Monthly Archives

May 2015

Unapologetically Untidy

May 28, 2015

I have never been a particularly tidy person… just ask my mother and she will give a Shakespearean soliloquy detailing my graffitied room, clothes strewn floor and toiletry museum.

I loved my teenage bedroom. The next few sentences will make me sound like a Kardashian; not in a porny sense but in an entitled spoilt princess way. I went to France for 3 weeks when I was 16 to stay with a French family (that is a blog post all to itself…jaysus was awful) and returned to find my bedroom had been made over spectacularly. My room had been pimped, by my Dad (inappropriate turn of phrase there). It was so magnificent that my friends had all been invited for the big reveal. They stood around awkwardly in their docs and tartan skirts probably wanting to punch me in my train tracks for interrupting make-out sessions behind the oratory. The walls were painted light blue and divided by a dado rail (this was 1992) with a silvery blue wall paper on the top half. The piece de resistance was a bespoke (me Da made it) four poster bed draped with gauzy, white curtain thingys. He had also built a desk for all that leaving cert study I was planning on doing. I cried, clapped and swore blind that I would forever keep it tidy and poster-less. A few weeks passed and I thought what harm could posters on the wardrobe doors do. I blue tacked up a few of those giant pull-out posters from BIG magazine. morrison_2A couple of Daniel Day Lewis and Jim Morrison posters fuelled my teenage hormones. Funny story about a Jim poster. My Dad went on a trip, somewhere in Europe, football supporter related and being the amazing person he is brought me back a Jim Morrison poster, that famous, sexy one where his arms are raised. My Dad hadn’t noticed the blurb underneath… wanted for lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation, a felony. My Mam almost combusted “Damien, I mean for god’s sake did you not read it? Mother of mercy, get me a scissors”. The obscenity was removed and  the poster hung, along with poor Dad.

concertsrobbie-williams_1275922163My bedroom door looked very bare so I painted a 6 foot sunflower on it. Little passport photos of a half dozen teenage girls hysterical with giggles squeezed into the booth appeared on my dressing table mirror, followed by concert tickets and call cards. A humongous signed poster of Newman and Baddiel was pinned to the ceiling over my bed so I could gaze lovingly at them before I slept. My mother was getting nervous at this stage and said I could hang some posters and she would frame them. I developed a love for Take That and Robbie Williams and I went wild collecting every magazine and pack of Topp trading cards. Soon the wallpaper was no longer visible and I spray painted the blue gold. I would always fling stuff in the bottom of my wardrobe or across a chair because the cleaning fairy (mam) would sort it all every morning.

3110725-mandy+1059+(1987)+pagecoverI collected tons of crap… soaps, drink cans, old comics (especially Mandy, still order them on ebay, guilty pleasure)  not to mention my precious Body Shop cosmetics.

No matter how messy I was/am I was a closet clean freak. I changed my sheets weekly, dusted, hoovered and would always rinse a glass before using it.

When I had Conall and we lived in a two bed apartment, you could have performed surgery anywhere in the gaff with no risk of mrsa. I had antibacterial spray holstered in my belt and  would clean the floors on my hands and knees at night. I had an air purifier working at all times and some lavender oil burning to keep him (and me) calm. In the evening I would make up all his jigsaws, checking no pieces were missing and survey my shiny abode with pride.

giphy (5)Koray arrived 3 years later when we had moved to a 3 bedroom semi-d. Cleaning became a little more challenging but I would still manage in the evenings when the boys were asleep. I played a torturous little game with myself whereby I wasn’t allowed to put my bum on the couch till all chores were done and the floor washed. I would then walk on a towel to the kettle for my rewarding cup of tea and some soaps (not the collected kind, although my potty mouth would benefit).615668_10151164211668138_859653182_o

I had just weaned Koray at 9 months old, exhaled (a bit too much) and realised I was pregnant again. Cue much excitement (sobbing) and delight (bed ridden). The tiredness was phenomenal. I remember bringing clothes upstairs to put away and falling on top of them into a coma. My fun tidy game gave way to… fuck it, I’ll do it in the morning. My little surprise, Rian was born and my- jesus life got hard. I had really tough decisions to make and prioritise like… breastfeeding while emptying the dishwasher as Koray fermented in a shitty nappy. The days passed in a blur and I managed a 10 minute dash at night, throwing toys randomly into boxes and sometimes just in the door of the playroom which I would shut when at crap capacity.

giphy (6)I was spinning too many plates and I would get angry at the kids for the constant mess and stickiness (all the door handles have a film of lollipop residue on them). So, I’ve let a lot go, I’ve had to for everyone’s mental health. I tidy as much as possible during the day and when the kids go to bed, I go too. I write or watch netflix and ignore the grubby floors downstairs, the dishwasher can be emptied tomorrow and I’ll throw a wash on in the morning. I need time to do Aisling things in the evening and being a mother I’ve lost so many parts of myself that I refuse to lose the rest to the absolute mundanity of domestic chores. Instead I will admire my extensive hand cream and candle collections, I may read a Mandy while the sink remains be-toothpasted and the contents of my wardrobe spill out on to the floor.

