Night-time Creeper – Co-Sleeping Is Not Always A Plan

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Apologies for the length of this one, it has been six and a half years in the making, so there was quite a lot to cover.

I sometimes admit that we are a co sleeping family, but it is always with guilt and worry.  I wonder how I will be judged and am a little concerned that by telling the whole truth now, I might open myself up to criticism.  Everyone has an opinion on co sleeping, but here is the story of someone who was kind of on the fence about it, then it happened and so the story began.

18 months after the arrival of DD1, out popped DD2, a beautiful little girl during the day, who turned into a demon at night.  I think looking back, it was a habit of letting her sleep too much during the day, whilst I entertained a very active older sister, that then led to her almost nocturnal habits.  As a Mum of 2, post C-section, I was pretty tired anyway, so I started night feeding in bed and often found myself falling asleep mid feed and then waking up to find her asleep next to me.  This was OK in the early days, but it soon got harder and harder to return her to her cot.  This was a habit I didn’t get into first time around as Dad had a long commute for work, I used to take DD1 to the feeding chair in another room, so that he wouldn’t get woken up.  But it was different by the time DD2 came along, so, the night-time bed feeding continued, her feeds got longer and she spent more time in our bed.  It soon got to a stage where she just screamed if returned to the cot; intense, heart breaking screaming, that she could carry on doing for hours.  She had stamina, I will give her that.

This would not have been an issue if she had been placated by being in our bed, but she eventually went on to barely sleep at night; she chose to scream instead of sleeping.  Even carrying her and walking around didn’t settle her, in fact some nights, nothing settled her.  We were exhausted and she was in a spiral of a routine, in that she was exhausted from the nights, so she couldn’t be kept awake during the day, which then meant she was awake again the next night.  After getting to the point where we thought that we could not carry on; she suddenly started to stay awake during the day, which then meant that she would sleep more at night.  Unfortunately, she decided that her cot was not the ideal spot for sleeping and displayed a very strong preference for our bed.  We were exhausted and just pleased that she slept, so she spent much of the night with us in our bed.

As we were struggling in a small 2-bedroom house, her cot stayed in our room for over a year, which made it just too easy to give into her.  When she eventually moved to the other room, she was not happy with this set up and the broken nights continued.  When we moved, we had high hopes for her staying in her own bed all night, but this didn’t happen.  Us being on another floor almost seemed to make things worse.  She would go to sleep without issue, but wake up every night, wanting to come into our bed.  I was a bit of winner on the middle of the night run as for some reason the cat, seemingly traumatised by this whole 3 floor thing, would attack my ankles if I did the child run, so after much scarring of the ankles, poor Dad got the job …. Result!

We tried all sorts of sleep and settling techniques, without success, but mostly just wanted to sleep and found it easier to give into her.  She is a stubborn one though, so was up for the fight and would have won most battles, if we had had the energy to fight.

She started school, so we thought things would change as she would be so tired, but no change.  Every night around 1 or 2 a.m. she would call out and one of us would go to collect her.  We tried sleeping with her in her own bed, until she went back to sleep, occasionally this worked, but usually she woke as soon as we tried to move back to our bed.  We tried being tough and just saying no, but she cried so loud that she woke her sister and things were worse.  We tried room sharing, but this just led to much chatting and giggling, then 2 children awake in the middle of the night.   This made for a very grumpy DD1 the next day; she is not nice when she is grumpy, believe me!

We moved house, hopefully, the last move for a while; again, we had high hopes for a resolution to the issue.  She made a promise to try, and so she did, but not for long.  She started to spend 1 maybe 2 nights a month in her own bed all night, but still woke nearly every night, wanting to join us.  By the time she reached 5, it had become the norm for us; we were almost doing the collection in our sleep.  She wouldn’t walk into our room, but called out louder and louder until we went to her.  Then 6 happened and things changed.  She started to sleep through 1 or 2 days a week – woohoo, we felt amazing, we were finally getting a whole night’s sleep after 6 years.  Eventually, she slept through every night.  Weirdly I missed her, it was nice to wake up to a cuddle and snuggle every morning.  But I didn’t miss the spinning, kicking, scratching, head butting and bed hogging.

I would love to be able to end it there, BUT suddenly after about 2 months of sleeping through, she started to appear at the end of our bed.  She realised that all she needed to do was get out of bed, walk across the hall, climb in and settle herself in.  Most nights we barely notice her arrival, but some nights she runs in, launches at least 4 toys across the bed, before climbing on and walking over to her space in the middle of us.  If only, we then were able to sleep as a happy little trio, but oh no that would be such an idyllic scenario, that doesn’t exist.  She spins to a horizontal position.  Getting the foot end is the worst and usually ends in Dad leaving to sleep in her bed, or me receiving a swift kick to the kidneys.  Head end means a firm nuzzling of said head into whatever area she comes into contact with, then she pushes and continues to push whilst asleep.  It’s quite amazing how much she moves while being completely asleep, and how strong she is.

