The (Guilty) Working Mothers Club

Is it possible to feel contentment and frustration in equal measures? That’s how I’m feeling most of the time. Not including, of course, the times I lose my shit and have a toddler tantrum of my own or the times I give in to the lure of chocolate and enjoy a sugar and caffeine high.

My kids are aged three years and four months. They simultaneously need my full attention pulling me in opposite directions and team up to steal my sleep at night. Every day my to do list gets longer and all I manage to achieve is feeding the boys, keeping them clean (ish) and going along with whatever play is flavour of the day. If I manage all those things without anyone losing it I feel like I’m winning. Should that be enough for me? Because it isn’t.

As a mother I feel like we’re on an even keel and settling into life with two children. As a person and small business owner I have loads more to achieve, not to mention several unfinished projects around my home. This week the baby has started to settle a bit earlier in the evenings and around 9pm I find myself with a couple of hours of freedom. This time is inevitably spent packing orders and doing the essential everyday tasks needed to keep the business going. However, this ‘me time’ is not enough to satisfy me. I have a notebook full of ideas but never the time to act on them. I’m torn between wanting to make the most of my time with the boys but at times finding play with a three year old and a four month old quite monotonous. We get out of the house every day because I’ve learned that we’re all nicer and better behaved when we’re out (me included). Come the afternoon we wind up at home passing the time between toddler dinner and bed time. I call this period ‘the witching hour’ though it feels like it goes on for eternity. This is when the baby cries, the boy whinges and I retreat into the kitchen to consume caffeine and secretly eat biscuits.
I love playing with my kids, but there are only so many times you can push a train round a track, singing the Thomas theme tune while simultaneously jiggling the baby in a bouncy chair. It’s in these moments when my mind is not really on the task that I just want to pause time so I can get things done and then hit play and resume family life. I think what I’m craving is the mental challenge that work offers which daily life with two pre schoolers doesn’t. It’s also about needing to be more than just a mother within my own family unit and beyond.  I have nothing to prove to anyone else but I do have plenty to prove to myself.
Pondering this inevitably leads to a whole load of mum guilt because my kids should be enough shouldn’t they? I should want to spent my whole maternity leave devoted to pureeing vegetables and handcrafting Waldorf inspired toys? I don’t.  I’m happy to admit that I need more. What I’m not sure of is how to achieve it. I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic community of working, blogging, business owning mothers on Instagram and the same question always arises ‘How can we find the time to do more?’ Answers on a postcard there because I haven’t a clue! Skill swaps and collaborations seem like a good place to start.
Being at home with the children is such a privilege and something that some mothers, my own included, don’t have the luxury of doing for very long. I’m so grateful that I can take a 12 months maternity leave and return to my day job part time. I’m also very lucky that I manage to juggle my business alongside my profession albeit feeling like i’m not doing a great job of either. I’m putting this post out there in the spirit of being honest because I’m sure there are other mums in exactly the same position. We need to join forces more, collaborate, discuss and help each other out. I don’t think we should feel guilty for needing time to do something for ourselves.  When I’ve managed to get some work done and I feel I’ve achieved something I’m more able to enjoy time with my family and my boys get a more switched on fun version of mummy. Motherhood is exhausting, satisfying, frustrating and fulfilling all at the same time. It’s a 24/7 job and realistically who can give 100% focus twenty four hours a day?  I don’t think we should be beating ourselves up for having ambitions outside our mothering role and pursuing them.
When was the last time a you heard a father debating these issues? Hardly ever I’d bet because work-related guilt is all ours.
**Feel free to leave me a comment, share the post and come back soon for more ramblings from a  tired mum of two**
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Mama Mania

I recently had my first negative experience while breastfeeding. It happened in the most unlikely of places, a park full of parents and children. The person doing the shaming was another mum. I should have challenged her but I was so taken aback that I barely reacted. Afterwards I was angry at myself for not making it clear to this woman that what she said was completely unacceptable.

Sitting at the lake in my local park my three year old eating ice cream and watching the ducks we were having a rare tantrum free day and I had one of those moments when I realised it was all going too well. Thirty seconds later the baby started crying to be fed. We had just left the cafe where he had refused to feed (typical!) so I fed him while we sat on a bench in the sunshine. There weren’t many people around just a few mothers with kids feeding the ducks. Not that people being there would bother me anyway. If my baby needs to be fed I feed him. I’ve cracked the art of discreet feeding and as I’m a second time mum I’m pretty confident about feeding in public.

