December and what it means for us..

December is a magical time of year- for starters there's pretty lights everywhere. On top of that there's the smell of real Christmas trees in the air and gingerbread lattes grace our coffee shops. It's great and there's so much I love about it, but for me, it can be a bit of a roller-coaster, for it symbolises a lot more than the obvious festivities.

For me, December is a time when I can't help but reflect on times gone by. I'm sure that most single parents will agree that the run up to Christmas can be somewhat bittersweet, and, at times, even lonely. I'd say that on the whole I'm comfortable being a single parent, and that on a day to day basis I'm not sad at all. But during the time of year when everyone's focus is family and loved ones, it can be hard not to think about what could've been if things had panned out differently. It's the time of year when being alone becomes more apparent. It's a reminder of your broken family. A reminder that for us, things are slightly different.

As much as I try to focus on the magic of Christmas and what is sure to be an incredibly exciting time for my son, I still catch myself feeling a little disappointed at times and I still find myself dreading the big day to some extent. It's not even just Christmas day, actually the whole of December is full of significant dates & memories of mine. And Facebook just seems to love reminding me.

I love the 'On This Day' feature on Facebook, most of the time: it's a hilarious reminder of how awful I looked back in 2010, it's brilliant for throwbacks of teenage years and it's lovely for looking at photographs I'd forgotten even existed. But, occasionally, I'm met with a photograph or memory that I wasn't quite ready to face. Like the other day, when I was reunited with a photograph of 'Jolly Jumper day 2012.'

It was hard to look at, not because of the hideous Christmas jumper and bad hair-do I was sporting, but because of the other person in that photograph; the man stood next to me, wrapped in tinsel, with his arm around me. That man is my child's father. And that photograph was taken during the first and last Christmas we ever spent knowing each other. It's been 4 years since that photo was taken, and to be honest I had forgotten the evidence had even existed- it was taken in a hurry at work, an awkward "give each other a cuddle and say cheese" moment- and it's the only photograph I have of us together. Thinking back to that day, as we stood together in our garish jumpers, I could've never imagined the drastic changes my life would face a year on from then. When I posed for that picture, I never knew what that picture would mean to me years later. I never knew that I'd be looking back on that photograph and wondering why the father to my child;my work friend; my jolly jumper buddy, turned his back on us. I never foresaw that I'd be looking back on that image, with a million questions unanswered, wishing I could jump back into the photo and ask the very man himself. At the time, it was just another dodgy Christmas photo and just another "you've been tagged in a photo" on Facebook. Little did I know, that by the following year, I'd be holding this mans baby. Never did I imagine that the man with his arm around me, the one I thought I knew so well, would have left town and blocked all contact from me.

I remember that jolly jumper day like it was yesterday. I'd only just started my new job in banking, in fact my first day at the job was on this exact day, four whole years ago. I was nervous and excited all at once, but I never knew how significant that job would become. I never knew how much that one job would change my life, or what a pivotal point in my life it would end up being.

I remember getting a call back after having the interview, informing me that I'd been offered a position in the company. I was over the moon but I remember the dilemma I faced as, that very same day, I'd been offered a promotion at the job I was already in at the time. I knew that it was a gamble to leave the job I was at; I had great friends there, privileges I knew I wouldn't get elsewhere, and I was comfortable with what I was doing. I knew that if I took the job in banking and hated it, I'd have really kicked myself. But, something told me that it was time for a new path- I needed a new challenge and it seemed like a risk worth taking. My gut told me to embrace change, and so I did. But I wasn't to know that by accepting the job, I was accepting a new path in life too-  a journey into single motherhood.

So on the 16th December 2012,  I entered the world of banking, and on that day, I met someone who was about to change my entire future forever- I met the father of my child. The rest is history.

Almost exactly a year later, I became a mum. On Friday 13th December 2013 at ten past five in the evening, my little boy was born into my life. Of course, this day will always be the most special day of my life, for I became a mother for the very first time- my world changed, and so did I. That day defined my future and shaped me into the person I am today. That day I met my best buddy and the person I love most in all the world.

Every year, when I celebrate my little boys birthday, I think back to that winter's day in 2013 when I finally got to meet my baby. The baby I'd been waiting for, rather impatiently. The baby I'd already been through so much with. I think about his birth and the magical moment he was placed on my chest at only a few seconds old. I remember falling in love with him, I remember being clueless and terrified about changing his nappy by myself. I remember taking him home in his snowsuit, I remember all the messages, flowers,cards and gifts from friends and family. But I also remember his fathers absence. I remember the fact that on that day when I became a mum, I instantly became a single mum. During those last weeks of pregnancy, in the back of my mind, I'd imagined his father showing up at the hospital unannounced once he heard the news, but he never did. I arrived at the hospital as a single pregnant lady, and I left as a single parent, alone with my child. The memories of that day will never leave me, it truly was the best day of my life - one I wish I could re-live over and over again. Though each year, as we celebrate that special day. I can't help thinking that it's another birthday that his father has missed; another year of new milestones he wasn't there to witness; another year he will never get back with his son. Another birthday party with 50% of his "family" nowhere to be seen. Another card which never came.

Christmas day is much the same. Each Christmas is another Christmas without that third person and without that family unit. I can't tell you how many times recently I've heard "we're just spending Christmas at home as a family this year." I can't lie, it makes me feel a little envious sometimes. As much as I love spending Christmas with my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews, it'd be nice to experience a Christmas at home as "our own little family." It'd be nice to be a family of three and to feel as though our family is complete. I'd like my son to have had two parents to wake up and jump on at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning when he's realised that Santa's been. I'd like my son to have a father to spoil him at Christmas and build new train sets with. I'd like to take my son Christmas shopping and help him choose a gift for his daddy. I'd like to be able to buy a card which reads "to the world's best dad" and let my son scribble inside it. I'd like to not feel like a tag along to other families festive celebrations. I'd like to go abroad at Christmas, as a family. I'd like to cook for my family and moan at my husband for not helping. I'd like to watch my son unwrap his stocking at the end of our bed. I'd like to visit in-laws on Boxing day and watch my sons face light up as he's spoilt rotten by two sets of grandparents and not just one. I'd like to walk off our family dinner with a family stroll along the seafront. I'd like to start family traditions of our own at Christmas. I'd like to not be the single mum at Christmas. I'd like a family of my own. A conventional one.

