Practice run

Post it notes

I have been waiting for today since last week. My first whole child free day. My first day to do whatever I so please. But now that it’s here it feels rather lackluster. I miss my little lady and its only 8am. The husband thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of childcare practice runs before I go back to work in just under two weeks. Even though she will be looked after by family and therefore we know she will be absolutely fine, he thought it made prudent sense to see just how the routine will work in practice. Its a good job we did.

Things did not get off to a good start. Not only did I forget to set an alarm this morning, but I forgot to charge my phone which meant this morning had no chance before it even began. I got up on time thanks to the husband who was anything but impressed, but got up feeling very much like I’d got out of the wrong side of the bed which meant that most of the morning was spent in a haze of confusion and tiredness. I neglected to set out the little lady’s clothes last night unlike the previous occasion a few weeks ago where I was much more diligent. Surprise, surprise, come this morning I couldn’t remember what outfit I had decided on in my head last night. Not good. I almost forgot to pack breakfast and her sippy cup, and at the last minute remembered to throw a few toys into her bag. So rather than enjoying the little slither of time I had with the little lady this morning, she was whisked from room to room like she was being processed by airport security. Not exactly how I envisaged our mornings would be.

If I have learnt anything from our practice run, it’s that I will need to be organised to an almost military precision if we have any hope of getting the three of us out the door on time and in good shape. That means batch cooking on the weekends and buying in bulk to make sure the little lady has a variety of meals. Today she has chicken for lunch and chicken for dinner. Say no more. The husband even suggesting conceding to use Ella’s pouches in the week once im actually back at work, although my guilt over leaving her all day makes me feel like the least I could do is make her fresh, home cooked meals. I also realised last night that I need a better labelling system for her food, I need to get more organised with packing her bag the night before and not leave half of it till the morning like I did today and I most definitely need to take some tips from Betty and the Bumps and start putting her outfits together at least the night before. I should probably do the same for myself, and it’s definitely time I started getting us into the routine of setting an alarm and getting up at the time we will need to get up in two weeks time. I think the little lady was a little startled by the slightly earlier start to our day, although she seemed to take it in her stride and was just as cheery and chatty as she is on any other morning. It took me on the other hand, until 8am, one shower and one cup of tea to feel anything but cheery and chatty.

But now my house feels quiet and empty. I didn’t realise just how much children complete a home. It feels as though the little lady has gone for a nap and I am just waiting for her to wake up. I’m not sure yet how I will fill the many hours between now and this evening. Even with everything that I have been “meaning to do” or “catch up on” I don’t think it will keep me busy until she comes home. Last Saturday night when I didn’t make it out of the house to go to a friend’s birthday party I commented to friends that I think we may have “separation issues”. I thought I was referring to the little lady, but now im not sure whether I meant her or me. It would seem that this practice run may be more for my benefit than anyone elses…

I’d love to hear from other parents on how you’ve made the reutrn to office work for you. Did you do a practice run? What tips can you share that will make life that little bit easier?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/missnita/380929930/”>Ani-Bee</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

A glimpse of being a working Maman

Alarm clock

As I sit on the train on my way home from my first day back in the office since I had the little lady, I can’t help but smile at the thought of my seeing her. I have really missed my daughter, although not overwhelmingly so. It feels terrible to admit that. I almost feel guilty for not feeling guilty about leaving her to go into the office for a few hours, which sounds a bit ridiculous. I know there is nothing wrong with leaving your child for a few hours, but sometimes I feel like I should feel like I want to be with her all the time. For the most part I do of course, but on those rare occasions like today where I need to go somewhere sans-child I do feel a little spring in my step that comes from being able to sit down and read, or talk or think at my leisure. But where ever I am, and whatever I am doing, my daughter will always cross my mind and I will smile at the thought of going home to her. But today I realise that I’m also smiling because I’ve really enjoyed my day. My one day of being back in the city and catching a glimpse of what it might be like to be a working Maman.

