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!

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New mum super powers

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Being a mum for the first time is incredible. In my experience, nothing changes your life more. It is terrifying, exciting, momentous and emotional. Not only are you learning to take care of tiny human, a job so huge you wouldn’t imagine you would have time to learn anything else. You are suddenly super women! And as such, will have developed some unique mum super powers….

  • The ability to think of 100 things at the same time and still get on with what you are doing. For example, making sure the change bag is packed and replenished, whilst thinking about baby’s nap, whilst remembering it’s your dad’s birthday, whilst thinking about baby’s next feed, whilst wondering what you might have for dinner. Wow!! It’s amazing, and tiring just thinking about it. We may get ‘baby brain’, but we also get ‘multiple tasking at its best brain’.
  • The ability to not only think all the above, but also hold a conversation whilst doing all of this.
  • Suddenly you can do all the things you used to need 2 hands for, with just one!! You become skilled at doing everything, and I mean everything with one hand, whilst the other is holding baby. You name it, you can do it. Eat, make a drink, go for a wee, hoover, order online shopping, find paperwork, type, call a friend, push a pushchair. Who knew you could do all that one handed?
  • You can eat quicker than you have ever eaten in your life, knowing you may not have long to finish this precious hot meal before you are needed again.
  • You can and are, surviving on less sleep then you probably ever had in your life, and you are still managing to look after your baby! You rock!
  • You can sit for ages looking intently at your baby whilst listening to your friend telling you about her day. You may have lost the ability to maintain eye contact through conversation, but you are still listening and able to respond, whilst meeting your baby’s needs.
  • You have developed a 6th sense, usually at night, you can pre-empt a feed or disturbance even before baby has shown you, just from the quietest noise or tiniest movement.
  • Your reactions are lightning quick, you think something is about to hurt your baby you sweep in immediately – suddenly you have inspector gadget arms and an inbuilt radar for danger. Usually this includes a raider for spotting a toddler who is likely to come a bit too close to your little one.

Basically, new mummy, you are amazing!!

So, when you think that you aren’t doing a great job, or the lack of sleep makes you cry, or you don’t know which way is up, remember you are doing these things EVERYDAY! And probably didn’t even realise it!! Give yourself the credit you deserve, you are doing the most important job of your life 🙂

 

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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When Rhyme Time replaced a night out?!

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Today I found myself dancing with a little too much enthusiasm at playgroup. It was singing time at the end, and I noticed I was not alone in my overzealous moves, I had to stop myself fist pumping and throwing in the running man. Several of us were singing along, swaying, bouncing and even a bit of foot shuffling to ‘wheels on the bus’. I caught myself saying ‘oh we like this one’ and I didn’t really mean the children, I meant me!!! What has happened to me?

It dawned on me that this is it now, this is the closest I get to ‘clubbing’, this is where I get to boogie and strut my stuff; rhyme time!

I hope I’m not the only one who does this? I have certainly spotted other mums getting carried away with actions for wind the bobbin up. Who needs ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ when you have ‘point to the window, point to the door’. If I do ever set foot in a night club again and a) don’t feel like I could have given birth to half the people there, and b) can stay up long enough to go out that late; I may introduce some of these new moves into my ever-expanding dance repertoire. Who knows, it might take off!?

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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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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.
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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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‘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

 

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)

*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

 

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