Parent Guilt: When You Just Can't Do Anything Right

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


When you have a baby, you're not just welcoming them into the world. You're also welcoming new aspects of yourself. It's like Inside Out when the new islands of personality start popping up in Riley's mind. Only instead of 'Vampire Romance Island', I have new parts of myself like cries whilst watching adverts that involve small children. And It's been an hour, where the hell is my caffeine. And the quite scary I will rip your head off if you harm my child in any way. Small changes, but changes just the same.

(It's not just personality changes, either. Hello, Boobs That Leak at Inconvenient Moments.)

Over time, some of these shiny new parts of your personality will start to fade away, to be replaced with interesting new ones. (Like the My Child is Being Quiet, She Must Be Up to Something radar, which is improving day by day). But some of them hang around forever. Like your new best friend:

Parent Guilt.

Parent Guilt is, unfortunately, just part of being a parent. You can't be a parent and not feel like you are totally screwing it up at times: that's just the way things are. I don't think I've ever, ever met a parent that thinks they have it together at all times and that they could never do anything better. (If you exist, please don't tell me about it).

Parent Guilt is not helpful. Parent guilt doesn't serve a wider purpose in the way that I Will Rip Your Head Off If You Harm My Child In Any Way helps you to protect your child. Parent Guilt waits until after the event and then makes you feel extra crap about it.

If your child falls over and bumps their head on the coffee table, as well as feeling sad and concerned, Parent Guilt will sneak into your brain and whisper that was your fault.

It doesn't matter if the coffee table has sat there for two years and never once caused someone to trip over; it doesn't matter if there is literally nowhere else in the house for it to go. Parent Guilt expects you to feel bad about it anyway.

Parent Guilt is there when you have to be tough on your child. Doesn't matter if they didn't eat any dinner and demanded chocolate anyway: Parent Guilt always sides with the child. So as they cry, and cry, and cry, and you're stood there with your arms crossed saying things like 'There's no use crying, that won't work on me!' you will also feel like your insides are slowly melting away with pain at the thought of them being upset. Partly because Parent Guilt is saying things like remember when you ate loads of chocolate when you were pregnant instead of choosing fruit? Bet you regret THAT now, huh?

Parent Guilt is also good at painting pictures of what might happen and will slowly and subtly convince you that that thing IS going to happen, no matter how unrealistic it is. For example. You've put the TV on because your child refuses to sleep any more, but still needs to rest, and you smell, and the house smells, and there's rubbish everywhere, and you know that somehow, in the next half an hour, you need to have a shower, get yourself ready, and at least attempt to do the washing up and take the rubbish out before your friend comes over.

Parent Guilt is with you in the shower. You realise your daughters' brain cells are literally melting away right now? Imagine them there, those little happy brain cells. And then imagine them dying. Because that's what's happening! One by one. Being replaced by the theme tune from 'Raa Raa' and the knowledge of all the episodes of 'In the Night Garden' in which the Pontipines lose their children.




(Btw, the Pontipines? Apparently have no parent guilt at all. They are the most lackadaisical parents I have ever seen. Literally every episode I've seen that features them involves them losing their children and then watching on in horror when they realise they're about to get squashed/fall from a high place.)

You start to build up defence mechanisms to deal with Parent Guilt. You repeat facts like mantras: Half an hour of TV won't hurt, half an hour of TV won't hurt. Or she can't have chocolate for breakfast, no child should have chocolate for breakfast. Slowly, over time, you start toughening up.


At some point once a day my house will be filled with the noises of farm animals - thanks, Timmy Time.

But then you'll be sitting around writing, or doing whatever you enjoy doing, and you know ... enjoying it. Or having a rare evening out with your husband and your friends. Who should come along to gatecrash your fun? Parent Guilt. Obviously. Suddenly, instead of thinking 'Ah, it's nice that I get to really enjoy being a parent AND doing other things that don't involve her', you start thinking 'I should feel bad about enjoying myself without her.'

You will realise that it doesn't make sense. Why should you feel guilty for enjoying yourself while your child is either a) enjoying time with relatives or b) asleep? You will realise, of course, that happy parents usually = happy child, and you can't allow your whole life to revolve around your child with no other outside interests, because what happens when they grow up?

