A Day in the life of #ThisMum

A Day in the life of #ThisMum

Contrary to the popular belief that mums sit drinking coffee and watch Jezza Kyle all day, I believe that us mums are pretty special beings. Whilst we have one massive thing in common, there is such huge variation and diversity in the way we choose to raise our children, our family set up at home, our working situation, our culture and our way of life. I don’t want to get all poetic about it but it is in these differences where beauty lies. We are all Mums, and I’m sure we all view this as being our most important role in life, but we are also people in our own right, with different ambitions, dreams, priorities, responsibilities, hobbies and interests. To celebrate the beautiful differences between us that make every mum unique, I have launched a series called #ThisMum where guest bloggers share a day in their life.

I have already got some truly fantastic and inspiring Mums lined up to share a day in their life with us; I am so excited to read all about a day in their shoes. If you would like to contribute, I’d love you to get in touch with me via babyandboardroom@gmail.com

 A Day in the life of Me #ThisMum

My day usually starts between 6am and 7am when Little Miss decides to wake up for the day. If I’ve had a particularly rough night with her, my husband will get up with her and send me back to bed for an hour. She’s definitely not a fan of sleep and after fourteen years of being out of the baby game, it’s been a bit of a shock to the system! I take morphine to help control the pain I get from a chronic disease and it can make me feel a little spaced out if I haven’t had enough sleep so I try to get an extra hour of sleep if I can so that I can be more functional throughout the rest of the day.

Once up, it’s a case of all systems go to get my Big Lad fed and off out to school. Once he is on his way, I like to spend some time with Little Miss. I had to put her in to nursery and return to work quite early after maternity leave so I do like to steal at least an hour with her on a morning before dropping her off at nursery. I’m really enjoying the age she’s at now; she’s just turned one and she’s learning new words, new skills and new quirks every single day. At the moment she is totally obsessed with dolls or ‘babies’ as she knows them! She likes to kiss them and she makes an ‘Ahhh’ noise when she cuddles them. She’s very cute! This level of cuteness does not make it any easier to leave her and go to work!

As I work with my husband, we all leave in one car. We drop Little Miss off at nursery and head to the office. We own a recruitment agency and our office is in a business centre not far from where we live. Although we both work for the same business, my husband and I have very different roles. A lot of friends have asked how we manage to work together; I know it’s not an arrangement that would appeal to everybody but it really does work for us. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid work stuff spilling in to our personal life, but this is rare and on the whole we work very well together. The way in which I see it is that my business is my livelihood and my children’s future; I would far rather entrust my husband with that business, someone with whom I share trust and understanding, than a complete stranger.

I spend most of the day working with candidates who have applied for vacancies I am working on behalf of my clients. This involves assessing candidates suitability, assessing them against the job spec and getting a feel for whether they would be a ‘good fit’ for the role with my client. I really enjoy my job. I feel very privileged that I get to work for myself and that I never ever feel work dread in any way. I have had jobs in the past that I haven’t enjoyed and the impact that had on my life was huge. Equally, the fact that I enjoy my work has a hugely positive impact on my life. I don’t dread the alarm going off on a morning (unless the bambino has had me up half the night singing Twinkle Twinkle on repeat for six hours straight, of course!) and I never feel the need to complain about going to work. If truth be known, I am the sort of person that needs work. For all I love spending time with my children, I am acutely aware of my need to pursue something for me and that something is work. Work helps me feel a sense of self worth and it helps me to feel fulfilled. I remember during my maternity leave, I would have days where I wouldn’t even make it out of my pyjamas (quite frequently in all honesty) and when my husband returned from work having done a day’s work I felt like I had achieved nothing with my time and there was a part of me that felt very unfulfilled. I would hate for anyone to interpret that as me taking my baby for granted or me saying that being a mum doesn’t fulfill me, because I don’t and it does. I will never ever forget how blessed we are to have two children, we fought for ten years for our Little Miss and she was a true miracle, so I will never ever forget how blessed we are to have her, but speaking frankly, I’m just one of those people that feels work plays a huge role in how I view myself, my self esteem, my self worth and my satisfaction and , above all, I enjoy it. I enjoy the days in the office where the phones never stop ringing and we have to work at a crazy ass pace to get everything done I time; I get a real buzz from that. And on the tough days, the days where stress is a huge factor, I remind myself that I am very lucky to have the privilege of building something that will hopefully be of value to our children in the future.

I do miss the children when I’m at work. I surround myself with their photographs, their cards and drawings (and nice stationery too!) on my desk and if ever I have a wobble and get an attack of the killer mum guilt, I look at my beautiful kiddiwinkles on those photos and remind myself that I do it all for them.

At around 4.30pm my husband and I shut down the computers and go to collect our Little Miss from Nursery. Our Nursery give us a little ‘run down’ of her day including the meals she’s eaten (or not eaten!!), the naps she’s had, the nappies and the amount of milk she’s had. They are really comprehensive which makes me feel like I’ve got a better sense of the kind of day she has had. There is no better feeling than opening the door of the Baby room to see her sitting there, all smiley and happy, reaching out her arms to me to pick her up. We then head for home where our teenage son is usually home from school already.

