Tag Archives: Advice

What children have taught me about work

children and workI compartmentalise my life – at least in my head. So hours are carved up into children at childcare/school, children with just me, children with both of us, children in bed and so on. It makes it easier to visualise chunks of time I have for work and for non-work (at least that’s the plan).

In reality, you can’t always focus your mind on just one thing or another; it’s called multi-tasking but often it’s multi-visualising because much of it is the thinking rather than the doing. Sometimes I long to concentrate on one task, be single-minded and do it really well.

But maybe the meeting of my two worlds isn’t always such a bad thing. I hope that my working has brought benefits to my children and I also think the reverse is true. Here’s what I think my children have taught me about work.

That persistence does pay off
I’m a persistent person – some may even say very determined (perhaps anyone who’s ever worked with me!) but sometimes it’s a challenge. It’s not always the easiest or most comfortable route. Right from the start of their lives children show us it’s about trying and trying until they master something. Just look at them learning to crawl, walk, use a knife and fork, talk. Without the challenge there’s no reward.

To embrace change
I can’t underestimate how much change they’ve had over the last 12 months. They’ve moved houses, counties, nurseries. They’ve had to make new friends, Scrip has started pre-school then school. Children are incredibly adaptable. In contrast, I could deal with change better.

To be brave
Neither are extroverts or are outgoing. They both need a lot of encouragement. But when I think about how brave they’ve been in their own little ways – Scrip with swimming, when she was terrified of going underwater at first – D with nursery which was totally new to him at 11 months – I’m so proud. I read a piece recently about getting used to feeling uncomfortable if you run your own business, and this is a similar thing.

To get along
OK, this doesn’t always happen, but I ask them to get along A LOT! And they generally respond (at least my four year old takes the lead in this). I can see it doesn’t always come naturally – it’s a learnt behaviour. Likewise, it sometimes goes against the grain for me. But they do it against their instinct and things get better.

The power of simplicity
Children see everyone as equal. They don’t notice colour, nationality, disability. And if they do question, they accept a simple response and carry on. I love that. There’s so much to be said for taking a simple outlook.

When one becomes two: what I should have told my toddler

When one becomes twoWe’re now getting to the stage where Scrip asks where baby D is if he’s not in the room (it’s usually that he’s napping – not that he’s lying on his own somewhere!) She loves our morning routine of making silly faces through the cot bars, playing with him on our bed and lying next to him for nappy changes. And she’s very proud when I bring him into nursery to collect her and her friends crowd around and touch his little fingers and toes.

But there are still adjustments to be made and it certainly hasn’t always been straightforward. She struggled at the start and sometimes reacted in ways that surprised me. I don’t think you can ever be sure exactly how introducing a new baby will go. Although I thought a three year-ish age gap would work well for us, it has also meant that Scrip has had three years of us on her own and she understands so much more than a smaller child would. 

With the benefit of good old hindsight, here’s what I wish I’d told her before baby D came along:

She knew about the newborn crying (I warned her a lot about that!) but she didn’t know about all the waiting. There’s a lot of her having to be patient – waiting while I feed D, waiting while I change (another) nappy, waiting while I re-figure out the raincover (I’ve always struggled with that one), waiting when we go for his baby check ups. I read somewhere that you could introduce a specific activity for your child to do every time your baby needs a change or a feed – great idea (but Scrip would have been doing a lot of it!)

The sheer tiredness of mummy and daddy. She was too young to remember our zombie-like states first time around but she can see them clearly this time! From encouraging her to play ‘sleeping’ games with me (yes, seriously – they work sometimes!), to the large coffees that accompany every playground trip to lots of playing whilst I’m lying on the floor or sofa she can clearly see the effects of sleepless nights. Plus I’m probably more likely to be snappy which I’m trying hard to avoid. That’s where the effervescent Sofia the First and Henry Hugglemonster come in handy.

