Monday, November 25, 2013

The unexpected.

When I was pregnant I had a book that told you what developments the baby was going through week by week. Each week I read the relevant bit and wondered. That's the only pregnancy / baby book I've looked at though, I shunned them all when he was born.

Being what some might call a control freak, I felt like I was expected to fail at being a parent. Things are impossible to plan, they said. And I do like a plan. So my plan (haha) was to empty my mind of expectations and just bumble along. See what happened.

So far that has worked out really well. It's always news to me when people tell me how much a three month old 'should' be sleeping. (Or eating, pooing, weighing, rolling, laughing, focusing, batting things, meh). I have no idea how much he sleeps, he just does it when he feels like it and so far that has fitted in quite luckily with when I feel like it. 

I like having no normal to compare him to, we just do what works for us. And so having no expectations has worked, in that sense. (I did read one paragraph that told me if I failed to get him on a strict schedule by 12 weeks he would grow up unable to hand in homework on time. I think he may have inherited that from his parents though already. That book went in the actual bin).

But what's funny is the expectations I had about myself that have turned out to be way off the mark.

Firstly, boobs. It is baffling to me (at this point in my life) how boobs are considered in any way sexually attractive. They are clearly functional (and really, not very attractive) things, how did I never consider this before? I had assumed I would find it incredibly embarrassing breastfeeding in front of people. My friends' husbands, or my brother(s) in law(s) especially. But it's mad how I just don't care. I need to feed the baby, and this is how he gets fed. 

The day before I had him, I remember thinking I would never be comfortable with it. I'm generally the one at the beach in a full head to toe outfit in case someone gets a glimpse of unsightly flesh. But the day I was released from hospital, the hour I was released in fact, I sat on the sofa at home facing the bay window onto the street with both boobs out, just not caring. Who would have thought?

And then there's work. I've always liked working and being useful to people. I know it's like a thing that people go off and have a baby and then suddenly they don't want to come back to work. Eye roll. Typical. Extending maternity leave, then going part time and before you know it they're off again having aNOTHer one. Eye roll.

So I'm thinking about extending maternity. I'd genuinely expected to be different. I love working, and I do miss it. But I love Alfred too and he won't be this little ever again. Work will always be there. Argh I'll just stop trying to explain it, you either already have a kid and understand, or you don't and you won't. It's just annoying that I'm so predictable. 

And worst of all, the other day I caught myself in a pub showing someone a video of my baby. That is not cool. (It is brilliant though, he does four massive farts in a row). Not cool.

I've never been much of a fan of babies in general really, except for my nieces. Pretending babies are cute, when in fact I find most of them a bit funny looking, is just tiring. And a bit patronising. I hoped that I wouldn't find Alfred funny looking, and I don't - he's the best looking baby of them all. Obviously. What I didn't expect was that I would now find all babies cute. That must be some kind of nature thing to make you carry on caring for them when you've had no sleep for months.

But overall I think I didn't really expect to be any good at this. The truth is I'm really enjoying it and Alfred seems to be happy enough too. Things have really changed around here (I'm just about to put the third wash on today) - I would never have believed it of myself. We're actually doing ok.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bah humbug.

Being kind of Jewish, we didn't have Christmas when I was growing up. We had Hannukah (or Chanuka etc) instead, which was great, actually. I remember it as a really cosy idyllic family moment when it's dark outside and the fire is roaring in the hearth and we're all sitting around together. I'm sure it must have happened like that...

Anyway, I remember vividly the scorn I felt each January on returning to school. There was an annual competition to see who had the best Christmas presents. A bike? Just for Christmas? A telly? We didn't even have a telly and you got one just for you, for your bedroom? A video player?!

I told myself they were spoiled brats and materialism couldn't bring you happiness. So I told myself.

Throughout my university years I never went home for Christmas. I stayed behind and worked for double pay at Pizza Hut trying to guilt customers into bigger festive tips, and fed my friends' pet rabbits while they were away. I had a brilliant time.

Although I had no interest in Christmas, apart from the Christmas television schedule (I had one by now), I couldn't help feeling a self indulgent longing as I walked past houses with fairy lights and a warm glow seeping through the curtain gaps. It was mostly pretend longing though, like staring wistfully out of train windows when you're absolutely fine. I wonder how much of my life I live as if I was the central character in a film?

Fast forward to grown up years in grown up relationships - I am actually married I have to remind myself - and I finally do have a Christmas. Having done my best to resist joining in, I find myself actually enjoying the family get togethers and holidays-are-coming feeling. I love the communal cooking and the big family dinner and the stupid hats. I like sitting around afterwards with everyone, drinking wine and eating cold roasties until it hurts.

