A Mummys View

Telling it like it is

The Tightening Belt

The current economic climate as we all know is very bleak and depressing frankly, especially for the modern family and working mum.

A recent survey carried out by u-switch.com has found that almost a third of new mothers end up in debt following maternity leave and 1 in 10 end up shortening their planned maternity leave due to financial pressures. This did initially surprise me, but then I realised actually, that is highly plausible.

Having not long returned to work myself following maternity leave I have recently been wondering what I would do should I have another child. I was lucky enough this time to have been able to save in advance of my maternity leave. I had a decent salary which left me with some disposable income each month, so I was able to put money away. It was these savings that got me through my leave and enabled me to take the full year off that I had wanted to take with my little girl. However they only just stretched!

Had I not had this I would have probably ended up with in debt of over £3,000 at least if not more, especially since I unfortunately started a new part time role just before I went on maternity (timing!), meaning I halved my salary and therefore had a less attractive maternity package.

The u-switch.com survey found that 28% of mums had gone into the red during their maternity leave with almost £2,500 in debts and only a quarter of mums felt ready financially for motherhood.

I felt I was prepared for motherhood and maternity, we worked out that although it would be tight I could take the year off and could go part-time. However that was before the UK fell into its current state. With the rising cost of fuel and increase in costs at the supermarket tills, things don’t feel as plain sailing anymore. Don’t get me wrong, we are by no means in dire straits but I miss that little extra cash in my pocket each month. I have wondered whether or not to look for that full time job that will help me bring in more money, but will this just end up going on childcare and extra fuel to travel to and from work each month anyway? (My husband and I do a combined weekly mileage of 620 miles and that’s just travelling to and from work!) At the same time though I love spending time with my little girl and I don’t really want to have to sacrifice the time I have with her. It’s such a hard situation.

If I were to have another baby, which I would like at some point, I feel a little sad to think that I may not be able to have the same time off with them that I had with my little girl. On my part-time salary I can’t afford to save as much in advance and don’t want to end up racking the debt up.

I think it is so hard for us as modern mums, as I have said many times before on my blog, it’s not like when our mum’s had us, most women HAVE to go out to work and many don’t have the option or flexibility of part-time hours or ‘bank / agency’ work like many women used to do. So many of my friends have been declined flexible working or reduced working hours on business grounds, so what choice do mum’s have?

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com said: “It’s heartbreaking that so many mums are being forced into debt or having to cut short their maternity leave just to make ends meet.

“It is clear that more needs to be done by the Government to help families cope with the financial burden of parenthood, but in the meantime families can help their situation by reviewing household budgets and looking at where they can cut costs to save a bit of extra cash.” (Quote taken from u-switch.com press release

Ann has a point (even if it is with a view to directing people to her website), the Government should be doing more, but instead mum’s and the average UK family seem to be a target for this government. Limits on child tax credit allowances and child benefit payments are seeing the average family lose even more money, this combined with huge public sector cuts, UK wide redundancies and rises in fuel and shopping bills as mentioned before spells a very black outlook for the modern hard working family.

An article in the Daily Mirror on 11th April entitled Benefits Trapped highlights the plight. Single mum Rachel Vallender and her two year old son are scraping by despite Rachel working 22 hours a week. She states:

“I’m having to get into debt to try to make ends meet and keep up with rising bills, against a drop in tax credits and frozen child benefit. I’m left with £10 a week to feed the two of us. I worry about the diet I’m giving him and I end up eating just one meal a day – often his leftovers. I was told by the tax office I’d be better off giving up work. I have friends that rely on benefits and they are better off than me. How can that be right?”

An article , also in the Daily Mirror (I pick these up through work!) on 5th April, entitled “We can’t afford to go to work now that we have kids” highlighted the stories of several women who can’t afford to go to work due to rising childcare costs. It states that:

 “new research from the children’s charity Daycare Trust suggests 44,000 fewer families are getting help with childcare costs since the Government introduced changes to tax credits, whilst nursery costs have risen by nearly 6%”

Again, many found they were better off on state benefits. A crazy scenario when the Government is wanting to get people off state benefits!

So even if you have to cut your maternity leave short and head back to work, many are still not any better off due to the current economic climate, rising childcare costs and cuts made by the Government. It seems no matter what way you look at it, it’s a lose lose situation for the average modern family, especially the modern mum.

