Parenting children with special needs brings joys and challenges. One of the things I love about blogging is how it introduces you to so many different types of family situations. The more we know about each other the more we can offer each other support and understanding.

I recently interviewed Mandy who has 4 children with individual qualities and needs.


What is the striking story you have to tell?

I’m Mandy a stay at home mother to 4 beautiful children. I had my first son in 2004 and he was diagnosed with atypical autism in 2007. I didn’t have a clue what autism was. We learnt fast and the same year I had my 2nd son who was diagnosed with Aspergers at the end of 2014. His diagnosis was a shock as all along we presumed he had ADHD. My daughter came along in 2008 and was diagnosed with classic autism in 2011. My youngest and last child was born in 2011 and is currently under diagnosis for what they think is Aspergers. So we are on the rocky road to diagnosis number 4.

In a nutshell I am sleep deprived and live life on the edge as you never know what mood each child is going to be in each day. The school run is a challenge and we don’t get out as a family much. But we can’t complain aswe are more fortunate than most. We have 4 amazing children, all wonderfully unique in their own special way. We live a routine based life. We are the family at the park at 8am before anyone else is there. We might not have it all together all the time but we love, laugh and live and get through. Life on the Spectrum is never dull.

What joys are there in your situation?

I have discovered joy in the tiniest things since becoming an autism Mum. Most parents celebrate first words at 6 months but I was doing cartwheels when Skye uttered Mummy at the age of 6 on Mothers Day. Logan being able to zip his own coat up aged 9 and Dayton making it through a whole school day without interrupting the entire class made me smile. I find joy in things that most parents take for granted. My children have struggles but they are so loving, honest and kind which are amazing traits.

What are the challenges you face?

The biggest challenge has to be the lack of sleep. Parenting is hard enough but parenting on zero sleep to children with additional needs is even harder. Skye has been known to go as much as 4 days with no sleep which means we get no sleep as she cant be left unattended because she is a danger to herself. The epic tantrums of a hormonal pre teen going through puberty, the constant verbal tirade telling you that you are a bad parent, how he wished he was never born and wants to kill you all. On a good day I can laugh it off. On a bad day it is world shattering to see your meek and mild boy with a screwed up angry face splurging venom.

How do you find time for yourself and what do you do with it?

Time to yourself is difficult. We have a date night once a month as a rule ingout for some food and a few drinks. It is a time to chill, reassess and relax. We are fortunate to have an amazing Mum who once a year comes to our house for a week and stays with the children so we can get some much needed respite. Our next scheduled respite is in June 2nd when we fly out to Lanzarote.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself?

I am ‘trying’ to reinvent myself right now, I have been overweight for years and having 4 children in 6 years didn’t help. I have tried and failed with many diets but have taken steps to get professional help. I am now signed up with a weight loss plan with my GP and looking forward to seeing some results.

Tell us about something you consider physically beautiful about yourself?

I love my eyes and my teeth. My Mum drummed dental hygiene into me from a young age and I love my shiny white smile and always get compliments on it. I also like my blue/grey eyes.

What makes you stand out?

I don’t think I do stand out at all and just think I am just like every other Mum. People always tell me the admire my coping skills and the way I deal with the children. I don’t see that as standing out I see it as being the parent my children want and need.

Do you consider it important for mums to support each other/

I think Mums supporting each other is very important. Prior to blogging I thought I was the only person in the world who went through what I did with the children. It very eye opening to discover other Mums in the same situation and be able to support each other. Even a virtual tweet from a fellow Mum can make an enormous difference and give the boost to get through the rest of the day.

Which mum inspires you?

All my fellow Autism Mums as we have to fight for every single thing out children need. Nothing is ever handed on a plate. It takes a lot of strength to keep on fighting what feels like a losing battle. I especially admire all the Autism Mum’s who have fought and won.

What should the next Government do to help mums?
I would love the next government to focus more on the needs of all special needs children and their families.. There is next to no resources available and the ones there are have huge waiting list or are ridiculously priced.

Thanks so much Mandy for sharing your story. I hope people are kind enough to leave a supportive comment and to check our her blog with the wonderful name of Raising the Rainbows.

