About, Mindset, Parenting

Menstrual Cup Mayhem

Using less plastic and creating less waste is something that many of us are very conscious of, and in my own personal quest towards combatting climate change, I have started using a menstrual cup. Oh yes. In this post, I am going to talk about menstrual cups. And periods. Yep. Periods. PERIODS. PERIODS! If thats too much, then I recommend you leave now, and rejoin for my next post, when I go back to talking about mental health or parenting.

Still with me? Well, here we go!

So I have been menstrual cupping for a few months now. I actually bought said menstrual cup about a year ago, but was too scared to use it. Then, after Christmas I bought myself some exceedingly pretty washable pads from Bloom and Nora, and made the decision to go fully cycle-sustainable. Go me!

Now, as we all know, change can be a tricky business. And any lifestyle change takes a little practise, perseverance and usually a few tears. Three periods in (I have a short cycle) and I thought I would message a very dear friend who I haven’t seen or spoken to for several months to tell her my observations. This readers, is a true account of our conversation:

I feel there is not much to add at this point. If you made it to the end without crossing your legs, you have my upmost respect!

And why did I share this conversation? Well, once again we find ourselves not being open and feeling like we shouldn’t talk about the less than glamorous sides of life. Talking about how flippin’ tricky the menstrual cup is, is important and none of the nice eco-packaging or motorway-service-station toilets mention these potential blunders!

The menstrual cup is amazing, but knowing that there are organic, non-plastic tampons from TOM, out there in the world is a happy thing to learn and I wouldn’t have found that out, had I not bared all to my dear, dear friend … Also, my husband is very patient when I tell him of my menstrual cup mis-adventures, but there’s not really that much he can empathise with in these instances.

And finally, I hope if you do use a menstrual cup, or are thinking about using one, this post has some handy-what-not-to-do tips for you! Happy cycles everyone xx

About, Mindset, Parenting

Awesome Amethyst and Brilliant Breathing

As many of you will know, managing and overcoming anxiety is something that is an ongoing project of mine. Last year I took to journalling in a big way, which you can read about in my post, The journals of my mind, and I also completed a course of one-to-one CBT thanks to our wonderful NHS.

Through both of these things, I made progress that has changed my outlook on life. The journalling has taught me to put daily focus on things I am thankful for, things that have made me really happy and also my goals.

Through the course of CBT I unpicked a lifetime of fairly low self-esteem and self-deprecation, and rebuild myself into someone who believes that they are a good mum, and a talented book designer, author and illustrator, and also someone who is allowed to be proud of their achievements. That last one was the biggy.

Although these things had made me emotionally feel much stronger, unfortunately my stresses and anxieties were still there and so instead of attacking my emotional stability, they began to give me strange physical side-affects. Reynauds is one. Reynauds is where your fingers and toes can get very cold, and go whitish yellow in colour. It is painful, and you have to work quite hard to get them back to normal again. I now have to make sure I keep myself very warm all the time.

Another side effect has been a monthly, let’s call it, ‘period poo’. I won’t go into the details, but if you are a member of one half of the population you will probably know what I’m talking about. My gut had started reacting to stress and anxiety that I was taking on board.

After doing some research and seeing that both these symptoms could be caused by stress, I made an appointment with a good friend who is an osteopath. My friend couldn’t have been more wonderful. She showed me some breathing techniques so that I breathe from my stomach rather than my diaphragm, and also recommended that amethyst is a crystal known for its protective powers and that some people wear amethyst jewellery as a protective aid against negativity.

After my appointment I got straight onto Etsy, and ordered myself a really pretty amethyst necklace – you can find the one I bought here – and started practising the mindful stomach breathing that my friend had shown me whenever I could. I have also joined a lovely meditative and restorative yoga class, which is absolutely perfect.

Since that appointment the way I feel is markedly different. The me that was constantly rushing and nervous has calmed down a lot. I don’t seem to rush anywhere now, and that has not affected our punctuality at all. In fact, yesterday morning we were all ready for the school-run five minutes early, so I had time to calmly put a wash on!

When the children rile me, I don’t rise up as much and feel het-up for ages afterwards. I either don’t get cross, or I shout and then I’m peaceful again. Inside I feel more comfortable. The combination of amethyst and breathing so far seems to be working. I still get the cold fingers and toes, and I am careful about what I am eating, but I feel physically calmer.

