Tag Archives: parenting advice

24th November 2014

Is it OK to admit I miss my old life sometimes?

10723751_773212042715366_1963918117_nWe went for a nice family dinner yesterday. Within the first three minutes, the toddler had emptied the contents of a sugar sachet into my bag and eaten a slab of butter, complete with foil wrapper.

As we looked around at the other people in the restaurant, enjoying a relaxed early dinner as the sun set over the beach, it dawned on me that we were the only people with children. And do you know what I felt? Jealous. Yes, jealous.

I wasn’t jealous of the fact that they these people had just stepped off the beach, the salt still in their hair and sand in their toes (while I had spent the afternoon picking uneaten spaghetti off my floor, calming a toddler tantrum, and changing three explosive baby nappies).

I wasn’t even jealous of the fact they were enjoying a meal in peace, having adult conversation as they watched the sky turn red and then purple, reflecting off the sea.

And I wasn’t jealous that they got to eat their dinner in their own time, without having to juggle feeding a baby his puree, whilst swatting away his brother’s hand from the contents of their plate.

No, I wasn’t jealous of any of that – as although I knew they were all having a lovely time, I had my family around me and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

The thing I was jealous of was the their spontaneity and freedom. Is it OK to admit that I miss that sometimes?

I miss being able to make snap decisions about heading out to dinner that night, just because we fancy it. I miss choosing restaurants based on the food I want to eat, rather than the fact they have enough highchairs and a healthy menu for the kids. I miss being able to accept invitations without having to book childcare and keep my fingers crossed that they will turn up. I miss planning weekends away just a few days before, getting on trains with a moment’s notice, attending work events and still having hours of the day to play with. I miss doing all these things without a double buggy in tow, a packed-to-bulging nappy bag, and a change of clothes in case the just-potty-trained toddler has an accident.

I miss only having to think about me.

I don’t want to swap places with these holidaymakers tucking into their salads as they watch the sun set, not for a single second. I have never regretted having my boys and can honestly say that they have completed my life, made it happier, and more fulfilled (yes, even the bits when the toddler eats butter in foil, with the benefit of hindsight). But sometimes I feel nostalgic for when life was simpler.

Not many people will admit it out loud, but I would bet a bottle of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc that most of us feel it on occasions.

So to answer my own question: is it OK that I miss my old life sometimes? I hope the answer is yes.  It’s not like that part of my life has suddenly been erased – I am still ‘me’ under these puree-stained clothes, after all.



9th November 2014

What Kind Of Mum Are You?

IMG_1157You know those Facebook quizzes that pop up on your feed? One of the latest is: “What kind of natural disaster matches your personality?” Which is just what everyone needs to know, isn’t it? But I digress…

The one that grabbed my attention was ‘What Kind of Mum Are You?” Friends got answers along the lines of ‘The Patient Mum’ and ‘The Selfless Mum’. My curser hovered over the quiz for a few seconds, before I realised I had better things to do, like pick the jam from this morning’s breakfast from the rug. But it did get me thinking. What kind of Mum am I?

Sorry Facebook quiz thing, but there isn’t one single answer.

Some days, I am ‘The Crazy Mum’. The Mum that is pushed too far by the toddler smacking his brother in the head with Lighting McQueen, before slowly pouring a bowl of cheerios between the cushions of the sofa. Sometimes I hear myself scream at him and have a sudden, but fleeting memory of a time when my hair was blow-dried, my clothes were dry-cleaned, and what came out of my mouth was generally pretty well considered. On these occasions, I wonder whether motherhood has released the craziness from within – and I’ve realised the best way to deal with it is to take a deep breath, pick up the baby, and calmly start scooping cheerios out from between the sofa cushions (finding three raisins and a dried-up bit of apple in the process). Oh yes, I am definitely ‘The Crazy Mum’ at times.

