Just say hello

As schools are back this week, I thought it would be a good time for me to take Donut to a play centre.  It’d be quiet(er), and there wouldn’t be any “big kids” running around.  I had decided on taking him to a lovely little play centre, called Playdays Cafe, which is in St Helens (Merseyside).

Now, I’m a member of several websites, that encourages mums to make friends with other mums – so I decided to extend my little party of two to be a mummy social.

One particular website I’m a member of, is (ironically) called Mummy Social, and does allow you to set up events, and invite other mums in your area (or further afield, if you wish).  So I did.  I set it up about 10 days ago, and hey presto!  My invitations were automatically sent out to those in the St Helens and Liverpool area.

It was the eve before my “social”, and no one had clicked the “attend” button on the site.  However, I wasn’t disheartened.  As I said – I was already planning on taking Donut anyway.

I quickly made a post on a local mums facebook group, extending the invite there, and I did get a lot of interest – 4 other mums said they would be there with their little ones.

This morning started off as usual.  Gning and Donut decided they wanted “milk and cookies” for breakfast, and as soon as they were ready, we were out the door.  I dropped Gning off at school (just started year 1), and Donut got really upset, because he wasn’t going to school (he goes to nursery, three times a week).  I explained to him that we were going to play instead, so he hurried me back to the car…

I arrived at the play centre early.  A lot earlier than I had invited the mums for.  I had said 10am, but I was there for 9:30am.

I’m one of those people who suffers anxiety, and I did have a mini panic-attack this morning, thinking that people would actually turn up!  What would I say to them?  Should I just say hello?  How would I keep the conversation going..?

Donut quickly ran off and started playing.  He knows this particular play centre inside out, and has a habit of climbing up to the tallest part, then starts crying.  He gets “stuck”.  He isn’t really stuck…  He just realises that he’s at the top, and can’t remember the way down.  This is exactly what happened at 9:55am.  He stood at the top of the frame, looking down at me, sobbing.  One of the girls who worked there shouted up to him, “are you ok?”, she asked.  I replied that he always does this – he just can’t remember the way down.  I stood up and went to help him, but the girl had beat me to it.  “Don’t worry about it – I’m used to going up and down this thing.  You just sit down and enjoy your coffee”, she said with a smile.  Brilliant.  Mother of the Year award goes to a complete stranger, who shot up the climbing frame quicker than I could pick up my cup.

Donut made his own way down, with guidance from the girl, and was so happy when he reached the bottom.  He did his little happy dance, and even “high fived” her, before she made her way back behind the counter.  Next thing you know, he’s up at the top again…  Only this time, he remembered his new learned skill, and was back down!

There were plenty of other mums, and carer’s of children, in the play centre.  I looked around, looking for any glimpse of familiarity in their faces.  Was that the girl who replied that she would attend?  I’m sure I recognise that little boys face…

One mum was heavily pregnant, and looked really stressed out.  She had a little girl with her – I’d say about 18 months old or so, and the tiny tot would not leave her side.  The bump had to climb over the 1.5ft barrier occasion on occasion to force her daughter to play.

Another mum was there, and had what looked like a 3 year old boy, and a baby boy – around a month old.  She looked a natural.  Laughing, chasing the child around, whilst “wearing” the baby on her chest…

Then I realised that Donut had disappeared again.  I thought that he was up on the frame again, but then I heard him laugh.  I turned around, and noticed that he was in one of those coin operated rides, with another little boy of a similar age, and the machine was on.  Mum of little boy was at their side, smiling.  I shot over to their side, and apologised that Donut was taking over her sons’ ride.  She laughed, and told me not to worry about it.  Her son doesn’t usually mingle well with other children, but he seemed to like Donut.

It was now 10:20am.  I was getting bored, sitting at the table alone.  If anyone had turned up from the Mummy Social site, or facebook group, no one had made an effort to try to find me.

I hastily posted a status on the latter mentioned group, asking if anyone was there, and if they were too shy to say hello – because I was in the same boat.  I did get lots of replies, but all were “sorry, I forgot”, or “I didn’t know you meant today…”.

