Our Summer Holidays

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There was a time when I used to dread the summer holidays just a little bit (or a lot). Acres of days stretching ahead of us with endless time to fill – it terrified me. I didn’t know what to do to entertain the children; holiday activity camps were too expensive, they wouldn’t sit still to watch a whole film, there’s only so many cakes we could bake and I’m still not 100% exactly what crafting is. Holidays used to equal hours of boredom and mum fail.

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But I feel like I’ve turned a corner parenting and holiday-wise as they’ve gotten older. Hux is now three and can sit through a film at the cinema (or even three films: Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and then Despicable Me again. That was a fun afternoon) and Elfie loves to pick through her activity boxes to find games and colouring – we get VERY competitive at Guess Who in our house.

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I also think that, 5 years after becoming a parent, I’ve finally come to terms with the responsibility of it all. If I’ve kept the kids alive all this time (and done it solo for 2.5 years) I must be doing something right, yeah? And not only are they still alive but they seem to like me as well. Mega points! When I get told completely unprompted that I am the best mummy ever (though possibly not true) that is the best justification ever.

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We’ve actually had a brilliant summer so far. The weather’s been a bit touch and go (side eye to the current rainy window) but we’ve managed two trips to the outside pool, two playdates, a week in Center Parcs, a cinema trip, five BBQs, four activity sessions at the gym, a girls-only shopping trip and a garden picnic. All mostly spontaneous but still, supermum or wot?!

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I think it’s all down to them getting older and me learning how to parent a bit more. I find it so much easier now my two aren’t high-maintenance babies and we can extract ourselves from tantrums and meltdowns with logic and a healthy bit of bribery, instead of having to sit out the screaming fits because Hux just can’t understand why he has to have the yellow not the green toothbrush. I feel like we’ve left the toddler years behind and I now have two bone fide children with thoughts and feelings and intelligence. I thought I’d always be the kind of person to go gaga over babies but really I’m finding this stage so much more rewarding.

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It’s also down to an arguably healthier work/life balance. Hux has been at nursery three days a week in the holidays and Elfie’s been spending half days with her grannie so I’ve had a little bit of time to knuckle down to business, but not too much. I ‘m still feeling a bit overwhelmed when reflecting on the last year of intense corporate life and it’s been fantastic to take the foot off the work-pedal a little bit this month. I’ve also filled my child-free time with fun grown-up things (hola, last minute trip to New York) and knowing I am making the most of the alone time makes me very happy.

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It’s funny that I’ve spent a lot of time scared of the holidays with my kids, worried about filling their time with being an interesting and entertaining parent. But to make them happy this summer they haven’t needed hours of structured activities – just a chilled out mum, some board games and the odd trip to the pool.

Who knew?

When Did We Start Hating Our Children?

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In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a trend in the world of parent blogging.

Namecalling.

Not between bloggers, but bloggers calling their children names. An arsehole, a wanker, a shit. We have a new wave of parent blogs ‘keeping it real’ by being, in my opinion, kind of awful. Is it for the LOLs, is it for the page views or the controversy? I don’t know but I don’t like it.

I agree as much as the next truthful person that when it comes to blogging it’s important to tell a complete story. One of the biggest surprises to me shortly after giving birth was that motherhood wasn’t that rainbow-laced dream we’re sold by Hollywood. It took me literally months to get over the fact that, holy crap, this is hard. HARD. The hardest thing I’ve ever done and will ever do, for sure.

Which is why I’ve always thought it important to write about the parts of parenting I found a struggle; having a baby with a genetic disease, the repetitive punch in the face that is PND, splitting from my husband with a tiny baby and toddler, the sleep deprivation that never ends, how I felt I didn’t bond with my baby. This is life, this is motherhood, this ain’t easy.

But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. Nothing can ever describe how being a parent changes your life; it’s a core-shaker, an internal earthquake that leaves you empty of everything (including money, sorry to say). It also leaves you fuller than you’ve been before, overflowing with love and joy and everything that’s good in the world, and this really is the bit that Hollywood gets right.

I want the people who read my blog to know about ALL these parts of motherhood.

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I have a theory about the things we talk and write about in life. This theory has helped me recover from the awfulness that was simultaneous PND and divorce (YAY! it was a laugh a minute at my house for a couple of months there).

It’s a fake it until you make it kind of theory and goes a little bit like this; if you spend your days chomping on about how hard life is, how difficult it is to be a parent, how godawful your children are, then that’s the way your life will be. If you get to the end of the day and say, by god, that was a challenge. But I got through it with my two beautiful children, then boom! Appreciation and happiness central.

Negativity breeds negativity, versus she believed she could but she did. I believe I can, so I do, and I think only (OK, mostly) happy thoughts to be a happy person.

Every day I count my blessings and look at how many good things the universe has given me. My family has its struggles but we are so lucky; I’ve never lost a child like far too many women I know, I have the want and ability to work and support my family (which means in turn I can buy fun stuff like rugs and cushions for our lovely house), we are healthy (ish) and have so much love to give each other. My children are in no way perfect – Hux’s current favourite hobbies are pushing people and eating food off the floor – but he’s a toddler. I’m nearly 30 and I’m not perfect, either.

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I would die before I called my child a name. I am so aware that everything I write about them lives on the internet forever and I would never want them to read about how often mummy moaned I had shitty pants or that I cried all day at the park so was a little wanker. For my kids to believe I was thinking that about them would be heartbreaking.

I think thoughts I’m not proud of sometimes as I’m sure most or all mums do, but it’s these times I hide in the kitchen with a packet of hobnobs or a glass of wine and pull myself together to be the parent I want to be once again.

My children aren’t wankers or shits, they are 2 and 4 and behave in that way because they are looking for boundaries, love and guidance. I refuse to roll my eyes at my tantruming son who has been on the planet only 1000 days but will instead give him what he needs: to be made to feel loved and cherished. After a short spell on the naughty step, natch.

Who’s with me in the fight for realism vs sensationalism when it comes to parent blogging? Let’s keep it real but also remember how bloody lucky we are.

The days are long but the years are short. I’m off to give my two beautiful troublemakers a huge squeeze.

 

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.

 

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?

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.

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!