Category Archives: Parenting

May the odds be ever in your favour – Surviving the School Holidays

Day 812 of the school holidays. There’s been no food in the fridge since a party of locust-like 7 year olds visited 3 days ago. All wholesome activities have ceased, instead Pop Max blares from the TV 24/7. I am a broken husk of a woman. School returns in just 253 days.

He’s found the crayons I’d hidden. My walls look like Jackson Pollock visited for the weekend and felt like getting a bit artistic while he was here. There is lego everywhere. Everywhere. I have the hollow look of The Scream and I’m looking at the last Jaffa Cake the way Gollum looks at a nice ring. It’s precious.

Surviving the School Holidays - May the odds be ever in your favour

Dear Diary, At some point very soon I have to go school shoe shopping where a thousand dead-eyed parents will also join a mile long queue to buy overly expensive shoes which will fall apart within a fortnight. 

Shoe shopping. Everyone in this queue is speaking in aggressive hissy whispers, but no one’s lips actually move. The hairs on the back of my neck prickle. This feels like the Hunger Games, but with shoes. May the odds be ever in your favour of finding shoes they will actually wear, or better still, put on every morning without you having to bellow “PUT YOUR SHOES ON, PUT YOUR SHOES ON” for anything up to 20 minutes before you give up, wrestle them to the ground and get the bloody shoes on their feet yourself.

With just 736 days until school re-opens I realise we need to buy a selection of overpriced uniform items from a school uniform shop located unusually far away from school. The shop has opening hours you can only guess at and nothing is available online. Everything you buy from the shop will be languishing forever in lost property within a week of school starting.

In desperate need of monastic style silence, I hide in the confined darkness of my wardrobe as I try to blank out the desperate cries of “can I have another snack?”, “I’m so hunGREEE” and “I’m so borrrED. You are SO BORinggg”. He will never find me here. My phone beeps loudly. My cover has been blown.

Parents are desperately Whatsapping each other for playdate swaps. The last time Tarquil came round he ripped the curtains off the wall and broke a bed by bouncing on it. I turn my phone off and go into the garden. I dig a hole several feet deep and throw my phone into it. No more playdates with Tarquil. Ever.

Tarquil is coming for tea. I have dug out the plastic toddler plates and have set up a number of no go zones within the house. Later I enter my bedroom, a no go zone and find Tarquil bouncing on my bed with a pair of worn knickers on his head. I practice my mindful breathing.

My mindful breathing does not help. No more playdates with Tarquil. Ever.

Tomorrow I will take my son to the Slug and Lettuce for lunch (as requested) where he will refuse to eat anything because the food might have slugs in. Or lettuce. School reopens in 3000 days.

Surviving the School Holidays - May the odds be ever in your favour

How a chore chart motivated my son to help around the house

A few weeks ago I was having a look around The Works and stocking up on craft bits and pieces and interesting books. While I was in there I spotted a magnetic whiteboard chore chart for £1 and I thought it would be worth buying just to see if it encouraged my son to help out a little more.

My 7 year old son is fairly helpful. Admittedly he will never do anything without being asked, but we are trying to get him to take some responsibility for himself and get him to tackle a few basic chores around the house. He’s at that age where he’s started to ask for a little bit of pocket money to buy things, and it wouldn’t kill him to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket each night.

My son is a busy boy, what with school and a few after-school activities, I don’t like to push him too hard. In many ways I just want him to chill out and be 7. But I’d also like him to not leave a trail of mess and chaos everywhere he went.

How a chore chart motivated my son to help around the house

His chore chart is fairly simple. It lists in general terms the homework he has to do each week –

  • Homework for school
  • Homework for his tutor
  • Learn his spellings
  • Read his school books

I also threw in “Get ready for Beavers”. He loves going to Beavers, it’s one of the highlights of his week, but every single week we have a battle to get him into his uniform. If rewarding him for getting ready with no fuss is the secret to a peaceful household, then it’s totally worth it.

