Working things out

Some of you will know how I’ve struggled these last few years. For all sorts of reasons. Family, business, bereavement, financial are the main headings I’d use for those reasons.

Last year was a turning point, when I really sat down and worked out what was important to me, and my family. I sold the online shops I’d set up 10 years ago. As a family it also marked a year in our new house.

It’s taken a long time to work things through. Sometimes, as much as we try, priorities have to be focused on, and best intentions get left behind. Just like my blogging.

Despite loving writing, and having found it cathartic over my blogging life, the last couple of years have been tough. I’ve wanted to write, to share, and sometimes get support about issues I’ve been dealing with. However, some of the issues have been too sensitive. My eldest son has struggled, and been teased, about being the focus of my online writing. It’s never been my intention to embarrass him.

Even since signing up to the 30 day blogging challenge with Sarah Arrow, in October, I’ve had all the best intentions. I thought that was just what I needed. It wasn’t. I just wasn’t ready for that level of writing commitment.

I’ve had lots to work through. I’ve got my goals. I’m not without vision, skill, or talent, and I’m brimming with ideas. But I also know, and have learnt over the past 6 years, that some things just have to be put to one side. You have to be ready to move on.

I’m not saying I’ve got everything in place to blog regularly again, but I’ve certainly taken some big steps since December. We had a lovely family Christmas. We spent time with family and friends and did what we wanted. I took a whole 2 weeks off work, which was fantastic! I’ve maintained my running goals this January, and am feeling the health benefits of this new clearer schedule and plan.

I’ve refound my confidence by doing the little things in life – baking, seeing friends, spending time with my children. Now that I’m settled in those little things, my attention is now returning to my work, and business.

Any one else out there working things out, step by step?

My child is a teenager – what now?

My teenager

My teenager

Today, my eldest becomes a teenager. I clearly remember the day he came into this world, and still feel very blessed by his presence. He’s made us so proud already, I sometimes feel I will burst with pride.  So, what now?

Whilst we know that babies don’t come with manuals, that we have to learn how to parent, love and nuture, the same is true as children get older. The challenges get different within the family, not necessarily more difficult, but sometimes they are. We’ve learnt together how to deal with situations and set boundaries together. We’ve asked friends how to deal with certain issues. We’ve searched online for answers, and found some great places to read and share, including BeTeenUs.

What now?

We’ll I for one aren’t expecting behaviour, atttitude, or interests to change today. My youngest son would say the elder has been a teenager for a while now in outlook and attitude. So, what now?

  • Enjoy being with him as much as possible
  • Support him to use the talents he’s been given
  • Challenge his behaviour and attitude when it’s outside the framework we expect
  • Love him
  • Cuddle him as much as he’ll let me
  • Watch him grow up to be a lovely young man

What would you do/have you done with your teenage children?

Final year as a Primary School Mum

Well, I really can’t believe it! I know time flies, but how can I only have 10 months left of being a Primary School Mum? This time last year I was trying to get my head around being a Secondary School Mum, (it took me a while!), and now? No.2 is in year 6, being very grown up about his school work and I’ve got 10 months left!

It’s been a fun journey, and I can’t see this year being any different for the family. It will be full of activities for both boys, with them supporting each other at home and literally at their sporting events. They get on extremely well, and would probably consider each other to be their best friend. This will make the transition even easier for all of us.

Whilst it took us a while to get into how Secondary schools worked and communicated, (or not!), I think that this year we’ll just simply enjoy the fun and freedom that Primary school gives. Whilst my no.2 son is being stretched and challenged, he’s also pretty  free to try new things within a small school environment. We’ve been lucky with our Primary. Both boys have been supported to develop their potential educationally, and through their outside interests. Yes, we’ll miss that next year when we won’t know the teachers who are teaching them. However, we do know that this is all part of the boys getting ready to go into the world beyond school when they, like us, don’t know who they’ll come into contact with.

It’s sort of sad, but no.2 is ready to move on to pastures new. It’s difficult at times with the second child to hold them back and let them discover things for themselves rather than just copy isn’t it? There’ll be lots to celebrate this year, and we just need to spend the time savouring the ‘lasts’, just like we enjoy the ‘firsts’ of new experiences.

Is there anything you’d advise us to do this year that you did/didn’t?

