Selfish or struggling?

This afternoon I read a Mumsnet post about whether holidays should be about family time and not just kids clubs.

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It struck a nerve.

I’ll admit, if I think about a holiday, my wish list always includes a kids club and preferably a babysitting service.  I’ll justify my desires with ‘I want my daughter to have fun and play with other children’. Deep down though, there is the standard pang of guilt.

Am I being selfish?

There are thousands of pictures, posts and websites about the idyllic family holiday.  Children bounding through sand or trekking happily alongside their parents.  Tents and campervans, a dog or two, messy faces and exhilarated adults.

The proud smile from Mummy as she watches Daddy and the offspring cavorting around whilst she prepares the early evening meal of sausages, jackets and beans.  Afterwards, they all gaze up at the stars and truly relish the joy of a outdoorsy family holiday. This is what it’s like isn’t it? ** remaining blissfully ignorant of tantrums, tiredness and bad weather**

I wish that was us.

But we’re not those people and I don’t think we’re alone.

As terrible as it sounds, I want it all.  I need to be partner as well as mummy, and I need my holidays to de-stress.  I love my daughter with all my heart and I love being with her, but sometimes I reach a limit.

With only 25 days holiday a year and the start of school looming (or more to the point, the start of lengthy school holidays), I am facing the fact that it will get increasingly harder to justify taking a day of precious leave during term time in order to get my fix of ‘me time’.

This scares the hell out of me.

I want to have the patience of a Saint and I want every precious moment with my child to be memorable and enjoyable. However, I know that to spend all my holidays in the companionship of an under 5 will be disastrous for me, for her, for my partner and for our family.

egg-in-c-clamp-1418379-639x961I can’t do it. I can’t be that Mum and hold down my career without it affecting me mentally. I’m a jack of all trades and master of none and that goes for being a mum, being an employee and being a lover.  Being an aspiring blogger just adds to the challenge.

I do my best and I teeter on the brink of collapse most of the time, never satisfied with my accomplishments in any of the three roles.  Being a lover sits at the bottom of the priority list – always. Being a good employee and earning a living to support my family comes very close to the top, and of course being a Mum is at the very top, but plays second fiddle to an employment contract.

It is just the way it is.

So back to the holidays.

We will no doubt have some breaks that will be all-embracing of the wholesome family-time ethos and we will love it, bad weather and all.  However, we will also occasionally take a holiday that gives us a chance to properly relax – one which will enable some adult time whilst our daughter plays in the kids club or is watched over by a qualified babysitter.

It may seem selfish but I’m juggling and struggling and until I can retire, win the lottery, or write full-time (and manage my time myself), then I will take any kids club or babysitter I can so that I can be the best Mum I can without totally losing my identity.

Period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How we made airports and flying enjoyable

wing-of-a-commercial-aeroplane-1451149-639x437When our daughter was only 4 months old we got her her first passport.  At 6 months old we flew to France.  Now, we are not seasoned travellers and I never toured around South East Asia on my gap year, or built something really helpful like a new school for the poverty stricken children in Africa (* feel a bit guilty *).  However, I do like holidays, and I actually like the travelling part too.

I was determined to continue to enjoy this, even when towing around a baby, a buggy and copious luggage.

Having flown 4 or 5 times with our daughter in her short 3.5 years, there are a few things which we are so grateful we chose to spend our hard earned cash on to make life a little easier.  Rather than searching for the cheapest possible solutions like we had always done, we began to realise that actually minimising stress is worth the extra dosh!

It really is.

In no particular order, here are the things that we did that made airports and flying enjoyable and were worth their weight in gold for the first 2.5 years of our daughter’s life.

  • On-airport hotel – with early flight times and a 2.5 hour car journey to the airport, we would travel up the night before and stay in the closest possible (and unfortunately most expensive) terminal hotel with parking.  In fact, we could walk from the hotel to the terminal through a short walkway.  When you’re pushing a buggy, suitcases and trying to carry hand luggage, the expense was honestly worth every penny! No transfer buses, no cold and wet walks back to the car, no exhausted parents and no over-tired baby. It was easy, and as a result, we checked-in calmly, no rushing or worrying about what we may have forgotten. It got the holiday off to a good start and, when you book a holiday, you are booking it for a break, not for a stress.
  • Buying toiletries after security – ok, it may be a little more expensive than trying to squeeze your shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, baby bath, baby cream, cleanser, moisturiser, toner, you get the drift… into your suitcase, and it may mean you wrestling with an overflowing carrier bag onto the plane, but it really does make things easier in terms of packing. I would positively bounce towards Boots whilst leaving baby and partner in the coffee shop.  It was a bit of ‘me’ time, browsing the shelves of holiday products and maybe treating myself to a random foot cream. I didn’t have to worry about fitting items that I wanted on the flight into the see-through bag. It was just, well, easier.
  • Booking with a non-Orange airline – this was a bit harder to stomach as there is quite a big price hike, however the differences we found made the choice more than worthwhile.  Our first non-Orange flight had the check-in guy make a special effort to see if he could get us better located seats that would make it easier for us to get on/off the plane.  I’m a stickler for good customer service! We get a drink and a snack onboard – adds another level of intrigue for our daughter and keeps us all entertained.  They give out a children’s goodie bag with magazine, pen, small toy etc.  These little details make a big difference!

