A new direction for my 30s

Let’s first address the elephant in the room.

I am now 30. 

Yep, the big Three Zero. I made it! Hurrah and whatnot…

OK, now that that’s been dealt with, let’s move on.

I started this blog in Autumn of last year when fighting an inner battle on maternity leave.

I loved spending time at home with my tiny man but I struggled not using my creative side whilst being off of work.

Writing for me, about things I want to write about, in my own words and style was perfect. And it still is perfect, don’t get me wrong.

But the last few months I have been ridiculously slack with my blog.

In fact, I have been slack with a lot of things.

Maybe I was struggling with turning thirty, people suggested. Quite the opposite; I am proud of what I achieved in my 20s and looking forward to a new decade of achievements ahead of me.

Maybe that was the problem?

I am an ambitious individual. I always have been. I am also stubborn and, at times, impatient. I decide I want something and I want it there and then.

Unfortunately that doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with my goal-setting ways.

But here and now I pledge to change my ways. I will blog more, tweet more, and share more photos and videos on Instagram and YouTube.

I want to document my life, not because I want thousands of people to read my words or catch of glimpse of my not-so-exciting life, but because if the last ten years are anything to go by, then my thirties are going to fly by and I want something to look back on.

I pledge to write more, to speak out more and to share my thoughts more. I pledge to be more honest and less self-critical.

So, going into this new era of my life, I am manoeuvring my blog in a new direction. My aim – and please do hold me to it! – is to blog weekly on just what we’ve been up to, how I am feeling, where our lives are at, as well as to document the milestones in all our lives.

When I look back at this post in ten year’s time, here are ten goals I hope to have achieved:

  1. Regular blogs and vlogs detailing our ever-changing family and world
  2. Contentment with my work/life balance
  3. Mastered the art of creating perfect cake frosting
  4. Settled on a hair colour I am happy with
  5. Bought our ‘forever home’ – cheers Phil & Kirsty and Rightmove for this one…
  6. Having read every book on my bookshelf at least once
  7. No more self body shaming
  8. A brother or sister for Felix
  9. The ability to keep on top of my washing
  10. No meltdown at turning 40

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What is ‘success’, anyway?

Last week I watched a video by the lovely Louise Pentland where she apologised for how much she apologised. How she was sorry and almost ashamed of admitting the fantastic achievements she’s had in her personal and professional life so far.

Today, I was on a business trip in London with my boss, sipping coffee and flicking casually through The Metro like all the other commuters. The two hour train journey home got us talking about how we envy the City folk, the hustle and bustle of daily life, as we meandered through the countryside back to deepest, darkest Lincolnshire. Conversation then turned into what we deem as being successful.

Are we any less successful or worthy than our London-counterparts?

This got me thinking…

Society has created an image in our heads of what ‘success’ is. Fancy cars, designer clothes, big houses in the right postcode and the right city, flashy beach holidays, enormous salaries, the perfect life portrayed across social media for the world to see…

I don’t think so.

People measure success differently, but surely it’s not OK that society has created this awkward set of what is, for most, almost unachievable goals? A list that means we always doubt ourselves and forget, at times, to be grateful for what we have?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have goals, to strive for more. Hell, I am a nightmare for it, constantly pushing for the next ‘thing’ in my life.

But every now and again, it’s important to stop, step back and take stock of where you are.

And don’t be afraid or ashamed or embarrassed to shout about your achievements and successes. However big or small they may seem to someone else, they’re what make you who you are.

And you’re pretty bloody great.

So, in my effort to spread a little happiness, positivity and pride, and following on from the inspiring list Louise spoke about in her video, here are the blow-your-own-trumpet reasons why I believe I am a success:

I am a mother and a wife. I am a home-owner and dream-car-driver. I am a graduate in Law and Accounting, and a self-made, CIM qualified marketer. I am a lover of cats and a mummy to two fluff-balls. I am an ace mac ‘n’ cheese maker and experienced pancake eater. I am a full time working mum. I am a loyal friend, a master of diplomacy and have the patience of a saint (most of the time…). I am a happy child from a broken home. I am an above-average cookie baker, a go-getter and an oragnisational Goddess.

I am Me and in my eyes, I am a success.

Will this post stop me from craving that next big achievement? No, probably not. I can’t help that hard-wiring in my head that pushes me to want more. But will it make me slow down and appreciate what I’ve got? I think so. I hope so.

I’d love to know how other people view their successes and how they measure it! Please tweet me @MummyMrsAndMe or comment below.

Am I lonely or is this all in my head?

