Sunday 28 July 2013

Week 99- boys with tails, Pinkstinks and Spider-Man helmets...

We’ve got a bike.

Nancy and I are mobile.

I used to bike everywhere.
Well, free wheel down hills and push it back up, usually with the handle bars laden with plastic bags, like a shopping trolley extension.
But the intention was there.
I was biking into work until I was about six months pregnant, when one day, I got off, realised how a) knackered I was and b) it gave me massive crotch ache, and though nooooooooooooo thanks.

So I chained it to the lamppost near my office, and there it stayed for three months, where I occasionally picked it up when pissed revellers had kicked it over.
Ben retrieved it the week before Nancy was born. By which point it wasn’t even good enough for the bike man down the road to pick up for a tenner. And he'll buy anything.

So my dad has got us one for our combined birthday and Christmas presents from now to eternity.  
When we were in the bike shop, the fella was asking about helmets for Nancy, and showed me a selection of bright pink, flowery hats for little girls, and was surprised when I opted for the Spider-Man one for her.

Now, this wasn’t meant to be a one women protest about gender stereotype, although he did guide me towards blue helmets for me afterwards.
The Spider-Man one was loads cooler.

But why is it that the choice has to be limited to varying shades of pink for girls?
Why can’t it be lots of different colours, and if you choose pink, then fabbo?

And the older Nancy gets, the more aware I am of the lack of choice.
How you have to opt for either girls or boys swimsuits in Boots. Bright pink flowers or bright blue with a truck on the front.
Where’s the choice? Where’s the greens, the yellows, the beiges?
Or pink Lego. PINK LEGO? Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if it was targeted at all children.

But it’s described as ‘The perfect LEGO starter set for any girl!

Really? REALLY?

If Nancy grows up wanting to wear head-to-toe fuchsia, that’s absolutely fine with me.
Just as long as she know that's not her only option.

I follow Pinkstinks with interest, as they highlight toy, after product, after item of clothing, which further drives a wedge between little girls and boys.
Nancy currently has absolutely no idea that there is any difference between genders.

Apart from the observation that some people have ‘tails’ and others don’t.

Which is a fantastic way to look at the world.
And long may it continue.

But for the meantime, she and I will whizz round town, her donning the helmet of debatably one of the greatest superheroes of all time.
And until she tells me otherwise, that's how it will remain.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Week 98- frayed tempers, eBay finds and losing Rabbit

I don’t want to get on a whinge about the heat, because we spend about 11 months of the year complaining about the rain, the cold and the clouds.

But I think it’s true to say that long spells of scorchio sunshine does something to the brain.
Or, at the very least, can, once it has brought out the initial best in people, go on to bring out the worst.

We’d just spend an afternoon on the beach, which was lovely, but I think we’d caught a bit too much sun.  
Everyone's patience was starting to fray.
This wasn’t helped by attempting to negotiate getting into a chokingly hot car in the shopping centre car park, with a rubbish buggy with wheels like a broken shopping trolley, countless plastic bags full of stuff that should probably have been put in the bin that had been tightly wound round the handle so you couldn't get them off.
And on top of that, Nancy, who was screaming and going rigid in a vain attempt to avoid being strapped in her car seat.

It was a wonder we all made it home without killing each other.

But it was only at bedtime when Nancy asked for Rabbit, that we realised we hadn’t seen him for several hours.

Last sighted on the way to the car park, in fact.

And all hell broke loose.

Nancy wouldn’t even consider going to sleep without her greatest mate.

Ben and I scoured the flat from top to bottom, which takes an average of two minutes each, before aimlessly walking up and down our street.

It was like going through the five stages of grief.

Denial- convincing ourselves that we’d both seen it since returning home.

Anger- blaming each other for getting on each other’s tits so much at the car park that someone must have dropped him.

Bargaining- drawing straws to see who has to get in the oven/ car to go back into town to see if he was there.

Depression – remembering how much Nancy loves Rabbit, how he’s in all the pictures we have of her, and how, really, he’d become part of the family.

