Thursday, 24 August 2017

When Depression Bites

Illness has struck the Mummy Trials house hold. Illness and a touch of the blues.

For the past few days, all three boys have been suffering with snotty noses and sore throats. Soft pillows of yellow slime erupt from the baby's face with every sneeze (and there are lots of them). They dribble down his face onto his lip and he grizzles sadly. His cheeks are red, hot and unhappy. He is dozy, napping lots (yay! But will he sleep at night? Remains to be seen) and in need of lots of cuddles. Smiles still come, but they are sleepy ones. 

The older one sneezes less, with less volcanic eruptions spewing down his face. Instead, he constantly sniffs, to the point I worry his brain might implode with the effort he puts into it. All this to avoid blowing his nose....

Still, he has no temperature and is coping relatively well. 6 years worth of fighting colds gives him the edge over his brother on this front.

The other half, usually a solider, has called in sick to work (!!) No man flu for this guy- oh no, he usually goes to work come hell or high water.

He sits in our bed, spread out all over my pillows too. I have to remind myself he is poorly and cannot help himself (but I've just changed the bed before I climb in) He throat is raw and he is very tired. I hate seeing him like this. He's slept most of the time, switching between feeling freezing and boiling, throwing the covers off and diving back under them. Throat sprays, sudafed, paracetamol- I place them next to the bed with some orange juice and periodically come up to see what I can do. 

So I've been holding the fort up until now. It's been hard- the baby wakes up with a face full of snot and can't get back to sleep. The 6 year old wakes up, from the baby or because he's wet the bed, and can't get back to sleep. My days have started early recently. Really early. 3am early. 

I put the blues down to this at first. Sleep deprivation is a known factor in poor mood. I'm tired, is all. I'll be fine I tell myself. Just sleep. 

So I wake up again after a good nights sleep (ish) only to find...nope, still feeling like poo. Maybe I'm getting ill too? 

That theory seemed to have some merit earlier, when I took to my bed (as soon as OH was well enough to get out of it for a short period), head pounding and body feeling run down. But 2 hours later, I wake up and I can function again. But still, I feel like poo.

To put it into context, I don't mean poo as in mildly fed up, over stretched and like my life revolves around laundry. I don't mean normal mum stuff. 

I mean I lay in my bed at night, terrified to close my eyes encase one of my babies stops breathing. I check both kids on the monitors constantly and even rush in to the 6 year old to check he's breathing. I hug the covers, imagining horrible scenarios of them dying and being unable to save them. The nightmares move on to my OH...my mum...my sister....my nan.

I scold myself in my mind all day for not playing with the kids enough. I haven't provided enough stimulation for the baby, or played with the 6 year old enough. I try to set aside time for them both, but the truth is I want space. The 6 year old is at such an annoying stage. I've been warned ages 6-10 is hard work. I tell myself if I was his biological mother it wouldn't be as hard, but from talking to other mums I'm not sure that is true. Still, I could do better. Poor thing, to have me as his mum. 

When I walk past the mirror in my bra and pants I avert my eyes. I has such high hopes I'd become skinny with the breast feeding, but it never happened. I think to myself I should stop eating rubbish- but then lunch comes and I'm starving and I have no time so I grab a bag of crisp. Should have gone for the fruit, I scold myself. And I keep thinking this all day, until I reach for the chocolate out of comfort. It's a vicious cycle.

This is me at my worst. And why am I like this? I begin to think my antidepressants aren't working. No bashing- my dad died suddenly 2 years ago and my mum has terminal cancer. I'm think I'm allowed a bit of help.

Have I suddenly lowered the dose? Without realising? No, I've checked. This isn't just sleep deprivation any more. 

Is it the fact I lost a potential job this week? I had such a great interview and was apparently the strongest candidate- but alas, the fact I can't work weekends ended our dreams of being financial more stable. Is it the business I'm trying to start up? Is it the pressure?

