The Unmarked Road

Life On The Other Side Of Mental Illness

Are we helping or hindering our children’s mental health?

How many of us have gone through animal sounds or colours with our children? How many of us are trying to develop our little humans by teaching them correct names for different objects and actions?

How may of us are teaching our children the same things when it comes to their emotional and mental wellbeing?

Are we saying ‘I understand that you’re frustrated. What you are feeling is anger, and that is ok. Can you tell me what is making you angry about this situation?’

We fully accept that a toddler does not yet understand the difference between a lorry and a motorbike, yet expect them to know an array of different complex emotions and how to deal with them.

How many of our children are learning that their emotions don’t matter because the behaviour they are displaying is not acceptable?

How children many are learning to internalise their feelings instead of learning that all feelings are ok and a normal part of being human? Because surely we can’t expect children to handle adult emotions in an adult way? That’s what we’re supposed to teach them by helping them understand them.

With a growing number of children (and adults) with anxiety and depression, we need to look seriously at why.

Old disciplinary methods don’t really lend themselves to opening up the conversation with our children about what they are feeling and why.

If our children have a tantrum, we tell them to stop. As though they even have the brain development to be able to understand how.

If our children angrily lash out physically because they don’t understand the concept of yours and mine yet, we scold them for being naughty.

So we treat their responses to their emotions as we would adults (for whom tantrums and hitting are not acceptable) but then refuse to speak to them like adults by talking to them and trying to empathise with these huge emotional trips that they need our help navigating through.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for discipline. But if we try to see things from our children’s point of view, we will see that their actions are rarely because they are misbehaving just for the fun of it.

Usually they are needing attention or reconnection with their parents. In their undeveloped little minds, they don’t have the words or the ability to communicate with us in any other way!

They need understanding and help to ensure that as they grow into little adults, they have the tools available to navigate their own mental health effectively.

They won’t have them if they have to internalise every ‘negative’ emotion that they feel.

How To Fly Alone With A Toddler

When I made the decision to fly over to see my family in Germany on my own with a toddler for a week, Ethan was going through a particularly lovely stage. He was sleeping 4 hours at a time, playing independently for many minutes at a time, and generally being a delight.

Then a week before we were due to fly out, someone swapped my lovely sweet baby, with a formidable, belligerent and tantruming toddler, who thought trying to kick the cat or unearth all the plant pots was a perfectly reasonable way to pass the time.

It’s ok, I thought naively. Let him get it out-of-the-way for a few weeks, and he’ll be a dream while away.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.

As our trip drew ever nearer, this new phase of dictatorship did not bode well for the journey ahead. But I’m still here to tell the tale (psychotherapist on speed dial).

So here are my tips on how to fly alone with a toddler:

My little angel enjoying his Brezel (of course he ate nothing else while there being the high maintenance child that he is)

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Why Can’t I Get Out Of My Granny Pants?

Before I was pregnant, like most women, I had an array of sexy lingerie. Nothing crazy, mostly Primark, but never the less there was lace, and thongs and most importantly  it was matching!

When you become pregnant, the most important thing is comfort. I bought big granny pants. Lots of them. Cheap ones because I was only going to be in them 9 months right? WRONG!

I am now two years down the line since becoming pregnant and my drawers are full to the brim with big parachute pants. I’ve tried putting on those nice lacy ones that made me feel like a sex goddess, but instead I stand there trying get rid of a none existent wedgy that feels like it’s flossing my arse. An arse that’s still too big for those nice french knicker style you’re all thinking of suggesting to me.

I’m happy to embrace the Bridget Jones style for now. It fits in nicely with my general frump-on and leggings that stretch very nicely as I do. They also go nicely with my boulder holder bras that I still need at the moment.

I would like to start feeling a little less mumsy at some point, even in the underwear department. But for now I’m ok with sitting here in my pjs eating cheesecake.

Mum Guilt

Everyone hears about mum-guilt. Even non-parents get a whiff of the term, usually through various media outlets. I was aware of it too, but arrogantly thought that I wouldn’t suffer because ‘I would always do what’s best for my child’, so why would I feel guilty?

Well here’s a list of things I have felt guilty about so far, even though my child has yet to have any kind of complex emotional problems for me to f up.

