The Mum Hour

A few weeks ago I wrote about how my friends adoption journey was very similar to my own story of motherhood. I asked her to also write, not about adoption specifically but just about being a new Mum. If you ever needed reassurance that ‘Mumming’ is more or less the same experience however you get there, here it is.

I have loved having her guest blog and I hope she’ll be back again!

So, a week ago I became a mum for the first time. 

She is a 20-month old bundle of joy and she's a very energetic and fun toddler who has been placed with me for adoption. 

In a lot of ways so far it has been the same as bringing home a newborn. On the first night, once she finally went to sleep she slept soundly, utterly wiped out from the stress of the day. I was shattered too but found myself waking up every 2 hours to make sure she was breathing, checking every cough or whimper in her sleep, just in case. It has taken me almost a week to learn that I don't need to race to her cot every time she makes a noise in her sleep! In general she is settling well and we are both trying to get to know each other - two strangers who need to bond and attach to each other (not unlike having a newborn).

There have been so many special moments so far in one short week. The first time I held her, the first time I made her laugh (the first time she made me laugh), the first time she fell asleep in my arms, the first time she made a silly face at me, the first time she hugged me, the first time she bounced around and accidentally nutted me in the face with her very hard tiny skull, (Ouch. It's three days later and my nose is still bruised), the first time she tried to hug me while I was doing a poo, the first time she looked me right in the eyes as she spat her dinner out onto the floor and then laughed in my face, like the tiny despot that she is. 

She's just amazing. 

In the beginning I felt I had to entertain her every minute of the day. It was exhausting for both of us, and gradually I had realised that I need to settle us into a more normal routine - sometimes she will need to entertain herself if mummy is on the phone to the oven repair guy, or while mum makes lunch/dinner/does the washing up. And frankly sometimes mummy needs a rest break too! So we are figuring things out slowly together. Mostly we have been exploring our local neighbourhood, visiting different parks and meeting the neighbours, and a few local friends here and there at the park. And trying hard to establish routines straight away, as everything is so new to her and to me, that routines will help us to settle and give some structure to our day.

I'm lucky that my little one sleeps pretty well most of the time. And I'm also lucky that she still has a morning nap (she used to have two but has dropped her afternoon nap). It's amazing to me that after a solid 11 hours of sleep, she's awake for 3 hours and then suddenly knackered and needs another kip! But it's great for me - a good hour, sometimes 2 hours, when I can do stuff. 

The mystical, much-sought-after Mum Hour. 

But what to do with it?

I find The Mum Hour hard to use well - it's my little piece of me-time, a small but wonderful slice of alone-time in an otherwise packed day, and it won't last long - soon she won't nap at all during the day so I have to capitalise on it. But what to do with it? I can't waste it on chores, that's much too lame. Some days, if we've had a bad night, I desperately need a nap too, so we have had a very successful mummy-daughter power nap at least once (it was positively rejuvenating!), but it also seems such a shame to waste my golden hour on sleep. 

Should I read a book, or catch up on an episode of my favourite TV show? Should I sort out the garden or write a blog post? Just sit and enjoy a quiet cup of tea? Attempt a crossword?

So many choices! Sometimes it's overwhelming and I can't pick anything to do with it!

Anyhow, as I sit here, writing this blog with my gorgeous baby girl snoring away next to me, I am discovering that these little quiet moments are so precious because I savour them, but also because a small part of my brain can't wait for her to wake up again so I can have the next cuddle and the next giggle. And I'm sure knackered parents of newborns the world over feel the same way about their gorgeous, perfect sleeping infants...

Adoption…an observer’s point of view

One if my closest friends is currently going through the process of adopting a child. It’s a really important thing that she is doing, and a huge decision to make, but recently we were talking about her journey so far, and it occurred to me how similar her journey into parenthood has been to mine, despite the obvious differences.

It was a conversation we were having after the 3rd or 4th potential match fell through, and it was her describing how she felt that I recognised, so clearly, from my own experience.

Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that any one method of becoming a parent is better or worse then another. I am also not saying that there are no differences to our experience, because of course there are, but I was struck with how similar the struggle is, and how alike the rollercoaster to parenthood turns out to be.

As I listened to her talk about the loss of another match, at how much hope she had had at the start of this part of the process, at how disappointed she felt knowing something inexplicable had prevented this match from working out this time, I was reminded of how I felt when I lost our first baby, or how I felt at every period when we were trying to get pregnant. Building up the hope of what might be, looking at every physical response in my body and reading (or miss-reading) it as a sign of pregnancy. For my friend, every email or phone call from her social worker was a new bit of hope that this might go further, every step towards a decision lead to more hope developing, added to her story of ‘this time.’ Reading and re-reading emails to glean extra bits of hope that this might be the one, trying not to read into phrases in an email that might suggest extra hope for this one. Trying not to sound too hopeful, after one email saying ‘perhaps’ is so similar to trying not to sound too hopeful after one ‘attempt’ to get pregnant. And trying not to lose all hope after 6 months of emails and maybes or attempts and the odd late period…it is so similar. I could hear in her voice how much she had hoped…how she had learnt not to get her hopes up too much but couldn’t help herself.

On one occasion, she got down to the last 2 possible families, and got told very last minute that she wasn’t the choice. I know how she was feeling, because I have been there with pregnancies of my own, the thrill of the positive test, the hope of what might be, trying not to tell anyone when you want to burst with the news and then trying to downplay how awful you feel when it doesn’t work out, for a reason you will never know. The second-guessing of yourself - was it me? Did I do something wrong? Say something wrong? Is that it? Have I blown my only chance? The inexplicable feeling of the loss of something you never actually knew, for a reason you will never know. I watched her go through it all and thought time and time again how similar it is to my own journey.

I can’t even say her journey took longer then mine, because while my pregnancies were only 40(+2) weeks, we started the journey of trying to get pregnant long before any bump appeared. We had months of trying and nothing happening, doctors appointments and conversations, followed by at least one loss (possibly more but we will never know) before I ever actually got to a viable pregnancy. That pregnancy was fraught with fear and worry. I kept telling my husband, ‘let’s just get to 12 weeks,’ or 20 weeks or 24 weeks or whatever it was….my friend was the same, once she had a match, there was still formality after formality to go through, at every turn it might not work out or someone might change their mind, or something in the process might just go against her somehow.

Her journey was also long, from her decision that adoption was right for her, to being successfully matched was years of form filling and learning. Interviews and references and credit checks, being told what you can and can’t do, being taught what is best for a child you don’t even know and don’t even know if you will ever know. Every step is designed to weed out those who aren’t really committed to the process and she was constantly reminded how tough it would be.

Since then, happily a match has been made, and she is a soon-to-be mummy of an 18-month old. Even then, the similarities haven’t stopped. Somebody threw her a baby shower. She has spent weeks ‘nesting’ and buying what she needs, worrying she has forgotten something, and organising work so it won’t descend into chaos the second she goes on maternity leave. People have wished her luck and best wishes, and she has been flooded with ‘helpful’ advice, some of which is helpful and some not. Some downright insensitive. She has been ridiculously excited to meet the child, only to find that the day-to-day reality is a variety of highs and lows, with some days being magical and other days really tough.

She has a long way to go-like any new parent, figuring out what the child wants and needs, how she will make parenting work for her, what sits right for her little family and what doesn’t, what items turned out to be pointless for her and what turns out to be invaluable for her. How she will fit in play-dates, friends, school, work, herself…all the issues any new mum has. And they have to get to know each other, just like I did with my babies.

Physically giving birth to a child does not guarantee you will like each other. It’s a hard reality of baby making, you might love them with all your hart, but it doesn’t mean you always like them. I am sure we can all think of parent/child combinations in adult life who just don’t get on, try as they might. Biology doesn’t always mean connection. My friend has as much chance of getting on with her child as I do. She will love the child, with all her hart, because, like me, she loved that child long before they actually came face to face. But love does not erase hardship, as any parent will tell you.

I am thrilled for her that she gets to be a family, plus, of course, her cats. I can’t wait to be involved in her child’s life, as I am in hers, and I am comforted by the face that parenthood is pretty much the same for us all, in it’s highs and lows, in it’s experience if not actually in it’s day-to-day activities. Despite how parenthood comes to you, it is pretty much the same for all of us.

And good luck if it is, somehow, coming to you!

The thumb sucker

I recently read an article written by a mum who’s child is (or probably ‘was’ by now) a thumb sucker. The writer talked about how perfect strangers feel it is acceptable to comment on this when she was going about her buisiness. The reason I came across the article was because I had just experienced this exact phanomona and was looking to Mr Google to find out if anyone else had experienced the same thing. 

As it turns out, however, thumb sucking is one of those things that everyone likes to have an opinion on. And often, they like to tell you that opinion, even if you haven’t actually asked for it. 

I was at a supermarket with my thumb sucker, who was sat quietly in the trolly while we picked up a few bits. We had chosen a treat together because she had been very good at the eye doctor despite being very scared earlier that day. She was behaving perfectly. I had no complaints about her!

The Girl often sucks her thumb, has done from very early on, and so far we haven’t really felt the need to discourage this. I am convinced the thumb was a reason why she was a pretty good sleeper early on. The Boy is not a thumb sucker and I am sure that is why he struggled(s) to sleep through the night. When she was about 2 a dentist told us we should stop her from doing it, but trying to stop a 2-year-old from sucking her thumb is virtually impossible. A bit of research around the subject told me that lasting damage associated with thumb sucking is likely caused in children older then 2 (normally after the first set of teeth have fallen out) and then only if there is an existing pre-disposition to a problem in overbite, so I felt like it was ok to lay off the requests to stop for the time being. Besides, she only ever does it when she’s tired or insecure, and when she’s tired or insecure, telling her to stop doesn’t work because she immediately forgets what you have told her while she focuses the tiredness or whatever is making her feel anxious. 

