ONE

One whole year. The days might seem long sometimes, but it’s hard to believe nearly a whole year has now gone by. A whole year with our two boys, a whole year since Wilf joined our family.

It only feels like yesterday that I was packing our hospital bag at the last minute. Theo was getting ready for his stay at his Nana and Abu’s, Andy was calling them to say that it was all happening and I was dropping to the floor every few minutes as the contractions came. I remember thinking at the time – this hurts. A lot. How can I do this for much longer? Turns out that I didn’t have to as Wilf was soon to make a very quick appearance. I keep saying of late that his personality is just like the way he came into the world; he is so calm, so chilled and then… all of sudden he makes himself known. He’s a whirlwind who will forever keep us on our toes, it seems.

A few weeks ago I happened to drive past the Sainsbury’s on Hill Lane – it was the first time I’d been that side of town since having Wilf. My heart raced as I caught sight of the car park, thinking back to that day, in the earliest of days or lockdown, where we had caused quite the scene. I think I will forever be processing the sheer euphoria at how we delivered our own baby, versus the what could have been if we hadn’t have been so lucky. In true Wilf style, he asserted himself as a strong little character straight away – and he hasn’t stopped since.

It’s a few days until Wilf turns one and I’m doing what I usually do: I’m reliving the before, the labour, then snippets of so far. I remember being an emotional wreck on Theo’s first birthday, then again on his second (mainly because the chilli I had made in the slow cooker had overflowed and leaked all down the kitchen units), and once again on his third birthday because this was his last one as just the three of us. Perhaps it’s because of the desire for things to be perfect, the pressure of the day, a bit like Christmas, or perhaps it’s the realisation that time really is flying by.

When I look back at photos of Theo’s birthdays, I see how he has blossomed from a baby to a toddler and now a little boy. And now, with Wilf, it’s hard to believe our teeny, tiny little newborn was once so still given that he is now everywhere and into everything. For the past year, lockdown aside, we’ve got through the colic, the reflux, the many and continued broken nights, the head in our hands at his fearlessness when it comes to climbing on things or trying to dive off them. He digs in the mud, he likes to eat stones, he has destroyed our TV remotes by using them as teethers. He is the cheekiest little chap who absolutely adores his big brother, and without a doubt, watching the bond grow between our two boys this past year has brought us the ultimate joy. It’s been one year of challenges – of things being different, of things being unbelievably difficult at times – but it’s certainly now one year to celebrate.

I know my mum refers to the day as “window pain” when they first met Wilf. They stood on the driveway, us in our living room, a panel of glass between us. We put on brave faces and we toasted to Wilf, bubbles in hand, knowing that a window-meet was be the best we could do for now. It’s easy to dwell on what has been lost and what has been missed, but one year on, it’s now about celebrating. Celebrating bringing another little human into the world and the delight that he has become.

When Wilf was born, we Facetimed Theo from the hospital. His excitement at now having a baby brother was unreal – he quite literally jumped for joy, squealing and smiling from ear to ear. My mum reminded me of how he commented at the time “I’ll share him with you,” which I’ve since watched back on video, noticing how little Theo looks here, one whole year ago. And now, exactly as Theo said, we absolutely will be sharing the joy that is Wilf. This weekend he gets to see his Nanny and Bampi for the second time – for real, not on a screen – and we will be raising  glass with my family without a window between us. It’s been a year of hearing the word ‘bubbles’ so many times but not the ones we know and love. Nevermind support or social or childcare bubbles now. This weekend is all about the celebratory bubbles – the fizzy, sparkly ones to mark a whole year gone by. So, here’s to Wilf: our little lockdown baby, our wild little one.

It’s a mad world

Parenting is madness. Complete and utter madness. There are so many occasions where I hear myself and think, did I really just say that? Did that really just happen? It’s a mad, mad world.

I regularly tell Wilf at the moment to stop trying to climb in the dishwasher or tip the dog’s water bowl over. He quite likes to swing off the lamp, push his high chair around as if it’s a zimmer frame and empty the bookshelves too. All the while, he tells us “uh oh!” knowing full well that he’s up to no good. If he sees the stairs, he’ll make a dash to climb up them. If there’s a door open, he’ll be ready to slam it. If there’s a cupboard open, he’ll try to get in it. “Where’s Wilf?” is the most commonly used question in our house at the moment. Of course, everything is baby-proofed and he’s within our sight all of the time, but this still doesn’t stop him from finding every bit of mischief that he can.

Theo was a climber as a baby too, but he was far more measured than Wilf. A cautious explorer, I don’t remember us having our heads in our hands so much when he was little, but he’s more than made up for that in the past year or so. Being inquisitive has often got the better of our biggest little man, with his own speciality of getting things stuck. He’s managed to get himself wedged in the bars of a stairgate mid tantrum, and we also spent the day in A&E once after he pushed a raisin up his nose. When I asked him what made him do it, he responded (very innocently) with “just because.” Skipping around the hospital with a bed pan as a hat, I remember him being so proud as he told the doctor what he’d done and he wasn’t at all phased by the huge tool they had to use to get it out.

But he hasn’t exactly learned from this. This week he gave us another scare after managing to get his hand stuck in the toy kettle he plays with in the bath. Lots of moisturiser later and quite a bit of twisting and tugging, it came off eventually. It was a fine line for us as parents between panicking, giggling nervously and also crying with laughter at the hilarity the situation. It’s safe to say that we lap up every bit of quiet when the boys are tucked up in bed.

This morning I sorted the washing out and found a plastic corn on the cob in the wash basket; I know that Wilf is to thank for this and his new love of posting things in places. Plus he’s fascinated by the washing for some reason – clean or dirty – and quite likes to unsort it and throw it across the floor. It’s similar to his fascination with the bin, the hoover or the mop. Who knows why.

Stop diving on the sofa. Please take your finger out of your nose. Oh, Wilf’s eating food off the floor again. Who farted? I seem to say these things a million times a day. Who knew that parenting would be filled with such glamour? I certainly didn’t.

