Friday, 20 December 2013

Lazy parenting

Haven't blogged so much lately. Orson feeds much more quickly now, and is hugely distractable so I'm actually in some ways missing the days when I was stuck on the sofa with one free hand for an hour at a time several times a day. 

Orson has been a delightfully easy baby so far, and I'm trying to stay aware of how lucky I am in that respect. He rarely cries, always smiles, and eats very (very) well. Nonetheless, I am completely and without limit exhausted by the end of each day. In part I think this is because, thanks to hormones or whatever, at least 50% of my brain, whatever Orson is doing or not doing, is incessantly  and intensely engaged with him. When he is asleep it says 'has he woken up yet? How long has he been sleeping? What are you going to feed him when he wakes up? Is he still asleep? Is he breathing? Did you dress him warmly enough? Has he woken up yet?' 
When he is eating it says 'Does he like this meal? Is he eating enough? Did you warm it up enough? Has he had too many carbs today? Doesn't he like it? Did you feed him too early? What did he eat earlier? Should i offer him something different? Am I going to encourage him to be a fussy eater?Is he choking? Is it too hot? Has he eaten too much? Is he going to get diabetes?'

Till I sometimes want to rip the top of my skull off and scream 'Enough! Shut up for a second' into the bloody hole.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Return-to-work nerves

I’ve more than three months still left to go, but for some reason I have started getting nervous about my return to work at the end of March. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Buslife 2

Unexpected consequence of becoming a mother: utilising a bus service when pushing a pram tends to make one a target for outbursts of aggression from elderly women. Specifically those travelling with a shopping trolley.

It's an unsavoury symptom of the fact that buses have very little space for anything other than bottoms, and, in oxford at least, tend to be overcrowded at all times of day. Double deckers are able to carry three pushchairs, or one pushchair and one wheelchair. Several times I've had to wait for the next bus because there are too many prams already. But there is no formal allowance for the little wheeled carts, without which many elderly people would presumably be unable to fetch groceries. It's so unfortunate that the upshot of this seems to be that the little old ladies are cultivating an unhealthy defensiveness and hostility towards the mothers against whom they always lose the competition for space.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


So I'm sitting at the front of the bus with Orso on my knee, and he's making eyes at everyone, and the whole crowd are falling in love with him. I'm thinking yeah, go on, look at how awesome my baby is, smug as you like.  And then he throws up all over the place :o

Monday, 25 November 2013

Guilty as charged

An article at the Huffington Post details five things parents need to stop saying to non-parents and I am totally guilty as charged. Before having Orson I explicitly said to myself that I wasn't going to become one of those parents who can't talk about anything other than babies (yawn), who acts like their child is everyone else's problem (grr), or like the world actually owes them one for being generous enough to reproduce. There is a serious debate to be had as to whether reproduction qualifies, in some respects, as an act of biological altruism (for example, some have called mammalian breastfeeding a selfless act). But my gut instinct says its mostly entirely selfish. Aside from environmental guilt, I'm pretty sure that nobody (apart from maybe grandparents) gets such a kick out of Orson's existence as I do.

Anyway, Simo and I swore blind that we weren't going to stop going out, or let our lives revolve around the baby. We weren't going to let the everyday phenomenon of self-spawning make us lose sight of the bigger picture, of our idiosyncratic interests and intellectual activities. In short, we were going to be cool parents, who stayed just as close to all our non-parent friends and didn't become boring.

But its so HARD!!!! At some point, some number of weeks into the brain-numbing relentlessness of the nappy changing, breastfeeding, rocking etc etc you just realise that fighting the baby-take-over just makes life harder, and we-must-not-do-anything-that-makes-life-harder.

I'd like to think I'm still a fairly considerate parent. I fold my pushchair up on busy buses. I try to keep Orson quiet in places where people need quiet. I try not to subject family members to him before about 8am. But clearly I'm falling into all the cliches of a new parent who thinks everyone should be interested in the details of their darling offspring's daily habits (i'm blogging about it, for god's sake!) and that life pre-baby was a meaningless distant memory (see Exiting the cave). As for being a cool parent? I haven't got the energy!

So yes, I am guilty as charged, and I'm sorry! I really ought to be more considerate to the feelings of all those who cannot or choose not to have children. On the other hand, its hard enough worrying about the impact of all this on my academic life without worrying about my social life as well. Hopefully one day when all of this has calmed down a bit (*will that ever happen, she pleads*) my good friends will still be there for me, waiting patiently with a large bottle of vodka.

Poorly boy

Well we have finally broken the seal on the calpol. We had a miserable, clingy and sleepless baby boy there for a few days, with a fever, blocked up nose and no appetite. I'd been reluctant to resort to calpol, having read the long list of e-numbers on the ingredients, but when the thermometer read 41 degrees C I couldnt get it open fast enough. As well as distressing, it has been exhausting, like looking after a newborn again who won't be put down. Made me wonder how on earth we ever coped with a newborn! And I'm such a wuss, I coped with about 3 minutes of 4am screaming before I was like 'we have to call a doctor!'

Turns out that the best way to make a feverish baby stop screaming and calm down is to call a doctor and claim the baby won't stop screaming * embarrassed*. Anyway, we all three survived it and the boy's appetite has returned with a vengeance. On a more serious note, it made me feel so bad for all those parents of truly sick babies : (

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

£200 to breastfeed a baby?

A new scheme is being rolled out to incentivise new mothers to breastfeed their babies, rather than giving them formula. According to the BBC, mothers in selected areas of Sheffield can earn £200 by breastfeeding their newborns for six months -read the story here.

This raises several questions in my mind.  

Sunday, 3 November 2013

0.5 years old already

Such a cliche, but doesn't time  fly. It's hard to believe this small man with all his knowing smiles, skeptical glances and vocabulary of coos and squawks was ever a wriggling, snuffling little newborn animal.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

What Laurie Paul expected about expecting

Laurie Paul says that when we become mothers, we are in the same situation as Mary leaving the black and white room, and seeing colour for the very first time. Becoming a parent is a "phenomenologically transformative experience" and therefore one for which rational decision-making procedures simply don't apply.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Infant immunity and gut flora: two proposals

Idea: Since babies get loads of antibodies from their mummy's breastmilk*, I think it would boost the child's immunity and health massively if it were breastfed by multiple lactating ladies. I can't generate much enthusiasm for the idea, but perhaps we should be playing pass the baby at nct meet-ups?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Mamas' etiquette

I've never been  the world's greatest follower of etiquette, and motherhood presents numerous novel challenges to my manners know-how.

Where is it acceptable to change a baby's nappy, do you suppose? I usually change Orson while he lies in his pushchair, on a little mat, when i'm out and about (which is most of the time). But where is and isn't this acceptable? Can I do it in the street? In a cafe? What about if the cafe has no change table and I can't fit the pushchair in the toilet? Is it weird if i put his mat on the pavement and change him there?

Breastfeeding is the classic minefield. Apparently its not okay in the swimming pool. I'd rather not do it on the bus (but have had to at times). I'd probably avoid it in a fancy restaurant. Is this right? Or should I parade womens and babies rights to feed and be fed wherever and whenever its necessary?

More specifically to me, what are the (implicit) rules about talks and conferences? Can I bring my baby to your presentation? Is light gurgling an acceptable background noise or a thoughtless interruption? Is screaming a shortlived disruption or a mortifying disaster? Are there any workshops/conferences that provide creches, or is it understood that when people are working, they don't bring their children?

Thoughts please!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

This is what I am going to look like if the current rate of hair loss continues. Ick. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Five months!! Progress report.

The chunkermunk made his grand entrance on this planet a whole five months ago (externally, at least - see post 'happy birthday Orsolo'). So how are things going?

Well he appears to be thriving - with thighs of thunder, an eloquent vocabulary of gentle gurgles and murmurs and a generally sunny disposition. All good.

Mummy, however, could do better. With husband working very long hours, including weekends and evenings, and still no childcare in sight, the days are feeling rather loooooooooong. So I have a plan.

