Saturday, 16 August 2014

Getting organised - menus and more!

I never got round to listing last week's menu, so here it is...

Saturday - Chicken madras and rice

Sunday - Mince and tatties

Monday - Lamb doner, chips and salad

Tuesday - Salmon steaks with new potatoes and veg

Wednesday - Lamb koftas, savoury rice, roast veg and salad

Thursday - Lasagne, garlic bread and salad

Friday - Mongolian beef, root mash, broccoli and cauliflower

This week, I'm really scraping the bottom of the freezer and cupboards, because we're trying to use up what we have before doing a massive shopping and prep session. I'm hoping to fill the freezer with complete meals for the slow cooker to last us at least a month or two, so everything must go!

This week, all I have left in my freezer is 2 bags of beef mince, 2 bags of lamb mince, a pack of chicken breasts and a bag of stewing beef. 
Here's the menu...

Saturday - chicken curry and rice (have you noticed a pattern? Saturday is ALWAYS curry night!)

Sunday - Lamb orzo in slow cooker

Monday - Stovies

Tuesday - Lasagne

Wednesday - Slow cooked gammon, roast potatoes and peas (Daisy's birthday choice, homemade chocolate cake for afters!)

Thursday - chilli con carne (my birthday choice)

Friday - mousaka

This week, I'll start collecting slow cooker recipes and writing down lists of what I need to buy. Hopefully next week, I'll do a giant shopping trip and spend a few hours prepping veg and meat so that we have a good number of fully prepped meals just ready to defrost and chuck into the slow cooker. Hopefully if I can get into this habit, it'll save me time and money, because I'll just need to buy fresh fruit and veg most weeks, and just do a quick salad each night instead of spending an hour every afternoon sorting dinner out!

I've been getting organised in other areas as well - the kids have everything they need for school, I just need to do some ironing over the weekend to make sure they both have a weeks' worth of clothes ready to go.

It's Daisy's birthday on Wednesday, but I must admit I'm not very organised in that respect, we've bought nothing yet! It'll get done on Tuesday when she goes back to school.

Baby wise - I've sorted and washed all of my newborn clothes. This weekend, I'll iron what I need to and that'll be another job done. We have heaps of stuff, all sorted into boy, girl and neutral piles, so to save time, I'll just iron the neutral stuff until we find out if Tootie le Fourth is a chap or a chapess!

I've even started thinking about Christmas! Two of Steve's presents have been chosen, one definite thing for Amelie and a few ideas for other folks. I'll get the shopping started as soon as the kids are back in school this week.

So....that's all my organisation so far! Getting there, maybe one of these days I can be one of those smug organised mums who has every eventuality planned for. Baby steps.....

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Digging deep

We watched a programme the other day about men training to become Royal Marines Commandos, and it focused on the times when the training is incredibly tough - when the recruits think they can't possibly take any more and consider giving up. It was about them having to dig deep and find their fighting spirit to get up and keep going, even when they felt like giving up.

It occurred to me that it's like that for pretty much everyone at times, isn't it? No matter what we do in life, we will all have times when we think "Sod this, what am I doing?".
Parenthood is no different. In fact, it's probably the biggest example of having no choice but to keep going, no matter how exhausting, frustrating, upsetting and plain old bloody hard it might get.

Suck it up, princess, because nobody else will do it for you.

Amelie is going through a particularly difficult phase at the moment. Our happy, smiley, content little baby is suddenly very frustrated and angry. She has spectacular tantrums, where she headbutts doors, floors and furniture so hard, we're certain she'll do herself major damage.
She nips us, and bites us, and slaps our faces. Daisy is even a little bit scared of her!
She sleeps pretty well most of the time, but maybe once or twice a week, she is up during the night, and gets very upset, screaming and throwing herself around. I usually spend pretty much the whole of those ights downstairs in the living room, feeling very lonely and tired while she screams the night away, because I don't want to disturb everyone else.

We have this brilliant app at the moment called Wonder Weeks, which explains what's going on developmentally with your baby at their particular age. It explains what they call developmental "leaps", where your baby or toddler might be having a particularly stormy time. It tells you what's going on in their bodies and minds, and how best to deal with it.
This is great because years ago, the attitude was just "Oh, they're being naughty, and testing boundaries. Ignore them or punish them."
Now, there's much more understanding that babies are going through almost constant changes that they're not emotionally equipped to deal with, which obviously manifests itself in the form of tantrums and violent outbursts, and occasionally sleepless nights.

A bit of understanding goes a long way. When Charlie went through this phase 11 years ago, I struggled so much, because I felt like I was failing him. This time, I know it's a phase, and will pass, but it doesn't make it any less distressing at the time.

I'm so tired. I'm 27 weeks pregnant, so have reached that stage where I'm breathless because I'm starting to be squished from the inside. I'm trying so hard to keep going all day, every day. There's housework to do, the older two kids need a bit of attention and involvement, and obviously a lot of my time is being spent keeping Amelie safe and entertained, which is often difficult when I'm reaching the end of my energy reserves and I have to deal with a major tantrum.

None of this is a whinge. I don't want to hear "Well, you chose this!"
I know I chose this, I'm not UN-choosing it, but it's really bloody hard sometimes. I know that at least for the next year, there are going to be tough times.
I'll have a newborn to breastfeed, a toddler to keep busy and safe, and two older kids to support through the transition into a new school, where I should encourage new friendships by inviting friends over to play or have dinner, even when I'm so exhausted, I can barely walk the length of myself.
There will be days like today, where I am so tired, all I can do is go through the motions with silent tears rolling down my face. But there's never a bad day, just bad parts of days.
In fact, let's not even call them bad parts, just tricky parts. 
All it takes is to see them all giggle together, or see them all eat their dinner, or even have them all asleep and have 5 minutes to breathe quietly, to put it all in perspective and make me wonder why it was all such a struggle.

Today was a brilliant example, I was just knackered and emotional and finding every moment really difficult. Then, out of nowhere, Amelie fell asleep and Charlie and Daisy played happily together while I laid down. I didn't sleep as such, but just having a little while to be quiet and still was all I needed and I was able to see each of my kids for the lovely little people they are.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it'll pass. It always passes. Everything is a phase.

And if that doesn't solve everything, there's always coffee and chocolate.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

It isn't a choice

Today, I woke to the tragic news that Robin Williams, one of my all time favourite actors and comedians, was found dead due to an apparent suicide. He was clearly a lot of other people's favourites as well, and I've been close to tears all day looking at the countless tributes on my Facebook feed.

He was a famously troubled soul, such a contrast to the funny, larger than life persona that we all adored watching on our screens.
As many people have said, it's so sad to think that someone who brought fun and laughter to so many millions of people around the world, was privately battling demons that ultimately overcame him.

