My separation anxiety

You’ve probably heard of separation anxiety from the perspective of a baby/ child. But I’d never really thought of it in eyes of the parent before – and now it is something I really struggle with. As much as I know it’s healthy for me to spend some time away from Archie, I find it really hard to leave him and the anxiety I feel before sometimes makes me question, is it really worth it?

separation anxiety

The answer of course is most definitely yes. It’s not good for me or him to be permanently attached to each other. And when I do manage to spend time away I do actually enjoy myself but it’s certainly not as easy as it was before.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the spa with my mum and we had the loveliest time. I really switched out of mummy mode for a while and it was nice to have a break. The few days before though I was feeling really anxious – barely sleeping, mind racing, feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve only ever left him with my husband or my parents and I’m certainly not worried about whether they’ll be OK looking after him as he usually has the best time and they are more than capable, so what am I really anxious about?

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out and I really can’t put my finger on it.

I think part of it is because Archie has become my little comfort blanket. When we’re out and about he is the topic of conversation and everyone’s attention diverts immediately to him. So when he’s not there suddenly I feel very exposed and not quite sure what to do with myself. I worry about making conversation without him being the natural distraction and I just feel a bit lost without him.

I think some of it is because I’m a stay-at-home mum and he’s my whole world now. I used to be pretty career driven and would passionately chat about the industry I worked in but now I feel a bit disconnected from it all. When I’m not in mummy mode, who even am I? I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet.

And if I’m being truly honest I think that part of me is being selfish. I want to soak up every moment with him. And I want him to “need” me. I know it’s so irrational but I worry that if anyone can look after him (and effectively do my job) then what if he actually doesn’t need me after all. And is what I do really that purposeful?

I know it sounds crazy and it’s something that I really need to get on top of. I’ve been making a conscious effort to leave Archie on a more regular basis (where practically possible) because surely the more I do it the easier it will become? I’m so worried about the impact it has on him, I don’t want him to suffer as a result of my own struggles. I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this. Can anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom you’d be happy to share? I’m all ears 🙂

Tips for surviving the fourth trimester

I’ve mentioned before about my struggle with the fourth trimester and whilst I believe nothing can prepare you (and everyone’s experience is so different) I do look back and wish I’d done a few things differently. So, as always, I thought I’d share in case it’s useful for anyone else.

foruth trimester

I always knew the fourth trimester would be difficult and it’s one of the reasons I was so anxious in the latter part of pregnancy. But nothing prepared me for the physical and emotional strain it had on me when the time came.

As well as my struggles with breastfeeding (see post here), I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what I was doing and not feeling in control of what was happening. My life was being dictated by a tiny little human (!) and I felt lost without any structure to my day/night. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak and I love routine so this was really hard to deal with. Not to mention the ridiculous number of hormones circulating in my body and a body which was still recovering from a pretty intense labour.

I felt like I was just about coping until my husband went back to work 10 days after Archie was born. Suddenly I felt solely responsible for keeping our precious baby alive and well and it all got a bit too much. Looking back there are definitely a few things I could have done to help ease the pressure:

  • Accept that it’s just a phase and it will get easier – this is probably the most important and something my mum told me a lot but I just couldn’t see the woods for the trees at the time. Your baby will change quicker than you can ever imagine and I can assure you there will come a time when things feel so much easier. Parenthood is all about riding through the changes – nothing stays the same for long so when things feel too much just be reassured that it won’t last for long.
  • Remember you’re not alone – the support from your family and friends will be a massive lifeline – don’t be afraid to ask for help or to tell someone you’re struggling. Finding mummy friends with similar aged babies is also really helpful – just having that reassurance that you’re not alone in your thoughts/ feelings will be such a godsend.
  • Have a breastfeeding back-up plan – health professionals (and probably many others) will tell you that if you really want to breastfeed you can. But what they often forget is that there are 2 parties to satisfy here and you can’t always predict what your baby is going to do or how you’re going to feel when the time comes. Have a back-up supply of things you will need to bottle feed (bottles, steriliser, and formula) just in case.
  • Be kind to yourself – when you’re feeling overwhelmed imagine what you would tell a friend in a similar situation and tell yourself the same thing. Often we’re so much kinder to our peers than we are to ourselves and now is not the time to be self-critical.
  • Try and find just a little bit of time for you – I know it will seem almost impossible but even just giving yourself 5 mins in the day to enjoy a hot coffee will make such a difference to how you feel.
  • Get out of the house as often as you can – don’t go overboard with this one because you can definitely overdo it but just going for a 15 minute walk and getting out of the house will make the world of difference to how you’re feeling.
  • Don’t just eat junk food – it will be very tempting to eat everything in sight and you will no doubt have a treat box next to your bed for the night time feeds (I’d recommend this if not!) but try to make sure you have some fruit/ veg in there too because it will only make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Invest in some easy meals – whether you batch cook and freeze before baby arrives or buy ready meals to have on hand it will make your life so much easier in the first few weeks not to have to think about what to cook.
  • Believe in yourself – no one knows what they’re doing – even if they look as if they do. You are just as capable as everyone else so just keep the faith and believe in your own ability. Yes you’ll get things wrong but so does everyone. There will be plenty of differing advice/ opinions from those around you (including health professionals) so you can rest easy there isn’t a right way of doing anything! Have the confidence to do what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to go against the crowd.

