Why We’re Ditching Date Nights

“So, do you and Sam go out a lot then?” has to be one of the questions I most dread as a parent. Not because I don’t want to be spending time with my darling OH, but because we are quite simply *rubbish* at making it happen. Whilst I’ve never really cared about being judged as a mum, suddenly I feel as if my relationship is being put under (a probably fairly grubby, if it’s in our household) microscope. “We make sure we go out every Saturday night for a really nice dinner either with friends or alone so we stay close as a couple and have a social life” one colleague proudly once told me. I think the furrows in my forehead grew significantly deeper that day.

I suppose because we have a fairly relaxed approach to parenthood, it seems to just happen that our kids are around a lot and as a result, Sam and I don’t really get much ‘us’ time. Months go by and we’ve not stepped foot out the front door just the two of us without clinging on to a child (and accompanying 18365929 other items.) 99% of the places we go, we just seem to just take the kids along too – on a holiday to celebrate our anniversary, traveling, to a festival… You name it, the monkies are there. To give you an idea, we spent New Years eve drinking champagne (us), in onesies (them), dancing (all) at home, with the kids.

But there’s more reasons why our nights out are few and far between; there is the dreaded issue of finding a babysitter (we have one lady we know who babysits but well, turns out she has a life and isn’t always available), the *right* one at that (OK, so she – because they usually are – can put a toddler to sleep but can they bath a baby?), the cost (a night out is expensive and clock watching ain’t that sexy) and not to mention the actual content of the date (I seem to want to try a gazillion different restaurants the rest of the year but when that one time comes to choosing for that all important date night out, your mind goes blank). All in all, it’s an added pressure that seems just well, easier to shy away from than embrace.

Back when there was just two of us…

Recently though, we’re trying to shake things up on this front. Not because we ‘need’ to but because ya know what, we WANT to. Two kids in, nearly three years of having this monumental responsibility of solely caring for two human beings, we want some time off. Kids, we’ve got news for you: we’re outta here (for a limited time period only – say 3 hours every week?)

Although I hate the word, it seems apt here because to achieve this result, I’ve come to realise there is a set of behaviours that is going to help us reclaim some parental – one buggy-free step at a time -freedom. So, here’s how we’re doing it:

  1. We’re ditching date night – by this I mean that instead of putting pressure on ourselves to find the perfect restaurant or show, we’re opting to do uncomplicated, inexpensive things that don’t necessarily leave us hungover or sleep deprived (if Sam suggests going to the theatre, I can’t help but start to calculate potential loss of sleep hours). So for example, we went out for brunch last weekend somewhere local and just sat, sipped hot coffee and read the newspapers together. Reading a newspaper together at the weekend is something Sam and I used to love doing and which just doesn’t happen these days – but turns out, it makes the perfect ‘date’. It was simple and delicious and best of all, we were back within 3 hours and ready for the day ahead with the sprogs.
  2. We’re multitasking – by that I mean that we’re using the juggling skills we’ve honed as parents to combine loves in our lives. So for example, yoga is a huge passion of mine so we go to yoga classes together as a way to both spend some time together and also do some downward dogs. Next up, will be tennis…. Similarly, if food is your thing, why not go to an cookery class together with the other person getting to choose what they’d want to do the following term. Also, classes tend to be quite short so you can be back home before you know it – our yoga class is the perfect length at an hour so we are back home quickly but feel refreshed (and exercised) too. Becuase anyway, just because you’re together it doesn’t mean you have to actually talk to each other!
  3. We’re committing to it – by this I mean that we’re making time spent alone together a regular occurrence. So yoga happens once a week, every week, and unless something at work comes up for Sam, it is a fixture in our diary that we honour and look forward to. Similarly, if going out for a meal is your thing, put it in the diary to happen once a month. Set those dates in advance, and respect them.
  4. We’re being smart – and by that I don’t mean we’ve signed up to learn a new language. Nope, we’re just trying to use the time we do have better. We are a zero routine family you see so timings are extremely flexible and we tend to go slow on most things. So, bath and bed is a very relaxed affair but it can also be a pretty long one which isn’t conducive to catching up with each other at the end of the day. So we’re doing our best to kick start things a little earlier and make bath time and bed time shorter and faster in order to max our evenings out (and finally get through one episode of Fauda)
  5. We’re committed to finding more babysitters and not just relying on one person. Our new go to resource for this is Bubble which is simply brilliant. I’m all about the connections and recommendations through word of mouth (wasn’t Instagram invented for this?) so what I love about this app is that it finds you a babysitter that someone you know knows. So once you enter your basic requirements, it surfaces babysitters and using Facebook, shows you all the mutual connections that you have with that person. For example, I could see that one of the babysitters was actually connected to my best friend and after a quick phonecall to my friend, it turned out they worked with each other. You then select which babysitters you’d like (remember that thing about babysitters having lives too?), each person will then receive an alert and the first person to respond gets the gig. Above and beyond the personal connection, each babysitter has a review and sets their own price. Talking of price, you know that awkward thing when you come home 25 minutes before the hour is up and don’t quite know if paying your babysitter a bit less is OK? With this app you just clock in and out when you leave and come back and pay (through the app – so no awkward searching when you are slightly tipsy for a £20 note). This app works, people, it really works, and I can’t see us going back to any other service.

So those are the five ways we’re trying to get some time in our lives, just for ourselves without the minis, as much as we do love them. Having low expectations, tapping into each others’ hobbies, being speedy at home and finding an awesome babysitting app are all total game changers not to mention the actual ‘commitment’ to the goal in hand.

Do you and your partner spend time together away from the kids? And I’d love to know what you tend to get up to when you do? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks as ever for reading,

Emma xxx

 

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This post is in conjunction with Bubble. To download Bubble (which I recommend you do), head over to http://joinbubble.com/download-app/

 

VEGANUARY – THE VERDICT

Instagram is a powerful place and has led me down many an interesting path from the notion of ditching hair shampoo in favour of things foraged from my kitchen to minimalism to choosing where to go travelling with my family next. It’s introduced me to women who are now good friends, and it’s given me a wealth of advice on everything from baby carriers to spiralizers.

