Valentine’s Day: A day like every other

Valentine’s Day: A day like every other

Picture this: you are walking into a forest clearing. The weather is gorgeous and the leaves around you are a beautiful green colour. Up ahead the sun is roughly the same size as the moon shots in love island- suddenly you hear a crack. Except it’s not a crack, it’s the sound of your partner’s disgust as reality bursts into your dream.

“Arielle has peed the bed” he says with disgust. “It’s all over my back”. Great.

Not only has my dream been shattered to pieces, but I will now have to spend the next however long running after a damp toddler and after that, disinfecting half of our possessions. It’s Friday, and not only that it’s Valentine’s Day. I could be upset that was woken with a profanity rather than roses, and that the first thing I had to do that morning was clear up piss rather than prosecco (forgetting I’m pregnant)… Neither of us would exchange cards and presents until the end of the day. But did any of this bother me? Not in the slightest.

Being a parent in itself completely clashes with all the fundamentals of ‘valentines Day’. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about co-parenting. Cleaning poo off the carpet is not at all sensational. Valentine’s Day requires the very opposite: romance and grand gestures and probably clean carpets.

It could be sad to look back and think about how different your relationship was pre-children…when there was time to focus on the both of us as a couple. After the initial elation of having a tiny baby that was ours, reality set in like a bullet to the eye and times could be tough. There were arguments, dismal discussions, banal decisions and we realised that love and our relationship takes hard work like it never did before.

In the evening, we exchanged our presents and cards and ate a fabulous M&S meal that my partner bought back for us. There were no surprise engagements or last-minute long weekends, just a toddler arranging Playmobil animals on the TV stand while we ate. Would I change a thing? No.

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t really be all about romance because when you really love someone, romance can sometimes be dead. It should really be about friendship above all else and binge watching your latest TV fix into the early hours of the morning (and feeling crap the next day). Sometimes it’s more about “oh crap, we’re still here together” rather than Shakespearean sonnets and the moon and stars and all that.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels
Hey you…

Hey you…

Hey you, so it’s been a while. No, this isn’t Joe Goldberg from you. It’s me.

It’s literally been two months of me putting my fingers to the keyboard before shamefully pressing delete, over and over. It would be justifiable to say that it has been nail-bitingly hard to not take to WordPress when times have been difficult. It has all been for a good reason, however.

… I am now 14 weeks pregnant and am starting to feel the heavy cloud that is the first trimester slowly lift away. It would be generous to say that I feel ‘great’; I am certainly not glowing. My skin is pasty and sallow- I look like I’ve never seen a glass of water in my life.

I was lucky not to get crippling sickness- I have felt sick but it hasn’t been everyday and there is certainly no bones about me not being able to keep down food. I have also ruled myself out of normal life for the past few weeks because of general weakness and heart palpitations caused by ‘inappropriate’ Tachycardia. Not rare but equally not nice.

What has really shackled me for the last few months has been what can only be described as a constant ‘black cloud’ hanging over me, as well as the persistent droning of the next anxiety attack. After having children, it is so easy to forget how vulnerable and anxious you can feel in the first weeks of pregnancy. I became a sort of ‘google recluse’, relying on Google to reassure all of my worries- big and small.

The one big worry that plays on the minds the most of those expecting is the fear of miscarriage. For me, the fear quickly became irrational. I found myself going on websites that promised you reliable ‘miscarriage risk statistics’ based on your ‘risk factors’. You would enter your gestation, age, height etc and you would be ‘2%’ better off than the day before.

The big problem with this is that it’s not at all based on reality. Sadly women of all ages experience miscarriage regardless of any number that is put up onto a website from 2005. I had read so many thread on different parenting forums that seemed to stick miscarriage on the end as a consequence of everything: eating too much- miscarriage (yup, you heard it), exercise- miscarriage, eating deli meat- you guess. People claimed to have miscarried from sex and some of the stories We’re undeniably heartbreaking.

After getting sick of Google getting infecting my brain, my partner banned me from looking things up online. I was free. Don’t get me wrong, I was still teaming with anxieties but it sure took the edge off of it. I forgot about it and started worrying about eating too much cheese and overstimulating my toddler before bedtime rather than things that were out of my control.

