25 ways to say no to a child

We'll have to ask Mum/Dad/Grandma/Your teacher/The neighbour 

We'll do it later

We'll do it tomorrow

We can do that when it's not raining 

Next week 

Next year 

When you'd older 

That's for grown ups 

That's for babies 

Batman doesn't do that 


We'll see 

I'll think about it 

Mum/Dad/Grandma/Your teacher/The neighbour says no

We'll save that for a special occasion 

If you're good

When we have more time 

I don't know how to do that 

It's not open today 

You won't like that 

You had that before and you didn't like it 

I've done that before and I know you won't like it 

That will make your tongue green 

I don't believe that meets acceptable health and safety requirements 


Self care 2.0

There is nothing more grown up lady with her sh*t together than getting your teeth cleaned, it is both basic care and totally decadent. I know this because I recently saw a hygienist for the first time in my life. Every time I went to the dentist he would say, 'You should see the hygienist.' And I'd be like, 'You should see my student loan.' I just wanted him to patch up any obvious holes and send me on my way. I even convinced myself it was a bit of a scam. You know, people are getting much better at this oral hygiene malarky, so lets add in some pointless extras to make up the pennies. So, I don't know why on my last visit I acquiesced, possibly because the mags at my dentist are sooo good and I wanted to hang out in the waiting room for an extra twenty minutes and finish Marie Claire, but I did. 

My first teeth cleaning was not what I was expecting, I'm not actually sure what I was expecting, certainly less sharp implements. Afterwards I ran my tongue over my teeth and they felt really, really clean. Not just debris free and vaguely minty but seriously clean, like they had never been used before. I went through the rest of my day feeling significantly more pulled together; I felt like I could open my bills, rather than just piling them on the kitchen counter; I felt like I might actually eat some kale. Teeth cleaning wasn't just a pointless extra, it was a message to myself that I am worth more. 

I often advocate for self care. I'm always telling my friends to take time for themselves, and I mean it. I always thought I did the same for myself. On this day I reflected on my version of self care and saw that it's pretty weak. A morning in bed eating Cheetos is definitely low level self care, lovely, but very low on the totem pole of looking after oneself. For my son care means nutritious food; consistent, tailored education and daily, sometimes hourly cuddles. For me it means eating semi regularly and the occasional bath bomb. I've never had a problem with putting my son first but isn't our primary task as a parent to be a role model? What am I teaching my child if he sees me letting myself crumble to pieces, teeth first. 

This month, I'm embracing self care 2.0. What are the things I need that will really elevate me? Perhaps I will visit an chiropractor for my totally dodgy neck; maybe I will finally commit to a yoga practice. Maybe I'll discover that if I upgrade how I look after myself, I will level up my entire life. 

19 totally sucky things about motherhood (for balance)

1. Rejection. Cold, straight rejection. I don't want your boob, I don't want your kiss, I don't want you.

2. Responsibility. Get up early, get out the house, don't drink vodka (much).

3. Feeling alone, even when you're not.

4. That learning to ride a bike feeling - what if I fall?

5. Become accustomed to a new identity.

6. Being told how you can do it better, and secretly knowing it's true

7. Time. Where's my time? Why did you take all my time!?

8. Being a role model, when you're not in the mood for f**king role modelling.

9. Being forced to think about someone else.

10. Knowing you will make a lifetime worth of mistakes and feeling powerless about it.

11. Having to try your best, even when you don't feel like it.

12. Seeing the worst bits of yourself in someone else.

13. Having more things to say yes to. Another birthday party, how wonderful!!!

14. Taking three times as long to do even the most mundane things.

15. Discovering a whole new branch of the internet and all the scary information that lives there.

16. Realising you can never be ready for it.

17. Understanding yourself on a deep and sometimes painful level.

18. Believing you no longer have time to reach your dreams.

19. Love. Loving someone so much it hurts.

19 totally awesome things about motherhood

1. Cuddles, so many cuddles. How did I survive without all these cuddles?

2. Responsibility. Get up early, get out the house, don't drink vodka (much).

3. Play. We forget to play and it's so good for the soul.

4. That learning to ride a bike feeling - I'm doing it, I'm doing it, I'm really doing it!

5. Finding a new tribe. Mums rock. Fact.

6. Understanding your parents better (I'm sorry.)

7. Time alone feeling like a holiday.

8. Being an inspiration.

9. Being forced to think about someone else.

10. Knowing you can make mistakes and it will all be okay.

11. Having a reason to try your best, even when you really really don't want to.

12. Seeing the best bits of yourself in someone else.

13. Having a reason to say no to the things you just don't want to do.

14. Being with someone who sees the ordinary as extraordinary.

15. Discovering a whole new branch of the internet and all the lovely people that live there.

16. Learning new skills every day.

17. Understanding yourself on a deep and sometimes painful level.

18. Believing that if you can do this, you can do anything.

19. Love. Loving someone so much it hurts.

Cuddle Fairy

Four things I will do but only if I really like you

I mock you. I will tease you. I will challenge you. I will laugh at your imagined flaws. The crueler I am, the closer we are. I reserve politeness for my enemies. 

