Mum dating

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Making friends with other mums…it’s a bit like dating. Well that’s been my experience of it thus far, anyway.

At the grand old age of 28, I thought I’d pretty much got all the friends I needed. But then I had a baby, and after the initial influx of guests and well wishes, it all tailed off. People had their own lives to get back to – lives that don’t revolve around my little bundle of joy. And I realised that maternity leave was going to be a bit lonely if I didn’t get out there and start finding some new mum friends.

I’ll admit it took me some time to get going. It’s tricky. I joined a couple of baby groups. As you enter the room for that first session, you look around the room searching out the mums that look like you may have something in common with. Of course, we all share one thing in common – we’re mums – but you need more than that. It’s like dating – you need to click!

Even when you do think you’ve met a mum or two that you think you like the look of, you’ve then got to initiate next steps. If you want to meet up outside of baby group, you need to find a way of contacting them. And you’ve also got to hope that they like you too. “Erm, do you fancy swapping numbers?” Awkward!

But I can tell you from experience that it is so worth going through that awkward stage. I kind of wish I’d bitten the bullet sooner. I went out for lunch and a walk with a super lovely mum and our babies last week for the first time – and I thought, ‘why on earth haven’t we done this sooner?’

Funnily enough, I’ve also made some fantastic friends through the power of social media. If you’d have asked me eight months ago that this would be the case, I think I’d have been pretty surprised. But there are some fabulous ladies who I now count as close friends, all of whom I’ve met or reconnected with through Instagram and Facebook.

A couple of months ago, Ralphie and I also met up with a group of mamas through a group we’d set up on Instagram. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous, especially when you hear about some of the weirdos on the internet. But we turned up and everyone was so sweet (which is a relief, because they’re probably reading this!). We’re in the process of organising another get together soon. Pretty cool, huh?

One thing I will say is that mum dating really isn’t that scary once you get into it. Plus, don’t forget that you have your wingman or lady next to you. These babies of ours are great for breaking the ice.

Being mama

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He did it. Finally! After flaunting “dada” in my face for months, Ralphie has finally said “mama”. And it wasn’t a fluke. He’s said it more than once. I can confirm that he is now back in my good books.

I’m not sure there is any meaning behind it yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s shouting “mama” at me – a lot – so he can get my attention. Maybe it will replace his little cough of dissatisfaction!

This motherhood business certainly makes you appreciate the small things in life. Well actually, that’s not quite true. The small things in life suddenly become very big moments. The way Ralphie looks at me; the way he grabs hold of me and nestles his head into me when his daddy is tickling him; his giggles; his beautiful big grin; the way he scrunches his nose up as he feeds; the way he laughs and grips on if one of us is following him up the stairs; his delight when we sing and dance…

Together, we are living through so many special moments. To an outsider, they may not seem much, but for us they’re so profound. I am constantly overwhelmed by how much I love my boy and all of the things he does.

So when he said “mama”, my heart swelled with pride. We were all together in the kitchen. Ryan yelped with delight and we all started clapping and telling Ralphie what a good boy he was.

And he really is. Being mama is not plain sailing. There are times when that little face looks up at me and that feeling of daunting responsibility washes over me and I panic about all of the things that could happen to him in the future. But then I take a step back and appreciate us and him for the now. A love this strong is so so precious, and I’m going to cherish every moment.

Eight months on the outside

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Of all the monthly milestones to write about, eight months probably isn’t the most obvious. But I feel compelled to write about it, because this last month has brought about some of the greatest changes yet.

Until now, I would say that Ralphie’s development has felt fairly steady. It’s not until I look back at his newborn pictures that I realise how much he has grown. But, as I’ve said before, over these last few weeks, I’ve noticed a real change in him. My baby boy isn’t so much of a baby any more. He’s on the move (nearly), he’s eating food (albeit mush), he’s chatting more than ever, and somehow he seems much more knowing.

His latest trick is to pull himself up using the person holding him as a support. Up and down he goes, like a yo-yo. His Grandma taught him this at the weekend. Thanks mum!

