A Yorkshire based lifestyle & parenting blog written by Claire Chircop.

MY PLANS FOR MATERNITY LEAVE: SIX MONTHS ON.

This post contains affiliate links to Blogger to Boss.

Before I started my maternity leave, back when I was a naive pregnant lady I had X Y & Z planned for my time away from work, and here we are six months later reflecting on what I have… And haven’t done.


We went in full steam ahead with regards to taking Amelia swimming & I’ve said this many a time, but in hindsight I think we took her too early. We started taking her to Turtle Tots at Temple Newsam in Leeds when she was two weeks old and for the first month or so she did nothing but sleep through the classes - And even though it was lovely to get out the house & meet new parents with their adorable babies, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a total waste of money.

The vast majority of babies who attended the class were 6 months+ and you could see that they were much more interactive than our tiny baby was & they were able to enjoy their time in the water.  much more than Amelia.

The only benefit I’d say it had for Amelia was with bath times, but like I say it was a pretty pricey activity just to get her used to being in the tubI think we will take her back to Turtle Tots, but we’re going to wait a month or so before we get her booked in again.

Okay, so this one’s also a bit of a fail! For Christmas my sister bought me the Harry Potter books & I had all intentions of reading all seven before the end of my maternity leave. 5 months in & truth be told I haven’t finished the first one yet!.. Although we have had a movie marathon again, if that counts!

Now I know reading is a matter of priorities because in honestly I probably have had the time to get much further through the books than I actually have, however what I’ve done is chosen to prioritise other things... This blog being one of them – But we’ll get onto that later.

On a side note I’m currently experiencing quite a lot of headaches which I think has come from a mix of dealing with a crying baby, being sat staring at either a laptop or phone screen & not getting all that much sleep and I really think getting back into reading will help alleviate that. Harry Potter & the philosophers stone is currently sat on my bed side table, so it’s not as if I can’t see it, it’s a constant reminder for me to start reading & I really hope I can get back on track with it all – Watch this space!


I’ve not actually booked onto a course yet, and although it’s still something I’d like to do, I don’t think I’ll be getting my quill out any time soon.

I love the idea of calligraphy & setting up my own business selling prints and making custom pieces, but the reality of it is, is that I want to prioritise my blog & I really don’t think I have the time for both… Not when you throw looking after a baby, a husband, a dog and a home into the mix too.
That’s not to say it’s not something I won’t pick up in the future though.

I think when you’re at home all day looking after a baby it’s imperative to get yourself out of the house. It doesn’t even have to be particularly outdoorsy, even just a trip to a local coffee shop, or to the supermarket brings a change of scenery & breaks up the day a bit – And I think for your own sanity, it’s SO important.

When I first had Amelia I was really nervous taking her out, especially on my own, as it felt like a totally alien situation. In fact, every first you have with a baby feels totally alien situation, but the more you do it, the more you get used to it & the more comfortable you become. And that’s exactly where I’m at today.



Although I don’t put pressure on myself, I try and get out of the house every day. We have a weekly play group that we go to on a Tuesday, but throughout the week we’ll walk up to the Asda, go to the White Rose shopping centre or talk the dog for a walk. Sometimes we’re out for half the day, other times it’s half an hour. I don’t think it particularly matters how long you’re outside for, just as long as you have something to do that day.

This one makes me so sad! I spoke previously about how I’d loved to have taken my family for a little staycation up to Huts in the Hills in Northumberland, but in reality, I just can’t afford it.

I’ve spoken before on my blog about how I’ve found itdifficult adjusting to a maternity wage and unfortunately as amazing as they staycation would be, we just can’t afford it right now.
I’m hoping that when I go back to work in January that we can get ourselves away to enjoy some proper family time.

My body didn’t spring back into place after having Amelia (I might talk more about this if you’d like to hear about it) but four months later I’m at a place where I’m relatively happy with how I look – Granted it’s different, but I’m working with it. I think this is where creating a new wardrobe and almost a new identity for myself has come into play.

I spent a weekend about a month or so ago gutting my wardrobe of all my ‘dowdy pregnancy clothes’ ready to make way for new pieces which I was so excited about that I went out and bought them very next day.

My wardrobe is now topped up with high waisted trousers and skirts along with smarter, more tailored shirts and crop tops. The only thing I’d say I need now is a pair of plain black skinny jeans, but I want ones that actually stay black!... I’ve had some from Topshop and H&M and even though they look fab to begin with, I’ve always found the colour doesn’t last too long, so if you know of any good quality black jeans, hook a gal up!


This is the one I’m most excited about and to be honest it’s only in the last few weeks where somethings changed for me & turned me from someone who blogs for a hobby into someone who blogs with a more business mindset.

And I think I have one thing… Or two people to thank… And that’s Bex & Codie from Blogger to Boss. Last month I took part in their 5 day free course where we had small daily tasks to complete in order to take our blogs to the next level and I have to say it’s really worked. Although I don’t have a great deal of content to show for it over here on this little blog of mine, my mindset has done a complete 360 & I’m ready to take on whatever this blogging lark has to throw at me.

Since doing the course I’ve applied for writing jobs & I’ve even managed to secure myself a paid blog post which you’ll see pop up over the next month or so. I started blogging five years ago, so you could say that it’s taken me a hella long time to get here, but now I’m here, there’s no stopping me!

The mum guilt was SO real when I went to Berlin last month! I felt awful leaving my baby, but I knew it’d be so beneficial for all parties. Dan got to spend more time with Amelia, she got to experience daddy daughter fun time & I bagged myself a much needed break.