How do those things work? Amethyst is meant to have a very calming energy, which I will be reacting to. And the breathing? Well, in breathing from my stomach, I am dispelling the stress that is being held around my gut through my breathing. And the yoga is just plain relaxing.

When I was younger I used to cry about everything. I think that was my body’s way of releasing stress. Since having children, crying seemed a little self-indulgent, and it is something I had stopped allowing myself to do. I realise now that crying for me is incredibly therapeutic and important, and I am letting myself do this more.

I guess the lesson I am learning through all this, is once again that it is so important that we are open about the ways that we are feeling. We must validate those feelings by dealing with them, whatever they are, because if we don’t there they find new ways to manifest themselves. I am thankful that I have such a wonderful friend to be helping me, I am thankful that I am feeling better – I hope I can keep it up. And I am also thankful that my lovely amethyst necklace looks just about perfect with all of my clothes.

About, Parenting

When the sh*t hits the fan (or gets on your shoe)

Anyone reading this not in the UK might not be aware of our upcoming election and what feels like a really pivotal moment in our political and community sphere. Please don’t think that I am about to bombard you with my political opinions, I’m not. But, I do have some comments on how things feel as a working mum, and mostly those comments rotate around the word, community.

Community is a word I am aware of more and more at the moment. It is in the semantics all around us: in the words of politicians, in the need to be more climate-aware, the move to shop more locally, and even how we need to be a community in social media too – we all have a duty to care and support – not troll and bully.

As a mum herding two children on the school-run, I am ever frustrated by the lack of community-spirit when it comes to picking up after one’s dog. I am a dog-person through and through, and believe you me, a dog has been on my personal life goal list for my entire adult life. But. Every walk to and from school has become fraught with me trying to keep my children out of dog poo! I can’t understand why people don’t pick up. What I do think is that lack of respect for others, and that thinking from a position of ‘self’ sums up a lot of the problems facing our society at the moment.

When you only think in terms of ‘self’ that disregard for others, which at first may seem harmless, and just a bit lazy, actually has a ripple effect. That one person who doesn’t pick up after their dog creates a series of hazards for everyone else using that path. It means that each mum has to try and develop x-ray poo vision and seriously, at the moment, I think I must sound like a crazy lady the amount of times I am yelling and grabbing my two to keep out of the poo!

That disregard also shows to others that it’s ok not to pick up after your dog, and therefore it’s ok not to care about the other people using that path. So a couple more people stop picking up. And soon, there is literally sh*t everywhere!

Apart from the dog poo, there are pockets of working-mum-hood that are pretty flippin’ fantastic. One of those, is Bizmums, which truly is the epitome of community. It began as a series of networking groups aimed at self-employed mums, the main aim being that you can network with other self-employed mums, at child-friendly venues. I have been a Bizmum for two years now, and truly I have never felt so supported. We are all women who work hard, juggle running a business around our families, and through online and face-to-face I have found a community where we all work to help each other. It is not competitive, it is nurturing and collaborative and open-minded. It shows me that the true spirit of community is a powerful and amazing thing.

Without Bizmums, I probably wouldn’t have created DesignerMum, I certainly wouldn’t have published Reynard, and I would feel a lot less secure and settled where I live.

And how does all this relate to our election? Well. When we operate from a position of ‘self’, we are choosing not to care or support those around us. For me, here we have a problem. If we all remembered that as human beings we have a duty of care to those people and the world around us, I believe our world would be a happier place. It would also be a richer place. A society which places community at its heart is surely somewhere where everyone can benefit, in all sorts of ways. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t strive for our own goals, of course we should. But instead of only caring about ourselves, we can choose to pick up after our dogs, and make other people’s walks more fun. We can choose to get milk delivered in bottles and keep a local farmer going, whilst also reducing our plastic consumption. We can choose to support those working around us, and improve our local economy directly.

This election feels to me like a choice between self and community. From the bottom of my heart I hope that we can choose community, because I am tired of all the sh*t.

About, Mindset, Parenting

A rainbow of mental health

As I write this, today is World Mental Health Day. This post was actually going to be called, “School Day, Short Day”, and be about how short the school day is, and how I now seem to spend all of my time clock-watching now, and the stress that ensues from that, when you are trying to get work done, or anything done for that matter. Instead, I am going to tell you about my week.

