“I wish I didn’t have to take pills to be normal!”

This was my complaint to my Beloved Husband. His response:

“Well at least you can. A hundred years ago, you’d just have had to be abnormal.”

Not quite the reply I was hoping for, but he does have a point.

My GP was more sympathetic, pointing out that if I was diabetic I wouldn’t have a problem with using insulin to stay alive. But because it is my brain that is malfunctioning rather than my pancreas I find it harder to accept the need for pharmacological support.

I have a love-hate relationship with my antidepressants. I’m sure they have literally saved my life at times. On the other hand, they are strong drugs and they do have side effects. I have now been taking them for nearly 22 years. More than half my life. Longer than I’ve been married to my Beloved (he knew what he was getting into…) If I remember rightly I was about 10 years old the first time I saw a psychologist. Certainly I was still in primary school. I’ve had more episodes of depression than I can count. I’m definitely a hard case. I need these medicines; I know that. I just wish I didn’t.

I’ve recently crashed yet again with another episode. Which has reopened old wounds and unanswered questions. Why me? On the surface I have no good reason for this. I’m happily married, I have three wonderful children, I have a job enjoy, good friends and a secure home. I studied psychology before I became a nurse in an effort to understand it. I have devoured books on the subject. I have swallowed enough fish oil to decimate Atlantic fish stocks. I even learned to love exercise – and believe me that one was tough. If I could have beaten depression by my efforts alone I would have done so by now.

“I’ve always been neurotic. But usually I am at least a functioning neurotic. At the moment I’m not even that.” Me, complaining to my Beloved again. This time I got:

“Being functional is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to be kind.”

Wow. For all the teasing, sometimes he says something so profound, so important it takes my breath away. Wisdom and humour. You can see why I married him.


Wise, I am not. 

Walking home from school today with Beanie and little Bear we were discussing Yoda. Apparently, one of the ways you can Yoda is so wise is because he mixes his sentences up. I suggested that I must be wise as well then, because I frequently mix up my sentences, (and get confused, call my children by each others’ names, forget what I was saying, etc). The response was a unanimous “No, Mummy! You’re not wise!”

According to my children, the characteristics I share with Yoda are as follows:

1: I am very old. I suppose from their perspective, 38 is ancient. 

2: I am very short. At five foot, one and a half inches, I cannot really argue with that. That half inch is very important, by the way. It must be recognised and included. 

3: I have pointed ears. True. Where most peoples’ external ears roll over at the edge, mine are flat with pointy bits. What can I say? I am a mutant. 

The main differences between me and Yoda according to my children are that I am not wise and I am not green. I’m generally relieved about the lack of green skin. It would draw unnecessary attention. But it would be nice if my kids thought I was at least a little bit wise!

On learning humility from my children…

I like to tell new parents, new mothers especially, about attachment theory. How mummy is the centre of her baby’s world. How mummy is the star at the centre of the universe as far as her children are concerned. This is why babies howl when we leave the room, why as soon as we pick up our infants and cuddle them all is right with their world again. Why our toddlers follow us everywhere, even to the loo. I firmly believe that children need responsive parents and that nurturing and prioritising our children’s attachment needs is the right thing to do. 

My children are no longer babies, however.  I like to think I’m still quite important to them, but to prevent me getting grandiose they like to tell me what they really think. Beanie, for example, informed me that she prefers Awesome Auntie to me. I did my best not to look too miffed, and replied that I love Awesome Auntie very much too. I recounted this exchange to my sister, who insightfully remarked that Beanie’s preference comes from the fact that “she’s never seen me grumpy and I say yes to everything”. So I did feel slightly mollified. 

Next up comes Monkey’s opinion. We had been patronising a local shoe shop in search of new wellies and they had a promotion where you could nominate a “super mum”. Monkey was taken with the posters: they involved superhero cape costumes and he is five, after all.  Fishing for compliments, I asked him if he’d nominate me as super mum. He said no, but he would nominate Beloved Husband for super daddy. Serves me right for fishing, I suppose! Then just to make me feel good about myself he told me he likes me because “you’re fatter and cuddlier than Daddy”. Ho hum.

