The last time

world breastfeeding week

For days and weeks on end, you’re kneeling on the floor changing nappies, and waking in the night to make bottles. You’re lifting them into the car seat in the rain when your back hurts and you’re putting their coats on for them because they can’t quite get the hang of it still. You’re feeding them their porridge from a plastic bowl because they make such a mess if they do it themselves, for days and weeks on end, you’re doing this.

And for months and months you’re having the same battles over bedtime or dinnertime. You’re so tired of asking them to get their shoes on and wait by the door, you’re so tired of playing the games which finally get them to eat, you’re so tired of the battle to get out of the bath.

But you realise, these things you are doing for days and weeks and hours on end are different. You’re no longer repacking the change bag again and again and making sure there’s spare clothes in the car and you’re never without raisins.

No longer are you sitting up in bed at night, holding your baby to your breast and realising you drifted off while she fed. No longer are you waking up with a shock, with her sleeping beside you, and not being able to remember how she got there. No longer are you half asleep through all the small hours, feeding her back to sleep.

You used to read him the same book every night, it seems so young for him now, after humming the same tune. You used to wrap him completely in his baby towel after his bath, before it got too small to dry him. You used to love her falling asleep on your chest while strapped close to you in the baby carrier. You used to hold her on your lap and she fitted there perfectly while she fell asleep.

You can’t remember the last time you read that book or sang that song. You can’t remember the last midnight bottle or early morning feed. You can’t remember the last nappy change, the last time he needed you to hold his hand while he fell asleep.

When you wake, with them in your bed, tired and sad that you’ve not had any sleep because they kicked you all night. When you cajole them with tricks to eat their lunch and wish they’d feed themselves. When you read that chapter for the hundredth time. When you sing that song in the car again. It might be the last time. You’ll miss it. You won’t know. And you might not remember it.

Until much, much, later, when that moment is long gone and it’s even hard to recall what you thought about it at the time. Because now, you think they need you less.

You’ll see one day though that it’s all just different. It’s changed. It’s no longer nappies and tying shoelaces. It’s listening to stories about dramas with friends, it’s helping with homework, it’s picking them up from swimming.

It’ll change, but they’ll need you, still. You might not see it, or know it happen, but they’ll grow and learn – and still look for you. There will be more first times – you might not see them either for what they are at the start, but you’ll realise one day these are your new habits, your new routines, their new needs.

And so, when you feed her to sleep or sing him to sleep, you might not know it will be the last time. Even though it will always be between you. And with you. Both.

 

Why I will be hiding my grey hair

Kiran Chug

More and more grey hairs seem to be making themselves visible along my hairline. I’ve always had a few, but in the last few years I’ve become more and more conscious of them.

I’ve thought about hair dye on and off for ages. And, up until a few weeks ago, I was determined not to start using it. I didn’t care that greying gave away my age – I thought. I didn’t want to succumb to an expectation that women died their hair as they got older. I didn’t want to give in to a convention whereby we respond to the pressure to look younger – or so I thought. It isn’t that I’m confident about my appearance – I just didn’t really feel the need to make myself look younger.

Until a few weeks ago, when I changed my mind.

I have a birthday coming up, and I don’t particularly like birthdays. I find myself, every year, wallowing in a state of discontent for weeks. I feel like I’ve failed to achieve what I once thought I might have done by the time I reached this arbitrary count of days. I measure myself up against what my idyllic teenage self once thought I’d have done by this time, and I fail miserably and resoundingly. I take stock, and I don’t like it.

Once, before I knew really anything about life and people and myself, I had daft expectations of it all. This by this age, that by that age, etc, etc… I’ve known for a long, long time that life doesn’t turn out the way your teenage self thought it would, but I still can’t help, every birthday, feeling like I’ve failed. (For the rest of the year, I’m generally more able to see all the good in my world and feel mostly incredibly happy about it.)

But, given that the point in the year when I feel most rubbish about myself is nearly here, the grey hairs are taking up too much of my time. Not because I’m dying them, but because I’m thinking about them. All. The. Time. In fact, I’d probably spend less time on them if I was actually standing in front of the bathroom mirror and pasting them with chemicals every few weeks.

