Author, Blogger, Mother, Procrastinator.
Big fan of honesty.
Lately! (Life, Kids, Work, Stuff).
It has been nearly three months since I last wrote a blog post and for that I am truly sorry. I’m not sure I can even call myself a 'blogger' these days. However, this afternoon I felt the urge to write something by way of an update so here we are. Back in the game. I have missed it. The problem with being shit at blogging regularly is that I now don’t know where to start by way of an update, so I’m going to approach it as though we were having a chat in Tesco. One of those bullet-point type chats where you attempt to summarise everything in your life that’s happened lately, before the kids kick off. Let’s start with the boys. Henry is now in Year Two, really into his football and can generally be found ‘hype’ dancing or ‘taking the L’ around the living-room (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, these dance crazes haven’t found your children yet. Protect them at all costs). Jude doesn’t yet share his brother’s love of football and instead prefers playing Lego and singing songs from The Greatest Showman which is really cute and everything but loses its edge when he bellows, “FROM NOW ON, THESE EYES WILL NOT BE BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS!” next to our heads at 6am. He will join Henry at school in September and I’m not sure my heart will cope. That said, he already walks around the playground at pick-up like he owns the place so I’m hoping he’s going to be just fine. Wilf turned one in December, is walking (albeit unsteadily) and in all honesty, is a complete fucking menace. Seriously, we have excelled ourselves with this one. He’s high achieving on the adorable front, gives us lots of giggles and cuddles, however his sleeping at thirteen months is still hit and miss and he screams if we do any of the following: change his nappy, put him down, put him in the pram, put him in the car, take his empty food bowl away, force him to wear socks, stop him from licking Henry’s wellies. He also shits every time we strap him in his car seat. Every time. If it happens to be a day with lots of car journeys, you’re looking at a ten-poo total. It’s almost a skill to squeeze that many out but he’s up for the challenge. It’s been five months since we moved house and took on the mother of all fixer-uppers. Despite the testing moments so far, including squashing my arse into a 60-litre plastic storage tub full of water when we had no bathroom for three weeks, I’m still glad we bought it. I can’t say it’s the ‘forever home’ because forever is a very long time but it’s most definitely our ‘very long term house’ (not got quite the same ring to it) and it feels like home already. I am two thirds of the way through writing book number three which will come out later this year! I keep switching between 'I think people will like this' and 'I'm certain nobody will like this,' though I think I remember this stage from the last two. I am working in a proper co-working office a few days a week now and it’s amazing – I can pretend to be all professional like the other people with real jobs and nobody shouts, “finished!” at me then expects me to wipe their bum. I’ve also lined myself up a job (working for somebody else) to keep me busy in the months between handing my book in and it being published, as it turns out I miss going out ‘to’ work and hanging about on social media doesn't tickle my pickle enough for it to be my job. (Also Instagram won't give me a blue tick so evidently I'm not enough of an influencer to make it it. I could act all nonchalant and tell you I don't care but I did apply three times, which makes me even more of a loser than I first feared). I think that’s about the measure of it. The actual bullet-points would be:TiredBusyHappyUnverified Book 3 on its way, hurrah! Until the next time (apologies in advance if that’s 2021). S xx
