Thursday, 20 November 2014

I Quit, Again. Smoking the Final Frontier

I am a parent. I am a smoker. There I said it! It's out there and there are no take backsies. I am the anti-Christ of the parenting world.

I'm day three into quitting and frankly right now I'd stick my tongue down the throat of any skeevy wino puffing on a limp roll- up just to get to vacuum out the smoke from his lungs. Pathetic isn't it? Day three of mood swings, toddler tantrums, panic attacks and land mines (or as I like to call it Thursday) and I still want to stab all the things.

Strange isn't it? Of all parenting taboos, smoking is the one that seems to make you a pariah, a social outcast, shunned from all things child related. I'm not trying to defend it in any way, because frankly I too find it disgusting, but smoking is probably one of the hardest addictions to hide.

I've never been, what I would have called a "full on" smoker, but I don't think I realised the full extent of my denial until I tried to give up this time.  It doesn't really matter if it is five or fifty, if you can't get through the day without it, you are an addict.  This is not my first time at the giving up rodeo and this bitch has bucked me more than a few times. It's a rodeo that once left town almost four years but slowly crept back into my life.

In my third year of my four year "abstinence" I was kind of a dick. Socially, I could take it or leave it. I'd go out for drinks with friends, smoke a few, and not give it a thought again for weeks. I went from three years of no smoking to becoming a "social smoker".  It drove my husband bat shit crazy. We'd given up together and it tortured him. He was an ass-hat for weeks, he'd really suffered but I really couldn't understand why he was being so dramatic. Yes, the first few days are miserable but I'd sucked it up and all was good. I was strong and self-righteous in my ability to take it or leave it.

When we were trying to get pregnant, I became obsessed and stopped again. I held strong and (with a little help) was knocked up. Being pregnant and around smokers, any smokers, even people who had been near people who smoked made me gag. Hurray! Finally I was on the other side of the fence. I was one of those anti-smokers. I made myself a little crown and sat on my throne of smugness.

Pregnancy came and went rewarding me with a perfect little girl. My little Monkey.  Now fast forward eighteen months. My precious little bundle of joy was no longer little and she sure as shit wasn't joyous. She was a tyrant with a will of steel. I read some where that the correlation between how cute your baby is to how much of a shit head your toddler will become is directly proportional. I was screwed. I know that all toddlers are douche bags and that as mothers they can make you want to throttle them, but I thought I could handle it. It's cute right? I was utterly unprepared for the supersonic switch between ovary exploding cuteness to that of demonic possession.

I fully understand the phrase "driven to drink" now, because at the end of the day I was and still am broken. For the last year, my (now) two and a half year old has managed to hit every button I have with the accuracy of a SWAT sniper. She's even managed to discover some new ones. The kid could make Mother Theresa throw up her arms and say "fuck this shit, pass me the tequila and a smoke before I do something stupid". She got mad skills y'all. I'm so proud.

So there I was this Spring, standing in my garden at the end of the day, drinking a glass of wine and having a smoke, rewarding myself for a job well done. I'd made it to the end of the day and I didn't kill her! Go me. Dumb ass.

One a day, was one of the rules. One a day, what's the harm? One a day, I mean come on, I'd earned it. She'd worked me hard, my nerves were shot and in this day and age, let's face it, everything is bad for you. Screw it, it's only one a day.

My own hypocrisy is quite staggering. I had a list of do's and don'ts, rules to facilitate my emotional crutch, and make no mistake, that is what it is (not was) but is. It's a combustible Binky and an excuse for me to escape for a few minutes to take a breath (ha) and re-group.

But it didn't stay one a day. Even as I sit here, I'm couldn't tell you at what point I made it okay for myself to change the rules. But I guess that's the scary part of addiction, all addictions, as addicts we can work out a way to justify it.

We give ourselves little pep-talks "this is the last time, and then I am done" or "I am so stressed I need it to take the edge off" or my personal favourite "I'm just going to finish pack because I don't want to waste it". Volumes of books could be written by addicts and those in recovery at the excuses they've made to facilitate their own brand of Binky and we could fill the universe with the shame and guilt when we cave in to it.

All addictions by definition are bad for you, with some more deadly than others. It's Russian roulette, a loaded gun that WILL, one way or another, get you in the end. We are grown ass adults and any way you look at it, we know what we signed up for. You pay your money you take your chance.