You may be thinking I’ve missed one important one – the magic word of SLEEP! But I’m pretty sure I don’t need you to remind you to sleep when you can because you will be doing it already 🙂

If you’re pregnant and have read through to the end then thank you and I really hope I haven’t scared you. It’s tough but also a really precious time. You’ll soon look back and think where did my baby go?! Why didn’t I just embrace the chaos and every sleepy cuddle whilst I had chance?

Archie’s 1st birthday party

Ah I still can’t believe my baby is officially 1! I’ve been an emotional wreck all week but we started the celebrations off with a small family party at home which was just lovely. I thought I’d share a few details on here in case anyone needed some inspiration.

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In terms of the guest list we invited our closest family and a few of my mummy friends with their children. We kept it small because we hosted it at home and it worked out really well. We told everyone to drop in anytime between 11am and 3pm so that the parents could work it around their bubba’s schedules!

For food, we loaded up from M&S the day before! We had pizzas, sausage rolls, crisps, sweets, crudités and we made sandwiches in the morning.

We also pre-ordered the cake from M&S – it was a rainbow cake and tasted delicious – much lighter than I was expecting. Arch was a huge fan too as you can probably tell! He also really enjoyed being sung Happy Birthday to – helped by my mum doing a very ‘original’ dance which was making him laugh! Sadly I didn’t capture the dance on camera but I did get some of his reaction on video – it’s on my Facebook page for anyone interested.

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In terms of decorations most of them were from Asda but the star of the show was a Chalkboard which I had made in a “Sing” theme because Archie is obsessed with this film! I thought it would make a nice keepsake for when he’s older too. His birthday balloon was also a major hit  – in fact it’s his favourite present to date – thank you very much to my Auntie. Oh and one final detail was his top which I absolutely love – again from Etsy – which had a 1 and his name on it.

And that was it really – the kids played with all of Archie’s many toys and the adults just chatted and let the children do the entertaining! It was the perfect way to mark the occasion and I’m so glad we kept it low key – we can save all the expensive parties for when he might actually remember them…!

A letter to Archie: 1st birthday

Dear Archie,

Wow a whole year old! Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.

first birthday

This year has gone surprisingly quickly and yet it’s hard remember a time without you. Thank you for giving me the best job in the world and for making me your mummy.

You are growing into the loveliest little boy. A little boy who is officially a toddler. You took your first steps just before Christmas and now there is nothing stopping you. In fact you run more than you walk most of the time!

Although you’ll always be daddy’s little mini-me you’re starting to look more like me now which I love. You have the most gorgeous blue eyes and cute little kiss curls at the back of your hair which is getting fairer by the day. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be a blondie like daddy.

Your love for food is also something that daddy and I share with you although unfortunately for you, I think you might have inherited our sweet tooth too! Your favourites are yoghurts, chocolate brioche, Philadelphia and any kind of fruit!

You love to be independent but also adore spending time with your family. In fact you save most of your smiles/ giggles for the ones you love which makes them all the more special for us.

You’re definitely not one for cuddles but you’re becoming more affectionate and the attachment you have for your little cuddly toy Doggie is very clear to see.

Your favourite toy is definitely a ball – you could spend all day chasing one round and you’ve even started to kick them – which has got daddy and grandad very excited that you might be a footballer when you’re older!

Your love for music just gets stronger by the day and you love to clap, sing and dance along! We’ve recently started to watch the film Sing together (on repeat) and it is by far the easiest way to get your face to light up (that and In the Night Garden but mummy doesn’t share your love of this!).

You’ve also just discovered how to play chase and the little look you give me before you turn around and run off is just the cutest.

You’re definitely a little boy who knows what he wants which I’m hoping will be advantageous as you grow up. You also have the most tenacious nature of any child I know – you’re always desperate to explore and are so determined – you will practice, practice and practice until you’ve achieved what you were trying to do.  This means you’ve already achieved a huge amount in your first year and we could not be prouder.

I cannot wait to see what life holds for you. You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to us and we will do everything we can to give you the happiest life you deserve.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy xxx

 

Am I a good mum?

A little while ago, I was chatting to one of my mummy friends about what it means to be a good mum and how I hope one day I would feel like one. It got us chatting about self-doubt and how it’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling at the time. When in fact it’s probably the furthest from the truth.

goodmum

I’ve touched on this before but becoming a mummy has led me to doubt myself more than at any other time in my life. I guess being a first-time mum brings with it a whole new vulnerability – it’s completely natural for you to have no idea what you’re doing but for some reason you can feel like a failure for being that way.

