What A-list really means…

… or what I did on my holidays.

       

We’re just back from 5 nights away in Dorset.  Sunshine, warm enough to spend a day on the beach… this holiday had all the sort of things you want for good memories to look back on and say “do you remember when we…?”

A couple of years back, we decided that we didn’t want to fly with our tiny bundle of a son, plus we wanted to keep costs down and not have an enormous carbon footprint and investigated child-friendly hotels in the UK.  There’s a whole load of them,mostly quite expensive, so we guessed that we were not the only people thinking this way. 
Our first outing was to the Bedruthan Steps hotel, halfway between Padstow and Newquay in Cornwall, and we thought about going back there this year.  But the Bedruthan Steps was one of two hotels mentioned frequently by the Wandsworth yummy mummies that I used to meet – the other, Moonfleet Manor was more expensive and more exclusive.  Now, I’m not sure whether the Bedruthan Steps prices have increased or whether Moonfleet has become more competitive, but this year the prices were much of a muchness. And Dorset is much less of a drive than Cornwall, so Moonfleet it was.

We followed the (loathed by my husband) sat nav’s directions, stopped to read the sign at the campsite that informed us that the road the sat nav tries to send you up no longer exists and followed the alternative directions to Fleet, the road twisting and turning down towards the coast until finally, just when you don’t think it can possibly be the right way, the roofline of the manor house appears.
The plastic slide and play equipment in the field next to the main gateway (part of the excellent creche) gives away that this is not going to be just any luxury hotel break…

There’s a difference style between the Bedruthan Steps and Moonfleet – Bedruthan is 1970s purpose-built and so lends itself to very modern decor, while the original bits of Moonfleet are from the 16th century and the decor old wood and colonial-influenced.  Some people have posted on websites that it is a bit tatty, but faded grandeur is a look in itself and fits the feel of the place perfectly.  The things you want to be perfect, are – bedlinen is crisp cotton, towels soft and fluffy.   
The communal spaces have a lot of things on the walls (including a tiger skin and a polar bear’s head which my son thought was the best thing ever…), there are lots of sagging but comfy sofas, and good but old Persian rugs.

You are greeted at the door by Snoopy the spaniel – I’m not really a dog person but this one is adorable and led us through the entrance hall to the chi Lions guarding reception.  We had a nice surprise on arrival – it was a quiet week and we’d been upgraded from the cheapest room to a junior suite.  That meant my toddler could have his own room, which was good for all of us 🙂 

The restaurant is largely locally sourced and caters for big breakfasts with some of the nicest sausages we’ve ever had, cream teas in the afternoon, and Anglo-French evening dining.  For the kids, there is a charge for breakfast, an afternoon tea with real food (served in the Veranda room, which takes some finding), or family dining before 7.30pm (with a minimum cover charge that was way above what my toddler could manage).

There was another surprise as we went for the first of our delicious dinners that night.  
A real A-list couple amongst the fellow guests dining there. In keeping with the discreet nature of Moonfleet, my own Sensibility and the clear Sense that autograph hunting would just not be the cool thing to do, I’m not Actually going to tell you directly who they were, but let’s just say it all seemed perfectly normal and not at all Stranger Than Fiction.  Oh, ok, an actress that we all Love and her actor husband.  My husband noted that they spoke to the (predominantly but not exclusively) French staff in French – we weren’t entirely clear why…

There was another actress there too, but as she was (according to my mother in law) from Corination Street which I don’t watch I didn’t have the faintest idea who she was and she was just another mum…
And on our fourth day we were asked if we could avoid going through the lounge for a couple of hours “for the filming”.  Filming what, I asked.  “His new album’s all about Moonfleet!” I was told, but although I’d seen yet another vaguely familiar person the night before, I didn’t twig who “He” was.

But back to normality for a moment (persumably what those celebrities were there for too). 
Moonfleet has a sports centre (which we didn’t know and were therefore unprepared for in terms of tennis footwear), a lovely series of child and adult swimming pools plus a sauna, a big trampoline on the lawn and any number of things like petanque and croquet sets that can be borrowed. We had a really great time in the pool with my son – given his recurring illness early on and my husband’s busyness we’ve somewhat neglected the weekly swimming that we’d intended to do – so we were very pleased to have a few inches of water to teach him to splash and float and get a bit water confident.
 
