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OOTD (outfit of the day)

I love clothes and I love shoes (especially trainers) but I wouldn’t call myself “fashionable”, i just wear what I like and what is comfy. A couple of months ago I started sharing some of my OOTDs (outfits of the day) on Instagram and I really enjoy it, initially I thought it would make me make a huge effort everyday but that was hugely unrealistic and no one wants to see perfection (and if they do they don’t follow me).

So instead I post when I can and want (some days I just don’t feel like it), but I thought I would post a gallery of my pics on here to share one of the aspects of my life that I enjoy. I  know there is an aspect of vanity in posting selfies of myself and I understand why people may see this like that, but the other side is that I am a busy mum who tries to keep herself looking okay (in my opinion) and I like to see what other people are wearing so I can get inspiration for outfits, so I thought they might like to see me too.

My clothes are all high street and charity shops (my mum has an eye for a charity shop bargain, so I reap the rewards). I have some clothes as old as my children and now I am lucky enough to be able to raid my eldest daughters wardrobe too!

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Separated parents, parenting together

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We live in the modern world and a considerable percentage of us are not with the mother/father of our child. This is the case with me, but I have 2 ex’s and 3 children. My eldest two from my first marriage, and my youngest from a relationship after that. Having to deal with ex partners/husbands/ wives can be a nightmare, especially at the beginning, but what I have learnt along the way and what I am still learning is that having a “bad” relationship is unhealthy and destructive to your child, but also for your own well being.

When I was going through my divorce I never thought my ex husband and I would ever be friendly again, we couldn’t talk to each other and used (very expensive) lawyers as go between, by the end of the divorce and child residency I alone wracked up a bill of £30,000. It is such a ludicrous amount of money, but when I look back at it now do I regret that cost? no I don’t, because through it all, through all the courses and meetings, mediation and solicitors letter, I learnt a great deal and I am proud of my relationships that I have with my daughters fathers. I learnt from my first break up how to deal with the second and a lot of it is quite simple.

There was a stage where, during our court process, the only words that were passed between my daughters’ father and I were via a ‘communications book’, now thinking of it it seems awful but actually it was a very sensible way to ensure that no bad words were ever passed in front of the children, also this communication book could be called into court at any time so it made us be think before we wrote (this was a valuable lesson). It is something that both the court and CAFCASS would recommend if needed. In fact the suggestion of a communication book came about because we were both sent on a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course by the judge. You go separately but I wasn’t sure about it but knew I had to, and I am so pleased I did. We were shown a heartbreaking film which demonstrated the impact that poor communication between separated parents has on children. As a group and with the teachers we discussed the film, one point that was reiterated and is very common in the modern age were messages sent via texts and other apps, due to not having to face the person, nor hear the voice it is easy to let the situation become angry and words can get typed that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face (obviously this is the most common way to communicate, but while things are fraught its most likely the worst approach). If an argument happens in this way, the parent who has the child in their care will be affected by it and that will impact the child, it made me realise how destructive it was. Sometimes now, when I am in a conversation with either Dad and I can feel it veering towards bad vibes the conversation stops for another day. 9 times out of 10 nothing more needs to get talked about, it was all in that moment and could have easily escalated.

Whether it’s in the early stages, or further along (when new partners are involved, or house moves happen), it is sometimes very hard to come to an understanding of what is going to happen with decisions to do the children, it is easy to always find fault in the other parent’s suggestions due to anger you may feel. What was reiterated by SPIPs was the fact you cannot control the other parent (whether straight after the separation or 5 years down the line) and you can only be responsible for yourself. What I also found very true was that up until recently you had been in a relationship with this person, you had loved them at one point (most probably) and you had chosen to have a child with them. So to then change your tune after breaking up and conclude that the other parent is incapable or has faults will not only seem insincere but also will be projected onto your child/children as perhaps a feeling they did not come from a loving relationship. Your job as a parent is to be the adult, and the best thing for your child is to support the other parent.

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After our course we came up with a child residency order which was agreed on but then was altered a few years later. During the second round of the court process we were sent to CAFCASS and we had meetings with a team who spoke with great insight into co parenting and the benefits for children. We covered many topics and made ‘contracts’ about the upbringing of the girls, they helped us open up communications and taught us that it was imperative for our kids to make decisions together. I am not saying it was all easy, but due to the fact we were not in the midst of our own break up, it allowed us to be productive rather than blaming each other. Some relationships, even years later constantly blame and have a power struggle, but I will talk about that next). The point that was very evident was that we were not in a relationship anymore  and so though we could make it hard for the other person and throw words at each other, the only person it will ever hurt is the child.

