Monthly Archives: December 2017

parenting expectations

Why Learning To Lower My Expectations Has Made Me A Happier Parent

I’ve lost count of the number of baby showers I’ve attended where the guests are asked to proffer a piece of parenting advice on a frilly piece of card for the mum-to-be. I always struggle with this; it takes more than a few lines of generic sentiment to share anything worth knowing about parenthood.

Is there a catch-all piece of advice to make parenting an easier experience? Categorically not. But occasionally a light-bulb blazes within, something clicks and you think ‘Yes! I wish I’d realised that sooner!’ This article is a result of one of those epiphanies.

Why Learning To Lower My Expectations Has Made Me A Happier Parent

It came about one uncharacteristically glorious day at the end of April. The sky was an expanse of uninterrupted blue, the sun was making its debut and the air was balmy, so my husband suggested we take the kids to the beach after school.

As soon as we arrived, our toddler son had his own ideas about what he wanted to gain from the trip and they didn’t tally with ours. His idea of fun was blithely running away from us, licking the floor, trying to throw stones at dogs and throwing an epic tantrum when it was time to come out of the sea.

Our six year old daughter found every possible opportunity to moan about how we were hell-bent on subjecting her to insurmountable boredom. Furthermore, we were the worst parents in the world because we only bought her one ice-cream. The sea was too cold, the seaweed too gloopy and the sand too sandy – all factors which we had purposefully engineered just to annoy her. She made it clear that she would much rather be at home watching Harry Potter for the zillionth time.

Why Learning To Lower My Expectations Has Made Me A Happier Parent

As we packed the kids into the car, my weary husband turned to me and said, ‘Next time I suggest a quick trip to the beach after school, remind me it is NOT a good idea’. His brow-beaten expression was all too easy to read. He hadn’t enjoyed our impromptu beach visit at all.

The funny thing was, despite the moaning, tantrums and questionable behaviour, I had really enjoyed the trip.

Why were mine and my husband’s experiences of the same outing so different? The answer had to lie in our expectations. My husband had clearly envisioned a fun-filled and relaxing excursion. His mind had us walking hand-in-hand along the shore, all tousled hair and wide smiles. The reality was entirely different. It was stressful, trying and energy draining. So why did I enjoy it so much? Because I had expected nothing more.

This led me to think about the role expectations play when it comes to parenting. It hit me that every time parenthood has left me disappointed, stressed, frustrated, angry or upset it is because I set my expectations too high.

Why Learning To Lower My Expectations Has Made Me A Happier Parent

Let’s take it back to the very beginning and my first pregnancy. I spent months browsing catalogues full of cute baby clothes, organising baby toiletries into beautiful displays and imagining cosy days by the fireside with my gurgling new-born. She would sleep, naturally, and my life would continue in relative undisturbed harmony. In imagining that nothing much would change, I had already set my expectations of parenting way too high. I was destined to experience the despair, worry, exhaustion and tears which became the reality of her first few weeks on earth.

While no first time mother can fully grasp the way parenthood changes every fabric of her being, perhaps some lower expectations would make the whole transformation period slightly more palatable. Motherhood turned out to be nothing like the vision portrayed in the stacks of catalogues I had placed in my baby’s colour coordinated nursery.

Fast forward a few years to the birth of my son and my expectations were wholly different. During my pregnancy with him, I anticipated that the early days would be exhausting and difficult. I expected to have no time to myself, for neither of us to sleep and for my life to be completely given over to this tiny new person. I drew on my experiences of my first baby and lowered my expectations to ground level.

Imagine my delight when he arrived and I coped just fine. In fact, unlike my initial fraught weeks of motherhood five years earlier, I really enjoyed his early days. Yes I was tired, but not as much as I expected to be. I had moments of bewilderment and exasperation, but on the whole it was far easier than expected.

Learning not to set my expectations of other people on par with my own high self-expectations has helped me greatly in avoiding disappointment and unhappiness in my life. I find this applies equally to parenthood.

If I expect someone to empty a packet of cornflakes over the living room floor moments after I vacuum it, I won’t lose my temper. If I expect my toddler to push his plate away while screaming ‘Yuk!’ in response to my carefully crafted meal, I won’t feel disenchanted. If I expect an outing to our favourite restaurant to result in an hour of attempting to prevent my son escaping from his highchair while listening to my daughter moan about being bored, I may actually enjoy myself. And moreover, lower expectations may cause me to be pleasantly surprised on occasion.

