Chilling with the homies

Being a mummy on a budget

This post seems like it should be unnecessary. Afterall, don’t nearly all mums have a budget of some description? Having children is next oldest thing in the world next to the existence of humans so it’s not like it’s a new concept.

Ahh, but yes it is, because – KLAXON! – there wasn’t social media back then (try not to roll your eyes, I do appreciate it is the most overused phrase in modern times). Yes, you might see the local squire’s wife tooling around in glad rags, and in recent times you would have read about the fineries enjoyed by royal babies. But there wasn’t that reach-out-and-touch, ‘if you’d just saved better/married better/worked harder’, element to some of the things that some new mums, prospective mums, and mums-in-waiting think go with parenthood. Big name-brand pram, designer baby clothes, endless supply of cash for coffees with mummy friends…. The list could be endless because this is a competitive market, not least because being a parent is bloody hard work, so if you have the material goods to fit in then at least that’s one base covered. And who doesn’t want every beautiful, gorgeous, magical thing going for their kid?

All images from Pinterest
All images from Pinterest

For a distinctly working class but touching the edges of middle classdom mummy with friends of varying fiscal means and a wedding, two big holidays abroad and buying our first property within the past five years, this is how I did it to my satisfaction on a budget. [Note: I did toy with titling this post ‘How to be a carer on a budget’ because there are people with the same responsibilities who aren’t caring for a child. However, having no experience of caring for a non-dependent child or adult, I didn’t feel that that would be appropriate. Hopefully though, if you are a carer (inevitably) on a budget, hopefully some bits will be useful for you.]

Buy second hand

Goodness me, this is so obvious but lots of people don’t because they a) think that their child deserves better, b) they think second hand items won’t be good quality or safe, c) they want the experience of buying new shiny things, d) they just don’t want to, or e) all or some of the above.

My first comment here is that there is such a flood of second hand children’s goods available it borders on the ridiculous. Big ticket items such as cots, prams and gizmos like the Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo (if you have a baby and you haven’t heard of this, you soon will!) are usually expensive and people are keen to make their money back. For these items, what’s for sale will either be used to an expected extent so will be older, potentially slightly more raggedy, but usually more bargainous, or will be barely used so in really good condition but therefore more a reduced price rather than being truly bargainous.

Set your budget here: research what you want, how much you’re willing to pay for it and how much you want it before looking at market availability. If you’re dead-set on an UPPAbaby pram, you’re going to pay something more akin to the original price than if you want a decent second hand pram of any description, from any manufacturer. My absolute best bargain was my pram which is a Mothercare Xpedior travel system (now discontinued but still available second hand), purchased for the princely sum of £31. This is an exceptional bargain by anyone’s standards but it was used, and Mothercare isn’t necessarily a brand everyone wants. I decided early on that if I won the lottery, I’d be marching into John Lewis and getting the pram of dreams. Until then, it is more important that I buy food and keep my child entertained, so Mothercare was more than good enough for me.*

The pram in action

FYI, there are more places to look for second hand goods than eBay. Gumtree has lots of listings and is far easier to refine by location. Facebook also seems to have lots of sales pages specific to location, and I have bought some unopened baby formula and a baby support for very low prices. Worth having a look. Plus, NCT sales, local nearly-new sales and even car boot sales are excellent places to get good quality used baby wear, which, considering how quickly they grow out of stuff, is one of the easiest ways to save cash.

Learn to balance

With most of my disposable income (ha!) now going on my son, obviously my own wants have taken a back seat. So I have learned the art of balance. With more time away from work, I now shop around for basics and regular groceries, using a mix of supermarkets, discount stores and my local market to then afford the nicer bits such as decent veg for me and my boys and the occasional fakeaway (I might splash out on spices to make a curry but at least I’ll have leftovers and it’s still cheaper than ordering one in).

