• Babies
  • Why I’m Glad my Baby is Growing Up

    Last week I took the smallest one to get his hair cut for the first time. At 14-months-old he is very much a baby – still crawling, still breastfeeding, still waking in the night – and his hair is the one thing that makes him look even remotely toddlerish. Sandy in colour, it’s mostly straight, with a few subtle curls that come and go depending on the weather. While I loved the delicate flicks at the back of his neck, his hair had reached a point where it flopped down over his forehead and into his round, brown eyes. Yes, the hair cut had to happen.

    I immortalised this milestone, naturally, by snapping photos, filming a short clip for my weekly vlog, and asking the hairdresser to please put some of the snipped hair into a ziplock bag so I could keep it forever. What I didn’t do, however, was feel sad. Not once did I lament the fact that he is growing up. Not once did I utter the phrase, “Where did my baby go?” Actually, now I think about it, I might be one of the only mothers out there who is happy that time passes quickly, that babies become toddlers, that my youngest child will turn into a school kid before I know what’s hit me. Honestly, that thought excites me more than I can say.

    The thing with babies is, they’re a lot of hard work. Requiring constant supervision, constant feeding, constant changing, it all gets a bit overwhelming. Sure, it’s quite lovely to snuggle a newborn baby, but not so lovely is the broken sleep, the unexplained crying, and the feeling that you may as well live your life naked from the waist up because you’ve always got your damn boobs out. It might be fun to get down on the floor and play with a crawling baby, but introducing food, and dealing with incredibly mucky nappies, and attempting to fit your life in around naps and routines can be a bit of a drag. Maybe it’s just me, but I reckon older kids, though not quite as cute, are much more enjoyable.

    When I got pregnant with my second child (i.e. my first planned kid), I wanted a baby. I wanted the chance to relive all the experiences I’d had with my first, telling myself that I’d take more notice. That I’d enjoy it more. That I wouldn’t keep looking forward to the next stage, like I’d often done with my eldest. I was going to live in the moment, and I was going to love it. And, for the most part, I did.

    When I got pregnant with my fourth baby, I wanted a child. I wanted another little person to balance out our family, and to give my son – who was often left out by his older sisters – his own little playmate. And while I love my baby fiercely, I adore listening to his giggles and watching him clap his teensy pudgy hands together, I think I’m going to love him even more when he’s older. He’ll be able to play with his siblings, and tell me about his day, and walk beside me instead of having to be carried or pushed everywhere we go. He’ll learn to dress himself, to use the toilet, to sleep all night in his own bed. He’ll participate in our family outings, and he’ll make it through the day without needing a nap. Ten pin bowling, mini golfing, family trips to the movies… I can’t wait until all six of us can enjoy these things. Together. I can’t wait for my baby to become a boy.

    It’s true that infancy is fleeting. It’s true that I’ll never get this time back. And yet I’m happy that my children are growing every day. I still enjoy the stages they’re at, I appreciate who they are at this exact moment in time, but I will never be sad that they’re getting older. I’ll never wish I could go back to the newborn days. Each morning when I wake up it’s like I’m a step closer to freedom. Freedom to be less Frazzled Mum, and more Carefree Fern. Freedom to be me. Soon my baby will not be a baby. And I am one hundred percent okay with that.

    – Fern xxx

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  • All About Fern
  • Depression is Forever

    The problem with depression is that it stays with you forever. Once upon a time, a good 12 years ago now, I was so depressed that I did nothing but lie face down on the carpet for an entire day. That was it. I didn’t cry, didn’t eat, didn’t speak. I just lay there. Numb. Swallowed by an invisible fog. My mum ended up dragging me to counselling, which kind of helped in the end, but I do remember my first session lasting only 15 minutes, because I simply had nothing to say. I was broken. It wasn’t that I was sad exactly, it was more like a part of me had disappeared.

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, because that missing part came back eventually. I scraped myself off the floor and began making a life for myself. There were a few bumps in the road. Highs. Lows. But then I got things figured out and I headed off to university. I made friends. I met a boy… And the next thing I knew I was pregnant. Oops.

    I went into my first official antenatal appointment feeling excited and hopeful. The midwife, her dress purple, her nose pierced, had a long list of questions she needed me to answer. My name, my age, any known diseases, and depression: Had I ever, at any point, suffered from depression?
    Yes. But I’m fine now. 
    I felt embarrassed, but she just smiled at that, and nodded her head. Then she told me there was a good chance I’d get it again.
    Just so you know. 
    Why would you smile while saying that to someone?

    I’m not completely irrational. I understand why my midwife needed to tell me that I was at risk of developing postnatal depression. But that warning, along with gentle reminders from my doctor, has haunted me for years. I am At Risk. One day I might find myself unable to do anything but lie on the carpet. I could end up breaking down in front of my kids; falling, falling, falling into a deep, black hole… But what can I do about it? It’s said that knowledge is power, but knowing depression is an illness that could come back at any time seems to be doing me more harm than good.

