Sharing a Chair | Blog

I get it now. 

Pre baby delirium.

Before I became a parent I had aspirations about the kind of mother I would be. You know the sorts of things, the kind of delusions that if someone mentioned them now you would laugh hysterically and then cry because you feel like a failure. But achieving the dizzy heights of full hair and make up and the latest trends minus puke stains is just not obtainable day to day - not for me anyway. 

 

I would like to think I was never judgemental towards other parents before I was one but, you know, I'm all about the honesty and there were definitely moments an eye roll would sneak out or just a slight groan when I would see certain posts on social media. One of these moments was the day that school admissions got announced, and those 'first day of school' pics in September. I can say this now because I'm a parent and I know I was an asshole. I can say this now because I'm about to go through it and get my comeuppance. Let me explain. 

 
 Those first days [Photo by  Fern Photo ]

Those first days [Photo by Fern Photo]

 

First Days.

When our beautiful son came into the world it wasn't plain sailing; I don't believe our experience was particularly rare but it was definitely new to us. It was scary and guess what? It was our first head-on with that classic parenting battle - expectation vs reality, and the battlefield that is 'your mind'. 

It's where that iconic phrase can really shine 'nothing prepares you', and I will use the usual response 'it's SO true'. Nothing prepares you for the worry and the suspense of just getting them into this world safely and your mind flits through all the time you spent, thinking about who this little being was nestled in their secret space, and you try not to panic.

Nothing prepares you for when they are here, and you want to hear that famous cry, but are they crying too much? Nothing prepares you for the love, whether it comes immediately, 2 days in or 2 months in, it will hit you somehow in your own way and there is nothing the same. 

 
 Two peas in a pod [a pod of tiredness and milk]

Two peas in a pod [a pod of tiredness and milk]

 

What now?

Then you get home and you're in awe of this ACTUAL human you've created. But what do you do with it? Then you have these crazy thoughts like 'what if I just drop him on his head?!?' 

Your days merge into one big blob of sleep, milk feeds and visitors and in my case 3am Breaking Bad escapades. You're not quite sure what the heck you have done but your old life is well and truly gone forever. But would you take it back? 

 

 
 Milk Drunk [ Fern Photo ]

Milk Drunk [Fern Photo]

 

All mums work hard.

Being a stay at home Mum I can often focus too much on all the things that are hard about being a parent because I live it every second of the day with no break times. Some people have this crazy idea that stay at home mums have an easy life where they go to cafe's and don't have to work. Well now I know (yep, I was one of them) that this is so far from the truth it's hilarious.

I have no idea how people do this parenting lark AND go out to work, and don't get me started on the amazing breed that is single parents (hi Mum), all I know is that every now and then I stop with the moaning and I just savour how lucky I am to be at home with my babies all day everyday.

Speaking of my Mum, she always told me that if I had a chance to be home with my babies, I should seriously consider it. She didn't have a choice and it broke her heart many times over. Milestones missed.

On the eve of the School admissions announcement it couldn't be anymore poignant to reflect on this amazing experience I've been lucky enough to have.

 
 Getting there through endless PJ days.

Getting there through endless PJ days.

 

Guilt.

Having been at home all day with my son I know it's going to be incredibly hard to let him go when it comes to September. I never used to understand why people cried when their children went off to school - and now I am literally crying as I write this, so there's that reality thing again.

I don't think it's going to be any easier for those parents who have to work. Just because they already have time away from their children regularly won't make it any easier. Perhaps their heart will break for the time they couldn't give, just like my Mum.

 I found Nursery and Pre School a welcome break, especially when my daughter came along, and boy do I feel guilty about that now, now that I know how precious time is. 

 Being a parent is tough and no matter what you do you will always wish you did more. 

 Resurfacing with a CHUNK

Resurfacing with a CHUNK

An ode to motherhood.

It is hard to convey what being a parent is like without cold hard experience. Releasing your child from their family bubble into a world where others may hurt them with words, or exclude them and squash their spirit, is incredibly scary but here's hoping we have a win with this one. Here's hoping reality exceeds our expectations in a good way. 

