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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...

Join a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat: 30 November

It's the last retreat of the year! Make sure you make a little bit of time for you before the Christmas season goes crazy, (and us mamas go a little bit crazy trying to keep up...). Life doesn't have to feel like that. 

Book your ticket now - and we'll see you in November!

Join a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif Olsen

Add to Cart  Early-Bird Retreat Ticket (£15 plus £4.50 lunch)

Add to Cart  Regular Retreat Ticket (£25 plus £4.50 lunch)

Join Pippa Best of Story of Mum and inspiring yoga teacher Leif Olsen for a very special morning Mamas’ Retreat – a rare chance to be nurtured, boost your confidence, and connect with other lovely mamas.

We’ll be doing some gentle yoga, getting creative together, and chatting with other supportive mamas (whilst eating treats and a delicious lunch...)

No special skills or equipment required. You don’t need to be ‘creative’, or to have done yoga before. We'll provide the yoga mats, creative stimulation and the relaxation. You just need to bring yourself. 

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

Why do you need a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat?

Life as a mum can be very busy. You can be so focused on supporting everyone else that you often forget to look after yourself. 

It can be hard to remember that you and your family will be all the stronger for you taking a few hours out to nurture YOU. But it's true.

The mamas who've joined us over the past few months are testament to that. You can hear why in their own words over here, just look for the smiling mama faces...

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif OlsenIt's soul nurturing for mamas...

It's time for us.

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

You’ll leave feeling refreshed, supported, purposeful and happier. And ready to face December with a smile on your face...

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

We have some mums who come to almost every retreat, and others who come just once. Either is fine with us - it's always a warm and welcoming crowd, so don't be frightened of your first time.

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

What about food? We’ll provide tea and treats, and now lunch too!* 

When?  9.30 – 1.30, Sunday 30 November

How much does it cost? £25, plus £4.50 for lunch* 

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif Olsen

We added lunch to our offer last time and it was a resounding success! A delicious soup (made by the brilliant Kate Binnie) with fresh bread, plus of course cake, tea and treats.

*We're charging £4.50 for lunch as we didn't manage to cover Kate's costs in October - but it is still an absolute bargain. Her food is AMAZING. Let us know as soon as possible if you have any special dietary requirements when you book your ticket, and we’ll do our best to meet your needs!

NOTE: If you'd really like to come, but can't afford it, please do get in touch - we want as many mums as possible to have this experience and will do our best to make it happen at a price you can afford.

For terms and conditions, head over here.

Want to know more?

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

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif OlsenWe have a different theme and focus each month, and you're welcome to join us as often as you like. Come and join our next retreats on:

Sunday 18 January 2015 

Sunday 8 February 2015

Tickets go on sale a few weeks in advance of each session. We're also thinking about offering a special Mamas' Retreat gift voucher for Christmas gifts... so watch this space!

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 be the first to find out!

When was the last time you did something to nurture YOU?

Don't miss out on this time for you - buy your ticket by clicking on 'add to cart' below:

Add to Cart Regular Retreat Ticket (£25 plus £4.50 lunch)

Add to Cart Early-Bird Retreat Ticket (£15 plus £4.50 lunch)

Leafy-Love-Notes at our #somum Make Date

It has been so magical making and leaving little Leafy Love-Notes around town, and it's so lovely to know that more will be spreading across the world after last night's #somum Make Date!

Making Leafy Love Notes with Story of Mum: #somum Make Date on twitter

We talked about the helpful and unhelpful voices in our head, and captured some positive thoughts to share on our leaves. You can read the storify of some of our chat below!

You can still add your own leaf to our gallery at any time - just click on 'join in' - and we'd love to know when you leave it for someone else to find - let us know here, or tweet us with #somum.

 

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.”

Emily Bronte

“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.” 

Shira Tamir

 

 

Join #somum on twitter this Weds to make leafy love-notes

Come join us to make Leafy Love-Notes together at this month's #somum make Date on twitter on Wednesday 19 November.

We play together from 8.30 - 10pm UK time, and you can find the time wherever you are in the world with this handy time zone checker.

Join #somum on twitter this Weds to make leafy love-notes

We made the leaves you see here at our Mamas' Retreat last month. And I've been having such fun sneakily leaving them around on my travels ever since...!

Why make a Leafy Love Note?

Often, I dwell on the negative thoughts I have, and let my more positive thoughts fall away like autumn leaves.

So instead this month, we're catching those helpful thoughts, and decorating a fallen leaf with the words we most need to hear.

And if we're feeling generous, we're leaving those precious words for someone else to find...

(by the way, if you can only hear the unhelpful voice in your head right now, share the complete opposite of what that voice says - because that's probably what you most need to hear).

There are all sorts of ways to decorate your leaf. So use your amazing imagination and go wild, literally. 

Join #somum on twitter this Weds to make leafy love-notesGold and silver pens work beautifully, as do sequins and glitter. (They were also a big hit with the kids!) Even better, you could use entirely biodegradable decorations  - especially good if you're going to drop your leaf somewhere for someone else to find it!

And of course, don't forget to share a photo with us here before you spread your random kindness. Just click on 'Join in' to share a picture of your leaf.

You can see lots of examples of other leaves made (and hidden around and about...) by other marvellous mamas in the gallery.

It's a lovely thing to do with your kids as well - collecting and pressing and decorating the leaves together; thinking of phrases that it might feel good to hear. Mine also love the little bit of espionage involved in hiding the leaves in the park for others to find!