What is your experience of parenting children with special needs?

Here is a suggested manifesto for mums.

I think mums matter and do not get valued or supported enough.

Recently, I interviewed a diverse range of mums who all had a striking story to tell. With the General Election coming up, I asked how the next Government could help mums. Listening to what they had to say makes me think this would make a good manifesto for mums.

mainfesto for mums

Manifesto for mums

Value mums

It is important to recognise the contribution that mums make to society whether through employment, business, parenting or voluntary and community work.


Government should work to make family-friendly working practices a reality and to support employers with this too. Creative use of home-working and ICT should be encouraged. It should also be remembered that isolation can be an issue for women working at home so offline support should be available too. Realities like children being ill from time to time should be acknowledged in the employment mix.


Mums should be given support to establish their own businesses.


There should be more affordable and accessible childcare.


Investment should be made in perinatal mental health care and in crisis care for women experiencing post-natal depression.


Lower housing costs would enable families to function better.


Education should be celebrated and encouraged in formal education settings and at home.


Rights should be given to non-traditional and traditional families.

Striking Mums values

Striking – stand out as the individual you are

Striking – take some well-deserved you time

Striking – you are beautiful inside and out whether you feel that way or not.

What would you see as the essential elements of a manifesto for mums?

Do you disagree with any of the points above?

My Random Musings

What does modern family life look like? Is it very different from how it was just a few years ago?


Matalan have recently launched a new TV ad, featuring real life families and conducted national research to explore how family life is changing in the modern era. 

Matalan say “the definition of ‘family’ in the 21st century is not straightforward; as the Facebook status might suggest, “it’s complicated”. This doesn’t mean that the idea of family has become any less important however, it simply means we are seeing that family today comes in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Matalan research revealed some interesting and surprising insights about modern family life.

• The New Nuclear: the idea of the nuclear family, that being mum, dad and two-point something kids living together, is being stretched and redrawn.

When I was at school, the vast majority of my peers lived with their married parents and full siblings. I remember two single fathers and imagine they felt very isolated back then. Nowadays, my children report all sorts of family dynamics amongst their friendship groups.


• Beyond Kin: more and more, people’s definition of family extends beyond kin to include kith, i.e. non-blood relatives, friends and even pets.

I was brought up in a very close community so kith was always important bonded by strong church and school links. I think that both myself and my family miss out on that having moved away. However, I have formed my own kith largely through my blogging and social media. Those are the people I tend to reach out to in a crisis along with school, college and work friends. I feel that lack of a strong neighbourly community means we have to work even harder to ensure that our immediate family gives security to my children. Pets apparently add a lot to mental well being and are certainly important members of our family.


• The Waiting Game: the number of older mums and older dads is on the rise, as are ‘klingons’; post-teens not flying the nest as they did in previous generations.

I guess I was an older mum 14 years ago but less so know with people choosing to wait until their forties or later to start a family. My husband is 11 years older than me and has children born from 1983 to 2005. Older parents are nothing new to me as my Mum and Dad adopted me when in their forties. They were very youthful in outlook and also had so many stories to share with me. There are certainly benefits to having older parents including the main breadwinners perhaps being able to be more available to the children time wise.

Right now, the thought of my children leaving home terrifies me but I imagine that might change in the future. I will want time and space for my own interests in the future. I also want them to experience life away from the family to develop as individuals and to make their own unique contributions to the world.


• Blended Families: increasingly family means ‘blended’ arrangements that see multiple connections, multiple parental figures and multiple home locations. This is in addition to well-documented changes such as the rise of single and LGBT parents.

I am not a fan of the term blended family. I think it simplifies family dynamics that can be both joyful and challenging. Big changes in any arena need a lot of support and I think many families are picking their way through challenges without enough support. Our own family includes step-children, LGBT parents and carers, adoption and other issues. A business with multiple staff members, multiple outlets and multiple authority figures would be tricky to manage. I think families are the same and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

• Staying Connected: families are finding new ways of using technologies to connect more frequently and on an emotional level, both when they live nearby or far way”.

