Growing Up – How Old Is Old Enough?

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My oldest daughter turned 8 recently, she is in the first year of Junior School and this seems to be representing a change in our world.  Some days, it’s a pretty dramatic change in our world, as the moods swing from high to low with the blink of an eye.  I can’t help but wonder what the puberty years will bring, if she is already so emotional …. time to build a shelter and take cover!  Gone are the cutesy stories about little children; we all love the little babies and preschool children, they are so adorable; strangers stop you in the street to admire them, we proudly show them off and laugh at their quirky behaviour, we swap stories about the funny things they say.  Then bang, cute turns into mini grown-ups overnight; people don’t see cute anymore, they see annoying children, they wish they had chosen the pub / restaurant that openly shuns the custom of children, they want the child free hotels, they want anything but your slightly older child running and screaming around the garden.

To me they are forever cute and even in the darkest hours, I don’t think I could love them more, but I respect they can be incredibly annoying to the general public. I am not going to lie, they can be incredibly annoying to me too.

My current issue with the mini adult is make-up.  When is it OK to say yes to anything other than a face painted tiger?  Last week, there was the monumental tantrum of all tantrums, in public, following the refusal to buy a toddler’s piano book.  I remind you, she is 8, not 3!  Don’t worry I am not repressing her musical talent, she has since been placated with a piano app, so much kinder on the ears than the plinky plonky book version. Following this tantrum, in my weakened state, I said yes to the obligatory child’s make-up set and yes, it brought her out in a rash.  But before said rash, she spent 3 mornings happily sitting at her desk putting her makeup on, it was very sweet to see and made her so happy.  I had hoped that with back up from Dad, we might get it removed before she left the house, but he melted at the look of pride on her face, so off we went each day with our little princess in her eye shadow and blusher.  It was very subtly done, but she really could do with a few lessons on how to apply.  But by day 3, the rash was getting worse, so she decided that new special makeup must be purchased.  I should point out that none of her money has been wasted in this venture so far, and I am pretty certain she expects this new improved version to be funded by us too. So, what now for disappointed child, is it the real thing, at the same cost us poor adults have to pay?

I grew up in a time when both women and men wore heavy, obvious makeup (guess the era!).  I was in full foundation, the works, by 13 and have not stopped since.  As I struggle with this whole ageing thing, I can’t start the day without the application of full makeup, even the lure of extra time in bed can’t stop me needing my makeup fix.  I know I look more respectable to world with it, and other than a commando style run to the bin, I never leave the house without it.  This sends a rubbish message to my children; I am being a hypocrite saying they don’t need makeup and then plastering myself in it.  Apparently as I age, I should be wearing more age appropriate subtle makeup too, according to the experts…. Pah!  Plus, at a times when I could barely afford food, I still had to fund the makeup habit (is that the distant sound of violins I hear?!) It is not a cheap habit to get into. I am not keen on funding her new-found makeup fad, but will be sad if she feels she has to spend her valuable pocket money on it.  How do we keep this from spiralling into a need to be made up?  Will it eventually be that she feels more confident with it, than without it, or am I just getting way to ahead of myself?

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I don’t have the piercing issue as mine cant even cope with a paper cut, they have no desire to stick needles through their ears, or any other body part, I wonder if that will change.  So at least that is one battle I can leave for later years.  I’m not too worried on that front though, as long as it is done professionally, but is that because I know I don’t have to worry yet?  But makeup is here and it’s now.  Dad, being from quite an old fashioned, ‘traditional’ family, thinks this one is down to me.  I want them to be free to experiment and grow as their own people, but it is such a fine line between experimenting for fun and the pressure to look amazing, #nofilters!  All that said, I am about to go out and buy blusher, for fear of her skin if she uses the kid’s version again.  Luckily the lipsticks were fake, so for now a bit of lip balm/gloss seems to be acceptable.  I will always encourage them to be their own people, I will be open about my need for makeup, along with my sadness that I feel this need.  I want them to make choices for themselves and no one else, not because of what they see and read about, but because it makes them happy.  I’m in for the long haul on this one, I see many discussions ahead.

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#Internet Awareness – “Google It Mummy!”

In the modern world of technology, how do we keep our children safe without demonizing the thing that has brought us all together in this big world of ours?  I grew up in a time when there was no internet; yes, that time actually existed and I made it through.

