Call it 4th child wisdom: Why I know I won’t regret that cuddle.

It’s 2 o’clock on Monday afternoon; I’m at home and the toddler is in bed having a nap. My 7 month old had been playing on her mat when she starts to doze off right where she is in the middle of the living room floor. She never does this; she’s actually a bit of a monkey to get to sleep at the moment. I have to leave the house in 40 minutes to pick the 2 big boys up from school. I could get a hell of a lot done in those 40 minutes with both babies asleep. And coincidentally I have a hell of lot to do. The kitchen is a state; I haven’t even managed to unload the dishwasher today. The hallway is like it homes some sort of demonic crap excreting monster. There are mounds of clothes in nearly every room, some of it needs washing, some of it putting away, some of it needs ironing but the quest won’t ever be fulfilled in this house! The ‘I must get round to that’ list inside my head must be a foot long although I really should change the name to the ‘I will never get round to this’ list!! So do I jump into productive, super-mum mode? No I scoop the baby up, snuggle her into my arms & curl up the sofa for a snuggle.

Because if I’ve learned anything doing this baby bit for the 4th time it’s that it goes really bloody quick & you will miss it so much once it’s over. As mamas we are so good at assigning ourselves the hard jobs, the difficult tasks in parenting and sometimes denying ourselves the good bits. The little snuggles on the sofa, the 5 minutes playing with cars or tickles after bath time. But we need to remind ourselves that we deserve to have the good bits, to enjoy those special little moments.

Don’t get me wrong I know it’s bloody hard not to get stressed by the mess in the house. Not to feel this sense of obligation to keep on top of everything. But when these precious baby years are over I know I won’t remember if my house was tidy at 2 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. Or if all of my washing was done; for all of an hour before one of my beloved offspring creates more. I will remember cuddling my beautiful baby though. I will remember how she smelt. I will remember how peaceful she looked while sleeping. I will remember how she felt in my arms & how I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at her.

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As mums we are so good at multi-tasking; at racing round the house cleaning, tidying, sorting, keeping the house clean and tidy and looking beautiful. It seems to me that there is increasing pressure on mums to have beautiful homes, even when they have babies and young children. I absolutely feel that pressure, do you? But I have also come to realise that I have the power to release myself from that pressure. Don’t get me wrong I know you have to find a balance and I love it when my house is clean and organised. But I also know that there will be time when the babies have grown up to clean my house. And I know that when that time comes there will be days when I will happily trade my clean house for a 40 minutes snuggle of the sofa with my baby. I know Piper will never be this age again, I will never get this day, these 40 minutes with her again just to cuddle her. So I’m going to.

Call it 4th child wisdom.
Charlie xx

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Bursting my Christmas Bubble.

I have to hold my hands and say i got a little lost this Christmas in the idea of making Pipers first Christmas extra special. I have given the Christmas decs an update and the house looks beautifully festive. I have picked just 3 really special presents for Piper for her first Christmas and we had planned to go to the zoo to see Santa (our little family tradition) on Christmas eve for the first time with our 4 children. I did not think this would be the Christmas post I would be writing. But on Friday night Piper got admitted to hospital. As I’m writing this it’s Christmas eve we are still in hospital just crossing our fingers we can go home today and spend Christmas all together at home. My poor little baby got hit with a nasty cold and the d & v bug at the same time. She couldn’t keep any milk down Friday and she ended up with a really high temperature and become dehydrated. She is so much better now thank God but she gave us quite a scare!!

The last 48 hours I have spent in hospital with her and away from my boys has really made me think!! All the silly things we worry about, all the pressures we put on ourselves. Christmas day is a special day without doubt but honestly not because the house looks perfect or because there are the most fantastic, expensive presents under the tree. It’s about being with your family and the people in this world you love. The people who make your soul sing and your heart full. I know it sounds corny but honestly the real gifts are the ones you can’t buy.

