#MumdayMonday: The Mum of “just the one”

She may have over 25k followers on Instagram and be the face of mega-brands such as Avon and Bugaboo but Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, is also an all-round good egg. She doesn’t shy away from sharing details of her life such as the time she found her daughter fingering the dog, nor how she once mistook a daffodil for a spring onion with unfortunate consequences. Basically, she is one of us – fumbling and bumbling through parenthood and life while trying to not take it all too seriously. As such she agreed to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions on what it is like to be The Mum of “Just the One”… 

#parentingtheshitoutoflife is one of your catchphrases – What is the best piece of parenting advice that you have followed to make this actually happen occasionally?
I’m more regularly #notparentingtheshitoutoflife. I think it’s really just about rolling with the punches. What worked one day won’t the next. That moment your kid sleeps through the night and you think it’s down to some mad purchase off Amazon (the miracle blanket was one!) is amazing… only to be followed by a sleepless night that has you hollering, “but I have the miracle blanket! Work that miracle once… [in hushed tones] please…”

You have one daughter, the incredibly cute leg-crossing Mae, what do you say to the inevitable “Are you going to have any more?” questions?
I say I’m going to give it a good go. I’ve written a lot about miscarriage and not to be Debbie Downer, it’s not always your choice whether you’re going to have more or not. Like everything I’ve done, it’s not always the prize for excellence I’ve bagged, more effort. So I’m gonna try.

What do you feel are the advantages to having “just the one”?
I suppose stress levels. I struggle with basic tasks (crossing the road is a big one)… I can’t actually imagine getting two kids across a road. The logistics are mental in my mind.

You have given up your “dream job” to be able to spend more time with your daughter. What are the advantages and disadvantages to what you are now doing to make some cash?
It’s good because I’m with Mae more – I bring her to meetings (always asking beforehand – am yet to have someone say no.) But I have to be led by her a lot – “we go now” has been uttered when things go on a bit. It’s a refreshing way to work (and end a meeting!). I love the fact she is my wing girl… she’s growing up learning what it is to run a business on your own. However scarred she may be by seeing herself on all our vlogs, I think that’s a good thing.

As part of The Stylist’s campaign to end the taboo that surrounds miscarriage, you have been very open about suffering three miscarriages before you had Mae. Having had these experiences, how do you feel about the fact that the world sees you as the mother of “just the one”?
I am a mother of one and happy with that. I never fully considered my three miscarriages anything more than a sense of loss; a little bit of us that didn’t make it. I never let myself get too involved because it was too painful – decorating a nursery too soon; naming your unborn child – I was over-cautious. I suffered loss and I struggled with that but I am always an “onwards and upwards” person, who wallows in a dark hole and then has to move on and throw myself into something else. That’s what happened around the time Mother Pukka launched. I thought, why the frick isn’t anyone talking about this in a human way? In a way that doesn’t pull me down further but lets me know I’m not alone; we’re not alone.


To follow Mother Pukka on Instagram go to @Mother_Pukka . To read her blog or watch her vlog go to www.motherpukka.co.uk  . She is a very funny lady.

Why her teachers are going to hate me

“Just say no!” to underage sex, excess drinking, and taking drugs; to taking on too much work, to accepting sweets offered by strangers, and to the demands from the small people to cut their toast into ovals – the ability to say no and mean it is one that is presented as essential to success in whatever stage of life you find yourself at.

“No means no!” was a phrase I was often on the receiving end of throughout my childhood and was one I found falling out of my mouth with alarming regularity for the duration of my years as a teacher. On occasion I marvelled that the parents of some of the children in my classroom seemed to have taught their offspring a more flexible version of the word, however. Their attitude appeared to be that the word “no” actually meant “maybe” and existed only to offer an opportunity to be argued and bargained with. “No one has ever said no, and actually meant it,” I would loftily observe, and deplore the exhaustion of the endless negotiations with these young people who needed to learn that they “can’t have everything their own way”. These days as a parent to a threenager “No means no” is a phrase that gets trotted out when I am fed-up of repeating the same answer, while she already seems to believe that if she asks enough times then the answer might change. And to be fair to her, sometimes it does.

Yup, I admit it. Terrible, inconsistent parent that I am, there are times when having said no, I backtrack and say yes. And while I realise that this is the point at which some sections of the parenting community would caution me with the words ,”You’re making a rod for your own back”, I’m going to stick my neck out and say, maybe. But maybe that’s ok.

