How am I meant to find time for spirituality when I can’t even find my keys?

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 22.11.31

This blog post is based on the notes for a talk I did for Much Hadham’s Connect group.

Many of us grow up with churchish upbringing, whether through following what our parents offer us or through school. Then we hit 18, and Saturday night becomes the most important part of the week – so Sunday’s about recovering from that. Then we’re studying or working, or working hard on becoming who we really are.
But then we settle down, have a family.

And when we have a family, we start to think about what we want their future to look like.
We spend lots of time concerning ourselves about what we’re eating and feeding them. We buy them books to feed their brain. And we start to think about how we can nurture their souls as well as their bodies to help them grow.

Of course to be able to do all this we need to have some room and some peace and quiet in our own lives. For me, moving to a quieter place and living opposite one of the most observant but outspoken churchgoers was a good incentive to show up for mass, she’d be sure to say “well, we missed you on Sunday” if we weren’t there…

I quickly realised that I enjoyed the quiet time that being in the church environment gave me – and the familiarity of words I knew well. But I know that for some they don’t have that feeling of spirituality. And the feeling of never ever getting to the bottom of the to-do list with all the other things that need to be done can make finding that much harder.

So I thought it’d be good to come up with a tangible list of ways to find some peace and love spirituality in our everyday lives.

A recent stay in a hotel introduced me to the idea of a tranquility space. An adult only quiet place.
Blissful. Some people like going into a place of worship like a church – but it can just be a small space in your house where there is quiet. Maybe the bathroom?

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 22.11.40

There’s lots of research about how successful people start their day with 30 minutes of meditation and it’s a fast track to your higher consciousness and spiritual self.
But as parents with busy schedules and small people who genuinely need attention for all of their waking hours, that’s not always achievable when you’re been up in the night or have to get up for So start small – try and take 3 minutes and work up. All you do is sit quietly for 3 minutes per day, preferably at the same time every day, and quieten your thoughts. If you can manage it in the morning, some study has apparently proven that it can change your brainwaves which put you into a different state of mind and has lasting effects throughout the day.

Let it grow

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 22.05.33

Wildflowers in a Cornish Churchyard October 2015

Enjoy the seasons as they pass – the morning mist in the autumn, or the beautiful colours in the leaves. Or the first daisies popping up in the grass. If you have animals, you’ll know how easy it is to feel a connection with a living being. Being in the garden and gardening also helps with feeling grounded and yet with a feeling of awe at the bigger universe and recognise that we’re not actually the centre of it.

Love your neighbour – and start really small

There are lots of little things you can do every day to bring you into a spiritual place.
Do something for others *without expecting anything in return.* There is no better way to reach a spiritual high than helping others without expecting them to do anything for you. And you can start in a really small way – opening a door to someone, letting someone out at a junction in rush hour traffic, give someone a hand in the workplace.
When you see someone with a smile – give them one of yours: – better to feel a fool for smiling than a fool for not smiling back.

Let it flow

There are many examples of sports people getting into a state of flow -Usain Bolt gazing at the finish


Jonny Wilkinson “praying” to the crossbar


Doing something you love to do helps to find your flow. Exercise: running, horseriding, writing, blogging, playing a musical instrument, preparing your fantasy x-factor audition in the shower or the car. Doing what you love regularly frees your mind of clutter and worry and helps you reach your inner spirit.

If you can’t get out of it, get into it.
So, there’s a dirty nappy that needs changing.
Stop. Take a deep breath. And pay attention to everything in that moment. If the child is squirming, tickle her or blow a raspberry. Take a mental photograph of the way that she is giggling, and be in the moment.

It’s not just charity that starts at home, love does.
Make a conscious effort to really love the people around you. And not take them for granted.
Especially when we are parenting, it’s very easy for a relationship that was so full of love and promise to become a brief series of information exchange and instructions.
“This child has to be at x place at y time. This bill needs to be paid. I’ve booked a babysitter so we can do z.”

We can get so caught up in our own thing and in its doing that we’re not giving the right time, love and attention. to our significant others – whether our romantic partner or indeed our children.

When we spend less time inside our own heads we are raising our consciousness that little bit more and connecting with the energy that surrounds us.

If you take this a step further – you can try and tolerate that ‘pain in the arse’ work colleague, or the school mum whose politics on Facebook you’re not quite sure of.

What I’m saying is don’t let the small things get in the way.

Ask for help
People love to help others. It makes them feel important and needed and wanted. It’s harder to ask for it, but actually most people are willing if you ask nicely. Again, start small – as simple as telling a visitor to pop the kettle on themselves while you do another task. Ask a friend to coach you in a skill you’re unsure of.

