Struggling with Shyness – 18 months old

I’ve written Monkey’s current age in the title but this has been going on for a while really, on and off. At the moment though he does seem to be going through a particularly shy patch. It seems strange as he is quite brave in many ways, he’ll go down pretty big slides by himself, likes climbing and doing all sorts, but for some reason he is just really shy of people at the moment.

For quite a while now if we bump into someone when we are out, or a new person comes to the house, or even if someone just walks past us when we are out he will run to me, cuddle in close and bury his head in my neck. If he can’t get to me, he will absolutely bawl until I come to him and then he does the head bury. He hasn’t always been like this, he has come in and out of shy stages but it’s not been as bad as this before. I realised that it was particularly bad this time, as this morning, while we were out on our walk, I noticed that when he is in his buggy and sees a person (and they can be pretty far away) he will lean as far back in his seat as he can and scrunch his eyes as tightly closed as possible! Or sometimes he will cover his eyes with his hands for ages, sneaking the occasional peep to see if they are still visible.

He’s always been slightly wary in new places, staying firmly at my side, and has definitely been a clingy boy. He is definitely wary of older children too. I have read some people say their shy toddler is fine with other children, but not Monkey. He is better with children he knows but even then he tends to back away of they get to close or try and engage him but I’ve figured that most of this is just down to his age.

He is much better with family, we have made a conscious effort to make sure he sees both sets of grandparents once a week and his uncles and aunts as often as possible to make it easier on all of us! And it definitely has worked, thankfully he is happy to be with all his grandparents without me or daddy, and he even played with two of his uncles the other week while hubby and I did some jobs. But, my aunt was out of the country for a while and when she came to visit again, even though my mum was there too, I popped out of the room and he screamed his head off. It took him ages to warm up to her. She stayed with us most of the day and he was fine in the end, even giving her lovely cuddles but it took some time.

To help with this, especially in the run up to Christmas he has a little photo album of family and friends we see regularly. He loves this album and can spend ages poring over it. He loves pointing at all the pictures while I say each persons name. It definitely does help as he hadn’t seen my older brother for a few weeks, but after seeing pictures of him in the album he was really happy to play with Uncle Paul and even be left alone with him for a short while so that’s good. Helps with people he sees intermittently.

But it can be so hard. I have read that you shouldn’t label them as shy or make a fuss out of the behaviour or say they are being silly. While that makes sense, it is also is more difficult than it sounds. When I can, whilst he has his head buried I try and tell him that it’s ok, that there’s nothing to be scared of, that mummy isn’t going anywhere and the people aren’t scary. I can’t always do that though if we bump into people who want a conversation, because of course they notice and often ask if he is a shy boy, or I find myself saying he is in a shy stage, almost defensively as I don’t want them to think badly of him. Likewise when people walk past and coo over him or just say good morning, when he is sat in an awkward position with his face all scrunched up, they give him such a funny look that again I want to come to his defence.

Apparently his daddy was shy as a child and never wanted to be left at birthday parties or anything, yet now he is a hugely confident adult so I know it is probably just a phase that he will grow out of. I can’t help but wonder what he would have been like had I gone back to work and he had had to go to a nursery or child-minder, whether that would have helped with shyness, or made it worse? I am a big believer that obviously you can try different things and we shape a lot of the way our children turn out, but that there is also an element of kids just being who they are. They have their own personalities that we cannot, and therefore shouldn’t try to, change.

I guess I will just have to be supportive and accepting and see when/if he grows out of this shy stage. Any of you have shy little ones? Any tips?


My negative head has taken over this morning…

I had a really lovely week this week. We are all well again after being poorly and it has just been nice and relaxed and Monkey and I have had a lot of fun. But, for some reason, I have woken up this morning with my negative head on. Does anyone else ever get this? When I have my negative head on it is like all of the niggles that usually live in the back of my mind, come flying to the front and seem insurmountable. The happy mundane routine of life at the moment suddenly seems stifling and I feel like I want to escape….. but to where or what, I don’t know.

I am alternating between stomping round the house, shouting at objects, (such as my phone because it won’t do what I want) and sitting crying and thinking about all the negatives in life. I should point out at this point that Monkey is out with Daddy for an hour or so, so he isn’t witnessing any of this! I am generally a positive and happy person. I try to look at the positives in life, so this is all quite out of character for me, but it does happen sometimes, and as this blog is about my life as a stay at home mum, I feel I need to share the lows as well as the highs. I am not using this blog to try and make myself out to be the perfect mum, far from it! I also find that it is quite cathartic to get it all out of my head by writing it down.