I know well the argument that women become invisible as they age. It makes me annoyed and generally disheartened by the values society places on women. But my reason for caring about my greys is pure vanity. When I see a salt and pepper hairline in the mirror, I don’t feel very pretty. Over the years, I’ve bought into what ‘pretty’ is and come to value it. Grey hair doesn’t fit in the image I’ve built.

Whether or not that’s because of a social construct of what prettiness is, isn’t my point. My point is that I’ve bought into the image, and I can’t stand up to it – even though I thought I would. I don’t mind being older, per se – so long as I don’t look like I’ve aged. I don’t feel confident enough in how I am and how I look, I suppose, to let the world see me in this natural state as it veers away the vision of non-greyness.

I’ve tried to quiz my husband on my greys. ‘Do you notice them? Do you think they make me look old?’ Of course he won’t answer because he doesn’t believe me that I won’t hold his answers against him during a future tiff. But, it’s not really about him or what he or anyone else sees.

This is about me and my mask and my armour. When you’re feeling down about who you are and what you’ve done, you need to pull strength from somewhere. That strength is a front, and my front is the layers of make-up, the heels on days when I don’t feel like I measure up, and – soon – a shade of hair colour bought in a bottle.

I wish I wasn’t so shallow. I didn’t think I would be at my age.

A weekend in Wales

Visit Wales Brecon Mountain Railway Find your Epic

We are big fans of short weekend breaks, and our recent adventure in Wales reminded us again why it’s so good to get out of town for a few days. We spent only two nights away, but returned to London feeling recharged and relaxed. Our two days in the countryside gave us all a chance to have a break from busy city life and we enjoyed just spending some time in each others’ company. What’s more, the children loved exploring somewhere new while managing to cram in a trip on a steam train in the Brecon Beacons as well as a visit to a castle too.

It was the perfect amount of time, although it did leave us wanting to return to Wales for more adventures. Our trip was organised thanks to Visit Wales who are running the #FindYourEpic campaign. We certainly had our share of adventure, and we’re already planning what we’ll do next time we manage to get to this beautiful part of the country again!

We left London on a Friday evening and drove to Merthyr Tydfil which is at the bottom of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Leaving London on a Friday after work might sound crazy, but the drive is only about three hours and even a closed road didn’t delay us for too long. The children went straight to sleep when we arrived and Tony and I had a glass of wine, glad we’d driven out of town on Friday so we could fit in a full day of exploring on Saturday.

We stayed in a beautiful studio apartment in a stunning Victorian townhouse – Studios at Glenthorne, in Merthyr Tydfil. We could have opted for Cardiff as a base, but we really wanted to be out of the city and so this was perfect, and right next to the national park. The house was built in the 1800s and for the last three years run as a guest house by the very lovely Claire – who Milin and Jasmin adored.

I loved the little touches and details that were everywhere you looked here – the frames around notepaper explaining parking or the wifi code, a lovely grandfather clock, fresh flowers, the surprise chocolates in the afternoon and the home-made Welsh cakes on arrival. (Jasmin and Tony made short work of these!) Our continental breakfast was a feast, and we loved the set-up of a studio apartment within a home. The house has its original features in tact, but is still modern and warm and welcoming. Our huge room had a bed and sofa bed, with a separate kitchen, complete with washing machine, and the shower was brilliant too.

I really can’t recommend Glenthorne highly enough and I hope we can go back. It was beautiful, spotless, brilliantly located, and we loved the personal touch. We ordered a takeaway on Saturday night and ate it happily with a bottle of Prosecco with the tele on, while the children slept. It really felt like a home away from home.
Wales Glenthorne Studios The GroveGlenthorn Studios Merthyr Tydfil Visit Wales Find your Epic

Wales Merthyr Glenthorne Studios

Wales breakfast with JasminWales Glenthorne Hallwaywales the groveWales Glenthorn Studios apartmentsWales grandfather clock

The highlight of our weekend was definitely a ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway. The station was only a few minutes’ drive from our guesthouse and at the foot of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Milin and Jasmin might be little (they’re four and two), but they’re not too little for adventures.