Doesn't matter though. That sneaky Parent Guilt will still get to you before you can get your head around the facts. It hurts you like a little jab between the ribs. 'Hey. You. How dare you enjoy time without your firstborn child you SELFISH COW.'

I would like to say that Parental Guilt eventually goes away, but I hear it doesn't. Even after your children are grown up and functioning happily as adults. Nope: Parental Guilt is your friend for life, unfortunately. From the moment that you pop that baby out, and then forever after.

I've realised though that in order to raise a child you have to come to terms with a lot of things you'd rather not deal with: things like not always stepping in to protect them as they grow older so that they can learn to deal with things themselves, and being tough on them sometimes, and having The Sex Talk. (My whole body cringes at the very thought). You have to come to terms with the million emotions that come with protecting and nurturing someone with your whole heart, and then letting them go into the world without you.

And you have to learn to accept Parent Guilt. I'm trying to treat it like an annoyingly loud friend that you have to listen to sometimes out of politeness. When I'm putting my conditioner on in the shower and I hear the theme tune to Timmy Time come on, I think 'Hi, Parent Guilt.' And they go on and on about lack of intelligence of children that have screen time.

And then I step out, let the voice gurgle down the drain with the shower water, and carry on with my day.

Linking up with:

Pink Pear Bear
Mummascribbles
My Random Musings

Podcast Love: 10 of my faves

Friday, 19 February 2016


This = my happy place
I am a podcast addict.

I love listening to podcasts. They are like my comfort TV. When I'm cleaning? Podcast on. When I'm cooking? Podcast. Feeling a bit rubbish? Probably gonna turn to a podcast. So in no particular order, I give you ten of my favourites:



Source

Ever wanted to know stuff about ... stuff? Josh and Chuck have covered every topic under the sun, giving you a really good idea of each subject. From playdough to trickle-down economics. The Satanic Panic of the 1980's to Anonymous. From Barbie dolls to, er, poop. Ever wondered why men have nipples? Why leaves change colours in the autumn? If the five-second rule actually works? You can find out!




The Flicks That Church Forgot is a podcast by Rev. Peter Laws. He is an ordained minister who has a fascination with horror films. As well as giving some really in-depth reviews, he also explores theology and spirituality (which is why I listen ... because I'm actually a huge wimp when it comes to horror films). Really interesting podcast!

3. The Complete Guide to Everything

The Complete Guide to Everything sounds like it might be the same thing as Stuff You Should Know but, er, not. Tim and Tom are New Yorkers and close friends, and each week they discuss a different topic. Except they kind of don't. Sometimes they talk about nearly everything BUT the topic. But they are so funny that it works. It just works!

They make me laugh. A lot. Almost as much as ...




So I kind of consider Adam and Joe to be like old friends of mine, even though I will probably never actually meet them ( a good thing as I would either faint or say something ridiculous). Chris and I used to listen to their XFM shows way back when we were first going out (you know, in the olden times). And now they are part of my life. You know how some people have a Friends quote for every situation? I do, but I also have an Adam and Joe anecdote for everything.

I, personally, love seeing (or hearing) people laugh helplessly until they nearly can't breathe. And there's plenty of that here! I've cried with laughter listening to these podcasts (the Blah Boobidy Baya saga especially). Their songs float around in my head interchangably (Text the Nation, Retro Text the Nation, Dirty Robots, Special Bath ... the list goes on).

If you're going to listen to any of the podcasts on this list ... go for this one. I found a forum post listing nearly all of their radio shows, so you could go all the way back and start there. You lucky things.

Sadly they have stopped their show now (Adam Buxton being busy doing his show Bug, which I also recommend, and Joe Cornish directing and writing films) but Adam recently started up a new podcast which you can find here (when I found out I did a happy dance to celebrate).




Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews (aka Wittertainment) kind of explains what you need to know: film critic Kermode and radio presenter Mayo review films. That's it. Except it's not: Wittertainment has a massive fan base with listeners across the globe. It feels like a show you can really participate in - they spend a lot of time reading out emails from listeners, whether it's their opinions on movies or stories of how their show has impacted their life in some way.

Kermode is also the master of film rants. Sometimes if a terrible-sounding film comes out I will think 'I can't wait to see what Mark says about this.' Listen to his opinion on Sex and the City 2 for an idea of what I mean ;)




It feels a bit cheaty to include three separate podcasts by the same network but hey! Stuff You Missed in History Class uncovers some really interesting events, people and places throughout time. They cover loads of topics: the Hindenburg disaster, the strange story of the 1900 Paris Olympics, the real-life Moby Dick that destroyed a ship. They manage to find out about really interesting people and leave you wondering about mysteries that will never be solved.




