165 articles Articles posted in Parenting

Little Emergency Guide for When Mums Need Help

With mother’s day approaching, there are plenty of cards in the shops that are dedicated to the perfect mommy. Mom knows best, the best mother ever, wonder mommy, you name it, there’s a fair bet that the shops have it already! Or if they haven’t, you can probably make you own on an online card provider, so that’s you sorted in a matter of clicks. But to come back to the main topic, mothers, it does happen that sometimes even mommies need a little help to get by. So if you are a mom and you are going through a lot of stress to sort things out, here are the top 6 cases where you can ask for professional help without feeling guilty at all.

Even Mommy needs help

#1. Picking The Perfect Home

If you are looking to move house, you have probably already experienced the difficulty to find the perfect house at the perfect price for your family. For some families, finding their ideal nest can take several months up to a year, and sometimes even longer! It is often a hard task that requires a lot of research and a lot of visits and appointments. More importantly, there’s also the problem of getting a mortgage, preparing for the move and decorating the new place. It’s no wonder that moving house is the third most stressful event after bereavement and divorce. While you can work with a professional estate agency to get on top of the latest properties on the market, you can also set up notification alerts on real estate websites. This will keep you updated with the new houses available in your preferred locations, and it will also help you when you are preparing your application for a mortgage.

#2. Managing Money Effectively

Managing the household budget can be a tricky task, especially when you are facing sudden and unexpected expenses. Financial matters have become a lot more complex nowadays, with the introduction of credit cards, different interest options and dangerous loan scams that promise easy money and drain your budget in repayment. As if things were not complicated enough, the cost of energy and education are rising dangerously too! In short, moms have difficult tasks to keep the budget under control. If you find yourself struggling with repayment to multiple creditors, it may be time to ask for debt management support. This will put you in touch with financial experts who work out a repayment plan that is fully tailored to your personal case. Expenses are easier to manage when you can plan ahead for the end of your worries.

#3. Staying Healthy Every Day

Health is no matter to take lightly. Whether you are looking after your eyesight, your teeth, your skin or even your bones, there are very little elements that you can control about your health. In truth, what you can do is make sure that you have an active lifestyle and a healthy diet so that your body receives all the nutrients and energy that it needs. But you still need to book a regular medical appointment to check your health and the one of your family. Think of the big ETC: Eyes, teeth, and cardio. Additionally, if there is any known issue in your family, such as diabetes or allergies, it’s always a good idea to get it tested regularly for those who are likely to develop similar problems too.  

#4. Recharging Your Batteries

Sometimes everyday pressure gets you. Whether it’s stress at work or family problems, it is difficult to keep a cool head when too much is going on. You need to plan every week a few hours that are entirely dedicated to your mental health. This will help you cool down and relax. What you do during this time is entirely up to you, but it’s best to leave the house and let someone else look after your nerves. A visit to your local spa centre can be just the thing you need. If you’re not one for a massage, have a look at your local gym for yoga classes. Not only this will keep you fit and active, but yoga is great to soothe the soul and the mind during hard times. So make time for yourself and let someone help you relax.  

#5. Maintaining The Home

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, there are certain areas of your home maintenance activities that you can’t do by yourself. Checking the roof, the quality of the insulation and the plumbing and heating systems are some of the elements that need to be trusted to professionals. You will find the exact list of home maintenance and renovation works that you need to rely on professionals within your home insurance contract. Indeed, certain types of work can invalidate your home insurance if they are not performed by a certified expert. Additionally, if you are a working mom, there’s no reason not to hire someone to keep the house clean when you are at work. After all, you surely want to spend more time with your family when you are at home.

#6. Going On Family Holiday Together

There’s no such thing as easy family holidays. Indeed, when you are planning holidays for the whole family, it’s never easy to find the best deal and the best package for your situation. This is why you need to trust travel agencies to help you organise the best vacation at the best price for your family. Whether you only need children-friendly places, or whether you are also looking at specific travel insurances to cover for medical needs too, travel agents have direct access to hundreds of options and travel packages in a matter of a few seconds. They can find the best solution for you while you wait on the phone. This can save a lot of your holiday stress!

In short, whether you are looking after yourself, your budget, your health, your home, your holiday or your family, there’s nothing that says that a super mom can’t use a little help from the experts from time to time. In the end, you want to save as much time as possible to be with your family, so cut the stress and get in touch with qualified advisors.

