The Usual Suspects… of the Mums Forum

Parenting is probably the most judgmental field around. The idea of being a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mum, although frowned upon, is in every new parents mind, and whether we have one newborn baby, or seven kids aged 0-20, we all have our opinions. In person, we try and limit what we brag about, moan about, and definitely how much we judge other parents. Online however? No such qualms exist. The Internet is absolutely full of mums who just cant wait to have their say, as if there aren’t literally thousands of women reading what you’re writing and invariably mouthing expletives at their screen in frustration at your idiocy.

I give you, The Usual Suspects.

Mum who doesn’t know how good she has it
This mum is like nails on a chalkboard to most parents, new or otherwise. She has a really good baby, a really easy time of it, and yet insists she is doing terribly. Yes, it’s all relative, and we all have our hard days, but worries like “No matter what I do, my daughter wont sit in her bouncy chair for longer than 45 minutes” or “My baby is 9 days old and never sleeps for longer than four hours at a time” are going to get you slapped.
Ditto with parents who complain about how difficult taking their kids on long haul flights multiple times a year is. Oh, I’m so sorry you’re going on holiday… Again.

My unhelpful answer: I hope God sends you twins next time. 

Panicky Mum
Can I give my 1yo raisins? Can I put any sunscreen on my daughter? What kind of towels are best for my baby’s skin? Should I wake my twins up, they’ve been sleeping for four hours? Can I eat chocolate while I’m breastfeeding? My baby ate 4ox and normally eats 4.5oz, what should I do?

My unhelpful answer: Do whatever you want. it doesn’t matter. And take some Prozac. 

Negligent Mum
My son has had this rash for three days. It started like this… -shows photo- and this morning I woke up and it’s like this. -shows additional photo- Has anyone experienced anything like this before?

My unhelpful answer: YES. Doctors have. I guarantee they’ve seen lots of rashes. You might even say it’s their JOB. The next one of these I see is getting a visit from social services you awful awful parent. 

By the Book Mum
This mother is generally a first time mum, although not always, and has been fooled by books and faux friends into thinking her baby is able to be programmed according to a schedule laid out kindly for her in pre-read literature. She is puzzled as to why at the six week mark, her newborn didn’t immediately start sleeping through the night. Why at six months, her son doesn’t love pureed cauliflower and lentil mush, made exactly how it was outlined on page 28.  Why after exactly two hours of playtime, her baby doesn’t seem sleepy.

“My baby is 6 weeks old, and doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night. He generally sleeps 4 hours, and then 3 hours, and then anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. I’m so tired, and if I try not feeding him, he just screams! How can I routine him?”

My unhelpful answer: Babies cry. Newborns need feeding often. Routine is not a verb. 

Fake Bragger
Disguised as a question, but really a blatant showing off fest, they normally start like this. 
“Is it normal that my 2 month old is making loads of noises already? This morning I swear she said mama! What’s that about?”
“I’m just wondering if it’s okay that my 7 month old took his first steps today… like is it safe for his ankles as he’s soooo teeny?”
“Has anyone experienced a week old baby sleeping for eight hours? My baby has done it two nights in a row now, and is putting on weight really well, and the midwife said it’s fine, but do you think I should be concerned at all?”

My unhelpful answer:  Shut up. NO ONE CARES. 

Negative poster
This one might in fact be my Mother in law. To every question, and every response, she basically answers “That’s really dangerous.” Sounds easy at first, but it’s actually a challenge finding negative answers to some posts. 

  • Baby in his own room? Nope, death by neglect.
  • Baby in my room? No way, attachment issues.
  • Which formula? You should be breastfeeding.
  • Should I stop BF now? Yes, do you have separation issues?
  • Can my kid have crisps? No, she’ll become obese.
  • Should I give her carrots? No-she’ll choke. 
  • Experience with trampolines? Broken bones. 
  • Experience with bikes? Car accidents. 
  • Experience with cuddly toys? Suffocation.

My unhelpful answer: I’m surprised you were brave enough to turn on the computer. Especially Facebook, don’t you know, someone is hacking into your account and identity thieving you RIGHT NOW.

The Seller
Not interested in giving or receiving advice, this lady truly subscribes to the idiom of one woman’s rubbish is another’s treasure. Except it generally isn’t. “For sale, 24 bottles and teats.” “10 cloth nappies, nearly new.”  What?! How can you think anyone wants those? More annoying still, “for sale, various toddler toys, all need a good clean but in good condition.” So clean them! Surely that would make it a more desirable sale?

