Gillette – The Best A Man Can Get?

{Also features on The M Word}

Let’s start by stating the obvious about all publicity – generally speaking it’s probably safe to say that all publicity ends up as good publicity, true?

It certainly seems to be true for Gillette anyway, who have managed to get the world talking about their recent ad which aims to wipe out sexism and promote equality. Taking phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ and highlighting how boys should be boys, but just respectful ones.

I’ve written about this topic before – here and here – it’s a topic I feel strongly about especially in relation to the fact that I am raising two boys, and I will be doing my level best to make sure they feel equal to everyone else. I think Feminism is assumed that it’s something only for girls, that it’s only girls who need to be taught that they can be anything or do anything, but boys need to know that this is also NORMAL – they should not feel like they’re doing anyone a favour by agreeing to that, or allowing it, it should just be as normal to them as it is to know that they too can do whatever they put their minds to without gender playing a part.

So with that in mind – I love the ad. I think the message it portrays is completely accurate, and completely necessary. The #MeToo movement IS happening, boys ARE taught that they shouldn’t display emotions, and most importantly, if you KNOW something is wrong you should ABSOLUTELY stand against it, even amongst your peers. Especially amongst your peers! I really hope I can teach my sons to be able to do this, to have the courage to do it because of course it wouldn’t be an easy thing to do. I’ve seen comments online where, I suppose it’s coming from a place of feeling threatened, men are unhappy with the idea as if it’s about something being taken away from them, rather than being given to all of us.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

However.

There’s a definite conflict happening here from Gillette. As much as I like their ad, and think well done Gillette, you’ve risked alienating a massive proportion of your audience and customers here for a really important and necessary cause, (for publicity let’s not forget) but let us also not forget that women grow hair too, and therefore, women might also want to use your products. Gillette might be more associated with men as a male brand, but they of course realise that women don’t naturally have bare legs and bare armpits and bare anything else and so they market at us too.

And here’s the conflict – if they’re all about feminism and equality then why are their products for women all in the typical pink, feminine, soft wishy-washy colours? And worse, why are they all priced higher than the same products for men? This happens across almost any product that is sold to both men and women, so it’s hardly a surprise, but when you’re shouting so loudly about how you’re all for equality, then maybe actions speak louder than words!

Let’s take a look to prove my point. This morning I went on to one of the main supermarket chains website and searched for Gillette. First up is shaving gel.

Gillette – The Best A Man Can Get is a hefty discount
  • Aimed at Women – Satin Care Sensitive Skin Shaving Gel – €1.44 per 100ml
  • Aimed at Men – Classic Sensitive Skin Shaving Gel – €1.25 per 100ml

Hmm. Next up is razor blades –

I think we can tell which is aimed at men and which one is aimed at women. One is €1.98 per blade and the other is €3.00 per blade..!!!

It’s not shocking because it’s not new, and yet it is shocking because it’s just sickening. And yet, it clearly works because women are obviously spending more money on the same product just because it says the word ‘satin’ or because it’s a nice colour, and basically because the marketing is working and convincing us that our hairs shave differently to men’s hairs do. This problem occurs across lots of products – even to pens..!

So on the one hand, Gillette need to do as they say really and for me to be completely impressed, stop charging women higher prices for sexist reasons. On the other hand, the ad does attempt to teach a very important and necessary lesson, and we can only hope that in the end feminism and equality are the real winners out of it all.

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The Time Is Now

When Rian was born, I used to hold him as a tiny baby during those long sleepless nights of feeding and think about what sort of little boy he’d be, what sort of teenager he’ll turn into, and what sort of man he’ll grow up to become. Back then, each stage seemed like light years away from those daunting newborn and baby stages. There’s something about being up in the depth of a long night feeding a baby that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world awake at that time. There were many hours spent wondering and making plans, thinking of all the ways I wanted to make sure that Rian, and then of course Alex, had the best childhood memories I could possibly give them.

