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Raising a family without family nearby...

(49 Posts)
wholesomemum Wed 22-Jan-14 09:24:06

I grew up with a terrific large, strong family who all over the course of 20 years dispersed all over the country/world. Pockets of them still exist but tbh my main longing has been too move back to the place of my roots to raise my own family. I am sick of not having roots is the long and short of it. My folks are typical boomers who are not living for rt heir family and who don't neccessarily care as bout belonging to any roots or being around to help with grandchildren. But we have been near them so far. Our plan is tho move back to our roots (where hardly any family now are) and I was wondering how it is done...raising kids with little fas,oily. Our situation must be fairly common, yes?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 22-Jan-14 09:27:30

I not only live far from my home town and family, I've also been a lone parent from DS's birth. You're lucky because you presumably have a partner/husband to share the workload. How I have managed is a combination of having a good circle of supportive friends and also paying childminders & babysitters as necessary,

NCISaddict Wed 22-Jan-14 10:18:14

I never lived near my family and never really thought of it as difficult. I paid babysitters from when they were quite small or swapped with friends.
I did have my parents to stay if I wanted to go away for a weekend with DH but otherwise just got on with it. I never thought it was particularly hard.

Contrarian78 Wed 22-Jan-14 10:20:22

Why not write your own story.

My wife's parents moved a couple of years before we married, so consequently weren't on hand to help with children. We found it tough (my parents helped out but were still working) but we managed. What it did mean though was that we were able to move to another part of the country without feeling we were giving too much up. We've put down roots and are starting a new chapter. I'm not knocking that sense of belonging, but it's perfectly possible to put down new roots elsewhere and build up that network.

My parents have since followed us, so it feels like it's a new settlement. I'd tell your parents the same thing my wife has told hers (also boomers): "It's fine that you want to do your own thing, and it's fine that you've carved out your own life, but please don't think that when you're old and infirm, you're going to turn up on our doorstep"

It sounds cold, but for us, part of the quid pro quo is that parents help you when you need it, and you help them when they need it. My parents have seen the writing on the wall, my wife's parents...........

MasterFlea Wed 22-Jan-14 10:23:33

I emigrated so have none of my family in the country. My DHs family live over 200 miles away. We see his parents once a month and try to take turns doing the traveling.

The dc love the family that they see. My family skype infrequently so the dc don't really know them.

If we really needed help, I'm sure somebody (from his family) would make the trip but we haven't tested it.
We get together for birthdays and holidays. It works for us. We decided to have children so see raising them as our responsibility alone.

millymolls Wed 22-Jan-14 10:24:28

Neither myself nor DH has family close by (our parents are about 3 hours drive), and siblings spread over the country. We feel very settled where we are and i dont feel our children miss out. We visit family regularly and they come to stay with us.
With regard baby sitting and stuff we have bulit a network of friends, and parents of our childrens friends. The only difficult bit really is when one of the children are ill and need to be picked up early from school (we both work FT) and that can be a bit of a juggle as we can't pick up the phone to a family member and ask them to help out.
I consider my roots to be where my immediate family is (DH and DC) and tbh its what you make of it - any place can be home if you make friends, and make an effort to integrate into that community/village/town
What will you achieve by moving back to an area where your family will no longer be? What does that get for you that you can;t have where you are now?

NCISaddict Wed 22-Jan-14 10:25:51

I never made helping my parents in their old age conditional on them helping me with my children. You're right that does sound cold, not pleasant at all.

Rooble Wed 22-Jan-14 10:29:30

Gosh, Contrarian, that does sound quite harsh.... But weirdly I found myself thinking v similar things this weekend. My parents (also boomers) always far too busy to help (usually holidaying) unless booked several months in advance. They mentioned something about being looked after in old age and it nearly made me blow my top. I'm the only child left in the UK, and DH and I between us have 7 parents/step-parents who are expecting support in their dotage and it's just so bloody presumptuous.
Anyway, OP, the way you make it work is by paying babysitters and sharing with friends. It's quite doable.

