There is nothing I love more than relaxing by a pool, sunshine beaming down on me, with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other. Our holidays abroad were the highlights of my year; our chance to switch off and relax. Fast forward a few years and my pasty skin has not seen Greek, Cypriot or Spanish sun in too long, thanks to our tiny tornado who now rules the roost.
We haven’t been abroad since I was pregnant. Every now and then we consider booking a last minute beach holiday, but then we come to our senses. We’ve realised that the peace and quiet that we used to enjoy on holiday would be replaced by constantly having to entertain a child who is far too keen on water and would have our stress levels shooting off the scale, as she edged ever closer to the pool; probably throwing away her arm bands, rubber ring and float as she went, just to add that extra bit of drama and danger! So we needed an alternative holiday that catered for all of our needs, but that we could all still enjoy. And this is where we fell in love with staycations.
A staycation is simply a holiday spent in your home country, or even just in your home town and venturing out on day trips. Having grown up in a seaside town, I could never understand why people would want to holiday within Britain. Why weren’t they racing to the travel agents to book themselves on the next flight to Corfu?! But since becoming parents we have realised that staycations are actually a great idea. If you are still yearning for the sun, sand and sea of international shores, but don’t think you are ready to face it all with kids, then read on as I share with you the reasons why a staycation is a great alternative.
It’s cheaper than holidaying abroad
Obviously if you decide to spend your break at The Ritz for a fortnight, then that will be much more expensive than a package deal to Spain. However, staycations can be done on a tight budget if you shop around and are flexible with your dates. There are lots of budget friendly hotels in Britain, and a huge number of holiday camps and caravan parks that cater specifically for families with young children. And as much as I enjoy holidays abroad as an adult, some of my best childhood memories come from holidays to a Butlins that was 25 minutes away from my house, or from trips to British seaside towns. I didn’t need a huge complex with an on site water park and spa: all I wanted was a face painter, a decent disco and Slush Puppies on tap. Holiday camps and parks have also come a long way since we were kids and are now providing much more for families, but still at relatively low prices. So get booking and make some memories!
We try to pick destinations that are far enough away from home so that we actually feel like we are away; but then we try not to travel too far so we can avoid having to spend too much time in the car. We have found that breaking a long road journey up into shorter parts makes it much more enjoyable for everyone. For example, on our way to Scotland we usually stop off in Leeds for a night or two to visit friends before setting off on the next leg of our journey. This also gives added bonus of making it feel like another mini holiday.
Less travel time
I hate flying. I’m always convinced that something bad is going to happen to the plane, to the point that I have to sit by the window just so I can keep make sure that everything looks ok and no bits have fallen off the plane. Thankfully so far no wings have dropped off on my watch, so I’m here to tell the tale. Flying is quite a stressful experience for me, so if I was to add a toddler into the flight equation, the anxiety levels would be through the roof. Trying to keep myself calm whilst dealing with a toddler confined to their seat for hours on end, after having spent a good few hours in the airport terminal, and so is understandably bored, is not the calm and peaceful start I’d like to my holiday. By staying in Britain we have managed to avoid most of the issues that can come from traveling with small children, and that has made our holidays all the more enjoyable. We try to pick destinations that are far enough away from home so that we actually feel like we are away; but then we try not to travel too far so we can avoid having to spend too much time in the car. We have found that breaking a long road journey up into shorter parts makes it much more enjoyable for everyone. For example, on our way to Scotland we usually stop off in Leeds for a night or two to visit friends before setting off on the next leg of our journey. This also gives the added bonus of making it feel like another mini holiday.
You’ll have everything you need nearby
Accidentally left behind the only nappy cream that your child’s sensitive skin doesn’t react horrendously too? Pop to the local Boots and pick up some more. Have they decided that the only thing they want to eat that week are some very particular own brand yoghurts/cake/chicken nuggets? Get yourself down the supermarket and stock up. The beauty of a staycation is that all the familiar shops that you use on a day to day basis at home will still be just a short drive away, perfect for when a toddler tantrum demanding is close to ending the holiday before it even starts.
Discovering hidden gems
Millions of people from across the world flock to Britain every year to visit our world famous tourist attractions. We are a nation steeped in history, culture and beauty, but so many of us choose to jet off to other countries to explore when we actually have so much left to discover on our own doorsteps.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start enjoying your staycation!
Mama of a Cool Kid
Travelling with kids. Yeah.. that!