I've written about depression before, but it really is such a misunderstood illness. If this tragedy can bring anything good, at least it's got lots of people talking about depression and what it can do.

What has surprised me is that there seems to be more understanding than ever, which can never be a bad thing. Okay, so a few people have said "But he had so much talent, so much money, so many fans...why was he depressed?", but the majority of people have simply expressed deep sympathy and sadness for a dark and lost soul who has left us all bereft.

There will always be that view of depression though - when people point out how many good things are in a depressed person's life...."But you have a happy family/lots of money/a beautiful home/a great job....what have YOU got to be depressed about?"

Here's the's not a choice.

Depression is an illness, and it can kill. It's as deadly as cancer, a deep darkness that can spread silently through your life without even you being aware of it until it's too deeply ingrained.
It can be frustrating for people who live with someone who is battling depression, because for all the world, I guess it does look like a choice.

Just get out of bed, dammit! Smile, watch a comedy, treat yourself to some retail therapy, have a cocktail....

You know that's like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, right?

You never hear anyone saying to someone who's recently been diagnosed with cancer, "But you're always so bubbly! What do YOU have to get cancer about?"

Of course not, that would be ridiculous. We KNOW that nobody chooses to get cancer, and it's the same with depression, or any other mental illness.
Like addiction, depression doesn't care who you are. You could be rich, poor, fat, thin, black, white, gay, doesn't care if you're a parent (but what about your kids???), or a professional, or anything in between.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks "Ah, today, I think I'll become a heroin addict/an alcoholic/bipolar/filled with such despair that I will need to end my life immediately"

I'm glad that the world at large seems to be developing more of an understanding of mental illness, but we can always do with learning more about how to cope, especially if we live with someone who is suffering.

Love, understanding, patience. It can be hard, and frustrating, and terrifying. I know only too well what it's like to tragically lose a beloved one to depression, and I never want to go through it again, but at the end of the day, it's out there. We have to be aware of it and what to do if we find ourselves either feeling depressed or loving someone who is.

This article on the best and worst things to say to someone who is depressed is a good starting point, as are organisations such as Mind and The Samaritans. 

We must be aware that, like cancer, we won't be able to "save" everyone, but at least if we know how to find or give support, it's a start.

Rest in peace, Robin. You were a brilliant man, who will never, ever be forgotten. I hope you've found your heaven.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Getting Organised - what's on the menu?

Last week, we were away camping, so I didn't have a menu as such, but this week, I had an abundance of beef mince, lamb mince and potatoes, plus I wanted to include lots of healthy fresh veg, so here's what I came up with for this week's menu....

SATURDAY: Beer Butt Chicken (using this recipe from BBC Good Food - image shown), served with butternut coconut rice, corn on the cob and salad

SUNDAY: Fajitas, using leftover chicken

MONDAY: Lamb doner with chips and salad

TUESDAY: Mince and tatties

WEDNESDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

THURSDAY: Fillet tips, baked potatoes and salad

FRIDAY: Chicken, chickpea and spinach curry with rice (using leftover chicken)

Lunches will mostly be salad stuff, with smoked mackerel, grilled halloumi and hummous, or soups and sandwiches. I might bake something as well, if I find the time!

What's on your menu this week?

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Helping Hand

Yesterday, I read this post by the wonderful Janelle at Renegade Mothering. I'll give you the gist...

She just had her fourth baby 5 weeks ago. It's 3pm, and she has to cook for a little dinner party for her mother in law's birthday, so she has to take all 4 kids food shopping, despite the fact that everyone is in the tired, cranky afternoon phase and her toddler turns into a squirrel on crack in Costco.
Anyway, she makes it to the checkout unscathed (just), only to find the person in front of her having a long, in depth conversation with the checkout guy. The baby is starting to fuss and cry, the older kids are bored and tired and the toddler is getting squirmy in the trolley seat.
Still, the checkout guy and the customer in front continue their chat. (don't you hate it when that happens?)
The baby reaches the hysterical, screaming blue murder stage, and Janelle has to unclip him from his car seat and try to comfort him. He is desperately trying to nurse and has a wet nappy. She considers coming out of the queue, but is next in line with a long line behind her, so decides that the quicker this ordeal is over, the better.
At that exact moment, a voice behind her shouts, and she turns to see her 3 year old standing up in the seat of the trolley. So, just while she's trying to comfort a screaming newborn and clip a crazy toddler back into the trolley seat, the checkout guy decides that he must serve her RIGHT NOW, and is impatiently asking her for her Costco card and telling her to start loading her shopping onto the conveyor belt.
Who helps her? No-one. Not one person. Not the checkout guy, not the other people in line. Everyone just stands and stares at her as she struggles, tutting and huffing that she's holding them up.
Now, the ultimate outcome is that she did eventually get out of there, albeit hot, sweaty and very very stressed, but why did nobody help? Why did they treat her like she was just a pain in the arse who was slowing them down?

Is it, because, as Janelle says, "People are dicks"?
Well, I'm sure some of those people were probably thinking "Well, it was her choice to have so many kids, and take them all shopping. Maybe she should have fed/changed the baby first/come out earlier/shopped online".
Well, excuse me, but sometimes, parents have to get things done, despite the time of day or number of kids in tow.

Here's a fact for you....the priciple of taking kids out is the same as the principle of having said kids in the first place....there's never an ideal time.
Even if you only have one kid, I guarantee they will poop/vomit/have an epic, universe ending meltdown right at the moment you need to get something done. In fact, the scale of the poop/vomit/epic, universe ending meltdown will be directly proportional to the urgency of your task.
Add more than one kid into the mix, and you'll feel as if you deserve a Nobel Prize just for being able to make a phone call with them in the background.

I'm sure we've all had a time when we've needed help and nobody has offered it. I've had plenty of times when I've been juggling all three kids in the supermarket, or all three kids and the dog in the park, and all I've heard from passers by is "Oh ho! You've got your hands full!"
Well, no shit Sherlock, how about giving me a hand?

So...why do people generally hesitate to help when they see someone struggling?
I'd like to think that the majority of us (at least 90%) are, in fact, not dicks. If they do see someone struggling and think "Tough titty, it must suck to be them", then yes, they are dicks.
What about the rest of us?

Maybe we're so absorbed in our own thing, staring at our phones, minding our own business, that we're genuinely oblivious to the struggles of others.

Maybe we're scared to help, because the person struggling might say no, or look at us like we're trying to steal their kids or rob them.

