Am I bad mother? Or just a different one?

I have found that one of the hardest and most unexpected aspects of motherhood is judgement.. from other mothers. When Monkey was a baby I struggled a lot with this as I had honestly never expected that I would be so judged by other women in the same position as me. Judged about how I am feeding, what our routine is, how we got our baby to sleep, what he wore… literally everything. As he has grown and I have become a bit more confident it doesn’t affect me as much.. but every now and then I will read something that does affect me.

Because it is happening all the time. Mothers judging other Mothers over their parenting methods just because it is different to the way they have chosen. And it drives me mad.

Am I a bad motherI am a huge believer that all babies are different and that different things work for different children. There is not one method that is right for all babies. The same goes for parents. We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses so how can we possibly all parent the same? The point is surely that we are doing our best to raise healthy and happy children. I am sure we will all make mistakes along the way because we are human beings and we are imperfect. But we make the decisions that we feel are right at the time.

That is what bugs me most about all the judgement. The holier than thou attitude. The conviction of “I am right and you are wrong.” That somehow your choices make you a better parent than others. How can you possibly, possibly know this? You don’t live their life. You haven’t raised their child. You are living your life and raising your child. You are different so inevitably you make different choices. The right choices for you are not necessarily the right choices for others but that doesn’t make them wrong and it certainly doesn’t make them bad parents.

To illustrate my point I am going to highlight some of our choices, and the reasons we made them. These are choices we have made for us and our children and I am not saying that everyone should make the same choices, but I want to know if you think these choices make me a bad mother.

Natural birth vs Caesarean

I had two C-sections. I have a bicornuate uterus which meant that both Monkey and LM were breech and unable to turn head down. The medical advice was to have C-sections for the safety of both myself and my babies. I did a lot of research into natural breech births and learned that because most breech babies are delivered by c-section, that the skill of naturally delivering breech babies has fallen out of practice. Of course many midwives are skilled and capable of this but my research suggested that not all are and that it can be luck of the draw of who you get on the day. For me that wasn’t good enough and I chose the c-sections.

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This wasn’t what I wanted, I had hoped for a water birth with only gas and air. But sometimes what we want comes second to making sure my babies were safe. It turned out Monkey had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck 5 times, so I can’t regret the decision to have a c-section as I had my beautiful boy safely in my arms, whereas it could have been very different.

There have been some awful posters circulating the internet about women who have had c-sections being lesser Mothers, for taking the “easy” road. Some even go as far to say that we will go to hell because we have gone against God’s plan. That we should have had a natural delivery and if God wanted us or our baby to die then we should have allowed it to happen. I don’t even know where to begin arguing against this.

Do you think having C-sections made me a bad Mother?

Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding

Breastfeeding is seriously hard work. I persevered through some very difficult days when Monkey was a baby, mainly due to my own stubbornness and breastfed him until 6-7mths old. I stopped for many reasons. He had teeth from 4 mths and his lower teeth grazed on the underside of my breast giving me horrible sores. But mainly I stopped because I wanted my body back. I struggled with baby blues and needed to feel like myself. Selfish? Maybe. Human beings are selfish. I battled on for a while but eventually realised that my negative feelings about breastfeeding weren’t good for Monkey and I didn’t want to resent him.

With LM I breastfed for 6 weeks. With her reflux and (thankfully) temporary Lactose Intolerance, breastfeeding her was a nightmare and a lactose free formula was the right choice for us at that time. There are times when I look back and wish I could have breastfed her longer… but I couldn’t. I was at the end of my tether. Other women may be stronger and may have been able to persevere. But couldn’t and she was miserable and in pain. So I chose the next best thing for my baby. A happier Mummy and formula. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Babywearing or not

I love the idea of baby-wearing and always have. With Monkey we tried various slings and carriers but let me tell you he was not happy in there for long so it was a bit of a non-starter. With LM she did like our Beco Gemini carrier and so we did baby-wear to a point.

But the truth is I have a bad back and so does hubs, so baby-wearing hurts. It’s alright for a while but gradually it started wearing me down. I started suffering with my knee too from the jiggling and bouncing it usually took to get her to sleep in there. We found it exhausting and being exhausted does not make us better parents. We were more irritable and snappy with each other and our children so we realised it had to stop.

Does this make us bad parents?

Co-sleeping or not

Co-sleeping, quite simply, is not for me. I’m not the greatest sleeper at the best of times and have a bit of a weird claustrophobia type thing where I hate being cuddled or touched when I sleep. I find it suffocating and have to have my own space. I would rather sleep on my own on the floor than with a child on me. Obviously there have been nights where I have had a poorly child sleep on me in a chair so I can comfort them and they can sleep, but I don’t sleep. Again perhaps it is selfish but I just can’t do it. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Sleep Training

DSC_0552When Monkey was born I couldn’t bear the idea of cry it out, controlled crying, progressive wait, whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t bear the sound of his crying. So we did anything and everything else we could to get Monkey to sleep.

And we failed.

It got to the point where Monkey would spend around 4 hours every night crying in our arms.

We had a bedtime routine around 7pm and then we would spend the next few hours rocking him to sleep, shushing, patting, cuddling, singing letting him suck our fingers…. Taking it in turns to do whatever the hell we could to get him to sleep. Occasionally something would work but we could never make it work consistently and in general he would pass out from exhaustion around 11.

We would then be up regularly throughout the night with either hubs or I leaning over the cot with our little finger in his mouth to suck as that was the best way of keeping him asleep (yes we tried a dummy, many times, but he wasn’t having any of it). This led to me getting mastitis 3 times as I spent so much time pressed up against the side of his cot, crushing my milk ducts so I could reach his mouth to let him suck my finger. (Anyone who has had Mastitis will know that the pain and delirium is not a pleasant experience).

He also woke up miserable in the morning and was grouchy much of the time. In desperation we read Ferber’s book (it was one of many methods we had tried) and as I have said before, we liked the tone of the book and we gave it a go.

The first night it took 20 minutes. 20 minutes of him crying in his bed, with us going in every few minutes to comfort, reassure and soothe. 20 minutes of hell and soul searching and self-doubting and crying and chocolate eating as his cries hurt my soul….

But then he fell asleep.

It took 20 minutes rather than the 4 hours we were used to. He slept through the night and then woke up happy. For the first time since he was a newborn.

The next night it took a bit less time and so on for the next few days until he didn’t cry at all. He has been an amazing sleeper ever since and now when he cries in the night we go to him because we know that something is wrong.

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If Monkey had been content to fall asleep in our arms and then be transferred to his bed then I doubt we would ever have felt the need to try the technique. We have repeated the technique with LM as we have had similar struggles with sleep and it has worked for her. We didn’t try every other technique that we tried with Monkey and maybe we should have. She is a different baby and maybe a different technique would have worked for her. But we made the decision we felt was right at the time and she now loves her bed and falls asleep very easily at naptimes and bedtimes.

Does this make me a bad Mother?

I could go on and on. There’s weaning – purees or babyled? I know someone whose friend told her she was “disappointed in her” for not babyled weaning, even though she weaned her baby at 4 1/2 mths under Drs advice. Then if you do choose purees there’s whether you make them at home or use jars. I’m not even going to begin going into the whole being a stay at home mum vs being a working mother. You can read about why I made that choice here but just because I am a SAHM I certainly don’t think that everyone else should be.

Think what you will about my choices, but my children are happy, healthy and know they are loved. We are not perfect parents by a long shot and we are not raising perfect children, as that is impossible (though I do think they are pretty perfect I suspect I am slightly biased), but we are doing the absolute best we can.

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I just don’t understand why some Mothers feel they can only justify their choice by disparaging the choices of others., because I don’t see why you need to.

Of course we compare ourselves to each other and we questions our choices and their choices, because we all want to be the best we can be. But before you cast aspersions or treat someone who has made different choices to you like they are a bad mother, stop. Think about why  they may have made the choices that they made. Remember that they have made those choices in an effort to do what is best for them and their child. Remember that their child is not your child and different things work with different children

Also remember that they are not you and they have their own strengths and weaknesses. We don’t become perfect when we become a Mother. We don’t miracuously turn into selfless saints. We do love our children above all else and while many of us try and put everyone else’s needs above our own many of us find that is not sustainable and that to be the best Mother we can be we actually need to put ourselves first sometimes too. So sometimes we make the choice that is best for us as well as our children.

Maybe you disagree with this, maybe you disagree with a lot of what I have said here, and that’s fine. Because you are you and I am me and no doubt our life experiences are very different. If you are happy with the choices you have made and convinced that you are right, then good for you. I’m happy for you, honestly. But please don’t make other women feel bad or less than you because something different works for them.

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Colic? Reflux? An allergy? or just anxious parents?

In all honesty we are having a bit of a rough time with Little Miss at the moment. Sadly she spends a lot of her life, and most of her awake time, screaming, and in pain. There is something different about the cry of a baby in pain. Tired cries are a bit whiney, hungry a bit demanding, uncomfortable a bit angry, and in pain is, to my ears, very shrill. It is horrible and draining to hear for hours on end when nothing you do seems to help. It is hard enough during the day but in the early hours of the morning, when you have been attempting to sooth your child for 2-3 hours it becomes unbearable.
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Why I love being a SAHM

Being a SAHM isn’t always easy, but I do love it, for many reasons. One of the things I don’t love about being a SAHM though is the judgement that sometimes surrounds it. There has been a few things recently (including someone insinuating that I am a sponger because I don’t work) that has made me want to write this post about why being a SAHM works for me and my family.

Before I go any further, a little disclaimer, this is purely personal and all about me and my family. I do not believe all mums should be SAHMs and I am not judging anyone for the choices they have made or the way they think best to raise and support their families. Different strokes for different folks is what I believe but it can be difficult to talk about the positives of being a SAHM without being seen as judgemental or critical of working mums. That is not how this post is intended, it is purely about me and my family.

There were various things that affected my decision to be a SAHM. I wrote about it at the time here, when I first started this blog, but put simply, this is why I am a SAHM.

The financial side

I know I am very fortunate that we can afford to live on my husband’s salary alone. He has worked really hard to get where he is and works darn hard every day for a business he has built and believes in. Sometimes his head is so full of work it is hard to get him to step back and enjoy family time with us, but I know his work is a huge part of who he is and allows us to live the life that we do. We are by no means ‘well-off,’ we are fairly comfortable but we life on fairly strict budgets and are very careful with our money.

After Monkey was born we were undecided about whether or not I would go back to work part time as of course more money would make things more comfortable. Unfortunately when looking at childcare costs, they would pretty much have negated any earnings I brought in. I never earned a huge salary and particularly if I was part time I would not have earned enough to make it really worthwhile.

I know for many families there are grandparents willing to help but that isn’t the case with us. Monkey’s grandparents are all wonderful and supportive and he has a fantastic relationship with them. But none of them wished to be a permanent carer for him, week in, week out, and we didn’t really want that either. They have lives of their own and have done their years of child-raising, now they want to be the fun grandparents. I am not criticising anyone who does have grandparents who help out with childcare as again different things work for different people. It just wasn’t an option for us or our parents.

This comes back to how lucky we are that we can live on hubby’s salary and I don’t need to work. If we were not able to manage financially without my added income then of course we would have figured something out. I would have found a job working evenings, weekends or early mornings if necessary to fit around hubby’s work and cover costs. I have worked as a waitress and a cleaner before and would not be too proud to do so again if financially we needed it. If I had been the higher earner we would again have figured it out. But we don’t have to, thankfully, as I would hate to be passing my husband like ships in the night!

I know for some Mums, not working or earning money from an outside source leads them to feeling they aren’t contributing. I guess all I can say is that for me, while I know I am not contributing financially, I am contributing. By raising Monkey and looking after him myself full time, it means we don’t have to pay someone else to do it for us. So it comes full circle. I could be earning money but then it would be going out straight away to cover childcare costs, and what would be the point?

Well, I am sure some women would say that the point is that they love what they do, That they need the intellectual stimulation. That they would rather be at work than at home looking after children all day. I can understand that and again don’t judge any woman for making that decision. And I won’t lie, there are times that being a SAHM can feel monotonous, and it can be exhausting, and lonely. But, I do find the rewards of being a SAHM more than make up for it, for me. Plus there are ways to get that stimulation, to break the monotony, without having to go to work. Blogging for one! :) Or doing any hobby that interests and challenges you.

So what are the rewards of which I speak, well this is where I get really happy. This is where I get to the positives that make me smile and puff up my chest with pride.

Why I love being a SAHM

love being a sahm

I know my child better than anyone else. I know how to get him to try something new (even when he is adamantly shouting no). I know his current favourites. Be it phrases, activities, colours. I am the one with him nearly all day everyday and I know how all of his little individual quirks and eccentricities. I was the one who was with him when he said his first word, when he walked for the first time, the first time he counted to ten. No-one else has told me about these developments, I have seen them for myself.

I get to teach him. And take pride when he learns things as a result of the activities we do. I taught him (gradually in a fun, playing is learning way) how to count to ten. We are now working on letters. I am also teaching him about the world, more and more every day. I am teaching him manners, how to treat other people, and how not to.

I’m not saying you don’t get to do these things when you are a working parent but it has to be a bit different when someone else is caring for your child for a significant amount of time. There has to be a level of trust there that they are teaching the same beliefs as you would. That your child doesn’t get away with things with their carer that they wouldn’t with you. For a control freak like me that would be a concern and I like knowing that Monkey is learning what we think is right (we may not get it right all of the time but we are finding our way and it is our way, noone elses).

We have fun and try new things together. One of the ways to break the monotony is by experimenting with new things. doing new things together. This blog is a great motivator for that too as I like to be able to experiment with crafts and activities and talk about them here. Plus there are so many other fab blogs with tonnes of ideas for things to do together! We bake, paint and draw. We build, read and talk. We go on walks and explore the world. I see the world through his eyes.

Even at the moment, at 8 months pregnant and pretty exhausted, I love being with him. I need more help with him at the moment but I miss him when he’s not here, and I love when he comes back. He tests my patience and exasperates me. Some days he drives me potty because he is 2 and can be really irrational and over complicate things. But he is wonderful and funny too. He is kind and loving, methodical and imaginative. He gives the best cuddles and has the most infectious laugh.

I love that I am lucky enough to be the one who sees him at his best, and at his worst. In a couple of years time he will be going off to school and as he gets older he will move slowly but surely further away from his Mummy. He will grow up. I love that I am lucky enough to be able to spend this time with him now. I cherish it.

Just as wanting to go to out to work doesn’t make you any less of a mother, wanting to stay home and raise my children doesn’t make me any less of a person. Any less intelligent or interesting. In a world where so much emphasis is placed on what you ‘do’ and how hard you work, it can be difficult to feel proud of being a SAHM. I sometimes feel that I have to justify to some people why I feel being a SAHM is the best thing for my family and I at the moment. I know I don’t have to, and I very rarely bother. If someone wants to pass judgement then go ahead… but deep down it does bother me. I can’t help it, it just does.

I don’t know whether I will be a SAHM forever, I imagine I will want to work maybe part time when the children are at school, but for now, I love being a SAHM.

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Not My Year Off

Two Years as a SAHM…

It’s Monkey’s birthday this week, which also means I have been a SAHM for 2 years. Technically not really as I was obviously on maternity leave to start with and I didn’t 100% decide not to return to work until my time was nearly up. But I have been at home with Monkey for 2 years so I am classing all of that time as SAHM time.

And you know what, I think I’ve come a long way from where I’ve started. I by no means have the whole domestic goddess SAHM thing down, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well to life away from work. To life revolving around nappies, food, soft play, toys and tidying. With a bit of cooking and baking fun thrown in. (If you would like to read more about how I made my decision to be a SAHM, you can do so here. I have nothing against working mums at all, this is just about my decision.)

Here’s what I have learnt is necessary to survive over the last couple of years.

1 – GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Sorry to shout but seriously for me the most important thing is to get out of the house. Even if just a walk around the local area. Even if just a walk around a supermarket if it is wet out! A change of scene can work wonders and unless I have some amazing activity planned (and even then to be honest) I try and get out of the house every day. Even if only for a little while. Honestly, it keeps me sane. Most of the time this involves play dates or seeing grandparents or going to a baby group.

2 – Routine. This may just be a me thing as I am a planner by nature, but without the structure of going to work every day and doing things at certain times,  it’s easy to feel a little lost. Obviously there are different opinions about routines for kids, I’m not going to get into that too much but routines work for Monkey and they work for me. We are both happier when we are on routine. I’m not talking strict, down to the minute rules, but a vague plan of rough times, and certain things on certain days. Again I know some people would find this too constricting, but for me, it really, really helps.

3 – It’s not easy and that’s ok. I spent a lot of time early on worrying about trying to be supermum, which I’m not, and actually I don’t think anyone really is. I sometimes feel that being a SAHM isn’t just about looking after your little one, as you suddenly feel that because you’re at home all the time, that you should also take the responsibility for having a spotless house. Unfortunately, at least when little one is a baby or a toddler, it is fricking hard work, if not impossible to keep the house spotless while entertaining/feeding them, and staying sane. It’s ok if your house often looks like a bomb site, but it’s also ok to try and keep it tidy. Or do a bit of both depending on how knackered you are!

4 – Mummy friends are so important. I’m lucky that a few friends from work had children a little before me, and we have gotten really close over the last couple of years. It is fab to unburden yourself with people who know what you are talking about. They don’t have to be SAHMs too, mine are all working mums, but they are still mums! They remind me I am not alone and when I am struggling with something it is so great to hear their experiences and share ideas! They may not always be able to help, but at least they can lend an ear. If you don’t have many mummy friends, it is worth trying to befriend some at baby/ toddler group of some kind. I’ve written before about finding confidence as a Mum/SAHM but it is important sometimes to break out of your comfort zone and get that support from other mums.

Blogging and the world of social media is also fab for this and I have loved connecting with so many other lovely, wonderful and supportive mums out there – and I wish I had joined this awesome community earlier!!

5 – Get some me time. It’s easy to feel guilty about taking some time for yourself, but when you are a SAHM and your whole life basically revolves around the house and your child, it is so important to take some time for yourself. I’m not saying it is less important for working mummies, and I can only talk about my experience, as a SAHM. I go for ages with no me time as weekends are filled with family time, or catching up on housework while Monkey has some daddy time, but it’s inevitable that after a while I become a grumpy mummy! And it’s because I need some time to myself. It doesn’t need to be a lot of time – just a wander round the shops sans-child, with just my own thoughts, or some good music for company is really restorative. As is sitting quietly watching a film. I suppose it’s just having the ability, even for a little while, to do what YOU want. Not what needs doing, not what anyone else wants to do, or what you think someone else will enjoy. What you want that you know you will enjoy, without worrying whether anyone else is enjoying it too!

On the whole, once I figured out the above survival methods, I have loved being a SAHM. It can be hard sometimes, and it can be boring sometimes. Not particularly the time spent having fun with Monkey, but the endless cleaning and tidying, and the quiet times. It doesn’t have the same mental stimulation that working did, if I’m honest. But, then that’s why I blog! And spend time trying to come up with fun activities for Monkey.

I have loved that I’ve been the one with him all time time. I’ve been the one who helped him learn to walk, and who heard his first words. I know all of his quirky habits and how much he loves numbers. I know him inside out and love the connection we have. He has a lovely relationship with his daddy of course, and he’s a toddler so he can be frustrating at times but on the whole I do find spending my time with him very very rewarding and I love being his mummy.

Now that he’s getting older I have thought once or twice about returning to work. With a new baby on the way it’s a bit of a moot point really and I’m not sure what I would do if we weren’t planning on another child, but I may have thought about something part time by now. Though returning to work would be a bit of a change again after this much time at home! As it is though I am happy at home and looking forward to at least a few more years as a SAHM.

To finish off the post I thought I’d pop in a few shots of Monkey and I together over the past 2 years…

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There’s no such thing as Perfect…BASAHM Surival Kit

Next up in my Becoming a Stay at Home Mum Survival Kit I’m talking about perfection… or rather the lack of it.

I don’t believe in perfect. I really don’t. I mean I guess that in science there may be some things that are perfect – a perfect circle etc. But in people? Nope. I don’t believe perfect exists. Perfect partner, perfect marriage, perfect parent? It’s just not possible, no matter how hard you try. Because we are human beings and we make mistakes. We aren’t superhuman and able to juggle everything that life throws at us without a slip up now and then.

So aim to be the best you can be, by all means, but don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect.

God that sounds simple doesn’t it? If only it was that easy to do! To just know you’re doing the best you can and be happy and proud of that. I am trying really hard to be more like that. To not put so much pressure on myself to be ‘perfect.’ But I am coming to realise that I am a perfectionist even though I don’t believe in perfect. How ridiculous is that?

I like to succeed and I want to do well. I love baking and I want everything I make to turn out like it does in the books or on the website. But it hardly ever does! I am enjoying learning to crochet and thankfully it is a very forgiving craft but even then some things end up wonky or not how I imagine them. I love to write and am enjoying my blog. I used to be a proofreader as part of my previous job but I very often have spelling mistakes and typos in the blog posts I publish – no matter how many times I check and re-read them. So frustrating!

I try to be a perfect mum. As a SAHM this is my job now and I want to do well at it. I want to keep the house spotless, to have a well behaved and happy child at all times. I want to never shout at him, to never swear in front of him and always give him 100% of my attention while somehow also managing to do all of the other things I want to do. Cook, bake, crochet, clean, blog, read. All while being being well presented and happy myself. Do you see how ridiculous this sounds when you see it typed out? Pfff no wonder I don’t succeed. No wonder I sometimes feel like a failure. I have unrealistic expectations!

So you know what, occasionally, when I’m tired or have PMT, I shout at Monkey. I hate it and feel guilty afterwards but I am not perfect and I shout sometimes.

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Sometimes, things go wrong. Something I am baking doesn’t quite work out and I have to throw it away, or eat it anyway and try to make it better next time.

Sometimes I don’t follow the crochet pattern properly, or something doesn’t work out the way I want so I have to unpick it or start again.

Sometimes, when  I hurt myself or something goes wrong, or someone annoys me in the car, I swear in front of him. I hate it (it’s so weird my whole attitude to swearing had changed since he was born and I hate hearing it now – anyway post for another day!) but I do it.

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My pile of shame..

 

Sometimes the house is a mess. I haven’t figured out the best routines for keeping on top of it. There’s quite often a pile of laundry to be sorted (I don’t iron). I hate dust. Why does it even exist? It winds me up.

 

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Grumpy monkey

 

Sometimes Monkey is grumpy. Sometimes he tests his boundaries and throws a tantrum in a shop (cue dirty looks from passers by) but you know what? He’s not perfect either. If I can have off days, so can he. It does’t mean I’m a terrible parent or that I’m doing something wrong if he throws a tantrum.

 

Some days (okay, most days) my hair is a mess and I can’t be bothered to put make-up on. I have play-doh smushed into my jeans and dribble all over my shoulder.

I need to stop trying to be perfect. Although I console myself that in striving for perfection at least I am doing the best I can. I just need to be more realistic and less hard on myself for not being able to achieve something that isn’t possible.

Do you believe in perfect?

 

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Feeling saddened by the judgement we face as parents

I am linking up to ‘The Prompt.’ A wonderful Link up hosted by the lovely Sara at MumturnedMom.

This week’s Prompt is “I was Saddened by…” and I have really struggled to know what to write for this, or whether to write at all. There is a lot of sadness in the world, and for my part, I would say I have had more than my fair share of sadness at times, however I am not ready to write about those times, at least not yet and not here. I started this blog to chart my journey into becoming a stay at home mum, and whatever I write, I want it to be true to that theme.

So after a lot of thought about what saddens me in the world of parenting, I realised that one of the things that saddens me the most is that when you become a parent, you enter a whole new world of judgement. There is something about being a parent that makes people feel entitled to judge you, and no matter what you do or however hard you try, it always seems that somebody, somewhere, is judging you for it.

It starts when you are pregnant – and you can be judged on how much weight you’ve gained, what you are eating, whether you are exercising. And you can be judged either way by different groups of people. I have written about how I struggled with pregnancy and I have never felt so judged in my life, as I truly believe some people thought I was just putting it on. Then, when thinking about the birth, will you want pain relief, or will you ‘tough it out?’ If you want a natural, painkiller free birth, some will say you are naive, if you want pain relief, others say you’re a wimp or something. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I’m not even going to get into the breastfeeding/formula feeding debate! And it by no means ends there – weaning, with purees or babyled? Sleep training? How much TV does your little one watch? Are you in a routine? Then as they get older it becomes about discipline and how well they eat. There is judgement about whether you choose to go back to work – with studies about how being in nursery or childcare is bad for your child. Then if you stay at home you are judged for being a sponger or of lower intelligence for not wanting to go to work.

The judgement comes from everywhere. Well meaning family and friends. Healthcare professionals, midwives. The media, politicians. Everywhere you look there is someone who has an opinion about the best way you should be raising your child. It leads to so much worry and doubting yourself because it is so easy to take all this judgement to heart and feel that you are clearly not doing something right, when I think that all any of us are doing is trying to do the best for our children.

What really saddens me though is the fact that it is everywhere. As a society is this really what we are like? That we judge people for everything that they do? Do we all think that we are so perfect that we therefore have the right to judge others? Whatever happened to people in glass houses not throwing stones? Whatever happened to supporting each other? To respecting others wishes for how they choose to live their lives or raise their children?

I guess there is a flip side to this. There are always so many stories in the press about children being harmed. Harmed by family members, or parents whose job it is to protect them. Being harmed by the people they trust most in the world. I read something recently about how we should all be responsible to report something wrong when we see it. To step in before something dreadful happens. Of course I can see the logic in this, if making a judgement about a family and the way they treat their child may protect that child from harm.

I worry though, where to draw the line? Wasn’t there a story recently where somebody called the police because they saw a mother and child out on the seafront and thought the child was too cold? The police went, but was it a waste of their time? Should we put more trust in the mother that she is looking after a child? Or should we report every tiny worry? I guess it’s a case of the acts of the minority of bad people affecting the lives of the many,who would never harm a hair on their children’s heads.

Is this even the same thing though? Is judging someone for whether they wean with purees or do BL weaning really comparable to judging someone for something that may be a sign they are harming their child? If a parent chooses to go back to work because they feel it will enable them to provide a better life for their child, should we judge them for that? Likewise if a parent chooses to stay at home to raise their child because they feel that is the best option for them, do they deserve to be judged for it? Where does this judgement come from? I don’t believe that these judgements  are based on worrying what is best for the child, so where does it come from? Is it about protecting ourselves? Are we judging the way others choose to parent in order to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing? Why can’t we support each other while accepting that we choose to do some things differently. Does there have to be a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way?

I don’t know what the answer is to any of this, I really don’t. Can you offer support to someone who you think is struggling without them feeling judged? I’d like to think you can, but in reality I’m not so sure. The more I think about it, the more I realise that this judgement isn’t confined to the world of parenting as throughout society people are judged. Judged by their looks, by how much money they make, by their gender or sexuality. Maybe it’s just a part of human nature. Maybe I just feel more judged now because of the weight of responsibility that is raising a child.

It saddens me…

Do you feel judged as a parent? Where do think it comes from?

 

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BaSAHM Survival Kit – Confidence

Part Three in my Becoming a SAHM Survival Kit series. This week, Confidence. Do you have confidence in yourself as a parent? I do … sometimes … but not all of the time (as evidenced by my recent post!). I’m not just talking about having confidence in your parenting skills though, but more about how you need a bit of confidence in various situations if you decide to be a SAHM. As always this relates to dads too, and some of it relates to all parents, working or otherwise.

As  SAHM you need to have enough confidence to do the following:

  1. Get out of the house. Go to Mum and Baby/Toddler groups, I would go insane if it was just me at home with Monkey all day, every day so in my opinion getting out to these groups is vital. I know not everyone agrees with this, and it can be scary to go on your own to somewhere new, but it’s great for the little one – to socialise with other little ones, and it is great for you as you do not have to be the sole entertainment for your baby, even if just for half an hour or so. It also gives you a little bit of adult conversation….
  2. Talk to other parents at these groups. It can be pretty intimidating, especially if the group is well established. Other parents probably know each other already and cliques sometimes form. If you are intimidated and think they are judging your parenting or giving you funny looks, remember that they are there for the same reasons you are, are probably as intimidated as you and are probably far more judgemental of their own parenting than they are of yours. I spent a lot of time worrying about what other mums thought of my parenting, until  I realised that if I wasn’t thinking about what they were doing, then presumably they weren’t too fixated on what I was doing either.  Also in these situations empathy can go a long way and be a real ice-breaker. You see a mum with a clingy wailing child, she’s slightly red in the face and you can see she is not having much fun that day? I find a friendly smile and saying something like ‘oh, one of those days is it?’ goes a long way and makes them feel less judged.
  3. Talk to other parents at play parks or play centres. I know some of my mummy friends never do this and are too nervous, again largely because they worry what they will think of them. But I have had some lovely conversations with parents at the park or play centre. If your kids are playing (or fighting) try and spark a conversation with their mum or dad. In my experience most of us adults feel a bit self conscious standing around watching the kids playing, and on bad days when it has been just you and the little one all day it can be nice to have even a 30 second conversation with a complete stranger as it makes you feel less alone.
  4. Try a new activity or play idea at home. It breaks up the day. Yes the little’un may hate it. Yes even if they love it it may only last a few minutes before they get bored again. Yes it may make a massive mess or be a disaster, but you will never know if you don’t try. If they do hate it, maybe try again in a couple of months time. If it makes a mess, take a deep breath and try and think of a way to contain the mess next time. It passes the time, can teach them new skills (and you) and is something nice to tell your other half about when they get home. And you never know, it may turn out to be their favourite activity and keep them occupied for a while!
  5. Walk away and take a deep breath. Thankfully I don’t need to do this as often these days but when Monkey was younger and he seemed to cry for no apparent reason, or wouldn’t stop regardless of what I did, it really helped. As long as they are safe, in a childproofed room or in their cot, sometimes for your own sanity you need to walk away and take a deep breath. It’s not easy, especially when they are little as your mummy instincts hate to leave them crying, but as someone once said to me, no baby ever died of crying. And you are not neglecting your child by walking away, gathering your thoughts and then coming back fresh. I actually found sometimes that after a couple of minutes crying Monkey would get it out of his system a bit and was easier to soothe second time round.
  6. Have some me-time. As a SAHM you need to take it when you can get it. I sometimes feel guilty about leaving Monkey with his daddy for an hour or two at the weekend so I can do something for myself (like browse some shops without a toddler in tow, or have a bath), but it always does me good. And actually, it does them good to have some Monkey and Daddy time. I suppose I feel guilty as weekends should be family times and I want to spend time with my hubby too, but sometimes it just does us all some good so I feel less guilty about it now. A night out with the girls is wonderful too, as most of us are mummies now it’s not quite as late or raucous as it used to be (not quite as tempting when you know you will have a 7am wake-up call regardless of how you feel!!). It also doesn’t happen as frequently either (matching up dates with babysitters, partners, work shifts etc make it more complicated when there is a kiddy at home) but when we can sit together for a meal out and have a good natter without having to constantly watch what the kids are up to it is just so relaxing and I feel quite refreshed after a night off!
  7. Disagree with others, be it family, friends, strangers, the media about how to parent your child sometimes We are all individuals and every child is different. You as mummy or daddy the primary caregiver, know your child best. Just because something worked with so & so’s child, doesn’t mean it will for yours. You want to wean using pureed food rather than baby-led, or vice versa, do it. Be open to new ideas and of course accept that people may only be trying to help – and sometimes their advice will work. But if you disagree with that advice then have the confidence to stick to your guns.
  8. Feel proud of yourself. Easier said than done I know. But you are doing your best at this parenting lark and doing your best is always something to be proud of.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. If you struggle with any/all of the above, I have one more tip for you. Fake it. Put a smile on your face and pretend you have the confidence to talk to a stranger or try something new. I have a lot of insecurities and find social situations really difficult sometimes, but I have learnt that hiding behind these insecurities doesn’t do me any favours. And you may be surprised that if you fake something for long enough it starts to become real. The fake smile, isn’t so fake any more, and the nerves at speaking to a new person, the slight stutter… become less noticeable.

None of this is easy and I by no means succeed at this all the time and I hope it doesn’t come across as preachy as that’s not how I mean it. I wish I had this kind of confidence all the time, but like I say, on the days that I don’t I try and fake it and sometimes I succeed….

 

If you enjoyed reading this post, why not check out the other posts in this series so far, Perspective, Resilience and Creativity. Thanks!


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Is it my fault?

This post is inspired by ‘The Prompt,’ a fantastic idea by the lovely MumturnedMom. This week’s prompt is the following quote:

“Guilt to motherhood is likes Grapes to Wine”

This seems to describe my life quite well as we have a few worries with Monkey at the moment -Shyness, Fussy Eating and Lack of Speech. With each of these three things, I keep asking myself, is it my fault? Have I encouraged these behaviours? Am I not doing a good enough job? I feel guilty that potentially decisions I have made over the past 19/20 months have led to these attributes.

Is he shy because he is with me all the time? Would he be more social if he was at nursery? Or would that make the shyness worse? We go to toddler groups and on play-dates every week. He spends time with people other than me every day most weeks. We see both sets of Grandparents every week, he has 4 doting uncles who he sees regularly. We go to play-centres and baby cafes. He mixes regularly with children older than him, younger than him and the same age, and yet he is terrified of strangers, hates me to leave him, even for a second (though he is usually ok with daddy or grandparents) and even sometimes gets scared of other toddlers who he sees regularly. Is it just his nature or is he picking something up from me?

The fussy eating particularly does my head in. I worked so hard in the first year of his life to make sure he ate a huge variety of food and he loved most things! Not everything but nearly. Then 13 months came round and boom, no more pasta. No more broccoli, or really much fresh fruit or veg at all. The list goes on. I have read repeatedly that fussy eaters aren’t born, but that they are created by their parents. My question to this is, HOW? If it is my fault how did I do it? Where did I go wrong?? As the problem has got worse I know there has been times I have exacerbated it by being stressed and putting pressure on him. I know that and am trying very hard to remove those aspects from mealtimes in a bid to help this fussiness. But where did it come from in the first place? Where did I go wrong?

I also worry hugely about the lack of speech. I am terrified of the fact that he may not be speaking by his 2 year check and the judgement I will get from the Health Visitor. I have again read repeatedly that delayed speech is a sign of the parents not communicating enough, not helping them learn to speak. That toddlers who speak well at this age are a credit to their parents. So is it my fault that he doesn’t use words yet? We have read to him daily since he was a newborn. We sing constantly, make up the daftest rhymes for mundane daily tasks. Sing his favourites – ‘wind the bobbin’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ millions of times as well as introducing him to many other rhymes. We talk all of the time! I was talking to my lovely neighbour a few days ago and she laughed and said that hubby and I are two of the chattiest people she knows, so it can’t be through lack of talking to him. Do we not give him a chance to speak? We listen, we encourage but we don’t want to pressure him either.

I know lots of kind people who have said they didn’t talk until they were three and there was no long term problems at all. Everyone seems to know someone who was a late speaker so why do I worry about it so much? He is getting closer, I know he is. There has been a few times recently where his babble has been a bit too close to a word to be coincidental. For example when Daddy said ‘in a minute,’ Monkey got cross and ran across the room shouting na naaaa, which could have been a ‘no now!’?? Am I just clutching at straws? I just worry that despite our best efforts that the delay is somehow our fault. That he watches too much telly. That I don’t talk to him enough maybe? Does he not talk because he already gets what he needs from us? He shakes his head, he points, he pulls us to where he wants us to go. He lets me know it is time for his nap by cuddling me and waving. By doing what he asks silently are we not encouraging him enough to use words instead? Oh who knows.

Guilt. My life as a mummy seems to be riddled with it.

On the reserve side he does so well with so many other aspects and yet I struggle to feel proud. I give him more credit than I give myself. It is so easy to feel guilty, but much more difficult to feel proud of myself. Proud of him, yes, but me? No.

He is such a good sleeper and has been ever since we did the cry and wait technique at 4 months old. Did we do that? Or did we just help him achieve it sooner? Would he have got there anyway? He is very coordinated. He walked early and now runs a lot. He kicks a ball really well and has a seriously strong throw. His fine motor controls are fantastic too and he threads spaghetti through his sand sieve with ease. He loves drawing and painting and is really good at it now. He feeds well from a spoon and has a good stab with his fork. He’s great at putting his coat on and his learning with his trousers and tops.

He understands sooo much. If I say “sit on the step so I can put your shoes on”, he trots off to the step and sits down. If I say “Shall we go upstairs to get dressed?” He takes my hand and takes me upstairs. He knows where his relatives live, if we walk past the path to Uncle Simon’s house he points and says ‘er er er’, the same goes to the paths leading to Grandma and Granddad’s house. He can point out the animals in his favourite books.

For the most part he is such a wonderful, happy little monkey that I push all of this guilt and worry to the side and enjoy the time I have with him. I tell myself that he will learn to speak when he is ready. That the fussy eating and shyness are just phases he is going through. That I am doing my best. But I never quite manage to convince myself.

I’m sure that these worries will pass and be replaced by others but  Guilt, I think, is to be a lifelong companion. That, and Wine :)

mumturnedmom

BaSAHM Survival Kit – Resilience

The second instalment in the Becoming a Stay at Home Mum Survival Kit Series - All the things I think you need if you are going to survive becoming a stay at home mum! Next up, Resilience.

When I say resilience I guess what I mean is confidence in your belief that being a stay at home mum is the right thing for you to do. To not give in to doubts or be swayed by the opinions of others. Sounds simple but it can be very hard at times. The term ‘stay at home mum’ is a relatively new one, that replaces other labels such as ‘housewife’ and ‘home-maker’. In the not too distant past, being the housewife or the home-maker was the norm and it was much more unusual for women to continue working once they had children. We’ve come a long way since then. Working mothers are now much more common and stay at home mums have become the minority.

As I have said before I don’t know that one way is better than another, we each have to do what is right for us and our family. However being in the minority can be difficult as there seems to be a lot of people who struggle to understand why you want to be a stay at home mum. I am talking about mums as I am a mum but I am sure it is just the same, if not worse for some stay at home dads as they are even more of a minority group.

What am I talking about? Well when I speak to old colleagues and tell them I am a stay at home mum there is kind of an ‘oh’ moment and ‘ok, ‘sometimes a ‘what do you do all day?’ and recently ‘what will you do when the kids go to school?’ As if being a stay at home parent somehow tarnishes your record and you’ll never be part of the workforce again. Heaven forbid that you might not want to be part of the workforce, and that you might enjoy being a stay at home parent!

The opinion I struggle the most with is the suggestion that being a stay at home parent somehow means that you have a lower IQ or something. For example, when working mummies say that being a stay at home parent isn’t ‘enough’ for them and they need something more for themselves. That is fair enough and I understand they may feel like that and don’t think any less of them for it. Yet when it is turned around I have found some people are so confused why it is ‘enough’ for me right now. During a play-date conversation a couple of months ago another mum thought I said I was going back to work and immediately jumped in with an “Oh I am glad, you’re like me, you need something more.” It was really awkward having to say, no, um I’m not going back to work. I’m sure I will one day but not right now. I’m fine, and the fact that I want to stay at home to raise my children doesn’t make me any less intelligent.

Most of the time these things don’t bother me and people can think what they like. But sometimes it gets to me and the doubts creep in, so you have to be resilient enough to not let them get to you. To stand firm in your decision. I’ve written before about how hard it is to be proud of being a stay at home mum, to avoid risking offending someone so it’s not about saying that I’m right and other people are wrong. It’s just about having the resilience to listen to their opinions but not let them get to you or make you think you are doing the wrong thing or that you are somehow lesser because you don’t work .

Thankfully not everyone thinks like that. I also have mummy friends who say they enjoy work because it’s easier than being with the kids all day and less exhausting, who tell me they don’t know how I do it!

It’s not just about other people’s opinions either, a series of difficult days can beat you down to the point where  you think that maybe it isn’t the right decision. Going through a rough patch with food or sleep etc. can leave you wondering if maybe it would be better for both you and your child if you were at work and they were at nursery or a childminders, being looked after by people who know what they are doing. So you have to be resilient enough not to let the bad days drag you down. After all there is going to bad days no matter whether you are a working parent or stay at home parent. You have to dust yourself down, think about why you have chosen to be a stay at home parent and have the strength to see it through.

I’m not saying I manage this all the time – after all my blog is about becoming a stay at home mum rather than being one! It’s something I am getting better at though. Maybe if I reach the point where I don’t doubt myself or don’t care about other people’s opinions/comments that I will feel like I am a stay at home mum – rather than just someone who is trying to be one!

What do you think?

If you liked this post, why not have a look at the other posts in the survival kit: Perspective, Confidence and Creativity

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Remembering my first pregnancy and struggling with SPD

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Approx. 8 months pregnant

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we are starting to think about having another baby. This has got me thinking about pregnancy and taken me on a little trip down memory lane to what my first pregnancy was like. Before I got pregnant I have to admit that I was a bit judgemental about women who had difficult pregnancies and thought seriously how hard can it be? One of my best friends had such a smooth pregnancy and I naively thought that every pregnancy was the same and that it was a lovely happy healthy time where women bloom.

Then I got pregnant, and oh how wrong I was and how I regretted being so judgemental in the past!

It was difficult from the off as I had really terrible morning sickness (more like all day, every day sickness) and just crippling exhaustion that made me feel like the living dead. I was useless at work (not great when you have just been promoted) and had so much time off sick. I also had to stop driving after a while as  this zombie-ness really made me feel unsafe on the roads, and after a few too-near misses I eventually stopped driving (and I love driving so I just wasn’t myself at all). This led to me feeling very depressed and in the end I was signed off work until my maternity leave began. I was already planning to leave at the very earliest point you can take maternity leave, but I finished a few weeks before that in the end as I was seriously struggling to cope.

As I started to feel a little less exhausted and sick, the slight nagging pain in my pelvis that I had ignored started to get steadily worse. I was diagnosed with SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction), which is due to the pregnancy hormone Relaxin. This is supposed to help your bones and ligaments make room for the baby, but unfortunately in some of us, this hormone causes our pelvis to relax too much, causing a lot of pain as the join at the front of your pelvis (the symphysis pubis) pulls too far apart. I saw a physio who told me to keep my knees together at all times during my pregnancy, and she even suggested I tie my knees together overnight so they didn’t come apart while I slept. Climbing stairs was a nightmare and soon just walking was agony, even at snail speed so I ended up on crutches. I wasn’t even allowed to go swimming as my pelvis was too unstable.

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Monkey trying to get out the wrong way! Two days before birth

The other issue we had is that apparently I have a bicornuate uterus, which basically means I have a sort of heart shaped uterus and makes a breech birth much more likely. We didn’t know this at the time and did all sorts to try and turn Monkey (including the doctors trying to forcibly turn him, which we couldn’t possibly know would never work as he was stuck in one side of my uterus). So all plans of a nice water birth went out the window and we had a caesarean, which is how they saw that I have a bicornuate uterus.

Of course I know that in many ways we were very lucky, Monkey had no problems at all, and there was no scary risk factors in terms of either his life or mine and of course I would rather feel some discomfort than have any more serious problems. But from start to finish, it wasn’t great. I can truly say I never got the pregnancy glow that people talk about and I’m not looking forward to going through it again. Hopefully the nausea and exhaustion won’t be as bad next time. I won’t be working silly hours in a stressful job so I definitely have an advantage there. Plus that kind of thing can vary a lot from pregnancy to pregnancy so fingers crossed I won’t feel so bad second time round. Because of my strange uterus I have a 50/50 chance of another breech baby, which would definitely mean another caesarean, so we will just have to wait and see with that one and I guess what will be will be.

On crutches at a wedding - look at the size of me!

On crutches at a wedding – look at the size of me – approx 8 months pregnant.

But the SPD, by all accounts is likely to reappear. I have heard that not everyone gets it again, but in most cases if you have had it once you are apparently likely to get it again, with the symptoms appearing sooner and progressing faster, so I have that to look forward to! I still get the odd twinge every month before my period so I have to prepare myself for the worst I think (then I may get pleasantly surprised, who knows?), but  I am doing everything I can to try and prepare for it though. I was a bit overweight before I even got pregnant last time, which can’t have helped, so I have been steadily trying to get healthy before we start trying again. I am quite a bit lighter than I was last time so hopefully that will help by putting less pressure on my pelvis.

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My exercises, stuck on the wardrobe to make sure I do them!

I also know the exercises I need to do to strengthen the muscles supporting my pelvis (the transverse abdominus and pelvic floor) and my new year’s resolution is to start doing these exercises every day so that I am in the best shape possible before I even get pregnant to at least try and limit the damage! I will also know what it is next time, so unlike last time where I ignored it for a while, and then tried to push through the pain and carry on as normal (apparently completely the wrong thing to do!) I will listen to my body and take it easy when I need to. Even though I will hate to do it!

I am worried about what all this will mean for Monkey, as he is such an active child and loves going for walks or running about, and I love doing those things with him. My best Christmas present is a nice pair of winter boots to keep my feet warm as we spend so much time outdoors! How is that going to work if I end up on crutches again? How will I keep him safe if I can’t run after him should he make a dash near a road? He is pretty good but you can never be too careful. If I have to stop driving again because I don’t feel safe how will we get to baby groups and go on play-dates?

Both sets of grandparents have already offered their assistance and I know will help out as much as they can. Hubby has also said that he will work from home more if he needs to so that he can help out. But I know that no matter how much help I get, I will struggle with the fact that I am not able to be the mummy I want to be, even if only for a few short months.

But needs must, and it was worth all of the hardships last time to have such a gorgeous little man at the end of it, and I’m sure it will be worth it to have another gorgeous little baba in my arms one day. Fingers crossed that all goes as well as can be hoped for!

 

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