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.

 

 

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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.

My version of crazy

Mental health is getting a lot of attention these days. People are talking about it and there doesn’t seem to be the same stigma around admitting you suffer from a mental health condition, to a lesser or more serious degree.

Keeping your mind and soul healthy is an every day battle for some people. For most people I assume. Including me.

It took me a long time to realise that I suffered from anxiety and I have some issues with OCD/ controlling situations. I think both of these things, for me, go hand in hand. Where possible I try and control everything to a meticulous level of detail, in order to keep my anxiety under control. When I can’t control a situation I can often feel incredibly anxious, tense and let’s say a little bit antsy.

Having a baby has intensified and heightened this feeling of anxiousness, purely because I can’t control everything to do with Annie. Babies are unpredictable and incredibly inconsistent. I struggled so much with Annie in the early days because there was no routine or consistency and I felt on edge all the time. I kept trying and failing to find patterns of behaviour, things changed every day, and I found it against my nature to just “go with the flow” and relax into it.

Over time it has got easier but to keep anxiety at bay I’ve had to find new ways to cope. There’s nothing groundbreaking here but I’ve found three things work: letting go, letting it out and getting out.

Letting go: I’m learning to let go of the small OCD stuff. It’s a part and parcel of motherhood that you never feel on top of things and you have to accept that you’ll never feel completely in control again. For example plans get cancelled because baby is in a mood or your babysitter cancels, the kitchen will always be a mess, there will always be piles of washing everywhere and don’t even mention the dirty nappies lingering around the house.

Letting it out: I’ve found that talking about things and letting my emotions out helps my anxiety. I don’t let things manifest as much anymore inside my head anymore; I speak to friends about how I’m feeling, I cry and I let those emotions out. I’ve learned it’s not healthy to keep things contained, for me or Annie.

Getting out: the simplest one of all is I find time in every day to get out of the house and get fresh air, exercise and clear my head. I find that often when I’m feeling anxiety building up inside me just getting out of the house helps blow the mental cobwebs away. I come back feeling less tense, have a clearer head and a healthier state of mind.

Realistically I don’t think anyone can say they’re 100% mentally well all of the time. Of course there are various forms and degrees of mental illness and some people are just better at masking it/ dealing with it than others.

As it was world mental health day this week I guess I just wanted to acknowledge my version of crazy to the world and share my coping mechanisms. I wonder how many other mums can relate?

Unsung hero

Today’s post is dedicated to my dad, who is definitely my unsung hero. In the past few months I’ve relied on him like never before and quite frankly couldn’t have done it without him.

I’m not sure I’ve always appreciated my dad and I’ve definitely taken him for granted over the years. For that I feel incredibly guilty. Especially now, since I’ve had Annie and he’s supported me so much. He’s gone out of his way to help me in a practical way, which anticipated he would, but what’s surprised me is the level of emotional support he’s offered me, in a way that I never anticipated or expected. That’s humbling and wonderful. He’s listened to me, consoled me, advised me and put up with my tears and tantrums. I don’t want to sound like a petulant child, but I have had moments where things have gotten on top of me or I’ve felt like I couldn’t cope and in those moments he’s been there and in some instances dropped everything.

He picked me up from work when I was heavily pregnant and started bleeding and drove me to the doctors. He was there when I called him in the middle of the night (when Annie was 8 weeks old) to tell him my car had been broken into and didn’t want to be alone. He was there a few days ago, on his day off, when I called him with a spider emergency (yes I have a ridiculous spider phobia).

Those little things, that actually are quite big things, when you’re partner-less and need somebody. For those things I’ll be eternally grateful.

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This photo was taken this morning. Dad was entertaining Annie on the beach whilst I slurped my much needed coffee on a bench and took a few minutes to myself. It’s those precious moments, of solitude and quietness, that I appreciate more than ever. If it wasn’t for my dad those moments would be pretty much non existent.

I guess, to sum up, this is a shout out to all the unsung heros out there. The grandparents who are stepping up and supporting their children with their own children. In whatever capacity that is. I know that if my mum was here she’d be my support system, my rock, but as she can’t be here I think she’d be pretty damn proud of my dad for stepping up to the mark. Thank you dad for everything you do.

Let’s talk business

It’s been a while since I talked about the launch of my new baby box subscription business. We’re slowly and quietly progressing behind the scenes. On the run up to launching Annie Evelyn next year I’m looking for some mums-to-be to sample my boxes and write reviews about the products. So once a month (until the end of the year) I’ll be running a #followfriday competition and selecting one mummy to receive a free baby box! If you’re living in the UK and currently pregnant (due sometime in early/mid 2018) keep an eye out for next Friday’s post. I want mums-to-be to comment on my #followfriday posts using the hashtag #mumtobe2018 and telling me their due date. OR If you know someone who is pregnant tag them in comments and ask them to follow me and comment below with the same info. I’ll be randomly selecting one lucky winner at 9pm on the day of each Follow Friday post. Don’t forget October’s competition will be NEXT FRIDAY!