Not a curry but was yummy-yummy nonetheless

I now also scrutinise my wardrobe on a near daily basis because the days of only being able to wear that top with those trousers or having to have that particular bra under that frock are well and truly behind me. I am dressing against the clock every day so each item in my wardrobe has to work. That means that every time I refine, I sell the bits I don’t need (the mobile eBay app is a real timesaver here) and can then reinvest in one thing I really want. Most recently I got the Selfish Mother ‘Mother’ sweatshirt and I love it.


Scout out the free activities

This is going to be quite baby-centric because my son is only 1, but this applies across all ages. Essentially, you need to find out what’s available in your area for free. Why? Because it will give you a reason to leave the house, you might learn something, your baby/child will socialise, and it’s a great way to meet other mums if that’s what you want to do.

My local children’s centres have been absolutely invaluable to me. Run by 4Children, they provide free drop-in play sessions, breastfeeding support groups, and bookable sessions and courses on things such as baby massage, baby sensory, First Aid and weaning. I have learned so much from these courses and have made some wonderful friends. My son is now of an age where he really enjoys visiting the centre and playing with the huge array of toys on offer, which keeps things interesting for him and allows him to play with other children. Plus, the baby massage course I attended was vital in coping with his colic, and I felt a real sense of support from the centre staff.

Also, never underestimate the power of a park. It’s a great place to meet up with other mums (I took lunch and snacks in plastic containers to save cash) and having a roll around on a blanket in the sun is a lovely way to play and bond. Once the kiddies are older, swings are just a godsend. As long as it’s not raining, there’s never a day you can’t squeeze in a park visit.

Chilling with the homies
Chilling with the homies

Decide where to splash your cash

Having a baby is expensive. It just is. They need a lot of sh*t. And while you can buy second hand as much as possible and make use of free local resources, there will be times when you have to pay out. Here are the areas we spent money on:

Baby formula. My son had to be combination fed when he was born because of low blood sugar, and we carried on the practice once home. We used the same brand of formula as they had at hospital which wasn’t the cheapest but at least meant we were less likely to waste it because he knew he would drink it. We then had to invest in a particular kind because of his colic. Pricey but totally worth it.

  • Osteopathy. Again, this was to address the dreaded colic but was absolutely worth it. I don’t know what my son would have been like without this treatment but I believe his colic would have been worse. At the very least we knew that we were doing everything we could to help him, which is worth a lot.
  • Swimming. I invested in two classes, and while our baby sensory class was fun, I found it a very competitive environment parent-to-parent, not to mention quite cliquey. My son enjoyed it, and it did tire him out, but overall swimming was the winner. Being in the water together is such a lovely experience and our school focuses on water safety as well. Plus, this tires him out like nothing else. It doesn’t necessarily make bathtime that relaxing but he does conk out like a good ‘un afterwards. RESULT.
  • Socialising. We didn’t go out every day to meet people, but when I did make plans to meet mummy friends, I went to a nice baby-friendly place which felt like a treat. We will still pop into a nice place when out shopping because it’s a bit of a treat for me and him to sit with a drink, being part of the world, looking all cute (him) and smug (me). Getting out and treating myself in this way is worth every single penny because I feel like a normal human being and so much more like myself. I got to see friends and my son got to see other bubs. I loved it and, as most mums will attest, getting up, dressed, and into your local town centre is time-consuming enough as to take up half the day, so throw in a lunch and a mooch and you’re day is done. Perfick.

I do hope you found some pearls of wisdom in there somewhere. Do let me know if you’d like to know more about my mumma experiences or if you never want to hear anything about them ever again! Have a good week everyone!


*In buying my second hand travel system, I researched buying used baby seats beforehand to ensure my son would be safe. If you’re ever unsure then buy your pram second hand but pair with a new car seat.

Category: Life
heart sand

You have Parent Issues even if you don’t think you do

It is obvious that our parents have an almost inconceivable effect on our development as human beings, and most of us can accept that. Whether you vote the way your parents do or reject that completely, you’re reacting to how you were brought up; the conversations, the assumptions, the influences. And when someone has had a tragic or abusive childhood, we can envisage why that might have messed them up. We can see that impact because it’s in popular culture, in TV and paperbacks in WH Smith with pictures of sad children on the cover. But more and more (and more) I am realising the impact that familial relationships have, not just on our development as a human being but on the very way we form relationships. However conscious we are about our decision making, most of us don’t realise the extent to which we are recreating patterns in our personal lives.

