Tag Archives: motherhood

All before 11am

23 Apr
  • Up, bathed (shower broken), dressed
  • Bubs up, bathed, dressed
  • Boyfriend taken to station
  • Get home to realise boyfriend has the only house key (bubs has hidden my house key)
  • Drive back to station to retrieve key from coffee lady
  • Get stuck in roadwork traffic for 30 mins with grumpy and hungry bubs in back
  • Book doctors appt whilst sat in traffic
  • Get home and give bubs breakfast
  • Put baby to bed
  • Do timing plan and email team with actions for today
  • Reply to emails
  • Gather mine and bubs’ stuff for the day
  • Wake baby, take her to the doctors

(bubs fine, just a head cold, phew)

  • Receive call from brother who’s late for a gardening job and wants to borrow our tools, grrr
  • Take bubs to childminder
  • Drive home, grab tools, make toast for hungry brother. Drive him to his job
  • Drive car back to childminder, drop key through the door, walk to station

..and now my working day begins.

Can art change the world?

15 Mar

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JR’s ‘Women are heroes’ project in Favela Providencia, Rio

I haven’t posted for quite some time.  And although this week I wrote two or three drafts to explain why and to start writing again, I just wasn’t happy with any of them.  I was either complaining about how tough it is to be a working Mum, or moaning about how exhausted I am after dealing with illness-after-illness.  And if the last couple of months has taught me anything, it’s that a calm state of mind and a positive attitude is the only way to get through these phases with my sanity, relationship and well everything really, in tact.

So I’m not going to talk about it at all.  Instead I’m only going to focus on the things that make me feel happy, inspired, balanced, calm.  For good.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a video of this man I absolutely love.  He’s one of the most inspiring discoveries I’ve ever made – French Artist, JR.  In this video, which he uses to announce his incredible project – Inside Out, he asks ‘Can art change the world?’

Now since I had Nancy, I see her in the face of every vulnerable person or cat (!) I see.  I can’t help but think of the woman (or mama cat) somewhere out there who thinks about them constantly and whose greatest wish is for them to be safe and happy.  Someone who, like me, wants to believe that the world is a great place; full of love, opportunity and fun that means their child’s future will be great.  That all that is wrong with the world can be fixed.  That people are inherently good, if sometimes a little ignorant or misguided.

TED 2011 TALK – ENGLISH SUBTITLES from SOCIAL ANIMALS on Vimeo.

JR says “Art is not supposed to change the world.  Or practical things.  But to change perceptions.  The fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchange and discussion which then enables you to change the world.”

So what this reminds me is that moaning gets you nowhere.  Being angry changes nothing.  In fact, this negative energy is most likely to push people away from you and your issue.  If you really want to change it, channel that energy into something that makes people stop and think.  As JR says ‘what we see changes who we are’.  Art, creativity, ideas draw people in and make them to come to some kind of conclusion on their own.  Don’t be angry, don’t spell it out for people, but appeal to their curiosity and you can make a change.

So now to use Inside Out to change the perceptions around working Mums?!

One day ‘working from home’ with a one year old

21 Dec

Illness and childcare misunderstandings massively screwed with the last two weeks and meant that we’ve had to look after Nancy ourselves for  five days when we needed to be at work.  This has involved a lot of ‘working from home’ – an interesting idea for someone who has a sick, needy and inquisitive little explorer in their care.  Here’s how it went:

Hmm, following a one year old up the stairs around maybe 10 times (not because we needed to go up the stairs, but for fun!) wasn’t exactly on my to-do list today.

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Ahh ok, well we’re upstairs now.  I’ll just work wherever she decides to play.  Should be cool…and this feeding chair is way more comfortable than my swivel chair at work.  Snowy, keep an eye on Nancy will you?  Thanks.

