To blog or not to blog? My first few months as a newbie blogger.

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So far my blogging ‘journey’ has been short and not always sweet. I started a few years ago, a rather half hearted attempt, that lasted only four posts. Rather stupidly I thought it would be a good idea to post every single day, but with four boys to look after, I was being over optimistic to say the least. I also panicked that I was being too honest and open, was I really ready for the whole world (or the few reading my blog) to know about my struggle with panic attacks? This time, I ummed and ahhed for a good few weeks, before I decided to express myself in such a public way.

Being 40 years and 15 months old I had just (!) missed out on being part of the social media generation and for a long while thought that even Facebook was a strange phenomenon. I firmly believed that texting/tweeting whilst in the company of others was bad manners and nothing else. I couldn’t, and still can’t if I’m honest, understand why people would go on a day trip or night out and then spend the entire time on their phones; telling everyone about it or taking photos to show them. Why not let everyone know you are going somewhere, then put your phone down, enjoy yourself and tell everyone about it afterwards? That’s living your life, surely?

So to this Luddite, the idea of baring my soul in such a public way, was an anathema. Then I decided to research it, so I read a few blogs and joined Twitter and slowly I began to think that it might be a good idea. I enjoy writing and I could see how much friends and other bloggers enjoyed the process. Why not give it a whirl? It could be honest, but not necessarily completely public or so I thought ….

If you have read my blog before, you will know that I hit a few snags almost immediately, it is very difficult to keep things private online, unless you remain completely anonymous. To a newbie blogger/technophobe it was a big shock how easily you can be found, despite your best efforts. Your blogging life and real life should sometimes be kept separate, particularly if you intend to be honest as people will interpret your honesty in very different ways. In fact you can be blogging about one thing in your head and viewers can read it as an entirely different thing. For example, when I blogged about my religious views, or lack of them, I was careful to point out that they were my views and not meant to hurt anyone. I had to learn my lesson first though, mere weeks after I began this blog, my blogging life collided with my real life, in ways I had not foreseen. There was fallout and that was that, I wanted nothing more to do with blogging.

It was something of a knee jerk reaction, but I couldn’t have known the impact it would have on me personally. In hindsight, perhaps it was bound to happen. I am slightly naive to say the least and I should have gone for complete anonymity, if I had wanted to write with absolute honesty. I’m also something of a daft bugger, for want of a better phrase and these sorts of things do keep happening to me. From the relatively minor getting my knickers stuck in my skirt, a sadly quite frequent occurrence, to inadvertently offending people and I could go on; but the misadventures of Naomi are perhaps best saved for another post ….

How could I carry on then? I wanted to blog honestly and most certainly didn’t want to upset anyone further. Did I really have any other option other than stopping? My next thought, was to do what I should have done and blog under a nom de plume and tell no one. Yet I worried this still wouldn’t be a safe environment. I thought I had done a relatively good job of keeping this one under wraps, how could I be sure I wouldn’t be found again?

As time went on, I thought I would just carry on blogging and try not to upset anyone again. It hasn’t been easy, once bitten, twice shy! Would I upset readers, if I blogged about my loss of faith in Christianity? If you upset, offend or even annoy people with your posts, they won’t keep reading. Why on earth would anyone waste their precious time reading about someone, that has either annoyed them or simply has a viewpoint that didn’t gel with their own?

If no one reads your blog, are you no longer blogging but simply talking to yourself? I tried not to worry excessively, at least if no one was reading, no one could be offended. So I wrote a few more careful posts. Then I hit a few more snags, probably the same ones that almost all new bloggers have…..

What on earth can I blog about today? I have nothing to say! I’m a stay at home Mum with a chronic stomach condition, I don’t get out much. Who on earth wants to listen to my rants about IBS or whether or not I should be taking morphine for my stomach pain. Does anyone really care that sometimes my life is an endless round of child care and cleaning my house?

Then there was the problem that rears it’s head for many bloggers, or writers in general. You have a great idea, but you have absolutely no idea how to write about it – writers block. I’m normally verbose to say the least, but I want to write well on this blog and I want it to attract at least a few readers. Preferably not just the odd insomniac, who finds my blog so boring, it is more effective at sending them off to sleep than an entire box of Ambien! (Please don’t actually compare the two.)

Next I worried that my blog was too diverse, will readers who enjoy my weight loss posts, be equally thrilled when I write about being a stay at home Mum? Do I have enough time to devote to being a proper blogger, when my children, husband, friends and trash TV addiction take up so much of my time? Then I took a deep breath, calmed my mind and it’s often ridiculous worries and thought ‘balls!’

