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Breastfeeding a two year old – is it controversial?

Ahhhhh other people telling women what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies again. And heaven help us if a mother does what feels right for her and her child. 

Tamara Ecclestone has been defending herself after images of her breastfeeding her two year old child were shared.


Via Tamara Ecclestone Instagram 

The breastfeeding debate is ridiculous, it shouldn’t be a debate at all! Breast milk is the perfect food for babies and infants, it adapts to your child’s needs and it is awesome. 

Some people can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. They give their children formula milk which is the very next best thing. 

Some women feed for a few days, weeks or months, other for years. It’s really no one else’s business. Parents are just doing their best for their kids. 

This photo is beautiful and reminds me of religious art through the ages, the comments are disgusting and ignorant. 

The worst people for this are other women and I truly believe their defensiveness comes from fear. The scariest thing for a parent is to feel others are judging you and think you’re a bad mum. Mums face constant judgement on every aspect of parenting and it’s easy to feel you have to defend your way by attacking others. 

When I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter, seeing adverts telling me breast is best made me feel like they thought I didn’t want the best for my child. I felt the mums breastfeeding were eyeing my bottle of formula and thinking how shit a person I was. It made me so defensive. 

The reality was that those mums didn’t give a shit how I fed my daughter, they just were thinking of their own kids! 

When I breastfed my son for 10 months I felt judged for feeding him publicly, it was ok when he was a newborn but when he was a strapping kid turning his head, laughing and babbling to me, people liked it less. I was asked to feed him in the toilet, sent to bedrooms at parties, tutted at, laughed at and told that once they had teeth you should stop. 

We all need to be a lot kinder to each other, mums have gone through so much. 40 weeks of pregnancy where your body is changed beyond all recognition, birth (i.e. The act of removing a baby human from your body!!!) and then being responsible for another human being, often feeling that you lose your identity along the way. It’s hard work, man!!! 

So it’s easy to see how we get defensive when we feel attacked. We have created the worlds best child (yeah, we all think ours are the best!!!), we are exhausted, stressed, in love, overwhelmed and the most happy and tired we’ve ever been. So when we feel others think we’re doing it wrong, it hurts. And the easiest thing to do is to attack the opposite opinion. 

But it just becomes a vicious circle. From breastfeeding to weaning, stay at home mum to working mum, helicopter to free range… were pitting ourselves against the wrong people here! Mums need to join forces, whatever our parenting style, however we feed, play or work. We’re a vastly untapped powerhouse of humans! 

Being a mum is hard work and we need to look after each other more. We need to celebrate mothers more. We need to stop being arseholes to mums just trying to do their best. 

Sam xx 

As a parent, can I just say, I have no clue what I’m doing…

I have three kids aged 15, 13 and 11.  From the outside, I appear to have it all in hand.  My kids are polite, friendly and fun to be with.  I have managed to get to this point without losing them (apart from that one time on Blackpool Pier), killing them in a stupidity accident or them hating me.  I also write about life as a parent, apparently giving the public the illusion that I know what the fuck I am doing.

Therefore I get comments and messages from people who seem to think I am the Baby Whisperer crossed with Mary Poppins.  That I have some magical gift or that I know the mythical answer to parenting.  This post is to let you in on a secret.  I have no clue what I am doing!

None of us do! Every day is a learning experience, I am just figuring it out day by day.  This means sometimes I fluke it out and things go well, but other times, it all goes horribly wrong and I am left sat in a war zone wondering how much flights to the Maldives cost.

 

children parenting blog sam cleasby sheffield

 

Parenting is bloody hard work.  From the sleepless nights of newborns, through teething and weaning, onto the stage when they can move themselves about and suddenly every nice thing in your home goes up onto a higher level.  Toddler tantrums as they discover their own voice through to starting school and suddenly having a different authority figure in their lives.  Tween dramas give way to teen dramas and suddenly the issues become more expensive and more dangerous… It is scary stuff being responsible for another human being and all any of are trying to do is not fuck them up too badly.

The only way to get through is to have other honest parents to talk to, and honest is the key word here.  Don’t read social media posts of the perfect mums who have made an organic breakfast, are beautifully dressed and made up, whose children are little angels who say ‘thank you mummy’ as she passes them their mung bean and papaya oatmeal and then trot out to school so mum can start her day as a high flying business woman who has it all…

Seriously, ignore that shit.

Honest parents are the best.  They will tell you about the time they saw the bin van coming as they had just finished breastfeeding and went to run to put the bins out and stood in a shitty nappy, skidding across the floor and then meeting the bin man with shit up their leg and one breast hanging out of their top.