I can’t speak for the future, but for now I have been so lucky that my scan revealed nothing but a healthy baby. For so many women though, this is not always the case and they really are in my heart. It’s painful to realise but the bottom line is that things that can go wrong in the first trimester are 99% out of our control, and it gives us an illusion of control if we try to attach causes to things like miscarriage; “you shouldn’t have gone to that body pump class”. Statistically though, most MCs are caused by chromosomal problems- something that is isn’t within the simplistic boundaries of ‘risk factors’. In trying to explain this to an extremely anxious me at 8 weeks, my midwife told me that building a baby is like trying to build a perfect car- not so easy.

I’m sure every person who is TTC, pregnant and indeed a parent can relate to this vulnerability. But it makes it all the better when you get to the other side, which most of us will.

Keeping it in Your Wallet 👛

Keeping it in Your Wallet 👛

So it’s that time of year already. With festive season just a little more than a stone throw away, it’s the time to start your Christmas hustle- and to destroy your bank account in the process. Most of us won’t go unscathed by the Christmas shopping dragon, but you don’t have to feel the BURN. The secret? Cheaping out. But this doesn’t just apply to the festive season- it’s actually an all-year round philosophy. It’s a way of life.

A few years back, I managed to tank my credit score to a socially unacceptable level- I overspent in practically every area and lived WAY over my means. Since then, I have made it my mission to scrimp and save. I saved thousands during university and this eventually helped pay towards my maternity leave and the costs of having a child.

Now as a mother, I really feel the burn . But it’s not just my daughter burning a hole in my pocket- it’s rising bills, prescriptions and other hidden costs that just love to jump out and shout ‘BOO’ whenever they can, even though Halloween has been and gone. Here are some ideas to keep your financials in the 100.

1. Shop around

If You’re impatient, you could land yourself with one hell of a hefty transaction leaving your bank account. I recently bought a storage cube unit (riveting, I know) from B&M and could have paid double elsewhere if I wasn’t careful.

2. Charity Shop Haul

People get very funny about this one. ‘being proud’ can be the most damaging thing; not just to your bank account but as a way of thinking. Some charity shops are better than others, you don’t have to look like Beryl in the ’70s. You just need to look carefully. Top tip: go to a charity shop in a ‘better’ area. You might find some hidden gems- especially when it comes to toys and kids’ books. Just give them a good wash.

3. Don’t be a brand brat

If you have a thing for brands then you might land yourself in a rather big, chanel- shaped ditch. Buying own brand nappies can save you a small fortune. This also applies to clothes by the way. Brands for you is an investment if you’re into that sort of thing. Dressing your small person in brands is the same as throwing money down a well. End of.

4. Save up

Want something specific? Save up. This doesn’t have to be in lump sums- we’re not rich. This is as and when. It could take a while but you will get there. Alternatively, think about ditching your daily sugar fix or your hardcore coffee habit. Micro saving is also quite cool. Get yourself a pot and put in any loose change and it can pay for all sorts of funky things.

5. Make festive/birthday list

Make a list of things you think your child could benefit from from for celebrations. This is a great way to get help with things for your child and reduce waste. Don’t be afraid to ask for clothes!

6. Get on social media

There are tonnes of groups in which people sell their things for no cost or next to nothing. Be tech-savvy , get clicking and see what you can get. This can be great for clothes, toys, household appliances and storage.

7. Think about your buggy

Would a range rover style pram be the best and most practical option? Think about heaving that huge ass thing all over transport and in the boot of the car. So many people I know have ditched their fancy pram for a lightweight affordable option on Argos. You could save yourself thousands.

8. Alternative shops

This is my favourite one. There are plenty of trendy apps/sites out there that sell near new or brand new and unworn clothes without tags. You can spend a quarter of the price someone else has paid and no one will know. You might not be dripping in finesse but you’ll look decent and have a healthy bank balance.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Don’t let your debit card go for a slippery sleigh ride this Christmas. Being ‘proud’ can be so damaging. When things are tight financially it is important to remind yourself what’s important. Showering your kids (and you) with love is so very important- showering them with expense isn’t.

Stay at Home Bums: “but what do you do all day?”

