Motherhood and the fear of making mistakes

Last week in a moment of deep reflection, I realised that I have a profound fear of making mistakes. It feels funny to me that I hadn’t realised it previously but the thing with our fears is that usually until we work to unpick them, our fears manifest in our real life as some of our more unwanted habits or behaviours. For me, the fear of making mistakes manifests as procrastination. I procrastinate because that protects me from making mistakes.

Several months back I took an online quiz to discover my fear archetype having listened to Ruth Soukup’s podcast series called, “doing it scared.” The results were a little, “yes, that’s pretty much what I expected,” and so I parked the idea and didn’t think I’d particularly learnt anything new about myself, as I so often seek to do. But then something seemingly insignificant happened whilst I was at work the other day and I was suddenly floored by my realisation that perhaps these quiz results were perhaps a lot more revealing than I’d first led myself to believe. According to the quiz, procrastination manifests as the fear of imperfection, preferring not to do something at all than to risk it not being perfect. I’ve never been much of a perfectionist at anything which is perhaps why this label didn’t resonate with me at first but what does resonate with me is that I put off doing things that I want to and should do because I’m fearful of making mistakes.

Motherhood has opened up a rather daunting portal into my own childhood, my experiences and my upbringing, both the good and the bad. Looking at my inner child, I can see where some of this fear may come from. Perhaps it’s the inherent people-pleaser in me, the child (turn adult) who seeks to please others through their actions, who longs for praise and acceptance and who strives to make others proud before herself. Or perhaps it’s those times at school where I didn’t know the answers and having been put on the spot for an uncomfortable minute too long, I burst into tears in front of everyone, to release my emotions, the fear of being wrong (and therefore being told off /criticised/reported on) paralysing me into a state of discomfort unparalleled by much else. Perhaps too, there were times when I did indeed make some big mistakes as a child and the feeling of disappointment that I sensed from someone else led me to want to avoid that being repeated. I need to go deeper here, to explore the route cause of this fear but for now, I’m just happy to have joined some of the dots and worked out some of the puzzle.

I procrastinate so much in life and literally always have done, that it drives me (and my husband) pretty mad. I’m working on it, and I’ve made a lot of positive changes this year but I guess sometimes, in order to make the biggest changes of all, we have to truly understand the reasons why we have our “bad” habits because the release of fear is in the discovery of why the fear exists.

This fear of making mistakes is the reason I haven’t written more blog posts, despite more than 30 sitting in my drafts. This fear of making mistakes is why I haven’t taken steps towards starting a podcast yet even though perhaps I could have made the time to. This fear of making mistakes is why I agonised for weeks over deciding which new nursery to send the girls to because I just didn’t want to get it wrong.  This fear of making mistakes is why I dwell on the times when things haven’t gone right in Motherhood because I’m scared that somehow, I’ve messed up.

The responsibility of raising babies is heaped with opportunities to make mistakes. Of course, as parents, we will all inevitably make mistakes but sometimes the fear of doing so is so consuming. The fear and worry of not being good enough. The fear of one day being blamed and resented. The fear and worry of not raising kids to be able to manage everything life throws at them. The fear and worry that comes with every decision you make along the way and with that fear of making mistakes, the hope and knowledge that everything will probably be just fine!

So what can I do with my fear now I know why and how it exists? I can be more mindful about it, notice it and not fuel it. Action is the antidote to fear. A life lived to please other people is no life at all. A life lived to be of benefit to other people, is quite a different story.

 

 


Moving house, a lesson in saying Goodbye. 

Four and a half year ago when Ben and I bought our first home together, newly-ish married and full of young naivety about the world and our future, I couldn’t have dreamt of the happiness that was due to come our way and I couldn’t have imagined how at least ten years worth of our lives would appear to squash themselves into just four (and a bit). I couldn’t have dreamt about my two girls, Jasmine and Summer, and all the joy they have brought into my life. I couldn’t have dreamt about how it would feel to bring my first baby home from the hospital and through the door of our home, to start my life as a Mother and our life together as parents. I couldn’t have dreamt of the smiles and the laughter that would come from watching our child grow, through all the first times and proud moments and through all the tears and the sleepless nights. I like to think that the walls have watched us all grow up, soaking up all the love they’ve seen here, all the good energy and all the happy moments. I like to think they’ll hold onto that goodness forever, and sprinkle those happy sparkles onto anyone who needs it next.

