I think just about everybody is aware that becoming a parent is going to involve some sacrifice. You give up work for a while, you have to forgo certain social activities, you can’t sleep whenever you like. But over the last five years of motherhood, it’s the smaller things that stick out.

Music choice: I can’t listen to my own music without somebody saying “But I wanted Disney songs!”

TV and movies: Ditto, if it isn’t Disney or Pixar, it just doesn’t happen.

A leisurely meal: Any meal is inevitably going to be interrupted, either by the need to go and assist a child with something or by a child wanting some of what I’m eating.

Daydreaming: Doing nothing sends children a clear signal that now is a good time to need me.

Silence: What is that?

Walking: I can’t just stride off anymore, I’ve got to modify your pace to suit shorter legs. This has also lowered my level of fitness and my weight; I used to briskly walk everywhere, but now I either dawdle or take the bus.

Belongings: Nothing is really mine anymore, not if somebody else thinks it looks appealing. Without constant vigilance and repeated “That is not yours!” things get lost or broken.

Personal space: I can’t move without elbowing somebody in the head.

Doctors, dentists, and hairdressers: I prefer not to have two bored restless children hanging about while people are trying to do delicate or precise things to me.


IMAG1336_0The other day I made a big mistake. I took the kids out, intending to be gone for several hours, and only took one dummy with me.

We were walking along the path beside the train tracks, on a lovely day, and Evelyn had her dummy in her mouth. She dropped it. Not normally a problem. Elspeth picked it up for me. Again, not usually an issue. But then Elspeth dropped it. And it clattered away. Under a five foot high fence.

It went too far for my short arms to reach, and so I had to climb over the fence. Yes, had to. Only had the one dummy with me, remember? So, over I went. Now, the cross-bars on that wire fence are on the side of the path, giving me a few millimetres to stick my toes on. Climbing over was no worries.

But deary me, trying to get back was not quite so easy! I am not as young as I used to be. (I just said ‘deary me’, see?) I had to wedge my feet into the holes sideways, and taking weight in that position is no picnic. For a few rather horrid moments I thought I was going to be stuck on the wrong side of the fence, separated from my children and all my belongings by a few impassable centimetres. However, I made it at last. I rather fudged the landing, and jarred my legs painfully, but I made it! One dummy, successfully recovered.

Job or not??

Again and again I see people assert that being a stay at home mum is a lifestyle choice, not a job. It only leaves me wondering why it can’t be both. As I see it, most jobs, careers, and workplaces are chosen with a degree of lifestyle in mind. You wouldn’t take a job that was incompatible with your lifestyle, and you would be more likely to want to work in a place which holds similar values to yourself and, hopefully, a place where you can be yourself and enjoy being there. Is that not a lifestyle choice? I fail to see why we need to draw stark distinctions between things which in truth are similar, related, or intertwined. I chose to be a stay at home mum, and I like it. I feel no regret. But I also acknowledge that it is work, a job. Like any job, it has ups and downs, good and bad bits. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work, and sometimes it does. Believe me, I didn’t want to be awake at 2am this morning, but that’s  part of the job and part of the lifestyle.
I also feel that claiming motherhood, or being a stay at home mum, is not a job somehow devalues what we do. “It’s only a lifestyle” belittles it and overlooks the effort we put in. It might be a lifestyle, but there’s no mansion or pool or eternal sunshine; instead there are midnight feeds, dirty nappies, and tantrums.

Further conversations with Elspeth

ImageMore quotes and conversations.


January 22, 2013:
Elspeth: Mum, I made a mud pie!
Me: Ok, who’s going to eat it?
Elspeth: Nobody, it’s made out of mud! But the mud is made out of playdoh.
January 17, 2013:
Elspeth is making up a song, and part of it goes, ‘How good is my voice? Do you like my voice? I think my voice is a very good voice!’
January 13, 2013:
Ellie’s holding a piece of sandwich and carrying on a conversation with herself in two different voices.
Voice one: I’m hungry.
Voice two: I’m full.
Voice one: I’m still hungry.
Voice two: But I’m really really full!
… and it went on like that.
January 11, 2013:
Aidan (watching cricket): That was a monster of a 6.
Ellie: What monster, I can’t see one, where is he?
January 8, 2013:
Elspeth just hid something for me to find, and when I said, ‘Hmmm, where could it be…’ she ran to it, pointed at it, and said ‘It could be here!’
January 3, 2013:
Me: Oh, Elspeth, you’ve got orange texta all over your pretty dress!
Elspeth: I’m making it MORE pretty!
January 1, 2013:
I was building towers for Evie, and Ellie came along and took some. ‘I’m stealing your blocks! It’s a lovely day for block stealing. Now I have a nice block collection.’