Lately though, it’s also been a real source of inspiration and information when it comes to something pretty major: the food I put in my mouth and on our family’s plates.

It was after attending an Oatly Christmas dinner and meeting with some awesome Vegan people that I first learnt about Veganuary. Always up for a challenge and for exploring new concepts, Veganuary basically involves giving up meat, fish and dairy for the month of January. This year a record 60,000 people worldwide signed up (with over half being from the UK) and all for different reasons: the Veganuary website shared results from a survey showing that like previous years, a concern for animal welfare was the most popular reason behind people registering but that health and environmental reasons are all other motivations for choosing a vegan way of life. In fact there’s a tonne of reasons why not consuming meat, egg and dairy that I’m not going to go into (plus, I don’t want to go all preachy on you) but if you are interested, here is a fantastic article on just that. I’ll list some other material at the end of this post if you are interested to learn more….

So, the big question is, how did it go?

In a nut (walnut, pistachio, almond – I’ve never eaten so many nuts in my life) shell – pretty darn well! Whilst I made a few exceptions (I ate fish during our anniversary weekend away and had the odd piece of cake which contained eggs), I would say that I stuck to a meat and dairy free diet for 96% of the month of January

How did I feel?

Good! Energetic, light and never once (except maybe when I couldn’t eat my custard tart or have a cup of tea at a friend’s house) deprived of a food I really wanted. Cheese, for example, was surprisingly easy to live without once I discovered violife and I have heard amazing things about Sainsbury’s feta.  I’ve felt incredibly inspired in the kitchen and (I know I said I wouldn’t get preachy….) there’s no denying that I’ve felt kinda good about the fact that no animal is suffering in the process of me eating. I’ll be honest – there’s been the odd occasion where I’ve felt not 100% full (I needed more calories perhaps) and at times where I have felt a little frustrated. Read on….

What’s hard about it?

There’s no denying that being vegan is more effort one way or another. As a meat-eater, it was super easy to just pop a piece of chicken in the oven, some rice and veg and you have a delicious, nutritious meal in moments. A vegan meal, in contrast, *tends* to have more components and at the end of the day, post bath-time and high-chair scrubbing, I didn’t always have the energy. That said, there are more and more vegan ready made meals ranging from Linda McCartney to newer and really delicious brands which I did rely on sometimes. The hardest thing by far about being vegan though is eating out / at other peoples’ houses. I had to go to a party where it was a buffet style dinner; I literally had to pick the crusts off a quiche and eat chips (I survived, somehow…;) Fast forward 20 years and I’m sure this will have changed, but for now, being a vegan can be surprisingly anti social.

Is vegan food actually nice?

Nice? It’s DELICIOUS! I can honestly say that I’ve eaten so well and cooked some seriously yummy food. Yes, tofu is a tricky one to make taste good and I have mixed feelings about vegan eggs but boy, is vegan food good. And with cookbooks and blogs such as Isa Does It, Minimlist Baker and Healthy Living James, and restaurants such as Tibits, Mildreds and Manna, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating well as a vegan (so long as you seek it out….)

How did my family take it?

Sam is very open-minded when it comes to veganism and for the most part, enjoyed everything I made (he is a big fan of kale..!) At this stage though, he and the kids remain omnivores though we have an agreement that I won’t be making any meat meals for me and Sam, and I’m trying to cut down for the kids.

So, what about the kids and veganism?

My main priority is that the children have a healthy diet and certainly being vegan, they would meet their full ‘5 a day’ guidelines. Indeed, there are plenty of children on a non vegan diet eating very unhealthily. My concern is more around them getting enough calories, protein and vitamins and whilst my kids aren’t particuarly fussy, they’re very much accustomed to eggs, tuna and bolognese. That doesn’t mean that this won’t change and we have had fun making recipes together from this absolutely gorgeous vegan kids cookbook. In all honesty, I would love for them to be vegan but for now, I’m still yet to be persuaded to transition their diets too. Again, it also goes back to the added effort. Call me a lazy mama but I’m not sure I currently have the headspace or the time. I’d love to for the next one though…

But how do you get enough protein?

This is an extremely common question posted to vegans, and it is an issue – although to be honest, I think it’s an issue for me whether I eat meat or not. There are times when I have eaten a slice of processed meat telling myself I am getting some protein when in reality I know that the amount of real protein something like that contains is minimal. To give you an idea, a beef burger contains 20g of protein and a veggie burger contains around 13g. This is an excellent leaflet offering advice on getting enough protein but it can be as simple as adding a handful of cashew nuts to your meal, some pulses to a pasta sauce or some tofu to a dish of vegetables. A food called seitan is by far the best intake of protein – this stir fry is pretty delicious. In addition I’ve also been taking a b12 vitamin – the one vitamin that vegans miss out on and which we need to protect our nervous system.

What’s the plan going forward?

First and foremost, I don’t want to put any labels (or pressure) on myself. Sincerely though, I can’t see myself eating meat again as I truly am horrified by what I have seen and read. In addition, I have absolutely loved eating a vegetable based diet. I am still undecided about fish – especially as I know that the fish industry are the worst ‘offenders’. Avoiding dairy is a real conundrum though because here’s the thing; at home, it’s not hard as there are so many delicious dairy free alternatives but eating out at either a non vegan friend’s house or at a non – vegan restaurant – is a real struggle and maybe this sounds lame, but it does mean missing out on quite simply, some lovely things in life. So essentially, watch this space. I’ll be documenting thoughts over on Instagram (the original reason I started all this anyway!) and I’m sure writing more on the issue.

For now, thanks so much for reading this and if veganism is something you are interested, or even intrigued by, Food MattersCowspiracy, this and this YouTube video all moved me along this journey. I also till want to watch Earthlings and Forks over Knives and I’ve just ordered Eating Animals which I cannot wait to read.

Take lots of care and leave me a comment telling me what you think of the veganism; is it the way forward or is it just an unnecessarily complicated way of life?

