Archive for the 'Parenting 101' Category

Two or three? Finalising a family

NS February 15th, 2011

Over dinner the other night, Noble Husband and I somehow fell into discussing whether we are done having children or if we would like another at some point.

I’d always vaguely surmised that I would decide by the time Noble Boy turned 3 as I wanted to leave a bigger gap this time if I did decide to have another, but not too big to where it would feel like starting over again. He’s now 2 and a half so if I was to begin pondering it, the time would be soon(ish).

But the fact that I’m getting really into my new career and am putting a lot of my energy into it as of late has prevented me from even considering it. Another baby at this point would put the brakes on all of the wonderful momentum I have going right now and, honestly, I’m not ready to let it (and me) take a back seat again.

Plus, the sleep! Oh, the lovely, sweet, nearly-uninterrupted sleep. The ease with which both children now go to bed and how long it took to get to that point. I can’t give that up!

The leaps and bounds by which our marriage and our finances have improved and the ability to leave them with grandparents or friends while we go out on a date or paint the town red…it’s done wonders for our souls.

I finally got my office back just last month after successfully moving the children into one room together. That would all have to be dismantled and put away to make room for a cot if another baby were to grace us with its presence.

I’d be a fool to give all that up, right?  And 90 percent of me knows, deep down, that I am happier right now than I’ve been in a long time. To possibly screw that up for the 10 percent of me that daydreams of how lovely it would be to experience pregnancy again, to give birth and breastfeed a newborn again, to love another human being so fiercely and completely again…Well, when put like that it does make me pause. So what do I think about having a third?

I shrugged at NH from across the table and said I’d decide for sure in a couple/few years, by which time NB would be starting school. But then he had to go and make the valid point that he’s getting close to 40 and that if we were going to have another he’d want to do it sooner rather than later. He doesn’t want to still be parenting teenagers in his late 50s/early 60s, which is fair enough. He’s perfectly happy with the two we have and that’s what feels right to him, coming from a family of four himself. So if I want another, he’d want to do it in the next year or two, not in 3 or 4.

We talked over some of the pros and cons and he asked, What do you want, what feels right?

I’ve always imagined myself with three, I found myself saying.

Huh, that’s interesting. Any particular reason why?

I don’t know why, frankly. I’d always put it down to being one of three myself, though since my younger sister died when I was 9, it was only me and my older sister for the latter part of my childhood. I’d been happy enough as part of a sibling twosome so why, even though I’ve had no particular yearnings for another baby, does two not feel complete, somehow?

And then words came out of my mouth that I’d not stopped to piece together, let alone internalise. Until I said it, I hadn’t even realised it was there.

Because if something were to happen to one of our children, god forbid, I wouldn’t want the other to grow up alone.

I was as surprised as NH was. We sat in silence for a moment. He looked at me sympathetically.

I had no idea you felt that way, he said.

Neither did I. But maybe now I’ve said it the very idea automatically vanishes,  like an exorcised demon abruptly leaving a disturbed home, relieving its occupants and leaving behind a tangible peace and calm, the kind that flows through you in such a rush that it seeps into your bones.

Still, not exactly a good reason to have another baby, is it? It’s all a bit morbid and irrational. But now, having said it out loud, I can have an honest look at myself, at my life, and whether another baby would fit in or whether it feels more like an expectation I’ve placed on myself.

I’m leaning towards the latter but have put off making any rash decisions either way. Perhaps in another six months to a year I’ll be in a place to bring some resolution to the matter.

And if we decide that our family is complete as it is, I’ll be buying a large bag of frozen peas for NH with the words ‘FREEDOM!’ and ‘Your turn, SUCKA!’ written across it in marker pen.

She gets it, even when we don’t

NS January 9th, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, after a spot of shopping, we took the kids to Pizza Hut. Though there were moments where we had to corral them back to the table, for the most part they behaved in the socially prescribed way by sitting in their chairs, eating their food and not making too much noise. It was a nice outing.

As NH and I were paying and getting coats on, our server, a young woman who looked to be in her early 20s, smiled as she watched our children tickle each other and laugh. After she handed over the receipt and my debit card, she said to them, “You two make me so happy. Watching you play together has made my day.”