    It’s no secret that I haven’t been feeling particularly happy of late. My moods have been low, my disposition less than sunny. But when I was talking about my current outlook with a friend and she responded with, That’s the depression talking, I was shocked. Am I depressed? Have I let my guard down and allowed the darkness to seep back in? I thought I’d simply entered a rough patch, that my lack of joy stems from feeling like I need a little more from life. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe I am unwell. Maybe every bad thought I’ve ever had, and will ever have, is actually just the black dog scratching at my door.

    The more thought I give to it, however, the more firmly I believe that sometimes life is just a bit crappy. Surely feeling disillusioned or unfulfilled when things aren’t the way you’d like them to be is relatively normal. I’ve been expressing the fact that I’m not exactly overjoyed with my lot right now, because that’s the truth. I could be a hell of a lot happier, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily equal depression. If unhappiness is circumstantial, like mine is, then doesn’t that mean the unhappiness is justified? Even if I did go to my doctor to tell her I’ve been feeling down, I don’t believe she could do anything to make me feel better. Unless counselling or antidepressants are going to magically put my husband on the same page as me, or somehow turn my Bachelor of Arts and lack of significant work experience into the most impressive qualifications possible, then they’re not going to help. They just won’t.

    Still, depression (whether real or imaginary) has this hold over me. I remember a letter my cousin wrote to me when I was at my worst, in which she included the acronym FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s a lot of what depression is. It’s FEAR. I get that. But because I’ve known I have depressive tendencies for such a long time, I’ve ended up growing into a person who mistrusts every thought that crosses their mind. Would I really be happier if we lived in a bigger, safer, drier home, or if I had the opportunity to embark on a well-paying career, or is that just the FEAR talking? Or maybe I’m just hormonal. Or overly emotional. Maybe I’m just living in a fantasy world. How does anyone ever really know? I feel like I’m constantly doubting myself, never quite able to figure out what’s real and what’s FEAR, never knowing for sure if I’m thinking like a healthy person.

    Some days I think it would be nice to be medicated. Not because I feel like I need it, but because then I could just stop wondering. I remember what it was like taking anti-depressants, replacing one blinding fog with another. There was less anger and sorrow, but there was less of all the other emotions too. And though that prescribed numbness doesn’t appeal to me at all, the thought that I could just quit worrying about the depression swallowing me again is tantalising. I could be free.

    Other days I think that I’m doing pretty damn well for myself. I’m not my happiest, but I’m still achieving things. I’m right here working on my blog. I’m sticking to my YouTube schedule. I’m rocking the hell out of my new direct sales business. I’m exercising and eating well and I’m incredibly close to hitting my goal weight. None of that sounds like the actions of a depressed person. None of that suggests I need to be talking with my doctor. On paper it all looks as though I’m functioning just as I should be. No one is expected to be over-the-moon happy all the time, right?

    No, it really is the doubt that’s getting to me lately. It’s awful to go through life unable to trust your own emotions, constantly feeling like you’re not capable of making good decisions. Constantly wondering whether or not your expectations are realistic. And I can’t help but think that depression, whether it’s actually affecting me or not, is not all FEAR. I feel like some of it is truth. My friend says that thinking, What’s the point? is a sign of depression, and it probably is. But if I’m looking at the crumbs all over the floor only 20 minutes after I finished vacuuming, then surely that exact thought is justified. My head tells me that waking up and thinking, Great, here we go again, is a symptom of depression, but when I’ve woken up to my kids screaming and fighting, while the baby cries to be let out of his bed, then I’m pretty sure that thought is understandable. So what’s the verdict? Am I depressed, or do I just need a complete change of scenery?

    As always, I don’t have any answers. Maybe I am depressed. Maybe I’m not. Either way, there is some good news, and that is that I am strong. This whole depression thing is going to follow me around for the rest of my life, most likely, but I am willing to accept that. I’ll be Okay. I can talk about it, blog about it, share my thoughts in my YouTube videos. I can still get out there and do the things I want to do despite the ever-lurking cloud. I can push past the FEAR. I’ve made it through massive upheavals, car accidents, unplanned pregnancies, and worse, and I can make it through this too. The good thing about bad times, is that (usually) the good times are not too far away.

    – Fern xxx

    If you’ve ever felt depressed and/or you have some tried and tested pick-me-ups I’d love to read about them in the comments section below. 