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Children and young people need to find their way in life, unfortunately, sometimes whilst doing this, they can demonstrate cruel and abusive behaviour.  Don’t think that the cruel, sometimes evil comments on social media are a new thing, there were plenty of young people and adults who were just as capable of saying cruel things face to face.  Yes, it was nice to be able to go home and hide from it, but in our heads, we didn’t hide, we played the comments over and over, believed them, said them out loud until the last threads of self-esteem slid away.  But there was less opportunity to hear the good stuff; the kind comments, the comments that build you up.  I think that people find it awkward and sometimes embarrassing to give compliments to people’s faces, but hiding behind the phone, tablet, computer screen, makes it so much easier to boost people, we hear what other people are doing through the medium of social media, be it true or false, or maybe bigged up, we still comment and compliment them.  It makes people feel good to read it and it feels quite nice doing it too.

I got into blogging because I wanted to write, but I was also conscious that I was falling behind with technology since leaving an office environment.  I wanted to get more clued up on what was out there, I’ve already added a few new websites to my favourites and got some new apps on the phone.  I now need to demonstrate safe internet activity to my children, then find out more and understand what they are getting into.  That is my choice and the way I want to handle it, it’s not everyone cup of tea and they are no less aware for it.  How you find awareness for you and your child is your choice; but please do it.  It is a sad world; we are all too aware of some of the evils that lurk around the corners, we can’t hide our children forever, as one day they will need to protect themselves.  They need the education and awareness that we will teach them to ‘stay safe’

Facebook / Snap Chat / Twitter – all those social chat sites

I choose to expose my children to social media under my supervision.  At 6 and 8 they are beginning to be curious as they hear more and more from friends, and hear mention on TV programmes.  We use Facebook together, through my account, but it is heavily monitored and I am still to decide on when they get their own accounts.  They watch the kitten, hamster, or whatever the generic cute animal video of the day is; they check the posts of their own pictures and they get to see pictures of friends who we don’t see very often.  My profile is very private (I’ve even set up a fake profile so that I can regularly check in on what none friends see, bit over the top maybe, but it just gave me that little bit of security in the knowledge I am not sharing our pics to none friends) I am currently trying to explain to the girls that the powers that be, behind FB, are quite controlling over what we see, so our friends might not always get to the see the posts and like, or comment on them.  I realised a little while ago that the girls were getting hung up on counting the likes.  I am really glad we have discovered this so young, so that I have time to explain to them that Facebook is just for fun and by no means a measure of our popularity.  The last thing I want is for them to build up their ‘friend’ numbers to make themselves feel popular.  It will be a slow process of educating them.  FB may not be around when they hit their teens, but we can guarantee there will be something similar.

We use Snapchat for fun; they have no idea that they can send their pictures to other people and often ask me to post the pics on Facebook.  They are more into pictures than words, so they check out Instagram, but so far, they haven’t picked up on what it’s all about.  I am not a great user of Twitter and they are much too young to really care about that one.  They are allowed to message Daddy and other family member, but not without me watching over them.   They are desperate for their own phones, but purely to play games and take photos, they really don’t care about communicating with the outside world yet.  I am dreading the time that we have to talk about what is appropriate in a message, but hopefully by the time it is necessary, they will have some idea of the negative side of internet access.  That way we can achieve a healthy balance between having fun, but also being cautious.

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YouTube

We have the age restriction setting on YouTube; so, they are allowed to watch that solo, but I frequently check in on their activity.  To be honest I can usually hear the Peppa Pig theme tune blaring out, so I know we are pretty safe – don’t ask me why they still watch Peppa Pig at their age, but I love that they do and long may the innocence last.  In the early days of their YouTube journey, there was an incident with a Charlie and Lola video that had been changed to a Halloween version, luckily, we spotted it quite quickly.  Put us off for a while though, so we waited for them to be a little older before we left them alone with it again; I still blame Dad for that one!  I have a pet hate for the bizarre videos of adults demonstrating playing with toys; kids are fascinated by them, but I banned them.  Why are these people playing with toys and making videos of it, they always have really annoying voices too …. Apologies if you are one of these video makers, sorry they are just not for me.  So being the mean Mummy I am, they were banned and weirdly the children have stuck with this ban, without question.  We had lots of chats about why they concerned me and apparently, they took it on board.  I always explain my reasons.

