The importance of friends

Over the last year the lack of proper connection with friends has been tough. I think some of us have forgotten the importance of friends. Zoom quizzes are one thing, but real life connection is quite another.

For me, I struggled during the pandemic for some reasons (kids, work, boredom, homeschooling) and in other ways I was feeling pretty good (time to focus, feeling more relaxed, time for my children) but I did have a feeling of underlying flatness and yet it was something I couldn’t put my finger on.

It wasn’t the endless cooking, cleaning and only seeing people who I had either married or given birth to (and the cat!) that was grinding me down a bit, instead it was the lack of laughter and being with friends that know me well. I had missed the small-talk, the inspiration that friends unknowingly waft over to me, the idle chit-chat, the talking about where we grew up and being with people that I really really like.

Myself and two secondary school friends (one of which I hadn’t seen for 30-years!) booked a hotel stay in Cambridge as soon as we knew the lockdown restrictions were lifting and we got together at the weekend in the full glory of the british wet weather.

Actually, the weather was irrelevant. The meeting place was irrelevant. It was all about the people and our connection. I cannot explain how good it was to see people that I had grown up with. We were only at school together for 3 years, after which I moved school and mainly only kept in touch with one of them, but those years were probably the happiest of my life. I’d met people who were on my wavelength. We were giggly, silly, naughty, daring and we laughed all the time, and even after 30-years that hadn’t changed one bit. Within 10-minutes of seeing each other, I thought I was going to combust whilst we were reminiscing about some of the people at our school.

We laughed all day long.

My school friends and I, drunk and happy.

I came away from the weekend feeling like me again. I hadn’t really realised that some little parts of me had faded over the years, but good friends can change this. Friends really do make things better.

Dictionary meaning: Friend; a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.

Seeing friends after all this time was a sensory delight and I believe that is what so many of us have missed; the 5 senses – Sight, Sounds, Smell, Taste, Touch. Our senses need to be used in order for us to understand the world around us. I believe that during lockdown our senses were only being used on a base level, at least mine were. Not many of us were doing anything new, and even if we were, the likelihood was that we had a mask wrapped around our face which obstructed one obvious sense; the sense of smell. There was also the social distancing and no touch thing, which for a lot of people is almost unbearable. Seeing my friends this weekend made me recognise that as humans we need to do new things, we need to use our senses, we need to be stimulated in order to feel good, we need to explore and have experiences – we need to see, hear, smell, taste and touch (that’s if we are lucky enough to have all of them working).

My weekend of laughing, walking in the rain, eating garlicky italian foods, drinking prosecco and limoncello, grabbing my friends arm, eating a slightly stale hotel breakfast in bed, sleeping in clean hotel sheets, reading through a menu, drinking tea with rubbish milk, borrowing my friends toothpaste, smelling perfume on my friends and sitting in a fusty taxi totally cemented that – and I feel better because of it. For the first time in ages I properly used my senses.

So if you are feeling a bit flat as lockdown lifts here in the UK, book something with friends that truly make you feel good, something perhaps that ignites your senses. It doesn’t have to be a boozy hotel stay like mine was, but a day out with good friends (without kids if you are a parent) to kick-start your sensory system will really really help your mood and your general wellbeing.

Lucy – Geriatric Mum

Lucy Baker is a confidence coach and founder of this blog and the fab facebook group We Are Geriatric Mums which currently has 2300 Mums who happen to be older in it.

Instagram @geriatric_mum and she_coaches_confidence

UK Return to school

As a mother of three, aged 10, 8 and 2, I am ecstatic that two of my kids are returning to full-time school on 8th March 2021. They head back to Y6 and Y3 and my god they need it. They need routine, peers and other adults way more than they need to be at home with my husband and I every minute of every day! Children learn best from other people – other adults and their friends – and I believe that limited interaction of this kind is highly detrimental to children’s development. Remember how our children used to go to other people’s houses for tea, a ‘play-date’, to stay the night or for a party? – this kind of stuff is really important because children need to see what other people’s lives look like, that’s how they form opinions and learn about life, if they don’t have any other ‘in real life’ experiences, how can they form their personality and personal perspective?

