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Annie Ridout  Founder of digital parenting & lifestyle magazine The Early Hour / Journalist (the Guardian, Stylist, Red Magazine) / Speaker (BBC, Stylist Live)


When I was 19, I went travelling around India. It was very hot, and that whole six-month period was spent in the sun. We travelled for a while with a guy called Adam and he told me that he'd known a woman who didn't wear suncream in her 20s and by 30, looked a lot older than her years. I laughed and said: oh well. And then spent time walking around the streets of India without sunscreen.

Now I'm in my early 30s and I've got lines under and around my eyes and I think back to that time. Is that why they're there? Or is it just an age thing? I worry that I look older than I am because of it. It's certainly not helped by my psoriasis, which dries out the skin around my eyes and then leaves it puffy and wrinkly.

I don't care that much about being lined (let's call them 'smile lines' - I like that phrase) but it means that when I go mascara-free, I look a bit tired and old. And I hate mascara. If I could have one magical cosmetic wish, it would be that I had mascara on when I woke up in the morning every day - without having to apply it or take it off.
Some people look amazing without make-up. I'm not one of them. And I'm fine with that (I just wear it). But sometimes, I want a break from it - and then it's harder. This week, I'm giving my eyelashes some time off by steering clear of the black sticky stuff. And I'll just put up with looking a bit tired and piggy-eyed. Really, I'd like to never wear it again, but that ain't gonna happen.
What are your thoughts on make-up: love it and wear it every day, hate it and never wear it, or somewhere in the middle - sometimes on, sometimes off? And how do you feel without it?

Why does soft play have to be so depressing?
Why is the lighting always hideous?
Why is the food disgusting?
Why can't there be good coffee?
Why are kids always so raucous?
Why can't they make the entrance a bit bigger so that I can fit through it without nearly suffocating?
Why isn't there more seating for adults?
Why does my daughter always end up crying?
Why did my son cling to me like a koala bear last week when I took him for the first time?
Why are they always threatening to close down but stay open for years?
Why do I keep going?
Why isn't there anything else to do when it's wet?
(That's why I keep going: there's nothing else to do when it's wet)

When my firstborn was about two, I published a really (annoying) smug article on The Early Hour about how we didn't have stair gates or locks on cupboards. "Children need to explore," I said. "How will they ever learn about the fragility of glass and ceramics if they aren't taught via trial and error?" Shoot forward a couple of years and I have another child. Only this one's different. This one doesn't tentatively climb up and down stairs - he darts to the top then dives off head first. And he doesn't open cupboard doors then carefully run his finger around the rim of a mug. He yanks it out and lobs it on the (concrete) floor. If it doesn't smash into pieces, he'll jump on it.

And so now I understand all the comments on social media about how stupid I was, thinking it was safe to leave kitchen cupboards unlocked and stairs unguarded. Because while with my daughter, we rarely had accidents - with my son, we've already had more than a few.
Are your kids careful, wild or somewhere in between?

Not sure if you can see them but I get so many frikkin’ HAIRS on my chin. Black spiky little fuckers that require immediate plucking. Or do they? I wonder how big my beard would be if I let it grow? If I don’t get round to plucking them, I find myself stroking my chin all day, drawing attention to them.
Anyone else suffer with facial hair issues?

Today is day one of 'no new article' on The Early Hour. The first day, in nearly two and a half years, that I haven't put out an article. This meant I didn't have to grab my phone upon waking to upload a link, image and caption to Instagram.
This may sound like a minor, but what happens is that I log into my phone to do that one thing - upload the day's article to Instagram - and then get sucked into the comments, likes, people's photos... and time flies on by. My children start asking me to play with them and I ignore them, choosing online interaction instead.

But today I didn't. I left my phone on the side and got down on the floor with my children. We created a slide for Peppa Pig to shoot down (to her death, we realised, as it was suspended too high from the ground. Worryingly, my daughter found this hilarious). Meanwhile, my son banged on his new drum - a present for his 1st birthday.

The only time I got my phone out was to take this photo. But I've waited until I'm alone, working, to post it.
There will never be a perfect balance between work and parenting - both are generally far too demanding. But the realisation that I was missing out on opportunities to really enjoy hanging out with my young kids - by being there, but not REALLY there - forced me to make a change.

I'm all for 'independent play' - and a bit of ignoring. But there needs to also be a good portion of time together - chatting, playing, down on the floor with them, TV off - when I'm doing that and not thinking: I'd rather be on my phone. I NEED to be on my phone, checking emails and social media.

That's what mornings (well, mostly) are for from now on. We're generally awake at 6am so 'finding the time' certainly isn't an issue.

When do you spend time getting 'down with the kids'?

This morning I put out a post on The Early Hour about deciding to reduce the articles I publish from one a day to one a week (link in bio). At first, I was going to make the change and not announce it. But then I decided I owe it to the lovely people who read The Early Hour to explain it.
When the article went out this morning, I was a bit panicky. I thought there would be two possible reactions: 1. Who cares? Just your shit website, get over yourself you wanker. 2. BAD MOVE!
But I was wrong. I’ve had so many positive, supportive, kind, encouraging messages. People saying that it’s the right thing to do. And so now, as I’m sitting in the car on the M25 in the pissing rain, headed to Dorset to make a film with my husband, I’m feeling both relieved and full of love.
The online world can be scary - you put your thoughts out there and people can be kind or very cruel (like when I tagged a tweet #feminism and a wave of trolls popped up immediately, spitting venom). But I must say, the parenting community on here (you lot), and on Facebook - and even on Twitter - are just so damn nice. It makes being part of social media and digital publishing so fun. Obviously some articles are controversial and debate is definitely a good thing. But we’ve gotta keep remembering that while we’re interacting online, those are still real people reading the messages we put out. If someone is mean, the person they are targeting will feel attacked, and sad. Meanness is never constructive.
So thank you, very much, for your continued support. From me and my family. It means a lot. Kindness rocks. So do all of you. Hope your week’s off to a smashing start x

One of the first questions you should ask yourself when setting up a business is: why am I doing this? Over Christmas, I revisited my initial reasons for setting up The Early Hour and realised I'd lost my path. So I starting thinking about what changes I needed to make. And then I had an epiphany: I could work less and achieve more.
If you fancy having a read about the new direction my career (and The Early Hour) is going in, click the link in bio. It's all too easy to continue on automaton but when you realise you're not actually happy doing that, you gotta MAKE A CHANGE. So that's what I'm doing.
#careerchange #career #positivity #positivechange #theearlyhour

Today we were meant to have family round for cake to celebrate the ‘baby’ turning one next week. But the kids are both ill - temperatures, tired, sore throats. So we had to cancel. Instead, we’ve spent the day moving very slowly - a short walk for fresh air, chicken soup for lunch and day-time candles.
The baby's been pulling at my top for breastmilk so we've moved backwards from one-feed-a-day (in the morning) to about five feeds today. This would be fine but my husband and I are working away all day tomorrow - on a joint commission - so I’m going to be engorged and the baby's going to have to drink formula instead, which I’m feeling guilty about as he’s clearly looking for comfort.
Motherhood is rarely smooth. I might have a few days where things feel balanced and manageable, and then a new challenge will appear. I'm so grateful that my ever-amazing parents are stepping in for us tomorrow. Though I'll probably still feel shit about leaving the kids the whole time we're away working.
Anyone else feeling the guilt/ juggle struggle today?

"Nora Ephron, the famous screenwriter, once said – ‘When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.’" Writer and editor @annikiselfishmother shares five excellent writing tips to help get you started (on that novel, blog, poem...). Link in bio.
#writing #whyiwrite #howiwrite #amwriting #freelance #freelancewriter #theearlyhour #writer #editor

The only way to limit the chaos at home is to keep both children at the table for as long as possible. This means plying them with bread, banana, satsuma segments and water.
I remember when my daughter was one, telling a friend that it seemed like she was constantly snacking. She said: but she’s constantly on the move, too, using up loads of energy. If she wasn’t hungry, she wouldn’t eat.
So every morning, after his big bowl of porridge, we give the baby a few slices of bread and lots of fruit. It keeps him contained - and he’s obviously hungry for it. Amazing how big his appetite is considering the size of his stomach.
Anyone else enjoy stretching meal times out to keep the kids in one place and prevent them from causing destruction? (And, of course, because it’s ‘quality family time’).

Hands up if you know what people in Singapore eat for breakfast? And in Nigeria, and Russia? And - top trivia - what is a full English meant to include? I asked foodie experts from around the world to enlighten me, including @bentomonsters, @johannad1979, @tokunboskitchen, @stayhungryteam (prepare to salivate) - link in bio.
#breakfast #breakfastfromaroundtheworld #food #foodie #yum #yummy #theearlyhour

When you keep your child off nursery as they’re due to have a pre-school booster (if you don’t know about this, google it) but it’s cancelled so you have a free day and they ask to go to soft play. Yeah, I’m having one of those days.
Initially, I sat on one of the plastic chairs at the side, checking my emails. But after 15 minutes of running around on her own, she got bored and wanted me to play with her. So I took off my shoes and got stuck in. We played basketball, football. Slid down slides. Squeezed through rolling beams. Climbed up soft things. Bumped our heads a few times. Peeped through the netted walls. And actually had quite a nice time.
This was followed by 3 million tantrums on the way home due to hunger, as I’d forgotten about lunch (well, had no cash to buy food at soft play and lost track of time). I issued countless threats (NO TV EVER AGAIN, etc) and when we eventually got home, she had a sandwich and perked up immediately.
Now we’re off for soft play round two, as her brother’s awake and causing havoc. I’m not even joking. Soft play twice in one day. I know I said we had fun but this is overkill. #fml

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