sleepyhead-lifebylotte

My mum had a point when she said there’s a lot of baby ‘stuff’ available today that her generation coped perfectly well without. I remember moaning about her point of view in one of my pregnancy updates, but now, I’m starting to come around to it. There are plenty of things that I can’t imagine doing without – my Perfect Prep machine, for example, has been a lifesaver – but then there are other things, such as the Bumbo seat, which, while useful at the time, definitely wasn’t an essential. But my biggest regret, purchase wise, has to be the damn Sleepyhead.

The irony is that I think I wrote about this ‘wonder product’ in a post when Daph was tiny, calling it one of my most useful purchases. And I suppose it has been useful, but it’s come at a price.

It was the lactation consultant we saw when Daph was about five days old who first told me about the Sleepyhead. She said every mum and dad she saw nowadays had ‘one of those cushion things, so you can have the baby sleeping next to you during the day’. Of course, I went straight on Amazon after she’d left and bought us one (blame the new mum hormones – I was sucking up advice left right and centre like a very dry sponge). And it was useful in that we had it on the sofa with us a few times when Daph was napping. But if I’m honest, I think a MOSES BASKET would have done much the same job. And if I could turn back the clock now, I’d buy a moses basket for Daph when she was first born, which I would put in the Chicco Next 2 Me at night time. If my mum is reading this (hi Mum!) she’ll be rubbing her hands and mouthing I told you so at the screen, no doubt.

But we live and learn. The problem with the Sleepyhead is that you pay a very heavy price for it. Not just in money (and it is stupidly expensive for what is essentially a fancy cushion). But in the future. It’s all very well when you first tuck your little one in and feel pleased that they are all comfy and cosy in their cocoon. But then they get bigger. And bigger. And the Sleepyhead doesn’t. So it starts to be too small for them. So then you try to get them to sleep without it, and all hell breaks loose.

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It’s OK though, because you can go back to John Lewis or Amazon and spend EVEN MORE money on a giant version of the Sleepyhead. What thoughtful folk they are! And of course, you get a spare cover for another £493, because you just know there will be puke incidents. Problem solved.

For now.

The next problem arises when you try to get your baby to nap somewhere else – in a travel cot at her grandparents’ house for example, or on holiday – and you’ve neglected to bring the Sleepyhead. No chance sucker. Your baby is now totally used to turning about in her bed and bumping off the sides and without them, she feels lost, confused and uncomfortable. Which means she wakes up a lot. And cries.

It also becomes a pain when your baby learns to sit up and crawl, and thus decides to explore her cot in the night – turning upside down and crawling to the foot of the bed, but unable to settle because there’s no Sleepyhead bumper at that end.

There’s also the small matter of the weather – if it’s warm, the Sleepyhead doesn’t allow the air to circulate around your sleeping child, meaning one sweaty baby (and in our case, super curly hair in the morning – cute but still upsetting to see your baby drenched in sweat).

The covers are a pain to get on and off and wash, and so you try to cover them with a fitted sheet, but of course they don’t fit properly, meaning the whole thing is a big bumpy mess.

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The big Sleepyhead is allegedly suitable until they are three, but really, do you want a three-year-old that can’t sleep in their bed without cushiony bumpers surrounding them?

The most annoying thing is that Daph was sleeping pretty well when she was first born WITHOUT the Sleepyhead. She was quite happy to be swaddled, and even though she looked tiny in the Next 2 Me, she seemed to settle just fine those first few days. I agree that it’s probably worth a try if your baby seems very restless and resists being swaddled, but honestly, you DON’T need a Sleepyhead. You don’t.

We’ve been suffering the effects of this ridiculous cushion over the past month or so as we’ve been weaning Daph off it. First of all, we took the bumper out of the cover and just put it loose in the cot (this is not recommended, please don’t do this!) but then she managed to pull it over her face and woke up screaming and terrified. So then we went cold turkey, with muslins rolled up and tucked under her fitted sheet to try to provide a similar effect. That didn’t work. So we just decided to go for it and take everything out completely. The cot looked so big and she looked so small. She wasn’t used to all that space and ability to move about at night, and it’s been a real struggle to try to get her to settle without it.