Acceptance – realising that we needed to get another bloody Rabbit. And quick sharpish before Nancy noticed he’d gone.

So Ben and I searched the internet.

Turns out Rabbit was limited edition, and has now gone out of production. Literally nowhere sold one. There were ones like him, but not the same. And Nancy’s not daft; she’d sniff out an imposter straight away.

After three hours I was starting to panic my face off. I couldn’t find one anywhere.

Then, like a beacon in the dark, I found the last Rabbit on sale in England, hidden in the depths of eBay, labelled incorrectly.

My eBay obsession had finally paid off.

I contacted the seller, and said I couldn’t wait 9 days for the bidding to end. I had to replace Rabbit immediately.

Now, thinking back, I shouldn’t have shown my hand so quickly.
The woman could obviously smell the desperation in my e-mail, and offered to sell it to me, then and there, for twenty quid.

Twenty fucking quid for a second hand toy that retailed new for seven.

But what could I do? She had me by the balls. Really, she could have said fifty quid, and I’d have made a fuss but still coughed up.

Deal done, I went to bed feeling a bit shitty.

Nancy might not guess that Rabbit wasn’t actually Rabbit, but we’d know.
Friends regale stories of going on school trips and returning to find their hamster had changed it’s markings, or guinea pig had shrunk. And how cheated they’d felt.

Next morning, we rang the shopping centre, just to cover all bases, and halle-fucking-lujah, someone had handed Rabbit in. We picked him up, faith restored in humanity once again, and brought him home before Nancy even noticed he’d gone anywhere.

And the next day, the mega expensive second hand Rabbit arrived, smelling like someone else’s child.

I hid backup Rabbit in the back of my undies drawer, ready to whip out if Rabbit ever goes missing again. A friend told me that her son found her back up, and now she’s doubled the risk as she’s got two little guys to replace.

But the real punch in the tits was that Nancy’s lost interest in Rabbit almost entirely over the last few days.

In fact, he slept in the garden yesterday.

Her new bestie is Panda.

A stuffed toy that Ben’s dad brought her back from China.
I feel anxious every time we leave the house now, because my part-time wages can just about stretch to an inflated eBay purchase.

But a trip to China?

Maybe not.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Week 97- body shaming, Boden bikinis and Benidorm

There comes a point in your post-baby life when you have to either accept the fact that this summer might not necessarily be the one where you’re going to have the beach ready body.

The one that Facebook news feeds are promoting every other post.

And as a consequence, spend days in 28 + degrees covering up, sweating your face off.

Or alternatively, think, fuck it. I’ve spent thirty quid on a Boden bikini. I’m going to bloody well wear it.

I have a picture of myself from a holiday in Benidorm taken about 12 years ago. (Disclaimer- it was allocation on arrival, I thought I’d booked us a holiday in Alicante.)


In the picture, I look how I think I’ve looked my whole pre-baby life.

I had a sun tan, I was wearing a flattering bikini, the picture was taken at the right angle, and all these things working in conjunction, meant that I didn’t look too bad IN THAT ONE PICTURE.

Unfortunately, the pose/ tan/ swimwear combo hasn’t been replicated since.

But I live in hope that it will one day.

And THAT’S the moment that I start to dress how I want to, feel more body confident, and generally become a better career person, girlfriend and mother.

The truth is, it’s all rubbish, of course.

As I took Nancy to play in the paddling pool on the beach this weekend, I looked around at the dads with their paunches, happily walking round topless, some wearing the tiniest of shorts, and no-one batting an eyelid.

Whereas the thought of whipping off my summer dress to catch some rays in what is, in reality, quite a modest bikini, made me freeze with fear.

The fact is, my body has changed since having a baby.

Of course it has.

You can’t grow a whole human being inside you for nine months, and it not look a tad different afterwards.

I’m not saying I wear my stretch marks with warrior pride, but there are worse things than a few tiger stripes on your tummy, at the end of the day.

Misspelt tattoos, for example. That can’t be great.