I love that families can use new technologies to keep in touch. I have never loved telephone calls so email suits me better. I get real joy when I hear of families who live overseas being able to keep in touch and see each other regularly even if on a computer screen. I remember that people who emigrated in the past really felt they were leaving the family behind and ICT now means families can keep those connections going in a much easier way


Matalan say, “Since we first opened our doors 30 years ago, we’ve always focused on providing outstanding value and quality for families. We take the time to listen, understand and evolve, to ensure our products are the right fit for modern, happy homes. Our latest campaign, Made for Modern Families, is a celebration of family life today, in all its shapes and sizes.”

I particularly enjoyed the behind the scenes footage.

Here is our family portrait


I am sure your are proud of your own family so I would encourage you to celebrate it by sharing you family portrait and then tweet it to @Matalan on #MatalanModernFamilies

I am blogging about this issue for Mumsnet and encourage you to read the other blog posts on the linky about this campaign.

Thinking Slimmer for 12 weeks has transformed my life.

That sounds a bit over the top so I want to explain how.

Thinking Slimmer For 12 Weeks

When I agreed to take part in the Thinking Slimmer Focus group, I had a long history of losing weight and putting it back on again. I was a classic comfort eater so if I had a bad day I would self-medicate with wine or fatty/sugary foods. I could still lose weight well until a major life crisis like bereavement or redundancy hit in which case comfort eating became the norm for months on end.

I have always known instinctively that your mind needs to be in the right place for effective weight loss to take place if you are an emotional eater. However, what can help when the inevitable troubles of life strike?

Thinking Slimmer works for me. It is so powerful and so simple to get started. You simply listen to some very short recordings on the issues that trouble you most – weight loss, taking exercise or relaxation. I love taking that time out for myself and my family respect that this time and process is precious.

I nearly backed out of the focus group in week one when people far slimmer than myself posted photographs of themselves. They were attractive and beautiful. I was daunted. I had the sense to stick with it and even to publish a photograph of myself warts and all in a Thinking Slimmer private Facebook group. I found a group of women who knew how I felt and could empathise whatever their size, bigger or smaller than myself.

So what has changed in 12 weeks?

I lost 1 stone and 5 pounds over the 12 week period.

I lost so many inches including a massive 10 inches from my tummy. I must point out that this is by the liposuction by tape measure method but it works for me!

Far more importantly than either of these things I now know that I have a beauty all of my own. People have commented positively on my waist, arms and legs in particular. I smile more and my posture is better as my confidence increases daily. After years of hating how I looked, I now experiment with fashion and colour. I check labels not quite believing that I can get into such smaller sizes. I have a long way to go on the weight loss journey but I KNOW I will be slim by Christmas.

Here is what 12 weeks can do!

before pic weight loss

January 2015

april thin2

Gone are the days of being terrified to acknowledge what I look like. I posted a picture of myself on my public Facebook page and on my blog this week. I am OK and the future is bright. A large part of that is due to Thinking Slimmer.


Reasons to smile this week are wonderful.

reasons to smile

1. You find me in bed under my butterfly duvet and I am blogging.

2. Him Indoors is on late shift which means I get his company and help in the mornings. It also means I am in charge of the remote and other matters in the evening. By the time he gets in, I am very pleased to see him.

3. I made some quality time with my teenage son last night and also managed to contend with some sibling rivalry with aplomb.

4. We had a really interesting discussion about politics yesterday. It is good to find out what the children think and also what messages they are taking on board from the mainstream media.

5. I have come up with a really inventive idea for Him Indoors’ forthcoming birthday.

6. I have treated myself to some bargains via Ebay. Bits of jewellery and other non-essentials.

7. I feel on top of the housework and less daunted by it these days.

8. I also find I am feeling ready to let go of some of the items I kept following the death of my parents. I guess we move on in our own time.

9. The sunshine cheers the soul.

10. I published revealing picture of me on Facebook and it did not crash.


11. I feel more relaxed generally. There is no doubt I have given myself a very hard time over the years but that makes the good times now all the more joyous.

What are your reasons to smile?