This weekend was an emotional one…

Having our own business and working on it full time has never made this ‘work life’ balance thing easy, particularly with our Little Miss and Big Lad. The Big Lad may be old enough and capable of seeing to himself most the time but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be there to do it for him. That’s what Mums are for, right?

Work has been crazy these last few weeks. We were offered a potential business opportunity that could possibly be life changing for our future. That has brought with it more work, pressure and stress than we have ever known. It’s been like being back at university again, pulling all nighters to meet deadlines. We’ve worked more, slept less, stressed more and relaxed less, and all of this is not exactly conducive to family life.  I am justifying this because if we manage to pull this opportunity off, it will change our lives and our kids are, of course, part of that.

Whether it’s been snapping at the Big Lad for not tidying his room (when I’ve already asked him 1037 times) or opting for episodes of ‘The Wiggles’ on Netflix as a means of entertaining the Little Miss instead of the usual interactive play, messy play and story reading we usually do together, I’ve not been the best Mum in recent weeks. More time has been focused on work and less time on the kids and whilst I can justify why we are doing it until I am blue in the face, it doesn’t feel very good. It feels bloody awful, in fact.

Despite having a whole boat load of work to do over the bank holiday weekend, we ditched it in favour of some family time. That sort of time is good for the soul. And our souls could do with some goodness. Whilst out at a farm, the 4 of us, we got to talking about the Big Lad’s plans for after he leaves school. Whilst university feels miles away, he’s already doing his GCSEs and it scares the shit out of me how quickly time is flying by.  University has always been part of the grand plan for the Big Lad. I didn’t take the conventional route to university and ended up doing my degree long distance whilst working full time and raising my baby boy (many moons ago!); it was tough going. Like really tough. I don’t believe that a degree is essential to get where you want to be in life, but he has a clear idea of where his future lies (which is more than I can say for me at his age – I think I still believed I was going to be a Radio DJ at that point….) and in order to break in to that sort of career, he does need a degree.

My Big Lad is quiet and sensitive, thoughtful and loving. He still holds my hand when we are out and about ( and I absolutely cherish those moments. Every single one of them.) and becoming a big brother has seen him flourish in to a mature, caring, kind and compassionate young man. He’s a home bird. He loves to hang out at home, he loves family days (he prefers the xbox but he definitely does like the occasional family day!) and he likes to stay close. When letters come out from school about skiing trips to France or trips to New York (I know! New York! New bloody York! Beats the glamorous outdoor pursuits residential weekend in the Lake District (in the torrential rain, no doubt…)that we were offered at school!) and we ask him if he wants to go, he answers instantly with a firm and clear ‘No thanks’ (or maybe minus the ‘thanks’ bit if he’s being particularly teenage angsty…). He isn’t interested in trips away, he’s quite happy remaining at home, in a familiar place with familiar people.

We’ve talked about university before. We have four fantastic universities within a 30-40 minute drive away so moving away to a university further away has never even been something we have contemplated in a conversation. Until Saturday. There we were, casually strolling around the worst smelling farm my nostrils have ever experienced, and the words ‘I think I’d quite like to move away when I go to university’ left his mouth. They left his mouth so carelessly. But with every new syllable my heart dropped further and further in to my stomach. I laughed it off. I used the, you know, ‘I’m smiling and I’m sort of laughing but on the inside I’m literally dying. Dying I tell you!’ laugh. I started off casual, with the, you know, old ‘Who’s going to make you a sunday dinner on a Sunday?’ ‘Who’s going to wash your clothes?’ ‘Who’s going to make sure there’s food in your cupboards?’ but when he answered (a little too promptly for my liking) ‘A local carvery, a local launderette and Tesco’ I needed to ramp it up a little. The conversation gradually built up and up until  I was metaphorically clinging on to the backs of his trousers screaming whilst sobbing ‘Pleeeeease don’t leeeavvve meeeee.’

