It’s been over a month since I was supposed to return to work. I wrote a wee post back in December after I decided to hand my notice in during my last month of maternity leave and enter into my new role of the ‘stay at home mum’… a title that perhaps I’m still struggling with?!
Anyway, my decision to take a break from work was based on various factors from financial to logistical and of course, I was excited to be able to be home and spend more time with the kids, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A bit of a mental juggling act of me trying to get my head round the “new norm” and find my place.
Now, let me just say first off – being at home is easier. There, I said it. Logistically it’s not the headache that getting to work and arranging childcare around a shift worker and a 9-5er was. I can arrange our days to suit us so there is a LOT more freedom which is brilliant! When I was working, even though I was only part-time (4 days), I was often stretched. Between the stresses and strains of my job while also juggling home life. I struggled when I first returned to work after having Oscar – I even wrote about it. Being home has lightened the mental load, there is no doubt about that and I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to have that choice especially at a time when I was facing dwindling job satisfaction.
However, being at home has still had its challenges for me. Some have been par for the course, but others unexpected.
Let’s be honest – it can be boring… I mean, I’m sorry, but it is. It can be mundane and repetitive and some days feel like a cycle of meal, clean up, nap time, drawing, another meal, more clearing up, maybe another nap, then, oh look… it’s time for yet another meal and I have to clear up all over again and finally – bedtime (except, bedtime for Scout means very little as she likes to wake every hour anyway!). In that respect some days I would prefer to be at work and thinking about a project or event other than play-doh and being able to split the home ‘burden’. I sometimes worry that this sense of monotony means I am not able to as good a mum as I so desperately want to be and that maybe I don’t have enough to give. Whereas, if my time with them was more limited I’d “make more of it” but equally, I suppose I can see that really I’m the only one that can make sure I do my best.
I used to get annoyed when people suggested work was a “break” and I standby that because to me a break is doing something I want to do, whether it’s going for lunch with pals or shopping etc, whereas work was work and taxing in its own right. However, now I concede that I can maybe understand what people were implying as there are aspects I miss such as eating in peace and the social aspect. Work also provides a space that you are you and the work you undertake has a defined value and of course… you get paid.
This idea of “value” is one that I think I may struggle with at home for some time. At the moment I don’t quite feel that I’ve settled into a role with no monetary value attached and it feels somewhat alien, especially as I have worked pretty much constantly since the age of around 13. What is the value of what I am doing at home? Is it valued and respected? Does it have a positive impact? These are all somewhat unanswered questions at the moment. But I am sure time will be the key to unlocking the answers.
Stay At Home Feminist?
I was proud to be a working mum and I think after a period of adjustment, I was doing ok at it. I enjoyed having that aspect of my life away from “mum-life” and was proud of my dual-roles. Keeping my head above water most of the time. I was (and am still) resolute in the belief that creating a balance was good for us all as a family.
And so now when people ask me how I’m finding it “being home” I struggle to find an answer. I feel embarrassed.
When I published my blog post about handing in my notice this was something that came up over and over again. I had an influx of messages from people saying that they were thinking of doing the same and some saying that they were finding it hard to tell people, worried about what they might think! They felt maybe a wee hint of uneasiness or that they were being judged for taking the step and I can totally relate to it.
To me, it feels a little anti-feminist.
Now, it’s not. I have never thought this about any other Mother (or Father) that’s decided to take a break and stay home to raise their children, so why do I think this about myself? But I can’t help but feel that niggle. Will people think badly of me, are they judging me, do they think I’m lazy, but ya know what? That’s my issue really, isn’t it?! We’re always just hardest on ourselves.
Ultimately, individuals make a decision that’s right for them and their family based on their circumstances and that should be applauded. I can’t say I’m particularly bothered about what people think of me in other aspects of life – so why should this be any different?
I really want to just embrace it. I am confident that I have made the right decision and despite the challenges, it’s wonderful to be at home and have the freedom to do whatever we fancy – I’m especially excited about the summer coming and also that we can cram in loads of activities before Oscar starts school next year. I think the more I settle into this “new role” the more comfortable I’ll be in it and I wholeheartedly admire anyone that is 100% confident from the get go, I’m sure I’ll get there, it’ll just take time.
Whatever we decide as mothers, we should just own it. Whether that’s working full time, part-time, working nights, working weekends, deciding to stay home, or wanting to get back to work or study- just do you. But I suppose I wanted to write this for those people out there that might feel those little niggles of doubt that I have. You’re not alone, but I think we’ll be ok. 👌🏽
Ok, so, CHRISTMAS. Sorry, I know it’s still November, but everyone’s talking about shopping aren’t they? Black Friday fever… even though no one in the UK had even heard about this American phenomenon until about 2 years ago…
I’m not the best at being organised when it comes to the festivities, I usually have the ideas but never get round to actually executing them, and as a result panic buy stuff on Amazon Prime on Christmas Eve Eve. However, I’m trying to be a better person, I’m trying to change this significant flaw in my personality and I thought putting together this little guide might help me do that, and who knows, maybe you’ll find it useful too?
I’ve compiled some ideas for babies, 3 year olds and the Mamas – cause that’s my life. I am not a fan of buying stuff for the sake of it, and I do try to buy things that are quality and have loosely based it around the idea of buying “Something they want, something they need, something they’ll wear, something they’ll read”. This year I will also try with the majority of gifts to ‘shop small’ and support independent as well as local business – this is something my Mum does very well, and always talks about saving our local shops, and she’s right – so I will try and do better. I have chucked in a few more high street bits because sometimes we need a wee bit of convenience!
To The New Mum –
Want: Family Photography
In the form of a Gillian Morton Photography voucher. What could be better than giving new Mum or parents a gift of captured memories? We did a photoshoot with Gillian when Scout was just a tiny baby and the pictures from it are so incredibly special. This is the kind of thing that new parents might find hard to justify financially, I mean, maternity pay is pretty rubbish for most and you just have other priorities. It’s something that is genuinely worth every penny and will be cherished a lifetime. Obviously, if you don’t live near Edinburgh, Gillian might not be the family photographer for you, but there are many many more.
Want: Personalised Jewellery
I was so so fortunate to win a handcrafted Mobius Infinity bracelet from Soremi Jewellery which is personalised with the initials of both our babies – it’s beautiful and I get complimented on it loads. Ghazal has so many other beautiful pieces too at various price-points to find the perfect gift.
I don’t wear a lot of jewellery, I like quite simple pieces, and for a while now I’ve been eyeing up some personalised bits from Lines and Current. My absolute favourite is the Dreamer pendant that you can get personalised with an initial and then add an additional initialed coin for second babies.
Need: Skin Care
Recently I’ve been [trying to] put aside more ‘me-time’, and a small part of that has been trying to introduce a strict skin care routine, which I’ve actually got quite into! I’ve found Nicola Dougan on Instagram to basically be a skin care Queen and have made a few purchases on her recommendation that have helped my skin. One of the biggest changes, for me, has been switching to a facial oil at night instead of a traditional moisturiser. I’ve been using Amaranthine and I’m also going to purchase it as a gift for… well, not going to tell ya who for incase they read this!
My pal, Sarah, over at Brass Buttons and Confidence has been collaborating with L’Occitane and using their Overnight Reset Serum which looks amazing too! It’s not what you’d call cheap though, so it would make a lovely, luxurious gift to someone that really rates skincare… It’s something I might treat myself to after Christmas if I have any vouchers to spend!
