The reality and difficulties of breastfeeding: What the midwives don’t tell you

breastfeedingToday I want to talk about breastfeeding: the good the bad and the ugly.  The whole truth.  Before I start you should know that I am a realistic and honest mum.  My friends would say I am a bit too honest at times.  I just gave my best friend a bottle of lactulose for her baby shower gift and told her to take a lot of it as there is nothing more terrifying than having a poo straight after giving birth!  She has just texted me to say “thank you for the best present I have ever had.  That poo juice is the most amazing stuff!”  I think it is important to let new mum’s know about the things that might make their life a bit easier after having a baby.  They know all the good bits, but no one seems to tell them the reality of birth, breastfeeding and what lies ahead!

Breastfeeding is everywhere at the moment.  I can’t log on to the internet without seeing an artistic picture of a naked mother with a gorgeous baby latched onto one breast and her toddler latched onto the other.   A couple of weeks ago I even read an article about a mother who breastfed her toddler and her friends toddler too.  To clarify, because I can hear the enraged screams of breastfeeding mothers everywhere, I did breastfeed both of my children!  I am all for breastfeeding and I am all for bottle feeding.  I am all for what is right for each individual mother and baby.

The problem I have with all of these recent posts about breastfeeding is that they think they are empowering mothers and helping them to breastfeed.  What they are actually doing is alienating those mothers that find breastfeeding difficult.  They don’t seem to take into consideration the multitude of factors that can affect breastfeeding.  The women that post these articles about how wonderful it is to breastfeed are often second or third time mums who have been through it before and know what to expect.  You very rarely find a first time mum of a 1 week old baby who will write an article about the joys of breastfeeding and post a picture of themselves peacefully enjoying a serene moment with their baby latched onto to their breast.

What experienced mothers forget is what breastfeeding is like for a new mother.  Maybe they don’t want to mention it because they think it will scare women and put them off breastfeeding.  In my humble opinion I think giving women all of the facts, the good the bad and the ugly of breastfeeding is arming them with the wealth of knowledge they can draw on in every eventuality.  When new and inexperienced mums read about how wonderful and easy they are meant to find feeding their tiny baby it will make them feel like failures if they are struggling with breastfeeding.  Mothers that are forced to make the decision to move on to bottle feeding are being made to feel inferior when they are plagued with pictures of women who can stand on their heads in a yoga pose while their toddler latches on for a quick snack.  This is not the reality of breastfeeding and it is of no help at all to new hormonal mothers.

What we should be telling first time mums is the truth.  Your first time breastfeeding stories.  So here’s my breastfeeding story, I hope it helps and makes you realise you aren’t alone if you find breastfeeding difficult.  I would very much encourage anyone else out there to share their truthful breastfeeding stories too.

I had a great birth with my first daughter, she was born in a birthing pool and when the nurse handed her to me she opened her mouth really wide and latched on perfectly straight away.   The midwives all oohhed and aahhed about how wonderful it was and what a natural I was, and then they left me to it.  At which point it all went down hill.  I never felt any physical pain when breastfeeding with my first daughter, however the emotional pain I felt was torture.  When midwives tell you about breastfeeding, they tell you that it will make you feel wonderful and help you bond with your baby.  Even on the babycentre website they gush:  “whenever you nurse him, you’re filled with head-over-heels devotion. What’s up with that? We have one word for you – oxytocin.  This powerful hormone is responsible for breast milk “letting down,” or moving to the front of the breasts. And it also happens to be the same chemical released in the brain when a person falls in love, says Laura Viehmann, assistant professor of pediatrics at Brown University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatricians.  (http://www.babycenter.com/0_5-things-you-didnt-know-about-breastfeeding_10357141.bc)

However what they don’t ever mention is that some women don’t feel this.  In fact they get the opposite reaction.  When I breastfed my daughter instead of feeling intense joy and “devotion” I literally felt suicidal.  In the first minute of breastfeeding I felt totally and utterly worthless, like the most pointless person on earth.  The depression that would swoop over and engulf me was so awful I couldn’t tell anyone about it in case it meant I was a bad mother.  I carried on breastfeeding, however I wasn’t enjoying it and my daughter didn’t seem to enjoy it either.  Where my friends would sit happily with a calm baby latched on to them, my daughter would latch on and off crying lots and leaving my breast exposed in public, shooting milk across tables at all angles!  I tried expressing and got a lot of milk out but it gave me terrible back ache and again made me so depressed.   I must stress that this feeling of depression only lasted about a minute on each feed and after that I felt ok, but I was so upset by the initial feeling that I never enjoyed breastfeeding.  After eight weeks I came to the realisation that breastfeeding just wan’t for me, however giving up was awful.  I truly felt like I had failed.  I sat and sobbed over my daughter as she had what I knew would be her last feed from me.  My husband told me over and over that I wasn’t a bad mother, but there was so much pressure from midwives and social media to keep at it, that I couldn’t stop feeling like a failure.