Anyway, back in the supermarket my little thumb-sucker was busy being an angel when the lady working on the checkout told her, directly, to take her thumb out of her mouth. She then turned to me

”You need to stop her from doing that, it’ll ruin her face.” 

I was flabbergasted. I just laughed and said  

“yeah...”  because I didn’t know what else to say, but she then proceeded to lecture me on how she was a thumb sucker, and how bad it was for my daughter (without any actual evidence as to why)...at a loss as to what to actually say in response, I just said ‘yeah...’ and smiled a bit. What I wanted to say was;

”Oh really? You want me to stop my 3-year-old from sucking her thumb? Have you tried stopping a three year old from sucking their thumb? And why? Why exactly? What evidence do you have that this will have a positive effect on her? Or that not stopping will have a negative effect on her?’ 

Of course, said supermarket checkout personnel may well have a medical degree and lots of well researched evidence to back this instruction up, but she didn’t mention it to me in this instance. Plus of course any medical evidence she did have could be countered by contradictory evidence because such is the nature of academia, but somehow we didn’t get onto this as I paid for my 3-year-olds treats. Frankly the bag of dolly mixtures and box of Krispy Kreme* donuts I was paying for would likely cause far more damage to the child’s teeth and body then sucking her thumb for 20 mins in a supermarket, but no one mentioned that to me either.

Funny.

Why then, is thumb sucking something people feel they can weigh in on opinion wise when no opinion has been asked for? Why am I not the only one to encounter this? Why is it that this isn’t the first time strangers or even people I know have mentioned to me about her thumb sucking? I don’t know the answer, I suspect the lady in question thought she was being helpful, that I clearly wouldn’t know about such things. Or else she had been told it so many times as a child herself she thought she would pass the feeling on. Maybe she thought I didn’t know, or realise, that I was doing my child such lasting damage and she was only trying to help. 

I am quite sure that if my 3-year-old was sat in the trolly with a dummy in her mouth, someone may well have told me that she needed to lose the dummy as well, I suspect parents of dummy-users are also subjected to this level of stranger intervention, or a three year old using a bottle I would imagine, but why? What is it about the harmless, oral fixations in our pre-schoolers that people feel the need to weigh in on? And why do people feel they have a right to do so? My child, my problem. Actually, more accurately, my child’s body, her problem, although I guess it is my job to help police that until she is old enough to read and digest the appropriate arguments for and against herself. 

Either way, if you see my little girl, or any little child for matter, sucking their thumb, please mind your own business, I am sure the parents have it in hand, it’s difficult enough approaching this tricky matter with a three year old with without oodles of stranger judgement layered on! 

*I will remind you here that is was a one off treat, and not an every day occurrence, (the contents of the trolly) and I promise she didn’t eat the whole box of donuts anyway, but that is beside the point! 

Being Toddler

With two small children under 4 years of age, we are used to a certain dose of chaos. In fact, it is fast becoming  what defines us. Normally, our method of dealing with trying to get stuff done at the weekend is to devide & conquer. For example, Sunday is often swimming day for The Boy, which usually falls to me while The Husband and The Girl often do a run to the shops or get some washing on or do some DIY. The Girl, now approaching 4, is much more manageable these days. She still gets upset over things but can be reasoned with more now and has a much better grasp of her own emotions. She can tell you if she’s hungry or tired, and while she still does get herself worked up from time to time, it’s far less often.

Meanwhile, The Boy is just now approaching two, and is starting to show his age in his behaviour. That irrational, unpredictable, frustrating and inconsolable creature that is a two year old in mid meltdown.

Sunday’s swimming lesson was a prime example. At the start of the lesson he had been very happy, jumping in as he has just learnt to do, splashing and kicking when asked, going after the ball...but as the session wore on and nap time grew closer he got clingy and soppy. At the end of the lesson I put him through the shower and dressed him like normal, but he wanted to dress himself (which he can’t really do yet) and I’m aware we’re on a clock here, before tired crankiness overtakes the I-want-to-do-everything whinge. Cue huge meltdown, whingie, screams, foot stamping, head-in-hands drama that only a (almost) two year old can create. The tantrum, if that’s what we’re calling it, lasts the whole way from getting out of the pool, through putting on shoes and walking to the car. At one point I had to carry a stiff-as-a-board, hollering, red-faced toddler round the pool while the poor teacher attempted to teach her next lesson. He actually sat full on the floor and sobbed as we left the venue, and, once strapped into the car-seat, screamed blue murder because I didn’t have a snack for him. 

By this point I wanted to scream myself, The Husband and I have often discussed how difficult driving it when there is a screaming baby in the back of the car, and a toddler is no better. But, as if to prove conclusively what the real problem was, he went from scream to fast asleep in about 4 mins flat. 

I could feel the tension leaving my body. I hadn’t realised how stressed the noise had made me until I felt my body relax once the noise had stopped.  

These moments are getting more and more common. Although not quite two yet, we are flying head long into toddler territory. The Boy constantly wants to do everything himself, despite, in many cases, not actually being able to yet, and when he dosen’t get his way, he just screams at the top of his voice. A high-pitched whingie-scream that goes right through you. It’s not just reserved for us either. His sister gets it too if she upsets him, and resorts to screaching back because she doesn’t know how to manage it. I know how she feels, at times I just want to scream right back.  

He has also taken to preferring one parent over the other. It’s not consistent though, we are never quite sure which parent he will want (usually the one who is not available) but if said parent doesn’t appear there are very few faces to match the bottom-lip extension of a toddler who hasn’t got his way, he has perfected I’m-not-happy in face form exceptionally well!

I know it’s not his fault. I know he’s frustrated because he can’t do things and can’t communicate his feelings or his wants easily, I know that he will grow out of it, that this will pass, that he is also capable of being very loving and sweet and funny. I know that he’s not really being ‘bad,’ he’s just being ‘toddler.’ I know we just have to ride this out, that over time and with some patience these tantrums will get less and he learns to express himself more. As parents we need to help him through this-let him be upset if he feels upset, let him learn to manage these big feelings, frustration, disappointment and fear etc himself, supporting him when he needs it and pointing him in the right direction where we can. It’s difficult, even as a grown up with tools to manage these feelings, to stay calm in the face of the amount of anger these tiny people can demonstrate, but really, there is nothing ‘terrible’ about him, and there won’t be even when he gets to two, but boy does he do a good impression of ‘terrible’ sometimes! 

Mountains and Molehills

I try to stear away from writing about my relationship with my husband publicly. There are a few reasons for this, but perspective is a large part of it. In my writing about it, you only ever get my side of the ‘story.’ Any perspective I may suggest from his side is still weighted with my assumptions.

With that being said, my relationship is obviously a huge part of my story, and not writing about it seems like a huge omission. For reasons I will explain in this post I think it is important to talk about it. So, I am going to write about it, but, please, approach with caution. His reality is inevitably different form mine.

What I want to say, in essence it this: being married isn’t easy. Being married with children isn’t easy. Even if those children are hard fought for, much desired and greatly loved, raising children is not easy on a marriage.

Take us, as an example. We don’t really get a chance to talk properly at any length, and the pressure of that time constraint often turns ‘talk’ into ‘row.’

We don’t often get to do stuff alone together, so it’s easy to forget what we have in common, apart from the children.

We hardly ever see each other at our best - that is saved for work or for Parkrun or for the stay and play. We only ever see each other in pyjamas or sweats, tired, hungry, on our last nerve and grouchy.

Sex. Hahahahaha.

I am certain that I do not speak for everyone, I am sure some people have it sorted, and can balance everything and give time to their relationship to keep it fair, fresh and fun, but just at the moment, we are finding that balance hard to strike. I suspect we are not the only ones.

On a recent weekend away, on my own with a bunch females similar to myself, away from the children and The Husband for the longest I have been away from them since the children were born ( a whole 2 nights!) I talked a lot with other mums and wives about the stress these things put on a relationship. Everyone spoke of how much they LOVED their partner but how difficult it is amongst the chaos of school runs and feeding the dog and getting to work and running errands, to maintain the smoothness their relationship had before children appeared on the scene. We found, so often in conversation, that our situations were similar, or the feelings were similar. That finding time to be intimate is difficult with babies but presents its own issues as children get older. That finding time to talk about issues is impossible when the only time you get to do it is 11pm on a Wednesday night when your both tired and just waiting for the baby to wake up. That asking for a baby sitter so that you can go out for dinner alone, just to be together, for no reason other then that, seams somehow unreasonable.