You see, it seems to me that we spend our children’s lives telling them that “No means no,” and getting fed up when they question it. We understandably get irritated when they ask for strawberries, reject them because they have been cut in half, and then ask instead for grapes. The grapes duly arrive only to be usurped by a sudden insatiable desire for an apple. And after all that, the only thing they end up eating is a bag of Oddities. This happened the other day and at the time I cringed at my inability to assert my authority. I heard the voices whispering, “You’re the parent. Put your foot down. Say NO!”  But then there was another voice saying that the mind-changing of the small person was not really that a big deal and, in those circumstances, what would be my justification for saying no actually be? Because I couldn’t be bothered to slice up AALLLL of the fruits? Because my petulant desire to not be a slave to her demands also needs to be given air-time? Or perhaps because she needs to “learn her place”? And I found myself wondering whether these are good enough reasons to dig my heels in deep.

Now before I get lynched as the poster-girl for lazy, lenient, woolly and permissive middle-class parenting, I would like to duck for cover because it’s true  say that there are times that I say “No” and mean it, because of course it is important for children to learn that they can’t have everything they want. There are times when they are not capable of making safe and healthy decisions and parents have to, well, parent. But should “No” always be the be-all-and-end-all? Should children just learn to accept “no” and never argue with it?

The fact is that as adults we are encouraged NOT to take no for answer. We are told to keep kicking at the doors that block our path until they fall off their hinges. In my forays into the inter web I’ve been absorbing precious nuggets of advice and experience from a whole host of (mainly) women, and one common denominator in their success is that they don’t accept no. They don’t listen to the voices who tell them “You can’t do that” and precede to tell them why not. They just believe that they know best. That THEY are right.

So when does this begin? Clearly, my daughter demanding to drink her water from the Frozen cup, not the Peppa cup that she has been given, is not exactly the same as making decisions about a business that puts food on the table and in your childrens’ mouths, but like everything, we have to start small. It seems to me that if my daughter was met with a resounding “No!”every time she asked for something different to what was on offer, and was then taught that this declaration is always final, then perhaps she would also learn that when she looks at what she is given and doesn’t exactly like it, she should still just put up with it. Her experiences will have taught her that requesting something different doesn’t ever get her anywhere, so what’s the point in asking?

Of course it’s important for her to learn that she can’t have everything that she wants BUT isn’t it also important to teach her to have the confidence to at least ask, because actually there are occasions in life when no doesn’t mean no. This is my defence anyway, in reply to the parts of me that die a little inside every time I replace the uneaten halved strawberries with some whole ones because she doesn’t want them “cutted up”. While my more authoritative voice tells me that she needs to learn to accept what she is given, there is another that says saying “Yes” to her request is teaching her that she has (some) control, she has (some) choices, and she has opinions that will (sometimes) be listened to. I KNOW that when she becomes a stroppy pre-teen, or a surly teenager, there will be times when I will be desperate for her to “Just take no for an answer”, but I also suspect that sometimes the word “no” is just a test to see how much you actually want what you are asking for.

Just don’t tell her teachers that I have taught her that.



You loved me ’til I was me again

This past week was Mental Health Awareness Week and thanks in part to my experiences since becoming a mother, the effort to destigmatise mental illness is something that speaks to my heart. To this day I do not know whether the natural disaster that ripped through my brain following the birth of The Eldest was Post-Natal Depression or an anxiety disorder, but I do know this. That shit fucked.me.up.

I was traumatised by her birth which took 23 hours in total. Three hours of unsuccessful pushing, a spinal block, an episiotomy (plus a third-degree tear. Do I get bonus points for that?) and some enthusiastic yanking with a sizeable pair of salad tongs passed, before our  pointy-headed-sodding-back-to-back-beautiful-little girl was born. Thank goodness the doctors were right when they said that her pointy-head would return to normal as otherwise that would be something else that I would bear on my conscience. Because that was the thing – I bore my failure to push our daughter out of my fanny all by myself, heavily on my conscience. I felt like I had failed, I was weak, inadequate, unfit to be a mother, and that by having to have a “assisted” birth, I was somehow not qualified to be considered “woman”. My experiences left my fanny feeling like it had been hit with a NutriBullet for months afterwards, and rendered my mental health even messier.

A piece about the pain, guilt, the misery, the feelings of inadequacy and failure, the flashbacks, the resentment, and the at times all-consuming anger of the first few months of motherhood, was one of the first things I wrote about for this blog, and yet I have not published it.  I find it almost a compulsion to talk about this time whenever I meet other mums, particularly new mums, because I am so keen that no other woman should ever feel as alone as I did in the first six months of our daughter’s life. But that blog post remains unshared. Is it judgement I fear? I don’t think so. Perhaps it just feels too personal, or too self-indulgent? Or perhaps, having moved on in my life, it just doesn’t feel that relevant anymore. This week however, Mental Health Awareness Week has prompted me to give this thought yet again, although this time from a different angle.

