Sunday, 24 January 2016

A post in favour of routines

Before I had kids, I didn’t realise that routines were such a controversial, touchy subject. But apparently they are, so I’m going to out myself in this post as a routine aficionado. I love routines. I’m a routine junkie. “What’s happening next, Davina?” “I know! I know! I have a ROUTINE.” I actually didn’t start out on the parenting journey thinking I am going to have a routine. It just kind of happened, and it actually happened because, like a lot of babies, Toddler Taylor was extremely fussy from around 5pm every day. He would have a breastfeed on the sofa at 5ish and usually fall asleep when he was done. But he wouldn’t stay asleep for more than about half an hour, then he would wake up crabby and he didn’t want to do anything. Everything made him cross. Except, inexplicably, watching In The Night Garden (which I fucking hate because come on; what is it even about, really?). So we would watch that and then I would muffle him up (even though it wasn’t that cold because it was, I think, August), stick him in the pram and I would walk to the next village and back and he would usually sleep a bit. Then when we got home he’d have a bath, a bottle and go to bed. Eventually, he naturally started to happily stay awake after his 5pm feed and I could put him straight to bed at 7pm, which is what time he still goes to bed now.

He also had a nap schedule which was adjusted as he grew and his sleep needs changed, but I can’t really remember what it was. Which is weird because it wasn’t all that long ago, but there it is. I’m really tired. I don’t remember much of anything these days. It broke the day up into manageable chunks so I could get other stuff done while he was napping, and it also meant that he knew what was coming next. Baby Taylor also has a nap schedule, which is largely modelled on what I can remember of Toddler Taylor’s schedule, but his medication makes him very tired sometimes and so I think he naps a little more than his brother did at the same age. He knows when it’s time for his nap and will often go and stand at the bottom of the stairs, waiting to be taken up to bed (even if he does thrash like a seizing shark when we actually enter his bedroom and he realises this shit’s for real).

All that being said, I wouldn’t want you to think that I enforce this routine with an iron fist. Because I don’t. I know my children and I can read their behaviour. If Baby Taylor doesn’t look tired when he’s due for his nap, he stays up until he starts rubbing his eyes and grizzling. As soon as he does that, I whisk him off to bed and he’s asleep before I’ve even left the room. Similarly, if he’s already exhibiting sleepy behaviour before his usual nap time, I don’t make him stay up until he’s screaming the house down with exhaustion. And, contrary to the belief held by one particular member of my family with whom I no longer have a relationship (for reasons unrelated to this issue), the fact that my kids have a routine does not stop me from getting out and doing stuff with them. It simply means that I plan ahead a bit so I know what little adjustments to make during the rest of the day to avoid a bedtime meltdown in the evening. Because that’s no fun for anybody.

I don’t have these routines to make life easy for myself, although it does sometimes help to know that I have pockets of time during the day in which to get boring, necessary shit like cleaning and ironing done. The reason I’ve stuck to the idea of having a schedule for my children is so that they know what’s coming next. The thing about kids is that they don’t have any concept of time, so Baby Taylor’s nap schedule has been particularly handy in helping Toddler Taylor to understand the layout of the day a little better. For example, right now he loves to play board games, and he has an impressive stack of them. Board games have lots of pieces and they are often quite small. You can see where I’m going with this. Board games simply cannot be played while Baby Taylor is awake and likely to, at best, steal and lose the pieces and, at worst, steal and choke on them. Most afternoons Toddler Taylor will ask me “mummy, can we play a game?” and I will reply “yes, when your brother has gone to bed we can play a game.” So he then knows that he is going to get some one-on-one time with me to play board games while his brother is sleeping. He knows that it is a certainty, a “when” rather than an “if”. And I feel like that’s important for kids, for them to know what to expect from their day. It’s jarring enough being small and not having much control over your emotions without people surprising you all the time.

