Thursday, 21 April 2016

Desperate to be a housewife!

The fact that I’m writing this post on a beach with the sun shining down on me (and my ice cream) while my baba sleeps peacefully beside me, only makes me want this lifestyle more. In an hour he’ll wake up and we will have a play in the sand before going to pick up my eldest from his school disco and heading home for a barbecue! Reality check, we are in England here where the sun doesn’t always shine and the life of a housewife isn’t as idyllic as this perfect day, but it’s pretty darn close.

I’ve been off on maternity leave for over 12 months now and the countdown to my return to work has well and truly begun. While I mourn the end of free life as I know it I have to say I envy all of the stay at homers out there, and not for the reasons you may think.

I believe it takes a great deal of courage to be a stay at home parent in this day and age. Society places no value on the benefits of having a parent at home and the positive effects this has on family life. The assumption is that both parents should work, regardless of how financially viable this is, and if not then be prepared to explain why.

As I’ve entered the last weeks of my maternity leave the world and its wife have been lining up to tell me how good I am for going back to work. Apparently I’ll be a bored, anxious mess whose only source of human interaction is the mailman if I don’t have a 9-5. 
Nobody wants to mention the other life that I’m leaving behind: This past year I've grown closer to my family because I’ve been able to give them the time they deserve. Life is harmonious and calm because it’s the first time I’ve been able to see the end of my to do list and feel like I have a chance of doing it. And, despite what most people think, I haven’t once seen (or spoken to) my mailman because I’ve been too busy at playgroups, with friends or visiting family. 

Now I look in the mirror and see someone who feels fulfilled and is there for the people who need her. I’ll miss her when she’s replaced by the frantic working mum constantly chasing her tail and never at home during daylight hours.

To all of the stay at home parents out there, you’re doing and amazing job and I salute you!

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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Time to turn it off and stop comparing...

The irony of writing a negative post about social media on social media is not lost on me, but I have a Facebook hiatus coming up and I am ridiculously excited.

The highlight of our family vacation (apart from spending endless time with my three darlings obvs) has to be the turning off of my mobile phone.  The house is safe, thanks to the in-laws, and the people I generally worry about 24/7 are with me, so off it goes in my case until our holiday is over.
Without the tiny blue flashing device to distract me the change is instant:  I’m more aware of the conversations happening around me (as opposed to muffled background noise), I care less about what other people are doing and I realise that right here, right now, the life I’m living - while not perfect - is pretty freaking awesome.

The new buzzword being thrown around is mindfulness, feel the moment, be at one with the moment (blah, blah, blah) but it really does pay to take the time out to just be. To experience things fully and not snap them, not share them, not hold them up for everybody else’s approval, is actually quite refreshing.

Now don’t get me wrong I love social media – heaven knows how I’d still have friends without it and I have family on the other side of the world who wouldn't know what my boys look like if not for the connecting powers of the web – but there’s no getting away from the evidence. Too much time spent on sites like Facebook and Twitter has direct links to poorer mental health and depression. I know myself that a few hours on Facebook can leave me feeling like the worlds worst mother with a home that looks like Shrek’s swamp in comparison to the infinitely better groomed, more glamorous mothers on my timeline.
Equally, I’m aware that all is very rarely as it seems on a well filtered snapshot of someone’s life. People only put their best face online and comparisons don’t benefit anybody.

So I’m going to enjoy my switched off time and no doubt I’ll come back vowing to stay away from the nasty web forever.
All things in moderation is probably a more realistic goal and I can start practicing my mindfulness while we’re away.

See you soon!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Time to banish the mum pouch!

Sorry, I'm sure my pictures are TMI for some of you - it’s certainly too much for me every time I look in the mirror - but public shaming is necessary here folks because my mum pouch (or that saggy flap of skin below my naval) is the bane of my existence. 

I suspect people think I’m a bit of a narcissist when I mention the mum pouch but this is because I’ve become an expert at hiding it. High waist jeans and granny knickers are a god a send - the pouch can simply be tucked in and concealed - but I’m the one who has to look in the mirror every morning knowing that I’m not happy with what I see. Weight and shape are two entirely different things and whilst I like what the scales show me, my current shape is similar to that of a deflated balloon.

It’s not like I haven’t tried either. I stayed active throughout my pregnancy and regular swimming, cycling and running sessions have helped me to shake of most of the baby weight but this belly won’t budge!

