Safe Sleep vs No Sleep: It’s All About Balance

If you’d asked me four months ago whether I would ever let my baby sleep in bed with me, I would have vehemently shaken my head.  Who would allow a baby into an adults bed in the night? Don’t they know the risks?  Can you imagine what would happen!??  And yet, here we are, four months later with a sixteen week old baby firmly planted on the mattress every night.

We read the brochures over and over regarding putting baby ‘back to sleep’.  ‘I’ll never let my baby sleep any other way’, I thought and yet night after night we find ourselves putting him down on his side.

“We’ll only use sleeping bags, never a loose blanket – those things are suffocation risks”.  Guess what? He goes to bed nightly loosely wrapped in a muslin blanket which he loves to put up around his face and sometimes over it.

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If you’re anything like pre-baby me, you’re probably thinking we’re recklessly endangering our baby’s life.  All the pre-baby literature you’re given, the talks from the midwife, the recommended practices confirm the best way to reduce SIDS risks is to put baby on a separate sleeping surface to you, in your room, with no loose blankets or covers.  Baby should be put down on their back and if they roll, we were advised to roll them gently back over until they could competently roll from front to back and vice versa (then it all goes out the window!).  THAT, we were informed, is safe sleep.

But what if safe sleep = no sleep?!

For the first few weeks of our sons existence we did our level best to follow these headings, terrified that if we strayed from one part, we would be endangering the very being we’re trying so hard to protect.  Night after night, I would sit upright to feed, petrified of dropping off mid-feed and rolling on to him, or worse, dropping him.  I would slowly transfer him into his bed, painstakingly slowly removing my body from his millimetre by millimetre whilst hunched in a torturous position half in and half out of the moses basket.  I would watch him for hours as he flung his arms outwards, waking himself up in shock before we re-started the teeth-pullingly painful process of getting him back to sleep and transferred into his own bed only to have to repeat the process twenty minutes later.  It was hideous.  We were zombies and all three of us weren’t sleeping.  We just couldn’t do it.  We were failing.

The first night he came in with us, I cried in the morning.  I was so ashamed that I’d ‘put my baby at risk’ all because I couldn’t cope with the sleeplessness.  I admitted it to no-one, my husband and I firmly agreeing that it would just be the once, and yet, the next night it happened again.  We practiced safe bedsharing and yet still we felt we were doing it wrong.

It took going to see a breast-feeding support worker to help me see that we were putting too much pressure on ourselves.  If I’m exhausted when I feed, there IS A chance that I’ll fall asleep onto my baby or drop him (which.. when he was in hospital for a bug and exhaustion was well and truly set in, I very nearly did lose him out the arm of a chair!)  She pointed out we were far better to PLAN to fall asleep.  By positioning myself in a way that allowed me to safely hold him should either of us drop off and practice laid-back breast feeding, we were able to relax a bit more.

Next, we reluctantly mentioned the bed-sharing to the health visitor.  We’ve had mixed dealings with our HVs in terms of usefulness and tactfulness but this time she told us exactly what we needed, in that moment, to hear.  IT’S ABOUT BALANCE.

It’s about balancing the risks of us being exhausted vs the risks of non ‘safe-sleep’.

It’s about balancing him sleeping peacefully on his side vs him thrashing around on his back and screaming.

It’s about balancing him snoring next to me in bed (albeit a quilt and pillow removed one) vs him not sleeping at all in his next-to-me.

It’s about balancing our needs as a family in order to function vs his safety.

Every evening, we carefully go about a bedtime routine of change, feed and put down.  Our child sleeps on his side.  We’ve tried forcing him to sleep on his back but he hates it and as the doctor said “If he likes to sleep on his side, let him”.  Yes, it’s not QUITE as safe as sleeping on his back but… he. sleeps.  We wrap him in a muslin blanket which he often pulls around his face.  Yes, it’s loose.  But again, a tight blanket or his sleeping bag just makes him scream.  Yes, there’s a risk.  We’ve minimised it by using cellular or muslin blankets that are thin so he can still breathe through them should it go over his face.

Finally, we always put him down in his own bed.  At nearly four months, he’s still waking to feed every two/three hours (something we’re about to start trying to change!) and will take a substantial feed each time.  So, in the middle of the night, when we’re on the second or third feed and he’s unsettled, we’ll make the decision about whether or not he comes in with us.  It means I end up with little room, trying to share his muslin blanket (I never win!) BUT it gets us some settled sleep.  We follow all the guidelines for bed-sharing as outlined by the NHS wherever possible and it’s allowed us to function as a family without the guilt of feeling like we’re failing to protect our child.

