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.

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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”.

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New Beginnings

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September is a time for change for many children. Every September signifies a new beginning, a moving forwards in life. For us parents it’s a time when our children take another step towards their future and away from their baby years. A time when we become less needed perhaps, or at least not so central in our children’s world. Unlike New Years’ Eve, there is no big count down or celebration, but the new change goes by as part of life and we all have to roll with it.

My daughter is starting pre-school and I was a women possessed deciding which one to send her to. I visited 8 different pre-schools before I chose one. I want to know that when she leaves me for her first taste of life on her own, she is in good hands and an environment to suit her. Ideally what I would like to do is rig cameras, hang out by the window outside and ensure all the other children are nice to her at all times. Unfortunately for me this is not possible, which is very fortunate for my daughter who I’m sure wouldn’t thank me when she is older.

Our children face big changes when embarking on new schools, new school years and moving through the education system. But for us too it changes. We also have to make new friends, learn new playground etiquette, keep up with the latest thing in that school year. Friends with older children tell me about the mum politics and I am well prepared for the fact that as well as my children having to evolve and grow, I too will have to learn to go with the changes.

Starting pre-school is a big change for us and just the start of this journey. I feel sad that I won’t know everything she did that day. I won’t be able to fill my husband in on the gaps when she recounts her day. I won’t be able to help her finish off that new song she learnt today as I may not have been the one that taught her. She on the other hand is bubbling over with excitement. She is ready to make this next step. I’m trying my best not to be ‘that mum’. You know the one, that makes Teachers’ say, “oh no, not her again. Why is she in the office this time? What does she want us to do/change/say, now?”

I wish I could be by their side and hold their hand through every stage in their lives, but the reality is that this is our job as parents; to prepare our children for their future. A life without us being their centre. To give them wings and let them build their life independently of us (even if we do feel like watching through the window as they do this).

( I originally wrote this piece for my monthly column in ETC magazine Horsham and Mid Sussex Edition, published September 2016)

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3 Little Buttons

 

Expectations and Definitions

20160807_195612What constitutes as civilised when eating out? When is it acceptable to wake up for the day? Neither question had I ever given much thought to before becoming a parent, but it struck me recently that since being a mother my expectations and definitions of many things have changed somewhat.

To give a recent example, this week a friend and I decided to brave a local chain restaurant with our 11-month old babies and 2-year-old toddlers. At the beginning of the meal I commented on how civilised the meal was, my friend agreed, and we were very pleased that despite our fears; A busy chain, way past our children’s usual lunch time, was in fact going very well. However, I can’t help but wonder if the ‘civilised’ 2 adults and adolescents on the table next to us would have agreed with our definition. My friend’s toddler was just wearing a top and a nappy as he had fallen in the mud prior to lunchtime. My weaning son was eating off the table and throwing half the contents of his lunch on the floor, over his shoulder, across the table and at his sister. My daughter was scooping ice cubes out of her water, sucking them and putting them on anything she could and my friend’s baby managed to get a good tug on the paper tablecloth sending cutlery flying. We laughed at how this could be seen as civilised, yet it was for us now. It was as good as it gets as we were a) able to order our lunch, b) able to eat our starter in peace, c) have a full conversation about one topic from start to finish.

Needless to say the rest of the meal quickly escalated into chaos and by our main meals we took turns to eat whilst the other rocked one of our babies or settled one of the toddlers. Yet, this was definitely a win. A successful meal out. A pat on the back all round. I expect of course, that’s exactly the opposite of how the staff and the family on the table next to us felt as when we left as it looked like we had been participating in a food fight.

As well as my definition of ‘civilised’ having a slightly new slant. I also now have a different view on when ‘morning;’ actually starts. My pre mother self would have been appalled at the idea of waking before 7am on a weekday and probably before 10am on a weekend. My post baby self considers 5:30am a good innings. This is because for about 6 months my firstborn liked to start the day at 4:30am, despite readjusting bedtime to try and overcome this. By 5am she was ravenous for food and many a morning we would have finished breakfast and be washed and dressed before sunrise, even in the summer!

It is funny to think that so much changes when you are a parent, but I wasn’t expecting my definitions of such things to change. Perhaps you could argue I have just lowered my expectations, but I like to think of It as just adjusting them to fit around my relatively new family life. Think of all the extra hours I have now to enjoy my civilised days!

( I originally wrote this piece for ETC magazine Horsham and Mid Sussex Edition, published June 2016)

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Rhyming with Wine

 

3 Little Buttons

 

Making Mummy Friends

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A year ago I relocated to a new area with my family. I was heavily pregnant and had an 18 month old already. In hindsight probably not the best time to move, but needs must, and 2 weeks later I had my son. It was an odd time; a new area, a new baby, a new family dynamic and none of my mummy friends close by.

I needed to make some local mummy friends! Having already been through this once when I had my daughter, it wasn’t as daunting this time, but it was still hard work. I often joke with old friends that it’s like dating all over again, but harder. What are the rules for making new mummy friends? Do you ask women for their number? How soon do you move from seeing a mummy in a playgroup to going for coffee? When does coffee move onto playdates? Its a minefield!

I wondered if I was alone with this worry and realised quickly that no, I wasn’t, and many pregnant women and mums, struggle with this, so here is my experience and tips…
Mum dating faux pas and wins
Loads of mums feel exactly the same. Being a new mum or second/third/fourth time mum all bring new challenges and its nice meeting people in the same position.
No one knows where to start, so asking if another mum fancies a coffee after a group is nice, and nothing to be embarrassed about. What’s the worst that could happen?
Having a little one is a perfect way to cover up any awkward silences or difficult conversations, so it can make things a lot easier. I know hiding behind a child doesn’t seem like a very mature approach but it can be a life saver. 
‘Taking it to the next level’… this may seem a ridiculous notion but when does coffee then turn into inviting a new mummy friend over? I have had several awkward situations when it comes to this. Much like the actual dating world, don’t come across too strong. I met a lovely but overly keen mum who once booked up my whole week after one playgroup meet. Somewhat similar to the boy that texts an hour after a date, then the next hour, then the next. Maybe a little too full on too quickly. Or the other difficult situation when we did have a playdate and it turned out our children did not like one another and we had nothing in common.

Nothing lost though, we tried and it just didn’t work. Like in any walk of life sometimes we just don’t click and that’s ok, as there will be lots of others that do.

We all have bad days/ tired days/ don’t know what the heck we are doing days, but doing it together makes it a lot easier! My best mummy friends have been made on those days. The lovely neighbour who dropped in a new home card with her number when I didn’t know anyone. The kind mum at playgroup who gave me a hug when I burst into exhausted tears. The straight talking, funny mum who told it like it was and always made me feel better about having a ‘tear my hair out’ moment. 

So new mummies, pregnant mummies or growing family mummies don’t be afraid to ‘put yourself out there’ as I am sure you will find that you get out what you put in and make some fabulous mummy friends along the way.