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…

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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

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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

A Grand Afternoon: Christening Rory

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Today’s post will be brought to you by the letter ‘F’: Family, Fun & Fitzsimons!

For me, nothing is as important as family. It was instilled in me from a very young age that your family is your rock; you’ll love each other, protect each other and support each other in everything you do and when I was growing up we did just that. Of course, as we headed through some difficult times, we grew even stronger. Like many who lose a member of their family or have a parent in the forces, you pull yourselves together through the good and the bad and it’s made us so much closer as we’ve all grown older and newly expanded! As a mother now, I see it as my duty to my son to show him how important family is and create memories to last a lifetime.

Some of my favourite memories come from the many gatherings we had year after year. Family gatherings were a solid staple of my childhood: every birthday, every holiday and festivity. They never consisted of anything over the top or anywhere other than in a living room or back garden. We would spend hours sitting around chit-chatting, playing games, drinking a million cups of tea with never any danger of running out of cake. Come rain or shine we always had the best times together.

 

Feast Aplenty!

I still love those family get-togethers and still reminisce about our favourite moments of the past. I want our little man to cherish his own family memories the way that I do and carry them forth into his future. We’ve all had a birthday since little man was born, we’ve done his first Easter, Halloween, and Christmas and in just over three weeks’ time he’ll be ONE. After much deliberation (for around six months), we decided we wanted to have him christened and before his first birthday and hey, who doesn’t love an excuse for a party!? As a self-confessed Pinterest addict, I could easily spend 12 hours a day scrolling and pinning over and over with happily sacrificing sleep to find inspiration to make my life more colourful, easier or just to bring a bit more feng-shui to my life. This party was the perfect excuse to spend some time doing just that. After trawling through board after board, we decided to go with tradition. Pale blue as a staple colour for the decorations, we jumped on the bandwagon with oversized foil balloons and I personally designed the cake which our wonderful friend at Hannah Culley’s Cakes baked to absolute perfection – A victoria sponge top tier with a double chocolate lower tier and 50 lemon cupcakes filled with lemon curd! (If you need a cake and you’re local to the South-West, check her out – links are at the end of my post!)

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Having the Holy Oil crossed on Rory’s forehead

The day was sunny but chilly and the service was just beautiful. We had a stand-alone service as there was nearly eighty of us so was lovely to have just us present for Rory’s special day. We were so fortunate to have all our family and closest friends surrounding us including all four of my grandparents too – having four generations present was really something special. Little man was well behaved throughout the service even though he didn’t think much of having his forehead bathed – his expressions are always pure gold! Our vicar was wonderful. She was funny and had a way with her that felt a lot like home. It’s been many years since I regularly attended church on a Sunday but Jane made us feel like we’d known her all along. She kept little man’s attention for the full forty-five-minute service and helped us belt a hymn or two. It was such a personal service with a beautiful reading of ‘Children Learn What They Live’ by DL Nolte read by my Papy. His soft welsh voice filled the church and made me feel so proud and grateful for my family. Rory was fascinated by the font and didn’t even flinch whilst having the holy oil or water placed on his forehead – the whole service was a huge success, to say the least.

 

St Bartholomew’s Church – My cute Papy reading the poem ‘Children Learn What They Live’

Once the service was done we headed down to the local pub/restaurant/hotel (and my old place of work) where we hired their function room: ‘The Ballroom’. We filled the room and spent four hours having the most amazing time catching up with friends who’d never met Rory, the family who’ve been living miles away and soaking up such a special occasion for our special little man. We decided on a mixed buffet of sandwiches, hot chicken, sausage rolls and crudités accompanied by teas & coffees and plenty of cake. We judged it spot on and there was barely anything left at the end. Chit-chatting away with crammed plates and huge slices of cake; it was the perfect recipe for a grand ol’ afternoon. After standing on a chair and thanking everyone for coming with what was a super short & sweet speech, little man had lots of cuddles, giggles and food followed by a nap for over an hour in amongst the hustle and bustle – I guess being center of attention is really tiring! We cut the delicious cake during naptime and were all finished in time for his royal highness to wake up for playtime. Then by 5 o’clock, as everyone started to leave, we took down the decorations and boxed up the cake. We were all partied out and started to fancy the chicken casserole mum had so wonderfully turned on in the slow cooker nine hours earlier – what an angel!

