Babies – how to handle two under twos…?

This post title is potentially slightly misleading: I have no freaking clue how to handle two under twos. Please note the question mark. If you do know any two under two magical tricks or spells – please feel free to share! The title of the this post should really read “how to attempt to survive two under twos” by someone a mere month in.

I remember skim reading a post on the same topic when I was in the mid-stage of pregnancy; i.e. I knew I may be getting into some hot water with two little people to look after, and I wanted to understand more specifically if it was tepid hot, hot hot or freaking boilymcboilerson.  The post was written from both the perspective of the new mother of two, and the new father of two, and to say it was slightly terrifying is an understatement. I have clearly blocked it from my memory now as I can’t recall the specific details, but they were both “au fond du seau” as they say in France – literally at the bottom of the bucket, or more accurately in a pit of despair. They each resented the other. Suffice it to say the boily hot water option was portrayed as being most accurate.

Determined not to let that shocking read get me down, I approached this new phase of life mindful of that old adage “this too shall pass“.  Yes it will be hard, intense, taxing… but it will last such a short period of time, it will be over before we know it. We will be looking back at it and (hopefully) laughing, crying at how quickly les petites change, and generally being delighted that we got to where we are today.  Considering we truly believed we would not have our own children (we even went to an initial adoption meeting) how magical and insane that we are here now with two little people we can call our own.

Two babies is hard. We knew this would be the case. We knew there would be adaptation period and we are very much still in that period. So how are we coping so far?  Here’s the truth, and the reasons why:

Number 1 : Monsieur FF. We literally could not function without him right now. Everyone needs a partner just like him (for the avoidance of doubt he’s not up for grabs, sossles, but he could happily offer up some tips to fellow malians over a beer).  The man has just survived 9++ months with a grumpy, super-sized wifeball of hormones; he is then accosted with the broken version of that wife ball, still with a John Wayne waddle, plus an additional, smaller wailing ball of hormones. This is to accompany the existing Boddler who incidentally is rapidly approaching terrible twos with a vengeance. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him: let’s be honest he brought this on himself, and he also got off pretty lightly in the grand scheme of things (quick reminder that it was the wifeball that carried and birthed the bebette). However, credit where credit is due, Monsieur FF is going above and beyond on father and hubber duties right now. Cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the Boddler in a happy place whilst maman is losing her sh*t silently in the room next door.  You are a legend Monsieur FF.  As I keep saying to him, this time will pass and we will look back and laugh. Meanwhile, just enjoy the craziness that is our life right now. And try to shower. In that five second window you have to yourself.  That is more important than researching holidays…. (Anyone that knows him will appreciate this man does. not. stop).

Also just a quick sidenote that I can’t put into words how much I take my hat off to those single parents out there that are parenting solo: epic levels of kudos to you.

Number 2: Boddler is in nursery. That’s right, I’m basically cheating. I am not really caring for two under twos at all. I’m caring for just one most of the day.  That said, the hours where we are doubling up are intense.  I’m still only a month in so things will change in the next weeks, but so far Boddler has continued in his usual routine at nursery with some surprise visits and treat days out interspersed.  This is working really well for everyone as it means he continues in his routine and isn’t too discombobulated by all the changes going on at home. It means we know he is properly watered and fed so that if we end up having a crazy soiree of screaming madness (there have been a couple) and I can only prepare cereal and cheese for dinner, he’s not going to starve.  If I’m beyond tired and have Bebette attached to my boob, it’s ok that we just read some stories with raisins, because I know he’s had a good day of energy releasing at nursery.  And when Papa gets home, we do our best to both have some time where we are completely focused on the Boddler. Nowadays bath time and story time are particularly raucous.

Number 3: Books are your friend.  Luckily the arrival of Bebette has coincided with a deep and intense love of reading for Boddler. By that I mean when he goes to bed, he needs at least three books in his bed with him.  And he needs the light on so he can work through each of the books, silently studying the images (I assume he’s not studying the words but wouldn’t be surprised obvs #childgenius).  That is after we have read the stories to him.  Whenever he gets a bit distressed, because Bebette is getting in the way of him having a cuddle with mummy, or he starts to throw things in my direction with a menacing look in his eye, I simply offer up a story and off he poddles to fetch the relevant story and plops himself down so we can get on with reading.

Number 4: Building bricks are your friend. Ok, I work at LEGO so I’m slightly biased towards DUPLO bricks. Seriously though one box of the fantastic plastic is good for a LOT of play.  Boddler FF can happily sit for tens of minutes building towers, trains, farms, “colicoptas”, and generally having fun creating and ensuring the bricks are in some sort of colour order.  It’s quite mesmerising to watch.  The only negative (aside from the damage to feet when you inadvertently stand on the stuff) is the noise – if I’ve managed to get Bebette to nap somewhere that’s not on me (hard, but not impossible), then you can rest assured that the sound of Boddler tipping his bricks all over the floor and then throwing himself into them will wake her up.  I recommend parental assistance in preparing the bricks for play and tidying up afterwards.

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Concentration levels: HIGH.

Number 5: Snacks are your BEST friend.  The first night I went to pick up Boddler on my own with the Bebette in tow (in the soft sling which was an error; not robust enough for Boddler-catching movements – recommend the BabyBjorn) I was reminded of the critical importance of having a snack handy at all times for bribing. Bribery goes against everything that I am, except in these circumstances.  I needed to get Boddler into the buggy and I needed not to tip Bebbette onto the floor, or give either of them concussion with a head clashing incident. The way to do this? Offer up a snack. Boddler leaps into the buggy and practically straps himself in, panting for his carrot crisp or handful of raisins.  Not entirely strapped in of course, and again, being completely honest I cheated in this specific case  because a fellow kind mama saw me flapping with Bebette dangling out of my coat, and rescued me, ensuring Boddler was properly and safely strapped in.  But I’ve since mastered the art and can also casually push the buggy with one hand whilst ensuring Bebette is fine with the other #winning.  I confess that there are certain things which were not available in abundance before, which now may be more frequently consumed due to arm’s length availability. For example, chocolate or “lolott” as some people call it. For some reason* there is usually some chocolate or cake or a biscuit near me at the moment (in the voice of Ali G it wasn’t me)

Number 6: Slings. Baby carriers. Pouches. Anything to facilitate baby carrying.  One thing you need more than anything with 2+ children is your hands free. There is no time for being trapped on the sofa with a babe in your arms.  I mean it does still happen, and is indeed necessary sometimes (have.a.rest), but if you have to do something with the older one at any point, like prepare food or get them dressed, which is required most day, and your new baby is still fussy and doesn’t like to be put down much (or at all… not mentioning any names…) then you really need to carry the baby in order to function. It means you can do things like get the big one into the buggy.  It also means, at least for the time being, you don’t need to have a double buggy.  Baby carrying is proven to have all sorts of positive effects for you and your babe.

