All posts by Caroline

chocolate cake

Diary of a sugar addict

Thursday 28th January proved to be what can best be described as one of those life changing moments when you least expect it. Scrumptious-roast-turkey-chicken-on-platter-000051408164_Small (1)

The whole of the month of January was spent feeling sick, tired and generally doubled over with stomach pain.

As a sufferer of IBS I assumed that was the problem and my gut clearly went into overdrive.

For anyone who has IBS you’ll completely understand how bloated and irritable, tired and lethargic it makes you feel.

January is a real hard slog especially after Christmas and so I aim to get through the month with the minimum amount of bother and try to maintain a positive outlook.

I know that if I get through January then the rest doesn’t seem quite so bad.

My earliest recollection of struggling with IBS was shortly after my eldest son was born that was 16 years ago. Out of the blue one afternoon I had the most gripping spasm pain in my gut.

That same evening off I went to the Dr he confirmed that it sounded like IBS prescribed me mebeverine to take before meals to calm the stomach and that was that, a one off event with occasional bouts that we’re manageable.

Jump forwards to 2013 and I had another bad attack one afternoon whilst we were on holiday in Spain. My coup de grace was to treat it with porridge which seemed to settle my stomach.

In May 2015 with the encouragement of my then personal trainer I decided to change my eating habits, drop meat not because of ethical or political reasons but because I felt that I really needed to get lean and mean.

chocolate cakeOut went porridge, toast and cereals in came natural yogurt with fruit, vegetables, pasta, salads and I seriously cut back on carbohydrates.

I like the odd biscuit dunked in tea at the weekend in bed and the occasional bag of maltesers or marshmallows but not in one sitting.

I have more of a sweet tooth than a savoury one and if you ask me to choose between a sandwich or a cream scone, guess which one I choose?

That said I stuck to my new vegetarian diet, having the occasional biscuit and bit of chocolate when I fancied it but, not everyday.

I am not a needy person when it comes to chocolate or sweets I can have a big bag of maltesers in the car and truthfully they will still be there in a month but for the kids eating them.

The final straw came when I took a day off with Mr M and went to Cambridge to meet with some spanish friends who were over for a few days.

A few tapas and a glass of Prosecco and I was sick as a dog and couldn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Over night I started to worry and managed to get an emergency appointment with the Dr early next morning.

Following an examination I was left with the belief that it was IBS that had flared up and that I would need to fast and drink water for 24 hours.

I had blood tests but they all came back negative.DeathtoStock_Medium1

During this time on the recommendation of a friend, I went to see an allergy consultant that uses non invasive techniques and a form of acupuncture to determine what I might be allergic to.

I found the whole experience liberating.

I was diagnosed with candida albicans. The reason my gut is so ill is that it has a yeast infection.

And my food intolerances are sugar and yeast.

I burst into tears when the consultant went through all the symptoms, each time I nodded my head.

I explained that I have been feeling like this for so long now it is hard to imagine what normal feels like.

The sickness, constant tiredness, exhaustion, lethargy, confusion, iStock_000009024892Smallfuzzy head, headaches, heart palpitations and a hangover feeling.

The fact that I had changed my diet by substituting healthier options meant that I had overloaded my body with even more sugar.

A list of foods to avoid was provided and these included cheese, bread, cakes, pastries, mushrooms, fruit juices, nuts, in fact anything with sugar and on the yeast side this was just as comprehensive no alcohol, wine, cava, prosecco but for gin and vodka but no tonic and champagne, at this I whooped thank god for small but expensive mercies.

That evening I went through the cupboards and to my horror and I mean horror all the food items from beans, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, dolmio sauce, all had excessive amounts of sugar.

Even my so called natural live yogurt had a whopping amount of sugar.

OMG there is NOTHING I can eat.

The yeast thing I can cope with as I don’t eat loads of bread or carbohydrate but you try and find something that doesn’t’ have sugar in it?

Mr M came in late that same evening and found me with my head in my hands. There is absolutely nothing in the cupboards I can eat that doesn’t have sugar.

That night I ordered Davina Mccall’s ‘5 weeks to sugar free’ and ‘I quit sugar’ by Sarah Wilson.

This was more than just a change in diet this was a massive change in my lifestyle.

The allergy consultant insisted that I start “cold-turkey” straightaway and that very Thursday afternoon I quit sugar and yeast.

Day 1 – Friday morning

How do I start today with no sugar.

Last night my beloved Mr M went to Morrisons to get me stevia and truvia a substitute natural sugar made from a plant. I can’t use saccharin or canderel.

The tea tasted strange and thankfully I had Ryvita in the cupboard so I could at least have that with butter. The jam Mr M bought me although diabetic still contained sugar.

I went shopping to Waitrose and spent 2 hours going through the store trying to find items without sugar what an uphill task even the ‘without’ section had plenty of sugar.

I am looking for 0g of sugar or <1g-0.5g per food item.

I finally come away with a load of foods including vegetables, rice crackers, irish sourdough bread which doesn’t have yeast and a whole host of other products,.

But even the low fat, low calorie natural yogurt has sugar in it and so I buy that reasoning that if I have less than the 100g portion I should be ok.

Mid morning and I think I’m experiencing a desperate need for sugar drinking water will reduce my appetite but it’s not hunger, I can feel a need to have anything sweet.

I grab a pear and the sweetness helps my sweet craving.

But I still want more.

After tea, I am desperate for Ben & Jerry’s peanut buttercup ice cream.

Friday night use to be a bottle of red wine and a tub of ben & Jerry’s not all in one sitting but a good third of it.

And now I’m in the kitchen looking for something sweet to eat and finally settle for a piece of sliced melon.

I’m never going to get through this.

Day 2 – Saturday

I have a dull headache and I’m feeling lethargic.

Saturday morning’s use to start with tea and a stem ginger biscuit dunked in it.

That has now gone and I start my day with a tea and stevia followed by porridge with agave syrup on the top.

By 11 o’clock I’m feeling restless, fuzzy headed and my head hurts.

I research candida albicans reading the books that have arrived from Amazon and one of them suggests not to take ibuprofen for the next 3 months because this too can disrupt the stomach’s natural gut flora.

I never take tablets unless I need to so I keep going.

By lunchtime I feel like I’m dying the sweetness I so crave is really Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_7taking a hold and my headache is getting worse.

I’ve been in the gym and the exercise has made me hungry and desperate for sugar.

I might have a small diet coke or a biscuit but instead I have a gluten free plain nairn biscuit, although I’m not GF these biscuits have next to no sugar.

I make a sourdough slice with philadelphia cheese this fills the gap.

I see an advert for chocolate and then a victoria sandwich with fresh cream, I would kill someone right now for a bite.

I now have some idea of what ‘withdrawal’ must feel like for drug addicts or anyone with a serious habit. This is testing my willpower to the limit and believe you me I have plenty of it.

Day 3 – Sunday

We are off to the Albert Hall, London to see the Cirque de Soleil.

I’m nervous.

What am I going to find to eat? I stash some GF biscuits and rice cakes in a plastic container just in case.

My eating habits will never be the same again, I can’t just grab something on the go even if it’s healthy, all of it has sugar.

Then I panic about the next working week how am I going to find time to make ‘everything’ from scratch. When I’ve been used to buying a salad or sandwich, not even fruit in a plastic container from Tesco comes sugar free it has added sugar in it as well as the fruits natural sugars.

The VIP area has canapés and food that is cooked for you whilst you wait. There isn’t one item of food I can have save for a Chinese dumpling with the chicken and vegetables minus the dumpling.

