Posts tagged - parenting

Motherhood: The messy bits

Motherhood is messy.

I’m not talking about messy play messy – paint smeared on everything, crayon drawings on the floor and walls, glue, flour, lentils etc. everywhere, sand in every crevice… or even the mess of eating – the weaning stage, the throwing food around stage… or other messes such as those relating to illness and/or toilet training (or both at once. Ew. But it happens).

While all of these messes deserve a mention and some of them even a blog post of their own, what I’m talking about today is the mess on the inside. Our mess. The stuff we never thought would come up before we had our kids.

The past few weeks Mushroom has been a monster. A MONSTER. Especially at bedtime. Several times I have wanted to scream at him ‘WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GO TO SLEEP!’ I’m ashamed to say that once (not this week), I did. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly help matters. That was a long night with a lot of apologising. Before I had him, I told myself, ‘I’ll never shout at my kid/s, it doesn’t do any good anyway.’ I was good with kids, they never played me up (other people’s kids still don’t!) so although I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I never really understood just how much patience I would need to keep my word. Here are some other things that I might not have believed I would think before I had Mushroom.

Get off me!

I am quite a tactile person. I like to hug, and be hugged. When with close friends, I frequently touch them while we speak and when Mushroom first arrived, I loved holding him close, feeling his skin on mine and breathing in his scent. I looked forward to the day he would be able to hug me back. I never thought I could tire of his touch.

Oh believe me, I can. When I have been asked ‘carry me please’ half the day and used as a human climbing frame for the rest of it. When he says ‘I want hug! for the 10th time after he’s ‘gone to bed,’ when he pulls up my t-shirt so he can rest his head on my belly (with his hand still on my face), and has been doing this for weeks, I sometimes want to shout ‘Get off me!’ and run for cover.

Leave me alone!

Ok, so it did occur to me that I would miss having a little time to myself. But I didn’t realise just how much it would get to me during the clingy/separation anxiety phase. I work part-time so as to spend time with Mushroom and enjoy doing things with him – we especially like painting, baking and running around outside – but never getting to go to the loo on my own is more tiresome than I ever imagined. The other day Mushroom followed me in and, as I walked in, he ‘helpfully’ handed me his snotty tissue and asked whether I had finished yet. I had only gone in there to wash my hands.

Just. Go. To Sleep!

As I mentioned earlier, Mushrooom is currently fighting bedtime (naptime is less of a problem). He’s never been a great sleeper but it’s getting ridiculous. I’ve tried the ‘back to bed’ routine. I did it for about a week and it just exhausted me. So I’ve just gone back to staying with him while he goes to sleep. Some nights I can sit by the door but most nights he wants to fall asleep attached to me in some way so I sit contorted by the bed as he drifts off to sleep. At least, I always think he’s drifting off and that’s when he starts. ‘I thirsty.’ or ‘My hungry Mummy.’ or even ‘I want Daddy!’ (I got Daddy once, thinking it would give me a break. He wanted to play with him. When he realised that wasn’t happening he was not happy). His current favourite is ‘ need a poo!’ While I can say ‘no.’ to all his other requests, he knows I can’t refuse this one. I know he’s playing me when I hear him singing on the loo and playing with his bath toys (he likes privacy when he goes, shame he doesn’t afford me the same courtesy). ‘Back to bed!’ I tell him, as firmly and calmly as I can manage (through my teeth, if it’s been a long evening). Then, eventually, he will actually fall asleep.

And here’s something I expected to say, but perhaps not quite so often:

I’m sorry…

I often whisper to him I untangle myself and look at him, lying sprawled across his little bed, which still has the cot side up at the back. I gaze at his chubby little cheeks, red with the effort of trying to convince me he’s not tired, and remember he’s still just a baby, really, with a whole lot of growing to do. ‘I’m sorry. I love you.’ I say this to him a lot when he’s awake too but it’s when he’s sleeping that I apologise for those unsaid thoughts, the ones that I wish I didn’t think. The ones that make me wonder whether I’m cut out for this motherhood thing. The messy ones.