I feel fortunate that my son, 2, goes to nursery twice a week. He comes home grubby, tired and full of toddler-chat about his day. He interacts with adults and other snotty-nosed kids all day long, works things out with others, sits around a table and eats with his nursery buddies (unlike home where he chucks it all over the place) and he is continuing to learn. This, to me, is essential. Nursery comes at a cost though, and it hasn’t been possible for all. We started nursery because we are both working from home and trying to work with the house full of children saying “Muuuum” 400 times a day is 100% impossible.

In all seriousness, I can see my son developing all the time and it is utterly magical. I haven’t seen that same growth in my girls and I feel a bit sad about that.

Over the course of the next few months, my hope for the girls is that they feel like they are part of their school again, that they belong somewhere hopeful and inspiring. I want them to feel motivated, valued and that they have purpose. I have to say for the last few months, home learning has been a tremendous battle here at Baker HQ, despite the loan of two laptops from their school. With tech at their fingertips, it has been an almighty struggle, here’s why:

Tech issues – on a daily basis the work disappeared, the tickboxes didn’t tick, the videos wouldn’t play.

Motivation is low – without a figure of authority (a teacher!) talking and engaging with my children in the classroom, they haven’t felt motivated.

We are working parents – both my husband and I have dashing off to take a call or tapping away at our keyboards, and neither has been helpful to them or helpful to us.

It’s too easy to say “this is boring!” – and although I loath that sentence in ‘normal times’ they were just be right.

They want to have a laugh – they get silly, we get annoyed, which is highly unfair – but we were trying to work and parent at the same time!

We are all sick of the sight of each other – nuff said

The table they’ve been trying to work from is right near the kitchen – “nuff said

This is not a moan about their school or about the work set. The school have been supportive and the work is thorough, but it just hasn’t worked here. Knowing that it hasn’t worked has made me swing from from feeling crap to accepting we have tried our best, to feeling crap again.

I reached out to Sarah, a primary school teacher from London, here’s what said when I asked her how she feels as a teacher about the school return.

My name’s Sarah and I’m a teacher.  

That start makes me sound like I’m in therapy, doesn’t it? To be honest, after the past year, most teachers do need therapy (or a job as a children’s TV presenter after all the videos and live sessions we’ve done!). It has certainly been the toughest year of my 17 years in the profession. 

Whilst I could sit here and list all the reasons it’s been tough, I thought I would try and look for the positives…So many good things have come out of this experience. For one, teachers have finally been seen for the hardworking, dedicated people they are. The relationship between parents and teachers has strengthened no end and that well-known phrase of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has never been so true. Teaching and learning don’t just happen in school hours and it’s certainly not all about the academic subjects. There is so much more to education than Maths and English and I have certainly learnt to teach more creatively and work to build on children’s self-esteem and emotional intelligence in this time of ‘home learning’. Not to mention my technology skills which have improved greatly! 

I cannot wait to see my class on Monday. It’s just a shame that they’ll not be able to see my reassuring smile when they line up first thing. But we won’t be wearing the masks forever and if the kids have taught me one thing this past year, it’s that they are a truly resilient bunch and nothing phases them. I am sure for every parent tentatively preparing to jump for joy when they drop their kid off at the school gates on Monday, there will be another parent who is incredibly anxious about letting their child out into the big, bad world. We know you are anxious, but we will take such good care of your children, so please don’t worry. 

And no, I haven’t had the vaccine yet…like most teachers, I’m still waiting patiently. 

Sarah Tebbs (Teacher and fellow geriatric mum) 

Sarah talking about resilience makes me think how resilient she’s been too. In fact all teachers and caregivers have been, and dare I say it, us parents, too!

Monday 8th March is just 2 days away. I’ve dragged the uniform out from its dark hiding place, dusted off the school shoes which sadly don’t fit and bought some new ones, ordered more name labels and plastic water bottles than we will ever need and I think we are nearly ready. Oh but wait. Practically, we might be ready, but what about mentally?

As a parent, I am fine about them going back. I am not worried about Covid-19 and I know the school have put decent measures in place to do the best they can. What I am worried about is one of my daughters who refuses to even talk about the return to school with 2 days to go. Every day, I been gently reminding her that school is on Monday and that we are getting ready for the return blah blah blah, but she just screams and runs off. She does not want to go! She’s a home-bird, a happy child pottering about and finding things to do, she is independent and she is stubborn. It makes me wonder how many other children feel like this? As her mother, I know going back to school is just what she needs, but try telling her that. She is popular and does well in the classroom but if I am completely honest, I think she’s forgotten so much about what school is like and has chosen to remove herself from the fact it is a thing. And why wouldn’t you do that given the choice? She is only 8.