After much saving and deliberating; we decided to splash out on a mid-sleeper cabin bed.  The bed arrived last week, she has promised that she is going to really try with this new bed.  We trialled the mattress on night 1 (not the actual bed as that is feat of engineering in construction), no luck, she still appeared; her reason was, “I just wanted to snuggle!”  She looked so adorable as she said it that I couldn’t do anything but smile.  I am too weak!  Night 2 was the same.  Feat of construction completed (there may be another blog about that!), bed was ready for night 3.  The excitement levels reached an all-time high as they set up their 2nd under bed den; with the exuberant anticipation of an uninterrupted night’s sleep, we packed her off to bed.

I would so love to be able to end on a high note just there and say that all was resolved by the removal of the ‘creaky bed’.  Sadly no, the saga continues.  That same night, the high anticipated uninterrupted night was shattered by the arrival of small person, plus toys in the early hours.  So, the next day, we as responsible parents, had the chat with her about trying to stay in her own bed.  Dad went for the ‘bad cop’ option of ‘just stay in your own bed, whereas Mummy ‘good cop’ went for the ‘try to stay in your own bed, but if you are too scared, then don’t feel bad about coming to see us’ approach.  A very happy DD2 went off to sleep in her own bed, no arguments about staying there for the night, she seemed to have taken on board our comments.  But, 10 pm arrived and we heard crying; heart breaking sobbing, real tears, the full-on distress of fear, or possibly illness.  She seemed fine health wise and managed to shake her head and sob ‘no,’ when asked if she felt poorly.  The distress was horrible, I haven’t seen her like this since the early days of crying.  She said she was scared, but would give nothing more than that away.  I settled her into our bed to try and calm her….. mistake I know, but you should have seen her.  She finally sobbed herself to sleep, so we agreed to let her stay.  But in the middle of the night, she woke again in floods of tears and still couldn’t tell us why.  Surely there is more to this than not wanting to stay in her bed, but who knows.

I guess as part of me enjoys the closeness and that the fact that she is still my little girl, there is a chance that I am being selfish.  Maybe I should try harder to convince her not to join us at night; but I’ve not got the conviction in the fight.  I keep telling myself she will grow out of it, but sometimes I think she just has an evil plan, to wear us down until she gets the bed all to herself!

“Is that it?” I hear you cry.  Probably not the ending to this blog that you would have expected.  An ideal conclusion would have been to list all the hints and tips for getting the little darlings to sleep, but maybe this is more a part of me asking, am I alone?  If not, then you others out there take something away knowing you are not alone.  We just need to agree that we do what we do to help them grow up in this scary world, if they need more support, then it’s our job to be there.  If I went wrong and have set up this course of events, then I just have to remember that there are no right or wrong paths, just paths we take.  Hopefully, we all get to the same place in the end.

Tales of the hobby unicorn and help I am addicted to the Christmas sales….

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This one continues on the theme of the simpler things in life. The drama of the night last night involved the hobby unicorn and the fact that there is only one of them in a house of two girls.  Now, you would think that one hobby unicorn (is that actually a word, or should it be hobby-horse unicorn?) would be enough in anyone’s house, but apparently I was wrong.  There were real tears, so the guilt kicked in.  There used to be a hobby reindeer, but during a play date including younger brothers, the hobby reindeer was brutally massacred and left for dead.  Hobby reindeer had to go to the bin.  All was fine at the time and this was about 2 years ago, but apparently DD2 has only just noticed.  So I promised to find another hobby unicorn, and can you believe I actually found one for £1.50 in a charity shop the very next day.  The picture shows it dripping wet after a sponge down and repair job on its stump (feels a bit harsh calling it a stump, but not sure pole sounds any better).

I love shopping, it’s a bit of a hobby; actual shopping (involving shops and money), window shopping, internet shopping, even food shopping, you name it, I love.  My love has kind of got me into trouble in the past, so now the actual shopping has been seriously curbed and replaced with charity shops, sales and bargain shopping.  I am currently addicted to going round garden centres and farm shops trying to swoop in on their Christmas stock bargains.  But I CANT STOP!  I’ve hit the all time low now of eating out of date Christmas chocolates, because they are a bargain and chocolate is an essential item!

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Before having children, I had always donated to charity shops, but didn’t realise their true value until I was about to get married.  We decided on a tea party theme, so needed a load of teapots for table flower arrangements, this meant endless trips to charity shops in search of tea pots.  We found it was quite fun and aside from the teapots, found a few little gems.  The girls quickly became addicted to the thrill of buying, I think they might have got that from me and possibly my Mum (sorry Mum, if you are reading this, but we do love the thrill of a purchase).

I’ve always loved the sales and BC had a wardrobe full of sale items; now the children have wardrobes full of sale items.  Over the years I have thrown away countless items of the clothing that I never really liked or, being completely honest, never really fit into.  The diet didn’t quite happen, so eventually off to the charity shop, or the bin, my so-called bargains went.

