Dear new mother…it’s OK

Dear new Mother,

You’ve just had a baby. It’s OK to feel happy, to feel scared, to feel sad. It’s OK to be in shock and it’s OK to feel elated. It’s OK to ask for help. In fact, you must. Please ask for help. “Help” will be your best friend, now and for years to come.

It’s OK to want some pieces of your old life back, the freedom, nights out with friends, holidays and sleep. Oh, sleep.

Your body is different now too, no doubt. It’s OK for that to feel strange. You don’t have to love your stretch marks or your soft tummy or all the other parts that feel different. You may embrace your new body, the different shape and size, the unfamiliarity, the new sensations. You may despise it. That’s OK too.

It’s OK to feel empowered by your birth experience but it’s also OK to feel broken. Perhaps it all went according to your plan but perhaps it was the birth you always feared. Talk about it with someone, take the time to heal. Rest and recover. You did it, didn’t you? It’s a cliché, I know, but your body just grew an entire new life and that’s Mother Nature’s most exquisite work. Truly, you are beautiful, OK?

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Baby Jasmine, a few days old

Oh, new Mother,

It’s hard work, right? Harder than you thought, even if it’s your dream come true? Even if you thought you were ready? I know. Motherhood is the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s OK if it’s not all as wonderful as you imagined it would be. It’s OK if some things are unexpectedly rubbish and it’s OK if some bits aren’t much fun at all. It’s OK not to “enjoy every minute.” That’s almost impossible I’d say. You are right at the start, new Mother. You are on page 1 of chapter 1 of the longest and most magnificent book ever written. It’s OK to go slowly, not to rush. It’s OK to pause, to stay at home, to simply just be with your baby. It’s more than OK, actually. I wish I’d listened more to this advice.

I hope you know too that it’s OK if you breastfeed and it’s OK if you don’t, if you baby wear or if you don’t. It’s OK if you follow a strict routine or if you don’t, to read all the books or none at all. It’s OK if you don’t really know what you want to do. There seem to be a million different ways to be a Mother.

It’s OK if your relationships change. They’re bound to. You’re a new Mother now with a new set of priorities and a different type of day. It takes a lot to meet the needs of such a helpless little person all day long. It’s OK to miss your friends and to feel frustrated at missing out, like no-one can possibly understand what you’re going through. It’s OK to feel alone and misunderstood. You’re not alone. I understand.

You may have less time for your friends right now and that’s OK as well. Your partner may get less of your attention because you give all your kisses to the baby now. Those cheeks make it hard not to! It’s OK to feel pure joy and elation one minute then utter sadness and despair the next. It’s OK to feel jealous of those who get to sleep. It’s OK to take naps instead of doing the dishes. In fact, once again, you must! It’s OK to stay indoors and it’s OK to venture out too. It’s more than OK to stay in your pyjamas all day and it’s more than OK if your house is a mess, although I understand it’s not how you want it to be. Everything can feel like a sacrifice, can’t it?

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Baby Summer, born at home

It’s OK if it takes time to fall in love. You’ve got your whole lives for that. It’ll come and when it does, it’ll grow so much that you will be amazed at the capacity of your own heart. It’s OK to struggle with the transformation, to take time to find your place with motherhood. No one starts something for the first time being perfect at it. There are no lessons in how to Mother, just millions of books and millennia of experience. Speak to others…they can help. Find those Mothers who just get you, even if they do things differently. Find the Mothers who will lift you up, offer support, reserve judgement and listen. We all need someone who can really listen. The sisterhood of Mothers is a beautiful one. Really. What a place to be. Find your tribe, your like-minded mums, your middle of the night allies.

You’re a new mother. You grew and birthed a baby and you are a miracle too. It’s OK to feel anxious, to worry, to protect. It’s OK to relax, to use your intuition and to feel totally at ease in this place. Perhaps you finally feel like you’ve arrived in yourself.

It is OK to want a break. You will need one. Take it. Take breaks so you can replenish yourself and your energy. Your love for your child won’t be questioned. It’s OK, it’s more than OK to make time for yourself. It’s OK to be taken care of. Actually, it’s vital. Let someone else make the tea, make the food, rub your shoulders. You don’t have to be perfect, to achieve as much as you used to. It’s OK for the goalposts to change.