The universe gave me a serious lesson these last few days. All the crap I worry about, all the goals I think are important to achieve are so irrelevant when it truly comes down to it. I had spent December shopping for the best presents for the children. I had spent hours search for, buying and putting up decorations to make sure the house looks amazing. I had brought the 3 boys matching pj’s for Christmas eve night and I would have posted pictures of them by the tree on Instagram showcasing my wonderful family Christmas. But the reality is if we aren’t at home, if our family isn’t all together it doesn’t matter how expensive or amazing the presents, or how beautifully the house is decorated.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in a little bubble which in truth is fed by our consumer society. I will hold my hands up and say i was bouncing through December utterly absorbed in my bubble. Solely focused on Piper’s first Christmas and our first Christmas as a family of six being perfect. Well my bubble got well and truly popped!!! I just want to be home. I just want to wake up with my family all together and see my 4 gorgeous children smiling. Because the other side of this is that there are lots of families who won’t be all together. There are lots of families who spend Christmas with a child in hospital. There are lots of families who don’t get to experience the relief of knowing their child will get better, will be just fine. There are lots if families for whom it isn’t just a scare it’s a nightmare.

There will be presents under the tree tomorrow. There will be food on the table. But most importantly I’m just looking forward to us all being together and Piper being well. So mamas take the pressure off yourselves, don’t get stressed it’s not meant to be perfect. Give yourself and your family the best christmas present and just be happy and have a happy Christmas together.

Merry Christmas everyone love Charlie x

Do you wanna Read a story?

Seen as it’s world book day tomorrow and I am most definitely a book lover I thought I would share with you some of the most loved books in our house.

book-5Starting at the baby end and an absolute classic; ‘Peepo!’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. This is just such a beautiful book to read to babies and young children. The illustrations are wonderful and if like me you were read this as a baby incredibly emotive. I also think it makes a wonderful gift, it’s one of those books which will be kept and read to future generations within families.

 

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Next up is this wonderful picture book ‘Arthur’s Tractor’ by Pippa Goodhart. This is such a fun story and perfect for families with boys and girls, as it cleverly combines the essentials of a classic fairy tale with the down-to-earth charm of Arthur and his tractor. Who in our house is indisputably an Irish farmer (yes we do voices). This adorable book has fantastic illustrations that will engage and absorb children. A firm favourite in our house!

book-1Another favourite in our house is the fantastically funny ‘Dragon Stew’ by Steve Smallman. This picture book tells the story of a group of Vikings who go on the hunt for adventure and a dragon. This book never fails to captivate my boys and have them in giggles. Again the colourful, detailed illustrations by Lee Wildish bring the story to life for little eyes.

 

book3Now our house like I’m sure most with children up and down the country is full of all the fabulous stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. My absolute favourite without a doubt is ‘Room on the Broom’. I adore this book; both the witch and her cat are the most endearing characters. I mean how can you not love an independent woman, with an enduring spirit whose own generosity is rewarded with a life-saving dragon rescue as a result of some kick-ass teamwork?

 

harrypotterNow as my big boys are now 9 and 7 we are sadly leaving behind the stage when they want a story book at bedtime. So around 6 months ago I started reading them ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. We are all massive Harry Potter fans in this house but the boys have only ever watched the films. Because these are such brilliant books for adults to read as much as children I find myself just as eager as the boys are to carve out 20 minutes before bedtime and read a chapter. These books are just so incredibly magical I love how engrossed the boys are while I read to them. Plus there are lots of parts of the books which don’t appear in the films so if you or children haven’t read them you need to. We are currently on the third book ‘Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban’ and while we don’t manage to read every night I love having that little nook of time just me and them before bed, it’s special and a way to hold onto them as they grow up far too quickly!!

book-6 If this is something you already do or are going to do with older children then I would recommend you read Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Darkness. They are the most incredible books, I read them for the first time about 5 years ago and although they are aimed at children 11+ I literally couldn’t put them down. There are 6 books in total, starting with ‘Wolf Brother’ set 6 thousand years ago in a world of clans, it follows the main character Torak and his adventures in the forest. These books are just so incredibly gripping I guarantee you’ll struggle not to read ahead once the kids are in bed.

Forgoing Happiness?

So I was sat at the dinner table last night, just me and the 3 boys; and as I watched them devour what I’m sure was about a ton of pasta between them I found myself smiling. I watched as the eldest two debated the pros and cons of finding crème inside a crème egg, (don’t ask, the crème egg obsession is a little out of control in my house at the mo!!) interjected with Archer’s grunts of agreement and his cheesy laughs at a joke no-one actually told. Being a mum makes me happy. Happiness is such a complex entity when you really break it down. It sits alongside things like success as this over-riding goal of life and yet one does not equate the other; despite expectations very often success doesn’t actually lead to happiness. What even is happiness? How do you define it? How do you measure it? More importantly how do you obtain it?

