Camping with Kids: The Ultimate Kit List

motherhood

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With just one day to go until we hit the road for the summer the inevitable packing-induced panic is upon is! Packing is my absolute nemesis and when you’re a family of 5 going on a 2 week+ camping trip we are talking next level stress.

The first stop on our big annual road trip is CAMP BESTIVAL! A family-friendly festival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset where we will be camping in a tent. From there we are heading to… ITALIA!!! We plan to drive all the way in our camper, with a few pit stops on the way, and live out of our van for a fortnight whilst feasting on pizza, pasta and gelato and drinking prosecco and aperol spritz (a glass of which actually costs less than a can of coke!). When in Rome… quite literally!

If you find yourself in the same boat / tent / campervan I hope the kit list below will help…

TENT

So we have a VW T5 campervan which we will be sleeping in when driving across Europe but for Camp Bestival we are pitching up in a tent. I have over the past week or so got well into tent research. I’m aware of how lame that sounds but bear with me… I had no idea there were so many options out there and once I started researching I just couldn’t stop. I discovered this guy called “Alpine Dan” on the Millets Website who is just awesome and basically shows you how to put tents up and take them down and gives you tours of the tents. A bit like MTV cribs but with Alpine Dan and the Berghaus Air 6 rather than some American baseball star and their pimped-out pad.

So my biggest tent-related discovery was there there are now tents WITHOUT poles. Let that sink in for a moment… Instead of poles, there are tubes that inflate and then the whole tent just rises from the ground all as one and is UP. It takes mere minutes. I feel like I’ve stumbled across a tent revolution! I mean maybe everybody already knew about this??? But I certainly didn’t. The last time I erected a tent, I had to battle with an inner layer, a ground sheet and a separate outer layer. Let’s not even get started on the poles which are always a huge struggle. The thought of trying to erect a large family-sized tent, in the dark, at a busy festival, with 3 kids on the loose, fills me with fear so this inflatable option has totally won me over.

We went for the Berghaus Air 6 and I’m genuinely like ASOS-delivery level of excited for it to arrive.

BEDS

So we have 5 people, ranging in age from 1 through to 34 (!) who need to bed down for the night and we need a solution that works both in the tent and in the campervan. Since we are spending so long on the road this summer and not booking any accommodation, I really wanted to up our sleeping set-up. It’s alright roughing it for a night or two but I don’t fancy a fortnight of it.

For the baby…

We have gone for a sleepyhead grand. The sleepyhead original was one of the best purchases I made when Fox was born. I begrudgingly spent the money but oh was I glad I did!! He slept in it every night at home in the snuzpod (another awesome buy) and then every night when we were camping in our van. Not only did he feel safe and snuggly it in but I also felt more comfortable (and therefore slept better!) knowing I couldn’t just roll on top of him when we co-slept. Before he could crawl out, it kept him contained and it’s so easy to transport. Wherever we went we took the sleepyhead with us. So I’m super excited about using the sleepyhead grand when camping. It’s going to make for one very warm and cosy sleeping set up!

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Above: Fox sleeping in his sleepyhead on a camping trip at 8 weeks old

If it’s cool at night Fox will sleep in a grobag as he does at home and if it’s warm then he will just wear his PJs. I might put the sleepyhead in the travel cot if I need to keep him contained – we will just have to see if he stays put or not!!

The travel cot we have is the Phil & Teds Traveller and it’s the most lightweight travel cot I’ve ever seen/used. We have taken it on countless flights and trips away in our van. It folds down super small and is incredibly lightweight but amazingly it’s still full-sized when up.

For the toddler and the ten year old…

We have gone for bundle beds! These are such an awesome concept; a whole bed rolled up in one including pillow and duvet! A bit like a sleeping bag they are compact and easy to transport to festivals and campsites and friend’s houses. But once unrolled they are so much more! A self-inflating mattress with a comfy foam layer, a duvet and a pillow – the whole shebang! We plan to use these in the tent and in the van for the kids and they are so much easier than lugging air beds (that then need inflating) plus sleeping bags or duvets and sheets and pillows.

They’re not cheap but will be used for years to come and we are frequent campers. They can also be used at home when we have guests and are suitable for adults as well as kids! Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure the sleeping bag I have at the moment dates back to my 2002 trip to Peru! So if they last half as long I will be one happy lady! Also anything that helps the kids sleep better is worth its weight in gold I think. If the kids don’t sleep, the adults don’t sleep and then the whole happy campers dream turns into a living bloody nightmare for every soul.

For the adults…

Last but least there is James and I. Funny how we think of ourselves last, hey?? So we have gone for a simple self-inflating mat which we got on Amazon (which was recommended on the VW T5 forums that I frequent! I really am a camping geek!!) and then a memory foam mattress topper from the wonderfully-named ‘Happy Beds‘. If we were just going to the festival for a couple nights we’d probably be fine on just the self-inflating mat but given we will be sleeping in our van for over 2 weeks we thought we might want a *little* more luxury. We might not be heading to a hotel or apartment this summer but we don’t want to totally slum it! We plan to use the mattress topper on our rock and roll bed to make it a little more comfortable and us that bit happier.

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The boys chilling out in their onesies in the van on our last camping trip

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

So once we have pitched up at the festival, inflated our tent (A-MAZING) and set up our luxe beds we’re going to want to go off and explore. We are 2 adults to 3 children in ratio so it’s like a one-man down situation from the offset. Lots of people use wheelbarrows or trolleys at festivals to push/pull their kids around and I think when children are too big for buggies but still get tired from walking, they are a great solution. I think children aged 3 or 4+ probably love kicking back in a wheelbarrow but it’s not going to work with a 1 and 2 year old. In particular my 1 year old would just throw himself over the edge at the very first opportunity and if I parked up and took my eyes off them (to watch a band or chat to someone) I know full well by the time I turned around they would both be GONE. So I need a more secure solution.

MOUTAIN BUGGY….

Which is why we will bringing our amazing double buggy – the Mountain Buggy Duet. This buggy is AWESOME. I bought our first one before Fox was born after conducting extensive research online. We are now on our second one because someone STOLE our Mountain Buggy from outside our house!!! They are that desirable folks that people with no conscience will steal them. Be warned!!