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I couldn’t have dreamt of the deep heartache and pain that losing a baby here would bring upon us too. This home was my anchor, my safe place to grieve and cry but also get me back up and it supported me in more ways than one. I couldn’t have dreamt that I would ever, ever, then welcome another baby into our family, whose first breath was taken in this home, in the very room where we have grown together as a family and shared almost every single day. That little baby girl has once again brought me back closer to home as babies do when they’re so small. I couldn’t have imagined the ripples of joy that would wave through my body as I watch two sisters laugh together, giddy with glee, pure with childhood wonder. I couldn’t have dreamt how watching them could be enough to stop me in my tracks, to bow down in gratitude and know that if nothing else, my world and my heart are full to the brim. I couldn’t have dreamt up the half of it, probably not even a fraction and back then I was probably too scared to dare to dream this big.

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Summer, born at home

Now I’m here, surrounded by boxes, all of our things wrapped and ready to go. I’m staring at empty shelves and empty walls, where special photos used to hang and filled jars used to stand, the very items that became part of our everyday environment yet that become strangely unnoticeable over time. They’re noticeable now that they’re no longer here. I can see the marks on the wall where Jasmine has rubbed her sticky hands whilst carefully climbing the stairs and I can see those little holes where we hammered in nails, trying to get frames to lay straight before giving up and getting on with more important things in life, never ones to have been good at DIY. So now as we prepare to bid our home farewell, I sit with the comfort that we are taking our memories with us, that they are not lost but merely traveling too. But with that comfort, there’s an ache in my heart. It hurts my heart to think that Jasmine and Summer won’t remember this house and the way they chased each other along the corridor upstairs or fought over toys in the living room. They won’t remember their garden and the games that we played and they won’t remember their birthday parties and the family celebrations we held in their honour. They won’t remember the baths we took and the snuggles we had or the cakes we baked. I know though, that they’ll remember the feelings that go hand in hand with these memories that I suppose are mostly mine. They’ll remember the warmth and the connection, the happiness and the love and those are the feelings that will be familiar to them forever. Perhaps with time, my own memories will fade too, however much I hope they won’t, I know that’s just what happens over time.

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Jasmine and Summer

This home is part of a community too, a community of neighbours (the best kind) and a wider community of friends. Friends who have held me up through the early years of Motherhood and friends whose children mean not only the world to me but to Jasmine and Summer too. Children who have played here and snacked here and smiled at me at the door. Children who Jasmine calls her best friends and who I wish we could stay close to forever.

Tomorrow is the start of a new and exciting chapter in all of our lives and I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve had the privilege to spend in our first family home. I’ll miss doing yoga under the skylights and I’ll miss sitting on the stairs taking deep breaths having finally got both girls down to sleep. I’ll miss things I won’t even know I’ll miss until we’re gone but I’ll notice those moments and I’ll stop to realise that we only miss things that once meant so much to us.

Farewell, lovely home,

Take good care.

 


Mindful parenting tip – don’t take it personally!

If your child doesn’t eat the lovely dinner you made them, don’t take it personally.
If your child doesn’t want to give you a hug or a kiss, don’t take it personally.
If your child hits you or shouts at you, don’t take it personally.
If your child stops playing the game they asked for after two minutes, don’t take it personally.
If your child ignores you over and over again, don’t take it personally.
If your child does the opposite of what you say, don’t take it personally.
If your child breaks something of yours, don’t take it personally.
If your child screams because you did something wrong, don’t take it personally.See the source image

Part of being a mindful parent is noticing when our child’s behaviour is triggering something in us. An emotive reaction, rather than a proactive response. When we take the time to cook for our kids or play the games they begged us to play and then they push the plate away or become quickly uninterested, we can so easily fall into that place of feeling hurt or disrespected, like our time has been deliberately wasted. But kids, and young kids especially, are just being honest and authentic. They don’t go about their days trying to make us feel bad or hurt our feelings but instead are just being their truest selves, not conditioned to think, act or behave for anyone else. It’s likely that there’s something else going on beneath the surface and it’s our job to tune into that.

Of course, it sucks to have your meal rejected or to have to take the brunt of the kicks and screams that get hurled our way, but it really isn’t personal. Finding that way to understand and tune into your child’s behaviour and work out what is going on for THEM helps curb that feeling of wanting to react. Resist the urge to say, “but I just spent ages cooking this for you,” or “you asked me to play so I am playing,” and replace those words with your observations instead. Be proactive, not reactive. Ask yourself why that behaviour is there and no that in these situations where we feel triggered, the reality is that it’s not about you at all, it’s about your child.

It’s not easy and there are many times when things really do feel personal but this practice, this ability to be mindful, it makes everything feel calmer and more peaceful overall.

Does this resonate? Share with me in the comments!


Happy Birthday, Summer!

Dear Summer,

Happy 1st birthday to my sunshine girl!

