Tag Archives: stay at home mum

Blackberries, bike rides and bravery

I’ve been mulling over how Arthur and I spend our days rather a lot lately. He’s coming up for three, and I am still almost solely responsible for his childcare. Generally I’m happy with this – I know there will be benefits he is getting from me that just aren’t accessible anywhere else – but still, sometimes I worry. Most of his friends are in nursery, and their parents naturally extol the benefits of that. Sometimes I worry that I’m just not fun enough, creative enough, hands on enough to have taken on this level of responsibility for my son’s education.

And then…


Then I have days like the one we enjoyed on Thursday. We got up, we hung out and played for a while, Arthur napped and I wrote. And then we had lunch. And then we went exploring.

And I saw Arthur’s learning, his development, in every step he took. He’d been zooming his balance bike around the kitchen for a few days already, showing a confidence that had been lacking in months of experimentation. He was more reticent, out in the big wide world, but still he wanted to ride, pacing around the headland with barely concealed glee.


He did get tired, eventually. But then his bravery transferred to another sphere.

All summer, we have talked to him about berries: the ones he can eat, and the ones he can’t; the ones we’ve grown in our garden, and the ones that flourish freely on the hedgerows. It is those that have been most significant over the last month or so: the inky blackberries that in my mind form the perfect snack yet for Arthur have been a concept just too unfamiliar to get his head around.

Until this week. When suddenly he wanted to try this delicious wild fruit, and having succumbed to its sweetness stood and gorged himself until his fingers and mouth were stained with black.


Both of these things, the bike riding and the blackberry picking, represent huge steps of freedom for my little boy. I am proud of his bravery, of his confidence. But I am scared too, just a little. Because picking wild berries brings with it the danger of choosing the wrong ones, and lifting your feet from the floor when riding a bike means that you will one day surely fall.

But then these are precisely the sorts of risks that I need to be prepared to take if I am going to take on the challenge of educating my child myself.

He is still very young, but his curiosity is beginning to lead us to amazing places.

I just need to make sure I give it the space to work its magic.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Who am I?


When I started this blog, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Not just with the blog itself, though that was definitely uncharted territory, but more generally too: over the previous couple of years everything I thought I knew about my life had changed. I liked where I was, most days, but I couldn’t help being curious about where I was headed.

The name of my little corner of the internet, ‘Sophie is…’, was the beginning of a sentence that I hoped I might be able to complete some time soon. With actions at first, and then, as time went on, with a label – something to replace the title of ‘teacher’ which I had worn with pride for the preceding decade.

There were obvious contenders – ‘a mum’ being the strongest one. I remember having a conversation with one of my oldest friends a few weeks after I’d entered the weird and wonderful world of blogging. Like me, she had recently celebrated the first birthday of her first child. Like me, she was struggling to come to terms with putting to one side the career she had worked so hard for. And also like me any regret or guilt she felt at that was still superseded by a strong sense of relief at being allowed, if she so chose, to be ‘just’ a mum.

We spoke about the power of that little qualifier, how hard it was for us – and for society – to accept that nurturing a child was a worthwhile use of our time. We discussed how there were days when being a mum felt more than we were capable of, even with all the time in the world, and others when we longed to be filling our time with something that reflected more of who we used to be, not just this new person we had become.

I think about this a lot, still.

I have not yet been able to relinquish my son to nursery or any other form of regular childcare. I worry that we would both miss too much. But at the same time I have not been able to entirely throw myself into being a mum.

I have needed something more.

And so, as well as ‘a mum’, Sophie is… ‘a writer’, ‘a school governor’, ‘a local councillor’, ‘an education consultant’. All of these things are exciting and fulfilling, and take an increasing amount of my time. Only the last is guaranteed to bring in any income, though I’m still holding out for those novels finding a publisher.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have the choices that I do.

But now I worry that I am spreading myself too thin. I still have not found a satisfying way to complete the unfinished sentence that began this blog.