While it's on my brain, there was a thread I read only yesterday on Facebook about how mums shouldn’t take time away from their babies as it’s irresponsible and neglectful & I for one was absolutely shocked at how judgmental some people can be. I honestly don’t know what is wrong with some popele…
It’s okay to want to spend time away from your baby.
It’s okay to want to have your partner enjoy your child as much as you have.
It’s okay if you want to take a bit of time out for yourself.


So here we are six months in to my maternity leave with another six months left to go. I’m certainly finding things easier since the newborn days but I still think there’s room for improvement when it comes to my productivity. I’ve been listening to Vix Meldrew’s podcasts which have really been helping me with the extra get up & go, and like I say the Blogger to Boss course was amazing at making me want to succeed with this online space of mine.

Here’s to the next six months, whatever they may bring.

Have you got any tips for increasing blog productivity? Especially when it comes to juggling that with a baby?

Claire.X

SURVIVING ON A MATERNITY WAGE.

Although we’re lucky to receive maternity pay in the UK, there’s absolutely no secret that the amount of money us new parents receive is pants & I can hand on heart say that I’ve found adjusting to my new lower wage pretty flipping tough.


Let me start by saying in no way at all would I class myself as rich. Let’s be clear about that. This post isn’t a brag about my pre-baby life, or a feel sorry for my diminishing bank balance post, after all it was us that chose to have a child & for me to take so much time off work looking after her – I’m writing this for other new parents to say we’re all in this together & we’re all as pretty much as skint as each other!

How much time am I taking off?
My last day at work was the 24th November 2018 which feels like a lifetime ago now, and I won’t be returning to my position until 30th December 2019 which means in total I’ll have 57 weeks off. This is made up of twelve months of which I’m entitled too as well as an extra few weeks holiday.
I decided to take the full 12 month allowance for two reasons, one being that our nearest family is 60 miles away from us meaning help with childcare is quite difficult and secondly (and rather selfishly) so I could have Christmas 2019 off - I work in retail you see & Christmas is the busiest time of year, so having the opportunity to take the time off to relax and enjoy it as a family was a no-brainer for me. And because she was born on the 23rd December it also means we’ll get to celebrate Amelia’s 1st birthday as a family too which I’m so looking forward to!

How much money do I actually get?
Let’s be real, this is why you’re all here isn’t it – And I don’t blame you. People don’t talk about money as it’s a bit of a taboo subject, but I really think we should start opening up about it a bit more.
For the first six weeks after leaving work I received 90% of my wage which luckily because of the way the dates landed I managed to spread across three monthly pay packets.
I then went down to statutory maternity pay which at £148.68 per week equates to £594.72 a month and this is what I’ll receive for the following 33 weeks, or in my case up until the middle of August.
After then and up until mid November I won’t receive a penny until my holiday pay kicks in where I should be back receiving a full wage.

What does my wage usually looks like?
Pre-baby I worked part time earning less than £16k a year and even though I never lived beyond my means, my life was comfortable. I lived month by month but managed to save bits of money here and there in preparation for the baby… And let me tell you that preparation is key!
I’m a worrier when it comes to money (as you’ll find out reading this post) I always have been and I’m pretty darn sure that I always will be, so my husband & I made sure that any extra money we had at the end of the month went into savings so I could take the full 12 months off & be able to look after our child.


Tips for surviving on a maternity wage.

Use your annual leave wisely.
Although I’ve taken advantage of cleverly used annual leave, I could definitely have been a bit more savvy when it came to optimising my pay packet.
My holiday pay works out to around double my maternity pay so what I’ve done is blocked my holidays of which I’ll accrue over the coming year together & popped them in over the Christmas period meaning I’ll be receiving a full wage over the 2019 festive season… Hallelujah! Clever me right?
What I should have done however is blocked some holidays together last year before my maternity wage kicked in so I could have kept my full wage for that little while longer. That being said last year was a busy one for us, I had a couple of weeks off for the wedding and a further two weeks off for our honeymoon, so I’m not sure how we could have pulled it off .
If you don’t decide to cram everything in, in such a short space of time like we did, then I’d definitely recommend utilising your annual leave to make sure you get paid as much as possible for as long as possible.

Child benefit.
We’ve never needed to claim for benefits so have never dealt with HMRC or Universal Credit & if I’m totally honest I don’t know a great deal about what we can & can’t claim for. I definitely need to educate myself into what we’re entitled too, because let’s be real, if we’re entitled to any form of extra money, we should definitely be claiming for it.
We’re currently claiming child benefit which works out as an extra £20.70 a week, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s better than nothing & we’re using the money properly to buy nappies, milk & anything else Amelia may need.


Do I really need it?
Budgeting is something I’ve always been totally pants at! And to be honest, I probably still am to some extent, only now I’ve had such a decrease in wage I’ve had to learn to reign my spending in a bit. I’ve never been a floozie when it comes to money, but something I’m terrible for is picking up a coffee & cake on my way to and from pretty much anywhere… And all those £2.50 latte’s add up over the month! If you could see my online banking (no-one wants to look at that – not even me) pretty much every outgoing, other than bills & important stuff comes from Starbucks, Costa & Greggs. I’m a slave to the coffee chain & I need to change!
What I’ve been asking myself recently however is ‘do I really need it?’ It’s a simple question, which usually comes with a simple answer… No.
It’s probably a bit late in the day for me to start putting this one into practice to really feel the benefit, but you know what they say… Look after the pennies & the pounds will look after themselves, and if I get in the habit of doing it now, when I do start bringing in a full wage again I’ll be saving quite a bit… Hopefully!

