Tag Archives: stress

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


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.



Good Cop, Bad Cop


After my recent half term headache and following on from conversations with my harassed mummy friends who all seem to be trying to work out the same thing, I’ve been wondering what constitutes bad parenting? Good question huh! But as with most good questions, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer so perhaps it’s easier to define good parenting and work back from there…

Teaching your children to walk, talk and socialise = good parenting. (Inadvertently teaching your children to smack, swear and argue = bad parenting?)

Giving your children a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and educational stimuli = good parenting. (Giving your children copious amounts of pizza, hours in front of the TV and unrestricted access to the iPad = bad parenting?)

Teaching your children right from wrong and how to empathise = good parenting. (Teaching your children tit for tat and how to criticise = bad parenting?)

*Sigh!* I’m not scoring well thus far…

My efforts are wholehearted, if not always successful, and my methods are considered, if not always orthodox. But being a “good” mum to four different people with very different personalities, priorities and needs is a tricky task. And my kids are a canny lot! They know both how to push my buttons and stay in my good books. If one is being a complete pain in the arse, another will be as sweet and angelic as possible. If one loves my home-cooked lasagne, another will stubbornly pick out every onion and drag dinner time out into a feature length fiasco. If one wants to scoot to the park, another will refuse to leave the house unless we drive. And when a car journey is absolutely necessary (usually because we’re running late for school/Cubs/a party/the dentist etc), there will invariably be an argument about who gets to sit in the front, the boot or beside the baby (whichever seat is most sought after that day) that culminates in me having to manhandle at least one child into the car while the neighbours stare agog from across the street.

In the face of problematic parenting, Dave and I often resort to a round of Good Cop, Bad Cop. One of us issues warnings and punishments in a bid to achieve a desired outcome (bad cop) and when that fails, the other adopts a softly softly approach armed with tissues for tears (good cop). This is a surprisingly effective tactic that can really help when we’re trying to convince the kids to do their homework, eat their vegetables or simply wear wellies instead of crocs when it rains.

I also make valiant attempts at good parenting by reading books with the boys, praising good behaviour and ignoring bad, arranging educational day trips and serving broccoli at regular and optimistic intervals. But I still have sleepless nights worrying about the fact that Seb doesn’t belong to a football team, Reece’s favourite hobbies are plugging things in and locking things up, Leo only ever reads the Argos catalogue and Niamh’s first words are likely to be “aw, crap!” And as my Facebook fast continues, I have no barometer on which to measure my parenting skills. Without an opportunity to showcase the times I take the kids to interesting places or post photos of the baked goods we’ve made together, I’m missing those much needed metaphoric pats on the back from my mummy friends.

But as chaotic and makeshift as my parenting style might be, I try my best to do my best. I adore each of my children immensely and remind them of this daily. I can’t go to sleep at night without first checking that they are all breathing in their beds and I try to make time for them individually as often as possible. I buy them sweets on Fridays, I make their Halloween costumes and we take them to see Father Christmas every year. Do these things make me a good mum?

I recently saw a mother chastising her little girl in the school playground for refusing her breakfast – it was a chocolate bar that she was angrily waving in her face. The little girl looked upset but resigned as she uncomfortably tried to quickly munch her way through a Milky Bar; the whole scene left me feeling very sad. But who am I to judge, particularly when I have so many anxieties about my own parenting practises and are by no means the model parent?

Whether we’re good cops or bad cops, earth mothers or Gina Ford types, patient saints or stress ridden hotheads, it seems that guilt and self doubt are part and parcel of parenting. And every news report, talk show and new piece of research simply serves to perpetuate our insecurities and inadequacies. As Dave and I mused recently over dinner (as the baby bounced happily on my knee) maybe all we can ever do is our best. A moment later, Niamh pitched headfirst onto the dinner table, narrowly avoiding a plate of spaghetti as she fell….

A dear friend (and partner in parenting crime) directed me to this very funny and reassuring You Tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFZtyPgFT7I&sns=em

We are not alone!


Yes stress!


No…it’s a simple word. In fact it’s one of the simplest words so why do I have such trouble using it?

Actually, that’s not entirely true as I spend large parts of my day saying No! to my children. No, you can’t have biscuits for breakfast; No, you can’t wear Heelys to school; No, you can’t play Angry Birds on my phone again, etc, etc…

But when it comes to the big wide world beyond my front door, No is a word that I’m afraid to use as liberally as I should. This is not to suggest that I’m an all-giving, ever-generous, totally accommodating individual. It simply means I’m a mug!

Yes is a much easier word to swallow. You get a better reaction when you say Yes. People smile, people thank you, people like you more. And don’t get me wrong, Yes has a lot going for it. Yes can open doors and create opportunities. Yes can lead to new experiences. And Yes keeps me busy, connected and involved.

But Yes can also be completely and utterly exhausting! All too often, after an overuse of the word, I find myself over-committed and forced to compromise. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I say Yes to. It’s hard to stay organised, calm and in control after one too many Yeses. And my stress levels and energy stores are difficult to manage when my default response is Yes.

So as negative as this may sound, I’ve decided its time to reacquaint myself with the word No. It will be a self-conditioning exercise that will test my will power and audacity. But it might just pay off if I find the time to relax and enjoy my free time, my hobbies, my family and friends and my sanity that little bit more. Yes?