The Potty Training Diaries: day 5

Just a really quick one this evening to say there were only three accidents at nursery today – so an improvement on yesterday (yippee!) and a very successful evening at home for potty training (which in our case, is more like toilet training). 

Little Miss even told us about using the “little toilet” at nursery when we asked her about her day. So all feeling a bit more positive this evening. 

Little Miss choosing which pants to wear this morning.

Choosing which pants to wear for the day is a big decision…

She was very particular when choosing which pants to wear for nursery this morning. They had to be just the right ones. We nearly went for helicopters, but ended up with lime green ones with a chameleon on them, just like Rapunzel’s little friend (in Tangled). 

Tomorrow is a quieter day as it’s her day with Nina, so we’re hoping another day one-on-one will help really cement good habits. Apart from the fact we’re actually flying to France in the evening tomorrow! Which there is debate putting her back in diapers just for the flight so we’re less stressed. You can guarantee the one time she won’t be able to hold it will be take off or landing! But we’ll see how tomorrow goes I suppose. 

The Potty Training Diaries: day 4

So today was Little Miss’ first day at nursery post-nappies.

After a pooless day yesterday, the first words out of her mouth when I popped my head round her door this morning were, “I need a poo, Mummy! In the toilet, Mummy.” 

So off we went, but no poo came. 

She was packed off to nursery with a bag full of changes of clothes and knickers (all dutifully labelled, of course – though if a poor pair of knickers didn’t find their way back to us, that really wouldn’t be the end of the world…). 

In the car, we reminded her that if she needed the toilet, she needed to tell Sarah (her key worker), or whichever of the nursery workers was to hand. She didn’t really say anything, but I hoped she was taking it all on board… 

I nearly called at lunchtime to see how she was getting on, but didn’t want to be that parent. So I waited (impatiently) until I got home after work for the news. 

Unfortunately, though not overly unexpectedly, today’s rate was back to 50/50, with the poo finally arriving as an accident mid-afternoon. 

dirty clothes from nursery in a plastic bag

When clothes come home from nursey in a plastic bag on a normal day, you know it’s been a messy one. But these plastic bags now have a whole new (dreaded) meaning…

It makes sense that she should regress a little today at nursey. I doubt they asked her every ten minutes if she needed to go and with the best will in the world, they simply can’t watch her for signs every second of the day given the ratio is three or four kids to one adult vs the two adults to one child we had at the weekend. 

My biggest concern is that I don’t want Little Miss’ confidence to be knocked as a result of having more accidents. She was so proud of herself (and her mermaid stickers) by yesterday evening. 

I do think Little Miss would have benefitted from another day or two at home potty training rather than being thrown in the deep end today at nursery. But springing it on us the end of last week, and a serious lack of holiday days to play with on my part, mean taking time off this week for potty training wasn’t really an option sadly. 

The OH said that the nursery worker did make a comment to Little Miss about how many accidents they’d had today when he picked her up. The motherly instinct in me bristled at this news, as I feel like that is t motivating or encouraging. But I keep telling myself I have to trust that the nursery workers have done this a hundred times more than we have – surely they must know what they’re doing and I’m trying not to overthink it too much… Not my strong suit…

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The Potty Training Diaries: day 3

And so, dare I say it, I think we’ve turned a corner… 

We can’t really believe how quick it happened. We had one little, teeny, tiny half-a-tinkle accident this morning but Little Miss stopped herself and managed to make it to the toilet (with help) to finish.

And we didn’t have any other accidents all day! 

She’s been brilliant. She’s been singing a song Nina taught her a few weeks ago about knickers that fly away (don’t ask) a lot and we’ve read a book called the Queen’s Knickers from my childhood. 

Around midday, I asked Little Miss if she needed the toilet and she stopped short, looked at me and exclaimed, “Oh no!”. She promptly half ran, half sprint-crawled up the stairs to the bathroom and said, “my knickers Mummy! My knickers!” I pulled them down dutifully, and up the step she went. She weed into the toilet, perfectly.

