One-on-One time with kids

This weekend Violette was invited for a sleep over so Coco and I were all alone. We ran some errands, grabbed a cup of tea together, she had a friend over, we talked a bit about school and life, we then did some crafting and went out for some food. Nothing extraordinary… but at some point in the middle of this, she turned to me and said: “You know mommy, it is quite nice to be just the two of us”, and she was absolutely right. Though I obviously love her little sister, it is really nice to spend one and one time with my big girl and I really don’t do it often enough.

The thing is, Coco and Violette get on very well and the three of us have a really good rhythm going on, so I have suddenly realised I have the tendency to regard them as a unit. Doh! (as Bart Simpson would say)! So this is my new resolution: trying to sometimes take a day with each kid individually. It a good resolution and hopefully I can stick to it! I am actually curious, do you manage to spend one-on-one time with each of your children?

- Emilie

PS The photo above of Coco and me was taken by Esther when we visited her in the Auvergne last summer. Happy Times!

The onesie trick

It was only when I had my third baby (Ava) and was struggling with one of those typical nappy explosions, that someone shared with me a little secret. Something so simple, I couldn’t believe I’d never been told this before or that I never thought of this myself.


As all new mothers of all new babies know: nappies don’t always do the job properly. I will spare you the details, but baby poo can seriously end up in their necks at times. (In our case this happens multiple times a day.) Which makes nappy changing a messy affair!
So here’s the trick: onesies can also be pulled down, over the shoulders. Instead of taking them off over the head, you can take them off over the bum. Which makes a huge, huge difference! I can’t believe I didn’t know about this trick for my first two children. Did you?

xxx Esther

PS Casper is demonstrating the trick with a super cool onesie from Hello Apparel!


Real Love

There are a thousand great things about being a mom, but one of the best things can be the total undulated love you get from small children. I have heard the rumours it changes for a couple of years when they get older but I am still privy to my kids thinking I rock. Now, I do also get my fair share of insults: “You are not nice” is often said straight to my face or, when they really mean it: “You really, really are not very nice”.

But there are moments I am put on a pedestal and it makes me very happy and warm inside, all at the same time… I recently tried to do some trapezing and even an elephant would have looked more elegant than me. I was afraid of the height, I had no upper-body muscle, I could not summersault down – it was a catastrophe. And yet a while later when we went to see a trapeze performance with artists literally flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Violette turned around to me and said in awe: ” Look mommy, just like you!!!”.
Now that is real love, a bit delusional, but real love none the less. Do you ever get showered with love just because you are someone’s mom?

- Emilie

P.S The above photo was taken by the super talented Sarah Gardan this summer in the place des Vosges!

Stick significance


Right next to our front door there’s an ever present collection of sticks. Our 5-year-old son Pim is like a dog, seriously! Every time we go to the park, he will find a stick and insists on taking it home. Some of them are too big for him to carry alone, so he has to convince his big sister to help him.
Because I don’t allow them in our house, the sticks are displayed right next to the front door — which is the closest the sticks will get to his bed, because he would take them up there if he could, I am sure about it. My husband once threw away all the sticks, which was a mistake — Pim was inconsolable and I admit that even I was upset. Those sticks seriously meant so much to him!

Emilie sent me the link to this interesting article in the Guardian last week. Hannah Evans is a mother of three boys and her article did shed some light on my little boy and his stick obsession. I quote:

‘And thus, sticks. For I have learned that boys like, nay love, sticks. But a stick to a boy is far, far more than an inanimate object. A stick is a toy, a weapon, a friend and a foe. A stick is adventure, possibilities, destruction and danger. A stick is, in the right time and place – or even better, in the wrong – everything.’

And:

‘”Stick significance” is part and parcel of being a boy. And so, “Will you put that bloomin’ stick down … it’s only a bit of wood!” is a bit like telling me that my coffee would taste just as good out of any old mug.’

