balancing parenthood

More Than A Mum: The Course

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It’s all getting pretty exciting at More Than A Mum!  By now you probably have a pretty good idea of our mission: We want to support women in being brilliant Mums, AND help them to rediscover their own identity.

Well, we have taken this mission a step further and as of today we have teamed up with Pitter Patter The Hub for Bubs to offer a course for Mums to help you achieve those dual aims of being a great parent and rediscovering yourself as an individual. Oh and you’ll get to meet and chat with other Mums in the area over coffee with some lovely Mummy treats thrown in…

The sessions will run on Saturday mornings once a month, beginning on the 3rd March, at the Grove Pub in Ealing.

Sessions will be in two parts, one to support you as a Mum and one to support you as a woman.  Each section will have a range of information, guidance, support and activities for you in your role as woman and your role as Mum.

The Woman section will include a range of inspirational talks, confidence building activities, Mum me-time activities and case studies to help you see the ways you can re-discover your own identity and reward yourself for the role you play in your family.

The Mum section will be based around a particular activity that you can do with your child/children.  The activities will all be linked to your child’s development needs, but also be an entertaining activity for parent and child alike.

The sessions are designed to enable you to feel better equipped to aid your child’s physical, emotional and academic progress; to help you to develop strategies to create and maximise Mum me-time; and to revive your sense of personal identity.

We are sorry if you don’t live in the Ealing area, but we are in the process of developing online versions of the course as well, so keep your eyes peeled!

Get in touch via morethanamum@gmail.com or @more_than_a for more information.

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Mumpreneur: Positive or Negative?

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Having written last week about being a Mum and working flexibly around your family, I have been thinking about the term “Mumpreneur”.  I know that the term made it into the OED at the end of last year and that this caused a bit of a debate to arise.  There are many who seem to find the term derogatory, and yet since becoming a Mum and considering my options with regard to working around my family, I have also seen the term used positively by many individuals, communities and companies.

So, what’s the debate all about?

The first post I read, the one that made me think about this at all in fact, was a post by Lynn Harris.  Her perspective is that the term Mompreneur (she is writing for the American audience, hence “Mom”) is often used to patronise and belittle the achievements of women in business. “let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different and diminutive connotation.” I’ll be honest; I hadn’t really considered this.  I am in awe of women who successfully have a family and run a business.  I find the idea of working for myself and doing it around my commitments to my family a really beguiling one.  But then I am one of the “other mothers who are prepared to salute and support”. I hadn’t thought about those who might not.  Those who might use the term to suggest that you were somehow not as serious about your job as a proper entrepreneur, after all you don’t hear of many men being called Dadpreneurs; men are entrepreneurs with a family.

So I searched about a bit and it seems that there are many people who subscribe to the same thoughts as Lynn Harris. Jen Walshaw of Mum in the Madhouse says that the term suggests that “not only do we often run a home, but in between it all we manage to do a little work” Rebecca Jones of Business in Red Shoes says that she has “asked men and women in business what they think and the majority worry that it implies they are a mum first and business comes second”, suggesting that the term may be “hindering their business appeal for those who worry their role as a mum will interfere with their abilities as a business woman.”  If this is the perception, then how come so many women in business do use and associate with the term?

I emailed Erica Douglas of littlemummy.com.  She is one half of Become a Mumpreneur, so I assumed that she must be able to tell me something positive about the term!  I saw Erica and her partner Antonia Chitty speak at the Business and Baby Show 2011 and have taken e-courses both via littlemummy and BAM, they are certainly using the term Mumpreneur to connect with their target market and seem to be encouraging women to embrace the term and use it to move themselves forward as both Mums and business women.

Erica’s response was very interesting.  She said that “a Mumpreneur is someone who has gone into business because they are a mum.” She also highlighted the sense of community that there can be with the term Mumpreneur “I think there are many mums in business who do identify with the term, and for them it gives them a group or ‘tribe’ to feel a part of and gain support from.”  Interestingly, Erica says that she feels that the term Mumpreneur only describes one stage of business and that there comes a time when your business and lifestyle move past this title; where children become less dependent.  This ties in with Rebecca Jones’ point.  Perhaps women who identify with the term are women who do put their family first and their business second?  I personally would see this as a strength in many ways, although I can see Rebecca’s point that as a client I may be less forgiving.

I suppose overall the key thing is that the term Mumpreneur can be useful if you identify with it, if your clientele identify with it in a positive manner and if it says the right things about you and your business.  It is not a useful term if it is applied to you in a pejorative way as a means of suggesting that you are not as good at your job as others who are not ‘distracted’ by family.  For me, one sentence stood out in Erica Douglas’ email and it was this “If I decide I’m going to do something then no terminology in the world will stop me aspiring to that.”

So, women who work for yourselves and have a family, keep aspiring to be the best you possibly can; refer to yourselves in whatever way you wish and do not be limited by language.

