Blogs

Fairy Tale Chocolate Competition

My fairy tale life would definitely include chocolate, so I'm very excited that we have appropriately-themed chocolate goodies from Fairy Tale Gourmet to giveaway this month!

Win chocolate eggs from Fairy Tale Gourmet with Story of Mum

You could win yourself one of two delicious artisan chocolate eggs from Fairytale Gourmet - and this Easter, you could crack open your very own Humpty Dumpty or steal a Golden Egg from the friendly giants in your house...!

These are eggs to hide from the kids... SO well that you get to eat them yourself ;)

This month is all about fairy tales - and we'll be sharing our stories in My Life, the Fairy Tale. We would love to hear yours - and one of the ways you can enter the competition is by sharing it with us!

Your own fairy tale might be life-changing or silly, small or huge - you choose. Head over here and complete seven sentences to tell us a fairy-tale from your not-so-fairy-tale life...

Our daily battles may not always feel epic, but the truth is, they are.  Most importantly, sharing those stories of how we overcame the scary stuff, (eventually!) reminds others that they can make it through - even if today's quest is simply to tackle the never-ending laundry pile...

You can also enter by tweeting and hanging out on facebook, as you do...

Tale Gourmet are an award-winning company producing hand-crafted and ethical high-end chocolates and desserts, inspired by the literature of fairy tales. Go and explore their website - it's imaginative, original and guaranteed to make you drool...

We look forward to hearing your real-life fairy-tales, and eating chocolate together..a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win a Fairytale Gourmet golden egg with Story of Mum

Start your year with joy at our January Mamas' Retreat

Join a Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat with Story of MumWe'd love you to join us on Sunday 18 January 2015 for a very special Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat in Penzance, Cornwall. Come start your year with joy! (scroll down to book your tickets below)

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 [email protected]. 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...

Happy Hearts together at #somum

At this month's #somum Make Date on twitter, we shared our happiness and made Happy Hearts together.

Catch up on Story of Mum's last #somum Make Date: Happy Hearts

Read the storify below for the highlights of our happy chat - and find out how to make your own Happy Heart over here (I even made a video for the fellow craftily-challenged amongst us...). If you can't find the instructions, click on 'read more'...

We talked about the everyday moments that make us happy - the people, smells (!), and places that bring us joy. We shared whether becoming a parent had made us more or less happy, and what we think really makes a happy family. To give you a quick flavour, here are a few of the great answers to this question below - read more in the storify. What do you think makes a happy family?

"A happy family is often found outdoors, supportive of each other and not too worried about sleep" @andiepowpow

"A happy family is a family who pause and enjoy the moments, laugh loudly and embrace crazy." @Loulou_Uberkirk

"A happy family is a happy mummy! If she's happy and content everything falls into place"  dear_mummy

We shared our happiest parenting moments with each other, but we also talked about how important it is to admit and share that not everything about parenting is happy.

Because we actually feel much happier when we're honest about the challenges and treasure the ups as a contrast with the downs...

Last but not least, we were thrilled to be able to help launch the new book from regular #somum contributor Sarah Beeson (and lovely daughter Amy Beeson) - Happy Baby Happy Family - with Sarah kindly giving away a copy to one lucky winner at the end of the Make Date. Hooray!

Wishing you much happy in your day today, mama <3

Join our #somum Make Date on twitter this Weds!

Come make Happy Hearts with us on twitter on Wednesday 10 June. We'll be collecting the everyday things that make us happy into a list. And folding that list into a simple paper heart to remind us on the not-so-happy days.

Join a #somum Make Date with Story of Mum on twitter on Weds 10 June: BE HAPPY!

What does happy mean to you?

I track my biggest struggles with happiness to two significant points in my life: As a young teenager, being bullied at school.

And motherhood.  

And oh my, am I grateful that I have so many more resources to manage those challenges now!

Funnily enough, I also have motherhood to thank for that...