Big round bouncing balls to all of this! Does it really matter? If I inadvertently upset readers, I can apologise, realise that I may have lost a reader or two, but I will be more careful next time. I can blog about religion and it might be my least read post, but it was read and it did help me address my own feelings on the subject.

I may never have many readers or win any prizes for blogging but I really am starting to enjoy blogging and it has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Something I will blog about in my next post, because at least for a few blissful days, I won’t be panicking about having nothing to blog about!

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No more Stay at Home Mum v Working Mum – please!

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My decision to become a stay at home Mum was not an easy one, there were so many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. In a nutshell my internal monologue sounded a little like this:

Is this the best decision for my child? Yes, he needs to be with his Mum. Is this the best decision for me? Yes, I gave birth to my son, because he was wanted and not to hand him to a professional to look after. Best decision for my husband? Yes, bless him he agreed with my beliefs 100% and whilst it hasn’t been easy, neither of us would change that decision we made nineteen years ago. I have blogged about the financial implications of being a stay at home Mum, in my very first post. So I won’t go over them again, needless to say from a purely financial basis this was not the right decision to have made. I would imagine financial implications are one of the strongest reasons, why some Mothers decide to go back to work. Of course there are many other valid reasons, the desire to have a career. To be a good role model, especially to their daughters, to demonstrate that women can have it all.

All perfectly valid reasons from both sides, so why are we constantly at war with one another?

I admit that there have been a few times in my life, when I too have judged working Mums. Occasionally when I have heard that a Mum’s main reason for going back to work is financial, I have found it hard not to look at their large house and two cars and think that if they moved to a smaller house and only had one car, surely they could stay at home with their child? That said I have been careful to keep that opinion to myself, I would never say that out loud to any working Mum. As I have grown older and hopefully a little wiser, I have became less judgmental.

In my humble opinion, both sides have equally valid reasons for the decisions they have made. No one should be judging women for what is, let’s face it, an extremely hard decision to make. We certainly shouldn’t be judging each other. We both do marvelous jobs, neither of which are particularly easy. We both often want what the other has. I would love a high powered, well paid job where I get to use my brain. One where people remembered to say thank you or compliment my skills. Feedback from my teenagers is never the kind I was hoping for. Most of all I would love to never have to clean a toilet, belonging to not one but five boys! Speaking to my working Mum friends, I know that sometimes they would dearly love to attend every single assembly/sports day/school play that there little angel is starring in. Without wondering how on earth they will pluck up the courage to ask for yet another afternoon off work. I know that they dread phone calls from school to say their child has fallen ill and please come and pick them up immediately, do not attend any meetings and do not return them until at least 48 hours after symptoms first occurred, even if you have to use your precious holiday time to do so.

So why do we judge each other, why do we each think that the choice we made, was the correct one? Giving little thought to how hard the decision was for all of us. I think it’s because we are always a little worried that we made the wrong decision and spend a lot of our time defending this choice, even at the expense of others. A quick search on Google revealed a vast amount of blogs devoted to why being a stay at home Mum is the best and of course an equal number extolling the virtues of being a working Mum.

From my own point of view I constantly fear I made the wrong decision. Do my children suffer because we have little money to spend on them? Would they have preferred me to have gone back to work, so that they can always wear the same clothes, have the same must have gadgets or go on foreign holidays as some of their more privileged friends. Has my brain withered away to the size of a raisin, because I rarely get to use it these days? Will anyone ever want to employ me after this very long career break? Or if I’m being completely honest, apart from a brief stint as a trainee manager at Tesco, I have yet to have an actual career. Getting pregnant whilst still at University put paid to that one.

I’m almost positive that working Mum’s have cried many tears, when leaving their precious babies in the hands of others. Will this somehow harm them in later life? Do they worry about being too tired to play with their kids at the end of a long and hard day at work, followed by making meals and cleaning their houses? Quite frankly I don’t know how they do it all, I’m not sure I could.

I have oodles of admiration for a working Mum, a fellow sister who is busy proving to the world that we women can and do have it all. It wasn’t the right decision for me, but it certainly was for them and I salute that bravery. So I hope others will do the same, let’s agree to disagree and support each other’s difficult decision!

Mum of four boys ….

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I have been so busy blogging about the things that affect my life as a stay at home Mum, I plum forgot to write about my boys.

