Monday, 22 August 2016

What to expect, When: A Parents' Guide from 4Children

If you are a parent reading this then I'm sure, like me, you are pretty regularly wondering if your baby or toddler is doing the things that they 'should' be doing for their age. I think if you have other older children then perhaps this is less of a concern. However, as a first time parent I am clueless!

For me, I find myself regularly comparing Jake to others of his age and mentally ticking off the things he can and can't do. My mission isn't to endlessly test and push my child. Instead, my motivation is to ensure that, as his parent, I am offering all that I can to support him in his development as a small human being and that I am allowing him to reach the milestones needed. 

One of the ways you can check all is as it should be is by visiting your Health Visitor (and Doctor if there are concerns) but this can be timely and difficult to fit in if you work full time and availability of these services can be limited for some families for various reasons. Another way is by speaking to other parents/ carers or childcare professionals at baby clubs, nurseries etc. but the easiest way you can get a sense of 'where you should be' is by going online to and looking into what they have on offer.

When Jake was around 8 months old I discovered a fantastic online document titled 'What to Expect, When' which is a parents' guide to the expectations of the Government's  Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the different age bands within this. Anyone who puts their children into childcare will/should know that the providers have to follow and adhere to the Early Years Framework. 

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework 'exists to support all professionals working in the EYFS to help your child, and was developed with a number of early years experts and parents.' It is also about getting children ready for school and preparing them for 'their future learning successes'. 

The 'What to Expect, When' document follows the 7 areas of learning that are set out in the EYFS. The 3 prime areas are:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Communication and Language
This is then supported by 4 more specific areas of learning:
  • Mathematics
  • Literacy
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design
What's wonderful about this document for parents is that each of these areas of learning are mapped across 6 ages bands and at each point examples of things your little one might be doing are given. In short, it provides a very parent-friendly guide to find out how your child is learning and developing during their first five years, in relation to the EYFS. 
Not only does it give you a sense of where your child is at, it also makes some very practical suggestions as to how you can help your child in the 7 key areas outlined - this is a really important way of ensuring you can support your little one if there are areas they may not be as far along as you'd like. 

As a Mummy who is also an English Teacher, I particularly liked this statement made in the booklet: 'Communication and language and literacy are VITAL areas for you to enjoy supporting your child with. It is important that your child grows up to be a good communicator and a keen reader.' Fanatastic! I have blogged about reading and literacy before, here. But this statement just confirms my firm belief that reading is vital.
If this sounds like something you're interested in finding out more about, you can access the Parent's Guide 'What to Expect, When' here

Let me know what you think and how you get on!


Friday, 19 August 2016

My ABC of Parenting!

Being a parent is a fun, emotional and rewarding role. It's filled with immense, heart-bursting joys and at times can be laced with moments or worry and despair. But mostly? It's pretty awesome! 

Here is my ABC of parenting...

A is for Always: you will always love your children fiercely and you will love them more than anything else. Nothing in the world - no book, blog or parenting class can prepare you for that primal, raging love you have for them. 

B is for Bottoms: you will wipe your kid's bottom a lot of times. Seriously. More times than you believe. I worked out that I changed Jake's nappy an average of 4-8 times a day. Work that out over 22 months? It's between 2464 and 4928 times I've changed the nappy on that little tush! 

C is for Cuddles: there is nothing like the cuddles you have with your child; the warmth of their little bodies; their gorgeous baby smell; the way they grip your clothes, hair or finger. Lush. 

D is for Determination: Being a parent takes determination; you need the determination to be the best parent you can be, even when times are hard and you feel overwhelmed. Determination is key and parenting will teach you things about yourself that you never, ever knew.

E is for Everything: Your children really do become your everything. You will love that child more than everything else. They will be what you think of every day and every night. Every decision you undertake about your life will consider them. 

F is for Fun: Parenting is fun! There will be wondrous milestones and giggles to enjoy as you get to know your child, their personality and you see them grow. 

G is for Giggles: There's nothing like it when your baby starts to giggle at things you/ your partner do. When they begin to laugh at things on the telly, or in the book you're reading. That little giggle is the best sound in the world!

H is for Hard but Happy: Being a parent can be hard. It is tiring and there are moments which push you to the limit. But it is always worth it and the hardships make the happiness brighter. 

I is for Imagination: as your baby becomes a toddler you begin to see their little personalities develop and their imaginations at work. They start to copy things and pretend. It's wonderful to watch!

