It’s autumn – the days are getting shorter, the air colder, our need to feel and look fabulous even greater. It might be a bit grey outside, but that doesn’t mean we will let it bring our spirits down. Autumn is beautiful. Ok, perhaps not in the city, but if you look around in nature you will find an abundance of vibrant colours. Here’s a picture to instantly lift up your mood:

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This is the perfect time to treat yourself a bit, refresh your wardrobe, your home, add a splash of colour here, a bit of sparkle there…  And if you don’t fancy going out, don’t worry – you can do it all from the comfort of your home while cozying up with a cup of tea/coffee/chocolate/wine, or whatever it is you fancy. See our selection of links that we put together to suit every budget, and get inspired.

The ever so stylish John Lewis won’t let you down whatever it is you’re looking for: women’s clothing, shoes, or jewellery; everything you need for babies and children; gifts; beautiful home accessories; and the list goes on and on.

You can check out the Debenhams new season style womenswear, kidswear, or menswear; and most importantly, the sale and half price offers. Yes, please!

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Marks & Spencer is back this season with a sizzling ad that you’re surely have seen on TV; so why don’t you check out what they have to offer in store?

If there are two stores I can never walk past that’s Monsoon and Accessorize. Always gorgeous, always eye-catching; no matter if it’s dresses, shoes, bags, or jewellery. Always a treat.

Hello, Dorothy Perkins! The season’s new arrivals are absolutely lovely, and make sure you have a look at the sale items – they’re always a great bargain for excellent quality.

Everybody loves Next, and I am no exception. Beautiful, comfortable, affordable – the three exact things I’m looking for when shopping.

If you’re on a tighter budget don’t lose heart; George by Asda might just have what you’re looking for, or F&F by Tesco, and for a price that won’t break the bank either.

Alternatively, you may have found something you really like in one of the above stores, and you just want to check if there is anything similar on ebay or Amazon… why not?

Happy browsing, everyone!

The aim of “mum of the week” is to get acquainted with other mums’ thoughts and feelings about the different aspects of motherhood, and to hopefully help each other along the way.

This week’s interview is with Kenzie, mother of two children.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind about motherhood?

Unconditional love. I did not know that I, or all the other parents, could live on a 4-hour sleep cycle. Or 8 hours but wake up multiple times for surprises (feeding, diaper change, wet beddings, or just simple boredom) for four years and still be able to function and to stay in a tame mood (most of the time) when I see my children.

What do you think is the most beautiful thing about motherhood?

Hugs, kisses and saying I love you. It sounds silly, but I want to plant as many kisses on them as there are stars in the sky. I hug them like a hobby that I never get tired of, and I tell them I love them whenever I have a moment to snug those three sweet words in their little ears. I found that hugs and kisses speak louder than words to show my affection and admiration, while telling them I love them just reinforces my message. With time, they reciprocate and it’s a great feeling to get voluntary hugs and kisses out of the blue from my kids.

What is the most difficult thing about motherhood?

I would say acceptance, especially on things that we have no control over. As parents, we worry a lot. The doctor came to tell me on Day 2 that my son has a rare genetic disease that is life long, has no cure, and no antidote. He is normal, but fragile. After learning this news, my world shut down for a long while, I blamed myself for not knowing my own genetic trait (even though there is nothing I could have known to avoid this at all) before I was able to accept this reality. People said ‘Oh, but the disease is very common’, but believe me, when it’s your own child, you don’t feel ‘common’ as a consolation. I still worry about the small things nowadays, but (and this is for the tiger moms) having a healthy, happy kid is worth much more than any trophies or Ivy League schools acceptance they received. I accepted him with the genetic condition because he is much more than his disease, and I accepted myself as his mother. This acceptance has made me a very happy mom.

Would you mind telling us more about this process of accepting things the way they are?

