The Minimalist Doula’s Guest List: Velvet Vaginas & Other Birth Essentials

The Minimalist Doula’s Guest List: Velvet Vaginas & Other Birth Essentials

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Ain’t that the truth…
Doula’s are a bit like Mary Poppins; they carry around a bag full of weird and wonderful things in to enable their women to have the birth they want. Here  lovely Jenna Rutherford AKA The Minimalist Doula reveals all what is in hers.

**Spoiler alert: it includes a velvet vagina. Yes, actually.**


So as a doula I’m often asked, ‘you’re a what?’ followed by, ‘oh so what do you actually do then??’ Well you know what, it’s not that easy to define, it’s not tangible like so many things are these days in our consumerist ‘things’ culture. How do I explain that I create a feeling?  In my humble opinion, as a doula, I’ll offer you emotional and practical support, signpost you to information of interest, be a continuous confidante in your pregnancy but it’s so much more than that.  It’s love ️  in it’s purest form. I completely fall in love with what you hope for, for your birth, and then I try everything I can to help you achieve this.  I understand, first hand, the power of a positive, empowering birth experience and it lasts forever.

  • So how do I help on the birth day itself? My doula bag (which is getting smaller and smaller) holds the answers…
  • Straws, the humble essential for your easy, hands free hydration (or impromtu Britney skits if the moment arises)…I’ll come back to that.
  • A flannel – to cool.
  • Massage balls – to relieve, to bang, bang, bang (repetition is very helpful), to squeeeeeze.
  • Chocolate buttons – who needs a reason?!
  • A Tens machine – great for early labour, my Mama can deliver her own mini electric shocks to match her pain and the beauty of this is, the power is literally in her hands, battery operated and there’s a boost button, she’s the boss after all.
  • My fave essential oils:  lavender, to calm. Frankincense, to deal with the intensity of the surges (the word contractions just sounds painful doesn’t it?). Clary sage if things slow down (only use in labour, you’ve been warned). And peppermint oil, a few drops in the toilet bowl can help the placenta deliver more smoothly.
  • A variety of tea bags – obviously a complete essential at any time (I am a herbal tea addict!) and for the first cuppas as a new family because I get to see that, a family being born, privilege and wonder that never, ever gets old.
  • Iphone – obvs but great if music is forgotten, you can listen, dance, roar to my 80s classics, stick in a cup, and voila!
  • A book – for waiting, they’ll be no pressure from me to ‘move things along’ (I’m not actually reading but if it looks like I’m not bothered, chances are you’ll relax too), giving a Mama space is as important as knowing when to hold her tight.
  • My rebozo (a mexican shawl) – for Mama, for baby, for me, to wrap, to comfort, lo act as a makeshift pillow, to hang from the door to change positions or to shake those apples  imagine me shimmying with a scarf wrapped around your middle, can really make the surges more manageable.
  •  Fluffy socks – for my Mama’s cold feet, there’s a suggestion that the colder a woman’s legs the more dilated she is, the further up you go, the closer to baby you are…
  • Wool – in case an impromptu cord tie is needed.
  • Cash – hospital parking charges, ouch and I know lots of Dads worry about this.  There is often a discounted ticket for the maternity ward, so definitely worth checking before you bankrupt your change pot.
  • Blu tack – it can be very handy as a stress reliever but also excellent at putting up positive affirmations, special photos, anything that helps make the space your own if you’re not at home and to support your visualisation techniques, go to your happy place.
  • A black marker pen – useful to write notes for the room door – ‘hypnobirthing in progress’, whether it is or not, often means less interruptions and softer voices 
  • My velvet vagina (c/o the amazing midwife/researcher extraordinaire Sara Wickham www.sarawickham.com) another great visualisation tool, it opens out to 10cm.
  • Talking of opening, as your surges build a homemade rice sock can bring warm relief (just stick it in the microwave and it stays warm for hours)
  • Massage oil – i’ll rub anything that hurts, within reason but even then, you’re giving birth ffs!
  • I bring my stamina which will never waiver, you’re doing all the work, I can at least stand by your side while you do it
  • And the last item I bring is my ability to be invisible, my doula crush once said to me, doulas should be like wallpaper…this is your show, I am just an honored supporter, I will be there when you need me, and step away when you don’t…this is your moment.