Of course, he hasn’t said “mama” yet. When he does you will certainly hear about it! I’m sure he’s got it in his locker, but he’s making me work for it. At the moment, when I ask him to say it, he just beams back at me. Cheeky monkey.

With Ralphie now eight months old, it also means that I’ve had eight months off on maternity leave – 34 weeks to be exact. And that means that my maternity pay will stop soon. Cue panic mode!

The other week, I went to look at a nursery near to my work for when I do go back. It was absolutely fine. The staff seemed lovely and the facilities were good. But I’ve not committed yet. I’m just not sure. It’s a big decision. I think I’m going to go and see a couple of local childminders too.

If all goes well with work, Ralphie will be away from me for three days a week. I’m sure he will love it. Me, not so much! I know it’s going to be heart wrenching leaving him, so I want to make sure he’s in the best possible care when he’s not with me. And how can I know that from a quick nursery tour? I’ll make a decision soon. I need to, otherwise all the available places at the good ones will go. Oh the irony!

Once I sort out my new work role and Ralphie’s childcare, I’ve then got the rest of the summer off with my boy, and I’m going to cherish those days so so much. Of course, once he’s running around, I may be quite grateful of the opportunity to have a few days “off” at work. He’s already quite the handful. Goodness knows what the next month will bring.

On the move

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I’ve been rather excited to write about this. It’s the moment we’re all waiting for but slightly dreading at the same time: baby on the move!

Ralphie isn’t quite crawling yet, but this week I’ve noticed a new determination in him to get to where he wants. If you pick him up, straight away he’s reaching and squirming and wriggling to be somewhere else. If you pop him down on the floor (he’s now sturdy enough that I usually sit him down), he’s leaning forward, getting into that all fours position, ready to be off.

For now, he’s getting around by using more of a commando move rather than a crawl. He can twissle pretty effectively doing this! And then he rolls to get to where he needs. So far, he’s only travelling a metre or so at a time, but now he’s getting the hang of it I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s everywhere. Is it about now that I grow a pair of eyes in the back of my head?

As every day, week and month passes by, I marvel at his development. But it’s this past month or so that I’ve seen the biggest change yet. He’s looking so much more grown up. He’s eating his food really well. He’s piled on the pounds! He’s chatting constantly (although “mama” remains elusive). He’s sitting with complete ease. He’s rolling and pulling himself up. He’s stronger. He’s become so much more sure of himself.

I’ve always wanted to be a mum. And now I am one I can honestly say it’s the most brilliant thing ever. I look back on those newborn days where he slept on me constantly and cherish them dearly. But I am so excited about what’s to come. He’s currently lying next to me, flat on his back, arms and legs out like a starfish, snoring peacefully. Don’t wake yet, little man, because when you do, it’s go go go! I’m off to get a sneaky coffee.

The sun has got his hat on

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What a glorious few days of sunshine we’ve had. At the weekend it felt practically tropical. Legs out, suncream on – off we popped outside to enjoy it all. We even had a crazy thunderstorm to make it feel like we really were in the Caribbean. I’m talking torrential rain, thunder and lightning directly overhead. Real drama!

This weather is perhaps made even more special by the fact we knew it wouldn’t last long. This morning, we’ve woken up to rain. But it will be back. And next time I’m planning to be a little better prepared.

You see the thing is, being out in the sunshine is a bit different now we have a little one. It’s fine if I accidentally catch a few too many rays and go slightly rouge (it’s my own fault, after all), but it’s a completely different story with a baby.

We had a hot sunny spell a couple of weeks ago, so I promptly went out and bought the highest factor suncream I could get my hands on. It’s the type that’s so thick and white it makes poor Ralphie look like a ghost. But it works, which is the main thing.

