Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thou Shall Not Judge Baby on Leash

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There has been a recent story in the media proven to be perfect fodder for mums around the proverbial water cooler. The “story” is simply an image of child, fastened to a pole using a child restraint while her mother ventures into an establishment to run an “errand”. The story is particularly emotive as said errand turned out to actually be a TAB equivalent where the mother is placing a bet on probably her lucky horse.

If we take away the fact that the mother was gambling (it’s probably not fair to criticise someone who so clearly needs intervention quickly), we are left with a mother who pretty much tied her child to a pole like a cute puppy. “Child restraint” is a politically correct term for it. Lets face it ladies, it’s a leash; we may as well put horse blinkers on our kids while we’re at it. And what about those feeding bags they tie on horses too? That’d be handy.

It was at mothers group today after bringing up this topic, that I was getting myself into a froth of judgement when one dear friend simply said, “Let’s just wait a year and see what happens”. She kindly reminded us that while we may judge now, we too might be pulling on the lead getting our kids to heel in less than a year (sorry, last dig I swear).

Driving home I felt like a super bitch. I so often preach about supporting all mothers in their choices, etc, etc. but I’m just talk. I do judge the child restraint but I don’t even have a child old enough to find that I too may want to use one. Whether or not I will use it and whether or not I agree with their use in the first place really isn’t the issue here. It’s the fact that I am all too happy to judge when it is the very thing I have committed not to do. By the time I got home I almost wanted to put Bella in one in support of those mothers who clearly feel they have no other way of getting around a shopping centre without one.

It got me thinking about my dirty little secrets….you know those moments that you’d rather not have on camera?

I told the mothers at mothers group today about the time my husband came home and found me at the computer up one end of the house and Bella down the other, watching T.V., sitting in a dirty nappy with spit up down her front. I was answering some emails and had managed, within the space of about three minutes to look neglectful. Let me not even get onto how I sat in judgement while pregnant about how much television children watch these days. My daughter isn’t even one and she knows how to turn the television on and off….with the remote….the right way up!

Oh and then there’s the famous nappies. The $600, yes SIX HUNDRED dollar cloth nappies which were NEVER used. The breast feeding which turned to bottle feeding. The wooden toys that turned electronic. The homemade muffins that turned into Kraft cheese slices as a snack…it goes on and on.

When Bella was born, I resisted giving her a pacifier/dummy because my husband and I felt that it was a form of censorship; that it would silence her emotions, therefore stifling her psychological development. I am not even joking about the last bit. Eleven months on and I can say one of the best days of my life was when she worked out how to stuff the dummy back in her own mouth.

These are our dirty little secrets. The ones we’re all too scared to lay on the table. To say that some days, we’re just too tired, too fed up or too bored with the cheese muffins to give a damn. And it doesn’t mean we don’t adore, no dote on our children; it just means we’re trying to get by.

My Aunty used to always tease me that she was going to call “DOCS” (the Australian protection body for children) when she found Bella had cold feet or a runny nose. It was an ongoing joke. That was until I found a photo of my cousin asleep in a car, sunburnt with no hat, covered in chicken pox and a snotty nose. I cannot tell you the delight experienced in finding this photo. I had caught her red handed! What was wrong with me?

Perhaps as mothers we would all be better served if we wore placards around our neck, displaying our mothering secrets for all to see. “I give my child Panadol when they won’t sleep”. “I leave my child in a wet nappy while I cook dinner”. “I put my one year old in front of a Disney movie while I check facebook”….they’re dirty aren’t they?

I challenge you today to tell one of your mother friends one of your dirty little secrets, to exchange placards.

Because whilst I may be anti-restraint, I am pro-mother. And I have my friend from mothers group to thank for reminding me of that.

 

 

 

 

The Sleep Over

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Three generations of women, two of them built to adore Bella.

I’m sitting on the cusp of another milestone; the first baby sleepover. Suitable motherly type substitute? Tick. Plenty of milk and porta-cot already by the door? Tick. Gut wrenching, nauseating anxiety? In abundance. And this isn’t even happening till tomorrow!

