Category Archives: motherhood

Am I a slave to social media? 

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Lately I’ve realised that, once again, I’ve fallen into that habit of constantly checking my Facebook newsfeed and looking at everything through an Instagram lens. So as it’s half term and I really want to focus on my children and not my iPhone this week, I’m taking the rest of the month off. No social media for me until they’re all back at school and I can afford to waste time watching YouTube videos of cats who are afraid of cucumbers (although in all honesty, can I ever really afford to waste time watching YouTube videos of cats who are afraid of cucumbers??)

Part of this resolution stems from the fact that social media stresses me out! I’ve been doing a little low grade soul searching lately to figure out how to be happier; how to be calmer, less anxious and to embrace the much mused about art of mindfulness. I’ve started Tai chi and Pilates classes in a bid to use exercise and breathing techniques to help me relax. I’ve made a list of books I want to read before I’m forty to motivate myself to devote more time to quality reading instead of swiping through blog posts and the ASOS sale pages (the irony of writing a blog post about reading fewer blog posts is not lost on me by the way!) And I’ve tried to make space in my day to practise a bit of mindfulness meditation. It’s really not that easy though, both finding ten spare undisturbed minutes in the day AND training myself to think ‘mindfully’. My thoughts are constantly wandering to the extent that it sometimes feels as if I’m channel-hoping around my brain.

One of the side affects of my obsessive social-media-ing (I think it’s only a matter of time before ‘social-media-ing’ becomes a recognised verb) is that my attention span is appalling! (I can’t even write a sentence without punctuating it with an aside thought in brackets.) I find myself constantly craving screen time, not just when I’m flopped on the sofa trying to watch a film, but also when I’m in the middle of cooking dinner, when I’m stuck in a traffic jam and even when I pop to the loo for a quick wee. I’ve dropped my iPhone into the toilet twice this year so I really should have learnt my lesson by now!

The competitive and judgemental world of social media is also a stressful place to be. All too often I’ve felt abject disappointment when my photos haven’t achieved a respectable number of likes; or deeply anxious when I’ve realised that friends have made plans without me (hashtag FOMO!); or seriously pissed off by an innocuous comment on an Instagram post. Life is too short for this shit!

I’ve been here before – I’ve tried various Facebook fasts and an entire 40 days of abstaining from social media for Lent – so I’m really not trailblazing with this. But those experiences have always helped me to re-evaluate my social media addiction and take small steps to change my habits. The problem is, as any self-respecting addict knows, it’s so easy to fall off the wagon and I have done time and time again.

Friends have shared with me their own frustrations about their social media habits and at one point I was inspired to start some sort of Social Media Withdrawal Support group until I realised that the only place I could effectively advertise this would be on Facebook or Twitter. So until someone develops a social media withdrawal patch that I can stick to my arm to help wean me off my habit, or a Facebook-free gum that I can chew to distract me from my newsfeed, going cold turkey seems to be the only way. So here goes….

Hi, I’m Abbi…and it’s been 17 hours and 22 minutes since my last Facebook post…

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Once upon a time there lived a stressed-out mummy…

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Has anyone ever checked into the Priory with birthday-planning-induced-stress? No!? Then I’m intrigued to know how other parents juggle everything amidst their other daily responsibilities. And PS, by “other parents” I actually mean mums; dads are far more detached from the whole party-bag organising, pass-the-parcel wrapping, perfect-cake ordering ordeal!

It’s my baby girl’s birthday this Friday and she will be 3. With three other older children who have collectively enjoyed 25 birthdays between them, it’s reasonable to assume that I would have picked up a trick or two when it comes to planning birthdays. But in my case experience counts for nothing. I’ve left things far too late and am now having sleepless nights as to whether or not the much-hoped for Princess Elsa dress will arrive on time.

Feeling smug sometime ago, I extensively researched my options online. I shopped around for the best price, I subtly took measurements from her other prized princess-themed costumes and I preordered the perfect dress from an online fancy dress stockist earlier this month. My order arrived last week and as lovely as the dress turned out to be, it’s about four sizes too big. Damn those confusing European measurements!! I should not be left unsupervised with a tape measure in such detail-dependent circumstances again.

I’ve since contacted the retailer but an exchange for a smaller size would have taken too long to arrange so I’ve had to place a new order for the smaller size (and will return the enormous dress for a refund as soon as I find time in my life to get a post office…how retro!) 

Thinking myself clever, I arranged for the second dress to be delivered to Argos using their free collection service and thereby sidestepping the risk of getting one of those ‘sorry we missed you’ cards through the letterbox. But little did I realise that the Argos delivery service takes longer to process (yadda, yadda) and the expected collection date for my order is now three days after the big day. Cue mild to moderate heart palpitations and a series of frantic emails to the retailer. No my order can’t be fast tracked as its already in the system! 

In desperation I order a third dress to be delivered to my home address using the Express Delivery/expensive delivery courier service. Estimated delivery date…Thursday, t-minus 24 hours to B-Day.

All the while my little lady-in-waiting (literally) keeps chattering excitedly about the prospect of finally getting her very own “dress like Frozen“. This week her conversations have been peppered with affirmations like “if I be a good girl, I will have a frozen dress on my party” and “for my present it will be a princess dress if I be good“.