In our situation, we find that the language we use with each other causes difficulties. Last night we fell out over a blind that hadn’t been closed. The Husband had been out late with work, meaning he didn’t actually come home until long after the children were in bed. When he did get home, I heard him mumbling away downstairs to himself, and when he made it up to speak to me he told me ‘you hadn’t closed one of the blinds and the dogs water was nearly empty.’ Hence the mumbling. This upset me. What I had done was pick the children up from childcare, walk the dog, put out the bins, feed the dog, feed the children, shower them, get them ready for bed, do bedtime for both of them, do a workout for me, shower, eat and then sit down for like 20 mins and stare at the TV wondering when I should go to bed. I had forgotten, in all of that, to close a blind that you can’t even see from the main living room (hence I hadn’t noticed that I had forgotten). Oh and the dog had plenty of water upstairs, I wasn’t trying to dehydrate her.  Now, this is not a big argument, he mentioned it, I could have just ignored him and he probably wouldn’t have cared, but I was upset that this was all he could think of to say. It became an argument. It was 11 o’clock at night and we were both shattered, and when, the next day I pointed out that he had dropped a strawberry on the floor and he pointed out that I was doing the same thing to him as I had got upset with him doing to me the night before. We were in the middle of trying to get children ready so I could drop them at childcare before 7.45 and we could not discuss it, only say our pice without really taking time to think it through or listen to the other one before heading off to work in grump with each other. This is how it goes. This argument will likely rumble on for a while because we won’t actually discuss it, just snipe at each other and move on because there’s never time to do much else. The next time we will probably get to discuss it in depth we will both have forgotten why we were upset, and next time it happens we will not have taken the time to figure out how to deal with it, so the whole row will pop up again.

And so, it goes…

I know this situation is temporary. I know that many other similar couples have similar situations to deal with, however, my husband does not. What I mean is, I have spent time reading other blogs or watching instergrams’ of other mums who have the same issues. I speak to other mums and wives who experience similar, but The Husband does not. I am generalising here of course, but it seams to me that men do not get to chat to other men about this sort of thing, and they do not generally read the sorts of blogs women read, or follow other dads with the same situations (there are far less daddy bloggers then mummy bloggers, although there are some, and thank goodness for them). But is it any wonder that men’s mental health suffers because of this? My discussions with others tells me that we are not alone, and that things will get better, and that this is all totally normal, but does The Husband know this? I don’t know. I hope he does, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he didn’t. It would be normal if he didn’t.

It seems a shame to me. Talking to other mums in this way pre ents me from feeling like I am actually going mad. It helps me get some perspective and appreciate other points of view. It helps me know we are normal, not the only ones and other phrases like that.  

As a rule, I am not sure than many men get that privilege. It’s a shame. And potentially damaging.  

The argument we had last night, felt like a mountain at the time - and might for a while - but it is really a molehill. Molehills arn’t as life-changeing as mountains, but you can still twist your ankle on one, so it’s better to avoid them if possible.

Effortless

How many times have you heard this word to describe some fabulous and possibly iconic female who we are all encouraged to aspire to?

I have heard many people described as ‘effortless’ over the years. Almost exclusively female, always glamorous and beautiful and held up as role model types...I am talking about Marylen Munroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Julia Roberts,  Emma Watson, Beyoncé, the Dutches of Cambridge, the list goes on. Often described as ‘an effortless beauty’ or ‘effortlessly glamorous’ or ‘with effortless magnetism,’ that sort of thing.

Now, I am not suggesting that these women are not fitting of the adjectives used to describe them. Beautiful, glamorous, successful and charismatic these women may be (or have been), the word I take to task, is; ‘effortless.’ Are these things really effortless? Really? Because I would argue, that a person who wears Channel No.5 to bed, is making way more effort then is nessacery. I mean, I often forget to put perfume on for work, let alone bed, and it’s unlikely to be such an expensive perfume at that. 

Why do we hold up ‘effortless’ as something to aspire to anyway? As I get older, I am learning that anything worth doing, or worth having, takes effort. So why do we suggest that effortless is such a positive thing? 

I remember, growing up, feeling like it was very (very, like, very very) uncool to look like you had put any sort of effort in. A bright read face or a bit of sweat would cause the school nasties to throw a few insults your way. The super cool people at school, of course, never broke a sweat or turned bright pink. They always seemingly finished homework in about 15 seconds flat and never had to ask for help or jut got stuck. They always were amazing at art or dance or music, and never had to practice to improve or spend extra time perfecting things-it was always, effortless, and if you were the person putting in extra effort there was a degree of sniggering or somehow looking down on you. Of course, I realise in hindsight that these people must have been practicing somehow, they just never mentioned it so no one ever knew, because that would change their status.

Needless to say, I was not one of those super cool people. I had to work, hard, to be good at anything, and sometimes, genuinely, I did that extra hard work in secret too, because it was better then admiting you had to really work at it to be successful at something.

I don’t know, but I suspect this may be a female thing. Growing up, I feel like the boys were ok to try hard. In fact, the muddier or sweatier the boys got playing sports, it seamed, the more others admired them. I don’t know about academically, but certainly when it came to sports it was totally cool, applauded even, for the boys to put proper effort in. Not so with the girls-a sweaty girl is not a cool girl. The poised, perfectly turned out, calm, unflapable, effortless girls were the cool ones, the admirable ones. 

Maybe the reverse is true for boys, maybe it would be ‘uncool’ for boys to put in the effort academically, and maybe that is part of the achievement gap we sometimes see in schools between boys and girls, but I’m not sure. I am a female, so I can’t speak for what it is like to grow up male. 

My experience is what I can speak of, and as such, I wonder why we do this? I do not think my experience of this is unique, so why do we, culturally, feed this idea, that women, and therefore girls, are supposed to be these effortless beings? That to be seen to put in lots of effort makes women less capable?

One of the very hardest things about starting this health and fitness journey I have been on, is getting over the idea of people seeing how slow I run, how out or breath I get, how sweaty and red and blotchy I get. Being out in public even, with no make up, having pictures taken in leggings, with fat bouncing around, running slower then most and really having to work really hard to do even that...all these mortifying things have been harder to get my head around due to the fact that, to be a ‘proper’ (for want of a better word) female, I am supposed to be ‘effortless’ in all I do. 

I am having to force myself into changing this attitude, and I didn’t think it was that engrained in me. I’m not afraid of hard work, I’m just not supposed to let anyone see me doing it. 

Well I’m calling this nonsense out. Do we really think that these women we call ‘effortless’ got to look or dress or act how they do with no effort? Do we really believe that when we watch things like the Oscars or the Baftas, these talented red carpet women put no effort into how they look, or how they work to earn these awards? Do we really believe these women are effortless, as they are so often described in these instances? Of course they are not! Quite the reverse, I suspect.  

So, I will continue to admire women who are admirable, be inspired by insperational people, but I will no longer buy into the label of ‘effortless.’ These women are fabulous and they put in lots of effort...or, these women are fabulous because they put in the effort...that’s more like it!  

The Knacker Kracker

New year’s eve for us has looked certain way for us for a few years now. Gone are the big nights out and extortionate taxi fares home. Gone even, for the time being, are the house-parties, bodies crammed in sleeping bags on the living room floor the next day. Someone getting a guitar out at 2.30am, a punch bowl, half empty, teetering dangerously on the sideboard above someone’s head, unidentifiable new stains on the living room carpet...just now our New Years eves often see one, or both of us in bed before midnight, champagne unopened in the fridge, Jools Holland unwatched. 

New Year’s Day, on the other hand, is a popular day now. We are nearly always up earlier then we’d like, we normally have visitors, family or close friends, and we nearly always do a sort of Christmas Day part 2, without the stress or the presents or the massive amounts of turkey.  

This year (2019) my husband had found an event to do. He calls them races, I don’t, I call them events. I don’t really care who wins, I am always very impressed by the speed of the winner but I don’t think these events are all about winning. 

He asks if I want to join him on what is billed as ‘the toughest 10k in the UK.’ His folks are visiting so it would be possible. The problem is, he doesn’t realise it, but, having only recently started actually running, when he says ‘do you want to do it too?’ What he is actually saying is this; ‘do you want to spend New Year’s Day running further then you have ever run before, up and down some monster hills, and then cook a New Year’s Day dinner for 4 adults and 2 picky children without me to help with the children because I will have pushed myself to breaking point trying to win a race I can’t posdibly win?’

Ok, sounds negative, he probably won’t thank me for that. I really don’t mean it to be negative, I don’t generally have a problem with him doing these events, but we don’t always see them through the same eyes. He has paid for me to do my first event as my Christmas present, and I know he thinks it’s a brilliant present. Actually, it kinda is-I would have procrastinated over it left to my own devices and possibly never quite got round to it. However, actually doing it is another matter. I’m not him, even at my very fastest, even if I smash my PB and do myself proud, I will still look to the rest of the world like I’m shuffling along red-faced at the back, not putting in the kind of time that makes people say ‘wow-really?’ Like he does. I am bottom 30 not top 10. 

The only time it really bugs me, him doing these events, is when he books them back to back. One month this summer he had 4 events in the space of 5 weekends. It has the potential to take over our lives in this context, and he’s not even a professional athlete!

I quite like the events themselves, as a rule. They drag us all out early on a weekend, guarantee some fresh air, often somewhere we have never been before. There is usually a few bits to do, some advertising stands with freebies for the kids-balloons or balls or something. Usually it’s a law firm or some stuffy seaming sports toiletries brand. Sometimes the fire bragade have a truck there, or the police. One time there was the air ambulance, which landed and let the kids look inside. Sometimes they are in National Trust properties or similar so there’s stuff to look at or ducks to feed. There’s often a burger van and almost always a coffee stand, which keeps me happy. When I don’t like them is when it’s sub zero temperatures, or blowing a gale, or, like last summer, over 30 degrees centigrade and in the middle of a field with no shade. Once, we plonked ourselves on the picnic blanket in a field with a take away coffee and a sausage bap and a gazebo blew away and headed for us (I wasn’t sure how to move the children fast enough so opted for jump up & ‘catch’ said gazebo. It wasn’t the solution). Generally tho, I like these events, and it’s useful that The Husband is often one of the early finishers. 

So, New Years Day, 2019 and we are packing up the car(s) to get everyone to the relatively late 10am start of the ‘Knacker Kracker.’ Sounds delightful.  