Having to be quiet. Whilst I’ve tried to make sure D gets used to background noise – which is hard to avoid in London – I’ve found three year olds have a certain pitch that’s almost guaranteed to wake a soundly sleeping baby. I find myself asking her to be quiet a lot. I want to let her run, dance and sing but maybe not all at the same time and not when he’s just settling for a nap (or in his face when he wakes up).

Gentleness. She has always been a gentle little girl – playing gently, stroking cats and rabbits softly and brushing my hair so delicately I can hardly feel it. But there’s something about having a sibling that brings out her ‘enthusiasm’. She rocks D vigorously, pinches his cheeks and tickles him like she’s scratching an itch! Unless he’s visibly upset I like to let her play with him but I have to keep a close eye and I’m always using the ‘g’ word.

How to enjoy being independent. Although a little shy, Scrip is a pretty independent girl. She’ll play on her own and will now happily race off at soft play and will join in with other children at playgrounds. But I probably didn’t do enough beforehand to encourage her to help dress herself, brush her own teeth, tidy her own toys away etc. It’s so helpful for her to do that when we’re all trying to leave the house and now she’s a lot better at it she’s starting to take real pride in it (as well as being now dry at nights – yey!)

What did you wish you’d told your little one when you had a new baby?

The baby forum tribes – which one do you belong to?

Baby forums imageEarlier today, while Scrip was rummaging in her toy box for a small plastic bottle of pretend bubble bath (as you do) and I was bouncing a grizzly baby D with one hand, I used the other one to Google ‘early teething’. He’s been agitated and super hungry since the weekend with nasty nappies and I thought it was probably the 12 week growth spurt, but then I noticed a tiny white speck on his bottom gum which I think is a tooth bud.

It seems rather early at around three months (Scrip was six months almost to the day for her first tooth) so I wanted to find out more. I skipped past the articles and straight onto one of the forums. Baby Centre, Circle of Mums, Mumsnet, Netmums – do you use them as much as me? They’re great for getting a range of opinions and there’s so often someone with the same question you have. The responses are mostly reassuring and make for strangely addictive reading.

As a bit of a forum afficiando, from conception to pregnancy (when I was actually banned from certain sites by my husband) to toddlerdom, I’ve noticed the people who respond to questions tend to fall into certain ‘tribes’. This is not a criticism – I’ve been helped so many times by forums and I’m grateful for all of the responses – more of an observation. So if you post a question be prepared for these tribes to offer up their responses:

The ‘seen it all before’ responder – the experienced mum, often with multiple children, who’s seen it, or done it, or one of her many children has. It possibly happened a decade ago but she still gives invaluable advice.

The ‘me too’ responder – usually caveated with ‘I can’t help but…’ she has the same problem, or a similar one, which she goes on to explain in great detail. It may not solve the problem but is actually pretty reassuring.

The ‘random fact’ responder – chipping in with a fact that may be only mildly related such as ‘my cousin’s boyfriend was born with a tooth’ or ‘my neighbour’s daughter got a peanut stuck in her ear’. Thanks for that.

The ‘copy and paste’ responder – someone who’s found a good, useful chunk of text online and is happy to share. Like Google but with a human filter.

The ‘I should see a doctor’ responder – in all likelihood, seeing a doctor is sensible advice. But really sometimes we just want answers from fellow parents before we take that step, especially if it is 2.37am.

The ‘professional’ responder – possibly someone from the site itself offering up advice and links to other pages (which may or may not be helpful considering the question is still being asked). Or a medical professional who happens to be browsing and gives a handy gem or two.

The forum queen responder – like those awe-inspiring bloggers who manage to post three times a day, regularly join in multiple linkies and fill their Instagram with arty shots, all whilst balancing a small child on one hip, these people are the lifeblood of forums. They give a great response, a link to a previous relevant thread and maybe even a picture or two. All rounded off with a smiley emoticon.

As for me, I’m more of a browser than a poster but I will respond if I’m sure of something. And hopefully people can gain from what I say as much as I have from others. Unless it’s a random, peanut-related fact.