Emma xx

 

 

 

15 WAYS I ‘DISCIPLINE’ MY TODDLER

I’ve had a few requests to write something on this subject matter but I’ve been putting it off because it’s a bit of an awkward post to write without A. sounding smug with a kid that behaves immaculately all the time (he doesn’t) and B. without sounding like a clueless mum who doesn’t actually know anything. That said, I do expect a lot of Jack and I think his behaviour is on the whole really good. Jack is two years nine months and we put him in a lot of adult situations and expect a lot from him; our upcoming trip to South East Asia with its accompanying 12 internal flights should be a good test…) On top of that, anyone that has been following me for a while will know that my parenting style is fairly relaxed and I definitely prefer to let my children learn through experience and have as much fun as possible along the way. Good behaviour is one aspect that I don’t compromise on though; I don’t want (or expect) my kids to be screaming in restaurants or drawing on the walls not even because of the embarrassment and costs to us as parents but I don’t want him for his sake to behave like that. I’m not my kids’ friend (even though I kinda wish I was) and teaching them right from wrong is all part of being a good parent. So whether that’s the importance of please and thank you’s or knowing that it’s not OK to wallop your sibling around the head, here’s my tuppence worth on how we don’t let the (toddler) sh*t hit the fan too many times [please note that this is very much me learning on the job and that my toddler had a total melt down yesterday in the dentist. We’re all just trying our best aren’t we…] and we do to  ‘discipline’ him – not a word I really like but the easiest and most commonly used term to describe “what I do when my toddler behaves like a bit of a d***”.  Here goes…

1. Less is more – it stands to reason that if you are constantly telling your children what to do, where to go, what not to touch etc, it’s likely that the important stuff will slip through the net. Make less noise and hold back for the really important “hold-my-hand-theres-a-car” sort of lines. I’m really careful with the amount of instruction or ‘telling off’ I give Jack; I think this means that when I do discipline him, he knows I mean it and (hopefully) listens more.

2. Bribe the crap outta the situation – and by this I mean make use of the “i” word. Yes, “if” is uttered a good few times throughout any given day and usually closely followed by “Thomas the Tank Engine”. But don’t do unrealistic bribes: I’m not going to tell Jack that if he does something, he won’t go to his friend’s birthday party because I know that I’d never actually follow through on that one. But I will use something like TV or suggest that I’ll take away one of his favourite toys – the love he has for his trucks is real and so this seems to work 90% of the time.

3. Stick to your word – be firm and don’t cave in when the reaction follows. If you’ve made the condition that there’ll be no TV (as much as it may pain you to), stick to it otherwise there’s no boundary or real consequences being put in place. Also, if you don’t follow through on what you’ve said, more importantly your toddler will know that by behaving in that troublesome way will eventually lead to them getting their own way which is not a good path to go down.

4. Distraction, repetition and questions are your best friends – I find questions like “What’s up there, Jack?”, “What are you doing tomorrow, Jack?”, “What shall we have for dinner, Jack?” works a treat when they’re on the verge of switching into tantrum mode. I think it’s the combination of distraction and engagement that can often grab their attention and diverts them. Kids also really like repetition, it seems so we spend a lot of the day repeating “yes please mummy”, “no thank you” and phrases about behaviour such as “when you nap, you feel so much better!”. I’m also having some fun with this one too; right now I’m working on “yes please awesome mummy“.

5. Think about language – I really try not to call him “naughty”, refer to the “terrible twos” and I don’t tell him to “be good” when I drop him off somewhere because I expect him to be. He understands pretty much everything I ask of him and can communicate back really well. I don’t want him to be labelled as something negative or get it into his head even that he has the capacity not to be good. Conversely, when he behaves really well I praise him and discuss how great he’s been. Maybe this is a bit of an idealistic one but the point is your choice of wording about or to your toddler about their behaviour is important too.

6. Sympathise with them – yes it can be annoying not to mention baffling to come downstairs and find your living room looking half ransacked but try to get inside their head and understand why this might have happened. Were they trying to reach something? Toddlers are all the time exploring and learning so try (hard I know) to remember this. If Jack does something like this, I also always leave the space as he left it and bring him back to it to discuss which brings me to…

7. It’s good to talk – if Jack behaves badly we *always* talk about it afterwards once he is calm and happy. We mull it over whilst in the bath that night, whilst walking along the next day, and sometimes (gently) before he goes to bed. Maybe I think of it as some kind of weird toddler (&parent) therapy but I think it helps to remind him what bad behaviour is.

8. Leave the stern words for later – this is a particularly personal one but I choose not to discipline Jack in public. Personally I think it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved; for you, for your kid, for the person at the table next to you just trying to enjoy their lunch break. Of course I’ll try to gently tell him he mustn’t swing on that chair for example but I don’t think it’s right to make a scene disciplining your child basically and instead revert to #6.

9. Exclusion is a powerful (and horrible) thing but it seems to work. Jack has a little brother and has been known to be a little rough with him (he enjoys rolling him around…) so I have started calmly putting him outside the room and staying inside the room with just Sonny when he does this. Jack really doesn’t enjoy this at all – who wants to be left out of the action? I think it is a gentle way of shaming him and showing him there are consequences to when he behaves badly, and that those consequences are no fun at all. He always comes in again somewhat meekly and I think now is really beginning to understand.

10. Overtiredness eats good behaviour for breakfast – you can try and try and try but if my toddler is tired he always behaves sub optimally. In fact generally, when Jack is misbehaving it’s because he’s tired and needs a sleep so as his mum, if I can, I’ll remove him gently from the situation and take him for a sleep. Generally he wakes up bright as a button. The same goes for me as his mum; it’s when I’m knackered that I’m least patient and that’s inevitably when his behaviour challenges me.

11. Keep calm and carry on smiling – most importantly of all, always try to stay really calm and never raise your voice. I get down onto Jack’s level slowly, look him in the eye and speak softly but firmly. I’m sure that if I were to lose my patience and become stressed (and of course this has happened) Jack’s behaviour, along with the general situation, only worsens.

12. Reverse psychology – I still can’t quite believe Jack falls for this one, but hey – happy days. By asking Jack to do the opposite to what I actually want him to do seems to more often than not result in him doing *exactly* what I want him to do. So for example, when wanting him to come upstairs for a bath, I might say “please can you stay downstairs” and nine times out of ten he jumps up and replies “No, I want to come upstairs.” I’m sure it is to do with giving him the power and letting him think he’s decided – I’m sure there’s some complex psychology going on there but whatever it is, it seems to work.

