A Bit of Background…

I’m a mum of two beautiful children; one boy (I say ‘boy’ but he is more of a man-in-progress) who is slap bang in the throes of teenage angst; and a new baby daughter. They both make me so proud every single day. There is no denying that parenting is exhausting, draining and one huge worry-fest but I genuinely feel so privileged to have been chosen as their mum.
I run my own business and balancing that with being a (very average) wife and mum is a huge challenge. As a working mum I battle with the infamous ‘mummy guilt’ on a daily basis but on most days I am able to combat those pesky feelings by remaining focused on the end goal: building a better life for my family.
As I’m sure is the case with most working mummies, I can often be seen in a zombie like state, with bigger bags under my eyes than Sainsbury’s and a keen eye on the clock internally debating at which time in the day is it socially acceptable to give in to temptation and finally pop the cork in the fridge. It isn’t easy. But when was anything easy worth doing? I love a good challenge, which is pretty damn handy because life is full of them!
Who Am I?
A thirty something mum and wife from the North East who vows to restart a diet every Monday morning, gets way too emotionally involved with the characters in TV dramas and on a miserable day, loves nothing more than to cuddle up on the sofa, light those ‘white linen’ scented candles (that make your house smell like you’ve been a domesticated Goddess, doing laundry all day when in reality you haven’t even so much as looked at the dirty wash basket), watch trashy TV on the box and watch the rain beat against the windows from outside. ‘Duvet’ and ‘Day’ are my two favourite words.
Life is made a little bit more challenging by the presence of Rheumatoid Arthritis but I try not to let it grind me down. On many occasions the chronic pain does eventually grind you down; it can be exhausting. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’ hence the capitals..) there are many others dealing with much worse than that; perspective is everything. I have the love of a good family and a solid circle of friends to support me when those bad days do land (and failing that, there’s the opiates.) (Prescribed, obviously!).
Things I Love
My children and my hubby are my faves, obviously. Prosecco comes a close second. I love coffee and cake dates with my lovely friends, I love a cracking TV drama (don’t get me started on box sets….my hubby and I have been known to prioritise ‘the next episode’ over sleep), I get a buzz from a cracking day at the office, I love that I love what I do, I like to see nothing more than women absolutely killing it in business, I believe in the power of positivity and that anything is possible with the right mindset and finally, writing. I quite like doing that. With a nice pen.

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Oops I had an Opinion….

I’ve never been the type of person that yearns to put their point across. Just the other week I was at a big business Expo event and I attended various workshops, one of which loved the whole ‘audience participation’ thang (groan…). They asked for opinions on a certain issue and boy did I have them in the bucket load; did I say them? No. Did I raise my hand to signal I had something to say? No. Did I sit there thinking about my opinion, hell yeah, I always have an opinion. I did feebly open my mouth to express it on a couple of occasions (accompanied by the deafening thud of my pounding heart as public speaking isn’t really my bag) but quickly closed it again when someone else started speaking. So, you see, I’m really not one of those people that loves the sound of my own opinion being aired to the masses. I’m opinionated but I keep a water tight lid on them.

But, you know, every now and again a subject will come up that either lights a fire in my belly or rubs me up the wrong way, and when this happens I’m not so good at keeping that lid on my opinion. It, sort of, loosens a bit and my opinion ends up inadvertently spilling out on to whoever happens to be there at the time the lid pops off (when I talk about this metaphorical ‘lid’ I’m more imagining a champagne cork; it’s a bit more glamorous that way.) .

When I read an article in The Independent about a Sexuality Expert’s thoughts on parents asking their children’s consent prior to changing their nappy, I immediately felt extremely uncomfortable. There has been a lot of talk of consent in the press and it is clearly an issue that sparks a lot of debate. For me, the more the issue is in the press and the better we, and the upcoming generations, understand the issues surrounding consent, the better. It is something we all need to understand, promote and respect amongst society. My discomfort came from the issue being discussed by a person described as a ‘Sexuality Expert’. The idea that nappy changing was being discussed by a sexuality expert made me feel uneasy. I worked in Child Protection for almost five years and the things I saw, discussed and read during that time still haunts me today, almost fifteen years later. So, I get that I may be slightly sensitive when it comes to issues such as this. I’ve sat at a table opposite some true monsters. Monsters that really didn’t understand consent. Monsters that didn’t care nor respect children and their right to be protected, kept safe. So, when a ‘Sexuality Expert’ starts commenting on the act of nappy changing, something that, to me, is an innocent act that is part of the every day care of my baby girl, it started to hit a nerve with me. Nappy changing isn’t an act that should be associated with sex or sexuality. It is merely about ensuring your child’s basic needs are being met when they are too young to see to those needs themselves.

So, throw in there the issue of ‘consent’ (an issue heavily associated with sexual relations in the media) and this article started to feel very wrong for me. I am a good mother; my husband is a good father. When we change our baby’s nappy it is an act of innocence born out of the need and desire to take care of her the best we can. When we are frantically pulling fifty five baby wipes out of the packet (when we were only after one single wipe, that is possibly the most irritating baby-wipe-malfunction ever) and trying to scrub the brown stuff off our baby girl before she gets the opportunity to stick her feet (or, quite frankly, her hands – she’s very explorative at the moment….) in it, we aren’t thinking about consent because we are innocently seeing to her needs, we aren’t disrespecting her body, we aren’t thinking about sex or sexuality – we are, quite simply, being mum and being dad.

I never thought I’d see the day I agreed with Piers Morgan (a man with an incredible ability to piss me off just by merely breathing) but when he opened the debate on ‘Good Morning Britain’ (I just had to google the name of it because I still call it TV-AM, a true sign of being an 80s child….) and they were discussing the act of asking a baby for consent prior to the nappy being changed, I found the whole thing ridiculous. And so did old P-Dog. I bet that’s the first and last time we ever agree on something. If I waited for my daughter to give her consent for me to change her nappy, we’d be up to our eye balls in the brown stuff. We would be living at 108 Poo street in Poo-ville, the Poonited Kingdom. I can’t get my little girl to consent to eating a carrot, never mind her agree to have her nappy changed. I literally have to chase her around the floor until I’ve got her in such a position that I can whip her nappy off (whilst praying there are no surprises inside that are going to fly out and splat on our new wallpaper) get her cleaned up and send her on her merry way with a clean nappy on and all in around 0.3 of a millisecond otherwise it’s meltdown mania. Most of the time the process leads to meltdowns of grandeur. It can be a two-person job sometimes! There is not a chance that my baby girl would ever volunteer or actively consent to having her nappy changed.

When the specialist on TV-AM (or whatever…) was asked by Piers how a 3 month old baby gives consent, she said that there are non-verbal ways of communicating consent, like a baby will relax its shoulders because it will feel happy that his or her nappy will be about to be changed. I’m not sure if my two were just wild or possessed (or both) or what but even at 3 months, they were not fond of the nappy changing thing. No-siree. There were no relaxing of the shoulders or giving non-verbal signs that they were in any way enjoying being changed. They gave plenty verbal signs that they weren’t enjoying it, mind. There were plenty of them. The neighbours 5 doors away heard them every bloody nappy change.

My biggest gripe with this whole debate is that if we are to teach consent to our children, we have to be 100% committed to respecting their consent (or lack of it). To ask a child for consent to do something, something that we know, as parents, that we have to do regardless of their consent, is teaching the very opposite of consent, respect and trust, so why ask for consent in the first place?! My feeling is that every child should be taught consent. They should be taught to respect their body and that they have autonomy over who touches, and what happens to, their body. I’m not arguing with that in the slightest. What I do struggle with is introducing it at such an age where the baby is physically, cognitively and emotionally unable to understand the concept of consent. I also really struggle with teaching consent through an activity that has to be carried out regardless. What is that teaching them? That their consent means nothing. In the same way that when I change my baby girl’s nappy no matter how hard she protests so that one day she learns that nappy changing is something that has to be done no matter how strongly she feels about it, children who haven’t consented to their nappy change who go on to be changed and have their consent ignored, will learn that consent means nothing and that, for me, is the most dangerous thing about this whole debate.

If we are ready to teach consent to children who have the cognitive ability and the emotional literacy to understand the concept of consent, we have to be willing to respect that consent otherwise it will only serve as a reminder of the fact that their consent just doesn’t mean anything. We can’t have a generation of children growing up under the impression that consent is something that can be ignored, or something that really doesn’t matter. That is the very last thing our children, and our society, needs.

My bottom line on this is that the issue of consent is absolutely something we have to approach with our children but from an age where they have the ability to understand. I think that asking for consent from a baby to change their nappy only serves as a means to make us feel better about doing it. It tricks us all in to thinking that we are respecting the body, wishes and feelings of that baby but in reality, that consent means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because them withholding their consent  makes no difference whatsoever to what happens to them. And we can’t risk that sort of culture emerging with the next generation.

We can only teach consent when we are truly willing to respect the child’s response. Until we are completely committed to respecting their view on consent, we shouldn’t be introducing the idea because it will only have a negative effect on their perception of the issue.

I (stupidly) got a little bit too wound up over this debate and put out a flippant tweet explaining that I was fed up of hearing about it and that I thought the idea of gaining consent from a baby was ridiculous. It wasn’t directed at anybody, it was just me needing to vent about a topic that was irritating me somewhat. It got a mixed response; people agreed and people didn’t agree. Most who didn’t agree explained their reasoning in perfectly respectful terms and I have no issue with that whatsoever. It would be a boring world if we all felt the same way about everything, after all. There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate. Everybody is entitled to their opinion; that’s the beauty of free speech.

There’s always one though, hey. Someone really didn’t like my opinion and had worked out that, from the fifteen words or so in that one single tweet I put out, I didn’t have the intelligence to understand the wider issues surrounding consent. I didn’t much like the suggestion that I hadn’t fully understood the issue of consent, particularly given my background in both child protection and teaching, so I explained that I fully understood the matter. I wasn’t rude or argumentative, I just defended the idea that I was a complete and utter nugget who didn’t have the first clue about what I was talking about. I always say that in life you never know the battles people are facing and therefore, I don’t ever like to be confrontational or disrespectful because you just never know the impact that could have on someone, particularly on social media, where you interact with people that you’ve never spoken to before. So I maintained my position but I did it with respect. A couple of others entered the “discussion” and most of them were supportive of my opinion. A couple of lovely people with well meaning intentions challenged the person over the way in which they had spoken to me and BANG! Then the fireworks started going off. It got pretty personal very quickly, with comments being aimed ay myself and one of the people who had stuck up for me about our age, lack of understanding and there was even a ‘why don’t you stop arguing with me and go and see to your kids instead?’ type comment, clearly suggesting that being on Twitter made us poor parents because we should have been dealing with our kids instead. They were in bed, by the way. Not that we need to justify ourselves.

