Mind the Baby’s Pre-Budget Statement

Mind the Baby blog, www.mindthebaby.ie, pre-budget statement
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

I spent the weekend with the most wonderful group on women.

They were passionate, empathetic, warm women who were trying to make a difference – a positive difference – to the lives of others in Ireland. I left their company buoyant with optimism and hope for good things to come in this country.

With the exception of one, they were all mothers. Women with responsibilities and commitments – to their children, their parents, their partners, their communities and crucially, their bank managers. It was the one dampener of an inspiring weekend:

“What are your plans for this wonderful work? Will you do it full time?”

What sat uneasily with me was the underlying acknowledgement for most that it’s simply not possible in Ireland right now for people – for parents – to pursue their passions, their wants, their dreams. I’m not talking desert island stuff here. People can’t change their careers or set their lives on a different path. So many of us are stuck with decisions we made five years, maybe a decade, ago at this stage because we’re pinned by financial commitments.

There is no room for flourishing in Irish life these days. It’s head down, get the money in, get the bills paid, keep your children fed, warm and loved. A noble pursuit without doubt. But where’s the room for growth, creativity, personal satisfaction, meaning?

The kites aren’t flying so high this year as we enter the pre-budget process because there’s an impeccably timed referendum blocking our way and inhibiting all discussion. The regulars are still making an appearance howeer – social welfare, health, child benefit…

Could I take this moment to point out to the powers-that-be that in last year’s budget single people in employment living in rental accommodation with no children more or less emerged from Budget 2013 unscathed?

The families of Ireland have given enough. Give us something back. Like a hint of a glimmer of hope that maybe we might see a change on the horizon. That maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a chance to change something and to make life decisions that aren’t purely financially based.

So many people want to do something wonderful – either for other people or for themselves. When will we get to refocus our attention on quality of life and enriching society rather than our myopic fixation on the State coffers and the dust in our pockets?

Our own lives and the lives of our children desperately need our providers to feel like it’s all worth something. People are jaded and disenfranchised. To paraphrase the Great Bard, something is rotten in the State of Ireland. The question is who of our politicians has the courage and the long view to see what is happening and do something about it?

 

Guilt, mammy style

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one, I’m just going to tell it as I see it. Other mammies reading this, please don’t take offense. I’m talking about me and only me here…

Mind the Baby, Mammy Guilt, www.mindthebaby.ie
Courtesy of http://www.xiomaramaldonado.com

When I went back to work after maternity leave – 16 long months ago now – I thought I was going to fuck up my kid.

I was going back full time and he was going to creche. He was 11 months old and very, very attached to me.

Everything worthwhile that I had read about parenting said that children under two were better off in the full time care of their mothers or a primary care giver. They also said that a shared childcare option with children of the same age was the least desirable. That made me feel pretty crappy. But theory is all well and good when reality is beating your door down with a ball wrecker. Anecdotally, I noticed that daughters of friends seemed to adjust better to childcare than their sons. The little boys found it much harder to settle. As did we.

I wondered if my working full time was going to affect his development and our relationship. I wondered if I was interfering with the person he was meant to be by not meeting his needs on a full time basis. We had bouts of separation anxiety where I couldn’t be out of his sight for a minute or he’d want to be up in my arms all the time. And the little voice said “this wouldn’t be happening if you were at home full time…”

Then during the summer the three of us had three weeks off together and I remember wondering – stupidly – “is it a good idea to take such a long holiday? Will it make it harder for him to settle back into creche?”. A fleeting thought and a stupid, stupid, stupid one. This is what the constant gnawing of mammy guilt does to you. Essentially, my eejit brain was suggesting that I spend less time with my son so that when I’m not around anyway he won’t feel so bad. WTF? That sounds like some kind of Gina Ford shit to me.