But, I have a glass of champagne and I wait for the gripping stomach pain to kick in on the left side, hooray, nothing happens I can really drink champagne.

It’s off to Lidl for the cheapest champagne I can get then!

Day 4 – Monday

I stay at home today and I’m relieved because I can cook at lunchtime and make something I can actually eat.

I’m in my PJ’s until gone 1’o clock. I can’t concentrate, I’m confused and I stare at the blank computer screen before willing myself to do something.

But I can’t focus it feels like my head is detached from my body.

Mid morning and I want something, anything to take away this sugar craving which, I have in the past, mistakenly thought was hunger.

Day 5 – Tuesday

For the first time since forever, there is no pain in my left side and my headache has gone.

I’m off to Birmingham for a meeting and last night made a feta cheese salad.

It’s a long meeting and the hosts have arranged a lunch – the food looked fabulous and I died when I saw the profiteroles.

I’ve had to explain my nervous energy, my lack of concentration and the fact I need to get up every five minutes because I am agitated.

They are very supportive but joke about how wonderful the food is whilst I hungrily tuck into my plastic container containing my salad followed by fruit.

There is one good thing though, I’m not eating anything in between meals.

Last night I did make some sugar free flapjacks taken from Davina’s book, thank god, one of those mid afternoon gives me the energy boost I need.

Day 6 – Wednesday

I’m alert I feel like spider man, my reflexes seemed to have speeded up I’m more aware of what’s around me I can remember things, what people are wearing, what they say.

Today I’m in London but have allowed enough time to have a quick lunch before heading off for the afternoon/evening.

I’m tired and feel like I’m lacking in energy but I know I’m not, it’s like having a hypoglycemic sugar drop but without the effects.

I am aware that my heart palpitations have gone is this what normal feels like?

Day 7 – Thursday

One week cold turkey.

I’ve made the first week the sugar cravings have lessened and I’m feeling a bit more energetic.

I’ve got more books on this candida albicans and made lists for recipes I’m going to make for the weekend.

Am I really a sugar addict?

I have a long way to go.

The candida albicans yeast is a part of the gut flora, a group of microorganisms that live in your mouth and intestine.

When it gets out of control it weakens the intestinal wall and penetrates into the bloodstream releasing its toxic products throughout the body.

It causes trouble when there is a change in your body that allows it to overgrow, this could be a course of antibiotics, a prolonged diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates or stress.

The candida albicans is kept under control by the friendly bacteria in your gut but when your immune system is down candida multiplies quickly and dominates the gut.

Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_6By producing the toxins the body’s immune system struggles to cope and finally gives up causing a wide range of symptoms from abdominal pain, headaches, depression, aches.

I ticked the boxes in every category and as I start to join the dots, suspect that this all started in 2008 when I was under a serious amount of prolonged stress at work.

Day 8 – Friday

I feel lighter and wonder if I’ve actually lost weight. I don’t need to but I wouldn’t say no to a few pounds. I won’t have scales in the house I don’t want to start that treadmill of weighing myself as I did as a teenager.

I’ve got into a bit more of a routine but still need to plan better.

I actually need to sit down and plan out the whole week’s food for me, what I need to buy so I can prepare meals.

Day 9 – Saturday

I have a sketch class, a day of drawing orchids and I wonder if I can get through the day without touching those biscuits the artist leaves for us to have with tea/coffee.

My willpower is tested because he has chocolate biscuits and I look at them longingly, stuff it I’ll have one and then I think better of it.

The consultant reminded me that if succumb to sugar I could get really sick and put my gut back again. And so I grit my teeth and continue.

It feels like everywhere I go I see sugar. absolutely everywhere, mouth watering chocolate brownies, biscuits, cakes.

How I long for a marshmallow or a cream cake or a doughnut, would it really hurt me?

For so long I’ve deluded myself into thinking I eat healthily just because I train, work out and eat so called healthier foods but lurking underneath is this poison they call sugar.

I call it a poison because what it has done to me has ravaged my body depriving me of feeling great, taken away my energy, my fun and the joy of living.

I look fine say my family but this gut infection is hidden it doesn’t come with a warning sign it takes over and infests your body with its toxins and sugar is the primary cause.

Day 10 – Sunday

I’m experiencing a sugar craving I’ve been for a run and I need to satisfy it but I can’t reach for the biscuits or a packet of crisps.

Nope, instead it’s ryvita with cream cheese and a portion of mackerel with red peppers.

I’ve had so much salad this week I’ll start to turn into a rabbit and there have been times when I swear I could eat the carpet.

But I know each day will get easier.

Day 11- Monday

Feeling tired today. Yesterday I made some lemon cupcakes with maple syrup they taste scrummy but they don’t rise as much so they come out like biscuits more than cakes. But at least it is something naturally sweet to have.

I’m actually tired today, not much rest at the weekend and I feel down.

Is this the bit where I start to question what the heck I’m doing or is this just because I’m tired.

I want half-term to come so I can think and plan my eating requirements.

Is this what it is like to be a diabetic? Constantly monitoring what you can eat?

Will I ever be able to actually enjoy food again without having to think what is in it, where has it been made and will it harm me?

I’m not feeling quite so positive now..

Day 14 – Thursday

I’ve made it to 2 weeks. It has been the hardest two weeks ever and I’d rather have my teeth pulled then give up sugar and yeast from my diet.

The yeast diet has been easier it is mainly bread, there are whole host of other foods but not what you might eat everyday. Although I am missing marmite.

I felt crap yesterday, so tired it was a struggle just to keep going and the sugar craving seems to be back again with a vengeance.

The last two weeks I’ve really been going along by the seat of my pants just making it up as I go along but I know I can’t do this any longer.

I ordered a load of ingredients last night so I can prepare food at the weekend and then I am going to plan a 3-4 week menu so I know what I will be cooking each day.

It sounds so regimented and organised with no spontaneity.

I’m use to  either grabbing a healthy snack or sandwich or going without altogether but now I can’t do that it is too risky and the consequences on my body could be grave.

This morning started very early followed by a fitness class and now I’m tired and irritable.

The cafe downstairs at work has had a revamp and the food is unbelievable but I can’t eat any of it. I have to ask the head chef what foods he has cooked that don’t have sugar and yeast.

I settle for a parsnip and apple soup with bread I shouldn’t have the bread but I’m desperate, also it looks more like that soft red pepper ciabatta.

I know I may pay the penalty for this slip up later with a jabbing pain in my left side and feeling sick, but I don’t care.

I want to taste real bread again. I feel hunger but I know it really is sugar withdrawal.

I see it I want it but I can’t have it.

I’m still not able to concentrate 100% but I’ve noticed things are changing.

My ever so white tongue with grooves and edges on the side are lessening.

Maybe this candida albicans is real after all and not having sugar and yeast  in my diet is beginning to have an impact on my body.

I’ve read more and discovered it could be 1-3 years before my gut flora is back in balance and if I fall off the wagon it could easily flare up again.

I’ve done a lot in my life but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to manage.

Yes, I know it’s not cancer and there are far worse things but I challenge you to give up sugar in your diet and see how you find it.

Day 15 – 17

It’s Friday and the last day of term before the kids break up. I’m tired and cranky and I want something sweet.

At lunch time I eat a jacket potato with tuna and mayonnaise, the latter a no-no because it has a yeast by product but I wanted something substantial.

I paid for it later on that afternoon when the sharp left pain in my stomach reminded me what happens if I slip up.

