The One Thing No One Tells You About Parenting

I recently read an article written by Joanne Fedler, a mother of teenagers. It actually brought tears to my eyes.The opening sentence left me a bit confused: “Now that my two children are teenagers, the years of claustrophobic motherhood that left me feeling exhausted have been replaced with this: me feeling a bit silly.”

My children are 8, 6 and 2, so I’m in the exhausting, claustrophobic phase that she speaks of. It seems to be lasting forever, but I know it will ease. I’m hoping it’s not replaced with me feeling silly. She goes on to say that she’s just not impressive to her children any more. I found the article really sad, you can read the full article here if you want to. I’d suggest you do read it, one day. At least you’ll be prepared.

I spoke to two of my sisters that day, both mothers to teenagers, and suggested that they have a read of this article. I thought it might make them feel better, less alone in parenting teens. Somehow I thought that the articulation of the universal experience might make their children’s grunted greetings or eye rollings a little easier to bear, knowing it was happening to other parents of teens, everywhere.

Then my son, who is six, asked me not to kiss him good bye at the school gates any more. I was a bit surprised, but had heard that this happens with little boys. He said some kids had teased him. He did say I could kiss him at home, and a hug outside the school gates was ok.

So, a compromise. Although I did think that as a mother of a six year old, it should be me setting the rules, not him. But for the sake of a quiet life, I agreed to not kiss him at the school gates any more. Although, I confess, I did (and do) feel a bit sad about it.

Then, not a week later, my daughter thought I was out of ear shot, and talking to her Dad and brother about their day off school the next day, said she wished that Daddy was staying home instead of Mummy. Ouch! Ouch again.

That really stung. I called out from the next room to her and asked her what she said. Her brother started to respond on her behalf, but she shut him down, leapt of her chair and desperately tried to re-say what she’s said. But it was too late, and she knew it. She promptly burst in to tears.

And here’s the one thing no one told me – there is a defining moment when you realise they don’t like you, as much as you like them.

All my smugness of believing that I had years ahead, of my children still wanting me around, that I’d be hangin’ with the posse for sometime yet, evaporated at that very moment. I couldn’t quite believe it! Can’t quite believe it. And yes, I feel a bit silly. They aren’t yet at the stage where they’re dissing me, or snickering at me because I can’t work my phone, like Fedler’s are, but now I’m much more prepared for when it does come. At least for now I’m taller than them, so retain some semblance of authority when trying to achieve order in the house. But I also know this is not for long.

I don’t want to sound precious but both the experiences left me feeling rather fragile. I then went through the self-congratulating phase, thinking how glad I was that I kept working and had other interests outside my children. I imagined how ‘extra’ wounded I would be if I had nothing else. But actually, the real truth of it is that none of that mattered. Career woman, stay at home Mum, extreme socialite, what ever your life is filled with, I’m sure every mother would have been as wounded as I was when I realised my kids aren’t as keen on me, as I am on them.

There’s not really any salve for that.

And that’s probably why I was so pained by Joanne Pedler’s article. It doesn’t really matter how old they are when it starts to happen. My daughter was devastated that I heard her, she felt terrible that she’s hurt my feelings, and I made sure to tell her that she did. I guess part of being a mother is teaching sensitivity to your children and this was certainly an opportunity for that. (Trying to see the positives in this one, people!)

But it’s not all bad, because a week later I found this.

So I think I’m nearly recovered.

Featured image courtesy of Pinterest.

I think I’ve found the issue…

Featured Image via Pinterest

For some reason, 2015 has been weighing me down; I’ve felt claustrophobic at home, which prompted a major de-clutter. You can read about that here. And the thought of setting some goals and making a plan had the opposite effect, the only thing that went in to overdrive at thought of setting some goals, was avoidance! Read that one here.

Anyway, chronicling these little hurdles here, has helped a lot. And I’m making progress, but I still hadn’t been able to shake that heavy feeling, which I thought would lift once the cogs of daily life started turning again. But I think I’ve found the issue.

I had become way to earnest about, well, pretty much everything. I’d forgotten to factor in FUN!  I’d become preoccupied with these concepts that, if you pay attention to them, can improve your life, but if you forget the other essential ingredients, can leave you feeling a bit deflated.

Concepts like feeling calm in your home, making space, making plans and setting goals. These are all important for improving overall wellbeing, but if you don’t get the mix right, not much will improve.

I recently wrote an article (not yet published – but stay tuned) on incorporating an element of fun in to certain aspects of our lives. Reflecting on what I’d written I realised that was what was missing. I’d forgotten to have fun amongst all of this planning and reshuffling, so it all just felt like a chore.

Fun is necessary. It is oxygen for the soul, without it it won’t matter how purposeful your life is, you just won’t feel satiated. But fun is one of those things that can’t be planned for, or purposefully created. If you think back to when you were a child, fun was the over-riding raison d’etre, was it not?

Running under the sprinkler, rolling down hills, swinging on swings, climbing trees – it was all for the sake of having fun.

Once we become adults we are weighed down by adult things – going to work, paying bills, looking after family, paying the bills, going to work… So we become less open to opportunities for fun and more distracted by our grown-up commitments.