I offered her a sticker And she said, 

“No Mummy. No want a sticker.” I was quite surprised by this, as frankly, stickers are like crack to toddlers and had been working beautifully for the past 24 hours. 

“I want a biscuit,” she said. Ah. I see what’s going on. She thinks she can trade up her reward. 

“No LM, you get a sticker when you do a wee in the toilet, not a biscuit.” 

“No Mummy. Big biscuit.” And she hopped down, and started off down the stairs. So in short, she got a big biscuit and no sticker. 

mermaid stickers on the map in her bedroom

LM has a map in her bedroom hanging above the changing table and she asked to be lifted up so she could stick the mermaids on her map. (The first three she chosen from the packet even looked lkke the three from the programme!)

The OH had to pop out later in the afternoon and returned with puffy mermaid stickers, however, which went down an absolute storm. (Pokemon and mermaids are the current big fad here – they’re her two favourite Netflix shows at the moment.) So much so, that the biscuit upsell was forgotten in favour of the mermaid stickers!

We’re so proud of how she’s done today. We really didn’t expect her to just appear to ‘get it’ today. 

Little Miss even seemed to hold it when we were watching Tangled at one point, refusing to go to the loo part way through (because that would mean pressing pause!). In the end, it was a very tense few hours (for me) but she managed it, no sweat.

By the end of the day, she was telling me to stay downstairs when she needed to go and shutting the bathroom door so she could go by herself!

The only hurdle left is a number two. Little Miss just didn’t do one today – maybe she didn’t need to, or maybe it was a bit intimidating doing it on the loo. We’re not sure, but probably the latter. 

Tomorrow Little Miss is back at nursery to it’ll be really interesting to see how she manages with the change from home and more distractions. But they have little mini people sized toilets, so hopefully that will only help the situation!

The Potty Training Diaries: day 2

Well, I’m exhausted. 

Little Miss was asleep in my arms at 7:20pm before her milk and before I’d even got her pjs on. So I think the day took it out of her too! 

Little Miss woke at 7:30am (a lie in!) and we were straight off with the diaper and onto the toilet. But no wee. She was very excited about wearing her new knickers (she chose ones covered in dinosaurs – which are actually cameleons). And off downstairs for breakfast. 

It was two hours before her first wee of the day – which was an accident. Stuck at home all weekend, I thought we’d bake some cookies to pass some of the time. Little Miss loves baking and cooking so tonight it would go down well. So while she was sat on the kitchen floor mixing the batter, wee numero uno occurred. She just looked a bit flabbergasted as a pool slowly spread around her!

blue boys' pants with a cameleon on them following a potty training accident

Whoops!

 I scooped her up, brought her upstairs to the loo and plopped her on it, explaining this is where we do wees and she needs to tell us when she needs to go, because knickers don’t hold any wee like diapers, etc, etc.

Ok, so off we go again. 

Two hours later, same again.

Try again… 

Thirty minutes later, a mini tinkle. Whisk her upstairs, and she managed one whole drip of wee into the toilet. 

Little Miss' hedgehog sticker for her first wee in the toilet

Little Miss’ “chug”

Naturally, we cheered and danced at her achievement and she got a hedgehog sticker, which she was thrilled with and promptly dropped into the loo (?!) and then asked where the “chug” was every time we went to the loo thereafter for many hours…Ten minutes later, another tinkle. Off we run again. 

Ten minutes later, another wee in the toilet. Woohoo!! Another sticker (Mickey Mouse this time.) 

Thirty minutes later, another accident… 

Fifteen minutes later, a few drips, but she held it until the loo – yeehaa!! Cue a Lion King sticker (these went down exceptionally well). 

You get the idea.

We netted out at probably 50/50 accidents to wees in the toilet and one poo, which was an accident. Bless her, she was coming in from the garden to tell us but she just wasn’t fast enough. 

