Notable life changes after becoming a mum (the less obvious ones)

Of course motherhood is all about making sacrifices and making adjustments to one’s life. Before every mum to be has a baby we prepare ourselves mentally for those generic, obvious things we’ll miss (such as sleep) but actually it’s the little things that have changed that have impacted on me the most. I thought I’d share my list of notable life changes for any mum’s to be (it’s not intended to put you off!)

1. First of all, and possibly most importantly, you will never again be able finish a HOT cup of tea / coffee. Forever more you’ll be drinking luke warm tea or indeed not finishing the drink at all.

2. Your child will always wake from a nap before you get a chance to finish what you wanted to do.

3. You will never be able to sit on your sofa. Once your child is mobile you’ll be sat on the cold hard floor permanently. If you do dare to sit in a comfortable position your baby will almost certainly fall / intentionally throw themselves onto a dangerous object to get you back onto the cold hard floor.

4. It’s unlikely you’ll ever feel completely clean again. Showers are few and far between and when you do have one they’re extremely time limited. Two words: Dry shampoo.

5. Your clothes will forever be covered in food or sick. Or both. Equally it’s impossible to keep a weaned baby clean so you’ll either have to change your baby’s clothes 5 times a day or accept that you have a slightly grubby looking child.

6. Your hands will be always be dry because you will spend your life washing things, wiping bottoms and generally cleaning up after them.

7. You’ll forget what you looked like with make up and brushed hair.

8. You may lose your hair in the worst places possible. This doesn’t happen to everyone but is a well known side effect of giving birth. I’ve been left with tufts of hair regrowth that stick out at awkward angles and frizz uncontrollably.

9. Your feet might well get bigger PERMANANTELY. I’ve just had to throw several good pairs of shoes out because I can no longer squeeze my giant feet into them. I am now a full size larger than I was pre baby.

10. And finally, to end on a positive: you’ll become obsessed with your beautiful baby and all of the above will be completely, 100% worth it 🙂

Learning to be a selfish mother and why that’s a good thing

A friend reminded me the other day that it’s ok to be selfish sometimes. They suggested that perhaps I was neglecting myself, sacrificing my own well being for the sake of my daughter’s. And I admit that it is true. Every single day I neglect my own needs to do the very best for my daughter. It doesn’t make me a saint, it just makes me a mother. We all do it.

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It got me thinking about whether it is ok to put your own needs first occasionally and whether that’s possible without feeling that “mum guilt”.

I constantly feeling guilty. I feel guilty if I try and find time in the day to cook myself a meal. I feel guilty if I don’t take her out somewhere, every day, which fulfils some sort of developmental, sensory or social need. I feel guilty if I leave her with a baby sitter so I can have some sort of life away from her.

But my friend is right and I think this week, after two weeks of utter parenting hell (due to us both suffering from a virus and being super poorly), I’ve had an epiphany. I need to learn to put myself first occasionally and look after myself. It doesn’t make me a bad mum. It makes me a mum that recognises the need to keep myself emotionally and physically healthy. In the longer term that will help me be the best possible mum I can be.

So, I’m learning to be a selfish mother, in the following ways:

1. I will find time in every day to prepare myself a nutritional meal, and find time to eat said meal.

2. I will no longer feel guilty for occasionally asking for a little help or respite. This is not a sign of weakness or failure, it’s just admitting I need a break.

3. I will find time once or twice a week to meditate and spend time on my yoga mat again. That might be 5 minutes or 25 minutes, but I will find the time.

4. I will find time in the week to shave my legs, for the obvious reasons.

5. And finally… If a nice guy asks me out I will put my fears and anxieties of starting something new to one side and go on a damn date. Just because I’m a mum to a small baby doesn’t mean I shouldn’t date. And I certainly shouldn’t be fearful of people judging me for dating again. I’m not ready for the nunnery just yet and don’t intend to waste my thirties behaving like a nun either!

So, there we go, the five step plan to becoming the best mother I can be. All achievable, all reasonable and all just a little bit selfish.