So, we just travelled to Majorca. It was amazing, but, it was also insanely tough! This was our first 'holiday' as a family of four and the first time that we have had a beach holiday since becoming parents three years ago (our previous trips have been to California to visit friends, so had more of a home from home vibe.) We went away with friends and we decided on a villa because none of us could face the hell of keeping four small humans alive in a holiday resort. BEST DECISION EVER!
Our worst decision ever was travelling with a low cost airline. The plane just got lighter and lighter as cans were sunk two at a time, screaming kids, rowdy parents, hen do's.. you get the idea! And I hate myself for saying that; times have changed and I'm submitting to old age! The return flight was even worse because the airline messed up and we almost missed our flight- not ideal with four small humans under three at 10pm. A week later and I can still hear the ringing of my friends banshee yell in my ears 'Stoppppppppp the plane!!'
I need a holiday after the holiday.
The reality of travelling with kids is that it's just not what it used to be. In many ways it's so much richer than before. Making memories with the boys was amazing; watching them have so much fun and spending time showing them new things. The thing is, my brain is still wired to think of a holiday as a time to tan, read and relax. The reality is really quite different. I did get a tan, I did read a book but it was laboured and, well, I'm not sure that I even know how to spell the world relax anymore!
So here are some top holiday tips for those brave enough to travel with small humans:
1. F&F do the greatest shapewear bikinis... I felt amazing (which I really didn't think I would).
2. Don't be fooled by big brands with fancys ads, Aldi sun cream is not only cheap but it has one of the best UV star ratings, we loved it!
3. I can't recommend the UV protection swim tops and hats from Decathalon UK enough, the boys looked super cool but were also super protected.
4. If you want a good book then you must read 'Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine' by Gail Honeyman. I read it at every opportunity, it lived up to the reviews and is a total steal on Amazon at the moment.
5. My holy grail, must have, top tip... ALWAYS take spf lip balm! I hate burning my lips! This year I bought the EOS spf30 grapefruit lip balm. It was beaut, tasted yummy, was smooth and my lips didn't burn at all.
Find the key to a drama free family holiday by keeping the kids active and entertained by the beach as they explore their sandy surroundings whilst trying new experiences. From learning to surf in Morocco to kayaking in Bali, say goodbye to boredom as Health and Fitness travel, the wellness holiday specialists, share their top ideas for active family beach holidays. Make the most of sharing new experiences with the kids or take some adult time out to relax and unwind as the little ones are entertained at the Kids Club, with everything from tennis to treasure hunts.
ITALY: FORTE VILLAGE
Luxuriate in the glorious Sardinian shores this summer and bring the family along for a fun-filled holiday at this self-contained paradise. Adults can enjoy a multitude of Thalassotherapy treatments, drawing upon the natural healing power of seawater and soothing marine mud, to benefit you with a rediscovered sense of well-being. Whilst your kids will enjoy their days participating in a wide-range of exhilarating activities from boxing and tennis to football and cycling. With its vast range of eight hotels, 21 restaurants and amenities; this healthy holiday offers something for every family.
PORTUGAL: VILALARA LONGEVITY THALASSA & MEDICAL SPA
Set on the renowned Algarve coastline of Portugal, this family friendly hotel is a haven for family fun in the sun. With direct access to Gaivotas Beach, families are never far from the abundance of water sports and beach activities, including jet skiing, surfing and diving. If you wanted to play some friendly family tournaments on a family sports holiday, make the most of the four tennis courts and five swimming pools. With spa facilities and a kid’s area, there are also great opportunities for children and parents to part ways for a few hours and unwind at their own pace.
MOROCCO: PARADIS PLAGE
Facing onto its own private beach on the southwest coastline of Morocco, experience an all-round family activity holiday with beach-front and mountain top adventures. From mountain biking and surfing lessons, to paddle boarding and kayaking, get the whole family involved with trying something new on the Agadir coastline. Treat the kids with a trip to the AquaPark 300m down the road for a day out they’ll never forget. Unwind after a busy day on your active family holiday with a French or Moroccan massage at the luxury spa, whilst the kids club keeps the little ones active with organised games and craft activities.
