Are you a confident parent? When did that feeling kick in?

confident mum

Taking a new baby home is a milestone in itself. I remember the lovely outfit I had bought for my son whilst pregnant being way too big when it came to the time to put him in his car seat for the first time. Car seats can be a challenge too for sure! I am the first to admit I was not the most confident new mum having not spent any time around babies before. My husband who had children from previous relationships seemed to know how to do things so much better than I did. The first nappy change my son experienced was by my GP as it was all too much for me to take in. I quickly worked out I was a clueless rather than a confident parent.

I was very quick to handover daily childcare to my parents so that I could return to work. That worked really well for all involved although I did sometimes miss moments that matter.

I read up about every parenting book on the market and slowly learned to distinguish between different sorts of cry. There is a great joy in being able to second guess why your baby is distressed. Like most things in life, you get better with practice.

I also made great use of online networks like Mumsnet where you could share openly and learn from others with more experienced and confident parents.

I guess my most important tip for new parents is to seek support and to recognise that doing so is a sign of great strength. None of us can know everything. Not all of us have the best support networks. It is OK to be unsure and if you are asking questions, you are showing that you are parent who cares.

The team at Nurofen for Children say, “it’s no surprise that in our survey almost nine in ten first time mums reflect on having a baby as a life changing experience as they rework their normal routines to take care of their little one. During their baby’s first year, mums say they felt the biggest impacts on their relationships work life and friendships[1]. Our research shows that on average, it takes a first time mum six months to feel confident as a parent[1], and for almost half (47%), the health of their child is one of their biggest parenting worries[2]”.

This is important – let’s realise that if we struggle we are not alone!

As time went on I loved that I knew my baby put his arms back when he was ready to sleep, got red cheeks when teething and only wanted a cuddle when he was poorly.

Take a look at Nurofen for Children’top 10 tips for becoming a confident parent.

They say that 38% rely on the advice and experience of their own mothers, and one in five turn to other parents for guidance. My Mum brought up babies in the Fifties so some of her advice was a little dated. I was terrible at reaching out to mums in the real world but did seek support online as 12% of survey respondents did. You can be that much more anonymous online and feel less judged.

19% mentioned taking the advice of a GP. I found my GP lovely but unhelpful when I sought help and he did not pick up that I was experiencing depression. 9% of respondents mentioned a pharmacist as a source of support and it never entered my head really to reach out to a pharmacist although I know my husband did.

My oldest child is now a teenager and I recently outlined my ideas on how not only to be a confident parent but also a happy mum because I think children need to us both confident and happy.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to blog about a specified subject or review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have been entered into a prize draw to win a £100 voucher as a token of thanks for this post. Find out more about Mumsnet Bloggers here. And to see the other posts about this topic, see the linky here.

Please note that this post is not intended to contain any medical advice. Always contact your own doctor or health professional if you have any concerns about your child’s health.

(i) Survey of 2,000 parents with a baby under 6 years old, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (May 2014)
(ii) Survey of 2,000 mums by One Poll, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (October 2013)

What is life after depression like?

Life after depression

I am becoming increasingly aware and joyful at how differently I find things now the black clouds of depression have disappeared.

1. I don’t mind the house not being clinically perfect. I don’t have the housework skills to make this happen or perhaps I do but not when a husband, children and animals are around. It does not matter. However, it did and it hurt me so much that I could not meet the standards either of myself or others. I always did housework every day but could only see what was not right. Now I focus on what I have done well.

2. I don’t feel pressured to find a 9-5 job to justify my existence in the world. I have found a role that suits me and am proactively building on that at a rate that is comfortable for me. For so long, I spent hours trawling job sites trying to find something that would fit in practically with the particular needs of my family and then beating myself up emotionally when I did not find it or ranting at the unfairness of society. Neither of these made me happy.