Does this sound a little self-helpy? I can see that. It’s probably symptomatic of the sort of literature that I read and the sorts of things I’ve always been interested in that this rings so true with me. The people I’m interested in (in a literary sense) are often cerebral types, often recovering addicts, people who have had a lot of therapy. I also like Jillian Michaels, the trainer from The Biggest Loser, who is- I think it’s fair to say- not a particularly cerebral type. But she is a person who understands the destructive nature of her relationship with her father growing up, and how that makes her react, in a very real way, to authority figures in her own life. When the people I’m interested in kept saying the same thing in many different ways, it slowly started to dawn on me that it made sense.

This shit makes sense!
This shit makes sense!

The problem is that because we live our own experiences and our perception is our reality. It is often very hard to see that it might be worth questioning the conclusions we’re drawing. I’ve been racking my brains for an example that isn’t vague, or boring. Of course when you have an interaction with someone and they appear preoccupied we can read that as them being rude, or having something on their mind, or interpret ourselves as boring or not worthy of their attention. But without a specific example, it’s all a bit blah. So I’ll give you mine.

In my early twenties I was almost always in a relationship and I assumed it would never be that difficult to find another. A little further into my twenties, I found myself single and working in the City, and it was suddenly much harder to meet someone. It wasn’t hard to meet people in general but it was sure as shit extremely hard to meet anybody worth spending any time with. That obviously excludes the unbelievable friends I made  there and continue to be close to: they’re gorgeous. The harder I tried the further away what I wanted seemed to be, like trying to catch a fish in your hands. I’d have dates, and second dates, and sometimes more, just to have the person disappear. Any time I got comfortable, that person would ghost on me, so of course I went into every relationship being scared that would happen. “We all have those fears!”, I hear you cry, and of course we do. But until I was in a relationship that felt like a team, where I felt secure, I couldn’t see how utterly terrified I had been in the early stages of the relationship that it would all crumble. It was a pathological fear, a physical feeling that M would leave me. I put it down to the ghosting morons. Now, 798 high-brow podcasts later, I am struck by the truth of the realisation I had a couple of months ago: my fear that the person I love will reject me is as a direct reaction to my fear that love would be withdrawn as a child.

I’m not going to criticise or blame, that’s not the point. I just feel more free and more calm realising that love felt conditional in my childhood and  that it’s had an impact. I also had a lot of unconditional love and continue to have that, and that is nourishing and has made me a lot of who I am. I just also deeply feel that love can be withdrawn.

Look, I don’t think having a critical parent with their own issues qualifies me to write a misery memoir called Why won’t you love me? My point isn’t self-pity, my point is that I have reflected on this one small element of what affects the dynamics of my relationship and it feels very true and runs very deep, and holy shit where does that leave us all? We’re screwed, doomed to repeat patterns that we don’t even recognise! I suppose some people can identify some of the many fibres that form the whole, to a greater or lesser degree. But even just taking a second to think about your opinion or emotion or irritation or resentment, taking a moment to hold it up to the light and to think about the years that went into it, the assumptions and pain, well I think that might be worth it. Holding up Not Going to Prezzo and examining it, maybe I’ll find that it turns to dust. Don’t get me started on Ways I Need To Be Shown I’m Loved. I’m trying, OK?


Category: Life
Loz anger  (1)

It’s hard to admit your flaws… and mine is my temper

It’s hard to admit your flaws. I don’t mean the ones about our weight or being terrible with money, or all the other little things we might jokingly mention but we’re secretly paranoid about. I don’t mean the things that we will readily offer up, I mean the uncomfortable flaws. The ones that really suck. The ones that make us wonder if we could ever make a scary mistake.