For one reason or another, this last nine months have been a bloody nightmare. I'm trying to remember when my "one a day" became two, became three, became more. Earlier and earlier I was actually starting to crave. "What the hell is this? This hadn't happened before". My evening "smokey treat" was turning into my lunch time, nap time any time treat. A reward for almost anything, a way to kill time, or escape. It wasn't long before life started revolving around it. Scheduling in my little smokes around laundry, cooking and (I'm ashamed to say) parenting. I tried justifying it in so many ways, but ultimately, I had started smoking again. I wasn't in control any more, it controlled me. To a control freak, nothing is more terrifying than not holding the reigns to our own life.

I don't think I have ever fully appreciated how bloody hard it is to quit smoking, it had never been this hard before. I actually had to have some will power to so this. So, I quit, aaaaand I started again. I was up and down like a fiddlers elbow, going to bed at night, promising faithfully that this was the last one, that tomorrow was going to be The Day. Every morning I decided, I was done that was it. Only nope, I was wrong. I took myself to my wrong cave and was wrong with my wrongness. My ability to take it or leave it had buggered off and taken my will power with it. Panic!

Shit happened. I've been on and off the metaphorical wagon so many times it has my ass is embossed into the upholstery. I rarely said anything to anyone else about quitting, just to cover myself in case I failed. You can't publicly fail if nobody know you are trying right?

So what is different this time? Well I guess, I am sick of giving myself an "out". Shit or get off the pot Missy. Put up or shut up.

I want to do this for me. To prove to myself that I can actually follow through (get it?) on something and stick with it. I trying to stop treating smoking like a reward or a security blanket and learn that there are other ways of getting through the day.

I also understand now that I will always be a smoker. It'll always be my Achilles heel. I know now that every time I go out with friends or have a drink, any time I'm having a shitty day and try to rationalise to myself, "just this one time", I may fall off my finely upholstered wagon. Life is filled with a veritable firing range of triggers and cue's that are going to make me want to light up. If I can get through today, then I can try to do it again tomorrow.

The crawling in my fingers will pass, that the short tempered bitchiness and anger will go (probably) and I will stop thinking about lighting up a "smokey treat" all the time. It doesn't really help me when I am smack in the middle of the emotional claymore of toddler resistance, canine attention seeking and dinner time drama, (the stabbing hour) but writing this and taking ownership of it has helped a bit today. Tomorrow is another day. In the mean time, if you need me I will be busying my fingers with some power knitting and trying to remember that I can do it.

If you have never struggled with addiction, please try to be patient with those who do. If you have found the strength to conquer any addiction, then I take my hat off to you and salute your strength. I don't know you but I am proud of you. To those how have fallen off the wagon once, twice or many times, please keep trying, I can slide on over, there is always room on the chariot for one more. You are not alone.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Wanted, sister wife.

I started writing this while lying in bed feeling like hammered shit. All I was able to think about while trying to horizontally parent my mercurial daughter is - damn, I could use some help.

Like so many, we are a paycheck to paycheck house hold. Luxury items such as daycare and babysitters are just not in our budget. So it gets extra fun when I get sick.

Let me explain. I suffer from a chronic illness, well a few actually, but on the whole my days are manageable. I work hard to stay in shape (sadly that shape is not that of an athletic super model and more that of the Pillsbury Doughboy) to keep my symptoms in check, but there are some things you can't fight, and that is the common cold.

It hit me like a truck, a truck filled with enough mucus to lubricate the world's automotive industry till the end of time. To add insult to injury I also got my period. (Well played mother nature, Bitch!)

So as lay lay there in bed, praying for the sweet release of death, having called my husband to come home from work early, it struck me that I needed a wife.

As a wife and a mother we do it all. Cook, clean, referee, taxi, educate and everything in between. Its bloody hard doing it all, so wouldn't it be awesome if you could outsource some of that shit.  I'm not talking about a cleaner or a house keeper but an actual wife.

Wait, "what the ever loving fuck Zoe?" you may think, but hear me out. I haven't been watching too much TLC (The Learning Channel - there's a misnomer if ever there was one) or any other Mormon related romanticised fiction, but if you think about it, they might be on to something.

What if you, as a wife could choose your own wife? What if you had someone to jump in and share the load, to do all the shit you do? Wouldn't it be great if all wives had, well....a wife.

So let's take religion out of it and break it down into a simple advertisement.

Wanted - Sister Wife.


