As I stated when I posted my first piece for this blog, I’m not the kind of mum who strives to achieve perfection. Anyone that is, in my humble opinion, is going to make themselves very miserable in the process. The way I see it, motherhood and perfectionism do not belong on the same page let alone in the same sentence.
From what I can gather from social media and blog reading, lots of mummy’s are obsessed with the idea of becoming yummy, which seems to be making them feel like crap. If you’re wrapped up in negativity about yourself it will filter down onto your babies, which surely is the opposite of the desired effect? I say buck the trend, love yourself inside and out and it will project from your every fibre making you the yummiest mummy of them all – without having to conform.
So what if you’re a dress size bigger since being pregnant, it is not the end of the world. Who cares if your house happens to be smaller than the rest of your NCT group? Seriously, look at the bigger picture. Work out what is important and focus your energy on making the world your family grows up in a happy one.
The best mums I know are the ones who are confident in their own abilities. They don’t waste their time on helicopter parenting, and trying to keep up with the Joneses. They aren’t interested in comparing your children with theirs. They learned long ago that the house did not need to look immaculate 24/7. That their kids would be much happier if they weren’t doing every activity under the sun. They don’t have overly stressful jobs to contend with at the same time as child rearing. Above all else, they have realised the lifestyle they used to have largely isn’t relevant or appropriate right now.
We all want luxuries in our lives, but in the early days of bringing up kids I personally think it’s better to make sacrifices and separate the needs from the wants. Once you’ve done this, I’m pretty sure you’ll be happier for it.
As I’ve mentioned before my hubby and I met while we were travelling. We spent our first two years together flitting back and forth from here, Australia and our beloved Asia. It was during our second year together that I made the decision to cut ties with my family. As you can imagine I was a damaged soul. We were drinking and partying way too much. Things got dark and spiralled out of control. Even the counselling I’d gone through several years earlier wasn’t enough to bring me to my senses. It all came to a head in early 2006 while we were living in Asia. We split up and returned home separately. I will definitely write more on this topic another time. For now I’d just like to set the scene.
I started working as the assistant to the Owner/Director of a group of small recruitment companies and my ex-boss made Meryl Streep look tame in The Devil Wears Prada. He would come in to work the day after watching The Apprentice and re-enact the firing Lord Al had carried out the night before. He was a nasty piece of work, but if you were on his good side then he looked after you and treated you well. I was on his good side for months, and along with a small number of others became part of his inner circle. He dangled the carrot of a six figure salary and I worked my butt off to try and achieve it. It never happened of course, doubt it ever does, but when you’ve had an upbringing like mine you can only dream of earning that type of cash.
Things turned sour between us towards the end of the year and it all kicked off on a trip to Reykjavik. No expense spared weekends away with work colleagues were par for the course. They were the boom days after all, when people had more money than sense. We were all out drinking and I happened to disagree with something he said. He didn’t take kindly to people disagreeing, which I knew, but being hammered didn’t have the good sense to filter my comments. Looking back he did me a massive favour, but at the time I wanted the ground to open and swallow me whole.
It was the morning after this occurred that I hit what alcoholics and drug addicts call rock bottom. Alone in a hotel room in a strange country not knowing how I got to bed, feeling the full effects of the 48 hour bender I had been on. I looked in the mirror and told myself it had to end. No more booze. No more partying. No more getting myself into ridiculous situations. I suppose this was my sliding doors moment, carry on as is or change my wicked ways. I chose to change and break the cycle of dysfunction I had been engrossed in all my life. Needless to say it was the hardest thing I have ever done.
I didn’t have a drink in three months, after which I taught myself how to enjoy a glass of wine and say no to a second. This was something I had never been able to do before. I realised I had thrown my relationship away and that my hubby was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Fortunately he took me back. I am still amazed that he forgave me and has never held a grudge for all I put him through.
As I enter my third pregnancy it has been occurring to me how fortunate I am to have the life I do. Each and every day I thank my lucky stars, and I never take the small stuff for granted. Had my sliding doors moment gone the other way things would have been very different.
It may sound crazy but at 34 I’m grateful for the ‘colourful life’ I’ve had. All the horrendous experiences in my earlier days have made me the person I am and if I had my time over I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing. Unsurprisingly this hasn’t always been the case. The counselling I went through in my early twenties plays a huge part in my ability to function and be normal right now. Without it I’m pretty sure I would still have my family in my life taking me for a ride on a daily basis. I’d more than likely still not have any self respect. And I probably wouldn’t be married to my darling hubby.
I was very fortunate to find a good counsellor at a time in my life where I desperately needed guidance. Nina and I instantly clicked and over the next few years she taught me to love myself. Not in a wishy washy American TV show type way, but she genuinely changed the way I viewed myself and made me realise that I deserved better than I was getting. I saw her frequently for about a year, then less so over the next few years as I was away travelling. Whenever I was in the UK I would make some to see Nina, and got so much out of our sessions I can’t even properly articulate it.
