Mum clothes

This post is about so much more than mum clothes. But it’s a start.

It’s 4 years since I last really felt like myself. 4 years since I was first pregnant and bulging out of my clothes. 4 years since I stopped wearing work clothes. 4 years since I felt like I could wear things without my first thought being how much will snot/sick show on this? But now my babies are 3 and a half and 1, I’m starting to come out of the other side.

So I decided to go shopping. And I realised I had no idea where to look. For the last 4 years, the only things I’ve really bought for myself are Selfish Mother sweatshirts… I didn’t know what else to get.

This came down to two things:

  1. I don’t know myself any more: my body shape is still a mystery; my tastes have changed in the last 4 years but I don’t really know what they’ve moved on to; and my lifestyle is new to me, still.
  2. I don’t know shops anymore. I honestly don’t know where to look.

On top of those things, I was starting to feel a bit of instagram pressure. I follow lots of lovely mums who all look great in their cool clothes with their love their body positive attitude and bright colours and I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be looking like them or me or… Who was I??

Anyway. Cue mid-life crisis. It lasted about 3 days. I tried to shop online. I failed. I tried to make a Pinterest board. I didn’t know what to put on it. I tried to shop in person. I walked around and around and around and just bought a cute outfit for my friend’s new baby. It wasn’t going well.

Then I found this capsule wardrobe planner from Un-fancy and I decided to try and bullet journal my way out of this pickle. So I completed some of the steps:

  1. Pieces I own and love to wear (hello sweatshirts! hello jeans! hello leather jacket!)
  2. What’s working for me at the moment (stripes. sweatshirts.)
  3. Pieces I own and never wear (dresses. big grey cardigan.)
  4. What’s not working for me at the moment (anything that needs to be dry cleaned. anything I can’t crawl around on the floor in.)
  5. A little word association of words I wanted to associate with my style (comfortable. modern. practical.)

And I kind of realised I do have a wardrobe and a style I like. I’d just kind of forgotten it and brushed it away. I was looking at websites without any real focus and feeling lost because I didn’t know what I was looking for, but a refreshed look at my wardrobe showed me I don’t have to start from scratch. I probably do have to donate a few things I’ll never wear again, but the bones are there.

It was refreshing and exciting and gave me a lot more clarity when I thought again about buying. I even successfully managed to buy a denim skirt (which looks great with my sweatshirts).

It’s nice to be feeling a bit more like me again, and even nicer to know I was actually there all along.

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Finding my way

I’m not the mum I thought I’d be. I don’t really know who I thought I’d be, but it’s not this. It takes some time to accept and to be ok with the mum you turn out to be, before finding the confidence to own your version of motherhood, and that’s what I’m working on now. Acceptance, confidence.

What’s different? I think mainly I thought I’d work. I loved and was fully committed to teaching before children and, even though I knew deep down the long hours were incompatible with the way I wanted to raise my children, I thought I’d find a way to make it work. It disappoints me still that I didn’t. I feel like a failed feminist, and a poor role model for my sons. I throw myself into voluntary work and hope it somehow makes up for it, but every time I meet up with one of my amazing working mum friends, I feel a little bit sad about it.

Then I thought, if I am a SAHM, I’ll totally throw myself into it. I thought the energy I had for teaching would be easy to transfer into parenting. But it wasn’t and isn’t. Looking after my own children, dealing with teeth and tantrums and snacks and chores and cooking and tidying and school runs and naps, drains me in a totally different way. I look at some of the mums in my instagram feed and genuinely don’t know how they do it. I need breaks. My eldest is in nursery schools five days a week; my youngest goes to nursery two days a week so I can do some voluntary work and generally get things in order (including my head!). Again, this isn’t the way I thought things would be.

There are other decisions too. Did I think I’d send my son to nursery school in a uniform when he was only just 3? No no no no no. Did I think I’d still be feeding said child at 3 and a half? Nope. Did I think I’d become so totally attached to the routine that the thought of going on holiday would panic me a little? Ha! And did I think I’d plan a UK holiday just because I couldn’t handle the thought of another flight? Are you kidding? Children are not going to change me! Ha!

