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This bank holiday weekend I got a bit over excited about being able to see people in real life and had way too many margaritas. And I paid for it the next day. Hangover days BC (before children) involved lots of sleep and only emerging from the bed or sofa to answer the door to pizza.

Ah, those were the days. When you have small children, hangovers require a different strategy; here's my advice on how to survive a hangover when you have kids.

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My toddler's toilet training can be patchy but he knows how to unlock the front door, and can snuffle out the packets of raisins no matter where I hide them

We enjoyed some rare child-free time this weekend and whilst walking in the sunshine down to the pub, I spotted a little girl who looked roughly the same age as our eldest riding a bike (without stabilisers), and immediately turned to my husband and said "we really should get him out on his bike and teach him to ride". He pointed out quite rightly that we don't know how old the girl is. But it raised a bigger question for me; why do I impulsively compare, and is it a healthy habit to have as a parent?

Its natural to compare and it can be a good thing; it can give you a nudge to nurture a developmental step, or it could reassure you that your kid is on track (just not on the bike track). Yet it can often cause problems. As a new mum I found myself worrying that the baby who was three weeks younger than ours was already rolling about in the Under 1s group. Writing that down now I think I was ridiculous to compare children that young, and to worry about it. But at the time it felt a big deal, and an unwelcome product of baby-parent groups designed to be supportive and friendly. I've found some baby groups can have a competitive edge to them, and I also suspect that some of the parents bend the truth every so slightly. It's natural to be proud of your baby, but is little Isabella really reciting the alphabet at six months? Is young Hunter really making his bed at one? Did Timothy actually do your tax returns this fiscal year? (Although to be honest he'd probably do a better job than me). Be aware that parents have beer goggles when it comes to their own children, and take it all with a pinch of salt.

This is especially true of social media. Posts, including mine, often suggest a perfect outing with the smiling children, and if the parent is in the photo they're usually not yelling. I don't often post pictures of the melt-downs, and I would never put a story up of the boys opening the toilet door and running off while I'm mid-wee. Most of the time that's because it's too hectic to record, rather than inauthenticity on my part, but also who would want to see that? My point being - if you compare your kids to the children you see on Instagram, you might wind up feeling a bit rubbish. Always remember that behind that ice-cream-in-the-sun picture is a massive drama in the car park because they wanted to take five sticks home for their "collection".

Ultimately I've chilled out a lot on comparing over the years as I've learnt that kids develop at their own rate. And despite my instinctive reflex to compare I'm better at putting it in perspective now, and am less likely to panic if my children are "behind". My little boy wasn't a fan of writing before he started school, and I was very anxious that he couldn't write his name when he started in September. The pandemic has certainly put all that in perspective, and he's progressed with writing so much (despite my home-school failings). I've also learnt that developing one skill can often stall another; one child will walk early but stay quiet for longer, or an early chatterbox might not bother crawling until much later. They are unique, they are forging their own path, and that is all that matters. Yes, he cannot ride a bike yet, but he can recite perfectly the opening song from Tim Burton's 'Nightmare Before Christmas'. My toddler's toilet training can be patchy but he knows how to unlock the front door, and can snuffle out the packets of raisins no matter where I hide them. We all have our talents and shortfalls. Obsessing over comparisons can distract you from how great your kids really are, bike or no bike.

There are many parents out there that don't need a break from their children. I am not one of those parents. This weekend I'm having an overnight stay without the kids, and I can't bloody wait.

I need this time to miss them. I love the feeling of being excited to see them again and there hasn't been much opportunity for that this past year. I need this time to sit in silence and read, or eat a meal at a normal pace instead of devouring it like a rabid wolf. It may be paradoxical but I need time away from my kids to remind myself how much I love them. I need this time to enjoy luxuries like having a wee in private (because I usually get a little person following me into the bathroom for a chat). I need this time to wear earrings without the fear of tiny hands yanking them off my head, and to wear make up, and put on clothes that aren't pyjamas. Most of all I need this break to spend time with my husband without our little entourage, because I like hanging out with him but we are often distracted in the day, and after the kid's bedtime - exhausted. During the pandemic we have spent a lot of time together, but its not quality time - just vast amounts of quarantine Netflix. We need this break to remind ourselves that we are a couple as well as parents; that we are Lauren and Conrad, as well as Mama and Dada.

What to do when your child asks if you believe in God

What to do when your child asks if you believe in God conversations.indy100.com


Kids can blindside you with big questions - we should be honest

Perhaps the time has come to re-evaluate how we portray OCD in films and TV series.

The problem is that there is a finite amount of time in a weekend or overnight break and you can't possibly do all the things you'd like to. You can't have a lie in and also get up early to make the most of your child free time. You have to pick one. You can't have a dignified, romantic, low key meal with your spouse followed by an early night, and also get horrendously, fall-asleep-in-the-taxi-home drunk all in one night. You have to pick a lane. My lane often includes tequilas, and in the morning; the dreaded hangover and Mezcal-induced regret.

Inevitably, we end up talking about the kids a lot. I find myself on a walk saying wistfully "ah the boys would love it here" (they wouldn't), or spotting something on a menu and saying "oh they'd want to order that for pudding wouldn't they, the little rascals". I always ask my Mum for updates too often and she exasperatedly tells me to stop messaging and just enjoy myself. I always want to see pictures within the first hour apart from them, and I know that at their bedtime I'll be looking at my watch and wondering if they're asleep yet.

Parenting mistakes are inevitable

Parenting mistakes are inevitable conversations.indy100.com


A collection of my parenting mishaps.

Although I do miss them when we're away, this time is precious because its a reset. A chance to relax and drink wine and be a grown-up and spend 24 hours without pretending to be a Paw Patrol cast member, or Spiderman, or Poison Ivy (unless your partner is into that). Mainly it's a chance to have a break from the aspect of parenting that is hard work. Because although they are wonderful, it is hard work, and it is tiring. If you are lucky enough to have a chance for a break, as I am (thanks Mum!), then take it. When you come back you'll be refreshed, possibly hungover, possibly not - but always radiantly happy to see your little terrors again.

My four-year-old was sitting with his brother in the bath this week and out of nowhere asked me; 'do you believe in God, mama?'. I paused before offering up a classic deflection technique; 'well, what do you believe?' He didn't skip a beat - 'you first'. Damn it.

I was raised Catholic but my family aren't especially devout; as is often the case my Grandparents are, but my parents less so. My brothers and I went to a Catholic school and although we didn't attend Church every Sunday, we did 'show our faces' (as my Dad would say) periodically, and definitely at Easter and Christmas. I identified myself as Catholic well into my teenage years, when I was confirmed, and into my adulthood, although even my Christmas attendance became increasingly sparse as the years went by. My two boys had Catholic Christenings however, and my husband and I were married in a Church (albeit a Church of England one, purely due to its tantalisingly close location to our reception venue). Yet somewhere along the way I realised that my Catholism wasn't based faith any more; I was clinging to it because it's my heritage. And being proud of your heritage, and believing in and practising a religion, are two very different things.

So back to the bath tub and the God question. My husband is a proud and unapologetic atheist so I was pretty sure that if I consulted him on it he'd support whatever I wanted to say. I knew that my little boy was asking because its Easter time; they have been learning about the Easter story at school, and he'd also been learning about Holi, so we'd spoken about Radha and Krishna as well as Jesus in the last few weeks. He doesn't attend a religious school and is learning about religion in a very different way to how I was taught many moons ago. I don't want to dissuade any budding faith, but I don't want to lie to him about my own beliefs either. And suddenly I'm confronted with my own mini existential crisis; do I believe in God anymore? In that moment, in our bathroom with my children's lovely clean faces looking up at me, it was a resounding and clear thought - no. Those years of prayer, and Sunday school, and nuns, and confirmation retreats, and Holy Communion in the white dresses and lighting candles in Church at advent; they are all part of my childhood experience and my heritage but no - I do not believe in God.

Why us parents need some child-free time conversations.indy100.com

I'm quite a firm believer in something else though; telling your children the truth. Obviously this comes with certain exceptions (he doesn't need to know what really happened to all those mini eggs) but where possible, I would like to tell the truth to them, or a child friendly version. So I took a deep breath and I said 'no, I don't, but lots of people do, and whatever you believe we will be absolutely ok with'. He reflected on this in silence for a moment, and I thought we were about to embark on a discussion about religion and God and faith, the nature of good and evil, and the paradox of free will. I frantically tried to remember my R.E classes and my brief flirtation with Philosophy courses at Cardiff Uni. I needn't have panicked, he simply turned to his brother and said - 'I believe in Batman'. Me too, boys. Me too.

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They say being a parent doesn't come with a handbook, but that's not strictly true - there are hundreds out there.

Despite devouring several of them over the years, I have made some errors in judgement that I'd like to share with you so that maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

I was struggling to get our three-year-old to wear sun-cream; it was basically like wrestling a crocodile, and since it was summer I was doing this multiple times daily and getting increasingly fed up. So I explained to him about sun burn and why sun cream is important. He asked to see pictures, so I said – of course! I did a image search for "sun burnt children" and showed him some pretty terrible pictures of kids with burns. It worked… a little too well. He started asking for sun cream on rainy days. He started requested sun-cream inside. He asked for sun-cream at bedtime. I never had to wrestle him again, but I'm pretty sure I traumatised him in the process.

Our first (and only) holiday abroad with a child I packed so much stuff we had to pay an exorbitant amount in overweight luggage fees and we barely used any of it. Our six-month-old lived in a little vest the whole holiday, I was breastfeeding; ultimately we barely needed to bring a thing. And yet we did – we brought all of the things. We weighed the plane down with the things we had brought. Here's a great tip – other countries have children too. It's actually very unlikely you'll encounter a situation where you can't access what you need in a pinch.

The first time I ever went swimming with my first born I put him in these tiny little trunks, no top at all, and every single one of the other babies were in full thermal wet suits. He started shivering of course, and much to my shame and embarrassment we had to cut the lesson short. And then once we'd got out I got him completely dry, warm and dressed and he started crying, so I picked him up for a cuddle in my sopping wet swimming costume. He was instantly damp, and I didn't have a spare baby-grow. I'd also packed shampoo, hair conditioner and shower gel, like I used to for swimming in the before-baby times. When did I think I'd be showering and washing my hair?! I didn't seem to factor the baby into that scenario at all.

How to deal with toddlers' emerging personalities conversations.indy100.com

Another big mistake I would like to warn you against is being hungover at a kid's party. The level of noise and chaos is a lot to handle at the best of times, throw in a monster hangover and you are in for a rough day. Especially if the party is at a soft play. Especially if you don't know anyone well enough to confide in and watch your child while you sit in the corner for a bit with a strong coffee. There is something about the gaudy, bright, sweaty, germ-ridden stench of a soft play that can tip you over the edge. Avoid this mistake at all costs, trust me.

Some parenting mistakes are really common like running out of wipes or nappies or snacks. Hitting your child's head getting them in the car seat is one we have all done, and if you say you haven't; you're lying. Nappy changing disasters is a right of passage. Forgetting the pram, forgetting a towel, forgetting the potty, forgetting your purse, forgetting how to talk to adults. Its a steep learning curve and one I imagine continues; my kids are four and two and I'm sure I have a lot of mistakes to come. But as my very wise sister-in-law noted; if you're worried about mistakes, and learning from them, and laughing about them – you're doing alright. We muddle through the best we can and try not to mess the kids up too much in the process.

And trust me on the soft play hangovers.

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You blinked, and now your baby is a toddler. Welcome to the parenting stage where reason goes out the window. Suddenly your household's happiness rests on the whims of a tiny dictator. Toddlers do have a bad reputation and with good reason. They defy logic, like to exert their independence, and have big feelings.

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