I’ve been forced to take a long look in the mirror (stretch marks and all) and have decided that professional help is what's needed here. I’m not a fan of the gym – I much prefer the benefits of exercising outdoors in natural light – but I’ve bitten the bullet and signed up to a training plan in the hope that the lycra clad gym bunnies can help me to tone up and find my abs.

So this is it. I’m giving myself 8 weeks, the exact amount of time before I have to return to work (sob), to make a change and I’m determined to see some results. 

Wish me luck and watch this space…

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Are parents qualified to look after a toddler?

As a former Nursery Nurse and a parent I have to say that Save The Children’s rather sweeping declaration that all toddlers need a teacher was like a kick in the teeth. According to them, my 12 years of professional (and life) experience with 0-5’s is no match for a teacher, fresh out of university.

While I agree with Save The Children - and the 13 Doctors, Physicians and Education Specialists who have put their names to a letter - about the importance of early learning.  I do not think it necessary to have toddlers taught by teachers.

Children learn the most in the first five years of life. Their brains are like tiny neuron filled sponges with connections and pathways just waiting to be made. The only way this can happen is by exposing them to as much of their environment as possible, particularly through sensory and physical play. If these connections aren’t made and nurtured the neural pathways die.

David Eagleman (the cool neuroscientist) was recently quoted as saying “What a child is exposed to, that’s what prunes the garden,” essentially children are what they learn about.
Now I’m no neuroscientist but most parents are perfectly capable of reading a book to their child and love nothing more than exploring the big wide world with them. Equally, many nurseries have staff qualified to degree level and I consider it an honour to have worked with some of the most dedicated nursery practitioners out there. These people spend their free time (not unlike teachers) planning fresh challenges and new learning experiences for the children in their care. But as with all things some professionals, some parent, and even some teachers, are more dedicated than others.

I have visited school nurseries - which have recently opened their doors to toddlers thanks to government funding - completely unprepared for the physical and emotional needs of a two year old and practically expecting them to sit at a desk and read. I fail to see the argument that a teacher would do a better job than a loving mother or a trained nursery practitioner at helping a toddler to thrive.

Finland are the rock stars of the academic world, with Finnish children ranked as some of the highest achievers out there. But what’s their secret I hear you cry?  Children from Finland don’t pick up a book until the age of 7 when they start school. Up until this point they are encouraged to roam freely at nursery and explore the world around them. When they do start school there are no uniforms and most children don’t even wear shoes in the classroom. The emphasis is on a home from home learning environment and it works

So rather than making parents who may not be able to afford childcare, and nursery staff who’ve trained for at least two years, feel inadequate. Why not look to raise the quality of our toddler’s learning experiences? After all it’s not about who’s playing with our little ones, it’s how.

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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Ending Maternity Leave Grief

With less than five days to go there’s no getting away from it. My joy filled year of freedom is nearly over and I have to haul my ass back in to work.
Ok, it’s just 3 KIT days, I still have 6 weeks holiday left, but it marks the beginning of the end. No more wearing whatever I can lay my hands on. No more doing what I want, when I want. No more eating whenever I feel like or driving when the roads are empty! No, as of Friday I am once again a working mum and I could cry.

Roughly, I think this puts me at stage 4 in the Ending Maternity Leave Grief process – one more to go! If you’re not familiar with the five stages of Ending Maternity Leave Grief I’ve listed them below:

1.       Denial - So I've got 12 months to earn enough money to stay at home with my little cherub, that’s doable right? I mean look at this house, I’m practically sitting on a gold mine here - Is that a first edition Harry Potter on the bookshelf!

2.       Anger - What do you mean the book didn’t bloody sell! I now have one less week to become self-sufficient and if the stupid buyers in eBayland can’t see the value of a tea stained Potter book then screw them!

3.       Bargaining - The eBay thing didn’t work. I’m over it and I have like so many other talents, right? Like baking, everyone loves my cakes and I could easily turn that in to a business… Bake them in the kitchen then sell them to friends, family, strangers… This could work. I could set up my own business! Sure it’d be hard work in the begging but so are babies. I’ve got this.

4.       Depression - Ok the cakes fell flat (literally) just like my eBay venture and the work from home dream job was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. My work-free life is slipping through my fingers. *sobs hysterically*

5.       Acceptance - There is only one way that I can earn enough money to fund my lifestyle, yep you guessed it, work. Better call HR and confirm my return date…

If you have any tips to help me with my ending maternity leave grief please comment below or tweet me

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

C-section recovery tips

Before I had a C-section I naively believed that they were a soft option to labour. I looked at the glamorous mums in the glossy magazines, going in with a face full of make-up and not a strand of hair out of place, numb from the navel down while the surgeons slid their babies out of a neat little letter hole, and thought, that looks easy. How wrong I was.
Fast forward 6 hours to the agony of the painkillers wearing off, the morphine making you itch like a flea ridden cat and the tiny human screaming for attention next to you, and a Cesarean can seem much less fun.