I did the thing that frustrates my hubby the most about me. I sat and wrote out response after response after response but I let my finger hover over the ’TWEET’ button for just one moment too long and the hesitation was enough for me to have second (third, fourth and fifth) thoughts, scrap the tweet and start all over again. I would scribble a response in haste, wound up, but by the time I reached the end of the tweet I had calmed down enough to question whether it was really wise, or appropriate, to respond in such a way so then I deleted it all and started draft 2, draft 3, draft 144 –  you get the idea. None of those drafts made it out in the Twittersphere.

I would love to say that those small comments or ‘digs’ made about me didn’t bother me but, you know, actually they did. And I don’t have any reservation about admitting that. We are all human at the end of the day. I often feel old enough looking at all the twenty somethings smashing it on social media every day so that comment about our age (she approximated that we were 40, she was a few years out and, let’s face it, when you get to nearing 40 every single year counts!) did bite a little bit. The suggestion I was too stupid to understand the bigger picture of the debate hurt too. I try to live my life being as least judgemental as I can because I know how it feels to be judged and would hate to do that to someone else; so when she made the assumption based on my tweet (and maybe my profile picture, I don’t know…) that also got me a little bit. Social media as a general arena is very public so to be accused of, in other words, being stupid, I was acutely aware of all the other people that would see it too and that didn’t feel good. Believe me I wish I didn’t give a shit. God, it would be so cool not to give a shit. I would LOVE not to give a shit.

Despite feeling a little bit miffed, I maintained my composure and the ‘debate’ was over in a milli-second. I thought nothing more of it. The following day, more lovely peeps from Twitter replied to my original tweet with their views. It’s, very obviously, been a topic that has stirred up strong opinions in a lot of people so my initial tweet got engagement from people who also wanted to state how they felt about the issue, and they were very welcome. Again, it was a mixed bag, some agreed and some disagreed. Apart from reading everybody’s replies with genuine interest, I thought nothing more of it. Until I received a notification that the original tweeter (or twitterer, I’m not 100% on the Twitter etiquette so forgive me…) who had taken such issue with my opinion was at it again. She mocked me about interacting with new people who had replied that day, telling me to ‘get over it’ and suggested I had harassed her all day because she had automatically been tagged in to every reply made to the original post due to her initial reply. When accusations like that were starting to be bounded about I wanted to switch off my phone (actually, I wanted to throw it through a double glazed window in my office but I thought it would be unfair to expect the cleaners to tidy up the glass afterwards) and run away. I thought how on earth can one tweet cause so much hassle? I get that it is a topic that people will respond emotionally to. I get that people are passionate about their opinion. But being passionate about your own opinion is different to being passionately negative about someone else’s.

I did reply, but only to tell her that I had not tweeted her once and I explained the way Twitter works and that her being tagged in is automatically done by the folk behind the blue bird. I left it at that. I was biting my tongue and sitting on my hands but I left it at that.

Social media has revolutionised the way we communicate. It has changed the way we do, just about, everything. I have met some truly beautiful people on Twitter, and I have witnessed some despicable behaviour on Twitter. I’ve been a bystander in kick off’s on other people’s posts before and when I think about some of the horrible, nasty and unkind things I have read others say to each other, what I experienced on my post was nothing in comparison. Social media provides us with a community in which we should feel free to discuss our opinions, ideas, thoughts and beliefs without fear of unkindness in response. I can listen to opposing opinions all day long (in fact, I am a true believer in that doing so widens our minds) but if someone mocks you for what you think and gets personal in a bid to fuel an argument (I’m not sure why anyone would want an argument mind, maybe there wasn’t much on the telly or something…) it’s just not fun.

I’m not sure I will be rushing back to Twitter (or any social media platform for that matter) to share my opinions anytime soon. I’ll revert back to that wall flower who is too scared to open her mouth and share her opinion publicly.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this debate though – feel free to comment with them; for the avoidance of any doubt, you can rest assured this is a safe, judgement-free space to share your views!

Have you ever got in to a bit of a hardcore argument on social media? Tell me all about it below!

Don’t befriend me. I’m not good at the whole friendship thing.

There’s friends and then there’s ‘Facebook Friends’, i.e. people you once knew but will never see again, yet you remain interested in gawping at the wedding dress they have chosen , their Great Aunty’s third cousin’s ex husband’s holiday photos, or their weekly mirror selfie demonstrating how their weight loss journey is going, or what their third boyfriend in six weeks looks like, or how perfect their brand new high gloss white kitchen looks (they’ve got no children, obvs). They are the friends that never forget your birthday, but they only ever speak to you (aka type) on your birthday. They don’t speak to you on any other of the 364 days of the year, but you get a happy birthday from them at the very least.

I have a group of amazing friends. One bestest best friend, a couple of really squeally good friends and a number of friends that I’ve met in various circles that I see every so often. I know that I could call on them at any given time and they would be there for me, without question. They bring so much to my life and by God have I needed them in recent years. Since having Little Miss though and going back to work from maternity leave, I feel like I don’t really deserve the title of ‘friend’ in return. I am fast fading in to the Facebook realm of no return. I am going to be one of them. I am going to end up a Facebook friend. A Facebook friend to someone I genuinely love and care for. They’ll have a neb at my photos every so often and nothing going on in my life will be of any interest to them. Nor will they need me. Because they’ll have real life friends for that.

Is it because I’m a horrible person? I don’t think so. Is it because I don’t want to be their friend? Hell no, I love the very bones of each of them. Is it because I don’t care? Absolutely not. In fact, I think about them more so now than ever before. So why? Why am I paling into insignificance in the friendship stakes? Because I’m just not good at it anymore.

My best friend lives on the other side of the world and, frankly, it’s a good job she does, otherwise she’d have binned me off by now too. I can manage the occasional phone call, the weekly text messages and emails and Facebook exchanges; that’s all good. But when it comes to doing friendy things, like actual things with my friends, hanging out with them, coffee dates, long drawn out telephone calls where we put the world to rights, cocktails and drunken chat, delivering McDonalds the morning after the night before and devouring it in our jim jams because we have both never been so hungover in our lives before – all of this I once did. Now not so. It’s getting less and less (and I’ve definitely not drank enough to have the mother of all hangovers since circa 2003 so that last one definitely hasn’t happened this century) and every time I say ‘no’ to an invitation I can feel myself slipping further and further away from my friends.

It’s not even that I don’t want to go. Show me a frazzled mamma who doesn’t want to meet their friends (for either caffeine or alcohol, one wakes me up, one sends me to sleep so at this point in my life I favour caffeine over the good stuff. Falling asleep on my friends wouldn’t do me any further favours in this situation after all…) and have idle chit chat, refreshingly adult conversation and find common ground as we compete as to how sleep deprived we are and how bad our baby brain has become. If I could, I would accept every single invitation I received and I’d rock up those coffee mornings, cocktail nights and soft play nightmares with bells on. I’d be there every single time. But it’s just not that easy.

The reality is that I am a mama to an 18 month old baby and a 15 year old boy. They need me in equal measures right now. My boy has his GCSEs round the corner and suffers from social anxiety so we spend a lot of time working with him, supporting him and ensuring he is equipped to go to school and fulfil his potential. Then there’s my Little Miss, she is currently getting sick a lot; almost on a twice monthly basis right now. Even when she’s well, she’s not always a great sleeper, and with her going to nursery Monday to Friday, I really value the time I have with her after nursery and on weekends. Our time as a family on weekends, bank holidays and so on is so precious. More precious than anything I’ve ever known or seen. After years and years of building our businesses and working seven days a week, we know how lucky we are to have our weekends as a family. Because we know what it is like not to have that quality family time, it’s not something I ever want to happily give up.  Then there’s the working full time thing. I manage our family business, which doesn’t allow me or my husband the privilege of knocking off at 5pm. It’s not that easy to promise lunch dates or ‘after work coffee meets’ because every day is so unpredictable and at the end of the day, our only income is from this business. My husband and I have no choice but to give it every single thing we’ve got in order to take care of our family.

Even when that is all taken care of, I just don’t even have the energy most days. Once I’ve got the kids sorted and to bed, I’m literally lucky if I can muster enough energy to carry my sleepy (and rather big) ass to bed. The thought of getting dolled up to then go out and hold down an adult conversation without falling asleep mid sentence and drooling over a Mojito, is enough to make me cry. I know I’d feel much better for going out but that doesn’t change the fact that I am completely exhausted.

I have friends who don’t work or work part time. They meet through the week, soft play one week, baby sensory class the next, swimming the week after. They think because I own my own business that I should be able to make it to these play dates. I tried it once. I thought I’d actually take a lunch hour for once and meet my friend for a coffee at a coffee shop nearby my office. It ended with me being away from my desk for an entire half day because once we got chatting, we lost track of time and before we knew it hours had passed by. We hadn’t seen each other in months and months (obviously) so naturally we had a lot to catch up on. I ended up coming back to work to find 108 unread emails, five squillion phone calls to return and a mound of paperwork that would give Mount Everest a run for its money.

Maybe I’m getting boring. Or Old. Or both. Yeah, definitely both. On a Saturday night I look forward to getting in my jim jams (supposing I actually made it out of them that day…) at like 5pm, getting the kids sorted, lighting a few scented candles, ordering a take away and watching something on the TV that doesn’t require a brain cell, wrapped in a duvet on the sofa. My days of standing in the taxi queue half drunk (actually, disclaimer: I was never ‘half’ drunk, I was definitely ‘full’ drunk, whatever full drunk actually means…) wearing next to nothing in the bitter cold, dipping chips in to the smelliest garlic sauce on the planet, are definitely numbered. Maybe even over for good. These days I prefer the simpler things in life. There is nothing more important in my life than my family. Doing simple things with the people I love the most means the world.