Love again

Sometimes I feel as if my heart is trying to lunge through my ribcage, wrap itself around Orson, and smother him to death. Is that just me then?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Any bidders for the number three?

I loved this snippet in the New Scientist, about computer software and patent law......

Ooh I love a good testicle story.....

Recent story from the beeb says men with small testicles make better parents -  "the idea being that larger testicles would suggest greater commitment to creating more children over raising them."

Friday, 20 September 2013


Got the proofs through today for a paper to come out in Journal of Biosciences - title is 'Origins of Evolutionary Transitions'. Its a paper I wrote after attending a conference in northern India last summer, and the first thing I've finished since becoming a mother! And I'm disproportionately pleased about it!!

It should be a small thing compared to the enormous achievements I've produced in the last four months. But somehow it's different. I've been pondering why that is.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Exiting the cave

When you are pregnant, people who are already parents say to you things like 'everything changes' and 'it turns your world upside down'.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Philosophy is a life skill

No, I'm serious. Stop laughing.

Love, sex, betrayal....motherhood?!?

Warning: This post contains seriously long sentences.

I once read or heard the statement that all successful song lyrics are variations on just two themes - a) I love/want/desire him/her or b) I hate/miss him/her. The pursuit of, celebration of, and nostalgia for romantic love would surely be identified by alien anthropologists as THE organising principle of all human activity, the meaning of life, the raison d'etre of our existence. Chuck in some other key passions involving envy, betrayal, guilt, fear and so on and you have the ingredients of just about any song, novel, play, soap opera or film that anyone dreamed up.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wired generation

Modern mothers have so much more time to interact with their babies than did their mothers, or their mother's mothers. What impact is this going to have upon forthcoming generations?

Monday, 2 September 2013

How Eskimos keep their babies warm

Parenting wisdom from around the world.
By Mei-Ling Hopgood, Macmillan Publishers Ltd, 2013

Argentinians let their children stay up late. French parents apparently inculcate a wholesome attitude towards food. Kenyans don't bother with prams.

Friday, 30 August 2013

How not to f*** them up

By Oliver James, Vermillion, 2010

Oliver James, a clinical child psychologist of unashamedly psychoanalytic bent, categorises mothering styles into three types, and offers advice on how to make the best job of mothering within the constraints created by each style. There is the Hugger - who is most generous and loving towards her baby, the Organiser - who prefers older children and finds the early years a challenge, and the Flexi - who chops and changes between both. In a nutshell, the best way not to f*** them up is to be a Hugger, and if you're too damn selfish to manage that, then make sure you get a top of the range nanny!

You might guess that I wasn't the most sympathetic audience. I'm disappointed by this, since I like James' Guardian column (no wait, that's Oliver Burkeman!), and I'm generally a right sucker for self-help psychobabble.

Eco nappies

I thought 'cheap' and 'eco nappies' were three words unlikely to go together. My conscience is incrementally lightened, however since I've found some. Fifteen pounds for 80 moltex no. 1 nappies, from amazon. They're chlorine -free, made from 50% renewables, and biodegradable. What's more, they work! No leaks so far, which is more than I can say for any other brand.  I suppose you could be really good and get them from somewhere other than amazon, but here's a link anyway

Now we just need to teach him how to do the washing up......

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


I'm having the realisation that my attitude is going to have to change.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Philosophical Baby

by Alison Gopnik

Gopnik makes the interesting argument that the ability to carry out counterfactual reasoning - i.e. thinking about things that are false or counter-to-fact - is *the* distinctively human capacity, which has underpinned our huge success as a species, by enabling us to make plans and come up with ways in which we can modify our world. By thinking about ways the world could be different, we can anticipate the future and formulate ways to modify that future, by constructing tools and so on.