Motherhood, Musings, Women's Issues

hospital bag

May 25, 2015

When people approach me in work with their maternity hospital lists (it’s a large chemist in case that needs explaining), it’s all I can do to keep a straight face…. so much useless shit and euphemisms. Let me walk you through some of the current recommended items for a pregnant lady’s hospital bag and explain the reality.               If you are currently expecting your first child, stop reading immediately, there is nothing to see here, these are not the droids you’re looking for.

sat 10 25 02Loose fitting nightdress or an old long t-shirt; Good advice indeed. Many deluded girls buy beautiful, expensive pyjamas with visions of a 1950s movie where they will be handed a 6 month old child after 2 pushes and smile radiantly at their partner without creasing their silk nighties. I have previously mentioned the story of my Mam destroying her elegant nightdress after a vigorous enema when labouring on me (always thrown in my face in an argument). The reality is that after birth your nightdress is fit for a Damien Hirst exhibition or an incineration. There will be all kinds of body fluids on it… blood, sweat, vernix, vomit and if you’re very unlucky like my Mam, your own shite. I recommend wearing your partner’s favourite t-shirt.

 

Womens-Disposable-Briefs-for-Heavy-Incontinence-G88080FRSPDisposable underwear and maternity pads; again, good advice. I have had many ladies ask for maternity pads and visibly flinch when they see the ginormity of them and proceed to ask where the regular maxi pads are. How can I explain without scaring them that they will bleed like a stuck pig (I’ve never understood this expression and I am definitely not googling it) and it’s not like a regular period bleed, it’s a years worth of periods in a couple of weeks. Good luck switching one pad for the next, a game of roulette in itself. My post-baby bed wear has always consisted of disposable pants made sexier with a naval to base of spine pad and a giant nursing bra stuffed with breast pads. Nothing sexier than a lady who has just given birth, I may pitch a calender idea.

 

ar4950Cotton wool: This causes a lot of concern for new parents. They are being told by every parenting blog and health professional to stock up on cotton wool balls. They’re not entirely sure why but they know that these along with Vaseline are mandatory when having a baby. My seasoned sister told me to get wipes but I was afraid and opted for the cotton wool balls. The nurses have some serious issues with wipes (too 21st century and easy to use) and go Ratched on you if they see you with them. You are “encouraged” to procure cooled, boiled water and cotton wool to clean the baby’s bum. It proved so stressful and time-consuming that on baby 2 and 3 , I’d gotten brave. If they approached with a scornful eye on my wipes, I’d counter quickly with “he’s not my first”. This seemed to sate them and I’d already earned major nursey points by breast-feeding (well done Mum!… gotta love the patronising). You also had to use cotton wool and water for bathing the baby and I was itching to get at them with some Johnsons but waited till home as I didn’t want to push my luck and have social services arrive at the hospital for my flagrant disregard for 1960s midwifery.

 Hair bobbins and brush.. “yes I spent all three of my labours brushing my hair and trying out new hairstyles, I actually learnt how to french plait and fishtail”… said no mother ever!

 

Now to the ridiculous….

 

Massage oil or lotion for if you would like to be massaged during labour.

Young pregnant woman enjoying in spa treatment. perineum_massage_oilI wanted to punch my husband in the face if he accidentally brushed off my leg but to each their own. Speaking of massage, in the weeks before birth it is recommended to massage your perineum which involves knuckles and vaginas and is supposed to help prevent an episiotomy. My enormous girth prevented me from being physically able to do this and it was not something I was willing to ask for outside help on as I already felt like a big, unsexy lump and that would feel like rubbing salt into the would (kinda literally). Also if I’m using the massage card, I ‘d rather my feet or lower back but I did have a serious episiotomy so perhaps I should have given the unpleasantness a try.

 

Snacks and drinks; toast-tea-17767981I cannot believe that any woman could think of food while a watermelon is making it’s torturous way through her body with a spectacular exit strategy. There is nothing on earth like the tea and toast you receive when all is done but during the ordeal I’m too busy vomiting down the front of my sodden nightie, rabid on gas and air and trying to ignore the 6 million tubes I have inserted into every orifice to think about an egg salad sandwich. It was a joy however to watch my husband snack on Mars bars and play angry birds on his phone while giving my leg an occasional sympathetic squeeze.

 Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as a CD you have made… No, just no. I am not bringing my baby into the world with knobby, pretentious music. Will you have me suppress my screams like Katie Holmes, have candles lit, whale music playing and a doula? I can’t, I’d be scarlet for myself, I’m too Irish. I like to spend the downtime whinging and my third was born to the sound of farting. It was uncontrollable and shocking but I wasn’t apologising. This explains a lot as Rian does seem soothed by gassy noises.

