7 self-care ideas make you a happier mum

When I became a mum, the first thing that went straight out of the window was looking after myself. In the early days, there just wasn’t any time. If I didn’t have time to sleep, no way did I have time to paint my nails. Putting your children first is natural and right, but it’s very easy to get in the habit of ignoring what you need to feel like you. The list of things to do is so long that mum’s needs fall off the end of it.

It took me getting into a very stressed and unhappy state to realise that I absolutely deserve to spend time on myself. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. So over time I have slowly been developing little habits that make me feel just a little more content, a little more calm, and a little more me.

I thought that sharing my list of things might provide others with some food for thought. Doing even just one, in my opinion, will help you feel less stressed, angry, sad, anxious, or any of the other feelings that we’d like to feel less of. When doing these things means taking time away from my kids, I don’t feel guilty because I know that doing these things makes me a better mum when I am with them. If I’ve had my needs met, I’m less likely to shout when they wind me up. So it’s a winning situation for everyone.

1. Buy yourself little treats that help you slow down and appreciate life

For me, I started spending more money on buying nice shower gel and moisturiser. I used to use whatever was lying around or on offer at the supermarket. But more recently, I realised I really love that ‘spa’ scent you get from certain products, particularly ones with a lavender, rose or bergamot scent. I bought some for myself and now every time I take a shower I can close my eyes and pretend I’m in a spa. It seriously sets me up for the day.

For you it might be nice throw cushions, candles, flowers or posh chocolates. You don’t need to wait for someone else to treat you. It doesn’t need to be super-expensive. But find that one little treat that will give you a moment of contentment in your day.

2. Carve out kid-free time whatever way you can

I’m lucky because I do have time alone in my house when my kids are at school or nursery, and I also have a supportive husband who spends an equal amount of time looking after them. But even if you are a full-time mum and single parent, I think it’s worth going out of your way to find kid-free time and then treating yourself. For example, save your shower with the nice smelly soap for after they’re in bed (or before they wake up, or after they go to school). This way, you can spend a little longer at it, and no one will barge in and have a poo during it.

3. Style your hair, do your nails, wear perfume, makeup and nice clothes whenever you want (or not)

On days I stay home with the kids, I have previously had a habit of slobbing about in sweats with my hair sticking out in funny directions. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But more recently I’ve realised that I’d gotten in a frame of mind that said if I was just going to be at home there was ‘no point’ in me looking and smelling good. I kind of thought I was wasting time if I took the time to do my hair. I only wore perfume and clothes that made me feel pretty if I was going out somewhere.

More recently, I’ve decided to wear perfume every single day. Because I like it. When I spritz it on, I feel happy and beautiful. It’s not a waste to put it on if no one else is going to smell it. It’s enough for me to smell it. I’ve started taking the time to style my hair and wear my favourite clothes on the weekend. I’ve let go of the notion of ‘saving things for best’. Life is short and I want the best every day. 🙂

But sometimes I can’t be arsed with all that and I don’t do it. Which is also a-ok.

4. Have reassuring rituals and routines, but break them sometimes

Our house is pretty big on routines. There are bedtime routines for the kids, and I have a bedtime routine for myself as well. We have family Saturday morning rituals (like snuggling in bed watching Paw Patrol) and Sunday dinner rituals (we always sit down for a proper meal with pudding). I find these rituals comforting. Everyone knows what to expect and what to look forward to.

But sometimes, we throw it all out the window and go out to eat or have a floor picnic instead of a proper meal at the table. Sometimes, in the summertime, I let the kids stay up until it’s actually dark out and then put them to bed only when they’re ready to drop. Sometimes we go out to a friend’s house and let them run wild while we socialise and drink a beer.

Rituals and routines are all the sweeter when we aren’t tied down by them.

5. Use your skills for something other than parenting

Parenting is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and there are definitely many skills involved, some of which I don’t have. Like sewing and ironing. But all of us have skills that have absolutely nothing to do with parenting as well, and it’s important to keep using these.

In my case, I love my paid job. The skills I use there sometimes dovetail with parenting skills (like dealing calmly with difficult people), but for the most part I’m using a totally different part of my brain. If you don’t have a paid job, or hate your paid job, find a hobby or some volunteer work.

