So much has been written about how to get kids and toddlers to sleep (Yes, I admit I’ve read and even followed Save our Sleep!), what parents get up to when the kids have finally gone to sleep (my mentors and compatriots, who wrote Cocktails at Naptime are the first ones that spring to my mind).
There’s also a bit of braver, but rare literature out there on how difficult it is getting the kids/babies to sleep (Go the F to Sleep is one of my favourites). But I am yet to find anything written about the delicate time bracket starting just from the moment the kids/babies have just fallen asleep to the moment they wake up on their own. Until this post of mine, of course! Read the rest of this entry
Underbelly of the Playground | The Secret Underworld of Mothers with two (or more) under 2 years old
So I’ve been back at work for a while now and I am slowly starting to realise that either the corporate rat race is not my scene anymore, or perhaps, maybe it never was.
Before I became a mother I remember the thoughts that would pop into my head whenever I saw a fatigued mother pushing a pram across the street or wreaking havoc in a city coffee shop. She’d be pointlessly trying to breastfed an unsettled newborn while chasing an unruly toddler between the tables, while the toddler ran from table to table throwing the salt and pepper grinders on the ground and knocking over the chairs as he rushed past. ”Poor thing.” I thought to myself with a smile. ”Looks beyond miserable. Probably missing her job so much. Probably regrets schlepping those little, screaming terrors out with her into this sophisticated setting. Probably frightened by how calm and serene the ‘real world’ is. Probably rethinking the whole ‘baby’ thing right about now”. Then off I would march with a flick of my cleanly washed and straightened hair in my freshly pressed suit and impossibly high matching high-heels, feeling happy to be returning to my spotless desk and the bliss of a screaming-free, civil, adults-only environment.
Fast-forward 18 months and I hardly even recognise myself. Quite frightening really. The other day at the traffic lights I had to physically restrain myself from lunging at a mom and grabbing her double pram containing a set of toddlers plus the cutest ever baby in her baby-pouch and shouting out “Let’s swap! Hand your pram and kiddies over to me and you put on my suit for the rest of the day – have fun!”
I’ve always seen myself as a corporate girl, with a feminine side of course. not one of those ball-breaking chicks who dresses in a man suit, hold client conferences in between contractions in the labour ward and return to work 7 days after giving birth. My mind was always on the corporate game although I did see my role in life as having kids eventually. But trust me, as soon as I entered my final trimester with my firstborn, I no longer felt such undying commitment to the office and all I wanted to was sleep, eat and nest. Then when I returned to work after 11 months and worked when I was pregnant with my second baby, my corporate commitment became even more watered down and the only thing that motivated me was that I was there for the short-term and that from time to time I actually did some interesting work.
Now, returning to work for the second time, I absolutely dread going into the office each Monday. When I clock off from work each day I skip out the office knowing that the faster I rush home, the sooner I get to see my babies. Every spare moment I get at work is spent looking at photos on my iPhone of my boys and wondering where they are up to on their individual daily routines. I think the starkest revelation I’ve had since returning to work is that I absolutely detest taking orders and being controlled by a greater system of the rules in the corporate world. Of course, I have come to terms with the fact that you can’t have no rules and that when you’re a mom there are some basic rules and principles that you need to follow each day. Like sticking to a basic routine of meal-times, nap-times, bath-times and bed-times. Other important rules include – don’t leave the house and drive to the shops when the kids are sleeping, don’t fall asleep on the couch when you’re supposed to be watching the kids play on the floor, don’t leave the room for a second, not even for a toilet break, if a 1.5-year-old and a 3-year-old are going to be alone together with Play Doh and baby pots and pans. Once you follow those basic rules, you are fairly autonomous. For the most part, no-one under 37 years old is going to tell me what to do or how to do it! I sure as hell am not going to let a baby be my boss (except one the rare occasion when I am utterly exhausted and have been known to let 1 nap-time pass without inmates in their cells after a 1 hour-long struggle with my 3-year-old!) So, there, that’s what I love about being a mom – I’m the boss. I run the show. I am in charge. I say when and what we eat. I say when we sleep. I say when we watch TV. I say when we go out and I say when we stay home. Yes, I know I sound like a bit of a dictator, but as a mom, believe me I am more of a soft, funny, joking-type mom with a firm, disciplinary side when the need arises. And it’s exactly this soft, humorous side of my personality that I think is going to be my downturn if I decide to stick it out in the corporate rat race. Basically, all I really enjoy about being back at work is getting a quiet takeaway coffee in the morning, spending time with the other funky corporate moms while we share anecdotes about our kids and the juggle of work-family life and occasionally, on the rare occasion, a tiny sense of achievement when I bash out a decent document or say something intelligent and corporate sounding to a client or a peer.
In my opinion, what I do in the office is not making nearly as much of an impact in the world as what I do when I am with my children. My contribution to this world is much greater as a mother than as an inhabitant of the concrete jungle.