 

Arnica cream. Although there’s no conclusive evidence that it works, some women report that arnica cream helps to reduce the bruising and helps the healing process. Don’t apply the cream to broken skin. I don’t understand this… where do you suggest I apply it… I’m broken … everywhere.

 

A water spray for your face to cool you down, ha, it’s not my face that needs cooling but I suppose it would prove a hard marketing campaign for cooling your “ring of fire” although I know a catchy jingle.

rs_634x1024-150502102842-634.kate-william.cm.5215A going-home outfit; Kate Middleton has set the bar high for this one. Maybe I’m a freak but I was still fat for months after having a baby so the maternity clothes I arrive in fit me quite snugly on the way out, normally leggings and a long shapeless top… come to think of it, 2 years later I’m still wearing that particular uniform. Unfortunately there wasn’t a hairdresser/ make-up artist/ stylist available in the Rotunda and I certainly wouldn’t have worn a lemon dress for varied reasons (partly because yellow makes me look washy and mostly because it’s not conducive for hiding haemorrhages).

So, when packing for the hospital all you need are a couple of nasty old t-shirts, huge pads (for everywhere), leggings, wipes and a birthing partner to abuse horribly. All the rest are bells and whistles designed to distract you from the messy task in hand. I’m not forgetting the baby bag but that’s full of sensible stuff and doesn’t warrant a slagging. I have concentrated on the negative aspects of birth but anyone who knows me, knows I actually love labour, the last part when you see your little creation for the first time, it’s a feeling like no other and the unfathomable horror that got you to that point blurs and fades.

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Mummascribbles

Musings

Dental Dramas

May 18, 2015

I’ve just been to the dentist with my son Conall, 7. He was writhing in agony with a toothache and I had to make an emergency appointment. He’s been to the dentist once before but panicked every time she came near his mouth. I hadn’t mentioned he had aspergers as I didn’t think it was necessary but when I did tell her she changed tack completely and started explaining what she was doing to him as if he had a PHd in  dentistry. japanesedigestivesThis peaked his interest and she managed to do a full check. She did warn him about the dangers of biscuits and he grieved all the way home, sobbing over “jam in the middles” and custard creams. He soon forgot her warning and any time I left the room I could hear the lid being prised open on the biscuit tin (I have developed superhuman skills since having kids and one of my powers is to be able to hear trouble almost before it happens, similar to the BFG but without the elephant ears). On this most recent trip Conall tried desperately to be brave but anxiety kicked in. The dentist, a different guy this time was so understanding and has recommended we see a paediatric dentist that specialises in anxious kids. It seems he needs a crown. It got me thinking about my experiences with dentists as a kid and how I wish I’d seen someone a bit gentle that dealt with my anxiety.


From a young age, dentists were the bane of my life. If you saw the mouth of teeth I’ve ended up with I’m sure you’d concur. Even when I had baby teeth I was told there were too many and I had to have 4 removed by gas aged 5. Anyone who’s ever been knocked out by gas, can you please confirm that it has the same smell as a dry-cleaners? It was an unpleasant experience sweetened by a gummed dairy milk and a plethora/smorgasbord of fancy paper.

unknownI was a desperate chicken-shit of a kid (no brothers, oldest child and a protective mother) and any time I had a loose tooth I would be hysterical. My Dad would threaten to tie string around it and attach it to the door handle, then slam the door, possibly tearing half my jaw off. I once had a front tooth hanging from my gum that I wouldn’t let anyone near, surprisingly, considering my options. downloadI was vomiting with the shock until my Mam dragged me to the dentist who told me to close my eyes and hey presto (he actually said that, this was at the height of Paul Daniel’s fame and everyone thought they were a magician, I’m just glad he didn’t say “You’ll like it – not a lot, but you’ll like it.” that would’ve been creepy) when I opened them, he had magically removed the tooth. I’m sure my mother was dying to get her hands on the wooden spoon.

My second teeth grew in and they didn’t stop growing. Everyone would comment that I’d gotten my Aunty Barbara’s teeth (who never looked anything but beautiful and glamorous). My Mam would exonerate her side of the family, admitting liability for cankles and bunions (got both of them) but not cartoon sized teeth. She was fond of blaming my thumb-sucking also.

I was quickly marched to the local dental clinic and signed up for braces. I think this was a relatively new treatment in the 1980s as there didn’t seem to be a waiting list. The dentist took nasty impressions of my teeth in between drags on his cigar.140228_avarang-d83de

It was decided 2 more teeth should go as here were just too many. I began to wonder if I was one of those cases where I was supposed to be a twin but I’d absorbed the other one in utero, well it’s teeth anyway. I was twelve at the time and my Dad brought me to the clinic as my Mam was never any good in a crisis. I had my Philip’s yellow and turquoise walkman on and Jason Donovan came on the radio singing “you can put your faith in me” and I took great strength from this saintly man’s words and survived a functioning alcoholic stabbing me with needles and gouging my teeth out, gloveless and tasting of Hamlets.

