Juggling

It’s not a new concept. I am sure every parent across the country feels like a top circus act, the amount of juggling involved with raising a modern family.

The question is how do we know we are getting it right? When we choose one thing over another are we making the right choice? Is the grass ever really greener?

Recently I was talking to a few friends about juggling the work life balance. I work from home, mostly around the children. Spending a few hours a day on my laptop, when I have a chance and the children are happily occupied. So, in reality, I load my computer 50 times a day and spend approximately 20 minutes doing any real work. My friends all do a variety of working patterns. Some work evenings, some weekends, some daytime and the children are in childcare, some are stay at home parents. All of us, without exception, worry about our choices….

To read more go to the new blog page

http://www.rootsandwingsparenting.com/2017/05/22/juggling/

 

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Letter to new mums

new-mummyDear new mummy,

First let me start by saying congratulations! You have a baby! How does it feel being someone’s mummy? What a massive change. You are now on life’s longest and most important apprentice and so far, you are doing a wonderful job. You have brought a life into the world!! You are bloody superwomen and don’t forget that. If you have had a baby, there is nothing you can’t do!!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any words of wisdom, tips or advice, but you may be sick of all that already right?

This is just to say that some days you will cry and you know what, that’s ok!! This is the WORLDS HARDEST job and at times when your baby is crying, or unsettled, or you are exhausted, or your boobs hurt. Or you resent the freedom your partner has being able to leave the house without having someone permanently attached to them, or just because your hormones are all over the place, you will cry. Don’t you beat yourself up about that!

You cry, eat cake and know you may feel like you are getting it wrong, but your tears show you are getting it absolutely right! You care so much that you want to be doing the best job you can, and do you know what, you are.

There will be highs and lows, probably within each hour.

Things change all the time and when they do it is nothing you have done ‘wrong’, babies know their own minds early on. If they decide they don’t like sleep that day, there is probably little you can do to change it. If they want to spend the day eating, they will eat. It has nothing to do with your ability as a parent.

It is easy to compare ourselves, or our babies to others. The truth is no one has all the answers. In fact, no one really has any answers. We all learn on the job, and it’s trial and error.

For anyone struggling, or sleep deprived, or generally feeling guilt or worried about your ability as a parent, I set you this challenge…

Name one thing that you are proud of today? Anything; it could be getting dressed, making it to that group, popping to the shop for milk, making a new mum friend, conquering the world (aka getting your baby to nap). Then hold on to that, and keep reminding yourself that you are doing a wonderful job!

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/rootsandwingsparenting/ I would love to hear your what you are proud of today so please comment or tell me via Facebook.

Love is…

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Well it is Valentines, and whilst I wait for my lorry full of cards from secret admirers to appear on my door step, I can’t help reflecting on love itself. Since becoming a parent I have experienced a love like no other, but the thing that surprises me the most about love is that it’s not only its many forms, but its many stages depending on where you are in your life and age.

As a teenager love was often painful, embarrassing, unrequited and full of self-doubt; ‘would Craig Smith look at me on the bus to school today?’, ‘oh my goodness Sam Bell just asked me for the time, that means he loves me, right?’. As a teenager the concept of love was completely confusing. It was so all consuming and intense. I might love someone so completely one day, yet a month later the object of my affection may be someone entirely different, and still feel like the real thing. Sadly, many of these experiences were imagined (it turns out I was never destined to marry Macaulay Culkin) or at least a little embellished by my imagination. My first date was such an event, I had built it up and imagined a scene not unlike one of my favourite romantic films. Unfortunately, it was more comedy than anything else.

My date invited me to MacDonald’s, then proceeded to buy two ice creams. I, of course, imagined one was for me, but I was wrong. He went from one to the other, alternating eating his 2 ice creams! He didn’t even ask if I wanted some. We then went to play football at the local park with his friends. Not what I was expecting when I had carefully chosen my first date outfit and new shoes! It certainly changed my views of dating for a while.

As an adult, my experiences of love have grown and changed, as have I. I have been surprised by this. I assumed love was static but it isn’t. Each new connection is a new way of loving someone. In my 20s love was giddy, fun, up and down and frivolous. By my 30s in was committed partnership, long term, more respectful and calm.

The way I love other members of my family has also changed, since becoming a parent I have deeper respect and understanding for my mum. Before I loved her, but as a child, the women who could make everything better and knew all the answers. Now I see her as a woman who sacrificed and worked so hard to be that to me, strengthening the love I feel for her.

