How to return your IQ back to normal after maternity leave

This post follows my desperate cry about the struggle of finding a job while being on maternity leave. Before I begin, I’d like to highlight that none of my claims are backed up by any scientific evidence, however, I can show you a million mums who would agree with me, and for me that’s a strong enough evidence.

Baby brain is a widely accepted “condition” of being rather thick and forgetful during pregnancy. I swear that one’s intelligence drops even lower in the months following childbirth. Personally, I believe it’s a result of a primal instinct taking over. New mum’s main concern is to keep the tiny human alive, and everything else (including social interaction and intellectual growth) is pushed aside. I recently took an IQ test, the result of which confirmed what I feared and made me cry. My IQ score was a whole 20 points lower than a couple years ago! I mean, it still slots me well above the British average, but I no longer belong to the top 1% of the population. Tragic!

I can totally understand why American women head back to work six weeks after producing a baby. They save themselves from becoming more stupid with each nursery rhyme they sing. On the other hand, I personally blame the state of the US society on parents not spending enough time with their little ones. It’s a no win situation really.

But back to the drop in new mum’s intelligence. I refuse to accept this as the new norm, so I embarked on a mission to become a bright professional once again. Here is how I personally go about it:

  • My little one gets up at 5:30 am and so I start the day by briefing him on IAG share price, the possible reasons behind its change, industry highlights and trending topics on social media. He listens very carefully while waving a flashing dinosaur in front of my face.
    I’m not implying that knowledge equals intelligence but being up to date with the latest events and trends, makes you think about them (i.e. use your brain) and feel like you are a member of society.

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  • I exercise more. Exercising distributes oxygen to every little “corner” of your body, and that includes your brain. Oxygen is brain food. It helps your brain work better.
  • I go to bed earlier. That sounds awfully boring! But how would I feel in the morning after five hours sleep and three night feeds? Like a zombie. It is no coincidence that zombies eat brains – because they have none! So don’t be a zombie πŸ˜‰
  • I use my brain as much as I can. While sitting in front of TV and watching Teletubbies on repeat, one can as well do something a bit more productive. There are many fun activities that act as a workout for your brain cells – sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, trying to memorise grocery shopping list…
  • I started a business. Okay, that might be a step too far, but I felt like doing something creative, not because I have to, but because I want to and because I have the brain power to make it happen. Business plan. Budget. Predicted sales and profit. Branding. Marketing. My brain is getting warmed up nicely… Besides, my ten months old @Derrys_Diary is the CEO, so who knows – he might learn something in the process.

As I suggested, I have no scientific evidence that any of these activities will make you smart again, but for me they seem to be working. Last week, I received a feedback from an interview for yet another job I didn’t get – and the feedback made me hopeful again and gave me a confidence boost. The interviewer said I was brilliant and could not have performed any better at the interview. She was amazed when I told her I was still on maternity leave. Sadly, the job went to someone who has years and years of experience in that particular field, while I had none. But one day I’m hoping they will run out of all the experienced people and/or they will decide to give a shot to someone who’s enthusiasm substitutes (if not exceeds) the need for experience. Until then, each morning there will be a briefing on IAG share price carried out in my bedroom, with a flashing dinosaur as a regular attendee…
So mums, and how do you go about regaining your intelligence?

Mission impossible: from maternity leave into a new job

I am a customer service manager for a major airline and I love my job (check out my blog on how my job prepared me for motherhood). However, I always knew that my future has a shape of an office desk and a computer, rather than an aircraft. For most of you, this prospect appears deadly boring, but for someone who has spent the past decade jet-setting around the world, been quite literally everywhere and seen everything, such a “boring” prospect is extremely appealing. Either way, having a baby signalled the end of my flying career because as a single mum I can’t really cope with uncertain working hours, a shift pattern and being gone days at a time. The plan was simple: to produce a baby and after my maternity leave ends, return into another role in the same company.