And the blogging itself is confusing me recently – not the act of doing it, but what it’s all for. I found myself in a heated discussion about this a few weeks ago with someone who shall remain anonymous but whose opinion means an awful lot. The nature of the argument is too complicated and personal to go into here but it left me feeling a bit empty, a bit pointless.

Except I love this blog. I love how it jumps from one topic to another, piquing the interest of a wide range of people even though it never lures them in as deeply as it might if my writing was more focused. I know I don’t play by the rules, I know my target audience isn’t clearly enough defined to attract advertisers, I know that I’m not interested in making the blog in itself a commercial enterprise. I know I could channel my efforts much more effectively if I picked an area and stuck to it, but I don’t want to – not yet at least. And that is where this blog, still, is a mirror of my life.

It hasn’t yet decided where its priorities lie, it’s enjoying making the most of all the new opportunities that are presented to it, being able to say ‘yes’ to all the ones that look like they might be interesting or fun.

It’s hard, though, going from an existence where you think you have it all figured out into one where you’re not even sure what your goals are any more, let alone how to reach them. It’s particularly hard for a validation-seeking, confidence-lacking, perfectionist like me.

But I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.

And so I think I’m going to have to put to one side this desire to figure out who I am and what I’m doing with my life. It may be hard to get my head round, but I think I’m going to have to accept that, for now, Sophie just is.




This past week has been a week of two halves for me as far as writing is concerned.

Before the weekend, I was really finding myself struggling with the inevitable juggling that comes with being a stay-at-home mum to a toddler as well as an aspiring novelist. The edit itself was going brilliantly – I seem to have way more clarity this time round, noticing things that passed me by as I worked on the second draft and having no qualms about cutting things that I can now see are unnecessary. I’m also really enjoying elaborating where it’s needed, and I definitely feel as though the characters are springing into life much more convincingly as a result. In fact I’m enjoying it so much that actually I wanted nothing else but to hole up with my manuscript and my computer and just get on with it – let myself get lost in the words and the world I have created with them, just work and work until it’s done. And this is precisely where the problem lies.

Because I can only really work in chunks of a couple of hours at a time. If I’m lucky I’ll get two of those in a day, whilst Arthur’s napping in the sling and I can focus all my energies on the novel. More often it’s just one though – and sometimes not even that.

I know that I am incredibly lucky to be spending so much time with my little man. And I want to make sure that I make the most of it – that I’m truly present when we’re hanging out together. I worry sometimes that he’s missing out on the range of activities he’d get from being at nursery or with a childminder, so as well as the music and drama and gymnastics classes we go to I’m trying to find time to do arts and crafts together, to get outside as much as we can. And I think I’m getting there – but always swirling around with all of this is the desire to be writing, to be working on the edit. And the worry that maybe it just isn’t possible to juggle it all, that I’m going to have to admit defeat on one front or another. And that I really don’t want to do.

But then, just as my brain was about to explode, one of my oldest, bestest friends arrived for a visit with her family. Entertaining Arthur took care of itself – her older daughter is only a month younger than him, and it was lovely to watch them spend some quality time getting to know each other. She has a five-month-old too, who Arthur was completely rapt with, revealing a gentle, nurturing side to him that I haven’t really seen before. And us adults got to have lots of much-needed grown-up chats, about how hard it all was but how much we were loving it. And I remembered that it’s ok for the juggle to feel like a struggle sometimes and that I really should cut myself a bit of slack in my quest to be the perfect mum.

So whilst it’s now halfway through the week and the edit has remained untouched since Friday, I’m feeling pretty good about it all. My enthusiasm actually meant that I’d got through more than I’d thought I would before the enforced and much-appreciated break, and I reckon that if I can find a bit of extra time over the weekend I can make up for the time I’ve missed.

The chapter that’s currently staring at me from my desk, waiting for my scribbles before I rehash it in the electronic draft, is one of the most crucial overall. So I’m glad my head is a little less full as I turn my thoughts towards it.