Nobody who has ever spent more than about 20 minutes with me could ever doubt that I’m an emotional person. I hide it with work stuff so that’s a possible exception,  but even then that’s only in formal situations. A wise woman once told me that the closer you can be to your true self at work, the happier you’ll be, and the truth of this is demonstrable in my own life so I don’t pretend to be a robot. But I do try and apply logic to my feelings, and when I have a (negative) emotional response to another person I do some work to unpick it and work out why I may have had that response. We all feel things that we shouldn’t act on. My issue is not acting on one particular emotional response, and that’s anger. Not anger at people I love, when I will do the work that I just described and try to work out whether my response is fair and- probably more to the point- appropriate to the situation. My impulse control is tested when the anger is directed at strangers.

This is a really hard thing to describe because I think it makes me sound like a horrible, horrible person. And I am ashamed of my reactions when I feel that sharp flash of anger. It’s genuine shame that I feel. So often, the anger I feel is because a person- quite often on public transport- is not acting with the care, attention, and consideration that I think they should and that I consider myself to be exhibiting. It’s a theme in my emotional life that I can feel that other people aren’t trying as hard as I am, but I realise it’s unreasonable to feel that way with my loved ones because a) don’t ask people to be grateful for things you’ve done that they didn’t ask for; and b) you have no way of knowing how much effort someone is making! They might be making a hundred tiny decisions in your best interest every day and you wouldn’t know.

Me looking cheerful. Which is a lot of the time
Me looking cheerful. Which is a lot of the time

So how does this anger manifest itself? Physically. How awful it is: the shame I feel at typing that sentence. How is it any different an emotional response to somebody who beats their partner when they feel aggrieved? It’s different because the scale is different but I realised recently that it has to stop. I got on a tube, tipsy, and interpreted someone as being in the way as we tried to board the train. And I pushed his backpack. It was a shove, really. And I immediately apologised and he was angry and swearing about me the entire journey and that was my punishment. But it could have been so, so much worse. It could essentially have been picking a fight with a man on the tube. And even more than that, it upset my mother (who I had been trying to protect) and M (who would have felt that he had to protect me) and it’s just not fucking good enough. I have to be better than that. And believe me, this is only the occasion that sticks in my mind as being very recent and pretty grim, there are plenty more.

I’ve known since my first serious relationship that I have a quick temper. That boyfriend brought it up all the time, until I had to accept it was the truth. And I know that it is a small, dirty flare signalling that there’s some anger inside me that hasn’t been taken care of. I know it’s sad inner child stuff but I have the manifestation of that under control a lot of times. It’s these silly infractions that I react like a pressure cooker to; stepping on my foot, hitting me with your bag, walking diagonally across a busy road. These are not things to give a shit about. In the world we live in, they could probably be let go.

So, I have been consciously watching myself. I have been seeing when I react; recognising the signs. And by being conscious of every angry tut, every time I want to kick the foot of the person who’s crushed my toes, I get better at diffusing myself. The regularity of those reactions means I’m already taking the sting out. And by writing it down I am facing up to the work I have to do, and I am putting it out there so I can’t pretend that it’s a one-off, a silly drunk reaction, nothing to worry about.  I’m taking responsibility for my sharp, white anger and I am refusing to be defined by it. I hope.

Category: Life

If you’re applying for a job, please don’t do this…

I am currently recruiting and have so far waded through 179 applications . 179*! And every one is from a real live human being so I take the time to genuinely consider their CV and the cover letter they’ve composed. A big chunk of these applications have one or more major issues: not necessarily a lack of qualification or experience, more that the application itself prompts some cause for concern.

I’ve recruited for entry-level roles and managerial vacancies, and while there are definitely some people who need more of a support network to help them represent themselves properly in a job application situation, people of every level should be avoiding these pitfalls…

1. Maybe don’t use your personal email address

This is a pet hate of mine, so it gets top billing. It’s not enough to mean you automatically won’t get an interview, but it will make me think twice. Please bear in mind when you apply for a job that the recruiting manager has no idea who you are. And that their vacancy will receive many applications, into the hundreds if it’s not a managerial role.

