Earlier this week on Instagram and Facebook, I mentioned the lovely farmer who bought The New Mum’s Notebook for his wife, whilst on his tractor harvesting (it’s now on Amazon for a ludicrous £8). As well as the couple with the four month old baby, who I sat with in the pub on Sunday. Both examples of couples showing support and consideration towards one another, during the most challenging time of their lives. Parenthood. Eight years, three kids and one less husband on, I was totally impressed by this. So I thought I’d write something about being a kick a*** parenting team. (You can, of course, ignore this and think, ‘Well, what does she possibly know?’ She doesn’t even have a husband. But I hope you don’t and instead find it helpful.) **Not just for new parents. May also be useful if you’re older parents who have lost their way**
Be kind to one another. This tops the list every time, for me. It’s simple. It’s important. It can make up for a multitude of ‘sins’. To be honest? It doesn’t really matter if your other half never takes out the bin and always forgets to empty the dishwasher. If they tell you often that you’re doing a good job and they couldn’t do what you do, that’s enough, in my book. Partners, I’m not saying it’s easy for you, either. I know we can become a bit insane when we have babies. We’re really tired, not always sure what we’re doing and often, this baby lark is REALLY f*cking dull and relentless (yes, new mums, it’s totally ok to admit that). If you let us make it all about us for a while, when that baby comes along, if you remind us you love us and we’re awesome, I promise you, we’ll remember it. For the rest of time. Also, thanks for going to work and bringing the odd bag of giant chocolate buttons home.
Take out the bin. OK, so I lied a bit above. But it’s just really thoughtful when someone does something that you don’t then have to do. It’s always the little things, right?
Have sex. I don’t mean immediately. Obviously. Wait until you’ve left the hospital at least (joke). Seriously though, whilst you both need to feel ready, if you wait until your ‘baby’ is at university, you’ve waited too long. Sex connects. It’s what got you into this mess in the first place, remember? (PS some couples notice a direct correlation between the amount of times the bin gets put out and the amount of times they put out. Just saying.)
Don’t compete. Oldest parenting cliche in the book. But probably the most played out. Don’t. Go. There. You’re both tired. You’re both frazzled. You both dislike one another a bit (a lot) of the time. There are no winners here. It’s just a really crap game that makes you both feel lousy. Get out the Scrabble instead, if you really need to do something competitive.
Diffuse everything with laughter. Tricky, this one. Especially when you’re finding it hard to find anything funny. But laughing is up there with sex. It connects. Don’t take it all too seriously. Parenthood won’t always be this hard or intense.
Be on each other’s side. No one else is ever going to get your child like you both do. There is no one else who will love your child as much as you both do. Trust me. So bond over how much you love him or her. Bond over how much you wish they’d just go to flipping sleep, already. Bond over how irritating it is that they’ve just had a meltdown in the middle of Tescos. But be on each other’s side. Never blame one another. You made this person together. There IS no one else to blame. (Sorry to break that to you.)
Use banter carefully. If you’re a couple who liked to banter BC (before children), this can seriously backfire when you’ve had a baby. New (and old, tired) mums can be really sensitive and sometimes, we don’t get the ‘jokes’. They feel more like digs.
Go out. I’m not even going to say the phrase, ‘Date night’. It makes me want to hurl. BUT. Going out together is important. Don’t be that couple who wake up one day, realise that their kids are teenagers and they invested so little time in each other, they don’t have anything to talk about. I have friends with kids in very happy relationships because they always make time for one another and it shows. It really, really shows. If you don’t want to go out/don’t have a babysitter, have dinner indoors together. Bottle of wine, conversation and no TV or phones. Oh and don’t wait for the perfect time, or you’ll be waiting forever. You deserve to put each other first every once in a while. Partners often need this more than mums (from what they’ve told me) – to remember that they still mean something and to have their other half to themselves, for a change. No one said it has to be ALL about babies now, just because you’re parents.
Remember why you liked one another. Assuming that you did, of course and didn’t just create a life after twelve pints, four bottles of wine and 10 jagermeisters. No judgement. Focusing on that time before kids is a really good way of seeing yourselves through the challenging times. Go one better, and remember the little gestures you did for one another and reinstate them, occasionally.
Get a bit drunk together. It’s fun. It releases tension. Unless you get so drunk that you do no. 3 and get up the duff again. Oops.
