Following In Our Footsteps…

We’ve always been quite clear that SB can be anything she wants to be. If she wants to dance, she can dance. If she wants to be a firefighter, she can be a firefighter. We will be proud of her, and we will support her all the way.

The two things we knew we did want for SB, was for her to love reading and to love music. We know she loves reading, but if this video is anything to go by…

I think we’ve got a little music fan on our hands too!

Is Age Just A Number?

A popular topic on Mumsnet lately has been the right age to have a baby. Somewhat inevitably, it’s leading to a fair few arguments, as everyone disagrees on what constitutes an “old” mum, what constitutes a “young” mum, and what is the ideal age to have a baby at.

age.png

I spoke on Radio Five Live about this last year, and you’ll probably remember me being quite affronted by another guest’s assertion that older parents had wanted their child for longer and therefore loved them more. Similar tired old stereotypes were rearing their heads during these posts on Mumsnet – the “younger parents will live longer” vs “older parents are more mature” debates are old and, quite frankly, a little bit boring.

I’ve made no attempt to hide my feelings that while having a baby at nineteen, smack bang in the middle of uni, was far from ideal; we’ve made the best of it and I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t even begin to comment on what it’s like to be an older mum, as I don’t have that experience yet – but I asked some fellow bloggers about the age they became parents, and their personal views on the “right age” to have a child, and here are some of their responses.

Rachel from Coffee, Cake, Kids was 25 when she had her first child, and she said: “I wish we had held off another couple of years if I am honest. I had only graduated from uni just over a year before, so I went from being a skint student to a mum quite quickly, and there’s so much I would have liked to do before having kids. Saying that, I wouldn’t change it for the world now!”. 

Kate from Family Fever said: “I was 21. In hindsight I wish he had waited a bit longer and got stable careers sorted first, but I loved the fact that we had so much energy – having had another baby at 31 I can definitely feel the difference!”. 

Feeling that you’re missing out is a common theme among young parents, although not everyone feels that way.

Beth at Twinderelmo says: “I had my son at 23 and when I look back now I think it was quite young but I never felt like I missed out on partying”.

In a similar vein, Charlotte from Bloggersaurus said: “I fell pregnant at 19, gave birth just after turning 20. It wasn’t planned but I have no regrets we are a very happy family and I love being a young mum, I love that when she’s 20 I will only be 40”.

I’ll be honest, that’s something I love about being a younger parent too. SB will celebrate her 21st birthday less than a year after I celebrate my 40th, which calls for a nice big double celebration if you ask me (triple, seeing as Daf will be turning 50 that year, but I think he’d rather I didn’t mention that!). It’s quite scary to think that if she follows in my footsteps and gives birth at 19, I’ll be a nan at 38 (and I’ll be honest, I’d like it if she could hold off a little longer than that!).

While people are very forthcoming about the positives of starting early, stories of starting later on seem to be tinged slightly more with regret.

Mary from Over 40 And A Mum To One says: “I was 41. Mine was down to the situation but if things had been different I would have preferred to be mid 30’s I think”. However, she also says there are pros to being a mum a little later on in life – “We are in a financial position where I don’t need to be at work full time and I’ve travelled well before my son arrived”.

This is a definite pro, as I know right now I’m struggling with needing to work full time to keep a roof over our heads, which may not have happened had we waited until we had a little more financial security before having SB.

Sometimes, the choice is simply taken out of people’s hands. Rachel at Rachel Bustin said: “I was 33 with my first. We started trying when I was 30 but I had 3 miscarriages before we were finally lucky. I know it’s old fashioned but we wanted to wait until we were married and had bought our own house. If I knew how long it would have taken us to get pregnant I would have wanted to start earlier. I feel as If I should have be on our second now”.

It goes to show that we can have our “ideal age” to have a baby, but sometimes life has other ideas. I know that I wanted to wait and be married and financially secure before having a baby – although if that had panned out, this blog would never have existed – but my life took a very different direction. There are people out there who want to start early, and who don’t see marriage/living situation as a barrier, but for reasons like infertility, miscarriage and ill health, don’t become parents until much later on.

Most people are in agreement that there’s no uniformly perfect age to have a baby – you could suggest any age and someone would be able to find a drawback to becoming a mum at that age – but many people consider their age to be perfect for them.

Sarah at Each Peach Pear Plum says: “For me 25 was just right, I haven’t never felt it was too young. I do know friends who did think we were too young and as my hubby is 2 years younger at 23 becoming a Dad people thought it to young. However we had planned and prepared and felt it was the right time for us!”.

