No one will quite understand this unless the are a SEND or LAC/post-LAC parent… but I’ve been a bit pong-y today. I’m now fresh out of an uninterrupted 10 minute shower, where I not only got to shave what could only be described as “manly” pits, but I also washed my hair, quite literally 3 times. 3. Why? Cause I liked the way the suds felt in my hair AND I had the time to… and I used a fresh towel to dry myself. A nice crisp clean one that no dirty hands had dare touch. And shortly I fully intend to thoroughly brush my teeth for 2 whole minutes, instead of the usual flick around, job done.
May seem disgusting or TMI to mention. May even seem so trivial and small, bordering unpostable, to some. But in reality to me, it’s pretty major. These simple things are often overlooked for primary caregivers of SEND or children in/from care. Unless you live it you don’t really see the sacrifices, not even as a parent of children who haven’t faced trauma, or don’t have SEND. So I thought I would post, to reassure those out there with compassion fatigue, approaching caregiver burn out, you aren’t alone, I stink and am too hairy most of the time too… and to take your moment when you can, to enjoy that 10 minutes if and when you can, to destink. You’re worth it.
On a weekend self care escape in Builth Wells, celebrating another mum friend’s birthday, we had found Sugar and Spice; by daytime a cafe, some evenings a bistro, in the nearby town of Llandridnod Wells. We messaged ahead of our trip to find out if the evening bistro would be running whilst we were there, it was, and happened to be running on the night of our arrival into Builth. Understanding we had a bit of a drive to get there, they were very flexible with our arrival time (allowing us a 30 minute arrival time slot rather than a arrive at this time type thing).
It was very easy to find the building, but due to an event in the town, parking wasn’t available immediately outside of the location. However a 2 minute walk away there is a car park, and all the surrounding streets have on street parking available. We managed to get a space within minutes of being in town centre and walked across to the bistro.
First impressions were that it looked like a small rustic cafe, which I suppose is how it should look, given that by day it functions as a cafe, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was a large table booking and a couple sat separately, We were given the choice of anywhere else and chose to sit in the little cove by the window. It was cosy, but not in a cramped way by any means, it was cute and, paired with the low sounds of Bob Marley, gave the air of a relaxed and chilled intimate dining room. It was the perfect atmosphere to start off our weekend of relaxation.
Jess was so attentive and really tailored our experience. We built up such a great rapport with her with such minimal effort; she was interested in what we had to say, and keen to ensure our experience was nothing short of first class. Nothing was too much trouble, not even our indecisive (and overtired) brains. From the off she was on top of what we liked/disliked and guided us through what was best to choose for us and how she could make it different to meet our needs/preferences etc. So from the outset we knew we were getting our needs met. She even giggled with us when we mentioned we forgot our wine (it’s a bring your own and pay corkage kind of deal) so we ended up buying cordials instead.
The food. I mean. Where do I start? The menu and deal I suppose. The menu was 2 courses for £20, 3 for £25, and for an evening meal I don’t really consider that bad prices at all. Starter was not a hard choice for me at all. I saw the word “avocado” and I was sold. The dish was their take on a caprese salad; caprese for those who aren’t aware is a tri colour Italian salad normally consistent of mozzarella, tomato and basil seasoned with olive oil and salt, making up the colours of the Italian flag. However, instead of the basil representing the green in this salad, there was an avocado crush which was served on a bed of mozzarella topped with oven roasted on the vine tomatoes and some mixed leaves and bread on the side. It was delicious, the flavours were amazing. I said it then, so I will repeat it now… it took every ounce of energy I had to not lick the plate clean (although I was told no one would judge if I did hehe).
For main course there was some debate for the birthday girl, but for me there was none; I tend to go with the vegetarian or vegan dish on most menus, as meat and dairy affect my intolerance and stomach issues, plus they are usually exceedingly tasty. So I went with the Romano Pepper and birthday girl (who loves fish) went with the Catch of the Day which was sea bass. We both absolutely loved it. I can’t personally comment on the fish dish (I wouldn’t even try any as I hate dish) but I have to admit that it looked appealing. But the romano pepper. Wow. Just. Wow! It was bursting with flavour. It felt, along with the relaxed-go-happy atmosphere, like I was back in Santorini for a moment. It was a party in my mouth and it made my soul dance. Served with the cous cous, beans and tenderstem broccoli… I was in heaven. It’s like I had gone into a kitchen and made the choices myself (and I am quite particular about what I like to go together). I couldn’t offer advice on room for improvement to be honest because it was my kind of perfect.
