The gift of… nothing

IMG_9279
Happiest birthday photo of Ted in six years. (Ridiculous filter appiled in an attempt to hide the mess in the kitchen!)

 

My children have their birthdays two weeks apart and this year we are doing a joint party in the middle of them, so yeah, my October posts may touch on this theme occasionally (ahem).

In the midst of my slightly angsty reflections on Ted’s birth, I realised mere hours before his special day that I hadn’t bought him a single present. Nor did I have a clue what to get him. After mulling it over, I decided I wouldn’t bother.

That sounds shocking, doesn’t it?

The truth is, I wouldn’t be buying for him. I would be buying for me. It’s a convention. A societal norm. We like to feel special and be treated on our birthdays – but as I can’t even be sure Ted has a concept of birthdays, do the normal rules apply?

More words about work

When I was young and had a career with kudos, I was happy to define myself by my career. I was proud of working in magazines and loved that people were excited by my fun job. It was always a talking point.

charisse-kenion-435845-unsplash
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

After Ted was born, I had a wobble about working. On one hand I had been through an earth-shattering maternity leave, where my whole life was turned on its head. You feel so different having become a mother that your goals and priorities naturally shift, but never so seismically as after a traumatic birth and a journey on the rollercoaster of life-long disability.

Lacking the motivation to enthuse about fashion, culture or current affairs, my family gently but firmly persuaded me that I should reframe it as respite and give the magazine world another whirl. While never diagnosed with PND, there was no doubt that I was pretty low and constantly stressed and in tears. Looking after Ted was hard going. He cried almost all the time (in the car, the buggy, the flat, the park, the cafe, the bus, the train…), needed constant attention, near-constant movement and often required close proximity to a warm body to make him feel safe. I struggled with his medical fragility and stressed a lot about how I could ever leave him with someone and go to work.

Luckily grandma took Ted two days a week and we found a reassuringly experienced special needs nanny for the third day so that I could return to Marie Claire on a part-time basis.

Flash giveaway on Twitter!

I’m taking a couple of weeks off from Monday, as have some crazy life admin to deal with but before I do, I’m giving away a few goodies to one lucky mama. All you have to do is follow the Happy Mums Club Twitter account and RT the pinned tweet to be in with a chance of winning.

FullSizeRender 3

 

Win: The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes and Dr Rachel Andrew; The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking, Neal’s Yard Remedies Calendula Cleanser, Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner and Rose & Geranium Body Polish; one poem postcard of ‘Chrysalis’ by @Tatterhood_

Terms & conditions

1. How to Enter

1.1. To enter the competition on Twitter entrants will need to retweet the competition post and follow Happy Mums Club

1.2. Please note that by entering this contest you agree to a complete release of Twitter from all liability in connection with this competition

1.3. The winner will be selected randomly from all entrants

2. When to Enter and Who can Enter

2.1. The Competition opens on Wednesday 4 October 2017 and closes at 8pm on Friday 6 October 2017

2.2. Entrants can enter at any point between these dates

2.3. Entrants can enter the competition as many times as they like but may only enter once per competition post

2.4. The competition is only open to UK residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and agents of Happy Mums Club and anyone professionally connected with the administration of the competition.

2.5 Automated or bulk entries from third parties will be disqualified.

3. Prize

3.1. The prize for winning the competition will be a copy of the book The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes and Dr Rachel Andrew; a copy of the book The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Weiking, one Neal’s Yard Remedies Calendula Cleanser, one Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner and one Rose & Geranium Body Polish; one poem postcard by @Tatterhood_

3.2. The Prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prize is not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.

4. Data Protection and Publicity

4.1. Any personal data relating to participants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation. By entering the competition, you agree that Happy Mums Club may contact you in relation to the competition

4.2. Competition winners will be contacted by Happy Mums Club. You must provide accurate contact details on notification. On being contacted, winners may be asked to provide evidence that they are over 18.

