No more apologies

I’ve started to prioritise myself a bit more.

It started when I realised that I was carrying so much with work and motherhood, leaving no space for myself.

My mental health was suffering from not giving myself any room to breathe, to rest, to have joy in things that are my own.

And so I started to take the space I needed.

Thursday evenings are my own to rest, reflect, explore or connect with others and each month I take a longer period of time for myself. Whether that’s a night away or a longer time alone.

But I feel judgement – mostly self-judgement – about my motherhood not fitting into the archetypical experience of what is ‘should’ be.

And on some days, I feel brave and strong when I respond to the ‘don’t you miss him when you’re away from him’, the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ or the ‘I bet you’ll miss him when you’re on holiday’ with the truth.

That I don’t miss him all the time, I don’t feel guilty for taking time for myself and that sometimes I could do with more time alone.

And some other days I find it hard to step into the greater truth.

The truth motherhood hasn’t made me. It’s challenged me, pushed me, forged a new strength in me but it hasn’t been the bright star that has given me a purpose missing in my life before.  I was purposeful enough already.

The truth that I wasn’t made to be a mum, I’ve stepped into motherhood. And if anything I feel broken apart due to the stretching that comes with my universe having to encompass another person’s needs.

The truth that I find the routine of motherhood boring at times. The rhythms of my son wanting to spend hours playing with his cars, the 5:50am wake-ups and the splitting up conversations and connections as I rush over to him to keep him safe from a height, a surface or whatever trouble is just around the corner for him.

Don’t misunderstand me, my love for Jenson is as fierce as a lioness and I’m bowled over by the joy that he brings. Yet motherhood is not enough for me in itself.

I used to get mad at myself for not having it in me to fit into this perfect motherhood box.

And I used to feel a sense of failure about this all.

But now, instead of telling myself about all the ways that I’ve failed, I feel more angry with the world and our structures which set me up for failure.

The world makes it seem possible for us to have it all – work hard, parent hard – without the social structures around us to catch the bits that are impossible to do.

The world fails me.

The social constructs with attachment parenting talks about the vital importance of the mother to instil a wellbeing in the child. But where’s Gregg’s role in this model to comfort, to feed, to be our son’s centre of gravity until he finds his own?

Our models of understanding fail me.

Our very ways of being with each other as human beings which can polarise different views of motherhood – you only have to spend a moment on Facebook to witness this behaviour. Those who say ‘it’s not natural for children to be breastfed for so long’ and those who say ‘but have you really tried?’ when a mother decides to stop breastfeeding because it’s not working for her or her child.

Our inability to listen deeply to understand the other fails me.

Our expectation that social structures – from the patriarchal vision of ‘what women should be’ down to schooling which teaches the importance of external validation -passing exams – over following what lights you up.

Our society fails me.

And where does it leave me?

Set up to feel like a failure for not being able to be everything to everyone.

The story of my life, which would have, in years gone by, led me to just try harder feeling like the impossible was due to my ineptitude and would be solved if I only worked at it a bit more.

But instead I’m starting to walk a different way.

A way which challenges the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ by asking whether that’s a question that would be asked to a man…and if not, why should I be held to account for it?

A way where I declare, starting with this blog, that motherhood is an individual journey and no two are the same. I’m no less a ‘good’ mum because I want to work and find parts of the experience boring than a mum who wants to be the sole carer and is in rapture at everything their child does.

A way where I take more time for myself and don’t have to attribute it to how good it is for my son to see a strong woman taking time for herself. I do it because I want the time alone, I need the time alone. And that’s a good enough reason to take it.

I’m not going to apologise for my experience anymore.


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The other side

I’ve had a difficult time over the past three months. It’s been the most challenging time that I’ve experienced in motherhood and I’ve felt my sanity balance on a knife edge at times.

But it’s also been a time of immense growth and I’m appreciative of what it has taught me.

How my struggles have stretched and shaped me.

And as I’m coming out the other side, I’d like to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and am still learning.

I must come first

I always thought the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on before putting anyone else’s on was trite. But I’ve realised that I’m good for no one when I’m on my knees with exhaustion.

So I’ve started to prioritise my needs.

I’ve made plans to get away to have some time of solitude every month and Thursday evenings are for me to have time alone. I’ve so far tried an African drumming circle, gone for drinks with friends, had dinner with my parents, spent the evening working late to do some things that I don’t usually get the chance to do in my working day.