I called Donut over, and asked him if he wanted to go home and see daddy, which he said “yes” to.  On with his shoes, and home we went.

I think the point that I’m getting to here is not about anyone else turning up, it’s about something much more.  I was sat on my own, and apart from the other two mums’, who seemed to be there without any other adult company, there were other “groups” of mums / child-carers.

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people would rather use the statement “I’m depressed”, rather than “I’m lonely”?

If you’re with a group of friends, and you see a mum sitting on her own – smile at her.  Say “hello”.  It’s not much, and takes no effort at all, but you may just bring so much more to that persons’ day.

Seek out the mum who is focused on her smartphone.  Most of the time they will say, ‘Oh, did you mean me?  Hi.’  A little eye contact, a little smile, a little victory for humanity.

You never know – you may just have met your new best mum friend by one simple word.

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A Crafty Parent Interview – Humming Bird Gems

I have always wondered how established crafters manage to juggle their crafts with their children, and vice versa.

I have been scouring several social media sites recently, on the lookout for a fellow parent crafter to interview, and I was fortunate enough to find Melissa.

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Melissa Stuart lives in Aberdeen City, Scotland, and she is the owner of Humming Bird Gems.  Approaching its’ third birthday, Melissa has been crafting since her teens.  She was never able to find items that suited her taste, style and mood, so she decided to start making her own jewellery pieces so she could always have exactly what she wanted.

Melissa has two children – Brae, who is 4, and Lizzy, aged 3; and is a stay-at-home mummy.

Me:  “What made you get in to selling your crafting?”

Melissa:  “I had some friends ask where I bought one of my bracelets, and I told them that I made it myself.  I would make things for family and friends, but it really wasn’t until my other half went in to college full-time that I thought about selling my work.  It was a way to help make ends meet.”

Me:  “So what made you choose your specific craft?”

Melissa:  “Since it (jewellery) was something that I had done before, it was easy.  With the crocheting, it was because I wanted to learn how to make teeny, tiny, little animals to put in to resin, and use with the jewellery making.  I haven’t gotten the skill up enough to make them, but people seem to be loving the bigger, cuddly versions just as well.”

Me:  “Did you try any different style of crafting before the one you do now?”

Melissa:  “Yes, I’m a very creative person!  I get a lot of enjoyment out of making things.  I’ve done origami, I’ve tried drawing (I’m horrible at it, by the way), and I had knitted in the past, when I was a young teen, but I can’t remember any of that now.”

Me:  “So tell me.  What has been your favourite make, and can you tell me why?”

Melissa:  “Oooh!  Now that’s a hard one!  I think it would be my resin make with dandelions and iridescent glitter.  It really looks like it’s dancing!”

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Me:  “Now I’m interested in your children.  What do Brae and Lizzy think of your crafting?”

Melissa:  “Brae doesn’t seem to have much interest in it truthfully.  Lizzy, on the other hand, is right in there.  She loves watching me, and asking questions of what I am doing.”

Me:  “Do they try to help you?”

Melissa:  “They do.  I’ll let Lizzy pick out colours or beads, and even let her string some of the beads on to wire.  I would let Brae also, but unless I’m working with something he has an interest in, he normally just ignores what I’m doing.”

Me:  “Do you do any other forms of crafting with Brae and Lizzy?”

Melissa:  “Lots of colouring, playing with PlayDoh, those kinds of things…  Crafts more suited for the younger ones.”

Me:  “So how do you juggle your crafting around Brae and Lizzy?  Do you have a set routine?”

Melissa:  “It’s a routine base.  Both of them are in nursery, so I have my morning to myself.  I try to get some networking done, but I often use that time to try and get things done that I can’t do with them around me.  Like resin work.  Whilst they’re at home, after lunch I will network, or bead, do some image template work…  Things I can often involve them in, or I can easily just drop in case one of them wants to play, or go outside.  The kids come first when they’re up and at home.”

Me:  “Do you think children taking part in (any type of) crafting is important?”

