Author Archives: Amy Ransom

Amy Ransom

About Amy Ransom

in no particular order... mum to two small people, PA / biscuit arranger (says husband), author, marathoner (ok just the once), pursuer of whims

10 BRILLIANT things about turning 40

A year ago the thought of turning 40 made me recoil a little. (A lot.) Today, on the last day of my 30s, I don’t think I have ever been as excited or grateful about having a birthday. THIS birthday. Here’s why.

  1. My 30s, bar a year or two, have been ALL about raising kids. Three of them. As my sister pointed out, I have been changing nappies, continually, for eight years. As of last week the boy is potty trained (with the odd poo in his pants). And whilst I realise I still have a lot of ‘raising’ to do, they are not the dependent beings they were. There are no more babies in my future. And I have slowly been sneaking in a little more time for ME. They say the 30s are about your kids and your 40s are more about you. BRING. IT. ON.
  2. Getting older is a blessing. If recent events have shown me anything, it’s that getting older is the most precious gift we’re ever given. I am grateful. SO grateful. Getting older gives you experience and that experience reminds you that you can a) get through anything b) do anything you put your mind to and c) light your first proper BBQ at 39 years of age (me, last night. Seriously, I feel as proud of this as anything I’ve achieved in the past year. Haha).
  3. Things don’t turn out the way you thought, and that’s MORE than ok. My plan at 40 was not to be separated. But, we are all doing ok. Daddy and I are finding our way, more peacefully. The kids are settled. And there is something REALLY invigorating about starting my 40s in a new, fresh place with a lot of the turmoil behind me. Things weren’t working, we have dared to change them and that motivates me every single day.
  4. A lot of stuff has fallen into place, just by chilling the F*** out. I am a completely different person to the highly strung 29 year old, who turned 30. Obviously. Three kids have mellowed me, beyond belief and made me realise that actually? The best things happen when you swim downstream, not up. When you accept things AS THEY ARE. And you choose to have a little faith in everything you do, rather than forcefully try and influence it. It will happen when it happens. And, if it doesn’t, it was probably never meant to.
  5. I have the career I always wanted, but it didn’t happen until now. I used to think if you weren’t sorted in your career by aged 25, it was game over. I couldn’t seem to get my writing gig off the ground. Traditional journalism didn’t suit me, for many reasons. But what I failed to see then was that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And, sometimes, you need life’s rich tapestry to give you something worthwhile to write about. This has certainly been the case for me. At the ripe ‘not so old’ age of 39 I have a book deal. 39! Which says to me, it ISN’T over until the OLD lady sings. And it’s NEVER too late.
  6. ‘It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.’ Historically, I am a dreadful birthday girl. Just ask my mum. I used to cry at my own parties because I was sad when I didn’t win Pass the Parcel or get a party bag (yes, I was THAT child). As an adult, I (unfairly) expected my other half to orchestrate the perfect birthday and, then, when he got the gift/plan/whole thing wrong, I would be a bit, erm, p***ed off. And interpret this as some sign that he clearly didn’t know/love me at all. Just me? This year? I’ve bought my own present – something I’ve wanted since I was 30. I’ve planned a week of celebrations – so many that my friends are starting to drop eye contact when they see me, in case I invite them to ANOTHER one. (Yawn.) And it feels really good to know what I want and just do it, myself. I will probably still cry, at some point. When I’ve had too much gin. Leopard, spots and all that.
  7. I am surrounded by the nicest bunch of people I could ever hope for. When you’re separated, your family and friendships become EVEN more important. I’ve made effort this past year to reignite friendships, make new friends and I have been blessed with people who I can count on, who lift me just with their smiles and make me realise my pelvic floor hasn’t reached 40 in the same positive way as the rest of me.
  8. I may fall in love again. Right now, this isn’t on my radar. But the possibility and hope is there. And it’s a different thought to falling in love in your 20s, when so much of your future rests on it. I have my kids. I have my work. So the next time I do this romance lark, it’s going to be for no other reason than me. And him.
  9. I am happy on my own. Let’s face it, no parent is ever on their own THAT often. But, as our separation has settled, I now find myself with regular weekly occasions where the kids are with Daddy and I am on my own. Although I’ve always been happy with my own company, it took me a while to adjust to this way of life, after so long of NOT having time. To enjoy it rather than work or clean my way through it. The past month, I have got myself back out there again. I have made plans. Socialised. And what I’ve realised? It’s pretty fun ‘back out there.’
  10. I’m not 50. But you can bet your life that, by the time I get there, I will find 10 positive things to say about that. Never look back. Always look forward. Because if you’re not looking where you’re going, you’re going to trip over.

Much love to everyone who has supported me this past year. And to my mum, dad and sister who have put up with me for 40 of them!

To mark my birthday, I am offering the BIGGEST discount so far on The New Mum’s Notebook. The first 40 orders will get a whopping 40% off. Ends tomorrow, 21 June, at 11.59 PM. Enter FUCKIM40 at checkout.