While we can’t change the current climate, I guess we can take steps to try to help our pockets a little. Just some of the hints and tips I have heard in recent weeks as to how to save money in the current climate include:

Petrol – apparently the AA say you can make significant savings on your fuel costs by adopting simple measures such as these below:

  • Make sure tyres are inflated to the correct level
  • Carry less heavy items in your car / boot if possible and remove roof boxes when not being used
  • Travel at a steady speed, within the limit and don’t brake heavily or accelerate quickly

Shopping:

  • Online sites like My Supermarket can help you compare your weekly shopping costs and ‘check out’ from the cheapest store.
  • Sites like My Voucher Codes can find you discounts to use when shopping, always worth a look first.
  • Sign up to mother and baby clubs to receive discount vouchers such as Tesco’s, Asda’s Sainsbury’s Little Ones, Mothercare’s Gurgle
  • Buy in advance while 2 for 1 offers and sales are on and put items away (ie birthday’s etc)
  • Plan your weekly food ahead and only buy what you need. We plan what we are going to eat each week and make things like Shepherds Pies, Bolognaises, Lasagne’s, Chili’s etc which can be frozen and can give several meals

Insurance, Bills and Utilities:

  • Use sites such as U-Switch, Go Compare or Money Supermarket to see if you can cut your household utility bills.
  • It was recently highlighted that energy companies are soon going to have to make customers aware of their lowest tariffs so make sure you are getting all the information you need

Netmums United Kindmums campaign is this week highlighting ways families can save money and help one another by donating items they no longer need via Nearly New Wanted boards like those on their site, or at charity shops etc. Likewise when donating have a good look and see what purchases can be made via those channels too, it’s amazing what you can find. I am a regular at our local baby sale and buy lots of never worn or practically brand new clothes for my little girl for the year ahead, there’s some great bargains to be found!

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the situation isn’t going to get better any time soon so I guess every little helps. Do you have any additional suggestions, anything you found that’s really helpful? I’d love to hear your views, ideas and suggestions so please leave me a comment below.

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Book Review: That’s Not My Tiger – Part of #FictionFriday

It’s that time of the week again where we hop on board with @Home Dad and join in his #FictionFriday blog hop

This week I’ve decided to feature another classic from Usborne’s “That’s not my…” range…

“That’s Not My Tiger” (Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells)

These books are fantastic for introducing young children to a range of different textures and enhancing their sensory experiences as well as their language skills. From a very young age my daughter especially loved the this book. Why not check out some of the other titles in the range

If you like book reviews why not check out @ Homedad’s Fiction Friday’s

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Would my disability run in the family???

So if you have read some of my other blog posts you will know that I have a disability. I was born with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) and have had 9 operations on my legs and hips over the years, including a leg lengthening operation.

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is when the ball and socket do not fit snugly together.  According the the charity STEPS about 1 or 2 in every 1,000 babies has a hip problem that requires treatment and there are varying degrees of severity, some will just have immature hips that correct themselves, others will have DDH and require treatment.

I had to undergo a significant amount of treatment and ended up on all kinds of traction and with various plasters and splints within hours of being born as some of the below pics show. (I think I hung in every position possible!)

Unfortunately for me, things weren’t as advanced back then and over the years things didn’t always go according to plan, as a result I still have problems and my mobility in recent years has deteriorated. I don’t let it hinder me much though and as you can see from my blog I have gone on to marry and have a lovely daughter with my caring hubby.

Because of my history though my little girl had to have a scan of her hips a few weeks after she was born to check that she was ok, as there is a genetic link that means DDH can be hereditary and there’s also an increased chance in breech birth‘s (which she was too). It was a very worrying time, especially with all that had happened to me. My friends and family were probably as nervous as we were to know if she had been passed the same problem down the line. (My niece has also just had to be scanned because of the family link too.)

The day came for the scan at the hospital and we were led into a room in the xray department for an ultrasound style scan. The team that greeted us and carried out the scan were fantastic, it took hardly no time at all and thankfully we were told there and then that everything appeared normal. (Thankfully my niece has been given the all clear too.)

I was so pleased that my little girl won’t have to go through any of the things that I did. However I know that had we received different news we would have managed. The medical advancements now are much better and as a result fewer children go on to have further problems, most are corrected very early on.

However I wanted to share my story with you to make people aware of the importance of monitoring things like limb development etc in the early weeks, months and years.

ALL babies’ hips are checked at birth and at 6-8 weeks as part of a national screening programme called the Newborn Infant Physical Examination (NIPE).  However the physical examination is not 100% accurate as this only detects hip instability at the time of the examination. This means that some babies might appear to be normal at the tests but develop problems later or that DDH has not been picked up at the initial examination. As formal checks finish after the 6-8 week check, parents or grandparents are often best at noticing signs of a hip problem.

