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I Am Enough: from OCD Beast to embracing my messy life

Do you feel like you're enough? A first guest post from Scheenagh Harrington about the times when she felt the most inadequate, and her journey to the point where she could finally say "I am enough".

I Am Enough: Scheenagh Harrington on feeling inadequate and becoming enough

Inside my head, there lives what I fondly call my OCD Beast. It makes me straighten pictures, plump cushions, hoover rugs so that the pile stands upright and generally do what I can to make my family neater and tidier. But it can’t prevent the messiness of life. 

In a few weeks, my journalist husband’s current freelance contract stops. Brought to an end by a stranger, whose financial needs outweigh ours. When it happens, half our household income will disappear. Naturally, he’s looking everywhere for something to fill the hole, but by rights, I should be a shivering, nervous wreck. 

This, however, is the latest in a series of ups and downs my brood and I have endured during the past five years - and I know I am strong, smart, resourceful and woman enough to cope. 

I am the sum of all my recent experiences: I am enough. 

Five years ago, my husband and I moved, with our daughter, from the UK to France.

Little did I know at the time that a) my husband, who had spent a month here before us, was thoroughly miserable, and b) the job that brought us to this new life would take us to the brink of divorce. 

There were other surprises, too. A few months after emigrating, I found out I was pregnant. After having struggled for years to conceive our daughter, this was amazing news. Our little boy arrived hale and hearty, but things around him weren’t so hot.  

Problems at work made my husband distant and grey, and I wasn’t sensitive enough to understand what was happening. It took three years of near-constant arguments for me to realise the man I loved was being ground into the dust. 

In hindsight, it was an easy decision to quit - the relief was unbelievable. But then came the real rollercoaster. In France, if you are sacked or made redundant, the state will help out financially. If you quit… not so much.

We spent four frantic months applying for every job we could find, set ourselves up as freelance journalists and formed our own little business, and sweated blood trying to make what little money we had go as far as possible. 

We were granted access to our town’s food bank, after a pride-swallowing interview with a woman from the council. I didn’t want to ask anyone for help, but I had no choice.

When we were told we could feed our children for 5 euros a week until our unemployment benefit came through - three-and-a-half months later - I was grateful and humbled beyond words. 

We downsized from a three-floor, four-bed house with garden and garage to a three-bed apartment, shaved everything we could from our bills and learned to live on very little.

Throughout, we kept talking to each other and to the children, making sure they knew about - even if they didn’t understand - each decision and why it was being made. 

They adjusted, as only children can. Last June, I landed a part-time cleaning job and we were given unemployment benefit. Things were finally settling down. I was happy enough. 

Then, one Sunday came another sideswipe. For months I’d grumbled absentmindedly about having a cyst or something on my ovary. I’d been gaining weight and getting tired. ‘Joy’, I thought, ‘the menopause’. But that day, hands on my stomach, I felt unmistakable movement.  

A test was instantly, insistently positive - I was pregnant at 42! I was devastated - we had no money!

My husband asked what I wanted to do - I knew I was more than a few weeks gone, but I couldn’t consider a termination. It wasn’t possible anyway - it turned out I was five months pregnant with our second boy.

The most difficult year of our lives ended with me staring into the beautiful eyes of our third child. I have never felt so complete.

January 2014 felt like a new chapter, and as regular freelance work started coming our way, I was settled enough to relax after what felt like the longest time… 

Now we face a fresh challenge: a likely return to austerity and uncertainty, unless we find something quickly (and we’re looking, pitching and trying like mad); and perhaps needing to rely again the kindness of strangers and the social security system.

But do you know what? I’m strong, resourceful, clever and imaginative enough to take this setback, too. 

I am happy. I am enough. 

Inspired by this post? Join us in this month's activity: I AM ENOUGH.

Three years old

We're officially three years old today!

To celebrate, we're sharing a couple of stories from Story of Mum mamas about what Story of Mum has meant to them.

Story of Mum is three years old! Hear how the project has helped mums grow.

