Friday, 26 May 2017

So You Want To Be A WAHM?

One of the biggest dilemmas for parents (especially, and probably disproportionately, for mums) is choosing whether to stay at home or return to work after maternity leave. It's a hugely personal decision and the right answer will be different for each family. Whatever the decision, we're all doing our best by our kids and ourselves (and we're all full-time parents).

I chose to stay at home, but a couple of years in I started to want a bit more. It wasn't just about money, although extra cash is always useful. I wanted to do something other than parenting, andto prove to myself I could still work! So I decided to try being a work-at-home mum - or WAHM for short.



The tricky bit is finding something that works for me. I tried direct sales but discovered that sales really isn't my thing. I switched to copywriting which I was better at, but once Ezra was born it was impossible to find regular time (and energy) for it. So for now I'm keeping in practise by blogging until I have more time and I'm getting more sleep.

So my experience as a WAHM has been mixed so far, but for many women it's a great opportunity to combine time with the kids with a career. Trouble is, how do you find the balance? I asked some local WAHMs about their top tips for anyone considering working from home, and this is what they had to say:

"A lot of my WAHM clients say having a life coach gives them focus, motivation and accountability. Being on your own with your vision can be really lonely but having a life coach who walks along side you and understand what you are wanting to achieve its paramount to success." - Nicola from Nicola Hughes Coaching and Counselling

"Stay on top of your paperwork, invoicing, book keeping etc. Its really easy to put it in a pile 'for later' and then not be able to remember important details when you eventually get round to it." - Jane from Norris Box

"It's a marathon and not a sprint. Especially fitting work around small ones, you've got to go with the flow and find when you can get work done. Set goals, work hard to achieve them, but be gentle with yourself as you're almost undoubtedly doing better than you think. Don't be afraid to take risks or change direction if you see an opportunity." - Rachel from Spider and Fly

"Try not to compare your business to others who are doing similar things! Make it work for you... and know you can't do everything straight away. Like Rachel rightly says it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Importantly don't underestimate your value. I see 
a lot of WAHMs undercharging for their goods or services so it is a good idea to cost up your business when thinking about pricing. Look at what you need to earn, how many hours you can reasonably work a week, what kind of resources you can put in (for example can you build a website or will you need to pay someone to do that), whether you need specialist training, insurance, registrations and then also factor in sick pay, holidays and childcare. You might not actually be able to charge the amount you need to, but this will give you an idea of what you are aiming for. Being a WAHM has to be about passion and drive because it is hard work, but the pros can outweigh the cons if you love what you do." - Lucy from Om Line Training


"Do something your passionate about because working from home needs a lot of drive from you. Also do market research before setting your goals. I love blogging, Vlogging, making films, teaching bellydance and writing press releases - so I really enjoy the variety I get from working for myself from home and my love of my work (I hope) shines through in what I deliver. Beats an office job any day. Go for it!" - Sophie from Mama Mei and Evoke Media Group

"Make sure you take a break when needed and plan them into your calendar. We have found juggling the long summer holiday and children / partners work was just a means to disaster so we 'close our books' for August and spend the time with our families and catching up on admin type jobs without the pressure of liaising with customers and getting goods out. It has to be on the calendar though as otherwise we easily slipped up and would 'just do this one'." - Amanda from Just A Touch Of Magic

"Don't forget to look after you. If you are running your own business you are your great asset but that can be very easy to forget when you are juggling the demands of family life and work, all in the same space. Especially when you love what you do too and there are not enough hours in the day/week/month... Make sure you take some time out that is just for you, doing something that you love - it could be yoga, crafts, walking, running, swimming, going to the gym or meeting friends. Even better if it is something that enhances and improves your health and wellbeing so that you stay strong and healthy (which means less sick days and more energy for your business and your family!)." - Lucy from Lucyoga

"You can get maternity allowance if you have paid NI contributions (if I recall correctly 13 weeks out of 52, voluntary contributions included) and are entitled to income based ESA. Which is something invaluable." Sophie from Footprints on Forever

If you're interested in what being a WAHM entails, take a look at the above links to see what fab and varied work these ladies do!

Are you a WAHM? Do you have any tips you would add to this list?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Fighting the Clutter and Simplifying Play

I've never been the tidiest person, but recently the amount of mess in my house has been getting me down. I was getting dragged into a 'my house isn't big enough' mentality, feeling sorry for myself, when actually the real issue is that we have too much stuff.


The amount of toys our kids have has been an issue for a while - even when Eleanor was a toddler, we already felt like we were drowning in toys. So of course now we have two, it's almost impossible to keep up with the sheer amount of stuff they have.

The thing is, they hardly play with it. Especially Eleanor. Whenever she complains about being bored I'll reel off a list of all the things she could do, but of course she's not interested. And Ezra will happily drag all his toys out of his box then proceed to play with the nearest non-toy item (preferably a dangerous one). I honestly think that the more toys a child has, the more overwhelming they find the choice and the less likely they are to play.