Love the hell out of each other. No explanation needed. Most, if not all, of my friends have struggled at some point in their relationships post kids. But pretty much all of them are still together, because they love each other. Over and above everything else.
Do share this with your partner, new parents or anyone else who could do with a helping hand. There’s a whole chapter in The New Mum’s Notebook on relationships, as well as eleven other months (chapters) to see you through that first year of parenthood. On offer on Amazon now for £8 (usually £16.99).
How on earth have I been a mother for eight years, had three kids and NEVER written a post about threenagers? Well, finally, here it is. How to spot one.
Disclaimer: I love my boy. More than anything. He is loving. And considerate. And sweet. He notices when I wear a new dress or do my hair. He sometimes puts his plate on the side after dinner. This is how I described him to our new au pair, the night she arrived. A GLOWING TESTIMONY OF HOW BLOODY LOVELY HE IS. Then, the next morning, he woke up, acted like a total s***bag and terrorised us both for 12 hours. She looked slightly horrified and, after he was in bed, I introduced her to my good mate, Ginny Gin Gin. Twice. Welcome to the life of a threenager. Here’s how to spot one.
Size. Threenagers are not really that different to toddlers with their illogical, irritating behaviour. And they look much the same. Still pint-sized. So how do you even tell them apart? Well, if you look a little closer, threenagers are getting a bit taller and leaner. They’ve got that, ‘Look at me, I’m cooler than you,’ vibe starting, in their skinny jeans that they haven’t been able to wear until now. And they’re not afraid to use it.
Vocabulary. Threenagers talk. A lot. Sometimes, all day long for 12 hours solid. Around this time, you wish you’d thrown that sodding ‘First 100 Words‘ book out, along with those equally annoying, ‘That’s not my… ARGGGHHHH PLEASE F*** OFF AND STOP WRITING THESE BOOKS‘ series. Because all you’ve done is arm them with the skills to torment you for 12 hours solid. Every single day.
Folded arms. When threenagers fold their arms, they mean business. When accompanied with the lowered head and ‘Death Stare,’ this basically means you’re screwed and you’re not going to do any of the things you wanted to do. For at least the next year. Or maybe ever again.
Hand on hips. Sometimes, threenagers alternate the folded arms and throw you off track with a hand on the hip. This is just another way of them telling you they’re not doing it. Any of it.
‘It wasn’t me.’ Threenagers say this A LOT. Ahhhhh. Welcome to their disillusioned world. You saw them hit their sister over the head/throw their crisp packet on the floor/take something that isn’t theirs WITH YOUR ACTUAL EYES. They swear blind it wasn’t them. ‘I saw you do it!‘ you say. Several times. They look at you with disgust. To them you are nothing but an idiot. And a lying one at that.
Bouts of joylessness. No one does joylessness better than a threenager. Their vocabulary completely fails them at this point and they have no idea why they are completely and utterly miserable. The only thing they do know? It’s definitely your fault.
Independence. Threenagers are all about doing stuff for themselves. Getting in and out of the car. Putting on their own shoes. Sadly for you, they don’t necessarily have the skills to do any of it. Meaning you’ll be even later for stuff you were never on time for anyway.
Attitude. Threenagers think they are cleverer than you. The End. (There is a distinct possibility that, after spending 12 hours with one, they are. Mainly because you have lost the will to live, several times over. And are a little drunk.)
Thanks to my boy for inspiring this post and providing me with the photographic evidence. More of me over on Instagram and Facebook.
Eight years ago this week, I became a mother. FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. I look back now at photos of my younger mum self (not just that hilarious post-birth picture) and, beneath the love and contentment, I can still feel how green I was. How unsure I was. I remember that first night at home with her like it was yesterday. ‘What on earth do we do with her? Can we put her down, do you think?‘ Eight years, three kids and no nappies later (yes, new mums, it really does happen one day), this is what I’d tell my first-time mum self (if she’d have listened).
‘It’s going to be ok.’
Yesterday morning, I dropped the boy off at nursery, the nursery I will have been at for eight years by the time he starts school. (Don’t think about the money, don’t think about the money. Haha.)