KIT days.
Kit days, or keeping in touch days are something which the workplace offers in order to break you back into work, before you finish your maternity leave & fully start back. I’d check with your employer, but in the UK you’ll usually be offered 10 paid kit days in total. I’ve already said to my employer I’ll be making use of all of my kit days, but I’m going to be clever about how & when I use them.
With my job role I have different tasks which need doing on different days, and there are some days which  are busier and more stressful than others. My plan of action is to work 2 Mondays, 2 Tuesdays etc etc etc & use my ten days that way. I’m also planning on starting using my kit days around September/October time as this is when my maternity wage will have finished & I’ll be bringing absolutely nothing to the table – Scary thought right? I hate the idea of not bringing a wage in.

Shopping for baby.
Babies are expensive, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, but something Dan & I pride ourselves on, is knowing what’s a bargain and what definitely isn’t. Before we had Amelia we were quite savvy when it came to spending money on our future spawn of Satan, knowing what were necessity purchases & even managing to secure our pram for £800 cheaper.
I’d class nappies, milk, wipes etc as nesceseties, all of which we pick up from Aldi during our weekly shop. We’re not snobby when it comes to brand names and are very much aware that all products have to comply to safety laws and the likes, so with milk for example whether you’re buying Mamia, SMA or Cow & Gate you’re giving your baby the exact same nutrients, only you may or may not be spending a small fortune. With nappies as well I’ve actually found the Aldi Mamia nappies to be much higher quality than Pampers, so I think it just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good product, but at the end of the day what works for you & your baby is what truly matters.


Check if bills can be cheaper.
This is something we’ve been meaning to do for such a long time now, but I think now that moneys dwindling we’re definitely going to look into how we can save a bit of dollar dollar on our monthly bills.
I’ve recently renewed my car insurance & managed to get that down to £250 which I’ve spread over 12 months to make payments that bit more manageable, but it definitely pays to look around. My original renewal quote was £450, which is a bit of an outrage seeing as though I paid £300 the year before so I’m glad I was able to cut costs quite considerably this way.
Some things we don’t really have a great deal of control over, like our mortgage & council tax bill, but something we can change is our gas & electric bills. They seem to be going up and up & to be honest British Gas have well & truly got us with our pants down, so we definitely need to look into lowering our utilities and saving a bit of money this way.
My phone contract is also up for renewal next month & I’ve decided that instead of opting to change for a brand spanking new handset I’ll be changing to a sim only plan and even though I don’t think it’ll lower my monthly repayment by that much, it’ll still be lower which is what matters.

In conclusion.
Although we’re lucky to receive a maternity wage in the UK I think it’s best to start saving money as soon as those two blue lines appear, in preparation for your little bundle of joy arriving. I think you also need to be smart when it comes to money, and only spend it where it’s really needed. Don’t get me wrong the odd treat is welcome every now and again, but I think being savvy is very important when it comes to surviving on a maternity wage.

What are your best tips for saving money & surviving on a budget?

Claire.X


THIS TIME LAST YEAR I FOUND OUT I WAS PREGNANT.

This time last year I peed on a stick and two little blue lines appeared - From that point on our lives changed forever!



Let me set the scene for you. It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was on my way home from a job interview at a local Doctors surgery when the question ‘where the heck is my period?’ suddenly popped into my head. At this point I didn’t think too much of it as the week prior I’d been taking Norethisterone which is a period delaying tablet I was using to make sure I wouldn’t be on my period on my wedding day - There’s enough stress when it comes to your wedding day & quite frankly I didn’t want Aunt Flo adding to the pressure!

I remember at the time of my Doctors consultation to get the drug, I was advised It may take a little while for my period to come back after finishing the course of tablets, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how long she’d said. So for my own peace of mind I swung by the supermarket on the way home & picked up a couple of pregnancy tests.

Now I’ve been in this situation before, on quite a few occasions to be honest & they all went a little bit like this… My period would be late, I’d get my hopes up, pee on a stick that came back negative & then there’d be tears and I’d be in a mood for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t like to know how many pregnancy tests I’d taken over the previous three years however it was enough for me to expect this one to come back negative & enough for me to not get upset over it any more.

You can only imagine my face when those two blue lines appeared.


I was in a state of disbelief & was so glad I’d bought two tests so I could do the second one before Dan got home just to be double sure. The stupid thing is that over the following week I’d end up taking six pregnancy tests – We just couldn’t believe it! Turns out sextuple times sure is the magic number!

We kept the pregnancy a secret between the two of us for a couple of weeks before telling both sets of parents a week or so before the wedding… Turns out a good way to take the pressure off getting married, is to have a baby! All wedding worries were well and truly thrown out of the window at this point because even though your wedding day is super important, for us it was nothing in the grand scheme of things of what was to come!

So here we are exactly 365 days later, and what a year it’s been! I’m sure we’ve gone from 2018 to 2019 in the blink of an eye. I’ve now got a husband & a child who is very quickly approaching being four months old – It’s actually crazy how much difference a year makes & I can’t wait to see what changes this year brings.


What were you doing this time last year?

Claire.X

Have you read my previous pregnancy posts?
The First Trimester.
The Second Trimester.
The Third Trimester.

THE FOURTH TRIMESTER.

Well there we have it, three months of having Amelia in our lives & three months of being parents – Fourth trimester… Completed it mate! Over the last ninety days we’ve had ups and downs and I think it’s pretty safe to say the fourth trimester has been a complete learning curve!

The first was okay, second was tiring, third was just darn right uncomfortable, but the fourth trimester by far has been the hardest of them all. Being a parent is really fricken hard, and it’s something not to be sniffed at… Something I’ve definitely learnt over the last ninety days.

Feeding.
My breastfeeding journey was quite short lived and looking back now I really wish I persevered a bit more with it. Hats off to all those mammas that breastfeed, it really is a challenge - I think it’s one of those things where it gets harder before it becomes easier, and for me I think I gave up on it too easily – But my baby’s fed, she’s healthy and she’s putting on weight which is the most important thing… Sod whether it’s from a boob or a bottle. She’s happy, and that’s what matters.

