Down with the kids
People may have been having kids since before Jesus was born, but that doesn’t make tending to the barnacles any easier. Here are some things we’ve ‘learned’.
ANNA: The minute you get knocked-up, people look at you differently. Random grannies fondle your bump on the bus, looking you dead in the eye to say, ‘it’s a girl’. Mates worry if you’ll be able to cope without as much/any booze for nine months. Other mothers offer tips on perineal massage and sourcing the kind of sanitary pads that could plug an elephantine orifice, and older family members just awkwardly accept that you’ve had The Sex.
MATT: When you tell male friends, you tend to get one of two reactions. The dads manage to force some life back into their eyes to tell you how ‘amazing’ it is, with all the conviction of a man whose invested the mortgage money in a dodgy pyramid scheme and will only get it back if he convinces 72 others to do the same. The non-dads offer congratulations, but you can see the disappointment in their eyes. They know you’ll be out less, and that when you are, you’ll be looking all smug with yourself because you’ve managed to turn a sperm into a person, which, for the man, isn’t really any more impressive than handing a packet of tomato seeds to a really skilled gardener and popping back months later all cocky to show off your rosy-red fruits at the local food market.
And that self-satisfaction really kicks in when the baby arrives. When our first daughter was born, she looked like a bit of topside that had been left out in the sun: she was blue, furry and covered in gunk and it’s amazing that you can immediately love something that looks so odd. For about eight seconds I blubbed with joy, pride and fear for the future, before pulling myself together and trying to look composed in front of the medical staff. They weren’t buying it, but they did let me cut the cord, and I’m now convinced that I’m basically a surgeon.
Magical dairy pillows
ANNA: ‘Funbags’, ‘norks’, ‘titties’, ‘kajungas’, ‘jubblies’, ‘blubber bulbs’ – the list of words to describe those milk-laden hillocks is endless. But we must not forget that they’re primarily a food-source after a baby arrives, and that needs to be front of mind before you lay a frown upon a mother trying to keep the next generation topped up. Claridges, just because you are a posh gaff, doesn’t mean you are beyond the food chain.
MATT: A mate of mine is convinced that there’s a fortune to be made from used breast pads. His plan is to create a range of them filled with tea leaves, which the internet has told him can have soothing properties and ease the pain of cracked arioli. Then, after the pads have been leaked on, you can dunk them in hot water for a cup of tea with highly organic milk. He wanted to do a pop-up, maybe outside that cereal cafe in Shoreditch if it’s still there. But I think it all comes down to the fact he isn’t getting enough sleep.
Come whine with me
ANNA: Even if you own a kid, you’ll have had that sickening feeling of a cacophonous family – often referred to in childless circles as ‘breeders’ – being seated near you in a restaurant. Feelings of entrapment and a night ruined by airborne broccoli are normal. Again, though, the kids have to eat and it’s not fair to shackle parent-people to their homes until the kids are 18. Just speak louder and erect a napkin fortress.
MATT: I understand why people don’t like kids being in restaurants. I’m not sure the kids normally like it much either. But as the kid-wrangler it’s important to know that you will now be eating meals one-handed for most of the next decade, and that you must accept that.
The best bits
MATT: There are many secret benefits to parenting. Not least the fact that we always have fishfingers in the freezer now – I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed fishfingers. And, I think, I’ve also become a fraction less selfish. I’m willing to share my fishfingers now, which wasn’t always the case before, and that’s mostly down to a sharp case of Post-Partum Ensoppimment: the gormless, glazed-over grin that wells up when one of the girls sees something for the first time, or laughs, or quietly and happily plays. It’s like a tiny jab of morphine straight into your aorta. (I imagine – I’ve never actually done that.)
ANNA: It’s when you find yourself travelling solo on a packed commuter train with a Percy-Pig-pumped toddler and a colicky newborn that’s acting like an angry vole. You’re sat in the bit next to the rancid loos, the iPad battery is at 4%, your boobs resemble empty Capri Sun pouches and All The People On The Train hate you.