The driver, the chef, the best entertainer, she’ll overthrow a mini dictator.

A highly skilled fort engineer, with kisses that make the pain disappear.

A rep for him with that penchant for red, she’ll switch tooth for money right under your head.

She’ll fashion a costume, the best in disguise, with her Doctor’s ‘hat’ on she’ll poop analyse.

A translator, a baker, a crafty - crap maker, the role of a mum will never forsake her.

 
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The future is theirs.

To the incredible mix of parents waiting for the news of where their babies will be going to school, good luck but please don't fear.

All the sleepless nights, the dinner time battles, the supermarket tantrums and the endless kisses and cuddles have lead them to where they are now, and no matter where they end up they will always be coming home to you - their foundation, and those foundations are what will hold up their future. 

 Savouring the Pre School moments. 

Savouring the Pre School moments. 

SHARING A CHAIR | Blog

A Newborn, A Toddler and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

HI MAMA LETTERS | HYPOTHYROID MUM

Hi Mama,

As you lie there, listless on the floor next to your screaming 6-month-old daughter, your son safely preoccupied with dinner, I know you are afraid. You don't know what is happening to your body, and although the random shards of doubt try to pierce your thoughts with lies 'you're depressed', 'you're going crazy', deep down you know something else is wrong. 

 
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That night you will take off in the car like a cliché. Driving to the highest point you can find to breathe in the freshest air available. Whatever this is, it is suffocating. Your husband will be worried. 

You hear the words of others trying to reassure, but they actually lead you further away from the truth, 'two children under two is bound to be tiring', 'you're doing too much, with all this new exercise'. Your children both sleep through the night, and until two days ago the new lifestyle was making you feel the best you've ever felt. You are making inspiring moves to be better, physically and mentally and your body repays you by attacking you. Literally.

You will scream when people suggest you are depressed. You can see your life and how beautiful it is, how happy it makes you, but it is on the other side of a wall. It's out of reach. You ask yourself, perhaps this is what depression feels like? 

When you finally decide to seek help, it won't be because of the exhaustion, or the weakness in your arms and legs and it won't be because the darkness is quickly crawling into your eye line. It's the pins and needles that creep up your arm that start to scare you, like tiny knives prodding you to wake up to reality. 

The nurse practitioner is thorough, he suspects carpal tunnel and perhaps some strange virus. He is concerned about the exhaustion so requests an 'MOT'. Thank goodness you didn't listen to outside voices, thank goodness you listened to the still small voice inside. 

"You'll hear back about the blood test by the end of the week."

When the phone rings at 4:30 pm that same day and you hear the Dr state his name on the other end of the phone, your heart will skip faster than you thought possible. This confirms it, something is not right.

"You are very lucky the Nurse that you saw today was so thorough. Your Thyroid has completely stopped working, probably several months ago." You learn later that you have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and you will learn over time that the state you were diagnosed in is very rare and was found just in time. 

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You won't have any idea the ordeal you are about to undertake. It may feel like an ending and you will cry with relief that you have answers, but this is only the beginning. You need to remember how well you know your body and hold onto that. This is a tool that will keep you sane through the weeks and months that follow. You need to remember that being healthy is paramount over body image, something you now have limited control over with this disease. 

At times you wonder if you will ever feel normal again, if you will stop snapping at your husband and children, and if your marriage will survive such a huge challenge.

Let me tell you that you are so much stronger than you will ever have imagined. Most people will not understand the gravity of what you have to deal with, but the more you talk and write about the issue, the more you will find friends who suffer with you and support you through it. But you will learn it is something that cannot truly be understood unless you go through it.

Most of all you will be surer than ever that you married the most wonderful man. He will take over with the children when you are too tired to function, he will take the time to research things with you, he will cook weeks worth of meals for you to keep lifestyle goals on track and he will support and inspire you to be the best you can be each and every day. Through sickness and in health.