YouTube has been really useful on their learning journey; they still love Geraldine The Giraffe doing her phonics, we learned to do the dab and our times tables using the many educational channels out there.  It can be a fantastic learning tool for both young and old.

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Fake News

Now I heard that my Year 3 daughter had a talk about Fake News yesterday; I didn’t actually get any information out of her, but she seemed quite interested in it all.  I am a great believer in that most news has a biased spin on it, fake or not fake, we sometimes need to hear more than one side to the story.  I am working to teach my children to listen to other people’s opinions and versions of events.  I often explain that what we read, or hear, may not be true.  Whatever I read on FB, I seek out other sources just to check how true it might be.  This is something they can learn through example and modelled behaviour; if they see us lapping up the gossip news and believing it, they will do the same.  Read the gossip, enjoy it, laugh at it, but remember to tell them that it might not be all that it seems and is only one person’s version of events.

Photos and Imaging

This is a big one for me as I have spent my life being heavily influenced by the pictures of the beautiful people and trying to attain a perfection that just was not there for me.  I have body image issues, but whether they are related to those images of perfection or not, I will never know.  I am really lucky to have two beautiful daughters who are a healthy weight and despite a slight sugar addiction, are highly unlikely to ever be overweight.  I work hard to build confidence in their appearance and talk about makeup being a nice to have, not a need to have.  I enjoy photography and am careful not to filter their pictures.  I will eventually highlight the difference between photos filtered and not filtered.  I am not yet in that place where we need to talk intimate photos, but for now I will just continue to build on their self-respect and educate as we go.  Using Snapchat is a great way to highlight how filters really alter a ‘real’ image; it’s fun but not a true representation. They love filming random videos, but for now they are for personal consumption, I have not allowed any on Facebook; when I do, I will ensure they understand they must check with me and the others in the videos first.

Google – Other search engines are available!

Children ask endless questions; gone are the days when we could just make up a quick answer and they would go away happy; in our house, one question leads to another and another and another, until I am left wondering the answers myself.  I used to say; “I don’t know, I will have to Google it.”  Now they are learning how to Google themselves, but I still get the comment, “Google it Mummy!” on a regular basis.  In my endless quest for knowledge on behalf of me and my children, I would be lost without Google.  It is something DD1 has been learning to use at school and I know she will now be exposed to those sites that pop up when you least expect them, there will be questions about words and images she sees, but there will also be a world of information at her fingertips.  They have started using Google Earth and are fascinated by it, “What country do you want to look at today Mummy?”  They did struggle with spelling Venezuela though!

Gaming and Educational Sites

Gaming is not an area I am familiar with, all those years ago, I tried Tomb Raider and couldn’t even get out of the practice bit. I can just about manage the Wii racing games, but even then, I spend more time facing the wrong way, or being upside down, than racing.  There are games consoles in our house, but mostly, all the children want to do is play games on tablets with the occasional bit of Wii action.  They tried Minecraft, but between us we couldn’t get very far, so we resorted to Candy Crush and they seem happy.  Games are brilliant for improving coordination and learning problem solving; I limit the time and ensure the content is age appropriate, but I am all for the experience in moderation.  The schools all sign up to online education sites; our current one is Purple Mash, learning through play is such a brilliant tool.  If they want to play Purple Mash, then who am I to stop their learning.  We stop ‘blue screen’ time before bath and they get at least an hour, if not more before bed without it.  It is always a book at bedtime, just to keep it old school.

It is my job to hover in the background, whatever they are doing on the phone, tablet, laptop, game consoles, keep a check, but let them learn and be independent.  They need to learn to assess a situation, decide on what is appropriate, learn to respect themselves and others, but most of all be free to have fun and learn.

Equality…..Should it be about being equal, or being an individual?