Some days, however, I am ‘The Proud Mum’. Like the day I went to Stanley’s nursery concert and had to clench my teeth together to stop the tears pouring as he performed ‘Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes’ so perfectly with his classmates (seriously it was good, but I guess you kind of had to be there). I was pregnant at the time, I will add, so it could have been hormones, but it’s very true that these things make a mother irrationally proud and emotional. There have been so many other times too, like when I am in the kitchen and quietly witness Stanley carrying toys to his brother and kissing him gently on the head (see, their relationship isn’t always about wrestling) – or the time I was feeding Wilfred in the bedroom and I heard Stanley belting out Frère Jacques, which he learnt in French lessons at nursery. I am very proud of the boys, which means I must be proud of the way I have bought them up at times (although isn’t it hard to give ourselves any kind of praise for these things?) Oh yes, I am definitely ‘The Proud Mum’ sometimes.

Some days, however, I am ‘The Lazy Mum’. Like when it’s 3am and the baby thinks it’s hilarious to keep rolling in his cot and howling with laughter. On these occasions, I am the Mum that scoops him up, clears a space between me and the husband, and places him in our bed in the hope of a few more precious hours sleep.  I am the Mum that bribes the toddler with a lollipop to halt a toddler tantrum in public. I am the Mum that puts on the TV when both of the boys are tired and grizzly and I want to sit down with a coffee for the first time that day (I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to get my caffeine fix intraveniously, but I digress…) I am the Mum that buys a DVD player for the car so the toddler allows us to enjoy a road trip in peace. Oh yes, I am definitely ‘The Lazy Mum’ sometimes.

Some days, I am the ‘The Indecisive Mum’, ‘The Happy Mum’, ‘The Tired Mum’, and ‘The Slowly-Losing-The-Will-To-Live Mum’ all rolled into a few hours. In fact, sometimes I am all these things rolled into a few minutes – and during these times, when I have no idea what kind of Mum I am at all, I keep my mind very firmly focused on 7.30pm and the promised calm, the promised quiet. It’s a bit like a very turbulent, difficult flight – you just have to grin and bear it, as you will get to bedtime in the end.

You see, I really don’t think there is a single label or identity for a mother – and isn’t life more interesting that way?



5th November 2014

On The Subject of GUILT

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Forget Birkins and Balenciagas. The accessory that every mother now carries around is guilt.

Choose bottle over breast. Guilt.

Choose to go back to work. Guilt.

Choose to be a stay-at-home Mum and see your family struggle financially. Guilt.

Get a babysitter. Guilt.

Ask the grandparents to look after the kids. Guilt.

Feed them chicken nuggets and oven chips. Guilt.

Get the TV to babysit while you hang up the washing. Guilt.

I could go on, but you know the score.

I step out with my guilt most days. It’s a bit like a toddler refusing to let go of my leg, so that I have to drag him around in an attempt to get things done (true story, but I digress…).

When I leave my youngest son with a nanny and drop my oldest at nursery, I head off to work for the morning. Earning money that my family needs and putting my education and university degree to good use (thanks Mum and Dad). But as I sit down, I start thinking about the boys and wonder if I am doing the right thing. My brain says ‘of course you are, crazy lady!’ But that guilt is still there in the bottom of my stomach bubbling away as I order my cappuccino and flip open my laptop.

As my toddler has got older, I have got used to that feeling. It started when I couldn’t breastfeed him and gave up after a few days. I didn’t realise it at the time, but as I sat on the sofa and sobbed as I fed him that first bottle, I was experiencing a crash course in being a mother. I wore that guilt for months, defensively swatting off glares and questions from other mums whenever I pulled out a bottle and placed it in my hungry baby’s mouth. Of course now that he’s a healthy, intelligent toddler, I realise it did him absolutely no harm – and his brother, who I did manage to breastfeed, hasn’t started talking at 9 months or playing concertos on his xylophone (disappointingly, admittedly), so I know their early sustenance had very little impact on either of their development.

