I can’t think of how to describe Helen and Ellie of Scummy Mummies, other than to say they are so hilarious it’s ridiculous. Snorty laughter type funny. They tell it is how it is, with a touch of ‘I can’t believe they just said that’. Which frankly, is a really excellent combo.
Here they are doing what do best: being funny, whist talking about the unsung hell that is taking your kids swimming…
When you become a mum, you acquire new superpowers to help you cope with some of life’s most repulsive experiences. I was astonished to find I could calmly deal with a monolithic tantrum in the middle of M&S, an ear-splitting rendition of Let it Go, and being doused with several bodily fluids, sometimes all at once.
But there is one thing that has broken me. It has driven me to the darkest depths of despair, unleashed my rage, and left me a dribbling, sobbing mess. I am talking, of course, about swimming lessons.
Sure, learning to swim is an important life skill, like being able to boil an egg, or open a bottle of beer with a spoon. But the process of getting there is unbearable. It’s like trying to wrestle a pack of wild animals in a small sauna, while they shout “BOOBIES BOOBIES BOOBIES”at the top of their voices. And that’s before they’re even in the pool.
Things were different when I was growing up in Australia. I can’t actually remember learning to swim – it was something I just knew how to do, like speaking with an upward inflection and barbecuing things.
I would toddle off on my bike, wearing only my togs and thongs, a towel dangling over the handlebars. I went swimming in deep bodies of water, jumping off diving boards and swinging off ropes. I was happy and carefree. And I only nearly drowned a few times.
So I looked forward to taking my sweet baby to the pool, envisioning us giggling and smiling as we splashed about. What I didn’t realise was that I was about to enter a new circle of Hell.
And here’s why:
The changing rooms are heated to approximately 57 degrees. Why do they do this? It makes you sweat, causes stress, and encourages boiling rage.
Our carefully packed swimming bag always gets emptied into the puddle on the floor.
My son likes to add to the chaos by doing a pee, usually such a big one that I canonly assume he’s been saving it up all week, just for this moment.
Changing rooms induce verbal diarrhoea in my children, who love to loudly describethe scene before them. My favourite quotes have included:
“MUMMY HAS BIG FLOPPY BOOBIES!”
“Your tummy is HUGE, Mummy – do you have another baby in there?”
“Mummy, why is your front bottom so hairy?”
The whole place is an emergency trip to A&E waiting to happen. You have to spend your whole time watching out for head-splitting slippery surfaces, finger-jamming locker doors, and the random biohazards other swimmers have kindly left on the floor. Things my children have tried to put in their mouths include:
An old lollipop
A used plaster
A (human?) hairball
A moldy swimming cap
A wellington boot (not ours)
Then it’s time to jump in the water and begin the lesson. Or, if you’re my children, sit on the side of the pool refusing to go in for ten minutes, then ignore the teacher completely while dicking about with an old verruca sock you found in stuck in the filter.
Afterwards everyone gets to do the first bit all over again, in reverse, while wet, tired, hungry, and cold. This is extra fun in winter, when you get the added challenge of having to dry hair while finding missing gloves.
Let’s be honest, the best bit about swimming lessons is getting home. There’s a huge sense of achievement in knowing your children are one step closer to being less likely to drown.
Plus you get to reward yourself for having made sure they got some good, healthy exercise, by downing half a bottle of Chardonnay.
And it’s not forever – they will learn to swim, eventually. I just wish the process of my kids learning a survival skill didn’t nearly kill me.
Lucinda was a city lawyer. Then had a her son and decided to quite her job and start a new business when he was just 5 months old. Ballsy or what?! She started Nurturing Mums, postnatal course that provides practical, expert advice mums with babies 0-9m.
What a blooming brilliant idea. Anti-natal is well and good, but its only when that small human arrives earth-side that you have all the ‘how the hell do I this?’ questions.
Anyway, Lucinda is here to offer with a load of tips on how to ‘Balancing a Baby and A Business’:
Know your market. Get to know who is ‘out there’ in whatever business you want to run & work out what you would be offering that is unique before you take the leap.