3. I am standing up for myself in all my relationships. Instead of sulking or being aggressive, I am stating quite clearly what I will and won’t accept and also looking for areas of negotiation which has to be a healthy thing. My husband said the other day that he no longer comes in worrying what mood I will be in and how to handle me. We are talking more openly and honestly and laughing a lot again.

4. Instead of hating the school run, I now home educate and am learning to play with that experience rather than stressing it. I can do it for goodness sake. I can’t really remember why I thought I would mess it up. I am highly educated, have had lots of life experiences, have a real love of learning – if I pass on just some of that to my children and encourage their passions, how lucky they are!

5. I have worked out that I don’t need a totally in my life best friend. I just need to feel that there are people I could go to in a crisis and also people who are good either in the real or virtual world for good times even if that is just a cheery hello from someone in a shop or cafe.

6. It is OK to be me and to celebrate that. I have nothing to apologise for and am a rich woman. It took me a very long time to realise that. Looking back, it is clear that I was carrying trauma from the circumstances of my first year in the world and rejections thereafter. All this has contributed to making me the sensitive and caring person that I am so it was all fabulous in the end. I had such dark days and years but I value the good ones so much now.

7. I am strong enough to keep toxic people at a distance whilst managing not to be cruel too. Toxic people tend to have their own very real issues. I am also courageous enough to allow people from my past back in knowing I have nothing to be ashaemed of.

8. I feel young again and enjoy playing with my lifestyle and fashions just like I did back in my late teens and early twenties. I am walking taller and sometimes in the kinky boots! My new jumper has “Ooh la la!” emblazoned on it which says a lot about my new sense of self-worth.

9. Christmas and birthdays are not giving me any cause for concern. We will have a good time. We don’t need to spend a fortune and we don’t need to run round in some vain attempt to make everybody else happy. We will do it our way because we have a right to and prefer it that way.

10. Overall there is a sense of balance that I love. I do housework, I paddle canoes that matter to me, I work, I reach out, I go shopping and bargain-hunting, I am part of the local community, I inspire my children and we laugh a lot, I make time to read and to walk in the fresh air often several times a day.

Roll back 10 years …

1. Living in darkness metaphorically and literally with curtains firmly closed.

2. Not coping with parenting or housework. Making big mistakes and hating myself for them.

3. Worrying when people judged me.

4. Working in jobs that were not practical as a young mum and then wondering why I was not managing to do it all successfully.

5. Not telling anyone what I needed or that I was struggling.
Not seeking help from a GP.

6. Being obsessive. Being angry. Sometimes a degree of self-harm.

7. Convinced that only one bloke could ever want or fancy me and therefore holding on too tight and being desperately insecure. I still have work to do in this area but I know think I am as good as any woman which helps immensely.

8. Sleeping on the school run rather than home-educating which is what I actually wanted to do and with a lack of strong support system in place and a husband commuting 100s of miles per day would have been the sensible option.

9. Feeling utterly isolated and abandoned.

10. Not celebrating my very real and unique qualities and skills.

11. Listening too much to the toxic ones. Not listening enough to those kind voices out there. If they knew me really, they would hate me. If they saw me, they would be repulsed by me. All in my own mind!

12. Hiding in baggy and dark clothes often in sizes too big for me. Trying to be invisible. Getting in the way.

13. Trying to deliver the perfect Christmas for everyone not just my immediate loved ones. Never managing to gain approval and then being miserable at not being the perfect person. Spending too much to make up for all my other sins.

14. Striving and failing to be the person that I now see relishing life.

It can be done and I hope this reaches someone who is giving up hope and that they seek help.

Help for me included counting my blessings however tiny they seemed helped loads by taking part in Reasons to be Cheerful set up by Mich and now hosted by Becky and Jo.

Someone finally realising something was wrong with me.

Building up online friendships and feeling valued again

Then going to the GP and saying “Excuse me, but I think I have had depression for about a decade”. For me, Prozac rocks!

If you have overcome depression, I would love to know how life is for you now and what you think can help others most.