Most surprising to me has been the unconditional and complete love that I feel for my children. From the day they arrived I loved them. I never imagined you could love someone so completely who you have never even met before, but I did. I don’t only love them when they are kind or say the right thing. I don’t love them because of what they give me or how they make me feel. I love them for everything they are. No questions, no expectations, no conditions. The purest love I have ever felt.

So whilst my lorry of cards from admirers may not appear, I have learnt a lot about love in its many forms and hope that it will continue to grow and change throughout my life. So far, I have found it to be like a fine wine, it gets better and I appreciate it more with age.

  • I wrote this piece for my etc column, Horsham and Mid Sussex Edition. Feb 2017.
  • What are your thought on love? Has it changed for you? I would love to hear from you over on my Facebook page 🙂

How dirty is too dirty?

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This is not what you think… I’m talking about clothes.

Since becoming a mum my standards, when it comes to dirty clothes, have certainly gone down. And not just a bit. Long gone are the days I would whip off an outfit at the mere hint of a mark (by whip off, I mean at home or in private). I would have been mortified at the thought of going out in public in anything less than pristine. These were the same days I would change my bra daily.

Now I live in dirty clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I wash them. It feels like all I do is wash clothes, yet still I can’t seem to spend an entire day in clean clothes. Scrap that, I can’t spend 10 minutes in clean clothes with my children! It started in pregnancy and has escalated ever since. By the third trimester I was so big that I would regularly get stains under my bump, which I of course didn’t see or notice until I changed for bed. I couldn’t believe I had spent the day with food below my bump, or on my trousers and I hadn’t noticed. Now I can’t believe it if I don’t have some kind of stain on me.

Regular marks I am now sporting, or as I prefer to think of it, rocking…

          Snot (not mine) on my shoulders, legs, arms  – how does this stuff get everywhere? I am a human tissue!

          Mud at the tops of my legs from carrying my children with wellies on. I don’t seem to learn and never notice the mud right away.

          Dribble on my lower calves, shoulders and arms (not mine) Bloody teething!

          Food stains. Everywhere. The other day my friend pointed out some dried Weetabix on my back! How?? Probably because my children seem to mistake me on all fours cleaning the floor, for a horse ride and climb on top of me every time I am cleaning.

          Sick. Thank goodness this is now extremely rare but for the first year of my son’s life I had at least some sick on me, often so much that I would carry a spare pair of clothes.

Now, here is the challenge…am I alone? Do you know go out ‘rocking’ some bodily fluid or dirt that a small person created? And how dirty is too dirty? Did you used to go home and change at the first sign of dirt, do you now relax that? Share photos or stories on my Facebook. I’d love to know I’m not the only mummy in dirty clothes.

 

Perfectly imperfect

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Is imperfect something to fear? Should we show our children that we always try to look the best? Be the best? Perform the best? Is it ok to just be who we are? Are we allowed to be flawed?

Recently my daughter and I were getting ready for the day and she spotted 2 stretchmarks on my tummy, she asked what they were and I explained they were from growing her and her brother. She then said “Oh mummy. Shall we take it off and get you a new one?” to which I replied  “I don’t need a new one baby. This one is just fine.”

It struck me as funny and a little worrying that something that is not ‘perfect’ ought to be replaced with a new one. I guess this comes from her clothes, when they are mucky or stained we then put them in the wash and put clean clothes on. We live in a throw away consumerist society, but somethings can’t just be replaced because they are not perfect. It made me really think about the things they soak up at such a young age and the importance of showing them that we are not perfect and don’t have to be.

As the great Alice Walker said –

“Yes, mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”

We, as their role models shouldn’t be afraid to show them what it truly is to be human. I worry about showing my children that I am upset, or cross. I berate myself if I go out looking like Waynetta (from the Harry Enfield and Chums TV series). Sometimes I cry at adverts or laugh too loudly at things others might not find funny. Sometimes I say the wrong thing (probably more than sometimes), yet, is this not exactly what we should be doing in front of them? Modelling that there is no one way to be and we accept each other for who we are and that it is ok to not be the best.

This is different to trying our best, I of course want them to try and be the best they can be, but this is not the same as being the best! There are so many things in between and all of those things are fabulous too. It is ok not to be the ‘ideal’ because there really is no such thing. We will all be happier when we accept this and ourselves for what we really are, and what we are each capable of. To celebrate our differences and imperfections as ultimately they make us unique and probably are the very things we love in one another.