About a week beforehand, The Husband has sent me an email about it ‘the first 2k everyone can do with me, it’s called the ‘Nipper Kracker’ he says. Oh how often we have heard the phrase ‘Nipper Kracker’ since. Every time it gets mentioned, The Girl’s face lights up in delight!  

So, there we were, freezing cold on the top  of a hill in Surrey, with lots of other people with ‘fancy dress’ loosely attached to their running shorts, looking over some of the best views in the south east, ready to run down a hill and back up again. The Girl’s first  ‘proper’ run. She had got up and dressed into her ‘running clothes’ in some sort of record time, and was sandwiched between The Husband and I, while The Boy waited, oblivious, with his grandparents. We loitered at the back, anxious not to hold up any of the front runners, and found ourselves with Elmo and his dog, a lady (to her credit) with a buggy and two very small unicorns. 

We set off. 

What weather we had been treated too, cold and crisp, and what a view as a result. The Mole Vally spread out before us, purpleish in the haze, with scores of random cartoon characters, most of Star Wars and a bunch of pirates pouring down and back up the first slope. 

Someone had brought their bagpipes and was playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the brow of the hill, and the sound followed us down and back up the hill. Very festive, but it’s punctuated by a whingeing 4-year-old. She has just worked out that she has to run back up the hill she just ran down and is not impressed. She complains that her legs hurt and she is too hot-although not as hot as the little furry unicorns I bet! 

Meanwhile I am lagging behind, trying to get some good pictures, and worrying about where we leave the race-I can’t handle 10k of that whinge. Eveuntally I tell The Husband to go ahead of us, I know he will want to make progress through the field now that we have held him up. We are shepherded in what some of the marshals think is the right direction, and others think is the wrong direction. When the start/finish comes into sight, The Girl runs like I have never seen her run before. No longer on a hill and on the edge of some sort of moat she powers towards the finish line to the surprise of the volunteers who are fixing up the finish line for the actual runners in 40 mins or so time, she runs straight through the line, euphoric that she has finished, at a speed I am genuinely struggling to keep up with. She is 3. Turns out we had been sent in the wrong direction, and while we, and the fluffy unicorns, crossed the finish line, The Girl’s grandparents are facing the other way, having been told we were coming from another direction and having seen The Husband come past, they missed the whole thing! 

Still, The Girl didn’t mind, she has won a carrot (randomly) and has managed to get a cup of water ment for the runners which she is very pleased with (I am not allowed to drink from it!) She is thrilled to see Daddy when we all wondered round to a viewing point on the course and excited to see him finish. She ate flapjack and drank a babychino which I made the mother-in-law order (she didn’t actually believe a ‘babychino’ was a real thing so this caused much confusion.) The Boy, meanwhile toddled about and entertained spectators with his happy little trot.

The end of the event saw The Husband receive a sports t-shirt with the name of all the competitors on, a medal which The Girl wears proudly, a cup of soup and a cheese roll and a branded mug as well as his sup of water (The Girl is very pleased her small disposable cup matched Daddy’s. I am still not allowed to touch it despite doing as much as she did on the course). Daddy has taken 1h 16 mins to run the whole thing, the first 2k was at the back with us so it was slow. The overall winner took 50 mins. The girl & I took 19mins and 50 seconds to do 2.1k, (& 100meters of elevation).

It took the rest of the day to get everyone  showered and fed, and the dog walked, but we survived, and The Girl keeps telling is that she has to do a run without mummy and daddy now, because she is so good at running...

 

 

IMG_5420.JPG
IMG_5403.JPG

‘Holiday season’ or the emotional rollercoaster that is Christmas and the New Year.

It’s over.

The whole lot of it, Christmas, new year, visits and visitors, meals out and meals in, presents and Christmas TV and unhealthy food. 

Well, I mean, there’s still half a box of celebrations to eat and half a panatone, plus some cheese, but, for the most part, it’s over. 

 Now, I am a fan of Christmas. I big fan actually, what’s not to like? An excuse to see family (I happen to like my family) eat good (lots of) food and watch tv together seems like a great idea to me! There are always a few rows and a few longer-then-planned Boxing Day walks, but I like it. Snowflakes and chestnuts and fires and all that...

...but,  Christmas is a difficult time to be ‘totes emosh,’ and nothing fits the description of ‘totes emosh’ like a three and a half year old, especially at Christmas time.

Even more specifically on Christmas Eve, at bedtime. 

I have lost count of the number of times I have said to The Husband over Christmas ‘it’ll be better in the new year, when everything goes back to normal.’  Thats not to say we have had a bad Christmas, we haven’t, but it’s all very exciting when you’re small, and very little prepared me for the emotional state the preschool got herself into on Christmas Eve.

Despite us playing down the whole event, she sobbed uncontrollably for some time before falling into a restless and fitful sleep from which she woke more then once. When asked what was wrong or why she was crying, she could only wail ‘I don’t  knooooow!’ Or ‘I can’t  stop crying...!’ She didn’t really understand what was going to happen-that became apperant when she spotted the presents under the tree the next morning. (She has explained to be at least 150 times since how she, mummy, daddy, The Boy, The Dog and The Grandma were all asleep and Farther Christmas came and left the presents). She had no knoladge of this prior to Christmas Day, or at least no understanding of this despite this not actually being her first christmas. Nevertheless, Christmas Eve left her a blubbering wreak and there was no consoling her.

She enjoyed opening presents the next day, even if we did make her wait to do so. The Boy, of course, took it all in his stride, and I reckon we have another year in him before he too, really starts to understand what happens on Christmas Day.  I suspect next year The Girl will be even more ‘emosh,’ but we’ll see.

The aquward behaviour of The Girl began at the start of the School holidays. Our usually happy and pleasant 3-year-old was replaced with some sort of demon child, who’s first response to every and any instruction was ‘no!’ Followed by shouting, foot stamping or sobbing. We were bewildered, unsure of what had happened and more then once The Girl had to ask me ‘mummy, why lou just stare at me?’  

‘I don’t know baby!’ I usually reply, because it’s a better response then; ‘because I have no idea what just happened and what I should do about it.’ 

Despite us playing Christmas Eve down, she had still had lots of hype at preschool about it, she had amazed us at the preschool carol concert by joining in, remembering every word and action, watching the teacher merticulessly to make sure she got it right. She waved happily at us in the audience (we were perticually impressed after last year’s performance where she cried, ran and sat in my lap and refused to move for 20 mins) and was very excited to recive cards (with glitter on) from some of her little friends. 

The local Rotery Club did a visit of Santa to local naghbourhoods, and we turned out in the freezing cold, all of us, plus the dog, to trapse behind a slow moving 4x4 dragging a sleigh with wheels and a cold looking, but unexpectedly jolly Santa, in the dark, with the rest of the naghbour hood. (Actually, I make it sound lame, and it really should have been lame, but it was actually quite good!)

I only ever really feel like Christmas has properly started after a trip to Olympia to the Horseshow, and when Farther Christmas showed up here as well, (albeit in the lamest Christmas finale I have ever seen them do) The Girl couldn’t believe her luck, despite being a bit confused about how Santa got around so much. (I have heard her explaining that she saw one Santa, then another Santa and then another Santa, she doesn’t quite get yet that he’s supposed to be the same one!) 

Add to all of this that everyone you meet for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas takes a moment to ask the children ‘is Father Christmas coming to your house soon?’ I expect I have asked small children the same question in the past, but it’s odd, isn’t it, that this is the only thing we think small children can relate to at Christmas. We had so many other things happen over Christmas that I know The Girl enjoyed. Visits from family and friends, dog walks and running events that she got to watch or take part in. A party, a shopping trip, a Cristingle, lots of chocolate, swimming, the list goes on, but I guess the thing people assume is universal is the whole Santa thing (of course in some households he doesn’t appear so asking about him can be dangerous territory).  Anyway, it all added up to Christmas Eve being a big meltdown, and moments over the Christmas break of defiance or anger can largely be put down to this anticipation, this build up of expectation, and all of the wonderful, exciting and fun adventures we had over Christmas we’re definitely glad to be back in out ‘normal’ routine. Things are calmer, everyone is more balanced and ‘normal’ can still be an adventure, right?! 

 

 

Whinge quota

The Husband has a method to deal with The Girl, and increasingly, The Boy, when they start the whingeing...he turns them upside-down in the air and says he’s “shaking* the whinge out.” Quite often, it works, especially when dealing with a preschooler’s random no-real-reason-just-whingeing sessions, which seems to happen a lot at the moment.

I’m talking about those moments where your usually happy and increasingly articulate small person suddenly abandons the ability to speak, resorting to a high pitched nasel sound, sort of like someone running nails down a chalkboard (do people even get that reference any more?!) and the sudden inability to find any words that make any sense. Often when I get to the bottom of these sorts of moments, I simply get told “I don’t know why, I can’t stop crying!”

I have a working theory about this whinge. I am beginning to think that every toddler or preschooler gets a ‘quota’ of whinge that they have to use up during the day...(or else their head explodes or something). Normally they just tick along like always with the whinge just bursting out at random, short bursts, filling the nearby area with noise and frustration, but in small chunks, a bit at a time. 

On days when the small person is somewhere they do not feel able to let the whinge leak out, on a trip out or at school or nursery, they hang on to it all day, storing it up until they are somewhere they feel they can let it out-usually at home-and that’s why, after a lovely day out or an exciting day at preschool or nursery, we get uncontrolled whinge, as it all trys to come out at once, having been saved up and added to all day.