I felt the eyes of a little boy, not much older than my own son, looking at me so I made eye contact and smiled. He turned to his mum and said “what’s that baby doing?’. She explained to him that the baby was drinking milk so he asked “Did I drink milk when I was a baby? The mother loudly replied “not like THAT you didn’t. THAT is how animals drink milk”. My own son turned to me and asked what they were talking about as if he sensed the animosity. I dismissed it saying that they were talking nonsense. The woman and her son walked away and probably thought nothing more about it. I on the other hand was fuming.

The most shocking thing about this encounter was that the comment came from a woman, a mother, a pregnant mother. A mother dressed head to toe in mama merch. She literally had the t-shirt, the tote bag, the necklace and the travel mug, dressed as if motherhood was a brand and it had thrown up on her. Why would a woman so keen to define herself by her role as a mother be so quick to shame another mum for her parenting choices. I’m not even getting into the breastfeeding in public debate. Or the breast v’s formula debate. As far as i’m concerned there is no issue there. Fed is best however and wherever it happens.

What I found surprising was that this woman intentionally made a comment to make another mum feel uncomfortable. Why can’t women, mothers, just support each other? Parenting is hard enough and mothers are constantly made to feel guilty by society for working, not working, breastfeeding, not breastfeeding. We literally cannot win. Mums have enough guilt to wade through without us publicly shaming one another. So what if someone does things differently? I firmly believe that the only way to parent your children is to do whatever feels intuitive for you. I admit I’ve been guilty of silently judging other parents especially when I was a new mum and still full of ridiculous ideals. However, I would never outwardly show disapproval of the way someone else raises their kids. As my son gets older and we now have another baby in mix, some (many) of my ideals have gone out of the window. Parents have to make choices based on our thier circumstances not the ideal or even the preferred option. Yet it seems that many parents, mums in particular, feel it’s ok to criticise others. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media where the shaming can be done almost annonymously and the comments i’ve seen are cutting.

I’ve been running away from the mama merch trend for three years because I didn’t want to define myself as a ‘just a mum’. More recently I’ve come to appreciate that this is a valid way for many mums to feel solidarity and unity. The mama merch brands and bloggers are all part of a growing community of mums on social media celebrating their triumphs and laughing at their parenting fails. I get it. I’m on board with it. I’ve even ordered myself a Mere Soeur t-shirt. What I don’t understand is why if you buy into ‘team mama’ you still think it’s ok to hate on other mums. It’s definitely not ok. I’m so annoyed with myself for not confronting that mum. I should have told her it’s not ok on behalf of all the first time mums who might have been more affected by what she said.

If I’ve learnt anything from this experience though it isn’t so much about speaking up it’s about not speaking at all. When it comes to parenting, if were honest, most of us are stumbling about in the dark trying to do the best we can. Maybe mum bashing stems from insecurity, as if attacking  someone else choices serves to justify ones own.  Who knows, I certainly don’t have the answers or the solution but I do think it needs to be talked about more. We’re all doing what is right for our families and someone else’s ‘right’ is not necessarily ours. The old ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say…….’ adage applies.

All that said, while I want to encourage sisterhood and solidarity I must admit that if I ever see judgy mum in the park again I plan to swiftly whip out my boob, nipple and all, just because I can!

I’m keen to celebrate the positives so if you’ve had a bad experience feel free to share it here but it would be even better to hear examples of mums supporting each other despite differences in parenting choices. Feel free to leave me a comment and share this post with fellow mums.

The Mama Kit: Mum Treats You Deserve

As a second time mum I naively thought that this time around, as I had another boy,  I wouldn’t need to buy anything for the baby or myself. The truth is I didn’t need anything, he definitely didn’t need anything. However, being a woman (I’m blaming my natural cavewoman gatherer instincts here) there were things I wanted! So in those early days while glued to the sofa breastfeeding I exercised zero self restraint, threw myself at the mercy of the internet and indulged in some mum treats. Here’s a round up of the ‘essential’ mama kit keeping me sane this time around.