I’ve got an exceptional work ethic, reasonably high intelligence, stellar education and very good work experience, so I wasn’t particularly worried about not being able to find a suitable role. Nonetheless, there was one factor I forgot to take into an account. A factor which might prove to be fatal. Having a baby decreases your intelligence (I am yet to find out whether temporarily or permanently, but I’m praying for the former). In the nine months I’ve been off work, some previously strong skills of mine have been on the decline – namely my critical thinking, analytical skills and my ability to express myself concisely and in a professional manner.

My professional confidence has also plunged. Back in the day, I had the courage to take on any task and tackle any challenge. For instance, if there was a wasted VIP kicking off in the first class, I would be in my element, able to effortlessly handle this “do you know who I am” noodle. Today, in a similar situation I’d probably lock myself in the toilet crying.

A lot of women struggle with their postpartum body image which also reflects on their professional life. Luckily, now I’m two thirds of a stone lighter than before baby. I feel and look great and love my body. I can’t even imagine having a body image struggle on top of everything else.

On 2nd January, I started the new year with an interview for my dream job. You probably guessed correctly that I didn’t get the job. Although I prepared as much as one can prepare with a demanding baby around, I did awful (for my standard). During the interview, my brain turned to mush. I couldn’t find the right words for what I was trying to say (sometimes I didn’t even know what I was trying to say), but if they asked me to recite twenty different nursery rhymes I would have aced it.

Today I was lucky to attend an interview no2 which was great progress. I could actually express myself and display understanding of the industry and awareness of recent trends and events. But (of course there is a but) I epically failed on the practical side of things. I mean – I didn’t imagine one could forget how to execute the simplest of Excel functions! Note to self: working with Excel is not like riding a bike.

Okay, let’s move on. Bring on interview no3. I’m sincerely hoping that my brain will return to its former self because so far I am ashamed of it. I feel like this is not even the real me. I’m intelligent enough to know I’m not as intelligent as I used to be. I am worried that this is the new me and that the only thing I can excel at is convincing a child to eat his veggies and keep smiling while preventing him from licking poop (own or guinea pig’s). I struggle with my own identity because I refuse to accept that I am not as bright and capable as I used to be. If this struggle was about post-baby weight, I’d tell you to go and lose it. So following my own advice I probably have to go and get smart again…

So here we go – a mission impossible: a mum trying to regain her lost intelligence and rediscover her intellect. Follow me because it’ll be a bumpy ride.

To be continued…

And what is your experience of postpartum brainpower? Any tips?

To panto or not to panto: pantomime with a baby

I love a good panto! I’m lucky enough to live near Theatre Royal Windsor. Their panto is always mean and the cast is excellent. Back in August when it was time to book my ticket, I was slightly hesitant. By Christmas, my little one is going to be only 8 months old so I was unsure whether he would enjoy the performance or whether it’d be too much for him.

I took a risk and last week we attended his first ever panto – Dick Whittington. I was little nervous but it turned out to be a great experience. Not sure who had more fun – me or him. He was totally fascinated by the sounds and lights and costumes and crazy people prancing around on the stage and more crazy people cheering. Screw sensory classes – panto is the way forward!

If like me you are not sure about whether it’s a wise idea to go to a theatre with a baby, here are some tips that will hopefully help you enjoy it more and stress less:

  • Research

Don’t just buy a random ticket, turn up and see what happens. Now that you are a parent that kind of life is in your past. Check your theatre website for their policy and suggestions and/or call them to find out whether there is some place to leave your buggy etc.

  • Time of the performance

I attended a morning show which was meant primarily for school kids. That was great because baby noises (and possible screams) wouldn’t bother anyone. At the same time, I didn’t take into account how loud kids are. And I mean LOUD. Their little high-pitched voices when multiplied by a few hundred are deafening, if not dangerous. Initially their shouting freaked my little one out (even though I was trying to cover his ears) but eventually he got used to it (or deaf). Evening shows are likely to have a higher adult to child ratio than matinΓ©e shows and adults usually don’t make so much noise. On the other hand, in the evening babies tend to be grumpy if their bedtime routine is not followed.

