A Year of Dates

I'm very excited to share a little delivery that arrived today….

My new date jar courtesy of a fab mum-run business, A Year of Dates.

The concept is simple, but impressive. A jar of 52 envelopes (yes an idea for EVERY weekend), each with a little date idea inside. The envelopes are colour coded so do have a certain level of control:

  • Blue for staying at home
  • Yellow for going out
  • Green for having a day out and
  • Red for a surprise!

We haven't sorted a date for our next date night yet, but I'm really excited about cracking it open.

Feel free to check out their website for other products for kids and birthdays.

Now to find a babysitter….

9 lessons from 9 years of parenting

Boy 1 has just entered his last year of single digits. I never really saw it as a 'thing' when I was younger, but it really has struck me just what a milestone turning 10 is and how much I have learned from my first few years of being a mother. Not just the cliched "time goes so quickly", I know that, but there are few others that stick with me.

  1. Parenting is never easy. From the first day I held Boy1, I realised the enormous responsibility of bringing a human into the world. Every year that passes, there is a new challenge or concern. And the arrival of Boy2 hasn't eased any of it. From lack of sleep, weaning and toilet training to school choices and 'serious conversations', I defy you to find any parent who doesn't walk around with a permanent worry buzzing around the back of their head. We always seem to be longing for a particular phase to pass or arrive, but all we are doing is wishing a new challenge on ourselves whilst wishing away the precious moments we have in the present. Yes, it's hard, but it's a blessing. The moment it becomes 'easy' is probably the moment we stop parenting and have to standby and witness the fruits of our labour. That thought alone fills me with dread and a feeling of loss. I'll stop right there before the tears start 😢
  2. Parenting is confusing, which probably partly explains why it's so hard. So much conflicting advice from friends, family and so-called experts can lead you in different directions. The feeling of only having one chance to make the right decision is horrible – no rehearsals. I like to tell new parents to listen to all of the advice but don't take all of it on. Why follow the advice of someone whose parenting style you don't respect or admire, or whose lifestyle is so far from yours you could never implement their approach? Everyone is confused at some point, just find what works for you and your family, find your own juggling technique, then go with it. As the above mentioned worries and challenges evolve, so will your approach. That's fine.
  3. Kids are expensive. I'm not complaining, just making the point to anyone reading this that hasn't jumped on the baby train yet. It doesn't end after newborn phase. In fact that phase is kinda justifiably expensive as you're investing in big stuff – Cots, buggies, car seats. It's later one when you feel like you're constantly feeding and clothing an ungrateful machine, who's always on school trips and has a social calendar that would put Paris Hilton (circa mid-lay 90's) to shame. Yep, showing my age. But be prepared for the constant haemorrhaging of the cash you once would spontaneously spend on shoes, holidays, or meals in places that didn't serve everything with chips.
  4. Children like simple things. No big party for Boy1, in fact we only do a 'party' on alternate years. Just three of his friends at Total Ninja followed by takeaway pizza and a very small, undecorated Victoria sponge from Tesco. They loved it. Just the simple act of acknowledging his birthday and spending time friends was enough. I think we often over complicate or exaggerate what our children want, need or like, because of our own insecurities, public opinion or the things we missed out on in childhood. Guess what, there's no need.
  5. Happiness is so important, but we can't define it for them. Every child is different. They learn differently, they want different things. Our role is to help them find out what brings them joy. I'm not a total advocate of 'don't worry about your schooling, as long as you're happy', education (not necessarily academic success) is very important. But by opening their eyes to different experiences, we can only hope that they will discover something that sparks real happiness. Because as they get older and more burdened with roles and responsibility, finding a source of joy, something which rests your soul and eases any stresses becomes more difficult. As adults, our own happiness can impact our children. They pick up on everything, even if they don't or won't tell you. Being a parent has really helped me to prioritise the happiness of my family over everyone else's, because that's what's important. Their happiness today will influence their route to happiness in the future.
  6. Friendships are important. Not hundreds of them, not for social media kudos, not for ego polishing, but real relationships. Friendships give children a lot. As well as the obvious happiness and laughter, they teach children about communication, respect, trust, support, conflict, compromise. Childhood friendships can be messy and fickle, but they are so important to our kids. As much as we can try to instil certain things in our children, it's real life situations that help them understand and navigate the world. As adults, our friendships are just as important, not only because children see the way we treat others, but we become more conscious of external influence. I don't want negative energy around my children, so any 'inappropriate' friends are kept away from our home. That's not because they are at risk, of course not, but because sometimes kids just don't get that the 'banterful' or over opinionated friend isn't being serious and I shouldn't have to explain them.
  7. Honesty really is the best policy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to sit down with my 2 year old and break down issues such as sexism, racism, homophobia, the list goes on. However, I've realised that kids do listen even when we think they don't. They watch when we think they aren't looking. They have conversations in the playground and eventually on phones and social media, where we aren't privy to what's being said. So it's important to give them an appropriate amount of truth and honesty. If not to avoid confusion and influence from those negative sources, but to build trust in your parental relationship.
  8. There's nothing wrong with living in the moment. It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day routines and rituals. Running from activity to activity, living life through calendar reminders. But there's nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous with your kids. They love it. A random decision to bake a cake, watch a film or go splashing in muddy puddles, can bring sunshine to a rainy day. Just having genuine, unstructured fun is great for all of you.
  9. Nothing beats love. The cheesy bit. I realised when I reflected on my mothering experience for The Mothers project, just how overwhelming the feeling of maternal love really is. I slightly recoil when I see #blessed on my news feeds, but in this instance it's totally true. My children make my heart smile and they bring a feeling that I have never and will never feel again. Regardless of anything that's going on in life, this parental love can get you through the most difficult of times. Don't ever, ever forget that. ❤️

