The life of a full time working mum!

I’ll be honest this isn’t exactly my dream scenario. I’d love to be a stay-at-home mummy, playing with Emily, helping her to explore the world and comforting her when she’s sad. I’m jealous of all stay-at-home parents. 

Dan is a stay-at-home dad, well ish. This was a tough decision. I really didn’t want to go back to work but everything said it was the best thing for our family. Me going back to work full time meant that financially Dan didn’t have to work at all, Emily would be at home with one or both of us at all times and best of all we would get weekends and 13 weeks holiday a year together as family. Plus I get to use my qualifications and keep my career going.  Good, right?

The problem is that going work breaks my heart everyday. Each morning I get out of bed and have to leave the rest of my family behind for 9-10 hours or more. One morning Emily said “Mummy” just as I climbed out of bed and I was on the verge of tears all day. Every night when I put her to bed I know that will be another 21 hours before I get a proper cuddle and to play with her again. It’s making me cry just thinking about it!

I trust Dan completely with looking after Emily and she adores him. But the emotional and physical impact that being away from her has on me is huge and goes almost unacknowledged by my place of work. But I think the same is true of most work places. Women who return to work are expected to carry on as they left off. They are expected to commit fully, do overtime, hang around for late meetings and not think about that tiny human that they are leaving behind. I’ve had several parents evenings and what not recently and I just cannot bring myself to stay at work and not see Emily that day. It’s an awful thought and I don’t know why anyone should expect me to do it either. 

When I first went back to work I was expressing 2-3 times a day. In my own time. I’d have a pump in one hand and a sandwich in the other then chuck the milk in fridge and head straight back off to teach or whatever I was doing. After my first full week back at work I remember driving home on the Friday evening and literally cheering because I could “just breastfeed” over the weekend, rather than all the other paraphernalia.  It is so draining. 

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike my job, before I became a parent I loved teaching. I’d regularly do 12 hour days, offer to work weekends and take work home in the evenings too. But now any part of my job that keeps me away from Emily and Dan any longer than I have to just makes me hate it more and more and I don’t want to feel like that. 

The work of mothers is completely overlooked by our patriarchal society. Yes, feminists fought for my right to a career and respect whilst I’m at it, but now we need feminism to fight for motherhood.  There are many mothers out there who have chosen to stay at home with their children and they too face emotional challenges coming to terms with things such as dependence on their partners for income and falling behind in their careers. It seems unfair that our choices do not receive the respect they deserve from society. 

All I really ask from anyone is not to assume that I’m glad for a chance to sit down and a cuppa tea or that I’m happy that I’m able maintain my career or that I’m lucky my husband let me come back to work, because I want nothing more than to be at home with my husband and daughter. These comments could not be further from the truth. (Don’t misinterpret this as me wanting to steal my husband’s time with my daughter. I appreciate his right to be with her too.) 

When I was younger, my parents said that if I worked hard enough I could be anything I want to be. Well now I want to be a stay-at-home mother, how hard do I have to work for that?

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Den Day 2016

I’m quite keen that Emily knows that she is priveledged. That she has things that other people don’t have and that she shows gratitude for them but also works to help other people get them too.  Naturally I’d like for her to grow up and win the Nobel Peace prize or something but baby steps eh?

Last year we did the Splashathon and Emily raised money for Tommy’s by doing an underwater swim. This year we took part in Save the Children’s Den Day. It was awesome!

I want charitable activities for Emily to be enjoyable and memorable with the hope that she will want to do more of them. Den Day was definitely that. I had loads of fun making different dens out of various bits and pieces. I had asked Dan to bring some boxes home from work too. In the end we made four dens. 


Top left we have our permanent den: House Den. Top right was Ball Pool Den. Bottom left: Book Den and bottom right is Music Den. 

I liked the idea of themed dens for the kids to play in so that there was something new to attract them to each one.  Dan and I made sure that adults could fit in them too because, you know, we wanted to. 

We invited a few friends of ours with kids and set them loose to play. It was great to see the children explore each den one at a time and appreciate the different things in each. Ball Pool Den was the most popular but it took a lot of bloody work to ensure that the balls stayed in it and not all over the downstairs of our house.  I loved seeing the mums and dads play with their kids in the dens too and of course enjoyed joining Emily in her playing too. 

When it was all over the house was a state! But the dens were largely still standing. More importantly Emily and her friends managed to raise over £100 for Save the Children and we had good fun too. Thank you to everyone who donated! 

A different form of creativity!