Sarah, who co-owns the nursery, opened the door and we started talking about The New Mum’s Notebook. What the next Notebook is going to be. And she reminded me how far I’ve come as a mother. ‘Do you remember,‘ she said, ‘when you first started here and you told us that Beaver was a Gina Ford baby and had to nap at this exact time in complete darkness and silence? You left and we thought, how on earth are we going to do this in a nursery environment?’
It made me laugh. Because I do remember that. Vividly. I remember my first-time mum self well. The one who was so scared of things going wrong. Who once shouted at her own mum for daring to look under the muslin whilst her baby was sleeping. The one who felt the need to control EVERYTHING (and foolishly thought she could).
I want to go back and give her a hug. Tell her that it will be ok. That the world won’t implode if things don’t go to plan. That there are NO PLANS when you have a small baby in tow.
There is love. And there is cake.
And that is all you need.
My first-time mum self did a good enough job, as good as she could. After all, she didn’t know any better.
But she missed out on some stuff along the way. She worried about spoiling her newborn. She could have cuddled her more. Indulged herself in that intense and beautiful feeling of a new baby on her chest. And forgotten about the ridiculous things she’d picked up elsewhere, like needing to stimulate a tiny person who already had all the stimulation she needed. The warmth and security of her mum.
The thing is, my first-time mum self was lucky. Really lucky. Because she got to do it all again. Twice. To have another two children, who mellowed her a little more each time they came.
The second baby reminded her that she could do this. Because she’d already done it once before.
But, it wasn’t until the third baby that the penny really dropped. Maybe it was the knowledge that this baby was her last and that made him more precious. Maybe it was the frailty of her mental health and her need to feel that newborn on her chest. To feel that closeness, that warmth, those two hearts beating as if they were one.
Because when she felt that, she felt less desperate and alone.
And the crazy thing is that, despite being unwell for so much of those early months, her third time was a charm, indeed.
The fear of going out and the safety she felt when she was tucked up in bed with her new baby and a boxset made her slow down for the first time in years. For the first time in her life as a mother.
In that respect, PND was both a curse and a blessing. Because, when she started to get well again, she had learned a lesson, albeit the hard way.
She had learned to slow down. To catch the moment. That it would be ok. All of it. That the world wouldn’t implode if things didn’t go to plan. Because things hadn’t gone to plan. They had veered so far from any plan a new mum would ever make.
‘It’s a good job then, that there are no plans when you have a small baby in tow,‘ she thought.
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.
I made his porridge too hot. Sorry, Goldilocks.
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?
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.
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.
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.*
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.‘
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
If you’re reading this, then you have probably doubted yourself, at one time or another. Who hasn’t? Maybe you’re doing it right now. Doubting yourself doesn’t feel good, does it? It feels uncertain. But not only is it normal, it’s healthy. Usually. Because it means we’re questioning ourselves, which comes only from the desire to do right by our children. Yes, Doubt (just like its good buddy, Guilt) is also love, in disguise. LOVE.
Doubt is wanting the best for our children. But not always knowing how to provide it. Every parenting stage is new and challenging. Getting our babies to sleep. Helping them start school. Supporting them as they grow physically and emotionally. The phases come and go. And we’ve just got to learn on the job. No parent is completely confident in their abilities. There’s always that niggle in the back of our minds, ‘What if I get it wrong?‘
And we will get it wrong. Many times over. We haven’t done this before. We’re dealing with human beings, not a maths equation. But the best thing about parenting? We always get another chance to do it again. Better. Differently. And every time we do, the doubt passes and that’s another phase mastered. For now, anyway. We’ve learned something new and, in the process, given our children the greatest gift of all. We’ve showed them that making mistakes is not something to be scared of. That it’s a crucial part of getting it right. Eventually. That they never have to be perfect. (Amen to that.)
Sometimes, however, doubting ourselves as a parent isn’t healthy. It’s a negative emotion. And that’s when the doubt doesn’t come from us but from someone else. Other people start to sew seeds of doubt the minute we start this parenting journey. And they won’t stop. Sometimes it will be an innocent, throw away comment. Other times it will be more loaded than that and come from a place of insecurity where they need our decisions to reflect their own. So they can make peace with them. In short, it’s about them, not us.
We can’t stop the seed being sewn. But we can prevent it from growing. Let them plant it in their garden, not ours. If it isn’t constructive. If it doesn’t sit right with us or leave us feeling inspired. If it leaves us with that lurching feeling in our gut and asking, ‘Why did they say that?‘ it’s not a doubt that will ever serve us well or move us into a better place. It will grow weeds not flowers.
