Can we be kind to children too?

I recently unfollowed an Instagram account that posts stuff like “Be Kind Always”, whilst simultaneously being anything but kind. Has it just become this catchphrase like ‘You only live once’? That used to have a point but now it’s just a thing people say (YOLO!!) and it means nothing.

This lead me to look further into Instagram and I discovered that many of the “be kind” crew, don’t particularly treat children very well. So the idea is we treat children like crap in order for them to be wonderful members of society, that’s how it works right?

Children learn through experiences or what is called “modelling behaviour”. So if you want a kind, caring and conscientious child. You need to treat them and others with kindness. If you shout, they will shout. If you use violence, they will use violence. It’s a seriously simple and obvious concept to understand. Yet western society has shunned this idea in favour of obedience. As if children do not have free thought.

I don’t think it’s the norm in the UK to use violence against your children although it certainly happens, but many Americans feel children will grow up to be violent criminals without fear of violence. (Yes, really).

And because the UK is becoming more and more like little America everyday, we are growing more and more to accept that treating children like dirt is just normal and part of everyday life.

Children should do what they’re told! – Obedience is counter productive in raising children. You are the first authority figure in your child’s life, and (presumably) you have your children’s best interests at heart. But every authority figure they meet in their lives will not. Think about bosses you’ve had, even teachers, Doctors and police officers (the ones we are taught have high authority). Are they all good, do they always have your best interests at heart? Of course they don’t. Many (most I expect) people are concerned about their own interests first and foremost, if these clash, are they going to throw you under the bus? Many would! And how can a child learn to question authority if you never let them voice their ideas? If you never explain to them why you have the opinion you do, how will they understand ethical treatment of others?

Children should be seen and not heard – This honestly irks me. Adults aren’t seen and not heard, so why should children? I’d rather listen to a child tell me their thoughts and ideas with serious enthusiasm than have another conversation about the rubbish weather with another adult. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many an enlightening conversation with an adult, but I’ve had just as many with kids, and although their conversation isn’t quite as articulate, it is no less inspiring.

Kids need to learn some respect – Respect is earned, respect them and they’ll respect you. Age does not equal wisdom, I’m sure there are kids much wiser than myself, I would never have such an ego as to assume I know everything better than someone else simply because I am older. Many adults can be disrespectful to children simply because if their age. I would never encourage a child to respect an adult that does not respect them. It is a mutual term.

I am the boss in this house – When did parenting become a dictatorship? Why would we even want to be the boss? By being the boss it means the buck stops with you. It means every fault, mistake and accident becomes your problem. But it isn’t. Children need to learn to problem solve. If you’re the boss then you are the decision maker. Why wouldn’t you want your children to learn how to deal with their own problems, you’re not raising soldiers, you’re raising people, one day they’ll go out into the big wide world and if you’ve always been the boss, they’ll need constant reassurance that they’re doing everything right. It’s nice to be able to tell your kids you’re proud of them. Not so satisfying to have to talk them through every new problem they encounter.

Kids aren’t scared of their parents anymore these days – I can not say this enough times but – that is a good thing!! Children that fear repercussions for everything they do wrong are not going to go to their parents when they’ve landed themselves up shit creek without a paddle. If they’re too scared to tell you what has happened when they’ve gotten themselves in too deep, how are they going to get out? Sometimes no matter how hard you try, there are just some problems so big, that you need someone to help, even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on. If your kids are afraid of you, it will not be you they confide in. And as I’ve previously said, not everyone has your child’s best interests!

“Give the children love, more love and still more love – and common sense will come by itself” – Astrid Lindgren

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Getting more for less (money)

As I have mentioned many times before we are eternally skint! And although we have enough money for a few treats and we have enough to pay our bills we have a really low annual income, which is way less than the ‘average annual salary’ (by many thousands).

I’ll clarify the stuff I’m about to say by explaining that we live in North East England (a cheap place to live), our mortgage is small, our bills are small and our only monthly outgoing treats are gym passes and I get a nursing journal. We have a crap car, that we share. We also get council tax discount because we are students, so with those things in mind, here’s what we do to get more family time and experiences for very little money.