Speaking of saying no, why do people do that? I'm guilty of it myself, if I'm in the supermarket and the checkout person asks if I want a hand to pack, I generally say no thanks, and then struggle to keep up as they throw every item at me at top speed, while I struggle to get them into bags while juggling a baby on my hip.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I took Amelie to McDonalds (I know, shameful chav mother, what would the Daily Mail say?), and was struggling to push the buggy while holding my tray with one hand. The girl in the queue behind me offered to help carry my tray to a table and I said no thanks. She looked a bit hurt, and I felt especially bad because I really could have used the help, and accepted it when someone who worked there offered a hand seconds later.

Are we so proud that we can't accept a wee hand every now and then? We're taught from an early age the importance of standing on your own two feet, being independent, not relying on anyone for anything.

Is it an admission of failure to accept a bit of help, or, gasp! ask for it in the first place?
I know myself, depending on my hormonal state, that if I'm struggling with the kids and someone offers a hand, what I actually hear is "You clearly can't cope with all those kids, let someone who knows better take over", which is probably why I automatically say no, because I have to prove that I can cope at all times.
Thing is, it's not about coping or not coping, it's just about sharing the load. If someone is wiling to help, why not give them a chance to be nice?

Maybe that's why people don't help more often, they've been knocked back so many times, they just mind their own business now.

Reading that post made me realise that we do need to get more of a village mentality back into society, where we automatically help each other out, and accept that help without suspicion or embarrassment.
I'm certainly going to make an effort to offer help to people more often, whether they look like they need it or not. I'll make an effort to accept help as well, whether I need it or not.

The kids and I are trying to do good deeds every day, not for the kudos, but just because it makes a tiny part of the world a better place.
The other day, we were at a big park and a group of kids thought it was funny to shred up a discarded newspaper and throw it all over the park, then run away.
I got the kids to help me pick it all up and put it in the bin. Why? Because we're not dicks. I want my kids to have a tidy park to play in, so even though it shouldn't be my job, I do it because it needs done.
Maybe we should all stop thinking "Well, that's not my problem" and realise that we all live in the same town/country/planet and should be helping each other out as standard.

That's my new mantra for life...Offer help, accept help, and try not to be a dick.
So far, I think it's working.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Getting Organised - What's on the Menu?

One organisation tip I totally rely on these days is menu planning - I've been doing it for a few years now and it makes life so much easier!
My mum laughs at me because she can't understand how I can decide on a Saturday what I want to eat the following Wednesday, but I find the more kids I have and the busier my life is, I'd rather have dinner pre-chosen than have that 4pm "What on EARTH am I going to feed them tonight?" panic.

I'm so used to meal planning now, that on the occasional week when I really can't be arsed, things never run as smoothly. I end up wasting money because I have to make emergency trips to the supermarket (not quite a five minute job with 3 kids in tow!) and get stressed because it's all a bit last minute.

What I tend to do is run my menus from Saturday-Friday, and do my shopping early on a Saturday morning. That way, we have plenty in the house to get us through the weekend. I used to do my shopping on a Monday, but found that the weekends were always spent being moaned at by the kids because there wasn't much left in the way of cereal or snacks, so now I make sure we're well stocked up for the weekend.

I usually look through my cupboards, fridge and freezer on a Friday and try to plan my meals based around using up what's there. I hate waste! 
I do also try to have a good stash of general foods, like pasta, tinned tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, cheese etc. That way, if I forget to take something out of the freezer or plans suddenly change, I can whip up a quick pasta dish or batch of soup without having to leave the house.

Hopefully, once I start my freezer-crockpot meals, I'll only need to do very minimal weekly shops, for fresh fruit and veg, and prep time will be dramatically reduced!

Anyway, this week, I've got lots of beef mince, lamb mince and sausages in my freezer, plus garlic, butternut squash, and potatoes in the fridge, and lots of pasta and rice in the cupboard, so here's this week's menu plan based on that...

SATURDAY - Spiced chicken with Butternut Coconut Rice and roasted Cauliflower

SUNDAY - Mousakka

MONDAY - All Day Breakfast

TUESDAY - Spaghetti Bolognese

WEDNESDAY - Cassoulet and root mash

THURSDAY - Mushroom orzoto

FRIDAY - Baked salmon and egg fried rice

I do try to plan my meals around similar ingredients, so as you can see, Cassoulet and All Day Breakfast both include bacon, so I need one pack of bacon. Egg fried rice and All Day Breakfast both include eggs, so one pack of eggs, Mushroom orzoto and All Day Breakfast both need mushrooms, etc.
Just makes shopping a bit cheaper and more efficient if I'm not having to buy different ingredients for every day!

As it's summer holidays, I'll also have to plan for lunches and snacks for the kids. Lunches tend to be fairly simple, either home made soup or sandwiches. The kids also love crackerbread with things like ham or soft cheese, so I like to have those in stock, too. As long as we always have bread, crackers, cheese, ham, yoghurts, crisps and fresh fruit, there's always plenty for lunch. It also means if it's a nice day, I can chuck these things into a bag and have an impromptu picnic!

So, those are my meal planning and shopping tips...please share yours!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Getting organised - new blog series!!!

With a fourth baby arriving in November, I've decided that I really have to become more organised.

I've always been on the edges of "right on time", where I usually have things ready (for school, christmas etc) pretty much on time, give or take a bit of last minute stress.

This year, however, I'm aiming to be early. There's 4 weeks until the kids go back to school, and rather than my usual "buy uniforms/bags/stationery a couple of days before they go back", I'm hoping to get the majority bought in the coming week.

Then, I'm aiming to be organised for Tootie le Fourth's arrival. I don't need much in the way of baby stuff, but do have a heap of newborn-3 months clothes to sort, wash and iron.

I'm also aiming between the kids' return to school and the October holidays, to get everything I need for Christmas. Baby is coming in the first week of November, which means it'll be mid December before I'm driving again, plus HELLO - I'll have 4 kids, 2 under 2! So, having Christmas totally sorted before the baby's arrival would be ideal - that way, I can enjoy the October holidays with the kids, and then enjoy the first few weeks of our baby's life without stressing about other things.

Speaking of stress, food is another area I need to sort out - I'm aiming over the next few weeks to use up the contents of our freezers and cupboards (while putting aside the money I'm not spending on new food), and then I'd like to fill our freezers with crock pot meals that can be simply defrosted and chucked into the slow cooker - that way, towards the knackered, end of pregnancy phase and knackered, just had a baby phase, we can still be eating healthy home cooked food.

The "Who Needs A Cape?"  site has some brilliant ideas for crockpot meals, I'm totally planning to do one massive shop, then spend a few hours chopping veg and portioning up meals for the freezer.

So...who wants to join me in the Getting Organised challenge?

I'll post weekly menu plans (while using up our current food and when we start the new plan), and I'll update on Christmas planning and school preparation.

