Taking the bad with the good

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Disclaimer: I wrote this post on Sunday, when I was feeling particularly low and was having a rubbish day. Today has been loads better and I’m feeling so much more positive. It just goes to show how a good night’s sleep can change your mood.

Here goes…

Isn’t it funny how some days your child is a little angel and you have a lovely, fun day. They go down for naps easily, they eat all their food without complaint and you think “I’ve got this parenting lark sorted.” Then, other days, it feels like everything is going wrong and that you are a rubbish parent, and you wonder, “Why did I sign up for this?”

Today was the latter. The J wasn’t even that badly behaved, but I had no patience with her. I think tiredness had a large part to play here – for both of us. She refused to have an afternoon nap at all, so was awake and cranky, but would not go to sleep under any circumstances.

Since having a baby, my mood swings are crazy. On Saturday I was in a great mood. It was my sister-in-law’s surprise baby shower, so my mum babysat the J for a couple of hours. It was a really nice afternoon and I had lots of a fun (I even won a prize for being amazing at guessing who’s who from baby photographs) and I when I picked the J up, my mum said that she had been a pleasure. She even got herself off to sleep in the new travel cot, which is unheard of. Everything just ran smoothly: dinner, bath, bed etc. Grump was at the rugby, so I was doing the bedtime routine on my own, which can be mega stressful – especially when the J tries to drown herself in the bath or crawls away when I’m trying to get her nappy on. I swear I spend my days chasing after her little naked bum. But, this Saturday was a breeze.

Today I woke up and everything was shit. I was tired as the cot alarm had gone off twice in the night and I went in to find the J was asleep at the end of the bed and not on the sensor mat. When I tried to move her she woke up and then I couldn’t get her back to sleep. Why, oh why did I move her????? Idiot (me, not her). Obviously Grump didn’t help as he was comatose in the spare room after a few too many pints. So I was mega tired, and today everything felt like a drag. My patience was zero. Grump annoyed me, the J annoyed me and then I felt guilty for hating everyone when I have such a lovely family. Oh and I’ve got my period, which didn’t help matters. Gosh this is a moany blog post.

I guess my point is that two very similar days can feel so different depending on your mood (and how much sleep you’ve had the night before). If I’m in a good mood then I am so much more tolerant when the J starts screaming when I wipe her face after lunch. If I’m in a bad mood, the noise makes me want to bang my head against the wall. To be fair, some days the J is in a great mood and that makes things easier, and some days she is stroppy and is particularly testing. Everything I do is wrong and she is grotty all day. Today is a rubbish day, but hopefully tomorrow will be better. It’s all swings and roundabouts.

When I set out to write a parenting blog, I didn’t want it to be all moany and negative, but I also want to let other mums know how I feel and that there are really crappy days and there are great days. And that if you feel the same way as me then you are not alone. Parenting is hard work. It is relentless. And it’s OK to feel like you hate it sometimes. I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but sometimes I struggle at being a good mum. I long for the glory days of cocktails, meals out and lazy Sundays. But I wouldn’t change my life now for the world and, on the bad days, I cherish those good, happy moments. Oh and I tend to finish those bad days with a bottle of wine… #just saying

Why all new parents should consider ‘swapping jobs’ for a week

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Those of you who have read my blog post ‘To work or not to work’ will know that I recently went back to work after maternity leave for a week, while Grump stayed at home with the J. I was a bit concerned about leaving the J, not because she was with her father necessarily (maybe a little bit), but more how I would feel about being away from her.

Well it turns out it was bloody brilliant! OK, that makes me sound like the world’s worst mother. I did miss her and was so happy to see her when I got home, but I really enjoyed being back at work.

On the plus side, Grump loved being at home. In fact, he told me he wants to become a stay-at-home dad (to his work colleagues who are reading this, he is not actually planning on leaving his job). It was at this point that I had to gently remind him that he is the main breadwinner and, even if I went back to work full time, I would still earn much less money than him. I think it was a novelty having the J for a week and that in reality he would get fed up with being at home all the time.