This type of whinge completely takes over every part of the small persons body. There is no getting through to the (vaguely) rational being underneath. You just have to wait-ride it out until it burns itself out. 

When they go to bed, the whinge pot slowly fills up again, ready to spill over into the next day. If it wasn’t properly emptied the day before, it starts to spill over first thing in the morning, with no break. If it has been emptied, you get a few hours grace in the morning before the pan begins to spit.  

As adults, most of us have learnt that whingeing really doesn’t do us any good, and with this view in mind it’s easy to get frustrated with the whinge. But I think this misunderstands the whinge. The whinge is not designed to do anything or result in anything, the whinge has no purpose as such, it just happens.

Like when a lid gets bubbled off a pan when it’s boiling, this is not because you have pissed the pan off or it wants you to see how silly you are being not feeding it exclusively chocolate. It is not trying to manipulate you or annoy you, it’s simply because the bubbles have got to big and need somewhere to go (insert actual scientific explanation here if you need to, I think you get the idea without!) 

So, as we approach Christmas and I know that there are days where the whinge can’t be let out during the day, but the whinge pot will still refill, I will steal myself for some mega-whinge, and remind myself firmly that it is not designed to wind me up (as it may seem), but it’s because it has to come out somehow, or else, you know, their heads explode (or something). 

 

*should point out, he has only done this since they have been big enough to handle it, there are no shaken babies here, I promise

Meltdowns

I have worked with children in one form or another for most of my life. I know what a meltdown looks like. In several forms. From uncontrollable sobbing due to an aggressive seagull to table-smashing chair-throwing screaming meltdown due to a change in lighting in a familiar room. I have a very particular type of career and I will tell you more about that another day.

With that being said, one of the things I was unprepared for about raising children is the number of meltdowns they have.  

From about 18 months old, The Girl has had meltdowns over things that baffle me. One notable time was in the pastery section of a well known budget superstore with my Mum in tow. Grandma has hold of the toddler backpack reigns & the then 20 month old didn’t understand the concept of pay first. This resulted in a full-scale, lieing on the floor paddy that was utterly unstoppable. Once she gets to screaming there is very little that will get through to the child underneath, you have to wait out the first wave of anger and try to regain some common sense when she pauses for breath. If your lucky. 

That meltdown though, made some sense. And I think with that age group you expect it sonewhat. Our current struggle is the meltdowns of a three and a half year old. Gone are the days where she had no language so the tantrums can be explained away by frustration because she can’t communicate. Now they are even more baffling. 

Reasons my three-and-a-half year old has had a meltdown today: 

• she woke up

• the door was open

• the door was shut

• she needed a wee

• the toilet seat was up

• I put the toilet seat down for her

• her brother was in the room

• the green spoon was dirty

• her throat hurt

• she wasn’t hungry  

• she wanted her brothers straw

• her brother sat on my lap

• her brother cried (she made him cry) 

• she was crying (I mean...!) 

• Daddy is at work

• Mummy is going to work tomorrow  & Daddy already goes to work 

• she had to go to pre-school  

• she sat on her brothers hand by accident  

• I made her get changed but she had a stuffy nose

• her favourite show isn’t on CBeebies back-to-back

• her favourite show is on but she wanted her other favourite show...

...this list is not exhaustive, and she was at pre-school for half of the day.  

When she gets to screaming inconsolably, I am never sure of the best cause of action. Distraction doesn’t work anymore and I have read conflicting advice about ‘ride it out’ or ‘nip it in the bud.’ I know I’m biased, but I don’t think it’s about her being a ‘naughty’ child either. I know, she’s a ‘threenager’ & it’s common at this age, but it’s not really about defiance. Often, when you finally get to the bottom of the issue, she doesn’t really know what is wrong. I feel like it is worse when she is tired and hungry, but being well rested & well fed does not remove the chances of a meltdown altogether. As we approach the end of term it is worse because she is drained, even if she is only two and a half days a week at preschool. Some downtime at Christmas will do her some good, but won’t remove the possibility of a meltdown. For now we are going to have to accept that it is to do with the age, learning to manage powerful emotions that we take for granted and deal with each one as it happens, giving both of us time and space to deal with things and process events. 

Meanwhile, as The Boy demands to be in charge of walking the dog, and screams relentlessly when he isn’t allowed to because we are by a road on in a busy place, I am reminded that we have more of this to come.

He’s 18 months now.

Here we go again...

A Fun Day Out (with Plus The Dad)

Daddy PlusTheDog Post

Some of these posts are serious, some have a significant message… and it seems that some are a chance to debunk the 100% non-stop fun concept of parenthood. On reflection this falls into the third category.

The other day I had a chance to take The Girl, out for an adventure. Our local swimming pool has an ‘inflatable session’… One of these events where a massive inflatable castle/world/town/world gets put in the pool and the kids LOVE IT.

I’m sure of it.

As The Wife gets to take the children out for their weekly swimming lessons, it seems like a great chance to see how more advanced she’d become at swimming. The Wife says that she’s nearly swimming on her own… Well, this should lead to a super fun time of it for us in the children’s pool?

Right?

Wrong.

In discussion with the Girl and The Wife I found out she’s had a crisis of confidence with diving, jumping, swimming of most sorts after a bad underwater session in a previous swimming lesson. Ah… Still… Daddy’s the king of adventure, this’ll make no difference – We’ll turn her round. It will be fine.

The level of how much it was NOT fine can be measured in three key stages:

  1. The inflatable session. 

If there was small print I should have read it. No impressive imposing inflatable. Just lots of half-decayed floats and those plastic tubey things that float in pools (Ah, a web search tells me they’re called ‘noodles’. Who’d have thought). Not quite as much joy with these.


  1. The swim itself

Well, this didn’t go well, nothing was good. Well, one thing was good – getting OUT of the pool and running round it in circles while Daddy tries to coax her back in without further terrifying her of the water, or resorting to dragging her back in. Nothing was right – Swimming wasn’t fun, playing with floats wasn’t fun. Then she said she wanted to go to the toilet, so I started to take her out before she said she didn’t anymore. Then we had more running around. A little more complaining at being in the pool. Another attempt to get hold of the floats that we weren’t allowed to play with (the ones still in good condition). I gave up. Back to get changed…

  1. The clean up.

Well. All became a little clearer when we got to the change rooms. We got our bags and into a little booth and then I pulled off her swimming costume. 

EXPLOSION. 

IT WAS EVERYWHERE.

It turns out The Girl had a very upset stomach this afternoon and this had manifested itself in grandiose style. In my haste to get her changed it had already gone everywhere. The booth immediately looked like we’d conducted a dirty protest.

So… What to do. Mind racing. Stomach turning. The Girl crying I tried to come up with a plan. Funnily, very little in my world experience up until now had prepared me for this moment.

Well, the showers were my only option. I packed up the clean(ish) kit into my bag. Hid that all back into the lockers. Took everything that was dirty into the showers (REALLY grateful the changing rooms only had a few gents in there).

This was The Girl. Her swim nappy. Her swim costume. Me. My swimming trunks.

I felt really bad for the couple of chaps that were in there – I tried to start the clean up quite clandestinely in the furthest corner but the tsunami of brown running down into the middle of the shower to the drain wasn’t sparing my blushes. Eventually the two gents took the hint and left and then I unleashed on the poo – Getting it all off us, and then trying to clean up her swim costume. Easy. Nope… Turns out it wasn’t going down the drain into the grille, so this was a further joy, trying to mash it down there with my foot. I have no idea how bad the scene must have looked but to me it was highly traumatising. To the poor chaps that walked in for a shower, gasped (I definitely heard at least one gasp) and then back tracked as fast as possible, I can only imagine how hideous it must have been. I’m not sure what they did. Probably went home with a nightmarish vision & smelling of chlorine.

I have no idea how long this clean up took. It felt like hours, but was probably only minutes. 

They were long minutes… On reflection, I do hope The Girl hasn’t got any long term harm over having to witness Daddy going all Basil Fawlty over battling her poo down a very fine grille in the gents shower rooms.

What’s my take away from this.

  • Fun won’t always end up being fun.

  • If a three year old ever mentions toilet to me in a pool I am out of there at Mach 3.

  • My vanity can cope with standing in a large shower room surrounded by the most hideous childs bottom eruption. Just. The secret is to not look at the faces of all the gents trying to get into have a shower themselves. Never look in their direction or their faces. NEVER.

Why Vurtual fit club?

For a while I have been conscious of my weight. Particularly my mummy tummy, which has a mind and a life of its own, it is unsightly in shape and looks huge no matter how I dress it up. I have posted before about how difficult it is with small people about to get a balanced diet right, I relay too heavily on carbs and not enough on protein to be as healthy as I’d like.

A few months ago I tried the Atkins diet. To its credit, I lost about a stone sticking to reduced carbs (I still have to eat some because I still breastfeed at night & I notice a huge difference when I cut out carbs). But I didn’t find it sustainable. I never know what to eat in those unplanned moments between lunch and dinner when your body says ‘I’m hungry’ and your brain says ‘but you can’t eat toast’ and ended up eating carbs as a quick fix or not eating anything and turning into a rage monster! Add to that the fact that I never seem to find time to do any exercise or go to the gym, despite The Husband stepping up where possible, finances, general tiredness and time are a huge factor and it just never really happened.

I  started doing Parkrun because it was at a time that we were usually around and The Husband could be on small person duty, and have found it quite compelling to keep seeing how much (if) I can improve, but I kept saying to The Husband ‘I need to do something mid week too’ but never quite found the time to do it.

