Daddy Cool

DoodleBuddydadIt was BlueBeretDad’s birthday a few days ago and I decided to throw him a surprise party.  No, not the one where everyone hides behind curtains and under the tables and scares the hell out of the unsuspecting birthday boy.  More like the one where the unsuspecting birthday boy stumbles into the room after having been up at 3am, 5am and 6am (the baby) and falls over a flock of balloons.  Then as he staggers into the kitchen the fridge door is plastered with his embarrassing photos from school ping pong and chess clubs.  Yes, the kind of surprise where he then yells: “What the hell!” as he slips on the puddle of porridge mixed with mashed banana – Peanut’s favourite parent-trap.

Once he got over the initial shock of the idea of having to socialise with people taller than 80 centimetres and with more complex vocabulary than “Dadada. Mamamama. Baaaah. Whaaaaaaa.”  BlueBeretDad got very excited.  We don’t have guests very often (time, babies, time, babies excuses used by everyone, even by people with no children and a lot of time on their hands) so he decided to make most of it.

Throughout the evening the drinks were flowing, people were sparring ideas (BlueBerets love a good debate), babies were stuffing their faces with sausage rolls and a balloon or two blew in my face.

There were a few dads among the childless hip crowd.  Some dads to be, dads with extensive fatherhood mileage and counting and relative newbies (the “Phew, Bean is 6 months 3 days 5 hours and 25 minutes old and still alive” type).  As I was watching the Dads Club from a corner of my left eye, the corner of my right eye busy registering Peanut disappear into the depths of the recycling box, I started thinking that contrary to the general view of the public, dads don’t have it much easier than mums.

Ok, according to statistics they earn more than us, their careers don’t take a blow when an offspring arrives and, let’s face it, they don’t have to go through the whole pushing out an oversized object while being torn to shreds/ being scalpelled to bits by a sleepy consultant baby delivery process.  But if you think about it for a minute, it is not that much compared to what they miss out on.

Expectant dads get one tenth of attention that their pregnant partner gets.  The whole world revolves around the bump and the carrier.  Been there, done that, dealt with furious BlueBeretDad after he was blanked and snubbed by midwives and health visitors.  The Expectant Dads are supposed to engage with their unborn baby and it must be difficult when all you see is your partner looking more and more like the gym ball she is using to practise for the L- Day.

During labour, an “are we there yet” dad is expected to support through screams and swearing, wipe the sweaty forehead, ignore whatever that thing floating in the birth pool is(no, not the baby, THAT THING), be strong, know better than the committee of midwives and consultants what’s better for his partner and the baby, be enthusiastic about cutting the umbilical cord and forget about hunger, their own bodily functions and the latest Premier League score until their partner (drifting in her own drug- and/or hormone induced bubble) tells him to bugger off because she is exhausted and needs to feed their bundle of joy and catch up on some sleep.

Then it is all about nipples, clogged up milk ducts, random leakages, losing post partum weight, post natal depression, new mums’ support groups, mums’  forums, mums blogs, mum and baby this and mum and baby that.  While the Dad, having discovered that staring into those dark alien eyes is more fun than he ever expected it to be, and having exhausted his few weeks of parental leave, goes back to work.  He tries to focus on spreadsheets and avoid those red buttons that can annihilate the world (only if you press them when you are not supposed to).  Then he goes home and is welcomed by a colicky baby and a partner who has just lost it and has not been out of her gown and in the shower for the last six weeks.  There is no food in the fridge and the cat moved out a long time ago.

And if he is the one doing the stay at home dad thing… Well, then he is still in the category of the weird species that no one knows what to do with.  Not many yummy daddy support groups out there, sitting in cafes and sipping daddy-ccinos.  The majority of baby changing facilities are in female toilets.  Mum’s still the word.

Most stories about absent parents are about absent/ not involved enough/too selfish dads.  However, I have met a lot of people with absent/not involved and too selfish mums.  Maybe it is time to realise that there are rotten apples on both sides of the gender fence and mention that fact more often.

Nope, not easy to be a dad”  I say to myself as I serve BlueBeretDad sauerkraut juice (psst, the best hangover cure in the world but not for wimps) while Peanut tests how many times he has to hammer a coconut against BlueBeretDad’s head before either cracks open.

Baby Economics or How To Survive the New Budget

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With the Chancellor soon picking up his favourite red satchel to match his flushed cheeks that he got from having been digging deeper and deeper and sinking this country further and further into the sea of misery I, the self –proclaimed self-chatterer, have been asking myself over and over again: oh dear oh dear, come on Georgie, how much worse can it get? Quadruple abyss recession? How are we, the BlueBeretFamily, going to feed our young?

