The (Im)Possibility Of Being A Present Parent

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A few weeks ago Little Ored and I were travelling by bus en route to our Monday morning baby class when I was approached by an elderly woman. “It’s so nice to see a young Mum playing with her child instead of staring down at her phone.”

I was taken aback. Firstly by the apparent compliment on my parenting skills and secondly by how old she actually thought I was (I’m a few months shy of 30 and let’s face it that’s not that young).

All joking aside, I’ve always made a point of putting away my phone when I’m with Little Ored but even more so when we’re out and about. What would be the point of taking him to soft play, for a walk along the beach or out to lunch if I then spent the entire time ignoring him? We treat Little Ored as we would any adult, and if I wouldn’t sit on my phone for the duration of dinner with a friend then I’m not going to start doing it with my son.

Of course I’m no saint. There are occasions when I reply to a text, listen to a voicemail or check Google to find out when the next train is due. Or the more obvious and frequent reason I reach for the phone- to take photos. But I’d honestly say that for about 80% of the time when Little Ored is awake my phone is either hiding in a coat pocket or buried underneath a mountain of toys and baby wipes on a tabletop/kitchen counter.

Having a one year old means that for the most part, I’m too busy to even have my phone in hand but of course there are occasions when I have to remind myself to put it down, and that’s because I’m actively choosing (and trying) to be present in my son’s life. Screen time- specifically social media- is a BIG distraction from real life relationships and I don’t want my son or any future children growing up with the feeling that Mama isn’t really listening. I don’t want them ever feeling as if they have to compete for my attention. Likewise I don’t want to miss out on the funny/cute/ new things Little Ored does because I was too busy thumbing through Instagram.

And Little Ored loves that I’m right there with him, building blocks just so he can knock them down later. Chasing him into the tipi as he squeals with delight or dancing with abandon when his favourite song comes on the radio. Or, as is always the game of choice on any form of public transport, playing ‘ticket inspector’ on the bus.

But I can’t help but wonder how fully present any parent can really be when it’s almost impossible to shake off our responsibilities, be it work, running a household or both? So whilst my phone may lay untouched for hours on end, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself promising repeatedly that “I won’t be long,” whilst unpacking the third machine load of the day.

I always thought my phone was the enemy but now I realise it plays just a small part in the day to day demands on my time. For there will always be dirty dishes in the sink. Clean clothes that need folding. Errands to run. It’s a juggling act for any parent and I’d argue that no parent can be 100% present, 100% of the time.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t strive to be the best I can be, but it’s all about finding the right balance that works for me and my child and that’s all anyone can do as a parent. I guarantee they’ll be moments when sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two is the only way to appease a grumpy one year old. Other times I’ll need to hoover or cook lunch leaving Little Ored to amuse himself for longer than I’d like.

But if I can eliminate the unnecessary distractions (I finally deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and I’m still basking in the glow of freedom) then at least I know that for the most part, Little Ored is getting the very best of me.

 

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What To Buy For A First Birthday

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This post has been sat in my draft box for sometime now and this morning I decided that if it’s going to see the light of day it’s now or never, because otherwise the Birthday related posts will continue until the next birthday rolls around!


Let me start this post a little off piste by telling you about a fantastic read by Emily Rollings called ‘Slow Blogging.’ If you use social media- Instagram in particular- or blog then it’s well worth a read. I found it to be both an inspiring yet relatable approach to posting content, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. I like to think that social media is like all good things- worth the wait. Which is why, like Emily, I’m going to stop apologising for not posting regularly enough!

(Starting… now)

Back to the task at hand and can you believe Little Ored is turning one in a matter of days? (Four to be exact) which has thrown up the BIG dilemma of “What do you buy a one year old” Suddenly, the gifts we bought for friend’s children, having not yet had a child of our own, seemed laughable. Wind up wooden musical toys albeit beautiful, are by no means practical especially in the hands of a baby!

So it was time to get our thinking caps on and with Little Ored’s first Christmas a not-too-distant memory toys were 100% out of the question. Quite frankly Father Christmas (aka both sides of the family) spoilt him rotten and whilst he’s come to have his favourites it seemed kind of crazy to buy any more.

Now that we’re a one-income household also had to think about a budget. It would’ve been so easy to get carried away and buy gift after gift, but a) we couldn’t afford to do that and b) would have been overwhelming for Little Ored. (We’ve read a lot online about how children are overwhelmed by too much choice and how less toys = more quality playtime).

So with that in mind we tried really hard to think of gifts that will have a little more longevity; presents that he’ll be able to use/keep for years to come.