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    Love this, from Jena’s own birth.
  • And from the doula who’s holding this bag;

    You’ll have my eyes watching over you to protect your space…undisturbed birth is the key to the positive birth door

  • You’ll have my ears, and I will listen, you are about to give birth, you’re not ill, you are stronger and more in control than you’ve ever been, you’re the boss

And you’ll have a piece of my heart, forever, as I witness in awe, as you become a mother.And back to the straw, it’s the only thing I ever really get out of my bag because my Mamas are Goddesses and I serve them, and…they’ve got this.

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The contents of the bag. Look at the tiny nappy!


 Want to know more about Jena? You’ll find her on  Doula UK or at www.theminimalistdoula.com

Want to know about Doula’s?  Have a read of Sarah’s Guest List from last year: ‘What’s a Doula All About?’

And finally, The Secret Pillow Project (featured above) is a brilliant idea that empowers women in the most challenging of circumstances.

Charlotte Adorjan’s Guest List: My Broken Baby

Charlotte Adorjan’s Guest List: My Broken Baby

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-2-06-36-pmCharlotte and I have a lot in common; both copywriters, both have a Woody, both have a name begin with the letter C. Ok,  I’m stretching it now. One difference is that I am very fortunate to have two healthy kids. I am absolutely in awe of Mums like Charlotte who cope when, in her words: ‘their babies are broken’.

Here she tells us about her and Woody’s on-going journey:


  • We first found out there could be a problem at our 12 week appointment. 

  • Our much-waited-for scan, which for once had been going well (we’d miscarried three babies before) suddenly took a turn for the worse. The consultant looked concerned and said: “Sorry, there’s a problem. The baby’s probably either got Down’s Syndrome or a heart condition.” And I hate to admit it, but after crying for what seemed like forever I remember praying desperately that it was his heart. You can fix a heart, I thought. Right? (I now know Down’s Syndrome would’ve also given us a precious, unique baby too. Hindsight is a funny old thing.)  

  • The heart condition was confirmed a few weeks later and then a new feeling crept in. I didn’t want this baby. I wanted a ‘good one’. Why did we have to have the broken one after all the sh*t we’d been through? Seemed unfair. Could we please just start again?

  • But as the baby grew I became quite protective. It may be broken, but it was mine. Perhaps after all the miscarriages it was the baby I was supposed to have all along.

  • Nearing Woody’s due date I grew very apprehensive. No one was quite sure how bad his heart was or what would happen once he came out. They knew he had a hole in there but not how big. I often hear pregnant mums say they want to keep their babies safely tucked inside them for a bit longer. I wanted my gestation to last until he was eighteen. I felt complete terror that he’d come out and drop dead the minute he was born.

  • But he was born, pulled out quickly because I wasn’t allowed to push for too long or risk stressing his heart, and he did really well. Perhaps his heart would be okay. Only time would tell.

  • So we were packed off home with our tiny newborn and told to ‘look out for signs of heart failure.’ Y’know, ‘blue lips, struggling for breath, death etc…’ Sure, we thought. No problem. We’ll take on that responsibility even though WE’VE HAD ZERO MEDICAL TRAINING AND CAN BARELY WORK OUT HOW TO CHANGE HIS NAPPY YET.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-59-02-pm

  • So obviously we ended up in A&E. A LOT. Every sniffle, we were told to take him in ‘just in case’. And each time the doctors would gather round and take it in turns to listen to his ‘crazy heart murmur’. We started to feel like he was pretty special. He drew crowds. But we’d trundle off home still feeling like we were living with a time bomb. Like an exploding nappy, we felt his heart would pack in at any time.

  • Then they told us after six weeks of watching and waiting that his hole was ‘pretty significant’. So big in fact they weren’t sure ‘why he’s not in complete heart failure’. The consultant’s exacts words.

  • When you tell people your baby’s got a hole in the heart the number one thing most people say is: ‘Oh that’s very common. So and so has one and they’re okay…’ This is the single worst thing you want to hear.

  • Herpes is common, I don’t want my baby to have that. This wasn’t a sock that needed darning. This was the very thing that kept him alive. Having a baby with a hole in his heart was pretty damn uncommon for me.

  • So they decided they would need to fix his heart (plus repair the damaged valve that so far had been keeping him alive.) But not yet. He’s too small for such a big operation. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN BIG OPERATION? CAN’T YOU JUST DO IT THOUGH A KEYHOLE OR SOMETHING? PICK IT LIKE A LOCK? LASER IT FROM THE OUTSIDE??) Nope. Open-heart bypass surgery it had to be.