Safe sleep is important.  But so is sanity.  And as with so many aspects of parenthood, we’re learning that it’s ALL about balance.


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Mama, wife and recovering sleep addict, Hayley spends the majority of her time bouncing her newborn son.  When she’s not setting herself up for future knee surgery, she can be found attempting to cook, exploring Devon and frantically Googling parenting questions.  You can follow her parenthood adventures at www.devonmama.com, on Twitter or on Instagram

Lunch Rut? 5 Steps To Dig Yourself Out

Are you in a lunch rut? Everyone loves a good sarnie. Don’t get me wrong here, there is a lot to be said for an easy peasy cheese sandwich and they often go down better than anything else. But it is nice to have something else to add into the mix; particularly if your kids are going through a fussy phase.

I sometimes find myself stuck for ideas so I went back through the last couple of months to see what we ate. I have also come up with a few tips to make lunches fun and a few new ideas.

1. Same food different approach

If you have wraps a lot, make a quesidilla. Pasta…have spaghetti with carrot noodles (I don’t have a spiralizer I have a £5 julienne peeler that works fine). Bread? Try rye. You like what you like and that’s cool. So begin by thinking just a little outside the box.

2. Flip it around

Make your fruit dessert the star of the show and have a smaller, savoury dish. The other day I put a whole tomato in with Dex’s fruit salad to see if it would encourage him to try it. It did. (He still didn’t like it, mind. But he tried it!)

3. Picnics!

Even if it’s peeing it down. Change where you eat. Sometimes a change of scenery can encourage everyone to try something different.

4. Something hot

Anyone else forget you can have a hot dinner at lunchtime? Actually, most kids have a hot meal when they stay at school or nursery so why don’t I do it more at home? I have a recipe for a risotto that is lovely for lunch just here.

5. Make it fun

Dips. Pictures. Colour. Sharing plates. A bit of something new with the yummy and familiar. Houmous and grapes, rainbow rice, sharing a massive fruit salad by dipping it in yoghurt or melted choc. Wrap your leftovers up in a little puff pastry or use a cookie cutter to make something looks cool. This sausage and mash took 30 seconds longer than usual and I’m NO artist!

You know all this. But sometimes it’s good to remind yourself you can break out of the crusty box.


Faye Colegate is a mama, wife, teacher, baker and blogger. She loves colour, fun and the outdoors. Her blog is a place for families to find out about cool stuff, read the odd parent musing and find fun and easy recipes that everyone can eat. Visit her blog here and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

The Ghost At The Classroom Door

This week social media is alive with pictures of little children smiling at the school gate, clutching brand new book bags and sporting shiny shoes. Tips for parents on how to cope with their child’s first day, tales of parents who couldn’t wait for this moment and of those who are dreading it fill my news-feed on an hourly basis.

We should be joining them, you and I.

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As I drop your big sister off at school for her first day back, I glance at the reception classrooms with trepidation. For the first time I see the classroom your sister inhabited during her reception year in a new light. Knowing we should be among the hub-bub of photos and hugs outside the doors causes an additional kind of sadness to wash over me. This is one I haven’t yet experienced in the spectrum of sorrow you left me with.

For the first time, I see the friends you’ll never have and the mums I’ll never to talk to. Introductions we’ll never make, play-dates we’ll never attend and jokes we’ll never share. These friendships hang in the air like a fine mist. They are an invisible curtain of abstract words and experiences hanging over the playground.

Until now, these people have only existed, as you do, in my imagination. Yet suddenly here they are. I can actually see them. If life had been kinder to us, we would be with them on their first day of school and part of their lives from today onward.

I can almost touch the birthday parties you’ll never attend and Christmas plays I’ll never see you in. Friendships will bloom without your input. They’ll never know you were supposed to be there.

I want to run over and tell them all you should be there. I want to meet your teacher and view the spot on the classroom carpet where you should be sitting. I feel angry that you’ve been robbed of your rightful place yet again. A kaleidoscope of missed experiences unfolds before me, running like a river through my heart.

Of course, I’ll look like a mad woman if I go over there. Some days grief makes you mad, to an extent that’s hard for others to understand.