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Are we obsessing about being equal and perhaps forgetting that we are unique individuals? I don’t need to be equal to be me, I need to be loved, admired, cared for, respected, listened too ….. the list is endless, but maybe I don’t need to be a manager in big business, or running a high turnover company.  We focus on women in ‘men’s’ careers and making it to the boardroom, but don’t forget the women out there who are already smashing it as Doctors, nurses, teachers, mothers, cleaners, care assistants, architects, engineers, the list goes on.  Plus aren’t the jobs just jobs, and not either men’s or women’s? There is an army of women and men out there creating things from home to sell; working around the childcare issues, the cost of travel, and making it work for them and their families.  There is a wave of production going on in this country that is almost overlooked.  We are women and men heading up our own big businesses, we might make a fortune, we might not, but we will support ourselves and our families

Most of all, I just want the right to choose.  Whether we are male, female, transgender, gender neutral, it is all about choice.  Voting is about choice, we are currently celebrating getting the vote, so let us choose who and what we are; be who we want to be.  Don’t make us feel like we have to be a man in this world, it is still OK to be a woman; we should be proud.  There is too much pressure to be someone in this world, make money, succeed, be the best.  Being the best is amazing and succeeding is great, but take it from one who knows, sometimes being the best is not something we can attain, so being the best, we can be, is more than enough.  We need to make sure we are heading in the right direction; down the path we want and not the path we think we should want.  If a woman chooses to stay at home, or chooses a career in business over having children, some women choose to do both, it’s not a big deal, it’s just their path.  We wouldn’t make a fuss over a man’s choice of career, it would just be accepted.

In my long working career, I have seen equal amounts of men and women abused, bullied, overlooked and treated badly in the working environment.  Is it the case that people are just sometimes unkind?  It is our instinct as humans to preserve ourselves and survive?  In doing so, some people seem to find it necessary to put others down.  This is not exclusive to men, it is human and it is a side of human nature that we don’t need anymore.  People will be underpaid and overworked, irrespective of their gender, let’s join together to fight for a fair world.

Through technology we have made our big world smaller, we are closer together than ever before.  Only yesterday my children were using Google Earth to look at Australia; they could see real people on street view, this is something that would not have been possible a few years ago.  So why are we bringing ourselves closer together if all we want to do is judge and divide?  Every second of the day someone is discriminated against because of their race, religion, colour, gender, sexuality, social status, fashion choices, music choices, food choices, the list of reasons goes on.  For some reason we seem to have brought ourselves closer together, but now seem to be overwhelmed by the diversity of this world.  Our individual countries are now made up of people who are all different; I fear for the divisions we are creating in our endless search for equality.  Life is hard enough, we need to work together. Let us teach our children about respect, empathy, consideration for others, ambition, kindness, acceptance and most of all to be who they are and not who they think the world wants them to be.  We are not defined by what we are, but by who we.

8 Years Old – How Did We Get Here?

DD1 turned 8 last week and despite what the title might suggest, I am not going to talk about her path to 8 and how I can’t believe she is here already.  Instead I am going to talk about how this growing up thing happens so fast, it is easy for time to get away with you and vital things might get missed.  The last 8 years have been a mad rush of 2 children, 2 house moves, some sad family things, schools, new schools and more new schools, new businesses, training, new jobs, a bit more training, and then 8 happened.

I have had a bit of time to reflect recently, as I took a break from trying to find who I should be in this mad world; I took a look at where me and the girls are now.  A realisation is dawning that I might have forgotten, sub consciously possibly, to develop their independence.  Maybe I was too busy, maybe I was too hooked up on being indispensable.  Whatever the reason, here we are with 2 very reliant young people.  I now need to retrain old habits and get them ready for the world ahead of them.  I was brought up to be independent and capable, so why am I smothering my 2 with mother love?  I realise they don’t have to need me, it would just be good if they wanted me.  So here is my Top 10 list of things I should have done sooner:

  1. Get them to make their beds – I don’t mean putting on the sheets, duvet cover etc. I just mean get up and sort out the duvet and toys.  Simple stuff, but neither of mine do it.
  2. Tidy up plates and dishes – I find plates and left-over food wrappers pretty much everywhere. I am not as strict as I could be about eating at the table, so bowls are all over the place.  We have a new agreement that they bring them into the kitchen, so far, this happens maybe 1 out of 10 times, with a little nagging.
  3. This brings me onto dishwashers and washing up. I still think myself lucky to have a dishwasher, I spent many a year with hands in a washing up bowl.  I believe they need to learn both, but lets start with opening the dishwasher and plopping a plate or two inside… baby steps.
  4. Brushing teeth – now I am happy to say that due to a terrible fear of making them gag, I have pushed them into brushing their own teeth quite early. So now we have a good mix of them and us teeth cleaning, but they would much rather sit back and let Dad do the work.  Apparently, they need to be able to do joined up writing to be good at teeth brushing.  No harm doing a few practice runs before then though.
  5. Picking up clothes, not just discarding where they fall – currently there is a trail of clothing at bath time and in the mornings. The onesie frequently ends up strewn across the hall, whilst the littlest’s pyjamas are often found in our bed.  She loves the big bed for her dressing area.  They have finally learned to put pants in the wash basket and the occasional sock, but that’s as far as it goes.  Everything else is collected and sorted by parents.  So, its time to stand back and direct them on where to put things, then let them learn.
  6. Clothes hanging and putting away. How hard is it to put clothes on hangers?  They can now both reach their hanging rails, so why am I constantly doing the hanging up?  Time to learn girls.
  7. Socks are always a problem when you have two girls, only 18 months apart; they all look the same. So, I have introduced the sock ID game; they love this and can then sort and put away their own socks.  I don’t always have the time so do this when they are up and about, so I need to remember to leave it until they can do it.  I aim to get to the point where they can help sort all the washing, not just their socks, and put their own things away; it’s slow process and they could be 18 by the time it happens!
  8. Getting their own drinks and snacks – we are currently struggling with diet and healthy food. I need to get them both to a stage where they can come in from school and grab a healthy snack independently, so that they can recognise what is good to eat and what should be more of an occasional option.  They are both very slim builds and don’t need to worry about weight, but I recognise that they both over consume sugar; I did this to them though, so I have to resolve it.  My husband talks about the full sweet bowl at home when he was a kid, and how he learned to just take from it occasionally, he never felt the need gorge on the readily available sweets and chocolate.  I decided to give this a go and found it works.  The sweets are always there, but they never help themselves and totally understand there is a limit to what they should eat, so if I say they can have something from the bowl, they always ask how much.  Yay …. One success.  Now let’s get DD1 to eat a grape!
  9. Tidying up – this is a totally personal thing. Everyone has a different level of tidiness and my 2 are a perfect example of this; not unlike their parents.  I am happy with organised chaos and will not give up too much time for the cleaning, whereas my husband is a lover of order, tidiness and neatness.  I should add that he is not overly keen on achieving these goals himself, unless it’s in the cars.  DD1 loves mess, has no desire to tidy and freely admits that she likes her messy bedroom, whereas DD2 likes things in their place, neatness and order.  However, here is an example of this morning’s game, long since abandoned:

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What you don’t see is the board flung over to the other side of the room, most of the floor space is covered by this one game.  Normally, the Sylvanians are brought into the mix, but today we have been crafting, so the kitchen is a bomb site.

  1. Getting involved in the cooking – I enjoy cooking, but rarely find the time to cook from scratch, so it is hard to get them to join in, but even things like putting on their own pizza toppings is better than nothing. We made a lasagne once, but that took hours, so I might think of something less time-consuming next time.  They are ridiculously picky eaters, so I am hoping more involvement might broaden their tastes.  We made pizza today, well they put toppings on ready-made bases, but we had been a bit busy making icing unicorns, (I didn’t let them eat TOO much icing) so we didn’t have a lot of time for cooking after that. I did make the pizza sauce, but got my timings wrong and didn’t have enough time to finish it so opened a jar instead!

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To get mine to where they should be, I now need to nag and really resist the temptation to just do it myself.  I realise that this is only my opinion, but if I don’t teach them this stuff, then who will?  I always struggled with delegation in my jobs and that has carried over to parenting.  Sometimes I was in rush, sometimes too frustrated to wait, and other times I wanted them to stay little and just be their Mum.  But they are growing up and need to learn the basics before I send them off on their way; not too soon though.

Diary of An Elective C-Section – Too Posh To Push Or Just Trying to be a Mum

For many reasons that could fill a book, I didn’t get chance to have children until I was 40.  We were having problems conceiving and due to my age (late 30s at this point), we were sent for a fertility consultation.  Turns out there were a few issues; don’t need to go into the full details, but one of them was that I had a sizeable fibroid.  Now this could have been age related, but I had been having problems since my early 30s, so I’m not sure age was a huge factor.  We were sent for the tests needed to go forward for IVF.  There was a hint that I would not be suitable for IVF, but nothing definite.  The only comment was that the position of the fibroid would ‘probably’ make a C-section necessary.  The day of the IVF appointment was looming and we had chilled out about the trying part, having decided we were just going to wait and see what the appointment brought.  But, I fell pregnant weeks before the appointment naturally, so we cancelled the appointment and off we went on our pregnancy journey.