  • We had to wait fourteen long months until he was deemed big enough to go through with the surgery. I had counselling in the months leading up to the operation. How could they be stopping my baby’s heart and then starting it again? The thought simply made me want to throw up.

  • Then the day came. Everything seems quite foggy looking back. I know I cried when I had to sign the consent form and see how likely it was he might die.

  • I know I whispered to the anaesthetist, “Please…when he’s in there, call him Woody. He won’t know his other name, Elwood.”

  • I remember my husband and I falling asleep on the grass outside as we waited for it to be over. I guess our bodies’ way of coping, escaping instantly in to sleep.

  • Seven hours and thirty-two minutes later we could go and see him in intensive care. He was covered in tubes and sliced down the middle. I called out to him, desperate to let him know I was there, but in his drugged-out state he got distressed and they asked us to leave. It was, quite simply, horrendous.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-59-10-pm

  • The next day we were allowed back in to the ICU. And there was our boy. Sitting up in bed drinking a bottle of milk looking like he’d been out on one hellova bender. Turns out he’d pulled out his own breathing tubes and stabilised once they’d stopped pumping him full of drugs.

  • ‘You’ve got a fighter there’ I remember the lovely ICU nurse saying.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-59-18-pm

  • I look back on that time waiting for him to recover in hospital as strangely blissful. It was over. He was safe. We’d waited for that feeling even before he was born. We promised him we’d take him to get an ice cream the minute he was out. We were desperate to do something ‘normal.’

  • And normal life did return. Which was weird. After being such a strong unit throughout ‘the op’, my husband and I would bicker over who was doing the laundry. When times are tough, nothing else matters. Now we had to readjust to the usual grind of life.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-59-27-pm

  • Three years on and Woody’s doing great. (Touch woodclearly still paranoid and superstitious and will be forevermore…) We’re due to get his yearly heart-check tomorrow. (There’s a very small chance he might have to have the surgery one day again.) Going back to that place is always tough. Physically on him and mentally on us. But it’s time for us to learn to see him as a normal, robust little boy, and not the delicate little time bomb we had to once hover-over. Easier said than done.

  • When you have a baby they say the love you feel for them is like having your heart living on the outside of your body. You will worry about them forevermore.

  • I’m so glad I got a broken baby.

  • I think it’s my heart that may one day explode.screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-1-59-35-pm

    If you need support coping with a baby with a CHD, do get in touch with tinytickers.org They’re amazing.

    Early detection is crucial in survival rates for many CHD babies.  Tiny Tickers are training sonographers who will go on to save hundreds of babies’ lives. They desperately need donations to continue their work. You can donate here: tinytickers.org/donate

Blogging. Why Bother?

Blogging. Why Bother?

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-9-09-36-amBlogging is a funny old game. I still cringe introducing myself as a blogger. But then again my brother, who is a musician, feels embarrassed about carrying a guitar about. Maybe it’s the same thing? Or just a classic case of imposter syndrome.

Anyway here’s a list about why I share my ramblings with the world:


  • I actually had a blog 5 years ago called Lists on the Northern Line. I was in the middle of a terrible phase of anxiety* which meant I had daily panic attacks on the ‘tube part’ of my commute. Writing lists became my distraction/coping mechanism.

  • Although I enjoyed writing it. I didn’t really have a reason for doing it. So it petered out.

  • 3 years and 2 kids later, in March 2015, Mother of All Lists was born.

  • Here’s why:

  • Parenting is hard.

  • It makes you feel as if everyone is having a better, easier time than you.

  • Parenting can be lonely and relentless. Days can go by without having an adult conversation.

  • Sustained sleep deprivation fucks you up.

  • It can strip away your identity.

  • It messes with your confidence.

  • Makes you question: how to dress, who your mates are and what you want out of life.

  • And back when I had Bertie I couldn’t find anyone to help me navigate the madness.

  • My Mum lives abroad.

  • My siblings were still firmly in the having fun stage.

  • And we were the first of our friends to have a kid. So I looked elsewhere for advice, guidance and a sanity check.

  • Parenting books were too heavy going. (I’m always been the sort of girl who preferred to  watch the film/get the study guide rather than read the set text).