Some people write poetry or, erm, blog. Some people are good at arts & crafts. Some people play a sport or get involved in another group such as a choir. Some people are really fab at helping out at their kid’s school, or they spend a few hours working at a charity shop or keeping people company at a care home.

It is really important to use the skills that make you who you are – and in most cases, you’ll be making a contribution to society at the same time.

6. Exercise. Seriously, this is non-negotiable.

You wouldn’t have heard me say this a few years ago, but exercise is absolutely essential to life. I’m not saying it has to be high-impact or hardcore, but you need to move your body.

After having a breast cancer scare last year, I was seriously shaken up about my health. I realised how fast everything can be taken away by bad health. As the evil six-fingered man on The Princess Bride once said, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.

Soon after my scare, I came across a news article that had a doctor saying exercise should be approached just like other aspects of personal hygiene. If you would never skip brushing your teeth, you should never skip exercising.

But equally, I realise how hard it is to fit exercise into a busy life of parenthood, work, housework and a social life. For me, I’ve started using an exercise video streaming service. I wake up at 5:30am and sneak downstairs to do aerobics and weight-lifting in my dining room before the kids are awake. The streaming service is great because there is loads of variety (unlike old-fashioned workout DVDs). I also make the choice to walk whenever I can instead of taking the bus/tube/car.

I think everyone should make exercise a priority in life. Put it in your diary and treat it like a real appointment. The kids can entertain themselves for an hour. If you have a newborn, stick the baby in the buggy and go for a walk. Basically everything in life can be put off for an hour (or even just 30 minutes) for you to get healthier.

Since I’ve committed myself to exercise, not only have I gotten fitter and healthier but I am happier all the time. I used to scoff at the idea that exercise would give you more energy instead of make you tired but it’s absolutely true once you get yourself into a routine that works for you. And the science says you’ll probably live longer too.

7. Don’t sweat the petty things

An old friend of mine used to say ‘don’t sweat the petty things, pet the sweaty things’. Which was a vaguely suggestive way of saying you’re better off doing something that’s a bit of a laugh than worrying about something that is pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Are you worried you said something stupid or rude to someone recently? Unless that person is noticeably cheesed off at you, you probably didn’t. I tend to worry I put my foot in it all the time, when I totally didn’t. Don’t ruminate on things you said or did and worry whether they were right or wrong. It’s such a waste of time.

Are you worried because you’re not a domestic goddess? Did you take store-bought cakes to the school bake sale? Do you have a mountain of washing in your house that threatens to take on a life of its own? Do you have last week’s sandwich crumbs littering the floor of your kitchen? Or perhaps toothpaste smears in your sink?

Don’t sweat it.

Nobody ever laid on their deathbed and said, ‘I wish I’d kept a cleaner house’.

Play with your kids, read a book or magazine, watch trashy TV, do your exercise and enjoy your life. You’ll clean when you feel like doing it and that’s often enough. You’ll bake if you fancy it … and if not, everyone loves Mr Kipling’s anyway. Get your neighbour to sew that hem on your son’s trousers and save ironing for weddings, job interviews and funerals.

That’s what I do, anyway. 🙂

Mission Mindfulness

 

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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

Regrets, fear and the comfort zone

Have you done things in your past that you regret? I’m sure many people have. I’ve done a few stupid things, but I’m not sure if I entirely regret them. I feel like some of the ridiculous pickles I’ve been in through naivety (or pure stupidity) are actually sort of fun looking back on. Wouldn’t it be boring if we didn’t have any embarrassing stories to tell our friends?

So I don’t really regret things I have done. But I do have regrets. I regret the things I haven’t done. I regret that first day of high school when I was too scared to go and talk to a boy I really wanted to talk to. I regret the camping trip during which I was too scared to try white water rafting, and so I stayed behind and missed out. I regret not making the most of a summer fling when I was young, just because I knew it didn’t have a long-term future. These are just some of the small things that I’m willing to share with the internet.

What my regrets amount to are that I regret letting fear hold me back from making the most out of life. There are times when fear is sensible – when there is an actual likelihood that something will harm us. In that case, fear does us a service. But in many cases, it simply holds us back.

Maybe you’d like to change jobs, or even careers, but you’re afraid to move on. At your current job, you feel safe – you know where you stand. What if you changed jobs and then it didn’t work out?

Maybe you’re stuck in an unhappy relationship, but you’re afraid of the upheaval that ending that relationship would cause.