And so they stay, the sticks, next to our front door. And the collection grows. Do you have a son (or daughter) who collects sticks too?

xxx Esther

Welcome sweet Francesca!

Right around the time Elizabeth started contributing to Babyccino, she became pregnant with baby number two. She and I quickly discovered that we were both pregnant and due on the same day! It was so fun for me to share a due date with someone, and to bond over similar pregnancy milestones together (morning sickness, 12-week scans, breech babies, etc.). I’ve never actually met Elizabeth, but it turns out we share so much in common, the pregnancy being a big one.

Elizabeth welcomed her beautiful baby girl, Francesca, on October 30th, one week early. I loved reading about Francesca’s birth on Elizabeth’s blog (her breech baby never did turn around and she ended up having a beautiful, peaceful c-section birth) and I can’t get enough of all the photos of that sweet baby on her Instagram feed. What a beautiful family she has, what an inspiring mother is, and what a thoughtful friend she has become.  I hope to someday meet Elizabeth and to introduce our babies to each other!

Congratulations Elizabeth, and welcome little Francesca!

xx Courtney

ABC Guide to Parenting in Paris


Europe is a strange little place. All the countries are so close and small and yet they are so different in so many ways. The language, the houses, the systems and food; everything changes once you drive over a (nowadays) almost invisible border.

I spoke fluent French when I first moved to Paris, but even with that advantage, I was lost trying to figure out the different health system, school system, tax system, bank and so on. This is were I came across Message, an organisation run by Anglo mothers and parents in Paris. Every couple of years they bring out a book called the ABC of Parenting in Paris with all the information about parenting in Paris. It is an invaluable source of knowledge if you are new to France and trying to navigate the system. If you are thinking of moving the Paris, also check out the Message website, it is a great way of gathering information and getting to know other English-speaking families in Paris.

- Emilie

P.S. I am also a bit biased towards this particular edition of the ABC of Parenting in Paris, as a photo of little Vivi, taken by the talented Sarah Gardan, was chosen for the front cover.

Siblings


After having me, my mother had a series of ectopic pregnancies, which sadly made her unable to have more children. So I grew up as an only child (although according to my dad, I counted for ten). I’ve often been asked if I ever missed having siblings. Truth is, that as an only child, you simply don’t know any different. I had a very happy childhood, without ever realising I was missing out on being part of a big family. I was always welcome to bring friends over to our house, and had loads of cousins to play with and share vacations with. I have fond memories of the many craft projects I did with my mum, and my dad often took me to work with him (he was a country vet).

I always wanted to be a mum, and I always thought I would have at least three children. And now I have four! It’s wonderful to see the interaction between those four. There is already so much love and support between them… Sara and Pim are so fond of their little siblings — and vice versa. Even though I know that only children enjoy equally happy childhoods as children from bigger families (and score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement!), I must say I love seeing what it is like to have siblings.

Of course, having (more) children isn’t always an option. We have plenty of friends with no children, or ‘only’ one child because of their age, infertility problems, divorce, etc. Or simple because they want to, of course!
There are cons and pros for smaller or bigger families. Are you from a bigger family, or from a small one? And how many children do you have, if you have any at all?

xxx Esther

PS All photos are by Sue Cowell. Find more of her photos here and here.

Us — by Sue Cowell

On the brink of giving birth we asked our super talented photographer friend Sue Cowell to shoot some photos of pregnant me with my family. It is, after all, my last pregnancy! I really like the outcome of the shoot — I love how natural Sue’s style is, the moments she captures are just full of character, and nothing is too ‘over-posed’ or ‘perfect’.

Here are some of the photos of the shoot — such a wonderful documentary to have for all of us! (I also asked Sue to come after the birth and shoot some images of the new baby and us — so more photos to come soon!)

Check out Sue’s website here, and her blog too with even more beautiful photo. Sue lives in Amsterdam but is British and travels around a lot, so don’t shy away of contacting her if you would like her to capture the essence of your family too!

