When you feel like you don’t have any friends

When I was growing up, I had two very close girlfriends. We did everything together. After spending as much of the school day together as possible, we’d hang out after school and then at the weekend as well. We were all as different as chalk and cheese and armadillos.

I was obnoxiously extroverted, boy crazy and didn’t give a toss what anybody else thought. One friend was as quiet as I was loud, which made her a sharp observer of human behaviour with a wicked and delightfully absurd sense of humour. The other friend was sensible, passionate and kind. She gave me a hug the moment we were introduced – who couldn’t be besties with someone like that?

I’m not saying we didn’t have our disagreements and falling outs, but those girls were my sisters. We had no secrets from each other and lived in each other’s pockets. When I recently went back to visit after not seeing them for 15 years, it was like we could pick up where we left off. We’d all changed so much, but the basic connection was still there.

It was a wrench for me when I moved across the world from those friends, and inevitably they were no longer such a big part of my life. But a few years after leaving I fell in with another kindred spirit. She and I did our PhDs together and during that time were practically inseparable. Although we both had boyfriends, people used to joke that she was my other partner.

However, student days ended, and we both got married and had kids. We kept in touch but no longer lived particularly near to each other so the relationship became less intense. Then she moved overseas, and our main interactions now are very occasional phone calls, lots of fb tags and a weekly Fitbit competition. Not bad – but not hanging all day telling each other our deepest secrets friendship either.

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I’ve been thinking about the wonderful friendships that I was lucky enough to have, because lately I’ve heard from more than one person how they feel like they don’t have any good friends anymore. Like, they don’t have anyone who would help them move … let alone help them move bodies.

And I get where they’re coming from. I have many people in my life who I’m happy to call friends, but since my youthful best friends, I’ve never been able to quite find friends who I would admit murder to (disclaimer: I have never murdered, nor do I have any intentions of murdering – this is a metaphor based on a popular saying). I also don’t have any group of friends that I hang with on the regular like I did when I was in my twenties.

I remember looking forward to the chance motherhood was going to give me to meet a whole new group of people. I’d make some new besties at baby groups and since we were all off work we would totally hang together all the time. That did not happen for me. It was actually a bit crushing. I tried to make some good friends but slowly realised that the only thing I had in common with these people was that we had sex during the same year.

I’m not saying I’m friendless. I actually have some lovely friends. I now have two close mum friends local to me (they would probably help me move but secretly resent me for moving away). Those friendships took several years to get to the great stage they’re at now and I hope they continue to grow. I’ve also met some very fun mums at my eldest son’s school. We have boozy and inappropriate nights out and I love hanging with them. I also have some wonderful friends who I used to work with or study with, who I see only rarely but when I do see them it’s a fantastic time.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I’ve come to the conclusion that friendships change when you start to trot towards ‘middle age’. So many people have been telling me that:

  • They’ve lost touch or fallen out with old friends that they valued
  • It’s difficult to make new friends
  • They don’t have time to invest in their friendships
  • They feel bad about not having close friendships or regular social engagements
  • They miss the security and enjoyment of their old friendships and groups of friends

And it’s not just mum friends who’ve told me this. I’ve heard it from at least two different childless male friends as well. They think there must be something wrong with them because they don’t have ‘enough’ ‘good’ friends.

So I want to tell you that, if this is the case for you, it’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you for not having the quantity or quality of friends that you feel you should have. My extremely unscientific anecdotal research shows that it’s perfectly normal for friendships to change and become less intense as you get older.

These days, I don’t have one friend who I do everything with. I have different friends for different occasions. Some I see weekly, some I see every few months, some I might only see once a year (or less). They all bring joy to my life in different ways. There’s the friends I talk about my kids with, the friends I go out on the town with, the friends I talk about work with, and the friends who will join me in contemplating the true meaning of life.

So if you’re missing your friendships, step back and consider how you might be having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It’s okay to play bit parts in each others lives. The time you spend together is still valuable. If you have a laugh together, if the interaction is effortless once you’re together, then these are your people – even if you don’t see them often or know everything about their lives, the way you did with your youthful besties. Life is, after all (as a random motivational speaker once said) ‘just a collection of happy moments’.

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Mission Mindfulness

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Feeling stressed? Just look up.