We only have one bathroom upstairs and she spent pretty much the entire day outside. She did so well, as we scooped her up and sprinted upstairs each time. 

We read a story about Princess Polly and her Potty about 1pm, which Little Miss loved, but it only confused matters as we weren’t using a potty. So we hid that book! 

The advice from numerous people was to skip the potty if we could. I don’t know if we’ll manage it yet, but we’re trying. She was very excited by the potty, however and perhaps less intimidated – and with the bathroom being upstairs, it might be easier with a potty just in the kitchen. So we’ll see how we go…

We were told to put her on the toilet every thirty minutes whether she said she needed to go or not. We weren’t very good at this and I think that made the first morning harder. But who knows frankly. Little Miss really didn’t like sitting on the loo unless she actually needed to go, so it may have just made it more stressful for everyone. 

I actually found it far more stressful than expected, while the OH was a lot more chilled than either of us expected! (Though he did decided today was a good day to reorganise the kitchen. I whole heartedly disagreed. Though I will begrudgingly admit it is better now…) 

Little Miss is in a nappy for bed tonight (albeit one of those more grown up nappy pants types). Trying to get her to be dry through the night would have been utterly pointless and it was one battle I just wasn’t willing to fight this round. Round one we’re just aiming for dry through the day. We’d be happy with that.

But as they say, tomorrow is another day…

côte de beouf bbq picnic in the garden with Little Miss in the background playing

We treated ourselves to a côte de beouf BBQ picnic and beers to cheer ourselves up this evening, which we enjoyed mainly cold thanks to two mad dashes to the toilet and one near accident… But it was still pretty amazing. The OH outdid himself.

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The Potty Training Diaries: day 1

The first sign…

Two weekends ago, we were in Surrey looking after Auntie Chatterbox and Little Miss’ favourite Uncle while the Other Half’s parents tended to family duties in Gloucestershire.

I did Little Miss’ usual bedtime around 7:30, while the OH manned the other two (though at nine and eleven, they don’t need ‘manning’ per say). When it came time for them to go to bed around 8/8:30, Little Miss still wasn’t asleep and started calling me. Eventually, I gave in and went to see what was the matter.

“Mummy, I’m wet,” she announced. And before I could even respond a simple, ‘oh,’ she pulled her nappy to the side and weed in the cot. I just stood there gawping, shocked. She’d never done anything like this before. When I finally came to my senses, I got her (and the cot) cleaned up and started bedtime again.

The day without a nappy by mistake…

A week later, (last weekend), she spent nearly the whole day with no diaper on in the garden playing in the paddling pool. All day, we kept saying she needed a diaper on if she went inside, did she need a wee wee, do not poo anywhere!

So of course, what did she do? She followed me into the galley at the end of the garden, I deposited the bin bag into the bin, turned around and headed back in the gate. I turned around to call Little Miss as I re-entered the garden to see her toddling behind me. And a massive poo on the path.

“What?! Did you do that Little Miss?!”

[LM looks.]

“Oh. Yes. That’s LM’s poo.”

“You did a poo?!”

“Yes. My poo… Mummy, you need to clean me.”

Great. I need to clean the path too…

The resistance…

And finally, we arrive at yesterday. Bedtime. It was unusually pleasant until she got out of the bath – at which point came the usual wrestle into a diaper, then the pjs saga. I reached for them, averting my gaze for what can only have been five seconds, and her diaper was gone.

“No diaper Mummy.”

“No LM, we need a diaper, please, it’s bedtime.” [Bracing self to resume the battle again.]

“No want it Mummy.”

“Oh. But it’s bedtime, you need a diaper.”

“No want it Mummy.”

And so it went for the next fifteen minutes until it ended with her in tears and me exasperated but victorious. I just wasn’t ready to start potty training during a Thursday bedtime. No, no, no.

It begins…

So. Today. Friday… We’re going for it.

After last night’s bedtime fiasco, I put a call out on Facebook for potty-training tips, and amongst others, one friend messaged me a link to the Three Day Potty-Training Method.