It’s hard to rise above it, especially when you’re a new parent. But as we become more experienced, as we get to know ourselves better as parents, we learn to ignore idle criticism. Because we have more confidence. And we realise that any sort of judgement is born out of insecurity and, very often, boredom. It has no truth. And if we choose not to listen to it, then it also has no audience. So, never get drawn into judging someone else’s parenting style, their choices or even their kids. It will only make you feel bad.
Finally, when you lose faith in yourself or your child. When you wonder if you can do this. When you lie awake at night feeling anxious. Look at how far you’ve already come. At what you’ve already achieved and mastered. You can do this better than you think.
The other day I found a diary. That I barely remember writing. It’s full of entries to my first-born, documenting our first year together. It’s going to be serialised by The Daily Mail. Oh, hang on a minute. No, it’s not because it’s the DULLEST READ EVER. Full of crazy s*** I did and how much I loved her. Like every day, HOW MUCH I LOVED HER. No way do I remember enjoying motherhood anywhere near that much. Clearly I was a) sleep deprived b) hormonal and c) a total bloody liar. Anyway, I shared one particularly embarrassing post and lots of mums told me the ‘funny’ stuff they did with their firstborns. Here’s a summary. If you’re a first time mum sitting there fretting about Every. Single. Thing (as we all did), I hope this helps you chill out a bit. Because there are some things you really don’t need to do. Like ever.
1. THE SCENARIO: Roasting a chicken JUST for the stock at 11.30 PM at night for your newly weaned baby. (Then somehow finding the energy to write about it in your very sad diary.) Who knew you can get low salt stock cubes for this very purpose? (Everyone, but you.) THE FUTURE: They will reward you by growing up, developing the sweetest tooth and eating all the E numbers they can lay their hands on. Whilst their sibling(s) who were weaned on dirt, air, party rings and whole (not low salt) Oxo cubes (eaten raw whilst you were too busy doing something else), turn their noses up at the sweet stuff and would much rather have a satsuma. THE LEARNING: It’s going to be ok, whatever you do (or don’t do).
2. THE SCENARIO: Stimulating your baby in ridiculous ways. You spend most of the first year worrying about how to stimulate your baby. Are you doing enough with her? Reading enough? Talking to her enough? So you buy 34 Baby Einstein DVDs from eBay and convince yourself that she really enjoys watching one before her lunchtime nap (according to the very sad diary). THE FUTURE: By the time you have more kids, you’ll be so exhausted and distracted you’ll only think about stimulants for you, not stimulating them. They will have a better vocabulary than you. Know their colours. And pretty much have been raised by Netflix. THE LEARNING: You’re all the stimulation your baby needs. I promise. Oh ok, and maybe Netflix.
3. THE SCENARIO: Peeling things that were never meant to be peeled. Like grapes. Because, well, no reason really. It just feels like something a really good mum would do. (PS do cut grapes lengthways before serving, as they’re a choking hazard. The peeling bit has no benefits whatsoever though. Don’t say this blog isn’t useful haha.) THE FUTURE: Not peeling things that were meant to be peeled. Because you’re so darn tired and your toddler is already halfway through the satsuma, skin and all, so what’s the point now? THE LEARNING: You’re a good mum regardless of all this shizzle. You always have been.
4. THE SCENARIO:Sterilising EVERYTHING that might go near your baby. Like putting boiling water in the saucepan before putting, erm, fresh boiling water in it to cook the broccoli. THE FUTURE: Eating actual animal poo. THE LEARNING: Your baby is far more resilient than you think. Try not to obsess over their welfare. You’re doing a great job.
5. THE SCENARIO: Wondering if your baby is going to be a social pariah. Your baby/toddler bites another child at nursery. You have sleepless nights worrying that she’s going to be a social outcast whilst googling, ‘Is my baby a psychopath?’ THE FUTURE: She grows up to be funny, kind and aware that it’s not ok to go around biting people. THE LEARNING: It’s a developmental phase. And one that most babies/toddlers go through. Seriously, don’t worry. It will pass.
