say thanksSitting in the car on the way to the airport, my 3 year old Oscar fell asleep on my shoulder. His little hand relaxed in mine. I looked at him, his hand, his face. I felt an overwhelming, aching love for him. A roaring wave of gratitude. What did I do to deserve my children?

Nothing. Having a child is not about ‘deserving’. Just as nobody deserves the lack of a desired child, or the loss of a child. It’s not about entitlement or fate, good or bad behaviour, oh no. It’s about cherishing what we are lucky enough to experience.

Do you know what immediately chased this ferocious wave of gratitude? A barbed stab of anxiety. Fear of the unknown, of all the possibilities ahead. My sister Emily was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age Oscar is now. An utterance by a glassy-eyed consultant, like a lightening bolt that shook the foundations of our lives and changed us irreversibly, in the most unimaginable ways. A cheeky little toddler with bouncy yellow curls and a life sentence of treatment and drugs. A life sentence to her family of her absence.

In that moment today, this was my fear. Nobody can promise me that my children will outlive me. Nobody can swear on a bible that I won’t have to go through that heartbreak. It was many years ago now, but the echoes of experience are tattooed into my heart. And now, as a parent, it adds a dimension of insight into how it must have been for my parents. It provides fresh opportunity for fear.

Anxiety is when we rush ahead in our minds, whizzing through possibilities and fear their coming to fruition. Anxiety gives us a sense of control. We subconsciously lie to ourselves that if we project mentally through the worst case scenario, if it were to happen it would hurt less. It doesn’t. It saves us from nothing but succeeds only in robbing today of it’s enjoyment and robbing us of the ability to soak up the ‘now’ in gratitude.

This isn’t a post about making the most of every moment, as we know that whilst many moments are enjoyable and easy to be thankful for, many are mundane, tough or painful. This post is about increasing awareness of when anxiety tips the balance of gratitude into fear.

To hold in tension the enjoyment of these precious things we cherish within our lives, and the fear of the unknown is one of the challenges of life itself. I will let the roaring wave of gratitude be followed by the stab of anxiety, but I will try not to court it and to dwell on it, to walk in it and be consumed by it. Oh how two contrasting emotions can sit so closely side by side. That is love.

So (if you’ve made it this far), love and be thankful. I can’t tell you to love without fear, but I can encourage you to acknowledge the fear rather than immerse yourself in it. Notice it but don’t court it. I know this is far easier said than done! How can you change this? Well becoming aware of it is the first step. Awareness enables us to have a conversation with this dynamic, to talk to it.

So go, and love. And know that it’s okay to fear. How can we say it is worth loving if the idea of absence has no impact? But enjoy the love you have now – for that is all we have.

x

 

FullSizeRenderSometimes, when we live life too fast, stepping out of the day-to-day isn’t enough to slow down. Turning off the engine doesn’t force the wheels to an immediate stop. You can stop the sprinting, but the heart continues to race. Sometimes, slowing down has to be more intentional than we could have ever imagined it should be.

The antidote? Introducing slowness into each day somehow. Schedule it if you must. You either slow down purposefully, or life has a way of forcing you to stop. One is intentional and controlled, the other is messier. PS. I’m totally preaching to myself here.

Here is a 3 minute video on this topic for you.

ddswI wrote this blog post last year, and have just revisited it as the gross, autumn bugs arrive and I’m not feeling fab:

I have spent the last week tending to my sick toddler. There’s a delightful virus going around boasting a week of stubborn temperatures edging 40. We’ve had additional night wakings, cancelled play-dates, and watched Toy Story on repeat so many times, that I’ve started to see an allure in Woody’s big brown eyes and jaunty hat. Rules on naps and snacks have gone out the window, and I’ve tried (read..’tried’) to bite my tongue over All. The. Whining.

Finally, a week later, bar a persistent cough, he’s on the mend.

Me? Not so much.

For some fantastical reason, I thought I’d be immune to this one. However, my temperature is hovering at 40, and even my wrist bones ache.

I’m not a stranger to being ill with small, demanding dependants on my hands. Along with crippling ‘morning’ sickness when pregnant with Baby C, I had appendicitis in my 12th week of pregnancy. That was eventful. ‘Go home and rest for six weeks’ they said. Yup.

