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Category: Motherhood

What’s your morning routine?

What are your mornings like? Are they chaotic and rushed? Calm and serene? Or a mix of the two?

I often read articles where they talk about calm and easy morning routines with a mixture of awe and envy, and think these women are either supremely organised or lying!

As much as it’s nice to have a calm start, it’s natural to wake up with a spike of cortisol, as your body attempts to get you kick started for the day. That’s the ‘jump out of bed’ feeling that you see in children – once they’re up, they’re up!

In a ideal world, I would jump out of bed at 6am, do 20 minutes of yoga and kettlebells, before jumping into shower. Then I would slowly get dressed, letting my moisturiser (I’m obsessed with Egyptian Magic) fully sink in, before doing my hair and make up (RMS is one of the best natural beauty brands I’ve found) over a coffee, whilst listening to Radio 4. I would finally go downstairs, make breakfast for the whole family and then wake up little J, so the three of us could eat together as a family before heading out to work / school / nursery.

The reality is a little different.

My alarm goes off at 6:15am and I lie there in bed for a bit, contemplating getting up and whether I have enough time to snooze a bit longer. You know, sleep math – if I sleep for x more minutes, then I have y minutes to get ready and be out the door on time. Hands up if you do sleep math too? 🙊

After forcing myself out of bed, I grab a quick shower, get dressed and made up, while M goes downstairs to wake J and make coffee and his own breakfast. When I’m ready, we then hand off and I stay in the kitchen with J to get him to eat whilst I make my morning green smoothie and drink my turmeric tonic. I get J dressed and we hustle out the door by 8:00am to get to nursery and then work in time.

I would love to have a gentle morning routine, and probably with a bit more planning the night before, I could. I love the honesty in Veronica Webb’s account of her morning routine: “Of course, this is my morning routine in a perfect world. No matter how disciplined I try to be, I am married and have four kids, and I work as a freelancer—so every day is unpredictable. Sometimes what I want to accomplish by 7 a.m. doesn’t get accomplished until midnight, but a girl can dream!”

What’s your morning routine? What are your tips and tricks to get little ones ready and get out the door on time?

Motherhood right now.

bear and thomas

My little boy turns 3 in two weeks. 3!

I know what motherhood is with a baby. It’s a steep learning curve, moments where you’ve never loved anyone this much and in this way before, indescribable exhaustion, a new sense of self as a woman, wife and mother.

And then all of sudden they’re no longer babies and want nothing to do with babyhood.

I’m now learning that life with a little boy toddler is joyful, heart stopping and exasperating in equal measure. But that’s motherhood.

croquet

It’s those moments where they test the boundaries, along with your patience.

The moments where they strain to assert their independence in the most amazing ways (Mama, I will get it. Mama, I will put my shoes on. Mama, I will put the alarm on(!)).

The moments where their total lack of fear and sense of danger send your heart into your throat.

And those little, sweet moments that make everything worth it. When they give you an unprompted thank you, an unprompted kiss. When they turn to you and say, “Mama, I love you so much, I like you so much.”

sleeping J

Mother of a boy.

run

Photo by Linh Nguyen

My son recently turned two. It’s a lovely age. He’s constantly on the move and has something to say about everything he does or sees. I get such joy from being his mother.

With this joy comes worry. I worry a lot about the world he’s going to grow up in. These days, it’s difficult to be a man. With the lad / bro culture, the ‘stiff upper lip’ and the negative images that are painted about men and their ability, I worry about his emotional development and about giving him the tools to take on the world’s perception of him as a young man.

I worry that as he grows up, the young women around him will be constantly exposed to messages of empowerment, and he will be seen as just another one of the ‘patriarchy’.

Yesterday, there was a fantastic article in the Sunday Times about this.

https://twitter.com/lenisebrothers/status/643013226607865856

The Sunday Times writer Katie Glass writes in the context of an increase in suicide amongst young men in the US and UK, that “while young women grow in confidence as feminism has evolved from dry academic discussions to being featured in Vogue…nobody [is giving] the same gleefully empowering message to young men… girls are told #thisgirlcan – who says that to boys?”.

Instead, we hear anger about men or even worse, apology. Boys will be boys. I can’t wait until this expression dies out from the English language.

As a woman working in media, making my way in the world, I have undeniably benefited from the push towards gender equality. More and more, as the mother of a boy, it strikes me that this equality should not be at the expense of men and indeed, boys. I worry that when my son goes to school, he won’t get the support he needs, because the education system seems to be so focused on giving support to girls to the detriment of boys – a terrible zero-sum game.

Some of this is natural maternal worry, I know. However, to quote Katie Glass, I want him to feel as excited about his future and his ability to make his place in the world as I do. I want him to feel as empowered as a man as I do as a woman. I want him to feel that all avenues are open to him and that if he works hard enough, that he can achieve whatever he puts his mind to.

There’s no such thing as balance.

Photo by Nelly Volkovich

It’s that age-old bloggers lament – “I haven’t posted in ages!” And there are a million excuses that you can give, but the reality is that sometimes, especially if you’re not yet making a living out of it, something has to give.