On the other end of the scale, you can’t beat The Ordinary for great quality, budget stocking fillers starting at a fiver – my top picks are the Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid toner – I buy the majority of mine on ASOS as I’m a Premier member so get free next day delivery. Quids in.
If you wanted to go one step further towards self-care goals – how about treating someone to a treatment? Whether that be a facial or a massage or even push the boat right out and get them a spa day! I’m pretty sure I don’t know a parent that wouldn’t LOVE a day at Stobo. It’s a real treat, and you could even offer to do the baby sitting while they go and use their voucher!? I always think experiences mean a lot more than ‘stuff’ (Amma right Kelly @Organised_motherhood_?!)
Wear: Mama Merch
Every new Mama needs at least some kind of merch, and my go-to is usually Mutha.Hood. She’s got your needs covered from amazing Strong Girls Club jumpers (that now come in new colours) to a little branded popsocket to stop you dropping your phone on your babies face #essential.
Pj’s. Because maternity leave jammies are an essential. For those chilled days lounging, snuggling up sniffing your new baby while you binge watch boxsets on Netflix. Well, for those kinda perfect days, I’ve found kinda perfect jim jams and here they are – Sleepy Doe, and you can get them from Bunny.Hop! You’re WELCOME.
However, if you’re on a tighter budget, and yeah it’s not quite ‘shopping small’, but ASOS have some ace pyjamas in just now! Including these polka dot beauties below that look mega comfy. They all come in around the £30 mark and they also do them in petite and plus size.
Read: Book Club
If you’re looking for a stocking filler, a book is always a good place to start, however, a new parent might not have the time to read War and Peace, so how about The Little Book of Self Care for New Mums instead? A gentle reminder to be kind to themselves!
Ok, so babies don’t really want for anything do they? But it might be nice to gift them something that they can grow into… not necessarily clothes though. How about a nice wooden toy instead? There are so many lovely independent shops selling beautifully crafted toys for babies including these lovely Plan toys from Bunnyhop, who is based in Edinburgh.
I did also write a blog a wee while ago with a bit of a newborn essential list which could come in handy – check it out here!
Need: Nursery Decor
Instead of gifting a baby something for them to use, whether it be clothes or toys, why not think a little outside of the box and go for some kind of nursery decor? Admittedly this can be hard if you haven’t seen the room or if you’re unsure on taste, but there are so many cute little pieces out there that I’m sure most people would love. Mama.Tot, another Edinburgh based shop, has the best collection of interiors including the Liewood Mobile pictured below (pom poms are life) as well as beautiful blankets and cushions.
On the subject of textiles – bedding! Nice baby bedding is so so hard to come by, or at least that’s what I’ve found. Truth is though, a babies cot doesn’t need much, in fact, the safest thing is to have nothing but a cot sheet. Luckily, That Darling Brand makes the most beautiful ones in a variety of floral and unisex fabrics, ranging in size from Moses basket up to cot bed. We have ‘pickle’ (pictured below) and it’s such a great way to liven up the room with a bit of colour! They also come beautifully packaged and boxed which makes for a perfect gift.
Or, what about a nice personalised print? I love to mix a variety of styles and colours in any room with prints, using different style frames and hanging them on the wall as well as in picture shelves. My absolute favourite at the moment is anything from Eleanor Bowmer – her stuff is all the heart eyes, especially this one featured below which can be personalised and is pretty much nursery perfection. She also has some other great unisex designs including her unique leopards, mono space design and bestselling rainbow!
If personalised is what you’re after, I’d also highly recommend Three Penny! Making beautiful name prints in A4 and A3. The story behind the business is a really lovely one too. Oh, and there’s also an amazing limited edition release of Wonder Women flash cards – I’ve got them for Scout and can confirm that they are SO COOL! 😍
Well, these are definitely a need. A 10 times a day need. How about gifting some reusable cloth nappies? These can seem a bit of an investment for parents, so why not give a practical helping hand and kick start their collection… or, add to their existing collection all the while helping the environment. We’ve been using Bambino Mio Miosolo nappies for a while now and love them – they come in great patterns, and they sell other accessories too including muslin cloths and swaddles!
PS. I have it on good authority that they’ll be giving 25% off for Black Friday. I don’t usually subscribe to Black Friday deals because I worry they’re a bit of a con and just railroad you into buying stuff you don’t actually need – but on this occasion I make an exception, because it’s a genuinely great deal if you’re looking to gift any of the items or purchase for yourself!
Wear: Organic Zoo+ Upcycling
I could list a hundred beautiful clothing brands that sell the dreamiest newborn clothes, but I’d be here all day. So instead I’m going to focus on two of my favourites – the shop Organic Zoo and the wonderful Maker Sophie & Co.
I’ve been a fan of Organic Zoo since Oscar was born, and now, Scout has quite a few pieces form them too. For great quality, unisex pieces, ethically produced in Europe at a really affordable price – they’re a great all rounder. The salopettes below are one of my favourite products, Scout had a pair when she was brand new and they were just beautiful… they also have a matching wrap top that we have and is beautiful on!
I discovered Sophie & Co a bit later – Scout has had a few pieces and I have more waiting for her to grow into and I love them all. Her designs are unisex, really classic and super versatile. However, what I really want to talk about is Sophie’s Upcyling project. You can now send her old clothes and fabrics from your own wardrobe to be fashioned into pieces for your littles! Jeans can be come bloomers and your partners shirts can become rompers (like Scout’s below)! It’s a great way of creating a personal item and it’s also great for the environment as it’s reducing waste. It just makes it extra special! There’s loads of examples over on her Instagram!
Read: From The Cat in the Hat To Amelia Earhart
I have a love of children’s books, there’s nothing better than a beautifully illustrated board book (before it gets chewed). For babies, illustrated books can also be a lovely decorative addition to a nursery, and then as they grow, it’s so lovely to find a story that they enjoy. The following list is a mixture of books for babies and toddlers and beyond. Including a few non-fiction books that Oscar in particular loves! For ease I have linked them to Amazon, but shop around – there are so many beautiful and local independent book stores including Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge that would love the support.
So, babies don’t really want for anything but the same can’t be said for a three year old really, can it? I know I’m wanting to get Oscar something that he’ll really love and I can’t wait to see his face light up with a cool toy. But you don’t have to bankrupt yourself (and kill the environment) bulk buying plastic from Amazon. There’s some really cool gifts out there that will help you support a local indy business, and for this section, that business is Bon Tot – another amazing Edinburgh store based in Stockbridge! Aside from all their awesome clothing brands as well as amazing vintage finds, they are also selling some awesome toys and gifts this Christmas – from retro Sonny Angels to the coolest Des Enfantillages slingshots and bow & arrow – I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else!
Something else I’ve thought about putting together for Oscar is a dressing up rail or box. This is also a great gift that family and friends can add to. Plus, if you have more than one child – they can all get involved! I technically didn’t ‘shop small’ for this and I actually picked some pieces up in the supermarket sales after Halloween. Meri Meri also do some great accessories but I would love to add some Fable Heart pieces over time. They make the dreamiest wands, crowns and capes that would be a perfect addition to any child’s dress up box and a beautiful gift, suitable for a variety of ages.
So, shoes probably aren’t the most exciting thing for a three year old, BUT, their wee feet grow so fast! I know I feel like I’m constantly buying new shoes for Oscar, so an alternative gift could be a voucher for new shoes when required. This could be for an independent local show shop, or for a bigger high street store depending on preference. It’s the practical gift that a parent might appreciate more than the child!