And as we reach the end of December, New Years Eve rolls around and a new year approaches, it's final: another year has passed and my son's father still hasn't changed his mind. Another year gone and my child is still fatherless. A new year begins and the man I once knew becomes even more of a distant memory than he was the year before. 2017 is approaching fast and there's still no sign of him. The memories of Christmas 2012 and Jolly jumper day become even more faded.

 Another year ahead, just the two of us.

Solo parenting takes balls.

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, we've been up to all sorts- which I'll be sure to blog about soon :)

Anyway, if you follow me on social media, you might have seen that I recently submitted a post about dining out alone with my two year old child.

For those of you who didn't get the chance to read it, I've posted a link below:

This post received rather a lot of attention and I had messages from fellow single parents absolutely flooding my inbox shortly after it was published online.

Single parents who know me only from the internet, were congratulating me on my bravery that night. Friends who have known me my entire lifetime were telling me how proud they are.
A single father reached out to me and shared his spin on single parenting and the stigma some fathers unfairly receive.

I spoke to a lot of people that night about the realities of single parenting and the courage it often demands from us. And all the people I conversed with that evening, strongly agreed on one thing: Solo parenting takes balls!

It takes huge amounts of bravery that we might not even know we have inside of us. It demands a "can do" attitude because...well, if we don't do it, who else is going to?

This attitude was what marched me out of my front door and into Pizza Express that evening. Because if I don't take my son out for dinner, then we simply won't dine out. Nobody else is going to take us.

I could sit around wallowing over the fact that our family seems somewhat "half finished", worrying that we'd look odd at a half empty table, and, if I allowed those thoughts to consume me, I'd never enjoy a meal out with my son.

So, instead of dwelling on it, I got my little boy dressed into his smart shirt and jeans, slapped some makeup on myself and ventured out for a table for two...or one and a half...

You can see for yourselves just how excited he was (but please excuse the terrible quality of this video..)

As hard as it is, there's something quite motivational and liberating about having to get things done yourself without the help of another.

For the women out there; think of the very moment you became a mum; think of childbirth. Think of the excruciating pain and the sudden realisation that nobody else can take over for you; nobody else can be passed the responsibility of birthing this child; its down to you and only you. And as terrifying as that is, it somehow drives you to get the job done. It sparks ambition within you; it feeds a determination within you to reach the finish line.

In many ways, single parenting brings those same feelings of determination and motivation; you know you're solely responsible and that it's your job and nobody else's. And it makes you want to succeed. It makes you want to prove people wrong; to beat the stereotypes and to show that absent parent that you are capable, even without them.

And that's exactly why I make sure my son and I do all the things we want to do. I refuse to allow single parenting to rule our lives. I will not allow an absent parent to alter our life experiences. I refuse to shy away from situations and experiences because I want us to be the same as everybody else.

And so should you.

It might be something as little as a meal out, or it could be an all-inclusive holiday abroad for ten days. No matter what it is, the fact is, as much as you might not like the idea of going "alone", you're not alone. You have your child. Your children. Your babies.

Our little people depend on us and learn from us. Their early life experiences are shaped by us. Their attitudes influenced by ours.

I know just how daunting it can be. I'm guilty of chickening out of certain events for the pure fact that I felt anxious about going "alone" with my child. I've declined invitations due to knowing I'd be the only single parent to attend. I've dodged "family fun days" at my sons nursery because I was worried I'd be stood there like a lemon.

So, I get it.

I get that it can be pretty terrifying and anxiety inducing to dive into new depths as a single parent. I remember the first time I took my baby for a long drive by myself. It was all kinds of scary and I'd probably imagined every negative outcome of the journey before we'd even left the house. What if we get lost? What if I break down? What if he chokes on something in the back of the car whilst I'm doing 70 on the motorway?

It's hard without a second person to lend a hand. It's lonely without adult conversation. It's daunting to step outside of your comfort zone when you're fully responsible for a little person and there's nobody else for back-up.

But, for me, it's a damn sight harder to sit back and allow my situation as a lone parent to define our experiences as a family. Because the reality is: this is our family. And why should we miss out on the things that every other family gets to do?

Although my son doesn't really know it yet, he's already suffered a loss in his life. He's nearly 3 and for 3 years he's been without his father. That's a big enough loss for anyone to deal with and I refuse to allow our situation to bring further loss and let down into his little life. He might not have a dad, he might be missing two grand-parents and an uncle, but he does have a family. His family is me. And mine is him.

I'll do everything I possibly can to ensure that we do family things and go on family holidays, even if it is just the two of us. Even when I feel out of my depth or afraid of sticking out like a sore thumb.

Table for one and a half, please......

You cannot prepare yourself for the pain of watching your child's heart break.

