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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The things I wish I’d known in my first pregnancy

There are probably thousands of books out there about pregnancy, not to mention the probably millions of blogs and websites dedicated to the topic. So much so, that upon becoming pregnant the first time round, you may be a bit perplexed as to what to read.

Not everybody wants to know all the nitty-gritty details about pregnancy and birth, and that’s just fine. Your health professionals will tell you all you really need to know. But, if you’re the sort of person who likes to know as much as possible as to what you’re in for, then you’re probably going to be looking for a pregnancy book.

When I was pregnant with my first, I bought books about baby care, because I was more worried about that than the pregnancy part. I googled when I had questions about my pregnancy and enjoyed the sites that compare the size of your baby to a fruit or vegetable each week.

But the problem with google searches is they can take you down a black hole of confusion and self-doubt. There are so many websites, and many of them contradict each other. If you are googling because you are worried about some aspect of your pregnancy, this can get kind of stressful. And it also doesn’t help when you come across forums with lots of people spouting completely random opinions. It’s difficult to sort out fake from fact, and it can really lead to you feeling more confused than you did before you started googling.

A book I was recently sent to review, Pregnancy: The Naked Truth by Anya Hayes & Hollie Smith, is the antidote to late-night pregnancy google confusion. It is an amazingly spot-on collection of all the answers to the most common pregnancy questions and worries, aimed specifically at modern British mums. It is much more down-to-earth, less generalising, less judgemental, and less old-fashioned than other pregnancy books I’ve come across.

Some of the topics it covers include:

  • What’s safe to eat/drink/do in pregnancy without any scaremongering or overly cautious advice.
  • Everything to expect in terms of pregnancy symptoms – what’s normal and when you should go to the doctor.
  • What to expect from different stages in pregnancy and antenatal appointments.
  • All about work and maternity leave.
  • Sex and pregnancy.
  • Getting ready for birth and baby, and what to expect on the big day.
  • The first few weeks with your newborn.

The best thing about this book is the light, humorous tone it’s written in. It isn’t embarrassed to tell you exactly how flatulent you are likely to be in pregnancy or how loudly you might swear when you’re in labour. It also incorporates first-hand comments from mums who’ve been through it all.

At no point is the book judgemental. It is always realistic (for example when discussing whether you can have the odd glass of wine in pregnancy), and it respects a mum’s ability to decide for herself, given the most up-to-date facts about the matter.

Having already been through pregnancy twice, there was nothing in this book that surprised me. But I learned all of it from stressy googling and (sometimes bitter) experience. This book will prepare you mentally so that some of those aspects of pregnancy no one ever talks about won’t come as too much of a shock.

If you want to know all the secrets of pregnancy that nobody necessarily talks about, read this book. If you like to be prepared for everything, read this book. This is definitely the book I wish I had read when I was a first-time mum-to-be.

I received the book for free for the purposes of writing an honest review.

When parenting starts to get easier

I think most people who read my blog will agree that parenting is bloody hard work. And in the early years, it can sometimes feel a little bit exhausting, a little bit boring, and more than a little bit lonely. If you are already disagreeing with me, you’re probably not my ideal reader, but feel free to judge away because this is my truth.

As babies, our kids are cute and cuddly, but they just eat, sleep and poop all day. Spending your days at home with your little poop machine can get pretty boring and lonely, no matter how much you love them or how grateful you are to have them. I now look back fondly on the days of binge-watching Netflix with a baby constantly attached to my boob, but I have no desire to return to them.

Then they become toddlers and they have minds of their own, but those minds aren’t terribly logical. You’re constantly chasing after them to keep them out of trouble. Often their only thank you for your efforts is a tantrum because you wouldn’t let them jump into that pond and drown.

Toddlers are more interactive, and some parents love playing age-appropriate games with them and letting them get messy with crafts or rolling around in the mud. For me, though, however much I value spending time with my toddler, I’m not super into toddler games. I can only build the train track once or twice before I’m feeling pretty bored. I can’t stand messy play. My toddler won’t let me help with his colouring. Seriously, he steals the pen out of my hand and puts the cap back on. And he still isn’t much of a conversationalist.

Baby and toddler parenting is physically and mentally exhausting. You need to have oceans of patience and be able to to function on very little sleep. But for anyone still in these years and feeling a bit worn out, I have good news:

It gets easier.