I made the decision to be a stay at home mum. It was my decision and mine alone, with the support of my husband. I have written a lot about this decision in the past so won’t go into detail here, but most of the time I love watching Monkey grow and develop and I feel I have made the right choice. But on days like today, when my negative head has taken over, I am back to doubting all of this again. I wonder if I am using being a stay at home mum to hide from the pressure of having to do something in my life or to be successful. I wonder if being a stay at home mum is enough for me or if I should be doing something else. I feel like a failure which also feels crazy because I chose to do it and I try very hard to do a good job. I don’t feel like I am failing at being a mummy, I’m not a domestic goddess or anything but I don’t feel like I am failing at that specifically either. I just feel like I am failing in general, maybe because there is no evidence of success or achievement? I don’t know if this rings any bells with anyone or if it just makes no sense at all from the outside.

So I start to wonder if I can do something else, I mean I crochet and I blog but I wonder if there is something else I can do to give myself more of a feeling of achievement. I used to love photography and drawing, and I wonder about writing a story or something, but then the negative head hits back at these attempts to find a positive solutions, and tells me I am not creative enough or talented enough to be successful so why bother. So I wonder if I should go back to work but then I do a full circle and think about the Monkey and I do know that I don’t want to leave him to go to work. I could work from home, but do what? And find the time where? Then the negative head tells me I am lazy and unmotivated… maybe I am.

My negative head usually doesn’t stick around for long, and sharing these thoughts on here already seems to be diminishing it’s hold over me. Hubby and Monkey are back and chomping on the flapjacks fresh from the oven and I feel myself coming back. But I know it will take over again one day to cast shadows and doubt over my purposefully happy and mundane life. For now though I am going to sign off and try and enjoy this sunny Sunday with my family.

Stay at home mum and … proud??

It’s a few months now since I made the decision to be a stay at home mum and yes there are ups and downs (as with any job I’m sure) but on the whole I am really happy with the decision I made. Monkey and I are very busy and we have lots of fun together and I love being the one to see him grow and learn day by day. Yet for some reason, I feel being a stay at home mum is a difficult thing to be proud of.

One of the mums I have been getting to know at baby class asked me the simple question of ‘do you work?’ and I really didn’t know how to answer it. I just said ‘no’ and then stopped. I almost felt like I should justify the reasons why I don’t work or be self deprecating about it. I daren’t be proud of the decision as I run the risk of offending them and their decision. It’s a really hard thing to talk about with other mums who do work, as they either can’t understand why you don’t want to work, or they would love to be able to not work but can’t afford to. Either way I don’t like getting into the conversation about it. There’s kind of an ‘oh’ and a taken aback look which makes me feel really uncomfortable.

Trying to justify my reasons for staying at home almost implicitly criticises their decision to go back to work, even though that’s not how I feel. As I have mentioned a few times, I don’t judge other people for their decisions, we all have to make our own decisions that feel right for us. But if I say ‘I couldn’t bear for someone else to tell me about his developments’, it comes across almost like I’m saying ‘how can you bear to have someone else tell you about your child’s development?’ So I don’t say anything and I don’t explain my reasons because I don’t know how to without it being taken the wrong way. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.

One of my good friends is currently on maternity leave with her second child and is talking about when to return to work. She was asking me the other day about when I thought I would want to go back to work and what I would do, as if it was a given that of course I will go back to work at some point soon, even if not to the job I had before. It felt weird having to explain that no, I don’t think I am going to go back, at least not until after we’ve had baby number 2, and potentially not until they are both at school. It’s like it doesn’t compute why you would want to do that. I know I am not the only stay at home mum in the world but I don’t seem to know many who can empathise with me on this. Both my mum and mother in law were stay at home mums but they were different times then and it was much more common.

Society has changed so much and there’s always something in the media about motherhood. You’re criticised one minute if you work, then criticised if you don’t work and it’s hard to know which way to go. There’s a lot of pressure to be a supermum who works and is successful at work but also raises her children well and does the best things for them, but I don’t understand how you do that. I think being a mum is a really hard (though massively rewarding) full time job and I don’t know how I personally would manage a full time (or even part time) job at the same time. I think one or the other would suffer, and well if I am going to do something I would rather do one thing well than multiple things badly. And what’s more important than raising your child?

Again this is all my opinion and based entirely on me. I really don’t mean anyone to take any offence to this because we are all different and have different capabilities and are in different situations. I know that I am massively fortunate to be able to stay at home and I know that if I wasn’t able to stay at home that of course I would manage to juggle work and baby. Because if you have to do it, you just do.

