Friday, 26 November 2010

An inspiration?

Today someone called me inspirational.  A lovely compliment, but I think perhaps she mistook desperation for inspiration. You see me and Sarah Beeny seem to be the only mums of four small boys who are actually foolish, or in my case impoverished, enough to actually try combining bringing them up with having a career. 

I think most mums with a brood of tiny children simply give in to the demands of their family and give up on any attempt at gainful employment, and I applaud that sensible and inspired decision. I am not sure I could cope with being a mum of four without working. Apart from the obvious financial incentives, there is the fact that work is effectively a day off. 

A typical day with the children is like skating round an ice rink while trying to catch melted chocolate in a colander. A messy, tiring and fruitless pursuit during which you are prone to many a slip up. Don't get me wrong I adore my days with the children, but a rest cure they are not. 

Sitting in front of a computer tapping away, or nattering away on the phone doing what passes for an interview, well that's more like it. I can tune out the screams and rows of my bucketful of hyperactive eels (otherwise known as my sons), while I concentrate on keeping abreast of what's up on Facebook

People may say to me they don't know how I do it, but I mostly do it, by not doing too much of it at all. Looking after the boys single handed is a sweet treat for a couple of days a week. Looking after them full time would be hard labour and I am not sure how much any of us would enjoy it. 

My nanny, both because she is more sweet natured than me, and is paid to be, is far more tolerant to the boys foibles and intensely slow way of doing even the simplest of chores than I am. While I am reduced to a foaming at the mouth, screaming harpy within an hour of the older boys' return from school, she glides serenely through those prickly after school hours, safe in the knowledge that she can leave at bedtime. 

While the boys forever say they would love mummy to look after them, I think the reality might be a bit of a disappointment. Spending too much time with the boys aggravates my allergy to shrill cries of 'Mummy, mummy, mummy' and stretches my multitasking powers to breaking point. 

While I can juggle deadlines, meetings and interview slots like a circus performer, I find my brain begins to fizz as I try to cope with a dirty nappies, inconsolable tears, requests for drinks/snacks/help with homework and an full scale little boy fight - all of which inevitably kick off simultaneously. 

It seems to be a rule of thumb that everything always happens at once in family life. For example the boys could sit for a good few moments in rapt silence as they watch a DVD, but the instant that a nappy is filled or a glass of juice is spilled, suddenly all hell breaks loose and a previously serene scene instantly descends into a chaos of demands. 

It's a bit like the rule that says the moment tea is on the table, one of my children will disappear for an epic poo, and won't reappear until everything on his plate is cold and inedible. Or the rule that says that when one twin topples over and is in tears, will be the moment that the second one reveals that the contents of his nappy is now seeping into his socks. 

So far from being an inspiration by combining work with family life, I think I could be considered a bit of a skiver and shirker. It's those mums who are at the coal face 24/7 who deserve kudos. They are the ones who combine management skills that would put any CEO of a FTSE 100 company to shame, with the patience of a saint. Instead I simply hide away in my office, putting my fingers in my ears and singing 'La, la, la' to blank out the bubbling torrent of family life that rages through the house below me. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

Arts, crafts and little boys

This weekend I spent a lovely afternoon at Masterchef Live at London's Olympia. As my husband pointed out I am a real housewife at heart and I like nothing more than to while away my time nibbling on samples of fudge and cheddar cheese, which is good as pretty much every other stand in the place was touting the 'creamiest' local fudge or cheese.

My absolute favourite stand of all was Mad Cow Fudge (from 'Uddersfield, geddit?), not only do they genuinely sell the best ever treacle toffee the lovely lady who served us was the most hilariously bitchy girl I have ever met.

Clearly this Northern lass was unimpressed by the London crowd, particularly the woman who demanded a sample, only to screw up her face in disgust declaring 'I don't like fudge'. 'So why did you ask for a sample?' asks our stalwart server. 'I just wanted to check that I still didn't like it'. I ask you. I am sure they went away convinced that it was grim down south.

We also tried our  hand, courtesy of the lovely PR for Plenty kitchen towels at making Christmas chocolate. Much cackling ensued as jokes about getting coated in chocolate were cracked via text to our absent husbands, one of whom was convinced that we had strayed into the Erotica expo. Sadly that is next weekend and the only sausages we tasted were of the ourdoor-reared pure pork variety.

It was great fun as we got to play finger printing with melted chocolate, although my attempts at this delicate art looked as if I had let my toddler twins have a go. Which brings me neatly onto the preposterous suggestion that our teacher made that we try this at home with our children. My friend, who has a nice, well behaved six-year-old girl was very taken with this idea. But with my four unruly boys I was horrified.

If I were to let loose my pack of little boys on a pot of molten chocolate, I would not end up with some pretty decorations for the tree, instead my whole house would be redecorated in sticky brown - not a colour I would choose from the Dulux chart.

The thing is, try as I did when my first was tiny, boys and arts and crafts mix like lemon juice and milk. In otherwords a revolting mess is the only way things ever end. My mother once let my son have a go doing some glitter cards for Christmas - and we were still picking shimmering flakes out of the carpet when we moved out three years later.

