Thanks for the Advice Mum! #MumsKnowBest

I have written about my Mother many times on this blog, about the difficult relationship we’ve had and I wrote last year about all the things I thanked her for – despite our troubles. Littlewoods recently got in touch to tell me about their #MumsKnowBest campaign and it made me think of times when I was younger that Mum knew best.

Dear Mum,

I know we’ve had our ups and downs but through my childhood you really were the best Mum I could have asked for. Like any Mum, there were times when you gave me advice, times when you really did know best but times when I probably didn’t listen as well as I should have.

I remember all those times as a teenager when I’d go out in the summer with my friends. You would tell me repeatedly to put sunscreen on – always so protective of my fair skin – and I would ignore it, thinking I knew best. It wasn’t until I’d had a day in the sun, so many times, and came home in the evening that I’d realise I should have listened – How often did I have a bright red back, bright red chest and a red face with such white strap lines from the vest tops I used to always wear.

Do you remember the time I went to my friends house on the estate at the top of our road? You told me to come straight home from school, not to leave my bike in her garden and to make sure I was home for dinner. I’ll only stay an hour I said, I’ll be home in plenty of time – don’t worry Mum, it’ll be fine – I said. Oh what famous last words they were. That evening at my friend’s house my bike was stolen – although it appeared again later that same evening – but my mobile phone was also stolen. A phone I had saved for so long to buy, a mobile phone that was top of the range at the time and that I loved. I should have listened then Mum, I should have come straight home from school.

I know, kids never listen and it’s only in hindsight that they realise these things but one of the biggest things I should have listened to you about? Piercing my belly button. I did it in rebellion after you and my Dad split up when I was 16. You wanted to make me happy, he wasn’t around to say no so I went and had it done at a tattooist. It got infected straight away and I regretted it instantly although I cleaned it religiously and it soon healed. I wore tiny tops and low cut jeans, showing my belly off to the world. I was the same as all 16 year olds back then. But I didn’t think of the future and now I have a hole in my belly that reminds me of those years gone by. I doubt it will ever have a belly bar in it again and I doubt even more that the world will ever get another glimpse of my belly – it really isn’t the same as the one I had all those years ago, especially after having two children! So maybe I should have listened back then too.

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So Mum, thanks for all the advice you gave me growing up and sorry I didn’t listen to it all – to be honest, I didn’t listen to much of it but maybe there were times when you did know best and I really should have listened more. Thanks Mum!

Love

Donna

Is there any advice that your Mum gave you that you wish you’d listened to? I hope that as the children grow they’ll listen to my advice, understand that I was their age once and appreciate the things Hubby and I have to say, the things we tell them and the stories we share.

Mums have a way of knowing their children, knowing what they’re thinking and understanding them – even before they can speak themselves. This video from Littlewoods made me smile – I’m sure I’ve had conversations like that with LP and Little Man in the past!

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with the Littlewoods #MumsKnowBest campaign however all opinions are my own.

Motherhood

Having LP has made me think about what type of Mother I would like to be. With this in mind I have thought a lot about my childhood, my parents and my experiences. I think that with your own upbringing when looking at yourself as a parent, you have to repeat the things you liked and do things differently that you didn’t like or agree with.
 
It is because of this that I have decided to write about my Mother. This is a topic that I don’t speak much about, and that I haven’t written about in any depth before. This may be a long blog entry.
 
My Mother had me when she was 27. I was the youngest of three children, and all of us had different Fathers. To us, this was irrelevant. We were Brothers and Sister. There was never any ‘half’ anything. My oldest Brother is no longer in my life – that is a whole different blog post! But my other Older Brother is very much my Brother, our different Dads has never been an issue.
 
I was born at 28 weeks. 3 months early. I was in an incubator for some time, and was tiny, but apart from that, I was fully formed and had no long-lasting medical problems. For that, I feel very lucky!
 