Thursday and Friday were a disaster, I had half a scone with butter and some sesame seed biscuits even though they contain minimal sugar it is still sugar.

By the weekend I have a cooking frenzy.

I make a batch of ginger biscuits I was so excited at the prospect of being able to dunk a biscuit into my tea that I took a bite and promptly started choking.

They were so dry I could barely taste the ginger Mr M had to get me a glass of water and slap me on the back.

How can they be tasty there is no sugar in the recipe what was I thinking, believing they were going to be my life saviour. Fit for grouting my bathroom absolutely not for eating.

Still as Mr M said if I whizz them through the processor it will make a great cheesecake base.

Saturday saw me make a victoria sandwich with spelt flour and maple syrup. I substituted the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda also a raising agent.

What I later discovered is you need to add something acidic like lemon juice or natural yogurt to counter the bicarb.

I decorated it and waited to serve it up on Sunday afternoon, it tasted foul, it looked lovely but because of the baking powder substitute it was awful. I scraped off the fruit and cream and threw it in the bin.

Another one bites the dust. The veggie quiche was a disaster I decided to use coconut milk instead of my normal dairy milk just because I thought it might be worth trying something different.

It was my dinner for Saturday night and looked like it had been in a fight. I didn’t even try it and lobbed in the bin.

At this point I was in tears I had spent all Saturday cooking following the recipes and not one was coming out as I had hoped.

Who am I kidding, this is all because I’m addicted to the taste of sugar.

I felt angry.

The food manufacturers have duped me into needing sugar without me even knowing it. They’ve convinced me that I have to have sugar because it is in every food item I have in my kitchen cupboards.

I’m angry that because of them I’ve had to make a massive lifestyle change. This is not something I would have chosen for myself.

I am fit and fitness is an important part of my life but I realise that I am not healthy. Many people make the assumption that just because we go the gym, run and exercise we must be healthy too.

Wrong!

Even the healthier food options I adopted in the middle of last year are full of sugar.

In fact, most of the so called healthier options are bad for you. The recipe books I have and the research I’ve done indicate that many people who have candida albicans have reverted back to proper whole foods.

Milk instead of skimmed, butter instead of these low fat spreads and so forth.

I’m angry because if it wasn’t for all the processed sugar in our food items I wouldn’t have to be going through this now.

I am faltering. I want to stick to the plan. I know that at three weeks it should start to get easier and become a habit.

But like a recovering alcoholic, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic.

I am a recovering sugar addict but I know I will always be a sugar addict. There will never be a moment when I don’t want to have ‘just one’, or, ‘let me have a bite’.

One slip and I’m back to be being that sugar addict again.

Week 3

I made it to 3 weeks! It is half-term and the boys, Mr M and I are off to London to have lunch in the Aqua Shard.

I’m looking forward to it but still apprehensive about what I can eat.

The menu turns out to be ok and on checking with the chef my starter is sugar free.

I get through the meal with 2 bottles of champagne, ok there was 2 of us involved.

And champagne is the one alcoholic beverage I can enjoy and as Mr M points out you’ve been cold-turkey 3 weeks have a blast, and I most certainly did.

Three  weeks with no sugar other than the addition of stevia in my tea and I am starting to see the benefits.

I feel leaner, my stomach has flattened. My eyes appear bright and my skin looks clear.

Mr M remarked that my eyes looked ‘milky’ before this lifestyle change and now they look healthier.

The prolonged tiredness has gone and I wake up in the morning feeling fresh and more alert.

In the past, I would have struggled to get out of bed, feeling constantly tired and sluggish and the walk to the bathroom was the equivalent of finishing the London marathon on the mall.

I’m more aware of my senses than ever before.

For example, smells, some of which I could tolerate before are now no longer bearable.

I am full of energy and have spent more time in the gym training, running and doing yoga and pilates that even I am surprised.

My sleep is better, by the time my head hits the pillow I am out oblivious to all asunder. I have the odd disturbed night but not enough to make me feel wretched in the morning like I use to feel.

I am convinced more than ever that my menopause started early because of stress and candida albicans and I am angry about this, angry that the so called healthy diet we eat as a family has been contaminated with sugar.

If you are aware that the foodstuffs you are eating contain sugar you can make an informed choice to buy that product but prior to finding out about candida albicans this I had no idea the affects of sugar on my body.

Buying foodstuffs without sugar remains a challenge.

Week 4

I am struggling this week and I am not sure why.

I think my body is fighting a virus because I feel aches and pains.

By mid week I am experiencing hunger for the first time since I gave up sugar and yeast and I overload on carbs.

I had a pancake with chickpeas, spinach and feta cheese all ok in my new diet save for the pancake which was made with white flour not wholemeal.

The potato and leek soup I had for lunch, I can’t have any potatoes in my diet not until I come through the first 12-16 weeks, and , I didn’t ask if there was any sugar in the soup.

My stomach reminds me why I had to adopt this lifestyle change a stark reminder that any slippages will come back and bite me with nausea, bloating and a cramping stomach ache.

That’s how easy it is to slip up and then I pay for it.

I take heart I’ve reached 4 weeks and it is the first time I’ve really slipped up unintentionally. I haven’t eaten cakes, biscuits or ice-cream and there have been enough temptations I can tell you.

But it will be another 4 weeks before I really believe that my new diet will take hold and it really does become a way of life.

I would be lying if I said I don’t miss that stem ginger biscuit dunked in tea, my B & J’s ice cream  and red wine.

Just that sluggish, nausea, bloated feeling I experienced last night is enough to remind that I can never go back to that again.

Week 5

I made it to 5 weeks with no sugar or yeast. I’m feeling stronger, revitalised and more healthy. My sugar craving has vanished and I don’t crave sweet things. Of course I miss doughnuts, toast and marmalade, marmite with cheese and red wine.

It has been a tough uphill struggle but I feel better and stronger for it. I get the occasional reminder in the left side of my gut that tells me I’ve overdone it on sugar somewhere during the day but that is my red flag to make sure I drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins.

Week 8

Two months since I went cold turkey, I made it.

Following my seven week check up with my allergy UK consultant I have made great progress.

My candida albicans is in check, my gut flora is in balance and my hormones which had been so ravaged by this infection are more or less normal.

I was under no illusion that this was going to be a long drawn out process. I have to continue with my yeast and sugar free diet and it is challenging but I have persevered.

How I feel eight weeks on is the distance between the North and South pole, in other words I feel so much better.

I have had some critics along the way suggesting that I am mad even considering the advice of an alternative practitioner.

My Dr couldn’t diagnose my condition and the fact that I feel so much better, why would I seek a second opinion?

Our lives are dominated by what we should or shouldn’t be eating, the media has been dominated by the sugar levy which will be introduced in 2018 and obesity.

Does the Chancellor really think that taxing sugary drinks will make a difference?

It is a start but what is earnestly needed is education about nutrition and balance when it comes to diet.

The proposed food labelling campaign could see the introduction of a sugar wise logo that identifies foods low in added sugar is another bold step in the right direction.

But, I believe all this starts in the classroom. The proposed PSHE (personal, social, health) taught in schools should be expanded to include basic nutrition.

Providing our children with an understanding of what is good and bad for them is a good start in increasing awareness.

I miss red wine, stem ginger biscuits, my favourite ice cream, a sandwich, toast and marmalade but the sharp jabbing pain in my stomach, sickness and the symptoms I’ve endured for the last year are a stark reminder that sugar and yeast can no longer be a part of my life.