Sleeping.
It’s only within the last few weeks where Amelia has started sleeping through the night. I remember her doing it one night without us really trying and from then we’ve stuck to that previous evening’s routine and it’s worked. I think there’s only been two nights in the last four weeks where we’ve been up through the night, and at the time it’s frustrating because she’s been doing so well, but then you also have to think she’s only three months old – We’ve been incredibly lucky with her sleeping pattern and she’s been doing SO well! After having a bath and a bottle we put her upstairs in the moses basket around half nine and then she’ll go right through till six the next day – She’s a better sleeper than I am!
Admittedly I’ve found it really difficult being able to switch off since having Amelia, and after suffering with a week-long headache and stress I took myself to the doctors… Turns out I was just sleepdeprived and needed a good kip! Typical!


Expectations.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a parent. I remember saying to my friends even in secondary school that I’d much rather have a baby than get married – Eeek! And here I am, Mrs Chircop (yes my name isn’t actually Claire Mac anymore) and I have both! As much as I wanted to be a parent, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t realise just how hard it was going to be! I’ve been very honest about my parenting journey, because I think it’s necessary to be open & talk about the pressures of being a parent... In short, I didn’t expect parenting to be so hard, but I equally didn’t expect it to be as amazing & as rewarding as it is!

Personality.
She’s started developing her own little personality now, and as she gets older, I’m continuously saying the age she’s presently at is my favourite age! Her first smile reduced both my husband & I to tears - It was honestly one of the best feelings in the world watching her grinning up at us. But now she’s getting older she’s starting to laugh (especially at bath time – she loves splashing) and that’s getting us tearful now. We’re very soppy in our house if you couldn’t tell! Ha.
We’re starting to notice patterns in her emotions and personality now, so we know when play time is and we can get a bit more out of her, but we equally know when it’s time to quit while we’re ahead and enjoy a snuggle before world war three erupts. 


Crying.
This again is something I think gets worse before it gets better. Amelia very rarely cried when she was first born purely because she was asleep all of the time but as she developed quicker mentally than she did physically that’s when the tears started. I was talking to Dan about this the other day, saying that this was probably the hardest time for me being a parent, especially as he was back at work, there’s nothing worse than having a repetitive crying baby, we thought she had colic at one point, but I’m pleased to say if was just an iffy couple of weeks. It was only as she passed the two month mark that I found her crying to lessen. I’m also able to recognise what each cry means now, whether its hunger, tiredness or she just wants a cuddle.

Everyday life.
Everyday life is getting easier week by week, and I actually feel like I’m starting to boss this parenting life. It sounds crazy but at the beginning it felt like I’d never get out the house and take Amelia shopping with me or out for coffee, but now it feels like second nature. The only thing I’d say I’m struggling with is balancing dog mamma & human mamma life, it’s quite difficult for me to get out and walk the pupper with a baby strapped to my chest, especially with a dog who’s as boisterous and as energetic as Willow is, but I’m doing it.
It’s hard, but I’m giving it a good go!


Baby groups.
In hindsight I think we started taking Amelia to baby groups just a little too early. We took her for weekly swimming classes (if you can call them that) from 2 weeks, and baby sensory from 8 weeks. The reason I think we took her too early is literally because she kept falling asleep through everything! She slept solidly through her first four swimming classes & this is the first week she’s managed to stay awake through baby sensory. Saying that it’s been nice for me to get out of the house & surround myself with adults again because it can get quite lonely staying in all day with a baby, even though she is quite lovely!

How am I?
This is a question I’m now asked all of the time, and it’s not just a casual ‘yalright’ anymore it’s now a question of concern. Truthfully I’ve had a few dark moments since giving birth & have cried more often than I care to admit, but I’d never say I suffered with postnatal depression or baby blues. Your body & your hormones go through such a dramatic change during pregnancy & it doesn’t stop once the baby arrives – It’s so easy to see how so many women struggle but thankfully I’ve been doing okay so far. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of my life I miss & I need to be a little kinder to myself but I think that's only natural considering what I've gone through. 


In the last three months she’s changed so much and it’s an absolute pleasure watching her grow and develop. There really isn’t anything like it! I’m lucky because I’m able to have another nine months off with her before I go back to work & I absolutely can’t wait to see what changes that brings.

Would you like to see more posts of Amelia’s development on the blog? I feel like it’s all I ever talk about now, but in reality, it’s pretty much all I actually do. Now we’re getting a bit more mobile I’d love to do some baby friendly restaurant reviews & days out, heck I’d even like to write more beauty content over here because I love makeup & skincare and being able to make myself feel like a hot mamma. Let me know!

Claire.X


BEING KINDER TO MYSELF.

I’d like to think as a late twenty-something year old woman that I’m accepting of who I am as a person, I’ve grown & developed, but something I’m not so great at is being kind to myself.


I’m writing this blog post after a huge pang of self-doubt at the ungodly hour of 4:30am - Thanks Amelia!

Let me set the scene - There I was pacing the downstairs of my house, trying to soothe my baby after a good 30 minute crying sesh - Yet again, thanks Amelia! Tears were streaming down my face, I was rocking the 5 hours sleep look (that’s a regular thing over here) and my mind was going into overdrive…
* Why can’t I soothe my baby?
* When am I actually going to get a full eight hours sleep?
* Who am I other than this little idiots mum? (I don’t actually think she’s an idiot, it’s just at the time I thought she was being a total dick!)
* Why won’t she sleep?
* Why whenever I have a bit of free time do I never do things for myself?
* When will I ever get the hang of this parenting/life balance thing?
And so on and so forth… I’m sure every parent has these pangs of self-doubt… Especially at stupid o clock in the morning when all you want is a bit of peace & quiet or a cosy bed to get tucked up into.