So Grump had a lovely week spending quality daddy time with the J and I got to be out in the real world. I will admit, I started to get tired at about 4.30pm each day and by Friday I was certainly ready for the weekend, but it felt so refreshing to be thinking about and talking to adults about non-baby-related things. And to just be myself, not Mother, Housekeeper, Cook and Wife. I think it helped that the team I was working with were really friendly and the work was interesting. I don’t think it would feel the same going back to a job I didn’t like.

Another bonus from the week, and something I had initially worried about, was that Grump learned all of the J’s little quirks and routines – especially during mealtimes, as he tends to get home from work during or after her dinner. Now, we are now on an equal footing and it means I don’t have to talk him through what she eats and how much etc, when he does feed her. This makes life so much easier!

I know that our ‘job swap’ was a bit of a novelty, but I now have the confidence to say that I do want to go back to work part time and I know that I will be OK being away from the J. Obviously it will be different leaving her at nursery or with a childminder, and perhaps I am being selfish wanting to be away from her, but I always take the view that a happy mum equals a happy baby. I am not happy being at home all the time and I do get fed up with it. I can be stressful, relentless and, at times, just plain boring. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that. I need more.

Now I realise that not everyone would be able to ‘job swap’ in the same way that we have and that we are in a fortunate position in that we both work in industries where we could do this. Grump is a teacher so he was off on half term and I’m a journalist, so I can take on freelance work. However, if you ever get the chance to do a ‘test’ few days or week at work (some companies do those Keeping-in-Touch days) and your other half can take some holiday – have a go! It might help you to decide what you want to do and it certainly strengthened our family dynamic.

Now I’ve just got to find a job… and some childcare… oh crap

10 things I wish I’d been told before we decided to have a baby

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1. Hormones make you crazy

Think you are stroppy when you’ve got PMT? Think again. Pregnancy and being a new Mum is a challenging time, made ten times worse by those raging hormones that make you more than a little tearful, emotional and slightly crazy. I never thought I’d lose control of my body and actions in such an all-consuming way.

2. Mum guilt

When you become a Mum you also inherit ‘Mum guilt’. This basically means that whatever you do (right or wrong) you feel guilty. From breastfeeding (or lack of it) and how many times you change their nappy to leaving them with anyone else and being angry with them for stealing all your sleep. I feel guilty when the J bangs her head, when she cries, when I get cross that she won’t stop crying, when I feed her Ella’s Kitchen pouches instead of home-cooked food, and when I wish she would go away for a bit so I can have a lie in (I don’t really wish she would go away, but I am bloody knackered).

3. Lack of free time

If anyone is reading this who doesn’t have kids, make the most of your free time. I had no idea how precious this was until I had a baby. Coming home from work and sitting down in front of the TV with a glass of wine. Being able to straighten your hair in the morning. Having a bath or shower that is longer than 5 rushed minutes. The J has just started crawling and I’m waiting for that dreaded day when she follows me into the toilet – so that’s what Jumperoos were made for.

4. An immense love that changes you

I thought I knew what love was before I had the J, but a mother’s love is a whole different ball game (sorry Grump I do love you too, but it’s different). It’s this unconditional love that makes you fiercely protective. I would seriously hurt anyone who harms my baby and I’ve never felt like that before. It’s a feeling of awe about this amazing little person that YOU made. It makes all those sleepless nights and stressful days worthwhile.

5. The inordinate amount of time spent talking about the contents of your child’s nappy

I’ve always had a crude sense of humour, as had Grump. He once took a photo of his poo (it was so long it came out of the water), saved it on his phone and showed it to everyone we know. So I’m not shy about talking about disgusting things, but it amazes me how much time us mum’s spend talking about our babies’ poo. The colour, size, consistency, frequency and smell are all discussed in minute detail. Oh and you think it’s bad when you have to deal with newborn poos and then you start weaning and things get even worse. Be warned!

