Tuesday 24 April 2012

Radical Mummy Self- Love!

I've been reading Gala Darling's blog for over a year now, and her message of radical self love has gotten me thinking - how can mums feel more radical self-love?

We're often portrayed as stressed, clean-freak multi-tasking machines, but we're still taken for granted, and we rarely get the chance to do things purely for ourselves. It's time to love ourselves more!

This is what I imagine Supermum looks like! From Della-Stock
Practice feeling like Supermum. This doesn't mean worrying endlessly about what you aren't doing for the kids - it means taking charge of your life and making it work for you. When mum is happy, the family is happy. Feeling like supermum allows you to separate yourself from the regular mummy-guilt, and rise to being the mum you want to be. All it involves is a change in perspective, but this change will allow you to view your decisions in an entirely new light, and make choices based on logic, not irrational guilt and anxiety. Being supermum to your kids means they can connect with you better during play, but also allow you to get time for yourself, and not worry about whether your partner will "do a good job" with the kids, or whether your mother-in-law will stuff them full of lollies and bring them home cranky. Supermums don't worry about what might happen, supermums adapt and work with what is actually happening. This is a RADICAL kind of self-love - keep practising every day for optimum happiness.

Teach your kids to give you massages, if they are old enough to understand what you want. They will love getting a chance to touch you and play masseuse, and you can reap the rewards! (Maybe teach the older ones about the concept of making Mum breakfast in bed?) Kids are too little? Get your partner or your bestie to give you one instead!

rachel-stocks on Deviant Art

Grow flowers, then pick them. Or buy yourself some flowers. Or ask a lovely old nanna for some out of her garden if you see her pottering around. Arrange them in vases wherever appropriate. Make a few places in your home which are beautiful and relaxing to rest your eyes on.

Melting on the lounge in my amazingly soft robe with Trilby, pregnant with Indigo. Stylish! 

Invest in a lovely soft dressing gown for winter, complete with warm fluffy slippers, and a silky, sexy robe for summer. Indulge your sense of touch with fabrics which make you feel nice!

Wear lipstick. I know that lipstick isn't practical, and that's half the fun! Catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, and double-take as you remind yourself of your lovely, bright lips!

Cook lazily, drinking a glass of wine and listening to jazz (Or do your thing. This is mine.) Then, eat at your leisure. Allow the children to make as much mess as needed within a confined area, as long as you are allowed to eat in peace.

iStock via The Newborn Baby

Love the body that birthed your children, and saw you all safe out the other side of labour. Enjoy growing older! If you find that difficult, take a look at this blog. I guarantee you will think these women are amazing and glamourous and beautiful, regardless of their age, and they take care of themselves because they are important people too, regardless of age or profession.

Monday 23 April 2012

"Expert" Advice Debunked Again!

I came across some parenting articles via my Facebook feed after my third or fourth night-wakening, and decided to try to read something educational and interesting and give up on sleep. So here I am, blogging about it, because I think that it was interesting and educational enough to write about! Thanks to Evolutionary Parenting for sharing!

The article Educating the Experts - Lesson One: Crying by Tracy G. Cassels is written with the "Experts" as its reader's voice - written in second person, it accuses "you" of all the crimes of the "Experts", which can be a little confronting, but the information is great, so I kind of just get a shock whenever it refers to "All of you, whether you claim to be against crying-it-out or not, promote forms of leaving an infant to cry.  And all of you promote ways of “training” your baby not to cry."  But I digress...

I found it interesting to note that the more responsive a parent is when responding to the cries of their child, regardless how competent they were at reducing the crying at that point in time, the less their child will cry later on. I rejoice at this news! Most parents will rush to help their child, but then feel a little (or a LOT) incompetent, because they can't "fix" what's wrong with their child then and there. I think the news that just being there is helping might be pleasant news to parents who have had to comfort a lot of crying, but with little reward! After needs have been met, cuddling is the most effective way to reduce the severity and length of a crying episode - think of it as meeting the Cuddle need!

