All Change

allchange1

I’m back! Returning to work after a year of mat leave and moving house within an 8 week period have sadly not been conducive to blog post writing. However, I enjoy having this space to vent and air my thoughts (however self-indulgent that may sound!) and am keen to continue sharing my escapades via gininbed.com.

I have been fortunate that returning to work part-time is fairly common in my line of work after having a little one, and I was keen to try to find a good home/work balance whilst mindful that this is the Holy Grail! It is now three months since I returned to work and I can confirm- it’s hard. I’ve absolutely love being back in a work environment; the much-sought-after ‘pee in peace’ and the elusive hot coffee have indeed been very enjoyable. But even better has been discovering I have not lost many of the skills I spent years developing, and that my hunger for learning and progressing in my career has not been sidelined by motherhood. However in some ways that is what is making it hard. As someone who tends to throw themselves into things, part-time work is a foreign concept. And so for now, I’m still trying to find the best way of not allowing work to creep into my days off. I’m a bugger for repeatedly checking my work emails at home for a start. I want to make the most of the time I have at home with the little man as I can already see how fast he’s growing and changing all the time. And he’s so much fun to be with at this age, even if he is going through a suicidal fingers-in-everything phase. So for now I’ll plod on trying to find a balance and make it work. If you see me cruising down the A19 of a morning sipping my drive-thru maccy d’s coffee and singing to mildly offensive novelty rap (guilty pleasures), please do wave ;-).

And so to the house. Alas, our dream purchase did not go through (combination of awkward seller and us finding out about plans to build a new estate on the beautiful fields it overlooked) and we found ourselves with the dilemma of losing our sale or moving into rented. So we chose the latter. I have to say so far it hasn’t been too bad although O has chosen to become mobile just as we moved into this smaller property! He has definitely enjoyed exploring his new home and prompted many a late-night amazon baby proofing purchase. We now have a garden, which we lacked in our last abode and which I absolutely love. And we may (***fingers crossed***) have found ourselves another property to buy. I think at my last count we had viewed at least 20 houses during this search, and honestly each time I see a new house the list of things I want grows! And I am NOT good at compromise. But I have finally accepted that the period property of my dreams cannot be found in any of our chosen locations within our budget. And as we’re not prepared to live in the middle of nowhere the type of house rather than location has been the thing that had to give. The drama continues!

If we took a holiday…

madonna
We did it! A whole week of sun, sand and (let’s face it) shit with a twelve month old. And what’s more, we actually enjoyed it- most of the time….
I had flown with O before at the start of the year when he was small enough to still happily curl up and sleep on my lap for an hour or two…
I’d tried to kid myself that would still be the case, but obviously what he actually wanted to do for the entire flight was the following, on repeat: eat banana, throw banana, bounce on my lap, try to pull the person in fronts hair (especially on the way home- naff holiday braids are a clear baby magnet..), bang on the tray table, poo (you’ve not changed a nappy til you’ve done it at 3,000 feet, Ryanair-style), eat banana….you get the picture. On the plus side there was relatively little actual screaming- bonus.
We were fortunate to have a week of glorious sunshine on the Mallorcan coast, which we spent relaxing* on the beach and day-tripping to nearby villages. Here are a few things I learnt/mused upon during our first ever family holiday abroad-
– Time from baby being unleashed on marble floors to first bump on the head: less than 10 minutes
– Trying to change a nappy as a small, sandy bottom rolls back and forth across your sun lounger- where do you even start?
–  Despite hating having the sun in his eyes my son refuses to keep a sunhat or sunglasses on. Go figure. Much better to have me act as a personal human sun shield, clearly.
– An empty water bottle and a beer mat can provide just enough baby entertainment for that sunset glass of Cava/G&T/Aperol spritz to be downed- just the one though mind, any longer requires food based bribes
– Apparently the shitty travel mattress has some special sleepy powers- could have done with knowing that a while ago, but appreciated nonetheless
– Sand tastes awesome. I mean, it must do. Why else would a child keep eating handfuls of the stuff?
– A bucket and spade provides some entertainment, but not enough to read ‘now’ magazine. Sigh.
– You might practically die inflating some baby pool toy but in reality the pool is too cold and it will never get used. Double sigh.
Oh, and spray suncream is so much easier than lotion to apply to a small person. Can’t believe it took me this long to realise, doh.
* you know, the kind of ‘relaxing’ you do when you’re on constant alert with a 12 month old in tow…

Full house

image
Having a baby makes you re-evaluate all aspects of your life. Work. Friendships. Home. Right now we are in the midst of our own house drama. Somehow since the arrival of little O 10 months ago, our spacious 3 bed terrace has felt anything but. The ‘easy-to-maintain’ backyard suddenly seems like a health and safety hazard waiting to happen for a soon to be mobile little one. And the close proximity to bars and restaurants which we once loved now seems to almost taunt us- oh look, a cool new bar. We’ll go there NEVER (yes I’m ripping off Michael macontrye, oh dear….). All sad but true.
With that in mind we’ve begun our search for the perfect family house. If I hear the term ‘forever home’ once more I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Nobody can predict what will suit their needs forever. Perfect for right now and the near future will suffice. My desire for a big garden and the fact we haven’t won the lottery means staying so close to the centre of York is pretty much off the cards. Plus, call me middle aged but I’m kind of feeling ready for village life. With no family close by the idea of settling somewhere we can potentially make lifelong friendships and meet families our children will go to school with one day really appeals. Maybe I have an idealised view of things, but it feels like the right thing for us.

