Dreaming of Disney: A How-to​ Guide

Hold on to your Mouse Ears and please keep your arms & legs inside the carriage! YES, you guessed it – we’re talking DISNEY! More specifically, where to start when booking a Disney holiday… UHUH, this magical post is going to be a long one!

Someone recently said to me ‘try to know this like you know Disney’ and well that pretty much sums it all up – it’s common knowledge that we (well mostly I) are humongous Disney fans. For me, the animation has never failed to amaze, character drawing is my fav hobby and watching or collecting anything Disney is my absolute passion (little people clothes now included!). Just knowing that Disney was going to be a part of raising future kids used to make me so excited and now it’s a reality, I thought we’d impart a little wisdom, share this part of our lives with you talking through our history, top tips on how to start your next Disney adventure and why we think you’re never too young (or too old) to love Disney – if you have children or not!

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY:

Disneyland Paris, August 1998

Visiting Disney has been something I am fortunate to have been doing all my life. First visiting Disneyland Paris when I was 5, my vivid memories remind me of an enchanting and mesmerising experience which was the absolute kick-start for my lifetime obsession. I have since visited Disneyland Paris a further 5-6 (ish) times before taking the big leap state-side in 2010 and 2016 to indulge in the wonder that is Disney World and the original, Disneyland California in 2015. Most recently, of course, we have multiplied and finally, last year ploughed head-first into introducing wee- little Rory to Disneyland Paris; which in my opinion, has become one of our life’s greatest pleasures.

You will read a lot of advice about the ‘ideal’ age for Disney or when to start taking your little ones and this is my honest opinion: the younger the absolute better! We’ve now been three times with Rory (one day trip and two 4-day visits) and all have been superbly spectacular, holding memories we’ll cherish forever!

So, we want to help you! Whether you’re a newbie or looking to brush up since becoming parents, we thought we’d start at the very beginning and walk you through recapturing the magic that is Disney.

THE FITZPRIDDING’S FIRST TRIP TOP TIPS:

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To ‘ease in’ to Disney as a family, we decided to start with Disneyland Paris for a day.
For us, it was easy to tag a day trip onto the end of our week-long summer holiday in France and this is just how it all started for me way back in 1998. Before we start, it’s definitely worth remembering that Disney holidays aren’t like regular holidays – they’re cool holidays and you’re almost always guaranteed to come home needing another holiday to recover. I’m sure you know this but don’t forget to put your Scout cap on and be prepared!

To start your Disney trip plan, you will need to start by looking at the following:

  • How to get your tickets
  • Where you’re staying & what transport you’ll be using
  • Making a plan of action

(I’ve tried to stick to bullet points to help be as clear and concise as possible!)

DAY TICKETS:

  • Absolutely book your day tickets before you go.
  • You can do this up to six months in advance and as little at 15 minutes before you arrive – be aware that there is a price difference for these options!
  • There are different price bands and park options so do have a good look as there is sure to be an option which is best for you and your family – this can also save you quite a few pennies!
  • Ticket prices on the gates are upwards of €100 per person but online we paid just £128 (in June 2018) for both us adults and it’s great to remember that all babes under 3 are free – woo!
  • Weekdays are usually cheaper and Friday & weekends can vary depending on the time of year or if there are any events on.
  • (The image below shows examples for ticket & price types for September this year (2019). If you scroll down from there, the page will show park & day options – the current deal is adult tickets at child prices! – you can find out more magical info here).

YOUR STAY & TRANSPORT:

  • Consider the distance between your hotel/holiday location and Disney as this will be your base for making a ‘Plan of Action’.
    • Can you get there and back easily?
    • Are you going to need to book a hotel closer?
  • There are plenty of cheap B&B style hotels in the area that are perfect for driving in – B&B Hotel at Bussy-Saint-Georges is one we’ve used a fair few times.
  • For our first day trip, if at all, the only thing I would change was staying closer. We were staying a few nights at one of our favourite Eurocamp sites, ‘La Croix Du Vieux Pont‘, which was perfect for us in every way but in the distance as it was an hour away.
  • We must give BONUS POINTS & a shout out to Eurocamp though who give you the option to add an abundance of baby & toddler extras to your booking for no extra cost (things like cots, baby baths, bed guard, potty, etc.) – a real lifesaver when you are short on car space!

A PLAN OF ACTION:

As Disney alums, we set a very basic itinerary of things we wanted to see & do with Rory and did our best to do all of that. We found it important to remember to go with the flow and take it all in – it’s easy to forget how overwhelmingly the magic of Disney can be and this never fails to blow me away.

These ‘Five Fitzpridding Tips’ help us every time (day or week trip) and are perfect for helping take the pressure away and enjoying every moment with your little ones:

