THE STRUGGLE WITH THE JUGGLE


It’s been one of those weeks. Sometimes, you feel like you are NAILING it. All your plates are in the air, maybe you are even giving them the odd show-offy flip up into the air. Others weeks, you feel like every single plate is crashing down.

This week I felt like all my lovely plates got absolutely smashed.

PLATES

It’s very easy to put pressure on yourself at times, to get it all right, all the time with these plates. Mumlife with its vast array of subsections, Worklife, Homelife, Wifelife, Niclife. 

There’s more plates there and a whole pile of little saucers and bowls that come with some of those plates. But the big ones, the special ones, sometimes we try not only to keep them up in the air, but also to have them spinning fast, sometimes too fast?

SMASH

This week I feel like it all smashed a bit. I have felt dreadful all week. Exhausted and in pain. I have limped through the working week, too busy to take time off. Under pressure to deliver in a number of important areas in my job and busy training a new member of staff. The traffic on the M1 this week was NOT my friend. I was late practically every morning. Not my fault. My boss didn’t even batt an eyelid. But it REALLY bothered me!! I felt off the game in meetings and I’m pretty sure I was way too tough on some of my team!  Not my finest hour.

At night I was coming home and basically going to bed once the kids did. No cooking. One night as a treat for me and to cheer me up Mr Brightside lit the fire and ordered Dominoes. How thoughtful. I fell asleep on the sofa. 

On Friday morning I felt marginally brighter. I had made it!! I arrived in work feeling like I had  kept it all together. Cue frantic call from my mum. I had completely forgotten the kids had a sponsored fitness event in their school that day. I hadn’t sent their clothes, sponsor forms etc. Alf was having a meltdown. My mum was running around trying to sort it out at the last minute and soothe a frustrated Alf (who doesn’t cope well with things not being calm and organised). She’s my hero. But I felt SO GUILTY. I won’t lie, I did have a little cry in the loo! Then I had to go into a management meeting. Grim!!

REFLECTION

I’m sitting here in bed on Saturday morning with coffee in my hand, jotting this all down. I woke early and felt a bit brighter. I started writing, as I do when the mood strikes me. It’s actually quite therapeutic to get it all down on paper.

Realistically, none of those big beautiful plates smashed. There *might* be a little chip. There *might* be a cracked saucer but you know what, I can glue it back together!!

It’s so so easy to have a rough week and feel like we are failing! Even little miss positive pants me can have a few days of feeling a bit grumpy and like you just can’t keep it all going.

But you know, that’s ok!! There is far too much expectation to get it all right all the time!!

We are human. We get sick. We make mistakes. We forget things. We make the wrong call. We shout when we shouldn’t. That’s OK!!! 

I wondered if I should post this out. I didn’t want to sound rant-y or moan-y. But you know what, it’s real life. It’s just ordinary mundane, nothing is really wrong, no one died, everyday struggles. Isn’t it important to put our hands up and say – yip I had a bit of a rubbish day / week / month. It’s not for sympathy – but it sure feels good when someone puts their hand back up and says “yeah me too”. 

Thats what being part of a community or a village is all about! Sharing, supporting, lifting each other up. Having a rant and sharing victories.

If you are in the middle of a similar day, week, month, I feel ya!! But if you are lucky enough for it to just be that every day mundane struggle, that doesn’t make it any less grim at the time, but know it will be ok! None of your plates are smashed! And sure, a wee chip here and there adds character!!

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What would your granny say?

My granny Elsie. What a lady. This week we marked 10 years since she died. She was a real Matriarch. I think of her often. She’s talked about and fondly remembered regularly amongst our family, friends and even by my children, who sadly never got to meet her. I wonder from time to time, what she would think about me, my life, my children, what I’m doing.

Walking along the beach today, the beach I walked with her and my grandfather all through my childhood, I thought about her and I wondered what my Granny would say about my blog. I think, actually, she would have approved.

Our beach at Cranfield where we have been spending weekends and summers for generations.


Elsie. She was just one of those people who knew everyone. When you walked up Portadown street with her, well, you had best be prepared to stop every few meters. A shopping trip to Tescos took at least twice as long as it should. Because Elsie LOVED to chat. To catch up. She met friends everywhere she went. And if you didn’t know her when you arrived, you would know her before you left. She had such a gift for making friends.