After months of deliberation and anxiety over when is the “right” time to go back to work, going back into the office for a few hours cemented for me that I have made the right decisions and the right choices about when to go back. I feel ready. I have had a wonderful period of maternity leave with my little lady. I even got a little me time before she arrived. Something that I feel very fortunate to have experienced. When else do you get the opportunity to take 11 months off work? It has given me perspective. It has given me time to reflect. Time to step back. Time to re-assess. Time to appreciate. Time to love. Time to live. Time to grow. I have appreciated every single day, every single week and every single month. I have had the absolute best time. But I am finally feeling ready to go back to work. Im also feeling relieved that I finally feel ready, because the last thing I wanted was to dread having to go back. Becuase even though its hard going back to work after such a long time off, it must be even harder if you feel coerced into going back. Of course there is part of me that wants to stay and be with my daughter every single day, to be there to witness her every milestone first. But then there is also a part of me that is quite looking forward to un-pausing my career. To seeing how much further I can progress and how much more I can grow the other side of me. I know that a few hours in the office isn’t by any means a real or true reflection of what life as a working parent will be like, but after months of wondering how my two worlds will collide, I have a feeling that it just might be ok..

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/beth19/4721798240/”>Βethan</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Was that racism?

Groceries

My husband often says that racism is a rife as ever, and up until today I have always been able to rebut his comments. Because in all my 29 years, as a woman of mixed heritage I can honestly say that I have never directly experienced racism. Something that has given me faith that there are some good people out there. That said, just because I have been fortunate enough never to experience it does not mean im naive enough to think that it doesn’t exist. It does. What I wasnt expecting however was to find it in my local Waitrose, lurking behind the till.

Of course you may be thinking you silly woman, you, Waitrose?! How can you be so surprised? But I really was. Because whenever I have shopped there, I have never been greeted or regarded with anything but politeness, friendliness and the best customer service. It’s what keeps me shopping there. But that was noticably absent today as I got to the checkout, precariously balancing the little lady on one hip and using all my strength to keep hold of a heaving basket of shopping in my hand on the other side. Usually shopping isn’t such a physical exertion, but I stupidly decided to leave the pushchair in the car thinking I was just running in to grab a few bits, and that if I had any difficulty that one of the Waitrose employees would probably help me. In fact I would be so bold as to admit that I expected they would help me. Not because they are Waitrose, but because I would expect that in most of the places I would go. I don’t think expecting or asking an employee to help you pack your grocery bags or carry them out to the car is a lot to ask, especially when you have a little one with you. But this afternoon it would seem it was. I knew as soon as I put my items on the conveyor belt that the lady behind the checkout wasnt going to help me pack my bags. I wanted to be wrong, but I wasnt. I said hello and smiled, watching as the middle aged woman behind the checkout offered me a cursory glance whilst she scanned my items then proceeded to watch me struggle with the little lady on my hips as I packed my own bags. She just watched me and waited. She didn’t smile, she didn’t offer any help or conversation, and when I left she mumbled what felt like a forced goodbye in reply to my own bewildered goodbye. In the end it wasnt so much the appaling customer service that marked this interaction, but the fact that she clearly didnt want to serve or talk to me.

Now I know I cant assume just like that, that it was race related. I am only too aware of how different ones perspective can be from anothers. For all I know she could have been having a bad day, she could have been feeling unwell, the possibilities are endless, although it doesn’t excuse it. But I do know how her service, or rather the lack of it made me feel. I’m not one to claim racism, but I have to say, for the first time in my life I feel like I may have experienced it..

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/54851530@N04/5080593765/”>greggavedon.com</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

When three become four..

Family of four

I always thought it was strange how some women can go through the whole experience of labour and then be ready to have another so soon after. Sometimes almost straight away. It always befuddled and bewildered me. I know people always say you forget about the pain of labour quickly after (its true by the way), how you’ll be ready for another. But after my labour experience I felt pretty scared and traumatised about the whole thing, so much so that I was seriously considering stopping at one much to my husbands dismay.

But then something changed. Subtly and suddenly. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But for the first time since having the little lady, I feel like I can actually consider having another. Having a number two. Extending our little family. Not right now, but perhaps in the future. Who knows when. All I know is that I can suddenly face the prospect of going through it all again. The pregnancy, the labour, the sleepless nights, the tiredness, the confusion, the frustration. All of it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s almost time for me to go back to work and the realisation that this wonderful period of maternity leave is about to end, or if it’s the nostalgia of watching my little lady grow from newborn to infant over the last few months, but somehow I feel ready to consider the possibility that perhaps one day, three will become four..

