2017 was…..

I like to write an end of year post. Last year’s post ended ‘here’s hoping that 2017’s summary will be a bit more straightforward.

HA!

I won’t be writing that again.

Yet again, I struggled to know where to start with this one. Because, whatever was going on inside my own home, things outside mainly felt wobbly and uncertain.

This was the year that people were shaken, careful, and hyper-aware of what was happening and what might still happen in cities they knew and loved.

This was the year that we were once again reminded how lucky we are to have a roof, four walls, and warm beds. The year that you, Twin 1, regularly asked me what had happened to the people from the tower who had lost their homes. The year that you made me cry by asking me what those people from the tower would have for breakfast and where they could go for it. When you stood outside the house your friend was moving out of, and asked whether some of the people who had lost their homes would be able to move in.

Life isn’t quite as simple as you feel it ought to be.

2017 was the year that I occasionally ran out of patience whenever you commented that things ‘weren’t fair’. I know it’s not your fault – you can’t help the fact that you have a comfortable frame of reference.

And, although 18 whole months have passed since that referendum vote, still out of nowhere you, Eldest boy, ask me why and how it happened. And still I struggle to give you an answer. While you are pondering that, your little brothers are pondering ‘the wall’ – will Donald Trump really build it? Will anybody help him? What if the police find out?

But against the background of uncertainty, normal life went a bit like this….

About you:

This year, you turned 7 and 5.

For Christmas, Twin 1 you hoped for Star Wars figures. Twin 2 you hoped for a bobble hat. And Eldest boy, well you didn’t mind; but you got a Harry Potter hoodie and some games, which you declared ‘a dream come true’.

Eldest boy, you moved up to Junior School in September, and finally got the hang of your buttons and even your tie. Our next challenge is shoelaces….and your bike, in which you still have limited interest. This was the year you started your three year journal, which asks you a question every day. This has given me a fascinating insight into what goes on in that head of yours; my favourite being your answer to ‘Nobody knows that I…………’, to which you answered ‘don’t like pastrami‘.

It made me happy to think that this was your biggest secret.

You decided that duvet covers with cars and dinosaurs were too childish for you, and should be replaced by grown-up duvet covers with checks and stripes.

You continue to keep yourself amused primarily with a paper and pen – anything with potential for lists and tables is bound to be a hit. Your new interest this year was kings and queens. Your little brothers have tried to show an interest too, regularly asking whether Henry VIII is still alive, and whether Prince William chops people’s heads off.

You have a huge collection of train timetables, and draw endless maps of real and invented places – North Moor, Upper Moor, Ratford. There are so many imaginary worlds whizzing round your head.

Twin 1 and Twin 2 – you moved up to Year 1 in September, and for you school is still mainly about Lego, helicopters, and playing hide & seek at lunchtime. You have started calling each other ‘dude’, ‘bud’, ‘buddy’ and ‘mate’. You look embarrassed when you spot me listening, as if I’m intruding on your secret little buddy world.

Twin 1, you announced the other day that your first favourite thing is Elvis Presley, and your next favourite thing is roast potatoes. Well done Elvis for knocking potatoes off the top spot – that’s not an easy thing to do.

Twin 2, you are still my chief helper and an earnest little soul. The first to rush to my side whenever I ask for anyone to lay the table, or for help with the washing up.

2017 has been the year that you little boys have properly discovered Lego. Particularly you, Twin 1. You love to sit with your giant box of bricks constructing huge towers. Or houses. Or a vehicle with 15 sirens. I’m not really sure that school is your thing; but Lego definitely is.

And, having never been boys who enjoyed colouring, crafts or any sitting activities; this was the year that these suddenly clicked too – particularly for you, Twin 2. You now have a room full of rockets, ships and helicopters made out of cereal boxes and toilet rolls. I know that the moment I throw one away you will instantly ask for it, so for now they continue to take over the house.

Things you watched:

As well as watching Mary Poppins over and over and over, daddy introduced you to the Star Wars films. Now, your chatter is full of references to Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn; and you littlest boys have talking Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets – Christmas gifts from your uncle and auntie – which are a little disconcerting when I am caught unawares.

