A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Jen from Life-Milk Blog

Hi folks, I hope you’re all having a fabulous weekend and enjoying the lead up to the festivities. I can’t actually believe we are so close to Christmas! This time next week and the main event is in touching distance! We braved town yesterday to get a couple of last minute bits (if I spend any more money on this Christmas please feel free to hit me round the chops with a wet spanner…) and before going I was dreading it. Who is stupid enough to go in to the city centre, a week before Christmas, with a one year old (who, by the way, isn’t much of a fan of shopping) whilst feeling very hormonal? Me. That’s who. I thought it would be hell on earth. Mainly, because it’s bad enough to be in a wheelchair in a busy place (constantly apologising for catching people’s ankles on the wheels or constantly pleading with people to actually see me and let me past, you know, that sort of thing) but being in a wheelchair with a baby sitting on your knee a week before Christmas sounded like a pretty bad plan to me. But we had to go, I’d left it too late to order the stuff online – ‘my bad’ (isn’t that what the young’ens say these days?!). Anyway, we went and what started as a ‘we’ll dash in, get what we need and dash out’ trip ended in us staying there all day. It was actually really lovely. Yes, it was busy – it was heaving in fact. But it was heaving with lovely people generally. We got stopped by a couple of people in the street who were handing out christmas cards and chocolates to the passers by – there was a slightly religious theme to the card but what a lovely gesture. My Little Miss is going through a phase of saying ‘Hiya’ to EVERY single person that she sees – regardless of whether they look friendly or not. Lots of people stopped to say hi back, squeezing her little hands, or patting her on the head. Even the ones in a hurry said hello back and smiled as they hurried past us. There were buskers in the street singing festive songs (and one very heavy rock singer who wasn’t quite so festive but, you know, not everyone wants to sing Wham or Mariah Carey at Christmas time) and shop staff dressed up as jolly elves greeting the children that entered the shops. It was lovely; it was a nice time to be a human. And we got everything we needed so I am now officially DONE! Hallelujah! I still have to wrap it all like but hey, details details…..

I have been so excited about sharing today’s #ThisMum post with you all. It is by Jen from the Life-Milk blog and she has very kindly allowed us in to her life for a day as part of this series. I tweeted many times to invite lots of fabulous mums to join in and participate in the #ThisMum series and, to my knowledge, Jen was the only single parent to respond. I’m so pleased that we have been able to feature a single mum. I come from a single parent family; my mum was a single mum after my Dad left when my sister and I were little. I know from first hand experience that being a single parent can be challenging. I say ‘can be challenging’ because I don’t want to make any rash generalisations because every family is different but i know on a personal level that there were times when being a single mum was really hard on my Mum. After reading Jen’s post I instantly found her inspirational. Her love and dedication to her daughter comes across loud and clear and the relationship between Jen and 9 year old Kourtney sounds really really special. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away any further spoilers and I’ll let you read it for yourself. You are going to love this one just as much as I did, I know it!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Jen and I am a 28-year-old single mother to my gorgeous 9-year-old daughter, Kourtney. I currently work part-time for a local authority in corporate services as a Marketing Business Development Executive. My usual day is quite full on as I juggle it all alone and although it can get very overwhelming at times, I am definitely used to it.

My alarm clock is Kourtney… I rarely set an alarm as I can guarantee that she will wake me up before it goes off! I would say that my usual day starts any time between 6 and 6.30am, with Kourtney delving into my bed for cuddles. We have an extremely tight bond as it has just been me and her for the last five years. We lay there for about 10-15 minutes, just chatting about anything and giving each other squeezes. Sometimes it is nice and other times annoying as I could do with the extra minutes sleep… ha-ha.