This year, the focus of the week is on the effect that mental illness has on relationships. I’ve done an awful lot of navel-gazing on the effects of undiagnosed PND or anxiety disorder, or whatever tsunami it was that flattened the carefully constructed version of myself that used to exist, but perhaps I have not given enough thought to the effect my craycray days had on the people around me.

On the “husband”, who watched me suffer in labour, helpless, powerless, and who had to twice beg the doctors to come and assess me when the agency midwife said they would not listen to her. He cried. I know he did. But he also remained strong and present and forgiving for the months of turmoil that followed. It wasn’t easy for him – he found the adjustment hard – and then he also had to live with me. A crazy women who basically made no sense. I look at photographs from this time in which I am smiling, and yet I know that the smile was only surface deep – underneath was someone constantly on The Edge, someone exhausted by thoughts, someone smiling but all too aware that she wasn’t happy. What must that have been like to live with?

On our beautiful daughter. This is hard to say but every day I look for signs that she has been affected by those dark days. I hated her baby days, and I look for signs that she is insecure or doesn’t feel loved – she gets quite anxious when the people around her are sad, upset or angry and I wonder whether I have caused that anxiety. I wonder whether her flashes of anger are attributable to the times when I sobbed and screamed at her to take a bottle because my nipples were burning with thrush. I felt like I was suffocating under the pressure of being the only one who could provide food for her – perhaps she learned her anger from me in those moments.

On my parents. I told my mum a little of what I was feeling at the time. I still don’t know whether they picked up on the depths to which I had sunk but I was so thin, I didn’t eat properly for months, and I know they worried.

The danger of all of this introspection however, is that it feeds into the narrative where I was at fault. Of course I rationally know that this was not the case – I was ill. My brain was broken – not beyond repair of course, but broken nonetheless. I know other people suffered too and it would be so easy to slip back into the guilt.

But what if I don’t? What if, instead, I change the narrative and look for the positives?

What if I linger on the fact that thanks to my experiences I am now more empathetic, more patient and more forgiving? And while people around me still wreck my head at times, I am much better at stopping and looking at things from their perspective. I hid my shocking mental state from everyone so I have realised that it is not possible to always know what is happening in someone’s head. And there are times when everyone needs to be cut some slack.

What if I linger on the closeness that I now enjoy with our daughter? What I learned about myself in those difficult first six months I believe has helped make me a more reflective, thoughtful, appreciative parent than I might otherwise have been – it hasn’t come easy, I’ve had to really work at it, and my bond with our wonderful little girl now makes my heart sing.

What if I linger over the joy that our son has brought me? Even on the days when everything went wrong, and everyone was ill, and no one was sleeping, I knew that it was infinitely better than what had happened the first time around. I remember bumping into my incredible midwife one day in the street a few months after the BSCB was born. She asked me whether I was enjoying him and it dawned on me that yes, yes I was! The pride and euphoria I felt at being able to feel and say that is impossible to describe.

So I wonder, what would it be like to live in a world where mental illness warranted no more or less judgement or curiosity than a broken ankle? This is why weeks like Mental Health Awareness Week are so important – because as uncomfortable as it feels, until there is no stigma, we have to keep talking.

But also I wonder whether it is possible to change the narrative – to turn something awful, something sad, into something good and thankful? This is what I want to do now.

And I want to remember to thank the people who loved me until I was me again.

For Ray, Ada, Zach, Mum and Dad.

This piece was inspired in part by the words of Sarah Willis, writer of “Changing the narrative”, a piece included in Issue Two of The Fourth Trimester Magazine. Thank you for making me think.


#MumdayMonday: The Mum on a Mission

I recently “met” this week’s #MumdayMonday , Emma, in rather excruciating (for me) circumstances on IG. She bravely challenged me about language that I had used in my post Advice you really need. I was horrified by my insensitivity and instantly apologised but she had really got me thinking. I am a total geek when it comes to words and where they come from and yet I had not given a second’s thought as to the origins of the word I so casually tossed out there to describe someone who had annoyed me.  I had hurt someone’s feelings, deeply. And I had disrespected someone else.  How many times are mums like Emma offended on a daily basis because the world doesn’t understand, or just doesn’t THINK about the challenges that are presented to her as the mother of a son with severe Special Needs? How many times are children like her son, Ted, disrespected and devalued? So this week, Emma is The Mum on a Mission. What is her quest? To challenge the language we use and to make Ted’s life as full and meaningful as she can.