Don’t think that you can’t do something just because you haven’t done it in your ‘past life’ – I had never owned a business before, run a website or social media accounts. You’d be surprised how quickly you can pick things up – there are lots of helpful people out there and there’s always YouTube!
Make an investment – not necessarily financially, but with your time. If you aren’t making the time for your business, it’s unlikely it will just ‘take off’ without you dedicating your time to it. I appreciate this is tricky with a baby, but it pays off.
Get childcare if you can – this is a particularl difficult one for me as I can’t leavemy son in a nursery due to the fact he is on oxygen. I rely heavily on my family & our new au pair so I can steal hours here & there at home to work. It isn’t always financially viable to pay for childcare whilst starting up your business – but it is great if you can. If not, try and be strict with your time when it comes to nap-times & evenings.
Create a work space – whether it’s a desk in the corner of a room or you are lucky enough to have an office – use it. I am always so much more productive when sat at a desk (and in another room from my unruly toddler).
Network – running a new business from your home can be lonely. Other mum bosses aren’t only a great source of inspiration, but if you can network and meet other mums running their own businesses, you will no doubt leave with invaluable advice and potentially access to new clients.
Social media is your friend – Don’t be afraid of using it to get word out there. It’salso easy to waste time on social media too. I’d recommend apps like Hootsuite which can schedule posts for you so you don’t have to be logged in all the time.
Make sure you mix up your posts with a mixture of articles & posts your readers will find interesting, as opposed to advertising all the time.
Get good at talking about what you do – this is something that has taken me awhile to do. I was very good at walking into a room & saying that I was a lawyer in my past life. What I should have been saying is, “I’m the owner of Nurturing Mums, this fantastic non-judgemental postnatal course perfect for new mums in North London”.
I think that a) people would have found that far more interesting & b) you never know where one conversation might take you!
Make time to switch off – Build structured work time into your weekly routine.
Being a stay at home working mum is NOT the easy option. You have to be disciplined both in your work and your head space. It would be very easy for me to be on my phone responding to emails all day as opposed to spending time with my son – the real reason most of us decide to run our own businesses in the first place – for quality family time! I now have to charge my phone out of my bedroom at night so I’m not tempted to check it. It does mean I get better sleep though!
Fake it til you make it – new businesses go through ups & downs. Especially ifyou’re feeling sleep deprived and in a bit of a business slump, if you have faith inyour idea and truly believe it will be successful, keep at it. In the mean time – put up a lovely instagram pic & keep on keeping on.
The appearance that your business is doing well is half the battle, even if you’re sat in your pjs eating bourbon biscuits with your little one running rings around you – or maybe that’s just me!
**Nurturing Mums postnatal courses run in Hampstead, Islington, Crouch End, East Finchley and soon St Albans. Lucinda has kindly offered a whooping 20% off to you lucky readers. Add promo code MOTHEROFALLLISTS at nurturingmumsuk.com**
Woooo hooo! We’re heading to Camp Bestival at the end of the month and I’m very excited about it. Not only is it a festival that caters specifically for families (phew) yet still has loads of great adulty stuff too. We’re going with a load of my best instapals, including the gorgeous Emma from Ladyland.
Previously I’ve been to festivals in many parental states: heavily pregnant, with babies, with toddlers; this will be the first time I’ve had two mobile children who can potentially run in opposite directions – wish me luck!
Like most things with kiddies a bit of planning really can make all the difference. Mother of all Lists has teamed-up with Ladyland to bring you: ‘How to Survive a Festival with Kids’. A guide to make festivals with nippers as fun and stress-free as possible.
It come in two parts. Part one, from me, is a bunch of handy tips and ‘watch-outs’ (below). Part two – is Ladyland’s definitive list of what to pack, hop over here to read it.
Arrive in good time. Trying to set up a camp with overtired children is a miserable experience.
Better still have an activity planned to keep them occupied while you try to figure out how to erect the tent. Making necklaces, toy swords, bubbles that sort of thing.
Hello middle-age. If you can get your hands on a roof box, then do it. There is no such thing as too much gear.