There is still much that you don't understand about your body, and you live in hope that one day it will fix itself. For the time being, you are told it is permanent but you have not allowed any of this to hold you back, in fact, you are reaching goals all the time. You will surprise yourself with how much you have achieved when you come out the other side of this debilitating time of learning and healing. 

 
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Never forget that yes there are others with health problems much worse than yours, but it's not a competition and you have just as much of a right to voice how you feel. I know you feel guilty about complaining, but sometimes it's all you can do to get through. 

I now know you can take anything life throws at you and you will overcome it wonderfully. 

Rebecca

 

Original letter written for Hi Mama Letters.

Sharing a Chair | Blog

5 things more irritating than poop and sick.

 

When you become a parent, there's all the classics 'Say goodbye to sleep!' (correct), 'Watch out for those explosive poops' (unfortunately very correct) and then tales of woefully feeding your baby at 3am, only for them to promptly be sick, and you have to start again. All true. All soul destroying. Of course, it's worth it, but there are some irksome elements to parenting that don't get so much airtime. There are so many things that I didn't even know about becoming a mum, specifically the toddler era. Noone is going to talk to you about the toddler/preschool stage when you're just about to have a cute tiny newborn, and thank goodness I say because they are enough to contend with. 

 
 Look how happy I am in my spotless living room with my empty washing basket and a sole cup to wash up. 

Look how happy I am in my spotless living room with my empty washing basket and a sole cup to wash up. 

 

1. The Washing

Before my son came along it was just my husband and I with our weekly load of dark washing (do we really wear that much black?) What does a baby wear? A lot of white. What do babies do? Poop. A lot. That poop is also bright yellow (soz, but it is, let's not be shy - nothing is sacred anymore, we're parents) so this makes for a lot of washing, and scrubbing and then hanging it out in the sun in the hope it will bleach out the mustard tinge because nothing you do gets that stuff out - seriously?! But readers, I'm going to be *that* person and tell you that if you are planning a second child - just you wait. My biggest tip is buy lots of baskets because they will be your new wardrobes. You will wash it, and possibly hang it out to dry before it smells like an old shed, but by this point, you will NOT want to put it away. Millions of baby and toddler socks? NO thanks. 

2. Hoovering

If you are able to convince your child to eat carefully from a plate, or eat at the table I say give that parent a medal. I try this and then give in for a quiet life. A quiet, crumb-filled life destined to a lifetime of hoovering three times a day. If anyone tries to tell you that you deserve anything less than a Dyson you tell them where to shove their dustpan and brush because you deserve the Rolls Royce of suction to maintain your sanity. 

 
 Start them young and pay them in raisins.

Start them young and pay them in raisins.

 

3. Leaving the House

This will become a nemesis for several reasons. In the early days, you won't want to leave because of the effort involved, make the most of this time. By the time you've managed to fit every belonging you own into a bag that screams 'I abandoned style to carry around squashed bananas', someone needs a poo, or has pooped and now needs a full outfit change. 

You will then go through the delightful stage of never wanting to be at home, because if you do you will fall into the deep rabbit hole of Peppa Pig (don't get me started on that brat) and Pom Bears. You realise when they look cute and peaceful in bed that you were probably a bit harsh to lose it at 9 am when they asked for their 10th snack. You then consider that perhaps tomorrow you'll do better because your step counter says you've only done 500 steps in 10 hours. 

 
 Definitely worth it....I spose.

Definitely worth it....I spose.

 

4. Washing Up

Now if you have a dishwasher then read on my friend, and perhaps keep it to yourself. We don't have room in our house, because trust me if we did it would be on my Birthday list - screw the Feminist issue. Children add to washing up at a rate akin to Keanu Reeves on a bus rigged with explosives. Even when they don't even eat they add to it. Bottles, Sterilising, Weaning, refusing a gourmet meal you've cooked from scratch and moulded to resemble a plate of fish fingers, it all adds to what feels like a never-ending Groundhog Day of fairy liquid and peeling nail varnish. 