Most people’s lives are busy. In my case, lately, incredibly busy. I’m working full time, commuting to London every day, learning a completely new career and getting to know a whole new group of people. It’s lovely and exciting, but it is very hard work and my brain is bursting at the end of each work day. After which I usually rush home to look after my children, and attempt to look after my house and myself.

At the end of the second week of my new routine, I sat on the train and just cried all the way home. I tried to make it look like runny allergy eyes, but they were real tears. I wasn’t crying from sadness – not exactly. Part of it was just the realisation of what a huge change I’ve made in my life. Part of it was missing the support I had from my colleagues at my old job – relationships that took years to build – and the fear that I might not be able to build strong relationships with the new people. And the rest was just pure exhaustion.

However, two things happened that put things into perspective and made me feel better.

That evening, as I walked home from the train station, I took my headphones out and looked up at the sky. It was cold and crisp and the stars were out. I could see Orion with his belt. (Also, the dangling bit of stars hanging off his belt … have you noticed that? My husband likes to giggle about it when he’s had a few drinks. I informed him it was Orion’s sword but that didn’t stop him giggling).

Anyway, maybe it sounds a bit stupid, but looking up and noticing the everyday beauty of the night sky made my stress and fear melt away, for a little while at least. So often we trudge along with our eyes on our feet, headphones in, mind racing ever forward to the next task, the next problem, the next tripwire to avoid. When we look up, we’re reminded how small we are. How small all of it is. I stopped looking back at my day or worrying about the change I’d made and just enjoyed the quiet stillness of the evening.

I know, I know. So far, so cheesy cliche. Gazing at the stars. What a load of rubbish.

But since that happened, I’ve been thinking about how “looking up” can lead us in unexpected ways to just the things we need and have been looking for, consciously or no.

The next example happened early the following week, when I decided to kill some time in the library at my new workplace. I wasn’t looking for a book – I already had one with me. But I didn’t rush doggedly towards a chair to sit and bury my head in my book. I lingered, I looked around. My eyes fell on a book called The Mind Gym: Relationships. It wasn’t the sort of book I was expecting to find in a subject specialist work library.

The book is basically all about how to build successful relationships with people and get them to like you. This is a thing that makes me sweat bullets. I might be able to look and act normal(ish) while I’m talking to people, but afterwards I’m always worrying that I said something wrong. I beat myself up for being a socially awkward weirdo that everyone merely tolerates rather than actually likes.

The first chapter of the book, called “Right mind” asserts that the way you think about yourself and others, from the outset, can determine the way your relationships will go. It calls this “I’m ok, you’re ok”. You should think of yourself as “ok”. You are normal, you are likeable, you are a good person. You should also assume that the other person is all those things, and has no wish to dislike you or judge you. Whether or not that’s true is anyone’s guess. But if you take a positive attitude to yourself and the other person, you are setting yourself up for success.

There are lots of other chapters about various aspects of relationships, but at the heart of most of it is the belief that you have to power to decide how you look at things. Choose the happy. Tell yourself you’re ok and don’t beat yourself up. Listen to what others are actually saying rather than worrying about what you just said or what you will say.

This third very tricky week at my new job, I’ve been repeating “I’m ok, you’re ok” in my head whenever I was nervous about speaking with someone, and it’s stopped my emotions from running away with me. I’ve focused on listening instead of being insecure, and it’s helped me so much.

So next time you feel as though you’re so busy you don’t know which way is up, or you have too many stresses and worries to cope, or that nobody likes you and you can’t do anything right … look up. Look up and be open to the unexpected wisdom to be found in everyday moments and everyday things. And remember that, really, you’re ok.

Mission Mindfulness

When you find a lump in your breast

Not long ago, I got another year older. I’m still pretty young, less than 40, and I’m not totally afraid of that number. When we were in highschool, my best friend and I used to say, “When we’re 40, we’ll be absolutely amazing”. It was a joke. We thought it was a silly thing to say. My best friend had heard it on TV or something and just kept saying it.

But now that the year is coming close, I think it might be true. I’m more in control of my life than I have been in a long time. I do feel like I’ve grown up a lot in the last decade or so, and have made so many changes for the better. But musing on those is for another post.

This post exists to assert that nothing makes you fear getting older more than finding a bloody great lump in your breast on your birthday!

That’s right. It wasn’t there when I woke up in the morning, but when I went to bed that night, it was there. It was big and it hurt. WTF.