  • RIDES: Get a good look at a map – you can see these online here or collect them on your way into either park or usually at your hotel. Set your sights on what rides you want and can do, check for height/age restrictions and plan a rough route around the park(s). We set out to do a few key favs – Buzz Lightyear (always more than once!), A Small World, Peter Pan, and Slinky Dog Coaster – and made the most of the Fastpass service, deciding early on that we didn’t want to queue for more than 15 minutes for anything – toddlers hate queues, even when there are other toddlers to play with (who knew!?)
  • EATING: NEVER FORGET SNACKS – now apart from bringing some plastic dinnerware for Rory and of course the essential snacks and water, we brought nothing else food-related. Bringing snacks can reduce the expensive costs of Mickey-shaped foods but for main meals, we chose to eat in the park at Pizzeria Bella Notte (definitely where Rory’s obsession with spaghetti bolognese started!). This meant we didn’t have to lug cool bags or backpacks of food & drink around all day, which let’s face it, was great as you can carry enough stuff around for a day out with a toddler. For dinner, we ate Quick Service food too as this was perfect to munch on in between parades and park-hopping – this is always exactly as it says on the tin but boy, oh boy is it good!
    • BREASTFEEDING/BOTTLEFEEDING MAMAS there are loads of benches, seats and restaurant spaces to cop a squat to feed a hungry babe or you can use the ‘Baby Care Centre’ situated at the end of Main Street next to The Plaza Gardens – it’s got comfy seats, bottle warmers and great changing facilities for a quiet 5 minutes peace. *Also worth noting this is where the Lost Child room and First Aid point is!*
  • NAPS SAVE LIVES: Keep those nap scheduled! We let Rory nap when he was ready, lying down the back of the chair for peak comfort and didn’t even try to wake him – this was absolutely key in keeping Rory happy and on board with the constant sensory overload for the rest of the day and was also an ideal time for us to go around some shops without having little hands pick up every single toy!
  • ALWAYS BRING YOUR OWN PUSHCHAIR: *see ‘Naps Save Lives’ – they’re not overly cheap to hire (according to DLP Guide £20 per day!) and they’re no comfort wagon either so if you can, always bring your own. Don’t forget to bring a pushchair caddy if you have one – these are a godsent for holding cups, snacks and all manner of paraphernalia so your busy hands don’t have to. Oh and if you’re overly conscious like me, bring a bike lock too – locking up your pushchair whilst on rides can bring never-ending peace of mind after hearing horror stories of stroller stealing!
  • TIMINGS: Save things to do on future trips. This will help you relax and enjoy the things you are doing instead of stressing and rushing around. We arrived just after opening to make the most of a full day but chose not to do the fireworks. As we were staying an hour away and Rory was asleep before 9pm, we realised he would have missed the whole thing – at that point, it’s worth noting we still managed to spend 11 hours in the parks!
    • DO NOTE that park opening times vary from season to season! In Autumn/Winter, the parks close at 7 & 9pm so fireworks aren’t too late but during Spring/Summer, they close at 11pm so are much later!

ON TO THE NEXT STAGE: OUR FIRST STAY & PLAY!

Disneyland Hotel & It’s A Small World, Paris

So, you’re looking to book your first fully immersive all-Disney experience holiday and you start researching but you don’t know where to start and that Facebook group you joined bombards you with more questions and choices and confuse you and… HOLD YOUR HORSES HUNNY, let’s break it down into easy steps as you have choices (please, please remember these are our recommendations and there are other companies or local travel agents available!):

To start your Disney stay & play trip plan, you will need to decide the following:

  • How you’d like to book your holiday – package or separate
  • How you wish to get there
  • Where you’d like to stay
  • How to organise your tickets (if you’re not staying in a Disney Hotel)
  • If you’d like to add a Meal Plan (if you are staying in a Disney Hotel)
  • How to make the most of any extras (FastPass+, Photo Pass, etc.)

(Again, I’ve tried to stick to bullet points to help be as clear and concise as possible!)

HOW TO BOOK YOUR HOLIDAY:

The first thing to decide is how you want to book your holiday as there are a few options:

  • A PACKAGE HOLIDAY: You can book package deals directly with Disney helping create the ultimate Disney experience.
    • You can go directly to Disneyland Paris or Walt Disney Travel Co. or go through registered partner sites like Magic Breaks who will cover your travel, hotel stay, and tickets – even dining and magical extras!
      *Please note: offers and discounts change and roll over every season so always keep an eye out for the best deals before booking!
  • INDIVIDUALLY BOOKED HOLIDAY: Yes, you absolutely can build your own holiday and do it all separately – this can help if you’re on a tight budget or are trying to save your pennies for the parks:

HOW TO GET TO DISNEYLAND:

We love (well, I hate) to take the ferry

The main thing to consider before deciding on a hotel is how you want to get there. There are many options (some listed above) so it’s weighing up the pros & cons for what’ll work best for your family:

YOU CAN FLY (you can fly, you can flyyyyy):

  • Easy to navigate.
  • Not allowed to overpack!
  • Relax and not have to concentrate on traveling.
  • If staying onsite, you can fly to Charles-de-Gaulle and get the Magic Express direct to your Disney hotel – and if not, there are other taxi companies (Uber, etc) to choose from.

YOU CAN DRIVE:

  • No luggage restrictions.
  • Can go at your own pace.
  • Can choose either ferry or Eurotunnel.
  • Travel around the area at ease – the main parks & hotels aren’t far from shops, supermarkets and even an aquarium!
  • Can stay on or off-site with ease.
  • Can stay at Davy Crockett Ranch (this is a car only Disney Hotel with no shuttle bus service but in our opinion, definitely has the best pool!)

YOU CAN GET THE TRAIN:

  • Can be direct from St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International or Ashford International right to the gates of Disneyland.
  • No luggage restrictions – you can bring what you can carry!
  • Relax and not have to concentrate on traveling.
  • A beautifully scenic route.
  • The easiest option for hassle-free travel to a Disney Hotel.

Once you’ve worked this out, you can decide whether you want to be able to walk from your hotel, get a shuttle bus, the train or drive – this map will help you work out what your choices are for Disney and their partner hotels.
*Please note, if you are staying at a Disney Hotel, parking for the parks is free BUT if you’re not, there is a daily charge – it is currently €25-€30 (June 2019).

YOUR SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC STAY:

Davy Crockett Ranch June 2019

First decided if you want to stay at a Disney Hotel or not – this will be a great help in narrowing down your choices as it’s easy to be overwhelmed!

There are many perks when staying at the Disney Hotels: each hotel is designed so you can fully immerse yourself in an amazing theme, they have delicious restaurants and most (but sadly, not all) have amazing swimming pools – plus, if you shop so much in the parks you can’t carry it, you can have it all dropped at your room for you to enjoy when you get back!

