Me Time

#3BOOKS

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I love books.  I love reading.  I do not get enough time/make enough time to do it as I should.  You can read about the ways I have got back into reading post-baby in my post Book Club Mum.  We’ve even started a book club here through More Than A Mum in response to the comments on that blog entry. (Next meeting is 8.30pm, Twitter, discussing Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman under #MTAM if you want to join us. Or drop us an email at morethanamum@gmail.com if you want to join next time)

Anyway, I digress… I do indeed love reading and it is a passion that I share with Emily of A Mummy Too.  Her passion has also dwindled and her post My Three Books – What are yours? explains how and why she lost contact with reading in spite of that passion and to rectify this she shares her favourite childhood, adulthood and parenthood book and asks others to do the same. So, here is my sharing!

CHILDHOOD

This is actually quite difficult as although I am an English graduate and an English teacher I didn’t read for myself much as a child. My mother even made a worried appointment with the Head of my primary school about my lack of interest in reading, but was told that I’d come to it in my own time.  He was right.  The only thing that I can think is that my own reading skill did not match up to my interest level and the fact that my Mum and Dad were happy to read amazing novels to me at bedtime meant that I never wanted to pick up the things I could read.  Perhaps for a long time I found reading to be a social, family activity rather than one you’d keep private?  I can’t remember my actual reasoning, but I can remember starting to read only when I could manage the delights of Roald Dahl, which my Mum refused to read to me!

So here in lays my first choice.  My childhood book is The Witches.  I remember sitting outside our house in the sunshine reading that book and making sure I was just far enough away from the door that I could feign and inability to hear my mother’s calls to come inside. I wonder if my Mum knew that by refusing to read books to me it would make them doubly interesting.  They’re clever people, you know, Mums.

ADULTHOOD

There are so many books from which to choose here.  In fact my husband and I so love books that we used book titles as table names at our wedding.  Each table had a picture of the cover of the particular book as the table marker and menu.  The amusing thing for us was that we sat people on books which we felt suited them. I am not going to go through the books we used or why people were sat at particular books in case any of our guests are reading, but suffice to say all the books meant something to us and us alone!

Anyway, my choice for Adulthood is hard.  I have already written and re-written this post with three different choices here (To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee, 1984, George Orwell and Popcorn, Ben Elton if you’re interested) but my book for Adulthood is actually one that I have only recently read thanks to one of my book clubs: The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte.  There are many reasons why I have fallen in love with this book. Firstly it reminded me of why I love the Brontes and made me wonder why I hadn’t read poor Anne before.  I am a lover of the gothic, romantic style that these sisters use and love it particularly in contrast with the saccharine stories of my most hated of female authors, Jane Austin.  I loved it because it reminded me of being an A Level student again, when I read and loved Wuthering Heights, but more than this I was amazed by how modern and pertinent it was.  It may have been written in the 19th Century but the lead female is strong independent and brave, and challenges the social stereotypes and taboos of the day in a way many women are unable to even today.  She is a single mum, who has chosen to stand up to the male dominated society she inhabits.  She is definitely More Than A Mum!

PARENTHOOD

I adore the reading that I do with Munchkin.  With children, reading is learning; reading is enriching; reading is powerful.  We have read to Munchkin since she was born.  She has had books around her since day one and I love the fact that when I was looking after a friend’s toddler for the day and whilst washing up from lunch I wondered why the room had gone quiet I popped my head round the door only to find the two of them engrossed in books!

To choose just one of the books that I have read with Munchkin seems impossible.  There are so many great ones. The inimitable Julia Donaldson is obviously a part of the cannon, as are Eric Carle and Lauren Child.  I love the old classics of Beatrix Potter and AA Milne as well as they come full circle and remind me of my own childhood. Munchkin goes through phases and we read the same two or three books for days and even weeks on end, driving us nearly potty at points, but still I love reading with her.  My favourite book for this category though has to be one of the first that she experienced and one that I have read over and over more times that I can remember:  Pants, by Nick Sharratt.   It is funny, scans beautifully and has fantastic artwork, and with the line “No Pants At All” it’s a little bit naughty!

So there are my three books:

CHILDHOOD: The Witches, Roald Dahl

ADULTHOOD: The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte

PARENTHOOD: Pants, Nick Sharratt

I hope this has inspired you to think about your own favourite books and your own reading. If it has, pop and see A Mummy Too and have a go yourself.