The last of the 'Stuffs!' I really like Stuff Mom Never Told You. Cristen and Caroline explore what it means to be a woman ... and cover relationships, female friendships, the representation of women in media, and loads more. Some of their podcasts cover fascinating women throughout time. Others have shocked and slightly enraged me (check out Empresses of Science Fiction).






I listen to a few sermons online (including, obviously, my own church, seeing as I mostly miss the sermons whilst running around after our toddler), but thanks to my friend Matt, I've recently discovered Woodland Hills. Greg Boyd is senior pastor of Woodland Hills, and their Twisted Scripture series (in which they examine scriptures that have been twisted over time to suit our purposes) is really interesting.




Oh Scummy Mummies. Ever wondered why every other parent has it together, and that it must only be you that is constantly tripping over toys and finding crushed up crisps and half-eaten digestives in their handbag? Well, you're wrong, and Scummy Mummies are here to let you know that no-one really has it all together. I laugh so much when I listen to them (one of them in particular has a really infectious laugh that makes me laugh too). They talk about loads of stuff: breastfeeding, stay at home Dads, feminism, post-natal depression, starting a business ... and they are so down to earth and likeable that they will have you hooked.

I should warn you they are kind of sweary though: just in case you felt like listening to it in front of your kids ;)



Source

Obviously I have a mild book obsession and Bookrageous just feeds that. Bookrageous is a group of people talking about different topics to do with books: sometimes they explore different genres, other times wider topics like diversity in books. At the start of the show, each person talks about what they are currently reading, which is my favourite bit. I've discovered a few really good books through them. They don't update regularly (or at least haven't been recently) but when a new one comes out I disappear in a happy book bubble for a little while.

***

That's it! My podcast list of joy. If you're going to check them out, then happy listening ... and if you've got any good podcast recommendations, please let me know! 

Linking up with:

Best of Worst

The List


Life Love and Dirty Dishes
A Cornish Mum

The Yes Girl

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


Chris bought me these tea cups a couple of years ago for my birthday.

At the time I had just discovered Pinterest and was pinning all manner of beautiful things. One of the things I loved (and pinned) were teacups. Beautiful teacups and saucers in mismatching patterns. They looked so delicate and pretty. And so, Chris presented me with six perfectly mismatched teacups and saucers for my birthday, and I loved them.

And I put them in a cupboard where they wouldn't get damaged

And I never used them.


(Actually, once. Once I used them, when my friend Sam came back from a mission trip in Africa and I wanted her to have the most British cup of tea possible as a 'welcome home' experience).

I pulled them out of the cupboard the other day and I wondered why I didn't use them, because I loved them so much. It was because a) I didn't yet have a teapot to go with it, and b) I liked them so much that I was a bit scared of using them.

I felt suddenly really annoyed with myself. Annoyed that I had allowed some perfectly beautiful things to go unused for months - even years - and at the same time, I had allowed myself to whinge and moan about all the nice things I didn't have. It's selfish.

But it got me thinking about how much of life can be like that, if we're not careful.

***

So I don't want to get into mindfulness properly because that, to me, is yet another thing that I am not good at as a parent. Mindfulness can be useful for a person with anxiety though. When I'm feeling panicky about something, I stop and just gently (okay, sometimes forcefully) remind myself of where I am right now. I have drawn a helpful flow chart:




But mindfulness as in 'stop and enjoy this moment. Look at the way your daughters eyelashes look and enjoy the cool breeze as it gently sways the branches of the trees' is the kind of mindfulness I am not good at. I do try, but some days, I just want to skip to the end and go to bed. And I want to go to bed and watch Netflix without thinking 'Oh no, I wasn't mindful enough today.'

But the teacup thing. It reminded me of someone we knew when I was a kid. They had a big house, and in the house was a dining room that was only used for special occasions. So basically, Christmas. And if particularly fancy guests were coming.

Which I guess I understand a little bit. It's nice have a room that is all clean and tidy and full of nice things for your guests to enjoy.

But practically? I don't really get it. I mean that is a WHOLE room. Like, a large proportion of the house. Just gathering dust.