13. Make him think *gently* he’s missing out – I have to be careful with this one as I don’t want to be “mean” and admittedly this works best when there is another sibling but gently making Jack feel as if he might be left out of something fun tends to really work in encouraging him to follow instructions.  So following on from the previous example , after asking him to come up for a bath and him insisting he wants to stay downstairs and play, I might say “OK I’m going upstairs with Sonny now“. What kid wants to miss out when his sibling is off somewhere to play with mum and a bathtub of toys?

14. Be consistent – I’m not a toddler so I don’t know but I can imagine that two parents disagreeing over what the right thing to do or say in the moment must be confusing, not to mention divisive to the you and your co-parent. I’d say that it’s crucial that you both to be on the same page when it comes to discipline – what things matter to you? What can you let slip? And if something matters to your partner that you couldn’t give two hoots about, I’d say it’s about communicating fully and coming up with a middle ground that your little one can understand.

15. And when nothing works – TV. Ice cream. And cuddles. Good for their soul. And good for theirs.

I really hope some of these tips may resonate with you or may get you thinking. I’d love to know if you use any of them or what techniques you have up your sleeve to encourage good behaviour from your toddler – what’s your secret sauce?

Thank you so much for reading and please do share this with anyone who you think might find it useful.

Emma xx

10 Things I’ve Learnt Through Motherhood

Over two and a half years into the parenting job (I used to call it parenting “gig” but this ain’t no pop-in-pop-out-gig. This is full on, full time working on life as my friend @mother_pukka calls it). Before I became a mother, I was clueless – purposely so. I knew there were a million different books out there but I deliberately didn’t want to consume too much information or be swayed in a certain ‘mothering direction’. I steered clear of all the vast realms of literature out there instead opting to watch the lovely Hannah Maggs’ vlogs which I used to do with my laptop propped up on the side of the bath tub every Sunday evening (oh those were the days…). I wanted to go into motherhood open – minded and see naturally the sort of mother that I would become. I had no idea if I’d enjoy it, resent it, be bored stiff by it… I was totally open to all these possibilities.

Two children in, a tonne of highs, some real lows, proper sobbing sessions into my pillow at times and feeling like I’m living in some sort of dream world at other times, I’ve learnt more on this job than any other I’ve ever had. And loved it more that I could have ever imagined.

So if you are a new mum to be who like me is not to into the idea of reading realms of books/ haven’t found the time / are just generally feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (it happens!), IT’S OK – you will learn on the job. But in case you’re interested, here are some unofficial things – and I’m not talking what to pack in your hospital bag – that I’ve learnt along the way:

1. Whilst I’m not into scaremongering, there is no denying that giving birth and bringing a whole new person into the world is a BIG DEAL – mentally, physically, emotionally, the LOT – and you may well feel all sorts of emotions in the weeks and months following the event. No one told me I wouldn’t be able to sit down for two weeks after having a baby?! No one told my friend she’d essentially be incontinent for a month afterwards?!) Crazy stuff happens, hormones are flying and sleep deprivation is kicking in so please do bear in mind that those first months are some of the most surreal, highest, lowest and yet no one seems to talk about them. (NB I felt a whole world better after my second child)

2. Giving birth is a serious business and looking back, I think I was a little naive first time round with Jack. I though that my pain threshold was high and that women all over the world were doing it so it really *can’t* be that bad. We did NCT classes, and I did the odd yoga class but I didn’t really think about my birth too much. Don’t get me wrong; having no expectations is a good thing but I wish I had known that preparation can be key. Second time round, my birth was as wonderful as I could have hoped for and I really believe that is because I prepared the sh*t out of it. From music to mantras, I thought about all the details. Hypnobirthing  was massive for me, for example. You can read all about what I did here.

3. One of the absolute biggest learnings I’ve had since being a mum and especially since number two is that everything is genuinely a PHASE, it really is. This can obviously work in your favour (sleeping through the night – wahoo!) or not (obsession with taking trousers off in public places – embarrassing), but I really advise you to as best as you can to take things in your stride. Not easy, I know, especially when in the throes of sleeplessness. Sleep, food, language, crawling, breastfeeding, biting; nothing is fixed, everything is fluid, nothing is predictable. And all those books that talk about leaps and behaviour etc? Well, I’ll be honest; it feels like every week there’s a new leap so I find it pointless to try to predict or explain these things.

4. The love that you feel for your baby is OUT OF THIS world. Like ridiculously so. And the best part of all? It grows every. friggin’. day.

5. If you’re in a relationship, don’t be surprised or crucially, don’t take it too seriously if you find yourselves bickering more than you used to pre-baby. It seems strange doesn’t it? You have your bundle of joy and yet somehow you seem to be getting on each others nerves? It’s not strange. It’s called sleep deprivation and crazy hormones having a party in your body. Also – see point 3 – this applies to you guys too.

6. Learn how to grow that skin of yours real thick. You will have learnt this whilst pregnant anyway with strangers / colleagues / family members continually assessing and speculating on the size of your bump / your due date / how much or little heartburn you’ve had in the last 24 hours. And once the baby is out, be ready for a deluge of opinions on everything from breastfeeding to bathing so develop a thick skin and smile.

7. Go to sleep early – you need to have as much patience, kindness and energy as possible! I’m not going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps because every parent knows the impossibility of that. Instead I recommend giving that Netflix session a miss – and I know it’s hard because once babe is sleeping all you will want to do at the end of the day is flop on the sofa with chocolate and tea / wine and finally relax – but I have learnt the hard way that getting enough sleep is a non negotiable. Also tiredness accumulates so even if one day you feel OK, fast forward a day or two and exhaustion might start to kick in.