Boost Your Post-Baby Confidence

Boost Your Post-Baby ConfidenceI don’t know about you, but I am definitely not one of those women who wears pregnancy well. I carry HUGE bumps despite having small babies, suffer with problems with my hips and the closest I come to a ‘glow’ is wiping the sweat from my brow after a particularly nasty bout of morning sickness. By the time baby comes along, most of us feel well and truly battered and it’s basically the law that “normal” women feel a bit lost and frumpy in their post-baby body. I thought I’d take a look at ways to help you to give your confidence a little boost so that you feel more human and ward off those baby blues.

Get Some Exercise

I know. I know. Suggesting exercise when you’ve either squeezed or had a human cut out of your body is probably going to make you hate me, but everyone knows that exercise boosts happy hormone levels, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better. I’m not suggesting you start training for a marathon a couple of weeks post-partum (unless you want to!) but trying a mum and baby exercise class or just going for a walk can really boost your morale and help you lose the excess baby weight.

Get a Hair Transplant

Okay, this one might sound a little bit bonkers but LOTS of women lose hair during pregnancy and for some people, it simply never grows back. Hair transplant cost doesn’t have to be astronomical and if replacing your lost hair gives you your confidence back, it’s priceless.

Make Time for Friends

Sometimes, being a new mum can feel incredibly isolating and months can fly by in a baby-haze before you realise how lonely you are. Making time to see your friends can be incredibly theraputic and just getting the chance to have a chinwag with someone over the age of ten can give you more of a boost than almost anything else.

Take Care of Yourself

When Sausage was born, I became obsessed with painting my nails. I bought dozens of different colours and my nails always looked great. There was something really soothing about taking ten minutes for myself while she was napping to make sure just one part of me looked good, even when the rest of me was unwashed and plastered in baby sick! It doesn’t have to be nails – shape your brows, do your make-up, whatever it is to perk you up, tale some time to do it.

Remember You’re Part of a Couple

I think it’s incredibly common for new parents to get so completely caught up in parenting that they forget that they’re also someone’s partner. If you don’t want to have someone else look after the baby, plan a mini-date for when baby naps and have an adult conversation with your other half. We went to Wagamama last week and there was a young couple with a tiny baby in a carseat, fast asleep on the table the whole time they were eating, but at least they were spending time with one another.

Parenting Groups: Five Reasons for Quitting

parenting groupsFor a fair while, I’ve been part of a few different parenting groups on Facebook, places where mums and dads can go to ask questions about anything from “does this rash look like chickenpox?” to “which shops have Hatchimals in stock?” and largely it’s been good. I’ve asked plenty of questions myself and try to help others where I can. But, as of yesterday, I’ve removed myself from these groups (all but The Motherload) because it’s just messing with my head. There are questions which get asked over and over and OVER again and they’re things which make me so cross that I can actually FEEL my blood pressure rising. Here’s just 5 of those questions:

1. Vaccinations

This was the one which prompted me to remove myself yesterday and it’s probably the one which makes me the MOST angry. Someone asked “Have any other parents refused vaccinations for their kids and has is caused them problems with school and nursery?”. The comments are full of people who think they know better than the World Health Organisation (despite the fact that they get their info from American websites with URLs like VacTruth.com and nothing with any basis in actual science). Just in the last month, I’ve seen people cite the inclusion of mercury and aluminium in vaccines as a reason not to give them as well as one woman who claimed that the flu vaccine contained MSG which is, WAIT FOR IT…WORSE THAN GIVING HER CHILD COCAINE. (FML)Another woman claimed that she knew all about herd immunity and it meant that her child didn’t need vaccinations, thus proving that she actually knew nothing about fucking herd immunity.  I was one step shy of spamming the group of pictures of kids with smallpox, so I decided it was best to step away.

2. Baby Names

I’m aware that what people on random parenting groups name their kids is absolutely NONE of my business, but every time there was a “can I have suggestions of names for my unborn child?” thread, I’d read through with my head in my hands, feeling really sorry for the future generation of children who were going to have names like “Aliviyah” (pronounced Olivia, just in case you were wondering) and feeling like I was living in a real life Idiocracy.

3. Nub Theory

“Oh hi everyone. Can you look at this scan picture of my baby (who is probably too young to have even properly developed reproductive organs yet) and guess what their gender might be based on a totally theoretical and unproven method of working it out?”. Nub theory is a THEORY. Asking strangers to guess the gender of your unborn child is stupid.