Being free to do things as an adult, not a mum or carer, has been life changing. It’s brought me so much joy and has refreshed me for the week ahead. I don’t know how I coped without this time before.

Now that I’m over the worst, it’s hard to keep finding the discipline of time alone.

Since I’m not at crisis point, time to myself can seem less important than getting on with life. Making sure I’m pulling my weight at home. Being there for Jenson.

But then I remember that for 18 months, I gave more than my fair share to this family.

So it’s not about an even 50:50 split, but about communication and asking for what I need so that I can thrive as a mother, wife and woman.

Asking for help

I’ve asked my husband over the past months to step up with the caring of our son – we now share the bedtime routine and co-sleeping so the other can enjoy a night of disruption-free sleep.

And with me no longer taking the caring role with everything, I’ve let my husband care for me more and I’ve felt closer to him than I have in a long time.

I was so busy caring and coping before that I’d lost what it was to be a wife.

What it was to be vulnerable and gentle and soft. Cared for, desired and with desire

It’s not been easy.

We’ve had more disagreements than we have had in a long time.

I’ve pushed him and pulled him into me.

I’ve been more vocal about my needs and have confronted him when I’ve felt hurt or ignored or misunderstood.

Instead of burying my feelings deep inside me, I’ve spoken up.

But it’s been good.

Because instead of feeling complacency – a foreboding of the death of a relationship – I’ve felt fire.

And that has kindled us in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I’m not an island

I’ve also asked other people to step up and help in our lives.

Friends have rallied around to babysit Jenson and give us some precious time alone.

When Gregg’s parents or my own parents have come to visit or had us to stay, I’ve asked them to look after Jenson so I could rest and find moments of solitude. I’ve taken time for myself without worrying that I was being ‘rude’ or ‘inhospitable’.

Because I recognise that this time alone is what I need and their love for Jenson means that time with him isn’t a chore.

I remember writing on this blog, at the start of Jenson’s life, how important it would be for me to ask for help. How I longed for Jenson to know that he doesn’t need to be strong, independent, self-contained. 

And I find myself reflecting back now and seeing that my desire has come true – I’m living how I want him to.

In community.

Asking for help.

Accepting the support of other people even though I can’t always give back in turn.

New season

I’m finding myself in a new season in life.

Connecting with the beauty of nature and the spirituality of the world.

Not through any religious beliefs, but through an awakening to the ancient wisdom of the planet and the inherent spirituality I feel as a human being.

I know that what I’m saying is quite vague, and that’s because I can’t quite articulate it myself.

All I know is that I feel connected to something bigger than myself.

And with that, I’ve felt a love for myself and a self-compassion that I’ve never felt before.

I’m finding myself able to say ‘no’ to invitations that aren’t right for me.

I’m looking at my body in a way that I’ve rarely been able to in the past – with true love and acceptance for all that I am, complete with stomach rolls, a slight double chin, my wrinkles and grey hairs.

It’s all me and all worthy of love.

Over the past month, I’ve danced with joy.

I’ve cried with sorrow.

I’ve started to reconnect to the wild Amy who has been tamed by society but is bursting to break out.

And this feels like just the beginning.

Taboo

I feel like I’ve broken one of the biggest taboos in the world – speaking about how motherhood isn’t always pretty.

How I have regrets for the child-free life I left behind.

How I know that I could have been happy without a child, even though I love Jenson with all my heart.

We do women a massive disservice in silencing the truth about the brutalities of motherhood.

It’s exhausting.

It’s relentless.

It’s the best and the worst experience.

And yet we only speak about the beauty, and at most, laugh about the witching hour before bed or whisper to our friends in secret ‘I’m not happy’. 

And I’m so proud of myself for having spoken up and started to challenge the taboo.

I’m so proud that I’ve been loud in saying how hard it is.

And I hope that others have felt permission to be truthful and honest, even if only to themselves or to me.


And so while this time has been one of the trickiest in my life, it has brought more growth than I could ever have imagined.

And I’m looking forward to seeing where this next season in life will take me.

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Re-defining success

I was speaking to my sister this morning – what a wise one she is! I was sharing how hard I was finding life right now and talked about the standards I hold myself to. 

These standards are partly helpful – they guide me to be the best mum I can be to Jenson. But they can also be unyielding and can cause me pain as I hold myself to them regardless of what’s going on around me.

