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So... I'm one month into this 'being a parent of two' thing, and so far so good ... it's blooming hard work, I'm being pulled in what feels like a million directions, I'm tired and feel like I've aged about 4 years in 4 weeks (!) but we're happy, healthy and my family is complete.
What a lucky Mumma!
Finding the time to do anything other than feed the kids, change their nappies, play with them, bath them, sterilise bottles and soothe Connie when she's irritable hasn't been easy - but this working Mumma has had to find ways to claw back some time to get the essentials done (paid work, housework, cooking the family meals).
The main thing I've learnt is to ensure you have a strong and secure network of people around you - they will be the most incredible source of strength and advice, reassurance and help in those first weeks and months of parenthood. It is really apparent to me how lucky I am in times of need when the wonderful people around me all muck in to support me and ultimately make my life easier.
It's a real karma moment - I hope that I am good person, and I think I work pretty hard at being a good friend and family member to the people I love, I try to be thoughtful, supportive and kind, and so in turn, my friends and family repay the favour during my time of need. Pay it forward, if you will. I've actually been so overwhelmed by all the love and kindness my little family has been shown in the past month - we have received 46 cards and counting (!), so many stunning gifts from visitors, as well as practical help from them too.
Just a few of the beautiful cards we've been sent to celebrate Connie's arrival #lucky
In this post I want to share some advice, tips, tricks for coping with a newborn and a toddler, and talk about some of the most useful/thoughtful gifts we've received during the last month - I hope this little guide will prove useful and reassuring to new-parents, and might even provide some inspiration for those wanting to help a friend/family member with a new addition.
1. My first piece of advice is don't be too proud to accept offers of help.
Whether it be someone offering to unload the dishwasher, hang out some wet washing, or pick you up some groceries. Give yourself a break and allow others to wait on you a little for a change, if you're anything like me (control freak, hostess) it will be hard to relinquish control and allow others to step in to do your jobs, but honestly, just let them - it removes jobs from your never ending to-do list, frees up your time so you can concentrate on the kids, and makes the friend/family member feel good because they've been able to do something truly useful - win/win!
2. Cbeebies/Disney DVDs are your new best friend. So are biscuits.
A toddler can be easily distracted/entertained with Cbeebies/a DVD and/or biscuits - this winning combo is super useful when you have a newborn to feed/change/cuddle, washing to hang out, or you're simply in need of ten minutes "peace" to regain some inner calm.
A biscuit and a Disney DVD to keep Bert amused while I change and feed Connie!
3. A thermos mug will be the best thing anyone could ever buy you.
My lovely friend Emma (from Life According to Mrs Shilts) sent me a thermos flask and box of yummy biscuits shortly after Connie arrived, and it's been a blooming godsend! After Liam went back to work following his paternity leave I was left juggling both kiddos on my own, and spent the first few days boiling the kettle 50 times a day and never actually making a cup. Then the thermos gift arrived and voila - don't underestimate how good a hot cup of tea is when you're stressed and trying to juggle two kids!
4. Book a dinner date with your other half in the first month.
One of the things I'm a big advocate of when becoming a parent is still retaining your 'you-ness' - so many of my mum friends talk about losing their identity and feeling like 'just a mummy' after having their first child. So, after having Bert, I was super-determined to ensure I found the time to still be 'me' - to enjoy my hobbies, time with my friends without the children, and very importantly time with my husband to just be ourselves, not 'mum and dad'.
We achieved this with regular date nights (dinner, a trip to the cinema etc) which did us as a couple the world of good. Ultimately, you spend the whole time talking about the kids, but it's vital time for you to relax and reconnect after all the craziness that having a newborn brings with it.
I found that the sooner you can arrange a date night after baby's arrival, the better. If you bite the bullet and head out without the kiddies sooner rather than later you'll realise that leaving them for a few hours doesn't make you a bad mum and dad. In fact, it makes you a happier parent...which in turn makes for happy children! Be reassured that the kids will be fine with your trusted babysitter (thanks grandparents!) and you'll love getting dressed up (or not!) and feeling like a proper grown up again.
Liam and I at dinner in London when Connie was 2 weeks old.
5. Book a night away in a hotel at some point in the first six months.
We did this shortly after Bert's arrival, and we already have our first night away booked following Connie's arrival, for mid-august and I can't wait! You'll be amazed what just one night in a hotel without children can do to revitalise the parents of young children.
Keep at bay any wild ideas about swinging each other from the chandeliers, in all honesty you'll most likely just want to consume way too much food and wine, watch a boxset in comfy pjs and have a LOOOONG un-interupted sleep, followed by waking to a proper hot cooked breakfast which you can eat at your leisure (rather than a cold piece of toast eaten one handed while you rock the baby and watch Cbeebies with your toddler! #mumlife).
It doesn't sound like much, but it will be blissful, trust me.
You don't even have to go very far away or spend much money - in fact, the closer to home you stay the better - you'll save on travel costs, and you'll get more time to chill as you won't waste time travelling.
