Counting My Motherhood Blessings

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I feel so very lucky to be a mother. It might not have happened in the ‘right’ way (at 24 I felt like a teenage mother) and I perhaps haven’t ended up in the ‘perfect’ family situation, however these two little people are my absolute world.

But I find that it’s so easy to get lost in the motherhood fug and forget how fortunate I am to be a parent. You know how it goes – you get up mega early with a toddler bogey or wet finger in your ear and you’re immediately wiping morning bums and sorting out pyjamas. Then it’s time to field breakfast requests; mine always want croissants or home baked bread with honey, they usually get slung dry Shreddies and a banana or porridge. After that it’s the serious discussion over why spaghetti strap dresses are inappropriate for winter, a debate on socks and – if you’re lucky – a 2 minute shower for you to a soundrack of “why don’t you have a willy, mummy?”.

Then you take off on the school run grasping for book bags/water bottles/PE kits, dropping your kids off at whichever location they’re supposed to be at (or not, as I’m constantly getting Nursery/Pre-school days muddled) before you can sit down at your desk, get to the gym or start the supermarket shop. The days are chock-full with work, meetings, domestic bits and bobs, finger painting, working again, negotiating (the UN has nothing on me).

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It baffles me how full I used to think my days were. This is what it’s like to have full days. Juggling two children, a job and Easter holidays has taught me what it’s like to be busy. It Does. Not. Stop.

EVER.

Until.

Until your children go away for six days with their dad – that’s when it stops, like, completely stops. And I didn’t like it.

This was the first time I was spending such a large amount of time without them at home so I made plenty of plans for when they were away. I wanted to see three special friends and vowed to empty my inbox. I was re-igniting my green diet, remembering how good it feels to go to the gym, socialising, shopping, enjoying life.

In reality I drank a bit too much wine, spent a long time catching up on sleep (no such thing as too long, NO SUCH THING), online shopped for bras that now all need to be returned because they’re the wrong size, watched almost an entire boxset (GIRLS!) and caught up on The Good Wife, woke up one morning spooning a greasy Dominos box, you know, the standard.

Day one and two were great – I needed to stop after the not sleeping and full-on whirlwind that was Jan/Feb/March. But then it just started feeling very quiet, very quiet and very strange.

Living alone is by and large for me a success. I enjoy my independence, my freedom, my taste in decorating. Having lived with a man for 8 years I really enjoy my own space and the fact I don’t have to deal with anyone else’s toenail clippings. I like being in charge of the remote, the fridge and everything I do. But this week, for the first time, actually felt lonely. I can’t remember the last time I had the space to feel lonely. It was sad.

I missed the children ever so much. I missed their wit, their cuddles, their intelligence, their giggles, their smell, their chitter chatter, their singing. I even missed them crawling into bed with me in the middle of the night. My empty arms ached for my children to dive back into them – I felt empty and rudderless. Without them I had nothing, just bumping around from work to gym to home.

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Their homecoming was the most special thing ever. I can’t describe the absolute joy you feel upon seeing your children’s faces for the first time in six days. Pure and utter joy.

They’re less than ecstatic at the reunion, obvs because they’re cooler than you and are more concerned about how Buzz Lightyear has fared in their absence, but post-reunion there’s definitely been an increase in cuddles for us all. Hux told me “it’s lovely to have you back, mummy” and Elfie said “I love you even more than the planets”. BEAMING.

I’ll remember this feeling of appreciation for my children forever. The next time there’s a meltdown in IKEA, a 6 night run of no sleep, a bout of chicken pox (holla to ma chicken pox people! We’re suffering over here), a squabble over a Peppa Pig mobile phone… I’ll remember this.

I am so lucky to be a mum.

 

What A Single Mum Does Without Her Kids

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Whenever anyone talks to me about my single parenting and then says to me “I don’t know how you do it” I feel a little bit satisfied. I kind of plump my feathers a bit and explain that I do it because I have to and think: “finally! Someone’s noticed all my hard work and thinks I’m amazing!” But it’s actually not really that simple.