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Cake cutting with The Great-Grandma

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The months of planning, cake designing, invite writing, venue hunting and decoration collecting, when the day finally came it ran smooth like puddin’! Nobody was late or got lost en route, nobody argued or had too much to drink; everyone was fed, watered and happy all having had an amazing day. It was one I’ve definitely banked in my ‘favourite days so far’. Rory was utterly spoilt with so much love along with incredible and generous gifts, some which he’ll be able to treasure forever. This has been one family filled event to add to the never-ending list of family days that I’ll truly treasure forever.

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The FitzPriddings

Never take your family for granted. Always show them love, protect them and support them through life as you grow and learn together. It’s these memories you make that’ll bring you closer and last you a lifetime.

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

 

Source List:

Balloons – https://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/occasions/party-supplies/balloons?filter=Themes~Letters/Colour~Silver/&followsearch=9716
Cake – https://www.facebook.com/culleyscakery
Cake Topper – https://www.notonthehighstreet.com/twentyseven/product/personalised-christening-cake-topper
Paper Fans – https://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/blue-tissue-paper-fan-decorations-3-pack/620555-1001 (Silver not available online)

Rorys shoes – https://www.mothercare.com/first-walkers-and-crawlers/first-walkers-t-bar-shoes/LPC036.html?dwvar_LPC036_color=brown&dwvar_LPC036_footwearSize=2%20jnr&cgid=#q=brown+shoes&start=2 
Rorys suit – Monsoon Outlet (Swindon)

 

 

 

Workin’ 9 to 5, What a Way to Make a Livin’…

CATCH UP POST NUMBER TWO – GOING BACK TO WORK

…Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’

Dolly P - Working 9 to 5

WHOA Dolly! 9 to 5 is no longer enough to make that livin’ that’s for sure! However, the rest of the song speaks some uncomfortable truths. Singing about the man standing in her way, not getting any credit and putting all the money in his pocket: This is shockingly still the case for many and it appears to be taking a hell of a lot more than that well-known 9 to 5 to make a living nowadays. With overtime or flexi-time there are many of us who don’t work those well-known hours anymore. Even though some work alternative hours flexing around family or social life, there are some who don’t have a choice but to work every hour possible just to get on the same level as others. Luckily for me, I work for a company that has done absolutely everything they can to make my maternity leave and return to work an easy and comforting transition and have been more than understanding regarding my newly found life balance. I’ve been very fortunate and it makes it very hard to believe that currently some women are still fighting for equal rights in the work place. Between the stories of inequality in the media over the past, give or take, 12 months and stories of women who’ve lost their jobs for being pregnant and wanting fair maternity leave, we as a country need to get a grip on how we are treating our ladies: equal pay and equal rights are just the beginning.

It’s no secret that having time off with your beloved new baby is an absolute must not only for physical recovery but mentally too. It’s important on so many levels: for bonding, for the baby’s development and for mama’s recovery; after all, having a baby is a major life event. However even with UK maternity leave being fairly generous across the board, with varying amounts of leave offered depending on company policies, in all the world countries ranked it doesn’t even reach the top 10 – quite shocking right!? I used to spend my days wondering ‘HOW THE HELL DO YOU GO BACK TO WORK, MAKE MONEY, PAY FOR CHILD CARE, SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILD AND HAVE A LIFE ALL AT THE SAME TIME!? ‘Working Mama’ can seem like a daunting title and for some it can cost them with losing money or even their jobs.

