Georgia James is back with the third instalment of The Mum Diary. She lowered the parenting bar from ‘having it all’ to ‘making it work’ and, suddenly, things started to look a bit more manageable.
It’s 8pm and I’m writing this while sitting in the dark, on the floor of my son’s bedroom. To my left there is a large glass of red wine, to my right there is a child in bed, quietly singing Let It Go and waving a toy bunny around. I am working, relaxing and looking after a child at the same time. I think this must be what they mean when they talk about women ‘having it all’.
It was the late Cosmopolitan editor, Helen Gurley Brown, who coined the phrase. She famously decreed that a woman should not have to choose between family and career, and believed that women really could ‘have it all’. Anyone experiencing the cost of UK childcare, or a two-and-a-half year old with sleep regression, would beg to differ. Apologies to the sisterhood, but to be honest, I’m a bit too knackered to have it all; the thought of it makes me want to face-plant my keyboard.
All I want at this stage is to reclaim some of the old me (the one with pelvic floor muscles) and mix it with some of the new me (the one that knows how to make a realistic Olaf the snowman out of Play Doh). So rather than setting myself up for failure, I’ve swapped ‘having it all’ for ‘making it work’. For a while, it was just ‘keeping everyone out of A&E’—and I couldn’t even manage that. (Tip: buy a stair gate before your child gets mobile.)
‘Making it work’ is about allowing some of the focus to shift from your little darling to you as a family, you as a couple, and you as an individual. Because BREAKING NEWS: the world does not revolve around your child.
For the first six months after Elliot was born, I aspired to having three consecutive hours’ sleep, or eating a meal at the same time as my husband. In the second six months, I progressed to learning about scriptwriting during his nap times in an attempt to turn some of my head jelly back into grey matter. And very slowly, without me even really noticing it, little pieces of my former identity have started to creep back into my life.
Sometimes, in the throes of a ‘terrible twos’ week, it feels like I’m back to square one. But on the whole our imperfect, slightly shambolic little family is finally finding its groove. At the heart of the ‘making it work’ philosophy are compromise, realism and imagination. So, as impromptu clubbing weekends in Ibiza and all-day sex marathons are out of the question, I’ve been working on reclaiming the little things.
Five things I have reclaimed this month:
The changing bag is a triumph of modern engineering. Like a wipe-clean Mary Poppins, it dispenses liquids at essential temperatures, separates snacks and poo and gives you something to hang your cardigan on. But I’ve had one bashing against my legs for almost three years now, and having decided I can no longer be arsed to lug around a selection of organic snacks in Tupperware boxes, I made the liberating decision to buy a leather rucksack. On-trend, stylish and hands-free.
My living room
Some of my friends are suspicious of tidy mums. Apparently, anyone who doesn’t like standing on Lego bricks or having their carpet glitter-bombed needs to ask themselves why they bothered becoming a parent in the first place. But what’s wrong with wanting to restore a little peace in the home once your child’s in bed? Bye-bye ‘corner of doom’, hello minimalist white sideboard (aka Elliot’s new toy cupboard). By day: chaos. By night: serenity.
My local pub
Elliot likes the park, we like the pub, so having tracked down a local beer garden with a play area, we are very much looking forward to spending some time at the ‘special park’ this summer. On balmy evenings, we can pick up Elliot from nursery and go for a sundowner. Elliot gets to climb on a wooden pirate ship; we get to drink a pint like young folk.
My social life
I cannot recommend this enough: the grown-up sleepover. We have gotten really good at hosting these for our friends that have kids since we moved out of town. The little people get all overexcited and tire themselves out. A particular highlight is if we chuck them all in the bath together. Then, once they’ve crashed out, the adults can breathe out and have their fun. Of course we’re all passed out by 10:30, but who cares?
My evening wine
Just as your little angel starts sleeping through and you think you’ve finally hauled yourself out from the bowels of hell, sleep regression comes along. In our case, Elliot needs one of us to lie down next to his bed until he has dropped off. This can take up to an hour and failure to comply only means running up and down stairs all night. So now I just head in there with supplies and make the most of it. Yesterday I was meditating, today I’m writing a feature—all while my beautiful boy falls asleep beside me. Looking at him dozing off right now, I almost feel like I have it all.