Mothers in law!

There is no one size fits all when it comes to mothers in law. The butt of comedians’ jokes since time began, the mere mention of them can cause a “you know yourself” eyeroll by understanding company. For many sons
in law, the mother in law can be viewed rather indifferently.  They’re their partner’s mother, a bit annoying perhaps, the devil incarnate at worst, but not really worthy of a conversation with their mates.  Us women however, can have a very different take on things and entire friend meet ups can
revolve around their antics!

As I was dropping my children to school today I met another mum to whom I mentioned my mother in law had come to visit.  With a sympathetic look she asked me “oh, how’s that going?” In fairness, I’d probably react similarly to someone who mentioned that their mother in law had come to visit, uncertain whether to empathise or celebrate!

I’m one of the lucky ones. My mother in law has almost forgiven me for stealing her firstborn and is a wonderful support to me and a doting grandmother to my children.  As a very precise and organised woman I’m sure she is baffled by the chaotic scenes she encounters when she visits but she mucks in and generally supports me as I do things my way. Some of my friends are as lucky as me while others have, shall we say, more “challenging” relationships!

 From differing opinions on children’s discipline, family size, insistence that the grandchildren bear not even a passing resemblance to their mother (well except maybe for their feet and even at that only maybe) to out and out mud slinging, it seems everyone has a tale to tell about their
partner’s mother.  For some people it’s a bit more than a passing annoyance and they may never be bosom buddies but for others, mother in law difficulties can be enough to put a real strain on the family. I have laughed at some of the stories my friends have told when we have got together and cringed at some of the others.


Not everyone seems as bothered as I am when I hear of some of the more difficult situations but I think that might be because of my tendency to personalise things. While one particular friend shrugs off her relationship with her mother in law as a lost cause, I imagine a “what if” situation for myself in the future.

Having, as I mentioned before “a fair few boys” I could potentially be the paternal mother in law on several occasions. I’m not sure I could be as forgiving as my mother in law of anyone who steals my second, third or even seventh born. The phrase “a daughter is a daughter for all of your life, a son is a son until he takes a wife” rings in my ears and scares the bejaysus out of me to be honest.

Although in all likelihood my opportunity to be a mother in law is many years away I have decided on a new motto for the future “keep your enemies close, keep your daughters in law closer”! Forward planning and all that


When my first child was born and I realised the pain of childbirth, I found a new respect for my mother. And when my baby never slept and I had to function in a zombie like state, I found a new respect for my mother. When my toddler threw tantrums in the supermarket, doctor’s surgery, bus, school gate and every other place imaginable I found a new respect for my mother. And when the never ending mountain of homework started to arrive and preparing dinner and clearing a bomb site had to be fit in around it, I found a new respect for my mother. When I became the mother of a teenager and found myself in the alien territory of mood swings, strops and general hormonal breakdowns, I found a new respect for my mother BUT since my dishwasher has broken down and I have to wash the dishes myself on top of everything else, I’ve realised that woman, was a bloody saint!!!!

Can we really have it all?

I am in the very fortunate position that I have worked part-time (mornings only) since the birth of my first child.  It has helped somewhat with the mammy guilt, enabled me to remove my school aged children from the childcare conundrum and has created a situation, for my school going children anyway, that I am home when they are home.  Through the use of parental leave and family friendly policies in my place of employment, I have managed to cover most school holidays (obviously at my own expense) with a few days left for sick days, hospital appointments and school shows.

My leave is as precious as gold dust.  I never take a day off just because I fancy it – I never know what could crop up and I might need it.

I am regularly told that I have the ideal situation. I have to be honest, as grateful as I am to have the time with my children in the afternoons, I am left exhausted by the demands.  I am here for the morning chaos as I try to get my older kids to school.  I feel dreadful leaving my younger children at a time when they should have the advantage of more of my attention while their older siblings are at school and I walk out of a house that looks like a tornado has gone through it and will be waiting for me to tackle when I get back from work.  I face the heavy morning traffic everyday, do my job and then leave at lunch time (without having lunch obviously). I go straight to collect my younger children and from there on to the school to pick up my junior infant. I am immediately in full time mammy mode.

The smallies are delighted to see me, there’s a mountain of breakfast dishes and the older kids come home, forgetting I’ve been to work at all, with their homework and after school activities to be fit in.