I have put it off and off this sleepover; Bella’s first soiree into the night with her Nani. A few months ago it was meant to occur but I found a convenient reason why it wasn’t to be. Since then, there simply hasn’t been an occasion where we needed the night away but tomorrow we have been invited to a lovely garden wedding and can’t wait to attend. Usually under these circumstances either my husband or I would appear but we have decided that tomorrow we will arrive as a duo.

It has to be said that I have come a long way from the days where I would have happily placed Bella in a catapult had I been convinced she could hurtle safely across the city to my mother’s house. It’s even true that only in recent times, I’ve been known to have a teary in the backyard, longing for just one night of 8 hours sleep. But as that becomes less and less of a reality, I have become all Dalai Lama about it and quickly learnt the art of acceptance. Yes, 4 hours will suffice Earth Gods…. ”Ommmmmm”.

So why now all of a sudden the anxiety? Her grandmother adores her and has even raised four children of her own. I know Bella will “be alright”. All the rationality in the world tells me that she’ll be “alright” but what if “alright” isn’t good enough. What if she’s crying for her Mama in the night and I’m not there? What if she’s reaching for me as she does every night in our bed and she can’t find me? That’s enough to make me choke up already.

I have however decided not to weaken my resolve to place Bella in her Nani’s loving care and it’s all from a conversation I had with my Aunty. “What have you gained from being a mother?” I asked her out of the blue. She had to think about it a little bit but told me in the end that it is the sense of “mother”; that she will now forevermore have another dimension to her that cannot be taken away, that of “mother”. It’s a powerful picture, especially for someone like me who admired for so many years the idols of motherhood; the pregnant woman, the nursing mother, the mystery of renaissance imagery.

For every inch I value this, it reminded me of another set of images I now so often forget. And no, it’s not those of a footloose and drunken summer nights (although I miss those too), it’s the times I’ve shared over the last decade with my husband.

Here my dear friend is where we reach an impasse. The negotiation of the modern woman’s time; how to be mother and wife (let alone colleague) and do it well? How to value all that you have shared with your partner, while at the same time being lioness to your cubs? Once the King of the Jungle, the toolman is often relegated to the other end of the couch, the other end of the bed, the other end….of basically wherever I am!

So tomorrow will be a date for us so that we might remember where it all began. No doubt this will please the Toolman and no doubt Bella will be alright. It’s me I’m worried about.

And if she’s not, mum is under strict instructions to place her in that catapult and fling her straight back into my arms!

Birthday Blues

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My little girl turns 11 months today. It was at about this time, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, eleven months ago that I was being repaired and my husband and I were in shock to find that the name we had picked for a girl simply didn’t fit the one we had just brought earth side. I was expecting a Zahra but alas, we made a Bella.

In the first few weeks after she was born, I yearned for a one year old. I begged the universe (and most people game enough to come in contact with me) for a one year old. “I promise, I promise”, I begged the toolman, “When she’s one I’ll be a great mother. I’ll dance with her and everything. Just let me sleep, pleeeasssseeeee”. Sound familiar? In my post partum delirium I rationalised that I probably wasn’t going to be the best mother to a baby but I can make a cracking pot of homemade play dough so surely a one year old would be more my caper. In truth, I wished poor Bella’s life away just a smidge.

But now that my first important milestone is on the horizon, quite predictably, I want to go back. Not too far back mind you, I can leave the visit to a mother baby inpatient unit behind me; maybe just back a few months. I want to remember her tiny. I want to hold her against my chest with the luxury of hindsight and know that she can nap right there without having to put her down so that I myself can steal an hour of sleep. I honestly can’t remember what those early months were like; what she smelt like, the shape of her head.

There is so much good stuff ahead of me. There’s a whole Australian summer to be had right around the corner with a little girl who is so delectable she has to be seen to be believed (no seriously folks, people stop me in the street *blushing mother*). And let me not get to how delightful I can only imagine it is going to be when I am no longer sitting on a pump for hours a day. So why am I feeling so sad? Why am I suddenly worried about weaning, about losing that tiny baby who I only knew for such a short time?

The great irony is that when you are told to “enjoy it” in the early months by mothers that have gone before you, I don’t think I am alone in saying you want to pull out a hot rod and poke them in the bum with it. Because at that point you simply can’t enjoy it….you’re too sleep deprived, too emotional and teetering so close to the edge, the only thing stopping you from jumping is the energy it would take to fling yourself over.