This week Theo has been self-isolating which basically means we have all been housebound. Again. The difference that a few months can make is really quite unbelievable. Compared to November when this last happened, this time around I have definitely gone more mad. The boys now bounce off each other – the squealing and screaming, the chasing each other, the diving around, the laughing hysterically. Their adoration for each other has most definitely blossomed as have their frustrations too. Clouting each other with a toy has become a regular occurrence and it seems as though little Wilf is learning to assert himself with his big brother. I am most certainly exhausted and have definitely gone more grey this past week.

Disjointed conversations. Duplo all over the floor. Endless requests for snacks. I know that we aren’t alone in this mad world and that other parents out there are very much familiar with the demands, the laughs and the bonkersness that their little people bring. It’s a mad world but one that we are very much used to now, and one that I know I’ll miss in a strange way next month when BOTH boys are at nursery one day a week. The house will feel quiet. I’ll actually be able to get on with my to-do lists uninterruptedly. And of course, I’ll be ready with open arms for their madness once again when they come home.

What next?

What next? I ask myself this a lot at the moment. It’s hard to believe we are coming up to a year of living under restrictions – a whole year of trying to find new normals. But in the coming months, as things begin to ease, does this mean that life will get easier too? How will we adjust to what’s next?

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about the what ifs, about what people think, about what could or might happen in different situations. I even worry if there’s nothing to worry about. It’s exhausting, and as much as I try my best not to, it doesn’t stop me laying awake in the middle of the night mulling over what’s in my head. My latest worry, one that is consuming me quite a bit, is Wilf starting nursery in April. How has this come around so quickly? I read something recently that has really resonated – that the days seem long but the years seem short. And I find this to be so true. I can’t quite believe he will turn one next month.

Last night, I went to look around a nursery. It felt strange, after hours, oddly quiet for a place usually bustling with so much noise and activity and liveliness. This is how it is now, I told myself, as I chatted at a distance with the manager, her face only half visible behind her mask. I can picture Wilf there. I’m sure he will be fine. But that doesn’t stop the sinking feeling I get in my stomach when I think about handing him over at the door when he starts. Handing him over to a total stranger. Handing him over when I know I can’t be there to help settle him or offer any comfort at all – only to smile and wave him off, bravely, as if it’s completely normal. He has barely had close contact with our dearest friends or even one set of grandparents, so how does this next step even seem fair on him? But, I tell myself that he will love interacting with the other babies – that he will thrive on seeing real little faces. For him, this next chapter will be so strange but also so exciting. A new place to play, new faces to get to know. I just hope that the tears won’t last long… for both of us, that is.

Wilf going to nursery is a big part of what’s next for us, as is Theo starting school in September. It’s a way off, I know, but again, it seems so strange that we have applied to schools that we haven’t even been able to look around. And who knows what will happen between now and then, or what the start of term will mean come the autumn. Whilst we will always hope for the best, this past year has also taught us to prepare ourselves for anything, for things to change quickly. So for now, we will focus on the next few weeks and even months as lockdown lifts.

In all honesty, I’ve already lost track a little bit of all the dates of what is happening when – who you can meet, where you can meet, what’s opening and where you can travel to. Whilst I am completely desperate for a hair cut and to have my greys coloured in, the next bit of normal that I truly cannot wait for is to be able to meet up with our friends and family freely. Without having to think about numbers. Without having to keep an eye on the weather. Without having to tag team all weekend with my husband so that we can both get out. Next, it will be so nice to hang out with friends whilst all of our children play, whilst all of us adults talk (albiet interruptedly), whilst we ALL enjoy time together. Next, it will be so nice to be spontaneous – to grab lunch, to go for a picnic, to pop into a shop to buy new clothes for our growing boys. Next, it will be truly, truly wonderful, to enjoy an actual glass of wine at an actual pub on the way back from a walk (even if this mixed with the madness of playing cars and feeding the little ones snacks to keep them occupied). There are so many things to look forward to next. Things that will have been worth the wait.

Saying that, I know what I’m like. It took me months to go into a shop when they last re-opened. It took a great deal of courage when we went out for lunch as a family of four for the first time. And I remember it feeling so strange at first when we got to grips with distanced barbeques with friends last summer. Like anything though, these new normals become more comfortable with time. We adjust. We get on with it. But that doesn’t stop me worrying. Andy will return to work in London at some point this year which means his days will be even longer and he’ll be home once the boys are already asleep. I worry about what this will mean for us all – the not seeing each other as much, the new feelings of loneliness after we’ve been under each other’s feet for so long. What’s next is something that we’ve longed for in so many ways, but what we have now is also something to be grateful for too. We mustn’t forget that.

The strange thing with this past year is the muddled feelings of frustration and comfort that I often feel about our little world. The same four walls. The same walks. The same park trips. What happens next when we venture further? What happens next when I can actually take my two children on a day out to the farm or the zoo when they both demand every ounce of my attention? What happens next when we are out in a busy place and I know I need eyes on both of them? Cocooned in the same routines and outings for so long, I can’t help but worry about what will happen next when the world does start moving again. Perhaps it’s only really sinking in now, now that the big wide world seems within reach, that I now have two very adventurous, head-strong, energetic little boys who I need to keep tabs on at all times. How long will I be asking Theo to keep close by, to try and keep away from people? How long will I politely step back from dear old ladies in the supermarket as they get close to Wilf to coo and say hello? How long will it take for things to go back to the normal that we used to have, or will they not? Do we even want them to anyway?

This time last year, I couldn’t have imagined what was next – a global pandemic, a car park birth, the whirlwind of becoming a family of four whilst the world stood still. So, what’s next? Who knows. Hopefully we can strike a balance of enjoying the things we’ve missed as well as the recent things we’ve learned. Hopefully we can be excited about making plans whilst also remembering the ways which we’ve learned to slow down and embrace the simplest of things. And hopefully there are smoother months ahead filled with more freedom and the chances to do the things we love, and of course with those we love too.