A year later my friend had a baby and she told me she wasn’t enjoying breastfeeding either.  We talked about how it made us feel and she said she felt the same as me.  So I went and looked the symptoms up and I found that we weren’t alone and that it is an actual chemical imbalance.  It is called DYSPHORIC MILK EJECTION REFLEX or D-MER for short.  Rather than Oxytocin causing euphoria, a hormone called Dopamine causes dysphoria (feelings of depression) for some women.  Dopamine helps control the secretion of prolactin which is what makes the milk.  In order for prolactin levels to rise and more milk to be produced, dopamine levels must lower briefly.  Once prolactin has begun to rise the dopamine stabilises.  Dopamine is well known for affecting moods and in a mother with D-MER dopamine is behaving somehow inappropriately in its drop.  It is in this drop that a mother feels her dysphoria.  As soon as the dopamine levels stabilise the dysphoria disappears.  (http://www.d-mer.org/Home_Page.html)

D-MER jpeg

I was so relieved to find that there was an actual reason for the feelings I had when I was feeding my first daughter.  I finally realised that I hadn’t been bad at breastfeeding, I had a reaction to a chemical imbalance.  I was also not alone.  It turns out that thousands of women suffer from the same problem, however hardly any of us admit to it.  How can you admit to your health visitor or your family that you feel like throwing your baby across the room every time you feed them?  They would take your baby away and lock you up.

What I can’t understand is that this is a known thing and yet health visitors and midwives are either unaware of it or don’t feel that it’s important to warn new mothers about it.  There’s plenty of information given about postnatal depression, but nothing about D-MER.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter I told my midwife about my experience and she admitted she had never heard of D-MER.  She asked if she could pass the information on to her team and I of course agreed.  I said they should all look into it and inform new mothers that they might feel depressed when feeding their child and that if they did it was totally normal and that they should ask for help.  Every time I meet a midwife or health visitor I ask them if they’ve heard of D-MER and I’ve never met one that has said yes.   So I’m telling you all now if you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when you feed your baby it is not your fault.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Don’t look at all of the posts by mum’s who feel euphoria when feeding their child and think you must be a bad mum.  You are a wonderful mum, it is just your hormones playing up.

Once I knew what to expect, when I had my second child I was ready for it.  I would brace myself every time she latched on and try to let the depression just slide off me, knowing it would end shortly.  Doing this meant that I was able to breastfeed her for eight months instead of eight weeks.  I was confident that I was doing everything right, I just needed to beat my hormones.

With my second daughter I had a different issue and that was pain.  She had a tongue tie.  Her tongue looked like a snakes it was so forked.

tongue tie
Image of a tongue tie. This is not my daughter.

At five days old we had it cut and that helped a bit, however every time she latched on it was like slicing razor blades across my nipples.  The pain was so intense I could hardly bare to let her latch on.  I would sit with tears streaming down my face as she fed just praying she would feed quickly.  Luckily one of my NCT friends had experienced the same thing and told me it would stop after two weeks, and she was right.  One day it just didn’t hurt anymore.  If she hadn’t told me that I would have given up.  Feeding a baby up to eight times a day with nipples that sore was unbearable and any sane person wouldn’t be blamed for giving up.  However I would say to any new mum experiencing pain like that,  push on through, grit your teeth, use lots of nipple cream and allow yourself to cry.  Your nipples will get used to it and in a few weeks you wont feel the pain at all.

I almost wish my husband had taken a picture of me crying my eyes out whilst breastfeeding.  Just so I could put it on here and let all new mum’s out there know that breastfeeding is not always a joy and if you find it hard, depressing and painful you are not alone and it is ok to say “this is not for me.”  Too many of my friends have suffered from agonizing guilt when deciding to give up breastfeeding and this needs to be stopped.

At the end of the day you don’t go through life asking your colleagues and friends if they were breast or bottle fed do you?  In the whole big scheme of things it really doesn’t matter.  Both of my girls had a bit of both and they are happy, healthy, giggly girls.  I was fed both and I’m alive to tell this tale.  Let’s stop making each other feel guilty about their choices.