Now our daughter is a bit older we are chancing Orange again, and no longer booking an overnight hotel pre-flight.  In the baby and toddler years, we needed those luxuries to feel like our holiday started from the moment we got in the car, and it has ensured that I remain as excited as a child when it comes to heading for the airport.

Roll on August!

 

 

 

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5 perfect times for list writing

notepad-1192373-639x839I’ve never been one for lists.  I never felt I really needed to use them as I had most things under control.  That was around 4 years  ago.

Pre-child.

These days, I most definitely need lists.  I forget the exciting things and the mundane things, what I’ve done at the weekend, what I’m doing the next weekend, you name it, I’m forgetting it. The problem is quite simply this –

I forget to write the lists.

That’s right.  I forget to write the list I’m supposed to write to stop me forgetting stuff.  How does that happen!?

Slowly but surely I’ve begun to realise that the success of my day or week and how much I accomplish is down to whether I have actually managed to spend a few moments writing down a few simple chores, work tasks, errands that I need to do.  Now, after undertaking some serious trend analysis, it appears that I have some ‘favourite’ times or circumstances where I seem to be at my ‘list-writing peak’. Those snippets of time where my brain has enough calm capacity to stand still and think about what I need to do rather than the running around trying to do it.

Here are my top 5 times for list writing.

  1. In the kitchen whilst the kettle is boiling in the morning – I make the morning cuppa and it is peace and quiet. If there is a pen and paper in the kitchen then I find myself able to jot down a few bits that I or my other half need to do.
  2. At my desk after getting coffee but before logging into my laptop – I’m pretty old school. I like proper paper. Before I go into tech mode, I can grab a few moments to write in my day book some tasks – these do tend to be a selection of work tasks intermingled with things like ‘post Mum’s birthday card’ and ‘buy easter eggs’.
  3. pen-1568529-639x631In the shower – This is when I tend to dream up my idea for a telepathic pen and paper that can write down all the things I’m remembering I need to do whilst I’m showering.  I often look at the shower wall and wish there was a waterproof pad and pen so that I can write down my list.  I’ve usually forgotten at least two tasks by the time I’m dried and dressed!
  4. Before bed – I should use this time better, but I find myself too busy checking Twitter and Facebook and then reading my book.  However, on the occasion that I have forced myself to focus on the next day ahead, I have been able to write down lists of food I need to buy, children’s birthday presents, washing that I need to take out the dryer etc.  If it is washing still in the washing machine, I stop the list writing and run downstairs cursing myself at 10:30pm. I HATE it when that happens!
  5. Whilst dinner is cooking – If I’m left alone in the kitchen of an evening when the little ‘un is in bed and the other half is driving around in some pimped up car on Grand Theft Auto, I usually have ten minutes or so to think rather than do.  During this time I grab the pen and paper that I forgot to write on during my morning kettle routine and pick up where I left off.

Where do you write your lists? Let me know. Until then, keeeeeeep writing!

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Making Friends (and I’m not talking about the kids)

tea-party-1-1453280-640x552Children in the main tend to be good at making friends, their confidence will tend to enable them to automatically engage in play with a peer who they haven’t met before. If a child isn’t confident, then chances are another more confident child will bring them out of their shell. My daughter did it with another little girl a year ago and nursery made a point of saying how she was helping the less confident child to become more involved. #proudmummymoment.

Anyway, this post isn’t about the children, it’s about the adults.

How do you make Mummy/Daddy friends?

I have friends from different stages of my life – school, university, work, and thankfully antenatal.  These friends all have children of different ages, but having moved away from the antenatal bunch I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve struggled to make friends with my daughter’s nursery/school Mums.

Problem number 1 is that I rarely see them.

I drop daughter off to pre-school and then I dash to work.  There is no playground chat. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a nod of the head from Isaac’s Mum, or Hector’s Dad.

At pick-up, its a race to get there before close, when many a time, my daughter is the last one left.  Again, a potential nod as the slightly earlier parent walks away whilst chatting to their offspring about their day.

