Well, winter is definitely on its way now! I’ve finally packed away our summer gear in the garage, and pulled the cold weather clothes out of storage. My son’s last winter coat, which had done him two years, was finally too small and so a new one was required!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I’m making a big effort to live in a more eco-friendly way (see my post on Easy Ways to Reduce Your Family’s Plastic Footprint). So, when we were looking for a new winter coat for my son, I wanted to choose a brand that aligned with this ethos. Plus, now he’s old enough to have his own opinions about what he wants to wear, I also wanted something that he would love!
This beauty, the ‘Falk’, from Finnish-brand Reima (aka your next Scandi crush), ticked all the boxes for us.
It’s made from lightweight down/feather (80/20%) insulation, which is Certified Responsible Down Standard, meaning that the down/feathers are sustainably sourced and come from animals that have been treated humanely.
Reima also prides themselves on being completely safe for children and are one of only three brands in Europe that don’t use any toxic chemicals in their manufacturing process, including their ecological water & dirt repellent finish, which is fluorine-free.
I also noticed that the jacket’s label instructed me to ‘pass it on’ when I’m done, which made me smile, and shows that Reima is confident that its clothes are hard-wearing and long-lasting. They are also encouraging consumers to reject fast fashion and invest in buying fewer clothes, but good quality pieces that stand the test of time.
And this is definitely a good quality item! As the jacket is made from down, it’s very lightweight, so doesn’t add lots of bulk or slow my son down. It also packs down small to fit in a little bag that comes with it. This makes it perfect for stuffing in your bag on those days when you don’t know what the weather is going to do! It’s also lightweight enough for milder days, especially if you remove the detachable hood, but hardy enough for seriously cold days. Its elasticated cuffs keep little arms warm and it claims to keep the wearer warm in temperatures of -10 degrees. I’m not sure we’ll get the chance to test that one out, but our annual festive visit up to my family in Newcastle might come close!!
The colour is gorgeous, fun and bright. The husband thinks it’s yellow, and I think it’s orange. Reima calls it ‘mango’, so let’s go with that to keep the peace 😉 Whatever you call it, it’s bright enough that we won’t lose our 4-year-old in a crowd! It also has reflective strips for the dark winter nights, which is great for us, as we live on a country lane with no street lamps, so visibility is super important. Finally, the two side pockets are roomy enough to collect all manner of acorns, conkers and pebbles, which won it serious brownie points with my magpie of a son.
Winter, bring us your worst – we’re ready for you!
I wrote a blog post last year called ‘Six Things That Happen When You’re Trying for a Baby’. We had been trying for a little over 6 months at that stage, and I’d suddenly gone from ‘It’ll happen when it happens’ to ‘I really hope this happens soon’. I was annoyed with myself for getting so obsessed with trying for a baby, and thought it would do me good to laugh at myself a little. Fast forward a year: we’re still trying for a baby, and I’m starting to lose my sense of humour about it. Here’s what’s been happening:
There’s the tests:
My husband and I had some initial tests done, and the results of both were ‘normal’, which was good news. There’s nothing further to look at for him, so the rest is all on me! I’ve had another two blood tests, a chlamydia and gonorrhoea swab, and a camera up my hoo-ha to have my ovaries and uterus assessed. So far all fine, except possible ‘mild’ polycystic ovary syndrome. The fertility nurse didn’t seem too concerned about it, but it’s not a good thing!
The alternative therapies:
I’d heard that acupuncture could have a positive effect on fertility, and have a couple of friends who got pregnant after trying it, so I wanted to give it a go. I signed up for weekly sessions at £45 a pop for 8 weeks. The practitioner was wonderful, and doing something proactive made me feel like I was gaining back an element of control. It was also nice to have a weekly chat with someone about how I was feeling and, while it obviously didn’t result in pregnancy, it did help me to let go of tension and sleep better. My acupuncturist left the clinic in July and so I decided to take a break to reassess. Now I’m looking at giving herbal medicine a go, so I’ll update you on that when it happens!
The peeing on sticks:
I have peed on more pregnancy tests over the last year than I care to admit… I often test a day or two before my period is due because I just have to know! I also spent a couple of cycles doing home ovulation testing (more peeing on sticks) to make sure that it was happening as it should, and that we had our timings right (it was and we did). At one point, I was peeing on tests so often that I got the vague feeling of forgetting something every time I went for a wee without a stick in my hand!