How to make friends when you’re three

‘Hello, what’s your name?’

That’s a great start. Especially when the child concerned has previously shown little to no inclination to be sociable.

However, when the addressee is two and shy and says nothing, the next step probably shouldn’t be to remark ‘I don’t think she heard me,’ and then crouch down, nose-to-nose, and shout, ‘HELLO, WHAT’S YOUR NAME!’

That is exactly what Elspeth did with several children at Child’s Play today. Fortunately for me, the parents of the other children just laughed and didn’t seem to mind that my daughter was screaming at their darlings demanding identification. And even happier, eventually Elspeth did ‘make friends’ with two of the children; twins called Chloe and Jake. Elspeth and Evelyn played with those two for quite a while, as I chatted with their mother, until we had to leave. Hooray for ‘making friends’.

Pragmatic versus the fantastic

DragonAs a child, I had a vivid imagination and was an avid reader. I lived in fantastical worlds, worlds from books or from my own imagination. In my games I was a princess, an adventurer, a damsel in distress. Anything was possible.

But my childhood (and ongoing) fascination with fantasy has led to a profound sense of dissatisfaction as an adult. Everyday life is drab, humdrum. Real people never embark on great quests or do battle with forces of evil.

Part of me knows it is ridiculous to even feel this way. In the words of Tim Minchin, ‘Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex, wonderfully unfathomable natural world?’ And he’s right, that should be enough. It is pretty amazing.

But where are my dragons? Where’s my holy grail, my quest, my dangerous journey, my mind-reading powers, my bow and arrow with which I will bring down the powers of evil, my letter from Hogwarts?

And so I ask this of my readers: If you had to raise a child, would you want it to have a vivid imagination and then later be disappointed by life? Or would you rather your child be completely down-to-earth and practical?

Quotes from a three year old

Here is a random selection of recent amusing quotes from Elspeth, or conversations with her. Enjoy!


August 27:

Me: Ok, Ellie, you can stay up for another five minutes.
Ellie: FOUR minutes!
Me: Ok!

September 4:

I told Elspeth that her sister makes disgusting smells, and a few minutes later she said to me, ‘I’m making a disgusting smile!’

September 5:

After clearly watching too much Playschool: ‘Come on, you be a butterfly too! Flutter flutter flutter.’

September 10:

While sitting on the toilet, having been bribed to do so: ‘I’m just doing this wee for a marshmallow.’

September 14:

‘Oh, there’s a sandwich in the toilet!’

September 23:

‘We live on the Earth, and Mercury doesn’t have a moon, and Venus hasn’t got any water!’

September 27:

While watching Aidan use a screwdriver: ‘I’m watching daddy screw!’

September 30:

Ellie: Do you like beetles?
Me: To eat?
Ellie: No, to look at.
Me: Yes, I like to look at beetles.
Ellie: Well, there’s not one here.

October 16:

‘We don’t live in Australia; we live in K-Mart!’

October 21:

Ellie: Can I have chocolate milk?
Me: No.
Ellie: Nanny will say I can have it.
Me: Go and ask her, then.
Ellie: Nanny, can I have chocolate milk?
Nanny: What did mummy say?
Ellie: You can say yes!

October 28:

Ellie, sounding genuinely distressed: Oh no! We have to buy a new beanbag!
Me: Why, what’s happened to this one?
Ellie: Evie got sandwich all over it!

November 1:

I told Elspeth I would go to the gym later, and she didn’t realise I meant after Aidan got home. She demanded to come with me, saying ‘Otherwise Evie and I will be all bored and lonely!’

November 3:

Ellie: One of our fish died and we had to put it in the toilet. Poppy doesn’t put his dead fish in the toilet. He puts them on the grass so Tiffany [my parents’ cat] can eat them.
Me: Yes, but we don’t have a Tiffany.
Ellie: We could get one. Then when Luggy [our surviving fish] dies she can eat him.

November 9:

Ellie: It’s time to do a handstand.
Me: Um, ok.
Ellie: I don’t know how. Do you?
Me: I haven’t done a handstand in about twenty years.
Ellie: Oh, well, maybe when you’re a bit older you will know how to do a handstand.

Me: Finish your dinner and you can have an icy pole.
Ellie: I’m not dinner hungry anymore. I’m icy pole hungry.