Dear Stay At Home Mums, Speak The Eff Up!

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Motherhood is so amazing/ awful. Having children is so amazing/ awful. Being at home/ work is so amazing/ awful. Gosh darn, don’t I feel so amazing/ awful all the time.

Actually, no. Because it is LIFE. Not a cut and dried thing, as suggested at regular intervals by the media. Motherhood is a series of moments in which many different things can be felt and not one of these moments defines all the rest. Phew! That feels better. Flux. Change. I will have nothing of this fixed mentality!

This is not the post I sat down to write today. However, as I was having a quick procrastinate on Facebook I saw a friend had shared ‘Dear Stay At Home Mums, Shut The Eff Up!‘ which sent me off on a new tangent.

The essence of this lady’s argument is that stay at home mums are ‘the most privileged species on the planet’. The reason being that we get to wear what we want, avoid sexist boss’ eye gropes (what decade are we in?), and be there for our kids day in day out, catching all of those first steps, first words, first shredding of entire toilet roll and so on.

She is chuffed to be a SAHM. Great! However, in the post she is doing that thing known as venting. Just as the complainers she complains about are when they are saying that they don’t feel like mothering today. It’s the same shit, different shade of brown. We all do it when we are feeling tired or put upon, or often, tired and put upon.

Back to the actual post content. On sharing this, my friend made some excellent points about the problems with these claims: that having the choice to be a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) is a privilege, rather than being a SAHM in itself; that not every SAHM has chosen to be one; that ‘whining’ or rather ‘talking stuff through’ is a way of sorting out complex emotions, and therefore helpful; that this chat harks back to the days of women being expected to ‘shut up and put up’; this article totally misses out the whole issue of identity shifting through work and motherhood; that the writer purposefully adds fuel to the fire of so-called ‘Mum Wars’ nonsense. There were comments suggesting that complaint can also be indicative of social inequality, and the need for more parity in employment for parents of both sexes, from affordable childcare to parental, rather than maternity leave (Why is the article addressed to SAHMs not SAHPs?), to giving a fairer deal to salaried employees regarding expected working hours. All very good points.

There was also a rebuttal on the host site ‘I’m A Stay-At-Home Mom Who Can’t (And Won’t) STFU, Thanks!’ This post echoes several of these points, in particular that some women stay at home with the kids out of necessity rather than choice. Furthermore, becoming a SAHM after reluctantly leaving a successful career can lead to a diminished sense of identity, and feelings of frustration.

As a very grateful mother, wife, and home owner, who also happens to be a human being, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of women who choose NOT to ‘Shut the eff up!’.

No matter whether you are a SAHM or Working Mother, whether you chose it or not, the following things are guaranteed to happen:

1. Your identity shifts throughout your life in unexpected ways, and does a flip when big change happens, like when you have a baby.

Since I became a mother, and at other times during my life, I have had moments when I felt like who and where I was were totally in harmony with one another. I have had moments when I felt like who and where I was, created a resounding discord. It’s ok to sometimes love your circumstances and sometimes wish they were otherwise.

Linking your feelings at a particular moment to your identity by treating them as evidence that you are a good or grateful a parent doesn’t work. Feelings change too easily. I feel steadily more grateful to be awake, the more tea I drink in the morning. I wonder why that might be! The better my mood, the better able I am to adopt a loving and open mindset. It doesn’t make me a terrible, ungrateful person to wish that I could drink that tea in peace some days. Just as it doesn’t make me an amazing mother that I also enjoy hanging out round the breakfast table with the family.

Identity is a process, not a fixed point, and how you see yourself one day, might contradict the next, depending on your sense of internal strength and togetherness. These contradictions can be confusing and trigger all kinds of mother guilt if you are vulnerable to it. This only serves to dim that tenacious little inner light: our determination to do our best for ourselves and our families. Telling women that they should be in a state of eternal gratefulness is not realistic or helpful. No one feels grateful for who and where they are all the time. A secure identity comes from seeing the things you do are of value to yourself and others, not being a martyr.

2. Life is unpredictable, and plans turn out differently to how they looked when you thought them up.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I worried about feeling isolated and overwhelmed at home. Would I miss my job? My colleagues? The answer turned out to be a resounding ‘No!’. Not that I hated my job, I just really liked my new one in ways that I did not predict, because I didn’t understand what it would be like to be in my new circumstances.

I look back on that year and remember how in tune I felt about everything I was doing. I doubt that is actually how I felt all the time, but I remember it that way. I was just so amazed to have brought this little girl into the world and to have successfully kept her alive for months on end! She was a non-colicky straightforward baby, who was fun to spend time with. I found that I loved the shape my days took and relished doing something new.

When my eldest was one, I did go back to work. I had always assumed I would and never thought that being at home longer term was a serious alternative. Yet, here I am, after several years of doing just that. Given that I have spent most of this time pregnant or breastfeeding, the opportunities available to work don’t fit in well with the kids’ schedules, and my general enthusiasm for the task, I became the default at home parent.

There have been days when I have not worked and missed it, those when I did work and wished I could be at home, and days when things felt just the way I wanted. I also completed an MSc during my first three years as a mother, and that was a welcome chance to use the old brain and do something which was just mine. Right now, I am at home, and some moments I love it. Some I don’t. I am surprised often at how my feelings change around this. I also marvel at how it is not how I expected motherhood to look, but when is your projection of a future self ever accurate?

My sense of ‘job satisfaction’ depends on various things, like the amount of sleep I get, whether or not I have had any personal space in the last 24 hours. However, the greatest factor is whether I feel part of a family working together rather than a domestic drudge. When I value my work, feel that my needs are being considered, and can see how I am contributing to our vision of how we want to live our lives, then I feel pretty good about everything.

3. Everyone is making up their life as they go along and doing the best that they feel able at a given moment.

When someone is complaining often and at length about something it means that they need support because they are depleted, burned out. Changing their thinking might help, but being told they are ungrateful and tiresome is not going to make them feel positive, understood, heard, or valued. Being subjected to this kind of tirade only exacerbates the problem.

