6

Why can’t we get a good cup of tea?

tea for two

“Tea, tea, tea for two?” YES PLEASE!

Remember the last time you had a great cup of tea? You shouldn’t have to think. It should be your last cup. But why as parents are we subjected to such atrocious tea standards when it’s a time we need it the most (alongside chocolate Hob Nobs).

I love tea. I’m British of course I do. But then, I do love tea A LOT! I don’t drink it because I’m thirsty, I don’t find it at all refreshing in that way. My reasons are two-fold; pleasure and perfunctory. Up until I had a baby, tea was all about the pleasure for me and I love everything it signifies. I’m a busy person and rush around a lot and the act of drinking tea actually makes me stop, sit down and relax – if only for 10 minutes.

Tea drinking changed with the onset of parenthood. I’d given up tea during pregnancy which was hard but achievable as I’d felt sick for most of it. I’d naïvely wondered if this was the turning point for my tea drinking and that it was the natural opportunity to give it up. Then, after being up all night in labour, the midwife brought me a cup of tea and I gulped it down thankfully. From that moment, tea became far more perfunctory for me; I needed that caffeine fix. It was a careful balance of drinking enough tea to keep you awake after being up most of the night and not drinking too much so that if the baby napped, you could still sleep.

Ask almost any new mum and she’ll tell you how hard it is to actually drink a cup of tea when it’s hot and at it’s best. Most tea in the first six months is  drunk lukewarm or microwaved after a mammoth feeding session or a rare moment when baby does sleep – but on the condition that she lay on top of you and you don’t move, trapped on the sofa unable to move a muscle and watching your cup of tea go to waste.

My baby was into everything and was glued to me constantly but as she grew more aware, making tea became part of our routine. We made a game of it and she started to think making tea was fun – to the point now that when I ask her if we can make mummy a cup of tea, she replies ‘ooh yes please!’. We sing a song, she opens the pot, chooses a tea bag, gives it a shake and puts it into the cup. She knows the drill now and tells me what to do next – ‘be careful mummy, it’s a bit hot! Put the milk in, give it a stir, oooh delicious’. I feel like an actual Einstein genius for achieving this.

Back at work, it became a novelty to have a fresh, hot cup of tea which I could drink sitting down. My old office thought I was a tea extremist as I’d be fairly specific about how I liked my tea – skimmed milk, colour of a Rich Tea biscuit. I don’t have time to mess around with bad tea when I’m baby free. I would try to be polite and say I wasn’t fussy but then you’d end up with tea that tasted awful. Then you’d have to be even more polite and be seen to drink it. Why not just ask for something you like? Surely if someone is going to the trouble to make you tea, they’d rather it be a good one? That way, it’s actually appreciated.

I’ve wondered why soft play tea is so awful. Plastic cups, weak and tasteless, it’s usually just a tonic to survive the bedlam of children and to give you the caffeine kick to chase up ladders, through tunnels and race down slides. Surely there’s never been such a concentration of tired, thirsty mums just desperate for a great cup of tea. Maybe our desperation lets them get away with it.

My fussiness in tea drinking has reduced since having a baby. I need all the caffeine I can get and drinking cold tea or sub-standard soft play tea has lowered my standards. I consider it a huge act of kindness for someone to make or even buy me a cup of tea – and equally wary about people who don’t drink tea at all.

And so I’d like to call upon soft play centres, park cafes and anywhere that sees a mum with a baby to up their tea game. Take pity on us and serve us tea which is hot, has actually seen a tea bag for more than two seconds and has REAL milk in it – not out of a sachet or from a jug covered in cling film that’s been left out all day. You’ll not only win our custom but our life-long respect.

 

 

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6

Grounds for instant divorce in baby’s first year

It’s For The Baby is proud to published new official criteria for divorce in baby’s first year. So daddies, beware and take heed!

Baby’s first year – us mums are tired. No, exhausted. No, we’re undergoing physical torture while learning to look after another life. Our limits are being pushed to the brink and, quite frankly, we don’t have the tolerance or patience to put up with any sh*t – from any source. Unfortunately, daddies, you’ve drawn the short straw. As you spend the most time with us, we often take out our tired grumpiness on you (sorry).