My son adored the OFSTED-registered creche – staffed some of the time, with each child allowed two hours supervised play time and craft activities, but also open longer so parents can be there while the kids explore the huge variety of toys, costumes etc.  Stew the rabbit was also popular for cuddles.
For smaller visitors, there’s a bottle-washing service, you can borrow a fridge, nappy bucket and a steriliser, and there’s a choice of cots or beds.  You can also borrow a mesh bed side thing if you use one to stop your child rolling onto the floor, so we needn’t have taken ours.  There’s babylistening too, so you can have dinner in peace in the restaurant, or drinks on the terrace or coffee in the lounge.

Aided by the better-than-expected weather, we spent a lovely day on a secluded beach in Portland, had fun on the farm at Lulworth castle, stroked starfish at the Sealife centre (they feel a bit like a fruit pastille but you can’t beat the little girl who said “they feel like Mummy’s legs when Daddy’s off on business”!), wandered the streets and the quayside at Weymouth and played peekaboo with the gibbon family at Monkey World in Wool. 
Oh, and Moonfleet’s on the Fleet and Chesil beach. 

Lovely. Relaxing. Fantastic fun. 
Forget clubbing in Aiya Napa and spending a fortune shopping in Dubai and whatever else you see Jordan do.  It seems to lack class.
Forget hiring Necker Island from Richard Branson or a fortnight at the One and Only Le Touessrok unless you’ve made your millions and need a personal butler.  I’ll bet even the Beckhams get bored with that.

Ok so they got the dessert order a bit wrong one evening, and we felt just a little patronised one breakfast when someone who had not seen us the previous two mornings and who did not want the guests to just pick a suitable table explained to us in suitable for idiot terms that we should wait to be seated (he was better the next time we saw him). 

But the welcoming, discreet, unostentatious, calm atmosphere where the needs of small children and tired adults are dealt with warmly and efficiently, where everyone is treated as special and given their space.  Now that’s what an A-list holiday really means.

The new Margaret Thatcher?

Watching the news tonight, this occurred…
One EU leader was nakedly pursuing their national interest at the press conference today.  And that leader is increasingly reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher demanding her money back.

But that leader is not David Cameron.

Cameron’s speech, however unpalatable to his host, was actually very pragmatic and sensible.
Consider an analogy put to me today. 
Say I have some friends who like skydiving.  They invite me to join in, but I decline.   And then one of them breaks her leg having jumped out that aeroplane.  Should I then have to pick up her healthcare bills, and agree to change the terms of everyone’s holiday insurance policies to do so?
 
In any case, Treaty amendment can surely not be the most popular proposal that could be made just at the moment. 
The Lisbon Treaty may not have been perfect.  Like all Treaties, now it has been ratified it needs a bit of bedding down, a bit of implementing to see how that carefully compromised document actually works in practice.
After the Convention on the Future of Europe was first convened in February 2002, it took 7 long painful years to finally get a Treaty that could be ratified by all. 
Surely the last thing anyone is likely to want is to have to reopen that process so soon? 
And you don’t have to be that interested in politics to realise that the leader of a new type of British government, a coalition only weeks in place, with an overall Eurosceptic party behind him is highly unlikely to want to risk the whole thing falling apart over Europe. 
Talking about a veto plays to Cameron’s domestic audience, true, but what he said in essence may well turn out to be what others are thinking too if they’ve been through the Treaty-making process.

As for Merckel taking a role like Thatcher, well, she does seem to be asserting an increasingly nationalistic agenda, acting unilaterally on issues that have repercussions for not just the Eurozone but the whole EU – for example the banning of shortselling yesterday.
(And the consquences of that announcement impacted more widely than that, hitting the US stock markets). 
In times past, to make a big statement like “to save the Euro we need Treaty change”, you used to get the French and German leaders together, speaking as if they were truly the heart of the EU – the Franco-German motor powering the project. 
Not this time.
Merckel was speaking as Germany, as the piggybank of Europe. 
And going it alone is very Thatcher indeed.

Is there any likelihood that Germany might actually get that chance for Treaty change?
Well according to the press, there’s already a miniature IGC planned for June (without a Convention) to sort out the European Parliament which has a bit of a mess over voting. 
If a Treaty amendment were to be opened for “economic government” arrangements, that would presumably be the window? 
But it’s not that simple.  Change like that would mean prices would be extracted, whether CAP reform, power repatriation, a single seat for the European Parliament at Brussels… and that’s several years of negotiation, let alone vetoes and referendums.   