I’ll tell you exactly how I do it; I do it because every fortnight the children go off to their dad’s house and I get two days and two nights all to myself – time that I can do whatever I want with. In all the parenting I did pre-divorce I never would have had this time to myself, precious time to rest, recuperate and do whatever takes my fancy, ALONE. I do it because as hard as it gets being the sole parent in the day-to-day of my children’s lives I have that precious time to take a step back, miss them terribly and realise why it is I work so hard for our little family.

In truth I usually spend my time catching up on sleep or work I’ve missed when I was sleep deprived but the option is there: FREE TIME! I can go to Paris! I can drive around ALONE after dark! I can go for a swim without my companion pooing in the baby pool! The world is my oyster.

As a sidenote I have to say that I have every respect for those I think are the ‘real’ single parents of this world. The mums and dads who don’t have their children’s counterpart parent involved in their lives, those who do it alone 24/7, 365 days a year. Those are the people you need to look up and say: “I don’t know how you do it”. Compared to those amazing people I am Single Mother Lite.

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Yesterday the children went off in the car to their dad’s house for six days. SIX DAYS. I cried first, then ate half a box of After Eights, felt weird and wondered what to do. Then I took a two hour nap because sleep, sweet sleep, and now I have five more days without my little buddies to fill. I predict I’ll get bored of napping by tomorrow – nobody can sleep that much.

Just kidding, I can totally sleep that much. But I probably shouldn’t.

It’s an odd one, having your children go away for such a long time. If it wasn’t for the sleep thing I wouldn’t want them to go, I really wouldn’t. I know it’s good for my sanity to have a break and do some things just for me and of course is great for them to spend the time with their dad but it still doesn’t feel nice. It feels like when you go on a long trip for the weekend – a few hours away so you can’t return home easily – with that weird feeling that you might have forgotten something. And then when you get there you realise you’ve missed something crucial, leaving your phone charger or toothbrush at home. That’s how I feel – completely normal, but like there’s something essential missing.

I always have BIG PLANS with my time off (I don’t). I find pleasure in the tiniest things: in our day-to-day the children go to bed at 7pm so I don’t like leaving the house after 5.30pm because this upsets our bed/book/bath routine. So one of my favourite things to go out at GASP 7pm to buy Fish and Chips (the one takeaway food that I wish did deliveries), or nip to the supermarket to pick something up before they close at 10pm. There’s just something super liberating about driving around after dark when you’re normally tied to your home from a particular time. STOP THE PRESS THESE ACTIVITIES ARE WILD.

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I also like to go to the gym at different times, like 8am when I’m normally scrabbling for P.E. kits and book bags. And when I go swimming I go at the grown up only times. Liberating.

I did go through a period of time when I thought it was a good idea to go on dates when the kids were away, squeeze in as many as possible. But I’m kind of at that stage now when I’d rather spend time with my friends or those deep fried fish and chips rather than making polite conversation with a man.

Unless you’re Jamie Dornan, then I will always have time for polite conversation with you.

So off I go today – the world at my feet. I’ve started with a morning of work which will be followed by a gym trip, a bikini wax and then the afternoon, evening, morning and boozy lunch with one of my favourite ladies in the whole world. Then a Friday evening with another wonderful woman and a Saturday morning of – ooh I don’t know – maybe buying the papers and taking them back to bed. I might push the boat out and go into London on Sunday but then again I might just enjoy the silence… because of course there’s the important matter of fitting in all 4 seasons of Girls somewhere.

Whatever it is I do though I bloody miss those kids. Hurry back to me, babies. Sleepless nights included…

The Best New Mum Advice

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Do you remember when I told you about SMA® Nutrition’s Baby Advice By You campaign? SMA Nutrition were searching far and wide to find the best advice for mums by those who know the best – other mums. The campaign went up and down the country to find the best nuggets of information to be judged by Jenni Falconer and top mummy bloggers and made into films. All the winning pieces of advice can be viewed on SMA Nutrition’s YouTube Channel.

