February 2014 archive

Time Out

Time Out: Noun: a pause from doing something (as work); “we took a 10-minute break”; “he took time out to recuperate,” respite, break, recess; pause – temporary inactivity.

If you follow me on Twitter you may or may not have noticed my unusual silence of late. I needed some time out, and from life not just Twitter.

I had recently read an article in Psychologies magazine about pleasure that got me thinking – and in it there was the following quote:

‘Our culture teaches a woman to over-give and she ends up depleted, lonely, cranky and victimised. Pleasure is something every woman requires.’

Now this article very much focused on sexual pleasure (don’t worry, we won’t be going there in this post) but it also mentions how pleasure also comes from discovering what brings you fun and joy in your spare time, and that if you do nothing and always wait for others to make you happy, chances are you’ll lead a miserable life.

Now I know that sounds a bit dramatic – and maybe it is – but recently, even though I think myself happier than I’ve ever been before, I am almost certainly not finding many things pleasurable, and have become increasingly downtrodden with the groundhogdayness of life that comes with looking after three small people. Clearing food repeatedly off the floor was becoming beyond boring; doing the laundry, endless loads of laundry, was almost unbearable to the point that there were piles and piles of clothes in my house and I had no idea if they were clean or not; my husband walking in after a hard day at work and casually asking me what was for dinner was increasingly making me want to rip of his man bits, fry them in a little oil and then ram them down his throat. Life had become so repetitive and familiar that I was locked in my own sweet hell, where everything was beginning to irritate me and I was morphing into a spiky ball of built up resentment and frustration.

We all know how hard parenting can be, we all support and listen to each other, yet when really faced with the really of its relentlessness are we truly honest? I know I’m terrible for plastering on my make-up (never seen without it, God forbid!) and casually throwing the phrase ‘I’m fine’ into everyday conversations, when inside I’m screaming ‘no, I’m bloody well not fine, I’ve just had to change the biggest, smelliest nappy with one hand whilst simultaneously emptying the dishwasher with the other and watching my umpteenth cup of coffee go cold. I’ve already had three people burst in on me whilst I’m trying to have a poo and have yet again been faced with the constant ‘why have you got a beard down there mummy?’ question whilst dipping under the shower for five minutes whilst hoping my youngest doesn’t flush himself, or my mobile phone down the toilet.’

Most days, most days I can laugh about all of the above, even when I’ve stupidly given the toddler a packet of Cheerios that he takes great pleasure on firing across the lounge. Or when I run to catch vomit in my hands for the gazillionth time, knowing damn well that it still manages to go absolutely everywhere and then makes my hands stink of sick for days. But last week it had all completely and utterly got on top of me and I was properly fed up. Fed up with feeling like dogsbody that was solely there to make everyone’s life easier, when no-one was making mine simple in any way shape or form – and so I quickly arranged for some time out. Four days in fact of total time out where I went away with my mum somewhere special…somewhere that we disappear to once a year…somewhere that is child and husband free.

I remember as a child how important time out had been for my parents – my dad would regularly go on fishing holidays (he was a keen fly fisherman, often having meetings with a Mr B. R. Owntrout on Friday afternoons!) and my mum would often go away with ‘the girls’ on Butlins fitness weekends. I clearly remember a time that my dad was left with us on one such weekend. He served up dinner, and it was stew…and it was grey…and yes, my brother and I refused to touch it. For years we teased and taunted him unbeknown to us that mum had actually cooked it (mushroom stew, hence the greyness!) and had left it for him to reheat! So I’ve grown up knowing time out is important and maybe that is why I am a firm believer in doing it myself, without any guilt whatsoever…honestly! And when I was away I fully indulged in activities I categorically can’t do with children. It was uplifting, refreshing and so very indulgent. Someone else cooked for me, another did the dishes for me and conversations with my mum were uninterrupted and always complete. I only got up when I needed something and chose to, my sleep was uninterrupted, my coffee was hot, and oh joy of joys I got to pee and shower on my own.

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The time away gave me time to think. Having recently turned 37 I’ve been feeling a little uneasy…not a young ‘un anymore my life is very much set on its path, and yet I’ve not been ready for middle age-ness at all. I have very much been feeling feel torn in between two lives, unsure of which step to take next. When young your life is always segmented by different events – you work towards GCSEs, then A-Levels before further education if you so choose. Marriage and babies give you life-changing things to look forward to and your life is broken into different stages; however now I’m settled. My life doesn’t have a next stage as I am having no more children, which in turn means no more maternity leave, just unbroken work for the next few decades. It’s a strange time and one that honestly, hadn’t been sitting well with me. I’ve always been someone who gets bored relatively easily. I feel I need to achieve more than I have. I feel like I need to make every day count, every experience a memorable one and I’ve recently not been very good at living in the moment and being grateful for all I’ve got.

