Single Parenting – A Child’s Eye View.

When Amara Eno asked for contributions to her Single Parent project I was really interested – not because I am a single parent but because I was raised by one. Often single parents and their families are judged or stereotyped negatively; I wanted to share my experiences as a child from a single parent family because my upbringing and the way my mum raised me has made me who I am and I would challenge anyone who negatively judged me, or my mum, for being a single parent family unit. You can have a look at Amara’s fantastic project here http://www.amaraeno.com/3791628-the-25-percent-ongoing#1

I distinctly remember the night I first heard my parents argue. It wasn’t like a ‘you do the washing up, no YOU do the washing up’ type argument, it was an explosive one. My sister and I slept in bunk beds and I was asleep on the top bunk. It was dark so it was late and something woke me and I remember, rather oddly, the smell of onion rings in the fryer hitting me instantly. Despite living with us, my father was rarely at home. He was more like someone who visited us occasionally than a father. He was either working or out drinking. So when I awoke to his voice it was a bit of a surprise. He was aggressively shouting at my mum. I recognised, even then as a child, that there was both fear and upset in my mother’s voice as she defended herself verbally. I didn’t feel scared but I definitely had a sense that this was definitely not the way it was supposed to be. Something felt wrong, uncomfortable even.

Weeks later my father’s belongings were in suitcases that sat at the front door. I didn’t know then, but I do know now that my mum had been scared to ask him to leave for many months because she had been an unemployed housewife for many years, she had a big mortgage and two children to feed. She was miserable with him, and physically at risk of his malicious, alcohol fuelled temper. It was only as an adult that my mum told me he had tried to strangle her once. She confided in friends and decided it wasn’t in anybody’s best interests, both us and her, to keep my father at home. She made the incredibly brave decision to leave him.

The second he walked out my mum’s life drastically changed. We went from being a financially secure family living in a large three bedroomed house to living in a two bedroomed flat; my mum went from being a housewife to having to take any job that came her way. She only took work that would allow her to work when we were at school so that she could continue to drop us off and pick us up. During all of this change, my mum never once suggested to us that what was going on was hard. She maintained a smile, said it was all an adventure and turned up every afternoon to collect us from school. I remember at meal times there would only be two plates out on the table, one for me and one for my sister. When we asked mum why she wasn’t eating she would respond with  ‘Oh I’m not hungry’ or a ‘Don’t worry, I’ve already eaten’ and as children we believed her. It wasn’t until we were a lot older that we realised that during that time she couldn’t afford to eat if she fed both her daughters. My Dad had moved out and refused to pay any maintenance or child support. He barely ever turned up to have us for the weekend and when he did, he sometimes asked my mum to drive us half way there because clearly a 30 minute car journey to see his two daughters was just too much to ask of him.

Despite this, mum never suggested he was a bad father or that we were in a bad situation. As I got older and started to ask for the trainers, designer clothes or games consoles that everybody else had at school, she was forced to be honest and tell us that she couldn’t afford to buy those things. As a parent now myself, I understand now how heart breaking that must have been for her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t raise my kids to believe that money, designer trainers (you have to re mortgage your house for a pair these days!) and computer games grow on trees but having the resources to say yes occasionally is a real privilege really, particularly when you compare it to the ‘No, we can’t afford it’ response that my mum had to give us time and time again over many years.

Of course, we were just little girls then and I’m sure we threw our own fair share of tantrums over that answer. It must have hurt my mum so much. I see that now I have children of my own.

My mum went through a turbulent time, single parenting us for many years. She was so strong throughout. Our father continued to disappoint us every second weekend, not turning up, sometimes without notice and sometimes with the most ridiculous excuses. I think my mum definitely felt that she had to make up for where my father fell short. She would take us on days out, even if they were on a budget, and she would invest a lot of time in ensuring that we were happy, well balanced children despite the way in which our father messed us around.

