Me Time

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

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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!

Sloe Gin Recipe

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Sloes
Sloes for the Gin
Gin
A pint of Gin!

I know two blog posts in one day is extravagant, but here at More Than A Mum we don’t like to be too conventional and post rural/urban blog discussion of rural pursuits left Loretta complaining I’d never offered her Sloe Gin! So, here’s the recipe I’m trying this year:

4oz sugar

8oz sloes (skins pricked)

1 pint Gin

Shake daily for a week and then weekly for at least 7 weeks.

Sieve through an old muslin (I knew I’d find a use for them!) into a sterilised airtight bottle.

Keep…or drink!

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

Book Club Mum

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Book Club Books

I am proud to say that I am a member of two book clubs, (even if my husband has christened one of them wine club!) and they are definitely a part of me being more than a mum.

I am an English graduate and an English teacher, but when I had my daughter 2 and a half year ago, I hardly read at all, and it wasn’t because of birth or pregnancy, but reading had become work. I hardly ever read a book for pleasure.  If I was reading, it was usually a book I was going to teach or an Educational theory book and to be honest, I had got to the point where reading bored me.

In pregnancy I found I was too tired to read and when your tiny baby is asleep in your room, it is difficult to leave the light on and read, so all in all I wasn’t reading.

Then the group of Mums I knew from anti-natal classes and I started a book club.  The main intention was to do something which was completely adult and also stimulated us intellectually.  We take it in turns to host.  We read everything and anything, from teen-fiction to literary classics and from parenting guides to historical novels.  It is the host’s duty to chose the book and provide a meal, whilst the rest of us bring wine.  We give ourselves 4-6 weeks between meetings in which to read the books and on the night we chat about the book and drink and gossip! Some months we discuss the book more than others.  Sometimes we have discussion questions; sometimes we seem to need to gossip and drink wine more than we want to discuss the book (hense the hubby’s ‘wine-club’ comment!); but either way is good, because we are being more than mums; we are being adult women in an adult environment.

The second book group I belong to has a slightly more high-brow reading list.  It was also started by a friend of mine who is a stay at home mum.  She wants to read more of the classics.  She also has friends all over the world with whom she wanted to read.  She started a facebook group.  We also read books over a 4-6 week period.  We vote for books we’d like to read which we feel fall into the category of ‘classics’ and we have an open discussion that starts on a particular day on our facebook wall.  This group challenges me to read things that would not normally have been on my reading list, or that have been on my list for some time, but I’ve never quite got round to.

I love both my book groups and wouldn’t be without either of them.  Some months I read both books easily, some months (like this one) things conspire against me and I end up finishing my book on the bus on the way to ‘wine club’ and will be contributing late to the facebook wall of the classics book club, but neither group is judgemental so it doesn’t matter.

I think the most important things about my book groups are that they keep my brain active, they make me sit down and read, and they allow me to discuss grown up things in an all adult environment.

Are you a member of a book club?  If you are, what would you say are the most important things about your book group? If you’re not, what type of book club (if any) would you like to be a part of?

R

The More than a Mum Challenge

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So most of you will be familiar with what we’re about by now: More than a Mum is all about helping you to be the best mum you can be while rediscovering your identity as a woman at the same time.  Well, we’ve had quite a few posts on issues that affect you as a mum but we are equally committed to encouraging you, supporting you and inspiring you to remember you’re more than a mum; you’re also a woman.

So, today we are kicking off our ‘More than a mum weekly challenge’.  The rules are very simple:  You just have to commit to do one thing this week for yourself that will remind you that you’re a woman in your own right as well as a mum.

It’s so easy for us to lose our identity as a woman because it can tend to be swallowed up in the all-consuming role of mum.  From your comments it’s clear that many mums feel this way and that most mums recognise the importance of ‘me’ time – but just how do we fit it in?  This is where we want to help.

We’ve realised that rediscovering your identity as a woman need only be done in the tiniest steps, actions and even thoughts in order to make a big difference.  We may not all be able to afford the time or money to go away on a weekend spa break but we might be able to challenge ourselves to read a book that is nothing to do with parenting, join an exercise class where no one knows you’re a mum or even just paint your nails.

Each Thursday (I know it’s Friday today) we’ll be posting suggestions and ideas of what you could do this week to remind yourself you are ‘more than a mum’.  All you need to do is take up the challenge and then tweet about it using the hash tags #Thursdaychallenge #morethanamum.  Our hope is that this will not only publically commit you to seeing it through but will also inspire other mums with ideas.

So are you in?

L