Number 7: Sleep and Eat.  Just whenever you can.  Ok, none of this “sleep when they sleep” anymore – that simply doesn’t work when you’ve got two under twos. Boddler is going to wake up at 7am, or before, whether you like it or not. Bebette is going to need feeding at random intervals throughout the day and night, and will get colicky in the evening.  You need fresh air, coffee and food in your cupboards so – frankly – there isn’t really much opportunity for napping. You have just got to power through and go to bed when the little one lets you.  Ensure you eat because aint nobody got time for a hangry mama.

Number 8: Support network.  Second time round you won’t have you NCT group or equivalent.  I mean you hopefully still have your crew, I certainly do (check out my post on their awesomeness here), but we are first to ’embark’ on the second pregnancy in our group, and so it’s a bit different to the first time when we were all popping at the same time. Most of my crew are happily sleeping through the night and are well beyond worrying about breastfeeding and colic.  However, they are still as supportive as ever.  I’m also lucky enough to have a group of friends who have recently had number twos (lols – I mean babies).  Late night whatsapping, in-between crazed amazon priming, helps to maintain my sanity.  All you ladies rock.

Number 9: Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t forget these babes won’t remember any of this madness. You and your partner will, but even those memories will quickly fade.  Enjoy each day, and be grateful.  If you feel really, really stressed, watch an episode of one of the shows where someone is managing multiples e.g. these quintuplets.  That will quickly remind you that you can totes manage this.

Big love and lots of luck to you x x

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Bebette: Things I had forgotten about having a newborn

Despite the fact we were first time parents only last year (!) it is amazing how quickly you forget the highs and lows of newborn life. Here are a few of the things that I had entirely forgotten

New bébés are light as a feather. Literally a tiny baby pillow feather. Be warned: if you have a Boddler and you’re picking them up interchangeably, be sure to adjust to appropriate power levels. A few times Bebette has nearly hit the ceiling, and Boddler has been subject to some enormous groans as I collapse under his comparatively ginormous poids.

New bébés sleep a lot. Like a real lot. Except maybe not so much at night, and generally not so well if not on a warm humanoid. The combo of the first and second points above (light and sleepy) means you can cart or push them around to your heart’s content without worrying about very much at all. They don’t roll and they don’t need a high chair.  They won’t demand snacks and start crying uncontrollably when you try to get them in and out of the buggy. You can pretty much just plop them down somewhere cosy and safe and they are good. You can even keep them attached to you for hours and they are perfectly and deliciously happy. Hello walk! Hello restaurant! Hello hot coffee! (Although NB if eating and drinking with a Bebe attached be extra careful – best to drink tepid tea rather than risk an accident).

Bebe nappies are tiny. And they don’t like not having their nappy or clothes on. They don’t like it one bit. I recall this with Boddler and now with Bebette – there is nothing more sinister to be subjected to than a nappy change AND subsequent change of vest/ attire. Full and highest pitched screaming is required from the point at which they are laid down to the moment they are back at chest (read: boob/milk) level. The nappies are rather spectacular and somehow contain the most challenging of liquid ejections. I don’t know if Bebette is just more ladylike than Boddler FF but we seem to have had less poonamies so far (*touch wood). However I do get a sinking feeling each time I hear a squidgy spurty fart noise. Nappy change, potential full outfit change,… I need a moment to prepare and ideally some earplugs.

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Such a tiny nappy and yet it looks so massive! Bundler in action – no need to undo poppers. Boom.

Breatsfeeding is a challenge. It does hurt at the beginning. Just because you’ve done it once already doesn’t necessarily make it painless the second time round. Days 3-5ish are intense, sore and generally a bit uncomfortable. You need to feed all the time (at this point you don’t really have many other options if they are crying; stories, bribe snacks and Peppa Pig are not yet functional. You’re trying to understand this new baby and you only really have a couple of tools to work with – food and warmth/nappies). You do find yourself wincing with each latch. Then it is suddenly fine. Everything feels comfortable again. And it’s so worth it. If you are able and willing, it’s joyous.

Side note: last year I did a post on breasts and breastfeeding, check it out here.

I have the opposite problem to most people when feeding, which is trying to control the rapid flow of milk I have to Bebette and not all over the sofa / neighbour / carefully prepared meal. I have a rapid or heavy letdown (whatever it’s called – reminds me of Mean Girls and the lady with the heavy flow and wide-set VG) and a delicate little lady – basically I’m asking her to do a “down in one” for every meal and that’s a tough ask. She can’t handle my milk at the speed it comes out. So we have painful gas, a little bit of reflux and a lot of leaked on, milky clothes and bras, a high turnover of nursing pads and a residual atmosphere of damp cheese factory. Mmmmm.

New babies can sense when you’re about to eat and will do everything in their power to ensure you know they also need to eat. I find this truly amazing but as it only seems to affect me and my dinner directly, few others in the house see the remarkable coincidence. No matter what time, and seemingly in no way linked to Bebette’s normal feeding routine, whenever I’m about to be presented with hot food, it’s like my saliva sets off an alarm in her and she starts screaming. It is simply inconceivable that I should put Bebette down somewhere to eat prior to feeding her. And that is the case even when I “strategically” feed her right before. “Strategically” in quotes because I’m not sure my brain is up to anything purporting to be strategic or logical or planned…. but you know what I mean.

Then after urgent feed, she’ll likely poop. Bon appétit! Who needs to eat anyway?

The newbie poos are insanely colourful. Bright yellow bright green with little bits in… joy. On the plus side they really don’t smell. Lucky then I’m permanently attached to Bebette so know when they have arrived thanks to the machine gun farts. Otherwise I’d have no clue. Unlike with Boddler where you need to exit the room to breathe before going back in to remedy the situation.

How quickly they grow out of clothes in the early days. Newborn, 0-1 month, the tiny little items you either have in abundance or perhaps you don’t have enough of. Either way before you know it, literally two weeks in, they are starting to fill out. 3 weeks in and the big giveaway that she’s growing: Bebette’s toes are at the end of the little footsies and the legs look like they are starting to pull. THREE WEEKS! That’s not fair! Why do they grow so quickly? Or is it just me and my sugar milk that is made up of 70% cake and chocolate?!

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One hand you say?

You have to function with one hand. I’m writing this with one hand on my phone. You have to get on with life with a little milky hot water bottle attached to you either at the boob or in a sling. Eating in treacherous (as mentioned above), hot drinks must not be hot, you mostly only ever have one hand available for Boddler patting or trying to clean, and any time you do have your body back to yourself, there’s a 70% chance that there is someone crying somewhere in close proximity to you. I had forgotten that you literally can’t go to the loo or for a shower without a screaming serenade or taking the little one in with you. Given that Bebette isn’t a massive fan of any of her sleep receptacles yet, I have to rely on Papa to take over the snuggles and “release me” to the bathroom. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t have this problem second time round but it seems not…maybe I’m the cuddle monster…

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Off we go into week 4 – wish us luck!  Next post will be on the initial learnings with two under twos 💓💓

 

 

 

 

Bumpologie: the magic of pregnancy

 

As I reflect, in the last days of my second pregnancy, on the experience of being pregnant and growing a couple of people in my abdomen, honestly I am still baffled by what has just happened. Je suis complètement bafflé (nb: not a real word – the French would never confess to such a state of mind). You would think after 9+ months of cooking time most people have got their head around what is happening inside them. But I continue to be floored by the whole process; the exact timing and precise, regular changes that happen along the way, the way your body just reorganises to accommodate a watermelon, and the fact that you can readily grow a penis and a brain whilst still retaining at least 56% of your own cognitive function and doing your job/ feeding your family/ getting around/ generally surviving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: how could women possibly be the weaker sex?!