Renee at Mummy Tries said: “I was a few weeks away from my 30th birthday (32 and 34 with my 2nd and 3rd), and felt it was completely perfect timing. I had been on a huge journey of healing a few years previous, my husband and I had been together five years, and we were ready in every way”.

However, sometimes it’s not as simple as any age being perfect – it’s making the most of the hand life deals you, and seeing the pros and cons to every situation.

Laura from The Unsung Mum posted: “It took us a year and a half to conceive. We now wish we had kids earlier (The Hub is 37, I’m 31) but I don’t think we were ready as a couple any earlier”.

Sharon at Rivers Writes says: “I was 16 when I got pregnant, 17 by the time I gave birth. pros – I had loads of energy and have grown up with my son and we are very close, cons- none of my friends had babies so it was lonely and it was a battle to get educated etc with a baby but wouldn’t change it. 10 years on I’ve been to uni and worked full time so haven’t missed out on anything and have gained a lot”.

Personally, when I used to say how positive I felt about being a young mum, people would say “see if you’re still saying that in a year/two years”. Well, I’m now 22, and I still have no regrets about going through with the pregnancy and having a baby at 19. It definitely wasn’t planned, and the timing was less than ideal, but there’s so many pros to being this age.

Yes, I was the first of my friends to have a baby, and it was a lonely experience for a while – but my friends know that when they have babies, I’ll be on hand to offer help and advice.

We may not be financially set for life, and I may have to work, but I’m raising SB with a good work ethic, and I could’ve waited until I was 30 and still not been in the perfect financial position.

I think one thing is for sure – whether you’re 15 or 50 when you become a parent for the first time, it’s daunting and exciting and a true learning curve. We can all learn from other parents, and we’ve all got wisdom and experience that we can share with others too.

Thank you to all the bloggers who contributed towards this post; I’m sorry I couldn’t use all of your contributions. Please check out the lovely bloggers linked to in the post!

Why Pokemon Go! and parenting are basically the same thing…

pokemon

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ll have heard of Pokemon Go!, a new mobile-based game that lets you catch Pokemon around the world, doing battle with other players and so on. It has its fair share of critics – no game that has men in their forties chasing fictional creatures around the world was ever going to be immune to criticism – but there’s also a lot of positivity surrounding the game, mainly due to its ability to actually get nerds and geeks to leave the goddamn house for once.

I’m one of those geeks and nerds, I’m not ashamed to say, and I’m really enjoying the game when it works. It got me thinking, however, that actually, Pokemon Go isn’t too dissimilar to parenting. In fact, I think parenting makes you a better Pokemon Go player – and here’s why…

  1. You’re surrounded by small, fluffy-looking fictional creatures. For people who rarely see the outside world (i.e. Pokemon Go’s target demographic), suddenly being surrounded by Eeevees and Zubats might be a bit of a culture shock for these indoor-dwelling geeks. You’re in your element – your house is full of tiny inanimate creatures, in the form of your child’s stuffed toy menagerie.
  2. Chasing small wild creatures around. You think getting a Golbat into a Pokeball is tough? Try wrestling a two year old into dungarees.
  3. Inordinate amounts of walking required. I walked for miles around and around that hospital to try and coax SB out during labour. 10km egg-hatching hikes? Bring it on.
  4. The constant demand for the sweet stuff. If you want to win battles with your Pokemon, you’ll need to feed them candy. That’s pretty much the same for your toddler – there’s nothing quite like chocolate-based bribery.
  5. It’s all about the competition. Are you Team Mystic, Team Instinct or Team Valor? The online battles between the three teams are almost as vicious as the Team Breast vs Team Bottle feud, or the eternal conflict between Team Disposable Nappy and Team Cloth. The claws are always out.
  6. Bye Bye Data. Whether you’re hunting Pokemon or browsing Mumsnet, one thing is for sure – your data bill is going to be sky high at the end of the month.
  7. Solidarity. Once upon a time, you’d meet the eyes of a fellow battle-hardened parent in the supermarket. They’d share your unbrushed hair; your slightly bedraggled outfit; your willingness to give up all your worldly possessions for a good night’s sleep. That’s the parent solidarity. You’re unlikely to make eye contact with a Pokemon Go! player, but on the odd occasion you do glance up from your Pokedex, you’re almost certain to see someone else walking along haphazardly, their phone held out in front of them as they hunt down that Kakuna so they stand a chance of taking over the Pokegym in the public toilets. It doesn’t matter what team they’re on; you are both risking getting hit by cars, cyclists and irate pedestrians in your quest to be the very best (like no-one ever was). That’s solidarity.