Let’s face it. Times are tough and it is not going to get any better any time soon if you listen to all the media prophets.  However, as they say recession is the mother of invention and the only way to start digging our way out of this budgetary gap is to get creative.   To think outside the stack of boxes we will all soon be living in if the childcare and living costs increase by even a penny.

Ever since BlueBeretDad and I made the so called “lifestyle” choice and acquired a lively model for a baby, instead of a Jaguar or a property in some foreign up and coming country or a designer pooch, we have been staring into the crystal ball to read our financial future and all we can see is a sinister pitch-black void.  To add to our economic demise, Peanut has started the nursery which is lovely and costs us more than buying a small developing country on Ebay (not that I would ever want to do THAT).

But things are not as bad as they could have been. Have we had fallen under the spell of evil advertising executives right now the three of us would be squeezing into Peanut’s latest city super light super fast super chic baby jogger parked underneath the nearest bridge. Pulling down the rain cover and rubbing our blue-ish hands we would remind ourselves how we used to live in a lovely pastel coloured world where everything was so soft, and handmade and carefully designed with only Peanut in mind.  And then BlueBeretDad would remind us how one day the evil bank people came and took the pastel colours and the beautifully handmade baby bits and bobs and how we managed to just escape in the jogger and this is why we are now living in a barren concrete wasteland warming our hands over the burning credit card statements.

 No, thank god Saint Pound, the patron of the Thrifty Nifty, we knew better than that. Or maybe our plastic cards didn’t stretch that much.  And so after months of experience of that whole parenting stuff here is the final version of the BlueBeretFamily’s Baby on the Budget Survival Guide:

  1. Baby clothes – whenever you find yourself tempted by the soft and organic cotton sailor suit hand sewn by fairy godmothers in a Parisian atelier ask yourself the following question: what is the difference between a lovely soft designer baby sailor suit covered in sick and a cheap and cheerful Three for Two baby gro with sick on? There is your answer. If this wasn’t enough to stop you from waving your purse left, right and centre enough, the offspring grows faster than you can say “Baby ate my last credit card statement.” So next time you struggle to exorcise the temptation imagine the same exquisite garment after you have washed it 500 times in three pukey days. Yes, you are right. It will look like something you have pulled out of the depths of your designer pooch’s mouth. With sick on. And by the way, you are not setting your Beans up for failure only because you dress them in hand me downs. Good for the environment and the bankers will hate you. We need more of that.

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  1. Toys – if an average mini Einstein has a choice between:

A)   Brand new toys designed by a committee of educational psychologists, tested on carefully selected focus group of the brightest mini humans and mass produced by the seven dwarves, and

B)   A recycling box full of cardboard, plastic bottles and other crap

What do you think he will choose to play with for hours and hours? 

The first objects Peanut speed-crawls towards as soon as he enters the kitchen are:

  • the recycling boxes
  • the Tupperware drawer
  • the bin

Who  needs a fancy soft play when all you have t do is to call your council, get the recycling going and there you have the best free entertainment for your young one because nothing compares to being able to chew piece of cardboard or two.

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Also, if anyone is very sensitive about the whole “every time you put on TV it sucks out all the intelligence out of your child’s brain so if they later on fail in life, you know who’s to blame” debate put the washing machine on. Put your child in front of the washing machine. Put your feet up and catch up on the last three seasons of Made in Chelsea. I know, I too hate to admit that with all my degrees and passion for high literature and art and classical music, I am a sucker for the “I’m posh and  have nothing to say but I wear nice clothes so why not be famous “ reality TV show (but that is a different story altogether). Guilt-free pleasure for you, the humanoid is learning a lesson for life: staring at the washing machine won’t make it finish faster but it can make you feel seasick.

  1. Food – if you breastfeed for the first six months (my case) are cheap.  Then when you move on to solids you quickly realise that there is a wide range of new qualifications you can add to boost your CV and therefore start a new career(and potentially earn some cash):

–          Nutritionist – within weeks I have become an expert in mapping out the protein to carbs to fat to veg and fruit ratios.  I have been scribbling down menus and personally delivering the right amount of iron to Peanut’s brain daily so that he can get that Nobel Prize one day. Or at least finish the secondary school and learn to drive so that I don’t have to.  I know my good ‘no sugar’ added fromage frais from the bad one loaded with the evil S stuff. No salt. No E-numbers. Full fat only.