Tonight, we stopped at the big Tesco Extra after nursery and let her choose her own knickers and a little toilet seat (another tip from the Facebook crowd).

The OH had told Little Miss we were going to get her a present from the shop, so she was very excited when they picked me up from the station. When we explained she got to choose her own big girl knickers, she immediately went for the boys’ section.

Little Miss choosing first pair of knickers from the boys' section with trucks on

Little Miss showing Daddy her first choice of pants with trucks on.

She took a shine to a pair with trucks on, but they didn’t have her size. In fact, they barely had her size in any styles – boys or girls.

The OH was appalled, almost outraged, that at age two you had choose between girls’ and boys’ (Little Miss clothes shopping has been more my domain until this evening) and that all the girls’ options were pink, floral and utterly girly.

Seeing as Little Miss went straight for the trucks and ended up with a pair of boys’ dinosaur briefs, I think the case is there for F&F’s designers to brand out a little… (Luckily a close friend of mine is an F&F childrenswear designer so I’ll be passing in the feedback!) I digress…

Little Miss is all prepped for the morning, we’ve explained what’s going to happen. She keeps saying “I wear my knickers in the morning”. A couple of the kids at nursery are using the toilets/potty now so it’s not an alien concept (and I wondered if that’s why the sudden change of heart on her part).

But honestly, we’re utterly unprepared for this. We’ve done very little reading (hugely unlike the new-mum-me from two years ago!) and are sort of flying by the seat of our pants. Little Miss is leading the charge on this one. But we’re going for it anyway!

Safe to say, the OH, with his love of all things neat and tidy, is terrified. I’m a mixture of excited and terrified. I’ll keep you posted!

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Let the games begin…

 

The Love Affair

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and strength and quantity

My cup can reach, when feeling slow and ranty

Give me full fat cap or whatever’s going.

I love thee to the level of my toddler’s

Loudest need; pass me the coffee, stat!

I love thee freely, as I sit through Postman Pat.

I love thee purely, as toddler turns banshee.

I love thee with the passion once saved

For under the covers, and with first-time-mum hope…

I love thee for without you I am weak

For the day ahead. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears of all my parenting days; and if the Toddler requires,

I shall but love thee better with Baileys…

…or with cake.

 

Conversations with Little Miss, No. 6

Mama: So what did you do at nursery today, Little Miss? 

LM: [pursing her lips, very serious] Garden.

Mama: You played in the garden? Did you have a good day? 

LM: No. 

Mama: Oh, why, what did you do? 

LM: [still serious and solemn] Garden. Paint. Play. 

Mama: You played with paint in the garden? 

LM: Yeh. 

Mama: What colour was the paint? 

LM: Blue. Not red.

Mama: No, not red [eyeing up the blue finger nails and streaks of blue here and there…] And what did you do with the paint, Little Miss? 

LM: [motions rubbing her arms] 

Mama: Who did you paint? 

LM: Little Miss… [motions smearing on her face, starting to giggle]

Mama: And… 

LM: [looks blank]

Mama: Did you paint the other children? 

LM: Yeh! Blue! [laughs] 

Turns out we have a bit of a ring leader on our hands…

At nursery on Friday, Little Miss saw her opening and took it, grabbing the big bottle of blue paint and turning herself – and most of the other children by the looks of things at pick up time! – into Smurfs. They’d been hosed down (in the least violent and literal sense possible – I assume) but still some traces of blue remained amongst the gaggle; a blue fingernail here, a blue highlight there… Most of them had also had a change of clothes since this morning. 

All the Other Half and I could do was laugh! Whoops! 

Little Miss and her garden {The Wonderful Ordinary 23}

Having a garden was one of the big pulls for me to move out of London. We knew Little Miss loved the outdoors – even at three months old she was happiest outside – and having a garden would mean she could roam free without me having to be at the park for 8am!

