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Whenever I asked my own mother what she wanted for her birthday she always used to say the same thing year after year; “peace and quiet”. Now, living in a small Swedish village, she is at last surrounded by more peace and quiet than you can shake a stick at. But as a child I couldn’t think of anything more soul destroying. Why on earth would my mum desire something so useless and boring? As I got older I still didn’t get it. In fact, it’s not something you naturally understand as you get older (like some things in life). Because you only really kapish once you’re a mother yourself. And by then it’s too late. Because all your chances for peace and quiet have gone, forever. Well, at least 18 years.

The bottom line is children have a way of invading your aural universe 24/7. First of all there’s that constant jabbering (they’re either talking to you, talking to a toy, or, er, talking for the sake of it – usually repeating a phrase endlessly – internalising their thoughts is not something toddlers do). Added to that, their toys plink, plonk, judder, thump and bump, or even talk as well – Dora The Explorer’s squeaky Americana is a particular ‘delight’. And kids don’t stop moving (unless you glue them in front of CBeebies) so there’s a constant ambience of feet tripping, containers being opened and emptied, doors slamming and loo seats crashing. And at regular intervals the screeeeech of a child who’s either fallen down, fallen off, banged into or trapped their limbs. And I only have one (for now).

Your only chance of some relief from this constant ‘on’ volume is when they sleep. Which is why you spend your whole day craving for that moment when your offspring is/are finally asleep and you can collapse on the sofa shellshocked. Wine often helps at this stage. Until your partner sticks on Eastenders so you can have Peggy and her brood jabbering on at you instead. Sigh. Still it makes you appreciate the smaller things in life. It’s a rare but eagerly relished morning when I’m blessed with an extra cup of tea in bed while dad is downstairs fighting with the little one over whether to have Shreddies or Weetabix for breakfast (“Nothing!!! I just wanna watch TEEEEVEEEEE”) . On playdates I see the potential aural onslaught of two or three kids, plus a baby, where such cups of tea would be pure fantasy. And I realise that my mum, who reared four of us, deserves every nanosecond of peace and quiet she enjoys now.

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earplugs

You’ve seen them. Spilling out of drawers, gathering dust on the night table and rolling into the fluff under the bed to be discovered on the twice-yearly under-bed hoover. There’s a rare mother without them. Because earplugs come into their own when you have babies. Whether it’s psychological or physiological, your hearing definitely becomes supercharged when becoming a mother. And earplugs are the only salvation when it comes to grabbing some shuteye, day or night.

At the start you wake like you’ve been jabbed at with a needle at what transpires is simply your newborn’s sleepy snuffle, snork and shuffle. “Ohmigodisshedying?” screams your semi-conscious. And as you view the calm, butter-wouldn’t-melt face of your baby in the cot next to your bed and your heart slowly beats back to normal, you try your best to get back to sleep (it’s 4am dammit) before the 5am wake-up call. Worse – when your partner puts the TV volume up to around 10 (40 being max) you hurriedly bring it down (to his rolled eyes and “you’re insane!”) to a barely audible 3. To your heightened sense of hearing, the television seems impossibly loud and either in danger of waking the baby or masking their cries.

But then, later, as your baby grows and that incessant sense of imminent danger (includes cot death, but also all sorts of afflictions you imagine will surely happen to your baby) subsides, you still find yourself waking every time they as much as sniff in their sleep. And, boy, do these creatures make noise at night! It was at this point I turned to my trusty earplug friends. Oh joy of joys. Smooth, interrupted sleep (relatively speaking). And now, when she wakes early and perhaps – if I’m very lucky – plays with her toys in her bedroom for half an hour or so before jumping on my head, those earplugs have bought me an extra half-hour of sleep I would only have been able to (day)dream about otherwise.

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.


What would mothers do without frozen peas? You’ve just got home, your little one is starving and you’re down to a slice of manky ham, half a Babybel, the usual pasta screws (you never allow yourself to run out of those) and you know you ought to give your little darling some vegetables but you didn’t get a chance to visit the organic greengrocers* in between racing between nursery, bus, train and work [check emails, look busy, munch lunch, check emails, look busy], then train, then bus, then nursery and then home. Not if you live in the back end of arsewhere anyway. Because your corner shop doesn’t stock vegetables seeing as the locals survive well enough on kebabs. But enough digression already.

So we grind out the bottom drawer of the freezer (when will you ever have time to defrost that damn receptacle again?) and tumble some peas into a garish coloured Ikea kids bowl (every mummy has a set of these, it’s mandatory), shove it in the micro. Bob’s your gay uncle, you have something resembling a meal without so much as breaking into a sweat. Of course, that’s if your 2-year-old hasn’t yet developed that peculiar aversion to anything ‘green’ which afflicts 75% of all toddlers at some stage or another. In which case just keep a bottle of food colouring handy. Purple works a treat. Or go the sweetcorn route – another sure-thing standby. There isn’t a kid under 5 who doesn’t love the yellow stuff – fact.

*mythical outlets of overpriced superhealthy food which were invented by health columnists and baby guide authors to make mummies feel guilty for feeding their precious ones frozen peas

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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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