My eldest is now 5, and in the last couple of months I have seen such a change in him. He’s suddenly fun! Okay, he has been fun since day one, in the sense that he’s my lovely little boy/bundle of joy/etc. But he’s suddenly started enjoying and being able to do things that I also genuinely enjoy.

With him, I’m no longer needing to remind myself not to look at my phone after he’s “cooked” me a plastic piece of chicken in his toy kitchen for the 10th time in a row. I don’t have to hover over him at the playground to stop him falling on his head. I almost never have to help him wipe his bottom. The less pleasant or boring parts of parenting him are melting away and being replaced by all the reasons I wanted kids in the first place.

1. We have fantastically interesting conversations. My boy asks me questions about life, death and the universe that really challenge me and make me think. I love trying to explain things to him in a way he’ll understand. It’s teaching me a lot, realising how hard things can be to explain. Even simple things like explaining what a play is – as in a theatrical production – can be an interesting challenge if you don’t just resort to Google.

2. He can draw and write all by himself. My 2yo loves drawing but I have to watch him like a hawk so he doesn’t draw on the walls or start eating the pens. But my 5yo can entertain himself long enough for me to have a hot cup of tea, and he draws better than I do now. And the drawings are so sweet. Here is one of my favourites:

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3. He can do cultural stuff. During the Easter holidays I took my 5yo to the British Museum. Now, I might take my toddler to a place like that, but only if I could keep him securely strapped into his buggy the whole time. Otherwise, he’d be chewing on some priceless ancient sculpture before I could say “Mesopotamia”.

But the big boy looked at giant Buddha statues and said “wow”. He listened when I tried to explain the history to him. We happened across a brilliant display where a museum attendant was allowing people to hold ancient coins. My son was fascinated by the coins, carefully examined them with a magnifying glass, and held them so gently. I was in ecstasy that suddenly I could share a museum visit with my son in a way we both enjoyed.

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That’s real currency that was thousands of years old, and we got to hold them! The bottom-left is a Piece of Eight, like pirates had. Aaargh.

I also took him to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home, and was amazed that he was quite happy to walk through the house with me and let me explain what a typewriter is and other anachronisms.

4. He can play video games with me. When I realised I was going to have 2 boys and never a little girl, I did have to take a minute to mourn that there were loads of girly mother–daughter moments I was never going to experience. But I’ve never been all that girly anyway, and I knew that little boys were more likely to share my interest in video games. This promise is now coming to fruition in my 5yo. We’ve started playing Lego Star Wars together on the Wii U and it’s really fun for both of us. We make a great team and neither of us has gone over to the Dark Side just yet.

5. He eats normal food and behaves on picnics. The featured photo is him eating a Subway sandwich at Chartwell. Finally, I can take him out and buy some random food instead of packing like we’re camping for a week every time we leave the house. It’s lovely to be able to have fast food treats from time to time. And even better that we can have a picnic without him wandering off a million times or trying to feed his sandwich to an angry swan (I’m looking at you, 2yo).

6. He’s becoming considerate. As sweet and cuddly as my 2yo is, it is all on his own terms. He suits himself, and that’s fine. But it’s a beautiful thing to see my 5yo beginning to notice how other people feel. He can tell if I’m a bit down and he comforts me. If someone is unwell, he makes them a card. He even willingly shares his food with me sometimes.

It sounds like I’m a bit down on toddlers in this post, but that’s not the intention. I’ll maybe write something soon about the upsides of the toddler years – because there definitely are some. But I had to share my delight at being able to share things I love with my older son and have him begin to understand. He’s changed from baby to child, and he’s going to keep growing up from here. I hope that sharing interests in this way and having some good times will help form a basis of trust that will serve us well when we hit tougher times, because goodness knows growing up is hard work.

Mum Hacks – a book to boost your confidence

I remember being pregnant with my first son and stocking up on parenting books. I was going to crack this parenting thing. I read up on all manner of baby and child care, and had plans in place to totally smash any parenting challenge I might possibly face.

I was such an idiot.

There wasn’t a book in the world that could have prepared me for the onslaught of new information, overwhelming responsibility and lack of sleep that came with my first son’s arrival. I was a quivering mess before he was even finished being born, and it got a lot worse before it got better.

I read books on parenting theories. I read books with pictures and diagrams on how to change a nappy or give your baby a bath. I read books on how to schedule every minute of my baby’s day (you know the ones). Seriously, it might make you feel good to read them, but you don’t need them. You will be too tired to care whether you’re doing the nappy right. You will learn by doing. All the diagrams in the world are not going to prepare you for reality.