As emotional as this journey is, and it’s never going to end (there is always a chance of a crisis), my strategies were rational and tangible. First, my family and I did a lot of research on the disease. When we first heard about the disease, we had no idea what it was and when we don’t know, we are scared. We imagine a lot of negative things. So research really helps. We are lucky that there are a lot of existing resources about it, what to do, what not to do. My husband, my mom, my brother, everyone close to us contributed. Internet search, dietary guidelines, disease travel card for the doctor to read in different languages, finding people with the same disease. Which leads me to the second strategy, family and friends’ support. We are lucky, his god mother’s cousin is an adult survivor who gave us valuable advice, etc.. Talking to people you trust really helps. Of course, along the way I also meet people who were not so sympathetic because they are ignorant, but I just need to learn to let them go, because there is no point to be sad over people who are not important and make me feel bad about things I cannot control. From this experience, I found that the support and love of family and friends can be very profound.

Your children are 3.5 and 1.5 years old. What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Sharing has been the toughest thing, both on sharing things, and sharing their mom. I am a stay-at-home mom, and I spend a lot of time with the kids, so I see a lot of fighting and injustice in the house. My daughter likes to think she is boss, and my son is more like a gangster who takes out his gun (in this instance, his teeth) every time he feels threatened. I am still working my way around how to mediate every case that comes to me. Any suggestions are welcome!

Did you do anything differently the second time?

More or less the same. I have to say that girls are better at focused tasks, and boys are more active.

What advice would you give to new mums?

During pregnancy, read books and watch videos about parenting and children. I find that I only pick up a parenting book when I have a problem, because I don’t have time to read or watch anything since Liv was born. My favourite book is Brain Rules for Babies by John Medina, and as a reference book, Dr. Spocks Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock, M.D. And the other thing is sleep – impossible get much of that after the child is born… for a long while.

After becoming a mom, maintain a high level of self-love. Give yourself some alone-time, even to just sit and relax, because the more sane you stay, the better kids they will be. You may say “isn’t that a selfish thing to do?” If you search and read this blog to learn about motherhood, you are already a good mom. Selfish moms would be spending all that time checking and updating their facebook status every 10 minutes. And the other important thing is to spend time with your other half, set date night/day schedule. I found that when I don’t spend time with my husband because I have too many children chores, our number of arguments increase. When that happens, the kids can sense, feel and see the negative tension in the house. Spending time with just the two of you will help you catch up with each other’s life, make you more aware of the things surrounding you besides the kids, and above all, creates positive synergy in the family. After all, the family was created based on the love you have for each other, and that love should also be nurtured in order to grow and prosper.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. 

The aim of “mum of the week” is to get acquainted with other mums’ thoughts and feelings about the different aspects of motherhood, and to hopefully help each other along the way.

This week’s interview is with Monika about her thoughts on returning to work.

 

Before you became a mother you had a very good job at a large bank. How did you feel about going on maternity leave?

I was absolutely delighted to go on maternity leave. One reason was that I knew I was looking forward to wonderful times, and the other reason was that I was very tired by then. After I had told my boss about the pregnancy I was surprised to find that instead of easing my workload it just kept growing and growing… This was quite difficult to handle, both physically and mentally, so in the end I left a month earlier than I was supposed to.

When you took maternity leave did you worry at all that this would affect your career?

I wasn’t worried about my career, I knew they would welcome me back. Then with an interesting twist of fate it was me who ended up quitting :)

When you were at home with your baby, how much did you miss being valued, or appreciated?

In the early days when my baby was still small I didn’t really think about being valued or not… Then when I came round after the initial shock and built up a daily routine, I realised that what used to be housework and chores now became more like tasks. Of course first and foremost was the baby, but the rest were tasks. I did get fed up sometimes, I felt like it was all too much and I couldn’t possibly do everything myself. But I was lucky to have my husband supporting me through these times, he gave me a helping hand, and he often praised me and thanked me for the things I was doing at home. While at the workplace it was my boss and my colleagues who appreciated my work, as a mother it felt like it was down to me to appreciate and value myself; so I was trying to give myself a pat on the back every time I managed to get rid of the dirty dishes, for example.

How long did you stay at home with your baby? 

I’m going back to work in September after a year and a half at home, for financial reasons. My husband’s income together with my maternity allowance doesn’t cover all of our expenses, we have a mortgage to pay too, so we need the money.

Would you have liked to go back to work earlier, or later?