My Mother and Father split up when I was about 6 months old. He turned into a ‘Sunday Dad’ and set up home with his new partner. When I was about 18 months, my Mother met my ‘Dad’ – who she married when I was 3. My Biological Father disappeared when she met my ‘Dad’, decided I had a new Father Figure in my life and so he wasn’t going to be around, or pay maintenance, as I had someone else to provide for me.
 
So I grew up thinking that my ‘Dad’ was my Father. I never questioned my family history. My Dad was all I’d ever known. Until I got to about 10. My Mother sat me down, told me that my Dad wasn’t my Dad and gave me a bunch of photos that she’d kept aside of my Father and I when I was a baby. At this point I wasn’t upset. I guess I was shocked. But to be honest, I wasn’t bothered. I had a Mum and a Dad who loved me, and I was in the middle of a great childhood. I put the photos in an album and put them to the back of a cupboard and carried on with my childhood!
 
Everything was then fine until I was about 14. I used to go to bed at night and hear my parents arguing downstairs. Kitchen cupboard doors would slam and they’d be raised voices. This happened most nights but I never mentioned anything to either of them. When I was 15, on my Parents’ anniversary weekend, they had their first major argument in front of me. It ended with my Mum smacking my Dad in the face in the garden and me running upstairs, hiding in my room and crying hysterically. I had never seen anything like that before. My Dad then moved out for a week, until they decided it was best they give things another go, and he moved back in again.
 
Nothing changed, but then again nothing was the same again either. The arguments in the evening continued. The only difference now was that there was a constant atmosphere the rest of the time too. A great big giant pink elephant in the room. It was horrible to live through.
 
I was due to start my GCSE exams the following Summer when I was 16, and a couple of weeks before I started to hear during the arguments that my Dad was going to leave after my exams. This was a repeated comment and I used to lay awake every night crying at the thought of my family breaking apart again and of life as I knew it being over.
 
One morning, a week before my GCSE’s started, I came downstairs to find my Dad shaving in the bathroom. I went and sat next to him on the toilet seat and said to him that I knew he was going to leave after my exams and that I would rather he left before them, at least that way I would be able to concentrate on the exams without this bubble hanging over me.
My Dad left the following weekend, and my exams started on the Monday. I ended up with 2 A’s, 5 B’s, 2 C’s and a D. Not bad considering.
 
As soon as my Dad left my Mother decided that he was no longer my Dad, as biologically he wasn’t my Father at all. She tried to stop him seeing me and when he persisted she then tried to turn me against him – telling me all the gory details of their relationship, things a 16-year-old really shouldn’t be hearing about.
 
I started college in the September following my GCSE’s and had spent the Summer working in Woolworth’s as much as I could, mainly to not be at home with my Mother – she needed me to be there to support her as her marriage had collapsed but I also needed her to support me, as my Dad wasn’t around any more, but all she cared about was erasing him from my life. It meant that we spent a whole summer avoiding each other.
 
The next few months rolled by and I loved college. College was an escape for me – I was academic, I loved learning, I made new friends and I could be me. School had always been difficult for me, as I had been bullied and turned introvert and reclusive. College gave me a chance to get back out of my shell.
 
Unfortunately, in December, my home life came to a head. On the 2nd December at 2am in the morning, when I was 17, my Mother gave me a choice. Either stay at home living with her and have nothing to do with my Dad, or leave and have my Dad as part of my life.
 
So I left. My boyfriend at the time came and picked me up and I lived in his spare room for the next 3 weeks. We then went to Ireland for Xmas. I had never been away from my parents at Christmas before. I had never been on a plane before, and I have never felt so lonely as I did that Xmas.
 
