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 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...

What would you feel on your ideal day?

At our Mamas' Retreat today, we took some precious mama me-time to think about what we hoped for in 2015 - what would we feel on our perfect day this year?

What would you feel on your ideal day? With Story of Mum and Leonie Dawson

After some gentle kidney-nurturing yoga, a bit of free writing and some cake, we made speed collages of what we wanted to feel and do this year (simply choosing images that we liked instinctively - we'd make sense of it all later...!).

Once we'd filled a page with hopes and dreams, we crystallised those thoughts into 10 minutes of quiet writing.

We imagined our ideal day...

I've been imagining my ideal day at the start of each year for a while now, using the wonderful Leonie Dawson's Create Your Shining Year Workbook.

It's a brilliantly inspiring (and gorgeously illustrated) 'playbook' with all sorts of different activities and questions to explore as you think about your year ahead.

I started this year's workbook on New Years' Eve (as my husband snored on the sofa, shhhhh!...) and I'm still enjoying working my way through it bit by bit.

Why imagine your ideal day?

Imagine how you would spend your ideal day

It's a simple (and deliciously wish-fulfilling!) way of realising what really matters to you - what brings you pleasure, and what you really want to feel.

As a mother, it can be so easy to lose touch with ourselves - we're so busy worrying about everyone else, that we can forget to think about what we need.

And yet we need to tend to ourselves first if we're to have the strength and joy to tend fully to all those we most care about.

So let's think about that ideal day...

Who do you want to wake up with?


What would you do on your ideal day? with Story of Mum and Leonie Dawson

What do you want to taste and smell and experience that day...? 

Where would you go?

What would you touch?

What would you listen to, play with, explore and love?

Write it down, doodle it, collage it, think it, say it out loud - whatever comes easiest to you.

But capture that ideal day some way.

And each time you describe something that you would do on that ideal day, notice how it will make you feel.

As you slip into bed at the end of that magical day, what will you be thinking and feeling? What will have filled you up?

And now you know what you'd most want to feel on your ideal day... what one small step could you take today that would bring a little bit more of that feeling into your day? 

The more we take those little steps, the closer that day gets to reality.

What happens NEXT?

Well, this is the most magical bit.

Last year, I imagined my ideal day. And then, slowly but surely, something amazing happened...

Live your ideal day - with Story of Mum and Leonie Dawson's Shining Life Workbooks!

Every now and then, I would catch myself feeling that feeling.

I'd look around and realise that I was there. I was living a moment from that ideal day. My ideal life!

It was here, right now.

Often something simple - a hug with my smiling children, a play on the beach in the sunshine, holding my husband's hand.

But I noticed it in a way I hadn't before.

And as I appreciated those moments more, I began to realise just how lucky I am.

Even more wonderfully - when it came to my birthday in September, I made it happen.

I lived my ideal day.

(I highly recommend attempting this on your birthday, as it's the day you're most likely to get everyone to go along with your plans...!)

I had a lie-in. Clean white sheets, September sun striping the duvet. My husband bought me breakfast in bed with the kids, and we all had a big family cuddle.

I successfully persuaded lots of my wonderful friends to put on their very best frocks and join me barefoot on the beach for rock-pooling and freshly cooked Lenterns' sausages with the kids.

What would you feel on your ideal day?

I got matching Poppy England dresses for me and my daughter in their sample sale and we wore them to go paddling (hilarious and gorgeous).

I had lovely thoughtful presents from all the people I care about. We all went for tea and cake on the prom at my favourite caravan cafe, with two of my favourite cakes to share, and everyone sang to me as I hugged my husband.

And then the kids played hide and seek and all around me I saw smiles.

Then it was back to the beach for prosecco and playing and swim after swim in the sea. I stood there in my swimming costume and I wasn't self conscious. I felt loved and beautiful. I saw all the joy and generosity there is in my life and I felt like I had made magic happen. 

Just for a day?

A day that will stay with me forever. That makes me grin whenever I remember it. 

Who would you spend time with on your ideal day? with Leonie Dawson and Story of Mum

And each day I live now, has a little taste of that day in it.

Just wait until you see what I've got up my sleeve for this year...

Want to find out more?

If you'd like to buy yourself one of Leonie's fabulous workbooks for 'ideal day' inspiration and much much more, I reallly absolutely genuinely couldn't recommend it more highly.

You could even click HERE and use our affiliate link as a way to support Story of Mum when you do get yourself a workbook that might just change your life, thank you very much...!

And if you'd like to find out more about one of our Mamas' Retreats (you know you deserve it), you can do that here.

For another way to explore your hopes for the year ahead, you might like this month's Hope Boats.

We'd love to know where you'd wake up on that ideal day - let us know below..??

What are your hopes and dreams for 2015?

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." Christopher Reeve

At this month's #somum Make Date we made Hope Boats and shared our hopes for the year ahead. 