It’s OK to break generational patterns, to carve a new lineage. It’s OK to disagree with old methods and to challenge age old advice just because you turned out alright. We are evolving, we are spiritual and emotional beings. Our children are born into a different world and we are progressing towards greatness, don’t you agree?

It’s all OK, new Mother. I guess that’s all I’m really trying to tell you.

I love you,

Naomi

 

A bed time to remember

Jasmine, you just amazed me with your kindness, your maturity and your compassion.

I was lying with you at bed time, stroking your hair to help you relax as you had been rather excited. Daddy was out so it was just me and you, with Summer already asleep in her bed.

Summer suddenly started crying, which isn’t unusual but as you probably knew when you heard it, that meant I needed to go to her. I told you I’d be right back but you burst into tears and insisted on coming with me which of course, I allowed, because those tears were pure sadness.

You sat quietly on my bed whilst I lifted Summer out the cot and cuddled her back to sleep. I wondered what you were thinking then, seeing me cuddle Summer. Were you jealous or just watching? Were you sad or comforted?

I put Summer back down and we snuck out but in your innocence you started talking a little too loudly, waking her once again as we got to the door. Hesitantly, we went to your room and I hoped, maybe, although I knew it wouldn’t happen, that Summer would settle on her own because the thought of leaving you again to go her had my heart all twisted and sad. Instead you turned around and said, “oh Mummy, Summer is crying you need to go give her a cuddle.”

You gave me permission to go to her, not because you were trying to stay up later but purely because you understood it’s what she needed. I was so grateful in that moment for your kindness, being able to soothe Summer once again without worrying (too much) about you.

Again you sat on my bed as I held your sister in my arms. You popped back to your room to grab your Ellie Nellie and then lay still on my bed, watching, just quietly. I put Summer back in her cot but she woke up crying straight away, wanting more time with me and wanting to feed.

We went back to your room and I explained that I needed to be with Summer for longer. I explained that I’d come right back to you just as soon as I could. I explained that Daddy was out when you asked for him.

I fed Summer and she calmed instantly, her head becoming heavy as she found sleep again and I could hear you in your room, waiting, understanding, yawning and sighing. You could’ve been crying, pulling at my clothes wanting me all for yourself as often happens at bedtime but tonight was so different.

I came back to you and you were awake, ready for cuddles of your own. I held you and told you how proud I was that you’d waited for Mummy and how kind you had been to Summer. I told you what an amazing big sister you were.

Then you paused and looked up at me. You said, “I want to share my Mummy with Summer,” and those eight words of kindness overwhelmed me. I love you so much, angel girl.

Creativity in Motherhood

I’ve never considered myself much of a creative person. I’m the one drawing stick people and a house whilst my husband Ben is sketching faces full of character. I’m just no good at drawing and whilst I appreciate so many forms of creativity, “creative” has just never been an adjective I would have used to describe myself.

Since Motherhood transformed my life, I’ve realised that my words are my creativity and that I crave time to write because there is just so much to say. Sometimes I feel like I could write a chapter about each day that goes by raising these kiddos and that in itself, is creative. Making time for writing has now shifted way higher up my priority list in a way that I never expected. As Mothers, we devote our days to our small people and at times, the days can feel repetitive, tiresome and like one big exercise in planning and logistics.

Just as others may crave going for a run, making a new recipe, planning a yoga sequence, sinking into a good book or perhaps good old retail therapy, for me, having an outlet to write and share my emotions, tell stories, write poems and document the highs and lows of this motherhood journey…that’s my creativity. My blogs and even my Instagram captions are a way for me to write about my life now, as it happens. To write about my children, my emotions, my joys and my vulnerabilities. To write about my interests and my learnings, a place to write about my personal growth and for those words to then exist as something concrete and outside of my mind, for my children to one day read, for others to read if they choose to and for me to treasure as my work.

Writing has become a therapeutic outlet. It’s my way of trying to make sense of the craziness of life and be it about pregnancy, babies, toddlers, veganism, minimalism or anything else at all, it doesn’t matter. It’s the process of creating something that matters. The process of pouring words out and working on them until they mirror the emotions in my mind and the feelings in my body so that anyone who reads them can “get it” too.

