‘Baby Faced Mums’ – My Thoughts

So, after a pretty nerve-wracking Monday, we settled down in front of the TV to watch ‘Baby Faced Mums’. My Facebook was already going crazy, with people tagging me in posts as they sat down to watch it, and I was feeling more than a little bit nervous. Having seen the Twitter vitriol last week, I’d switched Twitter off and promised myself I wouldn’t chance reading any of the comments until afterwards.

So we watched… and I was really, pleasantly surprised. I felt like we came across quite well, SB was adorable as usual and hopefully we did a fair bit to challenge the stereotypes about young parents. It was so surreal to see us on TV, but from the comments I’ve seen, I’m glad people fekt we came across as a strong family – what you saw on that show is how we live on a daily basis, the banter and sickly sweet cuteness with D and singing SB’s bedtime song and everything else we were filmed doing.

1

We filmed a lot more than was actually shown – we filmed a segment about my blog, the day I started work and also individual conversations with the cameras; D talking about his role and me talking about dispelling myths about young parents. They were interesting segments and it’s a shame time constraints meant they couldn’t be in the final show, but we’re so pleased with how it did turn out.

2

I hope, more than anything, that we came across as a normal family just trying to get by. We’ve never thought we’re anything special, or any better than any other family, for the fact that we’re studying. We’re immensely proud of ourselves for continuing with our studies, but not to the extent that we think we’re any better than any other parent or any other family.

3

We had such a great time filming this; I love that we’ve got this show as a memento of what a great time we had, and to have a video recording of such a massive time in our lives – the time when, more than ever, we felt the difficulty of juggling university and parenthood – and showing how we came through it.

4

Hopefully it’s something lovely for SB to see too; not only some adorable shots of her, but it’s something for her to be proud of too, and what a claim to fame – she made her first TV appearance at just a year old! She was a born star – she loved the camera!

But my favourite part has to be after all the filming had finished, when the editor emailed me to ask how I’d gotten on in my uni results. I got Daf to snap a quick picture of me and SB with my results letter, and emailed it across. Words can’t even explain my pride at seeing the picture at the end of the show, with those words underneath it and my two proudest achievements right there – getting a 1st in my degree, and most importantly of all, our beautiful, funny, healthy, intelligent daughter.

If the show made our lives seem pretty damn good… that’s because right now, they are.

5

If you missed the episode and would like to see it, it’s available on 5 On Demand, here.

It’s Tomorrow…

Tomorrow, our episode of “Baby Faced Mums” is on the channel 5*, between 8-9pm. I’m really nervous.

I’ll be avoiding Twitter like the plague from about 7:30pm onwards, as the Twitter reaction to last week’s show has been nothing short of disgusting, with people making snap judgements and disgusting comments based on what they’ve seen of someone’s life in the space of fifteen minutes per family. It’s already been described as ‘Fat Slags On Benefits’. Well, I’m quite aware that I’ve still got baby weight to shed (and a lot of it…) but I don’t think I’m a slag, and the only benefits we claim are child benefit and child tax credit, which every parent of any age earning under £27,000 a year is eligible for, but hey, if that’s what you want to call it…

In case anyone sees the blog on the show, as I did film a short segment about it but not sure if they’ll use it, and if you decide to check it out – welcome! I hope, if you have any doubts after watching the show, that reading a slightly larger snapshot of our lives clears things up for you.

If not, and you still have any doubts, well… there’s not going to be any reasoning with you, is there? You’ve made up your mind, and that’s fine. Ignorance is bliss. Sorry, I promise that’s the last passive aggressive “YOU’RE WRONG” comment I’m going to make. From here on in, they shall all be outwardly and unashamedly aggressive.

I am not ashamed of our life, and, assuming that the show hasn’t been edited beyond belief, I will be unashamed of what you see on the programme tomorrow. That really has been our lives for the last year – getting up in the morning, the madness of the getting-ready-rush, dropping SB off at nursery, going to university all day before going home and having family time. And now it’s similar, but for the fact that I go to work rather than university. That’s our life; what you see is what you get.

What I hope will come across more than that is how I feel about the judgements and the stereotypes and the way society views young mothers, and mothers in general. I don’t care if I come across as opinionated or a bitch; what matters more is that you see three things – that I love my daughter more than life itself, that I am proud of my choices and my achievements, and that I will never stop fighting the prejudice and stereotypes young parents are faced with, even when my days of ‘young parenthood’ are long behind me.

The mums on the show so far, by and large, made the choice to get pregnant and tried to concieve. For me, falling pregnant was an accident, but having SB was a choice we made, and the choice I am most proud of. I had an unplanned pregnancy, but SB was not a mistake, and I hope the show will make that distinction – even though I never intended to get pregnant, I don’t regret a thing.