We loved Paddington 2. In particular, I loved Paddington 2. If you haven’t seen it, you must. With children, without children. It is perfect.

But as well as Star Wars, Paddington and Mary Poppins; 2017 was your big Strictly Come Dancing year. You had never watched it before – mummy had always put you to bed and then watched it later – but this year we decided to do the whole ‘Saturday night family viewing’ thing. And oh my, how you loved it. You now play Strictly regularly, and squabble over who gets to be Craig ‘Gravel-Hall’ and whose turn it is to be Head Judge Shirley. I regularly find you practising your Viennese Waltz or your Charleston swivels, or standing at the bottom of the stairs saying ‘Here come our Strictly stars!‘ I once got told off by you, Twin 2, for not calling you ‘Giovanni’ when we were performing our jive. Strictly has taken over the last 3 months or so, and I have loved seeing how it has captured your imaginations.

Things you read:

This was the year that you, Eldest boy, discovered Harry Potter. You knew nothing of all the hype that surrounded these books, but were instantly sucked in. Just as I was beginning to fear that you might be starting to veer away from story books, it was a joy to see you reading first thing in the morning and then picking up your book again the moment you got home from school. Aged 38, I am now reading them to catch up with you.

We have tried to slow you down (you are itching to start Book 4), so you started the Narnia books. Magical worlds seem to be your thing – you wouldn’t put those down either.

And little boys, for you the reading has finally started to click this year. You often want to read your own books at bedtime – I am trying my hardest to be patient and let you. Some nights this is easier than others.

Out and about

We have loved running free in open space. I have realised how much you need this – more than playgrounds or structured activities; you need fields, hills, hedges, trees and sticks. We have explored woods and gardens. We have got ourselves up and out for early morning walks – as if we have a dog……which we don’t. We have done fun runs, children’s boot camps; and our new Sunday morning routine is Junior Park-Run. I have realised how much energy you need to burn in order for our days to be a success, and if this also involves fresh air then that’s even better.

Mummy’s year

The constant ‘I’m tellin mummy‘, ‘He called me a blue wacky doodah‘, ‘Mummy, he just said ‘oh my hecko‘ and ‘mummy, mummy, MUMMYYYYYYY’ has occasionally got too much this year, so I have attempted to do plenty of things that remind me of who I am outside of this chaotic house. I decided that 2017 should be a ‘book it’ year. Going to see things – plays, concerts, ballet – was a huge part of who I was pre-children…..and this would be the year I would start to get it back.  We even booked a spur of the moment mini-break – it might have rained (in Portugal), but it did make me realise that many of the things we used to enjoy are do-able again. Even if they are not quite as relaxing.

I finally got into the routine of taking my vitamins (resolution from two years ago, I think); and, having talked about it for at least seven years, we finally ordered our new blinds and ALMOST managed to get them fitted by the end of the year…..except that John Lewis had to re-schedule our fitting. At least it wasn’t our fault. I’m feeling semi-triumphant about the blinds; and my mission for 2018 is a new carpet for the living room. I don’t believe in big resolutions – I just end up letting myself down.

Thank you for reading this year, and here’s to a happy and peaceful 2018. Who knows what the new year will hold, but if you haven’t seen Paddington 2 – consider making that your resolution. I’ll be getting it on DVD.

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The gift of a snow day

Many countries experience snow as an unremarkable part of winter. Daily life and routines continue as normal. But this is not the case in the UK, or in the south east of England at least, where snow is a major event – we walk around obsessively taking photos of it, we talk to passers-by about it. It even makes the news headlines.

Something funny happens on a snow day in the UK. Time seems to stand still. The streets are deserted. Cars are few and far between, as are people – so much so that they actually acknowledge each other with a nod and a smile when they do cross paths…..maybe even with words. Everyone expects everything to be cancelled, or at the very least extremely problematic. If you do make it to wherever you’re supposed to be going, people congratulate you and tell you how well you’ve done….which is quite nice. You feel like you’ve achieved something significant just by walking round the corner.