During my most recent year of motherhood and I felt out of sync a lot of the time. After years of broken sleep, less freedom over how days were spent, and husband working long hours away from home, I felt less than fabulous. Now, I set the bar a bit higher than ‘keeping kids alive’ to include stuff like making thought out parenting choices, trying to get the children to eat healthy food, trying to do what seems the optimal thing for their mental and physical wellbeing present and future. Plus now there is all the older kid stuff to figure out, like dealing with tantrums and toilet learning. Not that I didn’t try hard before, just now I have a lot more to do, and more information than ever about it. I got lost for a while in trying to balance everything and felt like I had to give up on my own interests. I don’t think that has to or should be the case, but if I hadn’t talked about it, then I would not have been able to return to a sense of wellbeing so readily.

In normal circumstances, caring for small children is demanding enough. Given that I have had the privilege of choice to some degree, and a whole bunch of support, I consider myself pretty lucky. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a single parent, or to be forced into leaving a career you loved, or to suffer from Post Partum Depression, or to struggle to support a child with special needs. Despite knowing I am blessed, I like a bit of a vent now and again with my friends. Employees can usually rely on a cathartic chat with one another, and stay at home parents have their  colleagues AKA other SAHMs. It is crucial that women feel they can turn to others in all kinds of situations, not feel they should ‘suck it up’.

Complaining is a symptom of feeling low and confused. It shows that the person is in need of open minded, open hearted support. When people feel supported they are empowered to take action which shows respect for all persons involved, and tries to take into account their best interests. Parents already have a fair bit of responsibility and give themselves even more. This is because they ARE grateful for their kids and want to give them a wonderful start in life, even if they are having a not so great experience. Each person does the best they can at a given moment. 

I’d love to hear what other people made of these articles. How do they resonate with your own experiences?

Here’s to you SAHMs and WMs, (and dads too!) and the support you can give one another with a bit of compassionate listening xxx

Sorting Out Anger With Buttons, Containers, Heat, and Waves

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After my Simple Epiphany the other week, I have seen some changes to my mindset. Once you start to think that your thinking is creating your reality, then you begin to be far more selective about which thoughts you give credence to. I have been feeling a lot more positive as a result.

In view of this, I was surprised to find myself losing my temper in a big way over a small dispute with my five year old daughter. How did that happen? Since I decided to accept my human weaknesses, now I can be so frickin’ serene that I will actually be perfect after all right? Yeah, I know. It doesn’t work like that, does it.

At the time I was shocked. I swore I didn’t see it coming.

The time is about 6:15 on a Wednesday evening. I have picked up the kids from school, played, got dinner in the oven, and in a moment I will be putting hot fish fingers onto little plastic plates to cool down. Miss 5 decides that right now, she wants to do painting and there is NOTHING else in the WHOLE WORLD she can do at this moment: Mother, can you not see that I am seized by the muse? Well, yes my darling I can, but it is time for your evening repast.

OK, actually it was more like…

Miss 5: Can I do some painting?
Me: I’m afraid now isn’t a great time darling because dinner is almost ready.
Miss 5: But I really want to paint….Please can I paint?
Me: it’s great that you remembered to say please sweetheart, but I don’t think so. Tomorrow we can paint though.
Miss 5: (face crumples, shrieks) but I really, really want to paint right now!
Me: Look, we have five minutes before dinner and getting out the paints means, taking out paint pots, mixing up paint, finding the brushes and paper, and then Sam will want all those things too. It’s just too much stuff for right now.
Miss 5: I WANT TO PAINT!
Me: CAN’T YOU JUST TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!!! HOW DO YOU LIKE BEING SHOUTED AT!! IT’S NOT VERY NICE IS IT!! (throws oven glove to floor in fit of maturity)

Now, sometimes I shout, but I rarely yell. Miss 5 and Mr 3 we’re startled. Miss 5 was quite shaken and ran for the door. Mr almost 3 started laughing, which broke the tension, so I tickled him and gave him a kiss. Then I went to find Miss 5. I said that I was really sorry for shouting at her and she must have felt quite scared to be running off. I said that people shouldn’t shout at each other like that. I said I didn’t really know why I yelled at that moment, but I guess I was feeling wound up and lost my temper, even though it was just over a small thing. We had a cuddle and went on with dinner.

I felt awful. It’s a horrible feeling to have just scared your kid.

It then took me two and a half hours to get the children into bed. Aaargh. Then, I cried on husband’s shoulder and had some wine. I was still at a loss as to where that big blast of anger came from.

Looking back, I have a few ideas:

Everyone has their buttons. They get installed in childhood and become apparent through adult experience. As a teacher I had teacher buttons, and as a parent I have parent ones. They get pressed a lot, too.

I have one big button which says ‘We’re going to be late’. Lots of English people have it. Hubster has it. My family has it. His family has it. One day, our kids may well have it, but not yet. I can see that many of my Portuguese counterparts don’t have this button. There is a look of benign incomprehension on the face of my neighbours as I say ‘I must go, or we won’t get to school on time’. I can see them thinking ‘Calma!’.

So earlier, I had gone to pick up the kids from crèche and it took longer than usual. Mr almost 3 wanted to bash the plastic barrier on the stairs so it made a big satisfying noise. While I was disengaging him from this activity, Miss 5 thought it would be fun to go downstairs and hide. All this time, Miss 1 was clinging to me and agitating for a breastfeed. Push, push, push went the ‘we’re going to be late’ button. Then as soon as we got home I put us on a clock. I want dinner at half six, kids in bed by eight thirty. Push, push.

It is ironic that, as someone who loves independence and autonomy, I also have a button which says ‘I don’t want to do it alone’. This had been pushed quite a lot over the last three months or so, due to me feeling overwhelmed. When husband is away at work and I am tired, and there is chaos and washing up all over the place I push this button. It sounds like a violin. Woe is me. Push. I live a long way from my family. Push. Some days I just want to be mothered. Push.

So, on that particular day I had been pushing my buttons. People always say that kids push your buttons, but actually you watch the kids do something totally innocuous and then you push your own button. They are just being kids. They test boundaries and parents try to establish them. Button related stuff is guaranteed to tick you off at times. Often, it is something you do without even really noticing, until suddenly you are caught up in a whirlwind. In our house, things tend to get messy when we are trying to get the kids out the door in the morning. You get in a bit of a bad mood, then suddenly you are raging over something really small and mundane.

After losing your temper comes regret, or maybe embarrassment, or a lingering sense of ineffable nastiness. You beat yourself up for flying off the handle. You think you should have stayed in control. You wonder at the force which temporarily overtook you. Sometimes people talk about loss of temper as a release, but it never feels like one when the recipient of that anger is your own child.

Back to thinking about how I think about things. I wonder if the way that we think about anger in English speaking culture is not very helpful in deciding what to do with that feeling.