The article also makes a very important, scary point: a lot of these "expert" baby-guide books write with the not-so-subtle messages that your baby is a screaming, poo covered creature out to manipulate you. Ok - so they aren't that forward with this message, but the idea of hardening your heart against your child's cries for its own benefit is just plain wrong. Babies do not cry to manipulate us, just to let us know that everything is not ok. If we change our perspective on why the baby is crying (to get our attention to make things ok again, not to thwart our desires for time out, or keep us from getting any sleep) we can change the ways we respond, leading to happier babies, happier parents, and less guilt all around.

Sometimes you need five minutes to compose you
rself before responding to your child's cries - that's ok, we're all human. Sometimes you might even tell yourself "that's it! I'm not going to go to her again!" (I know I'm guilty of saying this under stress, but I'm always there for her when I regain my composure, or my partner is). This is ok. We're fragile, imperfect beings, and that is ok too. Being a Superparent (in my view) means knowing how much you can take on, knowing when to back out, and knowing when you need to relax - not assuming that we can all carry on indefinitely with unrelenting stress levels, which is unhealthy and certainly unsuper.

I loved reading this article, and I hope you did too. Here are the links to the other "Educating the Experts" lessons, because I think the points made are valid, and will help you connect better with your kids, and stay away from the guilt-mongers and schedule-followers who will make your life miserable.

Bea xox

Educating the Experts - Lesson One: Crying by Tracy G. Cassels  

Lesson Two: Needs

Lesson Three: Touch

Lesson Four: Self-Soothing

Lesson Five: Schedules

Wednesday 18 April 2012

I Love To Watch Her Grow

Often when I talk to people about Indigo, they ask about the milestones she's up to. They asked if she was crawling at four months old. They asked if she was saying any words at six months. They asked if she was walking at eight months. They also seemed to be slightly disappointed when the answer to all of these questions was "no". The day-to-day of playing with kids is a gradual process, and you can watch your child grasping new concepts and making discoveries every day. 

I guess a lot of people just don't know when kids start actually "doing things". I also don't understand the need to rush from milestone to milestone, without enjoying all the stuff in between. Milestones are things to worry about if your kid doesn't seem to be progressing normally, not play-by-plays every baby goes through in the same way, at the same time, or even in the same order! For example, Indigo started creeping along using the furniture before she'd gotten the hang of crawling, and is now a pro at both!

We had a visit from Dave's grandma today, who brought Indy a wooden pram and a wooden swan on a string, which she loves. She has spent a large portion of the day pushing around the pram, putting toys in, then dumping them all out. It's pink and natural wood, but I think I want to paint it red and white, to freshen it up.

Indigo is growing up so fast. I guess it's like that with babies - one minute they have floppy necks, the next you're running around trying to keep up with them. Indigo has started playing out of my sight, on occasion. This thrills me - after doubting my choices in regards to attachment parenting due to other people's opinions on Indy's joey-like clinging, it's so nice to watch her
 being so bold and adventurous. It reaffirms my choices, and proves to me that giving your child as much attention as they want does not raise a child incapable of independence.

I love to watch her grow. That just about says it all.

Monday 16 April 2012

Babies Are Needy, But YOU Are The One Who Bugs Me

I just read this article, and even though in principle I agree with their argument, I definitely do not agree with making parents feel terrible for not being able to relax during pregnancy, breastfeed or have a natural birth if they wanted to do these things, or assume a child is neglected if it's not being constantly held by a family member. The author then proceeds to condescendingly suggest a dog, or even more patronising - a fish - instead of having a child if they cannot reach the impossibly high standards this author has set new parents.

I assume the author is a parent. I think that a lot of the things they try to ram down your throat as necessities are lovely - I love co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing and hanging out with my little girl. I would also love her to have more family members involved in her care, but we live in a different city to our extended family network, so our daughter is a poor deprived thing, having to make do with two loving parents, and a whole host of our friends who she loves. I am a terrible parent, apparently. I should get a fish and take the baby back, I suppose.

