Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Letter To A Friend

To my lovely friend,

You complemented me on how well behaved my children are today, ooh, if only you knew! But thankyou, actually they aren't too bad and like any mother I take immense pride in them so comments like this always make my heart swell with pride!
You are currently in the family way yourself and asked me if there was anything I did in particular as you had been reading some books. I do seem to have some weird compulsion for giving people advice and I have been thinking all afternoon about what would be the best piece of advice I could give and I think it's this:

To be the best parent you can just follow your instincts.

Read as many or few books as you like, research all or no parenting styles, talk to as many people as you can about what works for them then cherry pick the bits you like. When your have your children the best expert for them will be you. No one else has the experience you have of being you and parenting your children. It can feel a bit like you have no idea what you're doing but you'll all be learning together. For what it's worth, after Meanderingdaughter1 was born I thought I had this parenting thing down pat. Total pro. Then Meanderingdaughter2 came along and proved me otherwise.  I've spent the last 11 months feeling like I'm winging it. That's because each child is different and there is no best way of parenting.

It's likely that you'll often feel that you shouldn't be doing what you're doing because it goes against what you may have read or heard but if it feels right to you then I wouldn't worry.  You may well hear the phrase 'building a rod for your own back' bandied about but frankly if you don't want a back rod then you shouldn't have gotten pregnant!

So in answer to your question, I would say that in our family we are broadly attachment parenting orientated but I haven't read in depth about attachment parenting so couldn't accurately describe it to you. What I do know is that we have a fairly unhealthy amount of bribery, shouting, swearing, sweetie eating and television watching going on in our house which all piles on more of that parenting guilt but which really shouldn't cos no one is perfect and the girls are pretty much ok!

Also, there is a lot of baby equipment out there. You probably don't need 99% of it but something you swear by will be something others will swear off! You should use what suits you. For me I couldn't live without my sling(s). Purely because I like to be able to strap grumpy babies onto my back and crack on with whatever I'm doing. Mainly baking cakes. But I know that for many a sling is just a large bit of pointless material!

So what I am really trying to say is, the best person to listen to is yourself. You'll work it all out and you'll be great.

Good luck and much love xxx

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Breasts, boobs and shaming.

If I spend five minutes on facebook these days I'll usually come across a thread about breastfeeding.  The comments on these threads are boringly predictable ranging from support of those who breastfeed, to suggesting that it's all good but woman should cover up, feed in the toilet, only breastfeed at home, are breastfeeding for attention and all the way down to the trolls who call woman who breastfeed dirty sluts.  I tend to think anyone who takes the time to call someone they don't know a dirty slut probably isn't doing it because she's breastfeeding, he's doing it because she's a woman so that can be discounted.  

One view that crops up with quite a regularity is the idea that woman breastfeeding is OK because it's wholesome and good and besides breastfeeders show off less flesh than your typical young woman out on the town of an evening, dressed up like a whore, which is frankly more offensive to my delicate sensibilities than angelic me feeding my child.

I used to let this point of view wash over me, didn't really think about it much and after all, it is such a prevalent opinion if you spend any time on parent's forums that it kind of seemed like the norm.  Recently however it has really got my goat.  Why is it that women are so keen to judge each other?  There is really no need to defend your decision to breastfeed so why is it that woman so frequently do try to defend it by pointing at another woman and saying "I'm not a slut, she's a slut, look at her"?  Given the quantity of men willing to call woman sluts and whores on a public forum why do other woman feel the need to stick the boot in too?

What this boils down to it woman's choice and the society we live in that blames woman's choices for what happens to them.

Women have the right to breastfeed or not, to wear clothes that cover them head to toe or cover very little, they have the right to work in the sex industry or anywhere else that takes their fancy and no one has the right to dictate to them what they should or shouldn't do.  It would be nice to see woman treating each other with a little respect and that could start with a little thing like not saying "I'm not being offensive, she is, that's offensive, not me".  Come on, up the sisterhood!

When it comes to breastfeeding itself, it is another one of those areas (like sleep) where my god parents go off on one!  Again, I suspect a lot of it is to justify our own choices (which we shouldn't need to) but the constant grinching over breastfed or bottlefed is getting a little tired.  I will be the first person to hold her hands up and say I am massively pro breastfeeding.  Anyone who knows me or has read this blog probably knows that.  I was determined to breastfeed and I think I would have felt like a failure had I not.  Meanderingdaughter1 fed for about 16 months and Meanderingdaughter2 is still going strong at 10 months. I am proud of this and I would always encourage women to breastfeed.  However I don't think women should be forced into it.  They shouldn't be made to feel like failures if they stop or like the devil incarnate if they decide not to do it at all.  They shouldn't be made to feel like attention seekers if they breastfeed in public or if they breastfeed over a certain age.  They shouldn't be abused if they are bottle feeding or told they are damaging their child.

The only things, in my mind, that are wrong with feeding your child is if you want to feed in a certain way and feel that you can't due to pressure or lack of proper support.  This should always be about the choice of the mother and society has no place to blame or shame women for what they choose to do.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sleeping. Again.

Once again it has been a long time since I wrote a blog post, Meanderingdaugher2 is here and has been for 10 months, Meanderingdaughter1 has recently had her fourth birthday and is definitely no longer a baby or a toddler but a small person with a personality all of her very own.  It is fun having my two girls, I am achingly proud of them both and love them completely.  It's also exhausting and frustrating but show me a parent who doesn't say that!  

I have come to realise that Meanderingdaughter1 was a great sleeper and if I every complained about her then I apologise, I was wrong and a fool.  Meanderingdaughter2 has shown me the light in this respect.  In the last 10 months I have had one complete nights sleep.  Sometimes it's great and she only wakes up two or three times and goes back to sleep quickly, other times she refuses to sleep in her cot and spends the night kicking and crying in our bed, feeding six times or more although to be honest I kind of lose count after a while.  It's always worse after we've been away and she is unsettled.

I think what makes this worse is the guilt and uncertainty that goes alongside it.  She is what some may call very well attached and what others might call clingy.  She wants her Mummy, and will often scream this need to the rafters.  Now she crawls I have a little shadow around the flat and if I stand still she crawls up to my legs and headbutts me 'til I pick her up.  I keep reminding myself to appreciate it, it won't always be like this and if I'm honest it does feel so very good to see that little face light up when I walk in the room.  

I have come to realise that however you decide to parent your children (if we do actually decide and don't just fall into whatever is easiest), what we all have in common is someone making us feel that we are doing it wrong and for me, right now, it's my approach to the sleep.  I know the sleep deprivation is probably making me over sensitive but I often feel weak for giving in and feeding her in the night, I know it's not going to cause problems in the long run but it's that middle run.  Am I making it harder for her to sleep through by giving her what she wants?  Taking the easy option for both of us?  I was recently told by a mother of three that at three months her children are put in their own room and left to cry.  If she knows they are clean, fed and safe then that's it.  Apparently after a couple of nights they sleep through like angels.  I'm not going to say this approach is wrong, if it works for her then I am delighted for her.  

My issue is that I have seen Meanderingdaughter2's face crumble when I walk away, I have heard her scream when she thinks I am not coming and I have held her while she sobs herself to sleep after I have turned up.  I have never left her to cry herself to sleep because I do strongly believe that to do so would fracture that bond we have.  It wouldn't break it, she'd still love me in that primal way that babies do but it would teach her the meaning of rejection at a young age in a very harsh way and I am not prepared to do that.  So it goes on, I will continue to wake with her in the night and I will continue to feed her when she does wake to get her back to sleep quickly and with no stress.  One day she will sleep through and this will seem like a distant dream / nightmare. 

I would never dream of telling anyone who gets their children to sleep the other way is wrong or cruel, it's just not how I want to do it and you have to do what works for you.  What I would like is for others to stop telling me to let her cry it out, I may be building a rod for my own back but you start building that rod the day you start trying to conceive.  It's called being a parent, it's not easy and it is exhausting but it is worth it and it is your choice how you decide to go about it.