work life balance

I’ve banged on about this countless times on various social media platforms, but the months at the end of 2017 were absolute chaos for me. We relocated to Somerset, moving house twice, Baby Ted wasn’t sleeping and my work life ground to a halt.

In actual fact it didn’t grind to a halt; I continued at almost full pace until a few days before Christmas, but then decided to calm it down for a few weeks because I simply couldn’t do everything I needed to do. But it felt as though things ground to a halt. And I was weepy, felt poorly, felt constantly guilty or useless; the house was filled with boxes, it wouldn’t stop raining and generally being cold and miserable and the world felt completely out of my grasp.

work life balance

But I made three key changes – which were actually quite difficult or time-consuming, in their various ways – and, just like that, order was re-established. Pockets of time fell into my lap as though by magic; nights of (mostly) uninterrupted sleep left me feeling twenty years younger. I began to have an interest in socialising again, in eating more healthily (though this is currently on a backburner due to my ongoing Mint Choc Magnum addiction) and in working in a more fruitful and rewarding way, rather than just panicking to get things done.

Here are the changes that put my life back on an even keel. They seem obvious, but I’m going to write about them nevertheless!

Getting Proper Childcare

If you have to work, or want to work, and you need to do this from home then I’d say that it’s almost essential – both for productivity and your own sanity – to get some form of childcare going. We had a wonderful nanny for Angelica from when she turned one until when we left our old house. We had her for two days a week and it gave me quite a substantial block of time in which to get my work done. (I mean, not enough time, but this is the kind of job that could take up as much time as you can throw at it. I used to, pre-babies, post every day on my beauty website and produced two videos a week as well as creating brand content. Had there been more hours in the day, I would have soaked them up into my work life too. I was insatiable! But there has to be a limit, doesn’t there?)

Anyway, I think that having proper childcare where you don’t have to engage with your children at all and can completely immerse yourself in work is essential if you work from home. I quickly found, sans-nanny, that I was just panic working whenever I possibly could and it wasn’t good for me or for the rest of the family. With a nanny, I can work relentlessly all day without interruption (or work for half of the day and use the other half to sleep and browse stupid things on Youtube. Do NOT tell anyone that) and for that time, at least, I feel on top of things. And the childcare doesn’t have to be in the form of a nanny – I have one because I like that the babies are still at home and I can vaguely hear their chattering through the floors! – it might work better if they are at a nursery and you have a completely empty house. Whatever floats your boat.

work life balance

It’s a bit of a step, a bit of a wrench if you’ve never let your cherub/s out of your sight before, but it’s so, so worthwhile if you feel as though you’re drowning in guilt every time you open your laptop, or if you have a burning determination to do something amazingly entrepreneurial but can’t summon up the energy in the evenings, after bathtime and protracted bedtime story sessions have been completed. I’d hazard a guess that finding a nanny is more time-consuming than finding a nursery – it seems pretty easy to book in a viewing at a nursery, though many have waiting lists – but if you use an agency (I used one called Tinies, twice) then a lot of the hard work is done for you. It’s more expensive, but usually the nannies have already been sussed out for their qualifications and certificates and a good agency will whittle down a list to the ones that are really most suitable for you. If anyone’s interested I can do a separate post on nanny-finding and some of the pitfalls – let me know.

But on to the second (hugely rewarding!) change I made, which was…

Getting Some Sleep

I’ve written at length about our sleep problems – you can read the main posts using the links here:

How I’m Getting My Baby To Sleep Through The Night

The Baby Sleep Situation

It took us being absolutely driven into the ground with tiredness for us to make definitive, positive steps towards getting Baby Ted to sleep through the night, and I think you know when you’ve reached that point. Probably the trick is to start addressing sleep problems before you get to that stage – I mentioned in one post how so many of us are too tired to take a step back from our situation and realise how utterly absurd it is, how crazy the habits are that we’re allowing to form. If you’re knackered and you have an older baby that doesn’t sleep, I’d urge you to take a pencil and piece of paper and (now!) write down a few sentences about what happens during the night. Summarise it for yourself. Sometimes reading something in black and white can give you the nudge you need to make changes or identify what it is that is so glaringly wrong.

I met a wonderful woman the other week who specialises in sleep problems – I’m going to try and nab her to answer a few important baby sleep questions, so if you’re interested in asking anything, leave a comment below!