I ignore you. When I meet someone with whom I truly connect, I want nothing more than to sit in silence with them. I need no more than your presence. I long for an hour with you on a quiet train, as you read your book and I read mine.

I don't respond. You text me, you email me, you send me Facebook messages and I just don't reply. Not for an hour, not for a day, sometimes not for weeks and weeks because I want to respond honestly and openly and when I have the headspace. I think you deserve that. Sometimes I feel so connected with you I reply in my mind and think you have received it. 

I won't cook for you. I almost never cook because I hate cooking. I will eat the food you cook for me because I like you and I like eating. If you come to my house you will get pizza and/or wine and I won't feel shame because I love you enough to show you my failings and believe you will still love me. 

Today you will move

You may not wipe the dust from the yoga DVD that has been moonlighting as a coaster for many, many months. You may not dig out the membership card for the gym on the other side of town; the one with the good towels; the one you told yourself you would attend because going would feel like a treat. You may not get to the body pump class in the musty church hall and feel empowered by the camaraderie. You may not complete 10,000 steps. You may not sweat but you will move. 

You will walk to to shop for more milk but as you walk you will stride with purpose; you will remind yourself 'I am moving' as you do. You will lift your child above your head and think about all the muscles it takes to bring about that action. You will stand up in the morning and agree to start a new day, if nothing else you will do that. 


'What did you eat for dinner?' Asks Sharon - my mate (and mentor and muse). 

'Rice,' I answer honestly. She laughs and says, 'You need to eat your veg. You have to look after yourself.' I tell her I had a cherry coke; she's unimpressed. I promise I will try but I tell myself that caring for someone is tiring, so time consuming and thankless, every mother knows that. 

The next morning at 6:15AM I make my son a fruit platter - a finally ripe kiwi, thinly sliced; sable grapes cut into halves; a pink lady apple, quartered; a multivitamin nestled in the mix. 

And then, before I call his name, I make another. 

Now you're a mother

You have no excuse. 

You have someone who will always believe in you.

OMG I wrote a book - My new boyfriend

So, I've mentioned once or twice that my husband and I are separated. The rumours are true, this process sucks butt. It's like doing a triathlon wearing a weighted vest and then just when you think you've reached the finish line, someone chucking in a spin class for good measure. When things first started to unravel, I had altogether too many thoughts in my head and so I started to write. I wrote about a woman separating from her husband because I thought that creating a positive ending for her could help me write my own. Also it was nice to remind myself that many people had it much worse than me, even if some of those people are fictional.

They say that relationships come along when you're not looking for them and that was true for me, however the partnership I found was not with a man but with my book. And like all good relationships it helped me to grow in ways I had never expected. I was writing this book when I saw a tweet promoting Write Now Live 2016, a competition aimed at helping members of under-represented communities become published. I decided to enter because, why not? Pre-separation me would have had a smorgasbord of why nots - they might laugh; I might lose confidence; I might fail, worse I might succeed... but at that time I thought, what more have I got to lose? What could be worse than hiding in my spare bedroom in tea stained pyjamas, listening to John Waite on repeat? Not much, my friends, not much.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and then I put those words out into the world and what happened of my book boyfriend? Reader, I married him. In March of this year I received an email telling me I had been selected for the Write Now mentoring scheme with my novel 'The List' and I am now in the throes of shaping both my words and my self belief. 

In case you're starting your own creative project here's the three reasons why I think this relationship thrived, when my other novel attempts have failed to take hold:

1) I didn't censor myself
'Write what you know' is a truth because good writing feels real and it's just easier to make things feel real if they are real. This book isn't about my divorce because I respect my son's father too much and also because it would be a very boring read - Once upon a time there was a couple who were dedicated to each other but realised they needed different things and gently unpicked their relationship, always ensuring their child was their first priority. The End. Bestseller, no? In my book the facts aren't true but the emotions are. Fear, loss, hope - I know about those, so I wrote about them. 

