#BML16 and why I’m choosing to focus on the positives

I’m quite sure most of you who read my blog have no interest in the practical side of blogging. I can’t imagine how boring a post about a blogging conference would be to someone with no interest in the industry. But more for my own sake really, I’ve decided to write my reflections on my first one, #BML16, that I attended in London this past weekend.

So ok, I’ll be honest (as I always am) it wasn’t perfect. What event is? I could talk about how I spent some of the day wandering around alone, unable to find a familiar face or approach an unfamiliar one. I know now others were feeling exactly the same and I suggest next year giving some space over to a dedicated ‘making friends’ area. Not everyone who attends has a group to ‘hang out’ with. I’m pretty confident and even I felt I couldn’t always approach people in case they didn’t want to talk to me!

I could talk about how mixed in terms of usefulness the sessions were. The technical ones were fascinating, but waaaay too short. Other just felt like a massive ego stroking session (theirs not mine!), not really what I signed up for.

I could also talk about how I was so dismissed by the first brand I approached, that I barely spoke to another all day. I went in fully aware that, in terms of stats, I was a small fish in a big pond, but to be shot down like that so early, meant I didn’t get the network contacts I went to the conference hoping to get. My fault and not theirs I guess, but still….

But you know me. I try and focus on the positives when I can. And so I have decided to concerntrate on my personal highlights of #BML16.

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My dress

Come on! How could I not talk about my mushroom dress? Everyone else was! I received so many wonderful compliments on the dress, it’s material and look. Which was lovely! But the best bit was totally the amount of these faces 😱🙀😮 I saw when I told people that my husband Ben had made it for me. For one it was a great icebreaker (oh my god you’re the girl with the mushroom dress /didn’t you make this or something/ btw can I just saw I love your dress etc) but everyone was soooo nice about it that it also gave me confidence in a room where I knew practically no one.

Top conference tip: wear a dress in an eyecatching fabric that someone unexpected has made for you!

Mushroom pattern dress

The mushroom frock

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done. The dress looked surprisingly good with my Next pleather jacket

Friends

Blogging is a funny old sport. You get to know people you have never met in real life, sometimes quite intimately. You can talk for years before actually meeting in person. So actually getting to meet and hang out with some of what I would class as my blogging buddies was fantastic.

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mum

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mother. This is a bit blurry but I had just had a bottle of wine!

Me and Maria SuburbanMum

Me and Maria from Suburban Mum. Crazy lighting in the main room for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (which I was not nominated for boohoo 😉 )

Kelley from BringingupGeorgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Kelly from Bringing up Georgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Fangirling

Getting to talk face to face to some of the bloggers I admire was an amazing, if a little disconcerting, experience. Once I got over the “oh, I know her from somewhere don’t I?” feeling, I was able to approach people to thank them for their writing or to introduce myself (although the first time I did this it came out a bit gushing “hi I’m Lisa I follow you on Instagram I love your pictures” literally without pausing. I’m not sure poor Hannah from Make, Do & Push knew what to make of me!).

The Fat Girls Guide to Running

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I have nooooo interest in running. Never have. However, the keynote speech given by Julie Creffield from The Fat Girls Guide to Running, really touched something in me. Not to start running necessarily, but the points she made about motivation, self belief and setting goals, or as she calls them Big Fat Stupid Goals. My life is about to change. Oscar starting school is really going to shake things up around here and it feels like the time to DO something is coming. I got to talk to Julie afterwards and it was super interesting. Watch this space!

Making new friends

I’ve been joining Laura’s #effitfriday link up over at Life with Baby Kicks for a while, but we only started talking recently over Twitter. We had a great chat on Saturday. I couldn’t get over how much she reminded me of my sister in law Rachel, which may explain why I later went on to pinch her bum as I walked past. It was only afterwards that I wondered if that might have been a bit forward for someone who I’d only just met. Turns out not, when I saw this on Sunday.

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And this really is what I went to this conference for. The human connection. Reaching out to real people. I love blogging and the space it affords me and the friends it creates online but nothing compares to real human interaction.