We are so proud of reaching three years with you all. And of those brave mamas who are sharing their stories here with us today. Thank you.

We'll also be sharing fabulous old posts, and giving away a DIY Mamas' Retreat Kit on twitter (share this post and cc @storyofmum on twitter to enter), and another one on facebook, so look out for the tweets and posts for more info...!

You can also enter to win one by commenting below and sharing your thoughts on Story of Mum... 

That's 3 fabulous chances to win today!

Last but not least, we're celebrating by sharing the picture of us where we look most pretty, (thanks Pat Kelman!)

pippa and penny best, story of mum - credit: Pat Kelman

“I discovered Story of Mum at a time when I was very low and feeling totally isolated. I suffered badly with PND (post natal depression) and had no support other than my husband.

I felt worthless as a woman, a wife and a mother. Connecting with other Mums online through creative activities and discussion helped me realise that I wasn't the only one struggling and feeling like I was failing.

This was the turning point for me as I was no longer alone but part of a friendly, supportive, loving online community. These wonderful ladies are now amongst my closest friends, several of whom I have had the great pleasure to meet.

I highly recommend every aspect of Story of Mum to women everywhere, to help you feel whole again.”

Kat Pearce

Story of Mum Exhibition, The Exchange

““When, in September 2013, I attended my first Story of Mum event - the Mums’ Make Date at The Exchange, Penzance - I had only recently relocated to Cornwall from the West Midlands.  My daughter had started at her first school in Penzance the previous week, and I knew no-one!  I was feeling quite isolated, and having had severe Postnatal Depression after my daughter’s birth, I knew it was not good for me to feel this disconnection.  The Story of Mum flyer had come home in my daughter’s schoolbag, and I promised myself I would summon up the courage to go along.  My goodness how glad I am that I did!    

At the end of that evening the feedback form asked how I was feeling about motherhood… my answer was clear - “Much better than before I came out”. 

That evening, just a brief but eye-opening couple of hours - was the start of a revitalizing journey for me.  Story of Mum, its honest and open approach to motherhood, and all its various madcap, thought-provoking, soul-searching, celebratory activities, has made such a difference in my life as a mum. 

It has helped me to feel “normal” - like I’m not the only one struggling with (whatever this week’s “issue” is) being a parent!  The shared stories - at the exhibition, on the website, on the twitter “Make Dates” - have reassured me, uplifted me, comforted me, inspired me, helped me to laugh at myself, and allowed me to cry – in empathy, in joy, and yes in sadness. 

At times Story of Mum has simply kept me sane!  It has given me more confidence in my abilities as a mum, and helped me to find a balance between being a mum - and being “me”.  I have even felt able (with lots of lovely guilt-free “permission” and encouragement from Story of Mum), to attend a Mamas’ Retreat… 6 months ago I couldn’t have imagined myself ever doing that.     

It has been wonderful to meet, spend precious time with, and share thoughts, ideas, angst, and laughter with such a diverse group of women, face-to-face, and online at the monthly “Mamas Make Dates”.  I have never before been amongst such a group of supportive, non-judgmental mums with not a clique in sight!  I have connected with lots of truly fabulous women, and made friends that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.  Not only has this benefitted me, but also my daughter because of the mums and children that she has connected with, and the happier person that I am.  Truly, Story of Mum is a warm, welcoming and nurturing community which I am immensely glad to feel part of."

Pippa Lilley

I'm a mum and a... 

And as for me? Well, Story of Mum has reconnected me to my creativity, and helped me to find a new identity when I felt lost. It has supported me to make sense of the challenging transition from career woman to mother, and to become passionate about giving invisible mothers a voice.

It has boosted my confidence, got me doing things that terrified me but which felt amazing, and reassured me with humour and honesty when I feel like I'm the only mum in the world who messes up. It has helped me to make time to look after myself, and to overcome bad mummy shame at my horrendously messy house.

Projects like Love Mum Body have helped me to dramatically change my relationship with my body. And I have loved the opportunity to spend time and grow a project with my own inspiring mother (especially when I got to do that in New York...!).