Earlier this evening when Gavin arrived home from work, I took the opportunity to leg it for a quick shower (translation; I just wanted a few minutes to myself after a busy day with the boys!). While drying my hair and thinking of the jobs I want to get done tomorrow, Christmas Eve, it suddenly dawned on me, that the first stage has arrived. Holding a newborn Rian, and imagining the magic of future Christmases, it seemed so far away then. But here we are. It probably sounds ridiculously obvious but I realised properly today that this is it!

It’s time to start putting it all into action now, all the things I thought I wanted to do right back at the start.

Rian is four now, the first year he really fully gets it, the magic and excitement of it all. Now is the time to start the traditions they’ll grow up and remember with nostalgia. If we do our job correctly they won’t really remember the toys –  well, maybe the ‘big’ ones, maybe they year they get a bike will stand out! But I want them to remember the things we did, and the people we did them with.

I want to start these traditions and create enough memories and nostalgia so that when they think of Christmas it’s something that they feel.

And suddenly, rather than it being a plan for further down the road, the time is now.

Tomorrow might be the first Christmas Eve he’ll remember for the rest of his life! The more I think about it the more I realise it’s a big responsibility, being responsible for childhood memories…but now that it’s here, I can’t wait to get going! 

It’s all systems go. I have the Christmas cookie cutters ready to go, ready and waiting to make cookies to lay out for Santa tomorrow night. We’ll bake and decorate some tomorrow and choose the best of the crop to leave out for the main man’s arrival. We have fresh carrots, ready to choose the juiciest one for Rudolph. We’ll probably leave a glass of milk for Santa, (which may or may not be replaced with some Guinness which I suspect Santa might be more in the mood for…!), but don’t worry, an empty milk glass will be replaced for inspection on Christmas morning to make sure Santa got the appropriate refreshments for his big night! 

We have the Christmas Eve box ready to be filled, with new pajamas, some hot chocolate ingredients, one or two little surprises, and of course, The Night Before Christmas which will be read right before we go to sleep, nice and early of course.

Most importantly we have planned visits over the coming days of family and friends, meals to share, games to play, and laughs to be had. Music will be playing, presents will be opened, food and drink will be eaten and enjoyed, and I hope more than anything, memories will be made. Smells, sounds, tastes and feelings of magic and excitement, all mixing together and embedding themselves within these two little boys, hopefully to last a lifetime.

‘May they never be too grown up to search the skies every Christmas Eve…’ – the time.. is now.


 

 

…And Yesterday I Cried

“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

-Annabel Crabb, Policital Journalist

{Also features on The M Word }

I’m very sure there are lots of us for whom this quote resonates. Most of the time it’s a case of just getting on with it, stopping every so often and wishing things like, ‘if only they could sleep all night’ or ‘if only they could sleep past 6am’; most of my ‘if onlys’ definitely tend to revolve around sleep and the lack of it. For the most part we don’t do too badly, they are great at going to bed at 7pm, following the routine without any resistance, it’s usually smooth enough. Some nights they don’t wake up at all but other nights they’ll wake up for random reasons. But mainly I really cannot complain, they are really great kids.

But this week has really made me feel sorry for myself. This week, I can read that quote and it screams absolute relevance at me, this week has been a big lesson on trying to juggle and balance everything all at once. Thankfully, I’m not talking about major disasters, we’re all ok thankfully, but everything is relevant. I have found this week a big challenge of trying to keep all the plates spinning and I’m not ashamed to admit, this week has reduced me to tears.

It started last weekend when Alex suddenly went off his food and we realised he had caught a dose of Hand Foot & Mouth – a highly contagious virus, but very common viral infection that  most kids will pick up at crèche. It would mean he would need to stay home for the week. The risk of course was that Rian would likely catch it too – however instead, Rian caught a dose of tonsillitis so was also disqualified from crèche for a few days. This meant juggling around work options to be able to make sure they’d be minded, while also needing to get Rian seen to at the doctor.. and following an allergic reaction to the penicllin they prescribed late in the evening, and a very worrying hour as his body broke out in a frightening angry looking rash… things were getting stressful.