Rooble Wed 22-Jan-14 10:34:00

NCIS - we've never thought it was conditional either. It's just that when you ask for help and are continuously turned down AND when your DCs really want to see grandparents but you can only schedule a visit months down the line because they're so busy (which is good in many ways), it's fairly galling when they laugh about how you'll look after them in old age. (Frankly, I don't doubt we will).

dotty2 Wed 22-Jan-14 10:38:20

My main advice is not to make yourself resentful by comparing yourself to friends with family nearby. Your situation will be different, and you have to just accept it. I mostly do and then every now and again I let myself get jealous, which does me no good at all. As other people have said, cultivate friends you can swap sitting with and don't be afraid to ask people who might not offer (I was really stumped once for a tea-time appointment that none of my friends with children could do, so I asked an older friend who had never offered but was really happy to do it as a one off).

bigTillyMint Wed 22-Jan-14 10:40:18

We did this. We made lots of lovely friends in the same position as the DC were born and we became each others support network. We and the DC are still close 14+ years on.

We also joined a babysitting circle and on the occasions that DM/PIL visited, they were happy to babysit while we went out. The IL's also have the DC to stay for a few days once a year.

In addition to this, I worked part-time (3 days) for 11 years, and was lucky to land a job (a bit of a career step down, but I love it) nearby so ensuring that I could be on hand if there was a problem with the DC.

Twinkle1984 Wed 22-Jan-14 10:40:36

IMO it is undoubtedly easier to raise a family with other family closeby. It is entirely manageable to do it by yourself but unless you have an unlimited supply of friends who like to babysit, it will be fairly expensive using sitters. My SIL has both sets of parents closeby and this enables her to have a FT job as the GPs so the child minding before and after school. If I went back to work I'd need a nanny which would cost about 35k I believe. A night out to the cinema and a bite to eat ends up costing us 100 as the babysitter is 8 per hour! We hardly ever go out.

Ragwort Wed 22-Jan-14 10:47:55

We never had family or even close friends nearby when we had our child - we had moved across the country just six months before he arrived. But I didn't find it hard to make lovely new friends - in many ways because I had to - I couldn't rely on family or existing friends so I did all the usual things like getting involved in the local community, joining clubs etc etc and made a great new circle of friends.

Of course it is possible - just approach it with a positive attitude. smile

I used to do a bit of 'babysitting & childminding' swaps with other parents so that kept the cost down.

bigTillyMint Wed 22-Jan-14 10:48:08

My DC went to nursery 8-6 (or a bit less) 3 days a week , then breakfast club/afterschool club 3 days a week. It didn't cost a fortune.

Chocotrekkie Wed 22-Jan-14 10:48:14

We have no family close. I've been in hospital for the past 3 weeks (emergency) and its been tough. My mum is 150 miles away and made a half hearted offer to come down (she didn't).
Fil offered to come down and would have in a second but his wife is pretty unwell herself but they would have come but not been a lot of use tbh.

My oh luckily works for a fab company - he was able to work from home when the dc's were still off school. He could also start late (after school run) without putting it through the timesheeets.

Another thing is friends. One good way is offering help. So when you meet a mum at play group/ wherever and they are struggling offer to have their little one for an hour while they catch up on sleep/housework/hair cut etc. Chances are they won't accept but things like this bond people.

We have a few people who have been fantastic the past few weeks. I will make them a cake (when I can get off the sofa) and I will have their kids when I am up to it.

My mum on the other hand calls every couple of days to tell me about my nieces cold/chest infection. Barely asks about how I am never mind the fact I could have died twice. If we had been living closer she might have helped if it fitted around her favourite grandchildren.

alarkthatcouldpray Wed 22-Jan-14 10:48:59

What twinkle and dotty said.

Although I wish my DPs were closer today - I am going to be doing a school run later with a vomiting miserable febrile toddler. Psyching myself up for scrubbing out the car/car seat/seatbelts again. <sigh>

I didn't have any family close by when my kids were little, and XDH didn't have much in the way of family at all. Mum came to stay for a few weeks a year and was brilliant but we didn't have anyone 'on tap'. It was fine, we managed.

Now I've settled down in a lovely town and have become part of the community. If I need help in a hurry I've got friends to call on, and we also have two pubs we are regulars at, and get involved in local events and charities.

And for Contrarian: my parents brought me up, educated me and taught me the important stuff like how to be responsible and independent and happy. If they want help in their old age they will be getting it from me.

crescentmoon Wed 22-Jan-14 11:15:15

there was a study last year that found women who lived near their mothers also were more likely to have children, excuse daily heil link. certainly in my case i would have had more children and a big family if i lived near my family, but because im so far away from any of them, i decided i couldnt go for that on our own.