I’m not saying these things are simple to face. Making a huge life change requires thought and planning. But fear alone should not be the reason we don’t do things.

Maybe you’d like to do something just a little bit physically scary (like white water rafting), but you feel anxious about it. Maybe you’d like to do something a little bit socially/mentally scary (like going on a date or giving a presentation), but you are scared of it going wrong.

It is scary leaving our comfort zone. It is hard to do things that might be difficult and scary but necessary. Or to do things that are just a little bit risky, either physically, socially or mentally, but could result in huge payoffs.

As I look back at my life, I see that fear of leaving my comfort zone has never served me well. When I did do things I was scared to do (like moving countries, taking a risk on a relationship, having babies, putting myself in any situation where I was under scrutiny), I was almost without exception glad that I did. When I let fear hold me back, I later felt sorry about missing out.

So the next time you have an opportunity that you are afraid of taking … the next time you face a difficult choice … or if you simply feel unhappy with where you are right now, ask yourself: Is it only fear of the unknown that is holding me back? And if the answer is yes, throw your fear in the bin and break out of that comfort zone.

Mission Mindfulness

 

Sometimes when you’re hunting for unicorns, life gives you a goat

I took my eldest to see Despicable Me 3 recently. I thought it was brilliant – all of the 80s jokes were perfectly pitched to those of us who are now parents today. But there was also a sweet moment that stuck with me. **(Slight) spoiler follows**

At one point, Agnes, Gru’s youngest daughter, goes hunting for unicorns. She lays out a bunch of sweets and waits for hours in the woods until, sure enough, a fluffy one-horned beast appears. She brings it home and Gru is forced to inform her that it is merely a goat who lost one of his horns. He says tenderly, “Life is just like that sometimes. We’re hoping for a unicorn and we get a goat.”

And I thought, wow man that’s deep. Am I right? Think about it. Unicorns are the ultimate in awesome, sweet mythical beast. They are pure, fluffy and, apparently, poop rainbows. Why wouldn’t you want a unicorn? Goats, however, keep it real. They definitely don’t poop rainbows, they eat everything (and I mean everything) that they can get their mucky teeth into, and nobody likes it when you play the goat – even worse if you get their goat.

So, when you’re hoping for mythical perfection, you get real life. We can learn something here from Agnes’s response to Gru’s disappointing revelation (and forgive me if this is a slight misquote): “Well then he’s the best goat in the whole world!”

So, she didn’t get what she wanted. She got something that was less than her ideal fantasy of a mythical beast. But she saw the good in it and was grateful for what she had.

I can think of a lot of times in my life when I was hunting unicorns and got a goat.

I was going to be a famous musical theatre star but instead I have an office job. I was going to drive a Ferrari but instead I have a Hyundai. I was going to marry Robert Downey Jr but instead I married an IT consultant from Yorkshire. I was going to have a boy and a girl but I ended up with two boys. I was going to have ab muscles that you can see, but I never have and (I’m pretty sure) never will.

These were the dreams of an immature and inexperienced girl. They might have meant a lot to me at some point, and they served their purpose in keeping me motivated, but they were never really the right things for me. They were unicorns. My goats are much, much better.

Musical theatre would have been a hard life. Constant rehearsals, pressure to look a certain way, working late nights, moving from town to town all the time. It must be hard to start a family with a lifestyle like that. My office job is challenging without being overwhelming, has predictable hours with lots of holiday, and my colleagues accept me for who I am.

Ferraris are extremely impractical on British roads, would not fit all of my shopping, and with my driving skills it probably would have been totalled in the first month I owned it anyway. My Hyundai can totally cope with being rubbed up against a bush from time to time, and it can fit the spoils from a trip to Costco in the back.

Robert Downey Jr has bounced back from his drug problems thankfully, but I’m not so sure he’d be a nurturing life partner, and is really too old for me anyway. My husband cooks, cleans, changes nappies, listens to me spout rubbish all the time and basically puts up with me doing whatever I fancy. Who could ask for more?

Lots of people have a dream “gender pattern” for their future children, but us parents learn that that’s a load of rubbish. My two boys are everything I really wanted. They cuddle me and give me an excuse to watch kid’s movies and play with toys. They are smart and funny and have totally unique personalities. I did grieve briefly for not being able to buy pretty dresses and fix my daughter’s hair like having a real-life doll, but pretty dresses look hard to put on wiggly legs and I’m sure I’d be rubbish at combing the knots out of long hair.

