Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mama Bear - The Biggest Change

We are in Greece in one of the most critical times in its history in the last 40 years. The future of our children, the toils of our parents are being jeopardised in the most cowardly way!

This is not a political post, however. This is a post about motherhood. About the force that motherhood is, the 'mama bear instinct'.

I have often wondered about the changes in me since I became a mum. In a few days I will have been a mother for a year and in that year there is no doubt my life has changed. But while my 'everyday' has changed so drastically, I have often thought about the changes in ME. Have I changed since becoming a mum?

I have to say that up until this last week I would have said a resounding no. I feel very much myself, a better, happier me, but myself. I still do the things that define me, I exercise and I write, I spend time with my husband (less) and I (try and) look after myself.

Yet with the current Greek tragedy unfolding, and with us being in the centre of it all, a new me has surfaced. I have become a true mama bear, ready to do anything for my kids. In many ways, the worry that I feel is greatly intensified by the responsibility I feel towards my kids.

Mama Bear is awake in me, and it is an unsettling feeling. It is the feeling that keeps me awake at night, planning for all eventualities. The feeling that has made me stockpile food and medicine, something I would have laughed at before. It is this intense need to keep my babies safe that has made me plead with my husband to leave, before civil unrest sets in, before the borders are closed, before the last flight gets booked.

Still, we stay. We stay and hope that we won't have to flee in the night, that the shortages many talk about will not happen. We stay and we hope...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

No perfect time: The ten places I have written since I became a mum of two.

With the coming of my two kids I have realised something that I wish I'd known before: there is no perfect time to do the things you love (although, I do admit there are better times and less good times... Oh, how I wish we could go hiking and camping again! Maybe soon.)

This is how I used to write: at my desk, cup of coffee at hand.

This is how and where I write now...

1. On my bed 
In fact the bed is my default work station, while J is having his nap in his room, and O naps next to me! 

2. In the car, while my husband is driving

3. In the car, parked at a car part, with the kids sleeping in the back

4. While my son is in the bath - I sit next to him, usually on the toilet, and write, on my phone. He is happy playing and I am there should he get into trouble... 

5. On the bike - ok, not while I'm actually riding, but when I am on the static trainer. Exercising and writing at the same time. Talk about multitasking! 

6. While queueing at the supermarket -occasionally D will let me go for a shop without the kids. Any dead time during the shop is used! 

7. In a dentist's waiting room - three weeks after giving birth I needed a root canal! Those three dentist's visits became my first outings out of the house without the baby, and I took advantage of the waiting time to do some writing. 

8. On the metro - a classic! What else to do while getting from A to B?

9. In the kitchen, while waiting for the food to cook - I cook after the kids are in bed, around seven, every night. It is prime time for writing too. My husband's usually off for a run and the house is quiet. Bliss! 

And the all time favourite, yes, I will admit to also occasionally writing

10. On the loo... 

There's no perfect time! When do you fit in your creative pastimes? 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

My new parenting resolution

I was reading 'The Paradox of Choice' by Barry Schwartz, today and one particular sentence 'hit' me really hard. 

In the US 93 percent of teenage girls stated that their favourite activity was shopping! For some reason I was overwhelmed with sadness. Of all the exciting activities on this earth, 93 percent of young women chose shopping! 

I'm not even thinking about lofty activities like reading literature or playing the violin, but even something than watching movies or hanging out with friends would sound better. Has our consumer culture overtaken all other aspirations? 

Then I got thinking about my sons and what I would like them to state is their favourite activity when they are teens. Actually, I don't care much, as long as it is something social or creative, something vaguely goal driven and not completely inane. 

Of course this got me thinking about the way we influence our kids. Already I can see that J is a sponge: he does what he sees us doing. He loves to saw and dig in the garden, thanks to his dad, he loves pretending to cook, partly thanks to me, and he likes reading. He also loves pretending to shave his legs (!) and talking on the phone... Whatever we say, it is what we do in front of him that really matters. 

And so my new resolution is this: I need to be the adult I want J to be when he grows up. I need to model the adult behaviours I want him to pick up and value. 

A quick conversation with his dad later we have found one of our biggest weaknesses in this regard: our use of technology. And so this is our next goal: limiting our use of technology, at least in front of the kids. What behaviours do you find your kids copy? And what behaviours do you wish to limit your kids' exposure to? 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Coffee With Kids (or how to ruin a perfectly civilised activity)

Before our kids came along my dear husband and I used to love our weekend coffee date. It would be a long affair, which would include a couple of cups of coffee each, a croissant or a cookie and a lot of talking. It used to be such a special place and such a special time, that we often saved a lot of our 'scheming' for the weekend coffee date.

I used to love the whole ritual - ordering the coffee, then sinking into the sofa, talking and sharing all our plans, my husband taking notes in his old notebook. It was where the idea of adoption was conceived, it was where we went after our first scan with O. It was what we did the day after my dad passed away, bringing a touch of old normalcy into the new reality. The coffee house was where we went after a long run, or before a trip to the cinema.

And so, with that idealised notion in mind, we decided to venture out for coffee as a family. The four of us! We have been before, as a pit stop during a shop, and I have been with one of the boys, then with the other at different times, but we had never in the past set out to just go for coffee.

What were we thinking? What were we thinking?

For one there was a queue. But it was OK as both boys were fairly quiet and happy to look around. For five seconds! I volunteered to go get the coffee, leaving poor D to entertain the two boys. Suffice to say that half the shop was already looking at us, so, of course, instead of helping I shuffled away heartlessly leaving D on his own...

I watched from afar, as my unflappable husband managed to get J into a child seat and get him interested in a put-the-wooden-stirrer-in-the-straw game. He then took the baby off his seat, where he had been whining and sat him up on his knee. Things were looking up.

After a longer delay than expected I got our drinks (ahhh, the same old drinks we used to have when we had all the time in the world) and a few things to eat. I had, luckily, remembered to pack a juice and a snack for J too. The minute I sat down, of course, O started crying for food.

Before even a sip from my coffee I took him and wondered whether I could breastfeed in the busy coffee shop. I had done it before, but never at such close proximity to a complete stranger... I decided that I would go outside to feed O, instead. As I lifted my shirt I noticed J turning his juice upside down...

To cut a long story short, or in fact a short story even shorter, we didn't last more than twenty minutes. I did not finish my coffee and neither of us had a chance to have a bit of the croissant. We walked to our car, both fairly agitated, and we drove home in relative silence. The kids of course fell asleep. Which meant that they then missed their nap when we got home. Which meant that by 4 o'clock that afternoon we were both looking at our watches and counting down until bedtime...

What were we thinking?

The next day we stayed at home, and had a cup of tea and a chat while the kids had their late morning nap. Bliss!
Here's what my teabag said... 


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