An Ode to Men (or more specifically…Dads)

 

I have been writing so much recently about my journey as a Mother, and reading so much about other Mums and their incredible stories too. But it struck me today that not a great deal is often written about the men folk in these circles, and their journeys as Dads. I am a member of a fair few mummy/parenting groups online, and I get to see the bad press that men get a lot of the time. Not all negative of course, but a fair amount is. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not doubting for one minute that these women aren’t exaggerating the rubbishness of these men. There are definitely some right rotters out there (as there are women I should add). And my goodness, some of the stories I’ve heard! I’m also not doubting that men SHOULD step up when they have a family. They absolutely should. Parents both have a responsibility to their family. We aren’t “extra lucky” because Dads parent as much as the Mums. It’s just my concern their struggles aren’t often recognised or spoken about as much as us Mums are allowed to. And when I think about it, I realise how lucky I am to have such wonderful men in my life, and it seems a shame that they are hardly spoken about in this whole parenting journey malarkey (or maybe they are and I need to open my networks more). So as a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, I want to say thank you to the men (and also Dads) in my life.

Firstly; My Dad. My lovely, stable, steady, reliable, loyal, ever-present Dad. He turned 70 just the over day. He has been with my Mum for over 40 years. Just for that alone I am grateful. In this day and age, that kind of stability is quite rare. My Mum tells me he was always the patient one when my brother and I were young. He would be the one to pace up and down the landing jiggling us at night. He was the one that I’d make stay in the sea with me in Cornwall when I was little until he turned blue with cold. He was the one that read to me night after night in all his brilliant and funny voices. He always helps me out when I’m in trouble. It’s only now we realise how much our parents must have gone through bringing us up, now we are parents ourselves. All those worries and bills to pay. I was never really aware of those worries growing up. I’m gratetul.

I married into this stability lark, because my father-in-law has been married to my mother-in-law for over 50 years too. Amazing! They have been through a lot. My husband had a hole in his heart when he was younger and went through many procedures and major surgery. That kind of diagnosis 30 odd years ago had much worse implications back then. I can’t imagine how they got through all that stress. But they did, and they did it together. My father-in-law, like my own Dad, was also a pretty modern man as a Dad by all accounts. Or maybe lots of Dads were and it wasn’t spoken about then for fear of it not being ‘manly’ enough? Society leads us to believe gender roles were very polarised back then, anyway. But my father-in-law is a great cook and I’ve always seen him chipping in with housework. He tells me stories of how he’d be up most nights with the children and would sometimes commute straight to London to go to work after an “all nighter” (something my husband knows ALL about! And not just the party kind, sadly!). His reasoning was that my Mother-in-law had the kids all day, so it was his turn at night – amazing or what?!

My big brother is another pretty awesome guy, and brilliant Dad too. He’s built up his business from scratch and him and my sister in law have produced 2 of the most beautiful kids I know. All this after going through a pretty terrifying experience of testicular cancer, which now, thank goodness, is over.

Great Dads come in many forms. I’ve been reading some amazing stories recently about Dads that have come into kid’s lives later on. Dads that may not be biological fathers, but still fathers in every sense. Amazing men that love those kids so fiercely and protectively it makes my heart sing.

Some may not even label themselves as Dads at all. I have a friend that happens to be a refugee from Afghanistan. He travelled to the UK with his young brother, who was just 7 when they arrived. He has cared for him, loved him, protected him from danger and simply been there for him through so much. To me he will say he is his brother. I know that he has also taken on the role of his father, his mother, his friend and his confidant. The respect I have for that man is endless.

My best friend’s Dad is another hero of mine. He lost his wife and mother to their kids when my best friend and her sister were both very young. It’s only now, having had 2 children myself, that I realise how hard that must have been. Not only emotionally but practically and logistically too. But do you know what, he did it. And he did a damn good job. Those girls are the kindest, most lovely pair I know. You don’t get that good without awesome parenting!

