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.)

Where I Drew The Line: Choosing My Health Over a Job

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It’s been 11 weeks and 6 days since I left my job and became unemployed.

Yes, I voluntarily quit my job and decided to put my mental and physical health first to be (excuse me for want of a better phrase) a ‘stay-at-home-mother’ (for now!).
So many people often laugh and belittle the title but it hasn’t been without complication and is definitely the hardest decision I’ve made to date, one I absolutely did not take lightly.

Mentally and emotionally, I was admitting complete defeat. Although not difficult for some, personally my previous job wasn’t the easiest to contend with – as with many, over-prescribed and under-appreciated, and despite putting up a fight, it didn’t take much to feel like a total failure 24/7 after many unhappy 10 hour days, 5 days a week.

Financially, feeling this unmotivated and under-appreciated came at the unforgivable cost of £1,200 a month in nursery fees, £50 a week in fuel and many a Great British Pound in forgotten lunch boxes and ‘run away from my desk at lunchtime to survive snacks’ – I’ve now left all that behind in addition to an entire salary… Another ridiculously hard parting for sure. As well as this, my departure prior to what’s known as the ‘qualifying week’ for maternity pay, has also left us rather short-changed.
So when did I decide to put myself above my job, money, and stability I hear you ask? In all honesty, it hit me like a train in slow motion for a few months then the fire started and I burnt out in the blink of an eye.

For months, it started as a series of small interferences with my day-to-day life: things like feeling overwhelmed, regularly crying on my way home from work, not enjoying anything outside of work at the fear of heading back the next day. This quite quickly snowballed after finding out I was pregnant in Easter earlier this year. Emotions running higher and baby brain swallowing me whole, I was tripping at every hurdle and it began to show it all aspects of my life, work being the hardest to go unnoticed. As the pressure mounted, I became a stressed-shell of my former self and found that I couldn’t stand up for myself at the fear of confrontation or worse, dismissal. It was all-consuming and I slowly lost my ability to concentrate, my confidence in decision making and imposter syndrome kicked in HARD. Recently, I read an article (forgive me, I can’t remember where) about how imposter syndrome is actually more about colleagues making you feel inferior and not accepted than you being bad at your job. It was a shocking eye-opener that, yes I could have been getting worse at my job through stress and anxiety but feeling inferior was, in fact, more a part of feeling inadequate. I was jumping through hoops, working away and for many weekends and extended days but it never ever felt like enough.

Now, here’s a bit of advice pregnant mama to pregnant mama – whatever you do, research your rights and make sure your employer follows the guidelines for pregnant women in the workplace. It can make a HUGE difference in how your role and job load is handled and a risk assessment is an absolute necessity, wherever you work. I felt at a disadvantage with this and only wish I’d been more outspoken at the time; this was an unignorable protruding factor on my ‘why I should quit’ list.

As we reached early May, heading towards my 9th week of pregnancy, the downward spiral only got more slippery. The dread of the job took over and I’d lost every ounce of gusto for my job and my home life; my entire life felt unbearable and with that, I sort medical help. Having previously had fairly negative interactions with the NHS and mental health, I was fortunately not ignored and was signed off work with ‘work-related stress’ for two weeks – even that felt like I was letting my job down. I didn’t quite know what to do with my days and regularly lay around feeling unmotivated and generally unwell; the weeks passed quickly and before I knew it I was back to the constant dread. On my return to work, my absence seemed like the elephant in the room. If it wasn’t for the lovely ladies who sat around me reassuring me with ‘are you ok’ and ‘if you need to talk, you know where I am’, I’m really not sure I would have survived the 6 weeks that followed.

As I slumped into my corner desk and tried to plow through the never-ending tasks that seemed to have festered in my absence, I’d never felt so behind or snowed under with jobs where deadlines had passed or were imminently due. With no assistant or colleague to share the load with, I started to crumble all over again. Nothing had changed and almost seemed like my time away had never happened. It was never really discussed beyond a short and sweet meeting where I agreed that I was fit for work again. In no time at all the tasks began piling up and it only got worse – it was then my overall capability was beginning to be questioned.

As I entered my yearly appraisal, I knew I was officially failing. I’d appeared to have stepped into a losing battle with little to no lifelines left to use. After raising many flags about my concerns, there was no mention of my increase in workload, my work quantity being constantly chosen over quality, me being signed off work with stress and certainly not a peep about how my role had changed since becoming pregnant. Needless to say, I was rung out and hung out to dry. My mind began to ponder whether I could survive 5 to 6 months more of this without a. being fired or b. miscarrying – it was at that exact moment, mid-meeting, that I had already made up my mind: to leave was my only option. I spent the following 2 weeks vigorously researching my maternity options and entitlement, spending almost every lunch breaks on the phone speaking to god knows how many people in the Government’s benefits department. Devastatingly falling short for statutory maternity pay, I luckily qualified for maternity allowance but this was going to leave me with an 8-week pay gap which we couldn’t really afford to do, but what choice did I have.

