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I don’t think I actually needed to sweep the floor pre-baby. I must have done I guess, but I certainly don’t remember. It must have been the odd occasion, you know – to gather up a random crumb, an errant slice of mushroom, a blip of a tomato leaf. On an otherwise spotless shiny wooden floor. No, dirt didn’t really impact on my life too much.

Now, though. It’s like that’s all my life boils down to. I live to sweep. I sweep to live. Literally. If I didn’t I’d probably sink and suffocate under a pile of trodden-on pasta, squashed peas and slimy carrot. I’m not joking. Perhaps I’m a bit obsessed. But it seems to sum up my life as mum of two small people – a constantly bent-over servant to two small tyrants ruling the roost on their respective thrones. OK, Stokke highchairs, but you get my point.

Yes, I’ve heard of a hoover. But have you heard the one about the terrified toddler who screams whenever you switch it on? And anyhow, getting the hoover out of the cupboard every time the kids have tipped over their raisins for the fifth time that day, is sheer lunacy.

Oooooh. I’ve tried other things. The floor mat for instance (or ‘splash mat‘). Nice idea – keeps the floor clear – but cleaning the damn thing itself is more hassle than it’s worth. Nope. The ol’ broom is the way to go whether you like it or not. It’s probably why these basic objects of female subservience still exist, if you think about it.

Just one thing: whatever you do, don’t attempt to sweep pasta, rice or couscous until it’s gone a bit dry and crunchy, it’ll gunk up your broom and goo the floor even more which is ten times more depressing than having to sweep it in the first place. And hey, while you wait, the toddler might get an unexpected bonus meal out of it. Everyone happy!

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Is there anything bleaker than waking up in the morning and realising that you literally have nothing planned with your three-year-old other than a trip to the local park? OK, I do realise lots of things are bleaker – war, drug addiction and child poverty being just three – but some days I actually think I’d rather go to a warzone than my local playground (there are those who might say on particularly grim low-lit February mornings it resembles one, with its expanse of pockmarked concrete, and drifts of flyblown litter).

I haven’t quite plumbed the exact depths of exactly why it affects me this way (I need a few more years of therapy for that), but going to my local playpark makes me feel like a total misfit. My child is generally the only one having a full-blown, blue-in-the-face tantrum on the swings (‘I SAID, push me FASTER mummy!). The other mothers always seem to be in tight little gaggles of twos and threes. Their children are always perfectly dressed. They are generally in the bland suburban uniform of jeans, some kind of padded jacket and Ugg boots. Unlike me, they look perfectly, happily at home there, amidst the three-wheel Bugaboos and Micro scooters, the Jojo Maman Bebe playsuits and Baby Bjorn carriers. I look at them, and think ‘they’ll never want to talk to me.’

I’m aware this makes me sound like I am the one who has the problem (and in a way it’s true), and it’s my fault for living somewhere where wearing a pair of Converse trainers or reading The Guardian marks you out as a wacky leftfield individualist who dares to have their own thoughts occasionally, not just ones they saw in the Daily Mail (OK, I exaggerate, but not that much). But it’s true that there are few places where I feel more like an outsider than the park. Just the thought of going there instantly makes me feel inferior, stressed, weird and very, very bored indeed.

That isn’t the only reason I dread the park, however. There are the constant tantrums, as described before. There is generally the threat of one of the much older, rather aggressive school children who permanently seem to inhabit the under-7s play areas viciously kicking my son in the head on the climbing frame. There is the vague threat that my own child might accidentally hit or punch a younger child, leading to a minor law suit. There is the fact that an evil ice-cream vendor permanently parks his van outside the gates, which means I will inevitably have to fork out £2 for an ice-cream for my son on the way home.

There is the general fear that, while I look away for a split second, my son will tumble off one of the climbing frames, and smash his head in. And there is the slightly tense air of competitiveness amongst parents to get on the damned equipment to begin with, whether it’s claiming a turn on the swing or getting in line for the slides. I just can’t bear the middle-class elbows-out-ness of it all.

Ok, I grudgingly admit it – it’s nice to see my son’s enjoyment on the slide and roundabout. I want him to learn how to climb, and get a few adrenalin-based thrills on the slide. But, generally, when I take him, it is one of those selfless moments that as a mother I must practice every day, as I do something I would rather not, as I eavesdrop on blood-pressure raising conversations about catchment areas (my son got our 6th choice of primary school, so please just shut up!) and feel the hours of my life slipping away, every rotation of the roundabout another second not spent doing something more edifying. But I love my son, so I take him to the park anyway.

I’m not saying mums are fat or anything. Because lots of them clearly aren’t (take Kate Moss for example. Or Elle McPherson). But it is true that after the birth of your first baby (and certainly your second or third) it does become a little harder to keep those extra pounds off your bottom or thighs or tummy (that traditional mummy trouble spot).

Plus there’s the obvious fact that not only do you have your own food to finish three times a day, you also have the uneaten remains of your child’s dinner to pick at – and if my son’s unpredictable appetite is anything to by, that’s most of it. And being mums, we can’t bear to let anything go to waste. Plus there’s the fact that, like canapes at parties or biscuits in the office, those calories don’t count anyway – right?

There’s also the grinding boredom of regular childcare – I know we love our little ones desperately, but there are days when having a nice cake to look forward to at 4 o’clock is pretty much all that gets us through the day.