Lactation Treats – If there is ever a time to indulge in anything and everything you fancy eating then the weeks (ahem months) after having a baby are it. My baby is four months old this week and i’m still hitting the biscuits hard. In those early days and during growth spurts breastfeeding mums may experience low milk supply and baby cluster feeding until milk supply catches up with demand. I recently discovered lactation cookies and smoothies which are a great way to naturally boost your milk supply and also happen to be incredibly tasty. I’ve used Boo.B Smoothies and Mothers Love Cookies and loved both. The cookies are an indulgence you can justify and the smoothies feel like your doing something good for you body. Both helped to increase my milk supply and were absolutely delicious. I would recommend checking that your blender actually works before buying powdered smoothies. I didn’t and now have a nutribullet shaped hole in my bank account!

 

Mum Humour – While my husband was on paternity leave one of my favourite things to do post birth was escape for a bath every morning with lavender oil (for healing sore bits) and a book. I whizzed through The Unmumsy Mum in no time and then discovered other mum lit. With my first baby I found that when I had downtime either while feeding or when the baby slept I ended up faffing around on my phone because I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything for long. I wasn’t interested in baby magazines and either mum bloggers and books were not around or I was just oblivious. Since having my second baby I discovered that the ‘mum’ books that I failed to notice last time around are actually exactly what I wanted to be reading. I’ve read a few now (book edit coming soon) and I’m a  big fan of a laugh out loud honest account of the joys and pains of motherhood plus if you get them on kindle they are cheapish and can be read in the dark while feeding.

I feel like I could write a whole blog post about how much I love the Scummy Mummies podcasts. I wish I’d discovered them sooner. Having podcasts on my phone has been a lifesaver during endless hours of feeding and long pram walks not to mention the half hour I spend sitting on the floor in the dark waiting for my toddler to give in to sleep every evening. I owe the Scummy Mummies a very large drink for their company during the monotonous bit of motherhood and the hours I’ve passed laughing out loud to myself testing my pelvis floor muscles!

Mum Jewellery– Obviously I’m a big fan of a teething/nursing necklace because thats my business. I’m really appreciating them this this time around because none of my pre-baby clothes fit and I can’t be bothered to hit the shops with two kids in tow. I’m also loving the trend for woven macrame style jewellery as it’s soft and doesn’t hurt of baby yanks your necklace. I’ve invested in some functional but boring plain coloured tops and a couple of pairs of trousers and am jazzing them up with jewellery. I’ve also rediscovered my leather Pandora bracelet which I haven’t worn for ages but is great as a lit of bling because I can leave it on all the time. Sometimes digging out something old actually feels like getting a new treat. Jewellery of any kind is great for adding a pop of colour to your ‘mum uniform’. I was recently gifted an activity tracker which aside from being quite funky is a fab way of motivating myself to move more. However, if you have a baby under no circumstances should you look at the sleep tracker because it’s just plain depressing (unless your child sleeps through the night in which case I am SO jealous)!

Essential Oils-I bought some oils for labour even though I knew deep down I wouldn’t remember/have time to use them (I was right) but I’ve really enjoyed having them post birth. I used lavender oil in the bath in the early days as it’s great for healing and is calming. It can also be used as a massage oil for mum and baby and is mild enough to be put directly on baby skin or can be diluted with a carrier oil. I’ve been using lavender, camomile and geranium oils on reusable wipes for baby and in a diffuser in my living room which makes me sound like a raving hippy I know but a nice smell is a mood lifter when you’re at home all day with two kids.

Fancy Baby Clothes– First time around I didn’t really indulge in what I call ‘fancy’ baby clothes. H&M and Next were my staples and for the most part they still are. However, because my second boy has loads of hand me downs the things I have bought have been more of a treat. I love the variety of organic cotton baby leggings available on Etsy. Doubly Lovely, Lottie and Lysh and Turtle Dove London are my favourites so far and I’m always scouring Instagram for more.

