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The Gallery – My Back Yard

25 May

It’s Wednesday again and time for my weekly dose of photography fun, all thanks to Tara Cain over at Sticky Fingers. I have to say, I’m rather enjoying playing around with a camera and this week’s topic was infinitely easier than last week’s moustache malarkey. In fact, my back yard conjures so many options, I’ve had to post two photos this week. I hope I’m not breaking rules here, but I just couldn’t resist. You see, I recently became a work at home mummy (after walking out the revolving door of the office one last time) and with all this gorgeous weather, my garden has taken on lots of different roles in our house. It’s Toby’s play room, my office, my little piece of calm in the big smoke, my dining room and a source of food.

So, my photos this week, consist of Toby going so crazy on his first introduction to the paddling pool that he got in without giving me the chance to undress him and a picture of one of my luscious tomato plants. I’m not exactly Miss Greenfingers so we’ll have to wait and see if they survive and produce. We’ve started a whole patio vegetable area and it’s an education.

And just to let you know, I’m in my garden typing this and Toby is messing around in his sandpit. I’ve got everything crossed for this good weather lasting!

If you see a croc, don't forget to scream

One of my tomato plants

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How, when and where I found out I was pregnant

20 May

Celebrating Mums is doing a linky-up to share stories about the ‘reality of motherhood’. This is the first (I think) and its looks at how mums found out they were ‘up the duff’.

My story is simple. I wasn’t trying, nor was I even considering trying. I was on the pill and putting in at least 12 hours of running, swimming and cycling a week for a half ironman (mid-distance Triathlon). I was putting so much strain on my body I should have been pretty much incapable of conceiving, even without the pill.

The weekend before I realised, I completed the Tour of Wessex sportive (a very long and hilly road bike race). On the last day, I threw up on my handlebars. I put this down to either overdoing it, or consuming one to many energy gels. That evening, my body felt very odd. I put this down to the cycling. The thought that I was pregnant hadn’t even entered my mind.

The next few days were pretty normal. I went to work, but felt knackered and wanted to ingest copious amounts of full-fat coke. Very odd for me as I generally hate coke, but I put both the fatigue and the craving down to the miles I’d spent in the saddle and carried on as normal.

On the Thursday of that week, I headed to the changing rooms at work to kit myself up for a run home. When I stood up I caught sight of myself in the mirror and overnight I’d turned into Katie Price – without going under the knife. My flat chest has been on the receiving end of jokes from my friends. One birthday I was even made a breast cake to make up for my lack thereof. At that moment there was a very loud pop and the idea I may be pregnant entered my head.

Panic and fear started pulsing through my body. Regardless, I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and began my run home. Of course, trying to forget something like this is impossible and with every strike of my foot on the pavement, my heart beat faster – and not because of the running. My body turned to wibbly jelly and I could think of nothing else than how awful it would be if I really was.

En route, I picked up a pregnancy test. When I got home, I ran up to my bathroom and did the deed. 1 second, 2 second, 3 second…. The wait took an eternity, but when it was over, I faced the biggest fear of my life – a positive result. Deep breaths, it was one test. I had two more and this one has got to be wrong. I went to the kitchen and began knocking back the pints (of water) like a woman possessed. Thank goodness my housemates weren’t around.

Second test – positive, must be wrong. Third test – positive. I must have brought a dud pack. I threw my trainers back on and ran down to the shop and brought two more packs. Back home, more water and four more tests. I spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests that day and the result remained defiant. I was pregnant.

I sat on my bed and began to process the news. Thoughts of all the training I’d been doing ran through my head. It would be wasted. What about work – how would I tell my manager? I couldn’t possibly tell my dad I was pregnant – I was too young (I wasn’t, I was 29). How could I tell Tom?

None of my feelings were positive, but after a week, Tom and I had both decided we’d probably end up moving in together and having kids anyway, so why not now. Over the previous months, we’d become very close and had begun planning some time out from work for some travelling. I’d been spending more and more time at his house and, while moving in together was incredibly daunting, it only meant a few more nights a week there.

Since the week I found out, I’ve not looked back. Having Toby was the best thing I’ve ever done. Motherhood is hard work, but the rewards, love and happiness it brings to your life are endless.

Blogcamp – how to build a great mummy blog

14 May

Last Thursday I went to Blogcamp. Oh lordy, I sound like a true geek, but actually it was incredibly fun, informative and there were some rather lovely cupcakes (must find out where they came from!).  The best thing about Blogcamp was that I got to meet some fabulous blogging mummies (New Mum Online, Working London Mummy, Actually Mummy, Red Ted Art, Lunchbox World, My Mumdom, Ravelled Threads (who’s not a mummy, but a brill blogger), An Imperfect Life and The Scrummy Mummy).