How to potty train a boy*

How am I STILL so crap at this potty training lark, THIRD time around? In my defence, it’s my first time ‘doing’ a boy. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Dazzling him with a variety of pants (like I once did his fashion conscious sisters) has done nothing to convince him this is a brilliant idea. He couldn’t care less whether he’s p***ing all over Superman or Batman.
  2. Apparently, ‘Only girls use the toilet. Boys don’t.‘ His actual words. Which is kind of true in our house, given that he’s surrounded by females.
  3. Being the third child means Mummy is far less consistent about the whole process. Forget the reward charts and bag of goodies for each wee, there is mention of a stale old chocolate biscuit if he does one. That Mummy then eats under the stress of it all.
  4. After two hours of a COMPLETE lack of interest, Mummy caves and puts on a nappy. Because she doesn’t want to force him before he’s ready. (Official story: she wants to watch Mad Men).
  5. Doing this the day after an 11 DAY half term holiday is stoopid.
  6. Doing this at all is stoopid.
  7. Listening to his sisters giving him tips whilst gyrating their hips wildly, showing him how to ‘shake it off’ further convinces you that this is something Daddy should be undertaking. Because now he’s just utterly confused. Do we want him to do a wee or a Taylor Swift routine?
  8. Then, just when I’ve resolved to try again in two to three years (five), he takes himself off, sits on the potty and does a wee.
  9. And it turns out that all he actually needed was a giant sword.
  10. F***. I really don’t understand men.

Tomorrow? We get to do it all again. Whilst voting. Yippee! More over on Instagram and the Facebook page.

All the days of our lives

Tonight, I had the most invigorating run I can remember having in a long time. The wind was howling, the trees were reaching out to one another far above my head and the sky felt big. So big and vast and dominant. The rain was falling lightly and the combination of all these sensations made me feel alive. Properly alive. It was one of those rare moments of pure and utter joy that you can feel in every cell of your body. That make you realise how often you’re sleeping through the rest of your life.

Feeling alive.

In the wake of tragedies like Saturday’s terror attack at London Bridge, on the street I used to work on and walk every day, it is totally normal to feel desperately sad, confused, scared, reflective and out of sorts. It hit me as much as ever, perhaps more so, knowing the area intimately and being just up the road having drinks in Soho when it happened.

But this is not a post about terror. Or fear. Or death. It is a post about being alive. And breathing life into our own lives. Not only in the days that follow, when we are so grateful for everything we have, before it becomes a memory and we resume our lives again, because we can.

But in ALL the days of our lives.

Every single, precious one.

Growing older.

In two weeks’ time, I turn 40.

This is a milestone I was afraid of a year ago. The thought of getting older and hitting another decade horrified me. How did that even happen?

But that reaction makes no sense. Because getting older is exciting. And we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to do it. To have more experiences under our belts. More wisdom. More days.

Why would we ever resist that in favour of not growing older at all?

Possibility is everywhere.

My life is probably more uncertain, more unmapped at 40 than I’d ever expected it to be. If I’d ever let myself think about turning 40, of course.

Mostly, this doesn’t scare me. The sense of possibility actually invigorates me. But in the wake of Saturday (and the Sunday and Monday that followed), I felt alone. I missed having a strong person by my side. To reassure me that it would be ok. To share, equally, the responsibility of raising three kids in an uncertain world.

Then, this evening, I went for my run. I was alone in the wind, the rain and that expansive, limitless sky, putting one foot in front of the other. My body felt strong. The universe felt stronger. And the sense of loneliness just vanished. I knew right then and there what I needed to do.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Moments of clarity.

If we’re too busy, we can miss these moments of clarity. But they are there, begging us to take notice.

They are in every experience we have. The good. And the not so good. Sometimes, it is the experiences that initially make us feel sad, desperate or that we’ve lost our way, that light our paths the brightest.

Because every experience, good and bad, are ours to own. They are part of one of our precious days. And our stepping stone to the next.

We haven’t lost our way at all.

The way just looks a little different than we’d imagined.

Do you remember what it is that makes you feel alive? More of me over on the Facebook page and Instagram.

Hell hath no fury like a toddler…

Third time around, toddlerhood is like labour. You know it’s going to hurt. But you always forget just how much until you’re doing it again. Today, I spent the day p***ing my toddler off. This was HIS interpretation, I should add. Here’s 8 ways in which I ruined his life today, according to him.

  1. I made his porridge too hot. Sorry, Goldilocks.
  2. I suggested he wear sandals. It being THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR and all. Nope. He wouldn’t have it. Rubber Spiderman wellies. That’s what he insisted on wearing. ALL DAY. Like, HOW hot must his feet have been?
  3. I wouldn’t pick him up and carry him. It being THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR. But he couldn’t walk, he just couldn’t. His words. I think I made it worse when I pointed out that maybe the hot, sweaty wellies weren’t helping.
  4. I stopped him from killing himself. Always a spoilsport, that’s me. Stopped him from playing by the road. Stopped him from climbing a ladder. Stopped him from trying to amputate his fingers on the bifold doors. None of which he thanked me for. No siree. I’m just that irritating woman who ruins ALL his fun.
  5. I shouted at him. At this point, I’d like to resort to his level and say that I DID NOT SHOUT FIRST. He shouted at me. At which point I may have raised my voice by way of response. *May.*
  6. I looked at him. Sometimes, I’m not allowed to look at him. I think a stroppy, slightly psychotic toddler may have inspired that saying, ‘If looks could kill.
  7. I gave his dinner to his sister. He didn’t want to eat his dinner. And because I’m well over the ‘Eat your dinner,‘ game, tonight when he refused to eat it, I gave it to his hungry sister. 10 minutes later he decided he wanted it and was HORRIFIED when I mentioned where it now was.
  8. I asked him to go to bed. We had a totally new reason why he couldn’t go to bed, tonight. Apparently, his bedroom was NOT his bedroom. He denied all knowledge of ever having seen it or been in it. ‘That’s not my bedroom,’ he said convincingly. ‘Look at it! IT’S NOT MINE.‘ I didn’t quite know how to answer that one. Maybe that excruciatingly painful series of ‘That’s Not My…‘ books could write a book on THAT.