Cuddle Fairy

I am becoming more aware of changing my perspective.

me

Looking back, a lot of my blogging was about challenging issues such as terminal illness, bereavement, redundancy, parenting issues and depression.

I tried to be open and honest for my own therapy and apparently people found that inspiring. I even got nominated for awards for being so miserable!

I have always said that when I wrote my first Grooving Mums post way back when it was more about trying to find out if I was mad or if there was anybody else who felt the way I did. I did not know that I was opening the floodgates and that actually I was not as mad or as different as I thought.

I hated myself for being fat and ugly.

I have taken charge of my weight and the truth that I now see that I have my own individual beauty.

I was isolated and had no close friends.

I now have many friends and in fact find it a challenge to keep up with them all. That is a big change and it is good to not only have online friends but people I get to see in the real world too.

I thought I would never work again.

I got that one wrong too! I just needed to reinvent myself career wise as many mums do as they try to juggle it all.

I thought it was my fault when my partner looked at dating sites.

I now realise that when someone is a twit, it is all about them. Nothing to do with me at all – I am an attractive, intelligent, feisty, witty, creative and caring woman. In fact if I joined a dating site I would probably be inundated with offers. My husband is a lovely man but just like me and probably you, he gets it badly wrong sometimes.

I thought getting into debt as a student and other financial issues would give me a poor credit history for life. I know about such matters so this was ridiculous of me. I looked at my credit file this week and got the great news that I am creditworthy.

I found housework overwhelming so the house was too often a tip.

These days I keep on top of things enough and if the house is a mess it usually means I have made the choice to focus on fundamentally more life-affirming stuff. My late Mum said her only regret in life was that she had done too much cleaning.

I asked for some particular assistance this week and not one person came forward. Years ago, a friend told me that I had a very good heart and I celebrate that. I would always do my utmost to help where I could and that makes me a very special soul.

Am I bigging myself up? Isn’t it about time?!

So yes I am changing my perspective and I think that is one big reason to be cheerful.

I am delighted to interview Sarah today. She is a woman who juggles work, teaching, parenting, travel and blogging with aplomb. She shares a powerful story of a mum coming to terms with her son’s type 1 diabetes.

blogger

Sarah

What is the striking story you have to share?

This is so hard as I don’t see myself as striking. I think it has to be supporting our family through Jack’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. It of course came out of the blue and rocked our world. We stayed strong and fought it together.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Seeing Jack bloom and cope in a positive way. He made me feel so proud. His diagnosis did not tear our family apart and actually it made us so much stronger. Diabetes is part of our life and we have turned it into a positive, as it is part of Jack and who he is. I have also shared tips on Diabetes UK to help other families.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Making sure we all understood the implications of diabetes even Joe who was 6 at the time. Then making sure friends around us understood. I had to distance ourselves from one friend as she kept giving her son treats in front of Jack, and whilst you can’t penalize other children I though she may have shown a bit of sensitivity around the situation at least at first.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

Lately it has all been about blogging. I have started a little blog section with the lovely Karen from Mini Travellers as we are hunting down Me Time activities aimed at the busy Mum.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

I think when I became a parent. We didn’t plan for a family until we had been together for nearly 10 years. We were so used to doing what we wanted when we wanted. I had to learn to be more chilled, less clean obsessed and get used to being less selfish.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

My eyes. I hope I look happy all the time. People who smile make me feel happy and comfortable. I hope I do this too.

What makes you stand out?

I think the fact that I appear so very confident, when if fact it is all an act. I just push myself but feel like jelly inside. That is the honest truth.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

100% as if we don’t support each other we have no chance do we?

Which mum inspires you?

All Mums inspire me! We cope with so much on a day to day basis. All that multi tasking, selflessness, juggling so many hats at one time is so hard some days. We never pat ourselves on the back. Why? Because it is what we expect of ourselves. Us Mums are a very special community.