As I see tiny child by tiny child enter their new classroom, I wonder how you would have fared on your first day. Would you be one of the bounders, running in without a backwards glance, or a leg clinger – unable to let go of me? Perhaps you would take after your sister who was a mixture of the two? The few hours we spent together during your only day of life didn’t leave me with any answers to these and many more questions.

I don’t even know what you would look like in your royal blue cardigan and grey dress. I imagine your hair and eyes to be dark, as they were during your short life. I picture a cheeky grin and an air of confidence about you as you wave me off.

And suddenly, there you are. The ghost at the classroom door.

You were notably absent from our first-day-of-school photos this morning. You should have been arm-in-arm with your sister and brother. A stab of guilt slices through me as it so often does when I think about you. Would your brother even be in those photos if you were? Would he even exist? I tell myself to abandon this guilt-filled conundrum for the time being. The answer lies just beyond my reach.

There is a hole in all our family photos, a gap where you should take your place. A voice missing when your brother and sister laugh together and a pair of legs which quite doesn’t keep up with them when they run and play. A shadow with human form joins in with all our endeavors. Your presence grows stronger with our desire for you to be part of it all.

Today you are the ghost at the classroom door. Yesterday you were the ghost of our cliff top walk. I felt you careering through the breeze and darting through the long grass as we walked. A different ghost of you exists for every occasion. You are the sunbeam dancing through my window in the morning and a whisper of wind through the trees at night. Expanding, contracting and shifting shape as you fill us with eternal love and regret.

I watch the reception teachers chivvy along children and parents alike, completely unaware of the fact there is a name missing from the register. Uniform never purchased and labelled, a lunch box never filled, a hand never to be raised and a pencil never picked up. Your friends embark on this milestone together while, just like first words and first steps, it has passed you by.

As always, for you we can only imagine. We will always imagine.

I wonder how many other mamas are doing the same this morning, how many other children should be starting reception, how many other hearts feel clogged with sorrow. A small army of classroom ghosts who never had the chance to be real pupils.

From today onward, I’ll see you there. Smiling and waving from the classroom door as you wait for class to begin.


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Aimee Foster is the co-founder of mum friendship website, Mum Amie, where she also blogs about parenting, baby loss and well-being. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

10 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me

When you have children you shed your old skin like a snake and Motherhood is woven into the new one. While your role is to care for, teach and nurture your children, you realise that you have become a student again too.

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Motherhood’s lessons can be brutal – she takes no prisoners. It’s not for sissies, that’s for sure. But after a while, when Motherhood has held your hand through all the joys, stresses and frustrations she has brought you, you begin to realise just how much you have learned and how thankful you are that Motherhood is your teacher.

Here are ten things I have learned since becoming a mum:

  1. WHO I REALLY AM

When I look back to my pre-children days, I can now see that I had no idea who I was and what I wanted from life. I went with the flow, my strengths and weaknesses were never truly tested in the way they are when Motherhood has her finger on the pulse.

Motherhood appeared on the scene like a full length mirror. She said, ‘Have a good look. This is who you really are, like it or not’. In all honesty, I didn’t much like a lot of what I saw. But thanks to Motherhood’s patience and determination I was able to change and start transforming into the person my kids deserve me to be.

  1. TO APPRECIATE THE SMALL THINGS

I always thought the defining moments in life were the big ones. Graduating, landing a good job, buying a house, going on a dream holiday and so on. I was never really present before I had kids, my mind always racing ahead to covet the next big prize.

Motherhood has taught me that the most joy can be found in the everyday moments. Moments you don’t plan and work towards. Moments such as my kids laughing and playing in the paddling pool. Or watching my husband piggy back them around the garden before they all collapse in laughter. A sleeping baby snuggled on my chest.  The sound of my toddler saying, ‘Wuv woo Mummy!’ Singing and dancing around the kitchen to questionable 90s music. That sort of thing.

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Life is a tapestry woven together by moments like these. The thread interlacing each moment is thin and delicate. If you’re not careful, if your mind is somewhere else, you can blink and miss these beautiful moments altogether.

  1. TO APPRECIATE ‘ME-TIME’

Before children, I didn’t really have any concept of what ‘me-time’ was. Yes there was work of course but there were also weekend lie-ins, holidays, long baths, pamper days and lazy times spent doing what I wanted to do. Motherhood claimed all that with a cheeky grin and a knowing wink. For some time it is gone.

