Monday 22nd May 2017

Writing anything in the aftermath of a terrorist attack feels somewhat meaningless and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But when you write exclusively about being a parent, the fact the attack mercilessly targeted children and young people makes me feel compelled, like many others, to speak out with a message of love and support.

This was an attack directed at our young people. Our children. And it could easily have been any of our own kids that were senselessly taken. This has shaken me to the core, and I can’t even comprehend the all-encompassing grief that now engulfs the parents, families and friends of those impacted.

I am shocked. I am sickened. I am aching inside. But I will not hate. And I will not be afraid. I will hug my daughter tight and I will make sure she knows that love is a far stronger emotion than hate. Love will always prevail, and even in dark moments like this, we can find strength in our love for each other.

GUEST BLOG: ‘How cleaning with kids can be educational AND helpful’, by Joanna Wilkins

The cleaning chores at home seem to be endless and overwhelming. But it can be way easier, if all the members of the household participate in the cleaning chores.

Even the kids can be of great help and this will create useful habits for their future. Don’t hesitate to include them – they need to learn these lessons and they’re often not taught this in school.

It is normal that your kid might not be eager to get involved in the cleaning, but you need to find a way to make it engaging. Start from the idea of play. Then consider how to make the cleaning chores fun and interesting.

In the beginning, don’t assume that your kid will do the cleaning and that it will be perfect. Be prepared that after their attempt, you will need to re-do the chore again. But never let them see you doing this, because he/ she will be disappointed and will lose enthusiasm.

Start with the simplest tasks which are most important to the child themselves. All children love their toys. Use this to teach them to take care of their toys and put them in a particular place. In this way, your child will start to value and take pride in the safety of their own belongings. This will also help with problem-solving… Moreover, it will save the screams that will come from your child when you accidentally step on their favourite toy and it cracks beneath your feet!

Then you can try making the bed. It is easy, but kids just don’t like to do it. Their main point is  usually, “Why should I make the bed, since I’ll use it again later?”. Show them the easiest way to do it and don’t forget the “stick and carrot” method. For each accomplished task, give them a small prize or treat.

You can also try tidying the wardrobe. With this chore, try to be patient, since it is not the easiest thing to do. Firstly, divide the wardrobe into sections, so that they won’t be confused as to where to put different items. Everything should have its own place. Show them an easy way to fold the clothes and how to use the hangers.

After all this, your child may be ready to start with the washing of the dishes. It is an easy chore, but don’t expect them to wash the dishes for the whole family. Teach them to wash their own plate and utensils after having food. This chore will save you the full sink of dishes and reduce the chance of them developing a habit of leaving their mess for someone else to clean.

Washing the floor is one of the favourite chores kids like to do. Kings Cross Domestic Clean explains that the reason for this is all the kids’ movies where they’re having fun with the broom, using it as a guitar etc. Start with showing them simple sweeping strokes. With the mopping, you need to be more careful, since the floor will get slippery. Leave the vacuum cleaning for the last, since it is electrical and it may take more time to master.

Give them enough time to get used to these chores and to perfect their skills. Don’t rush or push them, and always strive to reward their efforts. To involve them in household duties is a very important lesson in life. Keep in mind that your child will become a grown person, who will have responsibilities. This is the first step to teach him/ her to be disciplined and to prepare them for the future. 

Joanna is a writer and the owner of a cleaning business, based in London. She has two children, aged three and seven years old.

Girls Run the World

Raising a daughter and helping her fine-tune her emotional and social intelligence is a complex business. And for me, a huge part of helping my daughter learn about herself and the world around her will be framed within the context of feminism and equality.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and you may disagree with my approach, but this is how I see it…

My daughter will receive every support and encouragement in achieving everything and anything she wants to in life. I will bring her up to know that with hard-work and self belief, she can do anything.

However, I won’t sugarcoat anything. I won’t pretend that getting what you want is easy. I won’t shy away from telling her about the disadvantages that face many, many women. She needs to have an awareness and an appreciation of the hardship and struggle that the ‘fairer sex’ has endured for a over a millennia, and how this impacts her as a woman today.