I can’t wait for tomorrow. I bet I can triple this list without even trying, if he’s in the same mood he was in today. Yippee! More of me over on Facebook and Instagram.

How I got a book deal

Since announcing that Penguin Random House are going to be publishing The New Mum’s Notebook and the next Notebook, I’ve been asked quite a lot how it happened. How did I get a book deal? Did I approach them? Did they find me? So I thought I’d share exactly how it happened. For those who are interested.

‘Sorry about the terrible book.’

Firstly, I wasn’t ‘discovered.’ Nor did I ever see this as an ending, or should I say, a beginning for The New Mum’s Notebook. I was REALLY happy with the way things were going. Self-publishing has given me autonomy, huge satisfaction and financial stability.

But, earlier this year, I found myself wanting to write another book. Not a Notebook (although Notebook Two was also in mind). But a book with just words. Lots and lots of words. And it wasn’t something I wanted to attempt to self-publish, even after the success of The New Mum’s Notebook. So I decided, on a complete whim, to get in touch with an agent. The same agent, David Higham Associates, who I’d approached five years ago. With the first (and only) novel I’ve ever written, Up The Duff without a Paddle. Which they rejected. Understandably.

I didn’t follow their submission guidelines, like last time. Because I only had a very vague book in mind. Instead, I wrote a friendly email. Apologising for the rather badly written first book, telling them what I’d been up to since (blogging, freelance writing and The New Mum’s Notebook) and that I thought (hoped) I’d found my voice and my writing had improved. I also included popular blog post links and a few stats on followers and Notebook sales. Boring as stats are, if you have an audience already, this helps an agent think that someone might possibly read a book you’ll write. Other than your mum.

Which is something they apparently like.

A reply!

The email I sent somehow got me a reply from lovely agent (and fellow mum), Laura, which then turned into some nice banter. I sent Laura a copy of The New Mum’s Notebook because she has an 18 month old. She opened it, loved it and then asked me if I would like to come in for a meeting.

At which point, my pelvic floor completely failed me and I may have wet myself a little with excitement.

I’ve had three kids. AND a trampolining incident. It’s totally not my fault.

The day of the meeting.

The morning of the meeting was a complete disaster. Naturally.

I had stupidly told my kids that Mummy had a REALLY important meeting to get to and needed everyone to behave. I think I actually said the words, ‘Teamwork.’ Which is just asking for trouble, isn’t it?

True to form, at that point, they did exactly the opposite. My eldest said she had a tummy ache and didn’t think she could go to school. The middly was doing her phonics homework loudly, ‘M-U-G. That spells GUM!’ Noooooooooooo! And the youngest thought it would be hilarious to tip a whole beaker of milk over the floor. (Whoever said ‘there’s no point crying over spilt milk’ never had to clear it up.)

I hadn’t planned my outfit the night before, as we are always told to do. Because obviously I imagined I would have LOADS of time to do this in the morning, whilst the kids were focusing on their teamwork skills. The thing is, if your ‘outfit’ usually consists of saggy leggings and a grey slogan sweat, you are going to need to try harder than most to look presentable and should probably have started 72 hours earlier.

I’ve got on PVC trousers,‘ I said in a desperate call to my friend. ‘How much time do you have to change?‘ she said. In other words, ‘WHY THE HELL ARE YOU WEARING PVC TROUSERS AT 10.00 AM ON A MONDAY MORNING? THAT IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE WORST OUTFIT YOU COULD HAVE PICKED.’

As I finally left the house, it started to rain. I had just had a fringe cut. I have naturally curly hair.

Good old Yazz would have said at this point, ‘The only way is up!’

The meeting.

Before I went in I took this (badly focused) picture, whilst hoping there was no CCTV. I wanted to remember this day, regardless of whether it went anywhere or nowhere at all.

I liked Laura instantly. And we spent the next two hours talking babies and books and why she should persevere with watching Gilmore Girls. At the end, she talked about how we could go forward, ‘if’ I wanted to work with her. IF?! It was a bit like the end of a date, where you’re treading on eggshells wondering if you both want to see one another again.

I didn’t play it cool, haha.

The Offer.

After that, Laura and I worked on a submission for another book together. She pitched it to publishers AND sent every one of them a copy of The New Mum’s Notebook. It soon became clear that The New Mum’s Notebook was the book the publishers were interested in.

Two weeks later, we got an offer from Sarah at Hutchinson (Penguin Random House) for The New Mum’s Notebook and a second Notebook. A relatively ‘new mum’ herself, Sarah’s lovely letter alone was enough to convince me there and then that she was the right person to take The New Mum’s Notebook forward. I could feel how much she understood and believed in it. And, from the beginning, all my instincts said YES.

So, I said YES.

Work, work, work (and love what you do).

I have had all the emotions this past couple of months. And whilst I know that I have worked hard and consistently for four years, since I launched my blog and wrote posts that only my mum and five others read, at the same time this part of the ‘journey’ feels like it is happening all by itself. The stars seem to be aligned. Or maybe, the timing was just right. 