Once we have children, we eventually become accustomed to our new child-centric lives. However, we may hang on to our pre-parenthood, high expectations for too long. My husband has lived through countless outings similar to the aforementioned beach trip and yet he still hadn’t learned to lower his expectations accordingly.

My one piece of advice for every mum-to-be at every future baby shower I attend will be just that. Leave your high expectations of parenthood at the door. One of my friends perfectly summed up the reality of parenthood when she said, ‘Motherhood has made me and broken me in equal measures’.


I know exactly what my friend was getting at. I’m sure every parent does. By all means expect joy, unconditional love and fulfilment from parenthood. It will certainly deliver on all three counts. However, by expecting parenthood to flaunt its difficult sides on a daily basis (stress, frustration, worry and exhaustion to name but a few), I have found my experience of parenting has become a considerably happier one.

Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

5 Things I Would Tell My Pre-Elf-On-The-Shelf Self

6 Things I Would Tell My Pre-Elf-On-The-Shelf Self

Four years ago, when a friend educated me about the whole elf on the shelf craze, I decided to give it a bash. A little house guest from the North Pole would be a simple and fun way to enhance the Christmas magic for my two young children, right?

Anticipating that my sensitive daughter would be freaked out by the official version, I opted for two merry little plush elves – one for each of my kids. Charlie and Christina arrived on the 1st of December in all their green and red glory and were an instant hit. I didn’t like the idea of the elves watching over the kids or that the kids couldn’t touch or cuddle them, so I scrapped those parts of the tradition.

Simple fun, I thought to myself in glee. Simple.

Maybe not.

Four years on, this is what I would tell my naïve, pre-elf-on-the-shelf-self about life with our critters from the North Pole:

You will lose sleep over the elves

This year, the night before our friends arrived from the North Pole, my daughter woke up at 3am. She thought she heard them thumping around the living room and couldn’t contain her excitement. My son bounded into my room at 5am, screaming ‘can we see our elves now?’ as he jumped on my head.

We’ve had this 5am wakeup call ever since they arrived – it’s becoming ever so slightly tiresome.

You will lose the elves

I was snuggled under a blanket one evening, in a state of bliss as I watched Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas with a glass of wine, when something elf-related on the telly made me sit bolt upright. I hadn’t seen Christina all day.

My peaceful evening was exchanged with a frantic search for Christina.

‘We’ve lost one of the elves!’ I yelled at my unsuspecting husband, before wrenching him off the sofa.

‘Oh f**k,’ he sighed as we embarked on a thorough search of the house. Christina was eventually located in a Lightening McQueen pencil case which had been stuffed into a saucepan in the kitchen cupboard. Obviously.

You will lose yet more sleep because of the elves

At 2am one morning, I was just turning over in bed when an image of the elves flashed into my head. A cold finger of panic poked me in the stomach as I realised I forgot to move the little buggers. I jabbed my husband in the back and whispered, ‘We forgot to move the elves!’

‘Oh s**t,’ he mumbled, before rolling over and letting out a little snore.

Of course, it fell to me to creep downstairs in my dressing gown and locate the pesky things before thinking up a funny position to put them in, while my husband enjoyed his uninterrupted slumber. B***ard.

You will lose all enthusiasm for the elves

It was cute at first. The kids’ bright, joyful faces and the love they have for our impish visitors. But, by day twelve, the whole thing becomes a royal pain in the bum.

It doesn’t take me long to run out of elfin ideas and the fact we keep losing the blasted things is annoying to say the least. My husband suggested we make the elves write the kids a letter, saying they are awfully sorry but Santa has called them back to the North Pole on urgent business.

Tempting. Very tempting.

You will lie. A lot.

It was fine for the first couple of years, but when my eldest hit seven, tricky questions about the elves began to materialise. Why are all the shops selling them? Why don’t all children have them? Why don’t they ever get older?

I’ve wrapped myself in a complicated web of elf-related lies and I only have myself to blame. I can’t even remember most of the porkies I’ve proffered in relation to those elves. But my daughter, the eight-year-old elephant, remembers every word. One slip-up and the whole elf-on-the-shelf house of cards will come tumbling down around my ears.