I think I am a more savvy bargain hunter these days though, I am really careful to get things that I know we will use, or the kids, ‘sort of’, need.  Charity shops are fantastic for kids stuff; never be afraid to check them out.  Some things need a wash or a clean up, but equally there are some almost new, excellent quality bargains to be had.  I usually go for toys and games, rather than clothes.  Clothes will be things for dressing up, or school events that require costumes.  But some of those things become the most loved items.  I had to get something for Children in Need last year, picked up a total bargain of a quality Boden (Not sure of the brand, but it seems to be expensive new, so its got to good, right?) T-shirt, which she still loves.  I have to wash the clothes first though as DD1 says they smell like charity shops – I can’t really object to this comment as there is a sort of unique charity shop aroma, but it’s all washable.  I particularly love the fact that I am getting a bargain and giving to charity all at once.

I often donate too, as I never quite have enough for a table top sale, now the baby years are over.  Definitely recommend a table top sale though for baby stuff, it’s hard work labelling everything and lugging it to and from the venue, but well worth it.

Charity shops are great for board games and toys, as they can be so expensive new; you can never truly know if the children will like a game till you get it home, so get a bargain version to try it out.  I’ve got some really unusual games for less than £5 each, when new you would be looking at over £20.  Children’s toys are way too expensive, but don’t get me started on that!  It’s a way of giving them a little treat, entertaining them, and finding ways of getting them to play nicely together, all at once.

There is this relatively new craze of garden centres going mad for Xmas, with amazingly complicated and intricate displays.  Some even charge for the privilege of going round the displays, to then buy their merchandise afterwards.  World’s gone a bit mad for Xmas, but I’ve got kids and we love it.  But who knew that straight after the festivities are over, as in Boxing Day, the whole lot goes on sale?  So for the last few years, I have become obsessed with getting the best bargains, to then surprise myself with when I get the decs out the next year.  I never remember what I bought, so it’s brilliant to open up the storage boxes and check out the bargains.  But this year, I am obsessed to a new level, I keep going back to see if the 50% has changed to 70%.  Here is the latest little beauty:

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£14.99 reduced to £2.50 – there is a possibility that it is out of date, but I am struggling to read the details.  Oh well, not a problem here as the girls don’t really eat gingerbread anyway, but they had a ball making it.   (Kind of assuming it is gingerbread, as it is not exactly clear).  I have so many things I should be doing, so my Xmas obsession must end today.  Bye bye Christmas 2017, it was amazing.  But just wait till you see Christmas 2018 when I reveal all my new half price items.

Keeping them occupied while we put together the new bed, I feel a blog coming on about that.  (Excuse the random looking greenery in the background; Mr Vintage Mum has a bit of a plant pot obsession):

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The finished article and other than making the icing for them, it was all their own work.  Not bad for £2.50.

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Bargain hunting is well worth doing, if you have the time, plus have the children who will let you do it.  I must get my head down to work again now, so it’s time to let the sales go until Summer.  Charity shops are year round fun though, but in moderation.  My clothes are pleading with me not to buy more chocolate bargains.   Plus, I have promised that me and DD1 will start running, as she is going to be an Olympic runner apparently.  So I am making a promise that I have bought my very last Christmas chocolate….. well maybe.

A Life Less Ordinary – Can We Just Enjoy the Simpler Things in Life?            

I am very guilty of over complicating life and my attitude to entertaining the children is no exception.  As I am always harping on about, I was born quite a long time ago.  When I was a child, days out were a real treat, not a regular weekend thing.  Me and my sister would just entertain ourselves for hours; usually independently, as the 4 years age gap is a long one when you are children.  But things were so different, in that as long as I was back before dark and Mum had a vague idea of where I was, it was OK to just meet friends, or play on the farm for hours.   Though there was nothing wrong with this as a childhood, for some reason I feel this intense need to make things exciting for my children, so that they can report back to their teachers and friends about their interesting life.

I doubt that I differ much from other Mums now, in that I rarely let them out of my sight, unless we are at home.  This leads to the constant need to think of entertainment.  There is so much out there to choose from; ice skating, bowling, cinema, soft play, climbing, swimming, pottery painting to name a few, let’s face it, the list is endless.  I feel the need to tailor holidays and short breaks around the external entertainment options.  But am I really doing what they want?

