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.

Head over heels

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on Tuesday, 05 March 2013
I’m not easily embarrassed.

At our netball Christmas party it took about 2 seconds to persuade me to stand on a table and make a speech, and if I’m in a cruel mummy frame of mind I’m not adverse to a bit of singing in the street. This morning though was different, this morning I feel over.

There is something horribly embarrassing about falling over. Even if I trip slightly in the street I tend to look behind me in a puzzled way, implying that something jumped up out of the pavement to catch me out on purpose and that it definitely wasn’t just me being clumsy and tripping over my own feet.

My tumble this morning wasn’t quite as horrible as landing flat on your face in the street, as I was at netball practice. (I’m pretty sure that makes it a sports injury). It would have been better though if there had been someone else involved and not just me stumbling about trying to catch the ball.

The fall could not by any stretch of the imagination be called graceful. The wobbly thud as I fell heavily to the floor reminded me a bit of a beached whale, flapping about helplessly, unable to right themselves. I lay on the floor for a little while, trying as hard as I could not to cry.

Despite a grazed knee and elbow and a twisted ankle, I did hold in the tears. In fact, I stood up, shook out my foot a bit, and resumed my position in goal attack, hobbling mildly. I waited until I caught home to admire my scuffed knee and hold a pack of Quorn mince against my ankle.

My injuries may have been more at home in the playground but I wasn’t going to let my reaction go the same way.

A good mummy moment

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on Tuesday, 26 February 2013
I had one of those moments yesterday where you remember what being a parent is about and why you love it.

It’s not that normally I don’t get all the kicks I need out of making packed lunches and hoovering, (oh no, hang on...), but sometimes it’s good to have a little reminder of why exactly you bother to do all those things that actually you find tedious, things like sitting through an hour and a half of Monopoly and pretending you’re having fun.

(To be honest, in the case of Monopoly, it’s normally the other members of my family who aren’t enjoying themselves. I can’t help it if I have a gift for property.)

Yesterday I took Belle to see Oliver. She played Nancy in a recent class rendition of the musical, so she knew all the words to all the songs. It was extra exciting as it was a last minute ‘we happened to be walking past the theatre on the last day of its run’ type of occasion, so what would normally be weeks of simmering nervous tension (‘only 16 more sleeps!’) had to be condensed into ten intense minutes of squealing and shopping for snacks. (Belle was pretty excited too.)

It was a great show, but two thirds of the way in, when I was beginning to wish Bill would hurry up and put Nancy out of her misery so we could do the same and get off the bench seats, I happened to glance over at Belle.

In the half darkness, you could see her wide eyes sparkling, glued to the stage. She was sat forward a little bit on her seat, her neck long, and her hands held in her lap. She was mouthing the words as Nancy sang, and smiling. As the song finished, she clapped as loud and as fast as she could, bouncing a little bit on the red velvet covered bench.

I watched her.

As the clapping died down, I leaned over and whispered “she wasn’t as good as you.” “I know,” she whispered back, her smile broader than ever, and turned back to the stage.

A mother's guilt

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on Monday, 18 February 2013
This time in three weeks I’m going to be in Ethiopia. Yep, that’s right, THE Ethiopia. The hot one with all the famine.

I’m going with World Vision to raise awareness of the IF campaign and it’s a fantastic honour, but to be honest, I scared. I’ve never been further than Spain in my whole life before, and that was too hot. I just had to lie around on the beach like a big sweaty whale.

Also, I get hungry a lot, and worry about getting hungry too. I’m guessing it’s not OK just to whip out a Mars Bar when you’re visiting an Ethiopian food initiative.

Mostly though, I’m nervous about meeting other mums. On one level, we’ll have this massive, basic thing in common, and yet how can our lives ever really compare? When I tell people that I was pregnant at 16, and that I went to university with a toddler, they tend to look impressed, as though I have somehow battled against the odds, but really, how much of a challenge was it?

Having my daughter was ultimately a choice. Carrying on with my A-levels was something I didn’t think twice about. Being able to go to university at all should be considered a privilege, not a challenge.

I am wondering how I will look these women in the eye, who at 16 may be struggling to feed two children already, and not feel like a fraud – a fraud for ever feeling like I’ve struggled, like I’ve had ‘a bad day’.

But then perhaps that will be something else we have in common. What’s motherhood after all without a good dollop of guilt?

Half Term

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on Monday, 11 February 2013
“You do know it’s half term next week don’t you?” Boyfriend asked me last week, not at all helpfully.

“Yes,” I replied, “I do.”

“It’s just that you don’t seem very prepared. I don’t think you’ve thought about exactly how much work you have to do with Belle around,” he says.

Jeez, can’t a girl just be in denial in peace?

He was right of course. I wasn’t very prepared. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to have the ‘Noooo, I hate holiday club!’ battle, and so now here we are, the week stretching ahead of us, and the only glint of an oasis on the bleak horizon is a two and a half hour sewing class on Thursday morning.

That’s OK though, I’ll have a good two and a half hours there to get some work done. Less of course the time it takes me to drive her there and pick her up again.

*screams quietly inside head*

As well as the actual work/childcare dilemma, there is also the question of how my patience is going to cope. By Sunday afternoon it was already threadbare, and I had to have a little glass of raspberry liqueur while I cooked dinner. The week is not looking bright.

I need to buy in supplies to see us through.

Perhaps I’ll send Belle down to Blockbusters to buy up all their liquidation stock and a few kilos of popcorn.

And maybe a little bottle or two of some sort of fruit based liqueur…

She can't be 17

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on Monday, 04 February 2013
My eldest daughter Bee has had two offers from universities this week.

There must be some sort of mistake. Bee is only about six years old. I’m pretty sure she has only been in school for a couple of years, and when I hold my hand up next to me to try and guess how tall she is, my hand hovers just above my hip. She can’t even properly tell the time yet without thinking carefully about which is the big hand and which is the little hand.

She can’t be 17.

We did some sums at the weekend to work out how much money she was going to need every month. We factored in everything from books to food shopping. Food shopping? Bee can’t do her own food shopping. She only knows how to buy large bottles of Pepsi Max and smoothies from Starbucks. How will she know what to do? Will they even let her go into Sainsbury’s on her own when she is so small?

She can’t be 17.

We’ve had a look at the different accommodation options too. It all looks fine, she is used to sitting in her bedroom, that won’t be weird, but what happens at tea time? How will she remember to eat tea? Who will she talk to? How will she even reach the cooker?

She can’t be 17.

I will have to go with her. She will need someone to show her how to do shopping and open tins and remind her to clean her teeth. I will just help out a little bit. Maybe cook her meals and run her a bath.

She can’t be 17.

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