I think that gift is special and becoming more and more rare.


Thinking about her and her special personality, it got me thinking about the world we live in now. How times have changed. It also got me thinking about the qualities I really value and admire. 

In this busy modern day, who has time to stop and chat to someone you know WELL never mind a stranger? Who even has time to GO to Tescos/ Asda / Sainsbury’s (delete as appropriate)? I get my shopping delivered. 

My friends and I? We are lucky to have time to meet up properly a handful of times a year, such are our busy lives and schedules. Busy. Not necessarily a word to aspire to or boast about – a whole other blog post right there!!

But in our manic lives, there is a gaping hole where many of us lose out on real human interaction, conversation and connection.

And here’s the thing. In so many ways, places like Instagram have come to represent something so very important to those who use it. That first time mum? Who is struggling with breastfeeding, endless night feeds, fussy unsettled evenings. Wondering if anyone else is failing as miserably as she feels she is. Well hello insta friends! Hello Facebook breastfeeding group. Hello real, often local, people who you can connect with from your bedroom at stupid o clock as you lie willing your child to settle. You are not alone they say. I am here too!

This carries on. I’m sticking with the demographics I’m familiar with – so the mum groups are particularly useful examples. There are people putting themselves out there, being honest about their lives, their struggles, their victories. Conversations are started. Hashtags are shared. That lonely mum who has been in the house with 3 under 3 all day can make a real connection with someone in the same shoes and feel less alone.

I’m not suggesting that friendship in the flesh and real conversation should or could ever be replaced. But nevertheless, there is something real and important about the great parts of social media, like this, that help to perpetuate, support and underpin that fundamental human need to connect and interact. Blogging by extension is another way to share our thoughts. To recount what we have been doing. To share our views, our interests or parts of our lives with others.

Social media. It gets a pretty bad rap at times. I’m not one to really care what others think, but more and more I find myself answering questions about my instagram and my blog. Why do I do it? What do I get from it?

And one of the biggest things I take out of this part of my life, without a doubt is the connection. The sense of community. The friendships made – and in many cases especially recently, translated into real life friendships.

Some people think that is weird. Unusual. When I tell them I have met friends through instagram they are a bit freaked out.

At the country blog retreat NI with my friend, the beautiful Steph from @mylittleduke a real friendship born out of instagram. Snapped by @melwiggins

I have talked a few times about the country bloggers retreat NI I attended back in September at Larchfield Estate, organised by the beautiful Emma from @littlewoodlife 

This is the PERFECT example of the power of social media and the ability to create genuine meaningful connections in the real world.

I know if my Granny Elsie was alive in this generation she would be all over it. She would have been at that retreat with bells on. Gregarious, kind, outgoing and always ready to make a new friend. Qualities to be admired and aspired to.

Granny Elsie and my Granda pictured on the same stretch of beach in Cranfield, many years ago.

BOY

Last week saw International Day of the Girl celebrated. As a feminist (and human), raising a daughter, of course these types of events / days / celebrations really represent something important to me. It’s a UN driven date, focused on delivering equality, better human rights, education and opportunity for girls globally. Instagram boomed with hashtags and celebration of The Day of the Girl. It was fab! But it got me thinking about our boys…

Mothering a boy in this day and age. What a privilege and joy. But OH what a challenge.


GIRLS

We have so many sources of support. So many strong role models for our daughters to look up to. You only have to look at instagram hashtags, or some of the popular books right now – like Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (a fab read!) There is an entire movement dedicated to our daughters. Strong not pretty. Raising kind girls not mean girls. The list goes on.

And isn’t it amazing. I LOVE it!!! And it is so important and SO needed. There is much more work to be done.

But I can’t help thinking…what about our boys? The future is theirs too. And what a minefield it will be for them to navigate. I genuinely fear for the youth of tomorrow with all of the hurdles they have to face. The teen years. An online world, so much information at their finger tips, but no real life experience or maturity to know what to do with it. The challenges of school, education, career choices all coupled with the need for them to build great friendships and most importantly be HAPPY and healthy.


I think the girls will navigate this a little more skilfully…? I think they have a wind behind them carrying them forward. At least that’s how it feels.

