Parenting, the good, the bad and the ugly

Being a parent is amazing for many reasons. Apart from the obvious fact that you have created a completely unique human being, a little bit of you and a little bit of someone else, there are certain things that make this amazing job even more fun, and other things that make it just that little bit harder sometimes. Here are my top ten love/hates about parenting so far:

1. We now get to park in those gloriously wide parent parking bays almost everywhere we go. Its like having valet parking but cheaper. Fabulous.

2. Making new friends is a wonderful by product of having children. Most of my friends have stayed the same over the years, either friends from college, university or work. Having a child has given me an opportunity to create a new social circle of friends that I probably would never have met otherwise.

3. Time off. Lots and lots of it. Never before, and never again will I have so much time off. Ok, so its not a holiday, and its not exactly free time, but it sure beats the 7am commute.

4. Taking lifts everywhere, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t, a: hidden away in the deepest, darkest and most obscure places, b: ultra slow and c: stopped at every floor.

5. Not being able to dash out quickly anymore. Need to pop to the supermarket quickly – don’t forget to grab the changing bag, a blanket, the rain cover in case it rains, get baby in the pushchair, grab your keys and your phone… whats that noise, nappy change it sounds like. Unstrap baby, change baby, go through the whole process of getting baby in the pushchair and out the door again.  By now its been at least been 15 minutes since you decided you needed to “pop” out to the shops *sigh*.

6. No sleep, lack of sleep and not enough sleep. We seem to go through phases when it comes to sleep. Just when I seem to be getting just enough sleep to function reasonably well, a spanner is thrown in the works and suddenly we’re up three or four times a night and it feels like I have a newborn all over again. Seriously annoying.

7. Getting either wet or seriously cold whilst getting baby in and out of the car and into pushchair. In the early days I tried rather optimistically, and foolishly to balance an umbrella at the same time as trying to get baby in and out of the car, but that only slowed me down and made me more wet, or cold as well as look a bit silly in the process. So now I just try to get us in and out as quickly as possible and embrace the wet and the cold and the bad hair days that are now a part of my life *sob*

8. The mummy uniform. Now, I like my dresses and skirts and usually wearing my hair down, but none of these things are really very practical anymore. Hair tied up, jeans, and flats are pretty much the day to day staple when you become a mummy. Embrace it, or enjoy dribble soaked Uggs and nappy filled Mulberry bags.

9. Reconnecting with yourself on a completely new level. Having a child really makes you think about things from a whole new perspective. For the first time in a long time I have had the luxury of sitting back (figuratively speaking of course) and really thinking things through. For once im not going at everything a million miles an hour and can make better, more thoughtful decisions and choices.

10. Getting to try new things and realise personal projects like this blog. Ive wanted to blog for a long time, but I never quite found the time to get round to it. I probably have less time now than I did before I had a child. But having a child has given me a new quiet determination to fulfill personal projects that have been pipe dreams for years.

So those are my top ten after four hard, tiring but glorious months of being a mummy. What are yours, Id love to hear!

The guilt of a new mum

Is it the fate of every mummy to perpetually feel guilty? I think so. For there are a million and one things to feel guilty about. All the time. Every day. Right now, this very moment I feel guilty about not finishing the washing up. I also feel guilty that I haven’t even made a sniff at starting dinner and my husband will be home any moment.  I have parcels sitting on my table unopened since yesterday, letters waiting to be filed away and an incessant pile of washing to be done, all of which I feel a teensy bit guilty about not doing.

It seems the moment you become a parent, there is always something to feel guilty about. Sometimes its big things, often times its the little things. Here are some of the things that I have found myself feeling a little guilty about since becoming a mummy:

Missing important friend and family engagements and social gatherings has unfortunately become something that seems to come with having children. We had quite a few close friends and family weddings either side of the little lady arriving, which meant we had to miss all the pre-wedding activities and the big events themselves. People understood, but it doesn’t make you feel any less guilty about it.

Taking ages to do things, because non child related activities just don’t seem to be a priority anymore. A friend asked me awhile back if I could give her a LinkedIn recommendation. Shes a great friend, and she was a great ex-colleague, so I was more than happy to oblige. However, months on it still sits in the midst of my ever growing to do list. This is just one of the things that I haven’t been able to get round to and its getting more embarrassing each time I speak to her.