For the above reasons I would’ve liked to go back to work earlier, but I didn’t have the chance. But even if we were all right financially I would only stay at home for a maximum of two years. It seems like my son needs the company of other children his age by now, and I also need the company of other people my age :) Not that I shut the world out; I did keep in touch with my friends, but I feel like being at home for a long time is restricting me in a way. It doesn’t do much good, at least not for me.

What kind of feelings have you got now before returning to work? More positive or perhaps negative?

Absolutely positive, I’m really looking forward to it. I know that our finances will straighten out, and I’m safe in the knowledge that my son will be in a good place. Also, there are new challenges ahead of me at work as I’m starting at a new workplace, and this fills me with energy.

Do you think it will be difficult to fulfil both roles: that of a working woman and a mother?

I anticipate some difficulties fulfilling both roles, yes; but I think I’m prepared for it. I’m not stressing out over it :) I believe you can always find a solution if you really want to.

Any other thoughts, perhaps advice for other mums in a similar situation?

In my opinion the transition back to work is different for every mother. For some mums it is very difficult to leave their children, and perhaps they suffer more than the kids themselves; while others don’t make such a big deal out of it. I fall into the latter category. It is a natural part of life that children grow up, that things change. Once we acknowledge and accept this, the transition is a lot easier.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. 

 

 

Loneliness, though mostly uninvited, often becomes a new mother’s best friend – and the ambiguity of this statement already sheds light on the fact that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

I had it difficult as a new mum. Living abroad, no family to help, no in-laws, moving to a new town away from friends, daddy working long hours, not having much money; for some difficult would be an understatement as they wonder how I can manage at all, and yet I’m sure there are people somewhere in the world who have it far worse and who could kill to be in my shoes (but let’s discuss the relativity of things some other time).

Loneliness was an anticipated part of motherhood for me, due to the above factors. It didn’t come as a shock, and perhaps that’s why I happen to navigate it so well. More than just navigate really; I actually managed to turn it into an advantage.

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Motherhood will change you. It’s inevitable. Even if you swore that you’re not going to change, you more than likely will. Everything in this world is constantly changing, and becoming a mother (or father) brings perhaps the most profound changes a human being can encounter. For some people this is scary, while others experience it as if they were reborn. And not only you will change, but also your daily life will change (well, obviously), your relationship will change, the meaning of life will change. You might find that you’ve lost interest in some of the things you used to like before, or you’re no longer sure about your chosen career path, or you have less and less in common with some people who used to be friends. This is all perfectly natural, and the more you prepare yourself for it, the less of a surprise it will be.

Being alone though is a perfect opportunity to discover your new self. You can use it for self-exploration, soul-searching, and meditation; use it to go back to basics. If motherhood has changed you, explore this new you. It’s a thrilling and enlightening journey to find out about yourself. Use this time to set new goals, to find out what you really want to do with your life. Once you look at it like that, loneliness is a great gift from life, a chance for a fresh start.

If you find yourself stuck in the house with nobody to talk to or have a proper adult conversation with, the Internet will come to your rescue. Once you check your local area you’ll probably find lots of baby groups to go to, but there is no guarantee that other women whose babies are the same age as yours will be like-minded. There are however loads of websites, blogs, forums where you can speak to other mums who are in similar situations, and just that reassurance of knowing that other people go through the same experience will make you feel better.

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Being alone can be a perfect time for thinking, for feeling. Explore your feelings: if there is pain, anger, frustration, acknowledge it, ask yourself why, and what you should do about it – it’s the only way to deal with it and let it go. On the other hand, if there’s happiness, pride, contentment, immerse yourself in it – it’s sweet indulgement for the soul.

There is a difference between being lonely and feeling lonely; and once being lonely doesn’t scare you any more, there will be no such thing as feeling lonely. As Lawrence Durrell reminds us, loneliness is a useful thing: ”I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time – those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.”

I’ve been reading a lot about how coconut oil can be used extensively for skin and hair care, boosting the immune system, helping with weight loss, regulating metabolism and digestion, improving dental quality and bone strength; and the list goes on and on – so I decided to give it a try and see for myself.