  • Seat

I’m not sure about the exact age limit but my little one didn’t need his own seat and sat on my lap – so I ended up paying for one ticket only. Despite the seat next to us being empty, he still preferred sitting on my lap and having cuddles.

Choose your seat carefully. You want to offer your child a reasonably good view, while you probably don’t want to sit right in front of a speaker. I went for the best (and most expensive row) in the house with an excellent view. It turned out that the seats were also bigger and it was the only row that was nearly empty despite the theatre being packed with school kids. I strategically chose an aisle seat to enable me a quick exit if necessary.

  • Nap

I don’t know about your baby but mine is in a good mood for about two hours after waking up. Then he gets gradually more tired and grumpy and wouldn’t care even if ABBA came to perform Dancing Queen in front of his face. So plan their nap strategically and make sure your little one is fresh and ready to enjoy this delightful experience.

  • Equipment

Have baby “equipment” ready – a bottle and a comforter or a dummy to calm him down if it all gets too much.

  • Be prepared to leave

There is a chance your baby won’t like it, will find it overwhelming or will get fed up half way through, so sadly you have to be prepared to leave and miss the end.

 

Finally, I’d like to encourage all of you to take your kids to panto. It is a great way to introduce them to theatre and get them used to entertainment considerable more sophisticated than Grand Theft Auto or takeaway in front of TV.

Also, a massive thanks to all Windsor theatre staff who were always extremely helpful and super friendly! We will be back πŸ™‚

Why I run

Ever since I was a child I hated running. You get all sweaty and out of breath, your wobbly bits wobble and your face turns red. Through my adult life I attempted to run every now and then (on average once every other year) mainly with the intention to impress this or that guy. Still hated it. Surprisingly, now I’m known as a crazy running mum and a militant parkrun enthusiast who will not turn down any opportunity to conquer a mile or two. So what has changed?

I started properly running last year. I vaguely remember joining a running club for a sole purpose: to meet some hot guys, because of course that’s where all the handsome and fit guys are gathering. I have not dated any of them… yet I keep running. So why do I run?

I run because when I’m running, I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I don’t care about my (adorable) screaming baby. I (strangely) don’t care about those I love. I don’t care about those who annoy me (the list is long and you are probably on it). I don’t care that my house is a mess which normally bothers me greatly (I hate mess!). I don’t care that I need a new job so potential unemployment hangs over my head like the sword of Damocles. I don’t care that I am stressed about the impossible prospect of juggling a career with single-handedly caring about my little one. I don’t care that I’m broke and my savings keep getting smaller each month. I don’t care that I haven’t showered unobserved for a very very long time. I don’t care that every time I go for a wee, my little treasure takes advantage of being unsupervised and attempts to catch and lick the guinea pig, or stuff its poops into the power socket.

When I run, the most important thing and the only thing I truly care about is to make another step, followed by another step, and another, until meters become miles, and ultimately until I get to the finish. That’s why I run – because every minute I run is a minute when I don’t care about anything in the universe. It’s the most liberating feeling ever, especially in the world of musts and obligations and pressures – in the world where freedom is a mere illusion. But not when I’m running. When I’m running, freedom is real.

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PS: This is a huge thanks to all my friends, family and Datchet Dashers who looked after my little one so I could run!

PPS: Any potential babysitters for Sunday’s cross country? πŸ˜‰

The half-marathon mama: How I ran my first two half marathons

I randomly started running last year, after three decades of hating & avoiding it. Recently, I have completed my first couple of half marathons, only two weeks apart. When photos from both events emerged, my friends couldn’t refrain from commenting on how happy I look running those 13.1 miles. And I didn’t only look happy, I was happy sweating my baby’s milk containers off.