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Like anyone going through the pregnancy journey, I have been excited but also slightly perturbed by the changes that occur in my body. I have tried to embrace the changes and I am always mindful of the privilege that is being pregnant.  However, the second time around it has been quite a different experience to the bubble-wrapped first pregnancy; more nausea, more stretching, more tiring, less bubble-wrapping, less pre-natal yoga, less cake and treats, less time to relax (see below) and to reflect on the milestones and changes (albeit seemingly more time at the very end this time round!!).  Whilst it’s utterly astounding to think that there’s a human inside me, the magical unknown of the exit process is now somewhat ruined.  As such “due date” carries both a sense of excitement and utter fear.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to think up an alternative exit route for this bebe, but there.just.isn’t.one.  YIKES.

Having the privilege of doing this whole thing twice, what did I do differently with the second pregnancy? The main things I’ve learnt this time around:

  • invest in good clothes (Isabella Oliver and Mamalicious remain top faves, larger sizes from Next and Séraphine also tend to wear well).  Towards the end you will wear the same clothes repeatedly. With a toddler, they will be covered in snot and food, so they really need to be durable.  I anticipate I will be wearing some of the trousers for the next few months.  Who wants to give up an elastic waistband anyway?
  • keep up with the belly oils and moisturisers – everyone has different skin and every pregnancy does different things to your body. Nonetheless, the moisturising of bump routine I nailed first time round was not strictly adhered to this time, until the final trimester when I spotted some suspicious looking marks.  Do not risk it and do keep those magic potions going.  My personal preference is the MamaMio range because it just smells so good.
  • don’t push yourself – when you’ve got a toddler in tow there is only so much you can do, and that’s no bad thing. Early to bed is not a crime, plenty of time for midnight parties up ahead.
  • there is no such thing as too many pillows – literally all the pillows are residing on my bed right now. I still can’t get comfy and roll around hurumphing all night, but at least it muffles my whining for Monsieur FF.
  • you can still benefit from a bit of reading. This time I was recommended Bumpology and thoroughly enjoyed it (until I lost my kindle) as a well-informed read by a science journalist au fait with actual scientific facts. There is a lot of speculation about pregnancy and labour and new babies, (and there will always be because unsurprisingly no-one wants to be a guinea pig at these times) but I found the book to be written frankly and some factual basis.  Lawyers love a few facts.
  • you don’t have to eat for two – saddest revelation from the Mothership when she pointed out, mid-way through my pregnancy that “you know you only actually need 200 extra calories per day”.  Not that I care about weight gain during pregnancy (I mean – I obviously moan about it but make no effort to stop eating whatever I need to eat), but when it comes from the Mothership you have to at least take note.  Boo.

I am also taking a moment to highlight some significant lifestyle differences between this pregnancy experience and le premier, i.e. being pregnant with a toddler in tow.

First obvious example: the prescribed “relaxing” before giving birth.

First time round we were all NCT classes, dinner dates, massages, “lots of sleep” (FYI not a real thing when heavily pregnant) and luxury bathing with lotions and potions and tranquil candle vibes in the house. Second time and IF I get a moment (and have the energy) for a bath, I have to, first, locate my bath products behind 15 different eczema potions and baby bath products. Then I have to manoeuvre into the bath around the obstacle course that is various musical fish, mats and safety devices. Once I’m in the tub (“wedged in” is probably a more accurate description), rather than resting my head on the soft bath pillow (which has been relegated to some sort of safety role), I get a sharp prod in the ear from the Nuby Octopus, before having the full foam alphabet assortment raining down on my oversized body. The baby belly that I’ve set out to have some quiet time with is now littered with brightly coloured letters reminding me I’m “OK” (ish) “OH” (so big) “FLABP” (flabby?! Or start flapping because you will shortly be in labour?!).  The letters move around as the bebe on the inside reminds me that my bladder is just one small kick away.  I have some old bath salts wedged in my toes and all around me are luminous receptacles for water, not candles. Cue gentle wails from my nearby Boddler, who, in his sleep, has sensed I may be having a quiet moment and is not at all in agreement. Immense waves of guilt wash over me (the only washing that’s occurring) as I tell myself “this could be the last night it’s just you and me buddy“… so I decide to exit the bath and provide urgent cuddles. As I haul myself out of the bath, and haul is no exaggeration, I make it to standing and notice that I’ve conveniently got an “X” and “L” wedged in my derrière.  Hearing various load grunts and groans, both from me and the bath tub, Monsieur FF calls out “t’es ok?!” (or has our bath just collapsed through the ceiling…???) “I’m FINE.”  Boddler wailing has naturally subsided by now, Boddler is quiet, but energy to re-enter the alpha-bath has depleted, so I give up. Now to find a towel that is bigger than half of my leg.

Another good one is the preparation of le stuff that you need for new Bebe. This preparation process was like a ritual with number 1; neatly washed, folded, laid out or hanging, delicately positioned in certain areas of the house which were previously bare, and well in advance of the little bonhomme arriving… this time, it’s about not mixing the tiny baby vests with the seemingly giant man vests worn by big brother, and using any “relaxing” time to half-heartedly fold neatly in the knowledge that, in a mere few days, the items will be piled in a basket covered in poop and baby milk. Anything strategically placed around the house (anywhere that isn’t already occupied by more brightly coloured FP necessities), like a Moses basket or crib, is promptly given the Boddler FF treatment, namely climbing in or on it, and leaving a trail of snot and dribble, not dissimilar to the star of the Snail and the Whale… except the message he leaves is not “save the whale” but “MINE“. Marking his territory. And technically correct because much of the equipment we are able to recycle given it’s all still fairly new. When it comes to jumperoo time I anticipate some fierce battles…

One rather dramatic change for the positive in the FF house is that we do now actually cook meals at home.  Partially due to the fact it’s pretty hard to go out for dinner when your toddler needs his bed at 7.30pm.  Any of my uni crew reading this are no doubt grimacing at the thought of the ultimate garlic flatbed, carrottes rapées followed by yoghurt surprise. Gousto is a game changer. (If you want to get 50% off your first two boxes try code REBEC269169.) So, now I’m pretty much a master chefette, I’ve obviously prepared weeks of frozen food, all ready to go when we have no time for cooking…. just kidding, we still have a ridiculous freezer which can only accommodate 3 tubs of Ben and jerrys and some frozen peas so I ain’t got time (space) for that. But I have got some delicious protein balls ready to go, if Monsieur FF doesn’t scoff them all before this Bebe#2 arrives.