Need: an activity
Parents need this – time. Time to get stuff done. In my experience, the best way to buy some time is to set up some craft activities for Oscar to play with independently. A craft box is also a really cost-effective present to put together!
You don’t need to buy anything fancy and pre-packed. Instead, why not pick up an IKEA storage tub and fill it with some bits and bobs collected from pound shops and even around the house like –
a wee set of child scissors
off cuts of wrapping paper or cards
a few crayons
Or use a craft punch to create some confetti from leaflets, packaging and magazines – reuse + recycle and all that jazz!
Not only is this easy to do and great value but you can also customise it to suit the child’s interests, favourite colours and make it as big or compact as you like. It’s a really versatile gift for all ages!
Wear: Homegrown Brands + Makers
This is where it gets fun because there are so many independent brands out there making some amazing kids clothes! I’ve narrowed it down to four that I love, have bought from in the past, and will buy from again.
First up – Wex Baby – the coolest T-shirt’s and sweatshirts out there lovingly designed and printed by hand . Basically, every kid needs an item of clothing with Pepe on it (PS. They also come in matching adult sizes in some items!). Oscar has a jumper (below) and a gazillion washes later – it’s still going strong & so so soft!
Next up – some unisex personalised tees and sweats from BOB The Brand. Initialled goodies in the coolest mono animal print. I got Scout an initialled T-shirt and Oscar a birthday T-shirt and both are brilliant quality and all designed and handprinted in Manchester! They’ve recently released some new pieces too that are lovely, oh, and they also do adult sizes, so you can twin. What more could you want?!
And lastly, you might want to get some leggings to go with these t-shirts and sweatshirts and for the best prints, quality fabrics, perfect fit, beautifully handmade and great value, hands down, the best leggings I’ve ever found are from The Cotton Barn. I bought Oscar’s first pair when he was around 6 months old and have lost count of how many I’ve had since! They are perfect for boys and girls, babies through to child. My favourite print at the moment is Animal (both Oscar and Scout have leggings in it)
I could have added SO many more shops and brands to this list but I doubt you’d have made it to the end, so I’ll leave it at this. I hope it’s given you some inspiration. I know I don’t go daft at Christmas, I would rather buy small and buy smart – quality items that will last the kids and luxury items for the adults that they may not buy for themselves.
Also, just be bloody responsible, yeah? Christmas is a great time of year, but it’s definitely not worth getting into a complete faff over or worse, ending up in debt. Giving can feel great, but equally, your time is more important – spend it with your family, friends and loved ones. Take the kids to see the Christmas lights, not everything has to revolve around spending. We’ll also be donating toys to charity before Christmas, so that other little girls and boys get gifts. We will also be donating to a local food bank. Oscar’s childminder did this with all her minded kids last year and they went with her to drop it all off and I thought it was a great idea. Stuff is stuff, don’t get hung up on it. But if you can, and you want to – supporting local businesses and makers really will make their day!
I’d love to hear what your favourite shops are, I’m always on the look out!
This year we weren’t sure if we’d manage to squeeze in a family holiday as we knew we’d be moving at some point. So on a bit of a whim, back in May, we decided we’d take the kids to Disneyland Paris.
I’ve never been to any Disney, Robin’s been to Florida as a kid and loved it, so we thought Paris would be good introduction for the kids with them being so young. The whole booking experience is daunting and incredibly confusing! There are so many meal, hotel and travel options so we decided to book directly through Disney.
We booked 3 nights/4 days, flying to CDG and staying in The Santa Fe hotel which is in the Disney park so that we could benefit from the ‘Magic Hours’ before the park opens to the public. We selected the Half Board Premium meal plan as it included a Meet the Characters meal and a night at the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show… Turned out, all of this didn’t come cheap. It was significantly more than we had expected to pay, but we were in too deep, and it was worth it – Oscar would love it, right?!
Luckily for us, we’d decided to add a little bit extra stress right before our Disney trip by attending a wedding down South with Scout in tow, while Oscar stayed home with his Grandparents. We flew down to Hampshire on the Friday (oh, and we got engaged at 4am as we were getting ready to go to the airport!), attended the wedding on the Saturday (and had such a good day – was so lovely to have some time away!) then on Sunday, we flew back to Edinburgh, arriving home at midnight… and quickly discovered our flight to Paris the next day was in fact at 6am – two hours earlier than we had previous thought. Organised as ever…
A few short hours later we were up and off! Arriving at the airport at 4:30am, without an added engagement, but with a disoriented and excited Oscar. We quickly discovered Robin had left his bag with the travel documents on the kitchen table! Again, organised! A mere 35 minutes later I returned to the airport with the rucksack and we ran through security (why do I always bleep?! I’m thinking it’s my specs??) and straight to the gate in time for boarding starting. This was Robin, Scout and I’s third flight in 4 days, so to be honest, we were kinda over it… but Oscar was psyched!
Upon landing we trekked through Charles De Galle airport, boarded some kind of genuine, bona fide monorail and managed to find our Magic Shuttle (just a bus) that would take us to our hotel. This was all a bit chaotic. People shoving kids out the way to get on. Probably the same kind of people that fight to get on a train as folk are still alighting – WHY?! The transfer to Disney is about 40 minutes or a little more depending on what hotel you’re staying in. We arrived at The Santa Fe and waited in the queue to check in… the first of many – queues are a bit of a theme at Disney.
Our first impression was that this hotel was a bit dated, and a bit tired. But, we weren’t planning on spending that much time in it, so it would be fine. We decided to drop our bags in our room (it was 11am-ish and the room was ready to go – that was a positive) and head to the park. The weather caught us a bit off guard. It was bitterly cold, just a few degrees, which was a shame as just the week before it had been unseasonably warm with highs of 20 degrees! We jumped into a shop on Disney ‘Main Street’ and grabbed Oscar a hat but I think it was safe to say, his 3:30am start was catching up with him, but we were determined to have fun. The kind of magic fun that Disney promises.
Unfortunately… it was downhill from here. What we thought was just tiredness seemed to be a bit more and Oscar was actually quite poorly… and probably wasn’t really in the mood to be trailed round in freezing temperatures. It was at this point, I asked him how he felt and he said “mummy, I feel sad. I want to go to Disneyland” – fairly tragic considering we’d been there about 4 hours at that point… I can laugh now, but at the time this was a metaphorical punch in the gut.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Anyway, I’ve put together some info, pointers, good points and bad points – before I left and while we were away I had a lot of people get in touch to ask about it as they were thinking of going. I read a lot before we went (yes, we even joined the ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits’ group on Facebook…), and to be honest, everyone made it out to be amazing, and I hate to sound negative, because that’s not really our bag, but elements of the trip were disappointing and I’d rather be honest. Doubt I’ll be getting sponsored by Disney any time soon anyway…
Mickey Meal Madness with some Buffalo Bill chucked in…
Let’s start with a positive – despite coming to the realisation on the first day that Oscar was feeling absolutely lousy with a raging temperature we had booked to go to Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and decided to give it a shot (ya know, still determined to power through and enjoy ourselves despite snipping at each other through gritted teeth…) and actually, Oscar enjoyed it! We had tickets as part of our Premium Meal Plan otherwise I believe it’s around £160… which is a lot! Was it worth it? As adults, maybe not (see face below)… but like I say, Oscar did enjoy it, so in that respect it was. The food was mediocre – TGI’s style mixed grill, but I wasn’t expecting much better so wasn’t disappointed. You can book this before you go, you can do that up to 60 days before I think and can email them directly, we did it the week before and managed to get a table but probably wouldn’t advise being so last minute.