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The boys down at the beach in their new Mountain Buggy Duet

Tales of daylight robbery aside, I have used the Mountain Buggy Duet every day since Fox was born, both on the tube in London and on country walks in Devon. It has been down to the beach and up to the snowy alps! I’m a BIG fan and promise to post a proper review soon!

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The boys up the mountains at Alpe D’Huez in their MB duet

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Out and about in Camden in Central London

Mountain Buggy Carrycot

A super small baby Fox in the carrycot attachment

But when it comes to festivals with two young kids I’ve decided it’s pretty much the perfect pram. It’s built for rough terrain so should be able to handle a bit of mud and when the kids want to nap, I can simply recline the seats and they can sleep on.. whilst strapped in tightly so I don’t lose anyone!! When they are awake they are side by side so can both see all the sights there are to see – there is no ‘inferior’ back seat! And even though it’s a side by side it’s no wider than a regular single Mountain Buggy so you won’t annoy people *too* much as you steer through the crowds. I’m not suggesting you buy a duet just for a festival but if you’re looking to upgrade to a double, I seriously recommend it!

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BOBO BUDDIES…

Now of course the little ones aren’t going to be happy with being strapped in the whole time and that doesn’t fit entirely with my ethos of ‘let them be free’ so they will be let out to roam. The only way I know of keeping kids safe in this type of situation where there are crowds of people and the said kids are toddlers on a mission, is to put them on reins. Like a dog.

I have used reins since Osh was a toddler, 10 years ago. In fact when I took him to Glastonbury in 2014 when he was 7 years old I still used reins then!! I find it just stops them getting swept along with the crowds and separated from you! I might let Osh off the reins this year since he is 10 (haha) but the little two are 100% going to be reined up!!

I recently discovered BoBo Buddies and I’m a big fan. A buddy is a soft cuddly toy with a little zipped compartment so it doubles as a mini rucksack and comes with detachable straps so triples up (is that a word?!) as a pair of reins. Foxy loves his Monkey and Mama loves keeping Fox on a leash. Happy Days. The Buddies are coming to Bestival!

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SLINGS…

I will also be packing our slings so we have the option of carrying the kids. I have two slings – the Mountain Buggy Juno and the ErgoBaby Adapt. They are actually quite similar in style and can be used on your front or back or hip. They both have a wide strap that goes around your waist so the weight is distributed a bit like a big hiking rucksack which stops you getting pain as with some carriers that pull from your shoulders. Reassuringly, both have been approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as being  ‘hip-healthy’ products.

I found the Mountain Buggy Juno was particularly good when Arlo and Fox were small as the newborn insert is really nice. So nice in fact that I used to take it out and Fox used to sleep in it! So soft and plush. You can also carry your baby on your front facing outwards with the Juno whereas you can’t with the ErgoBaby Adapt.

Now they are a bit bigger I like the ErgoBaby Adapt as it’s cooler (as in less hot not more trendy) and carrying a toddler makes me sweaty. It’s a slightly different shape and there seems to be less fabric and more ventilation. You can also get the Adapt in loads of different colours and prints including collaborations they’ve done with other brands.

But to be honest both are great and I’m sure you and your baby would be happy with either.

A sling at a festival is a good idea because if the ground is really wet and pushing a buggy becomes impossible, you can still get out and about without having to lug a kid under each arm.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

For the kids..

I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained at Camp Bestival. We have been before and to lots of other festivals with the kids and there is always so much going on that you don’t even get to see it all. You certainly don’t run out of stuff to do. However from Camp Bestival we are heading straight to Italy in our van and that is going to mean a LOT of hours on the road…

An iPad goes some way to helping but the battery does not last indefinitely and also it has been known to cause arguments. So the kids will each be bringing a few toys/games to keep them happy. I love these zipped toy bags from husband and wife team Occasionally Six. The bags have the kids’ names on them so there can be no confusion – even Arlo (who is 2.5yo) can identify the names and has learnt to recognise the letters in his own name by tracing the bright neon letters printed on his toy bag. Apart from reducing arguments by each child having their own toys in their own bag, it’s also a good way to keep things tidy and ordered. By counting the toys out and counting them back in you can ensure no superhero is left behind.

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For the parents…

As with the kids, at Camp Bestival I reckon there will be enough to keep us entertained but when it comes to the big road trip and the 2 weeks of camping, I am going to want my phone to have some battery. I plan to limit my phone use on holiday and steer clear of my work inbox but I’m also going to want to share some photos on my Instagram and document our holiday, because it’s those photos that I love to look back on most which remind me of the fun summers and all our adventures. We also like to listen to podcasts on our road trips. Current faves for laughs are Letters to my Fanny, Scummy Mummies and Dirty Mother Pukka and then of course there’s the super addictive Serial and S Town, which are just brilliant. We binged listened to S Town all the way to the Alps earlier this year when the kids were asleep in the back and it definitely made the 12hour drive easier.

So that’s why a battery pack is a MUST HAVE. You do need to remember to charge it up initially but then it will charge your phone multiple times over. They’re small and not too expensive and with roaming charges pretty much gone using your phone abroad has never been easier/cheaper.

Old school as it is, I will also be packing some card games for camping. My fave NSFK (not suitable for kids) is Cards Against Humanity. James actually bought me the expansion pack for Valentines Day last year. Admittedly not the most romantic gift but it was a pretty good gift for me. Does that make me a really horrible person?! 😉

I tend to use my phone to take photos but you might want to pack a camera too and then there are other festival essentials like tissues and wet wipes and antibacterial hand gel. Maybe some first aid items and of course cash money for the stalls!

The best way of carrying these items and ensuring they are easily accessible is a bum bag and I’m so pleased they are actually IN FASHION. You can buy them anywhere from ASOS to Tiba+Marl. If you’re wanting one for a festival then make sure you check out the MiPac range. They have a really cool selection of metallic and palm prints ones and they are about £16.

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Talking of Tiba+Marl you are going to need a change bag for the festival/camping trip if you have kids in nappies and a rucksack is without a doubt your best bet. Anything that frees up your hands for all-important activities like drink-holding and kid-catching is a sure fire winner. Honestly, once you’ve gone rucksack you are not going back!!