As I was thinking about what I wanted to write to you for your first birthday, I was stood holding you in my arms before your nap, singing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ as I have done so many times since the day you were born. I stood in front of the long mirror in our darkened bedroom, the bedroom which you still share with us, and it struck me. Read More


Vegan Mum guilt

I know you’ve all heard of and experienced the usual Mum guilt that comes with the territory of Motherhood and the desire to do right by our kids while maintaining our sanity at the same time. I don’t think there’s a single Mum friend of mine who doesn’t experience this feeling of guilt at some point every single day. Read More


Summer’s home birth – Part 2 – the birth!

I went into labour on a Tuesday afternoon in July whilst out food shopping in Tesco with Ben! I knew that familiar feeling of things getting started and felt thankful in that first moment for having experience on my side to guide me and to help me feel at ease to trust the process and my body. My waters began leaking that evening as Ben was watching a World Cup football game and Jasmine slept upstairs. I decided not to call the Midwives at that stage, knowing that they may suggest I come in to hospital to be examined if things didn’t start on their own and any trips to hospital were not part of my birth plan, unless of course, it was absolutely necessary. I felt assured in this very early stage that everything was OK so I distracted myself by doing the washing up and getting the house “birth ready,” (tidying up) then went off to bed hoping to catch some sleep whilst trying to ignore the building feeling of anticipation that my home birth journey was really about to start, after all this time and preparation.

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Summer started nursery and suddenly, I fell to pieces

Summer started nursery yesterday, for just under 4 hours, and when I went to pick her up, I was told that she’d cried the entire time, other than settling briefly outside for a few moments and inside for a short nap in her Key Worker’s arms. My usually happy and hungry baby hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing all afternoon and of course, just to add insult to injury, she burst into tears the minute that I picked her up, crying out with a look of sadness and confusion on her gorgeous tiny face. I know this is an all too common scenario, not unique to me or Summer but a situation that unfolds for thousands of kids and their parents at the nursery drop off every single day. It’s not fun for anyone, least of all when as a highly sensitive mum of highly sensitive children, the experience becomes difficult to shrug off.

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Summer’s home birth story – Part 1 – Preparations

It’s taken me almost a year to put this story together, to put into words one of the most profound experiences of my life and also one of the most personal. I’ve started writing and re-writing it a hundred times, unsure of the details to include or keep private and unsure of how to tell a story with a million parts and details without writing a whole book. From preparing for a home birth, to confronting previous birth trauma and then experiencing profound joy, giving birth at home was, and is, one of the most significant moments of my life. In sharing my birth story(s) I hope to inspire other women to consider home birth if they want to but more importantly I hope to inspire people to talk about birth with a more open dialogue. To talk about the good and the bad. To talk about all the choices and options and to help women believe in themselves and their bodies and to rid themselves of doubt, worry and feelings of failure.

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Operation day

Dear Jasmine,

I’m writing you another letter because that’s what I find helps me when I’m feeling sad and heavy-hearted, as I am tonight. We’re so similar, you and me, with our sensitivities and our emotions. We feel things deeply and strongly and that’s a beautiful thing my sweet girl. I struggle sometimes to feel the way I do, to feel every ounce of your emotion and pain as if it were my own and to feel intensely sad about sad things. I sometimes wish I could switch off my overthinking brain and things might be easier, more black and white and more straightforward, but then, I wouldn’t be me, would I?

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A plastic free birthday party

Two weeks ago we hosted a party for Jasmine’s 3rd birthday. It was small, her first solo party, with her closest and most familiar friends which seemed the right decision for a child who can be highly sensitive. I’ll be honest, the thought of her bursting into tears during “happy birthday” was a daily worry for me for weeks in advance! Planning a birthday party for a sensitive child is one thing but planning a “low waste” and “plastic free” party is quite another. Before I dive in to how we pulled this off, I need to put the usual disclaimer. This is not a judgement call on anyone who has hosted a party done differently because I firmly believe that all kid’s parties are planned in love and until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even considered the waste implications that a party could have.

We make billions of products that last 5 minutes out of materials that last for a lifetime.” – unknown.

Single use plastics are just that, designed for a single use, simply to then be thrown away, realistically not recycled and existing in landfill more or less forever. Plastic cups, straws, balloons, party bag fillers, table confetti….they bring a smile to a child’s face for a few minutes but once that excitement has worn off, they are thrown away, except that as I’m learning more and more, “away” is not a place that really exists at all.

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Jasmine enjoying a vegan chocolate cupcake!