And finally, I could not write this article without mentioning my husband. It would be easy for me to gush for England here, so I’ll try and rein it in a bit. All I can say is that I’m not sure what I’d have done without him. We will have been together 10 years this year. The last 4 have been very eventful, what with marriage, 2 pregnancies, the birth of 2 daughters, relocation, postnatal depression and the launch of a business (amongst other things). During my postnatal depression I was a bit of a mess (to say the least). He not only had 2 girls under 2 to cope with, but he also had a wife that was falling apart at the seams, a full time job, and to top it off he was only getting about 2 hours broken sleep a night. But he took it in his stride. I’ll never know how. All I know is that I am incredibly thankful to be married to the best husband and most brilliant and loving Dad there is.

So for every one of these amazing men, I know there are hundreds more out there just like them. They’re out there right now doing their thing, loving their family, working through their own issues and being brilliant. And to all the men I mention above and those in the world like them, I would like to say a massive thank you. You are blooming brilliant.

Sally Bunkham is founder of mumsback.com, providers of delicious hamper gifts for new mums. Take advantage of our 20% launch offer here

We are also running a competition to win a hamper throughout May (last day to enter is 24th May) Entries are free. All you have to do is answer the (pretty damn easy) question.

 

Top 3 Gifts for New Mums – The Cream of the Crop

Here at mumsback.com, we are totally, unashamedly and completely all about new mum gifts. When I started the company I didn’t think there were enough gift offerings available aimed solely at a new mother, and I did a lot of research to back this theory up. I was right, the market certainly isn’t saturated. However, what is available right now is pretty darn cool. I’ve put together my top 3 gifts for a new mum, each focussed on the different stages of that early journey into parenthood. Check them out!

Early pregnancy – dontbuyherflowers.com

Those first early weeks are so exhausting and pretty stressful. Many report it being the period where they feel the worst. Yet it’s the time when many opt not to let the cat out of the bag to their wider friends & family, making their situation hard to explain. What us ladies really need during this time is some good old-fashioned TLC. In fact, this gift works brilliantly for anyone going through a bit of a rough time, whether it be through pregnancy, perhaps trying to conceive, or any another stressful factor that life has chucked at them.

The Care Package at £27.50, plus £3.98 (min) delivery in the UK. In the beautifully presented box you get

 

  • Luxury Caramel & Cranberry Flapjack
  • Green Tea with Mint and Everyday Brew Tea
  • Triple Choc Brownie Truffles
  • Large Printed Scarf
  • Glossy magazine (choose from either Red, Glamour or Good Housekeeping)
  • There is also the option to add extras, such as Cook vouchers, for an additional charge.

I’ve purchased this gift 3 times recently for different friends, and they’ve all absolutely loved them. It delivers just the right mix of yummy treats for the tummy, scarf for warmth and comfort, and a bit of reading for relaxation – the perfect mixture to give the soul a boost!

Dontbuyherflowers.com was started by mum of two Steph Douglas back in 2014. Steph recognised the gap in the market for treats for mum, and has now also branched out into beautiful hampers for all sorts of occasions and situations, like “The Recovery Package” and “The Man package”.

 Mid to Late Pregnancy – applesandpips.co.uk

Now is the time when mum is starting to think a lot about the new arrival. It’s also likely she’ll be feeling the strain of the pregnancy as the baby gets bigger. At this point in the journey, a gift that combines the focus on both the mum and the baby is perfect. The ideal gift that delivers is a Mum-to-be Gift Hamper from the fabulous Apples & Pips (£55, includes delivery in the UK)

 

Included in this brilliant package are these thoughtfully handpicked items

  • A soothing lavender body heat wrap
  • Bamboo Washable Breast Pads
  • This Mama Does parenting milestone cards
  • ‘Follow your dreams, they know the way’ lined notebook
  • A handmade vegan soy wax lavender candle
  • A beautiful Boo Chew teething necklace
  • Cool It Mama body spritz
  • A sample of our best selling Kokoso organic coconut oil
  • 4 heart shaped milk chocolates
  • A £10 voucher to spend at Apples & Pips