R

#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

Developing speech, language and communication in your child

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Yesterday a survey by OnePoll for I CAN, the children’s communication charity, and Openreach revealed that children in the UK are suffering as the recession forces parents to take extra work.

According to the findings the recession has forced 81% of parents in London (72% of British parents nationally) to take on extra work to make ends meet putting pressure on home life and time with children.  Worryingly, parents surveyed said this impacts on the time that they have to talk and interact with their child aged 0-5 years, which could potentially impact on their child’s communication development and their school readiness. Evidence shows that children’s understanding and use of vocabulary at 2 is very strongly associated with their performance on entering primary school. More than 50% of children start school without the communication skills they need to achieve particularly in some areas of social deprivation within the UK.

Key stats from survey in London:

•           Over a third are working longer hours, one-fifth have found themselves with no option but to take on a second job and a quarter of parents surveyed are now doing extra work from home.

•           More than half (57%) say they have less quality time with their children as a result of their work.

The survey shows that parents of children 0-5 years old, understand the importance of regular, quality conversation with their children. However:

•           44% say they rarely have time to talk these days and blame increased workloads.

•           20% are too tired to chat with their children by the time they get home from work.

•           Around a third state that either answering work calls or responding to emails often interrupts attempts to chat with their children.

•           Although parents in London recognise mealtimes as one of the key occasions to engage in conversation with young children, nearly 40% are regularly missing out on these meals due to work commitments.

The survey aims to encourage as many families, nurseries, child minders, children’s groups and others across London to register and take part in I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge 2012 ‘Kids in Motion: Get Active and Make Chatter Matter’. the 11th annual Chatterbox Challenge, from 1-7th February 2012. The Chatterbox Challenge, developed by speech and language therapists, aims to develop children’s communication skills, through songs and rhymes, in homes, nurseries and childminding groups across the country.”

With support from Openreach, donations raised during the Chatterbox Challenge go directly to I CAN’s work with children with speech, language and communication difficulties. I CAN aims to ensure that no child is left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding.

 Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Lead Advisor says, ‘There are many quick and simple ways to help your child’s communication and we’ve put together 10 tips on building talking and singing into a busy day’:

10 TIPS FOR DEVELOPING SPEECH, LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION

GET YOUR CHILD’S FULL ATTENTION FIRST

Get down to the child’s level and engage their attention before speaking or asking a question – say their name to encourage them to stop and listen.  Talking about what your child is interested in will also help to gain their attention.

MAKE LEARNING LANGAUGE FUN

Funny voices, rhymes, noises and singing all help children to learn language.  Be silly – often the daftest things gain their attention

IMITATE CHILDREN’S LANGUAGE

With very young children, simply repeat back sounds, words and sentences. This demonstrates that you value all they say.  This can be anything from “ba” to “Oh, you liked the apple?”

USE A FULL RANGE OF EXPRESSION

Speak in a lively, animated voice and use lots of gestures and facial expressions to back up your words – you’ll give clues about what your words mean

USE SIMPLE, REPETITIVE LANGUAGE

Keep sentences short – as you talk about what is happening (“We’re driving in the car” or “Wow, you’re building a tower”)

MAKE IT EASY FOR YOUR CHILD TO LISTEN AND TALK

It is easier for your child to know what to listen to if your voice is not being masked by the television or music.  Give your child quiet times to help them focus on your words.  If your child uses a dummy, make sure that it is not in the way of their talking.  Keep dummies to sleeptimes

BUILD ON WHAT CHILDREN SAY

Talk very clearly and add one or two words to your child’s sentence – if your child says ‘look car’, you could say ‘look, red car’

GIVE CHILDREN TIME TO RESPOND

Children often need time to put their thoughts together before answering, so give them longer to respond than you would with an adult

BE CAREFUL WITH QUESTIONS

Try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you’re constantly testing the child, or where you already know the answer

DEMONSTRATE THE RIGHT WAY

Praise your child’s efforts, even if the results aren’t perfect – if the child says “we goed to the shops” the adult might say “Yes we went to the shops” of if child says “look tar” the adult could say “yes, car!” 

I thought these were pretty good tips but I’d add avoid baby talk.  I honestly have never understood the thinking behind teaching two versions of words when you can teach the correct one from the start! Why say ‘Choo-Choo’ when you can say ‘train’? Why teach ‘Ta’ when you can teach ‘thank you’.  Some baby talk words are more difficult to say than the real ones i.e. ‘Bow wow’ V ‘dog’!!!!  My son’s speech has always been fairly advanced (a real chatterbox) and although he loves using funny voices, making up words and silly rhymes (which I encourage) he has a great vocabulary and loves learning new words and their meanings.  I’m sure this has been largely down to us taking advantage of his inquisitive nature and explaining things properly when he asks about them rather than palming him off with kiddy answers – that are often not true.  Sometimes adults can assume a child will not understand and therefore over simplify an answer which can actually end up confusing a child – especially if they’re on to the fact that you’ve made it up!  I also found responding to a question with a little bit of additional information but not too much helps to add interest and fun into learning.  I also have talked a lot to my son from him being a tiny baby and I believe this helps them with their speech and understanding.