PottedPlant Wed 22-Jan-14 15:05:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wholesomemum Thu 23-Jan-14 09:08:49

Thanks everyone. It's interesting that many of you are having the same experience especially with Boomers. Did any of you see the film Away We Go with Maya Rudolph in it? It's a B movie if I'm honest but it depicts exactly this predicament. Maya Rudolph's Pkarents area dead. Her Hubby's parents are typical Boomers so seven they announce they're pregnant his folks go, "That's nice honey! We're off on a two year cruise! See you in a coupla years!" So they decide to go on a trip all over the US to visit other young families theory know to figure out how to raise their kid. There is a great small role for Maggie Gyllenhaal who is the most ridiculous version of a Contact funny. Then...well, sorry to spoil it but in the end they have a fight and end up outside asleep on one of those trampolines that every family seems to have now...they wake up in thge middle of the night and realise all they need is the common sense and the love they have foir each other. Then they drive to where Maya grew up and it's uninhabited...a bit run down but thge perfect family home. And you're left knowing thery're going to live there. It really made me cry when I first watched it as for me being part of this rootless generation has been stressful, especially given the context I grew up in which was practically like being a Kardashian...albeit slightly more I realised I don't have tho change my original upbringing plans...I can go back to my roots and raise my kids in the friendly Northern community that I love and understand. It's a closer drive to thge major pockets of my FAM (except Boomer parents who are evasive if best about any plans they have but I know they're planning on being miles from mine sand all my sibs growing families) I have just decided to get on with living my values minus the Boom factor. And yes tho agree with some oif you...they reckon they are rich enough not tho need me to care for them in old age but you can bet the polish nurses won't look half as cushdy as their darling daughter in as room not full of people verging on dimensia will be far more appealing and a plusher option in the end. And they wouldn't be Boomers if they didn't take the best of everything now, would they? I just try remind myself that I love them and that someone else has got to be the as adults now. The mess they've left us with speaks four itself, doesn't it?!

susiefen Thu 23-Jan-14 10:34:44

Maybe it would be better to have the conversation about what help you can expect from your parents before you have the children, so that you know the score and don't resent it further down the line. I'm not sure you can automatically expect the help and it will get more difficult as people have to work until they are much older, meaning that there won't be the same number of GPs who are retired and able to offer support.
It's sad that people see it as a quid pro quo - your parents could argue they have done their bit in bringing you up already - but besides that, your relationship and support you take/give from/to your parents ideally is unconditional

Echocave Thu 23-Jan-14 12:27:32

I think you have to accept that if there are daily ups and downs eg illness, work problems etc, you will have to pay for cover/help from babysitters, after school nanny etc. this can be tricky at short notice and you have to be very organised. My mother died before I had children, my father lives nearby but children are still very young and he is hopeless with young kids (won't change nappies, is not necessarily aware of danger because he doesn't understand what children are capable of understanding) and dh's family live a long way away. My kids aren't even at the tricky school pick ups stage yet and we already have to be organised (and tbh, budget accordingly).

NCISaddict Thu 23-Jan-14 12:54:51

I think people are going to have to be prepared to care for their children themselves or pay for help with the increasing trend for people to have their families later in life. By the time a couple of generations have done this, grandparents will be too elderly to be reasonably expected to provide childcare.
Perhaps that was why I had little expectation of round the clock help, my parents were in their 40's when they had me and were in their 70's when I had children. It never crossed my mind to be upset they didn't live nearby or, god forbid, had social lives of their own.
Plus on reading the criticisms people make on here about the interactions between grandparents and children I'm not surprised many don't want to babysit. I would imagine they're terrified of getting things wrong.

THERhubarb Thu 23-Jan-14 13:09:02

Well in my experience, raising a family without the support of your own family is pretty tough.

I have no-one nearby I can call on for a cuppa and a chat.
If I'm working and the kids are off, it's a nightmare to sort out childcare.
I have to do all the appointments (dentist, orthodontist, doctors, etc) as dh works long hours.
If I have an appointment and the kids are off, I have to take them with me.
I can never be late for the school run as there is no-one else to collect them for me.
The children don't have aunts, uncles or cousins to visit.
Dh and I hardly get any time together as paid babysitters are expensive.