Once we have finally left my bed, we will brush our teeth and wash our face in the bathroom sink. As Kourtney is nine, she is at the age where she will wash and dress herself. Whilst she showers, I will go to the kitchen and make my first hot drink of the day, this can vary from coffee to green tea… depends whether I am on a detox or extremely tired. I try to sit at my dining table for at least 5 minutes with my hot drink, to gather my thoughts and enjoy the peace, I get whilst Kourtney is getting ready. After that, I am literally gulping my tea/coffee at any chance I can get before, we have to leave out. I always make Kourtney a glass of water and leave it on the side for her as she is usually quite thirsty, when she first wakes up.

Depending on the time we have got up, at around 7.15/30am, I have my shower whilst Kourtney is now getting dressed. Kourtney likes to listen to a times table song when she is getting ready, which has a really annoying excited tune that’s far to elaborate for these zombie hours. However, I embrace it as best as I can, because I know it is beneficial.

Once I am out of the shower, I immediately get dressed and do my hair and makeup. By this time Kourtney should be ready (she operates slower than a snail,) and then I will do her hair unless she already has it in a style in from our hairdresser. Breakfast is next and I have usually prepared it from the night before… this ranges from pancakes to toasties – my daughter isn’t really a cereal kind of child. I try my hardest to not skip breakfast but I would be lying, if I said it didn’t happen from time to time. When we have finished breakfast, I collect the lunches from the fridge as I always make them the night before as well. We pack our bags, get our shoes and coat on… and were ready to leave!

This September, Kourtney started a new school which is forty minutes away and we travel by car. Kourtney always reads to me for ten minutes of the journey, apart from weekends. We discuss what she has read before turning on BBC Radio2 for the remainder of our car journey. We always arrive at Kourtney’s school about 5-10 minutes before the school bell rings as I hate rushing and can’t deal with feeling hot and flustered. School starts at 8.45am, however Kourtney’s teacher will let them in class from 8.35am – this is handy for me as it gives me extra travel time to get to work.

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodbye’ and seen her off, I get back into my car and make my way to work. I went part-time as of October, this year and so my working hours are 9.30am to 2.30pm every day. If traffic is on my side, I can get to work in thirty minutes from Kourtney’s school BUT, if it wants to be a sod then it can take forty five minutes to get in. My best friend always calls me at 8.50am, as we have both dropped our kids by then and we have a catch up and gossip until one of us reaches work. I park my car, ten minutes away from work as it is free parking (YASS) and I do love walking anyway.

 

Although I am not in my chosen career, I do enjoy what I do plus it is my time to be my 28 year-old self without a child in tow. As I mentioned before, I am a Marketing Business Development Executive and my role involves running campaigns and maintaining a relationship with our clients across the United Kingdom, through various platforms. I consider myself to have a very good work ethic and as I am the only one in my role, I have a daily hefty workload to manage. I have both a photo of Kourtney and a drawing, which she made for me on my desk. It is my daily reminder for me, to never give up and to always work as I want to be the best role model for my princess.

My day goes super-fast now I am working part-time, I usually have at least two meetings day and 50 odd emails that I aim to respond to within the same day of receiving it. I do have the option to work from home but I only do it, if I need to i.e. Kourtney is sick or it is the school holiday. I write a to-do list at the start of the week which usually increases as the week commences; however I do aim to complete everything by Friday or I will end up switching on my laptop on the weekend and doing work.

 

I leave the office between 2.30 and 2.40pm and head straight to Kourtney’s school. I absolutely adore being able to do the normal school as previously she attended after school club and collection was at 6pm. Most days we head straight home as I like to keep Kourtney in routine as much as possible, apart from Wednesdays as she has gymnastics after school. When we arrive home at 4pm, I immediately empty and wash Kourtney’s pack lunch box, whilst Kourtney unpacks her school bag and changes out of her uniform. Hold on… actually I remove my bra as soon as I get in – I despise them!!!

Once we have sorted ourselves out, I prepare a healthy snack for Kourtney which will range from fruits to oatmeal bites. We have a catch up about our days and then we either crack on with home learning or free play dependent on the day. As Kourtney attends Saturday school and I am preparing her for an independent or grammar school for her secondary education, it is very important that we do home learning 3-4 times a week. We do home learning or free play for one hour and then it is dinner time. Obviously, my days don’t run as smooth as I would always like it to but hey… that’s life!

