No baby on board

I didn’t wear a Baby on Board badge when I was pregnant. I didn’t want to be labelled as ‘Pregnant lady in need of a seat’ and I relied on the goodwill of others to offer me seats off their own bat, and not just because my badge told them they should. Sometimes it worked (there was a nice lady at Stratford station that would accompany onto the DLR and ask me loudly how my pregnancy was going so that someone would offer me a seat) and quite often it didn’t – case in point being my last day at work before I took maternity leave, at 29 weeks. I stood on the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich to Stratford with my massive bump and not one of the buggers offered me a seat.

With nearly five years of accumulated wisdom, I would now wear TEN Baby on Board badges and rub my swollen belly in commuters’ faces.

As a result of my dying swan act last week, everyone at work decided I was pregnant. I have told them I’m most definitely not, but I don’t think they believe me. I suspect that some of them are waiting for me to brandish 12 week scan photos in a few weeks’ time. They are going to be extremely disappointed.

I may not be pregnant, but I have developed a knack for knowing when other people are, well before they make the news public. I looked at one of my colleagues a few weeks ago and thought ‘Gosh darn it, she’s up the duff’. You don’t ask of course. You wait for the announcement. Only…the announcement didn’t come. Colleague was definitely acting a bit strangely (downing food when she’s normally quite careful) and she was getting a bit of a tummy…but I get a belly when I’ve eaten too much bread (bloody IBS) so it doesn’t do to assume. I took the cowards way out and e-mailed another colleague.

I was right of course. 15 weeks. So I worked it out when she was 8-9 weeks pregnant. I rock, obviously. *does one woman Mexican wave*. She doesn’t wear a Baby on Board badge either.

I need a badge or maybe a flashing neon sign above my desk that says: ‘BABY NOT ON BOARD’ in big letters and ‘Husband has been to the Vets’ in smaller letters underneath.

 

Monday morning

BC (Before Children) I hated Monday morning as much as every other person on the planet with a job. Monday morning was God’s way of punishing you for having a life away from the office I used to struggle grumpily out of bed and throw myself in the shower, swearing and grunting until I was awake enough to face the world.

AT (After Twins) I now regard Monday morning as a rather wonderful thing. I adore my children. Honestly I do. However, I love going to work, docking my laptop and settling down in front of my computer, hot chocolate in one hand and a piece of toast in the other. I like the quiet hum of the office, the mumbled greetings and the office gossip. I like flicking through my e-mails, opening my post and checking my electronic diary for meetings and events. I like popping over to the tap to fill up my water bottle and wondering down to the canteen to see what today’s specials are. I like answering enquiries, dealing with requests and thinking, that in some small way, I’m making a difference to someone, somewhere. I like being able to go to the toilet in peace. I like the fact that no-one constantly shouts Mummy Mummy MUMMY at me with increasing urgency for some life-threatening reason like losing a Peppa Pig snap card, completing a drawing or needing yet another snack.

R and G are safely despatched to nursery, after a lovely weekend with Mummy, Daddy or both of us, eager to tell their friends about their adventures and do more of the stuff that pre-schoolers do. Dh is either (depending on his shift pattern) at work or pottering around at home. I get to have some ‘Grown-up’ time, which makes me appreciate my time at home even more.

I think Monday mornings are BRILLIANT.

Interview with dh – family life

My questions and comments are in bold and Dh’s replies are in normal font.

What do you do?

Train driver, dad to G & R.

Shift work…I swear that several people from nursery think that you don’t work…

…cos I wonder in wearing a t-shirt and shorts

Yes, some of them are really weird about it…like, does your husband not work? Oh..

Everyone else is wearing suits and…

Running backwards and forwards…you’re strolling in…strolling home. You do scary shifts…40 hours a week as a train driver. You tend to work a lot of weekends as well. It means you’re around a lot during the week

It has its advantages

I work at home two days a week so I’m beavering away in my office and I can hear you bellowing at one of the children. It’s generally NO GRACE NO NO GRACE STOP DOING THAT GRACE!

I don’t bellow to start with…after the first five times I bellow.

I don’t think I’d ever heard you shout until we had children

It’s most frustrating when they’re hurting each other, or I think they’re going to get hurt if they’re climbing and grabbing something that’s going to hurt them and they won’t listen. They’ll get upset but you think ‘No, I just don’t want you to get hurt’. They’ve stopped biting and hitting each other. Now they’re just rough with each other and climb things.