As someone who parents alongside a partner, I can’t imagine how difficult, challenging and exhausting it was for my mum, and indeed for any single parents. Parenting is often a rollercoaster, the highs are high but the lows are low. It can be the most rewarding experience in your life but equally the most draining. When I need to go to the toilet, get changed, shower, cook (disclosure – I don’t cook very often) and so on, my husband takes the baby or takes over from me assisting with my big lad’s homework or the like. We are a team, and working as a team allows us as individuals to dip out to shower, make a phone call or take an “extended” trip to the toilet (in my experience this is one of the few places you are likely to come across peace and quiet. I often just sit, for way longer than necessary, enjoying the quiet!) knowing that he has everything in hand with the children. It’s not just the physical help that joint parenting brings, it’s that we face the challenges together, we always have someone to confide in about our shared concerns; it’s having someone to ride that rollercoaster with, someone who will hold your hand during the scary bits and celebrate with you during the bits that are exciting and exhilarating.

I can’t imagine not having my partner in crime at my side as we face the very unpredictable journey of parenting. Becoming a mother myself has definitely made me realise the sacrifices made by my mum to raise us and how challenging it must have been for her. If you asked her about it she would be very modest; she would say that she was just being a mother, raising her two girls. But I know that for those years of our childhood, she put her own life on hold. If raising us meant not eating, not going out, not having any luxuries whatsoever (by luxuries I mean pretty basic things, branded food at the supermarket, eating out at a café, having fish and chips from the chip shop) then that is what she did. And she did it with no complaint or hint of sadness.

Now I am ‘grown up’ (questionable at times, I know) I know that I am the mother that I am because of the way my mum raised me.  Her decision to leave my dad, thus protecting us all and minimising the negative impact he had on our lives, was so brave. She taught me never to accept ill treatment from a man, that a woman doesn’t need a man to survive and that having a decent man as a father to my children, who joins me in parenting, is not to be taken for granted.

I know that there is nothing I could do to return the sacrifices that my mum made for us but I do feel that my sister and I owe it to her now to give her immense support and treat her to the things that she missed out on for all those years. It will never repay her but it’s important to me that she knows how much she is loved and appreciated by my sister and I. We could have been very different people if mum hadn’t made those sacrifices and it is down to her that we have ended up being (quite) well rounded human beings (ish).

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another day in the life of #ThisMum

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum

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

A day in the life of #Thismum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel, Nippersnips

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

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

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

4 Time Saving Beauty Products for Busy Mums!

Now I don’t know about you, but on the days I actually find the time to apply a full face of make up, it is usually a case of only applying products that can be applied with one (very shakey) hand because I am usually holding a baby on my hip with the other. My Little Miss is going through a very clingy phase (please please let it be a phase!) at the moment so she almost always wants to be with me when I’m getting ready and she’s pretty impatient, hence the need to apply a face of make up in nought point three seconds whilst she wails like a banshee beside me.

There’s a few products I’ve been using recently that have been saving me valuable time on a morning so I thought I’d share them for anyone who, like me, has limited time for this sort of thing.

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  1. STYL’s Siligel Blender

I’d been using a blending sponge for a long time, particularly to apply foundation and to blend when contouring. It doesn’t take hours to wash the sponge through but when you’ve got a screaming baby throwing the wobbler to end all wobblers, it can feel like an eternity. So, when I saw that a Siligel blender had been brought out to rival the blending sponge, I was interested to try it. The main benefit with this is that it is much easier to clean as it doesn’t absorb the product, a quick run under the tap and it is cleaned of all product. Another benefit of using this style of blender is that because it doesn’t absorb the product, you use much less of it. My products are lasting much longer than usual with this blender, which is a significant advantage in itself. It did take me a while to get the technique right with this blender as it applies very differently to that of a sponge blender but once you get the hang of it, it’s fab.