She will know though, that this isn’t an excuse to hide behind, nor is it an opportunity to admit defeat. In fact, I will encourage her to use this as ammunition to work harder to achieve what she believes in. It won’t be easy, but she will know she has all the love and respect in the world from me.

Maybe a ‘girls run the world’ t-shirt is just a bit of fun. Maybe it’s a manifesto for tomorrow.

Breastfeeding Tips for the Big-Titted Mama!

Breastfeeding is hard. For the ‘most natural thing in the world’, it’s trickier to get right than the FT cryptic crossword with a hangover and a broken pencil. What seemed to make it even harder for me was the fact that I have tits. Contradiction in terms, right? Alas, no.

It seems that the more you’ve got going on in the chest region, the trickier it is to master proper positioning. Also, the bigger the norks, the harder it is for you to not accidentally smother your newborn in all your extra flesh and skin when they’re feeding.

What used to be a tremendous boon in my hay-day for guaranteeing a drink offer at a bar, was suddenly a pain-in-the-arse complication in an already very confusing and painful new endeavour for me.

However: ample-mammary-mums-to-be, fear not! It is still possible to successfully breastfeed! After 18 months of feeding my daughter with my ma-hoosive melons, I’ve worked out a few ‘pointers’ to ensure lactation jubilation! Here are my top tips:

  1. Positioning. Most experts will advise mums-to-be to start feeding with the cross-cradle position. It’s supposedly the easiest. But for new mums with giant breasts, this one is not all that easy to master. I also just couldn’t get the ‘lying down’ method to work, my boobs would just flop over and I couldn’t establish a good latch lying down. After trying (and failing) with dozens of methods, the best one to accommodate my chesticles was the underarm, or football / rugby hold. It squished my breasts less, which enabled a ‘free-flow’ and reduced the risk of pressure across my chest that could result in blocked ducts or sore spots. I was also able to better control and adjust the positioning of my daughter’s head to ensure her nose and air-ways weren’t restricted. All in all, it was the most comfortable position for me until feeding was properly established. Plus it’s also great for twins!

  1. Wait til that mouth is nice and wide. Then shove them on. The bigger the boob, chances are, the bigger the nipple. It’s important that as much of the areola is in the baby’s mouth when feeding, so it’s really important to wait for them to open their mouths as wide as they can. If it’s not quite right, detach and try again until as much of it is in their mouths as possible. A bad latch hurts more than someone taking a lighter to your nasal hair. When in doubt, take them off and try again until you get it right.
  2. Nursing bras make all the difference. If you’ve got huge boobs, it’s trickier to find a suitable nursing bra that fits properly. If it’s slightly too small, or fits before your milk is established, you could end up with a bra that squishes your assets, and this can lead to complications like mastitis. I always found Bravissimo the best for a really well-made, supportive bra in ample sizes. M&S have an OK collection too – just ask for a fitting to ensure it is suitable. They’re expensive I know, and not particularly attractive – you might look like Les Dawson in drag when you’re wearing it – but I would happily re-mortgage my house if it meant I could afford a comfortable, supportive bra.
  3. A little lift. If the process of gaining / losing weight has resulted in your nips gradually facing in the direction of the carpet, it makes it even harder to be able to see what you’re doing to make sure you’ve got a good latch. I spent weeks holding up my breast to the baby, rather than finding a natural position that worked for the both of us. This meant that I was squishing my boob with the hand I was holding it up with, and also meant I didn’t have a free hand to browse on my phone with. Anyone who has latched on a newborn and then subsequently realised they haven’t got their phone on them will tell you that it can be the longest 40 minutes of your life. A spare hand with which to peruse facebook whilst feeding is almost essential for your sanity. After deciding I couldn’t carry on ‘lifting’ my breast myself, I discovered an amazing product that does the job for you – the Booby Booster. It attaches to your bra and basically acts as a sling lift which raises your breast slightly, making positioning easier (and freeing up a hand to read / eat / text). A DIY version can be created by using a large piece of muslin that ties around your neck and lifts your breast. Alternatively, a natural sponge that you can cut to fit under your breast will also give it a bit of a lift.