Now I’m not going to try and feed you a line of effluvia about how chiselled abs are not actually all they’re cracked up to be. I can’t think of any reason rock hard abs would be bad. But we live in the real world. And in the real world, my love of donuts was never going to mesh with the visible ab muscles goal. And I’m okay with that. I don’t want to miss out on any food pleasures for flat ab pleasures. Anyway, I totally do sit-ups from time to time, so I’m pretty sure my abs are actually rock hard (underneath the layer of fat).

So there you go. My unicorns all turned into goats. And my goats are pretty awesome.

Now, I would like to recognise that sometimes life gives you a lot worse than goats. It might give you a stinking, partially decomposed and maggot infested ex-goat. I’ve had a few ex-goats in my time and things can be really, really hard. It takes time to move on from ex-goats, and sometimes a part of you never fully heals from the worst life has to dish out.

But maybe even on our darkest days we can remember the little things that we are still grateful for. If we can remember that sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect, but that they can still turn out pretty good, then there is always hope, and something to look forward to.

Two Tiny Hands

4 things I learned from 1 year of blogging

Sometime around the end of July, the one-year anniversary of me starting this blog quietly passed. This blog was originally inspired by a holiday that I wanted to write about. A year later, it was ignored because of another holiday, which I should probably write about at some point.

I often see other bloggers writing something about their blogging anniversary (blogiversary??), and I’m not usually one to avoid a good bandwagon tbh. However, I think the sort of things I want to say might be a little bit different.

Until last week, I hadn’t blogged in about a month. I was unsure whether I was done with blogging, or I just needed a break. All I knew was that I really just needed to chill out and watch Netflix in the evening, and to never ignore my kids at the weekend so I could (just quickly) join a linky. I also had some other stuff going on in my life that distracted me from blogging, which I’m not sharing publicly yet … but watch this space (however I can tell you now that it’s nothing to do with having more babies – that’s what people always think when you say you have a secret).

So I had my break and I enjoyed it, but then last week I had a really stressful day. So to stop me mulling over the stressful thing, I went ahead and wrote a little blog post. It brought home to me the real reasons I blog – reasons that I hope I’ll remember as I continue to blog – reasons that might even keep me blogging for a long time yet.

I don’t need to be the best

When I first started blogging, I knew absolutely nothing about the world of blogging. I was just going to write down some stuff on the internet that I thought a few other people might find interesting. Then, I got sucked into the world of stats and leaderboards and follower numbers and branding collaborations. I got a little ambitious and competitive. I got a little obsessed.

What many people who don’t blog don’t know is that nobody gets to be a famous blogger, or a blogger who makes their living from blogging, without having a killer combination of hard work, talent and luck.

I do not need to compete with the famous bloggers, the well-paid bloggers, or even the ones who I personally think are just awesome and wish I could be more like. I don’t have to publish consistently or have beautiful social media feeds unless that’s what want. I can just blog because it relaxes me and because it helps me think things through. My blog is about me, and if anyone else is interested or thinks it’s good, then that’s a bonus.

I don’t need to get paid

Making a living from blogging or getting occasional paid blogging opportunities or product reviews are totally awesome. I’ve dabbled in this a little bit. I may or may not continue doing so. It’s kind of cool, but usually the time and effort I put into a review or sponsored post is not worth the money or “free” thing I got.

Occasionally, there have been a few experiences I’ve had because of blogging that money actually couldn’t buy. I’m grateful for these. But if they never happened again, I would still be happy about my little blog.

Blogging is about people

The best, best thing about blogging is people, in a couple different ways.

First of all, any blogger worth his or her corner of the internet engages with other blogs. We don’t all have endless time to read and comment on other blogs, but really a good blogger ought to have a few other blogs they read. Blogging isn’t just a broadcast … it’s a community. And if you read other blogs, you will be learning new things, and often these things are about people, and you will learn interesting things about people who are different to you. This expands your horizons.

Second, blogging really does help you make new friends. I have made at least one proper, meet-up in person friend through blogging, and have several other acquaintances who I really like. There are lots of bad things on the internet, but blogging has an amazing knack for helping you meet like-minded people.