I know I’m so very lucky, several years ago as a young single mother I’d never have dreamt of having a career, a husband and a wonderful family. I’m so blessed to have everything I do, I’ve just been totally determined for it to be perfect. Maybe my need for perfection stems from losing my father when he was just 48, and then a dear friend at the age of just 40 – I don’t take a single minute for granted, but in turn that means my aspirations are often unrealistically high and I strive to meet them, failing often.

However over the last few days I’ve been able to take a step back from my life…and am so much more appreciative for it. I’ve been able to look at things in more perspective and have relished the opportunity to regain my momentum and zest for life. I’ve recognised that bringing up three children is a huge achievement, as is maintaining a successful marriage – which is so very hard at times. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve written a book to support families living with post natal depression and am involved in some wonderfully exciting charity work in this area at the moment. I have an amazing group of friends who are so brilliantly supportive. I may not be going out as much as I used to and I may (definitely) have several more wrinkles than I did ten years ago, but these things now seem so unimportant.

These four days away have been magical, powerful and I feel revitalised. I came home to smiles and cuddles and a husband so exhausted from looking after the children that he fell asleep at half past seven last night. And today? Today I’m back in the swing of being a mum and a housewife. I’m no longer irritable and have an infectious grin across my face. Never has the phrase happy mum = happy family been more true – without doubt everyone is more settled and grounded because of it.

Now where did I leave that cup of coffee….

If you enjoy reading my blog I would absolutely love a nomination for the MAD Blog Awards! The categories I can be nominated for are…
MAD Blog of the Year, Best Blog Writer, Outstanding Contribution, Most Innovative Blog and Best Schooldays Blog. You can nominate by clicking on the button below. Thank you x


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Through the eyes of my daughter…

Groovy: Groovy (or, less common, “Groovie” or “Groovey”) is a slang colloquialism popular during the 1960s and 1970s. It is roughly synonymous with words such as “cool”, “excellent”, “fashionable”, or “amazing”, depending on context.

So the fantastically supportive and groovy @kateonthinice has recently started up a Monday linky all about being a groovy mum.

I’ve not felt particularly groovy of late and as all of you who read my blog are aware, some of that is due to my delightful twelve year old daughter and our tempestuous relationship. So when Kate tweeted me the link to this week’s groovy mum post I wasn’t sure I would be able to join in, as the last person I thought would think me groovy was my daughter.

However….when I asked her she said all of this…pretty much in one sentence without stopping for breath…maybe I am a bit groovy after all…

You’re in with the style and the fashion.

You can have a girly chat with me.

You’re kinda like my sister and I can talk to you about anything.

You try your best to do mother and daughter stuff.

You’re always there for me.

You go out and have a laugh, and free your mind and have some fun.

You’re not overprotective like some parents and that’s good.

You’re a laugh.

You’re not afraid to show your emotions.

You like to do girly stuff and go shopping and stuff.

You are strict, but not really strict.

When I do something wrong to talk to me about it, I’m never scared to tell you I’ve done something wrong as you’re always there for me.

You’re a good cook and you love to make cakes and cupcakes.

I know you work for the family, but you always put your family first.

You are thoughtful, you think of others and if you think they’re upset you will always get them something.

I think you’re probably the best mum out of all of my friends’ mums.

See even if I’m mean to you and stuff it doesn’t mean I don’t care.

And so, from now on, every time we fall out I’m reading this post – for it makes my heart swell with love and pride and reminds me that beneath it all, our relationship is still as strong and solid as ever.

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Tongue Biting

Bite your tongue: to stop yourself from saying something because it would be better not to, even if you would really like to.

My inability to bite my tongue has always got me in trouble. I often wonder if it stems from my senior school days where I wish I’d bitten my tongue a bit less and lashed out a bit more. It wasn’t an easy time as those of us over the age of 18 all know, and it’s a period of my life that I’d hate to relive with a passion. A time where you’re not a child, yet equally not an adult – where everything can be a bit scary and overwhelming. You learn a little more about the world you live in and discover that it’s not all Care Bear hearts and flowers, but that it can be tough, unforgiving and unbelievably cruel at times. I found maintaining friendships at secondary school very tricky and always thought about everything far too much. I was never relaxed and able to go with the flow like most of my peers, and would lock myself away in an extreme dark mood if I thought I’d been wronged, which obviously led to me being the butt of many a prank and sarcastic comment. I was easily wound up, and still am.