Most of all, Story of Mum has connected me to an amazing global tribe of mamas that support me in feeling like I can do anything I dream of.

I hope it does the same for you, and I am so grateful to all of YOU.

Thank you for joining us on this amazing journey these past three years.

 

Come join our next #somum Make Date on Wednesday 9 April from 8.30 - 10pm GMT (find world times here). We have some more fantastic prizes for you! Find out more here.

 

Thanks to Andra Alexander, Ian Kingsnorth Pat Kelman and Chris Webber for the photos above.

Special events at The Exchange

We've got some more great special events coming up for mums at The Exchange in Penzance this month as part of our travelling exhibition - find out more below.

To book to come along for some networking or retreating, contact miranda@digitalpeninsula.com. Places are limited and going fast, so jump in now!

PS everything is FREE because we love you. The forecast for cake is looking good too.

Find out more about our exhibition here.

flyer for events at the Exchange

Sharing our mama identities at BritMums Live

motherhood exhibitionI've just loaded up all the "I'm a mum and a..." photos I took at BritMums Live this weekend, and the gallery is looking amazing. Let the images scroll on by.

We are the same and we are different and we are all unique. 

It's powerful stuff - funny, thought-provoking, heart-breaking and inspiring, and I'm so grateful to all the mothers (and one brave widower) who have taken part so far.

The gallery will continue to grow day by day as "Story of Mum: Mums making an exhibition of ourselves" travels around England in real life, and the world online. Including a wonderful virtual tour - check out some of the posts so far here.

There are well over 200 contributions to "I'm a mum and a..." now and it's fascinating how some words are starting to come up more often than others...  

Us mums are often also dreamers, crafters, poets and artists, dancers, and there's a wonderful groundswell of writers.

There are nanas, daughters, friends, wives, and referees. 

There are some proud me's reclaiming their identities, and others on a journey to find themselves. 

We're addicted to chocolate, tired and crazy. And we're trying our best.

Visit the gallery here.

Read more about my experience of BritMums Live here.

You can add your own picture at any time by visiting the gallery and clicking on 'join in' (if it still says 'join us' you'll need to register with story of mum first - which doesn't take very long, and means you get to hang out with us some more which can only be a good thing...!)

mum and an ear wiggler   mum and a survivor    mum and bibs award winner    mum and education reformer

PS If you're visiting from BritMums Live! and want to find your own photo to see how absolutely beautiful you look (because, yes, you all did), you can scroll through the gallery or visit the BritMums page here that lists all of the pictures I took there.

PPS If you sign up for our newsletter you get a free book of mums' reward charts. You deserve them. Just saying...

More Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreats Announced

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum: Soul nurturing for mamas

Soul nurturing for mamas

We loved our last Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat so much that we've decided to host a lot more!

...and so we're thrilled to announce that tickets are now on sale for our next half day retreat on Sunday 21 September: Book yours below.

Join a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum

UPDATE: Only two tickets remain, so book fast!

What do we do at a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat?

It's soul nurturing for mamas...

It's time for us.

It's time out. To breathe. To make. To talk. To be heard.  

So we’ll be doing some gentle yoga with the lovely Leif Olsen, getting creative with Pippa Best of Story of Mum, and chatting with other supportive mamas (whilst eating cake and sharing a bring-and-share lunch…)

Most importantly, you’ll have precious space to hear yourself think.

No special skills or equipment required. You don’t need to be ‘creative’, or to have done yoga before. After a lovely heart-warming morning, you’ll leave feeling reconnected to YOU.

We'll provide the yoga mats, creative stimulation and the relaxation

Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat tickets

You just need to bring yourself and the knowledge that you need some precious time for you.

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of MumWhat about food? We’ll provide tea and treats (probably cake…!).

To keep costs down, we’ll have a bring and share lunch at the end – so bring something simple and tasty to share from 12.30 – 1.30. 

