Welcome to the first edition of our resident agony aunt column for 2020! Need some honest mum-to-mum advice on dealing with bedtime dramas, missing the independence of having a salary while being a stay-at-home-mum…..then look no further than this issue of Dr Doolally: Domestic Dilemmas Discussed.
Domestic dilemma #1: Bedtime blues
I dread bedtimes because the youngest one won’t go to sleep unless I sit with her. Any useful suggestions?
You’ve made it through the school runs. You’ve kept them fed, watered and alive all day. You’re hanging in there by a thread. Your patience is waning. Quite frankly all you want to do is pour yourself a very large drink of something that makes the tops of your legs tingle.
I run a very strict bedtime routine. My boys are in the bath or shower at 6.30pm and in their pyjamas, teeth cleaned and ready for bed at 7pm. If I let the routine slip, it is hell and I hear myself muttering ‘kill me now’ at various intervals during the process.
I try to keep the run-up to bedtime calm and I am mindful to keep as zen as possible so they will dream sweet dreams and wake up happy and positive. Oh who am I kidding!?
If I were to take my blood pressure at any point after the CBeebies bedtime song, I would, without a doubt, have borderline hypertension.
After the disaster zone that is the nightly bath/shower and I’ve assured the emergency services all is well, I task myself with the second rendition of teeth brushing. Why oh why is it so darn difficult? It’s only two minutes I tell myself. I can do this. Getting my 2-year-old to brush his teeth is like wrangling a hog. It’s exercise, I tell myself.
I wrestle the 2-year old into his pyjamas and I live through the excruciating pain that is waiting for the 5-year-old to do it himself. I watch in agony as he puts his top on the wrong way round but am mindful to shower him with praise when praise is due.
Once they decide on their story, I read only one. I do this because I figured if I give it my all, acting out the parts with funny voices and putting my heart into it they will fondly remember how amazing Mummy was at dedicating her evening and reading excellent stories. They definitely do not need to know that Mummy couldn’t be arsed and was daydreaming about the imminent drink that is going to make her legs tingle.
I’ve now got to the point with the 2-year old that I can pop him in his bed, kiss him goodnight, tell him it’s bedtime and tell him Mummy needs to go and do something. More often than not, he lets me go and before I know it, he’s asleep. I used to sit with him. I used to get pins and needles, fall asleep, waking up to a crooked neck with lost feeling in my thighs.
I hated it because I felt like it was lost time. Then I started reading and I realised I could use my time sitting with him as mindful, resting time for myself. He got used to me doing my own thing while I was sat with him and eventually we transitioned. You won’t always have to sit with her but while you do, make it work for you in the best way you can.
Domestic dilemma #2: Money matters
My partner works full time. We live fairly comfortably, albeit hand to mouth, but I really miss earning my own money and feel so guilty when I need to buy something for myself. Any advice?
The second I finished my last GCSE, I went to the local shops and bagged myself some weekend work. I wanted to buy myself a patchwork bedspread. I’ve always earned my own money. After I had my eldest and my maternity pay dwindled, the hubster told me to just use the joint account as and when for whatever I needed.
I had a wonderful time. Me and my new little baby brunched in Carluccios regularly. I reveled in a cheeky glass of prosecco in the afternoons and felt totally at ease with my new lifestyle.
That was until the aforementioned hubster questioned my extortionate spending habits. I must admit, I was mortified. It was from that moment on I made and stuck to my very strict budget.
Now that the eldest is at school and my smallest will soon be in nursery, I started thinking about how I could start earning a little bit of money for myself.
I love cleaning. I knew a friend was looking for a new cleaner so I ballsily asked her if I could clean for her and she agreed. If you really really want to earn your own money, there are plenty of things you can do. Obviously keep it all above board, the last thing you want is the tax man banging down your doors.
I’ve recently set up my own virtual assistant business and taken on a couple of clients. Just a few hours a week but enough to pay a couple of bills myself. It gives me a tiny bit of financial independence. In the meantime, I can’t stress enough the importance of budgeting.
It allows you to work out to the penny what you can save, even if it’s a pound here, a pound there. It all adds up and when you’ve saved up enough it feels so good to be able to go and buy what you wanted knowing the efforts you put in to get it.
Domestic dilemma #3: Playtime panic
I really want to take my baby to a toddler group but I’m so nervous about meeting and fitting in with other parents. Help!
I’ll be honest, I questioned having children for this very reason. The thought of walking into a room with a bunch of strangers, trying to make friends is simply my idea of hell. BUT toddler groups are so important and I honestly can’t recommend them enough.
There’s one thing you need to remember. Your baby is your prop. If you get nervous, you can talk through your baby. It’s ingenious. I do it all the time. If you really want to leave, you can totally fake a poo-nami.
Your baby is your best excuse to get you out of anything you’re uncomfortable with.
It is undeniably hard to walk into any room and start talking to anyone. My advice would be to start with the music groups, normally run by a fabulous person who takes the lead. You just copy what they do. Get as involved as much or little as you like then just leave.
Come and go until you feel comfortable enough to strike up a conversation before or after the class with someone you like. I call it ‘mummy dating’. You’ll see someone you like the look of and just go for it. If you’re too nervous to talk directly to the other mummy, talk to their baby first. Works like a charm.
We recently moved and I did just that to snaffle my now bestie. I liked the look of her, she had a baby that looked the same age as mine and I accosted her in the street. If you don’t fancy being as direct as that, your local children’s centre should offer a stay and play session. The staff are normally really helpful and friendly. You could tell them you feel nervous about socialising and I’m sure they will help you integrate. It’s a tough job. Try and ask for help where you can. Every phase gets easier and you get used to things. Just ease yourself in gently.
So that’s all for this month’s dilemmas! Have you experienced bedtime dramas, angst over financial independence or baby and toddler group nerves before? Do share in a comment below.
If you have a domestic dilemma that you’d like discussed, we would love to hear from you. Email Dr Doolally at firstname.lastname@example.org and your dilemma will be treated absolutely anonymously.
About Dr Doolally
Dr Doolally is Mum to two delightful little boys aged 5 and 2. She’s had her fair share of life challenges that’s for sure. Probably why she feels qualified to offer little nuggets of helpfulness. In fact, she self-published a book on the subject of her crippling anxiety and the struggles she faces. You can find her story here.