Our Little Miss and Big Lad have the most beautiful relationship and when we get home, the baby is always keen for cuddles from her Big Brother. The older she is getting, the more she is enjoying a bit of gentle rough and tumble play, tickling and rolling about with him, I love to watch them having fun with each other because when I was pregnant I worried so much about such a huge age gap that I thought a relationship so close as the one they have was highly unlikely.

We give Little Miss a bit of a snack as she has a light tea at nursery. She has a real thing for humus at the moment and would literally bathe in the stuff (she has, in actual fact, bathed in the stuff. Our bath has seen more chickpeas recently than it has water) all day every day if she could. She started out by dipping breadsticks in it and recently she’s just abandoned the bread sticks and is sticking her full on hand in it and lapping it up. She’s definitely not a ‘I like to be clean’ baby but who wants one of those anyway?!

We tend to get the baby bathed and down to bed before we have tea the three of us. I expect this will change when Little Miss starts staying up a bit later and then we can all eat together but at the moment it’s a real struggle to keep her awake until 6.30pm and she will not wait around for anyone! I always like to feed her a bottle before bed, in the nursery with the lights down. Sometimes we sing (Not ‘we’ at all – it’s more a case of ‘I’ and I do it very badly!) or sometimes I just like to rock her back and forth, cuddling her in close and breath it all in. Her first year has flown over so quick and as a working mum, I try to take every opportunity to just be present in the moment, make that moment special and take it all in. I think with my first I took those moments absolutely for granted. I suppose being much younger, I didn’t realise just how blessed I was and I did take all those moments for granted – something that I pondered, and regretted bitterly, during our battle with infertility when trying for our second child.

Once Little Miss is asleep I go downstairs and usually by this point the hubby has started to cook dinner. I spend some time with my Big Lad, sometimes supporting him with homework, sometimes listening to the kind of day he’s had, or sometimes we sit and watch TV together. This may be only last around half an hour but that time with him as one on one is so precious to me. Once the meal is cooked, we eat dinner together and then we tend to chill out. We sometimes have pressing work to do that won’t wait until the following morning and on these occasions, we have to get the laptops out after dinner and continue working but this only happens a couple of times a week. The rest of the time we enjoy watching all sorts of TV, sometimes as a three, sometimes just my hubby and I if the Big Lad is doing his own thing.

By about 9pm usually I am either curled up on the sofa already well and truly in the land of nod or I’m struggling with pain. I take more morphine on an evening before bed so I take that and usually end up in a very sleepy state with my hubby nudging me, telling me to stop drooling on him or something equally as undignified and tells me to get myself to bed. I am terrible for climbing into bed and then ‘just checking’ my phone for any emails or social media notifications. There’s been occasions where I have gone to ‘just check’ my phone momentarily and the next moment I look up and I’ve lost an entire hour to scrolling down Twitter or Facebook. I always get so cross with myself for sacrificing an hour of valuable sleep for pointless scrolling yet find myself doing exactly the same thing again the following night! I promised myself months ago I would leave my mobile phone downstairs in order to try and improve me quality (and quantity!) of sleep. Some promise that was, I didn’t manage it even once!

My day usually ends with the heavenly feeling you get when you swing your legs into bed, bury deep down in to the quilted duvet and slowly close your eyes, anticipating a purely beautiful night’s sleep. Then the baby monitor crackles. Then there’s crying. Then the eyes open and the legs are swung back out of bed and the ‘bedtime with a baby marathon’ begins!

Raising a baby fashionista in Autumn/Winter 2017

Here’s a truly scary thought: my Little Miss is almost one! I’m going to swiftly move on from that thought before I start wildly crying clutching a G&T in one hand and her tiny baby clothes in the other. She’s only been in her 9-12 month sized clothes for a couple of months but I’ve noticed that in some brands she is running out of room fast! The jump up to the next size seems huge. I think I’ll be doing a lot of turning up trousers and turning back cuffs for a couple of months while she fills out a bit! One good thing about Little Miss needing the next size up, though, is that it is the perfect excuse to shop! Before she came along I used to go straight to the ladies clothing floor in every shop we went in – now I don’t even look at where my stuff may be at, it’s a case of quick sharp to the childrenswear department where I could literally lose entire days to the art of ‘oohing and arhhing’ at all the pretty girls’ clothes!

Autumn is well and truly underway and it’s getting a little chilly out there. Little Miss definitely needed a wardrobe upgrade – the sort of upgrade that involves thick tights, long sleeves and cute cardigans! After fifteen years of the jeans and hooded sweatshirts that comes with raising a boy, I have to admit, I really enjoy picking out outfits for my Little Miss; my husband always jokes that I only pick outfits for her that I would wear myself. Secretly, I think he’s probably right! In a few years time, Little Miss is going to wake up one morning, roll her eyes at the outfit I’ve picked out for her and she’s going to tell me where to stick it (politely, respectfully and age appropriately, of course.) so I’ve got to make the most of the fact that she’s got no choice but to wear what I choose right now!