If you’re reading this post and can relate then I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. Please share your thoughts and comments. It always great to hear from my readers and fellow bloggers!

photo credit: Makena G via photopin cc

Dads are from Mars, Mums are from Venus

Sleeping baby

My husband is a great father. The best. Of course im biased… But you can tell that he doesn’t put our daughter to bed. As he clanged around the kitchen this evening putting things away, trying to be helpful, do his bit around the house (which I really appreciate by the way), I held my breath trying to count to ten in my head and ignore what sounded like a freight train outside the door whilst I sat patiently in the nursery waiting for our daughter to drift off in my arms for the second time already that evening. Because despite all his amazing qualities as a father, he doesn’t know the desperation of wanting and needing a child to go to bed. He doesn’t know the palpable relief felt when they finally fall asleep. He doesn’t know what it feels like to hope that the rest of the evening is yours. He just doesn’t know. He hasn’t got a clue about the effort it takes to perform the bedtime routine night after night with gusto when all you want to do is sit down and relax.

As the little lady’s eyes began to flutter and open with curiosity towards the direction of the noise, I wanted to shout at him, “What are you doing you lunatic?! You are going to ruin everything!” She’s so very almost asleep. She literally was. Two more minutes and I’d be free. That’s what I was thinking in my head, whilst wondering at the same time why it wasnt obvious to him that at this time of night any activities around the house should be done as quietly as a churchmouse. But then I realised. He doesn’t know the effort it takes. He doesn’t appreciate how delicate the situation is. He doesn’t put her to bed.

Some people would probably say that you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around a baby when they are sleeping. They should get used to having noise around them. For the most part I agree with that sentiment. When the little lady is napping in the daytime I will easily have the washing machine or TV on. Boil the kettle and make a cuppa. Tidy up and potter around doing this and that. But by the time it comes to bedtime it is a different story. So desperate am I for the precious few hours I get in the evening to catch up with myself that once the little lady is asleep I like to try to keep it that way until the morning. So having the husband rattling what sounded like our entire cutlery and crockery set does not go down well. Luckily for him, curiosity did not get the cat this evening and the little lady eventually drifted back off to sleep. But I think it might be time for someone to learn the bedtime routine in this house, and it isn’t either of us ladies..

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tabithablue/4459109430/”>Tabitha Blue / Fresh Mommy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Anonymous guest blogger: The last push

Theatre seating

After what seems like forever, the Anonymous Guest Blogger feature is back with a great post from The Secret Father who talks about bedtime and what really does feel like “the last push” at the end of the day:

“One more Peppa Pig and then it’s time to go to bed. No, I said ONE more. JUST. ONE. MORE!”

“Brush your teeth, properly. PROPERLY! Don’t stick the toothbrush THERE!”

“Put your pyjamas on. Where are you going? Put your pyjama trousers on! Not on your head! Take them off your head! Take the trousers OFF YOUR HEAD!”

The bed time routine. The last push. The eternal battle between adult and child; one party desperate to push the envelope, milk the minutes and extend the day; and one party desperate to curtail, to finish, to seek closure.

The friction. The tension. The exhaustion.

Sometime around 6:30pm our family moves into the bedtime routine. I feel it as a parent, and the children are feeling it too.

The older child might complain of tiredness. The younger child will never let on, and will continue to run around the house, a morass of flailing limbs and wobbly sprinting.

But he will be betrayed by the occasional flop on a chair, a rubbing of the eyes and the ultimate give away – the yawn.

This is the signal. The yawn.

It’s time to warm the milk and put on the DVD.

It’s a familiar routine, goodness knows how it started but it kind of works. Warm milk in front of 20 minutes of whatever DVD happens to be in vogue at the time.

Each child gets to choose one episode. These are the rules.

It is beautiful watching each one take it in turns to choose their episode. They revel in their empowerment, exercising their right to choose and they deliberate for what seems like an age before finally selecting their choice.

Each selection is accompanied with gleeful bragging rights and a giggly sprint back to the sofa.

The other child will take exception to the choice, but it will be only temporary. It is all part of the pattern, part of the routine.

And the episodes will finish and there will be a momentary tantrum when the television is turned off, but both children know that there are bigger fights ahead, so they reserve their energy.

The parents may have won this battle, but there is still a war to be waged before this day is out.

Climbing the stairs is another battle. The older child is quick, up in a heartbeat, mind set on the mischief that can now be caused in the upstairs domain.

The younger child delays, deliberating over each dangerous step; pausing to inspect every wood knot on the handrail, every speck of dust on the stair runner and every dead house spider that resides on the Staircase of Wonder.

There are some nights when I can deal with this, and sometimes even entertain this journey of exploration. But tonight is not one of them. My objective is to complete the routine as quickly as possible, get the children safe and snug into bed and get back downstairs to whatever treasure awaits.