Finally, if all else fails, take a tip from Elsa and Let it go.


Whatever is eating you up – whether it’s someone who has annoyed you, a situation you can’t change. There’s been a situation in my life recently where I’ve felt rejected by someone. As it happens that person wasn’t rejecting me, but choosing something else -and that’s not the same thing.

I found a Polish proverb:


As women we often try to solve problems that’s aren’t ours to solve. You can’t always fix everything- sometimes things aren’t even broken in the first place – they just appear to be.
As soon as you recognise that you’re not the problem, it’s easier to take a breath and turn that from something negative into something more positive and move on.

Some of these tips may seem really small and trivial but as Mother Teresa said, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

SerenityResources/further reading
I pulled together a board of helpful quotes on Pinterest here.

Further Resources



On Turning Thirty Eight

So as I start this, it’s four minutes until my birthday. I’ve already had my first kind birthday wish from someone in another time zone and the children are all asleep while I catch up with work.
Earlier in the week I was reading Adele’s rather lengthy explanation about exactly what her notoriously difficult third album is about  and it got me thinking about how my life has changed.

I was married at 25. I spent many hours of that year angsting over lace patterns, china patterns, my dress size and seating charts. Being married and the support of my DH gave me the confidence I needed to change my career and start again. I spent my 26th birthday on my first day of work experience at a magazine.

Malcolm Gladwell reckons it takes 10,000 hours to make someone an expert and I’ve certainly put them in over the last twelve years.
Many many hours spent on the phones, going through clips, checking Lexis for old stories to revisit, at press launches for random items, writing copy for competitions that few fancied, engaging with community users about what they love and moderating arguments about topics that many really don’t care about followed that Monday spent making the tea.

I certainly never imagined that by this age, not a milestone in anyone’s book, that I would have four small children and a fledgling business of my very own. I would have done it sooner but you know, life happened.

How to move twins from a cot to a bed

Picture the scene. Finally all the children are in bed and my husband and I are snuggled up on the sofa about to watch something on Netflix when we hear a thump, followed by tears.

Our youngest child is a complete gymnast and she’s managed to get out of her cot. The whole game has changed. Both she and her sister have up to now been pretty good at going to bed – we have a routine of sorts in as much as they have a beaker of milk, listen to some plinky plonky lullabies on Spotify and you hand them the correct teddies in order and they’ll both usually head to the Land of Nod.

But now we are going to have to deal with the ability to get OUT of the cot.

Our plans are to change the cot to a cot-bed and put a stair gate on the door, remove any furniture on which she can climb (see previous reference to gymnastics) and hope for the best. We anticipate quite a lot of Tanya Byron’s Rapid Return.

We have a trip to the Bedruthan Steps hotel planned next week – and we think we will have them both in beds then, so it could be that the honeymoon period is over….watch this space and wish us luck.


This day last year I rode in my first cycling sportive, in Loseley Park, in Surrey. I was very nervous and unsure what to expect. This blog has a fair amount of the story of how I got involved. As it happens, as it was a women only event, with bike hire and mech support laid on,  it was brilliant, with a supportive vibe, fun stuff for my kids to do while they awaited my return and a VIP cool down area afterwards. I met the incredibly inspiring Victoria Pendleton that day.

Since then, I’ve signed up to the longer distance event at Woburn which was beautiful and a LOT less hilly, thank God. Though my chain fell off far more times than I’d like to remember, I completed it without injury despite having taken the training a lot less seriously than for my first ride – I was perhaps a bit more confident, maybe even over-confident once I knew the set up a bit more.

In addition to the cycling which can be rather a lonely thing to do, I’ve also undertaken to do a lot more exercise, realising that those endorphins really are marvellous things at giving you energy and clarity in your life. I finally found the kind of exercise I enjoy – short sharp HIIT classes with other people for chit chat and companionship. These are done OUTSIDE rather than in front of a mirror or numbing your brain while pedalling or trudging on a treadmill watching misogynistic music videos or a soap on the telly. I’ve lost nearly a stone in the process and even managed to buy a size 10 dress – something I never ever imagined. I thought I’d be a 14 for the rest of my life.

I’m writing this because in the last few days, a sentence sprang from my lips that I could never have predicted. A combination of diary clashes means that I won’t be able to get together with the relentlessly cheerful and motivating PT who runs the exercise classes I attend and who has been helping me over the summer too.IMG_8052

The words I uttered were: “It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare, because I’m going to struggle to do any exercise for a month.”

I was that person who genuinely counted running late as exercise, so for me this is a huge u-turn. If you’re the kind of person who never thought that they could get off the sofa and get on with it, let me assure you it’s possible.

This is why I’ve bought my #thisgirlcan t-shirt.

