#MumdayMonday: the mum of two

#MumdayMonday is back with a Q+A from the lovely Nina Pandit from mummyandnina.com . A 25 year old mother of two boys, Nina is British-Asian and started her blog to counter that all-too-familiar feeling many of us can relate to that when we become a mother, we somehow stop being ourselves. When the rest of us were partying and sleeping our way through university, she had already given birth to her eldest son “out of wedlock”, a fact that she responds to with “sorry, not sorry”. Her younger son is now two, and in her blog she honestly and thoughtfully explores the reality of parenting two small children, especially when your life has not followed the path expected by your culture. Go and have a read to find out more about this young woman (that sounds so patronising, doesn’t it?…!) who is wise beyond her years (check out her tip on “side-stepping the tantrum” – I’m all over it!)…

What did you find hardest about becoming a mum the first time around?
Nobody knew I was in a relationship at the time, so keeping my pregnancy a secret for 5 months (I didn’t show until 6 months) was possibly the hardest aspect of being pregnant. I remember feeling very excited and then almost instantly guilty for being so confused. I spent hours questioning whether I was strong enough for my baby. In retrospect I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. Parents have this ability to cope and I suppose that’s all that matters.

Were the difficulties the same or different the second time?
Second time round was so different. Those afternoon naps and hours of aimless comparisons between fruit and foetal size were replace with running around after an energetic toddler and having fingers stuffed up your nose and in your ears. Towards the end of my pregnancy I cherished the chaos, it kept me busy when I was overdue.

What is the best thing about having two children?
If one is being difficult you can go and hang out with the other. It’s a graceful side step to actually parenting the tantrum. “If you want to join the party, you have to be happy” is our motto – and who wants to miss a party?

What advice would you now give to yourself when you were pregnant for the second time?
Know when to ask for help. Just because another mother appears to be handling herself, it doesn’t mean you have to. The challenge is after the baby is born so rest as much as you can. It’s ok to say I can’t do this without a nap.

How has having two children changed your relationship with your husband?
My boys are intense. They take my emotions for a joyride and I love that about them; but it leaves us both feeling exhausted. So we end up spending most of our time together watching television rather than actually talking to each other. Conversations become an exchange of information, like who would be doing the pick-up or what was for dinner. Life takes over and we become so engrossed in our routine we aren’t really appreciating each other. We recently took a weekend break away and we realised we missed having kid-free fun together. And we’ve vowed to do it more often.

Has it changed your relationship with your extended family at all? If so, how?
I don’t have as much time to keep in touch with people from the extended family as I would like to, which is a shame. But I’m a huge believer that those relationships that are worth it stand the test of time. I can go years without speaking to some people and it’s as though nothing has changed. Those are the relationships I value the most. My kids are great at keeping in touch with people and I leave most of the family relations stuff to them. They use Siri on my phone to call our family members which works well because the family want to speak to them not me. I’ve been demoted since having children.

How do you deal with the inevitable comment “One of each, are you done now?”
It’s funny because my youngest is actually a boy (he sports a man/boy bun at the minute) but most people assume he’s a girl (yup, I did that too – sorry. Please insert embarrassed monkey emoji). So I get that question more often then not. On the flip side I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have anymore children because I’ll never have a girl and shouldn’t bother trying. Or people volunteer stories of how they knew someone that had 10 boys because they wanted a girl. That postnatal period can be the most emotionally vulnerable time in your life. The first few weeks of having my second baby I was so upset by it all and felt a bit broken; like my womb was broken. I didn’t realise my womb was blue with a moustache and only produced boys (but thanks for the heads up). I mulled it over and only recently did I come to the conclusion that the only opinions that mattered to me were my husband and my sons’. I am content with my boys. They’re good kids. We’re go-with-the-flow kind of people, if we have another that’s great: regardless of gender. If we don’t we won’t be unhappy.

When you look back, is there anything at any point in parenthood that you wish you had done differently?
Parenting is a journey and I don’t really wish to change anything; I’m grateful for who it has made me. But my eldest told me that I was an evil step-mother that shouts a lot and tells everyone to do chores. Perhaps that’s an indicator that I shout too much and get worked up over the finer detail. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is a bit of advice I picked up along the way. I’m yet to use it.