I have developed a new appreciation for creativity, in particular around the theme of motherhood. I value what is being created by Mothers, for Mother’s whether that is art, music, podcasts, blogs, comedy, books, interiors, clothing and more.

These words are my art, my contribution to the female collective, to the sisterhood of Mothers and most importantly, for myself.

What holidays teach us about minimalism

I cannot get the idea of “minimalism” out of my mind and it’s certainly become one of my top goals for 2019. I don’t know how far the journey will take me and I also know, just by looking around me, that I’m still just at the very start, but I’m excited to continue to evaluate why I’m keeping hold of my possessions and create a home environment that makes me feel calm, happy and joyful. Back in November, I de-cluttered more than 400 things from our home (blog to follow…at some point) and I’ve since stumbled across blogs and Instagram accounts that as well as looking pretty, clearly demonstrate how owning less can benefit so many aspects of our lives.

Since the beginning of January, we have been in Israel and are living here for a month, a half holiday, half short term re-location of sorts. We deliberately tried to pack lightly (tricky with a toddler and a baby) because I was determined to see how we would a) manage with minimal belongings for a month and b) what impact it would have on us as a family.

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The thing is I think most of us already know, deep down, that it’s not things that make us happy but the things we do. If I think back to the times in my life where I’ve felt the most free, the most alive and the least stressed, it would almost certainly be the times where I’ve had minimal belongings. I’ve been privileged enough to have done a fair bit of backpacking (oh those days before children) and living out of a rucksack and simply not being able to have too much always made for the very best experiences.

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So what have I learnt about minimalism during a months stay in Israel? Let me tell you.

  • Holidays make us happy: if we are happiest on holiday, doing more and having less, surely this is a lesson for our everyday life too? When we go on holiday, whether for a week, two or four, we take our necessary belongings in our suitcase. We pack for certain eventualities, especially with children, but for the most part, we pack our favourite things, the ones we know we love and want to wear and even then, there’s always items that come home unworn because they were “just in case” after all.
  • We don’t miss our things:  We don’t miss the things in our homes whilst we’re away but we may miss our home itself. Maybe I miss my house plant babies but otherwise I don’t miss my things and even if I try to think about what I miss, nothing particularly springs to mind. I haven’t needed anything whilst away that I’ve kept back home. So if we can live on our holidays with a minimal number of belongings and focus on memories, experiences and so on, why not do that at home, all the time?
  • There is always a to-do list: whether at home or away, there is always going to be laundry to do, toys to tidy away, dishes to wash and floors to sweep and children to look after and that doesn’t change. We’ve muttered the words, “we have a lot of clearing up to do,” or, “there’s still washing in the machine,” so many times this trip because let’s face it, kids make mess (whether they mean to or not) and time for tidying is always in short supply, especially when you’d rather be hanging out at the beach! However, what is easier is the feeling that our limited belongings take less time to wash, clean and tidy. There isn’t an excess of stuff to worry about and that is certainly quite freeing.
  • Changing habits takes work: Having less stuff has highlighted something important to me about myself and that is that I am the one who also needs to make a change to my own habits. Even here, whilst living with less and knowing all the benefits, it’s still me whose clothes don’t get put away at the end of the day or who struggles to actively tidy up, notice what needs done and prioritise those tasks over other things. I’m certainly not aiming for perfection but aiming for self-improvement is always a good thing. Changing my habits may need to co-exist with the minimalism goal for me to really notice a difference!
  • Jasmine is calmer (in some ways): I’m not pretending for a second that holidays with minimal things are a miracle cure for toddler tantrums but it has been interesting to see Jasmine in an environment of less. For one thing, she chooses to wear the same dresses everyday, whether she has 3 or 10 to choose from, she’ll wear the same ones, without a care in the world. She chooses the same books most nights too (we packed about 8) and never asks for ones we don’t have with us. Out of sight, out of mind. She is playing more mindfully with the toys we have here, although in all fairness, most of our time in Israel is spent outside which does make it much much easier. I’ve been more able to tune into her needs, her joys and her preferences. We’ve spent hours just dancing to music or watching the world go by from the balcony – no stuff  – but more on this another time!
  • Marie Kondo is an actual genius: Really. If you haven’t read her books or watched the Netflix show, I highly recommend them (the books more than the series). If we keep things in our lives that “spark joy” and make us happy, we can feel satisfied with owning less. I have had a few moments of wishing I had some different clothes with me, having recycled the same outfits day in and day out. Most of these clothes make me happy but are also breastfeeding friendly and therefore, currently, necessary. I have created a small wish-list of joy sparking items I’d like to look for when we get home, but otherwise, it’s all I’ve needed.
  • Home is where the heart is: this trip has been about making memories, seeing family and experiencing a culture we know we love so much about. We’ve lived in a flat where nothing belongs to us, yet it has felt like home. We’ve not bought items we haven’t needed but have instead borrowed toys from family or just made do with less and in all honesty, it’s been magical.

