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Rice cakeI can honestly say that I probably wouldn’t have got through the last year of my life without rice cakes (not a sentence I ever thought I would write, but, oh, how motherhood changes you). Specifically the tiny, organic ‘first finger food’ ones that come in plain and naturally juice-sweetened flavours – you know, the ones every middle class mum worth her salt has permanently stashed in her handbag. A handy snack  that’s almost biscuit-like enough in form and function to fool your little one that it’s a treat, they don’t have anything too nasty or junky in them. OK they’re not exactly the most nutritional food on the planet, being 90 per cent air and having about 0.3 calories in each one, but they are much better than the alternatives – ie KitKat/packet of custard creams/McDonald’s Happy Meal/delete as appropriate.

At the back of my mind, for a long time, these rice cakes were my lifeline – a guarantee that if my baby son did have a meltdown in a public place I could probably shove one or two of these in his direction, and it would keep him in a good mood for a few moments longer. If I left the house without a pack in my bag, I had that horrible vertiginous feeling you get when you’ve lost your keys or your mobile phone – vulnerable and a bit panicky. I knew they were ridiculously overpriced – over £1 for 50g measly grammes – are we talking mere rice here, or reconstitued gold plating? But the peace they guaranteed was worth it. 

Sadly in the last couple of months their magic effect seems to be coming to an end. The occasional naughty taste of Hobknob and chocolate birthday cake has made my son get wise to the fact that there are other less-cardboardlike treats out there in the greater food universe. I certainly can’t eat a real biscuit in front of him, and palm him off with one of those spherical little fellas any more.  If I’m lucky, he’ll gnaw on one for a bit these days, then toss it half-eaten onto the floor where its faintly sticky coating and gloopy edge collects a surprising amount of fluff in a very short space of time. Still it was good while it lasted.

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tupperware

They’re just plastic boxes. To put food in, generally speaking. Pre-mumhood I used to have a couple of large-ish ones, for leftovers in the fridge or for taking a pre-cooked lunch into work with me. Useful. But insignificant.

And now? We have hundreds of the blighters. They fall out of the cupboard willy-nilly and annoy me with their various sized lids (why can I never find the one that fits?). We have posh ones from Lakeland and cheapo ones from IKEA (there’s absolutely no difference btw). We have square ones, round ones, ex-icecream box ones (really good actually) and large ex-soup containers. We have ones that say they stack (they don’t) and ones that don’t say they stack (and don’t). We have inherited ones (people come to stay with baby, leave plastic paraphernalia behind) and takeaway ones (neat sized, but don’t dishwash so good).

But live without them? Never. Since having a baby they’ve become an absolutely indispensible part of parent life. The smaller the better. At first you can store (and carry with you) baby-sized portions of mushy food. Later they’re used for leftover baked beans and sweetcorn. You can freeze tiny blobs of gravy (just enough for a toddler sized portion of sausage and mash) and individual cheese sauce helpings to be added to macaroni for a quick pasta meal. Everywhere you look in our fridge-freezer a small plastic container is lurking, filled here with a morsel of fish, there with a splodge of mince.

Not only do they make handy carriers for snack-sized portions of raisins, cheerios and grapes, they double up as toys (especially for older babies, who love to stack and put stuff into things) and, as they get older, containers for beads, buttons, crayons, hair bobbles and, (most recently) pumpkin seeds carefully collected and cleaned by toddler daughter for a mysterious but incredibly important princess necklace project.

Now I understand the care with which my mother bestowed on what seemed, to my more carefree self, a couple of old cracked oblong food containers long overdue for the bin. It’s certain their size, lid-fit and shape hit the jackpot for her needs. My own quest for the perfect plastic container is still ongoing. One that actually stacks, that stores neatly and doesn’t stain red after being filled with tomato sauce. That closes with a neat snap and opens without a struggle. And it dawns that this mummy’s clubbing haze days truly over. Tupperware parties here we come.

pullupyourpantsDo you know how to tell if you are a real mum? It’s when you literally cannot bear to walk behind some skinny-jeaned yoof whose waistband has slipped halfway down his arse in the name of fashion. I have even found myself crossing the street to stop myself reaching out and wrenching them up.

Contrast this with just a few years ago when I would probably have assessed his bum and, most likely, been sporting a similar slack-butt look. As well as thinking him ‘well buff’ I would have probably preferred it to sit lower.

And now? I’m a child’s worst nightmare and (one imagines) Simon Cowell’s sartorial dream.  How did it get to this? I’m forever hitching up, tucking in, tugging vests into pants and pulling tights up under the arms. I cannot stand my daughter’s t-shirts hanging out and worry that the smallest inch of bare midriff will lead to pneumonia.

And it’s not just her. I am finding myself looking at comfy high-waister slacks instead of funky low-slung jeans. I’m thinking of thermal tummy-hugger vests and big ‘bodyshaping’ pants. I recall my own mum’s billowing elastic-waisted skirts and I realise the game’s up. The mothering gene (jean?) is unavoidable. And, in more ways than one, your waistline’s the first to go.

Pre-mumhood I didn’t care about the insides of cupboards. Tidying up was all about stuffing everything into cupboards, not tidying up the contents of the cupboards themselves. I mean, what was the point in that, nobody looks inside cupboards for pete’s sake! No, tidying up was when you rushed hungover-hasty around your poky bedsit and stuffed everything willy nilly into the cupboards out of sight (out of mind) ten minutes before some possible boyf material was coming over for a lunch date.

Fast forward to life post-partum and I’m obsessed with taking stuff out of cupboards and putting it back neatly. Nothing makes me happier than opening my newly sorted laundry cupboard and viewing those piles of tidy towels, folded linen and, uh, a bunched up ball of swimkit (note to self: must organise swimming kit storage for ultimate domestic happiness).

And I think back to my own mother’s obsession with emptying cupboards filled with all the stuff us kids jammed in any-old-how and rearranging it, while the house itself forever looked like it had just been burgled. Possibly because she only ever got half-way to putting the stuff back in. (Never enough hours in the day you see. But that’s another story.)

The point is, once motherhood hit you (and it does, with the subtlety of an articulated lorry) your life is not your own anymore. Any sense of control you once had over your own existence (sleeping, eating, having a normal conversation that lasts from beginning to end) is relegated to the insides of cupboards. Yes, I know, dammit, that nobody can see inside my cupboards. But at least I know what’s going on in that laundry cupboard even if the rest of my life is a total guessing game.

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This blog is currently dedicated to stuff new mummies like. As opposed to stuff mummies of teenagers like. That's because we don't have teenagers yet. Give us a few years though. We're told it goes pretty quickly...

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