I was all set to book some activity for a sleepy Sunday, desperate to take DD1’s mind off breakfast club the next day.  (Great news though, she no longer needs to go – no more Sunday stressing!)  I had drawn a blank on ideas, so we decided to let them come up with a plan – radical new idea eh?  DD1 started describing this park; initially we drew a blank, but after a significant amount of questioning, we narrowed it down to a park in a local town.  In fact, though we moved several years ago, we ended up moving back to a similar area; the requested park was one we used to visit regularly in the baby years.  I love to revisit the park as it reminds me of going there when they were babies; it was one of the first places we visited on our return to the area.  It’s a great spot as we can hit the shops and grab a coffee before heading out to the park.  It is far from exciting, there is a much more grown up park in the same town, but it is where they wanted to go.  There is a river with a pooh stick bridge, this makes them very happy as they can spend ages dropping sticks over the wrong side of the bridge, running to the other side to find that nothing appears as they drift away in the opposite direction.  Once the directionally challenged pair have been put right, it is an innocent game that provides free entertainment for quite a few minutes.

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(Collecting pooh sticks)

We ended up spending about 3 hours on our trip out; there was the obligatory café trip, but I am really tight and tend to pack them food for said café trips, then just treat Mum and Dad to coffees.  A certain coffee chain makes chocolate babyccinos for 55p, including a mini flake, so on a generous day, they get this.  Sadly, DD1 has really outgrown the babyccinos, so I worry café trips are going to become quite pricey soon.  They enjoyed a mad run around Poundland; for some reason they have a fascination with Poundland and though we rarely buy them anything, they just love to look around the Aladdin’s Cave of goodies.  Then with take-out coffees in hand, off we all went to the park.

DD1 is a monkey bar demon; if monkey bars were an Olympic event, she would be a contender.   This park has really high up monkey bars, which set Dad off in a flat spin of panic about her safety, but she loves the thrill of the height.  DD2 found the baby slide and enjoyed that for a little too long, but then finally graduated to the bigger one.   They played in the sand pit, which I know probably contains fox pooh, but kids will be kids.  They spun on roundabouts, slid on slides, swung on swings and then pooh sticked away the afternoon.

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So that was our simple day as chosen by the children.  No booking fees, charges, queues, long drives and struggles to park, just an innocent day at the park.  I wonder how long this will be enough for them, but for now I am going to make the most of those special and innocent days.

The Great Outdoors and Getting Exercise.. Good For The Soul.

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I have been watching breakfast TV again.  I am someone who needs makeup to leave the house, so this is factored into my morning routine, and while I do it, I watch breakfast TV, usually with my 2 little helpers using the bed as their dressing / lounging around area.  This morning the story that caught my attention was about getting fresh air and being outdoors, to help combat depression.  I felt this led on from my other breakfast TV inspired blogs about loneliness and parenting.  Now I am not saying that loneliness and depression are the same thing, but it got me thinking about how I use the outdoors to clear my head.  I think I might be one of the people they talked about who needs the outdoors to lighten my mood; reckon it comes from being a farmer’s daughter.  Not that you would see me as being remotely useful on a farm these days!  For me the outdoors means exercise, though I love to lay around in the sun, let’s face it, those days that it is sunny enough are rare in this country, so it is usually more the move around, or freeze option.

My brain gets super busy and not always in a useful way; it replays conversations and scenarios over and over, it worries about bills, children, well just about everything, and now it is writing blogs on the side.  Sometimes, the brain express train just needs to find a station and stop, re-arrange it’s passengers and then get on it’s way again.  Over the years, I have found that walking really helps me sort things out in my head, while I walk my brain will have a little chat to itself and quite amazingly, by the time I have raised the heartrate a little and got from A to B, my thoughts are less muddled, I feel brighter and sometimes I manage to make decisions.  After DD1 arrived, if I was having a lonely day, I found that a walk around the park made me feel like I had done something with my day, it didn’t even matter if I just had a sleeping baby for company.  This was trickier for DD2 as by then I had a walking 18-month-old, who did not rate travel by buggy as an option, so walking was curbed for a while.   I am sure if I had done more walking and had more fresh air, my post-natal depression would have been easier to deal with.

Exercise has always been my nemesis; I like food and lots of it, but I stress about my weight, so exercise is the compromise.  Eat, exercise, eat again; that’s the format.  But over the years the eating has got more frequent and the exercise less; the result …. Oh no, the love handles are now industrial sized and baby belly is starting to look like no. 3 is hiding in there.  I can’t say I have ever enjoyed exercise and find it a struggle to motivate myself.  Before children I would go to the gym, go to classes, and very occasionally go for a run, but post children, which also coincided with post 40, things have changed.

I will give the disclaimer here – my usual one is that I write about my own experiences and in no way, would I suggest what I do is right, but it works for me, so read on, hopefully enjoy and take away from it what you like.  On a more serious note – always know your own limits, consult a Doctor if need be, and take care when exercising.  I had to rebuild my muscles in intensive physiotherapy during my 20s, so I became very familiar with my body.  I am also trained in anatomy and physiology, so I have a knowledge about the human body and how it works.  Plus, over many years, I have attended a lot of different classes, so I know the safety requirements.  All of this is why I currently choose to exercise under my own steam and without support; it is not an ideal scenario as the pros know what they are doing and can help, but at the moment my options are limited by funds.