My other qualm about this ‘must-have’ is that it must, surely, stop them from rolling about as much as they might do normally. I know that Daph is behind developmentally in her gross motor skills anyway but I don’t know how much of this was caused by her being effectively slotted into a space every night to sleep. With those bumpers surrounding her, she never had the opportunity to roll about in her cot, and she never had the opportunity to try sleeping on her side or front either (which she does now, finally, at 13 months). I’m sure plenty of babies use Sleepyheads and don’t find it affects their development, but I’ll never know with Daph if she would have advanced more quickly without it.

So yes. That’s my tuppence worth. I probably should have just written an Amazon review but anyway! If you do decide to get one, I suggest not using it every night  – or maybe not using it for naps or something. Just so that your baby also gets used to being able to move about in her bed and doesn’t think the only position for sleeping in is flat on their back, pinned in either side…

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GIVE ME THE PHONE AND NO ONE GETS HURT

My god I am knackered! Oli has been leaving for rehearsals this week at 8.30am and getting home at 11pm (which I am sure is against EU working hours but anyway). And Daph has suddenly turned into Mrs Clingy/Whiny, and now shrieks if I’m not in the same room as her and looking at the exact same thing as her ALL THE TIME.

NO MUMMY YOU MAY NOT PASS GO AND GO TO THE TOILET FOR TWO MINS. NO MUMMY YOU MAY NOT DRINK OUT OF THAT GLASS. I WANT THAT GLASS! NO MUMMY YOU MAY NOT CHECK YOUR EMAILS GIVE ME YOUR PHONE NOW NOW NOW. NO MUMMY HOW DARE YOU TRY TO EAT SOMETHING OFF YOUR PLATE I WANT IT EVEN THOUGH THE EXACT SAME THING IS ON MY PLATE.

She’s also started pulling on my trouser legs, which is kind of cute but actually quite painful when she decides to headbutt my shins. I need ALL the gin tonight, I tell you.

I have to say too what an ABSOLUTE IDIOT I was for gloating about her sleeping through the night in my last post, as she has now decided to do the most weird random wake ups ever. Her naps have also gone to pot over the last few days – 20 minute crap naps are the order of the day and then she wakes up screaming. God knows what’s going on in her little brain but I think it must be developmental as I can see her personality changing a lot too. Oh, and she is very definitely pointing – hurrah! And also giving ‘cuddles’ (launching herself at you and biting the nearest piece of your clothing with an impressive intensity as she buries her head in your shoulder) and ‘kisses’ (blowing raspberries against your cheek) if you ask her. Which is just about cute enough to stop me leaving her out for the bin men.

In other news, we decided to sell some furniture on eBay last week and my god, what an absolute pigging palaver it has been. I do NOT recommend it. Not only is eBay’s UI ridiculously un-user friendly, trying to sell something is also the most complicated process ever known to mankind. I just want £300 for this furniture right? I added a Buy it Now price but missed the fact that there’s a ‘Best Offer’ button you need to untick, and so I am receiving offers left right and centre, accompanied by passive aggressive emails from strangers telling me to ‘get back to me soon yeah so we can get this thing sorted’, even though they’ve offered £100 less than I wanted. Then there’s another handful of cheery chaps who keep trying to offer me cash and do it all outside of eBay, excusing the derisory amounts they’re proposing by claiming I’d pay the difference on fees if I went through eBay officially. Then there’s people asking me to arrange couriers for them. I did actually manage to sell one piece for the amount I wanted but now eBay keeps deleting my messages to the buyer because I want to include my contact details (which is fair enough right, when you’ve already sold something!?), causing all manner of bloody confusion.