As a breastfeeding mummy I often feel guilty about some of the less healthy food choices I make every now and then. When I reach for those chocolate biscuits, or that packet of crisps the thought that what I eat nutritionally passes on to my daughter often crosses my mind. Although more often than not its usually about 3pm in the afternoon and the first thing Ive had a chance to grab, but I still feel guilty about it.

I feel guilty that four months on after having my daughter I have yet to dust off my trainers and workout gear. I promised myself that long before I now I would have got back in the gym. The thing is, im actually one of those annoying people that actually quite like the gym, yet I still haven’t been able to muster up the energy or find the time to get in there.

I feel guilty that oftentimes, im feeling rather lackluster by the time it gets to bath time. For us, bath time signals the beginning of bedtime and the whole long process of endurance and perseverance that’s about to begin. I can only liken how I feel to the 4pm sugar slump I used to get when I was in the office and only a sugar fix would see me through the rest of the afternoon. As a mum, I feel guilty that im not always looking forward to the fun of bath times like I feel I should.

With the inevitability of retuning to work sometime next year, I feel like every day is precious. I want to make the most of my one on one time with my little lady, and that for me means getting us out and about to experience and enjoy things together. We have been to classical baby concerts, rhymetime at the library and joined a baby sensory class. Next term is looking equally busy with the addition of swimming and baby yoga. However, there are those days when I just don’t feel like doing very much and we might have the odd lazy day at home which leaves me feeling guilty, like we’ve just wasted one of our precious days. I know that its perfectly fine, and probably expected, but I still feel guilty about it.

Not giving my daughter 100% of me all the time is probably the thing that I feel the most guilt about most of the time. I know its probably unrealistic to achieve this, however it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty that I’m not always present and giving her 100% of my time, focus and attention. There is always going to be housework to be done, food to be cooked, shopping to be done, and so on, and its not always possible to squeeze all of this into nap times. I’m sure the little lady doesn’t even mind, in fact I think most of the time she even enjoys watching mummy go about her day to day errands, but I still feel guilty about it.

So it seems that feeling guilty every now and then is part and parcel of becoming a parent. Perhaps its a natural and healthy, intrinsic reflection of how much you love, care and worry for your child. As new or seasoned parents, can you relate to feeling guilty about the everyday things that we face as parents? Share your thoughts and comments below, I would love to hear from you.

Becoming mummy

Today I wrote my Christmas list for the husband. Usually by this time of the year I have more than plenty of ideas of the nicest this and the latest that, that he could buy me. In fact, I usually have a list so long that I write everything down in order of preference. But not this year. This year I seem to lack inspiration. Not just because Ive spent the last four months obsessing over all the lovely dresses, jackets and shoes that I could buy the little lady instead of keeping one eye on whats new in Zara each week, but because I seem to be in the midst of what I can only describe as some kind of identity crisis.

It sounds so cliche, but let me explain. Ive never been one to think that just because you become a mummy you have to dress like one. In fact, I aspire to be the epitome of the yummy mummy. However, my daydreams of being a mother have always rather oddly featured me in soft draping cardigans and sumptuous cashmere, out shopping or hosting Sunday lunch with my imaginary brood. The reality is though, that at 28 I couldn’t be further from this daydream that has been running in the background of my mind for the last few years, and therein lies the problem.

After years of figuring out what my style is, with a quite a few faux pas in between, I finally know what suits me, and what doesn’t. I know what colours to wear and what cuts to buy. I know how something will hang on my body before I try it or buy it. I can quite confidently say that I know what works for my body. But there is something about having a child that makes you consciously yet subtly consider the way you dress. That makes you start to question “what type of mummy” you want to look like, because after all mummys come in all shapes and sizes, and that is the dilema I suddenly faced when I sat down this afternoon. What type of mummy am I. What do I want to look like. How do I want to be perceived. Because lets face it, everyone knows that first impressions are formed in just seconds whether we like it or not. You could argue that becoming a mummy doesnt mean having to change your style. After all, you are still you. Arent you?..I thought I was, up until this afternoon. But then I realised that something had changed. Subtly. Without me even noticing it. Window shopping online previously would have kept me happily entertained for hours, but today I just couldnt quite find anything that piqued my interest, and I realised that it was because I wasnt quite sure how I want to look now that I am a mummy. Ive been so used to working in the city for years, and my career being such a big part of my life that my work wardrobe overshadows my casual wardrobe by a long way. In fact, I have much prefered my work wardrobe for a long time, and shopping trips over the last few years have been very much focused on building out the work wardrobe I so adore and cherish. My casual wardrobe has been a bit of an afterthought for quite some time, which wasnt a problem, until now. Now that I spend more time in my casual wardrobe than I had ever imagined.