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Exhausted all play options in the nursery – we’re now in Nancy’s favourite room in the house.  Her favourite because it’s full of her favourite things – bottles, pots and tubes.  Wasn’t quite expecting her to find her fun actually inside the shower, but what the hell she’s happy, and I can hardly talk – I’m sat on the loo sending an email (lid down).

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She soon got bored of sucking shampoo bottles in the shower and headed into our bedroom.  Ahh this is more like it, the comfort of my own bed – where better to work?  Meanwhile Nancy is happy looking at her own reflection.  And leaving evidence of her cold behind on the mirror.  Nice.

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Having explored all rooms upstairs, it’s now time to bomp* down the stairs and hang out in the living room.  It was at this point that Nancy and Duck no.1 decide to work out what’s so interesting about the bright, shiny box that I’ve been carrying around, in some kind of laptop ambush which almost led to the deletion of a table I’d been working on since the bathroom.

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At the end of a long hard day of attempted work, cooking, cleaning and cuddles, I realise I’ve not eaten and decide to walk around the corner to the pub for a burger, where it becomes clear that working from home means that even my lime and soda gets a dose of Nancy.

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Conclusion:  I’m a big fan of working in different environments, mixing things up a bit.  But if I’m honest I prefer a cafe, the library or the park where you can go about your business without a small person wrapping their arms around your legs so you can’t move, giving you a face full of yogurt or pressing all the buttons on your laptop.  Yeh I managed to get a fair amount done while she was playing and I crammed work and calls in during her naps, but if I’d been really under it, as I often am, this would not have worked at all.  Don’t be fooled, working from home with a bubba ain’t cool.

* Bomping:  A term made up by my own mother to describe sitting on your Mum’s lap while you bounce together from one stair to the next to get to the bottom. ‘Tis fun and quite frankly the only way to descend the stairs.

Tearing your hair out ‘cos your house looks like a bomb’s hit it? For some other mother one has.

17 Nov


Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist who lives in Gaza, tragically lost his 11-month old son, Omar in the violence last week.

I remember getting into bed one night during a tough few weeks with Nancy, feeling absolutely broken and frustrated as I knew that I would wake up the following morning to start another difficult day already exhausted.  I felt terrible that I was pretty down and negative about it all, so I wanted to find a way to snap out of it.  So in a moment of concern for others which was rare at this exact point in my life, I told Tom that when Nancy wakes in the night (cos I knew she would) and then wakes up at 5.30am ready to start the day (cos I knew she would) I would try to think of all the women in the world whose babies are waking them up to start far less ideal days.  Those women and children who don’t have homes.  Those who don’t have Dads around, or wake up in danger.  Or those who wake up unsure about how they’ll feed themselves today.

I just wish this article had popped up in my Twitter feed that night.  It tells the story of Frances Harrison, the first ever female foreign correspondent to have a baby and bring him up in a war zone.  As it was it did pop up at a similarly significant time.  It happened when I was on my way to work in my fifth week back.  I was feeling beaten after five weeks of attempting to do a 5-day week in 4 days, of the cycle-train-tube journey into work and then the same going back only with a childminder pick-up added in.  And on top of all this, dealing with the truck-load of challenges that the job always throws up, right from day one.  Oh and so much more.  But it turns out this is nothing compared to what the writer of this article has had to live with to maintain her career whilst raising her son.  Frances managed to juggle motherhood with a ridiculously demanding and dangerous job.  One that would mean she’d have to fly off to some other country at a moment’s notice.  That she’d have to set up home again in another war zone, desperately looking for (trustworthy) childcare and having to wean her baby in a hotel room.  All while trying to meet her next deadline.  So suddenly having to travel for two hours across London each day and spend my evenings working every now and then seemed like a holiday in comparison.

But actually, while I found what she managed to achieve incredibly inspiring, it was the stories that she was able to tell that really put everything into perspective for me.  Yes her family life was hectic, dangerous and unsettled.  But because she did it she was able to tell stories in an entirely different way – from the perspective of a mother.  Those final two paragraphs had me burst into tears on the spot as I walked into work.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours afterwards – spontaneously sobbing whenever it popped into my head.