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  • All About Fern
  • Searching for Balance

    This morning, while trying to decide what to blog about, I started feeling guilty for sharing the not-so-nice side of my life as a full-time mother. I’ve had friends withdraw from me for being “too negative” in the past (yeah, depression will do that to you), so I’m well aware that many people would rather not hear about the bad stuff. I suppose that’s why most family lifestyle bloggers focus on the good bits; I wonder if that’s why some of my posts end up being ignored…

    I feel a bit angry, actually, that I’m feeling bad for being true to myself. I keep thinking that I should be allowed to share my stories honestly, without worrying about whether my readers find them uplifting or not. But the truth is that I want people to return to my blog, and I want them to leave me comments, and if I keep going on about the negatives then that’s just not going to happen. Something’s got to give.

    So, while walking home from the school run, my boys in tow, I made an effort to focus on the good. The sun was out and the children were content. Mr. Three was holding my hand. A truckie tooted his horn when he saw us pointing at his load. That small gesture, coupled with my son’s delighted laughter, lifted my spirits. My heart felt full and I felt happy. That is how motherhood can be.

    But then we got home and reality hit. The laundry pile is overflowing, there are dishes all over the bench, and the carpets need to be vacuumed. Again. I could get those jobs taken care of today, but I’ll have to do them all over again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And so it will continue. Indefinitely. That is how motherhood is.

    Right now the baby is asleep and Mr. Three is watching Thomas. That is good. I am at my computer. That is also good. But I am still surrounded by mess and it is bothering me, distracting me, making it difficult to concentrate on my writing. My mind keeps taking me to dark places. Why am I pouring so much energy into this blog? Why am I bothering with YouTube? Where are these projects actually going to take me? I listed them both in the CV I created for a job application last week, and I was rejected almost straight away. No reason was given (Thanks, but no thanks!), so I’ve been filling in the blanks myself. Any idiot can start a YouTube channel. A million parents write Mummy Blogs. It doesn’t matter that I’m working hard on it, because it’s not original. It’s not clever. It’s not a job. I feel like I’m wasting my time.

    Next week I will be taking a break from posting and uploading. I need a moment to reflect on the choices I’ve been making. I need to figure out how I can bring more balance into my life. I need to know whether or not it’s possible to keep the house clean and the kids happy while pursuing my own interests. Right now I’m finding I don’t have enough time in the day, and I’m constantly playing catch up. I keep telling myself I’m working, but is this work? Or is it just a narcissistic hobby? Hopefully, by taking a step back, I’ll be able to figure it all out. I might even return with some more positive stories to share…

    – Fern xxx

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  • All About Fern
  • Get Me Out of Here!

    Last week my baby turned one. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, we didn’t make a big deal of it. There was cake, a gift or two, and that was about it (aside from spending a lot of time gazing at him and kissing his little peanut head and feeling like I couldn’t possibly have created a more perfect mini human). I was glad I’d decided to keep the festivities low key, quietly celebrating the fact that we’ve survived the first 12 months. But now that my very last baby is in his second year of life, I’m facing a completely different challenge: I can’t stop thinking, Now what?

    I’ve been a full-time mother for eight years now. Eight. That’s longer than I’ve ever stuck with anything. And though I’ve always kept myself busy and my brain active through study, work experience, blogging, and theatre, the fact remains that I’ve spent a quarter of my life at home, building my family. And now that it’s built, my family is complete, I’m feeling impatient. I’m ready to move on. I want to see what the world has to offer me.

    When I share these feelings with the people around me, I’m encouraged to work from home.
    Why don’t you go back to working on your book?
    Just throw yourself into Jamberry, you’ll love it.

    You’d never forgive yourself if you got a job while the baby is still so young anyway.
    I get where they’re coming from. I do think babies need their mothers. I know that my kids have benefited from having me at home. But I really, truly, honestly do not want to be here anymore. I just don’t. And the more I think about it, the more I’m realising that my kids would be better off having a mother who works, because I’m pretty damn sure that mother would be a lot happier, and therefore a lot nicer to be around.

    Two weekends ago I was in a bad place. Realising I was ultra stressed (i.e. unable to stop yelling at the kids), the husband decided he’d take the three biggies out for the day to give me a bit of space. It was great, of course, but the second the kids got home again it was like nothing had changed. They filled the house with their little bodies and big demands, and I went right back to being the impatient and grumpy mum they’d been avoiding. I felt awful. Have I become such a horrible mother that five whole hours away from my kids still isn’t enough?

    Last weekend, however, I went out. I left the husband and the kids at home, and I met a friend for lunch and bowling. We ate and chatted and laughed. I threw balls at skittles, and jumped around in excitement when I knocked them all down in one go. After that I went to the supermarket, all by myself, and took the time to read the labels on the back of all the packets, to really think about what I did and didn’t need to buy. By the time I got home late that afternoon, I was actually pleased to be there. I was in a good mood. I was a good mother. I was calm and patient, and even suggested that we play board games together as a family. Which we did. And it was nice. And I realised as I sat laughing with my kids, that there had been a  big difference between my breaks: The former had been respite from the children while staying at home; the latter had given me time away from the children and the house.

    Unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem. I want to go out and stay out and do things for myself on a regular basis. I want to get a job. But I can’t just go and accept whatever’s on offer, because if I’m not earning a decent wage I’ll only be working to pay for childcare, and that seems pretty pointless. Not that I’m interested in doing any old job anyway. I want a good job. I want a career. And other than keeping an eye out for vacancies that are advertised online, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do about that. It’s already been made clear to me that if I want to work for a newspaper or a magazine I’m going to have to get a journalism degree…

    So I don’t know what my next step in life will be. I had a plan in place when my first three babies turned one (for two out of three that plan was having another baby…), but this time around I feel uncertain. Will I go back and study some more, or will the perfect job appear at just the right moment? Or will I sit with these feelings for a while, and then realise that I’d like to stay home for a few more years after all? Either way, I should probably stop obsessing over it. For now I can focus on this blog, my YouTube channel, and my new Jamberry venture, while looking forward to the day that I get to leave the house, alone, on a regular basis. It’s got to happen eventually, right?

    – Fern xxx

    Did you go back to work when your kids were little? Or have you been a stay at home parent for years, like me? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences in the comments section below.

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  • All About Fern
  • Finding My Tribe

    I’ve been boycotting mothers’ groups for a few years now. Unlike their sisters, I have never bothered taking my sons along to play group, coffee group, music group, or any of the other weekday morning activities targeted at preschoolers. Partly it’s laziness, but mostly it’s because I’m a bit over all the baby talk. Comparing notes on how long everyone’s babies are sleeping, how toilet training is going, and whether or not our kids are advanced (seriously, a mother once told me her three year old was a “Boy Genius” because he counted to four) just doesn’t interest me anymore. I want stimulation. I want people to ask for my name, not just my kids’.

    It’s a bit stupid though, my aversion to all groups mumsy, because I’ve actually been quite lonely since we moved from a small town to a big city three years ago. I did make an effort at first, going along to Home Birth Group and La Leche League at my midwife’s suggestion, but these days I’m almost always at home. And that means I’ve made very few friends. So while I’m avoiding stress by refusing to run around like a madwoman in order to get across town in time for a class/group/session at 10am, I’m not really doing myself any favours. It’s not like the rushing and the risk of boring conversation would be worse than feeling alone and empty at home. At least the boys and I would be doing something.

    A few months ago I went to a La Leche League meeting for the first time in forever. I wasn’t exactly excited about going, but a friend (yes, one of the few) had invited me along and I knew it’d be my only chance to see her. So I went, and it was fine. It was good. Okay, it was actually kind of great. And when I walked back to my van afterwards, I realised I was feeling happy. I’m talking, bounce in your step, chatting away to your baby, driving home with a little smile on your face, happy. So I decided to go back the next month. And then, yesterday, I went back again.

    Today I’ve been mentally shaking my head at myself for being so close-minded for so long. Socialising with other mums is awesome! I walked into that meeting yesterday and instantly felt at ease. Everyone was friendly and down-to-earth, and though we’re all facing our own challenges, there was a hell of a lot of laughing going on. No one acted like life is all sunshine and rainbows. No one asked whether my son is sleeping through the night yet. No one claimed their child is academically advanced. We simply sat, conversed, and offered each other support; I can’t remember the last time I felt so uplifted.

    While I’m still not in a hurry to take the kids along to a Mainly Music session, I’m definitely reevaluating my blanket decision to avoid all mothers’ groups. I’m sure there are plenty out there that I’d find just as painful as I’ve told myself they would be, but La Leche League has shown me that good things happen when like-minded parents come together. So although playgroups at the local Plunket rooms probably won’t do much for me, I am willing to keep my eyes and ears open for other groups that sound like a good fit for my family and me. Not that it matters too much now, because I feel like I’ve found my tribe. I’m really grateful that LLL has given me the sense of belonging I hadn’t realised I was missing.

    – Fern xxx

    La Leche League is a support group for breastfeeding parents. Meetings are held monthly, and though there are set topics or themes, the floor is always open for mothers to ask questions or share their concerns, should they have any. Check out the LLLNZ website for further details!

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  • All About Fern
  • Speaking My Truth

    Last night I uploaded a video to my YouTube channel that made me nervous. Seated on the end of my bed, my wet hair still wrapped up in a towel, I openly admitted that I am struggling in my role as a full-time mother. I do not feel fulfilled. I do not feel content. I no longer want to sit back and shut up and pretend like everything is fine. I need change.