So I thought I’d list out all my standards to take a step back to see whether they’re standards I want to hold onto so tightly.

So here I go!

Standards

  • Jenson shouldn’t watch very much TV – it’s a last resort when I’m running late, not something to make my life easier
  • I need to talk to him as much as possible, a running commentary of what I’m doing if I’ve got nothing to say to him
  • I should enjoy all my time with my son
  • I must speak French to him – it’s an important gift to pass to him
  • I have to be fixed so I don’t pass on my struggles – comfort eating, avoidance of confrontation, people pleasing, lack of boundaries – onto him
  • I should be able to cope at all times and never loose my temper with him
  • He needs to spend loads of time outside – there are studies about how children aren’t nearly as active anymore and I’m a bad mum if I don’t take him out

As I list them here, I feel such relief at thinking “I don’t need to hold onto these things. They’re not mine”.

And I love what I saw on twitter this morning linked to this very topic:

Screen Shot 2019-06-23 at 14.05.01.png I love the final point from Beth – re-define success.

What if the standard (and definition of success) I held myself to were to model what it means to be a person who puts their wellbeing first.

  • About TV, I’d ask whether I needed a moment for myself that morning/afternoon/evening. If so, I’d put the TV on for a little bit. It’s not going to kill him.
  • About constantly talking to him, I’d ask myself what I needed in the moment and what my son needed. Some meaningful interaction – singing and dancing, reading a book, chasing around – or some time in silence as I walk somewhere or just potter around. Both are ok. I’d know it was about balance.
  • About enjoying time with him, I’d ask what I needed to enjoy my time with my him. And that probably is an acceptance that it’s not going to be enjoyable all the time (especially when I’m playing peepo with him for the 1,000th time, that shit gets old!)
  • About speaking French, I’d continue to speak French to him – my imperfect, messy French, because it is a gift that I’m keen to pass to him. But I’d also look out for other French parents to hang out with so I don’t feel so alone in it.
  • About worrying about passing my issues onto him, I’d know that worrying about this wasn’t doing me any favours in dealing with them, so I’d speak kindly to myself and remind myself that it’s not the whole truth. I’ll pass on some of my habits that I’d rather not pass onto him, but I’ll also pass on the good. My passion, my ethical compass, my love of cooking, my book wormery, my kindness, my strength.
  • About coping, I’d know that I’m not able to cope all the time and that it’s ok. The most important thing is showing him how to get back up. How to apologise when I shout at people or am short with others and self-kindness to myself when times are hard.

I’d know that I’m doing my best. My god-damn best. And that’s all that is important.

And as I read this, I feel overcome with emotions. I feel a relief knowing that life can be different.

That I can rewrite my story.

And yes, I’ll probably fall as I try to do the above, but that’s part of it, right?

Falling down but then getting back up and trying again.

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Raising my voice

I’ve been lone parenting this weekend as Gregg is at a stag party. I took Jenson to an animal rights protest in London yesterday, partly out of desire to be an active citizen and partly to have some plans to fill up my three days alone with him.

I’m so glad I went.

I loved hearing from animal activists who had so much information to share.

I loved the atmosphere as we marched through the streets of London, handing out flyers to the public.

I loved being part of something bigger than myself as we showed images of how animals are killed for our pleasure, kept in tiny cages so businesses can make as much profit as possible, viewed more as a commodity than a being who feels, fears and loves just like we do.

But that wasn’t my feeling right at the start of the march.

I felt uncomfortable, out of sorts, anxious as I made my presence known on the streets of London.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to be there.

It felt wrong to be speaking out – and speaking loud – instead of being in my safe little zone where I am vegan and will gently say why I am if people ask why (the reason, if you’re interested in for the planet – we can’t survive whilst still consuming such high levels of meat and dairy – and because of how animals are kept, treated and killed).

But I keep myself to myself.

I don’t push limits.

I keep my vegan views, my ‘controversial’ views of parenthood, family, love out of this blog for fear of offending you, dear friend.

And in that moment, something clicked for me. I realised that I don’t allow myself to be fully seen.

I don’t allow myself to share my views unless I’m given express permission to do it by someone.

And there are so many reasons I can think why.

Girls aren’t brought up to be forceful and I feel like I’m ‘too much’ when I think about my opinions and views on a range of topics.

I’m fearful of speaking out as that reminds me of my Christian experience growing up where we’d be encouraged to try to ‘convert’ people to our way of thinking.