 

 

iStock_000072924745_Small

Shopaholic? I just have to have it!

It’s no use I have to have it I said exasperated as I looked longingly at the new iPad Pro over the Christmas holidays.shopaholic

As luck would have it Mr M, my dearly beloved husband treated me to it for my birthday which was a big surprise.

What was the hesitancy in buying it myself?

I could have made the purchase through the business as a legitimate business expense after all I’m always taking notes at meetings and tend to use the iPad and stylus more than paper and pen.

iStock_000072924745_SmallI hesitated because I need time to justify, fester, think about it, dissect how and where I will use it, after all, it isn’t cheap.

 

Do I need it?

Do I want it?

Do I desire it?

Like most women we can justify a yes to all those questions.

I met a woman recently who, from last November has put herself on a spending ban.

That means spending no money on anything from takeaway coffee to holidays for one year.

This made me think long and hard and I had to face up to the fact that my spending habits are out of control and I am ashamed to admit I might just be a shopaholic.

If I stay away from the shops and I rarely go out “shopping” I’m okay.

But last Wednesday I took a day off and along with my husband met with friends who were over from Spain, I succumbed to the temptations that were in my path.

I’m going through a fitness update stage what I mean is I’ve thrown a load of old fitness wear out that has turned grey and decided to update it. 

Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing
Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing

I happened to fall into Sweaty Betty in Cambridge and ended up having to deduct two of the items of clothing I’d chosen because the bill would have been £355.00.

Are you kidding I said to the young woman who served me, that much for these few items?

Immediately I felt guilty, buyers remorse we call it in sales.

That point when the customer says yes to what it is you are selling and then immediately panics internally, wrestling with feelings of have I made the right decision, is it the right thing to do.

Whilst I felt justified in buying these items of clothing, did I really need to spend so much when I can buy fitness clothing for less than half of what I paid.

As we walked along the streets of Cambridge I analysed my purchases.

Why did I buy them?

I needed cheering up I thought to myself I’ve been unwell lately and unhappy.

Why am I feeling guilty?

Because in all honesty I could have bought similar items cheaper. I am definitely running out of storage space for all my stuff which implies I have and own too much stuff.

I invariably pay for things with my credit card and therefore always have a balance left to pay, again, I am buying stuff I really don’t need.

Does that make me a compulsive shopper?

Shopping, Shopping Bag, Women.

Although I rarely go out “shopping” I have to fess up to the fact that yes I must be. I like shopping online because it is so easy to hit that ‘order now’ button.

Compulsive shopping is a genuine addiction some might even say it is a direct consequence of the consumer driven capitalist society we live in.

I have to admit opening up a bag and examining the items gives me a buzz and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve ordered new sketch pads, drawing pencils, clothes or anything the thrill is not so much what is in the package or box, I know because I’ve ordered it.

It is the feeling you get when you actually go through the process of opening it, the contents are very much secondary, opening a box, package or plastic bag makes me feel excited and tense all at the same time.

A bit like having a sugar or adrenaline rush you get from exercising in other words ‘ a high’.

This is immediately followed by a feeling of ok, that’s it, it’s done, then disappointment almost like you were expecting it to be something remarkably different from what you ordered.

According to Ruth Engs at the University of Indiana some people get addicted to shopping because as they shop their brain releases endorphins and dopamine and this becomes addictive.

Chatting to the same woman who is on the spending ban, we admitted that when we see something we really want those thoughts take over your thinking you decide you want it and you simply cannot get that thought out of your head until you’ve bought it.

And then when you have it, there is a ‘let down’ phase, ok I now own XYZ what’s next?

Lurking in the mix is anxiety and insecurity both issues most of us subscribe to and shopping momentarily makes us feel better but it isn’t long lasting.

I am definitely going to start my shopping ban after pay day, wait a minute I’m being offered 10% discount if I buy online today at M & S I’m off byeeee…

 

Christmas background

Christmas done and dusted!

Well that was it. Christmas 2015 done and dusted. Christmas background

Crept up from behind with no warning, then bam, there I was in December and christmas cards still hadn’t been written let alone mailed.

I’m anti-christmas not on religious grounds, quite the opposite in fact.

As a working mother I never seem to get enough time to actually plan, analyse and execute my christmas master plan.

Oh yes, I had mine all mapped out in September but guess what I didn’t stick to the plan.

The christmas puds were done and put to rest in a quiet and cool place ready to be called upon on christmas day but aside of that NOTHING!

I got some of the christmas presents done when I passed through The best things in life are freeBicester village on my way back from a business trip in November and very proud of myself I was too.

And we had such a nice christmas 2015, it went so smoothly, parents well behaved, family all got on well with no in fights and for once in god knows how many years I had the most relaxing christmas ever.

No inbox full of emails, no customers screaming at me having left something to the last minute. It was a surprisingly quiet and wonderful christmas with normal, well behaved children and husband.

Scrumptious-roast-turkey-chicken-on-platter-000051408164_Small (1)

Then without a bye or leave, christmas and new year over, you had your chance my left brain said to me, whilst the right is still reeling with where did three weeks go?

First week back on the familiar treadmill and I’m scratching my head, did I miss something or was that christmas 2015 over and done with?

Christmas late busy business woman running against timeFast forward one week and we are head long into 2016.

‘Can we get into some good habits this year boys’, I proclaim on the first day back to school. ‘What’s that they both say in unison’.

‘No earphones in ears or playing games on phones just good conversation on the way to school, let’s talk’, I say.

‘What is the point in that they retort’, er, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to talk rather than stare at a small screen’ I say.

Can we leave the house and by that I mean get into the car and depart at 7:20am each day rather than me constantly screaming reminder time checks and to get a move on.

We always leave on time Mum, er, no we don’t not once last year did we ever, ever leave on time we managed 7:22, 7:25, 7:35 but never ever 7:20.

Well what’s wrong with a few minutes either way says my eldest son.

I sigh, because my dear when you get to university or the big world of work and boss says I need that done by 10am tomorrow morning, 10:02, 10:22 won’t cut it, unless you can start to manage your time now, you will never manage it.

You can find bags of time to  play on your playstation in your weekend schedule but can’t seem to find time to write a book review that you’ve had three weeks to read and write ready for the start of school.

to do listsAnd so the usual treadmill of work, school runs, extra-curricular after school activities, nagging, reminding, shouting starts all over and I’m left breathless.

Saturday afternoon is spent aimlessly, whilst my youngest is cricket training, followed by an equally mind numbing Sunday with my eldest at school play rehearsals.

No rest for the wicked they say, they are right.

No weekend to speak of and a blinding row with Mr M on Sunday morning is not a good sign for the rest of what remains of Sunday or the start of a new week.

Finally Sunday evening and I’m tired already,

Still I am refusing to get down or sucked into the January misery even though my birthday was last Sunday I am remaining upbeat and confident 2016 will be a damn good year.

I rely on Pinterest for my quotes of inspiration to get me through like “the best is yet to come”, the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence” and my favourite “it is what it is and it was what it was. Fuck the past. Life is in front of you. Fucking own it”

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

And on that note Happy New Year.

Happy New Year Hanging Baubles Blue Bokeh Beautiful 3D

 

childhood: stack of old photos

What does nostalgia mean to you?

Nostalgia now there’s a word to conjure with.

A combination of feeling homesick and a desire to be back home with family.Death_to_stock_above_10

Nostalgia the bittersweet memories of long lost loves and long gone happy memories, reminding you of a time or period in life when things seemed simpler, easier – school days, holidays, playing, before real life got in the way.