Sometimes we need to make the effort, and commit to having fun. I decided that I would buy myself a pair of roller-skates so I could skate with my eight-year-old daughter. It was one of my favourite things to do for years while I was growing up, and then I just stopped doing it. So I looked for roller-skates in the shops a couple of times after Christmas, but then, I just forgot about it. So I didn’t fully commit. So I’m calling myself out on this, and plan to get some this weekend.

Part of that commitment is putting ‘care-factor’ aside. There’ll be times when the grown-up me is worrying about the kids being tired tomorrow, or me being tired, or behind with my work, or the house needs to be tidied. There is always plenty to distract you away from having fun. I know I’m going to look a bit peculiar on roller-skates, but the possibility of fun needs to outweigh these issues sometimes.

So adding to my plans for 2015 is a commitment to FUN. Granted, fun is spontaneous – you can’t plan it, but when it comes to find me, I’ll be ready for it. I’ve learnt these past few weeks, being earnest is good, but having fun is better. Imminently better.

How do you have fun?

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Image courtesy of Bright Drops

Sometimes Quitting Can Be Glorious!

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(Image via Pinterest)

Life’s been a little bit hard of late. We all go through cycles where things get a bit tough and the cogs of life grind very slowly. That’s me at the moment, mainly due to my youngest daughter’s night time shenanigans; but that’s a whole other story.

So at the moment, I’ve been focusing on the basics. Just showing up, really. Making sure my kids show up (hopefully fed, clothed and clean). I also try for this (the clothed one is my priority – obviously). But when you’re sleep deprived for an extended period, anything but the basics is hugely taxing. It doesn’t help that when we returned from our trip I was energised, motivated and ready to go. With lots of plans and goals and six weeks in…well, life had other plans for me.

Fortunately, I recognise that this is just a blip. But there’s nothing like plans that fall by the wayside to leave your morale sagging a bit. I posted recently about the stress of meditation and how I berated myself for not establishing a regular practice.The same goes for all my other little projects. I see the pile of books that I have set aside for research, untouched. A list of ideas that I haven’t been able to develop, which keep popping up each time I open my notebook. Even leisure activities, a pile of magazines unread, webpages tagged and never revisited.

So this week, when I read Sarah Kathleen Peck’s article ‘Why Quitting is ok’ –  I felt vindicated and absolutely light-footed because of it. The article got me thinking about success and failure, but also the cycles that play out in our lives. A full life is a fluid life that weaves in and out of different phases; both good and bad. This is an honest life, lived well. But to berate ones self for this fluidity can be fool-hardy. To be restricted by the success/failure binary is not helpful to anyone, least of all our lovely selves.

So after reading Peck’s article on quitting, I took it one step further and decided that I don’t even need to say ‘I’m quitting’. I’ll just quietly move on if the peaks and troughs of life require it, and when those peaks and troughs permit, I’ll come back to what ever it is I’ve put on pause. That way, there is no pre-determined outcome. I can go back when I feel like it, if I don’t ever feel like going back to said activity, project, goal then so be it. It has served it’s purpose in my life.

Coming back to Arianna Huffington, (as I tend to do) she explained in Thrive that abandoning learning German, learning to ski, or other such extra-curricular activities was freeing to her. Striking it off her agenda meant she could walk away and move on. So finding your own way to let go (including letting go of the angst that comes with letting go) is a significant way to make your every day life a little bit easier, and quite a bit happier.

Lets face it, sometimes life can get hard; just showing up is hard. So letting go of the peripherals that make it hard is just one step towards making it easier.

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The Agony & Ecstasy of Travelling With Children

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Looking Up – The Eiffel Tower


My family and I have recently returned from a six-week travelling bonanza. Now I say bonanza because for our family, that’s what it was. Some of you may be much more well-travelled than my children are, but this was our first overseas trip as a family.

My husband is English and we had not made the journey back to England for nine years. Our last trip was just before we had our first baby. So we were well overdue. The children had three uncles and an aunty in the UK that they had never met, so if only to reconnect with family, it was time to make the journey.

When we planned it, we knew it was ambitious – Singapore, England, Wales, Italy, France and Indonesia – in six weeks. And as expected, it was full of trials and tribulations. Arguably our youngest, who was 20 months old when we left, was too young to travel so far. While hindsight is a great thing, I’m glad it is just that, hindsight. Because if we’d stayed home we would have missed out on so much.

There are so many words I could use to describe our trip – exhausting, amazing, exhilarating, hilarious, ridiculous, incredible. So you get the idea; a veritable feast of emotion and experiences. There were times when the youngest was such hard work that, in the midst of all the discomfort and sleepless nights, we said that we should not have come. But now we are home and those tough times are receding and what we are left with are these amazing experiences that we are so incredibly lucky to have shared.

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Family Selfie on the Spanish Steps – Rome

So I thought I’d share some things I learnt about travelling with small children, and it might make someone else’s trip that little bit more comfortable.