Anger is often described as heat in a container: She was getting hot under the collar; She simmered with a slow burning resentment; She felt her blood boil; She needed to let off steam; She exploded.

As with other emotions, we take something physical and use it to map the features of the abstract feeling. This gives the unknowable shape and helps us talk about it. These metaphors have a huge influence on the way we understand our internal experiences, and how we evaluate our external behaviour.

Like a hot liquid in a container, anger is thought manageable and measurable. Yet, when things are really bad we talk about rage. Rage is unpredictable and uncontrollable: She erupted with white hot rage.

There is a certain amount of ‘goodness of fit’ for these metaphors: we do get hot when we get cross; we do find that little irritations mount up over time; we can try to release bad feeling by ‘letting it out’; just as we can become suddenly livid and take ourselves by surprise when we lose control..

However, using the logic of metaphor, we go from basic cookery to huge, bombastic, natural forces in a couple of quick steps. So, when you lose your temper it sort of feels like you were boiling an egg, then it exploded like Vesuvius all over the kitchen for no apparent reason. You feel shocked and kind of culpable, but you still don’t quite know how it happened. After all, if you had turned down the heat on the egg, you might not need to clean shell off the ceiling. To be fair though, this is not the normal result of boiling an egg a bit too long. Yes, you could have acted in some way to prevent it, but the mechanics of what happened are unclear to you.

What if you get rid of that whole metaphor.

In fact, people talk about waves of anger too.

What if anger was like waves breaking on the coast:

Imagine standing on a rocky promontory above the sea. Sometimes the waves just break around your ankles and it is no big deal. Sometimes the waves get bigger and you find yourself in danger of being lost at sea. Sometimes waves even crash over your head and you really panic that you’ll be washed away. But if you stay on your rocky outcrop and don’t let that happen, then the wave will pass over you. You will be kind of soggy for a while, but you will dry out.

I apologise in advance for mixing metaphors: when your buttons are pressed the waves get bigger.

When your mood is bad they get bigger. When you are feeling tired they get bigger. When you are overstimulated they get bigger.

However, the waves are also at the mercy of the elements, not under your complete control. There are periods of calm and good weather followed by stormier seasons. That is just how it is.

You can’t stop the waves happening, but you can choose not to get lost in them. You are going to get wet, but the storm will pass. The sea will calm. You do not need to do anything.

If you just stay on the rock, the storm will pass and the sea will calm.

Then it will get all riled up again, because that is what the sea does.

But the storm will pass and the sea will calm.

Even if sometimes you can’t breath and you feel that the wave will never stop coming. It will. All you have to do is hold onto your rock and wait.

I reckon if you think about anger like this, you might feel less compelled to do something with it. Less compelled to manage it. That compulsion to direct anger at stuff. The urge to say and do not very nice things. It is such a destructive force. All too often though, it is not things which deserve anger that get the brunt of it. It is the people close by. Which is why it is better to do nothing with it. Not bottle it up. Just leave it alone. Recognise that you are experiencing some bad feeling and it will pass in time.

The anger is a heat in a container metaphor tells us that we have to release the anger somehow. We have to find a way to discharge it, or we bottle it up and set ourselves up for a greater, more dangerous explosion later on.

If anger is a wave, then you wait for it to wash over you and then it goes away on its own. No direction necessary.

Whatever caused the waves to be so damn big might need some attention. Look at your buttons! Noticing when you are doing too much button pushing helps the anger waves to diminish and recede. Also, noticing when there is a problem which needs genuine attention. Something which cannot just be borne out. Better to deal with these issues when you have returned to a more relaxed frame of mind. Come back to it when the sea is not so rough.

Sometimes you fall into the waves because it is tricky to balance on a rock while the sea rages around you. Sometimes you jump in, because the compulsion to act on your feelings is just too strong. Everyone does it. It is normal.

But you don’t need to do anything to get rid of anger. You need to let it wash away in its own time. While you’re waiting for that to happen, you can put a bit of attention into self care. Have a nap. Phone your mum. Cuddle your resentful paint deprived child.

The storm will pass and the sea will calm.

Then it’ll rise up again and you’ll end up with a wet bum. Life’s just like that.

At least though, you can kind of explain what happened.

What buttons do you have? Are they familial? Cultural? Just plain barmy?

A Simple Epiphany for An Overtired Parent

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It’s been a quiet few months on Mums Are Made. A big reason for this is that the Hubster has just spent three months teaching at the University of Durham. I had an exhilarating few weeks looking after the three kids on my own in Portugal, headed to my Mum and Dad’s house in the UK, then returned with them for another few weeks back home again. On the plus side I have spent a lot of time hanging with the little ones, seeing old friends, and visiting favourite childhood haunts. I had a night or two OUT, which was extremely welcome. The only snag was that, while I have been lucky enough to have outstanding help and support from friends and family, I have felt quite overwhelmed with the responsibilities and practicalities of being the only full-time parent on hand. I can’t remember ever feeling so exhausted.

Actually, I still feel tired, but much less anguished, thanks to some very simple changes to my thinking.

I will return to that in a minute.

First, a typical source of anguish.

One of the things that I get worked about is Miss just turned 1’s sleeping habits. The issue of baby sleep has become one of the most contentious topics on parenting websites, forums, and the topic of various research endeavours. Thanks to the mighty net, each of us has a plethora analyses and advice, not just the word of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, perhaps the odd baby book, but also forums and Facebook groups, ‘parenting experts’, and scientists. There are loads of books and ebooks to choose from too depending on your chosen approach.

Now, of course, being woken repeatedly throughout the night does tend to be tiring. On top of this though, is a list of niggles and anxieties: I am not intervening enough; not setting good enough routines; exacerbating her waking by co-sleeping; in danger of losing more sleep if I stop co- sleeping; night weaning might get me more sleep, but there are some benefits for Miss 1 if she carries on feeding at night; I don’t want to wean completely because I am enjoying the extended breastfeeding relationship and this is likely the last time I will be doing this; perhaps I should be prepared to do almost anything if it guarantees more sleep; perhaps I should have sleep trained after all; consulting literature reveals that there are pros and cons to sleep training, so either way I have probably done stuff wrong; perhaps I am doing the kids a disservice by being tired and grumpy too much of the time; maybe if I …..and on and on and on.