What she has given back instead, is a deep appreciation and gratitude for any limited amount of me-time I am offered. This can be something as ridiculous as a trip to Tesco alone. If I ever have a spare hour to go to Costa and read my book, I savour every second in the same way I’d savour each mouthful of a decadent chocolate cake.

Not a moment of me-time is wasted nowadays; each one being deeply appreciated.

  1. LOVE NEVER DIES

My second daughter died at one day old. I worried for a long time that as time ticked on I would lose my limited memories of her, that my feelings would fade because our time together was so short. I can honestly say this hasn’t happened. If I close my eyes now, more than four years after her birth and passing, I can still see her little face, smell her hair and feel her tiny body in my arms. The love that passed between us is still as strong and fierce today as it was during the hours she lived.

Motherhood teaches you that love is eternal. It never fades. It leaves an imprint and shapes your soul. However painful that love may have been it stays forever, reaching out to you in your darkest hours like a candle which can never be blown out.

  1. PATIENCE

When you become a mum, you need to grow some patience and fast. This may be fine if you were a patient person to begin with but if, like me, you are naturally impatient it can be quite a task.

I’m not going to lie, I still struggle with patience occasionally but it has become much easier as the years chug on.

  1. A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH FAILURE

I used to do anything to avoid failure. This often involved never trying in the first place. However, within motherhood failure is a daily given. I make daily mistakes and yes, I do fail as I learn. But my love for my kids makes the failures worthwhile.

Motherhood has taught me that when you truly love something (or in this case someone) you can accept the failures as you progress on your journey. Failure and success are intertwined; they are part of the same big picture. Failure is nothing to be scared of. It’s part of life.

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  1. FORGIVENESS

By forgiveness, I mean the ability to forgive myself for my flaws and mistakes. Motherhood digs them up and exposes them in the most ruthless manner.  You must learn the art of self-forgiveness if you want to survive.

We all make parenting mistakes, that’s a daily given. Discovering the art of learning from them, forgiving yourself and moving on is crucial.

  1. TO GIVE UP THE QUEST FOR BALANCE

Forget balance. It’s just not possible. Motherhood has taught me that. Furthermore, in trying to achieve it you just make yourself more miserable.

We all have too many balls in the air at any given point. Motherhood often whispers in my ear, ‘Just drop one. It’s ok. You can pick it up tomorrow.’

You know what? She’s right. I can’t maintain all the balls I’m juggling all the time. Trying to do so is a waste of time and energy. Instead, I’ll just do my best in the knowledge that my best is all I can do.

  1. SILENCE IS GOLDEN

Motherhood is loud. If it’s not irritating singing toys with flashing lights or children crying, shouting and screaming, it’s the Peppa Pig theme tune rampaging unchecked through your head.

Someone’s always talking to you, vomiting on you or fighting with their sibling. Peace, quiet and calm quickly become extinct and it’s not until that happens you realise how much you miss them.

Motherhood makes you appreciate the old adage, ‘silence is golden’. And when the toys have temporarily stopped beeping and the only sound escaping from the kids is the gentle sound of their sleepy chests rising and falling, you welcome the silence like a besotted girl welcoming her soldier fiancé back from war.

Soak it up and reel it in; when you’re a mother silence is the new black.

  1. STRENGTH

There’s no initiation to motherhood and certainly no easing you in gently. From day one your strength is tested to the limit. How much sleep deprivation can you handle? Can you cope with the hormones and changes to your body while looking after a new and fully dependant being?

And as they grow older it doesn’t let up. Toddler tantrums, playground problems, eating issues, bedtime refusals – motherhood is one big strength and endurance test.

My emotional strength was called upon during my second pregnancy, when I knew from 20 weeks onwards that my baby wasn’t likely to make it. The deep, powerful love that motherhood triggers, helped me find the strength to carry her and carry on after she died.

Until I became a mother I didn’t know I had it in me. I’m sure all mums feel the same. We should be proud of ourselves for rocking the strength thing.

If I’m honest I could carry on with hundreds more things motherhood has taught me. It’s hard to limit it to 10.

I’d love to hear from other mums, what has motherhood taught you?


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Aimee Foster is the co-founder of mum friendship website, Mum Amie, where she also blogs about parenting, baby loss and well-being. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Coping With Tears At Nursery Drop Off

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt over the last eight months, it’s that in terms of every day parenting of a pre-schooler, there aren’t many things that are worse than when you drop them off at nursery only to be traumatised by their huge desire to not want to be left, followed by an influx of tears and pleas of “Mummy don’t go!” The result? Feeling like the shittiest parent that ever walked the earth.