Emma has recently won the third prize in a writing competition with @motherlandnet where she wrote an “astonishingly beautiful piece” about mothering a disabled child. Emma also writes a blog called Treatment for Ted , and you can follow her on Instagram @mrs_emma_haines .

I used to work in women’s magazines before I left to care for my son. I say ‘care for’ as it’s more than just regular mumming. Ted is three and a half and, thanks to a brain injury (HIE – Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy) at birth, is severely disabled. He needs 24-hour care, as all kids do, I suppose, but, like a newborn, he is totally dependent on us for everything he does. Ted has quadriplegic (four-limb) cerebral palsy, caused by a prolonged lack of oxygen at birth. It affects the muscles of his whole body, broadly meaning he is either too stiff or too floppy, sometimes both at once, and has issues with swallowing, eating and drinking. He also struggles to control his body and has a lot of unwanted movements, so he needs a lot of help with everything he does. He is unlikely to ever walk or talk.

There are many challenges to parenting a child with disabilities but generally speaking the biggest one was the mental adjustment of accepting that our child was going to be disabled, facing multiple life-long challenges and we were powerless to do anything about it.

Getting that diagnosis was nothing short of devastating. The neonatologist who delivered the news didn’t sugar-coat it and it was a slap in the face to realise Ted wouldn’t be that ‘miracle child’ everyone tells you stories about. The one who defies all odds and somehow fights back from a devastating brain injury to be completely unscathed.

In the beginning, that’s all I wanted. It was very black and white: complete recovery was the only place I could see myself and our family being happy. The guilt was enormous and all pervading not just because of the overwhelming sense that I had failed him by not keeping him safe in labour, but also because I was lucky that he had survived, yet here I was wanting a different son, a healthy child. I felt guilt that my sadness seemed to suggest Ted was somehow lesser than a ‘perfect’ baby, that disability made him less loveable or less wanted. But it’s a grieving process. I needed to mourn the child we thought we would have before I could fully love the one we were given.

As time went on, we began to see him as Ted, not as a bunch of labels and diagnoses. As we couldn’t ‘fix’ him (I know how awful that sounds, but subconsciously I wanted to), we had to find a way to be happy.

As I got to know Ted over his first few months, I began to see his struggles as part of him, much like personality quirks. Once we loved and accepted him for who he is, not who we wanted him to be, life was easier. That’s the same for any parent I think, we grow and shape our children but ultimately we cannot control who they are or how they live their lives and that can be a challenge.

Despite all of the challenges, I will never tire of the sound of Ted laughing. Sometimes the most unexpected things will make him giggle – watching someone jumping into a swimming pool, people arguing on Frasier – but it is a sound to melt the iciest of hearts.

Since moving from SE London it is other simple things that I really enjoy. I do miss London and my community, especially as I now realise loads of my favourite Instamums live in my old manor. Plus, there’s A LOT more cool stuff going on there than there is in Wiltshire. But the slower pace of life has been good for us all. I love just pottering around the garden at home or having little days out as a family, especially involving walks and good coffee and cake.

I did briefly return to work after maternity leave but between juggling appointments with all his various therapists and recovering from the trauma of this life-changing event, I found it hard to focus on work, much less care enough about fashion and beauty to actually do my job to the standard I used to.

Our move to Wiltshire was influenced by my desire to focus on Ted’s therapies and while it’s the not the most exciting town, we have amazing family support and life is good. Rik still goes to London for meetings and events and has a huge shed to work in so he’s pleased. I am mainly just tired, but that’s what almost four years of broken nights will do to you. We also have a six-month-old daughter, Bedelia, who’s currently not helping with the broken nights thing. Everything about having her is different to Ted – she’s breastfeeding, crawling, eating properly solid foods… It’s beautiful and lovely, but exhausting in its own way.

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but there are so many things that make me angry these days. I get completely incensed by other people’s lack of respect and understanding for the disabled. I have a strong sense of needing to do the right thing by those less able to fight their own battles. It’s giving me a reason to be more assertive and speak my mind so I guess it’s a good thing. I feel like I’m starting to find my voice and get my advocate’s hat on.

Able-bodied people parking in blue badge spaces makes me SO mad. The amount of times I see it is unreal. I was at a garage recently and decided not use the space because I wasn’t getting Ted out of the car, but two fit healthy people, IN WORKOUT GEAR pulled in there instead and hopped out to go to the shop. People seem to have the attitude that it’s OK because they’ll only be a minute but that’s no excuse! If you don’t have a badge, don’t park there. That ‘minute’ could be the exact one that a disabled person needs the space. I’ve had to ask a couple of the mums at nursery to move as I need to park there. I try not to be confrontational; I just feel it’s my duty to point out that they are using a much-needed space. It’s not gone down well so far..