To be flawed is to be human and anything else is a fallacy. That is what I want my children to know. That their father and I are not perfect but that’s perfectly ok. We are perfectly imperfect. And they are too.

  • I first wrote this piece for my monthly magazine column for etc – Horsham and Mid Sussex. October’s issue
  • If you liked this or any other post please do pop over to my Facebook page and say hi 🙂 @rootsandwingsparenting

Back to work…sort of…

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The internet is full of posts about going back to work, but if you are on maternity leave or a stay at home parent then we can’t really say that. We can’t complain that we are ‘back to the grindstone’ or that we’re not sure how we get up in time in the morning. In all likelihood, Christmas is much like any other time. There is still bedtimes, cooking, cleaning, washing, nappy changing, playing, laughing, crying, more cleaning, nap times. Babies and toddlers don’t get that Christmas is having a break. Watching movies and eating chocolate, they are just being themselves, they have energy to burn and want to play. Yet this week does also feel like going back to work.

We can’t write the ‘I don’t want to go back to work’ statuses yet we are back to being primary care giver for a little one(s). Whilst this is a lovely thing, it is also a strange one. I love our routine and days with the children,  but this week I feel at a bit of a loss. I’ve forgotten what I do with the children when I’m on my own.  I haven’t made many plans as I thought we should ease back in!? To what I’m not sure. I’ve been home every day with the children through the holidays, yet when my husbands at home its different, we share responsibility and planning the day. We go out together and that’s enough. This week I have forgotten what I usually do, which groups do I go to? What day is it today? I can’t remember what a ‘stay at home mum’ does?

So, whilst it wasn’t hard getting up this morning, and I don’t have to worry about the commute or reading a backlog of work emails. I do have to remind myself what it is to be on my own with the children, to get back to planning the week. Entertaining the little one whilst the big one is at preschool, making play dates, attending playgroups, juggling the jobs that need doing and making sure I have some adult conversations too.

To all those who are home with a baby or children, welcome back to work 😉 Even if the work is a little different to average 9-5.

*If you enjoyed reading this please feel free to comment, share or check out my Facebook page

 

 

Mothering through instinct

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Is this a scary thought to you? Or a common sense approach?

When I first had my first child I wasn’t sure if I could 100% trust my instinct. What did I know about babies, feeding, weight gain, how to do things for them? I had ideas and an underlying feeling that what I was doing felt natural to me, but I constantly doubted myself. I was surrounded by professionals whose business it was to know about babies; Midwives, Doctors, Health Visitors. And everyone else seemed to know so much more about my baby then I did; friends, relatives and even strangers. In fact, with my first I was constantly offered advice from people I didn’t know; one of whom confidently informed me that my daughter was screaming because she was hungry. My first thought was ‘my goodness, what kind of mother am I? How could I not spot my own daughter was hungry when this stranger knew?’ Now of course I would question what gave her the right to think she knew my child better then me, but back then I wasn’t confident in my ability to parent, after all I’d never done it before.

Being a new parent for me was the biggest learning curve in my life. Nothing, and I mean nothing; no reading, no watching other peoples babies, no advice, could have prepared me for how it would FEEL as a new parent.

Those people who know me will be the first to tell you this doesn’t sound like me, I know my own mind and am not afraid to say my opinion, but when it came to being a parent I had no real opinion to say as I had no idea what I should be doing.

I did do certain things I instinctively felt, for example, I let my daughter sleep on my chest for the first 8 weeks of her life. It just felt right, but it was also because I had no idea how to get her to sleep otherwise. Yet, despite it feeling right, every day I worried that I was making a mistake, making a rod for own back and at worst putting her life at risk with this decision. I fed her when she was hungry but would also be full of self-doubt, was she actually hungry? Was I just using my breast to pacify her, was that wrong? Am I spoiling my baby.

My husband would also come home with stories from colleagues…”James let their baby share their bed and now they can’t get him out of it and he is 5!”. One colleague informed him that if we keeping picking our daughter up every time she cries and carrying her in the sling, we are going to spoil her and she will never be able to settle herself.

Words kept jumping out at me…don’t spoil her, she must learn to self sooth, you can’t always pick her up, she must learn to be independent, its important that’s she is left with other people otherwise she’ll be too reliant on you.