4. Keeping Up with The Jonses

Do you know what I found myself Googling the other day? Matching Christmas dresses for me and the girls. Thanks to the people on Facebook parenting groups who go absolutely fucking OVERBOARD every Christmas with their EXPERIENCES and their CHRISTMAS EVE BOXES and their “BOOK-A-DAY” ADVENT CALENDARS and ALLLLLLL the other overblown shit that everyone MUST do and MUST talk about at length so that they can lord it over everyone else, I am seriously considering matching outfits for myself, my eight year old and my two year old for Christmas Day. And I’m pretty sure that makes me a massive twat.

5. Nastiness

I’m aware that what I’ve written above may seem like a bit of nastiness but this is NOTHING compared with some of the vile behaviour I’ve seen from grown people in parenting groups. There’s a LOT of stuff which gets discussed that I don’t agree with but I always try to be respectful and give replies to people based on actual knowledge and not just knee-jerk reactions. Often though (I assume on days when there’s a full moon and everyone’s menstrual cycle is syncronised) things can get NASTY. Simple threads about bottle feeding can lead to struggling Mums being called c*nts and being left wishing they hadn’t asked in the first place and it’s that kind of behaviour that I just don’t want to be a part of.

Are you a member of any of these kid of online groups? Do you find that they enhance your life or do you step away from your phone or PC feeling like your head is going to explode? I’d love to hear from you!

Technology and Kids: Moderation is the Key

kids and technologyTechnology. It’s one of those things which can be SO good when it works but can also be the bane of your life when it doesn’t. We’re quite “techy”, here in the Mum’s the Word house, and all of us have various devices that we use on a daily basis. The girls have tablets and Sausage has a mobile phone which she got for her last birthday, mostly to allow her to go Pokemon hunting without needing to use my phone!

However, it’s not without it’s issues; I often find myself spending far too much time on Facebook or Reddit or playing some mobile game and sometimes I realise I’ve spent almost all day staring at a screen, and naturally, Sausage would be the same if we allowed her unfettered access to her phone. She only uses her phone at home, but just recently My Voucher Codes conducted a survey which found that 75% of parents feel that mobile devices have a negative effect on their children’s education and how social media platforms have become so distracting to students that they are less likely to concentrate during lessons.

I do think that a lot of the problem is the lack of monitoring that goes on – just because Sausage has her own technology doesn’t mean that she is able to use them autonomously – Husband and I have to approve every app she installs and we like to ensure she has a mixture of fun and educational apps. Pokemon Go encourages exercise, so we’re happy for her to use it, and she also has apps which help her to learn foreign languages, her times table and which encourage her to train her memory.

I also think that the issue is WHEN children are allowed to use their phones. Until she’s a LOT older, Sausage won’t be allowed to take her device to school because she simply doesn’t need it. Also, when she’s at home she has to have completed her homework before she can use her phone and we don’t let her use it for hours on end. She also has to put it down at least an hour before bed because it’s now been proven that looking at screens can interrupt a person’s circadian rhythm and we certainly don’t want her to be unable to sleep!

Chris Riley from My Voucher Codes thoughts on technology for kids echo my own:

“It’s interesting to see that three quarters of parents feel that mobiles, tablets and gaming devices have a negative effect on their child’s education, yet half admit that they do not restrict the time that their child spends on the internet.

“Monitoring your child’s internet and social media usage is now more important than ever. Although there is a range of benefits from spending time online, including increased communication and access to information, there is also the risk of online bullying, depression caused by online altercations and exposure to inappropriate content. Setting ground rules, checking privacy settings and monitoring what your child is sharing are good steps to take to ensure your child stays safe online.”

He added: “We find using our mobile or tablet devices can easily take over our lives and those of our children. Setting times when you children can use these devices means they are not on their phones 24/7. It will also be beneficial to their health if they are not on devices late into the night as well as improving their concentration in class.”

How do you feel about mobile devices for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts so do leave me a comment below.

The Real World Parenting Awards with Infacol

Sometimes, parenting can be a lonely business. Even if you have a loving partner to share the highs and lows, there are always times when we feel overwhelmed by the pressure of being a parent. Many of us are lucky though, in that we have that one person around to lend support, sympathy and occasional tea making skills, just to take the edge off and make us feel human again. Perhaps its a friend, family member or even a trusted health professional who went above and beyond their call of duty to support you.