The whole day has a not-quite-real feeling about it. And, if you don’t have anywhere super-important that you need to be; if you’re not a shift worker or stuck on gridlocked roads trying to get home then actually, having your day wiped clear for reasons beyond your control can be quite refreshing……You’re not surprised to hear that your shopping won’t be delivered during your requested time-slot, and it doesn’t even really matter  – no, you’re not sure what you’re going to eat but everything is a bit of an adventure, your children are outside and happy and no-one really knows what the time is anyway. Your normal routine is temporarily suspended and, after weeks of rushing around with a thousand and one things in your head – costumes to make and raffle tickets to buy, Christmas fairs and carol concerts, end of term parties and preformances – what a pleasant change to be reminded that, for one day at least, none of it matters that much. How refreshing to remember that sometimes things are beyond our control. That we might not be able to do all the things we had planned but life goes on quite happily regardless. For a day at least, all that matters is building snowmen (or watching your children build snowmen); keeping warm and drinking tea.

Shutting down used to be what Sundays were for – the shops weren’t open, things actually stopped. But these days we never shut down. We keep going all week at an often unsustainable pace, unless we’re so ill we can’t move (and even then, we’ll do our best); or there’s a snow day. In this age of never shutting down or even slowing down, then perhaps having a snow day forced upon us occasionally is no bad thing.

So although it is seen as a bit of a joke that this country grinds to a halt at the very sight of snow, yesterday I was actually quite grateful for it. I was grateful to forget our plans and to watch my children throw and build and laugh and fling themselves down in this white, powdery, very cold stuff which falls so rarely. I was happy to warm up with a mulled wine as I watched them whizz down our slide in the garden into a pile of snow. I was happy that my biggest boy got to curl up on the sofa with his book without being rushed anywhere.  I enjoyed not knowing or really caring what the time was. And I was grateful for the reminder that very few of the things we rush around for actually matter that much.

We need to make the most of these days when time seems to be gifted to us; because before we know it, we’re back in the real world again. Racing around until the next snow day comes along.

snow day 1

PS If you did have somewhere very important that you needed to be, or if you were stuck on gridlocked and dangerous roads; then yes, I agree – the snow is a total pain.

 

 

One of those weeks

Sometimes you have one of those weeks.

One of those weeks when the dishwasher is broken and you forget your son’s doctor’s appointment and everyone is getting ill.

One of those weeks when your husband can barely move because of his bad back and then discovers he can no longer work from home on his working from home/doing the school run day, which means you have to leave work early even though though you have a mountain piling up on your desk which you were really hoping to get through.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you’ve left work early to pick up the children, but then get home and realise you’ve locked yourself out. You empty out your handbag and your pockets in a desperate hunt for your keys and you try your neighbours who have a spare; but the neighbours aren’t in and you really need to go and get the children from school….even though you’re not sure where you’re actually going to take them once you’ve got them. So you set off for school ready to break the news and you look around for a friendly face and try to think of a plan. And you try to communicate with your husband to say there’s a little, actually quite a big problem and is there any chance he might be home a little bit earlier like he suggested this morning so that he could let you in the house; but he’s locked away working on high security things with no access to a phone, and the neighbours are out looking after their grandaughters and right now you have no way of getting into your house. Thankfully there are plenty of friendly faces and soon you are sitting down with a cup of tea and the children are on an unexpected playdate; but you’re still not sure how or when you’re going to get back home and you’re running out of answers for your children and your eldest one keeps reminding you that you promised him a new pack of MatchAttax and you try to tell him that MatchAttax aren’t your priority right at this moment.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you have to call your mum-in-law and say I’m-so-sorry-but-we’re-locked-out-and-the-neighbours-aren’t-in-and-your-son-can’t-get-home-and-please-could-you-drive-to-our-house-during-rush-hour-and-let-us-in.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you wonder whether there was some ‘how to be a proper grown-up’ test that you forgot to take because right now it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing a very good job at it.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you forget a doctor’s appointment and your dishwasher is broken and you lock yourself out of your house and work is non-stop…….and then your eldest child sits staring at his breakfast and announces he is too poorly to go to school. Just as you’re about to leave the house for work. And you thought you’d be on time today…..maybe even early. But now you’re in a panic and can your mum-in-law possibly look after him and how much more are you going to ask of your mum-in-law this week?