For me happiness can be found in a balance; a balance of releasing what stops me from feeling unhappy and indulging in what truly gives me joy. Give me a craggy, deserted beach where I can watch the sea or a forest to get lost under a canopy of green and the stresses and worries of life seem to be washed away. That’s what sucks out my happiness: stress and worry! I have really strong memories as a child of my beautiful, incredible mother being so stressed. Maybe that’s not surprising when I acknowledge she worked so hard as a nurse while bringing up 4 children and had a husband whose primary relationship was with the pub!! Yet it makes me sad looking back remembering how stressed she was, I’m not sure how much of motherhood she really got to enjoy. It’s certainly not something I want to replicate in my life. But it makes me wonder, do we as women and mothers sometimes not allow ourselves to be happy? Do we knowingly take on too much and refuse to ask for help?

I do not want my children to perceive motherhood as an all-consuming drain on the woman, it is a gift. Just as a mother is a gift; one which should be cherished and looked after. How often do we as mothers take on too much, how often do we over fill our days with chores and obligations? We are allowed to say “no” even to our children. I honestly believe it is good for our children to witness us put ourselves first. For our children to respect and value their mothers and learn gratitude for all the things we do for them. Yes the most astonishing strength exists within a woman, which often reaches its full potential when she becomes a mother. Our bodies endure in my opinion the most phenomenal act a human-being can experience, we create life. As mothers we love more passionately, protect more fiercely and give more unreservedly than we ever could have imagined possible. Reward yourself, allow yourself to be happy, indulge in your passions and interests, reside in places that offer you peace, rest and nurture your mental and physical being. Our children’s memories are being constructed right now; when they look back let them see their beautiful, incredible mothers happy, smiling and enjoying motherhood.

Charlie.

Lets talk about Sex (after) Baby!!

OK so let’s rewind a little bit. Back to when we first met our spouses, before all the parenthood and responsibility got involved when it was just the two of you. When I met my husband what drew me to him was the way he looked, it was a physical attraction and I’m going to hazard a guess that’s the same for the majority of us. Now let’s go a little primal for a second; as grownups that very quickly turns into a sexual attraction, it’s an animal instinct. So you find someone sexy, they find you sexy, which often makes you feel sexy and then there’s a whole lot of sexy sex – we get it it’s all very sexy!!! Then those precious, life altering, little blessings otherwise known as our children come along and very often the sex makes a sharp exit out the door labelled ‘I’m sorry you’re a parent you don’t get to have fun anymore!!’ I want to shout “Wait!! Come back!!!!”I definitely did not sign the bit in the parenting contract where I agreed to give up my sex life!!

It seems to me there is a strong presumption that we women are the ones saying no to sex, that we simply have no need or desire for it. And that’s crap! It’s not that we don’t want to have sex but the reality is after having a baby it takes time for your body to heal, you’re exhausted and then there are all the physical and emotional changes to adjust to. The actual physical changes that your body goes through during and post pregnancy are immense; as the owner of that body your total lack of control is extremely difficult to adjust to. Don’t get me wrong being pregnant is an amazing gift, it’s what forges the incredible bond that you have with your child. You grew that baby; your body created that life, it sustained them, it protected them and it brought them into this world. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the entire process is also undeniably overwhelming. Compacted by the fact that our society continues to celebrate women based on a ‘smaller is better’ size scale; your newly enlarged figure can leave you feeling less Victoria secret model and more Mrs Potato-head in a bra.

So how do we get our sex lives back? While this undoubtedly takes two, (funny that!) both you and your partner have to work together. I honestly believe we as women have to take the first step in attempting to come to terms with the changes we have undergone physically and emotionally. And it’s important to point out these aren’t necessarily negative changes but any change requires adjustment. One of the biggest difficulties I have experience after having babies is regaining my confidence. Having seen my body change; the body that my husband fell in lust with, I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin, let alone sexy. Yet often it’s the smallest things which can start the ball rolling in making big differences. Half an hour in a bubble bath, a manicure, getting your hair done or just a bloody nap!! This isn’t about the way you look, it’s about the way you feel. It’s about acknowledging that you are important, that you deserve to be pampered and have time and money spent on you. Give yourself permission to be a priority, you do deserve it!!

