In association with Unite Students

I never had the opportunity to GO to university in the traditional sense.

I mean sure, I WENT – I got the degree and everything – but I already had a two year old, (teenage pregnancy and all that), so I didn’t ever do that whole ‘pack all your belongings into the back of a Nissan Micra and spend three years living in a shared house on pizza and cheap beer’ thing. I did share a house, technically, but it was with Bee, and she was too small to drink beer and we didn’t have enough money for takeaway.

From day one then, my ‘university essentials’ have been ‘an entire small two bedroom house full of things you need for a family.’

I got on with it though, it was all good.

What it does mean though, is that I had to put a little extra thought into helping Bee to make that leap from home to university, as I knew that I hadn’t had the typical experience myself and so wasn’t sure entirely what she should expect. With Belle too, if she decides that’s what she wants to do, it’s going to be a massive step, especially given how difficult she has found school over the last couple of years.

She wouldn’t be alone in feeling anxious about it though.

According to a report from Unite, 61% of students feel anxious about making the leap from school to university and only 9% –  less than one in ten – say it closely matched their expectations. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it, but either way we’re clearly not prepared.

The worry is perhaps not surprising given the apparent lack of information and advice from parents – 77% of 16-19 year olds heading off to university said they hadn’t been given advice on sex or mental health, 72% hadn’t had advice about relationships and 66% were in the dark about drugs.

I find that pretty shocking, don’t you?

I’m not saying I would do a big sit down ‘this is what you need to know’ type talk before they packed up the Micra, but they’re such important topics, surely they’re an ongoing conversation with young people, whether or not they go to university?

We do seem to do a bit better on the practical side.

66% of 16-19 say they’ve been given advice on things like cooking and money management, although even then, that’s a third of students going in with nothing? Throw in stats like 55% of parents not thinking their child will be able to cook a meal from scratch, and you can’t help but wonder if there is room for improvement here.

Would you feel confident in your teenager’s basic cooking skills? Could they whip up something more impressive that a massive bowl of cereal?

As a bit of an experiment, I thought it might be fun to test out just how prepared Belle might be on a practical level by gathering a few university essentials. View Post

Post in association with Aquaclean

I think this could actually be the highest value item I’ve ever given away in a competition? Fancy.

Let’s take a look at the prize shall we, get ourselves in the mood. Here it is, the John Lewis Barbican 2 seater sofa in apple:

John Lewis Barbican Sofa in Apple

It looks pretty comfy doesn’t it? You just LOOK at it and you want a sit down.

I feel like if this was your sofa, your life would be full of family barbecues, weekend papers, succulents and Aperol spritz. An adorable toddler with blond pigtails would run at you and clamber up on your lap with a copy of The Gruffalo for you to read. You’d ask Alexa to turn down the acoustic folk music you were listening to and to switch on the reading lamp.

Your partner would come into the room and you and the toddler would both look up expectantly.

‘I was thinking of cooking a big curry and inviting Dan and Emily over,’ they’d say, ‘and can I top up your prosecco while I’m here?’

I’ve no idea who Dan and Emily are but I think they’d bring a bottle of artisinal gin that they’d picked up at a food festival recently and thought you might like. View Post

I’ve got a lot of time for Barry M.

I’m not massively into make-up personally, but when I do wear it I want something fun and colourful, especially on my nails. Barry M nail varnishes are WAY more exciting than a lot of make-up brands, with loads of different colours and finishes. How cool are these Under The Sea nail varnishes? I wore one of these when I went to visit that aquarium in Boulogne, just to get into the spirit of things.

Barry M Under the sea nail varnish

Belle is HUGELY into make-up and she loves creating new looks and experimenting with different products. British company Barry M is perfect for her as it’s good quality but affordable, meaning her she can add new things to her collection without bankrupting me.

Also, fun fact: Did you know that all Barry M products are cruelty free? None of their finished products or individual ingredients have been tested on animals since the company began back in 1982. Most Barry M products are also suitable for vegans. Vegan friendly products all have a green ‘vegan’ symbol on the ingredients page so you can be sure. View Post

It’s a bit of a running joke in my family that I never remember any of the drama that happened as we were growing up because I was always asleep.

‘Do you remember that time Grandad punched a horse?’ someone will ask.

‘Of course she doesn’t,’ someone else will say,’ she will have been in bed.’

(Note: my Grandad never punched a horse but I couldn’t think of any examples because, obviously, I was asleep.)

fast asleep

Me from 9pm onwards

I get tired okay guys? I can’t help it.

As a teenager I never had any good TV programmes to talk about at school because I was always in bed and asleep by about 9pm. I normally manage to keep things going until about 10pm nowadays, but any later than that and my knees start twitching and to be honest if it was just me at home I’d probably be in bed earlier. I’m just trying to impress Belle. Whenever I go away on my own I’m in bed with a cup of tea catching up with the Archers by nine. View Post

In association with Ageas

What’s your worst driving habit?

Generally I’d say I’m a pretty good driver. I check my mirrors all the time, I indicate, mostly when I’m meant to, and I always check my blind spot. I get bad motion sickness, to the point where I can feel sick while I’m actually driving, so I always try to drive nice and smoothly too.

I *sometimes* twist the car sharply from side to side just to scare the children, but only if there is nothing behind me, so I think that’s totally acceptable. I also like to freak them out a bit sometimes by taking both hands off the wheel, but if you’re going in a straight line, how important really even IS the steering wheel?

Apparently VERY.

worst driving habits

I took part recently in a little driving experiment with insurance company Ageas. I was told that the project was all about parents teaching their children to drive, and as Bee has had her provisional licence for years now, and had about 20 lessons while she was at university in London, I figured she’d be pretty good. She did keep telling me that she felt VERY NOT OKAY about the whole thing, and that cars make her anxious, but I assured her that it would all come flooding back once she got behind the wheel.

Things did not flood. View Post

In association with Pumpables

I never expected to breastfeed a toddler.

I breastfed Bee for about six weeks, which on reflection wasn’t a bad go really. I was only 17 at the time, I lived in a house full of people and I went back to college about a month after she was born. And the MILK – my God, the milk. There was so damn much of it. At night I had to cut nappies in half to stuff in my bra otherwise the duvet, sheets and mattress would be soaked through. There was no way I could have gone back to college OOZING like that.

Second time around then, I was open-minded. I was prepared to give breastfeeding a go, but I was also prepared to stop if it didn’t work out. I wasn’t putting myself under any pressure.

When Belle was about six weeks old I went to a breastfeeding group. I’ve written about it before here, so I’m not going to harp on about how life changing it was, you’ll have to read the original post for that. Needless to say that it was, and I ended up breastfeeding Belle for two and a half years. I also trained as a breastfeeding counsellor, volunteered as a breast pump hire co-ordinator, wrote about breastfeeding for The Green Parent magazine and starred in an international breastfeeding calendar.

I was ALL about the boobs.

breastfeeding upside down

This was just an experiment – not a recommended feeding position

There were a few things that surprised me about breastfeeding a toddler: View Post