A UK school principal recently caused uproar when she suggested that we shouldn’t be leading our girls to believe that they can have it all. This came on foot of a senior UK gynaecologist reiterating the importance of women understanding their biology and fertility.  Nature waits for no career! In an age where women’s rights have progressed, there’s no denying we still have a way to go and this particular issue is a difficult one to navigate.  Trying to build or progress a career without the distraction or commitment of children means postponing a family to a time when things might prove more challenging.

My daughter is now old enough to be giving serious consideration to the career she would like in the future.  The path she wants to follow is pretty specific and naturally I hope it will be the right one for her.  I also, as a mother and her mother, knowing how difficult it is to juggle everything, find myself wondering how family friendly it will be. Throughout school and college I had an ideal in my head as to how my life would be.  When the little people came along, my priorities changed – as did my perspective.
I don’t want to admit that there might be a glass ceiling for my daughter but I don’t think I believe you can have it all.  I think somebody is paying the price. I’m not sure how much things really have moved on for women now that they’re largely expected to do all the things their mothers did for their families and hold down a job on top of this. The demands on working parents emotionally and physically are huge. The guilt leaving your children can be enormous, the commitment to your employment challenged. The work of a stay at home parent however, is hugely undervalued in spite of being one of the most relentless, exhausting jobs there is. Sadly, enough importance is still not given to the role of a carer in spite of the workload and sacrifices involved.

I don’t want my daughter, as she considers her future life, to believe that there is anything she can’t achieve that her brothers can.  She is however, bound by her biology and may have to make some difficult and different choices to them. I don’t know what the answer is, or if the principal’s
suggestion really is as outrageous as it first appeared, but it certainly gives
food for thought.  All I do know is, that from my point of view, when my maternity leave comes to an end, the chaos here will become that bit more chaotic…..

Favourite Child

Research or no research, I’m not buying this claim that parents have a favourite child. My five year old, on the other hand, would beg to differ.  Somewhere along the way he has become convinced that he is my favourite child and if he’s annoyed at me threatens to withdraw this honour. “I won’t be your favourite child anymore” can be said to me for all number of reasons from insisting he eats his carrots to telling him Superman is cooler than Batman.

It has become quite the standing joke with the older kids in our house at this stage, while the younger ones remain oblivious to his claims. I’ve no idea where he got the idea from but he’s happy enough to argue the point with his Gran, who in her loyalty to my other children tries regularly to convince him that I don’t in fact have a favourite. He won’t entertain the notion, however, and remains confident that he holds the most privileged position in my affections.

Most definitely there are certain aspects of my children’s personalities that I find easier to live with (and certain aspects that drive me to the brink of insanity) but that’s human nature. I’m aware of my different children’s strengths and difficulties.  I’m aware of the fact that even though the same ingredients went into making each of them, the end results couldn’t be more different.  They might look alike but their personalities and temperaments are as individual as they are. We have a couple of them we call the “charm offensive”, the kids we send to meet and greet when we want to make a good impression. We have another couple we hang back on introducing to a scenario until that same impression is made! There are some in which I see a lot of me, both in mannerisms and interests and some so much like their father it’s uncanny. Having more in common with one or more children does not change how I feel about the others.

I try my best to be fair to them all (though I’m sure they might disagree) but I don’t treat them all the same because they need different things from me. I don’t parent them all the same because they need different parenting from me. I do however love them all completely and utterly equally with all my heart….except for the ones who do their homework with least complaining….I probably love them a bit more…and my five year old of course!

Last Day Of The Hols

The Easter holidays drew to a close here yesterday in pretty
busy style.  We had visitors in the shape
of my parents in law and my sister in law with her family.  Our nine year old returned from a friend’s
sleepover after having far too much fun to sleep and so was in the sort of form
you’d expect from a walking demon.  Our
teenager went to the last disco before her Junior Cert which started at 8
o’clock so obviously she had to start getting ready from 2 o’clock, (that
certain shade of tangerine they all like to be, takes a while to take hold) while
the “in between” kids played happily with their cousins without any regard for the
Department of the Environment noise pollution guidelines.
While eating we were treated to a floor show by my two year
old who is well capable of using the toilet but preferred to show the accuracy
with which he can aim at the potty , the sort of accuracy you tended to see
from the person who answered the questions on bullseye.  The five year old meanwhile imitated Dusty Crophopper,
complete with sound effects and actions from the Planes movie which was being
shown simultaneously on RTE and the seven month old looked on bemused but
definitely not fazed by the whole spectacle. It was a lovely afternoon.