Motherhood is hard. It’s also incredibly rewarding, yes, but it is hard. It feels even harder when it looks like you’re the only one having these messy thoughts while everyone else is enjoying every second they spend with their children.

Do you have messy bits? What thoughts do you have about your children that you wouldn’t usually share? Please comment below, let’s get it all out there and remind ourselves that even though we love our kids, sometimes it’s ok to have bad thoughts about them. They’re only thoughts… and we’re only human.

(pretty please? I can’t be the only one…. Can I?)



That’s how it goes sometimes…

A long time ago, well before Mushroom’s arrival, Mr B and I were having a ‘discussion’ about something that was bothering me. He didn’t appear to appreciate the importance of the issue (which was so important that I now can’t remember it), simply nodding as I spoke (what was I expecting, exactly?) so, incensed at his lack of response, I shouted ‘Don’t you care that this will (insert irrelevant consequence here)!’ like a petulant teenager.

Mr B looked at me, nodded as if agreeing with some internal dialogue and said ‘You know what [Mushroom’s Grandad] would say?’ This threw me (I needed to be thrown)… What did my father-in-law have to do with this? I sighed ‘what?’ I snapped, ‘would he say?’ A smile danced in Mr B’s eyes. Adopting a more laid back pose and a strong Jamaican accent, he said:

‘Dats ‘ow it go sometime y’nuh.’

I burst out laughing. This was to become the sentence that would end many an argument between us, reducing pointless discussions to what they were. It’s another way of saying ‘It is what it is,’ or ‘This is life.’ Accept it and set yourself free. The Zen Buddhists already know this.

So, what has this got to do with parenting? Well,I have just finished reading Momma Zen*’s Momma ZenWalking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, and much of what she says brought to to mind the image of my husband delivering this line with a deadpan face, knowing it will always bring me back to ‘us.’

Momma Zen’s book is not a parenting manual – far from it. Instead, she introduces the idea of parenthood as a sort of spiritual practice, gently unburdening us from our ideas of what Motherhood should be and reminding us, frequently, to – and I quote a line from the book (although she says this in many different ways) – ‘Focus on what is in front of you.’ One of my favourite paragraphs from the book sums it all up:

‘You don’t have to work so hard at this. You don’t have to do so much. You don’t have to endeavour to be natural, normal, and good. It happens by itself when you least expect it. If you are confused about what you should be doing, try this. Stop what you are doing. Take care of what is in front of you, when it is in front of you, and the confusion will pass. This is called the effort of no effort. No effort is what powers the universe.’

What a liberating idea. I am trying to live by this, taking each day as it comes by taking care of what is in front of me and, importantly,  allowing myself to ‘fail’ sometimes along the way. Of course I don’t ‘get it right,’ that often but I am trying. On those days that I forget that no effort is required and work too hard at being (see how ridiculous that sounds?), lose my temper with Mushroom and apologise but continue to berate myself for it even though for him it’s long forgotten, all I need to remind me is this: When recounting the story to Mr B,  he just needs to respond with ‘Well, dats ‘ow it go sometime y’nuh.’

*Karen Maezen Miller


Should we leave the kids alone?

I recently read this article in the Guardian, in which Jay Griffiths wonders whether modern parenting might be making our children miserable. Jay introduces the subject with that often demonised ‘sleep training’ method, controlled crying (or ‘Ferberisation’). She asks ‘why would such a thing be promoted? Why would it ever be accepted? What does it reveal about modernity’s priorities? And how does it suggest answers to the riddle of unhappy children?’ She goes on to give examples of different styles of parenting around the world, from India to West Papua, noting that in most indigenous communities, babies are allowed to be babies for much longer, being kept close to their mothers for at least the first two years and in some cultures even co-sleeping up until the age of five. In these countries, ‘controlled crying’ is unheard of and children’s needs are tended to as and when required rather than to a set routine. Despite this ‘extended’ babyhood, as these children grow older they are given much more freedom and, as a result, become more independent at any early age. So, have we got it all wrong?