KidWillyThe following week I was fitted with my retainer.I was in school in first year and had just landed the part of Tybalt in our class play.  I attended rehearsals lisping like a true thespian. The drama teacher asked me to remove the brace not impressed with Sylvester the cat does Shakespeare. A year or so later I was referred to an orthodontist in town. The building had what looked like bullet-proof glass, with an inch of nicotine to give them a frosted effect. I was given a set of braces (train tracks as they were known then) not dissimilar to the ones that Willy Wonka wore as a kid. I wore them for two years, followed by night-time wearing of the retainer. My teeth looked ok when they were removed but they made their way back to pre-brace status in a disappointingly short time.

unknown (1)I was always so self conscious and pictures of me as a kid show me grimacing rather than smiling. My sister knew it was my achilles heel and called me goofy; I countered her witticisms with FAT and we’d both cry. I was nervous in the company of young kids or old people as I knew them to be scarily honest and to be avoided at all costs. Everyone gets some cross to bear in their excruciating teenage years, weight, acne, big ears… mine was an overbite.

syrian-hamster_000008437184hooting-chimpIt was when I lived in Turkey that I began to develop a thicker skin. People there will comment on the obvious, there are no white lies, they tell it like it is. You may have a huge spot that you’ve squeezed, applied tea-tree, concealed with 3 inches of make-up but every person you meet that day will point and say “what happened?” in a genuinely concerned way. My husband would call me hamster and make toothy little faces at me. I was shocked at first and probably huffed for ages but I learnt to point out his ears and resemblance to a chimp and all was good. He even bought me a hamster called Jimmy that we loved but lost (genuinely, possibly down the back of the couch).

 

arnoldschwarzenegger2helen-worth-awi-1001On a routine visit to a fancy, new cosmetic dentist a few years back, my dental issues were finally clarified. He examined my teeth and said “let’s address the overbite”. My knee-jerk reaction was to shout FAT in his face but I calmed myself. I inquired about an invisalign and he said it wouldn’t fix anything. The problem is my jaw. The bottom half needs to be broken and moved forward and then all will be good. A few things ran through my mind…. 6 weeks of liquidised food, that would facilitate a hefty weight loss; what if I ended up with a jaw like Arnie?; Is that preferable to Gail from Corrie?

The decision was taken out of my hands when I got pregnant and my cosmetic dentistry has become a pipe dream. Maybe I can treat myself after my 40th and get a designer jaw to match my designer bits.

 

Family, Like Magazine, Mental Health, Motherhood, Musings

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?

May 14, 2015

I’ve always loved referendums, it’s an exciting time to vote. Elections can be confusing and, let’s face it, a little boring. Referendums tend to get people animated, and heated debates can be overheard in the workplace, the home and the pub. May 22nd is no exception. We’re being asked to vote on marriage equality and as the date approaches things are heating up. It’s starting to feel like a fight between the insular Ireland of old and a modern Ireland encompassing many different nationalities and lifestyles .

father-ted-careful-nowThe No campaign have tried to muddy the waters on what should be a clear cut decision of marriage equality for all. They have made the argument about children and in doing so have gone for the human jugular. If it wasn’t such a serious matter I would find their posters funny in the way that Father Ted’s poster down with this sort of thing was  Children deserve a mother and a father” and “surrogacy? she needs her mother for life, not just for 9 months”. They have managed to alienate a vast number of the population asides from the LGBT community; single mothers, widowed parents; adopted kids; surrogates etc

I am doing my best to raise my kids to be as open-minded as they can be. I want them to grow up in a world where they are accepted and loved. They have each had a shaky start; My 7-year-old has aspergers. He struggles socially and I worry for his future relationships. I have never worried about the sex of his future partners, to me that is irrelevant. My only concern is that someone will find him as amazing and hilarious as I do. My middle boy has a heart condition, and I worry for his future health. I don’t worry about his love life… He will be loved wholly and completely, two minutes in his pouty, wide-eyed company and anyone would fall for him. My baby boy had major surgery at age two for craniosynostosis. He was born with a metopic ridge down the centre of his forehead that gave his face an unusual look. Faced with the difficult decision to proceed with major cranial surgery for what were primarily cosmetic reasons, we did it for him because life can be hard and cruel and we wanted him to feel acceptance and not to be judged by his appearance.

Your life changes forever when you have kids. You become almost primal in your desire to protect these helpless little beings. To flourish, they need someone batting for them. They need to feel pure love with a side order of discipline. There are many parents out there doing this alone and I take my hat off to them. With two parents you can take some time out for yourself, have some support with family decisions along with all the good bits a relationship brings.