For me, it was my Mother in Law. Obviously, Husband was around and we shared the parental responsibilities and stresses, but his mum was a godsend at times. From doing simple things like coming over and doing the washing up to letting me use her as a sounding board when the stress of dealing with a colicky baby with a cows milk protein allergy got on top of me, she was there through thick and thin…and still is.

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that I had no contact with my own mother throughout my pregnancy with Burrito Baby, nor since, which was hard. A mum is someone who is supposed to be there to listen to your woes and make you feel better, and I didn’t have that. Except, thanks to my Mother in Law, I did have it. She stepped in and became more than just a Mother in Law, she became more like a Mum to me, as well as a close friend and ally. She’s still the person I ask for advice about everything from how to make dumplings to whether I can get away with wearing a maxi dress!

You may wonder why I’m telling you this? Well, Infacol have teamed up with the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology to launch the The Real World Parenting Awards, designed to reward those real-life heroes who make those first few months of parenthood more manageable.

“Having a baby is a life changing experience and an incredible one, but it can be stressful,” says Dr. Hilary Jones, who will be part of the judging panel. “If you’re lucky enough to have a wonderful family around you, or great friends, it can make a huge difference.”

As well as honouring friends and family, the awards are also looking for nominees for the health care professionals who have gone above and beyond to help someone under their care.

“Becoming a parent for the first time isn’t easy, and the first six months can be especially tough,” explains PCSG Chair, Dr. Richard Stevens*. “That’s why families need support, and the encouragement they receive from their GP or health visitor can make all the difference. As professionals, we sometimes forget we can provide a lot by just being there and being constant.”

The Real World Parenting Awards will be launched this July with two separate categories: one for health professionals, which has been developed by the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology, and one for supportive family and friends. Both awards are supported by an educational grant from Infacol.

Ts & Cs

Launching in July with a presentation in September, the Real World Parenting Awards will be open to nominations from appreciative parents, colleagues or the individuals themselves. The entry criteria are simple: an individual who has demonstrated the ability to go above and beyond. Just let us know their name, workplace (if nominating a health professional) and why you want to nominate them by emailing competitions@satellitepr.com. The closing date for nominations is July 31st. Entries will be judged by a panel of PCSG Chair Dr. Richard Stevens*, GP Dr. Hilary Jones**, and Native Media founder and mum-of-three Jo Studholme.

The winning health professional will receive an educational grant of £1000 from the PCSG to further their career or chosen area of research. Those who nominate their superstar health professional will also be entered into a prize draw for the chance to win a short break at Knoll House, Britain’s original family friendly hotel.

Do you have someone in your life who has gone above and beyond for you and your new family? Leave me a comment below, and of course, don’t forget to nominate them!

Visit www.pcsg.org.uk for more information

twitter.com/PCSGastro (@PCSGastro)

For further information on the PCSG please contact:

Kirsty – secretariat@pcsg.org.uk


Infacol, Britain’s Number One Infant Colic remedy (based on IRI unit sales data 19/03/16), is licensed for the treatment of infant colic, wind and griping pain. It can be used from birth onwards and comes with a handy dropper, making it easy to give your baby.

For the treatment of colic. Contains Simeticone. Always read the label.

Visit www.infacol.co.uk for more information.

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

I’ve always been a huge fan of kids using technology; I know lots of people think that screen time is negative for kids, and I agree that all things should be in moderation, but I strongly believe that children can learn a lot from various apps and programs and that they should have time on devices without us leaning over their shoulders.

Sausage is at an age now where her interest in the internet has evolved slightly. No longer is she spending ages on the Cbeebies website or using the Mister Maker app to make beautiful, fridge-worthy creations. Now, she’s also asking about websites (like the ones you see advertised on the TV) which allow users to not only play games, but chat with one another too, which really concerns me. I have no objections to her chatting with friends online, but these websites are SO often a completely unknown quantity and can be a portal to online bullying, which is why I was keen to help when a cyber-bullying charity got in touch. Here’s what they had to say:

To mark this year’s Stop Cyberbullying Day on Friday 17 June, anti-bullying charity Bullies Out has partnered with data analytics firm Online Them to raise awareness of the risks of cyberbullying and what parents can do to spot the warning signs in time.

