Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Shopping Revolt.

Feeling Spring in the air and willing to spend the last of the month's budget on myself rather than food I head for the shops whilst M is at play school. I only have two hours, 'tis a marathon shopping session. I visit six different outlets intent on spoiling myself and return, with my handbag between my legs, wielding one item. A t-shirt. For my daughter. Granted it is pretty cute (River Island new girls range from age 3 years), none the less, it won't fit me and is yet another item of clothing for the toddler.

I tried, I really did - six shops in two hours including some changing rooms sessions and a few shoes here and there, is no small feat. So, why just one measly t-shirt then?

To set the scene, here'e roughly what I look like: I am 5'10. Granted taller than average, but my no means a 6-footer. I do not have swishy hair, I do have sizeable hips, my thighs rub together, my breasts hang by my knees when unsupported, my waist is kind of there but right underneath it is a belly reminiscent of being pregnant and enjoying that fish supper a little too much, my arms wave alongside with my hands and I pack a serious amount of junk in my trunk. Don't misunderstand, I am not down on this, I have body dysmorphia in reverse and like to channel Marilyn Monroe when looking in the mirror. My chant goes a little bit like this: "Loving your work girlfriend, looking pretty fine out there, work it, work it..." (yes, I refer to myself as "girlfriend" when looking in the mirror and apparently the voice in my head sounds like a 18-year Gok Wan). In short, a few inches taller than average, but generally just a normal woman, looking for normal clothes...

Firstly, two of my favourite go-to-shops for the tall range no longer stock them. Only available online. Apparently I am just on the wrong side of normal in the leg department and am not worthy of trying things on in-store. However, the petite department is alive and kicking. Complete with inspirational slogan "petite: the perfect proportion". Really?! I would wager a pair of shoes that a lot of petite women bemoan their fate as much as everyone else.

Secondly, jeans. Mostly available in skinny, super-skinny and jeggings. Or bootcut, that sit on your hips and push up your belly rendering even your spanx useless. Or chinos, that have that bulky gathered bit at the front that makes me think I should have a penis to really do them justice. And mostly available in pastel colours, the type that show up all your bumps and grinds, the very ones that make you run for the "in black only please" department.

Then the tops, tunics?! Not being pregnant anymore there is really nothing more to say on this subject. I wore them to death and cannot face them again. As for the "long at the back short at the front" variety of jumper, cutting a straight line right across my thighs is never going to do it for Marilyn. Floaty chiffon types? I am not in a movie singing my way across a field of flowers and don't want to dress like I am either. Pastel colours? Makes me look unwell. An array of stripes in all directions? Makes me look like a barbers pole. Little animals all over? Makes me look like a zoo-keeper. I don't want Rihanna on my t-shirt and I don't want to tie my shirt under my boobs either.

I am doomed. Forever destined to single, bold colours, basic tee's and hanging on to my last two pairs of jeans till the bitter, ripped end.

This leave bags, shoes and scarves... oh, and the children's department!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Busting some Mommy Myths!

A few things in the media of late have really got my back up. Okay, most things in the media really get my back up, but generally I just slate the human race and carry on with the washing. However, when I read things that I have personal experience of and that directly contradict the feature's fluffy or opioionated approach I suddenly develop an attitude. A big one.

I carry around the realities of a) having had a caesarian birth and b) having had to combination feed/primarily bottle feed my daughter. So, what's the problem you say? Nothing I like to think, as far as I can tell I have a healthy, happy and above-average-in-height toddler. Really, at first glance, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to tell she was a section baby nor that she got most of her milk from a bottle, but maybe that is just because I'm her mom and in reality she has a sign on her back saying otherwise? A little defensive you might be thinking? Er, yes.

Firstly the Caesarian. I overheard a woman say the other day "you have to beg to give natural birth now days!". Hhhmmmm, correct me if I'm wrong but all I wanted when pregnant was to give birth to a healthy baby. Didn't think I was being naive, thought that would just be common sense? If anyone wants to know, I had a section birth because The Toddler was breech. The Little Mite planted her bottom in my right hip and didn't actually shift for the entire pregnancy. Each midwife appointment was a little stressful as they struggled to find the heartbeat at first, looking in the wrong place of course, then you had the added pleasure of not being able to walk properly due to concentrated pressure on the hips and having to wear a bandage-type thing over your hips and pelvis to keep everything in place. When other expectant mothers felt their babies move constantly all I got was a back arch when said baby would flex her neck and you could feel her head under my right boob. Literally rub her skull through my skin.

They don't like to tell you you're breech until about 35 weeks in. Then they give you the facts... If baby doesn't turn, you don't get to give "natural" birth. They can turn baby, by applying force to your belly and manipulating the baby to be "head down". Statistically this apparently works for 3 out of 10 women, 30% success rate. The rest of them go one of two ways, either have to have an emergency c-section there and then as mother or baby goes into distress mode; or baby returns to their chosen natural position of "head up". Armed with this knowledge we chose planned section. 30% is not exactly a success rate in my mind.