Go for the best blow-up bed you can afford. Plus the biggest tent you can afford. Both are investments. The more kids you have the more likely your are to resort to camping holidays.
Layers. You forget how cold it gets at night. Really cold. (Yet somehow men still manage to sleep in just their pants?!).
Gro-bags. You can get 18-36 month old, they are pretty big and better than a duvet.
Silicone ear-plugs. As important as mascara and clean knickers.
Swimwear. I always forget it. But loads of festivals have hot-tubs or swimming lakes and you don’t want to miss out. Ignore those waify twenty-somethings who don’t even realise how wonderful they look, get your tankini on and be proud that you grew a human.
A washbag you can hang-up. Nothing luxurious about the floor of a temporary shower unit.
Old-school toothbrush. Generally I prefer electric, until they run out of juice 24 hours in.
Dead phone = really liberating. Or if that is truly unthinkable; invest in one of those charging packs.
Be a British Cliche. Take teabags and UHT milk and proper mugs. That morning cuppa is a life line. Drinking from a plastic beaker doesn’t cut it.
Think before you drink. Before you pack loads of booze, ask yourself would I be able to stomach this luke warm? If the answer is yes you are on to a winner. For me voddy & cloudy apple juice is a strong choice.
Food? Thank goodness for Ella’s for littlies. Other essentials are: dry snacks (obvs). Avocado (middle-class cliché). Posh pot-noodle (Itsu ones). Porridge in a pot (breakfast for everyone and no washing up). Apples (a welcome break from beige carbs).
Brioche – why the hell doesn’t it go stale?! Can’t be good for you. Useful though.
** There are more extensive and imaginative food and drink tips over on Ladyland’s pack list.**
What’s worse than a teething child? A teething child that wakes a whole field of hungover people up at 4 AM. DO NOT FORGET THE CALPOL.
Have a “spot”. One that is as obvious and easy to find as possible.
Take a photo of the program & map, store it on your phone for when inevitably you lose it.
A hint of routine. Most things go out the window at a festival. A vaguely familiar timeframe can help everyone. We’ve found that heading back to the tent at 5 ish for tea, ‘washing up bowl bath’ and PJ’s worked well. It meant that by the time we put them in the buggy at bedtime they were ready to drop-off easily.
Street urchin chic. There will come a point when the kids become laughably dirty. You may feel horrified. But chances are they will (literally) be as happy as pigs in shit.
(Controversial but) Buggy not cart. Those festie carts look cool. But they are heavy and unfamiliar. And kids can climb out. They’re more likely to chill in their usual mode of transport.
Sleep comparison. If (or when) you find you are only getting 5 hours sleep a night a console yourself with the fact that’s still WAY more sleep than the majority of festival goers will be getting.
Cut everyones nails short beforehand. Avoid the horror of dirt under the fingernails
Lighters. Remember the days when everyone had a clipper? Not any more. Your stove is redundant without.
Don’t try to do everything with other families you’ll just end up waiting around for people all day. And boy is that irritating. Do your own thing and have a meeting place later on.
Book in “Adult time” – not like that! A bit of time out from adulting: a massage for Mum and mosh pit for Dad. Or the other way round.
DO NOT WEAR DUNGAREES. Those Straps + porta-loos = hideous on so many levels.
Versatility rules. A black bag = duvet carrying device, laundry basket. or potential rain jacket. Large bucket = washing up bowl and child-washing bowl. Might not exactly be Bear Grylls thinking outside the box does give a pleasing sense of satisfaction.
Avoid a lost child announcement. Take a Sharpie to scrawl your mobile number on their arm.
Embrace the mayhem. In the old days we went to festivals to let loose. Allow the kids to do the same. Spilling stuff, charging about, bouncing on beds. Being given the opportunity to go a bit feral is good for the soul.
Like any festival there will be times when you ask yourself ‘why the hell are we doing this?’. As soon as you are home, you will know why you did:
A break from real life.
A chance to feel a little bit like the old you.
And when you look back at the summer it will 100% be THE thing you remember.
That’s my best advice. Now over to Ladyland to tell exactly what to pack.