5. Bowls (and Snackgate - all day errryday)

Now this one might just be me, so to be I'm putting it out there in a desperate attempt to find me a comrade or two. As soon as my son could ask for things (lay down the law) and show a preference (shout at me for being an idiot and not reading his mind) he decided he wanted all of his snacks presented in bowls or 'pots'. When I say all, you toddler parents will know that this means approximately 100,000 snacks per day (no *YOU'RE* exaggerating).

So let's just say for argument's sake that the snack in question is a popular chew bake bar...you remove it from the wrapper and put it in a pot as requested. Winning? No. The wrapper was meant to stay on so he can stare at it and fondle it for an hour until he decides when it's opened. So you present a new chew bar quietly cursing the price and thinking up tricks to make him eat said rejected bar tomorrow. STILL WRONG. The pot is wrong. You then ask (through gritted teeth) 'which pot would you like then darling?' he finds a perfect pot, carries it off and then you hear it. The tears. He's dropped it and the CURSED chew bar has broken in half. You try the 'you've got two now' trick, to no avail. He wants a new pot and a new bar and all you can think of is how the washing up is now mounting. AGAIN.

 
 Those bloody pots.

Those bloody pots.

 

Post originally written for Selfish Mother.

Sharing a Chair | BOOK CLUB

 
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Blogmas Day 23 | CHILDREN'S BOOKS Sharing a Chair // BOOK CLUB

Christmas Book Picks: Children

We love story time in our house and Christmas Eve is the perfect opportunity to get out the favourite Christmasy books. We keep ours safe, stored with all the decorations throughout the year so we get to discover them all over again in December. Here are a few of our favourites.

 
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The Jolly Christmas Postman

By Janet & Allan Ahlberg

 

 - This book is lovely, with interactive bits for the children to pull out and look at such as letters and cards. It integrates classic fairytales such as Goldilocks and Jack & the Beanstalk which many children will recognise. 

 
 
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The Night Before Christmas

 

By Clement C. Moore & Niroot Puttapipat. This is a classic Christmas story, but we love this pop up version with silhouette illustrations that are just beautifully intricate.

 

 
 
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God Gave us Christmas

By Lisa Tawn Bergen. This is a lovely story that combines the true meaning of Christmas with the image of presents and Santa Claus. It shows that the two can live side by side but shows us the joy and importance of remembering God at Christmas time. 

 
 
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Stick Man

By Julia Donaldson. No one writes children's books like Julia. Now a short film, this tale is all about a Daddy Stick Man trying to get home to his family at Christmas. Perfect rhyming prose for little ones this Christmas. 

 

Other books we love:

  • The Snowman | By Raymond Briggs - What a classic, it's a bit of an obvious one so we haven't included it in the above list but it would just be totally wrong not to mention it at all. 
  • The First Christmas | The Bible - We read this lots throughout December in lots of different formats - but each and every one is just as special as the other. 
  • The Gruffalo's Child | Julia Donaldson - This snowy follow up to the popular story of The Gruffalo has also been made into a Christmasy TV short and is a favourite all year round in our house. 

What are your children's favourite stories to read this time of year? Or what do you remember reading as a child at Christmas time? Let me know! 

Sharing a Chair | Blog

The Diary of an Anxious Mother

 

There’s nothing like having children to really open yourself up to a whole new world of worries and potential threats. Anxieties can be utterly debilitating and make for an exhausting way of life.

Since becoming a mum it’s like someone collected all my anxieties, threw in a few more child related ones, and then just decided to present them to me on a daily basis. I’ve never been so aware of them before in my life. I know there are others out there suffering the same, and in some cases, much worse than me.

 Photo: Fern Photo

Photo: Fern Photo

I thought long and hard about writing on this subject, because it felt as though I could never do it justice. But this is a glimpse into my story, and if it resonates with one reader then it will be worth sharing.

Monday.

10:30 am. Soft Play. There are lots of older children here, I forgot about the school holidays. They’re playing pretty rough on the bouncy castle, having intrusive thoughts of one of them landing on my son’s head and breaking his neck. Visions of me screaming and his lifeless body being bounced by the commotion around him. Sounds so dramatic when I write it down, but this is nothing compared to some of the thoughts I have. I just suppress it. He is having a whale of a time with the older boys, totally in his element. My arms are going a bit numb.