I am undecided on this one. I think that the idea in the West that children ‘should’ be in some sort of routine, and need to be ‘trained’ to sleep through the night is, as Jay herself suggests, based on the fact that most of us work, and expect our children to eventually join the world of education, followed by some sort of workplace. It’s pretty much a 9 – 5 culture and as such, a good night’s sleep (some time between the hours of 7pm and 7am, depending on how much you need) is important to be able to function within this society. Some might say that as parents, we are more interested in meeting our own needs than those of our children by forcing them to stick to some sort of routine when it goes against their needs. I disagree with this. Unless you are forcing a child to sleep when they are not tired, or refusing to feed them when they are hungry, for example, setting a loose routine can be beneficial for the child as they know what to expect. If I were to let Mushroom eat and sleep when he wanted, he would eat most of the morning, sleep a few hours in the afternoon, and then spend half the night awake and the other half fighting sleep before finally giving in some time around 4am. I know this because I once tried  ‘letting him sleep when he wants’ when when I felt guilty about having tried to ‘sleep train’ him. This would be fine if we had no reason to get up in the morning and could sleep as long as we wanted during the day but I work pat-time, my husband works full-time, and Mushroom goes to nursery part-time. On the days I am at home with Mushroom we are a bit more flexible but most child related activities happen between 9 and 5 so that’s when we’re out and about.

I imagine it’s quite a different story for most of the cultures Jay writes about. The children may not be ‘put’ on a routine but as they spend the best part of the day with their mothers, they would naturally follow this routine, waking at dawn and napping whenever they get tired, eating when they are hungry and going back to sleep in their mother’s arms at the end of the day. Here, we might call this ‘attachment parenting.’ There, it’s just parenting. Then, once the child is old enough, they are allowed to roam freely during the day, thus teaching them independence from an early age. I would love to let Mushroom roam free and eventually of course, I will – although the thought of this terrifies me at the moment – once he is old enough to understand that any limitations I put on this freedom are for his own safety. It’s this that makes it hard I think – finding the balance between freedom and safety… And let’s not forget the current culture that suggest we are terrible parents for letting our children play without being closely monitored 24/7. You may remember this post, in which one mother berates another (will we ever get over this?) for looking at her phone while her child plays a short distance away in the relative safety of a local playground. What then, of the mother who allows her young child to play outside of the house (while she watches unseen from inside to ensure safety), to encourage independence? A headline in the Daily Mail, I should imagine, and a visit from Social Services after a call from another ‘concerned parent.’

In the main, however, I do agree that babies should be allowed to be babies for longer than we truly let them. Mushroom is now two years old, and I know he’ll always be a baby to me but I honestly think that although we call them toddlers, these pre-schoolers are still babies really, and should be treated as such. I don’t have any childcare-related qualification that confirms this, it’s just a personal opinion based on my own experience.

So, are we getting it wrong? Well, I think that perhaps somewhere in between the two styles of parenting is probably about right. Allowing our children to be children for as long as possible, providing them with a secure environment (which may or may not involve some kind of routine) and preparing them for life to the best of our ability is all any of us can do. I don’t have the answer, that’s just my opinion. Let’s face it, if any one of us had the answer to the best approach to parenting, then there wouldn’t be so many blogs, books and TV programmes on the subject. My final word on this, though? The best approach to parenting is to love your children, as long as everything you do is based on this, then you’re probably doing it ‘right.’ Whatever that means.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please comment below and keep the conversation going.


On trying not to drop the glass balls

Whether you work full-time, part-time, or are a stay-at-home-mum, I’m pretty confident that at least once since you had your child (or children), you’ve been asked ‘How do you manage?’ I know I’ve asked it several times – of Mums who seem to have so much more on their plate than I – more work/more kids/less help – it’s hard not to compare and wonder whether you’re doing enough.

