When Pinterest Meets Guilt

Pinterest is my mother-so-secret obsession. I’ve had to delete the app from my phone to stop myself from scrolling through the endless images created by people with far more skills than I when I actually have a million other things to be doing. I know I’ll never be able to entirely recreate the images on these board, but I still like to think that pinning them makes me a step closer.

I’m aware that other mothers feel guilt, but I like to keep mine secret. I love my kids and I do the best for them and logically that should be enough. I should not feel guilty and so when I do, because of course I do, I don’t tell anyone. When my friends admit that guilt has stopped them from leaving before bedtime or going on a spa weekend or taking on an extra day at work, I feel slightly smug that I don’t have such problems.

These two things may seem unrelated, but when I came across a this image of a dolls house, I was surprised by the ferocity with which they collided.

Young House Love's homemade dollshouse

I should probably explain that on the rare occasion I take Squeak to playgroup, she makes a beeline for the large plastic dolls house. She doesn’t seem to mind that there are only two dolls, a bed a cot and two chairs, but she minds a lot when another two-year old toddles over to share it. I decide that a dolls house would be a perfect birthday present and find only two problems with this. Firstly, they seem to cost a ridiculous amount of money. And then require you to spend more money on dolls and furniture. Secondly, they are all hideous. Huge, plastic and in three luminous shades of pink. And I look at the tasteful picture and utter the stupidest words possible: How hard could it be?

After a quick discussion with Stanchion (in which it was made clear that any attempt to build my own dolls house would not be salvaged by him), I decided not to build my own, but to buy, paint and decorate a second-hand house. And this is what I found:

eBay house image

It arrived covered in the dirt and grime of years in the attic and I seriously worried about what I had let myself in for. But by this point I was in too deep. Areed with a mixed bag of wooden furniture and an unwise amount of determination I poured a bowl of soapy water and got to work.

It turns out that washing something and painting it white makes a huge difference. Adding in the printed wallpaper to the back wall and the painted furniture makes it bright and colourful. I’m feeling pretty proud of my homemade dolls house. (I mean, don’t look too closely at the edges and corners and really don’t mention how the floor fell off and Stanchion had to screw it back on again meaning that he can forever remind me how I managed to bite off more than I could chew.)

But it’s really not about me, is it? That’s where the guilt comes in. Or rather, not guilt, so much as a worry that my best might not be good enough. And then Squeak ripped the paper off with the biggest grin ever, and I decided that this time, my best was good enough.

Ripping off the paperPlaying with dolls house

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Camping for Kids

I suppose a large part of parenting is about putting your own needs aside to do what is necessary for your children. That’s why it took me a while to get my head around the idea of being a parent – it just didn’t sound as much fun as putting your own needs first.

But now that I am a parent, sacrifices need to be made. That is why I am taking a deep breath as I prepare to go camping for the weekend. I am fully aware that around the world there are parents making bigger sacrifices for their kids: giving up careers to look after them, working every hour of the day to fund their child’s education, or even starving so their children can eat. And I’ll admit two nights in a tent isn’t quite up there; but it is still a big deal for me.

I know camping is something that many people choose to do for pleasure, but I’m just not one of them. Mostly this is because if I had to write a list of the things that were most important to me, up somewhere near the top, just below my family, would be my bed and my morning cup of tea. Stanchion is not like this. Not only does he not see camping as a hardship, but he actually enjoys it. He has bought me an airbed and promised to make me a cup of tea as soon as I wake up. So I’m going.

We took Quibble camping when he was two. There were four couples, each with a child. It rained. A lot. And the kids loved it. They loved the tents, they loved the muddy puddles, they loved being outdoors and running (relatively) wild. There’s something about the slight anarchy of camping, where the rules are relaxed and everything is an adventure, that appeals to children.

And the thing I didn’t understand before I had children was the way seeing your child happy, makes you happy. It’s fun to see them having fun. It’s even better when you embrace your inner child and join them jumping up and down in muddy puddles.

So this weekend, while I may spend a lot of time huddled under blankets trying to keep warm or wearing head-to-toe waterproofs, I will get to see Quibble and Squeak playing and laughing with the other children. And I know I will end up laughing with them. If the price for all this laughter is a couple of nights without a real bed, I think that’s okay. I just wish there wasn’t so much rain forecast.

No worries

I was warned so many times about how once I became a parent I would spend my life weighed down by guilt. And a few people talked about the love that I would feel for my children. But I don’t remember a single person warning me about the fear.

So many things to do with a baby are potentially terrifying, it’s sometimes hard to know when to be genuinely scared. When Quibble was tiny, we used the phrase ‘danger of death!’ to refer to anything we weren’t supposed to do. It was a flippant phrase that we used to try and offset the unremitting anxiety.

Two weeks before Squeak was due to be born, I woke during the night to find I was bleeding. People later asked me if I was scared and I told them that I was mostly relieved to find I wasn’t incontinent. While this was partly true, there was a moment as I sat, having just been told by the hospital to come in immediately, by ambulance if necessary, when I allowed myself to think, ‘Please be okay,’. Just for a moment. I couldn’t articulate anything more than that, because to be really scared would have meant thinking about what the alternative might be.

Last weekend I found myself at the hospital again, this time at the Children’s Accident and Emergency department with Squeak. I had been referred by a nurse at the walk-in clinic because she had a temperature, had become lethargic and was having to put a lot of effort into breathing. The afternoon turned into evening; doctors mentioned sending us up to the ward; we were sent for an X-ray; she had a cannula for blood tests; still there were no answers. I found myself alone in the waiting area, the fresh aroma of sick on my jeans, holding a baby whose head leant pathetically against my shoulder. It was approaching ten o’clock at night and I hadn’t eaten or been to the toilet, or done anything at all since mid-afternoon except carry Squeak. I had been consoling myself that everyone was overreacting about what probably just another virus, but in a moment of weakness I began to glimpse the other possibility that she really was very ill. Exhausted as I was, I realised that if I was going to have to allow this possibility in, I wouldn’t be able to cope.

I called for Stanchion: I always feel stronger when we’re a team. He found an emergency babysitter for Quibble and drove to the hospital to bring me a bag of necessities and a hug. When the nurses came to carry out their obs on Squeak half an hour later, they found she had fallen asleep on me; her temperature, heart rate and breathing rate were all down. Happy that she was out of danger they let us finally go home.

When my friends ask about it, I will tell them about how I have now learnt how important it is to find the correct car park to avoid being sent on a ridiculously long route through the hospital. I will laugh with them about how I overheard that the boy in the next cubicle had a marble stuck up his nose. And I’ll complain that  being forced to watch so much CBeebies melted my brain. But I won’t mention how scared I got, because I’d rather not remember.

Maybe that’s why no one mentions it. If we knew how scary it was to be a parent, would anyone ever do it?