I would not describe myself as a creative person. I can’t sing, paint, draw, dance, write poetry or stories or even choose an outfit than comes in anything other than monochrome. But I am quite good putting together sensory or messy play activities for Emily. 

Small world tuff trays

I have done quite a few of these. The tuff tray is an amazing piece of equipment and we use it for all sorts.  I love using them to create “small worlds” and with these come all sorts of other experiences. 


What the Ladybird heard/ Farmyard theme


Edible dinosaur island

Artic

Noah’s ark

Rock pool

Zoo


Village

These are really satisfying to make. I used to try and make them as sensory as possible by including things that made noises, or fresh herbs to give smell and taste sensations. Plus they are visually pleasing and give you a real opportunity to use some topical language. I sometimes make these to coincide with an activity we have done. For example I did the rockpool one a couple of days after we had visited the beach and the Sealife Centre. I did the zoo one after a visit and tried as best I could to replicate the animals and the layout of the zoo. This helps to consolidate experiences and form connections between the real and the imaginary. 

Other tuff trays

Tuff trays are great for all sorts of other stuff too. They provide a great surface for messy play or for water or sand play. Here’s a few things I’ve used it for. 

Easter egg hunt

Painting with yoghurt

Playing with foods (rice, pasta and potatoes)

We have also used it for gardening by planting seeds in milk cartons, as a car wash for cleaning the Cozy Coupe, as a paddling pool and all sorts. We love our tuff tray! It contains the mess and is easy to clean.  The options for what you can use a tuff tray for are endless.  It is great for exploring physics, such as textures, materials, capacity, gravity etc and developing skills. If there is something I want Emily to learn I just have a look around the house and see what I can chuck in it. 

Themed “holes”

Setting up a themed tuff tray can take a lot of effort so I decided to do a mini version. We’ve got an IKEA Kallax shelving unit and I’ve decided to keep one or two of the sections free. I then set up different toys in this space with a different theme. Sometimes it is a small world idea, like a farm or creepy crawlies. Other days it might be something like weather or making a noise or getting dressed.  This is also a great way to circulate toys and make sure that all toys get played with. 

Dinosaur hole


Noah’s ark and Weather holes

Sensory baths

These are great! I love jazzing up a bath time by chucking in a few bits and pieces. Our favourite things have been when we have had a bath in the dark and used light up toys. We’ve played with flashing ice cubes and glow sticks. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to share as the ones I do have all contain a super smiley naked Emily. But sensory baths are a good way to encourage water play and water confidence. It helps children learn about why things float, how water moves and they can manipulate it. Plus you can distract them with a glow stick whilst you wash their hair!

Light boxes

Really easy to make and fun to play with.  Basically just a clear plastic box with some fairy lights in it. 


Sensory blocks to explore colours

We have use a light box to explore colours, shapes and shadows. We’ve painted on them and seen how the thickness of the paint affects the amount of light that comes through. We’ve changed the colour of the lights inside to see how that affects the colours of other objects. There’s so much explorative learning that can be done and the whole thing costs about a fiver to make. Although you’ll get through batteries pretty quick. 

Other sensory toys

I’ve made several other sensory toys too. When Emily was little I made sensory pouches. 

These allowed Emily to explore playing with small objects without me worrying that she was going to eat them and choke. As an added bonus they were squidgy and felt sort of cold. 

I’ve made various sensory and calm down jars too. These are my weather sensory jars:


We try and match them up to the weather outside. Emily also likes shaking them and watching the things move around inside and seeing if they make a noise, because they are round they are good to roll too. 


These are my rainbow calm down jars. Each jar has something different in it. Each thing looks different, moves differently and can be used to represent different emotions or temperatures or seasons. Again simple to make but if I was making them again I’d have used better bottles. These are a bit flimsy. 
Well that is that! That’s how I channel my creativity that I never thought I had. I make random stuff for Emily to play with. Feel free to steal any of my ideas, I probably stole them from someone else anyway. Also if you need inspiration on a theme, feel free to ask. Chances are I’ve got an idea that you might like. 😊

Adventures in Baby-led Weaning World

Emily’s first encounter with food came when she was 26 weeks old, just two days short of turning six months. This is the recommended age to start solid food and Dan and I have always been keen to listen to the advice offered by people who know their stuff. 

Dan booked the week off work and I prepared all the “accessories” that I thought we need for weaning. I bought high chairs, Doidy cups, plastic plates and bowls, bibs and a selection of Tupperware. It was wonderful, guilt-free shopping! Every time the postman would knock on the door to deliver another parcel, I just look at Dan, shrug my shoulders and say “What?! It’s for weaning!” Dan didn’t seem to mind then. 