8. You will change as a person. Sitting in on a Saturday night eating peanut butter out of the jar with / without a mini next to you will become your idea of the perfect evening. Likewise, the word ‘clubbing’ (think your childless friend’s hen do) will seem both terrifying and equally something out of your wildest dreams. In addition to this, there’s no doubt that your daily life and interests change and you therefore connect with different people – I’ve met so many incredible women from the online motherhood community for example who I’ve bonded deeply with over a love for life’s minutiae like humungous mugs of coffee and small humming bears amongst other things (thank you @heyitsromeca…

9. You won’t change as a person (a blatant contradiction to point 7 but hear me out…) Since we were the first (by years) out of our friends to have children we either had to muck in with others or face being left totally friendless whilst everyone else was still hanging out at festivals or actually leaving the house on weekends. We do a lot of traveling as a family because we don’t want to give up those passions of ours pre kids and I’m so glad that we ‘hold’ on to some of us – you have to make an effort but it’s worth it and avoids any possible feelings of resentment you may harbour if suddenly life changes once kids come on the scene and you have to let go of the things that make you ‘you.’So my advice is also to go, get out there, explore and experience everything you can with your little one(s) in tow.

10. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt through motherhood, it is genuinely is the importance of following your own instinct. There is nothing more powerful than a mama’s instinct, nothing any book can tell you or friend can advise you or teacher can teach you. So be your own teacher, and the rest will follow.

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So to any mothers to be out there, don’t worry too much what “theyyyyyy say” (who are they? – thank you @megmurrayjones for bringing this phrase into my life) – your own rules will always trump. And to any new mothers, what’s the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a mother?

Thanks for reading as ever and I hope you have an amazing day,

Emma x

P.S New mamas – watch Nomadi-daddy & Tiny Mumma and Sami’s YouTube 🙂

An Irresistible Wooden Watch

Anyone that follows me on Instagram will know that I’m on a mission to declutter and #saynotostuff. I haven’t bought anything new beside things that we really need (food, toilet paper, nappies, oh and ONE set of pyjamas in the sale with a voucher I had but even that made me feel panicky) for coming up to five months. Nothing for the home, no new make up, no new clothes… Nada. Zilch. Niente. And it has felt really good.

So when a company called JORD got in touch asking if I would like to be sent a watch to review, my first thought was of course to politely decline. Not only would it go against my current mindset of not acquiring new stuff, on top of that I very rarely review products. I often get approached by brands and 95% of the time I turn things down not because I’m ungrateful to be asked (I honestly really am very grateful for these opportunities!) but most likely because I just don’t need the thing they are offering and if I did need it, I would buy it. I don’t need a baby food steamer and blender. I don’t need another highchair, or a new set of bibs. On top of all that, as a bit of a self-confessed hippy and someone who likes to keep things simple, a watch is not something I’ve ever really considered buying mainly because every style I’ve seen has either looked super techy or far too formal for me to wear on a daily basis.

But these JORD watches did immediately strike me as something a little different. Designed by a small team of two designers, aesthetically minimalist, sustainably conscious, top end quality, stunning looking and hang on, made of wood? All in all, this seemed an interesting (and lovely!) item so after a lot of uming and ahhing, I decided to #sayyestostuff. Here’s what I made of the watch, why I’ve not looked back and why I know this will be a piece of jewellery I treasure forever:

 

It’s the material that I couldn’t resist. Wood, along with wicker and bamboo, is one of my all time favourite things in the world (I famously told a guy sat next to me at a dinner party that “I really like wood”. My husband was under the table with embarrassment). So the idea of a wooden watch seemed pure perfection to me. There are various different woods to choose from, from acacia to rosewood along with a sustainability rating provided for each type of wood.

Colour wise, anything emerald sends me into a bit of a frenzy. In a good way. Sometimes I look down and realise I look a little bit like a tree, that’s how much green clothing I own. So I was pretty delighted when I saw that emerald was an option for the face of the watch. Again though they offer several different colour options including the ever popular rosegold if that is your thing. I was also slightly in love with this mint one too – it was a tough call which colour to choose. Aesthetically, I just think the watch is stunning. I wear very little jewellery so if I’m going to wear a watch, I love the idea that it serves a dual purpose of looking good too.

Simplicity in look and feel is also key for me. I didn’t want a ‘complicated’ or ‘smart’ looking watch so I opted for something from the Frankie series which actually calls out minimalism as a theme. I chose this dark sandalwood and emerald watch which I absolutely love. There are other more ‘serious’ looking watches with loads of dials etc if that is your thing though. You also have to wind the watch up on first use (you don’t need to after that) which I enjoyed doing.

The quality of these watches is evident – I know they are not on the cheap side but I assure you, the look and feel of the watch reflects this. The service is also brilliant including small touches like sending sizing over so the watch is made to fit and it arrives in a gorgeous wooden box on a little pillow.

Oh and finally, it’s of course highly practical as it tells me the time! I’m always looking for ways to reduce time spent looking at my phone meaning that using my phone to check the time is now a thing of the past and I couldn’t be happier about that.

So yes, I caved on my #saynotostuff campaign but I hope you can see why I’m feeling good about it (I’m back on it now anyway – the Oliver Bonas sale is still haunting me though…!). Finally, if you’re thinking about investing in one of these watches – and I do look at this as a true investment that will stand the test of time though they do also come with a 1 year warranty, I’ve got the opportunity to offer my readers the chance to win $100 (nearly the full cost of the watch)towards the cost of the watch. All you need to do is click on this form and enter your name and email address. Anyway, just by entering you’ll receive a $25 code (which is still pretty decent!). The competition closes on February 12th so pop over using this link and do enter (it literally takes 2 seconds).

As ever, thanks for reading and I hoe you enjoyed this post, which is a little different to normal. Let me know in the comments below.

Emma xxx

Luxury Wooden Watch

How and Why He (Now) Sleeps Though The Night

Around the months of October and November 2016, I went through some pretty dark times as a mother and as a person. Although inside I felt deeply happy and full of gratitude, there were mornings where my whole physical being ached so much I could hardly move, I consumed more cups of coffee than I care to recall, and I don’t think I went near make-up for weeks. You see, at around the age of four months, Sonny went from sleeping beautifully to thinking night time was rave time. And by that, I mean he would wake every 45 minutes at night. I talk about it here and this was one Instagram post where I felt particularly broken. He just couldn’t stay asleep and was waking after every sleep cycle, unable to fall back asleep and making me dread nights and feel at best, like a zombie the next day and at worst, totally unable to function and fully understanding why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

To set the scene a little, Sonny’s birth was wonderful and straight forward (I made a video about his water birth here) and I recovered pretty much immediately. He seemed a really content chap and slipped beautifully into our family. Perhaps for precisely these reasons, although it wasn’t the plan and we hadn’t done a day of it with Jack, we seamlessly started co-sleeping. It worked flawlessly and I loved it from day 1. Sonny would wake up once or twice in the night for a breastfeed which I would sleepily give him whilst still lying down and we’d all slip back to sleep. We took him camping, glamping, and travelling abroad and all the while, he slept beside me, pretty much sleeping through the night bar a wake or two. Happy, dreamy days (and nights!)