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you are behind at work and behind at home and then you open the book bags to discover you need to produce two robot costumes for the Christmas play.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when no-one will co-operate and get ready for school and you’ve had enough of hearing ‘He hit me with BATMAN‘ and no-one understands that you really need to leave the house NOW right NOW…..there is actually no more time to be building train tracks. You are shouting ‘SHOES‘ and ‘COATS‘ and ‘HATS‘ and ‘BOOKBAGS‘ but you might as well be shouting into the abyss because no-one is listening. And finally you’re by the door and about to leave when the 5 year old who has just been to the toilet looks at you anxiously and says he really needs to go again right NOW, he’s DESPERATE. So you shout even though you know you shouldn’t because you’re meant to be the calm one in all this craziness, and now you feel bad about shouting as well as feeling bad about running late. And you run to school and the boy who needed the toilet falls over and his brother has a stone in his shoe and you tell him you’re sorry but that will have to wait.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you get home from the manic school run and realise that the zip on your very favourite pair of boots has broken and that really is the last straw. Everyone knows how much you love your comfiest boots in the world ever. You really want to sit down and weep but you can’t because the dishwasher man is at the door ready to fix the broken dishwasher. So you let him in and make the coffee and find out that the dishwasher will cost £220.00 to repair. And as it’s been one of those weeks, this makes total sense.

But the worst thing is still the boots.

It’s been one of those weeks.

one of those weeks

Mummy away / Mummy at home – a tale in two parts

Part 1 – Away

Mummy is lucky enough to be having a weekend away. No husband, no children……just mummy and some friends.

Mummy sits down on the train and thinks about the fact that she has two whole days ahead of her which will not require her to be a human vending machine, or to attempt to answer three questions at once, or to repeatedly ask boys to blow their nose.

Mummy considers the fact that her bags contain her things, and her things only.

Mummy considers the fact that she will be able to talk freely and finish conversations.

Mummy considers the fact that her friends are unlikely to feel the need to pull on her arms or shout her name over and over if they want to get her attention.

Mummy considers the fact that she might even be able to read more than half a paragraph of her book in one go.

Mummy’s head isn’t spinning.

Mummy revels in the freedom, but also sends her husband numerous messages to check that he is doing things more or less exactly as she would do them. Mummy has been known to get irritated with daddy for not using his initiative; however, if daddy chooses to use his initiative but then does things in a way that mummy doesn’t approve of, mummy reserves the right to be furious.

Mummy acknowledges that daddy has a difficult task ahead of him this weekend.*

Mummy and her friends agree that they would like to spend some time pottering round the shops, because they absolutely never do this in their normal lives. Six hours later, the carefree foursome are still happily pottering. They have tried on things they don’t need, spent time examining things they are never going to buy; and marvelled at the joy of wandering unhurried around the shops, without the fear of anyone attempting to dismantle the displays.

Mummy is oblivious to the Saturday crowds. Saturday crowds mean nothing when you are used to having three small children hanging off your arm and clamouring to be heard.

Mummy feels a bit like she is 15 again……at the shops, with her friends.

Having eaten too much, shopped too much, wandered leisurely around a museum and finished more conversations than she can remember having finished in the last seven years, mummy gets the train home. Mummy has coffee and a mince pie, nobody on her lap and, in the space of an hour, reads more of her book than she is likely to read for the next two weeks.

Part 2 – Home

Mummy walks through the door. Mummy’s children are happy, noisy and excited; and the smallest ones are overjoyed that mummy happened to pick up the Go Jetters magazine complete with a Grandmaster Glitch figure.

Mummy has been away for two whole nights which means that right now, mummy is a novelty. Three boys are eager to tell mummy every single thing that comes into their heads, all at once and in no particular order. They watched Star Wars with Jar Jar Binx and Qui-Gon / they watched some fruit fall off the minions’ heads / Strictly was in BLACKPOOL / Claudia had a seagull on her head / Blackpool is really huge / they played Strictly with their great-grandma / they scored 17 goals at football.