Parents are important. Mothering is a Serious business. But my children are reminding me not to take myself too Seriously. Which sometimes a tough lesson.

Dolly Serious

Health Visiting: Why am I doing this?

Two things have prompted me to think about this question recently. One is an article that appeared in our professional journal, Community Practitioner, called “Does mother know best?” which you can read here: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201503/3617922681.html asserting that there is a mismatch between parents’ expectations of their health visitors and what health visitors are trying to provide. The second was a post on a Becoming Minimalist, a blog I love to read, entitled “If you wouldn’t do it for free, don’t do it for money” http://www.becomingminimalist.com/for-work/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+becomingminimalistcom+%28becomingminimalist.com%2 I shall look at these one at a time.

The writer of the first article, Helen Calvert, claims that “health visitors want us to be happy” and that this is influencing our advice to parents in unhelpful ways. Now, while I certainly don’t set out to make my clients unhappy, I had not considered it my professional responsibility to make them happy either. First and foremost, as a health visitor I believe my role is to promote and protect the health and welfare of babies, children and their families. There are times when I know full well that what I am going to say is not going to make parents happy. It never gets any easier to look a parent in the eyes and say “I am referring you to Social Services”, for example, but there are times when doing just that is my professional responsibility and I accept that as part of my job. I just don’t expect the parents to be pleased about it!

We expect you to give us up-to-date, evidence-based, accurate information on the health aspects of parenting, and this includes infant feeding, co-sleeping, introducing solid food, postnatal depression, toddler behaviour, weight gain and development”

No arguments here: as a health visitor it is my job to provide parents with information to support them in making their own informed decisions about their child(ren)’s health. It is not my job to make those decisions for them. Often I may come across parents who make decisions which differ from my own, or I might not personally consider to be the best way to parent, but, as long as those decisions do not constitute a risk of harm to the child, it is not my job to intervene, it my job to support the parents. Of course, if there is a safeguarding risk, that changes everything.

The second article also made me think: why exactly am I doing this job? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d do it for free – I’ve got bills to pay, Beloved Husband is out of work, and I’ve not made as much progress on my minimalist journey as Joshua Becker has on his. However, I certainly don’t do it for the money. By nursing standards, health visitors don’t do too badly, but none of us are going to get rich doing it either. I think I’m doing it because I really believe that Every Child Matters, http://www.everychildmatters.co.uk no conditions, no exceptions, no excuses. And I want to play a part in making that a reality in the society I live in. I am very Serious about that.

On a good day I also enjoy it!

Dolly Serious

Catch up with Dolly Serious

A lot has happened in the (almost) four years since I last wrote anything here. Beanie Girl is eight years old. Monkey Boy is nearly six. I went back to work again nearly three years ago, so I am a practising Health Visitor as well as a busy mother.  Monkey was diagnosed with joint hyper mobility syndrome and growth faltering. Beloved Husband was made redundant. Both children are now in school. 

We bought a television – still not sure this was a good idea. Beloved Husband and I can barely operate the thing it is so complicated. We usually leave it set to cbeebies and mutter darkly about how there only used to be four channels and one on/off switch and life was much simpler in those days! Then we stomp off to read a book. Our children tolerate these grumpy old person moments with amusement. 

One of the reasons for my radio silence is my general ineptitude with technology. I had saved my WordPress password in my old laptop and promptly forgotten it. Then of course, the laptop died. It took a while to figure out how to recover it. Ok, so four years is a long while, but these things can’t be rushed! 

