Tagged parents

Parenting Never Have I Ever

tea-1105113_1920Who knows the drinking game Never Have I Ever? Each person states something they have never ever done, and anyone playing who has done that takes a drink.

Who wants to play parenting Never Have I Ever? Below are twenty never have I ever statements. For each one you have done as a parent, you should take a drink. This is the parenting version, remember, so that drink should be a sip of cold tea. Everyone ready?

 
1. Never have I ever… Sniffed a bum in public.

2. Never have I ever… Sucked snot from a nose.

3. Never have I ever… Pretended to be a cabbage in Costa coffee because my toddler was putting ‘magic spells’ on me (with a straw).

4. Never have I ever… Cleaned sick off an entire outfit with a baby wipe instead of changing it.

5. Never have I ever… Done the above with my own outfit.

6. Never have I ever… Read every other page of a book on the tenth reading of it that day in order to finish it faster, since they’re not listening anyway (despite demanding it must be read).

7. Never have I ever… Said, ‘You are to come here by the time I count to three. One…two…two and a half…three…Right, I’m going to count to three again. If you don’t come here by THIS count of three, you’ll be going on the naughty step. One…two…two and one sixteenth…two and two sixteenths…’

8. Never have I ever… Called a top and leggings a dress and ‘special tights’ to get a dress-obsessed toddler to wear it.

9. Never have I ever… Pretended to have lost all copies of Cinderella and Peppa Pig, and to have never heard of Topsy and Tim at all.

10. Never have I ever… Hidden the Lego.

11. Never have I ever… Been sent to the naughty step by my toddler.

12. Never have I ever… Answered queries about getting the play doh out with, ‘Que? No hablo ingles.’

13. Never have I ever… Upgraded the status of raisins from ‘dried grapes’ to ‘magical bribes’.

14. Never have I ever… Answered the phone with, ‘Hello? Yes…(No, it’s not Grandad – shh!)…Sorry, could you repeat that…(Shh!)…Sorry, what…(NO YOU CAN’T SPEAK TO GRANDAD! IT’S NOT GRANDAD – IT’S THE OPTICIAN!)’

15. Never have I ever… Sung any song from Mary Poppins in a public place. Whilst marching.

16. Never have I ever… Informed my toddler that he can’t cuddle a pigeon.

17. Never have I ever… Informed a pigeon that it can’t cuddle my toddler.

18. Never have I ever… Occupied my child by giving her a baby wipe/receipt/empty wrapper to play with.

19. Never have I ever… Wondered why I ever bothered to buy any toys, when my child loves her baby wipe/receipt/empty wrapper the most.

20. Never have I ever… Presented my children with a clearly possessed, evil-looking doll that moves during the night, and told them, ‘It’s a fun family Christmas game: please stop screaming.’

 
Right, everyone managed to drink an entire cup of cold tea? You’re welcome.

 
 

(If anyone is wondering, I have done some of these, not all. I’ll let you guess which ones.)

Freudian Psychology (Toddler Lessons: Part Six)

sigmund-freud-1153858_1280Welcome to Part Six of the Toddler Lessons series. Today we are studying Freudian Psychology.

 
Even if we ignore the Freudian slips (head in hands anyone whose toddler doesn’t say ‘clock’ when they mean to – that ‘l’ is awol every time), toddlers really nail the basics of Freudian psychology.

 
1. Psychoanalysis

(A therapy technique founded by Freud, involving the patient talking freely to describe exactly what is in his mind.)

 
Toddlers are fans of psychoanalysis. Mothers and fathers are forced daily into the role of psychotherapist by toddlers intent on telling the unfortunate parents absolutely every thought they have, as it happens.

 
2. Repression

(The process by which, according to Freud, unpleasant and traumatic events were often locked away in the unconscious mind.)

 
Repression is a common theme of toddler households. Parents of toddlers have typically repressed quite a lot. Every meal time. The current state of the living room. The time they received a bogey as a ‘gift’. What happened in M&S last Wednesday.