Stay at Home Bums: “but what do you do all day?”

You’ve put your career on hold for a 24/7 parenting haul, but the full-timers just don’t get it. Instead of understanding you get judgement and opinions stuck to you: “but what do you do all day?”, “It’s good some can afford to stay at home with their children”. Yes Karen, thanks for your unwanted opinion.

It’s fair to say we all have an opinion on something, and it would be even more accurate to say that mums are some of the best ‘judgers’ judges. I’m guilty of it- I’ll put my hands up to that, but I recognise that everyone’s situations are different.Since using ‘Mum’ tinder, I’ve realised just how much your occupation can draw battlelines between you and other mums. Sometimes there’s resentment, anger, jealousy, disgust and also admiration, but always judgement.

Here are some common judgements about stay at home mums, and how you can verbally slay these bitter mother fudgers.

1.”So you’re a housewife”

A wonderful woman said this to me recently. The vision of me with rollers in my hair, wearing a cutesy little apron and treating the day effectively as one big preparation for my partner coming home made me reel. She looked at me like some dusty old artefact from the 1950s. No. My role is to look after my children, not the house. Let’s be clear, if my children weren’t here I’d be in work. Housework isn’t my job, running after my children is.

The slay: agree and tell her you’re a kept woman. Your husband pays for spa days every week and for you to get your hair and nails done. Watch her face screw up in jealousy.

2.”I’ve worked all my life”

Yes Karen, you were born working. That’s right, I sit on my bum all day watching Dickinson’s Real Deal drinking Pina coladas. I don’t at all run about after my daughter all day wearing sportswear and drinking the strongest and most disgusting instant coffee I can find. Doing the childcare yourself is working. Some people get paid to do it but instead you do it for free.

The slay: Tell her if she was better at her job she wouldn’t have to work all her life. Only joking. Or am I…

3.” It’s good you can afford to be a stay at home mum”

Yeah, because paying approximately £1400 a month on childcare is an affordable option for most: not. I cried when I realised the price of childcare, and for alot of people the cost of it wipes out what they’d be earning. So whats the point? Working has become a luxury for alot of mums.

The slay: go with it and tell her how you won’t have to ever work because you inherited a small fortune. Even though it’s a bald-faced lie.

4. “Don’t you have a relative who can look after you child ?”

Okay, firstly: it’s none of their business. Secondly, not everyone has that luxury. As well as the divide between working mums and those who don’t, there seems to be a big divide between those who have relatives who can do the childcare for free, and those who don’t. It seems unfair and shouldn’t be taken for granted. But that’s life… And luck.

The slay: just tell them that everyone in your entire family is willing to drop their careers at the drop of a hat to do your childcare. Again, a lie but it will infuriate them knowing that you’ve chosen this path for yourself and your child.

The bottom line:

People will always have an opinion- tale as old as time. I’ve always been brought up to believe that not spending enough time with your child is worse than too much. When I worked in schools, the most damaged kids I met were those whose parents were hardly there for them. Enough said.

Swiping Right on Mum Tinder🤰🤷

Swiping Right on Mum Tinder🤰🤷

You’ve been to the baby groups but you’re still on the hunt. Time to let technology do the talking. So you hit up the app store and stop swiping left: it’s Mum Tinder.

It’s really no surprise that becoming a First time mum is the most alienating and lonely thing that can happen to you; it is also the most brilliant. But like a snake sheds it’s skin, you will inevitably shed friends. You might also not be able to fit into your old skin for a while…

Losing friends is painful, you’ve just destroyed your body to squeeze out a human being and now suddenly your satuday night drinking buddies are running fast back into the woodwork. Ouch. You have also lost a big part of yourself; Your identity.

All this is necessary, however. Your life has naturally moved on. Rather than mourn friendships based on sambuca-fuelled Saturday nights, its time to buddy up with the most sassy and sarcastic mums you can find within a 5 mile radius.

Its hard to make mum friends, and you could well end up with some deja vu in the process. Just like anyone can get drunk after too many drinks, mums come in all shapes and sizes from all walks of life. On the flip side, there is something wonderful about this. But being ‘a mum’ alone is not enough to cement a friendship. Having a baby is not enough to keep the chat going- there’s only so much you can rattle on about teething.