6. THE SCENARIO: Thinking every mum is a better mum than you. Worrying that you’re not helping your baby to develop enough. Because Little Billy is already using a beaker AND holding it himself and your baby isn’t. Feeling out of your depth because all the other mothers seem to know more mum hacks than you. THE FUTURE: One day soon, no one will give a s*** about this stuff. Or even remember it. Or remember anything, come to that. THE LEARNING: We’re all out of our depth most of the time. You just learn to ride the wave of motherhood and chill the f*** out. Also? There’s no better mum for your child than you.
I really hope this helps you see what a great job you’re doing. I know when you’re in it, all this stuff is so overwhelming and it absolutely feels like you need to take the hardest path in order to do the best by your baby. But take it from us old mums, you really, really don’t. Happy mum. Happy baby. More reassurance available in The New Mum’s Notebook, sanity saving journal for new mums (it will definitely stop you roasting a chicken at 11.30 PM at night). Available online, priced £20.
This morning I posted a picture on my Facebook page with some words about the importance of finding mum friends. Your #mummassive, I called them. I was having a moment, remembering my NCT friends and how I couldn’t have survived the first year of motherhood without them. One mum commented that in an ideal world we’d all have that massive but a lot don’t, despite best effort. Motherhood can be lonely, she said (I know this, first hand). A lot of other mums liked her comment. And it made me wonder, am I being naive? Are there more mums out there alone than together, even though they’ve tried their best not to be? Are we spouting words about ‘finding mum friends’ that are just unrealistic and impossible to follow because some days we’re struggling to remember who we even are?
‘She’s having a baby!’
The first line I ever wrote when I started writing The New Mum’s Notebook was this. ‘Having a baby is wonderful. It can also be overwhelming.‘ I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. And if I had to sum up becoming a mum again, right now, this is what I would still say. I would say it every time a woman has a baby, no matter how many she has.
Having a baby is overwhelming.
(Let’s cut straight to the chase.)
Hanging on for dear life.
Before we become mums, we say stuff like, ‘A baby won’t change me. I’m still going to be me and not lose my sense of self.‘
I remember feeling this. I was petrified of losing my identity when I became a mum. So petrified that, when my first daughter was five months old, I wrote that list with 17 things on that I was going to do to be a good mum and STILL be myself. I also had an actual five year plan with things like ‘having a variety of hobbies,’ ‘learning new skills,’ and ‘playing the piano.’ What on earth did I think motherhood was going to be? I am now two years past that five year plan and I can tell you, I haven’t so much as touched a piano. And the hobbies? Well, I almost went to Zumba, once.
Does that count?
Who am I now?
So, despite our best intentions, motherhood shakes us to our cores.
It changes us. It makes us doubt ourselves. It makes us lose our confidence and forget how to interact with the rest of the world. I have friends who had huge careers and social lives before having kids that, some seven years on, are only just starting to find their feet again. And put on a nice pair of shoes.
I think this is why Instagram is so full of mums doing (great) stuff. To support their families, yes. To find a way of flexible working, yes. But more than anything? To hang onto themselves and some sense of who they were. Who they are.
And who they will be in the future.
I remember feeling lost.
So, when at times we’re struggling with our own sense of identity, I can see why me suggesting mums go out there and forge new friendships, when they’re often at their most vulnerable, sounds a bit idyllic and as overwhelming as the task of motherhood itself.
And it’s easy for me to write it, as I emerge from the baby bubble, now that baby no. 3 is almost two and a half. (It’s probably why I’m becoming one of those really irritating people feeling all nostalgic about it. If I ever write, ‘Enjoy them while they’re young,’ or ‘You’ll miss it when they’re older,’ please report me to Facebook. Or just go ahead and shoot me.)
But could I have done it when I was in the thick of it? Could I have put myself out there when I was feeling that intense sense of loneliness? When I was feeling forgotten. When I was feeling like I didn’t really have anything to say.
Possibly not. But I still believe we must try.
We are (probably) all in the same boat.
Mums have often said to me that groups they have tried to infiltrate are cliquey. And yes, there are some groups and women that may appear ‘cliquey.’ But the majority of women are not like this. The majority of women, of mums (new and old), are like me. And you. Feeling a bit shy or vulnerable or desperately trying to find those feet they once walked on.