Cloth Nappies- Again a whole blog post could and will be written on the joy of cloth nappies. I cannot rave enough about the soft natural fibres next to babys skin, the practical design, effective containment of baby poo, gorgeous prints and of course the reduction of waste and environmental impact. There is something very satisfying about using cloth nappies and I admit they are as much for me as they are for baby. I only briefly considered reusable nappies with my first baby and once he arrived I forgot all about it. Just after my second boy was born I saw some cloth nappies on Instagram, did a bit of research and made the decision to go for it. I’ve no idea why I had such an urge to do it but I’m so glad I did.

Mama Merch– I see lots of mums wearing Mama/Mother t-shirts, tote bags, fingerprint, breastmilk and name jewellery. It’s not something I’ve ever been into mainly because I don’t really like wearing labels or clothing with slogans on. I don’t know why but I just don’t feel right in it. I like the idea of the Selfish Mother T-shirts with a good portion of the cost going to charity and I like them on other people but I’m not sure they are really me. I’ve always steered clear of things with Mum/Mama/Mother on them. I think it’s because for  while after having my first child I felt like I was only a mum and nothing else. So I was reluctant to have my new job title emblazoned across my belongings because I didn’t need a reminder that my old identity was gone. Recently I won a travel pouch by Alphabet Bags with the slogan ‘You got this Mama’ and I absolutely love it. It is really practical, stylish and made in the UK. I love that despite the fact I’ll probably end up using it for nappies and baby stuff it is my bag because it says Mama on it! I had it in the bottom of the pram today at the park and it was a conversation starter when another mum asked where I got it. I’ve started to appreciate the Mama Merch trend as away of promoting solidarity and a sense of belonging and community among mothers and I now understand why many mothers have embraced the trend I’ve been running away from.

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I’m a big supporter of small businesses and I love to shop small whenever I can. Many of the businesses I’ve mentioned in the post are run by hard working mums and dads. Check them out on social media next time you’re sat in the dark feeding, waiting for the kids to go to sleep or faffing about on your phone. Feel free to share this post and don’t forget to leave me a comment if there are any mum treats you would recommend.

 

**As always all opinions are my own. All of the products/services mentioned in this post were bought with my own hard earned pennies and I only ever recommend things I actually use myself**

 

 

Surviving a Festival with kids – Deer Shed 7

Last year when the baby was but a twinkle in our eyes we took our boy to Deer Shed 6. He loved camping and was at an age (22 months) where, for the most part, he went with the flow. We managed to see a few bands and even enjoy a couple of drinks in the evenings while he slept in the pram. This was before the tantrums really set in. Before the wrong colour cup, or even the mention of it, could lead to a downwards spiral ending in him sobbing in a heap on the kitchen floor. If you have or have had a 2 year old you know what I’m talking about.

In April just after our second baby was born for I decided to book tickets for Deer Shed 7. I was determined we would be going and I’m not sure if I even consulted my husband. Perhaps I was trying to reassure myself that life would go on as normal for all of us and nobody would miss out just because we’d had a baby. It was probably a little (a lot) naive. In the back of my mind I knew it would be hard work……but I booked it anyway. As the festival approached we joked about the four of us sleeping, or rather not sleeping, in a tent and the logistics of being at a festival with an almost three year old and a three month old baby.

On the day the car had never been so full and the irony that we had practically taken the whole house just to camp 45 minutes away from home was not lost on us. After six arguments and three trips back home for even more ‘essential’ stuff we had forgotten we finally landed at Baldersby Park.  Despite our reservations the boys actually slept better in the tent than they do at home. The baby managed a seven hour stretch on the first night and I woke up feeling like my boobs were exploding and panicking why he was still asleep!

Our approach to the festival was ‘walk around and if we see something we want to do just do it’. This is pretty much our approach to life and I must admit is not always that successful. I’d had a brief look at the music and comedy line up and I was happy to see or not see any of the acts so I was willing to go with it and see how the day panned out. The flaw in this plan was that the boy’s legs literally gave way the minute we left the tent. For the whole weekend we were plagued by a toddler waving his arms shouting ‘carry me’. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the baby, who is not a huge fan of lying down, was being carried in a sling and that a touch of sibling jealousy had started to creep in. So casually floating around and stopping as we fancied was a pipe dream. The reality involved daddy carrying a heavy child and me carrying the baby. We took it in turns to juggle a big bag of stuff or manoeuvre a pram which nobody wanted to sit in but was useful just to transport the changing bag, potty, picnic blanket and whatever toys/snacks we had to use to bribe the toddler out of the tent. The boy was never bored. He had a scooter lesson, played in the sand pit and soft play, toy cars, messy play, pebble painting and crafts. However, none of these activities were as exciting as running around without his shirt off and standing outside the bubble shop!