The free stuff

Most of the stuff we do is free. I have a list of free stuff to do on my phone that spans forest walks, beaches, museums, parks, farms, even splash pads and everything in between. It just means that when we’re feeling a bit stir crazy we can look at the list and choose something without spending a penny. It’s a good idea to create a list of to-do stuff locally to match all weather’s. Be sure to check out places you may not think about initially, places like art galleries, garden centres, shopping centres and coffee shops often have play areas or free stuff to do for kids.

What we eat

We always take snacks and bottles of water. If we’ve actually forward planned (rare) we make a picnic. Sometimes when we have a baking day, I’ll put aside some things to freeze and bring those. If we haven’t had time to sort a picnic we pop to the supermarket and grab some sandwiches or pasta. Olive loves the salad bar in supermarkets as she gets to choose what she has, and I love it because it’s healthy food she’ll eat and a cheap salad! If we do decide to eat out I have a look online for vouchers, discounts or whatever else. Some restaurants have apps that tell you what deals they’re currently running, which can be really helpful. Always take out the bonus loyalty card schemes, these often give you fantastic discounts for birthdays too.

The stuff that costs a little

If the weather’s bad and we want the kids to burn off some energy, we often go to play cafes. The kids get to play whilst we sit and drink coffee, win win! Some of these play places charge an admission price for each child, which can be pretty hefty if you’ve got more than one, so just make sure you know what the deal is before you rock up. Usually if we’re allowing ourselves to spend money, it’s on food! If you want to do something you would normally deem expensive, find out when they have deals on, cheap bowling on a Monday, 2 for 1 Tuesdays at the trampoline park, £1 rides day at the fairground on a Wednesday… no matter the place, more likely than not they will have a day or time where things are cheaper than normal. We do crash course swimming lessons in the school holidays with Olive simply because it’s cheaper than one per week.

Annual passes

So we have had and currently have a lot of annual passes. Whenever we go somewhere new we discuss whether we should pay for the day or get an annual pass. Often simply visiting 3 times in a year can make an annual pass more than worth the money. We ask for annual passes for Christmas and birthdays and spend any birthday or Christmas money that the kids get mostly on annual passes. These passes can often get you discount in local shops and eaterys too, so make sure you know the terms and info on your pass! Loads of places offer free return for a year after buying a day ticket so these are good cheap gifts if you don’t want to ask for a pricey pass. These can sometimes need validated on the day of your visit to make them valid for the year, so make sure to check before you leave. Our gym passes also double up as swim passes too, so we can take the kids swimming whenever we want and it’s already paid for each month with our gym pass.

Holidays

Basically, unless it’s the cheapest possible holiday on the planet, we can’t afford it. When we go abroad we go to the country that is that years cheapest option, we go to the cheapest resort and to the cheapest (good) accommodation we can find. We fly at stupid o’clock because it’s cheap. We never really have a host of options. We holiday a lot in the UK, which is great if you have an annual pass that can be used in various locations across the country. My number one tip that we’ve recently learned is to do joint holidays! Go away with loads of other people! It’s so much cheaper and life is just easier with more adults. We’ve also started camping recently and we are totally hooked. It’s a really cheap and relaxing break!

How we stay organised

I will have to be brutally honest on this one. Both Liam and I do not excel in the organisation stakes. It is guaranteed that no matter where we go or what we do, we will forget something. But a couple of the things we do is keep a net (for rockpooling) in the car along with buckets, spades and a ball. We live very near the coast and end up there at least every few days. We usually have a bag packed with spare clothes, nappies, wipes, suncream and drinks (and winter things in the winter), ready to just pick up when we’re leaving the house. We’ve got 2 crates of camping stuff in our shed ready to just grab when we want to go camping, so the packing is just grabbing some clothes really.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Hope you find these tips helpful!

If you’ve got any tips to share on how you do loads spending a little then please do share!

Home Education as our first choice education…

With lots of people receiving offers for their child’s school place recently. We’ve had some questions about home education. I’m always always happy to answer these, but thought that some people might want more info on home ed and a blog is probably the best way to do this!

Do you have to follow the curriculum?

