One Hellish Week

Urgh. Things have not been happy in the Wildling household just lately. Tom came down with oral thrush, which we can only assume was the result of him having been on antibiotic eyedrops for his conjunctivitis. He also picked up a cold from nursery, and, just to cap it all off, his lower canines are coming through.

Needless to say, we have had an extremely upset baby. He went from sleepy and clingy on Saturday, to screaming in pain at every mealtime on Sunday. By Monday last week, he was refusing to eat at all. Thankfully he would accept milk.

We’ve been treating him with antifungal gel four times a day, which has almost cleaned up the thrush. After three days of not eating, he began cautiously accepting weetabix (with added probiotic) on Thursday and is now basically back to normal with food.

Mr Techno and I are lucky to have been able to switch out most of the week, so neither one of us has had to take the full burden of caring for our sick little one. But it’s not been easy for any of us and I’m very glad that the end is in sight.

Unsurprisingly, all of this means we’ve not been getting out much! Apart from to the doctors of course. The new, though still unfinished, mud kitchen has been a bit of a saviour as a distraction when we have gotten out into the garden. But the lack of outdoor time was not helping my patience.

In fact…I did have a bit of a meltdown on Saturday morning. Tom was refusing to nap. I’ve not been feeling well either, and all I wanted was a hot bath. And Mr Techno had to go to work. So I was pissed off. And feeling like an awful mother for not putting my wants to one side to be there for my sick baby. All of which I kind of shouted at Mr Techno. Except with a lot more swear words (Tom wasn’t in the room at the time). Seriously, the man has the patience of a saint sometimes.

Anyway. It was fine once I had the rant out of my system. I got my bath, although it had to involve a lot of Tom ‘help’…so I was joined by lots of toys and had to avoid getting my hair washed. Then we went to meet friends at Victoria Park. We had lunch, which Tom ate (it was mine, but hey, he was eating) and a long walk. And suddenly everything was manageable again.

Thank goodness for the healing power of the great outdoors!

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One Year as a Working Mum

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This time last year, Tom was 6 months old. And I was starting back at work, after 7 months of maternity leave. He had started at nursery two weeks before – one week of settling in and one week of early pick ups – and had mostly settled well, apart from a few napping issues. I was still a bit shaky about leaving him, but could see he was being well cared for.

I know it’s not the case for everyone, but I actually really enjoy being a working mum. Although I miss my boy whenever I’m away from him. I really enjoy my job. I’m extremely lucky that my circumstances worked out to allow me to come back just three days a week (job-sharing with the lady I covered when she was on maternity leave). Also…my job involves organising training courses for a building conservation charity. I get to do things like hang out at the Tower of London or Hampton Court Palace all day, calling it work. It’s not so much with the financial rewards, but the pay off in job satisfaction and life/work balance is more than worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I was still breastfeeding when I went back, and pumping at work was not much fun. I sometimes have to travel around the country to run courses, which means leaving Tom overnight. And the logistics of childcare are often a bit mind boggling. As is the cost!

For the most part though, having something outside my family life gives me a lot of personal reward. It has led to a more equal parenting relationship between Mr Techno and I, as we both work and both stay home with Tom. And I’d even argue that it makes me a better mum – I don’t do well with being home full time. Being away part of the week means I am more willing to concentrate fully on Tom when we are together.

My situation wouldn’t suit everyone – I know there are lots of working mums who would rather be home with their babies. And plenty of stay at home mums who get lots of satisfaction from being there for their kids full time. But for me, this seems to be a good balance.

Guest Post: Trapped Wind and Sleep Deprivation

Hello! Just popping by quickly to say I am guest-posting over at The Butterfly Mother today, as part of Laura’s wonderful My Mountain series about parenting challenges. I’m talking about having a newborn suffering with trapped wind and trying to cope with the lack of sleep. So do head over there and check it out.

In other news, Wednesday was Mr Techno’s birthday, so we are staying at his parents’ house in Waterloo this weekend to take advantage of some free babysitting. Curry with friends tonight, dinner with his extended family tomorrow…and probably an extended hang-over for the whole weekend. But at least we can enjoy some toddler free fun!

Hope you all have a good one!

Parity, Penises and Parenting: A Post for International Women’s Day

I spent most of my late teens and early twenties insisting I wasn’t a feminist. I didn’t see the need. From my safe, privileged bubble it looked as though that war was over. And I’d bought into the myth that feminists are man-haters who think women are better than men, rather than just equal to. Essentially, past-me was an idiot.