I visited a long term supplier of the company last week and decided to take the opportunity to stay overnight, free from kids and husband.

I couldn’t have asked for a better journey down to Bath and when I reached my destination I was warmly welcomed by my wonderful colleagues and friends.

People who helped shaped the business to what it has become today.

After the initial catch up and tour of the facilities, so I could be reminded of new technology and equipment we spent a rather leisurely afternoon over lunch talking about the good old days.

DeathtoStock_Clementine5

We talked about when I was pregnant with not my first but also my second boy and we laughed and shared jokes about being working mums and dads, some of whom are now grand-parents.

There was something wistful about that day, a time to reflect on just how good things were with all of us and that we were at one with the world.

Since then there have been divorces, separations, children off to university and laughter at the fact that we ‘just ain’t getting any younger’.

My dear friend used the word nostalgia to describe what we inevitably talked about a sentimental reflection of the past and better days.

childhood: stack of old photosI spent the evening recalling fond memories of childhood, work, setting up the business, my babies and so forth.

But it’s more than just remembering a better time or moment it is a feeling, a place where you completely lose yourself, it might only be for a fleeting moment but it is enough to provide comfort, happiness yet tinged with a bittersweet sense of sadness for something that is lost and can’t be replayed again.

When I’m faced with nostalgic memories I feel a sense of sadness and want that time back again?

I want the joy and pleasure of sitting down with my children every Sunday at lunch or when we chill out to watch a movie and I want to make it last forever, living in the present moment, but I know it can’t last forever.

Nothing stays the same and we move on.

And whilst I was driving down to Bath I was reminiscing on the past, I’m not sure what prompted me to do so, maybe the music I was playing or just the journey, which I hadn’t done in over five years made me think back to the past.

There’s no doubt that reminiscing makes us feel more connected to the past, often prompted by a familiar smell, song, or photo.

We relate our past experiences to our present lives and whilst there maybe sadness there is also a feeling of emotional well being and happiness.  Nostalgia helps us to make greater meaning of our lives as it is now.

From experience those 24 hours on my own made me feel happy, relaxed and I felt closer to loved ones even though my present circumstances are the very opposite.

But it made me reflect on a time in life when it definitely was easy Memories-Drawer-000038010040_Smalland simple and that made me warm and fuzzy inside which in turn made me feel optimistic for the future. 

There is no harm looking back on happy memories and reminding ourselves that, that is what life really should be about.

What are you nostalgic about?

Do you feel sad when you think about past joys?

How do your memories make you feel?

 

Pro-aging

Don’t call me old. Why I’m pro-aging

Lunching with a friend recently and the anti-aging conversation popped up, why does being in your 50s seem like a forbidden age?Pro-aging

In unison we both piped up ‘I’m really anti- aging, I really hate being labelled middle-aged’.

I hate the fact that well known beauty products and brands appear to make ageing distasteful and that women over a certain age are not fit to be seen in public.

I use my beauty products and I do my best to make the most of myself but I really resent being subliminally reminded that I am aging, getting older by the multitude of anti-aging products available on the market.

Type into google ‘anti-aging’ and a plethora of articles appear from anti-aging pills to how to combat anti-aging in your twenties, in your twenties.

Why would you be worried about aging in your twenties?

The beauty industry is at the forefront of anti-aging but why can’t we change that oh so negative perception of aging to pro-aging.

Imagine going into your well known high street retailer and asking for skin care products that are pro-aging, in other words designed to slow down the process but embrace the fact that aging is positive.

Marketeers would have a field day with that.

Pro-agingI want a cream that supports pro-aging, will reduce and diminish my wrinkles but respectfully recognises that whilst I am getting older and I may be able to slow down the visible signs of aging I will not be able to stop age marching across my face.

The trend in skincare today is for anti-aging solutions and that is because you and me have an overwhelming desire to look younger for longer.

We are getting older and both men and women are under pressure to maintain a youthful appearance.

Anti-aging skincare is big business, according to James Perdue, Transparency Market Research PTY of the U.S.it is poised to be worth an estimated $191.7 bn by 2019.

Those born between 1946 and 1964 and in the aging category are inclined to use anti-aging products.

A report, ‘Older women – the forgotten demographic’ discovered that most marketing and advertising by skincare brands focusses on women under 30.

The UK population statistics estimate that by 2020 women aged 45-59 will increase by 8.9%, 60-74s by 12.6% and the over 75s by 17.9%.

Which means skincare brands are getting it wrong and should focus on pro-aging rather than anti-aging.

I want to feel and look good for my age and if anyone says I look younger than my years then you’ve just made my day but I don’t want to feel bashful and embarrassed because I’m in my earlier 50s.

What have I got to feel ashamed of?

Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kristin Scott-Thomas are in their 50s.

They may have more money than the average woman to spend on products, treatments and enhancements but they seem to have embraced their 50-hood with aplomb and vigour.

It is a sad fact that as women we face the brunt of aging harder than men.

Whilst I can look at my husband and marvel how well he is aging and how good looking he is, I compare myself to how I looked ten years ago and the change to put it frankly is scary.

Aging seems more evident in women than it does in men.

It’s not that I’m against aging we can’t stop the process, we can Pro-agingpotentially alter it or slow it down maybe even consider cryogenics but I dislike the ‘anti-aging establishment’ those brands, companies, foods that purport that their product will stop you getting old.

No one has to age gracefully, I intend to grow old disgracefully and fight it as much as I dare and I’m in favour of choosing how you embrace aging.

I’m all for anything that increases health and vitality and makes life better.

I’m not against the process of growing old, I just hate the word ‘anti-aging’ it implies that the choice has been made for us and makes aging seem like a greek tragedy when in fact both men and women should be proud to share their age and how great we really feel.

We have the experience, calmness and fortitude to face life full on and just because I’m 50+ doesn’t mean I’m dead yet!

In the words of actress Julianne Moore “If you’re 50, you’re never going to be 50 ever again, so enjoy being 50!”

 

Friends Friendship Relationship Buddy Concept

I’ve gone Dotty? Networking, connecting, sharing

The ‘transformational journey of motherhood’, ‘tech and togetherness’, ‘fashion piazza’ just some of the recent event themes of Hub dot, a revolutionary new way of networking and connecting for women. Networking

I’m no stranger to networking.

It is a major part of our business marketing strategy but, I have to admit when I stumbled across Red Magazine’s article on Hub Dot and founder Simona Barbieri I was curious.

Why hadn’t I heard of it before? It’s not like I’ve been living under a stone for the last three years the time it has taken for Hub dot to make its mark on the networking landscape.

A room full of women is enough to make me run like Wile E. Coyote the looney tunes character out the door and down the nearest hole.

Fear, anxiety and a rather large glass of red spring to mind.

I’d rather have a tooth extraction than be in a room full of ‘hit the ceiling, lean in women!’

Girlfriends Friendship Party Happiness Summer Concept

But my fears were unfounded.

What Hub dot has created is a new and exciting way of networking; to call it networking is well, a bit of an insult.

It is nothing like the stand up in a room scenario where you have 60 seconds to pitch ‘you’ then, give your name, rank and serial number.

Hub dot have dispensed with the need for job titles, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it for, what your USP is (unique selling point), and the what’s in it for me scenario I’m so very familiar with?

Is it just networking in disguise?

It is so much more than that.

Hob dot is about connecting in a unique and positive way.

