How To Fight A Cold The Single Mum Way

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I’ve had one of those colds. You’ll know – the ones that go on and on and on and on (and on and on and on). It started a fortnight ago, knocking both Hux and I down. Then I thought it got better that weekend but it didn’t (which is definitely the reason why I couldn’t handle my cocktails…) and I was eventually completely and utterly KO’d, unable to do anything but whine by the next Friday. I even missed a very very important work night out because I just couldn’t face a night of Prosecco.

I know. Poor me.

The work stress has been cranked up to ten this week which is probably a big part of the reason why I just can’t shift this effing lurgy and, in all honesty, I am really not good at being ill. I feel tired, useless, slow and all-round miserable which manifests itself in a self-perpetuating cycle of self-pity. I HAD A FLU JAB, THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

In my desperation I’ve been reading blogs in an effort to feel better (seems legit) and lo! One of my favourites had a piece all about my exact problem: how to cure your cold, featuring advice from people on Twitter and Instagram. Only I read it and realised that literally none of this advice applied to me; there is literally no ‘get better from flu’ advice that helps when you are the sole carer of two tiny humans demanding attention, love and food from you. And how inconvenient this is.

Seriously though there’s no harder time when it comes to single parenting than being ill and having to be a responsible adult. It’s tough and the support system you take for granted when in a relationship just isn’t there; I can’t exactly ask my ex-husband to cancel all his weekend plans and drive 60 miles to come and give me a hand. Wouldn’t be very strong independent woman of me now, would it?

And so we cope. This is how.

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Get as much sleep as you can
Ahahahahahah. Are you joking? You can bet your bottom dollar the one time you’re ill is going to be the one time your kids get up at a truly ungodly hour. Yay… In absence of sleep I choose caffeine or guarana. Healthy it is not, but I can sleep next year. Or in 2017. WHATEVER.

Eat lots of vitamin-filled foods
Saturday: Green juice, KFC lunch followed by curry and a beer because nothing else was working on the sore throat so why not?.

Sunday: American pancakes with bacon followed by more curry and enough chamomile tea to make me feel nauseous/virtuous (it’s about the same point).

A handful of satsumas cos Vitamin C.

So I won’t win any awards for this weekend’s food but at least I got us all out the house (drive thru!) and involved in some cooking. Plus there was so much goodness in Saturday’s green juice I basically don’t need to eat any vegetables for at least another couple of weeks. Bosh.

I force fed the children grapes so they don’t get scabies.

Watch your favourite feel-good TV shows
Like Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Shrek, Horrid Henry and Thomas The Tank Engine. Yeah, those.

Relax
Again, AHAHAHA.

Instead I say: charge up all your devices. The last time I had a phone upgrade I cleverly kept my old iPhone (GENIUS move which was well worth the £100 or so I would’ve got for it), which now lives in my bedside drawer for such emergencies as Single Mum Flu. Once charged it entertains the littlest child whilst the iPad entertains the big one. Model parenting it ain’t but when your head is pounding more than a bad hangover and you just need 30 minutes to lie down in silence it does the job. Thank-you Apple (and CBeebies. And Netflix. And Frozen).

When they’re bored of the devices I like to get the messiest, busiest toys out and let them go wild for a special treat – this weekend it was the Playdoh and I let them mix the colours together. To be honest it was past its best anyway but they literally had three hours of blissful fun playing with it.

For my entertainment and so I wouldn’t lose the will to live I washed my sheets and cooked a really easy curry (when you have two little people it’s impossible to spend much time resting on the sofa anyway). Took my mind off feeling like death and meant we all had something to eat that day – bonus.

Take a long relaxing bath
Or fill the bath for your children and quickly get in it before they realise. You’ll have five minutes tops, probably shouldn’t light candles and won’t have time for a DIY skin-boosting facial but hey, at least you’ll be clean.

And there you have it. Your recipe for health. I can guarantee you won’t feel much better, but at least you’ve tried, eh?

Becoming Mum

There hasn’t been a lightbulb moment or a bolt from above. But there was a second today when, all of a sudden, I thought – this motherhood thing isn’t hard anymore.

It’s taken a couple of years (OR MAYBE ALMOST-FIVE) but I can now truly and honestly say that I think I am a mother. I have finally – FINALLY – got used to it. I’m used to the responsibility, the relentlessness, even the sleep deprivation.

OK, that’s a lie, I think the sleep deprivation is something you never get used to.

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I really don’t mind saying that four and a half years ago the reality of having children hit me in the face like a big wet fish. A big rotten wet fish that smelled like baby poo, never slept and made my nipples hurt. The worst kind of fish, basically.