I find it strange that we’re seen as young parents.

We get that a lot don’t we?

My Mum was 19 when she had me. In one generation it seems to be normal that you have kids when you’re fifteen years older than us. It’s where we live though. We live in quite a snobby place so the parents are older. We’re probably the youngest parents at nursery [and we’re not that young!] but you can’t ask!

Lobotomy

NEWSFLASH: Women who have children do not have full-frontal lobotomies.

SHOCK HORROR!

There seems to be a perception that all women, once they become mothers, instantly dissolve into a massive puddle of hormones the moment they come into contact with a baby. Any baby. Babies in the street, babies in shops, babies in workplaces apparently reduce us mummies to gibbering idiots.

Erm, nope. To be perfectly honest I have very limited interested in children that aren’t R and G. I absolutely adore them. I also like babies and children belonging to friends and family. I’m hopeless with them, but I like them and I’m interested in their development and all-round loveliness. Babies of strangers? Not so much. My womb doesn’t twang the moment I catch sight of a baby.

Amazingly women who are mothers are also perfectly capable of having interesting conversations about things that have nothing to do with babies or children. Speaking for my people, we actually love talking about non-child things. The first thing that people tend to know about me is that I have twins. Some people move beyond that. Most people don’t.

I don’t mention R and G at work unless someone asks me a direct question about them and even then I try to steer the conversation round to something else? Why? Work is my grown-up time; my escape from family life. I have a photo of the girls on my desk and people are welcome to look and ask questions – I won’t be rude – but it’s not what I’m there for. I can’t bear women that constantly reference their children in conversation in the workplace. Do they know that they are spouting drivel? The funny thing that thingy did is probably hilarious to them but no-one else. Everyone smiles when someone tells an anecdote but you can actually see the boredom, the ‘Kill me now’ look in their eyes.

Yes, I’m a mother. Yes, I have twins. Yes, I think they’re marvellous. I also have three degrees. I’m a Librarian. I work with social workers. I’m married to Dh and we’ve been together for years and still like each other. I love music. I do cross-stitch and make cards. I love shopping. I adore handbags. I like expensive make-up. I watch television. I do some writing. I’m an avid people-watcher. I love sport (Harlequins RFC, Surrey CC and Boston Red Sox, since you asked). I’m a space geek. I love 19th Century British History. I’m a bit fond of trains. I’m a Socialist. I’m an avid reader. I love my family and friends. I like eating out. I’m fond of wine and cocktails (not together). I’m sarcastic and love nothing more than some good humoured banter. None of this has stopped being true since I had R and G.

When you pigeonhole me as ‘just’ a mother with nothing else of note to offer you devalue me and every women who also happens to be a mother on the planet. We don’t lose our minds when we have children. Our minds are enriched by children, not decimated. When you choose to define me in such narrow terms you expose the limits of your imagination.

Maybe you’re the one that has had the lobotomy.

p.s. This  post is not about *one* person or one event. It’s not aimed at *anyone* in particular. It’s a general observation. Ok?

Five minutes peace

At the risk of making zillions of parents extremely jealous I’m going to reveal that I actually had a couple of hours of continuous peace and quiet today. I was delivering training in Sheffield which involved a couple of rather long train journeys. On the way up I was preparing for my presentation and doing a bit of light Monday morning work. Training duly delivered, I was able to relax on the train back to London.

I spent two glorious hours listening to music and podcasts on my ipod, checking my phone, eating chocolate, reading magazines and doing a puzzle book. It was complete and utter bliss! The only fly in the ointment was the extremely smelly bloke that sat directly in front of my carefully chosen seat in the quiet coach and emitted musty odours for the duration of the journey. As long as I held my breath (sporadically) it was fine. Oh and I stupidly bought a hot chocolate on board and it was quite possibly the most disgusting drink I’ve ever tasted apart from Jack Daniels. Yuck. Aside from that, it was lovely.

Relaxation time like this is extremely rare for me. I’m usually chasing after two barking mad three year olds, working, doing librarian-y stuff, doing wifey things, catching up with housework or working towards mad self-set challenges, like time-bound cross-stitch projects or training for walking marathons. I’m very bad at relaxing but very occasionally I’m in a position to be able to do nothing of note for an hour or two. As my counsellor said to me a couple of years ago, there’s no harm in sitting back and smelling the roses once in a while.

I wish the train carriage had smelt a bit sweeter, mind…