Our meal plan also included a character meal, we wanted to do this at Inventions, which is classed as one of the best restaurants in the park, located in the actual Disney Hotel, but, well, it was fully booked so that went out the window. Instead, we booked the breakfast at Plaza Gardens just off Main Street. Despite refusing to eat anything (a theme of the trip) Oscar seemed to really enjoy this, so I’d say it’s worth it. It could have been organised a lot better, with characters being more interspersed instead of them moving round the restaurant in groups meaning you had to wait ages to meet them then when you did it was all of them and a bit rushed, but a three year old obviously doesn’t care about that and he was really psyched to meet Mickey and it was mega cute. We even took some pictures so that in years to come we could show Oscar them and lie to him about the whole trip by insisting he had the best time ever.
On the topic of food, because we had a premium plan, we were able to book the “best” restaurants in the park without having to pay a surcharge and we did this a week before and although we managed to get tickets to the BBWWS we did struggle to get a table at a few other restaurants. In hindsight, maybe this was a good thing. Oscar is 3, and terribly fussy. I suppose I assumed that all the eateries would be child focused with quite “child friendly” food and this wasn’t the case – which was my bad. Coupled with the fact that Oscar felt lousy, and just wanted to sleep, it wasn’t the best restaurant experience. So we ended up cancelling a few of our reservations and just chancing our arm at a few of the buffet restaurants which were fine.
There are also a fair few places out-with the main Disney and Studios park within the Disney Village including sandwich shops, coffee shops, Five Guys and a trusty McDonalds. After a 20€ Uber trip to a pharmacy for paracetamol in the morning (yup, I went away without packing Calpol…) it was the Golden Arches that supplied us with one of the peaks of the trip when Oscar saw it on day two and ate for the first time since arriving – even managing to crack a smile at the Mr Potato Head happy meal toy! We found the snack food pretty reasonable. We were expecting it to be extortionate. Same goes for the toy shops on site … of which there are many… they weren’t that bad. We took Oscar to one after his McDonald’s to try and capitalise on his rallying mood and treat him to a wee toy – we came away with a set of Toy Story characters for 19€ which didn’t seem more than you’d pay on Amazon. Had we been feeling jollier about our Disney experience we’d maybe have stretched to Mickey ears, but the furthest we went was matching Disney ponchos to keep us dry.
Disney-ing with a Baby
On a bit of a side note – if you’re doing Disney with a baby I have a few wee tips. Overall, we found changing facilities very poor. At the Wild West Show, Robin took Scout to the toilet to change her and there were no facilities – not in the mens toilets or in the male/female disabled toilets and he ended up changing her on a dirty and cold tile floor as we didn’t have a mat. Now, later on I went to the ladies toilets and there was a changing area, but come on, its 2018… men change nappies, ya know? I don’t think its acceptable to have to change a 9 month old on a dirty floor, and especially not in a place made for children! However in the main park, next to Plaza Gardens restaurant, there’s a Baby Care Centre where there’s a big open plan changing area (that men can use as well) with toilets too and also a big feeding room with chairs and highchairs and microwaves and stuff. This was handy since it was a bit cold to whip a boob out from my 64 layers outside. Luckily, Scout doesn’t really need fed that much during the day now or else this would have been a bit of a ball ache going back and forward. However, I think the restaurants do have microwaves too if you need them for baby food or milk or whatever.
Day three: we finally make it on some rides…
Day three, Halloween, was actually the most Disney (*jazz hands*) day, Oscar woke feeling a bit better (and hadn’t been sick in the night – YAY). On this day we managed to get to the parks for Magic Hours. You can use these if you’re staying in one of the Disney hotels and means that you get exclusive access to the parks between 8-10am before the general public get in. This was good for getting on some of the rides with bigger (read: absolutely mental) queues. We used them to get on the new Peter Pan ride and then Pirates Of The Caribbean.
On the topic of rides, most of the bigger rides have a minimum height of 103cm which Oscar just missed out on unfortunately. But there was still a fair amount he could enjoy, especially over in the Fantasy Land area of the park (back right). Most of these rides we were able to get on with Scout in the carrier as well which was good, but probably an indicator that they’re not exactly thrilling. Oscar really enjoyed It’s a Small World, Pirates of The Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, Ratatouille: The Adventure and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. For a few rides, including Ratatouille, we used our Fast Passes – this is available to you if you’re staying in a Disney hotel, but isn’t really explained very well when you check in. Not all rides have it, but most of the bigger ones do – just look for the Fast Pass hut near the queue entrance and put your card (the card that you use for your park entry, room key and for dinner reservations) into the fast pass machine, and it’ll give you a printed ticket with a time. Then all you have to do is come back within that time frame and enter the Fast Pass queue and you skip the main queue. This is handy, but we probably didn’t make best use of them – mainly because we spent less than half our time in the actual park due to a sickly toddler!
There were also a few ‘big thrill’ rides that Oscar couldn’t get on that we wanted to do, and for these we used single rider queues as we were passing. Robin went on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, Big Thunder Mountain, Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror… I went on Space Mountain – can you tell I’d lost all ‘Disney Magic’ by this point…?!
Que the Queues
Now, of course, when you go to a theme park you expect to wait in queues – it’s par for the course really, I’ve queued for hours at Alton Towers, I get it… but it did put us off bothering with some of the rides partly because they didn’t seem worth it and because Oscar’s tummy was sore. What was more annoying though was the queues at every other bit of the park, whether it be a 25 minute queue to get a picture with Goofy (I mean, does anyone even care about Goofy?) or the 40 minute queue to buy a crepe when I was literally the 4th customer in the line… crazy.
We didn’t wait 25 minutes to meet Goofy… I’m not mental, however, I did think that Woody might be able to bring a smile to Oscar’s face and I knew a way to make it happen… I had it on good authority from the Instagram community that at 2pm on the dot, you can go onto an app on your phone called Lineberty and book a slot to meet Toy Story Characters. So at 1.55, we were sitting eating lunch in Cafe Agrabah and I had my phone out, poised to refresh every 3 seconds as if I was trying to secure Glastonbury tickets… although, you could argue, the stakes were much higher. As it turned 2pm I was placed in the queue and secured my e-ticket – I was number 28 with an estimated wait time of over an hour, giving us time to finish lunch and head over to Walt’s Studios park. As we left the restaurant half an hour later I looked at my phone with horror to discover that the queue time had skipped to 8 minutes… we sprinted through the park, out through the gates, zig zagging through the halloween crowds to get to Studios on time only to get in and realise we had no clue where Woody was hiding. In some sort of Disney induced frenzy, we managed to find someone to point us in the direction and there he was – a 7ft slightly odd looking Woody. We entered the queue, Oscar seemingly unaware f the drama had fallen asleep in the buggy (bearing in mind Oscar hasn’t even looked in the direction of a buggy in nearly 2 years, this was an indicator of his current flu-ridden state).