There is no joy being had in that room. Barely any memories being made. It's just ... being saved for a special day that might not even be coming.

***

There are two areas of life that I am good at making the most of: buying things, and food. I, like many other people, have bought into the idea that I deserve treats. Marketing people love me. They say 'Hey, come in and enjoy a gingerbread latte! You deserve it!' and, occasionally, instead of thinking 'shut up, Costa, I could enjoy a gingerbread latte at home for like an eighthof that price' I think 'Hey! They're right! I DO deserve it!' And I happily hand over money I don't have to a company that doesn't actually know or care about me.

I'm also good at feasting. There are a lot of Bible verses about feasting. I have that down. My attitude is 'diabetes shmiabetes! Give me another brownie. Who cares what state my body will be in when I'm fifty? That's like a million years away.'

(I'm exaggerating but only very very slightly).

But enjoying actual life?

I'm slightly less good at that.

Jellybean teaches me to enjoy life more. I have a lot more fun now she's around. I think children inspire adults to be a bit more carefree. They just seem to intuitively get it. Jellybean wakes up each day and her attitude seems to be:

'Here I am, I'm awake! The world is so huge and fun! Let's go!'


Let's be realistic here. Just like you realise pretty quickly when you get into your twenties that just because you can, doesn't mean you should live off of Doritos with the occasional glass of wine, so you realise quickly you can't say Yes to every mad whim your small child has. That way leads to kids that have no bedtime and are perpetually buzzed from eating a steady diet of Pombears and chocolate digestives, and to a house that still has the Christmas tree up in July.

You can't be the Yes Parent all the time.

But I could be the No Parent less.

I could be the No Girl, in general, much less.

***

Really, life is short. You can't buy yourself more time. (No matter what the matcha powder selling, green-smoothie-peddling people tell you). And as much as we like to pretend it won't happen, there will eventually come a time when you have no tomorrows left in which to finally do that thing you've always wanted to do.

I say no to things for all sorts of reasons.

No, we can't go out now, it's raining.

No, I can't wear that outfit/lipstick/hair cut because I can't 'pull it off'.

No, I shouldn't chase that dream because I might fail.

No, I can't use that nice object because I don't want it to get ruined.

No, you can't help me with the washing up because you'll get the floor all wet.

No, I won't spend time doing that thing for me, because there are a million jobs I have to do that benefit other people and I can't afford to waste time.

No.



I hope this year I learn to say 'yes' more. To life. It is a generous gift, after all. And I don't say this to condemn or to bring guilt on time-starved people that might be reading this. I mean,  I can't follow this advice all the time, either. Because as much as I want to be the Yes Girl, I also have to accept the fact that I am also the Incurable Chronic Pain Disorder Girl, and as much as that doesn't define me, it does sometimes mean that some days are not in the slightest bit fun.

But it does make me want to make the most of the moments in which my trigeminal nerve functions like a normal person's would.

As cheesy as it sounds, I want to make the most of it.

Of life.

Stop putting things off for the future when I 'have time'.

Don't worry about mess and chaos.

Light all the candles at dinner time and eat with the lights off.

Use the fancy cups.


Drink deep.

Linking up with:
Mummascribbles

Pink Pear Bear

My Random Musings

Top 5: Life-changing books

Friday, 12 February 2016


Here I am again with another book post, because, you know. Books! Plus people seemed to like the last one.

I've been thinking about life-changing books this week, as in, books that have actually inspired me to make positive changes in my behaviour and attitudes. Books that have me feeling fired up every time I read them. I think I've narrowed it down to five. So let's go:



I had to really think about this one, because I haven't read it in a long time. If you are a Christian, you probably know Rob Bell and the, er, interesting stuff that has happened to him over the past few years. I think, in all the furore, I almost forgot how much of an effect this book had on me.

Velvet Elvis is a book about ... finding out who God is. Beyond the ideas of Him that you had growing up. It's about embracing your imagination and wonder. It encourages you to keep seeking God and keep wanting to find out more about Him.

This book opened my eyes to the hugeness of God. It made me feel excited about not knowing stuff, which usually drives me crazy. It made me feel awe and wonder about the mysteries of life. It even made me want to sit around and just ... think. Bell does have a tendency to 

write

like

this.

A

lot.