And Miss 1’s sleep is but one of many things that I am find tough! Throw in Mr almost 3’s concept of safety, Miss 5’s independence dependence dance, and the other random concerns that crop up on a daily basis. Then there is the wellbeing of Husband and I.

Fortunately, there is hope out there for chronic over thinkers, worriers, and control freaks:

Enter Nicola Bird, Life Coach, and Wise Lady Entrepreneuress. I had the opportunity to spend an hour with her last week as part of her 100 Conversations Project, and she helped me out with a simple insight:

It’s not the circumstances of my life that are overwhelming, it is the way I think about them which makes me feel overwhelmed.

At any given moment, I am constructing my perception of reality through my thoughts. Thoughts arrive unbidden in my mind on a constant basis and tell me stories about what is happening in my life. Such as why Miss 1 doesn’t sleep through the night, and the devastation it will cause because, clearly, she is never, ever, going to.

Nicola used an analogy involving TV newsreels to make me more aware of my thought patterns:

Imagine that your thoughts are a ticker-tape playing across a TV screen; one of those strips at the bottom of the TV, which keeps you abreast of incoming news items. The ticker-tape stories are played out in greater detail on the screen above.

As we move through our daily life, the ticker-tape flashes up responses to what is going on. For example, it reports on our behaviour and that of others. The story we connect to these behaviours appears in technicolour on the screen evoking emotional reactions.

The more that we pay attention to a particular story, the more vivid it gets. The story starts to feel more and more real. We start to make it real, even though it started out as pure imagination. The real fun happens when you start to try and pay attention to every story on the ticker-tape and begin to make them ALL real at once. This saps energy and leaves no room for what is actually going on in the present moment. We start to live in our heads. We smother our own personal resources. We start to feel less than well.

The bad news is that you can’t just switch the TV off. It is always there in the background. It is part of us.

On the other hand, we can just turn the TV round. Put it in a corner. Pay less attention to it. Take it less seriously.

I commented that I thought this idea would be useful.

‘It’s not just useful, it’s liberating’ said Nicola.

She was not wrong.

Another helpful idea she talked about was that peace of mind is not something which we need to cultivate through yoga or self- improvement. It is there all the time within us, but when we are wound up by our thoughts it gets obscured.

Buried beneath all that thought is the innate wisdom which says ‘Hey now, you know what to do and you’re fine. You love your kids and your husband and you know how to look after these people, and nurture these relationships. You know how to take care of yourself too’. If I let up with the analysis and strategising it can shine through. If I stop suffocating myself by overthinking, deep down I am calm. If I step outside the thought storm I can be receptive to new ideas.

So, I hereby give myself permission to not bother with a whole load of unhelpful thoughts and the attendant feelings they create in my brain and body. I cannot stop having them, and I do not need to change them. I can choose not to get caught up in my thoughts. To stop piling meaning onto events, which simply are what they are and no more.

I have been doing this for a week now and it is helping me so much. For instance,

Miss 1 is so very far from sleeping through the night that the very idea of ever sleeping again seems laughable at times. Like I said above, I react to this in various ways. I have spent untold amounts of time thinking about strategies to help her sleep longer, and still more wondering what, if anything, I did wrong. I start worrying about the long term effects of poor sleeping on my mental and physical health. I get jealous and resentful towards hubster because he is not up as often as me. I get frustrated with her because, to be honest, I expected a bit more sleeping to be happening by now. I see this stretching into the distance for months and years to come with no end point in sight.

Well, none of these thoughts are helping in any way and this is actually interfering with my ability to deal with the present moment. The stories I am telling myself about the future simply haven’t happened yet, so they can go. The strategies I have read about, heard about, thought up, whirl around my head, but they don’t quite fit today, my baby, my current situation, me. Get rid of them all. It’s just clutter. The theories about how this came about. The expectations about little one reaching milestones. Out you go. Good riddance. Oh, and the beating myself up for getting cranky and impatient. I will lose that, because I am only human after all.

Now, with that out of the way I find that the night-waking is not such a huge problem. I can see that she is sleeping better than she was, if not so well as her siblings were at the same age. She is also in her own room now, albeit taking me with her for a chunk of the night. That is not such a big deal because her bed is a mattress which is big enough for the both of us. I can see my beautiful baby girl will eventually sleep. There may come a point where it feels right to try and intervene a bit more, but I don’t need to worry about that today. I have confidence in own ability to be in this situation as it unfolds and figure it out as I go along. After all, success and failure are retrospective diagnoses and no one knows for sure what will work.

Take for example, what worked for helping Mr almost 3 sleep through. He had transferred to his own room in a cot reasonably well, but then separation anxiety peaked and he started waking frequently and crying at top volume. I used to go in to him, try and settle him, cuddle him to sleep and transfer him to his bed to no avail. 20 minutes after dropping off he would be yelling again. What worked in the end was Husband climbing into the cot with Mr almost 3 and holding him until he dropped off. When settled like this, by his dad, he didn’t return to his frantic waking and began to sleep much better. Then he just seemed to grow out of it for the most part.

So, what turned out to solve the problem of how to calm Mr almost 3 was not strategy or routine. We didn’t follow a plan from a baby book. We didn’t consult any forums. We didn’t discuss it, and if we had I would have expressed doubt about the cot’s ability to accommodate them both. Hubster came up with the right idea for that moment, in the moment, which happened to do the trick. Then Mr almost 3 grew ready to sleep without us.

Control is so very tempting, but it is not the answer. Surrendering to our human limitations is the answer. Letting ourselves and our families be themselves is the answer. Working with our innate common sense is the answer. Knowing that we can come up with the right idea at the right moment is the answer. Even if sometimes we get it wrong or are at a loss. Such is the nature of human creativity. Not to mention the unpredictability of cheeky wee bairns.

I really needed reminding that thoughts are just stories. Stories which tell me about what I fear and desire, not stories which predict what will happen in my own or my kids lives. Stories which have the power to shape my family’s lives, but only because of the effect I allow them to have on my own feelings. Paying untold attention to my thoughts sends me in circles, repeating the same stories to myself, when there are no answers here to resolve my feelings of overwhelm. In fact, these thoughts are creating that feeling of overwhelm.

If I let go of these stories I can open up a space for new ideas to flow in and creativity to flow out. Instead of expending huge amounts of energy thinking these thoughts I can put that energy into the business of living in the present moment.