Statutory Maternity Leave was created to cover the working mother who isn’t covered by their own company’s policy. It’s made up of two lots of 26 weeks, Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. You don’t have to take all of this; the minimum is 2 weeks (4 for factory workers). This can start approximately 11 weeks before your due date and automatically starts if you’re ill within 4 weeks of your due date or starts the day after your baby is born if they are born premature. If you change your return to work date mid-leave you just need to give 8 weeks’ notice. It pretty much covers all bases and is what I was entitled to. The pay part of this is pretty sucky but is a lot better than nothing. So Statutory Maternity Pay entitles you to 39 weeks of pay out of the 52; this is broken down into two parts. The first 6 weeks which will be 90% of your normal pay then the other 33 weeks at 90% of your earnings or 140.98 per week depending on which is the lowest. This was a very difficult adjustment for me. With bills that had to be paid and needing to buy necessities it was just about manageable. It’s even harder for the last 13 weeks should you chose to take them as this is when the money stops. Obviously if you’re planning on getting pregnant and know statutory pay is what you’re entitled to SAVE – it’s an absolute life saver to have savings! I wasn’t so organised but managed to save throughout my pregnancy so went into maternity leave with at least a little cushion. I decided to return to work 4 weeks early as I found my money was slowly disappearing and didn’t think I could make it stretch much further. This meant that I would return before little man’s first birthday but that was always the case. I now have a definite start date and a million and one things to do before said day. From organising little man’s stuff to finding work clothes – it’s become nothing short of a minefield of moments that usually start with ‘shit I need to do that’. I’m going to break those down as it’s far easier subcategories as to tackle them one by one:

  1. Money: ‘Makes the world go around’ – As I said, really consider your money. Think about your outgoings and whether your wage is going to benefit or hinder you. Make sure you look at your wage when returning part time too! For the first month-ish back at work I will have absolutely no money. As I’ve been on statutory maternity leave & pay, my pay finished mid-December (bummer!) and despite saving a lot of money up in preparation but for this there is very little left (damn you January sales!). Do think your maternity leave through better than I did – you’ll probably have not got pregnant a week into your new job either so you probably will get company maternity pay so you’ll be alright! If you are like me and very money conscious (most of the time) then make a spreadsheet and document your spending so you can see where your money is going and where you can cut back. This might just save you a few pennies and maybe some arguments too!
  2. Nursery/Day Care: ‘DAMN that’s more than I earn!’- Yes, nurseries are expensive but do not pick one based on this alone. You will need to be able to trust them 110%! Do your research, go and look at a few, get a prospectus, speak to other mamas at clubs or the local children’s centre – make sure when you walk through the door it feels and looks like a place you want to leave your baby. We’ve just chosen a wonderful nursery just a few miles away which is half way between both our places of work. They open early and close late and have the most incredible facilities. As soon as we stepped through the door, we knew this was a fantastic place for our son to be. The price is high but one we can cover so he has the best care available.
  3. Weaning/Pumping/Feeding: This one is my biggest worry – pumping at work scares me half to death on its own but as little man still likes his milk and is not into letting it go just yet, it’s my only option. He’s down to a feed once in the morning and once in the afternoon so being brave, I’m thinking I could sneak that into a coffee break easy. I know that eventually our breastfeeding journey will come to an end it feeds will be dropped as he is weened further and turns one and can have cow’s milk so it’s only temporary. We’ve had a great journey even though it started off so rocky. On the food front, we are quite fortunate. He eats well and isn’t particularly fussy about what it is but more of when it is or how he’d fed. He likes to think he can feed himself but so often ends up feeding the dogs! We are rather lucky in that respect so have little worries here – yay!
  4. YOUR EMOTIONS: It’s more than ok to feel emotional about going back to work and leaving your baby with someone else. Whether this comes in guilt, sadness or relief, you’ve spent such a concentrated amount of time with your baby that to be apart now is bound to stir up some new emotions. This is the one that has stirred deep down in me for a while in anticipation of returning to work but I don’t think it will really become apparent until my first day back. Again, I am fortunate to be returning to work on a part-time basis so at least I have a four-day weekend to look forward to. It’s all about bringing the positives back into focus and taking on those emotions. Never hide them because that’s unhealthy but accept that it is normal to feel this way and it will get easier as it becomes the new normal.

No one expects this time to come around so quickly. It only seems like five minutes since you left the hospital and now you’re heading back to work and your baby is almost turning 1 – How did that happen!? You know, someone once told me that ‘the days will feel long but the years will fly by’ and boy weren’t they right! Whatever decisions you make whether to go back to work or not just make sure it’s the right one for you and if you ever feel like you made the wrong choice you can always change it. With little under two weeks until my return to work, I’m both looking forward to it and nervous.