It's hard enough being a new parent without someone making the nice, feel-good decisions look like a totalitarian regime. No one should be forced to parent in any particular way - we all turned out ok, and I doubt all of our parents were attachment parents. Sure we've all got our own issues, but even well-adjusted people have their own idiosyncracies.

Does this woman think that if we work even harder as over-worked parents that we'll somehow overcome our children's weaknesses? We've all got them, and no amount of parenting is going to raise a perfect child.

Although Da
rcia Narvaez is a psychologist, she doesn't seem particularly adept at being polite to hereadership, as she berates us for being human, fragile, and imperfect. Seems a pretty cruel thing for a psychologist to do, but I guess she gets paid to help people with low self-esteem brought on by perfectionist standards of parenting too.

I don't know why this pa
rticular article has gotten my hackles up, because I agree with a lot of the points she makes. I do think that babies should be breastfed and carried around like little joeys for as long as possible, and all the rest. 

However, I agree with this stuff for my kids. Not all kids. Or all parents. All people have different opinions, and I would have thought a psychologist would be more tolerant, and more understanding of different beliefs and practices. I guess the stress Narvaez says we should avoid in pregnancy is in no way related to the unrealistic and unrelenting pressures placed on parents-to-be who already have enough on their plates?

Keep up the good wo
rk, Narvaez. Maybe soon there will actually be even less attachment parents, because you've made it seem like an impossible thing to achieve.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Parenting Pride and Feminist Philosophising

I'm a proud parent. I am also proud of being a parent. It seems that a vast section of society would prefer to think that children happen to other people, and don't want to be bothered in their adult world by little people. Fair enough, I guess. Although I have to question the values held by a society that doesn't place any distinction upon children, or the people who choose to have them. 

A lot of people seem to forget that children and parents shape the future of our society. Without people willing to sacrifice their earning potential or do without luxuries, there wouldn't be a new generation. Maybe childless people need to give people who have kids a bit of a break. Kids throw tantrums in inconvenient places, ask embarrassing questions, and talk too loudly. They also learn by doing things, so they need to go to places like shopping centres and learn what goes on and how to behave, just like anyone else. 

I get sick of hearing that "parenting is a choice". Of course it is, most things in life are. That doesn't stop parenting from being one of the most difficult and rewarding things most people do with their lives. I am often asked if Indigo was an "accident" when people find out I'm 24, because fewer people in their twenties are having kids. Being a parent at an age when most of your friends are partying and getting into the swing of their careers can be tough - people can be very critical of the choice to be a parent, without having ever considering that it was a choice I wanted to make, and so do many others. Fewer of these same friends can understand why, after a child which must surely have been an accident, Dave and I want another child. 

I think the use of the word "accident" leads people to dismiss someone's choice to have a child - as if somehow unexpected parents are less worthy, because they had parenthood thrust on them and chose to embrace it. I don't know if you can call it an accident to knowingly keep your child, and love and care for them from the time you know they exist. I don't know if you can call a child an accident when a couple has been dreaming about and planning for children, at sometime in the near future. It's just a matter of perspective. I never tell nosy people a clear-cut answer when they ask if Indigo was an accident. I feel to do so would betray her and all other babies - like somehow, planned babies are "better" than unplanned, and to say either way is meaningless for her and all children.

On another note, since when has 24 been young to have a baby? 24 is pretty much the ideal time to fall pregnant, according to this study, and it was definitely perfect for me. I don't like being judged by a society that forces women to work before having children, supposedly to liberate them, only to find in their thirties that they have trouble conceiving when they want to because they were waiting for things to be perfect, or want to own a house first, have such a busy schedule they don't even have time for a partner, or a myriad of othereasons. 

Who said that we have to work before having children? We humans live an awfully long time now, so we have the luxury to think about whether we want to have a career or study, and think about children when we're ready, but also to have children at a younger age, and think about a career when we're ready. Society understands and accepts the former, but often views the latter with contempt. I don't understand why people can understand the personal goals of wanting a rewarding and interesting career, disposable income, the possibilities of travel, but cannot understand the goals of wanting to be the best person you can be to grow a family. They are both valid life goals, and are not mutually exclusive!

This all revolves around the feminist issue of choice. Apparently women are identifying less with being feminists - we're seen as hairy-legged, angry manhaters - and although women give lip service to equality on occasion, we are constantly expected to somehow be better than equal. If we choose to have children, to choose to stay home with them is oppressing us, even though some of us would far prefer the single full-time job of parent than to play the juggling game with paid employment and kid-wrangling, and working is supposedly oppressing the women who choose to work by denying them the choice to stay home. Again - valid choices, but society far prefers the idea of employed parents, so to be a stay-at-home parent is somehow slothful or unproductive to society, regardless of the woman's choice, or the child's happiness.

It seems we're all being groomed to be perfect little worker bees, consuming and working to pay off debt and being constantly stressed. People see this as normal. As someone who all but dropped out of society for almost two years a few years ago due to chronic anxiety and extremely high levels of stress,  I can tell you that for me and a very large majority of people, this is not healthy, and we can choose not to live this way. The issue of choice is seriously important, but we treat it very lightly, and most of us "ladies" don't like getting into feminist or political discussions in case we upset or offend someone, or worse - bore them.

So,  I just try to remind people that we have choices in life, and we are free to enjoy our long lives in any way that does no harm. In the end, it's all a matter of perspective.

What works for you?

Friday 13 April 2012

Cookie Time!

I don't eat a lot of junk food, but I am a sucker for home-baked cookies. I've adapted the same recipe for years, adding or subtracting ingredients and fiddling with measurements. This is a simple version I made today.

Happy Baking! xx

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

150g butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 3/4 cups plain flour
300g block Top Deck (or about a cup of choc chips, hazelnuts, pecans.... be adventurous!)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional. I usually forget to put it in, and my biscuits still taste great!)

Cream butter and sugars together, add egg and vanilla, mix.

Add flour, and when combined, add chopped chocolate and mix to distribute around the dough.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm the dough: preheat oven to 160C, and line a cookie sheet with baking paper.

Roll dough into balls, place on an oven tray, and cook for ten minutes, or until juuust starting to turn golden. These biscuits taste best a little raw, I think, so keep a close eye on the time.

Enjoy some while they are still warm and slightly gooey! Or go for the "cookies and milk" option.

What's your favourite comfort snack?

Tuesday 10 April 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I know, I know. It's April. 

I found this list while searching for something I wrote a while ago, and thought I should definitely share it. I've even managed to achieve some things on the list, if not in full, then at least in part. 

I wrote a guest post on Trichotillomania, depression, and other "invisible illnesses" on madambipolar, which went live today. Go take a look if you're interested.

So, here are my rather belated New Year's resolutions! I'm glad I've actually started inching my way towards achieving my goals - I think I actually set myself some realistic ones this year!

New Year's Resolutions 2012

+ Start running every day, even just a little bit. [I walk every day, so I guess that counts?]

+ Cook delicious foods both healthy and decadent. Attempt new things as often as is feasible. [Yes!]

+ Make more craft. Specifically, a giant rainbow rug, an elf beanie for Indigo to wear in winter, tie-dyeing some stuff and a large amount of fabric, and sewing clothes. Anything else I manage to achieve is a bonus. Ideally, I want everyything we own to be handmade and unique, but I understand that this goal may take more than a year to achieve!

+ Play with Indy and interact with her as much as I can when I'm not working, but I shouldn't stress if we're both too tired to do more than go through the motions every now and then. She'll love me no matter what, and I need to cut myself some slack. [I play as much as possible, and cut myself as much slack as possible, so I should cut myself slack about cutting myself slack!]

+ Update blog regularly and have fun with it! Meet other bloggers online and in person, and make some new friends with interests in common. [Working on it!]