I feel like I say ‘no’ a lot when invited out by friends. There was a time when I said yes to everything but never actually made it out due to poorly babies, a work deadline I had to meet, lack of babysitter, feeling ill and exhausted myself – the list is endless. I felt like I was letting them down every single time. I worried I upset them. I would feel crap about it for days after. But, let me tell you, there’s only one thing worse than having to say ‘no’ to a friend when they invite you out and that’s not to be invited out at all. I’ve been there with friends that I have now lost contact with. The term ‘party animals’ doesn’t really do them justice; ‘Party Beasts’ suits them better. They went at it hardcore every single weekend. A couple of drinks and a meal with them only ever ended one way: passed out on the (very sticky) floor of some dated nightclub at 3am. I like a drink as much as the next mama but pulling chewed chewing gum and washing spilled beer out of my hair the following morning is not the way I like to start my weekend. I did think that our friendship was deeper than me just being another person to add to their night out headcount but obviously not because after saying no a couple of times, the invitations stopped and now I’m a Facebook friend to them and vice versa. But even though the way they spent their Friday and Saturday nights wasn’t my idea of fun, it still hurt when they stopped inviting me. I felt like they’d given up on me. I’d now become ‘the one that never says yes’, ‘the one that never goes out’, ‘the boring one we don’t waste our time on anymore’. You know what social media is like, there is no hiding the nights out that I was missing. The pre-drink selfies, the dance floor selfies, the eyes rolling into the back of your head drunk selfies and the like. I’m sitting at home in my jim jams watching the photos update over the course of the evening and the most exciting thing to happen to me all night is that I missed my mouth and spilt strawberry yoghurt all over my PJ top. It’s not like I even wanted to be there! Why does this upset me! I am a crazy lady! I go from ‘not caring’ to feeling totally left out and isolated in three point five seconds. My feelings about it all were completely nonsensical but I was feeling them regardless so they were real to me.

With that life lesson under my belt I don’t want to lose my support network because I’m no longer present in their lives. I need to find a way of making it work. My friends, particularly my close friends, love me unconditionally as I do them. They are there. Always. So I need to work it out. I feel like the worst friend on earth. I feel like I’m never there (or ‘available’) when they need me, I’m never able to make plans when they are free and I rarely say ‘yes’ to invitations anymore and busy or not, exhausted or not, they do deserve better than that because they are good people and beautiful friends of mine. They deserve better.

They say life is all about balance, don’t they? I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, but if ‘they’ are able to advise me of how to keep all the plates spinning and keep up my friendship duties, I would be oh so grateful to them. After all, we all need friends. It doesn’t matter how solid our family network may be, you will always need a friend at some point in your life and that works both ways. Life is short; we are here but for a while. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a ‘Facebook friend’ to people I love and adore. Besides, my craic on Facebook is piss poor so I’d probably be demoted from even being that.

The Truth About Being a ‘Mum Boss’.

In the last couple of years there has been a bit of a ‘New Business Revolution’ in the UK– more and more people are turning to self employment and starting up their own business. Not that I’m a ‘numbers guy’ but there were over 660,000 new companies established last year in the UK alone and those numbers are set to increase this year too so there is no sign of this revolution slowing down.

I totally get why that may be the case. I think people are in search of a better work-life balance maybe, or maybe they are in search of financial freedom, or a better sense of fulfillment from their career – or maybe there are other reasons. For me, I went in to business because I was running out of other options. I had got ill and was having to take days and long periods of time off sick repeatedly from my teaching job and it got to a point where I felt it was unfair for the students I was teaching to have such a lack of consistency from their English Teacher and I felt I was becoming a bit of a burden to the school I worked at, despite them being very supportive. My husband was a Police Officer at the time and due to my condition leaving me with mobility challenges, he also had to leave his work in order to support me at home. It was frustrating. Both of us had careers that we loved, doing work every day that we were passionate about but due to something outside of our control, we had to make the difficult decision to leave and embark on a whole new adventure.

We established a business that we could run together, one that would allow me to take guilt-free time off if I didn’t feel well enough to work and one that would generate enough income to keep the roof over our heads.

Once we started our first business, I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Running a business excited me. I expected it to be less stressful than teaching but that wasn’t necessarily the case. It was just as stressful but it was a different kind of stress. Three businesses later and there is still always something to stress about! We were suddenly in business without knowing an awful lot about business. All three of our businesses have been a huge learning curve – one that is never ending! Being in business and being your own boss brings with it a lot of positives – or privileges I like to call them, but it’s not all short hours and big bucks; it isn’t easy by any means.

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen the rise of terms such as ‘Girl Boss’ ‘Mum Boss’ and ‘Mumpreneur’. If there is one thing I am passionate about it is seeing women win in business. For so many years business was men dominated – across most sectors and industries and even today, there remains sectors and industries that are completely and utterly male dominated. I have come across businessmen who I have been dealing with who will ask who my manager is, or ask if they can speak to the ‘real decision maker’, or will ask for my husband despite me insisting that I am one of the company directors. So, I love that there seems to be more and more women starting up in business. Women have just as much to offer as men do and I love that the world is getting to see what businesswomen can achieve.

But I do have an issue with this ‘Be a Girl Boss’ culture or image. I have an issue with it in the sense that it glamorises the power and control that comes with being a ‘boss’. It suggests that any woman can don a formal suit (usually accessorised with big shoulder pads), pick up a laptop and be their own boss. Being your own boss isn’t and should never be portrayed as ’trendy’ but I feel like that is exactly what it’s becoming. Being your own boss brings many benefits, but it’s not all plain sailing. Deciding to become a ‘girl boss’ is not like opting to wear something different. It’s not a decision to be made lightly and it certainly doesn’t promise success or satisfaction.

I keep getting sponsored Facebook posts all the time showing an image of a family, they are usually extremely attractive looking, usually sitting on a remote beach with golden sands and crystal waters, claiming that they only have to work 4 hours a week and their business has allowed them to travel the world with their children and live a millionaire’s lifestyle. Now, I’m not saying that’s not true. But the fact that those posts usually conclude with a ‘Join my membership club and I will show you the secret to building your own successful empire’ or a ‘Don’t you want to work less and spend more time with your children? You can be just like us! Just buy this business starter kit for £99999999999 and you too can be doing what we are in just 2 hours!’ I’m exaggerating, but these guys know how to sell a lifestyle. I even find myself looking at their photo and feeling frustrated, maybe even disappointed, scratching my head whilst questioning ‘where the hell am I going wrong?!”

The truth is I don’t buy the above. I don’t believe people ‘get lucky’ in business. I believe that success in business comes as a result of an extremely strong work ethic, steely determination and a bit of passion thrown in for good measure. I think people may get lucky with opportunities that may come their way in business but I certainly don’t buy that success can be achieved working 4 hours a week or whilst topping up your tan and sipping cocktails on a beach in Thailand. Our journey as ‘entrepreneurs’ has seen us ride a full-on rollercoaster. The highs have included being nominated as female entrepreneur of the year within our region, being nominated for a Mumpreneur award, having our business visited by politicians and council officers and receiving lovely reviews and testimonials. But, just like any rollercoaster, when you hit those highs, the lows feel even lower. Low points included hitting financial difficulty due to increases in bills and expenses and decreases in trade, having a competitor attempt to sabotage our business via a string of fake negative reviews on the likes of Facebook and Tripadvisor, staff members stealing money from the business, having the money to only pay the staff but not ourselves and the general day to day challenges of running a business. See, not a single mention of a cocktail or a beach in Thailand!

One thing for sure though is that being in business has given me a new lease of life. It excites me. It gets the blood pumping and the heart pounding. Is it easy? Hell, no. But when was anything good achieved with ease? Is it less work? Nope. In fact, if anything, we have to work even harder than any job we’ve ever had before. We spent four years working 7 days a week to get us to this point. That is not something I am proud of; I feel like we missed out on 4 years of our son’s life. Now he’s 15 and becoming more and more independent, those 4 years prey on my mind. The time I should have spent with him and the memories we could have made during those 4 years haunt me. They really, really do. Was it worth it? Financially, no. It was 4 years of seven days a week, 7am-7pm work, then working on our laptops once we got home until the early hours, and for, frankly, very little return. We didn’t even get much sleep at night because the worries of whether we would make enough money that month and the doubts and concerns would creep in to our minds and keep us awake. Although we didn’t get much of a financial return from all those years of work, it was part of our journey. They were years that led us to this point with our current business and who knows where that journey will take us in the future. Things are going well but if there is one thing being in business has taught me it’s that you never know what is coming next. You can try and prepare, you can try and plan, you can even try to make arrangements for what you think is coming next, but you just never know. That’s what makes it so exciting. You can be commiserating over lost sales or a deal that hasn’t gone through on one day and literally dancing on the ceiling celebrating the biggest win of your career the next.

We’ve moved towards a business that predominantly operates between Monday and Friday which has given us our weekends back. Those weekends are like gold dust; they are pure nectar. I will never ever take for granted quality family time. Having time off work to spend with the kids is a privilege to me. And having the opportunity to zone out (of sorts) for a couple of days every week and focus on the people we love the most is good for our souls. I am happiest when I have spent some solid quality time with my kiddiwinkles and that time serves as a valuable reminder as to why I’m doing what I do. I go back to the office on a Monday morning with a renewed sense of motivation and that drives me forward. I want my business to be a legacy for my children. I want them to grow up with a strong work ethic. I want them to understand that success isn’t handed to you in life; that they have to work for it. I would love for them to share the same passion as I do for enterprise and business but it is equally Ok if they don’t. Maybe it won’t be their thing. Whatever ‘their thing’ is, I hope that they will learn from us that hard work is how you get to where you want to go in life.

My intention for this post was not to be a Debbie Downer about going in to business. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I would actively encourage any woman who was considering establishing their own business but it is one of those things that needs to be realistic. It’s not realistic to think that you can work 4 hours a week and live like a millionaire. If you are thinking about starting out in business, you could be about to embark on the most exciting adventure. Just don’t be fooled by any of these ‘Get rich quick’ schemes or ‘get rich quick’ books, audiobooks, conferences, courses, webinars or whatever else they want to sell you on those beachy themed posts. There is no question that us women have the talent required to achieve something big and it would be fantastic to see more of us out there giving these businessmen a run for their money!

The Second Time Around

 

 I was just 22 when I had my first child. At the time I remember thinking that I relatively had my shit together, however looking back, I knew zero about parenting and together with my (very young) husband, we were just feeling for the lights in the dark for many years, winging it on a daily basis whilst trying to do the best we could by our boy.

 Less of a child and more a man-child, our boy is 15 now. There are 13 and a half years between our son and our daughter so naturally, we are different people than we were thirteen years ago. I’m sure that’s not abnormal; I’m sure most people change as they get older, whether that be changes in maturity, in temperament, in attitude, in priorities; people must naturally change as they age, meet different people and take different paths with their lives. The biggest change we have seen in each other is the way we parent.