So I went to the doctor the very next day, expecting to be told it was nothing. Instead, they referred me to the breast cancer clinic at the hospital – one of those urgent referrals, where they have to see you within two weeks. Well, that’s enough to put you off your prosecco for a few days. (Disclaimer: my jokey tone in this post is just my personality – my way of dealing with scary stuff. I am not being flippant about this very serious topic.)

Just a cyst?

I duly went to the breast cancer clinic, once again expecting it to be nothing. Dr Google, as well as several friends, had assured me that these things were usually cysts. I thought the consultant at the breast clinic would be able to perform a procedure called Fine Needle Aspiration, which means they draw the fluid out of the cyst with a needle. I was hoping that she would simply drain the cyst and the damn thing would go away.

But instead, the consultant felt my lump and did the doctor thing where she said “hmmm”. Then she sent me to another part of the hospital to have an ultrasound. Okay, so it was not a cyst.

At this point, I was glad that I’d brought a friend along with me. At first I had told her I wanted to go alone when she offered, but she convinced me that I shouldn’t. If this ever happens to you, please bring someone you trust along! And don’t expect to drive yourself home after. Get someone to drive for you or take public transport or a cab.

So, as I waited nervously for my ultrasound, I believed it could still be a cyst. The ultrasound technician came in and brings a picture up on the screen. “Oh no, that’s not fluid, that’s tissue,” she says. And then immediately sends me for a mammogram.

My first mammogram

As I am not yet 40, I had never had a mammogram. Those who have had them have helpfully (italics denote sarcasm) described them as the sensation of slamming your breast in a door. These sort of comments meant that I awaited my sudden mammogram with no small amount of trepidation, especially because my breast already hurt from the bloody great lump in it. It didn’t help that I had no more than 5 minutes to mentally prepare myself for the procedure.

So allow me to reassure anyone who hasn’t yet had a mammogram that it is NOT like having your breast slammed in a door. It was very slightly uncomfortable but actually not too bad at all. The woman who performed the procedure was very professional, gentle and kind about all of it. She knew I was worried and upset and did her best to reassure me.

The way the mammogram works is that your breast needs to be compressed between two plates so they can take a picture of the inner tissue. The technician gently helps you position your breast on one plate, and tells you where to put your arms and legs. Once you are positioned, another plate comes very slowly and gently down to push your breast against the other plate. Each breast had pictures taken from two angles, which involved compressing between top and bottom plates, and then between two plates on either side of the breast.

It did not hurt, even in my breast that was already sore. It mostly just felt a bit awkward, as one would expect in any situation where you’re naked among strangers and in a confined space. When you are invited for a mammogram, please remember that it’s nothing to fear. Undetected breast changes are much more scary than a mammogram could ever be, so never miss your mammogram!

And then we proceeded to the ‘b-word’

The b-word is biopsy. After the mammogram, they looked at me on the ultrasound again and decided they definitely needed to perform what’s officially called a Core Needle Biopsy. They have a special needle (which I didn’t look at to avoid passing out) that draws out the tissue, and in my case they needed to take 3 samples but I think that varies depending on the size/position of your lump.

I do not like needles.

But it also wasn’t as bad as it sounded. They put a local anaesthetic into the area first, and that small needle stung only slightly. After that I couldn’t feel a thing. The biopsy needle makes a popping noise when it (I assume) goes in and then pulls the bit of tissue out. The noise is slightly alarming and you feel pressure, but it really is nothing to worry about. I had a lovely nurse there who held my hand. (BTW I love the NHS, just saying.)

Afterwards, it will be sore for a while and your entire breast will be bruised. Make sure you wear a comfy bra with no underwire. I rolled my old maternity ones back out. Good thing I’m not organised enough to have gotten rid of them! Anyway, a month later I’m feeling and looking back to normal from the bruising.

The hardest thing after the biopsy for me was that I had to wait over Christmas for the results, and Christmas involved an overseas trip to visit family that was very stressful. I just about managed to cope, but the timing of all of this was crap. However, I suppose no time is a good time for a breast cancer scare.

The results

When it comes to biopsy results, the old phrase “no news is good news” is probably apt. If you don’t hear from them after waiting two weeks, give them a call and they should be able to tell you good news. If it were bad, they wouldn’t be waiting around.