My general rule: If a charity shop wont take it, we probably don’t want to spend a tenner and drive to Frogmore for it either. 

Noticed any other Usual Suspects to add to my list?

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Grow up, or don’t show up.

There are people in my life who exhibit unbelievably childish behaviour. One of those people is my two year old son. The other ones, are unfortunately significantly older. Here’s a list of what I feel is just unacceptable behaviour after the age of 6. All of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very week.

Hanging up the phone mid sentence.

Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not like what I’m saying? Have I upset you in some way? You have two options. One of them is to tell me what’s on your mind and let us have a conversation about it. The other is to say “To be honest I don’t think this is going anywhere constructive, can we pick this up again later?” On no planet is it normal to just hang up with no warning, especially when you preface it with “You’re being ridiculous.” The dial tone begs to differ on who the ridiculous one is.

Giving the silent treatment. 

We all need space from time to time, especially after a difference of opinion or an argument. You can even be forgiven for screening calls when you just aren’t ready to talk to someone yet. But please don’t show up at my house if you’re not going to answer a direct question. Similarly, the Muttering Treatment may be even ruder. Especially when I say “Sorry, what was that?” and you revert back to silence. Either the argument is over, (in which case, get over it) or it isn’t (in which case-let’s talk about it).

Walking away mid sentence. 

I’m well versed in this one, as my toddler loves doing it. I’m trying to explain something, or ask him a question and suddenly, “Hey, where’d you go?” It can be quite endearing in a 2 year old. But I would imagine your concentration levels are greater than 4 seconds, so please give me the respect of letting me finish a sentence.

Overreactions, or tantrums in response to absolutely nothing.

We’ve all been there with our kids. a 45 minute screaming fit over the sausages touching the peas on the plate. Or a variety of toys thrown at our heads because they wanted their socks put on before trousers today. Really R? If this is how upset you get now, what will your response be when I’m forbidding you a party on a school night, or making you get a job to help afford a car? Anyway, again-understandable (but no less frustrating)  in a two year old or even a teenager, but please grow out of it by middle age. Thanks.

Calling names

The old adage ‘sticks and stones,’ has never rung particularly true to me. And most adults will agree that while cuts and bruises heal, there is really no way to take back abusive and angry words. Whatever you think of someone, especially if they are family, you might want to refrain from labelling them too harshly (to their face anyway-we all need to vent from time to time). You cant honestly believe you’re going to be angry forever, and however much I may laugh and smile with you when it’s all over, and even though forgive and forget has to be the name of the game in any even semi-functioning family, I can’t un-hear you calling me a selfish spoilt cow.

Genuinely, I’m not sure what to suggest in response to the treatment I’ve had this week. Immature behaviour deserves the same response I would give a child. I can’t exactly put you in the naughty corner for a time-out, and anyway I don’t have the rest of my life free to wait for you to say sorry. I could take access to your favourite things away, and not let you see us, in the same way I might take away R’s Winnie The Pooh at bedtime if he didn’t touch supper, but I’m really not interested in stooping to your own childish level of playing games. I’ve pretty much been trying positive reinforcement ever since our relationship started, and short of actually making you a star chart, I’m not sure I could make you feel a more wanted part of our life than we already do.

So grow up. Because you’re in a privileged position that one of us has decided to be an adult for the time being. But there’s nothing like immaturity to make everyone around you regress themselves. And if I decide to start walking away as well, you might not find it so easy to get me to come back.

Half Term Horror

I am about to say some horrible things about children. Some of them may be your own children, some of them may be the kids of friends or neighbours. Just to be clear, despite what I’m about to say, they are all pretty much innocent in this particular rant. This angry diatribe (for that’s what I’m intending to write) is going to be at the very least 95% aimed towards Parents.

Let me also add the disclaimer that I know we are all currently in the difficult world of Half Term. From seeing our kids for a manageable several hours in a day, we are suddenly ‘blessed’ with their presence from 7am-7pm, and that’s if they’re good sleepers. It is really hard to find things to do with them all day every day, and because we all have the same problem at the same time, the mayhem is accentuated by the sheer number of us dealing with the frustration en masse.

(OH, side point. Genius idea just occurred to me. Enforced staggered half terms. Who would this NOT benefit?