So what now, what should I be doing in the last few days of freedom? I’m not used to waiting (patience levels: 0) but as I’ve alluded to recently in a few Insta posts, I’m very conscious that this time is really precious – soon we will be in the mad fog of newborn business and our Boddler has to adapt to the fact he can’t have our attention 100% of the time. More importantly for me to compute, I can’t give him all my energy because the newbie will have a number of demands that must be met. So rather than wishing this one would hurry out, I am trying to embrace the calm, the family of three vibes, and enjoy the excitement of not knowing when our lives are completely shifting again… except it had bloody better be within the next 5 days!!! As you can see I’m nailing the embracing.

Just to make life that tiny bit more interesting, in a deftly and ingenious move, Boddler FF has decided that the last days should go his way, and in a way that is bafflé-ing to all around him, including various health professionals, has managed some hybrid mix of chicken pox, foot and mouth, eczema flare up and standard nursery cold/snot-fest meaning he can’t go to nursery (the “normal” I wanted him to retain whilst home life catapults into chaos). Instead of putting my feet up with my super trooper Mothership, (who btw has just had a double knee replacement, but notwithstanding has still come “up” to me from the Great Yorkshire to give me strength and generally do the magic that mothers do at this time) I’m chasing around after the little spotty monkey. Despite the numerous ailments he seems to have energy in abundance. Du coup I’m not sure if his sibling is hiding on the inside to avoid the lurgy, aware of the chaos just outside and staying sensibly put, or – as I suspect may be the case – is brewing an exit performance so momentous that Boddler FF will have to sit on the sidelines for a little while. Let’s wait and see….

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Bebe to Big Bro

As this shock 2nd pregnancy rapidly races towards the inevitable finish line (panic face) I want to take stock of my beautiful Bebe FF and get lost in his joyousness for one last blog. Ok I know *technically* this whole blog is thus far dedicated to him, but so much has happened since he was a little crumpled ball of milky goodness – now he’s a proper little human bean. He can talk and throw tantrums and eat grown-up food.

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I need to document one more time the utter joy that he single-handedly brings to our lives, before Bebe #2 comes on the scene and things forever change again.* Call me hormonal (fair) but considering I’m about to eject a second Bebe I am feeling emotional about the changes that are ahead and leaving him, even for the ejection period …

*just a little side note for anyone reading that’s on the mad journey, dreaming of becoming a parent but not there yet ~ big love and courage to you. We have been there and it’s difficult. It makes you strong. Don’t give up. Miracles happen. 

Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, he will get used to it, he will survive not being the only child etc etc which of course is true – but – it is still a big shift from the status quo. Our status quo. However, my only experience in this area is when my own little sister (the first of three) came into the world around a similar age to the age Bebe FF is now. And yes, to be fair, in actual fact, I can’t remember a single thing about it other than I am delighted to have the three best sisters a girl could wish for. And we are super close. So probably true that it didn’t cause me (or her) any harm and for the long term, I’m confident this will be a very good thing for all concerned. However, short term, Bebe FF is at a stage where he requires approximately 130% of our attention. And we also like (/need) to give him ( – for risk of all manner of accidents occurring) exactly that amount of attention. So how the heckers do we manage to maintain that AND introduce into the mix the all-encompassing experience that is having a newborn? Oh la la la la la. I suppose that may well be my next blog… for now, let me focus on the centre of the universe for the last few weeks whilst he retains that title alone.

If you are lucky enough to have a toddler, I’m sure you can relate to these amazing things about having a mini person:

  • your heart feels like it might explode every time they laugh or cry or sneeze or attempt to say a word or run or basically breathe… basically you’re on the cusp of a heartattack 24/7.
  • listening to them learning to speak is just fantastic. Even if my name is “daddy” I couldn’t be more delighted every time he utters a noise which sounds like a real word. “Poo” made me disproportionately smug; doubly so when he indicated there was a smelly nappy present to accompany the word, so he wasn’t just saying it for shits and giggles. Genius. “EnCCore” confirms to me his bilingual abilities, even if it is often followed by a cheeky grin and a spluttering “peeeeez” <“please”>. Less happy about the declarative “mine!” but in the specific context it was actually his, so….”NON” is another naughty one but somehow in French it sounds … not as bad. So impressed.
  •  The nappy bum makes the running and tumbling all the more amusing. To be fair, I can hardly criticise when I’m adopting a similar waddle, however rather than a comfy large nappy, I have a head down there compromising my usual ability to strut. Ahem.
  • The extreme moods; epic thirst levels upon waking which require visual confirmation that milk is actually about to enter his mouth, otherwise the world could possibly end. Hyper energy when it is time to urgently run in and out of the playhouse 3,568 times just to confirm the doors are all properly affixed. The post-nursery, pre-bedtime hanger and tiredness than usually requires a fromage frais and a good cuddle and story, before the rapid revival effected thanks to a playful bath time.
  • Mealtimes: there is nothing quite like being sprayed with beans and watching a compote being sloshed all over your babes face and the surrounding walls. Once I got over the frustration of food rejection I started to enjoy the challenge of finding something that would make Bebe cheer when presented with his plate. Cheese is a guaranteed winner in our house – so français.
  • The sheer delight in his eyes as he turns the pages of the Gruffalo and Tabby McTat, examining every image and pointy-fingering endlessly. Now he actually likes to be left alone with the books, once we’ve read them 4 times, so that he can double-check we are actually telling the correct story. Takes after his mama.
  • The utter magic that is bubbles. Whether it’s actual floaty bubbles, bubbles in Peppa Pig or bubbles in the bath, “BUBbbbles” bring serious levels of happiness and should probably never end. Like so many “unique” things that Bebe FF does, I privately spent a few moments congratulating myself on my child genius and wondering if it’s Papa or me that gave him the extremely advanced linguistic skills… Then we saw a bubble-maker in the park and the chorus of “BUBELLLLS” from all the little human beans within a 20m radius made me realise we are not alone. Kids are just amazing.

So Bebe FF, as mummy frantically points to her giant belly and repeats 67 times “where is the Bebe??” And you grin and deliberately point to your own little belly, I’m curious to know how you will react to having such a noisy, tiny little distraction in the house. I’m nervous about the short amount of recovery time I’m going to get before you expect mama to be back in working, bending, cuddling order (I anticipate about 5 mins). I’m intrigued to see how Papa takes on this additional challenge and how you will bond and build new memories together as we expand into a family of 4. In short I want to pause time and enjoy you just a little longer – right now I’m watching your little naked bottom squeal with delight as Papa sprays you with water and it’s just the best… , but I also want to jump in to the next level of this adventure. I confess I also – selfishly – just want to not be a beached whale anymore. Pregnancy in quick succession is quite the challenge. But I still remember thinking I would never get to experience this feeling, so I do take a moment to remind myself of that fact when I’m silently muttering expletives. We can do this!