The story soon changed though as I started to notice small changes; Sonny started waking more often and he was not settling so easily. Sam consequently moved out the bedroom and I started to dread night time as I just would not know what it would bring. Around 20 weeks old now, it suddenly seemed as if Sonny was ‘waking up’ and wasn’t content with mummy’s boob and a warm bed. I sensed something was changing and indeed, the epic Instamum community confirmed for me that four months is a common period of sleep regression. (clearly though, it is due to the baby PRO-gressing – I prefer to frame it this way) It was only getting worse as the days and then weeks went on until there were nights when he’d sleep forty minutes stretches maximum before waking up. During the nights, which became total blurs, I’d pull different things out of what I’d call my “box of tricks”; Ewan the sheep, pushing (our crib was on wheels), a dummy, shushing, feeding until he finally went back to sleep, co – sleeping, in the crib, in the bouncer, watching TV… these were all tactics I’d try.

Fast forward three months to January 2017 and Sonny has got the hang of sleep and is now sleeping roughly 10 hours straight at night, I have my main man back in the bed and most importantly, I am fully me again minus any aching bones or panicked phone calls to the husband. (I think it was a Friday afternoon when I phoned him gently ahem, demanding that he came home from work early because I simply could not look after Sonny, that’s how exhausted I was (I didn’t even have Jack to worry about…), that I realised that something had to change.

Where I really struggled was the balance between ‘holding out’ – not rushing to make changes safe in the knowledge that “it’s just a phase” (everyone’s favourite phrase) versus actually doing something about an issue. What we did is somewhere in between. I detected Sonny was ‘changing’ and so I started to make small changes without doing anything drastic. I want to stress that I AM NO EXPERT; I’m just a mama who trusted her instinct and after having received some epic advice from all of you, and having had a few requests to report back, I wanted to give something back and put out there a few (gentle) things that worked for us:

1. The first thing I did was to assess co-sleeping. Whilst it had been amazing for us and really served its purpose in getting me through those early weeks not to mention the gorgeous closeness, my gut instinct told me that it would help Sonny if he had a bit of space from me. I also thought that perhaps my movements were waking him. So I moved him out our bed and into his crib which I placed directly next to ours and we used a sleepyhead to still give him the feeling of cosiness.

2. Next I started to think about how much he was eating. I was solely breastfeeding, which I loved but also I started to think he was snacking by feeding so regularly in the night. Every time he woke I would get concerned that he might be hungry so I would automatically feed him (this was also the quickest way to appease him) but in my heart, I knew this wasn’t necessary. So I decided to switch to formula at bedtime (I believe this keeps them fuller for longer), gave him a dream feed (11pm) and I started weaning him a little earlier than planned (5 months old). These days, at nearly 7 months, I try to get as much food down him as possible during the day. I don’t necessarily stick to strict meal times either…Put it this way, Sonny likes his banana and his carbs!

3. After this, I decided it was time to signal to Sonny that had he his own space and so we moved him out the bedroom altogether and used this opportunity to also put him in his cot. This felt really strange at first (and all the running up and down the stairs was a little exhausting) but I honestly wish we had done this earlier. After all, if our noises were what was waking him that would be darn annoying! By now it felt good to have our bedroom back and Sam moved back in – a big step.

4. One thing that’s tough to determine as a parent is how much you want to ‘depend’ on things and develop what experts call sleep associations which a baby needs to get to sleep. But I am a firm believer in “do whatever works” so to this end, we use all the gadgets! You can see below Sonny has a dummy, Ewan the sheep and the WhisBear (this is fairly new and amazing – it automatically activates white noise when the baby starts crying) We’ve found all these really helpful.

5. Whilst I am not at all one for the ‘crying it out’ method and was not willing to do this, I did start to leave Sonny a little longer before going to him. Whereas before he’d been in the room with me, and as soon as he cried, I went to him (apart from the fact the noise of crying isn’t particularly nice), with that bit of extra space I could leave him to start to cry for a few moments before going in. I think this gentle amount of time being alone also helped him on his path to self-settling.

6. I started to make some small rules which I really stuck too and still do. I do think this consistency is important and helps Sonny know what to expect (on the whole, anyway!) So for example, I don’t feed Sonny any milk when he is in his cot, (I always take him out), I always try to offer water in a bottle first if he does wake in the night and I do a lot of shushing standing above him. Hopefully he has now begun to recognise these signals from me.

7. Jack always slept in the buggy during the day but instinctively I started to put Sonny to sleep in his cot in the daytime and I do think this helps as he is learning that his cot equals sleep. I tend to do this for his first nap of the day (if I’m at home) but later on if he naps, I will put him in the bouncer so it’s not too close to bed time. I also always keep the curtains open to maintain a difference between day and night though when he does nap in his cot.

8. I try to put him in the cot for bed whilst he is awake (as opposed to breastfeeding him to sleep as I used to do). I then will tend to stand over him a little, ssshhhhhsing or just walk out and as per above, not go in immediately if he does become unsettled. I always have the room very dark (unlike for day naps).

9. I sought some independent advice from Heidi at the Parenting and Baby Coach and from a friend’s aunt who is a midwife. Although I was skeptical about seeking professional help, it was really admittedly very helpful to speak to people – albeit with totally opposing views – to get some ideas and generally just some reassurance that things would improve.

10. I kept that all important piece of knowledge in my mind at all times: it’s a phase. I had deep faith that Sonny would eventually sleep through the night and I think that positive state of mind got me a long way in those dark hours.