I’m one of The Mothers!

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to mothering. That fact alone is encouraging.

Anyone in the Manchester area might be aware of a great project by photographer, Bec Lupton, called The Mothers. Its a great collection of photos and reflections on motherhood, from different women. What’s great about it is that it proves just how different everyone’s experiences can be. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to mothering. That fact alone is encouraging.

If you haven’t heard of it, check it out here: http://www.the-mothers.co.uk/

Inspired by some of the articles I’d read and in an attempt to articulate what I really think about my mothering experience, I decided to get involved.

The verdict? I loved it! It was almost therapeutic to take the time and really think about motherhood from my own perspective. Expectations vs reality. Good advice vs bad advice. Hopes and aspirations.

Plus I got some great action shots of me and the boys – it was a nightmare getting them to both sit still at the same time without resorting to Paw Patrol (!)

With parenting life being soooo busy, its easy to lose perspective and forget what its all about. I’d highly recommend taking a few minutes out to think about what you want for your family. And if you fancy it, get in touch with Bec and take part in this fab project – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

xx

PS – she’s also started The Fathers, for any dads who’d like to share

 

”Twas the night before Christmas…

and all through the house, was an over excited toddler who didn’t really know what was going on, but given that he hadn’t slept all day, knew his only options were to give in to parents’ demands for bed time, or run/roll around the house screaming, singing laughing and crying (it is apparently possible to do all four at once). 

Yes people, this is my Christmas Eve. We had a lovely meal, thought Boy2 would fall asleep in the car. Got home and he was hyper!! 

But tomorrow is a new day. It’s Christmas Day. So even though we don’t get the lazy lie ins of yesterday, we are lucky to be woken by our two bundles of hyperactive love at silly o’clock.

However you are spending the ‘big day’, enjoy it. If you have little ones, take time out to just enjoy them. Because next year they’ll be that little bit older, ‘wiser’ and further away from being your babies. 

Merry Christmas everyone,

From Team Mumsomnia 

Why there won’t be an elf on my shelf, ever. 

It’s 1st December. The start of the countdown to Christmas. For most it’s a reminder to put up trees, realise you don’t have any pay days left to buy presents and start the non stop binge fest with your first advent calendar choccie. 
But over the past few years, today has marked the day when your social media feed (if you are friends with many parents) becomes full of images of an elf. In their home doing various activities each day to keep their kids entertained and well behaved until Christmas.

But there are no plans for an elf to make an appearance at Mumsomnia towers any time soon.

