Caroline Verdon: Parenting’s tough - you can’t just hit the pause button

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This last week has been tough. Really tough. Nothing particularly bad has happened, everyone I know has their health and I really don’t have anything to complain about but still, it’s felt really exhausting and on more than one occasion I’ve wished to be able to hit a pause button.

I start work early but it’s the same time every day and so there’s a pattern and a routine to it. I have no idea how shift workers do it where they do two days working nights and then three days working mornings. Their body clocks must be shot. Last week was tricky because as well as getting up for work at 4am to do a breakfast radio show, we were also working late doing fireworks events and Christmas light switch ons. When the weekend hit I was on my knees but typically it was also the weekend that my husband was away in Serbia, of all places, for a friend’s 40th so I was solo parenting. Just to add another curve ball, Arthur was also a bit poorly. Not sick or even poorly with anything specific, just a bit off his food, considerably off his sleep and incredibly tetchy.

This is the thing with parenting. You can’t just check out. When you’re feeling completely depleted you still have a little person depending on you and that is hard. Having him has made me understand just how sleep deprivation is a bone fide form of torture. In the whole of last week I managed less that 25 hours of shut-eye so I was barely conscious when the weekend appeared and when you’re not firing on all cylinders toddler meltdowns are beyond taxing.

Before I had Arthur, I thought I’d be a crafting mum. I thought I’d be making playdough and coming up with creative fun original games to play and cooking every meal from scratch. It turns out I am not that mum. And that can be a pretty hard pill to swallow. About four meals a week are cooked completely from scratch, I’m pretty much only fun for one day at the weekend and I’ve never made playdough. I never thought I’d let my child watch television and yet in reality he probably watches it for half an hour a day. Sometimes it’s a necessity even if it’s just so you can have a hot cup or tea and take a few deep breaths.

I work hard in the week and Arthur is in nursery full-time so my weekends are really important to me. We try not to use them for jobs and get boring things like the washing or the odd tip run done during the week so that when Saturday comes it’s family time, whether that’s a day out at Tropical World, travelling on the Middleton Railway or swimming at our local pool. Sundays are usually quieter and tend to involve a Sunday lunch and trying to make the world’s best den in the lounge using cushions and old bedsheets. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be fully there at the weekends and if I can’t do something fun then I feel very guilty.

Last weekend there was no chance of me devising anything fun. Making a bowl of porridge seemed like a bit of a struggle. I needed something that involved barely anything from me yet would still be fun and entertaining for Arthur. Facebook came up with the solution. About a year ago I started following Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley, mainly because they Facebook live the lambing and it’s a lovely thing to wake up to on a spring morning. This time a video popped up about their pantomime. Less that a tenner for the panto and it also got you into the farm, the adventure playgrounds, the reptile centre and the soft play. I wasn’t sure how much of it I’d manage to be awake for but I knew I could definitely handle sitting on a chair whilst Sleeping Beauty went on around me so that’s what I did. Arthur had an absolute blast jumping up and down and yelling “it’s behind you” and “oh yes it is” and I got to have a cup of tea and a cup of hot chocolate. Perfection! Even better was that once it was over and he’d gone on a few of the slides he was so tired he fell asleep for three hours. Heaven!

This week we’re a bit more back to normal. Husband is home, Arthur is better and I’m getting some actual sleep. Just as well really as I plan on hitting the Christinglemarkt in Leeds square hard on Friday!

Getting out of trouble

This week has seen the 25th anniversary of one of the most memorable moments of my life.

In 1993, when I was just 10 and my sister was six we pulled off the most spectacular accidental cover-ups of our lives. It was just after bonfire night and Catherine and I had been playing in the garden. She went inside to get something and about 10 minutes later I followed suit but I forgot the golden rule. The back door of our house was actually the conservatory door and it was a rickety old wooden thing. Time and time again we’d be told to either shut the door or peg it back but in my haste I’d done neither.

I’d only been inside for five minutes when there was this massive crash – a huge gust of wind opened the door so wide the handle went through one of the windows and then the vibrations of the shattering of that window caused a further six panes of glass to crack.

We knew my mum would be furious. Almost instantly I started balling my eyes out. I was going to be in so much trouble. At the same time though, so did my sister. She fully believed she was the one who had left the door swinging.

Faced with the both of us crying and apologising and shards of glass being all over the floor, our parents didn’t know who to shout at so we both got away with nothing more than a stern “you must both be more careful this could have been very dangerous”.

Winning at life.

Christmas light switch on

Last week we stood on stage in Leeds city centre and hosted the Christmas light switch-on. It was so much fun and there were fireworks and handheld twinkly lights and all sorts. The atmosphere was electric and it really was an honour to be able to have been part of it.

The acts were lovely and so fun with the likes of local comedian Micky P Kerr performing as well as X Factor’s Kevin Davy White whose voice and energy was sesnsational. For many people, the highlight was hearing from Josh Warrington and seeing the grins on around 25,000 people’s faces is something I’ll never forget. He was such a lovely guy , really humble which was something I hadn’t expected from the IBF Featherweight world champion.

Given what an incredible fighter he was, it was strange seeing him have a bodyguard – I’m guessing more for the belt than for him. Surely though if there was one person in Leeds that night that you definitely wouldn’t pick a fight with it would have been Josh!

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.