I wanted to write this post because I think, so often, we see other people’s progress and we don’t understand it. It seems to come out of the blue and land on someone’s lap. Some days, it can feel like your piece of the pie is never going to come. I know that feeling, I do. And yes, there are a few brilliant people out there who may get discovered through the combo of sheer talent, luck and timing. But, for the majority of us, I think it’s more about sheer hard word and putting one foot in front of the other. Committing to your ‘craft.’ Loving what your craft is and being consistent about doing it. Always being consistent.

On the good days. And, especially, on the not so good days.

Thank you to everyone who has made this ‘announcement week’ so special! You have all been SO kind. I celebrated HARD on Tuesday night, drank the gin, read (and hopefully replied to) every comment you took the time to write and had a little kitchen dance. Much love to you all. First ‘Limited’ edition of The New Mum’s Notebook is available online now. The ‘new’ version is available to preorder on Amazon. Notebook Two for you not-so-new mums will be published next year!

 

 

Dear New Mum, I see you…

Dear New Mum,

It’s been a while since I wrote. I’m sorry for my silence. How are you doing?

I hope that today is a GOOD day. That you maybe got some sleep last night. If you didn’t, did you remember to be extra kind to yourself? Did you eat the cake? Did you watch the box set? Did you make a point of noticing something you did WELL?

It’s funny. This motherhood lark. Eight years ago, I joined the ranks. I was unprepared, overwhelmed and tried to control every little thing. I thought that as long as everything was in order, I would be ok. I would be a good mother. This worked on the days when everything went to plan. But often it didn’t. And actually, even when it did, the sheer fear of it falling apart left me feeling frazzled, confused and a bit low.

Eight years and three kids later and I am such a different mother. My third child has undoubtedly had the best of me. He’s so lucky. No Gina Ford for him. Just sleepovers in my bed. And understanding. And ice lollies for breakfast. Until recently, I thought that the years must have worn my parenting style down. That the third child must have worn me down. That my often chaotic, disorganised approach to life and parenting was born out of tiredness, laziness even and not wanting to fight too many battles. The other day, I realised this isn’t how it is at all. It’s not that I am chaotic or disorganised. It’s that I am able to choose what is important. What needs attending to. And what can wait. Basically? Everything can wait. Apart from my kids. Because these small people are growing up right under my nose, faster than I can bear. And I don’t want to miss any more moments than I already have. (Well, apart from the tantrumy moments. I could happily miss those.)

Finally, I have perspective. It’s all around me, every day. It’s in my eldest, almost 8 year old, who shows me how quick kids grow up. It’s in my middly who reminds me, just in case I forget. And it’s in my youngest, who has taught me to appreciate, rather than wish him (and the girls) away. Next year, my summer born boy will go to school. NEXT YEAR. There is no time to wish any of him away.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s impossible to have this insight when you’re a new mum. Only time and experience can give it to us. But I want you to have just a little. If you can. Because I think it might help you when you feel like you’re drowning in those demanding early years. The hard moments can feel so long. So relentless. So endless. And they are. I haven’t forgotten. I see you, new mum. I do. You need so much physical energy. All the lifting alone. Of babies. Of buggies. Of SO MUCH STUFF. There’s always someone touching you. It feels as though there is no personal space.

Then, one day, almost overnight, your kids are at school. They come home from school and instead of hanging off of your leg, they go and play in their room. You have maybe 15 minutes to yourself before someone has hit someone else over the head with a gorilla (not a real one) and you have to intervene. You are not needed ALL OF THE TIME. And yet, you never ever saw this day coming. That your children would become less dependent on you in certain ways. How could they ever need you less? It just doesn’t seem possible when they are so new and pink and tiny. This perspective changes everything. Like when the toddler behaves illogically (again) and you find yourself smiling rather than despairing. Because you know this behaviour won’t last forever. It will pass. And turn into something else. Your almost eight year old is living proof of that. So is your five year old.

There is no time to wish any of them away.

(That said, please know that if you do find yourself wishing the days away, it’s perfectly normal and ok. Being a new mum is HARD but, one day, probably when you’re least expecting it, suddenly it will become easier. I am living proof of that.)

Much love to you AMAZING new mum.

 

 

You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook. You might also want to treat yourself/drop heavy hints for someone else to treat you to The New Mum’s Notebook, sanity saving journal for new mums. I self-published it and Penguin Random House/Hutchinson have just bought the rights!

You are a great parent THIS VERY MINUTE.

The past few months, I’ve felt myself emerging from the early years of parenting. Like REALLY felt it. I’ve just bought the LAST box of nappies, after which I’m going to toilet train the boy and be nappy free for the first time in eight years (I am. I am. I am). The other day I took all three to London Zoo on the train and the tube on my own with NO BUGGY. Ok, the lack of buggy was a little bit stupid BUT we managed it. And I felt a huge sense of achievement as a result. It’s only going to get easier from here, I told myself. *Parents with teenage kids everywhere fall about laughing at this clearly delusional woman.* But, despite this, I will NEVER forget how tough the early years are. How tough a journey parenthood can be, in general. BUT, I also feel slightly differently about it these days. I wish I had back then. I’m not sure I’m ‘surviving’ motherhood anymore. I feel like I’m doing a bit better than that (I think we all are). Has my parenting changed or improved? No, not particularly. But my attitude to it definitely has. So I thought I’d share some things that have really helped shift my perspective. In case they help you too. (If I sound like a mad woman, it’s not my fault. The kids made me this way.)