The things I wish I’d known

I’ve been a mum for four years now. That’s four years of stumbling and learning along the way.  Four years of making things up as I go along, being uncertain or going with my instinct. I’m only four years in but already there are so many things I wish I’d have known.

I wish I’d known the truth about labour and the post-partum delights. The sheer exhaustion and appreciation of what the body can do. The absolute miracle that is growing a human and bringing them into the world. I wish I’d have known about the months that followed too – not just the leaks and the jelly-like bits and the parts that now drooped. But the parts that slowly become stronger again, and the parts that will never quite be what they once were. The night sweats, the new frizzy baby hairs that appear… no one really tells you about those things. Motherhood is oh so glamorous.

I wish I’d known about the fourth trimester and how it really is a thing. Permanently wearing a sling, sleeping so little, feeding constantly, not knowing what time of day or night it is. Babies just want to be held and feel safe when there seems to be this pressure from the minute they are born that we should be able to put them down. They have just come into this big, wide world. No wonder they don’t want to leave our arms.

I wish I’d known to lap up the quiet cuddles even more. It’s hard to believe that my boys were once still. That they slept on my chest. I wonder how often I really did just snuggle them without feeling the need to get them to sleep on their own because that’s what the books said. I miss their teeny little bodies and how they would tuck their legs up as they slept on me. I miss that I would be glued to the sofa feeding for hours on end. Now, my boys fidget and wriggle, barely sitting still for a squeeze. But when they do, they give the best cuddles back.

I wish I’d known about the mountain of baby things you need. You use them for a few months and then soon enough, you need new and different things because they grow so quickly. Every room in the house contains something that is usually bulky, colourful or makes a loud sound and lights up. There’s always something to get, always the next size up to buy. I wish I’d have known how cluttered the house would feel, but then how strange it would be when things were packed away – another milestone reached, another staged passed by.

I wish I’d known about the importance of getting out of the house. Minus those early days with a screaming newborn, car journeys now bring some much needed quiet time – they are a way to contain two children who will happily play with toys in the back seat and sometimes even drift off to sleep. And there’s nothing quite like a walk too. Be it for quick leg stretch or a good old stomp, the fresh air always does us the world of good. It may often take us longer to leave the house than the time we are actually out for, but it’s worth it. Both boys have happily slept in their pushchairs from day one and I must have walked thousands as miles whilst they’ve snoozed. Podcast on, out in the open. It does wonders for the soul and combats the loneliness that can sometimes be felt at home.

I wish I’d known how much things would change. The fact that there is barely any time for yourself any more. That these little people are the centre of your universe and everything revolves around them. That you would sacrifice and do anything – literally anything – to keep them safe and happy. And all of that is completely ok. I wish I could tell my pre-child self to appreciate some of the things I now long for – quiet time, a long shower, having a snack I don’t have to share. I’d tell my old self to make sure I was really grateful for these things.

I wish I’d known about time – how much it flies and how much it can drag. Sometimes the days feel like they are never going to end, that they are so samey that they blur into one. Lockdown certainly hasn’t helped with that. Sometimes though, I feel like I’ve blinked and we’ve managed to fastforward without me realising it. I have a four year old, no longer a toddler but now a little boy who knows his own mind, who is inquisitive, who I have the best conversations with. And I have a baby who also has such personality, who is constantly on the move, who protests when he doesn’t get what he wants. My squishy newborns have grown into real little people.

Just before having Wilf, I read a book called Letters on Motherhood and at the time, I wrote letters to our boys which one day I will give to them. Little did I know that Wilf would appear days later, and Theo would instantly seem so much more grown up. It has got me thinking recently that there is so much, pre having children, that I wish I’d have known. Perhaps it’s because Wilf’s first birthday is only a couple of months away, or perhaps because we are in yet another lockdown, but it’s definitely made me think. Maybe these things I wish I’d have known would be in a letter to myself – my pre-child self – reminding me to lap up every single moment. To ride out the challenges and to hold on to all those wonderful bits even more so.

Just a mum

I’m just a mum. Is it bad that sometimes this doesn’t feel good enough though?

Perhaps it’s because maternity leave really doesn’t feel like maternity leave without the baby groups, playdates or the simple freedom of being out and about. I forget that technically this is ‘time off’. Or perhaps it’s because at the time of writing this, there have been a long string of broken nights and very early starts. Or perhaps, quite frankly, it’s because I am feeling so unbelievably done with all of the restrictions we are facing. It’s hard.

With two young boys and being home all of the time, the majority of days feel like an endless cycle of preparing meals, clearing up meals, dodging toys and tidying toys. I feel genuinely happy when I have worked my way through all of the laundry and geniunely sad when the wash basket starts to be filled once again. Most days, I am covered in food or slobber of somesort, as are my floors (which I have to battle with myself not to feel precious about). And most days, I don’t have any adult conversation until Andy and I catch up of an evening once the boys are sleeping.

There are days where I feel like we have achieved lots. Maybe Theo has been really engaged in an activity, we’ve been for a long walk and Wilf has sat and played contentedly. I feel then like I’ve been a good mum. There are other days that don’t feel quite so satisying though. Days where there has been too much whinging. Days where I’ve run out of patience. Days where I am clock-watching to begin the bath and bedtime routine. But, I have to tell myself on those days that this doesn’t make me a bad mum – the fact that the two boys have gone to sleep soundly and happily means that I must have done something right. I have kept two little humans occupied, fed and watered all day, so surely, that’s an achievement.

Despite finding lockdown with little ones incredibly hard, I’m also incredibly thankful for not having to juggle homeschooling or working from home too. Hats off to those who are doing it. At the same time though, in a strange way, there is a bit of me who is envious of the focus that these things might bring – interactions with other people (even if it is on zoom), being needed or relied upon for something other than snacks. Do I feel guilty at times for not being at work or part of team during these times? Absolutely. Do I feel bad when I hear about the stresses of peoples’ days as they adapt to changes and new information? Absolutely. But then I have to tell myself: being ‘just a mum’ is work. HARD work. And it certainly feels like this all the more when you are at home all day, everyday, during a global pandemic.