1.) Nowhere would be busy for one isolated week a term, which would mean parents could actually look forward to time spent with kids.
2.) All employees wouldn’t be looking for childcare or taking holiday at once, making these situations more manageable in the work-place.
3) there wouldn’t be one random point where flights/ trips etc were more expensive, making it impossible to do family trips of any kind without crippling yourself in the process.

I’m going to move on now, but if anyone in the government is listening, please pass this on to an education minister of your choice. )

Despite the difficulties that the world of Half-Term is inflicting on us, I have to say (with my judge-y hat firmly on my head) some behaviours are totally unacceptable. The following all involve the under 5’s area at soft play where I was unfortunate enough to spend my afternoon. To make things fair, I am only going to list things which I saw today with my own eyes, exhibited more than once, by more than one family.

It is not okay to drop your two year old off, and then disappear off to the other side of the venue to have a coffee with your mates. Why is it suddenly my job to be wandering around the place (ignoring my own toddler I might add) because your kid is crying and you are nowhere to be found?

It is not okay to let your 6 or 7 year old into the under 5’s section, even if it is to ‘look after’ a younger sibling. No. That’s your job. When your six year old starts behaving like… er.. a SIX year old, ignoring your younger child to bound and play all over the area specifically designed for younger kids, scaring them off the climbing frames and knocking them over with enthusiasm, please don’t tell me that he’s just ‘looking after his sister’, because he isn’t! And he shouldn’t have to be. You should be in here, like the rest of us, rather than on the phone in the corner, and he should be in the over 5’s area, y’know, where OVER 5’S can play unrestricted? Your older child is not your baby sitter.

It is not okay to hear your own shoe bag number being called over the loudspeaker that your two hours are up, and proceed to SWAP bags unbeknown to another family so that you don’t have to leave! Believe it or not, I saw this THREE times in the space of my own two hours. One of the mothers in question seemed to be telling on the family she had stitched up! One mother even got her son to do the swapping. What on earth are you teaching your kids? That rules don’t have to be followed? That deception is a clever way to get what you want? That lying pays?

On a similar theme, it is not okay to tell your child to lie if anyone asks how old they are, (clearly not 4) or to let your kid sit at the top of the slide for EIGHT MINUTES while a queue of kids line up behind him and you coo “aww, he’s a bit frightened” from the bottom, or for that matter to shout “Yayyy!” as your twins climb up the slide so that no-one can use it. It is not okay to not be watching as your enormously bratty princess throws balls at my son’s face to “try and knock off his glasses” (ok that only happened once but I feel it’s worth a mention) or as your kids play a game self explanatorily titled “Jump on baby.”

I think we have an obvious theme here. Soft play is NOT free child care. It is a place that you can take your kids, and play with them. At best, parents would be interacting and initiating play with their toddlers, encouraging them to share and participate with other kids, and get the most out of a child-friendly experience.

But come on. Surely the least we can expect as fellow parents is that you simply show up and watch them.

softplay

Hallo-what?

Just a fair warning to you all, I’m about to be a huge party-pooper.

From my extensive research, (30 second Wiki search) I see that Halloween has mostly unknown roots which are most probably pagan. No reason to keep celebrating it there then. So you cant pin this one on religion.

Apart from all the pointless customs, (carving pumpkins? what now?) it seems to be the only ‘holiday’ which has absolutely no emphasis on family time or any sort of kindness, which means you also cant validate it with tradition, or family values or morality of any kind at all for that matter.

From what I can tell, it is basically an excuse for teenagers to be rowdy and vandalise private property, all in disguise so there is no responsibility or consequences involved.

When it comes to younger children, I’m not denying that dressing up is fun, but why the need for it on a national level? Surely we all have dressing up boxes, and enough of our kids insist on going out dressed as fairies and superheroes as it is? The emphasis on ‘scariness’ is for the younger kids just frightening, and for the older ones- a huge pressure on parents to let kids that are still young ‘one-up’ one another with more gory and violent costumes. Add into the mix more sugar than your child should be having in a month, and all you end up with is hyperactive and often traumatised children.

