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
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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

 

Being kind to yourself at Christmas

Some of you might have seen the news around this time last year when people started talking about “emotional labour”. This is the concept that on top of the everyday work that women do – whether that is in or outside of the home – we do the extra work of looking after others emotionally. This Guardian article puts it better than I could:

We remember children’s allergies, we design the shopping list, we know where the spare set of keys is. We multi-task. We know when we’re almost out of Q-tips, and plan on buying more. We are just better at remembering birthdays.

I don’t like to make generalisations, but in many relationships, it is the woman that deals with all the admin for children’s schooling (parties, filling in the forms, getting the right outfits on the right day, baking the endless cakes).

I find at Christmas in particular, it is women who get it all sorted out. We figure out what to buy for whom and buy it before our partners have realised it’s December. We send Christmas cards, we arrange drinks or dinner with valued friends, we sort out travel arrangements, and we pack the bags if we’re going away.

Sometimes I think it would be utterly hilarious to let my husband pack the children’s things for a weekend away. Not to rag on him – he does all the cooking in our house and contributes a fair amount to other domestic chores – but he’s clueless at stuff like that. He’d remember to pack clothes but forget things like their cuddly toys to get them to sleep.

All of this remembering who needs what and when can be extremely tiring. This is why I’ve been thinking about how we can look after ourselves at Christmas while we’re usually so busy looking after everyone else. So I have compiled a little list of things I can choose NOT to do, to give myself a little break and be kind to myself this Christmas:

  • Christmas cards. I have duly purchased cards and planned to send them off to my carefully compiled list. But between real life and blogging life, I don’t know when I’m going to have the time or energy to sit down and write ‘Merry Christmas’ and an address 20 times over. My real friends will understand if I don’t get round to it. I will do it if I have time, and forgive myself if I don’t.
  • Sitting in front at the Nativity play. My school operates some sort of system where certain classes’ parents get priority seating on certain days of the Nativity play. I can only make the day where I will have to sit in the back. I’m not really sure what happened to good old “first come, first served”. But not everyone can sit in front. I refuse to feel guilty about this. I will be there, and that’s what counts.
  • Attending events that no one will notice you’ve missed. I felt incredibly guilty last week when work commitments meant I couldn’t attend my 2yo’s nursery Christmas party. I went last year. It was fun. I got to watch him do some party games, eat some party food, and then watch him cry when Father Christmas came to visit. I’m going to forgive myself for not watching him do this again this year. My husband went, so he did have someone there, and my son will never remember the occasion anyway.
  • Watching my weight. I have some weight loss goals. I’ve been doing okay with them. But December is not the time to keep losing weight. Or even to not gain a bit of weight. It’s all tiring enough without abstaining from food and drink when everyone else is indulging. I’m going to live it up and be miserable and boring in January just like everybody else.
  • Keeping up with the blog. I would like to vaguely keep posting until we properly break up for Christmas, but honestly I’m not really feeling it at the moment. Christmas is hard enough without churning out sparkling content. That’s why you’re getting this amazing list about what I’m not doing. I’m relatively confident that all my bloggy dreams will not be dashed by slacking off at Christmas.
  • Baking. Unless you luurve baking because it relaxes you. I like baking, but only when I have loads of time to spare. In previous years, I have always baked some Christmas biscuits to decorate and share with work colleagues, friends and/or family. Not this year. I will buy some boxes of Cadbury’s Roses and everyone will be equally happy (if less impressed by my domestic goddess-ness).
  • Skipping self-care. When I get busy, the first thing that goes is my self-care. Uncut hair, unpainted nails and no makeup for me! But not this Christmas. These things make me feel like me. They make me feel relaxed and happy. So I’m going to make time for them. Even if that means an extra episode of Twirlywoos on the iPad for the little ones.
  • Buying lots of presents. I’ve sorted out the presents, but I’ve not been as extravagant or creative as usual. Simple and thoughtful is good enough. People don’t have to gasp in wonder at their presents.
  • Worrying about how Christmas day is going to go down. Some of us have more responsibility for this than others. I’m lucky enough to NOT be responsible for making the dinner. But I have in previous years worried an awful lot about how much fun will be had by me and others, and gotten upset when things didn’t go well (cue my children having ALL the tantrums and me MISSING the Doctor Who Christmas Special). Well, unlike last year, I am no longer breastfeeding. So I’m just going to drink as much wine as I like and go with the flow. And I can catch up with The Doctor on iPlayer later.