Making everyone think that something is perfect when often it isn’t, is not empowerment.  Knowledge is empowerment.  The more women who know about D-MER (and about other difficulties they may face when breastfeeding) the better.   It will stop thousands of women from suffering alone like I did.  If you are a midwife or a health visitor please give women the whole truth about breastfeeding, the good the bad and the ugly.

Please click on the links below and SHARE this as much as possible as it may really help someone you know who is suffering in silence.

Thank you

Thank you gifts: are words just not enough anymore?

Thank-You-Gifts-So-Haute1

I have to be careful because this post could be taken the wrong way.  If you find yourself reading it in a negative way and thinking ‘ungrateful cow’ then please know that is not the message intended.  What I am about to say is something that I too am guilty of!

I am worried.  I am worried because for a long time now I have noticed that Thank You is losing its meaning.

We all tell our children “say please, say thank you”.  These, we tell them, are the magic words.  However although ‘Please’ still holds on to some of this magic, ‘Thank You’ has lost it.  It’s as if we no longer believe our friends when they say ‘thank you’.  It doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.

There was a time when someone would do something nice for you or help you out: give you a lift somewhere, have you round for a cup of tea or collect your kids from school and your genuine thanks was all that was needed in return. There would also be the knowledge that one day they would probably call on you to help them out too so the favour would be returned.

Recently however (and as I said before I am guilty of slipping into this pattern too) I have noticed that ‘Thank You’ often comes with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a bottle of wine and supper cooked by someone else!  These thank you gifts are wonderful and a real treat, however they are becoming daily occurrences for normal things that before would have just required the two simple magic words ‘Thank You’.

I was talking to my mother-in-law about this at the weekend, and she says that it is not the case where she lives.  I wonder if it is a location thing or a generation thing?  Everything in life is becoming more lavish, just think about children’s birthday parties (the cost of presents, party bags, bouncy castles!) it’s getting out of control.  With life becoming so expensive at the moment, these ‘thank you’ presents can really set someone back quite a few pennies especially if they feel they have to buy something as a thank you gift every time they ask for a favour or pop into a friends for a cup of tea.

So to all of my friends and family and anyone else listening, I would just like you to know that if you need my help I am there for you.  I don’t need a thank you gift.  I truly understand when you look in my eyes and say “Thank You” that you mean it and that is enough for me.  Likewise if, when you have helped me out, I come to your door to say “Thank You,” please know that I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate your friendship, your help and your kind deeds.  I love having a cup of tea with you and a good natter.  If I don’t offer a gift of thanks please don’t be offended and think that I don’t appreciate what you have done for me.  I absolutely appreciate it, perhaps more than you will know, but sometimes I just can’t afford a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers, so in return for your kind deed, you receive my thanks and an unspoken promise that I will help you in your times of need too and not expect a gift in return.

This leads me onto the topic of visiting guests.  We have recently moved house, so have had lots of wonderful weekends where our friends have made a huge effort to come all the way to see us to let us know we will not be forgotten!  This is a gift in itself.  Now when we used to go to someone’s house for supper it was always polite to take something.  A bottle of wine OR a bunch of flowers OR a box of chocolates.  Now suddenly the rules have changed and no one told me that I should actually be taking all three of the above to a dinner party, or a weekend at a friends house.  When did this happen?  Did I miss an email or a facebook post that announced this to everyone other than me?  More to the point why has this happened? Why is it necessary?  Again, my thanks goes out to anyone who has kindly brought these gifts to us on their weekends with us, receiving them was lovely, however I now have a sense of panic as I have never and will never be able to take all three things to someone else’s house as a thank you for dinner.  We simply can’t afford to do that.  We see friends nearly every weekend.  If we took all three gifts to every friend we saw it would be costing us about £50 a visit.  It might not sound much to some but to us that is a lot.  That’s a terms worth of ballet lessons, a month’s worth of swimming lessons.   So when we arrive at your door with only one gift it is not because we don’t appreciate your hospitality, it is just because we simply can’t afford to slip into a world where THANKS means nothing but GIFTS mean everything.

One of my best friends came to see me last week.  She got on the train from London with her two year old daughter and five month old son on the hottest day the year!  She bothered to get on and off buses and tubes and trains with two children to make the 4 hour journey down to us. This meant the world to me.  When she arrived the first thing she said was ‘sorry I have come empty handed!’  I had to laugh.  I told her about this blog post and I told her I didn’t need a gift, the best gift to me was just seeing her and her children.  Spending two lovely days with them, feeling blessed that I had a friend who went to so much trouble to come all the way to see me.