Reading. No, not just reading.  Seeing the dying women she described giving their babies, ‘…one last breastfeed, knowing they’d otherwise starve in a place where milk cost more than gold’ led me to imagine the cocktail of emotions that this would conjur up in the heart of a mother.  How heartbreaking and unbearably terrifying it must be to know that you’re about to leave your precious, helpless child in such a dangerous, wretched place.  Not knowing what will happen to her, but knowing that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, while at the same time trying to stay strong for her, since as we all know, they pick up on fear and worry.  Only a mother, who has watched her own child grow and thrive on the milk she made with her own body, and who has shared hours of special moments breastfeeding her own baby, could ever really know how powerful this image is to mothers everywhere.

These stories enabled me to really, properly empathise with people living in war zones in a way that I never have before.  So while many people will say Frances was crazy or worse, selfish and inconsiderate for putting her son at such risk to ‘continue her career’, I have nothing but admiration for her.  Of course it’s upsetting that her son was at risk, that he was exposed to the worst of this world at an age when he should’ve been only surrounded by the best of it. But if it meant she was able to connect with people in this way, in a way that could provoke some kind of action big or small, then surely you can see why she did it?  After reading stories like this, most will at least view their own life with renewed perspective.  Others might share these stories with their friends.  Some might even donate to charities.  Maybe there are others would do even more, I don’t know.  But I think it is an incredibly valuable and admirable thing to be able to open people’s eyes to what is happening in the wider world in this way.

Your ‘baby’ could be anything – a cafe, a book, a dairy-free yogurt

6 Nov


Image source:  ‘Freedom’ by Yatou

There’s been lots of chat and debate about what Stylist calls ‘power maternity leave’ this week.  According to Stylist, power maternity leave is a trend that sees women on maternity leave using this break from their careers to learn a language, take up a new hobby or even set up a business.  Of course, this has provoked real debate between those who think it’s inspiring and enterprising, and others who say it makes regular mothers feel inadequate and like they failed by not achieving such feats in their maternity leave (we all know how hard just getting through the day with a baby can be after all!)  Or worse, that these women have their priorities all wrong and should be using maternity leave to care for their babies.

I personally made a decision to use this time to reflect on my career, to see what things I gravitate towards and where else my interests might lie, now that my time and energy wouldn’t be completely dominated by work.  Of course, what happened is that my life instead was completely dominated by Nancy instead.  For the first 12 weeks at least. BUT I *did* come out the other side.  Things did get easier.  The big problems were replaced by little problems that I started to obsess about.  It’s easy to obsess about your baby when you’re a first time Mum.  And as soon as I realised that I was doing this too much I decided that I needed something else going on in my life.  Something that got me out and about more and provided a healthy balance between being a Mum and being me.  So I started to volunteer with the street market that I’d previously been helping out on.  We worked out a role sourcing and booking the entertainment and activities which was something that I could do when I had the time.  I also started a blog (this one) which was dedicated to staying curious as a Mum – exploring all that London has to offer, having wonderful experiences (with baby of course), basically getting the most out of life.  Which is what I’ve always loved to do and didn’t want to change in motherhood (the blog has changed slightly since!).

BUT

I don’t want to talk about this side of it.  Because this isn’t and shouldn’t be just about Mums.  I believe myself to be so lucky to have been able to take 11 months out from work.  To get away from the constant churn of work, late nights, stress.  To have time to do something else, to reflect, to consider what I really enjoy doing, feel passionate about and want to give my time to.  Because when you’re at work you simply can’t do this (not in my industry anyway).  Having this time and the experience of having a baby instantly put everything else into perspective.  I feel very blessed for that.  And I feel bad that other people don’t get to experience this.

