Is three really the magic number or just a crowd?

courtesy of bounty.com
beautiful baby feet make my heart skip a beat

This is a question I have been pondering for a while, and if you haven’t guessed what I am referring to – it’s the almighty decision about whether to have a third child or not?

For a long time I was adamantly sticking to two children because, as is so often pointed out to me (in case I hadn’t noticed), I have one of each and now I can stop! Which is true, but having children for me was never about having a daughter or a son in particular so I was never fussed anyway.

To context this, I have a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. They are two wonderful children who are my purpose in life, my inspiration and the greatest thing I have ever done (that and marrying their father). So why wouldn’t I want to do that again? Well..

By the time my youngest child finishes uni I will be about to turn 50, presupposing he a) goes to Uni, b) takes a conventional three-year course and c) doesn’t take a gap year!! But the point being that by the time I am turning 50 my children will not be children anymore and I will have the opportunity to fulfil the dreams and ambitions that are being stunted at the moment because my children are young and need me so much more. All whilst I’m still young enough to enjoy it.

Have another child now and I am adding at least another 5.5 years to that which still makes me young, but suddenly the sacrifices/benefits of having children relatively young are lost because I then had another baby in my thirties.

Thing is, I can see having another baby fitting in to my life. I want another baby – I want to be pregnant again, have scans, feel the baby kick – hell I even want to go through labour again. I want to meet my child for the first time ever, I want to give my son the chance to become a big brother. All those wonderful magical amazing experiences that come from having a baby.

But I am not sure if I want the third child?!? Madness really, because to have another baby means to have another child. But I don’t see a third child fitting in and the dynamics would change significantly. My son idolises my daughter, she in turn protects him and teaches him. They fight like cats and dogs as well but ultimately, they love each other and their bond is wonderful. Put a third child in there and someone is getting left out surely!! The age range would span nearly 9 years and I just don’t know how well that would work.

Also, I can tell you the times I definitely DON’T want a third child – Christmas, holidays and school shoe shopping time!! There is a definite financial implication to having another baby not least because I sold all my baby stuff to stop this very thing from happening.

Image courtesy of someecards.com
There are some days when I am adamant this is a bad idea.

I think this urge is also driven a bit from social media. I follow a number of people on Instagram who have recently had their third child and they have inspired me with advice around hypnobirthing, the fourth trimester and pulling up the drawbridge. I think part of my longing is to do with having a more idealistic birth and taking all the things I have learnt since my last baby and putting them in to practice with a new baby. With both of my children, I have regrets about either their birth or first year, all related to circumstances and nothing to do with them. But I do feel a bit like I want to do it again and do it so much better to repair the damage and to end on a high.

But actually, I am possibly mistaking wanting another baby for actually wanting to go back in time and do it all again but knowing what I know now. I would give anything to go back to being a first-time mum and there would be so so so much I would tell that me about what to do, what not to do and how to make the most of everything.

But another child won’t heal those wounds and wipe away those regrets, instead I need to make my peace with them somehow.

What is very true is that I am not the person I was back then in many ways, some positive and some negative. I now live with an anxiety disorder that I didn’t have nearly 8 years ago when I was first pregnant. I struggle with the stress in our lives now with just two children, chuck in a demanding baby and sleepless nights and I may lose the plot altogether. Besides, is it fair to the children to increase the stress in the house and stretch my resources even more thinly. They have been so amazing whilst I have been ill and I’m sure that at times it has impacted negatively on them despite my best intentions. So really do I not owe it to them to just continue to work on being in a place of calm and stability?

So many reasons not to do it, my head says it’s a definite no but my heart can’t quite decide. So perhaps ill just sit here looking at cute baby pictures and ponder some more until I’m too old anyway!! Besides my husband definitely doesn’t want a third so that does cause somewhat of a problem!?!?

It’s About Time I got some perspective

One of the positive effects of having a dog is the time gifted to you when out walking on your own. I personally use this time quite often to catch up on podcasts. The newest addition to my podcast library being @dollyalderton Love Stories and most recently I have listened to her fabulous discussion with Emma Freud about the greatest love stories of her life. In case you didn’t know, Emma Freud has been part of many film masterpieces including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and the perhaps lesser known film About Time alongside Richard Curtis.

About Time (2013)

After listening to this particular episode, and being a lifelong devotee of the Richard Curtis film empire, I was eager to watch a film I had never so much as heard about before. This probably speaks more about me than them, but About Time is not one of the more famous of their films I would argue.

Anyway, that aside I settled down on Friday evening after convincing my reluctant husband that he really did want to watch a romantic movie and not something with more action and gore. He wasn’t so sure but I am a very convincing individual and I got my own way.

Well thank goodness I did, because this film is truly wonderful, inspiring and potentially life changing. If you haven’t watched it, and I strongly suggest that you do, I will provide a brief synopsis. The film centres around Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and the relationships within his life and the impact that his ability to travel back in time plays on those relationships. I am sure there are more eloquent synopses out there but that gives you the gist.