Despite buying a program and timetable in a lanyard I didn’t have chance to look at either until the afternoon of the last day when I realised that I had missed poet Holly McNish who I would really like to have seen, had I even known she was there. On the final afternoon as we sat in the Secret Garden Bar we both commented that was the first opportunity we had to actually relax. The boy was climbing on wooden pallets and had found some little friends to shout with. The baby had miraculously fallen asleep in the pram. Finally on the ‘home straight’ of the festival we seemed to have sussed out the right balance of walking, stopping to watch and act, dabbling in a kids activity, having five minutes at the bubble shop and everyone was happy (whoever owns the bubble shop is a genius and probably incredibly rich). We even dared to have a Sloemotion gin cocktail sat in the sunshine. I started to mentally book my tickets for next year feeling like I’d nailed it.

Moments later it occurred to me that the boy was hiding behind a wooden pillar and had gone quiet. I poked my other half and he jumped up realising that our toddler was in fact about to shat his pants. So as the crowds started to swell waiting for Beth Orton my son was down the side of the teepee doing a poo on the potty. A fact he enjoyed announcing as he emerged beaming with pride. Crisis averted we resumed our gin cocktail drinking feeling like we were parenting the shit out of this situation. The boy came over sat on daddies knee and fell asleep just as Beth Orton came on stage. Gin cocktails in hand we were quite pleased with ourselves. Three songs in the boy woke up and vomited which put to bed any illusions of our shit hot parenting skills and forced me to cancel the tickets I’d just mentally bought.

So will we be back for Deer Shed 8? The sensible answer would be no. The festival is very family friendly and is geared up for kids of all ages. The loos are never smelly, the staff are always helpful and there is rarely much of a queue for anything. While we had a really good weekend and our boy thoroughly enjoyed the experience we left feeling completely exhausted and a little short changed in terms of the amount of grown up stuff we managed to see. It’s tempting to assume that next year would be easier because the boy will hopefully be over the toddler tantrums and the baby will still be too young for emotional meltdowns (fingers crossed). I think it would be easier and more fun in a group with other families with kids. A Mr Trolley kiddy wagon thing might also make life easier once both kids can sit in it and certain amount of organisation is needed which clearly we were lacking this year. As i’m writing this i’m already talking myself into it. So I guess we’ll probably see you next year Deer Shed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowdonia with Little Folks

Before we had children my husband and I loved planning adventurous trips and were enough lucky to have travelled abroad for long periods as well as shorter holidays. Since having our first son we’ve been keen to continue to travel as much as possible. We managed trips abroad to Slovakia, Southern Spain and California as well as adventures closer to home in the Lake District, Yorkshire Coast and Pembrokeshire.

Snowdonia was our first holiday since the new baby (now 3 months) arrived. We chose the location purely based on the manageable three hour drive from home and the availability of holiday cottages at short notice. Therefore, expectations weren’t particularly high. I had resigned myself to the fact that the weather might be bad and there may not be much to do but we could hibernate with netflix and a mountain of toys and relax. A change is as good as a rest and all that!

Little did I know how much Snowdonia has to offer a family with little people. We were blown away by the stunning coastline, picturesque mountains and most importantly for my almost three year old THE TRAINS! I cannot reccomend this part of Wales enough to families. The cost of our holiday was a fraction of what we would have spent travelling abroad even using budget airlines and self catering accommodation and the ease of travelling in our own car with the mountains of ‘essential’ kit we took with us made the holiday (almost) stress free.

Our favourite things to do in Snowdonia with kids:

  1. Steam trains.

This has to be number one based on my 3 year olds reaction EVERY time we saw a one of the narrow-gauge engines. He’s a train enthusiast in the making (isn’t every three year old boy?!) and the narrow-gauge trains are small and traditional so to a small child they look just like Thomas & Friends.

