Being brave

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Well, that was a slightly longer break than intended! I wish I could say that it was because I was travelling somewhere exciting, or working hard on new projects, or spending loads of time on self-care and soul-nourishing pursuits.

Elements of those things have been bubbling away – potential new social media clients, a few short-hop days out and nights away, and the odd bit of time to myself *has* happened in the past three months… Mainly, though, it has been the drudgery and grind of life as a stay at home mum. Not that being a SAHM is always boring – and I’m a firm believer that it’s vital, important work – but in my case it has been a bit like being in survival mode.

My goal has just been to get through the day. Ted has been unhappy and in pain, causing sleepless nights, early mornings and high anxiety all round, cross words in my relationship, doubts about my parenting, an influx of those insidious little thoughts that chip away at your confidence and weigh you down. When every waking moment is taken with caring for a child (one or the other always needs something, as is the nature of parenthood) it is like treading water. It has been very tiring but I feel at last, the lifeboat is here and I’m not going to go under after all.

A dose of cranial osteopathy and some hardcore reflux drugs have sorted the boy out, for the meantime at least, so I can get back to living rather than just existing.

And lo, not only is it 2018 already, it’s halfway through the first month. The time when your good intentions may have slipped or the strict regime you have placed yourself under suddenly feels a bit too much. After so many failed attempts at diets and giving up smoking on Jan 1st in my much, much younger years, I have not made resolutions for a long time.

Instead I am using a guiding word. Do a simple exercise to find one for yourself here and I will post a video from the very excellent Lucy Sheridan (aka The Comparison Coach) at the end. My word is COURAGE. It is underpinning everything I am doing these days and for all of 2018. I needed it to get back on the horse (keyboard) and show up here again.

  • I needed it to make a tough decision about Ted’s medical care that I thought I could manage more naturally.
  • I am using my courage to tread an unusual therapy path with Ted that goes against conventional NHS thinking about physio and the body, but which makes huge sense to me and benefits him without a doubt. It involves shouldering most of the therapy work myself (though I may change that if it seems I am being a martyr or a control freak, or both, about it) and a Mon-Fri 6am start to get it done before school.
  • Courage is helping me to push myself from my comfort zone and to embrace change. This is something I always find difficult. I once wore the same homemade sweatshirt and jogging bottoms (thanks mum) every day for almost an entire summer when I was about nine. Yes, I am that cool. Familiarity is comforting to me but it also means I put up barriers sometimes. I want to be more fluid and go with the flow and open myself up to new things.
  • Courage is driving me to shout about my skills and capabilities and get a new business off the ground.

I think five years at home with children (minus nine months back at work after having Ted) and giving up a media career and a very London life to live in small-town Wiltshire have suddenly taken their toll on my confidence. I have taken steps to get back to a more dynamic, creative me. Yet, after the initial elation at passing my Digital Mums course with excellent stats and having a whirlwind time while training, I have been in a funk. Lost my mojo. Felt flat and not worthy of much. I withdrew and retreated. I listened to the negative voices. Not any more. They have had their time.

No one but me can get me out of this dark hole, so courage and grit and bit of self-love (not that kind, smutty) is what I need right now.

See you out there, somewhere?

Emma x

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)

 

Do one thing: creating happy habits

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Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

This week’s blog is a little late as I have just come back from holiday and mentally I am still in hot, sunny Ibiza. Don’t go imagining it was all hot-dog-legs selfies, falling asleep on the beach and drinking cocktails by the pool, though. We were with small children.

That said, it was brilliant fun and I could easily have done another week (thanks in no small part to the family members and carers who came too and helped dilute the difficulties of being away with my food throwing, pool resisting, inappropriate nap-time mini humans).

There’s something magical about being on holiday. Is it the sun, the lack of routine, no work to go to or stress over, new foods to try, new places to visit…? All of it and more, probably. Whatever it is, I always come back feeling ready for a change, a new start, a new path. A bit like New Year but somehow more doable and less forced. Maybe because it’s not all about deprivation, which many New Year’s resolutions hinge on, its more to do with reinvention.

August is here; a new month seems like a good time to start anew with a fresh attitude, so I thought I would start by putting forward my ideas about creating happy habits.

How to be mindful when you hate mindfulness

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Photo by Cerys Lowe on Unsplash

OK, so I don’t hate mindfulness. But I do admit to doing a tiny cringe when I hear the word. I love the concept: pay closer attention to whatever you are doing, it silences your mind so you feel less stressed and more joyful, I mean who doesn’t want that?

But I do believe it’s easy to think that mindfulness is just too worthy to bother with. It can seem like a chore, you know? The last thing any mum needs is another bloody chore.

Is perfectionism sabotaging your happiness?

IMG_5853How often have you heard someone say ‘nobody’s perfect’? You probably accept that about your partner and your children, your parents, your best friends, your work colleagues… Everyone has their faults and they can drive you bonkers sometimes, but that’s life, right?

So do you apply the ’nobody’s perfect’ rule to yourself and your life, happily accepting your faults and being satisfied with ‘good enough’? Or do you find yourself striving for a level of perfection that you just wouldn’t expect from anyone else? You may think that wanting to be the best and have everything ‘just so’ is annoying but admirable, especially if you have come to motherhood from a competitive career. But wanting that level of perfect may just be your biggest saboteur. It can stop you getting things done and it eats away at your happiness. That’s the voice of experience speaking, by the way.

Why I created the Happy Mums Club

Hi there! Welcome to the blog for the Happy Mums Club. Don’t worry if you came here looking for joy boosters – you don’t have to be permanently happy to join in, but hopefully you will be feeling a bit more upbeat once you’ve hung around for a while.

I’m Emma, founder of the HMC. I’ve been a mum since 2012 and have two children (who are four and one). Mothering can be the best, funniest, happiest, most life-affirming role you’ll ever take on, BUT (spoiler alert for all the preggos out there) it’s hands-down the hardest thing, too.

Yup, parenting is a tough gig. Bodily fluids need constant mopping up, there are tears and tantrums and bedtime never comes soon enough – and I haven’t even started on the kids yet. LOLZ. As soon as that baby arrives, the mum guilt sets in. You feel terrible about absolutely everything and wonder how you can be getting it so wrong while all the other mums have their shit together and are nailing it. (They’re not, in case you haven’t realised that yet.)