What Does Family Mean To You? #FamilyMadeSimple 

What does family mean to you? The truth is, family means different things to everyone. Long gone are the days of 2.4 children as standard. I look around me at friends and aquaintences, and I see a wonderfully diverse range of family units that include single parents of both genders, same sex couples, multicultural families, married and unmarried partners, and blended families. In addition to the childless couples, family sizes range from one child to half a dozen or more. Some families live in close proximity, whilst other (still close knit) families are geographical far apart. Some are related by blood, others aren’t. There is no standard; every family is beautifully unique in one way or another.

For us, whilst I wouldn’t consider my own family unit particularly diverse, we do have an only child, with no plans to extend our family; it feels complete already. Our family lifestyle is somewhat different to most too, in that we home educate Squiggle rather than taking the traditional schooling route. I guess that shows how modern family life can differ in other ways too!

The following infographic What Makes A Family? has been produced by Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers and has some interesting stats and information about modern families.

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What does family mean to you? 

I asked some fellow bloggers this question. Some came up with lovely, sentimental and insightful answers…

Family means Christmas Day, Sunday lunches and the only kind of hugs that make you feel better.Planes, Trains and Meltdowns

Family means those who you can rely on and who support you and make you happy! Family is not just blood. The Smallest of Things

Love, support and understanding.The Incidental Parent

Family means everything to me. My Mother doesn’t do anything with me, and my kids and I think that’s one big reason to why I keep the rest of my family close. They are the ones I can go to if I need a chat and we’re always there for each other.Life As Mum

Being together through thick and thin. Being happy to be just spending time with family, whether you are on a fun day out or relaxing at home.Dillydrops

To me, my close family are the people who know me better than anyone else, who I can completely be myself around, and who love me without judgment. And vice versa.Five Little Stars

Someone to support you through the tough times and celebrate the small victories!Two Hearts One Roof

Family means to me being around people who want to spend time with me and will be there with me no matter what. Always have my back and stand up for me.The Mum Diaries 

Whilst others had a more witty, lighthearted response…

People to argue with that are available on tap.The Money Shed

But Beth really sums it up perfectly…

Quite simply – Everything ❤️ ~ Twinderelmo

So, what do you think makes a family? Tell me in comments and/ or join in the discussion on social media using the hashtag #FamilyMadeSimple

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers.

My Pregnancy Care Story: The Highs and Lows

Good patient care throughout pregnancy, birth and post-natal is essential; it affects our body’s ability to heal from pregnancy and birth. Experiencing poor medical care or negligence during this time can not only lead to injury but also contribute to developing mental health issues such as postnatal depression or anxiety, which could potentially affect future decisions. It could also make it more difficult to care for our child (and any older siblings too), delay recovery or impact on enjoyment of life.

Yet did you know that, despite extensive guidelines in the UK about how pregnancy and birth should be handled by professionals, 25% of women felt that they were not always involved in decisions about their care? (CQC Maternity survey). Furthermore, there is limited government guidance on post-natal care for mothers, and Mumsnet aftercare, not afterthought survey reveals worrying experiences in some cases. For example, 45% could not access required pain relief, 61% lacked food when needed and 21% had no access to water, plus 19% did not have access to washing facilities.

On this note www.yourlegalfriend.com wants to help raise awareness of what to expect from healthcare professionals, and what to question, in order to empower new parents to know their rights as a patient during pregnancy. They have done some research into women’s experiences of pregnancy and birth on the NHS, and have pulled together some interesting statistics on how some women were treated during their pregnancy and labour. You can find further details on their blog.

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My own maternity care had its ups and downs. I had a fairly smooth pregnancy but there was a small bump in the road when, during my 20 week scan, I was told that my baby had a severe cleft lip. We were referred to a consultant but it turned out to be a false alarm. I understand mistakes happen but I did feel that it was not dealt with very well, and it left me feeling quite nervous for the rest of my pregnancy. 