I love autumnal colours – in fact, autumn and winter is my favourite time of year for that reason. I love the mustard yellows, the burnt oranges, the warm reds and leafy greens. There is a huge range of beautiful autumn winter baby and childrenswear on the high street right now. Zara Kids, Marks and Spencer and Next are just three stores that are absolutely rocking the autumn winter range. I could have spent hours browsing the M&S babywear (if I hadn’t have had a screaming baby with me, obvs.); I loved in particular their dress and tights two piece sets. There were some beautiful knitted dresses with contrasting tights as a set and as someone who can never lay their hands on a pair of tights that are an exact match for the dress my Little Miss has on, these sets are absolutely perfect. I fell in love with a three piece set made up of tights, a knitted jumper and little dark red velvet shorts – absolutely perfect as a Christmas outfit.

As with every winter, the trusty old fair isle theme is out in force across kidswear ranges up and down the high street. You won’t hear me complaining about that, seeing all the fair isle jumpers and woolen dresses out and about gets the festive feels going! It might be two months away but my baby’s first year has gone in the blink of an eye so a couple of months is nothing! Christmas will be here before we know it!

I noticed a lot of applique and embroidery going on across the baby and kidswear ranges; there’s some lovely autumnal themed embroidered dresses and blouses available. Zara Kids have got some absolutely stunning embroidered blouses – if they did them in grown up sizes I’d wear them myself without any hesitation! Their mustard yellow corduroy shorts are worth a mention too. I would pair them with a navy jumper and some navy tights for a beautiful autumnal feel. I absolutely love Zara Kids – they sell some gorgeous pieces that border on being ‘quirky’ which is exactly why I love them. I think sometimes you see children and babies wearing the same styles, the same colours, the same fabrics – I love that there are high street retailers that are willing to push the boundaries a little and throw some quirky items in to the mix.

I was really pleasantly surprised at Primark. Usually I go to Primark for the staple items you need in volume with a baby – bibs, vests, socks and the like – but while we were there I spotted a number of gorgeous autumn winter outfits. I’d struggled to find tights in autumnal colours but Primark had a number of three pair sets including one set that included a cream pair, a grey pair and a burgundy red pair too. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can never have too many pairs of tights when you’ve got a little girl. I mean, let’s face it, the washing machine seems to eat them, they never seem to come back from nursery and seventy percent of the tights in our house are constantly on rotation in the dirty wash basket. So we bought a couple of packs. I haven’t really ever dressed my Little Miss in jeans, I’ve always opted for leggings or tights, but Primark had a number of different coloured jeans and I came across a pair of burgundy ones that I bought to try her in. I also bought a twin pack of long sleeved polo necks – these have already proved really useful to match with little skirts and underneath pinafore dresses.

image2-9

There’s a lot of faux fur going on right now on the high street too – a sure sign the festivities are on their way if ever there was one! I fell in love with a pinky coloured faux fur gilet I saw in Next and I spotted a few faux fur jackets in the babywear / girlswear range too. The soft feel of the faux fur is appealing, particularly with my Little Miss still being very little, I like to think of her wrapped up as snug as a bug in a rug in something soft, warm and furry!

image4-4

I love the range of hair accessories available for baby girls these days too. I’m one of those dreadful mothers that had a bow on her baby’s head within a few hours of being born! I had waited ten years for her though, so I’m allowed! I particularly love this crocheted headband in the mustard yellow colour; it looks good and it keeps her ears warm! Win win or what!?!

Beau headband

With it getting chilly outside, it’ll be time for woolly hats, scarves and mittens I no time. Whilst we’ve got the milder weather, my Little Miss is having fun wearing a beautiful pink pom pom hat we bought from M&S. She never fails to get complimented on it when she wears it out and about and I love that it’s a bit of a statement piece that stands out.

image3-6

Finding the time to do ‘us’.

I left my full time teaching job almost three years ago. I absolutely loved my job but it left no time for my family. My son was already in to double figures and I was really starting to notice the absence of family time and quality time together. I would drop him off at Breakfast club at 7.30am, hot foot it along to school for meetings at 8am, do a whole day at school, returning to collect him from after school club just before 6pm. By the time we got home, it was a case of shoving something quick in to the oven whilst we’d hurry through his homework, then after dinner I would have to start marking books and planning lessons ready for the next morning. It occurred to me that as much as I loved my job, and I really really did, my life was becoming more about other people’s children and less about my own and that didn’t sit comfortably with me. I still believe to this day that if teaching had remained about the children and less about the paperwork, it would still have been possible for me to maintain my teaching career and raise my family in the way I felt was important but unfortunately teaching is not what it used to be and teachers are now under immense pressure with ridiculous workloads.

Three years ago I decided that the only way I could invest the time I felt my family needed, was to go self employed. My Husband, before this, had worked shifts and so we had done our fair share of him missing the important times as a family – Birthdays, Weddings, weekends away, Christmas and the like. We made a decision together, as scary as it was, for both of us to establish a family business so that we could work in a more flexible way that better met the needs of our family.

I’m not saying that we have the perfect work life balance because we don’t. Being self employed is not an easy road and it is by no means an easy way to make a living. We hadn’t fully appreciated the hours upon hours of work that would need to be invested to establish a successful business and at times it was all-consuming and physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and there were a lot of times where I thought we were even worse off as a family but the more the business grew, the more we were able to relax in to it and find our momentum.