I see walking as the only exercise I truly enjoy, I love the fresh air, I take photos while I am out and enjoy the views.  Now DD1 doesn’t agree with this; “Walking is not exercise!” she bluntly stated when I said walking was good exercise. “Walking, walking walking, la, la, la, bored!” She followed up her statement with a demo of her walking experience.  But it is free and I can incorporate it into the day without donning the lycra.  I hate to pay for parking, so I usually set myself the challenge of finding free places to park.  These tend to be quite a long walk, sometimes, I purposely park knowing that I will need to walk a mile or so to get to where I need to be.  Now this only works if I have the time, but I put it down as exercise time and justify it in that way.  I would get more out of an exercise class, or a run, but I don’t get the headspace from those.  So, it is a triple whammy; get my jobs done, exercise and clear my head…winner.

I also try to exercise for free in other ways; I am currently signed up to an online yoga site that has a huge variety of classes to download onto the TV or laptop.  In summer it is possible to do this in the garden, (if the neighbours are out!) Obviously, the online teachers can’t check my technique, but the demos are sound and it’s a great way to exercise for almost free.  I tried to do the mini tramp thing too, using YouTube, but the thing took up so much storage space that now I use the kids trampoline outside and just go for it on there; another summer option though – I don’t do cold!  Running is another free one, I am not a natural runner, it is pitiful to watch, but I try every now and again, but it usually ends in a near heart attack state.  I can also be seen scooting to school …. I have no shame on my pink scooter, who knew it was such good exercise?  By the end of the road I am wheezing and gasping for air, so it has to be good for me, right?

Cycling is another option, but I think I might be scarred by years of cycling to school in the freezing North.  I don’t see it as fun, and mostly I see it as quite terrifying as the cars whizz by me.  But DD1 has decided she is going to be an Olympic cyclist, so we may need to invest in family bikes and help her with her dream.  Sadly, DD2 is not getting this cycling thing and is currently, still a stabiliser girl.  Yes, I know 6 is far too old, but the whole combo of balancing, steering, braking and peddling is just more than she can cope with, for what she sees as far too much effort.  DD2 would still be in a buggy if she had her way, that’s my girl!  DD1 is also going to be an Olympic runner apparently – she is on her own with that one though, maybe I could scoot while she runs 😊

I know that as I get older my self esteem is dropping as my physical appearance changes due to age.  Exercise is a great way to counteract those negative feelings, and what better way to do it than in the great outdoors?

Parenting and Loneliness… how can you be so busy, yet so lonely? (Part 2 the school years)

As promised, I am going to continue my theme of loneliness in parenting by talking about how the school years are for me.  My children are in Years 2 and 3, so I have been part of the whole school system for over 3 years now.  This has involved 3 new schools and a variety of pre-schools, due to house moves.  With every move comes the new challenge of ‘fitting in’, as well as fitting everything in.

This is about me and my experiences; there is no right or wrong to this, we can’t help how we feel.  By now, hopefully you will have read my blog about the dream job, which for me is being a mum, so you will know that I feel very positive about my parenting role.  But I wonder if I have relied too much on mummy stuff to keep me active and socialised.  I even created a job around the school environment, which I now believe was more about staying in touch with my children than having a job that worked for me.  I did enjoy working in a school, but I am not completely sure I am the right fit for the role, as I have control issues.  Life with children is not always controllable.  I will talk more about my experiences in the school jobs another time, as I feel another blog coming on about that.

As I talked about in blog part 1; pre-children, my social life came from work.  I have held onto many friends that I met through work, but I no longer find it easy to make the time within work to make so many new friends.  My friends are spread around the country and the ties of the school routine make it hard to keep in touch with long distance friends.  So where else did I make friends?  I would often work 2 jobs, as I loved the social side of working in a pub, whilst making money.  I enjoy learning, so there were many evening classes and clubs which filled the hours outside work.  I exercised as much as I could be bothered; it was never a passion, more of a need.  I did charity work alongside all of this, and overall kept very busy.  Within my coupled and my single years, I have always been the main house keeper.  I tend to be the cook, cleaner, shopper and accountant in the household.  I guess I must take over and they just let me do it –  told you I had control issues!