It’s unsettling, realising that you’re not only not who you were but you’re also not who you were. The change from then to now was so sudden and it’s taking a while, I’m discovering, to work out who the new me is. To get to know her. To accept her. It’s hard work and there’s not a lot of space or time to do it. But I’m getting there.

Breastfeeding mini series: Tandem feeding

How the heck did I get here? Feeding two children? If you’d asked me when I was pregnant with my first, sat in a stuffy, hot room on a baking Saturday, listening to how breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt and my baby would happily crawl up my tummy to find my nipple (ha!), I would never have imagined this. But yet here we are, me and my two boys, still feeding. And how? I know exactly…

Because guilt. Because love. Because you think a time will come when it will feel right to stop but time creeps up on you and before you know it your baby’s a boy. Because of a stubborn determination (his) to dry feed through pregnancy. Because hormones. Because of a fear that you’ll somehow ruin your bond/child/relationship. Because you like it. Because three years, in the grand scheme of things, is a tiny moment. Because what if he resents his brother and I ruin their relationship forever? Because I thought about stopping, I thought it had happened, and I couldn’t stop crying all night.

Tandem feeding is hard work. Feeding through pregnancy is a whole other post. For me, it’s all about boundaries. They’re the only thing that make it manageable. Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I think I’m crazy. But those moments rare and almost always because I’m tired and need to fall asleep, ideally alone.The rest of the time, most of the time, I feel so grateful. There’s something really special about sharing these times with your babies. It’s something that, despite it all, I feel really lucky to have done.

Questions to think about when you get your smear letter

Do I need to shave? (Legs!)

Do I wear a skirt or jeans?

Where will I put my pants?

Which nurse shall I ask for when I book?

Do I fold them or scrunch them into a ball?

What do I chat about with the nurse?

Do I leave my socks on?

What chocolate or cake shaped treat shall I buy afterwards?

Questions not to think about: Shall I bother going?

YES. Yes you will.

Breast cancer might be the most talked about female cancer but I know more people that have been treated for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous cells than any other illness. At all. It scares the pants off me and I’m so so grateful that looking after myself is as quick and easy as going to the nurse. An appointment takes 10 minutes. And most of that was just a nice chat.

It’s not nice. It is uncomfortable. But it could also save your life. Go and have your smear!

A world without men

I was washing up after lunch today, listening to Women’s Hour (future post about how I’ve become a SAHM cliche to follow) when it struck me how brilliant it was to listen to the radio for a whole hour and only hear women’s voices, talking about really interesting topics like drones and tech. And then something much bigger hit me: this isn’t really unusual for me any more.

Until I quite work as a teacher about 18 months ago, I regularly enjoyed male company. I’d always had male friends and colleagues I saw often I enjoyed chatting with them about work and life. I enjoyed collaborating with them and always felt I had a good relationship with them. I’d go as far as to say my closest colleagues were men. Outside work too, I enjoyed being friends with men, before my sons were born. I’d spend a lot of time on weekends with other couples, and always enjoyed spending time with both halves.

Since leaving work though, I can probably count the times I’ve spent any meaningful amount of time in male company on one hand*. My days are filled with play dates and activities filled with women on maternity leave and nannies. My “me time” is spent training to be a breast feeding support worker – with other women. When I’m at home, I often listen to the Scummy Mummies podcast or Women’s Hour. The two pillars of my day, the school run, are dominated by female faces. Even my social media feeds are full of women and their babies: on Instagram I follow inspiring women; on Facebook I’ve found myself part of brilliantly supportive, predominantly female parenting groups.

Now I’ve realised the situation I find myself in, I find myself really quite interested in it. What affect does it have on a woman, I wonder, to only hear and see other women? How does it affect relationships, both with other women and other men? What expectations does it set, for example, for your marriage, if you’re used to just speaking to women? And how will me and my parenting of my two sons? Wider questions too: how does living in a female bubble affect my view of the world? I feel I’ve become more of a feminist since having sons, caring more about women’s issues. Is this because I’m more engaged with women and their world? And lastly, how will it affect me as a person? Have the things I’m exposed to as a woman changed? Has my world widened or got smaller?

I have none of the answers to these questions…! Making this a rather uninteresting blog post. But I am interested in thinking about it more, and talking about it to women to see what they think of their experiences.