We are now in a position where we work Monday to Friday, office hours and any work that is needed to be done at home on an evening is done after the children have gone to bed. My son is almost 15 now and he is already choosing to spend a lot of time on his own in his bedroom and I do feel bad when I think of all the time I wasted during the years where it was actually semi-cool to hang out with your mum! But we have made the right changes now, even if I do regret not doing it sooner.

We now have a daughter who is almost one and the lessons I learned with my son are definitely holding value now. I am privileged enough to be able to have lazy mornings with her instead of having to get her changed, stick her in the car and race her to nursery for breakfast and often I get the chance to collect her early which gives us valuable time to play together.

I will never ever take weekends for granted. If you ask anyone who has previously had to work awkward shift patterns or weekends before, I am certain they would say the same. Weekends are just everything to us. Having to work full time may mean that we only have weekends to cram in quality family time but I am very grateful for that, some families don’t even have that. Having weekends means that we can make exciting plans through the week and those plans keep us motivated all week long. There is no better feeling than getting home on a Friday evening from work and school, knowing that we have the weekend together to make up for us all having to be elsewhere and busy during the week. We all feel that excitement, even our (sometimes) grumpy teenager!

 

Having two full days to just do ‘us’ is so important. During weekends we always make the time to be together. Whilst I do promote the importance of our teen socialising outside of school and building friendships away from school, I do think it is really important for us to reserve as much time as possible for us as a family. I am very fortunate that he doesn’t (yet!) view family time as a drag or a bore. I love that he loves spending time together as a family. I really do hope that his view on family time never ever changes.

 

I’ve always said that it doesn’t even matter what you do as a family or where you go – it’s the being together that really counts. So whilst we love to go on day trips or visit places of interest, see extended family and so on, there is also beauty in just being able to be together doing absolutely nothing. We call those days our ‘Duvet Days’. We love having duvet days together – sitting in our Pjs all cuddled up on the sofa, watching movies and eating treats.

 

We like to eat out together if we can on a regular basis too so we’ll often head out on a Sunday for Sunday lunch. Getting the kids out of the house, particularly for the little one, gives them a change of scenery and gets them away from the distractions at home – the noisy toys, the laptop, ipad, phone, television etc – and we can just focus on us. It’s then we can have uninterrupted conversations, discussions, giggles and fun together.

 

That family time keeps me sane. I know that when I was working round the clock, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for not spending time as a family and I really felt sad for not having that one on one time with my boy. Now we have that time, and my husband now works ‘normal hours’, it is so lovely to know that at the end of every working week, we have two days dedicated to just doing us. I suspect that some stay at home mums would consider two days not enough. And I would totally agree with them; it isn’t enough. But, I have no choice but to work. I hate that I see my children for all of a couple of hours before school and nursery and a couple of hours afterwards Monday to Friday but right now, that is just the way it has to be. However, because I miss them with every bone of my body whilst at work, I make every single minute on a weekend count with them. I value every memory we make. I feel lucky too. I am lucky that we have jobs that assist us to look after our family; I am lucky that I am now able to work on weekdays only, giving us that precious family time we need on weekends. Finally, I am lucky that I have children that value family time as much as I do. I really hope that never changes.

 

For advice on how you can spend more time as a family, check out this fantastic article! wooden-furniture-store.co.uk/family-first

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

Family fun and frolics in Florida.

We’ve been promising our Big Lad a family holiday in Florida for years. He has, for years now, spent countless hours on youtube watching home videos following families as they experienced the theme park rides and water parks. It has been his ultimate dream to go there for so long. Not that he would admit it, but I think his love for the US was ignited when he was an avid viewer of Hannah Montana at the age of five or six or something. I distinctly remember getting cross at him for saying ‘Sweet Niblets’ to me in an appalling country-bumpkin accent every time he got in to trouble. I banned him from watching Hannah Montanna for a month but hell hath no fury like a child deprived of Disney Channel so we lasted all of around three episodes. He’s not quite an avid Disney Channel fan these days but he never lost enthusiasm for going to the US to experience Disney and everything that comes with it.

For years, a big trip to America just hasn’t been possible due to being self employed with a number of businesses and not having the staff to leave them with but when our circumstances changed, we took advantage of the situation and got booked up. Little did we know that months later we would discover that we would be visiting Florida as a family of four and not the family of three we had initially booked for. I have to admit that once I found out I was pregnant, I did have my reservations about taking a ten month old baby on an eight hour flight to a place so busy and so hot but we had promised our Big Lad we would go so that is exactly what we did.