Yeah the conference had it flaws and if I’d gone with the sole goal of making money I think I might be feeling pretty maligned. Thankfully I got to make connections and touch someone (and I don’t just mean their arse). Conference made.

This was next door to my hotel and seemed so very apt!

This was next door to my hotel and summed up my feelings about the day.

 

The price we pay

I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. My plan was to go back to work when Oscar was one, probably full time. The only reason I didn’t was financial. Full time childcare along with my commute meant that it would cost me more money per month than I was going to earn at my mid level admin job. So I quit and stayed at home.

The recent changes to the Government’s support for external childcare have made me wonder if I would have made the same decision had it been mine to take today. Maybe we could have made it work (if only just). And because financially it would have (just) worked, I would have put him into paid daycare, five days a week, regardless of how hard, or stressful or tiring it would have been. No other concerns came to mind back in 2013. It was all about the money. As seems to be a common thread in recent policy. I’d have done it and that would have been that.

And the thought of that makes my blood run cold.

Not because I’ve loved being able to be at home with Oscar. It hasn’t been easy being at home with him. Life with autism, isn’t easy. There have been many days where I just wanted to hand him over to someone else and go to a crappy admin job, just to get out of the house, to get away from what I’m having to deal with at home. No, it scares me because of what might have been missed. It scares the hell out of me to think that perhaps a daycare setting would have missed his speech delay or his different developmental paths. What if his ‘difficult’ behaviour (particularly between the ages of 2-3) had just been classed as that and nothing more. He could have reached the grand old age of three, with a label. A label of difficult, challenging or God forbid naughty. It makes me shake when I think what might have been had we been able to make it financially and I’d left someone else to pick up on the things he was so desperately trying to tell us.

I know my experience of raising my child has been a little different to that of other families, but I didn’t know that was going to be the case. How many other families are missing chances for early intervention or help or support? Just because parents are being leant on so very heavily to leave their children and earn money?

Everyone takes that choice as to whether they return to work after having children. I did. But I never considered anything other than the financial implications, when I now know, there was so much more that I should have been weighing up. I have ultimate respect for how any family makes it through the day. Raising children is the hardest job in the world. But where is the support for Stay At Home mums and dads? Why are we used by the media as scape goats for the ills of the economy? It feels so humiliating to be lumped in to a category of unemployed, when I’ve spent all my time and energy working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, raising, what I now know is, a child on the spectrum? A diagnosis of which could have been missed had I done what the government wants mothers to do; go back to work and raise the country’s GDP.

I hope it’s clear I have no opinion on whether staying at home or working is a better life choice. My issue is the pressure applied to people, but particularly mothers, to bolster the coffers.

After all isn’t a child’s future more than just pounds and pence?

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The One and Only…

A few weeks ago, my two year old and I were travelling home from Haslemere on the bus. He was fast asleep in the buggy, as angelic as they come. An older lady, sat opposite us, struck up a conversation of usual bus chit chat. She asked if I had any other children, to which I answered that I did not. Her next question was not unusual, and it’s one I’m getting used to variations of. “So when are you having more then?” I replied, truthfully, that I’m not. You’d have thought I’d told her I was going home to eat Oscar for dinner! I was then subjected to a litany of why I should have more children and how many children she had. This woman didn’t know me. Didn’t know my situation, my background, the reasons for my choice and yet felt perfectly justified in passing an open and very loud judgement on me. I smiled, pretended to listen and was grateful when my stop came into view.

The incident got me thinking, and not for the first time, why this unsupportive attitude exists towards women who only have one child. I should emphasise that I’m not talking about women who’ve had the choice taken away from them. The women who would have liked, more than anything, to have more than one (although without digging deeper, how did the woman on the bus know this wasn’t my situation?). I am in fact talking about women, like myself, who for a myriad of reasons, have chosen to stop at one.