Then it came time for pudding. The food, up to this point, had been so amazing. The menu choices for pudding were all so tempting. How were we supposed to choose? We expressed this and asked for help. Jess made the solution simple… it was to the effect of “don’t choose, I will make you a sharer board with a bit of everything”. How utterly perfect?
To break it down: Home made honey ice cream – as someone who hates honey, for me to want to keep eating more than a small taster spoonful is amazing, but I did. BECAUSE IT WAS AMAZING! Chocolate brownies – vegan and gluten free yet tasted so moist and so much like best chewy dairy brownies I’ve tasted that it was impossible to tell. They were divine. Eton Mess – I mean. It’s meringue, strawberries and cream. What’s not to like? It was amazing. The meringue was just the perfect amount of crisp and chewy. Lemon cake with orange curacao cream – so moist and flavoursome. I couldn’t stop eating it even when I was waaaaaaay past full.
I have no constructive criticism for them, except I could moan that they make me want to get super fat, but actually that says more about my complete lack of self control than their food. It was to die for. I would happily go back a million times over.
And to top it off, rapport and conversation that had built up through the evening led to the discover that they own a grocers just next door, La Vida Verde: promoting zero waste, buying local and plastic use reduction. The kind of ethics I love to hear about (we may have had a sneaky tour at the end of our meal). Thank you. We will be back.
We were excited to go to The Bush Inn, a place that always has a picnic bench afternoon tea; such a fun concept must be a really fun place. And the fact that it’s so popular must mean that they are doing something well right? Well… in my opinion, not really. I mean. It looks the part, and the concept is fun and they change the table to match the season. But, for me, that’s where it ends.
I was wary after the phone call to book to be honest. I called and asked if they had availability for the date I was interested in, I was asked if I wanted afternoon or evening, I said afternoon would be preferable and was met with “well we only have availability at 5:45pm, so you have to come in the evening” I was a bit taken aback, and didn’t instantly respond. And was met with an exacerbated, “hello!”, but I swallowed what I felt was a complete lack of customer service and told them that we were coming for someone’s 30th birthday and continued with the booking none the less.
Upon arrival it was clear that the whole restaurant was booked out for these benches all night. And it all felt very crammed and very rushed. No sooner had we sat down, someone was out to check if we had any dietary needs and then bam! It was on the table. The atmosphere didn’t feel relaxed, it felt packed and crammed and like the night was all about cramming as many in for as maximum profit as possible.
This also came across in the food. We had the valentines bench which consisted of: Savoury: Fries – slightly on the dry side Chicken Lollipop with sweet chilli sauce – again, slightly on the dry side as if it had been sat out under a heat lamp Aberdeen Angus slider burger – the best thing on the picnic bench. Succulent and juicy, very tasty. Mini Lasagne – it seemed as if they had been mass prepared and frozen (I could be wrong) but the moment I put my fork in it, it collapsed and it was very watery. I have only experienced this with frozen lasagne hence my conclusion but yes. It wasn’t very good. Sweet: Valentines Cheesecake in a shot glass – was quite bland. Not a great deal of flavour. Was a nice texture though. Banoffee Pie in a shot glass – much like the cheesecake, very little flavour Rolo Rocky Road – to be honest – I didn’t get around to eating this so I can’t comment Belgian Brownie cake pop – fairly dry, but had a good flavour Jammy Dodger Blondie – very bland, exceedingly stodgy (in a dry kind of way). Mini bottle of pink lemonade – tasted very yummy. Mini raspberry mojito – had a nice flavour, but I don’t think it could be classed as a mojito; it did have a sprig of mint in, but I couldn’t taste mint in the drink, only raspberry, and considering mint is an essential part of a mojito…
They didn’t skimp on quantity but in short, it felt like it was very much about the gimmick of the bench, that it was catered rather than freshly prepared, with mass production and low cost playing a higher priority that maximum quality and taste on the output and like we had to rush rather than relax and enjoy.