The sex of that other person has no bearing on things whatsoever. Someone to teach them ball? My husband doesn’t play sports and the boys aren’t interested anyway. Would two men raising a daughter have difficulty preparing her for periods? My Mam didn’t have a notion about biology and my Dad explained it to me factually and it wasn’t slightly awkward.image

Raising boys I’m always conscious to keep the lines of communication open. I have a worry book that I use each night with Conall in which we draw and discuss anything making him anxious. I lie beside each one of them at night and tell them to feel free to tell me anything.I would be heartbroken if I thought that they felt they had to hide some key part of themselves- after all, statistically young men are prone to suffering from mental health issues that end tragically. Boys are taught to be self contained and can become emotionally stunted as they get older. They need to know they can disclose anything and we won’t love them any less. Well almost anything- I could accept them telling me they’re gay, bi, transgender anything but a priest. That I would struggle with – but I would find a way.

We are told by the no side to “think of the children”, and indeed we must. We must think of our own kids and the kind of world we want to raise them in. We must think of the children growing up in Ireland right now, and realising they might be gay. What will a no vote say to them? That they are less than their straight peers? We always tell our children they can be anything they want to be*. Do we want to put a small disclaimer at the bottom of that lovely sentiment? (*As long as you’re not gay and wanting equal rights.)

So, I urge you, DO think of the children and vote YES; yes to equality, yes to love and yes to being anything you want to be!

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Musings

The Scarlet Letter Syndrome

May 11, 2015

The title of this piece needs some explaining; I have not had an adulterous affair with a member of the clergy that has resulted in a baby and public shaming but that would have made for an amazing post. In a nutshell, it’s the easy street syndrome that I’ve attached myself to since early childhood. Why work hard when I can pull something together at the last minute? I’ve never been one to manage my time wisely. pop-swatch-jungle-watch-640I haven’t owned a watch since pop-swatches were tubular. I would promise myself on a Friday that I’d get a head start on my homework but spent every Sunday night unloading my school bag to the strains of Glenroe. That theme tune still makes me panicky and a bit melancholic.

Ручка-BIC-OrangeThe year of my leaving cert, I planned how I would distribute my studying over the year. There were many trips to Reids for highlighters, coloured paper, copydex etc. I spent hours making elaborate planners and feeling satisfied, would go to bed dreaming of the seven A1s I was sure to achieve. A week later I would bin said planner as I’d missed that week’s work due to a project collaging posters on my bedroom wall or a new Smash Hits. 514Wep8zAlL._SY300_And so it continued till the week before the exams when my friend Carolyn intervened and kidnapped me. Her family had gone on a holiday abroad and she stocked up on our favourite skinny Bics and Dentyne. If I tried to distract her she would reprimand me and send me back to study with my Asha hippy skirt swishing resignedly behind me. A break consisted of listening to 4 Non Blondes or the Spin Doctors. Two Princes makes me jittery still. I had a moment of terror when a friend called (on her giant house phone in the hall) and told us she’d studied ALL the poets. I’d narrowed it down to five I thought would come up (a hunch and wishful thinking). On a sidenote my poets did come up and I did really well but that’s cos I’m jammy. There was another low point when I ate coffee granules to stay awake because I saw it in Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Red bull and Jolt were still to be invented.

I actually did quite well and that’s all thanks to Carolyn who missed a career in hostage taking and I left her house with more than a little Stockholm Syndrome. I wish she’d stayed with me through college where I considered taking 8 books home from the library but not opening them study. All I learnt there was how to plagiarize from my friend Susan. When we go for drinks now she likes to recount The Scarlet Letter story. We had an essay due and I didn’t read the book but Susan had it done ages in advance. So, I swung up to her house for a “sleepover” and asked casually to see her essay. I read it, then read the blurb on the back of the book. I frantically wrote during the night piecing together her hard work and random impressive words like misogyny, comeliness and phallic (I was going through a Jackie Collins phase). We handed in our essays. She got a C and I got a B. I’m sorry Susan but you can’t keep making me buy you drinks for this… I may call on Carolyn to take care of you.

giphy (3)I think you’ve got the gist, I’m a lazy slacker with a gift for bullshitting and a bit jammy to boot.  O please someone put that in my obituary. I blame the Zeitgeist of the time, Reality Bites, Singles, Wayne’s World….motivated and ambitious people were admirable… NOT (shhhwing)! We even had a derogatory term for our industrious counterparts, yuppies. We preferred to wallow in our existential crises (watching Melrose Place and eating lots of batch loaf).

prod_marrowfat_peas_packedI’ve been a terrible employee. It really pissed me off that work would get in the way of my social life even though it would fund it. I rarely made it in on a Monday and my excuses were ridiculous. Early on I used up common excuses like tummy bugs and flus. One Monday in my early twenties, I was desperately hungover and needed to buy myself some napping time so I rang my boss to say I’d twisted my ankle and would be in after the doctors. I decided that it would be a good idea to put some pebbles in my shoe so I could determine which one I’d to limp with and be consistent. A quick scan of our immaculate, decked garden showed no stones and so in my wisdom I threw some marrowfat peas in my shoe. By the time I made it to the office, they had been ground down to powder.

