Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Tiny Secret Places. January 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 5:14 pm

A couple of weeks ago I joined the Ladies Bible Study group at the church down the road. It’s totally ok to find that hilarious. Most people do. Wes included.

The thing is, I love it. Every Wednesday morning we have a cup of tea, marvel at the wildness/coldness/mildness of the weather and then sit down for an hour to read the Bible together. It’s an oasis of calm in the middle of the week, and quite frankly feels like an excellent use of my newfound free time. Thank Nursery.

My absolute favourite part? The other women. There are about twelve of us. Me, a few others with small children, and a whole load of utterly brilliant old ladies. The kind who discuss their cataract operations and grandchildren’s antics in the same breath as the refugee crisis. Who commiserate with us over our little ones and reassure us that it won’t really get any better as the years go on. And who are wise beyond telling. Smart, yes. Sassy, definitely. But mostly, wise.

It’s the kind of wisdom that makes you feel safe. Like there are others who have travelled this road before you, who faced down second world war bombs as children, and still manage to paint their nails, find matching jewellery and turn up every Wednesday to giggle in the corner and discuss faith, world politics and cake. Chocolate cake, to be precise.

This morning we were discussing contentment. Which is tricky to find. And even trickier to hold on to.

My week so far is textbook evidence of that.

On Monday I did my authorly duty and let the Internet know that my book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Which still blows my mind a little bit.


Did I mention that it’s also beautiful?

For at least an hour, I felt contented. Like I was making something of myself. Like I was getting somewhere. Like perhaps I’m not a total washout after all.

I think it lasted an hour. It might have been less.

Because then I went on Twitter. And saw that another mother, who I’ve never met, but who has also written a book about parenting, is currently selling out a national tour of bookshops to promote it. Mine hasn’t even been released yet. And there certainly hasn’t been any talk of bookshop tours.

Doom. Immediate, crushing, doom.

I’ve read her blog. Most British parents have. It’s hilarious. And real, and relatable, and a huge consolation for parents who have run way past the end of their tethers. She’s way funnier than I am, way more controversial, and is signed to a way bigger publisher. So she’ll obviously sell millions more books and probably buy a yacht in the Caribbean and never want for anything ever again in her life.

This isn’t a sympathy vote. Everything I’ve written about her is absolutely true. Except perhaps the part about the Caribbean. I’ll let her make that call.

The thing is, if it wasn’t her, it would have been someone else. Someone else would write a book that was better than mine, or funnier, or just plain longer. In fairness, the vast majority of the writing community already has. I just try not to think about them.

All it took was one tweet. Just one. And then obviously a few more, after I’d Twitter-stalked her and her publishers for half an hour. She’s going to make it big. Really big. And there is precious little space in my tiny grumpy heart to be happy for her.

Which is ludicrous.

If you had sat me down three years ago and told me what my life would look like today, I would have cried. Sobbed, more likely. Because it would have seemed impossible. Sitting there in my brand new house, in an area where I knew nobody, with a four month old baby, an erratically potty-trained two year old and the clouds of depression closing in a little tighter every day.

Three years on and we’re settled into what is actually a staggeringly brilliant community of people. Elvie is at school, Joel is at nursery. And I have three solid hours to myself every weekday. Wes’ work is going really well, I’ve been off my medication for half a year, and my first book is just three months away from the shops.

It’s a turnaround of epic proportions. I should spend at least half my day on my knees weeping tears of gratitude.

Still, despite all of this, somehow I can lose my cool in the space of 140 characters. I’m not sure that should even be possible.

This morning was my wake-up call. Sitting in this formidable sisterhood, with a few centuries of combined experience. Discussing the path to contentment.

This is what I realised.

I will never be content. Not ever. Not if I’m measuring myself by what I’m achieving. By who I’m beating. By how many times I win.

I’ll spend the whole rest of my life striving, struggling and probably pretty grumpy. Which, I’ll be honest, is not my plan. (Regardless of what my children might tell you.) I just don’t think I have the capacity for it.