Neala is in the ball pit and there’s an older boy throwing out all the balls. I just want to tidy them up. I resist the urge. Reluctantly.

I’m writing notes for some pieces I’m working on and wondering if people just think I come to soft play so I can be freely on my phone. Almost stop doing work so people won’t think that. I don’t even know these people.

2pm. Earlier got me thinking about when Seth and Neala were babies, I used to have intrusive thoughts about dropping them on their head, onto the concrete. I’d worry that we’d just leave them somewhere and forget them, or that they’d get locked in the car screaming and I wouldn’t be able to get to them. I wonder if everyone experiences this?

Tuesday.

12pm. Remember I have a CBT session today and ironically I get anxiety about talking about my anxieties. I spend the whole time leading up to the phone appointment wondering whether I should just cancel it. I do this every week, but I never cancel. I convince myself each time that my anxieties aren’t as bad as others and perhaps I’m wasting time. Then I get talking and I realise it’s a pretty big deal, and that I worry about a lot more than I let myself believe.

3pm. Son can now unlock and open the front door, I have visions of him opening it when I’m in the toilet and my daughter running into the street and getting run over. I check that I’ve locked it quite a few times, then I have a word with myself.

Wednesday.

11:30 am. It feels like all I’ve done today is lose my temper with my son. My daughter comes over for a hug, whilst I squidge her I look over to my son and worry that he thinks I love her more. I get up and go give him a huge hug and ask him if he knows I love him more than anything. He’s fine, but I’m not reassured. I know I’ve been unreasonable and I worry that he’ll be scared of me shouting. Or just scared of me.

3pm. I read a news article about someone who’s lost their son, a similar age to my son. They’ve written a list of things we should embrace as parents and one of them is to never be too busy for hugs and kisses. I’ve told my son about 5 times that I’m very busy today, so now I feel like a complete failure on top of the shouting.

10pm. It’s pretty hot. The children have the fan on in their room and I’m unsure if it’s safe to leave it on all night. I google it for the hundredth time (this is a regular worry throughout the summer). I then come across an article about cheap iPhone chargers and leaving your phone charging overnight. Fire. Sleeping babies. Death. I get stressed and very anxious and take it out on my husband because he’s bought cheap chargers in the past. He doesn’t see the thought process, just deals with the anxiety charged anger that I now throw at him. I feel bad about myself, and still feel anxious. Time to sleep with those thoughts and feelings. Not easy. I wake up a lot and just listen.

Thursday.

1:30 pm. Daughter is in bed and son is watching something on TV. Time for reflection, but also riddled with guilt that I’m not playing with my son. I’m thinking about posting this diary and my arms are going numb, my hands shaking and my mind is thinking of all the things people will think of me. What’s worse, I’m thinking about all the people I know that may read it and I wonder what they will think of me now.

I feel the need to convince readers that I don’t shout at my children all day, everyday. I don’t love my daughter more than my son. I’m not over protective. And all the other things they could possibly think that my mind creates. This then continues to swirl and tumble around my thoughts for a good hour or so.

4pm. My son bumps into someone in the supermarket, being a 3 year old bombing about, the victim looks at me funny. Feel angry and upset all at once. What do they think of me? I look down and realise both my children are covered in banana slime and conclude that the onlooker probably thinks I’m a slob. Feel a bit ashamed.

 Photo Credit: Fern Photo

Photo Credit: Fern Photo

Friday.

9:30 am. Thinking about all this, I have got better. When my son was a few months old I set about putting him in a routine. I like routine, it helps with my anxieties, but then you could say it makes them worse. I like to know what’s happening and what to expect. The unexpected can make me lose control, and then, in my mind, that’s open for the worst to happen. I then get extremely overwhelmed and stressed.