Skipping the birthing story for now (beautiful, surreal, happy day, etc,etc) I'll move on to feeding the now-born baby. My feeding approach was pretty simple, I would like to try breastfeeding... and take it from there. Suck-it-and-see, if you'll excuse the pun. Baby latched on straight away and I was complimented on my "technique". Ha! Get me, "got this one cracked" I thought! Oh, the irony isn't lost on with me with that pun either, trust me.

The first and second night passed with regular, but uneventful feeds. But by the third night Baby was feeding every 30 minutes, like clockwork. By then I was signing my own feeding charts and my 3-day old baby was in bed with me! A big taboo for babies, particularly when you're still in the hospital and being monitored by professionals armed with their lists of right and wrong's. But by this stage the staff must have grown weary of me buzzing them every 30 minutes to bring the baby to me for a feed (remember c-section, can't actually get out the bed on your own yet and so a nurse has to bring the baby to you for a feed), one nurse did half-heartedly go into the "sleeping with your baby" speech, but didn't even finish her own sentence. By the next morning, I was feeling a little worse for wear, feeding every 30 minutes, sleeping for 30, then feeding again was not the way to spend a night... I welcomed my mother and Fiancé with tears and a sleeping baby. Touché.

When we got home, things didn't really improve in the feeding department. Baby grew, considerably and slept in between feeds, but actual feeds were lasting 2-3 hours. Alternating breasts, feeding for literally hours. Why, you ask? Well, Baby was crying, hungry crying, a lot. This wasn't without its pitfalls for me. I spent those first few weeks walking about the house looking like a tribal woman. Topless all the time, trying the age old method of "drying out" the skin to toughen it up and heal the cracked and broken surface. No creams, lotions or caps could help a breast from a 3-hour feeding session that's for sure. What about the leaking you might ask? That might have been the first clue really, as I didn't. Not once.

Eventually I tried expressing, but only got 5ml after 20 minutes pumping. Still, we did photograph Baby's first "express" feed in keeping with capturing all those first moments. After 3 weeks of this and one particularly bad Sunday when I had fed the darling for 4 straight hours and still she was doing the "hungry cry", we called the emergency mid-wife number. The mid-wife listened to our tale and said only one thing: "get some formula". "I can't" I cried, "I am breastfeeding! I've read the pamphlets, I've heard the lectures you can't do both, you can't change the plan. Can you?"

Yes, yes you can dear readers! The Fiancé was despatched to 24 hour Tesco immediately, returned with formula and we all slept for 10 straight hours. The End.

Ok, not quite but it did change our lives, for a bit anyway. From that day on, Baby was combination fed. She would have breast milk from the first morning feed and throughout the day, then a formula bottle before bed and for the night feed as well. This was short-lived too. Just before 2 months old, I had to start dropping more breast feeds for a bottle, as the "hungry cry" was starting again, eventually I was only down to one breast feed first thing in the morning and Baby had to have the bottle immediately afterwards to actually get her breakfast. The reality of the situation was this: my milk just dried up. Stop coming in, disappeared. By the time Baby was three-months old I dropped the breastfeeding act completely, there was absolutely nothing there to give, my breasts hung by my knees and the tribal woman was closing up shop.

So, what's the moral of the story? Figure things out for yourself and listen to your body! Yes, read up on everything, yes, listen to the professionals, but firstly, listen to your body and your gut instinct.

The only real truth in parenting is nobody is right and nobody is perfect. We are all different.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Do you want to speak to the boss?

Try as we like to think we have this parenting thing under control, there is always one statement that comes to mind: "Do you want to speak to the woman who thinks she's in charge (Me) or the woman who actually is (The Daughter)? I quite like this image taken on a recent family outing to a local farm, Daughter wasn't actually in a strop, this was a normal conversation, this is just her natural pose. Actions speak louder than words and all that.

Take this morning, Princess came through for a cuddle when she woke up, bringing fluffy toy of the moment with her. Daddy was just about out the door for an early meeting. He came to say goodbye to us. Apparently he didn't do it right and Princess demanded a kiss on the lips not the forehead, he laughed whilst she puckered up and waited. Having got that off of him, she demanded Mommy gets the same. Really?! I am not a "on the lips before I brush my teeth or have a wee" kind of girl. Doesn't matter, I got it anyway. Princess then demanded a "big cuddle" and finally waved Daddy off with a "have a nice day, see you later".

Then it was my turn. "Mommy come on, get up, open your eyes, turn your head over, rub your eyes and stretch like this" (demonstration from Princess as to how I should be stretching), then a good morning smooch from Princess and her fluffy kitten toy. The duvet was then flung off and after noticing my PJ top wasn't quite making it over my belly I got this: "Moooommmm that is disgusting, no one wants to see that!". Thanks honey, just when I thought the new exercise regime was starting to pay off, Daughter puts me right. May as well give up and go back to a glass a night, no?