    I felt apprehensive for a number of reasons. I didn’t care that my appearance was sloppy, my face bare, but I did care about the responses I would receive. Who films themselves with tears in their eyes, whinging about the boredom, isolation, and lack of overall enjoyment in their lives? Who publicly admits that they feel trapped in their role as a mother, wishing they could uproot their family just because they want a new challenge? I was certain the comments left on my video would be negative, that I’d be accused of feeling sorry for myself, that I am selfish, that my concerns are merely first world problems and my expectations are too high. I worried that I was embarrassing myself. And my husband.

    Within the first hour of publicising my video I discovered there had been no reason to feel afraid. The response to my video has been overwhelming, with over 25 viewers offering their support publicly within the first few hours, while several others contacted me via private message.
    “I remember those days so vividly.”
    “You are far from alone!”
    “I can understand exactly where you are coming from.”
    “Yes. Just Yes. I get it.”
    I was blown away by just how many other women feel exactly the same way as I do. I thought I was the only one! But now I know I’m not, not by a long shot, I feel kind of confused. How come no one ever seems to talk about it?

    In recent years the support for mothers struggling mentally has improved dramatically. Postnatal depression is more universally accepted and understood, and women are encouraged to talk about it and seek help. Obviously this is a very good thing, though I can’t help but wonder why we are only sharing our battles once we’re at our absolute worst. Why can’t we be open about the fact that we’re bored with child rearing and housekeeping? And why are people telling me I’m brave for owning up to my feelings? Most of the feedback I’ve received over the past 24 hours is proof that there are a lot of women in my shoes right now. It’s not uncommon to feel like this. Yet I’m being brave by sharing my experiences? I always associated the word brave with extraordinary events. All I did was vent.

    I’ve been going on about it a lot recently, my determination to live authentically, and my desire to see more authenticity from the people around me. So I was pleased, in a way, when uploading my Honest Life Update video to a public platform confirmed just how important presenting ourselves authentically can be. I know that focussing on the negative is frowned upon (ha), but I feel like only acknowledging the positive aspects in our lives is causing other people harm. I know I’m not the only one who looks in on other people’s lives with envy. Would I be so envious if the women I associate with just admitted that there are some really crappy things going on for them? Would I respect them any less for hearing that they’re finding certain aspects of their life difficult? If anything I think I’d probably end up respecting them more.

    So again I will admit that I’m looking for more from life right now, and that I’m finding the monotony of motherhood both under- and overwhelming. And again I will encourage you all to speak your truth, to be open whenever you get the chance. If the people you share your heart with are disrespectful, then they are people you shouldn’t have had in your life to begin with. Which means you can let them go. Which means you are a step closer to living a richer and more fulfilling life. It’s a win-win situation, don’t you think?

    – Fern xxx

    Do you ever find yourself struggling with your life as a parent? What do you do to ensure you’re leading a rich and meaningful life? How important do you think it is to present yourself authentically?
    I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  • Mum Life
  • The Makings of a GOOD Mother

    I feel like hundreds of people will have blogged about this already, but when I woke up to the baby in the night this post came to mind, so I feel compelled to write it. Besides, if an idea or theme is unoriginal, that really just means that a lot of people will be able to relate to what I’m saying. Yeah? Yeah. Let’s go with that.

    Last week, as I was searching for inspiration for my YouTube channel, I came across “The Mummy Tag”. A series of questions relating to all things parenting, vlogging mothers from around the world record their responses (on camera, obviously), before nominating other parents to answer the same questions on their own channel. It’s kind of like a chain letter in video form. Well, aside from the fact that, depending on your answers, it could attract a lot of unwelcome attention. After all, Good Mothers don’t swear in front of their children, or pierce their babies’ ears, do they? And if a woman goes online and admits that she does these things, then surely she’s just opening herself up to judgment…

    I uploaded my “Mummy Tag” video last night, and have been thinking about my answers, as well as possible reactions from the public, ever since. Although I’ve had next to no feedback (definitely nothing negative anyway), I have no doubt that some of the things I said on camera could make me sound like a Bad Mother. What really concerns me though, is realising that some of my responses could imply that I think other women are Bad Mothers. Although this was never my intention, watching myself shaking my head with an unimpressed look on face in response to a question about ear-piercing made me realise that perhaps I do judge other parents, mothers especially, for the choices they make for their children. I mean, I definitely don’t feel like I’m walking around making assumptions about other mums, but maybe I am. Maybe I do.

    Who am I to decide what makes a Bad Mother anyway? I know there are some a lot of things I do as a parent that could take me out of the Good Mum category. I swear in front of my children. I yell. I shut myself in my room and cry. I let the three-year-old watch TV all the time. I allow the baby to eat off the floor. I’ve even been known to lock the kids outside when it all gets too much for me. And I continue doing these things even though I know they could be deemed Bad. But you know what else I do? I cook healthy meals every night, and make sure the kids’ packed lunches are balanced and nutritious. I take my children to the playground (even though I hate it), and I sign them up for extracurricular activities to build their self-confidence and coordination.  I breastfed my babies for as long as possible (the baby and I are still going strong), and I birthed all four of them naturally, without the use of pain relief. I read to them, I sing to them, I kiss them goodnight. I tell them I love them every. single. day. Is that enough to prove I’m not a Bad Mum? And why am I trying so hard to prove I’m not Bad anyway?