Now I’m back at work things are less than ideal, but having created and given birth to a little life, I now respect life and appreciate it more than ever before.  My parents gave me this life.  It’s precious, it’s a miracle.  It’s mine.  And it’s not going to  last forever.  So while I enjoy my work and will give it my all (and actually I’m more focused than ever), I’m not going to spend my evenings tapping away in the office.  I’m not going to take on any more than a healthy amount of stress.  If I want to spend some of my spare time volunteering for a cause I feel is important, or trying out something I’ve always wondered if I’d be good at, then yes, I will do that.  It makes me happy, makes me feel alive, introduces me to interesting new people, gives me purpose.  I also feel that following your passions is a great example to set as a mother.

But my point is, everyone should be able to take a few months or a year to reflect and re-appraise things.  Anyone should be able to do a 4-day week to pursue other dreams.  Your ‘baby’ doesn’t have to be a baby.  Why not do a 4-day week to write that novel you’ve always meant to write?  Why not take a few months off to research and build a business plan for that cafe you’ve always wanted to open?  Lots of people have commented about how many people can’t afford to start a business.  But these days it doesn’t need to cost anything.  Fewer businesses need premises.  You can build an audience for nothing.  All you need is determination and time.  Hmm.  ‘But time is money’ – who can afford to go down to 4-days, to take a year out?  I’m going to come back to this another time because it is possible, I’m convinced of it.  I had no savings, loads of debt and huge outgoings when I fell pregnant.  My work didn’t give me enhanced maternity pay.  I had no idea how I would survive on the tiny £128 a week given to me by the government, but I did.  And I had loads of baby stuff to buy too.  But it just goes to show, it is possible with some saving, cutting back, switching mobile networks (£40 better off a month!) to fund some time off to explore other things.

Obviously the issue is that there aren’t loads of part time jobs.  Flexible working is only really given to Mums and even this doesn’t work as well as it should in many cases.  BUT WHY?  This HAS to change.  Surely.  It seems archaic that in this world where we’re so connected and flexible in every other sense, most jobs are so dominating and rigid.  Maybe we need to create that demand, I don’t know.  There is a big thing about portfolio careers right now which I think is interesting and will write more about.  It’s basically the idea that you can have a number of different roles for different reasons – one for money, another for love, time dedicated to learning, volunteering, whatever you’re interested in doing.  We’re all complex creatures after all – we have loads of skills, passions, talents.  Obviously it’s not for everyone, but I love it as an idea.  It feels much more civilised and really, really liberating.

And that will do for now.

Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part two

17 Oct

So yes.  My heartwarming discoveries.  Here they are:

1> The amazingness of nature

This is of course, the big one.  Despite feeling the kicks and seeing the scans, I never *really* believed that a perfectly perfect human baby was really in there.  But it totally, totally was.  After a gruelling 27 hour labour, Nancy flew out (kinda) and was handed to me – an absolutely perfect example of a human being.  I was in shock.  My body is a-maz-ing.  How did it know what to do to create such a thing?  And then how to eject it from my body (well, it got some of that bit wrong to be fair).  She had everything – fingers, toes (complete with nails), hair, a perfect pair of lungs.  Incredible.  I was suddenly a mother and I always would be.  In that moment I realised how incredible nature is, life is, the world is.  All those silly things that bothered me before, gone.  Insignificant.  Just like that.

2>  The kindness + generosity of people

Wow.  Where do I start with this one?  From the day I went into labour, I was exposed to a whole new level of human kindness.  Maybe it’s just that ordinarily I’m immersed in a world of deadlines and pressure where people really aren’t operating at their most calm, kind and caring.  But wow, the midwives, the health visitors, the GP who treated me with even more care than usual post-labour – what incredible people!  I know it’s their job – but they gave me so much time to make me feel at ease in an alien situation, to listen to how I felt about my labour and experience as a new mother.  To give me all the information and support I needed and reassure any concerns I had.