J is for Juggling: once you become a parent you will need to learn the art of juggling your roles, commitments, priorities and general life. I feel this is compounded if you're also a working parent as you really are 'split' and need to juggle the management of employment alongside family. 

K is for Kidly: A fantastic website that I wish had started up when J was a little baby; Kidly is a brilliant place to go and find all the things parents want/need as their little ones grow. Their choice of products and tried and tested by other parents and they often have great money-saving deals.

L is for Love: Becoming a parent for the first time unlocks some secret and cavernous part of your heart which is bursting with love for these little people! It is scary how much love and fierce protectiveness you feel towards them - especially as you didn't know it even existed in you before.

M is for Mama: There is nothing more incredible than hearing your baby/toddler call you 'Mama' or 'Dada' for the first time and for me every time since. I know a lot of parents moan about their kids calling their name constantly - and maybe it's just because I have to work and miss time with my bubba - but I love it. Melts me.

N is for Never getting a lie in: It's a universal fact well-known that once you have a child your sleep will never be the same again. Nowadays if I get to sleep until 6am I have had 'a lie in'. I haven't slept beyond 6:30am in 2 years and even on the occasions Luke will offer to let me 'stay in bed' it is too late because I have already heard Jake, been for 4 wees and am beyond going back to sleep. 

O is for Outside: When you become a mum or dad for the first time there is SO MUCH to adjust to that getting out of the house can be daunting and hard work. You worry about everything you need to pack to take with you. My advice is do it as soon as you are able to and get it over and done with. Once that's happened try to get outside every day. Fresh air and vitamin D was essential in me managing to stay sane! It still is! 

P is for Photos: One thing I have loved as a parent is taking photos of all the wonderful moments and keeping them safe to look back on. There are lots of brilliant photo apps which allow you to edit and print straight from your mobiles. See my post on how I have been creating family albums since J was born...we're currently on album number 6! 

Q is for Quiet Quality Time: Whilst it is exciting (and important) to get out with the little one, there are times when some quiet quality time one to one or as a family is also important and wonderful. In our house - with two full time working parents - time together is precious so we make the little moments count. Things like reading books, bath times and sitting together for dinner is when we try to have moments together. We also try to keep time at the weekends for just us three.

R is for Rewarding: Being a parent and seeing your child learn, develop and grow is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. My husband, Luke, feels the same. You burst with pride on a daily basis... it counteracts the cringing you do when they embarrass you!! 

S is for Shopping: Shopping for Jake is my favourite (and most expensive) hobby, lol. Instagram and Etsy have become my 'go-to' places to shop, with some of my favourite brands being: Fred & Noah, Sweet Ruby's, Laurabell_treasures, Panda & Sparrow and Baby Brain Apparel.

T is for Tummy Time: Gosh we struggled with this one! Jake hated tummy time and screamed every time we did it. But it is so important in helping them strengthen the muscles on their neck so that they're able to support their heads. It also allows them to avoid getting a flattened-head at the back from continual pressure. Now? Jake will only sleep on his tummy when in bed! 

U is for Unbelievable: Parenting gives you loads of unbelievable gifts and wonders, like 'I can't believe all of that poop came from that little 8lb baby!' Or 'I can't believe you have hidden the TV remote so I can't find it'. But there will also be many moments where you won't believe how much love you have for your child or how amazing it is that they used the spoon themselves, or took their first step. It is all unbelievable. 

V is for Visitors: One of the first things that happens when you have a baby is you are inundated with requests from people wanting to visit. These visitors are lovely and its nice to have them welcome your new little bubba into the world. One bit of advice I'd give is pre-warn or get your partner to be prepared to tell people that you may want some time to get home and settle in. It takes time to adjust to the new schedule (ha, what schedule!?) and you are truly exhausted. It always helps if visitors can be mindful of things too, such as rinse/wash up their cups before they leave... bring something helpful for mum/dad ... not pick up the baby the minute you've just gotten them to sleep in the moses basket! etc. 

W is for Wishes: Before you have your baby there will be many promises, hopes and wishes you'll have. Do all that you can to fulfil them - but be realistic and understand that it's OK if you don't do everything you thought you would. Before you really become a parent yourself you are woefully unprepared and ignorant to what it really involves and just how different your life, ideas and values may be.

X is for X Box, iPads and Playstations: I've written about my views on technology before as a parent, and you can see more on this here. However, whilst I do allow Jake time to use technology and firmly believe it does have a place in his development, I also limit the amount of time he is allowed to use them and often only allow this in the morning or afternoon. 