The big day finally came and it was stupidly hectic, but we managed to fit in a spot of lunch. This was our first opportunity to see how Emily would respond to food. We strapped her into her high chair, put her bib on, filled up her Doidy with water and then placed two sticks of cucumber in front her. We both did our best to let her get on with and not stare too much. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long for something to happen. The cucumber sticks had barely landed in front of her when out comes a chubby little hand to redirect it into her mouth. And that was it. Emily’s first food! Granted she quickly pulled it back out again, looked it and then us with pure confusion, but it was back in the mouth in no time. 

For us there has been no looking back since. Emily has had a huge variety of food. For vegetables she has had potato, carrot, brown onion, red onion, a rainbow selection of peppers, parsnips, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes in all shapes and sizes, courgette, aubergine, runner beans, peas, mange tout. Fruit she has had apples, pears, strawberries, orange, satsumas, raspberries, melon, mango, plums, avocado, pineapple, banana. Meat she has had chicken, pork, beef, lamb, turkey. She’s even had more than one type of fish too, tuna and cod, which is shocking for me.

Dan and I have done our best to be as creative as we can when it comes to meals and aim to make things as exciting as possibly for everyone.  However, two months down the line and your culinary flare begins to falter. It’s not that I can’t think of good ideas, nor is it that I don’t have the time or even that I’m lazy. It’s just that after two hours of simmering a paella made from scratch with freshly bought, chopped, washed and fried ingredients to see it used both as a fingering painting set and to redecorate your kitchen breaks your heart a little bit.  

 Currently my day goes like so: boob, play, prepare breakfast, “eat” breakfast, clean up after breakfast, boob, nap, play, boob, prepare lunch, “eat” lunch, clean up after lunch, nap, boob, play, boob, prepare dinner, “eat” dinner, bath time, PJs, boob, bedtime, clean up after dinner, boob, sit down, boob, go to bed! And apparently I’m meant to fit some effing snacks in there somewhere too. Not mention meeting some developmental milestones and changing a few nappies. Weaning rapidly turns into a void in which you shovel all free time. 

That said I love baby led weaning! I love that we can eat out as a family and Emily enjoys the same food that Dan and I do. Plus the food provides a good source of entertainment. Smearing avocado over a table at Nandos will occupy an 8 month old for a good few minutes, leaving me free to eat chicken and hold a conversation. A hefty supply of said avocado can mean you finish your meal with happy faces all round. 

Yes there are days when Emily has carrot sticks because they make no mess. Yes there is food stuck to the underside of the kitchen table that I can’t remember having. And yes meals have been consumed with the entire family sat in the underwear to avoid doing the washing. But Emily loves foods and we love watching her enjoy it. Particularly when you see her swallow and that giant sized bit of broccoli disappears forever. Well not quite forever…

Liquid gold for all!

The bottom drawer of our freezer has been otherwise out of use for a while. Well not completely, as it has been home to litres of breast milk. I’d stored it up thinking that Emily might take a bottle and that I could maybe have left her with Dan on the odd occasion. However that never really happened. Emily will take milk from a cup but she would rather not if she has a choice. This meant that my ever increasing stash of milk was sat in my freezer rapidly heading towards a date when it would be unusable. 

This led me to turn to Human Milk for Human Babies UK. I’d discovered this group a while back. They are essentially a platform for the sharing of milk. People post on the group whether they are looking for milk (expressed or a wet nurse) or if they have milk to donate. Participants are encouraged to get to know each other to ensure that they are happy with the arrangement and then you share. It’s what woman in this country used to do. It’s what woman in countries around the world still do. And it’s gaining popularity again here.  

 A simple idea really; if you’ve got lots of boob juice, give it to those that want it. Now before people start freaking out I have a couple of points to make. Firstly milk sharing is recommended by the World Health Organisation above the use of formula. It goes: breastfeeding, expressed breast milk, a wet nurse, donated breast milk then formula. Secondly the “normal” alternative, formula, comes from an entirely different animal, not just another member of the same species. Finally HM4HBUK recommends that those receiving milk do whatever research they need to be happy with it. This includes requesting copies of medical records from donors. This is a choice. No one is forced into this. 

Anyway I follow this group on Facebook and I knew that the milk would need using soon. I had been meaning to post that I had this milk available, however I was beaten to it. Another mother in my area posted that she was looking for milk for her little boy. He is a similar age to Emily and needed the milk to top up that he received from his mother by pumping. I made contact and before I knew it I was handing our milk over. In a carrier bag of all things. An M&S one though. Classy!