Monitoring software such as Online Them enables parents and teachers to keep an eye on children’s online activities and highlight any causes for concern. Any monitoring of online activity tends to spark handwringing sermons about the right to privacy. But this is not another example of Big Brother clipping the wings of youngsters trying to explore the world and all the opportunities that brings. Nor does it give parents and teachers free reign to spy on children.

Tools using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing can identify and highlight anything of concern or unusual to an individual child such as social media posts containing adult content, or mentions of crime, as well as flagging any new friends in countries outside the UK and a rank of who a child is interacting with most on social media. This is done on a consent-only basis, meaning a child has to agree to the use of software to monitor their high-level social media use. Consent can be given easily and quickly via an email invitation – all they have to do is click the attached link and authorize access to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. They can connect all three accounts or just one or two.

Monitoring tools present a great way to hold a child’s hand as they enter the world of social media. Parents and teachers can both use these tools to safeguard children in a low-maintenance and non-intrusive way.

Sausage uses her own iPad and laptop, both of which are internet enabled and I really don’t like to be hanging over her shoulder the whole time, so using an online monitoring software would really give us peace of mind. She’s not allowed anywhere NEAR Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other places where random people could gain access to her, and Husband and I will be thinking long and hard about whether she’ll ever be allowed accounts on these sites, while she’s under our rules.

If you want some really handy tips on how to keep your kids safe online, take a look at the Bullies Out site, where there is a whole wealth of information, and also links to allow you to donate to this excellent cause. Online Them are also currently offering a free one month trial for parents, allowing you to try the site before you commit to a subscription.

How do you moderate your kids online usage? Have you got any apps installed? Have you ever had to deal with cyber-bullying? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment below.

How To Encourage Your Children To Follow Their Dreams

Credit

Being a parent has many different and often difficult aspects to it. One key side of things is encouraging their psychological and emotional growth. This is often considerably harder said than done. However, it is a vital and necessary part of being a parent. Any parent who wants to do their job as well as possible needs to learn to come to terms with this side of things. If you are a parent, and you are wondering how to achieve this, then this post is for you. We will be looking at the main ways in which you can encourage your children to follow their dreams. While this might sound a tad cliched, it is in fact an essential part of growing up. There are many things you can do to encourage this kind of psychological growth in your children. Let’s take a look at some of them now.

Prepare & Plan

This is one of the main ideas which you would do well to instill in your children. No matter what task they are facing in life, they should remember the importance of preparing and planning. Chances are, they will start to understand the importance of this from a very young age. However, it becomes more and more important as they get older. As more responsibility gets taken on, you should express how important it is that they learn the relevance of planning. When they go to university, you have a great opportunity for this. Help them prepare their Uni Baggage and their paperwork. This will put them in good stead for the remainder of their life.

Persist

This one is vital for the healthy development of your children. All too often, kids are inadvertently taught that giving up early is a viable option. In truth, this is in part because of our fast food culture of instant gratification. That’s why you should do everything you can to encourage your children to foster the quality of persistence. Doing so is now no less than a revolutionary act. Whenever your kids come into something difficult, encourage them to carry on. This doesn’t mean wilfully putting them through excessive pain. It just means that you encourage them to keep their heads up and carry on. This is an important quality for just about anyone to develop.

Collaborate

One of the most important values in our society and in the world is teamwork. Your children need to learn to be part of a team as well as an individual. You should try to encourage your children to be willing to ask others for help. This is a vital lesson that everybody needs to learn: there is no shame in asking for help. The other side to this, of course, is to be readily available to give help to others. This is the give-and-take which you should try to instill in your children. It will set them up well for their adult life. Being willing to help others, and being happy to ask for help, are useful qualities.

Why I’m Not A “Cool Mum” (And Why I’m Totally Okay With That)

Cool MumBeing a parent really makes you view things in a totally different way. I was talking to some friends the other day about how, when we were kids, we did the whole ‘hanging out in front of the shops to ask an adult to buy us cigarettes’ thing. We were all saying that, now we’re mums, there’s no way in the WORLD that we’d buy cigarettes for a child who was underage and that when we look back, it was terrible of us to have been coercing adults into our naughtiness, but it’s a prime example of how our views have changed with our personal circumstances.

Last week was Sausage’s school disco and it’s kind of a tradition that I always go along and help out, usually on the stall which sells all the novelty neon crap that the kids absolutely lap up. I commented to another mum that there seemed to be a whole lot more make up, perfume, body glitter and skimpy clothing at this disco, which is mental given the fact that the oldest kids there would have been 9. I know they’re in the juniors now, but it seems like they’ve all suddenly taken a massive leap away from childhood and towards the hairy, scary teen years.