  1. Accept that parenting will sometimes be hard, but don’t expect it to be and don’t resist it, when it is. There’s no getting away from it, some days are hard. No matter what you do. When you haven’t slept or one or all of the kids is sick or, worse, you’re sick but have to carry on regardless, you’re going to want to a) cry b) rant a lot and c) wish the day away. That’s normal and perfectly ok. But when we’re in these moments, we add further unnecessary suffering to our pain. Because we don’t just accept the feeling. We resist it. We feel bad about it. And we beat ourselves up. We let our minds generate tons of guilty and unpleasant thoughts. Whereas, if we just say to ourselves, ‘OK, this right now is rubbish but it’s no more than that,’ we can let it wash over us, we can even let the car crash and then we can dust ourselves off and carry on.
  2. Right this minute, YOU are the ultimate parent. This alone has changed the way I see everything. I wasn’t very kind to myself a lot of the time. I berated myself for things I didn’t like about myself (I can still do this when I’m not aware). I would think about the things I’ve done in the past that I wish I hadn’t. Like, I wish I hadn’t shouted at the kids. Blah blah blah. Then, I would try and make it up to myself by promising that I was going to be a better – a perfect – parent in the future. I wouldn’t shout at the kids ever again. I would be calm and collected. (Then I’d pick them up from school, and that was shot to s***). Any stuff you ever read about living in the now – one of the most effective CBT techniques I’ve learned – will tell you NOT to exist in the past or the future. Because you can’t. Physically, it’s impossible. Only your mind wants to maroon you in these places with regret or false hope. Accept yourself as you are RIGHT NOW. Because RIGHT NOW you are complete and don’t need to be anything else. Isn’t that liberating?
  3. Don’t let your thoughts convince you you’re something you’re not. The mind is a tool and it’s supposed to be used like a muscle in a leg. When it is needed and only then. But what ends up happening – and it’s so common we don’t even realise it’s not meant to be like this – is the mind works ALL of the time. Generating those incessant and mostly unconstructive thoughts that dominate our every waking moment. Or the ones where we’re trying to get to sleep. ‘The kids are driving me nuts, what if they’re psychopaths?’ or ‘She’s never going to sleep, ever, ever, ever,‘ or ‘Why did so and so do that?’ It’s incredibly difficult to stop the mind ticking over but once you’re aware of the thoughts it becomes possible to start letting them pass. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ll have heard the teacher tell you to ‘notice the thoughts, but not judge them.‘ This is the ultimate power of living in the now – releasing you from that prison of whirring noise. YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. And most of your thoughts will NEVER EVER happen. Phew to that.
  4. Choose to see a situation differently. Your child is having a meltdown because you won’t let them wear one red shoe and one blue shoe. You’re late, again. And you can feel the stress levels rising. ‘WHY WON’T SHE JUST PUT HER SHOES ON?’ I have had this internal debate TOO MANY TIMES. Then I had a third child and suddenly it didn’t matter so much anymore. Choose to ignore the frustrating illogic of a toddler and let them wear their different coloured shoes. Then laugh about it. Anyone who sees me on the school run will know I practice what I preach. Often. Ahem.
  5. Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon! You know that feeling? When you’re exhausted. The kids are pivoting around you. It’s dinnertime and you just can’t be bothered to cook or even heat up a beige banquet of oven snacks? Or you’ve got to get up in the morning but you’re just so darn tired. I can be an AMAZING procrastinator. The best. Then, the other day, someone introduced me to the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Where you basically count down and then do the thing you need to do. Maybe, I’ve spent too much time singing Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon but it really blooming works. And has revolutionised my lazy a***. Every single time.
  6. Let your inner being be the parent. Each and every one of us has an inner being. Not a Sigourney Weaver alien type being. I hope. More of a virtual one that’s fiercely linked to our instincts. Those strong instincts we have as parents. There’s a thought process that when we feel pain at the actions of someone else, we are not actually feeling pain because of what they’ve done, we’re feeling pain because it takes us so out of alignment with WHO WE ARE. It causes us to react in a way that doesn’t sit comfortably with us. So when our kids kick off, more often than not, an hour later we’re feeling bad and guilty. Ugh. Not because they refused to get dressed, didn’t eat their dinner or messed about at bedtime, but because we lost our s*** when they did this and we wanted to be able to react differently. Next time, we might. The time after that, we might not. Remember, never resist the moment. It is what it is.
  7. Be aware of the energy you’re giving to your kids. Energy never disappears, it gets transferred from one thing to another. The vibrational energy we give off determines what we get back. Your good mood? Will rub off on everyone you’ll meet. Your bad mood will do the same. If you’ve ever met someone and had that feeling of ‘hitting it off’ it’s because you’re feeding off one another’s light and energy. It’s the same when you meet someone and you don’t – perhaps your energy was a bit dismissive, lethargic or closed. Or theirs was. It’s the same with our kids. If I get up in a good mood and my kids are in a foul one, I instantly feel myself reacting negatively. Because they’re ruining my good mood and that’s just an annoying start to the day. Likewise, if the situation is reversed. But if I can continue, despite theirs, and be calm and empathetic and even try and make them laugh, we all fall into (happy) alignment with one another. This vibrational energy applies to every relationship in your life. So next time someone is antagonistic, sarcastic or dismissive of you, just have a little look inwards and see what vibe you were giving off too.
  8. Opt for LOVING your kids every time. It’s a given that we love our kids WHATEVER. Of course we do. But sometimes, we might, in the moment, forget to show this. Sometimes, I’m so p***ed off that they’ve smashed a glass (again) and busy ranting on about all the mess, that I don’t see that actually they didn’t mean it and they’re feeling a bit crushed too. There is no person in the world that can’t do with being shown unconditional love. It’s how people who have terrible wrongdoings done to them manage to forgive. We were all four years old and vulnerable once, right?
  9. Opt for LOVING yourself every time. Because there is no person in the world that can’t do with being shown unconditional love. Not even you. And who better to give it to you, than YOU?