I just want someone to buy this friggin furniture for the price I have asked and come and collect it themselves. How can it be so complicated? HOW! I want to defect to Gumtree (in hindsight I should have just done Gumtree to start with) but eBay keeps telling me I can’t cancel the listing because I have offers I haven’t responded to or something… I mean, god. Life is too short to spend two hours a night emailing people called chelseaponies354 and cables4u976 haggling over a tenner. How do people do this for a living?!

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Oh how I wish I could freeze time! 13 months old is the best age yet – hands down. Daphne is so flipping cute all the time that I keep getting ‘cute aggression‘ where I want to eat her/bite her/crush her. Google it (or click the handy link I provided, heh) – I’m not a psycho, it’s an actual thing, a response to when things are so cute you have to rebalance your emotions by feeling violent. Like laughing when you’re nervous or crying when you’re happy – it’s weird brain stuff and totally normal. Interesting eh? But I digress… Here’s how Daphne’s is at 13 months…

So, the biggest and best change is: she is FINALLY SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. From around 7pm (she goes down at 6.30pm) until 7am. Cue massive hurrahs, loads of gin, and me generally feeling like a normal human being again. I had forgotten what it was like, in all honesty. It’s amazing what a decent night’s UNBROKEN sleep can do. It is bloody wonderful. We no longer have the weird dream feed thing at 11pm, so I can go to bed early if I like and get some proper zzzzs in. Of course, I never do (go to bed early) because it’s too exciting have unbroken evenings to sit around, write blogs, watch TV and read books. Bliss.

I don’t really know what exactly got her to sleep through, to be honest, but I did start to leave her for a bit when she woke at 11pm for her feed, and I did gradually water it down, and reduce the amount, over about two weeks. Eventually she sort of got the message that it wasn’t worth bothering to wake up for, but it did take a while and there were several false starts. I think one of the keys to all of this is giving her a massive dinner, which can be a challenge as she’s generally not that hungry in the evenings (she eats like a starved dog at lunch). But we have managed to get her to eat lots of different things for dinner – finger food works best – which keeps her interested and generally means we can fill her up before she gets too whiny.

However, the sleeping through the night hasn’t been completely consistent – mostly because of the hot weather. The days when we were dealing with 30 degrees outside and 28 in her room she woke up a few times in the night at random hours, which was quite stressful. Settling her when she wakes is actually really hard now because she only semi wakes up – and usually sits up in her cot – and yet she can’t seem to lie back down and go back to sleep. But if I go in to ‘help’, she often gets freaked out and wakes up completely – I think I’m interrupting her in the ‘zone’ as it were, and although she can’t settle herself, it makes it worse if I barge in there and pick her up. She’ll start to scream and freak out, which is pretty horrible. And the only thing that will settle her in that situation is a bottle, which always scares me as I don’t want to start the habit up again…

But now the weather’s cooling down, fingers crossed we won’t have any more sweaty wake ups. Of course, there’s still teething, separation anxiety, learning to stand up in the cot etc etc to keep me on my toes so I am sure there are plenty of unbroken nights to come, but the main thing is the majority of the time now she’s sleeping through and it is bloody marvellous. I’ve aged about five years in the last year and I swear it’s all sleep related. Sigh.

Another achievement this month is that we’ve weaned her off formula. She now happily drinks cow’s milk and doesn’t even mind if it’s cold from the fridge. We’ve got a carton of formula to finish off so she’s still having that at bedtime, but I’m quite confident she won’t miss it. I can’t wait to get rid of the Tommee Tippee machine from the kitchen (although it has been a lifesaver and is highly bloody recommended). Next up, we have to wean her off bottles. I thought it was too risky (read: stressful for me) trying to do both bottles and formula at the same time. She has all her normal drinks from a beaker but milk is in a bottle. I know it’s not great for her speech development and my mum keeps telling me that I stopped using bottles at six months so I *know* it’s something we need to get on top of, but she gets so windy and burpy drinking large amounts from a cup that I’m a bit wary. Any tips appreciated!