And the treasure could be a glass of wine, it could be a pint of beer, it could be a favourite television show, a conversation with the wife, a favourite book or just simply a sit-down-and-stare at whatever object happens to be in eye line.

It doesn’t matter what it is. It is a reward.

A reward for knowing I have made mistakes that day, but that I will grow from them

A reward for knowing that I have done the best I can, that I have been the best I can be and that I have loved with as much room as there is in my heart.

And a reward for knowing that I have got my children safely through another day, with some degree of decorum, mental health and personal hygiene still intact.

So the reward is there in my mind’s eye. It looms larger and larger, sometimes taunting, sometimes alluring. But it’s there.

And it’s there, calling like a wanton siren from the shadows, when for the umpteenth time toothpaste ends up smeared on my black work jumper.

It’s there throwing its hair back and fluttering its eyelids as one child escapes half naked back downstairs and the other attempts to flush their face flannel down the toilet.

It’s still there, beguiling and flirtatious, as the young one refuses to get undressed and the older one, cackling manically, swan dives into the laundry basket, sending clothes spilling over the floor.

It’s like herding cats. Crazy, psychotic toddler cats.

But soon we are reading books. Nearly there, last push.

Same rules apply, each child gets to choose one book.

Some nights the book choices are great – short, easy and quick, entertaining even for the adult.

Other nights the choices are long, deadly dull books.

Tonight is one of the latter. I resist the urge to persuade the child to choose another book, and read it for the umpteenth time, almost on auto pilot. I get no enjoyment from it, but the children are spellbound.

Then I tuck the older child up, she goes down easily and snuggles up in her duvet. The younger one is still fighting, refusing to get into his grow bag, starting to meltdown.

I am not in the mood for this, and I can feel a knot of tension rising in my chest. I start to sing and rub his chest and immediately his eyes open and his body relaxes enough for me to get his legs and arms into the grow bag and the zip done up.

I breathe a sigh of relief and pull the side of the cot up, the final signal that it is over, the day is over.

I kiss them both good night and they both make one final complaint, but I am walking out of the door, and it is a half-hearted complaint. The day is over and they know it.

I find something to do in the room next to them for a few minutes and then check back in on them.

Both fast asleep, snoring.

I allow myself a smile. I am standing there, a muddle of warm tingly emotions, fatigue and exhaustion and I watch them sleep and my heart melts.

I count my blessings that I have steered them safely through another day. One of many in what I hope will be a long and happy journey.

I count my blessings that they are safe, that we live in a country of peace, where bombs do not drop, and warmth and shelter and love are a given.

I count my blessings that however exhausted I am come the end of days, the love I feel for my children continues to radiate out from my soul.

This is the bed time routine.

I make for the landing and close their bedroom door behind me, the last stage in the process.

I check my watch and make a quick calculation. If I can rip through the tidy up process I can have a few hours for myself. My shoulders relax and I breathe out a sigh of relief.

The cork comes easily out of the bottle of wine.

The last push is over. For tonight at least.

All good things must come to an end..

Blog Series Badge

Today marks the end of February, and rather sadly, the Breastfeeding blog series. Cue sad face. However, I’m amazed and rather pleasantly surprised that not only have I been able to pull off a blog series, but one that quite a few people actually thought was pretty good. I really hope they weren’t just saying that to flatter me!

But I have to say, it has been such a great experience not only collaborating on the breastfeeding blog series with Medela, whose products I love, and who I respect as a company. But also the whole experience of developing and running a blog series has been such a great blogging and learning experience. Seriously. I have learnt SO much! Like how to work with brands. How to organise, write and schedule blog posts in advance (I’m usually a blog as it comes to me kind of girl). How to promote blog posts more effectively and how to work with other bloggers. The blog series really has been a fantastic collaboration of minds, experiences and people. So many of you have shared your breastfeeding stories and experiences. So many of you have commented and shared your thoughts and kind words. So many of you have helped make and shape the blog series. So thank you for reading and being a part of the blog series. I really hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Finally, thank you to Medela. For giving a small and new blog like mine a chance to collaborate on something we are both passionate about. It has been truly enjoyable.

All good things must come to an end, so we must end them well. That means ending with a fabulous competition (least I think so anyway). So if you haven’t already entered to win what I believe is one of the breastpumps money can buy, then head on over to my post on the Medela Swing review and competition to enter. Good luck and happy reading!