Sitting up a few hours after DD2 was born – cute baby pic.

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The scans began and it was apparent that the fibroid was growing; in simple terms, it blocked the exit route.  Scan after scan came and the mini monster grew to 21cm.  I’m fairly certain the girls thought they had a twin in there, as it was there for both of my pregnancies and probably still in there now.  Talk grew more serious about a natural birth process not being possible.  At this point I was still living my child free existence and didn’t really have a care either way.  I just wanted this baby, whatever it took, come hell or high water, to be out and healthy.  The 2nd pregnancy was tougher though as by then I was in mummy world, where everyone swapped birth stories.  I could see the look of pity when I said that I hadn’t experienced labour.  They would politely listen to my story, but then go back to the ‘real’ birth stories.  There were the occasions where I could tell that they felt my birth had been the easy option and that I couldn’t possibly understand what they had gone through.  But maybe that was my mummy guilt kicking in, as I too believed I should have been able to have a natural birth.  Because that’s exactly it; natural, the most natural thing in the world, isn’t it?

Very pregnant and booked in for C-section no. 2, 2 weeks later

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Practical plans were made; I was given a date for my C-section at around week 32, to be done at 39 weeks.  I had a pre-op appointment a week before the main event, where they talked through all the procedure details, it was sympathetically done and put me at ease.  I made all the necessary arrangements for the hospital trip.  I had a spinal block planned and beyond that didn’t really have a plan.  I was hoping that the whole mother thing kicked in at the same time as the baby popped out.  I went to antenatal classes with the other couples, not the NHS ones, as they were not offered to me, but we were welcomed at the private ones; they added in a few extra bits about C-sections for my benefit.  I still have some amazing friends 8 years on, so it was well worth going.

The day came and we drove, as calmly as possible, to the hospital and signed me in.  Another scan was carried out, meds checked, (I had really bad acid reflux, so it was just anti acid medication, but I needed something extra to the norm) and just under 2 hours later, off I walked into the theatre.  For the 1st C-section, I don’t think Dad was allowed in for the spinal block, but he did come along for the 2nd (sadly, he had to leave as he felt a little wobbly at the sight of the needle, but so did one of the nurses, so he was not alone!)  A catheter was inserted, but by this time I could feel nothing. Then I was wheeled into the bit where the action takes place.

I took in my birth CD, which was played loud enough for me to hear.  Dad came in with me into the theatre part and stood at the top end.  (Should I say that he was invited down to the bottom end, post birth?  I will never for the life of me understand why he went, he has most definitely seen parts of me I really didn’t want him to see.  He said he just went along with it; swept up in the moment, but as he almost fainted at the sight of a needle, I can never understand him being able to see the fibroid monster up close and personal, and not pass out.  Really not convinced this is the norm, or should have actually happened).

First hold of DD2- still in theatre

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The main advice I followed was not to look at the lights as there was the possibility of seeing what was going on in the reflection, I didn’t look, so I can’t confirm this either way.  The screen worked well, but did make me feel a bit out of the action for the moments of the post birth checks.  People had described tugging and discomfort, but I barely felt a thing on either occasion.  They were both shown to me above the screen the minute they arrived into the world. Checks and cord cutting were swiftly done, I could hear crying, so felt immense relief and an over whelming mix of emotions.  Both times, they were quickly handed to me and with the help of the anaesthetist, (who becomes your new BFF during the procedure, staying with you every step of the way) I was able to support her on my chest.

I am not going to go into the emotions of it all, as they are personal and everyone will feel differently.  I don’t want people to read this and then wonder why they didn’t feel the same.  Feel what you feel, embrace it, deal with it, do whatever you need to do to get through it.  Elective / emergency C-sections / water births / natural births – call it whatever you want, it is about having a baby; there are so many feelings and emotional and they are all yours.