Toddlers, meanwhile, have repressed every instruction or request ever spoken by their parents. Being told ‘no’ is very traumatic, it must be relegated immediately to the unconscious mind.

 
3. Hysteria

(A condition used to describe patients displaying physical symptoms without physical cause.)

 
Toddlers are frequently found to be exhibiting symptoms of hysteria. Like, for example, throwing themselves on the floor, kicking and screaming, for no apparent reason.

 
4. Free Association

(A therapeutic technique encouraging patients to relate whatever comes into their minds, without too much concentration or any idea of where the conversation may go.)

 
Toddlers are excellent at free association. It enables them to get from ‘where’s my wand’ to ‘Grandma likes custard’ in no moves.

 
5. Your Mother

In Freudian psychology everything is, of course, famously about your mother.

For toddlers? Well: ‘Mummy…Mummy…Mummy…Mum…Mummy…Mummy…Mum…Mummy…MUUUUMMMMY!’
Moving on.

 
6. The Human Psyche

According to Freudian psychology, the human psyche is divided into the id (basic impulses, unconscious, pleasure driven), the super-ego (moral compass), and the ego (the balance between the id and the super-ego, the rational element). In a conflict between the id and the super-ego, the ego serves as the referee.

For toddlers, in a conflict between the id and the super-ego, the id beats the super-ego repeatedly with a stick, whilst the ego takes a nap. The result is the toddler’s decision to continue doing whatever he wants, regardless of consequences or social niceties. (This makes sense, of course, The id is, after all, the childlike element of the psyche. Toddlers are inexplicably childlike.)

 
7. Dreams

Freud believed dreams were about wish fulfilment.

Toddlers do not agree that dreams are about wish fulfilment. Toddlers have parents for that. Mummy will fulfill the wish of more biscuits if Mummy doesn’t want toddler shrieking to haunt her dreams.

 
8. Transference

(Unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another.)

 
Toddlers display transference quite a lot, though it usually relates to requests more than feelings, and it’s entirely conscious. Typically, a request that has been denied by Mummy in transferred to Daddy. If denied by Daddy, the request may be transferred to grandparents, baby siblings, or random strangers on the street.

 
 

(Please Note: You may have analysed me carefully throughout this post and concluded I do not know much about Freudian psychology. You would be right. I blame my mother.)

 
 
You can see other posts in my Toddler Lessons series here

 
 

My Random Musings

A Quick Guide to the Blog

blog-headerDespite knowing it was The Toddler’s birthday (and receiving due thanks), I managed to miss my birthday. Well, not my birthday, but the blog’s birthday. It was last month. Just before The Toddler’s, in fact. As discussed, I knew it was The Toddler’s birthday, so probably should have been able to remember the blog’s birthday. But I didn’t. Too late now. Let it Go, as we DO NOT sing in this house.

Having entirely failed to write a first birthday post for the blog, I have decided to write an introductory/guide post for the blog instead. This is it, by the way. It’s an inauspicious start to such a post, admittedly. It may get better. It may not. There’s only one way to find out.

The blog started when The Toddler was about to turn two, and The Baby was eight months old, It began its life as a series of humorous posts about things The Toddler said and did. Occasionally The Baby was involved. The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week series was quickly born, and is fairly self explanatory. Recently, the series has gained a ‘Baby’s Corner’ section for the now chatty Baby.

Of course, over the year, the blog has evolved somewhat. The Baby is now also a toddler. A change of names for them is therefore long overdue, and was even planned (there was a vote and everything), but it turns out I’m quite attached to the original names. The central tenets of humour and toddlers remain. The Ten Funniest Things feature continues, as do some posts documenting The Toddler’s exploits. They frequently seem to involve her slightly concerning adventures as a doctor-hairdresser (she does think that’s a thing). Her efforts trick or treating at Halloween were a particular highlight for me.

However, you will now also find my attempts at witty observations on life with toddlers, lessons from physics to art via mathematics as brought to you by toddlers, tips on crafts and baking with toddlers for those failing at Pinterest (and motherhood), and the occasional parody (these may not be my strong point). Oh, and Christmas. So excited was the blog about Christmas, it really should have its own category (the parodies may have gone into overdrive). There is even the very occasional serious post tucked in there.