If you’re looking to see which Disney Hotels is for you, there are six (well soon to be seven again*) to choose from. You can add meal plans to any of these as well as adding Fastpasses, Photopasses or dining experiences such as character breakfasts, dining at Inventions and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show tickets. Your park tickets are included in your hotel packages – if you’re staying for 3 nights, you will get 4-day park-hopper tickets included.
Your choices are:

You can also book Les Village Nature Paris directly with Disney, however as far as we are aware (and we did a bit of digging), you are unable to book a meal plan with this one (unless Disney are running their Free Dining offer). This is not 100% gospel but we do know you can add character breakfasts, dining at Inventions or Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show tickets.

MEAL PLANS:

FOOD: Mickey-shaped everything and Plaza Gardens Restaurant

Now you’ve cracked (or looked at) your transport & hotel, you’ve reached the yummy part: FOOD!  *Please note, that if you’re NOT staying at a Disney hotel, you won’t be able to book a dining plan. This is a Disney-exclusive perk* but if you have chosen a Disney hotel then WOOHOO!

  • There are now three options for you to choose from which come as half-board (breakfast and 1 meal) or full-board (breakfast and 2 meals:
    • STANDARD: buffet restaurants
    • PLUS: buffet and select table service restaurants
    • PREMIUM: buffet, table service restaurants, and character dining experiences.
  • There are two price brackets:
    • Adult’s prices (12+ years old)
    • Children’s prices (3-11 years old)
    • All under 3’s are not covered by a meal plan but if eating in buffet restaurants, it’s easy to feed your little ones an abundance of pasta, meats, cheese, bread and, puddings!
  • You can read more about them right here. (This link shows you essential information for how meal plans work, their benefits and how many restaurants you’ll be able to choose from).
  • Each option will cover different types of dining experiences, different restaurants and may include some experiences, like character dining or Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
  • You do have the option to pay the difference if you wish to add a table service or character dining experience to your holiday – this can be done at the time of booking or you can do this over the phone (more info here about calling as charges do apply!)
  • To book regular reservations, this can be done via restaurant reservations team over the phone OR if you’re like me and don’t want to spend hours and a small fortune on the phone, you can use other European Disney sites to book –
    • I have always used the Dutch Disney site and have never had issues making reservations through this. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Dutch but it wasn’t difficult to navigate! Here’s the link – https://www.disneylandparis.com/nl-nl/restaurants/
  • *Another noteworthy bit of info is Disney is renowned for doing package deals with free dining options – this can often save you a few pennies too! The deals come around yearly and apply to selected dates for packages for both Disneyland Paris & Disney World (just in case you’re contemplating going state-side already!). DISNEYLAND PARIS HAS DEALS ON RIGHT NOW SO LET’S GO GO GO!

Our Fitzpridding Favourites restaurants are Plaza Gardens, La Grange at Billy Bob’s Country Western SaloonRestaurant Agrabah Café and, Bistrot Chez Rémy. Buffets are the best when you’re visiting with little ones or any fussy eaters, there’s always so much choice so it’s pretty much guaranteed there’ll be something for everyone. Bistrot Chéz Remy is one of the little bit more expensive table service restaurants (included in the Plus & Premium Meal Plan) BUT is an absolute MUST if you’re a fan of the movie – everything is so wonderfully designed; the food is beyond delicious and if you get the right seats you can even see the Ratatouille ride going around!

Bistrot Chez Rémy

MAGICAL EXTRAS

Last but by no means least, you have the option to add some magnificent magical extras to your package and these are not Disney Hotel exclusive – hoorah!

PHOTOPASS+
Capture all your memories in one place!

  • Pay a one-off price of £66* to have all your ride and character photographs available online to download and share.
  • Without this, you can purchase individual photographs from rides or character meets in frames or in a range of gift options (key rings, magnets, etc)
  • *price correct as of November 2019

FASTPASS
Skip the long waits for your favourite rides!

  • FREE FASTPASS use is available with any ticket/package option and lets you get one Fast Pass at a time which is offered on a selection of rides. These passes will give you a specific time slot to come back and enjoy the ride! (show me more here)
  • NEW SUPER FASTPASS is a pay-for option allowing you to get fast passes for selected Family or Big Thrill Attractions with no specific return time.
  • NEW ULTIMATE FASTPASS is another pay-for option allowing you to get ahead of the game with fast passes.
    • This pass comes in two options: ONCE & UNLIMITED
    • ONCE allows you to ride all of the selected rides eligible once that day whereas UNLIMITED allows you to ride all of the selected rides as many times as you’d like!
      (show me more here)
  • It’s worth remembering that Fastpass’s aren’t completely necessary and if they are out of your budget, you can totally ride all your favourite rides and still have a magical time!

BUFFALO BILLS 
A wild west style dinner show!

  • Has 2 sittings a night: 6:30pm and 9:30pm
  • Dinner included for all (children from ages 3+)
  • Can be included in Dining Plans if you’re staying at the Disneyland Hotel
  • Can be added on to any stay & play
  • ALWAYS book in advance to avoid disappointment as this is an extremely popular extra – Yee-haw!

CHARACTER DINING
Interactive dining with your favourite Disney characters!

Our first Character Breakfast at Plaza Gardens, June 2019

  • CHARACTER DINING AT PLAZA GARDENS – Meet Winne the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Mickey & more!
    • There are 2 seatings, 8:30am & 9:45am
  • PRINCESS BREAKFAST OR LUNCH AT AUBERGE DE CENDRILLON – Meet Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel & more!It also has 2 seatings for breakfast at 8:30am & 9:45am.
    • The Lunch has 5 seatings for lunch at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, and 3:30pm.
  • CHARACTER LUNCH OR DINNER AT INVENTIONS – Meet Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Donald & more!
    • Lunch reservations are at 12:30pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm
    • Dinner reservations must be made directly via the restaurant reservations team over the phone or (we believe) using the European Disney online booking pages we mentioned earlier on in ‘Dining’.
  • CHARACTER DINNER AT CAFE MICKEYReservations run from 5:30pm to 10pm
    • Located in The Disney Village, it may be worth noting that you do not need park tickets to enjoy this experience.