A business is sold to support more women

Life moves on. You know this statement is true. I’ve talked about life, and death, a lot over the last few years, from my personal life. However, today is the start of a new life for me, and a lovely friend of mine, Emma Launchbury.

I started bras4mums 10 years ago when I was sold a nursing bra that fitted one week, but not the next. It was as simple as that. bras4mums has grown over the years from a home bra fitting service in Lancashire to an online store, supporting pregnant and breastfeeding women throughout the UK, and across the world. I’ve personally supported hundreds of women at Baby Shows across the UK, as well as offered advice by phone, email, twitter and facebook.

Today, bras4mums, and the sister website bras4all, which specialises in mastectomy bras, and soft cup bras, is handed over to Emma to develop. Emma has been a bra fitter for the past 3 years, whilst her children have grown from babies to toddlers and a new bump to baby. She’s ready for a new business challenge, and is excited about supporting more women through the websites and consumer shows.

And me? I’m excited too! I’m going to concentrate on developing the Bra Lady Network again, to encourage more home bra fitters across the country. I’m also going to be doing more business support to small businesses, charities and not for profit organisations. I’ve learnt so much these last 10 years that it’s time for me to use these skills in a different way, and leave bras4mums and bras4all in the capable hands of a new owner.

The time is right for Emma and I to do new things. The sun is shining, all is well with the world. It’s been a long hard journey, but the decision feels right. You don’t need it Emma, but good luck with your new business. Here’s to a successful future for our business ventures and our growing families :-)

Life moves on – a new chapter

There’s lots happening over here right now. “There always is”, I hear you cry! Well, yes, I guess.

Right now I’m changing the shape of the business to meet demands I hadn’t foreseen & using technology that didn’t exist a few months ago. I’m getting ready to step up to new challenges in the Bra Lady business by opening up training to anyone who wants to be a bra fitter and / or set up their own lingerie business. It’s all very exciting!

Ben-DaffodilDoddle14-smToday though could be a big step for my eldest son. As some of you know he’s very sporty and as a gifted and talented child in his first year at secondary school, we’ve got some decisions to make to support his next steps. We know life is full of paths and decisions which ones to take, but as a 12 year old, how do we help them make the ‘right’ decisions?

No. 1 has been offered an opportunity to be part of a coaching structure which we, as parents who’ve done quite a bit of research, believe will support his development in sport. It’s a big step though. His biggest fear, I think, is not knowing anyone. The decision is his to make, and if this opportunity isn’t right, we’ll search for something else that is.

I’d be interested to hear how you have helped your children make some of the ‘big decisions’ in their life.

Assessing priorities

Octopus-juggling-licensedcartoonSince I started my business almost 10 years ago, I’ve been juggling priorities. My youngest child was 5 months old when I met my first customer, and bras4mums has grown, developed, changed and supported thousands of pregnant and breastfeeding women since.

During those 10 years, some of you will know, my Mum’s ovarian cancer returned, and she died in 2009. Despite the credit crunch starting the month after I’d taken on business premises, my focus was on spending time with Mum, as her prognosis in that same month was expected to be 2 years. She died 9 months later. I’m not saying my own family weren’t important during this time, but we ensured we all spent as much time with my parents as we could. But, if there was a call from my parents, or a hospital appointment, I would often drop everything to be available to talk, advise, support, or visit Mum. The 250 mile journey wasn’t always easy, and took its toll on my business.

Over the last 5 years, I know I put my business first at some points, which was right for me at the time. I’ve talked about business issues that took all my focus previously. My children were young, and I could spend time sorting things out, but I did make sacrifices.

The last 18 months I’ve switched. My priorities have changed. My focus is now children first, husband second, family and friends next, then my business. You may think that to grow a business through the worst recession since world war 2 that my priority should be business, business, business. In my experience, being more relaxed and happy means that when I spend time in and on my business I’m more focused and achieve more.

My eldest started secondary school last September, and both boys are very active. Evenings are not my own any more. I used to do a couple of hours work in the evenings after the boys were in bed. That’s no longer possible. I also don’t want it! I enjoy supporting my boys in all their activities. I also volunteer for the boy’s athletic & triathlon club, which I feel is important. I enjoy it. Without volunteers children wouldn’t be able to take part in so many things.