Now don’t get me wrong, some advice I received was very helpful and appreciated. However, much of the information I got was so conflicting. How can it be true that you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby but feeding on demand is making them use you like a dummy? How can it be true that you just need to sleep however you can, but having baby in bed is dangerous? How can it be true that you can spoil a baby when I am also being told that leaving a baby to cry will teach it that no one will come? And how can it be true that if there is just one right answer on how to bring up babies we don’t all know it and do it?

The conclusion I came to is that it CAN’T BE. There is no one way. Like life, relationships, friendships, there are 100 different ways to do things and to get on. You HAVE to trust your instinct and give yourself time to listen to yourself. To push aside the doubt and do what FEELS right. Respond to your baby how you see fit. Of course, you won’t always know. You will try things that don’t work for you, but that’s ok.

Trusting your instinct isn’t about getting it right first time. It’s about going with our inbuilt ability to know what is the best for our young. I am yet to watch a Planet Earth  documentary in which a rhino is reading Gina Ford, or an elephant is looking up attachment parenting. They parent through their natural ability to instinctively know what’s right for their child. And we have that too!! We need to stop advising mothers and encourage them to know all they need to know is already within them. Of course give information, give the facts and the options but don’t tell them what their baby is feeling, thinking or needing. Don’t tell them they need to be concerned about things that they are not worried about. Don’t make them doubt every decision they make. Let’s build up mothers and start stripping back and listening to our bodies. After all we grew the baby in our body through no help of parenting experts or different techniques. It was nature, and that is how we should approach our role as parents.

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi🙂

3 Little Buttons

Honesty is the best policy

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Imagine for a moment seeing a good friend in the street and literally screaming and jumping up and down with excitement. Or disliking the meal that your host has just served you; so much so, that you just spit it out. Not even into a napkin, just onto your clothes.  Sound odd? Well, not if you are a young child, this is standard behaviour and completely natural. They are honest and express however it is they feel at any given time; something, as adults we have certainly forgotten how to do, or more likely have learnt not to.

When my husband comes home from work my son screams at the top of his voice in excitement to see him, every single day! My daughter is at an age where she can express herself and say exactly what she thinks; she is beautifully honest. I can only imagine that speaking as freely as she does must be so liberating. She has no concept of social etiquette or hurting someone’s feelings and she, like others her age, just say it like it is. To them it is not rude or inappropriate. It is just purely what they think.

Of course this can lead to some embarrassment on my part, like when she says “can we go home now mummy, I don’t like it here” when we have just arrived at a friend’s, who has put a lot of effort in to hosting us. Or when she declares that she doesn’t like this piece of food, or item of clothing that she has just received as a gift.

It makes me wonder when did we stop being so honest? Of course we need some self-censorship and to be emotionally intelligent enough to know that what we say may impact on someone else’s feelings. However, do we self-sensor too much? Is it to our detriment that we don’t let ourselves say or express what we really think for fear of acting outside of the social norm?

I would love to feel so happy I literally jumped up and down in the street. To shout if I was cross; or spontaneously burst in to tears when my favourite food runs out (Ok, I may have actually done that). Wouldn’t it be great to be so free that we can behave and say whatever we want, whenever we feel it? Would we suffer with less stress and tension? Isn’t it heathy to express how you feel when you feel it, so that we can let go of negativity.

As adults we often try and teach our children how to behave, how to fit in and become the adults we want them to be. Yet, children don’t hold on to emotions, they are honest and express themselves really well. They let themselves feel and say what it is they need to and as a result the emotion is over in minutes. They don’t hold on to the feeling; it is felt and gone as quickly as it came. How freeing that must be? So, perhaps there is a more middle ground? Adults could let their ‘hair down’ a little more, and relax their self-censorship slightly. Whilst we teach our children that its ok to feel and think honestly but sometimes they need to do that in a sensitive way. Perhaps we should all join our little ones and jump up and down in excitement when we see someone we love, but maybe we ought to draw the line at spitting out the food we don’t like.

  • I first wrote this piece for my monthly magazine column for etc – Horsham and Mid Sussex. November’s issue.
  • If you liked this or any other post please do pop over to my Facebook page and say hi 🙂  https://www.facebook.com/rootsandwingsparenting/

Phew, I do still like you!

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This weekend my husband and I got to spend some much-needed quality time just the 2 of us, as a couple. Having children can sometimes be so all consuming that it is easy to lose sight of one another. More importantly it can be hard to remember that you do actually like each other.