If you notice any of these signs you should contact your health professional as soon as possible to be referred to an orthopaedic specialist for an ultrasound or xray to confirm a diagnosis of DDH:

  • Deep unequal creases in the buttocks or thighs
  • When changing a nappy one leg does not seem to move outwards as fully as the other or both legs seem restricted
  • Your child crawls with one leg dragging
  • Inequality in leg length
  • A limp if one leg is affected or abnormal ‘waddling’ walk if both hips are affected.
  • Do remember that a hip not properly in joint does not hurt in childhood.

The above information was taken from the charity STEPS website. Should you have to have any concerns, have to have further tests for your child, or receive news that they have some form of lower limb problem, then  STEPS can be an enormous support. My family and I have had links with them since I was a toddler and still keep up to date with their work now, many years down the line. They offer advice, guidance and support to individuals, families and carers in what can be a confusing time.

As I have been getting to know other parent bloggers and checking out their blogs I have come across a couple of lovely mummy bloggers who are going through similar things at present, Emma from Emma and three and Molly from Mother’s Always Right both have stories to share and their children are gorgeous, courageous, outgoing little people who despite being held back a little with their mobility at this point in time are still living life to the full and enjoying exploring the world around them. I have no doubt that whilst things are hard for them at present and frustrating for all concerned it won’t be long before their little ones are chasing down their playmates and I look forward to reading all about it as their stories hit a very personal note for me.

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The Joy of Swimming

When I saw that BritMums were hosting a  Joy of Swimming Competition, sponsored by British Gas I just knew I had to take part, so here’s my entry

One of my first ever posts on my blog was entitled Baby Swimming an Amazing and Most Valuable Life Lesson. In this post I documented the importance of taking your baby swimming from an early ages and the benefits it has.

As a child I was born (in the 1970’s) without a ball joint in my hip. I was a bit of a complicated and problematic case and the doctors recommended my mum took me swimming every day as it was the best form of exercise for me and would help to strengthen my muscles and potentially help a ball joint to form, without exerting too much pressure on my joints or young body.

My mum did exactly as the doctors ordered and took me swimming most days for a year and then continued to take me several times a week after that for years. The swimming did in fact help me, it didn’t correct everything but that is a whole different story, but it helped.

I absolutely LOVED going swimming, you could say I was a true water baby! The staff at the local leisure centre knew me well and I actually took my first steps in the cafe there when I was two years old. Once I could walk, there was no stopping me, I dragged my mum from the carpark to the changing rooms every time in total excitement!

The local press were interested in my story at the time and came to take pictures of my mum and I and this is a key memory I have so I thought I would share the picture they took with you. (Wasn’t I a cutie???)

Every year we would go on holiday to the Lake District too and the complex would have a swimming pool. I would drag my parents to the pool before we had even had chance to check in and we couldn’t leave without one last trip to the pool before we headed home (even if it meant soggy swimming costumes in the back of the car and the smell of chlorine all the way)! I was lucky enough to take my daughter to the same place for her first holiday last year and the first thing I did was take her swimming in true family tradition!

Over the years I have regularly taken part in Swimathon’s to raise money for charitable causes, the most recent being back in 2008 when I raised money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. My disability has deteriorated in recent years and gym work outs and walking any distance just aren’t possible so swimming remains the one thing I can do to keep fit as the water supports my body. If I were to win the lottery my one wish would be to be able to buy a house with a swimming pool, if I could do that I would swim morning and night and encourage my children to swim with me too. In fact, I think I may have a mermaid gene in me somewhere down the line!?

Needless to say, as you can see I am unbelievably pro swimming, (as my previous post shows). I had my daughter signed up to a local WaterBabies class before she was even born and we started the lessons at 6 months! To watch my daughter swim under water for the  first time was incredible, and I was thrilled when she mastered the life-saving hold on technique whiich would enable her to hold on to the side of a pool should she fall in.

I think teaching children to have confidence in the water and overall, teaching them to swim, is one of the most valuable life lessons and skills that you can give to them and I would recommend taking your child swimming from an early age to anyone. My previous post has a lot of links to research and stats regarding the benefits of swimming, it highlights how it can help children’s development potential in later life, their balance and obviously safety and life saving aspects of reducing the chances of drowning so please do take the time to have a read.

If this wasn’t motivation enough for you, as part of their support for British Swimming British Gas are offering everyone the chance to enjoy free swims and a range of other exciting activities this summer. Just hop on over to their site to find out what activities are on offer in your area.