So to make life easier, here are some ground rules of what we’d ask daddies not to do in baby’s first year. Break them, and they’re official grounds for divorce.

1. Saying “I’m a bit tired”. You may be tired. You may have woken up during the night feeds too. And you do work hard. But seriously, you have NO idea.

2. Calling to say “I’m going to be late home”. Some days, we feel like we’ve been at home for a hundred years with a crying baby and constantly feeding. Daddy’s return home is literally the highlight of the day and we count down the minutes until you come in the front door. Just the very thought of you being late home can tip us over the edge. So we reserve the right to over-the-top go mental over this call. Even worse is not calling at all though so that’s not an alternative!

3. Coming home and saying “I’ve been working all day, I just need a break”. Sometimes, we haven’t eaten, haven’t showered, haven’t dressed, haven’t had a cup of tea, haven’t been able to put the baby down all day. Daddies please help us and forgive us for pouncing on you the second you walk in.

4. Waking up and commenting “They slept well didn’t they?”. Never assume baby has slept through when actually you’ve slept through and your partner has been up all night. Alternative – say “How was your night (would you like a cup of tea and pack of Hob Nobs)?”

5. Saying “I think they’ve done a poo”. If you smell it, change it.

6. Spending quality time with baby to give mum some relaxation but then saying “come and see this” every two minutes. I do feel mean about this one. We know you’re excited to discover what baby can do. And we do really want to share it. But we also need to eat, sleep and wee alone. So let us do that – we’ll be back pronto.

7. Changing the baby without doing up all the buttons on their grows / trousers. Just grrr.

8. When we do go out, not listening to the million instructions mums dish out. Look, we are barely a moment without our baby and we are a bit neurotic when it comes to leaving them for the first time. Please listen to the instructions and nod – it will make us feel better.

9. Never saying we look great. Okay so we may be a bit bedraggled, exhausted looking and still in need of our maternity jeans but this means that we feel awful and very un-sexy. Your compliments will genuinely make us feel awesome.

10. Telling friends you’re “babysitting”. Does not apply when it’s your own baby.

Anyone got any others?

Caveat to daddies – don’t take this personally, we do love and appreciate you really. Refer to this blog post which sings your praises. We’re just really really really tired. And grumpy. And irrational. And we’ll stay that way until we can sleep again. We know that us mums aren’t perfect either so if you want to submit your grounds for divorce, please get in touch *braces herself*.

Happy Mummy & Daddy

Happy Mummy & Daddy

2

When to call a mum

Sometimes I look at my phone and I wonder when the last time I spoke to some of my friends. We text each other and bemoan how long it’s been since we’ve had a good old chat. Then they ask me when’s a good time to call me. The trouble is, I’m not sure I actually know the answer. When is the best time to call mums?

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Before 8am: Do not call because the day you do will be the day baby sleeps in and it will have been ruined. For everyone!

Before 10am: We can’t answer because we are trying so hard to leave the house. See that door that you can just walk through with your handbag after a quick shower and a leisurely breakfast? For us it’s like a magical portal that we are fighting to reach alive each day. We’re lucky if we make it clean, fed, without being dragged down by bags of everything we may or may not need (just in case). And we’re probably running as that extra nappy change or tantrum has waylaid us yet again.

Between 10am-12pm: You could call but we will literally have our hands full of babies, prams, food and other paraphernalia as well as running after our toddlers who want to poke, jab, grab, suck, kick at something new every three seconds. This is the perfect time to actually come and meet us. However if you expect us to be able to hold a conversation or even offer you eye contact, think again. Just bring tea and cake. But keep both out of reach so it isn’t thrown and smashed across the room. We won’t forget about it – we know it’s there watching and taunting us with its heat and deliciousness. We will down it when it’s lukewarm and practically inhale the cake as soon as physically possible.

12pm-1pm: It’s feeding time at the zoo. If you call, expect the phone to be grasped by the baby who will otherwise scream for it. Not only will you not get any sense but the phone will probably get covered in yogurt and smashed on the floor.

1pm-3pm: It’s nap time. For everyone if we’re lucky. That’s after we’ve scrubbed porridge ingrained on the kitchen floor tiles, picked up a thousand toys, washed up for the umpteenth time, run around with a vacuum. And if we’re really really lucky, maybe eating a sandwich.

3pm-4pm: Prime meeting up time. Phone calls? Not so much. We’re at the park or on the top of a rope bridge at the play centre surrounded by screaming kids. Are you sure don’t want to meet us?

4pm-5pm: Feeding time again. See above.

5pm-7pm: Time for baths, torture time (hair washing), wet babies, dressing, milk, more torture (teeth brushing) stories and bedtime. Military operation required.

7pm-9pm: We’re usually still trying to get the baby to sleep. Of course if we have plans like eating a nice dinner, catching up with friends or leaving the house, baby will have their own plans for us.

9pm: We’ve just sat down for the first time today. Tired and starving.

10pm: We’re in bed. At the latest.

11pm-5am: If we are awake at this time, it’s not out of choice. For the times when sleepless nights are a frequent occurrence, this may be the time we need you the most. Unfortunately, we may only be capable of a rant, a cry or maybe even a scream of frustration at being up all night. There’s nothing like these early hours of darkness where you feel you and your baby are the only people on the planet awake and every fibre of your being longs to be asleep.

Hmmm, I wonder why no one calls anymore!? But please don’t stop calling. All of this doesn’t mean that we don’t want to speak to you – just the opposite. And seeing that you call makes us feel that you care. Just please understand when we can’t answer….

2

Childbirth – secret or over share?

Shouting about childbirth

In my PB (pre-baby) life, I heard my fair share of birth stories. Some from friends and family who had recently become mums but most of the tales were from near perfect strangers who were eager to share some of the most personal details of their body and birth to my naive and unsuspecting ears.

I’m particularly squeamish and listening to the beautiful natural process (aka horror) of childbirth made me very uncomfortable. My friends knew this and would give me a PG-rated version of their experience. But it was those who I didn’t know well that spared no detail. And it’s not exactly easy to tell strangers to shut the hell up.

I recall being at a work event where a female member of the group talked to us all about her blood loss over a glass of Champagne – painting a vivid picture of what the delivery room looked like. There had seemed to be no stimulus to start this story; nobody had asked to hear it, nobody was pregnant and it wasn’t even something she had just gone through – her daughter was two years old. I nervously smiled and nodded, being too British to be rude enough to walk away from the conversation. On another occasion, this time I was at least pregnant, another acquaintance spent an entire lunch graphically describing their birth – no holds barred. By the end, I was nauseous and visibly shaking. I’d tried to laugh it off, explain that I was squeamish and that maybe it was best to leave me in ignorant bliss. But they just laughed at what a big shock I was in for…and continued.

Now I’m a mum too, my eyes have been opened. Birth is such a life changing, often long and traumatic experience – physically, emotionally and mentally – that you are compelled to talk about it. You are never prepared for it. You will never be able to predict what happens. It’s like watching the most intense, 24-hour movie that you can’t switch off with no precursor as to whether it’s a rom-com, drama or horror. Oh and you’re not actually watching it, you’ve got the lead role. Afterwards, you have to purge yourself. There is a need to expel the trauma from you body and sharing the story is the only way you can make sense of it. You’re also pretty amazed that you’ve achieved something so incredible. I certainly didn’t think I was capable.

However, while there is this need to purge, I do think that it should be accompanied with an element of restraint. One thing I learned from being the recipient of birth stories in my PB life, is the danger of over sharing and respecting your audience. When family and friends visited, I only spoke about the birth if I was asked. I didn’t volunteer anything. Or at least I hope I didn’t. Just because we go through such a physically life-changing experience, doesn’t mean that the social boundaries of communication are gone; do strangers want to hear about tears, stitches, blood loss and how long we had to push?

