I hate being late, I always have done. As a kid my Dad always took ages getting ready and so we were late to pretty much everything. Whenever we saw friends or went to events it was like a running joke “Oh it’s the Pardoes, late again!” As a kid, knowing that it was outside of my control I hated the mocking, whereas it never bothered my Dad. My Mum, brothers and I would often be sat in the car ready and waiting to go while he was pottering around getting himself organised!
courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Whether I would be so averse to lateness as an adult if it weren’t for this, who knows, but if anything now jokes are the other way round. It is extremely rare that I am late and often arrive at things early, and even if I try to be late (when it doesn’t matter) I rarely manage to be later than on time. It’s a bit ridiculous really but I actually find being late really stressful and I hate the thought of keeping people waiting. Thankfully hubby has similar feelings about lateness as I do though I can be a bit OTT if he is faffing slightly before we go somewhere – he is nothing like my Dad but I can over-react a little on occasion!
I have heard parents talk before about how they are never able to get anywhere ontime now that they have children, and I am not criticising, we are all different (and our kids are all different) but I haven’t found that to be true yet for me. Who knows, when I have two kids my anti-lateness feelings may crash and burn! If anything though I find it even harder to be late since we have had Monkey, because we are up so blimmin early in the morning!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
The next instalment of my Becoming a SAHM Survival Kit is all about me-time, or you-time 🙂 I’ve mentioned it in some of the other posts in the series already but it is so important that I think it deserves a post of it’s own.
Life as a SAHM is busy! I’m not saying working mums are less busy (surely you must be more busy?) or need downtime any less then SAHM’s though I guess it does depend what your job is and how much you enjoy it. But what I am saying is that when every day of your life involves wiping bums, cooking, cleaning, playing, walking, trying to teach your little ones all while being clambered over, clung too, pulled around, screamed at, and cried on, etc. it can feel like a lot of hard work. You don’t really have any personal space, be it physically or emotionally.
Even when the grandparents look after Monkey for the odd hour during the week I spend the whole time cleaning, then Monkey’s nap times are spent cooking, doing a bit more cleaning and I squeeze in blogging and tweeting where I can. I do sometimes just sit in front of the TV during nap times too, I’m not ashamed to admit it, some days I am too knackered by the afternoon nap to do anything other than rest before the onslaught of the rest of the afternoon!
After a while of no time to just be me, to do what I want, I get steadily grumpier, bicker more with my husband, and sex, well, it doesn’t happen because I just want some personal space. That’s not to say I don’t love being a SAHM, of course I do otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. It is just wearing to put your needs last all the time.
I am very lucky with my hubby, he’s happy to look after Monkey on his own sometimes, he is very understanding of how hard it can be as a SAHM and is very supportive of me needing a break occasionally. Even then though I often find weeks go by without me feeling like I have had any kind of break because I feel guilty. Weekends are family time so I feel we should make the most of Daddy being home so we can do things together. Likewise evenings are our grown up time so we spend it together rather than me going off to read a book or have a bath. I feel guilty for wasting time that could be spent together. I forget that spending time on myself isn’t a waste – it’s a necessity!
Last weekend hubby gave me some time off (haha that sounds like he’s my boss, but he offered to look after Monkey on his own for the day so I could have a break), I had crazy bad PMT because I have come off the pill and I NEEDED some time alone. I didn’t do much, just had a long hot bath, wandered round some shops (which let’s face it you can’t really do with a toddler in tow), made a vegetable soup for the first time ever, and sat and read my book. It was lovely. Monkey and daddy had a lovely day together so we were smiles all round. That week, even though the PMT was still there a bit and I was on a short fuse, I was generally much happier than previously, and feeling much more romantic with my hubby.
This weekend was one of my best friends’ birthdays and she was planning some drinks in London. Hubby and Monkey were invited too and we did plan to all go, then I asked hubby if he minded me going alone. We could have managed to keep Monkey entertained for the afternoon but it would have taken a lot of effort and honestly, all I wanted was to sit and relax for the afternoon and drink and chat with my friends. Hubby had no problem with this and so off I went. It was such a lovely relaxed afternoon and I enjoyed myself so much more with not being climbed over, drooled on etc. No distractions and I felt like I could just be me for a few hours.
The result is that I come home happy and rejuvenated and ready to face another week of being the primary caregiver and living a life centred around Monkey’s needs rather than my own.
So, if you are like me and put your own needs last all the time – Stop. Just for an hour or so. Talk to your partner or a helpful relative and take some time for yourself. Read a book or a Magazine if you prefer. Don’t think about what jobs need doing or what your child is up to. Think about yourself for once, paint your nails, do your hair, go for a walk, take a bath. Just do something that you used to take for granted before you became a mum. You’ll be amazed how refreshed you can feel after just a short break.
If your partner needs some convincing about you taking some time off, remind that it helps them in the long run too 😉 !
Part four in my series – Becoming a Stay at Home Mum Survival Kit. This week the theme is Creativity – and no, I don’t mean the arts and crafts side of creativity. You don’t have to be a budding artist or writer to be a good mummy (though there are many that are). But sometimes a pinch of creativity can really help as a parent.
What do I mean? I am talking diversionary tactics! Who knew you had to be a military strategist as a parent?
Picture this. I’m out on a walk with Monkey and he gets it in his little head that he wants to go down a different path to the one that I am leading him. I start walking one way, he another. His feet are planted firmly on the ground and he is on the verge of a meltdown. For my part I am on the verge of exasperation – I know that path leads to Grandma’s house (and the promise of biscuits), which is why he wants to go that way. I try to cajole, to persuade and nothing, just lots of pointing and shaking of his head.
What to do? The battle is about to commence. There’s a famous quote from the Japanese Military Strategist Sun Tzu:
“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
It’s time to get a bit creative. I look around and see a tree and I am off to hide behind it. Thankfully Monkey loves a bit of hide and seek and he soon is running to find me with a huge grin on his face, I jump out and raaa! Then I am on to the next tree, and so on, you get the idea. Wahoo! Victory without any blood (or tears) being shed!
There isn’t always a tree about which is why I have to be creative to find something to distract him. He really is a stubborn little soul though and some times are harder than others, the same thing doesn’t work every time. So as a mummy you have to think on your feet and be a bit creative. Sometimes I try and persuade him to chase his ball and give it a good kick, other times I tempt him to come with me with the promise of watching the cars and buses from the top of the pedestrian bridge near our house.
It doesn’t always work though, no matter how creative you try to be! The other day I tried to pretend that Postman Pat was eating and enjoying the dinner that Monkey had turned his nose up at… he laughed and thought it was funny but it certainly didn’t make him want to eat his dinner! Boo 🙁 haha ah well, you win some, you lose some!
A bit of creativity can help make your little one feel better when they are hurt or scared too. A friend’s little girl bumped herself coming down the slide and it must have hurt as she was really unhappy. Her clever mummy then announced that a fairy had come and given her some magic cream to make it feel better. She pretended to dab it on and her little girl instantly felt better. It’s amazing the power their imaginations have!
I also find you have to be quite creative when it comes to play ideas and keeping little ones entertained and to help develop those skills. The internet of course is a wonderful place to help find these activities as there are lots of mummies out there who are far more creative than I am! I have found all sorts of things that I would never have come up with on my own, such as Playing with Hair Rollers, Threading cheerios onto Spaghetti, and Ice Cube Painting to name a few!
Being creative can also help with the financial side of parenting, as raising kids can be really expensive! Whether it is using household objects as toys, rummaging in the sales, or bargain hunting on ebay or at car boot sales, using your imagination can help when things get a bit tight.
I have realised that there are so many times that a little bit of creativity can massively help as a parent. Creativity really can be the key to keeping your little ones (and you) happy 🙂
What Creative gems can you share? Any diversionary tactics that work with your little ones to avert disaster (or tantrums)? Any magic remedies to fix a boo boo?
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:
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….
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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….
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!
This is the first in a new series entitled the Becoming a Stay At Home Mum’s Survival Kit. All the things I have found you need if you are going to survive becoming a stay at home mum! First up, A little perspective.
Picture the scene: A Saturday morning play date for a little one’s first birthday. There are 4 mummies and between us we have 6 children aged between 9 months and just under 3. Chaos but lots of fun. Monkey, still chronically shy has clung to me like a limpet ever since we arrived. If I tempt him off me to play with a toy he is no more than arm’s reach away and if I shift position even slightly he reattaches to me, terrified I am going to leave. Lunchtime comes and Monkey is already sat on my lap at the table doing some drawing. On the menu is perfect simple party fare, a cheesy pizza. I sigh with relief because I think that as Monkey likes pizza, that he will eat and enjoy it and then he may relax.
Instead he touches bits to his lips, and puts it down, turns it around in his hands and then looks at it in disgust. Here we go again, but with Pizza? What? Another food to add to the list of foods he won’t eat?? Same goes for the chips that come next. Then, because he is hungry, the ear rubbing starts and then the wailing and screaming because he is hungry but doesn’t want to eat the food in front of him. I can feel my blood boiling and set my face and try not to react to him or get upset. My lovely friends are hugely supportive and share similar stories to reassure me. I try to ignore it for a while, which really doesn’t work. So I take him out of the situation and give him big cuddles and try to calm him down, but if anything the wailing gets worse! Back into the kitchen where, after quite a lot more wailing, he gets distracted by magnetic fridge letters next to us and the crying slows to whimpers while he starts to play.
Cue lovely support from my friends and more sharing of tips and their experiences, it helps so much, and then one of my friends shifts the subject slightly to their recent issues with getting their little ones to sleep, and suddenly I have the thing I have been missing throughout the previous trauma, perspective! Time to count my blessings. Yes we have issues with Monkey over food sometimes (not always, last night for example he scoffed chicken, potato, chickpeas and rice in a lovely curry which was actually quite spicy!) but on the whole we are very lucky and he is a good boy. I know things can change all the time and I am probably tempting fate by even thinking this, let alone writing it down and sharing with the world! He sleeps solidly overnight and has done since he was only a few months old, bar the odd poorly night or bad dream now and then. In general he is well behaved and listens when mummy and daddy tell him not to do something (within reason, I don’t expect him to be perfectly behaved and if anything I like the strong willed times too as it shows strength of character), he’s not a crybaby and doesn’t create a fuss if he bumps his head or falls down unless he has really hurt himself.
So in that moment, where I had felt tears pricking at my eyes and my blood boiling, I suddenly felt a wave of relief. That doesn’t mean that the problems with food aren’t worth worrying about, of course not. But what I realised in that moment, is that at those times, when it feels like the end of the world, I have to remember that it isn’t. It’s a challenge yes but hopefully not one that can’t be overcome. When I feel like a failure as a mother because I just don’t understand why he won’t eat sometimes, I have to remember that I am doing my best and that all mums feel like this, even if not about the same issue. Just because another child eats well, they may not sleep well, or may other ‘issues’ to overcome. As my friend went on to say, they can’t be perfect all the time.
I hate to give in when he won’t eat perfectly good food, the rule at home is eat what is there or eat nothing. But at someone else’s house, I have to soften the hard line a little, mainly for my sake so I can relax a little. So he ate some sultanas, dried apple and dried cranberries, because he will always eat dried fruit, no matter what. Honestly I think he would live off fruits and nuts if I let him, which while isn’t the worst food in the world, it isn’t exactly a varied diet and wouldn’t solve the problem. But it cheered him up sufficiently and he did enjoy the party a little more after that thank goodness!
The point I am making to myself is take a breath and look at the problem/challenge in perspective. Whatever the worry at that time, it won’t last forever and things could always be a lot worse so I need to count my blessings rather than picking faults and worrying too much.