6. You become an amazing multi-tasker

Thought you were organised before you had kids? I certainly believed I was, but now I can juggle so many more things at once. Even with baby brain. Every time you leave the house you need to remember a ridiculous amount of things: nappies, wipes, change of clothes, muslins, bibs, dummies, toys and so on and so on. Your baby has their own social life and you somehow manage to remember doctors/health visitor appointments, baby classes and meetings with friends, as well as doing the food shopping, clothes washing (which increases three-fold with all the sicky/pooey baby clothes), cleaning and tidying of the house. Oh and cooking meals for yourself and for baby and pureeing them and finger foods and sterilising bottles… the list is endless.

7. Early mornings are the norm

I think the latest I have slept in since having the J is probably 7am. Lie-ins are most definitely a thing of the past. Unless you have amazing parents who are prepared to take your baby overnight (mine haven’t offered yet…), you might as well say goodbye to sleep for the foreseeable future. Also going to bed early doesn’t seem to help. Our usual bed time is now 9.30pm. Anything past 10pm is pushing our luck. I even tried going to bed at 8.30pm the other night and still felt shattered the next morning. Oh sleep how I miss you.

8. You don’t have time to care what people think about you

I never used to leave the house without mascara on. I think I’ve probably gone without it most days since becoming a mum and I hardly ever brush my hair. The other day I was out for lunch with my parents and the J’s nappy leaked onto my white t-shirt. In the past if I’d got poo on my top (whose poo I’m not sure? Just to be clear this has not happened to me before) I’d go straight home and change. However, I simply gave it a quick wipe and continued eating my lunch (obviously after wet wiping/changing the J). I don’t have time to give a crap what people think about me now and it is quite refreshing.

9. You are more affected by world events

I used to get a little bit upset by tragic world events, but I always felt very removed from them. Since I’ve had a baby I find the news really difficult to watch. Anything sad or cruel and I’m welling up. And if it’s anything involving children I go out of my mind. It makes me question what kind of world have I bought my child into.

10. You do everything you possibly can to avoid a hangover

Not that you really have the opportunity to go out on the lash, but there is absolutely no way I could look after a small child with a hangover. I still like the odd glass of wine, but the thought of feeling rough all day and having to wake up at 6am is just too much to bear. I’d rather stay sober and have a pleasant weekend!

To work or not to work? That is the question

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I’m jumping well ahead from pregnancy in my blogging adventure, but this is something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about recently and I’m sure many of my fellow mummy friends are in the same boat. The old ‘going back to work’ dilemma.

While on maternity leave I decided not to go back to my old job in London, as the cost of commuting and nursery fees didn’t add up and, to be honest, I didn’t want to commute to London with a baby back in Kent. For those of you who do a similar commute, you know what Southeastern trains are like, even on a good day.

At the moment I’m officially unemployed, but it just feels like I’m still on maternity leave (except I’m not getting any money coming in each month and I’m still going out for coffee a lot). I recently had a job interview and it felt fantastic. Mainly to be out of the house alone, with hair done and make-up on, wearing clean clothes that didn’t have baby sick on them. Oh and wearing a nice necklace that I didn’t have to worry about being grabbed and chewed. I was a bit nervous about the interview, but when you have a demanding eight-month-old child you don’t have time to spend sitting around worrying (or preparing for that matter); its more of a seat-of-your-pants, blag-it type situation.

When I got home, my Mum had enjoyed a lovely morning with a well-behaved baby and I was excited to see her (the J that is, not my Mum – no offence Mum). Being greeted by a big smile when you open the front door is always a treat. After I’d given Mum the low-down on how I thought the interview went, she and I got chatting about childcare and how I felt about potentially going back to work.

To be honest, I swing from never wanting to leave the J’s side to being ready to have some adult time away from her. Then there’s the whole childcare issue and whether to go down the nursery or childminder route (we can’t afford a nanny). I hate the idea of leaving her with strangers who don’t know her little quirks or how to comfort her when she’s upset. Sometimes I feel like the J is too young to be left without me. She’s eight months old, but she still seems like such a fragile little thing and my maternal instinct to protect her is so strong. When I first got pregnant I couldn’t wait to finish work. I’ll be a lady of leisure, I thought. Never in a million years did I think I would get fed up of being at home. But then I didn’t know what it’s like being at home with a baby. I think I had visions of chilling out on the sofa all day, watching reruns of Friends and drinking cups of tea. Ha ha ha, how wrong I was.