Instead, two whole new revelations were uncovered. The three weeks off together as a family was just brilliant but even though Pip had access to me literally 24/7, he still wanted me all of the time. Only I could carry him around. I had a companion for every trip to the loo. Many suggestions from Daddy were answered with “no, mammy do it”. So in many ways, this was a relief because it was obvious to me that even if I was at home full time, he would be just as demanding of my time, my attention and my touch as he is anyway.

That helped to alleviate the mammy guilt. I have no issue at all with my son wanting to be with me all the time, in fact I cherish it. It gives me comfort to know now that it’s not specifically because I work and he goes to creche. It is just the type of person that he is.

The second revelation was that my concerns about our “too long holiday” were completely unfounded. He toddled into creche the following Monday we were back with a cheerful wave and a spring in his step. Nobody saw that coming, let me tell you!

To come full circle, a couple of weeks ago Mr Mind the Baby was away for work over a weekend and it was just myself and Pip together. We had a really great weekend. There was nothing particularly special about it but it just felt like a lovely old time. Monday rolled around, and he was like a sticking plaster come creche drop off. Ah hello mammy guilt, I wondered where you’d been hiding.

I love this woman, she speaks much sense. Read her book! Image courtesy of www.pantley.com
I love this woman, she speaks much sense. Read her book!
Image courtesy of www.pantley.com

I think there is no win to this feeling of guilt for me. There is no “right” solution, just different decisions. I can’t guarantee that if I was at home full time with the full concentration of a toddler down on top of me that I wouldn’t be resentful, no matter how much I think some days I’d love to be a stay at home mother. I do know without a doubt that I’d need a “something” just for myself, for a couple of hours at least everyday.

I think I’ll probably struggle with the greener grass of motherhood on some level for the rest of my life.

Am I alone?

 

The pribe of libe

I am 34 years old. I was 17 seventeen years ago, a fact that freaks me out when I think about it for too long because it feels like it could have been last Tuesday – and that wasn’t too long ago. I appreciate that a 17 year old does not view it from the same perspective. 34 is no next Tuesday to them. I was that fresh-faced soldier horrified by the old person believing we had things in common.

A couple of people from my mother’s generation have told me recently that “I’ve never looked better”, which is very interesting to me because I’ve looked a lot slimmer, younger and less tired.

But I feel good.

Yeah I’ve a few pounds to lose. Yeah I’ve dimples on the inside of my thighs that no amount of exercise is going to improve. And yeah there’s a fine line right now between the use of the phrase “fine lines” to describe my crow’s feet and actually using the correct adjective which should be just plain “lines”. But my God is my confidence through the roof. The insecurities and self-consciousness I experienced painfully through my teens and mildly through my twenties are gone. I feel strong, brave and fearless. I am comfortable in my skin and happy with who I am.

Mind the Baby blog, www.mindthebaby.ie, The Pribe of Libe
The fabulous Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Image courtesy of http://artelanternamagica.blogspot.ie

I love how I have such belief in my mothering now. It took some time but I am so sure of what I’m doing, I don’t even wobble any more when my choices in how I parent my son are questioned. I know I know what’s best.

I love the freedom that 34 brings me and how the world is water off a duck’s back when it suits me.

Like dancing in a circle in Awear because the toddler thinks “this is a great song mama” while laughing at the 20 year old sales assistant who is so mortified on my behalf her face looks like I’ve just smeared poo on the wall. Or asking the stupid man with his stinking cigarette to jog on instead of sitting down beside us while we eat our lunch on a sunny day. To quote my very talented, very funny blogger friend Deborah when she wrote on a similar topic recently: “not a single gram of fuck shall be given today”.

I’m living a life I like, with the people I love, doing things I never thought myself capable of doing. I can laugh at myself and don’t care if others laugh at me. Laughing with me is always warmly welcomed and encouraged. I’m really enjoying myself. I think it’s the combination of being in my 30s and becoming a mother, a treasurer of a little soul, that has me this way. I am like Miss Jean Brodie, I am like Monica and Chandler in Friends. I am in the pribe of libe.