  • Be prepared for the nuances of each individual child’s personality to emerge stronger than ever. Our oldest daughter is quite passive and highly sensitive, so she complained very little even when things were quite hard going. But she was much more teary than usual if it all got too much. Our son, who is much more assertive, with a bit of fire in his belly complained loudly and frequently and, on one occasion, at our arrival at Gare Du Nord in Paris, threw his suit case on the ground and declared he would not go any further! Our youngest is very clear about what she wants so managing her very strong personality was somewhat of a challenge.
  • Choose your accommodation wisely. Location, location, location is a cliche for a reason. When we were in Rome we stayed a little bit out of the city and it detracted from our time there. The trip in and out on the tram tired the children out, and going back for the baby’s daytime sleep was too much coming and going for them. But in Paris we stayed right in the heart of Mont Marte and it was one of the things that made our time in Paris so wonderful. It was easy to pop home for some rest time as nothing was far away. Because there was no major travelling around the city, the kids weren’t as tired, so were more open to experiencing all that is wonderful about Paris.

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The view from our window in Paris

  • For the grown ups, find some time each day to be alone. For us it was in the evening, when the kids were asleep. On the nights where we all went to bed at the same time, I missed reconnecting with my husband. That hour or so in the evening was a chance to sit together and process the day’s events and plan for the next day. That down-time was really important for us. We took our parenting hats off and became a couple again, if only for an hour.
  • If you have the time, book some proper holiday time where you can lie by a pool or on the beach. Even if it’s only a few days, it is the perfect way to recharge your batteries. You will come home refreshed, rested and ready to get back in to the daily grind.

Before we had children, my husband and I were quite transitory and travelled a lot. After so long in one place it didn’t take much to ignite our itchy feet, and one of the greatest aspects of this trip was that our travel bug has returned. But more than us, our children (perhaps not the hub, but the older two) have also caught the bug. I can thank my Mum for instilling in me, that sense of adventure and and inquisitiveness about the world. She loved to travel; I watched and learned from her. So to pass on the same to my children is a great gift from her to them, through me.

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October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This post is to mark the day, to help raise awareness and offer some comfort and advice to people who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, still birth or infant death. We need to keep having this conversation because it is the silence around this topic that make it such an isolating and lonely experience.

I have some experience with pregnancy loss, having lost six of my own. The one thing that made the whole dark experience even darker was the isolation I felt in my grief. Part of that was an over-arching rejection of my grief and sadness. This is not a blanket statement, there were several people who were incredibly supportive and accepting of whatever we felt, each time we lost a baby. But there were many who weren’t, and sadly some of those relationships have never recovered.

So, the experience of losing a baby in and of itself, is a terrible one. For that experience to be devalued and dismissed can be extremely damaging. For those of you who haven’t experienced pregnancy loss and are struggling to understand, some of the emotions I felt included shock, sadness, disappointment, guilt, shame, grief and fear. To name a few. However, I will point out that every woman experiences pregnancy loss in a different way. And I know from my own experience that my reaction to each of my miscarriages differed in some way, from the one before. There was always a new and surprising response with each one, but what I have listed are emotions that were consistent each time.

The grief of pregnancy loss, to me, is most complicated. There is no consolation, no looking at old photos of happy times, no recall of happy memories or funny quirks of your loved one, that while sad, will make you smile. When you lose a loved one, grief is an expression of the gap they have left in your life. But when you lose a baby that has not lived outside of your own body, there is nothing tangible to try and draw comfort from. The weight of that sadness is present, but there is no resolution. I had four miscarriages in a year, and during that time It felt like I was heaving a weighted stone around in my gut. I had a heaviness about me that only really lifted once I gave birth to my oldest daughter.

Along with the emotional ramifications, there are also the physical. The hormonal changes in a woman’s body, once she becomes pregnant, are extreme. When a pregnancy ends abruptly the body tries to recalibrate and it can take months before a woman physically feels like herself again. Combine this with a myriad of emotion and the impact on a woman can be momentous.

It’s important that this experience is not undermined and days such as October 15th – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, are an important part of healing and keeping the dialogue open for women who may be feeling alone in their grief. It’s also an important acknowledgement that the baby they carried and lost meant something, and the sadness that they feel is justified.

If someone you know is going through this, here’s a quick 101 on what NOT to say:

– oh well, there must have been something wrong with it

– it just wasn’t meant to be

– you’ll be pregnant again really soon

– why do you keep talking about it, just get over it

– it won’t happen again, don’t worry too much

– at least you know you can get pregnant

Here are some alternatives:

– I’m so sorry to hear about your baby

– come here for a hug

– how are you feeling?

– I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to say.

These are not a prescription, you can say what feels natural to you as long as you are showing the person that you acknowledge the depth of their pain and loss.

If you have lost a baby, remember them today by lighting a candle for them, or take a moment to reflect on their fleeting presence and what it brought to your life. One thing I learnt from my miscarriages was the depth of love that is possible, so each lost baby, while devastating, reinforced this and now my living children (of which I have three) are the beneficiaries of this love.

Share this post with your friends who might take comfort from it, or share it with those who aren’t sure what pregnancy loss is all about. Supporting each other through these experiences is what will make us all stronger and better able to cope with the sadness of one of life’s inevitabilities.