But still, I love it. I could imagine it having a different impact if you were raised a Christian and had been to church your whole life, but even as a non-Christian I had absorbed some cultural ideas about God that I had to kind of detach from at the beginning of my faith.

2. Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World - Lisa Bloom


Now, this is a very different book! I wanted to read this for a long time before I finally got round to buying a second hand copy from Amazon and I was so glad I did. I had no idea who Lisa Bloom was before I read this - she's a big name in America, as an attorney and television legal analyst. Not having heard of her, there were tiny parts of the book that didn't click with me, and the whole thing is (obviously) America-centric, so there were parts that didn't apply.

However, her unrelenting passion makes me fired up every time I read this. Bloom is passionate about women. She asks the tough questions: why are so many young women excelling in education but still more knowledgeable in celebrity gossip than politics? Why are we outperforming men in employment in some areas, but spending more and more time and money on our appearance? 

While she is pretty outspoken and I don't agree with everything she says, I love her enthusiasm. She wants us to start reclaiming our brains, taking back our focus, and trying harder to engage with the world around us. 

Plus there is a chapter on her love for books and how important it is that we introduce children to reading at a young age. I like that chapter so much that sometimes I pick up the book just to read that section.

It is life-changing, in terms of giving me a kick up the bum when I get lazy and stuck in my own bubble.

3. Faith Unravelled - Rachel Held Evans



I wrote about this in my Unputdownables 2015 post, so I'll try not to repeat myself. Rachel Held Evans is one of those Christian writers and speakers that, er, gets a lot of flak. In fact, the other day she tweeted this:



Which about sums up the problems that she faces on a day-to-day basis. I was intimidated by her at first. Her views were challenging to me, but when I first read her blog, I wasn't ready to be asking the kind of questions about my faith that she was. Plus, with all the negative press surrounding her, I was put off. However, I then decided to read one of her books to see what she was about, and I read A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which surprised me by being down-to-earth, hilarious, and really moving.

Faith Unravelled, which I read last year, is about her initial journey from doubting her faith, to asking tough questions, to finding a fresh and deep and passionate love for God again. I love how honest she is, and I clung onto this book like a life raft last year when bits of my religion - not necessarily God, but how His followers interpret parts of the Bible - started to make less sense to me.

It reignited a passion in me to press in closer to God. I am so grateful for it.

4. Lioness Arising - Lisa Bevere


A few years ago (okay. Quite a few years ago now) I decided that I would finally be ready to talk about a particularly hard chapter of my life. So I went to my pastor about it, and he introduced me to my amazing friend Adele, who had a similar vision to me about a way we could serve teenage girls in our community, and then we set off starting our own project to work towards that.

During this time, I was petrified. Like totally, utterly, panic-attack-inducing terrified. I felt like I couldn't breathe a lot of the time. And I bought myself this book that I had heard so much about, for inspiration. 

I wasn't expecting to be that inspired. But I was. I don't think I've ever felt so empowered by a book in my life. Suddenly I realised the fundamental importance of allowing God to use my whole life - not just the bits I am proud of, but the difficult and dark-in-my-soul times, too - in order to serve others and hopefully, make the world a slightly better place.

Speaking of changing the world!

Half the Sky was another one of those books that I had on my wishlist for a really long time before I eventually gave into temptation and bought it. I'm only sorry I didn't buy it sooner. Half the Sky is written by husband-and-wife team Nicholas D.Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They are Pulitzer prize-winning reporters, and they went on a journey through Africa and Asia, meeting with some amazing women fighting against terrible circumstances.

The book is essentially about gender equality, and the huge impact women could make upon the world if given the chance. It covers some fairly heavy topics: some of the women they interviewed suffered horrifically. But, if you want to feel inspired to make a difference, you have to read this book. My eyes were fully opened to the hardship facing women across the globe: I'm obviously very aware of sexism here, but was less aware of the attitudes towards women worldwide. It shocked me, and made me immediately want to make changes. Because of this book, I found out about two amazing charities: Kiva, a microlending site where you can choose a person and lend them money to help them start their own business, and Women for Women International, which I will blog about another time. (Essentially it is a sponsorship thing: you are given a sponsor sister, a survivor of war, and then you pay for them to have an all-round education and training in a skill that will help them to support their families).

Please read this book. It will change you. It will anger you and upset you as well, but it will change you for the better!