The endless googling:
‘How do you know if spotting is implantation bleeding’
‘Best alternative remedies for infertility’
‘Are you more likely to get pregnant if you lie still after sex’
‘Is cystitis an early sign of pregnancy?’ (no, but it turns out it’s a common side effect of the previous question)
‘What causes secondary infertility?’
and so on, and so on.
The lifestyle changes:
We’re both taking daily vitamins and have cut way back on alcohol and caffeine. I am reducing stress as much as possible, and have even changed my job around to work fewer days and from home. I’m doing Pilates and Body Balance classes, and even stay for the meditation sessions at the end! I’m trying to stay fit by running, but not too much, because apparently that’s bad too!!! I’m eating healthy nutritious food and drinking herbal tea… Trying to get pregnant can be really dull!
It seems crazy to me that the field of fertility still contains so many unknowns. I keep waiting for a test or an appointment to lead to an ‘a-ha’ moment, where we suddenly find out what the issue is, and what we can do about it. But everything is mostly ‘fine’ and ‘normal’ so far, which I know is a good thing, but I’m still not pregnant so there must be something that’s not right! This is particularly frustrating because it’s happening second time around and so we just hadn’t anticipated it at all. I know I’m 5 years older than I was last time, but back then I got pregnant by accident while I was on the bloody pill, so I had (wrongly) assumed that this must mean I’m super fertile!
Every month, at the end of my period, I look ahead to the coming cycle and decide that, from now on, I’m not going to be a crazy obsessed person. That it’ll happen when it happens and there’s no point getting upset about it every month. But then, sure enough, when my period rolls around, and I realise that we have failed, yet again, to make a baby, I’m devastated all over again. It’s exhausting.
My son really really wants a baby brother. He asks all the time. I tell him that we’re working on it but we might need to wait a while, and that for now, we should enjoy being a little gang of three. I feel terrible that I can’t give him a sibling, and that even if it does happen eventually, the age gap is getting wider and wider all the time. I also feel guilt over the amount of time I’ve spent fretting about getting pregnant again when I have a child already. I feel like I’m wishing away time every month either waiting for ovulation or waiting for my period.
So what’s next:
Next is a fallopian tube test, which I’m not looking forward to! They’re going to pump goo through my fallopian tubes via a catheter in my cervix. Sounds pretty grim… it also seems like a box-ticking exercise as it’s unlikely I have a blockage because I already have a child.
And after that, who knows? I don’t know if there are any further tests they can do or what they might recommend. We know that we are not allowed IVF on the NHS in our area because I’m too old (I’m 36), and I already have a child. So, will we do it privately? I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll see what the fertility clinic thinks of our chances of success.
There are other alternative therapies to explore and further dietary and lifestyle changes to consider. There seems to be so much guesswork involved and so much research to do as the fertility clinic haven’t offered us any advice beyond taking the tests. I’m pretty sure that there are dietary changes I can make to mitigate the mild polycystic ovaries, for example, but the nurse didn’t have any suggestions on that score.
The other scenario is that we may need to come to terms with the fact that this might not happen for us. It breaks my heart to say it, but it seems to be a distinct possibility. Whatever happens, I’m working on remembering that we really are blessed with the small family we already have.
I love cycling, and happily cycled all over London, much to my husband’s dismay (he’s a hater, whatcha gonna do?) However, when we moved to the countryside, I started cycling less often because I didn’t feel as safe on the roads here. I know that sounds crazy as lots of people would never get on a bike in London. However, the roads out here are much faster (much of London has a 20MPH limit, and lots of traffic jams!), darker, and have fewer cyclists, so drivers are not necessarily looking out for bikes.
Really wanting to get back to cycling, I upgraded my struggling single speed to a hybrid with a sh*tload of gears, bought a reflective bag and jacket, and sought out roads that I would feel comfortable on. Then a company called Cycl got in touch to discuss their bike indicators (or ‘WingLights’ as they call them). I remembered having seen them on Dragons Den (I’m a BIG fan) a while back. Their product looked really cool, and a totally new concept, but also provided an added layer of safety. They offered to send me a set of their Pop Winglights in return for an honest review, so I jumped at the chance!
I was pretty excited when they arrived. Then – let me be totally honest with you – they sat on my desk for a few months before I installed them. This was primarily because it was summer, and so I simply didn’t end up riding my bike in the dark! However, I also had a few reservations about the product. Let me share them with you now:
Installation: I love my bike, and I also like buying accessories and tools for it, but I’m not actually very good at doing any work on it. I don’t even repair my own punctures, and I nearly took my bike to the shop today because I couldn’t inflate my tyres! I saw that I needed to install these WingLights inside the handlebars, and thought it sounded like a bit of a faff. I was worried that my handlebars, which have bar ends to lean on, wouldn’t work with these lights as I couldn’t picture where they would fit!