+ Find some way to raise money for trichotillomania awareness/research, and write a post about my experiences with trich. [I've written two posts now, one for my blog, and one for Madam Bipolar]

+ Get back my pre-baby body - size 8, 57kg. If I'm happy with how I look before this target weight, I will also consider it a success. [I've lost 20kgs, which is nothing to sneeze at. Another 15 and I'll be at my goal weight!]

+ Attempt to "cure" my nail-biting and trichotillomania through sheer willpower and a whole lot of support. [Trich is getting better, but the nails are shocking!]

+ Keep the house as clean and clutter-free as much as is possible when a baby lives in the house. [Yes!]

+ Save enough money to buy a car. [My amazing grandma generously gave me a car!!! Thank you Pat!!!]

+ Make more mum-friends. [Yes!]

I think all that is enough to do in one year! If you come back regularly to this link from the front page, check if I've crossed anything off my list, and hassle me to get on with it if I don't do anything for a while.

What are your 2012 resolutions? Have you achieved any yet?

Sunday 8 April 2012

The Last Egg-Free Easter

My partner Dave and I have had a hard time deciding what to do about religious holidays and their fantasy counterparts, such as the Easter Bunny. It seems a bit wrong to celebrate something symbolising rebirth and the beginning of Spring and Harvest, when here in the southern hemisphere, it's starting to get colder, and the leaves on all the deciduous trees are starting to turn golden.

Today was our last egg-free Easter. Indigo is ten months old, and thankfully doesn't yet understand that Easter equals chocolate for the vast majority of Australians, so we managed to dodge a bullet this year. Instead, we took the dog to the beach, and lazed around on our lawn in the sun. It was pretty perfect.

I love celebrating pretty much anything. I've been feeling physically and mentally drained recently, and all my ideas for hollowing-out and painting eggs then hiding them in the garden fell by the wayside. I've needed all my energy to just to keep up with Indigo and remember to brush my teeth. Watch out, Halloween and Christmas - prepare for a craft attack! Readers, prepare for a whole heap of DIY tutorials - I have grand plans.

We've come to the conclusion that it's too much fun not to have Santa and a giant rabbit in Indigo's life, so we'll cross the religious connotations when the questions come up! Being atheists makes these decisions difficult - neither of us want to be perpetuating Christan holidays over any others, so maybe we'll throw colour on each other during Holi, celebrate the Dia de los Muertos and Charles Darwin's birthday, and any other holiday that makes sense to us, or has really awesome traditions.

I'd love some ideas - what holidays, religious or otherwise, do you think would be worth celebrating?

Saturday 7 April 2012

Normal Family Time

This week has been a busy one. Loads of washing by the tonne, mowing lawns, washing ten thousand dishes. Just normal, I guess. Whatever that means. It's been nice to have a week full of normal problems - keeping Indigo amused while I get things done, rather than finding a new place to live. Although things could be better, it's nice for our worries to be under control.

I still feel like the world could come crashing down at any moment, though. I panicked that Indigo was sick a few nights ago, so took her to the doctor. Nothing was wrong at all, fortunately. She just had a bad night's teething. 

I feel pressure to fix things - what I plan to do, I have no idea. Something in my brain is just telling me to take control and do something. I need a job. I love being home to play with Indigo, but I feel my brain turning to mush. I used to have control in my life - now I have control over how often the house gets cleaned, but no control over how quickly it becomes messy! I'd love to have an aspect of my life that requires me to wash my hair, dress in clean clothes, talk to grown-ups. My emotional state has become childish from spending so much time with a very clingy, whingy Indy - working would be a chance to remind myself that I am, in fact, an adult.

I am hoping that being proactive will help me overcome this feeling. I don't know what else I can do, Indigo has booked out my schedule. I still find it hard to get things done while she naps, or find time to do the things I want to do, not just the things I think need to be done. Often what "needs" to be done is not urgent, but the chance to do my own thing is fleeting.