BOYS

We need to be thinking about how we build them up too. How we inform them, make them GOOD and KIND and RESPECTFUL (not successful, powerful and wealthy). How do we empower them and show them POSITIVE role models, because it might just be me, but it really feels like in the public arena there are a pitiful few to point towards.

Is being raised by a feminist mother enough. Will it equip them with everything they need? I worry if I am getting it right.


Let me just be clear – I am a feminist. I bloody love everything that is going on to help girls and women rise up. We need more of it! I don’t want to replace it or rival it with some weird competition! But we need our boys to grow to be the men these girls of ours deserve them to be. The future is all of theirs!!!

I have been ruminating over this theme for a while now. There is SO much more I could say on so much (but I want to avoid this turning into a book). It’s not at all fully formed, it’s more question than answer – that’s motherhood I hear you say! But I would love to know what you all think!!

Guilt, Gratitude and Gigantic Coffees

This week in work, I got promoted.

There. I said it. 

I had been planning to post about worklife before I got this (surprise) promotion news. So here I was, casually trying to work this promotion into my post so I didn’t sound like a show off. Then I thought, screw it – I’ll just put it out there. The reason I want to share is not to blow my own trumpet. It’s important to what I have to say about WORKLIFE. Here’s why….

I am a working mama. I (semi) regularly post on my instagram about days where I have mum meltdowns. “What a week” #worklife “TGIF” #workinmana etc etc

Don’t we all do it? Go on for a rant, to vent, to hear someone else come back and say “YES – this is me too!!”

Sometimes, in fact most weeks over here, the struggle with the juggle is real and often it seems a bit too much.

We are so keen to share our bad days. Why not our good ones? (There’s a whole other post right there).

In the spirit of honesty and community I think it’s really important to reveal our weaknesses and worries AND our successes! We hear so little good news about mums in the work world. It’s all so tough. And it is a daily battle to juggle! Maybe some positivity won’t go a miss – along with a healthy dose of reality..

GUILT

When you are a working mum, there is a whole other set of mum guilt. I’m a real expert at guilt.

The guilt of leaving my kids; the guilt of sometimes feeling never quite there in work or at home; the guilt because my parents (my HEROS) are looking after my kids so I can be at work; the guilt for the work calls and emails taken outside of work or on days off; guilt for my husband who regularly has to hang about waiting for me because inevitably I will leave the office 15/20 minutes late at least twice a week; guilt for the lunchtime coffee plans with friends I have to cancel because a meeting comes up; guilt for not eating proper healthy lunches; guilt for spending way too much money on coffee. Guilt.
I know (I hope) I’m not alone on some of the above.

WORKLIFE

I work in an extremely fast paced, demanding, corporate world. 

I work Four days a week.
Let me tell you I have SO much gratitude for that flexibility. For the opportunity to be at home with my kids and do the school run just one day a week. To give my little family a bit more balance. 

In work, I still have the same responsibilities and demands that a full timer has. I just gotta fit it into my four days. Here’s the thing – I am probably more efficient in my four days than I ever was on five.


Yet in work, I have felt guilt on an almost daily basis. When others stayed late and I went home. Despite having put the hours in at the start of my career. Despite the fact that I have to be home to pick up my children. Guilt.

I have also felt at times (like a lot of working mums), that progression in my career was traded off when I became a mum and a part timer (all be it a part timer on 35hrs a week..)

My business have never treated me like I don’t count. Quite the opposite. I am respected and valued. They have embraced the flexible work policy that gives me the much needed balance in life and are supportive of me taking the odd day off to do doctor or school appointments. 

BUT there has been a part of me that sometimes whispered “This is your ceiling. You shall go no further” (whispered in a creepy Gollum like voice). I have had to quieten the ambitious competitive side of me that says, “oh what I could do if I could be HERE more”. Yet we all know that I can’t and actually don’t WANT to be there more. 

So when my Director called me in on Friday and told me he was promoting me, I am not ashamed to admit I shed a little tear of gratitude. 

Gratitude because it made me feel like it was all worth it…all the guilt and tears and slog and that part of me that I wholeheartly give to my work.

GRATITUDE

The gratitude for a job to go to; the gratitude to be able to provide financially for my family; the gratitude for setting a positive example of work ethic to my kids – and to show them girls can be bosses too; the gratitude AGAIN to my parents because I don’t have to worry, when I am in back to back meetings, if my kid has been picked up from school ok; the gratitude for a husband who on top of nailing his OWN job, also sorts everyday stuff out to give me time to get my work done; the gratitude for a company prepared to reward someone for passion and performance over presenteeism. 