I want to be happy. Contented. Regardless. It would be nice to be able to feel happy for other people’s success. Or at least just not be plain furious at them.

The ladies this morning reminded me: there is a place I can go. A place to be content. A tiny secret place right in the centre of my soul. A quiet place. A place of love. Where I know that I’m safe, and precious. And absolutely enough. No bells, no whistles, no pressure. Just as I am.

Where the only one I’m listening to, is the only One that matters.

I should probably spend more time there.

And less time on Twitter.



All change. January 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 8:55 pm

Last night I had a dream.

The vivid kind. The kind that stays with you when you wake up, hangs around for the rest of the day, and then sneaks into your thoughts at regular intervals for years afterwards until eventually you wind up getting it confused with your actual memories.

My usual kind of dream, then.

I was running round a seaside bed and breakfast, decorated predominantly in varying shades of blue, and populated by the entirety of my extended family. Trying to simultaneously avoid the flirtations of the only mildly-attractive chef, find an unoccupied shower and grab some breakfast for my little brother. Who turned out, on closer inspection, to actually be Joel.

So far, so good.

Until I reached the bottom of my parents stairs, that had magically appeared in the tastefully blue-painted hallway. At which point I stopped. Because I had to. Because I knew, all of a sudden, that I was about to give birth.

Which I did. It’s probably a good job that Wes is away this week, because the whole thing felt very real. I’m pretty sure that, if he had been here, I’d have woken him up. I felt it all. Physically. To the point that I had to double check in the morning that there wasn’t actually a chubby, screaming baby boy underneath the duvet.

When I woke up, I googled ‘giving birth dreams.’ Apparently they’re a sign of new beginnings. New projects. New situations. New starts.

On reflection, I could probably have worked that out for myself.

January’s an obvious time for new starts.  Everybody’s at it. New Year, New You. Apparently. Here at Team Oakland, we’re no exception.


Look at this boy.

He had his first session at nursery this morning. And he was amazing. Straight in, bombing off after a tray of plastic dinosaurs. When I came to collect him, he was mostly just upset that he hadn’t had time to ride all the bikes. By 2pm he was moping by the window, staring out at the playground, “Mummy, I miss nursery.”

Fingers crossed, this is the start of something beautiful. That cup of tea that I drank this morning, by myself, in perfect glorious peace, certainly felt like magic.

Other things are changing too. The book is steaming into view, only a few short months away from being released. The perinatal support group that we’ve been planning for what feels like forever will start at the end of next week.

And, as of Sunday, I’ve been medication-free for six months.

Six months.

We’ve fought hard for every single one of them. Each month. Each week. Each day, most of the time.

That’s a whole other post that needs to be written. I’ll write it later. Maybe at the weekend. Maybe one morning next week when I’m at home, by myself, relishing the silence that only nursery can bring.

In the meantime, I’ll be toasting the change. That rare, precious moment when it feels as though everything is coming together at once. When the hard, unending, desperate slog of months on end actually starts to make a difference.

When the stars align. And the clouds lift.

And you can feel it shifting.

Even in your dreams.




Surviving New Year’s Eve. December 31, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 6:45 pm

So. New Years Eve.

It’s been eventful.

There was the year I dressed up as a fairy, slept the night at a friends pub and then crushed lemon sherbets into the scrambled eggs the next morning after the boys decided that breakfast-making was the perfect opportunity to enforce traditional gender roles.

The year we stayed at a friend’s flat in Edinburgh and, unable to face the street party, decided to climb out of the skylight and chim-chim-cheree around on the rooftops instead.

Or the year I was on holiday in a beautiful Welsh cottage. With wine and an open fire. And Wes continually informing me that he was absolutely not going to propose. A promise which he kept. Who said romance is dead?

New Year’s Eve can be tricky. At the best of times. Even without that nagging beast called anxiety snapping at your sky-high heels. The double-edged pressure to have the-best-night-ever, swiftly followed by entirely-turning-your-life-around-on-the-stroke-of-midnight can make it a little hard to breathe. Let alone make a sensible, well-informed decision.