R

Don’t forget, More Than A Mum Blog is also available on Kindle

#3Books

Me Time: Learning something new

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In this time of New Year’s resolutions and making promises to “do better this year”, don’t forget you.  You are probably aware by now of the mission of More Than a Mum (if not, click here!) and therefore I’d like you all to look carefully at your New Year’s resolutions and check that you’re not using them as a stick with which to beat yourself…

It is easy to get into a negative frame of mind with New Year’s resolutions.  Looking at the ‘bad’ things you do and trying to improve them is important, but don’t dwell only on what you do that you shouldn’t and don’t do that you should.  I advocate (and have a few of my own) resolutions which fit with the ‘giving up …’ ‘trying to stop…’ ‘making more time for…’ ‘Getting round to…’ themes, but I also think that we should all have at least one resolution which is based purely on a positive and gives you some of that all important “Me Time”.

That is why this year I am going to learn pottery.

I am a learn-a-holic. I’m a teacher by trade and last year I completed my Masters in Education. This completion has left me somewhat bereft.  Doing my MEd kept me sane at many points during the last few years (No honestly, it did!) and the flexible study of the OU was perfect to fit around family life. I love education and enjoy learning for its own sake, but this year it is OH’s turn to start studying, so there is no way that there will be enough time for two of us in the family to be working on academic stuff and frankly I should take a break from essays and all that jazz. But, I couldn’t take a break from learning, hence the pottery.

I really think that learning something new is a great gift to yourself.  It challenges your views of yourself.  It gives you a goal and who knows, it could open new avenues for you. Watch this space for my online pottery catalogue! You could learn a language, take an eyebrow threading course, try burlesque dancing or learn to sew.  It doesn’t matter what it is; how big or how small; it doesn’t matter if it is academic, practical or even pointless, learning something is all about focusing on you for a bit.

As a Mum it is also great to share learning experiences with your kids.  You will be better placed to understand their trials and tribulations in school: they may be struggling to understand algebra and you trying to get to grips with ice-skating, but you’ll remember what it feels like to be learning.  You’ll be able to talk to them about strategies you use to help you learn. You can discuss ways of overcoming difficulties and sympathise about how teachers and/or other students can really get on your nerves!

The things you could learn are endless, the places you could learn them diverse and the costs varied.  For first inspiration you could try googling your postcode and the word courses, classes or learning. I tried and found a photography course, a reki and natural healing course and Spanish lessons in less than a minute. Libraries and local council websites can also be a good place to start looking for ideas, as can local pubs and clubs (my local has Salsa classes in its function room on a Wednesday evening) or shop and community hall noticeboards.

My OU masters cost a fair bit (though some was paid for by employers as it was relevant to my job – always worth asking your boss; the worst they can say is no.) The pottery is run by the Arts Centre at a local University, and costs just over £90 for the term, including materials. Our local Children’s Centre runs various free courses from drawing classes to job interview skills, from yoga to bhangra. Many universities run free taster courses in both academic and professional development courses. If you don’t fancy or can’t afford taught courses there are so many things you can learn for free online. Just google “learn to knit online” if you need an example.

Why not make this year the year that you learn something new?  It might be something you’ve always dreamed of, or something you spotted on a whim on a flyer, but go on, make a resolution to spend some time on you this year: learn something new.

R

Don’t forget, More Than A Mum Blog is also available for Kindle. Click here for more information or click here to download it now.

High on Heels

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Having just read Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ (don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you book clubbers who haven’t finished it yet!) I now know how impossibly silly it is being a woman.  Moran has a brilliant way of showing us how idiotic we can be while allowing us to laugh at ourselves at the same time – all in the name of being a woman!

One such thing is the whole notion of high-heeled shoes! Ooooh how we love them, covet them, crave them, save for them, buy them…..and then not wear them!  Not just because we have no occasion to wear them to (though this is a strong and poignant factor) but ultimately due to the fact that basically we can’t walk in them!  I had to laugh out loud as I absorbed the ridiculousness of some of the shoes I have worn and tortured my feet, back, knees and pride in!!  I have many shoes, which you basically need to be transported to a spot in them and then stay there all night.  Forget walking, let alone dancing.  I’m posting this now as the Christmas season of parties and get-togethers is a common excuse for indulging in a bit of shoe purchasing.