Despite all the disappointment that had come before, I was still full of hope that this would be the turning point and we would have a #makingmemories moment… wrong. We woke Oscar up and epic meltdown ensued. No, he didn’t like Woody, no he didn’t want to meet him, he certainly didn’t want a picture with him (lucky we hadn’t purchased that 70€ photo pass…) … in actual fact, he wanted nothing to do with him, and could not have cared less that we nearly gave ourselves heart attacks sprinting to get there in time. Now, I’m not proud of myself… but this was where I broke. I had a full Disney induced meltdown to rival my three year old’s and I ugly cried. I Kim Kardashian ugly cried in what is supposed to be the most magical place on earth. In hindsight this was obviously a pretty massive over reaction. I mean, when I’m ill I can barely muster the energy to change the channel on the telly, and yet, here we were expecting a little three year old, flu-ridden Oscar to have forced fun. But Disney had broken me. At this point, if I could have just gone home… I probably would have.
The Santa ‘Stay Away’ Fe This Hotel
One of the biggest downfalls was our hotel, as I mentioned, we booked The Santa Fe, which admittedly is the cheapest hotel in the park, but ‘cheapest’ is very relative when talking about Disney, and in all the holiday was expensive so I’d have expected better. I’d have expected a better standard for the Disney brand. The hotel was tired, dated and actually downright dirty in places… for example, mould on the window frame which is unacceptable regardless of price point. Admittedly, we didn’t expect to spend as much time as we did in the hotel, we booked it as just somewhere to sleep as we thought we’d be out at the parks from 8-8 every day but we hadn’t banked on a sick toddler. If anyone is thinking of visiting, this would be my one top tip – book any other hotel! Don’t make the same mistake we did!
On our last night, Halloween, we did decide to hang about in the evening for the illuminations and they were fab, Oscar had fallen asleep so we secured a good spot, it was nice and dry and we woke him up just for them starting. They didn’t last too long, just long enough to keep his attention and ‘wow’ him. Just the other night Oscar randomly started talking about the fireworks he saw at the pink castle which was really sweet because there were wee glimmers during the holiday that he was enjoying himself.
Woody’s My Round-Up
I hate hate hate that this all might sound a bit negative or ungrateful because we’re not generally like that, we try to make the best of situations and with Disney we tried, believe me, we tried in an attempt to justify our significantly lighter bank balance, but I think we’ve walked away with the realisation that we’re maybe not ‘Disney people’. What I would say though is that for all the disappointment we felt as adults , if Oscar had had a ball, ultimately, none of that would have mattered. And if he’d not been unwell, I’m sure he would have had a lot more fun, and as a result, we would have too. It was just so unfortunate that he was ill and completely out of our control. If we’d been at home it would have been a good 3-4 duvet days. So if you’re thinking of booking a trio to Disneyland Paris, my intention is not to try and put you off, it’s merely to point out some things that could be done better or to prepare for, ya know?
Plenty of people go and love it. On a different week that could have been us. Would we go back to Disneyland Paris – probably not. We would probably still consider Florida when both kids are a bit older as we’re assured that its a whole different ball game. Robin made a good point when we were away saying we could probably have stayed at Alton Towers for a few days for a quarter of the price and had a better time and he was right, although admittedly that’s not really what I wanted to hear at the time – too soon Robin, too soon!!
I’d love to hear about your experiences – have you been and felt the full force of the Disney Magic, or did it leave you feeling a bit empty and dead inside (jokes, kind of…)? Are there other places you’d rate more highly?
August is fast approaching… HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I know right? Seems like just yesterday we were snowed in! Let’s hope the great heatwave returns for the month to maximise our outdoor cider drinking and street food eating in time for the biggest event of the Edinburgh calendar – The Fringe! For us as a family, the Fringe has a special wee place in our hearts, as Oscar was born during our first festival that we lived in Edinburgh for, so now we try and take him to a few shows as a birthday day out as a little tradition. We’ll be doing that again this year with Scout in tow too.
For those of you that might not be familiar (maybe you live under a rock..?) the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world and runs alongside the Edinburgh International Festival, but don’t worry, there’s no real need to get hung up on the difference. I always thought it was just comedy, but it’s so, so much more…
Last year, for it’s 70th birthday, the Fringe featured 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows across 200 venues throughout the city – it’s kind of a big deal.
But ya know, that’s a lot of shows. This year, I picked up my Fringe guide and there are no less than 400 pages of shows – it’s a bit daunting. And so, back by popular demand (well, I did it last year, and at least 3 people told me it was helpful…) I’m doing my annual Fringe Guide – for bigs and smalls.
For The Smalls
Before I had Oscar, I had no idea how many kids shows there were at at the Fringe, but now finding the good ones is one of my favourite things to do. The atmosphere is so good throughout the city during the festival season and kids just lap it up! There is also a great kids area in Pleasance Courtyard so they can make t-shirts while you enjoy a cold cider/beer/wine/gin/whatever – that’s the dream, right?!
I’ve started my research and here’s what I’ve found so far –
Running from 29th July – 1st August, there’s a whole load of FREE events for kids taking place in the courtyard of this Edinburgh pub! Every day is jam packed with activities from arts & crafts to magicians, face painiting, and much more, as well as a different daily theme from fairy-tales to superheros, animals to Lego! Oh, and there’s even a petting zoo on Tuesday 31st July!
There is also a kids cinema event every Sunday of the Fringe at 9am in partnership with Scottish Autism! We will be heading along to the first cinema session on Sunday 29th to see Frozen, but no doubt will be hanging around for the magician and some face painting in the afternoon! Keep an eye on my Instagram Stories! 🎈
There’s loads of info on each days activity over on their Facebook Event.
I took Oscar to see his first ever Fringe show the day after his first birthday, and it was a show by Starcatchers… It was SO GOOD and Oscar was honestly enthralled by the mix of dance, theatre and live classical music. Even though I was a bit unsure as to what to expect, I thoroughly enjoyed it too and it was so lovely to see Oscar so engaged!
I am keen to go back this year with Scout and check out this new show as she loves music too.
We took Oscar to this last year and WOW it was amazing! He’d just turned two, so I’ll be honest with you, tensions were running high and we were worried about whether he’d sit through an hour long show. We needn’t have worried – he was captivated from the moment it started. The lad is the world’s leading bubbleologist afterall.
I reckon this is one we’ll go back to again this year as he’ll get even more out of it now he’s a bit older. Highly recommend you give it a shot!
This one was recommended to me – apparently it’s “funny, fast-paced and bursting with witty songs” so I’m here for it! It looks like a show Oscar would love, so hopefully I’ll get to check it out and report back!
On first look, there seems to be a lot of shows about Brexit and Trump… there’s probably a few about Russia too – it was to be expected I suppose, but of course, there will also be a multitude of hidden gems. I usually find the best way to weed them out is to wait and let other people find them then try and get them booked for later in the festival. Although, if you’re looking at booking a big name – best to do it soon. I’ve missed out a few times over the years – notably least year when we tried to get tickets for Ian Stirling, ya know, the voice of Love Island… sob.
I’ll be updating this as I go, but here’s a few I’ve picked out that I wanna see!
Jessie Cave @ The Stand
I’m a fan. I follow Jessie on Insta and have one of her doodles, so when I saw she was doing a show about motherhood, Instagram and getting through a breakup, I was intrigued! My friend Megan of It’s The Mother also mentioned that she fancied it – so maybe we can make it a date – what d’ya say?