While life is undeniably better than it was even 20 years ago for people with disabilities, there is still so far to go. I’d like to see the tide turn against words like ‘spazz’ and ‘retard’. Often words have been around so long, we don’t think of what they actually mean when we say them, I get that, I really do. I’ve done it myself. But now, as the mother of a ‘spastic’, I see how important it is to think about our language in order to stop perpetuating discrimination and making vulnerable people the butt of jokes. Anyone with any sense of decency wouldn’t use racist language or label something ‘gay’ when they want to be derogatory, so I’d like ‘retarded’ to attract the same disdain. I know in the US it gets used much more and ‘getting retarded’ is another way of saying getting fucked up on drugs and/or booze. As our language becomes more Americanised all the time, I hope we don’t follow suit here. It’s a deeply offensive word to me and I’m not afraid to point it out to people. Well, actually, I am afraid but I’m learning to do it.

I’m also learning to not be afraid of the future and to live in the moment. My dad is an eternal optimist, which isn’t always helpful when you are feeling all the feels, but when he advised me to take each day as it comes and not to look into the future, he was right. In the early days I would fall into a black hole of worrying about Ted: seizures, surgery, wheelchairs, hospital admissions… It made the future feel like a horrible scary place. But as no one knows what’s in the future, worrying is wasted energy. I just try to not look too far ahead and deal with problems as they arise.

Over the last three and a half years I have received all kinds of advice, however, that I would like to file under ‘F’. Anything along the lines of ‘God gives special kids to special people’ or ‘you only get given what you can handle’ Er, no. My birth went wrong and my child’s brain was ruined. That doesn’t make me special. It just makes me the mum of a kid with special needs.

If you find yourself with friends or family in our position, the advice I would give to you is 1. Avoid saying any of the above but also 2. Offer to help on a practical level. The most useful thing my amazing friends and family do for us is taking the kids for a walk so I can have a sleep. I appreciate it when they help us to be as normal as possible. Respecting the way we parent is important, although I know our parents don’t always understand why we do certain things, which can be difficult. That goes for what we do with both Ted and Dilly. We also need them to respect our therapy choices and Ted’s routine. It’s really unhelpful if that gets messed up by people dropping round or phoning at inopportune times. He needs quite a strict schedule, which is easily thrown out by well-meaning visits, causing more upset than you might think! Boring but true.

Nowadays, when I look back at the beginning of this journey, I want to tell myself that all of that fear, sadness and pain in your heart doesn’t need to be there. The future is not black or bleak. Things will get easier. You won’t have the family life you imagined, but you WILL be happy. Ted will be happy. His life will be full of joy and love and fun. He will surprise and amaze you and just because he can’t say the words, you will know how much he loves you and nothing will ever break that bond.


The House of Broken Dreams

On a recent visit to a friend’s house we sat in the garden on a picnic blanket while her kids played. She ironically pointed out the unfolded sun lounger sitting empty on the patio and told me how comfortable it was and that she had bought it at the beginning of the Spring. Granted, the weather up until then had mostly been appalling but on the odd occasion that the sun crept out she would get the sun lounger out of the shed and unfold it, promising herself a little sit down at some point in the day. Without fail she would then walk on past it and back on duty.

Later I laughed about the unopened newspaper I had in my bag and joked about the level of optimism buying the newspaper in the first place represented. In reply my friend suggested we should place it on the sun lounger so they could keep each other company in The House of Broken Dreams. And that was it – all the way home my head was full of thoughts of the tiny dreams we have each day that inevitably end up broken. Because, as well as the many gifts that parenthood offers in exchange for a limitless level of dedication to the small people, it also seems that we subject ourselves to hitherto unparalleled levels of disappointment.

There is the cup of tea that we optimistically make convinced that this time, this time we will drink it, only for it be forgotten about in the midst of picking up the Play-Dough before your carpet starts to resemble a preschooler’s Impressionist rendition of a Gay Rights rainbow flag. Later, we find its mournful, tepid self abandoned next to the kettle, its wings of pleasure cruelly clipped in that moment. We microwave it, aware that it will never be the same, then forget about it all over again.

Then there is the purchase of the kids’ magazine on the way to the cafe. Despite all of the evidence being to the contrary, we are somehow convinced that £3.99 worth of plastic tat, some ill-thought out “educational” activities, and running the gauntlet of the judgemental gazes that accompany your child’s choice of the pink and purple Princess magazine (complete with vanity mirror because Project Self-Love is something that every preschooler needs help with, right?), will afford you the time to have an Actual Conversation. But no, because someone has to read those stories, explain the activities, and when the plastic tiara snaps we all know that shit.is.gonna.go.DOWN.