Oh but we love them so much and as Moran pointed out, we firmly believe they make our legs look slimmer and longer.  However, Moran also remarks that the real effect is actually more like a pigs trotter than a supermodels limb – and I’m afraid I have to agree!

Then there is the waste:  The shoes worn once or not at all.  I believe this is, like many unworn items of clothing, us women stowing away for the fictitious woman we will one day be (or want to be i.e. same thing) when we have more time, when we lose more weight, when the kids are older, when that fashion comes round again.  We know deep down that day will probably never come but, it’s nonetheless a reminder of the woman we believe we can be.  She is powerful, sexy, not tired and without baby sick or a child’s dinner down her dress. Ah, how wonderful she is *sigh*

Right ladies, if we are ‘More than a Mum’ which indeed we are – then let’s start wearing those shoes.  Even if it’s to surprise hubby when he arrives home from work, or under your desk in the office, or while you’re doing your housework – Why?  Because we can, and that woman does not need to be fictitious, neither does she need to be skinny, childless, young or anything else you may sometimes wish you were.  It may at least make you feel good and bring a smile to your face – that is before the pain kicks in of course.

High heels are one of the things that intrinsically makes us feel ‘Woman’ and to me that is all good.

You are more than a Mum!

L

Mums ‘me-time’ is just 26 minutes!!

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The ‘Changing Face of Motherhood’ is a major research project undertaken by P&G in conjunction with the SIRC (Social Issues Research Centre). The research covered a range of topics including how today’s mums feel they’re valued by society and about raising their children compared to previous generations.

Amongst some other really interesting findings (see here) the research found that the average Mums ‘me-time’ is just 26 minutes!!  They found that the majority of mums have 3-4 hours to themselves a week – the equivalent to 26 minutes a day.  64% of mums put this down to the demands of having to go out to work, while 29% say that the pressure to be a perfect mother means they feel they have less ‘me-time’.

Here at More than a Mum you’ll know by now our dual aim is to support, encourage and inspire you to be a brilliant mum AND to rediscover your identity as a woman at the same time.  In order to even have a hope of fulfilling the latter goal, me-time is essential, imperative, vital etc.

Mums are so organised in so many respects because we have to be.  Even if you think you’re not good at it – just take a look at your week so far… You’ve somehow managed to dress, cook for, ferry around, smile at , engage with, stimulate, love, discipline your little people all while possibly being  an employee, spouse, friend, relative, lover, gardener, dog-walker at the same time!

So why don’t we schedule in time for ourselves???? Because we don’t think it’s important enough.  Because we don’t think we can afford to.  Because we don’t think it’s a priority.  All in all, because we don’t think we’re worth it!!! Not good ladies, not good!

More than a Mum has said time and again that if we want our children to be happy and fulfilled then we need to model that for them ourselves.

We put out the challenge a few weeks back and we haven’t been checking up on you (LOL!) so here it is again – what can you plan for yourself this weekend or for this next week to remind yourself that you are ‘More than a Mum’?

Answers on a postcard – well on here and on Twitter anyway 😉

L

First steps to rediscovering your identity

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Rediscover your dreams

One of our aims and commitments as More than a Mum is to not only help you to be a brilliant mum but to help you rediscover your identity as a woman too.  We want our posts to be practical as well as informative, constructive as well as inspiring.

I’m conscious we could easily neglect the identity issue as it is incredibly easy for us to become absorbed, and dare I say, all consumed in being parents.  Sometimes without even realising it.  But who are you without your child?  Do you sometimes wonder what to talk about or even what to do with your hands when you don’t have your child with you? People lose their identity for all sorts of reasons; a dominating partner, a demanding career, a busy parent.  However, it’s worth remembering we are only in danger of losing who we are if our identity is wrapped up ‘only’ in what we do.

As parents we long for our children’s successes to surpass our own, for them to have the opportunities we never had and we do everything in our power to help them along the way.  However, as we’ve said time and time again in our posts ‘a happy and fulfilled parent equals a happy and fulfilled child’.  The best thing we can do for our children is to lead by example.  To live what we want to teach them – not just talk about it.  Not only do we owe it to our children though, but we owe it to ourselves to reignite our passion for our dreams, to dig them up from the depths where we, or life’s pressures, have buried them and to start to construct a plan towards achieving them.