What tips would you add to encourage development in your child’s communication?

There is still time to register for a free Chatterbox Challenge pack, just go to www.chatterboxchallenge.co.uk

L

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.

New Mums given DVD instead of Midwife chat…

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New Mums DVD

How did you find your hospital’s post-birth care before you were discharged?  Did you have a nice chat with a friendly midwife who ensured you had a good understanding of the needs of your baby and the possible challenges to come?  Did you find that you left hospital armed with all the information and advice you were going to need?

I had a brilliant birth experience, but the brief stay in hospital after the birth left something to be desired. Granted, I was pretty knackered and I don’t remember every moment and every chat, but even in this state, I can safely say that all my knowledge about what was to come once I had left the hospital and we were our own little family came from the NCT course that I had attended whilst pregnant.  They even discharged me with a notes saying the breastfeeding was “established” when no one had seen me feed and Munchkin and I were back in 24 hours later because she wouldn’t…

Long gone are the times of my parents, where new mothers were kept in for over a week, and taught how to feed, wash, change and generally care for their new baby.  Not that I really fancy spending more time than necessary in a noisy, hot hospital ward, but I would like to think that someone has a duty of care over new babies and their families.

So, when I saw a BBC news story entitled “Leicester hospital’s new mothers DVD attracts NHS interest“, I read it with mixed feelings.  Leicester General Hospital has created a DVD for new parents and apparently other trusts are very interested in it.  It appears from the BBC report, that new mums are given the DVD on a laptop prior to being discharged and that this DVD gives helpful advice and information about how to feed and care for your new baby.  The report then states that parents are also able to ask other questions if they wish.

On one hand this seems like an impersonal way of interacting with new mums.  I have an image of being shattered and bemused, newborn in arms, whilst a midwife sets up a laptop, presses play and says, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes”.  Alone with a small potentially screaming bundle and a laptop spouting information-overload may not be the most useful learning environment!

…and yet if a DVD means that you are given access to information, rather than just packed off home to make space then perhaps it is a good thing.  Perhaps a short DVD that you can watch and then consider the sorts of questions you might like to ask is a useful idea.  Perhaps a DVD which can be paused or fast-forwarded depending on prior knowledge, rather than the brisk chat from a midwife who has a hundred other things she needs to be doing is in fact a good thing.

I am in two minds.  I don’t think that this impersonal should replace the personal, but is the impersonal better than nothing when it comes to ensuring you are well informed about looking after your child?

R

More than a Mum is available on Kindle

New Year’s resolutions for children?

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The New Year means new beginnings for many and an opportunity to start again, set some goals and make some changes.  These very often take the form of New Year’s resolutions for adults.  But what about children?  Is it a good idea or even healthy for children to have a set of New Year’s resolutions?

I must admit, personally I change my mind from year to year with regards to resolutions.  In some ways I think they can set you up for inevitable failure, in other ways I think it is good to have something to aim for.  I guess as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t reach your goals than they can be helpful guidelines.

Anyway, I came across an interesting American article about New Year’s resolutions for children.  It quotes American pediatric psychologist, Stacy Flowers.  She says, “The New Year is a fresh start and it’s a great time for families to take a look at the past year and see where they can make improvement. For children and teens, making resolutions helps with self-discipline, goal setting and, when they are successful, improves self-esteem.”

I was skeptical at first but as I read on I felt Flowers had some interesting and helpful points.  According to Flowers, parents can play an important role in helping their children decide on goals and successfully meet those goals in the coming year:  “The first step is knowing your children. What areas can they work on? Where can they improve? Where will they see the biggest benefit?”

The key, according to Flowers, is to come up with manageable accomplishments that are personally meaningful to your child. These accomplishments will vary greatly with age.

However it’s all very well setting goals but how on earth do you get children to keep them?  Flowers suggests,

“Young children might benefit from charts and stickers to document their progress and accomplishments. Older children and teens can utilise calendars or electronic documentation of their achievements. Parents can also use age-appropriate rewards to recognise their children’s successes.  No matter how old you are, it feels so good to get something crossed off your list, and the absolutely best way to change behavior is to reward it instead of punish it.”

We, as parents, don’t get let off the hook in the article either.  Flowers says if children are making resolutions, their parents should be as well.  She says, “Those goals should be shared with the children so they are aware of what their parents are hoping to achieve. That actually makes it fun for the children. They get really excited when they can point out something their parent isn’t doing right.”

Flowers concludes that, “Everybody has something they need to work on, so resolutions can become a family tradition.”

After reading the article I felt that if nothing else it would give me a chance to approach and tackle some of the ‘difficult’ behaviour my son has made a habit of over the last year and I can set some goals that I know he’ll relish keeping me accountable to.  It could actually be fun! What do you think?

L