It got me to thinking; should I be letting Sausage experiment with these things more to help her to fit in? Obviously, my brain screamed ‘NO’ before the thought even completely formed, and here’s why: I firmly think that allowing her to wear make-up to events would be selfish of me. You see, I’m completely against it, so if I were to loosen the rules, the ONLY reason would be so that she’d think I was a “cool mum”. I’m sure she’d be thrilled if I let her leave the house in make-up, but who would ultimately benefit?

The thing is, for me, parenthood is about being the bad guy sometimes. I’m sure Sausage would think I was the best Mum ever if I suddenly became permissive and let her wear make up, skimpy clothes, forget her homework, generally get away with living the easy life. But as her mother, it’s ON ME (and Husband, obviously) to make sure she does things, no matter how much it might make her resent us or how horrible it feels to be the bad guy. And, I’ll go as far as to say that, sometimes, I really don’t give a toss how much they hate me – homework needs to be done, manners need to be remembered and some rules MUST be followed, no exceptions.

Don’t get the wrong, I’m not talking about being a hard-ass all the time; she’s a really good kid which means she often gets leniency just because we know she’s the sort of kid who won’t take a mile when given an inch. We use our judgement to decide what’s okay and what’s not and I’m sure that, sometimes, our version of okay is different to what other people might consider suitable (for instance, she’s a huge fan of Bob’s Burgers, which is probably not aimed at her age group but we know she’s mature enough to deal with the slightly more grown-up themes in some episodes).

The main thought that I can’t shake is simply that Mums aren’t supposed  to be cool. Sure, there are times when mine and Sausage’s interests overlap but largely, kids are supposed to cringe at their hideously outdated parents. As a person, I’m not trying to appeal to a 7-year-olds sensibilities and I feel like it would be really weird if I did. It’s one thing to enjoy watching Harry Potter together, but it’s quite another when you realise that the parent is actually sadly immature and is trying to avoid being a grown-up!

However, the fact is, as parent, it’s our job to make the tough decisions, to be the ones to guide the girls in right or wrong and to make them do the things they don’t want to do, regardless of how much it might make them hate us, or how ‘uncool’ we seem. So, you see, I’m absolutely FINE with not being a ‘cool’ mum, because that means that I’m being a good Mum. What do you think? Is it possible to be “cool” and consistent? Do you go our of your way to be a cool Mum or would you rather be seen as a stuffy old adult if it means your kids are safe and happy? I’d love to hear what you think, so do leave me a comment below.

“You Look Like a Girl”

boy dressed as princessThe other day, I needed to buy some new pillows so I went to the supermarket and was wandering around the clothing and home wares department having a browse. It was pretty quiet in there as it was only about 9.15am and there were only one or two other shoppers in the whole place. One other customer was a woman, probably in her mid-to-late twenties and her son, who obviously wasn’t quite school age yet, but still looked roughly 4-ish.

The kid was wandering around fairly unchecked and at one point started to try things on from one of those free-standing jewellery and accessory displays that turns – you know the ones, right? Anyway, he became particularly enamoured with a pair of novelty sunglasses which had red, heart-shaped frames. He put them on and after admiring himself in the tiny mirror for a few seconds, turned to his Mum and, with huge amounts of pride and happiness said “Mum! Look at me! I love these glasses!”.

The mother turned to him, narrowed her eyes and with pure vitriol in her voice said “Oh my god, take those off, you look like a girl”.

My initial reaction was one of sadness as I watched the boy, clearly deflated after being rebuffed by the mother from whom he’d so wanted a little bit of praise and affirmation, take off the glasses and put them gently back on the shelf. He looked really sad, and not in that “I wanted something and Mum wouldn’t buy it for me” way that kids do, but in a genuinely confused and upset way.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the madder I’ve felt.

Firstly, what is it about red, heart shaped glasses which is designated as a GIRLS ONLY thing? Even if you do subscribe to the (bloody annoying) notion that colours are somehow gendered, surely red is a pretty neutral colour? And hearts…I mean, do only girls have hearts?! Err, no.