I realise now that a big part of my identity has been what I do for a living, but like my wardrobe that is being overshadowed by my new role as a mummy and I seriously need some new clothes to go with it. I want to look sophiscated, yet need funtionality because realistically what mummy totters to Baby Sensory classes in court shoes. I want to look chic, yet come across as approachable, because what new mummy doesnt want to make friends at messy play. I want to be as on trend as I was in the city, yet I want to be comfortable when im trying to balance the car seat, the changing bag and the shopping bags all at the same time. But most of all I want to look and feel confident in how I represent this new part of my identity through the way that I dress and carry myself when I’m with my daughter.

Things I know now that I wish I knew then…an ode to motherhood

I have often wondered when this blog was just a distant twinkle in my mind, what I would write about and how I would get started. Recently as my little lady has hit some of her 4 month milestones and I’ve started to relax a little bit more into motherhood, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learnt about her, and about being and mother. I realised that there are a lot of things that I know now that I wish I knew when she first arrived, and so I wanted to share some of these with other mummys and mummys to be in the hope that they resonate and offer an insight, but also so I don’t forget about the journey we’ve had so far. Here are a few of the things that I’ve learnt over the last four months:

It will be hard. But not for all the reasons you think. No matter how much you try to prepare yourself for becoming a parent, you cannot anticipate all the things involved in actually being a parent. The husband and I had a fair few discussions before our little lady arrived, things like “the baby is probably going to cry all the time”, “the nights are probably going to be hard”, “we’ll probably be tired all the time” so we need to stick together. We need to be a team. If we work together we should be ok. Plus, it should get easier after about the first 3 months, right?.. Oh how naive we were. All the above was true, but we hadn’t anticipated things like how difficult it was to get the hang of burping a baby, how hard and how long it took to get a baby to sleep, how difficult it was to get a routine going, how difficult it was to get our baby to take expressed milk, how some things worked one day but not on others and about a million other things that it takes to look after a baby day in, day out. All the things that we anticipated would be difficult were, but it was all the things we overlooked or just assumed would happen that were the hardest.

There is no point blowing your own, or rather your childs trumpet too soon, or actually at all. Because things change with babies, and they change quickly. I remember in those very early days when I used to be able to put the little lady down when she was tired and she would nod off to sleep. I remember commenting to both my sister-in-law and mother-in-law rather happily how good she was at getting herself off to sleep. In the naivety of new motherhood I didn’t realise that it was probably because the little lady was still in her newborn stupor, because not long after that we could not get her to sleep without simultaneously holding, rocking and shushing her to sleep. On the bad days/nights the pushchair or car would only do for rocking our little princess to sleep. In desperation I’ve tried many things – controlled crying for all of 6 minutes, I didn’t have the heart for it. A musical mobile and projector, it worked for one night before the little madam decided that actually, she didn’t really like it anymore. Going out for walks. Going out in the car. Sitting with her in this position. Sitting with her in that position. Singing to her. Not singing to her. Taking her to an Osteopath. Giving her a dummy. Its only now, at 4 months old does she seem ready, willing and able to learn how to get herself off to sleep, with some help from mummy and a few friends. Things are looking good, but I daren’t hold my breath, and that’s ok because I know now that things don’t stay the same for long with these little ones so I’ll just appreciate the now.

I never anticipated just how hard it would be to establish good habits and “start as you mean to go on”.  Everyone wants a baby who sleeps, or who settles easily or who self soothes. But unless you are one of the lucky ones who gets a baby like that, you actually have to help them learn how to do all those things. Which means putting them down in the cot when they are tired or drowsy but not asleep and other things like that which sound theoretically easy, but in practice I have found emotionally difficult. It is now only after four months, that I have started to be able to put her down in her cot and walk away. She is happy and settled, but seeing her little face look at me when I walk away just makes me want to pick her back up again and hold her till she falls asleep. Yet I know that this will do neither of us any favours, and so it is with a big inner sigh that I am able to walk away from her cot each time. I wasnt prepared for this. I did not expect to be so emotionally attached. After all, I am not a particularly emotional person. My husband would fairly tell you so. Yet I want to be able to teach my daughter good sleep habits, but I also want her to know that mummy will always be there so we’re learning to find the balance to this dilemma slowly and together, one day at a time. It may mean that my daughter is slower to learn these things, but it will hopefully also mean that she feels more secure and loved and that my conscience and my heart are a little lighter.