The internet’s been full of it today. ‘Simple’ canapes made of quails eggs, roasted Sicilian tomatoes and unicorn horn. How to match your nail varnish to your party dress without it looking too ‘matchy.’ And where to find the perfect dress for your figure. Because god forbid you choose the same one that you wore for Christmas.

It’s all a bit much. Quite a bit. And it’s way too easy to end up feeling like a failure. Without the right outfit. Or snacks. Or resolutions.

In the interest of balance – here’s our plan. How to have an epic New Years Eve. Just like us. You are so welcome.

Admittedly, we did manage to leave the house. We went to Hughenden, in a fit of thank-goodness-the-sun-is-finally-shining combined with a desperate attempt to burn off some of the kids’ insatiable energy.

We spent the afternoon searching for tiny knitted mice in Disraeli’s staterooms. Eating our picnic on the sly in the cafe, because it was absolutely freezing outside. And, in the case of the children, at least, sliding repeatedly down the hills. On their bums.

It’s possible that I also landed flat on my backside in a massive pile of leaves after a small child’s stepping stone proved to be significantly slipperier than I had bargained for. Seeing out the old year with a bang. And all the accompanying bruises.

By the time we got home the children were eighty per-cent mud. And twenty per-cent illicit Wotsits. And I was so far beyond freezing that I had to get straight in the shower in order to feel my fingers. It’s currently twenty-past six, on New Year’s Eve, and I’ve been in my pyjamas for at least half an hour. Get in.

The kids are in the bath now. After a plate of beans on toast. Ready for a ‘special New Year’s staying-up-night’ which, given the state of my PMT and their crazy wild behaviour, will be over by eight o’clock at the latest.

At which point Wes and I will get a kebab from the chicken shop down the road, have a glass of wine and watch the telly.

My guess is, that by the time 2016 arrives in all it’s glory, I’ll have been asleep for at least two hours.

I haven’t made any resolutions. I probably won’t. I’d like to be braver. And fitter. And kinder. But I wanted those things just as much last week as I will tomorrow. Carving them in stone will only make me feel guilty. And resentful. And set me up for a failure of epic proportions.

Cos here’s the thing. Midnight tonight changes everything. And nothing. All at the same time.

We’ll wake up tomorrow the same people. All of us. Albeit in 2016 and, in our house at least, with some new bruising and a washing machine full of muddy jogging bottoms.

Unless you had a baby this morning, (and I’ve counted at least two so far!) tomorrow is going to look pretty similar to today.

New Year’s Eve, when all is said and done, is just. another. day.

Just. another. night.

Whatever happens. No matter how fancy your party. Or how well your shoes match your vol-au-vents.

Parties are great. I think. From what I remember of them. And I applaud each and every person who wants to make a positive change in their lives.

It’s fun to put up a new calendar. And see how far I get through this year before I can manage to write the new date correctly.

But putting so much pressure on one night is madness. Or the path to it, at least.

May I suggest, instead, a huge heartfelt pat-on-the-back for all of us. For making it through another year. And all that we’ve had to deal with.

There’s a whole new one starting tomorrow. And we’ll make it through that as well. Together. Whatever it throws at us.

I might have an early night in preparation.


Turquoise shoes. December 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 1:33 pm

Yesterday started well. Very well. The children entertained themselves until 8:45am, and we still made it to the dress-up nativity in time for Joel to claim some pink wings and a flowery tutu. Angel Gabriel. Obviously.

The service was beautiful. Meaningful. Thought-provoking. With the added bonus of thirty small children wearing fancy-dress and carrying (electric) tealights. Also there were ukelele christmas carols. It doesn’t get better than that.

It was lovely. I may have been a little teary-eyed. In my defence, so was just about everyone else. If you were looking for joy-to-the-world, you would have found it. Right there. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

By 4pm, back at home, everything looked a little different. Joel had reached the end of another testosterone-fulled rage, leaving various nativity characters, christmas cards, tree decorations and toys in pieces on the floor.