 These are just a few things we have done differently the second time around:

 

  1. Relaxed a bit:

Even at 22 I was highly strung. That was nothing to do with becoming a young mum, I was pretty highly strung before I got pregnant. For some reason, I was just like that. It did, however, spill over in to my parenting. I was a big worrier. If it had been socially acceptable to wrap my baby boy in cotton wool and tie him to my left leg so that he could never leave my side, I probably would have done so. No ‘probably’ about it, actually. I was a ‘text book Mum’ according to my out-law. As much as I would never admit that she was right, I do sort-of-kind-of-agree-through-gritted-teeth that she was right. I was trying to be the parent they talked about in the guide books, the parent you see in Pampers TV Ads or the parent you see in the Mum & Baby magazines. I tried to be perfect. I will never forget the ends of the earth I went to in order to look ‘perfect’ for my Midwife’s first home visit. I got up ridiculously early (even before the baby – what complete and utter madness that was!), washed, dried and straightened my hair, chose a smart outfit (one far too formal to be wearing sitting around the house with a colicky baby) and dolled on the make up. The result? My midwife was suspicious! I thought I’d present as the ‘perfect mum’ and it actually had the opposite effect! She looked at me up and down in surprise as she asked what I had planned for the day. I said ‘nothing’ and she looked utterly confused. Probably because I looked like I was about to go to the biggest job interview of my life; and all three days after giving birth to a whopping nine pound ten ounce milk-guzzling machine.

With my second, there was no reading of guide books, no Mum & Baby magazines (having the time to read them would have been a fine thing) no lusting after the perfect mummy image. I greeted the Midwife in coffee stained pyjamas, with hair that hadn’t been washed in a week and she had to wipe the crumbs of digestive biscuits off the sofa before she sat down. I remember with my first baby feeling really exposed when getting him undressed in front of the Midwife to be weighed. I worried that she was examining the way I was pulling his little arms through his vest. I worried that she would bellow at me ‘You can’t do it like that!!!’. Obviously there had been a large gap between my children so in some ways it felt like I was having my first baby all over again. It wasn’t like riding a bike, much to my dismay, it didn’t all come back to me naturally. There were no two ways about it; I did feel out of touch with it all. But, this time, when the midwife was sat watching me undress my baby girl, I didn’t feel like I was being scrutinized. Yes, sometimes I felt clumsy in the way I was undressing her but that was more about me wanting to be gentle and careful with all five tiny teeny pounds of her. I felt a confidence about the way I cared for, and interacted with, my daughter. A ‘this is the way I parent, like it or lump it’ type of confidence.

 

 

  1. Felt able to ‘let go’ a bit:

I never allowed my son to swing high on the swings at the park, climb the climbing frames, sledge down hills, jump in the deep end of the pool – if I considered the activity to pose even the slightest bit of a risk (even if it was a totally safe, measured risk), it was a no-no. I didn’t encourage him to embrace freedom because I didn’t want him to have any! Looking back I now understand that was more about me than it was about him. I wanted him to need me and for that reason I never made a conscious effort to encourage independence or freedom. Years on, I can see the ill effects of that style of parenting and it isn’t something I’m particularly proud of.

Little Miss is only 17 months old but I can already see a difference in her character and confidence compared to what my son was like at that age; I firmly believe that a lot of that is down to us embracing a completely different parenting style. This time round both my husband and I have made a conscious attempt to ‘socialise’ her, ensuring she spends lots of time with other people so that a dependence on us doesn’t develop. She can, of course, be clingy sometimes, usually when she’s poorly or tired, but she isn’t afraid to go to other adults she knows or play with other children.

We embrace the swings, slides, jumping in puddles and jumping on the bed; she has so much fun and is adventurous as a result. I might have bitten all my nails off in the process watching her but it is her that matters, not me.

 

  1. Became ‘at one’ with crying:

There was never any question as to the pair of lungs my boy had as a baby – he was the loudest baby on the maternity ward; he single handedly out-cried all the other babies. Even when I’d gone through the ‘why is your baby crying?’ checklist and knew he was dry, fed, warm and so on, I always found it really hard to listen to his crying. To me, that was my precious baby telling me he was unhappy and I found it really hard sometimes that I couldn’t soothe or settle him. As he grew in to a toddler, I still would find it hard to see him upset and boy did he know it! He played me like a good’un! He ended up getting his way more times than not. He still does come to think of it!

I don’t know whether it’s something that has come as a result of maturity or what but this time round, I am good with crying. Me and crying have made amends. I don’t want to sound careless because I don’t care any less than I did with my first, but this time I am able to keep things in perspective. A bit of crying is not the end of the world for them or for me. Certainly now Little Miss is a toddler and starting to show she is quite the stubborn and strong willed little thing, we are no stranger to tears and tantrums in this household. The difference this time round is that hearing her cry doesn’t upset me or stress me out. Obviously I’d prefer her to be happy, but her shedding a few tears over not being able to have ice cream for her breakfast, lunch and dinner (nasty mother that I am…) or because she wants to wear odd shoes for nursery is not the end of the world. I now understand that a few tears here and there aren’t going to harm her. And it’s all character building, right?

 

  1. Been Selfish

I used to be the female equivalent to the ‘Yes Man’. I just never said no – like, to anyone. If someone wanted help, whether that be with a uni assignment, their decorating, their work, their babysitting or anything else it may be, I would say yes. I never felt able to say no to anyone, even when the saying ‘yes’ meant giving up my free time or time with my precious family. I’ve gradually, over the years, got a lot better at saying no. My boy got big in the blink of an eye. One day I was cradling him in my arms and the next he’s going out to town with his friends and about to sit his GCSEs. I have longed to go back in time and enjoy him being little for just a little bit longer. I now realise that if I had said ‘no’ more and been more selfish with my time, I would have spent more time with him. I was, by no means, absent from home on a regular basis but when you factor in full time work and all the other bits I said ‘yes’ to, it starts to eat in to the time that should be strictly reserved for family time.

This time I have said ‘no’ more and I have been extremely selfish with my time. I know how quickly my baby girl is going to grow up and I don’t want to miss a thing. If that means appearing like a bad friend, or a boring person who doesn’t have a life outside of her work and children, then I’ll take that. I’ll take that ten fold, because I want to spend every possible moment with my family. They make me happy.

 

  1. Been more ‘Present’

I’m not one of those people that ‘s about to launch in to a lecture about the effect our mobile phone usage is having on our children because a) I’m not judgmental and b) I would be being a complete and utter hypocrite because I’m quite fond of my phone myself. However, speaking from personal experience, I know how easily my phone can hook me in and before you know it, half an hour is passed and you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at or how you got there. I use my phone a lot – for work, for keeping in touch with friends and family, for my diary, for social media and for lots of other reasons. Whilst I acknowledge that I’m quite a heavy user, I also acknowledge that it takes you away from the moment you’re in. I didn’t realise until I went on a social media detox on holiday just how much I was missing by being on my phone a lot. Just like with the above, I know that my daughter’s childhood is going to fly over in a millisecond. I’m not prepared to miss that for anyone or anything. I am definitely more acutely aware of my phone usage when I am around the kids. Yes I’m glued to it once the kids have gone to bed but there’s no harm in that if that’s how I choose to spend my (very limited) free time. When my phone is off or away I am definitely more aware of what is going on around me, I’m more active in conversations with my Big Lad, I’m more able to concentrate on what he is telling me and I’m definitely more present in the moment with Little Miss.

 

 

  1. Been more grateful

After ten years of trying for our second child and battling with secondary infertility, we were always going to feel extremely blessed to have a second child. We have been blessed with two gorgeous children and I feel so incredibly lucky.

However, when we had our first, I was too young to realise just how lucky we were. I took the conception, the straight forward pregnancy and the healthy baby at the end of it all, all for granted. With Little Miss I have felt extremely blessed at every step of the way and her existence has made us even more aware of how lucky we are to have both our children. For a number of years we genuinely thought we weren’t going to have a second child. I’ve sat in the waiting room at the fertility clinic opposite couples without any children. That was an experience that instantly opened my eyes to how lucky we were to be parents at all.

Now we are a family of four, something that I never thought we would achieve, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I will never, ever, take either of my children, or the time I spend with them both, for granted.

 

So, you see, the second time around can be very different to the first. It’s no better or no worse to the first, but it can be very different. My only advice would be to relax, go with the flow and you will enjoy parenting so much more. It’s a tough gig, I get it. I have those moments where you just want to scream in to the abyss or sit in the corner of the room sobbing, rocking back and forth. But we get back up, and we get back up again for the gorgeous kiddiwinks in our lives.

Single Parenting – A Child’s Eye View.

When Amara Eno asked for contributions to her Single Parent project I was really interested – not because I am a single parent but because I was raised by one. Often single parents and their families are judged or stereotyped negatively; I wanted to share my experiences as a child from a single parent family because my upbringing and the way my mum raised me has made me who I am and I would challenge anyone who negatively judged me, or my mum, for being a single parent family unit. You can have a look at Amara’s fantastic project here http://www.amaraeno.com/3791628-the-25-percent-ongoing#1

I distinctly remember the night I first heard my parents argue. It wasn’t like a ‘you do the washing up, no YOU do the washing up’ type argument, it was an explosive one. My sister and I slept in bunk beds and I was asleep on the top bunk. It was dark so it was late and something woke me and I remember, rather oddly, the smell of onion rings in the fryer hitting me instantly. Despite living with us, my father was rarely at home. He was more like someone who visited us occasionally than a father. He was either working or out drinking. So when I awoke to his voice it was a bit of a surprise. He was aggressively shouting at my mum. I recognised, even then as a child, that there was both fear and upset in my mother’s voice as she defended herself verbally. I didn’t feel scared but I definitely had a sense that this was definitely not the way it was supposed to be. Something felt wrong, uncomfortable even.

Weeks later my father’s belongings were in suitcases that sat at the front door. I didn’t know then, but I do know now that my mum had been scared to ask him to leave for many months because she had been an unemployed housewife for many years, she had a big mortgage and two children to feed. She was miserable with him, and physically at risk of his malicious, alcohol fuelled temper. It was only as an adult that my mum told me he had tried to strangle her once. She confided in friends and decided it wasn’t in anybody’s best interests, both us and her, to keep my father at home. She made the incredibly brave decision to leave him.