    I realised this afternoon that one of my friends got her daughter’s ears pierced at a very young age. And I know she’s a Good Mum. I have another friend who gives her kids a smack on the bum when they’re getting really out of hand. She fits into the Good Mum category too. In fact, every mother I know is a Good Mum. They’re all taking extremely different approaches to child-rearing, and yet they’re all Good Mothers. Do they screw up? Do I screw up? Yes! Absolutely! All the time! But that does not mean we aren’t worthy of the Good Mum title. Because we are. And if we could all just quit judging each other, and ourselves, I think we’d find that almost every mother out there is a Good Mum.

    When you really think about it, it doesn’t take much to be a Good Mother. I don’t care if you’re getting takeaways for dinner for the second time this week, or if you forgot to sign the permission slip for the latest school trip. It doesn’t matter if you lost your temper when your three-year-old wet themselves for the fifth time today (OK, that might just be me). What matters is that you love your kids. You care for them so deeply that sometimes it hurts. You go to bed at night and you worry about them, wishing you could do better even though you’re already doing your best. And while there are times when all you want to do is run away, you never do. You stay. You get on with it. You keep trying. Because you, my friend, are an extremely Good Mother. I promise.


    Still curious as to what this whole “Mummy Tag” thing is all about?
    Watch my video and find out for yourself.

    – Fern xxx

     

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  • All About Fern
  • Bye Bye, Baby

    I went away over the weekend. To mark my best friend’s 30th birthday, I packed myself up and headed out of town. Alone. It was the first time I’d ever left the baby for more than just a few hours, and I was nervous. I’d expressed four full bottles of milk for him, but still found myself reminding the husband (more than once) to just give him as much food as he possibly could. I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby boy going hungry.

    Because I was worried my youngest son would miss me too much, I opted not to stay overnight. Instead, I’d planned to cram over six hours of driving into a single day. I’d have to leave first thing in the morning, and I wouldn’t be home again until late that night, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make for the good of my youngest child.

    The morning passed quickly, with barely a moment to think about whether or not the baby was okay. I was in a hurry to reach my destination, and by the time I finally arrived I got all caught up in birthday wishes, introductions, and gift opening. The next thing I knew we were rushing off to the first event of the day. It all felt so busy that I almost forgot I was missing something someone.

    We spent a good chunk of our day at The Chateau in Tongariro, where 10 wonderful women gathered for high tea. Everyone was interested to hear about my recent switch to the sugar-free life (have I even blogged about that yet?), and the attention and praise I received for eating only the sandwiches, along with good conversation and great company, were the perfect distraction. I barely noticed my empty arms and full breasts (probably because my cheeks were sore from smiling too much).

     

    It wasn’t until the afternoon that I started to feel strange. We’d returned to the Birthday Girl’s house to have our nails painted, and suddenly I was almost the only woman who didn’t have her children with her. There were four other babies in the room, crawling and cooing and crying, all of whom were sweet, but none of whom were mine. When I looked over and saw one of the mothers nursing her son, my breasts leapt into action, leaking milk into the thick lining of my bra.
    I kind of want to come home now, I text my husband.
    You can, he replied.
    But I couldn’t. My nails were bare. And we hadn’t cut the cake. And I still had a three hour drive ahead of me anyway.

    Thankfully, the desperation to get back to my baby as soon as humanly possible faded away as the afternoon unfolded. I had a glass of bubbles (high in sugar, no doubt, but come on!) and selected a mint green colour for my mani/pedi. One of the women, Tineke, modeled a bunch of gorgeous clothing for us (she recently launched Tin Kup, a Facebook-based business), so naturally I got caught up in that, and ended up purchasing a beautiful white shirt with a black bird print. Turns out a bit of pampering, a touch of retail therapy, and a smidge of alcohol is all I need to forget my problems. Ha!

    It had been a wonderful day, but by five o’clock I was done.
    If I leave now, I thought, the baby will still be up when I get back and I’ll be able to feed him to sleep. Perfect.
    I said my goodbyes, accidentally neglecting more than a couple of people I really should have spoken to before rushing off, and got into my car. I was determined to make it a quick trip home. I would concentrate as hard as I could so that I could stick to the speed limit and make really good time. I wouldn’t take a single rest stop. Even if I needed to pee. Even if I really, really needed to pee. I just had to get back to my baby.

