Claire Kirby writes a parenting blog called Life Love and Dirty Dishes. I think I first became aware of it when I read a post entitled We Are Not Rivals, a really beautiful piece of writing that every mum should read. Its message is simply that however we choose to raise our babies, be it breast or bottle, cot or co-sleeping, we’re all just mums doing our best, and though we may disagree in our choices, we are not rivals. I asked Claire about the little button pushers in her life:
Mrs Baffled: Claire where are you from and where do you live?
Claire Kirby: Southampton. I grew up in the New Forest, but I’m a city girl at heart and live in Southampton now.
MB: What did you do before having children and starting your blog?
CK: I worked in Marketing. Although that feels like a life time ago!
MB: And after?
CK: Complete change for me. At first I became a SAHM. Partly because the thought of leaving my little boy was awful. I just wasn’t ready. I only ever wanted to go back part time, but when we looked into the cost of childcare my earnings would cover nothing more, so it seemed pointless. We budgeted, we cut back, we sacrificed holidays and meals out and we made it work. I loved being at home but it was a really big transition to make. Socially, financially, in every way really.
After I had my second son I began writing my blog. I am now self employed and earning money through my writing. I get to be at home and work around the kids doing something that I love. Had I not been a SAHM previously, I don’t think we would have taken the risk. I’m just not sure what I call myself now. Is a SAHWM a thing?
MB: I think a stay at home working mum is totally a thing! Can you tell me a little about your family?
CK: I have two boys. My eldest is 7 and a notorious chatterbox. Known on my blog as Big. My youngest turns 3 at the end of March and is a stuntman in the making. He is known on my blog as Little.
MB: I started my blog when I was trying to get my head around being the parent of a toddler. How do you relate to that stage?
CK: So I’ve lived through it once and I am currently living through it again. It’s hard work. Especially when they drop their naps! I do feel it’s a stage where you just don’t get a minute to yourself. Life is busy and someone, normally the toddler always needs something from you. I know everyone is different, but personally I always find the baby stage much easier than the toddler stage.
At the same time toddlers are amazing little people, just exhausting! At the moment I nod [my head] in sympathy, but I think people can forget how hard it is. I hope I don’t and that I always have empathy for people when I see a kid throwing a tantrum. But like everything, I think we all look back with rose tinted glasses and forget the time our kid’s tantrum brought us to our knees!
MB: Can you give examples of things your little ones do or did that pushed your buttons, or tested your patience, made you feel guilt?
CK: I always try to take a step back and see the ridiculousness of the situation. You asked me to Put Postman Pat in his van, I did it and now you are screaming because I put Postman Pat in his van. LIKE YOU ASKED. I try and remind myself that they are little and learning.
It’s not easy though. My youngest has speech delays and has major meltdowns because he can’t communicate his needs. They are getting better as he is learning and talking more, but being completely honest I have found it very hard. There are times I have felt frustrated when we are on the third meltdown in the same hour. I’ve felt like an awful mother for not knowing what he wants. And I’ve felt guilty that somehow his delays are my fault. I have to remind myself that all those feelings are natural, and that I’m doing my best.
MB: That’s a really good one that we could all do with reminding ourselves more. Did they push your buttons more when you were say, tired or busy
CK: PMT is my big one. I have one day of every month where I’m not the best company. To be fair, I don’t even want to be with me! On that day I have zero patience and I snap at the kids and I’m horrible. I cry myself to sleep for being a crap mum. Luckily kids are unconditional in their love.
MB: What about the happy buttons they press? Pride and love? Any moments in particular that always bring a smile to you face?
CK: So many! Bursting pride and love. The things they say. Hearing them play. I think one of my favourite things is the closeness. When I’m sitting on the sofa and suddenly a child is on my lap for a cuddle. I always think that’s such a privilege as a parent.
MB: My daughter’s just turned 4 so I don’t have a toddler anymore. What other ages or stages do you think might cause button pushing?
CK: Six was hard. Six had a major attitude and liked to argue with just about anything you said. Six answered back a lot and six pushed my big red button which is whinging. OMG the whinging! Six has zero respect for “no” and just keeps on and on and on and on! Six wasn’t my favourite!
MB: Excellent I’ll look forward to that in 2 years time! 😂 Does how you manage the button-pushing, change as they, and you, age? D
CK: I think we are constantly learning. Having a 7-year-old is new to me. Having a 2-year-old isn’t, but my current 2-year-old is completely different to the last 2-year-old I had! I think kids will always test and push their boundaries, and as parents we have to learn how far we are prepared to let them push, how much control we give them.
I don’t always get it right. There are always new challenges. If things are particularly tough I find we either need a bit of one on one time, or some time apart! Contradictory I know. If Big has been pushing my buttons a lot, I often find that having a little lunch date or something helps us get back on track. With Little it’s often that I need a bit of time to myself, a few hours off so I can come back with my patience and enthusiasm fully recharged!
MB: I’m pretty certain that I still drive my own mum mad! Is that just a mother / daughter, parent / child thing d’you think?
CK: Yes! My Mum has the power to cause a hormonal shift in me that makes me feel like I’m a teenager again! I think she pushes my buttons more than my kids sometimes! Relationships are complicated!
MB: If you had one piece of advice to offer to mums or dads of toddlers having their buttons pushed, what would it be?
CK: This too shall pass, but it helps to keep the fridge stocked with wine.