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  1. Pixi by Petra Eyebrow Gel

I need to ‘fess up. I don’t have the time I used to have to make sure my eyebrows are suitably tamed. In fact, I got my fringe cut back in once I’d had my baby girl to hide the bloody things! But this product definitely helps keep them looking neat and tidy. It’s not an expensive product but it is a very effective product. I’ve tried eyebrow gels that have felt heavy and claggy but this is a light and airy gel that does its job well. You only need apply a little bit of this gel to keep your eyebrows looking tidy and it keeps them that way all day. The applicator is a handy brush so you can actually brush through your eyebrows as you apply the gel making it even easier to get the neat and tidy look you are looking for. It is quick, it is easy and it works – what is there not to love?

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  1. Bellapierre Banana Powder

If I could climb up on to the roof of my little semi detached house and scream from the rooftop about this product, I would. I absolutely LOVE it. I have gone from never using any sort of setting powder to using this banana powder every single day without fail. I have read that there are many different ways you can use this sort of product but I’ll tell you how I use it. The silky powder is a light yellow colour so it is a really good product to use to lighten and highlight. I use my usual cream concealer under my eyes, then I apply this powder generously underneath my eyes, dipping my sponge in to the powder and blotting it on top of the creamy concealer and then I leave it for a good few minutes whilst I do my eye make up. I also apply it down the centre of my nose and I apply a small amount across the bow of my lips. The idea is that you apply the powder generously and just leave it sitting there for a few minutes whilst it ‘bakes’. I then use a fan brush to remove the excess powder and ensure it is all blended in properly. I have never received more compliments about my make up than since I started using this powder. It is a product that saves time and saves product because it sets the make up in place for hours. It ‘bakes’ the products and ensures that they are fixed in place effectively. I used to have to re apply my concealer and highlighter half way through the day before I discovered this product but now I can forget about my make up knowing it will last all day.

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  1. NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray

I LOVE the matte look. I always wear matte lipsticks for that very reason, I just love the finish you get with matte products. This spray is very effective. Once I finish my make up, I hold the bottle a few centimetres away from my face and spray a couple of times, ensuring the product is evenly applied all over my face. Once I’ve done that, I never give my make up another second thought for the whole day. It is the perfect partner to the Banana Powder because the powder sets the make up in those key highlighted areas and the spray ensures the rest of the face is completely set too. This was not an expensive product and using it right, it lasts a considerable amount of time; it is fantastic value for money and it yields the kind of results you would expect from a much more high end product. It even sets my lip colour. I usually have to reapply my lip colour a couple of times throughout the day but if this spray is properly applied in that area, I have found that the lip colour lasts a lot longer too.

Dear Perfect Parent,

Dear Perfect Parent,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mamma_B x

How many minutes a day do you dedicate to yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Plan your packing and only take what you need.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

  • Relax the routine.

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

 

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

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

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

 

  • Be Realistic.

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

I’m Late. Again.

So, here’s the thing. I am late for everything. Like, EVERYTHING. So it will be of no great surprise to those who know me well that this blog post is late. It was Birth Trauma Awareness week last week and this little ditty was in the diary to be written to coincide with it. So, basically, now this post has absolutely no common relevance whatsoever. But I’m going to write it anyway. Because, if nothing else, I think it might be quite therapeutic. For me, that is. Not you.

I’ve had the pleasure (and absolute privilege) of bringing two beautiful babies in to the world but neither births were easy. In fact, they were pretty traumatic. My memory of both is really quite limited. I wonder whether that was the drugs pumped into me or whether it is some sort of self defence move my brain has pulled.

What came out of both births is that I do not take for granted that I now have two healthy children. Yes, it would have been nice to have a romantic water birth surrounded by scented candles and whale music whilst being held lovingly by my husband but the reality is it all went a bit Pete Tong. It was crap. But, you know what? I’ve got two healthy and strong children. As much as it was traumatic and I felt the effects of it for a while afterwards, I am now able to move forward and look upon the births as a difficult journey that we had to embark on to get my babies here. A bit like a turbulent  long haul flight to get to some idyllic tropical island: the journey was hell but it did its job, I’m now relaxing on golden sands with a frozen Margarita and all was worth it.