ST LUCIA: THE BODY HOLIDAY
This family beach holiday on the Caribbean island of St Lucia is an exclusive programme running over July and August each summer. Designed to promote a family friendly holiday vibe, The BodyHoliday aims to foster family bonding through a series of activities, including bike adventures and beach volleyball. With everything from abseiling and water sports, to tennis and healthy cooking classes, there are endless opportunities for the family to come together and have fun keeping active. To relax, mothers and daughters can enjoy special spa sessions together, with a range of beauty treatments and a dedicated teen spa menu
PORTUGAL: GALO RESORT
This beachside family resort offers affordable family holiday options catering to everyone’s active interests. Offering fun-filled family activities, such as snorkelling, horse riding and karting, there’ll never be a dull moment on this family activity holiday. With the kids’ club running throughout the summer months, take a couple of hours for yourself to enjoy the spa or the championship level golf courses, as your kids try their hand at badminton before refuelling in the pancake house. With a kids menu, family rooms, child pool and outdoor playground, you’ll find everything you need at Galo.
THAILAND: AMATARA WELLNESS RESORT
Don’t be afraid to travel further afield with the children this year, as you embark on a beachside family activity holiday in Phuket. Explore this picturesque coastal town with a bike tour or learn to cook the local delicacies, taught at the cooking workshop. After this fun-filled day, your kids can keep engaged and entertained at the kids’ club, the library or splash around in the pool. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the spa, try out stand-up paddle boarding, Tai Chi or meditation, before re-grouping for a family kayaking session.
GREECE: PORTO ELOUNDA GOLF & SPA RESORT
Designed as a fun multi-activity holiday with the whole family in mind, lessons are available for all ages in activities including tennis, golf and water sports, at this family beach retreat on the Greek island of Crete. Complete with a kids playground, vegetable garden and swimming pools, everything is taken care of at this family friendly resort, so you won’t have to worry about fussy eaters or bored kids. With a nanny service available from morning to night, parents can take time out to unwind in the luxury spa or join in with a group fitness class, from yoga and Tai Chi to water aerobics and Oriental dancing.
PORTUGAL: MARTINHAL LUXURY BEACH RESORT
Set on the western Algarve coastline within a protected natural park, this coastal resort is a beautiful beach spa destination for the entire family. Catering to all ages and interests, this family beach resort has five different kids clubs for children of different age groups, as well as five sporting academies including; surfing, windsurfing, swimming and football. For the football fans, there is also a 3 day football clinic throughout the summer months. Enjoy quality family time mountain biking, deep sea fishing or horse-riding, before Mum and Dad take some time to relax at the luxury spa with treatments inspired by the surrounding ocean.
PORTUGAL: PINE CLIFFS
Discover an active getaway for the whole family at this family beach hotel set in sunny Algarve. Overlook undisrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean as your little ones enjoy their own adventures at the in-house pirate’s children village. Master your game of tennis with coaching sessions at the renowned Annabel Croft Tennis academy while the kids are kept engaged and entertained with various activities including mini-golf, football and water ball at the Junior Club. Spend quality family time together, as you’ll dine together, at any one of the nine restaurants, all offering fresh food in charming settings.
VIETNAM: FUSION MAIA
Escape to this tropical paradise in Vietnam and get the most out of a luxury family holiday which offers world-class accommodation and high-quality service. Going above and beyond when it comes to children’s activities, this wellness retreat offers mini spa treatments and cookery classes allowing the kids to learn whilst having fun. Just a stone’s throw away from one of the most fantastic beaches in the world, enjoy a number of exciting ocean activities from water sports to local island excursions. Make it a memorable cultural experience for the kids as you let them tag along guided tours on Vietnam’s most stunning tourist spots.
For advice, guidance and booking visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 397 8891
About Paul Joseph:
Wellness Travel Specialist and Entrepreneur, Paul Joseph, is the co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, a global leader in wellness holidays worldwide. Always ahead of the curve in pioneering new health programmes that revive the soul, boost fitness or address serious health issues, the worldwide wellness tourism industry has now become a multi-billion sector, growing faster than travel in general. Paul has a wealth of PR, Marketing, Sales and Management experience in the health and tourism industry, consulting leading hotels on their wellness strategy and contributing regularly to broadcast and media interviews.
About Health and Fitness Travel:
Health and Fitness Travel is a global luxury wellness travel company that originated in the UK in 2010 and is committed to providing healthy holidays that enhance and change lives. Created by Paul Joseph and Adam Heathcote as a result of their passion for health and fitness travel and offering bespoke holidays to improve people’s well-being to lead happier and healthier lives.