Your email address is one of the first- if not the first- thing that someone will find out about you so try to think about what you’re saying with that email address. Ultimately, any employer wants to know you can act reasonably in a work situation and with a bit of common sense- if you can’t do that with your email address, why should I believe you can do it at work?

If you’re basically or then I don’t judge your personal choices! But your common sense is definitely under scrutiny. And no, I’m barely exaggerating. is an example of one I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a job application from. I don’t even know what it means.

Also, generally avoid the word ‘dolphin’ in your email address. Please.

I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don't need to include it on my CV.
I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

Even email addresses that don’t suggest a full and exciting social life can be problematic; I wouldn’t discount somebody great for this reason, but there’s always that confusion when the address seems to be somebody else’s name… If you’re Bob, why is your email address Pam? Just do yourself a favour and create an email address that is basically the name on your application- it makes everything simpler.

2. Fill in the blanks

I don’t know you, your hopes, your dreams. If all you’ve ever wanted was to move from Galway to London (or vice versa) then good for you! But if your CV states that you currently live in Galway, then it’s probably worth mentioning how and why you’re applying for a job across an actual sea. Even places closer by: if it’s an hour and a half from your city to mine, you clearly aren’t going to be commuting, and interviewing you is going to be a bitch. So state in your cover letter that you’re looking to move, or how you think you could make the role work, because otherwise I will think you’re just not paying attention. I shouldn’t have to work to understand your application.

Similar is true of career breaks and periods out of work: do not just leave gaps. If you were raising a family or had caring responsibilities then just put that in. If you were ill or had trouble finding work, these things are totally understandable but still worth a mention. Again, just try to bear in mind that you’re taking the guesswork out of the situation. The employer doesn’t want to have to try to figure stuff out so KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Which in this case means filling in the gaps.

3. Have an up-to-date CV

Boring? Obvious? Yes! Totally! And yet I see covering letters and personal statements all the freaking time that seem to contradict the CV provided alongside. On the current vacancy we ask whether a particular qualification has been achieved, and the proportion of people who answer yes and then it’s nowhere to be seen on their CV is frankly staggering. Do you not care enough to keep your CV current? Are you fibbing about having passed? Again, I don’t want to be the Miss Marple of Reed, digging to find out the truth. Just tell me what I need to know.

These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don't need to include it on my CV.
These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

And make it suitable for a lay person. If you have an HR professional doing the recruiting- which may well be the case in a larger organisation- then they’re likely to understand what your qualifications mean. Similarly, if you’re applying for a very specialist job in, say, a riding school, then listing all your horse-related achievements makes perfect sense. But if in doubt, just spell out what all these letters and names mean. I’m not going to sit and Google your acronym so just make it easy. On my CV I say that I have the Investment Management Certificate (glamour!), I don’t just put ‘IMC’ and let employers guess at what particular IMC that might be.

Other quick wins to bear in mind:

4. CVs of more than 2 pages won’t get read. Fact.

5. Get a friend to read your CV. If you can’t even capitalise your own address, or spell the name of your last employer correctly, I’m not sure I want to entrust you with my organisation’s financial future. So ask a mate to check it.

6. Don’t be weird. A bit of colour, or an unusual layout (as long as it makes sense) is a nice change for the poor, tired recruiter’s eyes. But don’t go on about unions ruining your year at a French university, or your obsession with the knowledge provided by Dan Brown books. Out of context it’s just  weird.

7. ‘Going to the gym’ and ‘reading’. Everyone puts these as their interests. It’s in no way a deal-breaker but it makes you stick out about as much as calling yourself easy-going in an online dating profile. Oh, do you like staying in and going out with friends too??

Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn't you say so!
Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn’t you say so!

8. Volunteering is great.

9. Try not to apply if you can’t even be bothered to slightly tailor your covering letter. I know it’s tough out there, I really do. But receiving the same covering letter you already had saved on the recruitment website without even changing the job title and company name is so depressing. Ideally you should refer to the detail in the job ad but in an entry-level job, if you really feel you don’t have loads to say, just keep it to the point but personalise it to the vacancy.