They will tell you about the times when they lost their temper and shouted at their kids and then truly regretted it and cried outside on the doorstep until said child came and said ‘don’t cry mummy’.

They will tell you that sometimes they think their kids are dickheads and they occasionally daydream of running away from home.

They will tell you that random freezer dinners of one fishfinger, 2 mini sausage rolls, a pizza finger and some beans is totally acceptable if you stick a piece of cucumber on the side.

They will tell you that their heart aches when they try and deal with teenagers who are so angst filled and bubbling with hormones that you feel like different species.  That when their kids make idiotic choices and take dangerous paths that they just wish they were toddlers again so that the parents could cuddle them and watch Finding Nemo in bed and keep them safe.

They will tell you that parenting is all practicing, that they don’t have the answers and that it is hard work.

(All of these have happened to me…)

 

sam cleasby sheffield parenting blogger

 

Honest parents are vital.  Because when they’ve been honest about all the challenging parts of being a parent, you want to celebrate with them all the amazing parts.  Because though I sound down on being a parent here, I’m really not.  I love being a mum, it is literally the best thing I have ever done.

From the moment my first son was put in my arms, I felt purpose.  I knew that my life had changed forever and that I would spend the rest of it protecting and loving this bundle of joy.  I remember crying about the miracle of babies, how a little part of me and a little part of my partner had made an actual human being! Though that might have been the drugs…

Seeing your child grow and change is just magical, from the baby days where they are physically changing before your eyes every single day through to teens where you can see them maturing into wonderful young adults, the process is just beautiful.

The pride as you see them learn is wonderful, teaching them about the world around them and filling their minds with information and seeing them achieve is awesome.  I feel a great privilege to be mum to my bambinos, and they are growing up so quickly, I feel like I am grasping onto the last moments of childhood, especially with my eldest.  This week he came and laid on the sofa with me, head rested on my shoulder and watched TV.  I wanted to hug him and squeeze him but instead, I nonchalantly stayed put, slowly creeping my arm over to rest on his shoulder and quietly enjoyed the moment like he was a butterfly who would flit off at any moment.

I adore being a mum, my kids mean everything to me and I wouldn’t give this life up for the world.  I am so proud of them all, the three of them are all completely different with different personalities, goals and desires, but they are all just the best.  I can love them but still freely admit that I don’t have a clue what I am doing.

People ask me for parenting advice often, I don’t feel I can give it as all kids and families are so different.  But if I am pushed, I say this:

  • No child ever went bad from being loved too much.  Tell them you love them. Often. Seriously every day.  Yep, especially when you are arguing.
  • If you fuck up, admit it and say sorry.  You are teaching them that even their Mighty Grand High Parent sometimes gets it wrong and thats ok.
  • Fill your home and your life with interesting things, people and experiences.  Kids are little sponges of curiosity, teach them everything, give them culture, show them the world around them.
  • Don’t go it alone, speak to other (HONEST) parents.  This shit is hard work, it is not failing to ask for help.
  • Boost their self-esteem.  Be genuine and when they are awesome, tell them.
  • Give them the gift of art.  Encourage their creativity and celebrate art and music.  Whether it is cartoons or the Mona Lisa, finger painting or building cardboard dens.  Art is vital for kids, I honestly believe this and I think it helps them with pretty much every part of their lives.
  • Be interested in their lives, there will come a day when they won’t want to share everything with you and you will miss it.
  • Be honest with them.  Be open and true and tell the truth about life, even if it is difficult.
  • Enjoy them.  They grow up so quickly.  Someone once told me “you never know when it will be your last”, the last time they kiss you in front of their pals, the last time they’ll sit on your knee, the last time they will sleep in your bed… Cherish every moment.
  • Take them outdoors.  Mud pies, woodland walks, playing with sticks, building dens, laying in the sun, making daisy chains, playing games.  These things really matter.  Trust me.
  • Be grateful.  You have children when there are so many people in this world can’t.  Don’t take them for granted, love them, revel in them and celebrate them.

 

Sam xx

 

#ToyLikeMe

There are 150 million disabled children in the world, yet so few toys that represent them.

One campaigner thought this was wrong and decided to make a stand against the biggest global toy manufacturers and won.

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#ToyLikeMe is the brainchild of Rebecca Atkinson, a journalist from London who started the campaign towards ending ‘cultural marginalisation’ and urged Lego and other toy manufacturers to better represent diverse backgrounds.

In April 2015, Rebecca, who is partially deaf and partially sighted, noticed the lack of representation in the toy industry.

She called on some fellow mothers and together they launched #ToyLikeMe to call on the global toy industry to start representing disabled children around the world.

