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.

Zero Sleeper to a Hero Sleeper!

How we went from a Hero Sleeper to a Zero Sleeper and Back Again

There is almost fourteen years between our first and our second child. We’d got past the sleep deprivation years ago with our first and so had been enjoying many years of lazy lie ins and good, decent nights’ sleep. So when our baby girl came along and brought sleep deprivation with her, it was a shock to the system. Of course, we knew it was coming so we had tried to prepare ourselves mentally for the situation but nothing can really prepare you for the twelve hour long scream-and snot-a-thons and the getting-up-to-put-the-dummy-back-in marathons that see you greet every single half hour on the clock through the night. I hate to digress but when is someone going to finally invent a contraption that keeps dummies in babies’ mouths? I for one would be screaming at Peter Jones from the other side of the telly to invest if someone took that invention into the ‘Den.

Having been through the sleep deprivation that the baby and toddler stage brought with it with our first, and having regained a better quality (and quantity!) of sleep, we desperately wanted to try and implement a healthy sleep routine for our Little Miss. Unfortunately this was impossible when she was first born due to her needing special care (I’m certain there is no night and day in special care – just lots of round-the-clock nurturing and care and lots of lovely, jolly Doctors and Nurses who do an incredible job regardless of the time of day) which saw her needing treatment round the clock. Once we got her home it was essential that we continued with that care and so we had to wake her through the night periodically for her medication. This really disturbed her and interrupted her sleep routine and so, for the first couple of months we just went with the flow. Once she was weaned off her medication though, that was when we really started to think about her routine and how we could promote a better quality of sleep for her (and us!).

Many years ago I did my training to become a qualified Baby Massage Instructor so I was aware of the benefits of using something like massage as part of a baby’s pre-bedtime routine. So, every night whether it was following her bath or her top to toe wash down, I would do some baby massage with her, with the lights low and any sounds down. I didn’t want her to become accustomed to needing silence to chill out and sleep so I was always very conscious to keep some noise going on but I kept it low enough to create a relaxing environment. Little Miss loved a bit of classical music when she was teeny so I used to play that sometimes when I massaged her. She wasn’t keen on lying on her front and being massaged but she did respond positively to lying on her back so I would massage her scalp, her face gently, and then move down slowly to her shoulders, arms, tummy, legs and all the way to her toes. I would always finish with the same stroke; using my two hands across her front and moving them towards each other in the shape of a heart. I would then quietly, and without much talk, slip her into her sleepsuit and give her her dummy and comfort blanket. I then gave her her evening feed and placed her down in her moses basket awake. I was really wary of getting drawn into the routine of having to rock/shush her off to sleep myself and I really wanted her to learn how to self soothe and get herself off to sleep. She did this really well and after looking around for a bit, her eyes would get heavier and heavier and she’d eventually drop off to sleep without any fuss.

It didn’t take long until she recognised this routine as being ‘bed time’ and I was really encouraged by the fact that she was able to get herself to sleep (which helped when she woke for night feeds because I could put her straight back down in the moses basket after a feed and she would go straight back to sleep which meant we weren’t up for long periods through the night) and she was soundly sleeping for sustained periods in between feeds. I was just starting to feel really smug thinking I had totally cracked it, when another month or two down the line she decided that she didn’t much like sleep on a night time anymore and decided that she was going to challenge the beautiful routine we had in place by constantly waking up all the time!

I was gutted. I really had thought that we had nailed it. She got poorly with a bad cold and she developed a night cough that disturbed her sleep terribly and I think, that because it went on so long, she just became accustomed to waking regularly through the night and then she wanted the comfort of a cuddle or a bit of the old ‘rock and shush’. We decided at that point to move her through to her own room. I wasn’t sure what else I could do to improve her sleep and I was acutely aware of the fact that my Hubby snores like a wild boar with a blocked nose so I did wonder whether he was disturbing her (as well as me!).

Things just deteriorated from this point. It got to the point that Little Miss would wake within half an hour of being put down on an evening and then I’d be back up there pacing the floors with her to get her back to sleep, then she’d be up again three or four times before we even made it to bed. Then the graveyard shift would commence and there were many, many nights where I spent more time pacing the floors of her nursery than I did in bed. This went on for months. She wouldn’t settle for my Hubby when he went through to see to her during the night so then I would go in to settle her (which was a big mistake because from then on she would only settle if I went in) and I would spend hours (I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not) and hours trying to get her back to sleep then transfer her in to her cot and exit the room like a stealthy ninja whose life depended on it (only with very creaky joints that like to creak at the most inopportune time). I sometimes hadn’t even made it back to my bed before she would wake again and start crying for me.

I know we all joke about sleep deprivation and we all know it’s coming when we have a baby but when I say I was sleep deprived and barely functional, I am not in any way exaggerating. I was surviving on a couple of hours sleep a night and most of that came from the naps I had when I was sat in the rocking chair in her nursery with her in my arms. I lost the capacity to think straight, to remember, to cope with the smallest of worries. I was an absolute mess. Throw in to the mix a return to full time work and I became ill with exhaustion.

It got to the point where I dreaded night time. I actually put off going to bed on an evening because I couldn’t face the thought of the up and down marathon that would start as a result. I would burst in to tears at the drop of a hat and I felt drained. I had no energy and no enthusiasm. I struggled with that in itself because I consider myself to be a positive and upbeat person most of the time (terms and conditions apply!). I started reaching out to friends and family for advice and I received a flood of ideas – some I knew instantly wouldn’t work with our Little Miss, and some I thought were worth a try. We tried things like the LUSH sleep cream, playing white noise, tweaking her day time naps and lots of other things to no avail. I also did my own research, scouring the internet for any advice or sleep aids that I could try with her. She was reaching one year old at this point and I worried that all of the advice I was reading seemed aimed at younger babies. I worried that we had ruined the possibility of getting her in to a positive sleep routine because she was too old. But both my hubby and I decided that we couldn’t not do anything because we couldn’t carry on with things the way they were.

We decided that we would try controlled crying with her. This wasn’t ideal for two reasons – firstly because her sustained crying would keep our eldest up through the night and he had school to go to in the morning and secondly because I’m the biggest softie to walk the planet and can’t bear to do nothing when she was crying. Her standing at the end of the cot and crying ‘Mama’ so I could hear it on the other side of the door was so hard. I know that this approach gets a mixed response from people. I totally get why some people can’t or won’t try it but I can equally understand why people do it and how they get good results from it. Our experience of it was initially quite bad. We did controlled crying for several hours one night, going in to reassure her every few minutes, lying her back down and so on but the second we left the room she was straight back up again and she almost made herself sick crying one night. It was awful. I know there are much worse things to experience in this world than your baby crying but I found it almost impossible.