We arrived half an hour before our train was leaving and we’re so glad we did. At the station, you’re able to have a look around the engineer’s yard. Milin and Jasmin were fascinated by the engines in for repair and got to have a look close up at some of those being fixed. We saw the guard and driver getting our steam train ready and the children could barely believe their eyes and ears when it tooted and backed onto the platform.

Milin said it was just like being on the Island of Sodor and Jasmin agreed that this train looked like Thomas – but was of course the wrong colour. The ride itself was about an hour and half and seeing their little faces when we started moving absolutely made my weekend. That something as simple as a ride on a steam train made them so happy was the sweetest thing.

But, what a ride it was. With a glistening lake to the side of the track for much of the ride, and the snow-capped mountains of the Brecon Beacons in the distance, this wasn’t any forest train ride. In fact, it turned into an adventure when a fallen tree just before we reached the top of the track stopped us in our paths. As Milin said, it really was like a story from Thomas-land. We watched the guard investigate, but he decided his handsaw wouldn’t be able to clear the tracks and a chainsaw was needed. It was possibly the most exciting train ride the children have ever been on – and certainly beats the tube for adventure. We reversed all the way back, but not before a stop at a little station along the way for coffee and hot chocolates (and more Welsh cakes) and a little play at the play area.

Brecon mountain railway station Wales find your epicWales find your epic brecon mountain railway steam trainWales Brecon mountain railwayVisit Wales Brecon Mountain Railway Pant StationVisit Wales Brecon Mountain Railway Find your EpicWales Brecon Mountain Railway looking out of windowWales Brecon Mountain Railway ride

After all the adventure, we relaxed in the afternoon at a beautiful country pub which looked out onto stunning views over the Brecon Beacons. We saw plenty of mountain bikers making the most of the dry and sunny spring day – and Tony and I were a teeny bit jealous. One day, when the children are a bit older, we’ll hopefully return and get some family riding done in this beautiful part of the country. What a backdrop for it.

We also saw lots of horse-riders and, again, what an amazing place to be riding. Our train ride and ramble to the pub was perfect for little legs, but one day I hope we can return and explore more on foot.

We spent Sunday morning at the incredibly impressive Cyfarthfa Park Lake – again just a couple of minutes drive or ten minutes walk from Glenthorne Studios. Cyfarthfa Castle was once a school but we busied ourselves imagining adventures of knights and dragons in its grounds. Milin and Jasmin were pretty impressed to be at a ‘real life’ castle, and its surrounding grounds, lake and playground made this the perfect spot for just hanging out. There’s a little cafe and museum here, but we were too early for them because of course the children didn’t sleep in.

Wales castle Merthyr JasminWales Merthyr CastleWales castleNo trip to Wales is complete for us without a stop at the Temple Bar Inn at Ewyas Harold. Our stop there this weekend rounded off a perfect couple of days. In front of the fire, we ate chocolate brownies and looked back at a wonderfully relaxing but adventurous trip. Getting out of London always does us good, and heading just a few hours up the road to the foot of the Brecon Beacons was amazing. It was a part of the country we’d never explored until now – and now we can’t wait to go back.

temple bar inn

I’m linking up with Magic Moments over at The Olivers Madhouse  because this weekend was one magic moment after the other!

*We were given train tickets and accommodation for the purpose of this post but all opinions are my own and this review is my honest opinion.

 

My Petit Canard

Rewilding and remembering New Zealand

Anatori Golden Bay New Zealand

I’m not sure what’s brought it on, but I’m homesick for New Zealand. In nearly eight years of life there, I never quite stopped feeling like an outsider in a country which wasn’t mine. But, at the same time, I also felt very much connected to that place –  because the more I grew to love and understand it, the more I let it become a part of me.

In 2005, I landed there a city kid. New Zealand changed me.