The birth itself was somewhat traumatic; my plan was to have a natural water birth in a midwife-led unit, but I wound up having an emergency c-section instead. I’ll try to keep a long story (fairly!) short but basically my waters broke at home, before I had even noticed any real contractions, and there was very clearly meconium. So I headed straight to hospital and was sent up to the labour ward to (reluctantly) be hooked up to monitors. I was not allowed to eat during this time as they were already preparing for the likelihood of me going into theatre sooner or later, which made me feel impatient, stressed and miserable to be honest because I was really hungry!

However, the midwives and consultant respected my preference to give birth naturally if possible, but I was induced to speed things along. My contractions then started coming fast and strong very suddenly and at this point it became more obvious that my baby was in distress. They waited as long as possible but I failed to dilate at all (I was not even at 1cm!) so it was agreed I would most likely be needing to head to theatre sooner rather than later. I was being closely monitored and waiting for an available anaesthetist, but then a crash c-section happened so they were rushed in ahead of me. By the time the team were available again, I was fast heading towards a crash situation too.

It all happened so quickly I honestly cannot remember how much ‘choice’ I was given at this time, but I did feel like I was kept informed and I fully understood that it was just a difficult situation that had limited options. I was wheeled to theatre so hurriedly though that they almost forgot that they hadn’t given me an epidural! It wasn’t an issue as such, it just meant that I had to have a spinal block instead, but I did panic for a moment at their ‘oversight’! I remember my partner being sent off to put on scrubs and me screaming that they could not start until he was in the room. Then I recall him worrying that my heart dropped so low, but everything was abit of a blur after that.

One negative thing that did stand out for me happened straight afterwards, once I had been stitched up and was ready to leave theatre. The spinal block had meant that I lost the use of feeling in my arms and upper body too; this is apparently not usual. However, when I tried to tell the midwives this they dismissed me. I then got worried that they placed my baby in my arms to head to the recovery suite but I really couldn’t feel her, let alone safely hold her, so I asked for my partner to take her instead under the circumstances. But the midwives gave each other a ‘look’ as if they didn’t believe me, which understandably made me feel stressed about the total physical numbness, as well as helpless and guilty about something that in reality was entirely beyond my control and not my fault.

However, there were some positives too; it was obvious that they were trying to salvage any scrap of my birth plan that they could, which really helped me to cope better and it made it feel all abit less out of my control. For example, they played my CD in theatre and asked her dad if he wanted to cut the chord, as I had requested. Little things like that made all of the difference; it helped me to feel respected and valued. The simple fact is that things don’t always go to plan; it is what it is.

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My hospital postpartum care was a mixed bag of contradicting advice and unsympathetic midwives with some who were absolute gems. I regained feeling after several hours but my mobility was still limited from the op and also from a drip in my elbow. (It got pulled from my hand several times until there were no other veins left!) However, I had drink and food available, plus washing facilities and pain relief so that ticked most of the boxes. My daughter was also extremely fractious throughout our 48 hour postpartum stay and had to have blood tests, which made things more challenging than they might have otherwise been. But to be honest I think she just needed a more comfortable environment – she just wanted to get home as much as I did! We both just couldn’t wait to be discharged!

maternity, pregnancy, birth, postnatal, postpartum, medical care, newborn, baby, new mums, parenting, Your Legal Friend, Living Life Our Way

When it comes to pregnancy care there are a few points to remember:

  • Pregnant women have the same rights as everyone else when it comes to making decisions about their body. 
  • Genuine and informed consent must be given for medical treatments (unless you are unconscious or otherwise unable to). You should be told the risks, and should not be bullied or pressurised into decisions. 
  • Your birth partner can be a great advocate, so make sure they understand your birth plan and rights. 
  • A final point I would add is that I asked for a de-brief with my midwife and a copy of my maternity notes, but this did not happen. I think that is a massive shame as it would have really helped me to process everything better. I really recommend that mums request this if they think it would be helpful and please definitely do pursue it if you get fobbed off at first or forgotten. I wish I had! 

    How was your pregnancy care? Share your story in comments!

    *Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Your Legal Friend.