I’m not saying that suddenly everything is easy, but It feels more straightforward. Just by giving less credence to a whole heap of thoughts on a daily basis has made me feel more sane, deal better with sleep deprivation, be more loving to my husband and kids. I feel like a perfect example of an ordinary human mum with good moments, bad moments, strengths, weaknesses, and a tendency to worry about stuff.

What are the stories you tell yourself? What do you listen to? What do you want to be liberated from?

I would love to know, so answers on a postcard/comments box. Sending lots of love to all my fellow worriers xxxx

Find out more about Nicola Bird and The Simplicity Project here

What Game of Thrones Tells Us About Parenting

When the controversy over Cry It Out gets out of control…...  Thanks to fourthhdayuniverse.com for the image

When the controversy over Cry It Out gets out of control……

I caught the bug. I read the books. I have been glued to the screen for three seasons of Game of Thrones. Thank you Mr Martin for this rollicking good entertainment. As a mother of three under five, it has been a vicarious thrill to dive into a world where Teletubbies fear to tread.

However, stepping back into my mother role for a moment. What can I learn about parenting from the families warring across the Seven Kingdoms? As in the mundane, zombie and dragon free dimension that we call home, there are a fair few different approaches taken by the mums and dads of Westeros:

 

1. The Tywin Lannister Approach- Tywin likes to take a firm (King’s) hand with children and grandchildren alike. They are to do his bidding, or be manipulated into it. He claims that what matters most is the eventual success of the family, but one wonders if his ego would allow him to go down with a Lannister ship. He prefers a distant, often cruel, style of parenting. All the better to pull his children’s strings and watch them dance. This tough love does give his kids a taste for rebellion and revenge. The lesson here is that it is not a good thing to win every power struggle against your offspring. No one benefits, least of all the parent.

 

2. The Cersei Lannister Approach- Cersei appears to capitulate to her father’s rule on the surface, but has her own ideas underneath. She has become an expert at playing the good daughter while pursuing her own agenda in secret. Perhaps as a reaction to her father’s strong will in regard to what and who she does, she tends to let her kids do whatever they want. With sweet-natured Tommen this is not such a problem. With no boundaries set for him, Joffrey is well known as a sadistic little sod, which proves as dangerous to him as to his subjects. A bit more time on the naughty step and some laying down of expectations would not have gone amiss I imagine.

 

3. The Lysa Arryn Approach- There is no doubt that Lysa loves her son. She adores to hold him close while holding court, and capitulates to the majority of his whims. So what if it involves shunting the odd Lord through the Moon Door? A small price to keep little Robin entertained. It is commendable that she has managed to keep breastfeeding on demand for ten years, despite a great deal of disapproval. With his sickly constitution, a bit of breastmilk might help boost his immune system, but looking at her wizened pallor, I wonder if it might be a bit of a strain after all these years. Determined that Robin be kept safe from danger, Lysa does not allow him to explore the world outside their mountaintop fortress, leaving him with her company as more or less the only option. This appears to have stunted his social development somewhat. If there is a lesson here it is that we have to let our children make their own mistakes and suffer the odd sling and arrow of outrageous fortune. I’d say they should both spread their wings a bit, but that is a dicey way to go in the Eyrie.

 

4. The Daenerys Targeryen Approach- As the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys has her work cut out, more than most. I’ve heard of toddlers with fiery tempers, but keeping three infant dragons on the straight and narrow has to be a real challenge. She does her best to look after her brood, while making amends for their destructive tendencies. Leading by example is a powerful way of modelling behaviour, but one doubts the message is going to get through. Attempts to get strict may also..erm…backfire. As a single parent, and working mother, she is under a great deal of pressure and only time, or at least the long-awaited book 6, will tell if she can bring out the better nature of her three children. If anyone can do it, the Khaleesi can.

 

5. The Balon Greyjoy Approach- Who can blame Balon Greyjoy for losing touch with Theon over the years he spent as Stark collateral, locked away from his Island home in the custody of an enemy. Who can blame him for growing closer to Asha (Yara?!) who remained at his side and became a true leader of the Iron Born. On the other hand, a greater show of affection and trust from his dad might have averted Theon’s decision to go against orders and take Winterfell, which proved to be Westeros’s greatest cock up (excuse unfortunate phrasing), and resulted in him becoming Ramsey Bolton’s plaything. A hug at the right time can go a long way, even if your cold, bitter, drowned heart isn’t in it at that moment.

 

6. The Stannis and Selyse Baratheon Approach- Of all the children of Westeros, Shireen is one of the least fortunate in the parental lottery. While it seems unusual for a child of the seven kingdoms great families to have two intact parents in the picture, hers are present, but never there for her. Both Mum and Dad are in thrall to the Priestess Melisandre and her God R’hllor. Side-lined already at court due to her facial scarring, she is deemed an uncertain prospect in terms of fulfilling her Royal duty, marrying, and  birthing future rulers. She wiles away her days in almost total isolation, with only a smuggler and a sinister fool to talk to. On top of this, her mega-religious parents will do what is right for the Lord, before they consider what is right for her, to the point where it could get very dangerous for this young lady. This is a sad story of religious extremism winning over human decency. I only hope she leaves them and their neglectful ways to pursue her own destiny.

 

7. The Ned and Catelyn Stark Approach- The Starks are the only example of a parenting team who seem to love their kids (with the exception of the understandably tricky relationship between John Snow and Lady C). They give them boundaries, and support them, but do not bend the knee to them, even when their son becomes King of the North. They know they cannot protect their children from the world, and try to equip them as best they can to fight their own battles. Well, for the most part, unless you are Sansa, in which case you get equipped to have nice hair and do needlepoint. They challenge their offspring to live according to an individual philosophy, where they act on both their sense of duty and their personal strengths. They are willing to accept that their children can make some choices about their lives and that other choices will be beyond the family’s control. It is unfortunate then, that this leads to Ned, Catelyn, and their firstborn son being brutally killed, leaving their remaining kids scattered across the Seven Kingdoms. If the Starks do eventually prevail, perhaps it will be a testament to a parenting style which helps children live out their potential as independent thinkers, fighters, and survivors. We can protect our children only so far, but we can help them to protect themselves and surprise us with their unique abilities. Also, we can give them wolves as pets.

Valar Morghulis. We all must die, but who must triumph?

 

Mothering Demons in Wonderland

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It is 5pm on Sunday afternoon. A family car meanders along a country road, returning from a day out at the beach. In the back seat three small heads nod, and six eyes close. Up front, their father is driving, while their mother, let’s call her Alice, is gazing out of the window. Green fields line the roadside, bordered by a pretty stream.