  • am I doing enough to develop my child
  • am I doing too much to develop my child so that he’soverwhelmed 
  • has he got enough toys
  • has he got too many toys
  • am I doing the right thing staying home
  • am I doing the right thing if I go to work
  • am I giving him enough variety of food
  • am I feeding too much
  • am I feeding too little
  • is my responsive parenting spoiling my child
  • am I responding enough to my child
  • is letting him cry going to ruin his entire life
  • is not letting him cry going to ruin his entire life 
  • is cosleeping going to make him clingy
  • is not cosleeping going to make it difficult for him to feel attached 
  • am I showing enough love
  • am I loving too much
  • does he KNOW how much I love him
  • oh god what if he doesn’t know
  • should I be cleaning the house when home with him
  • should I be spending time with him instead of cleaning the house
  • do I read enough to him
  • does he watch too much TV
  • do I need to structure his day more
  • have I structured his day too much 

And if that isn’t enough, you’re constantly questioning whether or not you’re a royally f’ing up regardless of what you do, as said very well by friend and resident blogger in her article, But am I a bad mom.

The sad truth is that we’re all going to do something wrong as parents because we’re not perfect. And that’s scary as hell! But by the very nature of feeling guilt, there’s a certain degree of relief. Because if you feel guilt, you know you’re not just doing your best; you’re also ready to change something if it doesn’t seem right. 

My guilt makes me aware of how my child is responding to my parenting, which in turn allows me to amend things so that he gets the best upbringing I can provide. 


Or am I helicopter parenting?

I know there are many many other things us mothers are made to feel guilty about. What are yours?

Some Days I Feel Like A S**t Mum…And Today It Might Be True

Today is one of those days where if being a mum was a normal job I would walk into my boss’s office and quit. And it wouldn’t be the first time. Because some days we all feel like we’re totally failing at this parenting thing. 

Some days I’m in the kitchen, dancing like a Disney princess, baking carrot/oat/banana muffins sprinkled with nothing but magic fairy dust and angel wings all full of wholesome, ethical and moral goodness. I’m might add that these days are not the norm!

Some days, today for example, my son’s diet consists of chocolate cake and cereal. 

Things he can just help himself to so that he at the very least doesn’t starve to death. 

My husband wouldn’t like that.

Whether it’s because it took over an hour to leave the house after dressing a child that is screaming as though you’re trying to murder him, or the fact that you’ve cancelled puddle ducks (again) because you can’t face stuffing those chunky thighs into the neoprene nappy, some days just seem to go to s**t. And you feel like the worst parent in the world because your child has to make do with the same old toys in the same old room with the same old mum, just sitting on her phone. Even the sun is not welcome today because going out for a walk is out of the question.

I told you. Some days I’m not a good mum.

Sometimes I lock my child in the car (let’s be real, no more than 5 minutes with the windows open!) so I can pick up all the cheerios he’s strewn all over the floor and that the cats are chasing around without having a whinging mini-me pulling at my hair like they’re reins. (Queue finding mouldy old cheerios in ever corner of the living room months down the line .) 

Sometimes I put on Stickman for the hundredth time just so I can drink my cup of coffee without him sticking his hand in it or wanting to check, again, that it is actually as hot as I say it is. 

Some days, I really do consider looking up the closest adoption agency (or kennel).

So here, my darling son. Eat nothing but cheerios and oat cakes while mummy collapses on the sofa after no sleep, yet again.

And no I don’t want to read the gruffalo again!

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Apparently it gets better. Apparently this could be a good 20 years away.

Nap Time Intentions

Every day while I wait for my son to go down for his one and only nap, I contemplate all the things I can do in that precious 1.5 – 2 hours of time. These I call my Nap Time Intentions.

For those that may not have children of their own, let me tell you now that the most precious thing in the world is not money or jewels or beauty. It is time. And as a mother of a young child, there is a distinct lack of it. Because every single thing I try and do while Ethan is awake, involves him clinging to my trousers for dear life as though he is going to be swallowed up by the floor, looking up with those puppy dog eyes and whinging at me at a pitch I’m sure only the dogs and I can hear. I assume he is wanting to help me in whatever endeavour I am attempting, however cooking on a hot hob or making coffee isn’t necessarily always doable with one hand.

So instead I spend my toddler-awake-time, playing with him (Facebook), coming up with creative ways to change a nappy without poo flying across the new carpet and trying to coax him to eat something other than crisps, an orange peel or the insides of blueberries (following Ethan around picking up blueberry skins is not my idea of a good time).