Bebe FF you made all my dreams come true. You make every day magic. I don’t have words for how you have changed our lives and our perspective on what lies ahead. Thank you for being such a delight.

bye bye boddler, hello toddler

Jeez what is happening with time? I know everyone says it flies, but this is like an extended wedding day on steroids! You blink and you’ve not only missed it, but there’s a trail of destruction to show you just what you missed.  We are 14 months in and Bebe FF is now a demi-man. That’s right. I can call him boddler to hold on to that baby “B”… but really he’s a toddler. I could even say he’s heading rapidly into terrible twos, based on the face-slapping I received last night…Ok it was couched either side with a bisous baveux (dribble kiss – sounds fractionally nicer in French right?!) but still. It has begun. He has a mind of his own and he’s not afraid to let us know about it.

So now is the time for discipline. According to wise ones (aka grandmas) this has to be done by the age of 2 -otherwise you’re in trouble. Right. How hard can it be to say “no” to a little person?? Presumably he can’t outsmart us? We adults are in charge, obviously! Right? Wrong. Actually it is quite hard to discipline it turns out. And this in my limited experience so far. Heaven knows what lies ahead. Mais why is it so hard?

1. You say “NO” *all the time*. It gets boring. No you can’t touch the charger, no you can’t have my phone, no you can’t throw your food on the floor. No! please don’t stand up in the bath! Stop! Do not eat that dirt etc. I vaguely recall once reading something that said “don’t say “no” too much, find a different way to send the message.” But which way? Absent some kind of telepathic skills I don’t possess, I can’t find any other way to communicate “No”. “Errr not really?” Or “maybe don’t do that” are not quite as effective. And tbh “no” isn’t exactly 100% success rate… Any tips gratefully received!

2. You sometimes kinda want to say “go on then, just do it” … but that would be irresponsible. Go on then, eat the dirt, and the little worm, in some places that would be a delicacy. But you can guarantee that will be the moment he starts to speak… “mummy said I could eat the dirt!” Or that there is a cat turd right there in the dirt and then, well, irresponsible.

3. It’s so hard to keep a serious face. There are so many exciting things to eat and lick, and if you go at the toilet bowl with your tongue hanging out, making a deliriously excited Gaga noise, I obviously don’t want you to lick it but it’s kind of hilarious that you even want to. No, you should not try to eat a tissue but it’s funny that you will have a go (and yet not eat mummy’s homemade yoghurt surprise?!).  Saying “no” without laughing is particularly tough. Grandma F tells me I have to adopt a strict tone. A strong “NO BÉBÉ!”. But what I actually do is “bebeeeeeee…. nnnn…. pleurghhhffhhh ….. Monsieur FF have you seen this little monkey?!!” It doesn’t help that Bebe FF has rapidly developed a very cheeky grin which he usually gives us as a quick warning he’s about to do a naughty – but being kind, he will give us rookie parents a chance to react. He goes for the phone charger, dangles it alluringly infront of his tongue, then turns to us, with that grin. “Hey, guys, just checking you’re watching me? Ok good. Here I go!”

4. You love them more than anything and don’t want to be mean. I knew this would be hard but never anticipated quite how hard. When you love a little person you don’t want to make them cry. You want to give them everything they want. Chargers and phones and dirt galore. You want to be the best parent ever. But we know that to be that parent, the Bebe has got to understand there are rules and appreciate who is in charge, for now at least. But it’s hard. Those eyes …

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Birthdays

Blinking heck. It has been a whole year since Bébé FF exploded on the scene. A YEAR. 365 days of love, laughs, amazement, bewilderment, exhaustion, nappies, poonamis, sicky yogs, impromptu wee showers, emergency clean up showers, gallons of milk, gorgeous little giggles, gurgles, tears, screams, bogeys, farts, food throwing, food spitting, choking, splashing, crawling, brushing (willy included), standing, pottering, big old belly laughs, face plants, stair climbing and in the last few days stumbling steps of independence….

And I must not forget the grinning. On my face. All day every day with Bébé FF I’m grinning. Like the cat that got the cream. Except the cream has wild hair and a very cute little bottom.

So he’s been on the outside for almost a year. It’s time to celebrate. As is customary (ok, this is the first one, but I hereby announce it to be a forward-looking custom) this is not only a time to celebrate the fact Bebe FF has made it a whole year, and the fact he exists which, to be honest, we celebrate every day (at least that’s how we justify the champagne …. just kidding!) Let’s also celebrate the fact that mummy and daddy have managed to keep their sh1t sufficiently together to get to this point. Let’s celebrate the fact we’ve been a family for a year. Let’s celebrate our special friends that we made when we were preparing to become a family and who have been there for all the milestones this year. Let’s celebrate the endless support from our family and friends around us. And let’s celebrate the fact that my body, that grew and kept you Bebe FF safe for all those months, has just about recovered to the point where I don’t get offered a priority seat on the train anymore. Winning! No, wait….

In the past year I’ve learnt a lot about myself and Mr FF, as well as starting to see the character traits of the little person we’ve created. We’ve become more of a unit, and less independent. We want to be at home in our sanctuary, together, and not out on the tiles (ok, that’s a little bit obligatory). We sometimes don’t talk to each other, but through le petit, and we are occasionally guilty of extreme bouts of hanger when we haven’t managed quite to plan dinner. But we know each other so well we can immediately resolve the problem (pasta pesto – BOOM) and we are a bloody brilliant team. We take it in turns to share the jobs and the joys. And there are plenty. Of both.

As to the Bébé we can see he’s curious and charming (read: flirt) stubborn and strong, bloody fast at getting away if you try to grab him. He’s a bit fussy and a lot sensitive. He gets scared but he’s also brave. I wouldn’t say he’s fashion conscious, but if he’s not keen on an outfit he sure knows how to power poo his way out of it. He has a sense of timing similar to his daddy, especially if running late he will always find a way to make us just that little bit later. He also shares with his papa a strong desire to talk all the time. Like his mama he loves bread, and painting, and peering into people’s eyes. He also has similar wardrobe filling skills although admittedly that is directly my doing. Cache tout avant que papa arrive!

Now what lies ahead in the next year? Eating solid food and not spitting out the “hard” bits? Blinking hope so! A haircut? Rather pressing. More teeth? The nappy activity suggests sooner rather than later. Talking? We are getting dangerously close. Tantrums,… quite possibly if the reaction to “no you can’t put your hand in the bin” is anything to go by. Whatever lies ahead I can’t wait. But to you, first year, I bid you a fond and emotional farewell. You have been epic. You have lived up to all my expectations and more. You have toute à la flûte nailed it and I am just gutted that you flew by so quickly. But I thank you for all the memories. Onwards and upwards.