I’ll be revealing more about products inside the boxes very soon, but I can tell you the products will be awesome. Our boxes will be appropriate to the baby’s age and development and there will also be something special for mum too. What makes Annie Evelyn unique is that all the products will be sourced from other small UK businesses and quality will be guaranteed!

In other news… Annie has started crawling in the past few days. She’s still very unstable and mostly crawls backwards, but every day she’s improving. Today we had a little accident and she managed to crawl and fall onto the coffee table, cutting her eye as she went down. It’s safe to say I was more upset than her, especially as I was sat right behind her at the time and feel like I should have reacted quicker to her falling. But she’s ok. No permanent damage. And I guess I need to get used to her having the occasional bump and scrape now that she’s on the move. How very terrifying this parenting malarkey is.

The gift of sleep

Sometimes I don’t know what my blog is going to be about until I started typing. And then my mind shifts into gear and all of a sudden my thoughts come to the forefront of my mind and it just flows out of me. Other times I’ve been thinking about something particular all day and I just know that’s what I want to write about. Today I knew all day.

Yesterday Annie woke up at 4.30am and by bedtime routine last night I was on my last legs. Completely drained and desperately needed to lay my head on a pillow and close my eyes. Of course Annie had other ideas and we had a difficult bed time. Annie didn’t want to sleep and frustratingly she kept waking up when I popped her in her cot. She doesn’t often do this now, so when it happens I’m somewhat enraged. After the 3rd time my patience was dangling by a thread. I sat back in my rocking chair in Annie’s nursery, willing her to sleep, but she clearly could feel my tension and continued to open her eyes, wriggle about and fight me. I couldn’t help but cry in that moment because I was so desperately tired and in that moment I was angry that there was no one downstairs to pass her to and say “your turn”. Because it’s always my turn. Every single time. No respite. No day off. And most days that’s ok. But I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I think it’s ok to admit, now and again, that I wish there was someone to help and support me. On those off days when you just need someone to say “you go relax and I’ll take over”. What a relief that would be.

Anyway, I’m not sure if anyone else experiences this but I’m pretty sure Annie feels it when I’m sad. As I sat in the rocking chair and had a little pathetic cry Annie stared into my eyes and it was like she was staring into my soul. She all of a sudden realised I was crying and instantly stopped wriggling and just laid there very still, touched my face and just held her hand on my cheek. Call me crazy but I felt like she was comforting me. And you know what? It helped me. I realised in that moment that I had forgotten in the hazy fog of tiredness that my daughter is my world and I’m so utterly blessed to be sat here rocking my baby to sleep. I thought to myself “So what if it takes a bit longer than normal? So what if I’m tired?” I realised that I’ll look back in a few years and miss these special moments.

So, I pulled myself together and let those sad/ frustrated feelings go. I realised I was holding myself tense, so I sank deeper into the chair and relaxed my body, closed my eyes and focused on my own breathing and the rocking motion of the chair. Five minutes later I opened my eyes and Annie was fast asleep in my arms, still holding her hand against my cheek.

She slept wonderfully for the rest of the night and I was able to fall into a beautiful deep slumber. I woke this morning feeling refreshed and alive again, but mostly feeling incredibly grateful that my daughter had given me the gift  of sleep. Thank you my darling.

 

 

Conforming and conventional isn’t for me

IMG_8268I was thinking about this earlier today and I thought it would be good to write a blog about it. The idea of being conventional and conforming to what is viewed as the “social norm”. As a single mum I guess I don’t fit into the conventional category. Neither do some of my closest friends (and that’s probably what I love about them).

What is crazy to me is even in today’s modern world “conventional”  means doing things in the right order and that’s judged to be love, marriage and then babies. We’ve made so much headway in so many ways yet most people tend to still conform don’t they? But why? Is that because that’s genuinely what is in our nature as human beings or because people are too scared to live their lives in a different, slightly unconventional way?

I’m kind of happy to be unconventional. And I’m ok with not conforming. But the trouble is some people still have a problem with it. And I wonder why? I wonder if it’s because they feel threatened by it, or whether they can’t relate, or whether they’re too judgemental, or because of their own conventionality they think they’re somehow morally and socially superior. Don’t get me wrong I’m talking about the minority here. A few jerks who have a problem with how people live their lives.

I absolutely don’t have a problem with other people being conventional and I think it should be celebrated. I am genuinely happy for others who have the option to choose that path and in lots of ways envy them for having the opportunity to conform. Life hasn’t panned out that way for me, at least for now, and I’ve chosen a slightly, unexpected path. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated and valued in the same way.

I think the moral of the story is that parenting is hard enough without the judgement. There’s been a few times in recent months where I’ve had to stop myself from explaining why I’ve chosen this path on my own. Why should I explain, why should I have to justify my decisions to anyone?

The good news is most people are lovely and I’ve been blown away by how loving and supportive people can be.

I strongly believe in fate and this is the way things were meant to be for me. And I’m genuinely happy. Content. And feel incredibly blessed.

So to all the conformists out there. My message to you is congratulations, I’m happy for you, if you’re happy for me.