Happy Holidays?

‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that jazz, but how many of us really are? The holidays are upon us and it’s a full on assault of food, family and Christmas telly. Non-stop overeating, awkward relatives and alleged “quality time” at home can make for a very stressful period. Happy holidays? Not always.

It’s all very well having so much time off over the festive period but sometimes things get tricky. Who should you spend Christmas with? His family or yours? Who should you invite if you want to host a party? Do you really need to invite his entire extended family and annoying/weird friend? And as if sorting out logistics and the guest list isn’t complicated enough, something will always go wrong over the holiday period.

Ludoo cautiously meets Santa..
Ludoo cautiously meets Santa..

Firstly the chances of you having a major bust up with your partner are super high. You will be all set to enjoy the holidays together and then something will flare up. It could be the most ridiculous thing but something will get triggered and you will end up shouting at each other and being thoroughly hacked off for at least 48 hours. Even worse, you could end up giving each other the silent treatment for the whole week thereby ruining a good portion of your Christmas/New Year period. Passive aggression is like the kiss of death for all things merry.

Secondly, it’s almost guaranteed that something will break down. The central heating will stop working, the oven will die on you or, as in my case, the car will pack up.  According to the Old Git, it’s just one of those things, but all I can say is that the car was working perfectly fine until HE decided to get up early one morning and fiddle around with the tyres. The next thing I know…the car is no longer in use. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out he broke the car and is solely responsible for me not having access to wheels over the entire festive period. Annoying? Just a bit. You can draw your own conclusions as to how I handled that situation.

No car ( insert angry face)

Then of course there is the pressure to get a bargain in the sales. Some online sales start on Christmas Eve so the race is on to bag yourself a good deal. The whole process is stress-inducing as you may find something you like but decide to think about it overnight, only to rudely discover that it is no longer available 24 hours later. You what??? How can it disappear from the website in just one day? I was so naive and had to learn the hard way. Worse still, is if you decide to take a trip into town to look around the shops. It’s not pleasant (unless you are a complete shopaholic) and consists of a lot of aggressive shoppers rummaging around messy, manhandled clothes racks, giving evils to each other and pouncing on items they deem desirable. Don’t even get me started about the queues.

And let’s not forget about keeping our beautiful, angelic little cherubs occupied for two and a half weeks. If the incessant quizzing about what’s for dinner, when are they going out, what presents they are getting and what snacks are available doesn’t drive you nuts, the continuous whinging and fighting over the iPad will.

But it’s not all bad. In and amongst all of the dilemmas, discussions and disorder there will also be some golden moments. Like sitting at home with Flump, Ludoo and the Old Git watching Star Wars whilst eating Maltesers. Or going out on Christmas Eve to eat big fat American burgers. Or watching Flump and Ludoo have a ball with their cousins. The holiday season is rarely without its issues but that’s just family life for you. Despite the aggro, I’m thankful for the festive period and have appreciated the time spent with loved ones and the break in routine…….Apart from the Old Git ruining my car. Now that’s just unforgivable.

Xmas Eve burgers..
Xmas Eve burgers. Yum!

Girls’ Night Out

Who doesn’t enjoy a girls’ night out? We all love them, right? But when you have children the excitement and hysteria surrounding a girls’ night out is palpable and the preparation required is meticulous. For mums, the prospect of a girls’ night out, when you can glam up, wear stilettos, sparkly tops and squeal with laughter all night long (without having any little people hang off you), is like a flipping dream come true.

It all begins with the exchange of a hundred messages on WhatsApp to build up the excitement. Discussions take place about what to wear, transport arrangements, where to park, what the menu looks like, who’s babysitting, how the kids and/or hubby have been annoying you all week etc.  Each participant has probably spent all week reminding their equivalent of the Old Git that they will be babysitting that night and that they MUST NOT FORGET. Then on the day of the said girls’ night out, from about 3pm onwards, each mum will start bombarding their other halves with increasingly frantic and threatening text messages, asking them where they are, what time they are leaving work and when they will be home.

Preparing for my girls’ night out.

There is then the small matter of getting ready whilst looking after the kids. This is no easy task and the only failsafe solution is to give them unrestricted use of the iPad, and/or TV. It’s perfectly acceptable, on such important occasions, to let your children use all electronic devices in the house whilst you go off and get ready. Showering, hair straightening/curling, experimenting with different shades of lipstick, attempting to create a smokey eye effect all take a good amount of time and it’s important that you are not disturbed whilst such preparations are underway.

Eventually when the equivalent of the Old Git gets home, there will then be discussions about who will be putting the kids to bed. He will try to persuade you to “quickly” do it before you head out but you know that this would be a fatal mistake. Once you get embroiled into the bedtime process, you will inevitably end up being ridiculously late. So it’s better you just run out of the front door and not look back.  Hell, I even put my phone on silent these days.

Once out, you experience a feeling of intense joy and freedom. You pump up the volume on the car radio whilst doing multiple pickups of other excited mums out on the razzle. You have so much to talk about you can barely contain yourself. You arrive at your chosen destination (probably a restaurant with music as a club would just be too much to handle and would knock you out for a whole week thereafter) and then it’s party time!  Everybody is so elated to be out that they find everything hilarious and fantastic. Ordinarily prim and proper, responsible, sensible women turn into giggling, over excited, naughty, noisy schoolgirls who are having the time of their lives.  Good food, cocktails, unfiltered conversation, dancing and selfies make for a brilliant night out.

Having a blast!