I had been dreading the flight with our Little Miss. For weeks leading up to the holiday I had built up a goodie bag of new small toys and books in a bid to keep her entertained. I was also acutely aware of the fact that she had developed quite a strong talent for high pitched squealing and I was dreading the impact that may have on the other travellers sitting around us. So much so, infact, that I ordered sixty little gift boxes and filled them with industrial grade earplugs, a few sweet treats and an ‘I apologise in advance for any crying I do’ letter from the baby. We popped these on the seats that were closest to us on the plane. It turned out that I needn’t have bothered because just over 30 minutes in to the flight, Little Miss became poorly with sickness and a high temperature. Her projectile vomiting skills within such a confined space were truly majestic. Sitting in vomit soaked clothes for the duration of the remainder of the flight (only a mere six hours or so) was a particular highlight. On the up side though (Did I really just say there was an ‘up side’ to being showered with warm sick?!) she was so poorly that she napped a lot and just cuddled in to me quietly. She didn’t cry once so the earplugs weren’t needed. I bet they wish I’d gifted them a peg for their nose though. The smell of that vomit lingered in the air for bloody hours.

My husband had holidayed in Florida multiple times as a child so he had planned our trip really well, I had nothing to do with it. We stayed for part of the holiday in a hotel on International Drive and the second part at the Disney Dolphin Hotel on resort. We decided not to accept the car that we had been offered as part of the holiday package (my husband and I argue enough about driving at home without throwing the driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road dynamic in to the mix too) and instead we have used Uber throughout the holiday to get us everywhere. We took the baby’s car seat so that we could easily and safely fit her seat inside any Uber cab that picked us up. I must say on this subject that I know that Uber has had bad press in the past but we have experienced nothing but outstanding service whilst in Orlando. We never waited longer than three minutes for a car to collect us from the point of ordering one. We always received a full description of the driver and the car that were due to pick us up so we never felt vulnerable in any way and most of the drivers we met were lovely, outgoing and bubbly people who shared with us their local knowledge and recommendations. We used them at least twice daily picking us up from International Drive and driving us down to Disney or Universal and the running total that we’ve spent so far (with only two days to go until we depart for home) is around $250 which I think is really reasonable given we have had almost had a driver at our fingertips for two weeks.

Our hotel on International Drive was pretty basic but did the job. It was in close proximity to bars, shops and restaurants at Pointe Orlando, just opposite Wonderworks, so from that perspective it was really helpful to be central. I struggle to walk distances so we hired a wheelchair from a local company who dropped the chair off at our hotel the day after we booked it. This has been invaluable, and given the usual attractions charge for the hire of wheelchairs on a daily basis, hiring a chair from a local company for the fortnight afforded us a huge saving and it meant we had the chair at all times for if we wanted to head out for a walk or go somewhere local.

Given three days before our arrival Florida was battling with Hurricane Irma, we were greeted by a hot, sunny and calm Orlando. Apart from a couple of ten minute downpours, we had fantastic weather day after day after day. With temperatures spiking in excess of 100 degrees on certain days, it was extremely hot – particularly when going around crowded theme parks. I was worried the weather was going to be way too hot for the baby but as long as we ensured she stayed cool, wore her hat, bathed her in sun block and kept her hydrated, she remained pretty happy. There are so many distractions when walking around the attractions that I doubt she even noticed she was hot anyway! I expected her to spend much of the holiday flaked out in the pushchair in the heat but she napped as usual for around thirty minutes twice daily and that was it. I suspect she didn’t want to nap incase she missed something as she loved every minute, particularly at the attractions.

If there’s one thing I despise about the reality of living with chronic disease and disability it is having to ‘give in’ and travel by wheelchair instead of walking. Call me proud, stupid – call me whatever you like but I hate it. My husband and Big Lad were amazing, one took the wheelchair and the other took the pushchair and acted like it was no problem at all but I knew I was slowing them down and it did make everything a bit more challenging at times. It is harder to navigate a wheelchair through crowds of people than it is to walk through. They never complained once, bless them. After a few days we ditched the pushchair and my Little Miss sat on my knee in the wheelchair instead. She was much more settled there as she had a better view of what was going on around her and it meant that I could easily see to her needs (and give her random cuddles and squeezes along the way!).

Disney were incredibly supportive and have schemes and initiatives to ensure disabled guests and their families are not at a disadvantage whilst in their parks. The staff were friendly and welcoming and constantly asking how they could help, and there were schemes that enabled me to access and enjoy certain rides despite being in a wheelchair. I have never been a typical Disney lover, even as a child, but you can’t help but be immersed in the magic of it all. Walking down Main Street at Magic Kingdom, with my Little Miss not knowing what to look at first, her eyes widening with wonder, and my Big Lad who left the teenage angst at the door and instead lapped up the magic and allowed himself to enjoy it as if a young’en all over again, it doesn’t get any more magical than that. Everything about the place is magical – from the dreamy fairytale-esque backdrop to the emotion evoking music, from the ‘Disney smiles’ given by the Disney crew to the smell of the cinnamon pretzels and popcorn – there is no better place on earth.

I was really worried that with Little Miss being only ten months, she wouldn’t be able to participate in the rides and things but I needn’t have worried. Disney make a very real and avid effort to involve even the teeniest of family members. Obviously there are minimum height requirements for some of the bigger rides but the majority of them were very family friendly and we were therefore able to enjoy them all together as opposed to me waiting outside with the baby whilst the boys had all the fun. Our firm favourites were the Little Mermaid ride and It’s a Small World at the Magic Kingdom, the Toy Story ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Nemo ride at Epcot and the Avatar inspired Na’vi River Journey ride at Animal Kingdom.