What would you like the Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I would like to see all Mums get more access to education. There are so many Mums that don’t get access to education because of adult learner fees. It is a shame. Unless you fall into a certain bracket you are excluded because of funding and forced to pay extortionate fees.

You can find Sarah on her blog at Extraordinary Chaos

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

Do you pursue your dreams? What would happen if you took that brave leap of faith? Photographer mum Anna shares her story of finding the right balance for her after initially giving up on her dream to be a freelancer.

mum photo

Striking a pose!

What is the striking story you have to share?

Since I started doing photography seriously at the age of 16 I always wanted to be a freelance photographer. I studied photography at university and got a job working as a studio assistant. However, the long, unsociable hours that were incompatible with having any family life and the financial uncertainty made me feel unsure about making freelance photography my career. I started working in photography education, which I did enjoy but was also a “safe” option. I always did some freelance photography alongside it, but was never brave enough to switch to just doing that.

After having my son I became more unhappy with my job and working in education in general, spending my time somewhere where I was stagnating and unhappy just to earn money left a much more bitter taste when it meant time I was away from him. I also want as much as possible to teach him by example and the idea of striving to earn your living from something you are good at and enjoy seems like an important lesson to pass on to him. Following some life coaching sessions I decided to go for it: to quit my job and finally do what I had wanted to since I was 16 – work for myself as a photographer full time, on my terms.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Deciding for myself how to spend my time and where to focus my efforts, as well as having time to pursue my own creative work and keep fit is amazing. With my family photography I often get regularly re-booked by the same client and get to record their children growing up, which is a wonderful privilege.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Financial insecurity and ensuring I have proper relaxation time where I shut off from work. Also having no day-to-day colleagues means I am having to build a network of fellow freelancers and self-employed people to meet regularly with, which is actually great. I’m reconnecting with old friends and meeting lots of new people who do interesting and creative things.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

My son goes to nursery and is looked after by his grandparents. I have much more time for myself now than I did previously, because I have built it into my schedule right from the beginning. As I often do photo shoots at weekends and in the evening I am taking time for myself on weekday daytime without feeling guilty. I spend that time working on my own creative projects and swimming, both of which are very important for my happiness and sense of general well being.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

After having my son it took me quite a while to understand my new identity as a mother – which parts of my old identity were still relevant and what did I need to add to that. In fact, I’m still working on it. My photography style is now closely related to my parenting style, so that is in some ways a reinvention of myself as a photographer.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

My height. I’m 6’ and I have never been ashamed or uncomfortable about it. It has had a role in shaping my personality and when I actually manage to get clothes that fit me they hang really well.

What makes you stand out?

Physically, my height makes it hard not to notice me. In terms of my photography business, I use the principles of attachment parenting (empathy, respect and understanding) to create a situation where children can feel comfortable and express themselves, so that I can take pictures that are a true representation of their personality at this point in their lives. I also work with a designer to create unique and beautiful photo products.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Very. Since becoming a mother myself I feel like I have been welcomed into this special society of talented, creative, warm, caring and understanding women. I have much better relationships with other women than I ever had before. When I have struggled other people have supported me selflessly and I aim to do the same whenever possible.

Which mum inspires you?

I have been massively inspired by all the mums I have met who have forged new careers inspired by what they have learnt from being a mother, and then juggled these careers with parenting. The first of these that I met after having my son was Emily from the South London Sling Library.

What would you like the next Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I’d like the choice of who looks after a child (either parent or childcare professional) to be able to based on what is right for that family rather than what they can afford. There is so much emphasis on getting mums back to work but what if they want to stay at home? And what about dads? The nature of mine and my husband’s work means that we are both able to be around for our son and pursue our careers at the same time. We are very lucky in this and I think we should work towards everyone having this option. In addition to help with childcare costs parents need flexible working options, higher wages and lower housing costs so that they are really able to make choices rather than having to do what is necessary.

A big thank you to Anna for sharing her story and do check out her lovely website.