  1. Pump it up. You can now get different size breast-pump funnels, and this can make a huge difference to the success of your pumping, if you have large breasts. I never managed to find a pumping bra that was designed for the large-chested mother, so I made my own by cutting holes in an old nursing bra! Nothing beats a bit of hands-free pumping.
  2. Feeding outside the house. I was always self-conscious of feeding the baby in public, because there’s nothing discreet about whipping out a 3lb lump of fatty tissue in the middle of a coffee shop. If you don’t give a shit about doing this, then that’s fantastic! If you do, however, don’t let it put you-off feeding out and about, and absolutely don’t let feeding make you feel like you’re a prisoner in your own home! Discreet feeding is achievable for the busty mamas! I would wear a nursing bra, a strap top, and then an over-sized top over this. It enabled me to ‘drape’ the extra fabric over the exposed boob skin when I lifted my top up to feed the baby, without covering-up the baby’s head. You can also use a light scarf, or invest in a nursing apron. Those sometimes these can look more eye-catching than sitting there with your tit out. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. So long as you’re happy and comfortable.

Hopefully, these tips will come in handy for the ample-chested mum-to-be. It is possible to control those beasts and make breastfeeding work. If you have any other tips like this, do comment below. Likewise, if you’ve tried any of these tips, give me a shout and let me know how you found them. Happy feeding, busty-mamas!

GUEST POST: ‘Ignorance is NOT Bliss’, by Samantha Aborowa

 

So I’m finally back blogging. Eek! I haven’t blogged for a few years now. Lots has happened and I just haven’t felt ready, but thanks to some persuasion from a wonderful mum-mate, Musing Mum, I’m getting back into it thanks to her guest blog spot.

I feel compelled to share with you a recent experience where my eyes were opened to just how ignorant some people can be towards the world around them. Twice in one day I encountered prejudice towards people like me with children of colour, without even setting foot out of my front door.

Whilst watching This Morning, Jamelia had a slot talking about toys being aimed at white people; more white dolls on display in toy shops and very few ethnic dolls. In Toys R Us only SIX dolls were available that weren’t white. Disappointingly, there were even less in Smyth’s and The Entertainer toy shops.

The viewer comments were astounding: “These black people are just being racist to white people”, “Even toys can’t escape constant race and ethnicity scrutiny” and “Jamelia is inventing problems”. All these comments were made by white people who were completely missing the point she was making.

Thankfully another tweeted, “These comments highlight how ignorant white people can be to issues among POC [people of colour] as these are issues that will never affect them.” And that is the point Jamelia is making by highlighting the lack of representation in toy shops.

People can be so ignorant towards others who are different to what they consider to be the ‘norm’. I want my daughter to go into a toy store and find a doll similar to her amongst the others, and be able to play with white, black, Asian, Indian, Latinx dolls…why wouldn’t I? I want her to know that not everyone is white and the black doll isn’t special because it is rare to come by. It should be normal to pick up a doll of any colour to play with.

You may think I’m making an issue out of nothing, but as a white mother bringing up a daughter with Nigerian heritage, I feel I need to be prepared with answers I don’t yet have to her questions about her skin type, hair difference and culture background. Sadly, I feel I have to prepare my child for discriminatory comments that will come in her life, to be ready for that nasty kid.

Later in the day, I was looking at blogs and youtube videos on tips of how to care for my daughter’s hair. It’s not like mine and I know I need to care for it differently. I found some really helpful blogs with great tips but I also came across a blog I found quite patronising to “the white mother with a biracial child”. It basically outlined her ‘beef’ of how some white mothers don’t look after their biracial child’s hair and leave their hair looking unkempt in afros and a halo of frizz.