It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. But I think because I know I’ve been the shittest mother ever to walk the planet these past few weeks, I instantly laid the blame at my door. He wants to leave home because I’ve not been home enough. He wants to leave because I’ve been nagging him about his room. He’s leaving because he’s sick of me questioning him on whether he’s brushed his teeth, changed his boxers and used deodorant every morning. He’s leaving, well, because he’d rather live alone than live with his Mum. The guilt. Oh the guilt. It washed over me like a wave. Actually, sod that, it washed over me like a fecking Tsunami.

I couldn’t even count on my husband for moral support. He made a comment like ‘Good for you, son. Get yourself out there’ or something of that nature. I couldn’t hear the exact words for the deafening sound of my heart breaking. I know what you’re probably thinking right now, you’re thinking I’m being dramatic, aren’t you? Well, there is nothing more dramatic than your son telling you that he actually wants to leave home at an undetermined point in the future. That’s just not okay with me. Jokes aside, I’m not ready to let go of his coat tails just yet. And a couple of years isn’t going to make me feel any better, I am certain. I’m being selfish. I know I’m being selfish because what if him leaving home is the making of him? What if this is his chance to make his mark on the world? And I want all that for him. I want his life to be limitless. I want him to have it all. Because he deserves it so much. But I just want him to come back to me afterwards. I love him so much.

This one conversation sent my hormones haywire for the rest of the weekend. The following day we set out on a day trip just the hubby, Little Miss and I (despite my best attempts at persuasion, the Big Lad decided that the Xbox had more appeal on this occasion) and we were travelling in the car when I glanced back at Little Miss. I glanced at her like I glance at her a million times a day, every time we are in the car together, only this time something got me. She was asleep, her little head resting against the side of the car seat. Her eyes closed tight with her long, day eyelashes so still. Her tiny, puffy little hand laid gently on top of the other. Her little feet swaying with the motion of the car. She looked so beautiful. So fragile. I felt something. Like the biggest pounding to my stomach. It was the realisation that in no time at all, she would be having the very same conversation with me too. Because I can’t even begin to emphasis how quick those years have flown over. Time is so precious when you are raising children. You can’t get time back. Every day we spend is a day that we lose. Every moment we share with our children is gone in an instant. I have never been surer of the need to cherish every single moment with my two children. Even the moments where you’re frazzled, drained of all energy and surrounded by poo and vomit. Because these moments are time limited. We will spend a lifetime afterwards trying to recall the every detail of these precious moments as we create a lifetime of memories in our minds.

image1-15

That realisation flooded me with emotion and I instantly began to cry. I think some of those tears was about the fact that I feel like my time with the Big Lad is running out and the guilt of wasting some of the time during his childhood being wrapped up in work; and some of them were about me becoming overwhelmed with the fact that I have another childhood to enjoy, treasure and cherish with the Little Miss. I wished I hadn’t bothered spending so much time on precision eye liner because within seconds I looked like someone out of Kiss. Thanks goodness it was sunny enough for me to realistically justify wearing sunglasses, avoiding the ‘I’m wearing sunglasses in the dark like a Z-Lister’ look.

FullSizeRender-10

They may be 15 years and 18 months old but I want to protect them until my dying day. I want to see to their needs every single day of their lives. I want to protect them from heart break. I want to protect them from disappointment, upset, feeling sick, scared – the lot. I know that they have to get big and grown up one day. I’m not daft, I know they can’t stay with me forever (although that won’t stop me trying to come up with reasons why they should….) but I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m not ready to think about that right now. This weekend has served as a reminder that being Mum to my two children is a privilege. It’s a privilege that not all people get. Whilst life will invariably place a strain on me being Mum of the Year from time to time, I want to be the best Mum I possibly can be because when I wave them both off to enter in to the big wide world on their own (when they’re like aged 62 or something….) I want to know that I did the best I can and made the most of every single precious moment of their childhood. I don’t want to think ‘I wish I put my mobile phone down more’ or ‘I wish I put the laptop away on an evening and spent it with the kids instead’ or ‘I wish I’d taken more time as a family’ because I can only imagine how difficult it would be to live with those thoughts. As mums we feel guilt as a default emotion; most of the time it is misplaced and it is certainly a pointless emotion as no good can come of it. I don’t want to feel guilt. I just want to know, in my own mind, that I’ve done the very best I can. Because, then, I can live with that.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth About Being a ‘Mum Boss’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Time Around

 

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

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

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

 

  1. Relaxed a bit:

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

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

 

 

  1. Felt able to ‘let go’ a bit:

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

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

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

 

  1. Became ‘at one’ with crying:

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

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

 

  1. Been Selfish

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

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

 

  1. Been more ‘Present’

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

 

 

  1. Been more grateful

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

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

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

 

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

Why Holidays are Everything to us.