  • Mumsnet was too negative. I saw people sharing their baby name ideas and then being ripped to pieces for their choices.

  • ( I’m of the opinion that if you grow the human, it’s your choice what to call them).

  • ANYWAY after having Woody, my second, I felt more confident. As if I had graduated from an amateur parent to a competent one.

  • At which point I thought I’d have a go at sharing some of my experiences:

  • Doing so cleared my head. It got my baby brain back in gear. And seeing those first 1o’s and 100’s of reads come in gave me a thrill to do it again.

  • I learnt from my peers: Unmumsy Mum, Hurrah For GinMother Pukka, Susie Verrill, Step Don’t Buy Her Flowers and of course Clemmie Hooper.

  • I learnt it was ok to have mixed feelings about your small humans. To find them insanely annoying but heart hurtingly amazing.

  • It’s ok to question why you did it. And think ‘My old life child-free life was actually really good, why did we we mess it up?’

  • To find your marriage under massive strain. The way I spoke to Ben after a string of bad nights was frankly appalling.

  • It’s ok to say ‘I’m struggling’.

  • It’s ok to be genuinely worried about your postpartum hair.

  • And to respect your body for growing a human, but not like the way it looks in the aftermarth.  

  • It’s also ok to still REALLY like fashion. But have now clue how to ‘Dress Like a Mum’ (thankfully Zoe came to the rescue ).

  • It’s ok to occasionally wear red lipstick to the park just to cling on to a tiny bit of your own identity.

  • It’s ok to cover puke/wee/snot/vomit with a towel rather than endure more washing.

  • It’s ok to: use a dummy/co-sleep/cuddle them too much/mix feed/feed them to sleep/ follow a routine/have zero routine. It’s OK TO DO WHAT EVER YOU NEED TO DO TO SURVIVE.

  • It’s ok to want to be free from your kid but feel too bound to them to allow yourself that freedom.

  • It’s ok  to want to hold on to your career. Doesn’t mean you don’t feel a pang of guilt every Monday.

  • Equally, it’s ok to want to choose to staying at home. Doesn’t mean you don’t feel a pang of envy on Monday morning.

  • And it’s ok to crack into the prosecco/gin & tonic on a Friday afternoon whilst doing kids tea. Pizza with an all important carrot sticks on the side to ease your conscience.

  • Blogging/Instagram has given me the confidence to say all of the above. It’s helped me know who I am.

  • It has given me an incredible support network. Every time a stranger reaches out to say ‘hope you are ok.’ It blows me away. 

  • Every like, follow, share, comment is not only humbling it’s sanity saving. It’s given me so so many laughs at the disastrous, life-affirming, maddening, hilarious, emotional and often shitty experience of being Mum. So Thank You, Thank You very much for going on this journey with me.

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First ever post on Mother of All Lists
*Here’s a list I wrote about anxiety, entitled: ‘Anxiety is a Bitch.’

 

 

Too Much Mothering Information’s Guest List: Life as a Stuck at Home Mum.

Too Much Mothering Information’s Guest List: Life as a Stuck at Home Mum.

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Nicola aka ‘Too Much Mothering Information’ is a fellow Peckham Mum Blogger. She writes brilliantly and often makes me stop and think. Which is saying a lot when your brain is a frazzled mess.

I love so much of her feed. But partly I am curious about her life becuase its the one I haven’t taken. Nicola kids are simialr ages to my two, and after her second, she bravely decided NOT to go back to work in favour of being a stay at home Mum. A decision that can’t have been easy and one I have massive respect for.

Here she tells us how that feels:


My children are two and four. One is at home full-time, the other is in nursery two days a week. I love them fiercely of course, but frequently wonder whether anyone/everyone else finds this existence of servitude as boring/ monotonous/ lonely/ frustrating as I do, or if I’m justdoing it wrong.

Experiences of motherhood are infinite and impossible to capture in one piece of writing -but perhaps you too feel more stuck-than-stay-at-home-mum. Have a read of this and see, because above all else, it’s nice not to feel alone:

  • You try showering before they get up as suggested by people who are better at life, but the shower wakes them.

  •  You leave the shower running for 37 minutes, trying to get in it while the kids make many varied requests for drinks/ toys/ food/ toothpaste/ soap/ moisturiser. Sometimes you’ll just give up and get dressed. This is annoying.