So will you help me spread the word?  That word is THANK YOU.  Remember what it means, remind your friends what it means and insist that it doesn’t have to come with a gift or a promise because we know that when a friend says Thank You it comes from the heart.

Please share the Thanks and spread the word xxx

help from my friends

Funny relationship advice for men: make your partner happy!

boy-girl-stick-figure

When my husband and I moved in together we were given an amusing tea towel laying out “The Rules.”  They were as follows:

the rules

THE RULES

  1. The female always makes the rules.
  2. The rules are subject to change at any time without prior notice.
  3. No male can possibly know all the rules.
  4. If the female suspects the male knows all the rules she must immediately change some or all the rules.
  5. The female is never wrong.
  6. If the female is wrong it is due to a misunderstanding which was the direct result of something the male said or did.
  7. The male must apologise for causing said misunderstanding.
  8. The male is always wrong.
  9. The male may be right if he agrees with the female unless she wants him to disagree.
  10. The female may change her mind at any time.
  11. The male may never change his mind without the express written consent of the female.
  12. The female has every right to be angry or upset at any time.
  13. The male must remain calm at all times unless the female wants him to be angry and/or upset.
  14. The female must under no circumstances let the male know whether she wants him to be angry or upset.
  15. The male is expected to mind read at all times.

These are, to be fair, very confusing rules!  However a clever man will make them work to their advantage!  I just haven’t met that clever man yet! Last week, after a few glasses of Oyster Bay, my mum and I could not stop laughing about how men make their lives so much harder than they need to be in so many ways!

I feel sorry for men (sometimes!) so today I would like to offer some advice to all men.  Ladies, make sure you share this, it will make your life so much better! Here it is:

Dear Man,

Whether you are dating, engaged or married.   This relationship advice will, I promise, put you in a win-win situation and make your partner happy at the same time! It simply cannot fail.

Firstly let’s look at Rule 5, above.  “The female is never wrong.”  My husband has recently admitted, albeit begrudgingly, that 99% of the time I am right.  He even tells our daughters to do what I say because “mummy is always right.”  We have one exception in our house, and that is that I am not right when it comes to the rules of chess.  So taking into account that most of the time the woman in your life is going to be right, there is one simple rule to follow.

DO WHAT YOUR GIRLFRIEND/FIANCE/WIFE SUGGESTS.  You are permitted to say just once “I take your point, I wouldn’t do it that way myself but let’s give your way a go, Darling.”  A word of warning though, only utter the above words if you are positive that her way is not going to work, otherwise don’t argue about it, don’t even think about it anymore just do what she says.  There are only two possible outcomes that can then occur.

Outcome 1:  Your partner was right, the task was done quickly and efficiently and she will be happy.  Smug, yes (especially if you disagreed at the start) but mainly happy which is a good thing.  You will also have earned massive brownie points for not arguing and successfully completing a task!  Well done you.

Outcome 2: Your partner was wrong.  Again a winning situation.  If you did state before the task that you disagreed with her method then you may now use the phrase “I TOLD YOU SO!”  Crack open a beer and walk around with a smug grin.  If you didn’t disagree in the first place then you get to say “HA HA YOU WERE WRONG.”  Do a silly dance in her face and walk away laughing to complete the task as you would have done in the first place.  You partner will not be very happy but she will not be able to complain.  You did as she asked and she was wrong.  She should now thank you for trying her way and let you get on with it however you choose.

So there you have it.  A win-win outcome for all male partners anywhere, in any situation.

As an added bonus let me share this with you too as it will also make your life easier.  If you are in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex then you will have encountered NAGGING!  However, have you ever considered the true origin of NAGGING!  It is a universal myth that nagging is a female invention, but this cannot possibly be true.  Let me tell you why:

Nagging is in fact a SELF-INDUCED form of male torture.  Like a really bad hangover.  Men have complete power over nagging. Let me explain why.  Nagging would not exist if men did what their partners asked straight away.  The man is in control of The Nag!  If you can’t do a task straight away, then give your partner a date and time that the task will be completed by and make sure you do it.  If you follow those rules then there will be no need for nagging to occur at all!

Good luck men, remember it is within your power to make your life easier and your partner a joy to live with!

To conclude I would like to offer you two little stories from a time long ago, before my husband was my husband and before he knew that I was always right.