Where? At Leif’s studio, Garbo House, Bread Street, Penzance

How much does it cost? £25

When? 9.30 – 1.30, Sunday 21 September 

Places are strictly limited to 12, so it won’t be a scarily big group – just lots of lovely mamas coming together to nurture ourselves and support each other.

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum

You’ll leave feeling refreshed, supported, purposeful and happier.

Let us know if you have any special dietary requirements when you book your ticket, and we’ll do our best to meet your needs when we’re making cakes!

For terms and conditions, head over here.

Visit the Half Day Retreats page to find out more and hear from some lovely mamas about what we do on a half day retreat, and why they love to come.

When are the next retreats?

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum

Come and join us on:

Sunday 21 September 2015

Sunday 26 October 2014

Sunday 30 November 2014

Sunday 11 January 2015

Sunday 8 February 2015

Tickets go on sale a few weeks in advance of each session.

Don't miss out

We often offer special early bird deals for Story of Mum members, so make sure you've joined us over here and signed up for 'selected blogs' to find out...!

What do mamas look at most of all...?

This month's #somum Make Date was all about where our eyes have lingered as mothers... Where have your eyes lingered today?

On our phones, on our computers, the TV, traffic and the mess. But also on our children, friends and partners, on the people that matter to us most of all.

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” - Henry David Thoreau

When we pause to look, we see beauty around us, especially in nature.

So this month, we pictured our kids, and described what we saw them doing - and oh there was such joy in these responses, reminding us of what we love most about them!

We talked about memories of our own childhood, our own mothers and more. We doodled and we looked and we shared. We'd love you to join in and add your own doodle over here.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” - Michael Michalko

The contradictions of bliss

Today, I'm delighted to participate in The Mama Bliss Is Blog Tour hosted by Kathy Stowell of Bliss Beyond Naptime.  The Mama Bliss Is Blog Tour is helping to spread the word on the importance of mothers to tend to their self-care and creative practices first and foremost while contending with overwhelm in healthy and creative ways.

The contradictions of bliss - Story of Mum

It’s only since becoming a mama that I have experienced true bliss.

An all-consuming tingle of joy, a sense of being right where I am supposed to be. Completely present in the moment.

And it’s only since becoming a mama that I have experienced despair.

An all-consuming exhaustion, a feeling of failure, inadequacy and pain. Impossible tears.

How is it that those stories sit side by side so comfortably?

Does each give greater potency to the other?

There is bliss in moving away from despair. In learning that I cannot fail when I trust my instincts, that good enough is good enough, and pain will pass.

There is bliss in the moments where I let myself be.

As I step deeper into motherhood, I try to count the successes more than the failures.

And when I struggle, I try to slow myself down.

I move away from the computer screen. I look at something close up. I focus on nature, on the magic of my children’s growth. I take a moment to remember where my eyes have lingered today.

I doodle. I dance. I smile. I stretch. I let myself rest. I hold a precious memory of bliss and remind myself that this will come again.

There is a moment from the challenging early days of motherhood so precious I can call myself back there with a breath:

What is bliss? with Story of MumMy son and I lie on clean sheets under a cream waffle blanket striped with sunshine. There are things to do, so many things to do, but I am finally allowing myself to rest with the baby who hasn’t slept all night.

I am focusing on that tiny hand in mine, so fragile and so strong. On the cool breeze carrying seagull calls across the quiet. On the warmth of a soft body snuggled in under my chin, toes tickling my tummy.

I am my baby and my baby is me. All is well. And my heart swells and I cry with joy, and am so glad to feel it all. 

Now bliss comes in watching my laughing children run, swing higher, become braver and bolder.

The arrows from my bow. And an unbearable pain at letting them go. A fear of loss that brightens their aliveness. Like the taste of rain on the stormy day when you have just lost a dear friend. 

And bliss comes in moments I’m away from my children. Staking out precious time for me. To rest, to create, to be nurtured. Their absence blissful, because they are there to return to. 

Motherhood is raw and smooth, painful and beautiful. It is vital and exhausting, magical and miserable.

A fully embodied life that accepts contradictory companions. Joy and loss.