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the FFs x

Bye bye 2016: the year of the Bébé

Quelle année! In many ways 2016 has been a pretty epic fail; democratic delirium and disturbing deaths to highlight but a couple of reasons this has been THE annus horibilus. However, something very special happened to us this year that made this the best year of my grown-up life: like a shining star of hope and joy, firing out of my nether regions, Bebe FF dramatically entered the world and our lives in February and we haven’t looked back. Mainly because we literally haven’t had time and I can’t locate my glasses 😬

Since becoming a mother I’ve changed in so many ways, mostly good and a few bad (spaniel’s ears anyone?!)… I’ve learnt much about washing machines, controlling milk leakages, swaddling, hair styles for the great unwashed, yog-filled hair, baby eczema solutions, mushing food up, wiping food off the wall, cutting tiny baby fingernails, getting a poo nappy away from a wriggly baby before they put their hand in it, and extracting bogeys from a bebe – which by the way, somewhat ironically becomes far too easy as they grow and you might actually find yourself considering how on earth to keep all the snot in rather than it leaking out all over the babe’s face and your clean jacket) – all pretty critical life skills.

I’ve learnt that tiredness can indeed cause accidents…like a fist accidentally powering rapidly towards certain individual’s rib area in the middle of the night when Bebe needs attention but you are physically incapable of anything (except aforementioned punch), or the slightly unfortunate feeling of putting your pants on back to front.  I have a couple of times nearly applied nail varnish remover to my face, brushed my hair with a toothbrush and possibly only put one contact lens in (still not sure what happened…) and I’ve eaten far too much mushy food out of a sense of duty rather than because I desperately craved an apple, beetroot and turnip slush-puppy.

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Notwithstanding a few unfortunate moments, this year had by far been the most rewarding and challenging of my life. I have never felt so delighted and fulfilled as I did when Bebe FF was handed to me in those first seconds after birth, when he latched and started gulping away, when he smiled for the first time, then he giggled, then he got teeth and started crawling, saying “mama” and “dada” or “papa” (depends on his mood) and then stood up… basically he’s destined for a Nobel prize in the next few months. When he does something new, I’m like the cat that got the cream. I’m sorry, but it’s bloody brilliant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for him and for my family, for our family. The love and support has been just tremendous. The challenging aspects of parenthood are largely between the parents. Nappies aren’t that bad. You have to have a pretty solid foundation to battle through the months of sleeplessness and exhaustion with mutual love and respect. Mr FF has been a superstar, and is the most fantastic dad. I am insanely lucky. But don’t be fooled, we have screamed and eyeballed each other more in the last 10 months than ever before. Without food or coffee OR sleep, hanger becomes a highly dangerous state of EXHANGERSAUSTIPATED and that shizzle is scary. Faites attention.

Going back to work compounds the problem; there is even less time to recoup and get organised. Pyjama parties are involuntary events caused by a failure to wash your work clothes, or set the alarm, rather than a fun activity mit bebe, cake and Netflix.

So what lies ahead? What will Bebe FF have in store for us for 2017? What will the world have in store for us all? A sobering thought. Next year, i.e. Starting tomorrow, I intend to spend at least 15 minutes per day reflecting on how lucky I am and what I can do to make life slightly better for others and slightly calmer for us. I suspect the former will be on ze toilette (less vulgar if en français) and the latter will involve me clearing some serious clutter (agghhhhhhhhhh), sharing joy and possibly moving to the Maldives. I also endeavour to get my cook on, now Bebe FF is loving his food, I won’t have to throw it away or – worse – eat it myself. And this may be the year that the bilingual babbling really begins. But who knows. Bilinguals can take a little longer to get going, but I’m fairly sure when Bebe FF finds his voice we will know about it! And last on the list for now will be more travel, because who said you can’t travel to the Lone Star State with a boddler?!!

Happy new year and bonne année to you one and all

The FFs x

 

Boddler

What has just happened?! My tiny little baby, the one that fit in my belly, and then in a tiny basket, and then in those teeny oh so tiny 0-3 month clothes, which seemed almost too big when he first lay screaming next to them, and yet the smallest things in the history of the world when we were waiting for him to arrive … 10 months in and he’s grown up. I’ve had to squish him into a Christmas bauble to preserve his small stature and the memory of his babyhood. He’s starting to look like less and less like a tiny baby Jesus and more and more like the Michelin man (totes a pro pro). All his bodysuits are under extreme pressure and he’s working the ankle swinger look sans le savoir.

This is it. A moment of sadness flooded over me this week as I lifted him up: (A) he weighs a ton. Literally a ton. I won’t be able to haul him around in the pouch for much longer. Obviously I still will but I will need a Zimmer frame to support us both. I also need to work out more. Shameful lack of strength, but he’s really making me work for cuddles now. (B) he’s rock solid muscle. Apart from his bum. Ahem. He’s not really delicate anymore. (C) he’s moving and wriggling around so much, I won’t be able to sneak those long snuggles we used to have in bed or on the sofa. Or wrap him up tight in my arms because he can now wriggle out. And my arms don’t contain him any longer. Nothing does. Not even the jumperoo! He’s too big. (D) He can hold his bottle and drink his own water, soon he’ll be feeding himself and I’m basically redunant. My only use right now is changing his nappy when so commanded. This is it. He’s officially a Boddler.

Boddler, in case you were wondering, is the transitional period during which your baby turns into a toddler. The more I say it the more it sounds like a word. It’s amazing as you see your little bundle of joy turn into a big old box of joy. Unbelievable. But I can’t help but take a moment to feel a bit of a loss… it’s all happened so quickly and I wasn’t finished enjoying him as a baby. Between the time it takes to recover from childbirth, get over the shock of a new baby, sort through 20 different piles of clothes, test out your washer drier and bottle steriliser at least twice a day and spend your life savings on cake, takeaway and more clothes to add to the piles, you’ve eaten up most of your first 6 months with your babe. Then between testing every toy/ music and sensory club in your locality, braving a holiday or two and worrying about – and then actually doing-  the transition back to work, that’s it! Your baby is basically a teenager. Plus now he crawls and climbs the stairs and violently shakes his head “no” to everything; doubly confusing when he still opens his mouth for more food…. the changes happen so rapidly, even for a person that likes efficiency this is ridiculous.

To quote one of my favourite film characters, I’m stuck in a glass cage of emotion. Like Bebe FF in this awesome bauble. We had to have something festive in here being as it’s so close to Christmas but we’ve had to go quite light on the decor this year given the Boddler on the loose.

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Casually reading a book with Papa. Note legs crossed and concentration level high.

All of you out there with your little bundles BE WARNED – time flies far too fast. For those that have done all this, I now realise why you’re constantly told to enjoy every moment because it disappears before you know it.

Onwards and upwards to boddlerhood and beyond …

Bcp de festive love to y’all x X

 

 

Babbling, bubbles and baby food win

I usually try to keep my posts on one topic, but given that time is now even more limited and absolutely *flying* past I’m going to cover a few things in this post. I hope it makes some semblance of sense.