When Cam messaged to say she’d had a miscarriage and could she was write a list about it. I felt all sorts of things. I felt sad for her loss. I felt humbled that she was willing to share it with Mother of All List and I felt proud that she was brave enough to do it.
Here it is story:
You WILL and WILL your eyes to see a heartbeat when looking at the scan and automatically assume the doctor is incompetent.
You will feel 100% patronised by the doctors, who inevitably say’ “maybe you conceived later than you think?”…
You feel like you want the foetus out of your body as a matter of urgency – NB with missed miscarriages you have to wait a week and have another scan to prove the lack of growth and heartbeat. This is a legality, it feels grossly unfair but there’s no choice.
You still feel pregnant. It’s real grim.
You still have the pregnancy habits, oh is that 4th tea too much? This butter and marmite laden crumpet is FINE because I can… It feels very sad to then break them.
Nurses and doctors at the hospital don’t know what to do with you. Everyone needs some mega training on this. I was aching for frankness – I was aching for someone to tell me the baby has died instead of ‘let’s wait a week’ or ‘you may or may not miscarry this week’ ‘we’ll just have to see’ WHATTTTT????!
You need cold hard facts not fluff. Ask for them.
In the delirium, there is hilarity between you and your partner. VERRRYYYYY dark humour creeps in…
– When they print off the baby photos and give them to you (whaaaaaaaat???)
– When you hear babies born after miscarriage are called ‘Rainbow Babies’ (cue stoic stare to camera)….
– When you think about drinking famous ‘mothers ruin’ gin to get things moving…
It feels hard to break the imagination of having a baby on the due date you got given.
What Christmas would be like, how your baby will be in the same school year as your bezzie mate…
You have to remove your thoughts into the fact it was the size of an olive, it was cells.
Focus on your life away from pregnancy and babies for a while. Focus on the relief you can drink at a mates wedding in a few weeks, focus on not being clammy with your friends as you hide the pregnancy.
Spend some time alone. Tricky for some not for others. I went on a massive walk with my dog the day after I found out. It took me so long to get out of the house but without sounding like someone who says they look forward to their next ‘Rainbow Baby’ it really helped. My phone was off, I took some breaths, I looked at people in the eyes and realised I have NO idea what’s going on in someone’s lives and if someone tuts at me for dropping my debit card at the tube barriers let them. They’ve probably got shit going on.
You and your partner become mega-close. Like two massive wooden pygmis like the one Hugh Grant nearly bought in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
You want to tell people what’s happened. They may not know you were pregnant but the immediate support from everyone is incredible. People share stories, people have always got someone they know who went thought this (SO MANY). The texts and voicemails make you cry but bloody hell… The support is immense.
You need to eat. You need strength for the coming week.
You want to shout it from the rooftops as you realise it’s so common and want everyone to talk about it more. Why weren’t we told in school that 1 in 4 early pregnancies end in miscarriage?
Acknowledging this statistic, it’s still really horrible. Give time to grieve and breathe.
You hear a lot of statistics but one good one is that the likelihood of this happening again is no lower or higher than before.
When you get wheeled through the hospital to surgery on your bed, it’s utterly humiliating and quite hilarious. You’re eye contact with every patient and as you go through double doors they totes slam in your face.
I apparently sang The Rolling Stones as I ‘went under’ because apparently I love them? (I wasn’t aware of this).
I was nil by mouth for so long I had genuine thoughts I’d look like that blonde naked dragon lady from Game of Thrones. (I don’t) .
You feel strangely strong. Exhausted. But determined to get better.
You feel like you’re part of this crew of incredible women who know how challenging and miracle-making pregnancy is. My friend Tomo calls them Powerful Minnows.
You realise that women are even more machine like than you knew. From someone who wasn’t part of the pregnancy crew to having a small insight. The few weeks of extreme tiredness, the sickness, the food cravings and the hormones were intense. It blows my mind that, reproduction is what makes the world go round. Yet it’s SO hard?!
So there it is. It’s all pretty sad. But it’s going to be ok. Here’s to that Rainbow Baby eh?