We were privileged enough to see a number of the incredible shows put on by the Disney cast. For me, they were some of the most memorable moments of the entire holiday. We saw the Beauty and the Beast live show at the Studios which was really well put together and had both the Big’un and the Littl’un totally captivated. Nemo, the musical at Animal Kingdom was absolutely outstanding – it was so well constructed and the cast and crew made the entire environment inside the theatre come alive through the use of light, puppetry, music and a live cast. It really was quite special. Our absolute favourite had to be The Lion King show at Animal Kingdom though. I absolutely love the theatre and have seen a number of productions in the West End and what we saw there today at The Lion King far superseded anything I have ever seen before. It was an absolute spectacle – a feast for the eyes and ears. It had everything – from gymnasts cast as monkeys to stilt walkers, fire eaters, song and dance. The show was really interactive, drawing on the involvement of the audience on a number of occasions throughout the show which made it all the more engaging. I am going to sound like a total wet mess but the whole show had me in goosebumps and I really struggled not to become emotional as I watched the kids’ faces as they watched it all unfold in front of them. The fireworks were a real hit too. We found it difficult with the baby to stay at the parks until late to see the late night fireworks but we did manage to rejig her routine a little on one night which meant we were able to see ‘Fantasmic’ at Hollywood Studios which is a breathtaking production combining water, lighting, fire, fireworks and a live cast. I would highly recommend making a point of waiting it out til late on at the park to see this show as it was something special.

Prior to coming to Florida I had been more excited about visiting Universal than I had been about Disney and my Big Lad had felt the same. My Big Lad is hugely in to his action and superhero movies, and loves Harry Potter, so he was really looking forward to seeing what Universal had to offer. We visited both parks at Universal and tried a number of the restaurants that made up City Walks, the strip that joined both the parks. Whilst certain aspects of the parks were incredible to experience – such as the Harry Potter world, Simpsons world and the like, I really felt that neither place accommodated families with very young children. We were really disappointed to find that rides that were extremely similar in style to rides that our baby had been welcomed on at Disney, had height restrictions which meant she couldn’t ride. I didn’t realise the scale of the unsuitability of the place until we got talking to a member of staff at Universal who told us that there wasn’t a single ride without a height restriction and that our Little Miss would not be able to participate in any of the rides. I was gutted for her as she had loved the rides at Disney and my Big Lad had loved us all being able to experience things together as a family. However, as I didn’t want this to ruin the fun for the Big Lad, I sat with Little Miss when the boys did rides and we did use the baby swap initiative a couple of times which allowed my husband and I to swap in and out of babysitting duties so that we could both enjoy the ride without having to queue all over again. I joined the Big Lad on a couple of rides as I felt it was really important that we had some one on one time together too but I was secretly really gutted that the four of us weren’t able to enjoy the experience together as we had done at Disney.

Based on my personal experience, Universal also didn’t seem to be as accommodating for those with disabilities as Disney had been. They do have some sort of access initiative but when we enquired about it, the member of staff wanted me to detail exactly what my disability was and how it affected me (in front of a long queue of people in earshot) despite me having formal proof of my disability with me. I’m way too proud to start shouting about my physical limitations in public and so decided to abandon our request for support with access there. As it turned out, there weren’t many things I could go on anyway so it didn’t really matter in the long run. There was a stark comparison between the way both companies managed their guests’ access restrictions though. Disney were incredibly accommodating and extremely friendly with it whereas I felt nothing but a burden or a hassle at Universal. At the end of our day at both parks, even the Big Lad remarked that he would rather spend more time at Disney than come back and finish Universal. The atmosphere and the way in which families are welcomed and looked after are just in no way comparable. I’m glad we went to Universal as it would have been a shame not to have gone along to see what it was all about but we have already agreed as a family that should we return to Florida for a second holiday, we will not bother with the Universal parks and will instead devote more time doing Disney instead.

We had to take a couple of ‘rest days’, or ‘chill out days’ as we prefer to call them, during the fortnight as doing the parks can get exhausting. I would highly recommend spending a day at the International Premium Shopping Outlets which is situated on International Drive – it is an excellent place for shopping. The place is huge and it is filled with huge global high street brands such as Gap and the premium designers such as Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. Most stores offer a minimum of at least a 30% discount on the ticket price so there are huge savings to be had. As we visited in late October we took the opportunity to start a bit of Christmas shopping and took advantage of the discounts to buy nice Christmas gifts for the family. We are, at this point, not entirely sure how we will get all the shopping home again but och, we’ve got two days to figure that out. We’ll not concern ourselves with that just now!