The second he walked out my mum’s life drastically changed. We went from being a financially secure family living in a large three bedroomed house to living in a two bedroomed flat; my mum went from being a housewife to having to take any job that came her way. She only took work that would allow her to work when we were at school so that she could continue to drop us off and pick us up. During all of this change, my mum never once suggested to us that what was going on was hard. She maintained a smile, said it was all an adventure and turned up every afternoon to collect us from school. I remember at meal times there would only be two plates out on the table, one for me and one for my sister. When we asked mum why she wasn’t eating she would respond with  ‘Oh I’m not hungry’ or a ‘Don’t worry, I’ve already eaten’ and as children we believed her. It wasn’t until we were a lot older that we realised that during that time she couldn’t afford to eat if she fed both her daughters. My Dad had moved out and refused to pay any maintenance or child support. He barely ever turned up to have us for the weekend and when he did, he sometimes asked my mum to drive us half way there because clearly a 30 minute car journey to see his two daughters was just too much to ask of him.

Despite this, mum never suggested he was a bad father or that we were in a bad situation. As I got older and started to ask for the trainers, designer clothes or games consoles that everybody else had at school, she was forced to be honest and tell us that she couldn’t afford to buy those things. As a parent now myself, I understand now how heart breaking that must have been for her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t raise my kids to believe that money, designer trainers (you have to re mortgage your house for a pair these days!) and computer games grow on trees but having the resources to say yes occasionally is a real privilege really, particularly when you compare it to the ‘No, we can’t afford it’ response that my mum had to give us time and time again over many years.

Of course, we were just little girls then and I’m sure we threw our own fair share of tantrums over that answer. It must have hurt my mum so much. I see that now I have children of my own.

My mum went through a turbulent time, single parenting us for many years. She was so strong throughout. Our father continued to disappoint us every second weekend, not turning up, sometimes without notice and sometimes with the most ridiculous excuses. I think my mum definitely felt that she had to make up for where my father fell short. She would take us on days out, even if they were on a budget, and she would invest a lot of time in ensuring that we were happy, well balanced children despite the way in which our father messed us around.

As someone who parents alongside a partner, I can’t imagine how difficult, challenging and exhausting it was for my mum, and indeed for any single parents. Parenting is often a rollercoaster, the highs are high but the lows are low. It can be the most rewarding experience in your life but equally the most draining. When I need to go to the toilet, get changed, shower, cook (disclosure – I don’t cook very often) and so on, my husband takes the baby or takes over from me assisting with my big lad’s homework or the like. We are a team, and working as a team allows us as individuals to dip out to shower, make a phone call or take an “extended” trip to the toilet (in my experience this is one of the few places you are likely to come across peace and quiet. I often just sit, for way longer than necessary, enjoying the quiet!) knowing that he has everything in hand with the children. It’s not just the physical help that joint parenting brings, it’s that we face the challenges together, we always have someone to confide in about our shared concerns; it’s having someone to ride that rollercoaster with, someone who will hold your hand during the scary bits and celebrate with you during the bits that are exciting and exhilarating.

I can’t imagine not having my partner in crime at my side as we face the very unpredictable journey of parenting. Becoming a mother myself has definitely made me realise the sacrifices made by my mum to raise us and how challenging it must have been for her. If you asked her about it she would be very modest; she would say that she was just being a mother, raising her two girls. But I know that for those years of our childhood, she put her own life on hold. If raising us meant not eating, not going out, not having any luxuries whatsoever (by luxuries I mean pretty basic things, branded food at the supermarket, eating out at a café, having fish and chips from the chip shop) then that is what she did. And she did it with no complaint or hint of sadness.

Now I am ‘grown up’ (questionable at times, I know) I know that I am the mother that I am because of the way my mum raised me.  Her decision to leave my dad, thus protecting us all and minimising the negative impact he had on our lives, was so brave. She taught me never to accept ill treatment from a man, that a woman doesn’t need a man to survive and that having a decent man as a father to my children, who joins me in parenting, is not to be taken for granted.

I know that there is nothing I could do to return the sacrifices that my mum made for us but I do feel that my sister and I owe it to her now to give her immense support and treat her to the things that she missed out on for all those years. It will never repay her but it’s important to me that she knows how much she is loved and appreciated by my sister and I. We could have been very different people if mum hadn’t made those sacrifices and it is down to her that we have ended up being (quite) well rounded human beings (ish).

I’m blessed but I’m also stressed.

Our Little Miss is almost 17 months now. She can take lots of steps (I think 8 steps is the most we’ve seen so far) independently but seems to be choosing not to walk at this point. I remember with my Big Lad that he still wasn’t walking at 18 months and I remember crying on a not-so-sympathetic Health Visitor’s shoulder, seriously wondering whether he would EVER walk. I’m quietly confident this time round that she will in fact learn to walk. I’m just sitting tight and letting her do it in her own sweet time.

So, it’s not her development that is getting me stressed out. It is her health. I know she didn’t have the best of starts to life (see post here) and to this day I still feel guilt about that, but Doctors are saying that her consistently poor health has nothing to do with her neonatal drug dependance. She is just constantly poorly. When I say ‘it’s been one thing after another’, I genuinely mean it’s been one thing after another. She had a very bad case of Bronchilitis at 8 weeks old and since then she seems to have been constantly poorly. It could be a virus one week, a chest infection two weeks later, hand, foot and mouth two weeks after that, infected eczema the week after – you get the gist. The Paediatrician puts her recurring chest issues down to the Bronchilitis and says it could be a long time for the coughing and wheezing to resolve. As for the rest, there really isn’t any sort of explanation at the moment. I don’t mind admitting though that it is starting to get me down.

Little Miss is a blessing. Both my beautiful children are. In every which way, they are a blessing. Little Miss has had a rough time of it though. She brings us so much joy and she is such a happy-go-lucky little girl with a (usually) placid nature and she always offers a smile. The fact that she is usually so happy ordinarily, makes it hard when she is poorly and withdrawn, quiet and lethargic. She usually has so much energy and character.

I am so grateful that she is healthy. During my pregnancy my husband and I had to face the grim reality that she may not have been born healthy. I know what that fear felt like and when she was born squawking and wriggling about like any other healthy newborn, it felt like all our prayers had been answered. I know that there are so many gravely ill children around the world and I am in no way comparing a few viral infections to families facing those sort of challenges. I know we are lucky; we are so incredibly blessed. But seeing her under the weather constantly is difficult. Seeing her frown more than that ‘light-up-the-world’ smile, hurts. The constant laundry marathon of vomited on sheets and blankets is tiring. The disturbed sleep night after night is exhausting. The ‘she’s too poorly to go to nursery but I need to work, what am I going to do?’ panic is stressful. The fact that one of her first words was ‘Doctor’ was a little bit sad.

When she’s poorly there is nothing I want more than to curl up with her on the sofa and have a duvet day, and you’d think that, working for myself, I would have every opportunity to do so. And I do, occasionally. But, if I don’t work, and the business doesn’t make money, we don’t get paid. So there is more to it than being my own boss and taking time off when I need it.

Last week was a particularly bad week. Little Miss vomited (projectile too, to add insult to injury) in her cot every single night for five nights in a row. During the days there was no sickness but she was in and out, being her usual cheery self one minute and the next be clingy, lethargic and unsettled. Her eating stopped, which is usually the most obvious and first sign that she’s under the weather. It was really hard because she seemed poorly, and not herself, but there was no obvious sign of something being wrong. There was no spots or rashes, temperatures, pulling on her ears or persistent coughing, just her generally presenting as not being right.

On the Friday morning when we got her up and changed her, her nappy was dry. We put it down to her not taking as much milk and water as usual and the vomiting. We thought she may have been dehydrated. We encouraged her to drink plenty water and took her to nursery. When we went to collect her, her Key Worker did the whole collaring us at the door thing before we entered the room with the worried face. My heart sunk. She reassured us that it was probably nothing but Little Miss had slept for two hours in the middle of the morning (we were usually lucky to squeeze a half an hour nap in the middle of the day) and had been dry in the three nappy changes they had done. I was instantly worried; I knew that dry nappies wasn’t a good sign.

We considered taking her to the Doctors straight away but she had perked right up and was singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ at the top of her voice from the back of the car all the way home, dancing away to the music and seeming on top form. We decided that if we hadn’t had a wet nappy before bed time that we would take her to the Emergency Doctors. We let her stay up a bit later (meanwhile we encouraged her to drink lots of water at every opportunity) and by the time we came to change her, she had finally done a wee. I was relived. It didn’t stop me googling all the bloody symptoms all night long though, getting myself more and more worked up. I agreed with my hubby that if she was no better the following morning we would take her to see a Doctor.

She had a bit of an unsettled night and despite having two lots of milk, once before bed and once upon waking in the morning, when it came to changing her, her nappy was dry. That was when I started to really worry. We let her sit around in her nappy whilst we quickly got ready and she suddenly started screaming, it was a really high pitched scream; she looked in pain. She started pulling at her nappy as if she was sore. We just quickly got her into a sleep suit and took her straight to our specialist Paediatrics A&E hospital.

We are extremely lucky to have a fabulous Hospital with a specialist Children’s A&E unit with specialist Nurses and Doctors who are so natural, warm and welcoming with children. We waited ten minutes max before we were triaged by two Nurses, one of whom we had met a couple of times before. She was so lovely and a familiar face was reassuring. They did her observations and because she had been vomiting as part of this episode of poor health, we were told we wouldn’t be able to wait in the usual waiting area with other patients due to the outbreak of the Norovirus and infection control. We were placed in our own side room which actually worked out for the best as we had our own cot, our own TV and our own space.

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Little Miss was seen by a Doctor within half an hour, he advised that he thought she was presenting as having a virus but that he was concerned about the dry nappies. He was approachable and open and excellent in the way he established rapport with both us and Little Miss. He requested the infamous urine sample. Their policy is to request a ‘clean sample’ which meant catching her urine in a plastic cup – i.e. a mission impossible. Anyone got Tom Cruise on speed dial? No? No bother,  I’ve got this. It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?! Nah-Ah.  I remember when she was admitted as an 8 week old baby we had to do that and I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, this is impossible!’ but little did I know that that was actual a piece of cake compared to repeating the task but this time with a very energetic, mobile, stubbornly independent baby-come-toddler. It didn’t help that Little Miss was over tired from missing her nap. We tried to encourage her to drink loads but try as we did, there was no sign of this urine.