No, I never think about all the things I could have done. No, I don’t miss nights out – I still managed a couple. No, I don’t regret not going on foreign holidays – I hate the heat and I hate nightclubs. No, I don’t regret not “making more of my youth” – I used my youth to make a freaking baby, what else was I supposed to make of it?

I will make no apologies for being proud to be a young mum; I will make no apologies for being proud of my achievements. You’re probably getting the general theme here, but I will apologise for nothing you will see in tomorrow’s show, because that is our life. We’ve always been very much “what you see is what you get”, and hopefully what you’ll see tomorrow is our small family, just doing our best to get by, giving our daughter role models to aspire to and giving her just as good a life as any other child, regardless of their parents’ age.

And if, after watching tomorrow’s episode, you’re still not convinced that we’re good parents, or think that we’re irresponsible, or doubt that we’re good role models for SB – well, just take a look at this, and tell me if you think there is anything to be worried about where this child is concerned (well, apart from my shoddy camera skills)…

DSC_0041 DSC_0331 pic53 pic51

A Positive Spin

I’ve started and restarted this post a dozen times over the past couple of days. The words never come out right, and whatever I’ve written has either come across as way too miserable, or extremely angry. The response to ‘Baby Faced Mums’ has shown that there is still a definite stigma and stereotype surrounding parents – not just teenage parents in the sense of under 20s or under 18s, but anyone under the age of around 25 who chooses to have a child or finds themselves unexpectedly pregnant.

The comments were only to be expected really; assuming that every participant on the show claims benefits and lives in a free council house, that we have all dropped out of education and do not work, with no intention of ever working, and that we are all now stuck in a cycle of popping out babies just because we can, so that we can get more money.

I’ve written countless replies stating that that isn’t true, but it falls on deaf ears. People accuse me of lying, or find loopholes, or tell me I’m not like “the other young mums” (you can see exactly what I think of that statement here, in my blog post for the Young Parents Associates website).

So instead of trying to reason with them, or figure out why they’re intent on believing this way, I’m going to spin it around. In fact, I’m going to ignore them.

Weekend Picture Project!

So last week, Daf surprised me when I got home from work with a couple of geeky posters – the Game of Thrones house sigils and mottos, and Arkham Knight Harley Quinn, in case you’re wondering – and some poster frames. Unfortunately, when we unrolled the posters, it turned out they’re too big for the frames. Now, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let good frames go to waste, and despite being the least co-ordinated and crafty person ever, I decided to get creative!

So, £45 worth of photos printed, a full glue stick and lots of help from D later – look what I made! (Okay, fine, look what I picked and glued the photos for and D did pretty much everything else…)

11221947_10153425442462295_6164256931731891113_n 11755700_10153428215552295_9066189156178398906_n

I am so thrilled with how they’ve turned out. The pictures capture her personality perfectly, and even better, all of our friends and family are in them with her. It’s just a lovely way to look back on the last fifteen months. Hopefully, as our family gets older and grows by a member or two, we’ll edit the frames, adding pictures in, and make new frames too, but for now these two look absolutely gorgeous on the wall and make me smile whenever I see them!

It may not quite be the Pinterest-esque seascape in a jam jar, or handmade Tibetan prayer flags (not even joking; I searched for ‘Pinterest parent crafts’ and those were two of the first search results!), but maybe, just maybe, I won’t be the total arts and crafts failure I’m expecting myself to be.

If you’re in the UK, catch ‘Baby Faced Mums’, Mondays on Channel 5*, starting tomorrow at 8pm! I’m not sure when the episode with us is on, but I can’t wait to watch the series! 

Being Proven Right

I’ve written a piece for the Young Parents Associates blog called ‘The Exception To The Rule’. It’s about being told that no matter what we achieve as young parents, we will always be ‘the exception to the rule’, and society’s determination to paint young parents as no-hopers and layabouts when the reality for the majority of us is very different.

The piece has been shared on Twitter, and already I’ve been proven correct. People do want to believe the stereotype of young parents that they’ve been fed by TV shows and newspapers; that as a group we are all workshy and irresponsible, throwing our lives away, wasting our youth and popping out kids for the benefits and the council house. The level of ignorance is astonishing; people refuse to read the full article because they are so set in their ways.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, and if people actually read the posts and still feel the way they feel, that’s fine – at least they’ve read the post, at least they’ve taken the other side into consideration before making their decision. To not even take the time to read it says a lot more about that person than it does about any young parent.

Why are these people so set on hating young parents? There’s so many of the arguments that I just can’t wrap my head around. The one about ‘wasting our youth’ is the most laughable; am I supposed to regret that I spent the last eighteen months pregnant or caring for a child rather than getting wasted and high every weekend? Am I supposed to resent the amazing family holidays we’ve had at the seaside and wish I had vague hazy memories and some foreign symbols tattooed on my arse as a reminder of a holiday in some hot, sticky, drunk country?

