The Top 10 Most Useful Pieces of Advice Offered to Mums That Turn Out to be Useless


There was a time where the parental advice people shared was based on a combination of experience and old wives tales. The advent of social media and smart phones now means that ‘expert’ advice is readily available and enables people to feel that they are an authority on any given topic.

While much of the advice offered to mums has a sound logic basis (although not always) and seems to work for many people, often the reality just doesn’t live up to the theory.


1)“Get all the rest you can now, you’ll need it when the baby is born

THEORY: Stocking up your energy reserves during pregnancy will help you cope with the tiredness of looking after a newborn.

REALITY: Your back hurts, your pelvis hurts, your stomach hurts, your ribs are being crushed and you get heartburn every time you lie down, how exactly are you supposed to rest? Even if you are one of the lucky ones who are unaffected by these ailments during pregnancy, even if you manage to sleep for the entire nine months, it will count for absolutely nothing when you are getting up every two hours throughout the night with a newborn. Sleep is not something that can be  saved up and spent during a rainy day. When you are exhausted and sleep deprived, the knowledge that you had once slept for ages is of no comfort to you. In fact, it will just make you hate yourself.


2) “Make sure you do your pelvic floor exercises

THEORY: Doing these exercises for at least eight weeks before and eight weeks after birth will strengthen you pelvic floor muscles.

REALITY: The chances are you will forget to do them beforehand, as you’ve never had to think about bladder control previously. You’ll also feel self-conscious about ever doing them in front of anyone else even though they won’t actually know what you are doing unless you tell them. After birth, you will not be friends with that region of your body for some time and will not want to do anything that engages with it.

The result of this will be a weak bladder, which will get considerably weaker with each child you have and will mean an impromptu visit to a trampoline park with the kids will leave you wishing you had invested in some Tenor Lady. Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course!



3) “Let them just cry it out.”

THEORY: When you are trying to get the baby to sleep, leave them to fall asleep on their own. If they cry, periodically check that they are okay but do not pick them up, talk or make eye contact with them. Your baby will soon learn to sleep and/or settle themselves and you will be free to dance around the living room dressed as Wonder Woman should you wish to do so.

REALITY: Rather than getting on with other things, you will spend the entire time that your baby is learning to ‘self-soothe’ anxiously pacing up and down the hallway. You will experience the highs and lows that are experienced by someone on recreational drugs. There will be a sense of absolute euphoria every time they go quiet for some time; You’ll congratulate yourself on how you’ve become an authority on sleep training and even imagine yourself giving advice to others, and maybe even writing a best-selling guide.

This will be followed by complete devastation when they eventually  cry hysterically for a prolonged time that will cause you to sit in a corner rocking back and forth whilst developing irrational fears that the child will cough, vomit and choke, fall and become unconscious even though they are in a cot and have nowhere to go and/or be abducted and you will go to prison for facilitating it.

I know this method  works for some people, and that’s great for them, but you’ve got to be pretty ballsy to ignore a baby’s cry for any significant amount of time. Unless you fully believe this will work, and you’re determined see it through every time, it’s not going to. If it doesn’t feel right to you, just don’t do it – it’s not for everyone.


4) “Don’t pick them up too much or they will get spoilt.”

THEORY: If you hold a child all the time, they will get used to being carried and will never let you do anything. They will cry to be picked up and this will make your life difficult. Make sure they are fed, changed and winded, and then leave them to amuse themselves.

REALITY: If you are a first-time-mum, you will hover over the baby like I hover over a buffet table at a party and pick them up if they do so much as yawn. You will stare at them while they are asleep, think about how adorable they are and wait for them to make the slightest sound so you have an excuse to hold them. You will instantly regret it when no amount of holding, singing and rocking will console them because you disturbed their sleep, but you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for wanting to be close to your child; it’s called love!

Also, the idea that a newborn can cry just to manipulate you into doing what it wants is akin to Donald Trump thinking that he can make the Mexican president pay for a wall that he neither wants nor benefits from. Your newborn does not know its arse from its elbow; in fact, it doesn’t even know that it has an arse and an elbow. So, unless the father of your baby is Vladimir Putin, the chances are that your baby is not an evil dictator and is not deliberately making you do anything.

And as for making your life difficult….Well, we all need a role in life!


5) “It’s probably just a phase/growth spurt/teething”

THEORY: If your otherwise good natured baby has suddenly started to display the characteristics of someone possessed by demons and there are no obvious signs of illness, the chances are that they are experiencing one of the above.

REALITY: You will worry that every rash that appears could be meningitis, every cough could be symptomatic of tuberculosis and any new mark you find could be the beginning of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

I’m exaggerating, of course. While you initially may fear that there could be something seriously wrong, you will have plenty of time to Google things while you are up all night trying to comfort them and you will probably come to the conclusion that it is one the above yourself.

It’s still exhausting though and people telling you that, ‘it’s probably just a growth spurt’ may still annoy you because it generally means that they’re not acknowledging how difficult and tiring it is to deal with it. Knowing that the misery will end eventually doesn’t make it easier to deal with now.


6) “They should be crawling/walking/talking by now.”

THEORY: There are certain ages by which babies should crawl, walk and talk. If not, your child must one of the ‘special’ ones i.e. slow.