So here’s what we’ve opted for, with our reasons for doing so. I really hope that by sharing our thought process behind the presents, it’ll help any parents struggling like we did, and maybe help you to think a little more outside the box.

1. All The Things I Wish For You

This personalised picture book was an absolute no-brainer. Not only does Little Ored adore having books read to him (not to mention how often I catch him flicking through them at leisure when in his nursery) but the story itself has a beautiful, heartfelt message, making it the perfect first birthday present. Not only that but you can include a personal message/dedication making it a wonderful keepsake for your baby to read/look back on when he’s not such a little baby anymore!

2. Tipi

When Little Ored starting pulling his ball-pit over his head, relishing the hiding space, it soon became apparent that a tipi could quite possibly be the BIG birthday gift. Despite the price tag (you can buy them on Etsy from anywhere from £40-£150+) we’re hoping that this will be a gift that will grow with Little Ored, giving him a fun place to play, read and relax until he eventually grows out of it (literally). And I think that’s what I really like about this- it’s not a present that by his next or even third birthday, he’ll be done with. I also like that’s there’s so much choice in design meaning that you’ll get something pretty unique that matches your chosen space, with the ability to make it even more special by adding your own little creative touches (lights, pole flags, bunting, cushions etc).

3. Birthday Letters To My Baby

One of the things I love about Instagram is how random follows lead to random discoveries and that’s exactly how I stumbled upon Emily Rollings. I know writing birthday letters has become popular, but for a couple who are both seriously unorganised and have a penchant for loosing misplacing stuff, having a beautifully bound book seemed like the safest way of storing those thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams that we have for Little Ored.

Also, I very much like that I only have to find the time to sit down once a year to write and reflect because quite frankly I’ve failed at keeping on top of filling out his Baby Book as the months have passed!

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Why You Don’t Have To Throw A First Birthday Party (If You Don’t Want To)

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You read that right.

And not only do you not have to throw a party but it’s plenty OK not to.

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion but the absence of big celebrations haven’t suddenly made me public enemy No.1 or a terrible Mother. The world as it turned out, didn’t end. But whilst Ored and I were both wrestling with the indecision in the weeks months that lead up to this momentous milestone, that’s exactly what it felt like and suddenly I felt myself bending under a pressure that I hadn’t yet experienced as a first time Mama (and it sucked).

The problem was that everything-and to some, extent everyone– was making me feel like we should be throwing a party. If it wasn’t friends, family and neighbours asking us “When’s the party?” Or “What’s the plan?” then it was a whole world of social media selling us a dream of super popular babies with glamorous/quirky/super cool themed parties were seemingly both sides of the family get on (I could dream) and neither parent has bags under their eyes from late night cake frosting/gift wrapping/assembling paper decorations.

And maybe if circumstances were a little different we might have had some kind of gathering, but with my family spread all over the country and a distinct lack of ‘Mummy Friends’ (I’m the first in my group of friends to have a baby and I find it hard making friends with others when the initial thing we have in common is sex) it seemed like less and less of a party. Not to mention the M word (I’m talking money) which now we’re on a single income means unfortunately, we do sometimes have to times about the cost of things.

But despite all of this I just couldn’t shake the overriding feeling that Little Ored wouldn’t actually enjoy a huge fuss. I mean I’m sure he would’ve of on some level, for an hour or so maybe, but I have no doubt in my mind he would’ve grown tired of the attention very quickly and spent the entire day wanting to be held exclusively by his parents. Cue a fight with the grandparents to comfort him when he cries for us and the whole thing seemed less about fun and more about obligation (and to everyone but the one person who it should be about- our son).

The decider? Simply thinking about what Little Ored would want to do which was the only thing that really mattered. So we thought long and hard about it and in the end we decided NO party. And once we’d made the decision and were committed to it, we felt relieved.

So what did we do instead I hear you cry? Using the money that we would’ve spent on a party, we instead used to book a cake smash and oh boy was it worth it. Not only was it a fun morning for all three of us but Little Ored had an absolute blast devouring/devastating the cake and our photographer Cheryl Small, was able to capture some beautiful memories that we’ll treasure forever.

Afterwards we had a quiet lunch and then headed home for some playtime, all three of us -which is somewhat of a rarity- with the various presents he got from friends and family. And that quite frankly was the fun, stress-free Birthday we imagine our laid back Little Ored would’ve wanted.

And so for every other parent daring to do the unthinkable- be bold, be brave and skip the birthday party if it’s not for your little one and you!

 

Photo Credit: Cheryl Small Photography