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Booking any family holiday can be such a daunting task, especially if you’re the head researcher and planner of the family (that’s my unofficial title!) but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Disney is by far one of the best family holiday destinations for all generations to enjoy and forget all of life’s dramas for a while. So, if you were stuck or trying to find where to start booking your own Disney holiday, I really hope this helped and hey if you keep your eyes peeled, we just might be sharing more hints and tips about Disney in the future!

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‘Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy’
– Walt Disney

Love to y’all, OCM .xo

(Disclaimer: This post has no affiliation to Disney, Eurocamp or any other travel company and is not an advert or sponsored post. All images copyright to One Curious Mother.)

“Please Provide Your Paycheck”

 

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I’ve dug this one out of the archive today – just a little something I wrote back in February. Turns out I write a lot that doesn’t make the cut; it usually becomes irrelevant pretty quickly and it very swiftly gets forgotten about. However, this blog may help someone somewhere feel a little less crappy for chronically worrying about money, jobs, more babies and a little bit of anything else…

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‘All you want is 2.4 kids and a white picket fence like a Disney movie and unfortunately, it’s just not real life‘ – as dear husband-to-be uttered those words for the millionth time, a part of me closed the door, slumped to the floor and wept. It wasn’t what he’s said but the realisation that we were having to choose between expanding our family and surviving each month… OH, AND THAT NOBODY TOLD ME THIS WOULD HAPPEN!

With procreation being a part of most lives (we sure as hell wouldn’t be here without it) it started to seem like a long time ago that women were expected to ‘retire’ once they’ve had a baby but sadly, looks like attitudes still aren’t up to speed and many ‘powers-that-be’ are not helping the cause. Many women have to stay at home rather than return to work due to crippling nursery fees and the question that always needs to be asked is: why are we (the royal ‘we’) not doing enough to help working mothers and families? Is it down to the individual mother, the family, the employer or the whole god-damn system? We over here strongly believe the latter.

Since I was young, I’ve always wanted two children; whenever anyone asks I always say ‘I have two eyes, two hands and two backseats’ – let’s face it, anything more and you’re looking at growing more limbs or changing your car as a minimum! Now nowhere, ever did anyone tell me we’d be sat around with a calculator, counting each and every penny concluding that any more expenditure would leave us nothing short of bankrupt. For us fourteen hundred squiddies a month for full-time nursery has been the true cost of a safe and loving environment; this has (just about) allowed us to bring home the bacon, but the saddest fact is, even now in 2019, choosing between a career and a family has never been so tough.

There has been a debate for some time about the environmental strain of having more mouths to feed, bathe and house but debating about the financial strain seems to be rifer than ever. In an article by The Guardian in 2014, three families from Sweden, the UK, and USA talked about their childcare costs and the cold hard truth of each. It quotes that in Sweden ‘you pay 3% of your gross salary but there’s a cap so you never have to pay more than 1,260 Swedish krona [currently £103] a month per child – and if you have more children, you’ll pay a maximum of 420 krona [£33] for the third child and nothing for the fourth'(1). This is 27% of the UK national average in 2018 where the average cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has soared by 7% in the past year to £122 a week, or more than £6,300 a year, according to the report by the Family and Childcare Trust (2). Although that percentage is disgustingly high, the UK is still more fortunate than the USA when it comes to maternity & paternity leave, where mothers are not entitled to paid maternity leave at all and might only get up to 12 weeks unpaid if they’re lucky. Of course, we are more than fortunate in most respects – we have maternity leave and I would receive statutory maternity leave as a minimum but the truth of the matter is, statutory still wouldn’t even cover our current outgoings… We have cars on lease, nursery bills, rent, utilities, etc. and like most, we love a yearly family holiday – nothing overtly fancy or excessive.

So, what happens for the Fitzpriddings’ now? Short term it means a painstakingly uncertain wait, where caution is our new activity and ‘we’re trying to save’ is our new catchphrase. We never feel hard done by, our beautiful boy has shown us love like we’ve never known but the subject of more children opens the door to a whole world of what-ifs and buts you never even realised existed. In short, there is no answer to these questions that allows us to remain in pocket and have a larger family within a reasonable amount of time. I keep telling myself that there is plenty of time for this to come around but I know, 2 years into sharing our lives with this little dinosaur firecracker, it will whizz by. (WOAH, little did we know just 2 months later we’d discover we were expecting!)

Now, MAMAS ASSEMBLE for our closing thoughts – if you are ever in any doubt about your rights as a woman, a mother or as an employee, have no fear, there are women out there fighting for all. Flexible working for is a battle that is being fought every day by one of my favourite wonder-women,  @motherpukkaAnna Whitehouse and pregnancy rights is being fought by another, @pregnantthenscrewedJoeli Brearley. Campaigning and raising awareness for women rights and the law on maternity policies alongside the benefits of flexible working for all, these super mamas are paving the way for modern-day working families. (This is no ad or partnership, just what I would consider sharing invaluable advice between friends!)

As always, I hope this blog helped you feel a little less alone, whatever step in life your taking, whether it’s your second child or your fifth – after all, if you’re anything like me, family is always the most important thing.

Love and all, OCM xo.

 

Sources:
(1) https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/31/costs-childcare-britain-sweden-compare https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/childcare-costs-increase-inflation-rate-treading-water-parents-household-incomes-a8230431.html 
(2) https://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/childcare-survey-2018

Forever Keeping Up with The Fitzpriddings!

