Sunday, 8 October 2017

Taking the time to make time.

A new month – well in fairness we’re a few days into that new month but in many ways October is continuing in equally frantic style to September – so there’s barely time to take a breath let alone glance at the calendar.

September was an incredible month of highs and lows. We lost our dog of 17 years and are still very much trying to come to terms with that. The kids settled back into school, one started a new school, homework battles resumed and raged, notes came home re specific and essential pencil case contents, contents were purchased, pain-stakingly labelled and lost within a couple of days, reminder notes came home about the same essential pencil case contents, the kids fought, single school shoes disappeared off the face of the earth, I was reminded how out of practice I am in the world of cocktails, and in between this my book was published and a media whirlwind followed. I am dizzy from it all.

We’re coming up to mental health awareness week. I’ve had my own battles with mental health issues particularly after the birth of my lovely babies. It was never something that I was comfortable to speak about before, until my book came out. Even now I squirm a little as I’m writing – in spite of the fact that I spoke about it on national radio just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a difficult one to explain. Maybe it’s vulnerability or maybe it’s the fact that one day my children might read and see that infallible mum, she who knows all the answers, lays down the rules and boundaries, kisses hurts away, sorts problems, has endless supplies of hugs, rants a bit (ok a lot!), hates projects more than they and does all the other things that parents do - actually is human.

Life is crazy for everyone. We’re expected to move at a faster pace than ever before and the advent of the internet and social media means we’re never truly removed from outside influences. The expectations of parenthood are different to those of yesteryear. The community and support networks often not so available. The demands on our time constantly mounting.  So often I’ve found myself saying – it’ll all be easier next week, next month, the one after that, when one of the variables is removed from the equation and we will supposedly have more time. I dismissed the notion of mindfulness and staying in the present because, I don’t have time for that.

There is no sign of the busyness of life abating anytime soon – and in many regards I’m glad, I like to be busy, but it’s about getting the balance right. There is nothing like a night out with friends to give you not only a chance to recharge your batteries, but to remind you that all work and no play makes Jacqueline not only as dull as dishwater but particularly stressed and miserable into the bargain. It is amazing what clearly we can see of others that often we fail to see of ourselves.

The thing with mental health is that like all other areas of our health, prevention is better than cure always. In spite of this fact too often we wait until we’re in the doldrums before we act - if we act. There is no shame in looking after your mental health. There is no shame in being kind to yourself and saying "no" sometimes because the demands on you are too much. There is no shame in reaching out for help or in accepting it if it's offered. There is no shame in putting your needs first, sometimes. You cannot take care of others, if you don’t take care of yourself. 

As we approach mental health awareness week, I’m going to take the time to be mindful and to truly appreciate the present – because tomorrow is never guaranteed. Whether that present involves the four year old naked bird spotting into our fridge on a hectic school morning, or the 8 year old referring to the his brother’s Roddy Doyle tendencies as part of his homework sentences – that might reveal what we’re REALLY like as a family. Whether it involves the bigger lads and my hubby killing each other over a game of football or the smell of false tan wafting from my daughter’s bedroom and her orange-tinged white sheets - I will not wish I was on a desert laundry-free island with only a bottle of wine, a bar of Lindor and Will Smith for company.

Ok I can’t promise that, but I will take the time to truly see and appreciate my family for the fabulous mess-making individuals that they are. 

The youngest two have put me to the test already today, with a teddy volcano built in front of our door. The playroom that I spent two and half hours cleaning yesterday now resembles the aftermath that you would expect from child-sized tornadoes on a soft toy hunting mission.

Fabulously "creative" and destructive, but more importantly, fabulously mine.



Tuesday, 29 August 2017

He wasn't "just a dog"

Almost seventeen years ago, a colleague at work told me that her dog had had pups. "They're a cross between a red setter and a border collie" she said adding that "Bella" their mum was a gentle soul - "Don't suppose you want one?" she asked. The words were barely out of her mouth when I made the phonecall to my hubby to persuade him we needed a dog.

He didn't take much convincing, and just like that the plans were made and we waited until our pup was ready for separation from his mother. My colleague told me that she had the perfect one earmarked for us. "he's the runt of the litter she said, "but I just know he'll be perfect one for you"

And so we went to the farm to collect our pup, under no obligation to choose the "runt" but found ourselves drawn to this particular pup with two different-coloured eyes. There was just something about him.



