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Image by Jeremy Kemp

Feeling dizzy? Getting confused? Running out of puff for no particular reason? Me too… I think. The whirr of life can make your head spin. ‘Round we go; another Tuesday almost done. Days filled with swimming lessons, soccer practice, lunches, dinners, crunch and sips’… endless stuff… and then there’s the holidays.

I love the holidays. But they, too, have their own circular motion. Here we go aaaagaaaiiiinnn! Spin! Sleep in late! Tough life. Watch a movie, make-a-tha-lunches, book in the cousins for a play, stay up late. Jeepers, it’s like we never stop. But that’s life and it’s a great life.

I love watching my kids grow up! I love that they still want me around (except when they’re playing some serious Lego and don’t want me to hear it). Yesterday my son asked my daughter who her best friend in the whole world was…are you ready for the answer…? She said, “Mummy!” Oh my goodness, stamp it, frame it and hang it in my bedroom why don’t you! Sweetest thing ever!

I love seeing their eyes sparkle with knowledge. Sounds a bit strange but I swear I can see them growing through their eyeballs. The light that grows in them as they grow is delightful. They grow in confidence as they grow in knowledge and they just love knowing more than their parents. And I love being ignorant!

I love their sweetness in their cuddles. I love that they still smell like babies, even though they’re both kids now. I love that they don’t smell like teenagers (no offence teens but that’s why people invented deodorant and air freshener). I love their lack of fashion sense: my daughter wore old tights with a sparkly singlet and and aged dress-up skirt to a party last week. Oh, with sparkly bangles too! Can’t forget that!

Ah how our heads spin with our never-ending ‘To do’ lists but look at what we get in return. Love! Magnificent, frustrating, incredible and unconditional love! You cannot buy such things.

Us mummas are a colourful bunch. Some are energetic and resourceful, others cruisy and relaxed. And the rest, well, we’re a little in between.

Whatever ‘mother’ you are, you have to know that you have the most important job in the world. There is nothing more satisfying, difficult or meaningful than sowing into the next generation. It really brings out your true colours, tests you in all sorts of interesting ways and reveals a depth of love you may not have realised existed.

Mothers can be tough on each other. This perhaps stems from our own insecurities or guilt from past failures or simply because we are stuck in our own ways. I am a routine mum. I liked the control crying thing, I like boundaries and in the past I may have come across a little judgemental of others who didn’t quite do things my way.

Ah. Now I am a sort of grown up mumma, I can sit back and laugh at my audacity. Like I know what’s best for someone else’s child! Nowadays I appreciate the variety of mothers, I can empathise a little better and it has dawned on me that what us mums need most is encouragement.

So, I try my hardest to pop in encouragement (always has to be genuine) into my conversations with my  mum friends. They are usually pleasantly surprised to receive a compliment, especially when it comes to their parenting techniques. Because, let’s face it, we all  have our closed doors yelling, stomping moments. And the feedback from our pathetic attempt at parenting is often negative or condemning. There just isn’t enough encouragement flung around from mum to mum! Shame!

It’s easy to do and it makes such a difference. When mums feel appreciated, they tend to do a better job. It’s easier to feel patient when someone has told you how much they respect your parenting. When someone believes in you, it makes you want to try harder. When everyone is telling you that you’re a failure, it’s easy to drop the ball and start losing the plot with the kids, cos you’re already (apparently) a failure so it doesn’t matter!

So, my rambling thoughts summarised are: be kind to each other, speak the positive, encouraging things you think  and remember that we’re all in it together doing the best we can! Isn’t that cool?

Another year down! And again, we can hardly believe how fast it has flown. For us Aussies, it means Summer fun begins with outdoor Christmas carols, lazy days at the beach and a long, long school holidays to fill with incredible activities to keep our kids from saying, “Mu-arm… we’re bored!”

The transition from school routine to holiday cruisy bliss can be a little daunting. So much time, so little money, so little energy, so many demands. Parents still have to balance the earning of the money, the household chores and the keeping the children happy and entertained. It’s a tough gig.

It comes down to the same old question of how much time ‘should’ a parent play with their kids, entertain them, how much time is ok for a parent to spend on their own stuff, and how much should they work/do the household boring duties. I don’t want to fake play; ie play because I think I should, I’d rather have quality, side-splitting fun times than be at their beck and call every moment of every day out of guilt. But at the same time I don’t want them to think that they’re not important or fun… = dilemma.