What happened was success, the routine worked, he slept at nap time and he slept all night. So when something threatened ‘the routine’ I kind of lost it. Like really lost it. My husband and I still recall a road trip where I was completely overcome with anxiety. It was way past bedtime and my son was not yet asleep. I felt sheer panic at the thought of it all unravelling and my husband was on edge because of me. Me, and my anxieties. My arms are numb just remembering it.

When I had my daughter, things were different. She was different. I was different. I had to change, my husband had got anxious about me getting anxious. I’ll take a moment to look at the evidence now, “what’s the worst that could happen?” but instead of allowing myself to list the ‘unravelling opportunities’ as I like to call them, I list the facts and the positives that will come from embracing life instead of restricting it. I’m much better with the children and their routines, but I decided to do CBT because I’m by no means cured.

 The perfect meme. Credit: Unknown.

The perfect meme. Credit: Unknown.

I worry about my children not liking me, I worry about my husband getting irritated with me, I worry about what I am doing, I worry about what I’m not doing. I overthink about what could happen, what did happen, what I said, that I talked too much about myself, what I did, what I’ve got to do and how I’m going to do things. I worry about getting impatient with my children. I worry that they don’t get the best of me. I worry that I’ll ruin them. My brain is full.

Thankfully I know I’m not alone. I’m currently working on something that I hope may help others to overcome the unexpected parts of becoming a parent. If you think you could benefit from talking to someone then maybe speak to your GP and they can advise you or refer you to someone who can help. In the meantime, talk to other mums and dads, we’re all in it together.

Thank you for reading, please share if you think this will help someone you know who is struggling too.

Sharing a Chair | Blog

ROUTINELY TABOO: WHY GINA FORD IS MY MODERN DAY HERO

 

The one thing that is supposed to unite us all as new shell shocked parents is the fact that we are shell shocked and exhausted. Sleep, or lack there of, is our mutual ground, our conversation starter, the foundation of our newly sprouted friendship. Well, where does that leave the parents who are getting sleep? Just because they are getting sweet juicy sleep does not mean they should be shrugged off. I can sense your eye-rolling disdain, but just hear me out.

 

Last week a guy was doing some maintenance work at our house, seeing my daughter we got into conversation about his own, also a one year old. He went straight in with ‘does she sleep?’ for some reason this question always makes me clam up, because my response needs to take into account that the asker may no longer want to talk to me. “Yea, er, we’re really lucky actually she sleeps pretty well’. Honest answer: she sleeps amazing. She sleeps from 7pm–6:30am, in the same room as her big brother who is almost three; who also sleeps all night, and has done since he was 5 months old. Despite my response, luck has nothing to do with it, it’s hard work and consistency and involves coming against a lot of opinions.

I never had any pre conceptions of Gina Ford before I was a parent, in fact I’d never heard of the woman. All I had pre wet wipes and raisins was my unrealistic expectations of attending a friends dinner party, putting my children down in their spare room and tucking into my prawn cocktail like nothing had changed, idiot.

My first introduction to Gina was when my son was 4.5 months old and only sleeping for 30 mins at a time during the day, I knew he was unhappy and never seemed to be getting the full sleep he needed. I turned to social media for advice, two dear friends, who had four children between them, suggested Gina whilst the rest of the parents told me not to worry about it and that my son would work it out later on ‘make the most of it’, ‘more excuses for cuddles’ all very lovely things to suggest, but along with the suggestions to eat all the cake whilst breastfeeding I felt it was more an ‘enabling’ kind of stance, culminating in making a rod for my own back.

I bought The Contented Little Baby Book and Gina became my parenting hero. As did the two legends who suggested I check her out.

 

They say there’s no manual but…

However, I quickly learnt that parents the world over have a lot to say about Gina. And most of it is not very nice. If you DARE to follow her routines then you are a certain type of parent, in particular, a parent who isn’t adhering to their offspring’s needs as lovingly as those who take the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ approach.