We were young, in love, and backpacking around the world.  We found ourselves in Perth, Australia and we were heading off up the west coast to go diving on the Ningaloo Reef.  We were into our last few weeks of travelling so money was tight.  We arrived at the car rental place and picked up our car.  The kind sales man offered us a map for $5.  I took the map, only to have it snatched out of my hands and handed back to the man.  I followed my husband to the car and asked him why we couldn’t have the map.  He flashed me a confident smile and said.  “I’m not wasting money on a map. We are in Perth, all we have to do is drive north to get to the Reef.  There is only one road north so it can’t be that hard to find.”

Two hours of driving, many arguments and $$$$ worth of fuel later, my husband stood red faced in front of the sales assistant and handed over $5 for a map.  I think I probably muttered the words “I told you so, you idiot.”

This humiliation was not enough for my husband.  He had still not learned Rule 5 and just hours later as we were cruising very quickly north up the west coast (following the map) my husband was pulled over by a police car and handed a $100 speeding fine.  To add insult to injury he was told by the police man to look after his girlfriend better!  As we continued on our journey, my husband was in a black mood, so when I started shouting slow down, slow down, to him, he shouted back that he wasn’t speeding.  I then screamed stop, but he refused to listen and realised too late that I was right yet again as a kangaroo casually jumped out in front of our car.”

Fourteen years later and he is much better at knowing that I am generally right, however he doesn’t seem to have grasped the nagging rule yet!

Share this with all women who want a giggle and all men who need relationship help!

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Your Opinion Is Not My Reality

Election Parties

 

I’ve borrowed a quote from Dr. Steve Mariboli as the title of this blog as it pretty much sums up my thoughts on the slanging matches that have occurred in the media since the election.

I have so far refrained from blogging about the election results.  Of course I voted and therefore have feelings about the result.  My husband will tell you that I can be very opinionated, sometimes blindly so.  I’m a Capricorn (we can get very feisty), he’s a Libran (irritatingly calm and balanced).  I found myself getting really quite worked up about all of the comments flooding Facebook. My reactions were getting quite heated, I’m ashamed to say now, so I had to stop looking at my Facebook page and the news for a few days.

I won’t say whether I’m happy or disappointed about the election results because this blog is not about which colour should or shouldn’t have won the election.  This blog is about a valuable lesson a friend taught me this week.  She has stopped me in my opinionated tracks and changed the way I think and I really hope this blog might do the same for others out there still feeling heated about the election.

The aforementioned friend is very passionate about politics.  It’s no secret that we voted for completely opposite parties.  She knows who I voted for and some of my views and I know hers and we are both quite open about it.  Despite our differing views we remain friends and are able to have a laugh about it.

Yesterday at school pick up we had an honest chat to reassure each other that we would not be offended by anything the other one said about politics and that we weren’t personally attacking each other.  In fact, rather than brushing her views away as ridiculous I actually began to enjoy hearing her ideas and learning from her.  I find her thoughts on the subject enlightening.  I learn something new from her in every conversation we have.  She has really good reasons for why she voted the way she did and I can’t argue with them because I have not lived her life.

I’ve have come to realise (and I really wish other people would realise the same thing) that being angry with each other about the way we voted, or which party will run the country for the next five years is futile.  Voting isn’t really about choosing a particular person because you believe in everything they are doing.  It’s not a war where one side of the country is wrong and one is right.  The fact is that when someone votes, they are truly voting for what is right for themselves or their family at that particular moment in their life.  So really when we vote we are actually all voting for the same thing and we need to acknowledge this fact.  We are all voting for a way to improve our lives.  That is the core of each and every person’s decision when they put that cross in the box.  The problem is that we are all living different lives!  When we vote against a party policy it isn’t because that policy is definitely wrong, it is just wrong for our life at that time.

We therefore cannot criticise each other for the way we voted because we can only live our own life.  Until we walk in our neighbour’s shoes we can’t judge them for there opinions.  All we can do is know that their choice was what was right for them.

So all those comments saying “oh well done UK, you’ve ruined the country now,” or “how could you vote that way you idiot” are useless.  People don’t vote because they think they are going to save the country or ruin the country, they don’t vote to piss their fellow voters off, they vote for their own tiny network of friends and family and therefore however they voted must be seen as right.

Life can change in the blink of an eye.  Someone who is doing okay at the moment might suddenly lose their job and have to start claiming benefits.  Maybe they voted Blue in the election because it was best for them when they had a good job and were supporting their family, but if they lose their job and need benefits then they might choose to vote Red next time because their circumstances and their priorities have changed.  Likewise someone who is struggling in life and really needed the benefits not to be cut might win the lottery (we can all dream!) and then their priorities will change too.  Next time they might vote for the party that will give them better interest rates!  We don’t know what we are going to need for the rest of our lives so we can only vote for what is right for us at the time.