We wrapped him in a towel and I made a silent promise to his lovely mum, that we would look after him always and love him forever. I was a first time mum-to-be myself and I felt so guilty for taking him away from her.

As we drove home, our ball of fur Rodney snuggled on my husband's lap and moments later threw up all over him. I'm not sure whether it was it the car drive or the trauma of separation that caused it. Rodney always seemed to be so attuned to life and his surroundings. Maybe rather than a skill acquired, it was something he was born with.



Rodders became our practice baby ahead of the birth of our first actual one.  My sister sat with him while I attended ante-natal classes.  I watched the neighbourhood cats suspiciously as they prowled along the back garden walls. Precious first born syndrome seemed to kick in with my puppy dog and Mama Bear was ready to protect him from ferocious felines!

And like most first borns, his every move and different pose was photographed. His energy was inexhaustible. Always running and bounding. Always excited and always bloody digging - but forever gentle. He was his mother's son.

And when my daughter came to join the party, Rodney, though still adored, accepted his move further down the pecking order. He loved company which was just as well, as the numbers grew and grew. He was a horse, bad guy, good guy, unicorn, cushion, reindeer and scoffer of food the kids didn't want to eat. He sniffed each new baby as they arrived home, and licked away the tears that fell for the miscarried ones.



He had special dinner on his birthdays and his sock hung on the mantle-piece alongside those of my children every Christmas Eve. He loved to swim in the sea and rivers, yet was never so keen on being washed with clean water. He knocked unsuspecting visitors over with excited welcomes and chewed everything that was dropped accidentally in the garden

He drove me crazy, robbing washing from the basket as I tried to hang it on the line and took us for a walk rather than the other way round - until lately.

Recently he got old, or at least it seemed recently. The passing of time seemed suddenly to creep up on him  - and us. And the washing basket dramas were because he couldn't see it, so he fell into it. And the walks became less about managing to tire him out and more about his managing to stand up. And that gorgeous face looked so tired and those beautiful two different coloured eyes, couldn't see so well, but still looked at us so trustingly.



And we tried because we loved him so much, and we didn't want to say goodbye and we sought assurances that he wasn't in pain and that he had a quality of life until it became so blatantly apparent that he didn't.

So we said goodbye - and our hearts are broken.

He wasn't "just a dog". He was part of our family.

We'll miss you always Rodney and we'll love you forever - I promise . xx



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I'm up for an award - and I'd LOVE your vote please!


So ahem, cough, cough,

Mama-tude is up for Best Parenting Blog in the Boots Maternity and Infant Awards (woohoo!!). I would be so, so incredibly grateful if you could take the time to vote for me.

Its really easy - just click on the image.  It only takes a second.

Thanks so much

Jen x







Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Blurb is Out!!

Woohoo, sharing the full book sleeve to reveal the blurb on the back which will give you an idea of what The Real Mum's Guide to (Surviving) Parenthood is all about! The headshot incidentally was taken by the genius that is Sabrina Dunny. Not only did she ensure this total photo-phobe felt comfortable - she also managed to banish the look of 16 years' sleep deprivation!


The book is now available to pre-order on the Orpen Press website and they've very kindly given me a 20% discount code for followers of Mama-tude. So if you fancy getting in early, the code is "Mama-tude" and the link is here
I'm on countdown!!!





Sunday, 30 July 2017

Book Cover Reveal and Publication Date!

2017 has been one of the craziest, busiest years of my life. In a rare turn of events, I am neither pregnant nor mum to a brand new baby, but I have been working on a different project - a literary type of "eighth baby."

What started as an exciting new venture, back in February has finally come to fruition. I thought nothing could top the excitement of the offer of a publishing deal - I was wrong. The arrival of my book cover, with the book's title, and MY NAME on it, has knocked that original excitement out of the park.In fact I still can't look at it without hopping from one leg to the other like an excited child!

So without further ado (and because I'm too excited to write much more!) -  here it is:

"The Real Mum's Guide to (Surviving) Parenthood", will be published by Orpen Press on the 5th September.

And the cover....




So there you have it. No doubt the hopping will continue between now and September 5th although I've been assured that this is nothing - and to wait until I'm holding a physical copy of it. (I may actually burst with excitement at that stage!!!)

The countdown continues. We're nearly there! 😀😀