The Tiba+Marl rucksacks are changing bags but not like any you’ve seen before. They’re not at all ‘mumsy’. They won’t make you look like a seasoned hiker or a kid that’s off to school. They are seriously stylish and there are now loads of cool prints and options available. They are stocked by Harrods, Selfridges and Mamas & Papas and have been designed and created by two amazing Mums. I particularly love the pink and metallic silver Elwood and reckon they’d be perfect for a festival.

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EATING

A few summers ago we invested in a weber gas BBQ and now do mostly all our cooking on this when camping. We chose not to have a kitchen fitted in our camper as we wanted more space for the bed (we are a family of 5 after all) and also because I wasn’t keen on the idea of cooking in a small space with 3 kids on the loose. I do love a bacon sarnie in the morning but wouldn’t want my much-loved camper stinking of pig for the rest of the day and splattered in oil. So the weber BBQ has been our saviour. It heats up super fast and is easy (ish) to transport / lug about.

We also have a portable gas stove and use this for boiling water for tea/coffee and for cooking stuff like pasta. The gas stoves are really cheap to buy and probably one of the best camping purchases you can make. They are super portable and usually come in a lightweight plastic carry case. They are perfect for festivals!

In terms of actual food to eat, there are loads of great food stalls at Camp Bestival but a very easy and healthy option for little kids are the new classics from Little Dish. They include stuff like macaroni cheese, spaghetti hoops and tomato soup and cost approx £1 from most supermarkets. They can be heated up on the little stove and have no hidden nasties but lots of hidden veggies!

At Camp Bestival I plan to feed my two little ones early, get them ready for bed and then tuck them up in their buggy with some blankets and their milk and then head out to see the headliners. The rest of us can then pick up some food later on from one of the many food stalls.

When camping for longer periods of time we tend to do a big supermarket shop and most campsites have fridges you can hire to keep stuff chilled. European campsites in particular are so good for families and have everything you need. We then just cook on the stove and BBQ.

TOP TIPS FOR FESTIVALS

  • I think wellies are a great footwear option for the whole family at festivals. They are easy on and easy off and you are sorted come rain or shine.
  • Ear Defenders for little kids are a must have! I just bought these ones on Amazon. Thank God for Prime.
  • Take some some solar-powered or battery operated fairy lights to string up around your tent so it’s easier to identify yours in a sea of similar looking ones.
  • Make sure you’ve written your name and number on your child so if you do get separated someone will be able to contact you. Take a sharpie. If they are old enough make sure you agree on an easy-to-find meeting place just in case.
  • I’m also a fan of high vis vests… for the whole family. Festivals are notoriously busy places and it can be hard keeping an eye on everyone in the dark. The easier your brood are to spot, the better. The same goes for you! Your kids will find it reassuring if they can easily see you in the dark.
  • A bit like the inflating tent, I’ve recently discovered and been blown away by these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups. I think I’m a bit late to the party but seriously, THEY DO NOT SPILL! It really is a miracle. I’ve got a few of them now and they are especially great in the car. No more crying over spilt milk!! Also I’ve managed to wean my boys off their bottles (with teats) using these cups. Another miracle.

 

I hope you have found this kit list and top tips useful! In the interest of transparency, some of the above I have bought and some of the above I have managed to blag (perks of blogging) but all the items I’ve included are absolutely brilliant and I have mentioned them because I rate them highly, not because I was under any obligation to do so.

Finally, remember you can slowly acquire stuff over time and don’t need all or any of the above to have an awesome camping trip! Many years ago I took my eldest to the lsle of Wight festival and it was a complete wash out. The mud was over knee-deep! We only had a bog standard cheapo tent from Argos, a couple sleeping bags and one of those portable stoves I mentioned above, but we had the BEST time.

Over the years we have moved from calling ourselves ‘amateur campers’ to ‘semi-pro’ and now because we camp so much and take all our holidays in our campervan, we have a lot of really nice kit. So if camping is going to be something you do a lot, I’d recommend investing in some decent beds if you can. If you’re going to a festival as a one-off don’t stress and just have a wicked time!

You can keep up with how we get on at Camp Bestival and on our big road trip by following me on Instagram where I will post lots of pics and stories over the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading

Siobhan x

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GIFT IDEAS FOR FATHER’S DAY 2016

motherhood

This blog is usually about everything relating to motherhood, but since Father’s Day is next week (take this as your official reminder!!), I thought maybe they deserved some airtime too, just for once!

Although we often resent them for being at work and having ‘time off’ whilst we’re stuck home 24/7 covered in sick and juggling a tricky new baby with demanding older ones (it definitely IS possible to simultaneously feel grateful and resentful about this – that’s just the kind of confusing emotional rollercoaster that motherhood is), and we moan that they get to use the toilet in peace and eat their food without having to hold off a toddler and begrudge them that they don’t get fat, or suffer stretch marks, or experience torn, blistered nipples, and we reiterate frequently that they can’t ever possibly understand what we have to go through (which is all true), but we should probably (even just occasionally) admit that they work pretty damn hard too.

From going to work on little to no sleep and missing those precious newborn days and baby cuddles and toddler firsts, to coming home every day just when shit is hitting the fan in the midst of witching hour, to help with the exhausting dinner, bath, bedtime routine and subsequent clean up operation, to the fact that yes they don’t suffer the side effects of pregnancy but they also never get to experience carrying or birthing a baby. It really isn’t an enviable job and more a case of poor them. I for one would definitely rather carry the extra few stone and get to experience the magic of giving birth and being a Mama, than miss out altogether, be on the receiving end of my irrational and hormonal pregnant partner and keep my figure. The few extra stone, tiger stripes and mild incontinence is a small price to pay for the joy that is having a baby.

With that in mind we can hopefully all agree they deserve a treat, so just as I did prior to Mother’s Day, here’s a little round up of gift ideas for the Daddy in your life…

1.Selfish Mother ‘Papa’ Sweater. If your other half has been stealing your SM sweater for too long, now might be the time to treat him to one of his very own. As with the Mother sweaters, profits go to support worthy causes so you can feel extra good post-purchase.