I don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and, in putting my opinions ‘out there’, there will be many people who will disagree with me.

But that’s ok to live with these reasons – I can grapple with them as I work through giving myself permission to be seen and my voice heard.

And by that I mean all that I am, not just the bits of me that are mainstream and not controversial.

It feel scary and new and different to do this, but living this way feels aligned to the name of my blog – courage, truth and love – and so I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

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A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Good boy

    I’m just on my way back home from a gorgeous wedding of close friends, Jake and Ash.

    It was lovely to have a few hours away from parenthood as my husband and I danced up a storm and didn’t have any parental responsibility for an afternoon.

    But despite being away from my little poppet, I was still thinking about him.

    More specifically about the phrase ‘good boy’.

    I’ve heard Jenson’s nursery workers use that phrase when praising him for something he’s done and I’ve heard others tell him that he’s a ‘good boy’ for similar circumstances.

    But it sticks in my throat when I hear someone say ‘good boy’ to him and it’s not something I say to him when he’s shown skill or kindness or compliance.

    Because I want to know that he is intrinsically good.

    Regardless of his skill, kindness or compliance with my desires.

    Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to do whatever he likes or that I don’t acknowledge what he’s done well.

    If he does something out of line, I’ll say ‘that wasn’t nice’ or ‘be gentle please’.

    And I say ‘bravo’ (I speak to him in French, this isn’t a reflection of my gentleman’s english!) or ‘bien fait’ – well done when he’s done something well.

    I say the behaviour is out of line instead of saying he is out of line for doing something I disapprove of.

    And I say the behaviour good instead of telling him he is good for doing something I approve of.

    It’s semantics, but I think it’s important nevertheless.

    Because I want him to grow up knowing that he is good.

    Regardless of what he has done or not done.

    Words do not do justice to the strength I feel for these words and the intensity of desire I have for him to know that he is good.

    Because I believe this is a foundation – the belief that he is good – which is key for him to stand strong in life.

    To feel able to follow his heart instead of hustling for the approval of others.

    To not overly question his decisions but to trust his instincts.

    To be happy in his own skin knowing that he is ok just as he is.

    Part of me thinks ‘is this really important enough for me to raise this with his nursery?’

    It’s just semantics.

    And it’s not the only thing that will decide whether he has good self-esteem or a knowledge that he is fine as he is.

    It’ll be Gregg and I showing him that we love ourselves, trust ourselves, believe we’re intrinsically ok.

    It’ll be us respecting him and giving him enough freedom as he makes decisions for himself.

    It’ll depend on us engaging in dialogue when he questions our boundaries.

    Not to bend to his will, but to show him that he has a voice, is important, is intrinsically worthy of love and respect.

    But stopping the ‘good boy’ comments seem like a good start.

    And my gut tells me to raise it with his nursery.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, dear friend.

    Self-care

    I’m finding it really hard to write this post. I’ve written and deleted, written and deleted but still nothing seems to be coming out right.

    My words seem mundane, I’m worrying about who might take my words personally and read into them more than I intended, I question whether these are words to share or if they would be an overshare.

    And this all points in one direction – I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should have recently.

    It’s been a mentally and physically exhausting time and the effects are taking their toll on me.

    You see, the start of this year has been wonderful – celebrating my son’s first birthday, having two full weeks off work to spend with family – but it has also been trying beyond my limits with my routine out of kilter and, most distressing, Jenson not settling into nursery.

    It was hell to leave him screaming with distress at our nursery ‘settling’ sessions and difficult to come to terms with the fact that our little monkey might not be ready for being separated from us. For a week Gregg and I were left in the unknown of whether we would both need to reduce our hours at work to provide full-time care for our son since he was finding the transition to nursery too distressing.

    And as life as we knew it hung in the balance, it was unbearably hard.

    Did we parent him in a way that made a transition to nursery more difficult for him? Would Gregg still be in support of all the parenting decisions that are so important to me – co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, sling carrying – with his desire to support Jenson to be ‘independent’? How would our lives be if we were to cope on one salary? Would this impact plans that I dream for us as a family – plans that rely on our savings.

    And the stress was too much for me.

    Despite the fact that we turned a corner, he settled into nursery just in time – I’ve been left feeling broken and out of kilter.

    My back was agony since I was carrying so much tension and I turned back to my old habits of eating too much.