Also, given that, at the time of booking I made it clear that it was a 30th birthday, it was a little upsetting to see everyone around us have candles in their cakes, and none arrive to the birthday girl on our table. At £18 per person, I would say it’s over-priced. That you are paying purely for the gimmick. Definitely not great value for money. I would be hesitant to return.
I booked to go here with another mum friend for a quiet weekend escape to celebrate a birthday (see here). We wanted a quiet place to relax, preferably without children, not too far from home with the luxury of an on site or nearby spa or a private hot tub. From the descriptions we could see (and the reviews) Wye Cottage at Penrheol seemed just the ticket. In a rural location just outside of the town of Builth Wells, complete with epic views of the countryside and hot tub it was perfect.
We had booked through Airbnb (as that’s where we found it) which was straightforward enough. Claire sent us a message with information on how to find the property, where to find the key on arrival etc. Claire’s instructions were very clear and (along with the post code being set in the Sat Nav) the property was very easy to find. On arrival, Claire came out and greeted us, gave us a quick tour, showed us how to use the hot tub and wished us well.
The accommodation was well laid out and equipped and very comfortable. Knowing it was 2 mums coming for a break, they had set the one twin up as a king room with the beds pushed together and an insert between the beds. All rooms were en suite accessible wet rooms (with seats and disability supports etc.) The spaces within the accommodation were bright and airy with modern decoration that tastefully incorporated the character features. A nice addition was the woodburner (complete with a basket of logs and some fire lighting equipment). It helped with the requirement to relax (I do love watching flames).
Some sachets of shower gel were available for use, there were plenty of towels and toilet rolls and there were extra blankets available. Some extra nice touches were the drawer full of DVDs and CDs below the TV, and the cupboard full of board games and books. In the kitchen, along with the house and hot tub rules (nothing too outrageous, just really respecting the property and neighbours), we found that we had been left freshly laid eggs, a bottle of soft drink and home made welsh cakes.
Outdoors, at the rear of the property, were amazing country views, a large garden with patio and hot tub complete patio furniture and a bbq and fire pit. At the bottom of the garden, behind some hedging is a gate leading to the children’s play area.
Wye Cottage was a brilliant place to stay. I wouldn’t hesitate to return here again, whether as a family, or as a grown up couple/group. Would highly recommend this place to other people. It is by no means a party cottage, but is most definitely a rural haven.
A friend announced that, for her 30th birthday, she had big plans. She too is a home ed mum of a SEN child and is very exhausted. She wanted to make it special, then with some new on her health her plans had to change, so I suggested “why don’t we go for a mum’s weekend of self care… a spa hotel or hot tub cottage, some nice food and a massive relax?” I did make it very clear I wasn’t expecting her to change plans, but more putting the offer on the table and making it available if she’d like to chose it. But by that time she had already been struggling with herself about what she could do and still have a special time. My plans appealed to her and she was again excited by the approach of her birthday.
When it came time to book (as in, we actually had the funds there to do it) we took a look around. Our specification was to book hotel or hot tub cottage – even glamping with a hot tub was a possibility, but whatever it was had to be close enough to get back promptly if we needed to as all of the children suffer with massive separation anxiety and can get extremely upset to the point of very bad consequences. After a long search we decided to go to Builth Wells and stay at Wye Cottage, Penrheol Self Catering Barn Conversions. You can read my review of that here. It’s a very rural hot tub tub cottage, with amazing views. Perfect to relax away from children.
Then we needed to make some decisions on food. We had been looking around and saw some places advertised. My mum friend really likes tapas, and an evening bistro popped up “Sugar and Spice” – it’s not strictly a tapas place, but they do have tapas nights. But the food looked awesome so we got ourselves booked there. You can read about our experience there just here.
We had also seen that, just outside of Hereford, there’s the picnic bench afternoon tea experience. This got the birthday girl very excited so, despite being an hour’s drive, we factored that into our weekend. You can read our experience of that here.
But ultimately we went to relax. And that’s what we did. In between the eating out, we chilled, in the hot tub, in our beds, in the living room watching films. It was extremely slow paced. And the most exciting thing… being able to toilet COMPLETELY alone. No interruptions. Amazing!