Likewise, my logical self knows it doesn’t matter if the toddler has oven-cooked food a few days in a row as I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket or that my baby is with his nanny for the morning, as he enjoys the change of playmate as much as I enjoy sipping those cappuccinos and getting some work done in peace. I also know that it’s OK to sit on the sofa when both boys are in bed and breathe a sigh of relief – and even though I feel those familiar stabs of guilt for saying it, I admit that is one of my favourite times of the entire day.

That’s the thing about guilt as mothers; it almost always turns out OK in the end. We think our decisions through very carefully (too carefully sometimes, especially when we have a baby that wakes in the night and we use that time in the darkness to overthink our parenting).

We just have to learn to trust those decisions and try and shrug off that guilt like a toddler attached to our legs. Oh and by the way, I find a lollipop helps to prise a toddler’s hands off my thigh – and for me, a glass of wine is a great starting point with the guilt thing. And I don’t even feel guilty saying it (well, maybe just a bit).



2nd November 2014

10 Signs That You Are Sleep Deprived…

IMG_35781 – If someone offered to babysit your children for 24 hours, you would spend most the time in bed.

2 – You dream about lie-ins in the same way you used to dream about travelling to far-flung places; it probably wont happen for years to come, but the dream keeps you going in your darkest hours.

3 – There is no greater comfort than a pair of pyjamas, evening on the sofa, and early night. You now consider party shoes and dresses as a mild form of torture.

4 – You can not function in the morning without your first cup of tea or coffee. Running out of tea or coffee is a terrifying thought.

5 – You have started to do strange things, like put the kettle in the fridge and the milk on the kettle stand. You laugh about it with your friends, but secretly fear for your sanity.

6 – You go to the cinema, catch a train, or sit in the passenger seat of the car – and within a few minutes, you are snoring. In fact you’ve started to look forward to these extra few minutes of shut-eye.

7 – You seriously believe that no one in the world can possibly be as tired as you are. If anyone yawns in your presence, you want to shout ’Tired? Tired? I haven’t slept in months!’

8 – Short films of kittens on the Internet make you cry. And you don’t even like cats.

9 – You try to read a book, but give up after a few lines as your eyes get blurry and you cant focus.

10. You turn to your partner after a particularly bad night ask ‘what happened last night?’ but neither of you can remember, as one bad night has started to merge into the next.



19th October 2014

10 Things You Swore You’d Never Do As A Parent

photo 21 – Sugar. When you first bring a child into the world, you vow that sugar will not touch their lips until they go to university. Then their first birthday arrives and you let them destroy a cupcake. And the rest, as they say, is history.

2. The Living Room.I will absolutely not, under any circumstances, allow brightly coloured plastic toys take over my living room. It will remain an ADULT SPACE,” you said, stroking your pregnant bump. Fast forward a few years and you can hardly see the carpet.

3. iPads and iPhones. You saw parents in cafes reach into their bags and pull out iPads and iPhones to entertain their kids, while they tucked into their Full English Breakfast in peace. ‘Lazy parenting’, you thought. ‘I’ll involve my children in mealtimes when I am a parent.” Until that is, you have a couple of these small, noisy, fidgeting humans under your care and you fancy a Full English Breakfast in peace.

4. Nursery Rhymes. “I will not be that Mum that plays nursery rhymes in the car,” you told yourself. And then you gave birth to a child that prefers the sound of his own screaming to your carefully curated playlist. He liked Old Macdonald though – so you pressed ‘play’ so regularly that you still catch yourself singing the lyrics in the shower.

photo 1-25. Soft Play. Who would want to go into those horrendous, sweaty, noisy places by choice? Not you! Until you had a toddler and realised they could fall flat on their face and bounce straight back up. So you took up unlimited  entry membership.

6. Bribery. Before you had kids, you imagined your offspring would be delightful, polite, obliging little folk. It became obvious that wasn’t the case the first time they refused to get back into their buggy and you reached into your bag for a box of raisins. By the time you got to potty training, bribery was second nature.

7. Saying No to Invitations. As a pregnant lady, you were convinced that your social life would carry on where you left it – after all, you’d just take the child along too! No biggie! Until that is, the baby arrived and you realised drinks parties and evening meals weren’t quite as fun when you had to change pooey nappies between the martinis.