I suppose maybe that’s it, maybe I can’t feel proud of being a stay at home mum because it’s really only luck that has enabled me to do it. I am lucky that hubby earns enough for all of us. It’s not my hard work that lets me live the way that we do. I can’t say that I earned loads of money pre-baby so now we can use savings to live off, I wish! Maybe all my talk about worrying whether I offend other mums isn’t the crux of it at all. Maybe, I just feel a bit humbled by the fact that they do manage work and children but I don’t because I am lucky and I don’t have to. Can you be proud of something you got through luck?

So, ok, maybe I struggle to be proud of how I can be a stay at home mum, but I wish I could feel proud of the fact that I am being one. But that brings me full circle to the beginning of this post. How can I proudly wax lyrical about how good it is for monkey to have me be at home with him, without implicitly criticising mums who go back to work? I don’t know how to do that.

It’s a difficult one and I don’t think I know the answer. This has been a bit of a rambling post I know, but it’s something that has been on my mind this week.

A very trying day…

Urgh, today has not been the best day in my ‘stay at home mum’ journey so far. On the whole I have been enjoying being a stay at home mum, the monkey is very fun and I’ve been keeping us both busy and happy, but today is a real low point.

It started at about 630 this morning, pretty normal wake up time, but instead of a happy chattering monkey he woke up crying for some reason and took a little while to cheer up. After that he was ok, but as his Granny would call it, he has been very eggshelly (fragile) all day and the slightest thing has made him upset. I think I’ve done well most of the day and been understanding that he’s having an off day. We all have them after all!

We had his 7-12 month developmental check this morning too, and although it went well, you can’t help feeling a bit judged being cross examined on what he’s doing, how much he’s eating, what he’s eating etc. I don’t think monkey enjoyed it either, being stripped off and weighed, measured and looked at, then being watched by a stranger while he played. Not today anyway, other days he may have taken it in his stride, but this morning he was pretty grumbly. He was also really tired most of the morning which didn’t help!

We got through lunch, which wasn’t exactly fun, then he had quite a long nap though it was a bit restless sadly, and he woke up happy. Great, I thought, maybe he was just tired? But the afternoon hasn’t gone that well either, reaching a low point at teatime.

Unfortunately after a day of being understanding and coping with the random upsets and crying I am shattered. Going over everything the nursery nurse said this morning hasn’t helped, worrying and feeling guilty over the slightest thing she said, about what cup he drinks from and how we serve his food and just, well, little bits and bobs that just generally leave you feeling like you’ve been scored and given a ‘could do better’ grade in the subject of motherhood.

I thought teatime would go well as he loves the meatballs I make and his steamed potato and peas…. but apparently not today. Today he is spitting everything out, not wanting to know then crying and gagging so he throws up the little bit that he has actually eaten (and he had seemed to enjoy the odd few bites).

At this my façade cracks and I lose my cool. I tell him off and throw the cup he is playing with, rather than drinking from, on the floor. Yeah, I know, who’s the parent here? Throwing things in a tantrum isn’t exactly the best example to set, but how else do you vent frustration to a 10 month old baby who can’t tell you why he suddenly doesn’t want to eat the food that he has liked every other time before? The food that you have spent ages in the kitchen preparing while he sleeps?

I try to tell him he needs to eat his food or he won’t get anything else, that’s all there is, but then I’m feeling awful because I know he’s hungry, he needs to eat. And if he doesn’t eat his tea then surely he won’t sleep well tonight and that isn’t good for any of us.  How do you teach them to eat what is in front of them while still making sure they go to bed full? Is he too young to be worrying about that? Should I just give in?

I realise I have to walk away and take a breather so because I don’t know what to do I give him two of the oat and apricot biscuits (that I made at the weekend but usually try to ration so he doesn’t just eat biscuits all the time), dump them on his tray with some raisins and walk out of the room. I sat on the stairs, text my husband because I needed to vent (lucky hubby coming home to such a happy home!!) and had a little cry. I then go back in, check and yep sure enough he is eating the biscuits and raisins, so not off his food completely. I turn the TV on and walk out again because I can’t be all smiley and serene yet.

Thankfully, hubby is now home to help for the evening and there’s only an hour or so to go before bed.

I know it’s not his fault, maybe his teeth are coming through and hurting, maybe he’s just feeling under the weather. Poor little thing can’t exactly tell me what is the matter. But honestly, days like this are not fun. Days like this are not easy. Days like this make you feel like a really bad mother.

Thank goodness not all days are like this! Tomorrow will be a better day… at least I really hope so!