Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Having just turned thirty, I have found that I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my twenties. There has been an abundance of highs and lows. Although they got off to a rocky start, my twenties have given me so much that I am grateful for. The decade of my twenties has gifted me three wonderful and spirited children, a loving husband, a settled home and has set me on a journey to gaining a degree in young children’s learning and development. The degree in particular was something I thought was well beyond my reach.

I started my twenties as a single pregnant girl, still living at home with her parents. I say girl because I was so young and clueless. I’d had so many plans, a job lined up in London, I was going to travel and see the world. I planned to live my life like they do in all of the movies where the young and naïve girl leaves her small town, struggles for a short while, then finds her flow, then finds love, then stands in the ocean, maybe has a trip to a vineyard and then gets a happily ever after with a tall and brooding fella with dark hair and a penthouse. It was going to be amazing. I was an absolute idiot because for a split second at the age of 19, I actually thought that it could happen! Fool!

When I found out I was pregnant my entire path changed. Everything that I thought I would do changed and in the space where the dream had been, was a tiny human who needed all of my time and attention. As I progressed through my early twenties, life threw me some serious curveballs. My self-esteem and confidence plummeted. All of my self-worth and self-belief was stripped from me through a long run of difficult times.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that things started to change for the better. I didn’t need to believe in myself because he believed in me. Over time and as our relationship blossomed, I regained so much of my old self and life changed again for the better. I have entered my thirties, happy & healthy with three beautiful children, a lovely home and a future that I thought was long gone.

Here are five bits of advice I would love to give my younger self.

Accept Your Body (it is amazing – even the chunky bits!)

So much of my twenties was spent dieting. Oh. My. Days. I tried every fad diet going, and for what!? To deny myself and be miserable. I would love to be able to tell my younger self that as long as you’re healthy it doesn’t matter what shape you are. My second and third pregnancies both resulted in C-Sections, so I have the infamous ‘tummy pouch’. I shed so many tears over my ‘disgusting belly’ when what I should have been focusing on was that my body had done what it was designed for. I have grown not one, not even two, but three humans! A younger me should have appreciated the magic of that a lot more. It is particularly important to teach our children that our worth is not tied to our weight.

Budget Better!

So many of my problems when I was younger came from poor financial decisions. I was young when I left home with my daughter. I hadn’t a clue about family budgets, how to organise my money and what I should be saving or where I should be buying things from. I suppose for most, this comes from experience. Sometimes we have to fail a few times to learn. I am by no means financially secure (even at 30) however, I have learnt so much about budgets. Every penny that comes into my bank is accounted for. I know what, when and exactly (to the penny) how much is going in and out of my account. I am a seriously savvy shopper and I make sure that any treats (big or small) are factored into our budget. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation or financial difficulty, seek help immediately. There are so many companies, apps and charities that can help with financial struggles and budgeting. The biggest thing that I learnt when I did finally reach out for help with my finances was that I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to be in that situation. Remember that help is always available.

Enjoy Your Own Company

This is a big thing I wish I would have appreciated more while I was young. Before I met my husband, I lived for a long time as a single mum. I hated it. Once my children were in bed, I felt lost. My entire world revolved around them. I didn’t know how to be alone. If I could go back, I would tell myself that it is important to be able to be in your own company. I would have done some online courses, taken up a hobby, or just enjoyed the peace. After my husband and I began living together and then welcomed our son to the mix, all chances of alone time disappeared. I miss it. It’s true that you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. I would kill to get back all those nights I spent not knowing what to do with myself. I can’t even go to the toilet now without a small person tracking me down.

Aim Higher

At the age of 28 I took a huge leap and returned to education. I achieved a variety of things within the jobs that I’d had, however, every job I ever had was just that. A job. There was never any thrill or spark for what I was doing. After returning to education I had so much regret that I hadn’t done it sooner. My lack of confidence in my early twenties really held me back. For anyone feeling like they can’t do something, just do it! Aim high and if you miss, jump up and try again. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to follow passion. I’m late to the game for this, it’s better late than never I suppose. They say that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I could not agree more. I cannot wait to qualify and start my career as a teacher, I just wish I would have taken the leap sooner. It sounds corny to say that if I can do it anyone can. I will say it though, if I can do this (return to education and balance a five person household) ANYONE can do it! So aim high and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.