I can’t pretend that I didn’t feel pretty good about this. It’s quite something to have helped someone in a personal way. There’s a child out there who continues to grow and thrive because of milk I made. I made it! Therefore I’d encourage others to do the same. Some hospitals around the UK have milk banks where you can donate breast milk to help sick or premature babies. If you don’t have a hospital like this nearby, then think about Human Milk for Human Babies. Maybe you can find someone there who will come to your house and thank you endlessly for a gift that you can make in your sleep. 

My child is not a genius (but yours ain’t either)

Emily is a smart cookie. She’s an early developer and is demonstrating new skills at a younger than average age. However I am under no illusions about her. Maybe it’s just the fact that my mum is great at spotting the things she does or maybe her curious personality inspires her to learn things quickly. Whatever it is, in my eyes she’s phenomenal, but she is still a baby. 

Now the reason I mention this is because I have recently become acquainted with a woman who seems to have given birth to the next Albert Einstein. Her wonder child is capable of doing the most amazing things. Or so she says. 

Please don’t think I’m a jealous mum or that this is one of those “let’s not compare our children” posts. I do compare Emily to other children, but I don’t get hung up on the findings and that’s the difference. This demi-god however has got me seething. 

This woman has put her kid (or should I refer to him as “Oh, Superior One!) down for a new baby signing certificate every week since his first lesson! So on the first lesson he was supposedly meant to have signed four bleeding signs, during the lesson! Unlikely! Well actually she claims that she has been signing to him from birth and that how he has picked these things up. Still I shout “un-bloody-likely”! I nearly put my hand up when he got his first certificate and said “I smell bullshit!” but there were babies around so I didn’t. 

This tiny superhuman is only 7 months old and was born 6 weeks premature, so he is actually like 5 and half weeks, but apparently he can sign this:

  

Again I say, “unlikely!”

I guess at this point I should apologise if I’m wrong. One day this mental powerhouse might grow up and save the world or at least invent some new piece of technology for me to waste away my day. If he does then I’ll do my best to hunt down his mother, then get on my knees and beg for forgiveness. Until that that day though, I reserve the right to roll my eyes, snigger at each certificate and bitch like crazy about her with my other baby signing friends. It’s practically a hobby!

My best parenting is…

When I get up without muttering (or screaming) profanities even though Emily has woken up for the sixth time in one night. 

When I power through the burn to lift Emily in the air one more time. 

When I continue with the bedtime routine and marathon feeding session knowing that my curry is getting cold downstairs. 

When I spend 45 minutes staring at the wall in silence because Emily fell asleep on me and I don’t want to wake her, but all entertainment is just out of reach.  

 When I let Emily gum my jaw or chin or hand, even though it hurts, because I know it helps her with teething.

When I manage to keep singing through a nappy change even though the smell makes me want to gag. 

When I spend an hour preparing everything then 15 minutes walking in the rain, to go to a baby class that lasts half an hour. 

When I burn my fingers taking the sausages off the baking tray because all my kitchen utensils are in Emily’s toy box. 

When I spend all my “me time” on Pinterest looking for cool activities for Emily and I to do the next day.  

 

When I hear my toast pop up but continue with the remain 307 verses of Row, row, row your boat. 

Boobs on tour!

In previous posts, I’ve talked about breastfeeding out and about. This is now something that really doesn’t bother me. I know I’m allowed to do it and I know that it’s in everyone’s best interests for me to do it and, most importantly, I will feed my hungry child wherever and whenever she wants. 

I have big boobs. Therefore, being discreet whilst breastfeeding can be a bit of a challenge. If I try and expose a small bit of boob, Emily struggles to latch on properly, so I pretty much need full boob outage. I do my best to cover up a bit, mostly because if it’s sunny the glare off my pasty white boob is blinding. But if I can’t or don’t want to cover up then I won’t. It’s tough. 

Anyway today Emily and I went to visit my sister who lives in London. We headed down on the train and met my sis and her friend at the station. My sister had arranged for us to meet her housemate where she works, at the Houses of Pariament, so that’s where we went. We had a  quick look around and then had some lunch in the canteen. Now the canteen has a veranda that is right on the Thames. This was the view.   

 What an amazing place to have lunch, in the Houses of Parliament overlooking some of the most iconic parts of London. Emily had lunch there too. That’s right, I got my boob out in the Houses of Parliament. There was me collecting the local landmarks of Norfolk and then I go and breastfeed there. That pretty much trumps all of the other locations. 

It was good fun too. We joked that nobody would dare say anything there because if they did it would definitely get in the news. I actually got quite excited about this idea. But it was great to do it in the place where the laws were created to protect me doing just that. Quite something really. 