Of course, you could probably follow a new faddy diet for every week of the year and end up no thinner, or possibly fatter, than you were when you started. I am generally against diets on the principle that using too much brain power to add up calories or follow complicated plans seems like an awful waste of mental energy for busy women who don’t have a lot left anyway (I’d rather read the newspaper, or a good novel than The Atkins Diet thanks). Plus diets encourage you to think about food, and all the nice things you’re missing, all the bloomin’ time, and if you want to lose weight that’s probably not a great idea. It’s been said many times before, but ‘eat a bit less, move a bit more’ seem to sum up what the pages of most of those diet books have to say anyway.

However, going by my own limited experience of trying not to get too horrendously fat (a daily struggle I admit – in the last couple of days alone I have eaten most of a Green & Black’s selection pack, a chocolate cake, a huge Danish pastry, a giant packet of crips and a pack of teacakes and put on about three pounds) I give you my admittedly unscientific diet methods:

1) Weigh yourself every day, or every other day

Yeah, I know all those skinny diet experts say not to (though I bet they actually do). And it can get a bit OCD if you’re not too careful. But the sorry truth is you can put a surprising amount of weight on in a week or even a weekend, and be in complete denial about. So standing on the scales regularly does stop you sticking your head in the sand. If you’ve indulged too much, the numbers don’t lie to you sister – which makes it easier to stay on top of sneaky weight gains. Sorry diet expert guys. I’m right, you’re wrong.

2) Eat fruit and salad stuff

Ok this sounds kind of obvious. Fruit and veg fill you up without the calories, plus they’re good for you. But it’s not just about what you eat, it’s when you eat it. Research has shown, for example, that eating an apple before you have a meal can reduce your appetite and stop you eating too much. It probably won’t stop you craving a chocolate bar, but it might prevent you pigging too much out throughout the day. Plus once you get into a pattern of eating something healthy your body invariably starts to crave it – in the same way, it craves chocolate buttons and Pringles, the professional snacker’s version of crack.

3) Eat breakfast – just not too much of it
I’m not sure if it’s a curse or a blessing, but I’ve never been one of life’s big breakfast eaters. Eating too early on makes me feel a bit sick and slightly dirty (annoying on those rare occasions I stay in hotels or nice B&Bs as I never enjoy the big fat fry ups all that much).
In fact, for years I committed the ultimate dietary sin and didn’t have any breakfast at all. I know all those same skinny diet experts bang on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and how it gives you energy for the day ahead, and I certainly wouldn’t dare to argue with them. That said, I think it’s easy to go too far the other way and eat too much at breakfast. And as we all know once you’ve set a pattern for the day, you tend to continue with it. You don’t need toast and cereal. And you don’t need too much orange juice either (full of sugar and calories). Just stick to normal portions, and ideally something that keeps you going like muesli with fruit, or porridge, and you’ll be OK.

4) Ditch the diet foods
Most low-fat foods are full of chemicals and sugar, or worse fake ‘no calorie’ sugars like aspartame, so have a weird sickly taste to them. The fact they taste horrible means you don’t really enjoy eating them. So you’re probably tempted to snack again later to reward your poor under-stimulated taste buds. I personally would rather have half a slice of a really lovely full-fat cake than a whole slice of something revolting, dry and artificial tasting, in the same way I’d choose half a tub of normal yogurt over horribly watery low-fat versions. But maybe that’s just me. I’m sure there are many women out there who drink an Options hot chocolate drink out of choice and think ‘yum’ rather than ‘yuck’.

5) Get incredibly stressed/fall in love with someone unsuitable/be so busy you don’t actually have time to eat/get a hideous stomach bug

Any or all of the above or surefire ways to drop a few pounds here and there, but I wouldn’t actively recommend any of them. Except maybe the hideous stomach bug.

There are two basic approaches to tidying up after a toddler or small child. The first one involves the ‘clearing up as we go’ technique. This means you spend most of your waking hours putting small plastic figures back into tubs, play-do back into pots, blocks back into containers, books back onto shelves, raisins back into boxes, packets back into cupboards, puzzles back into their holes, teddies back in the cot or bed… you get the general idea. The words ‘Forth Bridge’ and ‘painting the’ spring to mind. This technique also means your back is constantly stooped from bending over, making you look like a kind of female Hunchback of Notre Dame. It also means that your toddler will probably wind up chucking extra stuff onto the floor just because he or she gets a kick out of having the power to make you crawl around on all fours to look under the sofa for that last missing piece of Lego.

The other approach is tidying up at the end of the day (or possibly week). If you don’t mind living in general squalour, and inhabiting a home that has the ambience of a recently burgled charity shop then this is the technique for you. Rather than spending the entire day tidying up, instead you can have a marathon session at the end of the day – always something to look forward to. (There is a theoretical third technique of course – not tidying up at all. I haven’t tried that one yet, though sometimes after a particularly trying day of tantrums I am sorely tempted.)

Of course, while your child is still small enough to be fooled by such things, you can at least turn tidying up into a game – ‘that’s lovely tidying up, Joshua, you put those books back on the shelf/wine bottles back in the wine rack really well!’. I don’t think the appeal of this game lasts until they are teenagers unfortunately. Also there’s nothing worse than tidying up after someone else’s really bad tidying up (putting the knives in the spoons drawer, or stacking the dishwasher really badly).

Either way, whatever you do, tidying up now takes up a major part of your life in a way that you previously only dreamed of. (As does living with a load of mess at every turn.) Still at least you can listen to Radio 4 while you do it.

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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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