Slummy Single Mummy

Jo Middleton is a freelance writer and mother of two girls, aged 17 and 10, who enjoy relentlessly winding each other up in high-pitched voices. Jo writes the award-winning blog Slummy Single Mummy and likes to escape from real life with wine, biscuits and TV reruns of Miss Marple mysteries.

Childish behaviour

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on Monday, 03 December 2012
“It would be really useful if you could hang that washing out.”

Pause with an edge of sulkiness.

“But I hate hanging out the washing! It’s like my worst thing.”

“Well if you don’t want to do that, you could clean all the toilets? That’s what I’m about to do.”

“Fine,” cue slightly shouty voice and meaningful banging of tea cup, “I’ll hang out the washing then.”

It’s 9pm and someone is clearly over-tired. That someone though isn’t either of my children. It’s me.

I don’t know what happens to me after about 8pm. It’s like that Kevin the teenager sketch – my arms almost visibly lengthen and a scowl forms on my brow. Heaven forbid anyone ask me a sensible question. If they do, they had better beware.

Although I can hear myself sounding like a stroppy teenager, there is something strangely liberating about acting like a child. Perhaps it’s that normally, as grown-ups, we try so hard to be reasonable, to be in control of our emotions, that letting out that cross inner child once in a while feels so good. Just for a couple of minutes, I am thinking only of myself and what I want to do, rather than things I need to do for other people.

I grab the washing basket, give my partner a mildly filthy look and head upstairs, barely concealing a smile. Perhaps while I’m up there I’ll find some crayons and a nice blank wall…
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A rant about the cost of a free education

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on Monday, 26 November 2012
This week I have written out cheques for three separate school trips, all to London, totalling over £300.

Yep, that’s three hundred pounds. I could buy an awful lot of lattes and muffins with that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for kids having experiences and what not, but do they always have to be so expensive?

In my day, I’m pretty sure we all just chipped in a pound for a beaten up coach, took our packed lunches to the remains of a nearby castle ruin, did some crayon rubbings and then ate our sandwiches in the shelter of a pile of rubble.

Now you can argue that it’s a good thing that school trips have become so much more exciting, but isn’t the idea of free education that’s it’s, well, free??

I am clearly kidding myself. With the number of letters home we get asking for contributions in some form or another, from cake donations to payment for the latest personalised school tea towel, the cost of even a free education appears to be spiralling out of control.

Just this week we had school photos, (once an annual event, now seemingly more regular), with a set of photos available for the bargain price of just £28. For parents feeling particularly flush, there was the option to have your child’s face put onto just about every inanimate object you could imagine. Prices starting from just £7.99.

This week we’re getting letters home about school camp. I may need to pop out for a latte and a muffin before I can bring myself to write the cheque.

Am I a bad Mummy?

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on Monday, 19 November 2012
I sometimes wonder if I might not be the greatest Mummy in the world.

I try my best, but I’m easily distracted, have a terrible memory, and sometimes just forget that there are things that mummies are supposed to do.

The problem has been eased significantly by moving Belle to a school with no school uniform, (because of a house move, not just laziness), but despite no longer having that weekly Sunday evening panic attack, racing against time to get uniform dry on radiators, I still find myself rather lacking.

Monday mornings are particularly bad. This Monday, making Belle’s packed lunch, (a job I loathe), it occurred to me that I didn’t know where her lunchbox actually was. I looked in the cupboards, around the kitchen, but to no avail. I eventually found her schoolbag in the downstairs toilet and there it was, three day old sandwich crusts and all.

I felt bad and hoped nobody was looking. Isn’t this something a Good Mummy would deal with on a Friday afternoon? I rummaged in her bag, and pulled out a scrunched up letter, requesting cake donations for the previous Friday, and a set of maths homework. I felt worse. I looked over my shoulder guiltily, even though I knew no one was there. Checking for letters and homework is definitely something a Good Mummy does regularly.

Ah well, at least this way I give her a new excuse. “No Sir, the dog didn’t eat my homework, I just have a hopeless mother.”

We can’t all be perfect can we?

Keeping up with my ten-year old

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on Monday, 12 November 2012
It’s 9am and I’m on my third breakfast – yogurt, a pancake and two slices of watermelon. We’re in Disneyland Paris for the weekend and I am making the most of the breakfast buffet.

Despite falling asleep last night before Belle it seems to be taking me rather longer than her to wake up. “Come on!” she says, bouncing up and down in her chair. “We’ve got to go, we’ve got to be at the front for Crush’s Coaster!”

Ah yes, the rollercoasters. I’d sort of forgotten about them, focused as I was on getting best value for money at the buffet. Belle has eaten just half a sausage and one mini pain au chocolat, yet is full of beans already. (Figuratively only unfortunately – her baked beans remain untouched).

“OK, OK,” I say, trying to stop thinking about the pastry selection, “ready when you are!” “Yesssss!” she says, doing a little air punch. She’s up out of her chair, clutching her fast pass, before I can take one final swig of coffee.

I take a deep breath, mentally preparing myself for another high-energy day and hoping my stomach can hang on to all three breakfasts on the rides.

Outside the hotel, Belle takes my hand. “We wasted loads of time eating,” she says, “we’re going to have to run,” and she breaks into a trot, dragging me along with her.

Forget the rollercoasters, my pancakes have got to make it to the queue first…

What are your dreams for your children?

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on Monday, 05 November 2012
We all have an idea in our minds of how we want our children to turn out.

Some people invest thousands in private education, determined for their kids to go into professional careers and become doctors of lawyers, others opt for home-schooling, focussing on creativity and freedom of expression. Most of us hope at least that our children will be kind and compassionate, and support others less fortunate than themselves where they can.

How would you feel though if your daughter decided that she was going to raise money for charity by selling her virginity?

I read this week about Brazilian student Catarina Migliorini, the subject of a forthcoming documentary, who auctioned off her virginity to a Japanese man for $780,000 to help impoverished children in Brazil.

Now you could argue that this is her choice, that the money will do an awful lot of good, and that there are plenty of women being forced to do far more for far less, but as a parent of two daughters, I couldn’t help but feel instantly horrified and protective towards Catarina.

Perhaps I am being naïve or narrow-minded – after all, who can say that their first time wasn’t a little awkward - but it was a maternal gut reaction, beyond my control.

How would you feel if that were your daughter? Would you feel responsible, insulted, ashamed maybe? Or would you be watching her on the television proudly, family and friends gathered round, popcorn in hand, cheering ‘that’s my girl!’?

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