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.
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.
As well as being a mum and a singer I also work as a radio presenter and producer. My show is for Unsigned artists and I meet some incredibly talented people. This week an artist who is also a friend of mine (Jules Rendell) sent me a new track she has written which was inspired by the 2009 Children’s society report. The song is called Never been Loved and it’s in response to the findings, which basically said that children are more anxious and troubled today than ever before. It largely put this down to parents striving for material success and pursuing their own self-centered ends rather than the needs of their children.
Wikipedia puts it like this: The Inquiry’s report, A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age , was published in 2009 and received considerable media coverage, including from the BBC. It found that ‘excessive individualism’ is causing a range of problems for children today, including family break-up, teenage unkindness, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality.
The song is fantastic and speaks of discovering an unconditional love that can spur you on to hope but what really impacted me was the summary of the findings that she sent along with the track (above).
This ‘excessive individualism’ can be seen throughout our society and I agree that it’s spreading like an endemic disease. It is all the more deadly because it is not only seen as acceptable, but the norm. We are programmed from an early age to strive and compete to ‘have it all’. In deed in this day and age we believe it is our ‘right’ and that we in fact deserve it. What’s worse is many young people are growing up believing these ‘things’ should come their way without doing a thing to contribute to themselves or the society they live in. This dissatisfaction with life is what I believe was at the root of the recent UK riots primarily amongst the youth: Young people who feel the world owes them more without having to earn it in any way. And it is not just the under-privileged youths that have this attitude. Middle class children who want for nothing, have the latest gadgets and get everything on their Christmas list are also turning into adults who ‘expect’ material gain with little effort. But as super-nanny would say (bless her) usually it is not the child’s fault for their behavior and attitude.
Along with this, the lie is sold that by gaining these ‘things’ you gain happiness and fulfillment along with it. Mums and dads who work all hours, most days just for a luxury 2-week holiday twice a year are modeling this same attitude. I must say I get challenged every Christmas when I find myself wanting to buy BearCub every toy I see that I know he would love. However I had a stark wake up call recently when he started to ask and expect a new toy every time we went out. I had been spoiling my child. At the risk of sounding all ‘when I was a wee lass’, when I was a child we had secondhand toys which we were overjoyed with and I remember my sister and I crying for joy when my mum managed to scrap together enough to get us a second-hand Commodore 64!
We ought to be showing our children what is important in life and the only way we can do that is to find out what really fulfills us and make sure we’re living our dreams too. This will inspire our children that happiness and fulfillment equal success – whatever the route there may be for each individual.
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!