Staying in the Disney resort is an experience like no other. Everything is just so easy when you are staying on resort. There are complimentary shuttle buses to all the theme parks running every 20 minutes from the hotel and the hotel itself offered fantastic activities such as children’s clubs, special activities and celebrations etc. There are some fabulous dining options on resort, including a character dining experience which we went for a couple of evenings ago. This was really magical, with characters such as Goofy and Pluto joining our kids for their evening meal. Instead of the ‘photo and run’ you usually get when queueing to see the characters in the parks, the characters really spent a lot of time with the kids during the dining experience, communicating with them in their own way and stopping to play peek-a-boo with the baby and fist bumping with the Big Lad. It was really lovely. The restaurant was airy and spacious with a beautiful big tree in the middle and there were only a few other families eating at the same time so the characters just made their way round from table to table, meeting and greeting the families eating there. I think this sort of thing is offered at all the Disney hotels but we experienced it at The Swan Hotel.

What I loved about The Dolphin and Swan Disney Hotels was that it offered a really nice standard of hospitality and service to us as adults. Naturally a lot of the Disney thing is aimed at the children in the family but these hotels were beautifully presented and the rooms so beautiful that it didn’t feel like we were staying in a themed hotel whatsoever. It felt like we were staying in a high end boutiquey hotel and this really appealed to me. I’ve been called a ‘Hotel Snob’ before, and in fairness, whoever said that was probably bang on the money as I do like my little luxuries when I am away from home, and this hotel really delivered. It was fantastic for the kids as there were numerous pools with water slides and kids clubs galore but also nice touches for the adults such as cocktail pool bars, an on site spa, spa bath and so on.

The food is worth a mention. I’ve really struggled with the food. Like, really struggled with the food. The choice and range of food available over here is nothing short of outstanding. Want steak? There’s a steak house over the road. Chinese? No problem, there’s a Chinese restaurant round the corner. You fancy going to an American Diner? There’s five at the complex across the road. You want pizza? There’s a Dominoes within a two minute walk from here. You prefer Pizza Hut? Well, you’re in luck! There’s a Pizza Hut next door! Literally, you name what you want to eat and I’ll bet you there will be somewhere within a very short walking distance in Orlando that does it. You might ask what my problem was then in that case. My problem wasn’t the choice of food on offer, it was the sheer how much of it that is on offer. Everything seems fried or bread/dough based and the portion sizes are indescribable. Many a time over this holiday my husband and I have been reluctant to order two main meals between us because we knew that sharing one between us would be more than enough but it never seemed very fair to take up a table in someone’s restaurant and share one dish between us! At first it was a novelty – we followed the smell of pretzels and churros and fried dough-nuts and we filled our faces with the most delicious tasting treats ever. But after a few days we really felt it. I felt sluggish and bloated and in desperate need of eating something green. It hasn’t been too easy finding something green based and balanced to eat as meals, particularly at the theme parks. It tends to be fried chicken and chips or pizza on the menu. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love fried chicken and pizza as much as the next person but after almost two weeks on the diet , it doesn’t feel so good no more. It’s things like when we ordered an ice cream each to get us through the mid afternoon slump in the peak heat and we received an ice cream as big as our face (and I’m not even exaggerating), I literally felt like crying at the sheer challenge of getting through it all. Americans know how to do food. They definitely do. Everything I have tasted has been so yummy, I just don’t think the scales are going to be too happy when I get back home, I’ve actually reached the point in the holiday where I am now actually pretty sick of the sight of food to be honest and I’m looking forward to getting back home and regaining a better balanced diet.

We are yet to try a water park as yet but I think we are going to give Volcano Bay or Blizzard Beach a try over the next couple of days. I don’t expect there to be much for the little one there but she loves the water so I am sure she will be just happy to splash about in the pool.

All in all we have had the most magical holiday ever. I can’t believe that in a couple of days we will be back on the plane to fly home but it has been just the most amazing holiday from start to finish and I would recommend it as a destination for anyone with a young family. Our Big Lad is almost 15 and he lapped up every second of the magic but I do sort of wish we had brought him over when he was a little younger. Before we came here we kept referring to the holiday as being a ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday. Within days we were no longer calling it a ‘once in a lifetime’ because it became very obvious that we loved the place just too much to only visit it once. We are determined to return as quickly as possible and have already decided that we will stay on resort in a Disney hotel for the entirety of the holiday next time.

We have made the most amazing memories with our beautiful family; memories we will hold dear to us for many a year to come.

How many minutes a day do you dedicate to yourself?

What does ‘me time’ look like when you are a mum?

Being a mum of a boy who was hurtling through his teens saw me regain a huge amount of time that I could dedicate to myself so when I fell pregnant (incidentally I hate that saying – who ‘falls’ pregnant? Like, woops, I tripped over your foot. Bam! I’m expecting!’) I knew that going back to nappies, night feeds and colic was going to have an impact on the amount of time I found for myself.

In fact, for the first few months of my daughter’s life, ‘me time’ wasn’t even on the radar. At no point did I have time for me; at no point did I make time for me. But actually, at no point did I even register that I was having no time for me. That was the scary bit. Once my husband was back at work after paternity leave, there were many days where I didn’t even find the time to get changed out of my PJs or take a shower. He’d come home from work around 5pm and find me in exactly the same way he left me eight hours previous – hair not brushed, not showered, not changed. I would think ‘how do people do this? How do people have a baby and still manage to shower, get dressed, have a hot cup of coffee, chat to friends?’ I felt like I was failing at life.

