…deserves breakfast in bed.

In the optimistic hope that you are going to be treated like royalty this weekend, allow me to offer you my musings on the whole Mother’s Day business from the early days of the blog…

There is a phrase that I mutter to myself, on days when it feels like the world and his wife wants my attention: “To be needed is a blessing, not a curse”. Some days it comes easier than others.

Despite the absolute joy I felt when my children first said ‘Mummy’, there are days when I am summoned so many times that I want to ban the word.

I’m sure (I hope!) many mothers can relate to this. But I don’t believe this makes us bad mothers. We’re just human. We just need a bit of moderation. Buddha would back me up here – too much of anything is never a good idea.

With motherhood, though, meeting the demands of others goes with the territory. So it is only right that the balance be readdressed at least once a year, when the mother gets to do the bidding. Cue…Mother’s Day!


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The sun is shining, the snowdrops are out and children are casting off school jumpers with merry abandon. I think spring may well be here. (Not that that rules out snow flurries next week….) But just in case these seasonal stirrings are turning your attention to housework, I thought I’d repost my musings on spring cleaning from this time last year;

If you’re even remotely considering a spot of Spring Cleaning – just hold that thought!

Though spring may undoubtedly have sprung and you may be keen to revitalise your home after the dark days of winter, before you do…

I have a tip that will help make this seasonal maintenance work much easier. In fact, this simple step may even bring wondrous benefits to you, your home and your life, long after you hang up your marigolds.


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Peace Christmas Hearth

Oh, Christmas…

For all the joy and magic of this festive season, there’s no doubt that Christmas brings with it a good deal of extra work and things to do. There are the parties and visits to and from friends and family… Then there’s all that present planning and buying, wrapping and giving… There’s all that extra food shopping and cooking and baking… And on top of all that, there’s also a considerable seasonal serving of extra housework.

Now, before I get all Ebenezer on you, let me just stress that I am a huge fan of Christmas. I absolutely love it. I think I enjoy it even more now than I did when I was a child. Having two small children of my own definitely adds to the magic and sense of excitement and wonder, but even in the quiet moments of planning and organising, the Christmas season always makes me smile.

This is in spite of the extra work, though, rather than because of it.

So, in my attempt to get maximum enjoyment from the festivities with minimum amounts of stress and frantic frenzies, I have a few ideas for a Calmer Christmas Karma. These are lessons I’ve learnt about what makes for a happier time for all concerned – not least, myself. (And why not, Christmas is for grown-ups, too!)


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 girl put your records on

Any regular readers will no doubt be aware that I have a natural aversion to housework. This is not to say I don’t do it – I want to live in a pleasant and comforting home, so needs must etc… But generally speaking it’s not top of my list of things I want to do.

So you probably won’t be too surprised to discover that when I do eventually shift my gears into housework mode, I race about at a frenzied pace, trying to get the jobs done and dusted (literally) as quickly as possible.

Now there is nothing wrong with working quickly, if that’s how you work happiest. Also, there may be times when a brisk pace is essential (ie impending guests are looming). Quite often, though, I have no need to rush the housework, other than my in-built urge to get it over with. And I have also noticed that these domestic frenzies don’t leave me feeling satisfied and competent, instead they actually they wind me up. They make me anxious and tense. So not only do I begrudge the work as I’m tearing through it, but when it’s over, I feel slightly glum or more than a little snappish. Hardly domestic bliss.


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nigella kitchen

This week sees the return to our screens of the lovely Nigella Lawson.

Her new series, Nigella Kitchen, begins Monday 30th September at 8pm on BBC 2.

So to celebrate this happy event, I thought I would mark the occasion with a Nigella-flavoured blog post.

I recently got my hands on Nigella’s new companion book (also called Kitchen) and although I’m only on page 92 (I like to read her books cover-to-cover), it has already struck me with its helpfulness in answering one of life’s most challenging questions:

What’s for tea, mum?


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toyclutter.jpg

This is a picture of my son, doing what he loves to do – fluffle his mummy’s hair. He has done this ever since he developed fine motor skills. When he was smaller, he used to do it while feeding. Some babies need a blanket or soft toy, my boy needed a handful of hair belonging to someone who loves him.

(Though, this did limit surrogate feeders somewhat. In fact, I did contemplate lopping off my locks and tying with a ribbon so he could be fed by persons without grabbable-length hair…)

So how does this picture help me cope with the fall-out of toys that litters my home?


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Plan, Shop, Chop

I was once reading a cook-book by that original domestic goddess –Nigella Lawson. In it, she casually mentioned that planning and shopping are as much a part of cooking as the kitchen-based business.

This was a eureka moment for me.

Of course! It seemed so obvious when pointed out! Yet all this time I’d been wondering why I felt so defeated by the prospect of feeding my family. I had neglected to incorporate two of the three vital ingredients – planning and shopping.


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crayke

 

I recently wrote a guest blog post for my Twitter friend Jo Belfield on the subject of photography, (Jo creates beautiful photos for a living).

I believe that having your favourite photos on display in your home can be a great antidote to the housework blues.