IMG_02748. Flights. As a childless traveller, you watched parents with babies board the plane and held your breath until they walked past your seat. And as you witnessed their fruitless attempts to get their babies to sleep / stop screaming, you swore you’d never put fellow travellers through the ordeal in the future. Until that future arrived and you realised you still quite liked holidays.

9. Snot. Wipe another human being’s snot off their face with your bare hands? The thought would’ve made you heave in your pre-child days. Now it happens daily and your clothes reveal the evidence.

10. Oven Food. Before the kids came along, you had visions of yourself in the kitchen, creating home cooked meals from scratch, dressed in a floral pinny, with a smile on your face as your little darlings played nicely on their own. And then you become a mother, realised that you have about 3 minutes every night to knock up dinner (usually with a child attached to your leg) – and in a weak moment in the supermarket, picked up a packet of fish fingers. After that, life was never the same again.



15th October 2014

I’ve Got A Confession To Make

IMG_6935I’ve got a confession to make. I’m winging it.

Most the time, I have no idea what I am doing. Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual, so I just make it up as I go along. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and want to high-five myself for making it to bedtime with everyone smiling. And other times, I want to curl up with a vat of wine as I’ve made mistakes, there have been tears, and there’s still a whole banana trampled into the rug that I cant bring myself to clear up.

I used to wonder if I was on my own with this, but the more I chat to friends about it, the more I realise that we are all making it up as we go along.

Take potty training, for example. I didn’t read any books, I didn’t even look it up online. I wasn’t remotely ready – but when Stanley spotted other children at nursery being taken to the toilet, he decided he was ready. So I’m winging it. I have no idea if I’m doing it the right way, but I’m guessing he wont still be in nappies when he’s a teenager, so we’ll work it out one way or another.

That doesn’t mean to say that I’m totally relaxed about it. We haven’t had many accidents, but the one aboard the scooter today was not a highlight of my parenting journey to date.

Just to make motherhood even more complex, even when you think you have it covered, life throws you a curveball. When my second baby boy was born earlier this year, I thought I’d know what I was doing – but Mother Nature gave me a baby that was completely different to my first. My first slept during the day perfectly, but was a pickle at night – and now his brother does exactly the opposite. I’ve had to learn all over again.

This also applies to day-to-day life. Just as you get into a habit or routine, your child decides to mix it up a bit. Whether that’s dropping a nap, suddenly deciding that green foodstuffs are the devil, or working out how to undo his carseat straps when there’s nowhere to pull over.

16a401bece138cd3325292c59bebb053But here’s the point: I’ve got better at winging it.  I’ve relaxed, realised that mistakes can and will happen, and learnt how to cope when they do. And by cope, I mean that I rely on a sense of humour.

A sense of humour is a most useful tool for mothers. Forget hynobirthing, this advice should be handed out at antenatal classes. It is invaluable especially during the toddler tantrum stage, when you are likely to have to drag a two-year-old around a supermarket as he yells ‘No Shopping! FATHER CHRISTMAS!’ and it’s only the beginning of June.

Most importantly, however, I’ve realised that we’re all winging it. Even the Mums that look immaculate on the nursery run, dropping off their kids in beautifully cut suits and designer heels, before driving to a high powered jobs, and doing it all again tomorrow. I used to wonder how they had worked it all out so perfectly, how they juggled their life so efficiently, and how they still had time to blow-dry their hair – but now I know they are winging it too. Their rugs will have banana trampled into them, their children will decide that peas are the devil, and their sons will inevitably wee on a scooter. It makes me feel a lot better to know that we’re all in it together. And on that note, I’m off to find a vat of wine.

 



2nd October 2014

To Work or Not to Work? That is the question…

44b675a879552da9959fc61ef658ba11Last week, I was offered a job in fashion executive recruitment. It was a job I wanted very much and it would’ve been a great career move. I would get to sit at a desk again three days a week, have coffee breaks with colleagues I like very much, and leave my desk to go and grab a sandwich at lunchtime without having to arrange childcare in advance.

