Reasons not to have a second kid….

Huffing spectacularly in a bid for attention, my five year old turns up the volume on whichever device she’s glued to, whilst readjusting her headphones. Meanwhile the baby, who has just turned two months old, screams as though someone is pouring boiling water on his fluffy brown head (I can confirm this was definitely not the scene.) So shrill are his screams, I can still hear them even when he eventually falls silent, an eternal imprint in my echoic memory.

It’s funny really, because I remember so vividly his sister making the same sounds. The torturous cries of an inconsolable infant, a sure fire way to make you feel as though you are royally failing in the parenting game.

When my husband waltzes in from his 9-5 with a smile on his face ready to greet the family, I am already in tears. A red faced baby thrusts violently in my arms and the five year old looks as though she’s about to pack her shit and leave home. He takes the baby from me whilst the other one needs her tea cooking. Another drawback of levelling the numbers, is you get one kid each to look after. When you only have one to pass between you, the minutes in which the other parent takes over feel like a luxury spa treatment.

Your attention will constantly feel as though it’s paying mind to the wrong child at the wrong time. Because how can you know who needs you more when they both need you for differing reasons at the same time? One needs a hand because she got her head stuck in between the sofa and the wall, and the other has been waiting 30 seconds for their milk and their wails let you know…. It’s 30 seconds too long.

What’s that saying ‘If my first baby behaved like this, I’d never have another one’ I clearly didn’t get that memo. There’s also a saying which promises you never get two children the same, I cough when I hear this one now, but whilst pregnant with my second I prayed to god it was true. Turns out, the joke is on me.

Even the most stoic of mothers (that’s not me by the way) struggle at some point, but if your little gremlin has some digestive issues, colic & reflux mama’s I know you feel my pain. Not even touching on if you yourself are struggling, my chronic illness & relentless anxiety make this mountain a hard slog, that sometimes feels so overwhelming you wonder if you’re actually losing your mind.

So if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably been wondering who the hell writes this stuff and what kind of message am I sending? Where’s my positive outlook? My gratitude, for two healthy children? And you’ll be pleased to know it’s right here:

It’s true your kids will pull you in every direction, make you feel like you just can’t give enough of yourself, they’ll unintentionally make you feel guilty as hell – but they will also make you feel needed, whole, and complete.

They will push every button, overload your senses and make you wish they were born with built in pause and volume control. But, it’s that sensory invasion that will have you laughing until you cry, your heart swelling with pride, and have you sluicing tears of joy when you wave them off for their first day at school! Yay – someone else’s problem for the next ten years. (That was a joke, don’t @me)

The jealously you might notice from your older child will on occasion be replaced with an adorably primal sibling bond. Watching them teach their younger sibling, watching them do everything imaginable to make them smile for the first time -including cannon balls off the sofa- is priceless. Maybe they’ll grow up to hate each other, but maybe they’ll grow up to be the very best of friends, either way you’ll have fun watching them grow.

Your anxiety, will occasionally be replaced with minor worries, like have you got any bread for their packed lunch or the fact you forgot to pick up nappies on your weekly shop. It will of course also be redirected to your kids if they’re not the source already. I can’t promise you a reprieve because I know only too well, mental health doesn’t work like that…. But I can promise you a reason to live, or in the case of this blog, two reasons.

If you’re a chronic pain sufferer like me, you won’t get any relief, but what you will get is distraction. They will keep you so busy some days you’ll unknowingly forget about the pain for a while.

It won’t be easy, it won’t even always be fun, and some days you might wonder what the fuck you have done….. but you’ll never regret it. No matter how hard. For me, these kids have given meaning to a life that lacked direction. They’ve given hope to a pessimist. They’ve brought joy in my darkest moments and they’re my reasons for staying alive.

One last saying: The days are long but the years are short.

In other words – you’ll soon be sipping cocktails and eating tapas in Benidorm whilst your teenage kids are trashing the house in your absence and sleeping till noon.