 

The time is usually about 6/6.30pm when we have finished dinner and I always wash up straight away to avoid a huge pile up whilst Kourtney gets into the shower. I will also make our breakfast and lunches at time so any hot food has a chance to cool before they go in the fridge. Once I have finished giving the kitchen a quick whizz, we are settle on the sofa to read for ten minutes and do our peak & pit – a concept I introduced to describe the highlight and downfall of our day. We have a discussion on what we have read and then myself of Kourtney, records our comments in her reading record. This will usually take thirty minutes in total and the time will be roughly between 7 and 7.30pm. Kourtney goes to bed at 8pm and will tidy her room and get all her things by the door ready for the next day.

 

Once I have kissed Kourtney ‘goodnight’ and seen her off to bed… IT IS OFFICIALLY ME TIME!!! Although, I would say it is 50/50 of me getting to enjoy the things I like doing. Sometimes, I can kick back and watch a movie with a glass of wine or chinwag on the phone to a friend; but other times I am either doing work on my laptop or cleaning somewhere in my gaff (no rest for the wicked.) I always have a bath before bed as I like to feel fresh and relaxed as possible before I go to sleep. Once I am fresh as a daisy, I delve into bed about 10/10.30pm and aim to be asleep, at the latest 11pm, ready to do it all again the next day.

 

Links:

Email: LifeMilk@mail.com

Blog: Life-Milk.com

Insta: LifeMilk_

Twitter: LifeMilk2016

Told you you’d love it! Thank you so, so, SO much for guest blogging for me, Jen. I have really loved working with you. I’m going to steal Jen’s ‘Peak and Pit’ concept – what a fabulous way to get children engaging in conversation over the dinner table! Hopefully using Jen’s fab idea I’ll get more than a very grumpy ‘I dunno’ answer to every question I ask my teenager about his day! Massive thanks to Jen for sharing her life with us for a day; before you do anything else give Jen’s blog a visit, you will LOVE it! You can find it here

I’ll be back on Tuesday with yet another fabulous mummy and the #ThisMum series will wrap up a week today with another fantastic post to close the series. It’s been an amazing project to work on and I have met so many fabulous, inspirational mums as a result.

Another day in the life of #ThisMum

Tonight’s #ThisMum guest post comes from the gorgeous Rebecca from her blog, My Girls and Me. Rebecca has two beautiful girls, one aged 8 and one aged 4. She’s given us a sneak peek at her life as a mum, and you are going to love it. Don’t forget, you can check out her blog by clicking here

 

Hi! My name is Becca & I am a mummy to Rosie-Belle who is 4 and Miyah who is 8 months. Here is what I do, daily!  

I start my mornings by waking up at around 5 o’clock with my OH Michael. He gets up for work around this time, and I get up to say goodbye to him. Sometimes I will get up and stay up with him, other days I would fall back asleep! (More than I would like ha-ha!) If I wake up, I usually potter round the house doing some tidying and getting this ready for when the girls are up. I might have a cuppa and watch one or two soaps.  

The girls get up around 6:30am, I give Rosie a few minutes to get herself up and I take Miyah downstairs and put her in her high chair ready for breakfast. Rosie will come down and start making her own breakfast! (When did she get so big?) Miyah and Rosie have their breakfast and Rosie gets dressed for school. While Rosie is getting dressed, I change Miyah’s bum and get her in clean clothes for the day and give her a bottle if she wants one, sometimes she doesn’t so I let her play! 

Around 8 o clock is when my mum turns up for the school run and I quickly chuck Rosie’s hair up and we are off. The school run takes about an hour if I don’t stop on the way home. When I’m home, I put Miyah on the floor with her toys and I pack away breakfast stuff and set the dishwasher and washing machine on. Since we have recently just moved in so there is a lot of stuff I potter round and do. For example sorting out where stuff needs to go because I’m not happy with the original place lol! 

