I’ve had a week of highs or lows, with not much in between. In all honesty, this is often the case when you live a chronically stressful life like I do.

My week started last Saturday with going to BML17 (formally Brit Mums), one of the biggest annual blogging conferences here in the UK. I only managed about four hours of the conference in 2015, and gave it a miss last year for one reason and another. When my ticket was first booked by my lovely sponsors Fantastic Services, I was super excited about the day. If nothing else, these events are always a brilliant opportunity to catch up with blogging friends.

As the day rolled around, however, I found myself wanting to find any excuse I could to cancel. Suddenly the idea of being in a room with hundreds of other bloggers (at varying levels) felt overwhelming and unappealing. Day to day I try my hardest not to compare myself with others, but kind of knew it would be inescapable at BML.

When I was at my worst about it all, I received an email asking me to be one of five keynotes speakers at the end of the conference. It was a massive honour, and huge confidence boost. I was asked to read my Open Letter to Autism Mama’s, and saw it as a chance to stand up and represent those like me, who lead chronically stressful lives.

To say I felt sick with nerves would be an understatement

I tried not to think about the task at hand too much, because every time I did it made me want to run for the hills. I started a Twitter conversation with the other keynotes speakers on the Friday, and it seemed that everyone else felt this way too. Which I admit, did make me feel a bit better.

The day itself was lovely, catching up with friends. Some I meet up with regularly, and others I’ve been chatting online to for over four (!) years without ever properly meeting in the flesh. It was fab to finally meet Tim and Julie, among others. I also attended a few of the sessions*, hosted by other bloggers. 

Unfortunately, familiar pangs of self-doubt, and inadequacy reared their ugly heads for me. So many people who set out blogging at the same time as I started this blog in 2013 now have Sunday Times bestsellers under their belts. Or uber successful YouTube channels. Or are making a small fortune from their blogs. Not usually one to fall foul of the green eyed monster, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t allow those feelings to get the better of me.

They totally did.

So much so that when it came to reading my blog post out, I wanted to do anything but. I did it though, and know I should be proud of myself for it.   

Here’s the video, just in case you’re interested.

When you don’t have a sad story, but a sad life

I’ve come to realise that most people can’t handle those who live a chronically stressful life. It’s not a tragic event to ‘get over’, or a sad story to tell. Most people just don’t have the time or inclination to fully comprehend the challenges you face, after the stress becomes chronic. Who can blame them really? 

When the stress is every day.  

Day in day out.

It gets boring doesn’t it? People need a happy ending GODDAMNIT! 

I’ve made no secret of the fact that this year has been brutally hard. Some weeks tougher than others, of course. This has been one of those weeks. Anyone who saw my Instagram post on Tuesday will know that it was especially troublesome. Clara’s hand got trapped in the door, and I thought at first that she had broken her fingers. Fortunately they were just badly bruised, but it shook me up beyond belief.  

I don’t have the capacity for another one of those weeks. They are breaking me, and destroying my soul. 

Thankfully though, mostly through blogging, I’m lucky to know many other people who are also in my position. Who live chronically stressful lives, and are dealing with seriously challenging children. They have empathy, they are supportive, they don’t leave me feeling empty after being in their company.    

 

TRIBE ALERT! ♥️ I am very lucky to have the support of several wonderful groups of blogging friends. This particular gaggle photographed here are from a foodie collective, and we understand each other on a totally different level. ♥️ We get what it’s like to parent exceptionally challenging children. We know how it feels to exist on four broken hours sleep a night (for years and years). We support each other’s blogs, champion each other and pick each other up when we’re crumpled in a heap for whatever reason. ♥️ Yesterday some of us spent the day on an MSC Cruise ship, being shown around and learning about what a cruise holiday would entail if we were to come onboard. During the Q&A with the senior management team we were the ones with the awkward questions. ♥️ “Are your kids club teams epi pen trained?” “What’s your policy on dealing with diabetic hypos?” “What provisions do you have for autistic children?” “Do you have options for those on strict exclusion diets?” ♥️ We are the mums who’ll always have the awkward questions. Being those mums can feel isolating more than words could articulate, but knowing that these wonderful ladies have each other’s backs certainly takes the edge off. ♥️ Big thanks to Sally and Co, and the team at MSC for organising such a fab day!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I guess my main thoughts from this strange week, are things I’ve known for a long time

    • don’t add to your plate when you don’t have the capacity to handle it
    • which means not being afraid to say no from time to time   
    • take comfort from your smallest of wins 
    • don’t compare yourself to others, no matter how tempting it might be 
    • know when to step back from social media for the purposes of self-preservation 
    • always be true to yourself, and never compromise your integrity  
    • work out early doors who your real friends are 
    • take my own advice and read Become the Best You when needs be  
    • know when to admit defeat, call it a day and have a gin
    • give less fucks, as advocated by Louise and Emma in their fab (and funny) YouTube session* at BML

What are your tips for winning in the face of a chronically stressful life? Get in touch @mummytries

BritMums

Nominations for the Brit Mums Brilliance in Blogging Awards are now open, so I’d like to share with you my favourite blogs, all of whom (in my opinion) deserve a place on the BiBs Shortlist! Who would be on your list?