Some women will say that they don’t really get affected by the change in their hormones every month. I am not one of those women. My hormones have the ability to increase my core body temperature, undue my ability to think rationally, and they can also create torrents and torrents of tears. They also do other things too when I am particularly stressed, but you get the picture.

One of my favourite mummy friends put it perfectly last week, “It affects your ability to cope”. She couldn’t be more right. For the last week I have waded through a quagmire of worrying, tears and also a snotty nose. Anyway, yesterday it came to a head when I literally felt consumed with a familiar feeling of panic, which I haven’t felt in several months. The same old panic, which I now understand is essentially, “I won’t be able to cope if this happens” – whatever “this” it may be.

I also understand now, that panic of “I won’t be able to cope” is actually rooted to my self-esteem. I don’t believe that I will be able to cope if something beyond the normal, everyday happens, or, things might happen that are beyond my control. On a subconscious level, what I am essentially telling myself is “I am not good enough”.

So, what do you do when you feel like this? You reach out. Definitely reach out. Please, always reach out. Yesterday, I chose my dad. Over the weekend, when everything was too much, I reached out to my sister. Of course, the conversations that I had with them didn’t really alter anything physically, but in sharing how I was feeling, I could attempt to stop internalising. I was still feeling teary and anxious , but I didn’t feel so isolated by my feelings.

What I really wanted to tell you though, was this. As I was gathering in the washing after tea yesterday evening, still feeling panicky and worried, I saw a rainbow. A very clear, lovely, beautiful rainbow.

Now, when Sidney was about 2, he went through a tricky phase of crying every time he went to nursery. I used to tell him, that if he was ever worried, or sad, if he saw a rainbow in the sky it meant that everything is ok. He got that he would remember this, and if we ever saw a rainbow, we would talk about it and remind ourselves that everything is ok. When I told him this, I was thinking of the story of Noah and the rainbow, and the promise that God makes to Noah.

Now, I’m not overtly religious, and I spend my time focussing more on an attitude of gratitude and believing in the universe than going to church these days. But yesterday, God, or the universe, or someone powerful somewhere, had my back. Seeing that rainbow totally grounded me. It said, everything is ok. And I smiled. All the panic feelings, and lack of control pretty much melted away in that moment, and I went back inside the house feeling like my steadier, positive self again.

Today has been much more normal. Thank goodness. Thanks to that rainbow. All day today, I have thanked whoever sent me that beautiful, perfect, magical band of colours.

Parenting

Toddler tantrums and Fournager feelings

I am a person with a lot of emotions. Always have been. Luckily Noel is someone who understands about emotions, and being married to me, he has to. So it is no wonder that our children have big emotions. And at the moment they have a lot!

Sidney is 4 and due to start school in September. Around this time for the last few years he seems to go through a developmental phase. On one side he is noticeably more independent, and will surprise us by saying or doing something quite new and grown-up. And then, on the other side, we get a regression to a needy and highly-emotional child. Very like a mini-teenager.

Turning off the telly is one of the cruelest punishments one can bestow on Sidney.

The triggers are often to do with me. He suddenly doesn’t want to be apart from me and go into nursery, or let Daddy put him to bed. Likewise, where he can be pretty reasonable, the emotional mini-teenager side to him can burst into mega-tears at a moment’s notice and be pretty intense until he can calm down. The telly is another trigger for him. We almost always have the telly on in the daytime in our house, and Sidney is very fond of it. Turning off the telly is one of the cruelest punishments anyone can bestow upon Sidney.

Harriet meanwhile has properly morphed from baby to toddler and along with that have of course come the tantrums. She is quick to anger and has a fantastic banshee-like screech that would make even the most zen of people wince. Harriet has also perfected the art of throwing her entire body on the floor, anywhere at all, and kicking around like a crazy 80s body-popper. It’s actually quite impressive … I could add here that her hair is on the strawberry side of blonde, and that hot-headedness may be something she will take with her through life. As a ginger myself, I can see this being a thing.

So, you see, our house is quite tumultuous at the moment. We have lovely, happy, quiet moments. Mainly I thank CBeebies for their hard work here. I also bless the lovely Spring weather we have had recently – what a joy! And also, the best bringers of peace to our home; a very friendly neighbour’s tabby cat – who even when sleeping doesn’t seem to mind being prodded by little fingers. And the lovely Bella – a Labrador-collie of senior years belonging to my parents – who comes for the occasional ‘working holiday’ – earning her keep by being ever-patient and enduring endless cuddles from two mostly-gentle small children.