As I type our search may have come to an end. But as ever, bidding wars and finances are making things far from simple. I will keep you posted…

Mat leave: The reality

blog mat leave

Now I’m 9 months into (and nearing the end, sob) of my maternity leave I’ve settled into a regular routine and a new ‘normal’. Recently I was reflecting on the sweet naivety of being pregnant for the first time. The daydreams of spending a summer flouncing around in a maxi dress, reading magazines in the park whilst my newborn napped peacefully beside me. Maybe even baking a cake or two. Yes people tell you it’s hard, but your baby might just be different, right? And I’ve worked plenty of night shifts, how hard could a little sleep deprivation be? Turns about pretty damn hard. A friend of mine likened those early days of motherhood to ‘the nightmare nightshift that never comes to an end’. For unlike the days when you could tag out and hand-over, what follows an exhausting night with a small person is often an exhausting day. But I promise this isn’t a ‘motherhood is crap’ post (there’s enough of those out there to scare the bejesus out of mums-to-be already- and it really isn’t).

I’m the first to admit that I never really ‘got’ what people did all day on maternity leave. I mean, feeding, dressing and changing a child must only take a couple of hours a day- what about the other 12 hours (!) of your waking day? Of course I very quickly learnt what takes up those hours during the steep learning curve of the first few weeks- the endless hours spent breastfeeding on the sofa, the regular outfit changes necessitated by the shower of bodily fluids (for both baby and you), and the lengthy, fruitless attempts at trying to get your baby to nap anywhere but on you so you can finally have a wash. The early days are tough. I was keen to get out and about as soon as possible, and quickly joined several local baby groups. These were both my savior, and my downfall. On the upside, I have met lots of lovely local mummies and developed a nice social network (although I did feel like I’d stepped into some kind of cult during my first experience of the ‘say hello to the sun’ song- baby sensory go-ers will understand!). On the other, in hindsight I did a little too much too quickly, and I really wish I had spent more time doing exactly what me and my baby needed- cuddling on the sofa, sleeping, and maybe going for the odd walk around the park for fresh air.

After the initial whirlwind I have now got into a pretty stable routine. And you know what- it’s not that bad. Sadly I still rarely get a full night sleep, but I’ve made my peace with that. Whether it will be the same when I return to work is a different matter! And when I look out of the window at the morning commuter traffic on a rainy day, knowing I can spend the whole day on the sofa enjoying Netflix and cuddles if I so wish is pretty nice.

Yes, it’s exhausting. But there are parts of it that are even better than you imagined. The newborn snuggles and skin to skin. The times when your little one does something new for the first time, or stares right into your eyes. It’s pretty powerful stuff. And the reason, no doubt, that despite the tough times many of us will do it all over again. But next time, that ‘sweet naivety’ of daydreaming will be gone. And that’s kind of sad.

But I won’t do that…….

baby

Pre-baby, I had some very strange ideas about the kind of parent I would be. I say ‘strange’ because they were clearly not based on any kind of reality or experience and I honestly have no idea really where they came from, Here are the top 5 things that have had me eating my words since becoming a mama.

1.Use a dummy

I’ll admit it, I had a real snobbery about dummies. To me they conjured up images of mums in Tesco trying to shut up their screaming offspring without any interest in why they are upset. So it came as a surprise to me that it took exactly 3 days of having our son home before I was out hunting for a little rubber friend. Because babies cry. A lot. And actually, even when you are trying your damnedest to work out what’s wrong sometimes you can’t. A dummy can soothe a baby and offer them some comfort. When you put it like that, how can it be such a bad thing?

2. Talk shit

Literally. Parents are like old people when it comes to their child’s bowel movements- normal social etiquette just goes out of the window. It starts at home: ‘look darling, this one looks like chicken korma’. It’s totally normal for my husband to be greeted on his return from work with tales of our son’s epic turds. But soon the sheer volume and force of the stuff flying out of your child’s bottom becomes so shocking, you need to discuss it with the outside world just to check that this is actually normal and they’re not some freak of nature. The trick here is to restrict this chat to other parents. You’re far more likely to get the response you want when you describe your joy at your child finally pooping after 10 whole days when talking to someone whose been through it too.