Having now made the decision that it’s also time for a career change, the maternity leave as a teacher that I fizzled into back in March last year is now fizzling out. Freelance writing now means being my own boss, working flexibly and therefore being around more for our boys as they grow up. Plus, it’s something I have wanted to do for so long. But with this change comes a whole new set of challenges – being motivated to work of an evening even though I’m exhausted, making use of Wilf’s naps and keeping Theo occupied when I have things I need to do. It’s a whole new world of juggling and striking a balance. But it’s hugely exciting and at long last, I feel good for taking the leap.

There’s nothing wrong with being just a mum. It’s the hardest job in the world – I honestly believe that. I have the utmost respect for parents whose choice is to stay home with their children full-time because it’s full on and exhausting, it’s completely non-stop. But for me, since becoming a mum, whilst I’ve gained a whole new identity as a parent, it has been easy to forget all of the things I loved before my days became filled with little people. I often wonder, what did I do all day on weekends? How on earth did I fill the summer holidays? It’s amazing how quickly we adjust and how we forget too.

A bit like having two children. There is no doubt that two is a total game changer: they go in different directions, they have different needs and their little personalities are so different. Just as I was beginning to think I was getting to grips with being a mum, becoming a mum of two has brought about a whole new set of challenges and questions.

But, in this role as a mum to two boys, there are of course the best rewards too. Seeing your two children laugh and play with and adore each other is without a doubt, the biggest perk of the ‘just a mum’ job. It may be tiring and it may be intense, but my goodness, it’s worth it all.

Here we go again

Lockdown take three. Here we go again.

It’s hard to believe that we are back here amidst the restrictions, the worry and the feeling that this is all just never-ending. What an absolute mess. How is it that as a country we have got things so wrong? My brother lives in Vietnam and tells us that life is back to normal there, and all of my family in Israel have now been vaccinated despite some of them not even being vulnerable. It doesn’t make sense. But, the point of this blog post isn’t to rant; instead, it’s another attempt to find ways to make best of it and share the madness I’m experiencing as a mum to two young boys.

The first lockdown seems like yesterday and a distant memory all at once. For us it was two-fold: there were the pre-Wilf days where being at home as a three was novelty, followed by the post-Wilf days where reality hit us and we got to grips with a newborn, isolation and a huge lack of sleep. But we made it through and did our best to see the positives along the way.

With the second lockdown, we held on to the fact that Christmas was around the corner and that was something to look forward to for us all. A new year also meant a fresh start, so like many, we were very much ready to welcome 2021. Yet here we all are, having begun the year in a worse state than the previous one. Still, we try to find ways to be hopeful.

On the first day of lockdown round three, we woke ready to be brave and brace ourself for the road and madness ahead. But, by 10.30am, after the usual getting ready battle with our four(going on fourteen)-year-old, it’s safe to say I was already completely wiped out and ready to scream into a pillow. No matter how much we will ourselves to be positive and keep calm, there’s no doubt that these little people pick up on the fact that things are different and we’re anxious about something. We managed to turn the day around though thanks to a lovely walk which blew the cobwebs away – we reset and reboot. I have also come to realise that if I need anything or it’s time to get ready, addressing Theo as Ryder (“Ready for action, Ryder, Sir!”), then everything we do becomes a Paw Patrol mission and my life gets made ten times easier. I’m also now quite fed up of being Skye or Everest and being bossed around, but needs must, and I’ll go with the flow if it means keeping the peace.

We’ve decided at the moment to keep Theo off forest schools and pre-school given that infection rates are so high. We have the added luxuries (ha!) of me being on maternity leave and Andy working from home, plus we are allowed a support bubble given that Wilf is under one. For this reason, it seems safer for now to not jeopardise anyone’s health, especially given that there is no real ‘need’ to send him off. Would we be bad parents if we send him when he can easily be at home with us, or are we bad parents for denying him time with his peers? We’ve gone round and round in circles asking ourself these questions and know that there probably is no right or wrong. So for now, week by week, we will review things and decide what’s best… mainly driven by how mad we all begin to go.

So far though, it’s been a fun week, albeit completely non-stop. My fitness watch told me that I had walked nearly 5km by lunch time which says it all really – that’s a lot of running around, clearing up and fetching snacks! Once again, I’m learning to go with the flow and fill our days with activities at home. We’ve baked, done online yoga, made a Planet Earth and moon, searched for E.T out on our walks and played drums on a cardboard box. And of course, there has been a very healthy dose of Cbeebies thrown in too.

Compared to the first lockdown, Theo is so much more grown up, more reasonable and also unreasonable too. He is a little boy, no longer a toddler, and my goodness does he know his own mind. This really does make him the best company, but it also makes him quite a challenge at times too. And also, this time around, we have our second little one who seems to be equally as full of beans and bonkers. Newly nicknamed ‘Danger Wilf’, at nearly nine months old, the days of sleeping strapped to me in a sling are long gone. Instead, our eyes have to be everywhere as speedy Wilf crawls, climbs, cruises and attempts to walk. I remember people saying “Just wait until you have two on the move!” and I can now completely see why. We seem to be forever darting to catch Wilf or mediate between the two of them as Theo is also going through an ‘I don’t really want to share’ phase. It’s all fun and games.

The days are all a bit groundhog already and it’s safe to say we are absolutely desperate now for freedom and normality – whatever that is. But meanwhile we plan to try and stay as sane as possible whilst keeping the little ones happy and fed, the house relatively respectable and our minds as clear as possible. Thank goodness for evening wine, escaping into books at bedtime and spring on the horizon. You never know, we may well just make it to a full year of being in and out of lockdown, and with a bit of luck, by Wilf’s first birthday, we may actually be able to celebrate with our nearest and dearest. Here’s to hoping.

Christmas with kids

When I was little, I truly believed that my grandad was one of Santa’s helpers. He had white hair, a big round belly, a very convincing suit and beautiful handwriting in which he’d reply to our letters. Plus he was the jollyist, happiest man alive. I even remember him showing us photographs of himself with reindeer – probably in a garden centre display or something – which made it even more believable. I really was totally convinced and for many years, this magic was very much alive and a big part of our excitement in the run up to Christmas. It was this sort of magic that I couldn’t wait to recreate in some way when we had our own children.