My answer? Plan fun stuff that all of us can genuinely enjoy together: swimming, movies, play dates with all our friends, cafes, op shops, shopping, cooking and family time with cousins/grandparents! This fills the guilt void and leaves them time to play on their own, or together at home, while mumma gets to blog or read or swing in the hammock. Good times.

Do you have any holiday advice for the likes of me and a coupla thousand other stay at home mummas?

 

When you become a parent there are certain things you have to teach your kids: how to eat, how to use the toilet, how to shave… But as they grow older, there are other subtle things that you may miss on the way.

My kids are almost all at school now… sigh. They know how to bath, feed, toilet and dress themselves. They know how to pack away their toys, how they’re supposed to talk to each other and us, how to tell a good yarn. But, sometimes I have an ‘uh-o’ moment where I think, “was I supposed to teach you that already?”

Crossing the road is one of those things. Do you take them to a variety of roads, make them sit, wait, look and cross? (or is that just for dogs?). It’s kinda a no-brainer in my mind. If you’re on the side of the road, you wait until all the cars are long gone and then walk sensibly across a clear section of bitumen. I just don’t think kids think like that. So, sorry kids, oops forgot to teach you that one, I’ll try and sneak it in the next time we’re at a road.

Food glorious food! Yes, another lesson I think I missed. How not to be a fussy child. This is a tricky one because I am naturally fussy with my food… and my spoons for that matter (no I don’t want to use a soup spoon with my cereal thank you very much!). Instead of just encouraging them to like a variety of foods from an early age, we gave in to the simple foods such as carrot, cucumber, sausages and bread. So you can imagine how exotic our meals are now! Glum.

Communication with strangers. It is all well and good to have the stranger danger antenna out there but when it comes to manners, sometimes our kids are a little shy or unsure of what is expected of them. They are almost too scared to speak to a stranger… even with us at their sides. I feel I have overdone the warnings and haven’t given them enough confidence and skills to say a cheery old ‘Hello’ to an adult that greets them first. Now, they get the nudge, the winking eyes, the verbal ‘say hello’ from me because I’ve forgotten to explain to them that you have to be courteous as well as cautious. Confusing stuff, really.

So, my dear kiddies I’m sorry for the little/big things that I have failed to teach you. Hopefully, we’ll make it up as we go along and all will be hunky dory. Forgiven? Alright!

<a href="Father And Daughter by Petr Kratochvil”>

Image by Petr Kratochvil

I have made a conscious decision not to lie to my kids. Having said that, there have been a few occasions when I have lied… a little. There are just some things kids don’t need to know… stuff that is way too much information.

An example? Ok. Men, block your ears. Some one once told me of a mum who was busted wearing a tampon by her 4 year old. She must have been nude and the little string was poking out. Her curious daughter, thinking that her mum was some kind of cool puppet or something, asked what that little string was for. Now, what would you have said?

The mother, being an honest kinda gal, started to tell her little girl about the joys of womanhood. I.e that once a month women bleed and you catch it with something like a wad of rolled up tissues and this goes up into the nether regions to stem the flow! Can you imagine the face on the little girl? White, ashen skin, eyes wide and a little teary, dreading the day she becomes a woman.

I had a less full on experience with my son who saw something unmentionable in the toilet. Just a little tiny bit. He asked what it was… and I, super-honest parent that I am, lied to him. I said it was toilet cleaner. Now, I was operating on adrenalin here and I could have distracted him but I was so horrified that a lie seemed appropriate.

I also tell my kids that everything on TV is pretend. Which is kinda true. I just don’t want them to get too freaked out about the unpleasant aspects of this world before they have to.

This is a story from the incredible life of Concentration Camp survivor, Corrie Ten Boom. An excerpt from her autobiography:

“(From a ten year old child) “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.” And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

There are just some things our kids cannot understand or deal with at such a young age. Ultimately I think lying to your kids is wrong and teaches them to lie to get out of uncomfortable situations (slap on wrist for me) but I think blatant honesty is not always helpful either.

What do you think?

Ahem. Before I had kids I would frown at the screaming baby. I would roll my eyes at parents serving babycinos to their toddlers in cafes, I would diss all the toys those spoilt kiddies had in their rooms! Excess people, excess.

Before I had kids I would scoff at the ways that parents allowed themselves to be sucked in by toy companies and brands: ‘Wiggles’ and ‘High Five’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’. I would scrunch my nose up at rude children that couldn’t say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ or the fussy kids who wouldn’t eat what was served to them.