Motherhood hasn't only been my biggest struggle, it has played a vital part in my journey towards more moments of true happiness.

In spite of how hard I found the transition into early motherhood - and still find the everyday confusion, exhaustion, and constant change of parenting - becoming a mother has changed me for the better.

It has given me a bright raw passage to intense fear and intense joy.

And the invaluable gift of being able to pause and be present in the moment - rainclouds, sunshine, tantrums and all. 

My children have taught me to be curious, more aware of what is going on around and inside me - and to live each minute. To feel it all. 

Join a #somum Make Date with Story of Mum on Weds 10 June and get your happy back!

I don't always stay present, I'm too easily pulled away by emails and apparently urgent work: my phone-checking reflex. But when I know I need to feel happier, I step into the present with them.

I breathe. I go outside. I pay close attention to something beautiful.

I choose to do something that I know will make me feel better - something that will engage as many senses as possible, and remind me of all that is good in the world.

What do you do that makes you feel happier?

What are the simple things that cheer you up - looking up at the stars, your favourite uplifting song, a hot cup of tea, a sunset, bare feet on the grass, putting a letter in the post...

What fills you up when you're feeling empty? ...We hope to remind you this month over at Story of Mum.

So at our twitter Make Date (think of it as a free little creative retreat with some lovely supportive mums) we'll be making Happy Hearts to capture those things that make us happy, holding them in simple paper hearts and hanging them somewhere special to remind us.

...If you follow me on instagram, you'll already know that I have an obsession with noticing random heart-shaped things everywhereMy collection of heart-stones is ever-expanding, I can't stop photographing heart clouds, cracks, leaves, flowers, holes, you name it.

In short, hearts make me happy. And I hope they'll make you happy too <3

http://sarahbeeson.org/latest-deals/happy-baby-happy-family/

Join in any time and add your heart to our gallery.

And come find us on twitter to talk happiness and make Happy Hearts at our next #somum Make Date on Wednesday 10 June from 8.30 to 10pm on twitter. 

You could even win yourself a copy of...

Happy Baby, Happy Family

In keeping with our happiness theme, we'll be celebrating the launch of lovely Sarah Beeson's new book Happy Baby, Happy Family by giving away a copy during our twitter date - so join us for a chance to win!

Sarah gently reminds mothers to trust their instincts - there are no one-size-fits-all solutions in motherhood. If you're still in the first year of motherhood, this will help. And if you're not, pass it on to a new mama you love.

We'll be selecting winners randomly from everyone adding #somum to their tweets when joining the Make Date from 8.30pm to 10pm BST on Wednesday 10 June!

Embrace Happy at Brit Mums Live

PS if you'd like even more happy... on Saturday 20 June, I'll be at BritMums Live in London, hosting an Embrace Happy session with lovely Karin Joyce

We'll be talking about all things happy, getting creative, and reminding mums to take time to look after themselves.

I'm starting to get very nervous now, so please do let me know if you're going to be there with an encouraging smile. We'd love to see you! #embracehappy

Join a #somum Make Date with Story of Mum on Weds 10 June and be happy!

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. 

Join our Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat in July

Join us on Sunday 5 July 2015 for another delicious Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat in Penzance, Cornwall. Let's celebrate the start of Summer together!

Scroll down to book your ticket and take advantage of the early bird offer...

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum on 7 July

You'll finally take that time out you really need, and spend some time thinking about you for a change.

A lovely group of mums just looking for some space. Do as much or as little as you want - it's your retreat.

You can lie on the sofa all morning if you like, you don't have to say a word.

Or you can join us in a simple creative activity (no skills required, glitter optional...), and some energising nurturing yoga.  You can chat to new friends over a delicious lunch, or enjoy the view from the balcony of the sea stretching endlessly away.

It'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 supported, inspired, and ready to face whatever comes your way when you venture back into the big bold exhausting world of motherhood...!