Mum Guilt

I think I’ve definitely titled a previous blog mum guilt but I’m doing another one because these last weeks I’ve felt it. In the 4 and a half years I’ve been a parent I’d say it’s only the last year that I’ve managed to keep a tighter lid on the guilt. This is because most of the time, I know I’m doing my best and that has to be enough, doesn’t it?However every so often imposter syndrome will strike and I’ll have a wobble and feel like a shit mum. That happened last week. You may have read somewhere on my socials that I’ve been ill again (rolls eyes.) It’s been bad, I had a UTI that had me feverish for 8 days and kicked off a PEM flare like never before. On top of my day to day fibro symptoms and hormone fluctuations I have been sleeping the days away and Ciara my daughter, made a few comments about when I would be better. She said she was fed up because I’d been unwell since Halloween! She also said she had been wishing in her dreams for me to get better. It hurt my heart, because I try really hard to make an effort to be present in her life even when I’m feeling unwell, we do movie afternoons in my bed and make dens on the bedroom floor so she can feel close to me even when I’m laid up. Then I try desperately to make up for the flare days on the good days and we cram in activities when we can.

I have had to rely on my husband and my mum to do many of the school runs and activities these past weeks, so I’ve been feeling pretty redundant and guilty in return. Of course not everybody is in a position to lean on family for support and I know how lucky I am to have that option. With recent lockdowns and tier restrictions we’ve had those taken away from us somewhat and there are less people to lean on for support now, the bubble getting smaller. It feels as though I’m going backwards to the early days of parenthood where I felt like I was letting her down because I didn’t breast feed and I couldn’t establish a routine with a baby that screamed 15 hours a day. She woke up the other night after having a bad dream, thankfully a rare occurrence, but when I questioned her about it she said her dream was of me being cross. This really upset me because despite my constant state of being pissed off, it’s so rare for me to get cross with Ciara and that’s not a ploy to get you onside, it’s the truth. She is so rarely naughty she doesn’t have a lot of tellings off, but I have been more stressed than usual recently, and I’ve done some shouting at Shaun. I forget that she hears and understands everything now, she takes it all in. I don’t want her childhood memories to be of me in bed or me shouting at daddy but I feel powerless to prevent either somedays.

So whilst berating myself relentlessly about all the things I’m doing wrong I tried to tell myself that I also do a lot right. Shaun reminded me that Ciara remembers Halloween because I threw her a party and picnic with one of her friends. He reminded me how I never forget to be creative and go all out for school dress down days and elf of the shelf adventures. He reminded me that I never break promises and I don’t give her false hope and that whilst she is complaining about my being sick, it’s only because she wants more fun with mum.

I talked to a few of my friends that are mums recently to find out if they felt the same and they all said yes. They all said that this year has seen their patience wear thinner than ever, their ability to juggle the work/life/parenting quagmire has suffered and lines have been blurred. Self isolation and working from home with kids has seen to many mum meltdowns. One of my friends actually said to me: What would you say to me if I were you, Steph? Would you tell me I’m a shit mum for being unwell or losing my rag occasionally? And of course the answer is, no, I wouldn’t.

I feel like guilt is something we have to live with throughout our lives whether or not we’re parents, but as parents, every decision we make for our kids is based on assumption and guess work. There is never a right or wrong answer when parenting. There is consideration and gut instincts and pros and cons, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no handbook, there’s winging it, and there’s doing your best, do plenty of both, and you’re probably doing ok.

With Christmas comes a lot of pressure. In the world of parent bloggers there’s a whole heap of posts just waiting to press your mum guilt buttons, and there was a time when I would compare my parenting to perfect Instagram pictures on other mum accounts, but not anymore. I’ll keep it real and tell you, I still compare myself sometimes, how I look and what I’ve achieved, but I never compare my parenting, because I know that being a mum is as unique to me as my fingerprint. We all have morals, traditions and family values and they’re never the same as someone else’s. So if you too are feeling a bit overwhelmed with guilt, just remember you’re not alone and you’re not a shit mum! My mum once said to me that shit mum’s don’t worry about being shit, they just are, but good mums always worry about being good enough. How true is that!?

Your best is enough.

We are still telling Mums how to feel?

I feel like I needed to share this. Not just to moan about feminism and stereotypes (though there is some of that) but because it irks me that the message isn’t yet clear. For some unknown reason we still feel it’s our right to tell other mums how to parent. How to feel. We are still putting mother’s in boxes of ‘she should’ or ‘you’d think she would….’

So to put this into some context for you, my daughter started school the first week in September. It’s her first year. Before covid she was at preschool 4 days a week, but since covid she’s been home with me since March. No childcare because preschool didn’t reopen until September either, by which time she was ready to start school. The most common questions I’ve been asked since people learned she was set to start school are 1. When are you having another baby? And 2. I bet you’ll hate it when she’s at school won’t you?

