How can we be(come) a great parent?

It’s a well known fact that we learn from the examples we are set. That this is ingrained into us from the youngest of ages. That when all is said and done, we are essentially the products of our upbringing.

So how are we supposed to be(come) great parents when our own parents didn’t do a great job with raising us? If learnt behaviour shapes our entire lives, what about the less than desirable behaviour we learn while we’re growing up?

We need to unlearn it (and the sooner we start, the better)

Why? Because trying to conquer our own demons whilst raising a family is mind blowingly hard. So it’s best to get a head start on the things we know are going to cause us trouble. If we can bury those monsters before having kids, then fantastic. If we need a bit more help later down the line, then we have to be honest with ourselves and recognise it.

For those new around here, I’m the survivor of a seriously dysfunctional childhood. The biggest examples I was set during my formative years were the complete opposite of what it means to be a great parent.

There was very little, if any, consideration given to how a decision or consequences of certain behaviour would affect the kids. Things were done cack handedly and reactively. The adults never took stock of what was happening and thought maybe they shouldn’t continue leading the family into disaster after disaster.

It boggles my mind, really it does. My entire life revolves around trying to make decent decisions that have the best interests of the family at heart. Even so, I don’t get it all right. Far from it.

I screw up, often

Some days even doing everything “by the book” I’ll still eventually snap. Other days (yes, I’m looking at you PMT) I can’t not be snappy if I try. If I know I’ve been out of order however, I’ll always apologise to the children. It’s vital they see their grown ups admitting when they are in the wrong and saying sorry for their mistakes.

My kids are obsessed with LEGO and love all the movies. In the latest film the main character was abandoned by his father when he was a baby. Fortunately for him, his mother was a great parent. He learnt how to be a good person from her, but missed out on a whole host of other skills that he believes would have been passed down from his dad.

Lets put the fact that they’ve gone wildly down the gender stereotyping road to one side for a second. Watching this film for the six hundredth time last night I found myself getting emotional, and Polly asked why I looked like I was about to cry. So I answered her as honestly as I could.

“No-one taught me how to be a good person, I had to learn all by myself.”

I’m not saying that my family are evil paedos or murderers, because they’re not that bad, but don’t get me started on the term moral compass. Skewered doesn’t even come close! Their sense of right and wrong, and lack of taking responsibility was the main reason I decided to cut ties all those years ago.

There were so many things I had to learn without guidance 

Things that came naturally to so many of my friends just didn’t for me. This is why I’ll be eternally grateful for my early amazing influences. Two of my besties who I shared a house with when I was a teenager. Another ex-housemate come one time best friend who taught me more about kindness and tolerance than he’ll ever know. My wonderful husband who has always and continues to challenge me when I veer too far down a detrimental path.

The sad fact remains though, that no-one taught me not to be angry, defensive and indignant when I felt wronged as a child. I lived life until I was around eighteen years old in constant fight or flight mode. My cortisol levels are foobarred. My brain doesn’t instantly rationalise new situations, it goes into potential threat mode. I have to constantly ground myself. We’re talking multiple times, every single day. Just to keep myself afloat.

I’ve been agonising lately about trying to be a great parent in the face of all this

In my late twenties, fresh off the back of mental breakdown and rock bottom, I had it all sussed. I would simply be the most amazing wife, mama and friend that ever walked the planet. And it really was that simple to me. I’d already lost so much. All my family, some of my friends, almost lost my husband but thankfully not. I was reformed. I was at peace with myself for the first time ever.

Then I had three kids in four years. I haven’t had more than the odd full night of sleep for nearly a decade. Autism has entered our lives, and although it comes with many gifts, it also comes with serious additional challenges. It’s led us down the path of home educating, and most of the time it’s an incredible thing. It also means that respite is in very short supply though, and the lack of respite can trigger off stress on various levels.

I do all the right things. I eat well, do yoga, live a conscious and natural lifestyle. I don’t drive a car, because it’s one of the most eco things we can do. I buy all our clothes second hand for the eco aspect. I currently have a Himalayan salt lamp glowing next to an essential oil diffuser burning organic lavender. Not because I’m being paid to do so, because I truly believe it can help us relax and heal whatever is troubling our minds. I want to be able to look at this time and know that I was a great parent.

I try so damn hard, but what if I wake up one day and realise that my best wasn’t enough?

fantastic servicesFantastic Services have once again been a godsend for my family

You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here, and not without good reason. We are gearing up for our first house move in seven years. Since last moving we’ve had two more children and acquired a whole lot of stuff. Packing up and getting ready for the big day tomorrow has been no small job, but thankfully the awesome team at Fantastic Services have been helping us every step of the way.

