The Curse of the Healthy Packed Lunch

School packed lunches aren’t what they used to be.

Though to be fair neither are school dinners! All freshly made that day with a healthy, varied menu. When my son brought home the menu for the term starting January I had to Google what a Jambalaya was! But because of this my son has always had school dinners. As a single mum I always try to put variety into our meals but being the only person cooking the variety is harder to implement. But they’ve given him an opportunity to try things that I don’t like and wouldn’t cook. I can’t stand the smell of fish cooking, it makes me physically gag! And I know he’s getting a really good, warm meal each day in school.

However from this term he wants to go to packed lunch. And all the batch cooking I’ve been doing for it got me to thinking. Packed lunches are encouraged to be healthy for children. My niece once came home with a sticker on her lunch box saying her lunch was not deemed healthy enough. Naturally my sister was livid. I wasn’t too impressed myself. You give your children what you know they’ll eat and enjoy for lunch. If you want to fill them full of sugar, or fats, or whatever food group then you should be allowed to do so. But naturally I feel pressure to make sure my son gets a good, balanced lunch so as not to be unfavourably judged by the teachers and other parents. Funny how parenthood always comes down to that same pressure that you are deemed by others to be doing what they believe is best for your child? ūüėČ

So this Easter holidays has been spent frantically Googling ideas for good packed lunches for when my son goes back to school. I should point out that my son is pretty good with food and will usually reach for the fruit and veg first but he’s difficult when it comes to regular sandwiches. He’ll only eat cheese ones and even then certain cheeses only! I’ve been looking at foods I can batch make and freeze and then prep the night before so it’s simply a case of pulling some stuff out of the freezer. So here are some of my favourite packed lunch ideas so far:

Pizza Quesadillas

Basically take two tortilla wraps, spread a pizza sauce on one and add whatever pizza toppings you want. Place the second wrap on top and then I bake them in the oven. A proper quesadilla should be fried but this is supposed to be healthy! I then cut into six and freeze in batches to be taken out and eaten cold whenever. The best is this works out at around 50p for a full quesadilla (two lunches for my son).

*A basic tomato sauce can be made using passata, basil, and garlic though you can also add extra veggies and blend it for the smooth consistency.

Unicorn Cornflake Bars

These are definitely not healthy when consumed in large quantities but they’re fun to eat and something different from the usual cereal bar! Stick one of these in as a small sweet treat.

I have no measurements for these as I just make them by throwing the ingredients together. Melt marshmallows and some butter over a stove, then stir through a little of some different food colourings to create a marble effect. Add cornflakes in gradually and stir through the marshmallow and butter mixture until the mixture struggles to cover them . You could also add Rainbow Drops, glitter spray, hundreds and thousands, or whatever takes your fancy! Cool in a fridge, cut into bars, and freeze.

Popcorn

Easy to make and easy to mix up! The flavour possibilities are endless with that one and if you have some food dye you can even make several batches of different colours and mix them together. This can be frozen in an airtight bag to be used and flavoured whenever needed.

 

If anyone has any other tried and tested recipes then please leave them in the comments below. ¬†Also if you try any of my suggestions let me know how it went down! Cooking is one of the things I love doing, especially with new cuisines from places outside the UK so I’d love to try some out myself and get feedback on the stuff I make.

My Experience of PND

Apologies in advance for this is a long post but I wanted to go into detail.

Post Natal Depression for me was something I didn’t understand when I was pregnant. I didn’t really have a lot of friends around me who were already mothers and those who were didn’t talk about it. Well, to me anyway. I was always a little worried when pregnant about how I’d cope, my tagline usually being “I’ve never even changed a nappy before!” But it was brushed aside because as a mum “you’ll just know”. So it didn’t occupy a lot of my mind. I breezed through pregnancy with no problems, only routine visits to my midwife and my labour was ‘textbook’. I even had a couple of student nurses in to witness it all! According to his dad¬†when my son was placed in my arms I told him I loved him so much and for those first few hours I was so happy.

How quickly that changed.

To paint a picture for those that have not yet given birth, you’re tired. So very tired. Hormones are all over the show and the nurses (in the UK) are so overstretched they barely have time to check all the new mothers. They try their hardest though, I could see that.

Don’t get me wrong I still loved my son more than anything. PND can affect a person in so many ways and that was not one of them for me. It was my confidence that took a nose dive. I wanted to breastfeed and so they pushed that on me but I was struggling with it. The hospital made me feed him using a little cup so he wouldn’t take to a bottle but I struggled with that. His dad excelled which made me feel worse. Time and time again the same little niggling piece of advice reverberated around my head;

“You’re a mum, you’ll just know.”

They changed his first nappy for me while I was sleeping so when his second one needed changing I was there on my own just winging it. It took me half an hour just to put him in a romper suit. I was so scared of hurting him because he was this tiny human and I’d never been in charge of one of these before. The second night in the hospital took me to rock bottom.

He wouldn’t stop crying. The general rule is you try and feed them, wind them, or change them. It’s one of the three but still he cried. The only time he would stop is when he was lay on my stomach. But it was 11pm and I’d hardly slept in the last three days. I kept falling asleep and then I’d feel him begin to slide off my tummy and wake again. In the end I had to put him in his bed and he wouldn’t stop crying. A midwife came in and snatched him out of his cot and told me off because “(She is) busy enough without having to look after my child too.” and off she stomped. Turns out he had a bit of Colic. I’d never even heard of Colic. I sat there in the middle of the night in a hospital ward and sobbed. I had never felt like such a failure as I did right then.

It didn’t get any better when I got home. What made it worse is his dad seemed to just ‘get’ it. I spoke out in the first two weeks after coming home and was told to speak to the Health Visitor. I was given a multiple choice questionnaire to check if I had PND and it was concluded based on these results that I simply had “too high an expectation for myself”. So nothing was done. I dealt with PND by myself as I had no support from his dad or my family, not for the most anyway.

The overwhelming similarity I see when people talk about depression of any kind is the response from others;

“You need to stop thinking like that.”

“Stop being silly.”

“You know you’re ok.”

I had all of these and it was only when I became a shell of my former self that my mum realised something was wrong. Before my son was born I was confident, I cared about myself and my appearance and all that had gone. I was suffering from anxiety and experiencing panic attacks. Things I’d never had previously. Things seemingly were getting worse for me, not better but I suppose that is how it is when things go undiagnosed and untreated. I was working overtime to avoid being at home with my son because I believed that anyone would be better looking after him than me. It affected his relationship with me. He wanted his dad all the time and his grandparents, but never me. So that would then make me worse because you know how it is, boys are for their mums.

When he was 18 months old I found out I was pregnant again and had a termination. I couldn’t face the child I had, let alone bring another one into the world.

I was forced to face my PND when my work contract ended for the summer. He was now 3 years old and I was basically a full time parent to my son while his dad worked long shifts. For me, facing my fears head on worked. It was a long process and it’s only in the last year while he was five that I feel I am totally over my depression. My anxiety still pops up as a reminder on the odd occasion and it’s rare I have a panic attack. I feel I am truly on the other side and I can fully enjoy the time I spend with my son. I openly talk about this with people because if I can help someone identify with these feelings and seek help, then I’ve helped them. People should not be ashamed to talk about their mental health and the more we hear about it from people, the more mainstream it becomes and hopefully it would lead to more people talking openly about how they feel.

The message I want to convey from this is to seek help if you need it and if people tell you no to seek second opinions. You know yourself better than anyone else and if you know you’re struggling then you need the help. Also, if someone reaches out to you then listen and be there for them. Be strong and you’ll get through it. Every day, every week, month, and year. This is a new blog but I hope some of my further posts will show that, even when it seems impossible, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Shadow and Bird: The Introduction

A very brief introduction to my life and what to expect from following my blog.

So I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time now. I’ve been through a lot of stress in the last seven years and am planning to go through more in the coming years. One of the ways I found I was able to deal with what was happening was by talking about it all. Being frank about my situation. At least by doing that I may be unknowingly helping someone who is feeling a similar stress and is too scared to realise they’re struggling.

So a bit about me first. I want to keep this blog anonymous for now as it does discuss issues in jobs I’ve had and what I’m going through with my current job, which is pretty serious. I’m a single mum to one son and this is where my WordPress name comes from. I refer to him as my shadow; partly because wherever I am you’ll find him not far behind¬†and also because his personality is a mirror of mine. The Bird aspect refers to me as it’s how me and my friend refer to each other. This last Christmas she sent us presents and addressed them to ‘Shadow and Bird’ and it’s kinda just stuck!

While my son is at school or his dad’s I work. Mostly because I have to so ends meet but I work that extra so we are able to afford nice things like holidays and days out. I really enjoy my job and would have liked to progress but recent events mean I am now searching for somewhere else (there will be a blog about this as it deals with discrimination in the workplace). I am also retraining to ensure I am able to get a decent foot on a decently-paid career ladder.

I dealt with PND on my own for three years after my son was born, exacerbated by the mental abuse I received from my husband and told nobody. These are things I openly discuss now as I believe if it helps someone¬†who is suffering, or to recognise someone else who is suffering, then it’s done a lot of good.

So what to expect from this blog? A whole load of being blunt! Parenthood is the most amazing thing in the world but it’s also the hardest. I want to talk about my PND and mental abuse and how I dealt with it, how it affected me as a person and how I feel now on the other side. The trials as a single mum including the discrimination I’ve faced but also the positives.

It won’t all be on a sombre note though. I love to travel and see new things and it seems my son has picked up my wanderlust. I’ve started this to maybe help people who are struggling with things they don’t yet understand but it’ll also be mixed with the things that I enjoy myself or that me and my son enjoy together. Proving there’s life on the other side of any adversity faced. We can all learn to live again and, ultimately, that’s the message I’d love to convey through this.