I juggled college, working at Woolworth’s and trying to find somewhere to live for the next few weeks. I went to the council who told me that unfortunately, even though I was only 17, I wasn’t an ethnic minority or pregnant so they couldn’t help me with accommodation. I then went to the benefits people who said that as I was working 16 hours a week, rather than their maximum of 12 hours a week, I wasn’t entitled to any benefits either. I then realised that something had to give. So at the end of my first term at college, I dropped out. I felt such a failure but I knew I had to stand on my own two feet. So I worked full-time and moved into a house share at the end of January, where I continued to live for 5 years.
 
As the months went by I tried to talk to my Mother. I was happy, of sorts, where I was. I had a roof over my head and a job, so it wasn’t the end of the world. I was just independent a lot earlier than I had hoped to be. But I still wanted my family in my life. I saw my Mother every few months and every time we had a lovely day and then she would start slagging off my Dad as I was about to head home. This became so draining. But I still persevered. After all, as everyone says, you only get one Mum.
 
I asked my Mother, when I was about 18, if I could borrow the family photo albums. I wanted to make copies of my baby photos. She threw them at me, told me to keep them and told me that I wasn’t her child, so she didn’t need the albums. I still have them, 10 years later, in my loft. She never wanted them back.
 
I used to get a lot of text message abuse from her, about my Dad, personal attacks on me – she’d regularly say that her friends had seen me out drinking and that I looked like a slag etc. She was always full of compliments!
 
The years rolled by, and I made sure I never missed her Birthday or Mother’s Day. I would buy her a card that said as little as possible, which is very hard when you try. They all say ‘You’re the Best Mum’, ‘Mum in a Million’, ‘I Couldn’t Ask For A Better Mum’. I tried to find one that would say purely Happy Mother’s Day. This carried on until I was 21, and I didn’t receive a Birthday Card, Birthday text, Birthday phone call. Yes, our relationship wasn’t great at all. We hardly saw each other. But we had always sent cards. At this point I decided to stop sending her cards too. It was always an emotional thing for me, choosing cards, so I stopped sending them, and felt like a weight had lifted.
When I was 23 I got engaged. It was at this point that I thought I should be honest with my Mother. Very difficult, as we hadn’t had a decent conversation in months.
 
When I was 17, and moved out of home, I had got in contact with my Biological Father. I hadn’t, up until this point, told my Mother that he was in my life. Saying he was in my life is a bit rich – I saw him probably less than once a year, and his wife and I exchanged emails about once a month. But nevertheless, they were there, and they could be at my wedding. So I had to tell my Mother about them.
 
I chickened out, and sent her a text message saying that my Biological Dad and his wife, plus my Dad and his new partner, could be at our wedding. To this I received a barrage of abuse. The main jist of it was that I was ‘parading her ex’s in front of her’. To cut a long story short, just after we got engaged, my Mother decided she couldn’t come to our wedding. It was at this point that I decided to keep more distance between her and I, and I haven’t physically seen her since. 5 years.
 
We got married just over a year later, and I can honestly say that I did not even think about my Mother on the wedding day. People had varying views and thought I should at least invite her. But she had made her feelings clear. I didn’t see the point in wasting an invitation.
 
I didn’t hear from her around the wedding date, she didn’t make contact at all. But she did send me a text message three months later to say that the weather had been nice on the wedding day. She aways had a habit of texting me out of the blue, at random, and upsetting me. So I responded that yes the weather had been fantastic. But why was she texting now? The wedding was three months ago. She responded that it felt like unfinished business as she hadn’t been in contact. Apparently she felt better now that she’s text.
 
She then sent me a text message in September 2010. A year after the previous text. She text to say that she was moving house that weekend and thought I should know. From knowing the way she worked, I knew that she wanted me to go to her house that weekend, to beg her to stay or help her move. But I wasn’t playing games. I was a married woman who had dealt with her rubbish for nearly 10 years. I had mixed feelings too as she was moving from the house I grew up in, the only house I had ever known as a child, a house that held so many memories for me. But I house that had felt so cold and empty the handful of times I had been there since moving out. I knew that my Mother hadn’t been happy there for years. So I responded that I hoped she was happier in her new home, and that we too were looking to move in the December.
 