Is there anything that makes you think “Yeah, we smashed that!”
My eldest was playing with his trains and the youngest came up behind him, wrapped his arms around his neck and gave his big brother a kiss on his head. We’d hit a parental jackpot – they both have a friend for life.

Along with her blog www.mummyandnina.com , you can also find Nina on Instagram @mummyandnina and/ or Facebook  if that’s more your bag.

 

 

I heard the news today

When Princess Diana died in August 1997 I was sixteen. I heard the news from my mum through a crack in the door late one Saturday morning as I sprawled, probably hungover, under my duvet. What followed was an unprecedented outpouring of national grief complete with unedifying scenes of people crying in the street – people who had clearly never met and did not really know her.

My distinctly British response was that this expression of emotion seemed excessive, mawkish, maudlin and, confident in my sixteen years of expertise in life on this Earth, I airily dismissed it as a particularly unpleasant form of sentimental hysteria far removed from the devastation of true grief.

Over the years, my discomfort with the mourning of public figures has endured and in my social media musings on the slew of celebrity deaths in 2016 this is apparent in the way that I have marked my respects.

Self-consciously I comment on the nature of the “petty sadness” that we feel when a person who has appeared in our lives and memories, and yet who we have never met, dies. We feel sad, but we should always remember that the measure of our grief fades into insignificance when positioned next to the torment of the family and friends. I felt it was important to keep perspective and not confuse the desire for a connection with it’s reality, because regardless of how much Prince’s music had meant to us, no matter how many of our childhood memories Victoria Wood appeared in, or how many of Alan Rickman’s films we had loved, we did not actually know any of them.

And then, on an ordinary Thursday, Jo Cox, MP, humanitarian, campaigner, wife, mother was murdered. The acute sadness that I, and many of my friends, have felt at her death has surprised us, and I’ve asked myself over and again, “Who do I think I am?” to stand and cry in the shower over a woman who’s name I had never heard until I received a text message asking me if I’d seen the news. Why do I feel like the next day is too soon to continue on like this hasn’t happened, too soon to not mention her in my interactions with people in my real and virtual lives? It feels self-indulgent, deluded even, to linger on these feelings and give them air – after all how inconsequential our sadness is compared to the total devastation that has just been levelled at an entire family. But still I cried and still those thoughts remained, “Who do I think I am? Why should I feel this way?”

But then I realised that actually the “Why?”isn’t at all important. In fact, the most important thing is that in these feelings of grief is humanity. These are not the tears of a teenager imagining a connection that does not exist, these are the tears that can imagine the cruelty that can without warning rip the most precious presence from a child’s grasp. As a woman who so passionately believed that “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” it is clear that Jo Cox recognised our shared humanity regardless of faith, colour or creed, and valued every human life.

So, contrary to the feelings of my sixteen year old self, perhaps this sorrow should not be suppressed or dismissed because surely it simply shows that we care.  When we care we find connections where previously there were none, and we do exactly that which Jo Cox wanted us to and move past the differences and look for the similarities. A mother’s absence in a child’s life is felt just as profoundly regardless of faith, nationality, language or culture and to feel this isn’t mawkish, or maudlin, or sentimental. It’s Jo Cox’s abiding legacy – it’s human.

#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.

#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.

 

#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.)

 

 

#MumdayMonday: The Heart Warrior Mum

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This week’s #MumdayMonday is Vicki Moore, mum to 18 month old Elijah who underwent heart surgery at 6 months old. I only recently “met” Vicki in the wonderful world of Instagram and her enthusiasm and energy in the face of adversity, along with a healthy dose of honesty, makes me feel privileged to host this guest post. I have read it numerous times and the first paragraph still leaves a lump in my throat, and I find myself nodding enthusiastically as I read on. If you would like to read more of the musings of a NICU mum then you can find Vicki on Instagram at @vickimoore99 or on her blog, http://www.confessionsofanicumum.blogspot.co.uk 

I stumbled across the term ‘heart warrior’ recently when reaching out to other parents whose children have had open heart surgery. It is used for all of those men, women and children who have had heart surgery. The term is also given to the parents of these children, as although we didn’t physically have the surgery we had to live through the experience as well. What makes me a heart warrior mum? My son does. He taught me to be brave, to laugh when I didn’t want to and that we are stronger than you think. At just 18 months he has taught me more than anyone ever has.