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2. There are also ‘Papa’ t-shirts, ‘Papa’ baseball tees and ‘Dadding It’ tees all available from the Selfish Mother Fmly Store (that’s not a typo, FYI…)

 

3. I’m loving these ‘Breaking Dad’ t shirts from Parent Apparel, not least because Breaking Bad was my most favourite TV series EVER.

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4. Also from Parent Apparel, check out their Dad Ass tees and badges. That’s Dad Ass like Bad Ass, for those who might now be thinking Dads also suffer from flatter and fatter arses post-procreation. (Spoiler: they don’t. That non-perk is reserved solely for mamas).

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5. YESMUM Pops. Dads don’t have to make do with affirmations made for regular humans anymore (although they are great too), because they’ve now got their very own tailored Pops range. What better gift is there than a daily pat on the back to remind them they’re doing a great job too?!

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6. Ticket to Dad’s Breakfast Club. These meet ups are organised by the uber-friendly @LondonDad and are a win-win when it comes to gift buying; Dads trot off (with the smalls) to have breakfast and make new friends whilst Mama chills at home child-free. See what I mean? Win-win.

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7. Another gift that Mama can benefit from too; a stylish unisex changing bag from Tiba + Marl. We know Dads change nappies too, so surely they deserve their own changing bag? I certainly think so. And if that means buying him the bag you’ve been long-time lusting over then so be it. Hopefully he’ll be none the wiser and you’ll be able to ‘borrow’ it whenever you fancy. Natch.

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All of these gift ideas listed above are from small, independent, parent-run brands. So when you make a purchase you’re not only sharing the love with the Dads you’re buying for, but also the wider community of parents who are out there working hard raising babies and businesses. So if you can, shop independent this Father’s Day.

Preparing for Birth – The Baby Shower / Mother’s Day / Gifts for New Mums

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

So as part of my ‘Preparing for Birth’ series I had planned a post around The Baby Shower, basically listing loads of cool stuff for Mamas, because jeez, don’t you know the baby gets enough?!! Then I realised Mother’s Day was just round the corner (as in next weekend folks, the countdown is officially ON) and I thought the stuff on my list would be great for the big M-day too! Basically this is the stuff on every Mama’s wish list, so if you’ve got a Mum or Mum-to-be to buy for, either this Mother’s Day or for an upcoming baby shower, or just because… they birthed a human and deserve a treat, then check this list out:

THE BOOKS

1. How to be a Hip Mama without Losing your Cool written by the hippest mama on the block; Jenny Scott, founder of Mothers Meetings. A guide to motherhood like no other. Fun, useful, the opposite of prescriptive and most importantly easy to dip in and out of (don’t underestimate how important this requirement is for a new mum: “Oh I just tore through that novel what with all the time I’ve got on my hands” said no new mum ever).

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2. The Mother Book – so freshly launched that I’ve not even got a copy yet, but I’m going to bet it’s brilliant! Curated by Molly Gunn, the superwoman behind Selfish Mother, this book is packed full of the most popular posts on parenting from the blogosphere, all written by regular fellow Mamas. Plus one of my posts has been included, so ya know…

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3. One Day Young by Jenny Lewis – I absolutely adore this collection of photos of new Mamas with their babes, all shot within 24 hours of having given birth. I often flick through the pictures and feel goosebumps with the anticipation of holding my own newborn baby, in just a matter of weeks… eek!

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THE MAMA MERCH

1. THE Mama chain from Cult of Youth. I still haven’t got one of these but Kelly, the wondrous woman behind the brand, promises they will be back in stock soon! Plus there’s a whole heap of awesome new designs landing (featuring all the things we love like pineapples and skulls) also coming very soon!

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2. The Mother Sweater. I absolutely love these (and the mother tees), all sold by Selfish Mother. Not only do they look awesome but they’re comfy as hell to wear and best of all they’re raising serious amounts of cash for some incredible charities. An all round win-win situation. You can now buy them from NOTHS and as of this week they’re even stocked in everyone’s favourite department store: John Lewis! Molly, the mama behind it all, is ON FIRE people!!!

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3. Mere Soeur Merch – be it the tote mag or the tee or the mega ‘One Good Mutha’ mug, any item here would make an awesome gift for Mother’s Day / a baby shower / a new Mama. The site is being relaunched on the 1st March so set your alarm peeps! This stuff sells out every time.

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4. YES MUM CARDS – they have literally taken THE WORLD by storm. Packs of positive affirmations for Motherhood. Simple yet so effective. These make an excellent gift for all Mamas out there, no matter how many years they’ve been in the mothering biz for. Who doesn’t enjoy a metaphorical friendly and encouraging pat on the back?!

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THE MISC

1. Tiba + Marl baby changing bags. Or just really cool bags, designed with baby changing in mind. Honestly these are so awesome, you could rock one without even having to rock a baby. From the quilted black Raf holdall, to the flowery backpack, to the mini-me leopard print versions, the amazing mamas behind the brand have got all your bag needs covered. You would be literally loved forever if you were to gift a new Mum or Mum-to-be one of these bad boys. Now also stocked in Harrods and Selfridges!

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2. Emily Gray Photography voucher – again, you would be loved big time FOREVER. Dads – buy this for your other half, girls – club together and get one for your BFF. Charlotte the mama who makes the magic happen, is THE photographer of choice for so many mamas out there. Her snaps are all over the internet, or at least instagram (just check out @mother_pukka’s IG feed). Get a booking in ASAP though because this lady is in high demand!

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3. We couldn’t list gifts for new Mums without mentioning DON’T BUY HER FLOWERS. Yeah, really don’t, because not only are they unoriginal but she’s got enough to worry about keeping alive. But definitely DO visit the Don’t Buy Her Flowers website and treat her to one of the amazing packages on offer. Boxes of sheer joy beautifully packed and full of goodies that Mamas really want/need/will appreciate. From COOK vouchers to G&Ts, glossy mags to hand creams, dry shampoo to truffles, these packages are perfect for all the mamas in your life. So if your friend has just given birth and you’ve no idea what to send, or you’re out of ideas for your own Mum this Mother’s Day, look no further: DBHF has the solution! (Also brilliant for any other occasion – I was sent one by a lovely friend for my b’day / just after our horror m25 crash and it was like a perfectly timed hug in a box).