I am not only wearing it, I’m living it at every opportunity.

Try and see the full picture

“Watch, Mummy! Watch!” The child at the soft play centre appeals to his audience as he goes down the slide. But mum is engrossed elsewhere – scrolling  her smartphone repeatedly.  Or maybe you’re at a friend’s for coffee. She gives her children a biscuit, plops them on the sofa and reaches for the remote control. And a small part of you is secretly shocked that she seems to have resorted to “CBeebies The Babysitter” so early in the day.

You may have side-stepped the child in the supermarket who’s having a meltdown because their parent won’t buy them the sweets they want. Or raised an eyebrow at the mother who’s opened a snack multipack and handed a packet to their toddler to keep her quiet for the trip round the store. Approaching a friends’ house for lunch, you can hear mum shouting loudly at her small child from the driveway.

But you haven’t seen the full picture. The mum on the phone has come to the soft play for wifi access and is refreshing her email for important news from work.  The child plonked in front of cartoons has actually been up since 5am and been for a walk, gone to a story session at the library and is getting towards nap-time. But mum knows from previous experience that she needs to negotiate the timings of that nap to ensure her child doesn’t spend the remainder of the day sad and tired.

The first child at the supermarket had already had a treat for the day at the previous shop and mum knows that the sugar will make a hard day even worse. The second child at the supermarket had a smaller lunch than expected as they were at a friend’s house and the food wasn’t to her taste. The mother yelling at her child who can be heard across the neighbourhood is trying to get her attention to prevent her from hurting another child.

We’ve all had days when we aren’t the perfect parent but had you taken the snapshot at a different point in the day, you’d certainly have seen things from another perspective. The mother patiently listening to the boy at the soft play tell yet another Minecraft story. The cartoon-watching child intently handing over book after book to be read. The hungry one eating a vaguely balanced breakfast.  As it happens, I am the parent in all of these scenarios. I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect but I’m probably not everything you see at first glance either. That’s the same for everyone, and as we move into the longest term where tired children may be at their most challenging, I’m planning to keep this uppermost in my mind.

9 ways to combat loneliness with small children

So I had just written about this for my lovely friends at the Herts & Essex Observer and then saw Mumsnet’s blog of the day from 2boys1mum talking about it and it inspired me to take this a bit further.

Loneliness is never really spoken about in the heady world of the new mum but it was something I as a self-confessed extrovert and chatterbox was NOT expecting. Here’s how I managed to stop feeling alone.

How to make mates when out and about?

1 Choose a class/activity and commit to it for a while – people will remember you. Offering to help out also “wins friends” – take a few cups back to the kitchen and plonk them in the sink. Book clubs and exercise classes are also good but there’s less likely

2 Don’t leave early if you can help it, hang back and see if anyone might like to head off for coffee then or make a date to do so later in the week.

3 Smile and make eye contact. Put the smartphone down. Start by saying Hello. Use children as a go-between “Hello little one! What’s your name?”is a good icebreaker.  Asking questions “which other playgroups do you go to?”  also helps you find other places to meet other mummies – win, win! This works at the swings/playground too.

4 If you can’t remember someone’s name – go with your preferred term of endearment. Makes you seem friendly, even if you’re not feeling it.

5 Remember everyone else is faking it too.

Ditch the empty feeling when back at home?

6 Facebook, Mumsnet and Twitter are a great way to pass a long day. But do be sure to take everything you see on social media with a good pinch of salt. Fear Of Missing Out is a terrible affliction and it’s easy to get sucked into feelings of loneliness and envy with glorious retro filters on Instagram (I’m as guilty of fannying about with the photos as the next person) and tags of people having a wonderful time on Facebook. See also, point 5, above.

7 Turn off the telly and put the radio on – I love a bit of Radio 4 or Radio 4 Extra, though now flit between Absolute80s and CapitalXtra. Whatever the station, it definitely stops the house feeling empty and certainly the spoken channels make me feel less baby brained.

8 Say yes more. Someone asks you to come to something, DON’T use the baby as an excuse. Take the baby with you OR get a sitter if you can.

9 Call your mum.  Or phone a friend.  It may be hard to meet up in person for long but a phone call can lift the spirits in many ways.


6 reasons why co sleeping with twins worked for me

1 it is easier to breast feed when lying down
2 you’re not constantly up and down between bed and cot
3 it’s reassuring to open one eye and check on your babies, they’re RIGHT there
4 it is a lot easier to snooze while feeding ( see point 1)
5 they may not both be in the bed at the same time so it can give you qt with that one baby
6 even though you may get a bedhog like this one, it’s still lovely

And yes, I know this picture only shows one baby asleep.