I rocked her to sleep and she had a short nap in the cot. I stupidly thought she may wee in her sleep. I definitely wasn’t right. The Doctor kept coming by the room asking if we had managed to get the sample yet, so did the nurses. There wasn’t a fifteen minute period that went by where we didn’t see one of them checking in on us. When Little Miss woke up she was really grumpy and unsettled. It was obvious that something was making her extremely uncomfortable. She wanted a cuddle, then she didn’t want a cuddle, she wanted to watch Cbeebies on the TV, then she wanted it off, she wanted her drink but then she didn’t want her drink – nothing was of any comfort to her.

This went on for a good few hours before she started screaming in pain and as I comforted her, my hubby spied that long awaited trickle and caught it in the cup (almost perfectly but there were a few unwelcome splashes here and there on my leggings and the like). I could see her relief as soon as it was over. She instantly perked up, her whole face just brightened. She smiled and giggled again and was far more settled. The Doctor took the sample away and almost immediately returned to us and said they had found cells in her sample that were indicative of a urine infection but that it would need to be sent to the lab and it takes 3 days for the cultures to grow (or something like that, all the medical scientific stuff goes right over my head. If it aint fixed by a bit of Calpol and a squirt of olbas oil, I don’t have a clue!). The Doctor discussed the situation with us; he said that we could wait until the test results were back before starting antibiotic treatment to avoid the possibility of her taking treatment unnecessarily but he also said that if it does turn out to be a kidney infection or similar, waiting three days could cause damage to her kidneys. We took the decision to have her start the antibiotics straight away. The Doctor was so lovely, reassuring me that I wasn’t being a pedantic mother making a bad decision. He placed the decision firmly in our hands, having given us all the information we needed and said he would support us either way. It didn’t take long for us to decide; risking the health of her kidneys would never be an option for us.

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While we waited for the prescription and discharge notes to be completed, Little Miss seemed to get a second wind and started enjoying the attention she was getting on the ward. My Husband discovered the play room and although she wasn’t allowed in there due to infection control, he found a toy pushchair and a little ride-on car and brought it in to our room for her to play on. That was it! She was off! Riding around the corridors like she owned the place, a big grin from ear to ear and definitely, definitely not looking poorly! Isn’t it incredible how children can go from one extreme to another within minutes?!

She got given a sticker, lots of high fives, waves and attention so I definitely don’t think the experience was traumatic for her! That is the benefit of having such a specialist children’s unit at our hospital. With my eldest I remember sitting in the same A&E as adults with various injuries or dispositions of varying degrees of seriousness and waiting for five, six hours sometimes in a waiting area not equipped to entertain children in any way whatsoever. It never put me at ease, that place. It felt traumatic just to sit in the waiting area. It certainly was never a place I relished taking my child to. Not that I want to ever have a need to take either of them to hospital, but, if it has to happen, we are so lucky that we have such a specialist unit on our doorstep for them.

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I know the NHS gets bad press but I cannot fault the care we have received, both on Saturday, and over the years. We really are so lucky to know that, should one of our children gets hurt or ill or injured, we have a place to take them, staffed with a team that we have faith in and trust. That is something not to take for granted. Ever.

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Saturday was a reminder of how blessed we are. I’m sure, in that hospital, there were children gravely ill. We were one of the lucky ones that eventually got to go home. Yes, it’s stressful when they get poorly. Tell me one element of parenting that isn’t! So, I may be stressed to the point of finding one too many grey hairs than I would care to admit at the ripe old age of 37, but I am so, so, so blessed.

I think I’m finding myself again

I’m sure many of you will understand me when I say I think I’ve lost myself for a little while. I’ve never been one to think or feel that in becoming a mum I lost myself, because I definitely don’t feel like that is the reason for it. I’ve been a mum for fifteen years so although we have a baby (more a toddler these days but I’m not ready to part with the term ‘baby’ just yet..) being a mum isn’t new to me. After ten years of trying to conceive our little lady, becoming a mum again was something I had dreamed about over and over and over again. My arms yearned to hold a baby; my heart yearned to be a mum again. When Little Miss came along she completed our family and with her she’s brought such joy. Both of them have.

 

So why do I feel like I’ve lost myself? I suppose I hadn’t really realised I had, to be honest. As a working mum, I throw myself in to the same routine every day, getting ourselves up and ready, getting the Big Lad off to school, getting the Little Miss off to nursery, getting to work, dealing with whatever work throws at me, then home with the kids and the bedtime routine ensues. By the time they have both settled down I am fighting with all my might to keep my eyes open.

 

As much as I love work and as much as I am passionate about my business and excited by where we are taking the business, I got myself in a rut, doing the same routine day after day with no time reserved on any day for doing anything specifically for ‘me’.

 

Last year I went through a period of going swimming a few times a week, only for half an hour each time, but it offered me some time just to focus on nothing other than myself. I was feeling much better on a physical level and it did me good to get out and do something outside of our usual routine. Then the winter came and I got lazy. I opted to curl up on the sofa in my pyjamas rather than head out for a swim. And now I’m out of habit of doing it and there just never seems any time for it anyway.

 

It wasn’t until my Mum and I went to a Psychic event and one of the Psychics picked up immediately on the fact that I had been feeling down and not feeling myself that I even recognized that I hadn’t been myself. It was like, in one statement from the Psychic, I suddenly realised that I had been feeling pretty low and not myself. I guess as mums we push our own emotions to the side and we rarely have the time or inclination to process them and really consider why we feel what we feel.

 

The revelation made me really thoughtful. I realised that I had stopped doing even the smallest of things that used to bring me pleasure as an individual. Not as a mum, not as a wife, not as a business owner – but as me. I realised that I hadn’t read a book in a very very long time. As an ex English Teacher, I’ve read hundreds of books and thoroughly enjoyed many of them. So why had I stopped reading? Maybe because I didn’t have time. Maybe because I didn’t make time for it.

 

The one thing that really lights fire in my belly is writing. I have always written creatively and nothing gives me greater satisfaction. Yes, I’ve written the occasional blog post but I haven’t explored the daily ideas I think about for future pieces of writing and I can’t understand why; there has been nothing stopping me doing a bit of writing after the kids go to bed each night. The only person stopping myself from doing it is me. I can’t even begin to understand why I would stop doing something that gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment.

 

Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have really made an effort to pursue time on a daily basis dedicated to what I want to do, dedicated to what will bring me enjoyment for me. I have started writing creatively again and it genuinely excites me. I have bought some new books and have started reading again. I might only manage ten minutes of reading a night before my eyes decide to close themselves out of sheer tiredness but that doesn’t matter – at least I am going to bed each night knowing that I have had some time out of that daily routine all about everybody else, to focus on me and what makes me happy.

 

As a woman I think we naturally tend to put others before ourselves. We’ll happily do whatever it takes to make our children happy, make our husband happy, or our parents, sister; the postman or the candlestick maker; we are generally far more comfortable devoting time to making others happy rather than spending time on ourselves.

 

I have had a realisation that in order for me to the best Mum I can be, I need that time for me. Having that time for me means that on an emotional level I am so much more happier and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this has on our parenting.

 

Being a mum, or taking on any other roles, doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves. I hadn’t even realised that I had got lost in the routine and monotony of the every day. I’m sure it won’t be the last time it happens. I think even just by acknowledging the fact that as people, as human beings, we deserve time for our interests, our ambitions, our hobbies, our enjoyment; is a huge step in the right direction.

 

I know how full on it can be as a Mum. I’ve done the nights where Little Miss has resisted sleep until the small hours and then you’ve got to get yourself straight to bed so that you’re able to be even the slightest big functional in the morning. I’m not daft enough to believe that there will always be time to focus on ourselves every day but we should definitely take ownership of that time where it is possible. Grab the five minutes here, the ten minutes there and spend it wisely. Spend it on something that ignites your soul. Something that excites you. Something just for you. Because, ultimately, we deserve it. It’s working for me. I’m so much better for it too.

Why Holidays are Everything to us.

The mornings are getting lighter and that winter snap in the air is gradually getting less and less. This can only mean one thing: the holiday season is in sight! My little family and I literally LIVE for our holidays. There is something very special about packing a bag (Okay, five point two suitcases, a hold all, a vanity case and a travel cot), turning our phones off and venturing off to a place where there are no plans, no clock watching, no work interruptions – just a week or two of focusing only on each other.

Being self employed and having our own business, we have to work really hard. As much as it would be nice to leave the office at 5pm every day and then switch off for the evening, it’s just not that easy. So, day to day I can’t help but feel I miss out on quality time with the kids. There is always an email to answer, a telephone call to take, a work matter to discuss with my husband; work just doesn’t stop. That is why holidays are so very precious to us. They provide us with a timescale in which we agree no phones, no work chat, no worries or stresses: just 100% family time. Over the years we have holidayed in loads of different places: Australia, Malaysia, America, Jamaica and other far ashore places but these days, particularly with a very young child, it is so much easier to embark on a short flight to somewhere relatively close which promises sunshine and fun times. We realised during our holidays in Europe that you don’t have to go long haul to have an amazing family holiday.

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I love the excitement that surrounds choosing holiday destinations. Where it used to be star ratings, the number of bars on site and spa facilities, we now pay more attention to the facilities for the children. It is really important to us that we choose destinations that are family friendly, resorts that feel safe and ones that offer the kids plenty opportunities to unwind, have fun and, most of all, make precious memories.

Our favourite holiday destination for a family friendly, affordable break is Mallorca. The island literally welcomes children with open arms. I will never forget the locals in Mallorca fussing over our boy, telling him how beautiful he was. It was lovely. In Mallorca we’ve always felt so welcome; whether it’s been as we’ve entered a restaurant, a bar, a supermarket or a gift shop, the locals have always given us a lovely warm welcome and made us feel very at home. This is one of the main reasons why it is our go-to holiday destination.

Mallorca has so much to offer in terms of different resorts. Lots of the resorts are a long walk or short bus journey away so you aren’t necessarily limited to staying on the one resort your hotel is in. There is so much on offer in neighboring resorts that you never get bored; no two days have to be the same.

We like staying in C’an Picafort, a seaside town in the North of the island. It is such a friendly place, buzzing with busy-ness in some parts but equally has some areas which are totally laid back and tranquil. We originally chose C’an Picafort because there seemed to be something for everyone: there were family friendly pubs and restaurants with play areas for the kids, beautiful sandy beaches, a lot of touristy type shops and my absolute favourite: lots of fabulous busy markets.

