Where to start decluttering

Deciding to simplify your home when you have been living a typical consumer lifestyle can be overwhelming, particularly when you don’t have a huge chunk of time to dedicate to having a clear out. Where do you start?

The answer is, it doesn’t matter where you start. Just start. Pick one drawer, cupboard, or box. Take everything out and only put back thing that are useful or that you love. If you’re keeping things ‘just in case’, get rid of it, most things are easily replaced if you do find you need it in future. If you have time, repeat the process with another drawer (or whatever).

Start in the messiest room of the house as that will yield the most items to get rid of. Or start in the tidiest room of the house as that will be less overwhelming and can be ‘finished’ sooner. Or just start in the room you are standing in and find 5 things to get rid of. Decluttering is an ongoing process that will never be truly finished, as our life circumstances change. Simplicity is a journey and not a destination.

Whether you are clearing out your house in a massive purge or just doing one small thing each week, it doesn’t matter where you start. Just start.


Preparing older siblings for home birth

Home birth used to be the norm, before giving birth moved into hospitals. Older siblings would all have been present at a new baby’s birth, and that was normal. Nowadays birth is hidden away from children and even considering having them around is quite unusual. But birth is not scary for children, they don’t have our adult ideas that birth means pain, blood, screaming, drugs etc. And it’s a great way for them to learn about birth by actually witnessing one!

With the news that low-risk mums who have given birth before should be offered home birth, this therefore means deciding what to do with the older child(ren) when the time comes. This is a very personal choice that will come down to your family’s situation and you and your child’s personality and preferences.

For my planned home birth earlier this year, we didn’t have any family nearby who could look after our daughter who was 3, so keeping her at home seemed like the least stressful option for all of us. We also felt that to include her would help her to bond with her little sister.

To prepare her for the birth, my midwife lent me a fantastic children’s book about home birth called Hello, Baby which is a story about a home birth from a child’s point of view. We also watched some videos online of calm home water births, especially ones with other children there, like this one from Mommypotamus and these from Code Name Mama. We also talked about how mummy might make funny noises because I would be doing such hard work and pushing a bit like doing a really big poo!

Ideally you need an extra adult around so that one person can look after the child and one person can look after you. This could either be a family member to look after the child, or an additional birth partner or doula to support you. Sadly this wasn’t an option for us, so instead I put together a big bag of goodies for my daughter including stickers, colouring books, sweets, new puzzles and a new DVD to keep her entertained. We also had a list of phone numbers of friends who were willing to take her to the park for us if she was getting bored (or disturbing me).

You also need a backup plan just in case you need to transfer to hospital. Have someone – a friend or neighbour – who is willing to look after your child overnight if necessary. Pack an overnight bag for them with pjs, favourite teddy and toothbrush. It’s a good idea to have someone on standby who can come and stay at your house if you need to go into hospital while your child is asleep.

In the end I found the labour much harder , and longer, than anticipated as the baby was back-to-back. We had hoped it would happen overnight as it often does but it started in the early hours of the morning and carried on through the day. And my daughter is not great at playing independently so my husband ended up spending all his time keeping her occupied. I was getting quite noisy and she started to get upset and after a few hours of very slow progress I needed more support. So in the end we decided to send my daughter to a friend’s house across the road to play. We had hoped it would be a couple of hours but I had to transfer to hospital in the end so she ended up having a sleepover there. She actually had a great time though and has been asking for another sleepover!

Have you had a home birth with older siblings? Did you decide to keep them at home or make other arrangements? How did it work out?

Family Life is Important

So now the government is suggesting that schools should be open from 8am – 6pm, in order to provide childcare for working parents.  Liz Truss suggests that, if schools are not providing this already, they should ask them “why not?”.  And Gove wants pupils to have more hours in school and shorter school holidays.

Why not?

Well, for a start, the purpose of school is to provide an education, not childcare so that parents can work longer hours.  Second of all, a 10-hour day would be a long day for an adult, let alone a child.  Thirdly, this means that parents would only see their children to get them up, dressed and off to school, and then home, bath and bed.  And if both parents are working full time, that leaves the weekend for taking care of household chores, so they are still not spending time together.  Not exactly great for building a strong connection!  And where is the time for children to rest and play?  Both are essential for their health, development, learning and wellbeing.

The government seems hell bent on getting all parents to work as many hours as possible, and getting children into school as soon as possible and as long as possible.  I’m starting to wonder why they think people have children?

I’d also suggest that if parents need to work long hours, the children would be better off being cared for in a family environment, either by grandparents or other relatives, or by a registered childminder.

I’d go as far as to say this contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that “the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community… [and] the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”

Why are we subsidising childcare to such an extent?  Why not subsidise families instead, and let the parents decide how much childcare they want, if at all?  Because, and here’s a shocking idea, some people might actually want to bring up their own children themselves.


Motherhood is not Martyrdom

In parenting magazines and blogs you will often find references to the difficulty of finding ‘me time’ once you are a mum and how guilty mothers feel for taking any time for themselves. It’s like a competition with mothers competing to tell each other how many cups of tea they haven’t drunk or how many days since they’ve had a shower. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world and if you take a break or go to the toilet with the door shut, then you’re cheating.

Well today I am calling for this to come to an end. Yes, being a mum is hard work (I am generalising but statistically speaking dads still get more leisure time than mums, although of course there will be exceptions). Some days you will be simultaneously bored out of your mind and rushed of your feet. There will be days when you don’t have time to brush your teeth. And obviously you can’t spend all weekend in your PJs eating takeaway pizza and watching box sets. But mums are human beings too, you have needs, it is not a crime to look after yourself.

Make sure you take time every day to look after yourself. If you don’t take good care of yourself, how can you take care of your family? I have a 3 year old and a 3 month old and I manage to shower pretty much every day. We also have a cleaner for a couple of hours a week so that I get a chance to sit down in the evenings (to be honest, if we didn’t have a cleaner, I would still sit down in the evenings and just have a dirty house). I read, I blog (occasionally), I take 5 minutes to just drink a cup of tea and do nothing. I think of it like the oxygen masks on a plane: you have to put your own on before you can put your children’s masks on.

If all you focus on is parenting you will run yourself into the ground and be tired and irritable, and no good to anybody least of all your children. You need to make sure you fill up your own cup with things that make you feel good, whether that’s a cup of tea and a trashy novel, some yoga stretches, going to the gym or soaking in a bubble bath. It’s also modelling to your children healthy habits for their future mental health – relaxation is important and often gets overlooked in our hectic lifestyles.