Nope! In fact this is one of the (if not the) best things about home education. You do not need to follow the curriculum. Most British home educators take full advantage of this and teach what their kids are interested in, or ‘unschool’. The meaning of which varies depending on who you ask, but this means not having any kind of classroom environment at home, the children learn through life and learn through play. I suppose we would be classed as unschoolers at the mo. We’re just doing whatever fits us all best at the time.

What about socialisation?!?

It’s a strange misconception that children socialise at school. Children don’t get to choose where they sit at school, they could end up sitting beside someone they can’t stand. At “playtime” they get about 10 minutes of socialisation. They have “friends” sure, but they aren’t made because of school. Often these friends are just made because they are there. It’s great if children can make real friends in these circumstances, but they have just as many opportunities to make friends when home educated. We have groups and classes for pretty much everything dedicated to home educated children. And of course they socialise with schooled children too at after school or weekend classes!

But they need to be with horrible bullies to build character…

So this really was said to me. I didn’t actually have an answer at the time because I was that taken aback. Bullying does not build character, being broken down does not make people stronger. Sure they may eventually bounce back from said awful thing, but they’re not better off for having awful things happen to them. No one is glad for trauma they have experienced.

What about when they go into the real world?

They’re already in the real world. Every single day, we have time to teach cooking, cleaning, managing finances etc… They will come into contact with all types of people every single day. All ages, all circumstances… You get it. They’re already in the real world!

I’m just not clever enough.

Is that mentality learned from your school experience? In this day and age you have the world at your fingertips. You can learn ANYTHING!! This is the best time ever to home educate your kids. But the likelihood is your child will learn stuff all by themselves, children have a natural curiosity and love of learning and they also have the world at their fingertips!

How do you find the time?

The truth is, unless you’re lucky enough to be able to afford to live on one income, this is a real struggle for home educators. Juggling your time when your kids are 100% in your care is very hard. But we have come to the realisation that if this is what we want then something has to give. We can’t do everything, and sometimes we just have to say no to things. Our priorities are just a bit different.

How do you work?

This one is different for every home educator, and this was the main one I was concerned with when we first started out. I really struggled to find answers to this, so I’m looking at writing a separate blog post on how home educators survive financially! So our plan is that Liam will get a part time job and hopefully an online teaching job while I work full time. Grandparents will be utilised as much as possible, but we’re hoping to do lots of travelling, so hopefully we can both eventually have jobs where we can work and travel at the same time!

[Insert child’s name here] is just ready… each to their own…

This is a bizarre uninvited justification for something that never needed justified. Home Educators are not judging you for sending your child to school, nor does it mean that they feel their child “isn’t ready” or just doesn’t suit a school environment. They are just doing it differently. The same as anything else you do in life. Do you justify why you don’t do the same job as anyone else everyday? Do you justify why you’re having a different meal to everyone else everyday? I don’t understand at all why people respond with this other than they feel attacked by the way that someone else parents. Can we just get along with people that do things differently? Home Educators are not attacking your way of life.

Don’t you worry you’re depriving them of the experience?

I feel we can offer everything school does and more!!

Will you ever send then to school? No

But what if they ask?

This is almost an insult haha. Like my kid will hate home education so much or we’ll be so bad at it they’ll want to go to school. Anyway, if our kids request to go to school then of course we’ll talk about it properly and if they’re still sure they want to, we can definitely give it a go. At such a young age I am ok with making decisions for my child, this will change in time.

Why do you hate teachers/school so much? Not everyone has a bad experience of school.

A huge huge amount of home educators are teachers or work in schools. It just isn’t true that home educators hate teachers (well some of them do… But you get people with prejudices in every walk of life), if anything, most home educators empathise with teachers’ struggles. It’s also a huge presumption that all home educators hated school and that’s why they’re home educating. It’s simply not true. I didn’t have a great time at school (I just found secondary boring), but nothing was awful about it. In fact I loved primary school.

I still don’t think it’s ok.

It is absolutely fine to think whatever you like. But just don’t be rude. Not for you? That’s fine. As long as my kids are happy and healthy and getting the opportunity to have an ‘appropriate’ education that’s all that should matter surely?

Rose & Raspberry Vegan Loaf

Once again here I am doing a recipe post because I had so many requests for it! Ingredients in grams and mls!