Thankfully, I’m extremely lucky to have an understanding manager who relieved a lot of that stress by letting me work from home, and Gavin has enough holidays to be able to look after the other half of the week. It was multi-tasking at a new level. Answering emails whilst wiping a face. Taking phone calls while cutting toast into triangles, and definitely not into squares. Dealing with work queries whilst dealing with various types of rashes that kept appearing on each child… essentially activating the two main parts of myself – the mother me and the work me – working each job in the same place at the same time. The feeling of being pulled in two opposite directions at exactly the same time.

And I’ll repeat – in the grand scheme of things, it’s just life. These things will happen, these types of weeks will come along. I’m thankful it wasn’t anything more serious of course. But that doesn’t mean I should just shrug it off and pretend I didn’t feel like I was really up against it, and really feeling under pressure.

Exhaustion, frustration, stress and worry were the main reasons behind the tears, but also the feeling that I’m inadequate in conflicting ways –

inadequate at being a mother because despite the boys having to be at home, I also had to work, and inadequate at my job because although I had to perform my duties, I also had to be their mother.

And it’s hard.

I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that I’m allowed to find it hard. I’m allowed to take a moment and feel sorry for myself – more than that – I think it’s really important to do it, acknowledge it. Throw in the fact that we haven’t had  much sleep to speak of all week, the fact that I’m most certainly coming down with something myself now, the fact that the commute was extra crappy this week with a two hour delay getting home.. all these little things chipping away and any sense of control I have over things normally.

So yesterday I cried. But also… I did it. I eventually got home last night after that disastrous commute, I got inundated with cuddles and hugs from the boys and from Gavin too that almost made the long delays worth it! I tucked them into bed and I put my feet up and – although tempted by a nice cold glass of Guinness! – had a cup of tea instead and figured I deserved to treat myself to something nice. So I did.

Today, the week continues and we discovered that Rian has also managed to catch the Hand Foot & Mouth virus from his little brother – let’s face it, it was probably inevitable – and so it means a weekend ahead of being housebound. It’s the week that keeps on giving – yes it is hard, and we’ve no doubt another few sleepless nights ahead until they’re virus free – but it was the week that made me realise that yes, the obligation of that working mother is that I will have to work as if I don’t have children, and be their mother as if I don’t have a job.

But at least I’ve learned that I can do it.

To Rian, who is F O U R!

{Part 2 of 2}

Monday 3 November, 2014

You were due on October 28th, which as we know now obviously is your little brother’s birthday. Incidentally, they originally wanted to deliver him on November 3rd – but I flat out refused and said that no, you can’t do it that day, that’s Rian’s birthday. The doctor looked at me funny, as if that shouldn’t be a reason not to deliver Alex that day, but I insisted: you should both have your own day to celebrate, and we should have our own days to celebrate each of you ourselves too.

So it remained that the 3rd of November is our Rian’s day.

It’s hard to believe it’s only four years that we’ve known you because you’re so much a part of us now. And in other ways, it’s hard to believe how fast the last four years had gone. Having your first baby is such a massive change, it’s like living a whole other way of life overnight, everything is upside down! Although you feel like someone’s mother from the moment you’re pregnant (and I’ll tell you the story of how we won you another time– because you really are amazingly unique), the feeling of protecting  you and loving you so fiercely, is something I had never known before. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to make sure you were safe – and I knew that before I ever  met you. After a long, exhausting, and sometimes scary labour, at last you arrived by emergency section at 22.22 on a Monday night in early November. So beautifully perfect, our little Rian, here at last.

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Your first ever morning 

It’s an amazing thing to know someone since the very moment they existed, to feel them grow within you and to watch them change and learn new things, and especially when they’re a part of you, a mini version of yourself, mirrored back at you. To hear you repeating phrases we say, or imitate gestures we make. To see my own traits in you, and your Dad’s too, and lots of your own, you teach us just as much as we teach you.