When my next break up happened, things could have been very difficult and I think that our relationship and break up could have ended in a high conflict situation, but I am really proud at the decision from both of us to to have a unity for our daughter. We knew she was and is the only thing that matters and once you come to terms with the fact you are not together there is no need for anything other that parental duties.

High conflict parents will be the first to tell you that it’s not their fault, I have met many people like this, and it is not a criticism (I absolutely understand how it feels, its where i was many moons ago), but it is hindering themselves and their children. They will always blame the other parent and I can clearly remember a judge in court one day telling me that once you get in to a situation where you are constantly arguing it is only with mediation that you will have some calm. To quote The Happy Family Lawyer “They will be so far involved in their own conflict that they won’t be able to see the ‘wood for the trees’. Only with specialised professional assistance can these parents improve their parenting techniques.”. It is also key to remember that it doesn’t matter who started or didn’t start an argument, you are not in control of anyone else but yourself, it takes two to tango and I am sure when these explosions occur between two ex’s the starting discussion is a distant memory.

So to conclude on my journey, most of the time I have a calm and steady “friendship” with the Dads of my daughters, I have learnt that they will ALWAYS be in my life, so why would I waste my energy feeling any anger for them (not that I do), but when something annoys me, I don’t rise to it, as long as my children are safe and well that’s all that matters. I also always try to be respectful, so always including them in decisions about the girls, for example which school they go to or whether to have certain immunisations. No matter who the children reside with the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you the right to be sole decision maker. (That being said it is not the resident parents job to inform the other of when events are happening or school choices are being made, both sign up to school emails and both keep upto date with the milestones of your children).

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I have summarised a few important factors that I learnt so far on my journey and I am always interested in hearing feedback from my blogs, or just any other information anyone has about successful co parenting.

I will attach links to a few websites that I found very helpful, especially the programme booklet for the SPIP course I went on.

  • Respect that your children may have different feelings to your own
  • Do not use your child as a messenger
  • DON’T make it a power struggle
  • Think about what you can do, not what your ex partner should/ shouldn’t be doing
  • Make small steps towards the end goal
  • Look after yourself and be the best you can for your children
  • Have faith in the other parent, no matter how they treat you don’t fight fire with fire.

CAFCASS

SPIPS

THE HAPPY LAWYER

adventures, blogging, child, children, family, health, help, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, school, self love, toddler, Uncategorized, writing

And Then There Were None

Is your child starting school in September? Are there nerves on your part? Here I discuss my feelings and how they are not as straight forward as just seeing my baby taking the next step.

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In 6 months time my youngest baby will be starting school and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it. Having been through this process twice before I know what to do and I know the process involved, the dilemma of whether its too early to get the uniform in July (they may grow a whole metre over the summer holidays!!!), the mad trip to Clarkes to get a generic pair of shoes that you have to prize from your child’s feet so the patent stays intact come their first day and the dreaded visit from their teacher to your home where all of sudden you come over all Kirsty Allsopp, baking bread, buying soft furnishing and lighting candles (and then blowing them out pronto as you don’t want said to teacher to think you would ever have a flame within a 100 yards of your precious 4 years old, bad mummy).

No, I am okay with the starting school prep and so I was unsure what this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach was all about.

Frankie is definitely ready for school (and that’s not always the case, especially as she is a June baby, but with 2 older sisters she wants to move upwards). I have no doubt she will be a child that clings to me at the door but eventually it will get easier, she is definitely my cheekiest child, partly due to encouragement from her siblings but her preschool tell me she is one of the quieter ones so hopefully school will bring the balance of cheeky and quiet to a level. She is ready learn, she wants to write and read but with all the kids it’s hard to give her enough time but she copies her sisters and knows letters and small sums (I think this is genius but I am sure its not!!), she has also taught herself to get dressed in preparation for PE (its bloody handy for me too in the mornings!). I mean this all screams of a child counting down the days to September, yet I am not counting them down, I am wanting them to slow right down so I can savour having a little person at home a bit longer.