***

So there we have it! 5 books that have made a big impact on my life. Have you got any books that have had an impact on you? Comments always welcome. Plus I love book recommendations more than chocolate ;)


You Baby Me Mummy

A Cornish Mum

Talk of the Town

Check out these awesome parent blogs!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


So yesterday I wrote a post explaining why I love parent bloggers and promised a follow-up. Here are a few that inspire me:

The Brightness of These Days

Stumbled upon this blog via Mumsnet Bloggers Network. Nicole is a lawyer and mother of two boys, and she captures her life in beautiful, funny rhyme. Check out her post 'This Motherhood Beast' which is short but so sweet!

PODcast

PODcast is a beautifully designed blog. They run three weekly photography projects - Alphabet (linking photographs representing a letter of the alphabet), the Black and White Photography Project (pretty self-explanatory really), and What's the Story? where you share a photograph and the story behind it. You can find many beautiful photographs here!

Skint Dad

Ricky Willis started a blog after a personal financial crisis in 2013. So they took control of their finances and chronicled their journey. Skint Dad is packed with practical money-saving tips and I really like the fact that he is so honest and down-to-earth.

Jera's Jamboree

Shaz covers a lot of interesting topics on her blog: she is an Inclusion Lead in a local school, so you will find lots of SEN-related information on her blog. She is also an avid reader and posts lots of book reviews, as well as hosting the book-based Talk of the Town linky. She is also interested in genealogy. There's lots of interesting posts to read!

Read it Daddy!

Want to add a million more children's books to your wishlist? Read it Daddy! has it covered. A Dad-and-daughter team sit down together and review books, covering different age ranges and genres. I like having a good old nose through this blog getting ideas for books to read with Jellybean.

***

That's all for today ... there are a lot of blogs that I read on a regular basis, so I might do another post like this soon highlighting some more great bloggers. If you're still in need of blogs to read, check out Tots 100's List for some excellent picks!

And I'll see you here on Friday! ;)

Not 'just' anything: in defence of parent bloggers

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


So last week I read this really scathing article in a newspaper I will not name *cough* about the Facebook motherhood 'challenge' that's going round at the moment. In the article, I read about the rise of 'smug Mummy bloggers'. And then I did a bad thing: I went to the comments, and I read all the vitriol that people have for people who choose to write about their kids. (Don't do it, people! Never skip to the comments section on articles like that!)

Apparently we should have other things to talk about.

Apparently we are vacuous and airheaded.

I don't understand why it is fair for people to make money from just, you know, being horrible about things. It would be different if they were joking around, because heaven knows I like to laugh at myself. Or if they were giving constructive criticism. But to get paid just for being nasty towards whole groups of people? Bonkers. And kind of unfair.

The thing is, some bloggers do seem to have beautiful lives, and immaculate children and homes (never do their kids have jam or toothpaste around their mouths. Nor do they seem to have piles of wetwipes and pombears lying around on the floor like my house does). I like those blogs and Instagram accounts. though, because they are usually beautifully photographed and they give me inspiration.

But as well as those bloggers/vloggers/Instagrammers, there are a diverse, interesting, inspiring group of people that happen to have one thing in common: we like to write about parenthood.

It annoys me that for that reason we are counted as boring. Like, motherhood isn't an interesting enough thing to talk about. I'm not sure I like what that says about the way we view parents and family life. It speaks volumes about how we as a society view stay at home parents: the attitude of 'What, and you don't do anything else?'. As though raising children alone is not worthy enough of respect.

The reason I like blogging (and reading other blogs) is the feeling of connection. As a reader, I love it when I read a passage in a book or in a blog and it just resonates with me. Something kind of clunks into place. I love that words can create that connection between you and another, even though previously you might never have known the others' existence. You might never meet that person. You might not even make contact with them. But you feel that connection. It makes the world seem smaller, less intimidating. And it makes you feel less alone.

Obviously you need relationships IRL because, you know, you can't rely on that alone, that wouldn't be healthy. But it helps. I like that things are more transparent now; we don't have to hide the way we feel, we don't have to pretend that everything is perfect, we don't have to feel like we are the only ones that struggle while everyone else is getting on perfectly. That is what I love about blogs: the ability to be able to see into someone's life and understand that nobody is perfect.