But one book I wish I had read before I had my children was Mum Hacks by Tanith Carey. When I agreed to review this book, I thought I might find some new tricks of the trade for me to add to my repertoire. And I have found a few (examples to follow in a bit). But where this book really excels is in laying out a blueprint for the sorts of things you actually need to worry about as a mum.

  • How to cater for your kids’ needs in the kitchen while avoiding it looking like a bombsite.
  • How to entertain your kids without getting buried by a toy tsunami.
  • How to get ready in the morning without shouting like a banshee.
  • How to get your kids to do anything without shouting like a banshee.
  • How to vaguely enjoy a holiday with young children.
  • How to keep your house sort of clean with minimum effort.
  • How to keep yourself sane by looking after yourself.

Now, I have to be honest. Some of the tips, to me, felt sort of obvious. For example, buy a good bib and a massive wipeable plastic highchair. Yep, weaning is a messy business – it’s not a secret. But upon reflection, I realise that tips like that are only obvious to me because I’m on my second toddler now. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff already, and often only by trial and error or blind luck. It actually would have been cool to have known some of these tricks beforehand, instead of googling them at 3am while I fed the baby.

So that’s why I’m recommending that this book is best suited to someone new to the entire business of parenting. It offers that sense of control that I was desperately looking for when I was pregnant with my first. It would have helped me think about what things were practical to buy. It would have helped me organise things in my home while I still had time to organise them, making it easier for me to cope with my little whirlwinds when they arrived. It would have given me a clearer sense of what to prioritise in family life and what is less important.

However, there were a few gems in this book even for the seasoned mum. There’s a bunch of really quick ideas for lunchbox contents that I never would have thought about. I now know how to make pretty pinwheel wrap sandwich thingys (although I clearly still don’t know what to call them).

And every mum should know that you can cut up an apple and then hold it together with a rubber band to stop it getting brown! I also liked the quick makeup tips. I’d never even heard of primer, the use of which apparently makes your makeup stay on better and longer.

So if you’re already a seasoned parent, this book might not change your life. But it is a well-written, amusing read that might add a few more tricks to your repertoire. Even better, buy it as a gift for a first time mum-to-be, and save her a bit of early morning googling.

Mum Hacks: Time-saving tips to calm the chaos of family life by Tanith Carey is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. I received a gratis copy of the book for review purposes.

I know your innocent question wasn’t meant to hurt me…

…but a sibling for my son will just never be possible

A guest post by Suzy from Our Bucket List Lives

I spent over 4 years of my life trying for a baby. Hearing people ask: when were we going to have a baby and wouldn’t we like to have a child? That was tough back then for many reasons. Now I hear different questions nearly every week, and they hurt just as much. Such as “Is Jamie your only child?” or “Are you going to have another?”. They are totally innocent questions but sadly they hurt just as much.

I think it’s so easy for people who have conceived easily and naturally to not think that these sorts of questions could really upset some people. To you they are innocent questions, perhaps a bit of friendly chatter. But to so many these sorts of questions can cut so deep and hurt so much.

I’m sadly one of them. I normally mutter something about “Yes he is the only one”; “He’s more than enough”; blah blah blah. But I’m screaming inside. “Yes he’s the only one and yes I would just love a sibling for my precious miracle. But you know what, he was a miracle, and I couldn’t risk my life again. I certainly couldn’t risk him losing his Mummy to give him a sibling.”

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We went through 4 rounds of IVF to conceive our precious boy. That’s quite enough for anyone to go through. To add to all this, I had an extremely complicated pregnancy, and I fell into the bracket of high risk when it was discovered that I had a placenta accreta.

Definition by Mayo Clinic Staff
“Placenta accreta is a serious pregnancy condition that occurs when blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall. Typically, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall after childbirth. With placenta accreta, part or all of the placenta remains firmly attached. This can cause severe blood loss after delivery. Placenta accreta is considered a high-risk pregnancy complication. If placenta accreta is suspected during pregnancy, you’ll likely need an early C-section delivery followed by the surgical removal of your uterus (hysterectomy).”

