Thursday, February 10, 2011

How much is too much?

Disclaimer: please note that this post is in no way, shape or form intended to be a criticism of working parents or an attack on them.

We were looking forward to the week end. Mr Foodie's mum and dad were to take the girls overnight on Saturday and we had made plans to meet up with friends for dinner and generally just take it easy. We don't do it often, once a month at the most. We enjoy having a bit of time away from the girls and we are lucky that Mr Foodie's mum and dad enjoy taking them for the weekend once in a while too.

Up until Noelie was nearly one, I didn't (and couldn't bear the thought) of leaving her overnight anywhere. I even wrote a post about it there. It's not that I don't trust other people to look after my children (well, maybe a bit) or that I don't enjoy the odd night out or anything. I firmly believe that my children are my responsibility and I don't rely on anybody to look after them but me and Mr Foodie. I don't like leaving a small baby with somebody else and subjecting them to a broken night sleep, or having them dealing with night feeds. I don't like asking other people for help in looking after my children. I would only ask after I had twisted and turned every other possibility in my head and came to the conclusion that there is no other option but to ask. Now that she is a bit older and that she can't express herself in many other ways other than crying I am a bit more comfortable with it. Marie, being 7, enjoys going off for the weekend and I am not worried about her at all. She can say when and where she hurts if she does, she can ask for food and is a responsible, polite child (if I go by what people are saying).

Now, you probably have noticed that that first paragraph is written in the past tense. That's because that was the plan up until this afternoon. It's not anymore and I am a bit pissed off about it. I don't mean to sound bitchy but I know that, unfortunately, it is the way I am going to come across but hey, it's my blog and it's a subject that Mr Foodie and I have been talking about for a good while, and we keep going around in circles. He agrees with me (to a point) and is getting sometimes a bit frustrated about it too although he sees it from a different angle than I am.

I can accept the fact that things don't sometimes go to plan, I can accept the fact that sometimes things happen and plans have to change. I can accept illness, forgotten previous engagements. I can accept things out of everybody's control such as broken heating, water leaks, snow, broken cars and the likes. But there are things I find hard to accept.

Mr Foodie's mum and dad look after the new baby (well she is not so new anymore since she is nearly 10 months old). When I say they look after her, I mean, that they take care of her for anything from 2 to 4 days at a time, while her mom works and rests (she works shifts). She recently started working again after her maternity leave and , as far as we know, this is a temporary arrangement, only for few months, until she is back on maternity leave for baby number 2. Now, as much as I was overprotective of Noelie, they are the complete opposite. They left the baby overnight with Mr Foodie's parents when she was a couple of weeks old. And have done so every week or so since ( her reason being that she was tired and needed a break). But now that she is back at work, it is more and more, for longer and longer periods whether she is in work or not. Most weeks, they will mind the baby for 2 or 3 nights in a row. I do understand that she works shifts and is pregnant and has hospital appointments and that she gets tired etc. He works too. But working for himself, he only does the hours he wants and he decides to work at night when he could as easily work during the day. He has that flexibility that a lot of us don't or didn't have when working. He goes to college once a week too, in the evenings but is finished by 10pm. So why leave your baby with somebody else if you can mind her when your other half is at work (whether it's him or her)? Why not just ask that they come and babysit in your house while you're out so that you get up with her in the morning and spend time with her? Each to their own of course, but I know that I felt terribly guilty when I was working over not being able to spend more time with Marie and that was without leaving her overnight!

Now, don't you all start thinking I am jealous of how much they take the other baby or anything like that. It's not at all the way I feel. As much as I think it's not fair for other people to get up for night feeds or getting their sleep interrupted looking after your baby, it is their own decision and their own arrangements. Both parties are doing it willingly. My point is that Mr Foodie's parents are in their 60s, they are not as young as they'd like to think. And a 10 month old baby is hard work, especially one that won't sleep without being held and who doesn't take her own bottles. It is difficult for any parent, but I'd say it's even harder for older people and I'm pretty sure most of you would agree, no matter what your feelings on the subject are.

So what's her problem, I hear you ask. Well, my problem is that their arrangement is starting to have an impact on us. The mom only found out yesterday (ahem) that she would be working late on Saturday and Sunday and has let Mr Foodie's parents know so that they could mind the baby. And despite our previous arrangement, they felt that they could not say no and agreed. They told us that they would take the 3 girls overnight but not to let the other mum know that our girls would be there too.The only thing (and you could say it's our fault) is that we won't allow them to take both our girls and the baby overnight at the same time (that and the fact that they only have one travel cot too). We feel that it is too much for them. Noelie has me exhausted most of the time, Marie is fine as she is much older, but add to the mix a rather demanding 10 month old baby and you more than likely end the day on your knees and that's at my age (no I will not tell you! OK, early 30s). So imagine what it must feel like in your 60s? We can see how tired looking they are when they pop down for a cup of tea to see the girls and they have the baby. We can see how even more tired they look when they leave because the 3 girls were there and the 2 babies were constantly looking for attention from them both. So we politely refused the offer and we told them why (again as it is not the first time we tell them.)