As always the customer experience from the very start has been impeccable. We had an assessment to work out exactly what needed to be done and once that was agreed our boxes and packing paraphernalia was delivered. We opted to pack our own belongings, largely because the girls were desperate to help, but Fantastic offer a packing service for those wanting to reduce the hassle of moving even further. In fact they offer just about anything and everything you can imagine when it comes to moving house. Take a look at the moving page on their website for more details.

The next step for us will be tomorrow morning, when Fantastic turn up to move all the boxes, as well as take our furniture apart and reassemble it at the new house. They shall also be carrying out our end of tenancy deep clean, for this dear readers is mine and hubby’s first step onto the property ladder. At 38 and 39 (and living in London) we’d all but given up hope to be honest, but more on that another time.

Head to Instagram, for the chance to win £50 towards a service of your own. Stay tuned to my InstaStories over the next couple of days for updates and live moving action.

Current status: half packed, half freaking out over the rest of the packing. Thank goodness for @fantasticservices who are not only moving us and have supplied our packing materials, but will also be doing our thorough end of tenancy deep clean before we hand the keys back to our landlord. ♥️ I’ve had the pleasure of working with Fantastic! for over two years now, and genuinely can’t recommend them highly enough. They take care of anything and everything you could possibly imagine. Cleaning, clearing, gardening, odd jobs, electrical work, pest control… you name it, they’ve got it covered. ♥️ To say thank you to Fantastic! for all their help this side of our move, I’m hosting a giveaway for a lucky reader to win a £50 voucher to use towards a Fantastic! service. ♥️ To enter: – follow @mummytries and @fantasticservices – like this post and tag all your friends who’d love to win this fab prize – feel free to also have a look here and on Fantastic’s feed (likes always welcome), but it’s not a requirement for this comp ♥️ Terms & conditions: – you must be based within the M25 to be eligible for Fantastic! Anyone can enter, but the service must be carried out within the M25 – no cash alternative – you must be following @mummytries and @fantasticservices at the time of the draw, if you’ve followed and unfollowed you’ll be disqualified – voucher not valid for Christmas trees or services during the month of December – prize will be drawn on Sunday 21st April and the winner will be tagged here snd sent a DM asking for their details ♥️ Best of luck!!! AD

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on Now I have a real treat for you! Grab a cuppa and learn all about how Fantastic Services came to be from my interview with CEO Rune Sovndahl

Is there an inspirational story behind Fantastic Services?

It all started almost 9 years ago when I met my business partner Anton Skarlatov at a party. A wine stain on my cream carpet was our occasion to start talking about a possible business opportunity for both of us. We created the brand Fantastic Services as a solution to a problem. We wanted to deliver high quality services and to establish a trust-worthy domestic and office maintenance company in the UK. This is how it all began.

As a child I had the dream to create a business that would be helpful to the community. I wanted to present a product or service to the world that would be useful, innovative and at the same time make people feel great about using this company. So I started considering how I would operate it, make it stand out, and let it become people’s first choice.

What is most important to you about being a business owner?

I`m not afraid to get my hands dirty and get directly involved in the hard work that turns you into a successful professional. Furthermore, I choose carefully the people I work with in order to achieve a great level of productivity. I never ever consider giving up as an option and try to lead by example.

Do you have any funny anecdotes from the early days?

The list is endless. The process of creating Fantastic Services has been a great deal of fun, together with all the hard work. However, I’d like to share a particularly lovely story from the early days that never gets old.

Once we had a call from a client who wanted us to look after her pet snail. It turned out, the creature was a racing snail and the family was going on a holiday, so there was no one to take care of it while they were supposed to be away. Most companies would reject such highly responsible and quite unusual request, however we were happy to help and had the snail hang out in our office, making sure we took good care of it. People that would visit the office thought we’d lost our minds. This experience was both heartwarming and funny and we often recall it with a smile.

Where do you see the business going in five years’ time?

Fantastic Services already operates in the UK, Australia and the USA. But we’re not stopping there. What I would do is invest in expanding our business further and offer our Fantastic services to even more households across Europe and around the world. I’d like our “360 Degrees Happiness Philosophy” to become well known among a bigger audience, because that’s what it’s all about – delivering the best experience possible to everyone that is part of the Fantastic family (clients, professionals, partners, office staff, management). As for me – I would do my best to become a better leader, an inspirational leader that would empower our Fantastic team, and let them find and share their voice and passion.

fantastic servicesDo you have any words of wisdom for would-be entrepreneurs?

With my experience in various fields, I had built a strong network of specialists and that was crucial for raising a successful company. It is important to connect with people on a deeper level. For example, be honest and share what you are passionate about. Always be ready to offer your professional help within your field. Personally, I`m not afraid to ask for help and advice when in doubt. It’s good to learn from experienced professionals in order to become one.