Around 10:30 Miyah wants a nap. Now Miyah doesn’t usually nap in the day time, she just gets very stressed and closes her eyes for 10 minutes before she is awake again. If she does nap, it could last up to 4 hours. Strange child. In this time, you will more than likely see me tidying, (I know, what more could I possibly do? *my house is a mess*) reading or maybe doing a little work. Answering emails, tweeting etc.  Around 12 o clock i give Miyah dinner, she has probably had about 100 snacks in that time. She will have a jar, a fruit pot and yoghurt and maybe a bottle. I grab myself something and we then play until it’s time to go and pick Rosie up.  

Miyah has just learnt to crawl proper so most of our playing is me crawling on the floor with her looking like a loony, If anyone saw they would be worried haha!  

When we get back from the school run, we get in and unwind from the walk home, and Rosie has a drink and a snack while doing some homework. Miyah if on a good day has fallen asleep in the pram and will sleep for all of about 20 minutes in the house. I start prepping dinner (I have planned what we will have every day of the week of i know what we are doing) and then we chill. This usually means telly on, i check my messages and wait for Michael to get home.  

When Michael is home, we sit down and eat, talk about our days and by the time this is usually all done and i have tidied after dinner it’s about 6 so we watch Simpsons and put the girls to bed. We have a routine for baths and stuff but that’s boring stuff lol. Once the girls are asleep i will potter round picking up toys and doing the rest of the housework before i sit down. This time usually includes watching telly or blog work.  

Well, that’s my day. Pretty boring stuff, but to me it’s my life! There’s always something thrown in everyday to make it a little exciting!  

Thank you Rebecca, your day is far from boring! It has been an absolute pleasure working with you on this! Thank you so much for being a Guest Blogger for the #ThisMum series.

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum

Following on from the fabulous Mums we have already had sharing with us a day in their lives, I am delighted to introduce Rachel from the Nippersnips blog. Rachel is a full time working mum with a gorgeous 3 year old boy and I am super grateful that she opened up a day in her life to us all. Don’t forget to check out Rachel’s blog over at www.nippersnips.com

A day in the life of #Thismum

I’m a full time working mum with a 3 year old boy and a husband. I am besotted with my little one as most mothers are – he is my world.

My 3 year old boy has recently started school nursery. This has brought a little change in all our lives and routine.  He seems to have grown up so much. The school uniform really makes him look older!

A typical day means getting up between 6.30-7am.  This is fantastic considering he used to get up between 5-6am (zombie times).   I have my cuppa tea, (without which I can’t function) and my boy has hot milk and banana.  He is absolutely obsessed by both hot milk and bananas! To him they make the world go round.   I think it must be part of his little routine.  If we ever run out he is devastated.  He has his cereal and then I get ready for work.

I work close to home but this wasn’t always the case.  The best thing I did after I went back to work was changing my job and reducing the commute. I knew putting my boy to bed each night was worth more than anything.

I get to take and pick my boy up from school/after-school-club a few times a week and these are my favourite days. He loves school which makes me so happy and helps to lessen the mum guilt I feel for working full time. I still really struggle with mum guilt but love working too.  It’s a hard balance to reach. I am blessed I work 9-5. This is a huge help.

When we get home I make his tea and chat about his day. Mostly he says “I don’t know” to my questions – which makes me laugh! He doesn’t know what he’s done, who he’s played with or what he’s had to eat.  So I’m none the wiser after our little talks! Despite this we have lots of fun, cuddles and giggles. Recently he’s been pretty grumpy too but he’s just tired after school.

After tea he has a bath and I love to watch him play. He’s now making up stories and characters with his bath toys.  It’s such a pleasure to observe and he hates getting out of the bath.