Music is one of my greatest loves in life. Give me a Spotify playlist over a TV series any day. It's rare for me to not be listening to music, and I'm far from fussy when it comes to genres or artists.
I can probably attach a memory to every song in my music library. Whether it's "this song was played at that mental house party when we were all 17 and paraletic" or "this song reminds me of my first boyfriend in secondary school" there's always something to remember when I'm listening to a few throwbacks. Whether I like it or not.
I listened to an old playlist on shuffle the other day and there was a song on that playlist which got me feeling all sorts of emotional .It was a song which I had forgotten even existed. I knew it reminded me of something but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. It was at about 30 seconds in when I suddenly realized that the last time I'd listened to that song was in my car, when I could barely see through the tears in my eyes because the news that my child's father was rebuilding his life without us had finally sunk in.
I was driving across my hometown, which at the time felt like the loneliest place on earth,with my innocent newborn tucked up in the back, cosy in his car seat, totally oblivious to the situation he'd been born into and totally unaware that his mummy was sobbing in the drivers seat.
This song held no romantic value or meaning between my child's father and I, in fact it held no relevance to our past but one line pretty much summed up everything going on in my head and heart back then:
"If I could change your mind, I would hit the ground running."
Hands down, in that moment, I would've hit the ground running. I would've driven a million miles just to be able to see the man who had run away the moment he realized he was going to be a father. I contemplated driving my baby son to his door to show him what he was leaving behind, to be able to change his mind and to try to find some sort of answer for the mess around me. Instead, I drove home and crawled into bed with my baby and cried myself to sleep.
As much as I thought I was crying on behalf of my baby son back then, in hindsight I know I was crying those tears because I was hurting. I couldn't comprehend how someone who had been a good friend of mine could've done that to me. I was crying for me. I was crying because I was disappointed and because I felt betrayed.
I suppose, those were the days when it was OK for me to be selfish, it was OK to feel the weight of it all and to feel sorry for myself, because my son was just a baby and he knew nothing about the situation. He was too young to understand, or even know what I was so sad about.
Having said that, I can remember thinking that one day, the pain I was feeling would reach my son.
I knew I'd get over it to some extent, I knew that this man was replaceable in my life, but the same couldn't be said for my child. I knew that, at some point,my son would go through every emotion that I'd been going through. I knew that the time would come eventually and that when it did, I'd be reliving the pain over and over again. I knew that as much as I could try to move on, it'd always play a part in my future. Only, I didn't expect it to come back around so quickly.
I thought I could protect my son from this situation for at least the first five years of his life. I thought to myself 'maybe when he starts school he will begin to wonder where his dad is. I've got a few years yet before I have to face the reality of this situation.'
But he hasn't even turned three yet and I'm absolutely certain that he is very much aware of the situation already. He knows.
I've had approximately 42 months to prepare myself for this and yet I'm so unprepared. I knew it was coming and yet I am still so shocked. I thought I had more time. I thought I could keep him inside our little bubble a while longer and I thought I could carry on pretending like everything's fine.
But honestly, the 'daddy' chats are now a daily thing. This isn't just toddler babble. He wants answers.
At first, he would role play and make up stories about 'daddy', other times he would obsess over other people's fathers. What was once a case of him pretending 'daddy' was on the other end of his play phone, has now become "I want to see my daddy."
He can't be fooled. He's a clever kid, way beyond his years and he knows that 'daddy' is missing.
What started off as the odd comment here and there, has now become a daily conversation. Normally followed by tears (from both of us) and it's not just a case of make-believe play anymore. He is trying desperately to make sense of the situation, he wants to know who daddy is, where he is and why he can't see him.
He gets cross with me and says "listen to me mummy" because he thinks I am fobbing him off. I'm not, I just don't know what to say.
Yesterday, I mustered up the strength to tell him:
"You don't have a daddy here, you just have mummy at home and you have lots of family who love you." 
and despite me listing the million and one people who do love him, he wasn't satisfied. 
He gets frustrated when I tell him that daddy isn't here and he challenges me. He tells me I'm wrong and that his daddy is waiting outside in his yellow car and that he wants to see him. 
And I wish he was right.
It's heartbreaking because I know that he is not asking for much. He only wants what everyone else around him has got. And yet he can't have it.
He wants a daddy to play cars with. He wants a daddy to pick him up and throw him over his shoulder when his little legs are tired of walking. He wants someone else to love and spend time with when he's fed up with mummy. He doesn't want to feel left out around his friends who all have dads at home. He hopes that, even just once, it'll be his daddy at the door collecting him from nursery. He wonders 'Why is it always someone else's daddy at the door and not mine?'
And I'm quickly realizing that I can't protect him from this.
I am here, at the point I always knew I'd be at eventually, only I always imagined I'd somehow come up with the right words along the way, that everything would fall into place naturally and that he wouldn't miss what he never had but, sadly he is longing for someone else to love him, and he deserves that just as much as any other child does.
I thought I'd deal with this side of things a lot better than I am dealing with it right now. I can sense his confusion and I can see his little mind ticking over, and I know that this is only the beginning of a long road ahead.
It was easier when my son was tiny because I was the only one hurting. Now, I'm having to watch him go through the same disappointment and heartache that I am all too familiar with. The kind of heartache that I wouldn't wish on anyone, least of all my precious baby.
I never could've imagined the way it would feel to hear a child, my child, asking for someone who doesn't want to know him, with such a sadness in his voice and tears in his eyes. I can't describe the frustration I feel, not only at the man who caused this but at myself for not being able to make my child's sadness go away. Not being able to bring that man into his life. Literally feeling powerless as a mother.
As a mum, I'm supposed to be able to wipe away his tears and make everything better. When he grazes his knee, I'll kiss it better and cuddle him until it stops hurting. When he's left out by other kids at the park I'll go and play with him to make him feel less alone, when he's unwell I am there to care for his every need but this... this I can't make better.
I can't ease the pain and I can't bring him what he wants. I can't tell him it'll be OK because truthfully, it probably won't be. I literally cannot fix this.
You know that feeling you get when another child is horrible to your child, or when your child's balloon flies away and their little lip quivers before they let out real tears? It hurts, right? 
You know how much you want to step in and stick up for your child; how you want to replace that lost balloon in an instant; how you would do anything to take away their sadness.
When they fall over and hurt themselves you wish it was you hurting instead of them.
Well, I suppose this is a little bit like that except the big difference is that I know this pain is not temporary. I know it's here to stay and I know that I will never be able to soften the cruel reality that his father didn't want to know him.
I wish I could go back in time. I wish I could go back to that evening when I was sobbing in my car, and I would relive that evening every single day for the rest of my life if it meant that I didn't have to watch my son's heart breaking as he gradually uncovers the truth about his father.
I would pretty much do anything to take his pain away and to put a stop to the confusion. But the truth is, there is nothing that I can do besides being here to pick up the pieces.

The weird reality of raising tiny humans.

It's a certainty that parenthood is quite different from how I'd always pictured it to be; in a few ways, it's easier, and in lots of other way's, it's a damn sight harder. But, above all else- it's just plain bloody weird at times.


Because kids are strange, strange creatures. Sure, they're lovely little things (sometimes) but they're also pretty odd. They say and do strange things. They push us to our limits and then they fill us with love and pride. They're funny, they're infectious and they're complex.

To put it bluntly: they're a bit of a head fuck sometimes.

You can think you're doing the right thing, teaching them all the right morals and all the best manners- and then they'll go and do something like shout "mummy's got a big fat bum bum" in a busy public place, and you'll wonder if they're even yours or if they got muddled up with someone else's embarrassingly outspoken kid on the postnatal ward.

You see, life just takes on this whole other dimension when you throw kids into the mix. They'll amaze you, they'll leave you speechless and they'll definitely embarrass you. Regularly.

Kids just have this totally unconventional way of viewing the world.

Tipping a bowl of lunch over your head when you're a kid is standard dinner table etiquette, and what else are you meant to do with it anyway?

And when they're not tipping soup over their heads, they're stuffing cheese sandwiches into their toy cars. As you do....

When times are stressful, like when you're stuck on public transport in a traffic jam, yelling "COME ON MR POTATO HEAD!!" to the bus driver seems like the reasonable thing to do, right?

Don't get me wrong, though they might be feisty little lunatics, they're far from stupid.
Somehow, at the age of 2, my son is well informed on the female anatomy. And when better to show off his knowledge than at the nursery's summer BBQ:

"Look mummy, it's a boobie!" (Whilst pointing at the nipple-like end of a balloon...)

