Me Time

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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#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

Soft Play Reviews: A Tour of Britain

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OK so it’s a bit of an ambitious title, but it’s a work in progress!  Over the last few months I have discovered that it is important to meet with old friends in very different locations to those we used to.  Having lived in various locations across the country and having friends spread far and wide, I have often met friends ‘half way’.  We used to meet for spa days and meals, now with so many of us having kids in tow, the usual location is a park or during these winter months, a soft play.  So now that I have met people in a range of locations I thought I would share my experiences with you.

Starting close to home, friends and I have the choice of 3 local soft-play centres.  My favourite is the Osterly garden centre.  It has a small, very clean, soft play at one end of its excellent cafe, so you can sip an Earl Grey and munch a yummy cake whilst little monsters run riot.  It also does excellent kids meals and all day picnics, and because it’s a garden centre, not a dedicated soft-play, the entry is free.  The next choice we have nearby is Snakes and Ladders in Brentford.  This is a paying soft play, but it is much bigger and suits both older and younger children with a specific 2-5’s section and ride-ons. There is no upper age limit, but a height limit of 4’ 8’’.  It is a bit frayed at the edges and the food is uninspiring, but hot and reasonably priced. Munchkin, Bearcub and their little friends with birthday’s around the same time had a joint 2nd birthday there this year and it was a good venue for this. The third option is Heathrow Gym, which is I am told is very good, but haven’t visited yet… TBC!

Around the rest of the country

Rugrats and Halfpints in Banbury: We went here to meet with friends from Birmingham. It was about an hour from West London and about an hour from Birmingham, so perfect distance.  It was also really close to a lovely park so in the afternoon the kids had an outdoor run around too.  It is large and clean and had a very good cafe.  It cost £7.50 for a child including a hot meal and drink and adults were free, but there are loads of other options and deals and if you’re local there’s a membership scheme. The kids played happily for hours and it had excellent baby sensory sections and ride-on toys. It had both large and small soft-play sections and was not averse to grownups going in with the kids to show them the ropes first time round (as long as you take your shoes off). It is aimed at children from birth to 8 and I think it definitely has something for all.

Creepy Crawlies in York: We were staying in York with friends (you may have read the post about the York Railway Museum a few weeks ago) and needed something to keep munchkin entertained.  They had taken so other friends with a 9 and 6 year old a few weeks previously, and themselves had a month old, so again this is suited to a wide age range.  The most noticeable thing about this one was it’s size.  It’s  HUGE! It is in a factory unit and has a massive soft play area, with toddlers’ and bigger kids’ sections. The Adveture centre (as it call itself) it caters for up to 16yrs old and the outdoor section has things suitable for adults too.  There is a sand pit, adventure playground and animals.  They also have highwires and an eco skate rink.  Oh and a kids hairdressers – this really is an everything under one roof kind of place. The cafe was really nice too – if you need another reason to visit this one!

Cheeky Monkeys in Cheshunt: This was another half way house meeting point and provided a place about an hour from us in West London and a friend in Ipswich.  It was good value and really friendly.  When we first arrived I was a little confused as the building looks like an old scout hut or village hall, but inside it is small, but clean and well looked after. There is a sliding scale of prices from £5.50 to £2 dependant on age for 90minutes, though when we arrived, we were told the time limit is only enforced if it is really busy and they also had a £1 off deal. There is a small under 3’s section with a wendy house and some baby gym equipment as well as the usual small soft-play things.  There is then a larger play-frame suitable for older kids. There is a cafe with food and drink. It has a children’s hot menu with the usual sausage beans and chips, style meals and then there are sandwich options, jacket potatoes and paninis.  All at very good prices.

These reviews are all unsponsored.

So there is my work so far – are there any near you that you would recommend? Either write about them in a comment below, or send us your brief reviews to morethanamum@gmail.com with the title SOFT PLAY and we’ll pop them up on the blog.  The only requirement is that you state if you work for the centre or have been incentivised to write the review.

R

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

Meme 10 Questions – Part 2

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So my partner here at More than a Mum (@Roothe) tagged me (@Lor_Fenton) to also take part in this Meme.  As you’ve heard, @more_than_a was tagged by @welshmumwales to take part in the 10 question meme by @AlliMarshall for Super Amazing Mum.  The rules are:

1) Answer the 10 questions

2) Tag someone to do the same

3) Go and leave a comment on the original blog post over at Super Amazing Mum and comment that you have done so in order for us to find out who has been tagged and therefore find out more about our fellow bloggers!

@Roothe replied yesterday so here are my answers!

1)     Describe yourself in 7 words?

Brown, naughty, passionate, creative, ambitious, loyal, contradictory

2)     What keeps you awake at night?

Sometimes my 2 year old son, sometimes worrying about things I can’t control

3)     If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be and why?

I really wouldn’t want to be anyone else but there are plenty of roles I’d like to try e.g. gping back to my old life of being on tour as a singer

4)     What are you wearing right now!!

Skinny black jeans and a grey close fit hoody (with zebra slippers!!)

5)     What scares you?

How the world is changing so that children are exposed to the horrible things of life earlier and earlier.

6)     What is the best and worst about blogging?

Best: It’s got me regularly writing again and thinking again.  I love engaging with social issues and making them relevant to the average mum i.e me

Worst: Keeping to the deadlines my more efficient business partner (@Roothe) sets – she is agenda queen and much more organised than me!!!!

7)     What was the last website you looked at?

Google then Amazon in order to answer question 9!!!!

8 ) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To not need so much sleep or to be able to cope better without much sleep!

8)     Slankets – Yes or No (this divides the blogging world )

NOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo! If I ever am seen wearing one of these – please make sure I’m dead!! (even if they do come in zebra print!!)

9)     Tell us something about the person who tagged you?

@roothe is one of my best mummy friends.  She finally helped me kick myself up the butt and get things started with More Than A Mum.  She is a good business partner and drinking partner.    She has a highly intelligent, slightly crazy and brilliantly hilarious 2-year old (Munchkin) who is absolutely adorable.  We have fairly similar parenting styles and outlooks on life. However she is opposite to me in that she is wise, organised, practical and good at grammar!

I’m going to tag; @mumofcurls @theempressmama and @mishmashmum

L