Even thinking about you now as I write this and I can feel my heart swelling up, butterflies of happiness in my tummy and little pings of happy thoughts zip around my head at all the funny things you do, the sweet things that you say, the way you’re so kind towards your little brother. Other times of course you’re not so kind to him, especially when he wants a toy that you’re playing with! But I guess that’s normal!

You loved books from very early on. Before you could talk you used to drag your favourite books, which were almost as big as you were, over to me and indicate you wanted to sit on my lap and I’d read the books to you, over and over again. Stories about Snails going on adventures with Whales, Highway Rats terrorising other woodland animals for their food, dragons called Zog learning how to breathe fire, so many that you loved, but your absolute favourite of course was The Gruffalo, and the Gruffalo’s Child. Your eyes would widen at the mention of the Big Bad Mouse, and your little face would light up with wonder and excitement when Owl appeared. And so began your love and fascination with Owls…. when we brought you to meet some real ones during the summer, I honestly thought you might explode. Every time we go for a walk in the woods beside our house, we have to examine every single stick, carry half of them, and constantly check the ‘tree-top houses’ to see if Owl might be home.

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Magic

It’s amazing watching you grow and change, and finding out what you love and what you don’t. You love dinosaurs, and anything with wings. You love books, and you love dragons. You love Penguin who is actually a doorstop and weighs a tonne.. you saw him in the shop one day about a year ago, and refused to leave him behind. You can’t carry him because he’s too heavy so he sits on the shelf beside your bed. Your bedside shelf also includes a T Rex, two owls, a tiny plastic octopus, some owl lights, a skeletal crow (don’t ask!), your dinosaur light projector… but above all else, your best friend Sniffy.

As soon as you laid eyes on Sniffy, you loved him. You called him ‘Snissy’ at first, he was clean and fluffy and brand new. Now he’s hugged and squeezed, his hair is worn, much thinner and his colour is slightly duller, but he’s never looked better, very clearly loved. Sniffy is there with you when you wake up, scared of the dark, you talk to him and mind him so well, and he cuddles you back to sleep. One time when you were sick and poor Sniffy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he had to go for a bath in the washing machine. You kept vigil beside him, watching him spinning round and round, by the door of the machine. Singing him songs and making sure he was ok – then when he had to lie on the radiator after his bath, you checked on  him every 20 seconds or so to see if he was dry yet, just to get a cuddle.

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Sniffy (with Penguin on the shelf!)

And when your baby brother arrived – the moment you met him is a moment I’ll remember my whole life. You peered in over his crib and put your two year old hand on his cheek and said in your babyish words ‘Hello baby!’ And right at that second a bond was formed and you’ve been adoring each other ever since. I hope that lasts your whole lives, you two are best friends already.

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Rian, you teach us things every day. You’ve taught me how to look at things like they’re new again, to see wonder and excitement in simple things I wouldn’t have even noticed before. You teach me how to be better in myself, and you’ve shown me how strong I can be. But above all else, you’ve taught who and what a Pachycephalosaurus was – and how to say it! (It’s pack-ee-sefa-lo-saur-us! You’re welcome!)

There just aren’t the words to tell you how much you are loved, not just by me and your Dad but by everyone who meet – your kindness and gentleness, your stubbornness and your determination shine through. I hope they stay with you, the strength of mind you already display. I hope you can keep your determination, to not be afraid to speak up for yourself, and for others who might not be able to do it for themselves. To have the courage and confidence to be whoever you want to be, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. To always be kind. And to show your little brother how to do the same, to be the best big brother you can be. And I promise I will always do my best for you both to help you with whatever you might need.

Happy fourth birthday Rian – you light up our lives. And as we say every single night before falling asleep :

‘We love  you more than all the twinkly stars. How many twinkly stars are there Rian?’

‘Too many to count them Mama’.

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To Alex, who is T W O!