Because the truth is that babies are hard. Really hard. Unlike the shiny happy view that the media and Hollywood give us of parenthood (weird, because Hollywood/the media is so truthful about everything else, right?) it really isn’t like that. You don’t look like Katherine Heigel right after you’ve given birth and you probably won’t even look as attractive as a pregnant Arnold Schwarchnegger in the nine months preceding, either. From the word go it’s vomity tiring struggle: you’re the one that throws up for almost a year and then baby arrives and teaches you the wonder of posset (I’m not referencing the dessert here). It is, quite literally, a bit sick.

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In all honesty for me the first two years were a blur. And then Hux arrived: repeat, rinse etc. OH GOSH the tiredness.

But now – but now. It’s all coming together.

You can have actual conversations with both the children. You can reason with them about why it’s not wise to put things in their ear canal – they probably won’t listen, but at least you can try. When they get up at 5.30am you can ask them nicely to go back to sleep and they actually do it. They say adorably gorgeous things that you can bore all your friends with and you can proudly display their attempts at writing their first words over Social Media. Elfie told me the other day that I was “the most special mummy I have ever met” and Hux says “I love you” totally unprompted. It’s pretty cool.

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Don’t be fooled, it still isn’t easy. But I always think about that saying: “the days are long but the years are short”. Soon Hux will smell like a combination of cheesy feet and Lynx and Elfie will dye her hair black and think I’m hugely uncool. So I need to make the most of Hux wanting to share my pillow and Elfie creeping in at 5am to kiss my forehead.

Believe me, you’ll get there. It might take five years but once you become a mum it really is the best.

What’s Your Best Mum Advice?

When I first started my blog I was five weeks pregnant. I called it ‘A Womb With A View’ which at the time I thought was absolutely hilarious – thank god my sense of humour has matured, even if I haven’t – and wrote anonymously about my experiences in case anyone from work stumbled upon it. Back then I knew no pregnant people and none of my friends had babies or children so I was somewhat of a lone ranger. My lack of knowledge about pregnancy, birth and motherhood was based on American sitcoms and the occasional flick through my mum’s Good Housekeeping magazine so I guess you could say I had an idyllic view of it all.

Which is why, since having children, I’ve been so passionate about writing about my life as a mum. It’s an incredible tale, one of highs and lows but most importantly the unexpected. I had no idea how difficult, tiring, euphoric and downright weird this journey as a mum could be and so I like to write about it for the benefit of those who are considering buying a ticket for the parenting train. I wish I’d had a blog like mine when I was a new parent to help me through that time; I tell you, it can be a pretty isolating experience being a new mum and I would have really appreciated a bit of solidarity.

SMA Nutrition have just launched a new campaign which will provide just that. B.A.B.Y (Baby Advice By You) is a campaign providing an extensive library of advice and golden nuggets of information from the best experts in the field: us, the mums! Containing personal experiences and opinions from those on the front line of parenting (*takes a bow*), the B.A.B.Y project will be what so many first time mums are missing – a best friend who’s done it all, seen it all, and has bought the baby-vomit covered t-shirt.

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Mummy’s Day Off

 

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Recently I sat down, scrolled through my calendar and discovered something slightly shocking.

I have not been in my house alone since the 20th September.

Furthermore, thanks to Elfie and Hux’s dad working away for a few weeks (and Elfie’s various 2/4/5am antics) I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 15th November. Factor in the long days and a manageable bit (A LOT) of work stress and I was, by the beginning of this week, about ready to go a bit bonkers.

The one shining beacon in the craziness of the bonkersness was this coming weekend. I’d (kind of) cleared the diary and decided to be as low key as possible. With nothing planned, this weekend was going to be all about ME.

It is now 4pm Saturday and so far today I have: had a lie-in (10am, BOOM), cooked a brilliant breakfast, had a shower, read the beginning chapters of two books, watched my first episode of Made in Chelsea, been invited to a party, baked banana bread, watched a film, done an hour’s work and spent 30 minutes looking at eyebrow shapes.

I’m bored.

I can’t go to the gym because I went last night- after a gin and tonic which was a massive rookie mistake – I don’t want to go swimming because I painstakingly blow dried my hair last night and I can’t clean because that was done on Thursday. I did my supermarket shop yesterday, I don’t want to work because I promised myself I wouldn’t, I refuse to go to the shops because it’s Saturday and I’m not mental and I can’t nap because I’m not tired.

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I miss the kids.

Sidenote: why does Made In Chelsea have a weird yellowy filter on it, like Instagram? It’s really annoying me, real life doesn’t look like this. Or maybe it does when your bank account has lots more money in it? Maybe you just grow yellowy lenses over your retinas and everything literally looks more rosy?