Melissa:  “I really do.  Kids are naturally curious about everything, and as the parents and adults, we really should be feeding that.  Nurturing it, so when the kids become teens, and indeed adults, they will still have that with them.  It can help them in life, with work, or even just play.  It can help them to relax, and it’s great for bonding and keeping that bond going!”

Me:  “Thank you Melissa.  Let’s move on to something ‘just for fun’.  You’re hosting a dinner party for a few celebrities.  You can invite 3 celebs.  Who would you pick, and why them?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, Robert Downy Jr. because…  Well, it’s RDJ!  He’s funny, and hot, and down to earth, and HOT!  (laughs)  Second on my list would be Jennifer Lawrence.  I hear she’s another down to earth celeb, and doesn’t stomp on the little people.  She’s still in the newly found “shell shocked” stage.  The last would be Dakota Fanning.  She’s been a brilliant actress since she was very young, and one of the few child starts that didn’t go in to drink or drugs.”

Me:  “Great choice there.  But let’s get to the real nitty-gritty…  You’re also doing the cooking for said dinner party.  You’re prepping a 3-course meal, so what’s on your menu?”

Melissa:  “Starts would be some kind of finger foods.  Three cheese mini pizzas, or popcorn chicken…  Something small that they could munch on whilst chatting.  Main course would be steaks with my homemade sauce, mashed potato and veg (corn or broccoli, or both).  Dessert would be lemon cake with a light lemon drizzle sauce.  Maybe some custard too.  Custard is yummy…  I’m hungry now.”

Me:  “Ha ha, ok, finally, let’s be serious just once more.  What’s your top tips for anyone who wants to start their own crafting business?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, come up with a name that’s catchy, then Google it.  Make sure that it is not popping up with anything.  The only thing that came up with mine (Humming Bird Gems) where pictures of humming birds.  Make a facebook page and email address with the same name, but don’t publish the facebook page yet!  Secondly, know what you’re doing.  Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, do what YOU want to do.  Know what supplies you need, keep records of what you spend – you’ll need that for the tax man, make a few things, samples, starters, get some good photo’s of your things, and once you have a few photos and posts on your page, then publish it.  That way it doesn’t look barren.  Make sure that it’s (your craft) is something you love to do, and that even on your darkest days, you don’t give in.  Every crafter out there has wanted to throw in the towel at some point in the game.  The difference between the winners and the losers are those who give up.  As long as you love what you are doing, keep doing it.”

You can visit Humming Bird Gems here:  https://www.facebook.com/hummingbirdgems

An open letter to the mother who has to go back to work

To the mother that has to go back to work.

You may have been absent from work for a long time, but you’ve certainly had your hands full.

You, yes you, have brought a child in to the world.  Granted, there was someone else to help you at the very beginning, but it was YOU who gave birth – or, if you’re like me, you’ve had your tummy sliced right open.  Just for them.

If you put the child to feed on your breast, you’ve had the cracked and painful nipples.  Sometimes you’ve had the teeth too…

If you fed the child on the bottle, you’ve spent endless hours washing and sterilising those pain in the arse bottles.  Not to mention the scooping of the powder, and the constant temperature checking.  It may be ok for you to drink cold tea, and slurp scalding tomato soup, but the baby’s milk has to be perfect.

You’ve been pee’d on and vomited on – almost daily.

You’ve been elbows deep, sometimes literally, in baby poo.

You’ve found baby poo in your hair…  An hour after you changed the last dirty nappy.  You don’t even know how it got there.

You know exactly when your washing machine will finish the load – because it seems to be on all of the time.

You’ve watched your child grow from a pure and innocent baby, who was so delicate, to a smiling, laughing, possibly crawling, and maybe even standing, ‘not quite a toddler’ child.

But alas, you have reached that time where you can no longer put it off.  You’re venturing in to worlds anew – even if you’ve been there before.

You’ve made the hard decision to leave your child behind and go back to work.  Afterall, you need the money, right?  You need your career, right?

But don’t think of it like that.  Think of it as a new beginning.

You are going to miss your child.  You are going to constantly wonder if you made the right choice to return to work.  You are going to cry every now and again…  Afterall…  You’re leaving behind that pure and innocent baby behind…

But you will be ok.  

