Tuesday, September 23, 2008


A prime example of the women at my church came last Sunday. We are all learning songs for an upcoming children's service (which I can't make because I am racing). All the children, some 50 or so, left the service for practice. Eve, being neither able to sing nor dance not play a musical instrument sat at the front with me and stared in wide-eyed amazement at what was happening before her, as did I but for quite different reasons.

The practice was led by what I can only describe as supermom on speed. She was heavily pregnant and wearing a floaty outfit and dangly earrings befitting of someone in a commune in the 1970s. She had a constant smile, knew all the children by name (I have never seen her in church before so goodness knows how), and was a perky, happy, smiley bundle of energy singing "Father Abraham had many sons" at the top of her voice with gay abandon. I can't quite pinpoint why I found her so scary, maybe it was the sheer American perkiness of her, or that I couldn't understand why anyone that heavily pregnant was jumping up and down so much. But she was, quite simply, frightening.

Every so often I would look around me to wonder whether I was the only one fearing for her sanity, and my safety. However, all the other parents seemed to think this was perfectly normal. When she started to do a mock crucifix impression during one song I almost fled for the door. But, like a good and god fearing parent, I sat there with Eve on my lap, sang the songs, did the actions, and taught Eve to clap.

She was accompanied, as befitting of such a situation, by a man playing an accordion.

God squad

I have always been something of a church goer. I grew up attending a lovely church in London, where we all knew each other and it was a wonderful environment for kids. I graduated through Sunday school, Brownies, Guides, until I ended up one of a merry team who helped during the service serving at the alter. Once my contemperaneous alter boys and girls had all gone to Uni, we would all come back and help at the Christmas midnight mass each year after a trip to the pub!

On a more personal note, religion has played a very strong guiding hand in my life - and religion of the encouraging you to think for yourself variety - and has given me a framework by which I try to live my life. My parents never expected me to follow it, but opened up the experience to me so I could choose for myself.

It has been, therefore, very important to me that Eve should also be welcomed into this community and have the opportunity to experience this for herself. It was very important to me that she be baptised (and has carefully selected godparents too), and that she attends church. Therefore, each Sunday her heathen father goes rowing or to the gym and I take Eve to church.

The church I go to is very much a family church with lots of children. When I first took Eve, M (the vicar) at the end of the notices during the service took a moment to introduce Eve to everyone and welcome her. There are so many children that the Sunday school has three classes divided by age. As well as the church side, this is the only opportunity I get to be around Eve and lots of other children on a regular basis and she loves it. She even has a couple of little friends, both boys who are a few months older and she loves to play with.

However, I am not altogether comfortable at the church. It is becoming, and maybe it was before but without a child I never noticed, a window into the expat wife scene in HK. Most of the women there (with some noticable exceptions of a couple of my pre-baby friends who happen to go) are the traditional expat wives. The de-rigeur number of children is 3 and they don't work.

I have not really managed to make friends. I am viewed with some suspicion for a number of reasons. Firstly, I only have one child, secondly I work, and thirdly I go on my own and usually don't wear my wedding ring so everyone seems to think I am a single mum. I am sure that, over time, I will make friends and Eve enjoys it so that is reason enough to keep going. But I do find myself longing for my church at home.

Sleep, perchance to dream

After 3 nights of controlled crying I am very surprised at the results. Each night (and in writing this I know I am tempting fate) Eve has been gradually less and less vocal, and last night she only woke up for food. Well, she woke up at other points too but has now learnt to settle herself without intervention from us.

When she does wake up for food, it is very obvious as there is immediate shouting. The other night, when I left to go to the bathroom before feeding her she screamed the place down. It went like this:

Mummy, I am awake and I am hungry...Hello Mummy, nice to see you, I am hungry...Hold on, my food is leaving the room. Come back!...Oi, I am here. Come back I WANT FOOD(the Boy stumbles to the cot to soothe her)...Get the hell off me and do something useful and go and get my food provider back here

My little daughter. Knows what she wants and how to get it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Controlled crying #2

It is 3pm. It is Eve's nap time. She has had some milk and should be asleep. She is crying.

She never cries when she goes down for her afternoon nap. I can't help feeling this may have something to do with the whole controlled crying thing last night. And feel horribly guilty for it. Resolve is so easily shaken.