Of course the reality was that whilst I was sat there in a zombie like state, my baby girl had been bathed, massaged and dressed immaculately. She had milk in her belly, clean nappies on, she’d been cuddled, winded, rocked, shushed, read to, sang to and played with – she had had my undivided attention all day long (and all night long most of the time too!) so I’d clearly had the time to do all those things; I had simply chosen to dedicate that time to my baby rather than myself. I thought that made me a good mum.

I think she was around the five month mark when I started to feel more than just the ‘I’m tired from the sleepless nights’ type of tiredness. Little Miss was having a rough time with reoccurring chest infections so sleep was at an all time low and I was constantly in a state of panic, checking her temperature, watching her breathe for any signs of struggle. I was not only physically exhausted but exhausted in every meaning of the word. I felt drained. I remember sitting in her nursery for hours, holding her upright on my chest so that she could get some sleep without coughing. I sat there for as long as I possibly could, ensuring she was in a deep sleep, before trying to put her back down in her cot again. I crept up to the cot and gently laid her down, as if she was fine glass. I held my breath and said a prayer internally that she would remain asleep so I could get to bed.

And she did. Until I laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes and then the coughing started, and then the crying resumed. I sat up and felt so emotionally fragile. I cried. I was so desperately in need of some sleep. But not only that, I was desperately in need of time for me. I felt drained, physically, emotionally and in all other ways. This was more than just tiredness; I felt like I had lost myself almost.

I felt guilty for thinking about ‘me’ when I was so blessed to have a beautiful baby daughter that needed me but in five months I hadn’t left her side once. I hadn’t met a friend for coffee as adults, I hadn’t spent any child free time with my husband, I hadn’t so much as had half an hour to read a trashy magazine or a book. This wasn’t for the lack of offers either, whilst we don’t have a massive family network, we have family members that had offered to look after her, but I had not wanted to leave her. I don’t know whether this was because she had had such a traumatic start to life or whether I’d have felt the same regardless, I don’t know. I had waited so long for my beautiful baby girl, spending time away from her just hadn’t occurred to me.

It was only during a chat with my Reiki Healer about how rubbish I was feeling that I fully realised that I had really done myself an injustice in not ensuring that I had time for me. She asked me ‘what do you do for you?’ and I couldn’t answer. I had a small baby, I thought. I don’t have time for me. She asked me to identify one thing I had done out of sheer enjoyment just for me in the last week and I couldn’t answer it. I hadn’t read, I hadn’t written, I hadn’t sat in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet, I hadn’t met a friend – nothing. She told me (in friendly but no uncertain terms) that it was absolutely essential that I find time for me in every single day. I almost laughed. Time for me? Every single day?! That was going to be impossible. She maintained that it was essential for my wellbeing though. She told me to start by reserving one ten minute period for me every single day. It was acknowledged that we all need more than ten minutes of ‘me time’ a day but we needed to be realistic here or it just was never going to work.

I thought about what I could do in ten minutes. I could (probably) drink a small coffee (whilst hot maybe!), I could read for ten minutes, I could meditate or listen to some music, I could pamper myself or you know what? I could just lie down in a dark room and drink in the peace. Ten minutes isn’t long but when you have deprived yourself of any time for you for several months, you’ll take it with open arms and you’ll run with it. Fast.

I scheduled these ten minute periods. I mentally popped them in the diary for when my husband got in from work and could take over on baby duty, or for when I got Little Miss down for one of her naps. Instead of opting to get the bottles cleaned and sterilised or hoovering or being in a rush to do something practical like changing the beds, I took that time and thought ‘this is for me.’

Happiness is created through our enjoyment of things. I enjoyed my baby so much but there needed to be an acknowledgement that I had a right to enjoy something for me too. The Reiki Healer was right, once I started to dedicate time for me, doing something I enjoy, even if for just ten minutes, I felt happier. I felt more balanced. I felt stronger. This had a hugely positive impact on my ability to be an upbeat all-singing-and-dancing mum too.

Those ten minutes each day may not be much but they are a nod to the fact that us mums are people in our own right. We shouldn’t need to accept that every minute of our day should be dedicated to doing things for others. It’s Ok for us to be selfish some times and say ‘this is what I’m doing for me,’ not for the husband, for the dog, for the kids, the mother-in-law or the neighbour down the road – for us. For me. In fact, that isn’t selfish at all. It’s doing what is right for us. What is healthy for us.

When that Reiki Healer asked me what I did for me, I was confused. The fact that I found that question so confusing is exactly what was so very wrong. In my head somewhere, I subconsciously believed that as mums, our whole lives should be dedicated to our little people. And for all we love our little people and for all they make our world go round, it is not good for our health, our state of mind or emotional wellbeing to neglect ourselves in the process.

Ask yourself the question, what have you done for you today? If you can’t answer it, I hear you. You are probably just as exhausted as I was. You may be thinking it’s not possible to have ‘me time’ and be a mummy but please, give it a try. Reserve ten minutes out of your day tomorrow and find something to do that you enjoy, do something that makes you happy. See the difference it makes to how you feel.

I know that having time for me makes me a better mum. I’m more patient, I’m more energised, more balanced and I’m happier.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Have you found the right balance?