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But let’s not forget those men, because they have such an integral part to play in all of this (and I don’t just mean the sex). If the men in our lives are also craving their sex lives back they need to do a little bit of leg work. So listen up fellas; men need to support their partners and build up their confidence as a whole. It’s not just about telling your spouse she looks beautiful, it’s about reassuring her that she’s doing an a amazing job in this all-consuming role of motherhood for which there is little preparation. It’s about encouraging her to take a break and coming to her aid when it all gets too much, because it does and it will. If you want to rediscover your passion as a ‘parent couple’ you have to adapt your relationship to fulfil the fresh needs of each other, now as parents. Remember to be patient with one another, it may simply take time and that’s OK. 

Being a mother shouldn’t prevent us from feeling like attractive, sexual women; the two don’t oppose each-other. You can be both. You are both. You can love and nurture your children, while also being passionate and intimate with your spouse. Being a mother is the very embodiment of womanhood but likewise so is your sexuality; your children wouldn’t exist without it. So embrace both; they are equally part of the incredibly beautiful, multifaceted experience which is being a woman.  

Charlie.

Yes to a cuppa!!

I don’t really like to admit this but my go to answer when invited to do things is “oh I think I’m busy, sorry”. That sounds awful I know!! I’m talking about invitations from other mothers that can range from a cuppa at their house or a baby group, to a night out. It’s not because I don’t want to go and do those things or because I don’t like the people inviting me (usually it’s the complete opposite). Genuinely I just lack the confidence; since becoming a mother I have found that my confidence has plummeted, and that’s my confidence in myself as an individual person and myself as a mother. Which sounds ridiculous when I point out that I’ve being doing this ‘mother’ thing for almost 10 years; you’d think I would have found my stride but no!

Before I had children I knew exactly who I was, what I liked and what I stood for. Admittedly I did become a mummy at quite a young age so maybe it was the beautiful, brazen ignorance of youth but I certainly wasn’t worried about what anybody thought of me! Then along came my amazing Fin, who transformed my life in the best way; and along with all the love, all the possibility came a shit load of doubt. I had been given something so unbelievably precious, most of all to me and the responsibility to nurture this little life and introduce him to our world rested on my shoulders. What if I got it wrong? Combine that with the fact motherhood changes so much about you, in so many different ways that you can feel like you have completely lost all sense of ‘yourself’. What makes you, you? So many of my values, beliefs and opinions changed with motherhood and because it’s such a journey I have found the change a continual thing.

Motherhood tears you down physically and emotionally; the emotional and physical toll on the mother is huge. I found myself feeling totally lost and struggling, feeling as if I wanted to hide away from the rest of the world; much more so after my 3rd baby then I had with the previous 2. Yet ironically it’s at this time that we need the support of others, especially other mothers. Because they get it. We have all been there; when we feel incredibly low and totally inadequate, like we are getting it all wrong and constantly doubting ourselves. When you are trapped in your own little bubble filled with self-doubt it is all too easy to perceive other mums as doing a much better job than you and having it all under control. That’s definitely not the case!!image-2

It is INCREDIBLE the difference a cuppa and a chat can make when you’re feeling over-whelmed, tired or lonely. And that’s been the thing I’ve found hardest since having baby no3 is that I get lonely, despite knowing a lot of other mums. So I have made myself get out of the house much more recently; for both my own and Archer’s sake I’ve said “yes” to invites from other mums. I still get nervous about taking Archer out, I worry that something will go wrong or a situation will arise and I won’t deal with it properly. This could be anything from him having a meltdown or hurting another child or even just a nappy explosion that I’m not prepared for. I’m scared I’m going to look like an incompetent mum and that other mothers will judge me or my child. But the truth is its ok for things to go wrong, the baby/toddler years are bloody hard work!! So we will encounter meltdowns, tantrums, nappy explosions we’re not prepared for! We will lose our tempers, our minds, our keys!! But hopefully we will all have another mum who completely understands to make us a cuppa, lend us a nappy and laugh/cry at it all alongside us.

Charlie.