Weaning off things seems to be the order of the day at the moment actually – we’ve also just managed to get her to give up her Sleepyhead in her cot. Another great hurrah. I’m going to write a blog post about my issues with the Sleepyhead so won’t go into too much detail here about it, but it’s been another struggle and I’m so glad we’ve got rid of the damn thing. I replaced it with Airwraps – her cot has bars so without the Sleepyhead she can easily get her arms or legs stuck. The Airwraps have gone down quite well – they’re not at all squishy though so don’t particularly protect from bumping herself against the bars. She was a little freaked out at first, not having her nice soft pillowy sides to snuggle up against but she seems happy now. Her latest bedtime habit is sitting up in the middle of the night, turning round and crawling to the other end, so that her head is at the foot of the cot. She can change positions about ten times a night without waking herself up (we have a video monitor so can spy on her) which is rather amusing.

What else what else… on the speech front, we’re no further along, but I wrote about that in my last blog post. She makes loads of different sounds but nothing specific or consistent yet. She’s started pointing, sort of, but she uses her middle finger not her index finger and doesn’t fully extend it so not sure it counts?! But she can follow me pointing at something and she also definitely understands ‘no’ now, and will stop what she’s doing for a second if she hears me do my ‘stern voice’. Although it doesn’t stop her going right back to doing it. Sigh. I read somewhere lately (probably a self-help book or something on PMA) that babies are the ultimate inspiration as when they want something, they Just. Don’t. Give. Up. I guess that’s how you progress through life, and something we forget to do as we age/get lazy? Ha! I’ll leave you there on that unexpectedly philosophical note…

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She’s OBSESSED with sunglasses at the moment

Phew! It’s been a busy old week. Oli has started rehearsing for his new show, which has meant childcare musical chairs for everyone so that I can still do my in-house office work. Again, thank god for my mum. It’d be so much easier to get Daph a childminder sometimes but I don’t think anyone would have us with our annoyingly inconsistent hours.

But anyway, the future is looking a bit different (read: exciting!) for me, as I found out last week that I got a place on the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. I applied a few months ago and it’s been literal agony waiting to hear if I got on – I even googled myself into insanity by finding someone on Mumsnet who had applied for the same course and was offered a place about a month ago. I was convinced, therefore, that I hadn’t got on.

For those not in the know, it’s a six-month course, run by publishers Faber & Faber and based in their Bloomsbury office. It’s spawned a load of exciting writers, including SJ Watson (Before I Go To Sleep) and numerous book deals. It’s not cheap, and even though a few of my friends said I was mad to apply because a) one of its main aims is to get you a literary agent and I already have one and b) I could just spend the money on clothes and write the damn book on my own, I really really love working with others and meeting new people and collaborating and just sharing experiences. I’m a bit of a sucker for training/education in that sense. And it gives me a goal – I’d like to finish the first draft of the new book I’ve just started by the end of the course, and doing it also means I HAVE to take writing seriously for the next few months. It’s so easy with writing to let it fall to the back burner in favour of bread and butter stuff (which is obviously essential!) but I feel a bit like it’s ‘now or never’ for me. I’m really lucky in that I’ve still got money left from selling my business so I can afford to have a career break right now. Although I am still working a couple of days a week too, as well as doing my half of the childcare… hmm, hopefully my social life will still be there when I’m done?!

Oh, and eeep, the course I’m doing is run by Joanna Briscoe. Even more exciting. If a little intimidating.

Anyway, before I found out I got a place I started writing something new. Something a little bit different and a little bit risky but I’m feeling fired up about it which is such a great feeling after so long. I forgot how addictive and obsessive writing can become when you’re excited about something!