Keep up with the latest news from Fantastic Services on social media 

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Blog   

**Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Fantastic Services, and this is a collaborative piece. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.** 

I lost count long ago of the number of fights we’ve had in my house over tooth brushing, which is why I was keen to try out Playbrush

I don’t think you can start drumming the importance of oral hygiene into a child’s head early enough. I wasn’t as fortunate when I was a kid. As I said to a friend the other day, I grew up on a diet of sugar and neglect. Believe me, I’ve paid dearly for this over the years. I have numerous fillings, two missing teeth at the back and a handful of root canals. The only thing stopping me from looking hideous are the veneers which cost thousands of pounds. I live in fear of them falling off, and dread to think what is lurking beneath!  

playbrush

As you can imagine, it’s absolutely vital to me that my kids don’t end up following suit. Unfortunately tooth brushing resistance is a constant source of drama for us. All three of my kids have sensory issues and none of them enjoy the task.

I’m all for being child-led and taking a gentle approach, but there comes a point where they have to learn how to independently start taking care of themselves.

We’ve had a few gimmicky tooth brushes over the years. Electrical ones, flashing ones, super-eco bamboo ones. You name it, we’ve tried it. Still the dramas (and some days downright refusal) over brushing their teeth.

What is Playbrush?

Playbrush makes brushing interactive, translating every tooth brushing movement into gameplay. The children actively control the games as they brush, and during each 2-minute adventure, the gaming apps encourage your child to brush at the correct speed, within all quadrants of their mouth. The result is a unique and very fun brushing experience, that even the most reluctant tooth brusher will adore.

Playbrush is a smart attachment for any manual toothbrush that has been designed to make brushing more fun and to motivate children to brush for long enough and all around their mouths. Playbrush comes with two free games as well as quick brushing statistics, a reward system and a leader board. You can create as many user profiles as you wish on your app, so even if you have more than one child you only have to buy one Playbrush.  

I have to admit I was a little sceptical. Not just because the children will usually do anything to get out of brushing their teeth. Also because they find it difficult to switch off from games, especially on a small screen. I have no idea how Playbrush have achieved this, but the app is like magic for them. It’s engaging, the music and voices aren’t annoying and the kids are literally queuing up to brush their teeth now. Shocked much? Err, yeah!

It’s genuinely been a game changer for us. Take a look at this video to see the children in action. Not just brushing their teeth, but willingly and doing a marvellous job of it!    

A gift for my lovely readers  

playbrushWith Easter just around the corner, why not give the special little people in your life a real treat?  

I’d like to offer you all an exclusive 20% discount when you buy your own playbrush (enter the code MUMMYTRIES at the checkout).

Check out the Playbrush website for more info, and pop over and say hi on social media.

YouTube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

**this is a sponsored post, for my full disclosure policy please click here**

 

I wrote this piece because I wanted to try and convey what high functioning autism is like through Polly’s eyes. We sat together and read it, and I was fully expecting her to ask me to change some (most) of it. Instead she looked at me and said “mummy, I love it, it’s exactly how I feel.” Needless to say I ended up in floods of tears… 

My name is Polly, and I’m almost nine years old.

I look exactly the same as all the other kids my age, and I mostly act like them too.

I’m not the same though.

I have a neurological condition called high functioning autism. This means my brain is wired differently to most of the other kids I know. 

through polly's eyesSometimes, when noises get too loud, inside my head starts to hurt. I know I should put on my noise cancelling headphones, but I don’t always like wearing them. If my sister is talking or singing in an annoying voice, it upsets me. I want to hit her and make her stop. Mummy says to use my words and ask her to stop instead of lashing out, but I can’t help it. My mind can’t think clearly when there is such a lot of noise going on. 

Sometimes, if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, and I’m feeling agitated, I pinch my brother. I know I should get my fiddle toys out or pinch a cushion instead, but it’s not the same. It feels nice when I pinch a person, but then I feel mean when he starts to cry.

Sometimes, when we’re eating, I take food off their plates. I know we’ve all got the same, but their food always looks better than mine, and it’s too tempting not to take it. This often leads to fights being started, but I can’t control myself. It feels unfair that they get the nicest food.         

If we’re playing and they don’t listen to what I’m telling them to do, I get angry with my brother and sister. It’s annoying when they don’t follow my instructions. When they storm off to play by themselves without me, I scream “I hate you!” as loudly as I can. I don’t really hate them, but it makes me sad when they leave me out. Daddy says to jump on the trampoline and bounce away my anger instead. 

Sometimes, I get cross with my brother and sister for no real reason. Mummy asks me what’s wrong, but I find it difficult to explain my feelings. When I see them playing together, and being happy, it can make me feel sad. “I wish I could be as happy as they are,” I tell mummy after I finish crying. If I’m in the right mood, I like it when she cuddles me because it helps to calm me down.