And then there’s the PRESENTS!  I actually got to know my Postman as packages arrived every single day for weeks!  We received so many flowers that we even had to buy more vases.  One of my school friends arrived at my door with two black bags full of amazing baby clothes that her little girl had grown out of.  I felt quite embarrassed when I realised the number of presents we’d failed to buy for friends and relatives when they had babies.  And also noticed how a large majority of the gifts were from people who’d had children – some of these people we hardly knew at all!  But I guess they knew quite what a big deal this whole thing is. And quite how hard it is in those first few weeks – when the kind wishes of the people around you go such a long way.

3> The wonderful community on my doorstep

This was something I hoped I’d discover on maternity leave.  Being around just in the evenings and the weekends doesn’t give you the chance to *really* get to know your area. I was excited to spend some proper time here – getting to know the people, the groups, the stuff that happens in the daytime when I’d normally be on the other side of town.  After I’d had Nancy I was amazed to discover so much more than this.  Those first 10-12 weeks were incredibly hard. But what helped is that all these lovely people would come and visit me.  The midwife came a few time, then the health visitor.  Then there was the weekly baby clinic where I could go for advice and to weigh Nancy.  I quickly learned that there was so much out there to help Mums deal with the many challenges of early motherhood.  Here are some of the things I came across:

Breastfeeding Cafes There are two ‘cafes’ (not actual cafes) each week that you can go to to get guidance and support from midwives on breast feeding.  How incredible!  I tried to go once and well, it didn’t quite happen.  Turned out I’d left it too close to feeding time and so I quite quickly had a screaming Nancy in the back of the car.  I then didn’t know where to park near the library it was taking place in, and I also realised that I wouldn’t actually have enough time to feed Nancy before it then closed.  So I ended up feeding her in an actual cafe instead.  But the point is that it was a huge comfort to know that it was there and lots of friends who had real trouble with breastfeeding would’ve given up if it hadn’t been for the cafes.

Sure Start Centres These are ace.  They are located all over the place (although due to cuts they are slowly disappearing 😦 ) They offer FREE classes, courses, groups that you can come to with your baby and meet other mums, learn all sorts of things or just get a change of scenery.  We did a baby massage course for nuffink!  Amazing.  And just so lovely that it makes this kind of stuff accessible to all.

The Nappy Lady  There is an actual nappy lady!  Again, I didn’t actually use her.  But awesome to know that she exists to help you with the whole disposable vs. washable nappy dilemma.

There’s also a Sling Library where you can go to to try different baby slings to find the right one for you.  You can even borrow it for a week to make doubly sure.  The actual library is of course awesome too.  They do baby groups, singing sessions and obviously you can also join and borrow books for free.

On top of all this baby stuff there’s everything else.  And when you have a baby everyone talks to you!!  People at the bus stop, people in the doctors, people on trains.  Also when you have a baby you feel braver to just talk to anyone too!  You just get to know everyone and everything.  Where to get the best coffee.  The best brownie.  That there is even a pub near here that runs a group called Crumpets – a playgroup for babies and a breakfast club for Mums!  Complete with pastries, coffee and of course, crumpets!  Omm nom amazing.  Anyway you get my point – you get to know where you live better and it’s ace.

4> The kindness + support of other Mums

This is the sort of comment that I know now really pisses off non-Mums.  But it’s true – Mums are amazing.  Of course, it doesn’t apply to every single Mum.  And many non-Mums are also amazingly understanding and supportive to new Mums.  But there’s something about other Mums with babies at the same stage and also those with older babies / kids.  They know.  They know how exhausted you are.  How unsettling the dramatic change in your life is over just a few short weeks is.  How hard it is to remain patient while your darling child screams in your face for hours.  How you sometimes question yourself.  And they listen.  They empathise.  They know how desperate you can become, and they offer their help.  Even though they have their own things to deal with.