I’ve also added the following chores –

  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • Do the recycling

The first two are things we think he needs to do to help out. They take a few minutes each day and he knows he will get some pocket money at the end of each week for doing it. The recycling is something he needs to do to work towards a badge for Beavers. It’s a chore my husband hates, but my son seems to love it. Recycling will stay on the chore chart until he gets his Beavers badge.

He does love helping out around the house. I think it’s important to get kids involved in looking after their home. He’s not great at keeping his room tidy; but he is only 7 and I’m absolutely delighted with the contributions he is already making around the house. I hope it will help him to have a little bit of pride in his surroundings.

I couldn’t find our chore chart online, but I’ve found something similar on Amazon

How a chore chart motivated my son to help around the house

This post contains an affiliate link.

Competitive kids: Why is winning so important?

Why is winning so important? Over the past few months I’ve noticed a creeping change in my six year old son. He seems increasingly competitive and talks more and more about winners and losers. Neither me or his dad are particularly competitive, nor are we especially prone to winning things. We’ve rationalised our collective failure to win gold, silver or bronze in anything by making sure whatever potentially competitive activity we are taking part in, that we mostly do it for fun or for the simple joy of taking part. So where has this obsession with winning come from?

Driving down the motorway and Ben is cheering for his dad like he’s Lightening McQueen in a big race, instead of a man taking his family on holiday. At our first Dog Show yesterday there were fat tears of disappointment when our dog didn’t win a rosette in a category. I spent much of my afternoon explaining over and over that it was just for fun, that just because the judge doesn’t think Penny is the scruffiest dog there, doesn’t mean she’s no good, because she will always be a winner to us.

Life seems to be constantly divided into winners and losers. It’s so black and white with him it’s disheartening. We’ve never really let him win games just because of his age, life is filled with minor wins and losses, and games are a good way to experience a minor win or a small loss in a reasonably controlled way. We played Snakes & Ladders in the pub on Sunday, having to explain over and over that it’s a game of luck and not skill was tiresome. Having to tell him over and over that luck will see him climb a ladder as much as luck would see him slither down a snake. More tears of outrage and injustice at the thought of losing, which eventually dried when luck made him the winner of the game.

I do things because I like doing them, not because I necessarily want to be the best at them. My husband runs, not because he’s fitter, stronger or faster than anyone else running alongside him, but because he likes it. Maybe our attitude speaks volumes about our lives. Maybe we’re just too content with who we are and what we do to be competitive. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to prove to anyone but myself and my boys. 

Winning is important in life, I’m not going to argue against that. But life is always a mixture of win some, lose some and we’re trying to raise him to understand that. A child who strives only to win but doesn’t appreciate or enjoy the game is never going to be truly fulfilled, and since there can usually only be one winner, that child is likely to be disappointed at some stage. 

I’ve always felt that comparing myself against other people will almost always lead to disappointment. I try to only be competitive with myself. Can I do better? How can I do better? What target shall I set myself this month?

It’s hard to strike the balance when you’re raising kids. I want to teach him to try his best and strive to be the best he can be, but also that disappointment is part of life. When you fail to do as well as you’d hoped, it’s a great opportunity to think about what you did wrong and what you can do better next time, and that taking part and having fun is just as valuable as winning a medal.

Teaching kids to not take losing so hard and so personally is difficult. I’ve always been honest and straight with him, so when he hears me give him a rational and reasoned explanation why our dog did not win the scruffiest dog category, he understands and accepts that.

Competitiveness is probably a natural part of growing up. You can only raise your kids to be the best that they can be and to give them the skills to deal with the disappointments that life will throw at them at some point. If you can manage that, you’re totally winning at parenting!

Competitive kids: Why is winning so important?

Five savvy suggestions for surviving motherhood

Becoming a parent is one of the most wonderful things in the world, but it’s also incredibly hard work. It can be quite isolating and emotionally tough, which you could probably cope with if you’d had enough sleep, which you won’t have done. Last year my lovely friend Karen from That Lancashire Lass became a mum for the third time. In this guest post, she shares with us her tips for surviving motherhood.