In my case, I’m very happy to say that my lump turned out to be benign. I have a rather less alarming condition called Fibrocystic Breasts. It means my hormones are going a bit wonky as I approach the menopause years, and that’s caused my breasts to grow funky lumps. My lumps are totally harmless, although I do need to get any future lumps checked out anyway, as the condition could cause complacency about future lumps that could indeed be cancerous.

Lessons learned

I thought I would share a few things I learned from this experience. I was frantically googling everything I could find about breast lumps after I found mine, and it was good to come across reassuring information, which is what I aim to offer here. There is also some scary stuff on breast cancer support boards. Don’t read those before you know the results of your biopsy. I’m sure they’re a great source of support if you do have cancer, but before your diagnosis is set, they’re only going to make you worry more.

A few other words of humble advice:

  • Check your breasts regularly, and go to the doctor IMMEDIATELY if anything changes or worries you. Don’t wait to see if it goes away. Don’t bury your head in the sand. You have nothing to lose by getting it checked out, and everything to lose by ignoring it.
  • You may end up being poked and prodded and going through some uncomfortable procedures, but none of them are as bad as they sound.
  • TELL trusted friends or family about what’s going on with you. Don’t go through the worry alone. In my case, I went ahead and told all my Facebook friends, who responded with an enormous outpouring of support and wisdom.
  • By sharing my story with friends, I also learned that more women than you think go through this stuff. Cancer or not, this is difficult but you are not alone.
  • If it turns out to be fibrocystic breasts like I have, try taking a supplement with Vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil and/or Starflower Oil. They have not been fully clinically proven to work, but some studies have shown they’re effective and not potentially harmful in any way. In my case, I’ve been taking supplements for a month and my lump has disappeared.

 

Mission Mindfulness

Sorry, I’m not PR friendly anymore

I’ve never really liked that phrase, “PR friendly” anyway. It implies there are people who really hate people who work in PR, or are just pretty unfriendly generally. There probably are, actually. Anyway, I don’t hate people who work in PR. I did it once years ago and I found it hard, so I sincerely admire those who succeed in that profession. But I need to announce that my blog is no longer “PR friendly”.

When I first started this blog in July 2016, I was excited about the possibility of receiving products to review and being invited to cool events. And I’ve been very lucky to have had some modest success in that area. In the archives you can read about some cool products we’ve received, and some fantastic days out. I even got paid to write a couple of times. But it’s time to move on.

I’ve got a new job – a new career really. I don’t want to talk about it too much here, as I want to keep my professional life separate from the blog. It’s the sort of job in which collaborating with companies might lead to a conflict of interests for me. So that’s why I’m shutting that aspect of the blog down. But I didn’t want to kill the blog entirely.

This comes at a good time, actually, because I have been wanting to shift focus for a while. I’ve never had a sharp focus for this blog, just talking about life as a mum generally. But I’ve realised that what I like writing about best is how I keep myself vaguely healthy and sane in my crazy life, balancing kids and work and a host of other priorities.

So from now on, I hope to write more sharply focused posts that aim to help you think through the mental and physical health challenges in life, along with finding balance amongst all of your competing priorities. I do not write this from the perspective of someone who has all the answers. Quite the opposite. My blog posts are how I think these issues through for myself, and I hope that my ponderings might just help someone else who faces a similar situation.

You might notice I’ve changed the look of the blog to coincide with my shift in focus. I hope you like it. I can’t guarantee regular posts, as my new job comes with more hours and a LOT of new things to learn. I’m sure that’s going to lead to some new thoughts about how to survive this life of mine. I hope sharing it with you might make some small contribution to the crazy internets or at least offer you a few moments of light reading.

If anyone has ideas of things I should cover under my new theme, or wishes to do a guest post for me, please comment below or get in touch via the contact page.

Mission Mindfulness

The only babysitter you’ll ever need

Sponsored post

Before I had kids, I just assumed getting a babysitter would be no big deal. After I had kids, I realised that it is a very big deal indeed, particularly when they are still very young. I am not a very relaxed parent, and I have found it absolutely nerve-wracking to leave my babies even with close friends and family members.

The first time I left my eldest, he was about 6 months old and I had tickets to see Tom Daley compete in the 2012 Olympics. I have a friend who lives near the Olympic Park, and she kindly offered to watch him. I’d known her for many years and trusted her completely. However, I still made her a TWO-PAGE LONG list of instructions about how to look after my precious boy. So, you can trust me when I say I wouldn’t choose a babysitter lightly.