Make Hope Boats with Story of Mum - fill it with your hopes, sail them into 2015

We talked about what we hope for our kids, for those we love - and what we most hope for ourselves. 

What makes you feel hopeful? Which places, sights, smells, people, tastes, experiences give you hope...? 

Let's look for more of those this year. Together.

Have a read through the storify of our January #somum Make Date below. We'll keep on inspiring each other to hope bigger...


"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." Anne Lamott

Join our next Mamas' Retreat in March

We've just finished another wonderful mamas' retreat and it was so inspiring that we're already plotting the next! Join us on Sunday 15 March 2015 for another delicious Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat in Penzance, Cornwall.

Let's come together to get ready for Spring with a spring in our step and a smile on our faces... (scroll down to book your tickets below)

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

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

 We'll treat our bodies well with some energising nurturing yoga, and eat delicious healthy soup as well as some treats...

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...!

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

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

"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 real magic and healing to happen and for you to reconnect with you."

"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."

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

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

"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!"

"The relaxation of the yoga enabled me to relax into the whole experience and to engage with my inner thoughts and feelings more readily."

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

"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!)"

"It's very easy to feel you belong at a mamas retreat. They're very reflective experiences, sometimes emotional but always with humour and thoughtfulness."

"I found the experience very profound actually, it exceeded my expectations. I think any mum needs to do this to re energise her mind, her body and her soul. We deserve it!"

"Very chilled out, safe and welcoming atmosphere. Perfectly planned, so ran very smoothly. Great mix of TLC for mind, body and soul. Also awesome food!!

"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!"

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

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. 

How 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.

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

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

What about food? We’ll provide tea, treats, and lunch (including a delicious soup from the brilliant Kate Binnie)! 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 15 March 2015

How much does it cost? We have a special offer for a limited time of £20, including lunch (the normal price is £25 plus £4.50 for lunch)

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.

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

We offer special early bird deals for Story of Mum members when we can, 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 - choose and buy your ticket by clicking on 'add to cart' below.

If you're strapped for cash right now, we have a limited number of special offer tickets available:

Special offer ticket (£20 including £4.50 lunch): Add to Cart

If you would like to support us and pay full price, that will help us to help more mums, thank you! You can add that ticket to your cart with the button below:

Full price ticket (£29.50 including £4.50 lunch): 

Take a moment to sign up here to be the first to hear about special offers and retreat plans...

Join us on twitter on Wednesday 14 Jan for #somum fun!

Let's fold our hopes into simple paper boats together and send them off into the year ahead... We'd love you to join our next hopeful #somum Make Date on Wednesday - no paper-folding skills required!

Join us on twitter on Wednesday 14 January for #somum fun and making Hope Boats

We'll fold a simple boat full of your hopes for the year and let it sail blissfully off into the future...

Or... watch it sink, that's what normally happens with the boats we make, and that's OK too.

Because the important thing is that the thoughts are thought, and the hopes cast on.

Don't cry over the sinkers, we all have sinkers - just remember, our hopes don't sink with them ;)

Looks a bit complicated?

Well, if you know how to make a hat out of a piece of newspaper, you're halfway there already. If not, there's a quick explanation of how to make your boats (and have a go with your kids too if you fancy it) over at Hope Boats

Naturally, we will encourage boat-naming, and christening them grandly with whatever fizzy pop you have to hand.

Most importantly, we'll be catching up with a lovely supportive and inspiring mama-community, and we'd love YOU to be part of it.

Resolve to make time for you, with us, at Story of Mum

So what is a #somum Make Date?

Join us on twitter on every second Wednesday of the month from 8.30pm - 10pm UK time.

Visit the home page to find out when the next Make Date's coming up, and click on the link to find the equivalent time in different timezones.

To join in, just search for #somum on twitter to follow the conversation and find out what we're trying to make this month. Then add #somum to your tweets to join the conversation. You can share photos of what you make as we go (if you want to)

You can see some fab examples of the kind of thing we get up to here.

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. 

How does your garden grow?

It was such a fascinating chat at this month's #somum Make Date - and some of you even managed to sew and crochet at the same time - impressive indeed!

We made flowers for the Craftivists #wellMaking garden at the #somum Make Date!

We joined the ever inspirational Craftivists in their #wellMaking Garden, crafting flowers as we talked about what well-being means to us.

We talked about how we manage daily stress, and whether as mothers, we feel acknowledged for all that we bring to society (short answer - generally, we don't - but you can read our chat about it below...).

We shared what a positive difference making, creating, and crafting has made to our world - including these very chats - which gave me a very nice warm feeling in my heart, thank you!

You can see what we've made so far in our gallery (which only has my effort in it at time of writing, but hopefully we'll upload some more soon!.

Can you help us grow too?

We want to do more stuff that supports and nurtures mothers to take time for ourselves and value what we do - and would really appreciate it if you would take 5 minutes to complete our survey about what we do next: find it HERE.

And catch up on the storify of our latest chat below - see you at the next one on Wednesday 14 January!

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