Setting goals for the year ahead

Happy new year!

2017 was an incredible year for me. Becoming a parent for the first time was life changing. I look back at 2017 and it was a wonder of a year and I feel very proud of the journey I’ve been on and where I am now. Becoming a mother also forced me to look at my issues – my need to control everything, my inability to let things go, and all my biggest fears. At times over the past year these issues made me pretty neurotic. But I want to grow and learn to manage my issues better so I can be a better person and a more relaxed, easygoing Mum.

I think it’s important, as it’s a new year, to set my intentions for the year ahead. I’ve decided to categorise them into 3 areas: health and well being, business, personal development and love.

Health and wellbeing

1. Slow down and make space to receive. This is one of my big, big life lessons: I’ve learned that if I don’t look after myself, in the end, my body suffers and I become ill/ run down. Yes I’m a mummy but I need to balance my giving with receiving and my output with my input – guilt free. So first action is to book a spa day with my friends to pamper myself and have some baby free time.

2. Make an effort to feel pretty again; for me. I wear lounge wear 7 days a week and almost never put on make-up. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to make an effort! I’d like to get back to feeling more like myself, or at least not wear pyjamas every damn day.

Personal development and love

3. Ask for help and let go of guilt. Having a baby has taught me I can’t do everything myself and it’s ok to ask for help sometimes. What stops me asking for help is the guilt. I feel bad for burdening others. This year I want to let go of the guilt and ask for help when I need it. Because the people I ask for help love me and would happily help me if needed.

4. Invest in my friendships. My friendships are important to me. Now that I’m venturing back into the world of work, and so are most of my new mummy friends, life will become busy and there will be less time for seeing friends, but it’s a priority for me to maintain good healthy friendships with those people in my life.

4. Release resentment and anger towards those people who’ve hurt me. This year I refuse to be weighed down by people in my past who’ve hurt me and I don’t want to waste any energy on the negative. So I’m letting go.

5. Keep the last two hours of the day phone and work free. Usually the last thing I do before going to bed is check my email/ website/social media. Now that Annie is a little more settled in the evenings (I say tentatively) I want to make my evenings enjoyable again. So no phones after 9.30pm. Instead I am going to read my book (yes – get back to reading!) and write my journal. Hopefully this will allow me to relax a little more and sleep more soundly (when Annie allows me to). Action: As I live alone I need to have my phone in my bedroom for security but I will ensure my phone is switched to silent, left charging and not looked at after 9.30pm at night.

6. Get more organised. I used to be organised and planned everything to a ridiculous detail. Now I don’t have any time to plan, or think and everything is in my head or scribbled on my chalkboard in the kitchen as a reminder. Action: to buy a snazzy family calendar so we know what we’re doing day to day and I can schedule enough “free time” to get stuff done.

Business

7. Write more. My blog has gone by the wasteside lately. But I’m determined to write more and find time in every week to write a new blog, regardless of what’s going on in my life and how busy I am.

8. Launch new website – this new website is critical to being able to launch my new business. It will eventually replace the myannieandme website, as it will have better functionality for when I’m ready to sell boxes.

9. Get more structured. Now that Annie is starting nursery I’ll have more time and I need to structure that time more productively so I don’t run round like a headless chicken. I need to prioritise business stuff big time!

And that’s it.

I’m printing my list now so I can connect back to it again and again and remind myself to ACTION.

Some things are easy to do. Other things, like releasing resentment toward people who have hurt me is abstract and requires emotional work and me remembering to connect back to a place of love whenever my mind drops back into that negativity. Annie will give me the strength to do that.

Everything is a work in progress. I am always evolving, growing, learning. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018.

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Our first Christmas

As 2018 fast approaches I thought it was about time I wrote a blog. It’s been several weeks since I blogged, or indeed shared much on social media. I have no excuse other than getting carried away with the festivities and truly soaking up the spirit of Christmas.

It’s been Annie and I’s first Christmas together and it’s been wonderful. It’s been frantic, exhausting and very much overwhelming at times but we’ve made lots of memories and shared it with people we love.

It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve had to adapt and change Annie’s routine, which hasn’t always been received with the festive cheer I’d hoped. Turns out babies aren’t always as adaptable as you want them to be, but we’ve just had to roll with it.

On the whole Annie’s been delightful and I’ve been so proud of how sociable she’s been. I was worried about her being around big groups of people and how she’d react but she’s been a beautiful social butterfly. Toddling about, introducing herself to new people and generally been a little angel.

Not only is this Annie and I’s first Christmas together but it’s the first Christmas I haven’t spent it with family. Living so far away from family has meant it’s not been possible this year to get everyone together, so we’ve had to make do with FaceTime. Instead Annie and I spent Christmas with our adopted family and they welcomed us with open arms. It was strange being part of another family’s Christmas Day and traditions, but equally lovely and we had a wonderful day.

Of course with the festive period there’s also some underlying sadness as I miss my mum such a lot at this time of year. It does no good to dwell on what could have been, but she’s forever in my thoughts and part of everything we do, even if I don’t talk about her as much as I should.

The new year is upon us and it’s always good to spend some time reflecting on the year that’s coming to a close and set your intentions for the year ahead. I think to sum up 2017 in a sentence… it’s been a game changer, it’s been an emotional roller coaster, it’s been the most meaningful, fulfilled year of my life.

What are my hopes and dreams for 2018? Well, that’s a tricky one. I have so many for my little family. Staying humble, being grateful are up there. Travel and adventures with my little one. And working hard on making my new business venture a success. But there are so many I may just have to write a whole new blog on that!

I hope you had a magical Christmas and I wish you all a happy new year.

Nap time, me time

IMG_8838.JPGAs mums we always look forward to our baby’s day time naps. They’re those precious moments in the day where you’ve got “baby free time”. Yet often we’re not taking advantage of this free time in the right way and we’re filling it with chores. The other familiar scenario is baby napping in the car, or indeed in the pram whilst you’re taking a walk. These are great places for baby to nap but not so great for mum because technically we’re still on the go.

The problem is the guilt. The guilt and feeling like when baby is awake you need to be entertaining your baby constantly. So you leave all your chores for when baby is sleeping and rush round like a headless chicken once your baby goes down.

Now that Annie is older and a little bit more mobile I’m trying to change my behaviour. I can feel myself growing and maturing as a mum. Every day I’m learning, making progress and becoming more efficient. I’m now trying to get things done whilst she’s awake so when she does take a nap I’m able to relax and put my feet up for 10 minutes. I want to change my mind set and feel less guilty about spending fewer hours playing with her and more time letting her toddle around the house whilst I get some jobs done. Because that’s life and realistically you can’t entertain your baby every single moment of every day.

Nap times are as important to mum as they are to baby. It’s time for us mums to reboot and switch off before the next enslaught of parenting begins. Because let’s face it the rest of the time can be full on.

It seems I haven’t quite left my single, baby free life behind. I’m still a little bit selfish. I still crave the stillness, the solitude and the peace of mind. I now know what my mum meant when she told us she wanted “5 minutes peace”!

Life has changed so much in the past 9 months and in the most part I’ve accepted that life can never be as it was, but for my own sanity and wellbeing nap times will now be forever more “me time”.

 

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!