Five savvy suggestions for surviving motherhood

It’s no secret that the first few weeks, months and years of parenting is hard work. The most beautiful and amazing thing in your life just happened, but it’s a shock to your body and your life changes drastically. Sometimes you feel like your kid is driving you up the wall and you need a bit of space, or even just a conversation with another grown up. Sometimes your four walls at home feel like they might start closing in on you and you need to get outside and get some air in your lungs. Other times you might need reassurance that your baby is doing just as well as all the other babies her age. And once in a while, you just need to know you’re doing okay.

I have always had good friends around me. When I had each of my babies my friends were there with gifts, baby cuddles and wine and they were a great source of support for me. The thing is though that once the initial visits wear off you find that your friends are at work, or busy with their own families and commitments. That’s the time you need to put yourself out there. Here are five things you can do to stave off the loneliness, isolation and general blues that can creep in when you have a new baby…

Make time for yourself

Whether it be painting your nails, going for a massage or simply having an early night while dad, sister or your mum watches the baby once a week, it’s really important to make time for yourself. I really struggled with this myself as I find it difficult to hand over the reins, but once I learned to let go a little bit I felt so much better in myself and I was a generally happier person. Which leads me onto point two…

Accept help

I promise you that nobody is going to judge you for letting other people help with the baby. If someone you trust offers to help, to watch the baby while you nap or take a bath, to take him out in the pram while you hoover round (or even better if they offer to hoover!) then honestly, just say yes. It will make them feel good for being able to help and they really wouldn’t offer unless they meant it. People generally love to lend a hand. I’m not saying pack your newborn off to Nana’s for a month but do welcome the opportunity to shower for more than 30 seconds at a time!

Make some mum friends

Since there were 696,271 live births in England and Wales in 2016, I’m certain there are mums with children of a similar age to yours nearby! Using an app like Mush makes a world of difference when you need some contact with the outside world. You can use the app to search for parents with children of a similar age, with similar interests to yours or who are in your local area. Where I live there are several meet-ups per week, all of which started off as a simple connection on Mush. I love the app and have made some lovely new friends through it. I’d definitely recommend it.

Five savvy suggestions for surviving motherhood

Sleep when you can

You know when midwives say ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ and you think it’s ridiculous because who is going to cook dinner, wash the pots and do the laundry? Well you’ll feel much better if you sack the housework off and get your head down. The laundry will get done eventually and nobody will starve to death. Just order a takeaway.

Don’t be pressured

Formula or breastmilk? Cloth nappies or disposables? Routine or baby led days?

It really, truly, honestly doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks you should do. Sure, listen to what they have to say and make up your own mind about it, but when all is said and done you are the one bringing up this tiny human and it is your decision on how to do that. As long as you and your baby are safe and happy, then you crack on. There is no ‘right’ way to be a parent and we’re all different. Ask for advice if you need to, but have faith in yourself!

Are you a parent already? What advice on surviving motherhood would you give to new mums?

A Mother’s love – how our broken bond was mended

From the first moment I held my newborn son in my arms, I was head over heels in love with him. No, scratch that. Since the moment I knew I was pregnant I loved him. I loved him fiercely and protectively, as a mother should, right from the very start.

He’s six and a half now and I can’t really remember what my life was like before he came along. He has completely changed my life. In the seven years he’s existed I’ve gone to hell and back with my health. I have tortured myself over his health (he’s fine, he’s absolutely perfect, but it wasn’t always so). I’ve lost my career and forged a new one. But most importantly, I’ve discovered what it is to love and be loved back unconditionally. 

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

At various points in his six and a half years, I’ve stopped and looked at him in wonder and thought “right now, right at this very moment he could not get more perfect. This is the best age he has ever been, it can’t get better than this surely?”

I’ve made a point of keeping that moment in my head and storing it away, because it’s impossible for him to get any better than he is at that moment, but it does. I’ve had so many moments of “oh my god, this is the perfect age” that I’m pretty sure that every age is the perfect age.