I’m not going to attempt to re tell both births in this post. I think recalling them both may result in me becoming a fragile, wet mess. So, let’s talk about my little lass. Chosen purely because it was the least traumatic (and the most recent so my memory is a bit sharper!).

The whole pregnancy with Little Miss was difficult. Whilst I floated on air for several months after finding out I was finally pregnant, it wasn’t an easy ride by any means. I didn’t expect one mind so I was kind of prepared. I had severe morning-noon-and-night sickness until around 18 weeks and at around six months I became really itchy. I itched literally from the highest point of my scalp to the sole of my feet. It was worse at night and it literally drove me insane. I would never have even clicked that it was linked to the pregnancy had I not read an article in my local paper the week before about a lady who sadly lost her baby due Obstetric Cholestasis. If I hadn’t read that article, I am not convinced I would have ever even mentioned the itching to my midwife. Maybe I am completely lacking in intelligence and common sense but in my mind, I wouldn’t have even connected itchy skin to something more sinister surrounding the pregnancy. My heart breaks for the poor family featured in the paper and I only wish I knew who they were to thank them for sharing their story as it most definitely saved my baby. It just shows how critical it is to raise awareness of these things.

So I mentioned it to my midwife or sent me for a blood test. It came back straight away that there was an issue with my liver and I was sent up to the maternity department at the hospital. We were met by a consultant who explained I had Obstetric Cholestasis. He was really patient and thorough but it was a lot of information to take in. We were already considered a high risk pregnancy due to the sheer concoction of drugs I was on to manage the pain of my chronic disease so this was just another risk to worry about. He told us that our baby would need delivered early as the longer the pregnancy goes on, the higher the risk of still birth. He advised that 1 in 200 women with OC go on to have a still born baby. 1 in 200 may not sound scary but when you’re sitting there, nursing your bump as your baby kicks and moves inside of you, so full of life, the even remote mention of your baby being stillborn is about as scary as it gets. A C-section was booked in at 36 weeks and they organised a care plan, I was to visit the hospital every week to have blood tests, to monitor the baby’s heart rate and movements and I was given medication to try and reduce the levels of bile in the blood. I was also prescribed this amazing menthol cream (which I literally bathed in for the next two months!) which was great for reducing the itching. It still itched like hell but I got a couple of minutes of relief at least when the cream was applied.

We were already aware that our baby was going to be born dependent on morphine due to my medication and that was scary enough so when these risks were factored in too, it was a really anxious time. Every week we’d trek up to the hospital in the city and I would have bloods taken and whilst waiting for them to return from the lab, the midwives would hook me up on a monitor machine which measured the baby’s heart rate and recorded the movements I felt by a button I had to press. Most weeks I was kept on the monitor for longer than standard because either she wasn’t moving a lot, or she was sleepy, or her heart rate dropped. It felt like those appointments went on forever. In fact, we headed in to the city today and took the same road we always took for the hospital and I instantly felt that sick, anxious twisting-of-the-stomach feeling that I felt every single time I went up there. I always expected the worse. I’m not sure whether that was a self preservation tactic or what, I was just constantly paranoid that something was going to be wrong with my baby. My precious baby.

We got all the way up to 35 weeks and I was due to have my final monitoring appointment before the section that was literally scheduled for days later. That’s when things didn’t start going to plan. The midwife kept coming back to the monitor and looking at the scan on the paper it was printing out. I could see from her face that something wasn’t quite right. You know when you get sent in to a little side room closely followed by a suited up consultant that things aren’t going to plan. They told me they weren’t happy with baby’s heart rate. I kept dipping and wasn’t recovering as quickly as it should. They said that, ever so matter of factly, they needed to deliver the baby that day via an emergency section. Cue an onslaught of ‘my hospital bag, it isn’t here! What about the big lad? We haven’t organised childcare for him! I’ve not eaten yet! I’ve not shaved my legs yet’ ya-da ya-da ya-da. It turned out that my hubby could actually throw things together in a plastic bag, arrange childcare, prepare eldest child for the premature arrival of his sibling and get back to the hospital in time for the section (even if he did bring a hat aged 6-9 months for the baby to wear upon her birth…). My legs remained hairy but the surgeon didn’t seem too arsed. Either that or I was too blotto to notice. Whatever. I’m sure he didn’t go on his break in the staff room and say ‘You should’ve seen the baby I’ve just delivered, her mum had the hairiest legs I’ve ever seen!’ to his fellow surgeon mates whilst they dunked their digestives in their tea. Or maybe he did. Frankly, I no longer care.