Five things I’ve learnt from my nanny(share)

Nannyshare toddlersAs the (oft-quoted) saying goes, babies don’t come with a manual. However, there’s an abundance of well-meaning advice out there which every new and soon-to-be parent needs to sift through – starting from maternity leave and continuing indefinitely.

In my (limited) experience, some parenting skills can be read, some can be learnt, some taught and a lot is instinct. But aside from family, one source I’ve found particularly helpful is my fab nanny, J, who works with us in a nannyshare with Scrip’s best buddy. I’m eternally grateful for everything she brings with her and the way she cares for, teaches and most importantly, loves Scrip – which was the number one priority when we sat down in Pain Quotidien a year and a half ago and first interviewed her.

For her tender years (she’s almost a decade younger than me) she’s a qualified child carer with a lot of practical experience and she’s taught me so much. Here are just five things:

  1. Distraction is sometimes the only way. Whilst I’m tempted to explain things to Scrip – especially now she’s asking so many questions – or deal with issues head on, I’ve learnt that sometimes, the only way is distraction. When I’ve had to leave Scrip to go to work or they’ve had to do something she wasn’t keen on, J is a master of distraction – and I’ve learnt to be one, too.
  2. Always try and keep naptime at home. I was out and about as much as I could be when Scrip was little and naps would often be in the pushchair or in the car. Staying in seemed constraining. But J always makes sure she’s here and it’s really helped with getting Scrip into a routine. There’s no keeping her moving or popping her in the car to fall asleep – she knows what naptime means and where it is, and there’s usually no complaint.
  3. Always eat at the table. This is one we’re both keen on – I didn’t want to have a child tearing around, half-eaten biscuit in hand. J feels the same and she always makes sure both little ones eat at the table and stay until they’re finished. She’s taught me that they can be patient and can wait for a short time – even when they’re really small.
  4. Don’t force potty training. With a little girl who’s always been alert and keen to learn and mimic, I was happy to embrace potty training from 18 months onwards. Scrip had other ideas. She’s still nervous of the potty (‘too big’ she says…) J reminds me not to rush, that she’ll get there in the end but only with patience. If you encourage too enthusiastically, she’ll only be put off.
  5. TV is OK for a treat. J is the most vehemently anti-TV person I know – I remember trying to explain how to turn on the TV when she first started working here, but she told me she didn’t need to know as she never watched it. When she’s babysat for us she’s read or used her iPad – she never watches it herself here or at home. But I know even J turns to the TV when one of the little ones is not feeling so good and she advocates that. It keeps them entertained and distracted. She’s taught me that there’s a time and a place – and she has a good point.

Parenting is a constant learning process – and this is just a fraction of what I’ve picked up so far. But I’m so grateful for what I’ve learnt. What about you – what have you learnt about childcare from the people around you? I’d love to hear.

Also featured on:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Changing times

When we were in Greece last October, sitting by the pool in the last of the summer sunshine (with a slightly subdued Scrip), we got chatting to another couple staying at the resort. They had a 2 and a half year-old, Cameron. In amongst the general anecdotes and advice I like to soak up from parents slightly ahead of us, I remember them saying how slowly the first six months go, and then how everything speeds up, and before you know it, your baby’s 18 months and you wonder where the time’s gone.

photoFor me, it was probably the first eight months that went at the most leisurely pace. I was grateful for that as time went on – I remember being on maternity leave during the summer and revelling in the fact I had a few months of sunshine (hopefully) and Scrip gradually growing and changing stretching out in front of me. But, as I’ve said before, the first three or four months were pretty tough and I vividly recall counting down the hours from around 5pm until my husband came home, and being particularly relieved when the weekend came around.

At eight months, Scrip started crawling competently, and I went back to work, part-time. I was still getting my weekly and monthly baby updates (‘your baby at ten months’) and reading them as much as I could, but each month seemed to roll by much more quickly, and my newborn became my baby and then my little toddler. Her first birthday was suddenly upon us and before I knew it she was 13 months, and developing all the time. Cameron’s parents were right.

Continue reading