Why it’s important to let yourself heal – even as a parent

Last week the realisation that I should take a little bit of time for myself and to relax was forced down my throat.

I, like most mothers, never really feel I get any time to sit down. If I’m not pareting I’m out at work, if baby is asleep I’m cleaning the house or working on my writing work. Time to relax and just do nothing is none existant.

So when I broke my wrist I just tried to carry on as normal, because I felt I had to. If I didn’t do all these jobs then who was going to? I pushed the hospital into giving me a clinic appointment as soon as possible, so that I could do the shift at work the day after. I put myself on light parenting duties true, avoiding lifting Pip into her bed or her bath, but only for about a week, if that.

Four weeks in I felt pretty much back to normal and I was doing a lot more. I did a couple of extra shifts at work, long walks pushing the pram, jobs around the house, painting a chest of drawers. .

Turns out that sort of thing can shift your nicely setting bone and leave you needing surgery.

We should all know that it’s ok to heal, and I’m not necessarily talking about after a physical injury here, but for our mental health and our wellbeing too. Even after birth women are idolised for ‘bouncing back’ despite going through what I can only describe as hell, despite the reward at the end. I felt like that after my cesearean, that I shold be doing more, doing better.

That’s our downfall sometimes, we put ourselves at the bottom of our priority lists. It is important that we remember that we have to look after ourselves too, we need care and time to just be us. This isn’t wrong and it certainly doesn’t make us bad mothers, everybody needs a break or help sometimes.

This is my wake up call. Wires being put in to hold the bone in its original position and a further six weeks in a cast.

I was due in work the afternoon the Doctor signed me off work for six weeks, and I asked him whether that was possible: he said no. That was me told.

If I’m healing as well as I hope I will have the k wires out next week, and then another four weeks in a cast. Frustrating, but necessary and potentially avoidable if I had given myself the time I needed to heal.

 

Building Work and Comparisons

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps and disheartened over here, and I’ve been struggling to put my finger quite on why. My OCD has been kicking my arse, I’m tired and everything has felt like a lot of hard work.

Then I realised why, because it is bloody hard work! I’m mum to a toddler whilst also trying to renovate a house (still), working and trying to manage my writing work too. We are also keeping each other awake most of the night because we’re all sharing one room still. I’ve been beating myself up because everyone has had all these beautiful Instagram photos full of their children picking pumpkins and dressing up and we’ve done none of it because time and money are so tight.

Despite me never celebrating Halloween and really disliking it as a holiday I’ve found myself kicking myself because Pippin is missing out and it is all my fault.

Then I realised that actually it doesn’t matter if we’re not doing what all the other families are doing, because we are our own family and Pippin is enjoying herself just fine, she has no idea what a pumpkin is, let alone that she could have had an Instagram photo taken of her sitting on one.

That’s not a criticism of people who do, but more of my own need to compare myself with others, and negatively at that. Ok, so this year she hasn’t had a lot of outings, but she’s had cuddles, and playtime and her family round her.

She hasn’t had a holiday, but she will have a home that is safe and warm for her.

In a world where pretty much everyone and their dog has social media it is really, really easy to get sucked into comparisons. This will become even more evident the closer we get to Christmas, I think we need to give ourselves a break and look at our own children: if they’re healthy and happy then I’d guess we’re doing alright.

Ten things I learnt in my 1st year of being a parent…

I think I’ve learned some things since I became a parent: I’m pretty good at putting a nappy on a wriggly baby, and I think I’ve got this breastfeeding thing pretty much sorted.

Here’s a few other things I’ve learned over the last twelve months.

  1. Get rid of all the preconceived ideas you had of being a parent. Just chuck them right out, because all they will bring you is guilt. When you planned how you would parent, and you made all these sweeping statements you forgot one vital thing: your hypothetical child wasn’t real. Your real child is probably very different.
  2. Bedtime is there to test you. I was not blessed with a child who likes to sleep, I was blessed with a child who likes to fight sleep with every fibre of her being. Then, when she has lulled us into a false sense of security by appearing to get into a bedtime routine then BAM she wakes up seven times in a night.
  3. Your child will have more, and nicer, clothes than you. Who can resist the tiny little outfits?
  4. You buy more stuff than you could ever need. I don’t know why this happens either, you can start with the best intentions of not falling into that trap, but gradually more and more stuff creeps in until you’re living under piles of plastic and gadgets that you have no idea how to use.
  5. You will be tired. Very, very tired. So tired.
  6. You’ll forget your basic needs. Especially in those first few weeks. Although it continues, whilst writing this I’ve realised I’ve had a packet of crisps and a muffin today, and I can’t remember if I’ve had a drink. My daughter on the other hand has had three lovingly home cooked meals. Which leads me to…
  7. Even if they liked something hours ago, even if you spent ages cooking it, small toddlers will refuse to eat it. Sometimes I think they plan it…
  8. Baby giggles are the best. They just laugh with complete abandon at the strangest things, it is completely wonderful.
  9. Bath time is terrifying, and then really fun. At first, you put this tiny little baby in the water and it is so utterly scary. Will it burn them? Am I going to drop them? What if they DROWN? But then they can sit up by themselves, and they start to play with their bath toys and they really, really love it. Bath time is one of my favourite times of they day.
  10. It is, hands down, the best thing I have ever done.

A few thoughts on confidence

Someone said to me, you must really not give a fuck what people think of you. You wear circle skirts, and loud prints and big hair flowers. You stand out.

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I thought about it for a minute, and that’s just not true. I care far too much about what people think of me. I spend about 90% of my time thinking about what people think of me. I can’t walk into a room, or down the street to be with family without wondering what other people think of me.

I analyse every interaction with other humans, wondering what I could have done better or how I could have managed the situation differently.

The more I think about it, the more sad it seems.

It has become even more glaring obvious that I am far too quick to worry about others’ opinions since I became a mum. And what is worse is that I regularly adapt how I want to parent to fit what I feel other people want me to do. Why would I want my daughter to grow up seeing her mum’s opinion regularly discounted and trodden down?

That’s not other’s people’s fault. Everyone has an opinion, but I am under no obligation to listen to them. Much less actually act upon them.

I try to do the best for my family and daughter. The way I parent may not be the way others parent, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I must be doing something ok, she is thriving.

I want my daughter to grow up confident in her own decisions and in herself. I want her to be strong, and to continue being as wilful as she is now. I also want her to know that although her decisions may not always work out the way she planned, it is ok and she can dust herself off and try again. I want her to know that it is ok to disagree with the opinions of the people around her, and that she can forge her own path.

I need to find my voice, for her, and show her the strong woman I want her to be. Not the woman who allows others to dictate to her and lets her voice be drowned.

I want to be a role model for my daughter.

 

 

 

Bedtime Tales

Here’s an admission about probably my biggest fail at being a parent.

Are you ready?

I have never, in eight months, managed to get my daughter to have a proper bedtime.

It’s not the only aspect of parenting in which I feel I have no control and absolutely no idea what I am doing, it is probably up there as one of the most difficult parts though.

 

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When she was very tiny, before we had worked out that her milk allergy was causing so many of her problems, her dad and I would take turns to stay awake and hold her upright. If we laid her down she would scream and scream, and her wind was just horrendous.

Gradually this got better, she could sleep on her back. By this point she was a few months old. I would start the evening by giving her a bedtime feed in the rocking chair in our bedroom, before placing her in her cot. We got a few hours, and then she would wake up.

Back to the rocking chair I’d go, nursing her back to sleep, before carefully putting her in her cot. And this continued. Until I became so exhausted that I brought her into bed with me, and my husband relocated to the spare bedroom.

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Pippin has always been a frequent and long feeder. Which is perfectly normal. I didn’t realise this and I spent so much of those early months trying to get her into some sort of routine – which was ultimately completely pointless for us.

Napping really wasn’t going much better. All the mum’s who had babies around the same time as me were like “I got so much done during his nap time.” whilst I was drowning in a sea of dirty undies from eight weeks prior. I was committing the massive sin of allowing my daughter to fall asleep on the breast. Which wouldn’t have been such a massive problem if I could just put her down afterwards!

As I am typing this Pippin is asleep in the bed next to me. Next to me is where she sleeps, where she has slept for most of her life now. (I don’t need lectures on the safety – we try and do it as safely as possible.) This is just what works for us. She is still waking to feed fairly frequently in the night, maybe five or so times now.

I have had lots of advice about how to stop this, as has my husband. Some of my favourites include:

  • Don’t feed her in the night. (What am I supposed to do, leave her crying then?)
  • Leave her to cry, she’ll soon get fed up. (Ah, so that’s a yes then)
  • Give her some rusk in her bottle. (She doesn’t have a bottle!)
  • Give her solids to “fill her up” (This was around the three-month mark)
  • Stop breastfeeding

My absolute favourite piece of advice was given to my husband. We should put some whisky on a dummy and give it to her, apparently it will knock her right out. It worked for all four of this individual’s children.*

 

I’m not quite sure what it is we need to stop. Pippin appears to be thriving, and I’m happy doing it this way because it works for her and for us. I think I would have been happier with things a lot sooner had I just accepted them for what they were and not tried to fight them. Sometimes I do wish she would just go to sleep alone, and I do get cross about the whole thing and wish we’d just got her to sleep in her own cot. I know though this isn’t forever and, when she does sleep in her cot, I miss cuddling her. I also wake up about 50 million times just to check she’s breating. Which is completely typical!

*I hope I don’t need to point this out, but folks, do not give your babies whisky. This is bad parenting. Bad. Babies should not have whisky.

“Things I’m NEVER going to do when I become a parent” – the delusions of someone without children.

We’re three-quarters of an hour into a three to four hour journey and I’m quickly munching through my data allowance whilst awkwardly holding a tiny screen in front of my seven month old, and telling my husband and mother-in-law in the front of the car that we really, really NEED an in car DVD player.

She’s sat, wide-mouthed, watching Tombliboo Ooo drink his stolen Pinky Ponk juice and I’m trying to justify my decision to let her have screen time to myself.

She doesn’t watch too much TV: just in the car and when I want to eat breakfast.

Ok. Sometimes she watches it during the day too, but only when I really need to get things done.TVTime_PipandBlossom

Well, sometimes when I’m tired too, but we do other things!

We arrived in the North East at 12:35am on Monday morning, dealt with a sleepy but not willing to sleep baby, a funeral, another night of little sleep and were twenty minutes from the next services. Why should I feel guilty about letting her watch something to distract her? I tried playing, and singing and pulling funny faces and she wasn’t having any of it.

But I did feel guilty. A little voice in the back of my head giving warnings about her eye sight, her attention span, her development, and that little voice was mine.

Long, long before Pip was around, before she was even thought of, I looked in disapproval at parents who sat their children in front of the television. Parents who, when their child cried or was grumpy, got out the screen and put on some brightly coloured, baby-talking monstrosity and left their child to it. If they just interacted with their child then maybe their child would behave better, said pre-child judgey me, it is such a shame for the poor little one.

Frankly, I was a bit of a dick. And so far up my own arse I’m surprised I could see the screen. What business is it of mine anyway? Why should I even care what other parents do? PipwatchingTV_PipandBlossom

I’ve made good friends with Iggle Piggle, Pat Clifton and even Justin make a regular appearence over breakfast. Episodes of Bing Bunny are in my favourites, just in case of a car or pram meltdown. We do other things I hasten to add, we stack blocks, we play peekaboo, we talk and sing together we go out for walks, but I would much, much rather have her  watching Robert the Robot dusting than cry her little heart out between services because she hates being in her car seat. Or pram. Or because I’m exhausted. Or heck, because she actually LIKES In The Night Garden.