So instead, well, we changed our plans, assuring them that it was OK. We postponed the dinner to 'some other time' and we will have the girls at the week end (not that I mind ). What I mind, is that once again, we are the ones changing our plans. I don't see the other parents changing their plans once in a while. I know this was only to give us a break and so that we could relax for a couple of days and that her going to work is more important. But what about him? Could he not change his plans for once and look after the baby? And let us enjoy one of our rare nights out? And what about the other times when she is not in work and leaves her overnight just so that she can have a break. We all need a break from time to time. We only ask for a break every 4 or 5 weeks (sometimes longer) and we try to work it around the times when they don't have the baby (which is quite tricky considering how much they have her), or any other plans they have made (they have their own lives too!). But now, even when we have plans made that have been carefully worked around all that, it seems that it is not sufficient enough. And it annoys me that we are the ones backing down. I know we are doing it for the right reasons, out of consideration for Mr Foodie's parents who also need a break, because we don't want to cause a fuss. I know that Mr Foodie's parents hate to let us down like that too. Maybe it's our fault for not leaving our girls overnight more often, or for not wanting to be difficult, or even for not being selfish enough. I'm sure the other parents don't even realize that the amount of time their daughter spends with her grand parents has an impact on our girls spending time with them too, or that we make our plans based on them and their schedule. It is a difficult subject to talk to them about as we don't want to come across as criticizing how they decide to live their life. So now, we will go back to the drawing board and try and figure out when we can reschedule our dinner and when the girls can go and stay overnight. So far, it's not going to happen for at least another 3 weeks. Ah well, it will be a well deserved break by then.

We just hope that the situation doesn't get worse when baby number 2 comes along in a few months. We were even joking (OK somewhat sarcastically) that maybe they would devise a schedule so that they only have one baby in the house at a time while the other one is in Mr Foodie's parents'. But then again they would also find it tiring since at the moment, they only have that one part time since they leave her there even when they are not in work.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you deal with it? Please leave your comments.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yes, we can (well not really but we'll pretend).

For all those who don't know, Ireland is in shite. Yes, we are. We owe billions out to the IMF and the EU (thank you by the way!). Up to 1000 people are going to be emigrating every week for the next few years, unemployment is around the 14% mark and those who are still employed have been hit by tax hikes on an incredible scale (I know and have heard of people that have been hit with 400 euros + in tax in January). The minimum wage has been reduced by 1 euro. Child benefit has been reduced by 10 euros a month (unless you have 3 children, your 3rd child for no explainable reason but being born 3rd, has taken a 20 euro hit!). People in receipt of benefits or allowances such as carers, blind people, and the unemployed have seen their payments reduced by 8 euros a week.Now, you might be wondering why I am painting such a poor picture of this country. The reason is because that's the truth. That's the way this country is.

Last Tuesday, after much debate and nonsense, Brian Cowen (Prime Minister and former Minister for Finance in the ''boom'' years) decided to dissolve the Dail (or Parliament). That came after some 6 ministers walked out on him, his ''partners'' in government, the Greens, didn't allow him to name replacements for the ministers that walked out, and we ended up with a government of 8 senior ministers heading ministries such as the Justice and Agriculture (am I the only one with pictures of prisoners frolicking in the middle of a field tending to cows?), or better Department of Health & Education (put the sick and the young in the same bag why don't you?). Eventually his party turned on him and the first minister to walk out on the current government was named Leader of the Party. So we had a Prime Minister, that not even his own party people trusted to lead them, leading the country with 8 senior ministers. Great! (feel the irony). Oh and, in his spare time, when he is not too busy fattening his pension,  he likes to play a round of golf and have dinner with one of the biggest crooks bankers that sunk this country and subsequently ''moved'' to the US.

Anyway, with this rant you might ask. Because you see, now that he finally let go after weeks of hanging on to power by his fingernails and anything else he could hang on with, we are going to have an general election. On the 25th of February, the people are going to go to the polls and vote for a new government. So the posters are up, the debates are everywhere, debates about important things and debates about debates (with or without Enda Kenny, with or without Vincent Browne, on RTE or maybe TV3). I had hoped, probably naively, that there would be a wind of hope that things could change, a la Obama. You know, yes we can. Sadly, it's far from that. For a start, none of them are half as good looking as Mr President of the US (yes, I admit it, I find him quite attractive). As my dad said, if any of your politicians try and have kids, they have to be killed at birth. It's a joke, people! All, he is trying to say is that they are as ugly as ugly can be and their offspring wouldn't have a wonderful start in life. That's all. Ok, it is a bit superficial, judging people by their looks. If at least, they were efficient or inspiring. But no, they're not. I used to work doing presentations, I'm sure I could give those guys a bit of training in that field. How can they believe that they are going to engage people, and inspire them when they speak in the most monotonous voices? Good orators, they are not. It's all finger pointing and aggressivity, and some kind of contest to see who can say the most words without taking a breath. Oh and a perfect display of how manners do not matter, since they just keep interrupting each other!