So why do the extra-curricular activities not fit into the Mum lifestyle for me now? With babies, came toddler groups, mum’s socials, activities and general busyness.  School should have meant free time to work, socialise, exercise; after all there are so many hours they are in school, aren’t there? The reality is actually a lot of paid childcare, as they are not in school as many hours as I thought.  So, for reasons that could be my own failings, or simply choices, depending on how you look at it, my life is currently quite solitary and could sometimes be described as lonely.  I no longer have mummy meet ups and whatever activity they were doing that day to fill the hours.  I have work, school runs, PTA activities, and sometimes, I have school volunteering, but these too can be quite solitary activities.  School Reception year was sociable, as many of us still had toddlers and babies at home, we spent ages in the playground chatting, met up for coffee and toddler socials, went to the baby activities and worked around it when we could.  I chose my own business option for working, which was not the most sociable, but fitted in around school and pre-school.  Eventually, I ended up spending more and more hours in school, volunteering and the occasional paid hour, where I met people and interacted for the time I was there, but then went back to soloville.  This led me to think a career in school was the perfect way of fitting it all in, plus maybe I could stand a chance of being ‘down with the kids’ if I stayed in touch with the youth.  If I could have found the precious TA role in my own children’s schools, just think how close I could have been!  That role did not come up, so I was left running between schools for drop off, work and pick up. With school comes a rigid routine that leaves me in a constant state of needing to be somewhere and clock watching; I hate to be late and stress beyond belief about not getting somewhere on time.  I HATE ROUTINE.

So, what has changed now toddler group and Reception years are a thing of the distant past, and how can it be addressed?  There is a mixture of passion and guilt that makes it hard for me to be apart from my children.  I enjoy time with then, treasure every second, as I know that in a blink of an eye they will be grown up and have their own lives.  Then, there is the guilt; it is not about leaving them, it is about finding people to do the childcare thing on my behalf, without feeling guilty about asking.  Surely, I should be doing it all; being a Mum, working, exercising, keeping the house, doing charity work, and all without help, is that not what everyone else does?

A lot has been written and will continue to be written about the school playground etiquette and behaviour, so I won’t add to it in detail.  Personally, I find it hard to make friends when the time scale is around 5 or 10 minutes in a breezy playground, whilst keeping an eye on small people.  I managed it in our first school, but since moving around, I find it hard.  It is not the same as spending the day at work with someone; yes, there is something huge in common, but it can be hard to keep a conversation going when the topic of children has been exhausted.  I rely hugely on the school Facebook groups, they are a great way to chat to people you would otherwise possibly hardly ever meet up with, or when you do, there is nothing but a smile exchanged.  The Facebook groups make me feel less detached; I can ask questions any time of day or night and there will always be an answer.  We remind each other of homework, events and other things that it is so easy to forget about when we are busy.  Dealing with school text messages and emails is time-consuming and often things get missed, so I rely on other mums to fill in the gaps.  Even though I am not always brave enough to chat face to face, I feel less lonely knowing there is this social media connection.  Some people would say that social media is killing face to face conversation, but I find it helps me, so I’m up for it.  I would say from my experience that the pressure to spend time with other mums in the playground gets less and less the older the children get; children will choose their own friends and their parents usually come as part of the bargain.  Never worry about making connections; true friends will just happen, but it might take time.

For a mixture of reasons, I don’t have much family support, it would not be fair to say none at all and if I asked more often, I am sure there would be more support.  But regular childcare to cover school runs etc. is not an option for me without digging out the wallet.  Let’s take a moment to big up Dad now; Dad is brilliant, he loves time with the kids and gets involved.  He freely admits being a stay at home Dad does not appeal, but makes every effort to be there as much as possible.  His work is busy, stressful and requires a fair amount of commuting.  It is completely my issue that makes me feel that I can’t hand over the childcare the minute he walks in the door, so that I can do a course, or some exercise, or meet friends.  He would do that for me, but how can I justify enjoying myself when he has had a long day at work?  His arrival at home after work coincides with homework, bath and bed routines and is reliant on the wonderful British train system, so can’t be relied upon to be a set time.  By the time the children and dinner are sorted, it is too late for most classes, and friends are getting ready for bed themselves.  None of this late-night partying for us on a school night!  What about weekends?  These are times when I should do more, but then it is back to not wanting to miss a moment with the kids, along with feeling like I can’t hand over children to my working partner, unless it is for me to do my share of working and earning money.

Work is a rush in and rush out thing for me; drop off the kids, get to work, fit in shopping etc, pick up kids, come home.  Social events are usually skipped, this is partly down to insecurities and anxieties, so if you can make the effort to join in, then do it.  Other ideas to help free up the time; internet shop, make the most of childcare and play dates, get help with the cleaning and house stuff (I treat myself to a window cleaner with some of my money…. Living the dream!)  Playdates are tricky when there is more than one child, as coinciding them to fit in with a social life is a nightmare.  9 times out of 10, the play dates will not happen at the same time for both children.  Get clever with timings and ask more, that should be a plan for 2018 for me.  People want to help, as long as it is not a regular arrangement, (from experience, these can get awkward and be a tie), other parents will usually help and favours can then be returned another time.

I am not one to give out advice, I feel that everyone finds their own path in their own way, but if my experiences can be of any help then that is great.  I felt overwhelmed by advice and information when my children came along; it took time and effort to filter out what was right for me.  But one thing I will recommend is to take time to make it right for you.  There will be lots of questions about what you will do with all that time when the children go to school, but don’t forget all that time they are not at school; inset days, holidays (about 13 weeks), sick days, and if you really lucky, there might be the occasional snow day.  Try out breakfast, after school and other clubs, child minders, etc. as you might find they do not work with your routine, your price range, or your child.  Make sure that the money you earn through work is not wiped out by childcare, I found it more expensive to get childcare around school than pre-school.