Alice considers the view through her window. She imagines undoing her seatbelt, opening the car door. She is jumping….

In her mind’s eye, she tumbles to the pavement, gathers momentum, and plummets into the ditch, stopping just an inch from the water. She pulls herself to her feet and dusts herself down. She is alone, but for a few storks flying overhead in lazy arcs.

She is about to hurdle the stream and climb up the bank, heading for those verdant pastures, when she hears scurrying footfalls. It is a white rabbit, carrying an enormous, wipe-clean, messenger bag, and hustling three small rabbits who are lagging behind. All the while it checks its watch with an air of panic.

“I’m so sorry my little ones, I know you wanted to stop and play with those pebbles, that leaf, and the abandoned ice cream wrapper. We’re so terribly late you see. There’s no time. We were due at the party at five and now it’s getting on for half past. Everyone will judge me, I just know it. And your shoes don’t match and your tails aren’t brushed. What a to do!”

Taking no notice of Alice, the rabbits disappear into a tunnel dug into the ditch’s side. Overcome by curiosity, she follows them down the hole. She descends deep into the earth, until a light appears in the gloom.

She stumbles onto an overgrown woodland path, and picks her way over roots and under branches. There is a sudden brightening as the trail opens into a clearing. In front of her is a table set for an abundant tea. There are crumpets and banana bread, whoopee pies and iced buns, not to mention scones, cupcakes, and the odd gateau. In the centre, is a huge teapot. The elder rabbit is searching for the bibs and wet wipes she forgot to pack. The little bunnies are lined up at the table’s edge, poised with an air of expectation. Their eyes are fixed on a woman in a huge top hat, wielding a cake-slice with precarious imprecision.

“Lack of time is no excuse for sloppiness you know.”
Swish! goes the cake slice, just missing a baby bunny, and impaling a jam sponge.
“I baked a dozen muffins and a tea-loaf before breakfast. It can be done. You should see what I can do with an egg, a carrot, and ten minutes. Only make sure they’re organic. Are those biscuits you brought sugar-free? I thought not. Not homemade either. They’ve got a bit of mouldy banana stuck to them too. Personally, I have no trouble making whites white and dishes sparkle, but it takes all sorts doesn’t it. I’m sorry may we help you?”

The woman in the top hat turns round and fixes her eyes on Alice, who smiles and replies.
“I was just looking round, best be on my way.”
“You must stay for a slice my dear, and perhaps a cup of tea. You look ever so tired.” Not wanting to appear rude Alice accepts the invitation.
“Well, maybe just a drop of tea.”
The woman gives an icy grin and gestures to an empty chair with her cake-slice. With much ceremony, she places a fat, sticky piece of cake on a plate and passes it to Alice. She turns her attention to the tea pot, picking it up with both hands. To everyone’s surprise it starts to speak.

“Can’t I get five bloody minutes peace? I’ve had less than an hour’s consecutive sleep since February. I finally get the baby off, and settle down for a snooze and you start shaking us about! I might have to bite you.” A small furry face wearing a menacing expression pokes its head out of the pot. An accusatory wail emanates from within, growing stronger by the moment. The mouse spits out an expletive and returns to her baby.

Without missing a beat, the top-hatted woman offers Alice a glass of lemonade instead.
“Thanks, but I really must be off” says Alice, thinking that if she is to waste an opportunity for a moment to herself in warm sunshine, it will not be for a soft drink. She turns on her heel and heads back towards the path. Before she has taken three steps a small thunderbolt, which turns out to be a playing card with limbs and a head, knocks her off her feet, looks at her askance, and disappears behind a bush.

“Off with his head” shrieks a woman’s voice.
“But, my dear, he is only three years old” pleads a man.
The couple break into the clearing. Alice identifies them as a pair of royals by the crowns that sit on their brows. The Queen’s forehead is furrowed in a resolute sort of way, while the King appears beleaguered and not a little sweaty. Footsteps follow behind them, and they are flanked by two playing card knights.
“Really, we’d be bordering on child abuse, my sweet.” continues the King. The Queen appears unimpressed.
“Very well, I shall sentence him to a Time Out.”
“But with cuddles at the end, dearest. We should always remember the cuddles you see?”
“Your cosseting will not teach him obedience. Guards! Seize the child!”
One of the knights dives behind the bush and returns with his squirming quarry. His partner tootles a quick blast on a trumpet.
“For the crime of running from Her Majesty, I pronounce you in Time Out. You may not move from this spot until it is decreed by Her Royal Magnificence!”

The diminutive card-boy drops to a cross-legged position on the ground and folds his arms in a truculent manner. Recovering from her surprise, Alice draws herself up from the dirt floor and dusts herself off.
“And who might you be?” enquires the Queen.
“Answer Her Royal Highness”
“I am leaving.” says Alice, ignoring the knight’s brandished trumpet.
“Lovely to meet you, but I’m afraid I must be on my way” The King smiles in polite acknowledgement, but the Queen is less congenial.
“You will kneel when addressing your Queen.”

Not wishing to embark on a power struggle, yet unwilling to take orders, Alice employs her very best toddler-reasoning skills.
“I can see that manners are very important to you. I wish I could stay here and take part in all your marvellous court formalities: courtesies, homage, the whole shebang, but I have to be going now.” And with that she dives for the cover of the trees. By the time the Queen has yelled “Off with her head.” she is ensconced in woodland shadow once more.

Alice races through the trees, weaving over and under their sprawling feet and arms. Above her she glimpses a cloud of giant butterflies negotiating the tree tops, but they don’t pay her any attention. She parts the branches ahead of her, and almost falls over a large mushroom. It’s occupant, a hazy looking caterpillar, gazes up at her in exaggerated annoyance.
“Watch where you’re going! Great big oafish sort of girl.”
“Sorry, I didn’t see you there. And for your information I’m 34. That makes me a great big oafish woman.”
“Makes no difference to me. Who are you?”
“Well, my name is Alice, but I’m afraid I can’t stop.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“Look. I just want some time alone. I’m searching for the way out of here. All I really want to do is stretch out under a tree and watch the sun go down without anyone wiping their nose on me, or asking for snacks, or explanations of astro-physics.”
“Well excuse me for speaking. Aren’t you a crosspatch!”
“You don’t understand. It’s been relentless. I need a break. You ask me who I am, but right now I couldn’t tell you. Whoever I was got lost in a sea of dirty dishes and nappy changes weeks ago. If I could just breathe for a moment I might feel like myself again, but it never stops. ”
“How about you take a bite of my mushroom.”
“I’m sorry, is that some sort of euphemism? I don’t see what good that will do.”
“I am being quite literal. Just do as I say.”
“Fine. But after that I must be on my way.”