So I guess this post is about many things.  It’s about sharing the good stuff without worrying you seem boastful. It’s about empowering other mums to believe you CAN climb that ladder. Its about being brave and admitting you feel that way in your career . It’s about celebrating a little triumph in the midst of the chaos and routine of everyday life.

And last but not least…

A word of gratitude for the Baristas who serve this flustered disheveled mama her coffee in the early early morning as I dash to the office desperately trying to be on time…

COMING OUT OF THE DARK

I really tried not to write this post. I kept trying to write other things. Cheery “nic-like”, chirpy little musings. But no, this one just kept pushing itself right back to the front of the queue. This blog is new. I started off by saying I wanted this to be a place of vulnerability and community….so here we go….

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T H E D A R K

About a year ago I started a slide into what we will refer to as “The Dark”. It is what I now know with absolute certainty was a period of depression. It started with a feeling of flatness. Of overwhelming sadness for no reason. I was SO tired. ALL THE TIME. I was (to my shame) losing my temper with my kids. There were physical manifestations as well, constant headaches, forgetfulness but the worst probably was my hair falling out.

“The Dark” meant that life has lost its shine. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I would wake in a panic. I would lie awake after a terrible (terrible) dream terrified and I would not be able to get those awful thoughts out of my head. Mornings were hell. It was impossible to get up.

I kept thinking to myself, “What is happening to me?” Would “I” ever come back?

Despite all of this, NO ONE (except for a tiny handful of people – like 4) knew what was going on.

Living in “The Dark” I got up everyday. I showed up. I had my game face on. I chatted, I smiled, I worked. If I’m honest, I was terrified that if I DIDN’T get up, that if for just one morning I stayed in bed in the dark, where I so desperately wanted to stay, that I might never get up again.

When, after many tests and appointments, my doctor gently told me she was positive I was depressed I was angry. Insulted. No, there must be something physically, medically wrong with me. I’m not someone who gets depressed (how naive I was). I’m inherently happy and cheery. My default is a smile. It’s effortless. I have a good life. Nothing bad has happened to be. I’m not suicidal. I don’t lie around in the dark.

My doctor looked at me. She explained to me that there is such a thing as high functioning depression. It’s a real form of depression, in fact it can be more dangerous, because no one knows you are suffering until things get really bad.

She sent me off with antidepressants and orders to rest, reduce stress in my busy life and check in again in 4weeks.

I have never taken those tablets. *

There followed another 4-6 months of ups and downs. Days (often a week or more) of clarity and hope and also dreadfully dark days where I wondered if I would ever feel ok again. But on I marched. Work-ing, mum-ing, life-ing.

My loved ones struggled. My husband shouldered a lot of the housework (I should probably insert a winking / laughing emoji here, because he might say – what’s new there!!). I hope my kids were shielded from it, I tried with all my might to make sure they didn’t see me crumble. I went to work and actually thrived – I had something to focus on and take my mind off things, in work, I was in control. My manager was also incredibly supportive which was a huge help. But when I went home at night I fell apart. I was exhausted. I worried agonisingly about everything. Everything felt like an impossible effort. I was impatient. I felt like a fake. Like a horrible mum and a terrible wife.

My husband did what he could, but really struggled to understand my emotions. Ever practical, he booked us trips away to give me some rest and escape.
My mum was adamant I was simply tired and run down and greeted me daily with a handful of vitamins. My dad offered to go for walks with me. My brother got it.

I doubted if I was genuinely depressed at the time, I thought to myself “maybe I am just a stressed busy mum, with a hectic schedule and not enough sleep, maybe everyone feels this way, maybe everyone feels like they are losing their mind and like they are dying inside…” But I know now, with crystal clear certainty that I absolutely was depressed. I shudder now at how unwell I was.

I know that many many people have suffered so much more than I have with depression, that things can be much bleaker for some. Yet I also know that if anyone was feeling right now the way I felt last year, well sweet soul, that feeling is not ok and you need to believe that things can get better.