Come and get organised with me!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Blurred Lines

Now, the parenting manuals will tell you that there are clear rules, consistent rules, and if you follow them TO THE LETTER, your kids will be well behaved, well mannered and all round perfect.

They will sleep all night as babies, feed like little angels, and they will learn to be proper boys and girls, the type that everyone will coo over and compliment you on, and certainly never incite rolled eyes and tuts from old ladies in supermarkets.

Can I tell you a secret?

That's bollocks.

I know we would all love to have clear lines - this is acceptable, this is unacceptable - but in all honesty, most of the time, those lines will be so blurred, you'll think you've drunk that entire bottle of gin you've been eyeing up all day.


You want your baby to sleep in their own cot, so you try to be consistent and put them in there all the time, but one night you're so exhausted that you take them in beside you and just enjoy the peace.
Have you given up? Are you spoiling them? Have you undone all your hard work? Or are you just doing whatever gets you through the freaking night?
Blurred lines.

Your toddler used to be a brilliant eater, but recently will only eat ham sandwiches or cucumber - for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Are you being too soft? Will they suffer from malnutrition? Are you (le gasp!) "making a rod for your own back" by giving them what they want? Or are you just happy that they're eating anything at all?
Blurred lines.

Your 7 year old son is becoming more independent and he wants to use the men's toilets in public places because it's "embarrassing" to go to the ladies.
Do you insist that he stays where you can see him? Do you let him go? Do you hang around outside the men's loos with a desperate look in your eye?
Blurred lines.

Your child doesn't hit, or swear, or bully other kids, but she does insist on singing loudly in public.
Do you tell her to stop? Do you let her express herself? Are you worried that she's annoying other people?
Blurred lines.

The thing is, kids will test the boundaries. They will  question the rules. And you know what? They should.
Yeah, I said it. They should.

When I was nursing, it was always drummed into me the importance of being accountable for your actions. You were never to just blindly do something just because someone had asked you to - you had to understand what you were doing, why you were doing it and the likely outcome of doing it.
So, if something went wrong, you couldn't just shrug and say "Well, so-and-so told me to do that", you had to have an understanding of what you were doing.

I think it's the same with kids, it doesn't do any good to just have strict rules and boundaries, and nothing more than a "Because I said so" as your backup.

Sometimes kids will be annoying, and sometimes we have to accept that as long as they're not maiming anybody or breaking the law, they're just being kids.
Sometimes babies won't sleep, and sometimes they just need a cuddle. Sometimes toddlers will refuse to eat anything but a small handful of foodstuffs.
And that's the crux of it....sometimes.
NO child will behave according to the manual all the time. NO child will sleep all the time. NO child will let you get through every supermarket shop for the entirety of their childhood without making you want to rip your own head off just so you can throw it at them, just once.

We're human. They're human. And sometimes, you have to step back and realise that if the current rules aren't working, maybe it's time to change them, evolve them, or throw them out entirely.
They grow. They change. Everything is a phase.

So, as long as you're parenting within your chosen lines MOST OF THE TIME, take a deep breath and accept a few bumps in the road.
If you bend the rules occasionally, you're not confusing your child, you're teaching them that life isn't always straightforward. You're teaching them to be flexible, to be human, to forgive the odd mistake.
They need to adapt, they need to be flexible, and we need to be flexible too. Sometimes, learning to co-operate is so much more effective than standing either side of the invisible battle line and refusing to back down. Our kids will learn more about teamwork if we talk through our reasons for having certain rules and their reasons for not wanting to live within these rules, than if we just clamp down on them with a rod of iron.

As my son moves closer to becoming a teenager, I'm finding myself more and more often being questioned, and having to realise that, terrifying as it might be, I'm going to have to start letting go soon, bit by bit. And I think he'll trust me more and tell me more if I'm a bit openminded with him, rather than being super strict and having him go behind my back anyway.

Anyway, the lines are blurred, the whole thing is a grey area. My lines may be totally different from your lines, and our kids may occasionally go so far past the lines, they can't even see the lines (Friends reference).
But as long as we all accept ourselves and each other as the fallible, fabulous, irritating, brilliant, beautiful messes that we all are, and let go of the parenting manual ideals, I think we're all doing okay.

Not perfect, but okay.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why I love being a stay at home mum

The Stay-at-home vs. Working mum debate has been raging forever, and I've been on all sides of it...
I've been a full time working mum, and a part time working mum. I've been a work at home mum and a single mum, working 7 days a week over 3 jobs in order to make ends meet and pay off debts. I've worked from home, and as I am now, I've been a full time, stay at home mum.
I've put my kids to nurseries, childminders and grandparents, and I've had my fair share of both crying at nursery drop off because I can't bear to leave them, and counting the hours until nursery drop off because they're driving me nuts.
I've done jobs I've loved, and jobs I've hated, and I've worked both because I've had to and because I've wanted to.

So please believe me when I say, this post is in NO WAY anti-working mum, or pro-stay at home mum. Whatever side of the fence you're on, I'm on it with you, and I get it.
This is simply my story of my experience, and how I've made my peace with being a stay at home mum, and learned to truly love it.

I just realised last week that it's two years since I gave up my job at Yo! Sushi to become "just a mum", and I can honestly say I've never looked back.

Two. Years. 

That's the longest I've ever gone without a paying job, and I absolutely love it. Now, don't get me wrong, it took some adjusting, but I've finally figured out how to truly enjoy being a full time parent without going nuts. I know plenty of people who have tried being at home all the time and hated it, and I can fully sympathise, because I've tried a few times and always went running back to work with my tail between my legs.
Here's what's changed...

1) I stopped worrying about financial inequality.

This was a huge bugbear for me in the past. Generally, we tend to place value on people based not on their achievements, but on how much money they earn. I might achieve a squillion things in a day, but I don't actually earn any money for it. 
The thing is, if you've both made a joint decision to live on one income, that's simply it - it's one income for you both. Not the income of the working parent, but the joint income for your household.
At first, I believed that since my husband earned all the money, since it was paid to him, in his name, that it was his money and if I needed anything, I'd have to ask him. That's a horrible feeling, and instantly puts you below your partner, when really, you should be equals.
Luckily, my husband never thought that way, and his wage is paid into a joint account that we both have equal access to. Even then, it took me a while to get my head around the fact that I had the freedom to use this money just as much as he did.
The thing is, of course I've earned it - I keep the house running, I look after the kids, I feed everyone and generally work my arse off. Okay, so one person's job pays a wage and the other person's doesn't, but that doesn't matter. We're a team, and our money is ours to share.
The simple fact is, we both get up at the crack of dawn and work our bums off all day long, and hey presto, at the end of each week, money appears in our joint account which we both use - to pay bills, buy food, get things for the kids, and if there's anything left, we can spend it as we like.
One income. One household. Simples.