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THE DOUBLE MAMA’S XMAS GIFT GUIDE

motherhood

Ok so Christmas is officially LESS THAN 4 WEEKS AWAY (!!!) and if you’re anything like me you’ll be starting to feel slightly panicked right now. If you’re sat smugly reading this, with your shopping already done and gift wrapped, then well done you. But I’m going to assume that you’re not representative of the majority of people.

So to help you guys out (and myself), I thought I’d round up the stuff I’ve been buying, lusting over, or reckon would make an ace gift for the big and little people in your life….

If you’ve got any suggestions for stuff that should be included please let me know!

For the MEN in your life (be that husband, boyfriend, father, brother, other)

Beer 52 – subscribe and have a handpicked box of craft beers delivered monthly to your beer-loving loved one – or just buy as a one-off! Use this * link * to get £10 off your first order making a crate of 10 craft beers just £14!

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Alternatively if they are more of a coffee-drinker than a beer-drinker (or you’re trying encourage slightly more healthy habits) then go for a PACT coffee subscription instead. Another gift that keeps on giving, the guys at PACT will deliver a delicious bag of freshly ground coffee as frequently as you wish. If this sounds like something you’d like to try yourself, use this * link * to try a bag for just £1 including delivery! Be warned though, it’s addictive stuff!

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For the MAMAS in your life (be that yourself, your own mama, your sister or one of your mama mates)

Selfish Mother Sweater – I’ve bought a number of t-shirts for myself and friends but am yet to get my hands on a sweater. Definitely hoping Santa delivers me one this Christmas! Not only do these Mother Sweaters from Molly of Selfish Mother look super cool and comfy, they’re for a good cause – all profits go to Women for Women UK. (So far the sale of Mother sweaters and tees has raised an incredible £40,000 for the charity!). Go Molly!

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Cult of Youth MAMA chain – if you can get one, DO IT. Be warned though, they are massively in demand and frequently sell out but are oh so awesome.

cult of youth mama chain

 

Tiba+Marl Bag – well if your kid’s going to have one (see below), you certainly deserve one. The best nappy bags out there by a bazillion miles. Launched just this year by a power mum duo, they are already stocked in Harrods! I LOVE my floral Elwood backpack but the Raf holdall is now top of my Xmas list. A girl can’t have too many bags, right?! Plus, new baby, new change bag. Seems only fair.

Tiba-Marl-RAF_BLACK_0baby-changing-tote-bag-side.jpg

 

Mere Soeur goodies – Perfect gifts for your best Mama mates. From Boob Appreciation Mugs (no I didn’t make that up) and Mums of Anarchy badges, to cool tees and useful tote bags. It’s all about the sisterhood and everything is really reasonably priced and many items are hand-printed by the lovely Mama behind it all.

boob appreciation mug

 

A Weathered Penny – Awesome AND affordable jewellery. Be warned though you will want to buy one of everything on the website. These pieces make perfect gifts… for yourself. Or friends. Maybe your sister. But mostly for yourself 🙂

a weathered penny

 

For the BABIES in your life:

This lot can be pretty tricky to buy for since they are so easily entertained with a cardboard box and some tissue paper, but here are a few suggestions for special gifts that Mama is sure to treasure (even if baby prefers the packaging it arrived in).

  1. A brightly-coloured, hand-crocheted blanket with pom poms (!) from Hollie at Flora Fairweather. Truly a gift to be kept forever. Check out her gorgeous Instagram feed here. She also makes beautiful, equally-colourful, hats and booties, all with fun pom poms of course!flora fairweather blanket

2. A pair of gorgeous, hand-made, leather moccasins from Amy & Ivor. I particularly love the little high-tops and have recently bought a pair for my Arlo Bear (unintentional rhyme right there). I also love the metallic platinum moccasins and the furry cheetah moccasins from the special limited collection. Oh and the pretty Erin shoes (if only a girl!). Really I just love them ALL. But if you want some for xmas, make sure you act fast because they are made to order and can take up to 2 weeks.

amy & ivor cheetah moccasins

 

3. A cute pair of PJs with a fun print from The Bright Company (and perhaps a pair for Mama too – #twinningiswinning afterall)

The_Bright_Company_AW15_Christmas_Mama_Family_Lifestyle_large-1

 

4. An ultra-sweet Marta Mini for a baby girl – handmade by Sophie & Co and available in a variety of fabrics (this was top of my mental shopping list for baby no.3 but alas it’s another boy!).

marta mini 2

 

5. Alternatively absolutely anything from Cissy Wears is sure to go down well. The Mama behind this online concept store is the Queen of Enabling so make sure you have your credit card at the ready!

cissy wears

 

 

For the BIGGER kids in your life:

1. Go outside the lines – buy a fun poster with an appropriate life motto for the kids to colour in. It can then be framed and hung (without ruining the minimalist insta-friendly vibe) in the home/their bedroom and makes a welcome change from the usual ‘art’ you feel obliged to stick up! Plus it’s always nice (and rare) to find an activity that keeps kids occupied and doesn’t involve any technology!

go outside the lines

 

2. Ruff & Huddle – I’ve just bought my big boy an awesome bomber jacket that I know he is going to LOVE. Check out their full range, all designed by a mega Mama.

ruff and huddle ma1 bomber

3. Tiba+Marl Mini Elwood backpack – if it wasn’t enough that these guys make the coolest changing bags around for parents, they have just launched mini versions of the super-popular Elwood backpack for the little ones in your life. If you’re a fan of the #twinningiswinning trend (and who isn’t?!) then you need to get your hands on one of these (and one for yourself obvs, see above).

tiba and marl mini elwood

 

For the SIGNIFICANT OTHER in your life:

This is perfect whether or not you’re a parent but especially so if you are, because parents are always in desperate need of a break, am I right? Or is that just me?! No, everyone needs a break (and Mums and Dads most of all).

What makes this gift even more perfect is that you totally get the benefit too. A complete ‘Win Win’ situation.