I love how Sue came in the morning and stayed while the kids got dressed, capturing daily moments like Ava waking up with her dummy and ‘bearbear’, the kids getting dressed in their bedroom, Sara putting on her tights on her bed, me in the kitchen preparing sandwiches for a picnic…

(more…)

Teacher gift: personalised tote bags

My husband was class rep of Quin’s class last year, and when it came time to decide on the end-of-term teacher gifts he wanted to make the teachers something special they would treasure (and also hopefully use!). He decided to make them a personalised tote bag with all the kids’ self portraits and names on it.  He asked all the kids to draw a picture of themselves and write their names above. He then used photoshop to get all the drawings together, and sent the pdf file over to the printing company. The most difficult part was finding a company with good, sturdy cotton bags, but after lots of research he ended up finding them at The Clever Baggers and they are really great quality.

Aren’t the bags so cute? We gave them to the teachers and they loved them. We then ordered more for all the parents because we liked them so much, and I’ve been toting ours around every day lately and receiving lots of cute comments.

x Courtney

Choosing baby names

I am having the most difficult time choosing a name for our baby! I think it is especially difficult when you don’t know your baby’s gender… maybe because you can’t really visualise your baby, or maybe it’s just because you don’t know what your baby is, so you don’t become too attached to either the girl’s name or the boy’s name. The minute I think of a girl’s name I like, there is something in the back of my head that says ‘but it might not be a girl, so why don’t you focus on a boy’s name…’. And then I’m back to the starting point again. Ugh!

It’s also tricky when you already have children. You have to make sure the new name goes with the other names, that it flows when you say all the names together, and that it isn’t completely in a league of its own (not easy when you already have three kids and you’ve already used up your favourites).

I did pick up a copy of Baby Names Now after reading the review on A Cup of Jo a few weeks ago, and I do find it to be quite helpful. I like how frank the authors are about the names, reminding you of the possible bad nicknames or suggesting good alternatives to the more common names. Hopefully it will inspire the perfect name! I’m waiting for it.

xx Courtney

p.s. If you have name suggestions, please share!
p.p.s. Maybe we should create a book with all the baby names we all liked but didn’t end up using! I have so many great ones from previous pregnancies and a whole long list of names for this baby that we won’t end up using. It would be fun to hear everyone else’s un-used baby names! There must be so many good ones. xx

The pregnancy ‘club’

Being in the final stages of pregnancy, walking around with a nice plump bump, I’m reminded of that wonderful, sweet secret of pregnancy: there is some sort of unspoken yet certainly acknowledged ‘club’ that pregnant women belong to. Other pregnant women will always acknowledge you, even if it’s just in their eyes, and you feel this comfort in knowing that someone else understands what you’re going through. It’s a special bond you can have with a complete stranger, someone you have never even seen before…and there’s something so wonderfully supportive about it.

What I also love is that everyone, strangers even!, become so much more friendly. There seems to be different rules of engagement whenever pregnant women are involved. You suddenly become so much more approachable. People will smile and ask you how much longer you have to go. Are you having a boy or a girl? How are you feeling? etc. It’s so nice! I really wish it were always like this.

And, as I remember from previous babies, the funny thing about it is that… boom! the minute your baby is born, you are no longer a part of this ‘club’. Pregnant women will no longer send you that little knowing, comforting look, and you suddenly feel like you’ve lost a whole support system, just because you no longer have a baby bump. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? I remember very specifically after my first pregnancy, trying to give a pregnant mom ‘the look’ and she just looked up and looked down, and there was nothing in her eyes that showed we shared anything in common. Isn’t that so interesting? I quickly learned that if I wanted any sort of supportive ‘I know what you’re going through’ looks, I should specifically look for other new mothers.

Please share your experiences. Do you know what I’m talking about, or have I just imagined it all? I would love to hear.

xx Courtney

Mom…. you are embarrassing me!!!!