And on that note, I had better stop my ruminations here and make the most of the rest of this nap. This edit won’t write itself after all.


Muddled Manuscript

Just need to stay focused…


I started this year with such grand plans. Not resolutions, exactly – I only really made one of those. But so many different things I wanted to do. I was raring to go, in fact – after two weeks of not doing anything particularly constructive over Christmas I couldn’t wait to start ticking some tasks off my mental to do list.

As well as my goals around my novel and blogging, I really need to find some time to get our increasingly messy house in order. And then there’s Arthur – as he gets older I’m starting to feel like I want to structure our days together a little bit more closely. He’s with me pretty much all the time, and whilst we do get out to a few excellent groups over the course of the week I want to ensure I’m giving him the opportunities for a whole range of different types of play, not just the ones that are easiest for me to facilitate. I’ve got lots of ideas for all of this – I know pretty much exactly what I want to do in fact, at least in my head.

But actually, in reality, it’s felt a bit like the universe has been conspiring against me getting very much done.

Arthur’s sleep is still all over the place since he’s moved out of his cot, and this has coincided with a particularly busy period for my husband (he has his finals at medical school this year, so the academic pressure is being ramped up alongside an increasingly challenging schedule of hospital shifts). I am, to put it plainly, knackered. And that does not do much for my productivity.

There also seems to be lots going on in Arthur’s ever-growing social life. I’d sort of forgotten that following him turning two at the end of December we would have a very busy few weeks of birthdays with NCT and baby group friends. This is all great fun of course – but does add in a whole other layer of things to organise!

I’ve found myself collapsing on the sofa after seemingly endless days barely able to recall what I’d managed to achieve since I’d got up that morning whilst listening to the whirr of things I still needed to do and wondering when my mind would ever be still enough to focus on them – let alone make a proper start on editing that novel…

And then it struck me. I didn’t need to keep all this stuff trapped inside my head. I needed in fact to write it down, to make some lists, to see it all there plain and simple so I could begin to tackle it. I needed to get a diary.

I’m not entirely sure why I stopped using a diary – a paper one at least. In the ten years I was teaching I would never go anywhere without my planner. Every thought and task relating to my professional life would be documented in there somewhere – and it was an important ritual at the beginning of each week to go through and get my goals clear in my head. I kept a separate diary for my personal tasks – a pocket moleskine one for years, with space for notes. This gradually transitioned onto my phone, and once I was on maternity leave that electronic method became the only one I used.

That seemed ok, for a while. Especially once Arthur arrived so much of what I had to do was so ‘in the moment’ that it seemed a waste of any precious spare seconds to write it down. Things have got increasingly complicated since those early days, but I’ve generally managed to muddle through, hanging the thoughts and tasks in my head onto our simple routines and frantically making the occasional list when it all got too much.

But I’ve realised that the time has come when I need more structure. There are so many balls I’m trying to juggle now that if I try to do it by the power of my mind alone then I’m going to start dropping them. So last weekend I ordered a diary. A moleskine, for old-time’s sake, but one which encapsulates what I loved about my teacher planner alongside the conventional day by day approach. It’s called a ‘professional taskmaster’ (even the name makes me feel more organised), and it’s pretty awesome.

When it arrived on Tuesday I sat down and filled in our plans for the week ahead, spread clearly over two A4 pages. Then on the next two, in the bullet pointed spaces for ‘actions and projects’, I decided on my non-negotiables for the week. There were quite a lot of them, but seeing them there in black and white made it all seem possible.

And as the week’s gone on I’ve been taking great pleasure in ticking off the things I have achieved. I’d forgotten quite how satisfying simple,everyday lists are. I’m still playing catch-up a little, and I’m still exhausted, but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to reflecting back on my week on Sunday, celebrating what I’ve done and setting out what needs to happen next.

None of this is rocket science I realise, but they are things that somehow I had forgotten in all the changes I have lived through in the past couple of years. And I’m hoping, as I fall back into the routines left over from a very different life, they might just help me to keep the one I’m living now more focused.