The next time the need for a babysitter presented itself, a friend was getting married. The wedding was in a hotel, and we had a room near the reception, so I decided to book a babysitter to come to our hotel room so I could enjoy the party. I booked with a babysitting service called Sitters. I did a lot of research on the company first, and figured there was nothing to worry about since I was only going to be across the car park from where the babysitter would be looking after my son.

The way Sitters works is you have an online account and pay a very small quarterly membership fee and fee per booking, then you pay the babysitter directly in cash on the night of your booking (the price varies depending on region and timings, but is always a very reasonable rate).

The Sitters website tells you which babysitters are near your location (you can book at home or in a hotel/holiday home). You can request a particular one based on reviews, and once you know a babysitter or two, you can request to have the same one each time. You can also request not to have a certain one in future if you find one you don’t get on with her (but this has never happened to me).

All of the babysitters on Sitter’s database are carefully vetted, so you can trust that your children will be looked after by someone safe and qualified. Their checks include:

  • All have completed a detailed application form
  • All have passed an interview with a member of their experienced recruitment team
  • All have at least 2 years’ professional childcare experience
  • All have provided at least two childcare employment references which are checked and verified in person
  • They collect Photo ID and proof of address for every childcarer
  • They obtain copies of DBS certificates and childcare qualifications
  • All agree to Sitters’ Code of Conduct and Terms and Conditions
  • All are issued with a Sitters ID Card

The proof is in the pudding, and I have been so impressed with Sitters from my very first booking. The first Sitters babysitter I had during that wedding came in confidently and immediately established a rapport with my 1-year-old. She had even brought her own storybooks. I left her to put him to sleep and was amazed to find that he went to sleep for her readily, despite at that age refusing to ever sleep for me!

I have now been using Sitters for about 4 years, and have never been disappointed. Near my home, I have a small group of babysitters that we use regularly, and my children look forward to seeing them. My eldest sometimes asks me when I’m going to go out so he can see the babysitter.

Having a reliable babysitter makes a huge difference to someone like me, who has no family nearby. My husband and I have been able to celebrate special occasions like grownups, and look after our relationship. Recently, we were even able to go to a black tie event in London, and we had a babysitter from Sitters from 5pm until 1am. She played with the kids, put them to bed and, as usual, they were more well-behaved for her than they ever are for us!

I highly recommend giving Sitters a try. I was so pleased when they asked me to write this post, because it’s easy to write about a service I already use and know so well. To learn more and sign up, please visit http://www.sitters.co.uk/find-a-babysitter.aspx.

Do you find it difficult finding a reliable and trustworthy babysitter? Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about Sitters!

I received compensation for publishing this post, but my experience of the service and opinions are genuine.

There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve noticed that New Year’s Resolutions are a bit out of style these days. Some say: don’t make them because you’re going to break them anyway. Years of people making unrealistic goals for themselves and then failing have led to people not bothering at all, even scoffing at the whole notion.

However, I think that taking stock of the past year, and allowing yourself a fresh start, is a good idea. It’s not “new year, new me”. I’m the same me, but I want to set some gentle intentions for things I’d like to do it the year ahead. I also want to let you know about some things that are going to change on this blog.

A year reviewed

As years go, 2017 has not been my favourite one. The worst part of it was saying goodbye to both of my grandparents, who played a major role in my upbringing. It’s the first time close members of my family have died. Learning to live with my grief while continuing to function in daily life was very difficult for me. I developed a full-on anxiety problem, with heart palpitations/panic attacks.

I eventually got mostly rid of it though, and found that exercise and mindfulness are key for me in keeping myself happy and avoiding anxiety. I developed new strategies to fit exercise into my busy lifestyle and have tried new types of exercise too. My big success was completing a 10k race in 1 hour and 16 minutes, having never run so far before in my life.

Another fantastic success of this year was that I got a new job. I had a long notice period to work for my old one, so I’m not starting my new job until later this month. The new job is a complete career change but it is for an amazing and exciting employer, doing important work. I’m going to have a lot to learn and it’s pretty scary, but overall I’m looking forward to it and think it can only be a good thing.

I have loved my current employer, but it had gotten to the stage when I had been there too long and just needed a change. I never thought I’d be able to move on so easily because of my flexible working requirements, so I am so happy I’ve found an amazing new employer who is happy to be flexible.