It turns out, I find being at home all day quite boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking after the J, but it can be monotonous. I try to fill my weeks with fun activities (some for her, some for me). We do a baby sensory class once a week and I go out for coffee and cake with my mummy friends on a regular basis. We also like to walk around Sainsbury’s and look at the baby clothes (this is probably the highlight of my week). We go to the park and for walks, but there comes a point where I don’t want to talk about baby stuff any more (ironic seeing as I am spending my free evenings writing about baby stuff). I need something more. So it turns out I do want to go back to work.

I suppose I always had visions of the J going off to pre-school or nursery when she’s two years old and is a boisterous toddler who loves playing with other children. At the moment she is so little and mostly wants cuddles from her Mummy. Am I being selfish by wanting to go back to work so soon? I feel really torn and that there’s no right answer.

I’ve been offered some freelance work for a magazine at the end of October and Grump is on half term, so he can look after the J for the week. I think this will be a really good test to see how I fare away from her, but then I won’t be too worried as she will be having lots of fun with her Daddy. I’m also hoping that he will get a better understanding of how difficult it is being at home with a baby all day and will cut me some slack when he comes home from work and the house looks like a small nuclear device has detonated and blasted toys, sicky muslins and random socks all over the place.

I don’t think I’m cut out for life as a full-time stay-at-home mum, but am I cut out for life as a part-time working mummy? Only time will tell.

P.S. Why do my hands look so weird in this photograph?

Why you shouldn’t book a holiday if you are trying to conceive

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When we decided to start trying for a baby, it was very much a case of let’s stop using condoms and see what happens. I have quite a few friends who have been trying for 1-2 years to make a baby and so figured we would start early (when I say early I mean before we were 100% sure that we were grown-up enough to be parents), because it might take us a long time. We had also booked a summer holiday for the end of July (we always go away at this time of year as Grump is a teacher and it’s our wedding anniversary). It didn’t even cross my mind that I would be pregnant then.

Now, I’m not moaning about being fertile, as I know that many women struggle to conceive and it is a heartbreaking process. It only took us two months to get pregnant, which amazing but was also a bit of a shock. We were over the moon and thought the holiday would be fine as I’d only be a few months pregnant. What naive idiots we were.

I was just over three months pregnant when we went to Cyprus and it was one of the hottest summers they’d had in recent years. So hot, in fact, people were reporting their steering wheels were melting if they left their cars parked out in the sun. It was HOT and sticky and I had horrendous morning sickness. Thankfully I wasn’t actually sick, but I felt nauseous the whole time. It was as if I was extremely hungover all day (the worst feeling in the world, especially when you haven’t even benefited from drinking copious amounts of wine/Malibu/jager bombs the night before). Food tasted horrible, I was tired, irritable and generally felt rough. I didn’t want to go out for dinner or walk anywhere or do anything. Poor Grump. I was a she-Grump.

We still managed to have a nice(ish) time and did lots of relaxing by the pool while reading or going for drives in the air-conditioned hire car (see photo of me in said car with my moody face on at the bottom of this post). I spent a lot of time watching Grump eat and dry retching (photo of Grump below trying to decide what to eat that wouldn’t make me nauseous).

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Looking back over my pregnancy, the best time for a holiday was that magical second trimester when you stop feeling sick, but aren’t so fat that you can’t move/sleep/function. Next time, even if we are thinking about trying to get pregnant I won’t be booking a holiday until I see those little pink lines on the pregnancy test.

The only plus side was that it was the cheapest holiday we’ve ever been on. Turns out if I’m not eating or drinking alcohol, our bank balance (and probably my liver) is much healthier.

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