Confessions of a chronically ill mum #19

Hi. It’s been longer than my usual long while since I posted COACIM. In fact, I haven’t been writing anything much and definitely nothing so personal. I’ve had neither the inclination or the ability, and I’ve barely been keeping up with my medication not least my mothering responsibilities. It’s all felt like such a lot lately.

Not sure if I mentioned here before, but back in March I saw a consultant about my cholesterol. It was ridiculously high, putting me at serious risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases. I resisted starting medication because I’d not long commenced HRT. I’m already quite heavily medicated for my anxiety, fibromyalgia and migraine, and statins have a bit of a bad rep for side effects. Anyway, last month the consultant called me and said I had no good cholesterol in my body and without medication ‘it’s not a case of if you’ll have a heart attack or stroke it’s a case of when’ adding firmly at the end ‘you’re a ticking time bomb.

This conversation took its toll on me mentally, as you might imagine it would. Especially because since the appointment in March I’d been working really hard on looking after my health and essentially this consultant was telling me it wasn’t good enough. I felt at this point as though I had little choice, so I ignored my reservations and started the statins.

Long story short, so far the side effects are indeed awful and I have been really unwell. The worst flare up in my fibromyalgia symptoms I’ve seen for some time. I have been wading through treacle each day, or at least that’s how it’s felt with the level of fatigue I’m suffering. Brain fog and my memory, which had worsened significantly since starting HRT anyway, is now shot to bits. I’ve always prided myself on having a good memory and taking in information but for the last two weeks I have barely remembered what day it is, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve led in bed on days I’m supposed to work and been confused at why my alarm is going off and Kaiser’s dressed for the childminder. I’ve not been able to write because I can’t remember what it is I’m trying to say. It sucks, and this post itself has taken me a week to finish.

As you may know fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and profound fatigue. Since starting statins this has worsened and I have severe muscle pain, while also feeling as though I have the flu, all the time. I’m napping during the day when Kaiser naps and having to throw water on my face to stay awake during a work meeting. I can’t lift my son because my body feels too weak.

Parenting is kicking my proverbial. Day and night, night and day. Even after having a break last weekend to sleep and recharge whilst the kids were with my mother in law – it doesn’t feel like enough. I need a break after 10 hours. Shaun and I are drifting with no real idea where the fuck we’re going because we’re too exhausted to hold a conversation. He is knackered from picking up all the slack and it’s pretty shit because I don’t know what my alternatives to these tablets are. The consultant made it sound as though their wasn’t one. Kaiser has started walking and yes…he’s a total babe, but he’s also hands down the most exhausting human I’ve ever come across. I find being his mum a privilege and sometimes, like now when I’m not feeling my best and being brutally honest… a chore.

I have a feeling Ciara might be going through some developmental changes, because her emotions are all over the place and it can be hard work trying to prize out of her what’s going on. She is a tiny perfectionist whom hates doing badly at anything and it’s become more pronounced this term. I don’t know why or how this has become such a big deal to her because we rarely ever tell her off and absolutely never for getting something wrong or making a mistake. It’s gut wrenching to see your child grapple with their emotions. She also has the hearing of an elephant and questions everything you say, remembers it, then recites it back to you… so there’s no hiding in this house and sometimes let’s be honest, mums want to hide (well I do anyway)

Finally, I wanted to add that I’ve been feeling quite sentimental and at times, extremely lonely. Your world can become horribly small when you’re unwell and people do drift. I’m not blaming those people because I know it’s nobodies fault – when someone (me) is constantly cancelling plans and letting people down, often last minute, you lose your place as first on the list as an invitee…. I just think Covid and everything else that’s going on in the world right now has highlighted to me how insular I’ve become. It’s a bit of a dichotomy for me to be honest, because part of me loves being in a familial bubble and not having to explain myself to people or show up for small talk, but the other part of me is in need of genuine social and human connection. What I do know is I don’t really have a lot to say about much other than my health and the kids, and I’d like that to change soon, adding a bit of me back into the bargain.

Overall, and in spite of what you’ve just read, I’m happy. I’m trying and sometimes even succeeding to not letting myself be sucked down into my usual negative cycle of mum guilt and self loathing. And I feel immense gratitude to be embarking on new journeys and to have had some really amazing and exciting opportunities come up for me recently. I will elaborate at some point but ultimately what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want this post to be all doom and gloom, because my life isn’t all bad in fact it’s mostly good but it’s still hard to live with poor health when parenting small and impressionable children.

