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I had no idea…

I had no idea. I suppose before you become a parent, you have no way of knowing, no matter what well intentioned friends may have told you.

There is no getting away from it; this parenthood business is challenging and overwhelming at times. It is relentless, in its mundanity, its demands, its restrictions both socially and financially and that’s before you throw “Mummy guilt” into the mix. (or Daddy guilt for that matter, but I imagine that’s a subtly different beast…I’ll have to ask my husband!)

Becoming a Mum was something I spent my teenage years and throughout my 20’s fiercely ensuring didn’t happen, so it felt cruelly ironic that when my husband and I decided we dearly wished to start a family, things were far less straightforward than we’d assumed.

Four years through our journey, and after having I.U.I. we were delighted to welcome our Son into the family, totally unaware of the challenges that would lie ahead! A friend at the time commented that parenting was the “highest highs and the lowest lows” and I have found that to be the case.

I’ll never forget how daunted I felt the first week my husband went back to work after his paternity leave had finished – now it was totally my responsibility to care for this defenceless youngster solo and I felt so ill-equipped. I am eternally grateful for my sister-in-law’s help and support that week, getting me out of the house and attending my local children’s centre that Monday morning to get Baby weighed at the clinic.

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Finding structure to my time was vital in those early weeks, as was the peer support I gained through friendships forged following the NCT antenatal classes we attended. Music with Mummy classes become a hugely important part of this weekly routine. I was lucky enough to have the classes recommended by several friends, in fact we quite took over Carol’s Friday class at Marldon for quite some time! It was a very important part of my week and helped keep me sane, as well as helping my growing Son to develop musically, socially and physically. I treasure those memories, the simplicity of just having me and my little one to focus upon. And I do apologise Carol if we talked too much at times – those snatched opportunities to gossip stopped me losing my marbles!

Two years later and the rollercoaster ride began again with the arrival of our Daughter, our family was complete. If we thought it was challenging before, we naively expected things to be easier the second time around, (We’d done it before right? Experience counts for something surely?) and in some respects it was easier. In many other respects it was much harder – you just can’t rest as much the second time around as the toddler still needs you – having a structured routine of interesting weekly activities became all the more important.

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Now, five years through our journey, I find myself in a reflective mood. I am so grateful for the love and support of my husband. We have faced these parenting challenges together and are stronger for it. I have no idea how single parent families cope. Necessity I suppose. I take my hat off to each and every one of you.

I am grateful also for the proximity of my parents. It has been an unexpected part of this parenting journey seeing the joy which my children bring to them. I am sad that we are not able to visit my husband’s family half as often since they live a significant distance away.

I am also very grateful to Carol for her Music with Mummy classes and for her continued inspiration. I’m in a different stage of my parenting journey now and planning, marketing and running my own Music with Mummy classes helps keep me sane. I can’t quite believe I’m nearing the end of my first year already! It gives me a focus separate from my children, something that challenges me, using my musical skills (I’d never have expected to use for ‘work’) and when I’m having a tough-parenting-day, the separate focus helps me keep things in perspective. It’s hard. But it’s totally worth it.

Lou x x x

Lou and kids
Lou and her two precious bundles of energy

 

 

 

He’s Not Heavy… He’s My Brother

Evening all. I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend and if, like me, you have school aged children and have reached the end of a largely wet and cold Easter holidays (with everyone still in one piece) then I congratulate you! I’m really looking forward to getting back into my routine this week and welcome the return to our lovely Music with Mummy and Jolly Babies sessions.

Anyway, did you see that this week we ‘celebrated’ National Siblings Day? No obviously we didn’t actually celebrate – although I’ve just realised that it was a missed opportunity to eat cake. However, with it being the Easter holidays and therefore having my two children together again at home it gave me a chance to think about the interesting dynamic that is being a sibling. And after my two careful weeks of scientific investigation I can reveal that in my house being siblings largely consists of FIGHTING!

Almost all sibling fights stem from:

1. Wanting the same thing at the same time. It doesn’t matter if there are two of these items in our house they absolutely must have the same one.
2. Random punching from Edward.
3. High level manipulation and button-pushing that only a 5-year old girl is capable of from Isabelle.