Mummy is quite enjoying being a novelty and being surrounded by children who don’t appear to be cross with her.

15 minutes have now passed and mummy is no longer a novelty. Mummy was actually surprised that her novelty status lasted for as long as it did. Mummy is required to answer a series of quickfire questions that are in no way linked to anything that has just been discussed…..such as what colour is petrol, and if you’re invisible can you see melted ice-cream.  Out of nowhere, Boy 3 is sobbing because both his brothers got to ‘speak to Tess’ when he didn’t; and Boy 2 is shouting something about his brother having stolen Grandmaster Glitch’s wheel…..turns out Grandmaster Glitch didn’t even have a wheel.

Mummy has ‘Go go, go go, Go Jetters‘ going round and round her head, and threatens to confiscate Grandmaster Glitch whilst wiping away Boy 3’s tears and promising that he’ll be able to speak to Tess next week.

Mummy is home. And her head is spinning once more.

Mummy away

What a peaceful scene

 

*Turns out, daddy uses his initiative pretty well.

For the new mummy

Hello new mummy, and congratulations.

Perhaps you have bounced straight back from an uncomplicated birth, or you might be feeling a bit like you’ve been hit by a bus. You probably had your ideas about how you wanted the birth to go; but however many books we read, none of us really has any clue what to expect…..either during labour or afterwards.

Everyone talks to you about labour, don’t they. Everyone has an opinion and advice to share. But no-one talks to you about afterwards. Well, they talk to you about changing nappies and sleepless nights and feeding – people love to talk to you about those things. They talk to you about the baby; but no-one talks to you about you.

I’m not sure why that is…..probably because we are worried about frightening mums-to-be. But when we don’t talk about it, well some of the things that happen in those early days are frightening. They frightened me, because I had no idea whether they were normal. No-one had told me about those bits.

You might be thinking that your body doesn’t look like your own any more…..and it probably doesn’t feel like your own either. The first time you attempted to stand up after giving birth your legs probably felt all shaky and wobbly, like they were about to give way. No-one told you that just standing up on your own two feet might be a struggle. No-one told you that, for a little while after having your baby, you might genuinely worry that your legs no longer worked properly.

They told you about the bleeding, though. You read about that; so you got prepared and packed all the things the books told you to pack in your hospital bag.

You just weren’t expecting the bleeding to be quite like this……you weren’t expecting there to be so much of it. So much bleeding when your legs are all wobbly and shaky and you just don’t feel able to deal with it. So you’re searching through your bag for everything you need…that bag you carefully packed before this life and body-changing event happened; but you almost feel like it was a different person who packed that bag.

It feels strange searching through this bag of things that are familiar but also feel like they belong in a previous life.

It is strange, being in this body that doesn’t quite feel like your own.

And now you need the toilet and you even feel frightened about that – no-one told you that going to the loo would be scary. Your legs are still shaky and you’re bleeding and now you’re worrying about what’s going to happen when you sit down on the loo.

You wonder whether your body will ever feel normal again.

But now here we are a few days later, and you think you’re starting to recover – everyone says you’re doing really well. So you go for a walk and then realise you no longer seem to have control of your bladder. And you cry, because you remember being advised to do your pelvic floor exercises, but you never really knew what that actually meant or whether you were doing them properly. You never really understood how much you took your bladder for granted.

And now you’d really like it back.

Your body feels like it belongs to someone else, and your hormones are all over the place and you’re sore and swollen, and you’re not sure what day or time it is AND you’ve just produced a tiny human that you now need to care for. So it’s not surprising that baby blues is an actual thing. There it is on Day 3.

Bang.

You’ve got everything you wanted but you JUST CAN’T STOP SOBBING.

But in between the crying and the bleeding and the feeling a bit shaky, you’ve got this brand new little human to keep alive. And suddenly you feel unsure about everything. Are you supposed to change the nappy before you feed or after you feed? Should your baby be in a vest and sleepsuit or just a vest? Or just a sleepsuit? In your old life you were a reasonably competent human being, you knew what you were doing; but now you need everything to be validated, confirmed by someone who knows. Where is your manager in all of this?

