Squeezed Middle: The milestones that passed me by

I knew all along that Moe was beautiful, of course I did. It’s just that a lot of things were obscuring my view.

It’s 10am and I’m snuggled up in the big double bed with Moe. If there is anything better in life than having a little morning nap with a lovely warm, squidgy baby in your arms, I’d like to know what it is. Outside, it is grey and cold but I don’t mind. It makes being here in bed all the nicer.

I open my eyes so I can drink in Moe’s sleeping face. It is the vision of a soul at peace: his eyelids are perfectly still, his forehead smooth. His arms and legs are thrown out wide, like a tiny skydiver. I wish I could sleep like he does. There are a lot of things that adults could learn from babies, if only we didn’t keep insisting it should be the other way around.

The problem is that to learn them you have to be patient and you can’t be distracted. I am very impatient and always distracted. If I don’t start paying attention soon, he won’t be a baby any more and then it will be too late.

Poor Moe. He’s been the calm in the eye of the storm over the past few months. It’s only now I have calmed down a bit that I can see it. Curly and I have been whirling around with our worries about money, life and each other. Larry has been whirling around with his scooter and his Tree Fu Tom martial-arts routines.

And all the while Baby Moe has been quietly, unobtrusively learning how to live in the world. All those milestones that I made a huge song and dance over with Larry – his first solid food, first tooth, first crawl – have slightly passed me by this time around.

Perhaps that’s partly why I enjoy our naps so very much. They are my new guilty pleasure. Larry is now going to nursery every morning, which means that while Moe is asleep I potentially have a whole hour every day in which I do not have to look after any children at all.

I have made many, many plans for that hour. I am going to completely redesign the garden, for a start. Paint the front door. Do a thorough comparison of prices at Ocado, Sainsbury’s and Asda. Oh yes. And, of course, make a start on the novel . . .

Every day as I walk back home after dropping off Larry, I run through my to-do list in my head. By the time I open the front door I am so exhausted from thinking about it that I need a little rest. So, I have a cup of hot chocolate, put on my tracky bottoms and then Moe and I get into bed.

The thing about having been through the Tunnel of Doom is that, once you emerge, everything looks better and brighter than it ever did before. I knew all along that Moe was beautiful, of course I did. It’s just that a lot of things were obscuring my view.

Now he’s here, right in front of me. I reach out and stroke his perfect, plump cheek. His eyelid flickers. I draw my hand back – I don’t want to wake him up. I lean in so close to him that I can feel his wispy baby hair against my lips. “I’m sorry, Moe,” I whisper, so gently it’s almost just a breath. “I’m so sorry, my darling.”

 

Is there anything better than napping with a warm, squidgy baby? Image: Getty

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 07 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The last days of Nelson Mandela

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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