Back to the downsides, just at the beginning of December I suddenly found a large lump in my breast. I went to the doctor straight away and was referred to a breast clinic. I was expecting them to say it was just a cyst, but instead I ended up with a mammogram, ultrasound and core needle biopsy. I have not yet had my biopsy results. So that is scary. It’s taken me a few weeks to feel normal again after the biopsy, but I’m now determined to just carry on as normal and think positively while I wait for the results.

Intentions for myself

My biggest discovery this year was that exercise really, truly does make me happier. Of course, science supports this and other people told me that for years, but despite exercising on and off for many years, I never believed it made me happier until recently. Perhaps it is my age, but now I feel a noticeable difference in myself when I exercise compared to when I don’t. So my intention is to do as much exercise as I can in the new year.

I have created a little calendar for January with a planned activity for each day. But I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t actually manage to exercise every day…I just going to be happy each time I can cross off another day of my exercise calendar.

Another intention on the health front is simply to eat more vegetables and less sugar. I refuse to cut things out of my diet. I think that’s a recipe for disaster. But when I am not bothered about whether or not I have something unhealthy, I simply won’t have it. And I will not clean my plate unless I want to.

Finally, I am also going to try and think positively and live in the moment. I am a great worrier and explorer of “what-ifs”. But, as my husband repeatedly reminds me, “what-ifs” are rarely useful. I am going to cross bridges when I come to them, and try not to worry which rickety crossings might be miles ahead.

Intentions for this blog

Some of you may (or may not!) have noticed that I haven’t written much on this blog lately. This is mainly a product of being busy and tired, and simply having other priorities. I started this blog for me and I see nothing wrong with using it however it suits me. But, it does make me happy when I write, and so I’m going to aim to write something once a week or so.

I’m going to shift the focus of the blog slightly. I don’t want to change its name because that is too much of a faff, but I’ll probably change the tagline when I have time. I’ve always called this a parenting blog, but that’s not really what it is. It’s more about life as a mum (rather than focusing on the actual children), and about how to look after yourself. I’ll have to think of a way to describe that in a catchy tagline!

So my future posts will unashamedly be about me and how I’m surviving my busy life, only one aspect of which is being a mum.

I’m also going to stop doing product/service reviews and sponsored posts. There will be one more sponsored post coming out this week, and that will be the last one. The main reason for this is that my new job prohibits that sort of moonlighting in my contract. I may still review things that I’ve paid for myself, but I won’t be accepting free products or any money to write posts.

And so…onwards and upwards for 2018! Thank you to anyone who reads my little musings, and I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

What are your resolutions this year, or are you a resolution refuser?

 

Mission Mindfulness

 

‘Mum vs the World’ survival kit giveaway

We’ve all had these sorts of days. You wake up to children bouncing on your bed. Your head’s pounding, eyes caked closed, nose streaming with snot, but you can’t roll over and hide your head under the duvet. You have to get up, wipe small bottoms, wrestle them into clothes and get on with the day. The kids fight and run away and shout and do everything except put their blooming shoes on.

And the reward you normally get for finally getting them out of the house? Public misbehaviour and rude judgey people staring you down or (shudder) actually saying things to you. Don’t you wish you could just karate chop them in the head?

Masked Pony Productions gets it. They’re an all-female comedy production company, whose work is specifically aimed at women and especially mums. They’re not only producing fantastic YouTube content that mums can relate to, they’re also championing female talent in the showbiz industry.

They got in touch with me recently to ask if I could help spread the word about their ‘Mum vs the World’ YouTube shorts and I was impressed with the quality of the production. I felt like I was watching a sitcom already on a major TV channel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these ladies on one of them soon. They won best scripted pilot recently at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Check out one of their shorts:

If you like this video, please consider subscribing to their YouTube channel, and/or following them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Awesome giveaway involving wine and chocolate

Masked Pony Productions are offering one of my lucky readers a ‘Mum Survival Kit’, to help you relax at the end of a long day. The kit includes:

  • A bottle of Malbec
  • A large bar of chocolate
  • Baptiste dry shampoo
  • An iTunes £15 voucher
  • A spikey reflexology massage ball for your aching back
  • A cucumber (For your eyes, obvs)

To enter, please just click the link below and follow the Rafflecopter instructions.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY TO WIN FREE WINE AND STUFF

Giveaway terms & conditions

  • This competition will open on 4 November and will close on 19 November at 12am GMT.
  • One winner will be selected at random.
  • The winner will receive the Mum Survival Kit goody box described above.
  • UK entrants only.
  • No cash alternative will be offered.
  • The winner will be announced on The Mum Reviews’ social media outlets, not the blog.
  • The winner will have 28 days to respond to their winner’s email.
  • The prize will be posted directly from Masked Pony Productions.

