad early?).

Swimming lessons – I’m a very reluctant swimmer. I can swim perfectly well, had lessons as a child, haven’t got a fear of the water at all (despite falling into a reservoir as a small child and seeing fish 🐟 swimming around me!) But taking the kids to their swimming lessons is just no fun whatsoever. Public changing rooms give me the creeps. That inch of slightly grey water all over the floor, discarded plasters, verucas, long hairs. Bleurgghhhh. My eldest swims with a squad two evenings a week, and its normally my partner who takes him, but if he’s working away then I have to do it. A combination of the stifling heat and the smell of chlorine seems to make time pass ridiculously slowly, so the hour and a half I’m there, sweating it out on the poolside, seems like an eternity. I can seriously feel myself aging in the time I’m there. Then there’s the wait for him to get dressed and out of the changing rooms. Takes forever! I know I should be a super proud Mum that he’s training so hard, and I am, he’s a cracking little swimmer, but the thought of us becoming a ‘swim family’ that spends so many hours at the pool is a sobering one.

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Public changing rooms give me the creeps. That inch of slightly grey water all over the floor, discarded plasters, verucas, long hairs.

The middle child is still at the stage of having an adult in the pool with him, and again, this is definitely a Dad job in my eyes. When he’s away on swimming lesson day, I wake up with a feeling of dread in my stomach. Donning a swimsuit, negotiating the changing rooms, sitting on little plastic chairs round the pool next to the other parents, lowering yourself slowly into the cold water, then the songs and games with a wilful 4 year old who has no fear of water and will happily bomb into the pool when there’s no one there to catch him. Fun, fun, fun! Next term he’s moving up a class so won’t need an adult in the pool with him. Hallelujah. So that’ll be more hours sat poolside watching my life slip away. It’s a good job we don’t have another child to put through swimming lessons. Oh, wait a minute…

How about you? Are you with me on any of these things? Or any other Mum type stuff that you think you should enjoy, but secretly (or not so secretly) don’t? Lets share our pain together!

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2 thoughts on “No. 18 – Things I should enjoy as a Mum, but don’t!

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  1. Oh my word! You have just described a large chunk of my life. With four kids I’ve been through all of the above with smiley enthusiasm, optimism and dreams of being a wonder mum which over the years have descended into crazed expressions of perseverance , desperation and relief of surviving another day.
    Mealtimes are now easier that they understand if they don’t eat my culinary delights they go hungry but this has turned them into Masterchef judges critiquing every flavour and texture….child #4 telling me I’d slightly overdone the amount of lentils in the Lamb Rogan Josh?????
    Going to nursery was a revelation to my younger kids as they discovered that glitter existed….I’d learnt with the bigger two to have a 3 mile glitter exclusion zone round our house.
    I’d love to be a ‘let’s jump in muddy puddles’ mum but the reality of wet cold whinging kids is more than my decreasing sanity can stand!
    And as for swimming……I still cannot face those memories, maybe in another five years I’ll be brave enough.
    But the other day someone asked me how I managed to have such a close relationship with my kids (age 19-8). I put it down to sharing those stressful mealtimes with complaints, bickering and strops (all usually mine) because at least you get to know your kids and what makes them tick.
    I’m guilty of posting photos showing happy family groups but it’s only to remind myself that even for just a second they can get on together and it’s all worth it!
    Great blog, thanks for making me laugh and although I don’t want to put a dampener on things….all I’ll say is TODDLER GROUPS!!!!! Aarrrrghhh!

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  2. Al – I hear what you’re saying and feel your pain! I can identify with some of your points, but most especially – SWIMMING!!
    Aside from the changing areas with their floating hair and plasters (ugh – shudder), for me it was feeling my life slowly draining away as , day after day, I had to sit by the side of the pool, in that exhausting heat, watching one or the other of you learning to swim!
    I wanted you all to be able to swim, obviously, and even better if you could swim well, but – the monotony……!
    Good news is, you can all swim well and I survived!! So will you!! XX

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