And then it happens. My period. It's almost a relief to know- at least I'm not mad. And now at last, I can start my pill again. 
 
I guess for some people this event isn't that bad. For me, its the horrendous pit of depression, filled with terror and paranoia. It's overwhelming fear. It's pain and depression all at once. Such pain- pain that's caused me to faint before now. And sleep deprivation and summer holiday trials just act as a catalyst.

Fingers crossed the new week brings relief, and that the coming months get easier. I can't imagine life without the option of the pill.  

 



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I'm a MUM





I'm a mum.
I feed, clothe and bath my children.
I am their entertainer, their cleaner, their maid and nurse.
I wipe boggies from snottie noses
I catch vomit in my hands
I am a cheerleader from the sidelines every sports day
I spend all my energy, my time, my love on my children

But my children did not come from my womb
The children I spend all my wages on
The children I cry for, defend, and protect
Came with my partner.

Every day I choose to love them
Because I know family
Does not mean DNA

I struggle with mixed emotions, hostile Ex's and a 'wicked' image
I put up with judgement and isolation
Without any recognition or thanks

Being a mum is hard
Being a Step Mum is even harder

We often put aside our own dreams
And delay having our own children
In order to look after the ones we never knew we had
Until they walked into our lives
And stole our hearts

There are no support groups for Step Mums
There are no leaflets on how to do it
You learn along the way

Its not an easy road
But we don't give up, We don't walk away
We try out hardest

So next time you see a Step Mum
Don't picture this ....

Image result for wicked step mother
Picture this.....

And remember,Image result for happy loving mother
she is a mum too

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

What Step Type Are You?

So according to my book, there are four main 'Step Mum' types. Do you agree? Which one are you? Do you find it helpful to have your role a little more defined or are we boxing things too much here?

Step Type 1
Your step children live with you for the majority of the time and you have children of your own from a previous relationship. These mothers tend to take on the traditional mothering role, making it easier in some respects to feel 'part of the family'. They often feel under a lot of pressure to balance work/life/kids/money and need to make time for themselves once in a while.

Step Type 2
Your step children live with you the majority of the time but you don't have children from a previous relationship. Its a fairly unusual type to be, the less common of the different groups but includes 1/5 step mums. They tend to have more feelings of resentment towards their new role and feel they have less support from friends and family (this is my 'type' and I feel exactly like this). They can struggle with the sharp contrast between the old life and the new, and may feel they have less time for their new relationship. They may also have to delay having their own children due to bringing up their step kids (as did I). This type of step mum usually makes the biggest change to her life.

Step Type 3
Your step children don't live with you the majority of the time and you have children from another relationship. These step mums usually handle the transition fairly well and are more confident when dealing with their step children. However, they often find it more difficult to bond with their step children and worry that when they show affection for the step child they might make their own children feel left out. It can take them much longer to build a relationship with the step child as they don't see them as often as a full time step mum. This step mum has to be quite flexible to include all children as the step child comes in an out of the family unit. Resentment can be an issue.

Step Type 4
This type accounts for 50% of step mums. Your step children don't live with you full time and you don't have any children of your own. They can often find it difficult to fit into their new role, and feel resentful for the impact their step children have had on their lives. They may feel confused and anxious about their responsibilities. They may find it hard to bond with the child as they don't see them often and probably don't have the experience with children. They see their relationship as a 'couple' rather than a family. Communication can be compromised and they can withdraw if they make an effort and are rejected.

I'm going into more detail on these Step Types in my vlog, which I will post on here. Let me know what step type you are and if you agree with the description of your situation on facebook- #MummyTrial and on Twitter 


**Info taken frpm Lisa Doodson's book How to be a Happy Step Mum




Sunday, 30 July 2017

Step Mums- What You Might Be Feeling and Why That's Ok


Image result for you have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days



Being a step mother means being assaulted by a million new emotions that your not sure if you should be feeling or don't particularly want to be feeling (in the beginning at least). I've heard from so many women out there who feel confused, ashamed and alone because of the way they feel. You may or may not have had a honeymoon period with your step kids, but once it ends (or sadly from the beginning) you can feel all sorts of mixed up emotions. Even if you already have kids of your own, it can be hard to adjust to having new children around. So here's a list of some common step mum emotions, and reasons why they are ok....


