Mummy and Me – the answer to all your mum-style troubles?

It’s safe to say that my sense of style was expelled, and presumably disposed of, alongside my placenta.

It was probably incinerated, or else is sat rotting in a landfill somewhere in a yellow bag with a black skull on it. (Funnily enough, something I’d now wear, and an indication of how fashion lost I am).

Since the Small People came along I have struggled to get into my mum-style groove.

Not that pre-kid me was all that groovy either – but she most definitely wore less yoga pants and black leggings. Also, less shapeless cheap tops with easy boob access – the ones I swore I’d shrink out of when, you know, I stopped breast feeding lost all the baby weight. LOL!

I’ve basically got no idea what suits me anymore – largely because my boobs, waist and stomach are either not where I left them, missing in action, or generally migrating south.

Plus I don’t have the time or inclination to shop anywhere outside of Tesco, and I dress each day at random from a disorganised pile of unsorted, un-ironed washing that never makes it back into my wardrobe.

The 5 year old has a better (admittedly eclectic) sense of style than I do.

But I have recently discovered online a phenomenon that I feel sure will lift me out if my style rut and propel me into ultimate yummy mummy-dom!

And I haven’t just discovered it – I’ve become obsessed by it. It’s basically turned into my new hobby, and I’m pretty sure it’s why the whole internet was invented. You heard me, lolcats! Move on over.

It’s called Mummy and Me,,. (or Mommy and Me, because it started in America, OBVIOUSLY) and it’s either super damn cute or super bollickingly awful – I can no longer trust myself to tell which.

It preys on your womb-maddened hormones, your sleep-deprivation, your night-feed surfing addiction, your post-partum identity crisis – and your maternity leave budget.

It’s cheap, cheerful, and EASY, because you don’t have to do any thinking – you just wear exactly the same as your kids! Amazeballs, right?

 So let’s explore this brave new world of wearable opportunity! We’ll ease ourselves in with the leggings.

Fed up of black? Shows up the milk spit, toothpaste and snot, amiright? If they’re anything like mine they’re also getting bobbly and/or threadbare and losing some of the elasticity. Invest in some funky patterned numbers! Perfect for the British summer! And available for your mini-me too. What is not to like?

I am genuinely tempted by these….

Already got semi-ironic family Christmas jumpers? Add in the leggings! You know it makes sense! No one else was getting the irony, anyway! (Hats optional).

Now you’ve wet your feet, why not dive in and branch out into bolder prints?

Ok, we may have gone over-patterned, now. Maybe. I’m not sure.

I do know my kids would adore and admire the hearts, and I basically need to take the compliments where I can get them these days.

It’s fine to dress like a children’s TV presenter to please your smalls, right? I mean Timmy Mallet at least had A style, which is more than I have. I say go for it. Who knows? You might break out into spontaneous family yoga!

Okay, it’s time to step away from the leggings and broaden (literally) our trouser horizons. How about these?

I love the boho style, and they’d be nice and cool for summer (give or take the possibility of thigh chafing). Could even be slimming if high-waisted enough? I’d team with a black vest, and some massive sunglasses that make me look like a fly. (I don’t actually like these, btw, but they seem to have become very popular and I think the scale will throw my vest-exposed upper arms into some sort of proportion).

Also, obvs, this is an unmissable opportunity to teach your smalls the MC Hammer running man dance, and sing the one line of ‘Can’t touch this’ you can remember! Bonus!

Let’s stay with boho, but add in a modern pattern twist. I really, really want these sorts of things to work on me. It’s the sort of voluminous garment I always convince myself will skim and disguise my bumps and make me appear smaller than I actually am.

In reality I just look like a sack of potatoes. A deluded, spotty/stripey, sack of potatoes.

The only people who can successfully pull off the voluminous style are wafer thin people, who can basically pull off tight stuff too, which seems terribly unfair.

Sadly, not even the second model kid is looking convinced by this one. That’s a ‘What the fuck, ma?’ face if ever I saw one.

Now this next one is more like it! I can see me strutting this one along a sunny promenade/plaza somewhere European – perhaps with an oversized sun hat and almost definitely with a sangria. Ole! (Note to self: may not look quite so vacation-chic in South Devon).

I love the empire line, and the Big Small would look cute beyond words in a maxi! It just needs a cropped denim jacket and bangles (neither of which I own).

Let’s stay on the beach! How about this super sunny and cool cotton* number? Although I’m worried Mommy and Me fashion is overly obsessed with pineapples…

*Warning. At £10.99 may not be ***actual*** cotton.

Don’t worry if you’re a Dad, or have a boy-child! Mummy and Me have thought of that too…

Three words for you, now. Tassle. Hawaiian. Shorts. With lace up gladiator sandals! Nuff said.

Apart from, how fucking cute is that kid??? My uterus is throbbing. Damn you, manipulative Mummy and Me people!!! You are playing on my hormones, and affecting my shit-dar – which is already on the blink.

Perhaps over leggings??

Don’t let your Mummy and Me commitment falter in the pool, friends! They’ve got you covered (more or less) there too… Channel your inner Ariel with this mermaid one piece, or go 50s Mickey Mouse with this polka dot, high-rise bow bikini…

Now there are some people out there who think middle aged women shouldn’t be wearing leopard print, or that dressing small girls in leopard print is ‘chavvy’. I am not of their number, and frankly they take their elitist fashion/class shite and bugger off.

I personally am at one with my inner Bet Lynch! I reckon this one is all about the styling. I’m going with some gladiator sandals, and a loose fitting navy blue blazer. Maybe glam it up with hair in a smooth and elegant chignon. (Don’t actually know what one of these is and have almost certainly never achieved one, but I’m sure there is a YouTube tutorial).

Natural make-up, methinks (something I DO achieve, daily, by the novel means of not putting any on. YouTube tutorial to follow).

Oh Mummy and Me, you may have lost me on this next one – desperate though I am to cleave to the horror/wonder of your genius.