I never grew to love the wind in Wellington, but it was the start of my introduction to a life lived outdoors. Gales which knocked me off my bike also taught me about living with a respect for the elements. Tony dragged me camping and I complained loudly and insisted on powered sites so we could plug in the coffee machine – but I’ll never forget our first night under stars. I woke early and just after dawn, walked down an empty beach, shared only with an oyster catcher who warned me away from her nest.

I came to love being away from the city. I remember having a pointless argument with Tony once and driving half an hour up the road to spend the weekend alone. I didn’t eat or read or really do anything other than walk along the coast and swim in the sea. Here:Marahau Golden Bay New Zealand Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay was my happy place, our happy place, where we went after we got married, where we went for countless weekends, where we went just to ‘be’. The tip of the South Island, just a couple of hours from our little flat, was where we went to recharge, to do not very much, and to marvel again and again at how lucky we were. I found a few old photos tonight, including this one, taken at Collingwood on my birthday one year. We’d hired a one-bed studio for a night and walked for hours until an estuary and the tide made us turn back.Collingwood Golden Bay New Zealand

It was in NZ that I swapped the treadmill for running outside for the first time. And now, in London, where I seem to have stopped every form of exercise other than yoga, I miss the freedom of mind that brought. This was snapped at the end of a good run, outside a hut we used to escape to with friends. It was on the west coast of the top of the South Island. Mangarakau swamp was our secret. I learnt about the birds, the plants, the trees, the bush, the land. Down the road, we let the freezing wild ocean rush up to our feet on the shoreline and I never imagined what it would be like to miss a place so much. I didn’t know, then.

Mangarakau Golden Bay New ZealandAnatori Golden Bay New Zealand

And now, in London, I am trying my hardest to bring up our children to love the land and weather and elements and environment around them. I want them to experience it in a way I don’t think I wanted to as a child, but long to do more and more as we continue our lives in the city.

For a family living here, I don’t think we do badly when it comes to getting out in the fresh air. The weather might not always be on our side, but that doesn’t stop us from choosing to brave the elements and head outside. We try to spend as much time as we can outdoors – choosing the park or the forest over staying inside. We have to, I think. The children love getting out, they burn off their energy and sleep better for it, and it saves the house being turned upside down again.

But I have been thinking recently about whether we could do more with that time that we’re out. Instead of scooting to the park, again, or walking our familiar woodland route again – couldn’t we push things a little more? Are the children too young to explore more independently? I don’t think so.

I’ve been thinking about rewilding and initiatives like Project Wild Thing. I have no doubt that less screen time and more time simply just exploring and being outside would help us all sleep better, worry less, and smile a little more. The outdoors does make us happy – there’s no denying it. It lifts the pressure, eases the strain and relaxes our shoulders. We’re kinder on each other, gentler with ourselves, and better at keeping the world in perspective once we’ve really been out among it.

Our weekends don’t need to be filled with trips to the sea or mountain walks – but we do need to make sure that opportunities are still there for the children to have adventures in the natural world around them. I want them to feel confident that this world is out there to forge a connection with.

Our life is here now, but there is so much from our old life that I want to share with our children. I learnt to love and respect the outdoors – I think children do this instinctively. The city knocked it out of me once. I hope I can ensure the same doesn’t happen to Milin and Jasmin.

 

Pink Lining Wonder bag: It’s True Love

Pink Lining wonderbag review true love

My boring but practical black leather rucksack has finally given up on me. It’s had a good run, but in the end it was probably a bit small for what I needed and it couldn’t cope. So we’ve parted ways. And now I’m in love with its replacement.

The very lovely team at Pink Lining sent me their gorgeous new wonder bag to review. The True Love print is new for Spring Summer 16 and I think it’s my favourite of the Pink Lining prints so far. I love pink and red together, and the love hearts on this are the sweetest. Combined with the red straps and this is the perfect follow-up to my old and rather dull plain black bag.

I’m a rucksack convert already. With a four-year-old and two-year-old I need my hands free – so the Wonderbag is perfect for me. You can carry it by the handles, but it suits me to have it on my back so I can hold hands with both Milin and Jasmin while we’re out and about.