Resentment/ Jealousy 
Definition 1 ; 'bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.' 
Definition 2; feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone 
You come into a relationship wanting to spend all your time with your partner. You want the honeymoon period with the dinners out, the date nights, the rampant sex. Instead, evenings get rearranged due to child care demands, you spending more time than you'd like talking about/to your partners ex and you seem to have inherited children who throw every little bit of effort you make back in your face. This new title with the word 'mother' in seems so far fetched from what you actually are right now. Not only that, but the person you love most in the world doesn't feel quite the same. There is another person who takes up their heart more than you ever will. The whole thing feels unfair! So why wouldn't you feel resentful and a bit jealous

The good news? It gets easier, and this emotions gets less over time. Even couples who have a biological child together can feel resentment as their relationship adjusts and they get used to sharing the attention and love.


Frustration/Anger
Definition; the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. The prevention of the progress, success, or fulfilment of something.
Image result for step mumsI put this as bordering with anger as the definition of anger is a 'strong feeling of annoyance' which then boils over into displeasure and hostility. Again, why wouldn't you feel like this? There are so many things you can't change, and the step mother- step child relationship takes so long, it can often feel like no progress is being made. It takes time to get to grips with what your role is, where you fit in, what you can/can't do. I literally felt like every time my SS came to stay I was going to combust I was so frustrated. It took so long for his behaviour towards me to change, and each weekend it was like starting all over again. Not only that, but each time he came over there seemed to be some new drama to deal with: some new behaviour, like or dislike to adjust to. Things never seemed to go anywhere and I got majorly fed up with my partner for telling me it takes time. Its a lot of effort to keep trying to be nice to someone who's pretty horrid back. 
I felt so cross about the way my SS behaved some times, and so fed up with my partner for not disciplining him for it. He had a different way of dealing with naughty behaviour, but I couldn't understand that. I just felt like he was letting him get away with being rude and ungrateful. It was infuriating
Anger towards your partner  and their behaviour towards the ex can also piss you right off. See this article for a better understanding of why these behaviours may occur. 
The good news? Things do change and its really rewarding to look back now and see how far we have come. If you don't already have kids (as I didn't) it takes time to come to terms with just how long it takes them to get on board with some things (you being one of them). We've all changed, not just my SS but my partner and I too. 

Bored  
Definition; feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity
Jesus Christ, the things kids like to do can be so boring! I've never in my life watched the same episode of Octonauts so many times. Actually, to be fair, I'd never watched Octonauts before my SS came along (its about the adventures of a polar bear, a cat and a penguin who have live in a submarine, in the shape of a giant octopus, with singing turnips for friends. WTF?!) Neither had I played snap for so long or spent an entire morning pushing someone on a swing.

The good news? Sorry girls, suck it up. This one you just have to get used to!


Recurrent Honeymoon Phase 
Definition; A timespan during which problems known to exist are either not manifest or are ignored.
You might be reading this wondering why I'm constantly banging on about all these awful emotions when actually, you and your step kids are wonderfully happy. Unless your a number of years down the line though, you might be going through a recurrent honeymoon phase. In the very beginning, my SS and I had a honeymoon phase. As the definition states, there were no problems that had really manifested themselves . I was a novelty and eager to please, so all went really well. 
Later on, when he moved in with us, we had another honeymoon phase. I told myself I was going to be a rock, solid and dependable and not let anything get to me. But, alas, I'm only human and there are only so many times I can be poked before I'm going to react. So that particular phase came to an end.

The good news? I know people 3-4 years in who still have honeymoon phases, but they don't last as long now. The relationship moves into a more even state, with not as many major ups or downs. 