Alas, I think it is too late to get Eleanor on board with the 'less is more' message. But Ezra, being unable to speak and having a shorter attention span, can be merrily forced to go along with this as long as he doesn't see me getting rid of his stuff.

So, one nap time, I emptied out all his toys on the floor.


Yeah. What a mess, eh? No wonder it took me so long to tidy every evening, and no wonder he didn't seem to play with anything - there's just too much going on. So I set to work sorting through the mess.

I piled up all the cuddly toys - he hardly plays with these at the moment so I selected just one for him to keep, a little jingly Peter Rabbit toy. I fished out anything that wasn't actually his, as Eleanor's stuff had snuck in a little. I chucked away one particularly battered toy that we'd had since Eleanor was toddler and was past it's best. I found all the teethers and put them to one side to wash. And I weeded out any toys that I thought he was a bit big for.

I ended up with this.


These are the toys that he will actually play with: a bead maze, his toy kitchen and play food, a shape-sorting bus, two push-along vehicles, a shaker, stacking blocks, soft blocks, a jingly ball and the aforementioned Peter Rabbit toy.

Most of the rest has been shoved in a bag for now and when we get chance we'll go through it and decide what to keep for when he's older and what can go to charity. The teethers are still awaiting cleaning, and will be kept somewhere safe so they can actually be used for their purpose rather than as toys.

I did this three days ago, and he doesn't seem to have noticed the sudden lack of stuff. But he does seem to be taking more interest in his remaining toys now he can find them more easily. And it's quicker to tidy everything away at the end of the day. Win win!

Have you found that less is more when it comes to toys? How many toys do you think your child 'needs'?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

'Rhyming Stories: Pip the Dog and Freddy the Frog' by Axel Scheffler

Another bookish post for you this week. In my mission to get Ezra reading books instead of ruining them, I've started getting down to the library more regularly. Last week we picked up this lovely book:

I love Axel Scheffler's illustrations - well, who doesn't? - and I really enjoy reading rhyming text so this is right up my street. It's also a really good choice for Ezra as the two short stories aren't too overwhelming for him - much as I adore them, he's not ready for the Donaldson/Scheffler stories yet.


Ezra's favourite of the two stories is Pip the Dog. Mainly because he thinks it's funny when I bark like a dog!


I'm happy to make silly noises in stories if it gets the kids engaged, and there are plenty of opportunities to practise my dog impression in this story. I'm still working on the difference between a happy woof and a sad woof, but I don't suppose Ezra's that bothered!


He seems less keen on Freddy the Frog - obviously my croaks aren't as funny as my barks - but it's still a sweet little story. There's no real plot to either story but then little toddlers aren't going to follow one anyway, so it's nice to just enjoy the rhymes and descriptions at this age.


Freddy the Frog is a good one to read with your little one on your knee, as then you can bounce them up and down to join in with the race! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm on the lookout for books that you can do actions to, so this is another fun one!

We've both really enjoyed this book - it's colourful, cheerful and gives opportunities for giggles with funny noises and bouncing about. I spotted another 'Rhyming Stories' book while at the library so think I'll be picking that up next week!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.


Read With Me


Laura's Lovely Blog

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Clip Clop!' by Nicola Smee

I haven't done a post about what we're reading recently. Eleanor is now a very independent reader (and reads the same books over and over) so I don't have much to say about her reading habits these days. And Ezra is in full-on book devastation mode so I'm ashamed to say I haven't been reading much with him.

Except for one book.


As you can see, this book hasn't escaped his destructive powers entirely, but a slightly bent and nibbled front page is nothing compared to some of the havoc he's wreaked. (I've even had to throw books away - sob!) I think he's sparing this book because he loves it so much!

It's a really simple, short story, perfect for older babies and younger toddlers.


This book is absolutely made for bouncing a baby along to. Every parent has played horsey one time or another, and this story gives you lots of opportunity to make your little one giggle.


The rhythm of the text encourages you speed up your bouncing until ...


This is Ezra's favourite page - I lean back for the HALT and forward for the fly and his face lights up every time!


I love the playful ending - anticipating the child asking for another read of it! Although Ezra is too young to say 'again' himself, he will often turn back to the first page, indicating he wants another 'ride'. It's so short and fun I'm more than happy to do a repeat reading.

I'm now on the lookout for more books that encourage actions - any ideas?

I'm linking up with Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.




Read With Me

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review - FotoJet Premium photo editing and collage

You may have noticed my header's changed. I've been undergoing the slow (for me) process of prettifying my blog but I'd been putting off the header. Photo-editing is not my forte at all and I was really worried about doing a bad job of it.

