Wednesday, 27 September 2017

On Being a Housewife

Being a housewife was never something I aspired to. Everybody is different, but no matter how many kids I was ever going to have, I was never going to be the stay-at-home parent. Certainly not full time, anyway.

However, now my MA is finished and I am almost finished up in my paid employment, I am in this strange limbo of not knowing where I am. Technically, still employed, almost a full time student on the cusp of beginning my PhD, but I am waiting. I've been told by various people that I should now have a short break before I start, leave the books for a bit and chill out. That's not really feasible for me. I still have three kids, and my husband works full time, so really - when I am home, I am the housewife.

It bores me.

It makes me exhausted.

It is repetitive and completely unfulfilling for me.

When I've dropped the kids off at school:

I do a full shop,
I put the shop away
I do two loads of washing
Clean the house
Make the beds
I bake two batches of healthy snacks for the kids
I build a shoe-rack to de-clutter
I make a roast dinner

When I pick the kids up from school:

The kids wreck the house
They sling their bags and shoes everywhere
They drop crumbs on the floor
They wrinkle all the bed sheets
They don't eat the snacks because they have "green" in them

I sit back, defeated.

I love them, and they love me. But just as I am not 100% of their world, they are not 100% of mine.

Just as they must be fed, looked after, educated, loved, so too do I need all of these things. I am one of the pillars in the house. One of the parents. I am responsible for my children's health and well-being.

I do that better when I have my "other projects." I am more productive, I have more energy, I am happier. I like to achieve, and my achievements are measured by the impact they have on me, my career - I do not count my children's achievements as my own - they are their own little selves. A day of housework is wasted, I will scrub and dust and clean, they will mess it up and the next day I will scrub and dust and clean, and it will always leave me tired and fed up. I will always want more.

I am not a housewife.

I won't feel guilty about this.

*repeats mantra*

Friday, 22 September 2017

That time the kids all went to school and I did my own head in...

I've worked for like a million years and had about 467 kids.* So I've never really had a day off. Not properly

*slight exaggeration, sorry.

So when they all decided to up and leave me and go to school, I was ecstatic. I mean, what's not to like. OK, I know I'm doing a PhD and that, but I did my degree and MA with them swinging from my neck, so doing a PhD in silence will be easy, right?

Anyway, I digress. I'm having a break from studying as I've just handed in my MA dissertation and I am properly exhausted. Like those popstars who tour the world and then suddenly go off with mental exhaustion. Exactly like that. (Except with less alcohol and zero illegal drugs.)

So I have two days off work a week. And all three of my children are in school the little idiots cherubs.

There is a 14 year old too, but as if she would get in the photo

And so. I'm free. Free-ish. What do I do. Well, here is a run-down of the one day I did my own head in.

I cleaned the house. Like loads. I don't value being a slave to the house, but I figure if I can get most of the shitty jobs done, we can relax later. And because no one is here it will stay relatively clean.

It's now 10.00am. The jobs are done. I sit in a lovely clean house. I sigh. I don't watch telly because it rots your brain. And also daytime is telly is just crap isn't it. I pick up Capital by Karl Marx. I put it down again, because RELAXING. I'm meant to be having some days off.

10.10am Make a coffee. Accidentally set fire to a tea-towel. Chuck it in the sink and wonder what this all means.

Charred remains

10.20am Drive to Aldi. Stroll around with all the old people like a QUEEN. Look at me. I'm SHOPPING on my OWN, it's so easy and I'm not one of those selfish twats who park in the kids bit with no kids. Ooh look. Muesli. Lots of types of muesli. Muesli. The word has lost all meaning and muesli tastes like cardboard anyway.

Ooh I'm bored. Pushing this trolley around. Move out the way Doris, I'm trying to get to the thin-sliced ham. The kids like to roll it up like a cigar and chomp chomp chomp. Oooh dog food. Maybe I could buy dog food and then we could get a dog, and on my days off I could walk it.

Furniture polish. Got to get me some of that.
Floor wipes. What have I become?

10.45am - I'm driving home with the shopping. It's all packed away in sections. I'm like this super efficient machine. I CAN DO ANYTHING.

11.00am Shopping is away. I'm bored.

I did tell you I was exhausted

What could I DO? I brainstorm:

1) Run around Kirkby town centre and time myself how long it takes to run in and out of the shops
2) Wear odd brogues, one tan and one navy, see how long it takes someone to notice
3) Join baby massage again. I could take a doll. "Aaah massage FRIEND"
4) Re-read Capital
5) Learn a new language or learn the guitar

12.00 Dinner. Boring salad dinner. (I'm Northern and working class, I don't do lunch.) Although I did put olives in and Warren has sun-dried tomatoes which does mean I can dip my toe into middle-class utopia now and again when it suits.

I could go to the gym, but now I've eaten and I'm full and CAN'T BE BOTHERED.

Could shove a load of make-up on and do my hair to pretend to be normal?


Nails. File nails. Damaged by tap-tapping on the laptop doing my dissertation.... STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. DAY OFF DAY OFF DAY OFF.