This, is bliss.

 

This month, we’re coming together to make some creative mama me-time and record where our eyes have lingered today – in doodles and words. We’d love you to join us. Come play with us over here.

Join our #somum Make Date to doodle and chat!

Join us on twitter on Weds 13 August from 8.30 - 10pm UK time (find world times here) to share where our eyes have lingered today, connect with other lovely mums and doodle together. It's my favourite time of the month!

Join our #somum Make Date on twitter to share where our eyes have lingered

Where have YOUR eyes lingered today...? 

Recently I've been asking myself this question each night before I go to sleep.

Where have my eyes focused? And along with them, where has my attention truly been today? 

Too frequently, the images that first pop into my mind are my phone or my computer, too much time spent looking at these instead of seeing what's happening all around me...

And yet each night I find I'm also reminded of the incredible beauty and expression of my children.

Images of their faces come back to light up my thoughts and remind me to appreciate them anew. 

We experience precious little moments like this every day.

Yet we don't often pause and truly see them.

Look at all the women - Cathy Bryant for Mothers Milk Books

So at this month's #somum Make Date, our activity is to doodle an eye and describe the first few images that come to mind when we ask ourselves where our eyes have lingered...

When you've doodled, share your creation in our I Have Watched gallery.

If you'd like some inspiration, you can read about some of the things my eyes have lingered on over here.

You can win stuff too!

To add to the fun, we have some lovely eye-related goodies to give away!

First up is a generous gift from lovely Teika at Mothers' Milk Books - their new collection of poetry from Cathy Bryant: Look At All the Women, the cover of which is also illustrated with some beautiful eyes, care of talented Georgie St Clair.

Lu and Ed Mon-stor gadget case

Second up is a one-of-a-kind one-eyed monster/mobile phone case from lovely Lu and Ed (as I got sent an extra one by mistake as part of Oh My Handmade's fabulous #makermail...).

You can choose from blue or yellow (as shown here), and I get to keep the other one!

To enter to win these goodies, all you need to do is add #somum to your tweets during the Make Date and we'll choose the winners randomly at the end of the session.

And if you've never joined us before, you might be asking...

What is a #somum Make Date?

It's a chance for mums to get together on twitter and tweet while we attempt to do something creative - like doodlingtaking a photowriting poetrymaking stuff or even squidging plasticine.

We give ourselves some creative me-time and connect with other lovely mums. We do it every second Wednesday of the month and we would love you to join us. New friends are always very welcome.

You don't have to be a clever crafter, an artist or wordsmith. We're all about having a go regardless of talent or experience. Most of all, it's about getting together and having fun.

If you just want to chat, that's completely fine. If you just want to make something and lurk and never tell us you're there, that's fine too. We're just happy you're making time for you. 

See you and your big beautiful eyes there, mama!

Where did my eyes linger today?

Last night I sat down to write this blog post and the first thing I typed was... 'I have spent too much time looking at my computer today'. Hmmmmmm.

So I got off my computer then and there, (well, not quite an immediate immediately, I may have instagrammed a photo of it first...)

Where have your eyes lingered today? with Story of Mum

But that's the joy of asking myself this question at the end of the day: Where did my eyes linger today?

It shows me where my attention has really been - what my eyes have really focused on - and sometimes I don't like what I find.

But the best thing about the question is that I can change my answers.

I can shut down my computer and start looking again.

So today has been another crazy-catch-up-on-work-while-I-have-childcare-post-holiday day, and I've been on my computer a lot again.

But this time, yesterday's question reminded me to look up now and again. And finally to put my computer away when there was something more vital to look at - my children.

So... I'll try that blog post again.

Where have my eyes lingered today?

I close my eyes and go with the first images that come into my head.

I try not to judge them or choose what might read 'best' (although I do allow myself a little poetic license with the order below...)

Where have your eyes lingered today? with Story of Mum- On my computer - endless budget spreadsheets and email searches.

- On my phone - on email checks, twitter checks, facebook checks, instagram scrolls, and yet more emails. Wasting time on deleting spam.