The experience of having a baby in NICU, and having the op has changed my relationship with him. I feel a degree of guilt when I am just being a ‘normal’ mum to a toddler. Telling him off, stopping him from having chocolate for breakfast, looking forward to bedtime, I feel so guilty that shouldn’t I be grateful for him being here and healthy? Of course I am, but sometimes it is hard to distinguish where the NICU mum ends and the ‘normal mum’ begins. He is spoilt rotten and I sometimes worry I may make too many exceptions for him, and give in that bit too easily.

I had in my head such an idea of when Elijah was born we would have so many plans, and do everything “just so”. The reality was that didn’t happen. We had to adjust, we had to make exceptions and changes. I don’t parent how I thought I would, I don’t always give Elijah organic food or do arts and crafts with him. I let him watch TV too much but as long as he is loved, fed, happy and clean at the end of the day I have done my job. I have stopped stressing on being the ‘perfect’ mother as he wants a happy mum, not a stressed out mum.

I have learnt that I can do anything. I am stronger than I thought. I may be emotional but that is not to be mistaken for weakness. Being a mother is who I am, and everything else is part of that. It took me a while to realise this, and not to be ashamed of who I am. It took 26 years and becoming a mother to learn to accept myself.

If I could travel back 18 months ago to when we found out about Elijah’s condition, I would give myself hope. Hope that it was going to be hard but we were going to get through this. To not push people away, and to be hard on myself for wallowing in self pity for so long. The first 6 months when we were waiting for the op date were so tainted, I would tell myself to enjoy them. That it was okay that when we got good news, something wouldn’t immediately go wrong.

I can pinpoint two moments in the last 18 months that have been the most challenging for me. That I didn’t think we would ever get past. The first is when we found out Elijah had suffered a bleed on the brain at birth and this caused seizures. They didn’t know if it would affect his development, his speech, ability to walk. He may have special needs. It was hard to accept that, we had to deal with not just the fact he has a life threatening heart condition but he may be disabled too. The second moment was when I held Elijah to be anesthetised for surgery. Once he was asleep they handed me his dummy and took him off me. They laid him on the table and took him away. I crumbled. I couldn’t even kiss him goodbye, I thought my son was going to die and that he would never come back from theatre.

The biggest joy was the surgery being a complete success and him going from strength to strength. He is classed as a normal little boy with no restrictions. He is walking, talking and is currently on a 22-36 month development chart at nursery (4 months ahead of his actual age). Elijah is a funny, weird and beautiful little boy and is the biggest joy in my life.

Hands down the thing that puts fire in my belly is my son. I am fiercely protective over him. I would do anything to protect and provide for him.

The future is now looking the best it ever has for Elijah. We have been discharged from Great Ormond Street until next January! We are currently enjoying and planning a normal year and taking Elijah on his first holibobs!

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.)

#MumdayMonday : The Ordinary Mum

That’s me. Not a #mumboss, not a #mumpreneur, not even a working mum these days, or at least not of the kind that earns actual money for the work I do, because let’s be honest, looking after children is WORK. I live in South London with the “husband”, our two children aged 1 and 3, and enjoy frequent visits from our rather wonderful extended family. I am very ordinary and rather pleased about it.

I used to be a teacher and stress endlessly about not doing anything well because there were not enough hours in the day. A few weeks ago I walked out of the school gates for the last time and for now I am a Stay-At-Home-Mum (for what it’s worth, I hate the term, but what else do I call myself? Full-time mum? But aren’t we all full-time mums? I mean, it’s not like the minute you walk in the office you stop being a mum, is it? Any (polite) contributions gratefully received.) It’s not what I imagined I would be, and I’m finding it difficult to reconcile in my head – the idea that there is going to be no money that I have earned making its way into our bank account makes me feel a little cold and uncomfortable, and the question of “Who am I?” sends me spinning. Ever present around my edges is also the fear that I’ll feel the need to justify my position in this world that so over-values the world of work, and under-values the importance of home.