In other news, we took Daph for her development check up yesterday. The doctor was pleased with her progression re crawling, but she’s still not pulling up to stand, or standing by herself if we pull her up. She also always rests her weight on her tiptoes – in fact sometimes her feet kind of curl right over so that she’s resting on the top of her foot which looks so painful and wrong! He said she has really tight calf muscles (weirdly so do I) and in fact her muscles are a little ‘too strong’ so we have to massage her feet and ankles to try to get her to put her feet flat. He seems to think she’ll get there eventually, but she may walk on tiptoe for a few months. Like I’ve said many times, she ain’t gonna be an Olympic gymnast, bless her.

He actually said he was more worried about the fact she wasn’t using specific words for specific people/things yet. She’s thirteen months old on Saturday and a few of my friends with babies of similar ages don’t seem to think theirs do either, but perhaps they’re being nice. Daph says LOADS now – makes a huge range of sounds and lots of baby googledegook with mixed consonants/vowels etc. But nothing really specific. She says Dee Dee and Daddy a lot, but not at anything or anyone in particular. She also says ‘Dink’ which my mum thinks means she wants a drink but I’ve yet to really truthfully spot a correlation there. So a bit concerning but I still think she’ll get there – we know she’s running on a slightly delayed schedule but she does seem to always find her way in the end. The doctor even said she might just be a bit shy at trying to do things she’s not good at, which kind of makes sense, she’s definitely a cautious soul! Anyway, he told us to come back in two months if she still wasn’t using five or more words with meaning, and then he’d ‘refer her right away’. So another little target for our little girl – fingers crossed she can do it!

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Finally! It’s my long overdue through-the-keyhole post! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this up – to be honest I wasn’t really sure how to approach blogging about the house because we’ve done a few bits before moving in but really it needs a LOT of work, but the budget and time aren’t quite there yet. So I thought I’d start with the ‘Before’ pictures – here goes! – here’s what our house looked like when we first got the keys. These pics were taken by Oli, so apologies that they’re not hugely professional! They weirdly make the house look quite dark when it is anything but.

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First to go in the living room was that charming faux Victorian moulding… *mind boggles*

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We have also got rid of the magnolia!

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Check out the built-in cupboard that really looks like it belongs. Not

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The exposed pipes everywhere are a bit of a PITA

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Thankfully under that carpet we found the original hardwood staircase…

A little bit more about it… it’s a four-bedroom terraced house in a really lovely little cul-de-sac in a rather pedestrian town in Surrey. It was built in 1969, and is surrounded by £2m BEAST houses, so we think our cul-de-sac was actually the huge grounds of a bigger house that obviously got knocked down and developed on. But this was back in the days when developments were far more sympathetic to their surroundings. As a result, it’s just a small string of five houses in a row, all slightly offset, which means we don’t completely overlook each other’s gardens.

They are ‘architect designed’ (I used to think all houses were but apparently many are designed by builders and the like) which means they are quite quirky, with asymmetric zinc-topped roofs, and huge windows in all the rooms – the windows originally went down to the floor but the previous owner said it was like living in a fish bowl so she had them changed for more traditional ones. We’d like to get them changed back at some point.

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Our bedroom with its ginormous window

The spare bedroom at the front of the house

I think what we love most about it is the quiet! It’s such a shock after living in London, where ambulance sirens blazed past at five-minute intervals (downside of living right by St George’s Hospital). We also have a garage in a separate block, which we have predictably filled with crap already.

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My office! Desk now gone, as is the yellow (?!) dingy wall colour. And lampshade

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The kitchen is not to our taste at all (black granite – sob!) but it’ll be staying for a while as it’s all new. It feels enormous in comparison to my flat

I know that 1960s/70s houses aren’t to many people’s tastes, but we love the space and the open-plan layout and the fact they are so much cheaper than period properties. We actually also offered on a period house round the corner just before this one – much more ‘pretty’ and trad and charming with open fires etc, but then we found out it had been underpinned, so we pulled out. In hindsight I am so glad we did as it was on a much busier road – cul-de-sacs are bloody awesome, seriously. I can leave the buggy out the front and never worry someone’s going to come along and nick it, and I’ve also just instructed Amazon Prime to leave things in the porch if we’re out (how middle class is that sentence).