I wonder what it would be like if I had a dog. Home admin like insurance and vet bills put me off and swing me to no. Plus, we have a lizard and he would hate the dog. My dog would be an ex-greyhound. I mean ex-racing dog. Presumably he would still remain a greyhound.


I make a curry, and contemplate baking a cake. Sit on the couch, finish knitting a weird blanket I started to switch off. Realise blanket is weird. Looks weird. Regret ever starting it.

Knitting for the colour-blind, clearly

Wonder if brain will ever switch off.

Monday, 18 September 2017

To the Mums Going Back to University...

Bloody hell there are a lot of you! On my Facebook timeline, on Twitter, on Instagram. It's great to see all this new stationery, new routines, new rules, new life. All these busy parents going all out to train or re-train. I didn't ever know there were quite so many of us.

I think I'm old hat at this now. I've been doing it for about 7 years. I started with my undergrad, then my post-grad. Now I'm starting my PhD. What I'm writing here will not be true for everyone, and it might not be true all of the time, but some of it will be relevant for some of the time. There are two three main truths in all of this:

1) Parenting is hard

2) Studying is hard

3) Home-making is hard

And you are probably going to start juggling all three. You can't ditch any of these things. If you have a partner, they are probably going to have to step up to take some of the weight off 1) and 3), but you're pretty much on your own for 2). You need a lot of support, encouragement, and you probably need to grow a thick skin.

*strokes leather back*

Here are a few tips. I'm not an expert, I've just done this a long time and I've faced all of the obstacles. I've had kids swinging off me, took kids to the library, to the school office to drop essays in. I've revised for exams in soft play, I've done reading and cooking at the same time. It's hard.


1) Have a support network You need people you can call on in an emergency. If you are doing a dissertation or extended placement or piece of work, you are going to need time out, time away from your kids and everything. This is where other people could help. Friends, family. If you have that then I reckon you are already on to a winner.

2) Work when you are at your best Morning person? Do it then. Night owl? Do it then. I'm a night owl. I'm terrible in the mornings and besides I always had to get to work. I'd work, then pick the kids up, do the tea and then work late at night. There was little or no rest. I also tended to binge-study. You might be better doing it in short bursts, whatever works for you.

3) Routine Have a routine. Make sure the kids' book bags, PE kits or whatever are all sorted the night before. If you forget something for the kids then have to dash off to uni or wherever, you will feel all kinds of guilty. It's just one of those things, but you don't need any further pressure.

4) Have a Strong Mind Why are you doing this? Remind yourself often. Try and find like-minded people in a similar situation. Draw strength from them, and likewise enjoy the company of people who are not in a similar situation - learn from them too. Find tutors, supervisors, peers to look up to. Look to the future and keep your goals in mind. Explain to the kids what you are doing and why - involve them. Try not to split yourself up, remain whole and keep your identity.

5) Rest  It is hard to switch off. Very hard. Especially if you have a deadline or are stuck on a task. Find whatever it is that helps you switch off and use it like a crutch. Exercise is the obvious one, but a hot bath, some music, night out, whatever. Just make time for yourself.

I can't list everything I have learned here. It has been a hard slog. I handed in my dissertation, and so I am 'free' of uni work for a couple of weeks. Tonight, I got in from work, picked the kids up from school, made the tea, made salad for tomorrow, made carrot and coriander soup, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, played with the kids, sent a few emails for work and sat to write this blog post.

I find my energy is endless because I am used to this. I can't not do anything, it is not in my nature. I am not saying that this is a good thing, I am saying that I have trained myself to be a do-er. You will find your own normal.

Good luck!

Review: Goodlife Foods

As busy parents, preparing food that is tasty and healthy is obviously a concern of ours. We do tend to try and cook from fresh most of the time, but there are nights when we are in need of an 'easy' meal option. Pizzas and takeaways often feature as part of this and although we know they are not the healthiest of options, sometimes it just suits what we need for that moment in time. We're also keen to expand our repertoire regarding food and often try to incorporate some vegetarian options.

We were excited to be given the opportunity to review a new brand called Goodlife Foods.  Goodlife Foods believe that every meal should have vegetables as the main bulk of the meal, and source the best vegetables to create healthy and tasty vegetarian meals. I think this is an excellent idea - combining the use of fresh vegetables in a ready meal is something that I think we as a family could definitely make use of on a regular basis, to diversify our meal options and also to introduce new vegetable combinations that perhaps we wouldn't have considered otherwise.

The kids are sometimes a bit fussy about trying new things, but we set aside a few meals and told the kids that we would be trying something new 'for mummy's blog' and they all were on board!

Goodlife Falafel with Chickpea, Cumin & Coriander

These yummy little falafel balls are made with cumin, coriander, garlic, chilli and lemon juice. To cook them we just popped them in the oven for 15 minutes. They were very firm and really lovely to eat. We served them with a large salad and had pitta breads and yoghurt and mint sauce with them. The pack has 14 balls in so just the right amount for one meal for our family (five of us all together) and at £1.80 per pack, this is also excellent value.