- On the sun glistening on the calm sea as I walk back home from meeting friends. Birds swooping from the sky down over the sea and back again, the tanker on the horizon, the Mount, the perfectly proportioned railings along the promenade.

- On the constantly filling and emptying and filling again sink, the washing up bowl and the dangerously stacked drying racks. The ever cluttered surfaces, and the wrung out dishcloth that wipes them down, over and over.

- On my daughter's back, her ridiculously long hair snaking down over her bottom, her brown summery legs, her confident walk. The colourful plasters proudly displayed on her arms.

- On the grass in the playpark, glimpses of giggling hiding girls in the rustling tall-leaved bushes, whispering and not wanting to be found.

- On my son's beautiful face, his profile as he watches a movie, his concentration and incessant delight as he follows me around the kitchen singing me his new song about traffic lights picking on a motorbike for being the smallest vehicle on the road.

These are the things that have made up my day. Lucky eyes.

Where have your eyes lingered today?

 

This month's activity is I Have Watched - we'd love you to join in and doodle where your eyes have lingered today.

Come play over here or join us on Wednesday 13 August from 8.30-10pm UK time on twitter for our next #somum Make Date where we can play along together and maybe even win an eye-related prize!

Mothers of Innovation

Mothers are innovators. It makes such perfect sense and yet the words, together, feel so unfamiliar.

Mothers of Innovation - the inventor of the paper bag was a woman.

As mothers, we innovate every day. We come up with inventive ways to survive tantrums, new stories to engage our kids' imagination.

We deal with constant change, we are constantly learning and failing and trying again.

Every day brings something different. Every day our child is a new version of themselves, and we innovate in response.

Mothers are amazing inspiring creative resilient world-changing innovators. But we don't normally see ourselves like that...

Which is why it was so inspiring and refreshing to attend the Mothers of Innovation conference in London last month, and to be surrounded by incredible mothers sharing stories of how they are changing the world for the better. 

Right now, you might be growing a person, nurturing, loving or missing one. However you are mothering, you'll be innovating. And you'll be telling stories.

Karyn McCluskey talks at Mother of Innovation about solutions to gang violence

The stories we tell shape our children.

They can shape the world if we dare.

At the conference, we heard from the indomitable (and I don't use that word lightly!) Karyn McCluskey about how she was able to take a completely new approach to violent gang crime, reclassifying it as a health issue.

Which gave her the resources she needed to bring huge numbers of rival gang members together in one place - a city court, surrounded by police and helicopters - to hear stories.

To hear the stories of the surgeons unable to operate on children with cleft palettes because they were so busy operating on the 'Glasgow smiles' and violent injuries of gang members. 

To hear the stories of police so busy dealing with gang crime that they had little time to focus on other crimes affecting their community.

To hear the story of a brave mother who had lost her own son, and who stood up and told them what that really felt like.

Karyn Mcluskey - mantra for innovators

And they wept in response. Because they all had mothers. And they wanted them to be proud.

And they were scared of what their mothers were most likely to feel instead.

As the stories came to an end in the court that day, Karyn gave out a number to call for help to leave their gangs behind - bringing all the different support services together to provide one clear system. 

That number was a chance to give the gang members new identities, new lives,  reconstructive surgery, tattoo removal, whatever it took to stem the tide of violence - to stop it at its source instead of just dealing with the constant tragic effects.

For the first time, she gave the gang members a choice. Something they had never been given before.

Almost 600 gang members have started new lives since the scheme started. That's at least 600 fewer mothers experiencing the horror of loss, 600 mothers feeling proud again.

Now that's what I call a Mother of Innovation.

There is very little a mother won't do when powered by the love for her children - it's an incredibly powerful force. Let's harness it to change the world, and start by sharing our stories.

You can read the full Mothers of Innovation research document packed with inspiring stories here.

 

If you're feeling like you're not enough right now, first of all, know that you ARE. Second of all, you might like this month's activity: I Am Enough.

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