Don’t Be Worried to Say No to People (be a bit selfish)

Does anyone else live with an incessant need to people please? All through my twenties, and I’m ashamed to say, ever so slightly now in my thirties, I have a really hard time saying no to people. So many times, I have found myself in situations, in places or doing things that I just don’t want to do. I always thought that saying no to somebody meant I was being selfish. It does not mean that at all! I cannot stress this enough. Over the years I have got better at indulging selfishness. When I say selfish, I don’t mean that I stomp around like a self-entitled, egocentric nitwit, who only does what she wants to do. No. What I mean is I don’t do things just to keep other people happy. An example is that in my people pleasing days, if I got invited out with friends, I would go out. Regardless of whether I wanted to, or could afford to, I went, because I didn’t want to let my friends down. Now, if I get invited out, I will ask myself whether I want to go and if I don’t or can’t I simply say, ‘no thanks, not this time’. It sounds like such a small factor, but it has made such a massive difference to me. My life is so much easier now I have stopped ‘people pleasing’. Honestly, it is not your job to keep the world happy. Focus on yourself and your own tribe and you will not go far wrong.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that my time machine is on the blink, I can’t go back and give myself all of this amazing advice. However, I can share it with all of you. Even if one person takes something away from my wistful musings, the past ten years and all the mistakes I made will stand for something. Although I didn’t get the world travels, feet in the ocean, vineyard finish to my story. I am ever so grateful for the struggles I have been dealt, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am or as happy as I am now.  Life is a funny old thing.

Until next time….

Hannah XO

Books! Books! Books!

Books! Books! Books!

Reading is a tradition as old as time. There are so many benefits to reading to your children and encouraging them to read to themselves, to you or even just to their toys. Reading to little ones, even in infancy, helps with cognitive development, language acquisition and literacy skills. Another area that stories and reading can encourage is that of imagination and creativity. Books, fact or fiction, give you an opportunity to get lost in another world, learn something new or be transported to different places with different characters. There are just so many wonders that reading provides.

Sitting and reading to your children is a beautiful way to bond. Spending time with your child and sharing stories, be them old or new, provides such a wonderful opportunity to forge a strong and lasting relationship. Setting up regular reading time provides children with a specific moment of their day or week that they can cherish. It can be at any time, you might wish to read to your child at bedtime, bath time, or every Sunday afternoon. I read to my son every night before bed, and I try to read with my girls (who are 8 and 9) once a week. They read independently almost daily. Participating in a regular and shared event that your child can look forward to is a fantastic way to build trust.

Since mine were babies, I have read stories to them, some traditional, some not so traditional. I remember one evening years ago when I was really struggling to settle my daughter, I read her the OK Magazine. She was only a baby at the time, the words didn’t particularly mean anything to her, but the soothing sound and tone of my voice as I read OK’s January 2011 edition cover to cover were enough to settle her. It was also nice for mummy to catch up on some celebrity gossip.

There are millions of stories out in the world waiting to be discovered. One of my favourite quotes is by an author named Kate DiCamillo who says “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”

Reading is a gift, and in this blog post, I offer a list of books that I have shared with each of my children. As my children are of differing ages, they read different things. I have split the list into top 5 for younger children and top 5 for an older crowd.

If you ever get the chance or see them in the shops, give them a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If you do ever read them or share them with your children, I hope that the stories can bring you as much joy as they have brought me and my family.

For those with younger children, you might enjoy…

Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare! (Steve Smallman)

One of the first story books I shared with my eldest daughter that she really engaged with was ‘Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare!’. It has a great tempo and is really easy and fun to read. In fact, I could probably recite the whole thing without needing to even see the book (that’s how much we read it). It’s a great story for young children and has been a bedtime favourite in our house, first with the girls and then with the Master of Mischief. Although not a long story (which makes it an even better bedtime choice) it’s an upbeat tale that you can put plenty of character voices and enthusiasm into.