The power of now

IMG_8636I re-read a book recently called the “power of now”. The first time I read it it transformed my life. Well, not quite but it certainly gave me a new perspective on life and made me realise the importance of living for now instead of worrying about the past or indeed the future. I started re-reading it recently as life has changed dramatically since I last read it and I thought it would offer me some more enlightenment.

So what does happiness really mean anyway? And is there really such a thing as happily ever after?

I don’t think so. I now strongly believe that happiness is just a mood. Not a destination. There’s no absolute finality to happiness and we can’t just magically wake up one morning having found eternal happiness.

I used to measure happiness based on three different aspects of my life: family life, career life and love life. Based on the law of averages I figured that if two out of the three of those things were good, I could say that my life was relatively happy and fulfilled.

This book reminded me that actually what life is about is just finding a way of making the best of what you have and live for the here and now. It’s not an exact science. There’s power in the realisation that every day is potentially a happy day. Not everything you do every day will make you happy, but a positive can always be found in even the gloomiest of days.

And the past week has been gloomy. Annie and I have had a difficult week, with illness and teething. But we’ve managed, some how, to find moments in every day to smile and create happiness.

Looking at the bigger picture of life and one’s own happiness: My circumstances, on paper, aren’t necessarily ideal. That’s the word other people keep using anyway. Quite possibly others believe my “not ideal” circumstances can’t possibly make me happy. But they couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve learned that life is too short to not be happy. Every day I remember the motto of the book and and try and live for the now. It doesn’t mean I don’t aspire to find more happiness in the future, a different kind of happiness, but I’m determined not to live my life looking for the illusive happily ever after.

When your chips are down…

So, what do you do when both you and your baby have been struck down with a v&d virus?

So, the past three days have been a complete write off due to both Annie and I suffering with a virus.

I’m a proud person and hate to admit to people I can’t cope, but this weekend I’ve had no choice but to rally the troops and ask for help. Because I’ve had the most severe nausea and I’ve quite literally not been physically able to parent by myself. Yesterday,  before I was struck down, I felt completely overwhelmed with Annie being so sick and thankfully my friends were kind enough to come over and support me through it. It felt humbling and I felt incredibly grateful to have friends that would drop everything and come to my aid in my hour of need. Being stuck in the house all day with a sick baby is so hard and I spent the whole day questioning my judgement and it was so nice to have someone else helping with the decision making and taking some of the load.

But then yesterday morning I woke with severe nausea and I knew pretty quickly that I’d caught the virus from Annie. Instantly I felt my bones ache, I felt cold and shivery and was physically unable to get out of bed. Every time I moved I got a wave of nausea and the prospect of a day of parenting just felt impossible. Annie needed her nappy changing, she needed breakfast and I could barely lift my head off the pillow.

Thankfully Grandad came to my rescue and took Annie for the day. It’s the first time I’ve been away from her for a whole day and I felt so guilty. I felt like somehow I should have been able to manage, cope with being sick and look after my baby at the same time. But the reality was I couldn’t even stand without feeling wobbly and I knew physically I couldn’t do it. So, for the first time in 8 months I had an entire day baby free. I spent most of it with my head down the toilet and laying on the bathroom floor, the rest was spent lying in bed shivering with cold sweats and aching bones.

So, to sum up this weekend has pretty much been hellish. I haven’t left the house for over 72 hours and cabin fever has well and truly set in. But now I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and both of us are starting to feel much better and I’m living in hope that we’re able to venture out tomorrow.

What has been lovely though is realising how much support we have and how when my chips are down I have people to call on. In these circumstances it’s all about survival and getting through it and, with the help of friends and family, we have.

 

Traditions lost, traditions gained

My mum passed away 3 years ago and I still feel her absence every single day.  Sundays are particularly hard for me as that was our family day and it was the day I would spend with her. Without fail (unless it was 25 degrees + outside) mum would make a Sunday dinner and that was her tradition. It was the only meal we’d sit around the table for and it would be focused quality time without any distractions. Mum would bring us together as a family and since we lost her there’s been very few times that the family has all been together on a Sunday.

