Another snowy day survived. Thank god it’s Monday tomorrow and the darlings will be at nursery (assuming it’s open. Please let it be open). I’ve had a great day with the kids today but three days at home, trapped by the snow, are taking their toll.
The snow that fell overnight was softer, and drifted. No good for snowmen but great for snow angels and snowball fights. The dog especially loves catching and eating snowballs out of the air, until she resembles a snow monster.
My mistake was starting one of the random books I bought in my last charity shop visit.
The Divide by Elizabeth Kay. It’s brilliant. About a back-to-front world where magic is real and humans are imaginary. I’ve come to realise that MG fiction is about my level right now, although there do seem to be a lot of things dying in this novel considering it’s for middle grade kids. It’s written with enough subtlety, adventure and fascinating characters that I don’t want to put it down (Maybe I should see if I can write MG fiction – I might find it easier to edit a 40k novel rather than a 100k one!).
Anyway, good book = bad parenting. I want to read quietly and the children aren’t used to letting me do that. I decided that reading would be setting a better role model than standing at the computer all day consuming blogs and losing time on Twitter. It might be, but it doesn’t mean they leave me alone any less. They only go off and play nicely together when I want them to eat their dinner or leave the house in less than five minutes.
When my husband and I stumbled into bed at 10pm, exhausted and aching from pulling sledges and making snow angels, helping prepare home-made pizzas and playing fully dressed in the bath (it seemed like a good idea at the time), we both said to each other: “Another day survived.” No one died. (Littlest Martin tried quite hard to do the latter, having fallen off the bed, the sofa and the window sill. That was when he wasn’t having one long, endless, unexplained tantrum. They joys of being two.)
It reminded of a blog post I read recently on the Mumsnet blog network about parenting becoming a ‘thing’. In her post Neurotic Parenting (and Salmon) Lisa Parry writes about the difference between ‘being a parent’ and ‘parenting’:
[B]eing a parent means getting to the end of the day without needing to take Ben to A&E with anything too serious and giving him a couple of saucepans to hit with a wooden spoon. Parenting means doing stuff to stimulate him in a thoughtful fashion not because, you know, that’s just what you do with babies. It means following a theory – attachment parenting or Gina Ford – and entertaining the possibility that every single thing you do can have repercussions.
She goes on to discuss possible causes for the shift, quoting Nora Ephron’s ‘Parenting in Three Stages’ (which I think I might read)
Ephron thinks it could have been a consequence of the women’s movement – in a backlash against it, some women elevated parenting to a job and as parents can be quite competitive, the whole thing snowballed. One of my oldest friends who juggles her own business with her one-year-old thinks it could have been brought about by late motherhood: women leaving work as highly successful individuals and then managing their babies how they managed an office with timetables and targets. She may be right.
Whatever the causes it does seem to me that it’s no longer enough to keep our kids alive, healthy, happy and with an ability to read and write by the time they leave primary school. Parenting has become competitive and complicated and parents rarely pull together either in real life or online as often as they should. I have my own theory: I think we’re all so worried that we’re not shaping up to some ideal ‘supermummy’ image that we have to justify our own decisions and actions, forgetting that every child, parent, family and life situation is different. To validate our own choices we must therefore condemn the choices of others. At a time when you’re tired, vulnerable and isolated it’s difficult to see that there can be as many good versions of being a parent as there are babies in the world.
I don’t know what the answer is, I certainly don’t manage my house like an office. It took twenty minutes to get the kids in shoes and coats this morning. I do know that I’m relieved to have come out of the insulated hole, the tiny frame of reference you have when the babies are young, to realise that there are more important things in the world than whether my baby can do sign language or yoga. Not having to take him to A&E on a Sunday is a good start.
Claire looked at the looming snowdrift crowding the road ahead. The snow pushed through winter hedgerows like marshmallows caught in a giant’s teeth. Snow in Manchester was grey and wet, like dirty slush-puppy. She’d never understood how a few inches of snow could bring the whole damn country to a halt. Now, seeing how the wind had whipped the snow ahead of it like a pack of huskies, until it buried most of the country lane, Claire understood how people became trapped in their cars. And died.
“Come on Stella, keep going. It can’t be much further.”
She had been driving for an hour since leaving Youlgreave hostel, against the advice of the hostel manager who clearly thought she was nuts.
I think he might be right. This wasn’t my cleverest idea. I don’t even have a blanket in the car, never mind a flask of tea or a shovel. I’m guessing this doesn’t count as an ‘essential journey’ although the police who advise against non-essential travel are never specific.
Thoughts twisted through Claire’s mind like eddies of snow as she concentrated on the half-concealed road ahead. Her eyes itched and she needed a wee but she suspected if she stopped the car it would refuse to start again.
I do not want to walk anywhere in this weather. Especially not with my rucksack.
It felt as if the landscape was closing in around her but it was hard to tell with the world turned to white. The first stretch of road had been flat and exposed and she prayed that rising hills meant the hostel was somewhere up ahead. Trees draped over the road, their branches bare and stark against the white sky. Claire felt as if she was driving through a tunnel. I really hope there’s a light at the end of it. And a steaming mug of Earl Grey.
At last a house materialised out of the white and Claire felt the knot in her stomach ease slightly. The need to pee took over. Driving into the village the road was clearer; more slush than snow. Claire considered abandoning the car and walking the rest of the way to the hostel but she was sure the cold air would enhance the call of nature. I’m damned if I’m going to squat for a pee in a snowdrift.
Stella the Skoda slipped and span on the slushy road, the back end swinging out towards parked cars. Knuckles white and brow furrowed, Claire wished she was back in her bunk reading Hunger Games rather than living her own adventure. Not that negotiating parked cars in the snow is really the same as fighting for your life against your fellow man. Well, only a little bit.
Eventually the Hall came into view. Claire had no time to marvel at the stately building tucked in amid the snow-laden trees. She slid the car into what she hoped was a parking place and scrambled out. Not waiting to retrieve her bag she scuttled into reception and searched for a sign. When she couldn’t see one she felt a flutter under her ribs. Come on, come on.
A head popped up from behind the desk and a smile greeted her pained expression.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, toilets please?”
With a bemused smile the woman pointed to a door round the corner and Claire fled.
- Realizing You ARE a Good Mom – Parenting (everydayfamily.com)
- How to beat the baby books (standard.co.uk)
- The most challenging, amazing, fun, rewarding job that sucks. Parenthood. (reallifeparentingblog.com)