10. Don’t Dear Sir me if you’re writing to my email address. In my old job I asked all applicants to email me directly. So howabout ‘Dear Laura’ or ‘Dear Ms Bosslady’ rather than ‘Dear Sir’ if you know. My. Effing. Name.

Bonus tip: Want the job, give me a call. Nothing sticks in the mind of a recruiting manager more than the person who took the time to double-check a detail, or ask an intelligent question. It makes us feel wanted and warm inside! And when it comes down to you and the similarly-qualified person, I potentially already have a bond with you.

I hope these help? It’s genuinely so frustrating to see bright young people who have loads of potential making it opaque. If you don’t do your CV right there’s a bunch of people right behind you who will, and will get interviewed before you. Also, I just had to get this off my chest; I’ve been holding on to that ‘daddysmyangel’ thing for years…




* since starting writing this, it’s jumped to 198. I haven’t read all of the new ones.

Category: Comment, Life

My week this week (if you wanna know) + shopping picks!

  1. My poor little pup has faced a double whammy of being without me (some would say this is a blessing… some would need to shove that somewhere rude) as I return to work and of having a really-and-truly nasty cold. His coughing fits shake his whole little body – imagine an actual puppy in a tumble dryer and you have an inkling. Thursday was truly horrible with me having to come back from work, my husband having an uber crappy day, even without a poorly boy at home, and that general feeling of ‘holy f*ck, we’re screwed’-ness. We tried to restore our spirits with a KFC and the Downton Abbey Christmas album on the stereo which worked a treat until pup had a coughing fit and vomited THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF VOMIT I HAVE EVER SEEN onto his father’s shoulder. Seriously. Sometimes it is not better out than in…….
  2. The aforementioned return to work has meant a reprisal of the dreaded commute. Ahh, the shouldering of others out the way and stomp towards the ticket barrier…. Such halcyon days *sarcasm klaxon*. Anyhoo, the commute demands a suitable soundtrack and for me that has been Andy Burrows’ Company, Florence & the Machine’s Ceremonials, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on shuffle. What I lack in musical kudos I make up for in complete randomness.
  3. On the subject of music, cult mag NME is now being thrown at commuters along with Stylist and the Evening Standard. This is my new favourite though as the Katherine Ryan column is complete and utter class (sorry for the fangirl-ism). The current issue features a review of the year’s music, film and TV and I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel like a terminally uncool person as a result. Who is Grimes? Or Wolf Alice? Or Swim Deep? I have seen none of the ten films featured (not even Jurassic World which has ‘suitable for a sleep deprived parent’ written all over it) and am only just holding onto my credibility by having consumed the epic Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe which features in the mag’s TV chart. With this seemingly comprehensive list of what I’ve missed, I might just have catch up by the time next year’s review is out. Mebbe.
  4. I have been living in a very cheap and somewhat cheerful coatigan this week, courtesy of the sales in Primark. I’m not sure there’s anything more depressing than buying from the SALE in PRIMARK but at £7 for a camel coloured oversized cardy-thingy, I’m not complaining too much. The colour and slouchy fit have meant that I’ve worn this in lieu of a coat this week, which has proved foolish for several reasons: first, it is entirely manmade fibre so way too warm in the mild December mornings, and second, it is, essentially, a big ol’ cardigan so in no way warm enough now that proper December temperatures have descended. I wish I could say I am suffering from fashion but I fear Wintour herself would smite me if I dared align myself with the F word.
  5. Want to do some shopping? Me too! I still have loads of Christmas pressies to buy but who cares? Let’s shop! Top picks for a rather girly state of mind and all under thirty quids:


Uniqlo Disney Project Knit, £14.90 (love the grey and yellow)


They All Hate Us ‘girl gang’ bangle, £15 approx. (plus shipping)


Gola floral high top trainers, £28


 Duwop rose eyes palette, £21ring
Diamonique rose gold sterling silver ring, £24.96

Category: Cute, Life, Style