We decided to attack the ‘all new and improved’ sleep routine from all angles. We cut out one of her daytime sleeps and we made a point of building in some good quality one to one (or one to two!) play time between collecting her from nursery and her going to bed through the week. I moved her bedtime story up to her room so we now have a story in dimmed lit room before her bed time bottle. We decided to take the leap and purchase a ‘My Hummy’ bear which plays white noise continuously for 60 minutes and has a sleep sensor so the white noise kicks in automatically if she stirs in bed and then it plays for another 60 minutes. I considered it quite an investment and considered buying one for a few weeks. Consequently we ended up ordering one at around 2am one morning when we were both stressed and exhausted and desperate to give anything a try. I had seen the positive reviews on Facebook so I was encouraged but I was concerned that my Little Miss was too old now to start using white noise. But I was desperate and thought anything was worth a try.

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I was concerned because she didn’t take an instant liking to the lovely bear called Filbert – in fact she kept giving it back to me. I don’t know why because it is a beautifully made toy and despite its sound function it is lovely and soft and light. I introduced it to her as a play thing as I had hoped she would connect with it but she was really disinterested. However, I was determined to give Filbert a whirl and give him a chance to make a difference. I placed Filbert in her cot and start the white noise immediately after we finish our bedtime story and just before I start her bottle. She is very sleepy by the time she gets to the end of her bottle and I place her in her cot. She still wakes after half an hour which is really frustrating, it’s almost as if she can’t get in to that deep sleep phase initially. She cries when she wakes but she settles a lot quicker with the white noise going. I go into her room and stroke her head for a minute or so then come back out. We’ve had to do a bit of controlled crying on an evening after she first wakes but she’s not getting half as upset as before with the white noise going on at the same time. We are in there three times maximum before she goes back over to sleep. This happens maybe once or twice on an evening before we’ve gone to bed at the moment; I suspect that despite the best will in the world to be as quiet as possible, the noise of us downstairs and the Big Lad in his room next to hers, she must be being woken by the odd noise here and there. Once we all go to bed she really settles now. She is up maximum once through the night but (and this is HUGE but – get the fanfare at the ready and start up the drum roll…) she has consistently SLEPT THROUGH for three nights now!!! I could never have imagined that introducing just a couple of minor changes could have such an incredible impact.

What a difference it makes too! She greets us with a beautiful smile on a morning because she is well rested and content and I’m not having mummy meltdowns on a daily basis because my brain is actually getting some rest! I appreciate that it is still very early days and I’m acutely aware that all it will take is for her to get a bad cold and it will throw us off course completely but I am feeling so much more confident about her sleep (and my sleep!). Life really is brighter when you’ve knocked out a few decent hours of zeds. It may have taken us a while to find a routine that worked for our Little Miss but now we have, I am strictly going to persevere with it against all the odds if she has a little relapse. As recently as just last night we were doing controlled crying at around 9pm, I was returning to her room every few minutes to lay her back down in the cot and tuck her back in and she was stood crying at the end of the cot. Every bone, brain and heart in my body was screaming at me to pick her up, cradle her in my arms and hold her close. It’s not easy seeing your little treasure upset. Luckily common sense prevailed and I realised we’re in this now – we’ve started this sleep routine, now it’s down to us to ensure that we continue to provide consistency for her. She was fresh out the bath in a freshly laundered sleepsuit and I literally yearned to pick her up and hold her. Then a moment of harsh reality kicked in: my Little Miss didn’t NEED me to pick her up and cuddle her. She might have wanted it, but she certainly didn’t need it. That was more of my need than hers. And it was her needs that mattered. She certainly wasn’t impressed when I simply laid her back down and left the room but within ten minutes or so she was flat out enjoying a lovely sleep – exactly what she needed more than anything.

It’s been a tough few weeks and the lack of sleep has challenged me physically and emotionally but I am so glad we decided to tackle the issue head on. The easy way out would have been to carry on dozing with her in my arms in her nursery but that wasn’t helping anyone. It’s good to just face these things head on and get the right result for our little cherubs.

One final thing, I’m acutely aware that this may sound like a bit of a sales-pitch-type-all-round-love-in for My Hummy. It’s not. I’m not being paid to write this post and my opinions and views are 100% informed by our own experiences of using it. The team behind the My Hummy bears are a bit spesh though. They deserve all the positive reviews and credit they receive. We are totally thrilled with the impact little old Filbert has had on our wee one.

The final #ThisMum: A Day in the Life of Amy.

Well hello festive folks! I’m sure the festivities are in full swing where you are and that you’re getting up to some fabulous crimbo shenanigans! Although that word takes on a whole new meaning when you have to grow up and be Mum! My ‘shenanigans’ aren’t the same as they used to be! It may not be all rock and roll these days but, you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. The best thing about Christmas is being able to see it through the eyes of the kids. It takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? The magic of it all is just so special. I love that for one day in the year we believe in the unbelievable, we embrace the unrealistic and we celebrate family. I know it can be a stressful time for us mums, but   it’s the best stress I reckon. Beats stressing about a looming deadline at work, or stressing that we’ve got two wipes left and a shit storm in a nappy to deal with. Christmas stress is totally acceptable. 

I’m hoping that maybe once the kids are tucked up, you’ve nibbled Santa’s mince pie and deposited the prezzies under the tree you’ll have a couple of minutes to sit down (with a baileys, maybe?) and enjoy the final #ThisMum post of the series. 

Our final #ThisMum is Amy from her blog, Amyjane and Baby. Amy has a gorgeous nine month old baby boy called Freddie. I love that name, Freddie! We were going to call our Little Miss, Freddie – if she’d been a Little Mister, obviously. Amy is a stay at home mum at present and is currently working on her blog. Amy starts with a really honest account of how difficult she found motherhood when Freddie was teeny tiny, explaining that Freddie had silent reflux. I could really relate to this because our Little Miss was exactly the same. I’ve been showered in warm projectile vomited milk more times than I care to mention. I too struggled during it all. My Health Visitor was very dismissive at first. I felt like I was going mad, like I was the only one noticing that my baby girl wasn’t right, that something was wrong. I used to video her after feeds to evidence to the health visitor and GP that something wasn’t right. Eventually they got to the bottom of it and as soon as we changed her milk everything started looking up. 

A lot of mums are reluctant to admit when they are struggling. For fear of judgement, I guess. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with judgemental folk. It does encourage you to be more tight lipped about your struggles but we should all feel able to be honest, like Amy. It is this denial that causes mums to feel inadequate or a failure, because nobody else speaks out about how tough it can be having a new baby. I know blogging has certainly helped me to be more open about my honest feelings. I can’t thank Amy enough for being so open and allowing us in to her life for a day. It sounds like Amy and Freddie have such a lovely routine going where Freddie gets to spend one on one time with both Mum and Dad. That’s something we need to pay more attention to, I get lots of one on one time with the kids but a lot of the time the kids spend with my hubby are when we’re all together and like Amy says, it is important for Dads to have one on one time too. 