On our adventures today I got the boobs out in a few other places too: four times on the train and once in St James Park overlooking Buckingham Palace. It was an awesome day and I’ll definitely do it again. Emily was adorable and was melting the hearts of many Londoners. I’m tired but super proud and happy. 

 

Parent-at-work mother!

This week at work it is our annual summer school event. During we this week we invite any vulnerable students, who are joining the school in September, along to the school to work with a circus team. It’s a brilliant event. Anyway I’ve been going into work every day for the last three days and taking Emily with me. Honestly it’s been exhausting!

So before I had Emily, I worked pretty hard. I’d do long hours, getting there at 7:30am and I’d regularly stay until 6/7:00pm. If there was a parents evening it could quite easily be gone 9:00pm before I got home. In teaching you don’t get breaks. If you eat, drink or wee at some point during the day then it’s been an easy day. My job requires an element of brain power too. I have to think about managing staff, utilising resources, budgets, funding, dealing with students and their parents and reporting all this back to the bosses. There’s lots more normal teacher-y stuff too. My point is that it can be hard work and I would regularly come home, eat dinner, stick on Bake Off and crash out on the sofa. 

Now my days are equally as challenging but in vastly different ways. I dress, feed, change and entertain Emily. On top of this I try and do some housework and cook dinner. I also try and go out and about so that Emily gets to see her family and have new experiences. In my head I’m constantly thinking about when the last feed/nappy change/nap was and planning when and how the next one will take place. My point is that it can be hard work and I regularly put Emily to bed, eat dinner, stick on Bake Off and crash out on the sofa. 

  
This week I’ve dabbled with doing both. In reality I did both to a substandard level. Work got snippets of my attention between looking after Emily and dealing with her basic needs. And Emily missed out on my full attention for which I feel genuinely guilty. I don’t think she suffered in anyway. She still got plenty of boob, regular nappy changes and naps. She also got loads of attention from adults and children. On top of that she experienced her first circus (ish), which she was enthralled by. I think it’s more that I missed her in the times when I was having a brief conversation about timetabling or looking over the provision maps for year 7. During these times she was normally peering out of her sling and babbling in attempt to have her say on the matter.  

 I can tell you for certain though that trying to work and mother stimultaneously is a near impossible task. I achieved it for a collective total of about six minutes this week and I’m bloody exhausted. I won’t be doing it too often that’s for sure and anyone that does is a hero. 

“My day”: Life as a five month old baby (Part 1)

6:40 It’s getting light now and I really need a wee so I think I’ll wake up. I’m not sure if my mummy and daddy still love me this morning though, so I better do a little cry to check. *cries* Oh they do still love me! I’ll have that wee now then.*farts* Yay! Booby time!

7:00 I like these bits in the morning when Mummy lets me roll around naked on my mat. Ooh look a rattle! I better roll there and get it. It tastes nice, just like it did yesterday. Oh no! I’m on my stomach again. Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Turn me over! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Oh thank goodness! I really don’t like that. Ooh look a wooden spoon. I better roll there and get it…  

7:30 Mummy does this every morning. She puts that spoon in that bowl and it comes out with stuff on it. Then she puts it in her mouth and bam! the stuff is gone. I just can’t figure this out. Maybe if I watch really closely one more time. Nope! Still clueless. And what the hell is with that cup?! I like the pattern on it though. I think I’ll try and lick it. 

8:00 Daddy! I love his beard! And his hair. I’ll grab a handful of both and try and suck his nose. That’ll definitely wake him up. Actually I’m getting quite sleepy myself. I’ll have a little whine and kick my legs about to let them know. WHAT ARE THEY DOING?! I’m tired that does not mean that I want to sleep. I just want to complain about it. 

9:30 Ok, so the nap was pretty good! Didn’t nap for long though, wouldn’t want Mummy to miss me. Plus I’ve got things to do today. Need more milk first though. Wahey! There it is! *glug glug* Oh no! Not the clothes again. I don’t want to put my head through there. No! No! Aah! That wasn’t as bad as I thought. Oh no! Not my arm. Please don’t put it in there. Aaaah! It’s in. Leave the other one alone. Leave it! Noooo! Oh! It’s over! This is a pretty dress. I wonder what it tastes like. 

10:00 Mummy is singing again. I love this one but I’m not sure why she keeps referring to my toes as piggies. The good bit is coming up! Hehehehe! That tickles! Do it again! Yes! Hahaha! Woo! I’m flying! It’s  so high up. I hope Mummy has got me. I’m a rocket going to the moon! Aaaah!