Then it’s time to go home. You hobble back to the car, put on your granny driving shoes and immediately start dissecting the evening with whoever else is in the car. The WhatsApp messages start pinging again with everyone saying how brilliant a time they have had and sharing embarrassing photos of the night. You get home and look/listen for signs of life..praying that the kids are asleep and not sitting downstairs watching late night telly. You get into bed on a complete high, whilst trying not to disturb the snoring lump of a man you have next to you.  You go to bed feeling all peachy and happy…….until 7AM the next morning when the kids run in screaming and demanding toast and Weetabix. You then feel incredibly ROUGH. But it’s a small price to pay for such an amazing and liberating night out. No pain, no gain.  Indeed, preparations are already underway for the next spectacular girls’ night out.

Obligatory end of night shoe selfie..

Turning 40

This year I celebrated my big 4-0. In my head I’m just a 23 year old, but my birth certificate tells me otherwise. It crept up on me without me even realising and then planted a great big slap on the face upon arrival. Turning 40 is, without a doubt, a big deal.

Firstly, this milestone birthday  puts you in a completely different age bracket.  You even get invited by the GP for a free health check, which is fine until you realise it’s available to all those aged between 40 -74!!  Yes, that’s right, you now fall within the same age range as a 74 year old. What the hell? That was a flipping shock to the system.

You also start to realise that there are physical changes that allude to your age. The grey hair starts to pop out, the fine lines start to appear and you start investing in every single hair care and anti-aging product you hear about. Then there’s your body [long groan]. Earlier this year when I was on holiday, I found myself looking over at this young woman on the beach. Not in a pervy/stalkerish  way, but in a nostalgic way. She had a perfectly toned body, no cellulite, no signs of wear and tear. She was young and fit and I couldn’t help but reflect on how I used to look like that once upon a time.  Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel sad or depressed, but it did make me feel more aware of my age. Gone are the days of just starving myself for a day or two to lose a few pounds. Gravity now has other ideas.

Turning 40 and owning it.

That being said, turning 40 has brought with it a renewed sense of confidence. I find myself being bolder in my appearance and in the things that I say and do. I don’t really care what anybody else thinks and have greater self-belief in my own views and judgements. Heck, I’ve got 40 years of life experience behind me and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to tell me what to do – just ask the Old Git.

Of course it’s inevitable that you will start reassessing things in your life; what you have achieved so far and what you would still like to do. Now this could go one of two ways. You could lock yourself away in a dark room, with a box of chocolates and a hanky, and work yourself into a depression. OR you could take a break from the self-loathing and appreciate everything that you do have in your life, be it family, friends, work, your house, partner, kids or your health. Very few people have achieved everything they want in life by the age of 40. There’s still so much to look forward to and turning 40 allows you to refocus on what it is you’d really like to do. It’s a wonderful window of opportunity.

Shazia Khan 40th Birthday_20160227-87
The Old Git’s attempt at making me a Louis Vuitton handbag cake for my 40th. It’s the thought that counts, I suppose..

Whatever happens, don’t be a cliché and have a midlife crisis. If you find yourself wanting to pack in your job and travel the world, leave your partner because the grass seems greener, or buy a sports car, think very carefully indeed. Many a person has made a bad decision based on a temporary state of mind.

My parting pearls of wisdom are these; turning 40 really hasn’t been that bad (apart from the letter from the GP), make sure you celebrate in some way (don’t just let it slip on by unnoticed as that will depress you), be excited by the endless possibilities that lie ahead, get fit and most importantly of all, invest in some really good, expensive moisturiser.

Shouty Mama

It always starts off so well. When the kids are in the throes of a meltdown or being extremely defiant, I try to follow the advice espoused by various child rearing experts. Talk to your children calmly, don’t get angry, give them a warning, walk away….we all know the drill. But when your monsters repeatedly ignore your instructions [cough cough, I mean requests] it’s hard not to turn into a raving lunatic that froths at the mouth.

Little Ludoo mid meltdown
Little Ludoo mid meltdown

Take Flump. She basically acts like I’m either invisible or that she has a serious hearing impediment. Today I asked her, as I always do, to brush her teeth and wash her face before bedtime. She ignored me. I asked her again. She ignored me. By the 6th time I was starting to get vexed, especially as Ludoo was whinging about wanting to eat more cheerios. She still ignored me. I gave her a stern warning and the countdown to three. She still ignored me. And then I exploded into a mad, raving loony. It wasn’t pretty, nor was it helpful as it all ended in tears and hysteria. Then I got pissed off that the day had been ruined and felt horrendously guilty about losing my temper. I then had my moment of introspection and asked myself, since when did I become a shouty mama?

A bit of self reflection
A bit of self reflection can only be done with a jumbo sized mug of tea

The reality is we all have bad days and, whilst shouting at our kids is not ideal, it’s not abnormal and doesn’t make us evil. And just because we lose our cool now and then, okay, quite often, that doesn’t make us crap mums. Tell me which mother of multiple small children is in a permanent state of domestic bliss and happiness? Tell me??? I’m not saying my preferred style of parenting is to scream and shout but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s inevitable. The key thing is it doesn’t define my relationship with my children. Yes, I might become scary on occasion, but I also have many magnificent moments with them.

As women we are plagued by maternal guilt and are our own worst critics. But how about we focus on some of the wonderful things that we do for our children instead? We provide the foundation for our families and sometimes the weight of this can take its toll. We may have our shaky moments but we quickly realign ourselves and stay strong. We all have low points in parenting but I believe as long as we make it abundantly clear to our children that we love and cherish them, and that we are sorry for any ill temper, they will be forgiving of our flaws. It never ceases to amaze me how in a few short seconds a child can, with their forgiveness, turn a shouty moment into a magical moment.