Thursday, 11 August 2011


I'm a tidy person by nature. I like things to be straight. If a room isn't as it should be then I can't relax in it until it is. And of course, if I can't then neither can my family because I will huff and puff and make a huge fuss until it's all sorted.

It was the same when I had a busy job. To ensure that nothing got overlooked, I had tidy piles of paper dotted around my desk so that at any moment I could see what was still awaiting my attention. This was how I maintained the illusion of control for myself. My boss had a room that looked like a bomb had gone off in it. I used to hyper-ventilate just standing on its threshold. Paper was piled upon paper upon paper so that it was impossible to find a flat surface on which to work. And yet, if you asked him where anything was he could immediately lay his hand on it. He had control in his chaos - his brain was clearly bigger and with better wiring than mine.

Unfortunately, being anal about tidiness does not always sit happily in a house with four children. They fail to understand how important to my mental well being a tidy house is and I cannot comprehend how they can walk into an ordered room and destroy it in a matter of seconds without even a nod to its former pristine state. So it's a bit of an unhappy mix and I have to bite my tongue and close my eyes to it to save myself from going mad.

I do have some understanding though. Don't tell my kids but I wasn't a tidy child. I too had drawers that were so crammed full of stuff that they wouldn't close. The catchphrase 'Don't open that cupboard! Things fall out!' could have been written for me. Too much stuff, not enough space and no interest in achieving more than the merest modicum of tidiness to get my mum off my back. That was me. And, it appears, is them.

Task for the summer - sort my eldest's room. The others need attention but hers was the worst. We tackle it storage unit by storage unit. The desk, the bedside table, the vanity unit and finally the wardrobe. We do it together. She is good at throwing away and we fill bag after bag of clutter in a satisfyingly Cathartic manner. The result is impressive. A place for everything and everything in its place. There were even clear spaces waiting ready to be filled. It was great. I feel calm and she is pleased.

It lasted less than a day. Fresh ironing hidden rather than hung up. Toiletries left on the side rather than in their newly allocated spot. Bags, scarves, clothes, magazines all not where they were supposed to be. Previously this blatant disregard for my tidiness would have resulted in a minor explosion of anger but slowly I'm resigning myself to it.

I'm not giving in. I remain unchanged. If it's not tidy I twitch. That's just who I am. But I can't make them who I am. They will learn to be tidy or they won't. There is nothing that I can do about it. I hope they will have enough respect for me and their environment to make some sort of effort but if I want the house like a new pin then I'm afraid that that is going to have to be down to me. At least my square metre is straight!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


An article in The Sunday Times got my goat this week. To be fair, I was determined to hate it when the tag line read  'How do the Nation's Top Mummies get their kids eating veg?' Already my hackles were rising. Exactly who are these 'top mummies'? Do they give out awards? Can we all vote? As suspected, the article was actually referring to celebrity mummies. Those mummies who have to give their children to someone else to look after whilst they are out becoming famous and making plenty of money to then spend on vegetable gurus who can tell them how to make their little darlings eat vegetables. ( I did warn you that my goat had been got!)

I didn't read the article first time round, so incensed had I been by its basic concept but as I turned the page my eyes were drawn to a plateful of bright orange spaghetti and yet again I was sucked into the text. The recipe began with a nice little suggestion as to how to make it a hit with your children. 'Ask your children to arrange the carrots in order of size.. get them to count out the sage leaves.... encourage them to smell the sage and talk about its lovely silvery green colour.'

God give me strength. This is such a ludicrous suggestion that if I hadn't been weeping I would have laughed. Perhaps if you only have one child, do not work and have patience of Job this might be a good wheeze? Now, I may be on my own in this regard but in my house food preparation is a much a chore as cleaning the bathroom. I want my food, albeit freshly cooked and wholesome, prepared and cooked with as little fuss as possible. As I chop vegetables there will be someone playing tig around the island, another telling me that if they don't eat ' in like five minutes' they are going die, someone needing help with homework, someone trying to tell me something trivial about their day which is clearly a coded message for something more important that I have to decipher and I will be clock watching to make sure that I time the meal to fit in between the various extra curicular classes that that evening holds in store. There is absolutely no time for counting carrots.

And this is what makes me cross. All households are different. We all have different priorities and ways of doing things. But as far as I can see we all have one thing in common. We are all just doing our best. So reading in the Sunday paper that it if I do not engage my children in the cooking process I will not get them to eat vegetables, that this makes me second tier to the 'Nations Top Mummies' and consequently a failure as a  parent is unhelpful at best and downright irresponsible at worst. Being a parent is an incredibly difficult job, made worse by constant comparisons with others and the enormous list of things that we are supposed to achieve, eating vegetables being just one of them.

My children do eat some vegetables and the list of what they will contemplate gets longer every year. This is a result of living in a house where vegetables are served as a matter of course. I pity all those mothers, particularly those with children much younger than mine, who opened their Sunday magazine to be hit over the head with how inadequate their parenting was because they do not count vegetables with their off spring. Come on Media. Give us parents a break.