I can see that they are the frustrations of having to share, or wait, or take turns.

The tantrums are for the most part fine (the noise is the worst thing). I can see that they are the frustrations of having to share, or wait, or take turns. And these are hard lessons to learn. Sometimes I don’t want to share things either … That is why I wait until everyone is in bed to eat a chocolate muffin. I can choose when to eat it so that I don’t have to share! Mwah ha ha ha! And these emotional phases will pass with time. (Phew).

For Sidney and Harriet though, who both live very much in the moment, those “No, I’m sorry. You have to wait” responses are terrible. They can be pretty awful for all involved if I’m honest. They add a certain intensity to the day, but they also make the happy moments all the more joyful. When everyone is happy and playing together, or eating fish fingers, or watering the empty pots, I try to be mindful and enjoy the moment – knowing that happy moment is extremely precious and could end in a mili-second.

Parenting

I hate it when they’re ill

So this week there’s been a tummy bug in our house. Harriet is going through that stage of picking up absolutely everything, and it is my personal mission to try and prevent things spreading to the rest of the family.

The whole house feels bruised and battered

Tummy bugs are my least favourite of all the illnesses, I just have to get the mess cleaned up as quickly as possible – wash and sanitise everything – and then hope like made that no one else comes down with it.

They also tend to come with a sleepless night as well – so the next day the whole house feels bruised and battered. All round no fun.

The tiredness and the worry usually bring about a spike in anxiety, and I even sometimes find myself in moments of quiet, trembling slightly from the panic. And also trembling from the relief that I am managing to look after my baby even though I am in a situation that I can’t stand. I find myself wondering if other parents feel as I do in these moments. Perhaps the trigger is something different for them.

I know that phobias are related to how we feel about ourselves

I remember being about 12 when one of my sisters was poorly with a bug once, and I was so in awe of how my parents handled the situation. I remember worrying even at 12, how I would manage to look after my children in that same situation, when all I wanted to do was hide. I probably sound very lame – there are parents that have to deal with much more tricky situations than me. But sickness is something that I particularly loathe – even have a marginal phobia of to be perfectly honest.

I know that phobias are related to how we feel about ourselves. They are irrational – something in the way we feel about ourselves manifesting itself in something external. As I write this, I can feel my head trying to analyse what it is that I fear about myself. I suspect it is to do with my on-going worry that I won’t be able to cope in a situation. The big, “but what if …”.

Of course, if the big “what if” ever happens, I know that Noel and I will deal with it. Because that’s what you do when you are a parent. Your daily goal is to take whatever happens and survive to the end of the day. And then hope that the next day will be a bit more normal. I love normal … Who knew that normal could be so glorious! Something to aspire to, even.

Normal is having a relatively undisturbed night’s sleep

During my 20s I would have been so disappointed to ever think of normal as something to aspire to! Now, normal is great. Normal is when you can anticipate the mood swings and the tantrums. Normal is when you can guess at how someone is going to react to a situation, and normal is having a relatively undisturbed night’s sleep. (Undisturbed being the holy grail – literally can’t remember the last time I had one of those!)

Anyway, I’m sleepily wondering where I’m headed with this post. I think part of it is me needing to extract some anxious feelings, in the hope that it will be a cathartic experience … It definitely does help to write things down.
The other part of me wants to reach out to other parents, and indeed anyone who feels a bit lame for feeling scared sometimes. I always think I should be braver at this sort of thing, but I’m not. Its a few days of me feeling extra worried, and maybe a few ill people. And then, as things start settling back to normal (gosh, I really do love normal), the anxiety starts to subside again.

Oh, anxiety. My arch nemesis. So what will I do now? Take a few deep breaths, do some work, and get myself to bed early. Anxiety not really conquered today, but maybe I’ll do better tomorrow.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the bad stuff

… I wrote the above a few days ago now, when I was still feeling incredibly anxious. Thankfully, the feelings did of course subside as I believed they would. Getting out of the house when Harriet had passed her 48hr probation period helped – especially as it coincided with us spending time with some lovely mums and tiddlies at Toddler Group. That really helped. Some serious chatting was done, not just about the silly stuff, but some of the serious stuff too … A reminder that its always good to talk. Please don’t be afraid to talk about the bad stuff – most of us have a bit of bad stuff we sometimes need to talk about.

xx

Parenting

Gender awareness rules (when you’re 3)

Recently, girl things and boy things have become a thing in our house. Not boy’s actual thingys and girl’s actual thingys – those don’t seem to be of any import whatsoever. No. The supposed rules of things that boys can do, and girls can’t. Colours that boys like, and colours that girls like.