    My & Me Jewellery – Turning Children’s Artwork into Beautiful Silver Charms (Giveaway) 

    My&Me Jewellery turns children’s artwork into beautiful items of silver jewellery to treasure forever. Founder, Maxine, got her inspiration from the creative doodles of her 6 year old daughter, after she came across a page of the young artist’s artwork in her jewellery sketchbook one day. Much to her little girl’s delight, she decided to make one into a pendant; and it got such a great response that the concept of My&Me Jewellery was born. 

    MyandMe Jewellery, jewellery, keepsake, silver, art, gift ideas, parents
    Squiggle’s seal character drawing made into a beautiful silver heart pendant.

    Maxine works from a small studio in South Harrow. She also teaches classes and will soon be running workshops for parents to make their very own My&Me Jewellery with BaB courses. This practical workshop will be organised with the attendees convenience in mind; parents can bring babies, toddlers and home ed kids along with them and they will be entertained in the same room while parents can enjoy the workshop without the issue of childcare. Brilliant thinking! 

    The range includes shaped silver charm pendants priced from £49 for a single charm to £124 for a pendant with four charms. Or opt for a disc shaped or heart shaped engraved single charm bracelet or necklace (£55). You can even save 20% off just by signing up to their email list. These lovely items of jewellery would make a fabulous gift or a wonderful treat for yourself!

    For more information see the website:

    www.myandmejewellery.com 

    You can also find them over on facebook and instagram.

    My&Me Jewellery is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an engraved silver heart or disc shaped single charm bracelet or pendant. Enter via rafflecopter below.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Competition closes 12th May 2017. Open to UK residents only. Other T&Cs apply. 

    How Do You Entertain Your Children? 

    As a home educator, I spend alot of time with my daughter. We play, talk, research and do activities together, or go to classes, out on adventures and meet up with friends. Aside from the usual parenting duties, I view my role mainly as learning facilitator and to support her development in all areas. However, for the most part, I don’t see it as my job to entertain her per se. But of course there are times when I do need to keep her entertained for one reason or another, or rather help her to entertain herself! 

    So how do parents choose to do this? Do you reach for a tablet, grab a book or get out board games? Or maybe you have a different approach? Rattan Direct are conducting a survey to find out more about how parents entertain their children. (Click here to complete the survey) 

    activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

    The survey asks questions such as which room in the house do your children spend the most and least amount of time; do they tend to hide out in their bedroom or do you all socialise in the living room together? Or perhaps they are most likely to be outside in the garden rather than in any room at all! 

    What do you prefer to use as entertainment at home for your children; books, board games, gaming or TV? How about on car journeys? Do you struggle to entertain your children or not? And what are your thoughts on technology; is it a good way to entertain your children, do you think it is educational and do you think it affects their sleep?

    activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

    Personally I think technology can be educational and I think whether or not it affects sleep depends on the individual child. I do not personally use it as entertainment for Squiggle but that is down to our personal preferences and mainly due to her needs too. 

    We are most often in the living room or the garden. She often grabs a book or magazine to look at, or chooses to do some drawing or writing as an independent activity if I am busy for a few minutes, whereas games tend to be something that we play together. If we are going on a journey, she takes some toys to play with in the car and listens to music.

    activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

    The final questions ask about furniture; for example, what do you look for in new furniture now that you have children? For us, there are alot of factors to consider but cost is important and durable is an absolute must! 

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this survey, leave your comments below!

    *This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

    Game Play Has No Negative Affect On Children?

    A UK longitudinal study carried out on over 11, 000 children by the Medical Research Council at the University of Glasgow concluded that:

    • Watching TV for 3 hours or more daily at 5 years predicted increasing conduct problems between the ages of 5 years and 7 years.
    • No effects of TV at 5 years were found on hyperactivity/inattention, emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems or prosocial behaviour.
    • Playing electronic games at 5 years was not associated with increased risk of problems.

    The results are interesting but I do feel rather than take them at face value, it is important to think about the study itself. The original research paper can be found on the British Medical Journal website.

