A new kind of happy

I said it to N because N is the sassiest, most cut through the crap person I know. We were lying in the sunshine, doing nothing together in the way that only really good friends can, and I said,

'I've not told anyone this and I know I'm gonna sound like a nob but I can't stop thinking about the fact that I had everything I ever wanted. I had the man and the baby and the house by the sea and now it's all gone.' She turned to me and smiled, which seemed like an odd reaction, but then she said,

'You did and you can have it again if you want, or you can have a new kind of happy.' For the first time in a long time I felt okay. I felt more than okay, I felt excited because the only thing better than having what you want is working towards what you want, when you know what that is. 

If you focus on what could have been - the one that got away, the dreams that stayed in your head - you'll die with what ifs instead of the life you've lived. Watch any child transform an empty toilet roll into a spaceship and you'll know that life is malleable; the breadth of your imagination is your only limitation. 

So this year I'm going to find a new kind of happy and I think you should too. The baby that wasn't to be and the job they wouldn't give you, maybe they were making way for another adventure, with a not yet imagined outcome. I want you to try to remember that because when he stands at my door and hands me the child we made, I'll be trying to remember it too.

photo credit: Leonard J Matthews ready via photopin (license)

I know why you hate Ed Sheeran

I've noticed a bit of an anti Ed Sheeran movement and my feeling is there should be no reason for this. Ed seems like an affable fellow; I certainly haven't heard any kitten killing rumours. Yet it's no surprise to me, this unnecessary loathing; there have been some people in my life that have made me feel the same.

There was a girl I knew at university who had a lot of boyfriends and in between the boyfriends, she had a lot of sex. I heard about her long before I met her because even in 2001 it was possible for a girl to have 'a reputation' (a fact that, to my shame, I accepted without question). At the time I thought that having a lot of sexual partners was very cool. I wasn't yet aware that sex isn't always empowering. I wasn't even interested in sex to be honest, I was interested in being desired and to have slept with a lot of people, by my calculations, made you very desirable.

The first time I saw her was on a street corner. She stopped to say hello to the classmate I was walking with. She mentioned her most recent conquest - a sandy haired, rebel I may or may not have had an almighty, unrequited crush on. She was polite, pleasant, and that was all. I was perhaps two inches taller; her skin was fair to my tan; her messy bun was mousey and her hoodie declared she studied history and not psychology; other than that she was just like me or rather there was no reason why I could not be just like her.

So back to Ed. Imagine you met Ed. Not mega famous, multi-platinum album Ed but another Ed, identical in every way, minus the money and fame. Let's say your mate has just begun a relationship with Ed and she introduces you to him over casual drinks. Let's say the next day you have lunch with a mutual friend of original friend. Mutual friend would say, 

'So, tell me, this Ed, what's he like?' You would shrug and say, 

'He's okay.' Mutual friend would shake her head and dismiss the waiter for two more minutes, 

'But what else? There must be more. Is he fit?' You would look to the sky, your face contorted with concentration, and say, 

'Erm, he looks like that one from Harry Potter, you know the ginger one?' Then you would shrug again and say, 'He's just nice.' By this time mutual friend would be bored and would proceed to tell you a story about her weird housemate who hides the best saucepans under his bed and Ed would be all but forgotten. This is why you hate him.

You hate Ed Sheeran because he gives you nowhere to hide; you cannot attribute his success to his looks or his connections or, arguably, his talent. Ed forces you to confront the question, if he can do it, why can't I? So next time Ed Sheeran comes on the radio, which let's face it will be in the next forty-five seconds, take the opportunity to ask yourself, what have I done today to make my ordinary extraordinary?

photo credit: Denise Fokker Ed Sheeran via photopin (license)

My cleaning routine (which is totally amazing when I do it, which is almost never obviously)

My mind and surroundings are a mess. Not a cute, kinda quirky unmade bed mess; a what's that in the bottom of my handbag? Oh a satsuma covered in mold mess. This is weird because both my parents have a near pathological commitment to sanitation. My mother lists cleaning as a pastime and becomes genuinely anxious if her carpet fibres are lying the 'wrong' way. My father is the most mild mannered man you will ever meet. When I phoned to tell him I had eloped he said, 

'Well at least I won't have to do a speech now.' He's the epitome of calm until you put a fork in the knife section of the dishwasher. Perhaps it's not weird that they're as they are and I'm the slatternly, wench that I am - what is parenting but a lifelong experiment in disappointment? And in this regard I am very much a disappointment but I promise, it's not like I haven't tried. 