We live 200 miles from family. Yes I have one good friend here who will help when she can, but she has 4 children of her own and 2 of them are pre-schoolers.

It's the little things I miss, like when the school invites grandparents in and mine don't have anyone.
Or when they come home saying that their friends always have family around and why can't ours come.
I know the children have missed not having their grandparents around and to be honest, I miss not having a mum.

I don't have any contact with my mother, one sister and one brother at all, so I can't even tell my mum how they are doing at school. To be fair she wouldn't be interested and I would never have let her look after them because I don't trust my stepfather.

The kids do have a close relationship with my dh's family and always have a good time there. They are very close to their cousins and it breaks my heart to take them away again. We see them as often as we can but it's always us going to see them and never the other way around.

It's not so much the place you live in you see, that makes the difference but the people. You might have roots in a particular place but if you go back and realise it's all changed and the people you knew have all moved on, then no matter how far back your roots go, you are going to feel isolated and lonely without family and friends around you.

It's not that easy makes new friends. I consider myself quite sociable, easy going and will talk to anyone but most people have made friends during ante-natal classes or pre-school and are already in pre-established groups.

Personally, based on bitter experience, I would advise that you move to where you have family you get on with and friends you can turn to because parenting is bloody difficult and you need all the support you can get.
Trust me, one of my biggest regrets is not moving closer to friends.

CookieDoughKid Thu 23-Jan-14 13:20:25

My friends are more family than family tbh. Especially on my dh side.

NCISaddict Thu 23-Jan-14 13:21:32

I moved to a place where I knew no one just before I had children, I had to make friends and that doesn't come easily but it is possible.
All appointments were down to me as DH works away so there was a lot of juggling and I'm not saying it's not hard but society is much more physically mobile now so you can't expect to be as close to existing support networks all the time.
I don't expect my DC's to stay close by, it seems that at least two of them will be in another country so I have to be prepared for GC at least one flight away.
Most of the people I met when my DC's were small were in the same boat so I've never been part of this group of parents who have family on the doorstep.
Not really sure what the answer is apart from having no expectations of unpaid help?

Bitofkipper Thu 23-Jan-14 13:34:47

Unless you were in care then surely your parents spent many years looking after you.

Some very entitled and unpleasant views (Contrarian mainly) on here.

ben5 Thu 23-Jan-14 13:35:21

When we lived in the UK both sets of parents found the boys hard work!! As we are a forces family we moved often and the closest we got was to my parents 45-60 min drive away. My mil closest was 3-4 hours away. We now live in Australia and it's great. My roots are here , I'm in my forever home and have great friends on hand to help with the boys .

Helltotheno Thu 23-Jan-14 13:53:35

Realistically I don't know how disinterested GPs can really think adult children are going to prioritise them above all else in their old age, and by disinterested, I mean completely disinterested. Nobody is owed the help of GPs when they have kids but I would expect at least some level of interest when they are available and present. Yes some of the views may be harsh but you do get back what you put in. My PILs are a good example.. trek round the globe (fine), come to us when they're here and expect to be waited on hand and foot for weekends and won't even spend a proper, committed 10 minutes here and there playing with their GC (not fine, because if you're just here to sit on your tush to be entertained, stay in a hotel!). These things do matter imo.

Building supportive relationships in the community is best if you've no family around. It can take a while though. I found I had to weed out the 'tit for tat minding' type parents, who were basically just using me a as a service to get rid of their kids for a while. Now though, we have maybe 5 to 10 people we can call in an emergency who would down tools to help and vice versa. The more you're involved in, the easier it is to get that kind of relationship up and running.

princessalbert Thu 23-Jan-14 13:58:33

Well, just because the parents live close by doesn't mean that they are automatically able to help out with your own DC.

My parents live in the same town - 15/20 mins drive. I can count on one hand the number of times I have requested babysitting (he is now 16).

I was also a LP from him being 2 years old.

What I did do was source good childcare. A nursery and a childminder. Also friends would occasionally help out, but mostly I used the paid childcare.

I was not wealthy at all. But realised that it was easier to pay someone than have to ask someone, who was unwilling to give up their free time.

juneau Thu 23-Jan-14 14:10:36

I'm raising my two DSs with no family at all nearby. My family live a 2+ hour drive away, which is manageable and fine if things can be planned, but no babysitting, and no ad hoc childcare if one of us is ill or something. DH's family live overseas.