When everyone was gone home and most of the kids were in bed,
all that was left to do was wait for my daughter to come home.  The baby, who doesn’t rate sleep, kept us
company and greeted his sister with a big smile as she came in the door.  It’s an almost surreal feeling sometimes to
have a child old enough to go to a disco and have a child so young he needs
propping up with cushions on the floor. It’s funny to have children who keep
you up at night for very different reasons.

Today, much to my kid’s disgust will be about getting ready
for the return to school tomorrow. 
Trying to reel back in bedtimes which have gone more than a little askew
over the last couple of weeks and making sure everything is ready for the week
ahead.  I have loved the break from the
routine, the freedom from homework and afterschool activities and the
reclaiming of our afternoons.  There has
been lots of fun had and far too many rows too but all good things must come to
an end. Now how to convince them that the return to school is not all bad……
#atleasttheresagrandstretchintheevenings #mamatude

Breastfeeding shaming

I have read a huge amount online in recent weeks about
episodes of breastfeeding shaming which still seems to happen on a much larger
scale than I would have expected.  My son
is almost seven months old and is breastfed. 
No big deal in my eyes.  He’s a baby.
He gets hungry.  He gets fed – pretty
much wherever and whenever necessary. He’s slightly (very slightly) more
predictable now that he’s older but, in the early days, I knew that any kind of
an outing would most likely involve me having to feed my baby in public. Now,
I’m not a whip ‘em all out kinda girl, (except that time I walked into my
daughter’s school for a presentation and hadn’t put them completely away after
feeding the little guy in the car – however, that wasn’t deliberate and she’s
slowly recovering from the trauma and embarrassment I caused her) but then
again I don’t know any breastfeeding mother who is. A huge amount of the time,
no one would even know I was feeding the baby and I think this is the case for
most mothers.  It has happened, however,
and usually at the most inopportune time, that my son has decided to suddenly
stop feeding, turn around, give a gummy grin to a passerby and expose my boob
to any poor unsuspecting and potentially easily offended individual sitting or
standing in my line of vision.

I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding my
baby in public. I’ve never had a disapproving look, someone moving seat or a
comment about whether or not an appropriate proportion of my breast is on
show.  I hope it’s not just a case that
I’ve been lucky.  I hope the stories of
breastfeeding shaming, while apparently plentiful at the moment, are a
collection of isolated incidents. I would hate to think that something so
natural could cause offence to so many people. To paraphrase a midwife I met
while expecting my first child “Breasts have a function. They are there to feed
your baby, even if men like to play with the empties!” For me breastfeeding is
hugely convenient in that it allows me to adopt the motto “have boobs, will
travel”. It saves me a huge amount of time in an already chaotic life. The biggest
inconvenience it causes me actually, is the restriction
in my wardrobe choices.  I am now a
wearer, almost entirely of separates! #remembertoputthemawayafter #sorryhoney

The Ben and Holly effect…

I’ve realised recently, that my two year old believes the rules of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom apply to this house. For anyone who has a pre-schooler or younger school child, you’ll appreciate that magic always leads to trouble so that part doesn’t come into play. The threat of it, however, does. My toddler has threatened to turn me into a frog, with his breakfast spoon, a calpol syringe and our sitting room table lamp, on more than several occasions over the last few days. Reason being, he wasn’t getting his own way. Today he poured his Rice Krispies on the floor – because he didn’t want them, he wanted chocolate eggs instead. When I, in my humble opinion, quite rightly told him off for his behaviour, he put on his best Nanny Plum voice and Nanny Plum did not agree with me. “Yellow card for being naughty”, I was told. As I reiterated that this was not to happen again, he continued “red card for talking back”. Its hard to keep a straight face when I look at his earnest face and hear him quote lines from a programme now much more familiar to me than Eastenders, but I did my best. Once again the breakfast spoon was waved at me. This time I was to be a slug. That was enough to cause the breakdown that followed. “Where’s my wise old elf slug” he said, remembering suddenly that the slug was missing. Tears followed, as did frantic searches under the couch and behind the television. But no slug was to be found. We did eventually however, find the “wise old elf” under one of the cushions. This is my son’s favourite toy. “Silly old elf, back to yourself” he said, pacified once more. As we all know, elves don’t do magic, so now that the wise old elf has been found I am safe from being turned into a frog, slug or snail for the time being. Elves however, do blow bloody loud horns every time they say “and I’m an elf” so the six month old won’t be napping for too long……..