Until recently my cleaning routine went something like this: Spend a large portion of the weekend creating a sweet-smelling oasis of calm; stay as still as can, for as long as possible, in an effort to maintain this; watch helplessly as my home descends into chaos as the week unfolds; start the process again. Then I had a baby and cleanliness became not just a nice to have but a necessary. I had visions of the midwife hitting speed dial to social services before I had even closed the front door behind her. (This is not hyperbole, I really thought this. Post natal anxiety is the real deal). So I started to study my friends, the ones that didn't need a ninety minute warning before your arrival. I quizzed my tidiest compadre over coffee (out of very shiny mugs) one morning. How do you do it? I wanted to know. She thought for a minute before saying, 

'Well when I use something, I put it back where I got it from.' And the light of my realisation flooded her kitchen. I couldn't keep treating cleaning like a weekly war, I had to address the battles daily, little but very often. From this I developed my low effort cleaning routine.

Required reading for this routine is Marie Kondo's, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Fly Lady website; both are amazing resources for learning to deal with overwhelm. Start with Marie whose main missive is to get rid of all your stuff; the less stuff you have, the less stuff you need to keep clean. Once you're down to the bare bones, this is my system for keeping it vaguely in order. 

BATHROOM FIRST Do the bathroom as soon as you've woken up. Seriously, pee and then clean. You're in there anyway and you can reward yourself with a shower when you're done. If you do nothing else today at least if someone visits your home, they won't worry about getting a communicable disease from your loo seat. 

DRESS THEN MESS After getting Roscoe dressed I do a super quick clear up of his room and encourage him to help. I might be a mess but it's not too late for him. 

LIVING ROOM AFTER LIGHTS OUT Particularly if you're home with kids I think it's a lost cause cleaning up in the day. I think the perfect time for giving the living room a once over is after the kids are in bed. You'll have the little boost of energy freedom has given you and creating a nice clean space will help to set the tone for the adult part of your day. 

KITCHEN IN YOUR PJs A lot of people do the kitchen after dinner and if you can do this it makes sense but I like to eat sweets and slob on the sofa after dinner, so that time has already been allocated. If I clean up any earlier than just before bed I will invariably litter the place toast crumbs later on in the evening, and there's nothing sweeter than getting up in the morning and making coffee in a sparkling clean kitchen (someone else getting up and making coffee is sweeter obviously but I'm working with what I've got). 

BEDROOM BEFORE BED Just before getting into bed I make sure all my clothes are hung up properly and pick up any debris that has found it's way into my boudoir. I think by doing this my subconscious can get a head start on pulling an outfit together for the morning and I'm convinced that getting your head down in a tidy room helps you to sleep better. I can think of no reason why this would be true but a little white lie that gets you cleaning is fine right?

I'd love to hear about your cleaning routine.
                           photo credit: dharder9475 024/365: The cleaner via photopin (license)

Ask Moderate Mum - How do you make toddlers less stubborn? Liam Bishop

This question made me snort into my cuppa. All I can picture is a toddler somewhere, perhaps sat in a sandpit, contemplating the question - how can I make my father less stubborn? That is your child's experience, they're making the completely reasonable request to go to nursery dressed in a superhero costume and wellies and stubborn old dad just won't let it happen.

Lead by example - I think it's a fair question. Could you be less stuck in your ways? Just because you have a few decades on the kid, doesn't mean you know everything. Have a think, is there any areas where you could just let go? So the kid wants to sleep under the dining room table for the night, will the world end? They feel like eating their peas one by one with their fingers - bigger picture, at least they're eating. Where do you think this child is learning the stubbornness from? If you backed down from a few things you might find that your kid also feels able to pull back a little, this role modelling business is the real deal. 

Let them learn from experience - My mother has a plethora of sayings passed down to her from her father. Most of them are nonsensical (chicken merry, hawk is near?) but one has always resonated - 'If you can't hear, you must feel.' So your kid insists that wearing a coat on a wintry morning is surplus to requirements, unless you're reading this in a Siberian climate, it probably won't harm them to let it happen but twenty minutes later when their teeth are chattering so hard the buggy vibrates, they might just understand what you were banging on about. One hour of sub par parenting might avoid a tonne of future battles. 