All the necessary clean up, stitch up, etc. happened over what seemed like quite a long time, but was actually not long at all.  Then I was wheeled with baby in arms to the recovery room.  It would be a lie to say that morphine and other pain relief was not given; this is something I wish did not have to go into my baby’s body through my milk, but it was a necessary evil and caused no issues that I am aware of.  First time, the pain was managed well, but I needed an extra boost the 2nd time, so I had some liquid morphine to top things up.  I was in the recovery room, with baby at all times, for around an hour I would guess, then wheeled to the post op ward.  Now post op ward is an area of idyllic calm compared to the other labour wards, so it was quite a chilled-out time.  The nurses helped me with different positions to start feeding her in my relatively static state.  Moving was not the easiest thing to do and I was grateful for the bed controls.  Feeding is tricky after a C-section, but let’s face it feeding can be tricky anyway; I can talk more about that another time.  Despite the possible shock to the body by this unexpected arrival, milk came in exactly as expected.

The pre-event advice I had been given had been a little on the negative side; I had been warned about getting up for the first time after the op, and how painful it was.  I then built it up so much in my mind that there was no way it could be that bad.  I wish I had done it sooner as I laid in the bed all day, calling for help when I needed to move baby.  Eventually I went for it around 9 pm, so almost 12 hours since the op.  I can honestly say that it was not that bad; the pain killers worked well.  Obviously, it was uncomfortable, but so is a natural birth; it was OK and I could shuffle around quite easily, catheter bag in hand.  With DD2, I moved much sooner and got up and down to her on my own.  In fact, with her, she didn’t really leave my side, as the hospital allowed me to co-sleep 2nd time around.  Not the 1st time though, so she screamed every time she was placed back in the cot.  For around 30 minutes the nurses took her to give me some rest, I soon called for her to be brought back though.  But I would get told to put baby back in the cot if they found me co-sleeping.  Oh, to be this wise back then, I don’t think I would be being told off in the same way now.

After a fairly OK night, I was moved to the general labour ward, which is chaotic to say the least.  I had a night in there, but with DD2, I bought some insurance and got a private side room for the 2nd night, worth every penny!

One of the main downsides to the C-sections was the extended stay in hospital; by the end of day 3, I was desperate to leave.  I started to get quite anxious about what was ahead of me, grumpy and very emotional, but as soon as I walked out the doors, life kicked in and I went back to feeling like me, or at least like the new me.  The 2nd time, as a bit of a pro, I was released mid-morning, but the 1st time, I didn’t get out of hospital until 6 pm on the day 3.  I left armed with pain killers and a list of things not to do, most of which are fairly impossible to avoid with a baby, and completely impossible to avoid with a toddler and a baby.  I am lucky that I had a husband on paternity leave by my side for both births, so he was there to carry the girls out in their car seats.  Carrying baby in a car seat is a definite no no post C-section, but don’t worry, it really is not long before it is possible.  Driving is recommended as a 6 week wait, I won’t tell you anything else as it would not be safe to do so. Not driving was a bit hellish as I lived in a village, but I got through it.

Life at home post C-section is probably very similar to life at home post a natural birth; there is pain and discomfort with both, plus a feeling of not knowing what to do with this tiny little human.  But you muddle through, until it becomes 2nd nature and you are off on the road of parenting.  It is difficult to get up and down, plus there is a need to restrict lifting and walking around with baby, but that doesn’t mean not holding baby, it just means being sensible.  I took the pain killers and the anti-clotting injection as prescribed, but soon found that I could manage with just paracetamol.  Everyone handles pain differently and will have different levels of pain, but take comfort from a woman who has done it twice; it really wasn’t that bad.  The scar is so low down and small that is barely visible; it was tender for a while, but went on to heal very quickly.  There is talk of a fold over C-section belly; I kind of had that before due to weight gain on steroids (another story), so I have plenty of folds going on anyway.  It is a little longer before you can get back to the exercising after a C-section than with a natural birth, but who am I kidding if I try to give advice on that part?  Exercise is not my friend!

Some will say that I have not given birth, they are right in that I didn’t experience labour, I have no idea what a contraction feels like.  But I held my babies as soon as they came into this world, I was there for all of it and even if I hadn’t been awake, they would still have been ‘birthed’.  Others might say that I should not have risked my babies lives by getting pregnant knowing that natural birth was not an option, maybe it was selfish, but they are here, happy, healthy and amazing.  I am pretty certain it would not be possible to prove any ill effects from the C-section, but I guess equally I can’t prove there weren’t any ill effects either.  But to me they seem completely unaffected by how they were born and after the initial baby and toddler years, no one actually cared how they got here, except me, I just cared that they got here.

 

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