Where this film excels itself over Curtis’ other offerings, and as I have already said I am a huge Richard Curtis fan so that is not a criticism, is that it’s main focus is not just the romantic relationships. But instead it focusses on the everyday relationships, the mundane and ordinary but truly amazing life changing relationships that we hopefully all will encounter at some point.

One of the most touching and inspiring relationships is that between Tim and his father (played by Bill Nighy). It is not big and showy filled with proclamations of love but instead it is deep, subtle and profound. A shared love and respect hinged on simply the time they spent together doing normal stuff.

The relationship between father and son is awe inspiring.

The family itself is aspirational and it is one of the main lessons that we have both said we will take from the film. The importance of having a strong family unit and quality time spent together. Family members who would do anything for each other and who’s bond is infinite and immense without being showy.

The time travel part is not something I would usually warm to, I am not renowned for being a fan of the sci-fi genre. But luckily this doesn’t follow the traditional suit and is actually a beautiful and necessary addition.

Not only is it the crux of the relationship between Tim and his father but it is the area that offers the most insight and the greatest lesson I have taken from the film. Tim and his father are able to travel back to times within their own lives and make changes to the way they do things and correct any mistakes. Although extremely useful for both, Tim actually offers some enlightening words towards the end that make you consider whether the ability to right wrongs is actually as appealing as you might think. He shares the insight after making the decision not to travel back anymore, about the importance of living life everyday as if you had travelled back to change it. The reality is that we can’t travel back in time so instead we must endeavour to not make the mistakes in life before we even could.

In real life this isn’t always going to be possible and actually some of the greatest life lessons can come from the mistakes we make along the way. But currently the ideas of mindfulness and living in the moment are the hot topics and this film added an alternative dimension to those theories. Live in the moment and try to make sure that moment is the one you would live if you had the ability to keep travelling back and change it.

So, we pledged to try and live with that mantra in mind. Yesterday we bundled in to the car and headed off for a fun afternoon of ice skating. We revelled in the quality family time spent together doing something new and fun. The children said it was the best day of their lives (don’t get too excited, this gets bandied around on a fairly regular basis), we laughed and laughed. It could have been a scene from a Christmas movie, definitely a comedy when I fell on my backside. It didn’t however come without the usual side helping of challenge, the kids most amazing day did not continue when mummy wanted to look around the garden centre afterwards. There was a liberal helping of miserable faces and mutterings of “its not fair” for good helping.

Living their best lives on the ice for the first time.

But let’s face it, we can’t realistically live like in the movies, no matter how mundane and real they are trying to be. But I am still going to take the lessons I can from this and adapt it to fit around my reality.

Families are difficult, they are tricky, filled with politics and complications no matter how strong the love. But it is my intention to make my family unit the strongest it can possibly be, to forge lasting relationships with my children that will form the backbone of their future relationships and that will be the beacon in their lives. The place of strength and stability that they can return to whilst they weather the inevitable storms that come from growing up. I will provide them with the opportunity to make lasting memories and I will overwhelm them with love. I will be there for them at all times with unwavering support and I will do everything within my power to give them a movie worthy family experience.

Life is difficult, it is tiring, challenging and filled with potential pot holes. Raising children is  both the most amazing experience and equally the hardest of challenges. Balancing that with work and real life is tough and the reality is that we won’t be able to live the movie life. For me, this is all combined with the challenges I face as I learn to live with and battle through anxiety and poor mental health.

But sometimes you need something that will pull you out of the rut that you have inevitably found yourself in. Make you realise that you might be talking the talk but are you actually walking the walk? It’s easy to harp on about self-care, mindfulness, seizing the moment etc but sometimes they are just words and actually if you looked closely you aren’t following those ideals to the extent that you think you are.

Meet my new best friend Mr Penguin.

This film was a bit of a wake up call for both me and my husband. We have both taken valuable lessons from it and I hope that we will be able to cling on to those things as time goes by and we get swept back in to the whirlwind of life. There is every possibility that you might watch the same thing and feel none of the things that we have, in fact if you read some of the reviews online there are some interesting and contradictory responses to the same film. But hopefully there is something out there that will capture your heart to the same extent.

I pledge here, in black and white, to make more effort to live my life as if I had travelled back in time to change it. But maybe with less ice skating, fun as it was you needed a small mortgage to fund just one hour.

Feel free to share any profound and life changing, films, books or podcasts that have had an impact on you to the same extent. I would love to hear them xx

What is this self care you speak of ?!?

I was casually indulging in a spot of kitchen cleaning, specifically the oven of doom!!, and to stop myself from losing the plot entirely I was also indulging in a bit of an Instagram story catch up sesh at the same time. So, there I was elbow deep in the oven pride and listening to the fabulous @Natashabailie talking about self-care.
If you aren’t familiar with Natasha, and I would urge you to change that, then you may not be aware that she is a great voice in the Instagram mental health community and speaks very passionately about the use of self-care in managing mental health difficulties. She can be found on Instagram or at www.mentalmutha.com
During these particular stories, Natasha was talking about the fact that whilst she strongly values self-care not everyone feels the same. She was questioning why this may be the case and this in turn got me thinking about my relationship with self-care and my take on what Natasha was saying.