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

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

224774_10150229829773336_6637969_n

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

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

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

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

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

208054_10150227585833336_5906338_n

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

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

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

225907_10150294311458942_4098600_n

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

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

229294_10150294290988942_4200904_n

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

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

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

Maybe it was for the best.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Zero Sleeper to a Hero Sleeper!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image2

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

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

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

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

2017: The Year in Reflection

I know I’m a bit previous with this but Little Miss is poorly at the moment so is sleeping even less than normal (who knew that was even possible?!) and if I become any more sleep deprived over the next couple of days I would worry that I would, very genuinely, not be able to string a sentence together, never mind making that sentence meaningful or semi-interesting.

Plus there’s naff all on the telly and I need to keep my mind (and belly) off the chocolate and wine that is taunting me from the fridge.

I think most people in the UK would agree that 2017 was a bit of a bastard. My hubby has notifications set up on his phone to bleep when there is breaking news. There was a time during 2017 where my heart literally sunk every time his phone beeped because every single time it did, it was to report something hateful, sad, violent or worrying.  The only time I noticed it bleeping with good news was on the announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement. I’m sure there were other bits of good news here and there but very generally it was a shitter of a year generally. I’ve spent far too many hours this year sat in front of Sky News with a knot and churning in my stomach as news stories unfolded live. I’ve read of too many deaths. I’ve heard of so much injustice. I’ve seen too much hate.

I’m not minimising any of the tragic incidents that have happened during 2017. There were some utterly horrendous events that were truly senseless in every respect. Those reckless events stole life. Changed lives. For many, those events altered the way we live our every day lives, and the thought patterns that we have in certain places or at certain times. Whether we were there witnessing it in front of our very eyes, or watching from the protection of a TV screen, those events have taken enough from us. They’ve taken innocent lives. They’ve taken our peace of mind. They’ve taken our right to feel safe. They’ve taken enough from us already; no way are they going to take the year.

To re-balance things I asked the lovely folk of Twitter what their highlight of the year was. The responses were heart warming. There wasn’t one response that was not family or home based. There were a lot of births of beautiful new babies, where 2017 marked the significant start of new life. For those mums, dads and the babies themselves, 2017 will forever mean the start of something so precious. That certainly helped tipped the balance back in the right direction. There were marriages; weddings that united soul mates in matrimony and the start of an incredible new life together. The year 2017 will forever be recorded on their Marriage Certificate as a year to go down in their own history. Then there were other lovely highlights like moving to a dream home in the country, the start of a new job that paid more, overcoming mental health struggles and so much more. For all of these lovely people, 2017 was more than a year of doom. They showed up and insisted on 2017 giving them something positive in the wake of such sadness and hate. For these wonderful people, 2017 will forever go down in their personal or family history for a good reason. Reading all these lovely tweets certainly helped me to focus on the positives that 2017 brought us.

On a personal level, 2017 brought me one gift in particular. This gift totally opened my eyes. It made me view things differently; in a different light or from a different angle almost. It made me process thoughts and emotions in a way I hadn’t really done before. Want to know what 2017 brought me? It brought me realisation.

This time last year one of my closest friends was enjoying the festivities with her wider family; her parents, her sister and all the grandchildren. They celebrated Christmas and New Year like every other year, paying tribute to the family traditions on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Not once did they ever consider that it would be their last Christmas as a whole family. Only 8 months later my friend’s father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and despite his courageous fight and infinite strength, he sadly died only a matter of months afterwards. This year, my friend celebrated Christmas without her father, her mother without her husband and her children celebrated without their grandfather.