So, full scale wars have erupted over the last fortnight and always when I’m busy. No, not ‘filing my nails busy’ or ‘talking on the phone busy’ but ‘making the lunch busy’ or ‘hanging out the washing busy’. On Tuesday morning Edward appeared with a bleeding nose while I was peeling eggs for the picnic at the zoo! It’s been a bundle of laughs!!! I’ve drunk a fair quantity of wine in the evenings!

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However, the funny thing about all the fighting is that there is some unwritten rule saying only they are allowed to be unkind to each other. Outside of our house and around other children they become fiercely protective of each other. In short, they become a team. So Isabelle wasn’t going to take any nonsense from the 3-year old who tried to throw her brother from the car at soft play. (No she didn’t fight the boy she came and ‘told’. Nobody in the world loves ‘telling’ as much as primary school girls.) Also when Edward disappeared into the 3-storey soft play climbing frame, I sent her “To check he’s ok.” She’s only about 5cm taller and they weigh the same but the child can argue that black is white so I knew she’d have his back should some slide-related standoff ensue.

Like all siblings they also love to get each other into trouble (more tale telling)! Although ironically they actually hate it if I am cross and tell one of them off. In our house the naughty step doesn’t really work as Isabelle will go and sit with Edward until he’s served his ‘time’. And yes it is only ever Eddie on the naughty step!

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So it’s an emotional, powerful, frustrating and joyful relationship being a sibling but I honestly believe it plays a huge part in shaping the person you become. I have two brothers and I have grown into an extremely calm and patient person. Read into that what you will! At our music groups it’s really common for one child to try and take something from another. What’s funny is that those with siblings either:

a) Let it go without making any fuss – they’re very used to having things taken off them.
b) Don’t let go of it at all – they don’t take any of that nonsense, they’ve learned to stand their ground.

In either case we always laugh about it and invariably the adult will say “He/She’s so used to it they’ve got an older brother/sister.”

So whether you are a sibling or have siblings in your household I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a really unique and special relationship. Next year perhaps I will celebrate it – although I will have to make sure the celebration involves exactly the same amount of cake in each bowl which is the same colour!!!

Jenny x x x

 

When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly…

Running Music with Mummy classes will be the beginning of new journey in my life, one I have discovered because of my children. We have loved going to classes together, it is something we’ve looked forward to and has given us many happy memories and, in a way, shaped their childhood so far. I’m really looking forward to enabling other families to enjoy the positive experience we’ve had through going to Music with Mummy and Jolly Babies sessions. As a parent I have found it important to focus on and invest in the activities and places we find enjoyable as it is what gives me the strength to get through the more difficult times, because raising children can be difficult and my journey to be being a parent was a long one.

My husband and I spent many years trying to start a family and it was a heart-breaking time. After years of fertility treatment and disappointment we followed the adoption process and were approved. Weeks after that we found out that I had fallen pregnant naturally. All our dreams have come true, we have a happy, healthy son. When he arrived we were stunned, both by the fact that we had our own child and by the fact that being a parent is difficult! Nothing had prepared us for the extreme tiredness, the constant guilt about whether we were doing it right or not, the enormous changes to our everyday life, routine, friendships and feelings towards each other. There wasn’t a single area of our lives that remained unchanged by the amazing and very demanding small person that now ruled our existence.

Baby Thomas
Our long-awaited newborn Son

When he was nine months old I fell pregnant again. We were reeling, still finding our feet as parents and we had won the lottery again! Our daughter arrived very quickly at home. If we’d thought it was hard being parents already then being parents to a newborn baby and a toddler was something else. Nearly two years later, I still don’t think I’m on top of it. All those years of longing, endless months of disappointment, hospital appointments, injections, side effects, friends gradually having families of their own and happy pictures of their babies on Facebook, followed by appointments with social workers, workshops, agonising over whether adopting was the right thing for us, intensive questioning of our families, lifestyle, commitment, ability to parent…and finally we have our perfect family. So why is it that I don’t enjoy it all the time? Can’t I call on those memories and feelings at any given moment to make myself feel better?

Thomas meets Lily
Big Brother meets Little Sister for the first time!