Maybe it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten your dream.  Maybe you think you don’t have one anymore.  I’m confident with the right kind of digging you can uncover it and be on your way to rediscovering your identity as a woman in the process.

The following steps are just for you.  You don’t have to share them with anyone yet but I do encourage you to write them down to make it more real.

Step 1: What did you want to be as a little girl/boy? (Try to remember the self-belief and abandonment you had as a child – that the world was your oyster and you could do or be anything you wanted to be.)

Step 2: What would you do if you were guaranteed you wouldn’t fail?

Step 3: What do you wish you could be doing this time next year? (Your short-term goal)

Step 4: What do you wish you could be doing in 5 years time? (Your mid term goal)

Step 5: Where would you like to be and what would you want to be doing in ten years time? (Your long-term goal)

Step 6: What is something you would quite like to do that you know you can do you just haven’t got round to doing it or made time to do it?

Step 7: What would you love to do but it seems like too much hard work/effort/time?

Step 8: What’s your crazy dream you secretly would love to do but struggle to believe it’s even possible?

Step 9: Look back over all your answers so far.

–       What small step could you do tomorrow towards any of these things?

–       What medium step could you commit to do in the next two weeks towards any of these things?

–       What big step could you take by Christmas towards any of these things?

Step 10: The important thing is to just get on and do it. Stop talking yourself out of it or looking at the obstacles or difficulties in the way – Just get started.

Wake up tomorrow and take that first tiny step.

L

24 hours of freedom

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If you read last week’s BritMums blog prompt post, you’ll have an idea of the kinds of things we want to cover in this blog.  So far, we’ve posted about the joys and trials of motherhood, various socio-political issues around parenting, toddler activities and even a recipe, but we haven’t posted much about ensuring that you don’t get lost in the role of parent and you still do things for yourself.

Therefore today I want tell you about a 24 hour period where I did a number of the things that I used to take for granted before the Munchkin.

The weekend before last, hubby and I finally managed a night away together.  Whilst we do go out together, we had not yet managed to orchestrate a night away, what with parents living a reasonable distance away and yes, I’ll admit a good amount of nerves on our part that the Munchkin would have a meltdown about us not being there.

We decided to go to my Mum’s for a few nights and in the middle, book one night away where Munchkin would stay with Grandma…alone! We booked somewhere not too far away, both so we could maximise our time together and so that we could get back to Mum’s should there be an issue.

It was wonderful.  Munchkin was absolutely fine with her beloved Grandma. In fact today at lunchtime when I told her the rule in our house was she had to try what was on her plate before telling me she didn’t like it, she told me she’d go and live with Grandma!

We stayed in the Cotswold town of Malmesbury and I can highly recommend it.  It is not that big, so our 24 hour period was enough to explore most of what it had to offer.  We arrived at around 3pm and checked into The Old Bell Hotel.  Before Munchkin, hubby and I used to treat ourselves to a weekend  away once or twice a year, at a nice hotel with a good restaurant.  From the internet write-ups this seemed to fit the bill. It wasn’t cheap, but that’s why we went for a Sunday night special!

After having checked in we went to the Abbey House Gardens for a wander to absorb some peace; I could indulge my budding interest in macro photography and we could perhaps catch a glimpse of the naked gardeners (yes, they do garden naked there!). The gardens were beautiful and “sans child” we just wandered for a couple of hours – no need of swings or snacks.

Malmesbury Abbey Gardens
Stunning Gardens, but no gardeners!

After a stroll round the town, we declared it gin-o’clock and ensconced ourselves in the hotel bar. Obviously by this point we had subconsciously decided there would be no need to race back to rescue Grandma!  We spent the early evening sitting by the fire, drinking and talking about everything and anything.  We then had a delicious dinner and a few glasses of wine and headed up to our room for an evening without a child in tow… ergo I fell asleep while hubby was talking and he watched Have I got News for You in bed!