Goodlife French Bean & Spinach Sausages with Wensleydale Cheese

These veggie sausages are made of peas, spinach, Wensleydale cheese, cauliflower, green beans with rehydrated bulgur wheat and couscous in a vegetable casing. We really enjoyed these. They come in a pack of 6, so we did buy two packs (some were leftover for lunch the next day!) These are a great alternative to pork sausages and a lot healthier. These were Rosie's favourite!

Goodlife Vegetable Masala with Cauliflower Rice Ready Meal

Both myself and Warren tried this one, as the kids are never really fussed about curries. This is a big bowl of health as far as I can tell. The meal contains cauliflower, red pepper and sweet potato and curry sauce with coconut milk, onion, lentils and chick peas, which is a whopping three of your five-a-day in one meal - can't argue with that! It tasted really good too. I am a big fan of cauliflower rice anyway, and the sweet potato and pepper made this a really lovely creamy curry to go with it.

Goodlife Mushroom & Spinach Kiev with a Creamy Garlic & Cheese Sauce

This is a perfect veggie kiev. Made with mushroom and spinach and a garlic and cheese sauce coated in a seeded breadcrumb - it is perfect to go with mashed potatoes, new potatoes or even pasta. The two younger girls particularly enjoyed this. There were two in each pack and they both manages one each. The sauce was really creamy and we thought this tasted great.

Overall I would really recommend these products. Not only are they vegetarian, they are actually packed with lots of vegetables, and are also low fat. I think the price is actually great for a ready meal too - definitely better than splashing out on take-aways or pizzas - this is always the quick (and expensive!) way that we are trying to avoid going forward. We would definitely look to purchasing these products as part of our staple shop.

We bought these products from Sainsbury's but they are stocked in other supermarkets. I am looking forward to trying out any new products that Goodlife produce - we really enjoyed testing these products.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Week in September

It was never going to be me. I was never just going to be just "Emily's Mum"

"Alice's Mum"

"Rosie's Mum"

I was always so busy, studying, working, blogging, the occasional night out with my husband, the odd wine-fuelled gig, a rare short child-free break away to places with castles and plush hotel suites. When the kids were under 5, there was always somewhere for me to be; a meeting, a school play, a uni assignment to hand in, a blogging conference. I was never the stay-at-home-parent.

Too busy.

And yet now, I find myself on the brink of all three of them being in full time school and I can barely breathe thinking about how that makes me feel. What it reduces me to. We went out today, just me and Alice. I took her to Liverpool to spend some of her birthday money. It was calm. Just me and her, walking through the museum, the library, the park. I could breathe and I could think - without the relentless noise that all three of them make when they are all together. And noise is what it is. Everything that is individually important to them becomes an individual weight for me to carry, times three. And I carry it. Their troubles, their issues, their minor playground spats.

Today it was just Alice, and somehow I felt lost.

I looked at the menu in the Italian restaurant and I didn't know what I wanted. I sent seven texts to my husband and posted inane nonsense on Instagram. What did I want? Some sort of credit, a like, a text message, any sort of message? Some reassurance that I was OK?

It feels like I am all at once free and lost at the same time. I am starting a PhD. I'm not lost, I should be happy that the kids starting school means that I can finally breathe. Yet somehow it doesn't feel like that. I feel that I have been lost - somewhere under all of their issues, all of my own insecurities and the endless mind-numbing nonsense of housework and the daily commute - somehow I don't really know who I am anymore. I don't know what I like. I don't know what clothes to wear or what to watch or how to act.

I spent £5 in a charity shop on lots of flowery and multi-coloured dresses. I don't know if they suit me, and I panicked because I don't know what I like anymore, and I don't know what colours I prefer. I know what they like. And that is all. So when I ordered carbonara in the restaurant, I ordered it because that is what Emily always orders and she wasn't even there. It lies heavy on my stomach and I feel sick.

I bought an album because I like it, and I heard it first. I know I genuinely like it. It's the first thing I have liked for ages, and the first album I have bought in about nine years. I play it to the kids and they dance. It's unfamiliar to them, and I found it first. No-one is telling me to play it, or to turn it up or turn it down, it's just mine.

The make-up in my bag is half battered. The kids smeared it on their faces, and it was funny at the time, just one of those things kids do, and yet now I don't own that make-up anymore - they do. I have some comic books Warren bought me last year. I like comics. I used to like comics. They have been on the arm of the chair in their perfect cellophane wrapping for months - a year? I haven't had time to read them, or maybe I'm scared that I just don't like comics anymore. They somehow seen unfamiliar to me. Not mine.

I bought false eyelashes. Normal women wear false eyelashes and have their eyebrows done. I blot the glue on the edge, blow it dry and I stick them on. Clumsily. Then peel them off. Feel silly. They are not what I like. What do I like? I have this beautiful family, and I could tell you every single thing about them. What they like, who they are, how to deal with them, how to talk to them, what makes them tick. I know what their strengths are, their weaknesses, their favourite colours, their temperament. I know everything. And somehow in all that, I lost myself.

I ride the bus to work, headphones in and turn on my album. I turn it up and try and remember me. Either that or wipe the slate clean and start again.

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