Month: October 2011

Working Mum V Stay at home Mum

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It is with slight apprehension that I begin to write a blog post on Stay at home mums V working Mums.  Mainly because, like most things in life, I don’t believe there is a firm black or white, right or wrong answer.  However, today I saw the Myleene Klass Yahoo channel ‘Bumps, Babies & Beyond’ programme and it was discussing the common debate – Can mums really have it all? – so I thought I’d dive in.

Until fairly recently, Ruth and I (who run this blog together) represented both of these worlds with Ruth staying at home to bring up Munchkin and me working (albeit part time) with Bear Cub in nursery 2 days a week and 1 day with Aunty.  So this is a discussion we’ve had many a time and we both see the pros and cons of each choice.  I say ‘choice’ when actually many mum’s are unable to afford to stay at home and not work and it doesn’t feel like a choice at all.  But from first-hand experience I’d also argue it’s an equal financial struggle to afford the astronomical childcare costs these days if you decide to go back to work!

The controversial bit:  Personally I don’t really see the point in having kids if they are in nursery from 8am-6pm 5 days a week.   It seems a bit like when people have a dog and then keep it outside in the kennel all the time – I just don’t get it. Having said that, I don’t think I could not work at all a) for my own sanity and b) for financial reasons.  So I opted for working part time. Bear cub gets a lot out of nursery and enjoys it but, there is just no denying if he had the choice he’d want to be with mummy full time.

One of the mums in the Myleene Klass video spoke of how upset she was that she missed her child’s first steps and this was what prompted her to become a SAHM.  However, the other guest described how working actually enabled her to be a happier and more fulfilled woman and therefore a better mum.  Both are incredibly strong arguments.

So in the interests of sparking some feedback and discussion let’s really go there with the good, bad and ugly of both options.

STAY AT HOME MUM:

Good – Won’t miss out on any key ‘first’ moments, give a secure start to your little one, form a close bond, educate them yourself, influence according to your family rules and preferences

Bad – Can sometimes be boring, may miss engaging your brain beyond child level activities, may miss adult company/interaction, may get frustrated with little person due to so much time with them, tiring.

Ugly – Lose your sense of being a woman in the role of being a mum, only talk about poo, Cbeebies and the latest soft play area, live in jeans and joggies

WORKING MUM:

Good – Having something for you can raise your self-esteem, by having time away from your little ones you may have more energy, patience and quality time when you are with them, makes you put make up on and do your hair, you can go to the toilet in peace and on your own!

Bad – May miss special/key events and first moments, bad habits can be learned at nursery/childcare, your child may have increased separation anxiety, nursery/childcare may teach different values/lessons to your preference, missing out in general as they grow up so quickly, tiring.

Ugly – You may have to learn how to walk in heels again (depending on your job) you have to work extra hard to keep all the plates spinning.

I’m sure you can think of many more to add (and I hope you will in the comments below).  One thing that really struck me is, whichever category we fall in, there is one accessory we all seem to wear as mum’s – altogether now – GUILT!!!!

Let’s give ourselves a break ladies and do what we feel is best for our family.

As we’ve often said on More than a Mum, we firmly believe it’s possible to be a great mum AND a fulfilled woman.

L

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Breastfeeding in Public

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I was going to blog about something else today, but then I heard about a lady who was asked to stop breastfeeding in Debenhams, Oxford, because it was a public place. .. and that made me cross.

It is this kind of backward and ridiculously prudish attitude towards breastfeeding that means some women feel trapped in their home with new babies and many give up breastfeeding at the earliest possible opportunity.

In the UK the number of mothers who exclusively breast feed at 6 months is below 1%.  This is despite The World Health Organisation recommendation that exclusive breastfeeding has several advantages over mixed feeding.

One of my many roles as “More than a Mum” is a breastfeeding peer supporter. One of the most regular concerns I deal with is from Mums who feel that they’ll never be able to feed outside of the house.  I have had a woman turn up with a 5 month old child, distressed that she had not been out other than to friends and families houses, because she didn’t think you were allowed to breast feed in public in this country.  That is how  institutionalised this attitude is in the UK.