As for design features – Pink Lining really have thought of everything with this bag. As usual, there’s the changing mat and wet zip bag inside. There’s so many compartments that on a recent day out I was so organised I didn’t know myself. Not getting flustered when needing to do a quick change for a toddler on the go? Check.

Pen compartment, phone compartment, detachable bottle holder, phone compartment, handy zip for wallet, handy attachment for keys, pockets on the sides for both kids water bottles? Check, check, check, check, check,

When I go out, I always take nappies, wipes, a spare set of clothes, some snacks, drinks, my camera, wallet, bits and pieces etc – I don’t travel light! But, then, who does with children? So the Wonderbag is perfect for me. It feels like an incredibly comfortable fit and the ergonomics are super with lots of areas where you can make adjustments so that bag fits as you want it.

I love that this bag – like all Pink Lining bags – is so easy to wipe clean. It’s also perfect for me when I’m out alone. I slip my laptop in one of the compartments, my camera in the main area, and I’m good to go.

There’s also an adorable matching mini rucksack which Jasmin is completely in love with. It’s her new favourite bag for a few reasons. She loves that it matches mine, she loves red, she loves hearts, and she loves that the size is ideal for her. (She is two.) As for me? I think it’s rather fun to be matching!

When I first saw the Wonderbag I thought it would be perfect for a new mum. Having used it on a few outings now, I still think that. It comes with detachable stroller straps so you can hang it from your buggy. Plus you carry around so much with a newborn, and this well-made, lasting bag would help keep it all organised. But, it’s not just a baby changing bag. It’s perfect for me, with two pre-schoolers, and even when I’m without the little ones, it’s great for just using for being out and about.

Whether it’s a mother’s day gift to yourself, or just a because gift, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Wonderbag. Enjoy, and tell me what you think! x
Pink Lining wonderbag review true lovePink Lining wonderbag reviewPink Lining wonderbagPink Lining wonderbag true love and mini rucksackPink Lining wonderbag rucksack in true love*Thank you Pink Lining for sending me the Wonderbag and mini rucksack! x

 

Mother’s Day

Lindt chocolates for mothers day

It’s been hard to ignore that Mothers Day is on the way. I’ve been thinking, mainly, about how very lucky I am – there are few people I respect and admire more than my amazing mum. What she’s done for me, and what she does every day while looking after my children so I can work – I haven’t found a way yet to express the depth of my gratitude.

I will be treating her to a few little things next Sunday – although not in person because of some exceptionally poor planning on my part. But I hope she feels loved and appreciated and I hope she has a rest. After that, I hope she takes lots of time for indulgence and pampering.

As for me, this will be my fifth Mothers Day. I’m planning to take a little time out, not on the day, but sometime around it, just to be by myself. Does that sound strange? It’s a day after all that celebrates a relationship with the people most precious to you.

Maybe I’m selfish – but I’d like a few hours to go to the shops and buy a new pair of shoes, without hurrying because of the impatience of my toddler. I’d like to get my nails done, because it’ll mean sitting still for an hour, without having to feed anyone or wipe their bottoms. Lastly, I’d like to get to a weekend yoga class, because usually me-time at the weekend falls between the hours of 9pm and midnight on a Sunday. I spend that ‘me-time’ getting the cleaning done.

On Mothers Day itself though, I’ll be with my babies. If they’re very lucky, they’ll be sharing these delicious Lindt chocolates from the new Mothers Day selection with me. The coffee’s all mine though.

What will you be doing for Mothers Day?

Lindt chocolates for mothers day*Thank you for the chocolates Lindor – they’re perfect for Mothers Day – and delicious! 

 

Half term in Cornwall

Tony and Milin silhouette

We try to get to Cornwall every summer and winter, and not just because we think it’s perfect for family holidays. I’ve been visiting relatives there for the last 20 years or so – although in the last few years I’ve really realised how amazing this part of the country is for holidays with children.

In our last few visits, Tony and I have stuck very much to familiar places. This is, in part, because these are the places we love – but it’s also because we know which places suit Milin and Jasmin. Our trips to Cornwall are usually too brief, we always want longer, and so while we are there we don’t want to spend too much time in the car or too much time trying things which the children don’t enjoy.