That’s not to say I judge people who live that life. That’s their life to live, they obviously enjoy it and have great memories, but why should that diminish mine? I have a life I love – we are financially secure, I am working, we rent a fantastic flat and best of all, have a beautiful, thriving daughter to show for it all. If you asked me to choose between partying and enjoying the youth I’m supposedly throwing away, or the last two years, I’d choose the last two years in a heartbeat.

As for the other arguments… well, as I said in the post, they don’t hand out free council house keys in your Bounty Pack. We’ve been renting privately since March last year (before that we were renting student accommodation), so are most of the young parents I know personally. In fact, I don’t know of any who are living in council houses off the top of my head, and I think that’s a stronger argument than the couple of cases the Daily Mail shows you off these promiscuous no-gooders.

Almost every university has a student parents society, with many of the members being young parents. What does that say for the argument of young parents being uneducated? And even if they’ve dropped out of education for now, that’s either a decision they’ve made that is best for them and their family, or they’ll return to education in a few years time and continue learning.

If you have formed your opinion based on meeting young parents, reading about their experiences, studying the statistics, keeping an open mind and you still choose to keep thinking that young parents are, by and large, no-hopers, and those who achieve are just exceptions to the rule, by all means carry on. We’ll always disagree, but at least you’ve thought about your opinion.

Deciding that young parents are wastes of space based on a couple of Channel 4 TV programmes, a story in the Daily Mail and that teenage mum you’ve never met but she lives on the council estate so she must be dodgy? Well, that’s just sheer ignorance, and I’d rather be a teenage parent, whatever you might think that entails, than be ignorant.

Top Five Tips for Toddler Staycations

We’ve just been away for a week to Trecco Bay Holiday Park in Porthcawl, South Wales. Here’s our top five tips for a UK break with your little one!

1. Be prepared for any weather! The weather forecast for our week away promised beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine all week. Of course, SB’s suitcase was packed with pretty sun dresses, cute playsuits and rompers and plenty of suncream. On the second day of the holiday, the rain started, and didn’t stop until the day before we left! Thankfully we remembered to also pack her raincoat, a few long-sleeved tops and trousers and plenty of socks! At least the shades got some use…

DSC_0110

2. Don’t let the bad weather stop you. It’s the UK – of course there will be rain, what do you expect? The trick is to either plan activities accordingly – or say what the heck and have fun in all weathers. We went for the second option – here’s SB and I, building her first sandcastle on a very wet and rainy Barry Island beach!

DSC_0114

3. Fit in some firsts! So it may not be their first plane trip, or their first foreign holiday, but you can fit in some really exciting ‘firsts’ on a UK holiday too! Some memorable ones for us include SB’s first ice cream she’s had all to herself, her first sandcastles and her first donkey ride!

DSC_0138

4. Go with the flow. On previous holidays before having SB, we’ve always been very rigid with our plans – daytrips are planned religiously beforehand and everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and when. This holiday has been much more chilled – out of necessity more than anything! – and we’ve had a really great time because of it. We relaxed SB’s bedtime a little, did meals as and when she wanted them and weren’t afraid to delay or change plans if necessary, and everything ran like clockwork.

DSC_0041

5. Make sure activities are baby-friendly. We went on holiday with my parents, brother and sister and my nan, so the activities we did had to cover an age range between 1-85. You’ll never please everybody, so for certain activities, we went off and did our own thing – they went to Oakwood theme park for the day, whereas D, SB and I took a drive into the beautiful town of Porthcawl and had fish and chips and ice cream. It’s all about adapting the holiday to suit you as a family.

DSC_0569

BONUS TIP: Make Memories!

Some of the most amazing memories I have are of holidays. We’ve been going on holiday in the UK since I was four – I turned 21 on holiday so that’s a lot of memories made on holidays over the years! The one thing I was determined to do was to take lots of pictures, so that SB will have memories of holidays from before she’s even really old enough to remember it.

DSC_0102 2 8 DSC_0055 DSC_0080

Holidaying with a Toddler and Exciting Times!

We’ve just returned from our holiday to South Wales, and what a jam-packed week it’s been! Lots to post about, and lots of pictures, but for now I’ll leave you with a little preview and some exciting news! As I mentioned a few months ago, we recently filmed with a camera crew for a new TV show about young mums. They filmed me handing in my dissertation and starting at my new job.

Well, while we were on holiday, the advert went out! The advert for ‘Baby Faced Mums’ is showing all across the 5 network (Channel 5, 5* etc) and the show is coming soon to Channel 5*! When I know the exact date, I’ll do a post on here. I’m excited and nervous to see how it turns out, but the advert looks great – there’s a lot of shots of us on there!