And then I went searching for a sun hat. It’s harder than you think, especially if you want a nice one. I settled for one from The White Company. In the online pics it looked promising, but I’ve done the typical mum thing and bought it too big. It’s ok for now; Ralphie’s been wearing it, but I’m on the hunt for a better alternative, and preferably something that covers his ears. I’m thinking a straw fedora, but the chances of him keeping it on are slim.

I’m also on the lookout for some type of portable pop-up tent to keep Ralphie shaded. We have a rubbish garden (it’s more like a yard with a brick floor), so it would be more for when we’re out and about. I tell you, I’d underestimated the challenges of protecting a little one’s delicate skin from these harsh rays.

But protect it I will. I must be getting old, because the idea of burning my skin doesn’t seem particularly appealing these days. And if it happened to Ralphie, I’d be horrified!

Tea with Didi and Bud

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If you follow Becky Hodges on Instagram (@just_another_instamum), you will know that she’s partial to a good brew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pretty cups of tea! But in between sipping on a strong Assam with a drop or two of honey (her personal favourite), holding down a part-time job, being wife to Dean, and mum to Monty (nearly three) and Willow (17 months), Becky has also been busy creating her own baby sleepwear line. I don’t know where she finds the time!

Launching next month, Didi and Bud is an English homegrown brand with a focus on design-led, minimalist sleepsuits. Everything, from the sleepsuit patterns to the beautiful prints are Becky’s creation, with a little help from her nearest and dearest. The top hat pattern, for instance, was designed by her and then drawn by her dad.

Named after her two children – Didi is the name affectionately given to Willow by her big brother, and Bud comes from “little buddy”, something Becky has always called her son – Didi and Bud is all about bringing a classic yet modern twist to baby sleepwear.

Fresh and minimalist

“I wanted to create something different – something with a minimalist feel and a real focus on the design element,” Becky says. “I’ve always loved the babies looking little and being comfy, but I wanted to see more grown-up designs. Yes, these sleepsuits are for babies, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be adorned with bright colours, teddy bears and Disney characters.”

Becky’s debut collection takes on a quintessentially English, mini gent and little woman theme. “English fashion is very much about ladies and gentlemen at the moment, and I wanted to translate that to babywear too,” she says.

To start with, there will be four different patterns you can get your hands on – the penny farthing, top hats, lace umbrella and the vintage bicycle, in black, blue, pink and grey, respectively. While proud of them all, she admits that the penny farthing is probably her stand-out piece. “I’ve got a big monochrome crush, and I’m so pleased with how this one turned out. I hope it will be popular with all the other monochrome lovers out there too.”

Made in England

Aside from the aesthetic, Becky has also been determined to produce her sleepsuits locally and has paid a great deal of attention to sourcing her materials. “From the start, my aim has been to create safe and comfortable clothing which I am ethically and socially proud of,” she says. “I was keen to support British makers, but it was also important to have absolute confidence in the materials I was choosing.”

Months and months of preparation have got Becky to where she is today. Last week she unveiled Didi and Bud on Instagram, and from 1 June she’ll be taking her first orders.

“I don’t know if I will make a success of this. But I feel like I owe it to myself and my littlies to give it a go,” she says. “As a new mum who’s recently stepped away from my career and then stepped back again, I realised that I wanted to be in control of my work/life balance. I don’t want to be a commute away from my children.

“Like many mothers, when on maternity leave, I found myself feeling more creative. I couldn’t turn my back on that,” she adds. “I hope this new venture will teach me a lot about the creative world and what it takes to be a mumpreneur.”

Different is good

To anyone else thinking of setting up their own business, Becky has a tip or two. “I guess I’d say, trust your gut instinct. And make sure your ideas are your own; have faith in what you’re doing. My babygrows are meant to be a little bit different, so I completely understand that they won’t appeal to everyone. I’m just following my own ideas and what feels right for my designs, similarly to the way I am with my children.”

And finally, Becky says that you should always prepare yourself for the odd setback. “It will happen, but it’s about figuring out how to bounce back. Oh and buy lots of teabags!”

You can find Didi and Bud on Instagram. The website is coming soon.

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