2017 saw my Step Father have his own collision with his health. Following diagnosis and prior to further tests, there was a point where we too as a family were faced with the possibility of his life being significantly shortened due to a terminal illness. We were extremely fortunate that following further tests, the consultant reassured us that it wasn’t terminal. It was a diagnosis that would possibly change his life slightly, but he was alive and staying alive and for us, that was all that mattered. For those few terrifying weeks, it was like staring down a barrel of a shot gun (not that I have ever actually done that, obviously). It felt like every fibre of our being was tensed in anticipation of the shot: the bad news, the prognosis. It was exhausting. We couldn’t relax, not even for a second.  We discussed action plans with my Mum, she looked at her finances and discussed how she would cope alone. For a moment, although brief, we had to picture our lives without the man who had gone from being our step father to our Dad. It looked dark and it looked empty.

2017 took my biological father. Actually, I’m going to change that. 2017 didn’t take him. He decided to take himself, a result of sustained drug and alcohol misuse over a period of tens and tens of years. I wasn’t in contact with him so I didn’t and don’t feel his absence. As harsh as it sounds, he was never the father he needed to be for my sister and I. Not as children, and certainly not as adults. He was given second chances, third chances, fifty-fifth chances over the years and each time he would let us down. In the end, we voted with our feet and decided that we were no longer willing to accept being treat like that. I hadn’t seen him for a number of years before he died. I surprised myself in that I reacted to the news of his death with some grief, albeit limited. I was angry at myself for feeling grief. I couldn’t understand why I would be grieving for a man who did nothing but let his children down. It wasn’t too long before I realised that I was grieving for the father that he wasn’t. Not for the father he was. His death meant that I would never hear an apology from him; I would never hear him begging for forgiveness; nor would I ever hear him asking for another chance and promising to make a go of being a proper father this time. Now the chances of this happening were pretty much zero. In all the recent years I was estranged from my father he never apologised or begged for forgiveness. His style was more akin to the ‘I’ve done nothing to apologise for’ denial. But his death made that final. His death meant that he would never be the father I needed him to be. Even if had lived to 104 I know, in reality, he would never have been the father I needed him to be. It would just never have happened. But his death meant that there wasn’t even that possibility.

Perhaps harder was the timing of it all. My father and my friend’s Father died within weeks of each other. As I listened to my friend’s final moments with her Dad, and how they begged for even just one more hour together, I felt dirty. I felt dirty because my father had abused his life. He had been blessed with a life full of possibilities. He was from a middle class family, his mother a Teacher and his father a Mayor and politician. He could have been anything he wanted to be. Instead, he chose death. I say ‘choose’ because only he decided to walk down the road of drink and drugs. Nobody pulled him down that path, nobody enticed him down there; he wasn’t born in to it or pressured in to going down that path. He knowingly went in that direction and it was only ever going to lead one way. I know there will be many people who will disagree with me, and that’s totally Ok, I’m not saying that my take on the whole thing is gospel and truth but it is my truth and that’s the only truth I can give.

There was my friend’s Father, who had never smoked, never abused drugs, had the odd beer occasionally and had built an entire family filled with love, truly making a difference with his life; and there was mine – someone who had carelessly squandered his life away with every single drink he took. It didn’t feel fair. I was embarrassed and ashamed that my father would have such a lack of understanding of how valuable life was when so many would have given anything and everything for just one more minute here on Earth with their loved ones. I didn’t share my Father’s view on life and I certainly didn’t approve of the way he squandered it away but I still felt a sense of it being linked to me, a sense of it being my fault, a sense of me needing to acknowledge it, because of the bare fact that I was his daughter. His genetics make me part of who I am.

Not once do we ever think, as we sit down around the dinner table about to tuck in to our Christmas dinner every December, and cheers our drinks for the 104th time (because the kids love doing it with their little beakers! – or is that just our family?!), that a year down the road, our lives could be so changed that we might never re-live this moment with all those we love again. Or at least, I never had done.  I had never just closed me eyes and breathed in the fact that we were all together. I had never just stopped a moment and allowed the gratitude to wash all over me, realising how utterly blessed I was to be living in that moment.