Y is for YOUR Decision: As soon as you are pregnant and expecting other people will want to give you advice. You will even seek advice yourself (naturally, this is totally normal). When this happens there are two very important things to remember...
1) People mean well; they care and want to help (mostly), so just roll with it and take the advice politely and dismiss privately if necessary.
2) Remember that ultimately it is YOUR choice as the parent. Only you and your partner can make the decisions so you must do what is best and right for you. Seek help and advice when needed, but take responsibility for making the decisions for YOUR family.

Z is for ZZZzz: Yeah, sleep. There won't be much of that for a while. And you can kiss those 10am lie-ins goodbye! 

So that's my ABC of parenting. For some letters there were so many things to choose from. What would be on your list?

Bex x

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Working Parents' Child

We categorise our children in so many ways: the only child, the middle child etc. But I want to talk about 'The Working Parents' Child' and how you can spot these ever increasing species roaming around like Pokemon's hidden in the 'Go' app. 

So what is a 'Working Parents Child'? 
Well, a working parents' child is one whose parents both work more hours in employment than they spend with their child during the day before said child is put to bed. Or - if a single parent, that parent works more time in employment than they get to spend with their child during the day before said child is put to bed.

How can you spot a 'Working Parents' Child'? 
A WPC will undoubtedly be completely used to being left by their parents with others - nursery staff, childminders, grandparents, aunties, uncles, next door's dog etc. They will have an air of 'rushed exit' upon leaving the house each morning in which their hair is likely still in its 'bed head' style; their socks may not match and it's entirely possible that the said parent/s have completely forgotten to bring something utterly essential for the day.

What qualities does a 'Working Parents' Child' possess?
Well they are resilient; they have a well trained ability to accept that their parents aren't the only ones who will be feeding and washing them.
They will undoubtedly have an air of confidence knowing that they will get to go home and be entirely angelic/devellish at their own choice and the entire day is wiped clean from that moment.
They will be showered with extra love and affection upon the return of the said working parents who will be filled with guilt for not being there with them all day and this could cause a cheeky/ mischievous personality to arise now and then. 

How do you spot a Working Parents' Child's parent?
They are the ones swearing at the car door. They are the ones blubbing in the car on the way to/from work because of the guilt weighing them down. They are the parents in Early Learning Centre buying a new toy/outfit every week to try and fill the hole the guilt is making in their chest. The WPC's parent will be the one with their hair/ make up not done as they rush their way into work and straight to the bathroom to try and be at least somewhat presentable. They are the adults who obsessively look to see if other children the same age are doing what their kid is doing and feeling relieved that they, too, are throwing their food. 
But mostly, they are the ones who seem... Torn. Shredded. Divided. Pulled between family and work. Survival or failure. Career or dreams. Bills paid or belongings repossessed. And they juggle it all day in - day out. 

What do 'Working Parents's Children' become? 
Who knows. But they get the best of both worlds - parenting, childcare, nursery, socialising, grandparents, routine and lots of love from lots of different people. 

Above all...
What is most important is to see that no two children are the same. No two parents are the same, and regardless of whether you're a SAHM, a SAHD or a working parent - we're all just trying to do our very best for our children. After all, isn't that what parenting is all about?

Do you have a working parents' child? Were you one yourself? What are your experiences?


*Obviously parts of this are 'tongue in cheek' and it does not in any way assume I think all working parents and their children fit this description. No need to take offence. Just my own thoughts on my own WPC!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Summer Holidays are coming!

It is that time of year again when parents across the country begin their countdown to the summer holidays. The time where schools are closed, childcare has to be arranged and some parents are forced to accept the fact that they will need to have the kids at home for 6 weeks. Sounds like I'm being a bitch, right? 
Trust me. 
You'll see some parents moaning and groaning on social media about how their kids are doing their heads in and they 'can't wait for them to go back to school'.

For me - It might as well be Christmas!

6 weeks off work. My evenings and weekends back to being my own, rather than being filled with planning lessons or marking exam papers, books and assessments. I'll get to actually see people and spend time with them, not worrying about how I will get through my to-do list once Jake is in bed.

Most importantly? I will be free to enjoy time with Jake. I'll be able to say 'Hey! let's just stay in our PJs this morning' or 'Let's go to the park before lunch'. I'll be able to do activities like painting and baking with him because I won't only see him between 5am and 7:30am or 5:30pm and bed time. 