Scary stuff hey? But don’t worry; it happens in less than 1% of pregnancies. Yes, I was a rare “case”, and as the chances are super high that I’d get this again with another pregnancy, then the risks are just too much. You can’t really impart all this information to someone when they are asking you such innocent questions. Nor would I want to. Sadly, there’s so many women out there who have been through similar events. Not just having to have so many rounds of IVF for one baby, but who have gone through their pregnancy with such high risks that having another would just be impossible … and crazy!

So yes, I nearly died having Jamie. I lost a scary amount of blood and I was under general anaesthetic for 7 hours while they tried to make me well enough again. I didn’t meet our gorgeous son for 24 hours because I was so poorly, and the road to recovery was long and hard. The worst thing was that I never even saw my son come into this world because I was under anaesthetic. I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. 

The last 4 weeks of my pregnancy were spent away from home – either in hospital because I was bleeding or in a hotel nearby in case of an emergency, as they basically wouldn’t let me go home because we lived too far away. When Jamie was born, we were both in hospital for 10 days after because I was so poorly and because of the strict observations they had me under. 

This is why I could never give Jamie his much wanted sibling. I had always dreamed of having two kids. That’s how I lived my life. I have a brother 2 years younger than me and we played so much together when we were younger. I am ever aware that Jamie will never have this. Sad thing is, this isn’t just me and my story. There are thousands of stories out there. The couples who struggle to conceive at all and the couples who could never give their child a sibling.

In conclusion, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask questions like this because, hey, it’s only human nature to be interested in others. Just take into account that perhaps for some people these questions could hurt more than you can imagine. We know you mean well.

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Please check out Suzy on social media:

Two Tiny Hands

She’s just a mother

A good of friend of mine had a little rant on Facebook last weekend about two things she heard on Radio 4’s Today programme that really made her cross. The first was one female reporter talking with disgust about the picture of Tamara Ecclestone feeding her 3 year old. The second was when another presenter made a counter-argument for government funding for parks and green spaces because “aren’t they just for mums pushing babies around in prams?”.

My friend was upset by the way these two moments on what is usually an enlightened radio programme minimised the experience, expertise and contribution of mothers, and even vilified them. Her impassioned post got me thinking about this quite a bit, and I asked her permission to write about it here.

My friend is right that in society motherhood can be seen as mundane – so everyday that it doesn’t bear thinking about. Or it can be put up on a pedestal – a model of selflessness and competence that many feel they can never live up to.

Motherhood is also something to be regulated. She should breastfeed, but not in public and not for too long. Stay-at-home mums are bored and boring. Working mums are abandoning their children.

On a recent Mumsnet thread, a person rubbished mum blogs, saying “Why would you read a blog written by a bog standard Mum? Isn’t there anything better to read?” Many on the thread agreed with her.

Well, there are all sorts of things to read in the world, some more compelling than others, but what is it about motherhood in particular that wouldn’t be worth reading about? Why is it unimportant for mums to have parks to walk in with their prams?

It’s a lie that society tells us: that women bringing up children is something that is merely to be expected.

This expectation – that we are just doing our jobs – is the reason only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. It’s the reason that maternity discrimination is still pushing women out of work. It’s why mothers who want to work are still told they can’t have it all.

It’s the reason that stay-at-home mums are still asked what they do all day, and modern dads are tired of being called “babysitters”. It’s why dads who take their kids to playgroups or to parenting rooms are often ostracized and even accused of perversion. It’s why there are still no bloody changing tables in the majority of men’s public toilets.

Despite years of feminism, western society still sees women as the primary caregivers for children, and yet sees caregiving as menial work. And as the work we do is menial, everyone thinks they’re qualified to have an opinion about it.

“What does she know about the best way to feed her child? She’s just a mother.”

“Why is she complaining about losing her job? She chose to become a mother.”

“Why does she write about the highs and lows of motherhood? ONLY other mothers would want to read that.”

“She doesn’t know what’s good for her. I have a right to regulate her body and her parenting choices.”

“She’s too fat/too thin/a yummy mummy/a slummy mummy.”

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This is not to say we haven’t made progress. We do have more choices than we once did. We can speak and act more freely than we ever could. But there is still work to be done. We need to let the multitude of female voices – mothers or not – speak for themselves and be heard. We need to carry on defending one another’s choices, even when we don’t agree.

We need to keep telling the world about our “mundane” lives, because they’re not mundane. Our lives are REAL and they are IMPORTANT. And the world needs to know.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Am I rocking motherhood?