You’ll need:

  • 275g Self raising flour
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 130g Dairy free butter
  • A handful of Raspberries (just add as many or little as you like!)
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 180ml Soya milk (you can use any alternative here)
  • Rose water (Or flavouring, you can often find these next to the food colourings)
  • Vanilla essence
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Rose petals (I found mine in Asda, with the spices)

Before you do this you’ll need to freeze your raspberries. I recommend you freeze fresh berries rather than using already frozen ones. The frozen ones seem to have a lot more moisture and so end up leaking into your cake!

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175°. Grease loaf tin (I usually use baking parchment).
  2. Melt your butter, when fully melted add sugar, self raising flour, 2 tsp vanilla, soya milk & baking powder.
  3. Whisk together until fully combined. I recommend an electric whisk to add air!
  4. At this point you will need to add your rose flavour. Because every single flavour is different in strength, I recommend adding 1tsp, whisking and tasting the mixture. Rose flavour is usually very strong so try not to get carried away!
  5. Whisk until stiff. Mixture should be very thick in order to hold the raspberries in place and stop them from sinking!
  6. Fold in your frozen raspberries. The less mixing here the better. You want your raspberries to stay as whole as possible.
  7. Pour your mixture into your loaf tin and bake for 20 minutes. Loaf will be done when you get a clean skewer out of the middle!
  8. When cooled mix the icing sugar with a teaspoon of rose flavour and a few teaspoons of water. Less water for a thick icing, more for a more drizzle consistency.
  9. Mix it well until lumps dissolve. Pour over loaf and add some rose petals!

Hope you enjoy it! Please let me know how it goes. Post your pics on Instagram and tag @oddsandtodds

Going back into education as a parent…

This last week has been so hard, everyone is ill. I seem to have gotten off the lightest so I am doing everything else, whilst working and studying (FYI an access course is 2 years worth of a-levels crammed into 9 months). Last week Liam came down with Flu, real actual flu. So I was cooking, cleaning, sorting the kids out and trying to get my assignments finished (two I submitted about an hour before deadline last week). Exhaustion hit me like a bus and on Friday at Lunch time I felt sick and dizzy and promptly went home for rest. Which is just as well, because both the kids then came down with Flu on Saturday.

So here I am trying to soothe my sick kids, whilst simultaneously feed everyone, clean the house, study, finish my assignments and go to work! This is not an easy option. This is incredibly hard. Why people view being a student as an easy option I have no idea. I actually long for the days I’m at work because, in comparison, it’s easy. It’s a total breeze. I long for the rest days I had before this. Times the kids went to grandma’s and I got to bathe or watch TV. Now any fleeting free time is filled with either racing around the house trying to tidy, clean or just get organised. Or sat in a messy, dirty house doing assignments.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. This Access to Higher Education course is hell. There is never a second to stop and breath. The school holidays are your time for catching up with the work you’ve inevitably fallen behind on. Even after submitting an assignment, you do not feel that relief, because you already have another one you should have already started by now. And so the stress is transferred.

I really do miss the time with the kids and the weekends fly past us. I rejoice every Friday, then 2 minutes later it’s Sunday night again.

Having said all of this, I have amazed myself with my grades, amazed myself with what I can do, what I’ve learnt. Before I started this course I was seriously lacking self-confidence. After a horrible experience at my workplace while I was pregnant with Luna, I had just lowered my self-worth and basically assumed it was me. I never wanted to go back into work after that. I was terrified and even after getting a job I just wasn’t in the right headspace and ended up leaving. Even though it was a lovely job and my boss was absolutely wonderful and has a complete heart of gold, I just wasn’t in a good place and ended up leaving.

This college course though has taught me so much, and not just subject knowledge, but so much about myself. I am worth so much more. I got a job, which I love and I’m really good at! I have been given a conditional offer for University. And having already made it halfway with my grades with only 20% of my results back, I feel sure I can do it.

From being in a place of despair about ever working again. I feel so positive. I’m setting an amazing example for my girls. I’m going to change people’s lives when I qualify as a children’s nurse and I’m doing something I have a real passion for.