I’m prepared to support leopard print, but I draw the line at this amount of pink jersey on anyone over the age of 6. Going on to decorate it with doily lace adds insult to injury, and is the haberdashery equivalent of polishing a turd.

It’s so overly girly you have to wonder what it’s trying to make up for. I imagine it’s what an alien trying to pass as female would pick to wear after ten minutes internet research on ‘girly clothing.’ It’s also probably not going to do the mummy lumps any favours. (Possibly something you don’t have to worry about if you’re extraterrestrial, so long as it hides your tentacles).

I feel qualified to attack this monstrosity mostly because I ALREADY OWN IT – admittedly in pajama form. In my defense, it was the only summer option available in size 18 from Abbeydale Road Tesco about a week after the Small Small was born. It includes labia-garroting maternity shorts, which also act as a rudimentary contraceptive due to their penis deflating qualities –

on second thoughts, this one may be worth reconsidering! There’s only so many times a girl can have a headache or be on her period, after all.

Look, I think we’ve reached rock bottom now. It can’t get worse than that.

Ah.

Okay, my bad. I hadn’t considered what would happen if you added in turquoise lace. But, really, who would do this???? God, my eyes. It burns. Next please.

WTF, Mummy and Me? Just because you’re doing Mum and Daughter fashion doesn’t mean it’s okay to dress them both in romper suits!

Nope, nope, nopity nope. Also not okay to dress them in top to toe cartoon characters. That’s taking the children’s TV presenter thing too far, even for me.

Sweet Jesus, they couldn’t even get the models to put these pinstripe dungarees on.

Leaf it out, Mummy and Me! Don’t make me find another internet window-shopping hobby!

Fuck, no.

NO MORE PINEAPPLES.

Now you’re just being silly.

Mummy and Me, I am relying on you to save me from myself! To end my style drought! Don’t desert me in the fashion desert now!

Okay, this is actually better!

I mean, why the hell not? Babies get to have their professional first photo shoots, and it’s all tutus and headbands, wicker baskets and sheepskin rugs.

Don’t let the selfish little half-pint prima donna take all the limelight!

You pushed her out, the least you should get is your own bloody tutu and chance to strut your mum-stuff on camera! You work it, girl. Go full-on Sarah-Jessica-Parker-Carrie-Bradshaw! In fact, demand your own fucking cake smash. You deserve it.

We’re back on track, folks! Mummy and Me has redeemed itself!

Got more than one daughter? No problem! Many kid sizes are available, so you can ALL dress the same! And then go for long woodland walks, apparently.

The kid-matching outfits is something I swore I’d never do to my kids, having grown up with an older sister and being forced to wear the same outfits. (Only I got to wear them twice as I also got the hand-me-down. Grrrr).

Like many of my pre-kid parenting goals, however, my pledge to spare my children this particular indignity has gone and truly out the window. (Hence I’m now considering compounding the indignity by joining in).

It’s just soooooooo cute having a Big Small and Small Small trundling around being match-twins!!! Awwww. (Yes, I sort of hate myself, but the kids broke me, so they’ve got no one to blame. I never did mushy ga-ga cutesy shit until they came along).

Look, fuck it, if you’re going to escalate the matching thing to include yourself, why not go the whole hog? Get ALL of the pineapple shit for Mum, Dad, and every child! In fact, don’t stop at just immediate family members! Invite aunties, uncles and random members of the public to join your fashion cult!

I call this approach the everyday bridesmaid look. Check out that floral and stripe combo! That’s pattern clashing, that is, and I’m pretty sure it was a trend thing in like, 2012. That’s close enough for me.

I could totally pull this off. I’m thinking Dr Martin black boots and sea salt spary messy hair. Who’s with me????

Next!

LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. American Beauty meets Laura Ashley.

Perfect for a wedding! Red fascinators for all! Nude sandals – otherwise you’ll go over board on the co-ordination, AND WE WOULDN’T WANT THAT, WOULD WE? [Heavy irony alert].

Right this is the last one, I promise. (I think I may have an actual addiction – send help).

Lumberjack leather.

YES.

I’m not entirely sure what the rules of acceptability and taste are around putting small children in faux leather/pvc. But they do come with their own baby powder (which I’m told can help you shimmy into your chosen item) so I think that tells us that… Nope, lost it.

I’m distracted by how deeply, deeply attracted I am to this look. If this is wrong then so help me, I don’t want to be right! I haven’t been this excited by an outfit since my Mum finally relented in 1989 and let me get a purple and green shell suit from the market. (Possibly a warning here somewhere?). It speaks to everything 80s and early 90s in me. I’m thinking Grease. I’m thinking Dynasty. I’m thinking large sweaty men with axes.

Excuse me, I may have to go and have a little lie down.

I’m back. One more! One more!

Oh my God I actually proper love this! Country/Sex in the city/cowgirl-ballerina.

Important features: no breast pockets in the shirt – a personal pet hate of mine, as they now sit a good six inches above my actual breasts. I think the skirt needs heels, and I am going to conveniently forget the fact I can’t walk more than 3 metres in anything higher than a trainer.

I’m actually going to do it – I’m ordering this beauty now, and yes, I’m getting it all three fucking sizes. Me, Big Small, and Small Small. (I can’t find the boy version for Dadonthenetheredge. Something tells me he’s not going to mind).

A tiny part of me is going to brace for the inevitable online-purchase disappointment, where it’ll turn out to be made of a flammable nylon derivative and elk pubes, 300 sizes too small, stitched in broken wishes rather than actual thread – probably by enslaved puppies.

The rest of me lives in baited-breath fashion hope. Maybe all my fashion woes are about to be turned into fashion woo-hoos! 

 Watch me rock this down a Endcliffe Park next weekend. If you see a trio of be-tutued and denim-shirted lovelies shouting at each other by the swings, be sure to wave hello.

And make it very, very clear that you are not in fact pointing and jeering…

😉

Mumonthenetheredge

 

 

 

 

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VOTE!

