Friday, 31 May 2013

mummy loves ...

Welcome to the May 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self Love This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about their thoughts concerning self-love. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Babywearing. 


There could have been no more appropriate topic for my return to blogging than this month’s carnival theme ~ self-love.

If you saw my last post (and no, I can’t believe it’s been quite that long since I posted) you’ll know that times were difficult.  Often, things still are difficult. But I think – tentatively – that we might be heading towards easier days. (Of course, now I am cursing myself for that ill-advised public declaration, because we all know how the law of positive parenting statements goes: ‘yeah, s/he’s sleeping great these days’ = no more sleep again. Ever.)

Truth be told, I ‘lost’ myself for a long time. I struggled to juggle two children, each at different stages of dependency, with bringing in a freelance income (a necessity, rather than a personal preference) while trying to remain a connected and constant presence for my family. I’m not too proud to admit that recently, I have failed at this. I’ve not being doing my career justice, and I’ve not been doing my family justice.  My temper has been worryingly short, my recourse to yelling frighteningly frequent. Between deadlines, co-sleeping, tandem feeding, etc, there was no part of my day, my mind, my body that was my own. I was burning out, personally and professionally.    

And then, a week or two ago, a switch flicked. Something shifted in me.

  • I started writing again, for pleasure rather than profit.
  • I made new career plans.
  • I started running again (the addition of two children, three stone and five years since my last run have made this a far from easy undertaking.)   
  • I started making plans to meet people. In the evening. Sans children.  
And, I started to gently remind my girls that mummy has the right to finish her meal, to put her boobs back in her top for at least ten minutes per day, to sleep. To do things for herself, sometimes. [Actual conversation with oldest child: 'Sometimes you have to let mummy finish what she's doing. Mummy is a person too.' 'No you're not. You're an alligator.']

It took a while to get here, from being subsumed by motherhood. And it’s partly an age thing ~ I have a *cough* milestone birthday coming up, Zen Toddler is (for a few more precious months, only) Zen Pre-schooler, with Zen Baby now filling the Toddler role. I feel like I need to start ticking a few more things off my list of dreams and goals, and now that they are no longer babies {sob}  their needs are not quite so immediate. But also, hearing them parrot back the things I say and watching them mirror my actions, I’ve become very conscious of the behaviour I model. I don’t attach value judgements to food. I make them aware that mummy has another job, as well as ‘being mummy’. I make sure that they know that women are strong, that wearing lipstick doesn’t make you prettier, that princesses can rescue themselves.

And now, by giving myself a little bit back, by re-filling the well, by giving myself a bit of space to do the things I used to love to do pre-children, I’m letting them know that mummies are people too. That mummy loves them very very much, but that mummy loves mummy too. Hopefully, from this, they will learn to truly love themselves.

APBC - Authentic Parenting

Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, when we discuss babywearing!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 1 with all the carnival links.)

Saturday, 29 September 2012

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear: zen and the bad-tempered baby

There’s a saying that goes along the lines of ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’.

My first daughter – Zen Toddler (or, more accurately, Zen Pre-schooler, these days) – taught me to be brave. I wanted to bestow upon her the belief that she could live the life she wants to live and be the person she wants to be, and I felt that she’d be much more able to accept that as a possibility if she saw me do the same. Hence, a frightening, intuitive leap into freelancing and a  career I’d dreamed of for over twenty years. I doubt I’d ever have had the nerve, if not for her.

I drafted this post sitting upstairs in our Mediterranean holiday home while listening to the (somewhat misnomered) Zen Baby rage angrily against Mr Z. Zen Baby is very angry, very often.

There. I said it.

I’ve avoided saying for a long time, anxious not to swaddle her in a label that she cannot wriggle free from, or to lock her into a self-perpetuating definition. But she’s hard work. This has been a hard year. I had optimistic plans to steer my career in a new direction, get Zen Mummy fully-established, be a more active participant in the natural parenting community, lose the baby weight through yoga and mindful eating, plus a few other creative ventures I’d hoped to develop …

Instead, I’ve got two stone of baby weight left, and too many half-started projects to show for it. Fitting my full-time job around the full-time job of placating not-so-Zen Baby has left me just a shade short of burnt out.    

There could be all sorts of reasons why she’s the way she is: innate temperament, elevated cortisol levels due to my heavy pregnancy workload, a need to battle for my undivided attention in a way that my first-born never had to, hyper-intelligence, a chemical imbalance, demonic possession …. I’ve considered them all.