Pre-kids, our Christmas countdown would be filled with parties, dinners out and dinners in – all of course with plenty to drink. I’d have new clothes for different occasions, usually things with a bit of festive sparkle, and I’d actually have time to think ahead about what to wear and when. Christmas shopping would be done with plenty of time, wandering around the shops, stopping off along the way for mulled wine. Now though, that all seems a distant memory! Instead, Christmas has now become about the little people in our lives – about making memories with them and making as much magic as possible. Evenings are now spent in my pyjamas rather than at parties or the pub (that’s also thanks to covid), and the times I have worn a sparkly jumper this year, I’m covered in milk spit-up within minutes. But still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The year that Theo was about to turn one, I remember Andy and I having a disagreement. In short, I was well and truly ready to create as much festive make-believe as possible, and even though I knew Theo was too little yet to understand, I was ready to leave mince pies for Santa, along with all the other trimmings of awe and wonder. Andy however had decided that telling children about Santa was just teaching them to lie and that it wasn’t morally right to be dishonest (what?!) so he wasn’t sure about all the make-believe now that we had our own child. I remember being genuinely upset that he wasn’t on board – though it’s quite funny looking back to think that we actually had a falling out about Father Christmas. I even went so far as to say that if I knew this before I married him, it would have been a game changer. Harsh, I know. But times have since changed (luckily) and our feud is long forgotten, plus I’m over the moon that he is now fully embracing every bit of Christmas magic that there is… and I can see how much he’s enjoying it too.

This year, for the first time, a little elf has visited our house and is causing havoc each night. At nearly 4 years old, Theo is totally caught up in all of this magic and mischief, though he’s also getting increasingly frustrated about the mess that he’s making (and Wilf just likes to chew him given the chance). I know we are only a week or so in but so far we are loving thinking of deas and chuckling to ourselves as we set things up each night – I’m well aware though that this novelty probably won’t last. But for now, it’s bringing such fun to the Christmas countdown, and who knew that the adult us would enjoy this so much. Let’s just hope we keep remembering to keep this up, unlike last night’s panic ‘we haven’t done the elf!’ just as we were going off to sleep.

Theo’s birthday is December 27th, and I remember when I was in labour on boxing day thinking that it was going to be so lovely to have a Christmas baby. It is, as it’s such a happy time of year for us all, but at the same time it’s pretty bonkers. The get togethers and celebrations at this time of year are always so much fun, but there’s also the need for some down time too – boxing day therefore becomes a nice little breather for us ready for the next day of birthday madness. It’s a busy time of year but it’s wonderful nonetheless.

And then there are the presents. Growing up, us kids would take hours to open our gifts in the morning – we would savour and take our time, then play and put things together, and my dad would always be setting things up or trying to figure out how something worked. I love that this is now what we do in our house too. Last year, I remember really taking a moment as I stepped back and watched Andy and Theo fully immersed in setting up and playing with a Playmobil ambulance. The pieces were scattered all over the living room floor along with other gifts, wrapping paper was strewn everywhere and the new box of Ferrero Roches were already half gone. It felt just like Christmas should be: full up of spending time together and enjoying new things in amongst fun and madness.

We do struggle however with the abundance of presents and from day one, we’ve tried to make Christmas about traditions, spending time together and exchanging gifts, rather than a chaotic mountain of new things which just overwhelm. It’s a challenge at times trying to strike a balance, especially as we only have a day’s breather in between Christmas and Theo’s birthday, but so far we have created some really special moments. New pyjamas and new books on Christmas eve to snuggle up with are a tradition which we we hope to continue for many years, along with watching Home Alone on repeat pretty much from November through to March.

Now throwing covid into the mix, Christmas will be different again this year. There aren’t the usual get togethers that there would be – instead we’ve made loose plans for walks with friends, hoping that the weather will be kind to us, as we know that this year we can’t be in and out of each others’ houses for festivities. The boys’ won’t remember the restrictions when they’re older though, and in a way, I hope we won’t too. Instead, we’ll reminisce about doing things differently, the chaos making salt dough decorations, forgetting where we’d hidden presents and barely setting foot in actual shops for a change (though this does come with its perks of not having to explain to littles that no, you can’t have that toy, whilst also prizing them with snacks and frantically trying to tick things off your to-do list).

Like any other year, of course, this year we’ll continue to embrace the fun and magic, reliving our own Christmases as kids whilst we make new memories with our boys. And given that it’s been quite a year too, surely that’s an excuse to go that extra mile and make it one to remember, for all the right reasons.

Pandemic parenthood


As a parent, we are constantly tested, often trying to find answers or navigate new situations when we’re not entirely sure what we’re doing. We learn as we go; we grow into our role. Before having children, I thought I’d be the strict one, that we’d barely allow screens and we wouldn’t restrict ourselves to rigid bath and bed times. Turns out, things are quite the opposite. I’m the soft one, TV or iPad time can really save the day (and our sanity), and our night time routine means that the boys are sleeping and peace (usually) begins by 7.30pm. I look back now and almost laugh and my pre-parent self. How I didn’t have a clue and how naive I perhaps was.

When Theo came into our world nearly four years ago, our lives instantly changed. This little person was suddenly the centre of everything and all that we did. A love that I didn’t know was even possible had appeared and taken over, and so when we found out two and a half years later that I was expecting again, I began to grow anxious about what things would be like second time around. How would we love our next little one as much as Theo? Would the birth be another positive experience? Would we have another healthy, happy baby? At no point, however, did it enter my head that second time around we would be in the thick of a global pandemic which would turn our world upside down.

