There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve noticed that New Year’s Resolutions are a bit out of style these days. Some say: don’t make them because you’re going to break them anyway. Years of people making unrealistic goals for themselves and then failing have led to people not bothering at all, even scoffing at the whole notion.

However, I think that taking stock of the past year, and allowing yourself a fresh start, is a good idea. It’s not “new year, new me”. I’m the same me, but I want to set some gentle intentions for things I’d like to do it the year ahead. I also want to let you know about some things that are going to change on this blog.

A year reviewed

As years go, 2017 has not been my favourite one. The worst part of it was saying goodbye to both of my grandparents, who played a major role in my upbringing. It’s the first time close members of my family have died. Learning to live with my grief while continuing to function in daily life was very difficult for me. I developed a full-on anxiety problem, with heart palpitations/panic attacks.

I eventually got mostly rid of it though, and found that exercise and mindfulness are key for me in keeping myself happy and avoiding anxiety. I developed new strategies to fit exercise into my busy lifestyle and have tried new types of exercise too. My big success was completing a 10k race in 1 hour and 16 minutes, having never run so far before in my life.

Another fantastic success of this year was that I got a new job. I had a long notice period to work for my old one, so I’m not starting my new job until later this month. The new job is a complete career change but it is for an amazing and exciting employer, doing important work. I’m going to have a lot to learn and it’s pretty scary, but overall I’m looking forward to it and think it can only be a good thing.

I have loved my current employer, but it had gotten to the stage when I had been there too long and just needed a change. I never thought I’d be able to move on so easily because of my flexible working requirements, so I am so happy I’ve found an amazing new employer who is happy to be flexible.

Back to the downsides, just at the beginning of December I suddenly found a large lump in my breast. I went to the doctor straight away and was referred to a breast clinic. I was expecting them to say it was just a cyst, but instead I ended up with a mammogram, ultrasound and core needle biopsy. I have not yet had my biopsy results. So that is scary. It’s taken me a few weeks to feel normal again after the biopsy, but I’m now determined to just carry on as normal and think positively while I wait for the results.

Intentions for myself

My biggest discovery this year was that exercise really, truly does make me happier. Of course, science supports this and other people told me that for years, but despite exercising on and off for many years, I never believed it made me happier until recently. Perhaps it is my age, but now I feel a noticeable difference in myself when I exercise compared to when I don’t. So my intention is to do as much exercise as I can in the new year.

I have created a little calendar for January with a planned activity for each day. But I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t actually manage to exercise every day…I just going to be happy each time I can cross off another day of my exercise calendar.

Another intention on the health front is simply to eat more vegetables and less sugar. I refuse to cut things out of my diet. I think that’s a recipe for disaster. But when I am not bothered about whether or not I have something unhealthy, I simply won’t have it. And I will not clean my plate unless I want to.

Finally, I am also going to try and think positively and live in the moment. I am a great worrier and explorer of “what-ifs”. But, as my husband repeatedly reminds me, “what-ifs” are rarely useful. I am going to cross bridges when I come to them, and try not to worry which rickety crossings might be miles ahead.

Intentions for this blog

Some of you may (or may not!) have noticed that I haven’t written much on this blog lately. This is mainly a product of being busy and tired, and simply having other priorities. I started this blog for me and I see nothing wrong with using it however it suits me. But, it does make me happy when I write, and so I’m going to aim to write something once a week or so.

I’m going to shift the focus of the blog slightly. I don’t want to change its name because that is too much of a faff, but I’ll probably change the tagline when I have time. I’ve always called this a parenting blog, but that’s not really what it is. It’s more about life as a mum (rather than focusing on the actual children), and about how to look after yourself. I’ll have to think of a way to describe that in a catchy tagline!

So my future posts will unashamedly be about me and how I’m surviving my busy life, only one aspect of which is being a mum.

I’m also going to stop doing product/service reviews and sponsored posts. There will be one more sponsored post coming out this week, and that will be the last one. The main reason for this is that my new job prohibits that sort of moonlighting in my contract. I may still review things that I’ve paid for myself, but I won’t be accepting free products or any money to write posts.

And so…onwards and upwards for 2018! Thank you to anyone who reads my little musings, and I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

What are your resolutions this year, or are you a resolution refuser?

 

Mission Mindfulness

 

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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

5 tips for a healthy recovery after having a baby

A guest post by Raunak Karim, who blogs for psysci, a psychology and science blog that examines the latest research in mental health and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.

The new baby is here! Panic stations engaged. Do we have everything ready? Is he or she a healthy baby? What does the baby need us to do right now?

Wait! Stop.

We all get so focused on the new, little life that we often forget mum also needs some TLC after having a baby. Having a baby can be one of the most physically traumatic experiences for a woman to go through. Bits stretch and tear, things elongate which really shouldn’t and don’t forget the soup of hormones that churns through you before, during and after the birth. However, these five simple tips will go a long way in helping you have a healthy, happy recovery.

Hydrate

Dehydration can seriously weaken an already fatigued body. To the mum who’s just completed the physical marathon of childbirth, hydration is so important. The body’s fluid levels will be severely depleted postnatally, and are likely to diminish further as lactation begins. To restore fluid levels, plain water should be readily consumed, and diuretics such as caffeine avoided where possible (although sometimes your need for caffeine might be your top priority!). Increasing your fluid levels will help alleviate constipation issues and work to ensure sufficient fluid levels are retained when lactation begins.

Nutrition

Along with adequate and quality fluid intake, careful selection of nutritious meals are vital for a healthy recovery. Protein-rich foods and foods with high fibre content should be sought, along with a good multivitamin rich in B and D groups. Prior planning is recommended to prepare and freeze meals before childbirth and have them readily available for when you’re weak and in need of good nutrition. Good nutrition is imperative for both breastfeeding and formula feeding mums, in order to recover from the childbirth ordeal.

Sleep

Sleeping has phenomenal restorative properties for both the mind and body. Getting adequate sleep is vital for new mums, especially as the baby blues and interrupted nights may be just around the corner. It is recommended to sleep at the same time baby sleeps in order to keep up the quantity of hours you need to heal and handle the pressures of having a newborn baby. Of course that is not always possible, but remember that if your baby is sleeping, it doesn’t mean you should be doing the washing up. Don’t be afraid to ask visitors to look after the baby while you sneak off for a power nap.

Rest

Obviously, sleep might not always be ready and available for new mums. Instead, plan to rest. Ensure you have adequate time off work or study and don’t feel tempted to fill those days with jobs and tasks. Take the time to rest and recover from childbirth, even if it means sitting in your armchair all day long with baby in your arms. Rest is vital for a healthy recovery, and allows you time to form a strong, lasting attachment with your baby.

Ask for help

It was once said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, if not a village, it certainly takes help! To ensure you have a healthy recovery, physically and emotionally, don’t be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help. Childbirth takes a huge physical toll and an even bigger emotional toll on mums. Pain, swelling, limited movement, fluctuating hormones and postnatal depression may all be factors in your recovery. There is nothing more important for your recovery than acknowledging these factors and asking for help.

Yes, it is important to focus on baby’s needs. He or she, after all, can’t do much independently in the early days! But you also need to remember your needs are just as important. You need to do everything possible to ensure a speedy, healthy recovery so you and baby can get on with getting to know one another.  

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.

Two Tiny Hands
A Mum Track Mind

Being kind to yourself at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tammymum