Then FotoJet got in touch to offer me a chance to try out their Premium account. It felt like the universe was telling me to get on with that header once and for all!

So, what do you think to the header? Nice, isn't it? It may not look like much, but to me it was a real challenge! I started out with this photo:


I uploaded it onto the FotoJet Edit section and resized it so it would fit my blog template. (Unfortunately a Blogger-specific header wasn't an option in the Design section, but there were lots of options for social media headers and posts.) It was pretty straightforward to do this, even for a novice like me.

I then set about adjusting the photo a little to make it a little less washed-out. The free version of the website does have some pre-set effects that you can apply, but I thought I'd try out the Advanced features for a more customised look.


After I'd played around with the different settings until I had the look I wanted I added the text. I wanted a clean, fuss-free font so used one of the free options, but there are loads of fancy fonts that are exclusive to the Premium account if you feel like being more creative.


After a bit of playing around I got the header you can see above - not bad for a technophobe, eh?! Just a shame there's nothing that can be done for Eleanor's weird photo pose ...

Overall I found the Edit function really straightforward, so I decided to get adventurous and use the Collage function for my next project. Eleanor is having a half-birthday next month (on account of her birthday being so close to Christmas) so this was a great opportunity to get her invites done.

In the Collage section of the website, there are lots of templates for different occasions, including some lovely invitations. I chose this one, which is only available on the Premium account:


I added a photo of Eleanor (from her actual birthday, just to confuse people even further) and used the effects to brighten it up.


I then edited the text - changing the font and positioning very easily - to include the party's details. I didn't screenshot that bit as obviously I don't want the whole internet knowing when and where the party is, so you'll just have to trust me that it looks great!

I was very impressed with how easy to use the FotoJet browser app is and would recommend it to anyone who needs to do photo editing or graphic design but doesn't know where to start. Whether you're a blogger setting up headers or you need to make a really eye-catching invite or flyer, this app will help you through all the tricky bits. The Premium features are very useful to have, especially if you want to fully customise your work or have a very particular design in mind.

If you're interested in giving FotoJet a try, check out their website where you will also find information on signing up for a Premium account.

DISCLAIMER: I was offered free access to a FotoJet Premium account for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

YES YOU CAN! A book to fight gender stereotypes

"The boys don't let me play football because I'm a girl."

My heart sank when Eleanor told me that. She loves playing football. She's been going to a football class since January, and long before then would beg available adults to have a kickabout in the garden with her. She's pretty nifty with a ball. But, whatever had been said to her, she was getting the idea that the game wasn't for her.

Encouraging children to find their own interests is relatively easy in the early years, when they're oblivious to stereotypes around them, but as they get older they start to become more aware. I remember her coming home from nursery school saying that, "blue is for boys," despite it being her favourite colour. Luckily she doesn't seem too deterred yet, but I know as she gets older she'll feel the need to conform more and more.

I try to tell her that colours are for everyone, and boys and girls can be interested in whatever they want, but it sometimes feels like I'm swimming upstream.

I recently saw a tweet about a Kickstarter campaign for a new book called 'Yes You Can' by Cheryl Rickman and it sounds like just the book I need to show Eleanor that she really can be interested in whatever she wants. It features three girls, one who plays football, one who climbs trees and one who skateboards and loves to be creative. (There are also boys who love dolls and diggers.) They are transported to a world where interests and hobbies are separated by hair colour - an indirect nod to the absurdity of gender stereotypes.


Cheryl was inspired to write the book after hearing all sorts of gender stereotypes aimed at young children, including her own daughter:

“Football? You should've been a boy!”… “Why do you play with boys' stuff?”… “You don’t want Spiderman painted on your face, that’s for boys…  how about a lovely butterfly?!”… “Boys don’t wear pink! That’s for girls!”… “Boys don’t cry!”… “His hair’s a bit long for a boy!"

This video tells more about the project:




Cheryl explains, “The aim of this project is to show children how silly gender stereotypes are, and equip them with tools to enable resilience, self-compassion, self-awareness and self-belief to let any gender-specific teasing wash right over them. To tell kids they don’t have to change who they are to fit out-dated expectations.”

Sounds great, doesn't it? The only catch is that money needs to be raised through the Kickstarter campaign in order for the book to be published. So if you can help, and think this is a project worth supporting, you can donate to the campaign here. Rewards for donating range from a free eBook aimed at parents to a school workshop.

I really hope the campaign is a success, I think Eleanor would love this book and it would be great to see lots of other children feel empowered to make their own choices about their interests and hobbies.

Happily the boys now let Eleanor play football with them. But she is still in a minority and very conscious of that. Armed with this book, I think she would feel proud to be herself and follow her own interests.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Six things I love about cloth nappies ... and one thing I don't!