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I did very little (if any) training beforehand – I managed the odd jog with a buggy, weekly buggy parkruns and one 15K session around Dorney lake (which was by far the longest distance I have ever ran). When it came to the race, my philosophy was to run, run and run some more until I’m at the finish line – and that’s exactly what happened. Boom! I even managed to knock 8 minutes off my first half, and completed Slough half in under 2 hours. Not too shabby for a mum who has no time to train and eat well, right? I found it enjoyable instead of deadly hard. Do you want to know why? Well let me tell you about “hard”:

Soaking wet and shivering with cold after Slough half, we arrived to a pub. At that point, any normal race finisher would order a whole lot of food and flush it down with a gallon of beer, relying on Uber to get home because legs are tired.

I ordered a whole lot of food indeed, but my 6 months old miniature human was hungry – as if he ran the half marathon himself. So I fed him first. Then finally my meal arrived. Just as I was about to grab my first delicious piece of chicken, he went ballistic. Nothing worked and he screamed and screamed. I dragged him out (in rain) hoping he would fall asleep in his buggy. He was howling more and more so I returned to the pub, downed my wine and asked the staff to bag my food up. It was a good 20 minutes walk home, in rain, on aching legs, with a child screaming like an apocalypse survivor being slowly munched on by zombies. No matter how annoying his screams are, I always smile at him (that’s my personal rule) which is mentally exhausting. At home it took another hour of “servicing” him – food, nappy, toys, singing etc. Finally he fell asleep so I started the laundry and washed the dishes (the pile was already enormous). He woke up from his nap just as I was getting out of the shower. Then obviously he needed more “servicing”, including a broccoli dinner that he rubbed into his hair and eyes, and a bath time when he tried to drink the bath water (probably because it had bits of broccoli floating in it). By the time he departed into the dreamland and I (finally) sat down with my reheated pub lunch it was 7 pm. I crossed the half marathon finish line seven and half hours ago. F**k, in seven and half hours I could have completed a marathon and half!! And a marathon and half would most certainly be less exhausting than my standard afternoon anyway.

So when you non-runners say running 13.1 miles must have been tough, and you runners say that I did well so soon after having a baby, I do appreciate and love your support and acknowledgement, but… it was DEAD EASY compared to the never-ending ultra marathon of poops and mushy food and vomit and eternally dirty laundry and high-pitch screams and stupid baby songs on repeat… Easy!! πŸ™‚

You better shape up! Core workout with a baby

Ask anyone who has anything to do with any kind of sport (yup, even the dreadlock-head in yoga pants) and they’ll all confirm the following: Strong core is the key! It will make your life easier, from picking up that little bundle of screaming joy to carrying out all sorts of other motherly duties. Besides, strong core leads to better abs. Yeah, you heard me! A-B-S! Let’s tone those bellies!

Following my post on workout ideas with a baby, here are some core core exercises (if you pardon the pun):

  • Baby sit-ups

As ifΒ the dreaded sit-ups were not difficult enough, now you have to do them whilst holding a baby!? Fine, go have a Big Mac instead but…did you know that your husband’s new co-worker is an ex glamour model and finds him kind of hot?

  • Plank

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Hoooollldddd it! For as long as you can. Time yourself and aim for a few seconds more each time. Don’t forget to entertain your bubba by reciting a rhyme πŸ˜‰
Also, make sure you engage your core – not your back, otherwise you’d be in pain and will be hating me.

  • Plank variations

There are many plank variations so don’t be afraid to get creative. My favourite one is “forearm to full plank”:

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Start in the plank position, then move and straighten your arms, one at a time. Right afterwards go back down to forearm plank, again one arm at a time. And prepare to have your hair pulled πŸ˜‰

  • Leg raises

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Beside leg raises, you can do many similar exercises (single leg lifts, leg scissors etc.) while holding your baby up above your chest. You might get thrown up on so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Press-ups

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Okay, it might seem that press-ups are all about arms but I promise you they tone your midsection as a whole. There is also a ladies option – to drop on your knees instead.