Without any further a do, here’s a day in the life of Amy:

On reflection, it probably took me until Freddie was over six months old to feel properly settled into Motherhood. We had a rough start. At six weeks old Freddie was diagnosed with Silent Reflux and although it breaks my heart to say this, it really tainted the first five months or so. Having a baby that screamed for long periods, wouldn’t lie in his pram and breastfed near enough constantly amongst other things made me doubt whether I was a good Mum or not. Since the Silent Reflux began to go away at around six months, Freddie and I have slowly settled into a routine. I can say with complete honesty now, that I love being Freddie’s Mum and apart from the occasional (and completely normal!) self-doubting moment, I know I am a good one. Here is a day in our life!

Freddie is my first baby and he is now nine months old. I had him when I was twenty-five which seems to be ‘young’ by the current standards. G (my husband) and I have been together on and off since we were fifteen and had settled into life together when I was around twenty so I felt ready. Although I don’t think you can ever really feel ready for a tiny whirlwind to turn your life upside down! I currently stay at home with Freddie whilst G goes to work. I am not sure I will return to my current job but I do know that I personally need something else on top of being a Mum, in order to feel fulfilled.

Our day starts around six-thirty/seven when Freddie wakes up- sometimes earlier! My husband takes Freddie downstairs and they have breakfast together and a bit of a play before G leaves for work. I tend to stay upstairs during that time savouring my morning coffee because I think it is important for the boys to spend some time together on their own too. After G leaves for work, Freddie and I have a bit of playtime and I also try and pop up a post on social media because Instagram is a guilty pleasure of mine!

At around half nine it is time for Freddie’s first nap, it is a short one because I wake him after around half an hour otherwise he won’t nap properly at lunchtime! I try and use this time to get ready because Freddie is currently obsessed with my beauty products etc and I have to watch him like a hawk! I will try and squeeze in a second coffee during his nap as well.

Waking Freddie up at around ten is one of my favourite parts of the day. I get to sneak in and watch him sleep- a bit creepy I know – and then enjoy sleepy cuddles together! I get him ready for the day around this time too. I am obsessed with baby boy clothes and Freddie has a far better wardrobe than I do. Baby Zara, Marks & Spencer and Next are my favourite places to pick up new clothes for him.

The time between his morning nap and his lunchtime nap is generally used for popping out to do errands, see friends or do a class. For the first eight months or so Freddie would be content with just people-watching at Tesco but now that he is crawling and pulling up he wants to explore! We do a Baby Sensory class which he absolutely loves and it is the one class I would highly recommend!

After Freddie has had his lunch, and deposited lots of it on the floor/tried to feed our two cockapoos, it is time for his second nap. Another highlight of my day is reading stories to him before his nap although at the moment he likes to sit on the book which makes it slightly challenging… I also use the time before his nap to potter around the upstairs trying to get some sort of semblance of order. With two dogs and a nine month old, I feel like I spend most of my time tidying up!

Freddie is generally asleep for around two hours so I take that opportunity to work on my blog. I started my blog five months ago and it has really helped me to feel like I have something for myself again. Over the last few weeks, it has started to grow a bit which is so exciting and has really motivated me to keep going. I love writing, I always have. It is so cathartic to share my experience on my little corner of the internet and connect with other Mums as well.

Once Freddie is up, he has a little play and then we head out on a dog walk. When Freddie is having a screamy day, taking him out in the pram with the dogs really seems to settle him. He loves facing out and watching the dogs run around and it helps me to get some fresh air. The rest of the afternoon is a it of a blur of trying to tackle our washing mountain, making Freddie’s tea and then beginning the bedtime routine.

Usually by Freddie’s bedtime, I am ready for a bit of a break. G doesn’t get home until around half six most days so up until recently, he didn’t get to see Freddie before he went to bed. Now that Freddie goes to bed at seven, G gets to have a cuddle before bed which I know means a lot to him. We always go upstairs a while before bedtime so he can burn off any energy by crawling around and getting into everything he shouldn’t… I use this time to pop some comfies on too!

Freddie has a very strict bedtime routine and has had the same one for several months now. To be honest, I think it was more for me than him at the beginning because I needed something to follow when I was finding everything very overwhelming. We do a massage with a special song, then read some books together, he has a final feed and I pop on some white noise. Nowadays he goes to sleep without much of a fuss which is a huge relief because having a bedtime battle at the end of a hard day is tough!

In the evenings, G takes over. He will cook us dinner and make me a cup of tea whilst I crack on with some more blogging stuff. I am trying to go to bed earlier at the moment because sometimes I lose track of the time enjoying the peace and quiet! Freddie is usually up for a feed around 4am but lately it has been a bit later which is a real treat.

Now that I have read it back I am not sure if our day is particularly interesting but I have enjoyed sharing it with you nonetheless. I would love to see you over on my blog soon and thank you very much for letting me share my day with you!

 

Freddie sounds like such a gorgeous boy and I loved all the opportunities that Amy has built in to his daily routine to enjoy songs, books and stories. If you enjoyed this (and I know you definitely did!) then you should go and check out Amy’s blog! You can find it here

If you’re one of these super trendy ‘insta types’ then you can look Amy up on instagram here! I am ashamed to admit that I have never tried Instagram. I know I definitely should for the sake of the blog but I feel a bit over the hill for it. I feel old when I see instagram photos and screenshots. I’ve just got to look in the mirror to feel old like so it’s not just Instagram’s fault I’m getting the pensioner feels! I really need to check it out, I know. I’m going to make an effort to enter the world of instagram in the new year. If you’re already making insta waves, keep an eye out for a lost soul in 2018 and give me a wave! (can you wave on Instagram?! I genuinely have no idea…)

And finally, you can check Amy out on Twitter here ( a platform I’m far more accustomed to!) A HUGE thanks to Amy for being so patient waiting for her guest blog post to go out, it was definitely worth waiting for and I have absolutely loved having Amy involved.