My other daughter is in Y6, she is gregarious and she loves people. I know she is going to be fine and actually she is really happy about going back, apart from saying all along she has got to wear the “horrible school uniform”. For her, lockdown has been hard – she has ADHD and kids with ADHD do not do well in confinement. Her natural need to be busy and stimulated was taken away from her overnight and whilst we’ve been trying to occupy her time at home, it is just not the same. It is not the same as leaving the house on your own, calling for your friend, giggling and being silly on your way up to school, feeling independent, taking your phone with you in your school bag, being with 30 other people every school day, having the routine of break and lunchtime, running around the field in P.E, having your familiar packed lunch at the same time every day. It is not the same as leaving school, going to the park with your mates after school and coming home starving hungry. It is not the same.

As I finish writing this on a chilly Saturday 6th March in Kent, my eldest just came to me and said. “Mum, can I try my school uniform on?”. She came back in to me and proudly paraded around the room in her neat trousers and buttoned up cardigan. She was smiling. I was smiling too. I could feel that resilience that Sarah spoke of oozing out of her and my heart flooded with pride. Now I just need to get my other daughter to feel the same way.

Good Luck everyone. Here’s to the resilient kids of today. They rock!

How are you / your kids feeling about the return to school?

Lucy Baker is founder of geriatricmum.co.uk and the Facebook group We are Geriatric Mums. Lucy is a mother of 3 and had her last baby at 43.

The age of motherhood

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released new figures on the average age of mothers at time they gave birth in 2019, and it has increased to 30.7 years, and the average age for a father is 33.6 years.

This shows, that women having babies is at the highest age ever, and women have consistently been getting older over the years.

I was 34 years old when I had my first baby, 37 years old when I had baby number two, and I gave birth at 43-years-old with my last baby. I now have a 10-year old, an 8 year old and a nearly 2-year old, and I am 44-year old. I was way above the national average when I gave birth to Rocky in 2019, in fact 13-years above, and interestingly at 34-years old (my first baby) I was 4 years over the national average.

I do feel that the age that a woman has a baby now, is so varied, and that is so wonderful, because actually, what is age is right, what age is wrong? What age is too young, what age is too old? Everyone has a story as to why they had a baby at a certain age, and that is what fascinates me. I don’t judge others for when they have a baby, and it isn’t helpful when people do.

Today I was featured on the Daily Mail online talking about my experiences of being an older mum and I also talk about my group on Facebook, We are Geriatric Mums which now has nearly 2000 members – women 35+ who are pregnant or have had a baby.

See the Daily Mail feature here; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8953557/Mothers-England-Wales-older-EVER.html (scroll down the article for my 3-minute video).

And, much to my delight, I was featured on Sky News and interviewed LIVE by Jayne Secker about the same figures released by the ONS. We talked about opinions around older mums, why we think women have having babies later in life and what it is like being an older mum at school and at playgroups.

Lucy Baker (confidence coach and geriatric mum) on Sky News

I had a bit of a negative start to my pregnancy mainly because of how people reacted. I wrote about how I felt here; 42 and pregnant but once I settled into the fact that some people can’t help but say negative things, and I glossed over the many negative ‘risk’ articles I read online, I felt good. I had a lovely pregnancy and I enjoyed being pregnant at 42. I felt calm, connected and fearless about what was ahead and my husband was a brilliant support. I realised (at 5-months pregnant) that I wanted to help other women who might be feeling scared about the risks they read online or annoyed and hurt by comments from others and so I started this blog and the Facebook group (We are Geriatric Mums) to connect others, and to create a supportive community. And boy, it is thriving.

It turns out that the best support you can get as an older mum, is from other older mums!

What a day it’s been for the ‘mums who happen to be older’ community – online and on the live news – I am so pleased that I was able to share what it is really like to be an older mum and speak for the 1000s of older mums in my community. Magic.

This is for all MUMS WHO HAPPEN TO BE OLDER!

Lucy x

Lucy Baker is a confidence coach and geriatric mum.

Contact Lucy for confidence; www.shecoachesconfidence.com

The obstacle course with no finish line

Today I’ve been singing the line “I just don’t know what to do with myself…” from the song by The White Stripes – it has been going round and round in my head, I love the song and the words feel right today.