The first presentation of the day was utterly hilarious. Bangs and a Bun, whose blog I highly recommend, provided some genius snippets of advice. The first being that when you’re writing your blog, you have to know what you’re purpose is – your identity – and inject some of ‘you’. As a PR professional, this is pretty standard advice, but applying it to my own work is not so easy. I feel I found my voice very early on in my blog, but its purpose changed as I came to realise what that voice was. I started my blog to discuss both work and mummy issues, and working mummy issues. I quickly realised that PR and mummy stuff didn’t really fit together and have since started another blog (along with my own business) to discuss the PR side of my life.

My main goal from this blogging exercise was to engage with other mummies. As a working mother, I fast found myself losing touch with the NCT ladies I had spent my early parenting days discussing sleepless nights, smelly nappies and breastfeeding issues with. There was simply no time to meet with them and entering the blogosphere gave me not only an outlet for my thoughts on the highs and lows of motherhood, but conversation and reassurance from other mothers out there. And that’s why I loved Blogcamp so much. I got to meet other mummies going through the same weaning, teething, sleeping problems and I met other people with a passion for words and blogging. We all want to feel understood and in this group, I felt I was.

The next presentation was from Domestic Sluttery about building your community. All very useful stuff and another great blog I was introduced to. We also had a presentation on Internet safety from TalkTalk. Following my recent post on my nephew’s jaunt around the net, this was very interesting. Toby is not quite at the age of having to worry, but he sure as hell knows how to work an iPad. Before he’s out of nappies, I’ll need to form a game plan to keep him safe.

We then moved onto the more technical side of blogging. The most interesting thing from the design man, Daffyd, was that we read websites in an F pattern. Again, it’s something I do every day, but without realising. This behaviour should dictate how your blog/website is formatted. We read along the top first, then down the left side, then back across the right (or something).

The final talk of the day, was brilliant. @LeeSmallwood managed to take the fairly techie topic of online search and turn it into something meaningful. We discussed meta description, titles, trends, H1 headers, images and tags – all of which can help your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

I now have a blogging to-do list as long as my arm.

Thanks Sally Whittle, over at Who’s the Mummy for organising such a fab event. It was mucho enjoyed.

A sickly-sausage and a to-do list

17 Apr

Working with a poorly toddler

Last week Toby and I came down with ‘Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease’. No, I am not making it up and it’s not the same disease sheep get. It is an unbearable illness. My hands and feet itched like hell and my mouth was so full of ulcers it hurt to drink water (helped the diet along a bit). Poor Toby didn’t seem to have the same symptoms, but he had some serious D&V. I wouldn’t wish the illness on anyone and I’m cursing whichever nursery kid passed it on to us.

Any mum who sends their child to nursery is only too aware of the stress when your little one gets ill. Tom and I have juggled Toby and his nursery germs quite well and my manager has been surprisingly understanding at my last minute holiday requests to look after a poorly boy, but it’s not ideal. I tried my best not to let this virus interrupt our routine. In day two of the illness – before knowing what it was- I guiltily sent Toby off to nursery topped up on Calpol [face has gone red with shame]. However, day three was the start of Toby’s vomiting and I finally had to submit to the germs and arranged to work from home.

Working from home is usually quite productive, but comforting Toby between his projectile vomiting sessions proved a full-time job in itself and I felt absolute guilt; Guilt that I wasn’t working to full capacity and guilt that my full attention wasn’t on Toby. He soon paid me back my inattentiveness. He joined in on my first conference call and probably made more sense than me. Have you ever tried being coherent while entertaining a toddler, trying to prevent them screaming? It’s not an experiment in multi-tasking I would recommend. The conference call ended and it seemed to go as well as can be expected.

On the second conference call of the day I was not so lucky. When it started, Toby was asleep in our bed. I had everything crossed that he would sleep through. Wishful thinking! Two minutes into the call there was an almighty thud followed by screaming. He had fallen out of bed. I quickly made my excuses and said I would be back as soon as possible. Managing to calm him down quite quickly I sat him on my lap and redialed. He seemed quiet and I thought he might stay that way. This unusally restrained behaviour should have set alarm bells ringing. As soon as I reintroduced myself to the call, he vomited violently all over me and my phone. After a few squeals of disgust from me and some sobs of self-pity from Toby, I promptly apologised and hung-up again. I sat for a few minutes wondering what to do next. Toby and I were covered. It was like something out of ‘The Exorcist’ and I now looked like a total idiot. Not only did I seem unprofessional and girly due to the noises I had made, but I also looked like a terrible mother.

The lesson: working mums with ill children cannot win.

Just another weekday morning with a rug-rat in tow

5 Jan

Toby decided to wake up at 3.30am this morning. Argh! We’re back to letting him cry it out and I daren’t even enter his room for fear that he’ll think it’s playtime. He eventually wore himself out, but by this point I was wide awake and feeling a little traumatised by the experience.