What I don't like is the presents. And here is the rant I've been building up to.

Firstly the pressure. I have been feeling it for months already and it's only just November. What the hell are we going to get everyone? The closer we get the more the panic sets in.

Secondly the guilt. What if our present doesn't match up to their present? Or what if our present totally crushes their present and they feel guilty? Either way you can't win, I feel the guilt.

Thirdly the cost. The more the panic and impending guilt sets in, the more likely I am to just buy something expensive to make up for lack of time and creativity. Cue more guilt.

Fourthly the sheer waste of it all. I would like to bet that the majority of Christmas presents go to that special unwanted present place in the sky. I'm not sure what's worse, giving a present that doesn't make the grade, or receiving one that doesn't. It's awkward. It makes me awkward. I don't know how to arrange my face.

I think I'd rather a more open system if we do have to do Christmas presents. Like a secret Santa type thing where you only buy one present for one person, and they buy one for someone else. Except it's not secret and you're allowed to confer. Wisdom of the crowds would hopefully help ensure that the present hits the mark.

Or alternatively everyone comes up with something that they want, and everyone else chips in to buy it for them. I spose the surprise element is somewhat missing though. But at least you'd get something useful, and you'd be contributing to something someone really wants. Warm smug glow.

Or what if we just all went out and bought ourselves something nice...

But this is my favourite idea: it's supposed to be the thought that counts right? So can't we just leave it at a thought? Let's all have a thought for each other and spend time together and enjoy each other. That's what I want for Christmas.

Oh and maybe a onesie.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Work rant.

Since I've been off on maternity leave, work has been playing on my mind. There is a massive global "company restructure" in the offing, and whole departments have been demolished. My department. And my team has already limped into obscurity. I thought it was odd my role didn't warrant maternity cover, and then my boss got "reassigned" just before I finished. That left one person... who subsequently moved on within weeks. So I'm waiting for a phone call.

I think it's unlikely I'll be made redundant, but given that I don't technically have a job right now I've been doing some thinking. What would I choose to do - if I had the chance to completely start again?

I'm dead jealous of Olly, he loves his job and has a great time doing it. He's so passionate about it he would rather work than be on holiday. I'd like to do something like that, if only I could discover what I enjoy.

I love being at home with Alfred. We've had such a good three months, way better than I was expecting, and I was expecting it to be pretty good too. We've done so many things and met so many people. Everywhere we go people want to know about him. And he smiles at everyone. He's great. And I don't want to miss any of his growing up.

Having said that... I miss work. I miss being on time and in control. And busy in a way that isn't to do with housework. Also, it's still a novelty (not being at work) which may well start to wear off soon.

How to combine both? (And earn enough to live on?)

Seeing as the movie rights to my life haven't been sold yet, and this blog doesn't make any money, and I can't think of a creative idea to write a book about, I'm going to have to do something employment wise. I've been looking around at ideas and I think I've had a good one. Not for me, but a company called Pepperberry. They specialise in making clothes for women with bigger boobs.

Rant warning! Coming up, a big old rant.

I contacted them last week with this idea which I thought was a no brainer, annoyingly they don't seem to understand and aren't interested in listening. The whole experience made me feel really helpless and frustrated. If this was my company I would jump at the chance to talk to people who want to contribute ideas. In this case I got stuck at the first line: customer service.

My idea is this. When people have a baby, they make loads of milk and consequently their boobs get bigger. If they breastfeed then this could be a long (ish) term effect (enough for them to have to buy new clothes to fit). This is potentially huge for Pepperberry, they get extra spend from existing customers as their size has changed, and they get incremental spend from brand new customers catapulted into the bigger boobed bracket.

We are now officially in a baby boom so this could be a big market. And in general the age that women have babies is being polarised, either really young, or (I hesitate to say really) old. Like me. I'm old enough to have a good job (still, hopefully) and enough money to buy nursing clothes.

Except - and here is the killer - they're isn't much out there to be found.

Pepperberry already specialise in one of the two requirements - clothes for bigger boobs. All that's missing is the ability to breastfeed in these clothes. No. Brainer.

My first reply from them explained that "Unfortunately we have no current plans to expand our range of styles to cater for maternity swimwear at present and I realise this will be disappointing for you". Well yes, I am disappointed - you clearly didn't read the email I spent ages composing. Maternity? Swimwear? Where did you get that from?

So I sent a quick reply just to clear things up, but didn't get any further. 

On the plus side, the whole experience made me realise something. Strategically, for Pepperberry, this would have been a good move to make (I believe), and setting it up would be a challenge. I would love to be involved in it. It made me see that I'd like to have a more strategic role, to be involved in something more fully, rather than just being a little cog sitting at a desk.

So I'm still thinking.