My daughter has taken to avoiding me. She used to content herself with hissing “stop saying that” but now I think we’re beyond that point.
What can I say? It’s my job to embarrass her, always has been, always will be.
When she was a teenager it was my habit of saying things loudly in shops: anything above the noise level of a pin dropping on the thickest and most luxurious of carpets was too loud.
Now she is in her twenties it’s my habit of telling her not to leave it too late to have children that is making her jaw clench with fury. What’s worse, my sister joins in.
We sit there, two voices of hormonal doom, drinking tea.
“Be like ….Lily Allen but maybe without the partying” we chorus, trying hard to think of a mum in her twenties who isn’t poor Peaches Geldof.
We’re just trying to be helpful. It’s hard for young women to choose the right path these days, there are so many directions to choose, and choice is way overrated in my opinion. I mean, no-one wants to be trapped in a straightjacket of a life, but too much choice is exhausting. Just remember your last supermarket trip to verify that one.
So I’m doing my bit to concentrate my daughter’s mind, even if it is being concentrated into a laserpoint of fury at me. Women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to deciding when to become a mother.
The usual way, among girls who have struggled their way through to a reasonable education and a decent job, is to delay it all into their thirties. To become a mother for the first time in your early to mid-thirties is perfectly normal and completely understandable.
There is after all a lot to do: a career to establish, a home to create, holidays to enjoy, a life to live. There is the whole business of extended youth where blokes are still collecting football stickers and women are still going on weekends away with friends at an age where once they would have been very grown-up parents.
We’re living longer, we want to put ourselves first for longer and, if we don’t have children, we can.
Yet not so very long ago, most women were done with pregnancy by the age of 30. A child born after that was automatically assumed to have been a “mistake”. By 40, the child-rearing years were meant to be all but over. Why else an era of birthday cards saying:”Life begins”?
Later motherhood is a huge change in the way we live. Certainly, our insides haven’t changed to accommodate our changing lifestyles. Our internal organs are still stubbornly the same as when we lived in caves and the average lifespan was about 25.
The argument rages on about how fertile a woman in her 30s really is but for every report that says it’s fine to be an older mother comes another that says, basically, crack on with it young if you want to have kids.
The latest says your highest chances of having a baby are when you are under 35 and urges women not to think of IVF.
But it’s not just about fertility. It’s about life. Leaving motherhood later makes life neater. If you have done the groundwork of a decade in your job, you can probably take a year off go part-time without too much trouble, you will already have a decent car to take a baby seat and you will have seen both Thailand and India and you can be more domestic without feeling you’ve missed out.
But then again, there is no right time to have a baby - there is always something you haven’t bought - and messy can also be fun, so I say don’t wait for a right time, just jump right in there and do it. It’ll be exhausting but you’re young and have the energy.
So I will carry on telling my daughter having babies in your twenties is best - and she will carry on telling me to mind my own business.
Windows were meant to open
Some things in life are vastly under-rated. Here’s one of them: windows that open.
Because fresh air is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s cleansing, refreshing and invigorating - unless there is muck-spreading taking place.
I have medical knowhow to support me here. Scientists have just said that hospital wards need to be redesigned to provide defences against superbugs - and one of their recommendations is large, openable windows.
There isn’t much about medical care that was better in the past, despite what some people would have us believe, but openable windows on wards is one of the few that was. The common sense belief that fresh air was good for patients is true.
Hotels are also terrible culprits for installing sealed windows and forcing their guests to endure air conditioning, which everyone switches off at night because it sounds like a jet engine about to take off.
The next morning they stagger around groggily with bags under their eyes having endured a night of rubbish sleep in a stuffy, airless room.
Offices often cruelly seal their windows too, so that workers sit endlessly shivering or sweating as the heating/air conditioning takes them to temperature extremes they have no wish to experience.
Hours are wasted as desperate people grimly hunt down the person who can alter the thermometer, and squabbles break out among staff exhausted by the endless, unnecessary cycle of it all.
So just give us windows that open.
Confessions of a baker
Let’s see, what do Mary Berry and Delia Smith have in common?
Well my answer is that they are often seen up to their elbows in sugar and fat - but they are slim.
They may be life-long bakers but they have managed to hold on to some vestige of a figure.
So full marks to Mary for confessing this week that it isn’t easy.
Because I had begun to believe that cakes baked by television cooks were magic cakes containing not a single calorie, so carefree are the makers as they test and taste.
Yet common sense says a life dedicated to such a task must come with its calorific dangers and now Mary says that indeed it does.