Blogging is healthy

Ok, so there is the risk that you get obsessed with social media and you never look away from a screen again. But the act of actually blogging – writing something about your life that you have thought about – mitigates against that.

Blogging encourages introspection, but it also requires you to think about how to write about your introspection in a way that engages others. For me, blogging has helped me avoid negative thoughts about myself and instead think about how I can be my best self. This process is what I like to share on my blog.

So what next?

A lot of people talk about their future goals for their blog on these sort of posts, and sometimes those include getting to a certain follower milestone or something measurable like that. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve been to some mindfulness talks and I now prefer to set intentions. So here are mine:

  • To stay true to myself in all ways, including with my blog.
  • If I don’t feel like blogging, I’m not gonna blog. So you know what’s happening when I don’t post for a while.
  • But temporary breaks don’t mean I need to shut down the whole thing.
  • Carry on nurturing the community I’ve become a part of by joining in on social media and reading other blogs when I can.
  • Carry on balancing introspection with things that might be useful to others – this is, after all, a public place.

What do you think? Has your blogging journey taken you to places you didn’t expect? Did you go down a road that you later decided wasn’t right for you? What’s good and what’s not so good about being a blogger?

Take all your problems & rip ’em apart

Take all your problems

And rip ’em apart

Carry them off

In a shopping cart

Be like the squirrel, girl

Be like the squirrel

– “Little Acorns” by The White Stripes

It’s not a well-known song, but “Little Acorns” by The White Stripes is a song to live your life by. It tells the story of Janet, who has been having a tough time lately. But as she’s walking one day, she sees a squirrel storing up nuts for winter. She notices the way the squirrel brings the nuts to her nest one at a time, and eventually manages to store up as much as she needs.

Clever Janet sees this as a metaphor, and realises that if she takes the “one acorn at a time” approach to her problems, they will be more manageable.

Okay, so it’s sort of a silly song. A hard rock riff and an entreaty to be like the squirrel. And it also might be something that we all already know implicitly. Of course it makes sense to break problems into smaller pieces to make them more manageable. But knowing something doesn’t mean we always do it.

So what are the problems that sometimes overwhelm us, and how can we “be like the squirrel”? Here are some situations where being like the squirrel has helped me.

 

Grief

Regular readers of this blog will know that I keep banging on about the death of my grandmother, who brought me up in my early years. It’s been a couple months now but sometimes I’m still suffocated by sadness and I just miss her so much. I had read about it before, but now I know firsthand, that grief never really goes away. Some days are better than others. Let each moment of grief be it’s own little acorn that you acknowledge. I’ve been allowing myself to feel sad when it happens, rather than trying to just carry on, even though that sometimes seems like what everyone expects.

Work

I work part-time but I’m pretty sure I’m still doing a full-time job and then some. I never, ever get to the bottom of my to-do list and sometimes I worry that I’m not keeping up well enough and I’ll get in trouble. But actually, everyone is just as busy as me in my office, and we’re all doing our best. So I just take one small task at a time. And I try not to multi-task, because that is a way of doing lots of work but never finishing anything.

Money

I also, like most normal people, do not have as much money as I would like. I have a lot of bills, like childcare, to keep up with. And I’m not very good at budgeting or saving. If I try to impose an austerity regime on myself, I’m going to (a) be miserable and (b) fail at it anyway.

So my acorn approach is to just think a little harder about each time I want to do something that costs money. How much do I really want/need this thing? Is there a way of doing it cheaper? And each time I manage to save some money by thinking it through, that is a small success.

My house is a tip

This is one that I get pretty stressed about. We have too many toys, but it hurts my heart to get rid of things that were loved when my children were smaller! Am I the only one who gets sentimental about brightly coloured plastic?

Sometimes I start planning to get organised, but am discouraged by the enormity of the task. One thing cascades into another until I just don’t know where to start. Saying I would just do one job becomes just as difficult as trying to do it all at once.

So I’ve started taking a more novel approach and applying complete and utter blinkers to certain bits of mess. Instead of focusing on doing small jobs that might ultimately add up to a tidy house (neeever gonna happen), I just focus on the things that really need keeping up with. The dresser near the front door always gets piled up with loads of random crap. Fine, I’m ignoring it. But I’m going to keep up with the washing. Sort of.