As much as I tried to fight it, being a parent has changed my life. My confidence and self-esteem feel different, I feel guilty about just about everything I do; there is this obsession with keeping up appearances and being the best for my children. All I can do now is make the most of my new life and live it to the best of my abilities.  There are lonely times and times when I am just too tired to be sociable and interesting, but during these times I try to do something creative to make me feel better, and sometimes, I just sit down with my children, take a break and have a massive group hug, which always makes me remember how lucky I am.

Loneliness part 2

First Day Back Clichés and How I Sound Like My Own Mum ….

So it is that hated day when they go back to school after a longish holiday.  Half terms are always easier, but Christmas and Summer are the worst.  There had been a few wobbles over the last week about going back, but yesterday lulled me into a false sense of security with a very upbeat and energetic day.  Bedtime was all good, but then came the morning of doom.  One work up teary complaining about the dreaded breakfast club, whilst the other had to be lifted out of bed and rudely awoken.  Dad was already out of the door by this point, having had to sleep in the pink palace, due to a night-time visitor, who appeared to favour the horizontal sleeping position.  I got the head end, but feet end is unworkable, so usually ends in the banishing of a parent to another room.  She just appears with toys in the middle of the night and settles herself in, we don’t even hear her some nights.

So she struggled into an awake state, had breakfast and then appeared in my bedroom all teary eyed, saying she didn’t want to go back to school.  Oh not another one….  So out came the parent clichés:

“Everyone feels like this on the first day back.” Now I hate it when people say this to me, it doesn’t help!  So why am I saying this to my sobbing child?

“You will be fine when you get there and see your friends.” Now this one is better as it is usually true, hoping that their friends are still their friends, as girls can be fickle creatures.

“You won’t do much work on the first day back, they will ease you in gently.”  Well if actual grown up work is anything to go by, this is not a true statement and I can imagine the poor child in the middle of a maths lesson as I write.

“You must have missed your friends?” This is probably true, but this comment was met with a tearful, “No!”  Oh, ok then, moving swiftly on to the next cliché.

“It will be the weekend before you know it.”  As it is only a 2 day week, this is true, but also no help at all, in fact to a child, 2 days can seem like forever.

This was some of the clichés used on youngest DD this morning.  Sounding like my own Mum and probably many other Mums, I am not convinced I helped much, but she begrudgingly got dressed and ready to go.

Now oldest DD is a much more complex creature, there is a blog in the making about her anxiety and issues, but I am kind of hoping I will have some answers for other people in the same boat when I finally write it.  She is a tearful wreck every morning when breakfast club looms.  I have children in different schools; mid-year move and all that joy moving house brings.  As I am not able to be in 2 places at once, DD1 has to go to breakfast club and the DD2 goes to after school club, to keep it fair.  Just 9 months to go and then they will be in the same school, walking distance away … woo hoo.  We had to change from the childminder as she had a dog (dogs are so confusing, she loves them, but is terrified of them) and now breakfast club is the only option.  It is for 20 minutes and there is nothing horrible about it; I have checked it is OK, just in case you think I am being irresponsible and the poor girl is actually in hell.  So out come the 4 days a week clichés (we give her Friday off breakfast club, as we are good like that) :

“It will go really quickly, it’s only 10 minutes.”  Stretching the truth slightly as it is a bit longer, not helping.

“You can just do some drawing or reading.” True, but not helpful.

“Everyone will be nice to you.” I sort of the get the feeling that the others just ignore her, so another useless comment.

Then I get tough:

“I have no choice on this, Dad has gone to work and there is no one else to take you.  You will just have to put up with it, I can’t be in 2 places at once!”  This usually gets the sad face and a big sob.

Then I start to get stressed as she is lying on her bedroom floor complaining of tummy ache, completely naked, refusing to move as, “It really, really hurts!”

“Just get dressed, hurry up, you are going to make us all late.”  More sobbing.

“Get in the car, put your coat on, where are your shoes, haven’t you done your teeth yet, OK back up stairs, yes I know your tummy hurts….”  and so it goes on.

Finally, this forlorn looking child slowly climbs into the car and we set off in silence to school number 1, where I push her through the door, to be met by the sympathetic side angled head nod from the breakfast club assistant.  She knows, but does she think it is all my fault, am I a bad mother, what could I have said or done differently, will she be OK, maybe I should put DD2 in breakfast club so she doesn’t have to go through this?  All this goes through my head as I walk back to the by now, quite neglected DD2, who is waiting in the car with an equally forlorn expression as her sister.  By this point I am out of clichés and mother comments, so up goes the radio and I pray for Little Mix to come on.