However, I have to realise that I need to work to make a financial contribution to my family, as so many moms do. So, for the moment, it’s really a means to an end. For the long-term though, I hate to say it, but I am not going to be happy unless I make some serious changes. My past few months back at work has led me to realise that I’m probably a way better mother than I am a lawyer. Really a major confession for me. An admission which has required an enormous amount of courage and soul-searching. Something I am so scared of admitting. Especially given that I am really the most unmaternal mother you will ever meet. Since being back at work I have realised what a fantastic mother I am and what a great job I’ve done. Mothering, on the whole, has given me the hugest satisfaction and self-pride. To know that I have contributed to the world 2 truly unique, special, funny, gorgeous little boys that are a product of me (and my husband!) makes me so utterly proud and blessed.
I know it sounds clichéd but I have never, ever had that feeling of utter fulfilment from my work, ever.
Makes me think either I’m in the wrong industry.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve proved myself wrong and mothering really is the best job anyone can ever have.
I am so tired of everyone offering me their excellent advice.
From random passers-by on the streets to well wishing strangers in the shopping centre.
Seriously, as a mother of 2 who has done this all alone for 2 years solid, I am pretty a qualified baby nurse when it comes to baby-related issues and I am so not up for unqualified people proffering the ultimate baby solution to be when they perceive me to be in a time of need and crying out for helpful advice from the outside world.
My absolute worst is when men, especially men from other older generations, try to offer some useful titbits to “help me along”. For instance, some gems that I have been offered of late include:
- if you stop breastfeeding it will be much easier on you
- bottle fed babies are much happier, we were all bottle fed (this one is actually universal and used across all older generations across the board as the holy grail of information that a young mother of today should take on board! it’s also one of my mom’s favourites)
- give the baby a dummy, he really wants one (even after I’ve explained that my baby spits it out time after time and doesn’t want one)
- your baby’s hungry, feed him, that’s why he’s crying (everyone’s a baby whisperer in disguise, moonlighting as a night nurse during the day when you happen to be pushing an overtired baby round the block)
- toddlers don’t need a routine, they should fit in with your routine (pity my two active baby boys aren’t such massive fans of shoe shopping drinking coffee and reading Elizabethan novels on the beach for 5 hours straight in the sweltering sun….they should really fit into my routine!)
As mothers, we know our babies and their needs better than anyone.
So we should never cave under the pressure and feel forced to smile politely and take the obsolete advice.
As far as I am concerned, they can all take their advice and shove it!
Negotiation with a toddler is more challenging than any 24- hour corporate transaction I’ve ever worked on.
Reaching a settlement with these little rugrats ins near impossible and no amount of reading material on the subject can glean any possible peaceful solutions because each toddler comes armed with his or her own unique artillery. Some bite, some pull hair, some hit and won’t share their toys – and the really skilled ones, well they come armed with all of the above! Sometimes it feels like nothing in the world can get my toddler to cease and desist. I have tried to be patient, I really have, my parents and husband tell me all the time to calm down (which I detest hearing!) It’s just so hard because simple issues are so incredibly difficult to get through I sometimes feel myself giving in and either losing it completely or doing absolutely nothing, for a shot while, so that I can gather my composure, wipe my sweaty brow and devise a game plan to get the better of the little terror-ist! I challenge any grandparent or husband to just 1 day with my 2-year-old and 9 month old – I reckon they would drop dead before the showdown at sundown which comes with a nightmarish dose of 2 bath times, 2 dinner times and 2 bed times!!
As soon as Aiden turned 2 I pretty much realised that absolutely everything was going to be struggle requiring some sort of sweet-talking or negotiation or bribery. Simple things like can brushing teeth, getting buckled into the pram or car, getting into a trolley or out of the trolley, walking up or down the stairs or round the shops without being carried, eating food at the table sans tantrums or food fights and spillage galore (my term for a pillage mixed with a spillage), going to bed in a big boy’s bed without a fight (as I am typing this Jon Jon is clawing at my notes and slamming into the keyboard with my mobile phone seconds from his teething mouth!!).
I’m telling you, after much frustration I have become quite insane but I am learning my own art of negotiation. I must however mention that a little alcohol periodically does save my soul! I think the tantrums and moaning, complaining and whining are also the catalyst for my permanent left eye crack addict twitch – might need to get me to a costume hire shop soon for one of those nifty pirate patches as I am starting to scare the other kids in the park – while Aiden is quite used to it now and merely recommended that “Mommy go to the doc-teh” to get myself seen to!
My son is indeed a savvy little negotiator, who often wins and gets to eat “bikkies” for breakfast and the like, but he has no idea that I am just “letting” him on occasion and that he’s dealing with one of the most switched on corporate lawyer moms in the business and that I don’t give up without a fight!