Number 1: omg. Mums and dads are legendary. Just totally AMAZEBOOBS. I’ve said this before but it’s worth noting again.  Every day as I travel to and from work, or talk to people in the business, or chat to my friends and family, I can’t help but wonder (breaking into a Carrie from SATC moment here…) how do people do it?  I regularly marvel at how people manage to get up and dressed and drop kids off and find the energy and time to make lunch or a coffee, and be polite and sociable, how they manage to muster the power to do their jobs and then go home and cater for their families. And in between plan for things like birthdays and holidays…  I mean where does on find the time?!

There is soooo much juggling required in being a parent and so little time to stop and take a breath (or tidy) it really is stupendous that people manage to function. And to work; whether it’s maintaining a house and providing for all the family’s needs or building your own business, or reporting to duty somewhere to perform surgery or teach kids or manage teams of other people with their own kids and life dramas, bloody well done. Well done for getting up and getting your pants on. I have concluded with my one little munchkin it is certainly not easy.

One thing I’m officially incapable of now is planning anything in advance. I don’t know if that’s because my brain simply can’t handle the information or if it’s a defence mechanism when I know that almost certainly something will ‘go wrong’ and plans will change. ‘Go wrong’ includes not getting any sleep, being sicked on, realising I don’t have the physical capacity to move, having no clean clothes etc. To all those I’ve recently failed, especially my Xmas planning failings, je regrette. I will make it up to y’all (in about 10 years when I’m back in the game).  In the meantime, bear with.

I have said before that I believe it takes a typical “child” until around the age of 25 to really start to appreciate their parents and the work and sacrifice that has gone in to getting them “all growed up”. At over 30 (ahem) and now a parent myself I can confirm that this realisation becomes stronger and more powerful by the minute. How Mr FF’s and my parents each juggled FOUR little kids I literally cannot fathom.  Without google and Facebook. And they managed to stay married. Sleep-deprived parents do have a tendency to be a bit snappy. <Not mentioning any names*>.

*myself

I have so much respect but no words really do it justice. Sending a big old round of applause to all of you out there.

So that’s my babbling done (you thought I meant baby babbles?  Ha!)

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Pretty proud of these teef!

Number 2: Nursery. Bugs. Omg#2. I was warned that Bebe FF would get sick when he started nursery. I even documented it in an earlier post. But I assumed he would probably avoid most stuff given he’s robust and, well, half Yorkshire. Sadly not. Not a week goes by without him having some ailement that requires a trip to the doctors and entails a few dramatic nappy changes or middle of the night washes, and at least a couple of broken nights’ sleep. Plus being snotted on 24/7 (Mr FF calls it “snorting” :-)). The poor little coquin usually looks like he’s been through a hedge backwards when I pick him up from nursery. We are still trying to get to the bottom of what exactly it is that causes his eczema to flare up. It is totally random. Most times we also spend a not insignifiant portion of the day aimlessly debating what could be at the heart of the present problems. 97 times out of 100 we go for teeth. Blumming teeth. Other options are ear infection (hard to detect, no temperature), allergic reaction to something (unlikely as he’s been allergy tested) and not forgetting the non-joyous growing pains.

This week we’ve had, amongst other things, a wheezy cough, temperature and snot in quantities I cannot even compute. The reference to bubbles in the title would be the bubbles coming from his nostrils. That’s right. He’s got bogey bubble blowing skills. So proud of my boy.

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Anyway I wish I had a solution to the sickness but sadly I don’t think there is one. Even a mask and following Bebe FF around with anti-bacterial wipes and wash all day would not help. Yes I know he’s building his immune system and that’s great, but when he can’t speak to tell me what’s hurting or why he’s awake and uncomfortable it’s deeply frustrating. Part of being a mum is committing yourself to endlessly trying to make your little one(s) as comfortable as possible as often as possible. It’s difficult when you are clearly not being successful. So far we are trying to feed Bebe FF some abidec vitamin drops every day (naturellement that is easier said than done!), we use sterimar to unblock his nose which is much more effective than the calpol spray we were using before, and a nice warm bath before bed. Also obviously try to keep him as snuggly as possible. However if anyone has any magic remedies for the avoidance of bugs please do shout up!

Third topic: weaning. For those just starting out on the journey – fear not! Even though it’s the most collosal rigmarole, we hit a turning point in the wean of fortune and at 8 months Bebe FF decided that, yes, actuellement food is rather nice. We are by no means fully there yet, but we are making good headway and finally my frozen sweet potato surprise is being consumed by the intended consumer. Luckily Bebe FF doesn’t appear to have transformed into a giant banana wafer despite consuming half of the UK’s supply of the things whilst we waited! #WEANWIN

A bientôt ❤

 

Back to work

This week I went back to work.  It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.  I cried. I was tired. I was grumpy.  I was a terrible wife and barely spoke to my husband at all (sorry Monsieur FF).  But you know what: I survived.  WE survived.

I was really happy to be back in the office: to see colleagues; to check emails; to read without interruption; to wear something that didn’t get covered in food and dribble (at least not until  I got home), to have a hot drink, a leisurely lunch, and sit down and talk business. Not babies.  Mais that’s not to say I didn’t miss my bébé like crazy. I did. I was beyond excited to get home and grab him.  I actually ran (hobbled: new shoes #error) to nursery to dramatically throw down my bag, fling my shoes at some poor child and embrace him.  But, honestly, it was nice to have both work time and bebe time.  This is how life is going to be now. I am a working mum. And I am going to embrace it.

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Back to work selfie

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This post is hard to write.  Whatever I say in here are my very personal thoughts, specific to me and my life, about going to work and having a baby in someone else’s care.  But I’m not alone.  There are so many people out there in a similar position, whether you are a mum, or a dad, trying to work out how to balance your “old” life with this new, exciting but terribly demanding one.

There are also loads of topics that could be covered by the post, predominantly focused on the impossible choices that (mainly) women face as professionals and mothers.  However, I don’t yet feel capable of broaching that one, not least because I can’t see an easy solution.  It’s just bloody hard.  Désolée.

I’m sure somewhere along the line someone is going to be offended by what I say.  I apologise.  This is such a sensitive subject  it is incredibly hard to discuss it without getting into the minutiae of your individual situation (your career/your current role/your family/your income/your aims in life/your marriage etc.)   I’m going to be frank because I think it’s important to document my journey, but also because I’m one of the lucky ones :  I work for a very flexible company and in a flexible team. More about that shortly.

When you have a baby, deciding if and when to go back to work is a massive deal.  Deciding on what basis to go back is complicated, not least because it is not just your decision.  Some people don’t have much choice because their child needs 24/7 care.  Some people don’t have much choice because they are the main breadwinner in the family.  Some employers don’t offer many real options.  There are so many factors in play, it’s really quite mind-boggling.  Not to mention the fact that, chances are, you are not exactly desperate to get back to work work (as opposed to all the hard but super rewarding mum work (which includes lots of cake and cute baby clothes)).