One thing I never counted on, it never even crossed my naive little mind, was that having a baby would lose you friends.

That sounds a bit dramatic and playground-like, but bear with me…

I was excited to return to work, to re-join and re-connect with a group of friends I had known for five years. But upon doing so I realised that things had changed.

It’s no one’s fault. These things happen.

I have said before about my fears about returning to work and how my job would change, but what didn’t dawn on me was that my friendships and the dynamic within the team I work would have changed so monumentally as well.

I’ve been back since the beginning of January and it’s hit me over the last few weeks how incredibly lonely I am at work.

My life is so different now. My priorities have changed. Who I am has changed.

I am the only parent in my department (for now!), and it is abundantly clear.

Those people who I once laughed with, shared stories and gossiped with, moaned with, went for dinner and Christmas drinks with, we’re not the same people anymore.

I feel like an outsider looking in. Looking back on my old life.

I feel lost.

It’s not their fault, not at all. It was bound to happen.

I left, albeit not permanently, but I left. Dynamics change, that’s normal. The rational side of my brain gets that. And I know one day they will have families and I’m sure there will be common ground again.

But right now I feel uncomfortable. I don’t know how to talk to them. I (selfishly) don’t have the head-space to listen and partake in idle gossip and office politics.

Maybe I am just a shit friend?

I know I’m not being maliciously excluded. I’m probably unintentionally withdrawing myself whilst I try and deal with my own mushed up thoughts.

It’s hard enough walking through the door everyday knowing that I have left my son behind so I can (again, selfishly) still have a career.

No one talks about the loneliness of sitting at your desk, day in, day out. The pain of ‘working mum guilt’ building inside you constantly. The fear that you’ve made the wrong decision being full time – hell, enough people insinuate it! – but that selfish part of you wants more. Hiding the tears that sit in your eyes sometimes, stinging, desperate to leak out, when you think of your child playing, learning, developing with someone else. The jealously you’ll feel towards other people who still get to live a selfish life.

I’m not alone, I know that really. Those people are still there for me, it’s just different now. Those similarities we once had are gone. Those things that made us relatable are, for now at least, a distant memory.

It doesn’t stop the feeling of awkwardness, isolation and overpowering loneliness, but it goes some way to comfort me and encourage me to keep going.

Hopefully one day things will change.

Phewf – writing this during my lunch break was an error. 

* Cue pathetic guilty mum tears rolling down cheek, and scurrying to the toilet to fix make-up before anyone realises you’re not actually doing as well as you’re trying to let on *

Afterthought…

Reading back through this post in the comfort of my own home, relaxed as I watch my son sleep peacefully on the monitor, my husband laying next to me chuckling at something he’s watching, the cats curled up on the sofa snoring gently, I realise that so much, if not all, of this uncertainty is just in my head. It’s me trying to deal with my own insecurities, me trying to find my own way, how and where I fit back in. Wondering if I ever will? If I will ever let myself?

Sure, things have undeniably changed at work, and that’s OK. That really is no one’s fault. And I usually embrace change; change is gooooood.

But maybe I am unfairly pinning ‘blame’ of this on other’s when actually it’s all in my head?

Meh, that’s deep and I should probably be in bed. Sorry.

I wonder whether others feel like this? I’d love to know!


Also, I know the photo is totally random, but I have a thing for gummy bears at the moment, so picking myself out as a red bear among the clear jellies seems suitably symbolic! 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Sparked by watching the BBC’s ‘The Replacement’ last week (I must catch up on the latest episode!), it reminded me of all the completely sane, totally normal and entirely rational thoughts… ahem… that went through my head this time last year as the start date of my maternity leave was impending.

I will admit that, looking back, maybe they weren’t all entirely justified, but at the time, the struggle and the panic was very real.

1. My replacement would be better than me at my job

Irrational thought: Obviously they were going to come in and totally smash my job, the job that I have created and moulded over the last four years. They would show me up and highlight my flaws. They would get things done that I could only have dreamt of. I would never be able to do my job when I came back because they would have set such a high standard that I just couldn’t meet. I would hate them.

Hindsight: You want your workload to be managed and looked after; coming back to nothing being done would be worse, would it not? A replacement knows they’re filling big shoes, they don’t have the expertise and the knowledge that you do. They’re keeping things going whilst you’re TEMPORARILY not there. They are not ‘the new you’.

2. Everyone would like my replacement more than me

Irrational thought: Obviously they were going to be the coolest, friendliest, funniest, most lovable and intelligent person ever. They would intentionally find my quirks and make everyone hate me for them. They would be the best person ever.