  • You:

  • serve breakfast

  • unload the dishwasher

  • load the washing machine

  • dress children

  • change nappy(ies)

  • make a cup of tea, take a sip

  • fold dry laundry

  • attempt to eat your breakfast

  • donate it to a child

  • make beds

  • brush their teeth

  • wipe hands, faces, bums

  • sweep the floor

  • wipe the table

  • load the dishwasher

  • brush their hair

  • realise you haven’t brushed your own teeth/ hair

  • brush teeth, fail to brush hair

  • wrestle shoes, coats and hats on (hurry up summer)

  • drop older child at nursery/ school

  • go to the park

  • freeze

  • help small child climb stuff

  • reply “Yes, it’s a bin lorry/ dog/ cat/ leaf/ tree” ad infinitum

  • walk home

  • wash multiple sets of hands

  • change nappies

  • make lunch

  • make a cup of tea, possibly drink it

  • eat lunch

  • wipe hands, faces, tables, floors

  • wrestle resistant limbs into a sleeping bag

  • bribe a child into their cot

  • pretend they are asleep

  • sit on hold to a utility company

  • make and finally drink a cup of tea

  • hang out the laundry

  • put on another load

  • pay bills

  • arrange something House-y

  • retrieve child from cot

  • play

  • put on coats, shoes, hats

  • collect other child

  • cook tea

  • retrieve contraband from small hands that bigger hands have donated

  • referee

  • supervise tea

  • wipe faces, hands, tables, floors

  • load the dishwasher

  • run the bath

  • wrangle children into the bathroom

  • undress them

  • put them in the bath

  • unload the washing machine

  • hang out the washing

  • wash children

  • dodge water

  • dry children

  • dry the floor

  • brush teeth

  • herd into bed

  • read stories

  • return escaped children

  • tuck in

  • turn out the light

  • cook dinner

  • revisit children

  • revisit children

  • revisit children

  • tidy away toys/ kick them into a corner

  • sit down to eat

  • tidy kitchen

  • load and start dishwasher

  • sit down.

  • And when your other half says, “What have you done today?” reply, “Nothing really.”

  • You wish you knew less about the effects of sugar, salt, chemical consumption so you would feel less guilty about the amount of biscuit bribery and beige oven food that is consumed by your kids.

  • You tell yourself your menu is limited because you prioritise getting out of the house, not staying in and cooking. Deep down you know this is really because being out of the house means less mess.

  • When your children are going through developmental leaps/ are being arseholes, every day (and possibly night) in their company erodes every vestige of patience you ever had. The (shameful) end result is there may be times that your hands itch. You’re not about to receive money, no one is talking about you, it is just that your child/ren have driven you to the brink of doing something previously unthinkable. You can now see how people who already have “issues” might transform it into the thinkable.

  • You feel terrible about this. You cry down the phone to your partner/ husband/ friend begging them to say you’re not a terrible person, but not too much because you fearexcusing this behaviour might make “it” easier next time.

  • You fantasise about going to work and not having to listen to the tantrums and whining.

  • You fantasise about going to work and earning your own money so you can justify another mama-merch slogan tee. (You conveniently forget that after childcare costs you’ll be left with approximately £3.47 a day from your wages.)

  • You resent your partner having the freedom to phone you halfway through bathtime to say they won’t be home for bathtime as they’re meeting clients (you suspect friends) after work, during bathtime. “No shit” you might bite back. You reflect that your last night out involved weeks of planning who will be where and when to catch the slack you’d be letting fall, only for it to unravel on the actual night so you arrive two hours late when everyone else has gone home/ is pissed.

  • You torment yourself with memories of a time when you were respected, had authority that was listened too, and expertise that was valued.

  • You spend time wishing your washing machine had a timer that allowed you to set the start time/ told you how long was left.

  • You spend more time wishing you didn’t wish this.

  • But then the kids are asleep, you don those digital pink-hued goggles of modern motherhood, scroll through pics of your kids surrounded by scattered Cheerios and forget the frustration you felt at the time.You declare them “so cute it hurts” and reflect on all the reasons you’re actually happy to be a stuck-at-home-mum:

  • There is no rush out of the house in the morning, juggling nursery drop-offs with sleepy children followed by the hurtle to work that always ends in being five minutes late.

  • There are no guilty apologies as you leave other people in the office. You need to get to nursery before they start fining you and leaving you in deficit for the day, thus unable to guilt-free buy that slogan tee anyway.