**Side note Cam has a seriously funny Instagram, you should follow her @camdstagram **
Before you have a kid you look at people with kids and think ‘i’ll never be like them’. Then you have one and it all goes out the window.
Here’s a selection of parenting ‘no go’s’ that I, unfortunately, have committed:
Sniffed my childs bum to smell if they’ve poohed.
Internally judged someone’s choice of buggy. This makes me an awful person.
Made non-parents have brunch when really the wanted lunch.
Overshared photos of my off spring on every conceivable form of social media.
Started talking about schools. A lot. Bertie doesn’t even start school until September 2017.
Cleaned their face with spit. I even remember how unpleasant this was when it was done to be as a kid, yet still find myself doing it.
Put my boys in matching outfits. I swore I wouldn’t. But turns-out twinning is just so bloody cute.
Referred to my husband as Daddy more often than by his name.
Unpacked a whole picnic for my kid in a restaurant. Is this cheeky? Maybe. But it’s better than wasting money on grub they’ll never eat.
Picked a dummy up off the floor then sucked if before giving it back to my child. Why? Why? Why? Totally pointless gesture. As if this magically removes all germs. It’s a reflex. An unstoppable daft reflex.
Got to a point where your 3-year-old refers to an expensive electronic device as ‘theirs’ i.e. ‘Mummy can I watch my ipad now?’ Cringe. It’s clearly not theirs, but seeing as he uses is 90% of the time I can understand why he might be confused.
Give zero fucks about the state of the family car. Why don’t they clear the biscuit smears off the car seat? Why are there of wrappers, shoes, buckets and spades and party bag toys in the foot well? Why don’t I care enough to do something? I don’t know why. But I die a bit every time an unsuspecting person requests a lift in the hideous child mobile.
Use child speak even though you are an articulate adult. In our house we refer to a nappy as a pappy, a dummy as a num, going to bed as getting snuggly bug. Our poor baby niece is Umbrella rather than Isabella. Once you start allowing this gobbledygook to become part of your day-to-day vernacular you can’t stop. What How do we expect our off-spring to learn proper language if we don’t adult-up and teach them?
Photographed an explosive nappy situation and sent it your other half.
Told someone other than your other half about how explosive the nappy was.
Picked your child’s nose, ear wax, cradle cap and got a bit of pleasure out of how much you harvested. Seriously. I’m repulsed at myself.
Waxed lyrical about the benefits of baby wipes. Admittedly they are amazing and I often wish I had a packet to hand at work. But really? It’s rubbish chat.
Sung along to the Peppa Pig theme tune. Oink.
Written thank you cards as if they were penned by your child. Embarrassing but true. “Woody says thank you very much for his birthday money..” No he doesn’t! Woody hasn’t got the foggiest about finance. If Woody was honest he would have much preferred an edible gift.
I am sure this is the tip of the iceburg of Parenting Crimes I am guilty of, but what you can you do? That’s the thing about parenting: it turns you into someone you didn’t think you’d become. Sometimes for the better, occasionally for the worse. Fact is, you can’t fight it; so you may as laugh and hope that you aren’t the only one at it *she says hopefully*.
I’ve known Lily for years (she dated my bro many moons ago) and wow has that girl grown into an incredible woman. She started the The Detox Kitchen in her 20’s and was well ahead of the clean eating trend.
Since then she has opened a chain, yes a chain!, of deli’s and written a recipe book: The Detox Kitchen Bible – there’s a prawn, cashew and cauliflower recipe in there that we now eat at least once a week.
That’s not all. Lily has been busy growing and looking after little human’s too. She has one son and his pregnant for the second time. Here’s her guide to eating during pregnancy.
Being the founder of a healthy food company, many people expect me to eat like a saint 100% of the time. This, I assure you, is not the case.
I live and will die by the 80/20 rule, eating wholesome, fresh food made from scratch 80% of the time, and eating whatever I want the other 20%, mainly kitkats, white wine spritzers and roast potatoes!
However, during pregnancy, especially the morning sickness months, that ratio dramatically changes to 60/40%.