Breastfeeding is a brilliant thing to be able to do for and with your baby.  It has a number of health benefits for your child and for you (not to mention cost benefits), but moreover, it is your right!  You have the right to breastfeed your baby in any place, unless there are health and safety reasons which make it dangerous. If you need confirmation of this, take a look at this link.  I am fairly certain that Debenhams couldn’t suggest breastfeeding discretely in the corner of Dune shoe shop presents any health and safety issues.

Anyway I don’t wish to rant at you for too long, but I do want to let you all know about the brilliant reaction of the Mum in question. Emily John has set up a social-media protest.  She has set up a facebook event and wants to get as many Mum’s as possible to have a “Nurse-in” at Debenhams in Oxford.    If you are a nursing mum in the Oxford area, please join up.  I’m sure you’d also be welcome as a supporter, feeding or not.  Please pop along to Emily’s “Debenhams Nurse-in” event page on facebook and sign up, and then pass this information on to anyone you know who supports breastfeeding.

R

A little update 10/10/11 Debenhams have apologised but the ‘Nurse-in’ will still go ahead to raise awareness.  BBC coverage here

Silent Sunday 3

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Planting bulbs = official end to Summe

Please take a look at @emmys_mummy’s blog today. A very important message.

Are you scared of spiders Mummy?

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Not scared in the slightest!!!!!!

One of the constant dilemmas I face as a single-mum to my 2 year-old bear-cub is how much negative emotion to try to ‘hide’ from him.  The other day we found a huge spider in his bedroom and I tried to calmly explain that we needed to take him outside so he could ‘be with his spider friends’.  When bear cub questioned why I was putting the spider in a glass and not picking it up with my hands I answered, through gritted teeth and with shaky hands, that I simply didn’t want to accidently squash him!  From the look on his face I don’t think bear cub was convinced for a minute.  I however, was actually quite proud of myself for managing to get that close to a big spider even if there was a glass between it and me.  Dealing with spiders is yet another new territory for me since becoming a single parent.

But there are so many questions here regarding fears.  We, as mums, instinctively want to do what is best and right for our little ones.  We cannot fight the overwhelming force which leads us to want to protect them from all harm at all costs.  On the other hand, most of us recognize how in the long term it does not benefit our children to grow up completely ignorant to some of the harsh realities in life that they inevitably will face.  The fact is, bad things do happen in life and it is not always a world of Cbeebies-happiness.  But how much should we educate them in the darker side of life and at what age? I constantly change my mind on this one.  As a child, I was exposed to the troubles of the adult world too much and too soon, the result being my sister and I were in somewhat of a role-reversal situation with our mum particularly in our teens and we were forced to grow up too quickly.  The positives are my sister and I are very strong, independent and calm in a crisis but we do some times wish we’d had a few more years of the care-free existence of a child who only has to worry about what they might not get for Christmas.  This experience has made me adamant that my son will not feel burdened with the responsibility of ‘making sure mum is ok’ or feeling guilty at having his own life and certainly that he will not feel that he has to be ‘the man of the house’.  Having said that, despite my best efforts, if I’m having a ‘difficult’ day which I feel I am handling internally I’ll often catch my little boy making an extra effort to make me laugh or smile.  It saddens me that he can so easily pick up my mood and want to or even feel responsible for turning it around.

My reality is that my little boy does not have his daddy living with him and although we’re trying to make that situation as smooth for him as possible he is beginning to become aware that this is not the case for many of his friends.  I’d be doing him a disservice as a parent to not sensitively communicate with him about this in terms he can understand.   I think we’d all agree it is not healthy to wrap our children in cotton-wool but I also believe it is good practice to let them know it is ‘ok’ for mummy to not be happy all the time and that sometimes people get sad.  More often than not, if it’s explained in an appropriate way they can handle it and move on.  After all, as I have discovered, kids are not stupid and know when you’re faking something anyway!