I think partly it’s because looking around at the other mums they often look like they have it all together and you only notice when your own baby/ child is crying/ playing up.

Plus motherhood leads you to make so many different decisions and each time you have to make one there’s so much room for doubt. I’m a big believer that there’s no right way to “mother”. You have to make decisions that are right for you and your family. And only you (and your partner) are the ones that can make them. But the pressure when you’re making a decision for the most important thing in your life can sometimes feel a little much!

Almost a year later and I’ve started to open up more and more to a few of my closest mummy friends. And it’s clear that we are all in the same boat. Even with my nearly one year old, I still feel like I’m winging it every day. Every stage is new – weaning, teething, crawling, walking etc. – so it’s no wonder I don’t feel like a competent mummy yet. Do you ever get to a point where you feel that way I wonder?!

I look at my own mum and think of how amazing she is and how it all seems to come so naturally. But of course I never saw the early days when perhaps things weren’t as easy as they are now with 2 daughters who have grown up and fled the nest.

What I would say is the fact that EVERYONE has an opinion when you have a baby doesn’t help you to build self-confidence. I have no idea why but for some reason when women are often at their most vulnerable, people think it’s OK to judge and inflict their own (often strong) opinions on you – even strangers! And ironically, more often than not, it’s other women who have been first-time mums themselves once upon a time.

I hope that I never get to a point where I think I know better just because I’ve done it once (or even a few times). Because each person’s experience is different and each baby/ child is different too!

At the start of the year I vowed to believe in myself more. And if I’m being honest I haven’t done so well on that so far. We’ve had a raft of illnesses which seem to have set us back a bit and I’m fully aware that self-confidence isn’t something that happens overnight. But I am determined to work on it and I think the more honest I am about it is a decent starting point.

I once read that if you’re worrying about whether you’re a good mummy or not then the chances are the fact that you’re even worrying about it, means you already are one. I’m going to remind myself of this every time a bit of self-doubt creeps in and I’ll keep you posted as to how I’m getting on!

How to parent with your partner

My husband and I are one of those couples who always said we would never work with each other. We’re complete opposites, which is great for our relationship, but means we would drive each other crazy in a work environment. When we had Archie we didn’t quite anticipate how being parents would essentially mean doing a job alongside each other!! Learning how to parent with your partner is a definite skill and I’ll admit that we haven’t got it cracked just yet. But here are a few things we’ve learnt so far.

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  1. Don’t compare who has it hardest – it’s so incredibly easy to get into the trap of doing this because, like most things, the grass often seems greener on the other side. But trust me, it’s not useful for anyone and you could probably bicker about it until the end of time. What’s more productive is accepting that you both have it hard in different ways. Parenting is always about sacrifice and compromise. So try to see it from your partner’s point of view and the things they are having to compromise, as well as your own. Clearly this only works if it’s a 2-way street so feel free to refer your partner to this post if necessary!!
  2. Don’t feel you have to do everything together – in the early days in particular, you will probably want to do every nappy change, night feed, clothes change, bath etc. together and that’s fine until you’ve got the hang of it. But once you’re both perfectly capable of doing these things it’s important to give each other a break by sharing out the load. I know it’s not always practically possible but even if it’s just letting each other have a lie in every once in a while, it will remind you that you’re not doing this on your own.
  3. Accept that they might do things differently – yes in an ideal world they’ll do everything exactly how you like it but the probability of this happening is probably close to zero! As long as they’re helping then does it really matter that it’s not in the same order as you do things? And yes it might take them 10 times as long to change a nappy, but who’s it really harming?
  4. Be kind to each other – this was something my Auntie told me was the secret to a happy marriage. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt is not easy when emotions are heightened which they often are with a baby/ child around. However, it is so important to try and see things from your partner’s perspective and remember that they might not be finding it easy either.
  5. Don’t forget to communicate – this is where my husband will be rolling his eyes because I’m particularly bad at this one when I’m feeling stressed. I often assume he knows I need help with something rather than just asking. Which means I’m usually a bit more stroppy about it when I finally get around to saying something!
  6. Make time for each other – sometimes it’s so easy to just be parents and forget about the fact you’re in a relationship with each other too. Try and get out for the occasional date night or make the most of your evenings together. Sometimes having a couple of hours without your phones is particularly helpful because then there’s no distractions (Daddy Lowe – this one’s for you!!).
  7. Be a team – Have each other’s’ backs no matter what. Agree on how you want to do certain things (discipline, routines etc.) and then stick to it. For some reason once you have a baby everyone feels they can have an opinion on EVERYTHING and they’ll let you know about it. So make sure you stick to what you and your partner agrees on in the first place. This will be particularly important when your child is old enough to play you off against each other too!

I’ll be the first to admit that the above is so much easier said than done. In fact, my husband will be laughing reading this saying “yes, you might want to listen to your own advice!” But it’s all a learning curve! So if you have any other pieces of advice, please feel free to share 🙂