I then sent her a text message about a month later saying that we were moving from the area, and I wanted to see her before we moved to try and build bridges for the future. I explained that I had a great childhood, and the last few years had been difficult for both of us and that we had both made mistakes towards each other and said things that we regret. I couldn’t forgive or forget, but I could try to put it behind me and start afresh, so that when we had children she could have a relationship with them. I didn’t want her missing out on the chance to have grandchildren just because we hadn’t got on for years. She was a great Mother to me when I was growing up, and I wanted her to have something to show for that.
 
She responded that she didn’t see the point in meeting, that she could never forgive or forget and so there was no point being in each other’s lives. After all, I hadn’t invited her to my Wedding….!
We moved in December, and I received another text message from my Mother in February 2011. She text saying that she hoped we had settled into our new home. So I responded – Yes, we were happy, and as the saying goes, new house, new baby! She was going to be a Grandmother and Baby was due 25th August.
 
I received a short response. ‘Good Luck With That’
 
That told me all I needed to hear, and I decided at that point that I could not keep trying to have a relationship with that woman. She had upset me far too many times, and now that we were having a baby there was no way that I could let her anywhere near my Baby. I would not let my Baby be upset by her, and she obviously didn’t care that I was having a baby. So C’est la vie. She would not be part of our lives.
 
I didn’t reply to her message, and I received another message in the July saying that she hoped my labour went well. I also ignored this message.
 
When LP arrived in August, I didn’t tell her. I purposely didn’t send her a text or ring her. I felt that she had no right to know anything about our child, or any right to know anything about our lives.
 
I received a message from her in February that said ‘Now that you yourselves are parents, can you even conceive that the perfect much-loved little Daughter you hold in your arms right now, might someday not even want you at her wedding? No, inconceivable isn’t it? but believe you me, it happens. Good Luck’
 
To think that I had not heard from her in months, and she had obviously heard from a relative that we had the baby – we’re not a big family, and my Mother doesn’t have anything to do with anyone, which is why it took 6 months for her to hear about our Daughter. Instead of a nice, congratulations text, that was what I received.
 
My Mother chose to not come to our Wedding, yet she always throws that back at me. Just like the awful Christmas I spent in Ireland – she would always say how she spent it home alone with a tin of soup and the cat. My Mother would never let go of anything.
 
I responded to the text ‘I gave you the opportunity before we moved house of putting the past behind us and trying to build on a future in each other’s lives. You said you couldn’t forget all that had happened. I then told you I was pregnant, expecting your grandchild, and the only response I received was ‘Good Luck with that.’ I think that was enough of an indication that you didn’t want to be part of mine or my future child’s life. So I then chose to ignore your next text towards the end of my pregnancy and not contact you, hoping that you would understand that I can’t engage in random conversations with you if you aren’t going to be part of our lives. I have given you the opportunity to move on and have a relationship with me so many times and I cannot do that any more. Each time you make contact out of the blue it is only to hurt me, to try to make me feel how you have felt in the past. I want to live the life I have now and not keep dwelling on the years that have gone by. I no longer want a relationship of any sort with you, and haven’t tried to have a relationship with you and haven’t contacted you for over a year now. You have made your feelings clear repeatedly and I would appreciate it if you could now stop contacting me.’
 
I then had one word back from her ‘Happy’
 
And I hadn’t heard from her since.
 
The reason I really wrote all this, was because Tuesday was Hubby and I’s 3rd Wedding Anniversary. Our wedding day was the best day of my life. I spent the day surrounded by everyone that cared about us, everyone that meant something to us, and the hours flew by. I had never been happier than I was on that day. I felt incredibly proud to have Hubby by my side. I felt beautiful and knew without a doubt that my past was behind me and I had a bright future ahead of me. With Hubby by my side I felt like we could conquer the world. We are such a team, we are best friends and I love him more than I ever thought possible.
 
