Category: Parenting

A letter to my daughter

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With the New Year just beginning, I started to think about my hopes, fears and wishes for my daughter and our family. I looked back at the amazing whirlwind of a year that was 2016 and realised that we are going to do it all again this year. Rather than write down a list of New Year’s resolutions that I probably won’t keep, I decided to write a letter to my daughter instead. Life with a baby/toddler/child changes so quickly, so I wanted to get down how I am feeling right now: mother to an almost 11-month-old, just starting out down a new career path and still adjusting to this new life with a wonderful little person it in.

To my darling daughter,

Here it is your very first letter. Hello little one, it’s your mum. I am writing this letter to let you know how much I deeply and truly love you and have done from the minute we met. We were both pretty dazed and confused at that moment, but I held you close and knew we would be ok.

Having you has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Being a mother has tested me to my limits – emotionally and physically – but it has also bought me more joy than I thought was possible. I’ve gone through almost every emotion: guilt, fear, sadness, laughter, happiness and contentment.

You amaze, frustrate and challenge me every day. You are wilful, stubborn and fascinated by everything, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. At times, you cause me great stress, but then you flash that beautiful smile and my heart melts.

Being your mum has made me a better person. I’m gentler, kinder and more empathetic, especially to mothers with babies/children in coffee shops and restaurants. Before you, I had little patience for their crying babies and unruly children. Now that I have joined the ‘club’ I get it. Motherhood is hard. And it’s worse when you decide to kick off in public. No mother deserves those cold, judgement stares from others. We deserve a medal and a large glass of wine!

You’ve made me realise that there is more to life than how I look, what I’m wearing and what other people think of me. Who cares if there’s sick in my hair or if I’m not wearing the latest fashion (I was never going to rock a crop top, let’s face it). I’m more comfortable in my own skin now and I’m pretty blooming impressed with what my body can do. Growing a baby and then giving birth is no mean feat.

The bond we have is unbreakable. I would do anything to protect you. You have bought out a ferocious, protective instinct in me; a strength I didn’t know I possessed.

You’ve made the love for my husband (your daddy) and family so much deeper, just by seeing how much they love you makes me love them more. You’ve bought together our families and made us all smile. Thank you for being so gorgeous, so cute and cuddly and funny. You make me laugh each and every day.

I want everything for you: love, happiness, success. I want you to be kind, patient and caring. To look out for others and care for your friends and family (and don’t put me in a nursing home when I am old and decrepit). I want you and I to share the same close bond that I share with my mother and that she shared with her mother. I want to be your protector, your confidant and your rock.

This past year has been a real rollercoaster and I can’t wait to find out what 2017 will bring. You have a whole world of possibilities ahead of you and I hope every second of your life is bloody brilliant. For every moment that I am there by your side I will do my best to make you happy.

Lots of love from your number one fan, your mum. xxx

Christmas Coldmageddon

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As an adult, Christmas seems to have lost a bit of its special magic for me. Yes, in recent years this may be because I’ve been hungover on Christmas Day, but mostly the excitement of receiving presents has been overtaken by the stress of buying for others and just general life/work etc, getting in the way.

This year, I was a bit more excited, as when you have kids that festive magic is supposed to come rushing back. This was the J’s first Christmas and I was looking forward to it, even though she’s only 10 months old and wouldn’t understand what it was all about. We didn’t go crazy with presents as we knew our families would spoil her rotten. I had picked out a beautiful dressing gown with her name embroidered on it as her main present. Then we had a stocking from Father Christmas with some silly little presents.

So I was all ready for the big day and got my last few presents wrapped on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Normally I’m much more organised, but this year I somehow got lumped with buying all the presents for both mine and Grump’s family (he normally does his own family, but leaves it until Xmas eve in a mad panic). Apparently the job of ‘mother’ now extends to present buyer as I supposedly have more free time to do this, even though Grump broke up from school on the 13th of December.

Every Christmas Eve for the past 15-odd years we have gone out for a curry and drinks with our friends (hence the earlier comment about being hungover on Xmas day). We went out last year when I was pregnant (minus the booze for me), but this year we thought we would dial it down a notch and get a takeaway. We invited a couple of friends over and enjoyed a nice balti and a few glasses of Prosecco. The J had gone to bed at her usual time of 7pm and all was calm. Until she woke up. It must have been about 10:30pm, when we were just thinking about going to bed. This was the beginning of the night of coldmageddon.