When I look back at who I was and how I behaved as a teenager I see a lot of similarities between myself and my daughter – however, where I (mostly) kept quiet and retreated into myself and my OCD, she very much vents her frustrations outwardly so everyone knows about it. And she is without doubt far more stubborn that I am, which is really saying something. I’ve written about this many times before and yet somehow, in spite of everything I’ve tried, things have deteriorated between us somewhat to where we have both openly said that we don’t actually like each other very much at the moment. Which makes me feel incredibly sad. Everything is a battle – she won’t eat anything that contains any goodness in it whatsoever. She refuses to drink water. She hates cleaning her teeth and showering as they are just too much effort. She’s exhausted, yet will not sleep before half past ten. Her room is forever messy. And I find myself constantly wondering whether this is all normal?

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all hideous, we do have wonderful mother/daughter meals out and time when it’s just the two of us and it’s magical. And recently we discovered something new which worked wonders. I suggested that she went and wrote me a letter, as honestly as she could and that if she wanted me to read it I would, or if she wanted to keep it privately then she could. And it was a really useful tool in diffusing her anger, yet like most things the positive effect was short lived.

Many people I know do not have twelve year olds, and I’m really missing those reassuring conversations where someone else says their tween is exactly the same. There are no toddler groups for tweens, no stay and plays or tween massage sessions. Health visitors don’t come round and ask how you’re getting on and there are no 13 year checks. It’s a time where parental instincts really do have to kick in as you blindy go where you’ve never been before and tackle challenges you didn’t know could exist. I understand why she is like she is, and I know I can’t fix hormones and make this period in her life any easier, but I do want to make it more bearable for us all, I just haven’t worked out quite how to do that yet and I’m not prepared to ‘wait ten years until she comes back to me’ as many have suggested. Life is too damn short for that.

What I do know is that my instincts are definitely telling me that I have to learn to bite my tongue more. I’m ashamed to admit it and am being painfully honest here when I say that she often succeeds in dragging me down to her level, and we’re like two teenagers arguing and I’m no longer behaving like an adult – and I’m mortified and know I need to reign it in. I have to accept that she’s going to be challenging, that she feels like she hates the world and the world hates her and that everything and I mean EVERYTHING is so horribly unfair to her that it’s unbearable. And I have to find something good to praise…something…somewhere, but it’s far from easy.

So please, if you have any tried and tested tongue biting techniques share them in the comments below, for my instincts are also telling me that at the moment, I need all of the help I can get…

MAD Blog Awards

My 1st Blogiversary!

This week, on Thursday, my blog is officially one whole year old! When I sat down in my lounge – this time almost a year ago – and wrote my first ever post I genuinely never expected to become so involved and in love with a world in which, before that day, I barely knew existed.

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Blogging helped me recover from my third and most hideous episode of post natal depression. It helped me self publish my book ‘A Monster Ate My Mum,’ and support so many other mums suffering with the illness too. I’ve met wonderful new friends, taken part in this year’s epic Team Honk relay challenge with @ladyemsy and @caro_mad, and been to some excellent and inspiring blogging conferences. I have been lucky to become a BRITAX Mumbassador, and yes through blogging I have also, I have to say it, had the opportunity to review some pretty fab things! All in all blogging rocks, and I’m so proud of the fact that my blog is still going one year on!

The blog has changed a lot and evolved in ways I never imagined when I started, and I love the fact that anything goes. Having three children spanning in ages from 12 to 1 I always have material to write about, but have also enjoyed blogging about my personal issues, education, feminism, my (mostly unsuccessful) weight loss and even my baking! (probably responsible for said poor weight loss!) Linkies have been an amazing way to find new blogs and promote mine; Silent Sunday posts have got me passionate about photography, and I have re-found my love of poetry thanks to Vic Welton and Ellie All At Sea. Maybe one day I’ll even be brave enough to take part in one of Stephanie Arsoska’s amazing virtual open mic nights! (and finish off my Summer Of Words story!)

In the last year I have also been lucky enough to publish some wonderful guest posts from brilliant bloggers; it never fails to amaze me how we are always finding new ways to write about well known topics and how brilliantly inventive bloggers are with their words.

Blogging is like an itch that needs scratching; it’s cathartic, therapeutic….uplifting. When people comment on my blog I feel so pleased that someone has identified with what I’ve written or has been moved enough to comment. It makes me smile and I must find some precious time to comment on others more.

In truth I have been finding it hard to find the time to write as much as I used to; mainly due to going back to work but also – very excitingly – because I am so involved with many other projects that have happened because of my blog. Which is amazing!! But…I will continue to blog as much as I can, for I truly love it, and feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful community.

Thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

If you like reading my blog then I’d love for you to please nominate me for a MAD blog award, I’ll leave you to decide in which category! You can nominate by clicking on the badge below. Thank you x
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Honk Honk

If you are a blogger or read lots of blogs then you will already have guessed what this post is about…the Team Honk Blogger Relay Challenge!! However if you don’t know what I am talking about (where have you been?!) then read on…

So tomorrow sees the Team Honk baton – thanks to Team Oxford – reach Chipping Sodbury as part of this amazing challenge! It’s the start of three days where the baton reaches my neck of the woods – and it’s my turn to take part in the challenge and raise lots of money for Sport Relief!

Team Honk 2014 blogger Relay

So far there have been boats, running, onesies, and even elephants along the way – and an amazing sum of money has already been raised. People have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones and challenged themselves for this amazing cause!

The Team Honk Blogger Relay started in Lands End on the 12th January 2014 and finishes in John O Groats on the 23rd March 2014.
We aim to raise over £20,000 for Sport Relief!

In terms of modes of transport, you name it we have thought of it: pushchair pushes, roller blading across the Humber, boating round Bristol, #Honkopoly around London, fancy dress, onesies, bikes, scooters, planes, hiking, rafting and mountain climbing.
#teamhonkrelay involves over 200 bloggers, their friends and families in a route that zig zags up the UK taking in 38 regional teams.

Here you can see the official regional route details and dates for the relay : http://teamhonk.org/2014-blogger-relay/team-honk-2014-relay-route-and-masterplan/

And so tomorrow I shall, dressed as a pirate, take the baton and walk 13 miles from Chipping Sodbury into the centre of Bristol with @ladyemsy and @caro_mad! I’ve walked this far before, several times…but never without any training and to be honest I’m extremely nervous.

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We will be completing challenges (as if walking 13 miles with NO training isn’t challenging enough!!) like the egg and spoon race and the conga. And as if it couldn’t be any more fun (?!) it also looks like were on a serious weather warning for more horrendous rain!

Then, once the baton has reached Bristol, there will follow on Monday a ferry ride, a flash mob Zumba dance overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge followed by juggling, running, horses and the most amazing things happening in Portishead on our last day. If you go on to our team link below you can see all of the details of what is happening in Bristol as part of the relay, and see who to follow on Twitter for fab updates and photos of it all.

So please, please if you can spare any money sponsor our fab Bristol team! (And thank you to all of you amazing people who have sponsored so far!)

It’s easy to donate:

You can sponsor the Bristol Team here: http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/bristolteamhonk
You can also do so on the Team Honk fundraising page :http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/team-honk-relay
Or through the text donate number: Text HONK to 70005 and donate £5 to Sport Relief .

Every single penny helps….

• £1 could provide a hot meal for a child in the UK living in extreme poverty.
• £5 could pay for a mosquito net to protect a mother and her baby in Africa from contracting malaria while they sleep.
• £10 could enable an older person in the UK who just lost someone they love to attend a group activity.
• £25 could run a sports session for disabled children in the UK, giving them the chance to play with other young people.
• £100 could feed 200 children living on the streets in India for one day.
• £300 could provide a water point in the slums of Tanzania, giving hundreds of families access to safe, clean water.
• £500 could provide six months of support for a young person in the UK with mental health issues.

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The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world.

You can also follow the adventures of the Blogger Relay on Digital Media…

Team Honk Twitter & Hashtags: @team_honk #teamhonkrelay

Sport Relief Twitter & Hashtags: @sportrelief #SR14

TeamHonk facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teamhonk

TeamHonk pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/LoveAllBlogs/teamhonk-2014-relay-teamhonkrelay/

And follow me (@instinctivemum) @ladyemsy and @caro_mad tomorrow on Twitter to see how we get on…wish us (lots of) luck!

Win Baby Show Tickets with Britax

This competition has now closed and the winner has been chosen.

It’s the AMAZING Baby Show time again…

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Taking place from the 21st -23rd February at ExCel London, The Baby Show is the UK’s leading pregnancy and parenting event. There will be hundreds of stands, which will feature anything and everything baby and toddler-focused – from innovative new inventions to showcases from all your favourite brands.

There will also be hourly guest speakers including nutrition expert Annabel Karmel, breastfeeding expert Clare Byam-Cook, and infant research and professor Dr Robert Titzer. With giveaways and special offers galore, make sure you don’t miss out!

To celebrate BRITAX’s continued involvement with the Baby Show and my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador, I’m really excited to be able to give away a pair of tickets to the next Baby Show in February! BRITAX’s stall will be stocked with all the latest BRITAX and BOB products, as well as having exciting offers available to Baby Show visitors. BRITAX experts will be on hand too, to explain the latest technology and take you through all the car seats and strollers on offer.

The tickets entitle you and a friend to full access at the London ExCel Baby Show on a day of your choice. Little ones get free entry so they’re more than welcome to come along too!

Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter! T&Cs apply.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post has been brought to you as part of the BRITAX Mumbassador Programme.

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