It is ok to cry.

It is ok to miss your child.

It is ok to wonder if you made the right decision.

Just remember that at the end of your working day, you have those beautiful smiles to go home to.  Those cuddles, that you now take for granted, are going to be cherished even more.  Bedtimes may still be a struggle – especially if you have one of those children (like mine) who doesn’t like to go to bed – but you will love the effort you have to put in.

Why?

Because that’s your child, and even though you are away from them the whole day, you know they are there, waiting for you when you get home.

From a mother who’s been there before x

Mummies need friends too…

When a woman becomes a mummy, there are a couple of things that could happen.

The first is that she already has friends that have children.  Some are older, some are the same age…  She feels secure and confident that her ‘already’ mummy friends will be on hand to help and advise her.

The second is that she doesn’t have any friends that are already mummies.  They hang around for a while, but the new mummy has to turn down days / nights out because she has her hands full.  The baby is taking up all of her time.  Eventually, her friends don’t bother with the invitations any more.  The new mummy then loses contact.  Sure, one or two friends may stick around, but things are never the same.

Me?  I never had any friends to begin with (other than my husband), but the craving for friends was still there.

I have always said that I am not a people person, and I think that I that because I struggle to make friends.  I always have.

I like to think that I am an interesting person…  I have a wide variety of hobbies, interests and music tastes, so I am sure to have something in common with near enough everyone.  The only thing that I have never been in to is going out, clubbing.  Even when I did used to go out (ages 18 to 22 – or there abouts), I was never in to it.  I only ever went to keep in with my ‘friends’.  I think it’s because I struggle with what to say.  I just seem to ramble.

I actually made a friend a few years ago…  She was just a couple of months older than me, and we had a lot in common.  She didn’t have any children of her own, but two step-children.  We had dinner parties together – at each others houses, had days out together, and even went on holiday, camping, together.  It was all great fun, and I loved being able to talk to another woman – as a friend, rather than family.

I think when you have friends who are family members too, you feel slightly cautious about what you can and can’t say.  I think you’re slightly afraid of who else may hear within your family.  Well.  That’s how I feel anyway.

However, my friendship didn’t last.  I made the mistake of trying to make family friends, rather than a friend for just me.  My husband and her husband clashed.  It wasn’t because they had too many things in common…  It was their personalities.  It all came to heads when I felt like my friend and her husband were trying to ‘dig deep’ in to my personal life.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to talk, but they were asking questions, trying to turn me against my husband.  I still haven’t figured out why.

When I fell pregnant with Donut, my cravings started again.  I’m not just talking pregnancy cravings either, ha ha.

I started posting on a parenting site called Netmums (this is an international site – not just for parents in the UK), asking for friends with children of a similar age to mine.  I received a few replies.

One reply came from a girl who lived a 10 minute drive away from me.  We shared ‘essays’ of messages, back and forth for weeks…  Then all of a sudden, she just disappeared.  I did message her to ask if she was ok, and I’m still waiting for a reply from May.

Another reply came from a lovely girl who lives down south.  Not what you call a conventional friend, as the chances of us meeting are minimal.  However, we have been corresponding for months now, and each email is long and chatty…  Exactly what you are looking for with an epal 🙂

Two more replies came, and I have met both ladies.  Both live a bit of a distance away from me, but are definitely not out of the way.

G lives about a 30 minutes drive away, and she has a lovely little boy who is almost 2.  Gning got on great with him, and we are planning on meeting again soon.

A lives about a 45 minute drive away, and her lovely little man is just 9 months old.  Talk about being a smiler!  Gning wasn’t with me when we met, but Donut was.  I’m looking forward to going for another coffee with her tomorrow.

So, why do mummies need friends?

I think it’s necessary.  Not just for the kiddies to meet and play with each other (although that is a very important reason in itself); but for women to be able to get out of their usual routine of just looking at the same four walls, day in and out.  It’s important to socialise…  Humans – no matter how much of not being a ‘people person’ they are – need companionship.

Sharing a general interest, going for days out, crafting together, baking together…  Offering support and advice.for each other.  No matter the reason, having a friend is important.