However, they don't always use those incredible little brains to think before doing things. They're not at all afraid to climb head first into a tiny space before considering whether they'll be able to get back out of said space. (Like that time my son managed to wedge his head in the sink hole of his wooden play kitchen...Nice one.)

So, as you can imagine- Parenthood is pretty weird.

The other day, my two year old son wandered into the kitchen and, I kid you not, he said:

"Babe! I need a tea please!"

Erm..what? Tea? Babe? WTF?

But it doesn't stop there. In actual fact, this is pretty low down on my 1 to 10 scale of bizarre encounters I've had since becoming a mum.

Once, I was in a really lovely deep sleep and from my deep sleep I could hear the chanting of "I've got a bogie and it's stuck!" over and over and over again. I was sure I must have been dreaming (slightly weird thing to dream about, I know) but nope, there he was, stood at my bedside with a truly puzzled look upon his face due to his 5am nostril related crisis.

And do you know why I'm not even phased by this?

Because my life since motherhood has become all sorts of "abnormal."

Because twice a week, I join in with saying "good morning" to the snails on the walk to nursery.

Because the other day, I discovered a load of crumbs in my back pocket of my jeans and, instead of thinking "wtf" or "yuck", I was more interested in whether they were toast related crumbs or whether they were in fact grains of sand from the local play park. Because either option was totally possible.

Because I was once reduced to tears by a discarded rice cake. To be fair I had literally just hoovered.

Because every single night I find something unexpected in my bed. Sometimes, it's just a toddler who's escaped his cot-bed and ventured into mummy's big cosy bed without mummy knowing, other times its a whole lot weirder. You know- like a welly boot, or a plastic carrot, or half a custard cream. Once, I even found a nice concoction of things stuffed inside my pillowcase. Said pillowcase housed a 50 pence piece, a couple of pebbles from the beach, a dirty sock and the missing door from Postman Pat's van...

Because I often enter into disagreements with someone who wants toast but doesn't want it toasted, and I've actually believed for a moment that said person could be reasoned with. Wrong.

Because telling someone to "stop licking the mirror" is a serious request and there's little-to-nothing funny about it when I've already asked a hundred times, only to be ignored and subjected to more mirror drool.

Because I've worked myself into a panic upon discovering that our library books are late back, and I've felt like a naughty teenager ever since.  #ForeverARebel

Because I've found myself humming along to cartoon theme tunes, and even when I've realised that I'm humming a kids tv tune, I've probably continued to hum along to it anyway. And on that note, I've also developed some sort of love-hate relationship with the likes of "SpongeBOG scare pants" (Spongebob Squarepants incase you didn't get the memo!) Most of the time, I really hate the annoying yellow spongey fucker, other times I'm thanking god for his existence since he allows me an extra 20 minutes of snooze time in the morning every now and then.

Because finding half a regurgitated sausage down the side of the sofa cushions no longer shocks me. And because I'm thankful for the fact that it was just a sausage and nothing worse.

Because, on more than one occasion, I've found myself stepping over a human wrapped inside a rug pretending to be a hotdog, and instead of being weirded out, I was strangely proud of his developing imagination and creativity (and then it pissed me off because, you know, it's irritating after the first time, and I never envisaged spending my life re-positioning a rug numerous times a day and arguing about said rug with a child who truly believes that they are a hotdog.)

And the strangest part of it all?

Is that you'll find yourself moaning about the newborn stage and how hard it is, only to find yourself longing for that same newborn baby back 6 months later.

And you'll do the same when they reach toddlerhood- you'll tell everybody you can't stand the terrible twos and you'll think to yourself  "roll on school" only to find yourself welling up when it dawns upon you that actually school isn't so far off and you'll suddenly think  " Where's my baby gone?" 

OH wait, there he is- wrapped inside the rug, in full hot-dog attire......  *Sigh*

Our day at Drusillas!

Right so, my life has been well and truly made. 


Because on Wednesday, I got to meet Bing & Flop. 

If you've got kids, I'm certain that you know who they are. If not, I definitely sound like a lunatic right now.

So, for those of you who are not subjected to Cbeebies every morning- meet Bing and Flop:

On Wednesday, we went with two of our best friends to Drusillas! Drusillas is a local zoo park which is known to be one of the top family friendly attractions in the area! I haven't been there since I was in primary school and all I could actually remember about the place was that I had "milked" a plastic cow (strange which parts of our childhood we remember, isn't it...) Anyway, it's fair to say I was seriously excited about re-visiting and seeing what's changed about the place in the last 20 years or so (wow I feel old all of a sudden.)

Drusillas is only about a 30 minute drive from us and I was actually thinking about taking my littlun there for his 3rd birthday but, when I heard that Bing & co were making an appearance on Wednesday 17th August, I simply had to take him along to meet them!
I'll be honest, I think I was far more excited about the idea of meeting the animated characters than he was, but when he saw them up on the meet & greet stage his little face lit up. 

The queue was long and we waited for quite some time but I'd say it was worth it to see my little boy a little bit starstruck over his TV idols whom he's watched every day since he was tiny! 

So, once we'd met the characters and had our picture taken with them, I wondered if we'd find as much enjoyment from the rest of the attractions at the park. We'd set aside a whole day to visit and had even packed a bag of swimming clothes since we'd heard about the new 'splash pad' play area at the park, which I'll explain later!

As we ventured off around the park with our maps we came to a halt at what appeared to be railway crossing gates, soon followed by the one and only Thomas The Tank Engine! A real, life sized Thomas chauffeuring visitors around the park! Such a fab idea! 

That's three children's TV icons we'd met in the space of about an hour! That certainly doesn't happen every day!

So, of course, we took a ride on Thomas and I'd say this was probably the highlight of the day for my son! For a little boy of 2 years, all of his dreams came true in getting to ride on the real Thomas, saying hello to some of the other engines in their sheds and passing by the Fat Controller! This ride was a total winner in his eyes!

 Upon departing the Thomas railway station, we decided to head towards the Zoo trail and meet some of the animals! I was really impressed with the amount of animals at the park, they had such a fab variety and some super cute fur babies too! For me, the highlight was the "Teletubby land" complete with flopsy bunnies and guinea pigs! For a moment, I felt like I had really entered the land of Tinky Winky and Dipsy- Ok, now I definitely sound like a lunatic. But I loved the creativity behind the way Drusillas had housed their furry habitants!