Wish me luck!

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

 


Sources:
– Photo found at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dolly-parton-wrong-working-9-5-way-make-living-shane-kilboyle/
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/these-10-countries-have-the-best-parental-leave-policies-in-the-world
https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave

 

Our First Family Holiday!

CATCH UP POST NUMBER ONE – OUR HOLIDAY!

After scrolling through my previous posts and realising that a lot of them were very real and somewhat heavy topics, I decided it was time for a fun one: Our first family holiday! This post will be full of our first fabulous European adventure along with tips, tricks and hacks of how we survived and blooming’ loved our first family trip!

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Our Holiday Home

Four months ago, we took our first holiday as a family. Both nervous and excited, we decided to drive into Europe and up to Holland. Although my hate of ferries is very real, we got an early crossing from Dover to Calais and we used a wonderful company called ‘Eurocamp‘ for our accommodation. ‘Eurocamp’ are a wonderful company that rent out camping grounds, safari tents and a series of mobile-home style caravans across Europe.  Having used them in the past for holidays in France we decided to venture a little further-a-field and chose Duinrell, Wassenaar in Holland this time. (Eurocamp code ‘HL012‘) Whilst I had never been, K had once visited as a child and was eager to rediscover the country. We chose a campsite with plenty to do for all ages, made sure it had a pool and was near to plenty of sights to see whilst all being baby friendly. With Rotterdam 30 minutes away and Amsterdam just 60 minutes away, day trips were a comfortable car journey away.

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Snoozing Away

Whilst the journey from Calais to Duinrell wasn’t more than 4 hours, we decided that en route to we would make a pit stop in Antwerp, a place we’ve never been but always wanted to. WOW. We absolutely loved it. Adding a little luxury to our holiday, my parents brought us a night’s stay at the ‘Hilton, Old Town’ for K’s birthday. It was blooming beautiful and breakfast was just… make your own waffles is all I’m going to say! There was so much to see with the Grote Markt, long walkways down the riverside and restaurants & bars everywhere, we more than enjoyed eating a ridiculous amount of ‘Frites et Fritessaus‘ and Nutella smothered waffles. Following on from our hotel adventure, we had a short 2 hour drive on to Duinrell.

Antwerpen

The campsite was fantastic. With absolutely everything you would ever need onsite and about 10-minute walk offsite, it was perfect for families of all ages and sizes. On the campsite part of the site, they had a small supermarket shop in the same building as two restaurants, a pub and a bowling alley. Just by the entrance there was a huge pen full of bikes for hire. With a mixture of mountain bikes, kids bikes, trikes with baskets, baby seats, kids trailers and even go karts (for onsite use only) there was no excuse not to enjoy the many cycle paths in the countryside surrounding the site. In the amusement park part of the site there was much more to be enjoyed by older children and adults with several fast-paced rollercoasters along with mini-golf, token arcade and the ‘Tiki-Bad’ – an indoor and outdoor pool facility with many slides, a shallow baby play area, lazy river and wave machine. We delved into the pool twice in a week and only wished we’d had time to go again even though there was an extra cost of €5 per adult and free for under 2 year olds for 2 hours and €7 for 3 hours – Pretty cheap entertainment for a rainy afternoon!

Dinner Time!

Our caravan was just what we wanted. This particular time we opted for the ‘Esprit’: a slightly more upmarket version of the caravans available. Better than the budget ‘Classic’ but not quite as posh as the ‘Avant’. It was just right for us. It was the perfect size for the three of us, with two bedrooms, a toilet with separate shower room and a huge kitchen living area, there was plenty of space for us and all the baby kit too. One of our favourite things about Eurocamp (and one of the main reasons we will go back again and again) is that you can hire baby & toddler kit FOR FREE – yes you read that right! At absolutely no extra cost you can hire any of the following kit for your stay (proving they have it available course!): travel cot, bed rails, highchair, potty, baby bath and changing mat. This was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders as we only started introducing foods to little man the week before left! To add to these wonderful things, the beds were comfortable, the kitchen well stocked complete with 4 gas hobs and oven – we wanted for nothing.