Alice leans down and pulls off a piece of mushroom. She pops it in her mouth and chews. To her surprise she begins to grow. As she broadens and lengthens her tedious domestic chores and struggles with bedtime routines seem far away. She has lifted her head above the trees. She inhales deeply. She feels what her family means to her, and she to them. She is filled with a wonderful, expansive sensation. It is power. It is joy. It is love.
“Now you are looking at the bigger picture.” says the caterpillar, with a smug smile.
“That does feel better. Only, how can I get back to the outside world if I can’t fit through the rabbit hole?”
“Just eat some more mushroom.”
Alice does so and returns to her former size.
“The pathway is to your right.”
“Thanks. I mean it. You are the most helpful caterpillar I’ve ever met.”
With that she heads off in a rightward direction, looking forward to her walk home.

After what seems like hours have passed she is still following a just discernible trail. The path forks and she hesitates.
“I wouldn’t go that way.”
A large feline is watching her from the hollow of a tree root, lazily feeding her kittens.
“Where is the path the rabbits use? The one that goes out to the fields. I was sure I must be close to it, but I can’t seem to find it.”
“That path might take you there, but the Queen’s guards won’t let you pass without inspection. The Mad Hattress might give you a scone though”
“I see. I’d rather avoid that whole bucket of crazy. Should I go this way then?”
“Rather judgemental aren’t we, for someone who threw herself from a moving car?”
“How did you….Oh never mind. I’ve been wandering around for ages and the parody is wearing thin now. I’d just like to get back to my family and forget the whole thing. So is this the way or not?”
“It is and it isn’t. It all depends on your state of mind. You’re not so different from the others you know. Just because you don’t share their particular demons. Looking at you, I can quite see that you don’t suffer from domestic perfectionism. Your anxiety and sleep deprivation aren’t so acute yet. You are not so terrified by your own sense of powerlessness. Yours is a problem that simply requires a sense of proportion.”
Alice considers this for a moment.
“So what you’re saying is, the walls aren’t closing in because I’m trapped, but I’m trapped because I am preoccupied with claustrophobia. Ironic”
The enigmatic cat just grins and vanishes.

“Time to resolve this nonsense.” thinks Alice, and she sits under the tree in exasperated silence. After a while, an idea crystallises and she sits up a little straighter. She visualises the green fields, the trickling brook, their car trundling sleepily along. She feels the space and light around her that has always been, will always be. She knows there will be a time when she can wander lonely as a cloud, at least for an hour or two. It is up to her to make it happen. Her family love her and they will understand.

“Penny for them?” asks her husband, as is his habit when she drifts off in the car. “Rabbits, crumpets, executions, hallucinogens. The usual.” The fields give way to blocks of flats and roundabouts as they arrive at the edge of town. As they turn down the road home, a small voice pipes up.

“Mummy, I want a peanut butter sandwich and I need a wee. Why do birds fly? Sam’s snotty. It’s gone all over his car seat. Can I have some hot chocolate without any cocoa?”

“One thing at a time my darling.” Back to reality.

What Birth Story Does Your Fear Tell You?

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There would definitely be blood. An ambulance siren would peal in the background, and the blue flashing lights would illuminate our living room window. Passersby would stop, stare, and wonder at the spectacle of a half naked English woman being stretchered through our portuguese village, while my newborn babe cried in her dad’s arms. Retained placenta, birth gone wrong, terrible business. Surgery inevitable.

Or perhaps I would not even get that far. Maybe my little one would try to come out, but my body would prevent her. Fight against her. Birth canal too narrow you see, birth failed, do not pass go, do not collect your baby.

Or…

Or this could be my imagination talking. In reality, neither of the above situations were remotely likely to happen. Even so, my fears felt so real that it was hard to believe they had no basis in fact:

The first example is what I feared might happen during our third child’s birth because the placenta had been a bit lackadaisical arriving when our second child was born, and it freaked me out. After doing a little research and reflecting on the circumstances, I remembered that I felt really cold after Sam was born, but was feeling too labour-stunned and baby-struck to ask for a blanket. I was also reclining quite a bit. Both these factors influence the timely arrival of the placenta, but even so, a 45 minute wait for a natural third stage is not that uncommon. By ensuring I stayed warm and somewhat upright I would probably deliver the placenta in a more timely fashion. My midwife assured me that, though it would be unpleasant, he would be able to deal with a reluctant placenta at home. In case of postpartum haemorrhage he had drugs to administer and would  be able to deal with the situation, though a transfer would be necessary. However, the likelihood of this occurring during the home birth of a third child after a low risk pregnancy was extremely small.

The second example is what I was told might happen during the birth of my second child by a nurse in the maternity hospital. I went in for a check up, and  cried on him. I told him that I had had an assisted delivery with my first, even though she was only 2.4kg, and was scared I could not give birth naturally. I was terrified because I had had a third degree tear last time too. He smiled reassuringly. “You’re really fat you see” he said. “You gained so much weight that your insides pressed on the birth canal and made it smaller. If you’re not careful about what you eat this time, you won’t be able to birth your baby”. Now, I have researched this idea as best I can, and have found no scientific basis for it whatsoever. I can only guess that it is this guy’s pet theory and he decided to share it with me with the best intentions. In Portugal, it is still common practice to do weigh-ins with pregnant women, which is his job, and it is not for nothing that my friend and I refer to him as ‘The Ice Cream Police’. Even so, I am pretty incredulous that I was subjected to this nonsense.

It was through addressing these fears that I became convinced that the best thing to do when you or someone else tells you a horror story is to listen carefully, then analyse the crap out of it. I was inspired by a brilliant TED talk by Karen Thompson Walker, which talks about doing just that.