Many of the new friends I’ve made since having kids have been in my lowest moments, when I wasn’t in a state to worry about what someone else might think. The mum I barely knew whose shoulder I cried (snotted) on. The mum who could see I was struggling and reached out. The mum who was warm and kind when I needed it. I hope I’ve done the same for others. These friendships might last a year or they might last forever, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we open up. If we can. And reach out to one another. Otherwise, how do we ever know what boat someone else is really in? How do we know if they’re standoffish, painfully shy or just worrying they’re messing the whole thing up? It takes courage, which you might not think you have. But you have it, you do. And if you do open up and it comes to nothing, don’t give up. Move on. Try again. Your effort is never in vain.
Because, even if it seems they weren’t ready to receive it, to someone else, you have just been that mum who was warm and kind when they needed it.
And they’ll remember that forever, believe me.
Sorry for the mush. Sorry for the idyllic thoughts. But being a bit of an oversharer, I’ve learned that good things come when we talk to one another. I know we’re not all like this (thank god haha) and I’d love to hear your experiences. Tell me I’m wrong and idyllic (and possibly had too much sherry), I don’t mind at all! In the meantime, lots of love to ALL of you mums out there. You’re doing an amazing job and one day it won’t feel quite so suffocating, I promise.
Christmas. What’s not to love? Mulled wine. The Channel 5 Christmas movies. Stocking the cupboards with enough food to last 40 days for the two days of Christmas. Eating the cupboards with 40 days of food in, erm two days (by the 5th of December). Restocking the cupboards. (Repeat.) But when it comes to parenting at Christmas, THIS is where us parents have REALLY hit the jackpot. Here’s a few reasons why.
Dinnertime. Feeding kids is one of the least rewarding aspects of parenting. Unless you’re Jamie Oliver who can do actual, clever stuff with actual ingredients. (Although I bet even his kids don’t really eat his dinners unless the food is beiger than beige.) But come the 1st of December and dinnertime doesn’t matter! Because everything you serve can be justified with, ‘It’s Christmas! Of course you can leave your peas. Here’s a mince pie (which have actual fruit in, by the way). Yes, go on, have another candy cane. It’s Christmas!’ Suddenly, you’re not an irresponsible, inconsistent parent who doesn’t follow through on their threat, ‘You’re NOT having pudding until you’ve eaten all your dinner.’ You’re just a parent at Christmas, kicking back, NOT being a Scrooge. Being Christmassy.
Homework. Everyone who’s already at school knows that the Christmas term is sent to DESTROY parents (and kids). Dressing up days. Christmas Fairs. Donations. Teacher collections. Raffles. The fleecing of any money you’ve earned all year. All of this comes in this most joyous, final month of the year. Us parents respond by being so completely knackered/disorientated/drunk that we forget to police our kids in those final weeks. The reading diary stops coming home (and you stop nagging your child). You haven’t seen their recorder (or, in our case, ukelele – I know, don’t even get me started) in weeks. And the homework? Well, how realistic is it that they’re going to know ALL their times tables by Christmas anyway… erm…
Bedtime. If you even had your children in any sort of routine to start with, now is when it starts to unravel. It starts slowly, when you’ve had a mulled wine at 4.30 PM because ‘It’s Christmas!’ and it’s served hot, so it barely qualifies as an alcoholic beverage. But it gathers momentum quickly and before you know it you’re hurtling towards, ‘Let’s never go to bed again. Because it’s Christmas. Let’s have another mulled wine and a candy cane!’ This will become a regret of gigantic proportions come January but, for now, you’re just all too joyous (drunk and high on sugar) to care.
TV. If it has a Christmas prop in it, you can watch it. FACT. Christmas films are bordering on educational because all Christmas movies (especially on Channel 5 or Netflix) have a moving message that teaches your children to be better people. And possibly even prompts them to save the world one day. Are you going to be the person that says no to TV ALL day and hinders that? Nope. Me neither.
Everything else. You soon learn that there isn’t anything that can’t be excused or justified with the mention of Christmas. You can blame bad behaviour (theirs and yours) on the general excitement of Christmas. Tantrums. Defiance. Overtiredness. All you have to do is pronounce, ‘It’s Christmas!’ Because, let’s face it, only a Scrooge can argue with that, right? Now. Who fancies another mulled wine (‘hot’ gin)?
Happy December! Here’s to mulled wine at 4.30 PM and kicking back. We’ve earned it. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out our fab interactive advent calendar with loads of mum-to-be and new mum gift ideas AND exclusive discounts.