I can’t quite believe it but this month, we’ve been in our little house in the country six months. It’s absolutely flown by. But safe to say that the garden has been a hi-light for Little Miss. She loves her garden. From watching the pigeons to  planting her own seeds to digging for worms. She loves just being able to pop out the back door and explore [edit: run around squealing like a banshee!].

toddler kicking ball in garden

Enjoying her new garden our first week in the new house.

toddler and daddy planting seeds

Planting seeds and shrubs in her new garden with Daddy.

toddler pushing walker in the garden

And lunge!

toddler in the garden in the rain

Even in the pouring rain she insists on going out to dig and water the plants…

toddler eating breakfast in the garden

Breakfast al fresco

toddler gardening

Helping Daddy clear up the jungle at the end of the garden!

Daddy daughter bbq

Little Miss’ first proper BBQ (and Daddy’s new toy)!

toddler looking for ladybugs in the grass

Hunting for ladybugs…

toddler barefoot in the grass

Barefoot, free and happy.


 

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#ParentsAtWork: how the EU referendum has opened the door for women, but risks closing it for parents

EU Referendum, Brexit opened the doors for women but maternity, paternity and shared parental leave at riskThis month, following the recent EU Referendum results, rather than the usual #ParentsAtWork interview, I am sharing hopefully a balanced (though admittedly somewhat speculative) view of what may be to come for women and parents in the workforce in the UK. Throughout this blog post, I have linked to other related articles that you may find interesting. 

History has sadly taught us that in times of unrest, uncertainty and economic instability, it’s the minorities that tend to suffer. Minorities come in all shapes and sizes, from race to social class to hair colour (cue standard ginger joke) and of course gender.

The government goes into crisis mode, priorities are reordered and limited budgets are allocated based on how best to serve the majority (one would hope).

So the question is, what does that mean for the perceived minority that is parents – which unfortunately often boils down to women – at work?

This is a man’s world (and debate)

Unfortunately, as has been the case for hundreds of years in politics, this was a predominantly male debate.

Liz Hurley's Instagram feed supporting Brexit posing with a strategically placed Union Flag

Liz Hurley took to Twitter and Instagram to show her support for Brexit. Not surprisingly, the media managed to find space for her…

Even the famous faces publicly supporting either side were predominantly male – David Beckham, Richard Branson, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Hawking (all Remain) and Michael Caine, John Clease and Ian Botham (all Leave) to name but a few.Barbara Judge, chair of the Institute of Directors rightly questioned, ‘have women chosen to be absent from the debate, or have they been sidelined?’

The political female voices who did speak out – Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Harriet Harman, Gisela Stuart, Jess Phillips (all Labour MPs) and Caroline Lucas (Green Party) – unfortunately didn’t shout loud enough. Even Theresa May, despite coming out early on as Vote Remain, went quiet over the last few months (though, that may be a blessing in disguise as she may be our best hope for for Cameron’s replacement – more on this in a moment).

Women yield about 1 million more votes than men in the UK, having a slim but significant population majority. Poll after poll showed that the majority of those unsure which way to vote were female. Women were arguably the key to the Leave or Remain campaign’s success. Yet no one seemed to be trying to offer up arguments that would truly engage women in the debate.

Or perhaps they were… I was shocked in my research for this blog post to find that in 2014, ahead of the general election, Mumsnet’s research found that women were more concerned by immigration than male voters, and that it was more likely to affect how they voted. (Men were found to vote based on the economy.)

Post-Brexit vote reports are focussing on the divide between the young and the old. Is this because there wasn’t a clear difference between how men and women voted? Or because no one wants to open that can of worms?

Come what May…

British politics has moved incredibly fast in the past five days and when I first started writing this piece, I was questioning whether parents’ and carers’ issues were about to become lost amongst the turmoil, marginalised by more ‘pressing’ issues such as a national divide or the shocking racism sweeping parts of the nation.

Theresa May announcing her PM candidancy

Theresa May announcing her candidacy on Thursday.