On the flip side, though, is that I have been asked the same question – I often think ‘Well I work part-time and I only have one child so how busy can I really be? A friend pointed out recently that actually, I am pretty busy. So, how do I manage? Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who might respond with ‘I juggle.’

The thing with juggling though, is that it takes some practice, and even experts can drop a ball from time to time. I guess the trick is remembering which balls it’s ok to drop. A long time before I had Mushroom, someone told me a story about juggling – I don’t remember it exactly but it was a metaphor for life (you may have heard something similar) about how some of the balls – family and health stand out but I’m sure there was at least one more – are glass. If you drop these, they might break.

You don't want to drop this ball...

I actually think that family is more than one ball – don’t you? We all have individual relationships with our children, partners, parents, siblings and extended family members (this extends to in-laws if you have them) – that’s quite a lot to keep up with. You might want to throw some of your friends into the mix as well. Then there’s another ball for friends as these are important too, another for health, and so on. It’s tiring just thinking about it! I imagine most of us are juggling other balls too – they may be different for different people but many tie in to these glass ones. For example, although career aspirations may vary, we all need to earn enough money to stay healthy and feed our families – dropping that ball could impact on all the others.

At the moment, I work part-time (in communications) and Mushroom only goes to nursery on the days I work so the rest of the time he’s with me. On these ‘days off’ as they are often laughingly referred to, I spend quality time with Mushroom –  (that’s a glass ball, that one), write two blogs (hence the usual weekly post or less), promote these posts on twitter and other forums as well as other  commitments related to these blogs. I also do the occasional bit of freelance coaching and writing and have started writing a novel (that ball has been dropped several times). Then of course there’s all the usual ‘life’ stuff that everyone has – banking/finance admin, housework/shopping etc. Most of this I do when Mushroom is asleep, which is far less than it used to be (and it wasn’t much to start with) and I think he may drop his lunchtime nap soon (Argh! What will I do? Drop another ball I expect).

So – Of all of this, the most important ‘balls’ for me are immediate family, my job/career (this includes the coaching and writing), my health, my ‘other’ writing (by this I mean personal unpaid projects like pro bono work and my novel) and my friends. Family comes first, alongside my closest friends, but the order of the other balls changes from time to time. Work is too often above health so I’m trying to change this!

How do I manage? Routine, routine, routine. It really does help, although of course it’s good to break the routine once in a while too. Early nights help too – I’m usually in bed before 11, anticipating a 6am start, if not before.

Which are your most important balls? And how do you make sure you don’t drop them?

Photo credit: By audfriday13 at


On not being perfect

I recently discovered Guilty Mum‘s brand new blog, which is based on the notion that most mums feel guilty about most things, most of the time. According to one of Guilty Mum’s posts from last month, the top ten reasons for feeling guilty include working/not working, going out/not going out, breastfeeding/not breastfeeding, sending your child to nursery/not sending… You get the picture, we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. But let’s face it, being a parent is tough and although we often complain about being judged by others, we are are own harshest judges. Remember before you had kids? Didn’t you judge that Mum in the supermarket, giving her toddler a chocolate bar just to shut him up? Or that Mum who let her daughter watch TV for over an hour while she chatted on the phone to you? Well, that’s you now, that is. Or maybe not, but my point is that whatever you may have thought you would do as a parent, now that you are one, it’s unlikely you completely measure up to your own high standards of parenthood. So, don’t we all feel a bit guilty then, for just not being perfect?