2) I accepted that we're a team

At first, I believed that as the working parent, my husband's job was to go out to work and earn money, and as the stay at home parent, my job was to take care of the house and kids.
This can lead to a crapload of resentment as some working parents will come home from work, sit down and be pleased that their work is over for the day, while the stay at home parent is run ragged and left feeling unappreciated and overworked.
In my case, my husband used to come home from work, look around and immediately pick up the hoover or start unloading the dishwasher. That made me panic, because I thought it meant that he thought I wasn't doing my job well enough. It was my job to be hoovering and tidying, and he was having to come home and do it for me! I was failing at the one thing I was supposed to do.
I'd run around after him, close to tears, saying "But I did hoover today, honest I did!", and he would reply "I know, but now it needs done again, so I'm doing it".
It took me ages to get my head around the fact that it was perfectly okay to accept his help, it didn't mean that I was failing.
At the end of the day, parenting and housekeeping is a 24 hour job. You do things, and they get undone again almost immediately. Homes and kids don't run to office hours, so instead of there being a line down the middle, saying "I work, you take care of the house", it should be accepted that during working hours, it's your partner's job to earn the money and your job to be at home, but when you're both there, it's equal opportunities all the way.
Stay at home parents should not only accept help from their working partners outside working hours, they should expect it.

3) I embraced the 24 hour job

Like I said, kids and houses don't run to office hours, so I no longer expect to get everything done during office hours. I do virtually all of the night wakings, because I've let go of the guilt of catching up during the day if need be. My husband has no choice but to be awake all day, alert and making major decisions with a boss looking over his every move. I have a lot more freedom than that, and I'm grateful.
If I'm knackered during the day, I can sit down with a cup of tea, or snooze while the baby sleeps. Yes, I have to do school runs and if Amelie is wide awake, I have to look after her, but really, how much or how little I do is my choice. I've learned that the more important stuff like sorting meals or keeping up to date with laundry and dishes can be done at any time, so if Amelie is wide awake and playing at 5am, I can throw dinner into the slow cooker, switch on the washing machine or empty the dishwasher, and then I can sleep later in the day guilt free.

4) I got over myself

Yea, I went to university. Yes, I had a career. Yes, I used to run a hospital ward, and now I run my kids to school. I also used to be a hot size 8 who could party all night and still make it to a 12 hour shift at 7am. Things change.
Why do we feel the need to almost apologise for being a stay at home parent? Why do we say to people "I'm a full time mum, but I used to be a nurse/have a law degree/run a business"? We shouldn't have to say we're full time parents without feeling the need to follow it up with something more impressive.
I'm no less important just because I don't "work". I can still have opinions and beliefs, and I can still "use my brain". We shouldn't be shamed into hating our stay at home role by people who tell us that our brains will turn to mush and we will lose our identities. That's bollocks, I'm still me. I'm just a happier me. To hell with anyone who thinks that being at home isn't important or worthwhile. 
We need to let go of what we "used to" do, and be proud of what we do now.
This is my life, this is my reality, this is my present. I'm a mum, and I judge myself on how good I am at that, nothing else.

5) I stopped comparing our roles

I used to feel horribly guilty if my husband came home from a particularly stressful day and I'd actually spent the day at a coffee morning, followed by a bit of light housework and baking cookies with the kids. I felt like a fraud, like I was somehow taking advantage of my husband.
The thing  is though, our jobs are different, but neither one is any less important than the other. I still get stressed, but in different ways to my husband. He works hard, but in different ways to me.
Both jobs are essential, and shouldn't be compared.
I've heard stay at home mums complaining that their husbands get to sit in comfortable offices all day and concentrate on one job at a time, and I've heard working dads whine that their wives just sit around socialising all day long and doing fun things like baking cookies and going to soft play.
Both are untrue - we all have our share of hard work and stress, we just need to stop comparing.

6) I'm letting go of guilt and frustration

Okay, so this one is hard, and a work in progress. Being at home can be very frustrating, because so much of our work is invisible - that is, nobody really notices what you do until you don't do it!
It's constant - you tidy, it gets messed up again, you cook, it gets eaten, you play with kids and five minutes later they're bored again.
It's annoying when you've spent all day tidying and cleaning, and in the hour between the kids coming home from school and your husband coming home, it's all undone again, which is why I used to get so upset when he'd come in and start tidying - I felt like I had to constantly justify the fact that I HAD done it that day, it had just been undone again!
I'm learning to let go of this feeling, and just go with the flow.
I do try my best to run around tidying in the moments before my husband comes home - not because I feel like I have to, just because I want us to have more time together in the evenings. Nobody wants to still be hoovering and plumping cushions at 9pm, but if things are undone when my husband comes home, I just welcome the extra pair of hands now, rather than feeling guilty.

7) I found my people

Being at home can be lonely, and a huge reason why some people hate it. If it's literally just you and the kids all day long, you do crave adult conversation.
I've been lucky this time in that I've met a group of lovely mums and we all share similar views. Nothing worse than being around parents who make you feel inadequate. Playgroups, community groups and even online groups are a great way to not only get out of the house, but also to find people you have something in common with, and have a proper grown up conversation!

8) I got out of my sweatpants

It can be so easy to fall into the trap of becoming the frumpy housewife in the baggy, stained clothes because there's no point in being anything else. After all, who's looking at you?
That's one area I do make an effort in. I read somewhere once that one of the best ways to start feeling like your job of homemaker is important is to actually start treating it like a job.
I get up and I make a to-do list, like I would if I was in a workplace. I prioritise. I shower and put on a bit of mascara and treat myself like a real person. It really makes a difference to how I feel and behave through the day.
Even if I have no intention of leaving the house beyond doing the school run, I still give myself the respect of looking halfway human - not because I feel like people will judge me if I don't, but because it makes ME feel better. 

So there you's not for everyone, and if you hate being a stay at home parent, I hear you.
For me, though, this is the best job in the world.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

5 Reasons why modern-day parenting is in crisis....really?

Now, you know me....I don't like to rant much (fnar fnar), but I recently read an article that made me neck twitch and my teeth clench and I really just feel a need to write a response to it.

The article is 5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is In Crisis, by a british nanny (my first issue right there...a nanny, not a mother, who knows how to be a mother better than the rest of us...*eyeroll*)

In the article she details the 5 main reasons why we are experiencing a parenting crisis in our modern day world. Quick! Alert the elders! We're having a crisis!
Shall we find out what awful parenting mistakes we're all making, then? Okay, here goes...


