Friday, 30 September 2011

All Hail Thee: I'm Not Worthy


Do you ever feel like you're not good enough to be a "natural/conscious/aware/alternative parent"? I do. God damn, I mostly feel like I'm not a good enough parent full stop, never mind trying to stick to my ideals like glue and failing miserably.

Let me give you an example. Recently we've finally succumbed to (gentle) night-weaning, at 10 months. It's not what we wanted, at all, at all. But after approximately 6 months of ever-increasing psychosis through lack of sleep, it was quite obviously the right thing to do. There are many, many, who tell me (or would tell me) that we shouldn't have waited so long, that our health is paramount because without that we cannot care for our child's health and wellbeing.

And I agree, and most of the world would agree. So why are there so many of the same people who make us feel like utter failures - including ourselves - at not meeting some kind of exacting standard set upon us unknowingly? Almost every day I read posts or comments from (mostly) mothers who appear to feel that their way is best, that you cannot call yourself a parent - let alone any kind of "natural" parent if you do not comply with rules A-Z without complaint.

Secretly, though, I know what the issue is here. And it makes me very sad. Parenting is hard - we all agree with that I think. And so we celebrate every little success, as parents and carers. Every. Single. Tiny. Success. Which is fabulous of course, and just the way it should be. The danger comes when we over-celebrate and our joy begins to spill over into The Smug Zone. Oh I am worthier than thou for I have done what you cannot manage. I've been there myself. The smugness and self-satisfaction at continuing to breastfeed long after the other 90% (or whatever) of mothers have given up. Feeling silently victorious at having lost all the baby weight (and more) after just 6 months, both times. The complacency with which we watched our babies self-wean onto solids, with no quibbles whatsoever. I could go on, and on.

But with every crow of victory we hurt another, less fortunate parent. Childrearing is not a competition, it's a life-choice. And as such, we have to roll with the punches and make hay when the sun shines, BUT we must also remember that it "takes a village" to raise a child. That means offering compassion and genuine support. It simply isn't good grace to be doling out advice whilst at the same time believing you are superior because your child has been breastfed for 4 years and the mum you're offering support to is struggling moving beyond 4 months (for example). We ALL struggle with aspects of parenting. Some of us may well put in more "effort" or have more "staying power" but that is neither here nor there. We all have our limits, and at the end of the day, we are all very different. So what works for me will very likely not work at all for you - and no, it's not because you're doing it wrong.

So please people, learn some compassion. Learn to work as a village. Learn to show our children the true meaning of community - compassion, not competition.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Home is Where the Heart is

Sorry for the silence of late everyone - life seems to have got in the way!  Above all, we recently came back from a lovely 10 days in soggy Cornwall, which was a much needed tonic for us all. Ok, it would have been nice if the sun had come out a bit more, but really the rain was just an excuse to don wellies and raincoat and splash around in puddles and go head to head with the wind on the cliff tops :)

And then we came back, and well, you know what it's like when you come back from hols… big downer, back to reality and all that. Except this time it was like coming back to a life which we hadn't quite realised was SO difficult. We knew things were tough, in many ways, but a break away peeled the scales away from our eyes and made us see things a little clearer. And with that, it has made us think a bit more about where we want to be in life.

Ooh big questions huh? Yep.

Amusingly, the lovely Lucy at Dreaming Aloud just posted a link which kind of sums it up (or some of it at least): Less Work, More Living, summed up in a nutshell as "Earn less, spend less, emit and degrade less". It's what we strived for right from the start of our adventure, when we set off in Rona (our camper) back in 2008. But life changes and gradually you sink back into the old ways, accumulate things again, strive for more and ultimately end up needing more money for it all.

With our boat we hoped to create a home for our family. But in order to achieve that we will be tied down to hard slog for the next ten years at least - and the irony is by doing that we also make a choice between making a home and making a family, because any time we do have (i.e. weekends) must be spent either working on the boat or enjoying time with each other. You could say we could try half-and-half, but believe me, it doesn't work out that way!

So, another turning point. In a radical shift away from traditional views of "hearth and home", we are now looking at creating a home within ourselves and carrying it wherever the wind blows us. Sure, it's nice to have pretty things and familiar things all around: bookshelves groaning, our trusty range bubbling away all manner of goodies; our own bed (which actually isn't so comfortable!) and so on. But at the end of the day things don't matter, do they? They just reflect what's inside us (or should). What if we were to look to the light within instead; the source of our personalities and dreams and feelings?

I hope we can learn to shine enough as individuals and as a family to be able to create "home" wherever we might require it, and at any time it is needed. They say "home is where the heart is" - and we're taking that in its most literal reading!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Note to my Younger Self

After 3 years of pregnancy and childcare - and living rough - I feel old. I look old. I have wrinkles and watery eyes and the other day I found a grey hair.

In reality I know I'm just tired, not old. I'm 31 for goodness' sake. But suddenly I am realising that I am ageing... and with that comes change, of skin and hair and body shape (darned pregnancies!) and energy and a strong desire to go to bed early rather than stay out partying (not that we can with two small kids!).

And so, to my younger self, I say this:

  • Do not be afraid
  • Love your body; be confident with it
  • Don't dwell on imperfections and don't get too attached to your good bits either!
  • Don't scratch or pluck - they are forms of self-harm
  • Drink lots of good quality water often and eat healthily
  • Bingeing on anything will just make you feel rubbish long term, so don't
  • Never be too harsh with yourself; life is supposed to be fun!
  • Allow the dark thoughts to enter but don't entertain them
  • Enjoy your friends - they allow you to be you
  • Be free with your love, as long as it feels good for you
  • Respect your elders but never let yourself be in awe of them; they may be older but wisdom has little correlation with age
  • Trust your instincts. Always
  • Don't be bossed around. You know what you want and need; go for it
  • Accept life's pitfalls and move on. There will be many
  • Never wish the years away. Enjoy what you have now
  • Travel - lots. Try as many new things as you want. Experience life
  • You are fabulous. Know it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Help! Your Experience of Support in Post-Natal Illness

I've been working on some research the past couple of months for an important piece on post-natal illness and the kind of support networks and services which are available to sufferers and their families. Having suffered from PNI, and known many, many other Mums (and some partners) who have too, I know that this all-too-common illness is not given the attention and understanding it rightly deserves by our perinatal care systems.

I'm really keen to get this work out into the public spotlight but first I need some real-life stories and stats to back me up (or prove me wrong!). That's where you guys come in :) 

Below are links to a survey I've set up. You may take part either as a mother, partner, or on behalf of someone else. Taking part in the survey is completely confidential and anonymous. I know that for most, this is an extremely sensitive issue and it can be hard even to admit to yourself sometimes, let alone others. I want you to know I really appreciate your responses, and I hope that you feel you can be as honest and open about this as you wish to be. None of the questions are required, so you can answer as much or as little as you like.

The survey is split into two parts for technical reasons. So once you've finished the first part, just come back here and click on the second link. Obviously I'd prefer you to answer (or have a go at) both parts, but again, that's up to you.

Although the survey has a slight leaning towards UK-based support services, I'd be interested in responses from any other country too.

If you have any questions, concerns or anything else, please feel free to drop me an email: giveanearthly [at] gmail [dot] com.


Your Experience: Support Through Post-Natal Illness


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