Introducing… THE WEEKEND AWAY. I’ve decided (although have never actually been) that Amsterdam is THE destination for the perfect long weekend away. Paris has been overdone. Any further afield (like NYC where I went for my b’day) and the excitement is somewhat mediated by the distance and the worry that sets in when you think about how many miles (and hours if there was an emergency) you are away from your precious monsters. So with that in mind, Amsterdam is just perfect. Plus you can get there on the Eurostar and BYOB, which I much prefer to Ryanair and paying a fiver for a bottle of water.

To help you plan the ultimate weekend away to Amsterdam, get your hands on an e-copy (which can be read on any device) of A Perfect Day in Amsterdam: Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall by Hilde Veeren and ensure you don’t waste a single precious minute. Hilde is not only a fellow Mama (based in Amsterdam), she also runs the international travel blog Fish & Feathers with her husband, is managing director for a fashion mag and writes freelance for Grazia and others. So it’s safe to assume she knows how to make best use of your time.

Buy the guide now and start plotting your escape immediately!!

a perfect day in amsterdam

 

GIFTS for the GRANDPARENTS:

A personalised photo calendar from somewhere like Photobox is not exactly shopping independently (which I am making a conscious effort to do this Christmas) nor is it spectacularly imaginative and they do take a little time and effort to make, but grandparents seem to really, really love them. And you can just make the one and then order duplicate copies for the both sets (or more, if like me all four grandparents live separately!).

photobox calendar

 

The PERFECT gift for the whole family (including grandparents):

A voucher for Emily Gray Photography Services. This super-talented, in-demand Mama is offering personalised vouchers which can be put towards a photo shoot and prints. I reckon this is the perfect pressie for the whole family and gives you something you will treasure forever.

Check out my interview with the amazing Charlotte here. Plus get 10% off by quoting ‘DOUBLEMAMA’.

emily gray photography voucher

 

The PERFECT Stocking Fillers for the whole family:

Yes Mum cards make the perfect stocking filler! ORIGINAL cards for the Mamas in your life (yourself included), MINI cards (for the little people) and HUMAN cards (for everyone else). Fist pumps all round!

yes mum cards

 

And for the TRICKY ones in your life / on your list:

Don’t Buy Her Flowers – Initially launched with new Mums in mind, a beautifully wrapped, tailored package of treats and goodies is the perfect pressie for anyone in need of some TLC and R&R. You can create the perfect package for your lucky recipient with a number of add-ons that include gin, fizz, luxury socks or even a COOK voucher. Akin to receiving a great big warm hug in a box, I am confident there is no woman on earth who would not appreciate this thoughtful gift.

don't buy her flowers recovery package

 

FILMS FOR FAMILIES:paddington bear

Christmas time feels like the perfect time for family films (or games, but films tend to lead to less fights than monopoly). However I have a very limited attention span and I resent spending 2+ hours of my life watching something annoyingly cheerful and full of song. So here are a couple films I’ve seen lately which I genuinely enjoyed and proper LOL’d at and would make good pressies/stocking fillers…

Paddington Bear

Big Hero 6

If you have any suggestions for films I can add to this list please let me know!

 

BOOKS FOR BOYS:

I’ve spent a long time trying to encourage my eldest son to read. It’s not that he finds it difficult, in fact quite the opposite, he can whiz through pages. But he finds it boring. Which breaks my heart. I spent so many hours as a kid reading late into the night, long after I was meant to be asleep, tilting the book towards the crack of light that shone in under my door from the landing. I used to lose hours of my life reading and I loved it, so I find it really upsetting that until recently he finds it just a drag to even read a chapter.

BUT WE HAVE HAD A BREAKTHROUGH!the boy in the dress

Here are some books my 8 year old son actually enjoys reading (so if you have to buy for any boys of a similar age this Christmas, chances are they might be into these too)…

Any from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Any from the Tom Gates series.

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

 

 

And finally, a gift of LOVE…

the love box campaign

This week (watch this space!) I’m launching The Love Box Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to deliver 100 boxes of love to older people in the community, who might otherwise not receive anything this Christmas. Please support the campaign by buying a Love Box here and sharing the love online using #theloveboxcampaign #100boxesoflove. It’s a sad truth that many older people in the community spend Christmas alone, so let’s do our best to let those most in need know they’ve not been forgotten this year.

the love box campaign

 

I hope you find this list helpful and if you think of something I should include please let me know! You can email thedoublemama@gmail.com or find me on Twitter or Instagram.

 

NOW LET’S GO SHOP!!!!

The Year of the MOTHER

motherhood

mother sign

I don’t know whether it’s my age, but recently I’ve been aware that Motherhood is becoming cool and being a Mama is a badge of honour, to be worn with pride. Now let me put that statement in context. I first become a Mama at the tender age of 21, whilst still at University. That wasn’t cool at all. Going out, getting pissed, dancing naked in the city fountains – that was all cool. Dealing with nipples that were falling off because of a bad latch, was less so.

Now I’m fast approaching 30 (yikes) and suddenly being a Mama feels different. Is it my age?? Or is 2015 really the year of the Mother?!

Whatever the reason, there’s a load of Mama merch available from a host of inspiring Mum Bosses. I’ve rounded up the best of the bunch, the stuff I own or want to own, made by the most inspiring of Mothers. These items would make amazing presents for new Mamas – total babyshower inspo right here! And not forgetting MOTHER’S DAY! A whole dedicated day. Send this list to your other half in advance and you might, just might, get something other than a bunch of flowers 🙂

  1. The Selfish Mother #MotherTee 

selfish mother mother tee

I have one in black and coral to see me through the seasons. I’ve also bought a couple for friends. These t-shirts are super-soft, well-made and allow you to wear your Mother identity with pride. They can accommodate a bump and allow easy access to boobs (important if breastfeeding – just to clarify!). But the greatest bit of all is that the proceeds go to the charity Women for Women, meaning by buying and wearing one, you’re helping other Mothers in less well-developed countries access opportunities we take for granted. It’s an ace concept and the mastermind behind it, is Mum Boss Molly Gunn. Molly is also the woman behind the blogging platform Selfish Mother. If you haven’t heard of it before, check it out!