REALITY: The baby apps, books, leaflets and websites tell you the ages babies COULD start reaching certain milestones, but they often fail to mention that very few actually do at that age. Also, while most people will ask you if your baby is doing any of those things out of genuine curiosity, there are always a few that do it as an excuse to mention that their child could walk, talk, self-feed, use the toilet and had enrolled at university by the time they were nine months old.

Naturally, parents are overjoyed at seeing their child doing any of these things for the first time but that joy is often short-lived, as mobile babies are overrated. From the age that they start moving until they reach some awareness of danger, you can’t so much as go to the toilet without imprisoning them in some kind of makeshift vault. And once they start talking, they can start saying no.

Surprisingly enough, statistics and other children’s development mean nothing to your baby as even they recognise that they are completely irrelevant.  They will do things when they are simply ready to do them and no amount of worrying or comparing will help.

Despite being fully aware of this, whenever you see a baby doing something that your baby can’t, it will, ever so slightly, hurt your heart. You will get a little defensive and start reeling off all your baby’s achievements.

When my boy was 9 months, I took him to a baby group and found a 6 month old crawling expertly, while mine was hadn’t even started trying to move. I decided to showcase my son’s only accomplishment and proudly put him on the floor to show how well he could sit. However, it seems I put him in the optimum position to empty his bowels, which he did like a volcano erupting. There is still a lava stain on their rug. Needless to say, no one was impressed by this particular talent.

Serves me right, I know!


7) “Cherish every moment from pregnancy onwards .”

THEORY: They’re only young once, they are a blessing and their childhood will be over before you know it, so cherish each and every day.

REALITY: There are some moments that are easy to cherish: When you find out you are pregnant, when you feel the baby move/kick for the first time, when you go for your first scan, when you hold the baby for the first time, when your child does anything new no matter how insignificant or uninteresting it may seem to others, when they reach any milestone in their development, when they say something cute or funny, when you have a really fun day with them etcetera etcetera. But the truth is, other moments aren’t as cherishable.

For example, when you are asked for countless urine samples during pregnancy for which they provide ridiculously tiny bottles, and your belly is so big that you can’t see past it, so you just shove the bottle beneath you and hope for the best, which inevitably results in you pissing on your own hand.

Or when you child is having a tantrum in public, is refusing to eat, refusing to share, refusing to acknowledge your requests to get dressed or your very existence.

Or sometimes you are the one that is making moments uncherishable with your mum rage, which leads you to have spells when you shout for no real reason or massively overreact to things.

Truth be told, not everything is worth cherishing and there are some things you would rather forget.


8) “Don’t bribe or threaten your children.”

THEORY: You should find a way to communicate with your child where you reach an understanding that’s based on mutual respect and is considerate of their feelings and desires. They will then recognise that you are fair and are more likely to do as you say because they have been involved in the decision making process. Additionally, you should introduce reward charts whereby they can earn treats when they consistently behave well, rather than reprimanding them when they don’t.

REALITY: While you accept the wisdom behind this method, offering them a Kinder Egg if they do what you tell them to gets things done a lot faster, as does threatening to cancel birthday parties, outings, presents and anything else that may make them happy in the foreseeable future.

They will eventually work out that the threats are empty, particularly if you’ve paid money for something, but you will enjoy living a hedonistic lifestyle while you can and will endeavour to teach them life lessons at a later stage.

You will then have every intention to introduce an intricate rewards chart that will take centre stage on the wall and will be a treat for the eyes.  If you do manage to ever get around to it, you try to make it a meaningful activity that you can enjoy together, but will spend most of the time getting annoyed with them for not sticking things where you asked them and will tell them to go watch TV instead. Both you and they will forget that it’s even there after the first week..


9) “Don’t change his nappy too often.”

THEORY: Allowing a baby’s nappy to become completely saturated with urine before changing it will help heal his circumcision.”

(I should point out that this is not generic practise for Muslim boys that have been circumcised, but is specific to the unconventional wisdom of the elders of the strange community that I live in, and is just so batshit crazy that I felt I had to include it.)

REALITY: You realise that allowing your son to develop nappy rash is not going to help heal anything, but you smile and nod when this is suggested to you knowing full well that you will not be implementing it.

If you’re lucky enough to live amongst people with incredibly unique insight, as I am, you may have people giving Mubarak/ congratulating you on your son’s circumcision because apparently that is also a thing in these parts.

NB: If there are any entrepreneurs reading this, there is a potential business opportunity for you:
‘Congratulations, you’ve been circumcised!’ greeting cards.


10) “Schedule screen time.”

THEORY: You should limit the amount of time your child(ren) spend in front of a TV and electronic devices. The best way to ensure this happens is to schedule a part of the day that allows for this or have a specific length of time in mind and do not let them exceed it.


Let It Go Rewritten

Our house was recently infested with a flu, sickness and diarrhoea (what a silly spelling) mother of all bugs. Whilst in the process of watching Frozen for the 150th time, I was left with 2 options: I either slit my wrists and end the misery or channel the misery into something creative. I chose the latter and rewrote the lyrics to the now loathsome song Let It Go.


The snot grows green like kryptonite,
Mountains of tissue can be seen,
A house with poorly children,
I could do with morphine.