What we should be saying to each other is just “well done for voting at all.”

Don’t judge friends that are upset about the result and say “your party’s ideas were rubbish anyway and would have ruined the country.”  That’s not going to help anyone.  Listen to the reasons why they voted the way they did, because I can assure you, you will learn something about a friend that you never knew.  Likewise don’t criticise a friend for being happy about the result, it doesn’t make them a bad person!  Ask them why they voted that way and again you will learn something from them.  There is nothing wrong with someone saying “my life is going ok at the moment and I want it to stay that way for as long as possible.”  There is nothing wrong with someone saying “we are really struggling and we need more help in these areas and that’s why we voted for…….”

We must be sympathetic and understanding to one another and remember that everyone’s vote was the right choice for them.  It might not have been the right one for you, but you aren’t living your friend’s life.  We must stop shouting and start supporting each other and our understanding of life will grow and our lives will be richer for it.

Here’s a lovely quote from Don Miguel Ruiz that sums it up perfectly:

“Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.”  

Rant over, better get on with the novel now!  Have a good weekend everyone and I promise the next blog will be light hearted!

 

 

 

UK Politics: You’ve got to choose someone or put yourself in the firing line

I love to write but I have never (apart from Facebook and babycentre.com) written publicly!  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my first ever blog post would be a political one! I’m not what you would call political in any way so my reaction to the impending election has really surprised me.   I’ve been thinking (and ranting to my husband and anyone who will listen to me) about this issue for a while.  Then one of my old school friends phrased it perfectly the other day on good old Facebook.  She is obviously quite politically motivated and said on one of her posts “we’ve got to choose someone or put ourselves in the firing line and get into politics personally.”  This really struck a chord with me as I’d been mulling the impending election over in my mind for a long time.

As a mum of two young children I rarely have time to think about anything other than what the next meal will be, whether my child will require a snack after school, a midnight nappy change or a security blanket change!  However last week, whilst cooking supper for my two year old and five year old daughters I switched Radio 1 on and found myself listening to David Cameron being slaughtered by voters in a Live Lounge session.   Throughout the week I managed to catch a couple of the other PM hopefuls who had to face the same onslaught during their Live Lounge question time, and I found myself banging my pots and pans more and more aggressively!  I suddenly came to realise that I find it hard to budget for my own tiny family of four every month, let alone a whole nation, so I need to respect anyone who is willing to attempt to take this monumental task on.

It seems to me that during an election all common sense is lost.  People seem to think that politicians are magicians and can just wave a magic wand and make everything better.  As a mum I know that I can’t even do that for my small family, let alone the whole of the UK.

Rational adults suddenly dissolve into tantruming two year olds, each with their own agenda with no consideration for anyone else. It is a selfish time and it shows the worst in lots of people. I found myself questioning what this election really meant.  For the first time I really listened to what the politicians were saying, what they were trying to achieve and what resources they had to use.  The more I listened to their patient voices and then the whinging, whining voices of the voters “I want this, I want that,” I realised that the situation wasn’t much different to my family life.  It was just on a much bigger scale.  If everyone stopped and looked at the situation in terms of their own small lives, as I’m going to lay it out below, maybe they would see what an impossible task any government is facing.

So firstly the thing to remember is that the basic rules of budgeting and keeping people happy apply whether it’s for a family of two, four, sixteen or 64 million people.

At the moment my family consists of me, my husband, my five year old and two year old daughters.  I am going to give us all roles:

Me: Prime Minister/ Government/ Chancellor of the Exchequer/ Treasurer!

Husband: Tax Payer

Children: Little Voters with no common sense!

We have recently had to re-locate due to my husband’s job which has meant me giving up my job and becoming a full time mum.  We therefore have to run the household on one income so budgeting is imperative and I am pretty useless at it!

Each month the Tax Payer’s money comes into our account and each month as Prime Minister I’m faced with deciding how best to spend it whilst being moaned at and screamed at from my little voters!  The problem is that we all want different things.  Of course we do!  The little voters would like the latest toys, to go to Legoland, to go to the cinema and to have lots of sweets!  The Tax Payer would like to have Sky Sports, Netflix, Sky Movies, a drone, a ski trip and a scuba diving holiday!  Generally he goes along with whatever decisions I (The Prime Minister) make, but occasionally he rears his head and decides that as he is the one who ‘pays the tax’ he should have a say in what the money is spent on. This month that happened to be a new BBQ.  Man must make fire to feel manly.  As Prime Minister of my house I have to try to be the sensible one, although I would like to have my hair cut more than once a year, send the little voters to a better school, eat decent fresh food every week, and go on a nice holiday too! All of these things sound great but obviously it’s not possible to give us all what we want all of the time.  It is difficult to say no to the little voters sometimes.  I am however what you would call a no nonsense Prime Minister so my voters generally understand when a battle is lost.