I’ve also realised that, if I’m not happy, my family aren’t either! It doesn’t matter to them if my business does well. They want me to smile, to enjoy my own interests and stay healthy. Worry isn’t a health booster is it?

I’m enjoying my 44th year. We’re all relaxed yet working and playing hard. My change of priorities has given us all a new start.

Have you changed your focus recently?

It hits you when you least expect it

Today would have been my Mum’s 70th birthday, had she been alive.

Mum June 2008 - a year before she died

Mum June 2008 – a year before she died

Surprisingly, I’ve been OK today. It was last week that it hit me that we were reaching a landmark birthday, and not celebrating it with her, here, with us. I guess it’s also as my birthday is a few days before hers, that I’m reminded that my Mum wouldn’t be wishing me a Happy Birthday in person.

Why do things hit us when we least expect them to? It can be anything, not just those we miss, can’t it? Sometimes children or friends do things which tug at our heart strings and we ‘go to pieces’ don’t we?

This day last year I wrote about life being too short, whatever age people live to. I then went quiet on you for about 9 months! I found 2013 tough. Really tough. Not just the bereavement of a close friend, or the heartache loved ones had caused us, but just the general, everyday stuff. I was struggling to keep going through my life, and really couldn’t share the experiences with anyone else apart from my family and close friends.

It does help though. To share. And to cry. To just say, “Yep, today is tough, but I’m going to get through it”, or “I really miss x, but they wouldn’t want me to be sad”. Little steps are better than no steps at all, aren’t they?

So, whilst I’m sorry we aren’t celebrating as a family group, Mum’s 70th birthday, I know that like me, many friends are thinking about her today, and all she brought to us in her 65 years she was on this earth. I still love you as much as ever Mum.

I don’t know why ‘it’ does it, but I’m sure it does us good.

For my teenage daughter and her friends

This was shared by a Mum I know with teenage daughters. I feel it’s relevant to any parent & child relationship. What do you think? Thanks to Lynne, @HonieBUK, who’s a busy Mum & blogs here.


You ARE beautiful – you don’t need a ‘like for looks’ to hear this
You ARE bright – even if some of your decisions are a bit misguided
You DO have my back – even when you do your best to cover up
You WILL make mistakes – just be sure to be with those you trust when you do

Yes, I have made mistakes, I have felt the way you do, I have lied to my parents and thought I knew best, I did think enough of myself to do the things I thought best for me……

I had some pretty bad friends and some that weren’t looking out for me.

But, I was very lucky to have good friends who were there to share these experiences with me and yes, they did watch my back…..

More importantly, there came a time when I realised that my parents, no matter how annoying, were right to nag me, right to keep on at me, to tell me the answers to my flippant “What the worst that could happen” and only now do I realise how unbelievably terrifying it is to ‘allow’ your Daughter to make mistakes and pray that she will have the same insight I did and the good friends I had to get me through my teenage years of thinking ‘I knew best’.

YOUR MUM IS NOT PERFECT – She has had years to experience, years to make mistakes, years to get over them, years to put things behind her, years to make the best of what she has, years to make things the best she can.

She also had her parents there to watch her do all of this and I’m grateful they were there.


Getting into the swing of things

ben-sep13Yes, 2014 is already a week old, so I’m not talking about this year. I think we’re finally getting into no.1 son being at secondary school!

I’m not sure who’s had the steepest learning curve – the child or the parents. My guess is, from how we’ve all coped with it, that it’s us, the parents that have had more to adjust to than my son!

When no.1 left primary school, we knew he was ready for his next challenge. He’s a bright, talented boy, and as you know, very sporty. We were all pleased with the school he attends, and the transition arrangements seemed to be all set up to support the pupil to get started into secondary school life very quickly. What could go wrong?

What about the rest of the family though in this major change? It’s not that we didn’t want him to move on to the next phase of his life. We just wanted to ensure, as we’ve always done for the past 11+ years, that he was safe, happy, knew what was going on around him, and knew where to get support from if he wasn’t.

We found that, the communication channels between school and home were loose. We were told that the website would be a major channel for messages, and the school used twitter as well. As I use twitter I thought this would save me from looking on the website each day to see if football training had been cancelled. But, hey-ho, that’s not what they were meaning!