Giraffe’s Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae)

This is a great children’s story. It is fun, light-hearted colourful and reads like a dream. The actual story is also great for confidence building in children, as it starts with everyone telling poor old Gerald the Giraffe that he can’t dance and ends with him learning to dance to a different song. It is a feel good, can-do type story. The rhyming of the text flows really well which makes it fun and easy to read. It’ll definitely leave you with a smile. All three of my children have loved it.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen)

This is a fantastic story, which is now a made for television special. The repetition through the pages will likely mean that your little one will join in reading with you. I know that when we read this, the Master of Mischief says more of the words than I do (which is lovely). From the first line of the story children are swept up into the adventure. My children have always enjoyed large scale role play and this story fits right into that. After we finished reading it, we built our own bear cave under the dining table. It was great fun and kept the kids busy for hours.

Mr Men and Little Miss Series (Roger Hargreaves)

The Mr Men collection has been around since the 70s with the Little Miss collection joining in the 80s. The whole collection is enjoyable. My son has a range of the stories, however his favourite by far, is Mr Tickle and the Dragon. This is a story we quite often read at bedtime. The fun and colourful characters are great for young children. They are also great for initiating discussions about the characteristics they display.

Mr Wolf and the Enormous Turnip (Jan Fearnley)

This was a book that my son chose from the shop while we were out one day. It has quickly become a firm favourite. When we bought it, I didn’t realise that it was actually one in a series of Mr Wolf books. The enormous turnip edition is fabulous for reading to your children although, like me, you might actually find yourself laughing at parts. With a fun mix of characters, it’s a great chance to bring out the silly voices. Perfect for cuddling up to enjoy together.

For those with older children, you might try…

The Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)

This is a classic story; I read the series when I was a child and I was so excited to share them with my own brood. If we’re ever a bit bored or stuck for something to do, we’ll read a few chapters of this together. It’s definitely a reading book, there aren’t many pictures so it’s something that I share with the girls more than the Master of Mischief. It doesn’t really hold his attention for long. From our experience, it’s better suited for an older reader. The characters are fun and a bit wacky and the adventures that the characters have are great for allowing children to escape into their imagination for a while.

Matilda (Roald Dahl)

This is probably my all time favourite children’s book. I have shared this with my daughters from a very young age. Many people will know the story from the 1996 film Matilda. The movie is one that I thoroughly enjoyed throughout my own childhood; you just can’t beat the book though. The story is inspiring for children and adults. Roald Dahl uses his creative imagination to keep your attention. Even parents will like this story. It’s a great one to share.

Disney’s Twisted Tale Collection (Various Authors)

These Disney books are genius. The twisted tales are an anthology series based around the alternate “what-if” spins on family favourite Disney films. My eldest daughter is absolutely obsessed with them. The one she is currently reading is the Once Upon a Dream which poses the question on the cover of ‘What if the sleeping beauty never woke up?’. They are darker twists on what are usually such happily ever after tales. These stories are great for older children (or adults if, like me, it piques your interest to experience your childhood memories with a bit of a darker twist).

Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan)

The Percy Jackson series is terrific for children who enjoy reading action and adventure stories. It’s better suited for older readers; however, my eldest daughter has been slowly working her way through the books since age 7. The series of books written by Rick Riordan are fantastic fantasy-adventures based on Greek mythology (something Kiki is deeply interested in). It follows a group of ‘demi-gods’ (who are the half-human children of the Greek Gods) as they set out on a number of thrilling and enigmatic quests. A definite must for heroic and thrill seeking readers.  

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women (Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo)

My youngest daughter was given this book by my grandmother. It is a collection of stories about inspiring women throughout history. The book is written for children aged 6 and up. The stories introduce the reader to 100 remarkable women and their extraordinary lives and achievements. You can read about women from all walks of life and throughout history. Women such as Amelia Earhart, Frida Khalo, Coco Chanel and Michelle Obama are all featured, as well as 96 more.  This book has been a beautiful gift for my daughter. The underlying message (or certainly what Little Fairy took from the book) is that no matter who you are, with self-belief, you can overcome and achieve.

All of the above books are ones that we have shared together and that my children have enjoyed. Encourage your children to read. It will open their imaginations and allow them to explore worlds of possibility.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary”

Jim Rohn

Until next time..

Hannah XO