Self care is something that is prominent in conversations I have with people about parenting in general. But when it comes to SEN or adoption parenting it is so much more important. The expectations and pressures you are put under when a child has additional needs is tremendously strenuous. Being able to find moments to take care of yourself is the difference between being able to handle a situation and being completely depleted and incapable. Compassion fatigue is real and deeply impacting. So to be able to do something as major as a weekend away was fantastic!
By that of course I mean, I put clean bedding on my bed and took a shower. You may think that these two things are simple enough to do, but actually (and this is going to sound really disgusting – but when you are in a high trauma time, you just don’t have time/energy for anything not entirely essential) I haven’t changed my bedding in 7 weeks. When I customised my bed and made sure I had a superking, I didn’t think about how much of a battle putting a superking duvet in a duvet cover would be… but alas, I fought my battle, and even though I needed a shower, I definitely was in dire need by the end of the battle. Plus, feeling clean and then getting into a clean bed is one of the most awesome feelings ever.
I then had a date with both children’s disability renewal forms. It’s that time again. I really hate the paperwork, it’s such a chore. And I really hate having to claim too! But no one else is supporting anything therapeutic for them besides the 10 sessions of intensive family therapy we get as a family through the Adoption Support Fund, so I need it to provide them with the support they need (groups/lessons to aid their physical development, passes and parking for admission to nature places where they can be mindful and feel at peace and educational resources as schools can’t accommodate them but home education is a “choice” so we get no other means of support). Whichever way I look at it, it’s money that we actually need, and it’s less than a placement at a specialist school so we have to, much to our dismay.
Anyhow, feeling clean and fresh, and sitting in a fresh bed was so happy and motivating, that one is now complete and the other is half way done. So bonus, I feel even happier as a heavy weight is lifting! 😀 YAY!
Back in December, I actually had a night away from the children. A whole evening and night… It wasn’t the first time (I did 2 nights back in August staying with friends). However, it was the first time I had actually spent a decent whack of money in doing it. I was going to see a band I hadn’t seen for a long time (the last time I saw them I was a student at University, and I had caught the train to London – my student loan may have paid for my rent, but I worked my butt off to pay to see bands… constantly – massive passion for music). The band are called Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and actually they were doing an anniversary gig for the Don’t You Fake It album… the album I was most obsessed with (I literally mean obsessed… it’s not just a good album, it’s amazing). Anyhow, the review isn’t about them. Although, kind of thinking given my passion I should add a page about music to my site, but I would talk ears off!!!!
Anyhow, I figured, it’d be nice to be able to have a beer, and to not have to deal with the kids – so I booked a hotel as close to the gig as I could. One of the cheaper, but nicer options available (as in there was only something like a £30 difference between this and a hostel room in that specific location for the night) was the Adagio Aparthotel Birmingham. So I booked it. Not only was it going to be a night away, but a night in comfort and luxury… and not in a bunk in a room with strangers and a shared bathroom, I’m over 30, hence, I am so over that life.
Anyhow, we (me and family friend) were greeted promptly and courteously on arrival, our room keys were quickly sorted and we were away. The room was clean and comfortable and provided everything we’d need (including a dishwasher). We had a view over the Bullring, which looked really pretty at night, I have to admit, I really don’t like it in the daylight… not my cup of tea. But lit up at night, I saw it in a new perspective and I liked it.
The room was only a “bed for the night”. So I didn’t really give it my usual thorough testing – got there at 6, went to gig, came home with take away, (ample crockery in the room to plate that up comfortably), went to bed and got up and left. However I can say that room was quiet, despite its central location over a busy main road. I didn’t feel unsafe in the area at all. The car ark was just around the corner. It was very close to everything you’d need in all honesty. It was a welcome bit of self care.
Another night of no sleep with a child refusing to, in order to manipulate and control. A fear response. They aren’t in control, they are not safe, an adult cannot provide safety.
So manipulate adults in to getting what you want (note, the want and not need there). What they need is sleep… not this strained and stressful rubbish night after night. What they need is a sense of security in the knowledge that it’s safe to hand over control to an adult, not maintaining control and manipulation. What they need is understanding, compassion and time.