Adam Kay: This Is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor) @ EICC Pleasance
I saw Adam back in 2016 with his show Fingering A Minor On The Piano (yeah, I know, bear with me…) and it was my shout out show of the year… maybe even one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was lighthearted, interspersed with witty songs and audience participation, and then BANG. The show did not end the way I expected and it genuinely left me a little bit shooketh. It was hard hitting and i’ve spoken about it countless times since. So if this show is anything like it, and Adam is wonderful, so I’m sure it will be – go see it. You’ll laugh and you may cry, but you’ll be talking about it all the way home.
“Baby Daddy is a funny, rude and infectious musical account of life in your twenties with a baby in tow.” – I have a feeling this show could be one of the true hidden gems of the Fringe this year, and it’s gonna be the first ticket I buy… I’m going, even if it means I have to take Scout along for the ride (more about this later…)
Now, I saw a version of this last year at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. I think this show is slightly different to what I saw, but if it’s even half as good, you’ll be blown away!
“An immersive adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s classic, staged in a unique tunnel beneath Edinburgh’s streets. The audience are literally part of the action, including the notorious ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ scene”
I’d love to go see this and see what it’s like in comparison to the full length theatre version. Let me know if you’ve seen it! Would you recommend?
Until, the other month an amazing theatre producer (who is also a new mum) got in touch with me to chat about what she’s doing to make the theatre culture more accessible to parents of young children. Now, as I’ve said, there are hundreds or shows made for kids… but what about the shows made for adults? What if you’re a breastfeeding mother to a 6 month old baby and really wants to see a show?! That’s where the babes in arms policy comes in – a LOT of Fringe shows will allow a baby to come into the show free of charge as long as they’re under a certain age (often 18 months, or 2). Information on this is clearly noted on the ticket info page so watch out for it – a young baby does not mean you need to miss out on some Fringe Fun, and I’m sure their baby ears won’t be offended by anything rude, yet!
Anyway, like I said, it’s daunting sifting through 400 pages of shows, so listen out for recommendations, that’s what I’ll be doing and updating this blog as I go. If you have any, please get in touch with me, I’m always on the lookout for something to see whether it be with the family, or out with friends!
I was recently asked to pop along to Fort Kinnaird to check out the newly refurbished M&S Café and I quickly obliged as Fort Kinnaird is somewhere I already spend a lot of time… and probably the majority of my money!
I’m not a fan of dragging a toddler into town every time I want to grab a new pair of jeans or a top so Fort Kinnaird is perfect, and easily accessible from us on the south of the City.
However, I’ll admit, I’ve never frequented the M&S Café, despite feeling like I’m never out of “Markies”, as my Mum calls it!
Over next to Primark, Café Revive is located on the ground floor of M&S and has been newly revamped. It looks great and is really convenient for a coffee stop – especially with a baby in tow. The day I went I had a grizzly Scout in her pram wanting a feed!
We decided to pop in to take some time to settle her down and more importantly – EAT CAKE. The selection was varied and fresh – I’d recommend the carrot cake! The staff were all welcoming and the service is quick… this is now a top priority when doing anything with a baby in tow.
The Café also has a variety of hot food on offer including toasties, which I’ve actually tried on a subsequent visit to the café! Toasties have become a staple of my diet on both of my maternity leaves, so I have become something of a connoisseur and I can confirm this toastie met my high standards!
While in M&S I thought I’d have a look around, I am already a big fan of their baby and child range. We have received a lot of their pieces in gifts and also purchased a lot for both kids – especially their essentials, like vests, sleepsuits, and more recently, Toy Story pants for Oscar.
Their summer range is fab and you should definitely check it out. I took some quick snaps of my favourite pieces – I especially love the little chilli romper. Had I known it was going to be such nice weather the past week, I would have bought it for Scout!
Although I’m a long time fan of their kids pieces I’ve never really looked at theirs women’s section, but recently it’s been drawn more to my attention by accounts I follow on Insta, namely Mother Of Daughters, Mutha.Hood and Erica Davies that often post about their finds from M&S. I wasn’t disappointed – there were so many versatile summer pieces and accessories.
Here are my three favourites! –
1. summer straw bag – ok, so I’ve become obsessed with straw bags. I see them all over Insta, all day every day, but, I wasn’t convinced that the small round ones were suitable for me… after all, 2 kids come with a lot of STUFF. So this one is perfect! In more of a shopper style, I think it’s a bit more practical for my day to day life! Oh, and it’s only 15 quid!
2. Statement necklace – I have always loved a “big necklace”, following in my mums steps as she is never seen without one. This one ticks all my boxes as it’s colourful and quirky! Plus, at under £20 it’s not going to break the bank, and will jazz up a plain top in summer.
3. Orange mules – well , they’re orange, and I’m obsessed with all things orange! They were super comfy and looked great with my Monki Mom jeans that I was wearing on the day, and again, under £20. I’ll admit I wasn’t brave enough to buy them, but, I’ve been thinking about them ever since… so I might have to go back.
In the interest of full disclosure – I was given a £50 voucher in return for this review but all views are my own! And I have since returned, twice, and spent my own pennies in the Café, because, ya know… CAKE.
However, this time I’ve been trying to remember the true reality of my situation. I can’t help but think that time somehow filters the truth, the harder aspects of an experience. Hindsight sugarcoats what was a truly terrifying time of my life.
I can only liken it to how we look back on our days with our first newborn. We remember all the love, sleepy cuddles and (in my case) the box sets, maybe over time we filter out the memories from the nights where we just couldn’t get that little baby to stop crying and settle. The 3am’s when we’d have a wee cry ourselves – purely from exhaustion… Time is basically like Instagram’s Valencia filter.
Do we do this in all aspects of our lives? Maybe it’s ultimately for the best? It enables us to move on, retain our fond memories and maintain a positive outlook. What is it they say? – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? However, I wonder if it’s sometimes worth reminding ourselves of the hard days to give ourselves some perspective, and after all, we survived them, didn’t we?
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
I’ve been thinking about how we help people that are currently in the throws of those hard days. As my friend so eloquently put it the other day – “those that are wading through treacle” – whether it be parenthood or something else – and thinking about the advice I offer them.
I have talked about the positive outlook I tried to adopt throughout my cancer treatment (I’d say “journey”, but I still kinda hate that word), but it’s not completely realistic, is it? Of course now, years down the line, I say things like “the whole experience really changed me for the better” but, in reality, life would have been a hell of a lot easier if it hadn’t happened. At the time, that positive outlook wasn’t always sustainable – it didn’t stop me worrying and feeling truly terrified of what lay ahead, whether it be weeks, months or years down the line… or in the darkest times, wondering if I’d even have years.
The people around you in your time of need always mean well, but let’s face it, there ain’t a manual. No-one knows what to say, and most of the time I didn’t know what I wanted them to say anyway. It was the blind leading the blind and unchartered territory for everyone involved.
And so, everyone meant well when they gave positive affirmations like –
“you just have to stay positive”
“knowledge is power, now you know what you’re facing, you’ll beat it”
“you’re going to be ok”
… And 90% of the time that’s exactly what I needed to hear, to reinforce some positivity. However, it was not always what I needed.
Sharing The Burden
Sometimes we need to just be sad and allow those scary feelings to creep in – and share them. Let someone else pick up even just a small piece of that burden, after all, you’re living with that as a reality. It’s the least they can do!
Same in parenthood, isn’t it? You know when things are tough that they’ll get better – “this too shall pass” and all that – but sometimes you just want to have a moan and a cry about it, and it doesn’t make you less than the next mother. Doesn’t make you less of a parent or a Negative Nancy. We’re all human.