The Easter weekend was a hectic but mostly fun time here. Saturday, or Easter Eve as my children like to call it, involved tearing our house apart and trying to put it back together again ahead of visitors that we were expecting on Easter Sunday. Kids ran every direction possible, except towards us, hiding in the hope they wouldn’t be asked to do anything, and developed a selective deafness as we bellowed their names and most unfairly asked them to put their shoes in their rooms and hang up their coats. The mere suggestion they might do something further to help us prepare for the next day, resulted in protests of ruined childhoods, exhaustion and a general breach of child labour laws. Needless to say their protestations fell on deaf ears! In typical Irish style, I peeled what felt like a thousand potatoes and two tonnes of carrots to go with the roughly ten other types of vegetables that we had for the next day. I was almost drowning in vegetable skins but sure, you know yourself, you couldn’t have anyone going hungry.wink emoticon
Sunday morning saw excited children swap carefully chosen eggs and soon after the countdown to their cousins arriving began. When the cousins finally arrived the noise decibel levels went through the roof and hyperactivity of levels rarely seen before, kicked in. Its occasions like this among all the excitement and craziness that I am reminded what is truly important to my children. While they were looking forward to seeing what eggs they would receive, most of the excitement was reserved for the arrival of their cousins.This was what really made the day for them.
I love to watch my children together. I think they’re pretty close (that’s not to say they don’t kill each other frequently too) but they look forward to seeing each other after school and when one gets back from a playdate or an overnight stay with their grandparents. I have always taken particular comfort that they’ll have each other as they grow up but I suppose that will largely depend on whether or not they make the effort. I really believe in the “monkey see, monkey do” theory. It has come back to haunt me on plenty of occasions when my kids have reacted as I have, or said something that I have said (and definitely shouldn’t have!). The same I believe will apply to their involvement and contact with each other as they grow up, and go on possibly to have their own families. As adults they will have influences other than their original nuclear family in their lives. I hope they will remember the fun that they had with their cousins and grandparents and consider it high on their list of priorities and try to recreate the same fun for their children. I hope they will recognise the importance their parents placed on their own siblings and remember to be there for each other. Mostly, I hope they’ll still be the same (mostly) close knit bunch of lunatics that they are today.


The days we welcomed our children into our lives are etched in our memories forever. We remember the relief, the surprise, the perfection, the disbelief and the overwhelming love for these beautiful precious babies we had created. These perfect beings had lived within us, grown inside us, and were protected as much as possible from the outside world and all its dangers. We knew we would love them forever, however long forever was to be.
We changed forever too. No longer was life just about us. No matter how selfless we might have believed ourselves to be prior to becoming parents, our children’s arrival changed our perspective on everything. A love we never knew existed was also born and no longer could we look at the world with unaffected eyes. Our children knew nothing of our fears, worries and concerns for them. They were too small, too new and too innocent to know any of it.
It’s said ignorance is bliss, well innocence certainly is. Innocence doesn’t care about colour, creed, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Innocence doesn’t know hate. Innocence doesn’t breed hate. Innocence sees a friend as a friend and the world as a beautiful place full of variety.
We live in frightening times. The recent terror attacks have horrified and broken the hearts of all who have watched the reports on television, read the articles in the newspapers, and heard the stories of the people behind the numbers. They have also made us all feel so very vulnerable. Vulnerability can lead to fear, the perfect breeding ground for hate. Extremity thrives in a climate of fear.
As parents we have a duty to protect our children from many things. We have a duty to keep them safe. The world is not a perfect place full of good people sadly, and we have a duty to teach our children to be wary of those who might do them harm or pose a threat. Who constitutes a threat, however, is not defined by a person’s colour, creed, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. It can only be defined by the actions of the individual. Our children are not born knowing hate. Only we can teach them that and we have a duty to protect them from it.