Note question 2 is in fact a statement, posing as a question. An assumption based on zero background information. It’s only merit is that because my daughter is starting school the presumption is I’ll have too much time on my hands. I’ll be bored. I’m her mother so I’m bound to miss her implicitly when she isn’t around for any length of time, but more so when that time is spent at school. Right?

Well sorry to act offended at your presumption but it does in fact feel offensive that you assume my life is less fulfilling when I am not around my child. There’s an undertone that when I state how, in fact I’m excited for her to be starting her new journey, and I’m excited for me too, getting to have some time to myself again – it’s as though I’ve implied in some way that I don’t love her or I don’t enjoy being a mum.

What’s more disappointing is that these statements are usually made by other women. Perhaps women who do love being at home with the kids. Which by the way is perfectly fine. There’s no right or wrong way to be a mum. You might love being with them so much that you’re going to feel a sense of loss when they go to school. Nostalgia for their infancy, and that’s perfectly acceptable, but so is looking forward to them going to school, looking forward to snippets of alone time or getting back to work and routine. A lot of women have to work nowadays in order to support the household, and this means we have to leave our children, but just because we have to, doesn’t mean we can’t want to at the same time.

I love the quality time my daughter and I spend together but I also love time to myself.

My circumstances might be unique because I’m chronically ill, and this often means I need to lean on people for support with childcare, sending her to school just means less relying on others and more time to recover. I’ve waited a long 7 months for some rest and I will wait less than 6 weeks at the start of term, for a week off with her when half term comes around.

The climax or crux of this article is this. We all parent differently, we all feel differently about our children as they grow. Some long for the baby stage whilst I love the here and now stage. The one where’s she chatting, drawing me pictures and telling me she loves me. Just because you don’t miss your kids every minute of the 360 she spends at school a day, doesn’t mean I love her any less than the next mum. I feel like we need to get better at normalising feelings of discontentment in motherhood. Feelings of normalcy. Feelings of desperation and in this case the lack of feelings in regards to empty nest syndrome or ‘school mum life’

As mothers we are weighed down with responsibility, organisation, emotional reactions, not least the physical endurance that is required to keep up with our mini me’s. We don’t need to feel the weight of someone else’s judgement whoever that someone is, but particularly less from another mother. We’re part of the same club now hun. The Mum Club. And I think we should try and make it wholly inclusive. What do you think?

Covid and kids

Ciara reunited with a preschool friend yesterday and it was a much anticipated reunion. However her attitude was really quite bizarre and I fear that lockdown life has widely contributed to this latest phase of brattyness. When we first met up she was quite obviously overjoyed to see her long lost friend and they played tag and tried to catch butterflies in their nets, it was a lovely watch, seeing her so obviously happy to be playing with another kid again. But this joy seemed to disperse quickly and Ciara became quite standoffish. She wouldn’t share her badges which we had specifically taken for the sole purpose of sharing. She kept telling her friend to be quiet and putting her hands over her ears when she was talking, something I’ve never seen her do before so I was as confused as I was pissed off at this point. I was getting more annoyed as I’d asked her several times what the problem was and why she was finding this play so overwhelming. She had no answer accept just that her friend was ‘annoying her’ (much to my embarrassment) we traipsed the woods some more. Me constantly trying to gain back her enthusiasm, whilst searching for the kind little girl I’d left the house with that morning. It didn’t work. She continued this level of spoiled brat for the rest of the outing, which resorted in me meting out a punishment of cancelling the cake baking we had planned for that afternoon.

I came away feeling deflated, which is much of how I feel often lately. Trying to make the days appealing to a four year old is becoming more challenging as we continue through this period.

In my anxious mind it just clarifies the point that my best isn’t good enough. Whatever I’m doing mustn’t be enough because Ciara is losing valuable social skills through this isolation. She’s constantly bored and it matters little how much time I spend creating small worlds on the Tuff tray or planning a scavenger hunt in the woods, she needs that time with other kids to learn and grow as a person. She’s an only child and whilst she’s always been great at sharing she is losing the need to. I’m not constantly reminding her of why it’s important because there’s nobody here to exercise the point with.

I’m giving into her because most of the time I’m trying to keep her quiet so I can get some work done, or shoving the iPad in her face so I can have a lie down.

I don’t know how to normalise what’s going on for her right now.