How as a human being can you be expected to provide a constant source of nurture and attention, patience and tolerance, empathy and understanding when you are so utterly and completely burnt out?
I don’t know the answer, I search for it daily. I wish I knew it. I want to be that person. But I feel you have to almost be a robot to not get weighed down by the exhaustion of the lack of sleep. The mental exhaustion of having to untangle these levels of trauma daily. The physical exhaustion that comes from the mental exhaustion of the day. Then the exhaustion that comes from other people and lack of understanding or compassion (or even will to understand the situation, or accept your words at face value). You can’t provide that nurture as a robot though. So in short, you can’t provide it. So you are setup to fail surely?
There is a term “good enough parenting” the name of the person it belongs to escapes me, I’m tired and I have no energy to search… This is an “in the moment” post. Raw, unplanned and developing with my thoughts, but the name Winnicott comes to my mind. Effectively you don’t need to be perfect, you can be flawed, be human, and not provide more than they need. But I do question it in our example. I mean, I’m confident that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be the best type of parent… But it appears that even if we are perfect 99% of the time, the level of trauma our child has experienced means they ignore (or can’t retain) what you HAVE done, just what you haven’t. And it gets stored up and we’re held to ransom over it.
Would have helped if we’d had early intervention with therapy. But the Adoption Support Fund application wasn’t forthcoming, or rather the application process was not only not forthcoming but convoluted and shrouded in politics that it took ages to get approval once we finally did get it underway. I can see how therapy may help. But, it’s quite late in the day to start. I for one need to go in fresh and motivated. I’m barely motivated to poop when I need to, cause “effort”, let alone attend 3-4 hour intensive and exhausting therapy sessions. But hey, that’s the state of Adoption & Mental Health Services these days right?
And self care could help with the motivation I’m told… Well, if so many professionals hadn’t messed up consequently leading my child to see, even though they can’t trust me wholly, I’m definitely the person that understands them the most, so keep them feeling the least vulnerable and the most safe. Perhaps I’d be in a position to separate and go fill my cup up. But, alas, here we are.
In the meantime I’m left like a tyre with a slow puncture, after almost 3 years of deflating I’m more flat than inflated. But I get a little bit of air added now and again, not enough to fill me back up, but enough to just keep rolling a little bit longer, sometimes depleting that top up and a little more before the next lot. Rolling onward, focussed on the destination and ignoring the miles still to go. (Cause I would just explode if I had to think about it).
Anyhow. This is how it is to think and feel when living these moments. My raw, uncut thoughts and feelings. In my exhaustion. Just here trying to provide a little insight (not complain) over what it means to parent a child of complex needs and such trauma.
A very unusual thing happened this week… and I felt I needed to write about it. To have it documented in history.
I got to actually relax, not for 5 minutes. Not with a child attached to me. Not trying to do my own thing whilst a child is getting hugged for over an hour… but actually chill out WHILST still parenting.
I ran myself a bath, put in a couple of bath bombs, and told the children they were to play together in each other’s rooms. And they did… for 90 mins. No fighting, no rivalry, none of that whiny crap that you often hear when siblings are doing something remotely competetive; at one point they were definitely playing Frustration, but still all I heard were giggles and “sillys” (it’s what I call the giggly, non-sensical ramblings of children when they are having fun).
And then, when I got out of the bath, I ran them a bath, and got a load of their bath stuff: fizzers, bombs, foam, shower gel, flannels and got them to put swimming kits on and said “do what you want with that but use nothing else”. After 50 minutes of nice, giggly, happy, non-destructive play, it was me that had to end their bath time. Not them, not their behaviour. I was across the landing, again still listening to them, but gave them the space to feel independent. And I just lay on the bed, staring into nothingness.
So although I was still parenting, as in actually listening in, to supervise and intervene where I needed, I was actually relaxing too. I had no idea this could happen, to remain in parenting mode and actually just “chill” for quite an extended period.
It certainly helped make up for some of the sleep deprivation, but it also had the added benefit of increasing my tolerance, patience and self-awareness. I’m not all topped up by any means, but it’s a toe in the water as to what life could become; my children having independence and following some kind of boundaries without intervention, without negative consequences and with purpose, laughter and social skills.