Ease of use: My husband regularly points out that I’m not actually a very good cyclist… I’ve had several accidents over the years, including one where I rode straight into a parked car, another where I sliced my hand open on a rusty wing mirror when I misjudged the distance between a van and the kerb, and yet another where I rode over a pothole, automatically lunged for the contents of my basket, which had flown into the air, and landed face first on the busy Euston Road. I was worried that the act of clicking these WingLights on and off had the potential to throw me off balance or more generally be a distraction.
Visibility: Although I don’t have a particularly wide frame, I wondered whether cars behind me would really be able to see the indicators around my body!
Spoiler alert: I was wrong about all of those things.
Here’s what actually happened:
Installation: When I finally got around to installing the WingLights, the ends of my handlebars just popped out easily (I levered them with a flat screwdriver, but a butter knife would have worked just as well). Next, I realised that the WingLights were way too narrow for the holes in my handlebars, and fell straight back out again. I checked the pack instructions, which directed me to a video on the Cycl website, showing me how to twist the lights so they got fatter and fatter until – like magic – they were wide enough for the hole! In they popped, and that was it; job done in under 5 minutes.
It’s also worth noting that you can pop them out again really easily, e.g. if you’re leaving your bike in a public place. I did that today, and it was less faff than taking my other lights off.
Ease of use: You do have to click the lights to turn them on and off (they don’t turn off automatically like car indicators), but you only need to apply light pressure, and it takes no time at all. I certainly didn’t feel like they were taking my attention off the road, or causing me to lose balance on my bike in the slightest. They sit right next to where your hand is anyway, so it’s a tiny movement to click them on and off, a bit like changing gear.
Visibility: I asked my bike-hating husband to stand behind me while I cycled away to check the visibility of the WingLights. He said, and I quote: “They’re really visible. Better than a car!” Praise indeed..! Before trying them out, I had also worried that it would not be clear to cars that the WingLights were indicators rather than flashing front lights. However, now that I’ve seen them in action, it’s really obvious that they are indicators. They are orange for a start (and I’ve never seen an orange front light!), they’re only flashing on one side at a time, and they are very much on the side of the bike, rather than pointing forwards. I think I would always stick my hand out too, just to make doubly sure that other vehicles understand that I’m turning, but I do think the WingLights are fairly clear in this respect.
Finally, one tiny negative point: the lights click on when I lean my bike up against a wall, which I do a lot, as you can tell from my scratched handlebars in the photo below! That’s probably the only thing I didn’t like so much, but it’s hardly the end of the world, and, like I said above, you can take the lights out really easily, so you don’t have to lean them against the wall.
While these are not going to change your cycling behaviour drastically, as you’ll still need to stick your hand out before turning a corner, they add an additional layer of safety and visibility, which is never a bad thing! They’re super easy to install and use, and provide a clear signal to other vehicles. At £19.99, they’re not a big purchase, and would make a lovely gift for a cyclist.
If you would like to buy a set of Cycl WingLights Pop, for the next month you can get 10% off on their website with code BOSSLIKEAMUM10, taking them down to £18. You can also use this code on the WingLights Fixed model, and the magnetic version when it’s back in stock.
Please note that I am not receiving payment for this review, or any subsequent sales of this product. I did receive the bike lights as a gift, but the review is honest, and the views are entirely my own.
Ever since Blue Planet II aired last year, shining a spotlight on the serious consequences of plastic pollution in our oceans, and subsequently our entire eco-system, the drive to reduce plastic usage has been gaining serious momentum. As a quick recap of the issue: Every year, 5-13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the world’s oceans, where it is ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and it is expected that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the sea! A Plymouth University study also found plastic waste in a third of UK-caught fish, which means that it’s finding its way into the human food chain. Progress has been made in the UK, e.g. the introduction of the 5p levy on carrier bags, and the recent ban on plastic microbeads from cosmetics and personal care items, but it’s not enough. We all need to be making simple changes in our daily lives to reduce the amount of plastic our households are throwing away every year.
Here are a few of the swaps that I’ve made to reduce my own family’s plastic footprint. They’re all really easy, and I would encourage you to give them a go, if you don’t already. (PS links to products are genuine recommendations, and I’m not on commission!)