I once walked out of a job in Georgia on my J1. I was working a till in A&P and I hated it. One of the supervisors started counting my float and when she turned her back I inched my way to the door and ran. It was a large empty car park so she would have seen me running frantically for a good 5 minutes. After many unreturned calls I eventually lied and said I had the scuts, hence the Usain Bolting.giphy (4)

If I was an employer reviewing CVs for the position of mother, mine would have been binned straight away. Although I could’ve bluffed the interview and made it through a week before walking.

In my role as president of the Ozdemir Corporation, I’m woken early each day and should start setting the day up straight away, if not the night before but I prefer to have tea and check my mail for a half hour. There’s then a frantic rush to get to the car for 8.35. More often than not, my son is late and I throw the principal a skyward eyes look that I hope places the blame on the kid and not his flaky mother. The rest of the day is just as disorganised. I don’t have a specific shopping/ laundry/ batch cooking day. I just wing it. I can’t call in sick or feign injury, believe me I’ve tried.

cat20in20the20hat20jugglingWeekends are fraught with difficulty as I try to balance working and being a mother. Kudos to all you women out there working full-time as it requires many skill sets. You have to find someone to look after your precious babies. Preferably someone who will do all the things you wish you did like bake, long walks and origami but not enough stuff that you resent them and your kids cry when they leave. You need to negotiate a payment that doesn’t negate the small wage you earn or invite a Donal McIntyre investigation into urban slave labour. Most of all you need to be able to time manage. I have to shower, dress, do my hair, put on make-up, make a syn-free lunch; all while being interrupted to clean a bum, get juice, scratch someone’s ear or charge something. Rebecca, my beautiful child-minder will arrive and I’ll brief her on poos, breakfasts, snotty noses etc while getting my bag ready. Cue many kisses and teary goodbyes (Rebecca is a bit needy) and I’m off. The bliss of turning the key in the ignition, putting on my lovely, boring Newstalk and zipping off to work. I am human, eating an undisturbed lunch (syn-free got binned for a Spar roll), not spelling but actually swearing out loud(in the canteen not on the shop floor) and doing a productive job that gets noticed. People will comment that I look well and how do I do it etc but they have not seen the behind the scenes stuff that got me to work. I return home tired and hungry but my babies have been starved of mammy time and I spend hours tucking them in and kissing them; It does us all good to miss each other. I may have continued my fly-by-the -seat of my pants ethic to parenting but on the flip side I take my job more seriously. I can’t randomly miss days as little folk depend on me and having 3 little slackers living with me, I know know just how irritating and deluded the self entitled can be.

Monday arrives and we’re late and I’m frantic and disorganised. I think tonight I’ll sit down with coloured markers, pipe-cleaners and some crepe paper and make a schedule.

The Sleep Situation

May 7, 2015

Sleeping has always been a major part of my life. While other kids were getting up early at the weekend to watch Going Live, I was wrapped in my quilt blissed out. From a young age I wouldn’t surface till the afternoon. Friends would call and my Mam would say “Aisling’s in bed” they’d reply confused “but it’s 4pm?”. My Mam would say “she needs her sleep”. I’m not sure why as I stopped growing at 5’4″.

You see my Mam is a sleep enabler and the inventor of lie-ins. When my sister or I would wake and climb into her bed as tots, she’d wrap herself around us like a python and we’d pass out/ fall asleep. She still has this talent with her grandkids and I wish I’d inherited it.

When I met my husband, I truly met my soul mate as he loves to sleep too.

We would work the Summer tourism season in Kusadasi and then hibernate through the Winter, and in the few hours we were awake, we literally roasted chestnuts on an open fire and sipped wine… wrapped in blankets watching TV.

1930129_18313078137_6847_nEnter baby number 1 in 2008. It was an exhausting and lengthy labour and I felt I’d done my part and should be left to sleep but no.. the nurses insisted on me taking care of this squealing, ungrateful gremlin. I begged them to take him for a few hours during the night so I could rest but because of the breast-feeding I was woken continuously. After a few hellish days, I was on the point of hallucinating… yeah sleep when baby sleeps.. what if baby doesn’t sleep and if he does it’s for 10 minute power naps?

We were living with my Mam and Dad at this point trying to save for a house. I had a fancy moses basket set up beside the bed for my little bundle of joy. He possibly spent ten minutes in total in the bloody thing. I began to wonder if it was called a moses basket cos it made you want to float your baby down the river to better parents! The only time Conall stopped squealing was when I cuddled him. So I became an attachment parent without knowing that that was a thing. I carried him everywhere, I quickly showered as he watched angrily from his baby seat. Every night I would feed him and lower him with trepidation into his cot (we packed away the moses basket, blaming it for his unwillingness to sleep) where on impact he would howl. So, I would snuggle him and fall into an uneasy sleep while he snacked on my boobs like I was an open buffet.