It was Nina that opened my eyes up to how much my mother and co. were taking me for granted. How I was playing the parent role and she was the lost child. In many respects it had always been this way, but after I left home I became a source of financial aid for her as well as emotional. In the first few months that I was seeing Nina I redefined the rules with my mother – taught her that it wasn’t okay to call me up at work and tell me some sob story that ended with me spending half an hour on the phone, then sending her money. That it wasn’t okay to expect me to come running to her rescue all the time. She didn’t like it one bit, but she didn’t have a choice and had to deal with it. Our relationship definitely changed for the better during this time, but other situations forced us apart in the end.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve had wobbly moments, and I didn’t come to terms with my drinking problem until a few years later (detailed post to follow) but ultimately I think Nina saved me. From my family. From my past. From myself. With her help I brought the skeletons out of the cupboard and into the open where they could be properly dealt with and ghosts laid to rest. I was able to accept my past and move forwards without glancing back the whole time. Needless to say most of my early sessions ended with me in floods of tears.
It has always baffled me that folk write off even the idea of seeing a counsellor due to the money. In my opinion mental health is the most important part of your well being. If you’re not happy then your world will not work properly. I shudder to think how damaged I would still be had I not met Nina. I know with certainty I’m only able to be the wife and mum I am today because I dealt with my past way before I started thinking about having a family of my own.
They say you’re lucky if you have two or three really good friends. Ones you’ll be taking to the grave. Friends that know every detail of your life and would never judge you for any of it. I have eight, which makes me incredibly fortunate. They’re an eclectic bunch that I’ve accumulated over the years. They have each shared important parts of my life; one is the best friend I made throughout school years, three are ex-colleagues, three ex-flatmates and one I met sitting on the stairs at a party.
From an early age I knew I couldn’t rely on my family, so I have always taken friendship more seriously than most. Once I knew who the keepers were I cultivated those relationships and have done my utmost to always be there in their hours of need. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been plain sailing. There have been times when distance was needed and periods of not speaking with most of my besties for one reason or another. We always come back to each other though. These eight people are all amazingly remarkable, and each of them have a place in my heart that is so special words alone could not do them justice.
Over the years, I have made hundreds of new ‘friends’. Some were in my life for a while, until the chemistry fizzled out and I made peace quite quickly with the situation, probably always knowing they weren’t going to stick around for long. Others have been people I genuinely considered to be on my page but later discovered they weren’t. These situations always hurt like hell. I’m going through this at the moment with a lady I’ve known for a few years. We were inseparable at one point, and I thought I’d be adding her to my take-to-the-grave list. Something changed between us (no idea what!) and during the course of this year she has become more and more distant. Her priorities have changed. She is moving in circles I’ll never frequent. She’s engrossed in a life she told me she didn’t want. I feel sad for the demise of our friendship but even sadder for her.
I must hold on to the saying that ‘people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime’. I now know which box to put her in, but it still feels a shame that it isn’t the one I thought it would be this time last year.
When I first had my 4yo one of my best friends who’d had her first baby a year before passed on this wisdom: expect one hideous day a week, don’t get upset by it or bogged down by it, just accept it and forget about it the next day. This was good advice and in the first two years was pretty much how our week used to pan out. Mostly good but without fail one, sometimes two, really bad days.
In Sept 2011 our darling firstborn stopped sleeping through and was up every night. Sometimes for 15 mins, sometimes up and down 15 times. Three months into this, heavily pregnant with our second, I was on the edge of my sanity. I was due to start mat leave just before the Xmas, but going in to work on three hours sleep was the final straw and I started it two weeks early. By the time our second daughter came along 4yo had a severe sleep deficit and ramped up the challenging behaviour. I didn’t think it could get worse than the meltdowns we had to endure in the middle of the night when the baby (then three month old) was sleeping all the way through. I was wrong.
We’re only just seeing light at the end of the tunnel. This is getting on for two years into what most people said would be a short lived phase. I am positive that we’ve made glaringly obvious mistakes, and am sure I’d do some things differently if I had the chance to, but coulda shoulda woulda and all that. At the end of April we learned (through the book How to solve your child’s sleep problems) that letting children fall asleep while you’re in their room reading, etc, will more than likely be the cause of a sleep problem. Hubby and I just assumed that’s what everyone did. Within a few weeks of changing the bedtime routine she had learned to settle herself to sleep, and that’s when we started noticing an improvement. Unfortunately bed wetting then became an issue so we reluctantly put her back into pull ups overnight. Now she is sleeping through most nights but waking early (between 5-5:30). It’s not ideal, but when you’re as sleep deprived as we’ve been this feels like the holy grail.
There is still work to be done – she has big jealousy issues towards her sister. They sometimes play so lovely together my heart actually melts watching them. Other days 4yo can’t go five minutes without having a dig. I have no idea how she’s going to react to the new baby, hopefully by February this will all be a thing of the past.
We had a rotten day on Monday, the crescendo being a half an hour tantrum then passing out for two hours (but still going to bed before 7pm). I was worried, it felt like the progress we’d been making was taking a nose dive. Then I remembered my friends advice: expect one hideous day. Fortunately the rest of our week has been on the up. It would be nice to think we can get to a place where one crappy day is as bad as it gets.