A few weeks ago, Esther and I and our oldest girls were in the South of France visiting a local market. At one of the market stands, some great, cheesy Euro 80’s pop music was blaring out of a little stereo. Of course, we launched straight into some rather impressive dance moves (if I may say so myself). The interesting thing was the children’s reaction: Violette, who is 4, joined us with great enthusiasm.  Meanwhile Sara and Coco, 7 and 6, started cringing with embarrassment. And just like that, without realising it, Esther and I have moved into a new dimension of motherhood: we are now potentially embarrassing mothers. Up to now we could do no wrong; now we have become a occupational hazards.

I still remember this feeling of embarrassment vividly. I was embarrassed by my father’s favourite overcoat, by my mother’s French accent, and by numerous other ridiculous things. I also remember my parents noticing that I was embarrassed and being amused by this, which, at the time, I found very, very unfair. I never took into account that this would come full circle and I would become the object of embarrassment myself. And once the ball has started rolling, there is no turning back; it is now a slippery slope all the way toward the teenage years.

The hilarious thing is that I am reacting just as my parents did, as it is quite amusing seeing Coco cringe at my actions. It is certainly not going to stop me from playing air guitar in public whenever the opportunity arrises!

- Emilie

P.S. The photo above is of Coco doing some method acting of looking embarrassed for a very staged photo, in case you were wondering…

To cut or not to cut

I have a dilemma.  My daughter has the most beautiful long, red, wavy hair.  It really is stunning (of course she gets it from me!! haha), and she is complimented on it regularly.  The problem is she wants to cut it all off!  As a child my mum never let me have long hair.  My older sister was allowed to but as my sister told me recently my mum never let me have long hair because she didn’t want the hassle of having to brush two heads of long hair before school in the morning.  I vowed that if I ever had a daughter I would let her grow her hair as long as she wanted.  It seems you always want what you don’t have and my daughter wants short hair.  Do I let her cut it all off?  She is 5 1/2.  Of course I can see the benefits of her having short hair especially with summer around the corner and going to the beach regularly and it would save me 15 minutes in the morning brushing and plaiting it. The other problem is if she cuts it all off my son will want to cut all his off too and I don’t think I will be able to cope!! :o )

Obviously this is a very minor life dilemma, but what do I do?

Stephxo

The city vs. the farm

Every summer we leave London the day school gets out and head to the US to spend time with family. Our long summer stints in the US are what make living so far away from our family that tiny bit more bearable. Plus, my little ‘city mice’ get a chance to experience life on the farm and a glimpse of my own childhood.

I have always felt that this gives my kids the best of both worlds: city life for the majority of the year and country life every summer. But this year, for some reason, I’m starting to question the ‘city’ part. I wonder whether life on a farm might not be the happier one (it certainly feels easier!). Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones… but there is a large part of me that feels like a slower-paced, more ’simple’ life might be nice for a change.

I know it’s summertime, and things are always happier when the sun is shining (and school is a distant memory!), but I do find my kids to be more relaxed, to be more adventurous and imaginative, to play together for really long stretches without a single moan or groan, and to have grown up so much in the past few weeks. The independence they have here on the farm, the freedom to make their own decisions and decide their own activities, the wide open spaces waiting to be discovered… these are all things I just can’t give them in London. No matter where we go in London or how far we venture off the beaten path, my kids are always under my constant supervision, there are always boundaries to how far they can run, how far they can throw their frisbee, ride their bike, etc. The difference between my 7-year-old in London and my 7-year-old on the farm is like night and day. The freedom he has to make his own decisions (within limit, of course), and the pride he has after making the right ones… has boosted his confidence and created a happier, calmer boy. This boy is in his element when he is outside. He is a born frog catcher, dirt digger, worm finder, fish catcher, animal loving, imaginative little boy… and his siblings are no different.

