The Truth About Being a ‘Mum Boss’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Time Around

 

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

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

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

 

  1. Relaxed a bit:

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

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

 

 

  1. Felt able to ‘let go’ a bit:

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

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

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

 

  1. Became ‘at one’ with crying:

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

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

 

  1. Been Selfish

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

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

 

  1. Been more ‘Present’

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

 

 

  1. Been more grateful

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

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

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

 

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

I’m blessed but I’m also stressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

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

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

Maybe it was for the best.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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