What is it about parenting that turns us all into our own worst critics, more so than in any other area of our lives? When it comes to the other stuff, we generally forgive ourselves for having the odd 'off day'. The occasional unproductive day at work, when you have a list as long as your arm of tasks that need completing but somehow only get around to completing a Facebook quiz to find out what your Game of Thrones character name would be. Days when your mojo goes AWOL. Days when you had one too many the night before. Days when you drop the ball and send an email slagging off Brian from sales, to Brian from sales. In relationships, too, there are times we screw up. Forget to send a friend a birthday card. Do or say something hurtful to a partner in the heat of the moment and owe them then apology. Sometimes we feel bad about it for a while after but rarely do we allow ourselves to live under a doom-cloud of remorse indefinitely. That’s because we don’t assume that those days are a fair reflection of our overall standard as an employee/friend/lover. We just had an off day. An off couple of days, perhaps. It happens. When it comes to parenting, however, we rarely allow ourselves the same slack. Or indeed any slack. On those hurried mornings when we forget that it’s Jeans for Genes day at nursery and arrive to a sea of denim and a sinking feeling. Or when, after enduring hour upon hour of sibling scrapping, something snaps and we end up shrieking like a fishwife in the park, before dragging the offending children home by their coat hoods under the judgemental glare of other parents. The better parents. I know, or at least I do now after having been unconvinced for a long while, that I am a good mum. Sometimes it feels good to say it. I am a good mum. (In my head or quietly to myself, I mean, not out loud at the school gates as that might make me sound like a bit of a tosser). I do my best for my boys; they are safe, happy and loved beyond measure. I also know that there are days when I am not such a good mum. When I’m exhausted or frustrated, or a bit under the weather. When I'm preoccupied with work or just feeling a bit low. Sometimes I am all of those things at once. When that happens, it is hard not to beat yourself up and very easy to find yourself falling headfirst into an I’m-not-good-enough vortex where you question your parental capabilities and say, ‘I just can’t do this today.’ The thing I have come to realise about being a parent, however, is that you do do it. On those days when you don’t think you can, when for whatever reason you’re not firing on all parenting cylinders and are in desperate need of a break, you still show up. So no, your children might not always get the best of you but that's only because the best of you isn’t always there to give. And rather than those 'off days' signalling that you are a bad parent, maybe just maybe it's the giving of whatever you've got, when there is next to nothing left in the tank, that makes you a bloody good one.
Top 5: Really Bloody Useful Baby Products (not an ad)
1. White Noise MachineI could probably dedicate an entire book to our White Noise journey. When we had Henry (over six years ago now, time flies when you're having fun!) we started with the very best of intentions. We'd researched what we should and shouldn't do to encourage healthy sleep patterns and associations and certainly weren't going to allow our bundle to become dependent on white noise to help him settle - that would be ridiculous! All our baby would need would be a little dab of essential oils massaged into his feet and then we'd be able to 'put him down awake' while chortling smugly at all the other silly billies who were making a rod for their own backs by blasting the hairdryer for twenty minutes or putting the Moses basket next to the tumble dryer. I think it was approximately two days before we cracked under the strain of relentless colicky crying and zero sleep and decided we would trial a spot of white noise ('as a one-off') played through our phones. It was, quite simply, a revelation. It didn't solve all of our problems, of course, but it helped a tiny baby Henry to fall asleep and stay asleep and from there began our love affair with low frequency vacuum cleaner noises. The problem with playing white noise via YouTube/iTunes/Spotify, was that we were constantly reliant on our phones or the iPad being next to the baby. We had a bash at using speakers connected wirelessly to our phones, but fell out of love with that option the day I forgot the two devices were paired and blasted the audio from a horror movie trailer (playing on my Facebook timeline) straight up to the nursery. Not recommended. This was followed by us panic purchasing several white-noise bears and other cuddly creatures with sound boxes hidden inside them. Ones with cry sensors that would 'kick back in' if the baby stirred, or play your chosen noise for a certain number of minutes. Between our various noisy bears and smartphones