4.3. Happy Mums Club reserves the right to announce the winners identity on its social media channels.

5. Competition Rules

5.1. The competition will be run and prizes will be awarded at Happy Mums Club’s sole discretion

5.2. We reserve the right to change the competition rules and these Terms and Conditions from time to time. If we do so, we will always have the most up to date terms and conditions on this page

6. Liability and Indemnities

6.1. Except in the case of death or personal injury arising from its negligence, or in respect of fraud, and so far as is permitted by law, Happy Mums Club excludes responsibility and all liabilities, whether direct or indirect, arising from:

6.1.1. any postponement or cancellation of the competition;

6.1.2. any changes to, supply of or use of the prize; and

6.1.3. any act or default of any supplier, which are beyond Happy Mums Club’s reasonable control.

6.2.Happy Mums Club does not accept responsibility for any liability arising from technical incompatibility, problems relating to the internet, or technical difficulties of any kind

6.3.Happy Mums Club shall not be liable, whether in tort, contract, misrepresentation or otherwise for loss of profits, loss of anticipated savings, loss of goods, loss of use, loss or corruption of data or information, or any special, indirect, consequential or pure economic loss, costs, damages, charges or expenses

6.4. You agree to indemnify Happy Mums Club against all liabilities, claims and expenses that may arise from any breach of your agreement with Happy Mums Club

7. Jurisdiction

7.1. The competition and these Terms and Conditions are governed by English Law. England & Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction to settle any dispute or claim that arises out of or in connection with these Terms and Conditions.

Live well, eat well, feel happy – 7 essential life hacks for busy mums

 

glenn-carstens-peters-190592
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Hang on. *All* mums are busy, aren’t they? It comes with the territory. We are (usually) the driving force behind the household. The person who knows where everything is, the one who does the washing, the cleaning (or who briefs the cleaner), the tidying, the shopping. We are the replenisher of toothbrushes, keeper of tissues, signer of school forms, and so on and on and on.

The list of tasks is endless but while I have previously railed against the mental load, I am now here to bring you some super duper life hacks to combat that. Seven simple ideas to free up more headspace, make life run a little smoother, maybe even save you some money. 

A mum made me cry in IKEA

5351193177_323958b11a_b

There was an incident on Saturday in IKEA Bristol. It wasn’t the usual caffeine-fuelled bickering over how many napkins/tealights/picture frames/clippy things for open packets we need. In fact, we weren’t even directly involved, but it reduced me to tears.

I hope I can write this post without coming across as a judgey mum. It is horrible to feel sneered at for your parenting choices or behaviour and we should support each other whenever possible in this, the hardest and most relentless of jobs.

But… I witnessed something that upset me deeply and I’m wondering whether I am being unreasonable or whether I should have actually said something. Can you ever step in or are you just unnecessarily stepping on toes?

The difficult art of decluttering

bench-accounting-49909 (1)
Minimal desk of dreams (Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash)

Do you ever hit those points in life where something has to change? I do, quite regularly, but I’m not always good at embracing new things and moving on.

Sometimes I get a bit stuck, which is one of several reasons I started this Happy Mums Club shizz. I want to create change, create happiness, and just, well, create in general. I am a creative! (Although my inner voice often tells me I am creating crap, but that’s a different post entirely).
I find it hard to be creative or live mindfully  when I am surrounded by mess and chaos. This is kind of ironic because, despite being a fairly messy and chaotic person, I am a sensible Virgo and actually like order and neatness. Somehow, as the years have rolled by, the girl for whom everything had a home became the woman who never puts things in the same place twice.
It drives me insane but for all my good intentions, I am making no headway. I am my own worst enemy.

Social media vs happiness

Bare Organics

I had a post lined up about the mental load, but then this Mumsnet thread blew up on social media last night and it felt relevant to say a few words about it. (Also that mental load post really wasn’t working for me so hurrah for a diversion.)

The crux of it – if you don’t want to waste an hour or two of your life reading increasingly snippy and personal comments on an internet forum – is that some people are getting fed up of Instamums. I’m paraphrasing here, but several people are taking umbrage at those with tons of followers, sitting in their Farrow & Ball painted houses, getting loads of free holidays and goodies in return for sticking a few pics up on Instagram and selling out to brands.