I have three hours left until I leave for Bryony’s house to watch the X Factor and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this time… apart from eat Banana Bread and the block of Duchy Organics stilton I have in the fridge that’s been calling my name all morning. Or maybe I’ll spend those three hours trying to figure out the intricacies of the various relationships in Made in Chelsea? I could be here a while. But then what happens tomorrow?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that as a hard-working mother, or a someone who works hard, or is a mother, WHATEVER, time to yourself is so incredibly important. I sometimes feel like I spend so much of my time serving others – the children or those at work – that I forget about myself. I can go days and days and days without realising that I do exist to relax and spend time on my own and not just to be busy busy busy busy. I know I have my evenings after the kids go to bed at 7.30 but these are invariably spend working, cooking, bleaching or washing. SO BUSY.

Still bored.

What do you do with your alone time? I NEED INSPIRATION!

Am I A Bad Mum, Or Just Busy?

A couple of things have happened recently that have made me wonder if I’m a bad mum.

I’m not being completely fair on myself – I think I’m actually a pretty OK mum most of the time and I even have my moments when my parenting might actually be considered quite good. Not including the moment this morning when Elfie found it appropriate to whack me on the derriere, of course.

But take last Wednesday, for instance. I turned up as normal to Hux’s nursery, popped him in the arms of his favourite carer with a kiss and a “bye bye, love you, see you later” only to be confronted with hugely confused faces. Because Hux doesn’t go to nursery on Wednesdays – he never has. Wednesdays are a pre-school day, in the next village along. Oops.

You think I would have learnt the first time I did this.

Then there was the time that Elfie threw an unfamiliar pair of knickers into the laundry basket. “Where did these come from?” I asked her. Apparently Miss L had to put them on her because she’d gone to school with no underwear on.

That was the last time she was allowed to dress herself.

And then there was the evening she came home from school to proudly show me the book she’d taken to read with her teacher that day:

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But you see, the things I have realized is that the symptoms of being a bad mum seem to be very similar to the symptoms of being a very busy working single mum. Yes, we might dash out the door without their/our coats once in a while or end up having to scribble on the back of an envelope in lieu of the required permission slip that got lost in last week’s ‘to do’ pile… but that’s part and parcel of working 11 hour days, isn’t it?

The key is finding the balance. When I worked for myself it was always really hard to turn off and pay attention to the kids once they were at home. Now, I know that between the hours of 6 and 7.30 we have dedicated family time and that is the most important part of the day. The weekends are even more precious so we try to do stuff as a family; swimming, seeing friends, cooking a big old roast then settling down to watch a film together.

But then there’s  nothing balanced about our mental morning routine, scrambling to find recorders, book bags, water bottles and, erm, the correct knickers, before jumping in the car. I like turning up to work looking vaguely human so need to spend three minutes slapping makeup on and sorting my hair out so we always end up legging it out the door ten minutes late. Then there’s me checking I locked the front door twice and returning once more to make sure I turned my hair straighteners off.

I’m sure this stress could be eradicated by getting up 30 minutes earlier but I literally can’t speak before 6.30am and monster mummy is no fun for anyone.

So for now I will just wear my ‘I’m not a bad mum, just a single working one’ tshirt and hope the rest of the world understands.

My Inspiring Mum of The Year: Emma Cantrell, First Days

The internet has given me many wonderful things. ASOS Premier, Facebook messenger, the DM’s sidebar of shame.

But by far the best thing about the internet is the people I have met online. Typing that out still feels a bit weird: seeing the phrase ‘the people I have met online’ conjures up images of old men wearing dirty string vests in their bedrooms with the curtains shut, tapping away at a big old CPUs and massive monitors. Not women who are like me, women who make me laugh, make me feel inspired and make me want to thank Sir Tim Berners-Lee for the magnificent invention that is the World Wide Web.

One of these women is my friend Emma.

1412886190Now, Emma will protest until she’s blue in the face that she’s not inspiring, she’s just a normal mum and wife. BUT DON’T LET THAT FOOL YOU! Emma is one of the most magnificent women I have ever met and she’s honestly made me sit and ponder my own life on more than one occasion. She selflessly started a charity, First Days, when she realised there was a need to provide and distribute basic equipment – clothing, bedding, furniture – for struggling new parents  in her local area. Throughout 2014 the charity has gone from strength to strength, culminating in Emma’s well-deserved inclusion on the shortlist of Tesco’s Mum of The Year. Oh yes, Emma is a mum, too!

I asked Emma to answer a few questions for me on how she started First Days and the roller coaster ride that has been juggling her own charity and family life. Have a read – feel inspired – and if you ever get the chance to pick Emma’s brains over a glass of wine you absolutely must… she’s a LOT of fun.