My journey to reducing waste and living a “low waste” life is a long and hard one. It is full of complexities and challenges and I’m often left feeling more disheartened and sad than I am hopeful and uplifted. Then I’m reminded that we as individuals need to be the change we want to see in the world and also be a role model for this change for our children. I’ve already started teaching Jasmine about plastic because her generation are going to need to be change makers too. I want her (and Summer) to know that looking after the planet we live on should be a priority but that it is also a joy. I want her to know that her actions can make a difference and that change starts at home.

So with that in mind, I set myself a task to try and plan and pull off a birthday party for Jasmine that avoided (as far as possible) disposable and single use plastics, with an effort to reduce waste and rise to the challenge of being more environmentally aware. I really do believe that every little helps and one less bag of rubbish sitting in a landfill site is indeed a job well done.

Here are the steps we took to reduce our party waste:

I banned balloons: call me a party pooper and maybe I am one but balloons, despite them being a favourite of Jasmine’s did not make an appearance at her party. Balloons are a party classic, of course, a symbol of the birthday celebration and an item guaranteed to entertain a bunch of 3 year olds too. Balloons however, are in essence a single use plastic. They are sold in a plastic bag (straight to landfill) and when the balloons eventually pop and are thrown away, that’s it too. Balloon scraps are very harmful to wildlife and although biodegradable balloons are available, we just did without entirely! I was worried, unnecessarily, that Jasmine would ask for balloons or that the party would be lacking without them but I don’t think it made one bit of difference…other than to the Earth!

So how did we decorate instead?

Decorations were made from reusable materials such as card or cloth as to avoid the plastic wrapped foil banners I’d bought in previous years. We borrowed birthday party banners from friends and also bought fresh Spring flowers (in brown paper) to decorate the tables. The village hall came fitted with loads of fairy lights and we laid the tables with party food. Again, I worried it wouldn’t be atmospheric enough or that the room would look bare but it didn’t. The people made the atmosphere more than any set of decorations would and we now have a set of party banners we can use at any occasion…no need to buy single use ones ever again.

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Fairtrade, cloth party banners from Plastic Free Party Bags

The party food was where we struck our biggest challenge for sure. We all know how difficult it is to buy food plastic free in the UK but we did take some steps to minimise the waste as best we could, aiming for progress not perfection. Firstly, we tried not to over cater in an effort to minimise food waste and knowing that most toddlers only nibble anyway before diving into the cake. We planned a few savoury bites such as wraps, sandwiches, vegan sausage rolls and some crisps. Then we had veggie sticks with hummus (not home made admittedly…maybe next year), fruit and vegan chocolate cake. I bought plastic free fruit and veggies such as carrots, peppers, watermelon, oranges and pineapple rather than being tempted by strawberries and grapes in plastic boxes. For drinks we offered apple juice (one large recyclable carton) or water for the kids and glass bottled soft drinks and tea/coffee for parents. We took along some compostable food waste bags for any throw away food and packed up left overs to take home too.

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Plastic free fruit ‘n’ veg options and fresh spring flowers

Plastic cups and plates were a no no for me but this did present a challenge. Kids party plates and cups are certainly a convenience item and also a safe one, with nothing at risk of being broken but unless paper plates are cleaned before being recycled, they are likely to end up in landfill too. Whats more, even when I did find paper plates for sale, they were of course wrapped in single use plastic which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I came across several blogs that suggested borrowing tableware from friends but we ended up just braving the “real” plates and glasses that the venue provided and hoping that with a little parental help, the kids would manage not to break anything. I’m so pleased this worked because it really was zero waste and saved me a lot of money forking out for reusable bamboo plates.

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No plastic cups or paper plates!

What about party bags?  Ah, the party bag. We found a brilliant company called, “plastic free party bags” who offer and delivered a fantastic service. In an effort to avoid the millions of throw away items and plastic party bags given out every single weekend across the UK they offer sustainable, fairtrade, vegan and plastic free alternatives. We ordered a few bits for each child including some vegan chocolate buttons, a pan-pipe whistle, some wildflower seeds and an animal mask to colour in. We received some lovely compliments from our guests about these bags and would use this company again in a heartbeat! We did pay substantially more than we would have done going for supermarket party bag fillers but the zero waste element and being able to support a small business was well worth it for us. Please do check them out!

Plastic free party bags

And that’s just about it! We did of course create some waste…mostly napkins, some crisp packets, cupcake cases and paper towels from the bathroom but overall, I’m so pleased with what we achieved and definitely feel that we significantly reduced our waste and avoided a huge amount of plastic. I also showed myself that with a lot of hard work, determination and a little creativity, that I could pull off a lovely and successful birthday party for Jasmine that didn’t in any way feel lacking in celebratory spirit and for that, I am pretty proud of myself.