What I suffered thanks to “The Dark” on a scale or spectrum was probably mild – but it sure didn’t feel mild. I also refuse to diminish mental illness, in terms of “how bad someone is” or “how bad they seem”. Mental illness is real. It can happen to ANYONE regardless of age, gender, personality type or lifestyle. I was a busy, happy go lucky mum with a loving family, a great career and no real worries. Yet I fell apart despite every effort not to.

Depression doesn’t have a face, or a look. It can be the cheery mum you chat to on the school run, or the work colleague who seems like they have it all together, or that friend who keeps cancelling on you ‘cos they are SUPER BUSY.

T H E B R I G H T S I D E

Around the end of 2016 I changed my instagram handle to @thebrightsidediary.
As part of my healing / coping / whatever you want to call it, process I used my phone to take pictures. To capture golden little moments everyday. To help me see the positives and the light in the small moments. I love to take pictures. It’s just something that lights me up a bit. It may seem ridiculous or silly, but it felt like in those moments, I was stealing a little bit of me back.

I want to be really clear. With my instagram account and my “business as usual” demeanour, I wasn’t trying in anyway to paint over what I was going through, or present a fake life. But I wanted to document the BRIGHTSIDE the light moments in a dark day / week. To remind myself what things could be like all the time.

I didn’t share “The Dark” with many people. I started so many times to pick up the phone and make a call, type a txt, an email, an instagram post. But those words are HARD to say. I was also still trying to figure it all out. I thought about blogging, posting it out on social media, but I wasn’t prepared for the questions, the sympathy or the very real possibility of negativity or doubt.

For those reading this who know me, this may take you by surprise. Or maybe you will think, “I knew there was something…”
Regardless, know that I am fine. Better than fine.

T H E  L I G H T

“The Dark” is gone. 100% blown away. The light has come back into my life in full mega watt glory. Gone forever? I’m not sure and I will not take it for granted, but the silver lining is how I feel right now. I am “me” again. In fact I feel more “me” than I have in many, many years. Life is wonderfully beautiful over here right now. And I am so grateful.

This blog post had to be written. Not to explain myself, not to close a chapter and absolutely not to ask for sympathy. These words poured from my mouth and my fingers and my HEART. It is a celebration of victory. Of wholehearted joy and gratefulness for deliverance.

It is also to say to you, that person who maybe feels in some small or big way, that they are struggling, thanks to “The Dark”. Don’t. Speak out, tell someone, get help. Life will return to glorious colour. “The Dark” can’t win. I am a whole bag full of ridiculously positive annoying cliches but I just don’t care.

So there you have it. If you made it to the end I salute you – it’s a bit of a book! This is not a sympathy post, but one that needed to be shared from a place of Motherhood, Womanhood, Friendship, Community and Humanity. To share our experiences is to normalise, to support and to lift each other up.

And part of me wanted do a little blog dance of happiness.

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*I would just like to say that I am in no way advocating not taking medication that has been prescribed by a medical professional. Nor am I suggesting that anti depressants are not the answer for many people suffering from depression. Simply, for me, after really careful thought, consideration and research, I decided that I wanted to try other avenues to recovery before starting to take medication. That is all.

HI

I’m Nic. Professional plate spinner. Mum to my two little A’s. Wife to my Mr Brightside (he doesn’t actually know he has a Social Media aka…)

I’m sitting here right now, on my 34th birthday writing my very first blog post. It has taken me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out the technology to pull this space together, but I know the words will come more easily. This little space is an extension of my instagram account, @thebrightsidediary. It’s somewhere I can share my daily triumphs, challenges and celebrate the simple everyday things that deserve to be captured both in picture and in words.

I hope it will be place of vulnerability, community and openness where the realities of being a women, a working mama, a creative at heart and a lover of life are all evidenced in my words and in my interactions with anyone who cares to read these words. 

Here you will find an eclectic mix of musings on the adventures of Motherhood, the ups and downs of Worklife as a mother and a little on our Family Lifestyle; all displayed in glorious undiluted technicolour.

I’m a country girl, working in the city and living for my weekend walks on the beach or rambles in the mountains with my crazy beautiful little family.

Life over here at casa Brightside is perfectly imperfect. It’s a riot of mess and colour and passion and insecurities and LOVE. Despite the dark clouds and the daily grind, I am determined to always pursue the light.

Dive in and embrace the BRIGHTSIDE and all it has to offer ✨