Do you feel a bit burnt out in the run-up to Christmas? What do you do (or not do) to make it easier?

Tammymum

An exercise in thankfulness

This week it’s Thanksgiving in the USA, where I lived until I was 22. It’s a day every year where people come together to eat ridiculous amounts of food and then fall asleep in front of the TV. It’s sort of like an extra Christmas without the presents or the religion. I won’t go into the full history of it here, but if you want to know more, then this article in the Telegraph is pretty informative.

For some, Thanksgiving is just about having a good time and they don’t think much about what it really means. However, for many, we like to take a moment and think about what we are grateful for in our lives. And a cursory Google search on the term “being thankful” brought up numerous articles explaining how gratitude can actually make you healthier.

But it’s not always that easy, is it? Children need looking after, houses need cleaning, work needs doing, family members need help, you get health problems, you have a bad day, people are jerks … all of the things that happen in a normal life can pile on top of each other and weigh you down until you forget to look up and remember what’s good.

I’ve been feeling a bit weighed down lately myself – so much so that I’ve started having heart palpitations and even panic attacks. My doctor’s only suggestion was to “give up coffee”. Oh right, like that’s going to make me less stressed!

But I have decided that as it’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to make an effort. I don’t bother with the turkey and all the fixings now that I live in the UK (I get enough turkey at Christmas, thanks), but I do think taking time out to be grateful is time well spent. So here is my exercise in thankfulness. I’m going to tell you some of the things that are pissing me off, and then find something related for which I’m thankful. Some are serious – some less so – but hopefully some of you will get where I’m coming from.

I’m not happy about…

…the fact that my older son is still not getting on well at school. He screams at the teachers and runs aways down the halls. Yesterday the teacher actually called home to tell me what he’d been up to. His behaviour at home has gone downhill as well. This is despite a recent visit to a paediatrician who basically thought he was fine. I’m at a loss as to how to help him right now.

But I’m grateful for…

…my son. We are having these issues but he is still my child and we love each other. There’s nothing better when I hear him say “I love you” in his little voice. We can play and giggle and have a laugh. I am not the perfect parent and I need to learn how to work with him to improve his behaviour, but we will always be a team.

I’m not happy about…

…having lost a friend recently. He passed away and I’d not made the effort to see him for a while. And so I felt grief but also guilt. I messaged him just before I found out what had happened, but it was already too late.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fun times we had together. I’ve spent some time looking at old photos and remembering, and enjoyed a pint of Guinness (his favourite) in his honour. Remembering the good is the only way to move forward. I’m also grateful for the lesson I learned about keeping in touch with people. Next time I think of a friend, I will message them straight away, while I still have the chance.

I’m not happy about…

…being sore and weak while recovering from the hernia surgery I had recently. I haven’t been able to pick up my kids or even leave the house for the last week and a half.

But I’m grateful for…

…the prospect that this will improve my long-term health. Plus, the leaflet they sent me home with says I must not do the washing or hoovering for 6 weeks! It’s right there in black and white. I’ve shown it to my husband.

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I won’t be doing this for 6 long weeks!

I’m not happy about…

…my lack of interior design skills. My house is so cluttered, with my main decorating accents being brightly-coloured plastic toys. I look with envy at beautiful lifestyle blogs and their owners’ skilled arrangement of attractive scatter cushions. I have scatter cushions that my neighbour gave me after she bought some nicer ones. It was my house or the bin for them. Appropriate – since at my house they are often covered in cat hair and biscuit crumbs.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fact we’re nearly finished building an extension to our house. It’s been hard having builders around and everything in upheaval for the last 5 months, but soon we will have more living and storage space. Hopefully I will then be able to cut the clutter. I doubt I’ll get any better about scatter cushions though.

I’m not happy about…

…being rubbish at Instagram. This is a blogger gripe. I know good bloggers are expected to take fabulous photos and share them on Instagram. But I just don’t really “get” photography. To me, it’s what the picture makes you think about, rather than the aesthetics. And I hate the shallow “great feed” comments you get.

But I’m grateful for…

…the people who follow me anyway! Why anyone beyond my close friends are happy to look at a poorly-lit photograph of my dinner is beyond me. But they do. I even got 30-odd likes on a shot of my messy living room full of packages of laminate flooring and plaster dust. So I’ve decided to keep it real on Instagram. I’m going to post pics of my real life and just be happy with the followers who want to see it.