That night was a battle of wills; she just wouldn’t go to sleep and we lost the will to live as each hour ticked past. We tried every single trick in our arsenal of parenting knowledge – from bringing her in our bed (too exciting) to taking her for a drive in the car (she fell asleep, but woke when we transferred her to the cot) – and nothing worked. She was so bunged up with a cold and kept choking on phlegm; bless her, she was obviously feeling really grotty. Nothing we could do would get her go to sleep. The only light relief was when I took her downstairs to watch TV and gave Grump a break (we’d decided to do shifts by this point). We sat snuggled on the sofa and watched We’re Going on a Bear Hunt together. The clock struck midnight and I wished my poorly little girl Happy Christmas.

I think around 3am she finally fell asleep in her cot and we got a couple of hours’ kip; then she was up at 5.30am. It is certainly hard to summon any enthusiasm for Christmas festivities when you are that exhausted. Needless to say, there is something quite lovely about watching your child open presents. It turns out giving can be better than receiving. We ended up having a lovely Christmas – thank god both sets of parents live just down the road and we didn’t have a long drive anywhere. I don’t think we would have made it.

If you told me before I got pregnant that the first Christmas with my new baby would be spent awake half the night with a snotty, crying baby attached to me and then sucking bogeys out of her nose with a strange plastic contraption the next morning, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Coldmageddon lasted three nights and could have ruined our Christmas. Instead, we made the best of a bad situation and tried to find joy in the special little things that the festive season brings. We also ate A LOT of food and drank coffee/tea by the bucket load. It wasn’t how I imagined our first Christmas, but at least I’m prepared for future Christmases with an excited older child who doesn’t want to go to sleep.

P.S. Father Christmas is in my bad books. He totally disregarded two of the main points of my Christmas list regarding sleep and illness. I thought we had a deal Santa?

Photo credit: Ben White/unsplash.com

Dear Santa, 6 things I’d really like for Christmas

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Dear Santa,

I’ve been a really good girl this year – honest. Well, it depends on your definition of ‘good’, but I have squeezed a small person out of my nunu (polite word for vagina) and kept her alive for the past 10 months (‘her’ being my baby and not my nunu, obviously). Please may I have the following:

1. Sleep

If you’ve read my latest blog post, ‘Why everything my husband does it wrong’ you will know that number one on my Christmas list this year is sleep. So, please Santa let me get some sleep over the festive break. A few early nights and perhaps a 7am wake up, rather than 5 or 6am. Please let the J sleep through the night, every night. Maybe even give me the odd afternoon nap? Perhaps after I’ve had a few glasses of wine with my Christmas dinner? Thanks in advance.

2. Some ‘me’ time

I would really like a bit of time to myself. Not time to do chores or time to find freelance work (fairly high on my agenda, seeing as I am currently not earning any money) or even time to write my blog. Actual me time where I can paint my toenails, dye my hair, pluck my eyebrows or just sit on the sofa in peace with a cup of tea (or wine) and a trashy magazine. That would be wonderful.

3. A date night with Grump

We ask both each set of parents to babysit quite often, but it is always for events with family and friends. I would really like some quality time with my husband. It feels like we are two ships passing in the wind at the moment and we could do with a nice meal out together (something we used to do all the time pre-baby). If you could throw in some Prosecco that would be fab. There’s nothing better than good food, good wine and a bit of flirty banter.

4. No more sicky babies (or mummies)

I’m asking for this one for my mummy friends as well as myself. All of our babies have been through the mill with coughs, colds, sickness bugs and chest infections. We could do with a break. I know it comes with the time of year, but could you please give us a couple of week’s respite. It would be lovely to have a non-sicky Christmas. Plus, we are all fed up of quarantining our babies and having to stay at home feeling miserable. We want to socialise and feel human again. Dealing with a sick baby breaks your heart and is also knackering. The winter vomiting bug was like the worst hangover you’ve ever had times 100. Without being too graphic, things came out of both ends pretty violently. Not fun!

5. Less poo-scapes

I am fairly adept at changing nappies now. I’ve got to grips with the smell and the fact that my child wriggles like an eel in oil whenever I try to change her. I can cope with her crawling away mid change and I can even cope with the leaky poos that go all over her clothes. What I’m struggling with is when she’s done a solid poo that escapes and I have to pick it up off the floor or from my leg. It’s like a miniature (sometimes not so miniature) adult poo and I have to touch it. Seriously?!? Even with a tissue or plastic bag it makes me retch. Please Santa, can you keep her poos inside her nappy? Use some of that special Christmas magic. On the other hand I could just stop buying those cheapo nappies from a certain superstore and shell out the extra for Pampers. **Long sigh….**

6. Macbook Pro

Santa, I don’t know if you are aware, but all Apple products are a zillion times more expensive than other brands. Now that I’ve started a blog and I am trying to launch a freelance journalism career, I feel like I do NEED one of these. The trouble is they cost about £1,000 (sooooooo expensive when you are not yet in gainful employment). I know what you are thinking. I could just buy a normal laptop for half the price, but I want to use Adobe software on it, plus I have been using Macs at work for the past 10 years and I just don’t get on with PCs anymore. If you could just send a shiny new Macbook Pro 15in down the chimney, I’d be most obliged (we don’t have an actual chimney, but you know that already, you crafty old man).