Now being a first time mum is hard enough without the added pressure of having to deal with a hair type that you have never dealt with before that needs alot of work and attention. My daughter is only 17 months old and I’m on a massive learning curve. I’m not perfect in the slightest and I have a long way to go, but I’d like to think that I’m not doing too badly. It’s just annoying that people can be so judgemental about why a kid’s hair doesn’t look ‘perfectly groomed’.

Maybe the particular day that the kid’s hair was unkempt, was the same day the kid had a total breakdown in the bath and wouldn’t let a parent anywhere near their head to wash, condition, detangle and spend 3 hours making it look perfect, so the parents just had to make do.

Life is not always rosy and pristine. I may not get my daughter’s hair perfect and it may be a bit frizzy where I didn’t put enough moisture in it that day, but its a learning curve and I – and every parent in my position – could do with support not criticism.

My daughter is more important than being classed as ‘different from norm’. I will bring her up to be kind, open minded and have a diverse way of thinking, to let her see no one person is the same and everyone is unique.

Gok endorses #DressDownFriday!

At this exact moment in time I’m stood in my kitchen doing a happy dance – We got Gok!

I’m so thrilled to announce that the #DressDownFriday campaign has now been officially endorsed by none other than fashion legend, Gok Wan!

Having seen the campaign online, I was invited to meet Gok last week after his Fashion Brunch Club in Cardiff. Gok has kindly lent his support to the movement to help spread the message of the power and influence of clothing and the impact that this can have on kids.

He said: “Fashion should be empowering, not restrictive. The #DressDownFriday campaign is encouraging parents to opt for clothes for their kids – one day each week – that promote variety, individuality and equality. I’m thrilled there’s a campaign like this out there!”

With the campaign launching just three months ago after I got sick of comments from a range of people about the fact a ‘pretty little girl should be in a dress’, I’m so blown away by how far we’ve come. So many incredibly supportive parents and kids’ fashion designers have adopted the campaign and post photos of their gender-stereotype-busing outfits each and every week.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many of you and I’ve loved bonding over a mutual agreement that our kids shouldn’t be confined by gender norms when it comes to what they wear, what they play with, what they do, and who they are.

I am so unbelievably grateful to Gok and his team for taking the time out to learn more about #DressDownFriday and offering to help promote it to a wider audience. Here’s to many more empowering Fridays ahead!

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign and take part, click here.

GUEST BLOG: Winging It With Two Boys

Here’s the second in my now regular ‘guest blogger‘ feature every Monday. I’m thrilled to introduce you to Hayley Riane-Diplock, who runs the ‘Winging It With Two Boys‘ blog. Having dipped her toe in the kids’ pool that is the blogging world with guest posts on This Welsh Mother, Hayley took the plunge down the mini-slide and set up her own blog in March. And wowzers, has she been a busy Mama! There are already over 20 posts on her blog!

A big part of why I set up the Musing Mum page was to give any and all Mamas a helping hand, in whatever ventures they’re currently pursuing. My guest blog spots are available to new and up-coming parent bloggers (dads – this means you too!), as well as those tentative parents who are thinking about starting a blog, and want to give it a try. So get in touch! Mi casa es su casa!

Winging It With Two Boys: Why I Want To Give My Kids Free Choice

There are some big decisions in my kids’ life that I want them to decide for themselves.

I’m a vegetarian and have been for the last 14 years, but my kids aren’t veggie – they eat meat and veggie substitute meals at home.

When they’re old enough they’ll make the decision for themselves once they understand where their meat comes from, and I’ll support whatever decision they decide to make.

I’m not religious, despite going to a secondary school which was a church school – I stopped going to church after my brother died in a car accident. But just because I’m not religious doesn’t mean to say that my boys can’t be.

Although I don’t go to church I’ve tried to expose them to religion. They’ve attended a church wedding, where they’ve seen people praying and singing hymns. They’ve taken part in a nativity at our old toddler group too. Religion is everywhere – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism – we live in such a diverse society now, you see it everywhere.

I want them to see it, and ask questions, and if they tell me one day that they want to go to church then I’ll support them – it’s their decision at the end of the day.