Bye-bye nappies

It’s one of the times most dreaded by parents of toddlers
and small children, but it comes to us all and can’t be avoided forever
(although in fairness, my husband has done his best to try to). It’s the time
you’ll need nerves of steel, the patience of a saint and shares in a kitchen
roll company. It’s potty training time! Potty training is a wee and poo fest
that the whole family can get involved in, so don’t let anyone off the hook! Here’s
my 10 steps to help you with the task in hand and hopefully take some of the
stress out of it.
1.     Firstly choose a time to start when you can be
at home a little bit more.  If you have
to run in and out on numerous occasions be it for school or activity
collections, you’re going to make life more difficult for yourself. Plan in
advance and discourage visitors if at all possible.  Distractions are not great at this time.
2.     Try to involve your child in the choosing of
his/her potty and within reason go along with their choice.  My two year old son is the proud owner of a
Princess Peppa Pig potty.  It has served
us well! Also involve them in the purchase of big boy/big girl pants all the
while reminding them of how grown up they’re becoming now that they won’t be
wearing nappies anymore
3.     Allow your child to go without a nappy or pants
on the first day you start.  They’ll be
very aware of the absence of a nappy if they’re wearing nothing. The presence
of pants however, can confuse them and make them forget they’re not wearing a
nappy.  Make sure the potty is always
visible and offer drinks frequently.  If
possible let them watch a little programme that they really enjoy while sitting
on the potty.  The idea here is to
“catch” a wee in the potty by chance. This can take longer than you might
originally anticipate because the security of the nappy is gone.  Don’t be afraid to use a little bribery here
to encourage your toddler to stay seated on the potty.  You won’t have to do it all the time but for
the first few times it might help. (Is that the mammy police I hear banging
down my door??!!) . When your toddler does produce something, and if you have
managed to keep him/her seated there for a while, it will most likely be just
by chance.  This is when it’s time to
make an enormous fuss.  Involve any other
family members that are around, in the praise giving.  Your little one at least now has an idea as
to what he/she is expected to do in the potty other than wear it on his/her
4.     Prepare to shadow your child everywhere, literally
everywhere.  Small children get pretty
bored with the whole potty thing very quickly and are quite likely to run off
and pee somewhere else.  Move the potty
from room to room.  If there are older
siblings in the house ask them to help with the shadowing.  If your child starts to wee while not on the
potty, just quickly lift them up and place them on the potty.  Anything in there is better than nothing and
it reinforces that wees should be done in the potty.
5.     Throughout the day, keep saying to your toddler
“Where do we do wees and poos?….In the potty” Any success should be heavily
praised and misses met with a reminder that wees and poos are done in the
6.     When going to bed place a pull up style nappy on
your child but don’t refer to them as a nappy, just a variation on big boy
pants. No one is expecting this to be dry in the morning, but it’s good to make
the distinction between this and a nappy and it prepares the way for pulling up
and down pants which will be introduced over the coming days.
7.     Start day two the same way.  Remove the pull up.  Leave the child without nappy or pants and
keep the potty close at hand.  Day two
can be met with more resistance but praise, gentle insistence and bribery
should help.  Today your child might be
aware after they have produced a wee and may well jump up to show you (or not,
which is no problem either).  Again today
shadowing is very important so as not to miss an opportunity.
8.     Later in day two (or day three if you feel your
child is not ready) introduce the big boy/big girl pants.  You will be pretty much guaranteed an
accident early on but that’s ok because the wet sensation will remind your
little one of what happens if they don’t make it to the potty on time. Make
sure someone is on hand at all times to help pulling up and down pants throughout
the day and any success here should be met with a huge fuss.  This time your child has most likely been
aware of what they were doing and has deliberately used the potty.
9.      Day three
continues much the same as the previous day with hopefully a little more
success.  No doubt however, you will have
encountered resistance to pooing in the potty. 
It’s important to make sure your little one doesn’t become constipated or
holds on to their poo. If your child suggests that they need to poo, remove
their pants again so that they can easily get to the potty at the very last
minute. Again consider allowing your child to watch a favourite programme and
encourage them to sit on the potty while they do.  Hopefully they’ll get so caught up in what
they’re watching that they will produce! Leave the child without pants for a
while to see if this helps.  If your
little one becomes very distressed and still refuses to go, put a pull up style
nappy on them (still referring to them as big boy or girl pants). Continue to
encourage them to poo in the potty but don’t worry if they go in the pull up
nappy instead.  Poo-ing in the potty
always takes a little longer to master.
10.  By day four you should have proper idea as to
how your child is getting on.  If they’re
having less than a 50-60% success rate they’re probably not quite ready yet and
you might be better off just leaving it for a few more weeks (even just 3 weeks
can make an enormous difference).  Don’t
worry that all your hard work will be wasted, it won’t.  Starting again a few weeks later should be
easier, as your child will know what you and he/she are aiming for. Progress
can often be much faster then. 
Plenty of praise and encouragement are essential when potty
training, as are constant reminders throughout the day and reaffirmations that
big boys and girls do their wees and poos in the potty.  If things are going well, keep an eye on the
night time pull ups.  Some children, day
and night train at the same time.  If you’re
one of the lucky parents whose child appears to be dry at night also, remove
the pull up after about a week into potty training.  Remember to make sure your little one goes to
the toilet before bed and don’t offer drinks too late in the evening. If your
child however, is not dry in the morning when they wake, don’t worry, one step
at a time. Night time dryness can be tackled later!