He normally objects to going to bed and asks for “2 minutes” ha ha. But I’m lucky he actually loves his little routine of Pj’s , story and sleep.  I do have to “settle “him as he calls it.  This is me stroking his hair and saying “night night”. Then amazingly he goes to sleep around 7.30 and I watch him through our monitor.  It wasn’t always this easy. I’ve had many a sleepless and rough night, believe me – I have endured the worst sleep deprivation.  Recently he is so zonked out and is sleeping so well, I just pinch myself. What a difference this makes to our family.  He must be using his brain power at school!

I’m so proud he’s mine and count my blessings every day that he’s such a good boy.

Rachel, Nippersnips

A HUGE thank you to Rachel from Nippersnips for this wonderful post. Reading that she’s come through the sleep deprivation and now has her lovely boy sleeping really well gives me hope that I won’t forever resemble a Zombie and that my child may, one day, decide to sleep! Thank you so much, Rachel. 

Don’t forget to visit Rachel’s blog! www.nippersnips.com

I am absolutely loving the #ThisMum series and reading what ‘being a mum’ looks like for so many different mums. None of this would be possible without the wonderful mums who have agreed to guest blog for this series so a massive thanks goes out to every mum who has posted already and is in the wings ready for the post to go live. I’ve got several mums lined up for spots well in to the month of December with lots more waiting to be scheduled so I am so excited that we can continue the series and gain an insight to the real diversity across a larger group of Mums.

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

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?

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.

Know the true meaning of unconditional love: an open letter to my children.

‘Know the true meaning of unconditional love: An open letter to my children’

 This piece was inspired by a tragic incident that took place recently involving a family I know. I won’t go in to it any further because it’s not my story to tell, but it has served as a poignant reminder that mental health knows no bounds. It takes prisoners of all ages and comes with an invisibility which can lead to it being unidentified for a long time.

Dear my Big Lad, and my Baby Girl,

You, my big lad, are growing up so fast. You will be fifteen in less than six months. I know you are smart (much smarter than I’ll ever be!) and I know you are switched on and might think you have it all figured out. I know you will think ‘I know this already’ but please read on, it’s important to your old mum.

And to you, my baby girl, you are at the very beginning of you long and exciting life. You don’t know much about life yet, and that’s Ok. Take your time. The world is a funny place, you will find your place in it, there’s no hurry. Your daddy and I will be here to help you find your way. But before all that, I need you to know this one thing, so listen up. I don’t expect everything to make sense to you right now as you are so small, but I promise one day soon it will all make perfect sense so read carefully.

I know that there will come a day when you will get fed up of the way I go on. I tell you I love you every time you leave the room, even if you are just going to the toilet and coming back in a few minutes. I sign off every text message with ‘I love you’ and hundreds of lines of kisses. I love to cuddle you at random times, like in the middle of a crammed shopping centres. I pretend to like the same TV as you so that we can sit and cuddle up and make our way through box sets together. I know that you know that but let’s not say it out loud. It would spoil the fun.

If I could physically wrap you both up in cotton wool and bubble wrap and never let you out of my sight, I would. I have had to work really hard to relax a little. I tell you for why; since the day you were born, you were and remain the most precious and treasured thing I have in my life. Both of you. You are my greatest achievement. You are my world, my life.

I know that the cotton wool and bubble wrap approach doesn’t go down very well. And I get that. You want to grow up, you want to do things your way, you want to be free. I continue to work hard at allowing you both that freedom. Big lad, you are growing up so fast that I know I have to ease off, I have to let go a little. I have to let go a lot. You will soon be making your way in the big wide world without me, so now more than ever, I need you to know the way I feel.

A mother’s love is something you can’t understand at your age. Since the day you were both placed in my arms, it has been my job to envelope you in love and keep you safe. It was and is the responsibility of your Daddy and I to raise you to be good people with kind hearts. That’s some job. That is some responsibility. But my goodness are you two making us proud.

Big lad, you will know that I tell you that you make me proud every single day. You will respond, as you always do, with ‘what have I done to make you proud today? I haven’t done anything special’, without knowing that you need do nothing ‘special’ as you put it, to make proud. You make me proud by just being you. I swell with pride every time I look at you.