But, as I’m trying to muster the courage to step forth in a two piece, companies like By Post’ tweet things so thoughtless that you wonder how they manage to communicate with ANYONE. Let alone, build a business based on promotion via social media.

So, one of their employees tweeted; “During this heatwave, please kindly dress according to the body you have rather than the one you aspire to. And send lots of postcards”

Now, I’m sure someone must have thought that was hilarious, witty and insightful. And I’m not suggesting we should all be wearing thongs on the beach mid-menstrual cycle.

But I do think that women should feel comfortable to wear whatever the hell they like.

And I think that right is absolutely cemented after an average of 10 hours in labour.

Luckily, the twittersphere (never thought I’d find myself writing that) thought the same, and they received a backlash of tweets from angry men and women, at which point someone had to spend the rest of their working day tweeting apologies.

But, genuinely, at what point is it OK to feel fine in your own skin?

To accept that your body might not ever look like Kate Moss’, regardless of doing the 5:2 diet or donning that Slendertone every other day.

At what point is it OK to know all that, and put the bikini on with pride anyway?

So that’s what I did.

And I spend the rest of the weekend swimming, playing and sunbathing that way.  

I don’t know if that’s dressing to the body I have, because the body I have is a bit knackered and could do with a major detox and muscle rebuild.

But I’ve spend thirty quid on my bikini.

And I’ll be damned if I’m covering up and sweating to death through another summer of body shame.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Week 96- getting wrecked, washing clothes and praising brilliant women

Some weekends I wish I could duplicate myself to get everything done, and squeeze in having a laugh, if poss.

I love being Nancy’s mum, that’s a given. That one’s in the bank.

But, as I walked along Brighton beach, which was absolutely bursting to the seams with people having BBQ’s and getting pissed, I suddenly felt a pang of grief for that ‘fuck it’ moment.

The spontaneity.

The brill idea to jump on a train and go for an adventure.

Or turn up at the pictures on a whim.

Or go out dancing until 4am and know that the most strenuous thing I had to do the next day was watch the Coronation Street omnibus.  

Or just sit. Sit still with an unread book and know that I would get to the last page within the next 12 months.

I accept that things change beyond recognition when you have a child. I now recognise the knowing smiles of parents as I boldly declared, ‘having a baby won’t change me. It will fit in around me, not the other way around,’ during my first trimester.

There are some days when I hate doing everyone’s washing. I genuinely want to set fire to the machine when it beeps to say the cycle's finished.

Your focus shifts, of course, when you have children.
But the thing you don’t realise is happening, is that responsibility starts to bleed into all the corners of idleness you had pre-kids.
A spare 20 minutes would be spent having a flick through Take a Break.
Or sometimes I’d find myself drifting off; staring into the next-door neighbour's kitchen, and I had no idea how long I’d been doing it for, or more to the point, if they could see me.

Now, anything over 60 seconds can be filled with a never-ending list of chores.
Things I’d never even considered doing before.
Picking up an endless supply of Duplo.
Retrieving half eaten bits of orange from under the telly.
Washing and drying soft toys that are looking grubby, bordering on unhygienic, before Nancy realises they’re missing.

And that’s long before the house admin starts, sorting bills; all that jazz.

Now, I know I must have had to do a lot of that beforehand. We never had our electricity cut off, or the bailiffs round, or anything like that.

But there must have been more ebbs and flows.

I don’t remember feeling like I was hurdling blindly forward, nappy in one hand, duster in the other, trying desperately to dodge a P45 on the way.


 And just breathe.

And open a bottle of wine for one.
And just reflect.

Because women are pretty fucking brilliant.
Our ability to adapt, to adjust and to just get on with it.  

To expand our roles and attempt to balance everything.

And we rarely celebrate our achievements.

So I’m dedicating this post to all the fab women I know, and those that they know. And so on.

Because, until human cloning becomes an option as standard when you find out you're pregnant, we’re all going to have to find a way through it, in the most wondrous, enjoyable way.
Without going nuts.

And just hope that the odd weekend presents itself to go out, get wrecked, dance like no-one’s watching, and re-connect with our former lives.