    Eating for comfort when things were too much.

    Eating sweet stuff at work when this is something I’ve rarely done over the years.

    Supplementing my lunch with crisps and other food that I didn’t need for hunger.

    Eating more desserts than I usually would.

    Eating more in social situations to squash my awkwardness or just because I was not being mindful of what I was eating.

    And I’ve been worried more about what other people think of me.

    I’ve clung onto the things that haven’t gone well at work and with friends and family.

    I’ve pulled out all the things from my past that I didn’t do well to beat myself up with.

    I’ve worried that I’m going to be ‘found out’, found wanting and that people will see me for the failure I am.

    I’ve felt not enough.

    I feel like my internal axis has shifted and suddenly I feel intrinsically ‘not ok’. I feel like my foundations have been shaken with the force of an earthquake and are full of cracks.

    So how do I get back to where I was before all this happened?

    The first thing is admitting that I’m not ok. I’ve been telling people – speaking to friends, telling my mum about how I’m feeling this weekend, sharing with my sister about what’s going on, speaking up when topics are causing my anxiety to spike to protect myself, talking to my husband about it all.

    The second thing is reminding myself that food is not the issue. It’s the manifestation of what is going on underneath. And so, while I need to pay attention to the food stuff and try to not stuff myself silly, the most important thing is what’s going on underneath – not loving myself, not expressing myself, not having a release for the emotions that I am feeling, not being kind to myself while everything is a bit trickier than normal.

    The third thing is remembering that this is just a moment in my life. It’s a hard moment, but just because I’ve gone a step back doesn’t mean that life will always be like this. It feels all encompassing at the moment when it’s just a short period of my life.

    The fourth thing is that I need to put my self-care at the top of my priority list. I need to take a lunch break at work, find some sort of exercise (apart from running around like a headless chicken to get everything done in life!), I could benefit with doing some short meditations, writing a bit more than I have recently, painting my nails, reading a good book, cuddling up more with my husband, checking in with close friends, spending time with my son doing nothing but playing, putting down my phone more, having some ‘cave time’ cooking alone in the kitchen with a podcast on.

    And finally I’ve requested some counselling through work to try to work out how I can be kinder to myself and how I can cope with my anxiety when everything feels a little bit harder than usual.

    I hope this post can help you if you’re going through a hard time. I hope you can take comfort from knowing you’re not the only one who has a dysfunctional way of coping with hardship – I’m in the same boat as you!

    It certainly feels better to have everything out in the open – to say I’m not ok, but that’s ok.

    Life is full of ups and downs and just because this bit is down doesn’t mean that it always will be.

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    Top ten

    As I lay in bed last night, waiting for sleep to come, I was drawn to thinking about the best things about last year.

    And so I thought I’d share some top lists with you to celebrate my baby boy turning one.

    Top five best things about becoming a mum

      The joy of watching Jenson grow and develop
      The cuddles and time spent resting next to Jenson as he sleeps
      How it has changed me as a person, mostly for the better
      The determination to deal with my demons so that I don’t pass them – the people pleasing, comfort eating – onto Jenson
      The pleasure of spending time as a family of three and seeing my husband as a brilliant, involved, caring dad

    Gregg’s top three best things about becoming a dad

    1. Us all going travelling
    1. Having the time to go do things with Jenson, like swimming
    1. Getting to watch our little baby change and grow up

    The best ten moments of this year

    1. Going away to Cambodia and Vietnam
    2. Our trip to Morocco
    3. Making new friendships that will span over his life
    4. Getting ice cream and giving some to Jenson
    5. Reading ‘my child won’t eat’ and feeling such relief that Jenson isn’t starving
    6. The endless baths with Jenson as a newborn
    7. Visits from friends from all over the world to meet my new little man
    8. Understanding what all my other mum friends were going through
    9. Dancing with Jenson and Gregg at the Bimble Bindada festival
    10. Realising that shared parental leave was the best decision for Gregg forming a deeper relationship with Jenson

    Five most difficult moments of this year

    1. The last bit of labour
    2. Struggling with breastfeeding and getting my supply up…and all the stories I told myself about not being a good mum if I couldn’t feed him from my milk supply
    3. Stretching myself too thin on holiday in Wales
    4. When Jenson got norovirus and ended up in A&E
    5. Nursery settling in