    Firstly, the most obvious point is perhaps that it is carried out by survey and therefore relies on the parent’s perspective of their child, and also assumes they have tracked screen time correctly and recorded it accurately. Although the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) given to the parents to complete is described as “a widely-used survey instrument with high validity and reliability,” I have carried out the questionnaire personally and feel the questions themselves are rather subjective and the tick box answers very restrictive. In addition, each parent’s perspective on what the terms themselves mean, how the questions and answers are interpreted and parent’s perception of the children themselves will inevitably vary greatly. For example, one question states is the child “obedient”. Define obedience. Is the child obedient in which situations? What factors does it depend on and is this relevant? And how to then answer accurately with the limited options of not true, somewhat true or certainly true? Even the mood of the parent at the time of completing the SDQ or events taken place just prior could change the answers. Without a more holistic picture of the child, the questionnaires can not be assumed to be at all accurate, in my opinion.

    Secondly, the study sets out to look at direct links between amount of screen time and mental health, ignoring the potential indirect affects. “Links between screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, for example, via increased sedentary behaviour, sleeping difficulties and language development.” If mental health is indirectly affected this should be equally noted in the conclusion in order to give a clear and unbiased presentation of the results. The other thing noted in the research itself and I feel relevant personally, is that the study was only carried out to show the effects on children up to aged 7. These are not long term results, there is no point of reference later in childhood or even into adult life. I think it is important to consider possible delayed effects that might not show up until later in life.

    Also, the types of games played and nature of programmes watched were not taken into account and this is perhaps far more relevant than the amount of screen time. “There was also no information on weekend use, or the content or context of early screen time. Other research has indicated the importance of content for aggression and attentional problems in young children. Screen time in the context of parental restrictions or discussion of content may moderate negative effects.” The study itself suggests further study in this area is needed. “The study highlights the need for more detailed data to explore risks of various forms of screen time, including exposure to screen violence.”

    Gaming, negative affects, mental health, behaviour, SEND, parenting childhood, research, living life our way
    Stock photo (image not my own)

    In addition, studies should further examine the associated child and family characteristics which appear to account for most of the simple associations between screen exposure and psychosocial adjustment. What is appropriate for some is not appropriate for others, particularly in content.

    However, the biggest point that the study itself mentions but that is not highlighted in reports of the findings, is the many factors that can affect how a child is effected by screen exposure. “For problem scores (conduct, hyperactivity/ inattention, emotional and peer relationship), detailed modelling (not shown) indicated that the set of maternal and family characteristics produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure; followed by adjustment for child characteristics. For prosocial scores, family functioning measures produced the greatest reduction in the effect of screen exposure.” This might seem obvious to many but I feel there can be a danger of oversimplifying the summary of results and not taking into account the other factors and, most importantly, the child themselves as an individual.

    So do I think that there is a case for limiting screens? Yes and no. It depends entirely on the context. Limitations might be in time, or could be in content only. It might not be an imposed limitation necessarily, it could be mutually and respectfully agreed upon by the entire family. Sometimes the child might set their own limitations because they have decided for themselves that they are not comfortable with the content, or would simply rather do other things with their time. It might not be an arbitrary rule but rather stem from a very genuine and obvious need for it. The adults in the house may also limit their own screen time to meet the needs of the family. What works for one family may well be very different to another.

    The fact is that everyone has different needs and I feel we need to be accepting and understanding of this in all aspects of life, screens are no different. Individuals are exactly that, individual, so the assumption that there is a right or wrong answer as to whether or not screens have any negative effects is, I feel, misguided. Families need to support their children in meeting their own needs rather than be guided by research one way or another. A million people can say they personally did or did not experience negative effects but if you feel differently and think it is causing any type of harm to yourself or someone you are responsible for, you are probably right.

    In summary, according to the research paper “findings do not demonstrate that interventions to reduce screen exposure will improve psychosocial adjustment. Indeed, they suggest that interventions in respect of family and child characteristics, rather than a narrow focus on screen exposure, are more likely to improve outcomes.” It is not about reducing screen exposure or otherwise, it is about respecting individuals and how their needs vary.