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I know now that there is a double edge to this sword that is reception class. Not only am I going to be passing my final child over to the institution that is education (which is not a negative, just that it’s hard to swallow that she is no longer “mine”) but, and this is not as easy to admit, I also have to work out what the hell I am doing?

Up until now I am a full time mum, I have 3 daughters, 4 step children, 2 dogs and a husband… but in september though I will still have those things, I will also have 6 hours free (apart from a house to clean, washing of the masses, cooking, shopping, dogs etc), but to the outside world those hours are free (Monday to Friday). So basically if we cut  the crap here, I need a job, I need to do something, I need an income. Of course with that will bring the changes to our household, potential breakfast and after school clubs (bloody expensive), the fact the housework, cooking, cleaning the toilets etc will have to be split between myself and my husband (will it work?) and that I may not be there for the school runs nor have as much time with the girls full stop. It’s impossible (almost) to find a job that fits in with school hours, but, the positives would be that I am contributing financially and feel equal in the household which is not something I have felt, well I did when I was a single mum (and I am sure many of you understand where I am coming from with this). What fills me with dread is that I don’t know what I can do, nor who the hell would want me! I have been a mum for so long I feel useless as a fully fledged adult, I will have to get used to being Jo and not Mum (how very odd).

So with this I realise that while my 3 year old (4 in June) is making all the necessary and natural changes and progression into school life, I need to take note of her actions and apply myself too, I have 6 months to sort this shit out. It’s an exciting stage for our family and I need to grow some balls and get on with it, if Frankie can do it, I can do it too.

The next journey for Frankie and myself is a positive one, and though daunting on a maternal and personal level, there are so many joys to come. In myself it’s the start of letting myself grow and the restraints of small children becoming looser, and for Frankie the joys of the first nativity, learning to read and I can’t even imagine her little twig legs at sports day (but if she is like me then competitiveness will be ugly). I know lots of you out there will be feeling something similar (or at least I hope you do) and whether it’s your first, second or fifth child to have their very first day in september, good luck and take your tissues.

I will write a follow up blog to this with the outcome, it may not be pretty or it may be bloody glorious, who knows???

Thanks for reading

Jo

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anorexia, blogging, body image, children, depression, diet, family, food, health, help, meatfree, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, vegan, writing

When it comes to body image, how can I be a good role model?

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After having my first daughter I developed an eating disorder, I suppose it would come under anorexia as I really struggled to eat and felt like even the smallest amount of food would make me fat, I would skip meals by telling people I was going out for dinner later (and so wouldn’t eat lunch) and then do the opposite later on in the day, some days I wouldn’t eat, on days I would eat I would then make myself sick. I looked awful, really really awful. My skin was bad, my body was all out of proportion and my hair was thinning. I weighed 7 and a half stone, I had a BMI of 16.4 (that’s seriously underweight and should be between 18.5 and 25). It impacted into every part of my life and it would cause me panic when it came to anything food related for example family events, weekends away and birthdays. It was a very low point in my life.

Fast forward to now (11 years later) I weigh 9 and half stone and have a BMI of 20.6. I try and keep myself around this weight although last year I was a stone heavier, I only lost the weight again (very slowly) so my clothes would fit better as I can’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I understand that I will always have a strange relationship with food and that I can slip into a negative place from time to time, but I have come a long way since those darker days, but what I must make sure is that I do not project this bad relationship with food and body image onto my children, but just how does someone who has had (and will in a small way always have) an eating disorder do that? How does any parent do that? We all have hang ups don’t we?

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I have used my experience as a mum to three girls (one of whom is at a very delicate age of nearly 12), plus I have done a fair amount of research. Here are my ideas how we project a positive body image onto our children.

  • Listen – When my child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then its serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a bit more. Yes we need to be strong for our kids but they also need to know we are human too.

  • Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their skills and achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills (especially academically) will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically (looking back at photos of me aged 12 is actually hysterical and only my Mum would be able to tell that it was me). We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look AND what they are good at.

  • Self Love – This is the hardest one for me, and I cant preach that I am remotely good at it, but I do know its important. We must try and show outward body confidence, easier said than done, I know, but while researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (as I feel hypocritical) it got me thinking that we all must try to be more confident for the sake of our children, and I think the more we do, the more we will believe it. Remember, our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!