I still go without sleep but I’m sadly used to it and as a rather important addition to the equation, I now love being with my daughter. I even love her tantrums …..They show she’s got some spunk. I just want a little more time.

More time to finish her scrap book I am making her; the story of how she came to be (minus the rude bits). More time to plan her birthday. More time to put up the Christmas tree, adorned with only pink and purple ornaments just for her. More time to play with her. More time to remember her just as she is. I’ve even become obsessed with looking at pictures of myself when I was pregnant with her.  What is going on here?

Perhaps this is a lesson about enjoying the moment. Not stressing about the future or the past. About letting the little one in your life turn one and simply enjoying it. Or perhaps this is the joke played on women worldwide. The one that gives you a little tickle and the fantasies and the daydreams of a brother or a sister begins.

Somebody get here quick and slap me!

 

 

The Look of Love

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Did I not see it here? How would you describe this feeling?

 

I’ve just had the most delicious experience with Bella. Slightly perturbed that the home hairdresser I had booked to cut my hair today was a no show, and on my new regime of trying to consciously enjoy my time with my daughter, I climbed into our bed with her. Armed with a bottle of fresh milk, we snuggled down under the doona and played peek-a-boo till she finally gave up on it. When she gave me her undeniable cue that she was tired (she loves to grab whatever top she is wearing with both hands as if to swaddle herself), I brought her up into my arm for a cuddle.

Amazingly, even at only ten and a half months, she knew how to reward me and stared so directly into my eyes, I am sure we were talking to each other. At one point I even thought to myself, “Can you hear me?” as I matched her loving stare.

Something incredible happened though that I wanted to share. I understand that this may be an epiphany-come-lately that most of you out there have experienced already but I realised that my daughter loves me. It’s not just me that adores her. She actually loves me. What have I been so scared of all this time? Yes, I am her mother which means I am responsible for her and yes, my life has changed in a way that often requires selfless sacrifice (quite the shock to the system after years of selfishness). But if she loves me and I love her, won’t we be alright in the end?

Suddenly I didn’t give a damn about the hairdresser; my curls could go wild. Because here I have a little girl, who is part me, who for now just looked at me like I was her world. And I was all good, not a bad bone in my body. Nobody has ever looked at me like that before.

If I wasn’t so happy, I would dry reach at my own sop. Is this what it’s been like all along for other mothers? I envy the speed with which they’ve had this realisation but I don’t resent my tardiness.

I got there in the end and once again, my little girl was waiting for me at the finish line.

Bless!

The Holiday

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Enjoying the small things. A ladies lunch!

I’ve had a really good day today. A really good day. You’re going to have to stick with this one though. It started with an early morning wakeup call from my brother that went like this.

“How was your weekend away in Lorne?”

“Not bad. I’m a bit tired.” I yawned.

“Who’d you go with?”

“Ummm…just us and a few friends. Six adults and Bella (our daughter)”.

“No other kids?!!! What were you thinking?” he laughed. Precisely!

Let me just start by saying that the friends I went away with are delightful. Pick of the bunch type of people. Top notch. But I just wish I had had the above conversation a few weeks ago. By about the second day in to our four day break I was feeling down and resentful.

I’ve been aware over the years of the dilemma facing parents as I’ve heard my sister in law talk about how holidays away are merely a matter of picking up your life and your routines and transporting them to a different location. The holiday simply lies in the fact that there are more people to witness the doldrum. It seemed to me that there were constantly things that we were not able to do. Morning one, activity one: a hike in the heat. Afternoon one, activity two: lazy naps and smoking in the hammock under a tree. The writing was already on the wall.

By evening two my poor friends were witness to what can only be described as a full mummy-meltdown tantrum. Had I been a four year old I would have been flailing my arms and legs around, rolling on the grass. I didn’t intend on bursting into tears straight away, I was trying to be laid back and cool, demonstrating the fine and seamless art of attachment parenting…take your kids anywhere, strap them to your back, live, laugh and eat plenty. But as you are all aware by now, my experience of this takes work and plenty of it. My weekend would have been much easier if I were the “pop them in a play pen and swing them a little phenergen if need be” be type of mama.