A follow up post to follow, perhaps!

(*Husbands and fathers don’t count!)

London

I feel very lucky to be able to say London is my home. I’ve been here my entire adult life, and right now there’s no where else I’d rather be. But in all honesty, these days we rarely leave the little bubble of our neighbourhood. It’s a good one. It’s not Kensington, but it’s a nice family area with 100 year old terraced houses and three nice parks in walking distance of our house. Now our days revolve around school drop offs and pick ups, we rarely leave it. Museums, galleries and restaurants have been swapped for playgrounds and church halls. And I don’t mind. I love where we live. I know how lucky we are. But then today I realised how much I miss it.

Today I came into London to get a haircut. For a while, this seemed like a huge indulgence and a big inconvenience, but I’ve had the same hairdresser forever and I didn’t want to leave him. Now, my afternoon in town feels like a city break. I adore it. I love the peace, the calm, the rest. But today I felt something different.

Walking from Blackfriars to Covent Garden, I deliberately kept my phone in my pocket and my eyes open. As I passed buildings, cafes, cinemas, bridges, my past life flashed before my eyes. It felt almost cinematic as I remembered nights out with my husband, walks with friends, streets I cycled down, meals shared with my family… and I started to feel London injecting a bit of my identity back into myself again. I felt connected with a past life that in the last few years has all but disappeared.

We talk so much about the loss of identity women experience when we become mothers, but I’d always considered this in terms of work, clothing, friendships. I’d never really thought about how important London was to me, a Londoner. Now it makes so much sense. The city holds so many memories for me. Cutting myself off from it was like cutting off a piece of me. It felt so nice to (briefly) get it back.

Breastfeeding – one year on

I’ve decided to write a mini series of posts about breastfeeding. It’s been an enormous part of my parenting experience for the last 3 years and a bit and I’d like to take a while to reflect on it. The first post is dedicated to my second son: One year on…


Here we are. One year on. One year since you lay raging on my chest in a bright, white delivery room, tangled in the wires that stuck to my chest. One year since you were finally able to latch on in the recover room. One year since you wouldn’t let go of the nipple, so all of your first photos just show the little hat covering your head. You were the perfect feeder from the start: hungry, capable, efficient. You threw me, in fact, with your quick, snacky feeds, over in minutes. I wasn’t sure if you were ok. But you fattened up and grew and of course you were fine. You were just busy. One year since we’d settle on the sofa every night, after putting your big brother to bed, and you’d finally get the snuggled up feed you’d been craving all day. We’d sit on the sofa and wouldn’t move for hours. At the time, I felt trapped. What I wouldn’t give for one more snuggled up night with that little baby, now. That little baby who would slip off the breast, curl his back and relax, cheeks full, eyes sleepy. I miss you.

Today, I barely feel like a breastfeeding mum. You wouldn’t know. The days when you would start trying to latch on to my nose to request a feed are long gone. I can wear almost all clothes (I don’t. I wear sweatshirts.). There’s no muslin tucked into my back pocket. I don’t need a bottle of water everywhere I go. I’m just your mum, now.

Except between 7 – 7. Those hours are ours. When your brother has gone to bed and the rest of the world sleeps. When we sit in the chair in your room and we sit and rock and feed. And your sleepy heavy body feels so big now. Your legs dangle out of reach of my hands. The weight of your head deadens my arm. But your breathing, that’s the same. And your contented face, your uncreased brow, the rhythmic sucking over and over and over again, until it becomes shallower and shallower and I realise you’re asleep. And then, even though I know I should slide you into bed, I keep you for 5, 10 minutes, enjoying this moment. Because I know we’re one day, one feed, closer to you not wanting this any more. And I’m not ready for that. Not yet.

And then the day starts and it’s early, not light yet. And I sit in your chair and you feed and feed and feed, filling your hunger, until you wake enough to be interested in the world and come off and point with an “Uh!”. And those minutes of peace, might be the only time we get all day, you and I. And I’m so glad, so grateful, that we have them. The calm before the storm. Our time.

Breastfeeding: one year on. You’d think it would be strange. I thought it might be, once. But it’s perfect and I’m grateful for every day I get with you, doing this.