As I listened to the debate on the radio I could hear in the MP’s & PM’s voices the strain that I hear in my own as I try to explain to my little voters why they can’t have what they are demanding.  I could feel the frustration that I feel when they just won’t listen and keep repeating the same demands over and over.  Then I felt angry because my voters are only five and two.  They don’t know any better at the moment.  But we, as real voters, are adults and should know better.  These particular voters were behaving like complete spoilt brats.  They flatly refused to even acknowledge the answers they were being given and in many cases the MP’s responses were, in my humble opinion, very reasonable.  How many times does David Cameron have to repeat “yes I take your point that you think the voting age should be 16, however we have discussed this at length and at the moment we believe it should stay at 18.”  What did that particular man expect? That the Prime Minister was just going to say, well yes of course, Bob from Thornton (not the actual name!), if you think the age should be 16 I will lower it right now!  Even I was screaming, ‘just shut up about it’ to the man that just went on and on!

It was like being in the supermarket with my youngest little voter.

‘Can I have a lolly, Mummy?’

‘Yes you can have a lolly but not right now because we are going to have lunch in a bit.’

‘But I want a lolly.’

‘I know you would like a lolly, I have said you can have a lolly, but you cannot have it at this exact minute.’

‘I want a lolly now.’

‘grrrrrrrrrrr’ narrowing of eyes.

It goes on and on just as it did in the radio debate.  The voices of the voters berating the MP’s suddenly became my toddler’s voices, winging and whining about what they wanted and that they wanted it right now.  Some wanted more money for the NHS, some for better education, some for better rights for the LGT, some wanted the living wage to be made compulsory and one man in particular was accusing the government of actually causing the dreadful drownings in the Mediterranean, demanding our country does more to help the refugees.  It would be ok if they were merely saying politely what they felt was important, then acknowledging the MP’s responses and shutting up, but it was their infuriating persistence that riled me.

I don’t deny that all of these causes are important and just.  However what people seem to lose sight of during an election is that everyone wants something different and that it is not possible for the Prime Minister (whoever he may be) to give all of his attention to one cause and all of the budget to one agenda no matter how important it is in the eyes of the voters. Just because the government is unable to completely resolve all of the issues exactly the way we voters would like, it does not mean that they have failed as a government.  If I can’t afford to take my little voters to Disney Land I feel awful but I haven’t failed as our family Prime Minister.  I will take them somewhere fun that we can afford and not put ourselves in more debt.  As Prime Minister of two little voters I would say better education and an excellent NHS is probably top of my wish list, and yes this would be at the detriment of the refugees fleeing Syria (sorry if this makes you mad) however I understand that each issue has to be considered and given attention.  I’m not going to demand all the attention goes on the things that I want and tell the Prime Minister that he and his government are useless and have let me down just because they have given some attention to someone else’s idea.

As I turned in disgust to my fridge to survey my weekly menu I realised that I can barely budget and run a family of four successfully.  I get stressed just going to the supermarket, as the food passes through the checkout and the green illuminated figures climb higher and higher always surpassing the money I have allowed for that week my heart rate quickens and I have to calculate what savings I will have to make elsewhere that month.  I dread telling the Tax Payer how much of his hard earned money I had to spend on the weekly shop but he understands that budgeting our monthly finances is a fine balancing act.  I always start off with good intentions, I tell myself I will only spend £80 on the weekly shop, then bingo we have an impromptu BBQ with friends which costs a small fortune, the car breaks down or the tax disc needs renewing, the girls need a fancy dress costume for world book day, their feet suddenly grow and they require a multitude of new shoes for school, ballet, general day to day playing & wellies, they both get invited to a party where decent presents are required and the money just vanishes.

If everyone today really thought about how they run their own finances maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge the government who have to sort out the entire nation’s finances.

Of course the deficit is a subject that is discussed over and over.  People complaining about the cuts that have to be made.  Well I’m sure that a lot of people out there have their own deficits to sort out.  Credit cards, car finance loans etc.  I know we do.