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So, here’s to 2019 (again), to continuing to de-clutter, transforming our home, living with less and doing more and living each day as if we were on holiday.

Could 2019 really be the year?

I am one of those people who quite enjoys the strange time between Christmas and New Year, where you don’t quite know whether you’re coming or going. I find myself in a naturally reflective mood, setting intentions and goals for the year ahead, pondering the year gone by and giving myself an annual pep talk that come January, I really will start using my wardrobe instead of my floordrobe! This year, I realised that the pondering and the intention setting is the easy bit, the dreamy bit (I’m such a Pisces!) It’s lovely to sit down and set goals, visualising our best selves and feeling motivated by the fresh new start that 1st January brings. The thing is though, I’ve lived through enough New Year’s Days now to know that in reality, it can often all feel like a huge anticlimax because having spent all that time dreaming, you are then bluntly awoken with the same old crap, just with a different date attached. The clothes are still on the floor, I’m still too tired to exercise and there’s still a to-do list that’s growing by the hour. That feeling of discomfort from procrastinating worms its’ way back in and as the spiral of excuses starts again, days can tick into weeks without anything really changing.

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Jasmine and Summer on Christmas Day

All that being said, this isn’t a time to be self-critical or give myself a hard time for not living a picture perfect life. I am, after all, a Mummy to two young girls who DO take up most of my time, energy, love and time (I know I wrote ‘time’ twice but it’s the most important one.) I achieve so much each day when I look at my two girls but this year, I want to feel different in myself. I believe it’s more than possible for me to make some changes that will benefit my whole family.

This year, 2019, I’m aiming to create a life of more joy with less ‘stuff’, more knowledge with less screens, more yoga with less avoidance, more creativity with less self doubt and I’m determined to make it the year that come 31st December 2019 I can say, “yes, I really did it!” The number 19 is my birth date. It’s also my wedding anniversary date and was my Grandma’s birthday too so it does hold a lot of significance. Maybe that’s why this year feels like a big one.

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So without further ado, I’m going to write my resolutions, not only to be as a record and a memory for myself but because the act of writing them down makes them more real and also allows me to be more accountable to keeping them. Here goes….

  1. Read more books. A classic, I know, and I often make this a resolution. I love reading but last year I think I managed a total of 3 books with a further 5 abandoned without being finished. These days I love digesting personal development books, parenting books, factual books or a good old fiction book. So often I put the TV on the evening and say, “there’s not really much on is there?” and so when that happens from now on, I want to reach for my books. Amongst many, on the list so far are “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, “The Highly Sensitive Child,” by Elaine Aron and “I am Malala,” by Malala Yousafzai. I have been making an Amazon wish-list of books which is helping me keep track of what I want to read and I’m setting a goal of 12 books within the year, which can include audio books too.
  2. Exercise. Such a January cliche but hear me out. I haven’t exercised properly since before Jasmine was born, which is getting on for 3 years now. I don’t feel strong in my body despite having a heavy toddler who insists on being carried all the time. I suffer with back pain a lot (thanks pregnancy, co-sleeping and hormones) and my energy levels can be rock bottom. I’m now 6 months post partum with Summer and feel very ready to start working on myself again. My goal is going to be exercise of any form at least twice a week, preferably yoga or dancing around the kitchen with the girls.
  3. Reduce my screen time. In the spirit of accountability, I’m just going to say that my average daily screen time is a LOT (if you have an iPhone, it tracks it for you). Mine is far too high. I love my phone and I love connecting with my friends on Whatsapp, being inspired by blogs or social media accounts, taking (and posting) photos and writing blogs when the moment strikes me but I’m still guilty of mindless pick ups, falling down the scrolling hole and being on my phone in front of Jasmine and Summer. I really want to change this habit and put some of those ‘wasteful’ screen hours towards something else.
  4. Write more. Ah, my blog (this one you’re reading now!)  I started this blog last year because I wanted to journal about my motherhood experience, have a creative way to express my emotions (thanks motherhood for that, too) and leave something long-lasting for my girls to read. I must have written 15 or more draft blogs that sadly I’ve never gotten round to finishing, despite waking up almost every day willing myself just to do it. I want to keep writing because it helps me in so many ways and I believe that our ability to share our vulnerabilities and emotions is how we can connect to one another.
  5. Minimise and de-clutter. Back in November I started (and never finished) a blog about how I managed to get rid of over 415 items from my home in just one month. I am hoping to write that one up sometime! It was an amazing and eye opening experience and since then, I haven’t stopped. I feel passionate about living a life with more by having less and this is a new but exciting journey for me. I want to continue to make steps towards living “zero waste”, minimising our belongings as a family and tuning in to what truly brings me joy. I can’t wait to see how this one in particular unfolds over the year.

