Photo credit: Sophia Mattia
Recently, Laura agreed to let me in on a few of her secrets, including what she'd change if she could turn back the clocks and just when their family might start thinking about heading home to the UK...
1. Just like Baby Sunshine, your boys are expat babies through and through. How do you think living in the Middle Eastern sandpit is shaping their childhood?
Both of my boys have spent more time out of the UK than in the UK. We often wonder how British they actually are, despite having their British passports (which are used frequently). They know more about mosques than churches, climb palm trees instead of apple trees, they fit all 10 signs that they are being raised in the Middle East.
But being a third culture kid is more than that, it is living with so many other nationalities. It is being exposed to so many different cultures. It is a childhood like I have never known but my husband has. I hope that this experience shapes them to want to see more of the world, to have a hunger and thirst for travel. To want to experience everything they read in books, see in films. Most of all, I want their Middle Eastern sandpit experience to be happy. I want them to look back and say - I had a happy childhood regardless of where in the world we are.
Photo credit: Sophia Mattia
Oh - and it’s made my eldest cold all the time. Not sure how he’s going to cope in the UK summer this year!
2. What are your top three tips for surviving as parents so far away from home and your main family support network?
We lived far away from home in the UK so we were quite used to it. We see my mum much more living here than we did when we lived in London for longer extended periods of time.
My first piece of advice would be to find a trusted babysitter, it’s fantastic being mummy and daddy but you need to remember that you are also husband and wife.
Secondly, Skype will become your best friend. It is the portal to relationships with people who are so far away.
Thirdly, there will be good days and bad days. Hold onto the good, forget the bad and remember people only post the shiny things on Facebook.
3. Your blog has become a great source of advice, information and giggles for women all around the world. But what inspired you to start writing in the first place?
Honestly? My friend started a blog and I thought I can do that. So I did. The ironic thing is she gave hers up a long time ago and mine is still going, and going, and going.
It’s opened up a whole new world for me, one that I didn’t realise existed. I’ve made friends through blogging that I may never have met otherwise, both in the UK and in Qatar.
I’ve even managed a whole new career from blogging.
The best thing I ever did was open up my laptop and google “how to start a blog”.
4. As a busy mum of two, how do you keep up with your rigid blogging schedule (plus all of the associated social media activity and correspondence which comes with running a blog)?
In truth? I don’t.
I no longer have a schedule and my posting is sporadic at best. Some weeks I’ll post everyday, some weeks I’ll post once or twice.
My eldest is in school every morning so that makes things a little easier and my little one starts nursery next week. We also have a wonderful helper who takes the little one for an hour of so each morning to give me chance to work. I have to be organised and prioritise what is coming in and out of my inbox, as well as what makes it on my screen - I’ve started bullet journalling to a degree which has really helped me focus.
5. You recently wrote a really useful article on how to grow your Facebook page, but what are your tips for expanding your Twitter following? Is Twitter still a relevant platform for bloggers to use these days?
I think it depends where in the world you are. I know that a lot of UK bloggers feel it is a completely relevant platform whereas out here in Qatar it isn’t something that people really use.
I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter, I’m a rambler and 140 characters isn’t enough for me, though I have met some wonderful people from Twitter who have gone on to become real friends.
To help with Twitter I use Social Oomph to schedule out blog posts for promotion, but the real joy in using Twitter is finding people chatting and jumping into conversations. By scheduling out my posts it means when I am on Twitter in real life I can just chat away to people.
6. You often speak openly about tricky or controversial issues on your blog. Have you ever had to deal with any negative comments from readers on these posts? If so, how did you deal with them?
On my blog platform I haven’t received openly hateful comments, but if I did I wouldn’t give them the time or space on my own piece of internet. I’ve had more on posts that I’ve written for the Huffington Post; where sometimes I read the comments and think have you even read what I’ve written?! The cure for this is not to read any of the comments of course.
I think that because I tend to write in a “seeing both sides” kind of way I’m not a divisive blogger. I don’t write to be controversial, I don’t write for click bait, I don’t write to judge and I like to think that comes across so even if people have opposite views they can still be respectful when writing about it.
7. What do you think are the main attributes of a successful parenting blog?
Writing from the heart. I much prefer reading posts that are full of emotion than posts that tell me how to raise my children. It feels more real, more connected and like there is a little piece of that person on the page to pick up and cuddle.
Photo credit: Sophia Mattia
8. What's your favourite post you've written to date and why?
Some of my favourite posts are my expat life posts. I never wanted to be an expat, my husband got the job and I supported him never really thinking we’d actually move. That somehow he’d turn down this dream job in Dubai. It was the biggest life changing decision we’ve ever made, I became a full time stay at home mum, the expat wife, we expanded our family a lot quicker than we would have been able to at home, and now I am fully invested in being an expat and I’m nowhere near ready to head home yet.
9. If you could go back in time and change one thing you've done or decision you've made as a parent, what would it be and why?
I’d have an elective section with my second baby rather than trying for a VBAC. After 19 long hours and getting nowhere even close to 10cm, being taken into theatre and discovering I had ruptured leading to a section anyway. I wish I had just cut out the middle ground and gone straight for it.
10. What's next for Life With Baby Kicks?
The world is my oyster….
In truth, I don’t have a plan. I will keep writing, keep Facebooking and Instagramming. I’ll try and have a chat now and then on Twitter. And above all I’ll have a document of our lives together.
You can read more about Laura's motherhood journey, as well as product reviews and lifestyle snippets over at www.lifewithbabykicks.com.