When I’m not in the mood for hugs they just annoy me even more. I get angry and start throwing things on the floor and screaming. I get so cross with mummy for not knowing that I don’t want her cuddles, and would rather watch my favourite TV shows. Next Step and Junior Bake Off always helps to calm me down, but I get sad when they end.

If I’m playing nicely with my brother, I get upset when he goes to our sister in the middle of our game. It makes me feel like he loves her more than he loves me, and I get angry and sad. I start lashing out, and then no-one wants to play with me anymore.

through polly's eyesWhen my brother and sister touch my special things, I get really mad at them. I don’t like it when my things have been moved around, and aren’t in the right order. I like to have everything in the same order, every day, otherwise it makes me feel muddled.

Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, because I know I’ve not been a good big sister. I try so hard, but some days nothing I do is good enough. Once I accidentally made a glass lamp drop onto my sister’s head, and she had to go to the hospital and have it glued back together. I felt horrible inside, and was worried that she wasn’t going to come home, like Grandpa didn’t.

It’s hard for me to be a good big sister. I want to be, and I am trying, but I don’t always do the right things. 

Mummy says that my autism makes me a superhero. She says I have hidden powers that my friends don’t have. Such as remembering things like an elephant, and learning things really fast. Or when I walk into a room and work out what all the different smells are. Or how good I am at baking, even though I’m so young.

Mummy says that I’ve got deep feelings, we just need to think of better ways for me to show them.

So I’m making some promises to my family. I’m going to try and walk away if I know a fight is going to start, and keep my temper under control. If I do a quiet activity like colouring or playing LEGO before I’ve got too mad it’s much easier for me to calm down.  

It’s hard to be a big sister when you’re autistic like I am, but I’m trying my best.

Mummy and daddy say that’s all any of us can do.

Mother’s Day is a tricky one for me

It reminds me of the obvious lack of mother in my own life. It’s now been so long since I saw her face, I can’t even properly remember what it looks like. It poses a mixed bag of emotions every time a so-called special day presents itself.

Mother’s Day. Birthdays. Anniversaries. The last time I saw her. The last time we communicated.

I estranged myself from my mother several years before I started having children. I coped with a full on mental breakdown, and hit rock bottom with no family support whatsoever. I have been through so much without her by my side. I’ve essentially become a different person to the one she raised. A better person. I have taught myself how to function in the world, and how to be nice. To not immediately assume the worst in everyone, and think they’re all out to get me.

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I know her hands were tied a lot of the time. She was young and inexperienced when she brought me in the world at eighteen. She was still reeling from her own tragic childhood of loss and abuse. No-one helped her conquer her demons. She got webbed up with men who treated her terribly, and the rest is history.

There was my biological father – who had an affair with my mother while he was engaged to the woman who he calls his wife to this day. A woman who does not know I even exist (but that is a different story for another day). Then there was my step-father who was beyond messed up from his own horrific childhood. Who prided himself on never beating his woman, but failed to see the emotional torment he put her through. She was absolutely terrified of him.

The day he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose freed me from that world

It was my chance to get out, and even though I was only fifteen, I knew I had to grab it with both my bloody hands. I was literally covered in blood, looked like I had been shot.

She was in pieces. Didn’t want me to leave but knew that I had to. You see that punch in the face was the mere icing on the top of a huge, multi layered cake made exclusively of shit. The constant moving which had screwed up my education. The boys who abused me as a small child. The boy from my school who molested me at a sleepover and bragged about it to his mates (the shame of which led to an overdose). The chronically stressful life that had been put upon me by the grown ups who acted like anything but.

She knew I had to leave, but can you imagine the pain of allowing your teenage daughter to walk out the door? With no schooling behind her. With hardly any money in her pocket. Just the hope that she would be safe at your sisters house, even though her husband at the time was a predator you did not trust?

Trouble is, even after I left home I was perpetually called upon to be her saviour. When the electricity had been cut off for the umpteenth time, I would send money. When she was at her wits’ end with my half brother, I would rush back. When my half-sister was suicidal because she was bullied at school, I would be there for them all. And in the end those relationships became beyond toxic. They saw me as good old Reneé. I’d always be there for them, no matter how badly they treated me.

mother's dayI don’t hold grudges these days. I used to, but writing Become the Best You helped me let go of the last of those feelings

I don’t look back upon those days in anger, I just feel sad about them (and mostly for her). There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to not have them in my life was (and is) a good one. Now that I have challenging children of my own I have more empathy for her and those days than ever before. 

And that’s the trouble with Mother’s Day. It brings it all to the surface, like the disgusting pus filled, hormone driven spot on my chin that just won’t be popped and do one. It keeps coming back, redder, with more pus than before.

So this is for all the mums out there coping with their silent battles.

Who look at the social media version of Mother’s Day and want to cry a river, even if they manage not to.

Especially the ones who are mothering without a mama, and although they have made peace with their situation, have days when it hurts like hell.