    My plan worked. Two hours and 10 minutes later I was pulling into the driveway. My driveway. I raced up the steps to the house, listening out for a crying baby. The lights were on, but I couldn’t hear a sound. Strange. I pushed the door open, waited for the loud shuffling of my son’s hands and knees scooting across the carpet, but again I was met with silence. What? I found my husband on the couch. Lying on the couch, to be exact, with a book in his hands.
    “Where’s Ernie?”
    “In bed. Asleep. I put him down at seven.”

    As it turns out, the baby didn’t need me at all. There had been absolutely no reason to rush home. There were still two bottles of my milk in the freezer, and he’d fallen into such a deep sleep when he was put to bed –  an entire hour earlier than usual, might I add – that I ended up waking him at four in the morning, just so I could relieve myself. My boobs were killing me! My son, 10 months old, hadn’t even slightly missed me. If anything, he’d been better off without me. He’d played. He’d napped. He’d taken his bottles without a fuss. And, according to my husband, he’d barely cried all day. Why isn’t it like that when I’m the one at home with him? What am I doing wrong?

    It sounds ridiculous, but at first I was upset that the family had done so well in my absence. If I’m not needed, then why am I here? Sacrificing myself day after day for the good of the kids, staying home instead of getting started on my career or building new friendships… Is anyone even benefitting from my efforts? But, as I gave it more consideration, I decided that my son’s confidence and general contentment, even when I’m not around, is a sign that I am doing the right thing. He feels happy and secure because I have been with him. My presence has taught him that there will always be someone there for him, to keep him safe and happy, warm and fed. And while for the most part that someone has been – and will be – me, he obviously understands that there are other people out there who are willing to be there for him too.  Even better, now I know he knows that, and that means that next time, I won’t be in such a rush to get back. As I just saw posted on Tumblr, worrying will never change the outcome anyway.

    – Fern xxx


    If you want to get an even better idea of how I spent my Saturday, you can watch it all unfold in this vlog…

  • Mum Life
  • 10 Ways to Find Yourself Again

    I’ve always felt a little bit sorry for mothers who freely admit that their kids are their whole entire world. In my eyes, these sorts of declarations can mean only one thing: A woman has become so deeply entrenched in her role as a mother that she no longer knows who she is. She defines herself as a mum and nothing more. It means she has forgotten who she is.

    Not so long ago, I found it easy to shake my head at these women. Any time I came across a bio that began with My children are my universe, I’d feel grateful that I was managing to lead such a balanced life, with plenty of time for socialising, exercising, and accepting whatever new challenges came my way. But these days? These days I’m a 32-year-old woman with four children and a messy house, and I’m struggling to find anything else to talk about. Have I become that sort of mum?

    I feel like I’m trapped between two worlds. My heart tells me that I’m not one of those mothers, but my head reminds me that I very rarely leave the house. Sure, I’m busying myself with blogging and vlogging, but that all relates directly to my children. What happened to Fern? Where did I go? How can I feel like myself again?

    Pondering this, and realising my options are rather limited because going out on a regular basis is Too Hard Basket stuff right now, I’ve come up with a few ways to remind myself who I am. They’re things that make me feel like Fern, rather than Mu-um!