And that’s it. 5 “resolutions” that can last me the year but that feel like me and where I am at in my life. I’m actually so excited to get started.

 

Self-doubt as Jasmine’s Mummy

Do you ever question yourself about the way your children are and whether you’re doing the right thing? I do it all the time with Jasmine and always have done, especially on those days that don’t go so well. I know it’s my personality to be sensitive, emotional and over-analytical and it’s also her personality to be highly sensitive, emotional, perceptive and unpredictable.

There’s more though….Jasmine is having some difficulties breathing properly which has been going on for some time now. She breathes through her mouth not her nose, is always congested, always has a runny nose, snores loudly and snorts all day to try and clear her nose.  She often sounds like Darth Vadar and you can quite literally see and hear her struggling to breathe normally. The winter weather seems to be exacerbating things but now our “bad” or difficult days are now far outnumbering the good days leaving me feeling full of self-doubt, sadness and guilt. It’s impossible to know which version of Jasmine will show up each day and it’s also impossible to know why that particular version shows up!

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Jasmine is a child of high highs and low lows, as I guess all children are really. She’s either dancing around the house to Lady Gaga spinning in circles and shrieking with delight, running to see who is at the door and eagerly asking to play with me, or, she’s watching TV for 90% of the day, crying at the mere site of a kind stranger and the most used word in her vocabulary will be “no”.

There are times she’s happy to try all sorts of new foods, eat fruit & veg by the gallon and enjoy avocado and quinoa but there are times the only things she’ll eat all day are a box of raisins, a snack bar, crisps and cake, with even her favourite meals being rejected. That day was today.

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There are times she has an abundant energy, bouncing out the door ready to go swimming or to a friend’s house to play but there are many, many days where leaving the house is as hard a task as climbing Mount Everest. No offer of going here, going there or going anywhere is good enough and she just seems in a constant state of fatigue or disinterest. There are days she wakes up in the morning and doesn’t stop talking and singing, or, there are days where she wakes up crying and keeps crying about everything that happens for at least an hour or more. There are times when we giggle, we run, we play, we jump and we explore but there are days when we walk on egg shells around her because if the slightest thing goes wrong, there’s a waterfall of tears ready to come flooding out. There are times when your energy seems abundant and times when you barely move all day. Is this just toddlers? Is this just Jasmine? Is this just me?

I worry when we have days like that. I wonder what is going on inside her body and her mind to make it a difficult day for her. Is she not feeling well but can’t recognise that sensation? Is she just really tired but no longer able to nap? Is she not able to breathe well enough to feel energised and healthy? Does she genuinely just want to stay at home all day to play? Is the unpredictability of random outings too much for her? Is she still adjusting to the arrival of her sister? Then I worry that it’s me. Perhaps I’m too soft with her or perhaps she has too much control. Perhaps she’s just testing me and I should “put my foot down”. Perhaps there’s actually no problem at all and I’m wasting precious energy worrying for nothing.