So, here’s the blog post again in case you didn’t catch it:

I recently embarked upon a full day of housework.

This is not something I do very often. Not because I don’t enjoy a clean and tidy home – I do, I love it. However, I find that Great Big Cleaning Efforts mess with my head. There’s a very real danger that all the mindless domestic activity will result in a head-space of frustration, despair or low-level fury. (Or on a bad day, all three.) Admittedly there are far worse ordeals to be facing, but I don’t think I’m alone in occasionally feeling the strain of home and family maintenance.


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readers top tips housework.jpg

Thanks to the marvels of technology, some of my recent online articles included a comments facility and some people very kindly used this space to volunteer their own housework-success secrets.

These included some real gems and I thought it would be helpful to put together a summary of these words of wisdom. So, here follows a collection of top tips from the online community, on how to cope in the domestic trenches. (Thanks, readers!)


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As a person, it is irritating when people don’t do their fair share, but if you are at all feminist, it’s much more complicated. There are principles at stake.

There is often the unspoken question: is it being left to me because I am the female? This incurs a wrath born of social inequities, turning a personal situation into a political one. It becomes less of a question about whether you should always have to clean the floor and transmutes into whether women should always have to clean the floor.


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If, for whatever reason, you don’t take on external help (and even if you do – you’ll still have to tidy up before they come!), it makes sense to utilise existing labour sources. I’m referring to The Others. The people you live with. Now you may be thinking – if those we live with did their fair share, we wouldn’t need this book! But I believe it’s possible (and just) to recruit them in your domestic battle. It’s simply a case of finding the right approach…


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Women are instinctive nurturers and carers. Historically, we are the caretakers of the species. Even in recent times, women who work full-time still tend to be the ones who make a house a home, administer TLC and know/care how each family member likes their breakfast. Regardless of who has the earning power, it’s usually the Lady of the House who manages the everyday comings and goings. She-Who-Knows-Where-The-Clean-Socks-Are. (Or aren’t, perhaps)


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Picture the scene…

You’ve just collapsed onto the sofa with a drink and your favourite book/magazine/TV programme. The relaxing sigh is barely out of your mouth before you hear it….the summons.

Somebody, somewhere wants a piece of you. And they want it NOW. If they’re not demanding food, they need something finding. Or cleaning. Or they need your diplomatic services to solve a dispute. Whatever it is they need, you know there will be no peace until they have it.


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The ‘Not Enough Hours In The Day’ Trilogy – Part III

Keeping our homes and feeding our families are innate human habits. And, thanks to today’s mod cons, this domestic stuff has never been easier. Why, then, do we still struggle to find the time for it?

One answer lies in the position of housework on our to-do lists, (ie not very high.) But there is another explanation: if we have so much to do that such a primal and essential need gets neglected – perhaps our lists are too long! The existence of housework isn’t the problem – it’s a side-effect of being alive – but if we don’t have time for it, the problem is: our lives are too full. If we lack the time to take decent care of ourselves and our families, something, somewhere has gone wrong…


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The ‘Not Enough Hours In The Day’ Trilogy – Part I

Ever find that you just don’t have enough time for housework? Do you ever feel that the mountain of laundry is just unscale-able? That you need more hours in the day to get it all done? I’m guessing, by the fact that you’re here, you answered a resounding YES to all of the above.

And yet, never in the history of women, have we had so much assistance within the home. Imagine, only a few generations ago – whole days were devoted to laundry! These days, we balk at the effort of slamming our clothes into a machine for an hour – but when we return, they’re all clean! No fetching pails of water. No rubbing our knuckles raw on washing boards. No losing our fingers to menacing mangles. Compared to the efforts of our foremothers – modern laundry is a breeze.


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And you’ve just tidied it!

There are few greater tests of love than keeping your temper when family members unravel your hard work – before your very eyes. Now that’s tough. But then that’s life, full of challenges.

Of course, being human, some days we won’t manage to keep a lid on our simmering fury. However, if we can manage our anger on just a few of these testing occasions, so much the better for all within earshot – not least ourselves. And as the wise Lemony Snicket puts it,

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.”

So learning to diffuse our vexation is useful because, let’s face it – this particular problem isn’t likely to be a one-off. If your family are anything like mine, they will view a tidy room or clean surface as an irresistible magnet for clothes, toys, papers and other such debris. So until we discover how to retrain them successfully, we need an antidote to the temptation to explode.


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…deserves breakfast in bed.

There is a phrase that I mutter to myself, on days when it feels like the world and his wife wants my attention: “To be needed is a blessing, not a curse”. Some days it comes easier than others.

Despite the absolute joy I felt when my children first said ‘Mummy’, there are days when I am summoned so many times that I want to ban the word.

I’m sure (I hope!) many mothers can relate to this. But I don’t believe this makes us bad mothers. We’re just human. We just need a bit of moderation. Buddha would back me up here – too much of anything is never a good idea.

With motherhood, though, meeting the demands of others goes with the territory. So it is only right that the balance be readdressed at least once a year, when the mother gets to do the bidding. Cue…Mother’s Day!


read more