Women love to talk and Simona came up with the idea of women sharing stories, what they’ve achieved, what obstacles they’ve overcome, why they do what they do and what inspired them.

And some of the stories have been truly remarkable, emotional, a straight from the heart story of a young woman finding out she had been adopted to establishing a charity, setting up an online jewellery business, developing a unique app for a smartphone and the stories keep coming.

group of smiling girls chilling on the beachWomen from every cross section of working life you can think of – stay at home mothers to women who are boldly striking out on their own with a new idea they want to take further, midwives, nurses, PR, coaches and mentors, sales, print, banking you name, every conceivable job title you can think of found in one room.

Many shared and familiar experiences, women who, like me, had something important to say, who wanted to share their experiences, some were at the crossroads of their life wanting needing inspiration, seeking direction and someone prepared to listen without passing judgement.

Hub dot is dotty! Five dots that represent what you are or where you want to go:

Red – I’m established in my career/business/motherhood

Yellow – I have an idea can anyone help

Green – I’m here to be inspired

Blue –  I’m here to socialise and shop

Purple – I want to tell you about my story, my work, my charity

There were women as young as twenty, middle aged women, women who had, to put it frankly seen it done it and worn the t-shirt, women who enthralled me after just five minutes of talking to them.

One young lady had travelled from Riga in Latvia, there were Friends Friendship Relationship Buddy Conceptstudents from Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden, one woman had travelled from St Petersburg, Russia such is Hub dot’s reach and influence.

17,000 members to be precise but with no membership or monthly fee, you simply select the event you want to attend and pay for it, a bit like PAYG and I’m loving it even more.

So far I’ve been a green and red dot.

Surprisingly, I found the whole idea of being in a room full of women liberating there was no pretence, no haughtiness, no showmanship, a bunch of women coming out having fun, talking and sharing their ideas, thoughts, worries and inspiration.

By the end of each evening new friendships had been forged and ideas developed.

Hub dot has events spread across Europe and the USA and it’s growing.

After three events I consider myself to be a hub dotter, do I need an excuse to board a flight and head off to a hub dot event in Milan??

Ciao! A presto.

“These are the ingredients to every Hub Dot event, anywhere in the world. They create a collective energy, a spirit of togetherness and a contagious sense that one can shape one’s own life and that reinvention is always possible. Our themes are only an excuse to bring us together.” (Hub dot)

Amen to that!

For more information about Hub dot click here and check it out.

Runner Start

Domestic Inequality RULES in our house? Wrong

This year has seen me orchestrate major domestic changes in my household. 

I woke up to the harsh reality that as wife, mother, counsellor and mentor I have unwittingly passed on to my boys the inequalities that exist between men and women. Is your daily commute killing you?

As women, we are taught to fulfil certain roles and expectations, it is almost inherent in our genes to be the carers and nurturers of our children.

This domestic inequality starts from the moment we are taught.

This so called domestic inequality and gender bias  is passed on to us by the generations of mothers that have gone before us because they believed they too were doing the right thing.

I took on the mantle of motherhood because I wanted too but it didn’t mean that I should put up with domestic inequality in my household.

My gender predisposes me to fulfil the female role and all that that entails.

I am a challenged feminist, I like the door to be held open by a man because it is a polite courtesy, but I do the same if I’m leading a man .

I’ve come to realise that as a mother I’ve fallen into the trap of enabling our boys and doing too much for them without teaching them to do it for themselves this is turn has meant they’ve learnt to do chores that are typical of the male whilst living with the acceptance that mum does all the other stuff.

In a sense I’m responsible for domestic inequality in my own household.

Runner StartGermaine Greer fought to break down stereotypical values of women – getting married, having children and fulfilling what is expected of them.

Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In” discusses the on-going inequalities that exist in the workplace, the differences in pay, women having to choose between being a wife, mother and having a career; but we’ve already heard this before and nothing has changed.

The realisation that I could be behind such misogyny and single handedly treat my children differently just because they are boys and not girls, not teaching or showing them how to do so called female tasks made me stop dead in my tracks.

All this was bought on eighteen months ago when Mr M pointed out that I do far too much for them and by doing so I am letting them get away with not doing stuff that we might associate as the women’s job, ‘mum does it all for them’.

Scratching my head I looked at my husband quizzically and said ‘but that’s my job isn’t it, to love, feed and nurture them just as a lioness tends to her cubs.

No he said, YOU just do far too much they won’t be independent or Portrait of boyrespect and appreciate women unless we teach them that they are just as capable and able to do everything a woman does around the home and more.

We had an interesting if, somewhat animated discussion, I of course disagreed with him entirely but later I thought about what he said, I didn’t like it but I had to agree that maybe he had a point.

I genuinely believe that I am doing the right thing and that I am following a long line of women before me who have done exactly the same thing raising their children in the same way they were bought up without thinking if it could or should be done differently.

Is it time to change things?

I believe that women are as much to blame for the gender inequality gap as men are.

We don the domestic goddess hat, from making beds, tidying up the mess left behind, cooking and provide taxi services on the pretext that they are too busy, they have too much homework to do, it’s too dangerous to let them travel on their own and so forth.

I recall the demarcation between my chores and my brothers being distinctly male and female.

My parents were differentiating between what chores were suitable for me and my brother and I never questioned why I got the cleaning type chores and he got to mow the lawn as an example.

Gender inequality existed, it may of been done unwittingly and without malice but the fact remains it existed in our house.

We were definitely bought up according to gender, my brother two years younger than me on turning sixteen was allowed to stay out longer than I had been allowed to do at the same age.

Inequality absolutely the assumption being that as a girl it was unsafe for me to stay out later than my brother?

I assumed that it was my job to learn how to prepare the dinner, strip and remake the family beds and tidy up whilst my brother would learn to mend a puncture, clean shoes and do the manly duties as part of his learning.

None of this is wrong in principle other than we should have both been taught to do each other’s tasks and not differentiate between what is a male and female task.

Whilst Sheryl Sandberg addresses the male/female inequalities, she still doesn’t offer any concrete evidence as to how we can change this imbalance, no anecdotes or magic words and whilst this has all been said before I honestly believe that it starts with women, daughters, wives and mothers.

We need to take responsibility for how we raise children and make sure they are taught the importance of equality, for me that means raising them equally and teaching boys the same things a girl would learn and vice versa.

Male dominance, which is what it feels like, will only change if we teach boys that women are just as capable as fulfilling the same tasks and roles as boys/men and that gender shouldn’t have a bearing.

What is the point I’m trying to make?

Over the last year things have changed significantly.

Both my boys can cook to a reasonable standard, they prepare dinner for us all when they have time and they also help around the kitchen and see no need to differentiate between our various household chores.

The proviso is that school work always comes first.

They strip and change their beds, hoover, yes you read it hoover and dust their rooms.

They iron their shirts if they need it in a hurry and don’t want to wait for me to iron it for them and they no longer assume “it’s a mum job”.

My eldest said to me it’s good you are teaching us this stuff mum, after all if I get married who is to say that I won’t be the one staying at home raising kids whilst my wife makes mega bucks and why should I expect her to do women’s stuff when I’m just as capable of doing it too.

If a woman works hard and does well why shouldn’t she be rewarded with a higher salary than that of a man and why should men feel threatened if a woman clearly does the job better.

Wise words from a young man!

Progress, maybe? I want both my boys to understand that as women we are at least as good if not better than men and should be treated equally whether it’s in the boardroom or the dining room there should be no lines drawn.

What do you think?