2) I played to my strengths
I'm funny. Writing that is a very big deal. I'm generally very British about bigging myself up; in the UK having good self esteem is extremely distasteful. Creativity, however, has no time for being coy. If you want to make your best work you have to embrace what you've been given. I'm no poet, I have no idea when to end a thought ever, and why not just stick in loads of commas and have the entire piece be one great, big, brain mashing sentence? I know how to bring the banter though and in 'The List' I bring it hard. 

3) I set it free
This is the big one. You can create and create 'til the cows come home (Where have they been? God, even cow's have a better social life than me) but if you don't put it 'out there' it stands to reason that it's never gonna be seen. As they say, if a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it, who the hell cares? So if you've got a book or a project or a business you've been dreaming about, just go for it. Walk hand in hand along the sand with it. Maybe you'll fall in love, maybe you'll start a life together, maybe this analogy has well and truly run its course. I don't care because tonight I've got a hot date with my laptop. 

Write Now 2017 is open for applications until 16th July. If you're a writer from an under-represented community head to the website to apply
What have you got to lose?

Treat your partner like an ex

My son's dad and I are friends. I had to look up the word 'friends' to check but, yeah, I think we fit that description. I mean we don't go out for 'one' and then get monstrously drunk and regret everything we did the night before and we don't eat processed foods together and argue about which Ryan (Gosling or Reynolds) is hotter (although why bother because it's clearly Gosling) but we speak to each other and of each other kindly and that's enough right?

Except recently when collecting Roscoe, I strayed from our usual 'how cute is he?' routine. As I was leaving I spotted a booster seat I had borrowed from a friend many moons ago. Conscious that my ex is a recent convert to minimalism (possibly prompted by no longer living with a hoarder) I pointed it out, imploring him not to give it away in a future purge.

'Oh, I think that's mine,' he said, 'I think I got it when I bought the bike seat.' 

'No,' I insisted, 'I distinctly remember borrowing it from my friend after her BBQ.' Roscoe's dad cocked his head to one side and said, 

'Nah, I'm sure it's mine.' 

'Or maybe you're wrong!' I snapped, 'Have you considered that?' And then I stalked away or the closest approximation of stalking one can do with an overexcited toddler in tow. I was brimming with rage, just brimming, but by the time I got to my flat seven minutes away, the rage had boiled over and left me with the burnt bit at the bottom of the pan. My previously rock solid memory of taking the seat in question and storing it in the cupboard under the stairs had started to erode dramatically. What was clear was a combination of hormone imbalances and a toddler with an outrageously, antisocial concept of when the day should start had made me ratty and snappy and maybe just a little bit unreasonable. 

I sent the ex a text; not the 4AM regrettable kind but a 'on my way to adulting' apology for my behaviour. Very graciously he accepted my apology and even suggested that he may have been wrong about the booster seat, which was very giving considering how ridiculously insignificant the whole situation was. Then it was done and that felt good. In that moment it occurred to me that I never would have done that when we were married. I would have sulked and brooded and pulled out some minor infraction from 2003 and that would have gone on and on until he apologised for something, for anything, just to have the whole thing over with. 

Why did I do this? Why did I treat the person I claimed to love most in the world with less kindness than my friends, my colleagues, the guy who delivers my ASDA shop? I'm sure there's some psychological study explaining it all but the hard truth is - it's bull crap. I'm a believer that you should give people what they deserve and the person who's chosen to take you and your beautiful flaws on, deserves the best. So the next time you find yourself feeling bored or frustrated or almost immobilised by rage with your significant other, take a deep breath and treat them like an ex. 

It can be a brand new day at any time

I woke up before 8AM yesterday. I know this because my eyes opened before my alarm went off and my alarm had been set for 8AM. I felt sleepily smug because the night before I had decided that 'good girls' get up before 8AM. Actually, I believe good girls get up before 7AM but I had stayed up until 1AM watching 'Iyanla Fix My Life'. For the uninitiated 'Iyanla Fix My Life' is a show in which the eponymous Iyanla (two parts therapist, one part fire and brimstone preacher), enters the life of a broken or beaten down individual or family and, as the title suggests, fixes it. If I don't have the will to sort out my own crap, watching other people sort out theirs seems like the next best thing. Anyway good girls get up before 7AM but they also get seven hours sleep, so I settled with 8AM. And then there I was smashing through my own expectations; I had bought back time. I had bought back life! What was I going to do with it all!? I thought about going to the zumba class that has been in my diary for a few weeks; I knew I had to deep clean my grotty flat; I thought about doing some yoga; then I thought about my sister chasing a dog down the road, and then I thought that's weird my sister doesn't have a dog, and then I realised I had fallen asleep again. That's when the self loathing set in.