 

These exercises should give you a good basis for a decent core and abs workout. Don’t worry if you can’t turn into Wonder Woman straight away – it takes time, bit by bit, increase reps each day until you’re so strong that you’ll finally gain authority in your household and even the neighbour’s dog will fear you. You go mama!Β 

 

 

 

 

 

Workout ideas with a baby

 

Hey mamas! So you want to look good but have no time & money for the gym? Don’t despair! As promised, I put together a few exercises from my routine that is perfectly achievable with a baby. Actually, the baby is an important component of it. All you need is spare 15 mins a day. Plus, I’m pretty sure your little one will have a blast being moved about and watching you sweat πŸ™‚

  • Pram lounges

Step forward with your pram and lounge. Alternate legs.

  • Squats

Use your baby as a medicine ball. Squat and lift him up.

  • Hello firm bum!

Go on all four and lift a leg up. You can also hold your leg up for a certain period of time, or bend your knee lifting your leg to the side. There are many variations… Your child will probably try to pull (and eat) your hair so watch out.

  • Bench press

As your child gets bigger you will get stronger πŸ˜‰

I still have in store some tips for core and abs exercises that I’ll share with you soon. God knows we need them! In the meantime start slowly and build it up. Be creative. Your baby is probably the cutest piece of gym equipment you’ll ever have, so enjoy!

Freebie alert: Tommee Tippee nappy disposal system

It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find another good freebie! From now on, your little one can poop as much as they wish since you will be able to store their toxic waste in an odour-proof Tommee Tippee nappy disposal system – completely free (RRP 27.99).

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This is how you get it:

You need Amazon Prime (or free trial) and a baby wishlist that is easy to create. Ad some baby items worth at least Β£10 into your wishlist and then purchase them. When making your purchase throw the nappy disposal system into your basket. When you check out its price will be deducted so you’ll get it completely free. This promotion ends 15th August.

When I was pregnant I was convinced that a nappy bin is one of those items that are just a waste of money… I couldn’t have been more wrong! With Derry’s poop performance of 2-3 “surprises” a day my nappy bin is a life saver! Zero smell and zero mess! Praise the lord for this miraculous invention!

Oh I almost forgot – I have a brand new one for sale as I got too many freebies. If you want it, it can be yours for mere Β£6 πŸ™‚ Hail poop!

Don’t bother reading this if you love your post-baby body :)

We all love a good social media rent. Recently I read one about how this mum hates her post-baby body. It was not even a rant – more like a desperate cry in search of souls (and bodies) who feel exactly the same. And gosh, were there plenty of them! I knew that women struggle with their postpartum body image, but I didn’t think so many of them feel so strongly about their far-from-perfect shape and looks.

For me personally, the worst bit was pregnancy itself. I was huge. I gained 18 kgs and hated feeling like an elephant. By the time I popped my baby out I was so terribly fed up that I knew that was it. I had enough! I couldn’t wait to be my former self again.

Mums’ typical problem is that they “don’t have time to go to the gym”. Well, neither have I. I am a single mum who (thank god) has no family in her home country. I can’t afford a baby sitter. So time away from my baby is as rare as a hot, intelligent and single guy. Yet, I managed to get fit and lose 18kgs within 3 months. How, you ask?

Let me give you instructions πŸ™‚

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What you need most of all is dedication and stubborness (which I have plenty of). They say if there is a will, there is a way – and nothing can be more true. They also say that who needs an excuse will always find one. So ladies, if you want to be as fit as before baby, your excuses will have to go. Now! Stop moaning! Stop hating yourself and grabbing biscuits from the tin just to make yourself feel better. Stop it!!! You are a tired emotional wreck, your husband is an unhelpful demanding moron and your kids are screaming little bastards. Yes. We all feel the same. But that’s not an excuse! So get of your arse and do something, and I promise you you will love your body once again!

Okay, there are some things you can’t change, like for example stretchmarks. But let me tell you,Β  stretchmarks look better on a toned belly than they do on a flabby wiggly one!

