Our son Ethan turned five earlier this month. FIVE. While he was beyond excited and eagerly checking off his countdown chart each morning, I was sat there thinking, “Where on earth did those years go? Did I blink and miss them?” I’ve decided to look back and share with you something I’ve learned from each year since becoming a mum. Here we go…
Zero to one: It’s possible to survive (just about) on very little sleep.
Oh God I love sleep. And I don’t mind admitting that lack of sleep was one of my biggest concerns about becoming a mum. Close friends who know me well were worried too. How would I cope?
In all honesty, I need a good seven and a half hours to function the next day. Well, what can I say? Something kicks in, some sort of survival mode, and you just have to get on with it. Yes, it felt horrendous at times - sometimes I didn’t really know if it was day or night - but we came out the other side in one piece. So if you’re an expecting mama who loves to catch plenty of zzzs, please don’t worry too much. I promise you will get through it. If I can do it, you can too.
One to two: Mum-friends are everything
I’m so lucky that I was part of an awesome NCT group - we really hit it off and are still on WhatsApp pretty much every day, even if we don’t get to see each other quite so regularly anymore. You need to find like-minded mum-friends who you know will have your back. You’ll celebrate the good times together and you’ll be there for each other during the tough times. You can send a desperate WhatsApp message at 2am when you’ve lost the will to live, and you know someone will answer you. Find your mum-tribe and hold onto them.
Two to three: A little bit of space is good for both of you.
The first time I dropped Ethan off at pre-school aged two and a half, and went back home alone was quite a moment. It was a real mixture of emotions. I felt sad about leaving him, but it was important for him to spend time with other children, and to learn that other grown-ups could look after him too. I also realised that I was desperately in need of some time for me. It felt very odd at first. I barely knew what to do with myself and I even felt guilty about it for a while. I found myself spending all my time cleaning. It’s taken a while but I’m now at that point where I absolutely understand how important it is to spend some time alone. There’s no need to feel guilty about it…although of course we all do. I think ‘mum-guilt’ is just an inherent part of being a mum unfortunately! But do, despite the guilt, give yourself that time. You deserve it.
Three to four: The tantrums will eventually subside.
Oh wow, this was tough. Ethan had terrible tantrums. I started to question everything. Why is he like this? What have I done wrong? Am I a bad mum? Will he be like this forever? There were times when I didn’t want to take him to play group, for fear of being embarrassed by his behaviour and frowned at by other mums with seemingly perfectly behaved little ones. I forced myself to go still, even though it was tough. But tantrums are a normal part of behaviour for most children. It's part of their development. You have to learn to deal with them in the best way for you and your child. Don’t follow conventional methods if they really don’t work. Time-out absolutely did not work for us. I tried it, and it went terribly. Ethan was inconsolable. What worked best for us was for me to remain calm (however hard this was), and to be a reassuring presence while he got himself together. We would talk about his behaviour afterwards, once the storm had passed.
Being a Mama is FULL ON. What if I told you you could have more time to yourself? My kids are 8 and 2, and my husband and I are yet to get a night off. Recently I was asked to try the new bubble babysitting app and I was probably far too enthusiastic to try it out, but this Mama misses time off! The way the app had been described to me was like tinder for babysitters and I can sort of see why - you swipe through prospective babysitters and choose the one you thinks suits you best.
Obviously I was wary. I’m sure no-one would try a new babysitter without having some element of doubt, but I decided I’d try it out by using some time to get things done at home while the kids were still in earshot. That way I wouldn’t have to worry, but could use the time to do all the things I like to do in peace like prepare lunch, pee and put some make up on.
On downloading the app it's really easy to see how to book. You have the option to put in the day and time you want and see who’s available or you can let people offer the ‘sit’ time you request. You can then have a look over their profile and accept or decline. You can also ask any questions you may have. Simple! I chose to search through- cos I’m nosey- and by luck I could straight away see who my friends had used in the past and left reviews for. This was a no brainer for me and I quickly booked a 21 year old medical student called Giorgi who my lovely friend vouched for.
Lewis – my 8 year old is very sociable and was really keen to have someone new to play with but I was slightly concerned about Joy as she can be extremely shy with new people. When our sitter came it was a lovely day so she suggested playing outside while I got things done upstairs. The fee for my sitter was £8.00 and hour and you only pay for the time they are actually there. If you let them go early you end sit and it’s stops charging you. This is really handy - if you were out and enjoying yourself it means, if your sitter was happy to stay on, you wouldn't have to rebook. You can just end the sit when you arrive home.
Our sitter was really chatty and straight away at ease with the kids (even the very apprehensive Joy). She read them stories and entertained them fully for the 4 hour duration. I didn’t want to get in the way but I could hear lots of happy noises from both children and she even offered to make them lunch. At one point I heard Lewis try his luck asking for endless sweet supplies and Giorgi confidently told him no as they hadn't had lunch. At that point I knew she was a keeper.
We've just moved house so I managed to get a lot of unpacking done as well as enjoying my own lunch in peace. Even as a complete worrier I’d be happy to leave my kids with Giorgi so I could go out. The great thing is as I know my friend uses her it’s no different to any other recommendation for childcare, but the app just makes it a whole lot easier to book.
After my sit I left a very positive review so that my friends can see how much we liked Giorgi and can feel confident in booking her themselves. For me word of mouth is the best thing when it comes to childcare and bubble shows any connections you have with friends and sitters which I think is a fab idea.
The price of a sitter ranges and sitters have a little blurb about their interests etc and you can see a picture. You can also see which sitters are PVG checked and who has first aid training which is really handy. If you have the basic package there is a £3.50 booking fee for each sit but if you upgrade you don’t pay the fee. I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many sitters available in my area as I live quite far out of Edinburgh. Its not the easiest to get to but I had 25 to choose from.
In this month’s mamaME box there is a £10 voucher for the bubble all so get dropping hints for a box so you can start browsing for babysitters. I’m sure we could all benefit from just that little bit more ‘me time’. Regardless of whether its a date night you need or just 2 hours to enjoy a coffee alone I’m a firm believer in time off from the kids. I’m a definite bubble convert!
Champagne and Snotty Noses
As some of you will know, I welcomed my second daughter into this crazy world in January and – as you can probably imagine – the last few months have been a bit of a wonderful whirlwind. Now that we are out of the first three months and starting to find our groove, I’ve been reflecting on the things that I did this time round to look after myself, where I failed first time round.
Here are my Top Five Tips for Postnatal Self-Care in that (oh-so-important) first three months of your baby’s life (no matter whether it’s your first baby or your tenth!):