1. Patience of Job - You don't have to know who he is, but holy shit do you need his life skills to cut it in this house. Also punctuality, be on time for shit.

2. Know you way around the kitchen. - I'm not talking about where the fridge is, or how to make a stellar cup of tea, (this too is a vital qualification, I'm English so this is important) but to know how to knock out a meal that tastes awesome and will appeal to toddlers and me. The Husband will eat almost anything so long as the basic food group is represented. Meat. We like food in this house, I am shamelessly one of those people who bake and then post pictures of it. Don't judge, instead jump on board the delicious yummy goodness train.

3. Enjoy a drink. - This is not get shit faced on a Tuesday morning (though no judgement, it's 12 o'clock somewhere), but more of a know a decent bottle of wine and make sure there is more than one available.

4. Like my kid - I've seen her make the gayest man in the world's m'ovaries explode so I know she has likeable qualities, but she can also be a little turd, and when the switch gets flipped even I find it hard to like her.

5. Flexibility - As parents we all know that things can change in the blink of the eye. "Best laid plans" and all that. You need to be able to rally in a pinch and take one for the team.

6. Be organised. - I am not. I couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery.

7. Badassery (yes this is a word). - Have my back, even when I am a total asshat. I'm not saying that you shouldn't call me on my shit when I am being a tool, but do it afterwards, and make sure I have wine.

8. Know when to say no. - I don't. Also I need someone to give me shove and push me.

9.  Like doing laundry. - I fucking hate it!

10. Dog person. - Because dogs are awesome. That is all.

11. Live in close proximity. - Logistics and all that. You are no bloody good to me if you live on the other side of country.

12. Have a voice. - This one is important. No shrinking violets please. We are not shouters in this house (with the exception of people under waist height) but I have ADD and tend to get excited and lose track of the point. I can literally be half way through a sentence and forget what I was talking about, and oooh look.. Squirrels.

13. Like doing laundry. - Seriously I cannot stress this one enough.

14. Be crafty. - Not the sneaky kind (though this is also a plus) but I am an illustrator, sewer, knitter and general faffer. It's my crack. You need to be on board with this, and not blink at the cupboards, drawers and other storage containers filled with paraphernalia or judge when I come home with more.

15. Sing. - You don't have to do it well, but if you can bust our some Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while shaking your ass to Billy Idol's Mony Mony or any other 80's awesomeness, then you are a keeper. If you can shamelessly do this in the supermarket then all's the better.

16. Nerdery. - Have intimate knowledge of one or all of the following; Fantasy fiction and films, any and all things Marvel or DC related and computer geekery. (I know nothing but it will give you something to talk to the hubster about). This list is not limited to these items, please feel free to bring your own special brand of crazy to the table. There is always room for more.

17. Sarcasm, swearing and inappropriate poop jokes. - Because shit is just funny.

Recompense :

I offer you, a house filled with love, chaos, laughter, tantrums, snot, and so much more. I will take your kid when you are sick and make you dinner when you are hungry and you can't be arsed. I will reign down fire on anyone who fucks with you and yours and do my best to listen when you just need to have a whinge. I'll hand you a glass of wine at the end of a long shitty day, and knitted mittens on cold ones. I'll pimp out my husband when your computer hands you the blue screen of death or when you need something moved. In short, I got your back.

As I write this though it occurs to me that I already have a wife. A few actually, (take that Mormons) I am pretty damn lucky that almost all of these qualities and a few more are wrapped up in my closest friends. They have keys to my house and know my kitchen as well as I do. They are as un-phased at the husband wandering around in his boxers in the morning as they are at my last minute panic cancellations. They parent my kid as much as I do, and I trust them enough to back almost any call they make. I don't have to share conjugal rights (down side of this is I don't get my bed to myself half the week, Mormons got that one right) but on the whole, I think I've got it pretty good.

Still, I can't help but think that polygamy can't be all that bad, but then I think who else but the awesome dude I married would have me? Nah, I think I am good.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Competitive Firsts Can Suck It!

In the world of competitive parenting I have observed so much madness, and this, coming from someone with as much baggage as I do, is no small thing.

There seems to be no end to the one up man-ship and the perpetual pissing contests. Keeping up appearances and maintaining the façade of perfection has become so important that it trumps the actual job of parenting. One of the latest trends is competing for firsts.

Why is everyone in such a rush for our kids to reach those milestones? I take almost a perverse enjoyment out of confounding these 'one-up' parents with my classy whit and repartee.