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Angela at Life, Motherhood and Everything to participate in White Camellia’s #RockingMotherhood tag. The concept of it is that us busy mums are so focussed on just taking care of business that we forget how great we really are. It’s easy to spend lots of time criticising ourselves or trying to improve, but sometimes it’s good to just take a minute to remind ourselves what we’re doing right. So for this, I’m meant to list 10 ways that I’m “rocking” motherhood.

I have to say that this is not something I would have volunteered for! It is definitely a difficult exercise, but I can see the value in it. You may not agree that the things I do to “rock it” are actually good things! But oh well, here we go…

1. I read a ridiculous amount of stories

Every night, me or their dad read a total of 7 stories. Four for the 4yo and 3 for the slightly more restless 2yo. I’m given to understand that reading so many stories before bed is slightly unusual. But they love it. They love the stories and the attention. And I can see it’s paid off for my 4yo, who is really doing well at learning to read on his own now he’s started school.

2. I also sing a lot of songs

Each boy gets around 3 songs after their story bonanza every night. The 4yo prefers pop music, jazz standards and musical theatre soundtracks. The 2yo always has the same three: Twinkle Star, Black Sheep and Row Your Boat. Like with the reading, I think it’s really benefiting them to learn different songs that constitute part of our culture and to begin taking an interest in music generally.

3. My kids love fruit and vegetables

I don’t know how I did it, but I’m going to go ahead and take the credit. They love their fruit and veg. Both of them will eat broccoli until the cows come home (weird expression – do cows really take a long time to get home?). The eldest often prefers to eat cucumbers and tomatoes to a burger, and will always, always eat fruit. He still thinks it counts as a pudding!

4. The lounge belongs to them

While I can totally understand that some parents prefer to keep the lounge as an adult space, I take the opposite strategy. My lounge is completely covered in toys, and I think that’s a good thing. It is only a very short time that my kids will have loads of toys that they will want to play with in the same room as me. There will be many years when they prefer to hide away in their rooms. So for now, we will all be together in the lounge.

5. I always have time to explain things

It’s a stereotypical story that kids will ask endless questions and parents might just say “I don’t know, leave me alone”. You know, questions like “Why is the sky blue”. I never fob off my kids when they have questions about how the world works. I try to explain what I know, and if I have no idea, we google it together. It’s a great way to spend time together.

6. I try to give them choices when I can

This is something I’m working on and I don’t always excel at. Instead of just dictating things to them, I try to give them viable choices so they can feel like they exert some control over their lives. I’m hoping this is the root to teaching them some autonomy and independence and to making them into confident people.

7. I spend a lot of time teaching them life skills

This is sort of connected to the previous point. I spend loads of time teaching them things like swimming, riding scooters/bikes, cooking, turn taking, climbing. These are things I think they need to know to be well-rounded individuals.

8. I teach them about culture

Be it high or low, I like exposing my kids to things that will expand their horizons. This includes watching lots of different films and TV, listening to pop music, as well as days out to museums, stately homes, etc.

9. I spend time away from them

I am a big believer that absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is as true for parenting as it is for other relationships. A bit of me-time (even if that so-called me time is actually working) makes me a happier, more patient parent when I’m with them.

10. I am honest with them

Okay – mostly honest. When it’s important, I always try to explain the truth to them in a way they will understand. And I try to never make promises that I’m not sure I can keep. I may, however, be guilty of telling minor porkie pies about whether or not there are any biscuits left in the tin.

I’m tagging the following lovely bloggers to join in with this tag next, if they want to:

http://sparklymummy.com/
https://meyoubabytoo.wordpress.com/
http://adventuresofmummyandme.com/
http://www.belledubrighton.co.uk/

Petite Pudding
Tammymum

Mothers don’t sacrifice themselves. Not even for Sherlock Holmes.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains a moan about a key plot point of Sherlock, Series 4, Episode 1. If you haven’t caught up on that yet, you might like to come back later. If you’ve seen it or don’t intend on seeing it, read on … you don’t need to watch it to understand my rant.

Right. So in this episode, Watson’s wife Mary, who has just had a baby, takes a bullet for Sherlock and dies. Sherlock is generally a show that I feel has pretty good writing and convincing plots. But this little twist, designed to give us all the feels, just rang false for me. I couldn’t get with the empathy.