There are moments, special moments, where I feel like my heart could literally burst with pride for you both. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling. There are times I simply cannot believe that you came from me. You are both so beautiful. Together with your Daddy, I am unbelievably proud of who you are and what you have achieved in your life so far.

As much as I don’t want to even contemplate it, there will come a time (and it isn’t in the too distant future for you, big lad) where you have to fled the nest to be yourself, to work out who you are as an adult, to find your place and make your mark on the world. My heart plummets at the thought of you not being there when I wake up on a morning or not being able to give you a hug at some point in the day, but I know you are bound for incredible things and that excites me. I know that the both of you, whatever you grow up to do, will make the world a better place. The world is so much richer for having you both here and I can’t wait (well, I can wait but you know what I mean!) to see what you both achieve.

 

But as you are growing up – and beyond that, when you are adults – please remember one thing. I love you unconditionally. Big lad, I know that you will understand what the word ‘unconditional’ means but I want you to understand what it means in the context of a mother’s love. Because, that is unconditional on a whole new level.

 

There is nothing you could ever do that will change the love I feel for you. Please know that regardless of who you grow up to be, the company you keep, the things you do or don’t do, where you go or what you believe, I love you. Absolutely unconditionally.

 

I can’t promise to always agree with your opinion; I can’t promise to always approve of your decisions or your actions. But I can promise that we will love you regardless. We have raised you the only way we know how and I sincerely hope that the life you have had with us will give you a solid foundation upon which to build your own moral compass, your own belief system, your own way of living. But please know that if there should be a bump in the road and you make a mistake, know that you are loved unconditionally. Don’t ever be afraid to say ‘I’ve screwed up’. Don’t ever be deterred from returning home to us after you’ve made a mistake or you’ve done something that you know we wouldn’t approve of. We all do it at some point in our lives. Hell, I’ve made my own mistakes. I’ve made multiple mistakes. It’s all part and parcel of the tapestry of life.

 

Sometimes life goes pear shaped. We make a series of bad decisions and suddenly life has taken a turn for the worse. Don’t ever feel that it is too late to start over. It is never too late. Come to us and we will listen. We will not judge. We will put an arm around your shoulder and we will support you. We will help to rebuild your life and start again.

 

Likewise don’t ever feel like you have no where to go. Don’t ever believe that you can’t come home because we will be disappointed / disapprove / disagree – we will never turn you away and we will never feel those things. You always have a place with us. Always. So regardless of how old you are, your personal circumstances or what has gone on in your life, please understand that there is always a road that leads home. That road will never be closed off. This is our guarantee to you that we will always be here for you.

 

And if you EVER think that we would be better off without you, please know that there is no truth in that statement. Your mind is not thinking clearly and is not speaking any truth. Do not listen to it. There could never ever be a world where we would consider ourselves better off without you. So should you ever find yourself having these thoughts (and I pray that you don’t) remember this letter. Let your mind trigger a memory of what I have spoken about today. I love you. I always will. Forever. And unconditional.

Children Need To Be Told They Amazing

My response to Karren Brady’s recent article in The Sun. Find it here

I think the word ‘amazing’ gets used a little bit too much these days. And don’t even get me started on that whole ‘sha-mazing’ thing. Boy was that annoying. But when it comes to my children, I’m very happy to tell them they’re amazing. Incredible. Awesome. Beautiful. Wonderful. Precious. They are all of those things and more.

So, when I came across Karren Brady’s article in The Sun this week and I read the title ‘Parents need to stop telling their kids they’re amazing’, I was naturally intrigued. She went on to argue that if we don’t stop telling our children they are amazing ‘they’ll struggle to cope in the real world.’ Uh-Oh, I could’ve thought. I’ve really dropped my kids in the brown stuff. I’ve ruined their lives. I’ve accidentally removed any chance they had of being able to cope in the real world. I’ve failed them. They are doomed. I am the worst parent ever.

I could have thought that. I didn’t. But I could have. Instead I fiercely rejected every point that the article made.