I’m not happy about…

…what I like to call the Christmas conundrum. I’ve been working hard to get fit and be happy with the way I look for a school reunion I have coming this summer (don’t we all want to be fabulous when we see the people we grew up with after a long time?). The surgery has set me back a bit, and now we’re getting into Christmas. How can I eat ALL the mince pies without compromising my fitness goals?

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I need to try all the different brands. Let’s call it blog research.

But I’m grateful for…

…the fact that I can choose to binge on pie or not. Some people can’t afford to buy all the pies, or can’t eat pies for other reasons. I’m thankful for the very existence of pie. And wine. Let’s not forget to mention wine.

But really, why bother?

Being thankful often gets a bad name. Insensitive people try to cheer up a person who is grieving or having a bad time by pointing out that they have things to be thankful for. But it doesn’t work that way. Everyone needs to talk about things that are making them unhappy, and being thankful can’t always fix things. It’s also important to be honest about our own feelings.

But forcing myself to write down some of the things that make me happy – thinking about what’s funny, what’s serious, what’s poignant and what I have learned – has already made me feel calmer and more in control. I’ve taken a break from exercising my body, but taking some time to flex my thankful muscles has helped me lose some of the weight I’ve been carrying on my shoulders.

What things are you stressed out about? What are you most thankful for? Let me know in the comments.

Tammymum
mumturnedmom
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Losing the baby weight: Myths vs reality

Once you get pregnant, not only do people start telling you what is safe and unsafe to eat, they also keep reminding you not to “eat for two”. Well, sod that. If I can’t drink and I can’t eat the best cheese, if I’m sick, tired, hormonal and my boobs hurt, you know what I’m going to do? Eat cake. During both of my pregnancies, I ate cake and ice cream and mountains of curry, pizza and peri-peri chicken. And both times I did gain weight which took a lot of time to lose. Plus, I wasn’t exactly skinny to start with. But I don’t regret a single mouthful of sugary goodness, because pregnancy made me feel awful and the cake helped me cope. If you feel the same as me, then you should cake away. Tell any judgemental friends or family that someone on the internet (clearly an expert) said it was fine.

Once you have the baby, the health police stop banging on about how not to poison your baby and gain loads of weight, and start banging on about how to lose the baby weight. Luckily, these days celebrities are being a little more honest about how bloody difficult it is. But there are still countless articles trying to give you “realistic” tips about how to use the weight-loss tricks of celebrities. I’ll tell you how celebs lose baby weight. Two things:

  1. They have bottomless pits of money to hire personal trainers and diet chefs and nannies to look after their babies all night.
  2. It’s their job to lose the weight.

So I’m here to tell you a real person’s view on losing baby weight. I think there are loads of myths about losing the baby weight that are propagated even by our well-meaning friends and family. These conspire to make new mums feel worse about their shape. And the worse you feel, the harder it is to make the changes you want to make. So here are my biggest baby weight-loss myths and some tips (from my humble experience) to help you actually lose the weight in real life (if you want to).

Biggest baby-weight loss myths

“9 months on and 9 months off”

This one has a good intention behind it, implying that it takes as long to lose the weight as it does to gain it. But in my experience, 9 months is not long enough. It took me the best part of 2 years to lose the baby weight after my first, and I’m still working on the weight gained from my 22-month old. The problem is, raising babies is hard work. It’s physical, emotional, mentally straining and you don’t get much sleep. These factors combine to make you reach for the nearest chocolate-y sugary fatty-fat-food full of energy to help you get through another day. You might not have time to cook proper meals or if you do cook them, you may never eat them. My first son used to cry like clockwork whenever I sat down for a proper meal. As a result I used to eat like I’d been stranded on a desert island living on coconut water for the last year.

“Breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight”

This is a big one that they like to roll out in those wonderful guilt-trip pamphlets and signs as displayed in hospital and given you by health visitors. Now, as I’ve explained in my breastfeeding story, I was only able to achieve mixed-feeding with both of my children. So perhaps that is why breastfeeding didn’t do jack for helping me lose weight. But whether or not your baby is fully, partially, or not-at-all breastfed, don’t feel bad if it has no correlation to you losing weight. Breastfeeding makes you produce all sorts of hormones that you don’t normally produce. Plus, if you’re on the pill, there are only certain pills you can take when you’re breastfeeding and one of the side effects of progesterone-only pills is weight gain. I have never been able to achieve any significant weight loss until I’ve stopped breastfeeding.

“Just eat a bit less”

Someone actually said this to me when my baby was only 3 months old. I was tucking into a fairly modest plate of pasta and he’s all like, “maybe you should have a smaller portion?”. Pfffft. I had my stomach cut open 3 months ago. I was up all freaking night with a baby hanging off my boob. You try it and see if you want to eat less sodding pasta.