I mean, let’s back up a minute. When my son was born I taught him how to feed, we worked on that smile by smiling at him and showing him how it was done, we taught him to laugh by acting like fools, we showed him how to grip things, how to wave, how to say words and in a few months time we would teach him how to eat food, how to drink from a cup, how to walk…you get the idea. As parents we are teachers. So why when it comes to sleep are they supposed to be left to their own devices and know what to do? It’s crazy to me. I don’t get why parents who wanted to show their children the correct way to sleep were berated for it. And trust me they were.

I once saw a poor woman on a parenting forum get torn apart because she offered advice in response to someone asking for it. She wasn’t forcing her views she said simply ‘this worked for me, maybe give it a try?’ I made the mistake of showing support, voicing that the routine was also working wonders for my son, now 5 months. That was it. I was the world’s worst mother, I cared more for myself than my innocent son who ‘needs your love not a regime’ I’d love to say I had a thick skin and their words didn’t hurt me or fill me with doubt, but I was a first time mum and I definitely needed some love and reassurance after that. I had no regret at standing up for the other Gina mum though, that’s something I definitely didn’t lose sleep over...

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Remember: Sleep begets sleep!

I’ve since had my daughter and we’ve been getting that full night’s sleep for months now. She has been following the routine since she was two weeks old (yes weeks), but don’t tell the trolls or I’ll probably be reported for neglect — lack of sleep can make you a bit grumpy.

Sharing a Chair | Blog

Inspirational Insta - Mums 

This piece was originally written for Country Child Magazine.

I’ve undertaken the impossible task of choosing my 5 most inspirational mums on Instagram. These are ladies who are juggling the crazy world of parenting with their own careers, whilst also finding time to build huge social media followings from their extra-curricular activities such as writing books, raising money for charity and changing perceptions left right and centre. In the past year, I’ve become a mum of two and, along the way, have discovered some amazing and inspirational mothers online who are doing it all. These are women who have really helped me to feel less alone on those doubtful days, made me laugh on the tough days and motivated me to follow my dreams. They’ve shown me that as a stay-at- home mum, you can achieve things from your living room with a baby on your hip and a toddler round your knees.

I was never really into Instagram. Like Twitter, it seemed an utterly alien environment and the politics of ‘following’ people in order to gain followers for yourself went right over my head! In total contrast, Facebook was a little comfort blanket; sticking with what and who you know. It wasn’t until I had a lifestyle overhaul and found a huge support network of others on their own health and fitness crusades that I realised Instagram was actually a place you could really feel a part of something. With like-minded allies at your fingertips, all it took was one little hashtag for me to find an international team of parents who were honest, supportive and nothing short of inspirational.

In my opinion, Instagram is revolutionary for those of us who are stuck at home; let’s face it, there are times when parenthood can be very lonely. On the poorly days (these really increase with baby number two, don’t they?) when you’re all on lockdown, there can be a real detachment from the outside world and, sure enough, those little seeds of doubt begin to nestle in, trying to convince you that you aren’t as good as the rest, and that you’re the only parent who dreams of returning to work sooner rather than later. Oh the guilt!

Some of us may find ourselves becoming the first of our friends to have children, and no matter how supportive they are, they will never quite ‘get it’. This is where social media can really come into its own; it was on those Netflix fuelled hours in the dead of night, that I stumbled upon some really wonderful ladies sharing their honest journeys and their own coping mechanisms. I knew it was love when I was still scrolling and hadn’t noticed my daughter had long since fallen asleep, whoops!

I’ve listed the ladies (and one hilarious dad also features) that kept me sane in those wee hours and continue to make me smile one year on.

1. @theyesmummum – London Hypnobirthing founder, Hollie de Cruz created the company after her own positive birth experience. Hollie shows her clients how to reach a level of relaxation and therefore enjoy an entirely different, and most importantly, completely positive birth. Hollie has had numerous high profile clients lining up to use her birthing methods, but she is also encouraging mums all over the world with her own collection of affirmation cards. ‘Yes Mum’ cards are for every significant moment in life, whether you’ve just found out you are pregnant, struggling with fertility, or even setting up your own business. Hollie has curated a set of cards for situations of doubt or anxiety and is showing us how we can achieve it all with mindfulness and positivity. If you are on Instagram you’ve probably seen her cards in many a flat lay or coffee break shot, and rightly so. Find her cards here.

