We spoke to super mom and blogger, Mandy Lee Miller, about her blogs, her family and her thoughts on technology, learning an chores.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a mommy to a 2 year old named Charlotte (Charly) Rose. My husband and I have been together for almost 11 years, and our little family lives in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town with our two cats. I have always been passionate about helping and supporting people wherever I can. In the past few years I have found ways to help people professionally. Because of my stage of life, my focus is on parents and women, and I feel I have a lot to offer moms particularly.
I do this by blogging on Pregnant in Cape Town & Ever After, sharing my own journey and experiences very honestly. I am rarely the happy shiny mommy, as I tend to feel the call to write most when I am struggling. Because of that, I am known for being particularly understanding and open to answer any questions without judgement. Unless you don’t use car seats.
I own Tums 2 Tots Online, an online pregnancy and parenting magazine focusing on the the time between pregnancy and Grade 1. It is quite a unique space, as I have an incredible team of experts and top-tier bloggers creating the content. We are parents and we are sharing articles, stories and competitions that make parenting life a little easier and happier. My biggest project and achievement is the #CarseatFullstop initiative that I launched in 2016. What began as a side passion project grew into a national car seat awareness campaign.
I am also a professional writer, editor and brand and campaign consultant, with a PR and Marketing background. I love working with small businesses and blogs and helping them to communicate the magic their brands offer by ensuring their brands are representing them in the best way.
Tell us about your blog?
Pregnant in Cape Town & Ever After started out as a personal diary of my pregnancy. I really struggled and it made me feel awful whenever I read anything online, because I could only find the “happy” stuff. How I should be glowing and feeling wonderful at 12 weeks, loving every moment, not wishing it all away… I felt awful, I was moody, I was nauseous for ages, I had anxiety and I hurt all over.. and I felt alone. As I started talking about how I was feeling, so many people said they had felt the exact same way, but they felt like they were the only one and didn’t want to seem like they were ungrateful or that they would be a bad mommy. I made it my mission to share the pregnancy and parenting journey exactly as it was, so that when other moms-to-be or parents desperately searched for something online to make them feel like they weren’t the worst ever, they would at least find me.
I have stuck to that mission, sharing everything from sleepless nights, to post natal anxiety, to teething, to tantrums, potty training, weaning and, of course, how it is all worthwhile in the end. As I grow and learn as a parent, and as a woman outside of motherhood, I share those lessons. As I discover gorgeous products or amazing services that make Charly happy or make parenthood a little easier or make me feel more like a real person again, I share those too. I run competitions when I discover something I really want to share with others and you will find that once I fall in love with a brand, you will see them pop up over and over.
Last year saw me writing other people’s stories as well, 2017 I will be returning to that where I can. I have met some phenomenal people and I feel like sharing their stories will effect and inspire you as much as it has me.
How do you feel about using technology as part of learning?
I believe that not to do so is short-sighted. Our children were born into a technological world. Almost everybody I know has stories of how their 1 year old stole their phone and figured out how to use it. Schools teach using smartboards and tablets, and even cell phones are used as tools in the classroom. While I am a huge advocate for hands on, messy, outdoor play and old-fashioned wooden blocks and paper books, teaching my child how to use technology to learn and find information is just as important to me.
What are your child’s favourite apps?
Charly is only 2, so she doesn’t really use apps as yet. We have tried some of the free apps available, but Xander apps are on my list for 2017. Charly is advanced, so she has been trying to read on and off for the last 6 months when the mood strikes. While I am not overly encouraging it, I am supporting it with puzzles and games and from 2017, apps.
What do you love about South Africa and raising your children here?
Cape Town is home. I have lived here my whole life, excluding a year in George when I was 5. I love that you can find everything right here, from forests to beaches, to mountains and wine farms. I am really looking forward to taking Charly to Butterfly World, World of Birds, the Iziko Museum and up Table Mountain when she is a little older – I have never been! I also want to take her back to Kirstenbosch, Bugz Playpark and the Aquarium. There is so much to do with kids around the Western Cape.
TV “Yes” or “No”?
Yes. I have no issues with TV at all. We have never made a big deal of it either way. We leave it on in the background often as we play, build blocks or puzzles or colour in. Her favourites are Blaze and the Monster Machines and Super Why! Both of which are amazing. She is loving practicing her letters and reading with the SuperReaders and she sings songs about adhesion and being an engineer. We don’t watch adult shows when she is around though, Brett likes science fiction and I like crime shows, so neither would be appropriate.
What is in the lunchbox?
Charly got my love of predictability. We both eat the same breakfast every day and she doesn’t like if we change up her lunch too much. Her standard is a bovril sandwich, no crusts. Mini-cheddars or plain wholegrain rice cakes, a yoghurt, a fruit, and water. Slight variations are a cheese sandwich, cucumber slices, 5 almonds, or ham slices.
How do you balance it all – in one sentence?
Not very well… lots of hard work, long hours, my mom and lots of love.
Do your children do chores at home, if so what and how do you manage it?
Charly loves helping. She washes dishes with granny in the day, which usually also leads to mopping the floor. She loves peeling vegetables and she actively helps her dad cook and bake. She loves putting clothes in the laundry baskets and she pulls weeds and rakes and waters the garden. The only struggle we have some days is getting her to pick up after herself. It is a rule that she has to pack away her toys when she is done. Maybe it is because it is a rule, as opposed to her helping of her own accord, but falling over toys is often an issue. We won’t pick up after her, but she isn’t allowed to open something new until whatever is lying around is cleared – with Charly it is usually puzzles and books that can’t find their homes. I am hoping that by making it a natural non-stressful thing, “chores” won’t be an issue, just a shared responsibility.
What is your favourite holiday plans/ activities with kids?
Movies with popcorn is without a doubt one of my favourite adventures to share, though it doesn’t always work out with Charly as yet. I also love family outings: meeting my parents, my sister, her husband and my niece, and having a family picnic, or playdates at places like Bugz, Stodels or Imhoff. We don’t do it often enough, but it is a goal to do more of it.