Still, she is who she is. The unique juxtaposition of my genes and Mr Z’s created this feisty little individual, as tempestuous as her sister is placid. And instead of trying to ‘fix’ her, my choice is to focus on working out what it is she’s here to teach me. To be less reactive, more responsive, maybe? To reduce my ‘to do’ list so that I’m less preoccupied, more present? To mirror back my own temper-tendencies, so that I can acknowledge them, amend them? I don’t know yet.

But there’s a lesson to be learned here, for sure. There has to be. Because otherwise? Otherwise it’s just been a fairly crappy year.  

PS: the flowers at the top of the page are from the garden of our holiday home. No idea what they are. Gorgeous, aren't they?  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

And, breathe ...

I'm coming to this late (I come to everything late: full-time mummy + full-time job = not  a lot of zen for this mummy, recently), but in a lovely moment of synchronicity I happened upon A Living Family's Parenting Challenge Week

It's exactly what I need right now. It's taken a while (more than a few months, no less) to work out the tricky balance between looking after the zen babes and keeping my head above water work-wise. I've gone under a few times ~ I've skimmed a few deadline by the kin of my teeth, and I've not been the paragon of peaceful mummyness that I would have liked [read: screaming harpy] ~ but this week the schedule is slightly more manageable. 

I've been listening to a wonderful hypnosis download ~ Overwhelmed Mother ~ which has helped to smooth some of the rougher times. But still, there have been many occasions recently when the pace of life has left me breathless, and many other occasions when the demands (the constant, constant demands) of caring for two littlies feels suffocating. 

So, I'll be remembering to breathe. I'll take the time to breathe a little extra calm into our days, find a little bit of space to soothe the frazzled nerves, and show my girls that you can create calm in even the most chaotic of days. 

Join in. It's going to be lovely. 

Friday, 30 March 2012

Once upon a time, there was a princess with a career plan ...

Welcome to March edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Discovering Through Books”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy! 

 “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Some of my best friends are books. This isn’t a joke. Books are – and have been for as long as I can remember – an enormous part of my life. My intense love of books is the reason why I am now a writer and editor. 

I lived inside books, as a child. I diligently tapped the back of wardrobes, I kept a look out for white rabbits, and I fervently wished for an underground twin sister who would take me horse-riding. 

As you can maybe tell from the above, I had a particular penchant for ‘other world’ books, those stories where the central character finds a crack in reality – a rabbit hole, a secret doorway, even just a change of perspective – which allowed them to slip into an alternate reality. I did everything in my power to find my own way into another world. I’m still looking now. 

 Zen toddler has inherited zen mummy’s love of books, and she’s just at the stage where she’s beginning to understand narrative processes. She wants to hear stories continually: ‘tell me the story of Shrek, tell me the story of the three little pigs, tell me the story of my new shoes, tell me the story of when I went to Grandma’s house, tell me the story of when I was in your tummy’. And re-enacting. Lots of re-enacting. I want her to have that same magical relationship with books. I want to give her the key to a secret door. I want to help her find her to navigate the many parallel worlds she might be lucky enough to find her way to. 

And at the same time I’m developing an increasing awareness about the stories I tell her and the books we read. Fairy tales feel like the essential background to a rich imagination, but however you spin it, Cinderella is the quintessential passive princess-in-waiting. Domestic goddes she may be, but Snow White is hardly aspirational. And Sleeping Beauty? Was ever an individual less proactive? So many classic children’s tales are deeply mired in disappointingly predictable gender roles: mummies make the tea while daddies go out to work. So I find myself scanning the library shelves for books that try to break those stereotypes down, even just a little. There’s no such thing as a banned book in our house, but I aim for a better balance: fairies and princesses are allowed, but we complement them with cow-girls and tractors. 

Am I worrying too much? Will too many fairy tales turn my girls into passive, prince-hunting gold-diggers? To what extent do the stories we hear – and the stories that embroider the fabric of our society – shape our sense of who we are and what we might do? Right now, I don’t have the answers. But I’m hoping that with humour, and a little bit of gentle discussion, I can make sure that my girls don’t see ‘princess-in-waiting’ as a career goal. Cinderella is a story, after all, not a manifesto. 

PS: I’m also on the lookout for books that espouse the principles of natural parenting. Aside from the odd instance of baby-wearing or breastfeeding, I haven’t come across many. Any recommendations?

Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Juno Magazine: a natural approach to family life

Where have you been all my life, Juno?

Previously, I'd peeked at some of the articles online, I'd bought a sample issue in the past which I loved, but for some reason it has taken me until now to become a Juno subscriber.

My first issue arrive this week and, well, YES. It's like they opened up my head and peeped inside my brain (but less icky).

For a while now I've been thinking about making my own cleaning products, for reason of economy and toxicity. I've 'invented' a multi-purpose spray cleaner that I use on everything from babies bottoms, to my face, to the kitchen surfaces (I change the cloth between cleaning baby's bum / my face / the kitchen, of course. You knew that, right?) but I've yet to expore other product options. And lo, there's a lovely article by Natalie Roberts on that very topic.

I've been making a more conscious effort to do more journalling, in order to process my thoughts more clearly, stay mindful, explore the ever-shifting paradigm of balancing the needs of everyone in the family, and develop ideas for articles and blog posts.  Lynn Blair's account of how journalling has seen her through some of the tougher moments of motherhood -- as well as being a fantastic record of the beautiful moments and random minutiae that you want to preserve for posterity -- had me smiling and nodding all the way through.

And if I'm blessed with a little pocket of free time today I'm planning to immerse myself in Ruth Meyer's piece 'The blossoming of language'. Words are my passion, and I'm fascinated with how a child develops their sense of themselves and the world around them through linguistic expression, so I've been saving this article for a quiet moment when I can really appreciate it. 

Juno magazine. You really should check it out.

[ps: this is not a sponsored post, nor am I affiliated with Juno Magazine in any way. I am simply a very impressed subscriber :-) ]

Friday, 24 February 2012

Keep them close and let them go: fostering healthy attachment as they grow

Welcome to the February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!

Zen toddler is potty learning right now. It’s going pretty well, occasional mishap notwithstanding (‘Mummy, I did an accident!’, announced with delighted glee).
One day, I popped to the kitchen to make toast one day. When I came back she had pulled her pants down, sat on the potty, and done a wee. I was so proud I had a tear in my eye. I was proud. And a little bit sad.  Where did my ever-so little first-born go? This is the start of the letting go. And while I am more proud of her than I could ever have imagined possible, there’s a little pang.
Zen toddler and me, we’re closely attached. In the whole of her first year, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I was away from her for more than an hour. We did (and still do) co-sleep, we did (and still do) breastfeed. We share baths, we eat all of our meals together, and, barring around 12 hours of Montessori childcare a week, we’re together all of the time (with zen baby now boosting our ranks).  But I’m beginning to wonder what happens as she gets older, becomes more independent?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to hold her back, keep her tethered with the proverbial apron strings. Every forward leap she takes leaves me awestruck. Sometimes, I can’t believe that this hilarious little person ricocheting around the house like a stung wasp is the same little bundle of red-faced potential that I pushed into the world less than three years ago. But there’s going to come an age when she can dress herself, when she sleeps in her own bed all night because snuggling in between your parents is just lame. One day, she might even self-wean (not banking on that one happening anytime soon ;-/). How do we stay closely attached when we’re not together all day long, when I’m not the major influence in her life, when she doesn’t need me to do quite so much for her anymore?      
Truthfully, I don’t have the answers. This is the first time I’ve done any of this. In this, as in so many areas, zen baby will have the advantage of not being the test-case. But this time, first-time round, I don’t know what I’m doing. So far I’ve parented entirely on instinct, but I have no instinctive inclinations for this.
So, how do you keep them close while letting them go? Share your stories, experiences, and tips, because I could really use some ideas.  

Visit Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Call for submissions: La Leche League anthology

Thanks to Dreaming Aloud for posting about this submission opportunity from Mother’s Milk Books (and apologies about the short notice ~ you’ve still got a week, though):

 Musings on Mothering - La Leche League GB anthology

Deadline: end February 2012.
Contact: Teika Bellamy

The Aims of the Project

To harness the creativity of mothers, and indeed, anyone who has been inspired by the positive effect that ‘mothering through breastfeeding’ has had on their life.

To produce a beautiful book, full of uplifting work.

To raise funds for La Leche League GB through the sale of the book.

The full submission guidelines are here.

I’m in the process of putting something together. It’s important to share real-life experiences of breastfeeding, to keep breastfeeding in the public eye, and to reinforce the normalization (rather than the demonization) of breastfeeding.

Go on, get something down. You’re the only one who can tell your story.