On Monday 24th June, I handed in my notice to an unshocked response. When asked why, my schpiel of ‘my health absolutely has to come first’ came pouring out – this was greeted with even less shock but the deal was done. Feeling oddly free but unnervingly cut off, I began my shut down almost instantly. I took on zero new tasks and wrapped up every piece outstanding in the 4 weeks that followed. I guess, for myself, I still wanted to prove that I could do the work at hand (when it came in reasonable and realistic quantities!). I left with my head held high and my mental and physical health just about intact. I regretted nothing and still don’t.

 

 

We didn’t know how we’d cope with one income but have picked up a few tips for how to save our pennies along the way – we’ve had to:

  • Cut down nursery days – the biggest saver! From 4 to 2 days with the help of Granny Day Care twice a week has been a godsent – plus the added bonus of spending more time with Rory at home has been priceless!
  • Condense our cars to having just one – in order to save the next wedge we condensed to paying for just one car, one tax & one insurance by handing my lease back to the garage and trading in Kyle’s for a bigger, more economical car (hello Kadjar with a humongous boot and space for us all – new baby included!)
  • Stop needlessly buying food (a biggie for us!) – plan, plan, plan! Impulse food buying is a wallet emptier for sure! Now we always check out which days/times supermarkets reduce their meats and have sometimes chosen to batch cook for lunches to help save a few more £££’s!

There is a definite moral to the story guys & gals, and that is never ever take your health for granted and whatever you do, do not hesitate to put yourself first, even if it seems impossible. You only have one you and driving yourself into the ground will not be doing anyone any favours.
It’s been the toughest and weirdest few months of my life so far and to think if I hadn’t have been pregnant I would have moved on to another job has made it a tricky one to swallow. I guess being unemployment has to be my title for now – I know it won’t always be like this and it won’t always be this tough! Just remember, you can never bloom the most beautiful flowers without a little bit of rain!

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Love to y’all, OCM! xx

“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

 

Happy 70th Birthday: Why I’m Infinitely Grateful

Even though I’m a little late to the party, I feel my thank you to the NHS had to be a piece carefully considered. This took longer than expected and this isn’t a particularly long one but here it goes…

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As we all know, this year The National Health Service has reached its 70th birthday; an incredible milestone for a service that can sometimes be the hand to hold in every step through the circle of life. Today, this piece is an open letter on why I’m grateful for the NHS.

Happy 70th Birthday to the NHS: Thank You Flowers

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To The National Health Service,

What an incredible job you’ve done. A job you do with such courage and compassion, every single day. I’m beaming with pride and thankfulness whilst writing this as it is not without you that I sit here today, cuddling our precious son. 

After years of studying, racking up debt and working around the clock, your journey into a job becomes a role of unimaginable pressure, expectation and at any moment of every day, you could be faced with any possible and sometimes impossible problem. This is aside from the negative press, the government funding issues and the struggle to recruit; the overworked GP’s, overcrowded surgeries and in many cases, lack of available resources, you are without a doubt pushed to your limits every day. Despite this, in our deeply personal experiences, there has always been above and beyond treatment and care for each and every one of us.

As a family, we’ve faced some terrifying times; from my Great Auntie Lesley’s brain tumour and stroke, to my Papy’s viral heart failure, my Dad’s appendicitis to much more recently, my emergency c-section for the birth of my son, Rory. It wasn’t long after this that my parents wrote a letter to you expressing their utmost gratitude and thanks for Rory’s safe delivery and both my antenatal and postnatal care. A letter they were so eager and so proud to write you.

My most recent care through The Trust has been for an incredible postnatal care programme: ‘Every Birth Matters’. After struggling to come to terms with and face Rory’s birth, I was left unsure how to feel. Traumatised by the events and lacking a true understanding of what had happened and if it was at all, preventable in the future. With a fantastic midwife to walk me through my pregnancy and journey through labour and birth, she fully explained every step going into tremendous factual and emotional detail. This has been the most intense but worthwhile hour of therapy I’ve ever received. It has not only helped me accept what has happened but I’ve learned that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of Rory’s birth: He hadn’t progressed into my pelvis enough and after 30+ hours, they weren’t willing to give him any more time to try to. It was to save us both but what has saved me the most is knowing I didn’t fail, that my body did its job and even with the harrowing recovery – there was nothing more I could have possibly done: the outcome would have lead us down the same path. Even with this breakthrough, the best news was learning that I wouldn’t have to go through it again if we chose to have more children. That I could successfully have a VBAC if I wanted or a scheduled c-section should I wish. For someone who struggles with personal control, knowing that next time the choice could be mine, feels like a weight has been lifted. The Trust has been invaluable to my recovery and one day, I just hope I can express my gratitude enough.

Life is fragile and every day it’s put into your hands: a birth, a death, an illness, a broken bone. The list is endless. Nothing can prepare us for what life brings and no one will ever know what’s coming around the corner but it is from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you have done and all that you continue to do.

In our deepest and most desperate times of need, even in the most stretched state, you provided the absolute best treatment, care, and support for us to heal and move forwards without fail. You are a service that has become priceless for those who need it most.

You are priceless, you are treasured and most of all you are lifesaving. Happy 70th Birthday superstars!

Yours gratefully,

Naomi Pridding

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We must, must try everything to help the National Health Service and respect it for what it is: a life saving, irreplaceable free service providing an incomparable and incredible care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I really don’t think I want to say any more for this – I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m just forever grateful for the care we’ve been provided with.

Loves to all,

OCM xoxo