No one is perfect. But Hubby to me is everything I could ever have hoped for in a partner. I feel incredibly lucky every day that I met him, and am thankful that I met him so early in life – when I was 19 – so that we have so many years to share together. Some people wait their whole lives and never meet someone who completes them, like Hubby completes me.
 
3 years of marriage – a new house that we will live in forever, a beautiful Daughter, a family.
The only negative? Another text from my Mother. ‘Happy 3rd Anniversary’. I cried, and threw my phone of the floor. Shouting ‘F*ck off’ at it.
 
I honestly don’t know how to stop her contacting me. I don’t want to change my phone number, and as it is I don’t know where she lives, I don’t have her phone number stored in my phone – but recognise it when it comes up, she doesn’t know where we live either. But she insists on contacting me out of the blue, and it upsets me every time.
 
There was a time, I don’t know how long ago, that I would have loved her to be part of my life. But now, she has missed so much that we just can’t get back. The last time I really knew my Mother I was 16. I had my first boyfriend, I was at school and working part-time in Woolworth’s. I had posters of Ant&Dec and Savage Garden on my bedroom walls, I had just got my belly button pierced, had never been abroad, never been on an aeroplane, had just got my first mobile phone from collecting ring pulls on Coca Cola cans. I was a child.
 
Since then I have owned two homes, met and married my Hubby, had two feline additions to our family, I work for a different company and have changed locations with that company 5 times, I have learnt to drive and have owned three different cars, I have had a baby. The baby is now 9 months old. I am a woman, a wife, a mother.
 
I have come so far and I don’t realistically think that even if I wanted it there would be a space for my Mother in my life now. My life is full with great people, great family and as I have come so far, my Mother has also changed. She would no longer be the lovely, round, huggable Mother who baked me cakes as a child, who always cooked from scratch, who taught me how to make a home, who gave us amazing Christmases and Birthdays with very little money, who took me on days out to the park, to beauty spots – anywhere free, who took me camping each year to the New Forest, who gave me an amazing childhood on a shoe string.
 
The child I was, and the Mother who brought me up no longer exist. I think I have spent the last 12 years mourning everything I had as a child. But I know that I can never get that back. I can never be that child again with that perfect family. And unfortunately, my Mother is now incredibly bitter, incredibly focused on the past, and unable to change, that the person she is now would never be able to have a relationship with the 28-year-old me.
 
Our ships have sailed. I am happy in my life now and I sincerely hope that my Mother is happy in her life now, wherever that is and whatever she may be doing.

Parenthood and Shiftwork

As you may or may not know, Hubby works shifts. He works 6 days and then has 4 off. The 6 days he works are between 8 and 12 hours, and generally he leaves home an hour and a half before he starts work and gets home an hour and a half after he finishes work. He always starts with two days where he leaves before we wake in the morning and finishes on two night shifts.

There are definitely pros and cons to him working shifts as far as LP is concerned.

The negatives are that Hubby being a consistent part of LP’s routine is impossible. He will never be able to read a bedtime story every night, bath her every night, see her first smile of the day every morning, have dinner with us as a family every evening…

It also means that nights when he is working are sometimes incredibly hard. The nights where she wakes every four hours for a feed and then goes back to sleep are fine. But the nights like tonight where it takes me two hours of rocking and shushing and singing to her to get her to go to sleep are awful. I end up putting her in her cot and going to sit in our room for a minute or two whilst I calm down and compose myself, before trying to get her to sleep again. I always try to remind myself that she will go to sleep eventually, and now that LP is 8 months old it is so much easier to the early weeks where she didn’t go to sleep at all between about 8pm and 4am. So things are getting better!

The shifts mean that Hubby misses the day-to-day interaction that I have with LP and so I make sure that I take photos as much as possible when he’s working so that he can at least have a glimpse of the day she’s having. LP doesn’t differentiate between us being there or not being there at the moment, but it is always lovely to see the smile she gives her Daddy when she sees him for the first time after he’s been work. She definitely saves the biggest smiles for Daddy!