3. The sling meal

I remember once many years ago seeing a lady eating her lunch in a cafe whilst wearing her baby in a sling and thinking ‘why on earth would anyone do that?’. Surely just put them down while you eat? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because it just might get you a meal, eaten in peace, with both hands. Utter luxury. And the ‘just put them down’ bit? Pah! Oh how clueless was I…..

4. Use my phone whilst feeding my baby

Be it breast or bottle, I had a romantic image of my baby gazing adoringly into my eyes as I fed them (no doubt influenced by TV ads). But for the first few months my son had his eyes closed during most feeds, and fed for 90% of his waking day. Alongside the overwhelming love, I felt tired and bored. Reading blog posts and articles written by other mothers going through the same thing kept me sane. That, and ordering every gadget going off amazon. God bless the smart phone!

5. Breastfeed beyond 6 months

I don’t know why I thought I would suddenly stop feeding at 6 months. Partly it was my lack of awareness about how important milk continues to be after this age, and partly I was completely unprepared for how hard it could be to stop- both from a practical and emotional point of view. My son is currently 8 months old, and I have no idea when I’ll stop feeding but no longer feel the need to put a deadline on it. Although he currently still has no teeth.

 

So there you have it. What a fool I was!

Two sinks, one baby: The night away (avec enfant)

night away

 

Recently I decided to go away and spent a night in a hotel with my husband and our 6 month old. ‘Are you mad?’, I hear you cry! Well let me tell you, it wasn’t actually that bad. In fact, we quite enjoyed ourselves.

I finally gave into the onslaught of ‘hotel porn’ which regularly lands in my inbox courtesy of secret escapes and booked a rather bargainous night away in a country house hotel. We started off with some very civilized afternoon tea. Hurdle number one- the high chair. Our little one is at that awkward inbetweeny stage where some highchairs are just too big- and it quickly became clear that, despite the valiant attempts of the staff to surround him with a sea of cushions, this was one of those times. Nevertheless, my one-handed afternoon tea was still pretty nice.

The room itself was nice and spacious, and we’d already asked for a travel cot. The bathroom was huge- two sinks! (hence the title). Our son wasn’t so sure, and displayed his distaste by pooing in the bath- the first and only time he has done this. Fun times.

Given the small person accompanying us, we’d booked to have dinner at the hotel early on. Six thirty to be exact. I’d booked this thinking that the restaurant would be pretty quiet at that time. Unfortunately we were the youngest people staying at this hotel by about 50 years, and it seems that 6.30 is THE time to eat if you’re an octogenarian. Fortunately the little man was a star, and fell asleep in his carrycot just before the starters arrived, stirring only once we’d finished dessert. At this point my husband dutifully returned to our room to settle him, leaving me to enjoy the last of my wine (I may have drunk this rather slowly).

So, we were back in the room by 8.30. Rock and roll. But to be honest, these days lying on a bed sipping prosecco and watching crappy TV is my idea of a good night.

The travel cot we arranged? Little man wasn’t a fan. He did manage a few hours, but ultimately we ended up sharing the romantic four-poster with a little gatecrasher. And you know what? We all slept pretty soundly. And that’s always a win in my book.

Coming soon: The night away (sans enfant). Oh yes, this is happening, Hello sleep, how I have missed thee…..

On reflection

It’s only bloody 2016, how did that happen?! The start of a new year always makes me reflect on the year gone by, and this one’s been a biggie! Here (in no particular order) are some of the things I’ve learnt since becoming a mum….

reflection.jpg

 

The first time out pushing a pram you really do feel like everyone’s staring at you as if you’ve stolen someone’s baby and/or you have ‘totally incompetent’ stamped on your forehead

No matter how much you try to believe that your sleeping newborn is benefitting from being dragged to a baby sensory class, it seems unlikely. I vote cake and a sofa for those early weeks.

cake.jpg

Fastening sleepsuit poppers is tougher than solving a Rubik’s cube at 2am. Don’t even get me started on buttons.

A sippy cup will go in every orifice except the mouth and then be lobbed across the room

It is possible to cry in despair and happiness within a matter of minutes

The homemade salt-free Thai green curry you spent age making will be spat out in disgust by your ungrateful offspring

The quest for the perfect feeding bib becomes the holy grail

The jumperoo will change your life. Fact.

What’s that rash? Should his bath be that hot? Am I feeding him too much? Am I feeding him too little……Motherhood= constant worrying

It really is true what people say about forgetting all about the pain of labour

Carrot stains everything (you have been warned)

weaning veggies

The smell of fish lingers in baby skin creases

The whole weight loss through breastfeeding thing only seems to work for a lucky few

Eating a meal with two hands starts to feel weird

And even though you know how horrific sleep deprivation is, for some reason you will still want another baby

Saturday night in with a take-away and a bottle of prosecco is the new ‘big night out’. Who wants drinks spilt down them by drunk idiots anyway.

And who knows what 2016 will teach me?! Happy new year folks!