Happiness in black

Last week I went to a local outlet shop and bought myself some lovely black Armani trousers. They fit like a glove, I feel thin and sexy and happy wearing them.

It's amazing how much a pair of good fitting designer trousers make you happy when you have spent a year looking and feeling like a walrus.

Controlled crying

After a very tough week at work (it's not been a good week to be a banker) my tolerance of Eve's night waking has reached its limits. After the rather nice, but never to be repeated, middle of the night drive on Monday I have decided to take matters in hand.

After scouring the internet and baby books for ideas, the Boy and I have come across something called controlled crying. The theory is thus. A baby needs to learn to settle themselves to sleep. If they won't sleep, and it is time for them to sleep, let them cry for 5 minutes and then go back to settle them. Then increase the interval between going to settle them by 5 minutes each time. They will eventually go to sleep.

From what I can see from the internet, controlled crying is a bit like Gina Ford and breastfeeding - you either love it or hate it. As many studies as you can find saying it is horrific and will emotionally scar your child, there are as many saying that it increases independence and fosters good sleep habits for later life. As with anything to do with your child, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't, or do, or don't...

At 4am last night the Boy and I were not at our most rational. We were both incredibly tired, had not had a great evening involving that sort of intra-couple sniping that extreme exhaustion and stress tends to bring. So, this time when Eve would not go to sleep, we ignored her. I don't quite know how we made the decision to do this, only that as I looked at the Boy and said "If we start this we have to be consistent, it could take a couple of weeks" and he nodded in the darkness we both decided to give it a whirl.

Within half an hour Eve was asleep.

However, this half hour was horribly hard. The Boy put in ear plugs, I tried to muffle the crying by covering my head with the pillow. We held hands at one point and I wanted to cry. It was horrible. I felt like such a nasty, evil mother.

But, it worked. I am not counting my chickens and expect a return to the 2 hour wail of Monday, but I at least feel we are now heading down a path and at the end of it might be a whole nights sleep.

Road trip

Eve seems to have a constant snuffle at the moment. I am not sure whether it is a cold, the pollution, teething, or all three but she is not a happy bunny. As with all snuffles it gets worse at night, just when she needs to be able to suck her thumb or suck my boob. Therefore, nights have become a bit tougher (not that she slept very well anyway!).

On Monday, after two hours of sustained screaming I did something I always thought I wouldn't, I put Eve into the car to drive her to sleep. She was so desperately tired, but couldn't sleep, and had reached such a state of hysterics that we couldn't calm her down. I just needed something to tip her over the edge into sleep.

So at 1am, bleary eyed (her and me), we popped into the car and I circumnavigated Hong Kong island. Eve fell asleep after about 15 minutes, and I got to see HK when it is at is most beautiful. Quiet, unlit, and barely anything on the road.

After an hour we were back, I fed Eve, and she slept happily through until the morning.

I don't want to do it again, and I was a zombie at work the next day, but it was a lovely time to see the city I now call home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Secrets and lies

I had lunch today with some of my mummy friends and their babes. We've not managed to meet up for a month or so, all of us having been hit by summer travel. It is lovely to see how the little ones have changed, and particularly their very distinct characters. Eve is by far the most active, attention seeking, and talkative of the bunch. And the most stroppy when she doesn't get what she wants.

As a group we have not succumbed to the competitive mother syndrome lots of people do. We all have very different backgrounds and circumstances, and the two things that tie us are that we all have babies about the same age and that we all went back to work. In fact, quite the opposite, we have been hugely supportive of each other and very accepting of different ways of doing things.

Having not seen each other for ages, today we caught up and to start with all was wonderful and positive. But after a glass of wine a few little secrets came out. J still has to rock her babe to sleep each night and now he is 9kg she wishes she could stop. D, who has the most laid back and happy little boy I know, can't get him interested in food most mealtimes so caves in and gives him puddings, which he loves. At each secret revealed we all nodded sagely, offered advice (which has in almost all instances already been tried anyway) and then smiled and took another glug of the wine.

And my secret? Eve doesn't sleep. She is a dreadful sleeper and is still fed at least once over night (we have tried so many times to drop it but she is a glutton), and often ends up cuddled up next to me in our bed.

The iron lady

I once read that Maggie Thatcher only needed 4 hours of sleep a night. This she seems to have in common with my daughter at the moment who would rather stand up, crawl, chat, cry, or simply demand mummy cuddles rather than sleep.

