Back to work and the start of normality

It was my first week back at work this week and I was more than ready for the weekend to greet us – and leave in a flash! Day to day, I’ve been tested on my organisational skills, Milo’s dad has had his patience tested and Milo has shown us that he is a super baby, taken everything in his stride and embraced his new routine. Well, it is only week one and I know that children can change their minds with no warning so I’m not going to get too excited about how smoothly we can complete our crazy week. Besides, week two is bound to be chaos! I’m a one man band for the majority of the week and weekend with Milo’s dad being away, so I need to be on my A game. Easier said than done.

What I do know about sending Milo to Nursery is that the staff know their shit! They also know what Chris and I are like as people (and parents) so they double check everything with us to ensure we are on task. After day one, they also know to remind Dad to leave a car key when swapping over vehicles on Nursery pick up; to avoid any more duplicate journeys to and from home/Nursery. Thank god for those lovely nursery nurses!

After a full on week, it’s only natural that mum and dad feel they need a date night and this one was booked in for a few months in anticipation of a crazy maternity to work transition. So it was a big date night! An evening of music by a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute act called Walk Like A Man. As a music lover, I had high expectations and they didn’t disappoint! This wasn’t even the wine talking. I would’ve had the same experience if I was sober! This was definitely the perfect reward for me as a working mum.

The remainder of our weekend followed the same note. Maybe it’s the shorter amount of time spent with loved ones that I’ve treasured, or just a break from chaos. Whatever the reason, I like it. This new routine. I’ve even started to meal plan (and stick to it, most of the time). Cue fitness progression bragging rights – if I ever get there!

Happy weekend everyone! I hope you feel as though you’ve survived a very wintery week in March!

Girl Power! For International Women’s Day

It’s true. Girl power is a thing! I definitely feel that females are building each other up, complimenting and sticking by each other and appreciating what we bring to society. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian, Theresa May or Emma Gonzalez, we love to see women succeed and thrive. So we should! We’ve had women in the past work extremely hard for gender equality, support and the honour to just be taken seriously, and this should be etched in our minds so that we are eternally grateful for the opportunities we now have, with thanks to those historic events.

Feminism to me, is based around gender equality. Women being given the same opportunities as men, being listened to because of their views and not because they look good and sister solidarity. I’m not extreme in my views because historically, feminists did just want equal opportunities for men and women. I believe this happens but there is still a long way to go on some areas of society.

I’m aware my feminist views are very vague and I could quite easily be sitting on the fence when it comes to opinions here. However, I do feel strongly about extreme feminists and how they can make it very hard for men, businesses and the media to say and do anything that favour males. Men definitely get given a hard time these days. If men are succeeding too quickly or before their female colleagues, then it needs to be investigated because this is clearly not fair. It’s favouring males, the pay gap is worsening, they start to feel they have more power over women and they are given far more opportunities than us females. And so it continues. You get the picture. If a woman succeeds quicker than her male colleagues, what happens? What is the reaction? She is fantastic, a role model, deserving of such rewards. A strong, powerful individual who we should enforce as a role model for our daughters. The support for the woman here is amazing and so true but it should be equal to the male colleague too. He most probably works hard and deserves the promotion too. Yes, it’s easier for men sometimes because it is less likely that they have distractions from childcare and pregnancy and maternity leave. But it’s easier for women in other areas too. Women talk about their emotions a lot easier than men (on the most part) so are more likely to request time off for their well being.

Moving on from feminists and the feminism debacle, my message on international women’s day…

Send love to the ladies in your life. Appreciate all that they do and bring to society. Build your sisters up and help them succeed. Shout out to those women you see trying their hardest and be their rock when you’re needed. You come across so much negativity in your life, and not liking someone because their hair is in better condition than yours seems a little silly. Make a challenge for yourself and give out compliments to strangers today, and everyday. It makes people feel good and without beating around the bush, you will feel good for it too. So give it a go! I’ll let you know how I get on.

What I would really like for Mother’s Day

I’m counting down the days for my first mummy celebration,

I’ve got my own special list that I thought up with no hesitation!

You might be surprised to read that shimmery gifts I wanted not,

I’ve thought outside the box and I’m really not asking for a lot!

Now, my little tike can not yet decide how he wants to treat his mum,

I’m happy to wait patiently for that special time to come.

Right now, his dad needs to be kept upon his toes,

Because these requests may shock him at first, but deep down, he knows!