They started a change.org petition calling on Lego to include disabled mini- figures and received over 20k signatures.

A similar one aimed at Playmobil received over 50k supporters and they responded by becoming the first global brand to back #ToyLikeMe and are working to produce a line of characters that positively represent disability for release in 2016/17.

The crowd funding page raised over £16,000 in a month and will be used to create a website that will be a resource for parents and carers to give them a one stop shop where they can find everything from cottage industries making bespoke plush teddies with hearing aids to listings of global toy brands with representative products.

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After 9 months of lobbying, toy giants Lego unveiled their first wheelchair using mini-figure at Nurumberg Toy Fair last month.

The figure of a young man using a wheelchair and accompanied by an assistance dog is part of a new Fun in the Park set from Lego.

Rebecca says the move by Lego “will speak volumes to children, disabled or otherwise, the world over”.

“As someone who had grown up wearing hearing aids, I remembered firsthand how it felt to be a child who never saw themselves represented by the mainstream and what that can do to a child with a disability’s self esteem. I wanted to change this for generations to come and start to get global brands like Lego, Mattel and Playmobil to include representations of disability in their products.”

“If they present a little boy in a wheelchair in a fun park setting – like they have done with this new product – they are speaking a much bigger message than just a little figure.”

“It is a hugely powerful thing for children to see. I hope Lego have realised the wonderful thing they have done. I congratulate them and I hope this is a start of a lot of incidental representation of their product because the response online has been phenomenal.”

For more information, check out ToyLikeMe’s Facebook page and crowd-funding site. 

To the father who left,

When you and mum split up, I was just a baby and don’t actually remember you ever living at home with us yet your presence, or lack of it, has still managed to affect my life greatly and I want you to understand how your actions have ripples throughout the family you walked away from.

For a girl to grow up without a father who cares, or even a father figure, it is tough.  No matter how strong I think I am, there is always a part of me who is a frightened and sad little girl who just wishes her dad loved her.

There is a photograph of me as a small child, I am sat in the bay window of my childhood home with the sun shining through, dressed in a cute 80’s outfit and sporting a dodgy fringe (thanks mum!), it is a lovely image yet one that is tainted with bad memories.  For when I look at that photo, the memories of sitting and waiting for you to turn up to visit come flooding back.  With my bag packed and hair brushed, I would sit and wait for you to arrive, looking up and down our quiet street, listening out for the knock on the door, but so many times that knock didn’t come.  You let me down so many times that I lost faith in you.

Then there were all the times that I was brought to your home by my eldest sister, taking on, as she has all her life, the responsibilities that did not belong to her.  She would take me to visit your new home, your new wife, your new daughters.  Everything in your life was shiny and new, not like the tainted old daughters you left behind.  Your second wife was very kind, she had to be to care for me during those visits, the times that I was supposed to be spending time with you was usually spent with her.  And years later as I stood by her coffin alongside the half sisters I hadn’t seen since childhood, I would tell her a silent thank you for the care she gave to me.  As yet again, the women in my life picked up after your failures.

When I was a kid, this mean girl in my class told me that I must have been so ugly and bad as a baby to make my daddy run away.

Doesn’t that sound like a throwaway nasty comment? A spiteful child’s bullying words.

Yet on those dark days when the demon voice inside starts to tell me I am not enough, it is those words I still hear.  As a little girl I believed it must be my fault, perhaps if I were better, quieter, whiter, more like your new daughters, maybe then you would love me?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the sort of person to allow my past to ruin my future.  I am a strong and confident woman who is happy in life, but these things from childhood do run deep and I still find myself wanting to please those around me in the hope they will love me truly and not leave.

I am a strong woman now despite you, not because of you.  You don’t get to take credit for me.  And I see you doing that.  Telling your Facebook friends, your born-again church about my accomplishments and it angers me because you don’t get to warm in my glow.  You lost that right a long time ago.

You soon left another family, leaving more children in your wake and went onto wife number three.  She didn’t want us around and so you disappeared.  The sporadic contact became nonexistent and I was left bewildered and frightened, wondering what I had done, believing I must be a terrible person for my father to simply go away.

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I understand that life is difficult.  Relationships change, people face addiction, communication can be tough.  But you made choices based on those things that meant I was the one to suffer.  I have never known how it feels for a father, or father figure, to love me.  Never had the opportunity to be a daddy’s little girl, to have a dad to guide me, worry about me, care about me.  I find it hard to trust that men aren’t going to treat me badly, I wonder whether my husband will one day have had enough and leave me.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me and our children, who supports and cares for me, yet that demon crops up from time to time to whisper in my ear that if my own father couldn’t love me, how on earth will my husband?