Then, not even a day before it was due to go live, I had to pull the post and rewrite most of it as Theresa May announced her candidacy for the leadership. And everything changed.Angela Eagle is also looking like a promising candidate for the Labour Party, meaning we are suddenly looking at a very real possibility of a female PM come autumn, potentially alongside the first ever female President.

The women are coming. And they mean business.

But just because we may have women in power, doesn’t mean parents, carers or even women’s issues suddenly become the central governmental concern.

The only precedent we have is Thatcher, who did nothing for women’s rights during her time in Parliament. A wife, a mother of two, a woman with ambition in the height of the second wave of feminism and yet she showed not one iota of sympathy for the sisterhood.

As with all MPs, May’s record is not untainted, but having worked previously as the Minister of Women and Equalities between 2010 and 2012, she’s arguably well positioned and well informed to bring women’s issues into the spotlight. She has spoken out in the past that women must not attempt to be men, that there are differences between men and women that should be celebrated and that women shouldn’t be afraid to do things ‘their way’. (Arguably a scathing review of Thatcher’s approach then – good news all round!)

The EU is pivotal to women’s rights… or is it?

Harriet Harman furiously campaigned for Remain on the basis that EU membership guarantees a bottom line, a basic level of rights on issues such as parental leave and equal pay. Sturgeon’s Scottish Remain campaign also pushed heavily on the gender equality message, focusing on women’s rights.

Equality is arguably in the very foundations of the EU, with ‘equal treatment’ being a founding principle in 1957 and from a women’s perspective, 37% of European MPs are women (versus Britain’s 29%).

However, prior to the vote, Gisela Stuart hi-lighted how the UK government has gone above and beyond EU law to offer women up to 52 weeks maternity leave (with up to 39 weeks paid leave – albeit, a lowly £139 per week for 33 weeks of that, which for most parents in the UK, is hardly a living wage for that ‘year off’. But that’s an argument for another blog post!).

While EU law currently requires a minimum of just 14 weeks maternity pay, including protection for self-employed women and paternity leave rights, encouraging men to take at least one month’s leave by not allowing it to be transferred to their partner instead (ie, use it or lose it).

Non-EU countries round the world have a wide range of parental leave rights. While the US – who may become our only ally at this rate – offers zero of anything (yes, really), Albania and even Bosnia and Herzegonia offers 52 weeks maternity leave with between 50% and 100% of a woman’s salary for the duration, though neither nation offer much of anything for dads.

Switzerland, who many Leave campaigners heralded as a role model for the UK post-Brexit, only offer 14 weeks maternity leave at 80% pay (up to a limit) and no leave options for dads.

Norway is the only non-EU nation in the world with a remotely equal offering: 35-45 weeks mat leave (100% pay for 25 weeks or 80% for 45 weeks) and up to ten weeks for dads at between 80% and 100% pay.

I’ll be honest, when I started the research for this blog post, I didn’t realise how good British parents have it – particularly since the introduction of shared parental leave last year. Britain stands tall as a great example of good practice in equal opportunities for all parents  – regardless of gender – to take the role of caregiver in a family and be able to maintain a career should they choose to do so. (I write this purely from a legal perspective and not taking into consideration cultural perceptions at this point.)

But the EU has also allocated over €6 billion to achieving gender equality by 2020, including eliminating the gender pay gap, strengthening women’s entrepreneurship and helping women into the labour market. Now out of the EU, we are no longer eligible to apply for that funding. Our government now needs to create equality schemes and find funding from elsewhere to help maintain Britain’s progressive position on parental issues and gender equality. (No pressure guys…)

The issues of working parents, become the issues of working women (again).

Putting aside the speculation on what may or may not happen in legislation, sadly, I fear the debate around parents’ and carers’ rights risks a major backward step in the wake of the EU Referendum.