After relaying my fears and frustrations to my other half, we decided we needed a backup plan/dress in case one of the three dresses I’d already ordered doesn’t arrive in time. My earlier consumer research stood true; Amazon and Toys R Us did not have the right dress in the right size. The Disney Store sees it fit to charge £40 for their ‘official’ version but as my toddler is yet to become label savvy, and because I thoroughly object to spending that kind of money on a dress she will wear for dog walks and Tesco trips, the Disney dress was designated Plan D (to be bought in desperation on Thursday evening if all else fails). Talking of Tesco, they currently only have Elsa-style dresses for 7-8 year olds (God help us if she’s still bonkers about ballgowns at that age!) Our hopes were raised when I rang Matalan and a woman named Mandy went to check stock. I held my breath expectantly, as if I was waiting to secure Glastonbury tickets or hear exam results. “Sorry, we don’t have the Elsie dress at all. Only the Anna one in 5 to 6years“. Aaaaaaaargh!! It’s Elsa! It’s Aah-na! It can’t be this hard!

So although I can congratulate myself on having booked the hall, sent out the invitations, ordered the cake, bought the party bags, haggled with the bouncy castle companies and planned the menu, I may just fall at the final hurdle of giving my daughter the one and only thing she associates with and hopes for on her birthday. First world problems, right!

So it may be time to start seriously considering Plan C – telling our little princess that her birthday isn’t actually until Saturday. This would give us an extra 24 hours to get our act together and to receive one of the many deliveries that should surely arrive by then. After all, she’s only 3. She can’t read the newspaper, she’s not on Facebook, she doesn’t have a calendar, she won’t bloody know! And besides, the date never bothered her anyway….

Now, if only we can convince her three brothers to stick to the story, then everyone will live happily ever after.

 

#100happydays – day 41

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IMG_7157I’ve really struggled to hone in on my happy moments this week. And after talking to a friend who pointed out how unlikely it would be to have 100 consecutive happy days in a row, I’ve been re-examining my compulsive need to blog about the mundane. Surely the marvellous is more interesting? I reached an editorial low when I realised that Tuesday’s happy moment was having tea and crumpets. And when the delivery of a new filter for my vacuum cleaner was the single most satisfying thing that happened to me on Wednesday, I decided enough was enough. Who reads this shit anyway?!

So, in a bid to reduce my daily to do list and to avoid blogging for the sake of it, my new approach to the happy days project is to only write something when I actually have something to write about.

Today was Mother’s Day and I’m feeling loved. At breakfast-(in bed)-time, Leo announced the day’s itinerary; “We’re having cuddles, lunch and dinner mummy”. I was given 9 cards including 2 laminated ones (apparently Mother’s Day card-making is a competitive sport amongst my lot) as well as the promise of unconditional day-long good behaviour (although her afternoon tantrum in WHSmith suggests that Niamh didn’t fully understand what she was signing up to).

I love the fact that my family are so tactile and so affectionate. Even Seb, my physical-contact-phobic 11 year old, has given me an (albeit fleeting) hug today. And as she cuddled up to me at bedtime, Niamh sweetly explained that she loved me, and daddy, and the boys, and Beano, and Elsa (of the Frozen variety). I asked her what it meant to love someone and she put it plainly…“to be best friends”. So I’m feeling very thankful for all of my best friends today. Happy moments aplenty!IMG_7142

#100happydays – day 35

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Today has been one of those days when we’ve been late for everything and I’ve exhausted the phrase “Will you please stop arguing!” So after a stressful school run, a long commute to and from work, a hurried dog walk and three separate pickups from school, football practice and nursery, even the children themselves seemed to notice I was running on empty. They still used the sofas as trampolines, had a fist fight over dinner and waterlogged the bathroom but when they collectively clocked my nonchalant, too-tired-to-care attitude (as I collected the soggy towels off their bedroom floors) they ushered me downstairs. There I was instructed to wait in the lounge whilst they disappeared into the kitchen. And when I was eventually allowed to join them, all four proudly presented me with a cup of tea (grey and tepid but I drank every drop), a plate of chocolate biscuits (calories I could really have done without but I ate all three), an episode of Friends ready to play on the telly (one I’d just watched but the only one left on the SkyBox planner) and this sign…

They then took themselves off into the lounge to pacify Niamh with an episode of Peppa Pig and left me alone to enjoy “the peace”. Seb even convinced Niamh to let him brush her teeth and read her bedtime story! My little terrors are in fact little treasures and I’m off to bed feeling very lucky to have them. 

#100happydays – day 29

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IMG_6817The kids got themselves ready for bed tonight because Dave and I were simply too exhausted. We bribed them with the promise of Oreos if they cooperated and no one had a wash. But my grubby little angels were delighted with themselves and we were gleefully gobsmacked. Here’s to detachment parenting!

#100happydays – day 22

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Having four kids means that, invariably, at least one will wake up during the night in urgent need of a wee, some water, a nose blow or reassurance that the bogey man has left the building. And when there’s no quick fix to the twilight trauma, I tend to extend an open invitation to sleep in “mummy & daddy’s bed” because it’s the simplest route to resuming sleep. However the payoff is the same; bony elbows in the back and duvet wars. Three is always a crowd under the covers! So with Dave back home in London, I’ve been far happier to share my bed with my little ones at my mum’s. Last night I snuggled up with Leo-shaped hot water bottle and tonight it’s Reece’s turn for a sleepover.
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Ah, just look at him…gently snoring, so peacefully; and not arguing with his brothers, not refusing to eat his dinner, not distracting me whilst I’m driving, not nagging me to use my laptop….etc, etc