When he was 6 months old there was an intervention. My parents and husband cornered me and talked me into letting him “cry it out”. I sat on the stairs leaking tears (and milk) and felt as if my heart would break as he cried for me. The traitors brought me wine and hugs but all I wanted to do was scoop up my baby and cuddle him. I half-arsedly let him cry it out for the next few months but would sneak kisses and pick him up, undoing any good work.image

By this time we had moved to an apartment and I had become accustomed to a child who couldn’t get himself to sleep. I would lie beside him and sing songs and then mentally count (sometimes to 1000) until his breathing got heavy. I would put an excited toe on the floor, visions of food and tv floating only to hear “mam” Fuck! “baa baa fucking black sheep” 1000, 999, 998, 997….

It was only when we moved to our house and baby number 2 was on the way that Conall began a normal sleeping pattern. I don’t know if it was his autism/adhd or my shitty, nervous parenting that caused all those years of difficulty, maybe a combination.

254838_10150278237526002_2811023_n2011-07-22 10.05.10I wasn’t making that mistake with number 2! His first night home, I fed him and put him in his cot in his own room; Sweet Jesus, he slept! A dream little baby who loved his own bed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a baby that slept the night but he was quick to settle after a feed.

Number 3 and I’d forgotten the mistakes of number 1 and was back to co-sleeping, singing and counting. It was only when I went in for my fanny operation in February that my lovely child minder got him into a routine and his own bed at 2 years of age.

So now, 7 years later, I have a bed to myself. I am still sleep deprived but have learnt to live with it. If I get 4 hours straight, that is an amazing night. They tag-team me with nightmares; trips to the toilet; is it morning time?; questions about how milk gets inside cows. They’ve all gone through a fabulous phase at 2 where they wake at 5am and there is nothing you can do but get up with them or risk a Veruca Salt scream that would wake the dead. I really hate the sound of the birds singing, almost as much as the ice-cream man.

The only times my husband and I fight is over sleep. We accuse each other of terrible things like feigning sleep when one of them is shouting at night (he does) or having an hours more sleep than the other person. Sleep is a currency and the best bargaining tool to have; If you get up early with them I will do absolutely anything… even remove a digit or shave my head… please…please.2013-05-09 19.39.09-1

I am not a morning person, I am feral and prone to shouting. If I’m really tired, I will cry… silent tears (full of pride… in a world made of steel, made of stone). I am a disorganised mess as described in morning mayhemI read articles about women who seem to have the art of motherhood under control and they recommend getting up a half hour before the kids to dress yourself and organise lunches etc, are you kidding me? I can’t even remember what it’s like to set an alarm clock, do such things still exist?20121205-033024

Mental Health

Anti-depressants Are the New Gin

May 4, 2015

Since I became a mother, I spend a lot of time apologising to my own Mam for when I was a bratty kid; not doing my bit around the house, slamming doors in a tantrum and constantly fighting with my sister, Fiona. You see the fighting is the worst. When I knew I was having a second boy and then a third, I thought aww they’ll be such good friends. I didn’t learn from experience. Aisling & FionaMy sister is 2 years younger than me and anyone who meets us comments on how different we are. She’s the bolshy one while I’m the people-pleaser. She will send food back in a restaurant whereas I’d just pick the hair out, afraid to offend anyone. We had some historic fights. She threw a glass ashtray at my head once; I stripped her on the street because she was wearing my paisley shirt; she used her teeth, I used my nails, fun times! It was irritating when people would say you’ll be friends when you’re older. It took us a long time and we can still hurt each other, just not physically any more. However, I rely on her honesty, she can be hilarious and is the best person to party with. We share a history and love slagging my Mam (to her face). She’s got my back and I’ve got hers.New_30_Hurl_i3

This got me to thinking about my grandmothers. My Dad had often recounted stories of his mother chasing himself and his brother (11 months apart) up the stairs brandishing a hurl. They’d lock themselves in their bedroom and taunt her until eventually she gave up and her anger dissipated. As a kid, I couldn’t reconcile the image of my lovely, cake making nanny to that of a crazed lunatic with a hurl. Now, I can! Jesus, those women had it hard. Her story is similar to many of the time; 5 kids, 1 stillborn in a cramped corporation house. My Granda spent two years in hospital with TB, making it out minus a lung. My Nanny was a strong, fiery redhead, educated to leaving cert level in a prestigious school. She was smart as a whip and could always guess the countdown conundrum. She was a voracious reader and would read poetry for fun. If she was born into today’s society, I’ve no doubt that she could’ve tapped into her potential and had a fulfilling career, probably in politics. She never seemed unhappy to me and nor did she complain but I’m not sure that that generation of women knew how badly they’d been swindled.

Traditional HousewifeImagine being put into a time machine and experiencing life as a 1950s housewife. Straight away I think, no dryer, no dishwasher… but no it gets worse; no washing machine, no car (probably) and worst of all, no contraception. I can’t even fathom the horror of pregnancy after pregnancy and the toll that would take on your body. I remember my nanny telling me that there were times that she went to the loo later in life and would have to physically push her womb back in.

condoms_3Someone told me a story about how his Mam had had many pregnancies in a row. His dad was to go on a trip to England and she begged him to bring back condoms but he couldn’t go against the church and she continued to have babies… 11 in total if my memory serves me right.