  • Self affirmations – A while ago, my best friend Jennie said to my girls that they must believe in themselves and love themselves, she told them to write self affirmations and say them to themselves every morning. Well, they sniggered at her. Later that week I made them do it, and though they don’t read them everyday, they decorated them and we have kept them, so when we have a down day we can get them out and read them. I kept them relative to their age, very simple to more meaningful, but not too complex. I have photographed mine and an example of a child’s. Give it a go, it helped me at least.
  • Dads – My girls are lucky enough to have a Dad and a Step Dad. A man’s perspective on women and themselves is incredibly important. The way that your husband or partner talks to you and them about appearance (men and women) is as integral as you as Mum. The same goes with the way they feel about their own appearance.

  • Food  – An essential part of life is eating and if you are like me, then sometimes it can be an issue. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy (by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food) and also by having some treats. Let them see you eat a slab of cake once in a while, or a big burger and fries. Never eat in secret, this is a something I have real knowledge of and is very harming to children, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to eating. I know some of us women like people to think that we live off lettuce leaves and air, but when we get home will be eating ham or another quick fridge find straight out the pack. Well I am telling you, we shouldn’t do this, for ourselves and our kids. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
  • Modern technology –  This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed/ evolved and nearly all kids have use of the internet and eventually social media. I read a horrendous statistic today in an article called ‘uncomfortable in your skin report’ that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week, what on earth will that be doing to the way they feel they should look. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yes we can educate our children to follow appropriate people but if you have a daughter like mine I think I am asking the impossible. She loves the Kardashians and that’s that. I think as parents in this day and age we have to adjust our mindset and work with this being part of our children’s lives, we have to teach them that it’s not real and I think we can show them some amazing people who are far better role models, so that they may follow them alongside the digitally enhanced loves of their lives. I have found a few amazing instagram/ web sites that are fantastic for every one to help with body image, firstly the beautiful Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) and Taryn Brumfitt (body image movement) both pages are rammed full of fantastic content. I have also attached a link to Taryns trailerHere  for her amazing Embrace documentary, give it a watch and if you want to you watch the full film on Netflix, I recommend it for all you Mums and Dads out there and then decide if you want to show your children, they advise on the website that it is for age 10/11+ but as that’s at the parents discretion.

I hope this has helped and as always I have found it invigorating to write. I hate to imagine my children being unhappy with their perfect bodies but I think we have to accept at times it will happen (I know I have already faced a fair few problems with the kids), it’s about us dealing with them and supporting our children in their journey.

Thanks for reading

Jo

blogging, children, depression, family, food, health, help, meatfree, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, Uncategorized, vegan, writing

Tots100

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A week ago I was honoured to find out that I had been chosen as a “new blog on the block” by Tots100 (clickHere) and I wanted to write about how happy and honoured I am, I also wanted to summarise how my first month of blogging has been.

I only started blogging in January and so in little over a month I feel like I have a slightly different (better) outlook to life. I now look at certain situations as potential, to write a good blog for myself or for Bad Mum Magazine, which I am also now an author for (another achievment). This means that instead of crying I actually laugh at situations a fair amount more, even today as I fell over in mud on my dog walk I documented it and posted it on my Instagram, because lets be honest its bloody funny.

The main focus of my blog so far has been my mental health and the highs and lows of it. I have opened up more than I have ever done and the response has been fantastic, even friends who I am close to have now shared parts of their lives that they had previoulsy kept to themselves, I feel humbled. What has been a highlight of my month and made me want to go further with my exploration of speaking about mental health is that Clasp Charity (a wonderful suicide prevention charity) are going to include me on their website as one of their inspiration people for talking about mental illness, and link people to my blog (I am not sure about the word inspirational but if it helps just one person reading my blogs then I have done more than I thought possible when starting this).

I am excited to see where this blog takes me next and one thing I do want to shine some light on is mental health in children so if anyone has experience of this, or could offer any insight please get in touch. I have recently became a brand rep for Warrior Tees UK, which is run by an amazing woman called Sam, who very much wants to show the younger generation that mental illness is okay and that we need more funding for it here in the UK. I want to delve a little deeper into the current situation with the NHS and after hearing a few heartbreaking stories in the past few weeks, it would appear that lack of funding is taking its toll (on all parts of the NHS, but I want to focus on adolescent mental health), so as I said please get in touch.