After thinking about it for a bit, I realised why. Mary had just had a baby. And Sherlock, though a very close friend, was just this fairly annoying bloke who solves mysteries with her husband. I simply can’t fathom why a woman with a baby would make a decision to put her life at risk to save an arrogant man who was standing there DARING someone to shoot him. Call me a judgey mum if you like, but in my experience, mums don’t take their lives so lightly.

When you have a baby, especially in the early days, that baby is the centre of your universe. They become your reason for getting up in the morning. They might make you forget to eat, but they are also the reason you remember that you need to feed yourself. In the early days, caring for your baby is the rhythm of your existence, and your need to be with them is visceral.

I suffered through some dark times with my babies, including PND, and it was because of them that I didn’t give up on myself. I may have felt hopeless and at times that I was not bonding with my baby, but my thoughts were still all turned on the baby, and I battled through the bad feelings to survive and to make sure my babies were cared for.

I can forgive Mary for trying to “disappear” to get away from the bad guys that were hunting her. But when she sacrifices herself, she was already in the clear from the assassin-types. Then Sherlock was just standing there asking this lady to shoot without moving out of the way. Perhaps he already had a death wish. And she’s all like, “I could push him out of the way, or tackle the shooter, but nope, I’d rather jump in front of the bullet”.

I don’t know if the man who wrote that script is a dad or not, but I just don’t think parents are that slapdash with their lives. And that’s why the plotline is, in my opinion, totally unrealistic.

Perhaps my Sherlock outrage says more about me than anyone else, but it has got me thinking about how loving our children means loving ourselves. I think it’s wrong to unnecessarily expose oneself to danger when you have kids to look after. And that’s a lesson that I should apply to my daily life as well. Obviously I don’t have much opportunity to jump in front of bullets anyway, but there are more mundane things I could do (and maybe you, too, if you feel the same), to look after myself. I should do it just for myself, but looking after myself is good for my kids too!

So here are a few things, serious and less so, that I’m going to be careful about, so that I can look after my kids and myself.

Dangerous holiday destinations

I have a friend who enjoys visiting places that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office would prefer you avoid. More power to him and his sense of adventure. But for me, I have become a total travelling sissy since having kids. I’ve been travelling to utterly rural and random caravan parks in the hopes that no one wants to make a violent statement in those sorts of places. I obviously can’t avoid London, but I don’t see any reason to go somewhere doubtful if I don’t need to.

Health stuff

If I have the slightest doubt about my health, physical or mental, then I take myself off to the GP. There is no point waiting around and wondering if things will resolve on their own. Better to have peace of mind. And I’m extra mindful of how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS. I can get peace of mind without emptying my purse!

Looking after myself

I’m giving myself permission to spend time exercising and worrying about what I’m eating. These things take my attention away from my kids but ultimately make me fitter so that I can be around for them in the long term and, in the short term, be healthier to enjoy my time with them.

Doing stupid stuff

Should I try to jump off the back of the Routemaster bus before it has stopped? No I should not. Should I drink an entire bottle of vodka on a rare night out? No I should not. My kids stop me doing those fun things that I might have risked when it was only my arse on the line.

Don’t be a hero?

I often think about what I would do if I found myself in a crisis situation – a crash or a violent incident. While I would like to think of myself as someone who would help others where I can, I know that my biggest priority would be keeping myself safe. Not for me, but because I don’t want my kids to be without their mum.

Going out to meet my problems

I used to be a fatalist about just about everything. I used to think “Oh well. It’s no big deal. If I die, to die would be a great adventure (you know, like in Peter Pan).” Now, instead, I think how to solve my problems without risking my wellbeing. Not that many of my problems involve life and death. But I do think about these things…

And Mary should have too.

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A Mum Track Mind

Does your bedtime routine actually work?

The bedtime routine has taken on a sort of magical status in our house in that I dare not depart from it in fear that the kids would not go to sleep. However, I’m starting to wonder if it is as effective as I imagine. Herewith, a dramatisation of a typical evening in our house.

18:00 BST

Mum: It’s bathtime!

4yo: Nooooooo! You need to have a picnic with me and then I need to tidy the picnic away!

Mum: Fine. Drinks imaginary drinks and pretends to eat plastic food. Finished! Now it’s bathtime.

4yo: I just need to tidy up the picnic. Very carefully proceeds to put all the plastic food in the plastic picnic basket. Then very … slowly … folds the tiny picnic blanket in a tiny square shape.