A family of three

The Fitzpriddings

I always say this (and you know I do) but after hiding away for a little while, we are in fact still here and SURPRISE, we are multiplying! Yes, that’s right – we are going to become an awesome foursome – WOO!

It’s been a hectic first half of the year with sensational birthdays and holidays with a few beautiful surprises and nasty hiccups along the way but we’ve made it this far and will be here a lot more often starting very soon – more to come on that! To kick start it all, this August we’ll be looking back at our Rory’s second birthday and our first stay-away family holiday to Disneyland Paris along with looking at what it really took for me to be a working mum (and why I chose to walk away) and how we are going to be preparing for our baby number two this Christmas – YUP, we planned that one really well. Taking it all in our stride, this year will be faced with many new and very difficult challenges but we are determined to turn it around and make the best of it.

We hope you’ll stick around and join us as we wade (or waddle) through the rest of 2019 –  we look forward to the journey!

Love as always, OCM .xo

 

 

We’re Still Here…

Well hello there!

I’ve been MIA for a while now and feel for the very few of you who read this, I should give you a little update on where we are at.

My health has been a little shady of late; Feeling over worked with a constantly crowded brain, I have recently found myself exhausted and letting rather a lot slide in all aspects of life. Turns out trying to run numerous social pages, a blog, raise a child, have a healthy, loving relationship, look for a house, handle the nagging desire for another baby, plan a wedding and have a ‘normal’ life is too much for one person to do at once – who knew, right!?

I’ve been unbelievably overwhelmed since joining my new job last June. As my first career-changing role since graduating a few years back and becoming a mother, I ploughed head first into what would become an all-consuming job. As workloads grew, I stopped doing the things I loved at home. Never, ever wanting this blog to slip, One Curious Mother has taken a very reluctant and unwanted back seat lately. With evenings spent barely awake and creative juices in serious short supply, I was brought back to examining why it was that I created One Curious Mother in the first place: to share the hidden wonders (and ailments) of first time parenthood, to document my journey through it and to, hopefully, help others too. I can honestly say, I feel I am meeting absolutely none of these objectives anymore. 

Needless to say, it was a welcomed moment when I realised that I didn’t need to wait for the ‘perfect moment’ and didn’t need to create just ‘pretty’ or, let’s face it, fake content. Thanks to this, I am now able to realign my focus to be on honest stories, asking & answering those curious questions we all have and helping build a community of ladies (or gentlemen) and babies who are looking for someone to say ‘hey, that happened to me’ or ‘WOAH I’m not alone in this anymore’. 

So what now? A solid promise for more communication and definitely more questions, to get back on track and look forwards, vowing to keep one foot firmly on the ground whilst doing so.

I hope you’ll stick around and join us on this journey and if there’s one thing I want you to remember is that you never have to feel alone!

Love to all,

OCM 💜

Greed or Guilt: Asking Too Much or Just Wishing For More?

Now, I’m not sure if this is a vent, a series of ‘but why’ or even a collection of deep thoughts but I’m attempting to make sense of what it means to have a second child, to look at the logical aspects as well as the emotional.

There are questions without answers and plenty of food for thought, but stick with me – maybe you can help?

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If I had a pound for every time I was asked ‘so when are you going to have another?’ or ‘time for another baby soon hey?‘ I would be a little less crippled by a mortgage size nursery bill, have a little more money for a gym membership and maybe enough money to fund my morning coffee obsession, just for starters.

As I push all bad jokes aside, I started to question ‘how do I actually feel about this?’ I honestly started to feel put on the spot and a little exposed too; but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that wanting another baby was something I hadn’t put much thought into. It started making me feel an overwhelming concoction of emotions; this mixture of guilt, greed and emptiness began to sew itself with curiosity, excitement, and many wonders of what could be. It’s no secret that I’m not sure I am mentally ready to have another baby or to put my body under so much pressure again. Rory’s birth and my c-section recovery were traumatic and tough but part of me is slowly becoming obsessed with the fact Rory is now 18 months old – I know I want more children but how long of an age gap is too long?

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

Growing up, I always used to say I wanted three children: a boy, then a girl, then whatever God would grace us with. To be honest, I don’t think the big G was so keen on 17- year- old me’s plans if Rory’s arrival into the world is anything to go by – this definitely gives me a small heartache when thinking about wanting Rory to have siblings. Growing up with a sister just 19months younger than me meant we were quite inseparable as kids; we dressed the same, we acted the same and always had one another. Yes, our teenage years were super rocky for sure but thick or thin, we pulled through because having a sibling is a bond for life with always a lesson to learn; whether it’s how to share or learn to care, how to steal clothes and go unnoticed or even how to sneak a passport for an underage boogie whilst getting caught and forking out £200 for a new one a week before holidays… We really have been through the lot and I wouldn’t change any of it for the entire world. It’s something I want Rory to have for sure.

With all of the above swimming in my mind, the idea of more children, and money worries, I made the decision to go back to work full time. After 12 months maternity leave and 3 months back part time, I knew if I didn’t make the move at that point then not only would I really struggle to adjust to full-time work, but I would really have to fight further down the line to get a job doing something I actually wanted to do. I also knew the longer I left it to make a final decision about a new job and my career, the further away potential family expansion would become. It just so happens that I was incredibly fortunate in landing a job I used to dream of but we had bigger worries on the horizon.