You can select categories of posts from the drop down menus along the top of the blog. These are separated into funny and serious posts, and then further subcategories (lists, The Toddler, The Baby, Randoms…). The Toddler Lessons and Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said series can both be found under funny posts. If you would like to follow me on social media, the links can also be found along the top.

 
 
So, that is a summary of what you can find on the blog. If you decide to stick around, I hope you enjoy the surreal ramblings and eccentric toddlers on offer.

 
 
If you want a selection of favourite/popular posts from a completely biased source (me), you could take a look at a few from the list below.

 
Toddler Lessons Series

My favourites are probably Toddler Art or Toddler Literature, the most viewed is Toddler Laws of Physics.

 
Favourite Funnies

Game Show Skills Acquired by Parents of Toddlers

The Toddler West

Toddler Proverbs

Slogans for World War Terrible Twos

Toddler Interior Design Tips

No one Expects The Toddler Inquisition: Toddler Torture Methods

How (Not) to Make an Easter Nest With Toddlers

The Toddler Riddle

The Toddler Highway Code

The Sheriff of Downing Street: Have We Regressed to the Middle Ages?

 
Favourite Serious Posts

Only the Weak Are Cruel

Why Breast v Formula Should Not Be a Debate

No One Expects the Toddler Inquisition: Toddler Torture Methods

historical-945928_1920I have come to the dawning realisation that I am being tortured.

It’s being done entirely inadvertently and very lovingly, of course, but these are twenty bona fide methods of torture my toddlers have actually used on me.

 
1. Chinese Water Torture

(A method by which water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead, allegedly driving them insane.)

 
Okay, so they don’t drip water onto Mummy’s forehead (that has not occurred to them). They surreptitiously drip it onto the sofa until the seat is entirely saturated. The end result of insanity is the same.

 
2. Starvation and Force Feeding

Impressively, the toddlers are able to carry out these methods of torture simultaneously. All food belonging to Mummy is immediately commandeered by the toddlers. Mummy is not allowed to eat. Except when attempts are being made to force feed her pieces of her own food, which may or may not have now been chewed (that may be a whole new method of torture).

 
3. Sensory Deprivation

(Deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. For example, by using blindfolds.)

 
Mummy spends quite a lot of the day trying to free her head from various blankets, boxes and items of clothing. Peekaboo is not a voluntary activity around here: Mummy hides when the toddlers say so. Mummy is deemed to be hiding when the toddlers have covered her head.

Mummy is also unable to hear anything besides the screeching. All other sounds are but distant memories.

 
4. Kneecapping

Due to a serious misunderstanding, this is what the toddlers believe the reflex hammer in the toy doctor’s kit is for. Due to an even more serious misunderstanding, the toddlers believe any hard (preferably wooden) object is a reasonable replacement for the toy reflex hammer in an emergency. The toddlers believe that the reflex hammer being temporarily misplaced under the sofa when there is a parental leg in need of whacking is an emergency.

 
5. The Rack

Two (or more) toddlers are a rack: they’re both pulling Mummy, they’re going in opposite directions, neither is letting go. The toddler who dislocates a shoulder first wins.

 
6. Crushing

Also known as ‘sitting on Mummy’ and ‘bouncing on Mummy’.

 
7. Hamstringing

(Crippling a person by severing the hamstring tendons in the thigh.)

 
The toddlers attempt this, with gravity as their accomplice, by attaching themselves to Mummy’s thigh as she tries to walk.

 
8. Music Torture

Have you heard the Peppa Pig theme tune? No more needs to be said.

 
9. Blackmailing

The toddlers use the threat of noisy public meltdowns to great effect to extort extra raisins from Mummy.

 
10. Sound Torture

(Very loud/high pitched noise intended to interfere with rest, cognition and concentration.)

 
It really isn’t their fault: loud and high pitched is their only setting.