All this before 8am.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Dear Generation Standstill... get moving!

A recent Grazia (05th March) featured an article "We're best friends, talented... and jobless", profiling four girls who had gone to university together and now find themselves as one of the "1.04 million jobless 16 to 24-year-olds in Britain". These four girls, having worked and played hard together through university, are now a statistic of the "one in four graduates are out of work" variety.

Whilst I can appreciate a country recovering from a recession, economic downturn, crippling student debt and a very overpriced housing market are all big obstacles for today's youth trying to move from semi-adult to adult-adult; I didn't actually have much sympathy for these four girls. They spoke of a lack of social life (try having a baby), not being able to shop (try running a family budget), they spoke about not being able to date (I would suggest you are dating the wrong kind of man if you being unemployed, but looking to be, is an issue), they mentioned jobs such as temping and babysitting as being beneath their university-educated selves (I immediately thought they are obviously not proper starving nor suffering if this is the case!).

One girl had studied a Modern History degree and wanted to work in Advertising. Er, why Modern History to then work in Advertising? What about a Commercial Business qualification or a course that offered an internship or mentoring programme? I don't for a minute suggest that if you choice a course relevant to a specific job you will automatically get employed, but if the market is so darn tough then really you should be giving yourself as much chance as possible.

To the girl who has to temp to earn some cash, forget temping in a restaurant and get yourself into a recruitment agency. Forget the cocktails in London town, put your hard earned cash under the mattress and work harder on your plan to move into something permanent. Face each new temp job like it could be the one that opens doors for you to something else. Network. A lot.

Another of the girls has moved back in with her parents, she feels it is tough but knows she is lucky to have that option. Her mother sent her an article about passion in your job being overrated and that you should just take a job. This suggests to me that her mom is trying to help her get out the house and into a job... You might want to get a job you love, but if there are limited-to-no opportunities for this "dream job" at the moment, then can you not be working in an environment that will give you access to these opportunities? Working in a gallery coffee shop? Attending local events, submitting articles to a relevant magazine or newspaper?

I kind of get the feeling these girls are pouring over the job section waiting for something to come up that fits their profile. Are they not getting feedback from the potential employers after an interview? Where are the gaps in their CVs, how can they fix these? Are they not asking these questions? Lack of experience is a difficult hurdle, but what about a free internship? What about local networking communities, online forums? Moving countries? Starting their own business? Anything!

Apologies girls, am sure if you ever read this you will take it very personally, however you did put yourself and your stories in a magazine. A celebrity of any kind always get two kinds of feedback, think Rihanna and Chris Brown or Madonna and her single mum woes. Pretty sure you will also rant about "who the hell am I" with my opinions, but believe it or not I was also a semi-adult once. And, I too had a dream.

But, here's the thing... we all have to start somewhere! From where I'm sitting none of you seem to be starving, homeless, terminally ill or severely disabled. Generation Standstill? Why? Get a move on, you all come across as nice, bright, educated and decent girls so make a change. Make some decisions, get your mojo back and get out there.

P.S Am actually a nice person really, just got a little "bee/bonnet" like with this feature. I worked in some pretty interesting and completely non-relevant jobs in my time and managed to build a fairly successful career along the way. Of course, I then jacked it in to be a stay-at-home-mother, but that story is for another day and another post.
P.P.S Obviously this post doesn't account for every single reason semi-adults are unemployed in today's climate, but is relevant to the four girls featured in the magazine.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Good Taste, Nature vs Nurture?

If my daughter's taste in footwear is anything to go be then the answer is definitely: Nurture!

The Toddler has had these for a while, but has never shown much interest in them, favouring instead, pink converse, Peppa Pig wellies or bling crocs (yes, bling crocs!). However, after a recent step-up in her efforts to imitate Puss in Boots and his Flamenco dancing, she has re-discovered the joys of the "clip clop shoe".

These lime green beauties are suddenly constantly in my line of sight. And bar from the obvious tripping hazard, the look of them is starting to cause me great worry. Forget five-a-day, fresh air and daily exercise, working lime green "clip clop shoes" out of my daughter's wardrobe is very high on the priority list!

As a bit (large bit) of a shoe girl myself, I can't help but look at these pieces of plastic lush and pray that The Toddler's taste in shoes improves with age. Improves a lot with age!

P.S It does occur to me that after publishing this The Toddler will probably take a very keen interest in my shoe cupboard and I will be posting about how I have discovered I am not ready to share my shoes with my 2-year old... laws of physics and all that.
P.P.S Toddler has just walked past me and upon seeing the image of her dress-up shoes, said to me "oh wow mommy, they're my favourite!". Damn.