“Try some postnatal fitness classes”

I actually highly recommend these. But not because they will necessarily help you lose weight. They might, or they might not. I did baby yoga with both children, walked miles and miles pushing buggies around, and tried some more difficult mum fit classes too. None of these resulted in weight loss (any calories burned were replaced with sleep-deprived-chocolate-binges). However, the exercise improved my mood and I met other mums for potential friendship/coffee drinking/joint chocolate binges. The baby yoga was also a lovely way to bond with my baby.

“You can get back to jogging 6 months after birth”

Maybe if you are Jessica Ennis-Hill or Paula Radcliffe. My dabbling in running before both of my children was not fortifying enough to get back to it easily. I tried to start jogging again when my youngest was 6 months old. It lasted for about a week before I put my back out and caught the latest virus that was going round Eldest’s preschool. Get back to your usual exercise when you’re ready, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out, because babies are hard work. You will eventually be able to resume (vaguely) normal service.

“You have to lose the baby weight”

You may actually be comfortable in your skin post-baby just the way you are. If you are, then chill. Don’t let anyone tell you what your body should look like. The way you feel is the only thing that matters.

Things that helped me lose baby weight

What works for me might not work for you, but I’m going to tell you anyway in case it does.

Finding the right diet

When you’re ready to watch your diet, that is. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t recommend dieting before baby is at least 9 months old, sleeping well at night, and until you’ve stopped breastfeeding.

There is no magic bullet for dieting, but what I’ve found is that each person can find something that works for them. I’ve had friends who’ve lost the weight and kept it off successfully with Weight Watchers, the South Beach diet and Slimming World. But for me, it was The Fast Diet. Even before I had kids, I could never stick to any sort of diet or even so-called “just eating healthy”. But The Fast Diet, also known as 5:2 or intermittent fasting, has been a miracle for me. You limit your calories to 500/day for just 2 days a week and eat reasonably (i.e. whatever you want without totally bingeing) the rest of the time. After both children I’ve lost around 2 stone (24 lbs) with this diet, after never being successful with any other. It sounds crazy but if you read the book it makes sense, and there are loads of other health benefits from fasting. It’s made me crave healthier foods. I’m currently obsessed with avocado, and that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.

Finding a realistic exercise programme that fits into mum life

The only thing that has worked for me for getting fit and keeping fit is the Couch to 5K programme. It’s a running programme where you gradually work up, through interval training, from being a “couch potato” to being able to run 5K. It seriously works, no matter how unfit you are. It helped me get over a dislike of running. And it’s a great solution for a mum, because you can do it any time and with no special equipment. However, you may find something else is your thing. The biggest thing is to remember is that any exercise is good. Even if you aren’t consistent, one gym session a month is better than none.

Getting your brain on your side

I’ve found that I’m enjoying my exercise sessions more lately and I think it’s due to things that I’ve changed in my life that keep my mind busy while I’m exercising. In the past, I found exercise so boring! But since I’ve started blogging, I’m coming up with post ideas in my head the whole time I’m running and the time flies by. I forget I’m running. I’ve also subscribed to a music streaming service, and it’s really helped to always have fresh, new music to listen to. It’s also helped me to set a goal/reward to look forward to. For me, I’m hoping to look and feel awesome in time for my 20-year highschool reunion next summer.

Enlist support from your family

If your partner resents the time you spend exercising, or hates the food you cook on your diet, you are not going to succeed. Talk to your partner and explain how important it is to have his/her support. Support your partner’s diet and fitness goals as well, and see where you can cooperate in meal planning and family scheduling. If you have older children, you can also get them to join in on your exercise. My 4yo loves a bit of stretching or calisthenics.

Accept setbacks

Being a mum is a bloody hard job. If your child gets sick, or you get sick, or you have another life emergency, or a bereavement, or you get injured during your exercise efforts (I’ve had a hundred bad back or twisted ankle incidents), you might end up having to take a break from diet and exercise. Try not to let it get you down. It’s real life. As long as you keep trying whenever you realistically can, you’re doing great.

As for me, I’m doing okay. My youngest is not yet two, and I have about 5 more pounds of baby weight to lose. Then I can tackle what I like to call my “beer and burrito” weight.

Are you eager to lose the baby weight or are you happy just how you are? Do you have any weight loss and fitness tips you’d like to share?

Cuddle Fairy
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