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Ethan started nursery in January. He was later than a lot of kids his age, but we have been quite lucky in terms of having grandparents to help with our childcare and last year when my Mum was so poorly, it wasn’t the right time for him to be starting somewhere so new and daunting when things were so unusual at home for him. As soon as he got his government funded hours we were happy to send him for a couple of mornings a week while I worked. He had got to an age where he needed to mix more and develop his social skills and so far he’s been amazing!

As expected at the beginning it took a bit of getting used to and I was prepared for the quivering bottom lip and the teary goodbyes and of course, they happened, but they soon settled down and he began to really enjoy it. It’s worked wonders for him too. He has come on leaps and bounds in those eight months and we were beyond proud at our last parents evening when we were told how brilliant he’s doing.

Then the Summer holiday’s started. Ethan goes to his usual sessions in the Summer as he has enough hours to spread across the year. The case isn’t the same for all of the other children and so he’s found himself amongst some new children. Some older, some younger and its most definitely not as busy. Somehow and for some reason this has seriously upset him.

For the last two weeks I have had such a bad time during nursery drop off. Tears before getting out of the car. ‘Big cuddles’ that he won’t release me from. Outstretched arms reaching for me as I walk out of the door and me sat in the car trying to pull myself together only to burst into tears with the sadness and guilt of leaving behind my upset little boy. There it is again. The shittiest Mum in the world feeling.
Of course after ten minutes he is usually fine. (Save for the first day this happened when I had to go and pick him up. That has never happened before). Once he’s been there a little while he settles down and enjoys himself. But we don’t see that bit do we? For the rest of our day all we can visualise is the bright red face with the streaming eyes and the snotty nose and the sound of “Mummy don’t go!” on repeat. For the rest of our day we live in a pit of guilt.

Ethan’s nursery is fantastic and thankfully so are all the staff. They are brilliantly understanding and are always a great help when it comes to the ‘big goodbye’. They always let me know he’s okay as well which is reassuring when you’re in the middle of a guilt trip trauma. His key worker is wonderful with him and he loves her to pieces. I’m so glad they have such a good relationship otherwise this phase would be so much worse.

Needless to say, Tuesday and Thursday mornings are fast becoming my least favourite times of the week. I wake up anxious and I know that in turn, that probably makes him anxious, but I’m not a robot and I can’t switch off my emotions. It’s something we will just have to get through together.

I know the phase will likely be over as fast as it began and I take comfort in that fact. But until that day, I’ll be the one sat outside nursery in my car trying to pull myself together to go about my day. But at the same time safe in the knowledge that there’s another Mum out there doing exactly the same thing.

 


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Jaki is a thirtysomething Mumma to one – winging motherhood since 2012. Intuitive over-thinker with a penchant for loud music, nice shoes & woolly socks and blogger at JakiJellz.

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Top Ten Toddler Time Saving Tips

I’m just coming to the end of two weeks annual leave and it’s been great; exactly the break I needed after a really stressful and busy month at work.

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The first week I got to enjoy some much needed quality time with the Child and the second week I packed her back off to nursery and had three days to myself. It was bliss and certainly helped me get back into my blogging groove. But it did get me wondering how on earth I was going to keep up this momentum once I’m back at work. The Child obviously takes up most of my time outside of work so I’ve decided if I can save a few  toddlers minutes here and there I’ll free up enough time to continue blogging as I want. After a bit of experimenting I’ve come up with the following my top ten toddler time-saving tips.

1. Don’t wash them
I mean what is the actual point? They’re only going to get dirty again and if you stop washing them, eventually they’re natural oils will start cleaning them. Probably.

I would also suggest forgoing the twice-daily teeth clean but I’m not a monster.

2. Do the crafts yourself
If, like me, your toddler is unable to follow Pinterest’s 86-step guide on making an scale model of the Jurassic period complete with a glitter, solar-powered meteorite that is timed to hit the model at noon every day, then just stick CBeebies on, make the model yourself and just say your toddler did it. Maybe accompany the Facebook post with a photo of said toddler with an artfully applied smear of paint on their nose. CUTE!