Although this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s temporary. We have an exciting summer planned ahead of us when I finish. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

~Rachael~

Gingerbread recipe

So this ones a bit different but I’ve had a few comments and messages about my gingerbread recipe so I thought I’d share. So the measurements will be in weight, in grams as that how a roll!

You’ll need-

  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 175g Butter (any you like, dairy free tip below)
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger (for a milder flavour 1 tablespoon is still plenty flavourful)
  • 350g Plain flour
  • Half a teaspoon of bicarb (too much and your biscuits will not hold the shape, less is better here, if you want to make something like a gingerbread house I would omit the bicarb entirely, so the gingerbread better keeps it’s shape)

For a dairy free recipe use an additional 50g plain flour (and depending which one you’ve used you may need to add more) this also applies if you’re using gluten free flour.

Dairy free butter is much softer and as such won’t firm as much when it cools. Hence the additional flour to soak up the extra liquid.

This will make you a lot of gingerbread, so do feel free to half the recipe. This is a recipe for sharing!

  1. Melt together your syrup, sugar & butter. You can do this on a stove or in the microwave, stirring at regular intervals.
  2. When fully melted together add everything else!
  3. Mix it all together. The mixture should not be wet. You should be able to form a dough.
  4. Tip it onto a dry work top and knead your dough for a few minutes.
  5. Pop dough in an airtight container or in plastic wrap and leave to cool. If you make the dough in advance it can live in the fridge for about 5 days before baking, you must bring it out of the fridge about 5-6 hours before using otherwise it will be too hard to roll.
  6. Roll out your dough! Thickness is up to you! Cut out your shapes and pop them on a baking tray on non-stick parchment paper. Leave a gap between each biscuit of about 2 cms, this allows for spreading in the oven.
  7. When your shapes are laid out and completely flat. Put them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This will help them keep their shape and stop the shapes from spreading too much.
  8. When they’re frozen put them in the oven at 170° for 10 minutes, they’re done when the edges start to change colour.
  9. When you take them out they will be soft, this is exactly how they should be. Leave them on the tray to fully cool, if you try to move them now, they will fall apart.
  10. Once cooled they will be lovely crunchy gingerbread shapes! Store for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

If you plan to decorate, your biscuits won’t last as long as the icing make a them soft. For icing I usually use a drop of vanilla essence with a tablespoon of water, then about 100g icing sugar. If you add too much water you will need A LOT of icing sugar to bring it back round, so sometimes it’s just easier to start again. Too hard add water, too runny at icing sugar until it’s exactly how you would like it!

Enjoy! Please tag @oddsandtodds on Instagram with your biscuits as I would love to see them!

A life less privileged

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog piece. Times have been really hard and we’ve just been crazy busy for the last few months. But it’s coming up to the “most wonderful time of the year”, and I’ve felt the need to write!

Christmas for me used to be a time when I spent too much money on gifts, ate too much food and spent the entire time treating myself to whatever luxuries I fancied. Now we have children things are very different. We’re really trying to give our children values rather than worrying about “magic” or keeping up with new traditions. The last few years have made us understand better what a less priveliged Christmas is, and now we’re trying to help our kids understand too.

Christmas Dinner

I had never ever given thought to the fact that some people might actually stress about the cost of a Christmas Dinner. We had always had times of being a bit skint. But never to the extent of worrying about where our next meal was coming from. However, last Christmas that’s where we were at. We ended up going to my parents in Norway (they paid of course) because we didn’t want to stay home with hardly any presents under our tree and not enough money for Christmas Dinner. It’s hardly surprising though, when in the UK 668,000 households regularly cannot afford household essentials such as food. So what can we do?? We’ve started regularly donating to our local food bank, at Christmas we rope in all of our family and friends to clear their cupboards. If you contact your local food bank you can find out exactly what they need too.

Gifts!

I would love to think that no one is ignorant enough to believe that everyone can afford gifts at Christmas (but the cynic in me says otherwise). We (husband & I) haven’t bought each other gifts for a few years now, but I have made the effort to either donate or buy a gift for a child that may have to go without. This year we have cleared out the toys, explaining to Olive we’re giving them to children that might not have any. She’s pretty ruthless with this to be honest! You can also buy toys for a local Christmas gift drive, local radio stations are normally a good one for this.