  1. It’s just plain creepy. The elf always looks a bit shifty, with those unhealthily large eyes. That side eye expression 👀 is the kind of look that brings back memories of 80s/90s horror films. Granted I probably shouldn’t have been watching these films but it still weirds me out! 
  2. It’s a LOT of work. I can just about think of something to feed my kids everyday, let alone a different activity for a fear-inducing elf with strangely long legs. You have to be fully committed to the process before it falls flat on its face. And even when that happens, you’d have to come up with a pretty good excuse as to why the elf left so soon. Why bother!
  3. Is it really for the kids? While we say it gets the kids to behave before Christmas, I have a sneaky suspicion many parents do it for the social media kudos of likes loves and lols. Whilst I am always impressed by the creative lengths people go to, it can start to breed parental competitiveness. 
  4. It’s another step away from the meaning of Christmas. I get that it’s not only christians that celebrate the festive season. But by basically bribing kids for a set period of 24 days, are we kind of telling them that’s the whole point of Christmas? Just Gifts? I’m yet to see an elf leave a quirky note telling a child to go and do something for charity or a homeless person. 
  5. It’s bribery without parental guilt. Face it. No parent wants or likes to tell their child they can’t have something. So by shifting that decision making to another party – in this case, a creepy elf – it lightens the burden. 
  6. Does it really encourage genuine good behaviour? Great if kids behave really well in the run up to Christmas in the hope they’ll get the goodies they wanted. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Why behave if there’s no reward? Either go full throttle and bribe them 365 days a year or not at all! Seriously though, shouldn’t we just be encouraging kids to be well all the time without it being linked to a reward. 
  7. It’s creepy. Yeah, know I’ve said this, but the idea of a toy just appearing in your home from out of the blue, watching your every move does feel a bit bizarre. I didn’t realise Christmas gave us free reign to encourage stalking or intimidation! 

Ok – I know it’s all a bit of fun, but with all the pressures of modern parenting, I just don’t have the time, energy or imagination for another unnecessary burden on my list. 

I’ll be keeping an eye out for your elf pictures though! 😉

Why 2016 Is The Year To Teach Kids About Democracy

2016 – the year politics and democracy changed. If anyone had told me at the start of the year that we’d experience a Brexit saga (oh, what a saga it is turned out to be) and that a property tycoon with no political experience would be within touching distance of becoming the next POTUS, I would have laughed in your face. Very loudly.

But with all the surrealism and confusion, on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve realised we must use the period of time to engage children in the issue of democracy.

hands

Yes, you can have ‘family meetings’ to vote for which film to watch or what topping to get on a pizza. Pretty sufficient for a child, right? At the end of the day, they’ll probably be happy with either outcome, so no skin off anyone’s nose. But is that really a lesson?

What about when they’ve voiced their opinion and ‘done the right thing’ but things don’t go their way? What about when they see a parent, a family member, a commentator on TV is truly set back, shocked, angry and even upset at the outcome of a vote? Do we teach them to just give up, because they didn’t get their way? This is where the democracy talk really comes into its own.

I often like to say, ‘democracy is a chance to have your say, not a guarantee you’ll have your way’. Never has this phrase been so true.

The Brexit result fueled lots of anger, and every time my son hears Trump’s name, there’s usually some kind of negative story attached and it’s up to me to explain why these people are still ‘winning’.

My God, does it make me wonder if children might just lose all faith in democracy altogether when he hears people’s reactions to these victories. It might make many people want to give up, but as parents we have to remind our kids just how important it is to have the right to vote. Our western, first world freedoms often make us slightly complacent about voting because the differences between outcomes aren’t always life-changing, but we must remember that not everyone lives in a nation that lets people express their opinions.

We have the right to share our views and influence the direction our country takes through our democratic system. In fact, if we don’t like the system, we still have the right to debate it, challenge it and try to make changes by encouraging people to make a stand together and vote.

Children need to know that sometimes not everyone will agree with you. In fact, there will be occasions where that group is larger than yours so they will ‘win’. What’s great about democracy is the opportunity, not necessarily the result.

I read far too many articles about how young people have become distanced and disenfranchised from the political system – not just in the UK – and this is worrying. We should use this period of time as an opportunity to stir up more political passion in them than ever before. Ask them what they don’t like about the current political state, but also, what they think can be changed. We need them to stand up and attempt to change things. If they think politicians are ‘all the same’, then let’s encourage them to be the difference, rather than pleading ignorance. Be the change they want to see in the world….If now isn’t the time to teach this lesson, then I don’t know when is.