To finish, here is a little montage of the past month in pics

Thanks for reading

Jo

blogging, children, depression, family, health, help, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, Uncategorized, writing

Today the fog came down

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My name’s Jo and I have depression. It’s not a badge I wear often but it is something that I live with, it’s something that so many of us live with and what us people (who live with it) will know is that some days are a great deal harder than the others, what those of you who don’t have depression won’t know is that the hard days can feel impossible and it’s like a grey fog descending onto your world, a thick fog that almost makes it hard to move let alone see clearly.

Today is one of those days and I have never written about how a bad day feels like so I thought, with my journey of writing and self improvement, it could be a cathartic exercise.

I actually felt the fog come down yesterday evening, it came on all of a sudden. I am very tired (I have previously said that lack of sleep is my number one trigger to the dark place) and I am  coming out of having the flu, so my body isn’t really playing ball physically. I had worked all day, done the school runs, done the clubs, been to the shop, made two lots of dinner (for the youngsters and then us adults), hung up the washing, then did bedtime,  and that’s where my line was drawn, I had had enough. If it had been up to my head I would have just gone to bed and probably should have done, I felt achy and my lingering cough was annoying me. I sat on the sofa and even the dogs’ sleepy breathing was getting to me. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault to my mood being this way it was simply my depression reminding me that she is still there.

There is no logic (apart from sleep deprivation) to the ups and downs of my depression, I am on a good run at the moment and am really trying to improve my mental well being by making positive steps in my life. This blog I have started is doing really well and I am really enjoying it, I am using my brain when I write and I find I am reading so many more articles that a broadening my learning.

If I just look at where I am with my week I should feel I am doing really well, I have just survived the kid weekend and the house stayed relatively tidy (as I had a big push on Sunday to get jobs done and not get myself into a panic), I have been to my little job (which over the past month just hasn’t happened due to illness of myself and kids) and the husband and I are going away next week for our anniversary which is going to be amazing. Life should be looking peachy, yet as I am well aware of this means nothing when it comes to the fog.

I woke this morning immediately knowing it had not left (not helped by Frankie waking 3 times in the middle of the night) but I set off with my routine and my normal techniques to keep the mood at bay. I make a nice coffee, I get the girls to school and I wrote my list of jobs (my daily list is my way of keeping on top of things but also reminding myself of what I have done and achieved). It does help and as I tick those jobs off, safe in the knowledge the kids are happy at school my mood sometimes begins to budge, but I can’t shake this off today. I note bad days because if I go over a week of it I will maybe book in with the doc,  but generally this doesn’t happen. The sun is even shining which normally helps me hugely (I don’t know if I actually suffer from SADS but a grey sky really hinders my outlook).

I am trying so hard to be positive but I still want to give up a little and cry. On days like today it is the children that get me through because deep down I want to curl away from the world, I want to shut the door and shut everything out. I can’t, because I am a Mum, but today the school run was a struggle, keeping eye contact was hard and even being interested in my daughters day I find myself zoning in and out, but I did it.

So as I sit and write this I realise that it has in fact helped me. Just noting the good and realising that I did too much yesterday puts my head in perspective, I am human and not indestructible, it was understandable that I got to my limit. I must look after myself, because going a million miles an hour and not stopping to eat and rest will put anyone in a bad mood. This evening my friend is coming for tea with her kids, it will force me stop and I have prepared everything so that we have food ready and even a bottle of wine if we fancy a little glass.

I just need to remind myself that life is good, it’s Wednesday already,  and come the end of the week I will have a little break from the kids and I will enjoy my days with my husband and our anniversary (and hopefully a few cocktails!). I am also going to work hard the next few days to be ready with blogs to post up next week so that I dont panic when I am away. I will even get my nails painted as a treat. 

I am so lucky and need to just stop and breath a bit more. None of this will stop me having depression, but my aim for the future is to have a little more control over it and instead of letting it rule me completely, I would like to own it even if just slightly.

I am almost through today and hope that tomorrow feels lighter. lts about taking one day at a time. 

If anyone has any good daily tricks and tips to break through a temporary mood please let me know, I am on a journey of self improvement and in no way do I know it all. I think if we can help each other we will all feel good for it.

Jo xx

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