The tough thing is that Sundays are family days for everyone and before Annie (and after mum had died) I often found myself at a loose end on a Sunday quite frequently. I felt a bit lost and unsure of what to do. Everyone was busy with their own families and all of a sudden I didn’t really have that family unit, that go to place, and it left me feeling sad. If my friends were busy I’d busy myself with food shopping, gym sessions or watching box sets and just try and pass the day as best I could. But they were very much tradition-less. They felt empty. They felt lonely. It made losing her all the more painful.

Now I have Annie and Sundays have been transformed. My days are filled with activities, love and laughter. Slowly but surely we’re finding our own family traditions and creating a new realm of happiness. Sundays will never be quite the same without mum and I don’t expect them to be. I’ll treasure those traditions forever and I hope to continue some of them myself. But it’s also about making new traditions for Annie and I.

It’s still to be confirmed what our traditions will be. Every Sunday we’ve done something different and not one day has been the same. I kind of like that. Maybe our tradition will be to always do something or go somewhere new.

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Today we’ve had a wonderful Sunday. This morning we went to the park to play on the swings and met friends for brunch in the park cafe. It was a beautiful crisp autumnal morning and perfect weather for getting wrapped up and having a walk. This afternoon my dad was visiting from London and Annie had a chance to spend some time with grandpa.

If a traditional Sunday is to ensure we surround ourselves with people we love, we’ve definitely fulfilled that today. But quite honestly I’d be content with just spending every Sunday with my beautiful baby girl. Exploring, playing and making memories can be our new tradition. And what a tradition that will be.

 

 

Mummy life through rose tinted glasses

I met a friend for lunch yesterday. She’s my oldest friend and in fact I’ve known her since I was born. Our mums were friends so we played together as babies and grew up in the same village. After university we both moved to London and continued our friendship in the big smoke. She’s a high flying lawyer and actually one of the kindest, most humble people I know. Now we’re both back in Yorkshire and she’s a new mum too. Her baby is teeny tiny (only 10 weeks old) and he’s just delicious.

Strangely, every time I see a newborn recently I feel all squidgy and broody.  If I was a hen I’d be getting ready to lay on my eggs! This reaction to new born babies is surprising, I must admit, because I didn’t have the easiest newborn and I thought it would put me off ever having another one or even thinking about it.

But yesterday I spent the whole time cooing over baby Oscar and then the rest of the day looking back at old newborn photos of Annie. Reflecting on her birth and those special early weeks. And they were so special. But when you’re in the thick of it and struggling it’s not always easy to appreciate it. Now that some time has passed and I’m 7 months embedded into this thing called motherhood, I’m able to look back on it with rose tinted glasses and a massive dose of nostalgia.

I don’t forget the difficult challenges, but I’ve certainly popped them in a different part of my brain and edited them slightly.

For example I now look back on breastfeeding with a wonderful sentimentality and every time I see a woman breastfeeding her baby I feel a little bit sad that my breastfeeding journey is over. But realistically breastfeeding wasn’t easy for me. Annie cluster fed, it was relentless, tiring and draining.

Now that Annie is on the move and she’s running me ragged I look back through my rose tinted glasses at the peacefulness of my newborn sleeping baby, when she was so small and just slept in my arms for hours on end. But actually, when I was living and breathing it I found it frustrating never being able to put her down and never being able to get anything done.

And of course women around the globe are traumatised by the pain of childbirth yet somehow they manage to forget what it was like and are willing to do it all over again!

The truth is it isn’t all rosey being a mum. But we’re very good at giving the impression that everything is rosey. We keep up appearances. Especially in today’s social media era when everything is so picture perfect. We’re not used to seeing or hearing about imperfections anymore. Everyone is running their own personal PR and showing the highlights of their lives, and in turn I think we tend to only remember the good/ positive stuff.

But I think that’s about human nature, and survival of our species. We tend to forget completely or our memory of the bad stuff fades so we can continue to procreate.

It’s never healthy to dwell on the negative and that’s the case for motherhood too. Having said that it does absolutely no harm, when you start to get broody, to give yourself a major reality check and bring your feet back firmly onto the ground.

There will be no laying of eggs anytime soon.

 

 

A spooktacular excuse

You know you’re a mum when you swap your own elaborate Halloween costumes for your daughter’s.

As Halloween season is now in full swing I was thinking today about how differently I’m celebrating this year, in comparison to years gone by.