What’s your views/experience on this topic?

L

Toddler friendly museum

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The other day, I tried something new with my 2 and a half year old. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I didn’t take her there strapped into a buggy and hoping she would sleep. I didn’t drag her around, kicking and screaming. I didn’t even have to carry her – she had great fun!

We headed to Exhibition Row on the tube at about 9.30; just late enough to have missed the bulk of the rush hour traffic. We did have to stand for the first two stops and then ask to get to a seat which became spare in front of a mid-20s lady who looked half asleep and mortified that she hadn’t asked us first, but the two stops of standing up and holding on were fun for the munchkin who kept saying, “the train is wibbly-wobbly!”. I decided against the buggy – more hassle than it’s worth up and down stairs in the tube. I knew this might mean a shoulder ride every now and again, but figured it isn’t far from South Kensington Station to the V&A…

We have been on a number of occasions to see the Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, or the Basement play area at the Science museum, but we hadn’t yet braved a real museum, at least not with the intention that the munchkin took part. We arrived about 5 minutes before the doors opened and Munchkin loved looking at the letters spinning round above the tunnel entrance. I had judged it right and running like a maniac down the tunnel was fun, so far we had managed the train ride and the arrival with no carrying necessary. Now to brave the quiet, peaceful and ‘don’t touch’ surroundings of a real museum!

I had looked online before we went and decided to head for the Discover the Medieval World section and have a go at brass rubbing. I did have to reiterate a couple of times that museums are for walking in and that you mustn’t touch exhibits, but this was repaid with questions such as, “what is that around the lady’s head?” (Madonna and Child painting) “Where’s that statue’s head gone?” (Roman statues section) and “Is that another funny lion?” (Medieval carvings). So she was definitely interested despite the hands-off nature of the journey to the discovery room.

We found the room and stayed there for about an hour. (As with other Museums in London, it’s free, so even making a short trip worthwhile.) We did brass rubbing, drew a picture of a mythical beast, did jigsaws of coats of arms, and dressed up. It was great fun, and by far the best ‘proper’ museum experience we’ve had.

On the way out, a member of staff stopped us and asked if we’d heard of the backpacks that they do. I said I’d seen them online, but thought that they’d be a bit old for a 2 year old. I was told that they’d just launched a toddler one with soft-block jigsaws and an animal sound trail. Looks like we’ll be heading back to the V and A another day!

R

Mums are amazing people!

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So it was with a mixture of emotions that we embarked on our first Mumpreneur seminar at the weekend at the business and baby show hosted by MumsClub:  Excitement at having a day out without Bear & Munchkin in tow, apprehension at what to expect and confusion at what we were even doing there!

The first thing we saw as we queued for our all-important goody bags was a mum in approximately 4 inch heels feeding her young baby while walking around casually.  We didn’t know whether to shrink back in intimidation or shake her hand at her fabulous awesomeness but, it did bring a smile to our faces.

As we negotiated the seminar list, having to toss to choose as there were so many great topics with equally fantastic speakers, we gingerly approached the first stall.  Fifteen minutes later we’d been encouraged, given some great advice and swapped stories with a talented mum and her gorgeous products.  This scenario played out again and again at almost every stall.  We’d expected to get our main inspiration from the seminars (which incidentally were fantastically informative, enthusing and practical especially Antonia Chitty and Erica Douglas).  However, we found ourselves hugely motivated by the dedication, passion, creativity and sheer hard work of the many Mumpreneurs exhibiting at the show.  If they could do it, we could do it!  There was no competition, in a negative sense, and every mum we encountered genuinely seemed to want us to succeed in our quest.  As for our quest; it was honed by the end of the day just by being asked so many times what our business was which meant we were able to helpfully clarify it for ourselves.

Not only did we come away feeling that our aim to, ‘inspire, equip and encourage mums to rediscover their identity while still being a brilliant mum’ was clearer than ever, we also realised from the feedback we received that it is spot on and much needed by many mums.

Mums are amazing people!