This morning Sidney asked me if I liked pink

This has come about over the summer. For the record, until he was, let’s say, 3 and a quarter, Sidney’s favourite colour was actually yellow. Now its blue. This morning Sidney asked me if I liked pink. I said I did, and that I liked blue as well. Sidney does not currently like pink.

We also had a weekend a little while ago when Noel’s parents came and stayed, and gender roles unwittingly came to the forefront. Noel and his Dad are both pretty handy when it comes to building, and spent the weekend constructing a wonderful wardrobe to fit within the sloping ceiling of our bedroom – no mean feat let me tell you! … So Noel’s mum and I did the lion’s share of the children duties and the cooking for the weekend. Also no mean feat. And this was basically the simplest, and most effective way to get the weekend’s main task of wardrobe creation, done. However, this meant that by the end of the weekend, Sidney was convinced that only men could be strong and wield tools.

Mummy was fixing the pipe, with tools

At this point, I am going to add that we also had a leaking waste pipe from our bathroom, (don’t worry, it wasn’t the poo pipe), which needed fixing. This pipe runs between our house and next door, and me, being a skinny sort of bean, was the only grown-up person who could fix it. So, fix it I did! Noel was on hand to assist, and we made a point of showing Sidney that mummy was fixing the pipe, with tools.

Noel and I have never sat down and discussed how we should go about teaching Sidney and Harriet about gender. Its never really been a thing. I am mindful that I don’t say that ‘Sidney is handsome’ and ‘Harriet is pretty’ – instead I tell them both that they are cool dudes. And that they are gorgeous. Or, that they are both ‘as noisy as each other’.

Harriet knows that the most coveted toys in the house are Sidney’s racing cars

And, for the most part, their toys and bedrooms are pretty gender neutral. There are a few pink, Harriet things, and a few blue, Sidney things, but they both play with everything regardless of what colour it is. … Also, Sidney is very partial to Shimmer and Shine (Oooh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh) and gets pretty excited when he sees it on the telly! Likewise, Harriet knows that the most coveted toys in the house are Sidney’s racing cars. So, like most gender ‘consciously-unconcsiousing’ parents, we encourage Sidney and Harriet to play with whatever they enjoy playing with.

However, I am not a total hippy either. I’m afraid that I don’t dress them as completely androgynous child X’s. Sidney’s clothes are standard boy clothes; jeans, shorts, t-shirts and the occasional shirt for parties and Christenings. Harriet’s clothes are mostly leggings, shorts, tops and – I confess – dresses too. I try not to pink or blue them too much, and Harriet has as many of Sidney’s more neutral hand-me-downs as I think we can get away with. But of course I am guilty of genderising them by this – even though my main aim is for both children to look and feel like they could go out to play or have an adventure whenever – because thats what I want them to do. But yes, I still like Sidney to look like a cool boy, and Harriet to look like a funky girl.

Is that so very bad? I think Sidney’s sudden awareness of boys and girls has mostly been learnt through interactions with his peers. He is learning that there are differences between himself and others. He is also learning about where he wants to fit in. A few weeks ago he told me that he wanted to wear trainers to nursery instead of sandals, ‘because everyone wears trainers’.

I see it as our job to nurture their individuality

I guess the important thing is to allow them both to try all sorts of things, and then let them find their own preferences. If Sidney decided that he really wanted a Shimmer and Shine (Oooh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh) doll for his birthday, would I let him have one? Yes, probably, why not! And if Harriet decides that she wants to only play with racing cars, would I suggest she has a doll instead? No, of course not. I see it as our job to nurture their individuality, and also help them to fit in where they feel it is their place to be.

I wonder if it is hypocritical of me to dress them as the genders that they are, and not androgynous siblings? No, I don’t think so. As long as they feel happy and comfortable in the clothes they are wearing then thats great. If at some stage we come to a point that they should wish to identify as something other than what they look like, then we’ll adapt. I don’t dress Harriet in anything that she might feel physically limited in, compared to her brother, so I know that they are equal. And if Sidney thinks that only strong men can use tools, mummy will always be on hand to show him that puny women can fix stuff too.