However, none of the above is to say that I think there is anything at all wrong with not having a routine or a nap schedule or whatever. It doesn’t work for everyone, just like co-sleeping or baby-led weaning. All of these things are choices that we make with our specific – and very individual – children in mind. For my part, both of my children are largely very happy and sociable little people. They thrive on their routine and we all work better as a family because of it. When anybody else looks after our children, we can tell them what time they usually nap and eat and nobody has to play the tired-or-teething game with Baby Taylor. My husband works different shifts every week, so in the midst of that chaos, having a routine for my children helps me to at least have control over one aspect of our life as a family unit. It helps me to plan. It works for me and it works for my family. I am pro-routine, but I am also pro-doing-whatever-works-for-your-family. So my one teeny little bit of advice here, at the close of this post, is to parent your children in a way that takes care of all of your best interests and not give a toss what anybody else thinks. Mother (and father) knows best!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Is It Just Me?

I’m looking at women’s magazines today after a conversation I had about them with my husband last night. There might be a bit of my usual parenting content, but it’s mostly just muted outrage.

Let’s start with Mother & Baby, since I always intended for this to be *mostly* a parenting blog. Giles Coren used to write a column for M&B called “dadvice”, which usually consisted of him moaning about something that only a parent with a lot of money could moan about. Like how awful it is taking children on long-haul flights. But one day he took it too far and his column was basically a page-long rant about how his wife needed to get her act together and lose the baby weight. You know, when you disrespect the post-partum body of your wife - and mother of your children - in a column for a magazine aimed at pregnant and post-partum women... Yeah, you can pretty much just get fucked, to be honest. The wife in question was pretty gracious about it on her Twitter account and M&B said it was all about encouraging debate or whatever, but I think all it did was make a whole lot of women wonder if their partners secretly felt the same. So I briefly fell out with M&B over that one, but I'm over it now. Coren has taken his #dadvice elsewhere (probably Twitter) and M&B is undoubtedly better off without it.

I used to read a sleazy little publication called MORE (does it still exist? Does anyone know?), up until about four years ago when it advised me to crash my boyfriend's office Christmas party in order to show him how much I loved him. I'm not even kidding. I mean... What the fuck?! Male readers, if women are crazy then that's probably due in large part to the shit they keep in their magazine rack and how seriously they take the “advice” therein. 
One other trend in women's magazines is the mandatory "Sex move that will change your life" article. Every. Single. Month there is an article like this. First of all, whenever I read these articles I usually find myself wondering who can be bothered with this?! Secondly, doesn't anyone have any imagination anymore? What are you going to do? Start the whole process off and then, at some crucial point or another, yelp "STOP! STOP! I need to consult the magazine article because I can't remember what comes next!"? Are you really going to do that? No. You don't need a magazine to tell you how to have sex. Just go forth and multiply. Or take the appropriate precautions. Whatever. But please don't rely on some complicated hand-tongue-big toe combination (I'm making this up) from an over-hyped double page spread to make it memorable.

This month on the cover of the only women’s magazine I still sort of read we have: 388 Style Upgrades (that you probably can’t afford); 89 Genius Health Hacks (what?); 17 Ways to Score Tons of Free Stuff (I’m afraid to ask); She changed her Tinder to ‘women only’. OF COURSE it got interesting (she slept with a woman. Shocker. NOBODY saw that coming); THE SEX GAME CHANGER you haven’t tried (which turns out to be lube. Who hasn’t tried using fucking lube?!) and then the usual celebrity stuff. I also tend to find that there are a lot of articles about getting ahead at work, generally with the assumption that “work” takes place in an office environment and goes by the name of “a career”. We’ve already covered the fact that I don’t actually have a career (despite several people over the last three and a half years trying to tell me “but motherhood IS a career!” It really isn’t. Trust me), so whenever I read these magazines, between the career stuff and the sex stuff that assumes I don’t actually know what I’m doing at all and the talk of Tinder (which I don’t fucking understand; what is it for?!), I usually end up feeling only one thing: I don’t belong here. These are not my people.

Which brings us back to parenting magazines, but you know what? They’re not really my people either, because they assume certain things about my life too. Like that I can afford to go on expensive holidays every year (nope) and that my children don’t sleep very well (sometimes). I’m starting to feel like I’m either incredibly awkward and should just pipe down or that maybe I need to stop trying to find a magazine written by and for “my people” (and I’m not even really sure who they are myself, to be honest) and stick to books, blogs and the occasional internet article.

Alternatively, I could go get myself a career, some lube and a Tinder account.