At eight months pregnant, we were on lockdown. Theo was no longer at pre-school and Andy was working from home; our house soon became a mix of an office space and nursery, and our days were filled with endless activities, limited resources… and a great deal of chaos. Looking back, there were so many positives in that I had bonus time with Theo before the baby arrived, and I love that we learned to slow down and enjoy simple things. But, at times the days did drag and there were many occasions where I felt cheated – this wasn’t the start of the maternity leave that I had planned. I was exhausted, we couldn’t see family or friends and of course I was growing apprehensive about bringing a baby into a world filled with so much uncertainty.

Wilf’s whirlwind entrance shone a new perspective on things though. For all my initial worries, he had his own agenda and he clearly wasn’t too keen to be in a hospital during a pandemic either, hence arriving in my car on the way to the hospital one Sunday morning. It’s as if the birth was the icing on the cake of the strangest, most unpredictable few months. The worries I’d had were instantly eliviated because our love suddenly doubled as another happy healthy boy became part of our little family. And of course, seeing Theo as a big brother, doting on this tiny little baby, brought about an even newer, even richer love.

Nesting as a four in many ways was wonderful. Our little bubble felt safe and so special too. We were forced to get on with things and find our way without being inundated with visitors, and all of our days were spent at home aside from an hour’s walk each day. This was so different to when Theo was born, when each day we would have family or friends over or we ventured out of the house more. Lockdown with a newborn could be seen as a blessing in disguise, but equally, it brought many challenges too.

To this day, and for many more I am sure, I struggle with the fact that we were unable to share newborn baby Wilf with our family and friends. There were no cuddles like there were with Theo. There was no closeness. Yes, we made the most of window visits and Facetime calls, all of which I have such fond and wonderful memories of, and we learned to be creative with distanced visits and virtual meet ups. But it wasn’t easy. I try not to let it sadden me that we will never get those days back and instead I focus on the different memories that were created – memories that we will continue to relive as we tell Wilf when he’s older about when he was born into this world. A friend whose little one is a month younger than Wilf summed it up perfectly when I saw her – that the focus on these pandemic babies has been so much about protecting them, that at times its it’s taken away from celebrating them.

I’m sure there’s a wiring within us women that means that the minute we are pregnant, worries or guilt of some sort begin. We constantly question whether we are doing the right thing and always find something to be concerned about about, be it big or small. When I was pregnant with Theo, this was certainly the case, particularly as I worried about the unknown about the birth and then parenting. Looking back though, being none-the-wiser was actually pretty wonderful. Carrying Wilf, I felt so much more relaxed in many ways yet at the same time was apprehensive because I knew what was to come. Plus, recovering from labour followed by sleepless nights and the early months with a newborn was going to be harder this time around – not just because we had a three year old, but because the pandemic meant that our support network was now very different.

As a new parent, nothing could have prepared me for the consuming desire to protect my child. I would do anything, literally anything for them. Bringing a baby into the world during a pandemic exasbabted this feeling so much more, to the point where when lockdown began to ease, I had to battle new anxieties that were buried within me. Naturally with a newborn, I worried that Wilf might be too hot or too cold, or hungry or maybe he was windy. But I just got on with it and my instinct meant that it was so much more natural and relaxed second time around to tend to him, despite his colic and reflux. I felt like I knew what I was doing so much more this time. Yet things were harder this time around and there were challenges that I didn’t face when Theo was a baby. Going out with the two boys on walks, I became terrified of anywhere that was remotely busy. I became angry at those who weren’t keeping their distance. I became upset seeing families together with grandparents, knowing that they were breaking the rules. Suddenly, having a newborn almost became the easy part. The hard part was managing everything else.

It took me a while to feel comfortable with even distanced visits with family and friends. It all felt so odd and unnatural, and whilst I was desperate for contact and for people to properly meet Wilf, I worried so much too. I understand the severity of the virus and why we have all been made to fear it, but to this day I still struggle with what we can and can’t do, and particularly in those early weeks and months with a newborn, things have felt very fragile. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined we would be raising two young children in this chaos.

As lockdown eased, it took a while for me to get to grips with venturing out. I remember my first trip to the supermarket when Wilf was around three months old. For all my worries, I couldn’t get over how safe it actually felt – there was barely anyone around and I managed the whole mask, anti-bac and baby-wearing routine pretty well. Plus, Wilf was fascinated by the lights and the colours, and to him this was a whole new sensory overload. The same trip with Theo in tow though was quite different. Aged three and a half, he is hugely inquisitive and I found myself forever asking him not to touch things and stay close to me. But, we’ve found our way and I’ve now learned to manage that this is now the new normal. But be it the supermarket, going to the park or even out for lunch, life is certainly different not only with two children rather than one, but now managing the new ways of life because of the pandemic. As well, I’m not sure whether I should have felt proud or sad that Theo once asked me for anti-bac because another child touched his hand in the park. How brilliant that he is so aware, I first thought. But at the same time, surely this sort of thought shouldn’t be going through the head of a little one?

Parenting in a pandemic requires a great deal of strength and creativity, I’ve realised. You have to find ways to adapt, find new ways of doing things and be strong in managing uncertain times and situations, because still, we just don’t know what’s around the corner. We have to protect our little ones and keep them safe, and of course, ourselves too. But we mustn’t forget our own sanity and the need to look after ourselves, which is easier said than done with so many restrictions. It’s not as easy to meet up with people now that the rule of six has been brought back in, and it’s not easy to be spontaneous any more. But, we know that we’ve just got to get through this. Together.

Wilf is now six months old and is yet to have had snuggles with many of our friends. He’s met Andy’s parents once and we have no idea when the next time will be. It’s hard to believe that this is the way, but it is, and that’s why I find it hard when we compare things to those early months with Theo when there was so much freedom. It’s not what we would have imagined or wished, but these circumstances have definitely made our little family stronger and the bonds even tighter.

Parenting in a pandemic is a huge test of sanity and strength… so hats off to all those who are finding new normals and trying their best. 2020 has been a strange old year and I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve heard say that they are done with this year and to roll on 2021. But whilst its come with all its challenges, 2020 for us has brought us our little Wilf, who amongst so much chaos and uncertainty brings us so much joy and so many smiles. No doubt many new parents are finding this year hard as they navigate life with a newborn and a new normal. So to all the new mums and dads out there and their 2020 babies, here’s to you. Parenting is tough, as is this pandemic, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that our little ones are all pretty wonderful.