{Part 1 of 2}

Over the last four, and last two years, these boys have brought so much happiness to us, the sheer joy they bring each and every day is beyond words. To hear them say the word ‘Mama’ and know it’s me they’re addressing is just the best sound in the world. I am so lucky.

So to celebrate them, and their birthdays, I’ve written each of them a post of their own. Also, as they change so fast and little things they do and like now will be gone in no time, I wrote it to help me remember years from now what they were like at two and four!

First up is our beautiful little Alex…Happy Birthday munchkin!

Friday, October 28, 2016

We all thought you were going to be a girl. People kept telling me, they could ‘feel’ it. That they could tell by looking at you as Bump – it was high/low/in the middle, so all those things meant you were going to be a girl apparently. We started to believe it, so much so we arrived to the hospital on the day you were scheduled to be born ( slightly early at 37 weeks – a story for another day), with two names on our shortlist, and neither of them meant for a baby boy.

Hospital bound to meet Alex!

At the Coombe hospital on the morning of the 28th of October, in the little room we waited in before the surgeon was ready for us, I was sitting in the hospital gown with your Dad. He picked up a paper to read and I looked down at you in Bump form, and put my hands on either side. I thought about how this was probably the last time I’d get to have a minute with you like this, before we met you in the flesh. When it was just you and me. Your pregnancy was different to Rian’s – already I could see some differences between you both. I watched my bump move as you moved around, maybe you knew it was time to wake up and that we were about to meet you soon. I closed my eyes and felt you move in my belly, and focused on it and tried to tell you how much you were loved already, and that hopefully the birth would all go well and I’d be able to hold you soon. I made a point of remembering the sounds around me, and the smells; an important moment in  my life was about to happen, a defining moment. My baby was about to be born, and my body was about to be my own again. Somewhere in those few minutes I decided that you’d be named Alex, I must have known you already that you weren’t going to be the girl everyone else was expecting. Alex Moran was a beautiful, good strong name I decided. I said it to your Dad – he liked it a lot but wondered if Sean or Ollie might be better suited. We decided we’d think about it in a while, you’d probably be a girl anyway.

Less than an hour later, the surgeon held you up and we saw you for the first time. Such a tiny little thing, so amazingly beautiful! You were ours. Your Dad leaned in and said, ‘he looks like an Alex’. There you were.

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Alex Peter Moran, born at 11.44am

Two years on, and the only things that haven’t changed about you are the beautiful little dimple in the corner of your cheek and the way your face beams when you smile. For six full months you just slept, and fed, and cuddled and slept again. We thought we had struck it lucky with a sleeping baby – but then just as we were almost smug about how easy  you were, at six months you woke up and that was the end of the quiet little Alex! Suddenly, we met the mischievous you – a twinkle appeared in your eye and your spirit of adventure arrived with a bang. You were fiercely independent, wanting to always catch up with your big brother Rian. No high chair for Alex, no help with being fed. You demanded to sit on a chair at the kitchen table; you were so small you couldn’t see over the top, all we saw were pudgy little hands feeling around for the food to shove into pudgy drooly little cheeks! No more cot for Alex, as soon as you saw Rian climbing into the top bunk of your new beds, that was the end of that. You launched yourself into your bottom bunk, looking so tiny in the big mass of your first duvet!

And now you’re turning two, and it’s as if we always had you. But who is our Alex, this amazing little person in our lives, who only two years ago, was yet to be known?

Your first word was ‘Cheers!’ except it sounds more like ‘sheeershh’ as you clink your sippy cup with our glass at dinner, delighted with yourself. One of the first thing you learned to do was a fist pump – cutesy baby waves are not your style!

You chase your brother around to tickle/torture/blow raspberries on his belly, before falling around laughing with the cheekiest little laugh like you know you’re up to no good. Sometimes you chase him around just to hug him too – already you two are a team.