But there is no-one to give you all the answers…….there are just lots of other people with opinions. And all the opinions are different.

And the feeding, well that’s supposed to just happen, isn’t it? Apparently, the baby will just crawl up your chest and latch on. You’ve bought one of those nice covers to take out with you so you can ‘feed discreetly’ in a cafe. Except no-one told you about the fighting and grappling and struggling that would happen every time your baby needs some milk. No-one told you that you would have midwives clamping your baby’s head onto your breast as you struggle to get the hang of this thing that is so natural but so difficult for many.

And they said it wouldn’t hurt. But it really hurts.

New mum – you probably expect a lot of yourself. You expect your body to work as it did before, despite the fact that you have just produced an actual person and now you are using all your remaining stores of energy to keep him/her alive. Your body will heal, but not straight away. Remember what it has been through.

Don’t judge yourself by how other people are getting on – some things are hard for some and easier for others. That is parenting.

It is easy to forget yourself in all of this; but don’t forget yourself, new mum. Make time in your life for people who make you smile, who ask how you are, and who help to make this an easier job.

People like to tell new mums to ‘enjoy every moment’, but don’t worry if you’re not. Just do your best, and eat some cake. Right now, you don’t need to expect any more of yourself than that.

IMG_2113

On going properly OUT, when going out just isn’t really what you do anymore

You gain many things when you become a mum, but you lose some things too. For many of us, one of these things is confidence.

Confidence to do all sorts of things……like lunchtime networking at a work conference (AGGGGHHHHHH….. I hate it).

Like meeting new people, and trying to find an interesting version of yourself that has actual things to talk about. Things which aren’t related to children.

Like going out. I don’t mean going out to the pub or going out to eat….. I can do both of these things pretty well. But going out somewhere that is full of people and music and dancing. You know…..going OUT.

Out out.

Properly out.

I used to do it a lot, because that’s what you do in your teens and twenties; but these days…..well no, I don’t. Because I like sitting down, and wearing comfortable clothes, and being able to hear what people are saying to me. So until last Saturday night, I probably hadn’t been out out for about 5 years.

5 whole years.

But on Saturday I did it. With a group of lovely ladies….most of whom I had never met before. The thought of it made me oh-so-nervous, but I did it.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips to help you along:

What to wear:

If, like me, your clothes fall broadly into the following categories: 1) mum clothes 2) work clothes 3) wedding outfits; then you might feel you need to buy something new to wear. You probably don’t have time to go to the actual shops, but don’t worry…..the supermarket is a perfectly acceptable place to locate your new outfit. It is altogether less daunting than Top Shop, and you can pick up some tinned tomatoes and a loaf of bread at the same time.

If you’re wondering about suitable footwear, let me recommend wedges. I love a heel, but these days the combination of wearing heels plus staying up way past my bedtime is not a good one. I found wedges to be an excellent compromise – more likely than heels to get you through a whole night without crippling your feet, but you feel less like you’re on the school run than you might do wearing flats.

Other people:

As you look around, you may feel surprised at the number of very young people that appear to be out very late at night. Seriously, they look like children. And then you remember that many of these youngsters could quite feasibly be 20 years younger than you. This is alarming……try not to show it.

If you want to seek out people who are at a similar life-stage to you, look for the cross-body bag. Nothing says proper-grown-up-on-a-night-out like a cross-body bag.

Music:

You probably won’t recognise a large number of the songs, and you may feel mildly shocked at some of the language that is blasting out of the speakers. Do your best not to show your shock, and remember that your children aren’t present so you don’t need to cover anyone’s ears.

A wave of relief will sweep over you when you hear songs from 15 or 20 years ago. In your mind these songs are, and will always be, current.

Keeping going when it is VERY LATE:

Let’s face it, at the time you are venturing out (in our case, 11pm on Saturday night…..11PM!) you would probably usually be tucked up in bed. Keeping going when you have felt tired since the day you became a mum can be a challenge, and at regular intervals you will wonder whether you can keep your eyes open any longer…… 12.30am, 1am, 2am, and definitely by 3am.