When our baby alarm strikes at six AM,

Up you get, it’s bottle time. You really are a gem!

Breakfast follows after to get us ready for the day,

Not just for him but for us as well, eggs in bed – the best way!

Next up on my list, is something again you can do for free,

A tidy kitchen to walk into, it’s been cleaned and not by me!

This cuts out a chore from my day to make room for fun activities,

A pub lunch and bottle of prosecco to add to the festivities?

When all that is done and it’s time to return back home,

Family time on the sofa would be nice, I don’t want to be alone.

It’s my day after all and I’ve been busy being mum,

So pop some daffodils in a vase and say they’re from our son.

Before I finish my little list of things I have been wishing for,

I’d like you to know that my husband already does this and lots more!

My poem has been purely to entertain those that read it,

And you can get an idea of what us mums ask for, at least a little bit!

Remember this day to celebrate what is done for you,

It’s not just Mums but Aunts and Nans can be thanked too.

Acknowledge those stepping in to be your greatest role model,

Reminisce and appreciate them, and give them a big cuddle!

Milo’s weaning journey

8 months old already! How does time go by so fast? I’m almost back in work mode, although, working mum is completely new territory to me. I will be sending help soon, I’m sure!

I have made the most of these past months at home, experimenting with our slow cooker (which has now taken pride of place in the cupboard again) and flicking pages of recipe books to create those tasty meals you expect every housewife to be able to make. In all honesty, I don’t fit the 1950’s housewife stereotype, as much as I try to convince my husband that I could stay at home and do this forever. Line up a few burnt meals or mushy broccoli and it’s easy to see that I don’t belong in the kitchen.

However, I have enjoyed experimenting with various meals for Milo and it’s been a great learning curve for me. I believe that’s down to using one ingredient at a time, really going back to basics and being mindful of what is going into his food.

I made the decision to purée fruit and vegetables rather than go down the baby led weaning route. I believe this was the right choice, for my confidence, because Milo tries to fit as much food into his mouth as possible and it turns me into a nervous wreck! He just has no real interest in chewing, unless it’s to help soothe his gums during teething.

The disastrous trial of finger foods got me thinking outside the box – what could I prepare to help Milo get used to chewing before swallowing? I reached out to the weaning saviour – Annabel Karmel. I asked a few questions about weaning on instagram and managed to win her book – New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. She also has a baby led weaning cookbook, if this is the route you are considering to go down.

This book has saved me! I was convinced we would be stuck on smooth purée forever but the soft food ideas eased us into the self feeding stage quite easily.

Annabel Karmel informs parents on nutritional facts and within a few minutes of reading, you will learn helpful hints on how to keep your little one healthy. This is even true of the fussiest of eaters!

We are slowly working our way through this book, I feel it should be called the weaning bible. For busy families, the frozen food ideas are a must and you can live by the grab and go mantra while still being healthy (as long as you are organised enough to prepare the food).

Now I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up the home cooked, tasty meals when I return to work, but for now, it’s working well and Milo is getting all of the goodness he needs and my nutritional knowledge is growing.

I suppose I can get on top of the grab and go freezer meals for starters!

How your child can achieve a smooth and successful transition into childcare

The last few weeks of maternity leave may be looming, and with that comes a list of options; do you stay at home or go back to work? Will that be full time or part time? Are you still interested in climbing that ladder? Can you afford childcare costs?

Childcare is almost certainly a topic that crops up in conversation in your household. Personally, I have been involved in many discussions surrounding the subject; I think it’s because I’m a childcare professional myself. This doesn’t mean my views are right and others are wrong, but I do see a variety of parents on a day to day basis who use childcare settings differently.

There are parents who use settings for their child from just a few months old, 5 days a week, and also parents who wait until their child turns 3 and they want them to gradually be exposed to a learning environment before starting school. These aren’t the only examples of course, childcare is used for a whole range of reasons and for varying time scales.

I’m going to try and guide you through those first few weeks of settling in to a nursery provision, because this is where my childcare knowledge lies.

Choose a Nursery provider that fills you with confidence at the first meeting

Gut instinct is key here. If you don’t feel comfortable walking around a setting on your visit, you probably aren’t going to change your perception of the place unless you have 24 hour surveillance at hand. That’s not realistic. On a Nursery visit, you will most likely meet the manager, owner or a member of staff in a senior position and these people influence the actions and decisions of the rest of the staff. Factor in the vibe you get from the staff, when choosing the Nursery. You could really get on with the manager and other staff whilst visiting the Nursery but be put off because the pre school room looked trashed when you walked in. The mess should be secondary to how happy the staff and other children look. Let’s face it, some days your little rays of sunshine just want to play with every toy on sight and other days they won’t touch them; it’s a raffle with what you’re going to get on the day!

Establish your accounts and payments to Nursery a few months in advance (especially if you’re returning from maternity pay)

Many nurseries require you to pay monthly fees upfront e.g. you pay for the month of March on the first of March. Obviously if you are going back to work, you need to put the little one into Nursery straight away; meaning that you have to give up a chunk of your wages a month before you get them. It softens the blow if you have the money set aside. Advice I should really take myself!

Once enrolled at a Nursery, arrange settling in sessions

Settling in sessions at Nursery are put in place for you, your child and the setting to build relationships and get a feel for each other. On your first day, you will most likely get paperwork to fill in and it will be an opportunity to write and record any information you feel necessary to tell the Nursery. You will talk about routines, family celebrations, dietary requirements, allergies, medical conditions and interests. It will make you feel a lot better once you’ve described your day to day life on a few pieces of paper. Nursery staff follow your routine from home and the stability usually makes the transition for your child a lot easier. Babies and children thrive off routine so it’s good to have a little bit of structure and consistency between settings. It gives them extra security and confidence when not in the presence of the main carer.

One thing I’ve noticed to be 90% true is that the second settling in session is the hardest. Children know they are going to be left, so they anticipate this before you’ve left them. They will pull on your heart strings and cry right up until you close the door behind you! So, don’t be fooled by the fantastic first Nursery session because once they know how to make you feel bad, those little tikes will do what they can to make you stay. What I’m trying to say is; book at least two settling in sessions and if it turns out to be disastrous then you know you can always book more until the official start date!

Get to know your child’s key person initially and then branch out to other staff (at any opportunity)

These people are looking after your pride and joy. It’s good to have a bond with your child’s key person because this makes communication so much easier between home and nursery and any sensitive issues can be addressed immediately without either party feeling uncomfortable. Once you have got to know the staff in direct contact with your baby, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge other staff in the corridor and get to know their names because these wonderful people know your child and although they don’t work directly with them, they will have some impact in the little ones lives at some point.

Use first settling in sessions to establish a routine that works for Nursery and your child

It isn’t necessary to have your child in a routine, but it does help to give the Nursery some guidance into day to day life, for you. Discuss when you normally have lunch and dinner, when you give snacks or bottles and warning signs for a tired baby meltdown! If you can discuss your routine in full and any feeding or sleeping queues that put you one step ahead, this is a great help. Nursery staff want to meet your child’s needs alongside all of the other children in their care so talk through something that works for both of you.

Have confidence when handing your child over to staff

If you are comfortable when handing your child over then they will feed off this energy. Be hesitant, so will they. They will sense your nervousness and then act on it, leading to a longer and more awkward handover.

After session one, do the drop and run

When all of the paperwork is put in place and the Nursery knows what routine they are following and what your child enjoys, they will be for you to hand over quickly and briefly. As long as you inform them of how they have been in themselves, any medication they may require or have taken at home and if somebody different is picking them up that day, you can leave swiftly. Nursery staff are trained to deal with upset children at handover and they aren’t lying when they say ‘he will stop as soon as you leave the building’. Your children like to make you feel bad for leaving them. If they are happy when you pick them up then you can guarantee they’ve been happy all day!

Always have time for a handover

Handover at the end of the day is crucial. You find out what has been going on in the Nursery day and you can ask any questions about development or play ideas if this is something that will benefit you. You also get to find out all of those cute little things they do with their buddies that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.

Trust the amazing staff who look after your precious ones

They don’t work alone, they have a wealth of knowledge and senior staff available for extra support and advice. Nurseries have policies and procedures in place to keep your children safe and they are revised regularly. Nurseries employ those people that will be the right fit to join their already fabulous team and managers are usually a good judge of character, so they’ve handpicked these people to give your children the best care!

Relax! You’ll be back soon

It’s not long until your baby is back in your arms for the day and you’ve finished your chaotic day at work. It soon becomes routine and you’ll forget what it’s like to wake up without an alarm. Your children will take to their new routine in no time and they will love it too!

