Monday, 4 June 2018

Writing Group prompt - and they said it couldn't be done.

I've joined Hereford Writer's Circle.  We meet on the first Friday of the month.  I won't be able to get there every month.  I've been meaning to go since February, but the March one was cancelled by snow, the April one I was away for the Easter Holiday, and the May one was a bank holiday weekend and we were away in the campervan.  I went this time though, and it was great fun.  There weren't many there, though apparently numbers are usually higher, but it was lovely just to have time and space to write and talk about writing.  I thought I would revive my blog, and each week try to share a piece of writing that came from the most recent Writer's Circle meeting.  I love to write, and getting back to blogging will give me a creative outlet that I need and rarely make time for.  The first piece of writing I did at the Circle we were given a title - and they said it couldn't be done.  We had about ten minutes to write and we all did something very different with the title.  The following piece of writing is the first thing that came to my mind.  My sister (who blogs as Seaside Belle) has recently become a single mum of four.  I can't say how accurate this piece of writing is (as I've not spoken to her since she got back), but her Facebook posts this week are the inspiration for it.

"I'm still not sure this is a good idea," she messaged from the airport lounge.  Around her loomed the potential for chaos.  E. was looking for his i-pad, rummaging through the carefully packed bags; Overexcited B was pirouetting, very nearly knocking poor little O off his feet.  He gazed around, fingers in mouth and drank in the busy scene, then he continued inexorably towards Mum, his safe haven, clambering over the bags, discarded coats and the luggage trolley.  On his arrival a hand reached down and pushed his face away.  Five year old W already occupied this lap, and he wasn't giving it up easily to his three-year-old nemesis.  

Was she brave or stupid?  She couldn't decide.  A newly single mum of four, trying to prove to herself and the world that she could manage.  She took a deep breath... Look out Barcelona!

"Still waiting for take-off," said the next message.  The children in their aeroplane seats in this photo were now looking a little less excited and a bit more sugar-fuelled.

"We went for the hop-on-hop-off bus tour to see the sights without tiring ourselves out too much," was the message the following day.  Those in the know read between the lines, and wondered whether the children had kept her up all night and it was her energy she was preserving.  A flurry of supportive and encouraging messages back ensued.

Over the following days the messages and photos on Facebook showed the children eating churros, at Camp Nou football ground, at the market, enjoying views and sunshine and almost every photo showing all the children looking in the same direction and grinning at the camera.

"A glass of cava on the last day to celebrate a successful trip to Barcelona," said the caption on the last photo of the week, showing a tired-looking but smiling mum.  She'd proved it to herself.  She'd proved it to everybody else.  A single mum on holiday with four children under the age of ten to Barcelona.  They said it couldn't be done, but the hashtags on that last photo said it all: #travellingsolowith4kids #planningournexttripalready.  She'd done it.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Advice to a new mum

Quite a few friends and colleagues are having babies for the first time, and I've thought often about what advice I would or should give.  Here's where I've got to:
  1. Take all advice with a pinch of salt.  Everybody wants to give a new mum advice - I'm writing this blog!  You don't have to follow it.  There are many many "correct" ways to bring up children.  As long as you love them, you can't go far wrong.  What works for some families won't work for others, what works for some children may not work for yours.  Muddle through, make mistakes, find what works for you.
  2. Nearly all the baby paraphernalia that they try to convince you to buy is a complete waste of money, and you don't need to fit out "the nursery".  Mostly, baby won't spend any time in its nursery unless it's with you or asleep, so it won't care two hoots about the carefully picked out colour scheme and wallpaper with rabbits on.  Paint a calm neutral colour and wait until it begins to show some interest in stuff as a toddler to start accessorising.  As for the rest, it needs a car seat, a buggy, a cot, bottles if you're bottle feeding, nappies, clothes and that's about it.  Muslin squares are the exception.  You need muslin squares.  Get a pack of ten, you'll use them as a sun shade on the front of the buggy, to mop up baby sick, to lay on the floor if you need to put baby down somewhere clean and many other uses I don't remember.  I just remember they were very useful.  We also bought a very cheap baby bouncer from a car boot which we cleaned up and was great so you could put baby down and they could still see you.  And a friend made a lovely blanket for the floor for when baby had tummy time, and later when they started playing on the floor. 
  3. Find other mummies, preferably open and honest ones.  It's great to know you are not alone in going through some of the stuff you go through as a new mum.
  4. Try to get out every day.  This doesn't need to be far.  A walk to the shops, a wander around the park with the buggy for example.  It's good for morale to be up and dressed, especially on a day when you've had no sleep and baby won't stop crying.  A change of scenery will do you both good, and if you can combine this with a meet up with a fellow mummy, so you can compare notes and support one another then even better.  This is why they invented "mother and baby" or "toddler" groups.  They can be cliquey, they can be scary and some of them are awful, but if you find a welcoming one with those honest mums who look after one another, then its worth it.
  5. On the same count, don't feel you have to fill baby's day with clubs and classes.  Baby doesn't care whether they've been to baby sensory, or baby yoga or baby music lessons.  Baby wants to spend time with mummy.  As mentioned earlier, a walk to the shops or around the park or coffee at a friend's house is plenty.  There are some days when you'll be very tired.  There are some days when baby will be cranky.  There are plenty of days when sitting on the sofa cuddling the baby and watching daytime telly are perfectly acceptable ways to while away the hours.  Also, your baby will begin to fall into a napping routine at some point and you'll want to encourage this, because healthy sleep patterns = happy baby (and mummy).  Once this starts to happen, ditch any regular activities that interfere with baby nap time.
  6. All this advice is written with the assumption that its mum at home with the baby.  Of course, all this advice applies equally to dad being the main carer at home, and my next piece of advice is to share the load.  Dad needs time to bond with baby too, and should be involved with all the decisions about how you manage things.
  7. Having a baby around the place isn't always easy, and being a new mum at home can be lonely.  Don't feel you are alone.  Everybody will tell you to "relish these years, they go so fast".  They do.  But sometimes it doesn't feel like that at four in the morning when baby just won't go to sleep, or when you realise that you haven't got dressed or had a shower for four days because baby wails every time you put it down... those days seem very very long.  Pick up the phone.  Call a friend.  Have a cry or a moan or a rant.  If they are a good friend they will remember or understand.  Ask them to come over and hold the baby so you can have a shower.  Ask them to hang the washing and mop the kitchen while you and baby have a nap together.  
My children are now seven and eight.  I don't remember the details of my time as a new mum, though looking back at this blog from 2010 and 2011 gives a bit of an insight to what we were getting up to.  I do know that we had some great days, and we had some harder days.  I also know that the time I spent with my babies and toddlers has helped build the relationship we have today.  Having babies isn't always easy, but it's worth every moment as you watch that baby grow into an independent young person.