I do also have a HRT update for you but for now I can’t even begin to concentrate enough to fill you in on that, too. It’ll come soon if I can manage it! 💙

Sometimes mummy forgets.

‘When you say you’re going to do something it takes a really long time sometimes, and sometimes you just forget all together.’

My six year old said to me tonight as we thought up new ways for her to learn her spellings. I spent ages cutting up letters so she could arrange them correctly. The traditional practising aloud was becoming tiresome for her and I could see her frustration. ‘Mummy doesn’t ever mind you getting something wrong, it’s how we learn’ I said to her, face screwed up in confusion at why she’s so upset. I want to prod but not too hard. I want to ask her why her emotional reaction is so major to something so minor. My brain working overtime, wondering whether someone has ever made her feel inferior for making a mistake, hoping that someone has never been me.

‘We still haven’t done my homework, you said we’d do it last night’

I did say that, but last night I was in bed, a migraine attack had me so sick, I couldn’t see, mid-cycle bleeding, cramps, along with feelings of anxiety and guilt all throbbing at my temples. I’d discussed with her how we were going to do her homework, we’d talked it through and even thought of different mediums to use for a collage. Then, like she said, I forgot. I had to work today, her brother up every two hours in the night, I can’t remember the last time I managed to watch a tv show all the way through with my husband without being interrupted by ‘I need a drink’ or ‘Waaah waaah waaaah, cough, cough, cough’ from the baby. The car was in for MOT today. I forgot to check out my online food shop too, and when it didn’t arrive as I expected today at 12 noon, I had a few choice words for the Asda customer service lady. That was until, I realised my error, apologised profusely and cried into a cold cup of tea.

‘You said we were going to put my picture in a frame’

I have no idea which out of the twenty seven pictures she’s drawn this week she’s referring to. I’ve forgotten. I love her artwork, but they’re not always memorable and some of them are awfully samey. I still love them, but not enough to frame each and every one. My hormone addled brain cannot hold on to another memory of felt tip hearts and swirls, or colouring pencil sketches of trees and mermaids.

‘You said I could have a balloon at the food festival, but we didn’t get one’

She’s right, I did say that, not wanting to get it on arrival in case she let go and the six pound foil dolphin flew up into the sky, never to be seen again. I had meant to get it for her before we left, but it was busy, the throng of bodies distracting me, exacerbating the heat from the sun. All of us tired from being amongst so many people. Her brother on his fifth suncream application. A desperate bid to get us all to the car before he woke up and terrorised us with post danger nap screams, on the ride home. I forgot. I just forgot.

And you know what? I feel bad. Of course I do. Every time I forget and she remembers, I feel terrible. But she forgets too. She’s forgotten that mummy took her to Little pink café on Saturday and the food festival Sunday. She’s forgotten that I tuck her in every single night and make sure she has clean clothes and her spellings are done, her books read, her PE kit ready, clothes for forest school too. I make sure she has money for whatever mufty day is occurring this week. That breakfast club is booked, and nanny’s picking her up. I’m also pretty good at whipping up a costume or two for the seemingly constant dress up days and Easter bonnet parades. She forgets to brush her teeth but I remind her. I clean her eyeglasses every night before she goes to sleep, and when she’s finally spent, I creep into her room and make sure she’s tucked in. I stroke her hair back from her face and tell her again (because I’ve already told her 100 times that day) how much I love her. She doesn’t know the impact of a mother’s load. To her it’s promises broken and forgotten moments.

Sometimes I forget things, but I remember a lot too. I remember without fail to remind her just how adored she and her brother are. Every day, of every week, of every year and I’ll continue to do that until it embarrasses her in front of her first crush, I’ll do it when they’re thirty and maybe have their own children to love. I’ll never stop. Because every word I say and every promise I make, is true, and yes I might forget, but when I’m reminded, I try my best to follow through. And our best is all we’ve got, right!?

If you’re a mummy that sometimes forgets and feels bad. Know this, it’s not just you. You’re not doing it wrong, it’s just hard. And if you’re worrying about being a good mum, the chances are, you already are one.

