2016 in Review and 2017 Plans

2016

Right from when I first found out I was pregnant I knew that the first year after the baby was born would essentially be a year of tending to the basics of survival and not much else.  A newborn has a way of consuming the hours in the day without you ever really knowing where they go. However, despite that, and despite Baby F barely leaving my arms for the first four months, I still managed to achieve a handful of things:

A New Book

I’m working on a new book and have written 47,000 words so far. I’m about halfway through and I’ve had a complete break over Christmas, ready to pick up again in the New Year.

A New Business

I launched my new digital media company, Five Pixels, at the end of October. That sounds far grander than it is – it was a very low key affair! I booked a series of clients and I have a lot of work on for the first quarter of 2017. All very exciting.

A Growing Baby

Baby F is saying Mama and Dada, and babbling lots of other sounds. She is knee-walking and cruising, but yet to take her first steps. She is a climber and an explorer, but she’s still very much a Mummy’s girl. I reached one year of breastfeeding with flying colours and I was so, so pleased that we had made it that far. After Christmas I swiftly weaned her off of the night feeds as she was still feeding up to four times a night and one year on I was literally a broken mess from the lack of sleep. It was affecting my mood and my health and I knew it was time for me to stop. We did a complete cold turkey between the hours of ~10/11pm and 7am and she did brilliantly. Honestly – I was so worried it would be nights of screaming, but aside from a few minutes of wailing, she settled back to sleep and last night, our seventh night, she slept from 10:30pm (her last feed), to 7am without a peep. She was obviously just as ready as I was 🙂

Osteoarthritis

I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the second half of the year. After doing some running over the summer I had to stop completely due to the increasing pain in my toes. I have something called hallux rigidus and I can no longer bend my right big toe upwards properly. I can’t stand on tiptoes and I can’t do yoga or lunges or any other exercises that requires toe-flexibility. I have really struggled with accepting this and have had a few evenings where I have felt really sorry for myself. Running is one of my ‘things’ and to not be able to do it, when I have waited so long to get back into it, is quite a blow. Worse, is the fact that I am now getting pain in my knees, hips, elbows, wrists and thumbs too. My GP said that the chronic lack of sleep I’ve suffered will probably be contributing to my joint pain, so weaning baby F off the night feeds will hopefully help provide some much needed time for my joints to rest and repair.

2017

Health

I have one overriding, overarching goal for 2017 that takes priority over everything else, and that is my health and fitness. I have a little bit of post-baby weight to lose (maybe 4kg), but mostly I want my energy back, my fitness back and my strength back. This is my BIG theme for the year.

OmniFocus

I am currently working through a training video on using omnifocus so that I can get everything from work and personal projects into a decent digital task/project manager. I really want to find a system that works for me this year.

Work

I want to streamline my business processes and get a decent portfolio up on my website. I am totally open to how business pans out – I am enjoying all of it at the moment, so I’m just going with the flow.

The Book

My goal is to finish first draft, revise, and then send out to an agent.

Photography

As much as possible I want to work on my photography skills. It’s just something I love to do.

I’m looking forward to a healthy and productive 2017 🙂

Five Pixels

I’d like to introduce my new mini biz: Five Pixels (don’t rush to click on that link – there is absolutely NOTHING there for you to look at yet update: the site is now live!).

I’m setting up on my own (eee!) and offering my services as a web developer, designer and manager. Since I love photography and have several years of editorial experience, I might also dabble in offering these services to local businesses.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a reeeeeeally long time while baby F has been growing and growing, and now she is fast approaching her first birthday I’ve been beavering away at the computer when she naps getting set up and brushing up my skills. She starts three mornings a week at nursery in the second half of November, so I’ll be looking for clients to build my portfolio very soon.

I’ll be blogging about my freelance journey in general here (and going from earning zero to hopefully something over the next year or two), and I’ll also run more technical posts and case studies on my official site.

It is all very exciting!

My First 3 Months as a Stay at Home Mum

I’ve been meaning to post about work (or lack thereof) for a while, but haven’t really been in the right mood for it. It seems like such a long time ago now that we made the decision for me to stay home with the boys. I used to work 3 days a week and on those days both boys went to nursery from 8am to 5-5:30pm.

My last day in the office was the 1st February, so I’ve been home for just over 3 months now and have a much better idea about what I have let myself in for 😉

The good things about being home are:

  1. A huge change in the confidence of my eldest (who is 3). This was the driving reason for me to give up work and I am so pleased to see that it has really paid off. He is more sociable, faster to join in with other childrens games, talking more and his behaviour is less aggressive and more cooperative. Overall, this is a big, big, win for me.
  2. The extra time I get to spend with my youngest (who is 1 and a half). He’s a very affectionate, kiss and cuddle loving baby and it’s been wonderful to be at home with him more.
  3. I find it easier to eat healthier food than I ever did working in an office. Mainly because we do not have a vending machine in the house.
  4. The mornings are less stressful (I say less, they are not stress free!). Now we don’t have to get four of us dressed and out of the house with food, spare clothes, baby sleeping bag, bottles, suncream/hats/gloves/coats/wellys, plus anything else we might actually need for ourselves, all by 7:30am.
  5. I don’t have to commute in the car for an hour on work days. Less stress, less personal risk.
  6. My two boys don’t seem quite so jealous of each other and the time they spend with me. This may be a progressive change as they get older, but it seems that they don’t fight/compete for my attention in a negative way quite so much.
  7. The boys are eating more food at home, so I don’t have to panic about the food that nursery are giving them (pudding after tea each day in the form of ice cream, cakes and jelly – definitely not something we do at home).
  8. I haven’t missed my work at all. I love what I do (I’m a programmer), and leaving work was a very tough decision. I was worried I’d be in tears after a few weeks, desperate to get back. My work was a huge, HUGE part of my identity and I think being home has made me realize that I’m not just a programmer after all. It has made me more accepting of my status as a mother and not once have I felt ashamed or embarrassed about my “lack” of occupation.