It may of course be the case that enough can be done without Treaty change. 
But proposals for “economic government” are likely to be contentious even if Treaty change was not a factor.  Even the spring European Council steered clear of that language, instead using “economic governance” to bee clear this is not supranational government that is under discussion. 

PS kudos to Christine LaGuarde for co-opting the phrase “we’re all in this together” in making her point to the BBC this evening.  After the seemingly far more cordiale visit to Paris yesterday, she’s talking to the British government in its own language.  Very neat.

Getting creative…

It’s been a few years, but I want to start writing again.

I’ve finished the qualification I’ve been doing (Assoc CIPD with merit, thanks) and that gives me time on my hands. Well, ok, time that doesn’t involve potty training, new Ministers or a hoover (those three are almost never at the same time, I should point out).

I’ve had a story or two on the go for a while – the Day of the Lemming, a comedy spy novel I was writing jointly with a friend, and Oren and the Art of Onanism, which I’ve posted over at Authonomy.  The latter had some interesting reviews, and just for a little while it was number 2 in the religious books category.

Writing is part of who I am.  I wouldn’t blog otherwise.
A few years back I did a creative writing course – it was a few hours on a few Friday afternoons at the ICA in London.  The tutor was Greg Mosse and we talked about the book his wife Kate was writing set in Carcassonne.  That book was Labyrinth, the post-Da Vinci Code boom novel which was adopted by Richard and Judy’s book club and sold millions.  I guess it’s unlikely they’re still running those courses now…

Plus I work part-time and have a toddler, so getting the free time to attend is just not easy to come by.  So when I discovered Tim, the excellent @dotterel on Twitter and author of the Bringing Up Charlie blog was running an online creative writing course, I figured this might be a good way of getting back into the habit of fiction writing.  

I’m looking forward to critiquing and getting critiques from my writing partners, and hope that I can be fair and honest and that they will be too.

So let’s get writing!

Churchquest 2010…

Well, we’ve been here long enough and done enough unpacking that we can’t avoid it any longer…  we need to find a church.
There’s probably a lot of people that think – why bother?  Surely if you’ve done without one this long you’ve found there are plenty of other things you can do on a Sunday morning?
The truth is that both my husband and I are better people when we are going to church regularly.
We’re nicer to each other, which makes for a happier house, and we think more about other people in the comunity and beyond.
So we’ve started to try to find a church that we’ll like as much as St Mark’s Battersea.

The problem is that St Mark’s is a really amazing church.
It’s big, for a start.  It’s an urban church to which people are willing to travel.
It works in the community (running a kind of half-way house for young offenders, running Alpha at Wandsworth prison…) and people that are helped by the church often join the congregation.  The morning service that we used to go to was so popular that they actually had to split it in two, and even then there are enough children attending that the groups could be split by school year. The music – incorporating both band and organ – was  uplifting, and while primarily Graham Kendrick/ New Wine/ GreenBelt worship type songs, has more traditional hymns mixed in too.  The sermons were based on the reading of the day, really explaining the gospel helping you to go away are really read the bible for all its worth.

Ashford, for the size of its population has a phenomenal number of churches (something at work here, perhaps?), so there’s plenty of options to try.

There are a few things which influence the church we’re going to go to:
1)  we need the church to be a member of the Churches Together in Ashford partnership (this is important for primary school places);
2) we want it to be within about 15 minutes of home (means we get integrated into the local community, actions undertaken by the church for the community should be taking place where we can actually see the results, increases our chances of making friends in the local area, also means my husband can stay in bed later on a Sunday morning);
3) we’re looking for a service as similar to St Mark’s (and indeed my previous churches The Bible Talks at Christchurch Mayfair and Holy Trinity Brussels): liberal evangelical, encouraging thought, questioning, Bible-based preaching, catchy music…
4) we’re looking for a welcoming, friendly, mixed age service, with good children’s groups;
5) I’m looking for a homegroup that is on a day I can attend and where my son is also welcome… or where I have the possibility of setting one up that runs like that…

Two further thoughts.
Firstly , we heard this morning (more of which in a seperate post) that churches preaching to unbelievers need really good sermons, and churches preaching to believers need really good prayers.  My problem is that I still need both, not because I’m an unbeliever, but because I still pray for help with my unbelief…
Secondly, CS Lewis in the Screwtape letters and in setting out the fundamentals of Mere Christianity really goes to town on the idea that you should go to the nearest church of whatever domination and congregation, and not seek a church full of people like you.
Well, possibly. But it’s easier to get my husband to come to church at all when he feels like he belongs.

