Today’s guest post has been written by Helly Westwood, the blogger behind Fledgling Flamingos, a blog featuring Helly’s motherhood journey and simple play ideas. Helly is Mum to Ev (3) and Harmie (11 months). She loves family time, Disney and a hot cup of tea. You can follow Helly’s journey on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
I began blogging to do something for myself. To enjoy a peaceful bit of time where I could focus on doing something that I love, even though that something still revolves around my two little people. Whilst I do find blogging cathartic it has given me something else to focus on, and I am enjoying the time to myself. I have been most surprised by an unexpected, unintended, benefit – it has made me a better mother too.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of why I’ve jumped to the above conclusion, I must make one thing clear – this is not a brag post. I am anything but a smug mother. I am the mother in the playground with the wet hair and a stain from last nights’ tea on her top. I’m now just the improved version of ‘imperfect’ compared with pre-blog me in five ways.
1. Making time to play
I inadvertently began adding play ideas to my blog after sharing an activity that I’d set up for Ev, whilst desperate for five minutes peace to drink a hot cup of tea. I received some positive feedback from other parents, which encouraged me to add more play ideas to my site. It also made me reassess the time Ev and I spend playing together; I realised that play matters, and not just to me.
Support from other parents has buoyed my enthusiasm for play. I’m not afraid to think outside the box. My play ideas are more creative. I see time spent playing together as time well spent, instead of feeling guilty for not doing the things that I ‘should’ be doing. I am in the moment, recognising that those moments slip by oh too fast.
2. Caring less
I began blogging knowing full well that openly discussing my life would not be to everyone’s taste. In the short time that I’ve been blogging, I’ve experienced negativity and open criticism from strangers. Objections have ranged from the choices that I’ve made, to the way that I ‘parent’. It’s a fact of life that we can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Hell, some people don’t even like tea. But the criticism and rejection has helped me to toughen up and care less about other people’s opinions of me.
Now, I feel confident in my parenting style. I consciously assess the choices that I am making, aware that they will be scrutinised by some and ridiculed by others. And I go ahead and make those choices anyway, because deep inside I know that, actually, I’m the Mum in Ev and Harmie’s life. And I know my kids best.
3. Appreciating the everyday
I’ve come to realise that what strives me to sit down and blog often isn’t the big things in life. It’s the little everyday things that make my posts. I look at our ordinary lives, and the things that I might otherwise take for granted, or dismiss as unnoteworthy, suddenly become stories on paper.
By taking time out for myself, I can look at our lives with fresh eyes. Writing has helped me to see the humour in the bad days, and the joy in the little things. Blogging gives me the chance to reflect, to be grateful, and to see what really matters.
4. Embracing me
Putting myself ‘out there’ has required me to give myself a good talking to every so often. I’ve had to ignore all my niggles about not being quite good enough. Comments from strangers, friends and family have made me appreciate all my quirks and realise that people will accept me just the way I am.
Embracing myself has made me happier. Being happier has made me nicer to be around. I still have many shouty Mum moments where I lose the plot. I still have the occasional meltdown about not wanting to paddle in communal splash pools. But I’ll also precariously drive a miniature tractor and tumble around softplay without worrying about the size of my bottom or how absolutely ridiculous I look. Because actually, I now kind of like me.
5. Recognising I’m not alone
This is the biggy. When I started my blog, I had no idea that the blogging arena was anything other than lots of individuals typing out their thoughts and experiences. I didn’t realise that by setting up my little blog I’d be granted access to a community. Access to a whole new group of parents who I don’t know, have never met, and yet who I feel supported by.
Parents who share their innermost thoughts and feelings. Who let us all see their unfiltered, imperfect, parenthood. And in seeing that reality, I’ve realised that I’m not alone. It’s not just me that loves their little people beyond belief, yet sometimes counts down the minutes to bedtime. Not just me who experiences ‘mum fails’ on a daily basis.
I’m no longer comparing my life to filtered images. Or forced smiles. I’m out there, among friends. Muddling through, looking around at each other and giving ourselves a pat on the back. Recognising they we’re all doing OK. More than OK in fact. And that makes me feel like a better mother too.