The House of Broken Dreams also has a special place for the children’s clothes that you actually choose – the ones that do not arrive in your house by default thanks to family members or hand-me-downs, therefore rendering your sartorial preferences irrelevant as it’s impolite to complain when other people are paying, and I genuinely think that beggars can’t ever be choosers.  You however, optimistically  purchase the cute-as-a-button denim jumpsuit that you secretly wish was your size, and imagine just how adorable she will look when wearing it. Your dreams are predictably shattered when she reacts to the idea of a girl wearing trousers with the fervour of a fully paid up friend of The Taliban, and screams shrilly enough to convince a passing stranger that you are forcing her into a dress woven from freshly picked nettles.

As a result of this level of protest outfits styled by The Eldest are in plentiful supply and, despite my best efforts, her favourite colour is pink. It used to be blue. I was VERY proud. Then she went to nursery and the war was lost. These days I accompany the sequin-clad, neon-striped, welly-wearing, Princess dress preferring, monochrome-phobic, preschooler around the cafes, parks and playgroups of South London and while people constantly say “Oh wow, I LOVE your outfit!” I know that what they really mean is “She looks deranged”.  I fight the urge to explain that she chose her outfit herself, accompanied by an apologetic shake of the head, because 1. I think it’s obvious 2. I know should ignore those little voices in my head who are foolishly concerned that others are judging me in some way, and 3. I’m actually pretty proud of my slight wacky, wonderful daughter who has super-strong opinions on everything from the colour of her socks, to the feel of the fabric.

But I still wish she would wear the jumpsuit.

It seems to me that the scope for dreams to be broken knows no bounds when you become a parent, because apparently these Small People are, you know, actually people. With opinions and stuff. The Eldest couldn’t give a toss that what you prefer is that she chooses the kids magazine with the doctor’s kit on the front because this says something about your political believes. The Eldest just likes pink. And surely I’ve got to respect that?

Besides, what all of this really illustrates is that, contrary to the prerequisite of parental doom and gloom about sleep-deprivation, the lack of “me-time”, and the emotional exhaustion of negotiating toddler tantrums, as parents we are in fact equipped with a never-ending supply of optimism. I mean, why else would be keep making all of those cups of tea?

This is CLEARLY not a comprehensive list so what I want to know is, what about you? What optimism driven purchases or plans would you submit to The House of Broken Dreams? Please tell me, I like typing to you!






Saturday Morning Monologue

Ugh, uh, uuuuhhhh, god no, really? Wait what time is it? 5.59? Ugh couldn’t you wait one more minute?…Oof my turn to get up I suppose… is he actually asleep? He’s quiet for someone who usually sounds like a train rumbling by when he’s sleeping… Oh god, you’re going to wake your sister up, aren’t you…

Run down stairs to the BSCB’s room which he shares with The Eldest

…fuck me it’s cold, quick quick quick quick please don’t wake your sister up please don’t wake her up don’t wake her up please please please please…

Reach side of cot

Shhhhhh shhhhh shhhh come here you little shitter, oh that’s right, drape yourself over my shoulder and go back to sleep. Couldn’t do that in your cot, no? Come on then, we’re getting back in bed. Please don’t wake up please don’t wake up pleasepleasepleaseplease…

Return to bedroom

Ah yes. NOW he’s asleep. Fuck me, how DOES he sleep through that noise, it sounds like I’m sharing a room with a great fat pig, one who’s had stones shoved down its throat… ok lie down, here in the middle. Move up a bit, piggy, otherwise there’s no room at the inn. Ok shhhshhhh shhhhhh go back to sleep. Mummy’s here. Mummy’s here…shhhhhshhhhhhhh WOULD YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP PIG-MAN… This little fucker’s gonna wake up and it’s going to be ALL YOUR FAULT FUCKING PIGGY PIGGY PIG MAN… ok he’s asleep. And relax. And breath.

Lie down to go back to sleep

My left arm’s a bit cold. Let me just wriggle some more cover over it…oh bugger. Perhaps I can move him? He won’t wake up, he’s fast asleep, right? My arm’s really quite cold. Man, I’m never going to get back to sleep now, I’m too cold. FOR FUCKS SAKE WOULD YOU STOP SNORING MAN? What time is it? 6.05? I can’t risk it, I’ll just lie here. My arm will be fine. Cold but fine…

…shhhhshhhhshhhhhh stop squealing, go back to sleep, my arm is cold… shhhh shhhh. Oh shit you’re awake. Yeah yeah I hear you… I’m Ma-Ma though, not Na-Na. Why don’t you ever go back to sleep for longer than ten minutes, you little shit? What time is it? 7.10?! Oh it’s morning! Ah my good boy! Such a good boy… No not my nose. Or my eye. When was the last time I cut your finger nails anyway? Shit those things are sharp. Am I bleeding? Oof don’t lean there, god I need a wee. Ouch. No! Stop it! Get your foot out of my face, no that’s not funny…Come here then, yes yes I’ll take off your sleeping bag…

And so it begins.