I’ve always loved Halloween. I love the elaborate costumes, I love the face paint and I love all the fun activities that go with the season (pumpkin carving, trick or treaters, telling ghost stories, watching scary movies).

I’ve had some pretty fabulous Halloween costumes over the years. My favourite probably has to be the time I dressed up as a prisoner in an orange jump suit and handcuffs. I washed and back combed my hair and I genuinely looked crazy, like I’d just escaped from Alcatraz . It’s probably the first and last time I’ve ever been out without blow drying my hair.

Other favourites have to be my homemade pirate costume, along with the skimpiest skirt and stripey top I’ve ever seen, and of course the year of the zombie witch, which required surprisingly very little effort.

My friends have thrown some pretty superb Halloween parties over the years too. I have such fond memories of decorating their houses for our wild parties, which I may say, were world (ok, locally) renowned.

I’m such a fan of Halloween that I’ve almost (but never quite got round to it) flown out to America to celebrate Halloween in the over top  way. They always take the holidays to a whole new level of crazy. I do feel that us British never quite do it right. We stink of mediocrity.

However, this year I have a baby and a whole new realm of Halloween fun has been opened up to me. Now I’m celebrating the season in a “family friendly” way. So less about drinking vodka jelly with eye balls, and more about finding cute Halloween outfits for my baby.

Yesterday we spent the day at the wildlife park, at their spooktacular event. As Annie is so small she was pretty much oblivious but mummy had a great time. In fact I feel pretty bad using her as an excuse to get my Halloween fix!

We wandered around the forbidden forest and met lots of scary fairytale characters along the way, we took photos with pumpkins, with ghosts in giant inflatable balls and Repunzel in her tower. Mummy had a great time. Annie was just along for the ride but she seemed happy enough.

Tomorrow we’re going to a pumpkin patch and  carving our pumpkin ready for the trick or treaters. The fun continues….

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tick tock the clocks go back!

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So, I was reminded yesterday that this weekend the clocks go back. When I heard this piece of news my instant thought was “oh buggar will this mess Annie’s routine up?!”.

What is it with mums and routines? Sleep routines, mealtime routines, nap routines, routines routines routines. I promised myself I wasn’t going to turn into one of those mums that becomes a slave to a routine, but I have. Guilty as charged.

I’m particularly obsessed, as are many mums, with a solid bed time/ sleep routine because of, I must confess, my own selfish needs. My desperate need for baby free time in the evening and of course that illusive quest for a good night’s sleep.

So this piece of news that the clocks are going back was a little bit of a blow. I don’t want to make a drama out of a molehill here but I am somewhat annoyed that this might impact on my darling child’s sleep pattern, and therefore my own.

When I googled it I realised that mums around the country are experiencing (believe it or not) high levels of anxiety over this little thing called “daylight saving time”. The organised mums out there actually suggest making baby’s bedtime 15 minutes later every day for the 4 days prior to the time change (!). *serious eye roll*

I must admit it’s never really bothered me or something I’ve thought much about (until now). I’m was a great believer that when the clocks change you should just accept it as that time straight away and not faff about saying “so it’s 6pm now but really it’s 7pm”.

But I woke up this morning, popped the tv on and the weather man was telling me it was good news this weekend as “we all get an extra hour in bed”. I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case for me, or indeed any parent of babies or toddlers.

I’m not expecting anything positive to come from the clocks going back. In fact I’m expecting Daylight Saving Time to ruin my day. It’s always best to plan for the worst and hope for the best, right? Realistically it’ll take us a few days to re-adjust and her routine might be slightly off.

Best case scenario, by some fluke of nature, Annie could wake up an hour later on Sunday non the wiser and her routine could magically sync with the new time. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Either way we’ll all be ok and I’m pretty sure there’s no need to panic (much).

What’s everybody else’s experiences of DST? Did it impact on your little ones routine?

The new baby-friendly Saturday nights

IMG_8401.JPGOn Saturday night I went out. And yes I mean “Out out” with my friends for cocktails and dancing. And we had a blast. I went out with two of my fellow single friends and did not stop laughing the whole night. I should add that I have no idea why they are single because they’re absolutely gorgeous, intelligent, successful and STRONG women. They’re also incredibly funny drunks and one of them in particular was on form on Saturday night  making me lol.

