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.

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
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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.

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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🙂

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Sleep Trainer or charlatan?

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What is a Sleep Trainer? The wording is slightly off putting, I think. How can we train a child? Like we train a pet? And if we can ‘train’ our children to sleep without any negatives and experts have the answers, why don’t we all know the secrets?  Why isn’t it working for everyone?

I am in a privileged position… don’t worry, I’m not going to say that I have babies that sleep, because unfortunately I don’t… but to meet many new parents on a regular basis as part of my baby massage classes. I have heard many sleep woes; as well as stories of babies who do sleep for most of the night and have done so from as young as 6 weeks (the holy grail, I am owed a baby like this I think).

Two clever women have told me two pieces of advice which to me seem to be contrary to there being any sort of ‘sleep expert’. The first was a Doctor who was taught if there are lots of different products on the market for a problem, it generally means that they haven’t found something that actually works. Like teething, some people use necklaces, some use gel, some use powder, some use Calpol, while others use teethers. Yet, so many babies struggle with teething and I am yet to meet a parent who has found the complete solution, or at least a solution that works for multiple babies. The other fab piece of advice was from a fellow mum; she was very to the point and just said “you either have a baby that sleeps or you don’t”.  There is nothing you can do about it, it’s just the way it is. I like this explanation, but it would be pretty much the opposite to ‘experts’ selling a myth, service that will get your baby sleeping.

Yet, what if they are on to something? why can they not agree on one method? does ‘cry it out’ really work and have no lasting impact on the baby?, or are the critics right and it does in fact just teach a baby if they cry no one will come. Is the more gentle approach of going in and out of the room multiple times, just laying baby back down until they sleep, the way forward? Or is this not prolonging the upset and showing baby that it’s a battle of wills? Does letting them sleep in your bed mean that you will have problems later? Is feeding them to sleep a comforting way of helping them drift off, or creating bad habits?

The point is no one knows, and certainly not everyone agrees. We all have our methods that work for us, or if not work, ease the challenge slightly at night. We all find our way of getting as much sleep as we can.

One thing I do know for sure, it does not last forever and I don’t know any 15-year olds who are left to cry/fed to sleep/ sleep in their parents bed or need their mum to repeatedly lay them back down when they wake at night. So Sleep Trainers, perhaps we need to let nature take its course and rather than train our babies to sleep, perhaps we need to train us parents to accept the facts. Some babies sleep, some don’t, they will get there in their own time and it’s not because of anything you are doing that’s right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.

What do you think?

*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🙂

This Mum's Life

 

 

Today I didn’t enjoy being a mum

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That sounds awful doesn’t it! But it’s true.

The moment I opened my eyes my daughter was asking the same thing she asks every day and suddenly it felt like Groundhog Day. I immediately felt irritated that every single morning we have the same moany requests.

The morning was filled with meltdowns and tantrums about the slightest thing (the children, not me, although I would have liked to join in). We had a playdate with my friend but the children decided to take it in turns in clinging on to me and crying or fussing about everything. They want the “blue plate”, or “2 yogurts”, or lunch 10 minutes ago, or no lunch. Nothing I was doing was right. Not helped by the fact that I don’t feel 100% myself after a few days of having the flu. I couldn’t talk to my friend at all, and could tell you nothing about what she has been doing in the last few weeks because I couldn’t think straight with all the crying and moaning.

Cleaning the floor for the sixth time in 4 hours; I felt trapped in my own life. Is this it? What am I doing? Why did I think staying home with my children is a good idea? There seems no escape and I’m not sure I even like doing it. If I was offered an ‘exit card’, would I take it? Right in that moment maybe I would have.

I envied those at work and wondered if working outside of the house (more than the few hours I run baby massage sessions) was the way forward. The ticket to time away and time to breathe without being clung on to, cried at, moaned at, demanded to.

What could I do? Scream maybe? Shout perhaps? I chose cry. I say chose, that’s not really true, crying chose me and I had no choice. I sat and sobbed. My children were stunned. My nearly 3-year-old climbed onto my lap and said “why are you sad mummy?”. I explained that I had had enough and she just sat and hugged me. She hugged me like a comforting adult, and then dried my tears with a wet wipe.

My daughter comforted me, whilst my baby son tried playing peekaboo. Right then I remembered! That was it, that was why I love being a mum. In that moment, the love she was able to show me reminded me why I do it and why I love it. However, upset, infuriated, cross or overwhelmed I feel we have an unconditional love, we are a family and we look after each other. Those we love are the ones that can push us to the edge, yet they are also the ones that can pull us back as quickly.

*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 thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi🙂

This Mum's Life
3 Little Buttons

Why I will not apologise for my baby

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You all know the scene. In a busy public place, full of adults and your baby picks that moment to have the mother of all meltdowns. No amount of soothing or distraction can help. Your baby is crying. You don’t know why and nothing you have tried is working. Your first instinct, after seeing to your little one, is to look around and apologise. Well don’t! You certainly don’t have to.

Sometimes babies cry! Sometimes they get hungry at inopportune times and cry, sometimes they have a nappy explosion when you have just boarded a busy train, and then cry. Sometimes on a plane their ears get sore and they scream for the duration of the flight. Sometimes they are having a bad day, sometimes they are teething, sometimes they are tired. They cry. That is what babies do. That is how they communicate.

We wouldn’t dream of apologising if we were in a busy place and we laugh a little too loudly, or have a noisy conversation with a group of excited friends. We don’t worry when adults get a little tipsy and voices raise slightly in an intimate restaurant. Or if on a busy train someone is talking on their mobile phone or rustling a crisp packet. We may be mildly perturbed but we would not expect them to apologise to the whole carriage, or dish out sweets to their fellow air passengers if it were a plane. We would not look around sheepishly and apologise for something we literally have no control over, so why apologise for your baby?