Health and Fitness Travel offers clients a tailor-made seamless service with the very best health and fitness holidays, handpicked by its expert team, together with exclusive and added value packages with the best deals. As leading specialists, Health and Fitness Travel has also created their own collection of trademark healthy holidays in various destinations which include Fusion Fitness™ BodyBreaks™ and Discover Recover™, offering clients the best value and holiday experience. For more information visit: www.healthandfitnesstravel.com
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On Saturday, my tiny newborn baby turned two. How has that happened? How have two years passed since she entered the world as this helpless, gunky, squishy baby? She is fearless, but loves a mummy cuddle. She is strong willed and independent. She is loving and cares for her dolly and I am very proud of the little girl she has become.
Gift wise, we really struggled with ideas this year. Lets be realistic, she’s two and is more interested in the paper and boxes things come in, but you still want to get them something, right? What makes it even more difficult is that she has all her big sisters toys and things to play with too, so really, we were stumped.
In the end she got a new dress, a paddling pool, a wee bag full of sweeties and a bubble gun... and you know what her fave bit was? Opening the cards! At this age, they really don’t need any stuff, and they definitely prefer you spending your time with them, rather than money.
We were lucky enough to be invited along to the Wildhood Festival in Kinross and it happened to fall on Ivy’s birthday, and it was the absolute perfect way to enjoy some family time and celebrate her birthday. This year it was all to do with animals and you were encouraged to come dressed up, so naturally we obliged and donned all of our sparkles, glitter and wings and came as a family of butterflies - Gary was in his element I’m sure!
On arrival, it immediately felt magical. There were wonderfully dressed characters walking around, a ukulele orchestra, story telling, a graffiti garden, water and bug discovery, animal trail, crafts, crown making, fairly lessons (which was a huge hit with Lily) and don’t even get me started on the food... which all looked amazing and fortunately, we sampled quite a lot of it! There was excellently stocked bar too.... unfortunately i was driving. Next year we will definitely be going back, and I’m hoping we will camp the whole weekend!
Thankfully, Mr Sun came out to play, which made the whole day more enjoyable. We left around 3pm and spent the rest of the afternoon in the new paddling pool, laughing, drinking cider and soaking up as much family time as possible.
So, if your little one has a birthday coming up, remember it’s not all about presents, but more about presence. Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to buy your child something special, but isn’t it great when you can do something the whole family can enjoy and make treasured memories from? I know seeing the smiles on the girls faces will last a lifetime, and that’s the best gift in the world.
Lots of love xx
Forever A Mum
My poor husband works so hard to make sure our family are happy and he often gets overlooked. Sure he’s a grumpy git at times and his toilet aim could use a little work, but he always puts us first. He doesn’t get out much and his Xbox has a layer of dust from neglect, but he never tires of sleeping bunnies or wrestling with Lewis.
Father's day usually falls around our anniversary so we never really do much, but this year I wanted to make it special by putting together some things he’d love to make him feel a bit more appreciated. Here are some of the things I’m including in case you’re stuck for gift ideas. I’m sure your hubby has plenty of socks already!
I’m almost disappointed Steve has fallen in love with these as now I have to share, but Harriet the creator is so lovely I’m happy to support. These are little one-use eye masks that heat up for 15 mins once opened and give off the nicest jasmine scent. Spacemask = the best sleep ever! What parent doesn’t need more sleep? Spacemasks are £15 for 5.
Yes you read that right. Dust. For your nuts. I’m no testicle expert but sweaty balls can’t be fun right? Eliminate chafing and stay fresh for £4.99.
A YEAR OF DATES
We were given these recently and they are amazing! We all know how easy it is to get stuck in a rut when it comes to date night, but these beauties can help with that. 52 individually wrapped date ideas colour coded for going out, staying in etc. Such a simple yet lovely idea. Prices range from £25-£29
COCO CHOCOLATIER GIN AND TONIC CHOCOLATE
We are lucky enough to have these made locally and the flavours are to die for. Steve is a gin man so this is right up his street. He might even share! £4.50 for this beauty.
WILLOW AND PLUM NETTLE SOAP
This is another of my favourites that the whole family now uses. Is anything sacred? Steve suffers really dry skin and was guilty of using harsh soaps, but this has really saved his skin. If it keeps his skin happy then I’ll gladly share. This is £6 and seems to last forever.
Naturally a bathboard had to feature. One of my favourite purchases of all time and another that Steve steals so I’ve included a beer board in the hope he might leave mine alone. These have a slot for candles, a tablet and a beer but are great for snacks and books too, starting at £23.