I like the community. I like that if you have a question, you can tap into the wisdom of dozens of parents who have gone before you. I like the knowledge I can gain by learning about other people. You can learn what it is like to be a paramedic. What it is like to battle cancer. What it is like having a child with autism. How you cope with having twins. How to deal with postnatal depression. As well as things like how you start weaning your baby, or how you can keep your children entertained on a rainy day with no money to spend.

There is a wealth of good things to be had from reading blogs. And people are mostly doing it for free: there isn't a huge amount of money to be had in blogging. Yeah, you can make a career out of it, but it takes a LOT of dedication to get to that point. Mostly, as a blogger, you want to offer people something of worth: whether that is through words or vlogs or tutorials. You want to make a positive difference to someone's day. And the feeling when you know you've done that makes the hours of effort so worth it.

So 'Mummy' bloggers (which is a term I don't love because I feel it leaves Dads out - I prefer 'parent bloggers' really) - I salute you. Keep going.

And if you don't like it? Click away and try something else :)

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I will be doing a bonus post with some excellent parent bloggers you should check out!

Linking up with:
Mummascribbles

My Random Musings

Thankful for the details.

Sunday, 7 February 2016


I'm doing a Bible study at the moment, and when I flicked back through my book, I noticed a phrase I had circled.

It was this:

'Thanksgiving activates peace'.

I haven't been feeling peaceful this week. It's been a bad pain week, and I've been stuck indoors because the weather (cold and windy) will make it worse. I've been getting cranky and irritable with Jellybean and Chris. I feel constantly tired. I really miss fresh air. And I start to notice all the little things that are wrong with our house, because I'm in it all the time.

I've been stressed and my brain feels chaotic.

Later in the study, I read this: 'Shalom, the familiar Hebrew word for peace which permeates the Old Testament, does not refer to the absence of chaos, but rather to an overall, deeply entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos. In fact, true peace is best detected and measured against the backdrop of commotion and confusion - when instability abounds, yet you remain steadfast; when disappointment and confusion are near, yet you're still capable of walking with Spirit-infused confidence, stability and steadiness.' - Priscilla Shirer, the Armor of God 

I want that kind of peace. I don't necessarily want the kind of peace that my mind conjures up when I read the word: sitting quietly on a warm, secluded beach, feeling the warmth of the sand underneath me and watching the waves slowly lapping in and out. Although I wouldn't say no to that, obviously ;)

I want the kind of peace that resides in me even when the chaos happens. You can't stop life's stresses: they are just part of being alive. And so when the chaos of TN and all the implications of it hit me hard, I want to still feel that peace.

And I know I have to be thankful.

I've become mildly obsessed with black and white photography recently. I love it. I've been chasing down Instagram accounts that are full of black and white snaps. (In fact, if you have any suggestions, please let me know!). This week, I've been feeling the urge to go out and take photographs, but I've been unable to. And so I've been taking pictures at home, and going through my old ones and making them black and white. Something about draining the colour out of an image makes shape and form bolder, makes textures feel more 'touchable'.




I can't wait until spring arrives and I can leap outside with my toddler and my camera and take a million pictures (and also I'd quite like more sunlight. What is with this all-day darkness?), but until then, I try and snap the things I'm grateful for around me. I mean, there's a reason why thankfulness journals and mindfulness and stuff like that is so popular at the moment. People are realising how much joy is contained within the small, everyday things that you might normally miss. I know there's a theory that people who take pictures all the time instead of just enjoying a moment are missing out, but I don't really agree with that. When I get my camera out, I start noticing the details. I start feeling more and more grateful for what I have even when life is stressful.

And then I realise it's true: thankfulness does activate peace. It doesn't make the chaos around me disappear: it just keeps me anchored to the small things that keep me going.

So I'll keep snapping, and hopefully I'll get better as I go along. But I'll keep seeking that shalom peace while I do it.

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Taking control of the toys

Friday, 5 February 2016


Sometime last year, I went on an extreme decluttering mission. (Fact: Priscilla Shirer was doing this way before Marie Kondo was!) Anyway, I started getting rid of stuff: lots of stuff. And it felt really liberating and freeing, which sounds like a very pretentious, 'rich person problem' to have, but it is true. None of our stuff is particularly expensive; we just have a lot of it. So I went on a major cull. I even got rid of bags full of books. Now, when I get a new item, I try and find something else to get rid of (and by get rid of I mean donate to a charity shop, not just chuck away in the bin).