And with that, it’s a wrap! Like, it’s the end! I feel a bit emosh. How ridiculous is that?! It’s not like I’m picking up an oscar and doing my acceptance speech!! I’m emotional thinking of all the lovely Mums who have taken time out of their (very) busy lives to be part of the series. Whether we are a working mum, stay at home mum, a single mum – all mums are busy people. It’s the nature of the job; so I know how valuable time is. You can’t put a price on time when you’re a busy mum. I appreciate so much that all my fantastic guest bloggers have used their precious time to write a fabulous post for the series. As a relatively new blogger it has been a brilliant way to meet fellow bloggers and make connections, building friendships. I know that on a personal level this series has meant a lot to me. Reading about the days and feelings of other Mums has reassured me that I’m not the only mum feeling this, or doing that. Whilst we all lead very different lives, we have one huge thing in common: motherhood – and it’s bloody hard sometimes! Reassured by other posts, I know even more so now than ever that bad days come with the territory, that none of us are perfect and nor should we strive to be, we’re all doing our best.

I really hope that you have enjoyed the series as much as I have. I can’t thank every single Mum who guest blogged for me, enough. You are beautiful people and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Looking forward to catching up on all your blogs over the Christmas hollibobs!

Now! Go and get yourselves another Baileys! You’ve earned it!

 

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Amy

Ola! It’s that time again folks! This time it’s the turn of Amy from ‘The Rolling Baby’ blog. Amy has a beautiful baby girl and is giving us an insight to an average day in her life. She’s currently on maternity leave so it was really lovely to read about how she and her little one spend the days together. I loved that every week they have dedicated time to spend with the baby’s grandparents – they aren’t small for long and sharing the precious first months and years with family is really special – for both them and the baby! My mum lives a good fifty minute or so drive away from me so still relatively local but she doesn’t live close enough for me to just pop in unannounced. She gets so much joy out of spending time with both my children and they absolutely love seeing her. Even my Big Lad, who turns 15 in January, will continually ask to stay over at Grandma’s or to go and see her. He gets absolutely spoilt by her – there’ll be popcorn, sweets, ice cream on the go – the lot! But I love that they have such a close relationship. I know not everybody has grandparents so I feel very blessed to still have two of my grandparents around and that my children have grown up with two grandfathers and a grandmother. Not everybody has that luxury these days and it’s something I won’t ever take for granted. 

Without any further a-do, let’s open the door on a day in Amy’s life!

Little one usually wakes up somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30am. My other half will usually change her nappy while I get her milk ready, then I’ll feed her while he gets ready for work and takes our dog for a walk.

An hour to an hour and a half after first waking up and after daddy’s gone to work, little one will have her first nap of the day. During this time, I grab the laptop and a cup of tea and will blog, catch up on what I’ve missed on Twitter and join a linky (or two!) I usually put either Emmerdale or Coronation Street on in the background too, but have to quickly turn the volume down when the theme music comes on otherwise it wakes up baby.

When little one wakes up, I’ll prepare a breakfast of porridge for us both. Then, we’ll head back upstairs and get ready. Being on maternity leave means we have real lazy mornings and by the time we’ve dressed and ready for the day it’s usually late morning.

From there I’ll do a few chores such as the washing and putting the drying up away from the previous evening’s dinner. We often then go for a walk around the block. It’s not far but it gets us out of the house and some fresh air into our lungs for half an hour or so and the dog loves it! I’ve got a shopping bag clip which I use to attach his lead to the stroller so I don’t have to worry about him running away.

Two days a week we spend the afternoon at my mums. We have lunch there, a catch up, a bit of play and little one generally falls asleep while cuddling her nanna. I usually use this time to do a bit of shopping on my phone – it’s mostly Christmas shopping at the moment, but I also throw things in my online Asda trolley too. When my dad gets back from work, he has around half an hour with little one before we head home to see daddy, have dinner and get to bed.

On the days we don’t go to my mum’s, we mostly potter around the house. Sometimes we’ll go out to the shops – we love a little wander around B&M and it usually sends little one to sleep. I also try to squeeze in an exercise DVD as I’m trying to get fit and lose my baby weight. We play fetch with the dog a lot as little one loves laying on her tummy on the floor so she’s face to face with him and it really makes her laugh.

My other half gets home around 6pm and I try to have dinner ready for then, although it is baby permitting! We’ll eat, give little one a bath and get her ready for bed. She then has her milk before I lay her in her cot and read her a story. From here anything can happen! We encourage her to stay in her cot for as long as possible, but at the moment we’re going through a ‘I’m not sleeping until at least 10pm‘ stage, so when she starts kicking and screaming we usually end up taking her out and rocking her to soothe her.

If we’re lucky we’ll then squeeze in a bit of TV before heading to bed, ready to do it all again the following day!

Ahh, thank you so much Amy for being involved and for guest blogging for me. I have to thank Amy also for being such an all-round-lovely-person too – whenever I take to Twitter to blow off some (digital) steam or I grumble on about not getting any sleep or about the time I’ve spent picking boogas out of my Little Miss’ nose, Amy is always there with something lovely to say. She is so supportive and it is appreciated loads. 

Reading about Amy’s days on maternity leave brought back fond memories of mine. It feels like it was years ago but it was only this time last year. One thing that Amy manages in her day that I didn’t most days was to get dressed and get out! I’m no mathematician but I think it would be pretty bang on to guesstimate that I spent at least 75% of my maternity leave in my Pyjamas, with no make up on and my hair pulled (very roughly) in to the ultimate of mum-buns. The days were never very organised or routine but we bumbled through it, the two of us, enjoying the time together. In the early days I would stress about the state of the house, the never-ending pile of washing and ironing, the lack of time to prepare meals in advance (looking back I’m not entirely sure what I WAS doing mind, she slept for the best part of 3 months!) and the list went on. The best piece of advice I was given was from a friend who told me ‘With a baby you have to lower your standards for everything else, then lower them again’ and I totally got that. Having a newborn baby – any baby – changes everything – your pre-baby routine, your energy levels, your priorities – the lot. It is impossible sometimes to keep all the plates spinning just as fast and efficiently as you did before. I gave myself a bit of a tough time at first over not managing to be the ultimate house wife whilst on maternity leave but my friend was right. As long as the baby is warm, fed, loved and the house is relatively clean (you’ll note I didn’t say ‘tidy’ – my house was never tidy for a number of months!!!) that is what matters. The moment I stopped giving myself a hard time over the absence of any ‘Super Mum’ qualities I started to focus on, and enjoy, the time I had with my Little Miss and now I’m looking back on it, I’m so glad that I did that because it does go over so quick and you can never get that time back again.  It sounds like Amy is a lot more organised than me and that they have a great routine going, it sounds like Amy and her Little One have wonderful days, and that’s what it’s all about.

You can keep up to date with Amy and what she’s up to via her blog therollingbaby.co.uk You will love it so make sure you give it a visit! The #ThisMum series continues on Sunday evening with an amazing guest post written by Jen from the Life-Milk blog. I’m really excited about sharing it with you because for one it is utterly brilliant and secondly, we are yet to feature a single mum and Jen very kindly let’s us take a look at an average day in her life as a single mum to a beautiful nine year old daughter. It’s definitely a post you don’t want to miss so keep your eyes peeled for it on Sunday! Until then my lovelies, have a fabulous week!

