Lose the guilt… 

Today, I went shopping.

No, not food shopping.

Clothes shopping. You know, for me.

How many times have you been shopping with your little one, only to get hot, get frustrated, throw an internal tantrum and come home empty-handed?

Because no matter what you try on, it looks shit, nothing fits, your stomach has swollen to six-months-pregnant size, and your toddler is squirming and whining and shouting ‘I hungreeeeee!’, or ‘I wanna waaaalk!’, so you thrust the clothes back on the changing room rack, do a 360 with the pushchair, and storm out of the shop feeling totally deflated and demoralised. You justify your lack of clothing with the following reasons:

1. You’re not totally without clothes (despite the fact most of them have holes in, are out of shape, or barely fit you anymore) and don’t really NEED anything (apart from bras – but, well, you have bras and it’s not life and death);

and…
2. You can’t really afford it (Not to mention the hassle of trying all those clothes on with a restless toddler in tow).

So you visit the children’s section and buy your kids something (you can afford that – they need clothes more than you do).

This is me.

Pretty much every time I go shopping.

Apart from today, where I took great pleasure in a THREE-HOUR shopping trip with my littlest shopping assistant.

It was one of those rare days, where she sat as good as gold in her pushchair (Minnie Mouse and Upsy-Daisy can take some credit for this), joining in with the changing-room selfies. There were a few cries of ‘I want to get OUT!’, which were met with firm replies of ‘No,’ and promises of going to get a little treat when we’d finished.

Of course, once I’d tried on 7 dresses in two different shops, the infamous call of ‘I need a weeeeeee!’ came from inside the pushchair (I realise this makes her sound like a tiny thumbelina-type child. Actually, she is a little dot, but she’s not THAT small), and so we left the shop (minus any dress), and circled round in search of the toilets.

If you don’t have kids, you can stop reading now (because, quite frankly, you might think me sad for gushing about this).

But, if you’re a mum with young children, read on.

The new toilets in the Centre:MK are amazing!  

There’s facilities, and then there’s facilities – with kids in mind.

There is actually a dedicated child/toddler/baby change/general hangout-area within the huge, purpose-built conveniences.

Really, the American term ‘rest-room’ has to be the best way to describe it.

In addition to the main toilets, there are toilets for little ones in two dedicated unisex rooms, with a full-sized loo and a miniature one for the miniature people.

Then there’s the baby-changing area; the food-heating facilities, the private breast-feeding cubicles, and the AWESOME touch-screen TV and other play-points for the older children to entertain themselves while you feed your baby. I breastfed my own children, and I recall the struggle of desperately trying to relieve their hunger while stressing about whether anyone was watching; could they see me, would they judge me? I could never relax, and the experience of attempting to be a normal person out shopping with her baby was stressful enough to make me avoid going out.

 

Truly, I was impressed, and just had to share this on the Wiki Places For Kids site. Mums NEED to know about this place if they don’t already. It’s what we’ve been crying out for, for years.

We finally got out of there (by bribery of sweets from Mr Simms’ sweet shop for being such a good girl and getting back in her buggy), and continued our search for the perfect dress.

Three hours and some stress-less shopping later, I left the shopping centre with a luxurious dress from Coast (oh, how I have missed that shop Pre-Motherhood), and a shiny new notebook and pen. In reality, I would feel guilty. But it was such a successful shopping trip – I needed a dress for some upcoming events, I never spend money on myself, and my sweet little button was so good, we walked out of that shopping centre with smiles on our faces.


So no, I’m not going to feel guilty about indulging on my recent shopping trip. And neither should you.

Lose the guilt.

When’s the next shopping trip…? 😘

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Has Being A Stay At Home Mum Affected Your Confidence?

You’ve had the maternity-leave send off.

The baby shower.

The baby.

Your little bean is finally here – lighting your house, bringing so much life into the four walls you occupy with this little miracle – and definitely not such a ‘little bean’ anymore. Every visitor you’d ever imagined has come to meet your new arrival, and actually, you’ve felt like royalty. Everyone loves you and your baby, and you feel amazing! Life as a mum is everything you hoped it would be, and more.

Gradually, the visitors dry up. Dad goes back to work, and it’s just you and your baby. If you’re a first-time mum, you’d better hold on tight, because you’re about to ride one huge learning curve. Continue reading

Days out with kids: Brixworth Country Park, Northampton

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here, but as the girls totally loved their ‘grand day out’ (which was meant to be Brighton, but that’s another story), I felt compelled to share this little gem for anyone looking for a spontaneous free* day out.

Situated just outside of Northampton, Brixworth Country Park is free to use, with a choice of three walks, each one a different ability level/distance, so you can determine which route to take before you set off. The shortest route says to allow around 30 minutes, but it took us only 20 minutes. Continue reading

Days out with kids: Milton Keynes Museum Review

 

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A.E. and S.H. Chapman Wheelwrights – hubby’s great-grandfather

We visited the MK Museum for A Victorian Family Christmas at the beginning of December, and were pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of artefacts, displays and historical re-enactments available for the whole family. A ticket into the museum grants you repeated access for 12 months from the date of purchase.

Stepping back in time as we entered the house, we found ourselves transported to the Victorian era where crackling fires, carols and parlour games greeted us in one room, while gramophones and organ grinders entertained us in another. The rooms were small so pushchairs are not advisable, and I would recommend keeping your little ones close by to avoid small fingers grabbing at valuable relics! If you have toddlers you may want to visit the museum at a quieter time when the organisers aren’t running one of the many exciting events presented throughout the year, as space is quite tight in places. Having said that, all of the staff are incredibly welcoming and helpful. We were welcomed through with a warming glass of mulled wine, which we enjoyed while the kids did some colouring and created their own Christmas crafts in the old recreated school room, giving us a chance to peruse some of the material on display.