IMG_9032

2. The beautifully packaged Mere Soeur Goodies which include a Mere Soeur branded tank top and tote bag and best of all (IMO) a boob appreciation mug, which I have and use as much as possible. My son calls it “Mummy’s powerful boobs mug”. Still deciding whether to feel embarrassed or proud.

mere soeur mug

These goodies are sold by the super-sweet Mum Boss Carrie Anne, who is also co-founder of Crafted Sisterhood, which is a blog but also so much more. A supportive, inclusive network and platform for Mamas is probably a better description, and they organise Mama Meets too!


Mere Soeur Tote

3. The hugely popular (and almost always sold out) Cult of Youth Mama chain. Available in Gold, Silver or Rose Gold. These Mama chains have serious rock chick appeal are made by (brand new) Mum Boss Kelly Seymour. She’s one super mama juggling a new baby and a new business!  I can’t wait to get my hands on one…!

mama_chain_in_gold_gold-2

4. Alternatively you might want to wear your Mummy title in a more Carrie-Bradshaw inspired style. If so, check out these Mummy chains from Anna Lou of London. You can also get a personalised one, so you could always go for Mother or Mama, if you prefer. Also available in Gold, Silver and Rose Gold.

Mummy necklace5. Every Mama needs a guidebook to help navigate her way through the exhausting, emotional, tumultuous, exhilarating, love-filled journey that is Motherhood. I’m not talking about a Gina Ford military-style how-to-parent handbook, I’m talking about this: How to be a Hip Mama without Losing your Cool.

mothers meetings book

This book, written by Jenny Scott, the original Mum Boss and founder of Mothers Meetings is a total must-have. It covers everything you actually need to know. It’s not about how to parent, it’s about how to keep being you! For any Mama who has ever felt a little lost or overwhelmed, this book is for YOU. Just like Mothers Meetings are, it’s fun, inspiring and motivational.

mothers meetings

6. YES MUM cards. The best £10.50 you’ll ever spend. Fact.

yes mum cards

Recommended by none other than Fearne Cotton, these cards are created by another mega Mum Boss, Hollie De Cruz. Hollie is single-handedly empowering women across the world in birth and motherhood. She runs London Hypnobirthing and is an incredible teacher (I can vouch for her amazingness!). She has recently launched these Yes Mum cards which are like a daily pat on the back and set you up for a better day. They work on the same principle as hypnobirthing affirmations, enabling you to utilise the power of positive programming. Plus they look real pretty. Every Mama needs a pack.

7.  Mama Jyms! Not only are these PJs from The Bright Company super comfy (an important requirement for PJs) but they come in a variety of awesome prints, and are designed by Mum Boss Alienor Falconer. However the best thing of all about these Mama Jyms is that you can get a matching pair for your little one! Thus creating the ultimate #twinningiswinning situation.

the bright company

I have already got a matching pair for myself and my eldest son (which we love) and a matching pair for the two brothers (which is beyond cute). Next up is a three-way coordination attempt. Something for the Christmas list 🙂

8. This one diverges slightly from the theme in that it’s not emblazoned with the words ‘Mother’ or ‘Mama’, but it is made FOR Mums and BY two Mums, so I figure it can still make the list! So without further ado, let me introduce the Mother of all changing bags (see what I did there?!) – the Tiba + Marl Elwood Backpack

tiba + marl elwood

Pictured above is the floral version but there is also a leopard print version and black faux leather option. Plus lots of other styles like the Raf holdall (available in floral, leopard or a black quilted version), the James satchel and the Mabel tote. All come with a change mat and a cross body bag for all your bits and pieces.

I can’t rave about these bags too much. If you’ve ever looked at the sad selection of changing bags available then you’ll know these bags have no competition. Tiba + Marl give changing bags a much-needed face lift but also boost your general wellbeing, because there’s nothing more depressing, for the style-conscious Mother, than having to forfeit your usual handbag to cart around an ugly-assed, wipe-clean, nappy bag.

tiba and marl raf

Also the brand has been launched by two awesome friends and Mum Bosses, Lydia and Anna, one of whom is an ex-Topshop buyer and the other an ex-Kurt Geiger designer. These ladies have serious design credentials and are super nice to boot. TIP: Get one on order now, before they sell out!

9. Don’t Buy Her Flowers – as above, these gifts may not be explicitly Mother branded, but they are designed for Mums, by a Mum. The Mum Boss behind this ingenious business is the lovely Steph Douglas, who featured on my blog a few weeks ago as part of my ‘In the Mother(hood)’ series.

don't buy her flowers

She was inspired to create thoughtful care packages for new Mums after having children herself and being given too many flowers. Also flowers can sometimes be pretty unoriginal, right? I mean they’re nice, of course, but when you’ve just pushed a baby out your vajayjay or undergone serious surgery to birth your child, there are other things you could do with more. Plus keeping a new baby alive is kind of a totally time and thought-consuming thing, so keeping anything else alive is just too much. That’s why the care packages are so brilliant. They are little boxes packed full of lovely things, stuff you really need and will appreciate, like dry shampoo, teabags and much-needed snacks. Buy one for you friend, or yourself. Spread the word.

dont buy her flowers

10. Lastly (and mostly because I like to end things on a nice even number), the original Mama merch, circa 1992, the ultimate Mama bling: the Argos Mum ring!!! Initially decided to include this as a bit of a joke, but now I’m thinking… I could rock one of those.

mum ring

Remember it?? I wonder how many Mothers were given one?! Had to be bestseller in the early 90s.

So there you have it, my round up of the best Mum Stuff (and celebration of Mum Bosses)!! Now it’s time to create a lust list and share with those who may be inclined to treat you… or just treat yourself. You deserve it, Mama 😉 x

STEPH’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

Today I am so excited to introduce a girl whose haircut I’ve been coveting since I first saw THAT fringe on Instagram. She rocks leather skirts and leopard print (what’s not to love), has an awesome blog, runs an ingenious business, has kids with amazing names (Hello Buster!) and is really bloody nice. Here’s what Steph has to say about Motherhood…

Steph Douglas

Name: Steph Douglas

Age: 34

Location: St Margarets, London

Number of Kids: 2

Names and ages of aforementioned: Buster (4) and Mabel (2)

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

We’d been married almost 2 years and it seemed like the next ‘sensible’ step. Ahem.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Excited, and like we had the best secret. I also felt relieved – like lots of women I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant.