PS. I would like to say that the swearing at the “husband” in my head is the kind of swearing that only happens in the middle of the night when I have been rudely awakened. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have had a blazing row in the early hours, only to wake up the next morning, look at each other and think, “What was all that about, then?”

Bank holiday Mon-YAY

Let it be said that I love a Bank Holiday. Who doesn’t? They’re ace! But, like everything, Bank Holidays are not perfect, and they do have a few characteristics which are not Hakuna-ing-ma-tatas:

  1. After a Bank Holiday the house is in about four times the mess of a normal weekend, and there is double the amount of laundry there usually is. There is a whole extra day with an extra person in the house – surely this should make it EASIER to complete life admin, not harder? And who IS wearing all these extra clothes?
  2. The grocery order doesn’t get done. I hate going to the supermarket so for years I have done an online grocery order. One of my proudest achievements as the adultier-adult that I have become since the small people arrived has to be that I now have an Actual Routine around buying food. This means that no one is left scraping together a meal on any given Tuesday from some tinned tuna and a courgette. Well “routine” is perhaps reaching a bit, because what I basically mean is that I do it on a Sunday. Except on a Bank Holiday. On the Sunday of a Bank Holiday I think I must forget it is a Sunday. So today is now Tuesday, the cupboards are bare and I’m wondering whether to roast the courgette or just eat tuna straight from the tin.
  3. I drink too much. Back in the day, Before Parenting, this was what Bank Holidays were made for. Not so much now when the small people demand to be kept alive from 6.30am every morning with absolutely no respect for the fact that it is a “day off – May says so”. But I clearly haven’t quite caught up with this fact as, faced with a 10.30pm finish after some dinner with the girls on Sunday night, I decided to ditch the car and drink lots of wine instead. Silly.
  4. Time gets all twisted. The week in anticipation of a Bank Holiday passes really slowly, the weekend itself then goes really quickly, and then the psychology of the four-day-week means that you feel like it should whizz by, but in fact it drags and has you crying into your coffee as usual on a Wednesday morning… How is it only Wednesdaaaay…?
  5. Expectations are always too high. Whether it’s of the weather, how much fun will be had, or how many “jobs” you will get done, it is likely that you have returned to “normal life” this Tuesday feeling a little disappointed in yourself.

Having said all of that, however, I would make it clear that Bank Holidays are the bomb, and like all the best things in life, they’re free! Not to mention the fact that if you got it wrong this time around, don’t worry – there is another one in a few weeks. God loves a trier…

#MumdayMonday: The Single Mum

This week’s #MumdayMonday comes from Samantha* who lives in London and has a 20 month old son. From day one of her pregnancy, Samantha has been a “single mum” and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I wonder how women like her do it. Parenthood is relentless and I know that while I spend an awful lot of time on my own with my children, despite the long hours their dad works in the week, he is there at weekends and he is always there to bounce thoughts off and defer responsibility to when I’m at the end of my tether. What happens when it’s you, and only you, day in and day out? How do you find that space to be you, as well as mummy? Well have a read, because Samantha has kindly agreed to share her experiences of being a “Single Mum” in this guest post.

*not her real name… now I feel all Take a Break magazine…

I’m not your conventional ‘single mum’ but then who is?! I had a one night stand with the brother of a friend of a friend of a friend. I had remained in social media contact with the guy so when I found out I was pregnant I told him. He was really happy and wanted to make a go of things. I idealistically agreed but after 3 weeks of ‘dating’ he decided there was no future for us as a couple but he would be there for the child. I was adamant we needed to get to know each other but, apart from attending both baby scans, we had minimal contact during my pregnancy. Once the baby was born we agreed a regular schedule for him to see our son. Unfortunately, the relationship with my son’s father is not good. We are poles apart in our attitude to parenting, we barely communicate and I’ve just resurfaced from a 6 month ordeal where he took me to court for more time, including overnight, stays with our, then, 14 month old son.

Despite not having the traditional set-up, I know my son is going to grow up surrounded by love and security.  Throughout my pregnancy I had, and still have, an incredible support network around me of family and friends and no one has judged me or my decisions. Not that long ago, a child out of wedlock was a cause for shame. Babies were taken away from their mothers, given up for adoption or transported to Australia while the mother was sent to a home for ‘fallen women’. Nowadays families are becoming increasingly diverse. I myself have one brother, one half-brother and five step brothers and sisters and somehow we make it work. It sometimes seems like the traditional nuclear families are in a minority.