We need to protect our vulnerable people and stop the spread of the virus, of course we do, but our kids are vulnerable too, and right now mine is at risk of social regression. I worry about the effects on her mental health at such a young age being stuck in with me, who, lets be honest, is a not so hot mess, most of/all the time.

Preschool is such a huge part of early year’s development, I worry I’m just not able to meet all of her needs at home. There’s little option for her to go to another setting because it’s just weeks before the summer break as is, and I feel like that would only confuse her further. Not to mention we can’t afford it.

I know I’m not alone in this plight and I know some of you will be in the same if not worse situations. I just want you to know if you’re feeling lost and you’re kid has turned into a spoiled brat, you’re not alone. You’re probably spreading yourself too thin, I can’t offer words of encouragement, only that I’m riding the wave of this craziness too.

Motherhood is…

I wrote this poem to get behind an Instagram campaign called #Riseofthemumpoet it’s a fun and expressive way to write and share your story. And everyone knows I love, writing… AND sharing! 😂

Motherhood is

It’s not a day in a mums life if you were only asked twice,

For us mums can be asked the same thing as many as 50 times.

It’s not because we aren’t listening

That they continue to keep repeating

It may be that we’re cleaning up dinner plates,

Or god forbid finally eating.

It could also be that we’re scrolling aimlessly

Staring at our phones

Watching all those perfect mums

You know the ones who never feel the need to moan.

But being a mum is more than just annoying questions of course.

It’s wiping shitty arses and kissing grazed knees

It’s wearing a constant smile even when it feels forced.

It’s reading a story then lying still as a statue in the dark next to their bed

Pretending to be fast asleep and simultaneously stroking their head.

It’s pretending to be brave when you feel really scared.

It’s sometimes sacrificing yourself so their feelings are spared.

It’s leaving the house with sick on your clothes.

It’s wiping green snot from a runny nose.

It’s missing your favourite programme repeats

You’ve had to nip out to get milk & after dinner treats.

It’s staying up late making costumes for school.

It’s accepting that motherhood doesn’t have rules.

It’s forgiving yourself for sometimes messing up

It’s begging the stars to grant you good luck.

It’s feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders

And feeling nostalgic as your child grows older

It’s praying to a god of which you may not believe

To look out for your offspring and help them succeed

It’s a feeling of pride you didn’t know you possessed

And wanting every single morning just five more minutes in bed.

You can find all the details about the campaign and write your own poetic masterpiece (or riddle) on Instagram via @Postpartumpoet or by clicking the link here.

No cure

Yesterday I had my first sick day in my new job. I’ve been there under 3 months. And until now, so far so good, been taking breaks on my days off, getting enough rest whilst still having a life, looking after myself, taking my medication. Then yesterday I woke at 3am feeling nauseous and it wouldn’t go away. It was bad I couldn’t sleep. I text my supervisor in the morning to say I wouldn’t be in and spent the rest of the day in bed with a full blown migraine. You know the ones where even your phone is too bright and your guts feel like they’re falling out of your asshole?

I’m home today too, the headache has subsided but the sickness is still there, I still feel weak and unwell and generally crap about myself.

You see the thing is, back in July I had a daith piercing and I was convinced it would cure my migraines. So to learn it hasn’t has really fucked me off. I also feel shit about being home. There’s no cure for migraine, just like there’s no cure for Fibromyalgia or PMDD and I have those too, but I feel terribly guilty about it. Because I’m not a skiver, I’m not a lazy bitch (unless I have a hangover) and I genuinely feel awful when I let people down.

When I first got diagnosed it was a relief, I had loads of text messages and social media likes, telling me how relieved I must be to know I’m not going mad. I was!

I had loads of sympathy messages too, but they have a shelf life. And when you have something that can’t be cured people get bored. They don’t understand why you’re still going on about being ill all the time. Everyone knows, you don’t need to keep banging on about it.

But I do need to. I need to because that’s the only way aside from the world all contracting the same illness, that people understand. It’s the only way to spread awareness and helpful tips. It’s the way I feel most comfortable explaining it and so that is why I ‘make such a big deal out of it‘ it’s not for the sympathy as let’s be honest that shit dried up years ago. It’s not because I’m craving those text messages that don’t often come anymore, it’s because they are diseases that nobody ‘gets’ nobody really believes.

