On being a stay-at-home mom

On being a stay-at-home momI love this time of year…  It’s a time for new beginnings. Autumn is in the air, some of my favourite saints’ feasts are approaching, and it’s time to go back to school- a new academic year, a new pencil case, new books,  a new class, new learning experiences and a new chance to start again. For most of my life I have looked forward to the back-to-school ritual (once reconciled to the fact that going back is inevitable!) both as a student and as a teacher.

For now, though, I am not going back to school because, for the moment, I stay home and take care of our toddler. As a family, we are so blessed to be in a position where I can be home with her.

However, I confess, when people ask me what I do, or where I work, I struggle. I used to think the job title was the problem. I experimented with other answers- “full-time mum”, “I don’t work”, “French teacher turned mum”, “recovering teacher”. I’m puzzled that, despite loving my job, I haven’t fully embraced my job title. Recently, however, I have begun to realise it’s not the job title that’s the problem.

As, one by one, my new mommy friends go back to work, it’s clear that I am an anomaly. When I lose another friend, I ask them, “How are you feeling about going back to work?” I have been surprised by the responses I get: “My little one needs to go to crèche to be around other children and learn how to socialise”, or “I need to go back to work for stimulation”, or even “My career comes first”.

Being a stay at home mom is counter-cultural. Really counter-cultural. In our society, it’s the norm to send children to crèche while parents go out to work. In Ireland, a crèche place costs around €1000 so, for two children, the mother needs to earn over €30,000 just to cover childcare costs. Yet despite these high costs, the crèches are packed, there are long waiting lists, and the majority of mothers are leaving their babies and heading back to work.

Returning to the issue of my job title, I now realise that the real problem is how society views motherhood. In the eyes of many, motherhood is no longer a gift; it’s a choice and sometimes even a chore. Should you choose ‘yes’, motherhood can be outsourced to crèches, nannies and child minders. Motherhood has become devalued.  When I say I am a stay-at-home mum, I can sometimes almost sense people pitying me because I can’t get a ‘real’ job, I am wasting my skills and talents or because I have to look after a child all day.

So, to those people for whom my choice is incomprehensible, I would say that there is no other job I would rather do! I am so blessed that I can look after our daughter. Every day is a new adventure: she discovers something new, she learns a new word, we smile and laugh together, we have fun. Each day, our relationship grows and our bond is strengthened. It’s the most special job in the world because staying home with her allows me watch her grow, help her learn to walk, wipe away her tears and, above all, I can fully live my vocation to motherhood, rather than submit to society’s expectations. I can be who I was made to be. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything!

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Making time

Making Time #BISsisterhood Blessed is She

Do you ever feel like life is a treadmill? Like life is a series of events, meetings and endless to-do lists? I am the kind of girl who likes to get to the bottom of her to do list before she sits down with a cuppa so oftentimes, that means I never sit down! There is just so much to do, that if I just keep going, it will get done eventually.

Well, that’s the theory but, as you can imagine, it never pans out that way. Discontent surfaces on two fronts: my unfinished to do list, and never getting round to putting my feet up and unwinding with my husband…

In our fast-moving, multi-tasking, tightly-scheduled lives, the idea of making more time sounds like an impossible dream. But, is it?

If I were able to make more time, I would watch my daughter go to sleep, instead of running through my mental lists while I am at her bedside… I would pick up the phone and call a friend, instead of pinging a text message because its quicker… I would sit down with my husband and immerse myself in his favourite TV show, instead of concentrating on my knitting, and not really watch the show at all.

And what about God? I confess,  I often run out of time with Him too. There are times when I fall asleep while reading my Magnificat. Sometimes, I am so tired I say a very truncated night prayer. Often, I rush through prayer without giving God a chance to say something to me. And spending time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament chapel seems like it’s no longer an option with a one-year old toddler at my side…

How can I make more time? By putting God first; I could forgo a lie-in to read my Magnificat. I could spend that coffee break reading Scripture instead of a magazine. I could turn off the lunchtime news and pray the Angelus. During a jog or a walk, I could pray the rosary before I let my mind wander. I could make an effort to get to daily Mass on a regular basis. I could even co-ordinate nap time with adoration, and sit in silence with Jesus. Making time can seem impossible, but if we are able to make time for God, then He’ll help us handle the rest.

This post is part of the Blessed Is She link-up on the theme of making time. Head over there to read more posts in the link-up.

7QTs: Jogging for Beginners

comes Jogging for beginnersI was never a runner. It’s hard to believe I am now, but I have just finished a Couch to 5k (C25k) plan, and can run for a full 30 minutes! This is the second time I have done this plan. (My first time was a few years ago, before my wedding, but I didn’t keep it up.) Jogging has three main attractions- it’s free, all you need to get started is a pair of runners, and it gets results! I figured it was the best way to get back into shape after having a baby- I could do it with baby in tow, at a convenient time and with minimal expense. So I started again…. Here are seven tips I have learned along the way:

  1. NHS Choices Couch to 5k

    My couck 2 5k programme

    Find a good Couch 2 5k programme You can find them online, on podcasts, apps, and in books and magazines… I used the NHS Couch 2 5k programme, which consisted of 9 weeks worth of podcasts. Laura, the narrator, told me when to walk and when to run, as well as giving tips and motivation.

As well as listening to the podcasts, I would use an app like Map My Run or Endomondo to track my progress. This is a real motivator as you can see how many calories you burn after each work out and see your distance increasing as the weeks go on.

  1. It’s just a light jog C25k programmes usually start with interval training- walking for a bit, then jogging for a bit. The girl on my podcast often said, “Remember, its just a light jog”. I found this really helpful to remember as it took the pressure off.
  1. Route It’s good to vary the route. This comes naturally as the weeks go by and you are running further. If you are running on a treadmill, why not run outside? If you are already running outside, why not try a lap of the park instead of sticking to the pavement. Sometimes I go for a short drive and run somewhere beautiful, like a nature park or the beach. Changing the scenery mixes things up. Variety is the spice of life, right?
  1. My running buddy

    Equipment The first time I did a C25k programme, I knew by week 4 – 5 that I was going to stick with the programme, so I invested in some trainers, fitted at a specialist running shop. This made the word of difference to my feet.

The second time I started the C25k, I would bring baby T along with me. I didn’t need a special buggy for the first few weeks as the running distance was short and I was slow… again, when I knew I would stick it out, I bought a second hand jogger buggy online.

  1. Take a break I began to enjoy running so much I wanted to run consecutive days. However, it is really important to give your muscles a rest and chance to recover, and avoid injury. Why not do something else with that energy? Go for a walk, or a swim…
  1. Prayer Initially, I started praying when I was looking up a big hill, praying a decade of the rosary to get me to the top! Towards the end of the C25k, I found that jogging was a good way to incorporate prayer into my routine. Now, I often pray a whole rosary during my jog. And I offer up any suffering! Its also a good way just to get some head space and think about any ideas / problems or figure out what’s for dinner!
  1. Believe in yourself I am not a natural-born runner. I will never forget the time I ran for two minutes for the first time and looked back on the distance I had covered. I had a real sense of achievement! C25k programmes are designed to build you up gradually, minute by minute, not drop you in the deep end with a 30 minute run. I trusted in the programme and believed in myself. If I had a bad run, I wouldn’t beat myself up- a bad run is better than no run. If I didn’t feel ready to move on to the next week, I would repeat the week. By recognising your progress and believing in yourself, you can do it!

I finished the Couch 2 5k plan this week and I have already set myself a new goal- a 10k run in two months. Watch this space!

Would you like to take up jogging, but have a question? Or, are you a already a runner and have a comment or tip? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to Kelly from This Aint the Lyceum for hosting 7 Quick Takes. For more quick takes, head on over there!

7QTs: Discoveries

7qt discoveries

Happy Friday! I am linking up with Kelly from This Aint the Lyceum again, for seven quick takes on the past week. This week has been a week of discovery on many fronts so, here we go……

 
WP_20150505_0011. Seedlings: This week-end was a bank holiday weekend in Ireland. We went away for a few days and when we got back, I was shocked to discover that the seeds I had sown in an early-morning gardening episode one morning have actually sprung up! A lovely welcome home!

ssm posters2. No posters: These were another surprise that greeted me on my return! I’ve mentioned we’re having a referendum on the redefinition of marriage in Ireland on 22nd May. I hadn’t seen many ‘no’ posters on my travels, but on my return, they were all over town.

3. Novena: On the subject of the referendum, a novena has been organised to pray for the cause of marriage and family. It will begin on 13th May and finish the day before the referendum. Please pray!

4. Toddler hacks: I was feeling a bit under the weather this week, and serendipitously, an email arrived in my inbox: 40 ways to entertain your toddler while lying down. Perfect!

5. Bloglovin: I finally discovered it. Its great! How ever did I follow blogs without it?


focus-banner-for-web6: Catholic Answers Focus: 
love Catholic Answers, a daily apologetics radio show hosted by Patrick Madrid, and often listen to podcasts when I am on the go. This week I finally subscribed and what a goldmine of podcasts I discovered! Definitely worth a look.

7: Thriftin’ again: Last week I was thrilled with a few books that I picked up in my local charity shop. I headed back this week, with an upcycling project in mind. I bought a kitchen chair for €15. Hopefully, I’ll have it upcycled by next week. Watch this space!

For more 7QTs, head on over to This Aint the Lyceum

7QTs: Surviving My First Year of Motherhood

7qts surviving my first year of motherhood talking about family blogWhile my baby will always be my baby, she will turn one and officially become a toddler tomorrow. Where does the time go? Here are seven quick takes on a few things that have helped get me through this first year as a new mum!

  1. Spiritual Life

Since I became pregnant, I turn to Mother Mary a lot more. She’s my role model in a whole new way.  When my little one was born, taking her to Mass seemed like a big deal. It was huge. And stressful! But, we’ve never had a huge drama and have only had to leave the pew a few times! Deo Gratias! Phew!

  1. Post-natal Pilates

After pregnancy and giving birth, I wondered if my body would ever be the same. Thanks to post-natal Pilates, my body feels a lot stronger. I would definitely recommend it to any new mum!

  1. Couch 2 5k

NHS Choices Couch to 5k

My couck 2 5k programme

Baby weight falls off some women. Not me. I had to work. Very hard. I decided to do a couch 2 5k programme, because it’s easy to get up and out, and I could do it with baby. I bought a second hand jogger buggy, so I wouldn’t have to wait until my husband came home, and wouldn’t be able to use ‘it’s dark/ cold/ wet’ as an excuse. It’s worked really well and I am hoping to do my first race this summer!

  1. Not stressing

As a FTM (first time mom), there is a lot to learn, and a lot to worry about. In addition, people like to chime in with their opinions and unsolicited advice, often conflicting the books / the professionals / the internet / each other. It can be so confusing! I am learning to not worry about things to the nth degree, and am learning to trust myself!

  1. Meal planning and batch cooking

Even having a huge bowl of salad or prepared veggies in the fridge is a big help!

Even having a huge bowl of salad or prepared veggies in the fridge is a big help!

Motherhood has made me be more organised. Time is a luxury! I am learning to meal plan and have started experimenting with batch cooking. It’s definitely the way forward!

  1. Cheating

Take shortcuts! For example, if time is of the essence at meal time, don’t worry about cooking something fresh or defrosting something pronto. Use store-bought baby food. It’s not the end of the world!

  1. Groups

It took me a while to get connected to some local toddler groups. Some mums swear by them, and go to a group every day of the week. I am not one of those mums, but I do know which group is on which day, and that I can drop in whenever I like.  That works for us.

I could have made a longer, better thought-out list, but these are my quick takes! Do you have any tips for new mums? What would be top of your list?

Thanks to Kelly for hosting 7QTs! For more quick takes, hop on over to This Aint the Lyceum!

My First Mother’s Day

Umbert the Unborn Pro-life cartoon
Umbert the Unborn

This time last year I was 8 months pregnant. My husband bought me flowers and a mother’s day card thanking me for, among other things, the excellent womb service I was providing to our baby (see Umbert the Unborn for an explanation)!

I remember initially feeling a bit odd about receiving the gift and card. I didn’t have a baby in my arms and the world referred to me as a mum-to-be, but I was in fact already a mother.

When does motherhood begin? When the baby is in mama’s arms? At the start of active labour (as some insurance companies state)? At the first kick? At conception? When the mother decides?

Saint John Paul talks about motherhood in the period between conception and birth.

Mary’s words at the Annunciation – Let it be to me according to your word – signify the woman’s readiness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life. (MD 18)

From the beginning, motherhood is linked in a very real way to the sincere gift of self. From the self-gift of avoiding contraception and being open to life, to all the little ‘gifts of self’ a mother makes before her child enters the world; taking prenatal vitamins and having a healthy diet to ensure baby is getting the nutrients she needs (oh the amount of oily fish I ate!), staying fit by going for a walk instead of lying on the sofa, the physical discomforts, which I won’t even begin to describe…

Western culture has little respect for the child in the womb. If I was a mum-to-be, then what was growing in my womb? A person-to-be? No. The little person in my womb was created in collaboration with God. I had said “yes” to life. A baby was growing and a soul had formed that would last for eternity. There’s nothing ‘to-be’ about that! So, while this may be my first mother’s day with a baby in my arms, I’m going to count it as my second!