Breakfast the next morning was excellent, as was the leisurely morning before we checked out.  We then spent another few hours pottering round the town.  We visited the town museum which was really well laid out and had just the right balance of information and interactivity.  It also had a display of Turner sketches upstairs and as he is one of my favourite artists, I was happy.  We bought a few Christmas presents (early I know but anything to save me from Christmas shopping crowds with a toddler) and wandered round the Abbey itself.

All in all, we had a fantastic time, being just two and doing things for us. We’d highly recommend Malmesbury and also recommend having time away from the kids.

Oh and here’s my best efforts at ‘arty’ photography:

Malmesbury Abbey
Trying to take unusual shots in the Abbey
Macro seedhead
See I told you I like close-ups!
Macro Leaf Malmesbury Abbey
Arty leaf and Abbey shot!

That’s what (mummy) friends are for

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My part-time work is in media and today I was forwarded some very interesting findings from some research by Bauer Media into the women’s market.  Bauer Media own more than 80 influential radio, magazine, TV and online UK media brands, including heat, GRAZIA, Closer, FHM.  The research aimed to help advertisers find new ways to influence the conversation of British women.

The research concluded that five key roles are played in women’s conversation:

  • Queen Bee, the direct and unquestioned leader in the conversation – she is independent, strong minded and with lots of outward confidence, friends look to her to organise things, take charge and make group decisions when they are unsure of what to do.
  • Northern Star, the indirect but respected leader – she has a mind of her own, is highly influential and has strong inner confidence. She is not the loudest in the crowd, never forces her opinion, friends turn to her for advice and guidance as she is deeply respected.
  • Socialite, the catalyst for conversation or new ideas – she is lively and talkative and her friends often see her as the ‘funny one’. She gets her energy from interacting with others and doesn’t enjoy spending time on her own, often socialising with many different groups.
  • Little Sister, seeks support and guidance and uses her friends’ feedback as a way to process her world and anxieties, often lacking inner confidence. She prefers to make her decisions after discussing it with friends and is happy to talk about her feelings openly.
  • Social Listener, supporting and listening to others – she is often the glue that bonds a group. Her friends rely on her to listen to their feelings and support them when they have problems; she prides herself on being a good friend and puts others before herself.

The research had the following conclusions:

Three main reasons for talking have been identified – affiliation, the need for bonding and belonging; mood uplift, for entertainment and escapism; and finally, a need to be ‘in the know’, to help make decisions.

It was fun thinking about my friendship circles and trying to identify the various different roles and characters (and I’m sure you can’t help but do the same when you read it) but, it also got me thinking about the power of talking and of friendship to women.  The three reasons identified in the conclusions perfectly describe the needs of every mum and indeed every woman.

When I became pregnant hardly any of my close friends had babies and one of the things I was most worried about was being lonely and isolated because I was sure I wouldn’t have a thing in common with typical mummy-types and couldn’t stand the thought of a mums and toddlers group.  I attended NCT classes just to be more informed about the birth and what to expect and inwardly rolled my eyes when most of the other mums expressed their reason for attending – to make friends with other new mums!  What would I, a singer, radio presenter and former baby-phobe, have in common with any of them?  The answer was and is a resounding ‘A LOT’ and in more ways than just the fact that we have children of the same age.

My mummy-friends turned out to be my biggest cheerleaders of my outside mummy achievements, supporters when times were tough, feeders of cake when things were desperate and providers of laughs and wine at book club (as you heard from Ruth earlier this week).  These ladies are not just my friends they are my heroes.   We have laughed together, cried together, shared failures and celebrated successes together.  I had no idea as a pregnant first time mum what a lifeline these women were going to turn out to be.  The understanding of a mum who is going through the same sleep-deprived-madness of that first year of motherhood is unsurpassable. I guess I may have still secretly wondered if the friendships would drop off when we began to more resemble our pre-baby selves when the kids turned one year.  But, I am pleased and proud to say we still regularly meet 2 years later and my mummy-friends have become ‘friends’ even without the mummy part.

To look at us we are like a carefully picked sample of all kinds of professions, cultures, religions, backgrounds and world-views and there are less than a dozen of us.  It’s a beautiful mix of life experiences and outlooks and makes for fun and stimulating company.  I cringe now at my judgemental assumptions before I got to know my mummy-friends and I’m just grateful they didn’t have the same narrow-minded view of me.

It amazes me to think that it’s my mummy-friends who most help me to remember I’m more than a mum!

L