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Toddlers and Technology Don’t Mix – #TerribleTwosday

So every week I stop by and have a read of Terrible Twosday with The Crumby Mummy but I’ve never really felt I had much to say to join in myself. I guess I was thinking of extreme naughtiness and meltdowns, which to be honest my little girl isn’t too bad with. But from speaking to the lovely lady herself and reading her posts I realised anything can go and then of course all the things that happen popped into my head.

I loved reading The Crumby Mummy’s Post this week about SKY and her black and white TV as I too have had problems. My husband and I were sat one evening and he said, “Have we missed some Blue Bloods? I haven’t seen it come up on the planner in a while?” I suddenly realised he was right, so we had a look through and realised we had missed 3 episodes, but had no idea how. We also relaised something else had disappeared. Then a few days later hubby said to me “I didn’t think you would have taped that kind of show?” when I asked him what show he replied it was something about the wonders of the world… and anyone who knows me knows I soooo wouldn’t have taped that kind of show! 🙂

We both looked at each other confused and then almost at the same time the penny dropped and we cast our eyes to the left to our lovely little girl. While we think the innocent pressings of the SKY remote don’t matter when the TV isn’t on (duh!)… oh yes they do….! Needless to say she’s not allowed the remotes anymore and we are now having to wait for Blue Bloods to be repeated! lol!

In addition to this I have learned not to leave my lap top open while she is in the room. I made this mistake one day recently and went into the kitchen to get a drink. When I came back the screen had all kinds of HP messages open and I couldn’t operate the built in mouse to even close them.

My little girl was sat casually watching me as if butter wouldn’t melt.

I sat for half an hour desp trying to work out what had happened and in a complete panic that my blogging may have to be put on hold. I even called my cousin who works in IT and left a message for him. Then I noticed the tiny little red light and button just above the mouse pad. I tentatively pressed it and bingo the cursor appeared and we were back in business! panic over!

My angel faced little girl was watching on curiously all the time. Needless to say I now lock my computer on leaving the room or shut it completely to avoid any more catastrophes!

If you have any moments like this, why not share them with The Crumby Mummy over at Terrible Twosday

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More Informed Birthing Choices for Women or Cost Cutting Measures?

It’s hit the headlines this last week that home births may be a safer and cheaper option than hospital and this in turn could also save the NHS a significant amount of money.

The study carried out by University of Oxford Researchers looked at 64,000 births in Englandbetween 2008 – 2010 and the relative costs of healthy births in different settings.

It found a planned birth in an obstetric unit was the most expensive option for mothers who already have children and a planned home birth was the cheapest. In addition, for people who haven’t had children before, a planned birth in a midwife-led unit is cheaper than one in an obstetric unit.

However according to the Royal College of Midwives* 96% of births still happen in hospital.

The Department of Health* has stated:

“As we modernise the NHS we have made it a priority to offer women choices in where they give birth.”

I personally am all for home-births and birth’s in midwife led units. However I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say

“I planned a home birth and ended up being rushed into hospital”

or

“I was all set to give birth at the midwife led unit but then had to be rushed to the nearby hospital due to complications”.

Every mother dreams of an uncomplicated birth but the reality is that many unfortunately don’t have the choice in the first place (breech babies, etc) or last minute complications take the decision out of their hands.

If recommendations are to be made I am all in favour however the cost mustn’t be at the expense of the mother or baby. Mother’s must be able to make an informed decision and alternatives need to remain in place for any last minute changes or emergency’s. The Government and NHS need to assure this is the case and not just make moves to purely save money.

As you will have read in my birth story “Oh My God My Baby’s Coming Early” I didn’t have the choice, last minute complications and a breech position meant an inevitable quick c-section for me. I don’t know anyone who has had the home water birth or birth in a midwife led unit that they wanted. Am I wrong in this assumption? How did your birth go? Did it go according to plan? Would you have preferred an alternative birth? Did you have a home birth or midwife led birth? I’d love to hear your views and / or stories. Why not comment or link up with me below?

Whilst this post is talking about the service available to mums-to-be here in the UK I do want to also highlight a Save the Children campaign that I just wrote about recently to help expectant mums in developing countries too. #Blogitforbabies is a fab campaign being headed up by the lovely Mammasaurus.

We mustn’t forget that we are very lucky when compared to mum’s in Bangladesh. They don’t have the luxury of an NHS healthcare and 1 in 19 children don’t live to see their fifth birthday because of limited access to basic healthcare services. This means that preventable diseases are claiming the lives of innocent young children and babies.

Save the Children is appealing for £1 million to build life-saving clinics in some of the poorest and remotest areas of Bangladesh. If you haven’t already please take a look at ways you too can get involved in Save the Children’s campaign.