She then turned to me and said, “This must be the best part of being a parent, huh? Watching them smile and laugh. I bet it makes up for all the times you’re fed up with them.”

Caught off guard by her lovely and insightful comment, I just smiled and nodded. As I watched the two blonde heads of my progeny skip out the door holding hands, the poignancy of her comment caused my eyes to briefly fill with tears.

Yes, I am lucky and yes, they are a joy to behold.

Thank you, Pizza Hut girl, for reminding me of that.

Noble Husband on fatherhood and work

NS November 5th, 2010

I read this article in the Guardian today about how fathers are supposedly happier if a) they have two children, b) their partners work and c) they share the household chores.

More cynical women than me might think it a load of hogwash, but, personally, I found it heartening and heartfelt. If 82 percent of working fathers would like to spend more time with their families, as this survey found, then that is a fantastic thing.

But.

How much of this professed desire to be more domestically involved is all talk and how willing are men to put some action into making it happen? I really want to know!

So, under strict instructions not to be afraid that I would use his answers against him in a personal capacity, I asked the Noble Husband what his thoughts are on this subject. Here’s the result of our ‘interview’, which took place over email and IM. Note: I tried not to refer to myself in the first person because I wanted him to think objectively, though I slipped up a couple times in the IM conversations.

1) Do you believe that childcare is primarily a mother’s responsibility or are both parents equally responsible?

It isn’t necessarily any one parent’s responsibility, but in a relationship where one partner earns the bulk of the family’s income it is likely that the other partner will predominantly take on this role, certainly during the weekdays. At the weekend, it should be much more of even split, perhaps even swinging more to the breadwinner.

2) If you believe that it is both parents’ responsibility, how is the childcare divided between you and your partner? Are you happy with the current arrangement?

I try to spend time with the children when I get home from work, even if it is just half an hour. They like to play before bed, cook, watch a bit of a movie or read stories with me. At the weekend I try to take the kids out of the house, usually on my own, to give my wife a little time to herself or with friends. Alternatively she may carry out a few tasks that are hard to do when looking after the children during the week.

I wouldn’t say I’m entirely happy with it as I tend to only spend a couple of hours with the children during the week but this is unavoidable when commuting to a job in London. At least I catch up with the kids at the weekend.

3) Current research suggests that men with two children whose partners works full-time and childcare is shared are happiest and least stressed. Why do you think this might be? Are you happier when your partner works?

Spending time with my children is a great way of winding down from a stressful day or week at work. When I’m with them, any thoughts about work instantly evaporate. Thats not to say the thoughts don’t return after they have gone to bed, but children put me in a better mood the moment I walk through door.

[After submitting this answer via email, I asked NH on IM if he could talk about how he feels about my work, which is part-time and done from home]

I’m happy that you make a contribution to the household income and that you’re “using your mind” a little too. I remember how just dealing with kids day in day out almost drove you mad.

Me: So you think I’m happier for working [at a paid job] a bit?

No doubt

4) In an ideal world, and if work/financial constraints were not an issue, how would you balance your professional, personal and family commitments? Would you like to spend more or less time at work and with family?

Ideally, I would work at home 2/3 days a week and be more active in taking/collecting them from school and spending more time with them afterwards e.g. playtime and homework. However, I would still feel part of “the team” at work though, by being there on other days.

5) We all know that women have had (and still have) numerous struggles within the workplace and balancing their careers with their families. Do you see men having the same struggles within the home, trying to spend time with their children and be accepted as adequate parents?

If I did work at home, I too would worry that colleagues without children would be favoured for career opportunities.

6) In your view, are fathers genuinely interested in having greater flexibility between work and home?

I’m not sure. I think most men would like the idea of being more active at home during the week but may shy away from it a little if it actually became a reality. I can imagine how hard it would be to carry out some of my work from home with the distraction of children – its the old joke that men can’t multi-task. Also, detaching oneself from office interaction and culture would be quickly missed by most men as well.

[I asked NH to expound upon this by IM]

Me: Do you think women are less inclined to find working at home difficult and miss office life, or just that they’ve had to get used to it?