Wes was searching through the lean-to in order to find the tools he needed to fit a pane of glass, so that he could finally repair the lounge window that had a brick pitched through it ten days ago, and has been blocked out by a wooden board ever since.

And I was sobbing my heart out. Because, after the weeks that I’ve spent crafting and buying and planning everyone’s Christmas gifts to ensure the most magical Christmas morning since that one in the stable, Elvie had accompanied Wes on his shopping trip, come home and told me exactly what my present is. Despite being sworn to secrecy half an hour earlier.

And so I cried. For hours. Like a heartbroken little child.

For the fact that my surprise has been spoilt, despite all the effort I’ve put into everybody else’s. For the fact that my children are so completely incapable of doing as they’re told.

Because nobody appreciates the emotional effort that I put into creating these glittering, beautiful days. Because Wes has in fact, bought me a pair of shoes, which I desperately need, in my favourite colour. Which is obviously a disaster.

I cried for a long time. And then I stopped. And then I cried some more. I lost my temper with everyone. And only just resisted the urge to tell Elvie the truth about Santa and rip away all her surprises as well. I stayed up too late, and kept Wes up too late, because I was still crying, crying, crying while my thoughts spiralled away into dangerous, crazy little circles of doom.

I woke up with a little puffy-eyed perspective this morning.

In all honesty, I don’t think it’s about the shoes. Or the surprise. Not entirely.

This Christmas is dripping in pressure. My first medication-free festivities for years. My first Christmas in any real state of recovery.

It’s been hard won. 2015 has been tough. We’ve had our backs to the wall way too often. We’ve had to fight for my mental health. For our marriage. For our family. For Wes’ work. For time together. For everything. At least, that’s how it feels.

We’ve fought. Hard. Somehow, we’re still going. But we’re tired. So, so tired.

In the midst of all of this, we’ve been clinging on to Christmas. To the idea that December will be the high point of our year. The turning point. The beauty at the end of the year that makes the stress and the toughness worthwhile. I’ve been aiming at perfect.

Honestly, I never learn.

For weeks now, I’ve been putting all my energies into Christmas. Into gifts, into planning, into accidentally raising everybody’s expectations, including my own, to a level that’s impossible to match.

Watching everyone else’s Christmases unfold on Facebook. Comparing trees, and outings. Nativity costumes and gifts. Falling short, every time.

It’s probably time to give it up. To realise that, by the time I’m crying hysterically over a pair of shoes I haven’t even seen yet, it’s all gone a little too far.

We have two days before family Christmas starts properly. Two days which I’d planned to use to make gluten-free gingerbread houses. Gluten-free mince pies. A sparkly magic key for Santa. And on and on and on.

Enough. I’m shattered. And I’m fed up of being cross with the children when they ‘get in the way’ of my preparations.

They’re busy now. The children. Pretending to be foxes. Planning the intricate, gory details of how they’re going to cook Peter Rabbit and his friends. I know. Delightful.

They’ve asked to watch a movie after lunch. I’ve said yes. And I’m going to sit down and watch it with them. Then I might do some colouring. Or read a book. And just let them play. I might even create a masterful freezer-to-oven spectacular for dinner. I’m thinking chicken pie and chips. I know. Hold yourselves back.

There’s just enough time to rescue this Christmas. Just enough time to drag it back from the edge. Just enough time to make sure we all wake up as friends on Christmas morning. With a relatively normal blood pressure reading.

Right now, I’ll take that. Gladly.

With maybe just a glass of mulled wine on the side.

And a pair of turquoise shoes.



Christmas for Canaries December 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 3:01 pm

The build-up to advent this year has been hard. For everyone. All over the world.

Mass shooting after mass shooting in America.

Terrorist attacks in Israel, Palestine, Somalia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Chad, Cameroon, France, Nigeria, Mali, the Philippines, Tunisia, Libya and Bangladesh. All in November.

Refugees arriving continually on the shores of Europe. Walls being built to keep them out.

Our own parliament voting yesterday to prove once and for all that ‘the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.’ And the bombs already falling.

Climate change meetings detailing the absolute devastation that our planet, and our children are facing unless we take drastic action.