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Which would be your most important piece of advice for new mothers? Here are some of my favourites:

“Babies are funnier than you ever imagined. When I had my daughter I never realised how hilarious she was going to be. Babies can give you lots of expressions even though they can’t talk yet. They’ll give you a quizzical look, or they might even fart in a shop when it’s completely silent. So even though they are a lot of hard work and it can get a bit stressful, I would say they completely redeem themselves with the funny looks. Make sure you take lots of videos and lots of photos so that if times are hard, you can just have a look back and remember actually how good times are together.”

“Try to remember everything will be fine. In the early tiring days as a new parent it’s easy to get confused by all the information coming to you from books, health visitors, friends and family and everywhere else. My friend told me to relax and enjoy it and I wished I’d listened and hadn’t worried so much as in the end everything was absolutely fine.”

“Trust yourself; it takes time to turn into a wonderful mum it doesn’t happen overnight. Thank people for their advice – they give it to you because they care not to cause you any distress. Decide which bits are going to work for your family. You’re already doing an amazing job; don’t let anyone tell you any different.”

I worked in collaboration with SMA Nutrition and their B.A.B.Y. campaign. 

 

 

If You’ve Just Had Eight Hours Sleep I Don’t Want To Know

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My kids aren’t sleeping. Not at all. Which means I’m not sleeping, either.

If you don’t like reading about how shit not sleeping makes you feel then look away now, this is not the blog for you. Come back tomorrow when I’ll be talking about sunnier things like food or interiors or divorce ;)

The not sleeping is ironic perhaps, after all my grand promises on Monday to make changes to my bedtime and morning routines with vows to finally rid myself of my night owl tendencies. Let me tell you, this has not happened: the last four nights I’ve had around four hours of broken sleep with a disturbed sleepless Hux, getting up each morning with my early riser Elfie at around 5.30. Ain’t nobody a morning person at 5-sodding-30.

It’s hurting.

If there’s one thing I can’t do it’s cope on little sleep. The newborn stages were really hard for me for this reason exactly and I thought that with slightly older children I’d move past this. Hoped I’d move past this. Hux has regressed to this stage and become restless, getting in and out of my bed all night, as if he’s back wanting to be fed at all hours. It hasn’t been this bad in months – years, even.

Sleepless nights make everything that much harder. I fudged so many emails yesterday, wishing my boss a lovely day in Prague (he’s in Budapest). I am so short and snappy with the children, something I absolutely despise in myself, but my patience is wafer thin. I cried at something that was completely inconsequential and could not spend two minutes concentrating on anything, even Grey’s Anatomy.

I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to see anyone. It took me a while to remember when I last washed my hair (Sunday? I still don’t know), my legs could do with a shave and I’ve been wearing outfits soley consisting of black lycra and jersey. I’ve been eating to feed my tired body and mind: croissants, pasta pesto, jacket potato, a whole apple crumble. The last thing I want to do right now is eat clean though it would probably be the best thing for my body; without the energy to shower I definitely don’t have the energy to bring out the spiraliser and make bloody sweet potato noodles.

Everyone is annoying to me. Nobody can say the right thing (with a few exceptions: my parents, some select mum friends who just get it because they’re in it and weirdly my ex husband, what a turn up for the books ;). If one more non-parent gives me friendly advice – “have you tried putting them to bed later?” WHAT DO YOU THINK, GENIUS??!!! – there will be punches thrown. It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation is a form of torture, I literally feel like I could be going insane right now.

I tried to nap yesterday, went to bed after lunch in the hopes of grabbing a well-needed 30 minutes of sleep before a conference call. But it never came – I’m at that stage of such thorough exhaustion that I’ve made myself so alert that I can’t sleep. I remember it well from the newborn days and never wanted it back. Bastard bastard bastard.