Duinrell, Wassenaar

In terms of location it was close enough to larger towns and cities for day trips but far enough away to enjoy the countryside. We were just a 10-minute drive from ‘Hundestrand Wassenaar’ (the local beach), half hour drive from Rotterdam and an hour away from Amsterdam. We took advantage of these! The beach was beautiful and had SO MANY SHELLS. It was incredibly long so we only walked a section of it with the dunes lined with bars and restaurants which I imagine are bustling during the summer. Unfortunately, most were closed due to it being off-season but it was September and rather chilly so we were more than happy to get back in the warm after a long windswept walk.

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Hundestrand Wassenaar

Our first day trip was to visit Rotterdam Zoo – what can I say! One of the best zoos I’ve ever been to. Impulse decisions can sometimes backfire but this one did not disappoint. An old fashioned inner-city zoo that’s evolved with the times, the zoo has hundreds of animals in spacious enclosures clearly designed to mimic that of their natural habitats. It was a perfect mixture of zoo and aquarium with just so much to see. We easily spent 5 hours there and could have easily spent much more time there too. ‘Any advice?’ Take your own lunch. We ate before we left and took snacks but main eateries seemed to be far apart and again, due to it being off-season a lot of the smaller food stands were shut up. I can imagine during peak-season this would be much less an issue of course. It might also save you a few pennies for the gift shop too! There were plenty of benches to rest and picnic spots too – the whole zoo is quite large and with a six-month-old in a pram, these were perfectly placed. A 10 out of 10 from us and given the chance to go again, we would say yes, every time!

Rotterdam Zoo

Amsterdam. Another city we’ve wanted to visit but never got around to it. We were a little nervous about going with little man but to be honest, we had absolutely nothing to worry about. We paid ahead for underground parking right in the centre, we took his pram and a bag with everything he’d need – including his rain cover we absolutely needed – and we picked up a map when we got there and just started walking. We didn’t want to plan too much as doing anything with a baby can sometimes be unpredictable so we pin pointed a few of the main things we wanted to see and aimed for those. We decided to give the Anne Frank house a miss – with queues for days and no place to store a pram, this time just wasn’t right to visit this museum but definitely one for a future visit. We took an obligatory selfie by the ‘iamsterdam’ sign, walked over a million canal bridges, ate more waffles and found some cute vintage shops. It was such a lovely day and a good first city trip that I’m sure will go on to inspire many more.

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Coffee Shop Stop, Amsterdam

We really didn’t want our first holiday to come to an end. Packing up was done begrudgingly and the drive back to Calais was quiet as we thought back on all the adventure we’d had that week BUT we were not ready to go home so we made a stop off at Bruges en route home. Another city we’ve always wanted to go to but never found the time. We didn’t stop for long but managed to squeeze in a walk around the town, seeing Belfry Tower, a tour around the chocolate museum ‘Choco-Story’ and time for coffee and ice cream! It was the perfect end to a perfect week.

Bruges

A lot of people don’t see the point in taking a baby on holiday. I must say that now we’ve done it, I couldn’t disagree more! We know that our little man really won’t remember our first holiday, staying in a caravan, seeing Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rotterdam zoo or Bruges but for us it was a fantastic way to make first family memories for us parents. It isn’t all about your little one – you’re a family, a team and it’s now about you all – yay! We took thousands of photographs and we can’t wait to share them with our little man in the many years to come. What I will say though is that it was worth waiting until he was 6 months old. He was so much more aware of his surrounding, was awake for more of the day and was so happy to sleep just about anywhere and everywhere. Bottom line? Just book that holiday and enjoy every minute!

Not quite mastered a selfie yet!

It’s definitely one of our favourite memories and I can’t wait to see what adventures we have in store for next year!

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everybody! 

Hope you’ve all had a wonderful 2017 and are looking forward to 2018 full of love, family, friends and adventure!

IMG_6535.JPGFirst footing done and little monkey awake just in time for the Big Ben bongs!

I realise I’ve been quite quiet recently (and a little lazy I’m honest) but between getting carried away with Christmas and little man crawling at the speed of light, I have not had a lot of time for writing. In addition to this, I’ve been working on a new project which I won’t share with you yet but will hopefully be able to soon – it’s nothing huge but certainly feels it for me!