  • There are no adults tantruming and whining. Those arseholes tend not to respond well to KitKat bribery.

  • There is less anxiety about whether the kids will sleep tonight – when the most intellectually challenging task of the day is timing the pasta, broken sleep is annoying rather than a threat to survival.

  • You get to see your kid drawing hair on a stick person for the first time; listen to them struggle with a word on Monday, that by Saturday is perfect; not have that horrible sinking feeling when you notice something for the first time, that someone else has known for days or even weeks.

  • You get to take them on day trips, on bus journeys one way and then back again on arainy day, and teach them to ride their bike. All on a week day, without the crowds, enjoying the look of ecstasy on their faces.

  • You get to laugh and smile so hard your face aches. Almost every day, sometimes several times a day.

  • You get to relish being rejected at the weekend – the least present parent is generally more interesting.

Truth is, stuck-at-home-mums like me didn’t have this life in their vision of the future so wefind it difficult to accept and embrace. But, in a never-ending cycle, when the day is over its easier to see the upsides, appreciate the gains, and reflect on the fact it’s not, afterall, forever.

So, just keep going. You’re doing your best.

Nicola and her tribe


Sue Higgs Guest List: The Truth About Parenting Teenagers.

Sue Higgs Guest List: The Truth About Parenting Teenagers.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 5.12.58 PM.pngIn advertising only 3% of Creative Directors are female. The number of those that are Mums is far far less. I don’t have a stat but its definitely on the shit side of depressing.Imagine my joy when I met Sue Higgs. A fan of leopard print (good start) a CD and a Mum to teenagers. And really funny with it.  She was a ray of light and living a proof that being a Mum and a Creative was possible.

I’m so deeply focused on surviving this stage of parenting/jugglign that I hadn’t stopped to think about what is to come;  what it might be like when they are TEENAGERS!! Here Sue gives us a glimpse into our future:


I was lucky to work with the lovely Clemmie for a few months at Grey before she left for exciting pastures new, good luck you’ll smash it!! But in our short time together, I’d come in in the morning usually with a moan/ gripe/anecdote about something my children had done.  I say children. I mean teens two girls 17 and 15, a boy of 12.

I think I was more prepared for the baby than the teen, holy mother, one minute you’re making sand castles and pureeing veg the next you’re advising them not to drink white wine and stick to a spirit. So I’m slightly ahead most of yous.

I’m also a single mum, who works full time as a creative director so it’s all pretty full on in our house … *emoji scream face.

Here’s where I got to…

  • Starting on a good bit, you can leave the house without looking as if you’re going on holiday for 2 weeks, and without having to book a babysitter. That is a lovely big change.

  • I’ve learned to understand what it must be like to be a PA to a celebrity. Could you just order me this?, Oo I need this.. tomorrow? Has my xx come? Have you booked my y? I really need a new xx etc etc

  • Teens are selfish and don’t do stuff unless they’ve done it. “I didn’t leave that towel, it wasn’t my mug…” So it’s more like living with flatmates than kids. I’ve tried spreadsheets, withholding pocket money and screaming at the top of my voice about not being a servant. Not cracked this yet. It’s all normal and part of their development allegedly.  Gin helps.

  • Teens bankrupt you. Its all about the uber. If I’d had 1p for every time I’ve been asked to put money in their account for an uber I’d have at least £200. Then there’s the festivals. The clothes.  Someone at school will always get more pocket money than them.  

  • I really turned have into my mum,  “ You can’t go out wearing that! ‘’There’s barely enough fabric in that top for me to blow my nose on let alone cover your body”  “Take a coat” “Don’t loose anything”, “ Be back by 11”, “This music is just noise etc ” Repeat ad finitum.

  • They look at photos of you when you were young and say stuff like “you used to be so pretty”. Used.

  • When they all go to a party, and there’s always a party or “ gathering”, they all drink bottles of Sprite, it’s 95% vodka.

  • The words “ literally” and “ basically’ are the cornerstones of every sentence.

  • The years of diligently Anabel Karmelling, pureeing and vegetable hiding have transmogrified into Nando lust.

  • You can’t buy clothes for a teen. I stopped when they girls were about 12. It will be wrong. They looked at my last offering as if I was handing them a suit made of hair.