In terms of the zoo & farm yard area of the park, I felt that Drusillas had plenty to offer. From flamingos to a giant porcupine; meerkats to camels, there was loads to take in and my son met many animals he hadn't yet seen before, such as the snowy owls and the wallabies!
The farm area was small but it was pretty much everything to expect from a farm- and yes, it was complete with the aforementioned plastic cow milking contraption- which, alongside many of the attractions at Drusillas, was a great educational tool!

Drusillas was well equipped with learning tools and I felt it would provide the perfect setting for school trips! What with the animals, the large play areas and the paddling pool/ water play zones, I'd say it made for a well rounded, fun and exciting day out!

One thing I will say is that I bloody wish Drusillas had their 'Splash Pad' play area back in 1996 when I visited with my primary school friends! This water play area was seriously cool. I've never seen anything quite like it, it was full of water jets and spiraling sprays! As we had visited on one of the hottest days of the year, this play area was fully appreciated! The children loved running through the jets! It reminded me so much of being a child myself and running through the water sprinkler in my back garden- only, this was obviously much cooler than that.... I don't think any of us would have minded spending the whole day at the Splash Pad actually, it was loads of fun and definitely not something I've come across with my son before!

The play zones were all, from what I could see, well equipped. However, we only visited the 'Go Bananas' play area as this was the only one suitable for toddlers! It was made up  of all the usual playground equipment, with the added bonus of a trampoline- which my son loved so much that he later refused to move from it and caused a scene in front of everyone- thanks a lot, baby! But at least he had fun, right?

So, all in all, I'd say visitng Drusillas makes for the perfect family day out and, although slightly pricey, I think you get your money's worth in terms of just how much there is to do there and how well maintained the place is! 

My only negatives from our visit were:

1) My child's behaviour at times during the day which, quite frankly, was no fault of Drusillas themselves. But more, a reflection of the fact that he'd been having some late nights leading up to the day of our visit. So, I suppose I'll let it slide... ;)

2) The fact that the place was absolutely heaving with people due to the school summer holidays! But I suppose, during the school holidays, you can expect most places to be packed like that- it just meant that we didn't get to spend as much time at each attraction as we might've liked to! And that my son was , on average, walking into someone every 3.5 seconds. But again, can't really blame Drusillas for that either, can I? ;)

So, with that in mind- I'd definitely visit again, perhaps our next visit will be during term time when the bigger kids are back at school and the toddlers have a little more space to do their thing!

But, we had a great time and we certainly slept well when we got home! My son couldn't wait to tell his nursery friends all about his experience of meeting Bing and Thomas The Tank Engine!

Thanks for having us, Drusillas! 

Brighton Pride 2016! ♥

If you're familiar with Brighton, you'll know exactly what the first weekend of August means for the people of Brighton each and every year.. Yep, it's PRIDE weekend!

Its the yearly event which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community and, let me tell you; it's one hell of a party! The entire city comes together in the most outrageous, colourful and flamboyant ways. Nothing- and I mean nothing is too "out there." You'll see sequins, feather bowers, stilettos, skimpy swimwear, drag, nudity, elaborate headgear, bubbles, and a rainbow theme which runs all the way through the city. What's not to love about it?

Pride weekend is like the city's way of saying "screw you" to the homophobes and the haters. It's about acceptance. It's about being one community, regardless of our differences. The fight for equality and the celebration of love.

For as long as I can remember, Pride weekend has been my absolute favourite event. Having grown up in Brighton and being the true "Brightonian" that I am, it's an event that I have attended every year and quite frankly, I don't know anyone who doesn't attend on a yearly basis. Not only does the event bring our city together, it brings hundreds upon thousands of people from all over, to spend the weekend in our wonderful city. It brings the biggest buzz to our streets and it truly creates a sense of unity, even if just for one weekend.

Before becoming a mum, Pride would probably mean partying from Friday night right through until Sunday morning. My diet over the weekend would mostly  consist of warm cans of beer and a few rollies. But it was SO MUCH BLOODY FUN. However, with my son now in tow, I tend to watch the parade whilst smothering us both in suncream and making sure we're topped up on H20- such a mum, I know.

I can't say there's anywhere I would rather be on the first weekend of August, than be squashed amongst the cheerful, neon crowds of Brighton. With thousands upon thousands of people jam packed into our relatively small city, it's certain that we're a diverse crowd. From fairy wings to leather suits, sailors to butlers in the buff- you name it, Pride's got it! What's special is that, amongst our differences, we all share one thing in common: and that's our pride. We're proud of our differences, our sexuality,  our fancy dress efforts; we're proud to be able to express ourselves in any way we like and we're definitely proud of our city.

 Known to most as "the gay capital", Brighton is truly one of a kind. It's a place to celebrate difference and appreciate originality; from fashion statements to family dynamics, culture to art,we're a city of a thousand different approaches. Anything goes in Brighton. With it's quirky vibe and bohemian spirit, it's a city that is truly open to individuality. An open minded, cosmopolitan city which takes the word "equality" and turns it into a huge multi-coloured party! All weekend!

However,  I'll be honest- this year- I had my reservations about attending. For the first time in my life, I actually considered not going. And do you know why?

I was frightened.

I'd been hearing about threats of a terrorist attack and I'd been thinking about those poor people who lost their lives in Orlando recently, and I'll be honest- I was worried for Brighton. It's messed up that I even had to consider something like that happening in my beautiful home-town but, sadly, this is the world we seem to be living in right now.

It blows my mind that in 2016, we still live amongst those who cannot accept diversity; those who are intolerant of change and individuality. That in some countries, same sex marriage is still not legal. It's unbelievable.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether I should stay away from the crowds and if I should simply not risk mine or my son's safety. But do you know what? I made my decision to go anyway. And my decision was based on this:

This world is a scary place right now, full of hate, violence and far too much loss.  But this hatred is  a minority. And if there's any way to make a change and take a step forward with this world;it's with the power of equality. If there's one thing that can restore my faith in humanity, it's Brighton Pride. It's what I believe in; freedom. The chance for us all to live however we wish to live, happily, without judgment. And I won't let fear stop me from standing up for what I believe in. Because that's exactly what they want. They want to spread fear and they want us to back down. As a generation, we've come on leaps and bounds to promote and achieve equal rights and liberty. And despite the awful acts of terror taking place in our world, I'm proud to be raising my son in such an accepting generation. I have wanted him to witness Pride weekend, right from when he was a baby, because it sends out such a bold and brilliant message; that love is a human right. That we should not be afraid to be who we are and to be PROUD of what makes us different.