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Kate

It’s Tuesday again folks! (is it me or are these weeks flying?!) We are literally hurtling towards mid December at the speed of light; I’m sure the big man in the red is doing some lunges and star jumps to get warmed up for the big day already.

I am so incredibly excited to share with you today’s #ThisMum post. Today’s ‘Day in the life of’ post comes from Kate, a mum from New Zealand who has a slightly different family dynamic to the families that have featured in the series so far. I read Kate’s post with both real interest and admiration. Kate’s current set up, raising her five month old boy with both her and her husband at home just sounds so perfect. Those first months with your baby (the first year, even!) are just more precious than anything else in the world – it seems so harsh that one parent out of the two misses out on a lot of that precious time because they have to go to work. My Little Miss has just recently turned one and we are really feeling the ill effects of her spending so much time one on one with just me and not my husband. She won’t settle with him sometimes, she cries when I leave the room despite Daddy being there and she’s extremely clingy towards me. I think that had we have had Kate’s set up for even just those few months, things would have been very different. I think it is so refreshing and so beautiful to have both parents at home raising the baby – you are going to love reading all about it. 

Hello and welcome to a day in the life of our little family.
I’m Kate, from New Zealand and I was selected to be part of the #ThisMum series because my husband and I are both home together raising our only son- which makes us a bit different from what is considered ‘normal’.
For some Mum’s, having your husband home while caring for a 5 month old would be considered a dream, for others a nightmare but for us it is reality.
Like every family dynamic it has potential difficulties
1) Will we get sick of each other?
2) Will our son attach to one of us more or both of us equally (or dislike us both)?
3) Will we use our time at home together wisely and have adventures or will we stay on the couch being the stereotypical sleep deprived parents the world knows and loves?
1) To avoid getting sick of each other and to uphold the individual identities we had formed ‘PB’ (pre-baby) we each have valuable ‘me time’. I was working as a Manager and my husband worked as a Storeman. My brain was always busy and he was always active, we now reflect this in our hobbies. ‘Me time’ For my husband is being in the garden, working on something around the house or cooking an amazing meal. My time involves getting OUT of the house. I am the worst “stay at home Mum ever”. Before my husband had his hip surgery (which is why he has joined me on my Maternity Leave) I took Ted out daily. Catching up with friends, walking, coffee dates, drives to new places…. etc… this kept me sane. I can’t do nothing, I am useless at it. I have tried relaxing or sleeping while he is asleep but planning events/weddings and working on projects are far more exciting.
2) It has been 8 weeks with us both at home and Teddington has formed a special bond with both of us. When he is playing or sitting on someone else’s knee he will look to my husband or I to ensure his ‘security blankets’ have not left the building. Of course as a breastfeeding Mum I have an advantage when it comes to cheering him up (well.. I have two advantages ;-)) meaning the initial bond was in my favour. Prior to his hip surgery my husband would typically finish work and be home by 5:30 p.m. and Ted would be in bed by 7:00 p.m. Since both being home, Ted flashes us equally awesome smiles as we enter the room and knows he has someone else to play with when he gets a bit bored.
I love watching the boys interact. It is playful, exciting and informative. My interactions with Ted are cuddly, giggly and relaxing. We believe Ted will benefit from having different experiences with each parent. Our underlying approach to parenting is the same- our child should be able to choose what he plays with/explores and he should have opportunities to figure things out on his own. We want to raise him as a team. My husband recently said “I don’t want to look back on his childhood and describe it as Mum+Ted and then Dad sometimes, I want it to be the 3 of us“.
3) My husband helping with Ted daily means I have only had a couple of days where I have felt the full impact of sleep deprivation. I am really appreciative of everything he does around the house- he is a far better chef/cleaner than I am! We understand that not all families have (what we consider) the luxury to parent together- we will eventually both head back to work but we hope to work alternate days so Ted has time with both of us individually.
Contrary to popular belief, Mum’s do not just sit at home and drink coffee all day. My husband and I don’t even like coffee, but that is besides the point. A typical day for us goes:
  • 6:30 a.m.
  • Teddy wakes up. Mum feeds Ted before he hangs with Dad. Ted enjoys a nappy change, tummy time, laughing, playing/peeing on his mat on the floor
  • 8:00 a.m. 
  • Ted naps. Mum wakes up and gets ready for the day. Dad makes both of them breakfast and then heads outside to work on the garden or whatever project is at play
  • 10:00 a.m. 
  • Mum feeds Ted. Ted plays/pees on his mat some more. Mum does paperwork/event planning/emails. Dad does yoga for his hip, Ted copies and shoves his toes in his mouth. Everyone gets ready to go out (sometimes this includes our two dogs if we are heading out for a walk).
  • 11:30 a.m.
  • We go somewhere. Errands, a play date, visiting family, babies group, a drive… Ted naps then joins us around lunchtime. We all have our lunch.
  • 3:00 p.m.
  • Head home. Ted wakes up and will play with either Mum or Dad while the other does jobs around the house/ has some ‘me time’
  • 4:30 p.m. 
  • Ted’s last nap before his bedtime routine starts. If Ted doesn’t feel like napping him and Mum have a cuddle in bed and relax.
  • 5:30 p.m. 
  • Dad starts cooking Dinner. Ted showers with either Mum or Dad and Mum reads him stories (Ted’s favourite is Dr Suess).
  • 6:30 p.m.
  • Mum feeds Ted. We both say goodnight and whoever is last to leave puts Ted in bed. Mum and Dad eat dinner, chat, plan tomorrow, watch TV, eat chocolate, read by the fire or hang out with friends…
  • 10:30 p.m. Mum dreamfeeds Ted (Her favourite part of the day, he looks super cute half asleep trying to feed!!)
  • 2:00 a.m. Mum feeds Ted, Dad sleeps with his useless nipples
and repeat.
Until Ted changes his mind, we change our routine, he grows up or we go back to work.
I look forward to seeing which happens first 🙂
Kate xx
Told you you’d love it! I laughed out loud (I’m an LOL-Phobe hence the lack of abbreviation!) at the ‘Dad sleeps with his useless nipples’ – isn’t that just brilliant!!! I can’t thank Kate enough for contributing to the series and shining a light on a family dynamic we were yet to feature. I absolutely love the sound of Kate’s set up – it sounds so perfectly balanced and beautiful. What do you think?
If you’d like to follow Kate on Twitter and find out more about her, you can find her by looking up her Twitter handle @Quippybaby

Dear Perfect Parent,

Dear Perfect Parent,

I see you. But you already knew that; you wanted me to see you.