All you see now in the news, is hand shaking, puppy holding, baby petting (or should that be the other way around?). The world has stopped spinning since the campaign began. Reports of people being chased by election posters literally (well it was very windy), of a chicken walking into some party headquarters (or was that some kind of metaphor for the fact that the leader refused to take part in a televised debate?). The most interesting bit is how much they are being shouted at and how surprised they look that people don't like or trust them and shout at them.

I am glad I live in the country as they don't really come knocking on your door. But, you know what? I would welcome them and listen to them (as opposed to Mr Foodie who would tell them to fuck off and threaten to unleash the dogs at them. We don't have a dog but he is quite sure that Noelie can do as good a job as a Rottweiler, judging by the bite mark on his finger.). I might even ask them a few questions. And then, I would politely turn around and inform them that they have just wasted their time, just as they have wasted this country, because you know what? I'm not allowed to vote here. (By the way, if anybody can explain to me why British citizens have the same rights as an Irish citizens when it comes to voting and other Europeans don't, please feel free to let me know!)

Anyway, rant over.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Operation Potty training.

Yes, we have started the massive Operation that is potty training. Armed with the essential items that are potty and pants, we started on Saturday. And so far, it's been more of a disaster than anything else.

Here is a small idea of what I'm talking about:

- Saturday: pants on for 10 minutes, I'm sitting on the floor beside Noelie, watching her like a hawk, trying to read her body language. Is she about to go? Yes, no? Several attempts to sit her on the potty have been met with screams of 'no, no, no' and trying to get up. Suddenly, dribbles, quick, sit on the potty, no time to take the pants off. Accident number 1. She is quite happy with herself as we cheer and clap. Not sure she understood why we were clapping and cheering but she dutifully comes with me to empty the contents of the potty into the toilet and wave it goodbye. Time for a pants change. Mr Foodie decides to throw me a clean pair of pants. Unfortunately, these bounce off Noelie and land, I'll let you guess. Yes, in the full potty. Does that count as accident number 2 for Noelie, or accident number 1 for Mr Foodie? 2 pairs of pants wet in a matter of minutes. Good thing I bought a 10 pack!Thinking she won't go again for a while, I relax a little and decide to give her a bit of space. Wrong! 5 minutes later, puddle on the carpet. Oops, she says. She doesn't seem very pleased with herself or comfortable. Time for another change. We are now less than 30 minutes into potty training and I already have 3 pairs of pants to wash. Despite efforts to try and get her to sit on the potty (even for just a few seconds), she is defiant, she will not sit on the bloody thing for more than 5 seconds at a time, screaming no and panicking.  We all take turns sitting on the potty (fully clothed, of course) trying to show her it's ok to sit there. In the process, Mr Foodie nearly does his back in. It is a long way down to sit on the thing and joints you wouldn't even know existed cracked and protested at being maltreated in such a way. Another 2 accidents in another 30 minutes and we resign ourselves. Let's forget about it for today and start afresh tomorrow. And who knew a toddler could pee so many times in so little time? At least, we know that she won't be suffering from another UTI in the coming days!

Sunday: operations resume in the morning. After breakfast, we put a pair of pants on. We also bought some hideous tracksuit bottoms for her, things she can have as many accidents in as she wants. 1 hour in: still no accidents. Good. She won't sit on the potty without having a hissy fit though. She goes off and starts playing with her sister. Less than 2 minutes later, she comes back in. Did she have an accident? I check. Not sure. Feels dry enough. Time for lunch. I grow suspicious 2 hours without an accident. That's not possible not after yesterday when she proved that she could pee 5 times in less than an hour. After lunch, I check. There we are. There was an accident. Bloody stupid tracksuit bottoms are so thick that they just absorb everything. Time for a nap anyway so nappy on. A lot of questions go through my head. Is she ready? Is she not too young? After all, she just turned 20 months. Why does she not want to sit on the bloody thing? She plays with it and puts her dolls on it. Surely she knows what it's for. Is it not comfortable? How come she peed 5 times in less than an hour yesterday? We only put the pants on her yesterday, no tracksuits. Could she have been cold and it made her pee more than usual? I just don't know. Maybe she is not ready to try for more than a few hours at a time. How long do I need to keep following her and watching her like a hawk for? What about things I have to do? Surely, I can't just keep following her like that. What if she wants to sit on my lap, and she's wearing pants? I am not putting her on my lap, just in case! She gets up from her nap and we put another nappy on. Enough for today. I have things to do.

Monday: What do I do? I have so many things to do this morning. Can I run the risk of putting pants on her again? OK, we'll give it a shot. We can't just give up like that. So on go the pants. She is playing around and is ok for a bit. I try to get her to sit on the potty. She manages to sit on it fully clothed for a few minutes as long as I am sitting behind her. I try and get her to sit on it, not fully clothed and the screaming starts again. I wonder maybe I need to research this a bit further before we start properly. Time for lunch in a few minutes anyway so I put a nappy on because then it will be nap time. She has worn pants for about an hour without an accident. So not all that bad really.  While I get lunch ready, Noelie strolls into the kitchen with none other than.... a pair of pants on her head. Oh boy, this is not gonna work, is it?

Any tips or ideas on how we could kick start this thing?

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