Anyway, getting some sleep has completely changed our family life around. I no longer want to kill my husband, which has to be a good thing, and he no longer looks at me with the same worn, empty expression he had been using for quite some time. We were like zombies. I felt as though I had lost all grasp on reality. Sleep deprivation is monstrous – recognise it, address it, don’t let it carry on without at least trying to fix it.

work life balance

Easing Up On iPhone Usage

I am going to write far more about this, because it’s a hot topic at the moment, but I’ve really eased up on my iPhone usage. It was almost an addiction. And most of the time, when I was scrolling through Instagram or reading someone’s comment thread on Twitter, it was completely and utterly pointless. Hours and hours lost to the black hole of social media – not the useful news and information social media, or the nice catching-up-with-friends social media, but the sort of social media that sees you trawling through the wedding photos of a person you have never met but that popped up on the Instagram home page. Or following a trail of usernames through Twitter to see why such-and-such left an aggressive comment on so-and-so’s blog post that was published back in 2014 but may have contained a sentence that dissed such-and-such’s makeup range. Good God, stop it. It’s worse than watching daytime TV.

I read a really good article by Sali Hughes on The Pool (here) about breaking up with your phone. I then bought the book she recommended* and re-organised my iPhone apps so that my most-used time-wasters weren’t immediately accessible. I then turned off my email notifications so that I wouldn’t get the little red number flag popping up on my home screen every time I had a new email (which is approximately once every ten seconds and I’m not even joking) and all of these things, done together, have cut my iPhone usage by around half. Perhaps more. I’ve stopped idly scrolling when I should be pretending to be an evil wizard with Angelica, and when I watch TV in the evenings I do so with all of my attention rather than a quarter of it. (The other three quarters concentrating on Instagram Stories, which I find absolutely riveting.)

So three steps to re-ordering my chaotic life – freeing up time, regaining my sanity and developing good habits. What would you say have been your own biggest changes when life has become too crazy to handle?

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baby blog nappy changing tips

This is my third and final post with Huggies Pure Wipes and I wanted to talk about how nappy-changing time can be one of the most important times of the day in terms of connecting with your baby and having a bit of fun. If you have an absolutely jam-packed schedule of child-watching and food-cooking and house-keeping and admin-doing and all of the other stuff that we typically have to squeeze into the waking hours, you can sometimes forget to stop and stare at your baby. Really look at them and engage. I don’t mean to say that if we’re busy we neglect them the rest of the time, but nappy-changing means that we are really close to them and, unless they’re wriggling off the mat every two seconds (Ted) or flipping over onto their fronts (also Ted) we get to look at them straight in the eyes. One on one. Hello baby!

baby blog nappy changing tips

Instead of just rushing through the nappy-changing process, here’s what I try to do to have a bit of time out and make it more fun. Because Ted hates having his nappy changed, up until the point that I put the new nappy on and start doing his vest poppers back up! The only time he laughs during changing is if he wees on me and I scream, so I try to do the following things to keep it enjoyable. Usually after the dirty nappy has been removed and the new one has been done up, to spare me from the aforementioned wee incidents.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Play “This Little Piggy” with his toes. Ted has just about started to enjoy the piggy-toe thing. Angelica never got it and won’t let me do it now, but Ted has a good giggle when the piggy goes to market, or stays at home, or has roast beef. Can I raise an objection to this game, though? NONE does not rhyme with HOME. I don’t know whether it’s supposed to, but it sounds as though it should, and the fact that it doesn’t bothers me a lot. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at HOME. This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had NONE. Every time I do it, I want to rhyme none with home – sort of like knownThis little piggy had no-wun. It annoys me every time. I need to get out more.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Improve his co-ordination via potentially frustrating means. I used to like to place objects around Ted’s person so that he had to turn to get them, or dangle them above so that he had to reach up – it kept him occupied for minutes on end, which was useful if it was a particularly bad nappy. Now that he’s on the move, I definitely don’t want him twisting about to reach things so I dangle them above and let him keep them (ie gnaw on them violently before bashing himself in the face with them) which buys me a bit of time when I’m performing the potentially hazardous old-nappy-out-new-nappy-under manoeuvre. Quite often he’s happy with the wipes packet, because he likes to rustle the plastic and it’s a good chunky size, but I keep things fresh with various spur-of-the-moment accessories. A slipper. A clean nappy. The handle from a wardrobe that is missing its handle (oh that’s where it went).

baby blog nappy changing tips

Do long-hair Peekaboo. You don’t actually need long hair to do this, you just need enough of it to form a face-veiling curtain when you drop your head down. The hair hides your face and then you pull your head up straight and – Peekaboo! Oh God. I saw myself in the mirror doing this and I realised that I look really freaky when I do it – a bit like the girl climbing out of the well in The Ring. Especially if I’ve just washed my hair. Poor Ted. I need to smile more when I do Peekaboo, otherwise it’s all a bit sinister, isn’t it?