2. @mother_of_daughters – Clemmie Hooper is not only a super human mother of four daughters (two of which are gorgeous 1 year old twins) but  she is also one of those heroes that most mums are in awe of, she’s a midwife. Clemmie started a blog ‘Gas and Air’, sharing women’s true birth stories and giving advice and wisdom based on her years of experience as a midwife and mum herself. She has now written a fabulous book ‘How to Grow a Baby (and push it out)’ that collates all of this wonderful wisdom into one beautifully illustrated and lovingly written ‘no nonsense’ guide to pregnancy and birth. Some of the amazing women that I feature here also appear in the book giving advice on their areas of expertise. So she’s in great company! If you follow Clemmie on Instagram you will quickly realise that her husband @father_of_daughters is a must follow too, with his hilarious behind the scenes look at Dad life and his inability to do as he’s told. Warning – you will quickly become addicted to this gorgeous family and their hilariously relatable insta stories. You can find Clemmie’s book here: How to Grow a Baby

3. @mother_pukka – Anna Whitehouse, a journalist and editor for some high-profile brands and, according to her website, a previous Vice Editor at Time Out Amsterdam, has set up her website and blog as a place for ‘news, reviews and honest comments for people who happen to be parents’. Her honest, open and friendly approach to sharing has earned her 72k followers on Instagram. Anna recently gave me her thoughts on how the photo-sharing site can be a wonderful community for parents, “No mama is an island. While many feel social media leaves you disconnected, I disagree. I remember that 3am breastfeeding loneliness and for me Instagram offers some solace in that darkness. I’ve met brilliant women through this platform and continue to be inspired by the genuine support for each other out there. Finally it’s cool to be kind.” Anna is also an advocate for flexible working, something she believes should be more widely available and not just for mums but for everyone looking for a better work/life balance. She is leading a flash mob in Trafalgar square on Friday 31 st March for The One Show to spread the word about #flexappeal. To see what it’s all about and get involved you can find the latest information on her website here or follow her Instagram for more regular updates.

4. @dresslikeamum – If fashion is your thing then Zoe de Pass is definitely worth following. Zoe is standing up to the stereotype of ‘dressing like a mum’ and that as soon as we become parents, fashion and style goes out of the window. She has an eclectic and fun sense of style; showcasing clothes from high street favourites Marks and Spencer and Topshop as well as introducing you to some brands you may not have heard of. It’s a colourful array of motherhood with lots of pink, and the weekend simply cannot begin without her infamous Friday lunge! She also has a dedicated website where you can find lots of inspiration for mum and children’s fashion, recommended beauty products, lifestyle tips and insights with stylish mums in mind. You can peruse her website here.

5. @selfishmother – Molly Gunn has been a journalist for over 15 years, she now edits her blogzine selfishmother.com as well as selling her hugely popular #GoodTees which are a selection of tshirts and sweatshirts with empowering and relatable slogans such as ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Winging It’ and the simple statement ‘Mother’. The sale of these cool products has raised over £500,000 for various charities as of February this year. Some of the charities they support are Mothers 2 Mothers, Help Refugees, Women for Women International, Stand Up to Cancer and Save the Children. This Mama is doing incredible things for families not only in the UK but internationally as well. The Selfish Mother blogzine is an open place for mums to write their own blog pieces and contribute to the site; it’s a great place to support other parents and be supported. If writing isn’t for you then why not invest in one of the clothing pieces, spotted on celebrities such as Tom and Giovanna Fletcher, Gillian Anderson, Lauren Laverne and Jamie Oliver!

If you are already on Instagram, why not follow some of these incredible ladies and see the amazing things that they get up to for yourself. Be sure to comment and tell us about the people encouraging you on social media, too. Or perhaps this blog has inspired you to become a social media hero? In which case go and share your ideas and experiences and find the amazing women supporting and encouraging each other…changing the idea that social media breeds negativity and disconnection.

Article originally published by Country Child Magazine