In truth, what was really going on was that behind my good old fashioned tantrum was the desire to do what I very well pleased. To sit with my friends, pick up the paper at will, drink wine in the afternoon. And I can’t do this anymore. And they can. And I found this too overwhelming to contain. Herein lies the childish tantrum.

One of my friends (male) made two points, put quite bluntly. 1. This is the price for a “beautiful little girl”, and 2. You need to decide what it is that you really want to do and feel you can’t do while having a daughter and make moves to sort out some time so that you can do them. Both infuriatingly logical and reasonable. Another friend (female) responded differently, “You just want the choice of how to spend your time don’t you?” Bingo!

But infuriatingly logical male friend is right. It is the pay off. This really should be the end of the tantrum. Right? Well the tantrum may be over but the feeling remains.

And then something else happened on our little holiday which put the wheels in motion of today being a really good day.

The toolman and I walked down to the beach to see a friend of ours who had been lying in the sun for some hours. The toolman and my friends had all spent the afternoon napping while I entertained our ten month old who didn’t feel like following the holiday snooze time itinerary. Needless to say, as we walked towards the beach I was wondering why I was there in the first place. I was pretty sure that I spent the afternoons doing the same thing at home.

As soon as we arrived on the beach bubba decided to start squawking and in the afternoon sun and the sand, I decided to almost immediately return home. It was close to bed time, she needed dinner and a bath and by staying here while she was obviously tired, I would be making our night time routine more difficult. Only another parent would understand this logic.

But the toolman insisted we stay and cradled her in his arms on the beach while she slept, throwing caution to the wind and deciding that we would deal with whatever happened later. If she was then going to sit up till midnight, we’d deal with it. Somehow I managed to enter into a conversation with someone I hardly know and will probably never see again about enjoying the moment, mindfulness, Eckhart Tolle, mediation, liking myself, not liking myself and how I can make my days more balanced. It was bliss. Mainly because my husband was so beautifully resting with our daughter but it was also because I felt like me again. Not just a 24/7 milk machine but the person who used to do this, talk relaxedly with friends. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.

Admittedly this conversation was at the back of my mind within about an hour when bath and dinner time were at the forefront but I was reminded of it today when I was alerted to another blog. I opened it and started to read about a womans plight looking after her kids and wanting more time away. Tick, yep, sounds like me. And then she wrote that “grappling for time apart from our kids often leads to more frustration and upset all around. It rarely recharges us enough, as promised, to feel better when we come back and we are stuck in a vicious circle of craving more and more (and feeling frustrated when we can’t get it).”

She goes on to say that the more we desire time away, “Mummy time”, all things that we are told we need to keep us sane, the less we actually enjoy time with our children. This made me STOP DEAD. How much of the day do I actually spend thinking about time away from my daughter? How much of the day am I stressing about getting into another room to do the dishes, the washing, pay bills when I could be sitting with her and watching her in her little but very important play. A lot. The answer is a lot.

I have always thought that mothering is hard if it’s done right. I have been proud of sacrifice I have made for our girl. I have also obviously developed an unconscious ideal that being the best mother I can be means it has to be hard work. But what if it isn’t hard? What if the place is a mess and birthdays are forgotten and Bella and I spend hours together on the floor mastering the art of getting that oval peg through the oval hole. What if I push my friends in their hammocks away and pull my daughter closer. What if I watch the expectation of having time “for me” move in and out of my mind.

Today I saw a pile (now I mean a dirty big pile) of biscuit crumbs under the rug and I put my girl in the pram and went for a walk in the sun. I stopped to look at a tree trunk and nearly laughed at myself. I started describing the tree truck and most certainly did laugh at myself. Walking along a main road, I had a mum behind with a toddler on a trike (embarrassingly somehow keeping up with me pushing the pram) and passed a mother on bended knee negotiating with her four year old about something.

I felt a whole new type of proud walking along knowing that I was actually enjoying it; that this was better for us than picking up the crumbs. That if family and friends saw said crumbs and wanted to make a judgement about them, they could do so because my daughter and I had a sweet secret; that we’re not worried about them.

On the way home I thought about stopping for a coffee as Bella was now asleep in the pram and it was a sunny morning. I thought about buying a magazine and sitting there, flicking through the pages while Bella slept. But I went home instead.

As I said, today was a good day but it wasn’t a miracle!