Before we had little voters, when I was a tax payer as well and my husband, we took out a loan to start our own business.  The business did well but after only a few years we had to close it due to various issues and ridiculous land lords.  Although my husband now has a good job we are still tied in to paying back a huge loan probably for the rest of our lives.  Each month we see that money going out of our account to cover our past borrowing and we think what we could spend it on instead. However we realised that we took the loan because it was what we wanted at that time in our lives and now we have to pay for it.  It means that we have to make certain cutbacks in other areas.  We can’t have the best sky package, we can’t send the kids to private school, we can’t go on a super holiday every year, but that’s life.  That’s what happens when you borrow more than you can afford, something else has to be cut to pay it back.  So the billions of pounds that the last government gave away now has to be recouped by the present government. Cuts have to be made which make the current government look like the bad guys.  They aren’t the bad guys they are just trying to get us back on track.  Like when some well-meaning family member gives your children all the chocolates and sweets they want over Christmas and you are left looking like the bad guy when you say ‘no more chocolate.’  The look on your children’s faces is awful.  They hate you.  They don’t understand why they can’t carry on eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch and supper.  But they are children.   We as a nation should bloody understand why we can’t just be given everything, why cuts have to be made.  Whatever government gets in on 7th of May, will have to continue to make cuts in certain areas no matter what promises they are making now.  There is no ideal answer, we can’t all have everything as my eldest little voter learned last weekend.

Recently we have started giving the little voters some pocket money.  Every Sunday they get one shiny gold coin (£1) each to go in their money box.  They like to count them every morning at breakfast to make sure they both have the same amount.  We then went on a family day out and the eldest little voter decided she would like to buy a cuddly toy to add to her millions of other discarded cuddly toys.  We told her she would have to use her own pocket money to buy it.  I explained that she had £6 and if she bought the toy she would only have £2 left.  At which point the youngest little voter, who was listening and also clutching a cuddly toy, promptly put it back on the shelf and said she wanted to keep all her gold coins instead.  The eldest little voter paid her £4 and cuddled her toy all the way home.  The next morning at breakfast the girls both opened their money boxes and counted their coins.  The youngest one piled her 6 coins up into a tower whereupon the eldest went into a total meltdown crying that it wasn’t fair that her sister had 6 coins and she only had 2 and that they should now share the coins equally between them.  I had to sit her down calmly and explain that she had made the decision to spend 4 of her coins which meant she had less than her sister now.  She just couldn’t get over the fact that her little sister had more coins than her and that she would probably never have an equal amount again until her sister decided she would like to spend some of her hoard!

The frustration I felt explaining the consequences to her was the same as the frustration I felt listening to one of the voters on the radio going on and on that we should be spending more money on helping the refugees coming over from Syria.  I’m all for helping people in need but not to the detriment of other important issues.  All I could think was that if there came a time when this particular voter had to go to A&E and was made to wait for more than four hours I bet he would be the one to stand up and start shouting that the government should put more funding into the NHS and that they were useless.  Blah blah blah.

As I had to explain to my daughter, there is a finite amount of money.  You cannot put it all into one pot and then complain when there isn’t enough left to go into another pot, which is what a lot of people out there seem to be doing.  If it is all put into one pot, then cuts are going to have to be made elsewhere further along the line.  It’s not going to be easy and it won’t be fun having to sacrifice things we want but it’s just common sense and it’s what has to happen.  There simply isn’t enough money to make every situation perfect.  To make every hospital immaculate, to make every school ‘outstanding’, to save all the suffering people around the world.  The best anyone can do is try to give everyone a little bit to help their cause and even that is difficult sometimes as we all know from managing our own finances.  How many times have you wanted to give someone a better birthday present, to really spoil someone who deserves it, but in the end you just can’t afford it.  So you give your family your love and your support and your ear.  You listen to your children’s wants and demands and sometimes you can treat them and other times you have to try to placate them with something else.  That’s life.

So before you vote on 7th May, really think about what’s important to you, look at all of the party’s agendas and realise that no one will be able to fulfill all of your criteria so you have to go for the most sensible overall package that suits your needs.  Don’t criticise our current Prime Minister for making the cuts that have been necessary because the last Prime Minister borrowed too much, and before you criticise the next Prime Minister (whoever that may be), for not giving all his attention to your particular cause; STOP.  Think about how hard it is to run a normal family budget.  Think about the unexpected costs that arise each month that you haven’t budgeted for, where does the money come from to cover those extra costs?  How does your stomach churn and your mind buzz trying to make cuts elsewhere to make sure you don’t run out of money by the end of the month?  Now be grateful that there are people in this country who actually want to give looking after our entire nation a bash, because it’s not a job I would want to do.

Would you?

xxxx