  • Peng. Buff. Henge.  Streak. Just some of the words I hear and ask “What the hey are you’re going on about? ” “Oh mum they reply, they probably didn’t have those words in your day, was everything in black and white? ”Cue me walking off muttering some four letter words of my own.

  • In the teen years, I think you really find out what kind of a person you are. How did I get so shouty/strict/moral/relaxed etc

  • Having said all this I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I think parenting is a bunch of phases thrown together and we’re all just muddling our way through trying not to f*** it up!!

  • The biggest clue that I may be doing ok came one day when my eldest was recounting a tale of another mum’s “ terribly strict” treatment of her friend, which concluded in her saying:

  • “ Thanks mum for not being a psycho.”

  • I’ll take that.

How We Survived Financial Crisis. Just.

How We Survived Financial Crisis. Just.

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I’ve made a few references to 2016 being a shitty year. The universal reasons hardly need mentioning: politics going tits up. The loss of so many amazing creatives. And of course Bake Off.

But for my family and I we also went through a proper deep dark financial crisis.

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. Until now it’s felt too recent and raw. However the fact we have made it into a new calendar year means it feels ok to share…


  • Financial crisis affects EVERYTHING.
  • To be clear, by financial crisis I mean my husband had a business that was in far far more debt than I had realised. 

  • I felt like a mug. How didn’t I know? I knew a bit of it. But maybe I just closed my ears to the grim reality.

  • I had a 2-year-old and a new baby  too. So that some-what distracts you.

  • I don’t want to go into details but we were firmly up shit creek without a paddle. Loans. Credit cards. Debts with most of our  family. 5 figure kinda debt.

  • As I said being in financial crisis effects EVERYTHING.

  • You feel sick every morning hoping that the bailiffs won’t come knocking (7 am is their usual call time).

  • You feel sick every time you return from being away for the weekend. How many dreaded brown envelopes will there be? How much more money will need to be ‘magiced’ from thin air

  • You feel sick every time you go out and have to split a bill.

  • “Oh it’s only a fiver different. Doesn’t matter!” Exclaims someone.

  • Of course a fiver doesn’t matter when life is normal. But when you are spiralling into debt that fiver makes ALL the difference. It’s a weeks worth of breakfasts.

  • You feel sick when your kid asks “Mummy have we got any money today?”

  • Those screaming fits in the supermarket over a Paw Patrol magazine? A whole lot worse when you know you couldn’t treat them, even if you wanted to.

  • You realise how reliant we are on consumerism for a ‘pick me up’: that new top after a big meeting. Dinner out to mark a milestone. Even a coffee to break-up the monotony of being stuck with the kids all day.

  • Not being able to have these things makes you resentful to all those that do.

  • It makes you feel like a failure.

  • To be financially screwed feels really shameful. And impossible to talk about.

  • It often comes with a lack of sympathy: “you can always sell the house.”

  • Of course we would have sold our house. But when you walls are caving in. When you are: worried about feeding your kid (and your dog), trapped in you job and unsure about whether your marriage can weather the storm, the thought of losing one anchor, one bit of security; the thought of losing your home…. it’s too much to bare.

  • BUT of course what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

  • Financial crisis has taught me to be frugal. To make that food shop last. To walk wherever you can. To search for bargains.

  • To be grateful to those who were there when we needed them most. Not just the ones who lent us cash. But to the mates who hung out with us during those 52 weeks, even though we were no fun.

  • We are determined to pay every penny of it back.

  • Money does not make the world go round. But not having it sure as hell makes it feel turned upside down.

  • I ‘get’ that talking money is awkward for us Brits. That’s not a good enough excuse.

  • Making it the elephant in the room throws up gigantic size problems.

  • We need to have the guts to be honest when we are strapped for cash rather than max-out the credit card for the sake of saving face.

  • We must ask to be paid what we are worth.

  • And most of all, we must be courageous enough to say to the ones we love “there’s something I need to tell you..”

  • Aside from the ongoing guilt every time I buy a treat.

  • And disbelif that it happened to us. 

  • And the slightly shakiness that stays with you after any trauma.

  •  I still feel fortunate.

  • Financial security is something I have taken for granted.

  • That monthly pay-check. That bottle of wine bought without thinking. That person who’ll lend you a 100 quid when you need it.

  • They are luxuries. Ones I now savour and appreciate.