ANATOMICALS FACE MASK
Anatomicals face masks. These little beauties have given us so much fun and many a silly selfie. Self care is for men too and this brand is amazing for reasonably priced body care with hilarious names. These masks are only £1 each and stockists can be found on their website.
So that’s my little box of gift ideas for Steve and I think he’ll love it. He really deserves a treat. Do you have any novel ideas to add? Do you agree men are much harder to buy for? Drop me a comment and let me know what you think.
Champagne and Snotty Noses
*Please note this is NOT a sponsored post. Just some brands I genuinely love.
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!):
Finding the right nursery to suit your family can be a difficult and scary time because it usually signifies that it's time for mat leave to come to an end and the impending return to work. It's tough to trust a stranger with your precious little love nugget, but sometimes you have no other choice if you have to go back to work and don’t have relatives or friends close by to give a helping hand.
I'll admit, our approach to finding a nursery for Harris was pretty slapdash because I was trying so hard not to think about going back to work and was pretending that I still had lots of time left. I damn right went and freaked out when I had a call to say I was due back in eight weeks’ time and needed to discuss what my plans were.. I decided right there and then that I was handing in my notice, I was going to be a SAHM. A week later, I called my manager to retract my resignation and apologise for messing her around. My brain was scrambled - I was about to start leaving my baby for long days at work, and I was terrified. I so desperately wanted to quit my job, but financially it just didn't make sense for us and I did want Harris to be around more babies his age. However, as I've mentioned in a previous post, going back to a working environment after over a year off was pretty difficult to get my head around. This, coupled with not having a lot of time to make arrangements, met for a few stressful weeks but we got there in the end.
Honestly, we went and visited one nursery and we just knew that we didn't need or want to see any others. Everything about it was appealing - it was affordable; staff came across as upbeat and welcoming; the babies and children seemed happy and well looked after; meals were provided and included in the cost; and it was less than a five minute walk away from the house. I think we filled out the paperwork the following day and handed it in along with our deposit; Harris then had 4 settling-in sessions the following before beginning his two full days each week.
There are a lot of factors that have to be considered when choosing a nursery although for us, you could say it was relatively easy to find the 'right' one. Apart from the obvious, having qualified and well-trained teachers, and being available on our preferred days, we didn't have any other real criteria that we felt had to be met other than being close to home. Our choice of having childcare closer to home rather than work made more sense to us because, as we don't drive, it meant we didn't have to take Harris in his buggy on public transport during rush hour - this is something you might want to consider if, like me, you feel quite anxious in crowded places with a pram. It also offers the added bonus of less travelling time in the mornings and evenings for all of us!
Price and affordability is probably the biggest deciding factor for a lot of families too. If I'm being completely open, I didn't even compare the price of the nursery we chose to any others because I knew the one we really liked was within our budget and I was happy with that. However, a nursery can be more expensive than a childminder and we still have to pay our usual fees if we are away on holiday. Family and Childcare Trust report that, in Britain, the average cost of 25 hours of childcare for a child under 2 years old is £116.25 - that's over £465 per month. Considering most nurseries operate for ten and a half hours every weekday (typically from 7.30am til 6pm) this means that this is the average costs for less than 2.5 days in nursery per week. So, what about the cost to those who have no choice but to return to work full time? Crazy, right?! The total cost for a full time nursery placement doesn’t even bear thinking about, and for us it just wasn’t financially viable.
Something that I think a lot of other parents think about when choosing childcare is how much attention their child will need in order to feel secure under someone else’s supervision. Harris was always what I describe as a ‘high-needs’ baby in that he would scream unless he was attached to someone, ALWAYS. Naturally I was worried that he wouldn’t get as much attention at nursery where the staff to child ratio is one to three, but he seems to have adapted well and enjoys some time to play on his own now too.
Reliability and stability is another important factor for parents. I find it difficult enough to take time off work if Harris is unwell and unable to go to nursery for whatever reason, so I couldn’t also deal with the possibility of having a childminder be ill and calling in sick leaving me with no childcare. In a nursery setting, there is usually plenty of staff to cover should anyone be off sick so at least that’s one less thing to worry about!
Harris has been going to his nursery for just over four months now and the change in him is phenomenal despite it only being two days per week; the nursery staff always have such pleasant things to say about him. I firmly believe that being around other kids has worked wonders for his development - he's now walking and saying lots of words; and his cheeky little personality is really beginning to shine through. He has the freedom to toddle around and play all day, but also sing songs and read books; as well as create pictures and go on outings to places like the police station or library. So, whether you're choosing a nursery or not just remember that there are pros and cons to all childcare... but it will all work out in the end!