000_laundryMy Nanny took pride in her work and I have yet to taste food as good as she would make. She would recount how her whites were a great source of pride to her. The nuns would come to offer her help when my Granda was sick but she took more pleasure in having them admire her line of whites than putting them to any use. Can I state that these whites would include nappies…. aggh no nappies, no wipes. This quality (are getting whites white a quality?) definitely wasn’t inherited and whites are not long in becoming grey or blue in my house regardless of detergent and strategy.

GordonsI love to hear stories of the boys though, one of them being my Dad… they were crazy. The younger of them jumped out of his bedroom window believing himself to be Superman and my Dad held on to the bumper of his Dad’s car as he drove off, requiring clips to hold the gashes on his legs together. I may not be a 1950s housewife but I have not been to Temple Street’s emergency department yet… yet! So, back to that hurl… there was no respite for women then, you got on with it, didn’t complain and while I’m not condoning violence, I sure as hell understand it. Then there were the women who self-medicated through the chaos and suffocating times of the ’40s and ’50s. My other Nanny was also an accomplished young woman when she met my Granda. She was sporty, loved Irish dancing and cycling (I’m beginning to think I was adopted or my parents were) and then she met my Granda who was older, commanding and drove a company car. She was smitten and pictures of her wedding day break my heart. She was smiling and beautiful, full of hope for a life ahead with the man she loved. Then came the babies, lost and born. Six survived in total and her first were a set of twins. My Granda spent a lot of time away on business and her hobbies were all but forgotten. My Granda liked a drink (such an Irish euphemism) and she discovered the lovely, numbing effects of alcohol in her 40s.

As a kid, I would stay there after school as my parents worked and god I loved spending time with her. She was so much fun. I had a little tape recorder and would record her singing Al Jolson and Elvis. Little did I know that some of these fun times were gin related. The highlight of our day would be a trip to the local shop to get her fags but before we would go she would verse me in how to get extra money from Granda. Player'sHe’d be in the front room at a large imposing desk and I’d stand back and watch her listing what she needed as he totted it up and gave her the exact money. Even as a child, I would feel embarrassed witnessing that. It would take us an hour to get to the local shop as she chatted with everyone she met; she was a social butterfly trapped in a non-gilded cage. The house was dreadfully messy and would require a trip from Kim and Aggie nowadays, it had a big contribution to my own mother’s OCD. Nanny battled with depression a lot in her final years and when we’d go visit her in hospital, she seemed almost inconvenienced to see us. Here she had found some solace and company. She died in her 70s at home and with her last breath told her husband she loved him. I was 12 when she died and wish I had known her as an adult but from what I can surmise and psychoanalyse, I think she was a romantic at heart. She wasn’t a practical woman and when motherhood and marriage didn’t prove to be the stuff of movies, she self-medicated and internalised until her mental health suffered.

shutterstock_112992829If, I look to these two amazing women, I can probably identify with the latter best. I too am a romantic and stick my head in the sand (according to my mother) when faced with the harsh realities of life. I have self-medicated with antidepressants when motherhood got too hard. I’ve been chemical free since February and I’m fine, a bit weepy but that’s just me. Parenting is hard bloody work and most mothers I know are taking some form of antidepressant. We’re probably all on our way to being alcoholics with the amount of wine o’ clock statuses I witness. Yes, I do use my evening glass of wine as a beacon of light at the end of a tunnel of mess, tantrums and body fluids; sometimes I don’t have it but I need a short-term goal.

59tg4h4g-1393304556Mental health is a huge issue these days and the focus seems to be mostly on young men. I am 100% in favour of that, having three sons but I do think mothers are also susceptible to the dark pull of depression. This can be post partum or like in my case, a feeling of despair and being overwhelmed. Unlike our 1950s counterparts, we have a wide range of advice and non-addictive medication at our fingertips but we also have all the pinterest mothers making cupcakes and home schooling to make us feel inadequate. My advice as someone prone to depression is talk…. to your partner and especially your girlfriends. Chances are your friends are feeling or have felt something similar. Also, make time for yourself… even if that is an hour grabbed to lie in bed with a laptop (watching netflix you dirty minded people). There is something so satisfying in lying there and listening to my husband struggle with maintaining his temper as the boys run rings around him. Date night is lovely too but if you don’t have a partner, a night out with friends is even better!(but takes longer to recover)

I love my kids and they benefit more from having a healthy and happy Mam. They don’t need constant outings and attention from me. They need to learn to make themselves happy and find something they like about each other. I will often sit in another room and scroll aimlessly through Facebook or Twitter or watch a sneaky episode of House of Cards. This is for me, my mental health.  I couldn’t give a shit about my line of clothes because I use the dryer at all times. I haven’t yet picked up a hurl but I’d say my verbal lashings are just as bad when I lose it. Yes nanny Kelly, I got your red-headed temper. I can’t cook but I do love a sing song, probably best to steer clear of Al Jolson tunes though.