2. Snowdon Mountain Railway

Gone are the days when we would have walked up the mountain mocking the people getting the train to the top. This holiday was all about ease. Plus we have a three month old who was cluster feeding and we couldn’t have denied our oldest the chance to ride the train (what a fabulous excuse for laziness!). We got the diesel train and despite the weather being cold and foggy at the summit it did clear briefly for amazing views across the mountains. There is no room for pushchairs on the train but you can leave them at the station (or in the car as we did). The carriages are pretty small and cramped so my plan to breastfeed the baby and give the toddler a packed lunch onboard were foiled when I found myself literally knee to knee with a stranger unable to move enough to even reach my bag from under the seat. Fortunately we reached the summit quicker than expected and the amazing views kept the boy entertained enough to forget it was lunch time.

3. Harlech

The castle, the beach, the delicious award winning ice cream. Harlech is beautiful and this was probably our favourite day of the holiday. The weather was glorious and we had a lovely couple of hours on the empty beach building sandcastles, paddling in the sea and looking for crabs. Jesse felt the need to take his trousers off and left with half the beach in his underpants but didn’t seem to care.

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4. Port Meirion

I literally knew nothing about this place and on entering the village was slightly worried that this was not the place for a boisterous toddler. However, Jesse loved the steps, the pretty gardens and colourful buildings. While there isn’t tons to actually do it’s just a lovely place to walk around and absorb the views and of course the architecture. We veered away from the pricey pottery in favour of a sea front stroll and an ice cream.

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5. Coed Y Brenin Forest Park

We had one rainy day during our week away. The rain was pretty light so we decided a forest walk was a good option. Coed Y Brenin was just down the road from our holiday cottage so we headed there knowing nothing about it. The forest is stunning and there are a variety of trails for walking and biking. There is something for all abilities including an animal trail for kids, accessible paths and pram friendly routes. The adventure playground is fantastic and the venison burger in the restaurant is a must. We ate outside on the balcony under a canopy level with the tree tops and it was so relaxing we stayed for a coffee and cake while our boy chased little birds which were trying to steal his scone!

I’m sure we only scratched the surface of what Snowdonia has to offer and I would definitely go back. Our holiday cottage booked through Sykes Cottages was homely and had everything we needed. Located on a farm it was great for our oldest to wake up and have sheep and horses outside the window. Being a compete loser I loved hanging the nappies out to dry on a line with a mountain view (sad I know). We were very lucky with the weather and the only day of torrential rain was the day we drove home. I must give one last mention to the best services I’ve ever visited Rhug Estate Farm Shop and Cafe. The food is delicious, there are far too many texting treats in the shop and the facilities are spot on. It’s worth holidaying in Wales just for the excuse to visit!

 

 

 

To blog or not to blog?!

This blog has been a long time coming and spur of the moment all at the same time. I’ve had the site semi set up for a while with the intention of doing something with it while actually doing nothing. So on a whim and with some words of inspiration from a  friend “stop thinking about it and get on with it” I rushed home from a mum-date at Costa and set up the blog.

Hmm so what to write.

I suppose I should start with a bit about me. I’m a full time mum, part time Social Worker (currently on mat leave) and small business owner at Little Magpies. I have two boys Jesse (almost 3 years) and Jonah (3 months). I’m originally a Lancashire Lass but moved away when I was 18 and have been happily settled in Yorkshire for 11 years. I love Leeds and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I got the travel bug at age 21 when my then boyfriend (now husband) and I went to China for a few months. We’ve since travelled all over the world together and have many more places on our bucket list. Since having our first child we have a new focus for our trips and have enjoyed exploring a little closer to home in Europe and the UK.

So……..about the blog. This isn’t a parenting blog. I’m not going to be giving any advice about being a mum or advice about anything really because quite honestly i’m winging it myself! However, if anyone wants to advise me how to get my kids to sleep through the night and eat green veg then please go ahead! What I would like to share is cool stuff I find that makes life easier, fun or is just a well deserved mum-treat. I’ll be writing about places I go with the kids, trips away, days out, fun stuff to do with little people. As a small business owner I’d like to encourage other mums starting up or running businesses around their kids so I’ll be sharing anything I have found useful.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ve run out of concentration (baby brain) and a cup of tea beckons. Well I am technically on maternity leave after all……..