In all seriousness, it’s a good time to do little games when they are lying prone on the mat. Perhaps not once they are older babies, because they just want to get crawling or rolling or whatever crazy movement it is they have mastered, but for newborns and young babies it’s a lovely time to have a little tickle and sing stupid songs. (“Look at your poo-poo, look it’s so brown; look at your poo-poo, let’s flush it down!” That’s one I do especially for Angelica, but I have more. Lyrics available on request.)

baby blog nappy changing tips

It’s also a good time, at any baby stage, to give them a good check over and make sure that the skin in the nappy area is well cared-for. I mentioned some of my most-used baby products in the second post with Huggies Pure Wipes, including some brilliant nappy creams, but the choice of wipe itself is also really important. This whole post series came about after discussing with Huggies the idea of caring for the skin with wipes, not just cleansing it – making sure that the wipe is soft and gentle. After all, if you’re using wipes then it’s multiple times a day and you want to make sure that they are kind to babies’ skin. Huggies Pure Wipes are made with 99% water and with natural absorbent fibres** – they’re also free from parabens, phenoxyethanol and perfume and can be used on newborns from day one.

So a gentle wipe and a lovely cream to keep the skin protected (I use Weleda Calendula, see the second post) and a check over the creases and bits and bobs to make sure that everything is dry and fresh and there’s no redness or soreness. It’s like a mini Baby Body MOT. And that’s my little routine!

baby blog nappy changing tips

What do you do during nappy-changing? Are you a rush-through-it-as-fast-as-possible sort of person, or do you take your time, staring into their lovely little eyes as you do up all of the poppers on the sleepsuit the wrong way and then curse when you have to start all over again? Do you sit there, slowly caressing their little legs as you try not to fall into an exhausted stupor, or do you have everything done within thirty seconds, nappy changed with almost military precision? Tell me. Along with more poo anecdotes, because I greatly enjoyed those last time, thanks.

**65% pulp.

 

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cosy babies

Just a quick post: some higher-tog sleepsuits for those with f-f-f-f-freezing houses. (To be fair, it’s not that bad now that we’ve worked out the heating, but it still gets a little bit nippy in the small hours!) Most babies and toddlers are just fine in the 2.0 tog sleeping bags in winter, especially with a sleepsuit and vest or whatever beneath, but if your room temperature is hovering down at the 14/15 degrees mark overnight then you might be interested in something a little more substantial.

warmer sleepsuits higher tog

If you’re not au fait with the baby sleeping bag, then let me introduce you: it’s basically a sleeping bag that fastens at the shoulder and that usually keeps the arms free to allow good heat circulation. The idea is that it replaces blankets and is more convenient – it can’t slip off, be kicked off, and a baby can’t slip down into it. I’ve used them with both babies from around two or three months (I was later with Angelica because she was born into a heatwave) and before that age, just tucked cellular blankets around them.

Anyway, I couldn’t be without sleeping bags – I’m not sure I’ve talked about them before but they are definitely one of my non-negotiable essentials. I have two per baby/toddler, though Ted has inherited a few from Angelica to add to his future stocks! If you’re unsure about what the baby should wear beneath the bag, Gro have a really helpful guide on their website here – I always think that these guides err on the cool side, in that I would probably have an extra layer on, personally, but there we go. The rule is supposedly that the baby should have on one more layer than you do, and at 18 degrees I’d be wearing a bloody tracksuit, woolly hat and gloves under the duvet, but perhaps that’s just me!

baby sleep tips

The first sleeping bag we’ve been testing is the 3.5 tog Baby Cosy Sleeping Bag from Jojo Maman Bebe* and it’s basically the Michelin Man of wearable duvets. Ted is about three times his usual width when I put him inside it, but I love it for the detachable arms (unusual to have arms, most don’t) and the soft, bouncy feel of the padding. For smaller babies, this could be a great sleepsuit for popping them into if you’re going to be taking them out in a pram in the cold, especially if you don’t want to invest in a separate snowsuit. It’s quite an outlay if you’re only going to use one of those padded suits a few times, and small babies grow so fast – if you’re at the tail-end of winter and don’t think you’ll get a lot of use out of a dedicated snowsuit then a higher tog sleeping bag could be a nice option. This one is £35 here* – biggest selling point is definitely the detachable arms, but it’s great quality and comes in a few different colourways and patterns. Magnifique!