We spent an amazing, relaxing four days in Cornwall at the start of half term and managed to visit at least one of our two favourite beaches every day. We adore Gylly beach and Swanpool beach – They’re connected by a coastal walk and are a short distance from the centre of Falmouth. They both have beautiful sand, sea safe for swimming (in a wetsuit, in summer!), rock pools and coffee and ice cream metres from the shore. Perfect.

When I got home and looked through our photos I couldn’t believe how similar they were to our trip to Cornwall in February half term two years ago. On that trip, Jasmin wasn’t even one and Milin was only recently two. But we’d visited the same beaches, the same cafes, and had the same weather. Grey skies, driving rain, wind and big seas – although on both trips we did get a bit of a break with some sunny periods too. Both times, the storms didn’t matter.

The photos reminded me how much Milin had loved the beach, even then. He didn’t care about the rain and wind – he insisted on sitting on wet sand, building sandcastles, and standing on the shoreline watching the waves. This holiday he was the same. I watched him and Tony, hand in hand, looking out to the sea. They seem to share an incredible love and respect for the ocean, a need to be near it, and to watch it. Milin chased waves and threw stones in to make splashes, Tony longed for home, and eventually, I had to pull them away. Milin, soaked through, to his hips, learned a lesson.

Jasmin wasn’t so keen at the start of this trip. She said she didn’t like the rain or the ‘muddy’ sand – although as our last day was bright, she was quite happy sitting on a rug building sand castles with the same plastic cups Milin used two years before. (She did say after a while though that she’d like to go to the cafe…)

Milin, born in New Zealand, spent his first year by the sea. I am sure, like his dad, it will always be a love for him. Maybe, he’ll always long for it. I hope that’s a feeling I can give to Jasmin too – even if she doesn’t know it now. Born in London, growing up in London – Jasmin might come, like me, to love the sea, nature, it’s power and wonder, later.

I grew up in London, but eight years in New Zealand have left me missing the ocean. Swims after work, a walk on the beach in a storm, looking out at a big sky over an immense ocean… maybe one day that will be life again. For now, though, Cornwall is as close as we’ll get.

Our little holidays there make us all so happy and relaxed. Time slows down and the fresh air and break from the city soothes us and brings us together against the grey of everyday life. We can’t wait to go back.

Jasmin at Gylly blogMilin at Swanpool blog Tony and Jasmin Swanpool walk blog Tony and Milin throwing stones blog Jasmin at Swanpool blog Milin smiling at Swanpool cornwall blog Jasmin looking at the sea blog

These mothers look like us

photo 3

The mother on the nursery run who hasn’t brushed her hair, with the children who won’t walk without being dragged. The mother who gets to school late and the gates are closed, with the children who refused to wear their coats despite the rain. The mother at the park who is answering work emails on her phone, with the children who want her to chase them around the climbing frame. These mothers look like us.

The mother breastfeeding her baby while reading her toddler a book, the mother managing to cook three different dinners at the same time so they’re all eaten without fuss, the mother remembering the library books and signed permission slips on the right days. The mother who made the simplest but sweetest outfit for dress-up day, the mother who woke up early to make their favourite packed lunch, the mother whose children held her hands all the way home.

The mother who stayed up past midnight folding their clothes and laying out uniforms for the next day, the mother who washes their hair without getting any soap in their eyes, the mother who goes down the slide with her children at soft play. The mother who sings their favourite songs as they fall asleep, the mother who kisses it all better when they’re hurt.

The mother who cries when they’re finally asleep because she’s just so tired from a day where she hardly got to see them. The mother who snaps at them over the mess they made, the mother who shouts at them because they won’t listen, the mother who says awful things to them even though she knows she’s not being fair, they’re just children. The mother who scared them when she got angry, the mother who threatened to take away toys even though she wishes she could show them love without conditions. The mother who wishes she could stay calm even when they push her.