Apples and Pips was started by mum of two Hannah Clarke. All products have been lovingly selected by Hannah and are of a fabulous quality. This particular combination is perfect for that mum to be. Apples and Pips also have a whole range of hampers and products available for parent, baby and toddler. They include teething jewellery, clothing, wraps, affirmation cards, journals and cosmetics, among many more! Check them out at applesandpips.co.uk. 10% of all Apples and Pips’ profits go to MAMA Academy, to support their fabulous work into the prevention of stillborn birth of babies.

 

After the birth – mumsback.com

Hurrah, the baby is here! Mum is now likely to be feeling rather tired and emotional following a beautiful, but crazy journey of pregnancy and childbirth. In my opinion, what she needs now is a treat just for her. Now the baby is born, she can enjoy a little more freedom to once again enjoy those treats she was abstaining from during pregnancy. The mumsback.com launch hamper (usually £55 including free delivery anywhere in the UK) provides just the right level of treat for a new mum to enjoy.

 

It’s usual for mum to get lots of gifts focussed on the baby, which is lovely, but a Mum's Back hamper really is a nod of appreciation just to mum and acknowledges the hard work involved in growing a little human being! It includes

  • A delicious half bottle of Rioja red wine
  • A creamy block of Vintage Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese
  • Cottage Delight Duck and Armagnac Paté
  • Cottage Delight Oval Albert biscuits
  • Deerview Fig Chutney
  • A handwritten gift card (optional)

I knew how much I missed the things I wasn’t allowed when pregnant, and felt there was a real gap in the market for a hamper like this, hence the formation of mumsback.com. £1 from every hamper sold goes to PANDAS Foundation to support their amazing work helping families experiencing perinatal mental health issues. I myself suffered postnatal depression following the birth of my second daughter, and now I’m through that tough time I felt it was really important to help support others going through something similar. We still have our launch offer running, so you can grab a hamper at 20% off (£44) including delivery anywhere in the UK. We can deliver immediately or you can pre-order now for delivery later (once the baby is born!). If you would like to let the recipient know you've thought of them, we can send a postcard letting them know the hamper will be on its way once the childbirth bit is done.

Launch Hamper

10 Annoying Phrases That Drive New Mums Nuts!

I do not want to be unkind to the folk that utter these phrases, because I’m sure that 99% of the time, their heart is completely in the right place. However, as a weary, fragile, exhausted, burnt out mum, there are phrases we hear, sometimes on a daily basis, that just wind us up something chronic. Let me begin….