Step in ‘Virtual Fit Club!’ An online ‘gym’ that has a support community attached. I found it via word-of-mouth and social media, and followed some of the coaches for a while thinking it sounded good but unrealistic-and probably too expensive! I wasn’t ready at first to get involved, but as soon as I was ready the community were waiting to welcome me, and I am so pleased I took the leap.

The ‘online gym’ comprises of several 100 online fitness programmes, rangeing from 4 to 7 days a week, lasting anything from 20 to 60 mins at a time. They come with a nutrition plan should you wish to follow it, and some superfood shakes, should you wish to buy/drink them. The programmes cater for everyone from total beginner to total athlete and there are always modifications that you can do on every programme. Plus, the instructors make it ok to modify it, taking time to point out that it’s still a workout and it’s not shameful to modify-in fact it’s smart because it enables you to get more out of your workout and not injure yourself. 

I generally use the app on a tablet or on my phone. Having a specific program to follow helps me keep focused and feel like I am ‘involved’ in something. I don’t have to leave The Husband and the small people at bedtime and drive to a loanly gym or arrive slightly late for a class, and drive back before trying to cram food into my face too hurriedly, too late at night. Fitting it into my life take does take a little organising but it’s way easier then the alternative.

The children do sometimes make it difficult. If they’re around, they love to watch, standing right in front of the screen so I can’t see what I’m meant to be doing or attempting to put their fingers on the screen or sit on me while I try to do anything on the floor, or suddenly need help with the toilet or need me to fix something or headbutt a table...But, there is a pause button (which I use regularly) and they are used to it now so are getting better at amusing themselves for as long as is possible when you’re 1 & 3. 

I’m not great at following the nutrition, but I am working on getting better. The online community, including the coach you get as part of the package are really supportive and collaborative. The shakes I love as a great way of making sure I get loads of good stuff in really easily, but that’s down to personal prefreance. I haven’t tried many of the other add-ons, like the pre-workout or recovery drink, but those I know who who have used them speak highly of them. Yes, it seems expensive at first for an app, but when you look at what comes with it and compare it to what you would pay at a gym, plus of course childcare and transport, it’s really not. 

I never ever thought of myself as someone who was a gym-type, and I guess I still am not, technically a ‘gym bunny.’ However, I can wear Lycra for the first time ever without feeling like a fraud. I can feel where some of my muscles are now, and my clothes fit better. At the start of this journey it was all about ‘losing weight’ but I don’t even feel too bothered about that at now, even though I have lost some weight. I feel healthier, the mummy tummy is smaller, I can actually ‘run’ Parkrun now, faster then I ever thought I could (but still not actually fast, there hasn’t been a miracle!) and I feel like I am doing something positive, for myself and, as a result, for my family. It feels like a no-brainier to me and I can’t belive I waited so long to have a go at it! 

I am all for making life better and easier for people, and this has been such a positive change I am excited to share it with others. If you think you might be interested, get in touch and I can help point you in the right direction. 

Days like these

Today we are having a day at home.

Both children are poorly, and the idea was to give them chance to recover a bit before preschool at the end of the week, and for me to get some jobs done. Yesterday was madness - I’ll tell you more about that in a bit - but I realise now they were both getting ill, which clearly wasn’t helping. So far today I have got hardly any jobs done, and have been whinged at or had to shout at them to stop trashing the house all day. I was just thinking I’d take them out despite the whingeing and the snotty noses when they settled down and have played nicely for a bit together. We will have to walk the dog eventually anyway, and the temporary calm will not last.

Yesterday nobody had slept well because the dog was ill (& because of The Boy, but that’s normal). We lost count of the number of times we had to run downstairs to let the dog out to poo in the garden (side note-she never poops in the garden!) By the morning she wasn’t really better but we needed milk so I took the children out to get milk. While we were gone the dog continued to be poorly, so I returned to a poo-covered spaniel who had, at least, been contained to the create. I realised not long after getting home that I was going to need to bath her, but The Boy was asleep in the pushchair so, rushing up to the shower to hose her down I left The Girl to tell me if her brother stirred. Not long after, indistinguishable words floated up the stairs to me, followed by a pre-schooler with her pants round her knees. “I did a accident.” So now downstairs is covered in dog poo & human wee and the dog is soaking wet and rubbing herself on everything. Thankfully the toddler is still asleep but I know when he wakes there will be more baby poo to deal with. Oh and the dog is still unwell so randomly squatting to empty her bowls of the liquid that is in there and both children have an increasingly snotty nose...

...yesterday was a day of poo and wee.  There were more accidents then non-accidents, from both The Dog and The Girl. I spent the day cleaning and today the washing will have to go on to deal with more of the poo & wee.

Today is a day of snot and whingeing.  Very little has got done, lots of mess has been made. I’m giving up and going back to putting the TV on soon, but first to walk the slightly less s*#tty dog...

...days like this I can handle, but when one day start to roll into another I start to wonder how we will continue to cope. The Dog slept through last night but The Boy didn’t and the adults in the house are functioning on minimal sleep again. When days like this become weeks like this it becomes very disheartening, and difficult to know how to get everyone out of it and get on top of everything. My days fluctuate from relative calm to total chaos and it is hard to know how to slow it all down to make it more manageable. If the chaos came a bit at a time, it wouldn’t be chaos, but it never does! I don’t suppose it ever slows down, and I wonder if anyone ever learns to manage the chaos successfully?! Even after all this time, I haven’t yet!  

The Boy is sitting on my knee, rubbing his nose & crying in frustration because he can’t unblock it and I am already thinking about how to get a decent nights sleep out of him. Although snotty, The Girl (& The Dog) still need to do something to burn off some energy and goodness knows what either children will agree to eat! 

It might be Calpol tea tonight. For all of us! 

 

How does she KNOW?!

Toddlers are odd creatures.

I’ve heard it said that babies are born knowing everything there is to know, they just lose it over time. If this is true then toddlers & pre-schoolers are somewhere in between, not knowing most things and then suddenly coming out with inexplicable wisdom. 

As a toddler, The Girl was funny and bright and quick to learn. I suspect most parents would say the same. Learning though, is not always a positive experience. Learning to be scared of the dark, for example, or learning about fireworks (I now dread fireworks season!) were not fun things to learn.

One day, as a very small toddler, she got hold of one of our Xbox controllers. She sat with it correctly in her hands, faceing the TV, as if she was playing the Xbox. Now, we stopped playing on the Xbox in front of her very early in her life (as in, a few weeks old) because I was super paranoid about it (giving her nightmares etc). But still, somehow, she knew. Similarly, she picked up the Xbox headset one day and put it on, pulling the microphone over her mouth so she could ‘speak’ into it...we never use the headsets. I don’t think I have seen The Husband use the Xbox headset since before he became The Husband! Still, somehow, she knew. 

In the depths of winter, when The Husband was doing his runs in the dark and we weren’t seeing him do it, she would ask on a weekend morning ‘Daddy run?’ As far as I was aware we had given no clue that daddy was going running that day, but she always knew. 

One day we were dragging everyone into London-Hoxton or somewhere hipstery, we had two carriers, (our beloved Connectas’ in case you were wondering) and so we were traveling light. As we got the the train station, we realised we didn’t have much food with us so The Husband nipped into the shop to get some snacks for us...he came back with a sandwich to share, a banana and a cereal bar each, sensible type foods. Hidden in the bag was a small chocolate pumpkin, wrapped in bright orange foil, a treat for The Girl while the baby slept. The Girl immediately spotted it and wanted it. She knew it was chocolate (’cock-latte’) but I have no idea how! It wasn’t wrapped in the familiar purple of a Cadbury’s treat and it wasn’t shaped like anything we’d given her before either, but somehow, she just knew... 

The thing is, these tiny little creatures are always learning, whatever we do. It’s such a huge responsibility, to know they are learning while we are just going about our ‘normal’ lives, and it means sometimes they learn things we wish they wouldn’t learn, by accident. They learn without us knowing, or realiseing, and our every effort to ‘teach’ them what we think they should know as toddlers (like ‘the cow goes moo’) is far outweighed by what they learn by accident just existing in the environment we have created for them, with the people we associate with. 

I noticed recently The Boy stands with his back to the inside of the door of the cupboard where we keep our bins whenever we open it. We haven’t taught him to do it, but there’s a height measureing chart there, and while we have only measured him a handful of times, he has seen us measure plenanty of other people. What else might he be learning without us realiseing? How to forget where you put your phone? How to snap at the dog when she won’t stop licking the walls? And how do you explain to a toddler - yes do it but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it, especially when they do so often learn stuff by accident!  

It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, to never slip up and teach them something you don’t want them to do/know by accident. All we can hope for is that we keep striving To be the best version of ourselves, and we can teach them on the way when ‘do as I say not as I do’ can be appropriate (& beneficial to them!) And of course, that’s it’s ok to be imperfect (but don’t say ‘bollocks’ in front of Grandma.)

Having a fast learner in your hands throws up other issues too. The Boy actually slapped The Girls bottom today as she was getting changed for swimming (goodness knows where he learnt that!) And as we drove home, I tried to sneak a mint out of the driver-side door pocket. My hand had hardly grazed the packet when a voice directly behind me piped up ‘mummy, want a sweetie!’ As far as I know she has never seen them there, she can’t see what I’m doing from where she sits in the car and she doesn’t like mint anyway.

Now I have to negotiate.

With a 3-year-old.

But that’s a whole other blog post...