Any who it didn’t take too much longer for the negativity to vanish and for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Said light being the idea that I need to be kinder to myself.

I’ve always been like this. On the outside I think I’m quite a chilled person, I take things in my stride and people often comment on how like me they wish they were. All sounds good right? Well it’s a facade. Or partly anyway. Yes I am super chilled and laid back, but I’m also the sort of person that massively gets dragged down my negativity, whether it’s my own or anyone else’s - And as soon as I get myself on that lonely negativity train, I find it really difficult to get off!

So why aren’t I kinder to myself? Truth of the matter is, is that I don’t actually know?... If it was anyone else I’d have advice coming out of my arse (not literally) and I’d be kind and supportive to that person, but when it comes to myself I’m my own worst enemy. I think in my heart of hearts I think I’ve got too much going on to even think about being kinder to myself, when in reality this probably isn’t true – I just need to re-evaluate my priorities!
Now this is easier said than done, especially with a 3 month baby in tow, but there are a few ways I’m going to try and be kinder to myself.


Give myself recognition.
I’ve quickly learnt that being a parent is definitely the hardest job in the world. I knew it would be difficult, and even though it’s single handily the best thing we’ve ever done I didn’t realise just how hard it was going to be. I’ve spoken before on here and across my Instagram in particular of how I’ve struggled adjusting to my new life - The good days are amazing and the hard days are soul destroying, luckily the good massively outweighs the bad, but what I’m doing here looking after my baby solely for ten hours a day is a fucking achievement! We’re still alive, I’ve not pulled my hair out yet (don’t get me started on post-partum hair loss) and we’re actually pretty good at getting out and about and mingling with real people. I say real people because it feels like I’m in my own little bubble most days where it’s just me, Amelia and the pupper. Eeek!

I’d like to think my baby thinks I’m a brilliant mother, my husband tells me so every day, so maybe I actually need to start listening to him… Change the habit of a lifetime (sorry Dan) and actually take the compliments he gives me and give myself recognition.

Taking time out for myself.
I think as a mother, heck even as a woman there’s a massive pressure for us to have our shit together! We’ve all seen that meme where it says ‘trying to be a mom, excel in my career, maintain a social life, drink enough water’ etc etc etc – Well it’s very much true, and what I’m struggling with here is that when I do find I’ve got a spare half an hour I’m making the tea, or I’m emptying the dishwasher, I’m not actually doing anything for myself. It’s quite sad really, and thinking about it always sends me down that dreaded negativity path. Dan’s brilliant when he gets in from work or on weekends when he’s home as he’s very hands on with Amelia but I just can’t help myself potter around the house tidying & making everything spick and span. Don’t ask me why I do it, it’s not like we’re getting a visit from the Queen or anything - I think this is going to be the hardest habit for me to shake off!

Time out for myself means having a bath, a proper bath, not one of those quick dips before the baby starts crying type baths. Tonight I’m going to be filling the tub pretty much to the brim, popping in every bath product I can find and not coming out until I look like a prune!

Forgiving myself & my emotions.
Like I say I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to being kind to myself. I’m awful at it! And when I’m in my darkest times I can’t help but sob my absolute heart out. It’s not pretty, not by a long shot, but it’s what happens every God damn time. I cry because I’m upset, then I cry even more because I’m upset at myself getting upset. You see where I’m going wrong here don’t you.

What I need to learn to do is forgive myself and my emotions. It’s okay to have a cry and tell people about it on the internet, hence this blog post! And to be honest I think we all probably need to be a little more honest about our emotions.

Treating myself.
I can’t help but think of Parks & Recreation as I typed that bit out. Treat yo’self! Anyway, before I had Amelia a treat to me, from me would always involve spending a fair amount of money, which now I’m on a maternity wage isn’t all that achievable. And to tell you something I’m frigging hating it!... I hate not being able to afford the weekly shop, I hate having just about enough money to cover my side of the mortgage & I hate that the vast majority of the things we spend our lives doing in this day and age is dictated by money! But that’s a story for another day.

What I’m learning to do is treat myself in different ways, the ASOS hauls have been swapped for a Greggs coffee & cake meal deals (of which I’m having quite a few of these days – eek!) and now the weather’s getting a bit nicer I’m treating myself to dog free walks! I’d never have done this pre-baby. Who even goes outside just to get outside? Well me, now! And it’s brilliant to just totally switch off & to get in touch with both my surroundings and myself.

Taking care of myself.
Okay, so when I think of someone who takes care of themselves I think of someone who eats healthily, works out regularly and someone who doesn’t burn the candle at both ends. Now it doesn’t take a genius to realise that I am none of these people… But what’s good is that I want to be one of those people! I’m never going to be the person who only eats kale, or who pounds away in the gym 24/7, but I’m consciously making a few lifestyle changes to ensure I’m looking after myself. I still eat cheesy chips but I’m definitely packing the veggies more on my plate when it comes to meal times, and I’m cooking a lot more in general now rather than relying on something which is quick & easy. I’m also spending half an hour on an afternoon joining in with a Zumba lesson on youtube, much to my little girls pleasure, she finds it very amusing watching mammy doing silly dance moves and jumping around… My pelvic floor on the other hand! My god, nobody tells you about that after you’ve had a baby. I’ve nearly wet myself on a few occasions getting a bit too into it! As for burning the candle at both ends, this is something I still need to work on as my brain will literally not chill the fuck out – It’s so annoying! Please throw some tips my way!

As I’ve already started implementing change into taking care of myself I can definitely see the change, and even though there’s some way to go, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Telling myself I am enough.
Well that’s a bit deep isn’t it! I’ll keep this one short & sweet because I don’t want to get too bogged down in the emotional side of this one, but essentially I am enough… I’m not superwoman… I’m never going to be superwoman, and that’s totally okay.