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There are floorboards under the horrible carpets! I can’t decide if I like the fact they are narrow or not…

And best of all, is the garden. It’s 80ft long, green, peaceful and SOUTH FACING – which was one of our dealbreakers. It is amazing and I’m so glad we moved in before the weather turned so we got to make the most of it.

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I haven’t got any before pics of Daphne’s room as we decorated that pretty much straight away – I’ll do a room tour post about it ASAP. The bathroom and downstairs loo are also not worthy of sharing – the bathroom is newish but I find it really horrible and depressing for some reason – I’d LOVE to change it but really we can’t justify it.

First of all, we want to build a garden pod for Oli to have as a studio, and then replace the large downstairs toilet with a shower room (there’s only one bathroom upstairs). And then change all the flooring – it has cream carpets throughout which are just totally unsuitable for Daph as well as being old and stained. And THEN we have to tackle those horribly upsetting tiles in the hallway and kitchen.  I’m not sure what flooring the hallway would have had originally – maybe lino? – as there’s just concrete under there. So lots of decisions to make and planning to do. We want to add a 60s/70s vibe about the place, I think, rather than making it super contemporary but we also don’t want it to look totally naff. It’s quite a challenge!

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There were no hedgehogs in Colliers Wood

Did I mention before that we have hedgehogs in our new garden? Every evening they scuttle past the French windows on their way to two doors down, where our neighbour leaves food out for them. They’re really fast as they zip back and forwards! Yesterday Oli did some gardening and we unearthed one hiding under a plant – he didn’t look very impressed to see us but wasn’t obviously injured, so we left him there. I was worried about him though, because it said hedgehogs that were out in the daytime were probably in trouble. And this morning he had moved himself about a foot onto the lawn and was just lying there not moving, so we phoned our local Wildlife Rescue centre and they told us to bring him in. We’ve left him there overnight and we find out if he made it tomorrow. Fingers crossed, poor mite.

In other COMPLETELY unrelated news, today we went to view a nursery. Oli and I have been back and forward on the subject of childcare for Daph – we both work pretty random and unconventional hours. For the past few months I’ve been working one and a half days a week for a company – one day in the office and half a day from home, and then freelancing as and when stuff comes in. So Oli is usually able to look after Daph when I’m working in the office. Then the rest of the freelancing I do when she’s napping or Oli takes her out for the day, or I do it in the evenings. Either way, it’s worked quite well so far, except for when Oli’s been working away and my mum’s had to step in (my mum is a lifesaver!).

However, Oli starts a new job next week – he’s going to be the vocalist for Vincent and Flavia’s (of Strictly fame) new show The Last Tango. Thankfully it’s only in the west end, not a tour (he was offered the tour of the same show last year but given that rehearsals started the day Daph was born, it wasn’t really feasible. Plus I’d been a tour widow for most of my pregnancy and it’s a bloody lonely life so I confess I did do a bit of weepy pregnant woman emotional blackmail). But anyway, he’ll be leaving the house at around 4pm to get to work, which means I can’t work do my full day in the office any longer. Most people would just get childcare and we have considered it, but it’s so expensive and feels like a bit of an indulgence when we can probably make it work with a bit of juggling (luckily my office job is flexible!).

As for work… I’ve actually been trying to work less over the past few months – in hindsight I was crazy to start trying to work when Daph was only four months old. I think it was just my pride taking over, trying to prove that being a mother wouldn’t stop me from carrying on as before. But now I look back and think why the hell didn’t I just have a proper break and relax?! I remember going in to do a freelance day when I’d had about three hours’ sleep – it was such a struggle to get through the day and I just felt dizzy and disorientated thanks to the bucketloads of caffeine I’d thrown down my neck. I’ve turned down quite a bit of freelance work in the past month or so which is terrifying (usually if you turn stuff down you don’t get asked again) but at the same time quite liberating.