When my munchkin was 3 weeks of age I started running. With my pram. No, it’s not a running pram. And no, it’s not recommended to start exercising before your 6 weeks health check. But I did it, mainly because dropping dead from internal bleeding was more acceptable than feeling like a whale any longer.

fitbitshare_1130790125-picsay.JPEGSo grab your pram and instead of strolling through the park, jog. Or if you are unfit, alternate walking and jogging. Let me warn you that you will get some weird looks, mainly from other mums who are sitting on the benches munching on crisps and jelly babies while you are demonstrating (read: rubbing in their face) that there is another way. Also, you need to stay on reasonably straight paths because normal prams are not designed for a run in a dodgy terrain…

I’m a member of a running club so I kept turning up at all possible club events hoping there will be someone injured and/or not running who can look after my baby. 9 out of 10 times it worked so this is my way of saying huge thanks to all the Dashers who babysat Derry while I was sweating my tits off.

20180513_143827.jpgObviously, beside running you need some strength workout. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with free outdoor exercising equipment (see picture) at multiple locations. I either park my pram and do a workout, or use Derry in his baby carrier as a “weight”. I’m currently preparing a blog post describing different exercises you can do with your baby. You can even incorporate a little workout in your daily playtime. Derry loves when I do chest presses with him and always laughs his head off.

Oh btw – once your child is walking and talking, your extra pounds can hardly be called “baby weight” ;)))

So mummies, if I did it so can you! I’m no better than you in any way – I’m just a proof that it can be done! You managed to grow a human so you sure as hell will manage to love the body that made it all possible. And trust me, your evening glass of wine will taste even better after some exercise πŸ˜‰ So stop moaning and start acting! Chop chop!

 

 

(Are you) a good mum

To tell you that as a mother you are under pressure would be old news. You ought to raise a decent human being, beat other mums (because whether you admit it or not, it is a competition) and most importantly you have to perform and conform to your own expectations and standards that are (at least initially) higher than those imposed on you by the society. As a first time mum, you had this vision of being simply perfect, not compromising and doing a stellar job. Well, you are doing a stellar job (unless you shove your baby into a cupboard while you peacefully drink a bottle of Jack Daniels). Although, stellar in a slightly different way…

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So I’m not going to write about the pressure you are under. I’m going to write about you being a good mum. Because you are a good mum even if you:

  • Let your newborn boy’s wee somehow get into his eyes mere hours after he enters this world.
  • Accidentaly drop your phone on your baby’s face while trying to get the best angle for an adorable photo.
  • Just to stay awake during night feeds you watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and/or Jeremy Kyle’s Show, despite knowing that neither is suitable for his innocent eyes.
  • Wish your baby was as well behaved as your friend’s one, although you suspect that your friend is actually faking it and her newborn too is a nightmare.
  • Let your child scream like hell while you peacefully finish your toilet business.
  • Think of ways to manipulate your friends and family members into (seemingly) voluntarily offering to help with your baby and/or housework.
  • Seriously consider taping a dummy to your baby’s face so it doesn’t fall out every twenty seconds.
  • Make your cup of tea and open a pack of biscuits before you feed your screaming baby.
  • Call your doctor at 2 am describing the contents of your baby’s nappy in a (gross) detail.
  • Wonder if you can auction your child on eBay and if he could earn you enough cash for an early retirement.
  • Get curry stains on your baby’s white outfit when you’re trying to scoff a meal while breastfeeding.
  • Use your baby’s cuteness to your benefit, whether it is a free whipped cream on your latte or a better place in a queue.
  • Have a gulp of wine straight from the bottle each time you think that you can’t cope any more.
  • Ignore everyone’s advice and do whatever feels right. After all it was you who created this human being so you have every right to ignore all the smart books and people’s advice, and do it your way.

Finally, I need to point out that I have never done any of those things. Because I am not just a good mum. I am a perfect one! My only flaw is that sometimes I lie. Honestly! πŸ™‚

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