Problem number 2 is that, well basically, I’m a bit shy.

This is exacerbated by problem number 1.

Party invites are beginning to increase, and foolishly I thought this was going to be the start of some serious Mummy bonding.  Unfortunately, it transpires it is not as simple as that.  You see, I’m not actually sure what to say.

On arrival at parties, there always seems to be pockets of chatting between parents.  They all look as if they’ve been friends for years whilst I stand alone, usually with a child clinging to me and I begin to feel a bit self-conscious.

A bit like I don’t fit in.

I’m too embarrassed to interrupt a conversation, so instead, I stand there like a lemon desperately hoping that someone will come over and talk to me.sunny-lemon-1327891-639x501

This cannot be good role-modelling for my daughter!

Problem number 3 is I probably don’t come across as very approachable

The fact I’m rarely seen means I’m probably known as the ‘full-timer’.  I’m the career woman who must oose confidence and self-esteem.  I probably don’t want to be part of the Mummy group as I’m far too busy doing very important work! (** as they see me checking my phone for the umpteenth time, pretending it doesn’t matter that I’m by myself**)

But I do.

I really do want to be part of the group.  I’d like to be involved and whilst I’m no good at baking or crafts, I’m not a bad organiser and I do actually smile and laugh quite a lot.  In fact, I will quite happily chat to strangers at a work event, or present in front of a panel of people.  I’m strong, independent and confident – apart from as a Mum.

Making friends sure does get harder as you get older. Maybe I need to learn a thing or two from my daughter.

Does anyone want to come out to play?

 

 

 

 

Petite Pudding

 

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Why I need to stop talking

I talk a lot.chicken-talk-2-1443909-640x480

It is in my nature, I like to chat.  I also like to talk to myself (in my head), which involves reliving embarrassing moments, worrying about work, worrying about family, worrying about whether I’ve paid the window cleaner.

Talking to myself is fine, I can manage that, and whilst it probably isn’t entirely helpful for my mental health, I’m in control.

So what is the problem?

The problem is when I talk too much to my daughter.

Yes, she has a decent vocabulary for a three year old, but she has also been bombarded by a rabbiting Mother who finds it hard to say things once (without explanation).

I’ve read many articles about the benefits of explaining and reasoning with a child, but I think I may have just taken it a little too far.  Most of my questions are three or four questions rolled into one. Honestly.

“What would you like for breakfast? Would you like toast? How about some Ready Brek? Toast and marmite? Are you sure?”

The poor child barely has a chance to answer before I’m giving her more multiple choices.  If I had just asked her what she wanted for breakfast, and left it for a few minutes, she would probably answer me with “toast with marmite and peanut butter please”.

I should accept that.

If it isn’t quite what I want to give her, then I shouldn’t have asked her what she wanted in the first place, I should have just told her what she was having.

Why do we give young children a choice and then try and change their mind?

I can understand why we do it to our husbands and partners – to make it seem like they have a choice before coercing them into our takeaway or film perference, which we had decided on well before asking them.

But for our children? To me, it isn’t fair and it is confusing for them.

Tomorrow I will make a conscious effort to ask one open question about their breakfast and about their day.  I will answer the questions that they ask, with all the detail they want, but I will be quiet when they’re quiet and will give them a chance to answer me before asking another question.  **

** Note: This will exclude ‘getting dressed’ and ‘getting pyjamas on’ activities, which may involve asking the same questions multiple times.

 
 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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5 regretful first child purchases

shopping-center-1507250-640x480I’ve been thinking about this for a while, as everyone has regretful first child purchases. When you’re pregnant with your first child, it is a whirlwind of tracking growth of baby, discussing maternity leave, attending antenatal classes and regular trips to any shop that has a baby section.

The online shopping and browsing fits in amongst the work, the overnight sleeps and the planned and unplanned naps.

When you’ve had baby and in those first couple of months, it’s a whirlwind that I don’t feel I need to explain. Sleep, feed, poo, repeat – that basically goes for both baby and Mummy, only we’re also doing cleaning, cooking and maternity socialising too.

Now I’m well and truly through the baby and toddler stage, I can reflect on the umpteen purchases we made and have selected a choice 5 that, if I had the time again, I would have saved the money and spent it on more babysitting.

  • The baby massage classes

I signed up for these classes to go along with my other NCT mummy-friends, who are a little more earth-motherish than me.  I wish I could say that I ‘got it’, but most sessions were spent changing nappies, trying to stop baby crying, or trying to feed in the corner (a challenge in itself if you’ve read my breast-feeding post).