This may not be such a bad thing

You’ll forget all the above next year

Next November, when the kids start shaking with excitement over the elves’ impending arrival, I’ll forget what a drag they are. Hell, I’ll probably look forward to the whole charade while I’m still in my fuzzy, pre-Christmas bubble. Elf amnesia is a thing, you know. I like to call it elfnesia.

How much trouble could two cuddly elves be anyway?


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

Christmas Fire Safety Tips

Christmas Fire Safety Tips

Christmas is the best time of the year for many reasons. Spending time with family and friends, the tree, the lights, cosy evenings by the fire, parties, presents and festive tunes are all reasons to adore Christmas.

So, during this busy and happy time of year, we don’t mean to put a dampener on your Christmas celebrations by going on about the risks of fire. But, it’s important, so we’re going to. A fire could be totally devastating. It could be fatal. Of course, you already know that.

Please read these important tips and make sure you and yours are as protected as much as possible this Christmas.


We’re assuming you have smoke alarms in your house. If you don’t, stop reading this immediately and go and buy some. Or you can contact your local fire brigade for advice as some offer a free Home Fire Risk Check (find the number online DON’T call 999 for this please!) You should have AT LEAST one smoke alarm on every level of your home but, to be honest, more is better.

Smoke alarms can and will save your life in the event of a fire. But they’re no use to you if they don’t work. Test them once a week and replace the batteries once a year or if they no longer work.

Please read the advice from the government’s Fire Kills Campaign on the proper use of smoke alarms here.


Christmas tree lights, outside lights, illuminated window decorations etc. all make Christmas extra special. However, you should switch them off and unplug them when you’re not home and during the night.

This advice actually applies to all appliances in your home. When not in use they should be switched off and unplugged. A washing machine or television left on stand-by could cause a fire if a fault develops. Any appliance that is drawing in current has the potential to fault. This may only be the cause of a small proportion of fires, but why run the risk?

So make sure everything not in use is switched off at the mains and unplugged. This includes the washing machine and tumble drier. As well as saving you some pennies from your energy bill, taking this simple action could prevent a fire.

Also, don’t leave your washing machine, tumble drier or dishwasher on when you go out or overnight – just in case it causes a fire to start.

Christmas Fire Safety Tips


You may find yourself using extension leads at Christmastime to enable you to use all your lights and decorations. Don’t be tempted to overload a socket and never plug an extension lead into another extension lead to add more to it. Be mindful of how much power each of the items you have plugged in uses. High powered appliances should not be plugged in to extension leads. For more information on the correct use of extension leads please read this leaflet.


Most house fires start in the kitchen so you should be extra careful here. Never leave the kitchen unattended when something is cooking. Also, don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol. Save the wine or Baileys until the Christmas dinner is cooked and on the table!


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… If you have an open fire, it will most certainly be in use a lot at this time of year.

Please make sure you have your chimney swept. An unswept chimney represents a fire hazard.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue produced this hilarious video of firefighters dancing to Step in Time from Mary Poppins to get the point across. Well worth a watch if you want to see a cartwheeling fire fighter! And there is useful safety advice about open fires scrolling along the bottom too.


Candles are another Christmas tradition, really adding to the festive atmosphere in a home. However, they prevent a significant fire hazard. Please never leave a candle unattended, even if you just pop out of the room for a few minutes. It’s just not worth it. Also, never place candles near your Christmas tree or anything else that could catch fire. Candles should always be placed in an appropriate holder.

Christmas Fire Safety Tips


In the unlikely and unfortunate event of a fire, do you have an evacuation plan? Do you know who would get the children and which way you would exit your house? If you don’t have one, you should think about making one and ensuring that the whole family knows it. There’s more advice on how to make an evacuation plan in this handy leaflet.

If a fire starts, follow the fire brigade’s advice ‘Get Out. Stay Out. And call 999’. If there’s lots of smoke, stay as low down as possible because the air is clearer further down.

NEVER waste time trying to grab important paperwork or high value items before you evacuate.

Sleep with your front door keys and your phone next to you on your bedside table. That way, in an emergency, you won’t waste valuable time scrabbling around trying to find them. You will be able to exit quickly and then call the fire brigade right away.

Please note that these tips are not exhaustive and you should not rely on them solely. The government’s Fire Kills campaign has produced many fire safety leaflets – you can access them all from here. There is a specific Christmas Fire Safety leaflet available here. And you can also contact your local fire brigade for advice.