I took a big leap of doubtable faith when I took my current job and was left wondering if we could really afford for me to go back to work. As I mentioned earlier, crippling nursery bills is our little black rain cloud. At an amount that matches 85% of my wages a month nursery bills, could you just imagine the cost for two!? Bankruptcy and a resounding ‘no thank you’ to parting ways with so much cash is left ringing in my ears.  How are mothers of children under 2, 3 or 4 supposed to have a career, contribute to better their family, not seen to be having ‘time away from work’ and have that something for themselves when the whole system is against them and nothing short of fatally flawed. Team this with £40k in debt from university (I always call it fake debt I know but they’ll come knocking for it one day) and maternity leave which left me borderline bankrupt there is no wonder I have such little savings. FYI, statutory maternity pay is beyond a joke and at a grand total of £141 per week, which was a 57% pay cut for me, only covered 9 of the 12 months leave which really scrapes the icing off the cake, onto the floor, and into a deep dirty puddle. Like dropping the perfect 99-er into the sand on a sunny summer day – a total freaking liberty.

Aside from my money worries and what feels like pounds (lbs!) of career-guilt, I’ve now got a new anxious pot of thoughts sat waiting to be dished out; I’ll start with question one: WHY, oh why do I now feel greedy for wanting another baby? Why does it seem that even wanting to talk about it seems quite taboo and something a little shameful – why do I feel like I’m asking for more than I’m ‘allowed’? The worst is feeling like I’ve put so much effort and time (and money) into going back to work and fighting to make it work, how on earth am I supposed to put it all on pause to have another baby? There are a million external factors outweighing the positives of having another member of the family, it always seems to come down to ‘we can’t afford another baby’ but can anyone ever really afford a baby? I feel like I’ve jumped down a black hole of unknown thoughts, feelings, and landed in a pile questions with not a lot of direction. ‘Mom-guilt’ is something I think needs to be talked about more often and more openly; we should never be made to feel this way and supporting each other could be the ticket outta here – with this in mind, please send advice, help or if you have any experiences you’ want to share, I would LOVE to hear.

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

I’m not sure feeling guilty or greedy is something that will last forever and I’m sure somewhere out there, there must be an answer for all this weird family and money maths; I just can’t think there isn’t something out there that would work for us and that could help us grow and not make us lose every penny in the process. Right now, it’s just looking like an unmarked path in the fog: no road signs, no help and no sense of direction.

To all those struggling to juggle it all but muddling through – I have a profound respect for you. For those never knowing which way to turn – I’m right here with ya!

Motherhood: Feeling Guilty, Going Back to Work, Having a Family

Love as always,
One Curious Mother .xo

 

Why Is Turning One So Much Fun!?

After our mini hiatus from being online, we are bloomin’ back. We have a brand new look, a brand new structure, and so many new questions to ask – that’s why we are One Curious Mother. While we were away we’ve been less than quiet with a first birthday to celebrate, two snow days and a four-day Easter bank holiday weekend. Family time has been so important and we’ve loved every minute.

I recently wrote a post about being a mother for a year; I wrote a letter to year-ago-me about how my life had changed, the things I wish I’d known and the things I should remember to tell myself. Whilst doing this, I realised that I should be questioning things a lot more often; why were there things that I didn’t know, why were there things people didn’t tell me and why do babies not sleep when they’re so obviously tired!? So many questions and never enough time. We’ve tackled some intense and profound subject matters since we started back in December 2016 and I didn’t want to bring One Curious Mother back to you with a post that was too harsh or thought-provoking so without further ado, today we’re coming straight back at ya with our first post: ‘Why Is Turning One So Much Fun’ – Happy reading!

27750817_1756135944417876_1229448006099829969_nKing Rory the First

WHY IS TURNING ONE SO MUCH FUN!?

Rorysaurus. Part boy, part dinosaur, and a whole one-year-old! How did it become twelve months later? Fifty-two weeks, three hundred and sixty-five days  – I can’t comprehend that it’s been that long since he arrived into our lives via that ’emergency c’. I will never understand the cause of time speeding up as you get older but my golly gosh it certainly has since he was born. Within a blink of an eye, Rory has gone from a little glow worm in a swaddle to walking-slash-running and shouting ‘HIYA’ whilst scrunching his tiny hands open and closed at literally every single living thing. Damn, I am ever so excited for this year and with him growing so fast before our eyes, boy do we have so much to look forward to. Kicking things off in style, we threw him his very first birthday party – somewhat dinosaur themed of course! 

Party & Presents

After having a really large christening party for His Royal Highness, we decided to keep his birthday really low-key. We had family over for an old-school party lunch where we played games like ‘pass the parcel’ and ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ where, as per usual, we ate a ridiculous amount of cake. No party in our house is ever complete without party rings, cheese & pineapple sticks and sausage rolls. We stayed fairly low-key with the decorations but still managed to squeeze in some paper fans, oversized foil balloons, cone party hats and a super sparkly cake topper.

We tried to stay sensible with his birthday presents as we are still overwhelmed by all the gifts from Christmas. Despite this, we couldn’t help but fall for some fantastic finds with thanks to the closing sale by ToysRUs (RIP childhood!). Originally looking for sensory toys, We went for little musical instruments but ended up with a Buzz Lightyear backpack for our upcoming holiday, a Green Toys seaplane bath toy and a Vtech ‘My First Till’ as well. Our little dinosaur was nothing short of spoilt rotten by the rest of the family with a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe from his Granny & Grumps, money for swimming lessons from Grandad, a Little Tikes Shopping Trolley with all the felt food available to purchase in Ikea (to go with our till) from Great Nanny & Papy and a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Swing & Lawn Mower from Nanny, Bampi & Auntie Banana. With his Activity Garden from Christmas, you would definitely think our living room was now sponsored by Little Tikes! Now running around and fascinated by everything that moves, why wouldn’t anyone absolutely love playtime? I know I do and might just enjoy playing shop a bit more than Rory does – I’m not worried yet, I know he’ll come to love playing shop with me eventually!

Present Time!