Parenting: the pushes and the pulls


Extreme emotions. This is definitely something I’ve learned to become very familiar with since becoming a mum. Who knew that such little people could have such powerful, consuming effects on us?!


Yesterday, Theo went off to forest school for the first time; as well as pre-school two days a week, we thought it was time for him to do something extra and given his love of being outdoors, knew that this would be right up his street. Since visiting last week, every day he has asked if it’s the day for forest school, then the morning he was going, he was so excited that he wanted to go at 7.30am (cue the meltdown because I had dared to explain that it wasn’t open yet.) Of course, on the way there in the car he goes very quiet. At first he says he just wants to stay for the morning, then it becomes just for two minutes, and when we’ve arrived and parked up, he doesn’t want to go at all. He’s three, and I’ve come to learn he’s going through a real phase of trying to figure out his emotions, which is why I try explaining that he’s just feeling a bit nervous but he’s going to have the best time. But bless him, the tears are pinging out from his eyes and his little voice is cracking when he speaks.

It’s all new to me how to deal with these situations. There’s one bit of me that just wants to scoop him up, walk away, and tell him not to worry and we won’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. I feel guilty and I feel sad for him. But then at the same time, I know how much fun he’ll have when he does go, and so I feel frustrated that he won’t just throw himself in, and I can’t understand why he suddenly doesn’t want to be here after all the initial excitement. But Theo is a gentle push kind of kid. So there I am, helping him find dinosaur eggs (stones) and building giant towers out of crates and bicycle wheels with the other children. Of course, within minutes he’s having an absolute ball, barely engaging with me and instead is completely absorbed in what he’s doing. It’s a joy to watch.

Then it’s my turn: I don’t want to leave him. What if he gets cold and wet? What if he hurts himself? What if he can’t open the packets in his lunchbox or what if he doesn’t feel like he can ask for help? I realise then that I’ve been totally pulled in by him, my heart now aching at the fact that really, I know he will be totally ok, and that he’s going to have so much fun without me. He’s ready for adventure and ready to make new friends in new situations, and perhaps I’m the one who’s not quite ready to let go that little bit. I then spend the time that he’s there constantly checking my phone, enjoying the fact that I have just the one child for the day but also really missing him and being desperate to pick him up.


Collecting him at the end of the day, I melt when I see his grubby, happy face and he tells me about what he’s been up to (after the initial I don’t knows and can’t remembers). He’s muddy and smells of campfire and is wearing a wooden necklace he’s made, and he’s absolutely full of beans. At this point, I feel so happy for him and am bursting with pride; I can’t get enough of him. But, this doesn’t last too long!

His tiredness then kicks in early evening, as does the whinging, and before long I’m frazzled by his constant demands. Another snack, having tea now, no not that tea, another drink, no not that drink, wanting to go out on his bike, not wanting to tidy up… suddenly all of my buttons are being pushed and I’m desperate for bed time. Both mine and his.

After the usual pre-bath getting undressed battle followed by the not really wanting to get in then not wanting to get out, he’s soon scrubbed and smelling delicious and looking adorable in his pyjamas. At this point in the evening, we make a point of all sitting down together, watching a bit of TV and then reading stories. It’s probably my favourite time of day. Some nights, he’s still bouncing around on the sofa with bundles of energy, but on others, he’s well and truly ready for bed and quite happy to enjoy some quiet time. Yesterday was the latter, and as he snuggled up to me whilst I was feeding Wilf, he told me that we hadn’t had many cuddles that day, and he sat there tucked under my arm. He really can be the sweetest, most lovable little person.

There’s always such a sense of accomplishment when both boys are sleeping soundly each evening: we’ve got through the day and are ready to rest ahead of a new one. It’s then that I replay the day in my head, relaying it to Andy as we catch up, and I realise just how many emotions I’ve experienced in twelve hours: I’ve been driven mad, I’ve felt guilty, I’ve felt pride and happiness like no other, I’ve enjoyed quality time with one son yet missed the other, I’ve asked myself questions and doubted whether I’m doing the right thing.

For me, parenting is full of these pushes and pulls. There are times when I’ve felt frustration and anger like no other all because there’s a battle about getting dressed, and there are times when I’m bursting with love and happiness because I’m watching our little one ride a bike. Each day is a rollercoaster, some feeling higher and loopier than others, and each day I feel like I’m learning what to do and how to manage things. Plus, I do often think – what on earth did I do all day before having children?! Pushes and pulls, highs and lows, my days are now filled with fun, with challenges, and despite often tearing my hair out or being desperate for a minute’s peace, I really wouldn’t change them for the world.

Sleep

My mum has often reminded me that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I’m not sure how true this is, or who uses it and for whom, but I can well believe that it is, most definitely, one of least loveable things about having a child.

When Theo was born, I remember ‘getting ready for bed’ that night in the hospital. I’d had a wash and put my pyjamas on, he’d had a feed and so I popped him in the crib next to my bed. It was time for sleep, I thought. But really it wasn’t. Teeny tiny Theo had other ideas and understandably, didn’t want to be laid on his own in the vast space of the cot he was in. After numerous attempts of sssshing him, rocking him and trying to pop him back down, I soon realised that there was no way he was going to just sleep on his own. Why would he? This was a whole new world for him now, no longer cocooned in what he was used to. Curled up on my chest, he then slept soundly as I propped myself up and dozed lightly for the night. The fact that I’d barely slept by this point and had been through a long labour didn’t bother me at all; I was thriving off the adrenaline of just having had a baby, even though I was beyond exhausted. All I wanted to do was cuddle him and stare at him anyway, but I remember feeling a huge sense of shock about just how different life would be as of now. This mini little person was already ruling the roost and I was happy to dote on his every request. Nothing could have prepared me for that overwhelming feeling of how our lives were now so, so different. Or, how sleep would now be no more.