Rian showed you one day how to take off your own nappy, which you particularly love doing at 6am on a Sunday morning before making us run after you to catch you before you need to ‘go’ all over something. You carry two toy cows around with you sometimes, although most of the time they stand quietly on the shelf beside your bed, just keeping a quiet eye on you! But you seem happier when they’re there so we won’t argue. Woody is your favourite toy.  Sometimes when you’re asleep you accidentally pull on the string and we hear ‘WHERE’S MY TRUSTY STEED BULLSEYE?!’ bellowing from your bedroom in the middle of the night, almost giving us heart failure. That’s always fun! Doug is your best friend to snuggle into at night, a pink turtle with big eyes that once belonged to your Auntie Linda.

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Doug the turtle, Woody and a Cow – Alex’s bedtime friends

Your favourite song for ages was ‘You’re Welcome’ from Moana, always prompting  you to have a little dance around the kitchen whenever you heard it. Then you loved ‘Remember Me’ from Coco, and every so often when I sing it to you at night time, you sing along before tucking Doug under your arm and rolling over, blond wispy curls sticking up at various angles only highlighted by the chink of light coming into your room from the landing, before drifting off to sleep.

You’re a little man with a big appetite! You love broccoli- long may that last! – and sometimes when you’re having your dinner you store food in your big pudgy cheeks like a beaver, and munch away on it long after the meal has ended. So far we haven’t really discovered any food you don’t like. Just like your Daddy!

Your favourite books are What the Ladybird Heard and The Baby Monster which has a purple fluffy toy attached that you hug and kiss as the story progresses! You’re extremely cute.

Hearing you giggle from the teepee in your bedroom with your hands over your eyes as you think we can’t see you is the funniest thing! It’s your favourite game, and I think it might be mine too.

Alex we can’t wait to see what the next year will bring, to see all the things you’ll learn and all the things you’ll teach us too. You make us happier than we ever thought possible – we love you!

Alex with his favourites

Let’s Talk About Emotions

{Also published on The M Word }

I’ll be clear from the start: Most of the time, I’ve NO IDEA how to handle this situation.

But now that we’ve established our three-year-olds are essentially walking bundles of emotional confusion, what can we do to help them – and ourselves – get through it? Well, here’s what I’ve discovered on my quest to find out.

Last summer, when Rian was two and that all important half, I started seeing that he was randomly slapping other kids, for no apparent reason other than, ‘they’re toddlers, sometimes they just do that’, as people explained when I asked about it, and what I could do about it. It was quite stressful, if he did it to kids we knew, or kids we didn’t know, all I could do was apologise and try and make it clear to Rian in that moment that we do not slap people..however, during some research into it and how to handle it properly, I came across a recommendation for a book called The Colour Monster. Sold.

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Sniffy & The Colour Monster

The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas is a book about identifying emotions for children.

Any research I did about the slapping incidents, or major meltdowns in general which were starting to become more frequent, all told me what we already know – they don’t call them the Terrible Twos or Threenagers etc for nothing. Toddlers don’t know what the emotions they’re feeling are, or how to manage them.

To be fair, and perfectly honest, a lot of the time I find it hard to control MY emotions (specifically, impatience and temper), so how can I expect a two or three year old to be able to do it?

My research also explained how emotional intelligence is something that ideally should be taught from a very young age so that we can learn to control and understand how we feel in lots of situations, not just as kids, but as adults too. So I figured it was worth a shot.

When the book arrived, we started reading it for our bedtime stories. It’s a quick book, a line or two per page with really lovely illustrations. It takes you through five emotions: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Calm. It assigns a colour to each emotion and explains that sometimes you can feel lots of things at once, when all your ‘colours’ feel all mixed up.

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After a few reads, Rian knew all the words. The slapping continued every now and then, and all I could really do was intervene each time and firmly explain why we don’t slap other people. Of course it was still stressful and I went through all the usual worry of, am I doing this wrong?

Tantrums are par for the course and so they continued, and still happen – in fact we just had one about an hour ago (side note, he’ll be four soon enough… they stop at four, right??!!). But what started to change was that he was identifying how he felt… and I’m no expert, but I think this is the important bit.