"Little Laura was potty trained by eighteen months!" Good for you, I say! My kid, stuck her hand down her shitty nappy and shoved it in my face while yelling "look mama, poop".

"Darling Felix can recite the entire works of Shakespeare" - Splendid, more power to you. Mine can bust out a free-style Twinkle Little Star and Row Your Boat mash-up. Eat it Kanye!

"Felicity enjoys Camembert and pate served on the back of mermaid scales." - Delighted to hear it, mine eats worms and boogers.

"Look at Charles is in his matching designer chinos and blazer, we sold a kidney to buy them, but doesn't he look just darling" - Christ alive, you paid how much? Shit my kid looks like a hobo fell into a fancy dress bucket at a charity store.

"Well obviously we enrolled Chelsea in Ballet class at two, one has to get ahead of these things." Say what now? Mine grabs a pole and grinds up and down on that bad boy like her college education depends on it.  *whispers* Don't lose that skill kid, you may need it later.

To be fair, I consider it a win if my kid is covered in food, dirt, markers and smiles at the end of the day. It's not always a given, she is two for craps sake and a fickle little bitch at the best of times, but she hasn't anyone to impress but herself as far as I'm concerned. She's water-proof and won't melt if she gets covered in crap. A bath at the end of the day for a job well done is reward enough. Like her, clothes will wash and if they stain, shit happens. Wrapping your kid in a bubble of perfection and ridiculous standards is going to make for a miserable kid and an ulcer for you.

I've seen these poor kids at the park, restaurants and supermarkets, dressed to perfection, and utterly terrified of getting grubby and ruining their clothes. The looks of sadness and longing as they watch other kids tearing around like hooligans all covered in dirt, scuffed shoes, holes in the knees and having a ball. The poor parents who are convinced the kid has to look the part to make it in the world, hovering around with a wet wipe and some disinfectant for the germs are not helping. Christ, let's all lighten up a tad shall we.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't teach our kids respect for property, to be nice each other, to try, or that personal hygiene is optional, but can we stop using them to compete with each other and feel superior when your kid can take a crap on the toilet before someone else's. It just makes you look like a dick.

It doesn't stop there sadly, another shocking trend is to shame parents too. We have regressed back to high school. It wasn't cool then and it sure as shit ain't now.

You're screwed if you work because you missing the most important years of your kids life. You are not active enough on the PTA, your thank you gifts (this one still wigs me out) or bake sale donation are store bought, clearly you're not invested in your child's future. You are selfish for choosing your career over you kid. Bla bla bla.

If you don't work then clearly you're setting back feminism decades. You clearly have the time to make gifts and are then hated by those who don't or you bought them and are scorned because you should have made them. You're belittled by the working parents who are jealous or scornful and made to feel like you settled for less or inadequate because you are stay at home parent.

Is your kid signed up at 'The' school? Did you breast feed? Is that organic? Do you work? Is your kid exposed to (the dreaded) screen time? Do you use your smart device around your child? Do you drink or smoke? The list is utterly endless. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Nothing is off limits any more. Are you pregnant or fat? Should you be eating that? Bottle feeding? Did you even try the breast? The answer to all of these questions is it's none of your bloody business. I'm not saying don't take pride in our loin fruit, or to stop caring about others, but unless you see a kid in very real danger, keep your opinion to yourself. They'll not thank you for it, like you would not thank them for theirs. Don't try to mask it as 'friendly' advice, because if it wasn't solicited all you are doing is making someone feel bad about themselves and question their own judgement.

Kids don't give a crap about what designer clothes they are wearing, you do. Go watch a group of small kids play and listen to how often the subject of fine dining is discussed or if they were breast feed. We train our kids to become what we think society wants. Sure we want them to be better than us, but can we just let them be kids for a while? Can we stop dressing and training them to be mini adults, and can we please not judge the mother who's kid turned up at school looking like a reject from a Bjork video. Probably of all the battles she fought before eight am, this was the one she choose to let her kid win in exchange for getting them to eat breakfast.

It's easy to laugh, and we are all guilty of it, but you'll never know the whole story, so have a quick think to your own "perfect" life and stop making others feel like crap so you can feel superior. And please stop beating yourself up trying to keep up with the rest. If you get a genuine hug and fat booger encrusted kiss at the end of the day, you've done just fine.

I'll hang out with the happy, worm eating, cross dressing toddlers and their slightly relieved parents any day of the week. I have wine.