Articles show that this is very much a women’s issue once again – something I argued it indeed was not in a recent blog post, The F Word. Everyone is talking about maternity leave, maternity pay, women’s funding. These are all hugely important, yes, but talk of shared parental leave, leave for other parenting groups (e.g. adoption or surrogacy) or even for those looking after elderly parents has all but ceased to exist in this debate.

If the conversation reverts to a debate about solely women’s rights and issues, then we will never truly gain gender equality. A conversation about women’s rights, removes others from that primary caregiver role, meaning that the nursery run, being home in time to make the kids’ dinner or to run Grandad to the hospital for another round of tests are only women’s jobs. And that simply isn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be true. If we never expect anything of men, they will quite rightly never step up to the plate.

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Angela Eagle is in poll position for the Labour leadership.

Neither Eagle or May are parents, to which some may argue they risk being unsympathetic. On this note, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say, no. They may not understand the daily struggle first hand, but they had mothers, they have friends who are parents. As long as they have the foresight to surround themselves with a strong cabinet, many of whom will experience the pull between home and work-life balance firsthand (Jess Phillips spoke on this very subject at Mumsnet’s recent WorkFest16 event for instance) then, in my very humble opinion, I think we’re in good hands.Eagle’s experience as Minister of State Pensions and Ageing Society may be of particular use in this arena, suggesting an interest and understanding of caregivers’ needs, even if this experience is primarily with the elderly.

Hello? It’s the 1970s calling, they want their feminism back.

So in the wake of Brexit, as the UK figures out how to move forward, parents and carers need to stand together.

We must not be marginalised as the government – whoever ends up leading it – steers the country in its new direction, potentially battling horrendous xenophobia, national divides and economic mayhem.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand together to ensure we don’t lose the ground we have so successfully gained over the recent years in flexible working policies, part time working and the wider acceptance of shared parental leave. Because if we let this become all about women once again, we will only slow the progress, returning to where we were in 1970. (Harsh, but very possibly fair.)

As Anne-Marie Slaughter discusses in her book, Unfinished Business, we must elevate the issues and respect for all carers, regardless of gender or the age of their charges. Because ultimately, it’s our families, and therefore our children’s futures, that will suffer.

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ALL INTERVIEWS ARE ANONYMOUS FOR BOTH YOU AND EMPLOYERS OR COMPANIES MENTIONED DURING THE INTERVIEW (UNLESS YOU STATE OTHERWISE). THE AIM OF THE GAME IS NOT TO NAME AND SHAME BUT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE ISSUES AND TRY TO CHANGE PERCEPTION OF PARENTS AS SECOND-CLASS WORKING CITIZENS.

Guest post: Becoming Nina

Three years ago yesterday, June 19 2013, I found out I was pregnant. It was a day I will never forget.

To mark the anniversary of our ‘pee-on-a-stick’ day, I asked my mum to write a guest post, sharing her thoughts and feelings – how she felt receiving the unexpected news, about becoming a grandmother at just 52 (though she looked about 42) and how she went about not panicking but supporting us so fantastically. Hopefully this will help someone out there who may receive the same unexpected news one day and inspire them to handle it with care and compassion rather than judgement and panic.

But from my perspective, all I can say is thank you, Mama, for everything you’ve done for us over the past three years; for not worrying when I fell pregnant and instead congratulating me and celebrating when it felt like the whole world was falling apart.  

Status: Assistant Headteacher at a Pupil Referral Unit (last chance saloon for teenagers excluded from mainstream school) and single mother of 24 year old daughter.

Time for a change

A year after graduating from university, Amie moved out. She loved living in London and in many ways, I thought my job was done. Obviously I would always be there for her without question but as she began her adult life, I had the opportunity and freedom to do something for me – just me – for the first time in a long time.

I felt like a change. I had lived in the same house for ten years since my divorce; it was too big for just me and I also fancied travelling and working abroad, meaning I needed somewhere I could just lock up and leave or rent out. So I sold my house and bought a 2 bedroom flat; I was so excited as it was the first time I had bought something on my own, just for me with no-one else to consider.