 

 

More of me over on Facebook and Instagram. I have to say, I’m late to the game with Instagram but it is an AMAZING social media platform with loads of inspirational, supportive and motivational women and mums. Come hang out, if you’re not already.

The happy truth about anti-depressants

This morning, I shared a post on Facebook and Instagram about my relationship with anti-depressants (ADs). The response has been overwhelming and I’m so glad it’s opened up another conversation about mental wellbeing. I realised that, in all my posts about anxiety, PND and depression, I’ve glossed over the use of anti-depressants. And yet there are a lot of people who are scared of taking them or ashamed that they are. So I wanted to write something real and positive and to share what I know about them from being on them for two and a half years. *Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a medical professional and this post is based on my experience and conversations with others. Always talk to your doctor.  

  1. If someone doesn’t understand taking a pill to be ‘happy,’ they’ve never been unwell enough to need to. The thing I hear repeatedly about ADs is STIGMA. People feel ashamed. They are made to feel ashamed. For the record, I am NOT ashamed. I do whatever it takes to stay well. The most useful and simple summary I’ve ever read about anti-depressants is this. ‘When you are REALLY unwell, you will do ANYTHING to get better.‘ It’s that hard and that simple. If someone else judges you for this, thinks you’ve copped out or whatever, they just don’t understand what it feels like to be in a really dark, lonely and physically tortuous place. That’s their issue, not yours.
  2. Taking responsibility for your happiness and your mental wellbeing is to be applauded. Where is the shame in taking a tablet that helps you feel well? For me, there is far more shame in being irritable, not coping and shouting at my poor kids. (OK, I still shout. ADs aren’t miracle workers and they don’t help your kids put their shoes on any faster when you’re late for school. AGAIN. But they do help me feel better about it.)
  3. You haven’t failed. You haven’t failed because, today, you need to take a tablet to function better. You’re only failing when you don’t get the help you need and deserve. Also? More people are taking them than you could ever know.
  4. How do you know if you need to take them? Personally, I think you know. This doesn’t mean you will necessarily feel any easier about doing so. But for me, I knew. After my second daughter was born, I felt anxious. I went to the doctors and, after a long chat, she prescribed me some anti-depressants. I’ll be honest, they scared the bejeezus out of me. ‘I’m not the sort of person that takes these,’ I thought, ignorantly. I went home, sat on the sofa and stared at the packet for a long time, before calling my dad. ‘I don’t want to take them,‘ I said. ‘Do you think I should?‘ My dad said simply, ‘If you really needed to take them you wouldn’t even be asking me.’ He was right. And that time I made it through on my own. Fast forward three years to my third baby and the experience was COMPLETELY different. I felt SO unwell in every way, I would have taken ANYTHING to feel better. My doctor herself said that if I hadn’t been so open to taking them, she would have insisted I did. That time? Nothing but those tablets (alongside a combination of CBT) was going to make me function again. I can still remember the relief when I started to feel better.
  5. Sometimes going swimming, running or meditation is not enough. I run three times a week and it is essential to my mental wellbeing. But, right now, it is NOT enough on its own. And anyone who’s ever tried to meditate in a house full of three under eights would probably find they want to pop a couple of pills too.
  6. It can take up to 6 weeks (or more) for ADs to work. Lots of people don’t realise that ADs take time to have an effect. IT IS NOT INSTANT. It was almost a month before I started to feel less foggy and less teary. Even then I had to double my dose from 50mg to 100mg to really start to feel the benefit. It can also take time to find the right type for you. So keep in regular contact with your doctor in those early weeks so you can both monitor your progress.
  7. How do you know when you’re ready to reduce your dose/stop taking them? I think your body tells you. For me, the lightbulb moment came 18 months after starting them, when I was at a funeral and I couldn’t really feel sad. It showed me how well I had become, that my body was obviously producing its own serotonin again and the 100mg I was taking was too much. After that, I called my doctor, we discussed it and I set about reducing my dose. I felt ready and I was. Some people might never be ready. And that’s also ok.
  8. Don’t rush to come off them. If you go on them already thinking about when you’re going to come off of them, you’re just adding more stress, expectation and potential disappointment to your life. Enjoy feeling well! My doctor told me I would be on them for a minimum of one year for my PND. When I started feeling better, I remember thinking, ‘Only a year? I like feeling well again!‘ Almost three years later, I’m on a daily ‘maintenance’ dose of 25mg. My doctor and I stay in regular contact and she fully supports my decision to remain on it, post separation. I have no plans to come off of them at the moment. Maybe when the kids leave home. Maybe not even then.
  9. If/when you are ready, come off them gradually. Side effects are inevitable (people talk about feeling more emotional and also unpleasant physical symptoms like an ‘electric shock’ feeling when you move your head) but if you come off them slowly, these are minimal. I took six weeks reducing my dose from 100mg to 25mg. It felt fine. Do not rush the process.
  10. If you do come off them, you might choose to go back on them again. So what? You don’t take a Lemsip pledging never to take one again, do you? Foolish people limit themselves. They say things like, ‘I’d never do that,‘ or ‘I’m never doing that again.‘ The less foolish amongst us recognise we’re setting ourselves up to fail, if we make promises we possibly can’t keep. If you’re well today without tablets, that’s brilliant. If you hit a bump in the road next year and find yourself back on them, that’s also brilliant. Because you’re taking responsibility for your mental wellbeing. Again.
  11. We do WHATEVER IT TAKES to stay well and that is different for everyone. Some people will have a ‘blip,’ recover fully and never look back. Some people will be on and off ADs, as ‘life happens.’ And some people will never come off them. Because they NEED them for a chemical imbalance or something physiological that means they can’t function without them. Or, they’ve simply made a personal choice because they feel better on them, than not. We don’t say to a diabetic, ‘Here’s some insulin. Have it for a couple of years and then we’re going to take it away and you can just wing it.’ In this regard, mental health is misunderstood and it shouldn’t be. Always remember. We do whatever it takes to stay well. And that is different for everyone.