And for me, right now, trying to fit in working full time, studying (I’m really supposed to be writing a paper on Crohn’s disease right now), being a wife, keeping a home, being a mom to a very active and funny 21 month old boy, keeping everyone fed and happy, figuring out how to grow a business and finding a bit of time for myself is a challenge. Yes, it’s challenging being a mom. I’m not complaining or going into stereotypical mom mode of “how does anyone get anything done around here?”. I’m lucky that these are my dilemmas, my challenges.

But it makes me question the articles I see in women’s press like ‘how to find balance’ or ‘how to do it all’ (that old stereotype) or ‘finding work-life balance’.

It’s impossible.

The reality is that there might be one day, one week even when everything balances out and you feel like you’re winning at life!

But more often than not, there will be times when work becomes more important and you need to spend every evening catching up on email or you might miss a few bedtimes that week. Then there are other times when you need to put everything into your family life, times when your child is sick, they’re going through a developmental leap and really, really need you as a point of stability or you need to have time with your husband so that you still have a marriage.

All of this is okay. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay not to have a balanced life. As long as you see the woods for the trees and know when things getting too tough, too overwhelming, then that’s what I would call success.

Establishing good nutritional habits in babies and toddlers.

Photo by David Di Veroli

A recent study highlighted the divide between socioeconomic classes and what they feed their kids and that differences in dietary habits start early.

I would like to say that I find this surprising, but I don’t at all. Good nutrition starts with the parents and what they eat, typically they will feed their children. So if you eat kale, salmon and avocados, you’ll probably be trying to get your kids to eat that as well. Equally, you shouldn’t surprised if you eat sugary, processed food that your kids are more likely to eat this as well.

Good nutritional habits used to be something that was passed down through the generations. Now it takes a campaign from Jamie Oliver to get people to think about what they eat and what they feed their kids.

Two of the biggest worries when you start giving your children solids is whether or not they’re getting enough food at each meal and whether they’re getting enough of the right nutrients. Unfortunately, some of the prevailing wisdom about how to introduce solids to babies doesn’t help. I’ve also been a bit disturbed by some of the children’s food advice I’ve seen floating around and what I’ve seen children being fed. The latest thing I’ve heard is ‘feed your child a bowl of cereal or rice before bed so you fill them up.’ Beyond the digestion implications, what kind of nutritional habits is this advice setting up for children? All this does is teach kids that they don’t need to eat to satiety at each meal. Even worse, their digestive systems don’t ever get a break and the first few hours of their nighttime sleep are spent digesting food instead of on important growth and restoration processes. Digestion diverts blood and oxygen away from your heart and brain, so when you sleep, your breathing and cardiac output are reduced. A large meal or bowl of cereal will affect how restful the child’s sleep is.

I like the French approach. The French think of one of their roles as parents is to educate their children about food and to introduce a diversity of food tastes to them. Food diversification. They believe it takes at least 7 -14 tries for a child to know if they like a food, so they’ll give them the same food in prepared in different ways, i.e. roasted squash, squash soup, stirfry with squash in it, etc. This contrasts with the British and American focus on identifying allergies when introducing solids. When baby J was 4 months old, I went on an NCT ‘Introducing Solids’ workshop and  found that the focus of it was predominantly on foods to avoid and how to identify allergic reactions, rather than on discussing approaches to helping your child enjoy food. It was a bit depressingm to be honest.

I have to admit that that I’m a little obsessed with the idea of having a little baby gourmand so I’ve made it my mission to get J to try as many different types of food as possible. I want his taste buds to experience a wide variety of foods – taste buds change every 1 to 3 weeks so it’s important to keep giving your child different foods. I know it’s often simpler to just default to giving your child the easy choice, just so you can be sure they’re eating  something – I know this firsthand, as my son LOVES fruit and cheese and would eat this all day long if I let him.

So what do I do? I always feed my son when I know he’s well rested. I give him the new foods first and try to be relaxed about it (easier said than done!). I try as much as possible to eat with him so he can see me eating different foods and eating with utensils. I also trust that if I offer him nutritious food and take a weekly, rather than a daily view on what he eats, there will be a balance over those seven days.

Fitting in workouts with a baby

Photo by David Marcu

I have a soon to be one year old son who still doesn’t really nap at home, no family near by and a husband that works long hours. I also really want to workout. How do I fit it in? It’s been tough, but I’ve finally worked out a strategy that suits my life right now.

1. Walking everywhere

I try to walk rather than taking the bus and this means that I average about 4 miles a day walking and pushing a pram with a 10kg baby in it! I track my steps using my Fitbit, which makes me accountable, challenges me to move more and walk at least 10,000 steps a day.

2. Kettlebells!

It’s easy to pick up a kettlebell and do 50 swings while the baby is playing. I’m still trying to teach him that the kettlebells aren’t a toy and that he doesn’t need to hold on to my legs while I’m swinging, so I’ve accepted that there’s going to be a bit of stopping and starting for the moment, but it always feels good to get a quick 50-100 swings in when I can.