2017 has brought me the realisation that nobody on this earth is guaranteed a tomorrow. I actually raised this with my family on Christmas day as I really felt like I needed to just tell them all, as one big group, how much that moment, and the whole day, had meant to me because we’d spent it together. Some of my family totally got it whilst others felt it was a little morbid. That’s not how I see this gift at all. I see that 2017 has brought me a gift that not everyone gets the benefit of experiencing. Not everyone experiences something in their lives that brings home that cold reality, that harsh realisation.

If nobody is promised a tomorrow, then we have to make the best of every single ‘today’. That doesn’t mean we have to write a bucket list and start abseiling down bridges or jumping out of planes; it is more about just being aware. Being aware of the moments that are everything; being aware of how blessed we are to share moments with our loved ones. It is about gratitude. It’s about never taking things or people for granted. It’s about taking in those special moments and breathing every inch of them in, savouring them in our memories for ever. It’s about not wasting time or energy – or life – arguing over who forgot to put the milk back in the fridge, who didn’t replace the toilet roll when it ran out, or who spilled chicken korma over the sofa. It’s about leaving this earth, whenever that may be (let’s hope it’s gazillions of years away yet)  with not a single regret. It’s about doing what you want to do (only if it’s legal like…), telling people how you feel, loving without reservation or hesitation, really living your life in every sense of the word: it’s about making the most of every single day of your life – and the lives of the people you love.

Before this realisation, I’ve always been one for using the new year as a fresh start. Whether that be for a diet, healthier living, about achieving more at work or whatever – I’ve always seen it as a point in the year to reflect on the year gone by and I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I said ’This year has been amazing! Bring on another one like it!’ In fact, I’m not sure I ever have looked back on a year positively. I do remember, however, all the times I’ve said ‘I can’t wait for this year to be over with’ or ‘Good riddance to 20XX!’ for, in hindsight, seemingly insignificant reasons. I am now able to look upon the closing of this year and the coming of the new year in a completely different way thanks to the realisation that 2017 has brought me.

I have now realised that it doesn’t matter what does or doesn’t happen in a year. As long as I am transitioning out of one year and in to another with all of my loved ones around me then there is no ‘bad year’ or reason to bid it ‘good riddance’, because I am blessed. As long as I have all the people I love with me as I embark on the journey out of this year and in to the next, nothing else matters. It really doesn’t.

For that reason, I’m not even sure if I even want to do the ‘new year’ thing. This time I’m not celebrating the departure of a bad year and the arrival of the blank canvas of the new one and all the possibilities it might bring. Instead, I want to celebrate every single day just how lucky and how incredibly blessed and grateful I am to have the people I love around me.

I hope you transition in to the new year with all the people you treasure the most around you.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Day in the Life #ThisMum: FattyVonVon

Brrrr! It’s chilly out there! It’s definitely an evening for curling up under a fluffy blanket with a hot cuppa and a bit of reading! And what better thing to read than another #ThisMum post! I have had this post in the bank and scheduled for a while and have been desperate to share it with you. This time we are invited by Fatty Von Von from fattyvonvon.com to get up close and personal with an average day in her life. I was really excited about this one because we’ve not had many Mums of older children involved in the series so I was cock-a-hoop to have a Mum of not one teenager but two teenagers featured!