I would look at the mums at the park and think how lucky they were, sitting there in the sunshine without a care in the world. Not like us in the ‘real’ world with the weight of money and things and time making us all hunch backed and pale of skin. I would dream about one day joining their ranks. I’d wear jeans everyday and no make up. I wouldn’t have to impress anyone or live up to the expectations of ‘the boss’. Freedom!

But then I had kids. Then I realised that not only was the pay pathetic, the uniform bland and the freedom – a myth, but that I still had a ‘boss’. This time the boss was tiny and oh so demanding. He/she didn’t use their big words or take a break at nighttime, they would scream for what they wanted, they would push me to breaking point and beyond, they would be sometimes rude, unappreciative, manipulative and constant.

The sunshine meant sunscreen, hats and shade cloth. I found myself buying the branded toys because that’s what made my little doe eyed kids smile. I would have babycinos in cafes with them! Loved it. And I would struggle to teach them to use their manners because they were so shy. And my kids are the fussiest eaters ever!

When you don’t have kids, the life of a stay at home mum seems breezy. But unless you do it yourself, you have no idea the pressures, the guilt and the weariness that these mummas carry around everyday. Yes, even on Sundays!!

 

Each day I make sure I have a heaped spoonful of guilt with my coffee.

As a parent it all starts when the baby is conceived. Did you eat the right food? Drink alcohol? Lie on your back? Take your vitamins? Exercise? Tisk tisk. Hello guilt!

Then the bub is born and the heaping rate increases: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, controlled crying, solids, crawling, talking walking, discipline, activities, socialising, reading books, taking walks, patting animals, tantrums, toys, parties and television. No wonder the modern parent walks with a stoop! Too much pressure, guilt and expectations straining the back muscles. Plus we have to work our butts off to pay for all this!

All this stuff makes us very nervous parents. We get advice from grandparents, strangers in supermarkets (“Oh she must be tired”), well-meaning health professionals, peers, childless friends and teachers. And guess what? They don’t always match up! It would do a parent good to sit in a dark room with a head torch and write out what kind of parent they want to be and decide just to do that. Blinkers on, eyes straight, off you go!

Guilt comes from the fear of making mistakes or the mistakes themselves. It comes from dirty looks from others and unsupportive comments from well-meaning family. The bottom line is that as parents, we have the right to make mistakes with our kids. It must be OUR mistakes. And as long as we’re not abusing our kids or doing something illegal, all the rest of society must wait until we ask for help or advice, not shove it down our throats, heaping on more and more guilt and stripping away our confidence.

I have spoken to so many mothers lately who are struggling with unsupportive people around them. These are close friends/family who mean well, who want to help but are making things much worse for the poor mumma. They have forgotten what it means to be in demand 24/7, to be responsible for a growing life, all while trying to maintain one’s sanity and self-esteem. It is a tough gig and the pay is terrible!

Parents carry enough guilt around on their own. We don’t need to be told we’re no perfect parents cos we pretty much know that already. We will thrive, however, with little notes or words of encouragement. Then, watch us become better parents and watch us come to you for advice when we need it!

Rant over for another day!

Comments? Reactions?

 

Don’t you love being a modern mum or dad? Oh the pressures our peers put on us! The competition, the label as a cruisy or helicopter parent, the playdates, the holidays, the clothes, the toys, the parties….  STOP!

I see myself as a fairly old-fashioned mumma and that’s cool and that’s my choice. Rock on! But it is hard being a more conservative parent in such a laid-back culture. My town is a fairly safe little number. It has oodles of money and stuff and everyone wears a smiley face. All good here. But it is hard being different. It is as if you are looked down on if you say ‘no’ to your kid or deprive them of anything in public, in front of all those beaming faces.

The smiles soon turn plastic and you’re left feeling like a backward, mean kinda mumma. Which I am not! One of the core dilemmas is sleepovers. For some this is a no-brainer. It can happen when the kids are  4, 6, 8 or any even number. No probs. It can even happen when the parents are relative strangers, which is a bit scary. Now that’s all well and good if that is what you want to do, if you feel comfortable with that. But what about us conservos? Us mummas who aren’t so free and easy?

Well, we are left, dry mouths hanging open, wondering what the heck the other cruisier parents think of us? Are our apron strings way too tight? Are they cutting off the circulation to our brains? What are we thinking, wanting to keep our little chaps tucked in their own beds while all the other town kiddies sleepover hop like it’s no one’s business?

I’ve already prepared my kids for the inevitable ‘missing-out’ factor. That is, no to sleep overs until we feel ok about it, no to sleep overs at relative strangers houses, no to ‘M’ rated movies, no to hours of  violent video games and no to walking around the neighbourhood on their own at all hours of the day or night!