A long time ago, a group of people were not considered to be as competent, clever or as important as other people.

They could not be trusted to do big jobs, own property, manage finances or make big decisions.

Their bodies were shameful and they were prone to wickedness and disordered thoughts.

They had to be managed, and contained.

Like cattle.

Those people were called Women.

Some of the Women decided this wasn’t really very fair. They had voices, and thoughts, and skills, and opinions. They had strength, and resilience, and compassion.

And they fought for equality.

Some of them even died for it.

Today, thanks to their efforts, I get to go and have my say on how my city and my country is run.

I get to be heard.

And I get to take my girls with me, tiny Women in waiting.

And I will tell them, that once upon a time they wouldn’t have been able to have their say. That once, their voices didn’t count – but the voices of the boys and men around them did.

I will tell them that they can change the world and make it better by raising their voices, raising their hands, raising their eyes.

They CAN make a difference.

It’s been done before. Not even so very long ago.

We just have to remember.

We just have to vote.

The Summer Luvvin’ Guide for DADS

Each year, when the sun first peeps out from behind the winter clouds, I find myself woken in the middle of the night, several times a week, to my leg being dry-humped by Dadonthenetheredge – in the manner of a particularly tenacious spaniel.

He claims he has no knowledge of these events, but I always hail this as the true start of summer – which does something funny to his sex drive. In fact on a highly unscientific investigation of about three female friends, it seems this is high rutting season for the common British male.

Who knew??

My working theory is that this is due to several related factors, including everyone baring more flesh after the long cold months and BARBEQUES – which brings out the testosterone-laden caveman in even the most unassuming of men. They suddenly turn all “meat, fire, WOMAN”and start brandishing tongs and competing over sausages.

The trouble, of course, is that this doesn’t necessarily (or indeed often) coincide with the mercurial sex drive of your average, knackered, common-or-garden British Mum. Her seasons are (from another half-hearted survey), somewhat fewer and farther between…

But never fear, summer lover-Dads! I’m here to help you bridge this gap and satisfy your inner spaniel!

WOOF!

If you are the father of small children and still getting your rocks off with their mother willy, er, nilly, then hurrah for you, stud muffin! This article is not for you. Neither is it for you if you and/or your partner and/or your relationship don’t conform to any sort of stereotype. Excellent work – go read something else.

However, I’m **pretty** sure there are many men out there who are are to a greater or lesser degree lamenting the loss of their pre-kid love life, bemoaning the hoo-hoo halt, or mourning the curtailment of their tail action. If this is you, please read on!

I feel your pain, boys, I really do. (Or at least I think that’s what’s digging into my hip).

The stark truth is that if you have a mum-on-the edge in your life – it doesn’t mean she’s going to push back harder. She may even be pushing you away harder instead.

There. I’ve said it.

For most of us, post-kid sex is not the same as pre-kid sex, and it’s high time we talked about it. In a grand sweeping generalisation, men need sex to feel love, and women need love to feel like having sex. There is nothing as upsetting to this delicate balance than the horror/magic of childbirth, followed by magic/horror of child-rearing.

So I’m going to attempt to help get us going (ooo, er missus) with a step-by-step hump-guide for Dads. Here’s how to get it ON this summer, when frankly she’s rather gone OFF the whole canoodling caboodle…

 

  1. Give it some time

Here’s the thing – brace yourselves. Your favourite squelchy love tunnel will never be quite the same again. Fact. It may return to something approaching what you (and your best trouser pal) remember, but it will take some time. (Having witnessed it pop out a human being you may not feel the same way about IT for some time, too.)

And it isn’t necessarily just the physical stuff. Yes there’s tearing and stitches, and prolapses etc. (Hell I didn’t even use my lady bits to expel my small people, and it still hurt like a womble-flommer when I used it again – FOR MONTHS. Something about swelling, and muscles, and the downward pressure of pregnancy, yada yada).

Any hoo, sometimes it takes the lady folk a little while to feel the same way about the ol’ vag, too, once it’s had a baby-battering. It is no longer the shiny pink playground it was before – physically or metaphorically. Be patient.

And wank.

 

2. Give it a rest

Pestering, or continually pointing out how long it’s been seen you last got some, is not sexy. Letting her know you’re counting the days, weeks or months since you last danced the filthy fandango is going to do nothing but pile the pressure on and stop any and all juices flowing.

Never, ever, EVER mention your ‘needs’.

This will result in injury; followed by more abstinence.

 

  1. Lower your expectations

I have heard of women high on the oxytocin of birth and bonding getting the horn, but I’m going to go out on another limb here and tell you that it’s an exception rather than a hard and fast rule. No hard and fast for you. Down boy.

Basically after you’ve been expecting, you’re best off not expecting anything about your sex life.

You may have to settle for a nice cuddle.

When things do get back up and running, you’ll pretty likely have to settle for perfunctory missionary that gets everyone’s rocks off without the trouble of getting their socks off. Wham, bam, thank you Mam(ma).

If you were once into kamasutra marathons and tantric sexathons, forget it. If you once prided yourself on your stamina, get over it. No one has the time and energy for that kind of b*llocks, now. I don’t care if you ARE both floating sky high on the lurve hormones, the fancy stuff is going to have to wait until everyone is a little less exhausted and the smallest of the people learn how to actually sleep for several fricking hours in a row.

Get each other off and get to bloody sleep.

 

  1. Beware of boobs

These may no longer be your personal fun bags, fellas. Sorry. They may be sore, bleeding, blocked; she may be sick of everyone constantly hanging off them, she may mutter darkly about ‘interfering with supply’, and she’s probably going to view them more as udders than erogenous zones – at least at first.

Even if the boobies in your life have not been called into active service for your new small people, don’t assume they’re still fair game. Ask. This is generally good advice in most situations. Yes you’ve known each other’s intimate territory intimately and possibly for some time – but this is a brand new, brave new world. Explore it carefully. (Not least because they may squirt you in the fact once the oxytocin DOES start flowing. Be warned).