"Despite the advances of equality and equal marriage in the UK, the recent horrific event in Orlando and continuing attacks on LGBT people and communities globally have highlighted there's still a long way to go.
"Brighton Pride 2016 will be more important that ever and I ask all allies and friends of the LGBT community to come out and stand shoulder to shoulder with friends and family to stand up against all hate crime."  (BBC News)

This is why I adore this event so much, it sets an example- and a bloody brilliant one, too. In a world which seems to be so full of anger and disappointment, this festival brings nothing but love, love and more love (plus a sprinkle of glitter ♥)

And so, we joined the crowd today and we waved our rainbow flags for the people of Brighton. And for the hope of global harmony one day. To eliminate discrimination for good. And what we witnessed was the true strength and spirit of a brilliant community. No fear overtaking our lives, not backing down from what's right and fair. Just like every year, the people of Brighton Pride made me thankful for the place I get to call my home.

 Happy pride everyone!

Please, stop judging.

Everyone knows that when you're a parent. you face some incredibly tough challenges along the way. From breastfeeding to teething to the terrible twos. From financial worries to the dreaded teenage years. It's inevitable that in raising children, there will be times when you feel defeated or like you have failed. We all have moments where we feel clueless and like we don't know what's best or what's right. Parenting is hard. And it's made a whole lot harder because, even when you think you might be doing the right thing, there's always going to be someone who will disagree and do things differently. And sometimes, we end up feeling judged for our decisions along the way. 

Just like any other parent, my moments of parental pride are sometimes followed by moments of disappointment and despair. Like when my son is argumentative or can't play nicely with his friends. Or when he throws himself on the floor and causes a scene in public over a kinder egg. I'm sure we've all been there and I'm sure you'll all agree that it's embarrassing and it can make you feel like you're doing something wrong. We, as parents are held responsible for our child's behaviour and there will always be someone who feels the need to comment on that behaviour. Like the other day when I was in Tesco...

Etienne was having an almighty meltdown because he didn't want to be stuck in the trolley and he wanted a packet of chocolate buttons at 9am. I said no, and all hell broke loose. We were in there for around 30 mins and he actually screamed for that whole entire duration. Of course, everyone stared, as they always do. I'm sure that a lot of those people felt sorry for me in that moment, and that some even thought to themselves "been there, done that!" But, there was one woman who had other things on her mind. One, mindless, snooty woman who felt the need to go on a rant to one of the cashiers, knowing full well that I could hear every single word she was saying:

"Well, my children would have never behaved like that. They just didn't do that in my day. You know, even my grandchildren don't behave like that and they are smaller than that boy. My son only has to use a certain tone of voice with his children and the children know that it's time to behave, instantly. There's no need for all of this screaming business, it's all down to lack of discipline."

I'm actually angry again now having just written that. And at the time, she made me even more angry. But despite feeling angry, I also felt sad. Because she made me look like a failure. I felt like she was right, I felt like I was failing to "discipline" my "unruly" screaming toddler. Because, in this moment, he looked like a spoilt brat. And that's exactly what she judged him as. A brat. And me- a lazy, slacking parent who had obviously never taught him wrong from right. She'd judged us from one tiny snippet moment in Tesco and it infuriated me. Not only did she say all of these things casually as if my feelings wouldn't be hurt, but she also looked smug whilst saying it. She was looking down her nose at us. She thought she was above us.

I felt like screaming at her, I felt like asking her if she'd ever experienced being a single mother with absolutely no support from the father. I wanted to ask her if she'd ever tried to raise a child without anyone to back her up. I wanted to ask her if her children used their "please" and "thankyou's" at the age of 2, because mine does. I wanted to know how she would feel if her child's father had abandoned them before they were even born; if she could imagine carrying that weight whilst raising a young child. I wanted to know if she would have taken her words back if she had known that approximately 2 hours before her comments, my son was asking for his daddy who didn't exist. 

I wanted to put her straight back in her place and then it hit me, that her words were irrelevant because she did not know. She did not know me, she did not know my child and she knew nothing about our situation. She didn't know that I was already having a tough day and that she was actually extremely hurtful by what she was saying. Had she known that her words had later reduced me to tears, I wonder if she would have taken those words back; if she might have apologised, even?

It's a sad reality that probably all of us will encounter somebody like this in our time with young children. I know I've come into contact with plenty of these types of judgmental people (normally whilst using public transport) and it blows my mind that a lot of these people have raised young children themselves once upon a time and yet, they still make these comments. Have they forgotten what two year olds can be like? Have they not a moment's thought for how their comments might make a parent feel in that already difficult moment?

What's really frustrating is that none of these people know my story or the struggles we've faced along the way, none of them know that actually, I give every last shred of my energy to being the best parent I can be and that, despite my best efforts, my son probably does walk all over me sometimes because there's nobody else at home to back me up or to share the load with. 

They don't realise that their words will stay with me, that I will go home and question whether they are right and whether I am failing. And as they carry on with their day without even a care, I'm left with a day that's been ruined by their unsympathetic words. It's a sad reality that often I do not feel as though I can ask a stranger for help when I might need it, for fear of being judged for needing a bit of help. Times like when I'm attempting to lift the buggy onto the train without dropping my belongings/the baby down the gap between the platform and the train. I know I should ask for help and I also know that 90% of people wouldn't think twice about lending a helping hand, but I'm all too aware of the other 10%  of people. And its people like the aforementioned woman in Tesco who cause me to feel this way.

I see it all the time. People rolling their eyes when a young child is crying on the bus. People moving to a different table in a restaurant because they don't want their meal disrupted by the sound of young children. People tutting and disapproving at the toddler shouting "no" back at their exhausted mother. I even had a lady who asked to move seats on the plane when I sat down next to her with my 18 month old baby, purely because she didn't want to be sat near a child. Neighbours who believe that the slight pitter-patter of my sons footsteps on their ceiling during the middle of the day is disrespectful and is a disruption to their right of peace and quiet in what is a shared building, despite the fact that they regularly slam doors and argue at 11pm when my son is sleeping, causing far more disruption. But it's ok, because they have more right to a quiet life than we do, right?

Of course, they're just words and of course, these people's opinions are irrelevant and deserve no place in our minds but..when you're already facing a crappy day and your child has woken up in a grumpy, defiant mood and can't be reasoned with, it's easy to let these stranger's words get to you. 

And it's easy to believe that what they're saying is true.