We silently walk to the playground from the car park, with her clutching my hand and desperately seek out a friend on arrival.  Oh joy, there they are, and apparently all are still friends after their leave of absence.  One has a box with a tooth in it to proudly show off, so all is fixed and suddenly I actually believe some of my Mum clichés, as she finally releases her vice like grip to join the line up.

I hear myself using the words of my Mum and every other Mum most mornings, as I say the same lines to get them out of the door.  It used to be particularly stressful when I was trying to get them to 2 different breakfast clubs, then me to work.  Work hours are currently being shifted around to help with the parenting guilt.  One day I vow to come up with an original line, that will actually make them feel better, it could be a long time coming though.

Using the good old school selfie to cheer her up … should point out that wasn’t taken this morning though, not in a selfie mood today.

school selfie.jpg

 

Dream Jobs and New Year Resolutions…

A friend recently asked me about my plans for 2018, I told her that I had nothing in mind this year and would just keep doing what I am doing.  She then suggested that this could be the year that I find my dream job. I thought about that as i felt a bit disheartened that just doing what I was doing was not enough, and then the realisation dawned that I have already found my dream job.

I was not an A* student at school; my reports always said that I could do better, despite often achieving A* for effort – well they had to say something positive didn’t they?  I followed in the footsteps of a super clever older sister; a true achiever who worked extremely hard.  I found life distracted me from school and was more of a dreamer than a doer.  I had lots of ideas for careers, most of which were influenced by films I had watched, not in the least bit realistic ambitions.  Ideas included Britain’s next top model, (loved my food too much), a lawyer, (I could barely speak in class, never mind stand up in a courtroom), join the mounted police, (though I love riding, I do rather struggle to stay mounted!)  So off I went with my disappointing A level results to join the working population.  At a time when university was briefly available for all; fees were paid, grants were issued that didn’t need to be repaid; it was an expectation of all A level students to go onto university.  But I really wasn’t motivated, or clever enough to do it, so I started out life feeling that I had failed.  It is not a good footing to start career progression on, so here is a note for my younger self, ‘never feel a failure, just see a challenge and rise to it.’

I could go on for hours about what I have tried to do, and actually done throughout my working life, but I know you want me to cut to the chase about my dream job.  It is not without boredom, monotony, stress and frustration, but I still think I’ve found it.  It’s massively cheesy and I feel guilty to admit it (why?), but it is the parent thing.  ‘Seriously, is that it?’ I hear you ask, but yes it is.  I’m a flitterer; I flitter from job to job, I train, then re-train, I search constantly for something that makes me feel this is it.  But I am now about to enter into year 9 of parenting and I am still here making it work, loving it.  This is a career record for me.  Yes, I feel like a failure on a daily basis, worry that I am doing it all wrong, failing them, creating a future generation with just as many issues as me, but I still end nearly every day looking at 2 beautiful, mostly happy little people.  Now I am not disillusioned enough to think this feeling will last forever, believe me when I say I am dreading the teen years and terrified of what the future holds for them, but I will do everything I can to make them positive, resilient and ambitious young people.

I would love to say that I am super Mum, but that would be a big fat lie.  Yesterday’s dinner was an amazing combination of tomato soup, white bread and reheated yorkshire puddings.  I skillfully opened that can of soup, they were home-made yorkshire puddings though, but I do think the girls not so secretly prefer, Aunt Bessie’s.  In my defence on that one, I will add that we were evacuated from Morrisons due to a fire alarm, so shopping was cancelled.  Currently they are both sitting on the sofa in a mood because of yet another lecture on why we do not hit, or throw things at each other.  So I am a million miles away from super woman, with a career and an organised domestic home life, but I’m doing this job the best I can and loving, nearly every minute of it and sometimes, I get it right.

baking.jpg

I don’t think I have ever truly had my own dreams, I always felt under pressure to be grateful that as a woman I have the opportunity to ‘have it all’.  I have gone through illness, divorce, mental health issues, serious financial problems whilst trying to have it all.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to bring children into this world until someone told me that I couldn’t, then a real void appeared in my life.  Luckily I proved that person wrong and here I am with 2 of them.  But, I spend most days feeling there is more out there, I feel the need to say what I do, or what am I when someone asks what I do for a job.  It was great to be able to put a label on me just to feel that I had something to say when I got asked that question.  But does it truly matter what I am, or what I do, as long as I am providing for me and my family and being happy?

So this year my resolution is to keep doing what I am doing, stop searching and start finding.  Dont worry though, there will still be endless new ideas for making money, constant new skills and training courses, I will earn money any way I can and strive to be thinner, fitter and healthier, but I doubt the last 3 will happen!

Advice for my children will be to always follow your dreams and keep moving forward, but make sure they are your dreams and not the ones you think you should have.  Advice for me when the New Year glow has faded is to stop worrying about what I am, and concentrate on doing what I do the best I can.