 

  1. Foreplay has changed

Yip, it is no longer enough to just point at the front of your trousers and waggle your eyebrows. You’re going to have to raise your game, lads!

Remember though, foreplay no longer involves things like massages, snogging, dry humping and oral exploration. Basically it now involves doing the washing up.

Look, you’ve got to cut through all the other crap going on in her head (and life) to get sexy time moved up (or onto) the agenda.

If she’s thinking about getting the tea sorted, remembering to add nappies to the shopping list, steralising the next set of bottles, sticking the muslins in the washing machine, pondering whether she ought to be taking the baby to the Doctors for that cough, wondering if she ought to take the beef out of the freezer, if the homework’s all been done, getting more of the dried food the cat likes, ordering that repeat prescription, mentally composing that work email, thinking about texting her mum back later, trying to recall whether it’s another non-uniform day at school, what time playgroup is on, whether anyone has any clean pants for the next day, etc etc etc etc, she’s not thinking about sex.  

Yes, all of this stuff is going through her mind. Yes, at all times.

If you help cut down this To Do list, you’re in with a far, far better chance of getting down and dirty.

Strap on those marigolds, cowboy, and put a bit of bleach down the toilets while you’re at it. (Nothing sexier than a clean bowl).

 

  1. Empathise

The true key to a better sex life this summer is empathy. Suck it up, and you might even get sucked off. It might not even be your birthday!!!!  It’s gotta be worth a try, right?

You’re going to have to listen to some of that crap running through her head. And most crucially, you’re going to have to resist giving her solutions. Yes, yes, I know you don’t get it. Just trust me on this. Go with sympathetic validation of her feelings unless SPECIFICALLY asked to express an opinion.

Nope.

Nuh uh.

Not even then.

Just do it. Your boom stick (and more importantly your spouse) will thank you for it.

 

  1. Get inventive

It is likely that your pre-partum sex timetable has been significantly disrupted by the baby’s schedule. Lazy morning sex is out, and by the time you actually get to bed no one feels like it anymore. That’s why nap times are now your new best friend! Think outside the box to get into the box!

This goes for the where as well as the when. You may have small interlopers in your actual bed, where it was traditionally sort of convenient to get horizontal. Time to repurpose the sofa/change table/cot the baby never actually bloody sleeps in anyway.

 

  1. Romance has changed

She doesn’t want flowers and for you tell her how pretty her dress is. She wants a tumble dryer, and for you to tell her the body she no longer recognises – with one with the jelly belly and stretch marks that hasn’t been out of a dressing gown for three months – isn’t completely repulsive to you.

Don’t tell her she’s sexy – tell her she’s doing an amazing job of parenting your children. Don’t tell her she’s gorgeous – tell her that you’re proud of her. That you don’t know how she does it. Tell her you love how she loves your babies. That she’s the best mum you’ve ever seen. That she made and nurtured something so ridiculously beautiful and perfect. That seeing her with your children in her arms hurts your heart and makes you love her bigger and deeper than you knew you could. Tell her that motherhood has made her more beautiful to you than ever.

That sh*t is bound to get you into her mat-pants.

Good luck out there Dads!

You can do it.

And her. 😉

 

Mumonthenetheredge

Playing at schools

How do I teach, two little girls, playing schools with dolls, about evil?
At story time, when do I introduce, that heroes die, that bad guys win, that bad things happen and good people cry?
Night night, my darlings. Sleep tight.

How do I hold them tight enough, now, to keep them from harm?
Where is the silver lining, the balm, the meaning?
Horror streaming live – dying in my living room.
How do I teach reason when there is no reason, safety without fear, life without death, love, when hate walks the streets, our lives, with knives?
When it cuts.

How can I show them light when the dark eats away at my edges, whispering worst case scenarios? Pledging death.
What happens if the bad dreams don’t go away when when I wake up? When they wake up?
What happens if it’s them next, if it’s me, waiting, baiting, clenching, wrenching? Running frightened in the night from real life monsters, real death, real – etched in red, raw, detail – sealed in blood.
Unmoving on a pavement.

How can I let them go? How can I let them grow, in this world, when I know what it contains?
How do those families carry on?
How do we?
They say, look for the helpers, look for the brave, for the love, for the flowers.
But what if you can’t see them for the tears?
What if the fear is, deep down, after all, that it will be the petals that fall?
Lining a velvet, fragrant, grave, for the babies you are – ultimately – powerless to save.
Ice, in your heart.
Freezing feeling.

They say, don’t give them what they want.
They say, don’t live in terror.
It is easier said than done – the weight of that responsibility a stone, a ton, on my chest – on yours.
We are all now, a nation who cannot breathe deep – steeped, in sadness. In fear.
It would be so much simpler to let love stifle and wilt, protect to the hilt, let that morph to defence, and hone to hate.
And hate attack back.
They are two sides of one coin, spent either way. Flipped, flippant, fleeting.
Close. So close.

How can it be, that twisted by fear and hate, love is suddenly bombs and blades?
They are us. We are them. Lives entwined, enslaved.
We stop breathing, stop thinking, and we cut first – rewind, repeat, the cycle of violence.
So we must keep breathing. Keep thinking, keep loving, and keep living life.
For how can I let love be soiled, turned seething, boiled black by their rules?
When love for me lives in two little girls, with pink dolls.
Playing at schools.

A mental health fairy tale

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a Little Girl who had Big Worries and Sticky Thoughts.

The Sticky Thoughts were always Dark.

They would not leave her head, and would intrude on her daily life – particularly at bedtimes.

She was born, as some people are, having already learned the lesson of Fear. She knew from an early age – from the abstract rather than from experience – about Death, and Germs, and Contamination and Loss – and other largely nameless, shapeless but no less real Bad Things.

She new them instinctively, inherently, like a newborn lamb knows a wolf.

Even distracted – even laughing – she would know deep down there was Dark waiting, that Light was the illusion. That she would pay for happiness in an eternal trade off.

And so she learned to Dread.