Four boys is quite a lot and I receive many comments along the lines of ‘Wow, how do you manage?’ Often accompanied by a wide eyed stare and a small sigh of relief, that they don’t have four boys too. Usually I just laugh and say the wine helped. Which is true, but I’m also not entirely sure how I did manage. Certainly immediately after my fourth son T was born, life was tough going for a while. We lived in a small two bedroom house, with three occupants in each room.

T’s birth had been a little dramatic; we had moved from Devon to Gloucester and had only been here for nine days, when I attended my first midwife appointment. We had no car, so it was a bit of a hike with three other children in tow. At 39 weeks and in a July heat wave, an ungainly waddle was all I could manage.

The midwife performed all of the usual checks and then grew rather alarmed by my blood pressure, it was ridiculously high something like 150/100 and climbing. (This was nearly eight years ago so I might be remembering incorrectly. Just in case this blood pressure is impossible!) After my urine was checked she announced that I had pre-eclampsia and an ambulance was called. To cut a long story short T arrived the following day, beating his Dad by ten minutes to my hospital room. To be fair I was 4 cm dilated when they rang P at 6:30am and when he arrived, less than an hour later I was already cradling our newest son.

T was a fractious colicky baby and breast fed little and often. We were readmitted into hospital three days after leaving at 4am in the morning thanks to my still sky high blood pressure and an intense migraine. Luckily all was well and this time when we went home, we stayed there. My hormones were all over the place and looking back now I can see that I had a definite case of the baby blues if not full blown post natal depression. Living in a too small house with no relatives nearby to help, no car and three other children aged 12, 8 and 4 is not something I would recommend to anyone.

Play dates were tough going, I found 4 boys hard to cope with, never mind any extra! William once had twins over to play for a few hours after school and after coping with 6 boys, I was on my knees calling for Chardonnay to be administered intravenously.

Life slowly got better, we bought a car and with the help of housing benefit we moved to a 3 bedroom house. I slowly started to make friends and as T got older he finally began to sleep through the night. In fact as all of our boys got older life in general became easier and when Jack was fourteen we were able to leave him at home when we went to the supermarket. Dragging four reluctant boys around Tesco, could easily be one of the nine circles of Hell, in my opinion.

Money was and still is tight, feeding and clothing 4 boys is not cheap and got even more expensive as the boys grew. There’s nothing like a hungry teenager or two for eating you out of house and home. Having so many children also means that there is always at least one of them with some sort of crisis. Just when you think one boy is sorted and happy; another problem with a different child will appear. If one has just finished his GCSE’s another might be being diagnosed with dyslexia. If one has been acting out at school and is finally settling down; then another one might be miserable, because he is finding it difficult to make friends and so on.

One of the biggest drawbacks about having four children? Spending alone time with your partner is nigh on impossible. No one wants to take all four boys off your hands very often. To be fair I can’t blame them! That said, my parents kindly had them all for the day on our tenth wedding anniversary. On my 40th birthday P and I finally spent our first child free weekend in almost eighteen years.

Of course no one forced me to have four children and hands up; it was completely my own choice. I hadn’t realised quite how difficult it would be but I also hadn’t realised how wonderful it is to be the Mother of 4 boys. I am never far from a hug or a kiss and even though, this is not allowed in public for three of them anymore, they are all four of them Mummy’s boys, through and through. My eldest boy left home for University last September and my heart broke in two. I cried every day for a fortnight and we spoke on the phone every day for a month. Even now we Skype twice a week and I am always on the look out for ways to increase this. Burnt the toast this morning, do you need me to call and talk you through this terrible time? Please? Needless to say I am already dreading W leaving and that’s still three years away – thank goodness.

 

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A Mother’s guilt ….

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As a stay at home Mum, I have a terrible sense of guilt that seems to follow me wherever I go. I thought that because I am almost always available whenever my children need me, guilt wouldn’t be an emotion I would experience often. Oh how wrong I was…

I’m almost always in attendance for every assembly, play, or theme share that my children have participated in over the last eighteen years and thus I don’t feel guilty that I am working instead of being with them. I am also always there to take them to school and pick them up. Even though I’m well known amongst my friends for my inherent lateness, somehow I manage to avoid being late for the children. Oddly enough, It’s only the pub that i struggle to get too on time!
I try very hard with my children’s nutritional requirements, I breastfed all four of my children until well after their first birthdays. I try to limit their intake of sugar, salt, fat and processed foods, Teddy has been to McDonalds only twice in his seven years. I also try to limit the time they spend on their respective electronic gadgets, although admittedly I struggle daily with this one!