We are great at tending to our little ones (sick husbands though…I’m not so great), but what happens when we find ourselves floored by sickness? I’m going to share some tips with you:

1 – Accept all help

I am categorically horrendous at this one. I find it incredibly hard to accept help. But this last six months (read here) have been hugely humbling. It’s quite something when someone so furiously self-sufficient gets to a place where they realise they simply cannot do it on their own! It’s a vital lesson to learn. A level of self-sufficiency is healthy to a point, but beyond that, it’s detrimental to your wellbeing. When you feel rough, it’s tempting to drag yourself out and carry on as normal, but your body needs relief in order to for your immune system to do it’s job. And it’s hard to find that rest, without accepting help.

It takes a village to raise a child. Not only because children need a world of input, but also because parent’s need lots of support. We are not made to do it on our own. You are not superwoman. Message your antenatal group, call a parent, a neighbour or a fellow mum. Let them be there for you, in whichever way you need, be it picking up an oven meal, or taking the kids to the park. You are not admitting weakness in allowing others to help you, you are accepting an opportunity to be supported, and giving yourself a chance to recover.

2 – Be gentle with yourself

Give yourself permission to be ill. Choose to be kind to yourself. Reduce your expectations of what you ‘should’ do (read my post on how ‘Should’s induce parental guilt. You do NOT need to be guilt tripping yourself right now). Choose not to beat yourself up for the things that you are not doing. But, most importantly, show yourself some of the tenderness and understanding that you show your children when they aren’t well.

3 – Write out a routine

When you are feeling okay, write a detailed routine for your kids as if you were writing for someone who didn’t even know where the fish fingers were kept. Print it out and put it in a drawer. Give failsafe instructions down to how your toddler likes his sandwiches cut, or how long to re-heat baby’s food for in your microwave. It’s always such a good idea to have a printout of this information. You never know when someone might need to step in and take over for a while. When I had my appendix out, I felt a niggle in the morning, and by late afternoon I was hooked up to a drip.

4 – Make Charlie Bigham your friend

I love a Charlie Bigham meal. Shove it in the oven and you have a relatively healthy, wholesome, quick dinner. It’s like having a tiny little chef in your kitchen. If your other half can cook, or someone can drop a meal round, then that’s great! But that’s not always possible.

Do an online shop of easy, quick dinners. I have added some Babease sachets to my online shop. They are wholesome, convenient pouches for babies, high in complex carbs and protiens, and without the fruit fillers that many competitors seem to have. Little Dish do great, nutritionally balanced meals for kids and toddlers too. Give yourself a break from the kitchen.

5 – Keep your medical box stocked up

My bedside stash of Ibuprofen didn’t touch the sides lastnight. I had a midnight rummage in our medicine box for some paracetamol, only to find that we didn’t have any! Make sure you keep your medicine box stocked, so that you’re not cursing your earlier self, feeling rough at 4am.

Research what medicines you can and cannot take when pregnant or breastfeeding. For example, it’s not recommended to take any decongestants when breastfeeding, as some data shows that it may affect supply. Kellymom and the NHS website both have quite a bit of comprehensive information on what you can and can’t take, along with alternatives.

6 – Do the bare minimum

Let the washing pile grow, shove everything haphazardly into the dishwasher (just my norm then), clear the diary. Family life won’t be put on hold for sick mums (sigh), but there are some things that you can take off your plate until you feel better. Do it unrepentantly, try to bat away any guilt. The less you do, the more you are likely to rest, and the quicker you’ll feel better. It might give you itchy palms to see your workload increase, but allocate some of the jobs to friends or family. If not, you’ll tackle it once you feel better, with renewed energy! Be kind to yourself.

7 – Prioritise an easy life over rules

Do what you need to do to get the rest that you need. Amazon Prime a new toy to entertain the kids, download some new films and revel in snacks on the sofa.  They will not morph into undisciplined monsters after a few days of lax rules and convenience foods. You’ll have your game-face back on in no time.

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At the start of Yoga this Saturday, our teacher read a script telling us to ‘start where you are’.

We are where we are. That’s all we are now. We’re not the us of yesterday or the us that we may be tomorrow.

It got me thinking about how often we delay doing things that will benefit us somehow because we tell ourselves that we need to be a in a certain physical or mental headspace first.

We may think, I can’t face the gym until I’ve lost some weight. I will start to try and think better, eat better in January. I’ll change things tomorrow.

You are worth making changes, moving, doing, starting now. Not when you are thinner, happier, more energised. Not when it’s sunnier or when the New Year clock chimes midnight.

To keep putting off making kind and positive changes is to procrastinate our way into self-sabotage where things pass us by. Things get harder and worse, and then we end up making changes out of hitting a messy rock-bottom rather than a motivation for self-care and investment.

To act is an act of self-love. And if self-love feels an alien concept, do it anyway and choose to trust that making changes will actually feed into a new cycle of worth.