I suffered with morning sickness from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed until I was 12 weeks with my first son and 18 weeks with my second pregnancy.
There is a lot of pressure on mothers to eat well during their pregnancy but that’s definitely easier said than done, so my list will hopefully give you a few tips on how to sneak in a few more veg but also make you feel less guilty for eating crisps for breakfast!
Juice is your friend. I found that one of the only ways to get fresh vegetables in to my diet was to drink them. Carrot, celery and ginger is the mother of all juice!
Listen to your cravings. All I wanted during morning sickness was plain, stodgy food. Apparently this is natural as your body is working hard to make a little human and it needs food that is already broken down so that its easier to digest.
My go to breakfast was toast with a bowl of Granola (if you have time to make your own, do; the less sugar and processed food the better, as sugar will just make you feel more nauseous)
Jacket potatoes are a life saver. Homemade chicken soup worked its magic too.
Gluten free pasta with a homemade pesto was my go to dinner. No garlic in the pesto.
The smell of food made me feel so much more nauseous so avoid the kitchen if you can. It’s the perfect excuse to get someone else to cook for you!
The smell of onions cooking nearly killed me. Avoid.
Avoid foods that tend to linger on your palette. I found onions and garlic the main culprits.
During morning sickness months eat as much as you need to. Do not hold backand worry about weight gain. Eat little and often. Two breakfasts is normal!
Drink peppermint tea, without it I would be in hell.
Feed your husband more, the more weight he puts on the better you will feel about gaining weight!
Feigning a hangover to justify your new love for chip sandwiches at work is totally acceptable.
Six pieces of toast for breakfast is normal.
Eat vegetable soup. Lots of soup with lots of toast.
Variety is important. Your growing babe is taking all the goodness from you, so they will be fine, it’s you that will suffer if you are under nourished. A multivitamin will ensure you are getting nutrients whilst you struggle to get proper variety in your diet. I used Bio Care.
Once my normal, healthier diet was resumed, I stopped taking the multivitamin as it wasn’t needed.
Try and spend time not thinking about food! A facial and manicure should do the trick.
The only time I didn’t feel sick was when I was asleep. So I slept loads. And being well rested apparently alleviates nausea!
Use this opportunity to get people to do stuff for you. Sending partners out to buy Fab ice creams at 10pm is reasonable.
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about your diet. Guilt is a wasted emotion.
Lily has kindly offered Mother of All Lists readers a promotion10% off everything in The Detox Kitchen Shop including some yummy granolas, The Detox Kitchen Bible and even the excellent hampers. Just enter MOAL at check-out to receive your discount.
I’ve never met Charlotte in real life. But I have huge respect for her- every single thing she writes and publishes at Motherland is mind expanding and intelligent without being heavy going. Perfect combo. She also has three kids. Also amazing.
I hope that Charlotte and I can meet soon and be friends. Ha!
In the meantime have a gander at this bang ‘on the money’ Guest List entitled: ‘The Cult of Busy and The Art of Saying No’.
I’m sure quite when ‘busy’ became a by-word for successful. Somewhere along the lines it feels like we’ve started to confuse the empowering possibility of Having it All (that elusive state preserved solely for the aspirations of women) with the duty to do everything, at once, without every stopping to wonder why.
The doors our foremothers fought hard to crack open for us have paved the path for a brilliant, supportive, powerful global network of mothers building their own businesses, destabilising the old boys club through the power of social media and remote working. Rather than smashing the glass ceiling, we’re building our own offices from our kitchens, our own networking clubs from our phone-screens – creating a seismic shift in the way we live now.
It is the possibility of new media and the empowering nature of this clan of women from across the globe working together to support each other which has enabled me to grow Motherland.net – a platform “for women who happen to be mums”, launched at the end of 2014 as an antidote to the largely saccharine-sweet or intentionally-polarising publications so often aimed at new mums – to what it is has become (something I’m hugely proud of) while having recently had my third child.
In one sense it’s been a brilliant gift: launching my own business, being my own boss, creating something I never knew I was capable of, while learning so much – the majority of it on the hoof.