I have been constantly surprised by how long it takes to do even the littlest things. Everything has to be prioritised, and therefore some things just don’t get done or take a lot longer than they used to. It’s often a toss-up between doing the washing or the ironing, plucking my eyebrows or doing my make up, making a call or catching up on the iPad, watching TV or sleeping and so on and so forth. I realised the other day that it now takes me between 5 – 7 days to get round to painting my nails from the moment that I decide I want to. Although usually these days its more a case of need to rather than want, and when I say paint, I mean a quick file and some base coat. None of that luxurious two coats of paint and a glossy top coat that I was so accustomed to pre-child.

It also surprises me, that even though we are reasonably financially comfortable,  since the little lady came along I hate, absolutely hate the idea of wasting an ounce of money. I will shop around and compare costs for all the household and baby amenities, hunt out every single voucher code and free delivery code I can find, have signed up to QuidCo, tried comping and changed energy suppliers to save the odd pound here and there. If there is money to be saved somewhere these days im all over it.

Now I don’t want to sound stupid here, but another thing that has really surprised me is how babies don’t just do what you want them to. What I mean when I say that is that things don’t always go as you imagine or want them to. I have been quite lucky that breastfeeding has worked really well for us. It took a lot of work for us to find our groove – 6 painful, tough weeks to be specific, but once we did neither of us have looked back. However, three of my friends had babies within a week or two of me and none of them have had much success with breastfeeding, and that is not for lack of want or trying. For some people it just not physically possible, or it doesn’t work for mum and/or baby. Sometimes things just don’t work out as we imagined when it comes to parenting and motherhood and we have to accept that and move past it, and sometimes come back to it at a later date. I really appreciate now the things that do work for us, and accept the things that don’t. Up until very recently my daughter refused to take a dummy to help her sleep, even though to my frustration I knew it would really soothe and help her fall asleep. Its only at 4 months old, after months of long and trying days and nights has she started to use one to help her sleep. But she still refuses to take expressed milk,  something that I assumed would just happen as easily as breathing air. However I am hopeful that when she is ready to she will, because that’s all I can do.

Which leads me on to my other point about how you just cant compare babies, because I have learnt that what works for one baby does not necessarily work for another. I just wish I knew that before I bought some of those parenting books that are now sitting gathering dust on my shelves. It would have saved me a lot of stress and frustration if I just took the time to observe and get to know my daughter, her likes and dislikes, her quirks, her personality and trusted my new mothering instincts rather than trying to follow advice from books. Luckily im not a stickler for following instructions and rules so once I know something isn’t working I abandon it pretty quickly, so no damage done. But I guess my point is that I shouldn’t be afraid to trust my instincts and try things out, no matter how new I am to being a mum. No one is a greater expert on your child than you. It really is true.

Finally,..and everyone tells you this and you read it everywhere but nothing can prepare you for the indescribable love and affection that you feel for your child. Whether it’s the moment you first set eyes or them, or it happens gradually, the love eventually creeps up on you, grabs you and overwhelms you. What has astounded me is that despite the late nights and early mornings, the crying, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the days when it feels like groundhog day, the days when you think you might be missing out on something, the days when you wonder if you are cut out for it all, the times when you think they might break you, the days when you just want, need some time out…never will you so quickly forgive and forget all that stuff that doesn’t really matter anymore. Whether it’s seeing that amazing smile first thing in the morning, or watching their chest rise and fall as they sleep in the evening, there will be a moment when you suddenly realise that you are completely, utterly and hopelessly in love with this little being that has taken over, commandeered and stuck a flag in your heart. Totally indescribable.

So the biggest thing I have learnt, and the thing that I wish the most I knew then, is that being a parent is about taking it one day at a time. Every day is different. There are good days, there are bad days, there are great days, there are awful days. Almost every day is like starting a brand new page. Nothing stays the same for very long, so you have to celebrate and enjoy the great days and learn to write off the awful days. Be gentle with yourself. Be good to yourself. You are a parent from day one, but it takes time to find your groove.