At 5.30am Tom’s alarm vibrated through my un-rested brain and the day began. Toby, who’d obviously exhausted himself from his night-time outburst, was still fast asleep. I went into his room and turned on the light, hoping it might rouse him, but not so much as a stir. I wobbled down the stairs and into the kitchen to prepare his morning bottle, in the process managing to spill a glass of water all over the place. Fab start to the day. I thought by the time I’d got back upstairs Toby would be swinging from the chandeliers (we have small mock ones in our rented house – they’re quite interesting), but he was still sound asleep. It then occurred to me that I could use this opportunity to concentrate on getting myself together. I picked up the cycling kit I’d neatly placed in a pile the previous night (how very organised I found myself smugly thinking) and began dressing.

In the meantime, Tom had taken it upon himself to stroke Toby’s head, which had done the job of waking him. Once woken, Tom decided he was in a rush (he really was, I’ll give him that, but don’t wake him and then hand him straight over!). Toby lay on the bed and for the first time fed himself his bottle while watching me potter around the bedroom, trying to remain calm without my first cup of coffee. It was the cutest thing. He’s self-sufficient – we can leave him to fend for himself. Okay, perhaps not for few more years or fifteen.

Self dressed, tick. Bottle down Toby’s neck, tick. Now to the task of dressing him. I’d also put his clothes for the day out so it was relatively stress-free. Aside from the fact that Toby is always too busy to bother with getting dressed. It turns into a bit of a fight and by the time I knew it I was running late. How is that possible? I was up 1 hr 15 minutes before I had to leave. You get stuck in a time warp with a baby. Time goes by so fast doing all these little, but vital tasks that you don’t feel like you’ve done anything, but equally you’ve not stopped. I miss the simple mornings of throwing my clothes on while having a cup of tea, watching the news and simply shutting the door on my way out. Gone are such civilised mornings.

On with his coat, shoes and cycling hat. I love his little cycling hat. It is bright blue with pirates and sharks on it. I quite fancy getting one myself, but not sure they do them in adult size. We get Toby to nursery on the back of our bikes. He has a little seat. I hate cycling with him on the back and my speed would make a tortoise look like the hare. Since becoming a mum I have developed an irrational fear of everything and anything that carry a small possibility of hurting Toby. I am so aware of this fear I force myself into not reacting when he falls over or bangs himself. I am sure some people think I am cold, but if I let myself begin the journey down that road Toby will end up suffocated by cotton wool.

Anyway, Toby absolutely loves being on the back and giggles and points at everything. En-route we have a little sing-song. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder..’, ‘Row, row, row your boat..’, ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’. At which point I can hear him desperately trying to bring his hands together, but failing due to his coat. I love seeing small children all wrapped up warm, with their arms straight out like planks of wood, being held up by too many clothes. It must be incredibly annoying for them, but looks so sweet.

Finally we’re at nursery and three minutes too early. The nursery won’t let anyone onto its grounds until 7.30 on the dot. I’m asked to wait. It’s a little frustrating when I could be organising myself, but hey ho, that’s the insurance man for you. At 7.30 the gate buzzes indicating I can go in. Two other mums appear and go in ahead while I try to sort myself out; juggling baby under one arm, rucksack in the other and bike somewhere between is not easy. I end up dropping my bag, nearly letting Toby wriggle out from under my arm and throwing my bike on the floor. How embarrassing. The other mums rush to

my aid, but look at me as if I am a loon. It’s all rather mortifying. Anyway, can’t think about it too long – schedule to keep.

As soon as the front door is opened Toby bursts into enormous sobs, which turns to crying, which turns to hysterical screaming. I take his coat off and put him on the floor. Crumpled and staring at me with ‘please don’t leave me eyes’ the volume of his screams increases further. The nursery worker picks him up and I more or less run for the door. If I’m not quick I too might start hysterically screaming. There is nothing like the guilt you feel inflicting

pain

on your child, whether it be mental or physical (just to clarify, by this I don’t mean that I beat my child, I am referring to the awfui first year jabs you help pin your baby down for; shudder). They trust you absolutely and putting them in an unhappy situation is just unacceptable. But he will just have to get used to it. And quick, because frankly my nerves can’t take many more mornings like this.

I have a very small window of time to get to the office, shower and be at my desk on time. I have to hammer the bike, which is good as it gives me an incentive for a proper workout. I turn up to work shaking as I’ve not managed a cup of coffee yet. Run to the shower, deep breaths, compose myself and….

Finally at my desk, I can relax for the rest of the day. Coming to work really is like a holiday and not because I am not rushed off my feet here, but because being a mum is the hardest job I have ever done. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.