Yes I have flaws, don’t we all, but I also have some qualities which make me a pretty good person – And that’s enough.

Believing in myself.
Last but no means least & probably the hardest nut to crack for me is believing in myself! I’ve struggled with believing in myself for as long as I can remember, I’m pretty sure it’s etched somewhere inside of me saying nope nope nope. I think success is equal parts hard work and believing in yourself and unfortunately I think the latter is somewhat holding me back. My husband is the most supportive person and is always telling me to believe in myself when I’m having down days. But there’s always something at the back of my mind niggling away thinking that he has to say that because he’s my husband. It’s such a difficult one!

If I’m totally honest I don’t quite know how to tackle believing in myself– I can only try!

Being kinder to myself has always been at the back of my mind, which I suppose is the problem here. I know I need to do it, but I’m just not doing it. I’ve started changing my lifestyle in small amounts to ensure I’m becoming kinder to myself, but I’m very much aware that there’s quite a way to go!
Wish me luck!

Are you kind to yourself?

Claire.X

Have you read any other of my more personal blog posts?
Mourning my pre-baby self.
Why University put me off my dream career.
Adjusting to my pregnancy body.

WHAT WE PACKED IN OUR HOSPITAL BAG & WHAT WE ACTUALLY NEEDED.

I’ve come to realise that the vast majority of hospital bag posts have been written pre-baby and although interesting & insightful, they don’t give that ‘real life’ quality that could be achieved though writing post-baby. And this is what I’m bringing for you today.

What we packed in our hospital bag & what we actually needed.


We packed our hospital bag when I was around 36 weeks pregnant, which is when midwive’s typically advise you to do so - Little did we know at that time we’d still have five weeks left to go before we could put it to good use.

We looked at countless hospital bag guides that advised us which sort of bag to use as well as what to pack – Packing was usually split into three sections; Things for me, things for the baby & things to pass the time.

The bag.
After spending numerous nights googling hospital bags and to be honest feeling a little disheartened at how expensive they all were, we stumbled across a brand that ticked all of the boxes. We discovered Lekebaby on Amazon, a brand which makes practical but still super cute bags, which after nights of searching was pretty hard to come by. We opted for the satchel style which is lovely, but in hindsight we should have probably bought the rucksackstyle, just from a practicality point of view. The satchel is quite big and bulky, which is great for keeping all the baby crap you seem to accumulate in (because you WILL accumulate that shit) but not so great for actually carrying on your shoulder for long periods of time. 
We’re lucky because the Uppababy Cruz pram we have has a huge carry section underneath so we just bung the bag under there and it fits perfect but for carrying purposes I think a rucksack would be way more comfortable.
I’d definitely stick with the same brand though and will probably end up buying the rucksack a few years down the line when Amelia isn’t as reliant on her pram. The simple reason I’d stick with the Lekebaby brand is that even now, three months down the line we’re still discovering new pockets and compartments to the bag we have – And you’ll discover that literally the more pockets the better when it comes to hiding all of that baby crap!

Things for me.
I think comfort is key when you’re about to go into hospital and after reading ‘your baby your birth’ by Hollie De Cruz I went into the birthing room wanting to make it as homely as possible.
I’d packed a long line capped sleeved top from Primark (two sizes too big) to wear during the birthing process which proved really useful – I was a bit nervous going in that I was going to lose all of my dignity during childbirth so wanted something loose and comfortable to wear to try and save whatever dignity I’d have left… And this did the trick! I’d packed a couple of pairs of pyjamas too for afterwards, but truth be told I didn’t wear them, I spent the rest of the day braless in another baggy tshirt and some mens joggers from primark.

Speaking of braziers, I’d packed two maternity bras which I never ended up wearing… When it came to feeding Amelia I just whipped a boob out and she got herself all cosy in the excess fabric of my two sizes too big longline tee.

I’d read a lot of guides which advise you to take lip balm to combat dry mouth when you’re gas & air. I asked Dan to apply lip balm to my lips twice during childbirth, so I would say it is useful to take with you, but what I’d recommend more is juice…. And lots of it! We took two bottles with the intention of having one for me and one for Dan, when truthfully I had them both & could have probably done with another two. Eeek! We went for ones with a sports cap too, which was a life saver when I was in full on angry beast childbirth mode.

As well as lip balm I took a few extra beauty products with the idea that after popping this child out of me I deserve a bit of a pamper… How wrong I was! You won’t have time for that shit! I took makeup, moisturiser & massage oils, all of which didn’t really get a look in. I was too in love with my baby and the family we’d then become that I didn’t give a rats ass about how I looked.

I made sure to pack plenty of maternity pads, but in all honesty I didn’t realise how many I’d actually go through. As minging as this sounds I’d never really thought about what else was to come out of me other than my baby, and the fact I’d be needing to change pads every two hours definitely took me by surprise! I packed disposable pants too (yes they’re as sexy as they sound) but didn’t end up using them, I’d been living in those packs of Primark pants before birth & they didn’t fail me afterwards… You’ll (as well as my husband) be pleased that these pants no longer live in my wardrobe – They’ve been banished to the bin!­­

Other articles I’d read included taking a tens machine, which to be honest I never bothered looking into in that much detail. I’m glad I didn’t buy one though as I really didn’t need it to get me through the birthing process & it would have been a complete waste of money; and when you’re living on a maternity wage, every penny saved helps!

Something we should have taken, and this is peak parenting… Is a couple of plastic bags for dirty clothes, blood stained clothes, baby pee stained clothes - You get the jist!