Well in 1953, paediatrician and psychoanalyst David Winnicot developed a theory called the ‘Good enough Mother.’ I could explain it here, or quote Winnicot himself, but instead I had a look around and found this article by Sheila Quirke (‘Mary Tyler Mom’), which covers it all much more eloquently than I ever could. To sum up, in Sheila’s words:

“Embrace the concept of “Good Enough.” Breathe it in, breathe it out. Let it wrap around you and soothe your tired, worried, guilty soul. You will fail your child. You will. It will happen. Some of us do it daily. Some more spectacularly than others. What Winnicott tells us though, assures us from his mid-century psychoanalytic throne, is that it is okay. Everything is going to be okay.”

So, in keeping with this theme, I have a challenge for you! List the top five reasons you’re less than perfect. Then – and here’s the hard part – list five reasons why you’re good enough. You can relate the first to the second but you don’t have to, it’s completely up to you. I’ll go first:

I’m not perfect because…

  1. I let Mushroom watch too much TV (more on this in a future post!)
  2. I let Mushroom eat chocolate and sweets occasionally
  3. Mr B and I are not always consistent with discipline
  4. I shower myself before getting Mushroom dressed. Every day. An Aunt commented on this and that’s when the guilt started
  5. If Mushroom cries in the night I bring him into our bed rather than settle him back to sleep, thus teaching him independence. I also cuddle him to sleep almost every night :-/

I’m good enough because…

  1. He doesn’t watch adverts (if I can help it) and I (usually) watch TV with him. Mr B says we don’t watch much TV at all (I’m not sure what his benchmark is though). We have learned a lot of Makaton sign language from watching CBeebies ‘Something Special’ together
  2. He eats much more fruit and veg and is really the least fussy toddler I know when it comes to food. He’ll try anything, even raw lemon (he told me that was ‘hot’! I think he wasn’t keen but he ate it anyway)
  3. Mushroom knows the rules, and when he’s ‘getting away’ with something. Perhaps that’s consistent enough
  4. He (usually) plays happily while I shower, which only takes 5-10 minutes (try telling that to pre-baby me!) and it means I can completely focus on him once I’m dressed. It also helps us get out of the house on time
  5. That’s somewhere between teaching independence and attachment parenting right? So either way I’m halfway ‘right’ (whatever that means). And it’s not every night…

Your turn! Either submit a comment via the box below, or write your own blog and either put the link in a comment, tweet or DM me so I can come over and comment on your blog! If you tweet, please tweet @Mushroomsmum (that’s me!) and @GuiltyMumUK too.


Proud parenting

One of this week’s blogging prompt over at BritMums was to write about one of the seven deadly sins. For those of you who need a reminder, they are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

I’ve just started reading 50 Shades of Grey and was toying with the idea of writing about lust but a) I hope Mushroom reads this blog one day so perhaps that isn’t appropriate and b) something happened today that made me think about pride. So, pride it is…

This afternoon Mushroom and I were playing in the local park. He has just learned how to kick a ball and we were playing football. Sort of. After about 15 minutes he got a bit fed up and ran over to the bandstand where another boy was running around in circles. The boy was a lot bigger than Mushroom but, as it turned out, he was only 2. Mushroom just wanted to follow him around and do everything he did so I let him, for the most part, and had a chat with the child’s Mum. She was complaining that the local nurseries ‘are no good.’ I told her that Mushroom goes to a good local nursery and she frowned when I told her which one. ‘Really? But they don’t do anything with the children!’ I said that her comment surprised me, as Mushroom is always coming home with artwork, or sometimes something he has ‘helped’ to bake, and that they do a lot of structured play during the day. She was less than impressed. ‘They don’t teach them to stand in a line, or sleep in a row, or anything! They just play all day!’ This was when I realised that this Mother and I are worlds apart. Firstly, they do learn to stand in line and take turns – it’s probably not listed as something they ‘teach,’ as it’s just part of the socialisation process. They also do learn to sleep in a row. As for the fact they ‘play’ all day? Well, they’re just children!  She didn’t seem to believe anything I told her about the nursery so I decided just to drop it.  I wasn’t enjoying her company much by now but Mushroom was still following her son around so I just let her talk some more and stayed quiet.

After a while, her son jumped down from the bandstand and ran through a muddy puddle – as kids do – at which she ran over to him, grabbed his arm and shouted in his face ‘If you do that again I will slap you in your face!’ She half turned to me with smile on her face. Perhaps I was misreading her but it looked to me like pride. I wasn’t about to ask. Her son didn’t seem bothered by the threat but he did immediately move from the puddle.

I don’t know whether judgement is considered a sin but it is something I usually try to avoid, however, in this instance, I judged her. I judged her parenting style and didn’t like it and I felt proud of the way I am parenting Mushroom. I have never hit him, or threatened to hit him, and I don’t intend to. I would hope that if I ever did, it would be to protect him from impending danger and that I would apologise and explain afterwards. I certainly wouldn’t even think about hitting him in his face.

What do you think? Am I wrong to judge? Obviously there is a lot about this woman I don’t know – perhaps she was doing what has been done to her in the past and doesn’t know any different. Maybe her pride was in her son’s good behaviour rather than her threat of discipline… I know all this and yet, I judged her and if I’m honest I still do. Would you/have you hit your child? Do you ever compare yourself to others and feel pride in your parenting? I’d love to hear your views so please do comment below!


One year in

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. If you haven’t already, you might want to read this page first. I’ll wait here til you get back.

Ok, so I started writing this all important first post about a week ago, and nothing I wrote felt ‘right.’ I started off at the beginning, writing about Mushroom’s birth, then I changed my mind and thought I would write about his first day at nursery, then I changed my mind again, and started to write about… Well you get the picture.

Seeing as I didn’t know where to start, I decided to write an overview of the highs and lows of Mushroom’s first year. So, let’s start at the beginning…

The birth –

Had liver failure about a month before my due date. There was talk of inducing me but Mushroom, considerate as ever, arrived two weeks early so we avoided that. Yes, it hurt. But not in the way I anticipated. Hypnotherapy worked better than I expected despite birth plan going out the window. Midwives at birth were great. Bonding was beautiful. Breastfeeding a breeze. Baby blues and postnatal pre-eclampsia were not. Ten further days in hospital were frustrating. But we survived. Mushroom was home properly about two weeks after the birth.

0-3 months –

Sleepless nights took some getting used to but Mushroom’s temperament was very laid back and we started getting to know each other a little. At this stage, his  longest awake time was around the time he was born. We settled into a routine by about 2.5/3 months. I started to stay awake during some of his naps and get stuff done. We had lots of visitors and I weaned myself off the blood pressure medicine.

3-6 months –

I thought the 4 month growth spurt (or ‘Wonder Week’ 19 – more on Wonder Weeks later) would kill me. My breasts hurt (so that’s what people had been telling me about) and I thought I would never sleep again. Mushroom developed more of a personality and we started attending baby groups and making friends. He was diagnosed with severe reflux so we introduced solid food at around 4.5 months which helped a little. Eventually we settled into a new routine. Or so I thought…

6-9 months –

Another growth spurt! The boy could eat. And eat. We went from one meal a day to three with breast milk on tap. His reflux flared up again, then disappeared. I started to think about giving up breastfeeding but we had a breakthrough when he started crawling, and clapping, and really trying to talk. Each milestone was met with much excitement and we all got a bit more sleep. For a week or two…

9-12 months –

The 10 month growth spurt (Wonder Week 46) coincided with Mushroom learning to sit up, then stand up (holding on), getting his first teeth, starting to talk, trying to walk… Basically this has been the most exhausting, and the most rewarding, three months since Mushroom was born.

So that was the first year in brief – I have left a lot out but I will write more about some, if not all, of the above in time, as well as more about where we are now – just entering the toddler years. If there is anything you would particularly like to hear more about, do let me know! I don’t claim to be any kind of parenting expert, but am happy to share my experiences and will also answer questions privately by email if you prefer.

Thanks for reading – do come back soon!

Mushroom’s Mum