Okay, so apparently we're terrified to upset our little angels by saying "No" to them. She decsribes what she calls "the sippy cup test", where she observes, time and time again, how a toddler will have a tantrum if they're given their morning milk in a blue sippy cup, when they wanted the pink one. All too often, she says, she will see the mother's face whiten as she rushes to placate her child by getting the other cup.

Fail! What are you afraid of, mum? Who is in charge here? Let her have a tantrum, and remove yourself so you don't have to hear it. But for goodness' sake, don't make extra work for yourself just to please her -- and even more importantly, think about the lesson it teaches if you give her what she wants because she's thrown a fit.

First of all, I hate that Bully-boy attitude of challenging parents to "stand up" to their children, with the goading implication that if you don't, you must be "afraid" of your child.

I well remember the time when Charlie was 3 (and I was at a stage in my life when I found parenting very stressful and a constant battleground). We had my friend and her 3 year old over to play, and the boys were in the garden, fighting over a stick. I became very exasperated and stormed out to them, snatched the stick from their hands and threw it over the fence, shouting "There! Now there's no stick! For god's sake, it's just a stupid stick, it's not a big deal!"
My friend looked at me and quietly said "Well, it might just be a stupid stick to you, but it was a big deal to them".
She was absolutely right, of course, and I've never forgotten it.

Kids have so little control over almost every aspect of their lives, almost every decision is made for them. So it's little wonder that they place a huge emphasis on the little, insignificant (to us) things in their lives. Such as the colour of their sippy cup.

Why shouldn't they have a choice? Why shouldn't they have a preference? 

I agree with the nanny - kids do need to learn that they can't just get whatever they want because they've thrown a fit, but here's an about instead of letting them have the tantrum and refusing to budge on the issue (just because you're the adult and you can), why not get down to the child's level and explain, quietly and calmly, that you don't get what you want by screaming and shouting. Perhaps tell the child that if it's very important to them to have the pink sippy cup, they can ask for it nicely.
That way, they get the choice they wanted to be given, and you get the control of making sure they haven't just screamed for their own way.

We need to let our kids have choices and the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, these are hugely important life skills.
If you have a guest in your house, you'd offer them a drink, right? You'd say "Tea or coffee? Milk and sugar?", and you'd make your friend a drink of his/her preference.
Why don't our kids deserve to be treated with the same respect?
The reason most tantrums occur, whether from toddlers, older kids or even adults, is because they've lost control of the situation. If you offer them a choice in the first place, you show them respect, and they learn to trust that you will share control of the situation with them.

You might not give a crap what colour their cup is, but to them, it could be the only decision they've been able to make all day.

2) A Lowered Bar

When children misbehave, whether it's by way of public outburst or private surliness, parents are apt to shrug their shoulders as if to say, "That's just the way it is with kids." I assure you, it doesn't have to be. Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it's in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, chores, generosity or self-control. You don't think a child can sit through dinner at a restaurant? Rubbish. You don't think a child can clear the table without being asked? Rubbish again! The only reason they don't behave is because you haven't shown them how and you haven't expected it! It's that simple. Raise the bar and your child shall rise to the occasion.

Now, I sort of agree with this. Kids can of course help more around the house or behave in a restaurant, but I think sometimes we expect too much of kids.
We expect them not only to behave in the same way an adult would, but often better than an adult would.
They're not allowed to talk, or giggle, or make noise, or fidget when their chair is uncomfy. They aren't allowed to have any opinions of their own. They should be seen and not heard. They should take any amount of berating or insulting and never, ever answer back. What does that teach them?
That they're not as important as adults. That their needs and feelings don't matter. That they need to put up and shut up. And where does that lead?
They will either become adults who rebel and become totally selfish assholes, or complete doormats who have grown up believing that they don't have a right to stand up for themselves.

Hmm, in light of recent (terrifying) stories about child abuse in the 70s that was totally covered up because nobody would question an adult, I say that kids need to raise the bar a bit as well as parents.
I'm not suggesting for one second that kids should rule the roost AT ALL, but this "kids shut up and adults know best" attitude all the time is not my bag. We should be a team, not an us and them.


It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child. They would act as the mum and dad's eyes and ears when their children were out of sight, and everyone worked towards the same shared interest: raising proper boys and girls. 

Hmmm. Okay, I agree, we have lost the village, but not in the sense that she describes. It used to be that we had extended families, friends, neighbours and other such support systems in place, and we absolutely appreciated when other people would step in if need be.

My issue with this particular point is that my standard of acceptable behaviour might be different from yours.
Okay, if my kids were hitting other kids, I'd say right on if the other kids' parents told them off. Damn right, it's out of order and they'd be within their rights to say so.
The problem here though, is that other people might have a totally different idea of discipline, and have no right to enforce that on someone else's child.

We definitely need more of a village mentality, but more in terms of supporting each other, than everyone going around thinking they have the right to punish every child they see.


This one's a bit confusing. She starts by saying that we've become too reliant on technology to entertain our kids, and shouldn't, for example, allow them to watch a programme on a tablet while waiting for dinner in a restaurant. They should learn to wait patiently, to realise that food doesn't always come out in three minutes.
Well, I've looked around myself in public many times and seen no end of adults entertaining themselves with phones and tablets while waiting for buses, doctors, food, planes etc.
I have no issue with a child quietly playing a game on a phone while we wait for food in a restaurant. Hey, take phones and tablets away from adults in any situation that involves waiting, and I'd like to see how patiently they can wait!

The next bit is the biggie...

Babies must learn to self-soothe instead of sitting in a vibrating chair each time they're fussy. Toddlers need to pick themselves up when they fall down instead of just raising their arms to mum and dad.

Say what now? 
Babies are babies. They can't learn to self soothe - they need to be comforted when they cry. If the vibrating chair helps, why not? For goodness' sake, are we such dictators that we have to teach a baby to just suffer through a tough moment in the day, instead of being given the little bit of comfort they need?  I just don't get that at all.

As for toddlers learning to pick themselves up, yes, I agree with that, but if they're hurt and crying, then I have no problem with picking them up.
Jeez, we've got our whole lives to learn that life is unfair and sometimes you have to suffer - let kids enjoy being kids for a little while first, eh?


Wow. what a crime.
Of COURSE we put kids' needs ahead of our own, that's what parents should do! Why would we invite children into our lives, only to bemoan the fact that we can't be totally selfish anymore?

So often I see mums get up from bed again and again to fulfill the whims of their child. Or dads drop everything to run across the zoo to get their daughter a drink because she's thirsty. There is nothing wrong with not going to your child when she wants yet another glass of water at night.