So off we go on Churchquest 2010.  I’ll keep you posted…

10 random things about #myEurope

9 May is Europe Day.  No one in the UK is really likely to know or care, so (as part of the bloggingportal #myeurope blogging carnival) I want to take a few short minutes to celebrate some of the things that I love in and around Europe…

1) Europe is my continent, the place where no matter what the language spoken in the place I visit, however different it is from home in terms of weather and building style, there a sense of familiarity (working out which bit of Bratislava I’d want to live in, where I’d set up my B&B in France, whether I could take that job in Brussels etc. etc.) and a sense of interconnectedness between my history and those of the people living in the other countries near mine.  And yes I am aware that the common history is largely that of fighting each other in different combinations… so my Europe is partly about preventing future conflicts.

2) Oh wow, European food.  Yummy things.  Including but not exclusively sachertorte, Belgian chocolates, pastichio, bacon, queso de membrillo, French cheese (all of it), feta, beer, goulash, Parma ham, battered courgette flowers, crayfish, clafoutis/financier, asparagus, curries, British Beef with yorkshire pudding… I defy anyone to live in Belgium for 3 years without gaining what British diplomats call “the Brussels stone”.

3)  There’s something beautiful about countries choosing to work together for a common future, not something being imposed by an outside force.  Forgiving what has happened in the past, but not forgetting, and trying not to allow the memories that need to respected become a quest for future vengence. 
For example, Riga has an amazing museum of occupation, heartbreaking when you see the things that you have read about a thousand times that happened all across Europe and witness by those not even two generations before my own.   

4)  My B&B?  It’s a little near-retirement dream.  But I love that if I want to set up business anywhere I want to, I can.

5)  Such amazing diversity.   Not just of peoples, languages, cultural traits, but look at the geography!  From tundra and mountains to reclaimed land, lush green fields and pastures, to biblical dusty paths and scratchy bushes, coastlines, rivers and marshes, annual snow and wrong-sort-of-snow…  Flora, fauna…


 

6)  I gain a whole extra level of identity.  I feel like a kid writing my address on an envelope my house, my road, my town, my county, my country, my continent, my world, my solar system, my universe…  Being European doesn’t detract from me being British, or Kentish, or Ashfordian, it adds to it.  I’m one of nearly half a billion.  And that matters.  In a world where climate change deals are struck by the USA, India, China, South Africa and Brazil, being at the table counts, and you don’t get to be there if you’re not big. 

7)  I hardly dare mention it, but I’m going to.  If I want to buy strawberry jam in the shop down the road that was made in Spain, I know that the contents will be as safe for my child as strawberry jam that was made in East Sussex and will be lovely and fruity rather than filled with sawdust or plums-with-strawberry-flavouring.  It has to be, or they’re not allowed to sell it here.

8)  I love that it’s so easy to travel around Europe, crossing borders without tedious queuing and visas, fulfilling the quote attributed to Ernest Bevin “my policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!

9)  Despite living on an island, I grew up living closer to Calais than to London, and could see France from the beach nearest to my house… and had a friend who lived on the other coast who could see that beach from hers!

 

10)  I have posted 10 random things in a random order, some triggered by the one in front, others completely disjointed.  If I was writing this list in French in the 1960s, this would be known as a stream of consciousness list!  How fantastic would that be? Tres Marguerite Duras. And that itself brings back the memory of reading L’Amant for A-level French. Not my finest hour!


P.S. Write on My Europe Week, or link a post on your own blog, in the language of your choice. Twitter away under #MyEurope and #EuropeDay. Share your Europe.

They also serve… but don’t count?

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s blog is dedicated to those who cannot make a difference to the general election today.

I’m not talking about people that did not register (their fault). 
Nor those who choose not to use the vote that others fought and died for them to have (and this debt is particularly great for women – yes, I would have been a suffragette). 
I’m not even talking about those in safe seats (after all, if enough votes are there percentage-wise nationally then it should be impossible to claim a mandate that ignores popular support for voting reform). 
And I’m not going to write more than this sentence about the scandal of our service personnel overseas who accidentally found themselves disenfranchised while on active service.

Today’s post does concern people who are effectively serving the interests of their country, but who are also exercising their rights as citizens of this country.  Today there are thousands of British people abroad, in other Member States of the European Union, who, because they have been abroad for more than 5 years have lost their right to vote in UK general elections.

