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Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

I love the sun more now than I ever did because parenting gets a bit easier in nice weather. But of course, the lighter nights and sunshine bring their own challenges too.

My four-year-old says the only thing he doesn't like about summer is brain freeze, which indicates how many ice lollies are consumed in this house. I made my own last summer from sugar-free cordial and may have to do the same again this year because they requested ice lollies for breakfast and haven't stopped asking.

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Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

Parenting – it's a steep learning curve and I'm still finding my way. Or more accurately; winging it one day at a time. Here's just seven things I wish I'd known if I could hop in a time machine and go back to speak to myself pre-children. Although of course I wouldn't use my one go in a time machine doing that, but I digress.

1. You will feel extremes of emotions to levels you've never reached before; especially love, rage, guilt, fatigue and boredom

I have experienced boredom before but not to the extent that I feel when I'm reading The Gruffalo for the millionth time. I've felt anger, but no one ever made me scream silently into a teddy or made me step out the room to count to ten before. I've never felt as much guilt before I had kids, and for small things like needing a break. Pre-kids I'd experienced sleep deprivation; I'd been to enough festivals and pulled enough all-nighters to know what being tired was like. But this level of fatigue is different; its unrelenting and debilitating, and it just goes on and on. And then the love – you'll feel it fiercely, and so intensely that at times you'll resemble Gollum with the baby as your 'precious'.

2.You might not bond straight away

I've mentioned this before but I always had the preconception that as soon as I held my baby I would feel an intense rush of love, a deep connection, and this fantasy stems from movies as well as other parent's experiences. But I didn't feel that cinematic rush of intense love, I just felt exhausted and terrified. Bonding can be delayed, especially after a tricky birth, but it does come. And it doesn't mean that you're a bad parent.

3. A supportive parent friend is essential

When I was pregnant for the first time my mum encouraged me to join some pre-natal classes and I naively said that I had enough friends, and that I didn't need to be friends with people just because they happen to be having kids at the same time as me. Which is totally wrong for many reasons, not least because you can never have too many friends. And of course, my friends weren't on maternity leave and available for coffee mid week, and even if they were free it's unlikely they'd be keen on sipping below-average lattes in a sweaty soft play café. Parent friends are essential because it's such a relief to be able to say "this is really hard" and have someone understand completely. You can ask if things are normal, you can share tips and ideas, and it abates the loneliness that parents can feel, especially in those early days. Ideally find a parent friend that doesn't judge, isn't smug, shares wipes/nappies/snacks, makes you feel better about yourself, you can laugh with and one you can see yourself having a beer with one day. I feel really lucky I've found a few of these and I'm so glad I listened to my mum about pre-natal groups – these parent friends got me through some tough times.

4. You will need your partner more than ever

If you have a partner – you're going to need each other in new and deeper ways than ever before. They are your team mate, your cheerleader, your confidant; you will need each other more than ever. Be kind to each other even in the depths of sleep deprivation and one day you'll have time to be a couple again.

5. Your existing friendships will be tested

I had no idea this would happen but it is inevitable that when your whole world changes it will affect the relationships you have, even strong friendships. Suddenly you aren't able to go out as much, and what's more – you don't even want to. In the early days of parenting I felt really bad about what I looked like (post baby weight and post baby hair loss, a winning combination), and I was so tired all the time I just wanted to be in my pyjamas and in bed by 9pm. Meeting up with the baby in tow is difficult too; it's hard to follow a conversation when you're juggling nappy changes, feeds and naps. But once things calm down a bit and you feel more like yourself again, these old friends will be there and they'll remind you that you're not just a Mum. You are still a friend, a wife, a lover of wine and dinner and music. It seems so surreal now but it took me time to even think about anything I liked or was interested in because I was so focused on getting to grips with being a new mum. I was probably a bad friend back then, but thankfully my friends didn't mind.

6. You won't care about getting poo on your hand, sick in your hair, or snot on your favourite cardigan

The amount of bodily fluids you'll encounter is immense and you won't even care, not at all. You won't even feel a flicker of anger if you're peed on, or if you toddler casually picks his nose and wipes it on your arm. You shrug and clean and continue with your day. It's insane but it's part of being a parent; you become immune to feeling grossed out by things that are disgusting because if you had a normal reaction to it, you'd spend a lot of your day feeling icky. And they are just a bit too cute to care that much about a little poo mishap.

7. This too shall pass

If you're going through a challenging phase and you're wondering how to get through another day of toddler tantrums or another night of broken sleep; this too will pass. It really will. There will be a time when you will sleep uninterrupted the whole night. There will be a time you won't have to follow your kid around saying "kind hands" constantly like a maniac. One day you won't have to crawl around the soft play with them – you'll be the parent drinking coffee scrolling through their twitter timeline. One day they'll be fine with having their teeth cleaned, one day they'll use the toilet by themselves and even flush and wash their hands. It doesn't seem it when you're in the midst of a bad phase, but it's a blink of an eye. Don't put pressure on yourself to cherish every moment, many moments will not be very cherishable, but do remind yourself daily that this time is fleeting – its passing by all the time, as our whole lives are.

To my pre-child self one final thought – even though its hard, this is the best thing you'll ever do, in your whole life.

Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

There's something about being pregnant, or having small children, that causes people to think its perfectly acceptable to ask inappropriate questions. Here's the worst three I've been asked in my time;

1. Wow, you're so big - is it twins?

With both of my pregnancies I got asked this a lot, and it was always very unwelcome. Now when I look back I probably overreacted a bit but I was so fed up, especially with my first pregnancy. I was overdue, it was summer, I was miserable and incredibly cranky. I got really annoyed with an elderly gentlemen for this comment in the supermarket but seriously; don't comment on people's size ever - even when they are pregnant. Maybe especially so. If you say we look big we worry that the baby is too big, and giving birth is scary enough without contemplating a giant monster baby exiting your lady hole. If you say we look small that's also a worry; we will worry the baby isn't growing properly. So the best way to comment on a pregnant person's size is simply - don't. When I got home and ranted to my husband about it he said, "he didn't mean it as a bad thing - you are big. You're nine months pregnant, you're supposed to be. Its not like he's saying you're fat." But it was my body he was commenting on, I already felt huge (I really was!), and I didn't need a stranger to remind me how massive and uncomfortable I was. And of course it wasn't twins; despite my massive girth I was pretty confident there was just the one in there.

2. Do they not make dummies anymore?

We were on a plane to Tenerife for my husband's 30th birthday with baby Francis, who was nearly six months old. Take off was surprisingly fine. I'd researched how to avoid ear popping, I'd packed a new book and toys, and was still breastfeeding so he had an unlimited food supply on hand. But four and a half hours is a long time for an infant, and by the end of the flight I was pacing up and down the aisle with him. It was hot, airplane air is so dry, and baby Francis hadn't napped and was very cranky. So whilst I was pacing up and down with a crying baby a passenger asked me 'do they not do dummies anymore then?' I just laughed politely and kind of shrugged, but it was quite rude and incredibly unhelpful. Dummies are a lifesaver for many parents, and how I wish I'd had one on that plane, but we'd made the choice to not give Frank a dummy past about three months old, because he started spitting it out at night and waking us up anyway, and once it had outgrown it's usefulness at night we wanted to get rid before he became too attached. For parents who don't use one at all - fair play, because you can't deny that they aren't great for teeth or speech, as a multitude of studies back up. A different passenger then boldly asserted that Spanish children don't cry, and although I haven't done any extensive research on this I'm pretty sure that's nonsense. And telling a clearly stressed parent about this random (false) claim on the meekness of Spanish babies isn't going to quiet my own baby. Alas - he didn't seem to notice we'd entered Spanish air space and simmer himself down accordingly. Thank goodness for the lovely lady behind us who fashioned a rattle out of the empty wine bottle and some peanuts; he played with that garbage toy for about 45 minutes, which is 40 minutes longer than the new toy I'd bought him. Be like the wine lady, always.

3. Are you going to try for a girl?

asking a Dad if he wants another kid but he knows they can't have more children. It's a deeply personal question and one that can cause real pain. And it also puts the recipient in an awkward spot where they have to decide in a moment whether to lie and say something non-committal, or open up to a stranger or colleague and say 'yes we desperately want another child but we are having trouble conceiving'. If you aren't sure on someone's situation - don't ask them. As we have two boys we get asked a lot if we plan to 'try for a girl' and it pisses me off. It implies that we were disappointed not to get one of each (which we weren't). It implies that a third healthy boy would be a further disappointment (it wouldn't). It's not OK to assume that the choice to have more children would ever be motivated by the sex of the child, or that the baby would be any less loved because we 'already have' boys.

Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

Our world has started to open up; this week the pubs opened their doors to customers inside, soft plays reopened, and we can meet up with people indoors. We are even allowed to hug.

For parents there's suddenly a lot more we can do with our kids; and with some of us vaccinated too, we may feel more ready to book activities and be social than we have done in over a year. But hold your horses there, cowboy. The kids might not be as ready as you are to suddenly leap from staying at home in your bubble to big trips with lots of people.

This week we were so excited to see some friends and family we hadn't seen in a long time; including my Grandparents and my Uncle, who we haven't seen since November 2019. Although it was wonderful my four year old said he was feeling 'happy but a bit shy', which is very unusual for him. Both the boys were absolutely exhausted, which resulted in a lot of tears at bedtime over nonsensical things. The kids are so unused to having plans and seeing so many people, that whilst it may be fun and well overdue, its also incredibly tiring for them. So for those of us with small children, maybe we should take our time and slowly ease them into the social life they once had. Or rather, the social life we think they need.

My youngest child is two so nearly half his life has been in the midst of some semblance of Covid restrictions. For someone that young masks are normal, as is hand sanitiser and rules about what he can do or who he can see. He takes it all in his stride because, unlike us, he doesn't remember life pre-covid. He is confident with strangers, gentle with other children, and makes friends wherever he goes. So perhaps our assumptions of how damaging time at home has been are, at times, unfounded. However his table manners are borderline feral; the pubs may be back open but neither of the boys have eaten in a café or restaurant in a while, and I suspect their first trip out for tea might be a tad stressful and not unlike taking two small wolves out for dinner. When the time comes I will be taking two fully charged tablets and drinking my beer swiftly to enable a hasty exit.

I have experienced pressure to commit to plans now that we are 'allowed'. But even if other people can't understand it, or feel disappointed, you have to do what is best for your family. That might mean saying no – which is something I have always struggled with. We must try to be honest; our kids might not be emotionally ready for parties, or new faces, or the noise and stimulation of a busy soft play. And of course, they never have to hug anyone they don't want to. Or they might be completely ready and raring to go, but you're not quite there yet. I took the boys to a soft play this week after school; I wasn't sure how they would react as it's been over a year since we were last in that sweaty hellhole. They absolutely loved it. They had a fantastic time and said I was 'the greatest mama in the world'. I, on the other hand, was an anxiety-ridden mess. I was worried about the toddler going down the slides alone, and panicked if I couldn't see him (he was completely fine). There were a lot more people there than I'd expected – and quite a few were maskless – it was so loud and the kids were, of course, running around manically. I felt on edge. And then a kid threw up and that was enough for me; I bribed the boys with an ice cream to leave immediately. So when it comes to getting out there, they might surprise us with their resilience while we struggle with our own anxieties. Perhaps it's best to take it slow and find out. If you are feeling anxious about doing something, or your child is, it's OK and its totally normal given the strange and tragic year we've all experienced. Be kind to yourself and the kids – there's no rush to do anything you're not ready for. There will always be parties or pubs or soft play when you are all ready for them. Just remember your hand sanitiser.

Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

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.

If you set limits on the amount of screen time your kids have you can throw that rule in the recycling bin along with all the empties from last night. Screens are your best friend today. Tablets, TV, games on your phone; if it's an electronic rectangle it's getting used today. This will give you some "quiet time" to let the paracetamol kick in. Plus there's plenty of screen time that is educational; there's shows that sneak letters and number recognition in, we've got reading apps, problem solving games, games that help with fine motor skills and letter formation. Screen time has a bad reputation but it's not all mind-numbing, zombie-inducing rubbish. There's plenty that have some merit beyond keeping them occupied so you can sip your coffee and lament last night's poor choices.

Get an abundance of snacks in for yourself and the kids. It's unlikely you'll fancy cooking a wholesome family dinner, so order something easy and you can make it up to them another time. Ice lollies are great for a hangover and keep the kid's happy for a few moments. A movie, popcorn and blankets is perfect too. We cuddled up and watched The Empire Strikes Back and it was the highlight of my day. Star Wars may not be very educational at first glance but I'm sure there's some important life skills to be learnt, such as how to keep yourself warm if you find yourself out in a snow storm in Hoth.

If you have a partner who can pick up the slack today that is simply wonderful. My husband got the boys up and I enjoyed a glorious lie in which is the best thing for a hangover, I was mumbling 'thank yous' as he herded the boys out of our room at 7am. I thought he was a bearded angel in that moment. Of course, the situation may arise when both of you are feeling a bit ropey; in this case (once Covid rules are relaxed) anyone in your support network could be called upon to take the kids to the park or to help entertain them for a while.

Ever since I had kids the worst thing about a hangover isn't the headache, or the tiredness or the anxiety of what you were blabbering about last night - its the guilt. Surely as I'm a parent now I should know better? The hangover mum guilt is the bit I struggle with most. But as my brother pointed out this weekend; we all have to let loose once in a while. Although it's massively irresponsible of me to indulge in too many margaritas, the guilt doesn't help anyone. Sometimes you have to accept the inevitability of feeling like garbage for the day, take some pain-aways, and head to the kid's party, or park, or (in my case this weekend) the swimming lesson - hangover be damned. Being a parent means life doesn't stop if you're poorly, whether its self inflicted or not. And although the promise of bedtime may feel like a bright star on the horizon at first - you will get there. Today the hangover is gone, the kids are blissfully unaware of yesterday's trials, and I've promised myself I will stop at two margaritas next time...oh go on then, three.

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

Mum of two, bar manager, and lover of wine. And tequila.

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.