Hindsight: Turns out they still like me! Imagine that?! Despite my quirks, my inevitable (though I can’t think of any right now) annoying habits or hormonal breakdowns, I slotted right back into the department as if I never went away.

3. I would lose control of my own projects – my ‘work babies’

NB: Important fact to note is that I am super protective over my work, my projects and I like things done ‘just so’.

Irrational thought: They would come in, leave me out of the loop (oh how I love the loop!), change my projects, ignore my suggestions and well thought out, detailed plans and just generally turn MY work into THEIR work. How dare they?

Hindsight: They were treading water, keeping things afloat. There was no time for deviating from my marvellous, well- structured plans. My plans saved their arse. This makes me happy.

4. My colleagues would forget about me and not talk to me for months

Irrational thought: My colleagues are more than that; they’re good friends who have been by my side through a lot. But they would, of course, dump me and forget about me, becoming BFFs with The Replacement in no time at all. I would be nothing but a distant memory.

Hindsight: They didn’t forget about me at all. Funny that? They still emailed and text me, they still included me in office bants. They bought me gifts when Felix arrived, they came and visited me. We even went out to lunches just so they could see him and cuddle him. They still like me (I think) and I was not forgotten.

5. I would totally forget how to do my job when I came back

Irrational thought: Oooh now this is a biggy. After working hard for years to establish myself as a respected, intelligent employee who knows what they’re talking about (that’s what I like to tell myself, anyway), a combination of post-baby brain, hormones, uncertainty, lack of confidence, seven months off, accepting other people’s judgements and insecurities would basically mean that I had forgotten how to a) do my job, and b) be good at doing my job.

Hindsight: I’m still very much winging it, but it took a surprisingly short amount of time to settle back in to my role. Whether it’s a good thing or not is up to the individual, but it very much felt like I had never been away. Sure, it takes time to fully get that much-desired control back over things, to get your feet back under the table, but it happens.

I think if I watched The Replacement this time last year, I probably would have had some sort of breakdown watching her fears on screen, but hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.

My career is important to me, that’s well documented, so the fear is very much real. But, hopefully, next time I won’t be quite as on edge and my boss won’t have to give me quite so many “it’s going to be OK, Paula” pep talks!

Afterthought…

If you’re interested… I will be posting another blog later this week on how ‘easy’ I found it slotting back into the work relationships I had before I left. I know younger mums experience and talk about shifts in their friendship groups as they became parents, but at 30, I never expected it. Anyway, more on that soon!

I wish I was one of those women.

I really wish I was one of those empowering women who say they don’t care what they look like. One of those amazing women who can shrug off negative body image comments and feelings, like water off a duck’s back. Someone who could turn around and say (to themselves just as much as others) “I only had a baby eight months ago, I’m doing great”.

I am not one of those women.

I’ve tried. I’ve really, really tried. But I failed.

This morning I decided that my two pairs of comfortably fitting jeans needed a new, grey friend, so off I trotted to the shops to find a little treat for myself. After settling on a set of jeggings and a couple of cheeky dresses from the sale rail, I did what I never, ever do, and opted to actually try them on. After all, I might need a smaller size, right?

Wrong.

As I took off my comfortable, safe and suitably stretched blue jeans, I turned away from the mirror and the bright lights so I didn’t have to catch sight of my wobbly bits in, what I am convinced must be, magnified mirrors. On go the lovely soft, new jeans – the bigger size at first so I could happily shout to my husband for a smaller size.

Well that didn’t happen, did it?

Yes they were comfortable. Every bit as soft and stretchy as I had hoped. But, damn it, they were the bigger size and they fitted. Sort of.

As I let my oversized knitwear fall down over the waistband I thought they looked OK. I could pull this off. I turned head on to the mirror and that’s when I noticed the pull. Marvellous. The super stretchy material was, indeed, stretching (lots and lots of stretching) and pulling superbly over my thighs, creating a not-so stunning look.

Turning sideways to the mirror, pulling my top up slightly, there was The Bulge as my eight month post-baby body squished itself half over, and half under, the waistline.

It was a shit look and I knew it.

Being sure not to make eye contact with myself, I quickly got dressed back into my own clothes, and took the jeans and two dresses back to the rail.

I wouldn’t get anything new. Not today.

Fighting back the tears, I found my husband and we walked back to the car empty handed.

I’m not obese, I know that. My husband loves me the way I am, I know that too. And I know that my body did something incredible. That’s freakin’ awesome and I should cut it some slack.

I know all of that.

But it doesn’t stop me from feeling crappy about myself.

Sure, there’s more I could do.

