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
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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

Clothes that fit your shape with Celuu

When it comes to clothes, I am NOT an online shopper. I find it very difficult to find clothes that fit properly and flatter my size 16 shape, and I hate the idea of having to ship back an item of clothing that I bought online when I find that it doesn’t fit or flatter.

The other clothing problem I have is that I am a mum of small children. This means 2 things:

  • Having babies has changed my shape from what it was before and I’m no longer entirely sure what looks good or fits me.
  • I have no time to comb the high street to find nice clothes.

These two problems are compounded by the fact that much of what is available on the high street caters to women who are a size 12 or less. If I pop into New Look or Dorothy Perkins, size 16 is usually the largest size I can find on the rack. And then it still won’t necessarily fit. It will either still be too tight, or it will just be a massive shapeless tent.

Many high street stores just have a single template for an item of clothing. To make the item a bigger size, they just scale it up. This does not take into account that the proportions and shape of a size 16 woman are very different from that of a size 8 woman.

So this is why I was very interested in the opportunity to review clothing brand Celuu. Born from 50 years’ experience of British design, Celuu offers clothes in sizes 12-22. They aim to follow current fashion trends while still being comfortable and wearable for a normal person. Here is a little gallery of some of their current offering:

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The thing I like best about them is their “fit philosophy”. They adjust the design features of the clothes individually for each size in order to make sure they fit properly. This avoids what I like to call the “tent effect” of high street fashion – in which clothes that might have looked attractive on a size 10 look like a shapeless tent on a size 16.

Putting it to the test

Celuu sent me a top of my choice to try out. They have a brilliant size guide on their site in which you can use your body measurements to find out the right size for you. However, I didn’t use it. I just went for my usual size 16 to see how that would compare to the size 16 clothes I’d been trying in high street shops recently (and let’s just say I came away empty-handed and disappointed from all of those trips).

I chose a floral print tunic top that looked like it had a bit of shaping in the waist. I was hoping it would be able to handle my ample bosom and give me a waist. The verdict: I loved it. I even wore it to a blogger event and shouted about it on Instagram:

It fit effortlessly and made me feel really confident and fashionable. The fabric had a nice feel to it and didn’t get creased while I was wearing it – very important as I only iron for weddings, funerals and job interviews.

Like any online shop, if something doesn’t fit or you don’t like it when you’ve received it, you can return the item free within 14 days. But as I said before, that seems like so much of a faff. However, Celuu’s sizing method along with some great photography on the clothing product pages has reduced that risk for me. I was so pleased that the top looked just like I imagined it would after having seen it on the model on the product’s page. There was no photographic trickery or things surreptitiously pinned to sit nicer, the way that high street stores sometimes do on their mannequins.

I also love that the store focuses on sizes 12–22. It seems like there are plenty of stores out there catering for women who are smaller than a size 12, so why shouldn’t there be a shop that focuses on the rest of us? This brand allows us to love the way we look – and feel confident just the way we are – instead of thinking we need to slim down in order to wear beautiful clothes.

Celuu might just have made an online clothing shopper out of me! If you want to give it a go, you can get 10% off your order by entering the code “comp10” at checkout.

Competition: Win a £1000 wardrobe upgrade

To celebrate the launch of their new Spring/Summer range, Celuu are giving one lucky person the chance to win a £1000 wardrobe upgrade! The winner will get to choose a range of clothing from the website up to this incredible amount and really make this season one to remember. Entrance to this exclusive competition is easy: just sign up on Celuu’s competition page, and you will be in with a shot of winning this fabulous prize. Hurry though – the competition closes on the 8th May. Good Luck!

Disclosure: I received an item of my choice to keep from Celuu’s website in exchange for an honest review and sharing their competition details.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday