WHATS IN MY HANDBAG

After my second child I realized that I don’t actually need a separate handbag and a diaper bag. You can carry just one. And if you are a stylish mom, you can use your regular handbag and still carry your baby’s things. Here are top 10 things you should always carry with you in your handbag

1. Wipes – I don’t only use them for the baby, I could write a post on a thousand things I use them for, even for non-moms/baby related things. From makeup remover to cleaning older kids hands in the park before snack.

2. Diaper – I plan my outings most days and know roughly how long I’m going to be out of the house. I take just a couple of diapers. The baby’s diaper is changed just before leaving the house so two extra changes should be ok before coming back. That way I don’t over pack.

3. A bottle – milk bottle. Even though the baby now eat whatever I’m eating, I found out that she still finds comfort in taking her bottles especially before napping. This can make a great difference between a calm baby who allows you to enjoy a glass of wine while out and about with your friends or a fussy one.

4. Paracetamol- over the counter pain killer. As a solo mom I always advocate self care as priority. One day we went away for the weekend while on a business trip and I was in chronic pains. I could not move, I had these little kids looking up to me, including a young baby and I felt helpless. There was no one around that could help. Before dialing 911 my older daughter stepped up and thanks for meal delivery service that delivers to hotel room. I slept and vowed to never leave the house without some pain killers in my handbag.

5. Plasters/bandaids – because kids will be kids and they will bruise their knees on the playground. We could also cut ourselves shaving or some zit decides to pop, you never know.

6. Money – a few one dollar bills. Different from your regular cash in wallet. I used to be a cashless lady. I prefer taking my bank card with me. I mean with Apple Pay and everything being on direct debits I hardly needed to go out with any change. But as a mom with growing kids, when you are out and there might be a ride the kids want to go on in the amusement park and you that needs change to pay, it’s heartbreaking telling the kids they can’t ride because you only have your debit card with you.

7. A pen – because there is always something to be signed for when you have kids. Especially in America! Since moving from London to America I have signed more papers than I can count.

8. A snack – because mommy is always hungry running errands and chasing after the kids. Just kidding the snacks are for kids but It won’t hurt taking one for yourself too. Helps prevent binging on bad food when you have sugar rush. Just a piece of banana or some nuts.

9. You wallet with your IDs and kids medical records. This is pretty self explanatory because you are always asked for those when you are running errands. There is a different health system here and you have to carry your insurance card with you at all times.

10. A little bottle of scent – I used to carry a small makeup bag before but after find a great makeup line that last all day. I don’t anymore and that has saved up a lot of space in my bag allowing me to carry less things and use a regular bag. I however carry a perfume because all the running around makes you sweat and most changing rooms don’t spell too great.

…iRene

STAY AT HOME MOM VS WORKING MOM

As an adult mom with responsibilities and purpose, there is this big question we ask ourselves as soon as we are even thinking about starting a family. Do I stay at home and look after my kids or do I go back to work, get someone else to look after the kids, earn a living to look after myself and the kids and achieve my own personal fulfilment?

There is no one answer to this question and no right answer too. Regardless of what you choose to do, that decision is perhaps the best decision for you. Here is my personal experience and how I came about choosing the best option for me and my kids. Our personal situations and experiences does impact what we decide to do about going back to work or not.

I am a stay at home (I work from home, I have my own small business I do from home) mom. When the two older kids were very young, after my maternity leave (England is better than America for that) I was working full time, schooling full time and parenting full. I had a live in nanny, their dad worked in the London branch of his company so we always leave home together in the morning and come back together in the evening. The kids were between 0-2 and the live in nanny also helped with cleaning. I never allowed anyone else to cook for my husband and kids and I took the kids for swimming and their activities. This was going on ok until my husband changed job. We all want financial stability. If you are an immigrant you would understand the honesty. We always joke, that we did not leave our countries for the English weather. So when an offer that almost triples his wages came up, it was unwise not to take it. However, such lucrative job comes with lots of sacrifices and challenges. One of it being that he traveled a lot, so he is often not around. When the kids were younger, we always traveled with him sometimes but the older they got, the more we wanted to create stability. We can’t have the kids growing up with both parents not around.

I was raised by a single teen mom so basically her immediate family raised me. My mom went back to school and started her own successful business. We were comfortable but we never sat around the table to eat together – she would come home late at night when I was already sleeping, hell we even missed so many christmases together. Probable why I love Christmas with my kids so much. I could go on about the emotional and physical abuse I endured as a child from closest family members who were more than happy to bully me because they knew my mom wasn’t around to hold them accountable and my dad was never around anyway. Although I am healed from it, but I never forget about it. This really affected my choice in raising my kids.

Call me traditional, but my philosophy is that at least one parent has to be at home to look after the kids. I cannot stress how important this is. Money is not everything. You will not allow anyone to look after your most expensive assets. why allow strangers or even family members to look after your priceless kids? I say even families because, I worked in social service for over six years and from professional experience, 90% of the abuse to children, comes from people closest to them. We warn them about stranger danger, the most dangerous people to kids are their primary carers.

My husband being a typical African man, even though he is British, took the job hoping I would automatically love to stay at home. Anyone close to me, knows how much I love kids. I literally love them so much and mine are not exception. I love being with them. I don’t love the work part though, the cleaning etc. When you are a working mom, you are still a full time mom but someone else do the hard physical part. But when you are a stay at home mom, you do EVERYTHING and that is exhausting and tiring, the aches and chills. I can’t remember the last time I don’t take 200mg of pain medicine at night. Unlike how I may come across, I am also very career oriented too. To be honest, not necessarily career, but I am financially minded. I have been hustling, selling things since I was a kid.So yes I am maternal but I am also a firm believer in personal financial freedom regardless of how blissful your marriage or relationship is. Have your own personal bank account and keep putting small amount into it. Me allowing my husband to go work in this new company without opposition wasn’t because I was a submissive or gullible wife, it was a calculated decision. One I did with the happiness and comfort of my kids in mind.

Remember that at least one of the parents always has to be with the kids. How I chose who that would be was a simple calculation. Who earned the most? Unfortunately a lot of men still earn more than their wives. This means a lot of women HAS to be the ones to make the decisions to stay at home. I would love to be the one working but his wages was more than enough to cover all our expenses. If on just mine, yes we might have gotten by but it won’t be enough for holidays or anything else. That was how I allowed him without complaint.

You have to be pragmatic about these things. Yes we live in a more sophisticated world were women rule, girl power, feminism and all that, but this is your family we are talking about and you have to make the best decision ( not political decision) for your family.

Despite choosing to stay at home to look after your own kids yourself, you can still make some income. The truth is that it may not be self fulfilling or financially rewarding as if you were 100% committed to working outside the house. But it is something. My only consolation is when I see the kids striving. I am not talking necessarily about education alone but in terms of the values you wanted them to have. The bible says “raise up your children in the way they SHOULD go”… Your children, the mandate was to you the parent(s), no one can truly want the best for your kids as much as you do. There is also a way you might want them to grow. What value do you want them to have. No amount of detailed written down routine for the carer can instill that into them. Sooner or later the kids will say, you are not my parents why are you asking me to do this or do that. Which is true. We tend to listen to our parents more than our carers.

One thing I also remind myself when I feel like I made the wrong choice is that these years, are investments. They will not be kids forever and by Gods grace, once you get it right with them, you will never have to pay for therapy for them to undo years of abuse they may have suffered. Don’t get me wrong, kids who were raised by at least one of their parents are also messed up ( we are all messed up one way or another), there is just a good messed up and a not so good messed up.

I cannot over emphasis how important it is for you to look after your kids. I know some of us may not have the choice to make, especially if you are already a single parent or you honestly just don’t have it in you. I respect people who know themselves and are true to themselves. You have to do what you have to do. If this is your case, by all means do not feel bad about having to make the decision to go outside and work and have someone else look after the kids. Have that conversation with them, kids are not stupid, they will probably not like it but they hear you. I cannot attend this and that because it is only mommy that has to work so we can have food to eat, house to live and clothes to wear. Even be able to buy you that toy you wanted.

I tell my kids this when I have deadlines and yet they want me to do something (despite working from home, we also get guilt tripped so don’t worry). I also want you to know that by reading this, asking yourself the question of what is better for my kids, you are already an amazing parent. You won’t bother if you didn’t care. You want what’s best for them and sometimes that is good enough.

If you are 50/50 about it, you should know that there is also the option of taking temporary or lesser roles. You may not have as much money as you would have, but at least you will be able to spend more time with the kids. I have seen moms changing careers to become teachers or nurses so they can have that flexibility.

Lastly, that “life – career balance” is a myth. You can not joggle those two things successfully. One has to give. I hate seeing women on newspapers and social media, “mom of three running a Fortune 500 company, or when they say “she combines motherhood and running a successful business etc” Yes the fact is that she birthed three kids but the silent message that she’s a hands on full time mom and still able to run her business is all BS. The truth they don’t tell you is the amount of help, nanny(ies) they have, their mom and sister who regularly take the kids for piano lessons and swimming. Forget the one they had to pose for the camera for, their husbands who is fully involved. Their possible cook and cleaner.

They come back from work tired but the nanny is there to give the kids their bath. But the few days they do it they capture it for the camera on social media so that they can prove they do it all and are involved. If you truly do it all by yourself then you will know that the reality is that you don’t even have the time to get a camera to take a photo when you are busy giving them a bath, helping the older ones with homework, making dinner, reminding them to brush and floss oh let’s not forget you. You have to take off your makeup and drink your water and moisturize. It never ends. These are all staged photos. I am a blogger and and instagramer and that is the truth. When you are in the moment of motherhood, you don’t have time for photos.

When the world found out that Beyonce had three nannies for just the twins, there was a lot of gossiping. I loved her honesty. How do you think Kate Middleton in the royal palace does it? They don’t tell you the amount of servants they have and when people who are honest do, they crucify them. I think it is important that people know the truth. That because you do not have time to go to the gym and loose that baby weight doesn’t mean you are lazy, that because you didn’t get that promotion doest mean you didn’t put in the hours (what hours when you got kids). No one can have it all. Do not set yourself up to fail. Know your own situation and work with what you got. Putting the children first, choose what’s best for your family.

$200 GIVEAWAY!!!

So I had the pleasure of chatting with one of my favorite mommy friendly fashion brand – Pink Blush and it was fun!

You can read all about it here. We are also doing a giveaway of $200 to one lucky person to shop on their website (think that lovely dress for up coming valentine at no cost to you!) click here to enter. Competition closes 1/27/19 midnight.

Good luck lovelies!

FAMILY WINTER BREAK – HOTEL

My daughter turned 9 this week and we asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted a pool party but that anything will be fine with her. Last year we took the family and few of her friends to the American Girl in Manhattan for lunch and she got to pick the doll of the year. I was 9 month pregnant then and it was very hassle free. Just what I needed. They got the cake and gift bags for all the kids. All we did was to dress up and show up.

This year, although I am caring for a baby and two young kids, I am in a little bit of a better situation to plan something. We do not alway do big elaborate parties for the kids anyway. I never see the point. It is all about the kids, what they want, making memories for them and what the parent can afford – both financially and mentally. Over the years, I have found out that instead of having just a party, we can use one stone to kill two birds ( I do not believe in killing birds 🙂 ) so we plan our family vacations around our birthdays, that way, we get to go away for holidays and we get to celebrate with our closest and dearest. No better time to visit new places, meet new people, learn new culture and try different food like during your birthday week.

I have been wanting to go away for a little while this winter but because we have only just done a major move (hubby says no major holiday for a while), kids needs to settle properly in their new home and environment and most of all, I have a baby who I’m currently putting on a routine. we would have loved to go skiing like we did two years ago ( I was heavily pregnant last winter and we did the move from London to New York City), but I cannot expose the baby to such strong amount of cold high up in the slopes. So we decided on having the best of both world. Go away to somewhere not too far away, stay in a lovely hotel that has everything inside it, that way we won’t need to go outside into the cold with the baby. After all, all I really wanted was just a change of scenery. I don’t chase sunshine for holidays. It is all about the experience and scenery.

We settled for Atlantic City. It is just 2.5 hours drive from Manhattan so it was close enough. Atlantic City is popularly called the Las Vegas of the East coast. It is know for its beautiful beaches, broadwalk, casinos and high-rise hotels. I wasn’t necessarily looking for any of that (other than the high rise hotel), I just wanted somewhere beautiful to spend quality time with the kids and celebrate my daughters birthday. This led me to choose Ocean Resorts Casino. With beautiful indoor pool that overlook the Atlantic Ocean (5 pools), spa, shopping, casino (not that I need to play but it was nice to see) game rooms like pool, golf, several different restaurants and above all amazing views overlooking the Atlantic! All the rooms are sea-view but to get the most of it, I requested a top floor.

In all honesty, the hotel was not very family friendly in my opinion, I say these with a cringe because I really really love it and despite that we will be definitely be going back. The reason I say that it wasn’t very family friendly was because of the following reasons. After hauling kids from a long trip, when you get inside a hotel, you want to see the lobby – reception first. where you would be welcomed by friendly staffs who would point you to the direction to go and offer assistance. However, on entering the Ocean hotel, we were a little bit confused, it is so hug and magnificent but there was nothing like a lobby in sight. Although there were signs and directions everywhere I think the disappointment of not walking into the lobby immediately, couple with the long drive and kids, was a little overwhelming. Luckily enough we saw a guest who was leaving and he directed us to were to take the elevator to the lobby – take an elevator to the lobby?! I have been to so many hotels all around the world and this was a first for me, but anyway we took the elevator just by the corner, to a different floor of the hotel where we saw the reception. On getting to the floor, we had to walk, what seemed like a mile, all the way to finally find the reception. Luckily they had pretty good views to take your mind off it and the kids were well behaved (the baby had just woken up from a nap so she was well rested) so there wasn’t a lot of anxiety for a solo mom going a trip with her kids. It would have been nice to have the reception on the entrance floor and have staffs around to help with your luggage. But they made up with the aesthetics of the hotel. The pictures did not do it justice. One of those places you have to see with your own eyes. It was indeed beautiful. Even staffs who have been working there for a while told me they secretly take pleasure in the sights. I bet!

The hotel room was beautiful, cozy but a little dusty. I don’t want to use the word dirty because it was obviously very clean and it is a new hotel but there were a lot of dust on the back of the bedside table (the kids and I have mild dust allergies so this was worrying for me) the wires on the lamp shade was a little dusty and few other places too. But because it was a new hotel, it was generally clean on the surface, just a little dusty. I could use a wet wipe and give it a quick clean to be honest, I hardly make a fuss about something small or human error, especially if I really love the place. Like I mentioned, I would love to go back. The main reasons I won’t be necessarily going back just yet is mainly because there was no bathtub. This was the biggest problem for me. I will not blame the hotel for it however because they did not mention that they had one in the first place. I just assumed that a 4.5 star hotel will at least have a bathtub.

There was a gorgeous spa like shower and beautiful bathroom just no bathtub. This is very import for babies and toddles who cannot use a shower yet. The older kids loved it but not the baby. I was glad she was small enough to bath in the sink, but the sink will be too small for a toddler or chubby baby.

Finally, the worst thing I really did not find to be family friendly was that there was no kettle for hot water (think making baby milk or food I had to use the coffee maker to boil hot water), there was no courtesy bottled water or milk for those midnight thirst but there was a vending machines on each floor. They had a few coffee from starbucks and a little sachet of creamer (only two pieces), I must admit I was really disappointed in the in-room facility. If I was coming with adults or older kids, it would have been perfect.

But the kids did not mind. They were excited, happy and busy having fun and making new friends – as kids do.

It was very relaxing. We slept well. For a place with one of the best casinos in town, night club and shopping mall, it was relatively quiet at night. Maybe it was because we were on the 46th out of the 48 floors.

We spent the evening watching sunset from our hotel room window.

You could order a crib but I co-sleep.

The kids and baby slept well. I spent the night just being in the moment and taking it all in. I realized how far I have disconnected from reality. I was having one of those moments where you want to go traveling and living off grid – only lasted a minute. But it was a lovely feeling.

The older kids had fun in the pool (my daughter finally had her pool party) and they are saying that they want to go back. I won’t mind going back too because the hotel was just so beautiful. I have never seen a hotel as beautiful. It is so big, there are little gems in every corner. Like this giant lampshade

A motor bike here, classic car there, a grand piano. The interior design was out of this world.

There are several shopping outlets in Atlantic City and you can make a day trip out of it. But we never got to go outside the hotel environment until it was time to leave. Check out was super quick and easy.

We are looking at planning a weekend getaway there again because it was indeed a lovely hotel just with minor quirks. Nothing is perfect in life and we should show the children this value. We can’t just write off a place for little things. That is not real life, in life we make room for human error. It is also nice to remember the good deeds. Like when I requested a robe and was given two even though they only gave rooms that were suits. Or when I needed to almost ‘rent’ the whole pool for my daughter’s birthday party and put in a giant unicorn float! Some other places may not allow personal floats let alone such a huge one. So I could look past a few dust issues.

RESTORATION HARDWARE RESTAURANT NYC

I have been hearing a lot about Restoration Hardware restaurant in the Meatpacking district of downtown Manhattan and I was intrigued simply because of the interior design. If there is one thing about interior decorations that I love, it is chandelier. Seeing a lot of them under one enclosed rooftop restaurant, you need not say much I will be there in a heartbeat.

So before my husband went back to work, we had our last day date there. The place was amazingly beautiful. It is located at the top of the interior design store of which it is named after. On entering the building, we were greeted by a receptionist who was very polite and friendly. He directed us to the elevator and told us what floor to get off on. The walk to the elevator was magnificent. Adored with beautiful home decor display.

I wanted to stop and have a look around but my husband isn’t very patient. Maybe he was concerned I was going to leave with a giant wall frame instead of what we came there to do. We took the elevator and landed in a beautiful oasis. Yes I’m not playing with words here. It was indeed serene. You are greeted by courteous waiters and by the beautiful sound of water falling in little water fountains next to the seating areas. Several of them.

The sounds immediately set the baby off to sleep, leaving us to enjoy a delicious breakfast.

The baby later woke up to join us in breakfast. She was able to eat most of what we had. It wasn’t too hot or spicy for her.

After drinking a cup of coffee and finished eating, I wanted a little drink. Just because. The mood was lovely and this was our last date. It may not be an evening out with just the two of us, I was going to have a drink and enjoy the moment anyway.

Next it was time to check out the ladies room.

Restoration hardware restaurant like many public places in New York City, have unisex toilets. There was no baby changing facilities but it was clean and one could sit on the toilet seat and change the baby on your laps.

I loved the gallery wall in the restroom as well as the marble and gold theme of the room.

It is very accessible, clean and the food was out of this world delicious. They have a valet parking for strollers although we didn’t need to because I was using the small stroller that coverts to a seat as I didn’t want to wake up the baby. It is not cheap but it is very affordable. Overall, it was a 5 star experience. I can’t wait to go back.

If you want to go with younger kids, I would say go in the day time. And for grownups time, go in the evening. And always dress smart casual. You could take off your jacket later on like my husband did and relax.