I’m going to keep this very post very short sweet! To kick start 2018, I’ll be playing catch up – starting with this week, I will be publishing all my almost-finished posts of 2017 as I appear to have a backlog of quite a few that are almost finished. Keep your eyes peeled for these – first one will hopefully be posted this afternoon if not first thing tomorrow.

We’ve had a blooming marvellous 2017, full of love and adventure and cannot wait to see what 2018 has in-store for us!

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

Mr & Mrs: Does it really matter?

 

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‘So when are you guys going to get married?

Yes, I’ve decided to talk about that wonderfully awkward question. Why is it that if you’re heading towards 25 and have surpassed the 5-year anniversary mark, marriage becomes an instant hot topic? Well let me tell you, if you have a baby and out of wedlock, the conversations only become much more frequent. Now don’t get me wrong, getting married is something I want (something we both want) but it forever gets more and more awkward as old fashion tradition still appears to dictate a lot of finer details around marriage.

Pre-baby days – Who doesn’t have a go-to photo spot!? (aka the front door)

As a woman who believes in marriage and pretty much everything it stands for, it forever leaves me in an awkward position when people ask. There is usually an echo response from the right hand side to others that’s along the lines of ‘oh no, not yet‘ or a spiel about lack of money, want for other things, not the right time, etc. – all of which might be very well be true but still leads to some kind of awkward smile between you and your partner and no doubt a slightly sympathetic comment from the questioner that sounds something like ‘well all in good time‘. What is a woman who wants to get married supposed to do? Do you just wait to be asked? Is this too old fashioned? Is it too ‘cringe’ or ‘desperate’ to ask your boyfriend? In this modern day and age with equality, should you make a decision together? Why are there so many taboos around women wanting to be married – I have so many questions! The tradition of marriage is one that can sit quite uneasy with many modern day women. From becoming your husbands ‘property’, folding your identity with the change of a surname to giving up your rights to be a wife, these were once traditions that are now unapologetically out-dated. With the rise in Feminism and standing up for women rights worldwide, a light has continued to shine on changing practices and traditions that once saw women as nothing more than objects. How have things changed is the western world? Am I going to have to wait until my Dad gives my boyfriend his permission?

The media has always done a cracking job of keeping taboo subjects in circulation year in year out and to no surprise I had no trouble finding content on the subject of marriage online. Just over a month ago, I came across and article on Cosmopolitan online with the headline ‘Don’t Ask Your Girlfriend’s Dad if You Can Marry Her’ – What an eye catching title! After reading I found despite it being an article for American Cosmo, the content was still relevant. The article talks about how asking your girlfriends father to marry her has become an out-of-date, sexist practice which let’s be honest, is rather true. The tradition stands that the groom-to-be would ask the future brides father out of respect but Cosmo questions whether there was any respect spared for the bride-to-be at all. This dates right back to when getting married was seen as a ‘change in ownership’ of the woman she was to become her husbands property. Fair to say this is no longer the case for the majority but worryingly will still be a normal practice in some cases.

Cosmo found that in 2015 in a survey carried out my TheKnot.commore than three quarters of men ask for permission from their partner’s father or parents before they propose. By contrast, only 58% of brides say they knew a proposal was coming, but just weren’t sure when – for 40%, it was a complete surprise. In other words, more men talk to their girlfriend’s father about a plan to marry than talk about marriage, in serious and relatively immediate terms, to the woman they actually want to marry.’ Now isn’t this ridiculous?! Going back to my point about feeling somewhat ashamed of wanting to get married and not wanting to wait around to be asked – ARE WE SURPRISED!? For decades women haven’t had a say in this decision-making process and with the rise in Feminism, this was bound to change. Despite the negative connotations around asking a girlfriends dad to marry her, the article goes on to say that in modern times it should be all about total inclusion. Marriage should be an on going discussion between a couple even if ‘will you marry me’ is asked instead of mutual agreements and that ‘it’s possible to involve all of your parents in a conversation about your impending marriage in a respectful way‘ which I totally agree with. For me marriage isn’t just another step to take or another event to plan, it’s about declaring your love as well as becoming that team, a united front and being a family taking on the world together so would be more millennial to include both your families.