Nights out have certainly changed for us girls. Notably, and for sure it’s an age thing, we no longer go out coat-less and seem less willing to risk losing our fingers and toes to frostbite. It wasn’t so long ago that I’d consider taking a coat out as sacrilege! In fact I took it one step further last night and even took a scarf out. Yes that’s right.

Secondly, I chose comfort over glamour and very happily swapped my heels for boots. My toes were snug as a bug all night long and I didn’t regret it for one second. I still looked great; just a few inches shorter than normal!

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we didn’t go out at 9/10pm, instead we went out at 6.30pm and were home and curled up in bed by midnight (not together I should add!). I quite literally do feel like Cinderella nowadays and if I stay out past midnight there’s a strong possibility I’ll turn into a pumpkin.

So there we have it. The new baby-friendly Saturday nights. It works perfectly for us mums because we can feed, bath and get our babies ready for bed, before handing them over to the babysitter. There’s no change to baby’s routine and we’re home before they’ve even woken for their next feed.

And you know what? Going out and letting your hair down occasionally is good for the soul and I’m pretty sure it makes you a better parent. A little baby free time is refreshing and gives us mums a chance to find ourselves again. BE ourselves again. That doesn’t always have to be an alcohol fuelled night out on the tiles. It can be as simple as going out for a meal, or the cinema or even the gym, to just find a bit of time to ourselves. That time is precious and let me tell you as a single parent you appreciate it all the more.

Hoorah to the occasional night “out out”. Until next time.

The 7 month itch: Losing oneself, finding oneself and the journey in between…

Annie is 7 months old tomorrow. Wow. And this week two amazing things have happened: she’s started to crawl properly (and by properly I mean not sidewards or backwards)  AND she has started saying “momma”.

Ok so technically Annie is probably not associating this “‘momma” word with me, it’s just a new sound she’s making, but I don’t care because she’s still saying it and she’s saying it constantly. It’s heart warming and lovely and makes me feel all squishy inside.

I was thinking today how much has changed in 7 months. I was reading a brilliant mum blog earlier today and she was reflecting on the things she wish she’d known before having a baby. Many of the things she listed were true and relatable, but one in particular struck a cord with me: she talked about losing herself. She went on to say that she hoped to find herself again, but she knew it wouldn’t be easy.

So it got me thinking about whether I’ve lost myself. Who was I before baby and who am I now? What’s changed? And is the change irreversible?

Me before baby

I was social, ambitious, independent and a doer. I got shit done. Having lived in London for 8 years I’d become hardened to the world, and I had huge expectations of life and what I wanted from it. My career was all about managing and organising, my social life was similar. I had had my share of heart break and grievances but I was happy, positive and hopeful.

Me after baby

Fundamentally I’m still most of the above. And more.

I’m social, but in a different kind of way now. Less cocktails and extravagant meals out but still always out socialising with friends and family. My social network has expanded since having Annie, I’m busier than ever.

I’m still a doer but my efficiency has took a dramatic nose dive. It takes me five times longer to do things because I have a baby taking up 95% of my day and mental capacity.

My ambitious nature is still there but less about career ambition and more about wanting the best for my baby, and being the best mum I can be.

I’m no longer as hardened to the world. I’ve softened, I’m more emotional, more open. I’ve opened my heart to Annie and to others around me and I’m letting people in more. I’m no longer afraid of being vulnerable or showing emotions.

I feel the biggest change is how other people perceive me. And I wonder whether it’s this perception from others that fundamentally changes you as a person. The shift in behaviour is subtle and gradual, but it makes you feel different and like you’ve lost the person you once were. BUT I’m still there and it’s important to remind people of that.

Of course becoming a parent changes you and it’s very easy to lose yourself. But depending on how determined you are you can find yourself again.

7 months after having Annie I feel I’m on my way back to who I was and in fact an enhanced version of my pre-baby self is forming. Annie has changed me for the better, softened my edges, helped me re-prioritise my life and made me more loving and vulnerable.

They say you have to lose yourself to truly find yourself and in my case it couldn’t be more true.