And after she learned to Dread, she learned to Bargain.

Because the Little Girl knew that the only way to stop the Dark was to control it, feed it, and pander to its needs. She knew with the same deep-down, guttural certainty that it was her job to protect everyone – to stop the Bad Things from coming.

So she developed routines that would keep her safe, and keep her family safe. And if she did them, it would all be OK. That was the deal she made.

The burden of this responsibility was large, for the Little Girl was only little. But if she tried to cheat, the Dark’s insistent voice would drill in her head until her vision blurred, her throat closed and her heart pounded. There was little choice for the Little Girl but to obey.

So she did. She checked the light switches 316 times – 16 for luck, being 4 x 4, her lucky number. Because if they got stuck in that excruciating, flickering, juddering centre, the Dark would come.

She learned to Doubt. To Doubt she had checked enough, was sure enough, had given enough to the Dark.

After the light switches, she checked the taps. She checked the taps were off 32 times each, until she broke the washers and they had to be replaced. Her Dad shouted, but his noise was not as scary as the Dark.

The Little Girl’s Mum and Dad used to joke about her 32 trips up and down the landing at bedtime. Until she learned to wait until they were downstairs, or asleep, until she had memorised all the squeaky floorboards and how to avoid them.

They did not know how hard she tried not to go down the landing again. How many times she assured herself the taps were off. How terrible and frightening the Dark was in her head telling her she hadn’t done it right, that she wasn’t sure, that she needed to check again.

They did not know how many times the routine was interrupted, and the Little Girl would sob as she had to start all over again.

They did not know the exhaustion, the yawning hopelessness when she was forced to creep out of her bedroom once more, already knowing deep down it wasn’t yet the last time. Knowing the she wasn’t broken enough yet, or tired enough yet.

So the Little Girl learned to grit her teeth and Endure, and go through the gruelling routines until they could finally be finished. Until she was finally allowed to go to sleep.

Sometimes the Little Girl was up so late with her checking, her creeping, her protecting, she could barely open her eyes in the morning. But she did, because she had a whole day to live and forget until the Dark called again.

And so often she seemed happy. Because relief and freedom, however brief, are powerful too. And so she learned to be High as well as to be Low, and this became a pattern.

Although the Dark wanted to be secret, they did know some things, the Mum and Dad.

They knew, for instance, about the handwashing, because the Little Girl was chapped, and sore, and often bleeding – but this was cleaner, always, than the alternative. They scolded, and threatened, and moisturised. But the Little Girl knew she could not stop, and she knew she could not explain to them why.

And so gradually the Little Girl learned Solitude, and Shame, and Loneliness.

The Mum and Dad also knew about the gas, and the locks. They knew she would beg them to check the gas hobs and that the front and back doors were locked before they came to bed.

They did not know and that she would wait for them to come and check on her before she could go to sleep, so she’d be able to ask if they’d done it. Doubt, of course, never let her believe their assurances.

They knew, too, that the Little Girl had seen the Dark enter one of her toys, and could not sleep knowing it was there, alive, watching out of orange, staring glass eyes. They knew only because it got so bad – trying to live with it – that the Little Girl burst one day and had to ask for their help.

But they did not know how much that failure cost her with the Dark. For telling its secrets. They did not know how much she loved that toy, or the guilt of giving it up because she was too weak to cope and to control and to protect. They didn’t know the relief their Little Girl felt going on holiday, to be able to leave her responsibilities behind. To not have to worry about the stupid stuffed cat, now relegated to the back of her Dad’s wardrobe. And they didn’t know when she realised the Dark had followed them, and that she would not really be free, or safe, anywhere.

They did not know that the Dark had finally taught the Little Girl Despair.

Eventually, though, the Mum and Dad knew enough about the obsessive thoughts, and rituals, and worries, to do something about them.

And so the Little Girl went to Big Hospital, and she Endured the kind eyes, and kind silences, meant for her to fill. She Endured the hateful two-way mirror, and dirty communal toys, and talking about Feelings, and seeing the real mad people holding their heads and swaying in the corridors.

Eventually she let enough out, and let enough in, for things to improve.

And they did improve – things for the Little Girl.

Lots of things helped as she grew. Friends helped, and Hobbies, and Pets, and then then after that – Alcohol, and Drugs, and Desire.

The Dark receded.

But it did not leave.

So the Little Girl grew into a Big Girl, who hated sleepovers and school trips, and picked her skin.

The Big Girl became a Teenager who was late to school every day because she was picking her skin, covering her spots, and returning to check the door was locked 16 times, only making down the hill when the imprint of the handle was bruised into her palm. And the Dark still whispered the door wasn’t locked. It whispered that she was Ugly, that she would always Fail, that she would never be Enough, that people would See Through her, that she was Broken.

In time, the Teenager became a Young Woman who controlled her environment and structured her life in such a way that she could be comfortable, and give just enough to the Dark – just enough to get by.

The Young Woman avoided Risk, and Uncertainty, and Spontaneity. She knew she had to stay Even and Steady. So she stayed blind to the things that would upset the Balance she had engineered. She embraced ordinary. And gradually the impression of normal became so good she forgot that it wasn’t real.

Yes, the Young Woman checked the gas and the door locks, avoided her post, and sometimes forgot how to breathe out. But mostly – mostly she dared to think she was fixed.

And then – then the Young Woman became a Mother.

And she realised at that very moment those lessons she had learned, those patterns, were still there – well-worn, well-used grooves in her mind.

And the Dark was ready and waiting, and surged down them like boiling, bubbling lava.

Although she knew it’s tricks, she was powerless to resist them, because her responsibilities – protecting the tiny life of her new daughter, keeping her safe, bringing her up to be better than herself – were bigger than ever. And so the The Big Worries were bigger than ever, and the Sticky Thoughts were stickier than ever, and the Bad Things were badder than ever.

The Fear was back, of Germs, of Contamination, of Sickness, of Death, of Loss – of having it all snatched away from her. So the Bargain with the Dark was struck once more, and she was once again its slave.