    1. Listen to Music.
      Find an album you thrashed back when you were young and child-free, and have it playing in the background (or the foreground, loud is good too) as you go about your day. Sing or dance along, if you’re that way inclined. Remind yourself that the old you is still the current you. Sure you’ve changed, but that doesn’t mean you’re not the fun, spontaneous girl you used to be.
    2. Go Shopping (Online).
      Buy yourself a treat (or two). Take your time and choose something that’ll make you feel good about yourself. Don’t guilt yourself into buying presents for your kids instead, they have enough stuff.
      When the parcel arrives open it immediately. Whatever it is – clothes, makeup, a good book, jewellery, a scented candle – put it to use as soon as you can. You deserve it!
    3. Cook your Favourite Meal.
      Us stay-at-home mums are almost always in charge of the cooking, but how often do we get to make our absolute favourite dishes? Let’s say you love nothing more than a medium-rare steak served with a generous helping with mushroom sauce, but your kids hate mushrooms and the sight of blood on their plates makes them sick to their stomachs. Sod them, I say. Give them baked beans on toast and prepare the feast you desire. You never know, cooking something that’s not usually on the menu might even be fun.
    4. Phone a Friend.
      I’m not a big fan of talking on the phone, but sometimes emails, texts and tweets just don’t cut it. When you’re feeling lost in a sea of laundry and bum wipes, whip out your phone and use it to actually call someone (preferably not your mum, as she’s likely to ask how the grandkids are). Try your best to find something to discuss other than your children (you could reminisce about the good old days, or organise a night out), and if your kids interrupt you, park them in front of the TV until your conversation is over. It won’t do them any harm.
    5. Look at Old Photos.
      Whether they’re in albums or filed away on a hard-drive somewhere, dig out all the photos you have from your life before motherhood. Share them with your children and talk about the things you enjoyed doing (they might be surprised to learn that you actually existed before they came along), or look through them on your own and remind yourself of all the good (and bad!) experiences you’ve had. Everything you’ve ever done has led you to this exact moment in time. Chances are you’re right where you’re meant to be.
    6. Make Plans for the Future.
      It’s easy to forget that full-time motherhood is finite. Take a minute to picture life with grown children. Will you work outside the home? Will you throw yourself into the hobbies you just can’t find the time for right now? Maybe you want to earn a qualification of some sort? Write down your goals, hopes and dreams, and allow yourself to view them as definite possibilities. The present can be monotonous, but your future doesn’t have to be.
    7. Get Quoting.
      Some people are huge fans of quotes. I, myself, am not. However, when I first watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I finally found my quote. A short, snappy, inspirational phrase, that seems to pop into my mind whenever times get tough.
      “Everything will be all right in the end, so if it’s not all right, it’s not yet the end.”
      This quote reminds me that a bad day is just that: a bad day. It may not work for you, but I bet there’s a quote out there that will. Go and find it!
    8. Embrace It.
      So you’ve become a boring old mum. So what? There are much worse ways you could be living your life! Instead of beating yourself up about it, go with it. Do you remember your favourite childhood games and activities? Why not introduce them to your children? It’ll be like sharing a piece of your past-self with your kids.
    9. Self-Care.
      The days I feel my worst are usually the days I look my worst. When I’m feeling old, tired and frumpy I’ve found that putting a bit of time and effort into my appearance makes a massive difference. Take a bath and shave your legs. Chuck your hair up in a pony tail and put on a face mask. Paint your nails or pluck your eyebrows or put on some lippy. Anything that makes you feel better in your own skin is a very good thing.
    10. Date Night.
      Remember when you first met your partner and every moment you spent together was new and exciting? Remember what your life together was like before the kids came along? Okay, maybe you’ve completely forgotten, but planning an At Home Date Night might help jog your memory. Send the kids to bed and spend an evening with your spouse. Watch a favourite movie and share a bowl (or tub) of ice cream. Dust off a board game or two and settle down for some light-hearted rivalry. Even if you just sit and talk for an hour or two, setting aside some time as a couple will (hopefully) remind you why you’ve become the person you are today.

    What do you like to do when you’re feeling lost? Let me know in the comments below!

    – Fern xxx

    Linking up with Vicki (Honest Mum) for Brilliant Blog Posts
    as well as Aby (You Baby Me Mummy) and Amy (Mr and Mrs T plus three)
    for The List.

  • Mum Life
  • Mum Cuts

    I just received a confirmation email: Tomorrow evening I’m cutting off my hair…

     

    I’m nervous for a number of reasons. Like, what if I go in for my cut and they discover I actually have nits? (My children catch them at school at least three times a year, so maybe I secretly have them and I just don’t know it. It could happen.) Or maybe I’ll be assigned the apprentice hairdresser who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, and I’ll walk out with a haircut that looks nothing like the styles I’ve pinned to my hairspiration board. Or, and this is the most likely outcome, I’ll wind up sporting a Mum Cut. You know what I’m talking about.

    I’ve seen it happen so many times. Women become mothers and the next thing you know they’ve hacked off their long, youthful locks in favour of a short and unflattering (and I’m hesitant to use this next word) style. I understand the reason behind the haircut, they feel like they don’t have the time to do their hair, and it seems pointless to keep long hair when you’re going to wear it in a messy bun all day everyday for the next 18 years. But I don’t see how cutting it all off is going to fix anything.

    Short hair is just as hard, if not harder, to maintain as long hair. And actually, keeping long hair out of your face by throwing it into a pony or a side plait is both simple and sustainable. Plus you still have the option of straightening or curling it and wearing it loose when (okay, if) you’re going out without your kids. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do here, but if you don’t have the time or the face for a short ‘do (and some women do, some mums I know look fab with super short hair) then don’t do it. You know, unless you really want to…

    So I’m heading to my appointment with a plan. I’ve searched google for suggestions (long face + fine, straight hair; what’ll work best?) and I’ve come up with a style that I think will work well. A long, straight bob – not too bouncy or angled, very minimal layering, and a side-swept fringe (maybe, I’ll ask the stylist for an opinion on that one, because I definitely don’t want short bangs that I can’t keep out of my eyes). I want my hair to look healthy, and I’m hopeful the style I have in mind will be relatively effortless. I definitely need to have the option of tying it all up too, so I’ll be assuring my hairdresser understands that before she takes out the scissors.

    Will all this planning equal success? Who knows. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that it’s possible for a 32-year-old mother of four to come away from a hair appointment without a Mum Cut. Wish me luck!

    – Fern xxx

    Linking up with Honest Mum for Brilliant Blog Posts.
    Check it out!