My Little Duke


Good Skin for Life

Beauty, MotherhoodSteph Duke2 Comments

Hello my lovelies! I'd love to take a little time and tell you about my skin. In my mid/late teenage years I really struggled with acne-ridden skin. This, coupled with being a bit overweight, meant that I also struggled with self-confidence. I didn't like my appearance at all if I'm being totally honest. I tried to over compensate by being the funny friend, or the trustworthy one who always ended up stuck in the middle of arguments! It wasn't until I was about to begin my first year at Uni that Mum and I sought out proper treatment for my acne. 

After trying several topical creams and ointments (with no improvement) I was prescribed the drug Roaccutane. You can read a little info about it here. I was completely trusting of my doctor and was desperate to try anything. Just googling 'Roaccutane' you'll find a plethora of information, cautions, horror stories and miracle transformations. Thankfully, it did work for me - for my skin. What it didn't work for, was my mind...

Looking back, had I known what I'd go through whilst taking this stuff ... I'm not sure I would use it again. It's a tough one though - the noticeable improvement in my skin gave me a boost in confidence, yet, ironically, my mental health took a beating. I became insanely jealous, overly sensitive, more moody (if that was even possible!) and felt extremely low at times. Hindsight is a wonderful thing ... it's only now I can truly see the potentially devastating side-effects the drug was having on me. I honestly don't know how Matt (my then boyfriend, now husband) stayed with me. I was unbearable at times. Totally and completely unbearable. My mood swings were off the scale and I acted like a maniac - that's putting it lightly. I was irrational and paranoid, over the most stupid things. I didn't like the person who I became while taking Roaccutane - actually, I don't even recognise her! Matt must have known he was in it for the long haul, enduring such ludicrous behaviours from me! I actually threw stuff out the window of our uni halls of residence at him (3 floors below) because I was having a 'moment'!

I asked a few lovely Instagram friends if they would share their experiences with the drug and I was overwhelmed by the response! So many of you have used it and thankfully found pleasing results! You can read some snippets of their experiences below:


"While I was on Roaccutane, it was the only thing that cleared my skin.  However, it caused major problems with my eye ducts - I had to put hot compresses on my eyes, morning and night. Thankfully, my skin stayed acne-free for about 6 months afterwards, but, eventually I had just as bad acne as before. I also remember feeling down and pretty apathetic about life but thankfully had folk looking out for me. My brother suffered with awful acne right up until last year when, aged 30, he took Roaccutane and it really did the trick for him!" - Zoe, @zoephenix


"I'm a pharmacist and counsel on Roaccutane - the patients I see have massive improvements in their skin, but can find it really dries out their skin and can make them feel nauseous, especially at higher doses. You 100% can't get pregnant on it and have to take a test every month - so if you were thinking of a baby then definitely hold off! Also, your skin is sensitive to sun, even in winter, so summers/holidays could be hard, especially for sun worshippers! You have to wear SPF all the time and we generally advise against heavily perfumed products for the skin." - Emma, @emma.wright_


"I was on Roaccutane during my GCSEs. It's a tough drug and I dislike how it's projected as a 'miracle cure' for acne. My doctors never took my acne seriously from age 12 which led to a lot of scarring because I was put on Roaccutane too late. Unfortunately, I've found that GPs don't take dermatology seriously. Even after taking the drug, I had x6 laser procedures!" - Charlotte, @5ft_small


"I haven't used it myself but wish I'd known about it in my late 20s as I've been left with some scarring from hormonal acne. My 3 cousins have all used it and despite being tough going (ie. peeling, sore lips etc) the results are pretty fabulous - they all now have the most beautiful skin." - Kathy, @yellowbirdjewels


"I got quite a quick referral to the dermatologist and was put on Roaccutane within the month. I didn't really have any of the negative side-effects, In fact, a bonus side-effect for me was that there was literally no moisture coming out of my pores, so my hair was never greasy! My one concern was the potential effects on my mental health, but whilst taking the drug, I didn't really notice anything. It's only now I realise that it was the mandatory pill - that you have to take alongside Roaccutane - that was having more of a negative impact on my mental health. I felt I was forced to take it - even though there was no chance of me getting pregnant - and now I wonder about how much the pill messed up my hormones." - KT, @lonecrayon