I wish I had more close friends

Becoming a mum changes your social life forever. I used to constantly be with friends, and I had a different friend for every situation. I could call up my “going to the theatre friend”, my “going on holiday” friend, or my drinking buddy. When I had my kids, I grew apart from some of these friends, either because they had kids too and also had no time, or because we were now living such different lifestyles.

I have found it difficult to make mum friends in my local area, and only have a couple ladies who I consider real friends and not just acquaintances. I sometimes feel pretty depressed that I can’t find a group of friends to hang out with at a moment’s notice, or even just that I feel so socially awkward  and isolated among groups of mums on the school run.

But you know what, it doesn’t even matter. Quality over quantity. I’m putting more energy into the little acorns I’ve already collected (the genuine, proven friends). And every time I feel awkward on the school run, I’m just going to carry on saying hello to people even when they don’t respond, and smiling at them all like some sort of maniac.

I’m a shouty sweary mum

When I get stressed or worried or upset or hurt, I shout and swear. That is my reaction. It’s something I’m working on. But I still sometimes step on a bloody lego brick and then turn the air blue in front of my children.

Or when my 5yo is completely ignoring my entreaties for him to stop chewing on a fidget spinner before he chokes on it, and the 10th time I ask him I shout, FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP CHEWING ON THAT BLOODY THING OR YOU’LL END UP IN HOSPITAL!

I am aware that this is not ideal parenting. Judge me as you will.

But I’ve also gotten better and better at showing more empathy with my children. When they get upset about something like misplacing a small plastic junky toy, or because one brother knocked over the other’s tower, I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry honey, I know you worked hard on that tower”. Instead of what I’m thinking, which is “get the f**k over it already”.

So every acorn of positive parenting, every time I offer some extra praise, is one to add to the pile that is making up for the fact that my eldest definitely knows all the swears and how to use them. I’m also working on replacing my swears with rubbish replacement words too. Like “oh FFFidget spinners” or “GoddaaaaarNit”.

Do life’s little problems sometimes get you down? What problems could you add to this list, and how do you deal with them? Here is the song, btw:

Tammymum
The Pramshed

Tired eyes, high BMI and loving every inch

Someone quite close to me sent me a rather rude email the other day, stating their disapproval of a photograph of me that I’ve posted on social media. This one: Me

When asked what was wrong with it, I was told that I “look tired” in it. My initial response, understandably, was to feel hurt. My next response was to send a snarky email back with an equally rude comment about that person’s appearance in a recent photograph. Not very mature of me.

I wrote again to apologise for responding so rudely, and pointed out that this person hasn’t seen me in the flesh for a while, and that I now “look tired” all the time. You see, the thing is, I have these things called kids, and they like to wake me up several times in the night before waking for good at the crack of dawn.

Then I often have to carry on and go to work the next day because, you know, I have a mortgage. Or I spend the whole day looking after my sweet sleep-stealers and catering to their every need. If I have any time to spare between work and childcare, I try and do a bit of exercise, or clean my house, or have a social life, or I blog a bit because it makes me feel happier when I’m sad or stressed.

If this person had seen a full-length picture of me, they no doubt would have commented upon the size of my arse as well. I’m well aware that my youngest is two-and-a-half and I haven’t “lost the baby weight”. I have some clothes in my wardrobe that I’m still hoping will fit me again some day.

So we’ve established that I’m tired and overweight. And when I look in the mirror, or hear/read someone’s cruel comment, I’m reminded that by society’s standards, I’m not the hottest thing going. Perhaps my milkshake wouldn’t bring all the boys to the yard.

But then again … maybe it would. Because I think I look better than I ever have in my whole life. Wrinkles, grey hairs, stretch marks, cellulite thighs and all. And that’s saying a lot because I fit the society bill when I was 21:

Nicole in Seattle 2001

I was young once and effortlessly thin. But when I look at old pictures of myself I think “what a waste” because I was beautiful but I didn’t appreciate it. I see a girl who was desperately insecure. Who didn’t appreciate her flat stomach because the skin still bunched into folds when I sat down (now I know the only way to stop that is to have no skin, or Photoshop). Who didn’t appreciate her cellulite-free thighs because she was all stressed out about how to remove every trace of hair from them. Who despaired of a head of hair that stubbornly refused to emulate that of a Disney princess.