I hope some of the above may help any mama out there if you are going through sleepless nights with a baby who just wants to party all night. Sleep – how much each person needs and what you are willing to do to get it  – is SUCH a personal issue and for me, sleep deprivation is by far the toughest part of parenthood. I’d love to hear if you have any other tips you’d like to share or what your experiences have been.

As ever, thanks so much for reading.

Emma xxx

NEW YEAR, NEW(ISH) YOU

As we were sat last night, 31st December 2016, with two boys tucked up in bed and a tray of cheap champagne and chicken kievs* (more about that later…) in front of us, I could not have felt more content. I’m not a big fan of New Years Eve as I don’t like things that are hyped up and just become another facet of our consumerist society. But what I *do* like is an opportunity to reassess and improve as a person. Last year I set my intentions which I frequently returned to and found really helpful. I don’t want to make huge gestures that I can’t stick to but here’s 10 things I’m going to really focus on this year. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll perhaps have seen me mention some of these things already – there big passions of mine and I do hope some of them may chime with your way of thinking. So, here goes…

1.Do small things, with great care

You might know that I’m a big fan of taking things slowly and not rushing this crazy ‘ole thing we called life, and specifically motherhood. I’ve also got a bad habit of starting and not finishing small tasks…So whether it’s as simple as putting the washing on or getting one of the kids to sleep, I’m going to make every effort to do the simple, small things (aka the most important things…) with great love, not rush them (the amount of t-shirts I’ve ruined…) and actually finish them.

2. Say no to stuff

I’m so fed up of not knowing what’s in my cupboards; buying yet another black eye liner when I have two gathering dust at the back of my drawer or a Winters’ coat when I have three stashed away or getting what I think is a bargain in the Sales when I really don’t need another wicker basket. I’m going to commit to only buying things I really need, and the things I do buy, I want them to be of a certain quality so they last. I’ve already given up traditional shampoo and conditioner which has not only made my shower more clutter free, it’s also given me one less thing to do and buy and a satisfying sense of knowing what I’m washing with. I’m looking forward to watching this documentary on Minimalism.

3. Keep going with the flow

I’m not talking about the big things in life – those we must continue to grapple with – but more and more, I’m finding that saying ‘yes’ is the path to contentment when it comes to the small things. Choosing which coffee shop you’re going to go to or who puts the kids to bed on the weekend are not important things people – let your friend/ partner / kid choose and just go with the flow.

4. Give veganism a go

I’ve been dabbling in veganism for a few months now on and off which I’ve been really enjoying. There isn’t one strict reason I’m choosing to go down this path; animals suffering, environmental reasons (watch Cowspiracy), and just an itch that eating meat does just not ‘feel’ right these days. I’ve loved being more adventurous in my cooking and the range and deliciousness of vegetarian food out there is seriously good not to mention that giving up dairy has definitely made me feel better health wise – who doesn’t feel a little sick after eating a load of cheese?! So I’ll be starting by joining in with Veganuary – take a look on their website where you can find a huge wealth of information including a complete starter kit here.

5. Carve out ‘me’ time

This is probably the one I’ll struggle with the most and I think broadly speaking, women can be really bad at this. There’s always something going on right? But I want to resolve to give myself time to get my own sh*t done – I’m not just a mother, wife, daughter and friend – I have my job I’ll be returning to and many passions from yoga to travel and of course writing here which I’m hugely committed to – thank you so much for reading – it means so much to me! So whatever your ‘thing’ is, don’t let it slip away and carve out time to make it happen. Oh, and this includes making the time for self care – I don’t know about you but certain body areas can become seriously neglected when it comes to hair care. I’m talking about my eyebrows, obviously 😉

6. Do what works

Don’t listen to the guidebooks, your friends or your mother – in – law (though I do love mine dearly!) and instead just do whatever works for YOU when faced with a particular challenge. I really learnt this year to go with my gut, trust the process and be a little patient. We had real issues with Sonny’s sleep a month ago which with a little bit of time and maternal instinct, I *think* we have thankfully come through. That, and silly quirks like sometimes giving the kids dinner *in* the bath are strange things that have been proven to work for us – so I plan to carry on in this mindset.

7. Get out the house !

I’m a real person of extremes; I am a huge home bod and yet I love traveling the world but I’m not one for going out to new places in my own city although when I do, I love it. Going to see live music or a new restaurant with people I hold dear are things I want to endeavour to do more of this year (anyone know any cheap babysitters ?!)

8. Spend time with the older people in my life

We’re fortunate enough to have three grandparents in our family and I want to commit to spending more time with each of them this year. I’m often fascinated by the stories they tell and the joy that spending time together, especially with the kids, brings to them is evident.

9. Less scrolling and more staring

I’ve been massively inspired by the hubby who has now deleted Facebook off his phone and I plan to follow suit. It’s those moments that you’re waiting for the bus or have a few moments to kill before dinner is ready that I want to avoid mindlessly scrolling that is so easy to do. It’s not necessary and that time would be so much better put to use staring out the window at some beautiful trees or watching my children play.

10. Don’t take life too seriously

It’s easy – especially when I’m underslept and overtired – to take things too personally and be over sensitive. Things can then spiral out of control and there’s just no need; move onwards and upwards and don’t sweat the small sh*t.

So those are my intentions for 2017. I hope you have a great day and a really truly wonderful year ahead – thank you so much for reading / watching my little corner of the internet where I get to share my opinions and experiences. If you’ve got any particular personal intentions for the year ahead – and they really don’t have to be groundbreaking – I’d so love to hear them in the comments below. Thank you again for being here.