Well, you know what, lady? I hope one day when you're old or ill and need a drink in the night, but can't get it for  yourself, that your caregiver refuses and tells you to wait for it.
I dislike the way that needs are confused with whims. We need to remind ourselves that kids have no control or ability to meet all of their own needs, so if they're thirsty, or need the toilet, it's our responsibility to help them meet that need.
We mustn't become such control freaks that we forget to respect the fact that our children will sometimes have needs that are not compatible with ours, and sometimes, that means that our needs have to come second.

So please, parents and caregivers from London to Los Angeles, and all over the world, ask more. Expect more. Share your struggles. Give less. And let's straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we've made for them.

Yes. Ask more. Ask your children to help you make little decisions through the day, and they will learn to respect you more for making them part of your team, rather than just a mere inconvenience in your life.

Expect more. Expect to have a better relationship with your child, as a fellow human being. Expect them to treat you with the same respect that you give to them. Lead by example.

Share your struggles. Talk to other parents, swap tips and even just have a moan together. Parenting is hard, but it doesn't have to be a battle.

Give less. Um, no. Give more - give more love, more kindness, more understanding, more time. 
Give willingly and lovingly, to the children that you have invited into your life. They are not little enemies that need to be conquered. They are our future, our legacy, and the way we treat them will become the way they treat the world.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Seven signs of ageing? Ha! I'll give you 22...

Okay, so at 34, I know I'm not "old" by any means, but here are some signs I've noticed lately that indicate I might no longer be down with the kids (and using the phrase "down with the kids" is one of them)....

1) You no longer listen to Radio One because it's full of bloody noise, and you've never heard of any of these bands anyway....

2) You start listening to Radio Two, because at least you know al the words, and it's "proper music"

3) ....but you reserve the right to be offended when the "Non Stop Oldies" start featuring songs that were released AFTER you were a legal drinking age.

4) You never go out anymore, but on the rare occasion you do go to a pub, the first thing you look for isn't the hot guys, it's somewhere to sit down.

5) If you are on a night out, you find yourself commenting on how many of these kids will catch their death because they aren't wearing a coat.

6) You notice when someone has lovely teeth, and feel the need to tell them.

7) You check the weather forecast before you leave the house, so you know what jacket to wear.

8) ....or whether to hang out washing before you go.

9) You get excited when you realise it's a good drying day.

10) You don't recognise anyone in Heat magazine.

11) You get genuinely shocked by programmes like Geordie Shore, or What Happens in Kavos, and wonder if people actually behave like that in real life.

12) You fall asleep during a movie

13) 8am is classed as a lie in

14) When you look at holidays, you're less bothered about the nightlife and more bothered about the children's facilities.

15) You start planning Christmas in June

16) You buy shoes based on comfort.

17) You find yourself comparing bunions with the old lady at the bus stop.

18) All your favourite bands are now doing reunion shows.

19) The only people your age in your favourite clothes shop are there with their daughters.

20) Your doctor is younger than you.

21)...and so is your child's teacher.

22) Your child announces that you are "Soooo embarrassing"

Actually, I just realised that all of these are actually signs of being a parent, rather than being older! Hey, maybe one day when my kids are teenagers, I'll be all cool and young again....

What about you? Any signs that you aren't down with the kids anymore?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The hardest thing about being a parent

I recently read a blog post by one of my very favourite bloggers, about why she loves the newborn stage so much, and it made my cry and cry, because she speaks the absolute truth.
She speaks about how the needs of a newborn are so clear cut, so simple, but the really tough stuff happens when kids get older and start having needs and issues that are sometimes outwith our control.

I remember when Charlie was a baby, and I thought that parenting was about as hard as anything in the world. It was relentless, exhausting, confusing and full or worry and guilt.
Why is he crying? Is he too hot? Too cold? Is he hungry? Is he tired? Why the hell won't he just go to sleep then? Has he got colic? Has he got reflux? Oh my god, does he hate me? He hates me, doesn't he?

People would say that as kids get older, it only gets harder, and I struggled to believe how that could be possible, I believed that I could cope with any amount of worry, as long as I was getting a decent sleep at night.
It's true though, in a totally non doom-and-gloom way, parenting gets easier and harder as kids get older.
As Lauren Laverne recently said in this article (which she was slated for, but I kinda agreed with), looking after a small baby is simple, in the same way that rolling a large boulder up a steep hill is simple. Hard, but simple.
They get hungry, you feed them. They get cold, you snuggle them up with a blanket. They poop, you change their nappy. Pretty much all of their needs are within your control.

The real challenges happen later, when things happen that you can't fix with a blanket or a bottle or a packet of wipes.

Both of my older kids right now have a few issues with friendships. Daisy is at that stage where kids (especially girls, in my slightly controversial opinion - purely based on experience), are starting to learn about emotional manipulation and the power of witholding friendship as a means of control...."If you don't do X, Y or Z, I won't play with you/ask you to be my class partner/invite you to my birthday party"
Now, I'm sure she uses these powers as much as anyone else in her class, but she often comes home from school with a sad face because someone has done this to her, and it's heartbreaking to know that she's having these struggles. She's still working through her own ideas of what's right and wrong, what she wants out of life, and how to cope with the decision of either giving in to someone else's demands, or having to face playing alone because she's said no.

Charlie has severe social anxiety, and often has major panic attacks. He struggles to make friends and this week was his end of primary school ceilidh, where they all celebrated the transition into secondary school.
Far from being a time of great excitement and anticipation, this has been really hard for him. They all took limos either to or from the ceilidh, and Charlie's was afterwards. However, the excitement of the hall being filled with people all running in and out in a circle, singing "Auld Lang Syne" and the hall suddenly filling with parents, as well as the knowledge of an upcoming limo ride was all too much, and Charlie had a huge panic attack.
It was so painful to watch all the other kids dancing around, giggling and running excitedly towards limos, while my boy stood under a tree in the dark playground, gasping and crying because he couldn't breathe.
Part of me wanted to scoop him up in my arms, to carry him home and protect him from everything, while another part of me wanted to shake him and scream "Why can't you just enjoy yourself like everyone else???"
So, so hard. I wish I could fix this. I wish so much that I could fix it all, make him confident, show the other kids the happy, funny, incredibly witty boy that I know and love more than life.

I wish I could stop my kids from ever being hurt, but I can't. They will have to navigate the choppy waters of growing up all by themselves (although we'll always be in the background, waiting for them). They will have to fall, not only fall down and get hurt but also fall out with friends, or fall in love with the wrong people and get their hearts broken.
They will have to be bullied, they will have to have horrible teachers and bosses, they will have to fail, they will have to get drunk and have hangovers, they will have to hurt, and bleed, and have moments where they don't know if they'll ever be able to get back up again.

That sucks.

