Monday, August 31, 2009

The gender gap

Louis modelling Great-Granny B's bangles

Time was, when any mention of the gender gap would automatically start me off worrying about how much less I was sure I was earning than my colleagues or how few female editors there are around. But that was B.L. Since Louis arrived on the scene, the gender gap means something entirely different.

Like just how different are boys and girls anyhow? I mean, from the offset? Do baby girls like wearing pink shoes because they've thought about it and they just prefer the colour? Or do they just get pink shoes forced upon them because there aren't any other choices? And do baby boys want to play with a fire engine? Or read a book about trucks? Or wear blue?

It's hardly an original thought, but I still can't help wondering what baby boys and girls would actually prefer, given the choice. Watching Louis these past few weeks I'm not much clearer. I mean, he made a beeline for the glitziest pink shoes he could find in John Lewis the other week when I let him loose on the shoe department. (Naturally, I bought him the dullest blue pair I could find, although I did later wonder whether it would really have been such a bad thing to let him have had the pink pair.)

And he just loves those baby strollers little kids have. In fact, I got so bored of him stealing all the little girls' ones in the playground that I eventually got round to buying him one of his own. He adores it. Even if it is blue.

Then there's the jewellery. A box of bracelets is just about the best toy ever (thank you Great- Granny Barbara). Well, along with the hairdryer.

But, on the flip side, he's obsessed with cars. He's just started saying, 'kar, kar, kar' whenever he hears or sees one. Which is kind of his first proper word. (Well, if you ignore the dadas (Daddy), nanas (initially banana, but now a generic term for food and/or drink), or 'ack, 'ack (started out as quack but now gets applied to any two or four-legged animal).)

Being able to say car is one thing, but I don't plan to encourage the love of all four-wheeled vehicles that most little boys seem to have. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to paint his room pink or only let him play with dolls, or anything like that. But I'm all for a bit of gender balance. I will, however, stop FAR short of the Swedish couple whose child is known only as 'Pop' and who gets dressed one day in a boy's outfit and the next in a girl's.......

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Messing with the mumosphere

Didn't realise I was dabbling with fire last week when I decided to write about the phenomenon that is mummy blogging. I thought mummy blogs were just about mums having a bit of fun once junior was asleep if they'd run out of box sets to watch. I'd call them "lonely", only apparently that's insulting.

All I can say is that when I started writing babieswhobrunch (on Louis' behalf, I might add) all those months ago back in DC, lonely was exactly what I was feeling as I knew precisely no one in Washington. Blogging was a way for me to chat with friends and family back home, and to keep them posted on what Louis and his then mom were up to. Now I'm home, I like to write mainly for my lovely American friends, who I miss more than words can say. And yes, I still find it fun. Harder to squeeze in, now that I'm writing for a living again, but fun nonetheless.

But judging from the comments my piece has elicited I now realise that many mummy bloggers take themselves far more seriously than I could have ever imagined. No wonder mummy blogs are such a PR magnet: blogging mummies clearly wield serious clout, within the mumosphere at least.

I, for one, am not knocking it, whatever some of my readers might have thought. All power to the citizen journalist. Even if they'll eventually put me out of a job. I know one baby who'd be pleased.

PS: Thought it might amuse bwb's US blog fans that despite the ructions I seem to have inadvertently caused the mummy blogging community, babieswhobrunch was named blog of the week on the British Mummy Blogging forum! That's something I'd never have imagined all those long, lonely months ago in our poky flat in Dupont Circle. I think Louis' profile is causing some confusion though. I guess there just aren't that many blogging babies out there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The F-word

There's nothing like writing an article about feminism to trigger some intense soul searching for the working Mum. Specifically, my piece was a column about the Sudanese trouser-wearing journalist Lubna Hussein who is facing a public flogging for her "indecent" attire. I asked why feminists hadn't made more fuss about Hussein's plight, and that of oppressed Muslim women the world over? 

I reckon the answer's pretty simple: everyone's just too busy really to worry about what's going on the other side of the world, even if the treatment of women like Hussein is truly horrific. Part-time Mums like me are the worst offenders. We're trying to juggle motherhood with a career and end up pretty much failing to get to grips with either. We're neither feminists nor anti-feminists (or whatever the antonym is, Google didn't help). Which means that causes like Hussein's get overlooked in favour of what we're going to cook for dinner, or how we can squeeze in the food shopping. 

I'd suggest making amends by signing this iPetition in support of Hussein. But I can't see that it would do much good. Better get back to the pureeing, then. 