Of course on the flip side, there are so many things we would miss about London if we left: the interesting people and perspectives, the diversity and different cultures, the museums, galleries, exhibits, the food!, the parks, the constant interaction with strangers, the travel around Europe, the 2-hour train ride to Paris, the inspiration around every corner, the access to everything, the friends we’ve made, the life we’ve created, etc. etc. etc.

I know it is something so many parents consider and debate, and I know our little ”let’s move to the country and grow our own vegetables” discussions are not unique… so I would love to hear your thoughts. Where do you live? And what do you love about it? Have you found a life that mixes it both? (This would be the most ideal, wouldn’t it?!) Do you perhaps live on a farm, but very near to a city with access to city life and all its greatness? Please do share!

x Courtney

p.s. I read this article in the NYTimes the other day and found it very interesting — about how children thrive best in an ‘environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering‘. I suppose, no matter where you live, these are important parenting tips to keep in mind.

Vacation at home

This summer many of us might have to stay at home. When I read in a magazine about this new word “staycation” I thought it was a good idea. In that magazine says that if  it happens and you have to stay home, it doesn’t have to be something bad — we can even turn it into something good, and really enjoy it. Today, some simple but nice ideas!

1. The most important thing is to have holiday spirit. That will make you have the perfect holiday. Put the world on hold: turn off your phone, do an “out of the office” message on your email, skip the news for a week. Even if you have access to it, why not stay away during the vacation.

2. Go on a picnic. Prepare a beautiful basket, with good food, and make a party outdoors in the wood or the beach. That would make it so special.

Via

3. Be a local tourist in your own town. Sometimes we do not take notice of the beauty of our towns just because we live there. Approach your city like a tourist and do all those things tourists do while in town. It is almost certain that you’ll learn and see amazing things.

4. Learn something new. With the long days and the holidays you can find some time to do something you couldn’t do during the winter. I want to learn to knit this summer!.

Via

5. Look for shows and concerts that are happening in your town. Those you don’t usually go because they are late and you work the next day!.

Nico in a concert in La Laboral (Spain) last year

6. Treat yourself with some extra spending. Order food from your favorite restaurant and invite your friends to a lovely dinner in your house! And let yourself do extra expenses like go to the cinema, enjoy cafes, and terraces… without feeling guilty.

7. Get your house cleaned for you and forget about daily tasks. Not having to make the beds, do laundry or dust will just make a big difference!.

8. Take a camping trip in your own backyard or your livingroom. Kids will feel as if they were in the other part of the world.

Via

9. Enjoy mornings in your own house. Most of the year we rush, sometimes even in the weekends. Spend some time at your house with no hurry, play your favourite music, plan the day, have long and relaxed breakfast…

10. And if life gives you lemons… make lemonade!. With tons of sugar, please!

Via

I wish you all enjoy your holidays, wether at home or not!

- Maria

Potty training, some tips

If you ask me, potty training is one of the most frustrating parts of raising children. Every time, I promise myself to keep my spirits up, but every single time, by the third day, my patience is at a minimum and I seriously want to put the nappy back on and forget about the whole thing completely. But miraculously, sticking to it seems to be the trick. After the third and fourth day things improve, and after the first week things really get a whole lot better. Generally, after 2 weeks, the child is potty trained, which means almost all of the wees and poos go in the potty, exception taken for the occasional accident of course. I just went through potty training with Ava, and I thought I would give you my tips and tricks now that I’m fresh off the battle field.