Take care of yourself. And much love to everyone struggling, recovering and taking brave steps, today and always. If you need to know you’re most definitely NOT alone, check out today’s Facebook and Instagram post and read all the many amazing comments from people doing whatever it takes.

 

If you’d like to share your comments and experiences with the #whateverittakes, please do. You can do so below and also find me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. I would ask that we keep the comments positive and encouraging, just because this post is about removing the stigma, not adding to it! New mums needing some support with their mental wellbeing might like to check out The New Mum’s Notebook, sanity saving journal, available online now.

Can we think ourselves happy?

By Amy Ransom on April 11, 2017 , 1 Comment

This post is for anyone who’s tired of seeing the hardships before the good. Of struggling with fluctuating moods or a persistent level of anxiety. This may just help you to feel happy, every day.

My epiphany.

The past few weeks have been a bit strange. In a good way.

It began a few Tuesdays ago. The kids were at school and nursery. I had done all the things that usually make me happy. A run. A nice coffee. Some work and writing. And yet, I felt utterly miserable and teary. I couldn’t blame hormones – as I so often do – it was supposed to be my ‘good’ couple of weeks. There was no tangible reason at all.

That Tuesday turned out to be the climax of a year that has, so far, largely been dominated by anxious thoughts.

And I had had enough.

No one to blame but myself.

Living your life with frequent feelings of lack and anxiety is joyless and frustrating.

Having so much to be thankful and happy for and yet completely missing that abundance is such a waste of time and energy. And it makes you feel sad. Especially when it feels you have no control over it.

That was the place I had found myself in, despite all my CBT practice. That Tuesday proved it. What could I attribute my misery to? What external influences could I blame? There were none. There was only one thing I could hold accountable.

Myself.

Keep on swimming.

So, there and then, on that precious child free Tuesday, I decided to change it. Anxiety and feeling low have stolen enough of my days. They’re not getting any more.

I decided to plough on regardless of the fact I felt rubbish and just wanted to curl up on the sofa and watch Gilmore Girls. I worked. I tried to be creative. I did my best to create opportunities. So at least if I got to the end of the day and I still felt awful, I wouldn’t also feel guilty for wasting those precious hours.

Of course, by the end of the day, I didn’t feel awful. I felt much better.

And I felt a real sense of achievement for pushing on through.

The law of attraction.

That day taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I can choose to be happy. That I can attract happiness, even if I’m not initially feeling it. That I can flip my mood and choose to look at things differently and, in doing so, override those low moments and the anxious thoughts.

I have that power.

After all, if the anxious and negative thoughts can feed off each other, why can’t the happy ones?

Being happy.

So I have decided to try it, every day. To commit to the happy, positive thoughts and the feeling that everything will be ok, in the end.

I have always believed this, ultimately. I like the idea of destiny (in the sense that you can influence it and shape it if you listen to your instincts, not that you’re entitled to it). I’d just lost my connection with it and in that void the anxious thoughts had had room to grow.

The thought that you attract whatever you think about isn’t really a crazy one. It’s like those days we label as bad, where one thing goes wrong after another. It’s only us who call it bad. If we choose to reframe it after we’ve spilt the milk, missed the train and broke our heel on the escalator, is it a bad day or does that day suddenly become defined by something else? The nice conversation we had, that we wouldn’t have had if we’d missed our train. It’s what CBT calls ‘challenging unhelpful thoughts.’ And it works.

Listening to our instincts (our inner beings) isn’t an alien concept either. As mothers, it’s how we raise our kids. Our instincts are strong and any mother who’s ever gone against them (and paid the price) knows what good guides they always are.

After a while, you start to do both without even thinking about it.

It really will be ok.

Since choosing to see the good as often as I can and simply being aware of the direction in which my thoughts are taking me, the anxious thoughts are at bay.

I’m in the most anxious part of my monthly cycle and still there is nothing on the horizon. I am able to refocus myself in a way I never have been before.

And it’s a much happier way to live.

Can we really think ourselves happy?

Surely, there are flaws? What about those having a really hard time? Those that are seriously ill? Those that are lonely or jobless or homeless. The list goes on. Do they just think happy thoughts and ta-dah! But those that have the desire or the ability, actually manage to do it.