It’s not all great though, as you can imagine. The things that haven’t been so good (I cringe as I prepare to write down my failings) are:

  1. We have absolutely no routine at all. I take each day as it comes and do everything on the spur of the moment. I know how much children love routine, and I see this in my own boys, but aside from regular meals and a regular bedtime hour our days are totally unplanned.
  2. I find it really, really difficult to play with a 3 year old and a 1 and a half year old at the same time. I don’t know how to solve this and end up having to appease DS1 while I’m trying to do something with DS2 and vice versa. I get frustrated and no one really gets any quality time.
  3. I have no idea, generally, how to play with children (see point 6). I find I am at a loss as to how to amuse them for huge parts of the day. I don’t know any games, I feel a huge reluctance to play physical games (I think because my Dad was so adamant that physical running around and screaming was something children shouldn’t do and I have this Dad-ingrained fear that the boys will get overexcited, not know when to stop and be impossible to manage)
  4. The boys watch TV when I really need to get something done (like loading the dishwasher, or making food). I hate this and yet I have no idea how to avoid it. I literally cannot leave them alone for 10 seconds unwatched and TV is the only way I can do anything around the house. I even have to take them to the toilet with me.
  5. Because they get to watch TV at crucial times, they ask for it all the time. Sometimes I let them watch the TV just because they are moaning and whining and fighting and it makes my day a bit easier. Then I torture myself for being a rubbish mother who can’t entertain her children and wonder why on earth I would want another little person running around if all I’m going to is plonk them in front of the telly when the going gets tough 🙁
  6. I am the most unprepared parent that ever existed. I maybe held a baby once as a teenager. I had no experience AT ALL with children before we had ours. My own parents (a whole enormous subject that I can’t delve into right now) did the best they could but my personal feelings are that it was shamefully lacking and the combination of emotionally distant/unavailable parents and no close family and no exposure to children has left me with absolutely no idea what I am doing most of the time. I’ve dipped in and out of parenting books, used common sense and tried to do the things I wished my parents had done, but I still feel like I am woefully inadequate. I want to fix this. It’s high on my priority list, along with fixing myself…
  7. I never, ever, EVER get time for myself. We have no one that can help us out. Not a single person. I’m not joking, DH and I haven’t been out for dinner together for 2 and a half years. Work gave me some much needed time to be myself and think for myself but now I don’t get that at all. After 3 months I think I’m starting to feel the pressure. I cry a lot. I sometimes wonder if I just went under the radar for post-natal depression, but actually I think my emotions are more complex than that. If you have any weaknesses before you are a parent, your children will come along and crack those weaknesses wide open. Parenting is hard.

So there we go. Good and bad things over the last few months. The things that aren’t going so well though are all things that I think I can work on and change for the better.

Being aware of them means I can think about how to solve them and hopefully in 3 months time the list above will not be so bad.

Officially Working Mum of Two

I have survived my first week back at work.

Returning to work has been better than I was expecting. I’ve remembered a lot more than I did first time around, I feel more on top of things and people have been generally very nice to me (with the common question of ‘are you going to have any more then?’ to which I have yet to find a suitable answer…).

Nursery has been slightly less great. DS2 just isn’t in any proper routine, so he’s been napping and eating all over the place and just seems very unhappy when I collect him.

I am really worried about him – I just feel like he is not getting the proper attention and care he needs, so we’ve had a few tears in the evenings and I’ve been a bit short-tempered with DS1 and his antics as a result.

DS1 seems to be locked in battle with me at the moment, and I suspect this is because of the reduced hours of time we spend together coupled with the fact that I am fussing over DS2 quite a bit more than usual because I am so terrified that nursery are causing him lasting damage.

So, all in all, it’s been OK but not great.

I’m really glad it’s Friday and am planning a morning to take DS1 out tomorrow, and then lots of playtime with DS2 in the afternoon.

It’s hard to find the time to do anything other than survive the days right now, but hopefully I’ll settle into things as the weeks go on.

Can’t Afford To Be A SAHM

I’ve been in tears today at the thought of leaving DS2 at nursery when I return to work next week.

I’ll be going back three full days and he will be at nursery for all three days, for probably around 9 hours each day 🙁

He’s been really clingy since his two visits to nursery and I think it’s because he is worried I’m just going to leave him again. Every single time I try to put him down he starts to cry, so today I’ve spent the day with him pretty much glued to my hip (must buy baby sling asap).

Talked to DH about it all this evening and we touched on the possibility of me leaving work for good.

Except it’s not a possibility at all.

With me working, even after paying for childcare, it brings in a lifestyle altering amount of money. Without me at work there would be no holidays. Kids clothes would be scarce and probably secondhand. We’d have to conserve money on food shopping (and I love my organic fruit and veg).

And I’ve worked my entire life. I got my first part time job at 14 and even at university I did bar work for extra cash. I’ve never taken money from anyone and even though I love DH and we have a happy and equal relationship, I could not bring myself to live off of an allowance from his salary.

Part of it stems from the time my mother told me “always have your own money”. She was a SAHM and my parents divorced with much resentment when I was 15.

Part of it is just the fact that I wouldn’t feel right spending someone else’s cash.

And part of it is the fact that I would (rightly or wrongly) question my own worth if I wasn’t earning an income.

So onward I sail, into the inevitable return to work and all the anxiety and stress that leaving your children with others comes with.

I am not looking forward to it at all.

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