  • I’ve been told that around the time of the 2nd birthday, it’s generally a perfect time to start potty training. The child is open to learning new things, and doesn’t ‘think’ about the whole thing too much yet. I believe that the danger of waiting too long is that the whole thing gets much more difficult and frustrating. So we’ve always started potty training fairly early, I would say between 2 and 2½ depending on the child.
  • We went cold turkey. On the day we decided to start potty training, we took off the nappy in the morning and didn’t put it back on until the child went down for his/her nap. (We keep the nappy on for naps in the beginning — when we notice the nappy to be consistently dry when the child wakes up we start leaving it off in bed as well). No pull up nappies, no training intervals without nappies — we really believe this too be confusing for the child. We take the nappy off, and don’t ever put it back on (except for in the bed) — even though I’ve been tempted!
  • I think Friday or Saturday is a good day to start potty training, as you will be able to do it together over the weekend. We definitely didn’t plan anything on this first weekend!
  • We made sure to have a few potties around the house (you will need one close to the child at all times in the beginning, so it’s handy to have one in different parts of the house). I discovered this portable potty to be super practical for on the go — we always take it with us when we’re out and about. It comes with plastic liners that you can tie and trash.
  • I find it essential to have plenty of little underwear ready (at least 10 pairs) and plenty of easy pull up (jogging) pants (or pyjama pants).
  • We kept two buckets ready, one with washing liquid to soak dirty underwear and clothes, one with soap and wipes to clean the floor.
  • We made a reward sheet and bought stickers to reward the child for using the potty.
  • Before we started potty training, we got our child used to the potty for a few weeks. We kept it in the bathroom and let the child sit on it before his/her bath. We discussed the potty as a cool and positive thing, read books about potty training. And we spoke about ‘big boy/girl underwear’ as a very cool thing too. (more…)

Lowering your expectations


Let me describe a scenario to you and see if it sounds vaguely familiar:

You wake up and have to get your kids ready for school – you roughly have an hour to do this. During this time one kid is probably going to hit the other kid. The clothes that were carefully chosen and laid out the night before, are just wrong and proclaimed ugly. The cereal is the wrong cereal and the milk is the wrong milk and anyway, the milk should have have been poured first and then the cereal not the other way round and, to top it all off, it is the wrong amount of milk. You ask your kids to put on their coats and shoes as you are running late now because of the whole milk/cereal/clothes saga and when you try and meet them in the hallway ready to rush out of the door, they are nowhere to be seen. One is standing by the window munching on her hair and the other one has decided to check if her new stickers actually do stick on walls. By this time you have lost your cool several times and someone is shouting (very likely you). This pretty much sums up a lot of my mornings — not very relaxing as you might have guessed. I have tried to devise various strategies and coping mechanisms, but the fact of the matter is, mornings in my house can be painful.

A few weekends ago, Courtney, her husband and I were talking about how important it is to stay calm and not let our children rattle us. Courtney’s husband made a great observation: We just need to lower our expectations… If we wake up in the morning and start our day knowing that everyone is going to be moody and disobedient, then every morning that goes well actually is a bonus… and every morning that doesn’t should not affect us too badly, as it is what we were expecting anyway.

I love this philosophy and have been trying to apply it in the heat of the morning. I have not always been successful in the application, but it does often work!

- Emilie

P.S. The photo above is of Violette giving her big sister hell one morning. I obviously had no expectations whatsoever that morning, as I was staying very calm taking photos.

Finding out the sex of your baby (or not)


I have an old photo of my dad, using a pinard horn to listen to my heartbeat on my mother’s very pregnant belly, the morning of the day I was born, 38 years ago. There was no ultrasound and no fancy doppler technique. There was no way they could have seen their baby before it was born, there was no way of finding out if I had all of my 10 toes and fingers, if I was a boy or a girl. What a different feeling it must have been — the excitement, the insecurity…

I’ve personally always found out the sex of my babies, taking full advantage of modern technology. I really like to know what we’re having, I love that moment of finding out, the slight confusion immediately after (a boy?! a girl?! really?!) and then, the excitement, the anticipation. Talking about the future with my husband, imagining what our family will look like. Thinking about names for that little baby, searching through the baby clothes, decorating the baby’s room… For me, finding out the sex of the baby makes me feel connected to my baby, makes me look forward to meeting that little girl or boy.

But — I can also fully understand that it must be SO wonderful to give birth, and meet your little baby for the first time, and only then find out if it is a boy or a girl! That moment must be priceless, and so, so special and emotional.