While debates, complaints, protests and strikes don’t always get the desired outcome, they are a step forward. They can be powerful weapon in making your voice and opinion heard. They can be liberating. A chance to engage in a conversation for better understanding of each other’s views and maybe persuade them to accept your view. Because sometimes just one extra voice or vote can tip the balance.

So whilst we wait to witness the clear up of the mess that is 2016 and ask ourselves if all this stuff really happened, let’s not forget to remind our children, democracy is good and that their one vote is always better than no vote at all.

XX

This blog post first appeared on HuffingtonPostUK

Lazy parenting 

Boy 2 has been offered a lovely hearty toddler friendly paella for lunch. He’s turned it down. He’s now decided he only wants my leftover popadoms, from lady night’s take away, and a few slices of pear. 

I really can’t be bothered to argue with him! Today just feels like one of those days when I can’t be doing with parenting!! 

I’ll say he’s experimenting with exotic foods 😁😁

Is it wrong to share this info in public?? Should I be keeping it to myself that I’ve given a toddler such a nutritionally unbalanced meal? 

I don’t know, but what i do know is I’ve been able to drink a cup of hot tea in peace. That will do for me! 

Was I just trolled? It kinda hurt

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to challenge myself more this year. Saying ‘yes’ more often in a bid to finding the ‘new’ or ‘real’, post-baby me. Just starting this blog and more importantly, sharing it, has been quite a big step.

This week, I took a bigger step. A journalist asked me to post my most personal piece on the Huffington Post. VERY.BIG.DEAL. So in the shock and excitement, I posted it. People were happy for me. My mum said she was proud (sob!). It felt great.

Then I started to read the comments. Yeah, someone called it a load of tosh. Fine, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Someone on Twitter said I was perpetuating the issue – I don’t think they got what I was trying to do with the piece. Whatever. But one of them really stuck, suggesting ‘we return to my country of origin if I think the UK is so bad.’ Woah.

Do people really say that? And to complete strangers?! Isn’t it this kind of ignorance I’m trying to challenge? Was my piece so offensive, that a stranger took the time to type such a comment, rather than just click on the next article? If they’d read it in newspaper, would they have written a letter to respond? Probably not.

Whilst this was a faceless person, I’m very unlikely to ever come into contact with, it still hit me and it hurt. I’ve always just thought ‘ignore trolls’, ‘they have nothing better to do’, but my instinct was to reply, defend my opinion and put him in his place. I could have so easily given in to his provocation.

It’s really made me think about how powerful social media and the internet is. I consider myself to be quite a strong, confident person, but was quite surprised at how much one random comment hit me. What if I was a young, impressionable teen, whose taken months to build the confidence to post something online? The impact it could have had on me, could be so much worse.

Social media and the internet has made it so easy to react, insult, provoke people we do not know, without any thought of the consequences. Maybe I should be worried about my children going into a world where this is the ‘norm.’ I just  hope I can give them the confidence and resilience to ignore these faceless, and probably spineless, people.

xx

PS – you can read the piece in all its glory here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-quansah/teaching-children-about-racism_b_11873270.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

 

Why are women still getting ‘pregnant then screwed’?

My thoughts on how to reduce maternity discrimination.

Another week has gone by and more reports are being published showing how working women are being treated like crap when they are pregnant or on maternity leave, only to become victim to a pay gap with their male colleagues once they return to work.

This really annoys me. Particularly women who are sacked, made redundant, demoted etc just because they have pushed out or are due to push out a baby. This is illegal and needs to stop.

Yes, I understand that for some organisations (particularly small businesses), the cost of maternity pay could have an impact, especially if they need to pay for additional cover. BUT that doesn’t mean we make it ok for any business not to employ women of childbearing age, or treat them like rubbish. Nor does it mean we should just accept there isn’t a place for us in the workplace after we’ve given birth aka comtributing to the future of the human race. 

What it means is that we clearly need a more equal view in our approach to parental leave and responsibilities. Society’s mentality towards leave and parenting is outdated, still in a time where women didn’t have professional roles and fathers weren’t as hands on. But times have changed. Women are pursuing or already in senior, demanding careers (God forbid) and many fathers actually spend time with their children (shock horror!). But the ‘system’ doesn’t acknowledge this.