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

But don't just take our word for it, here's some feedback from our recent Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat attendees:

"I loved how genuinely happy everyone was to be there, the quiet, yoga without a baby crawling on or underneath me, the food, being listened to and heard for 5 minutes was amazing!"

"It is rare, very rare, as a mum to find time for oneself, to give yourself the time and space, and permission, to open up, be honest and allow some magic to happen.

The mama's retreats led by Pippa and Leif provide a nurturing, safe, fun and creative environment for you to reconnect with you."

"A chance to relax, reflect and breathe away from the stress of juggling a busy job with a long commute and my family (and the guilt that as a consequence I'm a bit rubbish at both!)"

"The Mamas Retreat was an escape from motherhood for a couple of hours - a chance to reflect on the joy it brings, and a chance to give myself the space I needed to be myself. To acknowledge that when times are tough as a mum you are not alone."

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

"I left feeling rewarded with a relaxed state of mind and joyful, with the pleasurable experience of new friendships."

"It's so easy to say we don't have time to do relaxing things but it's more about prioritising some time for yourself without feeling guilty, and you will most definitely feel the benefits from a morning at the retreat."

"The mamas' retreat gave me a chance to connect with other mums, share hopes and fears and feel much more positive about taking care of myself and my family. I have found it hard to meet people since moving to the area and the mamas' retreat was one of the most welcoming and supportive groups I've been to."

"A friendly, creative space to have a good stretch, relax and share thoughts and ideas with other like-minded women."

"Loved sharing stories, and having time and respected space to say whatever is on your mind. I love that it is a place for creativity - encourages blooming!"

"It made me realise that I'm doing ok considering all that had actually occurred during the year. Also pure, uninterrupted yoga - such a joy and a real treat. I felt a million dollars afterwards!"

We'd love to see you there!

Tell me more!

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. 

We have a different theme and focus each retreat, and you're welcome to join us as often as you like. 

Join a Mamas' Retreat with Story of Mum and Leif OlsenHow many mamas will be there? Places are limited, so it won’t be a scarily big group – just a lovely comminity of 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 a simple lunch. 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!

When?  9.30 – 1.30, Sunday 7 July 2015

How much does it cost? £25 plus £4.50 for lunch (total: £29.50)

We have a special early bird offer available if you book before 10 June 2015. See below for details.

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 MORE lovely mamas. They share a little bit more about what we do on a half day retreat, and why they love to come. 

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

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

Early bird offer (£20 including lunch):  Add to Cart 

Standard ticket: (£29.50 including lunch): Add to Cart

 

... and if you can't make this one, how about letting us host a retreat for you, in the comfort of your own home (or somewhere tidier...)? Find out more about our virtual retreat programme over here.

You can find out more about all the other retreats we offer over here.

Have courage, mama!

We had a lovely #somum Make Date this month on twitter (think of it as a mini creative retreat with a group of warm, inspiring and supportive mums and the occasional kind and funny dad...)

Make an Encouragement Card for another mama with Story of Mum

We found courage together. And we hope our little stories of daily bravery will inspire you to find yours.

Read the storify below to see how we are all courageous every day.

Because as mothers, we do incredible brave things every single day - and yet we rarely acknowledge the bravery it takes to be a mother.

To be loving and imperfect. To keep learning from our mistakes as we go along.

Trying our best; making public fools of ourselves; getting out of bed when all we want to do is cry and sleep; being vulnerable and asking for help when we need it; supporting our friends, partners, family; letting our kids grow up and away - and stepping back to watch them make their own mistakes.

That's courage. And it can be exhausting.

Pushing through those fears over and over again without acknowledgement takes huge daily effort - an effort that can sometimes feel thankless.

So this month we're returning to one of our favourite activities from 2013: Encouragement Cards.  

Think of another mama you admire - someone who's finding it tough, and still doing their best.

Someone who probably doesn't realise that you see their courage, or know you respect it.  And most importantly of all, that you understand how hard it is.

Make that special person an Encouragement Card

Share your card in the gallery, and let us know how it makes you feel.

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