Guilt
Definition; the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime.
Ok, so I've put guilt but by definition, I don't think its the right word. I don't feel bad for having committed an offence- unless you count the offence as thinking horrible thoughts or having negative feelings. Perhaps instead we feel ashamed? Although the definition of that isn't quite right either. Whatever the word, I'm sure you understand what I'm getting at. Feeling like an awful human for being resentful towards a child, or for being jealous because their parent loves them more than they love you. But if you've come into this, especially with no kids, your bound to feel like this. For better or for worse, we are all human, and I think the fact we work through these feelings shows strength of character and counts for more than anything else. 







Friday, 28 July 2017

Top Tips for Becoming a Family

Learning to be a 'family' can be difficult when you come into an already established family unit. Feeling like an outsider can be a common issue, and might make you feel like giving up. The first few years are especially difficult as you are establishing bonds, boundaries and begin to get to grips with what your 'role' is. Everyone's different, and so your role will be too. Unfortunately that means its very difficult for anyone to guide you and help you know where you fit in.

However, there are a few simple things you can do as a new that will help you all feel like your part of the same little family. Give these a try, and with time they should encourage a feeling of closeness between you all.


Nicknames 
Did you have a nickname growing up? I had several and they have stayed with me. Both our children (step  & bio)  have nicknames and we also have pet names for one another. Those names are unique to us and our family and can be a great way to develop closeness (make sure they are kind not derogatory- I don't recommend 'idiot' or 'stupid pants')


Memories 
Each memory is a foundation for your relationship with your step kids. Don't worry, they won't (and can't possibly) all be positive. Your both working out which buttons not press and where you stand with one another. But still go out and make memories. Go the beach, the park, for days out. Play with paint, have dinners together, watch movies. Little insignificant things. In a years time you'll be able to say "Do you remember when we watched that film?" The film might have ended in a row, or tears or a strop, but you won't necessarily remember that bit. And even if you do, you'll probably look at it very differently in a years time (it might even be funny!) 


Routines 
Do you get up every morning and always have cornflakes at the table? Or do you give the children their breakfast and head upstairs to get dressed? Do you always drink a cuppa in front of the telly before your up for chatting? These things sound simple but routine will make everyone feel more like they belong. It may take time to establish though and be aware it may need to be adjusted, so don't feel bad if its not an over night job. 


Have Your Own Traditions 
Establish your own traditions throughout the year. That might something as simple as you always have a special ice cream sundae when its someones birthdays, or always have lamb when its Easter and invite over your neighbours for a meal. It could be more elaborate obviously, like you always go on holiday at Christmas. The first time might not be as successful as you planned, but repeating (and perfecting) traditions over time makes them more familiar and therefore more comforting. Even if your step children belittle them or make them sound rubbish, keep going. Traditions are a corner stone of each family. Try and think of some you had in your own family. 


Image result for step family quotes


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Summer Holiday Marathon- Week 1

My personal hardest #MummyTrial of the year has to be the marathon that is the summer holidays. Last year it was extended to a ten week break as we moved county and the school place wasn't lined up the other end (as promised!) So this year should feel like a walk in the park but then last year I didn't have two!

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy spending time with both kids. And I like the fact there are no school runs to get up for or homework sessions to cram in after dinner. I think during the holidays the majorities of step parents have an increase in child care and it can be hard work to find entertainment for such a long period of time. I think my 6 year old SS needs a break from us every now and then (hello Grandma!)


I've done a few 'essential' things for prep. I've purchased annual family tickets for two different attractions that are close by. Its quite nice because one of them has indoor soft play areas suitable for both ages, and the other is a lovely out door type place with a nice woods as well as a miniature train. I've tried to find some where we can bolt to in all weathers.

I've got my Summer Holiday Survival Ideas list ready (see post) and I'm working my way through it. So far we have made blancmange, no bake chocolate peanut butter cups (see my pintrest for recipe!) and have been on a few cheap days out. Parks have been visited, Ebay finds bough specifically for summer holidays have been unboxed and assembled, and the iPad has ran out of battery.