Let me explain. At the moment our maternity system is very much that, maternal. Focussed on solely the mother. She is allowed to take time off for medical appointments, without question. She gets paid to take time off caring for a newborn. If a father wants to take significant time off, he might get funny looks from an employer and he’ll have to accept a drop in pay. Not the best move at a time when finances are already be impacted by nappies and wipes (and coffee and cake for mum lol). So it makes sense for mother to take more time off (up to a year), leaving her with a gap in her career, which according to statistics will impact her financially for life,  whilst dad continues to work, progressing his career to bring home the proverbial bacon.

And in most cases, this then continues once she has returned to work as she is the primary care giver. She takes the pay cut to work part time, leaves the office early when a child is sick etc etc. And employers kind of expect it. Some embrace it – ‘that’s her being a mum’ they accept. Some use it as an excuse to treat women differently which is down right wrong. Either way, all employers need to respect the fact that fathers are parents too! Make it acceptable, in fact the norm, for a dad to leave the office at 430 to do the nursery pick up or ask if they can do a conference call from home to nurse a sick child.

Now, imagine if both parents received the same pay for leave? They could split the leave, reducing the ‘time out’ of work for either parent, but ensuring they bring in some kind of income, meaning the onus isn’t on any one parent. I know that the right to shared has been introduced in the UK, but statistics show that take up has been very low. But we shouldn’t give up on it. If we got to a stage where this was the norm, employers wouldn’t or couldn’t discriminate against workers just for being parents. They wouldn’t have many people left in their books!

If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Joeli Brearley, check out her amazing campaign, Pregnant then Screwed. It really is an eye opener into the number of working mothers being discriminated against. But she is actually helping women to challenge their employers and supporting them in the process. Positive action! Thankfully I haven’t had such experiences, but it really is sad that in the 21st century, this is such an issue. What’s more sad is that it’s getting worse. 

But I think it fans, and will get better. It will take time. It will take a lot of effort. It will take mothers to stand up against discrimination to hold bad employers to account. It will take fathers to use their right for shared leave and make it known to their employers that they actually want to parent! It will take the government to make discrimination tribunals cheaper and easier. And it will take the rest of us to provide support for our friends and family in these situations.

Then maybe less of us will be screwed. 

 

Signs you have a toddler in your house 

  1. You find random household items dotted around the place. Boy2 has developed a particular penchant for Tupperware. So pretty much every day I’ll find at least one rogue tub or lid in a non-Tupperware belonging room
  2. You automatically check what’s on Cebeebies/Disney Junior/BabyTV when you turn on the TV. What’s more worrying is you do it when your child isn’t even there!
  3. You find yourself regularly trapping your fingers in drawers or cupboards because you forgot about the bloody safety locks!
  4. The bottom of your handbag is now home to half eaten packs of raisins, confiscated toys, socks etc etc, meaning no matter how much you want to tip it upside down when you can’t find your keys, the potential horror on people’s faces is enough to stop you
  5. Your nursery rhyme game is strong (whoop whoop!!). The first few months were a bit shaky, you’d forgotten the tune or lyrics to a few classics. But now you’re on top form and can relive Rhyme Time’s greatest hits faster that you can say Humpty Dumpty. In fact it’s so strong, you can even interpret your toddler’s mumbling rendition
  6. You’ve learned the art of translating cries. So much so, your guests give you a worrying look as you ignore your child’s squeals. You know they are just moaning because you wouldn’t let them keep a fork in their bed, but your guests are wondering whether you’ve given up on parenting altogether.
  7. You constantly debate with yourself whether you should introduce a naughty step. Would a small being really understand it, or just think its a new game?
  8. Your once lovely House Beautiful-ready living room is now a multi-coloured, plastic ridden dumping ground, complete with toys that make random noises ten minutes after you think you’ve turned them off (clearly designed by childless people)!
  9. The piles of washing are no longer full of hideous green poop, but now stained with mud, paint, bolognese and whatever else the nursery/childminder have decided to ‘learn’ about today
  10. You are more confident than you were with a newborn and loving every minute of seeing your little one’s personality grow, along with enjoying the cuddles whilst you can still get them…

xx