It won't change, either. I'm 34 now and still have times where I cry to my mum about shit that's going on in my life, and she will also cry and say how much she wishes that she could fix it for me. I'm certain that she also has times when she wishes her mum was still here to fix it for her. But that's just it, we can't fix it, but we can be there.

The thing is, as much as we'd like them to stay tiny, simple babies forever, look what they'd miss out on!
I've had a lot of very crappy times. I've been bullied, I've had my heart broken, I've had horrible bosses and crappy jobs. I've failed and hurt and been abused, and I've worked my way through it all. I've learned and grown and become stronger and wiser and happier than ever.

I want my kids to have all of that.

I want them to marry the person who treats them amazingly, even though they'll write that kind of person off as being "too nice" a million times while choosing horrible twunts, until they've been hurt enough times to realise what's important.

I want them to do their dream job, but I want them to try and fail at many things until they learn what they're good at, and what makes them happy.

I want them to have awesome friends, but I want them to be bullied and mistreated and let down by enough people to understand what makes a really decent friend.

I want them to be able to afford everything they want, but I want them to struggle financially and do without and worry about money so that they have the sense to manage their money effectively.

I want them to hurt, and cry, and struggle, because as much as I desperately DON'T want any of these things to happen, I understand that it's what makes you who you are.

Most of all, I want them to know that good or bad, hurt or happy, they can always come home to mama and even if I can't make it all better, I'll goddamn well try.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The best laid plans of mums and dads go oft awry....

I've always been a planner. I'm always happiest when I have a plan of where I need to be, when I need to be there and how long it'll take. So you can imgine how hard I took it when I had kids and realised how effing difficult it can be to make a specific plan and stick to it, without any unforseen disasters.

The thing it, it comes with the territory. Kids get sick, they fall over and hurt themselves, they poop in their nappies, they get hungry, they suddenly decide on the way out of the door that they need to take something - the one thing they can't find, they need to go to the toilet, they forget things, we forget things...and on it goes. Getting anywhere on time, or at all, becomes a near impossible feat, no matter how organised you might try to be.

Sadly, this may cost you some friendships. 
Some folks will automatically Get It - I have a wonderful group of mummy friends who are all in the same boat. We make plans to see each other at least 3 times a week - but someone's kid will get ill, their mum will drop by unexpectedly, their car will break in fact, we actually see each other about once every month or two. And you know what? It's absolutely fine, nobody bitches or whines, we all understand and we just pick up where we left off.

There will be friends who think you're rude, unreliable or flaky - and I guess if they don't Get It, I can see their point. Sometimes somebody will text me and I'll reply in my head but forget to reply for real. I'll get an email just at the point where the baby is sticking her hand in the dog food or I'm running out to take Daisy to cheerleading, and I'll forget all about it. I'll make a date to see somebody, but en route to write it in my diary, the dog will puke all over the kitchen floor, and elbow deep in kitchen roll and antibacterial spray, the date will go unwritten in the diary and become totally forgotten.

Research has shown that after having a baby, your chances of being on time for plans reduce by 30%. For each subsequent child, knock another 20% off. That means that with 3 kids, I currently have a 30% chance of actually making it to a planned event on time (or at all).
After Tootie le Fourth arrives, my chances will be just 10%*

* These facts are actually not facts - I totally made them up to feel better about the fact that I'm an unreliable flake. I believe them to be true. Humour me.

It can be upsetting to feel like you're constantly lettting everyone down by being late or cancelling plans, and there are several ways to deal with this.
You could;

A) Get really distressed and decide that it's easier to just have no friends and never leave the house, like I did after my first child.

B) Get really distressed and develop a list making OCD, freaking out every half hour when things don't go exactly to plan, and end up on anxiety tablets, like I did after my second child.

C) Accept that this is life with kids and learn to go with the flow - the right people will understand and it won't be forever, like I'm doing now I've got three kids.

Just to give an example of how often things can go unexpectedly off piste, here's a rundown of the last week in my life....

SATURDAY, 10am: We decide at the last minute to take the kids to a local NCT sale. It starts at 11am, so we have an hour to get everyone ready and out the door. Easy, right?
After showering Amelie, she poops everywhere and needs another complete change. Both kids have showers and come downstairs wearing crumpled, grubby mismatched cothes they've found on the floor, so are sent to change. We both have showers. Amelie starts crying and needs milk, only we'e run out, so I nip to the shop to get some. Then Amelie falls asleep. Then we realise that the car seat is in my mum's car at her work, so Steve has to drive out and get it. By the time we make it out to the sale, it's 12.25pm and they're packing up to close. Oops.

SUNDAY: To make up for not getting to the sale, we decide to take the kids out to a local castle for Fathers' Day. Only we wake up to a vomiting Amelie. Never mind, we think, it'll be a one off.
An hour later, she vomits again. We won't be put off, we decide that fresh air and open spaces are the answer. We get ready and are heading out the door (on time), when Amelie spectacularly vomits everywhere - all over me, herself and even inside her changing bag.
That's it, plans cancelled, we eventually end up walking round the block about three hours later, just to get some air.

MONDAY: Steve and I plan a "date night" - nothing fancy, just an evening of no telly or phones, where we spend time together. 9pm is our curfew - let's get upstairs and just spend time with each other. At five to nine, Steve suddenly starts vomiting. At five past nine, I start vomiting.
By quarter past nine, we are both in bed together, writhing and moaning. Not in the good way. Mega sickness bug which keeps us both awake all night.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are all lost to the sickness bug, which blazes through our household like a forest fire - fast, sudden and relentless.

FRIDAY: We're all better, yay! I make plans to see a friend in the morning and have lunch with her, then get home and take the buggy out to meet another friend and walk to a playgroup.
At 10am, Amelie unexpectedly falls asleep so I text to say we'll be late. By 12noon, she's still soundo so I text my friend and tell her to have lunch without us. My other friend texts to cancel our playgroup plans as she now has a sickness bug. I decide not to go to playgroup and instead go to see the friend I didn't get to see in the morning.

See what I mean? Things almost never go according to plan, and I've learned that the easiest way to deal with it is just to go with the flow, skip to plan B, or C, or D, or E....

Having kids makes you a crap friend. Well, not a crap friend, but an unreliable one. It's never intentional, but like I say, most people will get it, and if they don't, well, tough.  We try our best, but it's just a fact that when your kids are young, their needs will quite rightly come first, frustrating as that can be for everyone involved.
If I haven't replied to your text for 3 days, or I've forgotten your address, or I haven't RSVP'd to your party, or I'm running late, please understand that I don't mean it, I'm probably up to my elbows in baby poop.

Anyway, how are you? I haven't seen you in ages! We must meet up for coffee soon - let's make a date....