What to do when you're feeling not good enough, obviously stay in bed, scroll through Instagram and fill your low self esteem bucket with images of hashtag perfection. Following which I concluded that I had blown it, and it was a waste of time trying, and I might as well potter and procrastinate and start again tomorrow. So that's what I started to do. And I'm good at that. Then with an hour left before I had to pick up my son I thought, what would I tell him? I'd say, 'don't worry little man you can do so many amazing things in an hour!' In an hour I couldn't clean my still grotty flat but I could make one portion of it palatable. Given that the sun was shining I made the decision to spruce up my garden and just to be clear by 'garden', I mean postage stamp sized yard and by 'my' I mean, my landlords. Was it the most urgent thing I needed to do, no but creating a space in which I could sit and enjoy the sunshine would create the greatest change in the least amount of time. I did some sweeping and weeding and soon I had my own little oasis and it felt good. I got a couple of hours in the sunshine but also more - the knowledge that it can be a brand new day at any time, how will you start yours? 

How to Make Morning Exercise A Habit

Exercising is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind fit and active. If done in the morning, it can not only make you feel a lot better about yourself, but also significantly improve your day. Though a very attractive way to start the day with, morning exercise often gets left out in the struggle that our daily life sometimes becomes. We are often in such hurry and confusion that we do not even realize to set the alarm to wake up early to exercise until we wake up the next day. So how do we make morning exercise a habit? These tips will help:

1. Set an alarm: This goes without saying. Don’t leave waking up to a chance. Set an alarm, or perhaps several of them if you are a deep sleeper and come out of bed the moment they ring.

2. Prepare for the morning: Make your mornings seem easier by preparing for them before going to sleep. Put out your workout clothes and shoes, decide what you will be eating pre-workout, and grab it all fast in the morning as you start exercising. This will not only give you more time to sleep, but will also ensure that you do not spend 20 minutes in the morning looking for your trainers.

3. Go to sleep once you’re in bed: Do not spend time scrolling through social media and wondering about the next morning. Sleep so that you can feel fully rested the next morning. If you want to relax before bed you can play on bingo sites with free sign up bonus with no deposit required, but once you’re in bed, keep all the technology away.

Try these tips and see how they make the excuses go away from your morning workout sessions!

This is a collaborative post

Welcome to Fugland

I've been a fug since 1997. Okay, it's been since about November but that feels like twenty years ago. The thing about fugs is that you don't know that you're in it until you're waaaay in it, until the walls of fug are so high, they feel like they're about to cave in. And then it feels like it's too late, like you'll never climb out but I'm here to tell you it's not. It's never too late. Life is not a party, you won't be kicked out when the po po get called. This post is a 'do as I say not as I do' one because at the moment I'm more about the theory than the practice but I believe in what I'm saying. I have to believe that if I do some of the shit I'm gonna list, the cobwebs will clear from my eyes and some light will get in. I have to believe that one day the hours stumbling through fugland will be a distant memory. If you're also a citizen of Fug City I hope this list might inspire you too and if you're not - prevention is better than cure. 

1. WALK - It's easy, it's free; do it fast enough and it gives you that smug cardio feeling. You can whack your tot in the buggy and put on an inspirational podcast and it's almost like me time. 

2. BREATHE - Every time I pay attention to my breath I realise I'm not breathing. I mean I am breathing because, like, I'm alive but I'm taking these crappy shallow breaths, it's as if my body thinks oxygen is rationed. Check that you're breathing deeply, greedily at least once a day. 

3. CREATE - When I'm just existing, I stop creating. As adults I think we can let the ego take over, start to think that everything we create has to be THE THING. Just make, imagine, play - take a picture on your phone, finger paint with your kid, anything to pry open your mind. 

4. MOVE - In a non prescriptive, judgement free way. It's great to get to a class or follow a programme but these can take time and energy that you cannot spare. I like to dance at the bus stop or just touch my toes (you can bend your knees), if only to remind myself I still can. 

5. GIVE THANKS - Ugh, I know, it's so blogger 101 but really it works. There is SO MUCH to be thankful for - magically appearing bluebells, warm donuts in the supermarket. Stop and acknowledge, or better yet make a list and reread the list when the storm clouds threaten. 