Secondly, even if you do think that red, heart shaped glasses are ‘girly’, SO WHAT if he does look like a girl? How is that somehow a negative thing? Is it really so bad to let a child experiment with what they feel comfortable in and form their own notions of femininity and masculinity? I know loads of guys (Husband included on one or two occasions) who’ve worn pink and absolutely rocked it. They didn’t look like girls, they looked like MEN IN PINK, just like this little boy simply looked like a boy in heart-shaped glasses. There’s a big difference.

Also, I genuinely thought we were getting past the days of negative gender stereotypes? I see little boys on my friends’ Facebook timelines playing with dollies, pushchairs, vaccums, ironing boards; all toys which, even in my lifetime, would have firmly been in the girls toys aisle and equally, I see MANY girls playing with Thomas the Tank Engine – Burrito Baby got her own tool kit and farm vehicles for her 2nd birthday whilst Sausage’s favourite things are Pokemon, Match Attax and her NERF guns. But these are “boys toys”, no? Or, is it possible, that we can just have fun with things we like, regardless. Well, yes, obviously it is.

It makes me so sad to think that little boys are having their joy, their individuality and their creativity squashed by parents with an archaic notion of what it is to be a boy and I really dread to think about the issues that this could cause them as they grow up. As a parent, I strongly believe that, although it’s our job to guide our children in terms of morality, safety and care, it’s also really important to allow them to develop their sense of self.

What do you think? Would you allow your sons to wear red, heart-shaped sunglasses? Or do you think that boys should be boys and girls should be girls and that the old-fashioned line in the sand between the two genders should remain? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Preparing For That Family Camping Holiday

It’s always a good idea to provide variety for your family, particularly when it comes to holidays. As they say, travel broadens the mind – and getting your kids off to an early start in that respect is a great idea. That adage applies equally well whether you intend to holiday at home or abroad. But at home, there are particular favourite holidays which really work wonders with the whole family. Camping is one of the most popular choices for many families – and it’s not hard to figure out why. Provided that you are graced with some decent weather, camping can really be a memorable experience. For families in particular, it can do wonders for bringing everyone together. However, if you want it to be a successful holiday, then you need to prepare. Preparation is the key to success in everything, family holidays included. Read on now to find out some top tips for being as prepared as possible for your camping holiday.

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Get The Right Gear

As with anything, it is a really good idea to have the right equipment for the job. This ensures that you don’t come upon many nasty surprises later on. You can’t prepare for every eventuality possible, of course. But what you can do is prepare for most of them. And to do that, you need to get a little clever with your planning. Some of the equipment is obvious – things such as tents and sleeping bags are a given. However, which type to get is another matter altogether – and something which is up for much debate. Ask people who go camping regularly, and they will all have different responses to give you. Ultimately, what is important is that you research the products thoroughly. The last thing you want is to find that you do not have everything you need.

When it comes to buying a decent tent, space is the priority. Other qualities – like being waterproof – are more or less a given. But if you do not have enough space for all the family, it is a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t matter how close-knit a family you are, in close quarters things can get tense. So treat yourself to a tent which is slightly too large. You may well be glad that you did.

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Plan It Out

You can, of course, just go where the wind takes you and see what happens. There is something exciting about this, and much to be gained from it. However, when you are taking the whole family camping, it might not be the best idea. With a whole family event, it is probably best to plan it out in as much detail as possible. In all likelihood, this will save a great deal of trouble for everyone involved. There is really only a limited amount that you need to plan – but make sure you do, and you’ll save yourself a headache.

The most important thing is to plan the route there and home. Don’t forget the second part – many people do, and it makes getting home that much more stressful. That’s the last thing you want after a nice holiday with the family.

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Check The Car

Speaking of being on the road, it is probably a good idea to check your car beforehand. This is especially important if you are going on a long journey. For example, if you will be going to the other end of the country, then it is best to take a lot of care with your car. This is important for a number of reasons. The most important – and most obvious – is that you need to take care of your family. The last thing you want is for there to be a road accident or something of that nature. Even just breaking down can be a real nightmare; best to avoid it altogether.

Check the oil and water levels, and top them up if necessary. You do not want your engine to burn out when you are halfway to the campsite. While you’re at it, check your Bridgestone tyres to see if they need any more pressure. At the same time, check the tread. If they have worn down, consider replacing the tyres.

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Do A Test Run

Finally, remember that going away with your family can be a big event. For that reason, it is probably worth doing a test run first. This can be as simple as going to a local campsite and staying for one night. Or you could just have a night in the garden. Testing it out in this way is a great way to iron out any kinks – while having fun with the family!