There was a time when Nancy would be awake at night and asleep in the day.  Just to get her off to sleep would take forever and a great deal of effort.  I was a mess.  My kind NCT friends offered to come over and watch Nancy while I slept.  These are women I’d known for just a few months!  I also had other friends in the area who’d had babies too and we’d all email at all hours – ‘Has anyone’s baby done this’.  ’Did you know that’.  ’He’s doing this, should I be worried’ and so on.  We’d all have read something or been through it already and be able to offer an answer or reassurance. Now that I’m back at work and am having worries about Nancy’s childcare, my Mum friends are all offering to get together to look after Nancy if I ever need this.  WOW!  It’s just incredible.  But I think, going back to point no.1, once you’ve given birth and been through this you suddenly realise what is important and what isn’t.  Being kind, listening and offering help and support to each other – these are all important things.  Normally many of us don’t find enough time to focus on this stuff.  Or don’t prioritise it.  But this is something that I really want to retain – in my personal life and at work.

5> A new, more confident, kind and patient me

I’m going to be quick here as I’ve written enough already.  And it kinda relates to no.4.  But yes.  To make this point, here are some things I have dealt with in the last 11 months:

  • Nancy screaming in my face for seven hours (yes SEVEN) while we try to work out why
  • Singing and rocking a screaming, overtired baby to sleep for up to an hour for her to then fall asleep but then wake up 45 minutes later.  An hour or so later I would then have to repeat this
  • Waking up every 3 hours through the night to feed her – after a day doing the above
  • Breastfeeding and cooking soup at the same time because clearly we were both so damned hungry!
  • Spending precious sleeping time chopping, steaming, blending various fruits and vegetables for Nancy to then just turn her head away in disgust

I mean these are just just a few things.  But the point is, I’ve had to find a way to deal with all these things whilst remaining patient, loving and comforting for Nancy.  I’ve therefore learnt a whole new level of patience, tolerance and consideration.  Being so out of control, vulnerable and in need of help and support has made me consider other people in my life who might be in need like this for all sorts of reasons.  We’re not all strong all the time.  And we have to be there for each other.

So that will do, I think.  It’s quite a lot.  And I know it’s all very soppy.  But that’s what happens to you when you become a Mum. And I’m glad of it.  I feel better, stronger, kinder and who can argue with that?

Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part one

12 Oct


Image source: Pinky VuDuu

I had a proper breakdown two Sunday nights ago.  The Sunday night before returning to work after 11 months off on maternity leave.  It involved full-on, inconsolable sobbing.  I wasn’t upset so much about having to leave Nancy for four days every week, as I felt really ready for this.  I really wanted a bit of balance to return to my life – a few days of doing ‘my stuff’ (work), with a special Friday for Nancy and me and then a lovely family weekend.  Perfect!  No, the issue I had was that it marked the end of our ‘special time’ together that had made me see the world in an entirely new way.

Literally as soon as they handed me my beautiful, newborn daughter the world was a different place.  My eyes were opened to the incredibleness of nature, the warmth and generosity of people, the community that I didn’t know existed around me.  All of it made the difficult first few months as a mother so much easier to deal with and made me feel incredibly positive about the world I’d just brought this little person into.  Every day something would happen that would warm my heart and give me a renewed appreciation of, well, everything.  So I think what I was worried about was that I would lose sight of all this as soon as I took on the stresses of work again, started rushing here, there and everywhere again, started dealing with difficult characters, a never-ending ‘to-do’ list and packed trains.

What I’ve realised since is that this experience can’t get taken away from me.  Experiencing new motherhood is a life-changing thing, and I am after all, still a Mum. To keep sight of all these things could mean being a better human being, employee, partner, friend, daughter for ever.

Some of it I’m sure becomes engrained – especially those elements that you practise everyday just by being a Mum.  But I’m sure that it could be easy to lose sight of others.  Which is why I am writing this post – so that I can remind myself of everything I discovered on maternity leave and use it to remember to be patient, to look out for others, to make time for the important things and to not worry about the less important things.  

Next post – my actual heart-warming discoveries on maternity leave..