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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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

A clean house is all in your head

I am not a fan of cleaning, and I’m not particularly good at it. I wouldn’t normally remember to wipe down skirting boards or move things to clean behind them. I struggle to find a way of keeping my house in a vaguely respectable state without spending too much of my valuable time on it. When I google for tricks and shortcuts, I mostly find overly ambitious cleaning rotas that make me feel like lying down in a darkened room.

I did try getting a cleaner, but she was never any more thorough than I would be – and sometimes less so – so I didn’t really feel it was worth the money or the loss of privacy.

So I was back to square one in trying to stem the rising tide of chaos in my home. I will never have an immaculate show home, nor do I particularly want one, but I have found that I feel happier if my house is hoovered and my bathroom smells clean. The other annoying things about life are less annoying when your surroundings are pleasant. It can actually have a pretty profound effect on my state of mind.

The problem is I’m kind of busy. I work, I have 2 small children that leave chaos in their wake, I blog, I have a social life, and I even exercise. Where does cleaning fit into this?

I can proudly announce that after years of struggle (and basically inexcusable years of having a much messier house before I had children), I have figured out how to keep vaguely on top of the cleaning. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s working for me. I’ve found by changing the way I think about cleaning, I can be much better at it.

So here are the things that have helped me, in case they might help you too:

You don’t have to do it all at once

I used to plan to “clean the house” as if it were one big job. And because I grouped a large set of tasks together into one, the enormity of the task simply grew in my mind. I would get all stressed thinking about all the cleaning I had to do. I would need to have a cup of tea and a nap to prepare myself for the arduous task. I would end up procrastinating all day and never do any cleaning.

So, I don’t “clean the house” anymore. I do discrete cleaning tasks, as and when I can. If I have a few spare minutes, I run the hoover around just the downstairs, or I’ll pop upstairs and clean the bathroom surfaces. Sometimes I’ll then feel like doing more, and sometimes I won’t. You can prioritise the tasks that need doing, and do just one at a time, when you have time. I’ve actually found this approach saves me from utter boredom sometimes. When I pick up my phone to scroll Facebook for the 27th time in a day, I decide to get out the Mr Sheen instead.

You don’t need to have a set routine

I used to think I needed to hoover the whole house and clean the bathroom every week, and tidy and dust and mop etc etc etc. Now, I clean things when they start to look dirty. I am not a pre-emptive cleaner. If it is dirty, I clean it. If not, then it can wait until later.

You also don’t need to try and work out which cleaning tasks you do on certain days. This helps some people, and I see a lot of these lists around the internet, but for if you’re a cleaning slacker like me, it might just make you feel a bit stressed. Do the task that you dislike the least first. It’s better than doing nothing.

Seize the day

Sometimes you’re not particularly busy and you notice that something is looking a bit mucky. Why not just quickly wipe it down right this minute? It will only take 5 minutes, but if you put off a small task like that or add it to your burgeoning list of tasks to do later, it will just get bigger (in your head at least).

Get a cordless hoover if you can

If you can afford a cordless hoover, it’s a total game changer. Sometimes getting out “the big hoover”, dragging it around and plugging it in is too much for me. I just whip out the cordless and hoover up a few Cheerios when I need to.

It’s totally okay to clean with wet wipes

Sometimes your sink is all full of toothpaste smears but you’re not going downstairs to dig out cif and a sponge, and then moving all your stuff off the edges of the sink. Grab a wet wipe and wipe that baby down. It’s not a thorough clean, but you’ll feel better if your sink looks clean.

Share the load

If you share your home with other adults, they should be pulling their weight with the housework. If you don’t, it’s a bit trickier – but never be ashamed to accept help where it is offered.

My husband and I have specific tasks and areas of the house that are “our responsibility”. These have been agreed based on mutual preferences. It takes a lot of pressure off to know that there are some things I don’t ever have to do! However, if I have a spare moment, then I don’t hesitate to do one of “his” tasks … and he helps me with mine too. That’s teamwork.

When the kids are old enough, I hope to get them to share the load as well. Their future housemates or partners will thank me!

Life is more important

Don’t mentally beat yourself up if you don’t manage to do any cleaning when you’d hoped to. Time with friends and family, and even with yourself, is more important.