Self-care hasn’t always come easily to me, in the lead up to my illness my life was completely full with work, kids, family and a never-ending stream if time filling commitments with little value. I viewed taking care of my self as selfish and it wasn’t what good mothers did because good mothers put everything in to raising the family and keeping the home.
(Disclaimer 1: I am not saying this is the case at all, it was simply a warped perception I held for some time. Disclaimer 2: despite what it sounds like, I was not raised in Stepford during the 60’s. I am not sure where this warped perception stems from)

It wasn’t until I broke that I realised I needed to work a bit more on me to be able to look after others. This is the tag line that is so often used and is absolutely right. But I’ll be honest, even now I still struggle with self-care and I don’t think I am alone in that.
So why is this the case? Why do so many people shun what seems like a dream situation – a genuine excuse to make time for yourself and do nice things?

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Self-care doesn’t have to be a mountain, don’t be scared by the idea.

In reality I think that a lot of people either don’t truly understand what self-care means and they have a very tight definition of what counts as self-care. For others it just feels too big, too scary and too time consuming. After all, if your head is full and you are feeling the stretch, the idea of trying to factor something else in to the mix can be overwhelming. Consequently, the things that are easiest to remove are the ones we take out the first. After all it is not that easy to take out work or family commitments so we sacrifice the things that will help us the most.

Even now when I have worked very hard on trying to rebuild myself, and when I have changed so many of the negative things from before, I still struggle with having the time and the headspace to tackle self-care.

Yoga for example – My friend keeps telling me of the virtues of yoga for my physical and mental health. I know this is true and I do really want to get in to it, but I don’t feel like I have the time or the headspace to start it yet. It sounds crazy but I think it is a bit like addicts admitting they have a problem before they will seek help. I need to feel ready to commit the time to yoga before I can contemplate starting it. I had the same thing with counselling. I knew I needed it for a long time, before I was really ill but I didn’t have the headspace to commit to it. Counselling is a long and hard journey. One that is worthwhile no doubt but not something you can jump in to lightly. Obviously, yoga is not the same level of intensity as counselling but the principle is the same and that I think also applies to self-care. You have to be able to commit the time to it before you can start the process. You have to believe in the value and you have to recognise the benefits.

But I do think there is a lot of confusion or presumption around what is meant by self-care. It isn’t always about finding time to go to the salon or the spa, although these things count and are very valuable to some. It can be about doing something that makes you feel good, whatever that may be and recognising its value.

For me, and this may well sound lame to some, it is making time to do some life admin or some cleaning admin. I definitely didn’t enjoy cleaning the brown gunk out of my oven but my god did I feel good afterwards. That box of oven pride had been in my house for more than 2 months and sitting beside the oven for at least a month (minus the days when people came round and I didn’t want to highlight the state of my oven) to try and encourage me to do it and simultaneously making me feel guilty for not doing it. So, to have actually had the time to tick that job off my to do list made me feel amazing.
Having a clean house makes me feel like I have my sh** together, it makes me feel like I am top of things and that I’m not completely failing at life. That is important to me but it isn’t necessarily important to others and that’s fine.

Find what is important to you and try to make some time to do it. It doesn’t have to be the glamourous stuff that is so often publicised, it may be stuff that you don’t want to admit to or that isn’t “instagrammable” but that’s ok. You don’t need to justify to anyone else what self-care means to you.
Its really not a case of “go hard or go home” either, it can be small things leading to big things or it can just always be small things.

Self-care is not an insurmountable mountain, it is stepping stones towards making you feel better. Those stepping stones can be as close together or as far apart as you need them at the moment. If you only manage something for you once a month or less frequently than that, its ok. And as ever with the world of social media, don’t be driven by what others are doing or feel bad because others seem to be doing it more or doing it better. People only post what they want you to see. Self-care is just that, something for yourself. Do it to make you feel better and only you. If you want to, please feel free to comment and share what you do or have done. Perhaps it will help others to identify something they could do for themselves to make a positive change.

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You don’t have to go from 0-60 straight away. Take small steps, even tiny ones will make a difference.

I’ll start you off with a few ideas that work for ME:
1) Keeping on top of the cleaning (I used the Organised Mum Method – see Instagram, facebook or this blog if you want to know what I mean www.theorganisedmum.blog)
2) Having lists of all the things I need or want to do. This stops them swimming around in my head and making me feel overwhelmed or forgetful.
3) Painting my nails – I use gel/shellac but do it at home because I can’t afford the time to make an appointment somewhere. For me having nice nails makes me feel a hundred times better.
I would love it if you could share your ideas with me.