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Toy General Store

From here, there were classic toys – ancient rocking horses (not to be climbed on!), Victorian dolls and many, many more that your children will love to see – and probably want to touch. Some items can be handled, however others will have obvious signs if they’re out of bounds.

There was a wheelwright’s workshop (below), an old laundry room, a fire grate in the ‘kitchen’, where the youngsters could have a go at making some toast, and beyond here we marvelled at the old-fashioned shops, including a replica of a local chemist, a pub, a Post Office (selling sweeties in a jar), and a cobblers, to name a few. There is so much there to see and do, you simply can’t see it all at once.

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Wheelwright’s workshop

Older children will be fascinated by the history found in this museum, while younger children will love role play with the endless number of telephones on display here. As mentioned before, it’s perhaps not a great place for unruly toddlers, but generally speaking (if you’re not of a nervous disposition or have very well-behaved small people), this is a great way to keep the whole family entertained, especially if you’re looking for an unconventional few hours away from home.

This review was written for Wiki Places For Kids – for parents who are looking for a stress-free time out. 

Poppy’s poem

A single flame wavers gently in our living room tonight, in memory of Poppy Chapman.

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Today is pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day, and across the world at 7pm, candles are being lit for all those who have lost a baby before or after birth.

For those who don’t know, we lost a baby in 2013 at 27 weeks, to foetal hydrops. I won’t go into the details but I did want to share a poem I wrote for her during the worst point of bereavement, when we had the impossible task of arranging her funeral.

It’s raw, and a little piece of me I only feel able to share now, over 2 years later. She’d have been 2 last month, if she’d not been so poorly and gone full term. We now have another beautiful girl, who is 8 months old now and keeping us firmly on our toes.

But Poppy will always be in our thoughts, and forever in our hearts.

This poem is for anyone who has felt such incredible loss, and I hope they can find a little peace from it. Xxx

Wild flower, free spirit;
Dance lightly as the summer breeze
Caresses your petals
Like Mummy’s breath on tender cheeks

Butterfly wings; rest on blossoms
Of Endless Love and Little Kisses
In the garden grown for you
Filled with memories and wishes

Shimmering star; shine for us
High up in the night sky
Glistening like a suspended tear
Pleading ‘Daddy, do not cry’

For you’ll be with us always
We’ll never be apart
Until we meet again
You are forever in our hearts

Good night little petal,
love Mummy and Daddy
Sleep tight little flower,
Our beautiful Poppy

Donations can be sent to SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death charity) by texting WAVE15 and the amount (e.g. £5) to 70070. Proceeds go towards improving bereavement care and funding research into preventing baby death. http://www.babyloss-awareness.org

‘A day off?’ she laughed. ‘Don’t be silly dear, I’m a mother.’

I decided to take a day off today.

I never stop. Never. Never get a day off. Never get to just impulsively hop in my car and disappear for the day. Not without intricate planning. That is a luxury pre-parenthood. Because, let’s face it, once you become a parent, your life is no longer your own.

Oh no, wait, I'm a mom
Oh no, wait, I’m a mom

As a writer, I’m always pushing myself to work at every spare opportunity I get to myself, which means ‘me’ time regrettably takes a back seat. Whatever my vocation in life may be, whether I work in retail, in an office, or from home; first and foremost I am a mother, and I guarantee every single mother will identify with this.

Your day starts as soon as you open your eyes, when the first thing you hear is the click of your child’s bedroom door down the hall, followed by a mini-elephant running across the landing and bursting into your bedroom. The first thing you feel, is your child’s knee in your stomach and elbow in your face as they climb up next to you for morning cuddles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE morning cuddles, but occasionally I get to experience that rare moment of waking up before my child, when I have just a few precious minutes to gather my thoughts before the day starts. And so it begins. A long, challenging day of random conversations, cleaning, washing, fetching drinks, snacks, chiding, coaxing, pleading, prising crayons out of sticky mitts before they connect with the wall, rocking in the corner… right up until that delicious hour before your own bedtime, when you get to do your best impression of a stoned zombie. Except, for me, this is also my time to catch up on other necessities like texts from family and friends, social networking, not to mention the growing list of catch up TV which is clogging up the Sky box. When I do get to bed, I like to indulge in making a dent in my To Be Read pile, which I manage for approximately half an hour before my eyes start to roll back in my head. This is all providing I haven’t had numerous return-calls upstairs to check the wet and windy weather, or say goodnight to the moon, or change a nappy, fetch a drink, or just for a cuddle (I don’t mind this one, of course). If I’m lucky, I’ll get a full seven hours with no interruptions, although this is rare.
Once again, before we know it, we’ve come full circle and are doing it all again.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my life, I really do. I left the security of a full-time salary in favour of looking after my family while working on my writing career, with only one income coming into our home. I make no secret of the fact that my husband is the bread-winner, although some days I really miss having an income of my own [sobs]. But the fact remains that whether I have an office job, or am a stay-at-home mum while trying desperately to create an income of my own from home, my main role – motherhood – never stops. A mother is on call 24/7, has the patience of a saint (mostly, with off days), is the peacemaker, home-maker, problem-solver, nutritionist, nurse, counsellor, and many more.

Anyone who thinks being a parent is easy – particularly being a stay-at-home mum (and childminders will identify with this) has clearly never done it.

Motherhood – no, scratch that – parenthood (not forgetting the stay-at-home Dads whose wives go out into the ‘real world’ to earn the main income) – is bloody hard work. But, when all is said and done, it’s also the most rewarding job in the world, and I wouldn’t change it for a second.

I have to go now. Someone just pulled the entire toilet roll off the holder.

Important note: As indicated by this blog post, any mention of time-off was theoretical and never actually happened.