3.5 tog grobag

Angelica has been sleeping in the 3.5 tog Twinkle Twinkle Grobag and it has kept her toasty warm even when we’ve had those quite vicious, stormy cold spells. I wish we’d had it when we went “glamping” last year  and it rained solidly (still emotionally scarred) – so much easier than layering up blankets, especially with a wriggly toddler! This one has a plush, velvety feel and comes in a few different sizes – it’s £45 here*.

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This is where I’m supposed to write “how time flies!” “I can’t believe Ted is a year old already!” or “it seems like only yesterday that Ted was a tiny newborn wrapped in a little blanket!” But actually, the past year has felt exactly like a year.

Perhaps it’s because so many other things have happened at the same time as having a new baby. We sold our house, had a house purchase fall through, moved over a hundred miles from London-ish to Bath because we had nowhere to live and our friend had his rental house untenanted, found a new house to buy and relocated again to the depths of Somerset. Ted’s first year has taken place against a backdrop of constant house viewings and piles of packing boxes – with Angelica, each little development stage melded into the next before we could even blink, but with Ted, I can remember the first time he smiled (second viewing of the house in Epping Forest), the first time he took a bottle of formula (front bedroom of the rented house in Bath) and the first time he stood unaided (in the living room of our new home). When I think of him as a tiny newborn, I think of some of the crazy journeys we did in the car to go and view houses in Essex, in Suffolk, on the north Norfolk coastline, in Oxfordshire, in Buckinghamshire. What the hell were we doing? How did we end up here?

Ha.

So yes, perhaps the constant stressful activity has meant that the year has gone by at a steadier pace, with a myriad of memories to mark each passing month. Or maybe it’s possible that I was forewarned about the speed at which the first baby year tends to go by and made a conscious decision to savour it more, to really take note of changes and developments. To appreciate every tiny moment, even if that tiny moment was being at the very end of my tether – acknowledging it, committing it to memory.

Whatever, a year has gone by and here I am with a one year old and a two-and-seven-ish-months old. And it’s great fun. I mean exhausting (I had no idea that such a constant feeling of tiredness was something that existed) but on the days that I crave a few hours for myself, I also find myself itching to just have a peek and see what they are both up to. Trying to eat crayons, or making a beeline for the most dangerous electrical wire they’ve managed to sniff out.

This update takes a slightly different format to usual because I’m off out to dinner! We’ve had a little mini party for Ted with cake and grandparents (they were attending, we didn’t eat them) and now we are going to be all social with adult people which – quite frankly – terrifies me. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve forgotten how to effectively communicate with people my own age. I say stupid, inappropriate things at the wrong time but then after stressing about it and having those dark, paranoid moments, I realise that they probably weren’t stupid or inappropriate at all and that it’s likely nobody was listening to me anyway.

So yes, we’re off out and there may be wine, so I’m not banking on being able to write this later. I also feel as though I’ve covered quite a lot of what would have been in this update in my sleep posts (find them here and here) and as some of my Angelica updates are in upcoming posts, you’re not missing anything if I just show you – brace yourselves – a pictorial representation of the past twelve months.

This time exactly a year ago I was in absolute agony after my c-section (I vommed straight after my stitches had been done and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – you can read my birth story here) but I had the most beautiful brand new baby beside me. (Honestly, I was so drugged up I could barely recognise my baby, but you’re not supposed to say that are you? Ha.) Here’s how he’s grown into a solid, cheeky little one year old – with some photos of Angelica thrown in for good measure! (She can have a mammoth photo post in June, when she’s three.)

My Birth Story: Elective C-Section

newborn baby sleeping

newborn baby asleep

newborn baby

newborn and toddler

ruth crilly and family

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

toddler baby 5 month update

breastfeeding multitasking

toddler and baby update diary

7 month baby update

7 month baby update

baby blog development diary

fisher price jumperoo review

christy junior infinity and beyond

toddler and 9 month baby blog

baby and toddler update

toddler and baby development diary

vicks babyrub for babies

Well that’s the longest page I’ve ever produced on here! Well done if you made it to the bottom. See you in the next update…

 

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