So I think it’s fair to say I won’t be a morning person this week. Sorry to let you down, internet, but my teeny tiny dictators had other plans. Maybe next week we’ll get on it, eh?

Should Children Share A Bedroom?

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When I moved house almost two years ago post-separation I got a bit sniffy about downsizing my home. This was in the days when I believed that the size of your house was directly relevant to your happiness, you understand, and not because I was a massive insufferable snob back then (HONEST). But I’d been spending the last few years in a four bedroomed house and I literally did not know how my life would adapt to two bedrooms.

HAHAH.

I’m one of the luckiest people I know in that I rent a house off my mum and dad. I still pay them rent (so maybe not THE luckiest) and do everything a normal tenant would do – but it means that whenever anything goes wrong or the grass needs mowing my dad will come to do it. And when, as a newly single woman, they offered to rent the house to me, I bit their hand off. It’s in a great area of my town and is a truly wonderful home, but it only has two bedrooms.

Two bedrooms.

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Before moving here I was seriously concerned about two bedrooms. How would I survive with no spare bedroom? How would my not-out-of-nappies-at-night children cope without their own space? WHY ARE MY DIAMOND SHOES SO TIGHT?!

The truth is that two bedrooms is one of the loveliest things that ever happened to us.

Elfie and Hux now share a bedroom that has a small separation by way of IKEA’s Stolmen, which I use to store their clothes and give each of them their own identifiable space. Though they were once children that had their own rooms, they now share, and despite me thinking this would not work out well it’s actually been a dream.

Haha, just kidding. I don’t have dreams any more, I just tend to pass out until the next sleep interruption.

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In all seriousness I love the closeness that bedroom sharing has brought to my two. They were as thick as thieves before but their bedroom arrangements has turned them into co-conspirators, bosom buddies. Upon waking up (far too early) in the morning they first chat to each other before coming into wake me, and they like to have a bit of a natter before they go to sleep at night… usually the finer points of Woody vs Buzz, or whether or not Spiderman lives in a zoo (Elfie: no, Hux: yes).

I went to check on them at 9pm a couple of evenings ago to find Hux had turned the lights on, piled all his toys on top of a fast asleep Elfie and was playing with Buzz and sitting on her legs. Goodness knows what had happened in the two hours since putting them to bed but it was pretty cute.

I no longer feel sorry for myself for my poor two bedrooms. I LOVE what two bedrooms have given us. Closeness, friendship, hugs, laughter, early mornings… all of it. Sleeping in one room means for Elfie and Hux that their best friend is next to them when they fall asleep and next to them when they wake up. It means they are constantly there to reassure, wind up, comfort and tease. They love it. I love it. All my hesitations were proved wrong pretty quickly. Yes if one wakes up then the other is sometimes disturbed, but they both soon learned to sleep through a loud noise Skream would be proud of.

Last night I heard Elfie say, “You’re my best friend, Hux. I love you sooo much I don’t want you to go to sleep”.

Would you have your children sleep in the same room?

The Best Gifts To Make A New Mum Feel Human Again

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When you have your first (or second… oh my, witness the cuteness) baby you are completely inundated with presents. Birth is such a special time and this always resonates massively with pretty much every single person who knows you – you find yourself inundated with cards, bunches of flowers, soft toys, babygros and teeny tiny outfits, all sent with so much love and squeals of delight at the new baby.

I was no different. I remember my house was literally full to bursting with all manner of gorgeous presents and it was just wonderful that my family and friends were so very thoughtful to appreciate my new baby when she (and he!) was born but to be honest I was so knackered I didn’t quite process it at the time. Having been in labour for ages (four days with Hux… four days!!) and spending the subsequent nights breastfeeding a newborn baby I was completely high on sleep deprivation and hormones. The teeny tiny outfits were worn a couple of times and photographed to death but soon grown out of, the beautiful displays of flowers lasted a few days, the cards soon came down and before long we were back to normal. Well, not totally normal. I’m still waiting for my full 8 hours. Any day now, right?!