On Rory’s actual birthday, we took a little day trip and Woburn Safari Park was our destination of choice. We are aiming to do as many zoos and aquariums around the UK as possible in the years to come and decided this occasion was perfect for ticking off another one. As the safari park was a little drive away from home, we packed up our car for the day, hoping to avoid the generous pounding of snow we had just the day before. With weather worse to the north and west of us, we decided on Woburn as it was further east where the weather was far less intense. By the time we arrived, there wasn’t a flake of snow in sight. Choosing a drive around safari was the perfect activity for a one-year-old. Sitting on my knee in the front, strapped in together going 2mph looking at bears, tigers, monkeys and more, had Rory completely transfixed. Even though the weather was still cold, most animals were out of their little homes and some even came a little too close to the car for my comfort (those bears were much scarier up close!). Once the safari was over, there was an interactive part of the park to enjoy and wrapped up beyond belief, we braved the freezing wind-chill and enjoyed looking at penguins, goats, otters and even found a Noah’s Ark super soft play area for us to have a run-around. It was the perfect sensory experience for a one-year-old and were so glad we made the decision to have a day out.

Safari Fun!

A lot of articles, blogs and forums said that a first birthday isn’t one for taking your child anywhere as they’re too young to enjoy anything and won’t remember it. I think it’s safe to say, we respectfully completely disagree! We had the most amazing day as a little family and yeah, Rory might not remember it but I know for sure that as parents, we definitely will. Family days out are always the best and I’ve got a list of future days out to get through this year.

So, what are we looking forward to this year? Well, we have a few exciting happenings coming up. First off, we’re going to support our Auntie Banana at her Masters’ graduation in London next week. It’s Rory’s first visit to the capital which is all very exciting as he loves people and new places are always fun. Then in June, we are heading on our second family holiday: a road trip to the South of France. On deciding to drive, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to plan a mini detour via the most magical place on earth, Disneyland Paris! Rory doesn’t know that he’s excited about it yet but he will grow up to be as excited as me, I’m absolutely sure of it. In addition to these, we have his progressional second-year milestones to look forward to; talking more, taking the next chapter of Waterbabies and moving on up to ‘Toddler Two’ at nursery school to name a few. With all our traditional celebrations like Halloween and another super festive Christmas, we are all set for another super busy year and cannot wait.

I think in answer to our original question, ‘why is turning one so much fun?’ I believe it’s because we are about to have so much fun before we turn two, there is just no way it could ever be boring and we hope you’ll enjoy joining us on this journey as much as we’ll enjoy taking it!

Speak soon & love to all,
One Curious Mother xoxo

PS here are some sources for some of the things in today’s post:
Happy Birthday Balloon Banner (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inflating-Birthday-Balloon-Bunting-Letters/dp/B06XY6S77C/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=ae09f2eee267c8d05e848223d2ea245a
Giant Green 1 Balloon (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B072XSP7KQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=21d6cb7390e231c6cece654d2a7cc7a0
Dinosaur ‘One’ Cake Topper (affiliate link)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N7049KQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=onecuriousmot-21&linkId=6857913e91e68626b9587be879bd3883
Little Tikes – https://www.littletikes.co.uk
Woburn Safari Park – http://www.woburnsafari.co.uk
Disneyland Paris – http://www.disneylandparis.co.ukhttp://www.disneyholidays.co.uk/disneyland-paris/

Mother for a Year: An Open Letter

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As we approach our little Rory’s first birthday I’ve decided to write myself an open letter, a letter to year-ago-me in the first days after giving birth. Things I wished I’d known, the advice I’d give myself and the hope that past-me really would have needed to hear.

I’m not going to waffle on before this, I’m going to let it speak for itself, so here goes nothing…

_________________________

Dear New Mama,

How you holding up?

I know you’ve had a difficult few days and you’re exhausted and emotional but your body has been through a lot in such a small amount of time. Bruised and drugged up to the eyeballs, I know you’re not feeling the full effects of your surgery yet but be nice to yourself, you undeniably deserve it.

I know you’re disappointed and upset. Surgery was the last thing you wanted but just remember, you were a fighter right to the bitter end. You were determined to birth your baby unaided and you did everything you could for this during those thirty-six hours. You produced a determination and strength within your body and within your mind that you never knew. You’re feeling damaged and defeated and it’s ok to feel that way – things didn’t go the way you wanted but you must never think of this as a failure. You absolutely did not fail. NEVER, ever, ever stop and think for one minute that you failed in this. You’ll read many articles, comments and blog posts this year about c-sections. You won’t believe how many people have opinions (and some don’t even have a uterus!) but please, don’t listen to all of them. People are always trying to convince women that a c-section was the ‘easy way out’ or that by having one you ‘didn’t really give birth’ but girl, you grew that baby with your body like a mighty warrior! The surgery was imperative to saving both your lives.

It’s ok to feel angry. Angry that you don’t recognise yourself, that your body is scarred and in so much pain. You’re angry that your body is still healing three, six, nine, eleven months later and it’s normal to feel this way. Start by stepping away from triggering social media. It’ll really hurt you. Stop looking at other mothers on Instagram that had a baby last week and lost 3lbs off their pre-baby weight already. Stop obsessing about those with post-baby abs – it’s not going to happen for you sweetie. Don’t beat yourself up about doing exercise. Take it at your own pace and stop looking at those ‘fit-moms’. Despite this, you should have done more of those exercises the physiotherapist gave you to do. Even though they were uncomfortable and make you ache, they were designed to help you even if it doesn’t feel that way but don’t be hard on yourself, it’s justifiable. Don’t worry about running or pushing yourself too hard. You’ll end up finding badminton is your sport and you’ll take up Waterbabies both you’ll really enjoy. It’s all about finding the new normal for you as a mama, not you as the size 10 young twenty-something year old – she has left the building and isn’t coming back. Always remember your body was pushed to the furthest limit; it’s still recovering and it might be for some time yet. You’re still recovering now, a whole year later and you still have appointments and consultations to come. I know this is crushing you and you’re going to take this really hard for a long long time but please be kind to yourself. You’ll try and take care of your body but trust me, those little extra TLC moments will help with your recovery in the long run.