I honestly can’t think of any more negatives now that I’ve taken the time to write about it.

The positives though, are that if he were working 9-5, he would never be there for LP’s lunch, and maybe not even breakfast and dinner. With his hours the way they are, he gets to be there for the morning some days, the afternoon sometimes, and dinner/bath/bed sometimes. He gets to be there for a different part of the day each day which must seem to LP like he is there a lot of the time as a big part of his working hours do fall into the times when she is asleep anyway!

He also has 4 days off in a row. The first day off he finishes work at 7am, home about 8:30am so spends the majority of that day sleeping off the night duty but he then has three days with us as a family. We don’t have ‘weekends’ like conventional families, but we do have quality family time which may end up being mid-week!

It also means that when Hubby takes a holiday from work, he takes 6 days holiday but with the 4 rest days either side, he has 2 weeks off work. Not bad really! Definitely something we will appreciate when LP’s at school and we need childcare for the holidays!

So really, shift work is swings and roundabouts. It will be different when I go back to work in October – we will have one ‘weekend’ a month together, but Daddy will have a lot more quality time with LP as he will be sharing ‘childminding’ with the childminder, and will end up having her on average for at least half the time I am at work.

When I’m back at work, I will definitely appreciate Hubby, and the time we have together, more. Before LP, we would often be ships passing in the night – not seeing each other properly for a couple of days at a time. When I’m back to work it will be the same situation except that we have LP too. It means that evenings when Hubby is home will be quality time for him and I. Weekends when he’s home will be quality time for the three of us, and the rest of the world can fit in around that.

I am just glad in all this, that I am not a shift worker. If we both worked shifts I cannot imagine ever having quality time together!

To work or not to work?

Every Mother, on maternity leave, at some point has to weigh up the pros and cons of going back to work. This is never an easy decision to make, and quite often you can feel completely different about the prospect of returning to work when you are faced with it – a year earlier when maternity leave is only just starting and you haven’t yet held your baby in your arms everything can seem a lot clearer – having a baby definitely makes decisions a lot harder to make!

Firstly you have to look at your financial situation with and without going back to work. Would you have enough money to have a lifestyle that you could happily live with if you didn’t return to work? Would you be eligible for any benefits? Does the amount you earn cover the extra childcare costs?

So the next thing is childcare. Nursery, Nanny, Childminder, Family? There are so many options and they all have their own individual pros and cons.

I went to visit my work colleagues today, and they loved seeing LP. I try to drop in every couple of months to keep in touch. My Line Manager doesn’t work at the same place so my visits are very informal. I am due back to work at the end of August but I then have my annual leave and bank holidays for the year to take, so I will realistically have to go back in October.

Ideally, I would love to be a stay at home Mum – who better to look after my child then it’s Mother? But financially, I, like many other Mothers, need to work. I could stay at home, but we would have no ‘extra’ cash for clothes, haircuts, contact lenses… Not even the big things like holidays and meals out – I can live without those, but when you have just enough money for a very basic food shop and a tank of petrol a month things can get quite tough. It would also mean if I didn’t go back to work that whenever we next decide to have another baby we wouldn’t be eligible for any maternity pay – there are enough things to worry about when you have a new baby without having to worry about money too.

So I’ll be going back to work.

In order to go back to my previous job role – that I love and that was with people I really got on with and most importantly was close to where I live – I need to go back full-time.

The next issue is childcare. Hubby works shifts and not on a regular shift pattern – every day is different. But this means that he is at home a lot during the standard working week. This means that if we were to put LP into a nursery we would have to put her in full-time – to cover my working hours, and yet on average half of the week Hubby would be at home to look after her. Also, the cheapest full-time nursery place where we live is £1200 a month. Paying this amount for childcare would mean that there is no point me working – we would barely be breaking even!