As I got older, entered the workplace and learnt a bit more about the world, I realised that the fight for equality between the genders was very much not over. Even in the UK, where we have made huge strides, women take home less money than men and make up a greater percentage of those earning only the national minimum wage. Almost 80% of senior management posts worldwide are held by men. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 women are subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime (source for all of these stats). Clearly, there is still a huge problem. And that’s even before we look at areas of the world where ‘women’s rights’ is a phrase that simply does not apply.

One of the simultaneously most empowering and most scary parts of being a parent is when you realise how much power you have to shape the views and opinions of another human being. And if we all raise our kids to know in their bones that men and women are equal, that skin colour has nothing to do with a person’s worth, and that who you choose to take to bed is only the business of you and that person (assuming everyone is legal and consenting of course)…we won’t have to have these conversations anymore. Equality will be a given.

Sometimes I think that this must be more straightforward for parents of girls. Not easy. I see nothing easy about having to challenge the endemic and often unconscious sexism that women encounter all the time. But the need to challenge that view, to provide strong female role models, to do your best to bring up an empowered woman who knows her worth…that need must feel pretty urgent.

I don’t have a daughter though. I have a son. My boy is white, male and middle-class, growing up in a world where being white, male and middle-class makes you one of the privileged ones. This makes the need to provide examples of female empowerment feel a little less urgent. A little less relevant. Which is, of course, a dangerous attitude. Because equality between the genders (and I include every possible permutation in that, not just the classic male/female) will only come when everyone believes in it. It’s not a battle that can, or should, be won by women alone.

As always in parenting, this is a matter of balance. Tom was born with a penis. This is a biological fact. And, regardless of whether he grows up to be a straight man, or a gay man, or a trans woman or any other of the wonderful variety of things that humans can be, being born with a penis is going to form a big part of his identity. So the last thing I want to do is make him feel guilty about that. I’ve spent most of my life feeling obscurely guilty for the fact I was lucky enough to be born into a well-off family…as though it was something I chose. I don’t want that for him.

So how do we do this? How do we raise a son who knows that women and men are equal, without making him feel guilty for being born a member of the sex who has historically been dominant? (this is a genuine question by the way – we have some ideas but are not exactly experts…)

He’s only 18 months, so the more in depth conversations are going to have to wait until his vocabulary expands a bit (somehow I don’t think ‘car’ and ‘doggy’ are going to cut it). At the moment, our approach to this issue mainly revolves around not labeling behaviours as typically male or typically female (Tom loves cars for example. And also tea parties and dancing and housework. Sometimes all together).

We are providing him with toys from both the blue and pink sections of the toy aisle – and boy does that bit of marketing make me angry! We are on the look out for stories with strong female characters as well as strong male ones (any suggestions very welcome). And we are trying to model equality in our marriage. Both Mr Techno and I go out to work. Both of us have days where we are home alone with Tom. Both of us cook. Both of us do housework. Both of us do DIY. I’m more likely to do the clothes wash and he’s more likely to handle power tools…but we are getting there.

I guess we just keep talking to Tom. At an age appropriate level. Challenge sexism wherever we see it. Provide examples of both women and men who step outside of accepted gender roles. And make sure he continues to grow up around men who are comfortable in who they are without needing to put down women (or anyone else) in order to feel powerful.

So here is my #PledgeForParity for International Women’s Day: I will not only call myself a feminist, I will raise my son to call himself one too.

Suck on that, past-me.

PS. If you’d like to see some amazing women who are proving that the construction industry isn’t just for men…head over to the SPAB’s Vimeo Channel where my colleague Ali has been putting together videos showcasing women working in building conservation – from architects to building surveyors to stonemasons. And check out the SPAB’s careers advice page whilst you are at it to see how your daughters, or sons, could develop a career working with historic buildings (I wrote it, so you know it will be brilliant).

PPS. This post is linked up with Lulastic’s International Women’s Day link up. So head over there to read more: http://lulastic.co.uk/activism/feminism/international-womens-day-2016-blog-link-up/

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Helpful Hands

Ever since Tom was born, Mr Techno and I have joked that he suffers from helpful hands. As a teeny tiny baby, he used to use them to try to help me latch him on…more often than not resulting in him detaching himself altogether. He’s equally helpful when it comes to cooking, DIY, and brushing his teeth.

But something bizarre has happened in the last few weeks. Tom has become…genuinely helpful.

He helps me clean up his room, putting everything back in the (correct) container before bathtime. He wipes up spills if I hand him a cloth, and even helps with the hoovering

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Sadly, I’m pretty sure this is a phase all toddlers go through and it doesn’t mean he will be amenable to helping with housework as a teenager. But hey, it’s good while it lasts!

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Sadly, the washing up is still an area where more mess gets created than clean plates...