Coffee cups: This is a biggie! I sometimes feel like I need coffee more than air. For a long time, it was quite trendy to carry a branded coffee cup in your hand while striding to work, perhaps to show off that, if nothing else, you’ve got £4 to waste on a cup of coffee when you could have made one yourself for virtually nothing at home… Well, those single-use cups may have been good for our images once upon a time, but they are very bad for the environment. Not only do they have plastic lids, but they are plastic lined too, making them extremely difficult to recycle. Even if you diligently pop them in a recycling bin, they almost certainly won’t make it to one of the three specialist recycling plants in the UK capable of dealing with them. Instead, they contaminate the rest of the paper waste in the recycling bin and it all goes to landfill together. An estimated 2.5bn takeaway coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK, and globally, over 1 million single-use cups end up in landfill EVERY MINUTE. Luckily, the tide is changing, and reusable cups are now having their fashion moment. Although plans to introduce a 25p levy on disposable plastic cups in the UK was dismissed by the government earlier this year, some coffee shops have started to offer voluntary incentives for using a reusable cup. Pret is my favourite, offering 50p off if you bring your own cup, which brings its lovely filter coffee down to 49p! I use an ‘rCup’, which you can click open with one hand (useful for times when you’re child-wrangling with the other!) and throw in your bag when you’re done without risk of leakage. Plus it comes with extra eco-kudos for being made out of recycled cups (*polishes halo*).
Straws: My 4YO bloody loves a straw. I bloody love a straw! I think they make drinks taste better and, while I really applaud the bars and cafes that have stopped providing plastic straws, it does make me a little sad to go without. However, it’s definitely not an essential item, and with even Ikea set to remove single-use straws from its product range, now’s the time to knock that particular plastic habit on the head. Enter the reusable straw! I have to say, I never thought I would be the kind of girl who would carry a stainless steel straw or two around in my bag, but apparently I am, and I do. There’s enough crap in there as it is, there may as well be something useful too. I also use them at home, and it makes me feel sophisticated and less like an alcoholic for drinking gin on a Tuesday. I use these ones, but there are loads out there, and you can buy bamboo straws if you don’t like the taste/feel of the stainless steel ones.
Plastic bottles: Globally, 1M plastic bottles are bought every minute. That’s mindblowing! The volume is so high that, although we actually have the capabilities to recycle them, we can’t keep up, and most end up in landfill or the ocean. That’s why it’s so important to use a reusable bottle! And it’s now easier than ever to refill when you’re out and about, thanks to an initiative called Refill, which is encouraging cafes, bars, restaurants and other public spaces, such as museums, to offer free drinking water refills. Participating businesses put a sticker in their window, and you can also download the app to find nearby water refill stations. As a final note, we have had a Soda Stream at home for a few years, and so we no longer buy plastic bottles of soda (plus you can make amazing coca cola cupcakes with the cola syrup…!)
Pre-packaged fruit & veg: It’s much more difficult than it should be to buy loose fruit & veg in supermarkets! I am constantly astonished at how much pre-packaged produce there is, and how it’s often more expensive to buy loose items. However, we can all try to eschew pre-packaged produce as much as possible, buy from shops/markets that sell loose produce, and put pressure on supermarkets to ditch the plastic. If you’re worried about fruit & veg not keeping for as long outside of its plastic package, try using an Eco Egg ‘Fresher for longer’ disc to prolong their life in the fruit bowl / fridge (it works by absorbing ethylene gas, which makes fresh produce go bad).
Pre-made meals: Cooking from scratch is not only better for your health (and your bank balance), but it’s also better for the environment! Microwave meals usually come in black plastic, which is the worst kind. It’s almost impossible to recycle as it can’t be seen by sorting scanners in recycling plants. And if we’re cooking from scratch, then we can make enough to have leftovers to take for lunch, meaning that members of the family who go out to work no longer need to buy individually packaged meals every day, thus saving even more plastic waste – hurrah! (I use this lunchbox)
Tampons & pads: According to the Women’s Environmental Network, the average menstruator throws away 125-150kg of tampons, pads and applicators in their lifetime, and most of that generates plastic waste. DYK that most pads are around 90% plastic? (I did not!) And that many tampons also contain plastic? I have long been thinking about making the switch to a menstrual cup and researching this blog post was the push I needed. My Mooncup arrived in the post today, so I will let you know how I get on! If you’re not ready to make that leap yet, then you can find plastic-free tampons and choose cardboard or paper applicators instead of plastic ones. This article lists the plastic credentials of some of the most common UK brands (including supermarket-own versions).