Confessions of a chronically ill mum #10

Can’t believe it’s been ten weeks since I started these musings. It’s amazing for me to look back and see the peaks and troughs, highs and lows. I’m very aware that I started writing #ConfessionsOfAChronicallyIllMum quite soon into starting intense Dialectal Behavioural Therapy

For me, I can really see how therapy has helped me come to terms with a lot, and also manage life with chronic pain, physical illness, flare ups of all conditions, as well as PMDD. I would be lying if I said that my hormones are no longer upturning my life every few weeks, because the shift into luteal is still very prominent, despite being on birth control that claims to reduce the frequency/stop ovulation, I am definitely still ovulating. The good news though, is that knowledge and coping skills really are power when dealing with any kind of life trauma, even if that trauma occurs repeatedly.

But and it’s a big but…. No matter how many tools are in your arsenal for the bad days, no matter if you have lots of support or none, there will be days that completely derail you. I know, because I’ve had several myself this week. A visit to the hospital to talk through the treatment options and risk factors for my cardio vascular health, the penultimate therapy session for said DBT group, meaning discharge from the perinatal service is imminent, and being a few days post ovulation, these factors sent me into a spiral. I was wracked with anxiety, up all night, ruminating, latching onto intrusive thoughts, and getting angry and paranoid. I know one hundred percent that I am due on. I know this is premenstrual, and on its own it’s bad enough. Having these additional life factors occur during the luteal phase has highlighted to me, that my coping skills are not absolute.

Kaiser is still teething, he’s been teething since the day he was born, I swear! And he still never sleeps at night. I thought Ciara was a needy baby, and she was, in lots of ways, but this kid is next level. He’s also (dunno if I’m allowed to say this) a typical boy! He’s into absolutely everything. Spending all day oscillating around the furniture, then throws himself off of it 4 or 5 times for good measure. You cannot take your eyes off him for a second and it’s hard. I’m exhausted. I’m also always keyed up and on edge trying to keep him safe.

Despite knowing these things are par for the course of being a woman with a Premenstrual disorder and many chronic health problems, and despite knowing this with Kaiser is all part of #mumlife it’s still not remotely easy! Because for me, it’s not just #mumlife it’s #Sickmumlife. Every hour of every day is spent chasing this kid around and I don’t have the energy for it. I also suffer dearly for the privilege of being parent to two beautiful kids. I have to pay for my time with them, in energy depletion and excruciating pain. I am robbed of time with them because of PMDD and the crippling anxiety it brings with it. I lose weekends with them to migraine and fatigue, and I struggle to provide for them because I can’t turn up often enough to do my job! Also… getting any government help for people who need it is like pulling fucking teeth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying for a second that I have it worse than most, I know that’s not true. I’d also never say that I am unlucky, because that’s also not true. I just want to sometimes be able to say it’s hard and for someone not to try and offer me green tea suppositories, or a commentary on why their life is harder.

I’d like for people to stop dropping in those two little words at least. Eg: At least one of them’s at school. At least you’re not really disabled. I am! For fuck’s sake, I am!!

Having to prove or feeling like I have to prove the status of my health & illnesses is draining. When at the hospital Thursday, as I hobbled in to the consulting room the nurse asked me what I’d done to myself?! I was so fed up by her question that I literally just said ‘I’m disabled’ because it wasn’t enough that I was wearing a sunflower lanyard stating that I have hidden disabilities, whilst walking like John Wayne after four days of bareback. She still felt it appropriate to ask the question. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t feel up to offering an explanation. This proved to me that we’re still a long, long way off from wholly accepting that if you don’t look a type of way, you must not feel as you profess to either.

Confession this week is this: Despite doing a lot of work on myself and learning to let go of lots that isn’t within the realms of my control, I still sometimes feel bitter. Radical acceptance has helped me a lot, but there are days, like those mentioned above that I’m still so angry at how my health seeps into every single aspect of my life. I confess that I am terrified about returning to work because I don’t know if I am going to be reliable enough to hold down a job, even a part time one. I confess that even though I’m getting better at understanding my limitations I am still sometimes furious about them. 

Ciara had a birthday party yesterday and it took every ounce of energy I possessed to turn up. To greet the other children and their parents and act like I wanted to be there. She had the best day, and I felt a lot of guilt around how I felt towards the party. But, it worked out in the end and we made it! Sometimes it’s having no choice that actually pulls you from the darkness. Sometimes, choice or not, that isn’t attainable. I’m glad I made it happen yesterday.