I also see a young woman who was actually pretty selfish a lot of the time. Who was astoundingly ignorant of the world around her. Who would call in sick to work at the drop of a hat. Hey, former self … there is no such thing as a sick day when you have kids around. Prepare yourself!

But this post is not about bashing my former self. Except to point out that youth is utterly wasted on the young. I can’t necessarily be blamed for my former insecurities, but I can learn a lesson from them.

Because when I look in the mirror now, I really, truly like the way I look. I love my tired eyes.

There are little lines around my eyes from selfless nights of caring for my little ones when they were sick. There are lines from mourning for lost loved ones. There are lines from stress and worry.

But there are other little lines around my eyes from fun nights out with my friends. There are lines from laughing with my husband and kids. Those tired eyes have watched my babies grow up. When I look at them, I see someone who I am proud to be and who knows her worth.

I still don’t have Disney princess hair, but I have hair that is easy to style and that makes me feel confident and professional. I chose this hair after years of being too insecure to have it cut shorter than shoulder length, and now I’ve finally done what I want, I love it.

My stomach sports a healthy shelf of fat hanging over my c-section scar, liberally decorated with silvery stretch marks. Above, my breasts don’t quite point skywards like they once did. But they still look pretty darn good to me. I used those breasts to feed my babies. That stomach carried them for 9 months.

And when I put my hands on my own body, it feels like a woman’s body. It’s the body of someone who loves to eat and drink and have fun and I wouldn’t trade a single moment of that enjoyment for a flat stomach. It’s part of who I am today and I like that person.

So the next time someone makes you feel small for the way you look, remember the journey that took you there. And if you love the life you live and the person you are, then whatever body you have is part of that.

So next time you look in the mirror, find the love lines, the laugh lines, the great night down the pub folds, the cuddling my baby while eating biscuits wobbles. And just love every inch of yourself.

The Pramshed
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.

wash-268090_1280.jpg
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

I didn’t know blogging could change the world

Last weekend I attended Mumsnet’s Blogfest 2016. It was my first blogging conference, and I was a massive noob as I’ve only been blogging for about 4 months. I attended thinking I was going to learn how to grow and promote my blog. But I left with something much more important – a renewed sense of purpose.

Before I began blogging, I didn’t really know what it was all about. I thought people just wrote diaries about their daily lives and didn’t mind if strangers read them. I started my blog to offer advice about how to plan successful days out and holidays with young children in tow. I was going to keep it impersonal and apolitical, but my plans changed very early on.

I soon learned about the amazing community of parenting bloggers. These were intelligent, talented people who were writing about things for which they cared deeply. Parenting is not a walk in the park, and they were honestly sharing their achievements and failures in a way that could make others feel not so alone.

They were writing about important issues such as coping with miscarriages. They were removing the stigma from PND and other mental health issues by sharing their stories and coping strategies. They were standing up for others – both those like themselves and those who were different. They were campaigning for equal rights for all.

The other bloggers changed my goals for my blog and I started writing about issues I cared about too.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that Blogfest was not just about beautiful photography and great SEO. It was about how blogging can make a difference.

We are living in a time when politics are making people feel uncertain about the future of the world. One of the drawbacks of social media is that it can filter out alternative voices, making it easier for people to only see what they want to. We’re living in a world where the truth belongs to whoever is powerful enough to propagate their version of it.

In such a world, bloggers have a surprising amount of power and responsibility. We are in a privileged position because we have the resources to publish our views and the skills to communicate them effectively.

That gives us the opportunity to campaign for what is right. We can speak up when others might fall silent. We can speak truth to power.

Blogfest was about so much more than monetizing your blog or increasing your pageviews. It was about a beautiful community of women and men who, unusually compared to so many other professions, support each other more often than they compete with each other. Who defend each other’s right to speak even when they disagree.

So as I look forward to continuing my blog, I will try not to obsess over stats or which brands I’m working with. I will focus on whether the things I’m saying will make a difference. I’ll add my voice to the many who are challenging dominant narratives. I will not be silent when I see injustice. And if that helps just one person feel less alone, or makes just one person reevaluate their thinking, then that makes it all worthwhile.

I’m going to leave you with this YouTube video that they played during the campaigning session at Blogfest. It was a speech from Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, about how one voice can effect change. The speech may be 8 years old, but I’m more fired up and ready to go than ever.

Petite Pudding
Tammymum
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday