Archive of ‘parenting’ category
Adverts: Advertising is a form of communication for marketing and used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners; sometimes a specific group) to continue or take some new action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behaviour with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common.
So, it is #rantyfriday and if you read my blog you know I often like a good rant, and sometimes that rant is about so called ‘parenting manuals!’ My dad once bought a manual to help him when I was a ‘difficult’ teenager. I don’t remember what it was called or exactly what was written in it but I do remember laughing out loud when I snuck into my parents bedroom to read it, thinking that the author clearly wasn’t a teenager as they didn’t get them at all! Maybe it was there that my dislike of parenting manuals began, who knows, but recently this irritation has spread to parenting adverts….
I was watching an advert for a popular squash brand this week and was infuriated by the tag line, ‘It’s great to be a dad, even better to be a friend.’ It is such a sweeping statement and I despair of parents who try and be their children’s friends; I’m of the firm opinion that you should be their parent! You, and they, probably have enough friends (I hope!) in your lives anyway. Parenting isn’t about being friends with your child, they are not supposed to like you, they are supposed to respect you and look up to you. Parenting is far more complex than friendship, and whilst I’m friendly with my children, I wouldn’t dream of actually being their friend. How would that help them? I’m supposed to discipline them, teach them the difference between right and wrong, nurture their talents and develop their personalities. I am not the one who should be having their first fag with them behind the bike sheds. Or be the first to hear about them losing their virginity. *shudders* I’m all for having a close,honest relationship with my children, but if they ask for my advice, the advice they will get is that from a mother, not a mate.
After watching that advert I then got a bit obsessed with analysing others. Nappies for example; ‘All your baby needs to wake up happy is your love and a dry bottom.’ What a load of sodding rubbish! I love my baby endlessly, and he always has a nice, clean and dry bottom, but does he always wake up happy, does he heck! I, for that matter, am loved and always have a nice, clean and dry bottom and I wake up in a foul mood almost daily.
And don’t even get me started on sanitary towels and, ‘Have a happy period.’ That was clearly written by a man. Why oh why would I or any other woman ever have a happy period? How could being bloated, tearful, irritated with everyone and everything, in pain, spotty and miserable as sin EVER be a happy experience. If a sanitary towel actually possessed magical powers and could make me have a happy period then I’d buy them in truck loads. Seriously, someone needs to invent that!
My point to this rant (albeit somewhat disguised!) is that parenting and life can be hard, and so many written words compound that. Books, magazine articles, adverts…if we read and believe them all we would go insane and never know what to do. Surely our instincts can tell us that if a child has a dirty nappy they will probably be unhappy. (and, for that matter, that we are never going to have the all elusive ‘happy period’)
My mum sent me this article in the newspaper this week (yes it was from the Daily Fail but still, I read it!)
In the article it says that 46% of Grandmothers listened to their own instincts. And the others shockingly took advice from Mothercare or Marks & Spencer. Can you imagine their advert, ‘This isn’t just any baby…this is a baby with the peachiest, smoothest skin. A baby whose cries sound like sweet music!’ Bleurch, you get the picture. Are these companies really that influential, do people actually listen to the words in their adverts? Are some men out there now changing their complete parenting style to be their son’s mates even though it could be going against every instinct they have?
The article ends with the sentence, ‘We think it’s important for mothers to be encouraged to discover their own inner instincts – something books can overlook!’
COULD NOT AGREE MORE. And now I think this not just about books, but hugely influential advertising as well. What do you think?
I have now self-published this poem as a beautifully illustrated children’s book. You can purchase a copy at Lulu.com.
Thursdays are fast becoming one of my favourite days, not least because it means I get an opportunity to link up with VicWelton’s #Prose4T. I have always enjoyed writing poetry, but have not done so for many years. Recently I have found I can express so much in poetry, and often find it easier to write a poem than a blog post!
Today I am going to share something with you that I wrote a while ago and have tweaked many, many times! Finally I think it’s finished! It’s based on a poem I wrote when I first started blogging, and is a book aimed at children whose mums suffer from depression. I have often noticed in libraries and shops that there are a range of books written to help children cope with different situations; bereavement, the death of a pet, moving house, new babies and even potty training, but there was nothing which focused on depression or post natal depression. Ultimately I would love this poem to be published and money from it raised to help those with PND, but I know that could forever remain a dream, it is not easy to get published! I have read the book to my eldest two children and the reaction was instantaneous, my four year old now often asks for the monster story before bed, and my 11 year old understands a bit more about how I was feeling, it’s prompted some lovely, honest chats.
So, here is the story, please let me know what you think xx
A Monster Ate My Mum
A monster wandered far and wide,
No one walking by his side,
His mum seemed lost, not the mum he knew,
Would someone know just what to do?
She’d not been like herself at all,
Crying lots and feeling small,
Not wanting to go out, get dressed,
Feeling trapped and like a mess.
A monster must have gobbled her up,
Made her sad and feel unloved,
A monster must have eaten her joy,
“I’ll go and find it,” said the monster boy.
He found a monster big and tall,
A grumpy monster with no friends at all,
A monster that ate smiles and joy,
‘Did he eat my mum?’ thought this monster boy.
“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”
“No she’s not here I just ate her smile,
I’ll give it back after a while,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
So the monster boy wandered on,
Knowing where his mum’s smile had gone,
He found another scary beast,
And wondered if he’d had a feast.
“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”
“No I just ate something that made her cry,
She won’t know how, she won’t know why,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
He wondered on and soon he knew,
That it wasn’t his fault, nothing he could do,
The monsters had eaten what made her happy,
It wasn’t him who made her snappy.
He carried on walking along the path,
Wondering who had eaten her laugh,
He saw a monster asleep on his tum,
Was he the one who had eaten his mum?
“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big round tum?”
“No I just ate something that took her spark,
She can have it back, not feel in the dark,
I’m sorry I ate it, I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
All of these monsters had had their fill,
They had each been what had made his mum ill,
He wanted a cure to make her well,
He wanted to help her out of this spell.
He found a wise monster among the trees,
“Could you help me and my mum please?
She’s not been happy, she sleeps all day,
Can you help in any way?”
The monster turned and said to the boy,
“Those monsters will return her joy,
The monsters will return your mum,
She will be back you will have fun.”
“Time is what you need my friend,
Love and kisses and cuddles send.
It won’t be bad like this forever,
She can and will one day get better.”
So the monster boy walked home and knew,
He would be patient, see this through.
He’d rest his head upon her tum,
Hoped no more monsters would eat his mum.
Behaviour: Behavior or behaviour is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.
‘It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same!’ my Dad used to say. It’s amazing the silly little things you remember from someone who is no longer around. And scary how much you forget. But this little phrase has stuck with me over the years. Whenever I have a differing of opinions with someone, or start to be Mrs Judgey Mcjudgerson, I think to myself how dull life would be if we were all the same. How boring relationships and friendships could be if we didn’t all bring a myriad of different things into them. There are certainly positive things that come out of us all being different, and then there are undoubtedly some negative things. And if there is one area where everyone is doing it differently, it’s parenting. How we sleep, how we feed, how we school, or discipline our children, we all do it differently. But do we respect that? Often no. Parents are often very quick to criticise others and judge them on situations they know nothing about. I was recently judged by someone regarding my daughter’s behaviour, someone who probably doesn’t to this day realise that they made me feel judged. It’s not nice. It made me cry and do something I hate, which is doubt myself. They didn’t know my background, or my daughter’s and judged me on a two minute conversation I’d had with her. Anyway, I digress. The point I wanted to discuss in this post about us all being different, is about the differing ways we discipline our children, and whether our methods help our children to understand their actions, or shame them into feeling bad?
Yesterday I was involved in a Twitter chat about discipline and for a while it was difficult to work out if we were singing from the same hymn sheet or not, but we were both very respectful of the other’s opinions, using them to back up our own. It got me thinking. Disciplining children is often a hot topic for debate, many thinking that it should be simply black and white, right or wrong, and then there are others who adopt a kindness approach where they try and understand the children’s feelings and use this to help them understand that what they have done maybe wrong. Discipline is often historically though of as something which is based upon rewards and consequences. Children are often either praised for what they have done right, or disciplined for something they have done wrong. But are they ever allowed to have their feelings justified? Are they ever allowed to explain why they did something? Talk about how they felt? And if they were, would this be a more effective way of teaching them about what is/is not acceptable behaviour? Bad behaviour often stems from fear, or anger, or confusion. It often stems from an emotion, or an inability to control an emotion. And more often than not it stems from curiosity, from wondering ‘what would happen if?’ Maybe instead of telling your child off for them flooding the bathroom from experimenting with water, you could dunk them in the bath with all the tools they need to explore this further. Instead of criticising them for breaking a toy on purpose, explain that this isn’t how we treat our belongings, and then give them something they can rip, tear, break so they continue to learn and discover. Obviously hurting other people doesn’t fall into this category, but if they are frustrated and need to kick or punch or bite, give them something they can do this to. And then talk about their feelings when they’ve calmed down. Justify those feelings, tell them you know they are feeling angry, but that they must never hurt others. Bottling up angry feelings doesn’t ever have a good outcome, and a tantrum is simply a child trying to communicate to us how they feel.
Children in my opinion have an innate need to please, and crave endless attention. If they are often referred to as naughty and through being ‘naughty’ is how they get all of their attention, is it any wonder that they spiral into a succession of wrong doings or become fearful of experimenting, of using their imagination and nurturing their natural curiosity? Wouldn’t it be easier to say that what they are DOING is ‘naughty,’ not that THEY are naughty? (Personally I don’t even like to use the word naughty!) Sadly I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation that we’ve misjudged, and have fallen into the trap of making empty threats (I did this once, never again!) that are never going to be carried out. I think we need to be consistent, children need to know what is and isn’t acceptable, but they also need to understand why these things are or aren’t acceptable, and then they need to be taught to recognise, understand and manage their feelings.
And finally…NEVER forget the power of LEADING BY EXAMPLE, the more you show your children how to treat others, how to behave in certain situations and how to look after their belongings…then the more they will DO THE SAME!
So, what are your thoughts on discipline and behaviour?
Sunshine is sunlight, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Sun, especially in the visible wavelengths. (Wikipedia)
So today is Monday, and this week’s #magicmoment is brought to you by sunshine. (Sunshine, what’s that? I hear you cry!) Well, it’s a lovely thing that comes from the sky, and brings with it light and warmth. It makes everything look more beautiful to me. And it gives me hope.
Yesterday was my middle child’s 4th birthday. He’d already had his party (Bleurch, read previous post lol!) so the day was going to be a simple family day. Just the five of us, plus my Mum up from Cornwall. The birthday boy wanted a Wagamamas for lunch, and a robot cake. Simple. As the clocks had gone forward that night, getting up at half past seven hadn’t seemed so bad. (I tried not to think about what time it really was as I am NOT a morning person at all) We came downstairs, he opened presents and had a lovely breakfast together. Simple. We played with the toys he’d been given and then my mum arrived. Still simple, still so very lovely. We all went off to Wagamamas. Lunch was eaten and then we returned home. Simple. And it was after we returned home that for me, the magic happened.
For those of you who have read my blog you will know that I have recently been quite poorly with post-natal depression, and thankfully am starting to come out of the other side. In just over a week’s time I should be completely antidepressant free. It’s been a tough few weeks reducing my medication, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and for me, yesterday was another giant step forward. Another moment when I realised, and believed, that I really am getting better. And it was all because the sun came out. Tentatively at first, peeping out behind a few stray clouds. And then slowly it became stronger, and warmer, and out for longer stretches of time. There is always a temptation when the sun is out to quickly rush out of the house, to go somewhere, to enjoy every second of it and make the most of it whilst it’s here. Get our bikes, pack a picnic, hike up a hill. All wonderful things to do, but I forget that I actually have a perfectly lovely place to enjoy the sunshine not more than two metres away from me most of the time. A place that doesn’t require hours of planning, endless packing and organisation and more often than not a lengthy car drive. My garden!
So into the garden we went, and as we sat there, in the sunshine and for the first time in what feels like such a long time feeling warm, I felt a huge sense of optimism and hope. I watched my children laughing and running around and I felt hope for the future, for a summer full of sunny days (We are ALL most definitely due one!) For a summer where I can spend time with my amazing family in my garden, and in the sunshine, and actually enjoy it! Last summer was swallowed up by a giant black cloud for me, both literally and metaphorically, and I was unable to really enjoy any of it. I mostly spent it crying, panicking or trying not to run away and never come back. But this summer, when my youngest will turn one year old, I know that I will truly be back. The magic of the sunshine yesterday made me know that I will be the person I used to be, before the b**** that is PND took me away.
Cine Film Magic
Cine is usually used to refer to one or more of the home movie formats including 8 mm, 9.5 mm, 16 mm film, and Super 8. It is not generally used to refer to video formats or professional formats (such as 35mm or 70mm film).
Cine film literally means ‘moving’ film; deriving from the Greek ‘kine’ for motion; it also has roots in the Anglo-French word Cinematograph, meaning moving picture.
Cine started the expanding revolution of ‘play at home’ movies.
Cine film started out expensive, but as it became cheaper the format started the craze of home recording. 50-foot reels were purchased for recording important events such as weddings and funerals.
However, sales started to decline in the early 1970s with the introduction of 16mm film. (Wikipedia)
This blog post is inspired by The Oliver’s Madhouse Magic Moments linky! And it is a perfect time for me to link up, as this weekend has been filled with a million magic moments. Magic family moments.
My mum lives over two hours away and I sadly don’t get to see her as much as I (or my children!) would like. I’ve mentioned her several times in previous blog posts and even though at times our relationship hasn’t been perfect (namely when I was a sh***y teenager!) we have always had immense fun when together, chatting endlessly, catching up on all of our news, whilst my three children get so unbelievably over excited and crazy that we end up having to shout over them. And now that my 11 year old daughter is on the verge of becoming a sh***y teenager herself I’m beginning to understand what I put my mum though. Endless backchat, pushing the boundaries, testing the limits. I’ve been having a difficult time with my daughter in recent weeks and have regularly doubted my parenting ability and at times my instincts. Our relationship has suffered and we’ve been struggling to connect. But this weekend was going to turn out to be a magical one for both of us. One where we both became a bit more understanding of each other. All thanks to some very old cine film, which my mum has recently had transferred to DVDs.
When I was growing up my dad (who sadly passed away 14 years ago) very often had a cine film camera (not sure what they are actually called!) or video camera in his hand. At the time, my brother and I were regularly made to walk, hand in hand, towards the camera, waving and smiling as we did so. We were filmed from the day we were born up until my dad passed away when I was 22. Birthdays, Christmases, holidays. All there on silent film. Magic moments scanning 22 magical years.
My 11 year old had recently been asking about my childhood, about what I was like as a child, and a teenager. She had asked to see photos and to hear stories. So instead of getting out all of my old diaries (which are cringeworthingly embarrassing) we decided to sit down after the little ones had gone to bed and watch the old films. Films I hadn’t seen for over a decade. It’s amazing the little things that I remember from my childhood, a toy at Christmas, an over sized bobble hat. We all smiled watching the films, we all laughed, and we all cried. Mum and I saw things we’d completely forgotten about, and things we remembered as if they had happened yesterday. My daughter was completely fascinated. For once she was silent, glued to the television. Amazed that there were no mobile phones, no iPads, and no awareness of health and safety whatsoever!!!
And then the 11 year old me appeared on the screen. Out for a family walk and yet not wanting to walk anywhere. I looked at my facial expression and knew I’d seen it somewhere else. On the beautiful face of my daughter. The two of us look very different, but it was amazing to see how similar we really are. The films brought back memories and stories of my teenage years and I suddenly remembered, and in remembering saw life so clearly from her eyes. How difficult the transition to secondary school is. How horrible girls and so called friends can be. And how, as a teenager, attitudes and feelings towards your mum can change. You’re not a grown up but you’re no longer a child and you’re struggling to find yourself and work out who you are. And as my 11 year old watched the films and heard my memories she realised that I’d been there, that I’d done it, and that I knew what I was talking about when I tried to help her through her struggles. It was a wonderful magic moment where we looked at each other and we came back together again as mother and daughter, we became a little closer once more. A bond that was damaged was beginning to mend. It was a magic moment when the difficulties of recent weeks were forgotten and we resolved to work as a team, to not battle against each other. Where we realised we both want the same thing, we both want her to be happy, and confident and know she’s loved. That we both need to trust each other, and to earn that trust.
It was magic because even though my dad is no longer around, he has helped to fix me and my daughter, just like he helped to fix me and my Mum (on more than one occasion) when we argued and fought against each other all those years ago. He’s still working his magic. And that…is possibly the most magical thing of all.
We are back home now and the first thing we have done this morning is dig out our video camera, which is covered in dust and hasn’t seen the light of day for a while. My 11 year old is chief camera lady and we have all resolved to capture our own magic moments on camera. And who knows, maybe one day she will be watching those films with her own daughter, and having their own magic moment together.
Slippers: A slipper or houseshoe is a semi-closed type of indoor/outdoor shoe, consisting of a sole held to the wearer’s foot by a strap running over (or between) the toes or instep. Slippers are soft and lightweight compared to other types of footwear. They are mostly made of soft or comforting materials that allow a certain level of comfort for the wearer. This can range from faux fur to leather. (Wikipedia)
So I’ll begin by saying that this post is slightly different to my usual posts, but it is very current and I felt I just had to write it.
This morning I made the mistake of turning on This Morning. I watched a debate about the recent budget and how it affects mums. How mum’s who go out to work will recieve a tax break to help with childcare. and how SAHMs don’t receive any such break. It’s an interesting debate thats been discussed in newspaper, on the television and of course on Twitter. It is one that is very divisive and seems to have once again put mums into two separate camps. Forget the attachment parents vs the Gina Ford devotees, now it is SAHMs vs Mums who work. (And then everyone vs the government of course ;-))
The original reason the whole debate started has seemingly been forgotten, as everyone tries to fight their own corner. Shout the loudest. Justify themselves and the reasons why they do/don’t work. The debate is an ongoing one, and whilst I agree that working mums and families undoubtedly need support with extortionate childcare costs, (it has now gone from I can’t afford not to work, to I can’t afford to work) I am hurt and deeply affronted by the suggestion that as a SAHM I have no aspirations. That I sit about in my slippers all day (yes someone did actually say that on the television this morning!) drinking tea and doing sweet f*** all else. That the budget is to help those who ‘aspire to work hard and get on,’ and that SAHMs are not seen to be doing that and how they are deemed somehow to not be as worthy of support as those who work. That SAHMs are somehow inferior and the government is not willing to acknowledge what they do or indeed reward it.
I mean, it’s not like I want a ‘chuffty badge’ (remember them?!) or a pat on the back, (or actually any of the taxpayers money!) but I, and several thousand other SAHMs out there, would at least like it acknowledged that we DO work, that we DO have aspirations, that we ARE setting our children a good example and that we ARE doing what we think is best for them. Some of us aren’t staying at home through choice, (some are sadly to unwell to work and some’s children are unwell and need caring for) and some of us work our butts off at home WHILST looking after our children. We are not rewarded, we are not applauded, and are now criticised for not having any aspirations on top of everything else. For being lazy. But I’m betting that if you asked a child if they wanted their mummy to stay at home or go out at work it wouldn’t take a genius to predict what they would say.
And yes, don’t get me wrong, I imagine there are mums out there who are lazy, and who do not look after their children even though they are at home with them all day, and are happy for the government and the taxpayer to pay for them to do so. But DO NOT tar us all with the same brush. EVER.
And what about choice? It seems in this country, where human rights and freedom of choice are shouted about so often, we are not allowed to choose whether to work or not. Those who go out to work are often made to feel awful for leaving their children, and now SAHMs are criticised for not leaving their children! When will it stop? When will people realise that being a mum is the most important job on the planet and we mums should have time, energy and support invested in us, just like we invest in our children. Whether we work or not. Since when did becoming a mum become so worthless?
I myself have been a single SAHM, a single working mum (full time), a working married mum and am now a married SAHM. Now after my third child I have asked for an extra year’s maternity leave, (unpaid obviously) because I have three children and I want to spend as much time with my children as I possibly can. Time with my children that I will never get back. I’m lucky enough that my career can technically be ‘put on hold,’ and hopefully in years to come I will go back to work and be as successful at my job as I was before I had children. But for now they are my priority. I do not want to blink and turn around only to see them moving out at 18. They need me now. And I need them. And it would be quite nice if it was recognised that this is an amazing thing to be doing. A worthwhile thing. A thing that can be aspired to. Why have children if you are never going to see them? I’m sure it’s not that black and white to everyone, but to me it is.
Anyway, I am guessing this debate will run and run, and is there ever going to be a conclusion drawn where everyone is happy? I doubt it. At the end of the day I applaud ALL mums. It’s a bloody tough job and we ALL need to stick together and support each other, and respect each others decisions.
Thank you for reading xx
Expectations: Part 2 (The very honest part)
So after my ranty post last week, it’s time for some honesty.
As I have previously said, I have high expectations. Very high expectations. Maybe too high expectations. I believe that if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well. And in stark contrast to when I was growing up, when people would always comment, ‘Ah, she gets there in the end!’ things for me now need to be very immediate. I expect results, quickly. (That’s why I hate trying to lose weight, it never bloody comes off as quickly as I’d expect, or would like!)
So when I first got pregnant I naturally had expectations. Of the pregnancy, of the birth, of what being a parent would be like. And with my first, and every baby after, those expectations changed, and were either challenged, or exceeded.
To begin with, when I was 24 years old, I didn’t expect to fall pregnant. Nor did I (Unsurprisingly!) expect the father of the child to say that I was a ‘slapper’ (I wasn’t) and that the baby couldn’t possibly be his. Several long and lonely months and one rather expensive paternity test later (funded by the father, not by Jeremy Kyle) I was proved right. Then, I expected things to change. I thought the hard work was over and that I wouldn’t be alone in this anymore. That he’d be around. But I shouldn’t have expected anything like that. After a pregnancy where he saw me only twice and wasn’t present at the birth, I was silly to expect him to want to get involved. He didn’t. At all. He went to Crete for a holiday when our daughter was three weeks old, saying he was stressed about being a father and needed time out. *Insert own swear word here* So…he was in Crete, sunning it up, and I was awake 24 hours a day feeding a dependent little baby. I was exhausted. And felt isolated. I remember one particularly difficult day, when my Aunt came round to meet my daughter. She held her and said, ’She’s gorgeous, I bet you can’t stop looking at her.’ And I smiled, an empty smile, and said, ‘Of course.’ But inside, all I was thinking was, ‘Actually, I could quite easily stop looking at her.’
Don’t get me wrong, I loved her, very much, but as many new mums are I was exhausted, and completely and utterly overwhelmed. I would think, ‘What have I done, why can’t I settle my own child, what am I doing wrong?’ The health visitor wouldn’t even let me fill in the mental health questionnaire at my six-week check. She said I was obviously depressed. (No s*** Sherlock) But no support was offered. No anti-depressants, no counseling, no nothing…oh, except a half an hour visit to teach me the basics of ‘crying it out.’ My baby girl was just six weeks old. And I was told that crying it out was the only option, my only option, and the only solution to my problems. No recognition of the fact that I was doing it all completely on my own. That I was exhausted and doubting myself. That most of all I needed support, and encouragement, not some hideously awful method that leaves both you and your baby in even more tears and a worse state afterwards than you were before. But I was desperate, and against all of my instincts I followed the health visitor’s advice. One night my daughter cried on and off (with me going in regularly as instructed of course) from midnight until five o’clock in the morning. And so did I. But agree with it or not, eventually it worked, and she slept. And I began to feel better.
I met a lovely group of mums who met regularly. We each took in turns to cry when we were together, (Thankfully our meltdowns all seemed to happen at different times!) and we were all so fantastically supportive of each other. I never expected to make such wonderful friends through having a baby. And good friends we were, for several fun-filled years. But as our lives changed, so did our needs, and our friendships sadly fizzled out. I’d never expected that to happen either.
So…I put my post-natal depression down to the fact that I was a single parent, sleep deprived and struggling alone. And it was never mentioned or talked about again. Until I got pregnant with my second baby. (This time planned!)
My daughter was 6, and I was living with my now husband. I was excited about having a baby. About having a baby with a man who wanted to have a baby with me. I didn’t expect all of the unresolved problems and emotions from my first pregnancy to come back with a vengeance. I became irritable, panicky, suffering so many palpitations that I eventually needed an ECG, which thankfully was normal. I became a jealous woman, over obsessing about some woman my husband worked with. (Yes I even checked his phone and emails) I would cry, a lot. I couldn’t seem to get a grip. My poor husband could do nothing right (Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect by ANY stretch of the imagination, but he didn’t deserve the abuse he was getting) and my daughter didn’t understand where the mummy she knew had gone. So pre-natal depression was diagnosed. And this time I was offered counseling. There was a waiting list of course, but thankfully not too long. Counseling was hard. I regularly didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to talk about myself yet again. (Which is MOST unlike me!) I had light-bulb moment during session four, where I realized that I was subconsciously expecting my husband to be as big of an arse as my daughter’s father. That I was taking out all of my hurt and anger on him. And annoyingly now, even as I write this I’ve never been able to stand up to my daughter’s father, to tell him what I really think of him. He’s in her life now, every other weekend and I’ve left it up to her to make her own judgments about him. It’s not my place to tell her I think he’s an *insert own insult here* I should perhaps tell him one day though.
Anyway, my first son was born and it was wonderful. He slept better than my daughter had and I had a man there to help in the middle of the night. (Plus an iPod with games which I hadn’t had the first time!) I had however, expected to breastfeed. I tried. So hard. And he kept losing weight. So formula top ups were suggested. After only 3 days. My milk hadn’t even come in yet. But they worked and thankfully he gained weight. My milk came in and I stopped the top ups, expecting it to all be ok, like it had been with my daughter. (Well, until three months when some idiot on his mobile phone driving a massive lorry crashed into my car and the stress of the accident caused my milk to disappear overnight) But it wasn’t ok. My son lost weight again. My big hungry boy either wouldn’t latch on properly or my stupid boobs wouldn’t work properly, or the crash did untold damage. I had no choice but to continue the top ups and mixed feeding, and did this until he was twelve weeks old. I never expected to feel guilty about not fully breastfeeding, I was always and still very much am pro-choice, but I still do feel guilty. It’s not as easy as they say it is. It’s bloody hard work and it doesn’t always come naturally. No matter how hard you want it to work and no matter what you do, sometimes it just doesn’t. As always the media and social websites don’t help, often comparing formula feeding to smoking, but…I digress and once again that, is another blog post!!
So onto my third (and definitely last baby!) You’d think having done it twice before I’d be well prepared. That my expectations of parenthood and being a mum would be pretty much spot on. That nothing new could throw me because I’d been there, done it all and got the t-shirt! Oh how gloriously wrong I was. My third baby, my second son, would see all of my expectations get thrown out of the window. He would challenge them all. Every single bloody one of them. My first son had slept, and I’d coped, why on earth would I expect having this baby to be any different? But he didn’t sleep, at all. And I didn’t cope, at all. I couldn’t understand it at first, ‘But my babies sleep’ went round my head and out my mouth often. And yet he still didn’t. He didn’t do what I expected, and I wasn’t coping how I’d expected and it threw me. I spent my days unable to look at him as if I did I would have a huge panic attack. I firmly believed that I couldn’t look after him, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to stop the crying. I spent my nights desperately trying to get him to sleep, crying uncontrollably when five minutes after he’d settled he’d be crying for me again. I’d scream at my husband that I couldn’t do it, that he needed to take him away. I constantly planned how I would run away, where and when I’d go. (Middle of the night, to a friend up north) I mentally wrote the note I would write and leave to tell my husband that I couldn’t be a mum to this baby, that the family was better off without me because all I did was panic and cry and shout. I’d cling to my son during the day and not let anyone hold him because then he would wake up and the crying would start. People now say I looked trapped. I certainly felt trapped. Everyone knew something was wrong. Even me. But I just thought I was sleep deprived. That when I got more sleep I would feel better. Unsurprisingly I didn’t. Five weeks in and my son was only waking once in the night for a feed, yet I had developed insomnia, and would cry all night, unable to sleep a wink. Thankfully my health visitor recognised that I was ill. Very ill. And one day, when I was sat in my car outside the supermarket, thinking I’d rather go to sleep and never wake up again than live because life was just too damn hard, I recognized that I was ill too. And that I needed help. And lots of it.
I never expected to get post-natal depression. And when I did, so badly the third time around, I never expected to be able to get better. But I’m getting there. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been referred for CBT and art therapy and see my wonderful doctor regularly. But I’m also lucky that I have those high expectations of myself, and that I will do anything I can to get better and be the best mum I can for all of my fantastic children. (Um and yes, a good wife to that husband of mine too!) And get there I most definitely will.
Thank you for reading x
Expectations: In the case of uncertainty, expectation is what is considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. (Wikipedia)
I’ve worked out why I dislike softplay so much. I don’t dislike children, far from it. I’m a mum of three, and when I’m at work I am a primary school teacher. I love children; they are my passion. But what I find frustrating (especially at softplay) are the many differing expectations other parents have of their child’s behavior. And how no one’s expectations seem to be as high as mine!
It is fair to say that I have high expectations, both of myself and of others. I expect a thank you when I let a car out, or when I wait and hold a door open for someone. (I rarely get one) But is it too much to expect parents to at least partially supervise their children at a softplay? To expect them to follow the rules? Be considerate? Maybe it’s my problem and something I need to just let go of, but quite honestly it annoys me when I see children who are say, over the age of four (usually by quite a bit) in the section designed for the under fours. Often with little respect for the equipment, or said under fours. (And yes in case you’re wondering, I am one of those mums who won’t let her children climb UP the slide!) It’s not the children’s fault, they are rightly absorbed in their own world of fun, but parents often seem to turn a blind eye to their child’s behavior or, in many cases, aren’t even keeping an eye on their children at all.
There have been many incidents I have witnessed this week where I have been left shocked, and thinking about the different expectations people have of themselves as parents, and of their children. One such incident was on a train, where a clearly harassed mother loudly told her screaming, ditressed daughter (who couldn’t have been more than five) to ‘f*** off.’ And another, where a mum told her child that no, she couldn’t play on the slide as she was disgusting because she had wet herself. The mum sat looking at her phone, not even attempting to clean or change her child, while the child sat crying, attempting to comfort herself.
It made me think. Do some people not have a natural parenting instinct (I find this hard to believe), or did they expect parenting to be easier than it is? Did they expect their children to behave without leading by example? Did they expect them to comply without supporting and loving them along the way?
And where do these expectations come from? Our parents, and our parent’s parents? Or social media and parenting books? Buzzwords, trends and manuals don’t help our expectations of parenthood. As I’ve said before, guilt and anxiety are intrinsic parts of being a parent, and sadly I think these buzzwords, trends and manuals, and the people behind them, feed on those emotions and our desperate want and need to do what’s best for our children. They can lead us to expect that our babies will sleep through the night from six weeks. (er, hello…I’m 36 and still don’t sleep through the night) They set expectations we didn’t know existed. Or indeed need to exist at all.
Expectations can be dangerous. As a parent we can set ourselves up to fail or be disappointed. These high expectations are partly what led to my post-natal depression. (Aside from the massive chemical and hormonal imbalance in my brain) I was never going to meet my expectations as a mother, and was inevitably setting myself up to fail. (More on that in Part 2) And on another level it can be dangerous for our children. As a teacher I have seen countless parents who have expected their children to be more intelligent than they are. Expected them to do better than they do. And refuse to accept them for who they are. You can imagine how these children feel.
Of course expectations aren’t all bad. When something unexpected happens it can be a wonderful surprise. A fantastic moment, which reaffirms your self-belief, and bonds you closer to your children. When our expectations are exceeded it can undoubtedly bring untold joy.
So…do I perhaps expect too much? And is this why I am often left frustrated and disappointed?
I expect so!!!
Is parenting how you expected it to be, or has it exceeded your expectations?
Doubt: a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision. (Wikipedia)
What is it that makes us doubt ourselves and our natural parenting instincts?
I took my daughter swimming with a friend the other day, and sat and fed the baby (little pool was full!) while they had fun splashing around. There were several other parents there, all talking VERY loudly about their little angels and it got me thinking…
How many times have I sat at a toddler group, or the (dreaded) softplay, or read something on Twitter or Facebook and doubted myself after listening to or talking to others or reading their statuses? With social media and more parenting experts and advice than ever before, there is too much access into other people’s lives and how they are bringing up their children, too many opinions and techniques. Every aspect of parenting has been researched, often with each piece of research giving conflicting advice. It’s no wonder we doubt ourselves.
Parenting seems to have become so complicated and so competitive, about so many different things. The classics being whether or not your baby sleeps through the night, or when they crawl or walk, or learn to read the entire works of Shakespeare. It was teeth with my daughter. Everyone kept telling me how many teeth their babies had cut. My daughter was 18 months before she cut her first tooth. (And then it was the top one that hung down like a fang!) But it didn’t matter that she wasn’t the first to get teeth, or probably the last! They all flipping get them eventually.
Anyway, I’m going off the track slightly. What worries me about this competitiveness is that, whilst I luckily trust my instincts and although many ‘well meant’ comments (mostly from strangers at toddler groups and updates on Facebook) as to how I bring up my children frustrate me, I am able to listen and then continue as I was, knowing what is best for MY children; but there are many mums out there who listen and then doubt themselves and feel like they are somehow doing something wrong. Or they take this advice and then end up doing something that potentially isn’t right for them or their child.
I always try to remember that whilst advice is often well meant and given with the best of intentions, and has undoubtedly worked for the person giving it (and yes, in the past, I have been that person!) chances are it might not necessarily work for you. And sometimes (not always or indeed most of the time!) I think that this advice is being given not for the receiver, but for the giver, so they can then quash their own self-doubt and say to themselves ‘Ha! I did something right. Something worked and I’m going to tell the whole damn world!’ It helps to reassure them that they are coping, are in control, on top of things! (I’d just like to point out here that the world is full of lovely people who give fantastic advice that is genuinely meant in a supportive and caring way!! There are just a few who don’t, and even the most well meant advice could make you doubt yourself!)
Someone recently commented to me that they felt so intimidated at toddler groups. That everyone seemed so in control and as if they all knew what they were doing, whereas she felt she didn’t have a clue and doubted everything that she was doing. And this too got me thinking. Do we really ever know what goes on behind closed doors? Are people always as in control as they seem? Do all people who look like they’ve got this parenting malarkey sorted really do? I doubt it!!
I’m very much a person who wears their heart on their sleeve and if I’m not coping then the whole world pretty much knows about it. I doubt myself regularly, but I always fall back on my instincts. When I am thinking rationally, I can let the frustrations of these toddler groups or Facebook updates go, I can make my own decisions. Sometimes it’s a case of trial and error, but my babies and I have always got there. It can be difficult not to give in to doubt, and to have the confidence to trust our instincts (and my recent battle with PND pushed my instincts to breaking point, but that’s a whole other blog post!) especially when there is almost too much advice for parents around these days. But do it and you will feel so much more relaxed as a parent…and your children will be more relaxed too.
So, do you ever doubt your instincts?
INSTINCT: Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. (Wikipedia)
A wise woman once said to me that never has parenting been more complicated and difficult than it is now. And that wise woman (yes, alright, it was my mum!) was right.
Parenting is now analysed from a million different angles, and labels are put on things that don’t need, nor have ever needed labeling. Motherhood can without doubt be overwhelming, not just the first time you become a mum, but every other time after that too. (My third was definitely my most challenging!) Phrases like ‘cry it out’ or ‘attachment parenting’ and their pros and cons are regularly debated and, in my opinion, only add to the pressures of motherhood – which already has enough challenges without confusing us further.
Whatever happened to trusting our instincts? Reading our children instead of a stack of parenting manuals? When did we lose all confidence and trust in ourselves that we are instinctively wonderful parents, and naturally do what is best for our children, simply because we love them and know them better than any book?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying never to seek advice or look for reassurance, research into babies and their habits has undoubtedly helped many an overwhelmed mother, but what happens if your baby doesn’t do what the manual says it should be doing? Surely this then makes you feel even more overwhelmed? Could these manuals and labels at times actually lead us away from our natural instincts instead of helping us to nurture them?
As a mum of three I’ve parented each of my children very differently…because they are all very different. I have a feisty and confident 11 year-old daughter, a gentle and caring three year-old son, and an unpredictable 9 month-old baby boy! I’m lucky my mum instilled a fantastic sense of confidence in my natural mothering instincts. It’s not been easy, but learning to read my children and respond to their needs instinctively has been refreshing and has helped make motherhood an enjoyable and rewarding experience. (Most of the time!!)
So that’s why I have started this blog, hopefully to help others like me to have the confidence to trust their natural parenting instincts.
So…when was the last time you trusted yours?