As Ethan starts the inevitable eye rubbing and quiet contemplation (I’m sure he’s plotting something evil), I begin to plan what I will do with my time. Here’s my list of things I wanted to achieve today:

  • Clear my parent’s spare room
  • Bake carrot muffins (that will probably end up being fed to the cats)
  • Properly start my novel

Here’s what I’ve achieved:

  • Eaten an extra large bowl of soup while watching some murder program on tv…

Ok so I’m winning today because I’ve also written a blog post and I’ve managed to eat something without it ending up all down my white jumper, but it’s not quite the efficient use of time I had envisaged.

And the problem is, it rarely ever is.

Because come that time, I relish being able to sit and eat without being whinged at or pulled at or sharing MY food. I love sitting at my laptop without those little grubby fingers grabbing at its keys making my computer do weird things that I can’t undo. I love being able to watch something on tv without being terrified of scarring my child!

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow right?

Are You ‘Just’ A Mum?

When I was pregnant I was determined I wasn’t going to become ‘just a mum’. That having a baby wasn’t going to change me as a person. I didn’t want to be one of those simpering idiots who only talked about her baby and had a Pinterest board full of baby led weaning recipes and creative messy play ideas.  I wasn’t going to show off every picture of bath time or video of my precious bundle eating broccoli for the first time. I didn’t really like children anyway (in fact I believe my ‘about’ page still states I am more excited about having kittens than kids!) so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to become the quintessential earth mother anyway.

Fast forward a year and here I am sitting with my 14 months old hanging off my breast, while I research gentle sleep techniques (because the little shit still wakes every 2 hours, but I won’t let him cry!) and come up with inventive ways to nurture his highly demanding and precious temper tantrums into something positive (call me naive).

You see, the joke of it is that becoming a mother does change you. You can’t help it. Having a child isn’t like having a pet you really really love. Having a child is like ripping out the heart in your chest and letting it go out into the world trying desperately to protect (but not too much!) it from every hurt. Having a child makes you so vulnerable that you can no longer watch or read anything about children that come to harm, because your mind is already a black hole of ‘what ifs’ when it comes to the safety of your child.

So what does that mean for my identity. Who and what am I now?

Identity of self changes over time, of course it does. And with that, so does our voice and the story we’re telling about our lives. Those of you who have been with me since the start, have probably got whiplash from the changes in direction the site has gone under; from business starter, to anxiety sufferer, to mental health survivor, to mother.

To deny that becoming a mother has not only changed me, but also for the better, would be to deny a huge part of me. The part of me that loves to write. Because I can only write what I know, and what I know is that I love being a mum. More than I have ever loved anything.

So what does that mean for the Unmarked Road? Only time will tell whether the site gets a facelift or if I start again completely from scratch. A clean slate (probably the only clean thing for a long time).

But for now I must go and make three different lunches for when the little monster wakes up, because feeding him something other than pickles has become more important than I could have every imagined.

Oh and that Pinterest board? Yes, it has a load of home-sensory ideas. But there are one or two items that hint at an all together different woman. One who still likes to change her hair a few times a year or is a hippy traveller looking for her next adventure.

Because our identity isn’t just one thing, but a puzzle of colourful life experiences that continue to shape who we are.

When The Natural Doesn’t Come Naturally: My Breastfeeding Journey

When I became pregnant, there was no question in my mind on how I wanted to feed my baby. I knew I would breastfeed. I’d heard about sore cracked nipples, mastitis, blocked ducts, cluster feeding, engorgement, leaking, milk spraying everywhere… safe to say I knew it would be hard at times.

What I didn’t know was that it might not happen at all.

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Why Having A Baby Is Not Always An Easy Decision

We all know this scene: a pregnant woman crying over an advert on TV or threatening murder because she has run out of her favourite pickle and jelly flavoured ice cream. Every media outlet we come across shows a scenario in which the pregnant woman behaves in a ‘crazy’ and unstable way due to the hormones raging through her body and we all laugh because it’s just a small snippet in a woman’s life where she can truly become unhinged and no one will say anything.

Everyone but me. Having gone through hormonal imbalances in the past that ended with me taking an overdose, I was terrified of being pregnant. If women with no history of anxiety and depression went ‘nuts’ during pregnancy, what hope was there for me?

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Disconnecting Realities

I feel things. Deeply. When something happens to me or someone I love, I have an immediate reaction. I cry, I scream, I laugh. I’m a wear your heart on your sleeve kind of girl.

But now I feel numb. I have no reaction. I’m floating between disconnecting realities and on the surface it seems like I am coping. What does that even mean? To cope?

Something happened to someone I love. Something I don’t want to put into words. People ask if I’m ok and I tell them that I’m fine.

The truth is, I’m scared to fall apart in case I cannot put myself back together. 

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