The other option we are looking at is a childminder. However, most childminders, understandably, like to know what days and hours they are having the child and for it to be the same each week – This doesn’t fit in with Hubby’s working ‘pattern’. I found a great website www.childcare.co.uk where you can advertise what services you need and then childminders/nurseries/nannies can respond with what they can offer to help your situation. From this website I have had at least a dozen responses from childminders able to cover just the hours that Hubby and I both work – on average 75 hours a month. I would pay them for 75 hours a month and if I use more hours I would pay them an hourly rate and I would let them know which hours a month in advance. this would be approximately half the cost of a nursery!

I honestly didn’t think that there would be any way that we would find a childcare option that would work around our jobs and lifestyle. This is as far as I have got in my return to work – I am organising a meeting with my Line Manager at the moment and have told the childminders that I will contact them when I know more about my return to work. But what this has taught me is that there is a childcare option for everyone!

The main thing now is how do you trust someone to look after your child? I will be meeting these people, seeing how they work, checking references and seeing how they interact with LP. But how well can you ever know them? In life you must have a certain amount of trust and I will make sure that I find the best person I can to look after LP as well as Hubby or I would.

So I now have just over 5 months to spend as much time as possible with LP, to make the most of every day and make sure that we have as much quality time as possible. When I go back to work I will be coming home, giving LP dinner and then it will be bath and bed 5 nights a week. So I will be living for the weekend with so much more emphasis than ever before! There will be so much to cram into those weekends – quality family time with LP, seeing her three sets of grandparents and then trying to prioritise the other aspects of our lives – other relatives, friends and social events. I know now that LP and quality family time are the priority, seeing grandparents comes second. The other people/occasions will be prioritised dependent on how much of a priority LP has been to them during the first year of her life – if friends haven’t seen her, haven’t spent time with her then I won’t be wasting those precious weekends seeing them. I will make time for LP to see the people who matter most and that have cared the most but realistically, if most weekends are spent being just LP, Hubby and I then what more could we want?

Right now the thought of going back to work is horrendous. I cannot imagine leaving her every day for a week, let alone every day of the working week for the forseeable future. I now have so much respect for working mothers. Going to work and leaving your child in childcare must get easier as time goes on but I can imagine that my first day back will be unbearable. But I have got 5 months to get used to the idea of going back to work. Many people say that I will love going back, I’ll love a break from being a Mummy by then and will love the adult company. I think the people who say these things are either just trying to make me feel better, don’t understand at all or they are the kind of Mothers that really felt like that. I love my life now, and love spending every day with LP – she is the most amazing little person I have ever had the privilege of getting to know, she makes me smile endlessly and I love her company. We spend time with other Mummies and babies – and contrary to popular belief we do talk about things other than babies – I even had a conversation about the financial condition of the country and mortgage rates the other day, mummies have brains too! We also go on day trips, for walks and have a family day out every few weeks.

Going back to work will definitely be a shock to the system! But what is it they say, a change is as good as the rest?

Sleep?

When I was pregnant I was told countless times that I should make the most of sleep before the baby came, and that when the baby was here I would never get a decent night’s sleep ever again.

Pregnancy is a great thing. Apart from the obvious, pregnancy gets you ready for your new life after the baby has arrived. Throughout the pregnancy, sleeping wasn’t a comfortable experience and the closer it got to the due date the harder sleeping became. Firstly, you had to get up every couple of hours to wee. Secondly, when you weren’t weeing you couldn’t sleep as you were the size of an elephant, ‘weren’t allowed’ to lay this way, or that way or whatever, had pillows shoved in every conceivable gap around your inflated body and you had all these baby related thoughts in your head. After spending the night tossing and turning and weeing constantly it got to about 5am and you’d give up, go downstairs, make yourself a cup of caffeine-free tea and turn the TV on – to be faced with nothing more than children’s TV, before the world wakes up to the morning news shows.