 
11. Sleep Deprivation

In all fairness, neither toddler currently uses this method. However, it was favoured by both for well over a year, and combined to great effect with sound torture (the high pitched sound in question being that of a child who has not agreed to this cot thing and certainly will not be remaining in it).

 
12. Stress Position

(Placement of the human body in such a way that a large amount of weight is placed on one or two muscles.)

 
The large amount of weight is one or two climbing toddlers. They firmly believe that anyone who has crouched into a squatting position will really benefit from a child standing on each thigh.

 
13. Thumbscrew

This means something slightly different to toddler torturers. Attempting to screw your thumbs into Mummy’s eyes, mostly. It is not enough to simply know what eyes are when asked, it is necessary to further demonstrate that understanding by poking them. Of course, in fairness, the toddlers don’t always target Mummy – sometimes they poke themselves in the eyes. Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes has a lot to answer for.

 
14. Tickle Torture

Daddy taught them this one, and he must pay.

 
15. Tooth Extraction

This is attempted by frequent (accidental) headbutting of Mummy’s mouth.

 
16. Flogging

Somewhat unconventionally, this usually involves yelling ‘bibidi babadi bu’ whilst whacking Mummy with whatever implement is the pretend wand of the day. Fairy Godmothers in this house very much resemble the Ghost of Christmas Present from Scrooged.

 
17. Tarring and Feathering

The toddlers’ version of this is ‘yoghurting and raisining’. It happens most lunch times. To Mummy and the toddlers.

 
18. The Iron Maiden

Improvised toddler iron maidens are composed of a sofa covered in pieces of lego.

 
19. Scalping

The toddlers call this ‘hairdressing’. Or: ‘Mummy, can I comb your hair, please?’

 
20. The Spanish Inquisition

Whether you want everyone to be Catholic or Mummy to give you a biscuit, both The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and the toddlers know that incessant questioning (‘Why?’, ‘Is the Pope a Catholic?’, ‘What’s this?’ ‘Are you a catholic?’ ‘Where has daddy gone?’, ‘Where has your rosary gone?’) gets results/biscuits/Catholics.

 
 
(Please note: the toddlers are very lovely and affectionate inadvertent torturers, and Mummy does not actually mind the odd knee capping at their hands.)

Toddler Laws of Physics (Toddler Lessons: Part One)

albert-einstein-1144965_1920
They may live by their own rules most of the time, but even toddlers can’t escape the laws of physics.

Here are ten laws of physics as demonstrated by toddlers. (Well, eight laws of physics/laws connected to physics, and two random principles favoured by scientists, technically.)

 
1. Archimede’s Principle

(The buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. The volume of an object can be calculated by the volume of water it displaces.)

 
Measuring the displacement of water by a toddler in a bath allows accurate calculation of the volume of work involved in cleaning the bathroom following said bath.

 
2. Boyle’s law

(When temperature is constant, volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure.)

 
The volume of sleep a toddler has is inversely proportionate to the pressure of the temper tantrum in which the toddler will engage.

 
3. Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation

(The force with which bodies are attracted to each other is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.)

 
The attraction of two toddlers to one another is directly proportional to the likelihood of them hitting one other, and inversely proportional to the likelihood of there being two of the toy they will both want to play with.

 
4. Pascal’s Law

(Pressure exerted at any point in a confined fluid is transmitted equally at every other point in the container.)

 
Tantrums exerted by a toddler in any shop during an outing will be transmitted equally throughout all shops on the outing (until the parent surrenders and returns home, or supplies chocolate).

 
5. Newton’s Laws of Motion

(First Law: An object at rest will remain at rest, and an object in motion will continue to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force. Second Law: The sum of the external forces on an object is equal to the mass of that object multiplied by the acceleration of the object. Third Law: When one body exerts a force on another body, the other body exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.)

 
Toddler’s First Law of Motion: A moving toddler will continue moving at a constant velocity (known as ‘hyperactive cheetah’) until acted upon by the external force of a wall that came out of nowhere and smacked them in the nose. A toddler who does not wish to sit in the buggy will enter and remain in a state of extreme rest (known as ‘the plank’) until acted upon by the external force of bribery with raisins and wrestled into the buggy.