The sofa has vomit on the top and down the side,
They couldn’t keep it in,
Not that they tried

I want to eat,
I want to sleep,
I want to be alone when I pee,
I’ll go relieve,
Won’t let them know,
They’ll never let me go!

Let it go, let it go,
Can’t hold it in anymore,
Let it go, Let it go,
I’ll ignore the slams on the door,
I don’t care
If I cut your toast the wrong way,
I’ll take my time,
You’re just going to throw it up any.

It’s funny how much mucous
Can come out of one so small,
And the face that mesmerised me
Is now the grossest thing of all.

It’s time to see
If I can do
(Between cleaning bums with runny poo)
The vacuum, the dishes, the laundry,
Stop wiping your nose on your sleeve!

Let it go, let it go,
Don’t bother seeing the GP,
Let it go, let it go,
“It’s just a virus” obviously!
They’ve looked like hell
And screamed all day,
But will make a sudden recovery,
And I’ll look like I made it up anyway!

Ridiculous Things People Say to Asian Women


Not long ago, the fixed term on our mortgage was due to expire and we had arranged for a mortgage broker to come to our house to discuss our options. The gentleman was very friendly and perfectly pleasant, and I don’t know whether it was the sight of an obviously Muslim couple (man with a beard down to his armpits/woman wearing a headscarf and a sleeping bag) that made him uncomfortable or whether he was just one of those people that try so hard to make conversation that they forget to think about what they’re saying, but he just kept saying the most ridiculous things. After he left, my husband and I had a good laugh about it (yes, contrary to popular belief, Muslims do laugh about things; even the multilayered beardy ones), so I thought I would make a compilation of all the comedy gems he came out with.

NB: As I am still a blogging novice, I don’t know what the correct etiquette is about naming people on blogs and I can’t actually remember the name of the aforementioned mortgage broker, but for the sake of not writing mortgage broker (which I’m not even sure is his title) multiple times and, in line with making assumptions based on racial stereotypes, I will call him Bob Smith or BS for short – see what I did there?

1) “Have you been to Manchester and seen all the different curries you can get from the Curry Mile?”

When my new pal BS said this, I found it hard to keep a straight face. He literally said it as soon as he walked through the door. As he was clearly trying hard to make conversation, I didn’t think it was fair to say anything to him, but the very idea that he saw two Asian people and thought that the only way he could put them at ease was by discussing all the curries available in Manchester was hilarious.

Yes, curries are eaten in a lot of South Asian households (and probably not as much as you think), but it’s not a particularly interesting topic of conversation and we are capable of talking about, and eating, other things too. It’s like when the fire-safety people were doing checks in our area one morning and, like the classy girl that I am, I had just finished eating the English delicacy that is beans on toast. He sniffed the air and asked, “Have you been frying samosas?” The two things don’t even have a similar smell, but if it wasn’t curry that he could smell then naturally it must have been samosas!

2) “You have a boy! Yay for you!”

When BS arrived, I was on my way to put our then newborn son down for a nap. When I returned, he asked if the baby I had been carrying was a boy or a girl. After being told it was a boy, he celebrated on our behalf, as though, because we are Asian, we must have been longing for a boy after having had a girl. I’m surprised he didn’t ask us if we were tempted to bury our daughter alive in the desert when she was born. Yes, centuries ago, and perhaps still in remote, poverty-stricken parts of the world, boys were coveted more than girls for tribal and financial reasons, but, surprisingly enough, the love I have for my children is not determined by their genitals.

3)“How good is your written English?” 

He was only asking me to sign a few forms. Even the very eldest members of our community who don’t speak a word of English other than “Fucking bastar” know how to write that much, whereas I had been talking to this man for the past hour!

It reminded me of an incident when I was on placement during my PGCE. It was my first week so I was just shadowing the teachers of the classes I would be taking over. The TA was a little late to this one particular lesson, so wasn’t present when I had been introduced to the class. After the teacher had set the task for the class, the TA came up to me and asked me to write my full name on a piece of paper, which I assumed she needed for her own records and so happily obliged. She then gave me the worksheet that the rest of the class were working on and began to instruct me on how to fill it in before asking, “Can you speak any English at all?” When I explained that I was a PGCE student, we both laughed and I didn’t think too much of it, but it later occurred to me that it didn’t make sense, on any level, for her to assume what she did.

Granted, the genuinely confused look on my face and my enthusiastic compliance to write my name on what turned out to be an attendance register, combined with the fact that I can imagine that I looked terrified (it was one of those classes that you see on TV and think As if kids actually behave like that at school), probably didn’t help matters, but I was 24 at the time. I am a little overweight and have a generally haggard appearance, which means that when I tell people my age I’m often met with the response, “You look older than that!” Why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to tell someone that is  beyond me, but the point I am trying to make is that it was impossible to mistake me for a 14-year-old and the only other time someone did that was when I was 10!

I am not badmouthing the TA in any way – she was an entirely harmless and amicable person, but sometimes the stereotypes some people have of Asian women, particularly those wearing headscarves, are so engrained in their thinking that when they see a 24-year-old one that’s professionally dressed and taking notes sitting at the front of a class because she’s training to be an English teacher, they would happily assume she is a Year 9 unaccompanied child refugee that doesn’t speak English before ever thinking that she might just be there in a professional capacity.

4)“You’re probably related, aren’t you?”