we managed just fine to keep up with our hoover-audio habit when baby Jude joined the party three years later. This year, after becoming the proud owners of our third baby, we (or rather my husband) felt compelled to Google 'white noise machines you can plug in' after one of the cuddly options yet again ran out of batteries in the middle of the night. Step forward, the Avantek White Noise Machine, which plays 2o 'soothing natural sounds' continuously or for as long as you want (it has timer settings) and is mains-powered, The Dream. I posted about it on my Instagram Stories a couple of weeks ago and have already had loads of messages from mums and dads who have followed suit and are reporting back to say, "OMG it's brilliant!!!" so this is me simply sharing the love. It doesn't look as pretty as the cuddly ones but it does its job and I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH. It's nice to imagine a time in the future when our family won't be reliant on the background hum of a fan to drift off to to sleep but until then, this bad boy is the bee's knees. Price: £29.99Available from: Avantek, via Amazon.Did I pay for it? Yep! 2. My Friend Goo As I type this, I have just put a very cross baby Wilf down for a nap (with the white noise blasting, obvs) and MY GOD he has been hard work today. I know it's not his fault, I know he is never deliberately 'hard work' but his teeth have been causing him no end of bother and Jesus, don't we know it! I'm pretty sure he has been teething since the moment he came out. We have trialled loads of teethers since and the best one by far is My Friend Goo, a lightweight natural rubber beauty. For Wilf, the charm comes from the fact that Goo is super easy for small babies to keep hold of (a triumph where many others have failed), which makes him a a great chewy companion for the pram or baby bouncer. We (or rather Wilf) really recommend Goo. Price: £10.99 (reduced packaging) or £12.99 (gift packaging)Available from: Cloud and Cuckoo. Did I pay for it? No, it was gifted (thanks Jenna, who designed it!) 3. Leka Play MatWe're big fans of the IKEA Leka range and this mat has been a gem. It looks good, can easily be machine washed (absolutely essential when you have a refluxy baby) and is also really good value. We also bought the wooden baby gym for £20 from the same range, which, compared to other baby-entertaining apparatus on the market, takes up a lot less space! Price: £25Available from: IKEA Did I pay for it? Yep. 4. Etta Loves Muslins I love the story behind these. Etta Loves founder, Jen Fuller, said she wanted to create muslins that were 'functional, developmental and stylish' after noticing that her 4-week old little Etta was staring at the pattern on her top. So, as well as being soft and absorbent, these muslins have been designed with input from an early years visual expert, to ensure that they stimulate babies' visual and cognitive development. What that means in real terms is that baby Wilf is very often transfixed by their patterns AND they’re extra large, which is oh-so-useful when you have a sicky baby who easily saturates a small muslin in one sitting. They look amazing, too - I've been asked several times about the leopard print one when out and about (you know you're a parent when you're having a muslin chat in the Co-op). Price: muslins from £19.95. super soft bamboo sensory washcloths start at £7Available from: Etta LovesDid I pay for it? No, we gratefully accepted these as a new-baby gift and have used them loads since. 5. Shnuggle baby bathWhen I was pregnant, I saw trillions of people raving about these baths. To be honest, it was a real case of 'Instagram made me buy it' but I'm glad because it's been ace! It has a bum bump to help with Wilf's posture plus a foam backrest which is much softer against his head than the old baby bath his big brothers had, and he doesn't slip and slide around as much. Really well-designed, would definitely recommend it. Price: RRP £24.95 (have previously seen it for £19.99 when shopping around)Available from: Shnuggle (we bought ours from John Lewis but currently out of stock there)Did I pay for it? Yep. That's all for now! xx I have not being paid to write this post, the above links are not affiliate links (no commission) and I've noted whether we paid for the items ourselves or whether they were gifts. These are purely my recommendations based on what we've found helpful this time around (so far!)