Now, as always, when I’m spending my days with the children, one of my favourite things to do is to take them outside. Admittedly this is partly because then there is less mess to clean up – want to spit out your half-chewed banana? Crack on. I’m sure the rats and foxes will love you for it. Anyway, I live in a leafy part of South London, one of the capital’s nappy valleys, and we are fortunate enough to live close to several parks offering safe spaces where the kids can wander, feed the ducks (pigeons) and enjoy the occasional (daily) packet of PomBears. Now that the summer is coming, I am relieved but slightly bored excited by the prospect of twice daily outings. Winter is so grim, and that time between nap and tea time can drag so slowly – I can’t be the only one who has checked the time on three different clocks convinced that the batteries must have run dead on the first two, only to have that crushing blow delivered to your heart when you realise that no, that really is the time. In the summer however, that time between the nap and tea is a perfect window for a scoot down the street to the shop, or a wander round the garden which makes the afternoon shift a little more bearable. Unless it’s raining. Then we’re screwed. Getting out of the house in the rain in summer is just as “involved” as getting out of the house in the cold in winter. Except now the weather is milder so although your waterproof mum-coat shelters you from the rain, you’ll still be a bit damp and steamy from the greenhouse effect going on underneath it’s impermeable surface.

Now that I am going to be making twice daily trips to a park and not going out to work I know that the biggest challenge I am going to face is to not let resentment take hold of me. The “husband” is usually out of the house before the children wake up, and he arrives home as they are getting out of the bath, so during the week I am THE parent. This used to weigh heavily on me, especially on the evenings when the “husband” would stay out after work with colleagues or with business contacts. I know that these nights out are not the raucous, uninhibited, tension-relieving release that he might enjoy with his friends, but the fact that he did not HAVE to come home for bath and bed time, that he COULD just text at 7.30pm and say “I’m not going to make it home”, used to make me want to chop his balls off and wear them as a necklace feel trapped and resentful that I did not enjoy this freedom, especially as he didn’t seem to appreciate the significance of it. Nowadays, three-and-a-half-years and two children deep into parenting, I can’t actually remember what it feels like to blithely call home to say “See you tomorrow” so solo bathtimes no longer make me feel anything other than tired.

The danger ground for resentment now is weekends as there is always the conflict between spending enough time together as a family but making some time for ourselves both separately and as a couple. This is especially true now that I’m parenting all week as the devil on my shoulder keeps whispering “When is my weekend, then? Huh? When do I get a change of scenery? This Saturday and Sunday shizz is exactly the same as all the other days of the week…” I have to keep bashing him (the Devil, not the “husband”) on the head and telling him to bog off, which takes mental discipline and energy that I don’t always have. Especially when he wants to play golf. I have no more polite words on this matter.

On those rare days when we get a break from the kids together, one of my favourite things to do is to go for breakfast with the “husband”, read a newspaper, and show him things that have caught my attention or imagination. The temptation can be to try and cram in lots of errands because “We’ll get them done quicker without the kids,” but actually, I have the best time when I slow down and let life pass me by for a few hours.

Despite really appreciating these slower moments (like a man in a desert appreciates a slightly damp patch in the sand, picking each grain of sand up and licking it dry, desperate and a bit gritty because you know there is never going to be enough), there are still things that light the fire in my belly. The sweeping changes being made across education by clueless politicians legacy-hunting makes my mouth run away with me, and I have a tendency to get a bit ranty. Improving the life chances of the children from disadvantaged backgrounds was the fuel that kept my teaching flame alight for twelve years, and while I have left the classroom behind, it is still something that I speak about with fervour. I hope that as I figure out the unsettling world of self-employment, I can discover ways to indulge these passions, even if not on a daily basis.

Day-to-day now is evolving it’s own routine. The Eldest is still in nursery two days per week (one of which is now free, thank dog) which gives me a break from the frenetic spinning that seems to accompany keeping two small people alive for the rest of the week. I’ll spend most evenings this week researching my options and ideas I have to earn some cash, and perhaps next weekend I’ll get some time to go to yoga. It’s not ideal, but that’s just the way it has to be these days, for now, and we’re getting used to saying that it’s ok.