For some, this would sound shockingly strict. ‘No’ is a bit of a swear word in our part of the world. But here it is again, no, no, no! Yes it easily flows off the tongue once you start using it. For me it is not a weapon of control or power but, hopefully, of wisdom. I see childhood as a slow progression into the world of adults not as a catapult. Too much too soon, culture, too much too soon.

If we give them everything now, they will have nothing to look forward to. And where’s the fun in that?

This is a message to all of you who are considering becoming parents. Parenthood is a wonderful world full of sunshine, rainbows and Disney. It is a place of love and cuddles, kisses and stories. You will rediscover your imagination, your inner child. I love being a mummy-bear. But I need to be honest, and you’ve heard it before, but parenting can be gross and stressy.

Let me enlighten you… birth. Birth is messy. Oozy gross stuff pours out of almost every orifice. It’s out of control. If you are a shy, self-controlled person, you may find the idea of screaming at the top of your lungs in front of strangers while you are naked and exposed, a little confronting. But no matter how shy or self-controlled you are, you will do this. Breastfeeding is not natural. For many, this tests your patience, your determination and your pain threshold.

Toddler years are fun and cute but there are challenges my friends. Do not be precious about having a perfectly clean house. It just won’t happen in this stage. Food will fly, my friends, on your floor, on your walls, so don’t buy anything new for a few years. Toilet training can be easy peasy depending on the child. For my first born it took 2 years and some professional counselling to finish the job. It was messy…. again… My son used to hold on to his poos for up to 6 days so Pull-ups full of the brown stuff brought me inexplicable joy. It’s amazing what stuff you learn to handle without vomiting.

Kids are cool. They can play games with you, do little jobs around the house and read you books. They also get sick and vomit. Gross again. They bounce around your kitchen and invade your personal space. Shopping for food can be extremely torturous with the constant, “Mu-arm, look at this, can we have this, Mu-arm, what is this, so-and-so gets this can we have this, Mu-arm do you remember this.” When all I want to do is read my list and get it done!

So this is where I am. With small children, in the early years of school. I don’t mean to be negative about parenting but if you’re considering having some of your own, it’s good to know what is ahead. It is a career in itself. Do not be fooled by the long daycare centres and such. There is support out there but it is your heart that will carry the weight of parenthood. They mess with your emotions and can fill you up and empty you out in one day.

I would do anything for my kids. I love them forever. It’s a tough gig and a worthy one! And I will never regret bringing these two funny little monkeys into this strange old world.

If you’re already a parent. What valuable lessons have you learnt? Funny stories?

Image by Shakeelgilgity

I love it when something smacks you in the face. I’m talking intangible things here, not hanging signs or flying fists. It could be a lyric, a poem or a line from a book. It makes you feel like you’re not such a mystery walking around inside an enigma. Where have I heard that before?

I’ve been reading ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ by Marina Lewycka. It’s a quirky little number. It’s about family dynamics. A father finding a new young, young bride and the adult daughters (who are in constant conflict) fighting his decision. So far so good. There was one section that word-slapped me square in the jaw because of the truth of it and now, I will share it with you. Prepare to be flawed… (or was it just for me?). Here is the exerpt:

“Every time I phone my father or my sister, it is like crossing a bridge from the world where I am an adult with responsibilities and a measure of power, to the cryptic world of childhood where I am at the mercy of other peoples’ purposes which I can neither control nor understand.”

SLAP! Who hasn’t felt like that? Everyone must go through a process of separation from the family unit into independence and, if it’s for you, a family of your own. It can be a difficult transition for everyone concerned. Sometimes the parentals are happy to be rid of the little ducklings, others hold on for as long as they can. There are naturally independent children turning into independent adults and those who can’t quite cut the cords.

Some are forced to grow up before their time and some right on time. But it is a process that often takes years for everyone to accept. So you can have a man who is a father, a provider, whose mother still sees him and treats him as a little boy. She still wants the control over him and he may rebel or revel in it.

Or there may be the adult child who is still affected by the glares and stares of her parents and lives her life in full fear or what they will think. There also may be parents who care what their kids think of them and in turn live their lives to please them. It is a vicious circle and wherever you fit in, whatever habits your family has built up, they are hard to break. Some are great, lovely, loving patterns and some can be deeply hurtful.

There is no perfect way to grow up, to walk that bridge.  Everyone has to negotiate the journey between their childhood and adulthood with their families. It is a rite of passage.

Do you have any tips for those on the bridge?

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