Why I'll Never Regret Having Children
Last week, there appeared to be something of a furore surrounding mums who admit that they 'regret having children.’ I know this because I was asked, several times and by several different media outlets, for my commentary on the topic. Any parenting blogger will know that to be asked for your ‘commentary’ on a topic is really an invitation to pick a side and then go on the telly or radio where you will (almost certainly) be pitted against a parent on the ‘other side.’ There is nothing new about this format and I generally just ignore invites along those lines – not because I’m rude but because I don’t much fancy the idea of having a barney live on air with another mum or dad whose viewpoint is probably not that dissimilar from my own and who I’d probably get on just fine with if I met them in the pub (but ‘you make a good point actually and I’ve really enjoyed this discussion’ doesn’t make good TV). Generally, when these topics start trending online, an assumption has been made about the ‘side’ I would pick and, if I’m honest, said assumption rarely paints me in a favourable light. 'Sarah! We’re doing a debate on our drivetime show about smacking – do you fancy coming on to say you think it’s OK to smack your kids?' ... 'Hi Sarah, we’re looking for a mum who regularly drinks alcohol straight after the school run, can you get to our studio tomorrow morning?' ... 'Hi Sarah, do your kids have all their teeth or have any had to be taken out due to sugar consumption? We’d love to have you on if they’re missing a few!' ... 'Unmumsy Mum, we’re doing a feature about mums who put heroin in their kids’ Bolognese and thought you’d probably be OK with that…' (the last one is a lie, but you get the idea). To a certain extent, I understand why they contact me. If they’ve managed to find a ‘good mum’ for the opposing side (enter Ruth from stage left), they need a mum who is a bit rougher around the edges to add some balance. Producer Bob probably takes one look at my page before declaring, ‘I’ve found one! She swears, enjoys a glass of wine and relies heavily on frozen beige carbs - she’s bound to smack her kids and not brush their teeth. Let’s get her on!’ It’s mildly offensive that I am continually invited to represent the ‘bad mum’ side of any debate but I generally have far better things to do than dwell on it or reply, ‘Actually Bob, my boys’ teeth are fucking sparkly.' However, the plentiful invites I had of this nature last week ruffled my feathers because this time, the assumption had been made that I somehow regret having children. ‘We thought you might have something interesting to offer on this debate from the side of those mums who wish they hadn’t had children.’ Let’s just let that sink in for a second. Wow. I have poured my parenting heart out many times on this blog and in my books. There have been some admissions I’m not proud of (like the time I called baby Henry an arsehole then cried about calling him an arsehole), bits I’ve found it difficult to talk about (mainly all the times I’ve wobbled over feeling like I’m not cut out for the job) and a whole load of honesty about how I’ve really found the various stages of the parenting adventure. One thing I've never said is that I regret having children and that’s because it is something I have never felt. Yes, in the thick of the sleep-deprived, newborn fog when the baby wouldn’t settle and I tried to breastfeed a pillow I may have said, “We should have got a dog.” And sure, there was that afternoon when I text James to say, ‘What the hell have we created?’ after Henry had a paddy about ‘the wrong ham’ in his sandwich just moments before Jude pulled his trousers down and shat in the DVD cupboard (RIP Despicable Me 2) but never have I wished that I could turn back the clock and not have children. Even trying to imagine a sort of parallel universe where I’m not a parent is just about the saddest thing I can think of and that’s not to say I don’t understand people who decide having kids isn’t for them, I just mean it’s sad because I know now what being a parent is like. I’ve lived, breathed and (house full of boys) smelt parenthood every day for the last six years and on every one* of those days I have counted myself lucky that I am a mum. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s a bit boring (controversial statement in itself, but there we go). Sometimes it’s hilarious. Sometimes, a certain milestone or simply holding a tiny hand makes my heart sing and I mean SING with joy. Sometimes I worry that I’m cocking it all up. Sometimes I just want five minutes’ peace in the bathroom because it’s that time of the month and I’d rather not be interrogated about the ‘little mice’ and ‘Mummy’s willy’ again. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have a duvet day and watch something that isn’t WWE or Henry Danger. Sometimes the kids do something I’m extremely proud of and I want to climb to the top of a very tall tower and shout “Those are MY kids! Mine!”Sometimes a photo on Timehop reminds me of the days when I could, if I so wished, spend all of Saturday getting ready for a night out and all of Sunday recovering from it. I may look back fondly on those days and sometimes I may even joke, ‘take me back!’ but never have I truly wished to go back there. In the alarmingly wide spectrum of feelings I have experienced since having children, regret is simply not one of them. I don’t know who I’ve written this post for, really. Perhaps it’s a more measured response to all those people who thought I would be the ideal candidate to talk about the regret of having children. Perhaps it’s for the fellow mums and dads who crave a full night’s sleep and have the odd ugly cry when they find dairylea in their best trainers, yet still wouldn’t change it for the world. Or perhaps it’s for my boys who will no doubt read this one day and think, stop blethering, Mother. Henry, Jude, Wilf – if Mummy could live her life one hundred million times over, the three of you and your dad would be in it every time. No regrets. *When I said I'd counted myself lucky on each and every parenting day over the last six years, I was, of course, excluding Legoland.
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