Having friends & family

Something I think most of us take for granted is who we have around us. It’s easy to forget some people are truly alone. We get Olive to make cards for the older ladies in the street who live alone. They’re always spoiling her with treats, so we make cards for each occasion, and knock on the door to hand them over. This simple act can make someone’s day when they’re alone. There’s a campaign on at the moment in the UK to give a spare chair to someone who is alone. The idea is you invite someone over for dinner who would normally eat alone. Visit http://www.bistotogetherproject.com to sign up.

A warm and dry place

With levels of homelessness in the UK at an all time high, having a place to live is something we should be thankful for. Shelter are an amazing charity tackling this. 125,000 children in the UK are homeless. If you visit the shelter website you can help by either donating or signing their campaigns. You can also volunteer, helping deliver aid to those living on the streets, this does take training, but if you have the time to spare, it is an amazing thing to give.

Not forgetting the animals!

An animal shelter local to us has asked people to make up shoe boxes as gifts for the animals. At this time of year they get an influx of (usually) dogs as families take them on as Christmas gifts and realise they can’t cope. Shelters are always after towels, blankets (including old quilts) and dog beds. If you’re anything like us, you probably have about 15 spare blankets you could happily part with.

For me, there is no better feeling than giving. Knowing I have done something to make a difference in someone else’s life brings me pure happiness. The magic of Christmas is how people come together, give up their free time and help others that need it. We love Christmas and we’re making our own traditions.

~Rachael~

Raising kids without religion

We were both raised without religion. Although, it was a part of our lives, when we were young the British schooling system was quite a religious place even in so called “non-faith” schools, but we never personally followed.

My dad in particular is very open about his atheism. We spend a lot of time talking about religion. We’ve chatted about the realities of living with faith, the stories, the ideals, basically everything to do with religion we have discussed at great length.

Before we had children, I didn’t really know many religious people. However, the world of parenting is littered with believers, Jesus followers, people saved by Grace, God lovers and many many other descriptions people use of ‘having faith’.

The truth of the matter is, religion is mostly a privilege. And of course it is, just like being middle class or white. Religion is a privilege to hold your beliefs close and never allow anyone to question them. It is a privilege because they are allowed to preach about their faith. They preach in the streets, in the shopping centres. If I grabbed a Mic and started shouting “religion is a lie, you’re all crazy to think God is going to save you!” Do you think that would be allowed? People are allowed to try to convert others to their religion, but others are not allowed to convert them to atheism.

The privilege runs deep, so engrained on people’s minds they don’t even know they have it. They are open about their belief systems, to a point where they are unkind or offensive, truly believing that they deserve more rights in some form. Whether that be more rights than homosexuals, other races, other religions, and even other genders.

The world of religion is a tricky place, there are so many strains of it, you have so many people doing good things in the name of their God. And although I wish they were doing it just because of a moral compass, It does not take away the good deed, nor does it take away from their character.

And so this brings me to the people that have religion thrust upon them. Those that do as their families want. Those that are afraid their parents wouldn’t love them anymore if they decided to walk away from their faith. Those that may not believe certain aspects of their parents teachings, but they’re afraid to say so.

And this is why we are proud to raise our children free from the restraints of religion. There are no expectations set out for our children and their future. Our children are free, truly free to explore, investigate, reason, question and find answers to life’s big questions. They have complete and utter freedom to be whoever they want to be, there is no guilt, no conditions, nothing my children could do with their lives to dissapoint me.

We are all fully in control, there is no external guidance, our guidance comes from our own morals, the morals we have chosen. Our children are created by us, in our image, we help them be the best people they can possibly be, without constraints, without judgement, without fear.

Freedom from religion is the truest sense of freedom.

Augusts second hand finds!

We have a lot of second hand stuff. Almost all of our kids’ clothes are second hand. Half of our furniture is used as are toys, games, shoes. Loads of stuff. So each month I’m gunna do a round up of all our finds!

Ikea Poang Chair

This was supposed to be for Olive. But it’s fast become Luna’s favourite thing ever! She climbs all over it, sits in it for a rest and is extra proud of herself every single time! This cost us a total of £0. That’s right! Nothing at all! Someone was getting rid of it and the cover was all ripped. We went to collect it to take it off their hands, and it’s just perfect. I might paint it if I ever get around to it.