Autumn

I’ve written about Bing before. Or at least in the style of him. Today it was Lola and Charlie that got me thinking. Lola was upset because it was Autumn and everything was changing. It made me think, though, as cheesy as it is. Autumn is a season of change, and this year it feels like there is more change then normal.  

After a summer of running around with both smalls, in unusually scorching hot weather, I realise that they have changed. The Boy is no longer a baby, but a full-blown toddler, not speaking as such but trying very hard and making himself understood very successfully! And running everywhere! The Girl, meanwhile, is a proper little girl and no longer a toddler. Her language has come on in leaps and bounds over the summer and her understanding of concepts bigger then she has ever understood before has increased so much I lose track!

Meanwhile, since the 1st September, I have been officially unemployed. Not that it means I have nothing to do, but technically, I’m unemployed. Has it made me a better mum? No! Of course not, but it hasn’t made me a worse one yet! It does make me a little unsure of my own identity and of what my future holds for me in terms of my own career. I have no answers yet. 

There is a change to our routine as well. As it gets darker in the morning and darker in the evening, sleep routines have changed. The Boy still doesn’t sleep very well, but he tries for longer now. Our windows are no longer permanently wedged open, we can no longer leave walking The Dog until the last minute as the evenings draw in, and the blackberries are pretty much done for the year.

The Girl starts a new pre-school next week and we re-shuffle our routine again, bringing new opportunities for all of us. She is ready for it but we are all a little apprehensive at this stage about it. Both children will start with a childminder as well, giving me a little space to try my hand at something to earn a living, but I am not sure quite what that will look like yet.

As a teacher, I have always worked in terms of an acedemic year rarther than a calendar one, and I think it works that way. January 1st being new year is incidental, most of the major changes in my life have often happened around September time. New students appear in your life, there is new stationary to be purchased and new classrooms and offices to organise. New classes to teach and new children to plan for. By January they no longer feel new, and by July they are old hands, and we look with curiosity at the what the next September may bring. The seasons reflect this, working hard under cover of the cold and the dark to create new life and new ideas, new learning and new understandings...which pop up here and there in February and are positively gushing out by May. By the summer they are bedded in and worn with comfort and September comes round to shake it all up again, challenge it, test to see if the ideas will stick, and grow new ones. 

By that philosophy, the time has come to consider the immediate future of my blog. It has changed since the early days of weekly, sometimes daily updates (because: breastfeeding) but my reasons for writing are still the same. If it helps others to know they are not alone in the madness, that everyone feels like a failure at this parenting sometimes, and that they can still be a good parent despite that, then it’s worth doing. The reasons have grown, too, I enjoy writing it (despite not getting as much time as I like to write it) and the online community of bloggers and entrepreneurs I have come into contact with via the blog work has introduced me to ideas I might not have thought of before. Avon, Beachbody, (more in that later) amongst other things.  

So, I plan to commit to it for another year at least. To try and blog more often then the summer has allowed me too (pre-school may just allow me this luxury) and to see what becomes of it another year on. To be honest, I can’t believe it’s been a year, and I can’t believe it’s only been a year...it feels like forever ago I started writing. So much has happened and so much has changed.  

Some things haven’t changed. 

The Boy still hardly sleeps. 

The Girl is still very active.

The Dog still lives in hope of dropped food and loves a good sofa snuggle. 

The Husband will still guest blog (I have one waiting from him to publish) and still laughs at my regular ridiculous new ideas to earn an income around the smalls.  

Things have changed. But things have stayed the same. I wonder what another year will bring?  

And running running...and running running...

Parkrun day. 

I have long professed that I am not a runner. I don’t run. I don’t  enjoy running, I’m not good at it and it often gives me a headache. I have never had a problem with walking though, and I walk a lot, I have even completed an overnight marathon (well, 3 actually, the last one I did in 6 hours, so I walk fairly quickly).

The Husband is a runner. He competes at a good level (well I think so), he occasionally does tirathlons or mud runs, but mostly he’s a 5/10k runner. He’s built like a runner too.  I, it has to be said, am not.

Since before I met him he has been doing the occasional ‘Parkrun.’  I had never heard of parkrun, but relatively recently my mum took up doing them as well (she would also tell you she is ‘not a runner’) and has recently completed her 100th Parkrun.

The appeal of Parkrun is that they advertise ‘run, walk or jog’ and most Parkruns are very friendly and welcoming to everyone whatever speed. I know, because I have regularly been the last to finish. The first one I did was with a 4-month-old strapped to my chest and in a LOT of mud. I took well over 50 mins, and yes, I did walk.  

Since then I have done quite a few-approaching 30 now I think, on and off of course because another baby appeared since the first one (he is currently trying to push a busy book ‘my little pony’ into my mouth) .

More recently something weird happened to me while completing it. 

I ran. 

Not the whole way, but a bit.  

I ran. 

Now as a walker I can do the 5k Parkrun under 40 mins, but as a ‘runner’ the time is slightly less again. 

Yes, I know it’s not actually fast, and an accidental shot of me in the background of a runners website video of my local Parkrun course shows that I do indeed shuffle as if I have pooed myself. 

But still, I ran a bit. 

A few weeks later, I ran the whole course. Very, very slowly.  

Now when I go, my aim is to keep running. To be a non-runner who runs. Some weeks a bit drops off my time, but it’s not all glamour, some weeks I wee myself a bit, or my nipples leak...every week I look an absolute state, a hot, sweaty purple mess. Shuffling along grunting and huffing alongside people who can chat and even laugh while going at my speed the whole way round. I can bearly breathe, let alone speak, even to thank the marshals who are volunteers.

I tell myself it dosen’t matter, that at least I’m up and doing something. Even if it is a struggle to find workout clothes that don’t make me look gargantuan or like a sack tied in the middle, or that don’t fall down when I run. Even if I am still pretty close to the back, despite running, even if the run-walkers are still faster then me, ever if it feels like I can’t get any faster no matter how much effort I put in, even if the front runners still lap me.

Most recently I found some sort of fast finish from out of nowhere.  I mean, I shuffled a bit faster right at the end. I don’t know where it came from-if you had asked me 30 seconds before hand I would have told you that there was no way I could go any faster if my life depended on it. But I  did. 

There’s something else as well. I have discovered, via a friend, ‘virtual runs’ (https://www.virtualrunneruk.com) Now, The Husband, who competes regularly in *actual* runs is a skeptic when it comes to these, but I like them. They are an online group who offered runs and challenges that you sign up for and complete remotely. You pay roughly £12 (or whatever the event costs) to enter, and obide by their rules whatever they are, send in your evidence and they send you a medal and put you in the rankings for that race. Each race sponsors a charity. My first race, the Seahorse 5k sponsors an Epalesy charity, and when I last looked my 36 or so mins put me 26th. I sent in my Parkrun stats for one run in the month it had to be completed, but you could just as easily send in your map my run or Fitbit stats as evidence. Yes, you don’t get the atmosphere or comaradery of an actual event, but runners like me don’t always want that, to pay for an event only to come almost last, with my top riding up showing my ‘mum tum’ and everyone overtaking me. This gives me an opportunity to get a medal for running, an actual recognition of an achievement, small to some but big for me, and, does having a medal for doing it make me a ‘runner?’

I don’t know. What I do know is, every step of that 5k is a challenge for me, I have to keep telling myself; ‘just don’t stop running, it dosen’t matter how slow, just keep going, keep actually running...’

 

 

 

The cleaning

It’s perfectly ok to live in a cesspit when you have a newborn baby. In fact, people expect it. They even offer to help. When you add a toddler into the mix it’s even less likely that Mum & Dad will get round to much cleaning, even when both are around. Looking after a newborn & a toddler takes at least 2 of you, most of the time. 

By the time you have a toddler & a pre-schooler, people expect you to have got it together. I work part time at the moment, which means there is an expectation that on my ‘days off’ I am getting everything else done, such as the cleaning or the shopping.

The problem is, I have a toddler & a per-schooler.

Take this morning as an example. I haven’t had a proper go at cleaning for ages-we haven’t had visitors in a few weeks which is basically how long it’s been since I cleaned. I have wanted to hover-up for ages,  but it just hasn’t happened, so today I had a go. 

I got the hover out. I plug it in, I hover a mat and the entrance hall in full view of the children. “Mummy, what lou doing?” I explain that I needed to hover upstairs and leave them while I do. Cue heavy foot stomping. I hover about 3 foot and run down to check on them. They are chasing each other round the table like a pair of wild animels. There is a lot of giggling. This will end in tears but it buys me 5 mins to hover another floor. Back up the stairs. 2 rooms done, back to check on small people. They have wondered outside and are eating stones. Bring back inside and shut doors (it’s about 28 degrees centigrade, I really don’t want the door shut long) run back upstairs to hover another floor. Hear screaming, run back downstairs. All is totally fine, the screaming was for fun. Run back upstairs and hover a bit more. Move plug. Hover. Tidy a few things, hear nothing  from downstairs, panic and run down. All ok-we are licking bits of Duplo. Run back up lug hover back down. Sweating!  Hover the room children are in. Mistake!  I take my eyes off them for one second to look at what I am doing and the hover stops working. They have actually unplugged the hover playing some kind of skipping game with the cord. I took my eye off the ball for like a second. 

I give up. The hover goes away. ‘Mummy I help lou’ but the ‘help is anything but. I’m dripping in sweat anyway. Everyone’s shoes go on-I need to take them out to do something before they drive me, and each other, mad.

The bathrooms remain uncleaned. I still have to sit on the loo and look at piles of dust in the corner of the room, knowing I likely won’t get to them for weeks. The dusting is not done. No ironing has been done. There is washing in the basket waiting. It annoys me beyond measure that things are not as clean as I’d like but it is almost impossible to do it on my own.