I listened intently to the truly lovely teacher, and gently smoothed my oiled hands up and down my baby’s flailing legs, arms and tummy and I’m not sure either of us got anything out of it. I tried to embrace it, but it wasn’t me and the highlight of the baby massage day was the group stroll into town for maternity mums lunch afterwards.

  • The matching Winnie-the-pooh cot set, complete with bed coverlet

Ok, so we still use the cot-bed sheets. However, the coverlet was a complete waste of money.  It does nothing but make the bedroom look incredibly cute….. before baby arrives.

Once baby has arrived the coverlet gets tossed aside, replaced by the cellular blankets and then closely followed by the most brilliant gro-bags, which our daughter was in until she moved to a proper duvet set at around 2.5.

  • The pregnancy and young family portraits

We were warned.  People said, get the free image but don’t pay through the nose for much more, because as soon as baby arrives, you’ll want professional ones of you as a family and the pregnancy ones become almost obsolete.

Thankfully, we didn’t go crazy with the pregnancy ones, and only bought an extra one or two I think (which still sit on the window sill).  However, we went crazy on the family portrait shoot – spending a silly amount of  money on some really lovely (and rather large in some cases) pictures.

Our daughter had just turned 1 and we have some stunning pictures which are dotted around the house (on walls large enough to put them).  In the photographer’s studio, they have a lot of space, and a nice coffee machine.  You drink coffee and browse all the images (over 100) and then downselect to a few (in our case 9) that you love and can’t possibly do without.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them.  However, now our daughter is 3 they aren’t really very current anymore.  Given how much they cost, we won’t be taking them down anytime soon, but I do sometimes wonder what we could have done with the money we would have saved if we hadn’t got so lost in the ‘post-shoot viewing’ moment.

  • New packs of vests and sleepsuits in the same size

I’m sure this must have happened on days when I was a little behind with the washing. I would be shopping and whilst in the baby section decide that I didn’t have enough vests and sleepsuits currently, so I’d buy a few more packs.

They would get put to one side, as the just-washed ones were now dry and it is ‘frugal’ to just keep putting them in the ones that only have one small stain on.

However, these babies grow. And fast.

Before you know it, the new packs you bought just a  few weeks ago no longer fit baby.  They are too small.  You didn’t need them after all. Plus, you will no longer have the receipt or the energy to return them.

  • The make-do furniture

Knowing I was going to be on maternity leave and therefore have little cash, we bought a few mismatched pieces of furniture from the local bric-a-brac/antiques shop like a large chest of drawers for all the baby clothes, then subsequently a huge mahogany vintage wardrobe.  These are both in our daughter’s room.

The wardrobe houses some of our clothes.

They have served a purpose, but it has meant that the bedroom has never looked like the lovely childrens’ bedrooms that you see in the catalogues or round friends’ houses.

Now she’s older we would like to buy her a proper furniture set but the idea of trying to manoeuvre  said pieces out of the bedroom and down the stairs isn’t very appealing.

We should have gone for either even cheaper non-offensive mdf/canvas bedroom furniture that is easily dismantle-able, or splashed out initially on long-term, nice children’s furniture that will last until she is 10.

These 5 purchases alone probably cost us well over £1500.  That is a lot of money and a lot of £10 an hour babysitting.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. 

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The Second Child Dilemma part 2

** Note this could be distressing to some readers**

So, part 1 of the second child dilemma discussed our pros and cons of adding to our family.  This is part 2. I’m not even going to include images to ‘liven’ it up.

Over Christmas 2015 we took a risk in the bedroom.  The likelihood of pregnancy was extremely low – I was at the end of my period and certainly not ovulating.

In January, I took a pregnancy test. I was 3 days late, which is unlike me, and even though I googled every site and they all said it would be highly unlikely, I thought I’d better be sure.

Guess what – I got a positive result in seconds.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The points on the track had been switched and suddenly we’re on our original path again.

It was a shock and with every tiny initial twinge of excitement, there was a massive twinge of worry and unhappiness.  Financially we would be in disarray.  Just as we had established a good routine, had a child settled happily in her new private pre-school, ordered a new car (whilst we still could) and basically defined ourselves as the career-focused, ‘family of three’, we had been gifted the opportunity of a second child.  An opportunity that I know so many many people out there are waiting for month after month, with never-ending disappointment.

At that time in our lives, just two months ago, we couldn’t do it.

It was wrong.

In every way.

I was angry, emotional and felt nothing towards the cells. I was taking it out on my work, my colleagues (I put the phone down on one), and worst of all my daughter, who I had no energy for and even less patience for.