Fresh Voice
Inside the Rainbow
The Comeback Mum
The Filling Glass
The Joy Chaser
The Joy of Five

Food
Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen
Free From Fairy
Intolerant Gourmand
Julie’s Family Kitchen
Le Coin de Mel

Inspire
Headspace Perspective
Little Hearts Big Love
Mama Mim
The Comeback Mum
The Filling Glass

Social Media
Coombe Mill
Honest Mum
Mums Days

Writer
Mothering Mushroom
Mum Turned Mom
Slouching Toward Thatcham
Sophie Is
Unmumsy Mum
Writing Bubble

Photo
Le Coin de Mel
VeViVos

Video
Rosalilium
VeViVos

Travel
My Travel Monkey
Zena’s Suitcase

Beauty and Fashion
Honest Mum
Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
Pouting in Heels

Art, Craft and Design
The Only Free Range Chick
Le Coin de Mel
Spirited Puddle Jumper
The Essex Barn

Family
3 Children and It
Dad Blog UK
The Only Free Range Chick
Mum in a Nutshell
Papa Tont

Readers Choice
Absolutely Prabulous
And Then the Fun Began
Reprobate Mum
Tea Cup Toria

Of course if you’d like to vote for me, that would be much appreciated 🙂

BritMums

Was first time motherhood how you imagined it would be?

“Youth is wasted on the young” sang good old Robbie Williams in one of his hits. I can’t for the life of me remember which one, because I have baby brain times three, and haven’t slept for more than a few hours in a row since I couldn’t even tell you when. My days merge into weeks and it’s all feeling pretty hazy right about now.

I spent most of my first maternity leave in the cliched way that probably gives us women a bad name. Lunching with friends, sitting around coffee shops and crying into my cappuccino about how tired I was. I loved being a mum, and was so ready for it, but looking back it feels like I frittered that precious time away. I hated our old flat and we were always out – doing stuff, going places, meeting people. We now know that P is autistic, and the poor thing must have been so over stimulated. No wonder she was such a demanding baby. 

first time motherhoodSecond time around it was a very different story

During my second pregnancy just after P had turned two, she stopped napping and started waking up in the night. Lots. It was a tough second and third trimester. I went to work one day on a couple of hours sleep and begged my boss to let me start mat leave early. Thankfully giving birth second time around was much easier than the first, and I settled into being a mum of two quite smoothly.

It was a magical time, that I look back upon so fondly. I felt comfortable in my own abilities as a mum by that point, and C was a super chilled out baby. The fact that she slept through the night at 10 weeks old with no sleep training was the cherry on the cake.

Dark days

It was difficult to enjoy every moment of those days at the time though, because P was so jealous of C right from the off, and it got worse as the months wore on, not better as everyone said it would. It was emotionally draining beyond words. Although P was potty trained at 2y3m, she regressed massively and would wet herself up to four times a day. I couldn’t trust her with the baby at all, and she would have huge meltdowns over things that her little buddies had long been accepting.

I guess the worst of her autistic traits were staring me in the face, but I didn’t it know back then. I just knew that she didn’t sleep, and was a very challenging three year old. I can hardly bring myself to admit this, but I found myself wishing that both girls were like C. By the end of mat leave my thoughts had got seriously dark, and I felt myself falling into a depressed state for the first time in years. Not long after that I started writing this blog as therapy, which I’m pleased to say worked wonders.

I think about those days with a sadness that makes my soul ache. Who knew motherhood could be so bloody tough?

As you can imagine, in the midst of all that, there was not much bedroom fun going on, but clearly our happy little accident was meant to be. There was nothing enjoyable about his pregnancy, but thankfully it flew by at lightning speed, and before I knew it I was packing up work for a third time.

first time motherhoodF was born au naturel just a few hours after my contractions started. It meant that the IV antibiotics I had for Group B Strep during labour didn’t get to him in time, and he had to have them himself for the first 48 hours of his life. This meant we were in hospital for three days, and it’s the most rest I have had since I embarked on motherhood back in July 2009.

First time around I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital, a day after giving birth. Second time I luxuriated in the private room I’d managed to bag, but was still mildly annoyed that they kept me in an extra night because I’d missed the cut off for being discharged. Third time? I could have merrily stayed all week!

I had no idea what it was going to be like

I was so ready for my eldest when she came along. I was so ready to be a mum, and couldn’t wait to have all the adventures my mummy friends were having (or supposedly having, I know now that they were only sharing the best bits). I knew I would be ahead of the game in so many ways too, because of having lived such a vivacious, colourful life before having my kids. In those days I naively thought that motherhood was like work – put in the hard graft and reap the rewards.

I never once in my wildest imagination thought I would have days that would send me to the brink of my sanity.

I never thought I would hide in the toilet for the only five minutes peace I would get that whole day.

I never thought that a small child could reduce me to tears in the middle of the night because they wouldn’t go back to sleep.

I never thought I would question my relationship with my husband, and have days where I hated him for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

I never thought I’d willingly give up my career in the city, and become a home educating stay at home mum.

I’ve had many conversations recently with other mums about how wonderful those early days are with baby number one. Whether they’ve got more children now, or that first one is older, the conclusion is the same. First time motherhood is wasted on first time mums, because we over complicate everything. We think it’s all so hard, but actually it gets much much harder along the way.

If I could have my stint at first time motherhood again, I would definitely sleep when P did 😉

first time motherhood**Disclaimer: This post is an entry for BritMums #VicksBabyRub Challenge, sponsored by Vicks BabyRub. Specially designed for babies aged 6 months and over, Vicks BabyRub is available at Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and all good pharmacy chains. RRP £3.99.**