As much as I realise that other "non-single" parents endure these tough times, too, I have to admit, it's often made a whole lot harder by the fact that there's no support around. Because, besides the lovely comments from my family and friends and their reassurance that I'm a great mum, actually- there is not a single one of these people who is with us full-time. None of these people witness my parenting style all of the time and very rarely are they there to witness the hardest days because on the hard days, I tend to hide away and choose not to socialise. So, nobody really knows.

Unfortunately, alongside the usual judgments that we all face as parents, single parents have a whole load of other judgments made about them. I'm incredibly aware of the general stigma around single parents. Sadly, it's because of this that sometimes I'm too embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I'm a single mum, for fear of being classed as something that I'm not. 

Times like, when a group of married, home-owning mothers in the local park are discussing mortgages and their husbands promotions or the extension they're having done on their family home, and I'm stood feeling like a lemon, trying my best to exit the conversation; to slip away without them noticing my absence; wishing that the ground would swallow me whole as I'm feeling like an alien to their society and I'm too embarrassed to admit that I don't work and that I don't own our home.

An "outsider", a "scrounger", a "failure." I must be lazy, I must feed my child nuggets and chips every night and only bath him once a month. We must live in a messy, un-kept home and he must wear second hand rags for clothes. But mostly we must be envious of their life and their marriage. We must want all that they have, and we must, must, must be after their husbands......*rolls eyes and laughs*

There have been so many times when I've been asked the question "so, what does you husband do?" and it really pisses me off. Not just because I don't have a husband, but because, even if I did have a husband, what business is it of theirs what he does for a living? How is it in any way relevant? Is it a terrible example of awkward small talk in the park or is it because they want to be nosey and they want to compare. I fear it's the latter. I hate to say it, but I definitely sense there's a lot of competition between young families. At least there is where I live. Who has the biggest house? Whose career is most successful? Who is more qualified? Who spent the most on their child's buggy..

When you're a single parent, it's easy to feel secluded from these types of conversation. 

But what these people tend to forget, or even choose to forget, is the fact that, unlike "normal" families where there's two parents who support each other and share the weight of the hard times, I don't have someone to turn around to me at the end of a long day and reassure me that I'm doing a good job, there's nobody to intervene when they can see that I'm all out of energy or that Etienne is really starting to stress me and I need to take a few minutes out before I snap at him. 

I can't just wait for my partner to get back from work and hand my child over to him. I don't get a lie in once a week when it's "my partner's turn" to get up. I can't ask someone else to cook tonight. I can't turn to someone else when I'm feeling stuck and unsure what to do about a certain aspect of parenting or when I want to discuss my concerns or even when I need help in making a decision. 

But guess what? Despite the financial difficulties, the lack of support and the "single and pregnant" status I landed with in my early twenties, I'm fairly confident in the fact that I am no less of a parent than the next person and that my son is well looked after. I'll admit that we currently rely on the council for financial help, but this does not make me any less of a mother. This does not mean that I am a "sponger" or that I intend to stay on benefits long term. In fact, I'd say my position as a single parent only drives me to better myself and I fully intend to achieve financial security in the near future. 

Without sounding as though I am boasting, I am proud of my parenting style most of the time. I know that my parenting is far from perfect but I also know that what I have implemented so far has paid off. This is evident from my well mannered, caring little boy. I can't deny that he has typical toddler moments where he isn't very nice to his friends because he doesn't want to share his toys, but outside of these moments, he is such a kind and gentle little sweetheart.

As much as I remind myself of this regularly, I'm sick of the stigma, I'm tired of feeling like less of a parent because I'm on my own with my son. I'm fed up of feeling discriminated against, like nobody wants to rent their property to us because we rely on financial assistance and therefore we must be incapable of maintaining a clean, organised home. Just because my savings account totals the balance of a measly £20, does not mean that I am unable to manage the money we do receive. It does not mean that I have a heap of debt attached to my name or that I am guilty of fobbing off bills or responsibilities. I am organised and I make the very little amount of money we have, last us. My son has absolutely everything he needs and he still has brilliant opportunities; we don't sit at home in front of Cbeebies 24/7. I play with him, I interact with him, I have spoken to him in full conversations ever since he was a newborn and his speech  at the age of 2 is incredible.

 I asked a couple other single parents if they too feel the stigma surrounding their situation and whether they felt it affected their opportunities/ the way they were perceived as a person within society. Here's a summary of their comments:

  • "People think that children from single parent families aren't offered the same quality of life as children from two-parent families."
  • "Because I'm a single parent; I must be "easy" and sleep around."
  • "Mums at the school approached me with suspicion as if I was out to steal their husband. More often than not, their husbands would avoid conversation with me or wouldn't be allowed to be friends with me."
  • "A lot of people seem to think that single mums put themselves in this situation on purpose, in order to gain a council house or financial aid.Why would anyone choose to raise a child alone?!"
  • "Children from single parent families tend to be seen as "troubled" or "badly behaved." I felt that some parents disapproved about their child being friends with a child from a single parent household."
  • "Parents at the school are very cliquey and often seclude me from their group purely because of my situation as a single mum. I found it hard to fit in because I was viewed as different."
  • "I must be lazy. I must love sitting on my bum at home all day, sponging off the government."

Sad, isn't it? Just think about how these stereotypes might make a parent feel. Think about your hardest days as a parent and how much you already felt like you were failing in that moment, and then add on top of that these kinds of judgments. Imagine how it would make you feel. 

We need to stop judging one another. We need to stop tarring everyone with the same brush and start realising that times have changed, that families are diverse in our generation-whether you like it or not, and that nobody is above anyone else in this world. We are all just parents trying to figure this journey out; we all face hardships as well as triumphs of our own kind.

 My status does not reflect me as a mother, nor does it define me as a person.

Rant over.

It's OK to miss your old life sometimes.

It might be a taboo topic in the world of motherhood. It might feel like you shouldn't admit to it because it'd make you a bad mum or it'd seem as though you don't love your child unconditionally. But ...guess what, I'm gonna say it. 

Sometimes, I miss my old life. 

And if you're now sat there gobsmacked, wondering what on earth I might mean by that statement, then please, read on before you judge.

Recently, I had a conversation with an old flame. And by 'old flame' I really mean the person I grew up with. The teenage crush who soon became the biggest chapter in my adolescent years. 

