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Friday, 30 March 2007


I took a career break when the children were babies, and I have never worked so hard in my entire life. Talk about "out of the frying pan and into the fire!"

When I was at home I thought that I was loosing my mind, but now upon reflection I can see that I was simply suffering from exhaustion. Towards the end of the third year, James was at his wits end and insisted that I needed help.

He arranged for us to have an au pair, and things improved substantially.

At that time I was completely in awe of my friend Muriel who was ever calm while her two children raged all over SE21. They were indeed the talk of Dulwich. I so envied her serenity, and was sure that I would die from an anxiety attack on more than one occasion when we were out together.

Muriel was quite accustomed to being asked to leave Cafe Rouge, the coffee shop in Dulwich Park, Pizza Express, and every other establishment in the environs. She assured me that it was all the fault of the intolerant, un-childfriendly shop holders, and not the outrageous, unsanctioned behaviour of her offspring.

I remember one afternoon in particular in Cafe Rouge, when Poppy occupied herself by opening all of the paper sugar straws, and poured their contents onto the great pyramid of cushions which she had constructed on the floor. It was only when Poppy introduced her chocolate milk into the mix that the sweet manager eventually intervened...

At this point, little Arthur was standing on the table next to ours singing "Wind the bobbin up", much to the horror of the customers trying to drink their coffee at that very table. Muriel tutted and accused, pulled faces and marched out without leaving a tip.

I knew then, that our friendship was doomed. I found socialising with Muriel and her two darlings far too stressful. More stressful than being alone with my babies in the house on a rainey day - baking.

I have never found unruly behaviour from children acceptable. When my two darlings socialise with children who have no boundaries, it becomes doubly difficult to expect good behaviour from them. They want to run free like their chums, and resent me for expecting restraint from them. It becomes an awkward situation all around.

Muriel always lectured me that I was too controlling of my children, not allowing their youthful exuberance to flow freely. I remember the time she watched my babies for me so that I could go to my GP to discuss my anxiety levels. When I returned to collect them, she was sitting on the floor of her living room demonstrating to the darlings how to light matches efficiently. "It is a valuable life skill", she informed me. At that point, the oldest of these little children was just four.

On the final occasion that I spent time with Muriel, she was chopping vegetables in her kitchen, peeling carrots I seem to remember. Arthur was sitting on her chopping board, stabbing an enormous Japanese folded steel Global bread knife into the surface between his knees - while singing "The wheels on the bus".

It was on that occasion that I noticed the large quantities of prescription drugs on Muriel's top shelf, Muriel laughed and referred to them as her little pieces of calm.

If Muriel and her husband (both vintage parents) have no control of these poppets now, I dread to think of what is to become of her and her beloved husband when these children become teenagers, bigger than their parents. I suppose they will calm down eventually, and perhaps crave some order and routine? But perhaps not.

I realised when Freya was three years old, that if I was to have any calm in my life I was to avoid the company of Muriel and spend some quiet time resting, back at work full time...


Scruffy Mummy said...

I've always said - work is restful compared to full-time childcare! Coffee and lunch break, time to surf the net, to have uninterrupted chats with other adults, time to read on the journey there and back - bliss!

*Buy Fairtrade Chocolate Easter Eggs this year - and support the end to child labour in the cocoa industry.

dulwichmum said...

For sure Scruffy Mummy,

I shall buy them tomorrow.