Toddler’s Second Law of Motion: High speed toddlers brandishing heavy objects with the intent of whacking you on the head are very dangerous.

Toddler’s Third Law of Motion: Two toddlers running will always run with equal zeal in opposite directions, exerting equal force upon each other at the point of inevitable collision. They will both cry.

 
6. The Theory of Special Relativity

(What is relative and what is absolute about space, time and motion…Oh, yes, I am not even attempting to give a proper summary of the Theory of Special Relativity!)

 
Bedtime is relative: where parents see bedtime, toddlers do not. Broccoli is relative: parents see food, toddlers do not. Everything a parent says is actually relative. It may have been an order from the parents’ point of view. The toddler, however, heard a gentle suggestion that they have decided not to follow.

Furthermore, according to the Theory of Special Relativity, moving clocks run more slowly than stationary clocks. Grumpy toddlers are also able to influence the speed with which clocks run. This is why an hour in the doctors’ surgery waiting room lasts for approximately eleven years.

 
7. Uncertainty Principle

(In quantum mechanics, two complementary parameters (eg, energy and time) cannot both be understood to infinite accuracy: the more you know about one, the less you know about the other.)

 
Toddlers are their own Uncertainty Principle: the more a parent believes they know about what their toddler wants, the less they actually know. This is why your toddler is crying because they asked for a jam sandwich and you gave them a jam sandwich.

 
8. Causality Principle

(Cause must always precede effect.)

 
Causality does apply to toddlers, but not as we know it. Every effect has an alleged cause, but it is not necessarily relevant in any way and it might not have happened yet.
‘Why is the baby in a toy storage box?’
‘Because I’m going to wear my wellies tomorrow, aren’t I?’

 
9. Occam’s Razor*

(The hypothesis with the fewest assumptions, providing the simplest answer, should be selected.)

 
Now, toddlers disapprove of Occam’s Razor. They prefer the most ludicrous explanation imaginable for any given situation. However, toddlers are walking manifestations of the principle. They are the simplest explanation. Jam on the baby? Toddler did it. Shoes in the bread bin? Toddler did it. Crayon on the tv? ‘Peppa wanted to be blue’ = Toddler did it.

According to Occam’s Razor, if it looks like a toddler did it, the toddler did it. Do not be fooled by spurious accusations about the cat’s involvement.

 
10. Murphy’s Law

(If anything can go wrong, it will.)

 
Self explanatory: in parenting toddlers, if anything can go wrong (and it can), it will.

 
 

(Please Note: Absolutely no level of scientific accuracy should be assumed in the contents of this post. If you are studying the Theory of Relativity, step away: nothing here is going to help you. Though, interestingly, if a great enough mass of toddlers are concentrated in any area, they DO create a black hole from which no toy that enters will ever emerge. But I digress…into nonsense, I may add, not General Relativity. Step away.)

 
 

You can see other posts in my Toddler Lessons series here.

A Message to Anyone Who Feels Confused or Bullied About Breastfeeding

baby-21167_1280

(*Note: I wrote one post about breast or formula feeding, actually about how we should not even bother to debate it because it does not matter, and did not intend to write more on the matter. However, I have recently read some news reports about pressure and bullying some mothers have felt over how they feed their babies, and it makes for quite upsetting reading. So, at risk of debating the issue myself, I am writing this one further post.*)

 
 
This post is specifically aimed at new mothers or prospective new mothers. Because, if you found this post, you have probably been looking online for advice or support about breastfeeding. And, if you’ve been doing that, you are probably unsure about what feeding method you want to use, or you are struggling with breastfeeding. You may have found some great support and advice. In which case, carry on as you were. But there is always a risk, if you have googled advice about breastfeeding, that you have been dragged into a guilt-ridden swamp of ‘information’ about the magical properties of breast milk, without which your baby will surely die and you will be branded with a ‘worst mother in the world’ stamp right across your forehead. If you have found your way into this swamp, and now feel more vulnerable and confused than you did when you started, do please read on.