Coconut oil is a natural oil with a wide range of health benefits. It contains lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which provide antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial qualities. In order to enjoy the most that coconut oil can offer it’s best to use the unprocessed, raw and organic version, which is solid at room tempreture and melts quickly on your finger.

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Dental quality

I’ve always had extremely sensitive teeth and despite all my efforts in dental hygiene gum disease started very early, only to be made worse by pregnancy and breastfeeding. I tried all the recommended toothpastes and mouthwashes, but when I got to the stage that even eating an apple resulted in bleeding gums, I had enough. I had recently read about “oil pulling” and I bought a tub of raw coconut oil to try it. The name “oil pulling” refers to the process of pushing and pulling a teaspoonful of oil through your teeth, which you have to do for about twenty minutes in the morning on an empty stomach. It is rather disgusting at first, I won’t deny that, it took me about a week to get to twenty minutes; and I probably wouldn’t have continued had the bleeding not decreased noticably. But it did, and after 2-3 weeks it went completely – I was absolutely convinced and converted.

It’s a good idea to do oil pulling while you shower, it makes time pass more quickly. During the process the amount of oil in your mouth will double once mixed with saliva, and it will gently remove all the bacteria that causes plaque, tartar, or bad breath. Once the 20 minutes is over (or if you just can’t take it any more) spit the mixture in the bin and brush your teeth. Don’t spit it in the toilet or sink because they will get clogged (coconut oil will be solid at room tempreture) and don’t swallow it because you’ll be swallowing loads of bacteria. As a rather lovely side effect my teeth have gotten beautifully white and polished, too; as I since learned some people use coconut oil specifically for its teeth-whitening quality.

Skin and hair care

  • Use coconut oil on your belly during pregnancy to prevent stretchmarks.
  • Breastfeeding mums can use it on their nipple to prevent or heal cracks and bleeding, and due to its antifungal qualities coconut oil also helps to treat yeast infection or thrush (both on the nipple and inside baby’s mouth).
  • It is a perfect natural skin lotion suitable for babies’ delicate skin (for mums too, of course).
  • Use it on the perineum after giving birth to help the area heal.
  • As a massage oil it is suitable both externally and internally (even for perineal massage).
  • Regular use of coconut oil helps fight acne.
  • It makes a great anti-aging facial cream.
  • You can try it as a make-up remover.
  • Coconut oil is a great moisturiser that you can also use on your hair against split ends (for me it works better than any hair care product) and to control frizz.

Natural medicine

Coconut oil gives your immune system a boost, its regular consumption makes you feel more energetic and mentally more aware. I have also found writings mentioning coconut oil as a natural remedy for a vast array of illnesses such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, eczema, heart disease, even cancer and Alzheimer’s, however I have not experimented with these therefore I cannot take a stand. I urge everyone to do their own research; as a starting point some information about coconut oil can be found here and here

It’s been a little while since I last posted in my blog. As it happened, moving house, and indeed moving town with a toddler was certainly a big bite…

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But how happy I am that we took this step and moved! We now live in a small historical market town North of London, and it’s a little gem of a place. It’s still maintained lots of centuries old, original buildings, churches, and sinuous, small streets and lanes. You can almost feel, smell and taste history just by wandering around. I love getting lost and exploring yet another area.

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But even more importantly, people here are friendly, they’re nice. They look me in the eyes, they say “hello”, they smile. This alone was worth moving here for. This, and the garden, of course. It’s not a big garden that we have, but it’s a garden nontheless, and it’s sunny, and it’s got a bit of lawn where I’m just about to set up my son’s first ever sand pit from that 15kg of sand that we bought last weekend. And an inflatable family swimming pool, for some lounging and splashing around. And a barbeque, of course, since it’s summer time :) .

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Perhaps the only downside of living on the ground floor with a garden is the regular appearance of spiders in the house. Now, I love animals, and I believe in karma too; but when I see these eight-legged creatures, the first thing my instincts tell me is “Kill it!” But I hate to be a spider-killer, so I keep asking them to just stay away from my house… though so far my begging hasn’t yielded any desired results. Never mind, I am now turning into a self-made spider ninja, experimenting with natural remedies against spiders, which includes for example mopping up with essential oils every single day. Lavender smells quite nice, anyway. And before you write me off as some crazy-lady, let me clarify that I don’t mind the tiny little spiders hiding in corners, minding their own business, that keep out of my way. But I do mind those big, fat, black ones that are the size of my palm, waltzing around in my living room, bathroom, or kitchen cabinet. They have to go, and that’s non-negotiable.