Cling film: This is a tough one. It’s so bloody useful. The obvious solution to ditching cling film is to use alternatives you probably already have in your home, such as Tupperware or jam jars (remember: reusing is better than recycling!) However, there is another solution that I’ve seen popping up in my Instagram feed over the last couple of weeks: Beeswax Wraps. They’re plastic free, reusable for up to a year, and fully biodegradable so you can pop them on your compost heap when you’re done. They apparently let food breathe so are good for wrapping bread and cakes, etc. I haven’t tried them myself yet, but I’m going to order some asap and will report back!
Washing up liquid: It’s difficult to find cleaning products that come in plastic-free packaging. However, we can all try to buy bigger bottles so we use fewer of them (as the lids tend not to be recyclable), only use what we need, and recycle where possible. In addition, P&G has just released limited edition Fairy Liquid bottles, made using 100% recycled plastic, 10% of which has been collected by volunteers from oceans, rivers, lakes and beaches, created in partnership with TerraCycle. They also say they are working on extending the initiative to other brands and regions in the future, and currently divert 8,000 metric tonnes of plastic from landfill for use in its transparent plastic bottles. They also say that, as their washing up liquid lasts twice as long as other brands, you get through fewer bottles, which makes sense!
There’s so much that’s not been covered here for lack of space. For example, we can, and should, ditch the plastic toothbrushes, the balloons at our kids’ birthday parties, plastic cotton buds, and so on and so on. The most important thing to remember is that we should all be questioning the products we buy, seeking out more eco-friendly alternatives where we can, and using our purchasing power to force brands to reconsider their use of plastics. Finally, I’d love to learn more about the plastic-free swaps you all make, so please do share below, and let’s all inspire each other!
I don’t work a full 5-day week. My former child-free self would have thought that this was a pretty sweet deal. Yet when I swan out of the office a day earlier than everyone else, or post a smug #thursdayismyfriday picture on Instagram, I’m not doing justice to the reality of the situation. That day off is absolutely vital to the running of my life and my household. It’s my time to do the hoovering, smash through the washing pile, do some blog admin, do the weekly food shop or visit the doctor. It’s my busiest day of the whole week. And it’s certainly not a glamorous day of spa visits, clothes shopping and lazy lunches with yummy mummies (if only!)
This got me thinking about how different working life is when you’re a mum and so I reached out to some of my InstaMum pals to see if there’s anything they would like to tell their child-free colleagues. Here’s what they said (with a bit of embellishment from me!):
Sleep– We’re seriously surviving on the bare minimum at all times, so when you complain about feeling tired, you really have no idea (Claire Greville & Social Mums). We were up at 3. And 4. And 5. And it’s not because we went OUT (Claire Sparksman). Actually, you can assume it’s almost never because we went OUT.
Days off – Child-free people think their lives are super busy and they don’t have time to do the things they want to do (Halia Rose). We get it; we used to be you. But you seriously have no idea. Our days off are not spent catching up with friends over Instagrammable lattes, but being used as human punchbags for tiny people with no boundaries. Our days off are the busiest of the whole week.
Leisure time – No, we haven’t read any good books lately (Frankie and the Lamb), or watched any films, or know what a Kardashian is. And no, we didn’t go OUT. We went to the park, the supermarket, and back to the park. But we didn’t go OUT (Claire Sparksman).
Maternity leave – Mat leave is Not. A. Holiday (Mums Office). Unless by holiday, you mean an 18-30 type affair that you booked through The Sun because it was only a pound and you had no idea what you were letting yourself in for, where you stumble around day and night not knowing where you are or what your name is, occasionally getting puked on, and comforting someone who is crying inconsolably without being able to tell you why.
Career – Just because we leave work earlier than you, and work fewer hours, doesn’t mean that we’re less devoted to my career… and by the way, it also means we get paid less! (Amanda – Books & Pieces)
Socialising – Impromptu plans are not an option! We still want to go for drinks, but it needs planning (Lucy Fives). And, to be honest, even if we have the childcare, most of the time we actually just want to go home and see our children before bed because we miss them when we’re at work (plus we’re old and tired and would probably fall over after one drink anyway).
Flexible working – Not a perk, but a necessity. Life with kids is unpredictable. They get sick sometimes (Mummy Links App), or their after-school clubs get cancelled, or they sleep really badly for a few nights in a row for no real reason, and our whole carefully orchestrated system comes crashing down.