How I've coped:
- 'booked' my DM in advance for big things like births or very rare weekends away with my DH. Otherwise I've only ever called her in real a crisis;
- sent both boys to nursery and chosen ones that do emergency childcare as an extra;
- used the boys' key-workers at nursery as babysitters;
- cultivated local mum friends who are in a similar situation so we all can call on each other in a crisis;
- made friends with neighbours;
- joined a gym with a creche;
- made myself familiar with the options for childcare in the holidays re: holiday clubs, activity days, etc.

I also don't work, which helps a lot. I'd find it really hard if I did and would probably need to have an au-pair or a nanny.

THERhubarb Thu 23-Jan-14 14:21:49

I've had to work from home as I'd never get all the time off I've needed to take dd to the orthdontists, ds to the dentist (he broke his front two adult teeth and has temporary caps that keep falling out), school meetings, parent's evening, picking them up when they are ill, taking them to activities, etc.

dh's long hours is a strain and I don't know about expectations but as I said, my mother might have brought me up but I don't know about 'care' and she certainly has no interest in my children. dh's parents would help out a lot more but they live 200 miles away.

Friends make all the difference and unfortunately I haven't been able to make many. It just goes that way sometimes. In our last house I was there for 3 years before I finally started making friends and it was easier then because I went to all the toddler groups, now the kids are older it's harder as you hardly see other parents.

I don't know how other working mums manage it but I do know from what dd tells me, that many either don't work or they have family to call on for help.

Besides, it's not just grandparents, it's aunts, uncles and cousins too.

Damnautocorrect Thu 23-Jan-14 14:40:52

I moved when I was pregnant I have no friends or family locally, it is hard. I won't lie.
But we are a tight little family, we only do things with ds. If he can't go than I don't go. Oh has friends locally but no one to baby sit.
I wanted my child to grow up with cousins, aunties, uncles etc but unfortunately quite the opposite has happened. But it's ok, as a pp said don't compare it does make you very sad.

Contrarian78 Thu 23-Jan-14 14:43:49

bitofakipper I don't think that my view (in this instance) is entitled or unpleasant. Uncomfortable perhaps. Western society has developed in such a way that the sense of community and family structures which did exist have in many instances disintergrated. I feel that the issue is one of fairness and equity.

We are legally obliged to look after our kids. We are not legally obliged to look after our grandkids. Surely you could see that it would be somewhat unfair of a parent to move away from their adult children in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement (thereby perhpas depriving those adult children of useful help) only to move back when they became old an infirm and expected help. How is that an equitable settlement. If the adult children move away...... that's a different story.

jeee Thu 23-Jan-14 14:47:06

We have four children. We have no family nearby. Sometimes it's hard. But you know what? We survive. And at least I can't complain that Mil is always popping round/interfering.

NCISaddict Thu 23-Jan-14 14:48:55

I guess I grew up with no living Grandparents and aunts etc who lived abroad or the other end of the country so I have no history of close family providing childcare.
On the other hand I don't expect my children to stay local and look after me and certainly wouldn't move close to them unless they really wanted me to, and I wanted to move. I've told them they can put me in a home so long as they book a standing order of gin to be delivered!

invicta Thu 23-Jan-14 14:51:24

If you never have family, nearby, then you adapt accordingly. Some people I know are over reliant or family. Eg. Grandparents look after their children from early until late ( and then struggle if gp areunable to look after children for any reason).

I work pt with hours that fit. In with school. Hubby and I take turn taking holidays to look after children ( apart from family holidays). A lot of leisure centres, pre schools etc run holiday clubs etc.

Creamycoolerwithcream Thu 23-Jan-14 14:57:32

My DH and I have never had family live near us. We just got on with it and now one of our sons is grown up we concentrate on helping him and providing a support network. We have an amazing bond, much stronger than I or DH had with our parents. It's a waste a time dwelling on what you don't have or have no control over changing.

My family are 150 miles away and in-laws 200 miles away.

My mum used to come down fairly regularly when the DC were smaller (about every 6 weeks), but it's not the same as having family in local area.