All those hormones and lack of sleep meant that as soon as motherhood was upon me I could see it in my face. I saw wrinkles, eye bags and an uneven skin tone… in short, not only did I feel knackered but I felt a bit ugly as well. My face seemed to lose its youthful radiance and even tone overnight thanks to being woken every two hours, and most importantly this tiredness meant I didn’t see it as an important time to take care of how I looked.

I WAS WRONG.

Re-discovering your identity as a new mum is one thing that really takes it out of you. I can’t tell you how important it is to make sure you look after yourself as much as possible at this time – and it’s one thing I neglected. Well, I’m happy to tell you that this is no longer the case, I’m all about the self-love these days and I think it’s important to help my friends to give themselves as much TLC as they can when they have new babies.

Which is why I’ve discarded the teddy bear gifts, rejected the teeny tiny BabyGap outfits and thrown out the supercool onesies. From now on I am giving my new mum friends the gift of a new face when they give birth; I’m gifting them the same products that helped me re-juvinate my skin and in turn my mind when I first became a mum, all from the geniuses behind Sanctuary Spa:

Facial Oil

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Listen up: I firmly believe that facial oil is my number one favourite thing about my evening skincare regime. I’ve been using this particular product – Sanctuary’s Therapist’s Secret Facial Oil (£17.50) – for three weeks now and have no less than four compliments on how good my skin looks. FOUR. And I hardly ever think that someone’s skin looks good enough to compliment so I think it must be doing something very right.

I apply this post-cleanse and tone and pre-night cream and literally wouldn’t be without it. In fact I still remember the time Elfie topped up my facial oil with the tap aged 2; there were tears (mine not hers) and I’ve only just forgiven her (hahah only kidding, I still haven’t forgiven her). If you buy one product for either you or a friend this month please make it this – you will not be disappointed.

Night & Day Cream

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I have combination skin that seems to have different moods at different times of the day. It’s thirsty during the evening which is when I adore coating myself in overnight potions to make my face plump and radiant by morning but just requires a small bit of priming pre-makeup when I’m getting ready for the day.

These two products – Sanctuary’s Peptide Protect Day Cream (£20) and Night Concentrate (£15.50) –  work completely in sync for these times, providing the exact amount of moisture when and wherever I need it. The day cream really does seem to create a look of radiance too, no idea how but probably something extremely sciency. SPF is included as well which is fabulous for the times I brave the barefaced look (more and more common nowadays!).

Facial In A Box

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I firmly believe there is no bigger treat you can give yourself than a night in your bathroom with a steaming hot bath and a DIY facial. This Brightening Facial In A Box (£16.50) is the perfect accompaniment for nights like this – it contains everything you need to give yourself that spa glow at home. I was so impressed with the glowy skin I had as a result that I took an awkward selfie: I will definitely be re-enacting this facial when I’m next in need of a lift.

Facial Glow

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Relaxation Products
You don’t think I can get through a whole blog post without mentioning scented candles, do you?! NEVER!

I find I need some pretty solid bathroom products for these lovely long soaks I’m taking and this Bath Soak and Scented Candle hit the spot perfectly. The scent of the Calming Luxury Bath Soak (£10) and Daydream Candle (£15) are the same and they work beautifully to help prepare and relax my mind before getting an early night.

Sanctuary have handily put together some time-saving beauty tips that are perfect for new mums – I had Brazilian Blow Drys on the regular when I had newborns and it made ALL the difference.

What was your favourite gift as a new mum?

Thank you so much for The Sanctuary for sponsoring MTT and sending me these products for the purpose of review. I really do love to use them and wouldn’t write about them otherwise – now go get glowing skin!