Of course, The Husband could watch the children at the weekend while I clean, or I could watch them while he cleans. But there’s always more interesting things, like running and paddling pools and parties at the weekend. Always something better to do.

So now I’m faced with visitors at the weekend and a dirty house. And here I am the stay-and-play, that Mum who stares at her phone the whole time, a dirty (but half hovered) home to return to.

In my defence I was up at 5am with the toddler (who is now, of course, asleep!) which might explain why my cleaning attempt was short-lived. I have birthday cake to take to nursery to make tomorrow & it’s almost guaranteed to be another 5am wake up, so I doubt the cleaning will get finished then...

...I know, I’m at it again, arn’t I? I hope it isn’t just me though! #firstworldproblems #itaintthatbad #atleastthechldrenareclean  

Sleep thief

It’s 4.30 in the morning. 

I am downstairs with a wide-awake 13-month-old waiting for him to get tired again. My Fitbit tells me I have had 2 hours & 38 mins sleep, during which I was woken up 5 times...and I only got that sleep because The Husband took the baby for that time.

I have mentioned before that he dosen’t sleep. He never really has slept well. About 6 months ago he was wakeing up every 45 mins throughout the night. Now, normally it’s 2-3 times a night with a 5.30am morning.

We have tried everything. 

Everything. 

I have shortened his nap, lengthened his nap. Given him extra naps, given him no nap (this dosen’t work!) I have put him down awake, put him down asleep, fed him, not fed him, only offered water, made him a bottle, sent the dad in instead of me, rocked him. I have brought him downstairs to play, left him in his cot to play (scream), let him play with my face in bed.  I have rocked him, not rocked him, changed positions of holding him, let him cry while I hold him. I have fed him to sleep, not fed him to sleep, I have tried baths and sleepy lotion and ‘sleepy feet’ oils and a defuser in the bedroom, we have used a blackout blind and natural light and a night light, we use Ewen the dream sheep, we have given him teddies and taken them away...

...he has a consistent nighttime routine, he eats a decent meal at teatime, he has infant paracetamol if I think he needs it. 

I have warmed his room up, cooled it down, put on more clothes, put on less, swaddled, un-swaddled.  He isn’t a thumb sucker, he dosen’t have a dummy or a ‘lovely.’

He has an active life-I make him walk whenever I can. We do things in the day-go to the park, walk the dog, go to playgroup, chase his sister around....I literally do not know how to make him sleep.  

I. Do. Not. Know. How. To. Make. Him. Sleep. 

And then, about once a week, he will inexplicably sleep 7.30pm to 5.30pm without a stir. I have to check he’s ok because we are not used to it. But I can never replicate it. The next day we are back to square 1 again, and we never know when one of these magic nights will happen, they just suddenly do! 

Someone suggested to me that maybe he is just one of those people who dosen’t need much sleep. Like Maggie Thatcher, maybe he dosen’t need more then 3 or 4 hours a night in general. The doctor isn’t worried about it (yup-I asked!) why should I worry about it? But the thing is this, even if this is the case, and he just dosen’t need much sleep, I DO. I need sleep. I cannot function in 2 and a half hours of sleep a night. I can’t really function too well on the average 5-hours a night my Fitbit tells me is the norm. I need to sleep. 

Pleeeaaassse! 

Even with The Husband stepping in to help out, which he does as much as he can, I am still exhausted, with the added issue of, when he has helped, we are both exhausted so snap at each other all day as a result, and play ‘I’m the most tired because...’ Which is never helpful. I get slightly more sleep and he gets significantly less. It still dosen't really work.  

The Health Visitor tells me he really ought to sleep through the night by now, and I know this, I understand we need to get him sleeping through...but...how?! 

At this point I have no bright ideas or solutions. I can’t think straight. My caffeine habit is getting out of control. I don’t know how people have more babies in quick succession. I am nearly responsible enough for the dog on this little sleep, let alone more babies.

At least the dog sleeps well. Mostly!  

Meanwhile, back at work...

Hi! I haven’t posted in a while, I know. Being back at work hasn’t left me with much time for anything, but I haven’t gone, things are just on hold for a bit.  

Going back to work has been a shock. Work itself is fine, but leaving the house before 7am not not returning until nearly 7pm, with both kids in tow is a killer. My drive, including dropping the children off at Nursery is over an hour, in traffic, each way.  

This is the reason I have taken the massive decision to hand in my notice. I have no job to go to, but with a monthly nursery bill of roughly 90% of my take-home salary and over 2 hours of driving every day its hard to see that its worth what little money is left over.

That said, there are two things that are significant here. Firstly, my job is a massive part of my identity. It’s one of the few things I’m actually good at. I have been doing my job-or similar, for 15 years and I love it. It’s hard to imagine not doing it.  I don’t really know what I am if I’m not a teacher. And while my reasons for stopping work are important; fundermenterly it’s the right choice for my family right now, a part of me feels like I have somehow failed at my job because I’m ‘giving up!’ 

Is that a bit mad? 

Secondly, we still have bills to pay. A mortgage, a car to run, a life to live. There are clothes and shoes and swimming lessons to pay for. I want to be able to contribute. And yes, I know that by raising children I am contributing, being at home is in no way the ‘soft’ or easy option, but somehow, I feel as if I am not contributing as much as I should.

The Husband would tell you that I come up with a new way to earn money for us every week. (I should point out here that The Husband does not put me under any pressure to do so). Some of my ideas are ridiculous. Some are unfeeseable or impossible. Some are genuinely good ideas. All are ways I might be able to be a stay at home mum and bring in some money. All are terrifying to me, because they are not the safety of the current job that I know and love so well.

But. 

Nothing great ever came from staying in your comfort zone. I have to diversify to make our family work the way we want it to. This means taking a risk. Doing something I never imagined doing. Tapping into other skills I have-or finding out if I actually have them-and having a good go at something completely different. I often wonder if I have  the skills required for the job of ‘mum,’ let alone finding new ones, but I know I am not alone in that and I also know, that despite not knowing if I could do it, I still made the decision to try to become a mum without hesitation. (That’s not a vailed comment on my sex life, what I mean is, deciding that I wanted to be a mum, however it happened, was easy despite not being sure I had all the required skills), so why is this, arguably smaller decision so difficult?   

Eiter way, come September I will be officially unemployed, until inspiration and skill-set collides, and I make a decision on what is next. It’s scary to me, because it’s the unknown, but I am hoping something positive comes out of it. Watch this space...

‘Real Nappy Week’

A few weeks ago it was ‘real nappy week’ meaning that all over my Facebook and Instagram cloth nappy companies are having small, 10, 20 or 25% off sales. Like all these kinds of days or weeks, it’s realy just a bit of a marketing ploy, although who benefitted form a sale on yesterday’s ‘Penguins Day’ is anyone’s guess! 

Anyway, cloth nappies...this is a tricky one. I love cloth nappies. They are cute and hugely benificial to the environment. Having a baby has given me land-fill guilt I’m a way I never thaught possible, and David Attenborough didn’t help with that! (Who even knew it land-fill guilt was a thing?!) There are lots of arguments for and against cloth nappies, but here is my take on them.

In the early days, with baby no1, I used them all the time. I tried really hard to get them right, sokeing them in a bucket and making sure I never ran out. But I was forever getting leaks and making more washing for myself, and fairly soon I gave up on them. A little while later I discovered a different type, switching from two-part Bambino Mio to their one part Mio Solo and found this *much* easier. That said, I STILL got a few leaks and found them really big and bulky, and I really couldn’t get them right overnight at all. I resorted to using them in the daytime at home and using disposables at night and when we went out. 

Like anything baby-related, I found that somewhere in between was the way for me. Not quite dilll cloth-bum Mum but not just disposables either, and every time I use a cloth I tell myself it’s one less for the landfill, one less to take 1000 years to disappear. I do wish I was better at it, but I am used to sitting in the middle ground now with most things baby.  

Pros of cloth nappies: 

+ they are really cute, all the patterns and designs are sweet and look lovely on baby. 

+ they are better for the environment,

+ they are cheaper, although they cost more to buy and you still have to wash them, overall they are cheaper

+nappy rash is way better in them then in disposables

cons of cloth nappies: 

+ you have to wash then

+ you have to carry them about smelling of poo when you’re out

+ they are really fat on baby’s bottom and you have to go up a size in clothes/vests because tight clothes cause leaks. 

+ they are a bit tricky to get right in terms of never getting leaks etc... 

+ poo in your washing machine

+some people would argue that they end up in the land full too so it’s something of a faulse economy, however, the counter-argument is so clear here, far less go in the land-fill, and most cloth-bum users recycle and sell on or donate once used anyway. 

Some people find it really repulsive to wash nappies (or cloth baby wipes which are also amazing in case you hadn’t heard of them!) but what happens when your toddler is potty training and they have an accident? Do you immediately throw away the clothes they were in, or do you stick them in the washer and hope you can save them? And how different is washing cloth to that?  In my experience, most parents find that when becoming parents a lot of their inhabitions and concerns around ‘poo’ disappear anyway. From the very start with The Girl, poo, changed how I delivered her from what I wanted to being completely out of my hands, and after a few weeks of nappy changing those early black pops or runny milk pops, you become fairly immune to poo one way or another. Plus, disposables leak too, and nothing is a perfect solution.

I now use one-piece nappies with a booster in and a washable liner. I rearly get leakes anymore, but I don’t use them every time. Just when I can. It all not an ideal solution but it works for us.