Kettlebells are a good full-body workout that anyone can do, as long as they have the right form and technique. Here’s a site that will give you a primer on good kettlebell technique.

3.  Fast workouts – 7 minutes or less

I use a few apps that have a high intensity circuit routine that allows you to exercise your entire body in just 7 minutes, using only your bodyweight. There’s a lot of science behind this technique, which basically consists of 12 exercises (squats, planks, crunches, jumping jacks, etc) that you do for 30 seconds at a high intensity with a 10 second rest in between.

I’ve been using the 7 Minute Workout app and finding it really effective. If I have more time, I’ll do another circuit or two, but it’s great knowing that in just seven minutes, I can get in a great full body workout that gets me good and sweaty!

4. 30 day challenges

I’m the type of person that likes a bit of accountability and a 30 day challenge is perfect for me, because I’m quite competitive and don’t like to fail. I’ve been using the 30 Day Fitness Challenges app, which is great, because it offers so many different types of challenges, like a 30 day plank challenge and a 30 day ab challenge, which get progressively harder as the 30 days go on.

While the baby is playing, it’s easy to get down and do 20 crunches or 30 squats. The challenge is when he thinks what I’m doing is funny and toddles over to grab my legs while I’m squatting or crawls over me while I’m doing situps!

I’ve finally gotten into a nice rhythm where I’m able to do some form of exercise every day. This is great for shaking off the cobwebs when I’ve had a tough night with the baby. It also sets a great example for baby J – not that he needs it as he is very active!

Keeping focused, not getting discouraged.

Photo by Chris Lu

I’ve lost all of my baby weight and now I’m trying to lose the weight that I was trying to lose before I got pregnant.

When I look at the bigger picture, I’m happy, I’m excited and I know I’m on to a very good thing. Since the end of March, I’ve lost 22 pounds / 10 kilograms. That’s a number that you can’t turn your nose up at.

I’ve also gone down three jean sizes from a 33” to a 30”. Not too shabby.

So you’d think I have a huge cause for celebration, right? Well, that’s when moving from big picture to the detail causes problems. Tonight, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and I realised that I’ve lost 4 pounds in the month of July. Four pounds is good and I’m happy with that, but I had a moment where I started to beat myself up and think that I could have done more and that what I was doing wasn’t good enough.

Then I paused, shook my head and took a deep breath. This isn’t a diet, it’s not a fad – it’s something I’m doing for life. I’m trying to set a good example for my son by living a healthy, vibrant lifestyle.

These things take time.

I need to enjoy my life, have the odd indulgence, have a glass of wine at the end of a challenging day. These things mean that the numbers on the scale don’t down so quickly.

But they’re going down. And I’m embedding all of my new food and exercise principles into my life in the right way.  And I’m enjoying life.

Getting strong again.

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Before I got pregnant, I was in a nice groove of eating primally, working out with my kettlebells 4-5 times a week and doing a lot of walking. When I got pregnant, I had the best intentions, especially about working out.

And for the first three months, I did. I was diligent about getting a good kettlebell workout in, so much so, that I lost weight in my first trimester and bought a 16kg kettle

bell because the 12kg one was getting too easy, especially on swings.

Then I got really, really sick. The kind of sick that makes you miserable, especially when you’re sick in the coldest winter London has had for years.

So I stopped exercising, gave into my pregnancy cravings and did a lot of sitting around on the couch.

As my son has grown and wants me to carry him or rock him to sleep, it’s made me realise that I need to get stronger. It’s one thing carrying a 6kg baby, it’s another thing t

o carry around a wriggly 9.5kg eleven month old that doesn’t want to go into his buggy. So it’s time to properly get back into my fitness. I walk miles everyday, but that’s not going to make me stronger. I need to lift (swing!) heavy and do this consistently.

Kettlebells – welcome back, old friends!

The big lightbulb moment.

Photo by Marta Serrano

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people that reads cookbooks, nutrition books and exercise books in bed. Salivating over new recipe ideas, learning more about the human body and how food affects it, boning up on new exercise techniques – I love it.

After I got pregnant, I thought that I would use my maternity leave to come up with my BIG idea – you know, the one that would make me my millions and allow me to live the life of my dreams. Fat chance. Baby J arrived and reality hit. For the first six months, I had no spare brain capacity – everything was focused on the baby. And then slowly but surely, I started to feel more like a new version of my old self, which made me start to contemplate my future.

Did I really want to go back to a job where I was working 60-70 hour weeks? Was that what I was really passionate about? What was I passionate about? When was I going to get the big BRAIN WAVE about my next business?

Well, it turns out it was staring me in the face all along. I read about nutrition and fitness all the time, I talk about it all the time and I really try to live my life in a healthy way. One day, M said to me, “what if you could do something in nutrition or food?”. And finally the lightbulb went off.

It’s definitely going to be a slowburner. I’ve signed up to do a diploma in naturopathic nutrition at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. Part-time, so it will take me three years. This is my big move, my big passion. And I’m really excited about it.

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