It is a normal Monday in July, actually, start again – it is normal Monday in July, yet instead of embracing the first week of the summer holidays with a sense of freedom and relief that the school run is done, everyone in the house is fed up with each other, even the cat is feeling fed up. It isn’t a ratty, over-tired sort of fed up that we all go through in life, it is more I’m sick of the sight of you fed up – and it feels like it is at the highest level today. As I write this, I am imagining that strongman game at the arcades, and the bell ringing out as the puck hits the top during one of our family ding-dongs, to indicate that we are at top level fed up.

The kids keep arguing, they always have a bit, but right now it is off.the.scale, Rox is being a typical 18-month old, you know, chucking food, putting fingers in sockets, jumping off sofas and hitting us with everything – in fact, he hit me with a toy dustpan today and I burst into tears. it hurt, and as I said, I’m feeling a bit White Stripes lyrics today and a bit fragile. But back to Rocky, he is just being a fab funny little boy, but because none of us have had a proper break, there is always a kid around, if not three, it makes the food throwing and dustpan hitting feel way more annoying than it should. My husband and I swing from kissing in the kitchen in front of the kids to totally ignoring each other and handing over the toddler to make a work call without making any eye contact. Honestly, one minute we are dancing around and flirting and the next we can’t bear the sight of each other and are literally tearing our hair out. Even the cat runs a mile as soon as Rocky Bamm-Bamm walks up to her – her routine is out and she is fed up too. If I think about it too much, I find it all quite sad, but we are okay, and he said to me today when we broke away from a grump to talk about sweetcorn – “Lu, 5 months everyday together is pretty tough – I love you”.

So on this Monday, despite life opening up a bit more, none of it is normal really is it, how can it be?

The girls haven’t stepped foot in their school for four and a half months, The Bakers have spent nearly every hour with each other since 20th March 2020, and it is starting to feel like we are in some pantomime. Ok, that is a bit OTT (Oh no it isn’t!), but it just doesn’t balanced and regular. I used to hate regular, but perhaps part of me actually needs that. I know we can see friends, go for dinner if we want and shop, but it is the no school and the boredom that the children have experienced that concerns me. I am a confidence coach and in normal life, I know exactly how to keep myself feeling good, but the last few months have been a test like no other – much like trying to complete an osbstacle course with no finish line… and now we are all running out of fuel.

The kids are playing up at meal times, we are fighting with them daily over screens (with no clear idea what it actually best), we are experiencing a level of mum and dad guilt like never before and the older kids are developing a bit of an attitude that goes against everything we want for our kids. But it is not a normal time. One of my girls has ADHD, so life has been doubly tough in many ways, and yet so many don’t understand what we go through as a family, and what we have been through to date – but that is another blog post entirely, and I will write about it. All I want to say right now, is those who have supported us through her diagnosis and more, have a place in my heart forever.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where we’ve done what we would’ve done during a tough race – pick the other person up and climb the hill together. That said, there have also been times where we’ve all needed space to go alone – but haven’t had the chance to, in other words there has been nowhere to escape to. I can’t just up and leave in the middle of the day, each outing needs to be finely tuned and planned. Just today, we needed to buy a cat flap for little Gracie, so I had Rox and Dan took the two girls to the hardware store – another lap of the obstacle course complete. Go Dan!

I think that the main issue hasn’t been covid-19 or us spending time together, we actually all like each other a lot, it has been the fact that we both have to work with three kids in the house. I mean, if that isn’t crazy, what is? The more I think about this fact, the more cross I get. I run my own business, which luckily I can do from home. My husband works for a company in London, and luckily he can do his job from home, too. I say luckily because we are both working and we can share the kid-load and that makes things a bit better… or does it?

I don’t know if it does or it doesn’t, I flip between that all day long. In some ways it is better, but the intensity of five people in the house (three children under ten) and two parents with a shit load of work on, doesn’t make it better.

What I do know is that both of us don’t have any downtime. I am often up early to do bits of work and I then hit the laptop again at around 9pm – that can’t be good for mental health, can it? But what other option do we have? You know, I look back longingly and reminisce about those dreamy morning school runs, with just one child in a pram and the chance for me to have a natter in the street or to grab a coffee and a pastry on the way back to the house. Ok, they weren’t dreamy at the time, but they feel it now. My husband keeps dreaming about his deathly silent train journeys where the aircon was a touch too cold and the passenger next to him was eating something stinky, but he didn’t care, of course he didn’t, he was freeeee and on his own! (read that as freeeee with no kids!) Oh my days, what bliss.