A few years ago, you reappeared.  Facebook has a lot to answer for and you got in touch, wanting to reignite a relationship whose embers had faded 20 odd years previously.  I decided to give it a go.  Not for you, but for me.  Because tragically, despite everything, I desperately want to be loved.  I want to join in with my friends who talk about their dads who are their heroes, their dads who they go shopping with, who come for dinner, who they holiday with.  I wish I had tales of my dad coming to my rescue, of feeling protected and safe when in the arms of dad, of being someone’s special child, a daddy’s little girl.

I tried.  I swear I did.  I told you about all the pain you had caused me, of how your decisions had broken my heart, I opened myself up and poured out the years of rage, hurt and disappointment.  I allowed you into my life so I could show you the emotional battering I had taken because of you.  I told how sorry I felt for you, that you had gone through your life abandoning children at the wayside and now in your senior years you were alone.  I told you about my beautiful, amazing, intelligent and wonderful children who you had missed out on and that the title of grandfather was one that was earned not given.

You told me “Jesus forgave so that you can forgive”

That was the moment that I realised that you hadn’t changed.  You weren’t taking responsibility for your failings, you had just found a way to absolve yourself of your sins and expected us all to rejoice.

I am not giving you that.  I don’t forgive you.

The opportunity to tell you all the ways you had fucked up gave me a release, I thought perhaps I could find a way to have some relationship with you, perhaps not as father and daughter but maybe as friends.  But I soon realised that you don’t have the credentials to be my friend.  You aren’t worthy of me. My friends, the people I have in my life are awesome, they are full of love, respect and loyalty.  They are interesting, funny, caring, special and they bring joy and laughter to my life.

You hide behind people and things who allow you to not take responsibility for yourself.  Children, women, alcohol, a higher being.  But at some point you need to accept that you have wasted your life and the opportunity to have me as a daughter.

Because I am fucking awesome.

sam cleasby parenting blogger fathers self esteem

In the end, I walked away not through hate, not through pain, not through fear.  I walked away because I couldn’t find the passion in me to hate you or love you.  I had no feelings, a numbness, a malaise, a disinterest.  There was nothing about you that was intriguing or interesting, I didn’t want you as a father or as a friend.

This is me drawing a line in the sand, I do so without the shame or embarrassment that I usually feel if I think I am letting someone down.  I am always trying to make people happy, yet teaming that desire with a hard shell.  This interesting mix of wanting to please yet feeling I have to be defensive and ready for disappointment.

I am giving myself permission to move on, to not look back and to be happy as a fatherless woman.

 

Sam x

 

Happy Mother's Day to all the sick mums

When you have a child, you make this silent vow, a promise to yourself that you will protect, love and adore this baby and always be there for them.  And so when something makes that difficult, when an unplanned illness or injury makes you falter at the most important job you have ever had, it is tough.

My kids have grown up with me having Ulcerative Colitis, Charlie was 3 and Ellie was 11 months when I was diagnosed.  Thom was born a year later, my body having fought against his during the pregnancy where I had awful flare ups that made me anaemic, made me pass out, made me lose weight and eventually be hospitalised on bed rest and blood transfusions.

 

sam cleasby mum parent blogger

They have grown up with a mum who runs away from shopping trolleys in supermarkets to go to the loo, who always has wipes in her bag way past a time when they could be deemed necessary for children.  They have seen me so ill in bed that I didn’t have the energy to help them get ready for school, they have had to visit me in hospital more times than is ever right for a child, they have stroked my hair as I lay in bed with them and brought me heat pads and pain killers when I couldn’t manage myself.

They have learnt to make their own breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  They come running asking “mum, are you ok” when they hear my fast footsteps to the bathroom and the slam of the door.  They cried when they saw me in pain, wiped my tears away before their own and cuddled me, all piling into my bed to watch a film because they know that is the best I can give at that moment.

When they shied away from me after surgery, because they were afraid of hurting me and thought my stoma was weird, it was the toughest time.  And now knowing that my bambinos have had a harder childhood because of my illness, it breaks my heart.

child carers parents with disability or illness

Having a chronic illness or a disability that sometimes stops you doing all the things you want to do can feel like having one hand tied behind your back, it can feel like you are at a huge disadvantage and believe me, I know the feelings of anger, frustration, hurt and pain when as a mum, you can’t give your kids everything they need.