The best purging opportunity comes when you meet other new mums. This is where the rules change; anything goes. You’ve all given birth, you’ve all had a baby thrust in your arms and been sent home expecting to know how to look after it. And you’ve all suddenly been deprived of what should be one of your basic human rights; sleep. My NCT friends know more intimate things about me than nearly everyone I know. And this was within about eight weeks of meeting them. There were even times when I went to new mums meet ups which quickly descended into a run down of everyone’s birth – something that would have sounded dreadful pre baby. But this time I didn’t feel queasy because I’d already achieved the thing I was so terrified about going through and I needed to purge too.

While you’re pregnant, you’re told that birth will be a positive, natural experience and it’s easy in the early days to feel that you’ve let your baby down if it wasn’t because you needed intervention or drugs. However, almost every one of us around the room had some form of complication and had come out the other side with happy and thriving babies. It’s reassuring to share these tales, realise that your experience was totally normally and even to find humour in the midst of a delivery room horror movie. But spare a thought for those that don’t have a baby as a common denominator with you; do they want to hear the gory details?  Maybe save it for someone who does…

0

Do mums moan too much?

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Everyone knows that having a baby is wonderful. Fact. However, as parents cross into this unknown baby territory, we unfortunately find quite a lot to moan about. This doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our lot or that we’re not experiencing an unfathomable amount of joy, pride and happiness at the same time – we just didn’t realise how hard some of the new moments were going to be.

Before becoming a parent, you expect to be tired. You expect to have to clean up a lot of dirty nappies. You expect babies to cry. You expect things to change. But you have no idea of how much sleep deprivation can turn you into a crazy lady. You have no idea how much poop can explode out of one nappy to the devastation of everything around it (no doubt just as you’re getting in the car). You have no idea that babies can cry inconsolably for three hours. And you have no idea of the scale of how much your life changes.

As I said, it’s not that we’re not happy, just caught out and overwhelmed by some of the harder things that such a tiny seemingly helpless baby can throw at us. Sometimes literally.

What got me starting to think about all of this was when my husband came home from work a couple of weeks ago and my friend and her baby were visiting for a play date. We were laughing over the usual high brow intellectual topics of conversation – how often our babies had pooped in the bath that week, tallying up our night-time wake ups, debating whether to get a steam mop to tackle the porridge that had been formed a rock-hard immovable mass in between the kitchen tiles and eyeing up the last hob nob. Later that evening, my husband teased me about how much we’d been moaning and how it must make me a right hoot to hang out with.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have won an award for the most sparkling conversationalist of the year but it’s conversations like these that have kept me sane for the past year. Who would want to listen to me continually gloating how my baby is THE most beautiful and THE most genius baby on the entire planet?

There are moments as a parent when you feel you almost can’t cope anymore – when the number of hours sleep you’ve had in a week doesn’t even reach double figures or when you wonder what silence sounds like after bouncing/feeding/rocking/singing to a screaming baby for what seems like forever. Or you catch a look at yourself in the mirror covered in baby sick and sweet potato mush with scraggly hair and no make-up and you wonder what you’ve become. The only thing that gets me through some of these moments is knowing that there is a country full of other new parents who are going through the very same dilemmas and being able to share our mishaps together with laughter.

I used to see one particular mum friend weekly on what we described as ‘Moaning Mondays’. We did put ourselves through the mill by attempting to go to TWO half-hour classes in the space of three hours. It doesn’t seem like much but the desperate panic to get babies napped, fed, changed and traveled for two whole activities was exhausting and highly stressful. Afterwards, we’d laugh at how much we’d managed to moan that day but it genuinely made us feel better – happier people and therefore happier mums.

So yes, maybe we do moan quite a lot. But we’re not sorry about it. We need it. Although I do appreciate that I’ve responded to a comment that I moan a lot by moaning…but I’d rather be a normal (and honest) mum who laughs with her friends about her mishaps than one that needs a slap in the face for only gloating about how wonderful and perfect my life is.