Leaving work on time – We run out of the door as soon as our hours are up because we have to. Plus, our work isn’t finished when we leave the office. We have children to collect, snacks to administer, dinner to make, and bath and bedtime to navigate, all the while keeping an eye on emails (Gill Crew) in case anyone thinks we’re slackers because we finished work when we were supposed to. (And, by the way, you’re allowed to leave on time too… just sayin’)
So, fellow working mamas, is there anything you would add to this list?
PS, If you would like to see the original thread on the above, it’s over on Instagram here.
When you decide that you’re ready to have a baby, whether it’s your first or not, you’re filled with excitement, picturing a lovely month or two of reckless abandon in the bedroom, followed by a joyful pregnancy filled with yoga and kale smoothies, and a new little baby in your arms within the year. The reality is, however, slightly different…
Life is on hold. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could just order a baby to arrive at a time that’s convenient for you? Instead, when you decide to start trying to get pregnant, you go through months, or even years, of uncertainty, during which time you don’t want to apply for new jobs, sign up to courses or commit yourself to events too far in the future, just in case this is the month you finally see that line on the pregnancy test. But at the same time…
You don’t want to tell anyone that you’re trying for a baby. The last thing you want is ongoing questions about whether you’re pregnant yet or not. And what if it doesn’t happen for you? You don’t want anyone at work to know in case you start getting passed over for interesting projects or promotions. You also don’t want to put the image of you having sex in anyone’s head, because, you know, no-one needs that.
You tell yourself you’re not going to be one of those crazy ladies who obsesses about getting pregnant and then promptly download five different apps for tracking ovulation and spend endless hours on Google searching for things like ‘food that can help you get pregnant’ and ‘early signs of pregnancy’.
Your attitude to sex changes. You might be in the mood for it, and then realise that your app told you that there’s a low chance of getting pregnant today, and decide to go to bed with a good book instead.
You remember all of the times when you were younger that you worried about getting pregnant and laugh at that poor naive girl who didn’t know how bloody hard it is to make a baby!
Every month you think you’re pregnant. Right up to the second your period starts, you think you’ve definitely done it this time. You feel a bit pregnant… you’re hormonal and your boobs hurt slightly. Oh no, that’s just your period. And then because you’re feeling hormonal anyway, you have a bit of a cry about it.
Or, you could just be one of those annoying people who ‘aren’t NOT trying, if you see what I mean‘. Although, that said, I think they may have it all sussed out…
I saw a picture on Instagram recently of a mum in bed with two sick children clinging to her. In the caption, she said she was knackered, and that, while it was nice to have a cuddle, she just wanted to go to sleep. The response was overwhelmingly that this poor exhausted mum should be treasuring the hell out of that moment, because one day her little ones would be all grown up and she would miss her babies.
Most mums will have experienced something similar when daring to vocalise any complaints about their kids. Comments such as: “You don’t know how lucky you are”, “You should treasure these moments”, “Don’t wish this time away” or the simple but wounding blow of “You should be grateful”. We’re all guilty of saying or thinking those things from time to time. Our children grow up too quickly, it’s true. When we see a picture of a mum with a little baby, even when she says that she’s having a hard time, we think: our children aren’t that small anymore, don’t cuddle us like that anymore, don’t need us like that. We want to go back to that moment, to hold on tight to that little bundle, to put the rest of our life on hold for one more warm snuggle. It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses, remembering only the warmth of those tiny bodies, and forgetting what it feels like to be so sleep deprived you want to jam forks in your eyes.
In the last few years, the once left-field trio of gratitude, mindfulness and positive manifestations has entered mainstream consciousness, and found its spiritual home on social media. While this feels like a positive mental shift, the prevailing version of this on social media is overly simplified and often judgmental, only accepting positive thoughts and squashing the existence of real-life struggles. Nowhere is that felt more keenly than on Instagram, with its many filters shining a flattering light on the #blessed lives of the beautiful few. It’s giving that mum, who already feels like she’s failing, yet another thing to worry about. Now, not only is she failing at getting her baby to sleep while all the other mums she knows are already WhatsApping each other pictures of their post-bedtime wine, but she’s also failing to be grateful for that extra time with her baby!
Yes, developing a positive mental attitude can be life changing, but, taken to the extreme, it can also mess with our ability to have a moan or recognise that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. With everyone else feeling #blessed and exuding #gratitude from every pore, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling and knackered, the only one crying real tears because your child won’t eat a piece of bloody toast.