Oh, and I finally got my very first car! Which takes a lot of struggle away and adds a much-needed improvement to our quality of life. We named “him” Walter. He’s a bit old but we love him dearly already :) .

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So yeah, life is good, my friends, life is good. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we just came back from our first creative dance for toddlers class, but I’ll tell you about that later, because if my nose is not mistaken I’ve just burnt the red cabbage I’m making for dinner.

I’ve come across this lovely poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton and I thought you would enjoy it too :) . It captures the everyday efforts of motherhood perfectly, the mundane chores, errands and housework that will never go away, as opposed to those precious moments when your baby is still tiny and you can cuddle and rock her, preferably all day, knowing that before long she will grow up and these moments will only be memories.

 

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” -Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of children. -William Makepeace Thackeray

I don’t suppose it was ever easy to be a stay-at-home mother, at any time or place in history. The huge responsibility on one’s shoulders, the neverending flow of chores from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, the unpaid work, the fact that there is no difference between weekdays and weekends… It always must have been the same, right?

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But if you live in twenty-first century Britain you can expect a few extras, such as being invisible, unappreciated, or undervalued. There is this huge pressure that you’re worthless to society unless you work. Wait a second, you do work as a stay-at-home mother, you’re working non-stop, you’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Oh yeah, of course, it’s unpaid, so you don’t pay tax, so you don’t work really, so you don’t contribute. And how dare you.

When the new tax break was announced yesterday for families with children under the age of 12 I thought to myself “oh good, that will come handy” and it was only after that I realised that this will only apply to families where both parents work (with a joint income of up to 300,000 GBP! surely they need that tax break, right?). Without going into politics too much, the tax break won’t apply to our family, and I have to accept that, which I have. But it made me feel oh so bad about myself. For a few seconds I had to think what day of the week it was, and indeed what year it was, and when it would be feasible for me to go back to work. Well, let’s just say that the answer didn’t make me feel any better.

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Then I thought, “this can’t be right”. Have mothers always felt like that? How did the human race survive at all? So I decided to take a little time travel and check what the two biggest world religions, Christianity and Islam say about motherhood. If they both say that it’s rubbish to put your children first and foremost, then I might as well pack it in, put my son in a nursery from next week and go back to work. This is what I found:

The Bible always holds motherhood in high esteem, yet our culture doesn’t. According to the Christian faith motherhood is ordained by God and it is part of his plan. Our children are our ministries, and we need to honour God’s vision of motherhood by holding it in high esteem and affirming those who aspire to motherhood and those who are mothers. Titus 2:4-5 says “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good” (New Living Translation). Isaiah 66:12-13 says “I will give Jerusalem a river of peace and prosperity. The wealth of the nations will flow to her. Her children will be nursed at her breasts, carried in her arms, and held on her lap. I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child” (New Living Translation). So the archetypal mother is someone whose home is important (check), who loves her children (check), nurses them (check), carries them (check), holds them on her lap (check). This already made me feel so much better.

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Now let’s see what the second biggest world religion says about mothers. According to the Islam faith to raise a virtuous child is one of the greatest good deeds, and it continues to bring rewards even after death. Mothers have an elevated status of honour and respect in Islam, because Allah loves people who love and care for others, and he knows that in this world nobody is more loving and caring towards another person than a mother is to her child. A Muslim sees a mother as an icon of strength and courage, tempered with kindness, compassion, and love. (You can read more about mothers in Islam here and the role of the mother here.)  muslim-mother

 

After some consideration I think that nursery can wait a little bit longer then.

All of you mothers out there, don’t ever feel bad or intimidated by being “just” a mother. You’re doing a wonderful job. And you can always adapt Peggy Campolo’s answer to the question:

“And what is it that you do, dear?”

“I am socializing two homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation.”

Then you can go on and ask back: “And what do you do?”