I could join a gym! Hell, I could definitely find the time to go to the gym in-between holding down a full time job, being a mummy and a wife, right?

Maybe I could give up sugar! Who needs treats to get them through a really tough day at the office when you’ve had just three hours of sleep because your baby is teething/has a cold/is going through separation anxiety/all of the above and more?

I guess what I’m getting at is, is it even OK anymore to admit that you don’t love your post-baby body? The internet is full of the most incredible, inspirational women who have the balls to stand up and say they’re proud of their wobbly bits, and I salute you!

I wish I was you, but I am not.

Of course I am proud of what I have created. I love Felix more than anything and of course I am in awe of how my body has created and nurtured such an incredible tiny human.

But do I wish that I had the self-confidence to wear whatever I wanted and give zero f**** about what others might say, or how protruding my muffin top might be? You’re damn right, I do.

So tomorrow I will stand and stare blankly for ten minutes at my wardrobe and debate which pair of tired jeans to crack out, whilst lusting after a body that once was mine, envying the confidence and will power of others, as I tuck into my Double Choc Mocha and third slice of Nutella on toast, getting ready to load Felix into the car and off to my Mum’s, as I plan what we’re all eating for dinner for the week, make a mental note of what bills need paying before the end of the month, try to remember to have a chat with so-and-so at work about that last minute email that came in on Friday, give the cats a quick fuss so they don’t think we’ve abandoned them for a miniature human, pick up my pack up so I’m not tempted to go to the shop at lunch for yet more deliciously sugary snacks, seek out that missing shoe from the back of the cupboard so I don’t have to change my entire outfit as I am walking out the door, already uncharacteristically three minutes late.

Oh, and remember to book a consultation in at the gym.

Yeah, right…

 

This is real life. And it’s bloody confusing.

It’s the end of January which means that my period of transition between maternity leave and full time working is almost at an end.

How do I feel about that? Guilty. Proud. Ashamed. Relieved. Like a bad mum. Like a good mum.

‘Confused’ probably sums it up nicely.

I’ve used January as a way to ease myself back into work, into normal life, a routine, or, as my husband put it, reality.

Maternity leave was the most incredible, special and amazing thing. It was like a little bubble of awesomeness! But all bubbles burst in the end.

This is real life. And it’s bloody confusing.

I have chosen to return to work full time and, as of February 1st, that’s exactly what I am doing. My month of easing myself into work is over and I am back, full throttle, foot on the gas, raring to go etc. etc. And you know what? I cannot wait.

My career has always been important to me. Not so important that I put off having children, mind you; it’s 2017 for goodness sake, why shouldn’t I work full time and be an amazing Mummy? Who says that isn’t possible?

I have worked hard to get where I am. I am lucky to work in a great company with fantastic colleagues and a supportive boss. To go to work everyday and do something I enjoy; how many people can say that? And why would I choose to give that up?

But it’s tough.

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Family time is extra special now.

Felix is still attending all his classes, just not with me. He sees his friends, just not with me. He learns new words and moves around for the first time, just not for me.

I struggled with this at first. Picking him up and hearing about how he had been unsettled at a group he used to love. Hearing how he’d learnt a new sound or developed a new facial expression. It broke my heart.

But then I learnt to treasure every moment we have together. We go out at weekends. We paint, play with animals and go for walks. We read books, play with toys and see his friends. We take hundreds of photos capturing the good moments and the not so good ones.

I was there the first time he said Mama and Dada. I’m there for him when he wakes in the night from a bad dream. I saw him sit up and play in the bath for the first time. I witnessed his first (albeit heavily aided) steps with the walker.

I’m still his Mummy and he still loves me. I know that.

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Baby steps!

Going back to work isn’t for everyone and I understand that. In fact, I take my hat off to those people who stay at home with their children. But it’s just not me.

I want a piece of me back, and I love it.

I have my own identity. Being a Mummy to Felix is my motivation. It pushes me to be the very best that I can be and it has taught me and changed me so much already. But being a mummy does not define who I am. Neither does being a wife.

I am Mummy, Mrs and Me. In that order.

Do I feel guilty about that? Sure I do. Is it selfish that I still want a part of my old self? Yeah, maybe. Am I ashamed of looking forward to returning to work? Definitely.

But, am I proud of the person I am? Of the Mummy I am to Felix and the wife I am to Darryl? You bet I am.

I’m not the best, but I am giving it my everything. I have good days and bad days. Most days I am just winging it as I go along. But I am loving every second of this new reality.

Bring it on!

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Love my Winging It sweatshirt from Selfish Mother! 