Since becoming a mum, I’ve learnt that it’s perfectly possible to be fed up and grateful at the same time. Part of being a mother is always loving your child, so deeply, so truly, even while you’re begging for them to go to sleep because you’re so bloody knackered, or you’re rushing home for nursery pick up while your colleagues are all heading for a well-deserved drink, or you’re comforting a crying child and wishing that someone would look after you for a change.
I’m grateful for my son, for his slobbery kisses, and the times when he allows me to hold his chubby hand. I’m grateful for his love, for his unwavering acceptance of me, for his daddy teaching him to say “wow Mummy, you look beautiful today” on a regular basis. But I also miss my old life sometimes, with all the freedoms I took for granted before I became a parent. So I’m also grateful for silence when it finally comes at the end of a busy day, for those times when my son goes to bed on time and without a fuss. I’m grateful when I can go to the loo without him hammering on the door, when I take a bus on my own and I can just stare out of the window, or when he calls for his daddy in the middle of the night rather than me. I notice the small moments of happiness while also acknowledging that life with children is sometimes challenging, frustrating and boring.
So, next time we see a mum struggling, rather than telling her how lucky she is, or how grateful she should be, let’s agree to tell her that her feelings are perfectly normal, then give her a hug and offer to help, or even just listen, without judgement.
Returning to work after maternity leave, or getting back into the saddle after a child-enforced career break, can be tough for all the family.
Having so far spent their lives with mummy at their beck and call, little ones can find it hard adapting to a childcare setting without you; there are loads of children packed into one room, lots of noise, a different routine, different toys, new rules and strange adults to get used to.
And it’s hard for mums too – leaving a crying, unhappy or reluctant child at nursery or preschool is heart-breaking, and not the best way to mentally prepare for your working day.
I returned to work after each of my three little monkeys were born, and we’ve had to navigate moving childcare settings several times too. It hasn’t always been easy, but helping your child understand why they go to childcare, reinforcing the fun they will have, and reassuring them you’ll be back to collect them at the end of the day or session is so important to help the transition.
Books can play a really important role in helping your little people prepare. If you’re a mum returning to work, or putting your little one into childcare for the first time, here are seven stories you should definitely check out…
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
A classic tale that’s loved by nursery workers who regularly use it to reassure little ones their parents will be back to collect them. Three baby owls wake up one night to find their mummy gone. They sit together and wonder where she could have gone – is she out hunting or has she got lost? But before they know it, she’s back: “What’s all the fuss about,” she says. “You knew I’d come back!” This simple, repetitive story is even suitable for very young children.
My Mummy is Magic by Dawn Richards and Jane Massey
I love this story for the positive message it shares about working mums: “I think my mummy’s magic – and everybody knows. They need my mummy’s magic, and so off to work she goes. There are times I really miss her, and I wish that she would stay…but just like magic soon she’s back, as though she never went away!” My Mummy is Magic is a lovely rhyming celebration of everything mums do for their little people.
Mummy’s Home by Christopher MacGregor and Emma Yarlett
This is such a brilliant story for mummies who work away from home. Another rhyming tale, it’s got some excellent strategies to help your little ones manage without you around – from making keepsakes and helping you pack, to putting jelly beans in a jar and eating one each day until you’re home, and staying in contact online. It talks about the fun the children have with daddy and tells them to talk to loved ones if they’re feeling sad about mummy being away. It’s such a lovely book that I get teary just reading it!
Mummy Goes to Work by Kes Gray and David Milgrim
A simple story about a boy whose mummy goes to work (I guess the title gave that one away!). Even though his mummy’s at work, the little boy knows she thinks about him all the time and would rather be playing with him. When she does come home they have so much fun together that he can’t wait for the next day mummy goes to work so they can have all that fun all over again.
Lulu Loves Nursery by Camilla Reid and Ailie Busby
This is a brilliant book that deals with some of the emotions little people will feel before they start nursery, as well as showing them the fun they will have. Lulu is a tiny bit worried because it’s her first day at nursery and she’s going to have to say goodbye to her mummy for a while. She’s feeling a bit shy and she really doesn’t want her mummy to go. But her mummy tells her she loves her and promises she’ll be back so Lulu decides to be brave. She’s soon having lots of fun and making new friends and can’t wait to go back the next day.
Maisy Goes to Nursery by Lucy Cousins
If you like Maisy books and don’t already have this in your arsenal, then you should definitely invest! If you haven’t met Maisy before, the series covers so many of the experiences you’re likely to have with your little people, and the quirky, bold illustrations make them such a big hit. Follow Maisy’s day at nursery, from putting her coat on her very own peg, to snack time, nap time, story time, noisy time, and going home time – it’s a great way to help little ones find out what to expect on a typical nursery day.