For example, just the other night, Alex merely sat on my lap to read a book, so naturally by his three-year-old logic, this was deemed as a valid reason for Rian to have a big meltdown. At the height of a tantrum, (on the days I manage to keep myself calm too – let’s be completely honest; it’s not easy), I just weather the storm and wait for it to pass. Once it does, I ask does he want to cuddle for a minute. Sometimes he does, and other times, its as if nothing had ever happened… like a switch flicking from complete chaos to complete calm..!

But on the days where he takes up my offer of a cuddle, I talk to him about it. This is where The Colour Monster comes into it and where I’ve found it an amazing help.

I started noticing that he’d tell me he was feeling like ‘The Red Colour Monster’ when he was angry. Another day he came over to me, and out of nowhere just asked for a cuddle because he felt ‘like the Blue Colour Monster’. Another time he asked me if I was happy ‘like the Yellow Colour Monster?’… and so I knew that he was at least learning to identify each emotion with a label, to recognise each one and differentiate between them.

Now I’m no expert, maybe this would have happened anyway as he got over each stage of development, I don’t know. But the book most certainly helped us talk about it in a way he could easily understand and picture in his mind. So back to the other night when he had a tantrum over Alex sitting on my lap, without me even asking him he walked over, got the book, opened it on the Red page and told me ‘This is how I feel Mama!’

Thankfully, the slapping phase is over, can’t say I’m looking forward too much to Alex getting to this stage, with any luck he’ll skip it altogether… yeah I won’t hold my breath! But if you’re reading this and are nodding along knowingly, in the same boat, then I can’t recommend this book enough. There’s a similar one too by Dr Seuss called My Many Coloured Days – we came across this one a while after The Colour Monster, and I really liked it too but we had already gotten to know The Colour Monster so I just stuck with that one.

I don’t think there’s a ‘too early’ stage, Rian was two and a half when I bought it – if they’re sitting long enough to look at books for any length of time, then give it a go. Go forth and unravel that little bundle of confusion!

Anyway, don’t forget, the very second you happen to figure out one confusing phase, they’ll leave you behind,  move on to the next one and you can start all over again…

The Guilt Factor

Each morning, Monday to Friday, for the last 10 minutes of my commute to work just before I walk into the office building, I try and FaceTime the boys for a chat, especially on mornings where they are asleep when I’m leaving the house and I haven’t seen them yet. Alex usually blows me kisses and babbles very important things at me. Rian, more often than not doesn’t want to talk. This morning though, when I was having chats with Alex, in the background he said: ‘ I don’t want to talk to Mama on the phone, I want to talk to her here!’.

For a moment I considered turning around and going straight back home again, giving him a hug and telling him I’ll never leave him. But I can’t, because I have to go to work – and I want to go to work too – and at the end of the day, the bills need to get paid. So I felt the usual pang of guilt that I usually feel a few times a day, except a bit worse than usual because he had said that, and finished my gurgley chat with Alex and headed towards my desk, feeling pretty crap about myself as a mother.

If I had the freedom to choose, I don’t think I would choose to be a full time stay at home mother, I just know it wouldn’t be for me. Part time would be my ideal option, because at same time, I want to be with them all the time too. It’s that very tricky, ever elusive, perfect balance.

Guilt is something I became familiar with very early on, in fact, since the start of my first pregnancy. We are IVF parents, very very lucky ones at that, our treatment worked. So it was a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant – extremely grateful yes, of course, but pregnancy for me was months of nausea, vomiting, swollen feet, extreme heartburn… ok my hair got a bit thicker and softer and my skin looked nice and almost glowy (possibly from the hot flushes!) for a while but even that catches up with you after the baby is born and your hair falls out and you’re left with these mad sticky outy bits all over your head while it grows back to normal again…!! Aaand breathe…! So no, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant for the most part. Appreciative, yes, and lots of it I did love and cherish – the feeling of Bump moving around or kicking, but not really any of the rest of it.