But I have to believe that my illness has also given my children positives, that the lessons they have had to learn will do them good in their lives.  I see it already in my loving, attentive and caring children.  I see it in the fact that despite the fact that I talk about poo for a living, they aren’t embarrassed!  They are so compassionate and empathetic and they have an insight into invisible disabilities as well as visible disabilities than many adults don’t.  They know that the richest you can be is when you are happy and surrounded by those you love, that your health is vital as this is the only body you get, they know that life sometimes gives you things you don’t want, need or ever even dreamed of but that you have to deal with it all through talking openly, sharing your feelings, occasionally weeping in a snotty mess, then pulling on your big girl (or boy!) pants and making the best out of the situation.

And so to the mums who today are celebrating mother’s day who have had to, on occasion, put their health before their child’s immediate needs, who have a heavy heart filled with guilt when they think about the things their children have seen and dealt with, to those who are cared for in part by their children, to those who have a disability or illness that affects the whole family…

kids visiting sick mums in hospital

To you mums, I salute you.   I raise a glass in solidarity to all who are just doing their best to get through each day.  I feel your pain but remind you gently, that it isn’t physical perfection that makes for a great momma, it is love, kindness and the ability to hug, kiss and raise amazing young people.

Our babies may not have the upbringing that we dreamt of, but they have us now.

Today hold them a little closer and pat yourself on the back for being enough.

 

Love Sam x

Chronic Illness and Parenting – am I a shit mum because of my shit disease?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my illness has affected my children and the relationship between us. I have three kids and every day they amaze me with their intelligence, kindness, character and awesomeness.

Till 2010 my husband’s job took him away from home for up to nine months of the year. So my kids (born 2000, 2003 and 2005) and I were this super close gang. The four of us were together all the time and though, of course Timm was a huge part of all our lives, it often felt like I was a single parent.

Even when my Ulcerative Colitis was bad, we would still be this team as we had no other choice! We had help from my mum, sister and friends but we got through it together. The kids didn’t really understand, which I’m glad of. They just knew that sometimes I was poorly and we would have film nights where we all slept in one bed and hung out. It meant I could rest and know they were are safe with me.

Timm stopped working away in 2010 and it changed our family massively and for the better. The kids loved him being at home and we started our photography business together. It made all our lives better.

When I was at my sickest in August 2013, I thanked my lucky stars that his job meant he was home to care for the children and give them the support they needed. I had a few weeks in hospital and then came home without a colon but with an added ileostomy bag. They had been so worried whilst I was in hospital and their concerns upset me. I hated that my illness was making them so sad.

Then when I got home, my bag and scars, the staples holding my body together, my tiredness and weakness scared them. They became afraid to hug me. Fearful they would hurt me. And to this day, though totally understandable, it is the toughest thing I’ve gone through. My babies being too afraid to hug me.

Fastforward eighteen months and they’ve learnt so much. My second surgery took away my bag and replaced it with my Jpouch. Though they knew more, and were less freaked out this time, they suddenly had to learn to live with a mum, who once again would run out of the room to dash to the toilet. Who couldn’t eat certain foods, who takes medication that cause drowsiness.

sam cleasby mother parenting

This journey I have been on has been tough on me, but my kids have been through it too. They’ve had to see their mum disappear onto hospital wards for weeks at a time. They all freak out when I have even a scheduled clinic visit now, terrified I won’t come home for weeks. They have had to learn so much and I truly believe that though it’s tough, and I wish they didn’t have to go through it, that they’ve come away as more empathetic, kinder, more open humans.

The problem with chronic illness is that it isn’t about a few weeks and then life going back to ‘normal’, the illness IS life and it’s learning to reassess how you live this odd life that you never planned for.

Currently I have awful fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, pain, toilet and diet issues. I take high dose codiene every day that make me drowsy. I struggle to wake before 9am. I know I am tetchy, self absorbed, distant and sometimes just absent.

The kids have had to lean on Timm both emotionally and physically. This isn’t a bad thing, he’s their dad!! But for me, it’s a struggle to see him take over all my roles. This is such a selfish thing to say. The kids are fine and so is Timm, so much so that I occasionally doubt whether I’m necessary at all!!

sam cleasby mum parenting blog

This is selfish and all a bit me, me, me, but I’m just going to blurt it out anyway…

It hurts that they go to their dad instead of me. It hurts that they want him to do bedtimes, it hurts to know they ask him for advice instead of me. It hurts to feel left out. It hurts to feel my illness is a barrier between us.

I’m scared they’ll think I don’t care. I’m scared they think I’m lazy. I’m scared that when my head is so full of my own pain, anxiety and distress that they will think I wouldn’t drop it all in a second for their needs. I’m scared they won’t need me anymore.

See, told you it was selfish!!!

Because when I put my brain into gear and tell my heart to shut up, I am so proud of my family! I’m so happy to see Timm having this amazing bond with the kids that he missed out on when they were small. I’m proud to see them growing into confident, self assured, wonderful young people.