Basically, in a nut shell, Karren Brady believes that we are over praising our children. She thinks that this results in them struggling in the world of work as they get older because they expect ‘continuous praise and instant success’. She goes on to say that one of the key issues she encounters during her work with young people is their ‘raging sense of entitlement’. They, basically, expect the world on a platter because they’ve been told that is exactly what they can have.

I tell my children they are amazing every single day (although, I change up the vocabulary from day to day to keep it interesting). That is because that every single day they do, or say, something that makes me proud. That might be something as little as putting their dirty washing in the right place (although, I must admit, that doesn’t happen very often!) or being kind, understanding, tolerant. My children are pretty amazing. (It’s now even irritating me at how many times I’m using that word!). Sod that. They are incredibly awesome. Without fail, they make me proud to be their mum. Every. Single. Day. Why shouldn’t I tell them that? And if I do continue to do this, is Karren Brady to be believed? Is it really going to hamper their chances of coping with the real world if I do?

I don’t think so.

I used to teach at secondary level a number of years ago. The number of children I met with low self esteem and low self confidence was astounding. It was the type of low self esteem that was as limiting as a ten foot brick wall surrounding them. They couldn’t escape it. They could not break through that wall. For some children it revolved around their appearance. For others it was about their academic ability, or their ability to make friends and ‘be popular’. They felt that they were at floor level and everybody else was up in the stars. That sort of mindset has a long term effect. Karren Brady is concerned about young people turning up for work with an expectation that they will be successful, or an expectation that they will be promoted quickly or believe that one day they’ll be running the place. I would be more concerned about the young people who wouldn’t even have the confidence to turn up for the job interview. Or apply for a job in the first place.

Being a young person isn’t easy. It’s far harder when you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin and you lack the confidence to be yourself. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on the power of affirmations and it is no different to what millions of parents are doing every single day in telling their children that they are amazing. If you tell someone something for long enough, they will start to believe it themselves. Tell your children they are beautiful, they are clever, they are going to change the world, often enough and they too will believe it. From that place will grow confidence and self esteem. From that will grow ambition, drive and pride. How can that be a bad thing?

Karren Brady also explores the theory that working parents over praise their children because they feel guilty about not being around more for them. She’s right about the guilt thing – every single time I leave my baby at nursery on a morning I feel guilt. Every time my son asks to do something fun during the school holidays and I have to go to work instead, I feel guilt. But that’s not why I tell them they are amazing. I tell them they are amazing because they are exactly that: amazing.

Karren goes on to say that children who grow up being praised all the time will at some point enter the real world and realise the ‘unpaletable truth’ that praise has to be earned and that you have to work hard to become the best at anything. There is a huge presumption here that because we praise our children, we are not instilling a strong work ethic in them and that’s wrong. I believe that the bigger we build our children up, the bigger they will dream to achieve. If we tell our children they are capable of conquering the world, they will dream about conquering the world. That gives them ambition, drive and determination. As long as we promote a strong work ethic and continue that conversation by reminding them that whilst they are capable of conquering the world, they have to work very hard to do so, they will not expect success to fall at their feet overnight.

Karren closes her article with a suggestion that our over-praised children can’t grow up and even begin to consider working in a business because they won’t even have the capacity to ‘connect with real human beings’. This still puzzles me. I think that one of our biggest jobs as parents is to make our children aware of their capabilities. We should be making them feel like they could rule the world standing on one foot with a blindfold on. We need to reinforce the need to aim high. Dream big. We need to tell them ‘you are good enough’ , ‘you can achieve anything you want’ ‘You are who you are and we are so proud of you’. As long as we use our praise as a tool to drive our children forward, a tool to encourage them to dream big, a tool to reinforce a strong work ethic, then those children will aim high. They will dare to dream big and they will do their very best to achieve those dreams. But without that self belief they won’t get off the starting blocks. We need to believe in them so they can believe in themselves. And we do that by telling them how incredibly amazing they are.