In the meantime I’d love to hear your views on the study here in the UK, the recommendations and what your experiences were!

*comments taken from article in The Guardian

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Listography – My 5 Fairy Godmother Wishes for My Daughter

So this week the lovely Kate at KateTakes5 has been wondering what would happen if her child had a fairy godmother and that fairy godmother granted them 5 wishes. What 5 wishes would she choose? With this in mind for this week’s #Listography blog hop she’s asked us what we would choose.

So here goes…

1. Health

Health would be a big wish for me for my little girl. Everyone wishes for a long and healthy life and having a disability myself that has deteriorated as I have grown up I wish a long, healthy and mobile life for my daughter.

2. Loving and Caring Nature

I am quite an open and tactile person. I wear my heart on my sleeve and care about the feelings of others and I would like my little girl to have the same attitude. I want her to respect and understand others and to be open and loving.

3. Intelligence

I want my child to do her best academically, I would never be overly pushy but I want her to be able to put her mind to something and to achieve things in life.

4. Patience and a Calm Temperament

I can have a fiery side to me and will often argue the toss if given the chance and admittedly I don’t always know when to shut up and back down. I can also get anxious easily. I want my daughter to be able to keep a level head and remain calm.

5. Courage

Whilst I want her to remain calm and be patient, I also don’t want her to be a push-over. I have been walked over many times in my life and haven’t always stood up for myself (despite my fiery side) and I regret this. I want my daughter to have courage to stand up for herself and for what she believes in and to never feel bullied or intimidated as I have.

If you want to join in the lovely KateTakes5 #Listography blog hop just hop on over to her blog

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Oh No What’s Happened to Violet???

I just had to share with you all a funny and touching moment we had earlier.

My little girl has the Leapfrog Violet the Puppy toy and loves carrying it around with her. However this morning when she picked it up
it seemed to keep getting stuck on the first bar of music / words (obviously the batteries were dead). So my daughter took Violet to her daddy who proceeded to open up the back of the toy and pull the battery pack out much to my daughter’s complete horror!

Her mouth opened wide and her eyes were transfixed on what had just happened, she looked as though she were about to burst into tears, the distress was there for all to see “Oh no! What’s happened to Violet?”

Hubby felt an overwhelming pang of guilt and tried to console our little girl, who buried her head in his chest before running over to cuddle me and looking back in shock at the opened up dog laid on our sofa.

My husband tried explaining that all was ok and that he would mend Violet very quickly. He looked at me, both of us not sure whether to laugh or feel guilty and he hurried off into the kitchen to put some new batteries in.

2 minutes later and Violet appeared around the door frame singing in her usual happy self, my daughter grabbed her little dog and gave it a  big cuddle… all was now well!

Hubby and I found this so sweet (if not a little funny admittedly) it shows how much our daughter has developed, her little emotions and empathy for her little companion were so clear but it also made us so aware of just how vulnerable and in awe of the world she still is too.

Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this post…

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#Feel Good Friday

Hello and welcome to #FeelGoodFriday!

As always the question is simple, what’s made you feel good this week or today in general?

Why not write a post on your blog then link to the lovely Not Just a Mummy’s Feel Good Friday Let’s share the feel good factor!

So this week I have been inspired by some truly beautiful people in the blogging world who are doing amazing things for charity.

Mammasaurus,HPMcQMother.Wife.Me and  Mummy From the Heart to mention a few

They have inspired me and made me feel good for what we in the blogging world are doing for some amazing charitable causes.

With that in mind I dedicate this song to all those Beautiful People out there that are doing their bit!

Chris Brown featuring Benni Bennasi – Beautiful People

enjoy!

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Book Review: Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly – Part of #FictionFriday

It’s that time of the week again where we hop on board with @Home Dad and join in his #FictionFriday blog hop

This week I’ve decided to feature Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly (Sue Heap and Nick Sharratt)

This is a fun and colourful book that introduces young children to colours and objects in a simple and fun way using the characters Nick and Sue and their favourite colours and objects.

“Nick likes red apples, Sue likes green pears.”

“Nick likes brown bears and black cats, Sue likes black and white cats and black and white hats.”

Each concept is highlighted with simple, fun and colourful illustrations to capture the attention and imagination of little ones.

My daughter loves this book, which was bought as a present and at bedtime we have been known to ask for “more”. That in my mind is a seal of approval and as it’s educational too that’s an added bonus.

It gets our recommendation! Enjoy!

If you want to join in with #FictionFriday why not hop on over to @HomeDad’s blog to join in the fun and find out more

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