School meant that, from day 1, the pupil was responsible for knowing what was going on, and getting to and from school safely. The pupil is responsible for communicating any necessary message to parents. This assumes that each child has the means of communicating with parents, which my son doesn’t. Yes, he may well be in the minority of not having a mobile phone, but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.

After a few fraught weeks, we finally reached an understanding that the school twitter feeds were not for every group or class, but for general messages. If a message was put out about sport training, then it didn’t necessarily mean that other groups weren’t on – it was just that one teacher was using twitter, and communicating with their group.

On the education side, no.1 seemed to be bringing books home, but had very little homework. Some of the girls I knew in his class seemed to be spending longer on work at home than he was. Was it a boy thing? Or was he not engaging with the work? At a meeting with his form teacher at the end of the first half term, we discovered that he was doing ‘OK’, and teachers hadn’t reported any issues about him or his work. Is that a good thing? Just getting by?

The second half-term seemed to fly by, but I think my son realised that to maintain his place in the set he’s in, that he did actually need to do some work! I showed him one of his books from year 6 to show him his lovely handwriting, and we compared it to his year 7 work. The penny was finally dropping! The homework still hasn’t come thick and fast, but we now know that it’s going to be like that.

My eldest has learnt lots of lessons in his first 13 weeks at secondary school. He knows that his education is important, but found it difficult to put effort in when he was being recognised for his sporting achievements at school, not his educational ones. We’ve had the conversation that, “wouldn’t it be great to be recognised for work as well as sport?”, and it looks like he’s finally understanding. He’s starting to see that there may well be a reason for this education lark, and not just to meet girls! We’ve started talking about careers, (another discussion for another day), and he seems a little more focused this week.

Going from a school of 200, to being in a year group of the same number is quite a challenge. It sounds like my son is popular amongst his peers, and is known by teachers and his House for his sporting achievements. But the popularity brings challenges too. Again, another topic for another day.

Finally though, I think we’re all getting into the swing of secondary school. He’s found some freedom and has made lots of new friends and acquaintances. He’ll come home to an empty house now, which is something neither my husband nor I did at his age. We’ve learnt that school are there to support him educationally, but also give him lots of exciting opportunities to get involved with, and they’ll encourage the all-round development of my young man, along with the 199 other pupils in his year.

I can honestly say now though, that the pattern for secondary school life, is that there is no pattern! 2014 is a new start for us all, and getting into the swing of life with a year 7 is exciting for us all, and we’re looking forward to supporting him this year.

Is this the right way to look at it?

My little man

My eldest is 12 years old today. He’s charming & intelligent, incredibly fit & sporty, and usually fun to be around. We have reached the stage of moods & anger, but overall, he’s lovely.

Ben Hughes

Ben Hughes

The memory of labouring, giving birth and those excited and scary first days, weeks and months are still so clear, 12 years on. And parenting is still scary! However, bright and well rounded you think your child is, whatever their interests, they still do things to surprise you don’t they?

They challenge, push boundaries and ask “why” constantly. As a parent, I’ve found since he’s started going to secondary school, I’ve felt out of control. I don’t know what’s going on in his life in the same way. Some of it has been to do with communication from school, and learning how we can best support him. But didn’t we do the same at his age?

When I look back, I might not have been going on and on about getting a mobile phone, or Facebook account, or interested in “a relationship”, but I put pressure on my parents to do things they didn’t ever do at the age of 12. I know as time moves we’re all challenged by technology, or progress, or simply change.

When no.1 was born 12 years ago I had no idea I would ever set up my own business and be a self employed Mum of 2. I always felt that my family came first, but the life challenges that have come my way these last 5 years have shown me that I had mixed priorities. This year I’ve re-focused on my family and whilst this is still work in progress, I’m hoping that both my little men appreciate what we do for them.

As hard as being a parent is, I think it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. The challenge of supporting this 12 year old young man to develop and grow and understand himself and the world around him will go on, and on.

Today is about celebrating him growing up and moving into a world I’m unfamiliar with, with our support, and recognising there will be more challenges ahead, for all of us. We’re all constantly learning about ourselves, and growing older with children is no exception.

I wonder what the next 12 years will bring?