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The Fitz/Priddings

What makes me want to get married? I think it’s a combination of love, trust and sometimes-questionable tolerance for one another and that humble connection that brings happiness and keeps you grounded. It’s the joy you bring one another and the commitment that defines your relationship. Adding a baby into the mix is a serious decision but it’s one that has nonetheless made our relationship stronger. With these thoughts and reasons in mind, marriage always enters the discussion here; as for me I am bothered on astronomical levels that our son and I don’t share a last name. For me, it goes back to what I previously said about being one unit. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t be ‘one’ and that it should be compulsory to take your partners surname (they could take yours or neither) but for me it makes me feel very separate from my boys. In 2014, in an article by The Guardian, it was found that between 2009 and 2014 an estimated 600,000 women had been stopped whilst travelling with their own children with a fair few being noted as being a result of having differing surnames. This mortifies me and the idea of being stopped to prove I am my son’s mother sounds nothing short of arduous.

My boys

Aside from my personal feelings, the bigger thing for those around us is the legal side of having a child and being unmarried. Turns out that if you have a baby out of wedlock, the only one who truly has responsibility for that child is the mother. Now automatic parental responsibility also goes to the husband or female married partner of the child’s birth mother if they are treated as the child’s legal parent or if you are an adoptive parent… But what actually is ‘parental responsibility’? The Citizens Advice Bureau explains that parents/guardians with parental responsibility are entitled to have a say in all areas of the child’s life such as the where they will live, their health, education, religion, name, money and property. Parental responsibility then lasts until the child reaches 18 or gets married between 16 and 18. Who can get parental responsibility? If you don’t have parental responsibility, you might be able to get it. You can get parental responsibility for your child by in the following ways: ‘registering (or re-registering) the birth of your child together with the child’s mother, making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and registering it at court, obtaining a parental responsibility order, becoming the child’s guardian (which would only take effect on the mother’s death) or marrying the mother.’ The biggest worry for me is if anything should happen to either of us (*touch wood*), what happens to our little man? What are we legally entitled to? After digging a little further I came across these explanations: ‘Living together – If one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. As an unmarried couple, you need to make wills if you wish to make sure that the other partner inherits. If one partner dies without leaving enough in their will for the other to live on, the surviving partner may be able to go to court to claim from the estate. If you inherit money or property from an unmarried partner, you are not exempt from paying inheritance tax, as married couples are. Marriage – When your married partner dies, you will inherit under the will of the dead partner if it makes provision for you. If either married partner dies without making a will, the other will inherit all or some of the estate.’ What have I learnt? We basically get nothing unless we get married or have a will… we don’t have the latter (*googles ‘writing a will’*). Even if you don’t have a child, marriage binds you both legally in many different ways and whether we like it or not, trying to break tradition isn’t always easy and the subject of marriage is no different. Getting married still holds a lot more significance than just love.

One year makes a huge difference

I never really thought that the order of either getting married or having babies would make much of a difference to my life. Always knowing I wanted both, I set aside the traditional marriage then babies ideal when I got pregnant just over a year ago now, I’m not sure I would have chosen to have a baby before marriage now knowing how it would make me feel and what it would legally mean. With all of the things I have discussed about my personal opinion, tradition and the coverage in the media, I have definitely come to the conclusion I now feel being unmarried with a child does make a difference. Maybe it will change in the future but I’m sure it’ll be ‘all in good time’!

 

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

PS. If you have children and you’re not married or if you are and you have had any positive or negative experiences with deciding to get married, sharing surnames or anything else – I would love to hear from you!

 

Sources:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/living-together-marriage-and-civil-partnership/living-together-and-marriage-legal-differences/#h-children
https://theparentconnection.org.uk/articles/parental-responsibility-for-unmarried-couples
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a12107658/ask-bride-father-permission-proposal-engagement/
https://www.brides.com/story/asking-fathers-permission-before-proposing
https://www.theknot.com
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/may/12/passport-control-border-children-parents-different-surnames