Confessions Of A Chronically Ill Mum #2

This week in our house everyone seems to be fully over the ‘Rona, except me, of course not me. My symptoms are lingering and have worsened whilst I’ve been in the luteal phase of my cycle. This isn’t unusual, I often get flare ups in all symptoms around this time of the month, and particularly symptoms stemming from viruses that weaken your immune system. I’ve had recurring shingles for a few years now and every single month without fail, despite being on antivirals indefinitely, I get a flare up in nerve pain at the outbreak site.

Having said that, this past week I’ve been busy! So busy, that I’ve had to be organised. I notice this organisation has had a positive impact on my mood despite being in luteal. It’s classic distraction I guess. Also my husband and I have a weekend away booked as it was our wedding anniversary this week and just knowing that I have three nights of child free sleep to look forward to, is undeniably liberating.

A few more things happened and one of them was, I saw a new GP. A big deal for me. I’ve had the same GP since before my Fibro diagnosis six years ago, and she’s been amazing. The idea of seeing a new one whilst she is on maternity leave has filled me with dread for months. But today I did it. It was ok. I went in with a list and ticked off all of this in 10 minutes….

  • ECG Booked
  • Fasting bloods booked
  • Referral to rapid cardiac clinic
  • Breast clinic follow up appointment booked
  • Chased up Lipid clinic referral
  • Discussed further gynae/endocrinology input re PMDD
  • Post covid obs done
  • Face to face appointment for Kaiser booked for post covid obs.

Why am I telling you all of this in a blog post?

Well there is a reason, and it’s this weeks confession. I have always been a person that actively advocates for myself and my health. After all if I don’t, who else is going to do it for me? I research everything, I connect dots and I track my symptoms. But for months now, I have been slacking. It took me two months to drum up the courage to get a referral to the breast clinic, even though I had a very visible lump in my left breast. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be bothered to argue the toss with the drs receptionist about why I needed a face to face appointment, and every time I spoke to a healthcare professional that wasn’t part of my mental health team, I cried. 

When you have chronic and mental illness you get used to being dismissed by doctors.

Can’t breathe, crushing chest pain? Probably just a Fibro flare up, I’m sure that’s a symptom! Or actually maybe it’s anxiety, have you been stressed lately?

Skull smashed open and brain hanging out? Sounds like a panic attack.

Gone blind? Sounds like a migraine.

And so on. I know I’m being glib, and I’m sorry if this exaggeration offends anyone, but seriously, sometimes visiting the doctor is like pulling fucking teeth. The issue with that is, the doctor’s the only person who can help you get the treatment you need, for the answers you had to figure out yourself.

And when you have kids it’s not even a case of whether or not you can cope with your symptoms. You don’t get a choice. I know it’s easy for me to say, and many people reading this may well think, well if it was that bad you wouldn’t be able to just cope. The truth is though, parents with their own health issues do just cope. Even the ones diagnosed with life threatening cancers still do the school run between scans and treatments. I personally have friends who have had to do this so I know that it’s true for some.

Big thing number 2.

Group therapy. I started it today. I want to write a whole blog post on the pros and cons once I’ve had a few more sessions so for now I’ll keep it brief. The session was two hours long. Two hours spent with a group in person might have felt quite nice, a chance to learn some new mindfulness skills and have a chat with others in a similar boat to myself, but two hours online was painstakingly long. Kaiser napped for just 15 minutes of it and trying to listen to other women speak over the top of crying baby heads felt strained. There were a few rules too, like we had to keep our camera on at all times so I couldn’t roll my eyes or go for a wee without having to let everyone know my reasons. I want to benefit from the group and I’m sure in time I’ll get used to it and maybe even bring some of my own value to it, but today I found it just made a stressful day with a baby, more stressful. The whole idea of this group is to be able to learn to regulate my emotions better, to deal with stress in a more productive way, and to feel more in control. So I’m going to stick it out, even if the first session did feel like it was an intrusion on my time. Therapy, I’ve learned is not supposed to be comfortable and it requires commitment so I feel I owe to myself to see this through.