Things for baby.
We took way too many clothes for baby, like it was actually ridiculous, although I do think it’s better to over pack than under pack, we took things to the extreme. We packed three bodysuits, three sleepsuits, three tops, three bottoms & so on and so forth. We even took two pairs of boots… Which looking back now is totally stupid! A newborn baby isn’t going to get dressed up in full on outfits! Ooops! During our time at the hospital Amelia only made use of two bodysuits and two sleepsuits, and to be honest she only wore the second  outfit due to peeing all over us during her first nappy change.

For changing we took nappies, bags, wipes & cream – The usual stuff all the guides tell you to take. For us this one was quite straight forward and we made use out of everything we took.
I decided I wanted to breastfeed so didn’t take any bottles or formula with us, which In hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea, just incase Amelia couldn’t latch on, or I couldn’t get along with it – It’s probably a good idea to pack something for those ‘just in case’ moments.

Something we could have done extra with is blankets. We only took one, but it got drenched during the pee fountain we had to deal with. We probably have about ten different ones now at home, all of which get used so often – I definitely think it’s worth taking a few extra. You could even use them for yourself because lord knows the hospital beds aren’t all that cosy.

Truth is babies don’t actually need all that much – Just warmth, love & grub.


Things to pass the time.
We read so many guides that advised us to take everything but the kitchen sink pretty much when it came to passing the time, things such as phones, laptops, music or books, but when it comes down to it, you will literally have NO time to do any of this!

Throughout my 23 hour labour, I must have picked my phone up only a handful of times, and as soon as Amelia was here I only used it to take photos of her. Proud mam and all that! If I took anything else it would have been a total waste.

We packed a couple of drinks which I’ve already noted that we could have done with double the amount; But we also packed a couple of snacks too – Power food – Such as breakfast bars, banana’s and oranges, which we managed to make our way through pretty quickly, we could have definitely done with more... After leaving the delivery suite and making our way onto the ward it became apparent that it would only be myself that would be fed, thankfully the meals were quite generous so Dan & I managed to share them between us both, but we could have definitely done with extra food, especially for him after I’d given birth.

In conclusion I do think it’s useful to gather as much information as possible when it comes to packing your hospital bag, and I do think it’s better to overpack, but what I think there should be more of is hands on experiences from women after they’ve given birth reflecting on what they’d packed. I should have probably written up a blog post before I had Amelia for comparison, but hey ho, we live and learn… I’ll do it for the next one!... Although you may be waiting a good few years before that happens again… Because parenting is HARD!

What did you pack in your hospital bag that you didn’t use?

Claire.X

Have you read my other Pregnancy & Child birth posts?


DIAGNOSED WITH SLEEP DEPRIVATION.

Having a baby is tough & the sleepless nights are really taking a toll on me, but never in a million years did I think I was feeling anything more than tired… That was until I was diagnosed with sleep deprivation! Zzzz!

I hardly ever go to the Doctors as I feel I can always ‘power through’ anything that’s wrong with me - I don’t like to waste their time and I’d much rather opt for natural remedies over something medicinal however last week enough was enough!

I was on day six of having a constant headache, I had relentless eye strain and I’d felt totally run down & to be honest I think at this point Dan had had enough of me whinging - He pretty much forced me to book a doctor’s appointment.
I wouldn’t in any way say I have anxiety when it comes to my health, however I was getting to the stage, almost a week in, where I was thinking something might seriously be wrong with me. This worsened throughout the week as I’d developed a rash on my forearm, so of course little old me along with a bit of help from Dr. Google (which is the worst thing you can do btw) was self-diagnosed with meningitis!

Spoiler alert… It wasn’t meningitis.

I was a little bit nervous going in, but lucky enough to have a really lovely doctor who listened to everything I was saying with compassion - She did thorough tests on me, checking my eyes, blood pressure, oxygen levels (it was almost like having a mini mot) and eventually diagnosed me with sleep deprivation. It’s safe to say I was feeling a little bit stupid, and I did feel like I’d sort of wasted her time, however at least I knew it was nothing too serious, my mind was totally put at ease and I just needed a bit of kip!

This got me thinking about how I could help myself into getting a better night sleep.

We’ve been trying to nail a night time routine with Amelia over the last few weeks, and to be honest it's actually working... So why shouldn’t I apply that logic to myself? 
Reading.
Reading has always sent me to sleep, I don’t know what it is, but once I get comfy and curled up on the sofa under the lamp, it doesn’t take long for me to start yawning and falling peeps. I’ve started re-reading Harry Potter & the philosophers stone a couple of evenings a week & it’s definitely helping me. Sometimes it doesn’t totally get me to sleep, but it certainly relaxes me which I think is half of the battle, when it comes to life with a baby.

Stepping away from my phone.
I’m a typical millennial in the sense that my life is basically on my smart phone. It’s the first thing I check on a morning (if the baby isn’t awake or crying of course – I’m not that bad) and the last thing I check at night. Writing that, I don’t even know why I’m surprised of my sleep deprivation diagnosis! Eeek! Since having Amelia I’ve definitely reduced the time spent attached to my phone, and there are some evenings I don’t even touch it. I’d still say there was room for improvement, but let’s face it, it’s difficult as a blogger to prise myself away from the thing.

Swapping caffeine for H2O.
I’ve always been bad when it comes to drinking water, but after my doctor’s orders I’ve definitely upped my intake. I’ve probably drank more water in the last week or so than I have all year. My usual drink of choice is a coffee… And a strong one at that, which I know is one of the worst things when it comes to getting a good night sleep. I can’t totally go cold turkey it comes to caffeine, I just can’t (don’t @ me) and I still have a cup on a morning, but throughout the day I mostly drink water or decaf tea - And so far I think it's working wonders.