Deciding who is qualified to look after your bebe is like trying to decide who is qualified to run the country. That’s right: no-one.  But there are only a finite number of nurseries, or nannies, or childminders, and there are even fewer options that will fit with a reasonable commute and your financial viability.  I’ve always struggled with the concept of “paying to work” which is the bizarre situation you find yourself in when assessing whether to go back to work.  Unless you are in the very privileged position of having free childcare (usually down to amazing and local grandparents or relatives) or a job that pays a freaking fortune, or you’re just a straight-up millionaire, you are essentially paying to do your job because by the time you deduct the costs of having someone else care for your child, you’re probably barely breaking even.

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The whole subject has actually made me feel quite uncomfortable.  I have questioned myself on an hourly basis for the past month.  What am I doing? Why am I doing it?  If you asked me on what basis I was going back to work, you will have seen me pull a strange face as I reply “full time” and cast my eyes down.  I say “strange” because even I can’t recognise what emotion I’m experiencing… is it guilt?  Is it embarrassment?  Is it sadness?  Most likely it is confusion tbh. I literally don’t know how I feel.

Yes, I’ve gone back to work, and I’m going to do my job full time.  I work in London and like most people I have a commute of the best part of an hour.  So when I finish work in the office, I then need another hour to get back to bebe FF.  You are probably judging me right now. Analysing my decision. Not necessarily in a negative way, but you are wondering why and what led me to that decision, right?  I would be doing exactly the same.  Does she love her job that much? Can they not afford any other option?  Did she not have the option to do part time? Does she not like being a mother??!

Right – just to be clear – I absolutely adore being a mum.  

It is literally the best thing in the world ever.

See – bold, large and colour. Seriously. This is the shizzle. I could not feel luckier. Not a day goes past where I am not overwhelmed by the miracle that is Bebe FF, astonished by how much I love him, delighted by how happy I am in our little family unit, amused by his little bottom and tiny teef, amazed by how quickly he is growing and… scared.  Scared of life happening.

Notwithstanding all the above, I also enjoy being a lawyer.  I love my job. I worked hard to become a lawyer and get this job. I’m a professional woman in a global business.  Oh and the business is a toy company, the LEGO Group to be precise. You may well be familiar with it. The plastic bricks that last forever?  The ones that hurt when you walk on them? That’s us. I’m one of many lucky people to be employed by the Danish super brand and I should be rather proud of it.  My job is exciting and it is demanding.  To do it well, I believe that I need to be available most of the time.  In my experience thus far, it is also incredibly flexible.  Not only does the LEGO Company embrace flexible working, they positively encourage it.

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Bebe FF’s first trip to the office age 3 months – suspect he will be more excited about it in the future.

We don’t have a designated desk in our office.  We are taught “Activity Based Working”, to mix and mingle across departments and functional areas, and we are encouraged to work from home as often as we deem appropriate, provided we are able to perform our function, and judge when a meeting can be conducted from the office and when it can be handled remotely.  I know some people* struggle with the concept of “flexible working” (*the majority of UK employers for starters, and generations before us that aren’t so au fait with modern technology and still think sending a fax is high tech…)  It requires a level of trust and a recognition that a positive and enthusiastic workforce is good for productivity and, therefore, business.  Naturally there are financial advantages for the employers too, not just happy and driven, productive workers, but lower costs (rent, bills, general sustenance).  You need the right tools for it to work efficiently – flexible work spaces, portable laptops and remote video conf capability etc. but all of this stuff is so easily available nowadays, I find it hard to understand why it isn’t more widely adopted as a working standard.

Alas. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t as lucky as us LEGO UK employees, and who are having to fight for their employers to even consider more flexible working.  Check out Mother Pukka for starters.  Her Flex Appeal campaign is brilliant.  It’s all rather ridiculous when you look at the stats: clearly a flexible workforce is a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is far more productive than a morose bunch of reluctant 9-5 workers. Flexible working means working in a way that best suits you as an individual. As Mother Pukka puts it:

Flexible working doesn’t mean working less or slacking off, it means finding hours that suit your life and how you best work.

Self-evidently, if your employer gives you the flexibility to work the hours that fit in to your situation, then you are all the more likely to feel satisfied, and put in the hours and show the commitment to your employer – that improves your work and ethos, and their staff turnover (and all the costs associated with hiring and up-skilling new staff).  Also, critically for parents, it means you can work around your childcare.  Most people are awake for, let’s say 14 – 16 hours per day.  There’s no reason why all the fun stuff has to be crammed into the middle 8 hours is there?!

Family is a priority at LEGO, and having a REAL work life balance is considered to be a true demonstration of success.  It is perfectly normal and commonplace for the office to be near empty by 5pm.  Why?  Everyone has gone to pick up their kids, to spend some time with them before bedtime.  That doesn’t mean they have finished working for the day.  But working on the report due on Friday can be done anytime between now and Friday. Why not do it after the kids’ bedtime.  You are not rushing and you feel happy*.

(*Presupposes bedtime was a success and you don’t have a romantic diner a deux planned)

So, now you know that I am working full time, but it is not like most versions of full time that exist today in the UK.  I told you, I’m very lucky and I know it.

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For the avoidance of doubt

Also, on another note, I have taken 8 months of maternity leave – I could take up to a year and be guaranteed my job on my return.  I have friends in America who were lucky to get 3 months of maternity leave (apparently it can be as little as 6 weeks if your labour is “normal”). Likewise in France, a mere trois mois. THREE MONTHS.  WTF. I’m not being over dramatic when I say I don’t think my body had even recovered after 3 months, let alone my brain being functional and ready to juggle the challenges of motherhood and a career.  What kind of world do we live in?! The NHS encourages and promotes breastfeeding for the full first 6 months of a baby’s life. How do you manage that and be back at work? And I assume given the lack of flexibility on maternity leave, those American employers aren’t likely to be terribly flexible with the working hours either, or having a creche in the office…?

In any case, ladies, whenever you go back and if you go back, or decide not to, respect to you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this quandary and whatever you do, I hope you make the most of it.

Well folks thats all I’ve got for now. I’m just embarking on the journey and have a tough road ahead.  Bugs, sickness, work travel, socialising, emotional breakdowns, impossible decisions at home and work, brain failure… so much still to navigate.  But I leave you with this: My good friend, fellow lawyer and producer of Bebe FF’s birthday girlfriend (one hour before Bebe FF to be precise) Claire, shared with me a tip that was imparted on her as she rejoined her legal job, also full time, and a couple of months before us.  She said I should do the following:

  • when you are travelling in to work, think about something you are looking forward to; a meeting with a colleague, a nice lunch, a new exciting project.
  • on your way home, as you dash to pick up your precious little one(s) in time, focus on something you’ve done that day that you are proud of; concluding a project, some positive feedback, a significant learning, a job well done.

This will help remind you why this challenging time isn’t just about battling through and feeling guilty, it’s about being proud of yourself and your achievements, and making the most of each day.