There’s so many benefits to using a childcare provider for you and your children, and these are evident as time goes on. Remember, it is healthy to spend time away from loved ones and your children blossom when given independence in the right doses. The guilt of leaving them does ease, but it’s only natural to miss them a little bit or feel bad because you don’t miss them as much as you think you should. Children enjoy their time away from parents, believe it or not, they adopt personality traits from their peers and learn things to teach you. It’s a great time for them and you, embrace it!

Milo’s feet are free!

For 12 hours a day, at least.

Yesterday, we had our most exciting hospital appointment to date. The moment we have been waiting for since we found out about Milo’s talipes a whole year ago.

A visit to Birmingham Children’s Hospital to see the consultant to check on Milo’s progress turned into a bit of a celebration. His feet have been progressing well, which means he is following the standard timeline in his treatment. This means no more boots and bar during the day!

In truth, we knew this was going to happen at around this time, it’s just very nice to hear it from the professionals. I did spend the journey doubting Milo’s progress and a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios were drifting in and out of my thoughts. It’s the worrying mum in me.

I never knew how much I wanted this boots and bar phase to pass until we were told the good news. Milo has taken full advantage of his new found freedom too. He’s tapping his feet together, alternating his leg swings and chewing his toes! It’s like we are discovering so many more developmental milestones with this extra freedom; it’s going to be a fun few months.

I’ve been looking through old photos and I think now is a good time to reflect on Milo’s progress and I want to proudly show off the fantastic work of all of the professionals involved in his treatment, so far!

Milo’s feet, before treatment.

first casts at 2 weeks old (above)

Feet after 3 casts (below) Milo is 6 weeks old here!Milo’s feet (below) after all 8 weekly casts and before his operation Milo’s operation day (above) and recovery in casts (below)feet post operation (above)

First day in boots and bar (below)sleeping skills above!

Standings skills below!

Finally, above two photos show Milo’s straight feet! The use of boots and bar are now to prevent regression.

Back to work blues

With only about 7 weeks to go until I really try to juggle life and go back to work, I’ve realised I’m on a bit of a countdown and I’ve also had quite a lot on my mind surrounding the subject too.

I’ve become very comfortable living off my maternity wage, budgeting well and not treating myself as often as I used to. Having the freedom to have snuggly sofa days or big adventures whenever I feel like bodes well with me!

I’ve mastered 6am get ups and these are now the norm. I share no resemblance to a spring chicken by any means, but I am out of bed, feet firmly on the ground with dozy eyes and a caveman vocabulary. So the time I wake up won’t really affect me when it comes to going back to work. It’s my little buddy now in the morning routine. Milo has been my only responsibility regarding a morning routine because I have been easy and low maintenance. Throw my hair back, slip into activewear and boss Milo’s morning routine – that is all I’ve had to do and I still manage to take 2 hours! So doing the calculations, 6am wake up to leave the house at 6.45am… not happening.

This is where the real husband and wife tag team will come in. As a team, we do good! Chris has been getting the early morning bottle while I bring myself round to consciousness and I take it from there. Luckily, Milo now feeds himself because he’s super independent! This gives me about 15 minutes to sort myself out and in maternity world, that 15 minutes is a final bit of shut eye. In the real world it’s going to mean getting ready for work and breakfast semi complete! I’m confident that we will make it, but just in case, I’m going to go into practice mode starting next week. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Now, I love my job. I work with children. The little geniuses surprise me every day and no two days are the same – quite like spending time with Milo! So, why can’t I just get paid for being a stay at home mum? That would be the greatest! Unfortunately, you don’t get paid in money to be a mum. Of course, being a mum is the best job in the world, I’d just prefer it to be a well paid job.

Knowing that this will never happen and has never been an option, realistically, kind of softens the blow a little bit, every time I ask my husband if we can just be super rich so I can stay home, get fit and have lots of fun being mum.

On the other hand, I can’t wait to have a little bit of my own money again. I won’t feel guilty for spending it on myself because I know we are already providing Milo with everything he needs, but we will have a little extra in the bank for selfish reasons. It’s good to be a little selfish because you need time for you, alone and in other relationships that may have taken a back seat whilst getting used to this new, busy life.

I also have a career to focus on. It’s not one that will provide me with a comfortable, part time working life in a few years and it will always be fast paced and ever changing but it’s my career. The one I chose straight from college and it’s the one I’m still navigating myself through, deciding which avenue to take next.

This is how I’m banishing these back to work blues. Knowing that I’m contributing financially to my family and in knowledge and experience towards my career.

Now, let’s get this next step rolling!