I see your posts on Facebook, Instagram and the like. Whether it be the perfectly poised photographs you post or the self indulgent status updates you put out there, they always leave me drawing comparisons. I try not to. I tell myself I’m a good mum, secure in the knowledge that my children are clothed, fed, clean, loved and happy, but sometimes your life appears to be so dramatically different to mine that I can’t help but compare.

Sometimes the comparison is even laughable. I read your ‘Yay! I’m back in to my size 8 jeans three weeks after giving birth!’ post whilst sitting in my maternity leggings almost a year after my baby was born. I saw the selfie you took in a nightclub mirror looking all glamorous with a full face of flawless make up, holding a pretty looking cocktail whilst I nursed a cup of tea in my frumpy pyjamas watching a boxset at home with the day’s mascara smudged across my eyes.

I see your ‘she’s only 7 weeks old and she’s sleeping through!’ posts too by the way. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting ‘mummy wins’ as, let’s face it, we all know that parenting is a tough gig but when I’ve had all of about twenty minutes kip in three weeks, I don’t feel much like celebrating with you. On that subject, where do you find the energy to go out on a night time? I’m in my PJs by 4pm. I don’t blame you, though. You should have a social life. I’m glad you do. It’s just my eldest is almost 15 and I haven’t actually regained my social life yet. So it just makes me wonder where I’m going wrong.

Then there’s the mummy video’s. You know the one’s – the video clips of your child playing the violin on one foot whilst reciting the alphabet backwards. In French. You certainly make smart babies. If they carry on like this, one day they might run the country. I can’t even begin to imagine how many posts would be dedicated to announcing that on your social media if that happened.

And then there’s the photographs. Gah. The photographs. The ones where your kitchen looks absolutely immaculate bar some carefully placed icing sugar sprinkles across a home made cherry pie sitting proudly on a hand carved wooden chopping board or some jars of home made jams with hand written labels and gingham checked cloth lids. Your kitchen looks like something from the Bake Off tent whilst mine more resembles ‘the morning after the night before at Glastonbury’ type look. And the fact that you have your shit together enough to make homemade jam impresses me on a whole new level. My kids are lucky if they get offered a spoonful of Hartley’s for their toast. Not a single gingham cloth lid in sight.

The truth is that I admire you. I admire that you are doing such a sterling job of raising your family whilst keeping an immaculate home and I admire that you have a baby who sleeps through, an exciting social life, the energy to make home made jam and the time to document and video every one of your child’s talents. And so you should. That’s totally your prerogative.

But on the days where I am feeling really pushed. Pushed for time, energy, lust for life or whatever else, seeing someone making such an amazing go of being a Mum can only serve as a stark reminder of what I could be doing better.

So when I see the photograph of your family sitting around a pretty looking camp fire at the beach roasting meat on the barbeque to go with a side salad made up of organic vegetables you’ve grown yourselves at home, I compare it to what I’m seeing; my children, most likely sitting at my very chaotically laid dinner table, stretching their necks to see what’s going on on the television ,whilst they eat their very average pasta and cheese.

BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’) does that mean I love them any less than you love your children? Absolutely not. That’s one thing that is simply not up for debate. But it is part of my genetic make-up to be hard on myself, be self critical and continuously feel guilt at not being a good enough mum.

I do think that a lot of that guilt comes from being a working mum. By the time work is over and the nursery pick up has been done, it’s very usually a case of throwing whatever is quick and easy in to a pan for tea whilst running a bath for the baby whilst helping the big’un with his homework whilst trying to reply to five and a half work emails (and usually whilst pouring a sizeable G&T) all at the same time. It gets too much some times. In fact, it gets too much a lot of the time. And yet in the same vein it never feels enough. It doesn’t matter what I do, I always feel that my children deserve better than what I can give them.

So when I see your photographs or your posts on social media sometimes they serve as a reminder of the mum I would love to be one day. But one thing is certain: I may not have an immaculate house all the time, and I might not grow my own organic vegetables in the back garden and a year on I might not be back in to my pre-pregnancy clothes (there’s no ‘might’ about it actually, I’m definitely not.) but one thing is for absolute sure: my children know they are loved. They are loved to the ends of the earth and beyond and I’m sure if they were asked they’d say their mummy does her best by them. And that’s enough for me.

I have no doubt I’ll hear from you soon (via your chosen social media outlet),

Keep going Supermum! You’re doing an awesome job.

 

Mamma_B x

Going away with your baby soon? Read these top tips to avoid a whole load of stress!

In the last three weeks we have been away twice with our brood in tow. Each time just for a few nights in this country, either to see family, or to just get away and spend time as a family somewhere a bit different. We go on our proper holibobs in a couple of weeks so it was a bit of a test run if you like. Boy did it test us, at times. Here’s my top tips for taking a baby away:

 

  • Plan your packing and only take what you need.

From someone who literally packs a suitcase of baby stuff just to nip to Asda for some bread, I struggled with this. We were travelling by train for one of our trips away so it was essential that we travelled as light as possible as we had the pram and travel cot to carry also. I over packed ridiculously, packing an outfit for every sort of weather you can imagine. Not sure why I thought my little miss would need a summer romper in Birmingham during the British summer time, but I packed it anyway. I also packed ‘dressy’ outfits for her in case we went out for dinner on a night time (It had totally escaped my mind that you can’t really do ‘posh dinners’ on a night time with a baby.) It turned out that instead, we ate at Nandos in the middle of the afternoon, each of us shovelling in our food as quickly as possible whilst the other entertained the baby. No dressy outfits were required. Not one.

We bought some sterilising tablets that you use with cold water and these were a godsend and allowed us to sterilise her bottles and dummies in the bathroom sink at the hotel – much easier than trailing the steriliser with you.

We packed items that were really not needed such as calpol, in case her teething got bad, pouches of food in case she didn’t eat what was on offer at the hotel/restaurant, a hundred and one nappies just in case we had unexpected nappy explosions and enough packets of baby wipes to sink a small ship. What we had totally lost sight of was the fact that we were staying within the UK and that there were a wide range of shops close to where we were staying. We could have gone and bought food pouches, extra nappies, calpol or wipes if we’d needed them. We really shouldn’t have trekked them all the way there on the off chance we’d need them – because, as it happened, we didn’t.

 

  • Do some research on where you are going and the facilities on offer where you are staying.

This is something we didn’t do. I wish we had, in particular, researched the facilities available at our hotel before booking. They were only little things but things like not having a bath in the bathroom and only having a shower, made things tricky as our Little Miss is used to having a bath every night as part of her routine. It was hard for her as it was, to be in an unfamiliar environment so not having a bath made it difficult for her to wind down for bed on a night.