Mum: Ok NOW it’s bathtime.

4yo: But but but…

Mum: I will remove pasta from your reward jar! 4yo begins running up the stairs. Hey you, 1yo, it’s bathtime.

1yo: In manner of Churchill Dog Oh no no no no.

Mum picks up 1yo old and carries up stairs as 1yo arches back and impersonates a piece of timber.

18:15 BST

Mum: 4yo, please sit on the toilet.

4yo: I’m too tired.

Mum: The sooner you go to the toilet, the sooner you can go to sleep. Pulls down 4yo pants and places him on toilet. Removes the rest of his clothes in anticipation of bathtime. Hey, 1yo, let’s get you ready for bathtime!

1yo: Oh no no no! 1yo runs away and hides in a corner. Mum picks him up and takes him to his changing mat while he once again impersonates a piece of wood. Removes clothes from 1yo and places him on his potty.

Mum: Hey, 4yo, are you done on the toilet?

4yo: singing whilst remaining on toilet Tomblibooooo Tombli Tombli boooooooo!

Mum: Runs bath. If you’re done on the toilet, you should get off the toilet!

1yo: cackles as he pushes toilet seat aggressively onto 4yo.

4yo: Oooow! Brother hurt my back!

Mum: THEN GET OFF THE TOILET. 4yo gets off the toilet. Now brush your teeth. 4yo brushes teeth and fed up mum wordlessly lifts him up and deposits him into the bath. Ok 1yo, now it’s your turn to brush your teeth.

1yo: Oh no no no no.

Mum picks up 1yo and places him on the stool by the sink. 4yo impersonates jelly and melts down onto the floor. Mum tries to pick up 1yo. 1yo returns to wood impersonation. Mum lays 1yo down on lap and forcibly brushes teeth, then places 1yo in the bath.

4yo: My brother is stealing all the bubbles! Aggressively moves all the bubbles to his side of the bath.

1yo: Screams because he has no f*cking bubbles

Mum: Pours water over both children’s heads. Washes hair and body whilst ignoring screams and protestations.

18:45 BST

Mum: Time to get out of the bath!

1yo: Oh no no no no!

Mum: forcibly removes wood-like toddler from bath, dresses him and leaves him in his bedroom. Ok 4yo, it’s time for you to get out too.

4yo: But I just need to finish making this volcano. Mum watches while 4yo fills a cup with water and then covers it with a flannel.

Mum: Ok, now let’s get out. I’m going to count to three. 1 … 2 …

4yo: In mortal fear of reaching three, opens the drain of the bath and gets out. Runs into bedroom with towel and hides underneath it. I need to be a pillow!

Mum: Pretends to use towel-wrapped 4yo as a pillow (like every night) Wow, this pillow is sooo comfy. Ok now put on your pajamas.

No response. Mum picks up 4yo and applies his pajamas while he ignores her and attempts to build a bus stop out of Duplo bricks.

Right, now play in your room while I get your brother to sleep.

19:00 BST

Mum reads stories to 1yo and actually enjoys this bit, with cuddles and giggles. Then she lets him drink a large quantity of water. Then she sings Twinkle Star and places him into bed with appropriate toys and dummy. Turns musical projection mobile on. Does secret prayer that this bedtime ritual will work tonight.

Mum: Night night, sleep tight, Mummy loves you, see you in the morning. Magical phrase must be repeated exactly the same each night.

19:10 BST

Mum reads no less than 4 stories with 4yo while he offers continual non-stop explanation of all the illustrations. 4yo gets in bed and mum turns the Gro Clock on (VERY IMPORTANT).

Mum: Would you like a song tonight?

4yo: Yes but it has to be a NEW song that you haven’t sung before.

Mum: But I have already sung you all the songs I’ve ever known.

4yo: Fine, then just sing “Summer of ’69” again.

Mum: I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five and dime, played it ’til my fingers bled, was the summer of ’69! Mum continues to do her best Bryan Adams impersonation while 1yo starts crying in the other room. Okay, big boy, time for sleep. Kisses 4yo.

4yo: 4yo kisses Mum precisely 5 times on the cheek in return and then shouts, Weird!!!

Mum: Night night, sleep tight, mummy loves you, see you when your sun comes up. Runs next door and puts 1yo back in bed.

19:30 BST

Mum goes downstairs, cleans up toys, does the washing up, puts a load of washing on, pours a drink and sits down to watch telly and/or blog. She hears a squeaking doorknob and crying. She runs upstairs and puts 1yo back in bed. Goes back downstairs, takes a drink.