If you have any children under 2, pat yourself on the back if you manage to do any cleaning at all. If you don’t, still pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing a great job ignoring those dastardly cobwebs.

On your deathbed, you are not going to look back and wish you’d had a cleaner house. You’ll be glad you cuddled your kids, your partner and/or your pets, and drank wine (or tea) with your friends.

What is your approach to fitting house cleaning into your busy lifestyle? Did you let it grow into a monster job in your head like me? Do you think the bitesize approach will work?

 

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

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

Big Girls DO cry

Sometimes, life is just a bit too much. Sometimes things are a bit crap. I’m not going to define what crap is. It might be catastrophically crap; it might be an everyday, yet relentless sort of crap. But it happens to all of us.

My current sort of crap is the type that is little things piled on top big things that all conspire to crush me.

The big one, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is that my grandmother is dying. She brought me up when I was little and is one of the people I love most in the world. She has been unresponsive for months now and we’re finally moving her into hospice care. It has been difficult: missing her already but not feeling I’m allowed to grieve until she’s truly all-the-way gone. And I have yet before me the task of learning how to exist in a world without her in it.

The second biggest one is that I keep having these weird episodes in which my heart pounds and races. The other day one of the episodes lasted a full 10 minutes and my Fitbit said my heart rate was 194 bpm. I ended up spending that night in A&E, but they didn’t find anything wrong beyond a slight arrhythmia – which is apparently pretty common. So I’ve been worried about my health. Do I have a heart problem or is a stress/anxiety thing? I don’t know yet.

And then there are lots of other little/big things. Getting called in by the headteacher at school to meet about my son’s “behavioural issues”. The mum that snubbed me at the school gates. Running behind with work deadlines. Feeling emotional at work and fighting back tears at ridiculously inappropriate moments. Feeling fed up with blogging and yet not truly wanting to quit.

I’m sure all of you can relate to some of this. Big problems, little problems, 1st world problems – whatever. There is no hierarchy of problems. The fact is: if they are upsetting you, affecting you, making it difficult for you to function as you would wish, then they are significant.

Ignoring these things, downplaying them and telling yourself to get over it is not going to help. You need to confront these feelings head on. To say, “this is the way I’m feeling, and that’s okay”.

But at the same time, we all have a lot on our plates. I know there have been days when all I wanted to do was curl up on the floor and wallow in my grief. But I didn’t. Because I couldn’t. I’ve got small people to look after. And if I lay down on the floor they are going to jump on top of me and demand to be flown around in the air.

I have a job that needs doing because I have a mortgage that needs paying. I have other friends and family that need me to be there for them. As much as I’d like to, I just can’t give up. I can’t mentally check out and take a holiday from all of my responsibilities.

And so the pressure of all of my troubles weigh on me and are compounded by my need to keep on going even when I want to quit.

But the other day, after I’d spent the night in A&E – when I felt tired and lost and lonely and sad and fed up – I had a revelation. My husband was at work. My kids were at school and nursery. I’d called in sick to work because I’d been awake all night in hospital. And when my grief pricked me in the eye, I let it. There was no one there to see.

So I cried.

But I didn’t cry like a grownup. I didn’t cry the way you cry at a sad movie, with tears running down your face quietly and the odd little hiccup. I didn’t cry the way you do in front of other people, when you are desperately trying to stop – trying to hide it – apologising for your crass display of emotion.

I cried like a child. I screamed. I moaned and groaned and probably sounded much like a cow giving birth. Nobody could hear me. So I let every messy feeling pour out in tears and great wracking sobs.

And when my tears dried up and I was tired of railing against the universe, I simply stopped. And it was like a great weight had been lifted.

I’ve since been doing a bit of googling about crying and apparently there is scientific evidence that crying releases stress. Tears actually contain stress hormones that are leaving your body when you let them go.

Ever since my big cry, everything has seemed easier. I’m not crying at work anymore. I’m not feeling as tense around my family. I’m able to keep doing what I need to do while I weather my personal storms. I had thought if I didn’t cry, I was being strong. But really I was stifling all of the emotions that scared me, instead of facing them. When I didn’t let them out, they festered.

So I’m not going to start making crying one of my big hobbies. But it’s comforting to know that I can – and should – cry when I need to.