Friday, August 7, 2009

The new taboo

Now that Louis is 14 months old, admitting that he's still being breastfed is somehow the new taboo. I don't know why, but once a baby (toddler?) passes that 12-month milestone, breast milk changes from being the elixir of life to a sort of secret moonshine best drunk under the cover of darkness and preferably in your own home. That's if you choose to keep the fact you're still breastfeeding under wraps. If you - shock, horror - choose to advertise the fact that you haven't yet weaned your probably-by-now toddler, then you'd better be prepared to swap your earth Mom status for that of a raving lactivist. (Somehow, they always seem to be raving. And not in a good, all-night party sort of way.)

As a working Mum who's still breastfeeding her baby (there, I admitted it, shoot me now), I know I'm in the minority. The very, very small minority. It's tough. Especially when I don't make it back for bedtime. Which is most of the time. I can, however, draw some solace from the fact that since being back at work, I've managed to write two articles on breastfeeding. The latest, last Sunday, was particularly pleasing as it righted some serious wrongs that had been propagated by a rival newspaper the previous week. Namely that one of the world's leading paediatricians, Dr Michael Kramer, had apparently said there was "very little evidence" that breastfeeding helps prevent a range of illnesses. Disturbing stuff for anyone pro nursing.

Only, the thing is, he didn't say that. As he told me. And as I got to write about. You can read it here if you like. Now that's got to make it almost worth going back to work and leaving Louis. I said almost.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


There must be something wrong with me. I've been a Mum for 14 months (to the day), so you'd think when I stumbled upon what was, quite literally, Yummy Mummy porn - a kids-centric, organic cafe in Dulwich Park, that virtually had its own Bugaboo parking lot out front, you'd think I'd be over the moon. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't I? 

Well, no. It was all a bit too Yummy Mummy, right down to the special children's menu, the special kiddie playzone, and the special sectioned off half of the cafe for all the very special little Dulwich babies and toddlers hanging out there. Not forgetting their special Mums. 

I think the problem was - and this really isn't the green-eyed monster talking - that sectioned off bit. This was one Mum that took umbrage at the sign delineating the equally special non-Mum zone. Somehow I still can't quite handle the parent apartheid that seems to come with the Mummy turf. Not that I haven't cringed at the sight of little Bertie or Flora tearing round a restaurant come Saturday lunchtime because his (full-time working) parents lack the authority to control him, but I resent how every Mum gets tarred with the same brush. 

Which was why we avoided the cafe, delicious as the meals looked, and will another time stick to the likes of the extremely-kid unfriendly Pho, a Vietnamese mini noodle chain that is our top London pick for somewhere to eat. It could hardly be less set up for kids: the food is spicy, the music loud, the cafe cramped, and there's nowhere to ditch the buggy, but it's all the more fun for all that. More to the point, Louis adores it. He's already a regular. This was him on his second visit, slurping noodles like a pro. (Really, though, he's just practising for his Lady and the Tramp moment with Sophie.) 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bad Mommy

Louis taking a walk in his new shoes
And showing me the kind of shoe he wished I'd bought

Seeing as Bad Mommy Confessions are all the rage - heck people even manage to get New York Times bestsellers out of the stuff - I thought it was time to get in on the action. So, the other Sunday, when I was reunited with Louis after surviving another week of work, I was getting him dressed when I spotted that his feet were no longer the feet of a baby. Gone were the milky white, super soft feet of an innocent, in their place, the reddish roughened, blistered feet of a little boy.

Hang on, did I say 'blistered'? Yup, that's right. Little Louis' toes were covered in blisters. Which could mean only one thing: his shoes were too small. Sure, when the John Lewis lady told me his then new shoes might only last a couple of months I was listening. And I had tried to check occasionally to see if he still had any toe wriggle room. But clearly I hadn't tried hard enough because there was only one way Louis' toes could be that blistered. They must have spent days squidged into shoes that were too small. Whoops. (I'm tempted to point out in my defence that I hadn't been with him for the past three days but I doubt that's in keeping with a Bad Mom Confession.) 

Boy did I feel bad about it. Not least because letting his shoes get so small totally defeated the point of going to such agonising lengths to buy his special shoes in the first place. But most of all I was just annoyed it meant another trip to John Lewis, my bete noire. Punishment indeed. Louis was in heaven shoe shopping though. Although his choices presented me with a dilemma: what to do when your little boy picks out the pinkest, sparkliest shoes in the shop? Repeatedly. We stuck with the boring blue ones, for now. But would it be so bad to let him wear pink? Or would that really turn me into a Bad Mom?