Before you decide that I look at my son through rose-coloured spectacles, I do not. I am incredibly aware of his faults. I am the person who bears the brunt of his tantrums. I’m the person who has to pick up after this child who walks through the house leaving tornado like destruction in his wake. I am the person who tries to teach him to be a good human, full of care and compassion. My son is not perfect, he is flawed like the rest of us. He’s human, not super-human, but still lovely.

A few weeks ago, over the Easter school holidays we had a night away in Blackpool, just the two of us. We had the best time and it was so good just to chill out and do things together at our own pace. We missed his Dad of course, but it was only two days and he was busy working anyway. 

It’s been a tough 12 months for us. I lost my Dad and he lost his Grandad. It’s been a year of tears and sadness. There have been splashes of light and colour, it’s not all been widow’s weeds and lighting candles in remembrance. But our two days away reminded us both of the good things we have in each other and it has really brought us closer together.

I never thought I’d bond with my son the way I have. When he was two years old I had an accident, followed by two emergency surgeries. I was bed ridden and full of pain medication for 8 months. In that time I was a zombie who couldn’t care for myself, let alone anyone else.

My amazing husband stepped up and parented for the two of us, but in that time the mother-son bond was damaged and it’s taken a lot to get it back. We’ve always loved each other, always enjoyed being with each other, but his go-to parent has always been his Dad and I’ve often felt excluded.

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

Last night my son sleepily presented himself at my bedroom door. He wanted a cuddle because he couldn’t sleep. So he got in with me, we cuddled and then he fell asleep in my arms. I looked at him in the orange glow from the street light outside and my heart swelled with love for him. He is as good as it gets and I am delighted with that.

Right now at this moment, this is the best he has ever been. This is peak Benjamin. He cannot possibly get any better than he is right now. He is funny, helpful, kind, caring, loving and very much his own person. Six and a half is the best age. He is the best, my best and I am blessed by his presence in my life and the bond we share.

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

Are you giving your kids a bright future?

When I got pregnant with the small boy, I naturally had hopes and dreams for a bright future for him. In the first instance I hoped for a healthy baby delivered safely, something which didn’t really go according to plan, but he did arrive and he was eventually pronounced healthy. The old cliche is correct, nothing ever really prepares you for bringing your own tiny human home. No amount of books, pre-natal classes or expert TV nannies can prepare you. You’re pretty much winging it.

When you are pregnant, people say things to you about sleepless nights and explosive nappies, and you just sort of nod. You nod like you know what it feels like to have broken sleep. Lack of sleep isn’t how you imagine it to be, having broken sleep, snatches of naps, dealing with constant demands from a tiny human who can’t communicate with you what they want or need night after night, it’s hell. No wonder it’s a form of torture. The SAS play recruits tapes of screaming babies whilst keeping them awake to see if they can break them. Ladies, we are tougher than the SAS. Sort of. 

bright future

I remember sitting down with a good friend over a brew. Our two toddlers sat on the floor playing together. She turned to me and wondered if she was a good parent and I replied, “well we’ve not managed to accidentally kill them yet and they’re both clean, clothed and well fed”. I doubt anyone is the perfect parent, but all you can do is your best.

No one prepares you for lots of things, the amount of washing for a start. Previously my husband and I would do 2-3 loads of washing a week. When the small boy arrived that increased to at least one wash a day. I used to joke that he had more costume changes than Elton John, he still does come to think of it.

Having a child makes you worry for the future, but it also gives you someone who holds you in check. You may think you recycle as much as you can, then they learn about recycling at school and you find yourself being instructed by a five year old to scrape the labels off jam jars and recycle separately both the jar and the label. He’s a stickler for standards!

Being a parent influences most of your decision making, right from the day you pee on a stick and find that blue line. From where you holiday, what you eat, when you eat, how much you recycle, the cleaning products you use, what car you drive, where you live and who you are friends with. It’s all encompassing, and finding yourself going from strong independent career woman, to that lady with the screaming kids who always smells like baby wipes, can take some getting used to.