 

to do lists

Why I’m done with To DO lists

That’s it the last straw I’m done with to do lists.

Take shopping online.  

My husband use to love to do the weekly food shop (unbelievable, I know) now he does it all online.to do lists

The problem is that it now involves me sitting with him and selecting what we want,  before I could just give him a list and tell him to get on with it.

He would go on Friday after taking the kids to school get his coffee and maybe some breakfast followed by the weekly shopping and it was lovely.

Now the food list has to be done no later than Wednesday to make sure we hit the delivery schedule for Friday morning and frankly I can’t be doing with thinking about food after a day at the office and a round of evening meals.

I like to keep a shopping list as I go and write things down as they come to me or when I remember to check in the cupboard to see what items we need.

What’s the difference says Mr M all you need to do is to order it instead of writing it down?

to do listsI’m asked or rather ordered to interact with the shopping order and then my mind goes completely blank, I lose interest by the time we get to toiletries and I sit there fidgeting.

This then involves opening the various cupboards aimlessly trying to work out what we really need.

Last week consisted of twelve pots of Waitrose jam that happened to be on special offer, nothing to do with me and probably enough toilet rolls to fill an entire school.

What went wrong? Well it’s easy. When Mr M does the shopping online he does tend to get a bit carried away, sometimes hitting the quantity button 2-3 times.

Last week we almost ended up with 5KG of fish that’s enough to feed a restaurant until I pointed this out to him.

‘Please just go and do the shopping the normal way like you use to do’, I plead with him.

‘No, I don’t have the time’ comes back the response, ‘but what did you use to do before online shopping then?

With all this extra time what are you filling this so called void with now?’

I hate the fact that my shopping is scheduled for delivery on Friday’s between 8-9 I can’t even think about facing the unpacking of the weekly shop let alone be friendly with Mr Chatty delivery man.

Having to plan what we are going to eat the following week is a horrendous experience for me as the weekly shop.

‘I never seem to get what I want’ I exclaim ‘that’s because you can’t be bothered to get involved with the shopping order like I keep asking you too!’

A-ha is that what you call get involved, is this your attempt at doing something ‘together’ I say because I bemoaned the other night that we never do anything ‘together’ anymore.

Shopping online wasn’t what I had in mind.

‘The reason you don’t get what you want is because you don’t add to the list’ he tells me, but it’s not the same as actually going to the shops, up and down the aisles and seeing items that remind you, oh, I need that or yes, I’ve run out of that.

Online shopping is designed for those who suffer with memory loss you remember what you need and then as soon as you go online you forget what it was you wanted.

Which leads me very nicely back to to lists.

I’ve read the ‘Get things done’ books, how to manage your life in three simple steps, how to have it all?to do lists

In fact as we speak I’m reading “Getting things done. How to achieve stress free productivity” by David Allen the guru of all gurus in learning how to really get things done and not started, half finished or seems like a good idea but never gets off the ground. 

I’ve had it on the kindle app and never got around to reading it.
Which just proves my point about not getting things done.

For some reason I decided to start reading it whilst waiting for the kids at school the other day.

All my half hearted attempts at trying to create more time to do more of what I want to do.

And then I had one of those a-ha moments, I stopped in my tracks and thought this is it, this is the absolute last time I am going to be controlled by other people’s actions, by time, the kids, the school run or anything.

I didn’t want to start another school term or school year for that matter having that sheer panic feeling in the pit of my stomach because I feel I never get things done to use Allen’s words.

When I took a closer look at some of the outstanding things to do it was laughable some of them went back as far as 2013?

I read some of the tasks out loud it was so insanely daft that it didn’t justify being on the to do list after all.

Allen says that if you have all these ideas, tasks, worries floating around in your head they stress and wear you down, we can only remember two or three things at once which along with all the other stuff just means our conscious mind is at bursting point, feeling distracted worried and anxious with mental overload.

By committing these actions into some kind of system or onto paper he says we then need to take action otherwise they stay there in your head festering or on that bit of paper and nothing gets done.to do lists

I took a closer look at the three sets of to do lists – personal, work and projects and shredded the lot.

The relief I felt was amazing I knew that I could then start again in the right frame of mind.

I took a plain sheet of paper and thought of all the things that needed doing and in no particular order from personal stuff, things I really wanted to do, work tasks, random thoughts and ideas were written down on the blank piece of paper.

When I finished the list I then went back through it and actioned each one.

This took me all of one day to complete most of these tasks were simple, like getting my filing up to date, updating our CRM, responding to emails that weren’t urgent but were important, to things like clean the bottom of my shoe cupboard which I’ve now added to my google calendar on a set date so it gets done.

I felt so much better that by the end of Thursday, the stress had gone and I felt like I’d really achieved something.

Anything new that comes in I think about what needs to be done with it and then deal with it so it’s off my desk or email whereas before I would just jump on it and react I now think more calmly – what needs to be done with this and is it important?

Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster.

DeathtoStock_Medium4

I feel calmer since the start of term and more in control I’m finding fifteen minutes a day to do some sketching, doodling and drawing and I don’t feel panicky if I leave the office and things haven’t been done.

And something amazing happened I’m actually getting more things done, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I’m not sure how long this is going to last but, I’ll keep you posted.

 

Do you have a favourite child?

What’s your flava? Child favouritism who do you love more?

Since the start of the holidays a competition has been silently waging between my two sons and me.Do you have a favourite child?

‘Mum, who do you love the most me or MJ?’

‘Mum, do you have a favourite son?’ Asked the eldest.

Child favouritism, motherhood’s dirtiest secret, to favour one child over another, to love one child more than the other.  

At some point, parents succumb to child favouritism, favouring one child over another, it could be that one sibling is causing fewer problems or a child is naturally more talented, it might be that during exam times that one child requires more attention and support than you find time to give to the other.

I’m sure I can speak for most of us when I say at some time or another we’ve all experienced the feelings of child favouritism.

When I delivered my eldest son, now sixteen years old no one was more in love with that little bundle than me.

Do you have a favourite child?He gave me his first smile on day two and in spite of the pain I endured after the most horrendous cesarean section due to preeclampsia, the overwhelming love I felt for that little one was more than I could ever put into words.

When I fell pregnant with my second son I was filled with fear, worry and apprehension about how I would feel if my second child was also a boy.

I recall a conversation with my mum who reassured me at length that having two sons would make no difference, I would love and favour them equally but uniquely.

I pointedly looked at her and said ‘but you had a boy and girl what makes you qualified to know how I will feel?’

Her response was immediate, ‘because even though I had one of each I love you equally, unreservedly and completely differently’.

When I quizzed her about child favouritism she simply answered just wait and see.

My worries were unfounded because when the second bundle arrived the love I felt was overwhelming, intense and as deep as I felt for my first baby.baby-foots-000047992342_Small

Even now I look at both of them and there is this unimaginable, indescribable feeling of love and I recognise that what I feel for them is unique and different but I am at odds to describe what those differences are.

Child favouritism, not me!

They test me to the limits especially when I discipline the eldest often his retort is ‘you love MJ more than me’ and the same when I discipline the youngest, ‘obviously mum you love OC more than me’ .

But I admit there are days when I could cheerfully ask for a refund for the both of them if only Tesco did teen refunds.

Do you prefer one child over the other?

My eldest has an addiction to public toilets, he always needs to go to the toilet even though he went just before we left the house.

He slows down when I need him to speed up and no sooner are we in the car he remembers he has forgotten something and needs to go back into the house.