Fresh bedding.
Of course I’m not changing my bedding on a nightly basis, but it is getting changed more than usual at the moment. I love getting into a freshly changed bed, even more so now I’ve changed our washing powder to a lavender scented one… Most adult thing ever said... Saying that I think a nicely made bed is just as nice to get into so I'm making a constant effort to make the bed as soon as we get out of it on a morning, fluff the pillows and make it as homely and as comfortable as possible.

Tub time.
I’ve always been a bath person, however since my diagnosis I’m taking tub time a bit more serious. On an evening while Dan has Amelia, I take myself upstairs to the bathroom and have a good solid hour to myself where I can relax and unwind in a bath tub full to the brim of bubbles. At the moment I’m using all sorts of lotions and potions up there, more is definitely more for me right now, the Aldi bubble bath is one of my favourites as well as bath oils from Lush & Aromatherapy.
I’m quite a chilled person on the outside however I think in my home life and what’s going on in my head is much different - And its's what's got me in the sleep deprived state I'm in! Balancing looking after a baby, our home, making sure the dog gets plenty of walks & somehow keeping this blog updated is somewhat difficult to say the least, and I think it took me going to the doctors to realise that I needed to chill the F out!

I still feel silly for going, but am so glad my diagnosis was nothing serious and truth be told it’s changed my mind set on this whole balance act of life malarkey for the better!

Have you got any tips for catching up on sleep?

Claire.X

6 MAKEUP PRODUCTS I'VE REPURCHASED.

I feel like things have been baby, baby, baby around here recently (as has my entire life) but as she’s getting a bit older & I’m regaining a bit of ‘me time’ back I wanted to talk to you about the goodies in my life, the six makeup products I repurchase time & time again.

I’m quite flippant when it comes to beauty products. I fall for the fancy new marketing schemes & more often than not decide to purchase something new & exciting rather than stick to what I know. Every so often though a product has come into my life where I’m just like ‘WOW’ & I know it’s something I can’t do without.

It’s these show stoppers which I’m going to run through with you. I’d love to know if you’ve used any of them before, or equally if there’s any products you can’t live without.


The Body Shop Matte Clay Skin Clarifying Foundation – Railay Beach 014.
This foundation is only relatively new to my collection, but I’ve nearly finished my second bottle & am ready to buy a third. I first bought this on a bit of a whim, I’d never really tried any of The Body Shop makeup before other than swatching different pieces at their events & If I’m honest I don’t even know why I picked this up, but I’m SO glad that I did. It’s relatively high coverage, but also very buildable, so good for those natural makeup days but also for when you’re wanting a more flawless finish. The foundation lasts really well & I never have to worry about reapplying with this one – It’s brilliant & if you like a more mattifying look when it comes to your base it’s one I really think you should try. I’m certainly glad I did.

Loreal Paris Lip Paint – Nudeist 212
The beauty product I’m most flippant with is lipsticks, you should see my collection, I’ve got more than 50 at least, so never in a million years did I think I’d buy the same shade twice… Until I came across this one. I have brights in my collection, but ultimately I’m a nude kind of gal, but what I love most about this one is that it has a purple/mauve tone to it. I think it’s an amazing colour, granted it looks better with a tan, but even without I think it’s bloody brilliant. The texture’s brilliant, the applicators brilliant… The whole bloody thing is bloody brilliant – I just love it! And I love the way it makes me feel wearing it.

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer – Fair.
I bought this mega hyped product many many moons ago now & to be honest, I haven’t looked back since. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bought another concealer since. I’m amazed by that! I’ve never thought about that up until now. I don’t think I need to say anything else about this little tube of goodness, just look t the state of the tube - I've definitely gotten some good use out of it. It’s obvious I love it & it’s obvious It’s amazing! I’m sure you’ll have already tried it, it’s probably in your collection already I bet?

I was very kindly gifted the Rimmel contour stick when it first came out and have since been back and bought a couple more, heck I even bought one for my sister as a Christmas present one year – That’s how much I like it. I’m not a massive fan of the highlight stick, but the contour shade more than makes up for it. I use shade light which works perfectly for my skin tone, it’s not ashy in the slightest, and gives my face a more chiselled & defined look. It’s super duper easy to apply and blends like a dream. For a drugstore product it certainly feels high end.


I (along with everybody else) first bought Velvet Teddy back in the Kylie Jenner hype days & really I haven’t looked back since. As I said beforehand I’m a nude lipstick gal through and through but what’s so special about Velvet Teddy is that it’s my Wedding Day lipstick. I originally wanted to go out and buy myself a super fancy, super expensive, treat type of lipstick, but when it came to it, nothing really stood out - That was until a random day before our Wedding when I was wearing Velvet Teddy & I realised it’s the shade I go to back to time and time again… Why shouldn’t it be my Wedding Day lipstick. I loved it before & I love it even more now – I’ll always repurchase Velvet Teddy as it now brings lots of happy memories. I love wearing it! Do any of you guys have a lipstick that evokes special memories?

Soap & Glory Archery – Dark Chocolate.
A couple of months ago I’d actually ran out of Archery, and would you believe me if I said my life nearly ended? Okay, that’s a massive exaggeration, but I really did feel lost without it. I remember a time where brows weren’t ever part of my makeup routine, but now it’s my favourite & most crucial part. I’ve tried similar products to this one, but always come back to Archery as not only does it work amazingly well, but it’s super affordable too! The wax nib is tapered which is great for filling in hairs at the beginning of the brow but also amazing for creating a super precise tail. It’s bloody brilliant! I love it!

So there’s my six holy grail products. I may dip in and out of them and opt for other alternatives but I always make my way back around to these seven amazing products.

I’m a huge drugstore & high street type of gal (if you couldn’t tell) and the reason why I love all of these products is that you certainly get that bang for your buck with them!

Have you used any of these products before? What are the beauty products you repurchase?

Claire.X

Have you read any of my other beauty posts?