My eldest has just started at gymnastics, and he’s loving it, but if he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore, then we will stop taking him.

Likewise if the boys say they want to try a particular activity or club, then we will take them so they can try it out (even if it is football, we are totally a rugby household!).

When it comes to their schooling I want them to have a say too. So when we have to apply for their secondary school places I want them to say which school they like and which they don’t. The last thing I want is to send them to a school they absolutely hate.

I want them to choose their own GCSE options and to be happy with the decisions they make.

I don’t want to be a pushy mum, I want them to have a say in what happens in their lives. I want to support and encourage them to make decisions that will potentially affect the rest of their lives. Free choice – with love and support from their parents all the way.

Visit the Facebook & Instagram pages for Winging It With Two Boys to read more.

Sticks & Stones and the Power of Words

Occasionally, I swear in front of my child. My husband hates it. My mum hates it. But I’m a swearer, that’s who I am.

I’m aware there are many parents that think I’m wrong to do this, and occasionally I do feel guilty about dropping an ‘f-bomb’ in ear-shot of the playroom. But after an encounter with a particularly unpleasant grandparent at the local soft play, I realised that the influence of language on young children goes way beyond basic semantics.

When I was flailing about in the ball pool with my daughter, I noticed a little girl who was mid-strop by the entrance. Nothing out of the ordinary, just your run-of-the-mill three year-old tantrum about putting shoes on. Her grandfather, who was overseeing this tantrum, managed to show her which foot goes into what shoe, and escort her out of the play area.

On their way back to their table, when the grandmother asked what all the fuss was about, he said wearily, ‘I’m going to beat her to within an inch of her life.’

Now I’m not one to judge anyone’s parenting techniques, and to save their embarrassment I usually don’t even acknowledge another toddler tantruming, but this comment was enough for me to stop what I was doing and look around at them in absolute horror.

He didn’t swear at her. He wasn’t angry. He said it in a calm, off-the-cuff way, whilst holding his granddaughter’s hand. And judging by the grandmother’s reaction – or lack thereof – this kind of comment was not out of the ordinary for him. The comment didn’t even register, and they all sat there happily eating their lunch.

What alarmed me most was that it was merely a throw-away comment for him. But to his granddaughter, what he said could be life-changing.

To grow up in a world where it’s normal for a man to say he’ll beat you, regardless of whether they actually beat you or not, is normalising brutal and devastating behaviour to an impressionable young child. It’s showing them that language like that is acceptable to hear, and acceptable to say. It tells them that a logical response to frustration is violent action – violence done to other people, or violence done to them. And in this instance, this language is far more damaging than the use of ‘swear words’.

There is a difference between the use of language as an exclamation, and the use of it to denote violent intent, or negative action. What he said to his granddaughter will have a far greater effect on her than my daughter hearing me shout ‘shit-waffle!’ when I can’t open the child lock on the kitchen cupboard.

But this horrible encounter has made me think more carefully about the type of language I use around my daughter, whether it’s swear words or not. You can have a monumental impact on your children without even uttering a swear word at them. Language is powerful, and all words have meaning. Apart from shit-waffle. I’m not sure that one does.

Gok Wan Fashion Brunch Club

Sponsored Post

Lordy, it’s been a looong week. The toddler is staunchly sticking to her ‘sleep is for wimps’ mantra at night, and she’s pushing boundaries and all of my buttons during the day. It’s weeks like this that I’m so grateful to have something to look forward to come Saturday, and this weekend, I’m extra buzzed by what I have planned.

After a mini (and much-needed) pamper-sesh, I’m heading to Gok Wan’s Fashion Brunch Club in at the Country House Hotel, Cardiff.

The one thing I’ve always thought that most fashion events miss is a bloody good brunch. My two loves are finally being united and I get to fill my boots in both respects this weekend. Country House Hotel catered my wedding, so I’m super excited to try their food again. As an added bonus, I’ve always loved Gok and Fashion Fix was a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine for ages. I still live by the mantra ‘zhoosh it up with a statement bag’. Plus he looks like he gives a really nice hug.