When you are hit by the I’m-not-sure-I-can-stand-up-any-longer feeling, just think about all the things you have done and possibly still do that have been so much more challenging than this. Think of the night feeds and the nappy changes. Think of rocking a crying baby and wondering whether you’ll ever be able to sleep again. Think of changing wet sheets in the middle of the night; or of lying on the floor next to your baby hoping that you might, within the next hour, be able to creep back to your own bed again. Think about all the caring and cuddling and feeding and cleaning and changing that you have done at 12.30am, at 1am, at 2am and at 3am.

Think of all the 5am starts.

Think of all of that, and then you’ll realise that this – standing up in your wedges wearing your new Sainsbury’s dress – perhaps isn’t so difficult after all.

wedges

Thank you Tesco sensitive sole wedges.

 

 

When mums meet mums

Some mornings feel hard…… Proper, I-don’t-know-how-we’re-going-to-get-out-of-the-house hard.

You get used to hard mornings when you become a mum. And hard evenings. And hard days too.

But once I open the front door, somehow the hard morning feels more manageable. Because with the sight of other mums comes the realisation that it is probably not just me who has had a battle to get out this morning….. Or who has driven themselves mad asking their children to put on their socks or do up their coat….. Or has been resolving arguments and wiping up spillages and drying tears for at least two hours. It may not just be me who is feeling like a lousy mum because on some days this most basic of tasks – getting ready in the morning – feels beyond us without the whole house ending up in tears.

There are probably other mums who would also like to write off the whole morning and start again.

I always feel better at the sight of these lovely people, many of whom I see day in, day out. There is the mum who understands every bit of what a hard morning feels like. Who knows if I’m close to tears, will pop an arm around my shoulder and will probably message me later to tell me she understands and that she’s had a hard week too. There are the mums I know I could call on if I needed help with a pick up or drop off. Mums I can stand chatting to outside the school gates and not even realise that 20 minutes have passed. There are the mums who know that my eldest boy loves soup and maps and train timetables; and are thoughtful enough to pass on things they know he’ll love. There are the mums with whom I can happily while away an evening drinking wine, eating cheese, and discussing everything and nothing. Our husbands ask what we spend so long talking about……little do they know that we could easily have spent much longer if we weren’t so aware of needing to get some precious sleep. There are mums who make me laugh, mums who make me think and mums who make me feel better. Mums who reassure me that just because you sometimes find motherhood hard doesn’t mean that you’re not a good mum. It just means that it IS hard sometimes. Amazing mums who juggle demanding jobs and busy homes and are still there for each other.

When you have a baby, everyone tells you to get out and meet other mums. So that’s what you do. You try baby groups and baby yoga and baby music. You feel your way through the crowds and gradually find your group.

You force yourself out on no sleep, because you know this is the way to stay sane. You scout out the baby friendly cafes and sit with coffee and cake and a tiny baby in a pram. You talk, you listen, you laugh, and sometimes you have a good cry. Crying is ok, because there is always a shoulder and no-one thinks you’ve gone crackers…..everyone gets it.

You talk about routines, naps, dropping feeds, weaning, babies’ bowel movements; and whether your pelvic floor will ever recover. You never envisaged that this would be how you would make new friends; but it seems that when your bodies have been through childbirth, nothing is too big or small a topic.

You go to the park with big mats and toys and plenty of snacks. You walk the streets with pushchairs trying to get tired babies to sleep.

You delight in milestones and do the rounds of birthday parties.

As big things change, so your group changes too. Mums go back to work, children start school, people move house. Your network of mums will shuffle around and maybe change entirely. But what doesn’t change is the need for a strong and supportive group around you. The need for reassurance, for laughs, and for a cup of tea or glass of wine with people who understand the everyday ups and downs and reassure you that yes, your little worries are relevant and important.

So here is a pretty sunflower for all the wonderful mums who help each other to navigate their way through this oh-so-confusing parenting jungle. It would be a much harder journey if we didn’t all have each other. x

Sunflower