So why now? What has motivated me to start writing again? Several things: my Beloved Husband’s unemployment has forced us both to think about what’s important in our lives, our children are growing and learning and asking ever-more difficult questions; “Why are planets round, mummy?” “Did Jesus know he was going to rise again after three days?” “How?” And I have suffered further episodes of depression which tends to leave me introspective and Serious. I am hoping that working through some of my thoughts and writing them down will help me gain clarity. I suspect my only readers are my Beloved Husband and my sister, Awesome Auntie, but maybe they will benefit from my musings as well.

Dolly Serious

Postscript: we looked up why planets are round on Google. I’m not convinced I understood the answer. As for the second question I suggested that Monkey ask either his teacher or our parish priest. He opted for the latter because “Priests are clever about God”! 

Life lessons from Dora the Explorer

Now let me make my first point: we do not own a television set. Beloved Husband and I are not great fans of the tube, we have better things to do with our time. A few years ago we received the annual TV licence demand for £140 and realised we had only turned the set in twice in the previous year. That’s £70 a watch – not good value. So we ditched it. TV licensing persist in sending demands and threats – they clearly do not believe me when I say we deliberately chose not to own a TV set.

Poverty indicators, Idle Parent, Aric Sigman

I set this information out first just so you know I’m not continuously relying on the electronic babysitter.

However, we do own a small portable DVD player and a laptop set up with iTunes. We also have quite a collection of children’s DVDs.

Beanie Girl’s first TV character discovery was Dora the Explorer. I like Dora. She’s not too pink and frilly. Everything is an adventure whether it’s taking books back to the library or visiting penguins at the south pole. And she has some very sage advice:

“Let’s stop and think” (one this Mummy would do well to heed more often),

“Who do we ask for help when we don’t know which way to go?” the map, obviously.

“Never, ever give up” (Beanie Girl seems to have taken that last piece of advice to heart).

“Seatbelts, so we can be safe.” Very useful that one. More than once I have invoked Dora’s name to persuade a recalcitrant little girl into her car seat.

I still believe that too much TV makes us fat, miserable and stupid, (not to mention broke), but I am making room for Dora in our lives. She’s entertaining. She has wisdom to impart. And she comes in very useful when I need 20 minutes’ peace to cook supper!

Mirror, mirror…

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the grumpiest of them all?

My children are like a mirror sometimes. They reflect my behaviour and attitudes back at me. Trouble is I don’t always like what I see.

For example, I know I need to get myself and the kids out of the house in the mornings. Otherwise we all get grumpy from cabin fever and lack of exercise. Why then, is it so hard to get my act in gear? To motivate myself?

I guess this is not a new problem. Somewhere, somehow I an sabotaging myself. No one else is forcing me to stay in the house. Once I’m outside I enjoy it. Why do I resist? I am stubborn and contrary in nature that’s why. Easy to see where Beanie girl gets it from!

There is an obvious element of goal conflict at work here. I want to play outside with my children, but I also want a lie in- I am obsessed with sleep. (And I want to clear up the breakfast dishes, and I want to stick in another load of laundry before we leave, etc.,etc.) Getting myself and the two small people up, dressed, fed and ready to face the day is no small task. So I resist it. I put it off. Until it becomes bigger and more difficult.

Oh, to be one of those (nauseating) people who jumps out of bed full of energy and enthusiasm every morning!

Or even better, full of serene, Zen acceptance if the way things are. It will take me an hour and a half (at least) to get us all up and ready to go. I could accept this and work with it. Trouble is, that means not just setting the alarm but actually getting out of bed when it goes off instead of snoozing it or ignoring or swearing it at (under my breath of course) which are my preferred options.

Ideal Homes?

Ideal Homes?

What is an “Ideal Home”? Is it one where everything is clean, nothing is out of place and no one dare sit down for fear of disturbing the sofa cushions? Or is it one where everyone feels warm and welcome, safe and loved? I have been pondering this question a lot recently. I spend a lot of time at home; I am, after all, currently a stay-at-home mother.