Furthermore, contrary to older theories in which children were viewed as basically stupid adults (Piaget), Gopnik argues that when it comes to this most important cognitive capacity - counterfactual reasoning - children and even babies are out in front. This is best demonstrated, she argues, in their vast capacity for imaginative play. Adults, in comparison, are severely limited beings, with far fewer neuronal connections as a consequence of all the pruning that goes on in adolescence, and are therefore much less able to think outside the box.

Rather than viewing children as adults in the making, Gopnik argues that adults basically exist in order to enable the existence of children and babies who, though very vulnerable and dependent in terms of basic needs, are essentially the 'R and R' department of humanity, without which we would be stuck eking out an existence by trial and error learning like our chimpanzee kin. Without childhood, she claims, we would have no cultural advances, no ability to radically construct the world we live in according to our needs.

Children literally make the future : )

Medieval babies

This is 'The virgin with the child' by Mariotto di Nardo, in the Christ Church picture gallery

Pregnancy has sparked in me a newfound interest in catholic art! Well ok, in representations of the Madonna and child more exclusively. Its suddenly rather gratifying to reflect on the extent to which western civilisation has deified the mother-baby relationship, especially in southern europe.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Ups and downs

I'm feeling very bored today and I feel bad about it. Didn't get a great deal of sleep last night, and today I just don't have the energy or enthusiasm to think of anything to do, except plonk Orson underneath things and wish he'd stay there quietly without me. Wish he'd stop becoming unhappy exactly when I start doing something else. Wish I had time to do all the things that used to make me a book, write some philosophy, post more than three sentences at a time on this blog.........

Poor little mite had his second lot of jabs today so he's not feeling at his best either, and of course it isn't his fault i'm tired, so i feel terrible that i can't muster more .......more mummy for him. I can't think of any songs to sing or games to play. I just desperately want to put some ear plugs in and lie down and go to sleep.

How do other mothers cope with this? I need some ideas on staying sane, on sneaking in me-time, on finding low-input ways I can keep him happy. Lazy mama?

The office of a philosomama

Thursday, 25 July 2013


Watching Orson learn that he can influence his world, and how, leads me to reflect that life is really all about learning about control. As I've got older I've decided happiness comes with learning what you can and cannot control, and letting go of the latter.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Best toy ever

Just entertained orsolo for an hour and a half with a scrunched up yorkie wrapper. Best toy ever for only 60p. And mummy got to eat the yorkie ;)

Sunday, 21 July 2013


I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to be tired. I knew I was unlikely to regret it. But I never could have anticipated just how earth-shatteringly dumb-struck full-pelt in love I would fall with this magical little man.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Happy birthday Orsolo

Orson is 10 weeks old today. Furthermore, he's around a year old this  month!
That is, it's a year since he started growing and developing inside me :)

I realise old habits die hard, but in some ways its surprising that we still measure peoples age from the date they were born, rather that from when they were conceived. Obviously, back in the day the precise time of conception was unknown (still is to some extent). But its funny to still use this, even though whether a baby is early or late has huge consequences for when it will reach its developmental milestones. I think of Orson as a week older than his birth date, as he was a week late, and arrived with loads of hair and bath-wrinkled skin. But I've known him loads longer than 11 weeks, most intimately!! I even recognise some of his traits - lying on his left side, staying up late - from before.

And of all the developmental thresholds he has crossed in the last year, swapping water for air is just one among many.

The joys of summer

I am full of the joys of English summer today. Sunlight filtering through the leaves in the park, kulfi bought at the local grocer, the smell of cremated chicken wafting gently on the breeze. I love that English people go so mad when the weather is good. That a sunny day is a valid reason for skiving off work, that the shops instantly sell out of disposable bbqs, that the streets fill up with people with a variety of odd patterns stenciled on their bodies in white and red. That we just can't handle it basically, we get over excited and drink too much and collectively lose the plot.

In countries where they have summer every year nice days are rubbish (unless you're English and on holiday in them of course.) The folk don't know how to enjoy themselves. They treat it like any other day (which it is). They even go to work for gods sake. Such days are wasted on them. *smugly licks ice cream*

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Consumer parenting

Am I the only person who feels like parenting these days has become just another exercise in capitalist consumption?