It’s tough. For everybody. No matter where you live.

There’s precious little good news going around right now. And it’s  impossible to know what to do.

Unless you’re me, of course. In which case there’s an instant solution to all these problems. Utterly failsafe. With a proven 100% success rate.


Just worry. It’s absolutely that simple.

Worry. Comprehensively and continually until I’m in such a state of nervous tension that my blood pressure is stratospheric and just the sound of the children’s voices is enough to send me reaching for the gin.

Works every time.

I imagine that there are people who can hear the news and react logically. Who sit and consider the viable options, make wise decisions and do something proactive. I’m pretty sure they change the world.

I’d like to meet a few of them. Just sit somewhere close, and listen in. Maybe brush past them a few times in the hope that some of their magical powers rub off.

They’re amazing. But I don’t understand them.

I can’t think logically about any of this stuff. Because I’m too busy feeling it. All of it. Over and over and over until all I can do is pass out asleep on the sofa.

Glennon, over at the utterly brilliant Momastery, has a name for people like us. She calls us canaries. I think it’s perfect.

Back in the day, the miners took canaries into the pits with them. Because there are gases down there. Bad ones. The kind that can kill you before you even smell them.

Which is where the canaries came in handy. If your canary keeled over and died, you knew the gases were around, and you got out. Fast. And still alive.

Coalmine canaries gave the miners a fair warning. A shot at survival. A chance to react to a situation they couldn’t even see.

Human canaries don’t inhale gas. We inhale emotions. We breathe in events, and disasters, and fears and we feel and feel and feel until we keel over. And hope that the sensible people pick up what’s left and do something useful with it. Maybe even change the world.

I can only hope so.

It’s been a rough few months for canaries. Particularly those who only came off their medication in the summer. Every single day is swallowed up in holding-things-together and deep breathing and trying to focus on the positive. It’s hard to fight the panic, and the fear, and the utter desperation for this world.

And then along comes advent. Christmas. The season of joy, and good will. And all those things that seem way, way too distant right now. I’ve been struggling. Trying to find a way of celebrating that doesn’t feel pointless, under the circumstances.

This is what I’ve come down to. The fact that actually, all those years ago, there was a baby. Born in less-than-ideal circumstances. Practically outside. Far away from home. Whose parents emigrated, in order to keep him safe from a slightly maniacal King.

A whole generation of baby boys were killed. There were mourning parents. A grieving nation. Fear. Panic. Desperation. And ordinary people thrust into situations that they had no way of comprehending.

So far, so very, awfully, familiar.

But, in amongst it all, there were angels. There were stars in the sky. There was singing. There were miracles. Births. Dreams. Beauty. Acts of kindness, and hope. So much hope.

That’s what I’m praying for this Christmas. Miracles. Dreams. Kindness. And hope.

I’m turning off the news. Because my poor canary brain just can’t take it. Not if I want to function in the real world as well. Which I do. Most of the time. In fact I’m not watching anything unless it involves food, dancing, pottery, celebrities eating insects or Kirstie Allsop making festive wreaths in the snow. And Cbeebies. Obviously.

Instead, I’m going to be mainlining candlelit carol services like my life depends on it. Lighting candles at home. Every single day. Filling the house with light, and beauty. Even in the midst of it all.

wedding 15th nov 056

And I’ll be reading. Over and over and over again.

The story. The baby. The stars. The angels. The hope.

Two thousand years old it may be.

I can’t remember a year when it felt more relevant.



Je t’aime. November 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 10:35 am

I love Paris.

I suspect I’m not alone in that. It’s pretty special. And full of memories.

That’s where my parents were, celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, on the day I met Wes. And where he was, a few weeks later, providing his family with endless hours of amusement whilst he hunted for exactly the right gift to bring back for his new girlfriend. (Sparkly earrings and a French dance magazine, if you’re interested. Totally worth the search.)