When you’re pregnant and it’s wanted, the joy helps you deal with the tiredness and the emotional upheaval.  There was no joy, no sense of immediate bond and essentially, I was on the edge, as was my other half.

We discussed our situation for 3 weeks before deciding that we were in no position to continue.  We categorically would not cope at this moment.

We made a choice, had a consultation and got booked in.

After the event, I felt nothing but elation.  No regrets.

It was a very positive experience for us and 100% the right thing for our family at that time.

Any sadness that I feel is not for what could have been, but for our circumstances that have meant that something I know was a gift, couldn’t be accepted. I feel for my friends, family and everyone who is unable at this time to be gifted  – I am so sorry.

I do wish I could give my daughter a sibling. Both of us know that it would probably be a good thing for her, but our current situation means it just wouldn’t work.  One day, this may change and my feelings may change, but for now, no more ‘risks’, however low.

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My ‘choosing primary school’ experience

classmates-snack-time-1465989-639x625In September my daughter starts school.  When we first moved to the area, there was a general unspoken decision that she would attend the local new school.  There was nothing more to be said, until we started having conversations with other parents with other ideas. This is my ‘choosing primary school’ experience.

For the last year, here are the questions I’ve asked, worried about and analysed for hours and hours, driving both myself, my other half and no doubt my friends mad. Before you say it, no, I’m not even going to mention the ‘O’ word, their reports are not the be all and end all.

  •  What is the wraparound care provision? – With us both working full-time and no family locally, this became a serious issue.  We ideally need 8-6 and, it turned out that the local school only had limited places, and only lasted until 5:30.  Just not quite long enough.
  • Will my child make friends? – It turns out that whilst nursery is less than a 5 minute drive from the local school, quite a few of our daughter’s current nursery friends haven’t put it as first choice due to siblings elsewhere already, catchment area issues or general preference on others. I had this bizarre idea that every one at pre-school would just migrate into the new school. The idea that they wouldn’t led me to start questioning our own judgement and wondering whether we should consider other schools.
  • How long will it take me to do the school run and is there time to walk? – Like many of my friends, I walked to both my primary school and my secondary school in the 80s and 90s.  I think, in my head, I had assumed that if we got our first choice, I would walk my child to school and mingle at the school gates for a few minutes before walking home and getting in the car to go to work.  Wrong! Even though it is only a 5-10 minute walk, if I’m honest, I know I will get myself, my daughter and all manner of bags, coats, and other kit in the car, dash off to school, run in and run out again and dash to work.  It won’t be like my childhood and I have to accept that.  It also flags that there actually isn’t too much of a benefit to sending her to the geographically closest school.  I don’t have a 4×4 yet, but I’m considering it!
  • What pastoral care and clubs are offered? – I’m big on experiences and trying out new hobbies.  Whilst the core subjects are important, we really wanted a school that could offer a plethora of new things to try.  It is incredibly important that there is strong ethos of individuality and desire to get the best out of the child by giving them the chance to find out what it is that makes them truly tick.  When you go to the open days, you see how different schools are and it can be quite surprising. One of our preferred schools has music playing in the foyet all day, which I love.
  • Will my child get in with a ‘bad’ crowd? – Now, this is the most ridiculous of them all.  Our daughter is 3, she’ll have just turned 4 when she starts school, and has at least 10 years to wait until she hits that pubescent stage that I am DREADING.  However, with her stubbornness, cheeky and headstrong ways, there is a chance she could end up ‘hanging-out’ with the children that don’t want to learn.  I found myself checking out the uniform of any children who were out playing really late at night, or mucking about walking home, trying to use some kind of warped logic to decide which schools had the ‘model’ children and which didn’t.

In the end, our third choice was a small village school – to try and negate the last question.  Our first choice is the closest and newest school, and our second choice is a school in a completely different area that has a fantastic ethos and plenty of opportunity.

Roll on 18th April.

Or not.

At the risk of alienating some of my readers, I have to admit that we also put her down for a private school too. The private school is the optimum for wraparound and pastoral care (but with a hefty price tag), so come April it will be make or break to compare our offered school against this one and decide once and for all.

We went from local school no questions asked, to putting her name down for an expensive private school in a matter of months, all because of my obsession with research.

Will my daughter be ok wherever she goes? Probably, because a major part is down to the supportive parenting and the home life, where parents get involved with helping their child to learn and to love to learn.

Do I regret worrying and researching so much?  A little. I feel slightly embarrassed to have looked towards private education as state school was good enough for both me and my other half. However, our options are still open and in April we will make that decision, stand by it, and shed a tear of pride with a tinge of sadness as our daughter poses for the customary first day of school smartphone picture.

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 

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