I understand that everyone has a different definition of ‘family’ and quite rightly so. How you choose to form a family is a completely personal decision and one we all take in our lives. For us, one child was enough (hell, no children was enough) to consider ourselves a family. What I don’t understand are parents, of all generations, who consider those with fewer children than they deem ‘enough’, NOT to be a family. Out loud. To my face. Be they thoughtless, throw away comments (“Oh they know I want a ‘family’, not just one child”) or considered arguments, being told my family is not ‘proper’ because of the number of children I choose to have hurts. It’s also unbelievably rude! I would never say to someone who has chosen to have multiple children that I think their decision was wrong, that having to divide their resources and attention is ‘cruel’ and ‘selfish’. Yet it’s somehow acceptable for people to say those same things to me when they learn we only want, only ever wanted, one.

I did consider whether it was a generational thing. Our parents and grandparents grew up in a time when having large families was much more the norm. Did these women grow up in a time when having one child was somehow seen as wrong, shameful, against the norm? I do feel like I’ve seen this attitude from older women time and again. But the more time I spend with mothers of my own age, the more I see it’s definitely not just a generational issue. And that saddens me greatly.

I am by nature an honest kind of a gal. When people ask me I’ve, so far, only ever told them the truth; that having one child was, and is, mine and my husband’s decision. I don’t ever want to be forced into the situation where I feel I have to lie about it. A friend of a friend has spent so long fending off unsupportive and, to be honest, downright hurtful comments when explaining her decision not to have more than one child, that when people ask now she finds it easier to shrug, sigh and say “it would have been nice but…….”. It absolutely breaks my heart that she feels the need to lie, but I absolutely understand why she does it.

So the next time you get chatting to a mother about her children, I would urge you to consider what you say. If you want to ask about future children maybe ask “Would you like any more?” rather than asking when more are planned. And be satisfied with the answer. Unless you know that woman incredibly well it’s unlikely you’ll know all the reasons that have lead to that decision. And why should you? I don’t want to have to go through my entire decision making process with complete strangers, despite sometimes feeling obliged to.

I guess it boils down to mutual respect. I support your decision to have as many children as you want to. And I like to think you can support my decision to have just the one.

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This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2014 edition of the Haslemere & Midhurst NCT Magazine. It has been slightly modified here.

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Slimming World Update Week 26

Hello!

Well as I’m writing this on a Wednesday you can probably guess that I went back to my old group, Liphook on a Tuesday, last night. One of my Haslemere friends has decided to stay at Liphook and was able to take me which was fab (Thank you Sarah!). I wanted to go back, even if it was just to see that what I was remembering about the meetings was right or not.

It was right (I knew it was 😉 ). People seemed genuinely pleased to see me. It was like (and this is going to sound sooo corny) but it was like coming home. Catching up on everyone’s news, hearing about people’s successes. Several people came up to me to tell me how lovely I looked in the photo in this post (which was so sweet of them). One lady, who is doing incredibly well herself in the three months she’s been with the group, took me aside and told me how amazing the photo was and how inspiring the look of pride on my face was! She had tears in her eyes! I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was blushing all evening.

When it came to weigh in, it was so lovely to see Carol’s smiley face as she told me I’d lost 4lb. That puts to bed the 1.5lb I still had to lose from Christmas and then some. Total loss now is 4 Stone 2.5lb (58.5lb). When Zoe read out my loss, I swear the group cheered! And I carried on blushing as I was given Slimmer of the Week.

Any of you who’ve known me for a while will know I have been plus size all my adult life. I lost some weight back in 2005/2006 and I kept a tracker of this loss. Last night I weighed in at less than I ever did on any of these trackers. Therefore I think I can safely say I am the lightest I’ve ever (knowingly) been in my adult life. When I told the group this, Zoe asked how it made me feel. I couldn’t find the words, I just grinned.

My body may be getting smaller but my smiles are getting so much bigger!!!!!!!!

So, to business. I am so relieved this group thing is sorted and that I am fully focused once more. The next award is 4.5 Stone. I have 4.5lb to lose to get it. I’d like to do that over the next three weeks. So target for next week is 1.5lb please.

Have a great week!

Big loves

xxx