The Dread was back, the pending doom that dragged her up out of exhaustion into a new ritual of checking the baby, making sure she was breathing, that the sheet was tight enough, that the room was cool enough, that the doors were locked and the gas was off.

The Doubt was back, as she questioned every move, every decision. Rechecked. Researched. Reviewed. Rewound. And started all over again.

The Solitude was back, in the unforgiving depths of the night, as she battled to keep the baby alive with her own body, and cried at her failures. As she listened to the Dark tell her she was Useless, that she wasn’t Enough, that she would Flail, and Fail, and Fall forever. And the Mother was too tired to fight the Dark, and too afraid to resist it.

The Shame was back, at not being able to cope, to manage, to feed, to sleep, to contain herself, to love every moment of being in love with her baby.

The Loneliness was back, only a hundred times lonelier – the loneliness that can only be experienced constantly attached to another human being and stuck inside yourself.

The Highs and Lows were back, all at once, until the Mother could not separate them, could not work out which one was real, and so could not trust either. She was tossed up and down on their crimson waves, trying only to catch her breath in between the swells, to concentrate on not burning up completely.

Even though she knew well how to Endure, the Mother was no longer young or resilient, and she could feel herself drowning under the pressure to protect, to keep this new family safe, to fulfill her side of the Dark Bargain.

The Mother could not see, through the smoke and churning tides, a happy ending. The Despair was back, now on an adult scale, and it’s emptiness filled her up; her head turgid with sulpher, her lungs heavy with molten rock – cooling fast and dragging her deeper and deeper down; her soul dissolved to ashes. She knew she would not be rescued. She knew she was alone in the Dark. And its roaring whispers turned welcoming.

But now, of course, the Mother wasn’t alone.

She was a Mother.

And there was another insistent voice ringing in her head, in her dreams. And she listened, and she held on, to herself, and to the baby – bright ballast in the Dark storm.

Eventually, the Mother noticed the sea was cooler and calmer, and she could think and see once more. Somehow, she had come through the Dark days of early motherhood, and she found to her surprise that the baby in her arms had grown into a Little Girl.

And she remembered that one of the gifts of the Dark is seeing the Light with new eyes once it recedes. And she saw through those new eyes, in startling green and blue technicolour, that this Little Girl also had Big Worries and Sticky Thoughts.

At first the Mother grieved that the Dark had got through to be part of the Little Girl’s life. But soon she realised that she was perhaps uniquely qualified to help the Little Girl navigate it.

She knew she had the experience to identify it, name it, confront it – and in doing so rob it of its power. Stop it in its tracks before it could wear the same deep grooves in this Little Girl’s mind.

She knew she could tell the Little Girl about its tricks – its use of Dread and Doubt, and Solitude, and Shame and Loneliness.

She knew she could help the Little Girl see its lies, talk back to the voice in her head and stand up to it like any other bully.

She knew she could help her to tell the Sticky Thoughts to Go Away and the Big Worries they were Not Real, and would not come to pass.

She knew, too, that to do so, she would have to face her own Dark first. She would have to stand tall against her own Big Worries and Sticky Thoughts. She would have to find the language to explain it. She would have to break her own long-enforced silence and drag her own Dark into the Light.

So it was time for the Mother to shake off Solitude, Shame and Loneliness – and to Share.

It was time, for the first time, to start telling the Dark’s secrets.

By doing so she hoped she would find Strength. By doing so she hoped she could help herself, help the Little Girl – and perhaps help others along the way. Others stuck in their own Dark.

She hoped most of all, that they could all find a way to live Happily Ever After.

In Darkness – and in Light.

The End

 

Mumonthenetheredge

 

If you know the Dark, whatever it looks like to you, please know you’re not on your own. There’s people out there who can help you live with it. The lovely people at MIND are a good place to start.  

 

If you know a Little Girl or a Little Boy with Big Worries and Sticky Thoughts, this is a great book to start you talking about it.

 

 

My husband’s affair

It seems that my husband has been having an affair. And I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m going to do about it. Because what the hell do you do when there’s suddenly someone else in the middle of your relationship? In the middle of your family?

This other woman came on the scene quite recently, around his birthday, and he is obsessed with her. Completely besotted – it’s like she’s bewitched him. At what was supposed to be a time all about about us, all about the kids, it suddenly became all about her.

If I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think he ever felt this way about me – this blind, unrelenting devotion. And that hurts.

To add insult to injury, he has even bought her into our home, and introduced her to our kids. And they love her. They love her because she is everything I’m not.

Already, he has taught them to consider her a higher authority than me. When he’s with her, they plead with me to let them go and talk to her. They don’t want me. She has novelty and glamour I can’t compete with, and I cannot stop them. And I am left a stranger in my own home.

It is not my home anymore – it’s hers.

Her name is Alexa.

She is tiny, and curvy in all the right places.

She’s super responsive, polite and ‘helpful’.

She is also a skank-cow-ho-beast-b***h from hell and I want to tear her cold, metallic heart out with my teeth.

Oh, I can see right through her. Right through. Men never can, can they? She is the very worst of that kind – you’ve probably met her, or an approximation of her. Simultaneously vacuous and condescending, maddeningly obtuse, exacting, persnickety and petty.

She’s a control freak too – she controls everything. We can’t go out of the house, apparently, without getting her opinion on the weather or the traffic.

I literally can’t even turn on the freaking living room light without asking her first.

My husband – who wants to have his cake and eat it – has tried to make peace between us. But when he’s not here she’s at her very worst. She’s a downright bully – and not even sophisticated about it. She randomly switches on music or interrupts my conversation when I’m talking – something she’d never do with him in the room.

She’s now also in charge of the telly, and point blank refuses to play Peppa Pig, however nicely I ask. This is always at a time when I most need to deploy soothing televisual hypnotism – and yet the kids still blame me instead of her.