I met him when I was just shy of 16 and we spent four long years in and, at times, out of each others lives but he was a big part of my life throughout those years. We fought, and we had some pretty big fall outs but we consistently found a way back to one another despite the childish bickering and the trials we faced whilst trying to figure out how the hell relationships worked at such a young age. We were clueless and we hadn't yet grasped an understanding of commitment and what it meant to be a couple.
But ,no matter what, he was always there throughout those years and we always remained in contact even when we weren't physically with one another.  You know when people say  "every girl will always have that one guy?"  Well, he was mine.

 We used to talk about the future, we spoke about big plans and settling down and I don't think we ever really considered the fact that one day, we might not be a part of each others lives. We were young, naive and, to be honest,  incredibly immature. We didn't live in the real world and our whole relationship was built on spontaneity and fun; not giving two hoots about responsibility or real life problems, all we ever seemed to do was laugh and banter and plan the next fun adventure! We were usually up to no good and we weren't the most respectable of teens but surely that's what those years are for; pushing boundaries, making memories to look back on and laugh/cringe at, right? We just seemed to bounce off one another. We were like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. 

We were one of those annoying couples who hated each other one minute but couldn't be separated the next. He was probably my first real love, and sometimes I wonder if he was the only person I ever really loved unconditionally, or whether 'love' simply changes with age... Because, despite having felt new and different emotions since, I've never felt the way I felt around him, again. Perhaps our youth was what kept us feeling alive and never bored with one another. No matter how much we fought or how many times we vowed it was over between us and that it was "the last time" there was always another time, and another...and another. 

You see, time is something we had. And we had heaps of it. Working basic jobs, we earned the money we needed to survive and the rest we spent as we pleased. We used every waking minute outside of our working hours to enjoy life to the fullest. Mostly drinking cider in the sunshine with our friends and listening to incredible music. And when winter came? Well, when most couples might've enjoyed cosey nights indoors watching TV, we ventured out at 1am to play in the snow. I suppose that says it all- we were still children in many ways. We were young at heart and we were full of life, we never allowed for a dull moment.

For a number of reasons, and mostly down to our own mistakes and I suppose, taking each other for granted, our relationship did end for the very last time. And that time  really was different, because he moved abroad and life took us very different ways. Distance and time had finally divided us.

So, why am I sat here writing about this guy? It's been almost five years since I last saw him and we've shared only a handful of emails in those five years. As it stands now, I'm a mum and he's a dad.We have both moved on with our lives and in some ways, we've never been further apart. 

But, here's the thing. When we got talking again recently, I started to recognise my old self.

We chatted about things we used to get up to and the hilarious encounters we had in our time together.We laughed about the silly, childish mistakes we both made back then and we reminisced on all of the brilliant memories we have with one another. We spoke about how, in hindsight, we weren't ready to be adults and have a proper relationship at the time. 

And,when we spoke, for a moment I forgot who I am now. 

I forgot the 'mother' title and I was reconnected with the old me; just Charlotte. Not Etienne's mum. The REAL person behind 'Etienne's mum.' Who I am, the humour I enjoy and the pieces of my past which had slipped my memory. Because, guess what? I'm not just a mum. I'm often referred to as 'Etienne's mum' and I'm sure, those of you who have kids will be able to resonate with this. When you become a parent,you do start to live your life through your child. It's not a bad thing, and I certainly wouldn't have it any other way but, sometimes it's nice to remember who I am beyond my parenting style and my status as a single mother. I'm still me, and I can't imagine that anyone would say they wholeheartedly 100% don't miss a single thing about life before having kids.

I got thinking about all of the friendships that have dwindled away as the years have passed me by. It's inevitable that, as we grow up, we lose touch with people. We meet new people, old friends move away or settle down and we gradually lose touch completely. The majority of my friendship groups changed the minute I became a mum because, it's true that we grow into different types of people with totally different lifestyles and priorities and we find that we no longer have much in common with the people we once spent the majority of our time with. When you become an adult, and certainly when you become a parent, life changes so very much and we, as people, change too.  It's not that we lose who we are, more like we discover a new version of ourselves and sometimes the people from our past don't gel with the people we become post-baby. It's not like how it was all those years ago when we could pretty much get along with anyone over an alcoholic beverage and some decent music. I don't think they're lying to us when they say "those are the best years of your life." 

I'll admit that before having spoken to him, I had sort of forgotten a lot of my old identity. So much of my past has been wiped from my memory and in some ways, it's a good thing and it's completely natural but, in other ways, I find it sad. I wish I could've bottled all of those brilliant years up and kept them in my bedside drawer forever. I wish I had a picture for every moment to look back on. But mostly, I wish I'd realised at the time just how much things would change as we all got older and drifted apart. I thought those people would be in my life forever and I never anticipated just how much life would change as we left our adolescent years and became real grown ups!

So, I don't know about you, but I'm very much of the opinion that it's OK to miss who you were before becoming a mother.  It's ok because it doesn't mean you'd change a single thing about becoming a mum or that you don't appreciate the million and one joys your child has brought into your life, but rather- you sometimes miss the young, carefree spirit you once occupied.

 Of course, I wouldn't change Etienne for the absolute world and I would definitely say that since becoming a mum, I'm the most content and settled I've ever been but at times I'm a little nostalgic. And I'm jealous of the old me who had little-to-no responsibility and tonnes of freedom. Because, let's face it- I now have the biggest responsibility I could ever have: raising a miniature human being. And, freedom doesn't come about very often- to be precise: Tuesday and Friday mornings are the only times I get to myself and I'm extremely limited as to how I spend that time. 

Those of you who have only known me since I became a mum, will see the organised, sensible and cautious person that I now am. But, like most of you I'm sure, there was a time when I was none of these things. I was impulsive to the point where, even big decisions, were made purely on three factors: what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it. And believe me, there was once a time when being awake at 5am meant I'd been up all night socialising with friends and hadn't gone to bed because "sleep was for losers" rather than being awake because my two year old child is demanding cheerios and Cbeebies.

How times change, eh? You don't really see it happening until you're a million miles away from it all and you reflect on what once was. 

 Don't get me wrong, if you offered me my old life on a plate right now, I wouldn't take it.  And I wouldn't change who I am now. I love being a mum and I truly feel that i was always destined to have a child (and ok, I never wished to become a single mum, nor did I see it coming, but...I always knew I wanted to have a child of my own.) My biggest achievement and milestone in my life was becoming Etienne's mum. And it always will be, which is why it's OK to look back on times before he existed, and it's ok to miss them without feeling guilty because, child or no child, we will never get our young years back so of course we will reminisce and of course we will remember those times fondly. I certainly don't regret a thing!