How did you tell your partner?

I came running down the stairs holding the stick

His reaction?

Lots of squealing and hugging and ‘woah, are we really doing this’. Oh that sweet naïve couple – we had no idea!

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I had no health issues for either pregnancy aside from the usual (feeling a bit swollen and constipated) and I quite enjoyed having a big round belly until the last bit when you have to heave and grunt to turn yourself over in bed. I found the mental/emotional side of it more of a challenge. We once went out for dinner on a Friday night after work when I was pregnant with Buster – Doug had booked it as a romantic gesture – and it was this amazing Italian where they just bring out courses and it’s the longest most relaxed meal ever. Except I was hungry and tired and couldn’t neck all the wine so I sat opposite him weeping while he begged me to stop as it looked like he’d taken a heavily pregnant woman to a public place to dump her. We were better at carrying emergency snacks and having early nights during my second pregnancy.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I had no expectation about birth, which sounds a bit odd but my mum was a midwife and gave birth four times herself, and she always kind of underplayed it when I asked how painful it was, and said it hurt but you’re so focused and you hold this baby at the end of it so you just get on with it. So I was kind of relaxed, ready for the drugs if I needed them but aiming to see what happened. When it came to it, my body took over, I stayed home as long as possible (on my Mum’s advice) so with both I got to the hospital and was pretty much ready to go! Finding out you’re almost ready to push as you arrive at the hospital is a massive mental boost so I felt really focused and I did the rest with gas & air, which I LOVED. They had to prise it out of my hands.

Doug gets this funny look of awe on his face when we talk about it, like he still can’t believe what I did. He also remarks on the strength as I pushed down on him during contractions; apparently it smarted a bit…yeah, it did for me too! Sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to say I had a ‘good’ birth as you hear about a lot of bad ones. But actually, it was really positive, the midwives were awesome and I feel pretty proud of myself. If I do it again, I’d hope for the same. I liked being in hospital and that is part of the feeling relaxed for me – I was on the natural birth ward but had the reassurance of staff and equipment close by if I needed it. It’s a really personal thing for everyone and at the end of it, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

A rollercoaster – with deep ‘what the hell is happening’ lows and utterly awesome ‘I AM WOMAN’ highs.

Can you share any highlights?

Just seeing these two babies that we made become funny, quirky little people and the four of us becoming a proper little unit, with our own traditions like toast in bed on a Saturday and fishfingers after swimming. Hearing them chat together first thing in the morning now they’re a bit bigger makes me feel weepy. It’s lovely.

Can you share any low points?

Those moments when you’re out and everyone is crying, no one is listening, you’re dropping stuff along your way and sweating profusely and feel like everyone is watching and judging you. Also, Mabel recently crapped on the floor in a pub and we only realised when Buster stood in it. That one is a mixture of a high and low point as it was grim, but very funny on reflection.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Alas, we’re down to a couple of naps a week as Mabel is almost 3 and not keen most of the time. When Buster was a baby I flapped about doing stuff from The List or divving about on social media. I know people roll their eyes at ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ but with Mabel I was much better at napping. If you unpack the dishwasher and do a few jobs first, you’ll never do it as the baby will wake up and you’ve missed your window. The trick is to lie down as soon as you put the baby down. Even if you get 20 minutes, it will change your whole day and the world will be a brighter place. The washing can wait.

Have you got a blog?

I write Sisterhood (and all that) – it’s an honest account of motherhood and relationships with the idea that if we’re honest with each other about how things really are and the ridiculousness that life throws at us, it’s often funny and also less lonely. It was kind of a stepping stone to starting the business and I wanted to see if people felt like me. It turned out they did and it went really well, so gave me the courage to quit my job and start the business.

Have you got a business?

I run Don’t Buy Her Flowers selling thoughtful gift packages for new mums. 96% of women receive flowers after giving birth. When I had my first baby I was given eight bunches of flowers and it just seemed such a waste – people were really kind to send something, but flowers are actually another thing to care for. At a time when you’re feeling pretty spent, I thought there could be better gifts that let mum know she’s doing a good job and is loved. The Care Package is our best-selling package, and the idea is it encourages mum to stop and take ten minutes to herself – truffles, tea, flapjack, a magazine and a scarf. I’ve also teamed up with COOK food so their vouchers can be added to any package, so you can give new parents prepared meals delivered to their door. Those are always well received!

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Aside from the obvious i.e. two beautiful babies? Women are awesome. Resilient, determined, compassionate, often hilarious and for a lot of women I know, becoming a mother intensifies those strengths. You don’t realise it when they’re small, but you are now a lioness. On a good day, anyway.

What are the worst bits?

The tiredness combined with the feeling I should always be doing something. It can be pretty exhausting and I think that’s the same for most mums everywhere. We’re rubbish at stopping, let alone relaxing with our partner or doing something nice for ourselves.

If you didn’t have your kids for a week what would you do?

Oh SLEEP. And eat at a leisurely pace. We’re actually hoping to take a little holiday in January just the two of us. I know some people couldn’t bear to be apart from their babies, but we’ve been pretty good at having the odd night away and I think it’s essential to our sanity and marriage! We realise we really like each other when I’m not moaning at him for forgetting to put the bins out.

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

I recently wrote a list for Clemmie Telford’s blog which just about covers everything!

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Snacks! I was very disappointed by the post-birth food on offer at hospital!

What’s been your best baby product?

The IKEA high chair. Forget your fancy ones, for about a tenner this thing wipes clean and has NO primary colours.

What’s your ultimate mum product?

OBVIOUSLY a thoughtful gift package from Don’t Buy Her Flowers… but also a changing bag from Tiba + Marl. Practical AND good-looking. And a buggy hook because you always have too much stuff to carry.

Steph Douglas and kids

Huge thanks to Steph for taking part – be sure to check out her blog, it is well worth a read! And of course if you know somebody who needs a little TLC – Don’t Buy Her Flowers!

I’d love to hear from any other Mamas out there who’d like to feature as part of my ‘In the (mother) hood’ series – just drop me a line: thedoublemama@gmail.com