We see them every day. They are those amazing people who are experiencing huge challenges that the rest of us marvel at and say, ‘How on earth do you find the strength?‘ But do they really have a unique strength waiting to be sourced? Or do they make a choice to be positive, often amidst no choice at all?

And maybe at the most basic level, that’s the difference between happy people and unhappy people. Making a choice. Making a commitment to finding peace and happiness wherever you can, whilst really getting to know yourself, your inner being and trusting your instincts, no matter what.

We must also have a realistic interpretation of the word, ‘happy.’ Because choosing to be happy doesn’t mean we will be all of the time. Or that we will be miraculously immune to pain. The Buddha’s teachings tell us that suffering is a part of life, that we must all acknowledge. And find our peace with. That’s the challenge, right there.

But it’s like anything you practice. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.

And being happy feels pretty, blooming good.

Note: This post isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad or less validated in whatever they’re feeling. If you’re going through a hard/dark/sad time seeing positives will be hard right now. We all have to get places in our own time. Also? If you’re suffering from any sort of clinical anxiety/depression, this will seem insurmountable. I know that feeling first hand. But one day, it will all seem more doable, believe me. There’s lots more on the blog about living your life happily, CBT and the devil that is anxiety. Put ‘anxiety’ in the search box and more posts will come up. You can also follow the Facebook page and find me on Instagram.

Kids and money.

Contrary to the title, this isn’t a post about selling your kids and how much you can get for them. (Although, there’s an idea.) It’s about kids and their relationship with money. Their money. Your money. (Mostly your money.) I want my kids to understand the value of stuff but have no idea exactly how to teach them this. So when I was introduced to this brand new parenting app, Kidibank™, I was like, ‘WHY has no one thought of this before?’ This post is written in partnership with Kidibank™, the positive parenting app.

‘Can I have my pocket money?’

We’ve been giving our seven year old weekly pocket money for a few months now.

I say giving it. What’s actually been happening is she’s spent a lot of time reminding us and one of us has scrabbled around for a quid. Because who carries cash these days? And apparently, she doesn’t take contactless. She’s then put it in a purse or bag never to be seen again, we go shopping, she sees something she wants to buy and I buy it for her. She then promises to pay me back. She ‘forgets.’ I forget. And on we go.

I think this is what they call payback. Literally. (Sorry Dad for raiding your not so secret coin stash when I was a kid.)

‘How much is £9?’

On the odd occasion Beaver’s remembered to bring her purse out with her, she hasn’t really understood how much is in there and what that can buy. The last time we went shopping she had three £5 notes and a few pound coins. Suspicious, no, when she’s paid in coins? Mmmmmm.

Anyway, she picked up the first thing she saw. A t-shirt that cost £9. ‘I’ll have this,‘ she said. I told her that if she had that it would use up most of her money and she’d only have a few pounds left. ‘Oh I don’t want it then,‘ she said. ‘Unless you want to buy it for me?

And there it was. The expectation. I remember it well. Not wanting it enough to part with your own money but being very happy to let someone else buy it for you.

Anyone got an abacus?

Neither of us bought the t-shirt and Beaver ended up spending her money on a toy for her and generously (and rather uncharacteristically) also bought one for her sister.

When I got home it bothered me that I’d been so rubbish at helping her to understand the money side of things. And it often bothers me that Beaver pesters me for things when we’re in a shop, without remembering or caring she already had something last week. None of us want to raise spoiled kids.

But I get it. The expectation. After all, kids don’t really understand the cost to us. So it’s our job to teach them. But where on earth do you start? I want my kids to know the value of stuff and, further down the line, to be in control of their finances when they get older.

And not to sound REALLY dull, but a good relationship with money starts young, right?

Can you tell I’m an accountant’s daughter?

No more cash!

The Kidibank™ app solves this problem (and many more).

It allows you to set up a virtual ‘bank’ for your child and pay virtual money into it. Which means you never have to get caught short again looking for a stray coin. WOOHOO! This could even help when the Tooth Fairy gets caught, erm, off guard. Just saying. ‘Ooh, look at that! That clever Tooth Fairy has paid it straight into your Kidibank.’

Rather brilliantly, you can sync it on your own phone, your child’s tablet (if they have one), and other family members’ gadgets too so you are all looking at the same account (up to 4 adults and 6 kids per account). When you go shopping your child can spend the virtual money (whilst you hand over the equivalent amount via your actual payment method) and your child can visually see how much they’ll have left if they buy that t-shirt or toy or whatever it is they want. This might even mean you can risk the gift shop on a day out. Steady now!

You can also set goals on it so your child can earn extra money. For younger members of the family you can set it to stars rather than money, so you’ve always got a reward chart system with you. Perfect for those times when you’re out and about and your reward chart is stuck on the fridge at home, long forgotten (if you’re anything like me). You can even encourage your child to monitor their own screen time and understand how to save a bit more screen time for tomorrow so they can watch a longer programme, for example or play more levels of a game. Fully customisable with animated characters, the app is all about encouraging your child to think for themselves and allowing them to have some responsibility for their own conduct rather than micro-managing (nagging) them.

An end to nagging? You’re on.

(Now. If it could also just do the school run too and maybe even my washing, my life would be perfect.)

This post was written in partnership with Kidibank™. Click here to download their amazing app on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. One month trial FREE!