All this would probably not bother me anywhere near as much if it wasn’t for my final pet peeve of the evening, tangentially related to the sugar overdosing. WHY are we giving out chocolate and sweets to children just because they are knocking on our doors? Surely in this age of super parenting awareness we should at the very least have updated it to “Trick or Treat please?” The whole idea of “You give me something for nothing, or I’m going to do something evil” whether that be egg or tee-pee your house, or just shout an obscenity and run away, is truly abhorrent to me, even if it were apples we were giving away. But to be filling a child’s outstretched arms with unhealthy and over the top junk food which they will either stuff in their faces too fast for their parents to monitor, or barter and fight over with their siblings, is enough to scare me senseless even without the costumes.

 

Hocus Pocus: The only good thing to come out of Halloween in my opinion.

Change Please

I have a friend who had her first baby about 6 months ago, who I merrily judged throughout her pregnancy for the ridiculous things she said. “I wont get stretch marks because my sister never got stretch marks” “I wont have any trouble breastfeeding because I’m really committed to it, and I don’t give up” “I plan on working throughout my maternity leave, while the baby plays and stuff.” “I’ve read an article about how to get a baby sleeping through by 6 weeks. I plan to follow that, and then I can see my friends in the evenings.” I could go on, but you get the picture. It can all be summed up in one sentence really. Having a baby won’t change my life, and it wont change me.

What a crazy notion.

In no other area of our lives, do we go through a huge experience, and expect to come out the other side the same way we went in. In no other area of our lives do we want to. For me at least, starting a family was the single biggest adjustment I am ever likely to make, it has involved the most changes to my lifestyle, the most alterations to my mindset, and the most practical differences in my day to day activities that I ever could have conceived beforehand. And before you do it, you simply cant understand that. Truthfully, you will never be truly prepared. But to go in with the naive and selfish assumption that you can (or would even want to) keep your life the same afterwards, just makes me think that a person isn’t ready for parenthood in the first place.

But as I said, none of us know what it is going to be like, and therefore we cant really be blamed for our naivety. What we can be blamed for, is taking that out of the pregnancy, and into our lives with our babies.

I haven’t spent much time with the woman I mentioned above since her pregnancy became an actual child, so I couldn’t say whether her ignorant viewpoint has passed over into motherhood. But I do know plenty of people for whom this is the case. The mums who are shocked when the ‘fool-proof’ technique for sleeping through the night doesn’t work from 2 weeks old, and therefore they can’t manage their usual 8 hours per night. The mums who complain that their six week olds aren’t able to be left with a babysitter so that they can regain their lost social life. And the parents who drag along toddlers at all hours of the evening to fit in with their own plans, long after they should be asleep.

I’m not saying there is no life after kids. But it adapts. It has to. If you cant afford a babysitter, the answer isn’t to drag your 2yo along with you and hope they nap in the buggy. You just can’t go out. Or you have to go somewhere free and use the money on the sitter instead. If your baby is still a newborn and genuinely needs feeding at night, then that’s what they need! There aren’t any ‘quick-fixes’ to help you feel better rested, that’s your job right now. It is true that we’re not all equipped to be with our kids 24/7, some of us find it impossible, either emotionally or financially. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in working mums, at least part time, and taking the help when it is offered. But even that has its limits. If we are truly honest, we all know when we are acting in our families best interests and when our motives are mostly selfish.

Your baby hasn’t read the books, she doesn’t know what she should be doing; only what you teach her. And acting like your kid is an inconvenience to your schedule, teaches nothing but that, even if on the outside it seems to be working fine. Parenthood is meant to change you, not just the way you feel, but the way you behave. That’s why it is such a big deal in the first place.

It’s not always a case of forcing a baby out of a routine in order to keep your schedule of course. There are families which have full time help on hand to deal with all that ‘baby stuff’, night nurses, au-pairs, mother’s helps and the like, which means your life doesn’t have to change, as others would. But I really believe that even in these cases, you are not being honest with yourself about what your family needs. Whether you are both full time working parents, or just ladies of leisure who want the extra pair of hands, if your life is exactly the same as it was beforehand, then this may sound harsh, but why did you have the kids in the first place?

I’ve heard people say “Why should I have to choose between my social life/work/hobbies and my family?” and I laugh. That’s just life. We make choices, we make compromises. Surely the one factor that should never be compromised is your children, however great your own adjustments have to be.

So whether it’s someone else that’s doing the parenting for you, or whether you’re shaping your baby to fit into your schedule; if you’re in a position to say “Having kids hasn’t changed me” then I hate to be the one to tell you- you’re probably doing it wrong.