"I had a 6 month course of Roaccutane when I was 18 and it literally transformed my skin! I had been back and forth to the doctors, tried medication, steaming my face, a Clinique skin consultation, I even slathered my face in yoghurt and honey for months! Nothing worked until I was put on Roaccutane. My mother had to really push for it as the doctors were really reluctant and kept listing all the side-effects. She was adamant and I had it on a monthly basis. We noticed a huge difference in a week and it was the happiest I'd been in years. My skin gradually got less and less angry looking and eventually the spots cleared completely with no scarring. At 30 now I still get the odd breakout, but nothing compared to what it was. We were really cautious of the potential for mental health problems - my mother was checking in with me everyday to make sure I was ok and luckily it didn't effect me that way." - Emma, @lookingaftermama


"I haven't used Roaccutane myself, and in many ways would love to, but my sister's experiences have put me off. Not only did they finally discover she was allergic, but she also became very paranoid. Knowing that psychiatric disturbances are a possible side-effect, I'm staying away ... for now." - Jill, @mulligug321


"Roaccutane was the first thing to clear up my skin! At 21 I broke out really badly - I was working as a beauty therapist at the time and was even more conscious of my skin when treating others. Honestly, it was amazing and I actually worried about stopping it, but when I did, my skin remained fine. Good experience for me!" - Kathryn, @k.a.m.d.o.n


"I used Roaccutane when I was 24 for 6 months just before I was married. Apart from extreme thirst and very dry skin, I found it to be amazing! It totally boosted my confidence and my work were very good at allowing me to go for the monthly check up at the hospital which helped." - Lyndsey, @lyndseyriddle88


"I've never used Roaccutane myself, but I work in mental health and we are always warned in training about the suicidal thoughts that people can experience when on it." - Cheryl, @ca_graham


“I was on Roaccutane when I was 17/18 and it really, really worked. I’ve had the odd flare up of bad skin, but never anything as bad as the chronic, painful acne I used to have! BUT … it had very bad side effects like super dry skin and lips, dry eyes, very dangerous if you’re planning on getting pregnant (I accidentally ended up getting pregnant when I was 18 and the docs were seriously concerned that my baby would be deformed!) Lastly, the worst side effect was the effect it had on my mental health – I was low for most of the time whilst on it. It’s a side effect quite a lot of people struggle with when they go on it. In some countries, Roaccutane is illegal as it’s so severe. My medicine friends tell me these days that docs only prescribe it in absolutely worst case scenarios. I can understand why. But, I did have perfect skin for a while after it!! We used to joke in school that you’d know if boys were on Roaccutane because they’d reluctantly always have carmex on them! Oh! And no matter what age you are, if you are taking the drug, they make sure you are on the pill alongside it too and make you do blood and pregnancy tests at monthly check ups – it’s insane!” - Rebecca, @rebeccafinlay


"I have used it twice! Great results, but sore on the body!" - Laura, @lauramcfarland_


"I went on Roaccutane when I was 18 and it was GREAT. Made a huge difference to my skin, face, back and neck. The only side-effect I noticed at the time was the dryness of my skin ... but what a huge improvement to my acne! I then got my face lasered and my skin was the best it had been in years. Fast forward 7/8 years and my face began to flare up again. The hospital gave me Roaccutane straight away and boy did I notice the side-effects this time: sore skin, hyper-sensitive to heat, dry skin, emotional, dry hair, brittle nails - I felt a yuky mess! But, it worked ... and was well worth it, for me. The positives outweighed the negatives, but then again, I wouldn't go on it again and only for the sake of my mental health." - LJ, @ljwatt


"I was on Roaccutane for about a year and a half, about 4 years ago. Previous to that, I seemed to have been on every prescribed cream / ointment / wash / tablet the doctor could give me. I had been on a couple of variations of the pill as well, but nothing seemed to work and Roaccutane was always going to be the last resort! I found it easy enough to cope with, even though there was a lot of talk of mood changes while on it!! My biggest problem was dry skin!!! So, so, so dry ... and not just my face! My whole body and particularly my lips ... I could have peeled layers off my lips every day!  Even now, so many years after, I still have rather dry skin (mainly hands and lips.) But, other than that, it worked miracles on my skin! I still get the odd break out, but it's never as bad as it would have been before!" - Karen, @karen.brown.7588


Undoubtedly, Roaccutane is a strong drug and has been proven, time and time again, in making a real positive difference for those struggling with acne prone skin. I was terrified of my acne returning when I can off the drug so I stayed on the pill, right up until Matt and I were ready to try for a baby. I must have been on the pill for about 7 years and that helped to keep my acne at bay. I did notice, coming off the pill, that my acne quickly returned, staying for the duration of my pregnancy and until I'd finished breastfeeding Phoebe at 9 months post-partum. As soon as I'd finished breastfeeding, I went straight back on the pill. For 3 reasons really: 

1. I was NOT taking any chances with regards to getting pregnant again. I had a terrible pregnancy and labour and was in no way ready to go through it all again!