I sat down on the first day of the holidays with my SS and gave him a list of Summer Holiday Rules, so we are all clear where we stand. These rules are very relaxed and designed to empower him some what. They are also a bit of an experiment.

I read a wonderful article recently about the summer holidays we had as kids and remember so fondly. The author talked about relaxing the rules and allowing her children to independently establish their own entertainment and allow them more freedom in order to recreate the same atmosphere of her own childhood. So I've decided to give it a go.



I've always struggled with control so I had to think very long and hard about what I wanted to let go of. Being a step parent at first normally means having no control, so when I finally gained some authority and influence over my SS life I was a bit protective of it.

The first thing was the strict time scheduled of the ipad and other screen games. While I hate him being glued to it, he will very soon be a teenager- and strong, tall teenager who I've no intention of wrestling to prize it out of his hands. I want my SS to grow up knowing when enough is enough- and if I spend his life policing the technology he loves, he will never learn that. He does self regulate most of the time and come off it when bored, so I am hoping this will continue. Having said that, for the past few days he really hasn't, so I'm starting to wonder if this part of my experiment is a bit of a failure.

The second rule I'm relaxing is him going outside and playing in the garden. The rule has always been he has to ask if it's ok- firstly so we know where he is, and secondly so we can advise yes/no its too cold/hot you need a coat/sun cream. However, in the interest of allowing him some control over his life, I'm allowing him to decide if its appropriate to go out and what he might need to do before hand. Obviously if I see him go out without sun cream I will be reminding him- but I'm trying to give him space to make his own decisions as much as possible. Knowing if he's gone out is easy since he's quite heavy handed with closing the door- so no fears on the safety front. So far, hes done really well and I'm quite willing to make this a permanent rule.

Next I'm allowing him access to the downstairs of our house before we have come down. This might sound really silly, but he's been quite naughty before now, coming downstairs and eating a weeks worth of fruit at 6am, or taking any biscuits left of the side and demolishing the lot. He's even been known to walk on the counters and go through peoples bags to get goodies (he does get fed, I swear!). We had to hide all food and keep the fruit bowl out of reach- only giving him some when he asked.

 I've set up his grow clock so he knows when 'up time' is, and given him the choice to come downstairs if he wishes. In addition, I've given him his own fruit bowl and access to the squash. He has 3 bits of fruit a day and (again) its his choice if he wants to eat them all in one go- but once they are gone, they are gone.

I'm quite pleased with this part of my experiment. The first few days he scoffed the whole lot at around 9am and then had nothing left for an afternoon snack. However, today he's eaten two pieces so far (its 4pm) and he managed to spread them out for a piece in the morning and a piece after lunch. Sadly, he's lost squash privileges for this week due to pouring the entire bottle down the sink  :( Shame because trusting him with the pouring was making him feel quite the grown up!

I've yet to say for sure if giving up some control is going to improve our relationship, but I hope so. I'm clearer now about the sort of mother figure I want to him, and how I want to raise my kids. Hopefully this will get us some way there. Trusting him is a really important step.

I'm also rotating his toys and have purchased a stupid amount of rechargeable batteries. Rather predictably, the minute I removed the no longer played with toys and put them in a box for 'rotation' he suddenly remembered them and they became way more appealing!

Lets see how my 90s summer goes. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Step Mums Dos and Don'ts

Can I just say straight away that I love you all so much!

I've had such a massive and overwhelmingly positive response to my blog today. Its fantastic to know we aren't alone in this scary step parenting world, and I love to know I'm helping some of you <3



via GIPHY



Right so, now we have that sorted- today I've been thinking about the Dos and Don'ts of Step Parenting. Its a bit of a mine field at the best of times and having searched through about 20 articles I can't honestly say I've found one that applies to real life. It's all very well saying 'Do have a grateful attitude' but that's really hard at times. Days when your step child has drawn up the wall, spat out the food you spent hours making and refused to talk to you at the amusement park you drove them too (and paid for) makes being grateful a bit of a mission. 'Do have weekly family meetings and make sure your on the same page as your spouse and your ex'. I know- lets all laugh together. Clearly these people have never actually been step parents.

