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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

5 things I wish I’d known about raising a teenager.

I’m by no means an expert on raising teenagers. I still make quite considerable sized boo-boos on a daily basis but I’m learning. These are just a few things I’ve discovered (mostly by accident) that I wish I’d been told about earlier….

 

  1. Pick your battles wisely. Your teen will go head to head with you on various topics multiple times a day. These battles can range anywhere from the daily moans and groans of ‘I want to stay out later’ ‘I don’t want to go to school’ and ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing THAT.’ to the more rebellious, challenging battles that would test the patience of a saint. In the dark underworld of teen parenting, the smallest of things can trigger the biggest of battles. I’ve found the hard way that unless you want to spend every waking minute in a to-do with your teen, you need to be selective in the battles you entertain and the ones you let go as sometimes it just isn’t worth it. If your teen is anything like mine, they have the stamina of a cheetah on steroids when it comes to arguing so it would be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting to try and keep up with them. Let certain things go – ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’ and if the answer is ‘no’, let it go. Rise above it. It feels unnatural at first to turn the other cheek when your child is saying or doing something you don’t agree with; after all, you’ve spent thirteen odd years teaching them to respect you, listen to you and do as you say. Believe me though, some things just aren’t worth it. Maintaining a positive atmosphere at home and within the family, for me anyway, has always been more important, particularly when you have younger siblings around. Door slamming and ranting and raving doesn’t make for a very harmonious house!

 

  1. Loosen your hold of their reins. I don’t say this lightly because this is something that I continue to struggle with. Parenting is about keeping your child safe, supervising them, being there with them to ensure their safety so it’s only natural that as they grow up, as parents we find it difficult to let them go. But this is an essential part of growing up that all teens need to go through. They need to be given the space to experience independence in the real world and the freedom to go out there and make mistakes, learn lessons and develop valuable life skills. If you don’t allow them that freedom, the chances are that, they will rebel against you and take that freedom against your consent and then it is done in an uncontrolled way. Nobody gets given an instruction manual for raising teens so when it comes to making decisions about at what stage or age to give your teen that freedom, you need to do what feels right for you and your child. Build that freedom gradually, nobody expects you to allow your child to walk the streets for three days. Start with allowing them out for an hour or two and build it up gradually, adding in new dimensions like allowing them to travel by public transport, allowing them to visit places like the cinema independently. I have an arrangement with my teen that he texts me whenever he arrives or leaves a new place so that if I ever needed to track his movements, I could. For example he visits his friends via a short train journey so he texts me when he reaches the train station, again when he is on the train, again when he gets off the train and again when he meets his friends. Some may think this is a little OTT (and maybe it is!) but this is the strategy I needed to use in order for me to feel reassured that he was as safe as I could possibly make him when out on his own.

 

  1. You need to let them be them. When raising a younger child, as a parent you have control over almost every aspect of their life: which school they go to, the friendships you encourage through invitations to play-dates, what they wear, the media they are exposed to and the hobbies they enjoy. As they get older, we have to relinquish that control a little bit at a time so that they can find themselves, further develop who they are as a person, their likes, their dislikes, their opinions and their interests. Sometimes, as a parent, this can feel like a bad thing. You feel like you are losing that control. Suddenly you are faced with your son or daughter who may be developing their own point of view, disagreeing with the belief system you have raised them with, taking on character traits that you don’t recognise. It’s difficult. But necessary. And, you know, once you go with it, it brings a whole new dimension to your family, and moreover, to your relationship with your teen. I love that my son and I have opposing views on some subjects, it makes for stimulating conversation and we have some very healthy debates over the dinner table!

 

  1. When they say they hate you, they don’t actually hate you. There are a whole range of sayings you can regularly hear from my teen when things don’t go his way. These range from the old ‘You’ve ruined my life’ chestnut to ‘You don’t get it’ ‘You know nothing’ ‘I hate you’. These sayings are usually accompanied by thunderous footsteps up the stairs and an almighty door slam. After a couple of years of it, I have developed a thicker skin but I found it hard not to take it personally in the beginning. The one thing to remember throughout any spat with your teen is that it is temporary. Your teen will calm down. They will come back downstairs with their tail between their legs (usually when they are hungry) and they will apologise (be prepared for this to be a non-verbal apology as saying the word ‘sorry’ seems to be a bit of a challenge for teenagers in my experience!). When my teen’s sorry he usually creeps in with those big doughy eyes, gives me a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek and then resumes usual service with a ‘what’s for tea?’ type question. Go easy on them. Hormones do make them go a bit crazy. They are a child trying to find their place in an adult world. It can be tough on them too sometimes.

 

  1. You need to involve them in everything you do as a family. As much as your teen enjoys spending fifteen hours a day on their games console competing against a middle aged man in a string vest suffering a midlife crisis on another continent, it is good for them to get out and enjoy family life. They may protest, they may put up a fight. They may well roll their eyes at the thought of a family picnic in the park but I guarantee that once you get them away from their games console / youtube videos / snapchat, they will enjoy it. Even though they are becoming more and more independent at the speed of light, they still need to feel that they have a place within the family. They may not volunteer to go on family days out but with a little gentle persuasion, they will come, offering you opportunities to make more memories as a family. As you slowly start to recognise that your teen is rapidly growing into an adult, it is those precious memories that you will treasure.