The mother who knows she should stop apologising, the mother who knows she should stop being hard on herself, the mother who knows she’s doing her best. The mother who wants time to slow down, the mother who wants more hours with her children, the mother who cried on the train after she left them. The mother who knows she’s the luckiest person in the world, the mother who wishes she could make things better, the mother who worries their tough times won’t end and she doesn’t have the answers. These mothers look like us.

We all have the good days and the bad, the darkest hours and the happiest of moments. I wish I’d known, on those days which felt like they were dragging on forever while all I wanted to do was cry, that they would end months before I realised they’d gone. Whether we’re laughing about the bad times, and pretending they’re a bit of a joke – or whether we’re showing off the best of our days which look so idyllic – we’re all together in these ups and downs.

We might not feel like there’s anyone we can tell how rubbish it is, and we might have no-one in that moment we need them. We might filter our surface-perfect lives to cover up the cracks, we might laugh at the bad bits to hide our heartache – but we all do this.

This exhausting brand new world is one none of us were prepared for. It didn’t matter for any of us how many books and articles we read, how many friends we spoke to, how many babies we’d looked after. None of us knew what we were doing. When we hadn’t slept for hours and hours for weeks and months and years, when we tried to find our way and cried and shouted because we didn’t know what to do, when we worried ourselves sick at night, when we shut the world out because it was just too hard – we were all doing this.

More than four years after the birth of my son, I have read thousands and thousands of words about our lives, about the lives of mothers like us. We’re all lost, we’re all exhausted, we’re all crazy in love, we’re all up and down and happy and sad.

There’s a euphoria to life, a middle stage of not being high or low but coasting somewhere through the centre, and then there’s the darkness too. There’s the feeling that we’re only just managing, that we’re not sure we can cope for much longer by grasping at the only solid, safe bits of life we can find in the haze. There’s the heartache that comes with love.

We’re all doing this. At different times, in different places, with different worries, good days and bad. These mothers, who make it look tough and easy and like no fun and brilliant – they’re just like us.forest walk mummy says

Parenthood: It takes a village

Kiran Chug Mummy Says

I’ve always believed that it takes a village to raise a child. I grew up surrounded by extended family, in a culture which sees new parents strongly supported by their relatives.

When I became a mother, on the other side of the world to this close-knit network I’d always had around me, I learnt of a different village. The mothers-to-be at ante-natal classes – also unaware of how our lives were about to change – they became my new family. They, and the new mothers at play groups and coffee mornings and local mothers’ meetings. Together, we cried about our lack of sleep, we shared good and bad experiences, we walked for hours trying to get unsettled babies to finally close their eyes, and we talked about it all.

Those women I’d only just come to know, became my sounding boards, my advisors, my confidantes, my friends – my village. I listened, I didn’t always agree, but I was comforted at least by their care. We watched our babies turn one together and in that year, we’d shared the best and worst of times. We’d done it together and as our babies had grown, so had we.

When I became a mother for a second time I was back home. The traditional village was my safety net. My mother held my baby when I and my husband were exhausted, my father entertained my toddler, my aunt made me nourishing traditional foods especially for breastfeeding women, my cousins shared their experiences of swaddling, weaning – and always, of course, sleeping.

My first child is now four. It has been some time since I have called on the village and its wisdom and comforting warmth. It has been some time, I suppose, since I have needed to reach out into it. I rely on the village every day – but for the very ordinary bits of life. My mother and father look after my children three days a week. My best friend, whose children are the same age as mine, always knows when to pour a wine on a bad afternoon and is forever there to share stories about our darlings.

But reaching out is what I did this week. I did it without really knowing I was doing it.

I worry less these days, I’ve accepted our weaknesses and our problems, I don’t worry that my daughter comes into our bed most nights, that she is still in nappies, that my son doesn’t care much for learning to write, that I don’t wash their hair enough, that they watch a lot of TV… Perhaps I’m finally comfortable in my role as mother and I’m confident now that my decisions are made with only their interests in mind – I no longer worry about judgement. However, recently, I had a wobble. I wrote about my worries in a post, I opened up my soul,  I typed my failure (or the failure I perceived) into the keyboard. I shared it all.

