“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

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

 

Postpartum Mental Health: How Can We Talk About This?

As mental health awareness week comes to a close, I’ve decided to share this rather personal post with you. I’ve always felt rather alone when it came to understanding and talking about my own mental health but with all the media attention surrounding it of late, it still stands that there can never be enough done to highlight the importance of mental health and well-being. Sharing our experiences in the hope of helping others has become a blooming good start.

Having toyed with the idea of sharing this with you all, I once again find myself thinking that if one person reads this and it helps just one person, then it was worth the vulnerability and honesty of sharing my personal journey. I’ve discussed mental health before; wrote myself a letter in March about things I wish I’d known, things I would tell myself, but I always find that no matter what I would tell myself, I come back to my fears and the anxiety-inducing moments that surround the trauma of childbirth which can creep into the corner of even my sunniest days. When the smallest of thing that can set off a wave of panic, sometimes it’s unavoidable to suppress.

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Newly Dazed

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; Motherhood in unapologetically all-consuming but motherhood with mental health challenges is nothing like I expected. After writing our birth story last May and writing a letter last March, I’m now revisiting that day with a different set of eyes whilst looking at the journey that got me here today. As I’ve watched our little man start to grow up, my body and mind have changed. Regularly asked about the possibility of ‘Baby Number Two’, there are countless things I need to face and accept before that thought even enters my anxious brain. Looking back at my last month of pregnancy and Rory’s birth, I’ve struggled to accept the way things panned out.

My pregnancy with Rory wasn’t anything out of the ‘ordinary’. In fact, if you have read any of my previous blogs, I’d say I was rather lucky. I discussed my fortune in having no morning sickness or having any other debilitating symptoms or side effects. This lasted right up until I left work on maternity leave. That week magically flicked a switch and changed everything: I developed PUPPP. Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is a nasty condition that develops in late pregnancy (and apparently more common in women having baby boys) and left my skin searing. I was itching with blisters and hives all over and burned at every hour of the day and night. Sleep was a thing of the past and doctors’ appointments became every other day, being tested over and over for Obstetric Cholestasis (a liver condition that can sometimes require induction) which luckily always returned negative results. I was exhausted and getting nervous at this point, I entered my final week of pregnancy feeling and thought was prepared. Still walking a mile or so in the afternoons hoping to induce early labour, I was offered a sweep – I need not go into details but DO NOT DO IT… I’m only joking but, in all seriousness, if ever in a position where this is offered: enter this with caution as at the very least it insanely uncomfortable and incredibly invasive. It was just 3 days later that I went into labour and 5 days later that I had an emergency c-section: the scariest eventuality that I was unprepared for. Leaving me swollen, cut and stitched, in agony and barely mobile, I felt couldn’t help but feel traumatised. How on Earth do you prepare for that!? Unwilling to talk about the event in depth or great detail, it became easy to brush the emotional side under the carpet and focus on my physical recovery which became unbearably tough on its own. It took me a good 5 months to realise how I truly felt about Rory’s birth.

Whilst speaking with a health visitor and NHS maternity service worker just last week, I found myself still feeling overpoweringly conscious of what I had been through. Without a doubt, I always find myself referring to how much worse it could have been or how there are women every day who face far worse but for me but I can’t help but linger on the single thing haunting what should be one of my happiest memories: it is the pure fact I was astronomically unprepared for a birth like that. My mind forever replays a scene from one of my favourite films, ‘About Time‘, during these moments. In a scene involving an accident that the main character Tim tries to change, he narrates a quote from a song by Baz Luhrmann called ‘Sunscreen‘: ‘He says worrying about the future is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life will always be things that never crossed your worried mind’ …No matter how hard I try, I’m still the one starring at the equation chewing that gum.

When I first opened up to a health visitor about how I felt, I was afraid what she would think of me. Mental health issues are associated with weakness but it takes incredible strength to face such inner battles. As I eased into talking about how I’d been feeling after surgery and how I’d coped with accepting the birth, PTSD was brought up. Always the person to think ‘but I haven’t been to war,’ or ‘I don’t live in a war zone‘, I needed to stop being so naive. PTSD isn’t because of a specific type of trauma and it can arrive and linger in many forms. It can be your memories keeping you awake in a cold sweat leaving you terrified to think too deep into what you’ve been through; It can be the very thought of how close to death you came and how it sends the blood rushing through your body, leaving you light headed and nauseous. It’s every time you see your scars, your stomach churns and the thought of how you wanted it to be makes you angry and somewhat irrational about the most basic of activities. It’s all consuming and something I’m now actively working to get through and I’m ok that it may take some time. Turns out the NHS have a fantastic service available where you can go and see specially trained midwives. They can talk you through what you’ve been through and help you process your feelings or fears surrounding your pregnancy, birth or motherhood. I’ll be taking part in a session in the next month and I’m both curious and anxious but hopeful it will help.

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Walking has become the best way to clear my head

Another side of mental health I find challenging is handling my anxiety. As I’ve become less afraid to admit it, it’s become easier to recognise. Postpartum anxiety is something I’ve talked about, previously in the form of separation anxiety and just like most mental health matters, each can take many forms. For me, it’s been an unexplainable jealousy, an underlying bitterness and twisting in the gut. A strange paranoia and relentless envy. It’s restless nights, toxic social media scrolling, actively avoiding every mirror, shop or car window. It’s taking hours to get dressed, noticing every extra stretch mark, wrinkle, crease or fold. It’s nightmares of what could or could’ve happened, the unimaginable and unthinkable. It’s all-around emotion, tears and upset and it’s also easy to slip into covering it up and hiding it far too often. Once again, it has taken me a while to actively seek help. You don’t always recognise it and you don’t always want to speak to those closest to you or anyone at all then there’s the option of medical help. For me, when I’ve seen GP in the past I have always been handed a ‘self-referral’ leaflet. These are without a doubt the most disheartening handout of information to be given when you’re in a doctor’s office trying to explain yourself after it’s taken weeks or even months to get yourself that far. I’ve learned that the doctors were no help, but when I turned to the health visitors, they appeared to be angels in disguise pointing me towards the NHS service I talked about earlier. It’s little steps to help put the pieces back together, to adjust to a new normal and to accept what has happened and move forward.

Our Little Monkey

Becoming a mother can be the hardest but the most rewarding thing you might ever do but you’ll never be the only one doing it. Avoiding being swallowed up in mental health challenged always comes down to being honest with yourself. Even in your darkest hour, only you can start the process of recovery. No matter how many times you try to suppress or hide how you’re feeling or the way you’re thinking, it will only deteriorate. Take charge of your health – it may be completely out of your comfort zone but try your best to reach out, find local groups or speak to your local maternity services. Opening up can be one of the scariest things you can do and yes, it is sometimes so much easier to lie, to really hide how you feel but sharing your experience can kick-start a very important process that will, first of all, help you feel a damn site less alone. Please, if you’re feeling low, sad, feeling like you are struggling, find someone who can help you in whichever form works for you!

As my title ask ‘how can we talk about this’, I’ve come to think the answer is far simpler than we thought. I believe it lies in empowering one another to speak out, share experiences and challenges. It’s guiding each other through difficult times and becoming a support network. We as women, as friends, family, colleagues could and should be supporting each other whatever the cause or type of mental health issue it is. Support is priceless.

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I hope, if you’re looking for help and need assistance, the links below help point you in the right direction and help you start your journey

As always, thank you for reading

Loves to all,

OCM xoxo

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)

 

 

 

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