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I never understood my mum’s obsession with leftover food. To this day she never throws anything away. We’re talking tiny remnants of meals here, a blob of tuna, a spoonful of potato salad. Nobody ever fancies it the next day. Instead the contents of those small pots and plastic boxes at the back of the fridge would gradually turn putrid before finally ending up in the bin, a few weeks later.

I used to think it was some kind of war-baby thing. You know, she lived through rationing so of course it’s only natural she’d save the lumpy dregs of the gravy, that lonely slice of a boiled egg, those wrinkly three peas. Where was the next meal was coming from, right? It’s only now, when I find myself rescuing my own despondent fragments of meals, carefully placing a spoonful of beans into a tiny tupperware container or plonking one small cooked potato into a pot, that I realise it’s motherhood that does it.

For one thing, once you’ve watched your kids throw most of your hard cooking work onto the floor, “wasting good food” takes on a new meaning. This is personal. Those peas aren’t just any old peas, they’re your blood-sweat-and-tears peas. And they’ll damn well eat them up even if it means adding them cold to their lunch plate the next day. And the next.

Yes. Of course we’re poor too. Dirt poor. We don’t have rationing, but our belts have got damn uncomfortable of late. Just look at the cost of childcare – which has now jumped to a third more since the recession according to a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. You eke out each meal because you can’t do a ‘weekly’ shop. Why? Because the weekly shop seems to have doubled in price (like, when did that happen?). So you stretch it out to a fortnightly event with some limp veg bought at Costcutter in between.

And yes. We are digging this whole budget living vibe right? We’re all eco-warriors now. We recycle our food because ‘waste not want not’ is the buzzy thing to do. Yesterday’s spag bog is tomorrow’s chilli con carne. At the very least that old bit of courgette will be going on the compost-heap, right? Oops, I meant the Bokashi bin, of course. We don’t recycle anymore, for crying out loud, we UPcycle. Yeah.

But truly, it’s really because, with a toddler to look after, there is NO TIME. You can’t be cooking from scratch every meal – are you insane? No. You cook one meal. On Monday. And you take their next meal out of its leftovers and arrange it on the plate into a face shape for lunch on Tuesday. Oooooh. Look at the funny man! And you hope by tea-time on Wednesday the kid doesn’t realise it’s the third time he’s been eating from that same batch. Bon appetit!

Photo by jonlk

Sometimes, in quieter moments, I dream of the perfect Sunday morning. I’m lying in a kingsize bed with perfectly pressed white linen sheets and plump feather pillows, in a pristine bedroom that’s strangely free of socks on the floor and crumpled clothes heaped on the ‘chairdrobe’.

As I stir from a blissful, uninterrupted nine hours of sleep, a soundtrack of gentle jazz-lite – possibly John Coltrane, possibly Miles Davis, possibly Ella Fitzgerald – slowly wafts me into the land of the living. Outside in the street, rather than the usual irritating cars revving and children screaming, I faintly hear the lyrical song of the blackbird. I look at the clock: it’s half-past nine! The following items have miraculously appeared at the foot of the bed: a cafetiere of piping hot coffee, a jug of warm milk, a glass of orange juice, a warm croissant and the full complement of Sunday papers, from high- to lowbrow…

While non-parents sometimes get the impression that, once you go forth and procreate, you never ever get a decent’s night sleep again – not entirely true for everybody, thank the lord – it is true that proper, restorative lie-ins, for the majority of us, are rarer than hen’s teeth.

As we grow up into adults, most of us eventually fall into either ‘owl’ or ‘lark’ camps. But babies, toddlers and young children are all, by some cruel twist of nature, pretty much down to a T, programmed to be larks. Once the clock strikes 6am (or, sadly, earlier in many unfortunate cases) most of them spring into life, raring to go and fizzing with energy like Duracell bunnies on speed. They need to have nappies changed, to be given bottles, to be fed, and dressed, and entertained, and all before the sun is even up. They don’t care that you’re mildly hungover from your night in with the latest episode of Glee and a cheap bottle of Pino Grigio. They don’t care that all you really want out of life at 6.15am is another blissful 15 minutes of slumber. They will shout and scream at the top of their lungs, so even your deepest sleep and most vivid dreams are penetrated. They will climb into your bed, pull off the covers and thrust a hardboard copy of the Gruffalo into your grey sleep-starved face, and beg to be read to before you have even gained consciousness. Honestly if the armed forces ever need to come up with a failsafe torture device for known terrorists, I suggest they stick them in a room with a toddler first thing every morning for the next six months or so.

After a lifetime as an owl, I have sadly come to the conclusion that the only way to create the illusion that you are, in fact, having a lie-in, rather than waking up at the same time as fishermen, is to go to bed before the 10 o’clock news comes on, and possibly before the 9pm ‘serious drama’ slot. But in the meantime, I can carry on dreaming…

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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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