  1. ENJOY EVERY MOMENT! Really? You expect me to enjoy every moment? If it’s all the same to you there are some moments I would like to bury in a very very deep hole never to see the light of day again. For example that moment when my toddler was screaming with hand foot and mouth disease in one room, while the newborn was screaming for milk in another, and I had no idea who to go to first. Or the moment when I’d been woken up for the 8th time in a row in the space of 3 hours, and my eyeballs were so dry and sore from exhaustion I thought they would actually fall out. There are moments I will definitely enjoy, sure! But every damn moment? I think not. On your bike.
  2. ONE DAY YOU’LL MISS ALL OF THIS. Yeah, please see above. Maybe some of it. But definitely not all of it.
  3. AHH IS HE/SHE GOOD? Is my 4 week old baby good? Erm, I’m not quite sure how to answer that. I mean, as far as I’m aware they haven’t shoplifted yet and I certainly haven’t had to send them to their room without any pudding. I think what they’re perhaps asking is am I blessed with an easy and sleepy baby? And the answer is NO I’m bloody not.
  4. YOU MUST SLEEP WHEN THEY SLEEP. Mmmmmm, nice idea that. Only if I did that I would wake up to absolute utter chaos! When they sleep I just about have a teeny tiny opportunity to get on top of things like eating, sterilising bottles, or washing up, or hanging washing out, so that I don’t live in mayhem. But as I say, nice idea.
  5. UH-OH, YOU’RE MAKING A ROD FOR YOUR OWN BACK THERE! Well, if that includes ensuring my baby is warm and comfortable and content, and it stops the blooming screaming, then stick that rod up my back as FAR AS IT WILL BLOODY GO! This one used to really get my goat. And do you know what, it’s also utter bollocks. All the apparent “rods for my back” where actually just really successful methods in making my baby feel happy, safe and secure, all of which they grew out of in their own time.
  6. BREAST IS BEST! Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the value in this message, I really do. It’s just that it’s not always the most useful statement to make. If, for example, the mother is having an utter nightmare trying to breastfeed, someone repeating how marvellous it is constantly, but not actually helping in HOW to do it is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. And for some (me included here), breastfeeding is not always possible, no matter now much they wish it were.
  7. THAT BABY IS USING YOU AS A DUMMY. Now not being able to breastfeed, I never had the pleasure of this little gem. But I have good friends who did breastfeed and I’ve been told how often they got this, and it makes me furious on their behalf. Look pal, if being attached to my boob is making the baby happy and is keeping them quiet and content, let them get on with it would you? I’m fairly confident they won’t be asking to do it when they’re 16.
  8. YOU THINK THIS PHASE IS HARD? JUST YOU WAIT! Yes, so useful! Because when I’m finding something tough, the best thing you can do is tell me how awful the next part is! This begins in pregnancy. “oooh you think pregnancy is hard? Wait till you’ve had the baby!” and then it doesn’t stop. Newborns are nothing compared crawlers, crawlers nothing compared to walkers, talkers are nothing compared to terrible 2s, terrible 2s are easy compared to threenagers. ARGHHHH!
  9. DO THEY SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT NOW? Just don’t even go there. Please.
  10. IS DADDY BABYSITTING? (on the rare occasion mummy makes it out the house alone) No, Daddy is not “babysitting”, Daddy is “parenting”. I’m pretty confident last time Daddy went out on his own he wasn’t asked if Mummy was “babysitting” so I’m not quite sure why it’s acceptable to be asked the other way round.

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum's Back, who provide new mum gifts focussing on the luxury stuff denied in pregnancy, while also raising awareness of perinatal mental health issues.

 

What’s the most annoying phrase you heard as a new parent? I’d love to know! Tell me at my Facebook page or tweet me @MumsBack

Fancy winning a Mum's Back hamper? check out our comp here 

Mother’s Day – When your baby doesn’t get the memo

Mother’s Day is a funny old thing. It’s a bit like Christmas or a birthday where there’s the potential for a bit of an anti-climax. I never think too much of it until the day, and then suddenly it’s everywhere. Facebook fills up with photos of people getting breakfast in bed, flowers and manicures. This is lovely, but when you’ve got young kids they rarely get the memo, do they? Try telling a 2 year old it’s Mother’s Day and see what reaction you get. ‘Erm yeah, whatevs Mum, I’m trying to have a tantrum about the incorrect coloured cup you have just presented me with, get lost. ‘

My very first Mother’s Day set the bar low, which is a good thing. Daisy was about 8 months old and happened to be feeling very irritable that day. I recall her being sick over me on a bus. I also recall buying some yogurt from Waitrose and getting home to discover it had already gone off. Waitrose as well! Unbelievable. I was quite heavily pregnant with my second at that point too, so booze was off the menu. I think I probably indulged in chocolate once Daisy was in bed (she says, trying to convince you this was different to any other day). It was an odd feeling, that first Mother’s Day. Probably because in one way it marked something really significant, but in the same breath it was a day like any other at that point in life, filled with changing nappies and all the other repetitive tasks keeping a baby alive involves.

By the time my second Mother’s Day hit I was not in a good place. I had an 8 month old non sleeper with an undiagnosed medical issue, a lively 18 month old, and growing post natal depression. At least that year I had no expectations! I was just trying to get through each day as undamaged as possible.