Listed on The Competition Database and Loquax.

I did not receive any incentive to do this review. I’m just nice like that. But if they get famous maybe they’ll invite me to a swanky party or something.

How motherhood makes you stronger

With motherhood comes all sorts of lovely experiences and some, um, less lovely ones. The first time your child says “I wuv you” is lovely. The first time he vomits on your lap is not lovely. And yet, some of the things that really suck about parenthood have actually made me improve my coping skills in a number of areas.

Things the pre-child me simply couldn’t cope with just roll right off me like the peas my toddler placed on my head. So here are 5 ways motherhood has made me stronger.

Poo, vomit and other bodily effluvia does not phase me

Before I had kids, simply the smell of vomit would make me feel ill, let alone actually seeing it or, god forbid, touching it. Now, I can quite comfortably (and even intentionally) catch vomit with my bare hands. It may not be my favourite pastime, but I can handle it.

I don’t think twice about the odd smear of poo that may make its way onto my person. These things wash off so easily. It’s only a little bit stinky.

And, as a parent, sometimes picking bogeys out of another human’s nose is simply a necessity. You can try using a tissue but it doesn’t always get the job done. And I’d rather pick it and bin it than stare at it flapping out of my son’s nose all day.

All of this exposure to nasty, germy things means that I have very little fear of anything I might encounter late at night on public transport.

Spiders

On my 8th birthday, I brushed my teeth and when I spit out the toothpaste, a partially-chewed spider came out of my mouth. This was an extremely traumatic experience which kicked off a lifelong fear of spiders.

I remember being 18 years old and finding a spider a big as two 50p coins in my bathroom. I called my dad to kill it for me, but he had decided to foster my emergent independence as a responsible adult by informing me I had to resolve the situation myself. I was too scared to squash it, so I dropped my 1500-page English Literature anthology on top of it and left it there for 2 days. When I finally got up the strength to remove the book, the spider simply got up and crawled away, never to be seen again. I neither killed it not removed it from the house, but it would appear I taught it a lesson!

In more recent years, married life has meant I always had an obliging husband to remove spiders for me. He is a kind and gentle soul and so catches them in the designated “spider cup” and throws them outside.

I coasted along in such a manner without facing my spider fear until I had kids. Now, there is a real problem because nothing is more spine-chill inducing than the notion of a creepy-crawly, fang-sporting, hairy spider crawling over your sweet, sweet baby’s face. And so suddenly I became both fearless and merciless when a spider comes anywhere near my children’s domain. I’ve caught them in cups, I’ve hoovered them up, washed them down the drain (even using an implement to make sure they really went right down) and even, on one occasion, picked one up by the leg and flung it out the window.

Thank you, motherhood, for teaching me that no spider is fiercer than a mother’s love.

Squatting, carrying, running and squeezing

We’ve covered squeamishness and visceral fear, but of course motherhood also makes you physically strong. The average observer may not be able to see our mum muscles, but I assure you they are there.

A mum can hold a wiggly baby to her breast whilst assisting a potty-training toddler in wiping his bottom.

She can wrestle a tantrumming toddler into a carseat or highchair.

She can climb a flight of stairs in a single bound if she hears a suspicious bang while the kids are in bed.

She can wiggle into narrow spaces to retrieve a much-loved toy.

She can squat for unreasonable amounts of time when needing to apply shoes or change a nappy in a less than hygienic area.

She can push a buggy, up and down hills and over grass or gravel, for untold hours until the little bugger angel falls asleep.

She can carry her handbag, two children, an overstuffed changing bag, a potty and a bit of shopping with barely of bead of sweat appearing on her furrowed brow.

And we do all of this without (much) whinging. Pre-kids I would have collapsed in a heap if I had to do all that.