For me the summer holidays are the only 6 weeks in the whole year where I don't have to work. I don't have to think about work. I don't have to get to work. I don't have to rush to get home from work and I don't have to plan what needs to be done for work. The only time - all year! 

Inevitably, some work will happen. I'll have to prepare for September - the new classes and the new topics. I'll need to get my head around the new GCSE requirements I have yet to teach. But mostly, I can't wait to just be 'mum' and have some time to do the things I need - I might even get to have my hair done!

Right now, though, I am going to just relish in the fact that if I can get throgh 7 more working days then I can relish the 6 weeks stretching ahead of me filled with quality time.

What are you looking forward to the most this summer? What plans do you have?

Bex x

Monday, 11 July 2016

Back to Blogging

I have decided to come back to blogging! 

Here I am!

I have missed the outlet to blog about my life as a working mum and to share with other mums and dads how this jubilant journey of juggling jobs with kids can be amazing.

I'm not sure what's changed in the last 6 months or so since I last blogged, but something has; that is something I hope to explore with you.

Not much more to say except: Hello again! 

Bex x 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Do Good - Be Positive

Stop and think. 

When was the last time someone thanked you for that meal you cooked? Or replied gratefully to that helpful and supportive tweet you sent? When did your boss last acknowledge that you'd gone above and beyond, again, at work? All of us have a moment in our life where we'd like to be noticed, to be appreciated or to be acknowledged for the things we do. It is human nature - we all feel like this at one time or another. But how often do you say thank you to those around you? 

The people we surround ourselves with are vital cogs in our lives. They help us get through the day, the week, the month. Without them we would be alone. Without them things would be even more difficult. By showing your appreciation you can help them to feel good about who they are and in turn, they can help people around them feel good too. 

I have decided not to set any resolutions this year. Instead, I just want to try and be more positive about life, about myself and about my situations. I am starting by stopping and saying 'Thank you' to a few key people. 

Thank you to Luke. You're a wonderful father and a supportive husband. Thanks for all that you do. 

Thanks to my mum for helping support me and my little family. 

Thanks to the rest of my family and friends for the love and support. 

Who will you say thank you to?


Sunday, 10 January 2016

You Just Don't Understand

I have spent a week questioning whether or not I should publish this. In the end I've decided that it reflects how I feel, even a week on. So I'm going to take the inevitable 'flack' and post.

Here goes...

Last Sunday night - on Instagram - I saw a mum post this comment: 

''I go to work for the adult conversation and nothing more''. 

Quite frankly lady - it ends in 'off' and starts with 'f...'. 

On the evening before so many of us mums and dads were returning to work - if we hadn't already - (some full, some part time) to post something that sounds so arrogant and insensitive got my back up. I exploded into a tirade of bubbling anger as I explained to Luke what I'd seen. It ruffled my feathers, poked at my sore spot and poured alcohol on the flames of feelings about returning to work. 

I hate to say this bold statement. But I am going to say it. 

You well-off stay at home parents just DON'T understand. 

There. I said it. 

I open myself up to the flood of hate and ranting people who dominate the parenting world of blogging and Twitter to slate me, unfollow me, moan about me etc. But you know what - you just DON'T get it. 

I know this doesn't apply to everyone. I am not doing a 'Katie Hopkins blanket blame' statement. Many, many parents out there who now stay at home DO understand and empathise with those of us forced to continue to work full/part time (for whatever the reason). Many of those parents are decent, supportive and sensitive human beings who have the maturity to understand; after all, we all have our problems and challenges to deal with - whatever they may be. 

But, there are a good many parents who simply don't understand what it is like to HAVE to work. To have to give your child to family or childcare so that you can pay the bills. So that you can manage. So that your little one doesn't go without. You simply don't know the guilt that hollows into your stomach and reaches up to wrap around your heart every morning as you have to leave and want nothing more to be with your child all day. To be the one that picks them up when they cry for you because they fell over, or whatever they need. 

Luke and I are very lucky that Jake spends time with his Nanny as part of his childcare. We're also very lucky that he seems to really enjoy the three mornings a week he is at nursery and plays with other children. The guilt has gotten easier as time has gone on and we see how settled Jake is in to his routine.

I know there are many other parents out there who are worse off than us in lots of ways, and my heart goes out to them as I empathise with their struggles.

Perhaps all of us could try to be a little more thoughtful, 'eh?