I think I should prepare a list of things to do, during down-time. I guess it'll be mostly craft and recycling projects, but I will share it to ensure I actually get something done! I plan to sta
rt on this list over Easter, since I'm not actually doing anything Easterly.

Things to make & do

+ Clean house - make it an exhibition of retro design, and a showcase for all our beautiful things!
+ Pick flowers for all our vases
+ Make clothes for Indigo out of my op shoppables. There are some things that look terrible on me, but will make adorable clothes for Indigo.
+ Make a throw rug and cushions for the uncomfortable lounge. Until we can find a better one, I might as well make this one pretty!
+ Make Indigo this beanie for winter (Here's a link to the pattern, if you have a ravelry account). And all the people whose kids I promised to make beanies for, including the beautiful Googy and adorable Squishy of Good Googs fame.
+ Bake banana bread. Because I want some.
+ Bunting for Indigo's first birthday celebrations (which will be combined with my 25th birthday, which is five days later, and our housewarming). I love bunting, so I want to make lots!
+ Take Trilby the Wonderhound to the dog beach
+ Weed and fertilise our garden to prepare it for planting! I'm looking forward to growing heirloom varieties this year, as I have found an awesome Australian website that has 99% heirloom seeds, and posts across Australia, where quarantine permits.

So, this is the plan. Now, to put it into action!  What are all of you up to over Easter?

Sunday 1 April 2012

Being Used or The Human Doormat

I'm not the sort of person who will tell you that you have outstayed your welcome. I will just be polite, let you run out of steam, and sit around until you realise it's probably time to go. I find goodbyes awkward, and as such either cut them almost rudely short or let the opportunities ebb and flow like the tide: winding up the conversation, and then spinning straight back into a new topic. So it's no suprise really that due to my inability to cut through the bullshit of social niceties, I often end up being treated rather poorly by my fellow humans.

Dave, Indy and I have had a Visitor for a few weeks now. Dave has known him for ages, but they haven't been good friends for quite some time. He found himself homeless - not for the first time -  and needed a place to stay. Having been homeless ourselves, we help people whenever we can, but can't really keep it up long-term because we've got a family and our own lives to manage.

The Visitor has worn out his welcome. He ate a large amount of our chocolate for cooking (we don't buy snacks pre-packaged, I prefer to bake cookies or something). The visitor then proceeded to eat everything else edible and sweet, such as the chocolate swirl cheesecake I made. We shared with him, like any guest, until we realised he was taking things from us. Eating all our snacks in the middle of the night, like a rodent! We just started buying less junk food, and hiding it in secret places when we did. 

He is also seeing this Lady, who lives with her ex. This means that the Visitor and his Lady-Friend spend a lot of time just mooching around the house, not doing much of anything except getting in the way, and making it hard for me to relax in my own home.  The Visitor hasn't even shaved in two weeks, let alone looked for a new place to live, or showered regularly, instead relying on his Lady-friend to do all the work, even though she works full-time, and he doesn't work at all.

Dave and I both have pretty serious anxiety issues, so found it extremely difficult to bring any of this up, but something needed to change. This evening after having a frustrating day when I had big plans, I lost it. 

I went into my lounge room, and just like every single time that day, the Visitor and his Lady-Friend were sitting in the middle of the lounge. I'd already hinted earlier that it was a lovely day - maybe they should go for a walk or something because they'd been cooped up inside (our house) all day. They hadn't taken the hint, and I was hyperventilating in our bedroom, trying not to say something I'd regret.

Then I went into the kitchen, and smashed a glass into the sink. I felt stronger, if not better. I can't really explain why. I guess just having some control about where I direct my anger instead of just letting it fester internally, like usual.

So then I went and confronted the Visitor and his Lady-Friend head-on. Told them I didn't want them sitting around in my lounge room, or using my house like a fuck-pad while I spend all my time cleaning. Then they left. The Visitor hasn't returned. I assume he'll be back but I know that after this catalyst, neither Dave or I will put up with being treated like a human doormat any more!