You can donate easily to First Days by texting ‘FDCC11 £5′ to 70070 (change the ‘£5′ if you want to give a different amount) – all donations go to help families with young children in need. 

- Tell me a little bit about First Days and why you decided to start it.

The concept is really simple – we collect baby and toddler clothes, equipment, furniture and toys and redistribute them to families in need. The stuff comes from families who no longer need it or businesses who want to donate surplus stock. The families in need are referred by other services – like children’s centres, social services, churches and housing associations.

I decided to start it when friends and neighbours generously gave us bags and bags of their second hand baby things. It was all in such good condition and there was just so much – I knew there must have been people out there who needed it more than me. I wasn’t sure what to do about it – then a friend told me about some research she was doing into single mothers in the area we live – she said that there was a practical need that wasn’t being fulfilled – ends that just weren’t meeting in their tight budgets. I know it sounds cheesy but I couldn’t just sit back and watch this happening whilst my cupboards were stuffed full of baby stuff that we never got round to using. So, I talked to people in the community and applied for some start up funding. I was granted it and First Days was born (my third baby!).

- You must deal with a lot of difficult situations in your day-to-day working life. What’s been the most surprising thing about the families you help since you started the charity?

They are never how you might imagine. I have not come across a mother who isn’t trying very hard to do the best for her children. I was asked to find a play pen for a teenage mum for her 8 months old baby. I could have thought ‘oh she wants it because she can’t be bothered to look after her son’ but what I found was a young girl who was preparing home made baby food and needed somewhere safe to put him whilst she was cooking in her tiny flat. She spent a lot of money on fresh ingredients because her baby’s weaning diet was so important to her. The most surprising thing is that we are fed so many stereotypes about how people in poverty live their lives and the majority – if not all of them – are generalisations and just plain lies.

New mum Emma Cantrell

- What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to help people. It’s a miss-world-esque cliche but it’s the truth. It is such a struggle for the families I work with to just make it to the end of the week with enough money for food. To know that I’ve showed kindness to people who are feeling desperate is fantastic – to be able to take pressure off is incredibly rewarding.

- And what are the low points?

The emotions. I have had to face my own prejudices, assumptions and judgements. I always thought I was a fair and non-judgmental person but I’ve been really challenged. Once I pulled up at a house, just off a road I’ve driven down many times, where I was delivering clothes to a family who were in desperate need. I arrived and looked at the house. It was bigger than mine and had a garage and my immediate thought was ‘oh. They can’t need much! They’ve got a garage! I don’t have a garage!!’ I went in and quickly realised that the family I was there to help lived in one of the rooms. There were 4 other families living in that house. I dropped the stuff to them and got back in my car and cried all the way home. I couldn’t believe the conditions they were living in and how quickly I had jumped to conclusions. Starting a charity from scratch is all consuming and takes an extraordinary amount of time, money and help from friends and family but – whilst there have been low points – it has been so worth it.

- What’s been the one stand-out amazing moment for you since the start of First Days?

We became a registered charity in July this year, which was a fantastic milestone. It was suddenly something bigger than an idea that grew from my kitchen table. It is suddenly a real, recognised organisation. That was a real turning point for me to look at it and think – wow, I’m a part of this! Personally, recently being shortlisted for the Tesco Mum of the Year award in recognition of the work I have done has been a real honour.

- You have two young children and your own charity; without using that awful phrase of ‘how DO you do it?!’, erm, how DO you do it? ;)

Ha! I think when you’re passionate about something you find the time to do it, I genuinely enjoy the work – which I think is really rare. I am also supported by a fantastic board of Trustees and hardworking volunteers. Don’t get me wrong though, I have a husband who does a LOT at home and I live very near to a lot of family who can step in to help with the children if we need it – things are hectic, sometimes stressful and exhausting but it’s exactly how I like it, for now!

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- Talk to me about your Christmas campaign, #ShareMyChristmas. How can we get involved?

It’s very simple: we want all families to experience the Christmas they deserve. We work with families who have to choose between Christmas Dinner or presents and we don’t want them to have to make that choice for their children. So we are providing children in poverty with Christmas presents to lighten the load for their parents. Getting involved is simple – take a picture of something festive, share it on social media with the hashtag #sharemychristmas and donate by texting ‘FDCC11 £X’ (X being the amount you want to donate!) to 70070. There are other ways to donate on our website too – www.firstdays.net. I am so excited to #sharemychristmas with other families!

- What’s in store next year for First Days?

I have big plans, as always! One thing I’m really keen on is meeting with people who are interested in setting up a similar project where they live. I want to see communities empowered in every town and city in the UK to help one another, in such a simple and practical way. Watch this space!