Guess what, babies cry. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you need to say sorry for that, because you don’t!

I am saddened to see so many mums feel they need to do this, and I did too as a new parent. Even in settings full of children. We imagine people looking over means they are judging. It doesn’t. It is natural when people hear a noise they look to see the source. Some people are just interested, some were in this position last week, last year, 20 years ago. Some are probably feeling sorry for you; some are wondering if they can help. We don’t know what they are thinking.

Babies cry and that is the only way they can voice what they need to say. It is the most natural and normal thing in the world, all parents have been there. Please don’t feel you have to apologise.

*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 thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi 🙂

Pink Pear Bear

 

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The perfect baby

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If someone asked how life was going would you tell them that your life is perfect? That you have the perfect home or the perfect partner or the perfect job? I think it is unlikely. So why when you ask how someone’s baby is, do they sometimes reply their baby is “perfect”? And I don’t mean in that dewy eyed, new parent, every baby is perfect kind of way. I mean they actually believe their baby is ‘perfect’.

I bumped into a new dad I know at the weekend and inquired how his baby was doing. He replied that she is “perfect; she never cries, sleeps through the night and is the easiest baby”. Now I can’t help but wonder one of two things. Firstly does this constitute a ‘perfect’ baby? And secondly, if so, and my baby is pretty much the opposite, does this make my baby, and probably 80% of other babies, flawed?

What is perfect? If an adult was always compliant, never spoke and rarely showed emotions would we find this desirable? We may joke that this would be the perfect spouse, but the reality is that we would perhaps find this person a little odd? Or at the least a little dull? I’m not suggesting this baby is either, but I do find the whole thing rather strange. Babies cry to communicate.

It turns out my acquaintance is not the only person I have met with the ‘perfect baby’, baby groups are littered with them. The ones that “sleep through from when she was 6 days old and still does a year later”. The baby that “never fusses”, “he’s just so easy”, “you would barely know he is there”. The same can certainly not be said for mine. When I had my first baby this kind of comment would have left me feeling like I was a failure. I would cry and question why wasn’t she sleeping?, why did she want to eat every 2 hours round the clock? What was I doing wrong?

Now I have a slightly different take on it, if we never have the difficult times how do we appreciate the good ones? When said ‘perfect baby’ reaches toddlerhood and are the ones having a mega meltdown in Tesco’s as we sail past with our beautifully behaved children (who have been ladened with Pom Bears and biscuits to ease the shopping experience) we can have an internal smug moment. For we know all too well the world of meltdowns. We have experienced them from the moment our child entered the world. But for this 5 minutes it is not our child in that position, it is the parent who proudly announced they had the ‘perfect baby’, and for that we can be glad.

So next time when you harmlessly ask how someone’s baby is getting on and they say they have a perfect baby, take heart that while your baby may not be this definition of ‘perfect’, but your child has character and personality. We can appreciate the good times because we have had the bad, so in the long run perhaps it is us who have the ‘perfect baby’ after all?

*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 thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi:)

Rhyming with Wine
3 Little Buttons

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‘Just a mum’

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If someone asks what you do, would you say you are ‘Just’ a teacher? ‘Just’ an events manager? ‘Just’ a chef? Or ‘Just’ a PA? No, I think not. So why do so many of us who stay at home with our children say ‘Just a mum’, when asked the same question?

I include myself in this number, I am almost embarrassed if I am out, particularly with non-baby friends and meeting new people. They might discuss what they do and when it’s my turn I worry. I’m not quite sure what exactly the worry is. Could it be that I worry what they might think of me? What I think of myself? That I don’t have much to contribute to the conversation, or any funny anecdotal stories that don’t involve my children?

It can feel like you are left out of the loop, struggling to keep up to date with the latest… Well, everything! For example, music, I’m pretty sure Old McDonald doesn’t count? Or current affairs, that doesn’t include the rumours at the school gate about Mr Matthews and Mrs Smith (names have been changed/ made up) Current affairs as in world news. It’s hard to keep up with the bigger picture when at 7pm all I want to do is catch up on WhatsApp and go to sleep by 9, that doesn’t leave much time for keeping abreast of current affairs. Sure we may get caught up in the day to day. The first thing I do when my husband calls or gets in from work is give him a detailed account of the children’s day. What was said, the lovely things, the challenging parts, who they saw, what they ate. When I see friends I talk about sleep I have had, or more accurately, not had. The latest funny line my toddler has come out with. What the children are doing this week. I may have been known to discuss the children’s bowl movements when they were babies (sorry about that). Many of my stories are about my children, but so what?? Is this any less interesting then if I worked outside the home and recounted my day in the office? Or out with work? We all talk about what is happening in our lives. We share the things we are living now. It doesn’t mean we don’t have anything else to say or don’t think about other things. It is just a snapshot of where we are now.

So SAHMs (I’ve always wanted to use that acronym) do not be put yourselves down. Don’t utter the words ‘Just a mum’ and shift uncomfortably when you can’t think of a story or event that has happened this week that didn’t include your children. Be proud of what a fabulous job you are doing! You are in this moment a stay at home mum and there is nothing wrong with that. For really the reality is, when asked the question ‘what do you do?’ you could in fact say all of the above. You are a teacher, events manager, family PA, chef, to name but a few. There is no such thing as being ‘JUST a mum’.

*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 thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi 🙂
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Rhyming with Wine