We also failed to take our gro anywhere black out blind with us (which was a monumental sized error, by the way) and as the hotel curtains were not the best, our Little Miss was waking a lot earlier and as we were all staying in one room, she then awoke the teen (who, incidentally, does not do ‘tired’ very well) and it made for very long days.

Researching things like the times the restaurant is open on an evening or if there are restaurants near the hotel that open quite early would also be very useful and would avoid you being left in a situation like we were with a hungry baby whilst trying to find somewhere we could all go to eat together.

 

  • Relax the routine.

I’m a huge advocate for routines with a baby. I think they are so important. But, trying to maintain that routine when you are miles away from home, in an unfamiliar place, will only result in massive stress. I spent a good couple of days stressing over nap times, meal times, bed times and in hindsight I wish I hadn’t. I worried that if I relaxed the routine while we were away, our Little Miss, who is an absolute creature of habit, would never get back into the swing of things again when we got home. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as I relaxed the routine a little, I was able to enjoy it better and so was she. Yes she stayed up later some nights and yes some days she didn’t nap until tea time (which would usually put the fear of God in me) but going with the flow allowed us all to spend some relaxed time together as a family without constant clock watching and that was really important not only for us and Little Miss, but more importantly for our big Lad too. And, as it happens, as soon as we got home, she relaxed back into her usual routine absolutely perfectly.

 

  • A baby crying is not the end of the world.

Both on the train and when in the hotel, there were times where Little Miss was screaming and crying and I felt really aware of the strangers around me. I worried that we were bothering them, keeping them awake, disturbing whatever it is they were doing. My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. He firmly believes that we should never have to apologise on behalf of our crying baby because, let’s face it, we have all been there and done it at some stage or another (even if we can’t remember it!). The further the trip went on, the more I realised that if Little Miss cried, she cried. Yes I would attempt to console her, distract her, offer her cheese puffs and rusks, give her whatever ridiculous objects we had to hand to play with such as random water bottles and car keys, and give her cuddles, but I soon realised that sometimes babies just cry. And when you’ve used every trick you can think of to distract them, there’s very little you can do to stop them crying. It’s just as simple as that. As much as I was very sorry for any discomfort the crying may have caused fellow passengers or hotel guests, it really wasn’t the worst thing to happen in the world and it was only ever temporary. It shouldn’t be a massive deal.

The more stressed I was getting about the situation, the more upset Little Miss was getting and the worse the situation felt. I have definitely learned that I need to relax more and roll with the punches. Of course, I remain sorry if my baby’s crying does cause any distress to complete strangers but, there needs to be a realisation that babies cry. That’s what they do. Sometimes it’s crap to listen to but she’s just a baby, it’s not her fault. And it’s not mine either. Us parents do our best but we can’t raise a brood of muted children just to ensure that strangers around us have a peaceful day.

 

  • Be Realistic.

This final tip is a biggie. When you plan your trip, don’t romanticise it. Don’t allow yourself to envision yourself lounging around the hotel spa sipping on Mojitos or having lazy lie ins on a morning with breakfast delivered to your room so you can remain in your hotel dressing gown whilst watching morning TV. Whilst, yes, you’re going away for a few days, you have to be realistic about what to expect when going away with a baby/children. It’s not going to be a romantic rose-petals-on-the-bed and double-rain-shower type of trip. Those days may return (if you have a very kind babysitter!) but it certainly isn’t going to be like that with a baby.

Yes your trip will be stressful -even chaotic I suspect – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Our trip was totally full on (and to be honest, I could have slept for a week when we got back and still would have been exhausted) but I honestly would not have had it any other way. It was wonderful to relax the routine, go with the flow, visit new places, do new things and experience all of those things as a family of 4 with our Big Lad and Little Miss.

 

I’ll admit I am a little apprehensive about taking our Little Miss on an eight hour flight for our holiday in a couple of weeks but I am so, so, very excited to spend more quality time as a family. Even if it is sure to be total chaos most of the time.

 

 

 

 

My Doctor Prescribed me Mummy Guilt.

Thanks for prescribing me a stonking big dose of mummy guilt, Doctor.

So, you know the way it goes. You spend the best part of a decade longing for a baby (although, granted, that was probably just us – we had fertility issues), you look at mums pushing prams and nursing bumps and you are so envious it physically hurts, you dream of the baby you so desperately want and all the things you would do together if your dream were to come true. Then the magic happens and you conceive. You spend nine months yearning to meet your child. Your pride and joy is born and you feel immersed in a great big bubble of love. You look forward to the long stretch of maternity leave ahead of you and you plan all the lovely things you will do with your baby.

Then, like some sort of bad sci-fi movie, your life speeds up, flying through six months of maternity leave at the rate of knots and before you know it, you’re setting your alarm for your first day back at work and rummaging through your wardrobe desperately looking for something semi-formal (and preferably elasticated for obvious reasons) to wear to the office.

My maternity leave came to an end when my baby girl was just over five months old. I would have loved to take more time off but as my husband and I both work for our own business, it became clear I had stretched my maternity leave out for as long as I possibly could and that I needed to return to the office to ensure our business continued to grow. We started looking at nurseries when our little one was three months old as it was important to us that we looked at as many different nurseries as possible and had the time to really consider which one felt right for us and our little lady.

I was always very acutely aware that I was returning to work quite sharpish compared to the length of maternity leave parents tend to take these days. With my son, fifteen years ago, six months was the norm and those who took a year were the really privileged ones. This time round most of the mums I spoke to were taking a minimum of a year off. So, to start her at nursery at five months seemed really young and I did feel anxiety about that. Every nursery we visited would say on their brochure ‘from six weeks to school age’ but yet when we toured the nurseries, there were never any young babies there to see. The youngest we saw in most of the nurseries was around eight to nine months old so every time I left a nursery I would feel crushing guilt that I was starting my baby way too soon.

We saw the good, the bad and the damn right ugly during our tour of the local nurseries. With some nurseries I knew within seconds of stepping through the door that it wasn’t the right place for our lady. We talked to friends and asked if they had heard any good reports of any particular nurseries and I quickly realised that choosing a nursery for your child is a really personal thing. For every positive referral I heard from a friend, I heard a negative opinion from someone else. I concluded that this is because maybe we are all looking for something different when we weigh up the best place for our child. Maybe when us parents look at childcare, nothing is ever good enough for our children and that is where negative opinions stem from.