SO that’s it. Me – The Ordinary Mum – nothing ground-breaking, but I still feel like I’m “doing shit”, like raising the next generation or something. What “kind” of mum are you? Fancy answering some questions, or writing a guest post? Email me on washingtonnicola1@gmail.com , DM me on IG, or send me a PM (or a public message, if you’re so inclined) on FB.

#MumdayMonday

I have always known that there is more than one way to live your life “right”. No one has all the answers, everyone has their own battles that they are fighting, and while the established opinion is that people only post the “best” version of themselves on social media, I have realised that even from this glossy, filtered version of life there is something to learn: different people like different things.

Ok, so hardly ground-breaking stuff, but when you discover that there are blogs about blogging out there, you cannot deny that the spectrum of what is deemed interesting is a bit like the galaxy, stretching infinitely in all directions to places that your imagination cannot comprehend, and you sure as hell have no intention of going to.

These days my world is pretty narrow and mostly revolves around being mummumummumummummmyyyyyy, something which I know probably renders me mainly dull to many people. When the “husband” tells me that I’ve lost some (of my few) followers on IG I shrug my shoulders and call them bastards accept that I’ve probably bored them seven-shades-of-shitless with my mindless meanderings and inane baby-spam, therefore they have every right to ditch me. But the truth is that the mum-me, is of course, not the whole me.

I still love to read, write and garden, drink too much vodka and dance enthusiastically (in my slightly-stiff-white-girl way) to 90s RnB, but the time to do these things is in short supply and the repercussions of the last (and best) one at 9.30 on a Sunday morning could be far-reaching, so often I lean towards the “softer” options. And that is what finds me here, tapping away on a keyboard in a cafe, having been gifted some precious “me-time” by the “husband”. (He has taken the children to see Grandma at church – yeah, I’m not sure he knows what he has let himself in for but I look forward to hearing tales of how the BSCB climbed the font and The Eldest asked a complete stranger if they would like to stroke her pussy, “It’s really soft, you know” (for avoidance of doubt, this is a stuffed toy cat. She did not learn to call it pussy from me). But I’m here because yesterday I had an idea.

It was prompted by yet another realisation that there are mums out there who enjoy spending time doing things for fun that could actually work as a threat to make me give up something really important, like Instagam. There are actually mums out there who stay up until 11pm, not lurking in the hungry belly of social media, but making biscuits for their children to decorate the following morning. There are mums staying up until the early hours making wreaths out of cherry blossom, which I assume they hang somewhere in their house and glance at periodically to remind themselves that they are an Actual Person capable of Actual Stuff while chipping the dried Weetabix off the highchair following another “enthusiastic” breakfast.

Even more fascinating to me as I navigate my way through new waters of unemployment, trying to piece together bits of work around the children to bring in some extra cash, are the women running their own mini-empires. Sometimes they fit this in around children, sometimes alongside other full-time jobs (like what I did there?), sometimes at the same time as doing both (and how the chuff they manage that I have no Earthly clue). Finally, on the sidelines are the heaving masses, cheering them all on and I have never known a crowd of women so positive and so determined to lift a sista up. It makes the breath catch in my throat when I think about what women are achieving. Cheesy, practically Stilton-blue, I know, but I find it so inspiring, so incredible that I can’t help but get all gushy. And I want to celebrate it, and learn more about it, and just give it more love. SO, back to my idea…

Every Monday, on my blog, I want to host a #MumdayMonday (well, I’m going to try anyway – if no one wants to take part then I might be a bit screwed!). I already know many, and I want to find more, inspiring, fun, feisty, ball and ground-breaking women who are just getting. shit. done. Whatever their shit may be. I am going to give the mums a “label” – which they will all be welcome to revel in, explode, or just roll their eyes at, and I hope you will join me in enjoying what they have to say, enjoying the similarities AND the differences, and maybe learning something along the way.

I’m going to kick it all off, next Monday, as The Ordinary Mum, but if you would like to feature on #Mumday in the future then please just drop me a DM on IG, a private (or public, if you’re so inclined!) message on FB (click on the button under “Find me” on the left hand side of this page), or email me on washingtonnicola1@gmail.com .