Full time job

It has felt lately as though looking after my health and trying to juggle appointments and treatment is a full time job. Having a baby is also a full time job, both without annual leave or pay. I’m due back to work soon and no idea what I’m going to do about childcare or how to manage two full time jobs on top of a part time paid job. I want to be well in order to participate in my children’s lives, but I also need to earn money to be able to give them a decent life. The system is still fucked. It still penalises mothers who work or have partners. Childcare is still extortion, and I know I’m not alone in this plight. I just wish it was one of the ones I didn’t have to think about right now, but I know I do, as with the cost of living rising and wages becoming stagnant, it’s a very real threat to our livelihood and I guess lifestyle too.

Finally

Finally I’ve become more aware this week just how much I’ve let myself go, and I’ve set myself tiny goals of putting my makeup on more often and making sure I’m grooming myself! So far it’s going ok, but they do say it takes at least 3 weeks to form a habit so I’ll catch you up then.

Is Elf On The Shelf making you feel like a crap mother?

Apparently, according to the world of social media, the answer for some is yes. But I’m gonna call bullshit on this one and say it’s likely not the elf but the comparison to other mums that’s making you feel inadequate.

Let me explain…. As someone who uses Instagram to share family life, and who chooses to celebrate and share both successes and failures, I am very aware of how seeing things online can impact your mental health.

There are a whole host of topics that could or should be banned from social media. Topics that in my opinion elicit trauma, and if it was up to me I would choose not to read or see the things that trigger me.

Oh wait, for the most part is IS up to me.

I am able to mute, unfollow, ask not to see this again, in order to clean up my news feed.

Hence why I find it just a little bit unnecessary when someone has a rant about how Elf on the Shelf is making mothers (them) feel inadequate.

People who have tidy houses, are hugely successful and look like supermodels make me feel inadequate, but it would take me one hundred years, most likely bitter years, to successfully call out all of these people on their pretentiousness, but why would I want to?

Don’t get me wrong, as a disabled mother on a low income, I know what it’s like to be hard up. I’ve experienced trauma and I know what it’s like to struggle with your mental health. We all have triggers. All of us. But we also need to take stock and stop blaming others for triggering us.

The mum posting her child’s toy elf prancing around on a plastic dinosaur is not doing so to make you feel inadequate.

Realistically, she is probably doing it to make herself feel better, a silent high five to having remembered that Fergus-Frosty-Pants the elf needed to move his matchstick body, to another part of the house after her kids were tucked up in bed.

Similarly, the mum who takes pride in her home and posts pictures of it, is not doing so to make you feel inadequate. She’s sharing something she’s proud of.

I’m not a big fan of sharing hauls, or how many presents my kids get, mainly because I’ve always been brought up not to place too much value on material things, but you know what? If I could afford to do all the things with my kids that I’d like, if I could afford to shower them with gifts that fill rooms, I probably would. Of course we need to educate our children not to place value on how much they receive, I had a conversation just yesterday with my daughter about being grateful for all that she has as opposed to being sad about the things she doesn’t. It started when she sulked walking back from the shop because they didn’t have the Christmas tree biscuits we usually buy to decorate this time of year. We had a good chat about all the lovely things we’ve done and the crafts we’ve made in the run up to Christmas and that sulking about not being able to decorate some chewy gingerbread, kind of pales into insignificance if we compare. We talked about how there will inevitably always be things we want that we can’t have. Things others have that may make us jealous or resentful, but this is part of life. It’s literally something we all, even us as adults (clearly) will experience often. Comparison is the thief of joy and if we focus on what everyone else is doing and allow it to make us feel shit about ourselves, we lose sight of all the great things we have and if I’ve learned anything in the last year (and I like to think I’ve learned a whole lot) it’s that gratitude is not only a healthier way to eradicate the feelings of inadequacy that comes with comparison, it also helps us to feel better about what we have.

I see posts all the time saying ‘it’s ok if you don’t have XYZ this Christmas’ and of course it is, but I’m nonplussed as to when anybody suggested it wasn’t.

I myself am guilty of previously following trends, especially with the kids. Always wanting to make sure my daughter has a birthday party as great those of her peers. Don’t forget the photo ops, balloon arches and all that. However, I’ve learned that actually she’s happy if there is food and dancing, and she doesn’t really give a shit if she has 100 balloons positioned into a giant rainbow at five years old. I’ll add as well that all of these things are available in DIY and don’t cost the earth if you’re prepared to graft yourself.

We’re all human, trying our best, wanting the best for our kids, and it’s hard enough to avoid the never ending guilt that is placed on us as mothers, without turning on each other for moving around a felt elf, two weeks a year.

Just do you. XOXO

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.