Being a step parent means coming into a family unit that already have their own ways and traditions. That might include things you don't agree with. Over time things should and will change to incorporate your thoughts and perspectives, and as a result behaviours and practises will also change. But its a stupidly long process, one that nearly all of us at some time or another considers walking away from.

I'm 3 years in and by no means the most experienced step mum out there. However, I think we have reached a place of relative peace and harmony, and I have a few helpful pointers to share. Please feel free to add more in the comments- remember when you comment, other people in your situation can see them too, and we can all learn a bit more (and feel less alone)

1. DO be sure he's (or she) is the one. DO NOT enter into this if your not sure/have any nagging doubts. Wait until you are sure. Time if your friend here.

2. DO have realistic expectations. You might get on like a house on fire when you first meet but at some point conflict will occur. It might be because the novelty of you wears off, or because you say 'No' for the first time. DO NOT expect everything to be rosie all the time. Remember 'normal' families have big rows too.

3. DO NOT beat yourself up. About anything. If you shout, if you cook the wrong food, if you try hard and then wonder why you bothered- just don't do it. Lesson learned. You have a lot more to learn. Every day can feel like a lesson at first and some days are a write off. DO know your not alone. We have all been there (big hugs)

4. DO get to know your step children and learn a bit about them before you meet them. It will make starting conversation a bit easier (although if they are teenagers just accept a grunt is probably all you will get). It will probably also make you other half a bit more relaxed about introducing you to his kids as he will feel your interested.  DO NOT impose too many changes too quickly. Trust me, I made this mistake and it's not a brilliant idea. Even if you very strongly disagree with the way something is done, discuss it when the children are gone and take changes on slowly. They are more effective that way.

'Don't come into the stepfamily with your list of ways to "fix" things. "If you do, the kids might see you as trying to erase all evidence of their life before you entered it," says Jenna Korf' 

Quote taken from article 'How to discipline step children' on www.parents.com 


5. DO remember children lash out at biological parents too. They are going to try it out on you as well. In the beginning they are trying to establish new boundaries with you in this new family unit and process their own feelings or hurt, sadness, anger, whatever else at the split/change in the original family unit. This might be added too if BM is fuelling the perception that you are responsible for that change. DO NOT fight that battle alone. Ensure you other half is going to sit down with the children and explain this isn't the case.

6. DO expect to get a sort-of-pass to the mummy club. After all, you now have a title with the word 'mummy' in it. Unfortunately its the least appealing title in the history of the world. DO NOT expect anyone to react positively. Sorry, that's the most disappointing thing in the world. I still introduce my SS as adopted (in my eyes, I've adopted him!) and then people are all 'Oh wow! How lovely!' I think to myself yes, isn't it? I've taken on a child I didn't give birth to, agreed to love them, care for them, educate, discipline, cloth and feed them. I find most mums see me as a bit of an impostor or pretend mum if I tell them im a Step Mum! 

7. DO keep talking. DO NOT list all the things your step kids do that annoy you. Prepare what you want to say before it comes out your mouth. Other wise it will feel like a very very personal attack. 

8. DO get as much support as you can. Read my blog and get the books, join the groups. DO NOT feel alone. 

9. DO allow yourself to love your step kids. It might happen over time, but when it does, just let it. Your not doing anything wrong. DO NOT let anyone feel like you are. Love is love, and all kids thrive on it. 
Image result for date nights
10. DO remember you relationship is the foundation for all this. Keep working at it. Go out still. Make you time. Hire a babysitter if you need to. DO NOT neglect this. If the foundation crumbles, basically, your stuffed. 

DO subscribe and follow me on facebook :) 

#Mummy Trials