Everything I do as a parent, the choices I make and the things I buy are all small acts of love (stick with me on this). I buy him the pasta shapes he likes because he enjoys them and it’s good to see him clear his plate without complaint. We go on holiday to places near a good sandy beach, because nothing makes him happier than digging a big hole and filling it with water.

Everything we do, we do with him and his bright future at the forefront of our minds, not because he is a little prince and we pander to him, but because he is one third of our family unit and we’re busy helping to shape him into a useful and productive member of society.

I recycle with him, because he likes doing that with me, and doing that helps to create a better future for him. I wash his clothes in Persil because it makes his clothes smell nice and gets the grass, paint and pasta sauce stains out of his clothes. I wash at 30° because it saves energy for us, and I know that the little changes we make ourselves can make a difference.

bright future

I teach him to turn lights off when he leaves a room, to shut the door to stop the draught, to put a jumper on when he’s cold, to tidy up after himself, to turn the tap off when he brushes his teeth and to be kind to people, because kindness is everything.

Creating a bright future is about so many things; cementing good habits in childhood, learning that good manners cost nothing, understanding that small changes can make a big difference. It all adds up and hopefully, hopefully, my small boy will grow up to be kind, considerate, loving, funny, wise and capable. 

bright future

This post is an entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever.

Relaxation – How do parents unwind at home?

When the small boy is tucked up for the night and the house falls silent, it’s often not a time for relaxation for us. When the boy falls asleep we do chores for an hour or so, catch up on admin, clean the house, sort the washing. It’s endless. But once that is done then for me the TV goes on, I flop on the sofa, fire up Twitter and unwind with a brew. My husband has other ideas, for as much of the year as possible, as long as it’s dry he will sit outside and have a cold beer under the stars.

People unwind in different ways. My mother in law would tend to her allotment, my dad would watch comedy DVDs and chat to his magic friends (that’s not as weird as it sounds, he was a magician). My brother and his wife will open a bottle and a box set. Everyone is different, but everyone needs to relax in whatever way they find works best for them.

Rattan Direct have put together a survey asking what you as parents do to unwind around the home. They want to know what works best for you. Like me do you chill out in front of the TV, or does relaxation for you involve having family and friends round for the evening? Maybe you bake a cake or have a hot bath with scented candles and your favourite bath oils.

relaxation bath

Whatever relaxation means to you, it’s a necessity. Life and parenting can be stressful and finding time to unwind and relax is essential. Making space for that rare thing – “me time” is so important. Without an hour of doing nothing but zoning out over a repeat of NCIS each night, I know I’d be a frazzled mess of a mum.

How do you unwind? What does relaxation mean to you?

= This is a collaborative post =

Love wins – playing parenting good cop bad cop

At 3am this morning the screaming and shouting started. The small boy had woken up and was engaged in complex negotiations with his dad about returning to bed and going to sleep. The small boy has a bad cold and is what can only be described as incredibly overtired.

I lay in bed and listened to the back and forth between father and son. After 20 minutes or so of tantrums and tears I intervened. It was clear it was my turn to play bad cop, so I marched in, confiscated the Lego he was arguing over at that moment and threatened to put all of his toys in bin bags unless he got into bed.

This did not work, he sat on his bed cried a bit harder. I went back to my room and waited for the next stage of negotiations to fail. This is ridiculous, he’s perfectly capable of going to sleep and I’ve never heard him behave like this for so long. I thought about it while I listened to them.

It was my turn to play good cop. My boy was poorly and tired. When I’m poorly and tired I want someone to cuddle me, stroke my hair and sing soft kitty to me. I warmed up his hottie, made a little nest for him under the blankets on my bed and welcomed him in for a cuddle and some love from his mummy.

Within minutes his tears had dried and his breathing was slowing. I squeezed him a bit tighter and told him I loved him and that I’d always look after him. He was asleep and snoring quietly to himself soon after. What’s more he slept past his normal 6am wake up and right through to 8am which is tremendous.