A mini Eleanor stomps beneath a line of her nappies!
This week is Real Nappy Week 2017 and as I've now been using cloth nappies for a total of three years I thought I should mark the occasion! Eleanor was in cloth nappies from 4 months until around two and a half ( when we rather disastrously started potty training) and Ezra has been in cloth to some degree since he was about 4 weeks old.

But why do I do it? Isn't it a faff? Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely do things that make life hard for myself, so there must be some good reasons for using cloth! Here are the reasons I love reusable nappies ...

1. There are loads to choose from

Seriously, loads. When you're first dipping your toe into the world of reusables it can be dizzying. Luckily there are now lots of nappy libraries dotted around the country so you can try different types. I didn't know of any when Eleanor was born but Bingley Nappy Library has since opened up for West Yorkshire people and I got some great advice from there when I was struggling to make cloth work with Ezra. I'd really recommend looking up your local nappy library if you're considering switching to cloth.

The great thing about the variety of options is that there is something for everyone. Babies come in different shapes and sizes (I should know, I make them big) so not all nappies will fit every baby, but you're bound to find some that'll work. And you can use different nappies for different needs: I use a combination of Bumgenius Freetimes for a smaller fit but shorter periods, some very old-school Totsbots cotton nappies with a wrap for longer stints and used to use Totsbots Bamboozles as a night nappy (more on the 'used to' in a bit). I also have a few others if I fancy a change! Here's a picture of most of my stash on a rare day when Ezra hadn't pulled them all down off the shelves:

You can see I use washable liners and wipes too (bottom shelf) - this is in part due to the sensitivity of both my children's skin but also it's just easier to chuck the lot in the wash!

2. It saves you money

Yes, the initial outlay might make you gulp. But then you're pretty much set up for the next two years - more if you use the nappies again with another child. Think about how much you'd spend on disposables in that time! Depending on what type of nappies you buy, you could easily save over £1000 by using cloth. And the variety of options means you can go for what your budget can manage - you can even get traditional terries for a couple of pounds a pop, which are surprisingly versatile if you're good at folding! (I'm not, as I discovered.)

3. They look cute

Forgive me for this, but here's where I admit to being a tiny bit of a nappy snob - I just don't like how disposables look. It's not a big factor for me, but I do think cloth nappies are tons cuter. I mean just look at the wrap on this one!


If you've got money to spare you can really go nuts on the cute patterned nappies as there are loads to choose from. I never did but I do have a few exceedingly cute nappies and wraps that I'm rather attached to!!

4. It's not all or nothing

Remember I said I used to use Bamboozles as a night nappy? Well I don't now. They were great for Eleanor when she was little, but Ezra is the very definition of a heavy wetter. Even with three boosters his Bamboozle was still leaking by the wee small hours (no pun intended). So we've switched to disposables at night.

And that's the great thing about cloth - you don't have to use them all the time. Just using one cloth nappy a day could save you 365 disposables over the course of the year. I also use disposables if we're going out just because they take up less space in the change bag and are a bit easier to change on those scary changing tables. 

And even if you do manage 100% cloth (hats off to you) you can use disposable liners and wipes, or use washable ones. It's up to you. You can decide how brave you feel. But you might just find that actually it's not as hard or scary as you thought so then you can do a bit more. And if it all goes wrong, you can sell on your cloth stash - there's a huge market for second-hand nappies.

5. You can't run out of them

I'm chronically disorganised. If I had to remember to get enough disposables in then Ezra would spend an awful lot of time bare-bottomed while I waited for my husband to pick up some more on his way home. But with cloth you can't run out. Well, you can if you forget a wash, but even then, just bung them in and if they're OK to tumble you can have some ready in a few hours. And actually once you're in a washing routine it's fairly easy to keep on top of them.

6. It's good for the planet

I try my best to be a hippy type, but I'm not very good at it. I use surface wipes instead of cloths. I forget we've got food and end up throwing it away. I have the heating on too much. So with cloth I kind of feel like I'm making up for that.

There are debates around whether the carbon emissions caused by washing cloth nappies are comparable to the emissions created when making disposables, but even assuming they're similar, at least you're sending less to landfill. We tend to use disposables when a stomach bug strikes and I'm always shocked at how quickly the bin fills up. That's an awful lot of waste to stick in the ground, and I'm bad enough about chucking things away without adding disposables to the pile!!


Of course, everything has its downsides, and there is one thing I really, really don't love about cloth nappies ...

POO!

There's no skirting around it - poo is horrible. It's not so bad with an exclusively breastfed baby because you can normally chuck the nappy straight in the wash. It's not so bad with a toddler on plenty of solids as it's normally hard enough to just drop in the toilet. But the in-between stage (which is taking a while to get through with Ezra) - well, that's just grim. Sorry. But you're wiping it off their bums anyway, so poo is inescapable with small children!


What do you love about cloth nappies? If you're thinking about using them, what puts you off or makes you worry?