Last week the BBC finally reported something about my home country, Australia, that didn't involve sharks, beer, or a koala stuck in a tree. It was the triumph of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
And not only was her ride impressive, her victory speech was a knockout. She boldly announced that those chauvinists who think women aren't good enough can, quite simply, "Get stuffed."
This is a phrase that just isn't used enough these days. It's got such a brilliant earthiness and a fair-dinkum punch that I think we should bring it back, right now.
So, inspired by the bloody top woman that is Michelle Payne, here are all the things about parenthood that make me feel like I'm not quite good enough, and which can GET STUFFED.
1. A Clean House For Play-Dates
"Oh no! The girls are coming over for coffee - I better get up at 5am to bleach the toilet and hand-make some quinoa truffles!" Fuck this shit. Anyone who gives a toss if there's Lego all over the floor can go in the bin. The good people won't care, and the best people will say, "Oh, this makes me feel better about my own shithole." These are the keepers.
Unless there is an actual emergency - like a job interview, or your mother-in-law is coming over from Australia - put your ironing board away, people. The kids won't care if their jeans are a bit crumpled, and if you have a baby, all your clothes will be covered in snot and porridge by 9am anyway.
3. Perfect Homemade Cakes
Look, I feel your pain. Just the other week I was up until 2am creating a fondant unicorn oasis that Paul Hollywood would have described as "a bit elaborate." 12 hours later, I watched a group of six-year-olds rip it to shreds in under a minute. All kids care about is the quantity of Smarties and the volume of icing. In fact, why not just stick a few candles in a bag of granulated sugar?
4. Matching Socks
This issue is a controversial one in my house, by which I mean we have almost been divorced over it several times. IT DOESN'T MATTER if your socks don't match! Who cares? Sanity is more important. [Ellie writes: This is totally incorrect. Socks that don't match make you feel funny all day. Sorry, Helen, but both your husband and I are leaving you.]
5. Perfect Date Nights
Everyone knows we're supposed to have these great evenings where we don't talk about the kids and have amazing sex. But that's not the reality, is it? Funny how there are all those photos on Facebook of candlelit dinners, but none of the couple in question having a row about the unpaid council tax bill then passing out on the hotel bed. Let's be honest, even the best date nights are comprised of at least 25% parental admin chat and bickering. And frankly, you can do that at home over curry and a box set.
6. Hair Brushing
Just as sweets are classified as a 'sometimes' food, brushing hair is a 'sometimes' activity. Obviously that doesn't mean letting the kids grow their own dreadlocks, but does it really matter if they leave the house with a bit of a birds-nesty look occasionally?
7. Creative Meals
There's no need to spend hours creating Picassos out of peas and potatoes. If your kids will only eat a few things, give yourself a break. It's OK to feed them fish fingers twice in a row. And don't compare yourself to the woman at the Giraffe Cafe in Blackheath whose children were asking for the quinoa salad - she wasn't real, it was just an apparition, because you are so tired.
8. Relative-Induced Guilt
One of the hardest things to deal with is the feelings of guilt that can arise from talking to your well-meaning parents and in-laws, who "didn't do it like that in our day." Sure, it comes from a good place, sometimes, but SOMETIMES IT DOESN'T. Guilt can GET STUFFED.
9. Being Everyone's BEST FRIEND
When your kids start school or nursery, the number of new potential friends and social gatherings can be overwhelming. It's good to be polite and friendly, but you don't have to be everyone's best mate. Remember, your time is precious. What would you rather do, have a pint with that old drinking buddy you haven't seen since your twenties, or sit in a Cafe Nero with someone you barely know talking about house prices?
10. Feeling Like You And Your Kids Are Not Normal
This is one of the great anxieties of parenting. Is what your kids are into normal? What about what they eat? Or the fact they like singing Gangnam Style at the top of their voice on the number 75 to Sydenham? Worrying about what's normal can leave you feeling isolated and crappy. But here's the thing: there IS no normal. What's normal for you is normal, and better still, you are amazing.
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