You said you have a migraine but really it’s just a headache, here, take some asprin”

“So and so has fibro and she doesn’t go on about it all the time, she still works, she doesn’t even take medication”

“Yeah I believe she has it, but she definitely plays on it”

“It’s just a period every woman has them, stop moaning”

If you suffered migraine you would know an asprin is about as useful as a cock flavoured lollipop, once an attack has started. If you had fibromyalgia you would know it differs in intensity depending on a whole world of factors, even down to the weather! And if you had PMDD you would know that before your period comes there’s a good chance you may have considered the fact you’ve lost your fucking mind and begged your doctor to section you only to feel ‘normal’ again when aunty Flo pops in. If your mum had it and couldn’t work, or your sister, or your best friend would you say that about them too?

Anyway – the point of this post was more for me than you, the reader. It was more about assuaging my own guilt, because guilt is an emotion that the chronically ill can’t escape. I feel guilty that Shaun had to cook his own dinner after he’d been at work all day yesterday. I feel guilty that Ciara had yet another sleep over at nanny’s because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get up and see her off to school this morning because the medication I took last night meant it probably wouldn’t of been safe for me to drive, that’s if I even heard my alarm. I feel guilty for looking at my phone when I should be resting. I feel guilty for having a life on all of the other days because if I didn’t I might not feel this shit today. Guilty Schmuilty. It’s shit. It doesn’t matter how many well wishes people send, how many ‘you can’t help being sick’s’ I hear, I still feel guilty. I know I will always feel guilty until I get to a stage where maybe one day there is a cure, or maybe there’s something I haven’t tried that will help me manage better. I feel guilty for letting my family down on days when I’m bed bound. I feel guilty for letting my lovely new colleagues down on days I can’t work. I feel guilty for saying when I feel ill. I feel guilty for cancelling a night out or a meet up. But most of all I feel guilty when I make assumptions about other people’s lives. So if I’ve learned anything from having a number of long term illnesses, it’s never to assume. You really don’t have the number of someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. The likelihood is there’s people out there with worse problems than you and me. Kindness should always be your go to option.

10 things I’ve come to accept after having kids.

1. Being ignored – yep, you can kiss goodbye the idea of a toddler listening intently to anything you have to say. Their cute little elfin ears are only there for decorative purposes!
2. I’m a shit cook. – I must be because I can’t fathom another reason why my kid prefers Birdseye fish fingers instead of my lovingly prepared, home cooked food. 
3. My body will never be the same. – the piles are here to stay by the looks of it. But it’s ok, it’s brought my fiancé and I closer, him, closer to my asshole when I need him to help apply ointment.
4. Nobody else really matters. – You still care about all of your friends and family, but random opinions are better shrugged off when you have kids to care for. Oh you don’t like me? Not got a second of free time to care hun. And even when I do care, I’m better at moving on.
5. I am going to be skint forever. – Me: gets a bonus, I know….. I’ll buy my child another months worth of plastic shit, instead of buying those Dr Marten sandals I so desperately desire, or using it for something important like paying the TV License (Disclaimer I do pay my TV License, BBC!)
6. Punctuality- It is no longer my ‘strong point.’ For years I used to give this as a strength in interviews, you’d be surprised how well it worked. Not anymore Sunshine, have you ever tried getting clothes on a moving three year old whilst they’re in the middle of an episode of PJ Masks?
7. Quiet sex- gone are the days I’d try and imitate a Cathy Barry squeal. Now I have to lie there pretending I believe in Scientology because if you make me wake the kids up, I’m gonna cut a bitch.
8. I can’t be bothered – That’s right, I don’t have a good excuse for everything anymore. I’m so tired I just can’t be bothered. Wanna come over? Sounds great, What shall we do? Erm… you watch the kids and I’ll sleep how does that sound?
9. Date nights aren’t the same – Don’t get me wrong they’re still great and necessary, but they’re no longer spontaneous, they don’t hold the kinkiness they once held. You get ready whilst trying to put your kid to sleep or get them over to the babysitter and just before you’re about to leave, you eye the other one skeptically, almost telepathically asking them if they’d prefer to go to sleep, because, you know, you wouldn’t be offended if they said they would.10. Life is short – clichè but so true. The years whizz by faster than you can catch your breath when you have kids. They age overnight, as do you. Life is a collection of memories, and with this knowledge I try and create better ones everyday. Don’t waste a second worrying about the things you can’t change. Do the things that make you smile. Don’t hold on to anything that makes you miserable. If like me you struggle to let go, talk to someone. Never regret anything that helped shape you. You are special because of what you’ve been through.