DSC_0042

DSC_0122 DSC_0139

Holiday Time!

This is just a quick post to say we’re off on holiday! We’re going to a Parkdean holiday park in South Wales for a week – the car is packed, and now we’ve got the challenge of seeing how SB fares in her forward-facing car seat for the five hour journey! It could be an interesting one!
Blog posts may be thin on the ground (i.e. non existent) until we return!

Toothbrush Success!

In my last post I talked about the difficulties we’ve been having with getting SB to accept having her teeth brushed. We’ve been brushing them since the first little nib popped out, and by and large she accepted it pretty well – and then, a couple of weeks ago, started resolutely refusing to let a toothbrush anywhere near her mouth. This was the toothbrush we’d been given by the health visitor at her eight month check, so I was at a loss as to what sort of toothbrush might work better.

I ordered two (gave up on the chewy finger brushes as I knew I’d just end up getting my fingers gnawed to pieces) – this Sharky brush from Dental Aesthetics, and this Banana Brush. Knowing how much SB loves bananas, we decided this would be the best one to start with. The change was instantaneous – not only was she happy for us to brush her teeth, she was quite happy to chew on the brush herself, rubbing the bristles on her teeth. Job done!

It’s intended for babies up to 12 months, so it’s a temporary measure to get her used to the brush and holding it herself. We’ll probably move on to the Sharky brush afterwards, because it’s more of a conventional shape and probably more age appropriate, but still chewable and with a bit of a novelty twist to keep her attention, before re-introducing the normal toothbrush. For now, though, I can highly recommend the banana toothbrush with a blob of toothpaste for anyone struggling to encourage their baby/young toddler to accept a toothbrush in their mouth!

Adapting To Toddlerhood

Toddlerhood is all about adaptations – not just for your baby, as they start to figure out that, hey, those feet are useful as well as tasty!, and that interesting things don’t stop happening once they’re tucked up in their cot at 8pm – but also for you as a parent.

Take this for example. Three months ago, SB started pulling all the Xbox games out of the TV unit. She litters them around the floor, claps them together and just generally makes a mess. When she started this, we’d sit with her and patiently tell her ‘no’, take the games away from her and put them back. Six weeks ago, we started just telling her ‘no’, and refusing to take them when she offers it out to us. Tonight she pulled them all out and D and I just sat there, accepting it. It’s one of those destructive toddler-y quirks that we really just accept, because it would be pointless to try and resist it.

Adapting to her not just sitting there and doing whatever we get her to do is difficult too. Gone are the days when she’d happily sit there and let us rub bonjela on her gums. Thankfully she hasn’t needed teething gel for a while, despite more molars than I can count currently poking through her little gums, but brushing those brand new teeth is a different ball game. She has learned to clamp her mouth resolutely shut, puckering her lips and tilting her head back. She’s strong too – once she’s decided we’re not brushing her teeth, that’s that. I’ve just ordered a variety of different toddler toothbrushes – hopefully at least one of them will work. I’m not holding out much hope for the gummy finger brushes, as if I mistakenly pop a finger in her mouth, either when I’m brushing or just checking her teeth, I get a very very sharp bite for my troubles. Those teeth may be new, but they work!

There’s lovely bits to get used to, too. She’s really finding her feet now, and I can’t get used to the sight of her toddling around, beaming from ear to ear with pride. It’s so weird to see my once-tiny baby toddling about – and trying to stop myself from rushing to her every time she stumbles, as she needs to know that that is part of learning to walk – and hearing her chatter away. Most of her babbles are still indecipherable, but ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ are so clear now. She says ‘Row Row Row’ when she wants us to sing Row Row Row Your Boat for her, and said ‘Aunty’ yesterday, so more and more words are becoming clear. I’m loving this stage more than any other so far – she’s just like a sponge, soaking up everything. We watch her discovering things and it’s like you can actually see the cogs turning in her little brain.

Of course, that’s the mushy bit over and done with. Don’t get me wrong, she’s the sweetest little thing, but she can also be an absolute monster. Oh, you’d never believe it to meet her. She’ll flutter her eyelashes and give you the most adorable beam, so that you fall completely in love with her… but then she’ll steal your food (and it doesn’t matter that she’s got food of her own that is exactly the same, she needs yours), and if she even so much as sees you touching the TV remote, she has to have it (we have learned how to very quickly remove the batteries so she can pretend it’s a phone to her heart’s content, without us having to worry about her switching the TV off , halfway through a DVD.

Still, it’s so much fun. Every day is an adventure, and seeing it through her eyes, where everything is brand new and exciting, makes me feel younger (not that I need to feel younger, let’s face it…). Her personality shines through.

There’s no denying it now – SB is well and truly a toddler.