It’s just made me think – Next time someone shares with me the experience that’s getting them down, or a struggle that they face, I will bite my tongue and fight the urge to offer a positive affirmation in the first instance. Instead, I’ll encourage them to offload some of their mental burden onto me. Tell them it’s ok not to be ok. I truly believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. I know it helped me to deal with my situation and brought me through the other side knowing that I can deal with most things life might throw at me in the future… BUT, no one can harness that positivity 24 hours a day, 100% of the time. And that’s ok.
When I became a Mum, I changed and sometimes it takes me by surprise how much. Of course, for the most part the changes I see in myself are positive, and I embrace them and am immensely proud of them.
However, there have been times that I have felt like I may have lost a little bit of me, just a wee bit of Louise. And I worry – do other people see that? Do they think it too? Will I get to reclaim it as the children grow? By no means do I think I’m alone in this – I think, I hope, it’s pretty common. With such a massive change in your life, it’s bound to turn things upside down, especially when that change is as all-consuming as a child (or two).
But my friends have been there through this change and they’ve helped a mama out… massively. They may not even realise how much. So I want to say thank you –
Thank you for remembering me and still inviting me, despite me often not being able to come along it still means a lot to know that I still exist. Even more so, thank you for inviting us all and understanding that sometimes we have to come as a package.
Thank you for not holding it against me when I ask a question and get too distracted to listen to the answer. There are times I come away from seeing you and realise I’ve barely been able to actually chat due to occupying a toddler that is hell bent on touching anything that might be breakable. I know how frustrating this must be – but I promise – I care about the answer.
Thank you for wanting to spend time with us. Not just me. For holding Oscar’s hand, for sitting down to play Duplo or paint a pirate ship with him, or for holding Scout while I eat my lunch. For just sharing the load and offering a hand – it means the world.
Thank you for not rolling your eyes when Oscar reaches ‘peak toddler’ – before I had him, I had no idea how intense this phase could be. So thank you for not allowing me to apologise for him and reassuring me that it is in actual fact completely fine. He is loved.
And most of all, thank you for still asking how I am. Whenever I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of me you are all there to remind me by talking about something other than nappies and nursery forms.
Right now I repay you by forgetting to post your birthday cards, but I hope you all know that I’ll be there to hold your babies, puppies, goldfish, whatever, so that you can drink your tea while it is still hot – it’s the least I can do, because you’ve saved my sanity a hundred times over.
What would you say to your friends? What little things have they done to help you along the way?
Please note: the Suzy Snooze was gifted to me by the lovely folks at BleepBleeps!
Gadgets… I love ’em.
A gadget to help your toddler sleep better and give you a lie-in? SIGN ME UP.
I hadn’t heard of the Snoozy Suzy before and I’m surprised, because she is right up our street.
The Snoozy Suzy by BleepBleeps has the functions of multiple baby products – a smart nightlight, sleep soother and monitor – all rolled into one contemporary, toddler friendly design.
The nightlight function provides a warm orange glow that helps to promote sleep while providing the option to also play soothing music to get the child ready for bedtime.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m quite strict when it comes to our bedtime routine and for Oscar. I’ve always found it to be important to keep it consistent to maximise his sleep quality, so I was a bit dubious about introducing something new at two and a half to our nightly military operation routine.
I needn’t have worried, she’s been a welcomed addition! Oscar switches Suzy on, by pushing down her hat, after bath while he gets his jammies on and she gives us more than enough soothing light to read bedtime stories. In actual fact, I’ve found the light a lot better than the IKEA lamp we used before which was SO bright! After his book(s) we push back down on Suzy’s hat to turn the music off on it and he knows it’s time for bed as the light dims and “Suzy goes to sleep”.
A Bit Of Fancy Tech
As I said, I love a bit of tech, so was a wee bit excited when I realised Suzy could be controlled by my phone via an app (Apple & Android).
This is especially handy for the lie-in function. similar to the concept of a GroClock you can set a time via the app for Suzy to “wake up” in the morning so your toddler knows when it’s ok to get out of bed.
Admittedly, we’re lucky, Oscar very rarely wakes before 8am and we usually leave him in bed until just before 9am. However, he’s still in his cot and therefore can’t escape anywhere! I think when we transition him to his “big boy bed” within the next few months, this function will come in really handy to teach him when it’s ok to get up. I think it’ll help make the transition a lot easier!
The device also acts as a monitor that you can listen to through the phone app. When Oscar was very little I wanted a video monitor to keep an eye on him, but now he’s older, I’m happy with just the audio function – but I’d say that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re buying it to use for a baby!
On a side note: we live in an old house with thick walls and the WiFi on the Suzy has worked perfectly – a big plus for us!
What’s more, it looks great, I mean really great. And the quality is brilliant. The Suzy Snooze feels weighty and well made and a bit funky. The design is suitable from baby to toddler to child as it isn’t too “kiddy” looking while still being engaging for young children.
However, I feel that there is room for improvement in one area in particular and that’s the soothing music. I just wish there were a few more options that you could maybe download onto your phone and choose from whether that be white noise or heart beats for younger babies or soothing sea noises etc for older children – I just think they’ve missed a trick! But it’s a small change and I suppose one that might come in the future, who knows!
All in all, I love it!
Granted, it has quite a high price tag at £179, but, if you haven’t purchased any other products – a fancy monitor, GroClock, Ewan the Sleep Sheep or Slumber Buddy, a nightlight etc then it is definitely good value as a multifunctional product and has great longevity as your baby grows.
And hey, if it can help to give you a lie-in at the weekend then surely it’s worth it’s weight in gold – amma right?!
I knew from day one that I was different. Within the first few hours with Scout being Earth-side a profound difference was obvious. But it took me by surprise.
When I became a Mother
The joy I felt when Oscar was born was immense but there was also a fear – this was a whole new world we were venturing into and one we knew nothing about. Ante-natal classes try and prepare you for the birth of your baby but what about beyond that?! I was completely ill equipped!
I remember the feeling that first night in hospital with a teeny tiny Oscar feeling totally out of my depth. He was the first baby I’d ever held never mind care for. After Robin left the hospital for the night it was just the two of us – I was learning how to hold him, how to feed him, change him and give comfort. It was scary!
But of course, we learnt. The next day I got home and together as a team of three we powered on – learning on the job. It was wonderful, but scary. We’d sometimes second guess ourselves. In the night when he cried and we thought we’d exhausted all resources we got anxious that something might be wrong, of course, there wasn’t anything wrong. Sometimes babies just cry.
Two and a half years later and we waited in anticipation for Scout’s arrival – we didn’t know yet who she would be, but I was nervous. How would it be second time? Would she take to feeding as Oscar did? Would I cope? Can you die from sleep deprivation?
Then along she came and I felt different – I was so completely at ease and content. She made life easy and took to feeding straight away and I didn’t worry about it the way I had with Oscar – I knew she was doing well, I knew I was enough. When Robin left us for the night I felt confident and enjoyed every minute just the two of us.