Today I resolve to love my son a little bit more and give him the things that I want and need. Love, friendship, consideration, affection, laughter, happiness, safety, freedom and respect. Last night at 3am I lost sight of the poorly little boy with needs and was more concerned with getting the household back to sleep. This is not a licence for him to get away with 3am tantrums every day, but a reminder to me that I need to think about why he’s behaving badly and deal with the cause and not the effect.

Today we’re having a lazy day with lots of cuddles and calpol. Tomorrow is a new and hopefully brighter day.

Good cop bad cop

Mummy? How do you spell f**k?

The inevitable has happened. The small boy has uttered his first major swear and it didn’t end well for him. 

Picture the scene. It’s bathtime and the boy is splashing about and playing with his foam letters, spelling out words and the names of his friends at school.

“Mummy, how do you spell f**k?”

“Erm, can you say that again please, I didn’t quite hear you.” *Quickly beckons husband into the bathroom*

“F**k” he replies. Husband and I exchange slightly panicked glances.

We knew this day would come, but we weren’t expecting it to happen just yet. He is only 5 and we try very hard not to swear in front of him, though it turns out husband is quite the potty mouth when he’s driving.

I remember my first swear. In the car on the way home from something when I was about 8 years old I said that “I was knackered”. As soon as we got home I was chased into the house by a red faced parent wielding a wooden clog to spank me with. In spite of this I have grown into a creative and enthusiastic private swearer.

We dealt with the boy’s verbal transgression without resorting to a beating. We figured it was one of those “teachable moments” so we pulled up our parenting socks, sat him down and had the conversation about naughty words and why he shouldn’t say them. We asked him where he’d heard the word and he said one of the boys at school had taught it him. We were secretly relieved that neither of us were the one who taught our son how to swear (we were very f**king relieved in fact).

There were a few tears before bedtime, a punishment sanction of his Lego ( for giving excessive cheek during our discussion) and a discussion about how it’s not nice to say rude words which might upset people. We quietly congratulated ourselves on a tricky parenting situation handled appropriately. 

The next morning he woke up, lesson learned and enjoyed the day with us. At bedtime, snuggled up with a story he sighed and happily said…

“I’ve been a good boy today Mummy, I’ve not said f**k or anything like that”.

*facepalm*

kids swearing

The Facebook Motherhood Challenge

Are you on Facebook? Are you a mum? Have you been tagged in the motherhood challenge? I pretty much universally hate this kind of thing, but since it’s only posting five happy shiny pictures of me and the boy how hard can it be?

I’ve loved looking at everyone else’s five pictures, and like them I’ve chosen to highlight the good stuff. It’s like a CV of parenting, you accentuate the positive and hide the negative stuff away and hope nobody sees it.

Like when he was 3 weeks old and we were both crying hysterically and we’d run out of tissues so I was so delirious with exhaustion I blew my nose on the duvet and we promptly fell fast asleep.

Or the time when he projectile pooed all over me and then peed on my face when I was cleaning him up.

Or all the cakes he’s coughed and sneezed in while we were making them (plague cake anyone?).

Or the times he’s shouted at me that he’s not my very best friend anymore, then cried out for cuddles before bed.

Or when he was having an operation and I almost tore my heart out with a mixture of fear and anxiety.

Or the times I’ve been too full of anxiety to do anything other than cry and rock to myself until it stopped.

Or the money troubles, the times I’ve not been able to scrape the money together to buy enough food for his tea, never mind the Lego set he dreams of.

Of the things I’ve missed out on in his life because my ruined spine won’t let me kick a ball around with him in the park, or carry him upstairs when he’s sleepy, or wrestle around in the floor playing horsey.

I’m just a normal mum, doing what I can to make sure he grows up to be a happy and productive member of society. My parenting isn’t perfect, in real life it’s not all lovely smiles and cheeky kisses, it’s not been carefully staged for Instagram, with filters applied left, right and centre. Parenting is messy, physically and emotionally, but would I change it? Not on your nelly.

motherhood challenge