I was moving on July 4.

The bombshell

On June 19, the week after I exchanged contracts, I received a text at work:

 When you get a chance give me a call, no rush.

How was I to know that text was about to change the rest of my life?!

Amie didn’t usually contact me during the day, understanding how hectic my job was, so normally I answered her calls and texts as a matter of urgency. However, for some reason, this day was particularly mad; I knew I was leaving earlier than usual so I thought I would call on my way home.

Around 4.30pm I called her from my car as I left school. She sounded quite normal and asked me where I was. Realising I was driving, she said,

“I’ll call you back later when you’re home.”

“Why?” I asked. She said she had some news. I was at a roundabout and I vividly remember thinking that she must have handed in her notice at work. (Amie hadn’t been 100% happy in her role for a while.)

mother and baby 1990's perm

Amie and I, 1990.

“I’m fine, just tell me now.” (Patience is not one of my virtues.)

And then she told me!

The emotions ran through me like you wouldn’t believe but I was just thinking, ‘sound calm.’ The first thing I said after a beat was, “Congratulations!”

I was a bit deflated to realise that by a freak chain of events I was the last grandparent to find out. I also knew this was huge for Amie and the OH – so far off the timing of their life plan that it was bound to be tough. Let’s face it, I’d been in exactly the same position 25 years earlier so I knew how she was feeling. I see now why history repeats itself – we are both allergic to the pill, meaning we’d had to find alternative, clearly somewhat less trustworthy, methods.

mother and daughter at baby shower 2014

Amie and I at her baby shower in early 2014, about six weeks before she was due.

In all honesty, I was over the moon. I’ve always loved children, but had never been an auntie or a godmother and I had thought that the chances of me being a grandmother were pretty slim – Amie wasn’t exactly the maternal type!

But over the next few days, I realised that all the tentative plans I had been making were all hopeless as I visualised being a helpful mum and doting grandmother. I had even had a conversation with Amie when I put the house on the market saying it would be a great house for grandchildren and she said, “It won’t be for years yet and you can’t live your life for me!”

I knew the flat wouldn’t work with a toddler…

The ghost of divorce past

One strange outcome of all this was seeing Amie’s dad again; I hadn’t seen him for two years, since her university graduation.

Through a strange twist in fate, he was in the country that fateful week and we then saw each other for the next three weekends while we supported Amie in coming to terms with the news (he was brilliant, jetting in from Azerbaijan each weekend).

We have always still got on once the nitty gritty of the divorce was over but Amie preferred to keep us separate as she said there was no use pretending and playing happy families. But in the weeks after the news, we laughed and cried, relived the unexpected news of Amie’s arrival together, which suddenly didn’t seem that long ago and proved that we can still both be there for her when the chips are down.

As time went on, I realised that once you have children together, your lives are intertwined whether you like or not, and the impact of divorce haunts you down the generations. At times it was like reliving the worst times of our separation, getting used to not seeing Amie at weekends and missing festive holidays together – now I would have my time rationed with my new grandchild and miss out on some special occasions.

‘Well blow that for a lark,’ I thought, ‘I’ll work a four day week and make sure I get to spend time with my precious grandchild, whatever happens!’ (I now look after Little Miss every Wednesday.)

Becoming ‘Nina’

I told Amie I would do whatever I could to help her manage with a surprise baby and I have really tried to keep my promise. To be honest, it’s easy, as my daughter and granddaughter are the best and most precious gifts I could ever hope for.

Since that day I have moved home three times, taken ten months off work and found a less stressful job, travelled all over Europe and the UK, had two boyfriends and spent endless happy hours with my girls. My life is richer and fuller than I ever imagined and I am grateful for that phone call every day.

Status: Happy, single, working grandmother (Nina) and Mama.

You can follow Nina and Little Miss’ adventures on Instagram on @findingourfeet’s profile or by searching #NinaWednesdays.