I'm lucky to have developed a strong network of friends, I help them out and I know they will help me out in return. Things like walking the DC to school when you suddenly came down with vomiting bug, picking up from school when you unexpectedly need to work late.

GreenShadow Thu 23-Jan-14 14:59:49

Another one who has never lived near anyone else in either mine or my DHs family.

Having no support network has always just been something we took for granted, so in some ways it never seemed a hardship.
I think because most other young parents that we knew were also incomers to the area, it seemed the norm.

Thinking back on it now (and having read many of the comments above), I do wonder whether my career path would have been different if we had greandparents/siblings on hand to help with child care. As it was I went back part time after DS1, then gave up paid work altogether after DS2.

Meerka Thu 23-Jan-14 16:19:27

Having none of my own family to help out or support, I'be been completely blown away by the level of support for her GC my MIL has provided during some difficult health issues. Took me a while (ok, absolute desperation) to learn how to accept her help, but she's been amazing.

Sometimes you just have to get on with it alone, but having had the revelation of what a supportive family can actually be like; well, OP, yes, if you're used to it, it'll be hard without

But being in a place you feel roots is kind of really important. It'll give you a very good feeling and start and (babysitting type) friends will build up over time smile

motherinferior Thu 23-Jan-14 16:29:34

It would never have occurred to me to have my parents around - they're several hundred miles away - or my sister! Sure, we had to pay for childcare, and I suppose we don't have free babysitting available or people to fall back on in that way - and that must be lovely, as long as you do actually like them - but I really don't recognise this picture of a grim, isolated and unsupported life.

There's lots of another sort of support around, from the school gate, in any case.

bigTillyMint Thu 23-Jan-14 16:40:36

SNAP, MIsmile

MightyMagnificentScarfaceClaw Thu 23-Jan-14 16:56:14

I moved away from family quite deliberately - didn't have a happy upbringing and my mother was uncaring towards me and one sibling, and favoured the other. That said now she is old and infirm I do feel a sense of responsibility, family isn't about quid pro quo for me.

It's hard going without external support, though nowhere near as hard as for single parents. I take my hat off to you Cog - as I so often do! DH and I manage the occasional night out by mutual babysitting for other local parents. We know it will be many years before we get a night away together, but hey ho. The DCs are worth it - for their own sakes not because of what they will give back one day!

Bitofkipper Thu 23-Jan-14 17:42:44

Contrarian most women born a generation or two ago did not work when their children were young and did not expect their parents to provide much childcare. People in general settled down together and had children younger. When this happens, the first taste of freedom occurs later in life and many want to take advantage of that.
I'm pretty sure that most older people don't expect their offspring to care for them in their dotage.
There may unusual circumstances in your family set up to make you see it as a sort of business arrangement but I don't think your views are the norm.

MaddAddam Thu 23-Jan-14 17:56:16

I prefer to have my parents and PILs a long way away. That way, when they don't provide any useful childcare (none of ours were much use on that) it doesn't grate so much.

When I was on maternity leave with my first child, not knowing anyone with children in the area, those of us without local family bonded quite strongly, and we helped each other out with childcare and other support a lot. The lack of family encouraged us to make new friends at that point.

Then we moved a long way and having small children made it easy to make local friends again and we set up mutual childcare arrangements. Children can be such a good way of meeting people. So we've always felt quite amply surrounded by people we can ask for mutual babysitting, friends with children, and it is a lot easier for me emotionally dealing with friends than my problematic family.

Contrarian78 Thu 23-Jan-14 18:04:36

Bitofakipper I don't disagree. However, in our instance, my wife's parents have indicated that they'd like to settle near us in about 10 years. They're in their mid-sixties now!

It's not necessarily my view, but rather our situation (which is far from unique). It actaully goes against the grain for me personally as there is no way I'd want a stranger looking after my parents if i was able to. I know plenty of people of my parents generation who have their parents looked after by state funded carers - despite being capable of doing it themselves. It's not a business arrangement as such.

motherinferior Thu 23-Jan-14 18:06:26

Well, yes, there is that.

It has had its logistical problems - the glibly smug injunctions to 'go away for a weekend' or even just 'have a night out' haven't always been easy, but in all honesty I wouldn't want to live near my parents in any case.

motherinferior Thu 23-Jan-14 18:06:56

(That was to MaddAddam.)

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