#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.

 

Am I boring you?

I don’t know if any of you guessed this, but I very rarely plan my posts. I sit down on a Monday (or whenever I’m able at the moment) and wait to be inspired. I may process a few things in my head the night before and occasionally, when I’ve unexpectedly found myself with a few quiet minutes I might jot some lines down by hand, but I honest to goodness never write like we were taught at school – rough draft, revise, revise again, final draft, check, hand in. But then I never wrote anything like that at school either. Just ask my English teachers!

Its not always easy to know what to write about. I can have a list of things I think might make good posts in my head, or scribbled in my notebook, but sometimes when I sit down to write, none of them feels right. I originally wanted to use this as a space to discover more about me as a parent by reflecting on things I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along. And I really love writing my parenting posts. I’ve had so much positive feedback about them. But some weeks, I just don’t feel I’ve learnt anything “new” or different enough to write about. Some weeks life just confirms what I already thought. Or a subject that I’ve dealt with before comes up again. And I think that’s always going to be the case. Some weeks I’ll learn massive life lessons, other weeks we’ll bimble along, just doing what we do.

This week has been one of those weeks. We went back to our Toddler Groups. My main buggy went mouldy so I got a new one. We played with playdoh and cars and books. Friends came to visit. He was snotty. Then he was sick for a day. It was just a fairly average week. Nothing to get too excited about. I remember having weeks like that at work. Not boring as such – just normal.

So for those who think those who parent in place of paid work have so much more fun – yeah sometimes you’re right! But then sometimes you’re wrong. Sure I get to watch Despicable Me with lunch. But I get to watch it every day. Yes I get to go to the park and the leisure centre with him. But I get to stand around in the cold, pushing the swings for hours or wiping snot and dirt off him and me. Our lives can be just as mundane as they can be exciting.

But then I think this is OK. Its OK to be a bit boring as long as you’re happy and I know I am much happier than I was a year ago. I don’t feel like I’m missing out so much if I’m not doing something. A couple of weeks ago various things conspired to keep us at home for four days in a row. And it was fine. I wasn’t climbing the walls and shouting for help through the letterbox at passersby like I would have been a year ago. I was glad to go out when I did, but until then, it was all good.

The other day a friend asked me how I dealt with the particularly stressful (for us) transition from weaning to feeding. I told her, but said (without thinking) that I was a very different person then. I had to mentally stop and check myself. Was I? Am I so different? And I think I am. And I think that’s to do with contentment. I spent the first year of Oscar life thinking everything should be all singing all dancing and getting disappointed when it wasn’t. I’m much happier with the ordinary, the everyday than I can ever remember being in my life.

So yeah, sometimes I might struggle to know what to write and it wont just come to me every week. That’s OK. It might mean nothing exciting or truly life changing has happened recently. But it also means nothing awful has happened this week either. And for that I’m grateful.

Me & him. Every day.

Me & him. Every day.

Money, money, money…

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So we had a baby back in 2012 (Oscar, he’s 17 months and awesome!). We’d be married nearly 4 years and together for nearly 14 and he was totally planned. But what I didn’t plan for, rather naively, was the financial impact this baby would have on our lives. I’m not talking about the cost of nappies or putting him through University (although holy crap how do we do that!??!). I’m talking about something much more fundamental and that was my capacity to earn.

I absolutely expected to go back to work. I didn’t loooooove my job, but I liked it enough, it was in a sector I wanted to be in and I was doing OK (having been promoted twice in a year). I fully expected to go back once my year of maternity leave was finished. The organisation had a generous maternity package and I saved enough to cover me through the three months at the end of my leave which would be unpaid. I was OK.

However when we started to look into childcare in the local area I was horrified to find out just how expensive it was. I wasn’t on great money (slightly under the national average), but it wasn’t bad. However all of this would be swallowed by childcare fees. When I added to that travelling costs and taxes I found that, even if I went back full-time, I would be paying out more than I earnt per month, without even contributing to the household costs in any way. I was horrified.

We looked at the numbers and realised we could afford for me not to work, but we couldn’t afford for me to continue working in my current role. I knew I should feel grateful. So many people said they wished they were in my position (at least to my face). But for me the thought of giving up any form of financial independence left me feeling slightly nauseous! I just didn’t see it coming and with all the fuss this government makes about “getting people back into work”, how could this even be the case? I was and still am baffled!

So these were the circumstances I found myself in and the circumstances that I have now had to accept. Don’t get me wrong I have days when I absolutely love not having to leave Oscar and days where I feel I’m doing a real bang up job. But there are also days I feel completely isolated and guilty and lacking in any kind of control. I have had my own source of income, one way or another since I was 13 years old. Moving away from that and living a very different life has been harder than I ever anticipated.

But people to do it all the time, some for many years. They seem happy enough. Are they? Maybe I should ask them how they do it and whether they ever felt the same kind of shame I do not contributing and if not how come? Seriously. I’d love to know how to live this life, without feeling guilty all the time.

Or as I said in another post, maybe I just need to look harder for another job. One that pays enough to make it worthwhile, even if it’s only just worthwhile.

I’m not running down what I’m doing. I’m proud of the care I’m able to give my son. A friend said to me the other day “you’re very brave to do this, I don’t think I could do it!”. I don’t feel particularly brave, but it was nice of her to say. I just have to figure out how to move forward in a way that’s best for all of us. And I guess that’s really the biggest change I’ve had to make.