19:40 BST

4yo: shouting from his bed I NEED A POO!!

Mum: Shouting back from downstairs THEN JUST GO!!

19:55 BST

4yo: Still on the toilet, singing Tomblibooo, tombli tombli boooooo!

1yo: Waaaaaa! Mummy mummy mummy!

Mum: runs upstairs. 4yo, please get off the toilet. Puts 1yo back in bed. 4yo is still on the toilet. Mum has to physically remove him from the toilet and assist with wiping and hand washing. Puts 4yo back into bed. Then puts 1yo back into bed again.

20:05 BST

Mum goes downstairs and gets in a solid 10 minutes of blogging. 

20:15 BST

CRASH BANG! Mum runs upstairs. Toddler has removed all the clothes from his wardrobe and wedged a toy lightsaber behind the radiator. Mum tidies up, puts toddler back in bed, and goes downstairs. 

20:30 BST

4yo:  Shouting from his bed again Mummmmyyyyy! My covers are all messed up.

Mum: runs upstairs, fixes 4yo’s slightly disarrayed covers. You know, you could fix these yourself.

4yo: I love you mummy.

Mum: I love you too now please please please go to sleep!

1yo: Waaaaaaa! Mum puts 1yo back into bed again.

21:00 BST

All is finally quiet. At last, mum can do some writing, maybe watch Bake Off. She finishes her glass of wine and falls asleep drooling on the sofa.

What’s bedtime like in your house?

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20 parenting moments I don’t want to forget

20 parenting moments I don't want to forget

I’ve been talking a lot about some the harder parts of parenting, so I’m trying to add a few happy posts to balance it all out. To quasi-quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, I would like to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.

Obi Wan Kenobi

Sure, I still have to wipe a lot of bottoms and noses and clean up the odd bit of sick. Yes, it’s true that they both wake up multiple times every night and I am always tired. But there are some wonderful things happening right now, and some things that happened not too long ago that I want to hold in my heart forever.

I wish I could bottle these things and save them for later when they’re long gone. There are hundreds of photos and videos, but some moments can’t be captured by a camera.

So here is my list of 20 early years parenting moments that I don’t want to forget:

  1. When one of them sits on my lap and I bury my face in his hair. The smell of the baby shampoo and the soft texture of the babyish hair (never mind the possibility of the odd nit).
  2. The half-a-minute each day when my boys show their brotherly love for each other – a shy little cuddle, sharing a bit of food, or playing nicely without it ending in a screamfest.
  3. The way my toddler dances with pure joy to any music at all. Even the ring of a mobile phone.
  4. All four of us snuggling in bed together in the early hours of the morning.
  5. The way my eldest never stops talking and loves to explain how things work (putting his own fanciful take on it, of course).
  6. Hugging both of them on the sofa and watching kid’s movies on lazy Sunday afternoons.
  7. The snorty mcsnuffles sound my youngest makes while contentedly sucking his dummy.
  8. The day each of them first gripped my finger with their tiny hands when they were newborns.
  9. The feeling of having them fall asleep in my arms.
  10. My toddler’s hilarious forays into talking (yelling ‘caaat’ at the cat and saying ‘beep’ while touching your nose), which he refuses to perform while the camera is recording.
  11. Watching CBeebies. My eldest is starting to move on to CBBC and I’m really going to miss Mister Maker and Iggle Piggle.
  12. The way my boys cuddle their soft toys. We grow up to think boys aren’t as sentimental as girls but that is not how it begins.
  13. Getting to choose what clothes they wear every day.
  14. Reading them stories. My eldest is starting to read the stories to me now, which is also nice, but I was loving the sound of my own voice. 😉
  15. Holding their little hands. Having them not be ashamed to hold my hand anytime in public.
  16. Having them jump into my arms when I pick them up from childcare/school.
  17. Answering endless “why” questions.
  18. The way they play so happily together when they’re in the bath. I often dread bathtime, but someday they’ll be too big for bathtime together with mummy presiding.
  19. The way my eldest says “I love you mummy”. And I say “I love you too”. Then he says, “That’s great.”
  20. Singing them to sleep.

What are your favourite moments with your children? If you could bottle one thing from their early years, what would it be?

Obi-Wan photo by Wacko Photographer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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