We did reach a point where we started to feel quite panic stricken. We weren’t being terribly over fussy (or at least I didn’t think so!) but we just wanted to walk in to a nursery and feel that, in our heart, it was the best place for her. She was still so little, so fragile, it was important to us that we felt 100% reassured that she was in a safe place and the right place for her. We had exhausted every nursery in the immediate local area. I’m not for one second saying that we have bad nurseries in our area, because we don’t. There are so many nurseries getting good to outstanding in their Ofsted reports so clearly there were good nurseries; but we were looking for more than an Oftsed rating. We were looking for that feeling in the gut, that warmth in your heart, that lightbulb moment: this is the right place for our precious girl.

Having visited all of the options in our immediate local area, my husband suggested we widened the search. I wasn’t particularly happy with the idea as I knew that would mean a longer commute on the way to and from work and would have far preferred to have been geographically closer to the nursery when at the office incase she was ever poorly and needed to be collected urgently. However, with very little other options, I agreed, and we visited one further nursery that was just outside of our immediate local area – only a few miles down the road from nurseries that we had ruled out.

I knew within two steps in to the nursery that it was the right place. I actually felt excited as the Manager showed us around; excited at the potential role the nursery and its staff could play in our daughter’s life, growth and development. The nursery was very different to that of the others we had visited. It wasn’t a franchise; brightly coloured plastic toys and equipment were exchanged for more natural materials, there was lot of wooden toys and a huge emphasis on outdoor play. I didn’t know at the time that that particular concept would appeal to me, but it did. Within minutes.We clicked with the baby room staff immediately and one of the most reassuring things we heard that day was that they had recently had a six month old baby start. We talked about how nursery would support us with weaning, crawling, walking and other things and everything just clicked into place. Before we were even told the price of the nursery, we had decided that whatever the cost, we would find a way to ensure that our daughter was cared for there.

Finding the right nursery did, in some ways, make me feel less guilty about returning to work so early but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t plagued with guilt about handing over my beautiful little baby to an apparent stranger for seven hours a day, multiple times a week. My little girl knew no different and that was one huge advantage to her starting so young, she didn’t really recognise that I had left her and she therefore settled in really quickly. I, on the other hand, did not settle in to the arrangement very well.

I remember sitting down at my desk on that first day. I put up some new photographs, sticking pictures of my new baby girl on the wall. I changed my screen saver to reflect our new addition to the family. I must have blamed baby brain a hundred and one times for locking myself out of various accounts by trying forgotten passwords incorrectly and I chain drank coffee from the new swish coffee machine that had been delivered whilst I’d been on maternity. I remember staring at the number of emails in my inbox. I can’t remember the exact number but it was four thousand and something. I felt overwhelmed. I felt exhausted before I’d even begun and I felt emotionally drained. I did nothing but watch that clock (actually, I tell a lie, I rang the nursery a few times to check on the baby too). I was very unproductive. But it was the first day back, surely that was expected, yes?

I wish I could say it got easier but for me it hasn’t. My little girl is nine months and is now at nursery full time. I torture myself with ridiculous ideas like ‘since she’s gone to nursery full time she hasn’t said ‘mamma’ to me as much’ and convinced myself that was because she had bonded with her nursery key worker more than me because I had been so absent from her life due to work. The key worker would write the little lady’s diary ‘she’s really enjoyed tummy time today’ yet when I tried to put her on her tummy she screamed until I picked her up. She tried her first finger food at nursery, she stood unsupported for a few seconds first at nursery. She waved first at her keyworker. I know these sound trivial things (they’re not even significant enough to be called ‘milestones’) but nobody brings a baby into the world to have them cared for by other people and miss out on all the good bits. It’s been really tough.

I can’t say that the separation from me has upset or distressed my little lady in any way. She is 100% happy, content and settled at nursery. Not once has she ever cried when I’ve left her (she has once or twice when I’ve collected her though! Argh!) and she is thriving there. And that is what counts, right? That should make me feel better, yes? So why don’t I feel any better about it?! I have, at times, felt really quite low at not being with her. I’m not someone that dislikes work. I am work focused, ambitious and driven. I don’t long to be off work, or at home, I just long to be with my baby girl. I think about all the weeks on maternity I took for granted and wish I could re-live them again so that I could squeeze every last drop of joy out of every single day. But, given time travel isn’t an actual thing I can only go forwards.

I go forwards, however, with a lot of mummy guilt. My little one has caught infection after virus after infection since starting nursery, so I have felt extra guilt about that, a ‘if I hadn’t gone back to work so soon, she wouldn’t have been in nursery now and wouldn’t have got ill so it’s all my fault’ type thing. When she sleeps in and I have to wake her to get her dressed and take her to nursery, I feel guilt then. When I end up picking her up later because work has overran and then have to start the bath/bed routine the second we get home because she’s shattered, I feel it then too. Some days I feel like I don’t even grab so much as one hour of quality time together from one nursery day to the next. It makes me feel low. Like, I’m just not emotionally built to be separated from her so early on.

Other parents haven’t helped. Even some of my friends. They don’t mean anything malicious but the whole ‘she’s started nursery already? I didn’t even think nurseries took babies that young’ gets said quite often. Meanwhile I sink down in my chair and hate myself just that little bit more. Even just today, I took my baby girl to the doctors on the advice of nursery because there had been a case of impetigo within the nursery and my little one had developed a few spots on her mouth so we went to get checked out. The doctor, who is our regular doctor and knows the family well, asked what was wrong, so I explained. He stopped and said ‘wait a minute, she goes to nursery? Isn’t she too young?’. Cue me, rapidly trying to justify our decision ‘ we’re self employed, I didn’t have a choice’ blah blah blah. He raised his eyebrows, in a judgmental and disapproving way and said ‘I’ve never known a baby so young start nursery.’ With a shake of a head, he goes on to examine my baby meanwhile I feel a little bit wounded on the inside. The doctor thinks she’s too young to be in nursery. He must be right, I mean, he’s a Doctor, right? Doctor’s know everything. As he brings the appointment to a close and I leave clutching a prescripton, I feel a little broken. Thanks so much for pointing out that I am a shit mum, Doc. The guilt is going to keep me up all night. But cheers though, have a nice day.

The fact this judgmental comment was said by a medical professional, a family Doctor at that, made it all the more poignant for me. This wasn’t just a flippant comment made by one of my friends who thinks she knows it all when it comes to kids; nor was it a comment from my grandma, who can be excused because times have changed since women stayed at home and raised their babies. This was from a family medical professional. I felt ashamed. Ashamed of having to go back to work to make a living and build a life for my children. Guilt that I couldn’t have stayed at home with her for any longer. I felt like he had attacked my ability as a parent to make the right decision by my daughter. That hurt.

It shouldn’t have upset me. I should have been stronger. I shouldn’t have let it bother me. But it did. He opened the door to mummy guilt and invited it back in to my head and now I’ll be entertaining it for days. Maybe even weeks. Months.

Cheers Doc.