Our little moments…

Really focus on those real mothers out there sharing every drama and every mini-triumph. There are moments when you’ll feel so lonely and isolated; it’s in the many dark moments to come, that these mothers will make you feel grounded and the ones who make you feel like you’re never truly alone. Never feel embarrassed to talk about your mental health. It’s always as important as your physical health. There are loads of resources out there to help you and your health visitor is number one. Don’t shy away like you used to. Remember in the past that this has caused more harm than good. If you want to cry then cry and if you want to be angry then you be angry. It’s ok to feel helpless and on some days for your anxiety to consume you – you’re only human and having a baby has challenged every ounce of you. Don’t hide away, confide more in those you love and they’ll help you step-by-step. Take longer walks; ‘Have baby, will travel’ – bundle little one up and try your best to walk as far as you comfortably can. The fresh air will help clear your mind and you’ll feel so much better for it. I know it’s hard to envisage but in just six months from now, you’ll go on your first family holiday as a three to Holland. It’ll be a fantastic first holiday and you’ll think back on it almost every day. It will bring you the happiest of memories and make you excited for future holidays.

Our first holiday: Holland

Don’t feel like you have to answer everyone’s questions and there will be millions. ‘How was it?’, ‘Are you having visitors?’, ‘Why are you home so soon?’ etc, etc. Don’t hide, if people ask about your birthing experience, own it. Tell them straight up how hard and traumatic it was, that surgery was gruelling and recovery is unimaginably hard. Equally, you don’t owe anyone an answer. ‘Are you thinking about more kids?’ Sure, you’ve always wanted a minivan full but right now: HELL NO! You’re not even going to want to entertain the thought and getting pregnant will truly terrify you from this moment on. You will spend hours thinking about this. It will enter your thoughts and creep into your mind when you least expect it: you’ll be at work, out for a walk or trying to eat. It will keep you up at night, make you feel instant dread and even make you panic. Don’t over think it – you’ll have plenty of time in the future to tackle those fears and right now, in recovery doesn’t have to be that time. Try your best to keep those precious night-time hours aside for sleep because god only knows you need it. You’ll learn to cope better with this as the months go by so if you don’t think you’ll get through it, my dear you will. You’re stronger than you realise.

Breastfeeding will come in time. Persevere and don’t fear the formula, it’ll become a saving grace when you’re feeling like you’ve tried everything. Once it all starts to run smoothly, you’ll feel such a sense of triumph as all your hard work does pay off.  Breastfeed wherever the hell you want! You’ll shy away and feel nervous, you’ll worry about other people looking or telling you not to in public but babe, if a baby has to eat a baby has to eat. You’ll avoid doing things at the fear of these very thoughts but looking back now, you didn’t need to be. This isn’t always how you’ll think, you do eventually get past this fear and realise you literally don’t care. ‘Insta-moms’ will help empower you with this one – #normalisebreastfeeding (normalize if you’re from across the pond!)

Leaving your baby after spending every waking minute together will be hard. Separation anxiety is totally normal, hell it’s part of the postpartum package alongside buckets of tears, body hatred and sleep deprivation. It’s the real frickin’ deal but don’t feel like everyone is trying to take the little man away. It’s ok to hate being away from him and you will feel like no one knows him like you do. You’ll feel like you’re the only one who can comfort him and you’re the one who went through so much to bring his little precious life earth-side that you don’t ever want to be away from him and quite frankly don’t want to share him with a soul. Really though, don’t feel rushed into being without him. Do every step in your own time and at your own pace, after all, no one can tell you exactly what to do and when to do it when it comes to you and your son. You do you and let everyone else fall in line. (By the way, this totally works and you didn’t have to feel bad because you did what was right for you!) You’ll learn how to let other people, family and loved ones, take the reins every once in a while. You’ll find a balance where you’ll go to those mother-baby classes and have some time for yourself too. It’s all about finding the new normal.

Too many shades of beige! 

Now lastly before I say goodbye, my last piece of advice: SOAK. IT. ALL. UP. Every little hour, minute and second because it will fly by. Rory is amazing. He’s smart and happy and the just the bee’s knees. He’s got a smile that’ll make you weak and a laugh that makes your heart burst; he’ll develop this amazing personality and you’ll love his sense of humour Look how perfect your little boy is! You’ll spend hours looking at him, working out who he looks like most, what colour his eyes really are and how on earth his skin is so soft. You’ll cry many, many times just watching him sleep wondering how you made something so perfect and so beautiful. Don’t worry – all mama’s do this, I’m sure of it.

Enjoy every high and low; every long night and rainy day, every cuddle and snuggle, every laugh and cry. Someone once told me ‘The days will feel long but the years will fly by’ and by god weren’t they right!?

Lots of love,
Future Mama xxxx

_________________________

 

I don’t feel like I need to say much more: my life has changed so much in just a mere twelve months. I’ve learned a lot along the way even though there is so much I wish I’d known before. I’ve dealt with things I never thought I would and although it’s been unimaginably tough at times, it’s those moments that have shown me just how rewarding motherhood can be.

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

PS. No sources for today’s post but here is a list of helpful links!
Postnatal Depression – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/symptoms/
Postpartum Anxiety – https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/postnatal-anxiety/
Parental Separation Anxiety – https://www.babble.com/parenting/parental-separation-anxiety/
Babies with Separation Anxiety – https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/separation-anxiety-0
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/ptsd-and-birth-trauma/#.WpwE7SOcZ-U
Birth Trauma – http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help-support/what-is-birth-trauma
Loneliness – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201703/the-unexpected-loneliness-new-mothers
Peanut App – https://www.peanut-app.io