And there was the village. Even though I’d not realised I needed it – I was surrounded.

Old friends and new, family, acquaintances, readers, strangers – thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories, for telling me about your own children, your own experiences, your own troubles. Thank you for your kind advice and your wisdom. I didn’t really know I was asking for it or that I needed it, but I’m so grateful that I was given it. You offered your help, I listened, and the wobble eased. I found my strength, somehow, in your words and encouragement and remembered the years it had taken to build this confidence – bolstered by the village but founded in my own refusal to justify or be judged.

The village is more than my family and my old friends and my new ones too. It’s every reader, every parent and non-parent who has ever reached out or listened, or just been there and let me know. And the power of the village isn’t just that it will raise a child – it will also be there to help, support and nourish a parent who couldn’t do it any other way.

It takes a village to raise a child. Yes, it does. But it also takes a village to make and raise a mother.

Thank you, to my village.children laughinghttps://www.facebook.com/mummysaysmusingsonmotherhood

Why won’t my child eat?

Milin playing football in garden

I’ve become rather relaxed about Milin’s eating (or lack of) over the last couple of years – almost to the point where I don’t worry about it. But I read about Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder recently – and while I am not about to diagnose Milin myself – it did make me think more seriously about his diet than I have for a long time.

Milin has just turned four. He eats the same thing every day: Porridge with milk and honey for breakfast, plain pasta for lunch with cucumber, strawberry yoghurt and grapes. And then plain rice for dinner with strawberries. He has a small cup of milk at each end of the day, usually drinks enough water, has a snack of apples and bananas and gets the odd plain chocolate or chocolate digestive for a treat. He won’t try anything else, he’ll cry and get anxious and upset if you push it, and he’ll gag if you get a spoon of something new near him.

But – I haven’t worried about him for a long time. He’s bright, he’s growing, he’s taking his vitamins, and I assume his refusal to eat any meat, vegetables, sauces, or anything new is his way of controlling me.

Reading about food refusal and avoidance though has worried me – what if there really is something wrong? And should I be doing more to make Milin eat?

Over the years, believe me, I’ve tried everything. At one point we were referred to a psychologist – and at that point I walked away from the doctor and the hospital. I didn’t want to stress Milin out or make him worry. One day, he would eat – surely?

Well nothing has changed. If anything, he’s becoming more difficult. He says he wants to try things but can’t get the spoon near his mouth. His lunch box comes home with him from nursery, his pasta untouched some days.

A very good (and very clever) friend suggested a star chart. And so, on Friday night, Milin and I drew it up. I wanted to make it manageable so we chose foods which I thought sounded rather appealing to a pre-schooler: pizza, baked beans, carrots and sausages. For every tiny bite, Milin got a sticker. When he got five stickers for every food, I promised him I would take him to the toy shop to choose a toy.

We’ve had two-and-a-half days of mixed success. It seems that Milin will eat raw carrot sticks. HOORAY he has doubled his vegetable intake and I can offer him something other than cucumber now. He will also grudgingly eat tiny bites of cheese and tomato pizza. But, baked beans make him vomit and sausages don’t even get close to his mouth before the wretching starts.

Is this about control? I’m not so sure now. Milin’s upset he’s not been to the toy shop – but not enough to try and eat more from the list.

I meanwhile am wondering, again, if I should seek help for him. My instinct tells me that he will be fine, that he’s just being fussy and controlling, and that one day he will eat better. But there’s a little worry that’s niggling away…

He’s told me he’ll eat chicken curry tomorrow, so that’s what I’ll be making him. We’ve been here before – the promise he’ll eat, the spoon half way to his mouth, and then the crying and mouth clamped shut. Maybe tomorrow will be different.

But maybe it won’t. I’m not ready to ask for help again though – while Milin is growing and putting on weight and healthy – I’m going to let him find his own way with food. All the while though, this makes me sad. My own relationship with food has always been complicated. I never wanted the same for my children. It looks like, already, I’ve failed.Milin playing football in garden

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