All except Jellybean's toys.


Toys toys toys!!!

I find it hard getting rid of her stuff. Partly because it's hers, not mine. Partly because I have sentimental attachments to anything that is connected to her. And mostly because a lot of her stuff are things other people have kindly and generously bought her. I really want to make that clear: I appreciate how much people love her and want to buy her nice things. 

But I've allowed it to pile up, and it has become too much. Because we haven't been organised enough, she isn't appreciating what she has as much as she could be doing. It's a hard balance: I don't want her as she grows up to become materialistic and obsessed with obtaining more and more stuff, and I want her to make the most out of what she has already, but I also want her to be thankful and appreciative of the things that people give her.

I've noticed her attention span is really short when we have a lot of toys around. And we have a lot of toys around, because I'm running out of space to put them. She will flit from one thing to the next really quickly. So I started wondering if she is just a bit overwhelmed. I read a while back a few articles about how sometimes too many toys can actually have a negative affect on a child. (Here are some interesting articles about this: 1, 2, 3) Apparently it can cause them to become overloaded, overstimulated and then bored. It sounds like that shouldn't make sense, but it does: the less stuff that they have around them, the more they will actually engage with what is in front of them, and the more they get out of it. (I should say at this point I'm not a toy snob: I don't care if it's made of plastic and makes annoying noises and flashes a million colours, if it keeps my child occupied and sparks her imagination, I'm happy ...)

So I've decided to do a bit of an experiment. Today I have gone through Jellybean's toys and cut down the toys that are within her reach to play with by about two thirds in the hope that, by rotating them, she will start to enjoy them a bit more. Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Evaluate what is there. 

It's when you start counting toys that you start to realise how many your kid has. Jellybean is, I'd say, a typical modern western child. She has everything. Multiples of things, even. Sometimes the counting in itself is enough of a wake up call to make you realise it's a bit too much!

Step 2: Put aside the favourites.

Jellybean's absolute favourite things are her three cuddly toys that she keeps in bed with her, her Happy Land people and houses, and the flashing bouncy ball she got in her stocking this year. Obviously I want to keep these things around for her to play with.


You would not believe the amount of time we spend playing with these.

Step 3: Get three bags.

One for toys that she has grown out of (to go in the loft), one for toys that she plays with occasionally, and one for toys that I will eventually take to the charity shop if she doesn't miss them over the next month or so.

I was pretty ruthless with the second bag. I laid out everything that she enjoys playing with and then put about a third of that into her bedroom storage (where all the boxes are within her reach). The rest will be going into a big under bed storage box.


Now, Jellybean has a set of wooden blocks, her bouncy ball, and her Happyland stuff downstairs.

Upstairs, she has her nurses' outfit, her baby and its accessories, her Aquadoodle set, and a few other bits and bobs that she got for Christmas (but so much less than she had before). Also she has her kitchen and all the bits that come with it to play with. This is after I'd cut it down so it shows how much there is!

Step 4: Rotate.

I plan to keep things the way they are for a month or so. I want to see how Jellybean plays when there is less around to play with: whether she engages more, or gets more out of her toys. Obviously I'm not expecting her to sit around and play with the same toy for hours - she's only two ;) but I want to see how it goes. And then, after a month, I will swap the toys in her bedroom for toys that are being stored under the bed. And I will get rid of the charity shop bag if she doesn't ask for anything from it.

I've also organised her little toys that we bought to keep her occupied on the plane last year into bags, so if I'm going somewhere where she needs to be kept quiet, I know where they are and can grab one to shove in my handbag.



We'll see how it goes. I wouldn't ever take the approach of taking all the toys away (although some people do that - this is an interesting read about how a family coped with no toys). I don't mind having toys around, because I think a house should have some evidence of people living in it ;) and children are only children for a short time. I have really fond memories of my own toys as a kid so I know how important they are. But, I felt that if it was becoming too much for her then something needed to be done. I'll do a follow up post in a month or so and let you know how we get on.



Annnd enjoy the peaceful feeling that comes post-declutter.

I'd be really interested to hear how you keep on top of toys with your kids - are you a ruthless declutterer or do you have toys spilling out of every cupboard? How on earth do you cope with the toys of multiple children?! Let me know in the comments. I'm always up for hearing organisation ideas!

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