I consider myself to be something of a C-section veteran (though mine were unplanned and both after at least a day of agony and futile hypnobirthing) but even I am astounded by the lack of information out there on C-section recovery.
Now I’m not going to patronise you with talk of ‘feet up and rest’ like some of the other helpful (or unhelpful) websites. I’m from the real world where aforementioned tiny human needs 24/7 care and does not equate to a quiet and restful life - sorry.

So in true modern parent style I’ve written a little list for anyone planning (or who has recently had) a Cesarean Section:

Be prepared for the ride home – Thought the walk from the hospital to the car was bad? Wait till you hit your first speed bump…
I took a pillow out with me for all car journeys in the weeks after my op and held it against my tummy. It helped to buffer the impact on bumpy roads and pot holes.

The baby won’t be the only one who needs winding – There is nothing quite as uncomfortable as the pain of trapped wind. I used to get it in the most random of places too – windy shoulder anyone? So you have two options here: Get in line behind your baba for a back rub, or stock up on Peppermint Tea, renowned for its wind relieving abilities.

Stairs are your enemy – In the days after a C-section you won’t be able to walk very far and climbing stairs hurts like hell. Try to bring down everything you need in the morning or (if you can get away with it) station yourself upstairs for a few days but try not to stay in bed – see my next point.

Get to walking — With my first C-section I picked up an infection and was stuck in a hospital bed for a week. With my second I was up and walking within hours and felt much better for it. Not only does staying mobile aid a quicker recovery but it can prevent blood clots too. N.B I’m not talking about strolls around the park (I tried this and failed) getting up and about around the house is more than enough in the beginning but always remember to rest if you feel fatigued.

Go at your own pace – C-section recovery isn’t a race and everyone’s body heals differently. My C-section recovery seemed to take forever and, impatient as I am, I made the mistake of trying to run before I could walk (literally). Long story short, I had to be sewn back together 9 weeks after my op and it delayed my recovery by a fortnight.

I hope this helps any C-section mums (or mums to be) out there. If you have any other post C-section tips, comment below or tweet me

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Thursday, 17 March 2016

Work from home dream or pyramid scheme? 5 ways to spot a pyramid scheme

I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that my current life ambition is to be a work from home mum. Being, say, a freelance writer (hint hint to any passing editors) would give me the freedom to work from the sofa in my pyjamas, with a box of maltesers.  It’s the dream, and a very appealing one since I’d be able to avoid skyrocketing childcare costs and choose my own working hours.

So imagine my delight when not one, not two but three lovely people, made me aware of some exciting ‘business opportunities’.  They were opportunities to earn thousands of pounds and work from home, if I wanted more information all I had to do was ask. It all seemed too good to be true, because it was.

Upon further investigation these multi-level marketing companies seemed suspiciously like pyramid schemes.
Now I’m not going to name names, because the triangular shaped fat cats will sue my ass, instead I’m going to write a little list:

5 ways to spot a pyramid scheme:

You have to pay to join – I’m no expert, but most employers pay you (the employee) to train and work for them.
With the exception of buying a reasonable amount of stock, I would question any business which requires large sums of money up front to join their ranks or one that needs you to buy more stock, regardless of how much you’ve sold.

They have levels – Levels aren’t something they chat about on Facebook but a quick click on some sellers forums  and you’ll find it’s the buzz word.
“I need to sell more to progress to the next level”
“I need to recruit more people to make it to level (insert a number/colour of your choice.)”

Pyramids have levels...

You become a head hunter – I would be wary of any ‘business’ which emphasises more on recruiting others to sell their product than actually making a sale. That’s not how a business works.

You can get rich quick – If it was that easy everyone would be doing it. According to this Sunday Times article, multi-level marketing recruits are told to ‘fake it till you make it,’ so those glitzy posts in your news feed might just be fibs. Successful businesses take time and effort to build. Believe what you see with your own two eyes not what you read in a post.

You’re suddenly very popular – I have to be honest, I’ve never had so many ‘wealthy’ friends and they’re all willing to share the secret of their wealth with me. If only I’d ask…

But all joking aside, around 85% of people involved in these companies make a loss, 10% are breaking even and the rest are rolling in it at the top – Pyramid!

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