  • And to those burdened with money worries, sometimes for life. Those forced to put their kids to bed with an empty stomach, who do not have people on-side to help and advise, who are born with the odds stacked against them. That person on the bus or at the play-ground. I see you. I empathise with you and I respect you for struggling on.


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    We’re still standing. A shit time but we survived (just).

 

 

Caroline Keylock’s Guest List: Going Travelling for A Year with A Baby

Caroline Keylock’s Guest List: Going Travelling for A Year with A Baby

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Today is a big day for Caroline of Masters of Many. While most of are facing the usual Monday morning mayhem. Her and her family  are off travelling around the world.

Here Caroline shares her thoughts about the exciting adventure:


 

A few months ago we made the decision to travel as a family with our (then to be) six month old baby, starting with New Zealand, Australia and all through Asia, with a view to working out where we might want to live along the way. Or, to travel as long as we can make money and freelancing last, or our son Otis needs to be in some kind of structured education (in our view about 7 years old).

It’s been a big decision (one that was very much pushed by me initially), and as any new mother knows, life at this point of motherhood is filled with contradictions, emotional curve balls, and a whole lot of motherly guilt.

It strikes me that any big decisions in life, at least those that are worthwhile, are accompanied by these back and forth swings, ones that threaten you teeter away from that definitive ‘Yes, lets do it’ to a ‘but’…and ‘what if’…until the big dream is ultimately put back in the drawer. We’ve pushed ourselves passed all the ‘what if’s’, but I thought that my emotional swings back and forth might be useful for others trying to do the same, so here’s the full list of all of the rational and not so rational thoughts I’ve had over the last few months:

  • I feel proud of us as a family. That we’re striking out to do something that many have said we are ‘brave’ to even contemplate.

  • Followed swiftly by wondering if we’re actually bloody selfish, is travelling round the world more about us than Otis? Is that so wrong if the answer is yes?

  • I’m wildly excited about the new places we’re going to see, particularly the far flung, more unusual ones like Burma.

  • Which is then accompanied by some frantic Googling, as to which diseases Otis might be exposed to, and booking of appointments with travel health professionals to make sure we’ve got our bases covered.

  • I wonder where he will take his first steps, and think about all of the new foods that he’s going to taste when we wean him off breast feeding.

  • And then have a brief moment of wondering if we’re insane to think he’s going to be one of those kids who actually is open minded about food, and doesn’t only accept Ella’s Kitchen fruit tubes.

  • I am constantly aware of just how lucky we are to contemplate having this time together as a family, with no commute, and no compromises.

  • And then I think about the fact that Ben and I might not have a moment to ourselves for at least a year. And how the hell we’ll manage things like sex with a baby in the same room as us all the time.

  • I long for Otis to grow up in a world where he runs, climbs and surfs, rather than spending hours in front of a screen and hope we’ll find that life for him.

  • And then I add a reminder to the to do list to load up an iPad with kids stuff to get us through the 24 hour flight to New Zealand.

  • I get excited about the idea that he is going to learn about colours, sounds, even maths and history, from the real world around him, rather than measured by an SAT test that bears no resemblance to real life.

  • And then have a little panic that he’s not registered in any nurseries or schools or anything, so if we do end up coming back, we might be a little bit screwed on that front…

  • I think a lot about the fact that Otis is going to meet people from all walks of life, and ultimately have an understanding of different worlds (particularly less privileged) to his own.

  • And then I think about all of the people we are temporarily removing from his life. Friends with kids the same age that he might have been friends with. Our huge, loving families, filled with cousins who can’t wait to see him on each visit. And Grandparents who are clearly overjoyed that he’s around.

  • The last one is the biggie. We’ve made sure they’ve had far more time with him than might have been the day to day reality if we were staying. And they love him to death. And we recognise that we are breaking their hearts by taking him away. And that’s tough.

  • But then I think about the fact that the one thing I hope for Otis is that he chases adventure in life, and what makes him happy. And doesn’t feel like he has to stay living near us, that we’ll be his family wherever he chooses to be. And that our parents brought us up to think like that, and they should be proud for continuing to let us spread our wings.

  • I wonder what it will feel like when Otis grows up and does just that. I already recognise it will be bloody hard, but to be honest, getting him off to a start that inspires him to break the rules, to live life with gut instinct and being happy being his only guide puts every fear above to rest.

  • Roll on January 9th. New Zealand here we come.


    Follow Caroline and her family’s journey at mastersofmany.com

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