While I was pregnant, I had read a blog post by Steph_dontbuyherflowers about ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ (well worth a read for anyone expecting a baby regardless or whether it be first or 10th!). It talks about the pressure new mums put on themselves to ‘bounce back’ and basically to be superwoman on the school run 2 hours after giving birth. Back in the day women would spend well over a week in hospital recovering, and now, many people are out within a few hours putting pressure on themselves to get back to normal, despite their body just going through a monumental event – both physically and mentally (seriously, go read, because my summary can’t do it justice). Anyway, it rang true to me – Oscar was a summer baby and I had been so keen to get up and get out in the sunshine and show him off to anyone that cared, and even to those who didn’t! It was so important to me to get ready, do my hair and makeup and trundle on out with the pram – I think part of me was trying to prove to myself that I had my sh*t together and I was doing ok in my new role and not wanting to lose my sense of me.
However, second time round I’ve had nothing to prove – not to myself or anyone else. In those first few newborn weeks we (semi) pulled up the drawbridge – the fact it was January, Baltic & snowing, made this a lot easier. I’m glad that we spent our first weeks together just chilling on the sofa. We put no pressure on ourselves. We had visitors, we welcomed them in, but we didn’t bother apologising for the mess.
The shock to the system that inevitably comes with a first baby seems lesser with the second. I have felt more at ease with the relative surrender of freedom that comes with exclusive breastfeeding – something I struggled with first time even though I knew it was something I wanted to do, something that was important to me and something that ultimately I loved doing.
We have fed, cuddled and napped our way through our first two months as a family of four – sometimes not even changing out of our PJ’s.
Has this made me a better mother this time round?
Nope. I’m just different.
Free of the incessant worry that comes with your first child (the worry that ages you about 10 years in the first month of their life). We’re not worried about routines – they will fall into place sooner or later. If she cries, we pick her up, she spends her days in our arms or sleeping soundly on our chests and we are confident in the knowledge that we cannot “spoil” her in doing so. We can shrug off unsolicited advice and roll our eyes, knowing we’re making the right choices for her and our family. Honestly, it’s refreshing.
In the last two and a half years Oscar has taught us both so much – not least that the months fly in. So I’m soaking up every little detail because I know all too well how quickly each phase will end. Already I feel the end of the newborn phase is coming and with it Scout is spending more time awake and demanding more attention. It’s sad knowing this will be the last time we do it but I’m excited for what’s to come, because that’s something else Oscar’s taught us – just how brilliant it is watching a little human grow and develop their own personality.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong. That drawbridge can be up or down, just so long as you’re happy doing what you’re doing. Make sure whatever it is though, you’re doing it for you – don’t let anyone else get in the way!
“Oh but you need *insert insanely priced ridiculous item here*…”
Before we became parents for the first time, we were told about lots of things we “needed”. We were first time parents, we didn’t really know anyone else with babies so I just took people’s word for it and probably wasted a lot of money in the process…!
Second time round, I tried to streamline our purchases. With clothing I focused on quality over quantity buying mostly basics with some knitted bits and bobs. With other bigger items we are reusing a lot of what we had, however, some items we had were bought on a whim and didn’t quite fit the purpose, so I’ve done a lot more research this time to replace them. Perhaps it’s a case of live and learn because it’s really hard to know what you need before the little human arrives. In reality it’s very little…
So here’s a little run down of our top purchases and not so hot buys! Full disclosure, a few of these items were gifted to me, I’ve made it clear which ones, but my review of them is independent!
Our Top Six Purchases
The trusty Next2Me Crib remains our best baby item of all time. It housed little Oscar next to our bed for 8 months and gave me easy access to feeding him every 45 bloody minutes through the night. We looked it out again for Scout and I’m enjoying the convenience of it once again. It’s also fab after a section. Admittedly though, the Snuzpod is prettier!
Scout loves a swaddle, but don’t rush into buying one before baby arrives. Oscar hated it. Try with a blanket first and if they like it I’d recommend this Love To Dream Swaddle Up – this was gifted to me but I will be buying the next size up. Scout has been using hers every night since she was 2 days old and I love it. It takes away the worry of blankets, I always worry about how many they need and also whether they’re tucked in right so the won’t ride up etc. With this I just pop her back down after a feed and there’s no faff! It makes life a lot easier.
A Good All-Rounder
My love for giant muslins will never wane! I use them as crib sheets in the next2me, to cover my feeding cushion, as a sheet in the pram, or even as a makeshift changing mat if I’m out and about – they are a jack of all trades and there are so many nice ones out there in different patterns. The majority of mine have been bought in TK Maxx. Oh and don’t forget to put one in your hospital bag to swaddle the baby for a picture!
Baby wearing has been a life saver for us, especially second time round. I have an Ergo Adapt carrier for when we’re out for the day and have been using it since Scout was just a few days old. My only worry using the carrier with my winter baby was keeping her wee arms and legs warm, snowsuits just felt too bulky and I worried about her overheating. So I bought this little suit from H&M – it’s not the prettiest but it’s great for layering over her clothes and bundling her in the carrier!
In addition to our Ergo, I was kindly gifted an Izmi Bamboo Wrap which I wear pretty much all day every day around the house and even with Scout in and out it all day it stays nice and tight thanks to the 2-way stretch. This was something I never really tried with Oscar, I think I found it a bit daunting but now that I’ve mastered it, it’s a lifesaver – I’m finally handsfree for toddler activities!
One thing I always thought I needed but just never got round to buying was a changing bag. And that was when I realised they were just a bit unnecessary (and often quite expensive and not that nice looking. Unless you’re going for a Tiba + Marl)! Instead, I’ve always just packed a few nappies, wipes and a spare sleepsuit in my handbag – I travel light. The only change I’ve made this time round is treating myself to a little nappy pouch from Mutha.Hood to keep it all together. Not really out of necessity, I just liked it, but it does make it that bit easier to grab and take to the changing room when we’re out and I’m not fishing through my backpack for a teeny size 1 nappy! Plus it’s cute and supports a small business. I’m a sucker for ‘Mama Merch’!
Oh, my trusty feeding cushion. This is a bit of a personal one because I can’t live without it, but a lot of people don’t like using them. The day we had Oscar I was finding positioning for breastfeeding hard and the midwife created a little pillow fortress around me to help and suggested I get a cushion – I ordered one there and then on Amazon Prime and never looked back. That bad boy was used all day every day for 9 months – by the time I stopped using it, it looked a little worse for wear but had been invaluable! I got myself a new one this time round and have loved it all over again – it hangs on the side of the bed for night feeds and on the end of the sofa during the day, it’s always to hand! If you’re struggling with positioning for feeding, I’d highly recommend giving one a go! I got this one from Mamas and Papas.
And lastly, something I don’t have, but would like – a little nightlight for night feeds. Especially in those first weeks when I was trying to make sure Scout was patched properly etc I didn’t need the added worry of possibly blinding her with my 1200W iPhone torch..! A little subtle nightlight beside the bed that I could put on to find a nappy by not illuminate the whole street would be ideal. I’m going to keep on the lookout for one!
When it comes to it, every parent is different, and there’s bound to be stuff that’s not on this list that you end up with that you’ll love, but I suppose the point I wanted to stress was – don’t stress. Don’t stress when people tell you “oh, you’ll need XYZ” and you’re closing in on your due date and you hadn’t even heard of it… as long as you have something to clothe that new bundle in, a few nappies and a car seat to get them home, you’re doing just fine. All they really need is some love, attention and you! Worry about the rest later – Amazon Prime it or something.
What would you add to the list? And what is the one biggest waste of money item you ended up with? Mine is dribble bibs – I was given approximately 650 of them and didn’t even use them once!