 

 

In this day and age, there is a great deal of fear-mongering surrounding childbirth in general. Home birth appears to be enjoying positive press at the moment, due to reports which confirm the safety of planned home birth, and the apparent popularity of retro shows like ‘Call The Midwife’. However, it has been controversial for some time, and there may well be scare stories in the press again in the not too distant future. In a climate where there are so many horror stories surrounding birth it can be so difficult to pick out the real dangers from the dramatic fictions. I believe it is much better to address fears about birth at leisure, during pregnancy or even before it, rather than be confronted by them during labour. By reflecting on the details of your fear, the story it is telling you, you can a) Assess whether the birth will likely play out as you imagine, b) Create strategies for dealing with problems, c) Review options, d) Visualise a more positive story.

For instance, during my second pregnancy I was so worried that I would once more give birth with the assistance of forceps and sustain another perineal tear. This time it would be more severe and I would not heal as well.

A) Assess whether the birth will likely play out as you imagine –

I examined scientific studies, and read anecdotal reports in chat forums. It seemed that women in my situation tended to go for a managed birth with pain relief and a planned episiotomy, OR an elective C-Section, OR they went for a natural birth, often using water, adopting a leaning forwards position. Either way, most fared better the second time around, with the most positive results coming from the last group. In large, rigorous studies, such as this one, home birth has been proven to be as safe for babies as hospital birth, and safer for the mother, in low risk pregnancies.

B) Create strategies for dealing with problems-

I now knew that I had a great chance of pre-empting birth interventions by going for a natural birth in a forward leaning position. I could give birth in water or even just labour in it, to soften my perineum and assist the scar tissue in stretching. I could control the birth of the baby’s head by breathing and resisting the urge to push too fast.

C) Review Options

In my local maternity hospital the policy is that women all birth lying down with their legs in stirrups. Private clinics deal only with elective sections, and there are no birth centres specialising in natural birth. Therefore, we decided to plan a home birth with an independent midwife.

D) Visualise a more positive story-

With our strategies in mind I read tons and tons of positive birth stories involving home birth, water birth, birth of a second child, and birth after a third degree tear. This helped me to re-imagine how the birth would go and to get a general feel for the rhythm of the narratives: what happened, when, and how. I also listened to my Natal Hypnotherapy CDs often, which helped me to relax and anticipate my birth.

I am pleased to say that Sam was born naturally, speedily, and with no major bottom damage. We were really pleased with our experience of home birth, so we decided to have another next time. Evie, and the placenta which followed her, were born even faster with no complications and not a scratch to the perineum. Their respective birth stories are here and here. I wrote about what I learned from my first birth here.

 

 

From Me To You: Dispatches From The End Of My Tether

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I can see why so many mothers write blogs. It is keeping in touch with yourself and making contact with others in one elegant package. Both these things can be a challenge when you are absorbed in the task of raising a family. Blogging is a way of sorting through all the disparate threads of half finished thought that accumulate in a typical day. I can remind myself that I make something which feels whole, rather than the piecemeal making do which comes from spreading yourself thinly across the needs of three little ones and holding up your end of a marriage (common-law or otherwise).

I often find myself composing letters to people which never get written…

Dear friends and family,

You may have noticed that I have not been keeping in touch all that well, these last six months. You may feel unloved, unconsidered. I assure you that it is not you, it is me. I have never worked so hard, got such little sleep, or been so often undone by life around me. I have never loved so much, but also not been needed so much. It is a wonderful feeling to have brought these small people into the world and to have the task of raising them. I love being their mother and spending time with them. So it is difficult sometimes to reconcile with this, the thought that it can be so damn hard. I do not want to be a person who only talks of coping with their children. It is more a case of figuring out how to work together with them and spend our time in a way that means no one feels their needs totally sidelined. The transition to becoming a family of five has been the biggest leap in some ways, bigger than the jump from two to three or three to four, because it is not so easy to meet the needs of five people at once compared to two, three, or four. Add to this the attention needed for houses, cars, work, tax returns and other admin, and the pressure mounts a bit more.

On good days I am finding my feet, and on bad ones they are buried under a pile of dirty dishes, adorned with dressing up clothes, or covered in nappies. I always love to catch up with you all though and I think of you often.

Much love,

Alexis xxx

Dear Mother Bloggers,

I understand why there are so many blog posts that talk about being overwhelmed on a daily basis, and I think it may have to do with expectations surrounding parenting. Jennifer Senior talked about this recently, saying that there is so much emotional capital invested in our children that standards for looking after them are placed incredibly high.

The internet, and books (remember them), provide amazing resources for connecting with others and sharing ideas. You can learn about whatever floats your boat: child behaviour and development research, communication skills, nutrition, mindfulness, upcycling or unschooling. The downside of this is that rarely a day passes where I don’t see an article titled something like ’11 Things You Didn’t Know You Were Doing Wrong For Your Children.’ Parents are invited to rethink every social norm and belief that they took on in their prior lifetime and to reshape their approach to raising their kids. For every article which promotes one way of doing things, there will be one which admonishes it. You have to develop a robust sense of priority and devil-may-careness to focus on what really matters in your situation and discard the rest. The more intense and lonely your parenting situation is, the more you have to discard what you do not have time or energy for. I try hard not to feel guilty about this.

I wonder too if there is a tendency for parents, perhaps most especially mothers, to ignore the warning signs that they need to slow down and take a breath. Sometimes you want to look after everyone and everything else, yet cannot find the voice to say ‘I need X. I cannot do Y.’ For some of us it may be easier to write it down. Hence, the anxiety ridden missives from the blogosphere. It can be hard to recognise when you have a need that cannot go unanswered, still harder to answer it. I am writing this now because I broke out into big gulping sobs in front of my husband, thus bringing the matter to light that I wanted a few minutes ALONE. I wanted it like plants want light and water. I wanted it with my whole mind and body. Here I am. Mother bloggers, I feel your pain. There seems to be various things we can do about it though:

  1. articulate what our needs are to ourselves and other people,
  2. discard prescriptive rules in favour of simpler guidelines like ‘do activities other than TV’, ‘get outside’, ‘keep healthy food in the house’, ‘listen to each other’,
  3. get better at saying ‘Fuck it. I’m doing a great job.’
  4. keep blogging

So mother bloggers, I think we’ll be ok. Sending you all a big hug of support,

Alexis xxx

Dear Reader,

I could go on, but now I feel a cathartic wave of peace has come over me. What a marvellous thing writing is and how much it helps to sort your head out. Husband is in the garden playing with the big kids and baby Evie is asleep. Time for that G and T. Bugger, it’s not yet noon and I will have to breastfeed soon. Well perhaps a cup of T. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me.

Cheers,

Alexis xxx