The official explanation is that after 5 years – and it used to be 10 years – they are not sufficiently connected to the situation in this country.  And if they are so attached to living elsewhere, they can always apply to be citizens of the country where they are resident instead.

I can see that there might be something in this argument if you have, say, moved your entire family from Luton to a small village in Pakistan (although there are of course villages there where you can spend pounds). To move back to the EU for a moment, I can see that this might apply if you are living it up in the Costa del wossit, speaking English loudly at the locals and reading the Daily Mail.

But if you are a Brit directly employed by the EU institutions, the idea that you are that disconnected is… just weird.
Don’t get me wrong – on my return from Brussels I seriously considered (for about 5 minutes) a mini-memoir on recovering from expat life to be called “saying merci to London bus drivers”.
But living in Brussels, I was still intimately connected to the UK.  I not only travelled home for work, and for family, I watched the BBC (proper British BBC channels, not BBC World and BBC Prime), listened to Radio 4 in the mornings, shopped at H&M and Zara – and some people even had Sky (shh!)
Nothing about my life there made me particularly want to stop being British to become a Belgian national.
But that’s also a very odd suggestion for people who are actually engaged in one level of the UK’s governance (note that’s governance, not government, euroconspiracy theorists), just as if they were a public servant in local government or civil servant. 
The irony is that nationals from other EU countries can actually work in the UK civil service (except the Foreign Office, where they can only really be locally engaged at post).  For them, most of their governments allow them to vote – so they are not disenfranchised by living here.
But while we pride ourselves on being the cradle of democracy it actually seems that our starting point is not being expansive with access to the vote. 
Add to this the vagueries of a First Past the Post and the lack of a written constitution (where, watching Channel 4 news last night it looks as if either Cabinet Office guidance or the visceral right wing press will decide the way in which we get a new Prime Minister in the case of a hung parliament) and you begin to understand why no politician seems to care about those being left out while undertaking a role in public service at one of the UK’s constitutional political levels. 
So many of us don’t understand our political set-up and the potential wider implications of disenfranchising the Brits within it in the EU institutions, which help give it legitimacy (because there are Brits, who know and understand the UK in each of the institutions). 
Ignoring them gives succour to the europhobic idea that such people are somehow in it for themselves or traitors.  And that sort of rubbish denies us our right to see the EU as ours, just as much as it is French, Dutch, Portuguese or Estonian.   

But don’t hold your breath for this to be resolved.  No government can be expected to be motivated to change legislation for just a few thousand people, and the fact that they work in the EU institutions is hardly likely to motivate a great degree of sympathy.  Unless those that would benefit from the re-enfranchisement of the Costa Blanca expats might change it to get that extra support.

If you can vote, I hope you did.  On the Voltaire principle of course.

The modern world is bad for children

Ok that’s it.  What, exactly, are we meant to do, to be doing the right thing?

         

As you can tell by my ever so slightly fed up tone, today there’s yet another report that say that something that parents do all the time is Bad For The Children. Today it’s television that’s in the firing line.

The article I’ve hyperlinked is fairly self-explanatory.  Children getting fat, eating junk food, have worse IQs in the longer run, etc. etc.  All of these things are apparently the long term impacts of toddler-age television viewing.
The professor in charge of the research says:

“Common sense would suggest that television exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks that foster cognitive, behavioural and motor development.”

Ok.  No normal parent wants their child to miss out on important cognitive, behavioural and motor development skills.  So toddler TV’s got to be eliminated, right?  There must be something wrong with it – it’s illegal in France after all.
 
But let’s just think this through for a minute.
I’ve never seen my child watch TV for longer than about 10 minutes at any one time. 
Much as he loves Cbeebies, the TV’s just not that entertaining for that long when there’s building to be done, beds to bounce on, toy cars to drive up walls making vroom noises rather than just the lovely plastic garage, wax crayons and paper and all the card from the recycling bin to build with… and of course mummy to cuddle, to jump on, to play with, to help sort washing, to help find all the red buttons, to chase the frog across the lawn…