My friend wrote a book, The Happiness Equation by Nick Powdthavee. (Follow the link to find out more about him and his work.) In it he says research shows that having children doesn’t make you happier than before you were a parent and evidence has shown that parents become less happy in the first five years. When his research was published many people were offended by the idea. Even as someone who now has everything I ever dreamed of and more, I regularly have days when I am completely burnt out and driven to my limit. Being a parent changed my life beyond anything I could have dared to imagine. Before I was a parent, I saw my friends and family having the same struggles I have now but I chose what to notice and it wasn’t the hard bits, it was the special bits that, now I am a parent, I don’t pay enough attention to. I keep a One Second Every Day video diary now, it helps me to reflect and, even on a really bad day, there is usually something worth catching, a moment I don’t want to forget. It’s too easy to forget the lovely moment when my son said to my Mum “I love you Grandma, you are my diamond” and remember the meltdown that followed a couple of hours later because he wanted cheese on toast for tea but we didn’t know that, because we’re not telepathic, and had made scrambled egg, which is what he asked for (but really because he was tired).

Partridge Family on the Big Wheel
A special moment recently on the Big Wheel in Torquay

My children give me sense of purpose I was lacking before and I have experienced depths of feeling with them that I didn’t know existed. I am truly grateful that I am now a parent but that doesn’t make the difficult times easier. I am not floating on a cloud of relief that sees me through. I look for the bright stars of the happy moments, in the rich navy sky of everyday life, complete with wee on the carpet, meltdowns in public, sleepless nights and endless laundry. I can’t imagine a world without them but I love it when they’ve finally gone to bed and I have a couple of hours to just be me again. I also love that my journey has led me to this point, where not only do I have the family I always wanted but also allows me work at doing something I find meaningful and worthwhile. I hope the families that I run groups for will find their own bright stars and wonderful moments to remember through coming to my sessions.

Baby Lily
My baby girl at Jolly Babies
Thomas and Edward
Mine and Jenny’s sons at Jolly Babies over 2 years ago… Who knew two years on we would both be Music with Mummy teachers!

Charlotte x x x

Time for some R and R?

It’s been a busy term at Music with Mummy and Jolly Babies in Torbay, but we’ve finally made it to the Easter Holidays and it’s time to put the maracas down, pack away the drums, and put our collective feet up for a while. And those of you who are involved in the daily drudgery of early morning school runs, making packed lunches, finding book bags, bundling arguing children into cars, and rushing to the school gate so YOU don’t get told off by the teacher, well, I know you will have been breathing a sigh of relief too on Friday morning that you have a break from all that for a while.

I don’t know about you, but do you feel this last couple of months has all been a bit of a blur? That the hamster wheel we all are on is going just a little bit too fast at times? I’m not talking about life in general; I think we all would agree that life seems to go in a flash and you look back and wonder where the last 5 or 10 years have gone, and how your life has probably changed beyond all recognition since your little people came into your lives.

I’m more thinking just the speed of the hours in the day. I think there is some trickery going on behind the scenes in my house, that something keeps pushing the clock forward an hour every day, not just last weekend! Otherwise, why is it that I just can’t seem to get on top of everything? I have piles of washing that turn into piles of ironing, of which only the top dozen items ever really get to see the ironing board. I have dust that collects on every possible surface, that is always especially noticeable when mother-in-law pops round…. You can barely see out of my windows after all the snow and rain the last few weeks, but that’s no excuse, I have been saying I’ll wash the windows for a couple of weeks now, but for some reason I just haven’t had the time.

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I suppose, like you, there are so many other commitments on my time, that housework inevitably falls to the bottom of the list. And I, probably like lots of you, have been saying something along the lines of, “Now it’s the holidays, I’ll catch up on all those jobs I’ve been meaning to do.” What kind of holiday is that? We just swap one type of task for another, and Rest and Recuperation rarely gets a look in.  But there is the old saying that “a change is as good as a rest” and I suppose that’s true, but it would be nice to have the time to actually have a rest and then I could decide which was better, a change of chores or a nap!