Crying is okay AND it helps. So the next time it’s all a bit (or more than a bit) crap, send the family out of the house, close the curtains, put the kettle on, and let the tears flow.

The anxiety of parenting…

Clare has written this fantastic guest post describing her anxiety about her eldest son starting high school. Even though my blog usually discusses parenting of younger children, I think the emotions she is feeling are something that many parents experience, no matter their children’s ages. I hope that her honest sharing will make people feel less alone when dealing with anxiety.

A guest post by Clare from NeonRainbowBlog

My eldest son Oli is 11 this year and joining the world of high schoolers in September. He is nothing but excited about the whole experience. For him this marks his leap into becoming an adult, where he gets more freedom and more responsibility. However, for me, I feel apprehension. My baby is no longer a baby at all, and I have no choice but to let him grow. If I could stop time right now I would, because in all honesty I don’t want him to grow up.

Oli-1.jpg

I’ve always been an overprotective parent and I often say the words “It’s better to be overprotective than underprotective”. Throughout Oli’s life he has had to deal with his Mum’s anxiety over letting him grow up, and even though to him it’s normal and doesn’t really phase him, I’ve no doubt when high school and the teenage years really do kick in that it may become somewhat of a problem.

As he’s grown up, my anxiety over parenting him has reared it’s ugly head numerous times. For example:

  1. I was always reluctant to let other people babysit him. When I did it would cause me nothing but worry, panic and nervousness.
  2. Trips to the park were coupled with overbearing “be careful, don’t do that, watch you don’t fall, wait your turn, don’t push in” comments. I’d be constantly following him around like he would break or fall at any moment.
  3. The same could be said for letting him walk places with us. This gave me major anxiety: what if he veered near the road, what if he fell by accident and into the road, what if a car came up onto the path and he was in front, what if, what if, what if.
  4. Even learning to ride a bike came with unbearable anxiety over him falling off, going out of my sight, hitting something, something hitting him.
  5. More recently he started playing out in our cul-de-sac and our neighbours houses. This prompted constant worry over where he was; was he being good? Could I trust him to know his boundaries? And lots more “what ifs”. I’d constantly look out the window or just sit there doing stuff while continuously being able to see him. I’d also text the other mums to make sure he was behaving or being good.

I feel like my anxiety does go beyond the realms of usual parental anxieties. I know every parent will feel some sort of panic over their child growing up, making changes and becoming their own person, but when does that panic get too much?

As time has gone on the anxiety I feel when my son plays out has subsided. He can play out in our little street and in the neighbours’ houses and I feel virtually anxiety free. I’ve gotten used to it. He even ventures over to the shop or the Pokestop on our estate (it’s a few mins away) with his friends – he has to have his phone with him, and a time limit to be back for before I go looking, but 9/10 I feel okay with him going – not 100%, but manageable.

However the thought of him going to high school is terrifying me.

High school for me was a terrible experience. Most of the anxiety I harbour today was born in that playground. I was bullied by my own “friends”, no less (though I didn’t really see this until I was an adult). I felt like I had nobody I could fully trust or who wanted to genuinely be my friend. There would be days I had lots of friends to hang out with, but the very next day they could decide they didn’t want to hang out with me at all, so I’d be the loner. There was no stability for me, and that’s why I find it hard to form friendships now I am an adult. I struggle to trust anyone, and those feelings of sadness, hurt and anxiety I felt are always at the forefront of my mind when I think back to my experience of high school.

I feel all those old feelings of anxiety are flooding back to me every time I think about him going. What if he gets bullied? What if nobody likes him? Will he be okay walking to and from school (even though it’s at the bottom of our estate)?

But furthermore, what about when he wants to go out with his friends alone and go to parties? I don’t know how I am going to cope with giving him that kind of freedom, but I know it’s an essential part of growing up.

Is it just my anxiety from childhood that makes me so nervous for my own child? Will the anxiety fade like when I started giving him the freedom to play out in our street?

I honestly don’t know and I wish I had the answers. All I can hope is that it isn’t too much of a rough ride and that I’ve taught my boy enough about the world to make the right choices.

Any advice for this overprotective, anxiety ridden mother?

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Two Tiny Hands