I can’t give BS the credit for this one, but felt I had to include it. My daughter has issues with her eyes so we have regular appointments with the ophthalmologists at the hospital. Our latest appointment was with the consultant who was enquiring about my daughter’s medical history at the end of the consultation and, while I am laughing about it now, I found him massively irritating at the time. I’m not even going to provide a commentary for this – the conversation speaks for itself:
Consultant: Does anyone in your family have this condition?
Me: There’s no one in my family, but I think a few of my husband’s cousins have similar issues.
Consultant: Is your husband your cousin?
Me: No, we’re…
Consultant: But you’re probably related though, aren’t you?
Me: No, he…
Consultant: But you’ve got family links. That explains it, as these things tend to be genetic so it makes sense that it would be in the family. Anyway, I’ll send you a follow-up appointment for three months time. See you then!
Me: Bye!
[smiles insincerely and leaves the room mumbling, ‘His husband is probably his cousin! That explains how socially impaired people like him find someone to marry, as it makes sense that they need to keep it in the family too! What a silly man! Arse!’]

Little Red Riding Hood and the Dad with Manflu

diary-of-a-cartoonist-man-flu-picOnce upon a time, there was a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood. One day, her mum said, “Please can you go upstairs and give this tray of toasted soldiers, extra-strong pain killers and a pint of squash to your dad? He has a cold.”

Little Red Riding Hood thought this was strange, as everyone else in the house was poorly too, but wasn’t getting anywhere near as much attention, but, being a good little girl, she did as she was told. She was on her way, when she spotted a large, dishevelled creature wearing little boys’ pyjamas, chuckling at something he was reading on his phone. Upon seeing Little Red Riding Hood, the creature spontaneously burst into a fit of coughs, seamlessly pulled out a tissue from his sleeve and held it to his nose, before hobbling into the bedroom like Quasimodo.

Little Red Riding Hood knocked on the door.

“Come in, dear,” came the frail sounding reply.

Little Red Riding Hood placed the tray at the foot of the bed and then examined the creature in the bed, soon realising it was her dad.

“Daddy, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better for rolling them at your mum while I’m sulking and feeling sorry for myself, my dear.”

“Daddy, what a big nose you have!”

“All the better to sniff with every time someone tries to talk to me, just in case they don’t realise how ill I am, my dear.”

“Daddy, what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear everything that’s going on, but pretend that I am so ill that I have no idea about anything that is being said or done, my dear”

“Daddy, what big hands you have!”

“All the better to check my ‘swollen glands’ every five minutes, my dear.”

“And Daddy, what big teeth you have!”

“All the better for reluctantly chewing on food that was made at my request, so I can feel hard done by when it doesn’t taste as good as when my mum makes it, my dear.”

And with that, Little Red Riding Hood’s furious mother barged into the room, red in the face and out of breath.

“Mama, what a big axe you have!”

“All the better to cut off your dad’s man bits once he actually finds them, my dear.”


Lyrics to Hush Little Baby if they were sung in a Pakistani Household

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama will teach you life lessons that are absurd,

If you simply clear your throat the wrong way,
Mama will recommend eight paracetamols a day,

And if you don’t do everything I desire,
Mama will threaten to kick you into the gasfire,*

And if you want to learn a skill that’s fantastic,
Mama will teach you to love using a nara over elastic,

And even if you gave me a million quid,
Mama will still prefer someone else’s kid,

And if we visit someone and your knock they ignore,
Mama will stick a small bush through their door,

And if we’re out in public, don’t even blink,
Mama will worry about what others will think,

And even if you come home with a first class degree,
Mama would prefer you to learn how to make biriyani,

And if any kind of occasion is billed,
Mama will ensure 200 samosas are filled,

And if you’d prefer to hear of Mary’s little lamb,
Mama doesn’t care cuz singing is haram,**

And if you don’t note this all down,
You’ll be the last girl to get a rishtha in town.

*For those that are familiar with the threat, “Lath mari na, thei gas ni vich bari jase”

Baby #1 vs Baby #2

The other night, I was at a relative’s house with the kids when the unthinkable happened. My eight-month-old, who was enjoying a slice of an apple, choked on a piece. And I don’t mean that he made a funny face and heaved, like he does every time I give him something to eat (that is the general reaction my cooking gets anyway), I mean that a small piece got stuck in his throat, he went bright red and was gasping for breath. I’ve seen a few children’s first aid videos and so tried my best to mirror what I’d seen on them and, thankfully, by luck more than skill, the piece was dislodged.

When I told my husband about it later, it struck me that I had been remarkably calm when it happened. After the piece came out, I put the baby back on floor to play, gave him another slice of apple and then just carried on watching TV whilst periodically looking back at him. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I was worried for the split second when I saw what was happening, but I sprang into action, dealt with it and then resumed my active effort to avoid social interaction. When something similar happened with my daughter a few years ago with a toasted finger, I remember how much it unnerved me for the rest of the day. In fact, I unfriended toast for about a month after.  It got me thinking about how different everything is with the second child.

The differences started right from the beginning. I remember finding out that I was pregnant with my daughter; how I took the test as early as possible, how excited I was to tell my husband, how he flung his arms around me and was overjoyed. Come to think of it, that was probably the last time he embraced me in that way…possibly because it was the last time he was able to get his arms around me! When I came downstairs after taking the test for my second pregnancy, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: You were ages in the bathroom! Was it that chicken that you made last night? You better not have stunk it out because I need to go now. It must have been that chicken.

Me: No, but thank you for your positive appraisal of my cooking. I was taking a pregnancy test, actually! And it was positive.

Husband: Oh…Well, that’s good, I suppose. You better make an appointment with the doctor or someone.

[Goes to the bathroom]

Throughout my entire first pregnancy, I was so in tune with my body. I knew exactly what was going to be happening at what stage, the exact gestation to the day, any new pattern of movement and worried over every new symptom. I packed my hospital bag a month in advance, even though I had got all the things I needed long before that and was itching to put them in the especially purchased travel bag, but the baby books I read said to pack it when you’re 36 weeks, so I waited until that exact day. During my second pregnancy, I struggled to remember how many months pregnant I was and when the midwife would tell me that I should inform them if I notice anything different about the baby’s movements, I remember thinking ‘Unless the baby suddenly decides to start doing the Cha Cha Slide, I am not going to notice anything!’ Also, as soon as my son was born, my husband had to run to a chemist to buy me maternity pads (that felt like they were made from steel) because I had forgotten to pack half of the things I needed.

I had an 18 hour labour with my daughter, but, despite this, I was really calm throughout. My husband was really unwell himself, but he was uncharacteristically great at every stage; he said all the right things, was reassuring, encouraging and comforting. He’s not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, but I’ll never forget how emotional he was when our beautiful daughter was born and how he was beaming with pride when he nervously held her for the first time.

When I went into labour the second time, it would appear that the calmness and patience I displayed first time around was taken away with the placenta. It was so quick that I literally had to hold the baby in until I got to the hospital. When we got there, the nurses that came to the car to fetch me didn’t even bring a sodding wheelchair! One kept saying, “Come on, we need to get you to a room quickly. We don’t want you having the baby in the carpark now, do we?” I remember thinking, “You try walking with a little person dangling out of you! Let’s have the baby in the carpark, let’s invite the 3am crowd over at A&E to watch, I’ve even brought snacks for them (Yes, I remembered to pack crisps and chocolate, but forgot maternity pads), just let me get this baby out!” I delivered my son just three minutes later. My husband’s reaction was priceless:

“I can’t believe you just pushed out a baby in less than three minutes! I’m not being funny, but some of my poos take longer than that to come out!”

I should point out that, for those of you that are familiar with my blog, it may seem like we talk about poo a lot in our family and, truth be told, we probably do! My husband has Colitis, which affects his bowels and we have two children under 4, so the things we say are, literally, full of (sh)it!

I don’t want to bore you with endless anecdotes of how things changed between my first and second child, so I’ve come up with a handy table to save the strain on your eyes.

Event/Stage in Development First Child Second Child
Choice of nappies/wipes Always named brands and even considered using cloth nappies because of the chemicals supposedly used in disposable nappies (What a tit I was!) I didn’t even use wipes for the first 6 months and would clean with wet cotton pads. Asda own brand nappies and wipes after about 3 weeks.
Night time routine Bath, milk, story, lullaby whilst being rocked, ear pressed against the monitor for most of the rest of the evening, going up at the slightest sound. Milk, nappy change, cuddles, cot.
Dealing with poo explosions Another bath and change of clothes A bath only if one was due anyway, otherwise cleaned with half a packet of wipes. Clothes only changed if they can’t be cleaned with wipes.
Sensory activities/stimulation Baby groups, sensory room, daily walks, books with flaps, swimming, a little tummy time because she didn’t like being left on her own. Trips to and from nursery, weekly shop at Asda, books with the flaps ripped off, half an hour a week at baby group, plenty of tummy time because he spends most of the time on the floor.
Weaning Homemade purees made from fresh fruit and vegetables, organised into labelled freezer pots, given at specific times. Absolutely no salt or sugar for the first year. Sliced fruit and veg that he fed himself for the first 4 weeks and then he just ate what we ate, when we ate it.
Parenting style Involved in all types of play for most of the day, always watching/hovering over child, promptly removing child from any situation that could cause as much as a hiccup. Involved in play

Breast is Best but Never Mind…


At every stage of life, for every group of people, there are always options available and decisions to make. If you are a teenage boy, it may be which Youtuber to follow. This may seem like a strange example to use, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that this is an actual thing! For those of you who don’t know, a Youtuber is a person that often looks unwashed and unkempt and sits in their bedroom talking about nothing in particular, yet is watched by millions of teenagers. (My sister was recently told by one of her teenage sons that she was old-fashioned for suggesting that they all sit together and watch TV because apparently no one does that anymore.) If you are a stay-at-home-sleep-deprived mum, it may be deciding whether you should have an early night to catch up on missed sleep or stay up and have some ‘me time’ so you can watch something on TV that doesn’t star an obnoxiously opinionated, anthropomorphised pig and/or eat chocolate without hiding behind the sofa. If you are a man, it may be deciding which body part to scratch next. When you are a new mum, one of the first and most important decisions you have to make is whether to breast or formula feed. I should make it clear that I am not trying to trivialise breastfeeding in any way. While I categorically and unapologetically believe that every mum should be free to feed her baby by whichever means she chooses, without judgement or criticism from others, I am a firm believer that breast is best.

Before having children, I assumed that, when the time came, I would be able to feed my children the way I wanted and it would be my choice to make. I was wrong. I only discovered once I had my daughter that I have inverted nipples, which makes it insanely difficult to establish a latch and made breastfeeding impossible; well, for me anyway. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t breastfeed the way I had hoped, becoming a mum for the first time is such a culture shock that you just don’t have time to dwell on all the things that don’t turn out quite the way you imagined. For the first two months, I expressed milk when I could and gave formula the rest of the time. When I was pregnant for a second time, I was determined not to let my deformed nipples get the better of me. This time around I knew what the problem was beforehand and so tried to prepare for it – I bought nipple shields, had done some research (by which I mean I googled breastfeeding with inverted nipples) and had been in touch with the local breastfeeding support group that also sent a lovely lady to visit me once my boy was born. But I still couldn’t manage to establish a latch. After days of being fondled by women I’d only just been introduced to in desperate attempts to establish one, and after weeks of trying it on my own, with a broken spirit, I finally gave up. I was crushed.

The difference was that this time I had read up (thank you Google, once again) on establishing a good milk supply. I pumped every 2-3 hours, day and night, and managed to provide my son with nothing but breastmilk for eight months. To say it was an arduous journey would be an understatement. There were the obvious problems that probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – Being attached to a pump for hours each day, surviving on less than four hours sleep each night for the first three months because, not only do you have to get up for feeds and nappy changes like everyone else, you have to then stay up and pump for the next feed, having to pump throughout the day when you have two children to look after, cleaning and sterilising pump parts and bottles every day,  yada yada yada (it was a choice I made of my own free will, so I am not looking for any sympathy). But there were other issues that I wasn’t expecting and that were, in some ways, actually harder to deal with. I live in a community where the prevailing wisdom on the benefits of breastmilk is lagging by about 15 years. While, in theory, they accept that breastmilk is good for babies, this is based mainly on the religious importance given to it and its convenience because it’s readily available, at the right temperature, doesn’t require any equipment and also helps you lose weight… apparently. In practice, they were very quick to remind me of the perceived benefits of formula, such as it enabling babies to put on weight more quickly, allowing babies to sleep for longer because it is more filling and that some babies just don’t like the taste of their mother’s milk! (Really? How do you know? Has any baby ever told you that?) If this is how they feel about nursed babies, you can imagine what an alien concept extracting your milk and giving it in a bottle is. For them, I had combined all the evils from both forms of feeding to invent my own satanic method. As well as the aforementioned misconceptions they had with breastmilk, here is a roundup of my top 5 favourites ‘problems’ they had with my method:

  1. “The milk doesn’t retain its nutrients when expressed into a bottle and then fed to a child, so it is of no benefit to them. You’re better off giving formula”

Do they drink milk directly from a cow? That milk’s been expressed too and that gets pasteurised first! If any nutrients are lost by the milk entering a bottle, it is negligible.

2. “Directly nursed babies (I am deliberately not using the term breastfed babies because my baby received breastmilk and so was breastfed as far as I am concerned) don’t get colic or reflux. Yours is suffering unnecessarily because you are using a bottle and he’s not reacting well to your milk. You might as well just give formula.”

My beloved Google tells me that directly nursed babies are just as likely to suffer colic and reflux as bottle fed babies, so wrong again!

3. “You’re restricting your baby’s milk intake because he can only drink as much as you’re able to express.”

Yes, the baby only gets as much I manage to express, but I had an oversupply and was producing so much milk that I was able to donate close to 1000 ounces to a local milk bank. Oh, and my son is the size of a small car, so I don’t think there is any possibility that he ever went hungry.

4. “You don’t get to bond with your baby in the same way.”

Unlike the other comments, which I just found irritating more than anything else, this one actually hurt a little. When my son was a few weeks old, I took him to a baby group and made the mistake of talking to people. I had mentioned my chosen method of feeding him earlier in the conversation and, whilst we were discussing sleeping habits, I told them that when my boy gets tired he just want to be left in his cot to fall asleep on his own and hates being held. I was actually kind of boasting because my daughter was an awful sleeper and it would take an hour of rocking and singing and then having to leave the room with stealth ninja moves to get her to sleep, so I never expected my revelation that my son falls asleep with little trouble to backfire the way it did. One of the responses I got was, “It’s because you give your milk in a bottle. You’ve not allowed yourself to have that bond with your child that breastfeeding mothers usually have and that’s probably why he doesn’t want to be held by you when he’s tired.” I am certain that this mum wasn’t deliberately being a condescending and self-righteous twat, but her assumption that the bond between a mother and her child is restricted because the child does not spend half the day with an overrated part of its mother’s anatomy in its mouth is absurd! I have no doubt that directly nursing an infant does help to establish a unique bond, but that bond can be established in endless other ways too.

5) “It’s the reason you haven’t lost weight. If you breastfed normally, you’d have lost your baby weight by now.”

Sure, okay, let’s go with that. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I consume about 3000 calories just for breakfast, anyway.

Last week, I finally made the decision to claim my life back from the pump and switch to formula. I had only ever intended to pump for the first three months anyway and had delayed projects that I wanted to complete because of my pumping schedule for long enough, so I decided to hang up the nipple tearing instrument of torture for good. It was quite an emotional journey that I made and the only other person to observe it in all its unrelenting horror was my husband. He’s the only one that has seen how much of my life I’ve had to sacrifice to pump for this long, watched me battle through 4 bouts of mastitis and witnessed how I’ve learnt to bite my tongue in front of those who make unpleasant comments, knowing that deep down I get upset by the fact that they don’t understand that I only do it for the benefit of my child. I’m not sure what I was expecting him to say, but his response when I told him of this difficult, sensitive and emotional decision will stay with me forever. His exact words were…. “Never mind! Have you seen the remote?”

The Journey of a Sarcastic Muslim Mama…

The wedding is typical of its kind – overcrowded and big,
The abundance of blusher makes her look like a pig,
The optimistically fitted outfit is starting to dig,
She’s anchored to her chair by a 3 tonne wig.

She bids her family and friends a tearful goodbye,
Upon arrival, her new neighbours are eager to pry,
She’s surrounded by people but wonders why,
She’s not with her husband. Why can’t she sit with the guy?

She hopes she doesn’t become one those wives that are hated,
But then comes the news for which her Mother-in-Law has waited,
The scan has been done and the pregnancy dated,
All health professionals assume she and her husband are related.

Unwanted advice is a definite given,
The birth is nothing like what she’s seen on television,
She screams like someone undergoing an exorcism,
But one look at the baby and all is forgiven.

Breastfeeding turns out to be one hell of a chore,
The ‘laid back feeding’ position goes out of the door,
When she’s shopping in Asda and the baby’s after some more,
And she can hardly whip out a boob and lie down on the floor.

She becomes a full-time children’s entertainer,
Her footwear of choice is a comfortable trainer,
Her similarities to her mum have never been plainer,
Every time she opens the cupboard full of containers.

Her home always looks like an open suitcase,
Of meaningful conversation, there is no trace,
She’s always asked if she’s ill but that’s not the case,
What people see is her newly adopted every day face.

Her daughter starts nursery and she starts to choke,
Her delight at eating lunch in peace is no joke,
But the exposure to different people starts to evoke,
Discussions of why Santa doesn’t visit brown folk.

Five years down the line and the family has grown,
Her once handsome husband looks more like Fred Flintstone,
She looks forward to evenings when they get to be on their own,
And sit in silence while they each check their phone.

Each day she feels some of her sanity decay,
Sometimes she never wants to leave the duvet,
Remembering the days when her clothes weren’t covered in puree,
She realises she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Double Lives

I never intended to post another blog entry so soon after my first one, but I have received a number of messages saying that it was nice to see someone writing about an imperfect life so honestly. It made me realise how much we are affected by the way we perceive the quality of other people’s lives and how we would like ours to be perceived. We’ve all seen and ‘liked’ the memes on social media about how Disney gave them false expectations of men, but beyond this, why are so many of us so afraid to admit that our lives and relationships are simply ordinary?

Firstly, I think Disney is being assigned an undue portion of the blame. It may have presented you with princes that carried their brides off into the sunset on horseback, but those kinds of men and that type of scenario aren’t as far-fetched as you might think. The prince in Sleeping Beauty found her asleep, thought she was pretty, gave her a kiss, assumed she was interested and took off with her. If that’s the kind of man you’re after then I have great news! Job Centres all around the country hold fortnightly congregations with many men just like this, so find your nearest one and go take your pick. Also, when Prince Charming’s father decided it was time for him to get married, they arranged a gathering and he was given a choice of any girl in the kingdom. Spurred on by their parents, all the girls competed for this coveted prize and naturally he picked the pretty one that was good at housework. How is that different to how many British Pakistani parents get their sons married? (The kingdom being Pakistan of course)

Part of the problem is, of course, social media. We see other people’s pictures of them out with friends, loved up with partners, looking immaculate, on family-fun days out and think, ‘Why isn’t my life like that?’ While we lay in bed, instead of reading or sleeping, most of us are checking Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, stalking everyone that allows us to take a glimpse into their lives, clicking on the profiles of people we don’t even know. We forget that these pictures and not statuses are often not as spontaneous as they appear to be nor do they represent a typical day in these people’s lives. They have been specifically selected, edited, cropped and reworded to create the most impact. For every picture uploaded, there are many that have been deleted because the lighting or angle made them look unattractive, a friend had ruined the symmetry by facing the wrong way, the kids looked bored or there was some underwear drying on the radiator in the background. More often than not, the picture posted isn’t evidence of their exceptionally perfect life, but is the exception to their ordinary life.