A lot of this post resonated with me. Partly because, like Fatty Von Von, I have a teenager myself, but more so because I feel like my life is an absolute whirlwind at times, full of busy-ness. In fact, I’d go so far as to say my life is full on chaotic most of the time. Balancing full time work with raising a baby, a teenager, keeping a (relatively) clean home (note the absence of ‘tidy’ – I find all attempts at this futile), managing the social calendars of the kids, the taxis to and from places, the homework, the requests from nursery that come home on slips of paper (that inadvertently get lost) requesting she wears this on that day, or brings in something in particular on another, the ‘after hours’ work that can’t wait until the next morning, the washing (oh my god, the washing!), remembering the appointments – immunisations, orthodontist and the like and the list could go on and on. It is so hard. It’s flipping impossible sometimes. Reading Fatty Von Von’s post really switched a light on for me. When things get chaotic I blame myself. When I forget that Little Miss was supposed to wear a Christmas jumper on the party day, I blame myself. When I get half way through a nappy change and forget that I ran out of baby wipes and should have picked some up on my way home, I blame myself. If my Big Lad gets worked up over some really heavy Maths homework and I am completely unable to help him with it (Maths was never my thing), I blame myself.  Let’s face it, if the sky fell in tomorrow morning, I’d blame myself for that too. I can be really hard on myself, and I often attribute the chaos in our life solely to my inability to be the super-duper-all-singing-all-dancing-super organised-Mum that I wish I could be.  Fatty Von Von’s post made me realise that, actually, family life can be chaos for everyone, it’s the nature of the beast – especially when trying to balance work, family life, school and the rest. Maybe that is just how it has to be for now. Maybe it wouldn’t matter how organised I was, maybe that’s just the way it is for us. Maybe I’d even miss it if it wasn’t this way! Huge thanks to Fatty Von Von for this amazing read – you are going to love it. 

 

A day in the life of #FattyVonVon – I’m relatively new to blogging and started to enable me to share my health and fat reversal journey.  I’m a 40 something suburban mum of 2, Finlay 13 and Grace 12 (I hear  all parents of teenagers feeling my pain at this part) married to Mr C since 2003.  I’m a Psoriasis warrior and felt starting my blog could help others and certainly supports me in maintaining my sanity from the breakouts….

Like many of you it’s such a pick and mix of days…. I’m going to concentrate on this week.  A typical day starts at 5.30am, I work condensed hours Tuesday to Friday but for a fabulous flexible employer which works well for my family.  I try to leave early to avoid the Greater Manchester M60, my journey is around 50 minutes (on a good day).  Just before I leave I wake both kids who need to leave for school around 7.  My husband tends to do the morning stint as he works 10 minutes from home, they’ve got him wrapped around their fingers.  He’s a morning person so not to bad but Mr Grumpy by the time I get home.   It’s only 7.15 and I’ve received 4 calls from both kids, they are grumpy and one doesn’t do mornings, one does.  Mum I need …… to which I respond with the response.  Oh my who invented cars which are compatible with your phone, it doesn’t stop for 50 minutes

The kids had an incident on a public bus with another school and thought it would be a good idea to take the them to self defence to ensure they can protect themselves, not sure how these things work but they’ve been knocking lumps out of each since practicing it.  I feel like a wrestling referee, their both covered in bruises but say “mum it’s all part of growing up”. Mr C rings once, their doing my head in and won’t get ready as fighting, blooming eck you’re health and safety sort it out….. I contemplate not answering the phone but generally stuck in traffic.  I do forget you can hear the phone outside the car too when stationary in traffic.  I’m normally calm but 15 calls later I’m shouting down the phone, fortunately it’s minus 1 outside their car windows are closed – hope they are!!

I make a final call home and their all happy, they’ve missed their bus as Finlay forgot he had cooking despite me asking 100 times so Mr C has to take them half way with a stop at the shop.  This virtual parenting can be hard sometimes.  I do miss primary school sometimes as you know what’s going on most of the time, high schools another story.  I compose myself for the day ahead.  I work as a Programme Manager for a local authority so its a full on day.  I plan to leave at 2.30pm to avoid the traffic and work from home which is fabulous to sort the mess out before they come home.    I’m sure you’ll all join me in recognising this, the phone rings and it’s school, I see it flash up on my Fitbit and have to make my apologies during a meeting.  Your mind flashes with have they had an accident on what have they done – normally the latter.  Hello Mrs C, my response jokingly, which one…. my darling teenager decided to use the puff pastry Mr C bought for his cooking and place in the microwave for a long time without the teacher noticing (in total innocence) and blew it up, it setting it on fire.  They wanted to reassure me he was fine but in trouble for not following instructions.  I was torn between laughing (which is wrong) but the annoyance at his behaviour took over.  She did reassure me once they’d investigated the matter it was purely innocent on his behalf as he didn’t hear the instructions clearly (he was chatting with his friend).  Why are they using microwaves to cook, I thought the lesson was cooking!!  He’d been given a detention for not listening although it wasn’t intentional.  I’ve never shown him how to bake pastry #badmother.