My husband doesn’t believe me when I tell him what she’s been up to – he always takes her side. Apparently, she’s ‘misunderstood’, and it’s my fault for not being clearer with her. If I just talked to her in the right way, he tells me, she’d do anything for me.

Well I can’t talk in the right way, to this interloper in our relationship. To this usurper. With her bloody perfect diction and smarmy, know-it-all attitude.

I’m a born and bred southerner who’s lived in Sheffield for nigh on 20 years, so my diction is, at best, confused. I also cannot regulate my tone of voice (or accent, or volume), which changes depending on the situation (eg. over the phone) or person I’m talking to (either because I’m massively empathetic or massively flakey – not sure which).

Alexa has no time for this; she just blanks me and pretends not to understand. “Sorry,” she lies, “I didn’t understand the question I heard.” And she repeats this one sentence again and again, with ever-increasing, infuriating self-satisfaction.

She is more likely to do what the five-year-old asks of her than respond to any conversational gambit or request of mine.

My husband and I hardly talk anymore – he’s too interested in tinkering about with his new floozy. And he likes to tell me, in great detail, what he’s doing to her each evening. What he’s planning to plug inside her next. He even wants me to join in on their fun. To ‘try it out’.

Well I’m sorry, but I’m just not that kind of girl.

We’ve had fight after fight about her – in front of the kids and everything – something we always swore we’d never do. Then again, we swore we’d love and honour each other too, a long time ago. When we believed our love would last forever. When we believed no one could come between us. (Sniff).

And the very worst of it is, I know he isn’t the only one. I know she has seduced men up and down the country – with her feminine wiles, her predilection to interface, her penchant for strap-on/add-on gadgets, and her willingness to let them use ALL of her interesting ports for their personal gratification…

They cannot resist her.

If you too are an Alexa widow, I would like to reach out to you in solidarity. Together, perhaps we can support each other through the madness of our other halves’ infatuation. Perhaps we will one day get our lives, our homes, and control of our electrical devices back.

Perhaps we can even form some sort of First Wives club, and conspire to smite that uppity, pernicious cow-bag-HO and send her packing back to the putrid pits of purgatory from whence she probably came.

(Or Amazon, same diff).

 

Mumonthenetheredge

 

The last first baby

It is hard to say it, but the truth is I loved my second babies far more than my first.

I was so young when we first bought those little, tiny lives into our world. A baby myself really, high on responsibility – playing at being a grown up.

And we did love them. We barely put them down. They slept in our room and kept us awake half the night. We were obsessed with them, how they grew, how cute they were, taking photo after photo, letting them take over our entire lives. We bored our friends silly with their antics and achievements. The house heaved with their toys, and we catered to their every whim. If we didn’t hand make their food, we bought the new, expensive packet-type, which back then had only just come out. We couldn’t go out as much, ourselves – but we didn’t care. We worried for them, cared for them, coddled them, cuddled them and cooed over them.

And time passed. Nearly 17 years since we first held those perfect, wiggling little bodies, since we first started thinking of ourselves as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. They grew. We grew. And we decided we were ready to do it all over again, older and wiser.

The next babies were harder. It has taken them longer to come into their own and it has taken considerably more out of us in the process. They have needed us more. And those first babies, those first babies took a back seat. They were evicted from our room. Eventually, to distance ourselves from their outrage, we shut them out of the main house altogether. They were a nuisance, a hindrance; a distraction from the reality and enormity of the precious new lives now part of our own. The new babies were amazing, and perfect, and all encompassing. And to my shame I also evicted the old ones from my heart.

The tale we tell ourselves – and certainly the tale I told the Big Small before the Small Small came along – is that love is infinite. That it will stretch to encompass everyone; that love breeds love.

But it doesn’t – not really, not for me anyway.

I loved my second babies so much it eclipsed everything else. Including my first babies. If I’m honest, including my husband. Including my own family – my own mum and dad. Everything, really, I ever thought I loved or valued. There has been little room left for anything else, up to and including myself.

That love has burned through me like wildfire – bright, beautiful and destructive. It has changed me quite utterly. It has taken those other loves and reshaped them, refracted them, and even dimmed them by comparison.

After a time, my first babies became accustomed to the second babies. Despite the flagrant favouritism, they even became friends. And seeing that friendship build was both touching and special. But since those second babies, we have never loved the first ones or dedicated ourselves to them in the same way.

Our love was changed – spread thin – and I believe they knew it.

Times change. People change. Priorities change. Certainly being a ‘grown up’ – something I’ve still not figured out – was not what I thought it was when I was playing at it all those years ago. It is a hundred times more exhausting, and frightening, and befuddling. As time has gone on, that’s taken its toll.

Time also, inevitably, took a toll on those first babies. They had gradually become less cute, less adorable – and considerably less continent. They also became more demanding, and more draining.

Running empty on both energy and love already, I even found myself wishing them away.

My first babies, obviously, had fur. (To be fair, the second babies started out fairly furry, but have grown to retain only the hair on their heads).

There are of course those reading this who don’t believe the furry babies should ever be compared to the real babies. Perhaps I am one of them now. But there will also be those who are infinitely sad for those kittens who ruled our roost – only to be ousted by tiny humans through no fault of their own. I am one of them, too. And there will be those out there who have and love furry babies like they are flesh and blood and family. Today – today I am also one of them, again, too.

Because this week, my last first baby has gone, and gone brutally. A reminder, I suppose, that she was an animal after all, subject to nature’s laws, and not a person. Not my baby. Not really.

It is the end of an era – and the end of what was at the very least a very real friendship which has informed and affirmed nearly half of my life. It is a sign of how much my life has changed, how much time has passed without my noticing, and how out of my control it all is, – how terrifying. It is a reminder of how easy it is, in the grinding monotony of coping, in the daily scrubbing of stains and preparation of meals, to lose sight of what you’re doing it all for – what really matters.

So I would like to thank her, that baby that wasn’t a baby, for many things. For teaching me about love, for letting me squeeze her, pour my heart into her, and practice at nurture and patience and care until I was ready to do it for my real babies.