6. GIVE GIFTS - The only time I really, truly stop feeling sorry for myself is when I'm being of use to someone else; oh the joy of motherhood, for I get to do this everyday. Don't forget to give a little gift to yourself. Treat yourself to the good coffee or an extra long, extra hot bath. If your child was in a hole you'd lift them out and offer them love and care, so it's time to put your oxygen mask on first. 

What do you do to get out of a fug?

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

Add a little sparkle to your day! GIVEAWAY (UK & IRELAND)

In these bleak times *cough* Trump *cough* we're all doing our best to cling onto the tiniest glimmers of joy. I think that's why everyone's obsessed with hygge or 'taking pleasure in making every day moments beautiful'. With this you don't need money, you don't need a Valencia filtered life, you just need your own ability to recognise what makes you happy.

I think this is one of the reasons parenthood is such a wonderful space to live in, because you become an expert at stealing joy. For example I love a bath, always have. The hot water feels like a hug and I like having the space to think. Sometimes someone will say to me, 'Ew, it's sitting in your own muck.' And I think, who cares when it feels so good? Although I've always looked forward to a nice soak, I've never appreciated it more than after I became a mother. My bath wasn't just a treat, it was a sanctuary. During the newborn days, when being a parent was a near all consuming experience, I guarded those 45 minutes like a tigress. I GOT REAL about bathing, took myself to Lush, downloaded awesome podcasts and it stopped being just a bath, it was like a teeny, tiny mini break.  

I discovered from this that it doesn't take that much effort to lift an experience from okay to Ohh! Yayy! For example if you follow me on Instagram you may know that I am not that hot mama bringing you school run style; I'm more yesterday's T shirt, sleep in my eyes vibe and most of the time I own that but sometimes it brings me down. Sometimes I'd like to sparkle a little and luckily Happiness boutique were here to help. They sent me a lovely statement necklace, gorgeous enough to lift any outfit and every morning.

I love that I can throw on my Jeans and T and still feel put together with a little bit of accessorising; it's just one of ways I plan to add some sparkle to my life this year and if you would like to do the same I've got another Happiness Boutique gem to give away. Enter below to win a sprinkle of glitter with this rose gold cuff bracelet and let me know how you create little bits of joy every day! 

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Is it okay to aim for love?

I've always wanted to be married, not get married, that seems like madness - a whole day of dozens of people staring at you and taking pictures from every conceivable angle. Heck, no. It just sounds anxiety inducing and I'm pretty sure vomiting at the alter is not a good start to married life. I wasn't interested in the day, what I craved was the life. I wanted a person to call home; I longed for all the petty intimacies - peeing with the door open, texting for forgotten milk, falling asleep on the sofa. When I was a kid, on the rare occasions I was defiant, I would listen to my parents talking about me in hushed voices after I had gone to bed. Underneath my heady sense of injustice I felt a longing. I wanted that, I wanted a teammate and until recently I had been lucky enough to have one and then I wasn't

It was months after my marriage ended that I thought I might be vaguely ready to think about loving again and I figured if I seriously wanted to be in a couple I better take it seriously, I better treat it like a job. So I updated my CV: 

Previous role: 15 year position as mostly supportive partner 
Special skills: Cottage pie 

Then I asked every trusted friend if they knew of anyone who might be eligible, someone for whom they would be willing to act as guarantor for my heart. I told them that it was an attempt to live in a fairy tale to not actively look for love. I got a lot of the 'scary eyes'. You know the scary eyes, they're the ones you make when your friend comes back from a two week all inclusive holiday in Tunisia and tells you she's marrying a barman called Aziz. Your mouth says, 'That's great honey but maybe a little soon' but your eyes say, 'Girl you done lost your mind'. I knew from the scary eyes that many of them thought I was crazy but I didn't care. If you want to be an actress you don't wander through life hoping a director will spot you on the 250 bus - you hustle, you network, you make it happen. Why don't we think the same about love? 

The problem was maybe I was lying to everyone and mostly to myself because I made no work of meeting my ex, in fact he swept me off my feet. We got together at a time when I wasn't looking for love, I was looking for a career and adventure and a part time job that would keep me in Topshop jeans and love knocked on my door and said, 'Can I take you to Deep Pan Pizza?' And it was wonderful. It wasn't that I wanted to be so serious about my search it was that I hoped that if I did things differently, it would end differently, in that it wouldn't end.

So I didn't apply for any of the openings I became aware of because I thought that to aim for love might rob it of its essence. Is its beauty not in its elusiveness, the way it crash lands into your life without warning? It might be the last bit of magic in adulthood and who wants to live a life without magic?

photo credit: the past tends to disappear I Love You Dani! via photopin (license)