I try to fight my boy’s corner whenever necessary, when W was diagnosed with fairly severe dyslexia I appealed to the local Grammar school for a place on the grounds that he hadn’t been diagnosed with learning difficulties at the time of the eleven plus exam. When that failed, I battled with the head of SENCO at his local comp, because they held no record of him ever being diagnosed with dyslexia. His primary school had failed to pass on his test results. After a while though all of his needs were being catered for. That is until they decided he qualified for a scribe for his GCSEs but not a reader, despite the fact that his main struggles are with reading. So once more i took up my mantle as warrior Mum and went into battle for my child and lo and behold, their mistake, W did indeed qualify for both a scribe and a reader.

In short I try my very hardest for my children and they are my world. So why then do I feel extreme guilt almost constantly about the things I don’t do or could do better? Sadly I’m somewhat lazy by nature and that can impact on my parenting. I do rather enjoy the easy life. When T unexpectedly asks to have a friend over from school that very same day and I know that I’ve had a very long day or the house is too untidy to be seen I will say no or reschedule for a different hopefully tidier day. I do occasionally buy Coco pops instead of Weetabix because I have had enough of W moaning about the lack of sugar in his life, or the fact that everyone else’s parents always let them eat whatever and whenever they want. Even though I know full well that if I spoke to said parents, they would probably tell me an entirely different version, than the one my 15 year old is giving me. I do sometimes skip watching S play in a football match, because it is pouring with rain or I really can’t stand the idea of trying to amuse T for at least an hour, by the side of a football pitch.

I feel terrible guilt if the children are all quiet, but only because they are playing on the tablet. Even if I know that their allotted time for the day has well and truly passed, there is no way I’m going to jeopardise the unexpected peace and quiet. Although their poor little eyes are going to be square by bedtime, or that they play on Minecraft so often, they are in danger of turning into zombies themselves.

J got excellent A level grades and is currently studying Biology at the best place to study that subject outside of Oxbridge. I took three children and a my nine month baby bump on four bus journeys and wrote endless letters to secure him his place at Grammar school and he has blossomed academically. But still I feel guilty because, like his Dad, he is naturally very shy, and I feel as if this might somehow be my fault that I didn’t manage to help him overcome his shyness before he left home.

I feel extreme guilt when my kids don’t have the latest gadgets or brand name clothes because I don’t work. One income plus four kids doesn’t stretch very far. I felt horribly guilty that I took out a gym membership to try and finally conquer my weight battle and it worked, I have lost four stone. Should I have spent the money on things for the children instead of myself? Will their feet suffer from years of Tesco/Asda shoes rather than expensive and properly fitted ones from Clarks?

I chose to become a stay at home Mum because I thought it was the right thing to do for my children, to be at home during their early years. I hoped that they would never cry, because Mummy wasn’t there on time to pick them up from school, or watch their starring role as a donkey in the Nativity play. So that the only person picking them up when they fell down would be their Mum or Dad but what if it wasn’t the right choice? Maybe they would’ve preferred me to work so that they could holiday abroad instead of a caravan holiday in Devon. But as I’m not starring in Back to the Future and can’t time travel to make a different decision I guess I need to kick the feeling of guilt into touch and accept that no matter how hard I try as a Mum my best is never going to be perfection and I am sadly only human. Although how amazing would it be to be superhero Mum not only would I get to wear a cute red cape my kids would definitely think I had the coolest job in the world…..

How my decision to become a stay at home Mum, led to us being made homeless.

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Sometimes I wonder what our life would be like now if I had decided to have a career instead of becoming a stay at home Mum? I believe everyone has the right to choose and both paths have their pros and cons. I thought I was doing the best for my child when I made the decision to stay at home and look after him. I couldn’t bear to be apart from him all day. I wasn’t expecting this decision to be a large factor in us being made homeless.

Nineteen years ago, I was two years into a four year degree course at Oxford Brookes University. I studied Hotel and Catering Management and day dreamed of becoming the next Conrad Hilton or at least whoever it was who invented the Travelodge! Then I found out that I was pregnant and suddenly my dreams changed dramatically.

I was twenty one and wanted nothing more than to stay at home with my unborn child, this was only strengthened when J was born in June 1995. My husband P agreed, we had only been together a matter of weeks before I fell pregnant, so I was pleased we had the same views on how to raise our child. That said I didn’t make the decision lightly and it hasn’t been easy.

