To Three or Not To Three?

When I announced I was pregnant with my third child, people were suspicious. Really? A third? Are you quite sane? Then came the assumptions. Either it was an accident, ho ho, or we must have been after a particular gender. I already have one of each and I meticulously plan everything, so hey, believe it or not, I willingly walked into a life of nappy-brained chaos.

Many of my mum friends talked about a sense of completion. Whether through exhaustion, career aspirations, finances, or simply feeling satisfied, they knew. Time to draw a line under the baby years. No more sleep deprivation, wee in the face, or soggy rice-cake mushed into the carpet. One friend said she felt liberated the day she went on Ebay and sold her Bugaboo for parts. Another bragged about redecorating a living room that had once been the club of all things bright, plastic, noisy and light-up.

Click to read my column in the Guardian-Series

I heard them:

‘You know, I actually have time for myself again. I’m planning to take up colouring. By the way, it’s my fortieth soon. Anyone fancy a late-night bender? Like the old days? Honestly, my pair get up and sort themselves out for breakfast, so if I need a lie-in, I can have it.’

Yes, I heard them.

But it didn’t make a difference.

I didn’t share – or even know – that ‘done’ feeling.   I wasn’t ready to give up the annoying toys and all-night feeding marathons. The idea of harvesting a Bugaboo didn’t feel me with joy. It made me feel sad. I wanted another baby, another child, another person in my family. Regardless of whether I had the spare energy or the means, I absolutely had the love.

After such a mixed reaction, however, it struck me that having three children is no longer a common choice. In the good old days, you were only a ‘large’ family if your dad had to drive you to school in a mini-van. Now, it seems three is the benchmark for crazy, oversized rabbles of children that no one wants to invite to play-dates.

It’s no secret that the world is designed for families of four: hotel rooms, tables in restaurants, hatchback cars, and, oh my, lest I forget, affordable three-bedroom semis, they all offer nuclear-sized comfort. Throw another small bottom into the mix and it either gets illegal, cramped or expensive.

Financial comfort, particularly in our current housing market, along with reasonably priced holidays and an intense dislike of screeching, are all good reasons to stick to two. Yet, when that maternal instinct starts to tug, as anyone who’s felt it knows, the power is all-consuming.

Fast-forward a year, and I have my wish, my third, my little prince.  Some of the aforementioned struggles have indeed become part of our every day fabric (affordable larger house anyone?), but others have never materialised. I honestly don’t notice the day-to-day stress any more than I used to. What I do notice, however, is the increased happiness. My family feels complete.






Pot Holes Gone Wild

Once again, it’s that time of year when local council road ‘improvements’ conspire against me getting anywhere in a timely fashion. What are they fixing and why do they have to do it all at once? This week, the after school rush to swimming lessons became 40 long minutes of fury, as I found myself driving from one contraflow traffic jam to another, with a car full of shouty children, then nearly ripping off my front tyre in a cavernous pothole that I’d prefer to describe as a trench. I have lots to say about the stress of managing swimming lessons with seven and five year olds, but the journey to and from the pool is usually the easy part.

It is the season of the angry local driver. Evidently, I’m not alone in my ire. You only need to type ‘potholes’ into a browser, to discover a gaggle of websites such as and, where residents can name and shame the damaged tarmac in their area, up and down the country. Hey, if the internet is good for one thing, it’s for venting small-scale frustrations.

Of course, road conditions deteriorate in winter months. It’s understandable that the pothole problem increases around this time, but sometimes it seems as if the cracks are being left to grow and seethe, while ‘other’ mysterious road works are popping up all over the place.


It’s a double whammy: craggy tyre-busting tarmac on highways that are too congested to bear, due to random repairs of seemingly everything but the craggy tarmac. I hear lots of rumours about council tactics, how they aim to spend allocated funding by the end of the tax year, in order to secure future money – hence the plethora of non-essential work in the run up to April. Surely, however, the impact of multiple road closures and contraflows could be better managed?

I don’t dare to presume any expertise in the subject of town planning. Give me a role on the team and I suspect any high-dudgeon self-righteousness would be hastily replaced by a sense of the impossible. And the inevitable. The fact is someone somewhere will always be affected by some roadwork or other, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fix roads. I do, however, now have a pathological fear of the swimming run and would like a solemn promise that, in weeks to come, it will be more tolerable.

I could always vote with my feet and make the decision to walk. I like walking. All that fresh air and exercise. Ah wait. Now I remember. The last time I took a stroll with two children and a baby buggy, I was forced to step into a busy main road, because the chunk of pavement that the utility service had dug up, blocked-off and abandoned, gave me no room to manoeuver.

On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just hibernate until the work is complete. Or get an avatar on and go wild.



Why porn stars and motherhood do not mix…

Porn Star Martini, anyone? Okay, not the opening line you’d usually expect from a column about mum-related things, but to be fair, porn stars were the last thing I was expecting when walking my children to school the other day. Same walk, same route, same crossing, five times a week. All pretty humdrum and then… whammy! Out of nowhere: a suggestively dressed woman, full-pout, tan-thighs, making eyes at me from a large poster on the wall of a nearby bar/dining establishment.


Said poster also happened to be positioned right in front of the pelican crossing where my children and I stood waiting for the green man, allowing enough time for my 5 year-old son to absorb all the fleshy bits of this puzzling image:

‘Mummy, why isn’t that lady wearing trousers?’

And for my 7 year-old older daughter to practise her phonics on the images’ accompanying tag line: Porn Star Fridays. Cue the obvious:

‘Mummy, what’s a porn star?’

‘Er. Interesting question. I’d say it’s… it’s… um… someone who… um… helps people.’


Pause. Wince. Think quick.

‘Hey, kids, is that a Minecraft-shaped tree over there? You know, I do believe it is. Right there. A lovely square-shaped piece of topiary! Oooo, shall we go and have a look?’

Off we scurried. Now, I’m no Mary Whitehouse, but the job spec for porn-stardom was career advice I really wasn’t ready to hand out yet. Ditto any bird/bee-related discussion.

I’ve since learned that the poster was nothing more scandalous than an ill-judged piece of promotional material for a Friday night martini cocktail. That’s fine. Cocktails with silly, saucy names have long been part of drinking culture (Sex on the Beach, to name but a few). But facing this out to a high street, in an area full of young families and people of all ages and sensitivities? It just felt wrong.   Not to mention a teensy bit misogynistic. And, well, tacky,

Unsurprisingly, my discomfort was joined by other school parents who’d seen it and felt a similar ‘Ew! No!’ type of reaction. It wasn’t long before a #takeitdown twitter campaign was hatched. Suddenly, we become the Mumsnet brigade of Essex. Lots of blustery tiger-mum feminist fire, but with bigger bling and hair extensions.

To their credit, the drinking and dining establishment in question has now removed the offending poster without quibble, but hopefully they and other venues will think twice about what they cast to the unfiltered public on the outside of their buildings. It’s fair enough that businesses need to advertise, but not at the expense of local decency.

I have since tried a Porn Star Martini for myself (in the interests of research, of course). It’s a drink too sickly for my tastes and there’s definitely something freaky about all those passion fruit seeds, although they do provide tang. But as for the meaning of the cocktail’s name… on second thoughts, I’d rather not know.