Love,

Emma x

I’ve written about having no routine before prompted by Sonny’s awful sleep and a gnawing sense of self-doubt that I was doing something wrong. I questioned if he’d sleep better with a routine, and I became paranoid that there was this ‘thing’ that so many other mums seemed to be doing that I should be doing too. I thought long and hard –  I even had a go at sticking to one devised for us by the very lovely Heidi at Parent and Baby coach – but if I’m honest, I knew routine and doing things by a ‘clock’ were and will never be for us. And here’s 10 reasons why in my heart of hearts, I’m more than OK with that:

1. I want our kids to work around us

I think this is really the crux of our zero routine lifestyle and is actually a really important point that I see as key to our happiness as people and as parents. You see, we started having children years before any of our friends and as if having a baby doesn’t change your life enough already, I didn’t (and still don’t want) to be that person who ‘disappears’ when they become a parent or stops having fun as we knew it before. So whilst our friends were still having all night house parties and living it up at festivals, we didn’t want to have to wave goodbye to that part of our lives. It began when my best friend had her 30th birthday days after Jack was born which I didn’t want to not attend. And it went from there really. All our friends watching a big football game in the pub? Sure, we’ll come, but we might just have a kid sleeping at our feet and a baby on my knee. Weddings, pub lunches, dinner parties – as much as possible, we did it all. Now with two, I have to say it is different. (Pushing two kids to sleep in the back garden whilst the house party going on inside wouldn’t be the best look. Or the most fun)  But our philosophy is still the same: we want our kids to work around us and our plans, it’s as simple as that.

2. I like to follow my kids’ lead

Because there’s no clock watching, I feel like I know my kids’ signals really well. The minute Jacks asks to watch TV means he’s tired; when Sonny clenches his fists or rubs his eyes, he’s ready for a sleep.

3. I live for the spontaneity

The idea of the kids napping and eating at the same times every day – rather than bringing me a sense of calm which I totally understand it does for some people – actually sends me into a bit of a panic. For me personally – and this is all so personal – I would find it monotonous and take much of what I love about motherhood out of the picture. Every day is so different. Call me a weirdo, but I kind of like not knowing when they will nap; I like wondering where and what they will eat any certain day. I loved our spontaneous family nap in the car this afternoon, I love deciding we’re all going to skip breakfast and go out for brunch instead, I love giving the kids a late dinner quickly in the bath. Most of all, I love the spontaneity.

4.The world is our oyster

I don’t like the idea of being ‘confined’ by a kids routines. If someone invites us out or if we fancy staying out late with the kids or doing a big trip away, we are never restricted by timings (or time zones). I like to think that we are ‘YES’ parents.

5. Creates flexible kids

There is somewhere floating around an idea that you are doing your children some harm or not being a good parent if your kids don’t have a routine. Some people think that children “need” one, and that it’s good for them. In my (very humble) opinion, not having a routine is good for children; I think it makes them flexible and mature who I have high expectations of. So for example, Jack (and Sonny to a lesser degree) can cope perfectly fine not eating breakfast until 10.30am (he may get a little hangry – but don’t we all?!), and stay up til 10pm if we are our for dinner.

6. I’m way too disorganised

I understand how playdates can be arranged around your children’s timings but what about immutable things? That doctor’s appointment slap bang in the middle of naptime with nothing else available until next month? A birthday tea that edges into bathtime but they’re yet to cut the cake? Small details but I know I’d find these are things hard to navigate.

7. The shit storms are a challenge – which I enjoy

Yes, having zero routine means that things do definitely go wrong. Kids getting over tired is probably our most common problem – but doesn’t this happen to kids with routines? And even when things do go wrong, they are a challenge which I sort of weirdly enjoy, or at least learn something from.

8. Kids aren’t machines (adults aren’t either…)

I remember one morning, after noting down the previous day the time that Jack had napped, on seeing that time come around the next day thinking AHA, THIS IS IT – this is nap time! And so off I went to put him in his bouncer. And after sitting there for 25 minutes bouncing the poor kid, hushing him, carrying him, until I just thought – hang on – maybe he’s not tired. Maybe he was tired this time yesterday but today for all sorts of reasons he’s just not tired today. I took him out the chair, gave him a snack and off out we went for a walk in the carrier which he loved and was stimulated by and sure enough, around 45 minutes later, he dropped off. He definitely wasn’t ready for a sleep when I’d tried to put him to sleep. And I know this was only the one day but I had the same realisation on the food front. Maybe he was really hungry yesterday at a certain time but today he’s not. There are definitely days I feel more alert than others, days when I’m not so hungry and days where for whatever reason, I need all the food in the fridge. Adults don’t do the same thing everyday so why should children?

9. Life doesn’t have to change (entirely) when you have kids

Just because we’re parents does not mean we are JUST parents. I touched on this earlier and of course life does change but not revolving our lives around our kids’ routines, I think, makes us feel quite ‘free’ as people still. It might sound awful but sometimes I feel like Sam and I are getting on with life and our kids are coming along for the ride (and making it ten million times better, of course!) As you can imagine, I am a big believe in the mantra – “happy parents, happy baby”.

10. Takes the fun out of parenting (for me)

In my opinion, parenting should be as fun and positive an experience as possible – so do whatever will get you to that place. For me, that means forgetting what time it is, living for and *in* the moment as much as possible and doing what makes US (the parents) as happy as possible (we’re taking them backpacking around Cambodia and Vietnam next year and I could not be more excited!)

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Don’t get me wrong, there are times our way of doing things goes totally tits up.I always say that being a non-routine based approach works awesomely for us 80% of the time; the other 20% not so much – but then, isn’t that also just parenthood? There are times when you’ve woken your baby up one too many times from their nap and they become irate. There are times when your toddler naps before he’s eaten so he wakes up at 3pm, really hungry and you’ve just left the house cue dashing to the nearest corner shop for a banana and yoghurt.

The overriding result is that apart from us leading lives as close as I could-ever-have-dreamt-of pre kids, I think we have a lot fun as a family, know our kids’ signals extremely well and have made them into flexible and on the whole, well behaved people. They slot into the rhythm of wherever they are; whether that’s nursery, grandparents or a play date with another toddler. I do believe they just goes with the flow which is something I’m really happy about and proud of them for.

A common argument for having a routine is so that you know when you’re going to get things done. I do understand this, but unless you have deadlines to hit at the end of each day, or a time of the day you HAVE to be on a work call (though when I have those I just stick the kids in front of the TV), I do know that I *will* get some time to myself when one of them naps, or plays.

How do you do things in your family? What works for you? What’s your family’s rhythm?

Emma x

P.S A Slow Day In The Life (we did tie dye!) and My Cloth Nappy Routine