At twenty one I’m not sure I realised just how difficult life as a stay at home Mum would turn out to be. Money was perhaps (and still is) our greatest issue, P had just graduated with a building studies degree. Sadly in 1994 building jobs were scarce and no one wanted to employ him without experience, so he struggled to find a decent job. During my pregnancy, he would sometimes work for weeks on end without taking a day off, just to keep the money coming in. So I worked as a Christmas temp at Debenhams in Cardiff during the first trimester of my pregnancy but no full time position was offered. As my bump became obvious no one wanted to employ a visibly pregnant girl and immediately sign up to pay her maternity leave.

At seven months pregnant we moved from our damp house in Newport, which came complete with free mushrooms growing on the kitchen walls (!) to North Wales. At first all was idyllic we lived near the coast and there were no more mushrooms hoorah. However, we had moved in with a friend from University and as nice as she was it was tough not having our privacy. This only worsened when J was born and soon hormones and baby blues left me feeling so down we decided to move to Durham. This time we shared a house with my best friend and hoped things would be easier. J was two months and already on his second home. In hindsight we had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. We are still best friends today, but at that time in our lives a party girl and a new family did not make great housemates. P had also only been able to find part time work. So before our friendship became irreparable and with the hope of a full time position for P we moved again …..

J was by now approaching six months and our only option was to move in with my parents and two of my sisters in Oxfordshire. I knew this probably doesn’t sound a smart move and you would be right. My relationship with my Mother had never been brilliant but it was a kind offer and as we had no savings, we couldn’t afford to rent privately.

Six months later my Father had a new job in Canterbury and my parents moved out. We stayed at their old house, but as soon as it was sold we were unfortunately homeless. Throwing ourselves on the mercy of South Oxfordshire council we were given temporary accommodation in a council run Bed and Breakfast.

Perhaps understandably this was my least favourite house, we shared a three bedroom terraced house with two other families. Privacy went out of the window and there were often long queues for the only bathroom. On the plus side there was usually someone around to talk too and as part of the Bed and Breakfast deal the landlord would pop round occasionally with a free box of cornflakes. I’m digging deep for the benefits here!

Six months later when J was 18 months old we were finally in our very own home. We had a two bedroom housing association flat and at long last it was all ours. We still struggle financially today, J is now 18, but I don’t regret my decision to become a stay at home Mum. I did what I thought was best for my child and I stand by that. Although sometimes there may be the teensiest falter in my resolve when our credit card bill arrives!

About me

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Me and my littlest monster!

I’m a married stay at home Mum to four boys. I love my ‘job’ and adore my kids but it isn’t the only thing that defines me. So I thought I would start a blog and post about my life warts and all.

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and GoodReads if you want to join me …

In a nutshell my boys are 18,15,11 and 7 and hard work. I’m 40 and panicking slightly that as I don’t have a career my life is passing me by all too quickly. I don’t want to get to 70 and feel I have achieved nothing. So I have written a book and although I have yet to send it to any agents I have discovered a passion for writing, hence this blog.

I have been inspired by a dear friend’s blog, I see her frustrations with life ease with every word she types and I hope the same will happen to me. I also love her honesty.

Sometimes I am prone to bouts of depression and panic attacks that I struggle to control. It doesn’t help that I look at other people’s lives and fear that my own will never look good in comparison. In saner moments I realise how silly that is, everyone has their problems but a quick look on Facebook often does nothing to allay my fears. Almost all of the statuses on my news feed are happy shiny perfect moments. I have those too, but I wanted to be searingly honest on here. If nothing else I hope to let at least one person know that it is ok to screw up, we all make mistakes and no one is perfect.

If all that sounds too deep, don’t worry, I love to make people laugh and I am the sort of person that stupid things happen too on an alarmingly regular basis (!) my husband calls me Frank Spencer …. If you see a woman in Gloucester with her skirt caught in her knickers or loo paper stuck to her shoe it will be me!

I hope to blog firstly about being a stay at home Mum, but also about my weight struggles. I’ve been a size 22 and a size 12 and everywhere in between and lets face it if I’m busy typing about food then I’m not busy eating it ……

I suffer terribly with chronic IBS and have had every test under the sun, as yet no cure but I live in hope! As I don’t work and my husband is on a low income we live on a budget and so I will write about my obsession with sales, bargains and eBay. On the flip side I’m passionate about dresses, particularly in the 50’s and 40’s style and if I find one in the sale then I’m a happy girl, my credit card not so much.

I also love champagne, cocktails and a glass of wine or three

Please read on and hopefully enjoy my posts. I love making new friends so please do comment, I would love to hear from you!