Seeing as I imagine Santa won’t be bringing me anything off this list, I’m hoping that my family/Grump will read this blog post and take a few hints about my Christmas wishes (mostly just the Macbook and sleep). Saying that, I spent most of my childhood asking for a pet rat for Christmas and that never happened. Thanks a lot Mum!

Picture credit: Caleb Woods/Unsplash.com

Competitive tiredness: why no one’s a winner

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As all new parents will tell you, having a baby changes your life in many ways. It is certainly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. You go through some amazing experiences and also some pretty shitty ones (sometimes literally shitty, everywhere, on your baby and you. In your hair…).

I think it is fair to say that parents are allowed to long for a few things from our pre-baby life. For me the biggest thing I miss is the S word. No, it’s not sex (ha ha you wish Grump) or snuggling or getting sozzled on Sangria, the one thing I truly miss is SLEEP. Grump and I used to be big sleepers. We liked afternoon naps, early nights and long lie ins. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than snuggled up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea?

Unfortunately, this way of life is not conducive to having a baby. I’m not allowed to moan really. I have a pretty good little girl who has slept through the night on and off from about 4 months old. She still has the odd few nights where she wakes up (especially if she’s under the weather), but I know I’ve got it relatively easy compared to some people. One of my NCT friends says that her baby has never slept through the night. And he only sleeps for a couple of hours in a row. I genuinely have no idea how she is still functioning. Even with a decent night’s sleep from 10.30pm to 6.30am, I still feel shattered most of the time (I think she hates me).

When I think back to the J as a newborn, I was hardly getting any sleep at all and I managed pretty well. So how can I possibly be tired now? I suppose back then I would have a couple of naps in the daytime when she was sleeping. Now when she’s asleep I shower, get dressed, do chores, watch Homes Under the Hammer [insert crap day-time TV programme here] and catch up on social media. Plus she doesn’t sleep for long enough to give me a decent nap anyway.

I’ve totally gone off piste from the main point of this blog, which is competitive tiredness. This is when your partner has gone back to work after paternity leave and you argue about who is more tired. You’ve both been up in the night, but usually the ‘non-worker’ takes the brunt of the night feeds (in this scenario I am the non-worker, although raising a child sure seems like hard work). The husband has been busy at work all day and thinks that you have been at home relaxing (I wish), while you’ve actually been dealing with a demanding baby all day. You are both knackered and both want to relax. You start to have a moan and it gets competitive over who has had the hardest day and thus is most tired.

Grump and I have had this discussion a few times since the birth of the J and recently we realised that it was simply ridiculous and pointless. It’s an argument that nobody wins. We are both tired in our own ways and both of our ‘jobs’ are tough. Since spending a week as a stay-at-home Dad, he appreciates all that I do at home with the baby and I appreciate that a full working week is tiring.

Even so, when you are shattered after a day with a crying/screaming/grumpy/tantrum-y baby, sometimes you just want your other half to say: “Well done, you’ve done a great job and I’m sorry you are so tired. Sit down, put your feet up and drink this large glass of wine and I will put the baby to bed.” Some nights Grump does this for me and other nights I do this for him, because we both need a break.

Having gone from regularly having 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to somewhere between 4 and 7 hours with wake-ups in between, I’ve discovered that you can function on much less sleep than you think you need and for the next few years that’s how life is going to be. I do hold out a bit of hope that once the J becomes an older child/teenager I might actually get a bit more sleep. On the plus side, I seem to get much more done now that I am an early riser. I know those Sunday lie ins are probably a thing of the past, but a girl can dream. Oh wait, you have to be asleep for that.

P.S. I hope you enjoyed the gratuitous photograph of my parents’ Golden Retriever Toby having a well-earned snooze. Being a parent is hard, but obviously being a dog is harder!

Why everything my husband does is wrong

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Picture credit: Daniel Cheung/unsplash.com

I realise that the title of this blog seems harsh, but there is method in my madness. So please read on before you write this off as a negative husband-bashing post.