“I need a poo” is hollered in your face as your hair gets used as a bungee chord. You batten down the maternal hatches and prepare to dangle the toddler over an aluminium pan with one hand, while the flailing vole is clasped under your other armpit like a rugby ball. You can feel your postpartum stomach escaping from your jeggings like butter icing out of a baker’s piping bag. A bead of sweat trickles down your nose into the loo as “I don’t need the toilet now” is bellowed out, breaking a little bit of your soul. Returning to your rice-cake-smattered seat, you find an old Boots receipt for haemorrhoid cream in your pocket and a biro in your nappy bag, which offers up 4 minutes 46 seconds of silence from the Percy Pig-addled one as the angry vole suckles once more and you realise that you are, in fact, parenting the shit out of life.
First published in Metro. Parenting the sh*t out of life – a memoir and rogue parenting guide – is available on Amazon and in all good book shops, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Photo @emilygrayphoto.
[SUBHED] Drink before you think
ANNA: As Nike would say, ‘just do it’. I don’t know anyone (yet) who has funneled a vat of beer and run around, arms flailing in their greying undercrackers as part of a humiliating postpartum dare by their toddler. A light sozzled feeling with a kid safely strapped to the iPad is fine and dandy. (Unless you are my Aunty Julie who has her ‘concerns’).
They held her up like she was a prize in a pub meat raffle. Or maybe Simba in The Lion King. But she did look like a bit of topside that had been left in the sun: she was blue, furry and covered in gunk. It’s amazing that you can immediately love something that looks so odd. For about eight seconds I blubbed like a toddler thats left it’s toy bunny on a train, before pulling myself together and trying to look calm and composed in front of the medical staff. They weren’t buying it. But they did let me cut the cord, which basically means I’m a surgeon.
What are the toughtest parts of parenting?
MATT: Every tiny task is more of a faff. Making sure everyone is clean, fed and not crying for too long each day feels like an achievement to be celebrated with strong liquor. I’ve had friends go as far as taking up running just to carve out some time for themselves. That’s really too much.
Another mate is convinced that there’s a fortune to be made from used breast pads. His plan is to create a range of breast pads filled with tea leaves, which the internet has told him can have soothing properties and ease the pain of cracked arioli. Then, after the pads have been leaked on, you can have a cup of tea with highly organic milk. He wanted to do a pop-up, maybe outside that cereal cafe in Shoreditch if it’s still there. But I think it all comes down to the fact he isn’t getting enough sleep.
And the best bits?
MATT: We always have fishfingers in the freezer now, which is good. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed fishfingers. And, I suppose, it’s made me a fraction less selfish. I’m willing to share my fishfingers now, which wasn’t always the case before, and that’s mostly down to a sharp case of Post-Partum Ensoppimment: the gormless, glazed-over grin that wells up when one of the girls sees something for the first time or laughs or quietly, happily plays. It’s – I imagine – like a tiny jab of morphine into your main artery.
And what’s the book about?
MATT: It’s mostly a parenting memoir – things that we experienced, both happy and sad, and meant to make people laught a bit more than they cry. There are even some very tiny bits of useful parenting information.
Was it hard writing a book together, as a couple?
Parenting the shit out of life is out now.
[BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR THE INTRO]
ANNA: Mother Pukka is a place to help make you laugh more than you cry. As a childless 20-something I used to look at those bulging nappies on top of sanitary bins in public toilets and dry heave at the prospect of procreating. Mother Pukka is a place to make things feel less worrisome.
MATT: It’s a blog for people who happen to be parents. There is a tsunami of bumgravy parped in the general direction of parents: lots of contradictory advice, guilt inducing and judgement, so Mother Pukka has almost no useful information. It’s mostly there to try and be funny and honest. There are a lot of funny mum blogs, but there’s not much that gives both sides. But we also do some serious stuff, mostly around miscarriage and the flexappeal campaign to encourage more flexible working. Too many women (and men) get shafted at work once theylve had a nipper.