Now, I have Serious control issues when it comes to the state of my home. My sister can testify that I would yell at her for sitting on my bed and messing up my covers when I was seven for heaven’s sake. My Beloved Husband still teases me about making the bed – “if the bed’s made kids, it means Mummy is coping”. I do not like mess. On the other hand, I have been in homes where my teacup was whisked away and washed up before I had even swallowed the last gulp of tea. This did not feel welcoming. I do know there will always be more mess, dirty dishes, stickers on the floor, laundry, etc. It comes back to that Zen stuff I’ve been reading. I cannot prevent mess so why exhaust myself trying?

I am very Serious about my children’s happiness though, and children make a MESS. Messy play is in fact developmentally important. They need to play with sand, water, paint and playdough. They need toys and puzzles and crayons. Inevitably, these get spread around. My son is two; as far as he is concerned the kitchen floor is enhanced and beautified by the addition of one of his tractor stickers to a central tile. An aeroplane and a fish add interest to the cupboard doors. Who am I to argue? His opinion about what constitutes beauty is surely as valid as mine.

Can I learn to love mess? Now that really is a tall order! I find myself wishing that tidy, clean, ordered play could be developmentally valuable. I clearly have a long way to go with this Zen thing.

A Need Met Goes Away


I have a very wise friend, herself a mother of two young children, who is fond of this expression. Like most truly wise people she is not proud or boastful; she wears her wisdom lightly (and would probably deny that she is wise anyway). Like many wise or insightful expressions, it is a sentence I can return to and learn from again and again.


Some needs are obvious and obviously dissipate once met: if I am hungry and need food, I eat, my need is met, I am satisfied and I stop eating. If I am tired, I need sleep, I sleep and wake up refreshed (hopefully – sometimes my waking is caused by a small person bashing me with a book and demanding I “read it, Mummy!). Other needs are more difficult to identify. Yet others are easy to identify but feel difficult to meet.


La Leche League, an organisation about which I am very Serious, state as one of their principles:


In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.


This is something which I have found to be absolutely true. The intensity of my young children’s need for their mother can feel overwhelming at times. I mean do they really have to follow me into the loo? No one can tell me, or any other mother, exactly when the need will start to lessen, to feel satisfied. It is nice to be needed though. Even if I would occasionally like to have a wee in peace…

Sleep is my favourite and is my best…

What is it with kids and sleep? I love sleep. To paraphrase Lola, Sleep is my favourite and is my best! Bed is one of my favourite places. Snuggly duvet, maybe a hot water bottle if it’s cold, a good book, bliss. If I don’t get enough sleep then I get A Bit Grumpy, just like Daddy Pig. Except that I actually get irritable almost to the point of murderous rage, whereas Daddy Pig’s grumpiness is really quite mild in comparison.

Little Miss Bean is of the opinion that the best thing to do with my bed is to jump on it. Monkey Boy has not yet mastered the art of bouncing to the same degree as his big sister but he is working on it. Certainly they are both agreed that sleeping in a bed is a last resort, something they give in to only when they have exhausted all other possibilities. At two and four years old the world is still new and full of excitement, to sleep might be to risk missing some of it.

I realise I am not alone and my kids are hardly unique in this respect. Talking to mummy friends or an afternoon in the health visitor clinic quickly reveals that sleep is a common obsession among parents. Everyone has an opinion on it too, from your own parents and in-laws to the person behind you in the supermarket queue. They might be good opinions, they might be rubbish. However strongly attached that person is to their answer as the only answer there really are few hard and fast rules in parenting.

However, when it comes to sleep the truth is really quite simple: they have to sleep eventually. We all do, or else we die. They may not sleep when I want them to, or where I want them to, but they have to sleep somewhere, sooner or later. (I’ve been reading about Zen, can you tell?) I cannot control my children’s sleep patterns. Acknowledging that is quite liberating. Now I just have to actually give up trying to control them in practice…Wish me luck!