This year I’m in a much better place. My eldest can now even tell me how much she loves me! And to be honest that’s all I want for Mother’s Day.

I can’t help feeling a bit like all these celebration days put way too much pressure on us to have fun and enjoy ourselves, and often it can have the opposite effect. It’s also a tough day for people not in a typical nuclear family, and even if you are, it can still be hard. Perhaps I’m being overly negative, but I can’t help thinking that for all those it helps celebrate and feel great, it makes the same number feel a little crap. It’s a reminder for those whose mums are no longer with us how much they miss them. For those couples trying to conceive and not having much luck, it’s a reminder of their battle. For single mums who have to organise their own days and cards, it can feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth. For anyone that’s lost a special lady in their life that was a mum, whether it’s their wife, daughter, sister or Aunty, it’s a day that really shines a light on their loss., not to mention those poor families that have lost children. I know people in all those situations, and I want them all to know that I will be especially thinking of them tomorrow.

And for those with young babies and kids, my advice is this – aim low! If you are one of the lucky ones that gets to post that picture of a bunch of flowers or hand made card, then excellent. If not, do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Take a walk in the sun. Have a glass of wine. Get yourself some cake. Buy yourself a Mum's Back hamper 😉 Whatever it is that YOU love. Take a bit of it for yourself. And if you are feeling a bit like I was last year, try not to put pressure on yourself. Just get through. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from having 2 babies, it’s that a lot of the time it’s all about hanging tight and just getting through!

Happy Mother’s Day everyone and I hope that wherever you are, you get some peace and happiness. Oh, and whoever arranged this daylight saving thing where we all get an hour’s less sleep on Mother’s Day…..jog on pal.

Sally Bunkham is the founder of Mum's Back. Sick of seeing the same old post pregnancy hampers? Mum's Back focusses on all the yummy luxurious stuff denied in pregnancy, for a real new mum treat. £1 from every hamper goes to PANDAS Foundation to help support their fab work into perinatal mental health conditions.

Mum’s Back, The Birth.

The concept for Mum's Back! had been bubbling away in my brain since my first pregnancy. I didn't quite realise how much I'd miss things like pate, wine and cheese until I wasn't allowed it! My NCT gang and I talked about it quite a lot and said things like “as soon as ‘I've had the baby I'm going to order a big plate of paté and crackers, or a big brie sandwich”. It dawned on me then that this kind of gift for mum in this format just wasn't available. Once my baby was born I received some amazing gifts, but they all seemed to focus on the baby. That's when I realised there was a bit of a gap in the market for gifts purely for mum. After all, she has just grown a tiny human and gone through childbirth!

I didn't give myself long to indulge in things like paté, wine and cheese, because when our first little girl was just over 2 months old we discovered I was pregnant again! Another 9 month abstinence ensued and this is when the concept really solidified in my mind.

Following the birth of my second baby I was hit with a bout of postnatal depression brought on by acute sleep deprivation. Sadly our second daughter developed an undiagnosed medical issue, which meant she was incredibly unsettled for large periods of the day and night. We saw numerous GPs, paediatricians and specialists but we could not seem to get to the bottom of her problems. We tried cutting out certain foods, had allergy testing and different drugs for silent reflux, but to no avail. The stress of this on top of trying to look after my other daughter on barely any sleep was incredibly detrimental to my mental health.

Thankfully, and largely thanks to a hugely supportive husband, I am through that terrible period now, and both my daughters (now heading for 2 and 3) are happy and healthy, but it has left a lasting impression on me. It made me realise that I wanted to help other people going through similar dark periods whilst also trying to raise children. That is why £1 from every Mum’s Back! hamper sold will go to The PANDAS Foundation to help with their important work in supporting families suffering prenatal/antenatal and postnatal illnesses.

As we've just launched we are offering the first 50 customers 20% off their first hamper. You can order now for delivery later. Get them while they’re hot!