For all we absolutely love holidays, we’re not ones for spending 8 hours on the beach, turning occasionally to ensure an even tan! We like to pack a lot in to our holidays, especially now we have children who need to be constantly entertained! We like to do a bit of everything: eat out, have a drink somewhere where the kids are happy to play, a bit of swimming, a mooch around the shops, a little walk and maybe even a game of crazy golf (which can get extremely competitive, let me tell you!).

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If you’re in to nature, Mallorca brings it in bucket loads. S’Albufera Nature Park and Wetlands offers a different dynamic to the beach holiday. The park is home to birds from all over Europe who nest at the Park depending on the time of year; rare species like Osprey, Kingfishers and Eagles can be found there in certain months. If nature, trees, reed banks, ponds and pools are your thing, you will definitely enjoy a day spent at the Park and there are lots of interesting things to see for the kids too.

The beaches at C’an Picafort are absolutely beautiful but do tend to get busy. However, we discovered a quieter and more secluded beach surrounded by sand dunes in Playa de Muro. It is one of the longest beaches in the Balearic Islands at six kilometres long so plenty room to find a part of the beach just for you. The white sand and the clear, warm shallow waters make the beach something special. Playa de Muro is a much quieter and smaller resort but there are plenty bars and restaurants on hand should you need to eat or fancy a drink stop. If you fancy a more chilled out day at the coast and you want to get away from the crowds, I would definitely recommend seeking out Playa de Muro.

We love throwing the routines that we have at home out of the window for the duration of the holiday. We bin off bedtimes and nap times, and we just go with the flow. We love going out for dinner on an evening, and Mallorca offers a huge amount of variety when it comes to restaurants. We never had any issue finding restaurants that offered a children’s menu or facilities for children so there are plenty options when it comes to eating out. For that reason we never opt for all inclusive resorts or half board holidays because we love wandering around, looking for a different place to eat for the evening, experiencing as much of the resort as possible. Food has always been really affordable there and the atmosphere in the restaurants is very relaxed – nobody is pushing you to leave or throwing out the courses in record time. You are just left to relax and enjoy the evening.

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We love finishing our evenings by taking a wander around the local area. There is always a new part of the town we haven’t yet explored and the town is buzzing on an evening (not in a ‘blow-your-whistle-rave’ type of way, just lots of families milling about, evening drinks, street vendors and hair braiders and lots of charming little tourist shops along the sea front that stay open until late). We love that a little wander and maybe a stop to look at some shops or for a drink or two extends our evening a bit. It also means that by the time we get back to the hotel, the kids are totally ready to knock out the zeds which leaves the hubby and I time to enjoy a pre bedtime glass of vino on the balcony before bed.

The biggest thing for us about any holiday is dedicating time to just enjoying each other. Seeing the kids faces covered in ice cream, giving in when they ask for ‘fizzy pop’ every time we stop for a drink, applying sun screen to their snow white skin every ten minutes because they insist on dive bombing in to the pool before it’s had a chance to dry, still sitting on the beach after telling them ‘we’re going in five minutes’ an hour ago because they haven’t quite finished their sand castle, saying yes to having waffles smothered in nutella for breakfast and seeing the delight on their faces when we announce that there is no bedtime because “we’re on our holidays” is everything. The statement ‘we’re on holiday’ is an excuse to relax the rules (maybe even break one or two) over-indulge, let go of all the daily stresses and strains back at home and just be us. Enjoy us.

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It doesn’t get any better than being ‘us’.

 Mallorca is one of our holiday gems. Where is yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Versatile Blogger Award

The lovely Amy from The Rolling Baby has very kindly nominated me to take part in The Versatile Blogger Award. The rules of the sche-bang are as follows:

  • Write 7 interesting facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 amazing bloggers for the award.

Now, the second task I don’t have a problem with because I am literally surrounded by amazing bloggers all day long and love the blogging community that we all have going on. Choosing just 15 may be an issue though. I have a lot of love for fellow bloggers!

As a thirty-something-hurtling-towards-a-forty-something-at-the-speed-of-light I don’t feel very ‘interesting’. Not sure where these 7 facts will take us and I can’t promise they will be interesting but I’ll give it a good bloody go because I am nothing if but a trier!

Okay, here goes….

  1. I met my husband on Christmas Eve. When I saw my mum the following morning, I told her that I had met the man I was going to marry. Even though I was with someone else at the time! Within three months we were engaged, within four months we had bought our first home together and within five months I was pregnant with my Big Lad. Many said it wouldn’t last. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t all been red roses and rose petals for 16 years; there were times where I may have been inclined to agree with them. But, I can honestly say that we are a hundred times stronger for all the challenges we have faced and we have never been so happy. He is my soul mate. This is stomach churning soppy daftness I know, but he is. He just is.
  2. I’ve been very open about our fertility struggles with our second baby. Despite years and years of fertility treatment we only fell pregnant once as a direct result of the treatment. This sadly resulted in a miscarriage which hit us both hard. However, the interesting bit about this is that I have been told by a number of Mediums that the baby was a girl and has continued to grow in spirit and she now lives with us in our home and enjoys dancing at the bottom of our bed. Since we have had our Little Miss, I have been told that the girl in spirit is one of Little Miss’ spirit guide and that she is aware of her. My husband is very closed off to the idea. However, when, in the middle of the night one night, all of the toys downstairs randomly switched on together, making lots of noise, singing tunes and so on, even he was a little bit freaked out! Even a toy which had flat batteries and hadn’t worked for months, was playing sounds!
  3. I am a very spiritual person. I don’t claim to know a lot about it all but I am definitely making a real effort to understand it more. I believe in crystal healing and reiki healing. I have crystals in my baby’s nursery and my Big Lad’s bedroom to help create clean, healthy and positive energy for them. I also have crystals in every corner of my home and office.
  4. My husband and I work together. It hasn’t always been that way but certainly in the last 4 years we have worked together, in the same office, full time. A lot of people have told me that they could never work with their better half. We have made it work. I’m not saying it doesn’t come with its challenges, because it definitely does. But we have worked really hard to make our business successful and in order for that to happen, we have to be able to work well alongside each other. We have learnt that it is really important for us both to have very defined roles, very different roles, drawing on our own individual strengths and skills. We work in the same office but not on top of each other, our desks face different people. Sometimes if we’ve had a barney at home about one of us using the last of the milk for breakfast or something, it takes a conscious effort to leave the row at the door to the office but a workplace is no place for marital disputes! On the rare occasion we have had a bit of a ‘to-do’ at work, I have noticed that it has an impact on the whole office so it is definitely something we strive never to do!
  5. In addition to working with my husband, I also employ my Mum as my PA! Isn’t there an old saying about working with family? I can understand why it might not be an ideal situation for some but I have nothing but amazing things to say about our working relationship. In fact, I think it has changed my relationship with my mum for the better. We spend more time together and although it is mostly in a working environment , we are still able to have a bit of a natter over a coffee or lunch. My Mum is amazing at her job, which from a business perspective, makes it a sensible decision. My husband and her have a brilliant relationship, he sees her as his Mum as he doesn’t see his own mum and although we now employ other staff, I love that our business started based on a family affair. The way I see it, our business is our livelihood. It clothes our children, puts food in the fridge and keeps a roof over our heads. It is so important that our business works and that it is successful. So if we are going to employ someone, it has to be someone that we trust enough to care about the business just as much as we do. And there is nobody who I would trust more with our business than my Mum. She wants us to succeed and therefore she works as hard as we do, is as passionate as we are and cares as much as we do. Our arrangement might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it absolutely works for us.
  6. I am registered Disabled. I was diagnosed with widespread Rheumatoid Arthritis shortly after having my son fifteen years ago. It is believed that the traumatic birth may have triggered the disease. In recent years I have also been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis of the spine also. Both conditions cause chronic pain, fatigue and brain fog amongst lots of other things. It has been a long road learning to cope with constant pain, every single day of my life. It is there when I go to sleep at night and is the last thing I think about, and it is the first thing I think about when I wake up every morning. I spent a lot of time during my twenties on long term sick from work, living in my Pyjamas, never leaving the house, sleeping day and night just to escape the pain. It has been a long road but the very reason I have thrown myself in to my work is because it is a coping mechanism for me. If I keep busy, the pain is more manageable than if I am sitting with nothing else to focus on but the pain. Some days are worse than others. I get flare ups where I can’t even turn myself on to my side in bed without help. I can’t get out of bed or get myself to the toilet. I have learnt to accept those days. I’ve learnt to stop being proud and accept help. I’ve learnt that some days I have to stop. My body is demanding it. I don’t like those days, and to this day I still feel like a bit of a fraud if I take time off work sick, but I have to listen to my body and go with it. I have been on high levels of morphine for many, many years and it helps to some degree with the pain. Unfortunately it does turn me in to a bit of a space cadet at times but being off my tits is sometimes a much better option to being in agony.
  7. I believe in the power of manifesting! I am currently attempting to manifest my dream home! I am imagining myself in the house, I am making plans for that house, I give it a bit of a wave every time we add it -make no mistake, that house is going to be our dream family home! I’m not sure when it will happen but it WILL happen. Because the universe is listening to me! I am sure of it! I love the idea of having a ‘dream board’ or ‘vision board’ too – that is something I am definitely going to sort in the coming weeks.

So, now I’ve bored you with facts about yours truly, let’s give these beautiful bloggers the love they deserve! Here are my fifteen faves…

  1. Rachael – http://www.rantingrachael.wordpress.com
  2. Theia – http://www.thesausagerollchronicles.wordpress.com
  3. Naomi – http://www.naomirowan.com
  4. Almost Sane Mom – http://www.almostsanemom.com
  5. Nippersnips – http://www.nippersnips.com
  6. Alice – http://www.letters-tomydaughter.co.uk
  7. Not so Special Mommy – http://www.notsospecialmommy.com
  8. Hels – http://www.thehelsproject.com
  9. The Mum Job – http://www.themumjob.wordpress.com
  10. Kassy – http://www.mummasmayhem.wordpress.com
  11. Amy Jane – http://www.amyjaneandbaby.com
  12. Laura – http://www.diaryofazombiemum.wordpress.com
  13. Anna – http://www.annainternationalblog.com
  14. It’s Mama – http://www.itsmamaxo.com
  15. The Muddled Mum – http://www.themuddledmum.com

The biggest of big love to Amy for the nomination – it’s been fun! To my fifteen faves, don’t forget to tag me in to your post! I am looking forward to these facts all about you!