Anyway back to the point… so I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, it was tough. I felt guilty about that because of our IVF and I thought of all the women who would swap places with me in a heartbeat because I used to be that woman too. And of course the moment they’re born you’re guilty all the time, am I doing this right, did I do that wrong?

When I went back to work after Rian’s maternity leave, the guilt was immense. How could I leave him every day, why was I working for a major chunk of my wages to pay someone else to see all of his ‘firsts’? And it only got worse, after I had Alex I thought I would be prepared for how it would feel to go back to work, but in fact it was worse again because what I wasn’t prepared for was Rian being old enough now to ask me, after a year of being home, ‘Mama, where are you going? Why won’t you stay here with me?’

It was very hard. I questioned myself a lot at the return to work last year. Why am I doing this?? Oh yes, then I remembered, I just don’t have the choice.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Is there a way to come to terms with this guilt or are we just destined to never be happy whatever the situation is – whether we give up work and stay at home, or if we choose not to stay at home?

I thought a lot last year about whether I wanted to give up work, assuming we could afford it and I could stay at home. It would be tight, but I think if we cut back enough we could probably get by on one wage. And is it even fair to assume that it would be me who stays home, what if their Dad wanted to stay home? I admit that thought didn’t even occur to me at the start. But even if I did stay home, I think the guilt would still find me anyway, and make me think about other things – can we afford to save for their college fund? Can we afford to give them all the things we want to?

And the other thought is – really the main reason I don’t want to give up my job – what will I do when they’re older and not as dependent on me? What if I want to go back to work then, when they’re off to school, and I have a five or six year gap on my CV – it’s hard enough going back after maternity leave,  your confidence is shaken a lot, or at least mine was. So a big gap, for me, would be very intimidating. So is it selfish of me to not want to be in that situation, to not want to sacrifice my career? Does that mean I’m a bad mother? And the guilt factor starts again.

Being a working mother, it sneaks up on you on a regular basis. When a work commitment clashes with an event at their creche or playschool, and we’re faced with missing it. Guilt. At Rian’s playschool Sport’s Day back in June, I took the day off work. Within the first ten minutes, three other mothers had mentioned to me that they hadn’t realised that our childminder, who they see every day dropping off and collecting Rian, wasn’t in fact his mother. Ouch.

Recently, our childcare situation  changed, and I was forced again to consider all of these points. I really struggle to come to some sense of peace with the fact that I’m gone all day from them. Today was their first day in a creche – Alex in particular has never been minded outside his own home until today – and I wasn’t there to drop them off. Guilty. They’re fine of course – the staff are amazing and sent me little updates and photos of them happily playing away, but my guilty mind goes into overdrive and I wonder what will they think of these decisions I’m making now when they’re all grown up? Will they think I’m selfish? Will they resent the fact that I ‘chose’ to leave them with someone other than me while I ‘chose’ not to give up my career? Ultimately, I suppose I’m thinking – how will they judge me? Am I ruining their childhood?!

I don’t know how to make the guilt go away, but I have decided to make some rules for myself.

  • I am not a bad mother. I am doing my best, along with everyone else. Yes, I go to work for myself because I enjoy it, but also of course so that I can give them everything I possibly can not just now but later in life too. I’m doing my best, and I have to tell myself that my best IS good enough.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives – instead I will focus on the times I am there. Their little faces when they see me coming through the door each evening, and the fun we can have all weekend. It makes me more grateful and appreciative of those times.
  • Most importantly of all: I make it my mission that they know they are loved. I know they know. And once they know that, I know I’m not failing completely.

Whatever way I look at it, mother guilt is here to stay, no matter what type of mother you are. There’s no point in questioning why we beat ourselves up over it, but in the end all I can suggest is that we get off our own backs, get off our own cases, and make the most of whatever situation we’re in. Guilt is not a choice, but how we deal with it certainly is.