Usually when the children are asleep we spend our evenings ignoring one another, glued to our phones, staring at nothing. I couldn’t even tell you half the stuff I read online or on Facebook, because I’m not taking any of it in. I am escaping a day of answering questions, having little fingers pulling my clothes, snot on my trousers, holding the baby, giving cuddles, setting boundaries, cleaning the floor. My husband goes to work, then comes home and joins me in all the chaos with the children. When the evening comes, we are exhausted and often, having had to be so patient all day, are snappy and have completely run out of energy to have a meaningful conversation.

Life takes over and we are all hugged out, we don’t even sit on the same sofa or cuddle up and watch TV because we are craving our bodies to ourselves for a few minutes. Often we bicker about silly things because we have failed to listen to each other properly.

We were at the height of this stage and my husband said, “don’t forget, it started with 2.” And it just struck me, it’s so true!! He is absolutely right (don’t tell him I said that, I wouldn’t want him to think I had changed too much. He wouldn’t know what to do if I said he was right) but that’s exactly it. It started with 2! The 2 of us have created our lovely (and at times trying) family. One day when our babies are grown that’s what it will be again; us two.

Now, I’m not going to lie, but as lovely a statement that that was, it was also a scary one. I can’t imagine a world with just us 2 again. In all honesty, I find him annoying and a fair amount of the time I’m not sure I even like him. So, we decided a night away was what we needed. We set off after the rush of sorting the children, the 8-course meal that is breakfast “I want Cheerio’s, no, not these Cheerio’s, Weetabix, not with milk with no milk”…and on it goes. But we escaped and we went to the coast. We walked hand in hand on the beach and just chatted. Not about anything in particular, we just chatted like I would to a friend. We laughed, we listened to each other and you know what, we had a wonderful time. I remembered why I had married this lovely, funny, kind man. I remembered that I can be fun to be with and not barking orders or dealing with the mundane, or so busy washing porridge out of my son’s hair I can barely say good bye to my husband when he leaves for work.

We know that we might lose sight of each other but it’s good to know that we do actually like each other! Phew! That was a relief. So, we must remember to find that time more often, time when we are not so tired that stringing a sentence together is hard work. Time to enjoy together and remember the people we are, and that it did start with 2.

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi🙂

Parenting sin list

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Having been to more baby groups then I can remember, I have heard some real clangers that parents say to one another. I expect we are all guilty of being a little insensitive or saying the wrong thing at times, but here is a list of the things that no mum wants to hear.

·         “My baby never cries” – why are you lying?

·         “I always know what my baby wants when she cries. I honestly have never not known why, I’m lucky I guess” – A truly unhelpful and ridiculous statement

·         “My baby slept through from 6 weeks and has done so ever since” – When the mum next to you has match sticks holding up her eye lids please don’t feel now is the time to gloat share your experience. Tell your family, your child free friends or those who have forgotten the horror of night waking.

·         “I have got such a good baby” – we all have ‘good’ babies ok, all babies are good. If they cry, have colic, don’t sleep, feed often, behave like babies, they are ALL GOOD.

·         “I’m lucky my husband does everything in the night” – Hahaha, this is a joke one, I haven’t heard anyone say that. (I know this is not fair to expect if mum is breastfeeding, as not a lot dad can do, but we can dream)

·         “I just found breastfeeding so easy, I’m not sure what the fuss is about” – Not so helpful for those who spent weeks crying because it hurt, struggling with latch, worrying about weight gain or just generally finding it hard to get to grips with.

·         “Teething was never an issue for us, he just woke up one morning with 2 teeth” –  For the other 90% of us, who have endured sleepless nights, the fractious days, the months of fussing before any teeth even appear; we really don’t want to hear this.

·         “I really don’t know why people bother breastfeeding” – unhelpful for all the above.

·         “Is your baby …. (Insert latest developmental milestone – rolling, sitting, crawling, walking)” – I expect we are all guilty of this, but let’s be honest, mostly this question is asked when your baby is doing one of the above and you want to tell your friends without sounding like you are showing off. This can’t be helped as we are just proud when our babies are doing something, but when your baby has reached that milestone 3 months early, it just makes everyone else worry about why their little Einstein isn’t keeping up. Or, if you know full well that the mother you are asking has just been worried because her baby isn’t doing something yet, then you are just making her feel worse.

·         Smugness – I can’t think of one set example of this but just generally smug mums. As my friend beautifully put it “nothing to do with your parenting, my second baby showed me that, its luck of the draw”.

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi🙂