So, my hubby was gowned up and they took me in to theatre. I remember it being so brightly lit and not at all like the theatres you see on the TV. There was a radio playing and the staff were joking about how bad the Healthcare Assistant’s singing was. The Anaesthetist struggled to get the spinal block due to my spinal condition. She had told me that it may have been necessary to have a general if she couldn’t get the spinal in. I pleaded with her to keep trying. I desperately didn’t want to miss the delivery of my little girl. She worked like an absolute trooped getting that spinal block and she made it happen. I will forever be grateful for that.

I had a great medical team surrounding me, with a Baby Doctor on call ready to give our baby girl help if she needed it. It turns out she was an absolute trooper too. She was delivered ever so perfectly, with Daddy catching the moment she was pulled from me on camera (we’re saving that one til she brings her first boyfriend home). Every last ounce of her 6lb 12 weight was absolute perfection. You wouldn’t even know that she was born early, or born dependant on morphine.

But as I was obliviously coo-ing over the beautiful baby girl that was tucked inside my hospital gown, being held tightly against my chest, the rest of the surgery was not going to plan. The nurses did their best to reassure me when the machines started making extra beeping noises and they called the Registrar to come down, I knew there was something wrong. It was written all over the atmosphere in the room. It had gone from a jubilant, celebratory ‘Yay! It’s a baby girl!’ atmosphere to a everyone-looking-scary-worried atmosphere.

The Registrar came down and spoke very quietly with the Surgeon then came and explained that I was suffering Uterine Atony, my uterus had failed to contract after the delivery and it was causing quite a lot of blood loss. She was very upbeat, attempted to distract me with small talk whilst keeping one eye firmly on the developing surgery at the bottom of the table. It took the surgeon, what felt like, an eternity to get things under control. I did nothing but look at the faces of the medical staff, the way you look to air crew staff when you’re on a bumpy flight to see if they look worried, because if they look worried, well then it’s time to worry that the plane may be in trouble.

I tried to focus on my baby girl, my husband – anything other than the beeping of those bloody machines. The more I nestled my beautiful baby in to my chest, the more I worried that I wasn’t going to get out of that theatre alive to enjoy her. I felt cold and my hands were trembling as I tried to hold my baby close to me.

What felt like an eternity later, the Registrar finally looked at me, relieved and told me that I had lost quite a bit of blood but that the situation was under control and that I was now being stitched up ready to go in to recovery. The machines stopped beeping, the jovial atmosphere resumed with the Healthcare Assistant continuing with his rubbish singing and the room literally breathed a sigh of relief.

It turned out that our little baby girl wasn’t out of the woods unfortunately. We had a wonderful first 12 -18 hours with her before the drug withdrawal symptoms started taking hold and sge got sicker and sicker. I have promised myself I will write about our experience as parents of a baby with a drug dependency one day but I don’t feel quite ready to do it yet so I will come back to that another day.

One thing I must say on the subject of both her dependency and the birth is that I am so grateful for the incredible medical team we had looking after us both. Not once did we feel that we weren’t in safe hands. They were nothing short of outstanding. I know sometimes the NHS gets a bashing, and if I’m being honest, I have had my own frustrations with them in the past, but we could not fault the care given to either of us during our stay in Maternity.

Phew! I got through it! Apologies for its total lack of relevance due to my poor time keeping but posting anyway in the hope that one day it may raise awareness in the same way that newspaper article did for me. I owe the family in that article the world and then some.

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

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

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

Dear my Big Lad, and my Baby Girl,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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