Goat Goes to Playgroup by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt
We’re huge fans of this series of books (that also includes Toddle Waddle, Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose, Hippo has a Hat and Mole Digging a Hole). Goat Goes to Playgroup is such a simple story that appeals to the youngest of children thanks to its bright pictures and silly rhymes. Find out what clumsy goat and his friends get up to at preschool, and be reassured that mummy will be back at the end of the day.
Do you have any books to add to the list?
… About Amanda Overend
Amanda is owner of online children’s bookstore Books & Pieces. She specialises in sourcing quality books for 0-6 year olds which she sells on her 3 for £10 deal. She lives in Leicestershire with her three little boys (and one big one!).
Guest post by Nicky Raby, a life coach, actor, writer & mama
Before you became a parent there was always a lot of chat.
‘What are you wearing on Saturday night?’
‘Is he the one?’
‘Do you want children?’
‘Is he good in bed?’… I’m not sure it would be appropriate to ask one of my pals this question these days?!
Then if you choose to become a parent, all the questions will follow and the volume of chatter is turned right up.
‘Do you think you will stay in London?’
‘Are you going to buy a bigger house?’
‘Are you going to have more children?’
‘How do you feel about work?’
Many of my clients come to me because they would like some support as they figure out their next move. Parenthood changes everything. Often we discuss work, career, doing more of what they love, developing a business idea and/or creating their own pic ’n’ mix version of success.
The word success means something different to each individual. That’s why working with a coach is so useful because I can help you figure out your version of success.
The ‘online’ version may be a laptop lifestyle with a 7-figure business jetting around the world. I would love to be a 7-figure business owner but I also have to consider my responsibilities as a mum. With a lairy 19-month-old baby, jetting around the world on long haul flights is not necessarily my idea of heaven. However, the idea of spending quality time with him and going on adventures that will stretch his mind, that lights up my world. There will be time for travelling later on.
Before I offer you some strategies, I would love to share something with you. No-one has everything sorted all of the time. Perfection is a myth. I have worked with clients who, according to their Instagram grid, have everything sorted in a effortlessly Scandi way, but have plans they want to bring to fruition and can’t seem to figure out the first step.
You may have seen my head shots and thought ‘It’s ok for her, she has good hair’. Yep, I do. It is malleable and grows quickly (I could actually sit on it a few months into motherhood- it was a little trampy rather than Disney princess!) but do I think I have the perfect bikini body?! Hell no!
So even if the beautiful filters of Instagram try to trick you into thinking that everyone else has sussed it while you are still trying to get out of bed, give yourself a break. Take the first step. Besides, your version of success may be completely different to theirs and that is all kinds of ace.
What do you want? If the five-year plan looks scary, just think about the next year ahead. I often ask my clients to complete the ‘Be, Do, Have’ exercise. Grab a piece of paper and draw three columns and then title each with ‘Be’ ‘Do’ ‘Have’. Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t edit or hold yourself back, dream big, believe great things are waiting for you (because they are and you just have to step into them)
What is important to you? These may be simply words – e.g. ‘work’ ‘family’ ‘fun’ – but see if you can define them more deeply. Family could mean picking your children up from school. Being available for school assemblies. Or a family holiday twice a year or not working at the weekend. Scribble your ideas down.
Your non-negotiables. These could be relatively small wins: a full fridge, regular exercise, money to spend on your age-defying moisturiser or a bed that is lined with Egyptian cotton and matching cushions. Writing down the details of what you need in your daily/weekly life will bring much clarity. Plus, they may not be what you think!
What is your Why? What is your bigger reason? Knowing the purpose of all your efforts and daily activities is not only a great motivator but also allows you to track your progress. Ultimately, you may want to move out of London so you can open a wellness centre or run your own freelance graphic design business. Or work in the city five days a week and then turn off your phone on Saturday and Sunday.
What is the next step for you and how can you support your success? It could be booking a workshop, a course, attending a talk or reading a book. You may have to dig out some old business books you have. Or unfollow some people on social media because they are distracting your progress. Whatever you need to do, do it. Keep moving forward and listening to your intuition. You alone know what is best for you and your family. You can’t get this wrong because you know your situation. Plus, there are so many variables and no two paths are the same. So, if some uninvited and unwelcome ‘friendly’ advice comes your way from someone who vaguely does the same thing as you, you can choose what you do with the information, and figure out whether it applies to you or not.