Breast milk is not the Elixir of Life. It does not have magical properties. It’s great. It’s an amazing substance. But, actually, so is formula. Some very clever people have made it so. They have manufactured a substance that is capable of being a substitute for breast milk and nourishing a baby. So that’s pretty amazing too, right?

Yes, breast milk has immune benefits. Yes, it is probably easier on the gut. In the scheme of things, these are not really massive differences or benefits. Breast milk isn’t making anyone invincible. It’s not curing ebola.

Does breast milk make children more intelligent, thinner, more successful, or any of the other claims put forward by the breastfeeding lobby? No. It doesn’t. The apparent correlation between breastfeeding and improved outcomes for children in those areas is coincidental. It exists because there is a correlation between those outcomes and greater socioeconomic advantage, AND there is a correlation between higher breastfeeding rates and socioeconomic advantage. The privilege and opportunities afforded in society to the group of women who make up the majority of breastfeeders result in the apparent benefits for their children, not the breast milk. But, of course, it is difficult to conclusively prove that the breast milk is not responsible, because to do so would require experimenting on babies and forcing certain groups of mothers to feed in a specific way . That would clearly be unethical, and so the evidence of correlation between breastfeeding and positive outcomes in areas such as intelligence remains, ready to be preyed on by the breastfeeding lobby as evidence of the benefits of breast milk, despite being almost certainly nothing of the sort. If you look at the children of mothers who, in all respects except for breastfeeding, fit the same profile as the breastfeeding mothers, their children will show the same outcomes. I am such a child.

You will not condemn your child to stupidity, obesity or failure by not breastfeeding. Talk to your child, read to them, play with them, hug them – all the things you obviously intend to do anyway! These are the things that make a difference to development. And genetics, of course. Can’t do much about those.

It is nice to encourage breastfeeding, of course it is. But not ever to the extent that anyone is made to feel panicked or vulnerable, or anyone is encouraged to make a decision that puts them or their baby at risk. No one should be told, as I have seen happen, that taking unregulated breast milk from strangers in Internet exchanges is better than using formula. Of course it isn’t. Do you know that is breast milk? That the mother doesn’t drink alcohol? That she has no blood borne illnesses? That she properly sterilised the pump and containers? Do you know where the milk was stored? For how long? It’s reckless, and no one should be telling worried mothers to do that. If you cannot, or do not want to, give your baby your milk (or milk from one of the regulated milk banks), give them formula. It is fine.

No vulnerable woman with mental illness should become so convinced that her baby needs breast milk that she stops taking medication she needs in order to be well. A baby does not need breast milk that badly, but it does need a healthy mother. No one, in short, needs to be listening to suggestions that breast milk is the be all and end all. That is not true.

So this is my message for new mothers, or prospective new mothers, who are worried about this, who have been panicked by what they see on the Internet, by what the so called ‘breastapo’ say. It is nice to try breastfeeding, if you can and you want to. But it is not that important in the scheme of things. Your child will not end up horrendously disadvantaged by not being breastfed. Don’t tell anyone, but breastfeeding isn’t even the norm in this country. The biological norm, yes, but not the norm in practice. Perhaps that is why some women are being so aggressive about this: it’s insecurity and defensiveness. Trying to validate themselves by putting others down. Because, truth be told, breastfeeding mothers, beyond the first few days or weeks, are a pretty small minority. That is a bit of a shame. But it isn’t your problem. You don’t have to be the one to take responsibility for improving the statistics. You have to do what’s right for you.

And I will tell you – as someone who is a breastfeeder, who has exclusively breastfed two babies long term – no sensible, intelligent, reasonable, relatively caring woman (breastfeeder or not) will see you struggling and tell you that you must breastfeed or your baby will suffer. Not ever. She will never tell you to panic over this, to be stressed about it, to cause your baby to feel stress about it, or to feel guilty about it. She will never tell you that you are selfish or harming your baby if you don’t breastfeed. She will not tell you breastfeeding is easy and everyone can do it. Anyone who tells you those things is not someone whose advice needs to be listened to. Good advice, helpful advice, will always encourage you to do what you can do, what you can cope with, and not to look back. Focus your energy on your time with your baby instead.