Remember, this isn't about seeing a new city or exploring the sites, it is about proper R&R time, so whether you travel 10 miles or 100 it really doesn't matter. I found these top tips on comparing hotels really useful when trying to book the perfect escape for Liam and I. I hope they'll be useful to you too. Having used these tips I managed to secure hubby and I a double room in a lovely golf club hotel with breakfast included for just £50! Billy bargain!
6. The most useful thing anyone can do for you in the first few weeks is to bring round food, especially homemade ready-to-eat/quick to cook dinners.
We've been so lucky following Connie's arrival - my amazing family and friends have all rallied round to support us and ensure we're all being looked after. Of course, we've been showered with beautiful, thoughtful cards, and some stunning gifts - from baby clothes to toys, treats for Liam and I, and little gifts for Bert. But some of the most useful things people have done for us have been food-related.
My wonderful Mother in Law filled my freezer with homemade cottage pies and shepherds pies - she made them from scratch in foil trays, and they were an absolute god-send in those first two weeks, when cooking was quite frankly out of the question. Yes, you can always order a takeaway or six (!) but for me I know that eating fresh, homemade, healthy food will always make me feel so much better - and I know how vital it is to stay properly nourished post-natally to help heal & recover properly.
Thanks to my Mother in Law for prepping us homemade ready-meals!
My wonderful friend Sarah (from Sarah Kate Makes) turned up to visit us shortly after Connie's arrival laden with beautiful gifts for Connie and Bert as well as a care-package for Liam and I which included a beautiful homemade spinach and lentil soup (so healthy and nourishing), a homemade loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread (my fave!) and a homemade lemon cake!
The most delicious green soup - spinach and lentil with cumin, it was divine, comforting and so nourishing!
When Connie was one week old my great and super-thoughtful friend Janet (from Kitchen Table Sewing) dropped off the most glorious tin full of home-baked raspberry cheesecake chocolate brownies...the perfect treat for our many visitors and a super-indulgent treat for us all to enjoy together.
#cakeforbreakfast - a must for all new parents!
My besties Danni and Charlie bought Liam and I the most indulgent treat box from Hotel Chocolat (our absolute favourite treat shop) - and we throughly enjoyed working our way through the scrumptious chocolately delights after long, hard days. We finished the whole box in just 4 sittings...oops!
All this food-related kindness was just so appreciated and made our lives infinitely easier in those first weeks at home. It also meant I could spoil visitors with yummy treats without having to bake them myself, and I could spend more time with my lovely family rather than being stuck in the kitchen.
7. Ensure you keep your Kindle/paperback, tv remote, phone, drink and snacks within easy reach at all times.
This may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me when I had my first child, and I found myself stuck holding a sleeping newborn, not wanting to move in fear of waking them, with my phone/tv remote and hot tea on the other side of the room! So frustrating!
Now I ensure my kindle, tv remotes, phone and glass of water are always on the table next to the sofa where I sit when feeding Connie. I've even heard of some parents having a little bag packed with all the essentials that they take around the house with them, or position right by the sofa within easy reach - so that you have entertainment and supplies at your fingertips when you need them.
All the essentials on hand...
8. Dry shampoo and face wipes will become your beauty staples, and thats okay.
Remember those blissful hot baths you used to run - full of bubbles and Lush bath bombs, with burning scented candles and a glass of wine resting on the side of the bath? Well swap that for a 3 minute speed-shower with a baby in a bouncy chair watching you, or a sink-wash old fashioned stylie with a flannel and everything (hello 90's childhood!)...there'll be some days when you won't even find time for a sink-wash - and so a quick face wipe and spray of dry shampoo will have to do. Be reassured that it's a totally normal part of being a new parent, and you're not alone...It's currently 11:30 am and I'm still in my pj's and haven't brushed my hair or teeth yet...
9. MAKE time each day to do something just for you - something indulgent, even if it's only for twenty minutes.
Maybe it's watching an episode of your favourite soap, going for a run, doing some yoga/meditation, reading a chapter of your book, crafting, painting your nails, watching a vlog, or chatting to your best mate on the phone. Whatever you choose, do not feel guilty for having some you-time. You might build the you-time into your routine so that it falls during nap time, or maybe you'll take twenty minutes when your husband/partner gets in from work, maybe you'll decide to get up twenty minutes earlier each day to start the day in peace with something just for you, or perhaps it will have to wait until the kid(s) are in bed but whatever time of day you choose just make sure you take a breath and enjoy it.
10. Read 'The Fourth Trimester' magazine.
My gorgeous friend Amy bought me a copy of 'The Fourth Trimester' magazine shortly after Connie's arrival, and it was just the most spot-on gift. This bi-yearly publication is not only beautiful, but a must-read for all new parents. Each issue is full of articles written by real parents, sharing the truth behind parenting and all that it brings. I have laughed, nodded along and cried all the way through reading it, and will absolutely pass on my copy to other new-mum friends now that I've read it from cover to cover. An especially great gift for those who don't have a strong support-network around them - reading this magazine is the equivalent of having a good natter with your best mate, or calling your mum for advice...!
A must-read for all new parents!
What advice would you give to parents of a newborn? Have I missed anything?