–          Gourmet Michelin star chef – I know the drill. Babies have more taste buds than we do. Hence they are fussy. Maybe I would be too if I could detect more in my food than just sweet, salty and aw bloody spicy. I chop, I puree, bake and mash. All organic and only the best of the best. And the best of the best of the best comes at a price and a high one (especially if you are on the very generous statutory maternity pay).  Squeezed in the middle to the point of breathlessness, I have recently discovered that you get and eat what you pay for does not apply to foods, like potatoes and carrots and other root vegetables. Or pasta. Or rice. Or breadsticks (just watch that salt content). But coming back to the humble potato. So much choice – normal or sweet. Gigantic or miniscule. And it goes with pretty much anything. You can mash it, boil it, steam it, sauté it, roast it… Trust me, this comes from a woman who grew up in times when Jamie Olivier wasn’t even planned and the BlueBeretGrandParents in the Beetrootland had only one kitchen bible entitled “1000 Potato Recipes”. Can you imagine a cook book with no pictures in it?  Horror oh horror, based on the Potato’s success a sequels called “999 Buckwheat Recipes” was released.  Another national bestseller and curse of all eight year olds (the perks of growing up during the communist regime).

The moral of this story is loosen your belt, breathe out and don’t beat yourself up if your Peanut has a non-organic meal or if you are tempted to splash out on that magic fairy powder that all baby meals have to be sprinkled with otherwise your child  will never succeed in life. Chances are they will like the modest potato and cool cod with pulp peas more than the baby soufflé you were perfecting last night.

  1. Baby gear – Peanut’s buggy is so two seasons ago. I know, shocking. When I was in the haze of attending the pre-natal classes I was sucked into long debates over the superiority of the Peach iCandy over the Strawberry and I lost the will to live.  Then I joined the buggynonymous guerrilla group and ordered online a very so-unfashionable-it –is –not even –worth-a – smirk model. Came with a car seat and cost £99.90 with delivery. Toot toot.  So far for the last 10 months or so it has been through daily trudging over cobblestones, uneven pavements, bouncing up and down thousands of steps and bumping into innocent lampposts and annoying passersby (very useful to use as a mini-tank to get people out of your way during the Festival) . The best thing of all, the day its wheels fall off and the basket collapses under the weight of all those potatoes I will know that we got what we paid for and much more.

The same rule applies to bouncy chairs, high chairs, changing mats, anything else that big brands try to make you feel bad about if you don’t get it for the Bub pronto. Put on the Frugality & Reality Goggles because a few months down the line you will wish you had gone for the cheap and simple plastic high chair which tomato sauce can be wiped off, not dry – cleaned.

  1. Other ways of saving money – the good thing about having a baby is that for the next 20 years or so you surrender all your money – chomping hobbies like going out, clothes shopping, putting on make –up (even if you keep up with the makeup routine and applaud if you do, chances are most days you leave the house with only half of your face done which means your face-paint tubes and pots will last twice as long. Unless the baby gets there first) and join the I’m Leaving the House in My Pyjamas ‘n Proud of It club… On the other hand you can expect the wine and chocolate expenses to go up as well as your weight… That is normal.  Extra fat will keep you warm which will make the heating bills lower so a win win for all (apart from the evil gas companies).

        So Georgie show us what surprises you have for us this year.  The BlueBerets are ready.

How are you getting on in this dreich economic weather? Share the penny-pinching stories 🙂

 

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4.33am  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

4.34am  “Maybe he will go back to sleep”  – mumbles an unidentified deep voice from underneath the duvet

4.35am  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

4.36am  No he won’t.  I emerge from the cosy depths of the king size bed.  Argh

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

4.38am  I reappear in bed with Peanut clinging on to me.  Right.  Let’s move on swiftly from that minor glitch and go back to sleep.   As I dive underneath the covers, Peanut grumbles and mumbles and holds on to BlueBeretDad’s armpit hair for dear life.

Sometime between 4.39am  and 6.33am – Peanut sticks one finger into my left nostril and pulls out a handful of my hair.  I put an arm over my face to protect it from the ferocious attacks of a not-so-sleepy-anymore baby which makes Peanut re-think his strategy and pull the skin on my neck instead, pinch my arm and put his whole hand into my mouth to carefully inspect one tooth after another.  In silent protest I roll away and push Peanut over towards BlueBeretDad who has been snoring blissfully for the last hour or so.  After yet another spell of fierce inspection from the Peanut front (this time he is digging into my ear) I move away a little bit more and there I find myself with my right leg, buttock and arm dangling off the edge of the bed.  I swear I have managed not to tumble down by sheer will power and nothing else.  Then the numb and cold half of my body almost melts away when I see Peanut snuggle his head into the den of BlueBeretDad’s armpit and suck the dummy to the rhythm of his Dad’s Great Snore Libretto.

6.33am I finally succumb to gravity as the alarm goes off.  Here we go – yet another day ahead of me and I have already hit, literally, rock bottom.

Sometime between 6.33am and 8am  Get up.  Kitchen and breakfast.  I struggle to slice the mango fast enough to the orders of our little Emperor banging his plastic throne in the corner.  Fresh mango, porridge with blueberries, and a piece of toast – Peanut.  A dry piece of toast and cold mug of tea – me.  We get dressed. We brush our teeth.  When I stare into the square eyes wincing back at me in the mirror a funny thought crosses my mind.  Something is not right.  No, not Peanut. He is happily (and not without success) trying to tear down the house before we head off to the nursery.  No, it’s something else.  Something in my mouth.  On my teeth.  The toothpaste is off.  When I check the tube and my eyes go from square to round and square again.  For the last three minutes of blank staring into the void I have been brushing my teeth with Bepenathen Nappy Cream.  Mental note to self – don’t keep that stuff next to your toothpaste as it is impossible to get off your teeth. And it doesn’t taste good.

8.03am Bye Bye bye Dadada.  Only 3 minutes behind the schedule Peanut and I set off to trek across the sleepy streets of Edinburgh, traffic – clogged roads, wheeling into flocks of office people who are clearly before that first coffee, and up Mount Everest aka the Mound.  Time flies by as I assume a half horizontal position, the wheels on the bus go round and round runs the broken record in my head and up we go.  Clickety clack clickety clack.  As usual, I consider taking off layers of vests and jumpers in public as the first wave of sweat flushes my back. So much for the fresh straight out of the shower smell.

9am  Peanut happily installed in the nursery. I manage to spill only half of my coffee all over myself as I slump in front of my desk and off we go. Pear pear. Banana. Banana. Avocado. Avocado. Kiiiiiwi.  Note to self – stop listening to the Baby Music CD. It has infiltrated your subconscious and people are looking.

9am – 5pm  Work.  Work.  Work some more.  Half way through the day I consider crawling underneath the desk and hiding behind a stash of spare photocopy paper. Decide against it when I realise the only sleeping position I could assume would be on all fours with my bum up in the air, pointing strategically towards the door.  Having ruled out that option I go back to the spreadsheets.

6pm  With BlueBeretDad away on business and unable to come to the rescue I drag the buggy up the narrow staircase all the 1001 steps (no, not really that many – only 999 steps).  As soon as we reach the flat I start crawling around the place to set up Peanut’s bath. Peanut crawls after me. Good. A tired baby equals a sleepy baby. Toot!

7.30pm  On My Still To Do List: Tidy up those bloody toys strewn across the living room I remind myself as I pull out Sophie The Giraffe from underneath my slumped body. Squeak.

7.35pm  The couch has swallowed me and refuses to spit out the remains.

7.38pm The TV is on but it all seems to be in gibberish. More gibberish.  Oh look, even more gibberish.

9pm  Finally I enter the kitchen to attack the heap of filthy plates, mini Tupperware boxes, wee plastic spoons, pots, pans and four sad looking dummies that I retrieved from the washing machine and the recycling boxes.

11pm  Done. Both lunch, dinner and breakfast for Peanut prepared and packed. The floor has seen better days but it will have to do for now.  Can it?  Bugger. Forgot to eat. One glance at the fridge, another at the clock. A sneaky peak into Peanut’s lunch box later, my stomach is not a half empty type anymore.

11.05pm  As I creep out of the kitchen and into the bed the clock shows me the finger.

11.09pm  Teeth. Forgot to brush my teeth.  My only remaining brain cell registers that BlueBeretDad is only back tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  Is.  Another.  Day.
P.S. Dear feminists and other politically active fellow women.  Please don’t misunderstand me as I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had in life that I wouldn’t have had if the suffragettes hadn’t left a long line of bite marks in a poor uncle Bobby’s arms.  You have fought for the gift of education, gender equality and equal opportunities for your fellow sisters and I will never forget that.  Yet, I cannot shake off the feeling (it sticks like a nappy cream on my teeth) that in the stampede to buy into Feminism we all failed to notice that we, the women folk, have been slightly short-changed.  With equality and rights and careers came double responsibilities.  Double guilt.  Double amount of dishes and laundry.  Half a job. Half a motherhood combined with being half a partner/wife/girlfriend.  Worse.  Forgetting when the last time was you spoke to your endangered Other Half as they disappeared behind that pile of laundry a few months ago and haven’t re-emerged yet.
As they say “There ain’t no such thing as a calm and content working mother.” Unless you can convince me otherwise.