Some valid points are raised about the transparency of which posts are ads, what products have been gifted, whether holidays are paid for and whether the authenticity of what is being posted can be trusted as much as when they had fewer followers. Digital advertising is changing. Sometimes the waters are murky and not every influencer is open about what they receive. I feel the particular women who are getting slated in this thread ARE pretty open (after a career in media I can read between the lines but maybe not everyone can) and people have to accept that this is their business now. If they are a successful influencer, why not make a career of it?

Like any job, it takes work. Getting those insta-worthy pics is time-consuming, they will often hire photographers, pics need a certain amount of editing to maintain the look and feel of an account, you have to write decent copy to go with it and I’m certain they turn down way more brands than they actually feature. But I’m not writing this to comment on the digital advertising industry.

Unfortunately much of what was said smacked of jealousy and unhappiness.

I agree that sometime when a person takes on a lot of brand work, it makes them less interesting. I stopped looking at one particular account because her new direction wasn’t really my bag. Not because she was doing ads, just that I realised our fashion sense wasn’t quite the same after all. Yes, I found it a bit dull that a couple of big brands seemed to supply most of her current wardrobe but hey, we all have different tastes. I felt her earlier appeal was muted because she posted less about what she was actually buying but her posts were clearly marked as collaborations so I didn’t feel cheated. Not everyone feels the same.

What interested me about this thread is that the accounts of a certain group of women (many of whom I follow too) have made others feel pushed out. There has been talk of ‘Mean Girls’ behaviour, making the less insta-gifted among us feel like they aren’t in the cool gang, a sense of ‘you can’t sit at our table’.

Some women did appear to feel cheated by the inevitable changes that success brought these women. It was like they were friends but one found fame and moved on while one was left behind feeling stupid and frumpy and unable to afford the finer things in life. Yet they were never friends. A follower is just that. You may feel like you know these people but you are usually just a casual observer. There is a sense of disconnection between the affluence of the middle-class London lives of these women and what ‘real’ women are experiencing. Somehow the balance between slightly aspirational and totally unattainable has tipped too far for some.

Social media involved in ‘making women unhappy’ shocker!

Why is it that we torture ourselves with things that make us unhappy? It has been widely shared that Facebook (in particular) can make you lonely/depressed/unhappy/isolated. There is an unfollow button if you don’t like what you see. It can feel cliquey when you follow people who are friends and you see them going to parties and events together and getting goodie bags and freebies. But you don’t have to look. Whose responsibility is it to protect you from the envy or dissatisfaction? I think you’ll find it’s your own. You have a choice. You can choose to walk away and you can choose how you react to what you see. If it irks you so much, what does that say about your life? Are you happy with it or unhappy? Is this about them or you?

Social media is a fabulously seductive, inspiring, creative, wonderful, connecting place. But in terms of mental health it has a dark side too. You need to look at it with one eye open, so to speak. Protect yourself. Remember that it is curated. It is a business for some. They need to keep up certain standards (although I would argue there is plenty of imperfection on their feeds too – look and you’ll see imperfect bodies, messy kitchen drawers, destructive toddlers). I’m sure they have made mistakes, maybe choosing a brand who jars a little with their image or writing content that is just a bit flat. Haven’t we all made errors? Do you always say exactly the right thing, wear the right outfit, eat the right things? Would you want those choices torn apart on Mumsnet?

Comparison is the thief of joy and social media is made for comparisons. But if you can’t see that it all isn’t real, then you are very likely to be adversely affected by a lot of scrolling on Insta. Are any of our feeds real? If I am taking a pic, I style it up (badly, usually). I can’t do flat lays to save my life, but I will move mounds of washing out of the way for a better shot. I choose the cutest pics of my kids and a flattering angle for my mum tum. Rightly or wrongly, I like to show a slightly better version of myself. We all do. It’s not at the expense of the more real posts – I document our difficulties regularly too.

I also know when to step away.

Do you? (It’s waaaaay before you start commenting on the physical appearance of other people’s children on a Mumsnet thread, btw)