Give them choice - Being a kid is completely awesome apart from the fact that you spend most of your life feeling powerless. It's okay to trick your little general into thinking he or she is getting their own way. Rather than asking if they want their vegetables give them a choice between peas and sweetcorn. You will seem like their humble servant when all along you are a master manipulator. 

Not too much choice - Choice can actually be quite overwhelming. Do you know why people like all inclusive holidays? It's not because anyone likes to queue for luke warm pizza, it's because it's wonderful not to have to think for a week or two. Sometimes when a toddler is given too many options for their mind to cope with they'll dig their heels in and do nothing. Plan each day and let your kid in on the plan, they'll never tell you but kids love to be parented. 

Let them know you're listening - Sometimes stubbornness is just a desire to be acknowledged and you can do that without letting your child have their own way. A couple of weeks ago my son was having a full scale meltdown in the shopping centre because I was trying to do the unthinkable and get him into a lift. I sat on the floor with him outside of Debenhams and said, 'Are you angry? Is mummy horrible? You don't like the lift?' 

'Roscoe sad. Roscoe crying,' he said (because he talks about himself in the third person Kanye West style). Then we had a cuddle and I let him press the lift button. It's like when you threaten to leave your mobile provider because they're doing their head in and then you don't, obviously, because you've got yourself tied into a three hundred year contract. Sometimes we all just need a little vent. 

Got a question for Ask Moderate Mum, put in the comments or email to moderatemum@gmail.com

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                     photo credit: WickedVT Photographing a two-year old via photopin (license)

How to Lay Down the Law

Roscoe not listening to a darn word I say

I wrote a post last year urging parents to give up on smacking. There are few things that I believe absolutely but this much I know to be true - smacking probably won't help you reach your long term parenting goal. Which we all know is children who say, 'how high?' when you even hint at the word jump. It was unfair of me to condemn smacking without offering my views on how to actually get them little tykes to stop behaving like heathens. Yes, Charlene you're all about problems, where's my solution? So what follows is my guide on how to lay down the law. 

Have a tell - I think it's right and proper to give someone fair warning. Children aren't actually entirely focused on ruining your day; they don't know that their behaviour is shameful, they're just having fun. That's why it's good to have a signal that lets them know a storm's a comin. A classic is the countdown, another is the utilise the child's full name; true professionals have it down to a sharp look. I prefer a very clear announcement, 'Roscoe that is naughty behaviour.' This is often greeted with laughter but he can't say I didn't warn him. 

Keep it simple - Don't tie yourself in knots or get into hefty negotiations, there is no one on earth that can negotiate as well as a child. You will lose. You want very simple cause and effect e.g. If you continue to take your clothes off in the library/wipe boogies on that stranger, I will X. 

Don't give up (even when you muck up) - We've all been there, allowed our buttons to be pushed and tried to regain power in the most ridiculous of ways. If you threaten to cancel pudding or get off the bus be prepared to follow through because otherwise your child will quickly learn that you don't really mean business. Of course if you go too far, I'm thinking 'we're never coming to granny's house again' quickly wolf down some humble pie and replace this sentiment with something more reasonable. It might be a good idea to have some suitable consequences planned in advance so in the heat of the moment you remember to ban the iPad and not give away the family cat.

Offer affection immediately - Your child needs to know that it's their behaviour and not them you do not love. If they become upset by your chastisement it's okay to comfort them, doing so does not invalidate the discipline. The message, I don't want you to be upset but I do want you to behave appropriately is one that even the tiniest tots can comprehend. I know this is hard for some people to grasp (and when I say people let's face it I mean women) but when something is done it needs to be done with. Don't keep throwing the incident back in the kid's face, it should be treated like something silly and unsavoury that everyone should just forget about quickly...until next time. 

How were you disciplined as a child? Do you find it easy to lay down the law. 

Ask Moderate Mum - How do I deal with my teenager hitting puberty

How do I deal with the a previously quiet, helpful teenage girl that has hit puberty and has discovered hormonal tantrums , tears and insecurities bless her? Kim Styles 

Often when it comes to parental anxiety I think, honey, this is what you signed up for. Even when I'm complaining to my mum that my boy woke up at still actually the middle of the night o' clock. I can see the mirth in her eyes, the little glint that says, what you thought this was gonna be easy? Humans are amazing and to make anything amazing takes hard work, so first and foremost make sure you're up to the challenge. Prioritise your own self care, are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? It's so much easier to combat teenage misery if you yourself don't feel like climbing into a hole and shutting the world out. 