But it’s also been hugely overwhelming. Being a parent while constantly grabbing opportunities, at a frenzied, almost indiscriminate, pace ‘BECAUSE THEY MIGHT JUST DRY UP IF I DON’T!’ is a nonsense. It’s exhausting, it’s unsustainable, and it’s really unhealthy. But it’s also increasingly normal, when I talk to friends and listen to our readers; this is how so many of us are working these days: relentlessly, and with little real consideration for what we’re doing it for.
I can’t help wondering if as we (rightfully) congratulate one another for all that we’re achieving, that we’re simultaneously doing ourselves a disservice. By using language such as ‘superwoman’ and constantly encouraging one another to be the best we can be and seize every opportunity, as has become so commonplace, particularly online, I can’t help but think we’re setting ourselves – and eachother – up for a fall. Because, ultimately, our resources are finite. Everyone has a limit, and when you’re raising children, sometimes it’s very much pushed on a daily basis without the need to add more to your work-load, let alone the weight of a sense that we should be doing more.
The truth is you don’t have to be a #mumboss in order to be a mum who is bossing it. Yes, we should strive for what we want to achieve, and thank God we live in an age where we’re freer than we ever were to do that. But that doesn’t have to be everything; and certainly not all at once. Maybe it’s OK to keep our ambitions pretty basic: getting out the house, having the occasional shower, having kids who know we love them…
For me, rather than striving to say ‘yes’ all the time,in order to get where I want to be, and to be the fulfilled, present mother and human I aspire to become (this is very much a work in progress!), I’m working on saying ‘no’. Because actually sometimes not doing is not just OK, it’s good.
Here are my rules:
1. Know your ‘yes’: I nicked this from a great pal/former colleague Clare Dwyer Hogg who explained that knowing your yes (where you want to be or the kind of life you want) is the first step to understanding your ‘no’ – the things that won’t help you achieve those goals.
2. Chill out: This doesn’t mean start reading books about Slow Parenting, mindfulness or other prescribed systems to become a more present you. It means, quite simply, worry a bit less. In part thanks to the constant reminder of how shiny everyone else’s life seems on social media, and the idea that we’re constantly being judged online, it’s easy to think everyone else is judging you. In reality, they’re not. And if they are, who cares? Be yourself, and accept that’s enough.
3. Take time off: It’s pretty basic but something we’re really good at forgetting to do. Yes, there’s a mountain of washing to do, emails to read and kids parties to attend. But you can’t do them all, so give yourself a break and take time to do nothing. By which I didn’t’ actually mean sit still in a silent room – for me, drinking wine and chewing the ear off my friends is a sure path to happiness; I rather mean don’t feel you always have to be on-call. Because you don’t, and you’ll be far more productive if you give yourself a break then start again…
4. Don’t overthink it: I don’t think I’m alone in spending an inordinate amount of time deliberating what would make me ‘truly happy’. My husband and I have watched every episode of Escape to the Country, yearning after a calmer existence, which we’d achieve if we *just* had a few more sheep in eye-line, and debated the 320 life-paths that we could pursue to achieve the perfect balance. The truth is we have three kids under five – life is not going to be straightforward any time soon, regardless of where we live, but it is fun – sometimes – and would be more so if we’d just let ourselves get on with it a bit more rather than constantly hankering after the greener grass on the other side…
5. Go with your gut: You know when an opportunity is put in front of you and you think ‘I really should do that!’ while a looming sense of dread builds just thinking about taking on something else? This is the point when I now say ‘sorry, I can’t’. Not to everything. There are some thing we can’t ignore forever: like tax returns or hungry children. But when it comes to freelance projects, in particular, I’d got to this point where I’d say ‘yes’ because I didn’t want to let people down. I’ve now realised it’s OK to say no. And that doesn’t mean someone won’t ask again; because people understand – in regard to other people, if not themselves – that people can’t say yes to everything. The sense of relief when you send an email saying ‘sorry I can’t’ to a request that you can’t possibly fit in but for a second thought you had to, is amazing. Try it and see for yourself!
Now go check out some of the great stuff on Motherland