Back to the job and secretly laughing at the scene but also annoyed at his stupidity.

Finished work a little later due to the unpredicted call, motorway was clear so I was home in 50 minutes – house relatively clean.  I’m very fortunate I’m in a position to share the morning mum role with Mr C.  I log back on to work but soon give up when they run through the door hungry, raiding the fridge and leaving a trail of mess.  I try to have a serious conversation with Finlay re the incident but give up, he’s adamant he was told to place the puff pastry in the microwave 😡. I’ll leave that chat to Mr C with his safety hat on.

It’s a busy night with mums taxi, dinner was very quick and one wants it and one doesn’t.  Their going through a fussy stage and shocks me as always ate a variety of food, I refuse to make a variety of meals and feel they want a restaurant menu at times.  I’ve resorted to giving them Joe Wicks book and choose the menus for the week.  6.15pm and it’s back in the traffic to dancing and cadets.  First drop off is Finlay, their fighting in the back of the car over (I’ve given up asking).  We get to cadets by the skin of our teeth as he wouldn’t get ready, it’s the same battle daily with his laid back approach. On the other hand Grace is Miss organised and is sat in her dancing kit well before her time and managed to do her homework (never have to chase her for this).  Their so yin and yang but a great balance.  Their also best of friends and very close (despite the recent fighting). I’m putting this down to teenager hormones which are challenging – any tips gratefully received.  I bought the Haynes teenager manual for a laugh and wrapped it for Mr C – it did make him smile though.  One packed off at cadets, back in the traffic for Grace and double dancing.  She’s having a diva strop as going to be late.  I try to ignore her but she’s jumping round like a kangaroo in the back of the car.  Why have tantrums started again over something so trivial, thought I’d left them behind aged 2.  She’s all calm as we make it on time, I get a grunt and wave smiling at her dressed all angelic for ballet with a stern facial expression.  Back home 7.30 and the temptation for a gin and tonic is tempting, I decide against it.  This is what got me fat over the years, opening the vino whilst cooking the dinner.  I’ve stopped having a tipple during the week now, fabulous willpower (for now).  Mr C’s doing the pick ups for 9 and 9.30.  Long days but their both home, still bickering and in bed for 10.  2 nights a week like this and rest is 8 o’clock bed for them.  I so miss the routine of “in the night garden” then bed at 7.  I’ve always been a routine mum with 2 kids a year apart.  Mr C worked nights for years so wasn’t there and needed mum sanity – appreciate it works different for everyone. The routine is getting more difficult as they hit the teens.  I can’t be bothered tidying tonight as been a draining day, know I should but it’s 11 and I’m back up at 5.30 (it can wait).  The Clan are all tucked up, it’s now 11.30, my heads whizzing but need to leave today behind ready for a new day, I’m sure it will be much easier tomorrow!!

You need to be gentle with yourself sometimes, we’re not all supermums all the time and it’s ok not to be ok.  We’ve had a tough year this year with both of us losing a parent within weeks of each other.  The impact on the family, especially the kids, has been hard mixed with starting a new job.  We’re taking one day at a time, helping the kids through their sadness but also taking time to be grateful for the time we have being healthy and happy.  I live in complete madness and I’ve had to accept it, life’s far too short to be unhappy.  Wake up each day with a smile and be grateful for your journeys.  As a family we do get periods and some weekends with a downtime day.  The kids are kept active for their health and learning journeys and wouldn’t have it any other way – be happy folks love FattyVonVon 💋

Huge thanks to FattyVonVon for sharing this with us. I loved the honesty of this piece – it just resonated with me on a whole new level, as I’m sure it has with many of you. If you liked this, you would LOVE FattyVonVon’s blog so make sure you pay it a visit here

Next up on Sunday evening is the final post of the series – I know it’ll be Christmas Eve and we’ll all be playing Santa but don’t forget to check back in, you don’t want to miss it.