Join #somum on twitter this Weds to make leafy love-notesWhat 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. 

Unlikely Meditations on Motherhood

Lovely Rachael Blair (otherwise known as @MushroomsMum) of Mothering Mushroom and Writing People Poetry shares her thoughts on this month's theme of Unlikely Meditations for Mamas, and includes a meditation for stressed out mums, recorded especially for you.

Unlikely Meditations on Motherhood - Rachael Blair for Story of Mum

This month, the Story of Mum community came together for a conversation on Unlikely Meditations for Mamas. Some had previously shared their words, which ranged from a meditation on a crying baby to one on the last few minutes of work time before collecting the kids.

I shared one on the everlasting pile of laundry (in good company with this one as Amy Beeson shared one on making the bed) and one on the unique sound of childrens’ soft play centres.

However, the one most resonated with me came after the conversation and was one from Natalie Smithson on Being Astronomically Busy. Natalie says ‘Those days that are truly busy, they’re a sign to slow down; stop taking on so much. Don't fill up every second of every day.’

Busy Busy Busy

I know I am often guilty of taking on too much. I can too easily slip into the trap of thinking that I need to fill every moment with ‘worthy’ activity. Sitting down and taking time out, just for me? Don’t be ridiculous, I’m far too busy!

Before Mushroom, I used to regularly carve time out of the week to meditate. To just be still, and empty my mind of thoughts for a while. Now, when I try (and I do still try!), I find I often fall asleep. So I’ve become a big fan of mindful meditation.

What’s mindful meditation?

Rather than emptying your mind (which takes years of practice!), mindful meditation instead focuses on the present moment.

Unlikely Meditations for Mamas - Rachael Blair for Story of Mum

So for me now, a mindful meditation might be going for a walk and noticing the tracks of snails on the floor of the park, the raindrops still hanging on the spiders’ webs between the trees and the feeling of my feet connecting with the grass...

My mind still has a tendency to wander but that’s fine. I simply notice it and then bring my attention back to what’s in front of me.

Kids are brilliant at this. If I go for a walk with Mushroom he will always bring my attention back to the present by pointing out things I might not otherwise notice – the tree sap leaking from the wooden climbing frame on the park, forming amber crystals to be peeled off and squished, for example.

Connecting with nature is a great way of grounding and centring I find but you don’t have to be outside to practise mindful meditation. You can also meditate in the messier moments of motherhood, as the Unlikely Meditations gallery demonstrates (literally in some cases; there is even one about pooey bottoms!).

An unlikely meditation for all Mamas

After half joining the recent twitter conversation on unlikely meditations while simultaneously trying to put Mushroom to bed (not very mindful, that!), Pippa suggested I needed a meditation for a sleep resistant toddler!

I did write one, with the intention of making it the basis of this blog post, but then I thought about what might be most useful for all the Mamas in this community and when would be the best time for you to meditate, mindfully...

So I recorded something for especially for you. This way you can listen to it whenever you feel you need it, at a time to suit you.

An Unlikely Meditation for Mamas (slightly hypnotic, and slightly tongue in cheek!)

Join our next Mamas' Retreat on Sunday 26 October

Join a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif Olsen

 

Ticket sales are open for our next Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat! 

Book your ticket using the payment button at the bottom of this page.

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif Olsen

A Mamas' Retreat is a space to remember that we matter too.

You deserve it. You need it.

And you and your family will be all the stronger for you taking a few hours out to nurture YOU.

What will we do?

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...)

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

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Leif Olsen and Pippa Best of Story of Mum

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. 

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

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

And ready to face the rest of half term with a smile on your face...

 

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

What about food? We’ll provide tea and treats, and now lunch too!* 

When?  9.30 – 1.30, Sunday 26 October

How much does it cost? £25, plus £3.50 for lunch* 

*Yes, this time, we've decided to try including lunch! A choice of two delicious soups (made by the brilliant Kate Binnie) with fresh bread, plus of course cake and frozen chocolate banana treats... While this makes it a bit more expensive up front, we hope it will make your life easier, taking away a bit of the 'what shall I bring??' stress and actually working out a little cheaper.

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 and soup!

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of MumHow many mamas will be there? 

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

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you'd really like to come, but can't afford it, please do get in touch - we want as many mums as possible to have this experience and will do our best to make it happen at a price you can afford.

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 MumWe have a different theme and focus each month, and you're welcome to join us as often as you like!

Come and join us on:

Sunday 30 November 2014

Sunday 18 January 2015 

Sunday 8 February 2015

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

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 be the first to find out!

 

Don't miss out on this time for you - buy your ticket by clicking on 'add to cart' below:

 

 

Meditating mamas

How have you been doing with our week of unlikely meditating, mamas?

Unlikely Meditations for Mamas

I've been quite poorly this week, so actually I've been avoiding doing a lot of the chores completely and just focusing on getting my head down and getting the bit of work done that I needed to do, as well as having A LOT of movie nights with the kids. They seem to have survived...

Even so, I loved re-reading your meditations each day and being inspired to focus on the moment, and to see the positive in my life. Instead of focusing on being grumpy about feeling ill and eating more chocolate. 

I did still eat a lot of chocolate, obviously.

As we have so many fab meditations from you, we're going to continue sharing into next week - and if you'd like to find out what we talked about at our meditating #somum Make Date you can catch up in the storify below...

And visit all the unlikely meditations over here - we'd love more, so if you have one, share it with us!

Ommmmmmm 

Or is that nom nom nom...?

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