Please remember puberty is a scary place. Imagine going to bed one night with everything okay in the world and waking up in Guatemala and if you're thinking, ah yes Guatemala, love it there, we have a little cottage in Chinautla, pick somewhere else, somewhere scary and unfamiliar. So you wake up there and no one can really explain to you why you're there or what's going on. At first you'd probably be polite, have a nap and see if anything becomes clearer but after a few days you'd get panicked, you'd be angry; you'd start screaming at people to get you out of there and no one would understand you because you'd be shouting in English and they'd all speak Spanish. What would you need in that moment? Someone to take care of you. When your daughter has a tantrum or an unexplained emotional breakdown she's just scared and lost; rather than letting out the mutterings running through your mind bake her a cake or make her a hot chocolate with those little marshmallows. Reminding her how much she is loved will help to bring her home and also it's hard to be mean in the face of tiny marshmallows.

Finally quiet, helpful girls aren't always happy ones. I was quiet and helpful for a good deal of my life because I was riddled with anxiety. I was terrified of everything - those flying spiders, busy roads and most of all stepping out of line. Your daughter sounds like she's finding her voice and in this day and age, Lord knows she's gonna need it. It might not look like it right now but being willing to ruffle a few feathers is a very good thing. 

photo credit: Sarah Wampler via photopin (license)

The Best Gift for a New Baby - Keeping Safety in Mind

Your goal in gift-giving to expectant or new parents is to first, show your affection and good will, but secondly, it’s giving them gifts that they will use and that they will know are utterly safe for their baby.

You can comb the local shops nearby or shop online, but one of the best places to look for a fantastic, impressive and welcome gift is to look at the huge range of baby gift hampers available at Baby Gift Box. The gift of a hamper covers so many areas of not just cuteness, but necessity.

Safety will be a priority for new parents but let's face it, safety will always be on parents' minds, regardless of the age of their children. However, there is a particular, nearly fevered, often emotional, concern for new-borns, babies and toddlers. Alert and concerned parents are fixated on making their homes and cars safe. They want to ensure that the choices they're making are the right ones to keep their babies safe.

Here are some very common concerns and some helpful ways to start a healthy schedule and infuse good habits into your home life.


While there are babies born with an entire head of hair, most babies are on the “follically-challenged” side. This means that they are particularly susceptible to heat and cold on their tiny pates. The best piece of advice you’ll receive about this is to start putting hats on your baby on a regular basis. Start with a cotton knit beanie. As soon as you start taking your baby out, a hat will protect it from, both the sun and cold. So many parents lament that their babies will “not keep a hat on,” and we’ve all seen enough babies pulling hats off their heads to confirm this. Gifting beanie hats of different colours is a great way to present new parents with items they will use daily basis, many mothers will welcome the opportunity to match their baby’s outfit with a coordinating colour. The main point is to get your baby used to hats as soon as possible.

Do not ever worry about offending anyone – never sacrifice the health of your baby for someone’s feelings. This means, if someone “has a little cold”, they’re not allowed near the baby. Be kind and warmly invite them when they’ve recovered (from whatever ailment they or their family contracted). 

Ask everyone who comes in to wash their hands, and keep a bottle of anti-bacterial gel nearby for them to also use. You can get a lot of information from popular parenting websites. They have plenty of articles that can serve as your guide.


If you have pets, you, like many, probably treat them like your children. And when you’re bringing a human child into the mix, you’re not likely going to want to dramatically change your pets’ way of life, their comfortable and familiar lifestyle, or – the horror – give your pets away. It’s recommended that you prepare before you bring your baby home and establish boundaries with your pet right from the start. 

Bringing Home Baby: if you have a dog or two, one of the best bits of advice you can receive is this:

1. While not always possible, take the blanket in which your baby was first wrapped and take it home (or have someone caring for your dog(s) take it to them and have them sleep with the wrapping that first night (or however many nights you and your baby are away from the house). 

2. You’ll be having a lot of visitors to your home, people anxious to meet your new baby, and, if permitted, to hold your little one, too. Keep a jar of dog treats near the front door. Tell visitors that they must greet your dog(s) first, do some minor fussing over the dog and giving treats. This serves a two-fold purpose: the dog(s) will begin to welcome guests and not be on constant guard – he/she knows that there are treats involved and will soon feel proud to show off their new baby.

There’s nothing wrong in ensuring the baby’s safety. Take note of the points discussed above as it can help you along the way.

This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer