Essential Baby Shower Gift Guide

I was very blessed during my first pregnancy as I received a lot of practical gifts and ‘experienced-mom’ to ‘first-time-mom’ advice (it was needed, as I was completely clueless) and so, when my sister found out she was pregnant with her first little girl, I was determined to give her as many practical gifts and advice as possible. Shortly before her recent baby shower, however, I found myself in a baby clothing store (while out on a supposed grocery shopping trip), with a huge basket full of the cutest little baby clothes. I simply could not help myself – it was all just so adorable! And it was all so impractical!

I am a mom and I know what moms with newborns need and it definitely is not that enchanting little tutu (as cute as it seems). Becoming a mom for the first time and trying to figure out what exactly this new baby will need is overwhelming, to say the least, and it is up to moms to give gifts and advice based on their own experiences, gifts which we know this new mom will need and use. I have therefore put together a list of ideal baby shower gifts:

Must-Have Essential Baby Shower Gifts

  • Digital Fever Thermometer – not being able to read your baby’s temperature is scary!
  • Baby movement monitor
  • Toiletries – be practical here and buy unscented, organic products. Not all baby skin types are the same and some react very badly to the perfumed (‘but they smell so nice’) baby products on the market. Also stay away from baby powder unless you want the new mom to use it to ‘freshen up’ her unwashed hair
  • Medical necessities – products for a blocked nose, fever etc
  • Towels and face cloths
  • Blankets, swaddles and ideally a sleeping bag
  • Muslin cloths – these make amazing swaddles, light blankets, burp cloth etc
  • Burp cloths and bibs
  • Grooming kit – containing nail clippers, hair brush etc
  • Diapers – buy a variety of types and sizes so that the mom-to-be can try them all before deciding on a brand she prefers (she might even prefer modern cloth nappies)
  • Wet wipes
  • Practical clothing such as socks, baby grows and clothing in bigger sizes and consider the baby’s age during winter, summer, spring and autumn

Cute Baby Shower Gifts

  • Milestone Cards – these are great for capturing those special moments
  • Something handmade and from the heart – the best gifts are those knitted or crocheted blankets, jerseys, booties and cuddly toys
  • Cute babygrows – because babygrows are always practical and often come with the loveliest sayings
  • Books for mom and child

Practical Baby Shower Gifts

  • Bottle and food warmer
  • Steriliser
  • Safety products for baby proofing – for example, plug covers, safety gates etc
  • Feeding utensils such as bowls, spoons, food freezer trays, sippy cups etc
  • Baby food recipe book
  • Diaper bag
  • Bottles & pacifiers – again, be practical and buy one bottle brand at a time so that the mom-to-be can decide which bottle works best for her baby
  • Breastfeeding essentials such a nipple cream and breast pads
  • Breastfeeding pillow and shawl
  • Disposable change mats
  • Disposable bibs
  • Nappy Sacks

Nice-To-Have Baby Shower Gifts

  • Feeding chair / high chair
  • Baby rocker
  • Mobile camp cot
  • Baby bath
  • Play mat
  • Mobile
  • Toys
  • Teething toys

 

A Second Pregnancy: The Good and The Bad

The pregnancy test is sitting on our bathroom counter and although I try to ignore it while it is ‘thinking’, I cannot help but stare at the screen in anticipation. Finally, the result is in and instead of the expected ‘Not Pregnant’ sign, the result is positive. Elation, joy and gratitude all wash over me as I call for my husband to come to the bathroom QUICKLY! Then, as he walks in with our almost two-year-old in tow, I feel a surge of panic and guilt.

Unlike my first pregnancy, which was mostly characterised by an almost naive joyful anticipation, I am overwhelmed by feelings of guilt toward our first born (how could I share my love and devotion toward him with any other being?), guilt toward this unborn little miracle growing in my belly and the utter fear of having another baby, another newborn to contend with. Although most people say you forget how hard those first couple of months with a new baby can be, I remember them all too clearly.

It is as if this second pregnancy is simply less important, less of a milestone than the first. People seem less enthusiastic, less eager to find out how I am (it’s not like I haven’t been through this before, right?) and, at the same time, I am a lot less fussed, often forgetting exactly how far along I am, not obsessively checking how big the baby is every waking moment of every day and simply moving on with life (I still have a two-year-old who needs my full attention after all).

It makes me feel like I am somehow depriving both my kids of the complete attention and total love which they deserve because I now will have to be shared.

And yet, at the same time, I often catch myself lovingly stroking my growing belly, waiting in excited awe for another small little kick as I sit and play with Bean. I might not be as rough and tumble as I once was with him but I do still shower him with admiration, love, discipline and devotion. Things are changing, but change is not always a bad thing – soon Bean will have a little brother who hopefully will become his lifelong friend and ally. Our family will grow and instead of sharing the love we already have; our love and hearts will grow and expand to include this new life.

When the fear of another (unknown) newborn phase grips my heart, I try to focus on the good: that unmistakable baby smell, that first smile, the tiny little hands and feet, those special baby cuddles, and I get gleefully excited. I envision how gentle and loving my big-hearted and kind Bean will be toward his new brother, how our new little fire will grow up with love and admiration in his eyes as he follows his older brother around the room. I smile as I think of sibling fights, followed by love and laughter and I want to literally jump for joy when I think of our chaotic and busy family life, those busy little toddler and baby legs keeping my husband and me on our toes.

Of course, there will be hard times, added financial stresses, there will too many things to do at once and we will be tired, but as any parent knows, the good will definitely outweigh the bad. It will be ok. It might actually be wonderful.

The Power of Words

One of the best things about being a parent is that there simply is no time to worry about your own insecurities and how the world perceives you. You just have to envision that almost cliché image of a young mother, toddler in hand and a baby on the hip, with spit up on her shirt, her messy hair in a bun and those tell-tale dark circles under her eyes, getting into her car to go to the shops or to do the morning school run, to realise that she is simply past caring what people think about her. And that is amazing!

It is amazing because at some stage we all need to grow up and we all need to face our inner demons and simply move on and the best time to do this is when you become a parent. Although parents do of course still battle with issues of insecurity, it no longer haunts their every action as they now have bigger issues to deal with (how to prevent your child from living with said insecurities for example). I mean, who wants to project all these issues onto their children, right? So, instead of focusing on how the world perceives us, we, as parents, rather spend the little bit of spare energy we have, to focus on how we can better ourselves for our children so that we can become the best example to them.

Being a blogger, my world is made up of words. I love words and beautiful phrases and when I experience a strong emotion (whether good or bad) or a fun and exciting adventure, words float around in my head, waiting to be written down. I am therefore extremely sensitive to, and aware of, the power of words and how they can influence those around us.

The one way (and there are many) in which I am trying to better myself is to try and use a vocabulary made up of only positive words. I am not talking about sugar coating or manipulating a difficult situation or a hard truth (these need to be dealt with as directly and truthfully as possible), I am talking about substituting those negative words and phrases which we all use in our daily lives, such as ‘stupid mistake’, ‘dumb’, ‘you better love me or else…’ with positive words and phrases like ‘you are so clever, this was just a silly mistake’ or ‘I love you because of …’.

Think back to a time when someone close to you asked you in anger ‘why do you ask such dumb questions?’ and think about how that made you feel. Think about that time when someone said, ‘if you act like that, no-one will love you’ and remember the hurt that these words imparted on you. Now imagine being the one to cause that hurt in your loved ones, or your children (who will have these words thundering in their heads until they grow up when they will hopefully learn to move on and let go of the insecurities we helped create).

If there is one thing I wish we could change in our world, it would be to just forget that words like ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ (to name just a few) even existed – that everybody’s vocabulary consisted solely of beautiful, kind and strong words, such as ‘brave’, ‘intelligent’, ‘compassionate’, ‘wonder’ and ‘peace’, words which lighten the soul and brighten a heart.

My little Bean just turned two, and he is talking a mile a minute, soaking up every single word and phrase he hears and although we have made some parrot-toddler mistakes (read ‘Oh Shit!’) I am trying my best to feed his thirst for words with a positive vocabulary – because his happy, positive chatter is like food to my soul.

Dear reader, I challenge you to do the same. Think about the words and phrases you use on a daily basis and consider their connotations and how they might influence others. Let’s make our world, our perception of ourselves and our influence on others better, positive and simply wonderful.

 

The Day My Life Stood Still

Written by: Guest Writer

“Wake up Pascalle! Wake up!” That is all I remember in that moment – those seconds which felt like hours. I felt like I was in a movie – you know the part when the actress gets world crushing news and the camera zooms in on her face and the background blurs, as if the life around her is collapsing? That is how I felt as I sat on the toilet, staring down at the blood soaked toilet paper I was clutching in my hand. Just staring at it – and mentally yelling at myself to wake up.

I was 7 weeks pregnant.

In that moment, I knew. This is the beginning of the end.

Getting myself to my gynae is a blur, but I remember scrutinising my gynae’s face as she did the scan whilst I bled on her bed. I remember jumping from her face to the screen – trying to figure out what was happening, even though I knew in my gut. “We need to do blood tests to check your HcG levels – you may be too early to show a heartbeat.” I knew that too was a cover – I was over 7 weeks. Heart beats can be seen as early as 5, and there was nothing on the screen. I was laying in the hospital bed when she came to see me. “I am afraid it isn’t good news”, she said. My levels had dropped by over 10 000 in less than 2 weeks and a DNC was necessary given that I had started to miscarry.

1 in 4. That’s what all the articles say. Well – I am the 1 in 4. The 1. Why couldn’t I be the other 3? What have I done that is so bad in my life to be the 1? Why would God give me this child for 7 weeks – and then snatch it away? Had I done something wrong, eaten something? Drunk something? Maybe I shouldn’t have cleaned the kitchen cupboard the night before. What does this mean for me now – what would people think? Was it a boy or a girl? Would I now need to endure the torment of sympathy from others who had no idea what was happening to me? Would my husband look at me and see me as a broken woman who couldn’t carry a child?

People would say “Everything happens for a reason.” “Rather it happen now than later on.” “God does these things to test us.” “Don’t worry – you will have another one.” “Don’t let this define you.” “You need to carry on – life has to go on.”

It was and still is relentless. All I wanted to do was punch them in the face and tell them to piss off and leave me alone. Because the thing is, those who have never lost a child don’t know. No matter how old. No matter born or unborn. No matter 7 weeks or stillborn. It was my child. My baby. And I was its mother – and I couldn’t protect it from what was happening. It was out of my control.

I tried to seek solace in blogs by other moms – but there was something “off”. The hidden raw truth. The things that no one wants to say. The reality of it all. So here goes my version. This is what I know.

1. Cry

Cry, by God just cry. Who do you need to hold it together for? You have just lost your child. A child you never knew and never got see grow up. A child that held a future and was taken too soon. Cry. Cry when people are looking and when they are not. Just cry. I read a quote that resonated with me. It goes: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give by cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

2. Write

People said journal. So I did and it helped a bit. But what helped more was writing to my baby. I wrote letters within days filled with tears and apologies and love. Letters telling my Peanut to ask God to tell him/her all about me and Daddy. And to ask Papa to show him/her how to make his coconut ice. When I told people this they looked at me like it was unhealthy – and this brings me to my next point.

3. Screw other people

This is your process. Your time. Your loss. People will try to get you to grieve and move on at a pace that makes them feel comfortable – but it will not work. Do things your way. Grieve your way. And stop trying to be strong for other people so that they don’t feel uncomfortable around you. This is happening and it is a real thing, and if people can’t handle witnessing it – then they need to buzz off until they can.

4. Remember your husband

This was shocking to me. As a mother, people hug you. Ask you if you are okay. Buy you flowers. Sit at your bedside. Wipe your tears. And all the while, there he stands quietly in the corner. Looking at you and you see it in his eyes. He is broken too. His world is shattered too. He has also lost his child. Remember your husband. You need to allow him his turn to grieve – you need to make sure everyone knows that he too is devastated. He deserves just as much attention and sympathy as you do. And this will no doubt be one of the bad times you spoke to in your vows. This will test your marriage. Just make sure you remember him too – two is better than one when facing a life-altering trauma.

5. Make peace with God

I was mad. And when I say mad – I was swearing at God. Telling Him that this was IT. I was done with Him and His way and His Truth. “Put your faith in God.” That was the most important thing I learnt growing up as a Catholic. And I did and NOW look! I hated Him and in those dark days after – I swore to never pray or go to church again. And then, a few days later I was writing to the Peanut and was so worried about where he/she was and I had this overwhelming sense of peace. Like as if He was saying: “The Peanut is with me.” And that’s the thing – faith. It’s a wonderful and treacherous thing at the same time. You just have to have faith that God has a bigger plan – and He gave you this because He knows your soul, and He knows that you can and will endure. Then being the 1 in 4 seemed like an opportunity. As if He had given me this path for a reason and He knew I could handle being the 1. I have made peace with God – and whatever it takes, you need to do this too – in your own way. And sometimes it is hard – I still question Him on bad days, but life is hard enough without having to hate the one Supreme Being.

Maybe I will have a baby one day. Maybe I will be blessed enough to hold my child and look into bright healthy eyes. Count the ten fingers and ten toes. Peer over a cot with worry to make sure my baby is still drawing breath. Panic when they bump their head or when their temperature sky rockets.

I guess that’s the message. Life. We take it for granted. We assume it won’t happen to us. We assume our baby will be fine. We assume we have one more chance. We assume we will see our loved ones again. We assume all the time.

To the other moms who have never experienced this (and I pray you never will) do the rest of us a favour? Kiss your child one extra time tonight. Hold them a little longer when you give them that hug. Appreciate the tantrums and screaming and cheekiness that boils your blood. Count the ten fingers and toes. Breathe and remember you are lucky to be the 3 in 4. Do this for the rest of us, until we can do it ourselves.

My Special ‘The Usual’ Mother’s Day

If there is one word which sums up life with a toddler, it is the word ‘repetition’: the continuous words of admonishment (‘don’t touch that’, ‘it’s hot’, ‘get down from there’), the almost constant wiping up of spills and cleaning up of messes and the ever-repetitive cycle of ‘silence-crying-consoling’ because the said words of admonishment have once again fallen on deaf ears (‘what does mom know anyway, right? I mean, how hot can that heater really be?’).

And yet, in between this draining repetition, there are moments of pure ingenuity. Moments of surprise in which I stare at our son with wonder and laughter. The moment when Bean decided that it was a good idea to unpack all of, and I mean ALL of, my unused plastic packets in order to create a blanket, for example, or the moment he decided to take my basting brush, dip it into the water lying in one of our vases and to then clean the table, or the moment when he grabbed a ‘poon’ (spoon) from the drawer to fix his toys (‘I fitsin, mom!’).

6

Bean and his plastic-packet-blanket

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His workshop is ready, now all we need is his ‘screwdriver-spoon’

Last year marked my first ever Mother’s Day and I had high (ok, very high), expectations of this day. I imagined that it would be nothing short of fireworks, rosy cheeks and laughter. The reality was, of course, a little different: although I did get the gift and the cup of coffee in bed, it was just another day. Because nappies still need to be changed, kids can be difficult and yes, I am not the only mother in the world deserving special attention (shocker!).

So, this year, I decided to focus on the moments of ingenuity, magic and wonder, to embrace the usual, to relish in the every-day things of being a mom. Because, that’s what I am: a mom to an energetic, challenging and kind little bundle of toddler-love. Today, I am thankful to be called ‘mom’, I will change those nappies with joy and I will repeat words of love as often as I repeat everything else.

Yes, today is just another day, and it is wonderful.

Happy Mother’s Day!

‘Oh Shit!’

The day I have been dreading has finally arrived – the day my potty mouth has made me fail as a mother: ‘Oh, shit!’, my almost two-year-old exclaims with glee as I am busy wiping up the water I just spilt all over the table. He is, of course, copying what I had just said a minute ago when I knocked my glass over, and although I try and ignore the words, not wanting to make a big deal out of the situation, Bean is now excitedly running around the garden repeating my profanity – over and over and over again.

A few days later, I am trying to phone our gardener, Robert, but the signal keeps cutting out. I, out of frustration, shout into the phone, ‘Robert, ROBERT, ROBBEERT’, misguidedly thinking that this will miraculously change the signal quality of our call. Bean, being the parrot that he is, starts shrieking in a voice which eerily sounds like my own, ‘Robert, ROBERT, ROBBEERT’. I stop, shocked, and in my best voice repeat, ‘Hello Robert’ in the hope that when he sees Robert again, he does not repeat my shrieking outburst (not that this has helped – poor Robert gets shrieked at, at least once, every time he is here).

Do I really sound that bad? And look so scary when I am upset? Because, Bean, not only successfully copies my words and my voice, no, he manages expressions as well! And the worst of it all is that I cannot even be angry at him – he is simply doing what a toddler does. And so, I laugh, a reaction which Bean loves and a reaction which makes him want to repeat whatever it was that I thought was so funny. It’s a trap and a very humbling one at that.

If you think that someone needs a humbling experience, put them in the same room as a parrot-toddler. There is nothing quite like your pride-and-joy holding up that figurative mirror, happily showing you all the flaws which you have so successfully been able to ignore all these years, in all their glory.  Whether it’s your go-to-swear-word or your frustrated ‘AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH’ when something does not want to work as it’s supposed to, trust me, your ‘parrot-toddler’ will repeat it. And he will repeat it at the most inconvenient time, while you are proudly telling someone of your most recent parenting win, for example.

Luckily, Bean manages to copy the good as well, the parts of me that I am quite happy to share and see repeated, the parts which make me proud. So, from now on (yes, I have mentioned this before, but repetition does at some point lead to learning, hopefully) I will focus on the good and try and be better, calmer, more patient.

We have started using the words, ‘Oh, sherbet’ now and that seems to be doing the trick, but, I have to admit, every now and again, when my guard is down and I am tired and frustrated, that true Alexa-potty-mouth still makes an appearance. Flaws do not get ironed out overnight it seems. And as for Robert: luckily, he likes our little guy and doesn’t get offended.

Posting Pictures of your Kids Online – What You Need to Know

Being an avid social media follower, I didn’t put much thought into posting pictures of my little Bean online after he as born. I posted pictures shortly after his birth, pictures of our first family outing, pictures of our first family holiday together and much more – these were special moments in my life and, as such, I wanted to share them with my friends and family. With social media being such an easily accessible medium of communication and such an integral part of our daily lives, it was only logical to upload them, share them and to immortalise these memories & moments forever.

I have, however, recently stopped uploading any identifying picture of my little guy (hard as it is sometimes – he is just the cutest after all) and here are the reasons why:

He is His Own Person

Bean, little as he is now, will grow up to become a teenager and adult, who like the rest of us, will want to establish his own online profile and persona on social media. I doubt he will like the fact that the internet is already filled with baby photos and cutesie little moments which might make him cringe (I keep thinking of certain #proudmom moments I have witnessed: a photo of a girl using the potty for the first time, a photo of a boy running around the garden naked and a birthday party photo of a crying one-year-old). I will, of course, give him access to all these photos and videos, but I want him to decide what he wants to share about himself. It is his life after all.

Geotagging of Photos

Did you know that unless you have disabled this function, most modern-day smart phones automatically embed GPS location details into all your photos?  And that these geo-locations are uploaded to any social media platform as part of your photo? As a blogger, I cannot help but live in the public eye, and information like this scares me. It scares me because it means that criminals and predators can see where I am (if I am posting live) immediately and they can get access to my home address, as well as the address of Bean’s school or day care, or any other significant address which might be embedded in any of my photos.

Photo Theft, Manipulation and Loss of Photo Rights

Once the photo is online, you lose control of it: it is stored on a server you have no control over, it can be tagged and shared by friends who might not have the same privacy setting as you and it can be stolen, downloaded and manipulated (without you even knowing about it) to be used by strangers, predators and paedophiles.

Even if you delete the photo from your account (or you delete your account in its entirety), the photo may have been shared to other profiles or tagged by an active account user. It is also stored and backed-up on the social media platform’s server. This means that once the photo is uploaded, it can never be removed. Let that sink in for a while.

Another very important fact is that certain social media platforms give themselves licence to use your photos as they see fit. This means that once the photo is uploaded, you have no control over what that site may do with it.

How to Securely Post Online

Should you still wish to post photos of your children online, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Think before you post – who might see/share this? And keep in mind that once it’s uploaded, it’s up. There is no back button.
  • Check the photo for any identifying details which could lead a predator or criminal to you / your child (for example, a car registration number, a name of your school in the background etc)
  • Check your privacy settings
  • Read the terms of conditions of your chosen social media platform
  • Know your friends – go through your list of friends and decide whether they are good friends who you trust or just some random acquaintance who could potentially bring harm to your family? Delete the friends who are not really friends – this is not a popularity contest.
  • Disable GPS functionality on your phone
  • Do not allow other people to post pictures of your children without your consent (and be firm)
  • Do not post pictures of other kids without consent

 

How do you feel about posting pictures of your kids online, dear reader? Tell us!

3 Daily Must-Have Conversations with your Child

‘The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice’ is a powerful quote which has been popping up on my newsfeed a lot lately. It is so powerful (and so popular) because it is, of course, true. I briefly touched on this subject in one of my previous posts on discipline (read it here) when I mentioned what I had been told by an educator during one of the moms and baby classes I had attended. Namely, that children under the age of five cannot form an opinion about themselves and instead internalise their caregivers’ opinions. Once they have the ability to form an opinion of themselves, they use these internalised views as their main reference point.

It is because of this that I have started having three daily conversations with my Bean, based on principles I would like him to internalise. These are values which I believe will help him to face life’s countless challenges, to become successful and to be a good person.

Although our conversations at the moment are fairly one-sided and usually consist of me talking and explaining while Bean throws in the odd word (or the occasional ‘hmmmmm’), I am laying the groundwork for future conversations to come.  Instead of simply telling him, ‘you are thoughtful’, for example, I try and find examples in our everyday lives which showed him acting thoughtful, and I have a conversation about that moment and why it is so important.

  1. You are Intelligent

I have met countless people who act unintelligent when in fact they are not. Whether they do this because they really believe that they are not smart or whether they feel insecure in the presence of other intelligent people, I do not know. I, however, want Bean to be secure in the knowledge that he is intelligent, that he is strong and that he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to. He must be confident in his own ability and not self-sabotage his achievements because of self-doubt.

  1. You are Brave

Whether it is climbing onto a new jungle gym as a child or investing his time and money into a new business venture as an adult, I want him to be brave. Yes, life is risky and life can be scary, but no one gets anywhere without taking a risk or making that difficult decision to change something in one’s life, to explore and grow, to learn a new skill.  I want Bean to know that it is ok to be scared, but that he must trust in his ability and that he must be brave.

  1. You are Kind

The world would be a better place if we were all just a little bit kinder. I want to teach Bean to have an open heart and an open mind, I want him to believe in the goodness of others (without being gullible) and I want him to treat others with compassion.

Life can be hard and sometimes we need to be hard because of it, but this does not mean we have to be mean or judgemental. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. The German word for ‘kindness’ is ‘liebenswürdig’ and directly translated it means ‘worthy of love’. When we are kind, we are giving love and, in turn, are becoming worthy of it.

As parents, we need to take care of our children’s emotional needs as much as their physical needs, and that includes giving them the confidence, together with a sound value-driven reference system,  to face and deal with the difficulties which are inevitably going to cross their paths.

What important conversations are you having with your kids?

5 Tips to Beat Sleep Deprivation

If there is one thing that we as a human race should invent, it has to be a system to store sleep. We live in a world filled with technological geniuses who create new inventions almost daily and yet no one has been able to find a scientific solution to the very common problem of sleep deprivation, except, of course, to tell us to sleep more. But as every parent knows, sleep is one luxury that is in very low supply.

This weekend, for example, we went on a much-anticipated date night. When we got home, tired and ready for bed, Bean was wide awake. With difficulty, he finally fell asleep around 2 am, only to wake up again at 6 am. Now, how absolutely amazing would it have been if we could have simply tapped into a supply of stored sleep, instead of getting through our day like a pair of zombies?

Seeing as our scientific community has, however, let us down in this department, I have put together a list of 5 tips to help every parent deal with the continuous lack of sleep.

  1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself

I get it, you are tired. Being a parent means that you probably didn’t get enough sleep last night, or the night before, or even the night before that, but wallowing in a sea of self-pity will only make the situation worse and bring unnecessary negativity into your life and home.

These sleep-deprived days are exhausting, but you need to ‘man up’ as they say, make the best of the day ahead and trust that one day you will sleep again.

  1. Share the load

Take the night and early morning shifts in turns, ask someone to watch your child while you have an afternoon nap (even a 15-minute power nap can work wonders) or indulge in a sneaky snooze while your child naps (the dishes can wait).

If you have no one to share the sleep-deprivation-load with, take a couple of minutes out of every day to simply be. Sit down somewhere alone and just breathe, centre yourself. I often have an extra-long shower in the morning and most of this time is spent simply standing still, letting the water wash over me. It is the only time I have to just be and I relish it.

  1. Ditch the Caffeine & Eat Healthily

Yes, I know, ditching caffeine sounds counterintuitive – coffee is what makes me get through most mornings as well. The good news is that you do not have to give it up altogether, simply in the afternoons and evenings. Believe it or not, sleep is the best cure for sleep deprivation (insert sarcastic wink here) and the best way to guarantee enough sleep is to sleep when your child is sleeping. And that means going to bed early. Having too much caffeine during the day will prevent you from doing this.

Our body gives back what we put into it and the best way to refuel those tired old bones is to eat good food. I can feel the negative effects on my body when I have over-indulged in the bad stuff (specifically food high in preservatives, trans fats, colourants and sugars). I therefore try and stick to a healthy, natural diet, including as many super foods as possible, and it has had a huge impact on my daily energy levels.

  1. Exercise

The benefits of exercise have been well-documented so I am not going to list them all here (you are all aware of them), but I will note that exercise will make any tired body and mind feel refreshed and awake. I often go for early morning walks with Bean (even when I am really tired) and although it feels like a drag in the beginning, those endorphins soon kick in, making me feel fantastic, refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

If you do not have the means or the time to go to the gym or for a long walk, create your own 15-minute exercise circuit at home. You do not need a lot of space or time for this and best of all, your littles can join in on the fun.

  1. Limit screen time before bed

A while ago, I got into the habit of checking my phone, scrolling through all my social media feeds, before going to bed. Not only did this prevent me from going to sleep at a decent time, it often woke me up more when I saw something interesting. I soon realised that this ‘always-on’ mentality is encroaching on my much-needed sleep time, so I stopped it. Now, I read a book: it allows me to escape, to switch off from my daily troubles and to fall asleep peacefully.

A bedroom is supposed to be a sanctity for rest, so remove all screens from your room and invest in an alarm clock. Allow our mind to switch off properly before going to bed.

Maybe one day, we really will have a way in which we can store sleep. For now, the good news is that as our bodies get accustomed to less sleep, we have the opportunity to experience more of our daily lives and our kids in the limited time we have.

Finding my way through the ‘Terrible Twos’

Bean and I are playing outside, blowing bubbles, and he decides that he wants to try to blow his own. He asks me for the container and as he unscrews the lid, he tips the container over, pouring the soap onto the grass. He cries, turns around and runs away, arms in the air. Once he calms down, I ask him for the now empty container back so that I can throw it away and fetch a new one. As I reach out for the container, he throws himself on the ground, crying.

Later, Bean asks me for an ice lolly, or rather shouts ‘Icy, icy, icy!’ at the top of his voice while running to the fridge. I ask him to say ‘please’, so Bean starts crying and runs away, arms flailing. He then calms down and reiterates his severe need for an ice lolly. This time I cave, giving it to him. I, however, forget to place it in his bowl first, so off Bean runs, again, crying and distraught.

I think it is safe to say that the ‘terrible twos’ have officially arrived. And it is not fun. I feel disconnected, like that confused, anxious and scared mom of a newborn baby, unsure of what to do, petrified of somehow damaging my child for life and so drained by the (what feels like) almost constant crying and whining.

I understand that Bean is merely growing up, that he is trying to assess his independence, that he is frustrated by his inability to do so and that everything is exacerbated by that fact that he cannot yet communicate effectively. I get that he is trying to establish his boundaries and I am fully aware that all he needs from me at this stage is patience, love and positive guidance. But, goodness, it is hard –  where has my sweet little boy gone?

As I navigate my way through this new phase of parenthood, I try to ignore the tantrums by simply walking away. In an attempt to teach him how to communicate, I try to talk about every detail of our lives, I explain our actions, reactions and the subsequent consequences, and I ask him ‘why’ when he simply says ‘no’ to everything.

I try not to lose my patience and I try to set a better example for Bean when I get frustrated with something. I try to be more assertive when I set boundaries and I discipline when he tests them.

Above all, I try to find the positive side, the humour, in these difficult situations. Yesterday, for example, Bean found my secret stash of nail polish while I was getting dressed. Excitedly, he decided that he wanted to paint my toenails. ‘Mama, auf (open)’, he said, pushing the nail polish into my hands. Being slightly pre-occupied, I explained that now was not the right time to do this, asking him to pack the nail polish away. His response: silence. ‘Good’, I thought, ‘he listened’.

A few minutes later, as I was distractedly looking for my mascara in the drawer, I felt something wet on my toe. I looked down and there was Bean, crouching over my feet, in deep concentration, painting my nail. The jar of nail polish in his hand was upside down and my beige bathroom carpet now had blotches of pink on it.

Although my first reaction was to shout, upsetting Bean and causing another tantrum, I realised that he was merely trying to do what I do. So, while my little neat freak was trying to ‘meam’ (clean) the carpet with an entire roll of toilet paper, I tidied up the bathroom, grabbed my things, put Bean in the car, and bought a new bathroom mat. We needed one anyway.

This phase, like the ones before, will pass.