On paper, it sounded very nice indeed. It sounded a lot easier than my current job of looking after two children for most the week single-handed. I imagined a new wardrobe of clothes that wouldn’t end up smothered in baby puree, bags that didn’t need separate compartments for poo-stained vests, and conversations that consisted of more than a few words of gibberish. The backing track would be chatter and phone calls, rather than Peppa Pig and tantrums. I would reach into my bag and find lipsticks and business cards, rather than old cheerios and dried-up baby wipes with suspicious stains. It would be hard work too, especially juggling this new life with my children – but it was work I loved, work I found rewarding. I was ready to hand in my notice to the kids, jump in the car, and drive straight to Dubai Media City.

Then my husband and I sat down and did the maths – and after childcare, we realised we wouldn’t have much left. We also accessed the childcare situation in Dubai – and when we realised how much it would cost to hire the person I wanted to look after the boys, we realised we may even make a loss. As the spreadsheet stared at me ominously from the computer screen, I saw my new wardrobe flash before my eyes. I saw endless days with the kids stretched out in front of me, cooking dinners they didn’t even want to eat, planning activities I didn’t have the energy to do after a never-ending cycle of sleepless nights. I had a moment where I felt a bit jealous and resentful of my husband getting to leave every morning. I wanted to be ‘me’ too.

After turning down the job with tears pricking my eyes, I started to think about it more logically. I am, after all, very lucky. I get to work a few mornings a week, while one child is at nursery and the other is with a nanny. I do this from a coffee shop near our apartment, staring out at yachts bobbing on Dubai Marina in the sunshine, as I write for various magazines, websites and newspapers (and of course this blog). I get to spend every other second of the week with the boys, I get to be there for every wobble, every tear, every milestone, every bedtime story. I am lucky. I just need reminding of this sometimes.

But it’s made me realise how tough motherhood is – and how there is no perfect. Every family has a different situation, a different set of figures to input into the spreadsheet, a different set of childcare options. The one thing that we all share is that we want the best for our children – and whether that is a single parent or both parents heading out to work to make sure the kids get dinner on the table, or one staying at home to care for the kids while the other brings home the bacon (which is such an inappropriate thing to say in Dubai, but you catch my gist), we all share the desire to provide, care, and do the best for these little people.

So to work or not to work? The truth is that we all have a different answer to that question. And is there ever a right answer? Or do we just have to pluck for yes or no, experience the inevitable guilt or disappointment, and remind ourselves why we are lucky to have our kids in our lives constantly? My guess is the latter.

And on that note, I am just off to write ‘I am lucky’ fifty times in a row on Stanley’s blackboard to convince myself, before I inevitably have to clean up a potty training accident or pluck purple playdoh from our cream rug.  Adios!

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19th August 2014

10 Ways Your Life Will Change As A Mum…

1. You will forget how to work your alarm clock.

2. Going to the supermarket on your own will feel like a holiday.

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3. You won’t flinch when you reach into your bag and discover a handful of raisins, an apple core, and a suspicious sticky smear.  You won’t even clean it up. That will be a job for tomorrow.

4. The most important thing in the world will be not to wake your children during nap times, So you will sneak in to watch them sleeping. You may even risk a photo.

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5. The theme tunes to shows like Peppa Pig and Balamory will seep into your mind at unexpected moments. Sometimes words will even escape your mouth. This is most likely to happen during important client meetings and silent train journeys.

6. You will wonder how you ever survived without baby wipes.

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7. Going to the toilet on your own will become an opportunity to catch up on text messages, emails, and Facebook.

8. You will perfect a poker face for when people without children tell you they are tired.

9. You will happily trade in your iPhone for five minutes peace and quiet

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10. When you think back to times in your life before you had kids, such as holidays or your wedding day, you will have a moment where you wonder ‘Who looked after the kids?’