What did (or would) you do? Did you find out the sex of your baby before giving birth, or did you wait? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions!

xxx Esther

PS Photo of me, three days old, with my mum and dad.

PPS I’m having another…. (more…)

Family reading

A while ago I did this post for my blog and it was a great success, that’s why I would love to share it here.

The advice comes from Lara, the owner of the Bosque de la Maga Colibri bookstore in Gijon, Asturias. She is very sweet and knows a lot about these things:  ”One of the most pleasurable experiences that will remain more intensibly in the memory of the whole family is shared reading. From the moment of birth the time spent each day to share words, stories and images  is a haven of warmth and unbeatable communication.” She says to:

1. Pick a good book.

2. Sit close. Contact and affection are for life and help to build self-esteem and optimism.

3. Sign out of everything, get off line, don’t think about the boss or the laundry accumulating in the basket.

4. And above all, enjoy, without obligation, just as a gift!

I have really loved these tips. At first glance they appear simple but they are not. They are ideal to remember every night when we are about to read the book to our children. Personally I try to remember number 3 and make that time  unique and banish from the mind the things that remain to be done.

Enjoy your reading!!

- Maria

The single mother’s survival guide


My daughters’ father and I separated a few years ago and, while it was not what I had planned in life, it is a thing that happens to many couples and families. After a bit of an adjustment period, with some rather rough patches, I have actually learned a ton of new life skills and have possibly become a stronger person because of it. I thought it might be interesting to share a few things I have learned along the way: things that have made my life as a single parent a lot easier and actually quite enjoyable!

BE ORGANIZED: I think it was Courtney’s husband who once told me that the reason he was so organized was because he was actually quite a lazy person (Apologies Michael, if I am quoting the wrong person). A truer word has never been spoken: a bit of organization makes life a LOT easier. Now people knowing me will laugh at this point, as I am one of the least organized people on the planet. But everything is relative and even at my very low level, being organized has made life a lot less stressful. Small things like setting the breakfast table in the evenings, getting clothes for the whole family ready at night, having a shower at night and not in the morning, ordering food online and pre-cooking dinner for the following days is important to a single-parent household. We can’t just pop out quickly to the shops if something is missing nor do we have the spare time to choose an outfit for work when we are trying to dress and feed two children in the morning. At one point I started putting my girls to bed in a a pair of leggings and a t-shirt so that in the morning I just had to slip a dress on top of them and they would be ready — basically I try to come up with things that will just make life run a little bit more smoothly with a bit of forward planning.

LOWER STANDARDS: I think it’s quite normal for single parents to try to do way too many things to compensate for the lack of a traditional family set-up, as we (or I) constantly feel guilty. But it’s not worth it. I have tried to decide on what is important to me and what isn’t. Turns out that a lot of things are not that important. My kids have turned up at birthday parties with the present wrapped up in magazine pages because I had run out of wrapping paper — nobody cared. We have had pasta with olive oil for dinner, because I didn’t have the time to buy food… and the kids survived. Sometimes their clothes are not ironed and perfectly co-ordinated or their hair is not properly brushed. Sometimes guests have turned up and the beds have not been made yet or the dishes washed and stashed away. I have officially decided that this is totally ok!

GIVE YOURSELF A TIME OUT: This point is essential and yet the one most of us totally fail at. Because most single parents work full time and deal with kids and everything else, we have relatively little time for ourselves. It is very important to somehow find the time even if it seems impossible. The problem is that if we don’t find some space to do something for ourselves we burn out, which is no good for anyone. I have tried many things: yoga, tennis, weekend away, massages and going out. I have not been able to keep one thing up consistently, but I have found that even just trying out new things and planning adventures has kept me a little bit more sane. The one thing that is easy to do is to simply walk for a good 20 mins with some good music on. Even if I am just walking along the metro line to work, it does clear my head!

Anyway, these are just little things that work for me. If you have other tips for what works for you, please share!

- Emilie

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