I rather hope this is the only thing they have in common.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Keep on running

Today I went for a run. This is the first time since the speed waddle for the Macau race that I have been running.

I probably didn't pick the best time. 5pm, on a searingly hot summer day, and down and up a rather steep hill. I didn't go very far, or fast. But, for 30 minutes in the evening sun I plodded one foot in front of the other, my favourite running music blaring into my ears, and realised that this was the last hurdle. I am now doing everything I did pre-baby. It only took 8 months, but I am really proud, if a little achey, tonight.

Stand up and be counted

No sooner has Eve perfected the art of crawling, which she does all the time, at speed, than she is moving onto the next development and is showing more and more interest in walking. This is good, ultimately if we want our daughter to win a gold medal at tennis/athletics/rowing/swimming/cycling (delete as required) then we need her to master the fundamental skill of upright walking as soon as possible. However, this in-between stage is not quite what I expected.

Scenario 1 - All is quiet chez Yummy Mummy and Eve is happily playing on the floor with her toys, and inching towards an increasingly terrorised cat. Yummy Mummy pops to the loo for no more than 2 minutes to find that Eve has, in this short time, crawled over to the shelf where we have the CDs (which she knows she is not allowed to touch), has pulled herself up to standing and is merrily chewing on a John Lennon CD. So now everything at the height of 1 foot or less, that being roughly Eve's height at the moment, is now under threat of damage.

Scenario 2 - 3am and Eve has woken up. In her pre-standing state she would suck her thumb and pop back to sleep. But now she decides to take the opportunity, as she has nothing else in her diary for this precise moment, to crawl over to the side of her cot, and pull herself up to standing and start gnawing on the side of her cot.

Both these scenarios would be rather cute except they both end in the same way. You can see the thought process as it happens.

"I'm standing up, whey hey, look at me, I am really clever. Wobble. No, I'm OK, still holding on. Wow the world looks good from up here. Wobble. Clever me, I've got that wobble thing sorted out now. Yipeee. OK, what now? I need to sit down again. Shit, how do I do that? Um, oh dear. Hello? Anyone there? Mummy? MUMMY? MUMMY HELP ME!!!"

So I get up, bleary eyed, or with my skirt round my ankles and grab my clever little girl and pop her back onto her bottom. At which point the whole things starts again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's a rich man's world

Every year I take an intern over the summer, sometimes two. As part of our client relationship building effort this is always a child or other relative of one of our biggest clients. This gives me a rare insight into what children with huge amounts of money are really like and, on the whole, it has been a lovely experience. E, my first intern, had a very strict allowance from her parents and despite being at Uni in the US didn't have a car because she couldn't afford one. Her parents wanted her to get real work experience and she would do anything we gave her. She even came back for more, and the following year I found her a place at the Boys company. So lovely was she that the Christmas after her internship she came along with lots of my colleagues for a big meal on Christmas Eve at our place.

My other interns have all also been lovely. Humble, willing to do anything, and grateful for the opportunity to work in a real environment. Most will go to work in the family business and so this will be the only entry-level job they ever do and it is a valuable experience (as much as anything else they learn the critical lesson that if you want to get anything done then you are super nice to the secretaries).

My intern this year, J, has been very different. Whenever he has wanted to do anything in life his Daddy's money has paid for it. He learnt to tango in Argentina, he has done taster courses in Philosophy and Psychology at the best schools (he is doing his proper degree at one of the UK's best universities). He is widely read.

However, while he happily throws out concepts and labels, he has little or no idea of what practically they mean because he has never lived in the real world. Anything he has wanted has come to him very easily.

Which resulted, when I took him through his projects for the next 4 weeks in him turning his nose up at one as "not sufficiently stimulating". This was like a red rag to a bull to Yummy Mummy and did not start things off on a good foot. I asked him whether he wanted to do a real job, that contributed to the business or just get a name on his CV. He rather sheepishly said the former.

The sad thing is that he is a nice guy. He is funny, is open to interesting debates, and happy to be challenged. He is very clever and is genuinely interested in new ideas and theories he has not heard of. I am happily pointing out the reality of a working environment, making him do things, challenging his assumptions and generally treating him like I would a new graduate. However, he can't get over the bullshit that comes from everyone in his life pandering to him since he was born.

As one of my colleagues said after a lunch with him, I am glad I am not rich if that is what happens to your children.