    The five things I would have done differently

    1. Asked more questions about Jenson’s tongue tie
    2. Stayed in bed for the two weeks after his birth to fully recover
    3. Asked for more help when I needed it
    4. Extended our epic trip away by a few weeks
    5. Been more specific with Gregg about my views on weaning, TV time and other stuff

    The ten things I couldn’t have done without

    1. The food I made in advance of Jenson’s birth
    2. The first twelve seasons of Grey’s anatomy that I binged during my maternity leave
    3. The friends and family who supported me in this first year
    4. The new friends I met who walked with me on this journey of motherhood
    5. My baby carrier which helped me walk the streets of Brighton
    6. The new mums notebook – which I used all this year to record memories and thoughts about this year
    7. The attachment parenting groups and friends who supported me in finding my parenting style
    8. The baby groups in Brighton which got me out and kept my sanity
    9. This blog
    1. The phrase ‘this too shall pass’ – knowing that everything is a phase and will not last indefinitely

    The three things I want to do next year

    1. Listen to my instincts more
    2. Have a bit more time to myself – to coach, nurture myself and have a bit more sanity
    3. Look into raising children vegan so that we can make an informed choice about Jenson’s diet

    The two things I’m looking forward to on Jenson’s birthday

    1. Spending time celebrating with my family
    2. Eating the massive birthday cake I’ve made for him

    Driving home for Christmas

    We’re en route to Chesterfield for Christmas with the Shemwell family and I’m feeling nostalgic about the trip we made last year to Bristol for festive celebrations and the birth of Jenson.

    I’ve got a mix of excitement for the big day with my bubba and sadness at not being with my parents and sister for Christmas Day.

    This is no slight on my parents-in-law who show me nothing but kindness. It’s just sad to think we won’t be with my sister for her last Christmas before starting a new chapter in her life over in Australia.

    I so wish I could split myself to be with her to get wrapped up in Christmas excitement, give each other a sneaky Christmas present before church, sing the descant to carols together (her like a boss, me voice semi-squeaking at the high notes), wait in anticipation for presents post-lunch (which always seems an age away).

    My sister means the world to me, as you may have guessed!

    But with this melancholy is a real excitement for Christmas Day as a parent – my first one.

    I can’t wait to get up early as a three on Christmas morning, excited at the day ahead.

    I can’t wait to dress Jenson in a reindeer onesie for the day.

    I hope we’ll go out for a walk in the crisp daylight, wishing ‘merry Christmas’ to others out on a similar stroll.

    I look forward to feasting as a family, giving Jenson new food to try and sneaking him a bit of my pudding to enjoy.

    I’m looking forward to Jenson’s interest in all the wrapping and none of the gifts!

    I can’t wait to mark the first Christmas milestone as a parent.

    Am I doing the right thing?

    I’m sat in a coffee shop having just dropped Jenson off at nursery…and left him with tears streaming down his face, staring into my eyes as if to say “why are you doing this to me?!

    It was heartbreaking to see him so upset. And I’m left thinking what I could have done better to get him used to other people more and wondering whether it’s right for Gregg and I to be back at work – whether it’s to Jenson’s detriment.

    And I’ve heard loads of other mums and dads who have gone through the same thing and now say how much their child loves their nursery, how they cry when being picked up from nursery at the end of the day because they want to stay longer.

    But, even knowing that, I really don’t know if this choice is for Jenson’s benefit…because if I’m honest it feels like it’s to his detriment. And it makes me wonder about the other things in his life which might be to his detriment, namely living so far away from family (potentially why he’s so attached to just Gregg and I) and having done shared parental leave.

    No, I’ll take that back. Shared parental leave was the right thing to do for us and I wouldn’t change 99% of it. But it meant that Jenson had six months of being with my mum friends and then six months of going to different things with Gregg…so Jenson didn’t get a consistent community of people around him during that time.

    And that makes me sad.

    Even with those he sees frequently with me at the weekends and on my days off, he’ll still be a limpet, clinging to me in their company and smiling at them from afar.

    With all this, I’m wondering whether Jenson will be different – slightly less confident, slightly more anxious – when he’s older because we left him at nursery.

    I know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life has the biggest impact on them and I want to do right by Jenson so much, especially during his first years on the earth.

    And most of me thinks that he’ll be fine, but part of me wonders whether I’m doing the right thing. It’s hard to not have a definite answer and to have to just go with the direction that we’re going now.

    I know I’m doing my best, just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing.

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