As you can gather, it’s not that my toddler lacks interest in the world around him.  That’s just a small sample of what he gets up to when we spend time at home (as opposed to the time in town, time at playgroup etc. etc.)
Nor does he lack the ability to concentrate, in fact he loves reading and often wants to look through books uninterrupted by me,  telling himself stories about the pictures, for a long time.
But even on what are laughably called my non-working days (unpaid work days more like, unless you count the non-means tested child allowance as payment?), I cannot spend 100% of my time as his playmate.  Nor should I – he also needs to play with other children his own age (hence playgroup to make friends), and to learn to entertain himself.
And sometimes, when I really, really need it, TV can be an electronic babysitter (not for long – my toddler has a kitchen stall designed to help him reach the worksurface safely so he tends to try to join in). 
But mostly we watch it together.
Timmy Time and the Tweenies are great for showing hm that it’s not just him that goes to nursery while his parents work, and the Tweenies teaches stories, nursery rhymes and social interaction, while 3rd and Bird stresses the value of a strong community.  Alphablocks and Numberjacks are so good that primary school teachers often use them in their literacy and numeracy lessons. I’ve never been a fan of In the Night Garden, and Waybuloo is a bit hippy trippy for me, but I like the sign language and normalised treatment of children with special educational needs and physical disabilities in Something Special.  Given the reaction of some parents to Ceri‘s employment, this sort of show is very much needed. 
And we don’t just sit and watch TV -we talk about what’s happening, when something similar happened to us…
 
But this is yet another report that tells us that we’re doing long term damage to our kids.
And while frankly I’d vote for the party that can actually bring the recommendations of “Toxic Childhood” into policy (NB it would involve cost, social change, standing up to the Daily Mail and the older feminists for whom equality is about the workplace), the central theme of that book is implying that parents are not up to the job.

There’s a terrible irony that we are so child centred these days, but that it is in a sort of “quality time“, taxi driving to activities way.  Being with the children takes time – for example, when I ask other parents how they handle the change to available nursery hours when their child turns three, they say I don’t know, I had a second one so I’m at home and able to do the school run, or that they are lucky to have grandparents near by etc.  otherwise they couldn’t work. 

But the child-centred approach that parents have is being squeezed. 
For example, some people I know have had their ability to work and raise their family affected by local authorities that can’t allocate the school places in a way that avoids someone having to drive miles between a school drop off and a nursery drop off. 
For others, it’s been that in order to “get on” – i.e. to be in the running for promotion etc., work has to be full-time – and that means 4 or 5 full days a week at nusery for the bambino, something we’re also told by the childhood experts is not good for children (note how short the school day looks to a parent and you’ll see that has been accepted fact for some time).
 
Long parental working hours are not good for anyone – tired workers are less productive, tired parents that don’t see each other suffer strained relationships not least because being a parent is really very hard work, parents working hours don’t get to see their kids and are not on good form when they do.  The right to request flexible working is genuinely a good thing (supported by all 3 main political parties in the UK) and being allowed to work from home sometimes cuts travel time and therefore means that more time can be spent with a child before and after childcare, and reduced hours means sometimes actually being able to do one leg of a school run rather than trying to get one of the rare paid childminders willing to do both before and after school and who ends up seeing more of the child than the parents do.
But many parents seem to fear that flexble working will impact negatively on their careers, so one parent doesn’t do it and the whole set up just gets even more complicated. 
Some compensate by treating the children as princes and princesses – in other words little monsters that are so used to being indulged that they don’t know what no means, and have been treated that way not necessarily becausse parents mistakenly think that this is what being child centred is, but because they are so damn tired all the time! 

France might think it has it right by banning toddler TV, but few women breastfeed there for fear of ruining their figure and if you are a career woman, your contemporaries expect you to return to work after 12 weeks otherwise you are letting down the sisterhood.
But even in the UK where we value choice, we don’t really value mothers that choose to stay at home to raise the kids in the way the childhood experts recommend for the first two years. 
Or if we do, we make it a choice only available to the middle classes who can just about afford to exist on one income, and the very poor who don’t work at all.
And those that work part-time are at risk of everything crashing if they are not circus-quality jugglers.
And those that work full-time are effectively letting someone else bring up their child.
And the tired, stressed out parents probably let the kids watch TV so that they can relax a bit.
Oh. 

So basically, with an economic set up that expects both parents to work, and a soul-selling attitude to work that – no matter what the lovely words in the HR guidance say – sends a mesage that flexible and part-time models are for slackers that don’t want to get on in their careers, and every moment that the child is with the parent needs to be a learning activity but that learning activities include pairing socks as well as structured play… argh! 
Basically the modern world is bad for children. 
I just don’t know what to do, except hope that trying to bring my son up to be happy, secure, friendly, outgoing etc. etc. in the best way I can is enough.  And try not to add yet another thing to the list of things to be tired over and stressed about…

And this?  My toddler took an unexpected nap and I was quick typing it…