It’s where we went a few months later. For the day. On our way to a French holiday with friends. Walking the entire city with a week’s worth of luggage on our backs. Marvelling at how tiny the Mona Lisa really is. Watching the sun set from the top of the Eiffel tower. Eating pizza in the train station whilst I tried to use my schoolgirl French to buy us the right tickets.

And, a week later, for an unexpected overnight stay after a fire in the Eurotunnel meant that our train was cancelled. Despite our desperate use of the Metro, and our stilted attempts at purchasing tickets on already-filled buses and ferries, there was no way to get home. And so we stayed.

We missed the friend’s wedding we were returning for, and instead we wandered Paris at night. People watching. Taking photographs. Eating candyfloss in the shadow of the Moulin Rouge.

France - March 2007 006

It was magic. It still is. Except that, this morning, it’s broken.

At least 128 people are dead. With so many critically injured that by the end of the day that number will surely have risen. Multiple attacks. Multiple gunmen. Innocent people.

Co-ordinated terror on an epic scale.

I remember the day the twin towers fell. I remember my Aunty calling us, telling us to switch the tv on. I remember watching in disbelief. And watching again, repeatedly, as the same terrifying images were repeated over and over. And later that day, at work in an old people’s home, escorting two sweet elderly sisters from the television lounge to their room at the other end of the corridor. By which time they had forgotten everything that they had just seen.

Sometimes I wish I was more like them. That innocence. That just-in-the-moment life. That Dory-esque capability for forgetting.

But I’m not. Very few of us are. Most of us remember.

Which means that somehow, we have to find a way to deal with the unimaginable. The fear. The pain. The hurt. And the questions. From the media. From our children. From ourselves.

The what-do-we-do-now? that always follows these tragedies. The outrage and the political one-upmanship. The shouting over who can cause the most damage in retaliation. The defiance and the resilience and the quite frankly unbelievable bravery of the citizens of Paris as they carry on regardless.

I was in London on the 7th July. 10 years ago. Walking to work and wondering how there could be a thunderstorm without any rain. Getting to work and learning that a bus blowing up half-a-mile away sounds a lot like thunder. Sitting at my desk, listening to sirens. All day. Calling my mum to let her know that I was safe. Fielding calls from co-workers loved ones, checking that they had made it in to work alive.

Those next few weeks were hard. I avoided buses. Tubes. Anyone with a backpack. I jumped out of my skin whenever a car backfired or a garage door slammed. Ten years later and I still hold my breath after the first peal of thunder. Waiting for the lightning to prove that it is, after all, just a storm.

But we survived. We made it. We were lucky. We drank hastily assembled cocktails on our front step to celebrate being alive, using furniture we’d foraged from the streets of the estate. And we invited colleagues who had become our friends during those frightened conversations at our desks. We raised our glasses. We cried. We laughed. We watched ludicrous comedies so that we could stop the thoughts racing through our brains. And we carried on.

I don’t know much about global terrorism. I don’t pretend to understand radicalisation, the thinking behind the so-called Islamic State, or the motivation of the people who take part in these awful, despicable acts.

All I know is that ultimately, people are good. That there will always be helpers. That there already are. That this morning has seen queues of people waiting to donate blood in Parisian hospitals. That, to quote a much-used and deeply-treasured phrase, love wins. It has to.

I suspect that love will be the answer. The kind of love that shows our children that all people are equal. Regardless of their colour, their religion, their gender, their political beliefs or their sexual orientation. Love that holds the hands of our Muslim friends and embraces them, instead of viewing them all as killers-in-waiting. Love that trusts, and dares, and makes it perfectly clear that we are all in this together. Whoever we are.

Imagine a world where all our children are so loved and known and accepted that hatred is a concept they simply can’t grasp. Imagine how hard it would be to recruit terrorists in a world like that.

Love wins. It will. It has to.

We love you Paris.

Je t’aime.


Being ‘that’ mother. November 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — hannahoakland @ 2:59 pm

‘That’ mother.

You know the one.

The one who takes her daughter out three days in a row without so much as looking at her hair, let alone brushing it.

The one who bribes her three-year old round the shops with a tupperware full of biscuits.