Then there is my youngest’s apparent disregard for the word ‘silence’ as he goes about his everyday tasks singing either beat box or banging some object.

Then there are his mega strops when he gets told off or reminded to do the chores he should have done in the first place.

My punishment – the silent treatment!

Both have perfected the ‘answer back technique’ something I thought I had mastered very well at my age. It is the truculent attitude and the I know more than you that drives me insane.

Kids turn from being smiley and compliant to the angels from hell.

The summer holidays only served to highlight the many differences between my boys and child favouritism.

My eldest went off to Germany on a rugby tour and I admit I was relieved not to have him around the house for five days.

There was an air of calm and tranquility without the fighting, it was so quiet.

Two of the same sex is hard work and I have always tried to be fair in the raising of my kids but I admit there are times when I prefer one over the other.

My eldest is challenging at the best of times with OCD that makes Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give” look tame and it can be difficult trying to accommodate the way he is and I selfishly think why do I have a son like this.

The youngest is equally frustrating he is bright, intelligent and everyone likes him but he has a temper that makes the incredible hulk look lame.

He is the John Mcenroe of our household.

He can go from being a lovely smiling helpful chap to a stroppy little shit.

Portrait of boyAt a cricket match he showed his temper when he was given out by the umpire (a contentious decision I might add) because his foot was out of the crease.

He threw his bat some 30 metres in a rage and was seen thumping the pitch as he cried his eyes out in anger and frustration, at one point I thought he was going to go back onto the pitch and club the umpire with his bat.

I scurried off and hid dying of embarrassment as his temper had not gone unnoticed.

In less than five minutes he can make a calm and centered mother turn into a seething eruption of fury and frustration.

The answering back from the both of them and the ‘you have no idea, MUM’ with the emphasis on the word MUM, drives me crazy.

My boys are at at the age where I expect them to do chores around the house.

I give them tasks to do and they can barely recall the next job. Do I really need to write it on the wall in blood?

Finally with one job completed they forget to come and ask what needs to be done next conveniently.

I admit I have to stop myself from saying I hate you both, leave NOW!

All of the above are the same feelings and emotions you know doubt feel at some point.

A love hate relationship, but with a deep rooted love that endures the test of our patience and time.

Do I love one more than the other?

The answer is very definitely NO.

Do I have a favourite child.

Yes I absolutely do but it changes by the week, day, hour, minute!

But, as long as they know they are very much loved and go to bed knowing they are both my favourites that’s all they need to know!

 

 

Is your daily commute killing you?

Post holiday blues

By last Monday I was relieved that we were going home. The post holiday blues were already kicking in this was before we had four rounds of sickness and diarrhea and only one bathroom with toilet in a small living space.

When I got onto the plane I was glad to see the back of Spain. Post holiday blues

One month in Spain most people would swoon at the thought but this time around I was counting the days to coming home at the end of week two.

The first week and my whole body felt like it was disintegrating I was definitely the carrier of this infestation but put it down to the flight, tiredness and my IBS.

Post holiday blues
Post holiday blues

Week three and I was done.

Was it the menopause fighting back, holiday sickness, spanish malaria?

Or had my body finally realised relaxation?

I don’t understand what that feels like.

If I’m lucky I manage a facial once every two years, a back massage every three and the last time I had reflexology I almost passed out, ‘quite normal’ said the reflexologist, ‘I’ve released all the toxins that are clogging up your body, just drink plenty of water.’

I recollect that feeling of walking on air, nothing bothered, me even when a taxi cab almost drove into me and then promptly told me to go fuck myself, how come this is my fault I breezily said to him, ‘it was YOU that tried to run me over.’

Still, I’m in the land of relaxation, that is what it feels like?

What working mother do you know ever gets real time off let alone time to relax?

At my recent HRT check up the one that involves, blood pressure, weight check and general well being my Doctor said to me in passing ‘you should take a nap in the afternoon’ when I recounted my desperate need or rather desire to sleep because I am always tired.

‘Effects of the menopause’ she said, get a power nap after lunch you’ll be up and running.

Having come back from Spain I completely get the siesta thing, too hot to work so take a nap, every time I hit the sunbed, I was off in la la land into a deep sleep and I have to say it works for me.

Eat, sleep, work but there is one small problem with this scenario I can’t seem to configure thirty minutes for a nap.

I can see myself barricading the office door, setting the alarm clock, DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity2because if I didn’t you would find me in the morning, head back, eyes closed in nod land.

I love the idea but can’t see it fitting into a schedule that aims to try to fit eight hours into an already rammed six hour day.

The worst thing about coming back from a summer holiday is that feeling you should have done more or made more of the holiday it’s called the ‘post holiday analysis blues’.

We should have done this? 

We didn’t get to do that? 

Why didn’t we go there this time?

And so it goes.

The weather seems to have turned autumnal and a suntan now sticks out like a bare bum.

For half the year you are desperate for the sunkissed look from fake bake, spray tan and sunbeds then, when you finally get the tan you’ve always wanted everyone stares at you like you’ve got the plague when you walk down the high street.

Then there’s all the stuff you’ve put off until you get back from holiday, bills that need paying, dry cleaning that needs to be collected, school uniform and new shoes for the kids, the ironing that you said you would do before you left for the holiday and now it seems to have quadrupled made worse by the holiday washing.

Relaxation VS Stress

Your inbox is full of emails but it also includes that ominous email from the boss which says something like hope you had a relaxing holiday can we schedule a meeting as soon as you are back in the office.

You lie there worrying what does he/she need to talk to me about, what have I done? Your stress levels at this point have gone from ‘mucho relaxo’ to tense and agitated.

You feel disconnected because you have spent 24/7 with family sunbathing, siestas, long lunches, swimming, eating out and enjoying a cool glass of something, so far from reality it is pure heaven.

Reality bites and the work treadmill starts over, the same routine, the same jobs and tasks.

The roads are overcrowded and unbearable and you don’t remember being in one traffic jam on holiday. 

You are faced with aggressive drivers waving frantically for reasons unknown to you. iStock_000017748204Small

You realise your boss is a complete dick-head and wonder why he is in the position he is in and the national debt can be summed up by your bank statement.

Everything comes into focus because you see clearly, you are relaxed, you question why you get so sucked into the work/life abyss, why does it take five days before you are back in the rut even though after every holiday you swear it will be different this time.

You haven’t worn shoes or socks for what seems an eternity and are used to seeing your bare feet, in flip flops, wedges, or sandals and now the prospect of wrapping those pinkies in socks or tights let alone shoes results in you having to mentally prepare yourself for enslaving your feet in footwear again.

The first time it feels weird, unnatural and uncomfortable.

During the holiday you slept in, or had a siesta, no alarms ringing in your ears no one to disturb you no need to set your life by your watch sadly that ends the moment you set the alarm for work and the school run.

It’s that sinking feeling which usually kicks in two days before you are due to leave for home, it is a mix of sadness and emptiness and for me the last day is awful I feel like my life is over.

Post holiday blues they call it!

It is the last night of the holiday and I’m like a possessed woman,  get those suitcases packed, passports and tickets at the ready, is everything done and checked yes it is!

Keeping busy takes the edge off the misery of leaving.

Back in the UK and I fantasise about what it would be like to win the lottery and give up work for good I’d like to get some hens in the garden so I can have freshly laid eggs, be a lady of leisure with only the school run to steer my way through.

Instead, I get mum what’s for tea, mum I  need a new pair of trainers, mum have you washed my shirt, mum I need a lift to town.

Welcome home, we missed you!