They are better at juggling work and kids. A stereotype perhaps..or maybe they do learn to deal with it.

Me: Yes, that’s what I was going to ask, if you think ‘juggling’ work and children is something women do naturally or only do because they have to? Of course, I think it’s the latter but am fine if you disagree. Be honest!

I don’t really know. I suppose it depends on the person rather than the gender but on the whole, I’d imagine that women would be better. I’m certain that you would be better than me. I know I get easily distracted and would really struggle to work on a complex report if I had the “Daddy, Daddy” treatment from the kids.

At this point he had to get back to work, as did I, so our conversation ended. I would have liked to explore a couple points more in-depth, particularly how he imagines I get my work done while looking after the children if he believes it would be a struggle for him. I guess he doesn’t realise a) how much I shout and b) how much the TV is on when I’m working. Hey ho, another day, another interview. Until then…

Your intrepid gender relations investigator,

NS (with special thanks and love to NH)

United in apathy

NS September 19th, 2010

Yesterday Noble Husband and I sat on a bench together, watching with bemused smiles as our daughter stripped down to her knickers and submerged herself into a large bucket of water in the children’s park we were in for NB’s 2nd birthday celebration. She and another girl, both in only their underwear, had a grand time getting completely soaked and then rolling around in the sand adjacent to the water play area. At one point NG was writhing on the sand, laughing hysterically and making what can only be described as maniacal monkey sounds.

I looked at NH and asked, “Should I go get her to stop or at least put her clothes back on?”

He replied, “Nah. She’s having a good time. I can’t be bothered. Can you?”

“Nah.”

We ‘clinked’ the paper coffee cups we were each holding and exchanged wry glances.

“This idle parenting stuff is great, isn’t it?”

“It really is.”

Hair issues, I’ve got a few

NS August 16th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to do a review of The Idle Parent because I liked it so much.

Alas, as  I was ignoring the children this morning while attempting to finish something I was doing on the computer, Noble Boy scribbled all over its pages with a brown pencil.

If ever there was a good reason not to be able to review a book (at least if it requires re-quoting passages), that one should suffice for this book’s author.

Anyway, that’s not the reason I’m writing. In a subsequent not-really-ignoring-but-not-really-paying-that-much-attention-either episode later in the day, just after lunch, my strongly-held opposition to culturally-ingrained gender stereotypes was tested.

As I worked at the dining room table and the children played outside, drawing (on paper this time) and cutting out pictures from an old magazine, I became absorbed in my news-gathering (part and parcel of the ol’ editing job) and didn’t notice when Noble Girl disappeared from the table and strolled over to the shed, scissors clutched in her hand. It wasn’t until Noble Boy came to me crying, pulling at my hand to get up and see what had happened, that I realised with a growing sense of dread that something was very amiss.

My 4-year-old daughter — the one with long, beautiful, blond hair — stared at me with a mixture of confusion, fear and sadness in her eyes.  My jaw dropped when I saw the choppy mane hanging in ragged layers around her face and the piles of hair around her feet. I looked down at Noble Boy, who was still crying, and saw that she’d worked her scissor magic on his (already sparse) hair too. Where there had previously been fine wisps of white-blond hair, there were buzz-cut patches of intermittent baldness. I looked from daughter to son, son to daughter.

Readers, I am ashamed to say: my first reaction, in my head, was, “She looks like a boy! All that beautiful hair is gone! And my son, he looks like a regular thug. Whatever will we do?!”

I pulled myself together, gave myself a few internal slaps and worked rapidly to calm and reassure both children. A few hours later a pixie haircut at the barber shop and a stop by the drugstore for hair wax to make it stand up a bit and instead of a Poor Little Girl Who Looks Like a Boy With a Bad Haircut, we had a Super-Cool Rock Chick! All is fine, she loves her new do (mostly) and the crisis has been solved. We have to decide whether to leave Noble Boy’s hair alone and hope it grows out somewhat evenly or just complete the buzz cut Noble Girl started.

I’m still struggling with my initial reaction though. Obviously I haven’t managed to completely escape the GIRL = LONG HAIR trope. Oy vey.

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