Stay at Home Mothers Made Sacrifices Too

*Deep breath. Wades in well aware that she may regret this.*

I see quite a lot written about working mums* and the guilt, the feeling of missing out, the lack of choice. I have great sympathy for all of these feelings, and, to be very clear, this post is not a criticism of those emotions, nor of mothers working. Nonetheless, and maybe I will turn out to be alone in this (in which case, I am probably setting myself up for a tidal wave of indignation, though it is really not my intent to offend), something bothers me in a lot of what I see written about this subject.

It is this: there generally appears to be little acknowledgement of the fact that being a stay at home mother is not always a choice either. Or, worse, little acknowledgement of the fact that often there has actually been a choice by both working and at home parents, and that stay at home mothers have made sacrifices for their choices, too. The suggestion, sometimes explicit, sometimes implied, often seems to be that stay at home mothers are privileged and fortunate to have what working mothers do not. It is there in every statement that a working mother wishes she were ‘lucky enough’ to have had the option to stay at home. The implication is that to stay at home is a matter of luck and good fortune, not something that there may have been no choice over, or something a family has made significant sacrifices (that perhaps the working parents did not wish to make) in order to make happen. It may well be that it is often not the writer’s actual intent to suggest this. But, regardless of the intent, the implication does remain: that it is a position of privilege to be a stay at home mum.

Whilst not disputing that certain people may (wrongly) be guilty of judging the particular sacrifices made by working mothers, I don’t think that there is much dispute that there are sacrifices made. Is the same true of the sacrifices made by stay at home mothers? I am not sure that they receive quite the same level of recognition or discussion. That being a stay at home mother is not more often just vaguely regarded as the position of the privileged (or even, by a few unpleasant specimens, regarded as the position of the lazy). I want to highlight that many families with a stay at home parent have to make difficult financial sacrifices to enable that position, the stay at home parent themselves may have sacrificed a career, and for some families there is not even a choice at all. Why is this perhaps not discussed as much as the hardships facing working parents? Maybe partly because many stay at home parents enjoy and appreciate looking after their children, of course. I do. But many working mothers enjoy their jobs, too. I don’t think this is the whole explanation. Because, while many stay at home parents are happy with their role and the time they spend with their children, would they also like to be able to provide more for their children? To have some financial independence? Yes, many would. But we don’t seem to talk about that. Is it because we wouldn’t want anyone to infer that we don’t like looking after our children, that we don’t appreciate the time we spend with them? Is it less acceptable to mention the sacrifices of being a stay at home parent?

Consider the situation if I was to write that it upsets me that I can’t provide for my children, and that I wish I was lucky enough to have had the option to have an income, and to be able to give the children more material luxuries and opportunities. I imagine many working parents would indignantly think, ‘Hang on a bloody minute: luck? It’s not luck. I chose to go to work to provide for my children, and I have to miss out on spending time with them as a result. If you want to have more money, do what I do and go to work.’ And that would be a reasonable response, as far as I am concerned. But it should apply the other way around, too, and I think there is something of a subconscious mindset around that says that it does not. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone knows really that stay at home parents have made sacrifices, would agree this if asked, but there remains a tendency to be unthinkingly dismissive of it. I am not sure how many people really consider that perhaps when a working mother states that she wishes she were fortunate enough that she could have stayed at home and not had to work, stay at home mothers may also be just a little indignant. That there may be a mother who stays at home who had just as little choice in her role, who maybe feels sad that she can’t provide financially for her child. Or a mother who knows that, in order for her to stay at home, her family gets by on a fraction of the money that working mother’s family does. Maybe even gets by on less than the working family would have on a single income, who knows? Maybe she feels that she is accepting the sacrifices that came for her to stay at home, and that others could have done so too, had they wanted to. And maybe, just maybe, she feels like she should not mention any of this, for fear that she would be accused of not appreciating her time with her children, or of not showing sufficient empathy for the feelings of the working mother.