When you are in a long-term relationship (ours is 16 years and still going strong), there are bound to be times that your partner irritates you or makes, what you consider to be, mistakes. This is particularly heightened when you first have a baby and you are both trying to find your feet and roles in parenthood. The whole relationship dynamic changes and you go from being a carefree couple to being parents. It’s a tough time for even the strongest relationships. I’ve never understood why people have a baby to “save their relationship”. Yes, it does help you to bond in the most amazing way and I do love my husband more so now that I see how much he loves our daughter, but I also find, at times, that I want to repeatedly punch him in the face.

So this is the story of why everything my husband does (or did) is wrong and how we overcame it:

My lovely husband Grump has a couple of bad habits. One is losing everything he owns all the time and the other is not listening to me, which leads him to ‘get things wrong’. He claims I nag him too much, but seeing as he never listens, I have to repeat things over and over again. It’s a vicious circle and something I’m sure happens with many other couples.

An example of this is when we got takeaway at a friend’s house. The boys went out to order and collect the food, while the girls stayed in and gossiped. I asked for a chicken balti. This is exactly the same dish I order every time we have a curry (remember, we’ve been together for a LONG time. That’s a lot of curries). When Grump got back with the food, he handed me a chicken korma. Those of you who know me well will understand that this made me very cross. I am in to my food in a big way; curry is my favourite food and I always look forward it. I also get the hanger, but that’s a whole separate blog post.

The main problem was that I wanted a balti. I was looking forward to a balti. And second, korma isn’t a real curry. It is a sweet, soppy mess. It was gross and I was angry and hungry. When asked why he had ordered me a korma, Grump admitted that he hadn’t been listening and tried to guess what I wanted. My friend’s girlfriend wanted a korma, so they presumed I wanted the same. How could he not know which curry I like after 16 years?

Another example was when I sent Grump food shopping. Normally I give him a list, but as this was for a couple of things, I didn’t think he needed one. How wrong I was. Sometimes he tries too hard to get the right thing and it causes him to question his judgement, which means he ends up getting the wrong thing. I can tell that you think I am an unreasonable, horrible wife right now, but food is very important to me. Anyway, I asked him for a chicken pie, but with the puff-pasty top and not the shortcrust, because I don’t like it. He told me he spent ages deliberating over which pie to buy. Guess what he bought me? Yes, a shortcrust chicken pie. To make things worse, his steak-and-ale pie was puff pastry, so I made him swap with me as a punishment (he’s not a fan of chicken pie).

The point of this blog post is not actually to slate my husband, although I’ve done a pretty good job so far (love you really Grump). But these sort of niggly issues certainly came to a head in the first three months of our baby’s life. When Grump was on paternity leave in the first two weeks, we shared most of the parental duties, but because I was breastfeeding, much of the primary care fell to me. Once Grump had gone back to work, I was fully in charge. Eventually the J and I got into some kind of routine and I started the learn all her little quirks. This meant I was the one to comfort her, with Grump taking a bit of a back seat at times.

Grump was and still is a very hands-on dad. Unfortunately, he tends to do things differently to me. I think our brains are wired in polar opposite ways. Whenever he helped out with the baby, I would tell him he was doing it wrong. I spent a good few weeks criticising everything he did and trying to tell him how to do it ‘properly’. This culminated in both of us getting frustrated, snapping at each other and generally being miserable. I should’ve been grateful for his help, but I suppose as a new mum I wanted everything with the baby to be perfect and that meant doing it my way.

As time has gone on and I’ve grown in confidence as a mother, I have let go of some control. It also helped that Grump sat me down and told me that he felt that he couldn’t do anything right and it was upsetting him. I made him feel like a bad father. When he said those words to me, it hit me like a lightning bolt and I had a deep, dark sinking feeling in my stomach. How could I make someone I love so much feel that way? I felt terrible that I had put him down so much and I vowed to change my ways.

I do still have the odd moment of panic when he starts throwing the J up into the air far too close to the ceiling or gets her all excited just before nap time, but I have learned to be a bit more diplomatic with him. I will suggest rather than criticise. We are more of a team now and it feels good.

These days, the ways we feed, bathe, soothe and settle our baby are different, but neither are right or wrong. We do what works for us. Plus babies change so quickly, something that worked one day can change the next. I can see how having a baby could tear a couple apart, but I feel that we are stronger for it. We are a family unit.

He still loses the majority of his possessions on a daily basis and blames it on me, but Grump is an amazing husband and father, and I am thankful every day that I’m going through this journey with him by my side. Oh and next time darling, I’ll have a chicken balti.