When the baby finally arrives you basically sleep when it sleeps for the first two weeks, longer if you’re lucky. Then after that the real fun starts where baby slowly becomes more awake, sleeps less and needs more interaction. The times that you can sleep get less, to the point where you’re 7 months in and baby only sleeps for 3 half hour installments every day and if you don’t get enough sleep at night you’re stuffed. No chance of a catch up.

So after the baby arrives you basically get up in the night every couple of hours to feed it/change it/shush it/wind it/look at it/check it’s temperature/make sure it’s breathing and everything else that parents do. You then can’t sleep when you go back to bed as you’re worrying about it, listening to every little whimper and every breath to make sure that it’s ok. If you get past that you then have a lot on your mind – the Baby’s future, your financial situation, all the jobs that you didn’t get around to doing as you had a baby to look after. Before you know it, it’s 5am and baby is crying to be fed/changed/entertained/cuddled and your day starts again.

My point? Pregnancy sets you up for parenthood. Not only does it give you 9 months to get used to the idea of becoming parents and to bond with the little bean growing inside you, but it also gets you used to insomnia, broken sleep and early mornings.

Parents always talk about sleep deprivation. I hate that phrase. I have had sleep since having LP, therefore I am not deprived of sleep. However, my sleep now comes in 2-4 hour chunks, and not the 8-10 hours I was used to before I got pregnant. Occasionally LP will surprise me and will sleep for a whole 5 hours, once we even managed 6 hours in a row, and I felt like a new person. generally though, LP will wake every 3-4 hours throughout the night for breastfeeds. 7 months in and I am used to it. I can function as well as I could on 8 hours sleep pre-pregnancy. Again, I think your body gets accustomed to the amount of sleep or the sleeping pattern that you are getting and you learn to deal with it and function adequately. The problems only really arise when you get a lot less sleep than your body is used to.

Last night, for example, LP went to sleep as usual at 6:30pm. She then slept until 9:30pm at which point I fed her. She then woke again at 1am, had a feed and then refused to go back to sleep until after 4am! Rocking, shushing, feeding, singing, patting, nothing worked. She just wanted to be held. Every time we got her to sleep she’d wake up the minute you tried to put her down. Until 4am, when she finally went back to sleep. She then woke up at 6:30am and wanted to play. Then my day started again.

Even though I’m used to broken sleep, the disruption and lack of sleep last night has made today very difficult, I can’t function as well as I can having sleep of 3-4 hour installments.

I have friends who formula feed and whose babies sleep through the night from 8pm-8am every night. Occasionally they have a bad night and the baby will have woken up once, sometimes twice during the night. They will say to me that they don’t know how I get up every night, throughout the night, as they found that one night of getting up twice so difficult.

The reason I, and every other Mother to a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night can get up and then function the next day is because we are used to it. We have had months of broken sleep that starts off as waking up every hour and gradually increases to waking every 3 or 4 hours, our bodies have adjusted over time. Mothers are amazing creatures, we are adaptable, resilient and unfaltering. Basically – we just get on with it.

My Hubby is a great man, and he always gets up to help settle LP when I need him to. But, when it comes down to it, he has his day job – and as I’m breastfeeding he can’t do that bit anyway! So I try my best to manage without dragging him out of bed unless I really need help. When he’s off work he takes LP downstairs and gives her breakfast so that I can have a little lay in and when he’s working I do the same for him – take LP downstairs so as not to disturb him. We are very much a team.

There are a lot of scenarios since having LP that I look at and wonder how I would cope, and I had never even thought about it before having LP. I have a lot of respect for single parents as, even though Hubby works night shifts regularly, the majority of the time he is there to hand LP over to in the night if it all gets a bit much. Parents of twins – how do you rock and shush two babies to sleep? One may need a nap, the other may not? You get one to sleep then the other’s crying wakes the sleeping one up… I really do not know how they do it!

All I can say, Dads do a great job too. But Mothers truly are amazing.