Pain, illness and lack of sleep

Everyone knows that childbirth hurts, but the bit that comes afterwards hurts even more because it lasts longer and nobody offers you any drugs to cope with it. We take our babies home when we are worn out and emotional, with stitches holding together either our stomach or our undercarriage. I had an emergency c-section after my first, and had burst blood vessels in my eyes and soft tissue injuries in my legs after my 2nd from pushing too hard. But in modern life we’re expected to just carry on. Maybe pop to the supermarket or take a nice(??) walk. In other cultures, women are allowed to stay in bed for a whole month after the baby is born!

Then some of us might get this lovely thing called mastitis. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a lovely infection inside your breast, which not only hurts the breast itself but gives you flu-like symptoms that make you feel like dying. And besides taking antibiotics you have to keep feeding the baby with your sore boob to help it get better. Ouch is an understatement.

Then of course there are the bugs. Have you ever tried to breastfeed in between bouts of vomiting? Or worse, cooking a meal for hungry children or changing a really stinky nappy? It might actually be my personal version of hell.

But I look back at the times I kept everyone alive when I felt like dying, and think it’s a pretty amazing achievement.

Keeping calm and carrying on

The final skill that motherhood has taught me is staying calm in the face of confrontation. I’m not going to say I’m always calm … but it takes more to throw me in a tailspin than it used to. Sometimes, I’m even calm with my own children. Mostly, this skill is employed outside the home when dealing with other adults. I know that it is very unlikely that, under everyday circumstances, an adult is going to scream in my face, kick me in the shins and lay on the floor screaming. And thus any confrontation is that much easier to deal with.

So the next time you feel like this parenthood gig is bringing you down, or you feel insecure about your parenting skills, just look back on your tired, sick, sore self, carrying heavy loads, vanquishing dangerous insects and catching vomit in your bare hands, and know that you are one strong mama.

What things can you do better now that you’ve faced the travails of raising small children?

Mission Mindfulness

My First Scalextric review

It is with great excitement that we recently received our first ever toy for the purposes of review. We’ve reviewed all sorts of lovely things, but this is the first time we’ve received a good old-fashioned toy, and by a well-known brand too.

Picture of My First Scalextric box

My youngest spotted the brightly coloured box from across the room, just as soon as I removed it from the outer packaging. “Racecar! Racecar!” he shouted in excitement. “Open!” The set is meant for children aged 3+ and my youngest will not be 3 for another 2 months, but I thought he’d be pretty safe to have a go with the toy. My 5 year old was interested too, even though he’s not quite the mini petrolhead that my 2yo is.

Open Scalextric box

The track seemed pretty sturdy and straightforward to put together, but I did have to check the instructions and it took me a few minutes to figure it out. My kids tried to help put it together, but I think it would be easy for them to break the connections if they were left to do it unattended.

Kids assembling scalextric
They couldn’t wait to put it together

You do need to plug it into the mains and there a a few cables to contend with, but my kids quickly learned how to keep these out of their way.

The biggest challenge with Scalextric is for kids to learn that they can’t go full pelt on the controller button. You have to press it gently so that the car doesn’t fly off the track when it goes round the bends. My First Scalextric has controllers that allow you to turn down the speed of the controllers while your kids get a hang of that. This feature is common to the entire Micro Scalextric range, and all of the Micro Scalextric cars and tracks work together so you can build massive tracks if you have more than one set.

Child playing Scalextric

My youngest absolutely loved the track (and so did his daddy, seen lurking in the background above). I asked him what he liked best about it and he said “cars go round and round”. I was actually amazed at how long he was happy to make the car go round and round. Time passed and he was in need of a nap, so he just played lying down.

IMG_20171014_100421.jpg

My eldest loved it too. He said he likes it because “It makes a sound like a train”, which is a bit random, but hey, it kept him busy. It was a beautiful way for brothers to play together, actually. They played for probably an hour and didn’t fight during any of it. Two tracks, two cars, two controllers = nothing to fight about. Who knew peace was to be found in the hum of a Scalextric track?

Brothers playing Scalextric.jpg

The ease of family play was definitely what I liked most about the set. I was also impressed at how it was teaching them both a bit of patience and self-control, because they had to be gentle with the go button and keep replacing the cars when they shot off the track.

All-in-all, I’d recommend My First Scalextric as a great introduction to electric slot cars. At £39.99, the set is a bit cheaper than other Micro Scalextric tracks, so it’s a great one to try out to see whether your child will like it. For more specs and information, please visit the Scalextric website.

I was given this set free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday