Our Italian getaway, a lost bunny, a drenched sun hat and almost getting thrown off a train…

There’s no place like home. But, sometimes you can imagine yourself living elsewhere. For me, that place is Italy. My husband and I visited Florence and Tuscany a few years ago and I fell in love with the place, the delicious food, the beautiful architecture, the musical language, the chic style, and of course, the climate. We spent our days wandering cobbled streets, basking in the warm sunshine, cooling down with gelato, sipping on Chianti and gorging on pizza and pasta. We made a promise to return so instead of buying presents for each other last Christmas we booked flights to Venice. It would also be Sonny’s first foreign trip. I was quite nervous of how he’d deal with the flight and just being in new surroundings. The flight to Venice, which I imagined I’d be pacing the aisle the entire way, was almost without incident. We ended up chatting to an American bar owner called Ben and the two and a half hours flew in, so to speak. Sonny got a little grouchy when he got tired, and it isn’t easy to get comfortable on a budget airline, but eventually, he fell asleep cradled in my arms.

As with all trips away, organisation is key and something which doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m the kind of person who loves having a diary but rarely uses it. Although we were away for just under a week, we ended up with two large suitcases, a rucksack, and a small sports bag. I wrote a list which looked like I was moving abroad. As well as all the obligatory cute outfits for Sonny (and sun hats he never wore), there was a zillion nappies, formula, wet wipes, a sleeping bag, bodysuits, soothers, teething gel, teethers, Calpol, snacks. The list goes on. Then there was my case full of new purchases from ASOS, Topshop and Boden. I love having new clothes for holiday, it’s part of the enjoyment. For a week or so, you can be someone who eats out every day, has a Mimosa for breakfast, Chianti every night and two changes of clothes every day. Or is that just me?! Something I wasn’t expecting was to sail through security. We were ushered to fast track both in Belfast and Venice. Me and my husband shared a smug moment, there are perks to having a baby after all. Heh.

We stayed in a simple, bright and clean apartment in Padua. The location was key as we wanted to take day trips to Venice and Verona. I’ve always dreamed of taking a gondola trip and visiting Juliet’s balcony. After a day acclimatising in Padua and paying for an expensive lunch because we were tired and went into the first restaurant we saw, we went on a day trip to Venice. It’s another world. You step off the train and a few steps away and you’re on Grand Canal – a bustling waterway with working boats, vaporettos and the more garish of the gondolas. We walked a little, stopping for a gelato on the way of course (which Sonny devoured), taking in the sights, joking at how much a tall, broad man wearing a Breton top looked a lot like a Bond villain. I spotted an empty, slightly less cheesy gondola and approached to get a price for the three of us. “Ciao!”, I said cheerily to the gondolier, who turned out to be said Bond villain. Some 80 euros later and we were being rowed under the most beautiful bridges feeling (at least me) amazing. Although I couldn’t help myself capturing the moment on my phone, I felt completely in the moment. I loved it. I clutched Sonny tight, while he clutched his new bunny (as I left his beloved Jelly Cat bunny in our car in Belfast). After our trip, we had a glass of vino frizzante by the canal and realised we were one down. The bunny was gone. We retraced our steps but bunny was nowhere to be seen. I still wonder what became of the little toy. I hope it found a good home and didn’t end up in the canal…

Pit stop in Venice

Our journey home was memorable for all the wrong reasons. My dear hubby forgot to validate our tickets but we boarded our train, hoping we wouldn’t get caught. We were approached by a sullen, po-faced jobsworth, who delighted in pointing out that we hadn’t validated our ticket and were therefore subject to a 60 euro fine. My husband, stubborn at the best of times, refused to pay, citing that we were foreigners with a screaming baby. Sonny, as if picking up on the tension, proceeded to have a meltdown. The ticket man stood beside us, refusing to budge until we paid the penalty, while hubby stood his ground. Eventually, he got back up in the form of a formidable, extremely brusque manager (who was annoyingly attractive). I slipped on my sunglasses to hide my rabbit in the headlights eyes and politely explained the situation. We got no sympathy. Our options were to pay, give up our passports or get arrested. I didn’t fancy any of the options but I knew I just wanted to get off that train. We were left with no choice but pay the fine. While hubby was raging, I was determined not to let this spoil our trip. It didn’t. But, at least we’ll have something to talk (and laugh) about for years to come.

Boy on a train…

On the third day, we braved the train again to go to fair Verona. Sonny, it turns out, loves the train and spent much of his time waving at other passengers, especially the female ones. It’s a short walk from the train station to the historic part of the city. As well as being beautiful, it’s a shopping mecca, although you’d need credit cards with no limits to buy anything. We followed the throngs to Juliet’s House, the gothic-style setting said to have inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It felt very surreal to watch tourists take selfies on the balcony. My heart fluttered, the kind I get when I’m shopping. It was just 6 Euro to wander around Juliet’s house and get the perfect Insta pic. My poor hubby was left with instructions and I joined the queue of people all wanting the perfect shot. The girl in front of me was pulling silly poses for what seemed like an eternity while I patiently waited for my chance. Finally, the balcony was mine. I walked out and scoured the crowd for my husband, camera ready. All of the poses I had in mind went out the window and I ended up leaning on the balcony grinning, feeling a little silly. But, I checked another thing off my bucket list – and got evidence.

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore are thou Andrew?

The next day, we made a perhaps ill-advised trip to Lido de Venezia, it was a train journey and a trip on a ferry. It took a while to get there, but I was optimistic that it would be worth it. Husband got a little grumpy as he hates boats, but I was absorbing the experience like a sponge. A kind Italian woman approached me with a ribbon to attach Sonny’s soother, as he kept throwing it away. I’d forgotten the Baby & More Pacigrip we take everywhere with us. In fact, I was quite struck with the kindness of the Italian people. They just love babies. Some stopped to offer us directions, others offered their seat to me. Aside, from the nasty train man, I was really touched by all the little acts of kindness shown to us. Eventually, we reached Lido and there wasn’t a beach in sight. Husband and I bickered, having made quite a long journey and facing the prospect of yet another bus or taxi. However, the beach was a short walk away, thankfully. The ocean breeze beckoned and we walked barefoot in the warm sand towards the sea. Sonny had his very first paddle. It was a little too nippy for him but it was so amazing for him to have his first experience at the beach. On the way back, we stopped off the most gorgeous little restaurant called Parco delle Rose. It was perfect because while we needed shade from the sun, we were still outside in a lush, verdant space. One of the older male waiters was particularly taken with Sonny and the two played peek-a-boo while husband and I indulged in incredible food and a tipple. Fed and watered, and a nappy change and we headed back to the ferry terminal. We were feeling a little sleepy from being in the sun and day drinking and figured we could probably get a disco nap in. As the ferry left the terminal, the sea was pretty rough. I wasn’t bothered and with Sonny haven drifted off already, I closed my eyes, the motion of the vessel lulling me to sleep. The next thing I knew, I took in a mouthful of salt water, I spluttered, gasping for breath as a huge wave came through a small window, that hadn’t been shut. Me and husband were drenched, as was Sonny who squealed. The next thing we knew, towels were being ushered our way and I quickly wrapped our screaming bundle in about three large white towels. He was soon chattering and smiling while I resembled a drowned rat, my lovely sun hat destroyed. We somehow managed to see the funny side. We alighted and got Sonny changed into dry clothes – for some reason I’d packed another outfit that day. We made our way to our apartment, picked off the seaweed (true story), showered, dressed and headed out for supper at Ham Holy Burger. They were heavenly.

Me, Sonny and the sea.

Italy wasn’t without its hiccups but overall, it was an incredible trip. I got to do things I’d dreamed about and most of all, we shared the experience with our little son. It’s pretty magical sharing new experiences with a little human you have created. We certainly plan to see more of the world with our boy. I loved everything about Italy. It wasn’t perfect, more perfectly imperfect. Of all the places in the world I’ve visited, I feel compelled to return. Aside from the climate, it’s the beautiful buildings, the morning cappuccinos in the sun, the older women wearing silk scarves around their neck, young women with perfect red lipstick and DM boots. The rich food, the incredible wine. Italy owns a little piece of my heart. Grazie, Italy. Life is a rich tapestry, made up of the memories you make with the people you love. At the end, that is all that matters, not the clothes you wore, or how many likes you got on social media. Memories with people that matter. Italy… arrivederci.

mumofsonny was here!

All you need is love… and Company (and French Martinis)

As a new mum, it’s rare you get a night to yourself and those nights, whether spent with a family member or friend are so precious. As a blogger and writer I’m always looking for experiences. I was lucky to be invited to Company the Musical at the Grand Opera House. I brought along a good friend and of course we enjoyed an obligatory pre-theatre tipple (as well as an apres-theatre French Martini obvs). There is something quite magical about watching live theatre. It’s so immersive and the atmosphere is palpable. It was a full-house and we settled into our seats close to the action. The staging was very impressive and the on-stage orchestra set the big city New York scene. The original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six. Sondheim said he wanted Company to be a form of escapism. “Broadway theatre has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to theatre.”

Director James Huish makes his return to the Grand Opera House with this brilliant musical comedy. He says: “Company is a snapshot of being married, being single, and the pressures modern society puts on us to be stereotyped. It’s based on every day relationships and so within the show there is someone that everyone can relate to and is a hilarious journey of self-discovery set to Stephen Sondheim’s amazing songs.”

The plot revolves around Robert (Bobby Bubbi/Bobby Baby), a seemingly commitment-phobic, yet popular, handsome, single man about to turn 35. He is surrounded by five well-meaning, if a little eccentric married and engaged couples. The musical is composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order. Nothing is fairy-tale, and one couple, the likeable Peter and Susan are going through an oddly amicable divorce, while another, Sarah and Harry snip at each constantly. Harry sings “You’re always sorry. You’re always grateful. You’re always wondering what might have been. Then she walks in.” Neurotic Amy has cold feet before her wedding. The oldest and most cynical (and most divorced) of Robert’s friends is Joanne who puts in a solid performance with rousing vocals. In her knowing solo ‘The Little Things You Do Together’, she muses: “It’s the little things you are together, Swear Together, Wear Together, That make perfect relationships. The concerts you enjoy together, Neighbours you annoy together, Children you destroy together, That keep marriage intact.”

Bobby (Mark Tilley) watches on as the couples in his life navigate the ups and downs of married life. In turn, his best friends (especially the men) long for even “one hour” of being single. His female friends long for him to find a girl and settle down. He has no shortage of female admirers and enjoys a fling with slow-witted but hilarious airline flight attendant April. He also has dalliances with outlandish Marta, the self-coined “soul of New York” and Kathy, whom he dated previously and both admitted to considering marrying one another. However, she tells him she is leaving for Cape Town with a new fiance. Bobby is conflicted, a good person, with friends who adore him, but he wants knows is missing something. He wants: “Someone to hold me too close, Someone to hurt me too deep. Someone to sit in my chair, And Ruin my sleep, And make me aware, Of being alive. Being Alive.”

You are routing for him to find love, but we’re not even sure if even he knows what he wants. His perception of marriage is shaped by his friends and he is very wary of becoming entrapped in a union that may not last, for whatever reason. However, despite his doubts, he still yearns to “Feel Alive”. At the start of the musical, his friends urged him to blow out his birthday candles, which he didn’t. Perhaps not wanting to believe in whimsical fantasies. The end is a little unsatisfying as we don’t know if Robert will find love, but someone, he seems satisfied with his lot.

I’m so glad I’m not in the dating game anymore. I can’t stand the games that people play (and that I played myself in a bid to be “keep ’em mean, keep ’em clean). I was also a self-saboteur when it came to a few relationships. They didn’t work out for a reason and my now hubby whom I met aged 32, was my first ‘proper’ boyfriend. I never thought love was for me, after spending most of my twenties single. Now, I can’t imagine my life without my partner or my baby. It is funny how life turns out. It’s not a bed a roses and I’d be lying if I said it were. But, it is the little things that makes a marriage. For me, snuggling into my husband’s chest before going to sleep, laughing at something silly on TV, or just being with one another not feeling the need to talk.

Company the Musical is great fun, and perfect for a girls’ night out. It’s upbeat, energetic, with a dose of sentimentality thrown in to give an all-rounded feel-good theatre experience. You can always gauge how good a show is by its audience and there was a constant trickle of belly laughs, giggles and applause throughout. It’s the perfect company for the weekend.

You can still catch Company the Musical tonight and tomorrow at the Grand Opera House.

My followers can get 20% of ticket prices when booking with PRESS20.


The importance of being honest… I chat with blogstar Vicki Psarias aka Honest Mum on her Mumboss tour

It’s about 7.30pm and I’m sitting with professional blogger and mum-of-two Vicki Psarias before she goes on stage to a full house of creative women to promote her empowering book Mumboss at The Black Box in Belfast. Since hitting the shelves last year, it’s become a No. 1 Amazon bestseller and has been noted in the top ten business books written by women in The Independent. In it, she encourages readers to embrace her mumboss manifesto, explaining how we can balance our work, our passions and, our parenting. Despite sounding a little hoarse (no doubt down to her hectic schedule), effervescent Vicki cuts a striking figure and fizzles with excited energy. She is chatty, confident, honest, funny and just really, really nice. She’s the kind of person that makes you feel better, just by being in her company. Conversation flowed, and I even shared some anecdotes from my short tenure as a mother myself to which she smiled warmly and nodded. She offered me vegan pizza and garlic bread, which I accepted having just come from work, resulting in tomato sauce splashing all over my notes. There’s a first time for everything. This will definitely go down as one of my most fun interviews to date.

The beauty of being a writer is the people that you are lucky enough to meet. I do believe that everyone crosses your path for a reason. As a relative newcomer to the blogging world, it’s taking every ounce of my self-confidence to put my voice out there. I started blogging when Sonny was just nine weeks old. When I think back on those bleary-eyed days, struggling to string a sentence together, I wonder how I even got a chance to sit down at my laptop. But in truth, it was cathartic. It was my therapy. I’ve put myself off starting a blog for many years, for many reasons. Motherhood offers so much content, that people can relate to and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my story as a first-time mum on the cusp of turning 40. Meeting Vicki has come at a time of big change in my life. It’s very serendipitous. So often I doubt myself, I’m a procrastinator, I can be listless at times. But sometimes, you meet someone and you just know what you’re supposed to do. For me, that person is Vicki.

Vicki Psarias aka Honest Mum has a two million reach each month on her blog and social channels. She is a multi award-winning screenwriter, director, filmmaker, best-selling author, professional blogger and mum to two young, gorgeous children Oliver (9) and Alexander (6). You will most likely have seen her commenting on parenting issues on the likes of Good Morning Britain (most recently debating whether parents should drink alcohol) as well as Lorraine, BBC Breakfast and Sky News. Vicki has also featured in Vogue, The Guardian and written for Grazia and Closer to name but a few.

The importance of being honest.

Vicki says her mum, husband and closest pals are honest with her. “It’s the only way to be with the ones you love. Considerate but candid.”

How does this entrepreneurial mum juggle work and family life? “My kids are both at school so I work when they’re there, and stop at pick-up where I run around like a headless chicken getting them to and from lessons like swimming and helping them with homework (bloody love it to be honest) and then if I’m on deadline, I work for a while again when they sleep. My husband and I share the load but having a freelance career gives me flexibility. It’s why I left directing and I feel grateful I can be so hands-on, my kids are my life.”

Being a mum defines me but it doesn’t limit me. It makes me better at my job. Through weakness, you discover your strength.

“We all have important stories to tell. Sharing what matters to you. Like a painter with strokes of a paintbrush.”

Vicki started writing her blog in 2010 when her son Oliver was ten months (incidentally the same age as Sonny now). “I had a traumatic birth and I wasn’t being honest about how I felt. I was under a black cloud and was pretending to be strong.” Her blog was light-hearted to begin with. “I wasn’t strong enough to write about it.” Then, at Christmas, she spoke to her parents about how she felt and moved to Leeds and started CBT. “With my blog and being close to my parents, I was able to start healing.” Nine years on and her family live in Windsor.

Being honest is in Vicki’s DNA. She says: “I’m tactful, or I try to be. I’m thick-skinned. It’s the Greek Cypriot in me, we’re culturally honest – and I’m also a Yorkshire girl. It’s not about keeping up appearances.

Therapy helps you unlearn negativity. It is such a gift.

Being honest isn’t always easy though. “It took five years before I could write about my traumatic birth and five months before I could talk about my thyroid operation.” The latter, she describes as the most painful experience she has suffered to date, despite enduring a crash c-section (in part) because of her high pain threshold.

When you’re not well, you need a village.

Talking about those who try to take her down, she says: “I don’t engage with trolls. I’ll maintain a dignified silence. There was an incident in which I wish I had spoken up but I didn’t have the strength as I’d lost my young aunt Zak at the time and was overwhelmed with grief. You have to pick your battles anyway. Therapy teaches you to take a moment before reacting.”

Fighting Stereotypes

Vicki hates the notion that women need to be ‘ruthless’ or ‘difficult’ to thrive. “Successful women are so often painted as being ruthless or tough to work with, which is for the most part, complete and utter sexist nonsense. That doesn’t mean that some successful women aren’t difficult or ruthless, the same applies to men, but this stereotype, for the most part, is untrue and massively unhelpful. The majority of successful women I know are incredibly generous and sisterly. We are living and working in a limiting, unequal society and workplace where these dated, biased preconceptions need to change – and thankfully, are.”

As women, we have definitely drawn the short straw when it comes to the workforce. We need to unlearn what society has taught us.

“As a film director, I had a meeting with top producers and they assumed I was an actress auditioning for a part. While there’s nothing wrong with acting of course, I was a director. As a woman, you’re expected to be a certain way and look a certain way. When I went to a locum GP about my anxiety, I was told, “you look fine”. “I’ve perfected looking fine,” she quips. “Oprah said that being undermined led to her becoming wealthy and strong.”

Being honest is a key to success.

So why should we buy Mumboss? “Writing Mumboss was like having another child and it was a big relief to get it published. I wish I had had it when I started my blog. Money was never a driving force. I always wanted to work in a caring profession and used to teach. It covers everything from the imposter syndrome, finding your voice, purpose, juggling and self-care. Know your story matters and that everything takes a little time. I remember when I had 200 followers on Twitter and I was blown away. That’s as many people that were at my wedding. The followers I’ve had from day one are still with me today. It is a gift and a privilege to do what I do.”

Vicki is only human, so how does she deal with self-doubt and procrastination? “I talk my worries through with my husband and therapist. I’m learning to trust myself more and to be more compassionate with myself. I don’t really procrastinate that much. I like to be busy! She says she has had writer’s block a few times but she describes herself as a “doer”. “I’ve spent most of my life being creative and being consistent about that creativity.

On a personal level, I find myself hot-wired to catastrophize but Vicki doesn’t believe this is a universal trait of women. “I’m not sure we are built that way to be honest. Many women I know are incredibly calm. I worry less about worst case scenarios these days.”

Vicki says that her family keeps her motivated and doing what she loves. “My family and friends are my roots. My mantra ‘don’t believe the hype, don’t believe the shite’ bodes well. I believe in equality. We’re all human and equal. I hate hierarchy or those driven by ego.

Vicki with her husband and children

Vicki’s advice to someone wanting to begin a blog but not knowing where to start is to buy Mumboss. “It’s a bit cheeky but I’ve shared everything I know about blogging in it. It’s easier than ever to set up a blog now. You simply need the confidence to start. To trust that your voice matters. Twice a week is ideal when it comes to SEO and building your brand. Also, around 600-800 words minimum per post. Don’t forget to share on social media too.”

So, can wo(men) have it all? “I think men or men have to compromise whatever they do, because that’s life but I do think it’s possible to have a family and a career. You just have to be realistic about your expectations and know that things take time. So, lower your standards when it comes to the home being perfect and share the school run/childcare with your partner and friends and don’t spread yourself too thinly.”

The day you plant the seed, is not the day you eat the fruit.

Vicki likes to relax by practicing yoga, eating dark chocolate and watching reality TV. “I also love getting outdoors with my family as much as possible.”

The Juggle

“Motherhood is a heady mix of joy, unconditional love and frustration,” she smiles. “The most difficult thing is ‘the juggle’. My blog creates experiences but we have a super normal life.”

You don’t need to be a writer. You just need to be brave.

Vicki says: “Unfollow people that don’t make you feel good. I’m lucky that my mum always champions me. Protect your space.”

You need to know that seeking others’ approval will never make you happy.

“I accidentally created this job. But ask yourself, are you having fun? My brilliant manager Jack Freud was the first to ask me to use that question as a barometer, to ask myself if I’m happy doing x, y, z. It’s important to say no to things too.

“The best thing about this job is the creativity. You have to live life to write about your life. It’s not always easy. Just work smarter.

“I do let TV babysit where I have a pressing deadline here and there. Guilt is futile. Cut yourself some slack. Self-care is so important. Go on a night out and enjoy some guilt-free fun with your pals.”

I think we’re bloody superheroes. We have peripheral vision. Our maternal instinct is strong.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept help. It is a job and you’re not going to be great straight away,” she grins. “Kids are really pure joy.”

The future is bright for Vicki but she likes not knowing what’s around the corner. “That’s the beauty of what I do, it keeps me on my toes. Every day, something new pops into my inbox but it’s not magic, it’s the product of hard, hard graft.”

Although I only met Vicki for a short time, she’s left a lasting impression on me – and given me a much-need confidence boost.

I’ll leave you with this quote Vicki has posted on her blog.

By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others.

Satsuki Shibuya
When mumofsonny met Honest Mum…

Quick fire round!

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Wine or Gin? Wine

Cat or dog? Both

Night out or night in? In mostly but love a night out. I’m rubbish at this game!

Heels or flats? Flats but I prefer how my legs look in heels.

Sweet or savoury? Sweet

Primark or Prada? Neither, can I have Zara please?

Morning lark or night owl? Night owl but in training to be a morning bird.

Visit Vicki’s blog at

https://honestmum.com
https://honestmum.com/5-ways-to-overcome-writers-block/

Order Mumboss here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mumboss-Honest-Guide-Surviving-Thriving/dp/0349416699

Why motherhood is a lot like Game of Thrones

Battles, dragons, permanently on the Night’s Watch and fighting for a moment on the (porcelain) throne. Here are nine reasons motherhood is a lot like the fantasy epic.

You need to plan everything with military precision.

Every day’s a battlefield. Just getting out of your castle, erm, house. It used to be just your handbag, which amongst scrunched-up receipts, old lipsticks and out of date mints included your keys, purse and phone. Now you have a changing bag, containing nappies, nappy bags, wet wipes, teethers, teething gel, food pouches, milk bottles, dummies, snacks and Calpol. I don’t even carry a handbag anymore. I use the changing bag as my bag too. So chic, eh?

You just want five minutes to yourself in the porcelain throne room.

Gone are the days you used to go to the bathroom on your own. The definition of luxury is having an uninterrupted shower, or time to do your business without having to attend the whims of your babe. If I don’t get a shower before Sonny gets up, it means a shower with his nose pressed against the shower doors, while he bangs it with his tiny fists. In Game of Thrones, there is a lot of competition for the (Iron) throne. But, whoever gets to sit on it at least has time to do their business…

Babies are a lot like dragons (cute ones).

They’re noisy, demanding, messy and have an insatiable appetite, and that’s just babies. Yes, dragons and babies have quite a lot in common. Your baby, though you love them dearly, can be a little monster, stopping you sleeping, eating and showering and generally, having a life. Still, much like Daenerys, no matter how big and annoying they get, they’re still your children and you heart them to the moon and back.

You’re always on the Night’s Watch.

Okay, the Night’s Watch is no more, thanks to a certain Ice Dragon, you know what I mean if you’re a mama. No more snuggling beneath the sheets and not waking up until the alarm goes off. You hear every snuffle and rustle. You check if they’re warm enough or that they haven’t pulled their favourite bunny over their face. Then, if you don’t have a sleeper, you need to dig deep to get through the night.

You always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Life in general throws lots of curve balls. When you’re a mum, these usually come in the form of your baby’s bodily fluids. But, other than that, babies are unpredictable, and when they get mobile, you need eyes on the back of your head. Much like the GoT characters, it’s handy to have a third eye like Bran.

You’re always in danger of losing your head…

Not literally, thankfully. But, motherhood is stressful, emotional and exhausting. Be sure to get some you time, whether that’s a power walk with your head phones full blast, a catch up with your bestie, or just having the house to yourself for a few hours. It’s important to feel like the you before you became a mama too.

You must trust your instincts at all times.

This is the best advice I can impart. You will get lots of advice, but you know your baby best. It’s great to take everything you hear on board, but, as I’ve said again and again, your instincts will never lead you far wrong. Sansa eventually came good on trusting her instincts, and she’ll be a better woman for it. So, trust yourself but by all means, ask for advice when you need it.

You get through a lot of wine…

Cersei is rarely seen without a goblet of grape juice, nor is Tyrion. In fact, most of the characters enjoy a tipple or ten. When it gets to 7pm, your thoughts will drift to that lovely chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge. It might just be one glass (totally going to get myself a goblet though), but it’s mummy medicine, and you deserve it after a day of nurturing a little dragon, I mean, baby.

You’ll protect your kingdom with ferocity.

You’re a mama dragon, and you’ll do anything, and I mean anything to protect your brood. They’re you’re everything and nothing is more important than family. Just ask Arya. Oh, and don’t forget, being a mama makes you a queen and you deserve a crown (and a huge goblet of wine).

Catch Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic tonight at 2am or tomorrow night at 9pm.

Mind your head, mama.

There’s no denying the self-sacrifice involved in becoming a mother. You no longer take centre stage in your own world. Your baby comes first, period. This doesn’t make us martyrs, it makes us mothers. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. But, when you’re in the thick of it, endless nappy changes, feeding, soothing, endless cleaning, you do lose a little bit of yourself. And that’s totally fine, you withdraw from the world into your own little cocoon where you are nurturing life. That’s special and amazing, if all consuming.

It’s been an up and down few weeks. Yes, there has been some bad news, enough for your to slip into a negative mindset. I still feel sub power. Mothering is difficult enough, especially when you work and it’s so easy to stop looking after yourself. You don’t make healthy food choices, you don’t sleep well and you fret about, well everything. I saw my GP recently, about a health issue and she asked me how I was. That was enough for me to well up and I couldn’t even put my finger on why. I felt awkward, but my wobble also helped me acknowledge how I was feeling. On reflection, I shouldn’t have felt embarrassed at all, being a mother is tough, it’s full on, you don’t get a break, even if you’re sick. Goodness, even if I’m feeling well, I find myself catastrophising about everything. I’m always googling my symptoms, always imagining the worst case scenario. I don’t know why I do this, I guess it’s just how I’m wired.

You don’t get asked how you are enough in my view (the exception being every time I chat to my wonderful mama). But, overall, I think you’re just expected to get on with it – and you really have little choice when you have babies. Massive high-fives to all you mamas of one, two and more – I’m in complete awe of you.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to ask my friends how they are from now on. It could just be what they need to hear. If you’re a mama out there who’s struggling for whatever reason, and what ever reason it is, it’s valid. Here are some things you can try, to help you feel better.

  • Drink a green juice every day. If you struggle to get your five a day in, this is the easiest way of doing it. Have it in the morning before you eat and those nutrients are going straight into your system. After a few weeks of juicing every day, your skin will look better and you’ll have a real spring in your step. I juiced every day when pregnant and honestly never felt (or looked) better.
  • It’s good to talk. And by that, I don’t mean text message or IM – although they have their place. Pick up the phone and call your mum, your best friend or talk to your partner. Tell them if you don’t feel okay. Verbalising your feelings is therapeutic in itself. It gets stuff out of your head and gives you a little perspective.
  • Exercise. We’re not blessed with the most outdoorsy weather in Northern Ireland but there is nothing like a good walk on a blue sky day. I’ve never been good with gyms, I love the idea but the reality just doesn’t quite cut it. If that’s your therapy, good on you. If not, get on your bike or just pull on your trainers and get outside for a walk or a jog.
  • Meditate. There are lots of apps on the market but one I like in particular is Headspace. You can meditate for just three minutes before you start your day. Just taking a few minutes for you and only you will pay huge dividends. It will also help you feel gratitude for what you do have in your life – and you have lots to be thankful for.
  • Laugh – the deep belly ones. Do more of what you love, whether that’s a night out with your girlfriends, a weekend away, a really good meal, a shopping trip. So get a babysitter or pass the mantle to your hubby or partner.

Yes, I know as a mum you are very limited in time – and head space but be kind to yourself, whether or not you decide to meditate, or eat healthier or exercise. I can only mange one or two of these things in any given week, sometimes none. Goodness, I can’t even remember when I last washed my hair. Just look after yourself, mama. You are important and remember… you are the centre of your baby’s world and that’s makes you a VIP.


10 ways your life changes when you become a mum

You take on the most difficult role of your life

It’s long hours and there’s no pay. You’re surviving on your instincts and it’s hard, so hard. There’s little respite when you go to bed, as you’re constantly alert. You live and breathe your new job and you get very little thanks, especially in the very early days. But, it’s so, so rewarding.

You worry less about your own problems

This is actually a good thing if you’re a champion ruminator (like me). While self-reflection is good and healthy, it’s not good to obsess about every bump in the road. Having a baby means you put her or him first and there’s less room for your own worries and niggles.

You avoid drama like the plague

I remember the days that I thrived on it. Now, I shudder thinking at the frivolous things that used to preoccupy my mind. It’s part of growing as a person, but the only place you want to see drama is on Netflix, not your life. Once you cut out unnecessary worrying, you’re left with the important relationships in it and no bull.

Your social life dies

You might be up into the wee hours but you’re not wearing a bodycon dress and clutching a large glass of vino while teetering on killer heels. But, amazingly, you don’t miss it. Hangovers are a thing of the past. Believe me, a screaming baby and a sore head is not what you want to put yourself through. When you and your partner do get the very odd night to yourselves, you’ll spend the entire evening talking about your little monster, erm, angel!

You’ll have little to no disposable income

Money. You used to treat yourself on pay day, now the baby aisle is your go-to destination on every supermarket trip (and sometimes the household cleaning aisle). One of the plus side’s is that you can dress your baby up in a vast array of cute/silly outfits. You gotta to get your kicks where you can, right? Soon, they’ll cringe at the thought of you dressing them.

You don’t care (or care much less) about your appearance

Looking presentable take so much effort. A mum’s uniform should consist of a t-shirt and leggings. It’s comfort over style every time. Besides, you’re going to be covered in food, regurgitated milk, vomit and drool at the end of every day anyway. I’m not a complete neanderthal though, I still love wearing makeup and nice clothes on occasion. It’s good (and important) to feel like you every now and then and you’ll feel and look amazing when you have your face on.

Your immune system will takes a serious beating

Carrying a baby for nine months takes its toll. I’ve no idea how I got through the first six months on virtually no sleep and ding meals. It’s important you do look after yourself, as best you can. Invest in a juicer, meditate and ask for help. I’ve felt crap for the past month, but it’s forcing me to pay attention to my diet and mental health, which is a good thing.

You’ll know the true meaning of exhaustion

Imagine feeling constantly hungover. That’s what the first year of your baby’s life is going to feel like. This could get better or worse depending on your little darling. You might get lucky with a ‘good sleeper’ but prepare for onslaught of sleep deprivation. It ain’t pretty and you will probably count on one hand went you get a decent night’s kip.

Hey, it’s not all bad…

You are the centre of your baby’s world

It’s good to be needed. Despite what it seems, your efforts aren’t going unnoticed. You are looking after a little human being, who will grow up to be a big human being, who will touch the lives of many people. That’s pretty awesome.

You’ll experience the greatest love of all

You will feel many extremes of emotion as a mother. From frustration to desperation to pure and utter joy. But, the most incredible feeling of all is love. There is no love purer or more ferocious than the love you feel for your baby. You will literally do anything for them.

Having a baby changes you beyond recognition – it also changes your relationships. But, parenthood is an incredible, beautiful, terrifying journey but it’s also so much fun.

How to keep it together when your baby is sick (and you are too)

It’s so easy to fall apart when you have a little one who depends so entirely on you. You might be hanging by a thread but how you feel is secondary. Sonny has been poorly for the past two weeks. It started of with innocent enough sniffles that developed into a full blown hacking cough and cold. It’s so, so hard to see your beautiful baby suffer. I know it’s ‘just’ a cold and it will pass and I know I need to (wo)man up but it’s really, really tough. I’m drained because adrenaline is constantly pumping through my veins, keeping me on red alert. Should I call the doctor (again)? Should I call the health visitor (again)? It’s hard enough looking after a baby, but when they are sick, you’ve a strict regimen of eye drops, nose spray, vapour rub, Calpol and antibiotics on top of bottles, mealtimes and nappies. The understanding pharmacist at my local Boots said babies get up to 15 colds in their first year and they’re actually “good” for their immune system. It bloody doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the eye of the storm of sneezes.

My living room is a petri dish and my life consists of chasing after a snotty, crying, coughing, crawling baby as he leaves a snail trail of bodily fluids and a tsunami of tissues in his wake. I’m cuddling him as much as possible and he takes full advantage by rubbing his streaming nose on my sleeve (or wherever his nose goes). The other night, as I slowly climbed the stairs to put him to bed, he heaved and heaved and splattered me in vomit. Spag bol flavour. I yelled for Andrew who came dashing up the stairs with wet wipes. That wasn’t going to cut it… bless him. I catch my reflection on the mirrored slidesrobes in the nursery. I’m covered in orange vomit, I’ve dark eye bags and my hair needs washed. I look like hell but I don’t care. Most days I look like a slob anyway. It’s amazing how little you care about how you look when you’re a new mum. Wearing make-up is a luxury. But, even if it’s a crappy day where all you’ve been doing is chasing your tail, you’re still doing an incredible job – raising a human.

Snots, sneezes and snuggles.

I can’t tell if I’m being a crazy mama when I list Sonny’s symptoms to our lovely, patient GP. She’s sympathetic even if she thinks I’m being over the top. You can’t help it though. You just want your little one to stop suffering. I mean it, if I could take on his suffering I would and I’m far from being a soldier – I hate being in any kind of discomfort. But when you’re being used as a human handkerchief it’s just a matter of time before the germs set up shop in you too. My throat and chest bore the brunt of the invasion.

Still, it’s a comfort to know that everything has but a time. A lovely elderly lady I got chatting to in a coffee shop recently said the best thing for a cold is a four letter word. Love. Sadly, colds will take their course, but an abundance of love and patience will also go a long way to making you feel better. So, while I shower him with kisses and smother him in cuddles, I know I need those just as much as him.

So, if you and your little one are under the weather, know that it will pass and you are doing everything in your power to make their life more comfortable. Don’t forget to look after yourself too. You are important. When you get better, you’ll never take feeling well for granted again. While the cold is a hateful thing, take full advantage of all the cuddles because, as I’m told again and again – they grow up fast and you’ll cherish the times you squeezed them so tight you can feel their heart beat. Oh, he’s getting better…

My little lion has got his roar back…