Mess is not the only problem. It takes time to set up a craft activity, laying out protective newspaper, finding scissors that are sharp enough to cut, glue that hasn't dessicated with disuse and play dough pots that still have their lids. This wouldn't be a problem if my boys actually played with all the paints and pens for more than a nanosecond, before losing interest and drifting off towards the nearest gadget with a screen.

I think perhaps I found the answer at Fine Burger Company in the O2 Centre yesterday though. It has touch screen computers set up at the tables where you can do finger painting and stamping onscreen. Needless to say the boys were transfixed and I had the most peaceful meal out with children that I have had since the first one was born.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Hello dolly

I thought that having boys would release me from clutches of dolls. I never could stand them as a child. All my Sindy dolls would instantly have their hair coloured with felt tips, cut off into strange asymmetric styles and their limbs gruesomely dismembered from their bodies. I was not a girly girl when it came to playing with dollies.

Son number one has always been in touch with his feminine side, but he expressed this in a desire to dress up in his best girlfriend's fairy dresses. I could never take him on a play date with her without him coming downstairs strutting his stuff in glittery tulle and a sparkling tiara. Even now he is seven he still lovingly steals glances at the sequin encrusted dresses on display on the girly side of clothes shops. Poor lamb, still there is plenty of time for him to moonlight at Madame JoJo's when he is older.

Son number two and four are man's men. They love nothing more than kicking a ball around or trundling trucks across the floor boards. They would sooner don a builder's hat than a princess dress and have no interest in dolls, prams or nurturing anything, apart from the notion that they should be allowed unfettered access to the snack cupboard. In otherwords they are boys through and through.

Son number three though is a caring little soul. If anyone in the house cries or looks upset he is at their side in a flash. He blows smacking kisses at them and tries to fling his tiny arms around them. If his twin is upset he will stand with a look of the utmost concern in his deep brown eyes, gently stroking his brother's back. It entirely passes him by that the reason his twin is crying is usually because he has been told off for staging yet another attempted raid on his brother's food, toys or personal space.

His sweet nature appears to carry across to inanimate objects too though as after a visit to that self same best girlfriend of number one he discovered a dolly. He grabbed it's squishy body to his little chest, the scarily lifelike eyes swivelling up under coy eyelashes, and he carried it around with him for the rest of the afternoon.

When he ate he tried to share his food with the dolly, upturning his cup into its face. Later on he gave a tiny doll-sized bottle and cuddled it to help bring up its burps. Or at least I think that is what he was doing. He was the model father to that dolly, it was just a shame to leave it behind.

When I told his nanny all about his antics she cried in recognition that all he does when he is at playgroup is pick up the dollies and wheel them around in a buggy. Being a twin his favourite is a double buggy and apparently he cannot be prised from it during the group.

Now I am sorely tempted to buy him his very own dolly to play with. I just don't know if I can cope with its beady little eyes following me around the room and there will be hell to pay from his big brother as I still haven't bought him that dress I promised him years ago.......

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Hello strangers

To quote the inimitable Harry from The Only Way is Essex 'OH MY GOD'. So much has happened in the last few weeks which is why there has been radio silence chez FDMTG. And then I go and kick off my first post in ages with the shameful confession of my new guilty pleasure - the so dreadful it's addictive The Only Way is Essex.

I just love it, they are all so touchingly cardboard and shallow, with their Tango spray tans, oh-so-unnatural hair extensions and deliciously chavvy accents. The real reason I adore it so much is because at heart I will always be an Essex girl myself. Had I not been plucked out of this most maligned of counties at the tender age of 12 I have no doubt that I would have misspent my youth flaunting my cleavage and suggestively licking my lip gloss at The Sugar Hut in an unveiled attempt to shag blokes like Mark. Oh the shame.

My infinitely classier and more high brow husband is still shocked at just how authentic an Essix accent I can come out with. When I put it on his middle class sensibilities have him cringing in disgust as he begs me to revert to my everyday, classless tones. So I am loving the antics of the Essex crew and marvelling at their attention to detail when it comes to dolling themselves up.

It's no wonder we never really see any of them doing any work, as they must spend all the hours they aren't propping up the bars in the nightspots of Brentwood, getting their nails/hair/make up done, being spray tanned, sticking on vajazzles, working out at the gym and researching where to get the best boob job. And that's just the boys. 

I guess I am living proof that you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can't take Essex out of the girl.

Aside from my latest addiction the other things that have been keeping me from blogging are, in no particular order, a family crisis of too much tedium and painfulness to share, multiple birthday parties - thank God they are all over now and the momentous occasion which saw the final boy take to his feet (warning super cute video alert, though due to all the maternal shrieking it's best viewed with the sound off). Oh and throw in much work related stress and perhaps it is no wonder that the poor old blog has been pushed to the back of the queue.

But now I am back and raring to report on the mischief made by my all-walking family. I finally feel as if I have four sons, as opposed a mixed bag of sons and babies, however I do think that collective noun for my sons should be a 'chaos', as their capacity to wreak it has increased ten-fold with their developing perambulation skills.