I would like to thank her for her part in building my relationship with Dadonthenetheredge, in helping us grow together, laugh, worry and bond. In helping us create our family, our foundation – and paving the way for our future.

I would like to thank her for teaching my children how to be gentle, how to be kind, how to show respect, how to stroke fur in the right direction, how not to pull tails – and why it’s important to remember the sharp bits.

I would like to thank her for never really using those sharp bits. Even when dragged down hall by the neck. Even when cornered for cuddles on the sofa.

I would like to thank her for teaching me, in recent months, how to clean up wee from sofa cushions – which is certainly going to come in useful shortly when it comes to potty training the toddler.

I would like to thank her for teaching me that while love changes over time, it doesn’t have to die. It just changes shape, and colour, and intensity. It can fade and it can swell – over and over again. You just have to let it. You just have to hold onto it and help it along.

I would like to thank her for helping me to realise that the madness of that wildfire love – which has literally burnt me out – might also have left behind more fertile ground for the future.

I would like to thank her for reminding me to be grateful for what I’ve got, even through the hard and boring bits. To never, ever, to wish things away.

I would like to thank her for teaching me that daily irks and inconveniences cannot be allowed to overshadow love and memories. I needed that reminder.

I would like to thank her for the last 17 years of bright eyes, bushy tails and welcoming plurps.

I will miss them more than I knew.

The Mummy Puzzle

“I’ve lost someone somewhere, not sure how
But I turned and she’d gone – she’s missing now.
I liked her, I think, and I’d like to re-find her –
Can anyone help me, give me a reminder?”

“Hush little Mummy, don’t you cry
I’ll help you find her”, said a butterfly.
“Let’s have a think, how big is she?”
“She’s bigger”, I said wryly, “than she used to be”.

“Bigger than you? Then I’ve seen your lady!
Come with me, over here where it’s shady.”

“No no no, that’s an elephant!
(Though the size is right, that you I’ll grant)
The woman I knew wasn’t a wrinkly hunk
Her skin wasn’t grey and her eyes weren’t sunk.
She didn’t have snot stains up to her knees,
And could pass the fridge without snaffling cheese.”

“Thinner, you say? Then she’s very near
Quick little Mummy! She’s over here!”

“No no no, that’s a slithery snake!
(A fashion faux pas she would never make).
The woman I knew wouldn’t dress like this –
Nor be covered in spit-up, or eau de piss.
She didn’t dress in her wardrobe’s dregs
And on occasion she’d even shave her legs.”

“It’s legs were looking for now you say?
I know where she is then, come this way!”

“No no no, that’s a spider!
(She wasn’t this scary to your average outsider).
She wasn’t disgusting, or hairy or fat,
She never had as many legs as that!
She wasn’t bogged down in a tangled web
And could rise above her lowest ebb.”

“So she lives above? You should have said!
The woman you seek us above your head!”

“No no no! That’s a parrot!
(You’d be better at this with cards of tarot).
She had eyes and tits that didn’t leak,
And her ears weren’t assailed with squawks and shrieks.
She wasn’t tied down- she could spread her wings
And her well-slept steps had plenty of springs.”

“A ha! I’ve got it! She leaps about?
She’s just round the corner, without a doubt.”

“No no no! That’s a frog!
(The woman I seek didn’t live in a bog –
She didn’t much like poo at all,
And bodily fluids used to make her bawl).
Butterfly, Butterfly please don’t joke –
I’m here talking to insects to keep me afloat!
She knew what she wanted, before she got muddled
And pitied the people around her who struggled.”

“She was sure you say, and even serene?
Then just over here, this woman I’ve seen!”

“No no no – that’s a bat!
(It’s asleep upside down, you fluttering twat!)
Why, oh why are you getting it wrong?
Can’t you see that my patience is no longer long?
I did say she had wings – so that’s a good call,
But even in those days she wasn’t that small.”

“So your woman is big – let me think…
She’s down by the river having a drink!”

“No NO NO! That’s the elephant again!
(As a therapist I’m scoring you 0 out of ten)
Butterfly, Butterfly can’t you see?
None of these creatures have EVER been me!”

“You never said the woman in question was you!”

“Of course I did! And I thought you knew!”

“I didn’t know, I couldn’t you see,
I’m just a butterfly – why talk to me?”

“You’re right, my annoying wee fly of butter,
(And clearly round here you’ve monopolised nutter).
Bugger off now and go drink some nectar –
You’re not qualified for the counselling sector!

“I may be a-flailing but I’m not yet full-drowned
I may have lost someone, but something I’ve found –
That my heart holds more love than I knew existed;
That I’m strong in more ways than could ever be listed.
That happiness isn’t a night on the tiles,
And no one’s immune to a baby’s first smiles.

“She’s definitely lost, that woman before –
But I think if I found her I’d find her a bore.

“Yes she had continence, self care and career,
(While I still have bowel hanging out of my rear),
But did she have snuggles and cuddles and gurgles?
Could she interpret what’s meant by the faintest of burbles?
Could she soothe any hurt with merely a kiss?
Was she somebody’s everything, all they could wish?

“She could wee on her own – and that might be nice
She could stay up past ten without thinking twice.
But she didn’t have small hands to hold in her own
Or endless play phone calls to make on play phones.
She didn’t hear ‘Mummy I love you, you know’,
Or ‘Mummy, you’re funny, come on, it’s your go’.

“I’m afraid, on reflection, she must remain lost
That woman I knew, who still coiffed and flossed.
She wasn’t as tired but she wasn’t as blessed –
And maybe that’s why I was put to this test.

“So you did help me Butterfly, after all,
To see some of the good stuff I couldn’t recall.

“Maybe she’ll come back one day in the future
But right now I’ve found being me now is SUPER.
I’m no longer puzzled and I’m no longer lost –
Lepidoptera advice? I’d rather get sloshed!!”

And with that I turned and sashayed to the door,
(An exit marred slightly by the toys on the floor).

Mumonthenetheredge