I really want to have a proper break and thankfully I do have something incredibly exciting planned for the next six months (more on that soon). But long-term I need to focus on what the heck I am going to do next. As I’ve mentioned before I didn’t plan on having no job to return to after having a baby but thems the breaks. Freelancing is great for the flexibility but boy is it lonely, and I really miss being part of a team and, well, office gossip in general. So, I’m seriously considering retraining, but that’s a whole other blog post…

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Another controversial post for you today… It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I got pregnant. And something I perhaps shouldn’t confess to but, you know me, I like to be honest. And overshare. And tell people things that are best kept to myself. Hmmm.

But, anyway, it’s Sunday after all. Confession time. Here goes: before I got pregnant I used to view women with children in a rather unsisterly way. I don’t know what it was, but a part of me thought they’d kind of failed the feminist movement somewhat by conforming to biological stereotypes rather than going out there and changing the world (I am aware of how ridiculous this sounds, it’s not like I was changing the bloody world either). But I thought they’d taken the ‘easy option’ by choosing motherhood over furthering their careers. And I was aware that lots of women did manage to further their careers while becoming mothers but they seemed to be in the minority and seemed to spend the entire time banging on about how hard it was, which just struck me as showing off.

It may sound absolutely insane. Like I said, it was just a small part of me – I’m not completely inhuman, I did also understand that they were sacrificing many of their wants and needs for the future generation. But I would roll my eyes if I was on a train and heard two mothers chatting about some aspect of their child’s care as though it was the only thing that mattered. I’d get irritated if I heard them complain about how tired they were (you CHOSE this life, I’d think, very uncharitably, suck it up). I’d hate the women with pushchairs in shopping centres who’d ram past me to get to where they wanted, completely oblivious to my existence. I’d tut out loud at children having tantrums in supermarkets. I’d do a SATC Samantha at badly behaved children in nice restaurants. I’d inwardly judge women who decided to be stay-at-home mums with fierce prejudice. I’d even be a bit pissed off if a pregnant woman without a bump yet barged past me on the tube to grab a seat.

I know, I know.

It really did feel a bit ‘them vs us’ – the childless (or childfree as I liked to think of it) versus the mothers. How horrible of me. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like this*.

If I’d had a difficult day at work, I used to think how easy mothers had it, being at home all day watching This Morning and online shopping. HA! One thing I have learned: there is nothing mentally harder than being at home alone all day with a young baby. Single mothers have my utmost respect.

One of my friends said that having a baby is like joining an epic worldwide club. A club of overtired, empathetic women. It’s so true. You suddenly feel sorry for the pregnant woman on the tube who knows she has to grab that seat because at ten weeks she feels lightheaded standing. You offer her yours gladly. You feel deep sadness for the poor woman trying to have a nice meal out while containing a bored hyperactive toddler. You wish you could help. When you see a woman pushing a hooded pram with grim determination you notice her eyebags and stained leggings and you wonder how old the baby is, and how much sleep she had the previous night. You want to reach out and hug her and tell her that it gets easier, it really does. When you hear women chatting about childcare, you feel great relief that you’re not the only one going through such things and often end up joining in (motherhood is a great way of getting talking to ANYONE!). You feel these women ARE you, they belong with you, you GET them and you like them even if in your former life you would have had nothing in common. It is actually one of the best bits of motherhood – this sudden deep solidarity with other women.