The one whose offspring run riot at the front (and in the aisles) of the sweet, calm, well-behaved church-down-the-road that she frequents on weekends when her husband is working and she just can’t take being stuck indoors with both children for the morning.

The one whose children lose the plot at their own church. During communion, obviously. Climbing over the altar rail. Hiding under the communion table. Shouting. Screaming. Refusing to listen. Fighting over the lunchbox that contains the chocolate buttons they’re not supposed to be eating right now. So much so that the brilliant vicar takes it upon himself to teach them the meanings of all the carvings on the rail, whilst the service carries on around them. To give everyone five minutes peace.

The one who monumentally loses it at the Virgin Media people when they call her, for the twenty-somethingth time this month asking for someone else and then suggesting that perhaps she would, after all, benefit from their services. Which, incidentally, she ALREADY HAS!

And then has to make some kind of mumbled apology and smile way-too-sweetly at the cashier who just witnessed the meltdown, so that she doesn’t call Social Services about this poor boy with a crazy-angry mother.

The one whose son screams down the entire cafe because, having shaken the pepper pot all over the table, he’s now also decided to rub it into his eye.

The one who already feels bad enough about the day she’s having without you staring at her quite so blatantly when she can’t get the stupid buggy into such a very tight gap on the bus. Yes, she knows she’s holding you up. She knows it’s embarrassing for everyone. Trust her, it’s much worse from where she’s standing.

The one whose anxiety is rearing it’s ugly head after the fun-but-flat-out-exhausting antics of half term. And making everything twenty times harder than it needs to be.

These last few days I have spent a lot of time as ‘that’ mother. Too much. Way too much. I need a rest.

Before I had children, I don’t think I ever imagined, not in my wildest dreams, how hard it would be. How many days there would be when I felt as though I had reached my absolute limit. How much attention a three year old needs. How much rudeness a five year old can fit into the 90 minutes before school each morning.

How grateful I would be that the Debenhams catalogue comes with stickers inside, buying me twenty minutes writing time while Joel decorates the sofa.

We went for a walk last week, with the in-laws, through a beautiful park. Full of autumn leaves, mist and narrowboats. And swings, obviously. We’re not insane. As we drove there we talked about the seasons. About which one is our favourite. Unsurprisingly, given that Christmas is on its way, most of us plumped for winter. But Elvie was keen to point out how lovely the leaves are, and that Autumn’s pretty special too.

“There’s a treat in every season.”

Those were her words. A treat in every season. Believe me, I’m searching.

I’m almost certain that it’s true. That she’s right. She usually is.

The treats are there, hiding under the surface.

The beautiful plant that I was given by the lady on the flower rota after the service at the church-down-the-road. Despite the kids running wild. That almost reduced me to tears.

The teacher who, after hearing at parents evening how Elvie was still struggling to deal with a classmate’s death over the summer, produced three beautiful child-friendly bereavement books at the end of school yesterday. That she’d ordered specially over half term. Telling us to just bring them back when we don’t need them anymore.

The man at the bus stop who gushed about mothers, and how unappreciated they are, and how one day we all realise they’re the best friends we ever had. All because I gave him 40p for the bus.

Finding a bag of lollipops in the cupboard that never got given to the trick-or-treaters because we managed to be out all evening. And hiding them away so I can work my way through them while the little ones are asleep.

The mother on the bus who commiserated with me, and shared my pain over how impossible public transport is with small children.

New slippers. Which, thanks to the joys of cashback vouchers cost me a grand total of £2.50. Bargain. And cute too.


They’re there. The treats. And I’m hunting for them.

I’m trying not to be ‘that’ mother. Not too often, anyway. I really am. And I’m trying not to beat myself up on the days when I just can’t be anything else.

Maybe one day I’ll have it figured out. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing my slippers, eating Halloween sweets and reading Elvie books about dying badgers.

And I promise, from the bottom of my heart, that if I see you struggling to fit your buggy onto the bus, I won’t stare. I won’t mutter. I’ll get up off my backside and help. So that, even when you feel like ‘that mother’, at least you won’t be in it alone.




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