Pregnant The Screwed have just published a survey of 20,000 working mothers and it is a fascinating read. It perfectly hits on some of the frustrations that I have and am feeling around childcare at the moment. Our toddler is just about to start nursery and we are doing it for two reasons – so he can have interaction with people other than his parents, and so that we can work. Oh by the way, the cost of 2 days a week is just over £400 a month, so I feel we have to spend money so that we can work. This isn’t about shoving him out to nursery, it is about having time to work.

So anyway, back to the point of me writing this. I am writing this today because I have felt all over the place and I know that feeling comes from me trying to work, the fact that no-one feels excited about summer, and the sadness I feel from us bickering and annoying each other. For us, this family of five, this isn’t how we are.

I am not a blamey person (it is a waste of energy in my book), but if I were to blame how I am feeling on anything or anyone, I actually don’t think I could. It is what it is, as they say, but I do wish it was different.

My only advice, and I don’t have much as a parent, is to talk and share, oh… and never judge.

Lucy x

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One Year On

I am always asked what it is like to be a new mummy again, and in truth, it is hard work. I have 3 children now (9,7 and 1) and life is a big old juggle. My baby – who was born when I was 43 – is now 1, and I am 44. That’s right! I am 44 with a 1 year old.

My little baby is 1

As you may know, when I found out I was pregnant at 42, I struggled to find anywhere to hang out as an ‘older mum’ so I created that place in a facebook group called We are Geriatric Mums, and it is thriving. It is a wholesome, non-judgemental place for mums who happen to be older.

Having a new baby is one thing – ok they are up all night, but they do not move, and having a busy, walking, grabbing toddler is another. One of the things that people said to me when they found out I was pregnant at 42 was “how are you going to cope now that you are older” and do you know what? It’s ok. The bit that I’d forgotten, because I haven’t had a little one for 7 years, was the sheer energy that these toddlers have! WOW. The grab, smash, pull, grab, fling, chuck mentality that these little ones have, or my little one has, is amazing. Actually, I am not a fan of the word amazing per se, I find it is wildly over-used in this day and age – all you need to do is watch The X Factor – but amazing this little boy is.

His energy, his vitality, his thirst for learning is just so wonderful, and before you think this is a mum-style brag, it isn’t. I’m just fascinated with how these little humans, at just 12 months old, are.

Rocky is 1 (with his fave birthday present)

I think I am noticing it more with child number 3 and appreciating it greatly because, I am so much more in tune with myself as a person and mother, and I make time to enjoy it. With baby 1, I had no idea what I was doing. I look back on it now and feel like it was such an odd time in my life. The birth was hard, we were living in London, I had no family or friends around me and sleep deprivation was a killer. When baby 2 arrived, I was so pre-occupied with my 2 year old potty-training toddler, trying to work, feeling tired and in all honesty, not being in any kind of groove – I don’t even remember noticing much of what went on – apart from the typical milestones like walking. When I am asked what my second daughter’s first word was, the answer is, I don’t know!

One of the real bonuses, for me, of having a baby at 43 (with a bit of a gap from the others) is that I am so much more present. I really really love it. It doesn’t mean to say I am any better a mum this time around, or was worse back then, it just means that I am aware, a bit calmer and I am enjoying it more – even the thousands of tiny food bits I have to clear up off the floor each day, but I have been doing that for 9 years, so that’s just part of motherhood right?

I think the feeling of being more present, comes from age a little bit, but mainly from that fact that I am now a confident woman – I wasn’t once! Confidence brings clarity and calm to all parts of life, especially motherhood, for example, I haven’t read one baby book or fallen for the latest gadget this time around, which is very different to how I behaved back in my 30’s as a mother. I trust myself, I know myself and I like myself and this filters into how I am at home, as a mum. I love being an older Mummy, it really is one of the best things I ever did.

Do you feel confident as a mother? Do you notice and enjoy the little things? I understand that motherhood is very complex and it isn’t easy, there are so many factors too that can make it such hard (work, partners, PND, PTSD, finances, family and more) and if you are struggling seek the appropriate help.

If you are an older mum, follow me on INSTAGRAM , facebook or join my thriving fb group WE ARE GERIATRIC MUMS

If you would like help with your confidence, message me via my work fb page; She Coaches Confidence