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I’m still learning to trust that much of all this is all OK and totally normal. The highs and lows and the roller-coaster are what every toddler and every parent experiences, right? I’m still learning to let go of that worry and go with the flow, knowing she is a happy, healthy, loving and thriving child. I’m still learning that she can’t always tell me how she feels using words so uses actions instead. I’m still learning all about her and all about myself at the same time. I’m still learning not to compare her to others. I’m still learning to focus on the positives, what we did do not what we didn’t.

I wish I could have a crystal ball to see into my children’s future. A way to look forward 20 years and see that everything turned out OK and that the “bad days” didn’t really matter at all, that maybe it was just her way of trying to tell me exactly what she needed, her way of showing me her unique way of learning and developing. For now, my job is to support her through the bad days and enjoy with her the good ones.

“Excuse the face,” and other things Mums need to stop saying

“Excuse the face,” is probably something you’re either guilty of saying or privy to hearing amongst your Mum friends or maybe just your female friends in general. If it’s not that then maybe it’s, “I haven’t even put any makeup on today,” “gosh, I look so rough,” “excuse the bags under my eyes” or, “sorry I look such a mess.”  We are full of these apologies, prefixing conversations or meet ups with friends with a comment about our seemingly less than acceptable appearance, as if the need to do so comes as a priority before anything else we may want to say.

I am so guilty of this. So guilty. I apologise for the way I look or the way my house looks all the time….even to my best friends! Although it’s often very true that as a busy and extremely sleep deprived mum of two, I haven’t put makeup on or do in fact have bags under my eyes, this is just my daily reality. I don’t feel my best or my most confident but I do not need to apologise for this. If I take a photo to capture a real and present moment of my motherhood life and see my bare face, my dressing gown and my wild postpartum hair, my immediate reaction is to find fault. Even when it’s a moment I want to cherish or share, I see my greasy hair in a mum bun and those pesky tired eyes and feel like it’s not good enough, that my appearance or the dirty dishes in the background take centre stage over the looks on my girls faces as we cuddle on the sofa first thing in the morning.

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Although it may be stating the very obvious, we do not need to apologise for our appearance to anyone and especially not to other Mums. We are a collective group of super women doing the hardest job in the world and we are worth so much more than our appearance. We are up all night, surviving on very little sleep, making sure the needs of small people are met all day long and yet we still feel the need to look a certain way in order to feel OK about ourselves.

Our tired eyes and messy hair exist because we are working our butts off with barely a second to ourselves. Our clothes are stained and our floors are dirty because we are mothering all day long and getting the kids’ breakfast ready comes higher up the list than applying foundation.

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Do you know what the most crazy part is? When we bring children into the world we are at our most vulnerable. Our most exposed. We are raw and unfiltered, often amongst total strangers. Nature forces us to let our guards down and become the most natural, powerful and miraculous versions of ourselves that we may ever be. Then we spend the months that follow fulfilling a societal pressure to look good (thanks Patriarchy) and apologising when we feel that we don’t. Our children hear these phrases. Our children copy our every move and learn so much of their own self worth from our actions and our words. Our children hear their mothers apologising for how they look but not their fathers.

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Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in our own skin and if you choose to make that a priority, more power to you! I for one would love to have time to blow dry my hair or put makeup on every morning and I know in many ways I would feel better for it. I would feel more confident, more uplifted and more like myself. Makeup can give us that little boost when we don’t otherwise feel great, but please, let’s stop excusing ourselves to others. Let’s talk about what we are achieving, succeeding at or most importantly how we are feeling. “I had such little sleep last night so I’m not feeling great,” is so much better than, “I had such little sleep last night so I look awful,” because I think really, that is what we are trying to say. I’m not feeling great and could really use some more sleep. I’d love some time to myself because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Can you help with the dishes because I’m feeling like there’s too much to do. That’s what we really want to say, isn’t it?

So next time you’re about to utter an apology for your face, just remember this. Our children never judge us for the way we look. I’ve often thought about how I get the same happy smiles and the same kisses and cuddles from my girls whether I’ve just rolled out of bed or whether I’m wearing makeup and have my hair done. It’s like they just don’t see any difference or even if they do, it changes nothing for them. I’m just their Mummy and any version of me will do just perfectly.

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