When I had my now 3-year-old daughter, I remember the first time the health visitor came to see us. As she was leaving and trying to arrange her next visit she said, “I try not to arrange morning appointments for mums that have only just had a baby, but you seem like you’re on top of it, so is 9:30 okay?” Now what I wanted to say was, “ARE YOU INSANE? I went through a 16 hour labour just 3 days ago, I’ve had less than four hours’ sleep, I’m wearing my pyjamas underneath my abaya, I haven’t washed my face or brushed my teeth yet because I set my alarm to go off just 10 minutes before you were due to arrive and that only gave me enough time to hide the dirty laundry and throw the unwashed bottles in the sink! On top of it? On top of what? How about I stick my foot on top of your head! I would have struggled with 9:30 even before I had a baby so, no, 9:30 on Thursday is most definitely not ok!” However, what I actually said was, “Yes, of course, that’s fine.” I remember being really annoyed with myself afterwards for not asking for a later appointment just because she made a flattering judgement about me and I felt that I should maintain it. Had I said how I really felt, perhaps paraphrasing it slightly, I’m almost certain she wouldn’t have judged me or thought anything of it, but I didn’t because I was happy for her to think that I was coping better than I actually was. The staff at my daughter’s nursery also seem to have the same mistaken beliefs about me being a highly efficient and organised mum and I have never said anything to correct them. They always comment on how well presented my daughter is, how advanced she is because of all the things I must do with her and are impressed by the pretty name labels I have attached to all her things. They clearly have no idea of the half hour wrestling match that takes place every day just to get a straight parting in her hair; the amount of shouting that takes place to get the kids in the car on time; that probably half of what she knows has come from watching tv and that I bought iron-on labels because I can’t even thread a needle and, even then, they have been stuck on wonky.

Pictured below is the shameful mass of crumbs that I discovered this morning when I finally remembered to empty the toaster’s crumb tray. The truth is, I am a toaster. I maintain a respectable appearance on the outside and function perfectly well, but inside I am crumbly mess of insecurities, shortcuts, unfulfilled ambitions, exhaustion and mummy guilt. We are all selective over how much of our lives we reveal to other people, and the impression we create of our lifestyles isn’t always 100% true to reality. I am not suggesting that everyone who posts on social media is deliberately falsely representing themselves. A lot of the time, people share things simply because they think their friends would be interested in them and others may genuinely have glamorous social lives (whoop-ti-do for them) or genuinely perfect relationships (double whoop-ti-do). As stay at home mums, our lives centre around our children; on countless trips to the toilet; on talking about wee and poo so much that it’s disturbing; on saying and reading the same thing 50 times a day; on hearing “Mama” so many times that it makes out want to hack your own ears off with a bread knife; on never being able to go anywhere without making a meticulously timed plan that takes account of different nap times, dietary requirements, temperaments and packing for any possible eventuality.  We may not have the most glamorous of lifestyles, but, hey, we are all just crumbs in the same toaster crumb tray.



Initial Observations

Before I got married, I was a very different person. I was renowned for being carefree and not taking anything in life, including myself, too seriously. I would see women that were married with kids that were always fussing over their children and complaining about their husbands and, like the obnoxious twat that I was, would think that I would be so different when my time came.  Well, I was right – I am nothing like them. I can honestly say that after five years of marriage and having had two kids, I am so much worse that any woman I had ever observed!

Whenever I heard about other people’s domestic disputes, I was full of the naïve, self-praising optimism that most unmarried Muslim girls that have never actually been in a real relationship are. Gosh, I was like a ceaseless rubbish dispenser of clichés about people needing to talk things through, the need for open and honest communication and resolving problems through compromise. Pah! As I write this, I am currently on Day 5 of not talking to my husband! Worse than that, I can’t quite remember what I am supposed to be so annoyed about, and if I don’t know, you can be certain that he doesn’t have a clue, but we are both enjoying the comfortable silence that marital disharmony brings and so have decided not to question it. Besides, it gives me an excuse not to have to do his ironing!

As for not fussing over kids, fussing is as an intrinsic part of my parenting style as a flour bin is to a Pakistani household. Just this evening I was telling my three year old daughter that she could only have a short story at bedtime and was rushing her to change out of her clothes as though I’d walked into her room to randomly find her dressed like Honey G from the X-Factor. And why? Because she had gone to bed a whole 20 minutes later than what she normally does. Like, seriously, 20 minutes! The thing is, deep down I know that 20 minutes is hardly going to cause a catastrophic imbalance in her brain development, but I just can’t think rationally when I am in the role of Anal Ambassador for Routines. Also, in the time that it has taken me to write these three paragraphs, I have been upstairs to check on my eight month old three times. Firstly, I went up because I’d forgotten to plug in the monitor in his room. So, because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear it if he wakes up and cries, I went upstairs to plug the monitor in, which naturally woke him up and made him cry. Secondly, he was coughing for quite a while so I went up to check that he hadn’t vomited. Thirdly, he stopped coughing, so I went up to check if he was still breathing. After having ascertained that both the monitor and my baby’s bodily functions were all operating correctly, I decided that the music from his cot mobile was disturbing my writing, so I switched the monitor off!

Being a Stay at Home Mum and housewife isn’t what I always planned on becoming. It isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy, but it is often underestimated and devalued. Things aren’t helped when social networking and internet forums provide such open platforms for people to showcase idealised versions of themselves that leave others feeling like they simply aren’t good enough. Well, this blog’s not here to present a version of me that has been created by one of those incredibly flattering Snapchat filters nor one that’s been inspired by a hijab tutorial, it’s here to present the metaphorically naked me – the me that has lumps and bumps and unwanted facial hair, the me that stays in pyjamas far more than I should (they’re not even always proper pyjamas and sometimes even transcend into a random salwar and an old t-shirt), the me that says I’m not the perfect wife or mum and I do get things wrong, but I do my best. The truth is, we all have ideas about the kind of wives and Mums we’d like to be, but the reality is that you can’t always live up to those ideals. But, do you know what? That’s perfectly okay.