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3. Get a dog
This cuts down your ‘sweeping up food from the floor time’ to zero. Sure, you might spend time sweeping up the dogs hair because he seems to shed ALL THE DAMN TIME but, if you don’t sweep it up eventually all the balls of fur mat together and you look like you’ve got a chic new carpet that requires no hoovering. Double time-saving whammy high-five.

4. Never leave the house.
It’s just easier but you might want to occasionally stick their arms out a window to get some Vitamin D.

5. Don’t cook from scratch
No one really cares except you and, if you’re honest, you only care a little bit when Netmums or Jamie Oliver tell you to. The sooner we all accept that toddlers just want to eat toast and oven-baked crap the less time we can all waste blending, simmering and creaming. And for those days you do care, just prop a colour photo of what you could have made on the table in front of you and call it imaginary play.

6. Forget potty training
Let’s face it, when they’re in their eighties our toddlers are going to start shitting themselves again anyway so just skip the 78 years between now and then and give everyone a break.

7. Superglue any removable parts to toys
If I could add up the amount of time I’ve spent looking for Elsa’s bloody shoe (which doesn’t even belong to the Elsa doll the Child has but her cousin’s Elsa doll) I’d be a blogging superstar by now (because it’s obvs only time that’s stopping me becoming a blogging superstar and not a complete lack of personal marketing nouse or writing ability).

8. Fill the paddling pool with sun tan lotion

Why spend time chasing a toddler round the garden whilst squirting sun tan cream randomly in the hope some of it comes into contact with their skin, only for them for spend 10 minutes in the paddling pool before you have to repeat the whole sorry episode when you can combine the two activities? Phew, long sentence.

9. Limit all extra-curricular activities to those that don’t require your attendance

If you do have to leave the house because the children require some mental stimulation and/or physical exercise (selfish) find a class that you can perform the old ‘hug and roll’ recommended by that 90’s documentary Friends. I favour our local ballet class on a Saturday morning – the minute the teacher suggested parents no longer needed to stay I was out of there and in Costa drinking a Chai Latte before the first naughty toe had even been imagined.

10. Give up taking the perfect selfie

Life is too short for that shit.


Me and the ChildHi, I’m Suzanne and after spending my twenties thinking about all the things I’d write if I had the time I’m determined to spend my thirties actually writing. As a mum of a two-year old, my blog – and another ten things – explores the funnier side of parenting and life in lists of ten. I originally set it up as a way to make myself write regularly but two months in I’m completely hooked on blogging. One day I’d love to make a living from writing but for now it’s how I spend my evening between my daughter’s bathtime and catching up on Neighbours. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Five Stay At Home Mum Survival Tips

I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for almost seven years now. Most days serve up a bewildering contrast of mayhem and monotony, which took me a while to get used to (as did many aspects of parenting. I’ll be fully used it any day now, I promise). While no day is the same, every day is built around the same routine. At 8.50am we’ll be running late for school, at 5.30pm you will most certainly find me on my hands and knees scraping food off my kitchen floor while trying to avoid being flattened by a trike and at 7pm you will hear a welcome ‘glug-glug’ as wine meets glass.

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During this time, I have learned a few things that have become inherent to my survival. I’m sure they apply equally to working mums as well, I’m just writing this from a stay-at-home perspective because that’s my experience. There’s no judgement here. I think all mums are superheroes, so let’s just park that there. Good.

AVOID CABIN FEVER AT ALL COSTS

If I don’t leave the house for a day, something strange happens. My skin goes a kind of dull green colour, my teeth become pointy and scales break out over my back. Yep, I become a bit of a monster.

There’s only one way to cure this affliction and it’s pretty simple – step outside the house. I go for a walk, to a play group or to see a friend. If I’m really stuck for things to do, I might take my son to Tesco, which is great exercise for mind and body as I try to stop him poking his finger through the cling film on the packets of mushrooms (sorry, that was him).

If you start to feel clucky, just go. Even if you have nowhere to go, find somewhere. Leave your four walls before they start closing in. Staying indoors all day is the equivalent of torture to me. You may as well put me on the rack. I see all the house work that needs doing, I feel closeted and my patience levels decrease significantly. That’s why wind, rain, hail or shine you will find me on the outside of my castle for at least part of the day.

I know how hard it can be to leave the house sometimes. Are the efforts of packing the changing bag, battling to put the toddler’s shoes on and retrieving the keys from inside the cat’s litter tray worth it? Yes!

FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET

I’m not talking about finger painting and Play Doh; I mean find some kind of creativity just for you. My thing is writing and I fiercely guard the time I spend alone with a pen and a pretty notebook. Not only are these precious, snatched moments crucial for my own sanity, but if I didn’t make the effort to find time for this my family would undoubtedly suffer too.

Make finding time for your own creativity a priority – put it right up there with feeding and clothing your kids.

My favourite opportunity to indulge in a bit of ‘me time’ used to be while my kids napped. Generally, by the time evening arrives in all its peaceful glory, I’m too exhausted to do anything useful.

Sadly, naps are now a thing of the past. Instead I have taken to waking up earlier than the rest of the house. This is damn early, around 5am, but it’s more than worth it. Silence, a hot cup of coffee and some time to write – I can’t think of a more perfect start to the day.

If you think you’re not a creative person, think again. You don’ have to have a passion, just follow your curiosity (you could start by reading Liz Gilbert’s book Big Magic, Creative Living Without Fear if you need some inspiration). Remember this isn’t about being the best at or even good at what you choose to do. Pure enjoyment, fulfilment and release – that’s what you’re aiming for.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR MUM FRIENDS

I love my mum friends with a kind of unspoken desperation I hope they never notice. This is not only because they understand my deepest fears, don’t wear judgy pants and have bottomless biscuit tins but also because no mum is an island. When I had my first daughter, I was an island for a while; it was a lonely and miserable place.

My mum friends are there to support me when my son terrorises other kids at toddler groups, for providing witty observations and solutions to my problems and, of course, for well-needed nights out.  Sometimes we even do well-being type stuff like Pilates under the pretence of having a playdate. Moments like this are completely necessary for keeping my sanity intact, even with my toddler sitting on my lady bits while my leg is elevated 90 degrees, screaming ‘mummy up!’

I know how hard it can be to make a good group of mum friends, especially if you’re shy and you haven’t got a ready-made network of other mums to connect with. I know it can take a long time and a lot of effort. I get it. But trust me on this, it is worth it.

KEEP YOUR CV UPDATED

I’ve been a stay at home mum for almost seven years. When I do eventually try to re-join the workplace, I’m going to need to provide references. I’ll also have to demonstrate that my skills amount to more than the ability to prevent a toddler from gauging his eyes out with a spoon.

My advice to anyone who is planning to spend a prolonged period away from employment is to try and avoid a blank space on your CV. Take part in some kind of voluntary or other work experience to keep your existing skills topped up and learn new ones.

I volunteered for my daughter’s pre-school for three years and then started volunteering for another charity. I also ran my own business for a few years before my son was born. All of this has enabled me to learn countless new skills, which is especially important because I have no intention of returning to the type of work I did before I had kids. Through trying new things I’ve been able to forge a career path of sorts and I now have clarity about what I want to do in the future.

There have been many other advantages to volunteer work. I’ve met some amazing people who have become good friends, I feel like I’m making a difference somewhere other than my home and my CV doesn’t look like the inside of Joey Essex’s head.

LEARN TO GIVE YOURSELF TIME OUT

When every day is pretty much the same, you get to know your trigger points pretty quickly. For me, it’s between the hours of 5 and 7pm when I’m tired, slightly irritated and yet, somewhat unfairly, need to exert monumental energy into the dinner, bath and bed routine. As much I love my children, by 5pm I’m more than ready for them to merrily make their way to the land of nod.

It doesn’t take much to send me careering over the edge during these twilight hours. My son having a dump in the bath or someone deciding to empty a tub of magic sand over the living room carpet, for example.

No-one wants to be shouty, stress mum, but all too often that’s exactly what I become. However, when I feel myself about to snap, I try to walk away and have a self-imposed time out for five minutes. A few deep breaths, a slight perspective check (it’s only sand in the living room not a landmine) and a reminder to push on through because bedtime is in sight all help me to keep my cool.

It’s ok to walk away for a while. In fact, most of the time, it’s essential to do so.

Motherhood, as well as being deeply rewarding, is damn hard at times. I’ve found that introducing small, reliable processes for coping can make all the difference. As can wine.

Surviving with your sanity intact – that’s what it’s all about. Although, I now have the Hokey Cokey running through my head so perhaps it hasn’t worked as well as I thought?


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Aimee Foster is the co-founder of mum friendship website, Mum Amie, where she also blogs about parenting, baby loss and well-being. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.