A morning of unadulterated fashion, frivolity and fun is just what the doctor ordered after being hit in the face with a Teletubby at least thirty times in the last week. Apparently, the event includes a catwalk show, a ‘dress for your body-type’ talk and a Q&A with Gok – which might be my chance to see if I can prove my theory that he’s a good hugger by asking him at this point. Either that or I’ll be politely escorted out of the building.

If, like me, you’ve had a tiring few weeks and you’re in need of some time away from the kids, this could be just the thing for you. Tickets are available here for Cardiff, Leeds, Worcester, Northumberland, Nottingham & Sheffield.

GUEST BLOG: Amy Powell

I’m thrilled to be able to launch the monthly Musing Mum ‘guest blog’ spot. I’ve been running the blog for nearly six months now and I’ve loved sharing my random ‘mum musings’ with you guys. Ever since launching, I have wanted to eventually use my little nook of the world-wide-web to help new parenting bloggers find their voice. It’s all about mamas supporting mamas in this store, baby!
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to gorgeous mama, Amy Powell, the first Musing Mum Guest Blogger.

The Guilt Factor – Amy Powell

How on earth do the Instamum set manage it? Perfect hair and make-up, suitably stylish clothes sans baby puke, children dressed in fresh white linen and a perfectly clean and insta-friendly home. I’m sure there’s witchcraft at play, as I consider myself to be winning if I shower in the morning – usually with at least one child declaring their indignance. Loudly.

I am of the school of thought that life’s too short to live in an immaculate home. Couple that with a severely messy husband and two children and what you have is a perpetual shit-tip. Generally we’re fine with it; it’s a happy and loving home. That doesn’t mean there isn’t always an element of guilt and frustration at the mess though, especially when you can see the opposite every day flicking through Instagram.

And these mums also manage to blog, too. This is the bit that gets me – I have wanted to blog for a long time and am finally finding the courage to go for it. The big technical hitch? Time. How do you find guilt-free writing time? I’m jiggling the baby on my lap whilst typing this with one hand, there’s about a month’s worth of washing up to be done and the laundry pile is threatening to overtake all remaining floor space. And this is during maternity leave. Yikes.

The easy thing would be to not bother; there’s no reason for me to blog other than for my own enjoyment. So it feels like a selfish use of time to sit trying to work out the ins and outs of a website, and frustrating too as I never seem to make any real progress. Frustration feeds the guilt – shouldn’t time with the babies be enough right now? There’ll be plenty of me-time one day and I’m dreading that!

What’s struck me over the past few weeks, though, is how much happier Louis and Phoebe are when I’m happy. Seems pretty obvious but I guess it’s taken me a while to catch on with that one. I’m usually one for lazy days in PJ’s but I don’t find sitting around said shit tip with a velcro baby hampering progress on the chores enjoyable in the least at the moment. Louis has reached an age where he’ll ask whether I’m cross and really up the bad-parent anxiety levels. I know you can’t be smiley all the time, but it’s good to have a little reminder that you might actually being a bit unreasonably crabby.

So in an effort to not sit around the flat feeling glum we have explored new places and enjoyed fab days out instead. While this isn’t helping the mess, we’re all happier and it gets the blog ideas flowing every time. We live in a beautiful part of the country and I want to write about our adventures. This will mean more fun days out for the kids and in all honesty I don’t think they care whether I’m washing up or writing when I get a spare moment, so I can perhaps ease up on the guilt on that front.

So while it feels selfish to want a project of my own I think it’s actually quite important, otherwise it’s literally all nappies, washing, failing at housework and feeling inadequate. The kids definitely benefit from a happier mum with more energy when I’ve had time to focus on something for me, even for ten minutes. We all need something that’s just for us, whether it’s a hot bath – sometimes my butt barely hits the bottom before I have to get out but it can still turn my mood around – or a quick walk around the block when your partner gets in. Do something for you and don’t feel guilty, you’ll all feel the benefit.