In truth, when it comes to working or staying at home, there are really only two groups of people: those who had a choice, and those who did not. Not having a choice is not the preserve of working parents. There are those families who really cannot in any way afford to live on one person’s income (or single parent families, where there is only one person to provide an income), but who do have free or affordable childcare options, for whom working is the only available path. Equally, however, there are those with no one to provide free childcare, and no (or insufficient) assistance towards childcare costs, for whom the cost of childcare would exceed what the second person could earn, making one parent undertaking the childcare the only viable option. In both cases, the decision is made for the parents by the limits of their circumstances. They may or may not be perfectly happy with the arrangement they have had to pursue, but this is not particularly relevant: there is no choice regardless.

Then there is everyone else. The people with some level of choice. Now, there are, of course, a few people who have such privilege that they have literally any option they want available to them, and little sacrifice to make. We can all agree that we hate those jammy sods (sorry – just kidding). But this is rare. For most, this is not how it goes. Instead there is choice, but it has constraints. Sacrifices must be made. Having it all is not an option. Decisions have to be made, priorities assessed, myriad considerations taken into account. And, guess what? There are no wrong answers here. All the possible decisions are valid. All the considerations have merit. Children can benefit from being cared for by a parent at home. Equally, children can benefit from having a comfortable, more affluent lifestyle. We all want to spend time with our children. We all want to provide well for our children. How much you like your job and the potential for career development is, of course, relevant. So is the availability of family members to provide childcare. It is perfectly acceptable to decide that you will take a greater degree of financial hardship because it is important to you that you stay home with your child. It is perfectly acceptable to decide that you want to be able to maintain the standard of living or the lifestyle you have for your child’s sake, and cannot do that on one income. It is perfectly acceptable to decide that you love spending time with your child, but do not want to surrender a career you enjoy.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with whichever decision anyone makes. What I am saying is that perhaps we all need to accept the consequences of those decisions. Perhaps we need to take responsibility for the fact that this is what we chose, we reaped the rewards and paid the price of whichever path we followed. We should not be jealously comparing ourselves with others who made a different decision. We need to acknowledge that they have made their own sacrifices, ones we chose not to make, in order to have those benefits we covet. That should not be brushed under the carpet. You cannot choose the starter and main from a two course set price menu, not be willing to pay extra for dessert, but complain about how unfair it is that someone else had the dessert, how lucky they are. It is not luck: they made a different choice to you. They skipped the starter. (Yes, analogies are not my strong point. And clearly this is not exactly analogous, as in my menu scenario there is obviously only one correct option: dessert. Sorry, starter people – what are you thinking? I digress.)

It may not feel fair. The available options may be hard, imperfect, limited. But that is life. Apart from those few jammy sods we have all agreed to hate (sorry, again), everyone is either having to make similar decisions, determining their priorities, sacrificing on something; or they are simply having to play the hand they were dealt. Perhaps the level of choice we have in modern life has given rise to the idea that there must be this elusive option of having it all, and that we should therefore feel dissatisfied and cheated if we do not. For most people, however, having it all simply does not exist. Perhaps we would all be happier if we accepted that. Accepted that we make our choices, pay the price, and that nearly everyone else is doing exactly the same.

None of this, of course, is to say that there is anything wrong with working mothers saying that they feel sad that they do not see their children as much as they would like. I suppose what I want to say is: working mothers, don’t beat yourself up with guilt over your choice (or lack thereof). You made the decision that was most right for your family, or you simply got on with the only option you had, and I am very sorry for what you feel you are missing out on. But perhaps you could be careful to remember that stay at home mothers made a decision and sacrifices, or did what they had to do, too.

No working mother should feel judged because she had to, or chose to, work. But, equally, no stay at home mother should feel resented. Nor should she have the decision she made to stay at home, and the price she has paid for it, undermined by being dismissed as someone who has merely had luck, ‘luck’ that may be acceptably coveted by those who did not make her sacrifices.

(*Everything I have read has been from the perspective of mothers, and I am a mother, so I have – mostly – referred to mothers, but of course the points can apply to fathers too.)