Having said that, at first I was really conscious of being a ‘single mum,’ and I was embarrassed. I didn’t openly tell anyone when meeting new mums; if they talked about their partners and ‘daddy’ I would nod and smile. I didn’t resent my son’s father, in fact I felt like I had dodged a bullet – motherhood is hard enough without having to navigate a relationship and a new one at that. However the truth is that I reached milestones, 3 months, 6 months and so on without drama but the fog didn’t lift until my son was at least 9 months old and I was truly able to acknowledge and accept my situation. Until then I avoided parks at the weekend as all I saw was ‘the perfect family’ taking baby for a stroll.  These days I have no issues with the label of being a ‘single mum’. I was ‘single’ when I fell pregnant, ‘single’ when I gave birth…I don’t know any different. If I am lucky enough to fall pregnant again, naturally I would like to do it the ‘proper way’ but what does that even mean these days? Now, being a single mum is just what I do, who I am, I don’t know any different. Plus my friends in relationships have confided in me that the ‘perfect family’ strolling in the park in fact hate each other…hate is perhaps a bit strong, but you catch my drift.

At the end of the day it’s worth recognising that there are pros as well as cons to doing it alone. On a day to day basis I get to call all the shots. I don’t have to refer to anyone and my support network always defers to me. In that sense I’m lucky. The cons – on a day to day basis I have to call all the shots. No one else does bath time, no one else puts baby to bed, no one else gets up in the middle of the night, no one gives me a lie in…I’m stating the obvious really. And, of course, financially its hard.

Most people are surprised when I say that I am single. I’m yet to meet any other mums doing it alone at present. I think perhaps most other single mums have older children, maybe it takes a while for a relationship to break down, maybe I’ll meet more when my son goes to school…I’m speculating here. Having said that, the mums I do know, albeit it in a relationship, are still flying solo most of the time.

The biggest challenge I face is 
communicating with my son’s father. We are still essentially strangers although I have done everything in my power to change that. He seems to think its ok for our son to navigate two completely separate bubbles whereas I see our roles as threads running through our son’s life, overlapping and co-existing in the same space. And then of course there’s the same issues that all parents are faced with; returning to work, juggling child care, finding time for me…

Having said that, I also feel fortunate to be able to care for my son full time and with that comes intimate knowledge of his every mood, his every leap, new words, new skills…I watched him playing alone with his scooter in the garden the other day. The sun was shining, the air was calm. I was blown away by his determination to master the skill of scooting. He got frustrated, he fell off but he stuck at it for 40 minutes. Now looking back at 20 months of parenting I see every day the payoff for every song, book, every trip to the park, every stay and play session that I did and continue to do with him. It makes every sleepless night, every washing load, every time you have to get down on your hands and knees and clean under the high chair (numerous times a day) worthwhile.

These days the thing that puts fire in my belly is the responsibility of raising a boy in to a man who respects women and has a decent set of values. This used to terrify me but now I see it as an immense opportunity – he could even grow up to be the next….?

Not a lot calms me down, however! Moments of calm are few and far between these days and this feels like I’m exposing a guilty secret, but the truth is a glass of wine and an episode of EastEnders – in that order – is my recipe for chill-time . I love yoga and still reap the benefits although my post baby practice is a somewhat different experience. If I manage to get to a yoga class, it’s generally a mother and toddler group – the teacher doesn’t hold back and most of the time your warrior pose consists of also balancing a small child on whichever limb it manages to attach itself to. Don’t even get me started on Savasana.

At some point in the future I would like to meet a good man, build a life with him, create a sibling for my son…communicate with my son’s father in a way that supports our child. I’d like to have a nice home, in a good area, a career that I can balance alongside motherhood, family holidays. Sounds simple really.

When I look back I don’t really remember life before my son, not really, it feels distant and vague and a long long long time ago – its only been 20 months! Having a child is the best thing I’ve ever done, being a mum gives me the most fulfilment I’ve ever experienced…as hard as it is I wouldn’t change a thing.


Do you have an experience as a mum that you would like to share, sweeping generalised label and all?..! If you think you might like to take part, then send me a DM on Instagram, a private message on Facebook, or email me on washingtonnicola1@gmail.com

If you feel daunted by the prospect of writing it for yourself but feel you have something to say, then I can send you some questions and help you turn it into a post.

#MumdayMonday – because every mother deserves to be celebrated xxx ( I can’t believe I just wrote that – I feel a bit sick.)