Clothes for the girls

So we have kept all of Olive’s old clothes – each time Luna goes up a size I just take a vacuum packed bag of clothes out and we’re ready to go. For Olive we have a few friends that give us their girl’s clothes. My favourite thing this month is a beautiful grey cardigan for Olive. Again, a total of £0!

Pie face!

My personal favourite! Got this from a charity shop for £2!! It was on special offer in the supermarket For £10 the other day.

Basically it’s a giant hand which you put something on (cream presumably), you spin a dial which tells you how many turns you give the hand. With each turn, you have the chance of being hit in the face by the “cream pie”. Olive thought this game was absolutely hilarious, and we enjoyed it too.

Marble Run

This was only 99p from a charity shop. Basically set the course up, add your marbles and they run the course to the bottom. This is possibly a bit advanced for Olive. She enjoyed putting the marbles in, but building it was beyond her, or maybe she just wasn’t that interested. But it reminded me of doing it when I was young and I’m sure it’ll be useful for teaching physics in the future!

Decorate your own dolls house

Olive has had endless fun with this. Just £2 from a charity shop! It came with paints, stickers, cardboard furniture and multiple house roofs and walls so you can redecorate. Olive is slowly decorating this, she does a bit and leaves it to dry and goes back to it every few days. Money really well spent for the the time she’s spent on it. It’s a real Labour of love!

Ker-plunk

Our favourite from childhood, when we saw it for £2.50 we just had to pick it up. Olive loves this game. She doesn’t much care who wins or loses, she’s just happy to play. Each time it ends she asks to set it up and play again! Really helping her with turn taking.

I don’t feel guilty

There are topics that every blog seems to cover. A mothers guilt seems to be a common theme (I presume many fathers also feel guilty, but most people don’t touch upon this, or if they do it’s often derogatory towards fathers). It’s expected that our maternal instinct drives us to feel guilt for simply existing.

Well, I don’t feel guilty! Of course, I’ve had the odd bout of guilt. But I don’t live in a permanent state of guilt about being a mother. Obviously I don’t think I’m a perfect parent. I lose my temper, I get sick of my kids, I swear under my breath, I get sick of my kids, I feed them junk food sometimes and mostly I get sick of my kids.

But I am also aware that I am human. Everything I’m feeling is what every parent has ever felt. (Even though some pretend otherwise). And of course everyone feels differently. We all experience emotions in different ways and we can’t force our way of feeling on to others. People have tried to make me feel guilty several times about the way I care for my girls, but they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Once, another mother tried to shame me for wanting to send my girls to a childminder 2 days a week. Her language and tone was pretty vile so I won’t repeat it. But her theme was that of, I should either not work and be with my children 24/7 or I should send my children to school and I work full time and never see them, because that’s what a good middle class woman would do! Well I’m neither middle class, nor could I care less what some people think I should be doing with my kids. And if I’m honest, by societies standards, I’m probably not “good” either.

When Olive was between 10 and 20 months, I worked a lot. I worked too much. But I don’t feel guilty. Had I not done it. Had I not lived it, I wouldn’t have known what I want and what my child needs from me. It’s a huge learning curve and I am constantly learning. But that’s nothing to feel guilty about. We need to have experiences to grow. How can we know we’re doing everything in the right way if we’ve only ever done what our families have done, what our peers do and what is expected of us. How have we, as humans ever evolved to the people we are today without trying and altering what we do. This is the very basis of evolution. We try, we fail, we change, we try again.

As parents we are shamed for so many things and met with that really annoying catchphrase “no one can make you feel guilt you don’t already feel”, or some annoying words to that effect. Which is usually said by mothers that try to shame vulnerable mothers who may be uncertain about their choices or else suffered through traumas or goodness knows what else.

I know mothers who keep up a “I’d love to work, but we can’t afford it”, charade, because they know that being a stay at home mother is met with shame.

I refuse to bow to the societal belief that if I don’t conform, then I should feel guilty. My children will grow up, knowing they do not have to conform. And that is something that erases any guilt I could ever feel.

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you, except yourself”