I’m lucky that I do have some mum friends that I’ve made along the way- and I can safely say that having kids the same age is not the only thing that anchors our friendship. But I thought I’d give the apps a go.

I downloaded an app – it’s like Tinder but for mums. You can decide based on appearance and a short bio whether you want to ‘swipe right’ and connect or left and leave it. It felt weird treating other mums like a commodity but it definitely cut out the BS.

I bit the bullet and decided to arrange a local meet up. It was nice- but it was very clear that we all had absolutely nothing in common, all of our children were completely different ages. My daughter also made at least one of their babies cry by shouting ‘star’ too loudly. Not a great start.

I then went to another but I forgot to bring my scarlet letter; I got told repeatedly by one mum just how ‘young’ I looked. She then went on to ignore me for the remaining time. This was not the first time that I had been made to feel like I was a teen mum at 26.

Luckily since that debacle I have met and am talking to some lovely mums from all walks of life who are friendly, funny and not catfish[es?]. I have also spoken to some people who I just have not gelled with, and others that I can’t relate to at all. That’s just life.

Breaking The Spell 🦄

Breaking The Spell 🦄

Its a crashingly average Wednesday afternoon. It is raining- yes. It is also hot- but that unsexy kind that creeps up on you when you’re wearing 3/4 length sleeves. My mood: irritated.

It’s one of those days- I am destined to have a collision with spider man; she is currently bouncing across my new sofa with no care for my new cushions. It’s going to be a long day, I will probably spill a few tears but I will for sure be going to bed with a jarring headache.

But despite the constant clanging of toys against furniture, and the racket coming from kid’s television, I am completely at peace with myself. No, I haven’t lost my mind just yet. Its just that I’m now free from the shackles of caring what other people think about me.

It’s such a cliché thing to say, except this isn’t ripped straight from some ‘life hack’ podcast. Caring what other people think when you have a toddler absolutely sucks- you are always going to be doing the ‘wrong thing’ in others’ eyes. You’re either a soft touch or you’re a control freak. You really can go from Jo Frost to Britney Spears circa 2008 (sorry Britney) real quick.

Sometimes you have to shut the windows when the draught gets in to your ridiculously small london home- and that’s exactly what you have to do with other people’s thoughts and opinions: crush them in-between the double glazing panels just shut them out.

In a very British way, I have always aimed to do the ‘right thing’. Since having a child, I have realised this is the most exhausting thing to achieve. People always have negative things to say. When I was pregnant, I was constantly wracked with anxieties because people were always bursting with ‘warning’ messages. It got me nowhere.

Remember: There are always going to people doing better than us, and those who are doing WAY, way worse. We are all just pretty average tiny fish in a big, big sea.

Whose Birthday is it Anyway? 🎂

Whose Birthday is it Anyway? 🎂

It’s your birthday. You’re gonna party like it’s your birthday – except you won’t. Not because you don’t feel like a bucket litre glass of prosecco, but because looking after a toddler with a hangover is a possibility you have to avoid at all costs (unless the seventh circle of hell is your thing). Lying face down in the bath is something you can only do childless.

So the day is about you. Wrong. The day is about you taking it in turns with the rest of your family to run after your crazy toddler. Your toddler doesn’t care about your birthday- but she does care about the ball that the older kids are kicking about, or someone else’s dog.

So for your birthday you are taken to wide open space. There are no restaurants for your toddler to scream and throw food in, this way you can relax and have some sort of self-peace. Your day becomes about laughing at your child who is currently pretending to be on your partner’s phone, shouting. The Zara dress that you decided to wear has peculiar but tiny smudges all over it, your face has mud stains on it- heck knows. You’re laughing, not crying.

After horrifically overreating at your parents, You come home exhausted – you probably haven’t burnt off that slice of birthday cake… Your partner hands you a tinfoil box, but you’ve had enough food for today. Except it’s actually your birthday present. He also tries to tell you he hoovered but you weren’t born yesterday- and neither was the sea of breadcrumbs lying all over the linoleum. At least he tried.

You put your daughter to bed and fall asleep watching YouTube clips that you’re probably now too old to watch, but you couldn’t care less.