When I see that Timm has learnt to plait hair because I can’t function in the mornings and Ellie needs help, my heart swells. When Thom tells his teacher that it’s daddy who helps him with all his homework, I thank the day he stopped touring. When Charlie has an awe inspiring role model of a dad in his life, I am thankful and blessed.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t angels, and my illness makes me blame myself whenever one of them does something wrong. I can’t help but think that if only I was more present and full in their lives at the moment, that they wouldn’t have made that mistake.

sam cleasby mum parenting blog

When I tell them off and perhaps shout a little louder than necessary because I’m in pain. Or I’m too short with them because I’m desperate to go to the loo. Or when I’m distant and perhaps seem cold because I haven’t slept a full night for two years and I’m so exhausted I could drop. All those things swirl through my head for days, just worrying me that their childhoods are being scarred by my illness.

I just hope that they understand that my illness has played a big part of all our lives, but that I have always loved them, that they are always the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing before I sleep, that they are the best things I ever did and always will be.

I hope one day I can explain to them that I wish it could be different, that being ill is tough but feeling like I fail them is tougher.  I hope they will know how much they mean to me.

And that I’m sorry that there were times that my illness may have hidden these truths from them.

Sam xx

 

 

 

About to get your A-level results? Oh the places you'll go!

Oh lovely teenagers, you are on the cusp of finding out your A-level results and I’m sure you are babbing yourselves. Feeling that you could have worked harder, revised a little more, gone out a little less?

Tomorrow you will be officially finishing school for good. The end of 13 years of education, some of you are off to university or going out into the world of work. You are entering the scary world of grown ups. Let me tell you a little secret though, all those whirling, terrifying feelings that you aren’t ready to be a grown up? We all feel like that sometimes!

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Please remember that these results aren’t the be all and end all, they may shape the path you take over the next few years but baby, there are many paths. Some of you may be lucky enough to have a set vision, your path is a straight road with the career and life you’ve always hoped for shining at the end like a beacon.

Most of you will have winding paths, sometimes they come to a dead end and you’ll have to back track and find another road. Some of you will hop from path to path, trying lots of lanes before finding your own. And some of you will look at all the paths and think “fuck, none of these are right for me at all!” Panic not, because you all have the ability to create you own path in life.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are silly, or that you can’t do it. Work hard, be passionate and get out there looking for opportunities. You want to run away with the circus?! Do it! Do it now! You want to be a doctor but no one in your family has ever even seen the inside of university? If you have the intelligence and the grades, you can find a way to fight for it.

Without going all cliche on you, you only live once. We are here for such a brief time and at your age, with the world at your feet, now is the time to follow your heart, strive to be the thing that you dream to be, have fun, make adventures and get out there and live.

Worry not that you can only have one path, as long as you are passionate about your own life, you will succeed and be happy. I had my first child at 19, it meant I couldn’t go to university or travel the world. I stayed home, got married and raised three wonderful children. And now they are older, I am getting my chance to change my life. I’m doing a writing course, I run a business with my husband and I’m just starting a new business with my friend Violet Fenn (all very secret right now though!!)

Someone else who has had a varied path in life is my friend Curtis Woodhouse. A lad from a small coastal town who dreamed big and made it as a professional football player. When he surprised the world and retired, he decided he wanted to be a professional boxer. He was mocked and laughed at, but you know what? He worked his arse off and this year became the Light Welterweight British Champion! Screw you careers advisor!!!!

So good luck to you, I hope you get the grades you are hoping for. But whatever your results, well done! Good work on getting through your childhood and welcome to being an adult!

It’s scary, it sucks sometimes but with passion, good friends, hard work and a sense of humour you will go far.

I’ll end with my favourite story of Dr Seuss, Oh the places you’ll go! It’s a long one, but well worth the read.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’ t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Love Sam xx

Loving your baby body

This is a post I did for Motherhood Journeys about self esteem and loving your baby body.

I started So Bad Ass last June and began blogging about my experiences, suddenly a lot of people were reading about my journey and the messages I started to receive weren’t just from people with the same problems as me, they were from teenage girls with anorexia, grandmothers who had cancer, mothers who felt they had lost themselves, people going through divorces… All had the same problem at the root and it came down to self-esteem.

And so more and more, I write about positivity, body confidence, happiness and image. And that leads me to my post today.

Before I had children I was a size 8, roll forward nine months and I was a size 16. It was a blow for me and I suddenly felt lost, I felt that the person I was had disappeared under layers of fat and milk filled breasts. I know I had grown and housed a human being for 40 weeks but I was shocked at how my body now looked.

new mother body image love your baby body

Another two children followed in the next four years and I never lost the weight I had gained. It made me feel guilty; I saw images of celebrity mothers who ‘snapped’ right back into shape and the fat shaming of those who didn’t. I was a happy mother, I loved being pregnant, I loved being a mother but I felt a tinge of sadness when I saw photographs of me before, almost a grief or bereavement of the person I once was.

 

My youngest is now 9. I still haven’t regained my pre baby body, and you know what? I couldn’t care less! You see when I had surgery last year, they cut me from just under my chest bone down to my pelvis, they removed my large bowel and made a hole for a small piece of my small intestine to poke out of, then the sewed and stapled me back together. I came out of the surgery feeling horrified at the state of my body. It felt mutilated and ruined.

During the last six months of cathartic writing on my blog I have learnt not only to accept my body, but to rejoice in it. My body is AMAZING. It keeps going despite illness and surgery. It looks after me and it is SO bad ass…

It got me thinking about my post baby body and how I wish I had thought more of my body then. I grew three human beings. My body made a home for them; my blood pumped through them and nourished them. My womb filled with fluids to keep them safe. My vagina pushed them into this world. My breasts fed them.  How dare I have hated my body??

As women, we give ourselves such a hard time; we rarely congratulate ourselves or make positive comments about our own appearance. Why is that? Are we so brain washed that we really believe that only size 0 women with rock hard abs and pert breasts are beautiful?

This is in no way against slim women, it is about celebrating and loving our bodies whatever our size or shape.

Last year I photographed Corinne with baby Arthur and was over the moon when she asked me to take a few images of her post natal body. She looked beautiful. I was able to look at her in a detached way, thinking from a photographer’s point of view. I saw her full breasts that became the perfect pillow for her baby’s head, the softness of her waist and gentle lines of the stretch marks were lit beautifully. The width of her hips made me think of the journey her newborn baby had taken from her womb.

new mother body image love your baby body

At first she was a little self conscious, but after relaxing, she stopped thinking about her body and the look of pure love in her eyes as she watched Arthur was stunning.

We need to stop using such negative language about our bodies and start rejoicing. How many times have you said to yourself “I’m so fat” “My belly is disgusting” “My stretch marks are GROSS!”

That is not ok.

You wouldn’t hear someone say that to your best friend, so why is it ok to say it to yourself?

We are all different shapes and sizes, not one of us is perfect, we are all deliciously imperfect.

new mother body image love your baby body

If you are a mum reading this who berates your body I want you to just remember the magic that your body performs. You made a human being. You are a goddess… you brought life into this world. That takes a lot of doing, so don’t be down on your poor tummy, that sag is because it made way for those awesome little beings you call children. Don’t be sad when your breasts sit a little lower, all that milk making can take its toll.

Be kind to your body, it’s the only one you get.

 

To the imperfect mothers…

I was 19 when I had my first child and I felt the weight of the eyes of society watching me and waiting for me to fail, the pressure of being a teenage mother statistic sat in my chest like a bowling ball.  I was throwing my life away, they said.  I was foolish, immature and had no idea what I was getting into, these were the whispers that surrounded my trimesters.  The sly glances from the ‘proper’ mums in Mothercare as my bulging stomach stretched out my Oasis tshirt and over the jeans I had borrowed from my boyfriend.  Maybe some of it was in my head, perhaps I imagined the looks, the judgement, the eye rolling.

teenage pregnant mum at festival

It made me want to be a perfect mum, I would make no mistakes, I would dedicate every waking hour to being the best mum in the world.  No one would be able to judge me because I would give them no reason to, I’d change the perception of young mothers and Id show them all.

Only all that pressure, on top of the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the nappies, the sheer tiredness, it got too much.  I was paying so much attention to being perfect that I was forgetting to enjoy it.  The stress of appearing to have all my shit together meant I became a swan.  Gliding serenely on the surface, but peddling like fuck under the water.

The doctor saw through it.  After he dutifully gave me a prescription for the reason for my trip to the GP, he said gently, almost sadly “and how are you doing?” I burst into tears and said that I wasn’t a good enough mum, that maybe my baby would be better off with someone who knew what they were doing, that I loved him more than anything but what if that wasn’t enough?

He told me his wife had just had twins.  He said she feels the same sometimes.  He said HE felt the same sometimes.  He told me that being a parent was so hard, but all you can do is get through every day, that what a baby needs is food, warmth and so much love.  That it was ok to feel overwhelmed, it was matter of course.  I wasn’t feeling this because I was a young mum.  I was feeling it because I was a mum.  Full Stop.

teen mum red hair struggle

That conversation sparked a change, I became more honest and spoke to those around me about how I felt.  I opened up to the mums at the baby groups and found the woman who terrified me the most, a doctor who had a little girl the same age as my son, who was so together and wore the right mum clothes, drove a nice car and had a husband and posh house was as terrified as me.  She held my hand and burst into tears and said “But it’s all so HARD!”

