5 Reasons Swimming lessons are non-negotiable for my children

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I first became a swimming instructor in the UK 12 years ago (!). I fell in love with the job immediately. In honesty; I wasn’t planning on working with children at any point in my life whatsoever, I was just ‘on a gap year from College’ and saw the course advertised at my local pool.

After a couple of months, my first employer (almost literally) pushed me into becoming a parent and baby instructor. For the first day or so of my in-water training I was petrified of the babies, and even more petrified of the parents.

Then I fell in love with it.

I also became a little bit obsessive and possibly a little bit preachy, but I am unapologetic. In my mind, swimming lessons should be compulsory for all kids (and they should be government funded, but that’s for another day). In the meantime:

Here are 5 reasons swimming lessons are non-negotiable for my children:

1. Swimming is the only sport that could literally save my child’s life.

There are an estimated 360 000 annual drowning deaths worldwide, as stated by The World Health Organisation 2018:

‘Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury-death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.’

‘Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years.’

According to the Royal Lifesaving National Drowning Report 2018 (Aus)There were 249 drowning deaths in aquatic locations across Australia between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018’.

Drowning is quiet, and it can happen to anyone.

It isn’t realistic to expect that you can just avoid water. Even if you chose to avoid beaches, pools, lakes, dams, rivers, streams, oceans and ponds for the entirety of your life, drowning hazards still exist in your home.

‘Young children are especially at risk — they can drown in less than 2 inches (6 centimetres) of water. That means drowning can happen where you’d least expect it — the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater.’ – Kids Health.org

During swimming lessons, teachers work on numerous safety skills alongside general technique. You may not realise, but every step of a good lesson will be preparing your child for an emergency. I have outlined some below:

  • Breath control aims to reduce the risk of panic, meaning that precious air is not wasted
  • Floating minimises the energy used to keep a face above the water
  • Turning encourages little ones to find the nearest edge or flotation device
  • Holding on to the edge reinforces the habit of patiently waiting whilst remaining safe
  • Jumping in allows littles to experience the way their body feels when they land in different positions in the water, and how to get back to safety
  • Diving for toys encourages them to open their eyes and find what they need (i.e. an edge or an adult).

When my sister was just two years old, the family dog accidentally knocked her into a large pond. Her clothes immediately weighed her down and she sank. My Grandmother and Mother luckily saw it happen, and Mum jumped in and got her. While the likelihood of her swimming to save herself would have been slim (due to the heavy clothing) the fact that she did not scream and waste her oxygen would have given her precious seconds while under the water.

It was also incredibly, incredibly important that she was constantly supervised while close to the water.

2. Swimming is great for lung and heart development.

Swimming trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently and can also help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. I liked this article here which goes into more detail. Sorry (not sorry) to harp on about my own experiences again, but I was born with a congenital heart defect which required me to have open heart surgery at around 18 months. Typically, a follow-up operation happens at 17 years, but so far, I have received the all-clear from my Cardiologist each year. I personally believe that my regular swimming has helped me to maintain a reasonable level of Cardiovascular health, and I want the same for my boys.

3. Swimming significantly enhances core strength and muscle development

While my children are growing, their bodies are developing at a rapid pace. Their muscles are going through a lot of changes, and being in the water strengthens them, but also allows them to recover.

‘The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life.’ – Human Kinetics

A strong core improves flexibility, mobility and strength; which allows children to engage in a wide range of physical activities, from sitting up unassisted, to flipping into a foam-pit.

Swimming is also great for rehabilitation, as it can be low-impact, and the water itself provides support for your muscles, bones and joints. While this point may be more relevant for the older generations, you never know when you may need physiotherapy or some form of physical rehabilitation. If your first experience with a pool and water resistance happens when you are already physically vulnerable, it may be harder to find the confidence to get started.

4. Swimming is inclusive

Swimming as a sport is incredibly inclusive. The water will provide support, the intensity is variable, and lessons can be held as groups, or as private 1-1 sessions. I have been privileged enough to have taught children and adults with diverse physical, mental and psychological needs; some as complete beginners and some working on techniques for triathlons. I love the diversity with which my job provides me, and I love that there is a sport that can change along with the needs of myself and my kids.

5. Swimming compliments a wide range of other physical activities

Knowing how to swim will enable my kids to participate in a wide range of sports (which would hopefully keep them out of trouble).

They are already showing an interest in surfing, kayaking and snorkelling, and as they grow older I expect that they will also enjoy diving, scuba diving, water polo and of course competing in swimming carnivals. I mean honestly, just look at this list of water sports.

I understand that I am in a position to ensure that my kids always have access to swimming lessons, and I am thankful for that. As I mentioned above, the dream would be for all children to have access to swimming lessons, but I hope that if you have a choice to enrol your child in any sporting activity, you choose the one that may save their lives.

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5 Benefits of Swimming Through Winter

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5) It boosts your immune system

As we all know; coughs and colds are common throughout winter, but research shows that regular exercise (such as swimming) strengthens our immune systems. This helps us become better equipped to fight any nasty bugs we may be exposed to.

Swimming itself is well-known to aid in maintaining good cardiovascular fitness – just what you and your family needs during winter!

4) Maintaining / developing skills

If your children attend 1x 30 minute swimming lesson per week, their maximum lesson time is only 26 hours per year. This total then decreases with every sick day or holiday. Children (and their bodies) need repetition in order to learn and develop, and by taking a break over winter, the risk of skill regression largely increases.

Staying consistent is the best way to ensure you get maximum value for the time and money you invest in swimming lessons.

3) Quieter classes = more attention!

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that some families will pause their swimming lessons over winter, but that comes with benefits for those who choose to remain!

You are far more likely to get your child into the lesson of your choice during winter. This in turn means that when summer rolls around, you will already be booked into your preferred day and time.

There is also a good chance that your child’s class size will be smaller during this time, and your child will receive more one on one time with their teacher.

2) Your child will be stronger for summer

As mentioned above, children learn through repetition. By maintaining your regular swimming lessons throughout winter, your child will be stronger in time for summer. This is so, so important for all of those days at the beach, playdates at the pool, and for your family’s safety while on holiday.

This brings us to…

1) Safety!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: swimming lessons provide a vital lifesaving skill. Children can drown at any time of year. Regular swimming lessons are a vitally important step towards keeping your children safe around water. During swimming lessons; along with technique; children learn about safe entries, safe exits, reaching the side if they are to accidentally fall in, and who to go to for help in case of an emergency.

Keeping this information fresh in their minds will hopefully keep them aware around water all year round.

 

Top tips from the team:

•Pack a hot water bottle in your bag!
This will make your towels nice and warm for when your child finishes their lesson

•Bring a beanie!
Body heat escapes quickly through your head, so put on those beanies after class!

•Dry off and wrap up
Spend the extra three minutes on poolside to dry off and wrap your child up before leaving or going out into the cold.

And my personal favourite:

•Hot chocolate 😊
If, like us, you are lucky enough to have a cafe at your pool, why not treat yourselves to a hot chocolate or tea for the journey home.

©notsogreatcatsby2018

Can you ever just be ‘whelmed’?

(How I squashed my ‘overwhelm’ and started the best day with a stolen avocado)

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Last week I hit a wall.. and then I fell down, hit the ground and rolled until I reached the edge and free-fell off that, too.

Basically there was a lot of feeling low and out of control.

It was shit.

Baby was getting 5 teeth at once (because why not), he was also in ‘leap 8’ (aka a clingy AF phase in his development aka some sort of baby-life crisis), I had a court application to produce against our old real estate managers, and daycare was closed on my one kid-free day.

I was done.

I said: ‘I’m done’.

I said ‘I’m done’ a lot. So obvs my partner went out twice that week and left me alone with the offspring, and I broke.

There was a lot of yelling and some tears.. then a lot of stone-cold silence, before, finally, a decision was made:

I’m going to have to claim some life back.

On Monday I went to the gym and then we had a huge playdate with a friend (read: nate had a playdate while I offloaded all my anger to a friend).

On Tuesday we had swimming, gym, and then I went to the cinema (like a grown up) with the same friend, and with no children. Also cake.

On wednesday I swam, and then had yet another huge playdate (talk) with another friend.

On Thursday kid 1 had daycare, kid 2 went to creche while I swam, and then we shopped. Babykid even slept while I spent about 40 minutes in a glorious shop filled with stationery, browsing and taking my time with their sale.

And then there was today. Lovely, lovely today.

Ryan took the kids to daycare while I made smashed avo on toast.

The avo used may or may not have been procured by my 3 year old while we visited Australia Zoo.

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There’s a baby in that avo tree

The kangaroo-petting area  of Aussie Zoo may or may not be home to many great avocado trees.

I may or may not have had one of Steve Irwin’s avos for breakfast today.

Then a friend came over for a coffee and she completely convinced Ryan I needed some money for a new swimming costume. (Okay but I really did, because mine did NOT keep things in place while I swam backstroke).

After a lot of discussion and browsing, we found the most beautiful costume in a moment that genuinely resembled finding ‘the’ dress.

‘You guys, I think we’ve got it’
‘Really? Can we see?!’
‘What do you think?’
‘Yes! That’s it! That’s the one!’ (Cue tears and dancing etc etc)*

 

After our swim I went and got my nails done with a friend from work. (Also got a bit laughed at by the lady doing my nails because I haven’t had them done before and I was being socially awkward but whatever.)

Then I picked the babiest one up and we had the cutest baby playdate with cute baby cuddles and baby hide and seek..

And then it was now and I am so chilled and content that I feel like I am completely in the middle of being ‘whelmed’.

It is so bloody hard to accept that we need to take some time for ourselves. It is so hard to accept that we can’t actually always do it all and put everyone else first and not stop and breathe and replenish.

I’ve really just had 5 beautiful, indulgent days.. but my kids haven’t suffered for it at all. I’m happy and so are they.. Ryan is happy cos I’m not a raging stresshead. The boys have had big plays, and are pretty oblivious to anything else..

But I know it’s not just me that feels too guilty to ask for this stuff. I mean, I  definitely don’t need all this indulgence every week; I certainly don’t need weekly nail appointments, and I definitely need to study, rather than go to the cinema; but I also need a break every now and then before I spontaneously combust, explode and freefall, taking everyone around me along for the ride.

I’m off to eat some coconut icecream now. Hope you get some time for you.

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*reaction may be slightly exaggerated

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Boss Mummas

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Nanma & Nate – Wimbledon UK

My Mumma is a Boss-Mumma.

She raised two extremely different daughters, in two extremely different generations, solo, for two extremely different reasons.

I’ll give you some background:

My sister and I have an 11 year age gap.

Our Mother raised my sister as a single mother, during a time when it was almost unheard of, really.

It’s hard to comprehend just how recently unwed mothers were shipped off to convents under a veil of secrecy, to have their precious babies taken away from them and re-homed with ‘more suitable’ parents, but it happened, and it happened incredibly close to when my Mother had my sister. It even happened to another beautiful mumma in my family.

Thankfully, Mum was able to keep my sister. She juggled work and parenthood alone, right up until she met my father. They married, and had me.

I was born with a heart condition, and sadly, my father passed away in a car accident before it was operated on.

Mum now had two daughters, one facing open heart surgery, and was about to go through single-parenthood all over again. 

She did it, and she did it well.

I have no idea how, but she held down a stable, full-time job. She provided us with everything we asked for. She took us on holidays, she spent time with us, she made us feel secure and loved. I’m sure I had questions as a small child, but overall I only considered my childhood to be a normal, happy one.

That’s a huge testament to how much hard work she put in to motherhood.

I genuinely believe that if my Mother had $10 left to her name, and she even thought for a second that my sister and I were struggling, she would give us $4 each and leave herself with $2. Then she would feel guilty about it, and try to give us every last cent. 

Parenthood is not easy. Ever. You could have all the money, all the resources, all the patience and love; but it is still not going to be easy.

So, in honour of my Boss-Mumma, I wanted to do a shout out to all of the Boss-Mummas out there this Mother’s Day. 

Firstly to all of you single-mummas; smashing all the stereotypes, facing all the judgement, tackling all of the dramas and trying to desperately fill all of the roles: You are amazing, be proud.

To all of you mummas to be; dealing with your own hormones, your body’s changes, your fears and doubts, while also dealing with literally EVERYONE having an opinion on what you can and can’t eat and drink, what you should or shouldn’t do/buy/think.. even how you should sleep: You are amazing, it will all work out, you will work it out.

To all of you new-mummas; never sleeping, hardly eating, adjusting to the sudden influx of experts on your own life and your own journey, trying to remember your own name and keep your family afloat, all while trying to work out who you just became: You are amazing, and I promise you’ve got this.

To all of you working-mummas; tackling drop-offs and pick-ups, switching between a work-brain and a home-brain, facing your own set of judgement and your own sense of guilt: You are amazing, a solid role-model, and the appreciation will come.

To all of you studying-mummas; getting up early and staying up late, working your butt off to try and better yourself and your prospects, justifying your choices and looking to the future, while, yet again, facing all the judgement: You are amazing, you are strong enough and smart enough to do this; it will all be worth it.

To all of you stay-at-home mummas; keeping your family together, keeping them all clean, fed, warm, happy, holding everything down, and yep, facing all that judgement too: You are amazing, you are valuable, you are irreplaceable.

To all of you young-mummas; finishing off school/college/still deciding what direction you want to take your life in, starting from scratch and watching your peers live a totally different life: You keep focusing on you. Honestly, I don’t think we ever have our sh!t together, we are all just working it out as it comes: You are amazing, you can handle this.

To all of you older-mummas; trying to find a group of your peers to relate to, wading through an abundance of advice from friends who have lived it all already, still juggling the judgement and the self-doubt: You are amazing, you deserve to enjoy this, and you are allowed to still be learning.

To all of you step-mummas; embracing, raising and loving those children as though you made them yourselves: You are amazing. Blended families aren’t easy to keep harmonious, but what an accomplishment when it works.

To all of you mothers in-law; accepting, welcoming and loving the person your baby has decided to make family. You are amazing, well done for handing over the mantle, for expanding your hearts and your lives to these ‘chosen ones’.

To all of you Grand-mummas; trying to help, trying to love and parent your babies with babies of their own: You are amazing, and loving grandparents are a valuable luxury.

To all of you adoptive and foster-mummas; opening your hearts and your homes to children that need it the most: You are amazing, inspiring, and I am totally in awe of you. 

To all of you dad-mummas and mumma-daddies; you guys holding a family together without the societally accepted and generally expected female or male counterpart, whether you are a same sex couple or one parent flying solo: You are amazing, you are tearing up an outdated rulebook, and you are important.

To all of you mummas of babies no longer with us; whether those around you know about your loss or not; it counts. You deserve to be thought of, considered, and loved. Mother’s day can be so, so hard, and for those who suffered a loss, particularly one that was not openly known, it can be a day of solitude, reflection and grief. You are amazing, and you are not alone. 

To all of you with mummas no longer with us; my love and heart goes out to you.

Happy Mother’s day. ♥

©CatOwens2017

P.s. below are some of my favourite mumma pics, of the boss mammas in my life, and in the lives of my loved ones. Share and tag your mumma! I’d love to see yours?

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Nanma & Nate

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Me & B

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Rima’s little copycat

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Elaine and her girl

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Zaynah and Beebee

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The Rowe family

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Mumma Thompson and her babies

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Jess & her ‘over-accomplished Mother’ (direct quote)

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Bails and Cecil with Nan

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Bonnie and her ‘first and forever best friend’

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The Brown girls

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The Kelly ladies

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‘Aunty Cole’ and her boy, Jack

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Lana and the miraculously still children

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Danielle and her ‘rock’

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The Parker girls

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Promoted from Mumma to Oma

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TB and Lottie

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Karmen and mumsie

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Franklin and Christie

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Kristina and the 3T’s

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Abby and Jack

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Me and baby Nate

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One last one of Nanma and Nate ❤

P.p.s. I hope you want to share this with the boss mammas in your life! Annnnd sorry to all the people cropped out 😂😂

Sorry for the silence

20170403_115437_002.jpgWell, hello strangers!

The past few months have been hectic in my household. The big kid turned 3, we moved house, the baby started daycare for one day (read: morning) a week, and Ryan’s business is crazy busy.

Ryan works Mon-Sat and I work on the Sunday. Add a toddler and a baby into the mix, and we were left with a tiny tiny window for house viewings, packing, moving and unpacking.

For some reason, renting a house on the Sunshine Coast is a very last-minute procedure, which makes something already incredibly stressful that much worse.

In general, if we apply any more than two weeks in advance, we are told the house is ready to go and they really need someone in ASAP. That means you have to search, view and apply for houses with just enough time to be approved and get your life together before your lease expires.

Fun fun fun.

I am still 4 assignments away from finishing my cert IV in writing and editing, as, without fail, each week something will pop up that needs my attention a tiny bit more than the course. I actually set myself a personal deadline of January.. then end of Jan. Then definitely by the end of March.

Then it was now; May 11th.. and I am aiming for ‘before my course expires’.

On a more positive note, the blog I wrote: ‘ten things your child’s swimming instructor wants you to know’ was shared by Austswim and subsequently picked up a lot of site traffic. Like, a silly lot. That gave me a bit of a reality check about what I could and should be accomplishing; along with a healthy dose of fear.

Will I ever actually be able to match those numbers with another post? Did I just have my one hit wonder and totally forget to cash in on it? Was that all just random luck?

I am positive about it, regardless of those thoughts, though. Having so many beautiful responses and knowing that I struck a chord with other swimming instructors around the world gave me a wonderful sense of belonging that I will never forget.

So! Any and all positive thoughts are welcome (especially as the baby seems to have gastro, and the washing machine has finally called it a day). Hopefully tomorrow will be THE day I get my student brain back in.. or my thinking cap back on, or my creative juices flowing again.

Thanks for bearing with me. I’ve attached a photo of the baby as a shameless incentive to bring you back again 🙊.

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Motherhood’s misrepresentations

(Part 2: self)

Back in the olden days I taught infants swimming lessons in Wimbledon. I worked 6 days a week; mostly singing nursery rhymes and playing with babies, but also trying to find ways to explain physical movements to little kids that were only just learning their own names.

I loved it.

I loved getting to know the families and watching the kids grow, I loved watching them learn, and most of all I loved the reward that came from helping someone conquer their fears.

I also had a lot of time to watch families.

Babies with their moods, their development, their body language. Toddlers with their stories, their demands, their tantrums. Children with their fears, their questions, their pride.

Parents with their babies, their toddlers, their children.

My job gave me this amazing access to literally hundreds of families, and with it came so many impressions on what to expect when my time came. How to hold my baby to show him/her that they are safe, that I am confident. How to talk to my toddler to show him/her that they are listened to, but I am in control. How to show my child that he/she is an individual, but I am always there, always supporting, encouraging, and disciplining.

Cut to 6 years later and the realization that not only do children change the game hourly, but your instincts do, too.

I know not to cling to my baby; that will make him sense my fear and panic.

I do not always know how to tell that to my arms.

I know that a tantrum needs calm, it needs patience, it needs love.

I do not always know how to provide those things, when (for whatever reason) I cannot find them within myself.

I know that my child has his own mind and needs freedom to be himself.

I do not always know how to explain that there is a time and a place for freedom of expression, and even then there are limits.

Yes you may play in the mud, run as fast as you like, sing ‘twinkle twinkle boat, row row spider, what you aaare’, but no, you may not throw mud at other kids, run towards cars and scream your glorious new musical interpretation at your sleeping baby brother.

I want to raise an individual, but I do not want to raise a dickhead.

I was so lucky to get some experience with kids before having them, but really nothing prepares you. It’s all well and good to have an idea, and yes, sometimes a screaming kid will listen to the calm voice of a friend/family member/teacher/stranger and suddenly behave, but that technique may have failed 9 times already for mum/dad that day. That kid may just be shocked into agreement. That kid probably won’t be testing their boundaries with that person the way that they do with their primary caregiver.

I’m glad I had some experience, but it’s so much easier from the outside.

Congratulations, and welcome to a lifetime of guilt!

Well, this has been a fun fortnight.

Dentist appointments, car services, accountants, doctors, deadlines and rainy days have bundled themselves into a happy little care package and landed slap-bang in the middle of an already frustrating month. With it: a suffocating parachute of guilt blanketing my life.

Because of the weather and the baby, my two year old had three indoor-days this week.

He is now genuinely excited by the prospect of popping out to get some milk.

At one point I managed to get the baby to nap in his cot and attempted to make some sort of progress with the mess-covered kitchen, when my two year old appeared at my side, quietly asking me to ‘play?’ and I felt so much heartbreaking guilt I vowed to just ignore the mess and do something fun. Within ten minutes I felt horrible for subjecting him to such poor living conditions.

My house is absolutely covered in toys and almost-dry clothes that will probably remain in that state until summer arrives, and the kitchen is beyond salvation. I’m aware of a long overdue blog post, and assignment (or two), my baby has reached a point where he just does. not. want. to be put down any more, and each evening, when my partner comes home from work, I just want to sit in silence.

Cue the guilt.

It creeps into everything, and I know I’m not alone.

I could hire a cleaner, but then I’d feel guilt about the money. What could I buy the boys with that amount? Of course, I can’t just buy their love, that’s terrible.. they really want my attention. I can’t clean and pay them attention at the same time, and I can’t involve them; that’s child labour. Ugh I’ll get a cleaner.

When you become a parent, someone should give you a pat on the back and say: ‘Congratulations! You’ll never sleep again, and there’s a strong chance you will feel guilty about every choice you make from this day forth. Good luck!’. That way at least you’d be kind-of prepared.

Whether or not you work, breastfeed, study, bake from scratch, use flashcards, ban screen-time, discipline calmly, only ever buy organic paleo vegan gluten-free unicorn kissed food: someone will disagree with your choice, and you will doubt yourself.

Or is that just me?

I don’t know. Maybe I should just suck it up and remember how lucky I am to have such minor issues in my life right now.

Aaand cue the guilt..