A few nights in, the novelty of staying up most of the night for cuddles began to wear off. When my milk came in, I remember feeling so sore and engorged that I just sat there and cried in the middle of the night – I had no idea what I was doing, my boobs felt like they were going to explode and feeding was so painful. Plus, I hadn’t slept in days. But, we powered through and feeding, thankfully, became so natural. We soon got ourselves into a nice routine where I would get a head start with sleep early evening and Andy would wake me for the next feed. Theo soon found his way and would sleep for 2-3 hours at a time, and it felt like we were slowly making progress. Then came the four month sleep regression which hit us like a sledgehammer. That’s when Theo decided he would barely sleep an hour at a time and it would take hours to settle him in between – so much so, there would often be foot imprints in the carpet where I’d stood for so long swaying with him. Each night was a battle which inevitably ended up with me feeding him to sleep and he would end up in our bed – two habits which I know aren’t exactly advised. But sleep is sleep, and I was desperate. Despite Andy’s efforts to help, or me expressing or switching to formula so he could do some of the night feeds, my sentiment was that I had the boobs, feeding was fine and so I would just crack on. Plus, he was up and out the door doing long days at work, so I really was okay with being the one up in the night.

However, knowing that we couldn’t carry on like this, when Theo turned six months we decided to sleep train. I’d heard wonderful first-hand experiences from friends and so we went for it. I know it’s not for everyone, and I understand why, but for us, it worked like magic. Despite the fact that the sound of his cries still haunt me, and that it took every ounce of will power from us both to stick to what the book said (we used the Ferber method), by night three, Theo slept through. To this day, and he’s now three and a half, he’s only woken in the night a handful of times. As tough as it was, from a young age he learned the skill of falling asleep on his own and then getting himself back off if he did wake. I remember I was in awe of how this little baby would coo and smile wide awake as we said goodnight to him and left his room, and upon checking on him five minutes later, he would be sound asleep. It was wonderful. Strange though, I didn’t realise just how much I would miss those night feeds; so many times I would feel lonely feeding him in the middle of the night, but when he no longer needed me, I suddenly missed that quiet bonding time. It’s something I vowed not to wish away if we ever had another one, which three years later, we did. 

Wilf was born in the height of lockdown. We had no family to call upon, Theo was home from pre school and Andy was working from home. Life was far from normal, despite now having a newborn, so our mantra very much became that we needed to do whatever we needed to do to get by. To add to life’s challenges, Wilf then developed colic and then silent reflux. From two weeks old, he hated going on his back, which meant that sleep became near impossible. During the day he would live in my sling as he was contented being upright and it also meant I was hands-free and could run around after Theo. But at night, he would wake so soon after I laid him down, that in the end, I just sat up, propped up with pillows, and let him sleep on my chest. We had tried tilting the mattress and we even bought a next to me crib, but neither worked. Again, Andy would let me have a head start with sleep and he would stay awake with Wilf on him until around midnight, using the time to catch up on work and send emails. Then for the rest of the night, I’d doze and Wilf would sleep soundly on me, generally waking twice to feed and going straight back off. I knew that allowing him to sleep on me wasn’t ideal or even safe, but I felt like I had no choice. It was hard, but felt strangely easier than the hours I’d spent rocking Theo when he was little. We kept on telling ourselves that we just needed to get to six months and then we could sleep train!

Then a miracle happened. One Sunday morning, when Wilf was around ten weeks old, I was upstairs doing my online yoga class. The house was strangely quiet, and when I came down, there were three smiley and happy boys. Andy had decided to pop Wilf in his crib on his tummy, to which he loved and slept soundly for a whole 45 minutes. Up until now, this was unheard of – he hadn’t slept on his own since he was days old. I couldn’t believe it. That day, his naps were on his tummy and not in the sling, and so we decided we would try this at night too. I’d read lots about it and had worried myself silly, fully understanding the risks and how it wasn’t advised. However, this wasn’t a choice between front or back. This was a choice between front on his own, or front on me. It’s safe to say I barely slept that night, checking on him countless times next to me, but little Wilf suddenly decided he could sleep on his own. He would go down around 8pm, waking roughly every 4-5 hours, so only twice in the night, but sleeping on his own. What was even more amazing, was that I could feed and wind him then have him back down all within half an hour. At just over three months, he then mostly woke just the once, and that was generally between 4-5am before then going back off after a little fed, but even went straight through from 8pm – 6.30am on occasions too. Of course, now that I was getting some sleep, I felt like a new person.

But I know too well now that babies like to keep you on your toes, and just when you think you’ve got some sort of routine sussed, they like to throw a curve ball. We’re now in the thick of the wonderful four month sleep regression where Wilf quite likes to wake every 2-3 hours again, often cooing and smiling or blowing raspberries in the middle of the night. Having been tempted for weeks with some great runs of sleep, I must say that I am now finding the broken nights extremely hard again. But, we’re just riding it out and I’m keeping everything crossed that this won’t last too long. This time though, I can honestly say that I don’t mind (and that I even quite enjoy) those night feeds… more so when there’s only one of them, rather than every few hours. It’s our quiet little moment together – something which I don’t feel like I get a lot of second time around.

Having a second baby, I’ve gone with the flow so much more. With Theo, I wrote down every feed and nap and tried to replicate it, often feeling frazzled about trying to force a routine. With Wilf, he’s just slotted in and without any pressure has found his own little rhythm. And it works. I’ve often worried about ‘creating a rod’, as they say. Theo, up until he was nearly two, for some reason would not nap in his cot, but only his pushchair. Strange as it was, it worked for us, meaning I wasn’t tied to being home for naps. Then from one day to the next, he decided he did in fact enjoy sleeping in his cot during the day. Because of this, with Wilf, we decided very much to just go with the flow – what works one day might not necessarily the next. So far, I feel like me being more chilled has certainly helped him. That and Ewan the Dream Sheep!

These babies all have minds of their own and who knows why or when they’ll change them. But whether it’s sleeping on a chest, napping in a pushchair, living in a sling or only sleeping with white noise, it’s all about doing whatever works.