Becoming a mum is scary. At any age, it is such a huge change that you can’t be prepared for it.  You love your baby and though the physical aspects are tough, the feeding, lack of sleep, you don’t count on the emotional aspects being so hard.  The sudden realisation that you are entirely responsible for this tiny person, the pressure of trying to conform to societies notions of the ideal mother.  You are surrounded by other peoples opinions constantly.  This rehashed argument of working mums versus stay at home mums… There should be no argument, we are all just trying to do our best.

It’s this whole new world and it is filled with ‘experts’ who seem to know it all.  They all seem to have studied for this test and you are still flipping through the text book and needing a dictionary to just know what the words mean.  Its a world of those who know and those who don’t, your new mum friends know it all, your old childless friends don’t care!  You are stuck in the middle feeling overwhelmed.

I suppose the purpose of this post is that it is easy to lose your way in the quagmire of emotions and opinions, my assumption that I needed to be a perfect mother was so flawed, you see, no one is a perfect mother.  We all just try and get through the tough days and relish in the good days.  In my quest for perfection I forgot about enjoyment.  I worried so much about following the ‘rules’ that I misplaced the notion of enjoying my baby.

That baby is 13 now.  I tell you, those baby days pass so quickly, I look at my 5′ 9″ son now becoming a young man and smile as I remember his tiny soft hands and that new smell of his  newborn head.  When he winds his hair around his finger when he is tired I see how he has done that for all of his life.  I rejoice that I didn’t waste too much time worrying what others thought and revel in the knowledge that we were happy.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

My house was messy but we played.  Dinner wasn’t organic but it was fun.  He didn’t have matching socks but we didn’t care in the park.  My attire was 90s indie tshirts and things from charity shops but there is no dress code in my garden.

I love to think of all the fun we had, that dirty faced little boy and I.  I got tons of old wallpaper and we painted it with poster paint and our bodies. The hours spent with the wooden train track that he insisted I left for weeks and had to step over it to get in the kitchen.  Bath time together where there were more toys than water in the tub.  His giggles when he was on a swing.  His made up words (agosha meant I love you).  Building dens.  Quiet bed times as he lay in my arms and we fell asleep together.  Watching him learn new things.  His imagination.  Fun.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

Forget perfect.  Forget public perception.  Think fun.  Laughter.  Excitement.  Silliness.  Wonder.  Love.  Love. And more love.

Mums, you are enough.  You may not be perfect by the unobtainable standards of some, but you are perfect for your child.

Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye they grow up and that time is gone forever.

 

baby hendersons hendos sheffield

 

 

 

Love Sam xx

Tales of the embarrassed…

This is for Corinne from the ever awesome Motherhood Journeys who told the twitterland about her having to stick a cardi on as her shopping arrived and she was in her jamas with no bra… (Sorry Corinne but if I’m sharing then so are you!)

Anyway I thought I’d make her feel better by sharing this story. Anyone who knows me is aware I have a million embarrassing tales as in general I am a bit of a fuckwit…

So shortly after the birth of my third child, with my husband working away and my other kids being 2 and 4, we all came down with a tummy bug. I abandoned our usual cloth nappies as there was just So. Much. Shit.

So with two kids in nappies I just tried to muddle through the days. One morning I had changed both kids and lay exhausted on the sofa breast feeding the baby when I heard the bin van.

“Oh shit!” I thought, I haven’t put the bin out!!! So I laid the baby on the mat and went to dash out to drag the bin to the roadside. I was still in my nighty but I didn’t care, the bin was full of nappies and had to go.

As I went to run I stood in a shit filled nappy I had put beside the sofa after I’d changed the kids and then quickly fed Thom as he was screaming. I skidded across the floor, shit shooting UP my leg and ran outside like a maniac.

The bin men looked up in shock at a mad woman running towards them dragging a wheelie bin with shit up her leg!

“Don’t judge me!” I shouted. “The kids are ill!! There’s shit everywhere!!!!”

It was at that point I realised my left breast was hanging outside my nighty swinging in the breeze for all the world to see.

I slowly popped it back in and with my head held high walked back to the house like it was the most normal thing in the world…

Worst. Day. Ever.

Ok, now I’ve laid my soul bare, please share your worst embarrassing story so I don’t feel like a total moron alone.

Sam