Stacey and Harris
In late January, my second baby came bawling into the world and I am still on cloud nine! A second daughter – Arabella Grace – who has not stopped bringing joy and sleep deprivation since she arrived. We didn’t find out what we were having and I am utterly thrilled to be a Mama to two healthy, gorgeous girls. My sisters are my closest allies (we don’t have any brothers) and my husband has two sisters/no brothers, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to add to the female force and I’m darn pleased we’ve done so! (My poor husband never stood a chance; he realises this and claims that it was always his “destiny” to have daughters. Bless him!)
I was booked in for an elective C section at 40 weeks, bang on my due date, after having an emergency C section with Rose, my eldest. Rose’s labour was dramatic and colourful – much like her character – and she arrived on my 33rd birthday. Because of the complications from my first labour, I was really anxious about doing it all again. I knew that I wanted more children, but I was terrified at having another emergency situation and couldn’t bear the thought of having to stay away from Rose for any great length of time. So, with this in mind, I decided to arm myself with as much prep as possible for both outcomes: a vaginal and caesarean delivery. The consultant offered me a C section at 39 weeks but I declined, because I felt that I wanted to wait it out until my due date to see what happened.
That last month was really tough. We’d ‘pulled up the drawbridge’ for Christmas (which was genius of us, in retrospect) and I’d been suffering from really debilitating Braxton Hicks contractions for the last six weeks of pregnancy. Everything that you read online says that they don’t hurt but mine sure did! I couldn’t lift my toddler; I was finding it increasingly hard to drive and was wishing we’d bought a bungalow, not a house with four flights of stairs. I was so lucky that my Mother in Law and Mum stepped in to help with Rose on the days that she wasn’t in nursery; they took a few days a week each and it made the world of difference because it meant that I could nap. Oh my word, the naps! Never underestimate those bad boys, they are HEAVEN! Looking back, I think the rest that I got in the last few weeks really set me up for a positive outcome so, if you’re in a similar position, I really would recommend doing everything you can to find some time to relax as much as possible. I know that it’s almost a cliché but it works.
I found a book that I loved and got stuck into it (‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry – highly recommend it) and spent my time bouncing on the birth ball and reading that in the calm of my living room. My husband finished work on the Friday and the C section was set for the Monday, all nice and organised. Then my contractions started at 10:30pm on that Friday night. It was as if Mother Nature knew that my body was relaxed and that everything was in place! It soon became apparent that they weren’t Braxton Hicks (there was just no let up) and so, at 2:30am I woke my husband. My Mum was booked to come and look after Rose when I had the C section and she lives 3 hours away so I was adamant that I wasn’t going to get her to come down if it was a false alarm but, at 4:30am, I text her and told her it was the real deal. She replied straight away and arrived by 8:30am with my step-dad; the legends!
I went into hospital in the early afternoon of Saturday and Arabella was born naturally on Sunday morning. We had our own room on delivery suite and were pretty much left to our own devices. I’d feared the constant monitoring and being tied to the bed with the bands on, but the midwives were wonderful and fully supported our wishes to let things progress naturally and only monitored me when they needed to. Luckily, unlike the first time, all was well and so we spent Saturday night listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and dancing about, to try and ease through the contractions. I had liquid Morphine (which made me sick) and Pethidine (which gave us an hour’s break) until Sunday morning when the change of staffing shift happened. The night team said that I might still need to be sent home because things weren’t progressing, but I could tell that things very much were progressing, and then at 8am in waltzed the most amazing midwife I’ve ever met, who just took control of the whole situation and allowed me to have the birth that I’d so longed for. I asked for an epidural (probably demanded it, to be fair!) and she replied “Tali, you don’t need one, you can have gas and air because this baby is coming!” and so that’s what I did! My husband has since told me that, when she said that, he thought I was going to go crazy at her and he couldn’t believe how I just accepted what she said, but I think her calm, yet authoritative, manner was just what I needed after a long labour. Strangely, I felt that I could trust her implicitly and so I did! It’s amazing what takes over in those situations; you really cannot plan for everything but you do find trust in the people around you and that’s what gets you through.
Arabella arrived at 11:41am to Fleetwood Mac blasting out of the speakers and the winter Sunday sunshine streaming in through the window, and I haven’t come down from that high yet.