 

By that logic, I should be a master Pokemon hunter, right?

There’s just one tiny problem. Being a parent means you’re responsible for a small human who relies entirely on you, and hunting Ponytas and Pikachus takes away from your “I’m responsible for my child” time.

Which may go some way to explaining why, for all my transferable Poke-parenting skills… I’m still only on Level 2.

 

23 Things Before 23

I don’t know if it’s a universal thing, or if I’ve just become a bit of a humbug since having SB, but being a parent has made my birthday feel pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I’d say my favourite days of the year are Christmas and SB’s birthday – once, my own birthday would have been top of the list. Now it doesn’t even feature.

I’m 22 today, and I’m working (hence why I’m writing and scheduling this post now), and I know everyone older than 22 who reads this is going to think “Oh dear god, stop saying you’re old” but I FEEL OLD. I’m not ready to be 22.

I enjoyed being 21. In fact, it’s probably the age I’ve enjoyed the most for a long time. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is that makes this age stand out above any other, but there’s something nice about saying “I’m 21”. It’s like saying “I’m in the prime of my life! I can take on the world!”. 22 is like “It’s all downhill from here” – in my head, anyway.

I’ve never been one to make bucket lists. I haven’t even got a contingency plan or a will in place for if I die, let alone a list of things I want to do before then. However, the lovely Tracey at One Frazzled Mum suggested that I do a sort of bucket list post ahead of my 22nd birthday – and I loved the idea!

So, without further ado, here’s my list of 23 things – big and small – that I want to do before I turn 23 in a year’s time.

23before23

  1. Climb Snowdon. I lived practically in the shadow of Wales’ tallest mountain for years, but I’m yet to actually climb it. That’s going to change this year!
  2. Be able to hold a conversation in Polish. That’s the language I’m learning at the moment – by this time next year, if I can have a fairly understandable conversation in Polish, I’ll be happy.
  3. Be able to cook 5 different, edible meals from scratch. As someone who, to quote Daf, “could burn water”, that’ll be no mean feat.
  4. Take SB to her first film at the cinema. There’s some great kids’ films due to come out in the next year!
  5. Run 5k in under 30 minutes. If I can just get my joints under control, I’m confident that this one is doable!
  6. Go to the library at least once a month. We take libraries for granted, and they’re not going to be around if nobody uses them!
  7. Get another tattoo. Ink addiction is real, people.
  8. Write a play. I’ve got that degree – now I need to use it!
  9. Go on a date. It’s harder than you think when there’s a toddler on the scene.
  10. Write an article and have it published. Anywhere except this blog counts.
  11. Do a 30-day challenge. Whether it’s blogging, photography or squats (please not squats), I’m going to take on one of these challenges and stick it out!
  12. Read 50 books. I used to get through books like it was no-one’s business. Now I’ve got a shelf-full that I haven’t even read yet. Next year, I’m going to change that.
  13. Visit Scotland. I’ve lived in the UK all my life and never set foot in Scotland!
  14. Carve a pumpkin. I’ve never done one by myself before – no more relegating the job to Daf!
  15. Start saving up a deposit for a house. As if I didn’t already feel old enough; 22 is the year we start saving for a family home.
  16. Walk across Barmouth Bridge with SB. I’ve walked across it before (I used to cross it every day on the train on the way to and from school!) but not since before SB was born.
  17. Eat gluten-free fish and chips. I have heard about this modern culinary miracle, but not tried it yet.
  18. Binge-watch a series on Netflix. Unfortunately, I’m not going to count Dragons: Race To The Edge, which I think we’ve watched about six times with SB.
  19. Watch a new movie every week. I am so behind on movies. Time to play catch-up!
  20. Keep blogging for another year. I’ve never kept a blog going for so long before – I don’t want to stop!
  21. Fly a kite. It’s a silly one, but I’ve never successfully flown a kite before!
  22. Get married. Okay, so I’m cheating a bit on this one, because I know it’s happening on December 18th – but still, how could I miss this one out? I can’t wait to marry my best friend.
  23. Look back on a great year. Whether I achieve all of these, half of these or only one, if I can look back on my year of being 22 and be happy, that’s good enough for me.

 

A lot of these aren’t parenting-focused, and there’s a reason for that. So much of my identity now is wrapped up in my life as a parent – and while I wouldn’t change that for the world, this “23 before 23” list is of things I want to do, mostly for my own benefit. It’s my way of reminding myself that I’m still a person – I have my own identity outside of Maddy the Parenting Blogger – and there’s a world out there for us to explore as a family.

In the words of the fantastic musical “Hamilton”… there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.