So it turns out I am normal. What gives?

I am a terrible blogger. There, I said it.

I started this blog a few months ago as a sort of therapy, really. A way to be creative, to use my head, to communicate with other parents out there whilst on maternity leave. Somewhere to write down memories and moments that I want to look back on but that would inevitably fade through the passing of time.

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This guy, though…

But I failed.

The reason I failed is because despite always thinking I was an excellent time-manager, ball-juggler and all round superwoman, it turns out that I actually am not a super-human life form. I am in fact rather normal. What’s that all about?

Instead of allowing myself ample time to sit down with coffee and cake in the evenings, I chose to catch up on sleep. Instead of writing whilst Felix chose to nap, I opted for doing the laundry. Instead of taking up the many offers from family to give myself some ‘me time’ and let them look after him for a few hours, I decided to have more snuggles and playtime with him myself.

But now the wonderful, short-lived, happy little bubble that is maternity leave has now ended and I am back at work, I am determined to start writing some of the many blogs that come to me when I am doing the night feed, washing my hair, peeling potatoes or fuelling up the car.

Blogging is what lunch breaks are for, surely?

So if you happen to see me browsing Instagram at lunch, reading a book, having a gossip or biting my nails, please feel free to have a quiet word and tell me to put finger to keyboard and start writing!

Here’s to a blog-filled 2017.

Hopefully…

‘Me Time’ – What’s that again?

People tell you that you should enjoy that bit of maternity leave once work is done and before your little one arrives. People say you should take a bath, get your hair done, read a book, or just enjoy some peace and quiet. People say to make the most of that ‘me time’ because you won’t get any again for some time…

I disagree. A bit.

As I’ve mentioned before, I ignored that advice entirely and sat impatiently bouncing on birthing balls, drinking disgusting raspberry leaf tea and devouring pineapple like it was air during those long three weeks before Felix arrived.

When he arrived I didn’t want to leave him, not for a second. That would make me a bad mummy, wouldn’t it? I was a parent now and I had to be with him constantly or I would be neglecting him, wouldn’t I?

Actually, no.

The first time I left him was at around two weeks and only for a matter of hours. I had a dress fitting for my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding. He was left with his daddy and, do you know what, no one died. The world did not in fact end. Everything was OK.

I wouldn’t say that I enjoy leaving him and, in fact, on my ‘keep in touch’ day at work last week I broke down in tears several times about the fact that I was an awful mum who had abandoned her son. How very selfish of me…

But you know what, he loves different faces, new places and couldn’t be happier spending time with his daddy and grandparents. So now I have decided that ‘me time’ is actually possible and am trying to make more space in our hectic schedule for it.

Here are my favourite ‘me time’ activities so far…

Reading a book… OK so it hasn’t happened quickly but I am soooo nearly at the end of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now. I  went to pick my copy up at the midnight release back in July, confident that I would be able to read it whilst I fed Felix or when he napped during the day. Neither of those things happened. But, almost two months later, I am pleased to say that I am so nearly at the end and I’m loving it!

Pottery painting… It’s important to note that I am one of the most artistically challenged people around. I have great visions and my stick men aren’t half bad, but when it comes to anything more, it’s pretty poor. But nonetheless, we have an adorable little pottery studio close by who run ladies nights. My sister and I have been twice already and we’re booked in for a festive session in November. My paintings certainly wouldn’t any awards, but I will still be putting them proudly on display (in a room that no one else will ever go in…).

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My cupcake cookie jar – I actually am pretty proud of this!

Straightening my hair… Sounds silly, right? People stand in front of the mirror every morning and straighten their hair. Well not when you’re a mummy! I’ve now discovered that if I get up early enough in the morning (around 5am usually does the trick), I can fit in a seven minute shower, hair wash, dry and straighten and, if I am really lucky, there’s even time to put on mascara! Ironed clothes, however, is another matter entirely.

The Real Housewives of… Wherever actually, I’m not fussy. Felix isn’t one for daytime naps but he sleeps through the night so I don’t complain. He’s now getting to an age where I can leave him to roll around and play on his mat and he’s content doing this for a good 40 minutes or so. Pretty convenient given that an episode of Real Housewives is approximately 42 minutes long…

Baking… I’ve always loved baking. A bit like pottery, my visions rarely come to life and certainly never match the Pinterest inspired expectations I have, but they usually taste pretty good. OK so I haven’t actually made it into the kitchen to bake much over the last three months (at all, actually, I haven’t baked once), but I have every intention of whipping up some scrumptious cookies and cupcakes again soon. Honest!