 

How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

So, as many of you know I have a 15 year old lad and a just over one year old little girl. Due to fertility issues it took us ten years to conceive our Little Miss and during that time we forgot it all. I forgot how small newborns were. We forgot how exhausting the sleep deprivation was. We forgot the timescales for weaning and immunisations. We forgot how much babies cost. We forgot EVERYTHING. The only thing we hadn’t forgotten was how to make a baby (and thank goodness for that!).

In a way, I think it was a purposeful loss of memory. Like all my brain cells got together and agreed ‘If she remembers how sheer bloody difficult it was, she might never want to do it again so let’s wipe her memory. Get rid of it all! The all-nighters, the projectile puking, the soggy shoulders, the I-haven’t-washed-my-hair-in-three-weeks look and every other tough time that they went through. Sayonara memories! Smell you later!”

Maybe it was for the best.

So when we were finally blessed with our Little Miss, it all came as quite a shock. Yes, we had been there before, but it was 14 years ago. It was a lifetime ago. A lot of the official guidance had changed so it was like having our first all over again. We were older (but certainly not wiser) and not as spritely as we had been with our first and having a high risk pregnancy followed by a special care baby placed us under pressure from the moment that little blue line changed our world.

I’ll tell you the punch line now though: it was so worth it. On many occasions over the course of the first year, it’s been tough. Like really tough. But never has ‘tough’ been so joyful, so full of love, so fulfilling.

 I’m no parenting expert (says the woman who has to bribe her one year old with a bag of Pombears, the top of a french stick and half a packet of chocolate buttons just to get round half of Asda) but thought I would share a few things we learned along the way:

  1. Pack a couple of different sized sleepsuits in your hospital bag. With my first (he was a whopping 9lb10oz so came out the size of a fully grown 3 year old) he was too big for newborn so needed the next size up and with my second, it was the opposite! She was far too small for newborn. I had lovingly chosen what was to be her ‘first outfit’ and all that went to pot when she was born so teeny. I ended up having to send my Hubby shopping for tiny baby sized clothes. I felt awful that I didn’t have something to put her in that fit her straight away. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my baby brain had led me to packing a hat for a 6-12 month old in my hospital bag. I ended up being given one of those nana-knitted wooly hats from the hospital to put on her when she was first born. I treasure it now though.
  2. Try and control your spending – this was something I was TERRIBLE at. I exercised no self control whatsoever but when I was handing over a black bag of brand new, tagged, unworn baby clothes to a pregnant friend, I sure wish I had. My baby would have had to remain at newborn size for three years to get through the wardrobe of clothes I had bought for her. I wasted so much money, which would have been far better spent on the boring stuff like nappies and wipes!

 

 

  1. Try not to romanticise the birth in your head – go in with an open mind, what will be will be. This is a biggie for me because both of my deliveries had their complications. I had an extremely difficult birth with my son which was incredibly traumatic and with my second it was an emergency section. So many mums visualise a boho-chic birthing-pool-with-whale-music-and-absolutely-no-pain-whatsoever- birth. Some mums get it. They are lucky. People like me don’t get that lucky! I think if I had gone in expecting a birth like that, I would have been extremely disappointed. All that mattered to me was that I had a healthy baby at the other end. I know that birthing experiences are very important to women – and so they should be – and women should absolutely have every say over how their birth is managed and planned. Unfortunately for me, both my deliveries went tits up but did it matter? No. My babies matter. They came through it, and that is all that matters.

 

  1. Take control of your first moments together – I learnt the hard way with my first. I welcomed every man, woman and child to meet my son when he was only a matter of days old. I soon felt really overwhelmed with it all. I resented handing my baby around all the friends and relatives for cuddles because I didn’t feel like I had even had a chance to enjoy those cuddles myself. With my second I was a bit of a Mum-Zilla. She was in special care for a while and quite poorly and I didn’t feel up to visitors. Nor was I ready to share her with anyone. We welcomed grandparents (and the cuddles, support and reassurance they brought with them) but we said no to everybody else. Once we got home, I still took my time before inviting friends and family around. I wanted time as a family. I wanted to close the doors on the world and just enjoy her. I wanted my Big Lad to adjust to having a baby sister without the doorbell going every half an hour. I think she was almost a month old before my best friend met her. I don’t regret it though. I’ll remember that time we had, feeling our way through becoming a family of four, forever. It was beautiful.

 

  1. Forget your usual standards. So, you used to have an immaculate home? You used to hoover on a daily basis? You used to make all meals from scratch? You used to put your make up on every morning? Whatever your standards were before having a baby, make no mistake that there is no shame in lowering them (and lowering them again) after having a baby. Becoming parents is the most beautiful gift. But it is bloody exhausting. For a while, you live in a bit of a bubble. A big, love filled bubble of loveliness. Then shit gets real. It has to get real, unfortunately. I would LOVE to spend the rest of my life in that love filled bubble but, and it’s an unfortunate but, life kicks in. The hubby goes back to work. The washing basket is overflowing. The fridge and kitchen cupboards are empty. Reality bursts that bubble and suddenly you are expected to do everything you did before having a baby, now with a baby. I remember on my hubby’s first day back to work after paternity leave, I tried to be the ultimate domesticated wife. I tried to make a hot pot for him coming home whilst feeding the baby and shushing her and hoovering and dusting then shushing some more. I ended up burning the tea. The hoover spit out crap instead of sucking it up because it needed emptying and I hadn’t even noticed. And the milk I had just lovingly fed my baby ended up being sprayed all over the sofa in a reflux inspired vomit sesh. Yup. Never have I ever looked less domesticated.

Just because the hubby went back to work and I was at home on maternity, I felt under immense pressure to be the all-singing-all-hoovering housewife. I put myself under pressure to have a homemade dinner ready for him coming home, a clean and tidy home, a freshly bathed and changed bubba for post-work cuddles and maybe even a dash of lippy on my chops. What he got instead was a warbling hormone crazed mother with vomit in her hair, a shit tip of a home and a burnt hot pot. Did it matter? No. Was he expecting anything different? No. Taking care of baby is a huge deal. It is bloody hard at times. Don’t be afraid to lower your standards while you feel your way in to motherhood. You’ll never look back on this time and say ‘I really wish I had kept my home tidier’ but you might think ‘I wish I had just lowered my standards and focused on me and my baby.’

 

  1. Trust your instincts. On a couple of occasions during her first year, I have felt, instinctively, that something has been wrong with Little Miss. I sometimes felt silly making a GP appointment ‘on a whim’ or phoning the Health Visitor for the 35th time that week to talk through something that I was sure was totally in my head. My GP told me to always trust my instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t be afraid to say so or seek help. The consequences of not saying it could be too big.

 

  1. Sleep is a constant topic of debate amongst parents. Or, more like, lack of it. Sleep deprivation is hard. There are no two ways about it. And as much as I loved to steal extra night time snuggles, when you’ve been ‘night time snuggling’ for twenty three nights in a row with about 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep, it gets wearing. I was the silly mother trying to be Super Woman, telling her husband to go back to sleep while I sort the baby out. I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough sleep for work. And, well, let’s face it, I’m on maternity leave, so I don’t need the sleep as much as he does. Right? Wrong. We all need sleep. I reckon even super duper survival expert Bear Grylls would agree with me. You’ve got to be in it together. It becomes impossible for one person to continually bear the weight of sleep deprivation. It leads to exhaustion, resentment, illness – it’s not good. Share the load. Do alternate nights, or alternate get ups. You’re in this together. Don’t try and be a Super Hero, just be you, be the best mum you can be whilst taking care of yourself also. You are no good to anyone if you end up collapsing with exhaustion!

 

  1. Take photos. Steal precious moments. Breathe it in. That might sound a bit airy fairy but believe me when I say that time flies. They aren’t small for long and that first year is really special. Even the evenings I spent pacing the floor with a baby who thought sleep was for the weak gave me the opportunity to steal precious moments. Holding her close to me, in the dark, in the silence, just me and her . Ok, I was an exhausted mess, but I consciously told myself that one day I will look back on that moment and want to relive it. So I held her a bit closer. I breathed her in. The smell of her, the soft touch of her skin, tracing her tiny fingers as they grasped mine. There is something to treasure in every moment.

 

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice and don’t ever be afraid to ignore unwanted advice. Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to parenting. It is one of those topics that no one is ever going to agree on. We all have different ideas, different parenting styles, different ways of doing things. And thank goodness we do – it’s our differences that make us beautiful, after all. Get used to the idea that family, friends (and maybe even complete and utter strangers) will want to share their advice with you – even if you express no apparent need for it. Don’t take it personally. Listen to it if you like, consider it if you want to, but it is equally fine just to ignore the buggar and continue doing your own thing. My mother in law once mocked me for parenting my baby ‘as if I’d read a text book on it.’ I’m not sure what she meant by that. That I was trying my hardest to get it right? That I had done my research? That I was an uptight parent? I’m still not sure what she meant by it and she said it 15 years ago. But the look on her face when she said it definitely suggested that I was getting it wrong. I was only young at the time so it definitely knocked my confidence. Don’t give anyone that power. Parent the way you want to parent. By all means get support and advice but on your own terms – when you want it or need it – and forget everybody else.

 

  1. Finally, try not to compare your child to others. Both my babies have been slow at achieving the physical milestones like crawling and walking. With my first I actually lost sleep over the fact he wasn’t walking at 14 months. I would go to playgroups and see babies the same age as him whizzing around the place or see babies older than him at his nursery well ahead of him. I was convinced he was never going to walk. My Little Miss isn’t being much different either. She’s definitely got a bit of the lazy thing going on. I mean, why walk when you can flutter your eyelashes and get your big brother or daddy to carry you?! She’s a diva in a nappy. This time though I am so much more relaxed. Contrary to my fears, my Big Lad is not still crawling about at 15, he just walked in his own good time. Nothing good can come from comparing your child’s development to that of others. If you have any concerns about their development, it is best to see a professional for advice. Every baby is different, they will achieve milestones at different ages, they will grow and develop at their own pace. That doesn’t mean that there is anything to be concerned about. Just focus on your own little bundle and support them to learn and grow and flourish and they will get there.

I hope the above helps, even if just in a teeny way. Wherever you are in your first year, enjoy it. The joy our little treasures bring to our lives is just immeasurable. They are the most precious gift. Enjoy every moment. Even the poo and vomit filled ones.