I’ve never been good at resting, I get bored too easily. When I was much younger, in the summer holidays, I would pack myself a bag with lunch, drinks, books, sunglasses and sun cream etc and go and find a nice spot to just chill out and relax. I would see other girls/young women who seemed to enjoy lying in the sun and just being still. Without fail, every time, 15 minutes in I was bored stiff, packed up my bag again and pottered off to ‘do’ something. I can’t just do nothing. I suppose that’s why I enjoy running Music with Mummy classes – there is never any down time, no chance of not being kept busy both during classes with your lovely little people who keep me on my toes, and, also plenty to keep on top of in the background at home. There is lots of admin and planning behind the scenes that goes on to keep the wheels turning and the bells ringing, and I like that. It does mean, however, that the housework does get pushed further and further down the pecking order, and let’s face it, housework isn’t great fun, is it. But it is a shame that my need to keep busy doesn’t quite extend to just getting on with the cleaning!

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Weirdly though, I spent Friday morning at my mum’s flat cleaning her kitchen top to bottom as mum is hopefully going to be moving into a more convenient and appropriate flat for her going forward in her maturing years, and I thoroughly enjoyed cleaning her house getting it ready for the Estate Agents to take pictures. Why can’t I get the same enthusiasm to do my own!?! I had hoped it might spur me on to tackle my mountain of chores…. Doubt it somehow!

But I am hoping for some R & R over the holidays, even if it means it’s not so much a rest but at least a change of routine and maybe, just maybe, catch up on a few things. And I hope you also get the same during the Easter break, some time to do something different and spend some fun time with the family. The chores can definitely wait!

Happy Easter

Carol x x x

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Music with ‘Not Mummy’

So it’s Saturday night and I ask my husband if he’s got any bright ideas about what could be the topic of this week’s blog. He suggests that I could write about ‘Dads’. “You know, you could talk about the challenge of me being in and out of the kid’s lives.” (He’s in the RAF not prison in case you were wondering). “Or, you know, how I don’t have any patience with the kids. That’s funny.” No it’s really not. However he had yet one more gem of an idea, “Maybe you could talk about my awesome football skills?” I’m presuming he doesn’t mean that time at the park when he was showing off for the kids, missed the ball and slipped spectacularly on his arse in the mud. Now that was awesome!

So it became clear that what he was suggesting was perhaps not so much a blog about Dads in general as specifically about him. Honestly I’m not sure he’d really thought this through and would like me to share my thoughts with you all! However, I think he may have been on to something with the whole ‘Dad’ or other carer thing.

I love the Music with Mummy franchise. No surprises there of course. I took my own children to Carol’s wonderful sessions in Marldon before becoming a class leader myself. And I’m not the only one. The franchise has just celebrated it’s 25th birthday and, with groups running successfully in all corners of the country, we’re clearly doing something right. My one little niggle?? The whole Music with Mummy part. Music with Mummy/ Daddy/ Nanny/ Gran/ Granny/ Grandma/ Auntie/ Childminder/ Stepmum/ Sister would be about accurate for my classes but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue so well does it?

It’s great that so many family members are able to ignore the ‘Mummy’ and are willing and able to come along to sessions. I love watching your pride and enjoyment when the little one’s surprise us all and grow in confidence week after week. Amongst my army of ‘non-mummies’ I have a lovely Granny who has relocated from Scotland to help look after her grandchildren for a year. Now that’s commitment. Although I know she was somewhat disgruntled recently with the whole weather situation after being promised, “It never snows in Torquay!”

I was also extremely jealous a few weeks ago when a couple of the dads teamed up to bring all their children so their wives could enjoy an adult brunch! Actual hot coffee and eating food with two hands? This is the stuff of dreams surely? I won’t lie I did happen to ‘mention’ this event to my own husband and won myself a guilt bunch of flowers! I know we’re all supposed to be co-parenting and I’m a massive believer that Dad’s don’t babysit their own children. However, the reality for a lot of us is that the Mums are still responsible for the larger proportion of the childcare and so I was happy to help be a part of those Mums ‘day release’!

So this week I’d like to extend a massive thank you to all the ‘non-mummies’ who come along each week. You might be using our sessions as quality time together, you might be providing a few hours peace for a busy Mummy who always puts herself last, or you might be providing hours of childcare a week in which case I hope I’m helping you have a more relaxing hour while I sing and dance and generally keep little hands and minds busy. All are welcome at Music with Mummy and my huge team of awesome Mums are also more than welcome to bring additional family if you’d like them to share in the fun of the sessions. I love watching my children enjoying themselves but I love to share that with my family too!

 

Russ and the children
Daddy – Despite his lack of patience, actually we love him, and will be keeping him on!

 

Jenny x x x