2. I missed the 'control' I had over my body when on the pill. I loved having the choice to run through a packet and miss having a 'period' if I was going away or on holiday etc.

3. Goodbye spots!


Let me take you to just a few months ago ... I was in a season of learning to 'let go' of a lot of the 'control' I was exercising over my life. Phoebe was also just about to turn 3 and I would love for her not to be an only child! I had finished a packet of Yasmin (can I just say here that Yasmin is the only pill that really agreed with me - several others caused awful hormone swings and cramps!) and gone through my 7 pill-free days. I reached into the cupboard to get another packet and there was none to be found! I knew I had another few packets in the medicine box as I'd only recently been to the doctors and got my 6 month supply. Yet, they had mysteriously disappeared ... I knew instantly that I was having to make a decision. In that season, part of my 'letting go' also meant ridding myself of the hormone controlling 'protection' of the pill. in those moments, I submitted everything to God, praying that whatever happened ... it was him in control, not me. If I was to get pregnant again, then so be it. Even writing those words fills me with anxiety and fear ... but that's ok.

Coming off the pill, I feared that the acne would return, especially as I was also about to begin to use a new skincare brand - Boots own brand - Your Good Skin (YGS). My skin would be quite sensitive and from using Roaccutane, my mum got me onto Liz Earle skincare as it really helped my dryness. I fell in love with it completely, especially the Cleanse & Polish and Eye Bright. I've been using Liz Earle loyally for about 10 years. The products are simply beautiful. Scent, texture and branding are simply spot on. However, I would have to say, that it's definitely a luxury product, for me anyway, and more pricey than the high street alternatives. I was always happy to spend the extra, as I felt it was well justified and the products always lasted for ages. Yet, it's amazing how timely some things can be. Just as I was quitting my job and coming off the pill, a lovely insta-friend (Ydele, @ourlifeatthewhitehouse) asked if I'd be interested in getting involved with a brand campaign for YGS. I did a wee bit of research (as you do!) and thought it looked like something I'd genuinely like to try. 

YGS were running a 28 day challenge and I signed up to give it a good, honest go! I was kindly sent x4 products from the range and I excitedly began the challenge. If I'm being brutally honest ... I was more than a bit skeptical. Being a Liz Earle die-hard fan, I wasn't convinced I'd like anything else! I was also super nervous to see how my skin would react to not only a huge hormonal change coming off the pill, but a change in product. I used the YGS products religiously, morning and night, for the duration of the challenge. I instantly fell in love with the Balancing Skin Concentrate. It's smooth and silky on the skin, with that 'luxury-feel' I'd been used to with Liz Earle. I went from barely using make-up remover and moisturiser in the mornings, to taking much better care of my skin. As much as I never liked using make-up remover wipes, I now really like using the YGS ones. They suit me - I'm lazy! Far too often I've slept in my make-up (I know some of you are physically wincing at the thought!) but there is little I hate more than doing that before bed! Now, with the handy wipes - it's quicker and easier! Hurrah! 

And, get this ... I'm even using toner - twice a day! I must like this YGS stuff! I'm not needing to use my make-up primer either, so there's another little saving there. The biggest win for me though, of course, is that since I started using the range, I haven't had a single spot. Not ONE! I don't know if YGS is the sole reason for that, but while the going is good, I'll keep going! 

Here's what I'm currently using from the YGS range:

1. Moisturizing Make-Up Remover Wipes - £3.99

2. Pore Minimizing Tonic - £4.99

3. Balancing Skin Concentrate - £16.99

4. Refreshing Face Wash - £4.99

5. Anti-Shine Base Lotion - £9.99

6. Instant Dryness Rescue - £9.99

My YGS beauty basket

My YGS beauty basket

There's lots more in the range too, you can view the whole line here. I bought my sister some of the key pieces to try at Christmastime when Boots had their buy one, get one half price offer on. Do watch out for offers! But, hopefully you agree that it's quite affordable and I love that I can get points on my Boots card too. The Anti-Shine Base Lotion is on offer at the moment - 50% off with the code 'YOURGOODSKIN2' :)

Use code YOURGOODSKIN2 for 50% discount!

Use code YOURGOODSKIN2 for 50% discount!

I know that this range mightn't suit everyone, but it suits me at the moment and is more affordable too! Sorry for the long post ... but hopefully it gives you a little insight into my skin journey. I also want to honour those running the YGS campaign, for generously sending me the products to try. I wasn't asked to do a blog post, just a little promotion through IG. This is genuine promotion of products that I've found really working for me at the moment and I'm hoping that someone else might enjoy using them too!

Lots of love my sweetpeas,




Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke2 Comments

If I were to sum up 2017, I would have to use the word 'brave' - especially in this latter part of the year. 2017 saw me stepping right out of my comfort zone and into the wilderness. I'm braving a new land, new territory and new freedom ... and I cannot flipping wait!


The beginning of the year started in the usual way - the dread of diving headfirst into another crazy term at school, the inevitable 'diet' and 'I'm going to be a better person' resolutions. The hamster wheel began it's usual turning, getting faster and faster during that first quarter of the year.


Then in April, my world, as I knew it, came crashing down around me and I was forced into a period of rest. I was off work for a number of months while I 'coped' with what had happened - you can read a little about it here. I returned to work before the summer under extremely strenuous circumstances and found myself facing big changes in my job. I pushed my anxiety as deep down as I possibly could and made it my priority to enjoy a glorious summer off with family. Which I did. It was probably one of our best summers yet. Little did I know what was ahead of me ...

Bon Iver

Bon Iver

My sister won tickets to see Jess Glynn!

My sister won tickets to see Jess Glynn!



BBQ, s'mores and G&T's on bonfire night at Cavehill

BBQ, s'mores and G&T's on bonfire night at Cavehill

The hottest day of the summer at The Port

The hottest day of the summer at The Port

Villa life in Mallorca

Villa life in Mallorca

Mallorca coffee hangs

Mallorca coffee hangs

After a wonderful summer I genuinely felt good about getting back to work properly, even in a new campus, classroom and with new pupils. The perfectionist in me made sure I'd ticked all the boxes, dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's. I had spent 2 days in the summer clearing out my old classroom and re-doing up the new one. It was an emotional process, but I was confident that if all was 'aesthetically pleasing' to the eye, those niggling feelings gurgling in the pit of my stomach would go away. How wrong I was. 

A happy yellow planner wasn't enough to stop what was about to come!

A happy yellow planner wasn't enough to stop what was about to come!

Just a few short weeks into September, something quite small and simple was enough to stop and catapult me right off the tracks. (I promise I'll give you more details soon, this is just a taster of the full story.) But, believe me when I say, I was face down. Worse than before. I couldn't comprehend the WHY. I began to wrestle. I wrestled and wrestled and wrestled furiously with God over a number of days/weeks, shouting at him, questioning why and crying out in my utter desperation. 

"God, why would you do this to me?!"

"Why can I not stop feeling this way?!"

I endured a period of time where all I felt was failure, shame and guilt. Yet, as I poured my whole self out to the Lord, he began to whisper right into my innermost being. I slowly began to realise where I'd been going wrong. Where I've always been going wrong. 

You see, I try to be in control ... always. My weight. My job. My emotions. Everything

This kind of lifestyle is exhausting. Completely, devastatingly exhausting. Especially as a full time working mum. I was running on empty, trying to look calm, cool and collected on the outside. Even before what happened in April, I was fraying at the edges, refusing to accept that the pace of life I was living, simply wasn't and isn't sustainable. 


As I listened closely to the Lord, in my complete brokenness, I began to hear, very clearly, what he was saying to me. When I fully grasped a hold of what I was hearing - I could not believe it! (I intend on sharing the details very soon!) What I can say now, as I stand in the doorway of a new year, closing the door on 2017, I am closing it with complete assurance of who I am and what I am called to do as the door of 2018 begins to open. I quite literally closed one door career-wise (!) and am now stepping into an unknown territory of wide open space, creative freedom and ministry! 

This print by lovely Lisa at @whitechalkstudio was kindly gifted to me, prophetically! 

This print by lovely Lisa at @whitechalkstudio was kindly gifted to me, prophetically! 

As I step into this unknown space, I step alongside so many wonderful women who have poured into my life over this last quarter of 2017. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the ways in which connections have been made, friendships forged and pathways have crossed. Truly, it is only with God, all these things and more are possible! I actually cannot wait to share all the details with you over the coming weeks! To show you how God's hand has protected me, guided me and pushed me forward into new and exciting things. How creative and inspiring women have spoke wisdom, encouragement and hope into my life. And how God's faithfulness is unwavering, never changing, solid as a rock through ALL things, ALL circumstances and ALL seasons. 


So in the spirit of Disney's Frozen (which Phoebe absolutely adores) I welcome 2018, declaring boldly, with Christ who gives me strength:

Let it go

Let it go

No holding back any more.

Let it go

Let it go

Turn away and shut the door.

Here I stand

In the light of day

in front of an open door ...


"For there is NOTHING I cannot master with the help of Christ who gives me strength."

- Phillipians 4 v 13


Country Blog Retreat

Motherhood, Travel, FashionSteph DukeComment


On Sunday, September 24th, 2017, the lovely Emma of @littlewoodlife held the very first 'Bloggers Retreat' in Northern Ireland. Set at the stunning Larchfield Estate, 140 bloggers and bloggers-to-be from all across our wee island gathered in anticipation. Anyone who knows Emma, knew that the afternoon would be styled to perfection; add to this the awesome line up of speakers (@melwiggins, @blossomingbirds etc) and afternoon tea provided by French Village and we were set for a wonderful time! 


This feels like a really special post for me as I wasn't supposed to be at this event at all! I completely missed out on the posts advertising the retreat so when Nic of @thebrightsidediary (check out her new blog!) asked me if I was going, I was gutted. I immediately contacted Emma and expressed my disappointment, asking her if she was planning to do another one (all the while secretly praying she'd say yes!) She instantly replied saying I wasn't going to believe it, but someone had just pulled out and their ticket was available! I was delighted! The timing of this retreat for me is quite significant and I was so excited to see some IG faces in real life and learn some tricks and tips from the pros. 


Super stylish Nic  @thebrightsidediary  - insta pals! Photo cred: @melwiggins

Super stylish Nic @thebrightsidediary - insta pals! Photo cred: @melwiggins


As Sunday approached I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I must have tried on a gazillion outfit choices and looking back I wish I'd gone with my gut. Not that I hated my outfit, I had borrowed the skirt from my sister so I just didn't feel like 'myself' - you know what I mean?


Lesson One

We all have individual taste; have faith in that and own your personal style - it makes you, YOU!


Anyway, outfit decided and I was off. I'd never been to Larchfield Estate before but know of a few people who married there and always thought it looked gorgeous. And it truly is. Check out their function room ...




Stunning right? I felt a little bit like I was at a wedding; everything was beautifully styled and there was a magical atmosphere right from the get go. On our arrival we enjoyed treats and drinks by @panaceadrinks, @clearer_water and @grahamsbakery - I very quickly spied the beautiful Erin of @motherbeastie and made a bee line her direction! It is so amazing to finally meet people in the flesh who I have followed on IG for so long! It's the weirdest thing as you feel you know so much about them, yet have never met face-to-face. Thank you Emma for giving so many of us the chance to get together. The buzz of the sharing of experiences and IG accounts, the encouragements and the, 'it's so good to finally meet you' 's was something so special. 




After settling at our tables, we eagerly awaited the first session to begin. We had all been kindly gifted with goodie bags - here's a sneak peak of just some of what we were treated to:


+ An amazing @whitechalkstudio Print

+ A @belfastcoffeemap :)

+ @thenaturalbeautypot Bath Salts

+ Stunning notebooks by @sonniandblush

+ Yummy cookies by @grahamsbakery


Hand drawn map of Larchfield by Andrew Martin @littlewoodmr and @sonniandblush bespoke notepad

Hand drawn map of Larchfield by Andrew Martin @littlewoodmr and @sonniandblush bespoke notepad


It wasn't long before Emma took up her space (see what I did there Mel!) and welcomed us with her unique warmth and flair.  One selfie IG story later and first up was Anna of @blossomingbirds on 'Instagram Tips and Tricks'. Anna, with her famous honesty and humour, guided us through some really useful tools for IG and excellent advice on building brand and content. 


Would you just look at those two babes! @blossomingbirds + @melwiggins 

Would you just look at those two babes! @blossomingbirds + @melwiggins 


Next up, the Photo Walk. My aim was simple - be in as little photos as I could! That is definitely not my thing. I spent most of my time watching and learning in complete awe as Mel and Nic confidently snapped away and posed comfortably for the camera. They encouraged others to give it a try, speaking positive truth and complimenting our best features - it was beautiful. 


Lesson Two

Learn to be comfortable in your skin. Comparison and jealousy steals our creativity (thanks Mel) and sucks the very life out of us. We are different for a reason so embrace your 'imperfections' - it's usually only you who notices them. Gorgeous Laura of @havenonahilltop was spot on ... I'm paraphrasing here, 'we focus on our flaws, obsessing over them when all anyone else sees is our individual beauty and shine.'


It was pure joy to walk round the gardens of Larchfield with a bunch of fab girls who are passionate and fun and most importantly, don't take themselves too seriously! 


BABE @lynnegivan_effortlessbeauty. Photo cred: @thebrightsidediary

BABE @lynnegivan_effortlessbeauty. Photo cred: @thebrightsidediary

Photo cred: @thebrightsidediary

Photo cred: @thebrightsidediary


Unfortunately we missed out on the props that Emma had provided  ... huge confetti balloons and helium letters - all such fun and helped to create some fabulous shots. 

Then it was time to eat! French Village catered the event and honestly, the selection was heavenly: a selection of delicious sandwiches, 3 tiers of mini desserts, scones with jams and clotted cream with tea/coffee. Scrumptious! 


Chocolate Opera Cake, French Fancy + Salted Caramel Eclair

Chocolate Opera Cake, French Fancy + Salted Caramel Eclair


Afternoon tea was followed by Kerry and Tara of @sisters_and_sons who helpfully explained key information for those 'Starting out in Blogging.' Darling Mel of @melwiggins was next and our little table really had to contain ourselves from 'whooping' and 'cheering' her on as she spoke passionately about 'Developing Creativity.' 


Lesson Three

'Creativity as an adult takes a lot of courage.' - Mel Wiggins

Creativity, especially for adults, requires us to be vulnerable. It is only out of complete vulnerability that we can begin to unleash our truest, purest creativity.  


Mel shared 4 brilliant ways in which we can begin to explore our creative outputs:

1. Find your niche - What is it that you love? What gets you passionate?

2. 3 focal points - There is something about the rule of 3. What 3 areas or passions do you have or want to develop?

3. Take up your space - There is always room for your voice.

4. Comparison versus Community - Comparing yourself to others will never, ever benefit you.



Mel on fire - totally inspired!

Mel on fire - totally inspired!


The last seminar I was able to hear was the brilliant 'Blogging for Business Panel' with Rachael Martin of @thebretonbird, Laura-Ann Barr of @all.thats.pretty and Anna Corry of @blossomingbirds. The girls discussed some of the practicalities of business blogging along with some honest stories of their own experiences. I was raging to miss Andrew and Colin's 'Life as an Insta-Partner' speech but I had to head off early! I did hear that it was hilarious though so well done lads! Check out @littlewoodmr and @father_of_the_birds for the male perspective of Emma and Anna's antics! 


Honestly, it really was the most wonderful retreat. It took a lot for some people to even go; real courage and bravery to step up and be counted. I'm so glad I did - I left feeling inspired and encouraged, feeling privileged to be part of a growing community of passionate people who support one another instead of tearing each other down.


Emma Martin, your bravery and creativity just shone! Never stop inspiring those around you. Well done and thank you for creating a space for like-minded people to feel safe and get some royal treatment - we loved it! When's the next one?!





'Myrtle the glamping truck ( her own sauna included! )

'Myrtle the glamping truck ( her own sauna included! )


Toilet Training Toddler Tales - Part 1

MotherhoodSteph DukeComment

Disclaimer: a lot of talk of pee peeing and pooping!


As Phoebe is the first and only baby on both sides of our family, I ventured into toilet training completely clueless and with the aim to take it one day at a time. I was never really concerned about getting Phoebe out of nappies before this summer as the thought of toilet training during a school term was just all a bit much! The plan was to tackle it head on at the very beginning of the summer holidays and typical as it is with a little one, the plan did not go as planned!! Poor Phoebe started her summer holidays with what I suspect was slapped cheek so we held off with the training until she was back to her normal wee self.


Our toilet training journey began on the 12th of July and armed with copious pairs of ‘knickies’ and a bagful of treats, we whipped the nappy off and put nice new knickies on. Being a two and a half year old meant that Phoebe was well aware of what a toilet was and that big girls used a toilet instead of a nappy. Whether she would successfully make the transition to ‘big girl using the toilet’ was anyone’s guess!



Day One: The sun was out so Phoebe spent the morning outside playing in and out of the paddling pool and kitchen. I felt relatively content as any accidents could be easily cleaned on the patio and kitchen tiles, and her wee spot to lie on the sofa was ‘pee-proofed’ with some bin bags and a blanket! I found myself continually asking Phoebe if she needed to pee and that we would be going to the toilet, ‘no pee pee’s in our knickies!’ It wasn’t long before she was starting to look like she needed to go and when she declared ‘NAPPY ON!’ we headed for the downstairs toilet (very handy for toilet training!) The closer we got to the bathroom, the more she pulled the other way, and as I lifted her towards the toilet she clung to me like a monkey, screaming blue murder! Could I get her to sit on the toilet? Not a chance. It was clear she was scared and rightly so. That big hole, ready to suck you in as soon as you get near, never mind actually sitting on it!! Okay, what next?



Thankfully my husband Matt was at home that day too so we deliberated about going to town for a toddler toilet seat or a potty, but decided we’d give her a bit more time. I liked the idea of training straight onto the big toilet for so many reasons, but if it was going to be too much of a leap, that would be ok too. I knew what I had to do … I Googled ‘toilet training girls.’ I’d avoided reading up on toilet training beforehand. I fell into this trap when I was pregnant and promised myself I didn’t need information overload; that I could trust myself, and my own motherly instincts. It only took one failed attempt at sitting on the toilet for Phoebe and I was straight on Google – what am I doing wrong?! Am I a bad mum?! How do I do this?! I bet everyone else is doing it better than me … blah blah blah … you know the score. Pathetic, I know. Yet, sometimes I just can’t help myself. Former American President Theodore Roosevelt speaks so much truth that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I consciously have to stop myself, especially in my weak moments. It doesn’t help. It will never help.


I allowed myself just 5 minutes to scroll. I saw one comment that sparked something for me; something about using a toy to role-play the toileting scenario. So, out came ‘Princess’ and I role-played ‘Princess needing to pee’ with Phoebe. She seemed more than happy to bring Princess into the bathroom, propped her up on the toilet seat and we mimicked a ‘peeing sound’ and practiced wiping and washing her hands. We clapped our hands and told Princess she was a “brilliant girl” and I asked Phoebe if she could pee in the toilet just like ‘Princess’? A resounding … ‘NO.’

Great. What now?  


By now I was in need of a pee myself so I asked Phoebe if she’d like to watch how mummy ‘pee pee’s’ in the big toilet and she was keen … a bit too keen. While I peed in the toilet, Phoebe peed on the floor ...


Oh dear.


Keep calm.


I inform Phoebe that we don’t like to pee in our pants and suggest that maybe we could use the toilet next time!


For her afternoon nap we put on some pull up pants (‘sleepy nappy’) and aim to get her sitting on the toilet when she wakes up! Matt’s ‘genius’ idea to encourage Phoebe to sit on the toilet is to do it ‘with mummy.’ This involved me straddling the toilet seat behind Phoebe and praying that she didn’t suddenly feel the urge to do a poo! And there we sat, several times during the course of the afternoon waiting and wishing for that elusive pee pee to come. 


At one stage I heard a call from outside while I was in the kitchen but I couldn’t hear properly and by the time I got out, Phoebe had peed on the patio! I was so cross at myself for not hearing her and vowed to pay even closer attention to her to ensure if she did say she had to go, I’d be right there. The next goal was to get her sitting on the toilet herself, so little bags of sweeties became the bribing tool! The rest of the day consisted of Phoebe successfully sitting on the toilet all by herself, eating bags of sweets from Lidl – hygienic, I know! But, my little girl was sitting on the big toilet, quite happily now in fact, and I was the proudest mum in the world. 


Oh! And if you're wondering, Phoebe's only pee on Day One was in her nappy at nap-time and as soon as she got into the bath before bed – sneaky sneaky!!


TBC – Day Two and that first pee!