I wonder why the old me felt so scathing of mothers. I wonder if it was jealousy, or some kind of defence mechanism. I always worried that I wouldn’t get around to having children and that I’d regret it long term – was this my own survival instincts prepping me for the future? Telling me somehow that that life was crap, that I’d had a lucky escape? I don’t know. I do know I feel a bit ashamed now. It doesn’t mean I don’t look back on my old life and think, god that was a great life, I had so much freedom and time and opportunity. In many ways I miss it. I miss being one of the childfree. Because without a child, you ARE free. I am aware of motherhood’s limitations. I don’t think that there’s a clearcut winner in the ‘having a baby’ versus ‘not having a baby’ life choices. Both have their difficulties, both have their advantages.

But at the same time, this new empathy, this new KINDNESS and respect for others that I’ve developed since having Daphne. That’s something I didn’t expect, and something I’m so grateful for.

I guess the short version of this post is: motherhood has made me a nicer person.

* It may be that EVERYONE feels like this before they have kids, in which case, I feel much less sociopathic. 

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Apparently this monument is based on the Parthenon, but they ran out of money. Ha.

When is a mini break not a mini break? When it’s a tiny break. That is, just 48 hours in total. I got back from Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, exactly 48 hours after I left. And I believe I have now cracked that great mystery of ‘how to have a successful holiday after having a baby’. The answer, my friends, is: Leave The Baby At Home.

Sorry to be glib. It actually wasn’t that easy, but it wasn’t that hard either. I dropped her off with my mum (who she loves to death) and only felt a tiny bit teary as I walked away – she was totally happy and playing so it wasn’t some great big emotional scene. The train journey up was bloody lovely – nice and quiet and I read a whole book and scoffed Pret and it was like being a grown up again. I also bought OK magazine for the first time in ages but never actually got round to reading it. I feel I need to mark this as some sort of pinnacle of maturity. The thing is, I usually buy Red mag (if I buy mags at all, which I never do any more – my 15-year-old self who dreamed of being a magazine journalist would be beside herself with sadness) but there were none left in WHSmith in Kings Cross. So I bought OK because it’s the kind of crappy thing I usually like reading in the hairdresser’s. But when it came down to it: just me, the train and the magazine, I found that I actually didn’t care. I looked at the cover several times, taking in all the trying-to-be-tantalising-titbits about various slebs I was vaguely aware of and I found I didn’t care enough to even open the damn thing. How times have changed.

Hmm. Not sure what the point of that little sidestep was, but I guess as an admission it won’t help my ‘career’ if I ever decide I want to get back into the meeja properly. Anyway… yes, my tiny break. Edinburgh is bloody lovely. Beautiful. Why did no one tell me this before? I’ve only been to Scotland a couple of times before – once on a rather disastrous honeymoon with my ex husband (we stayed in the middle of nowhere in the Highlands in JANUARY and it was freezing and boring and the water in the toilet was brown because it was filtered through peat or some such nonsense – anyway, nothing romantic about that trip) and then once for a wedding. I never knew Edinburgh was so pretty, and had such fab landscapes all around it. Also, thank you weather gods, because the sun shone all day – we walked 16km exploring the city as much as we could and I enjoyed every second. I didn’t even think about the baby much, which makes me feel ashamed and feminist all at the same time.

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The crooner and his talented sidekick

She was fine, anyway, and had a lovely time with her grandparents. And best of all, Oli’s show, Simply Bowie (a pared-back, Jazz interpretation of some of David Bowie’s hits), was a phenomenal success. They had no PR budget yet it was packed out every night, they were on Scottish TV and BBC Radio Scotland and the feedback was unanimously positive. I was so proud and I’ve been blathering all about it all over social media ever since we returned. But in case you’ve missed it, you can check out his Facebook page for more info and you can also buy the album on iTunes (or stream it, if you can figure out how on earth to use this new bloody Apple Music – if you can, you’re a wiser (wo)man than me).

My only regret about Edinburgh is that I was only there for one day, and that day was the last day of the Fringe, so lots of the shows had already finished. As a result there wasn’t much on offer to see, and the atmosphere was a little more subdued than I had expected. I did however, get to witness the awesome last night fireworks. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.