Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lesson 18: I'm a Grower Not a Glower

A long time ago, in a land far far away, I bought into the Pregnancy Dream. Shiny hair, glowing skin and a neat and tidy bump displayed gloriously under attractive maternity dresses

Well what a load of shit.

This might be the reality for some women - though if any pregnant 'Glowers' are reading this we can never be friends, just FYI. 

The reality of life Up The Duff, is, in my experience, less blooming and more gloomy. 

Shiny hair? Nope.

Glowing skin? Are you shitting me? I am grey and slightly zitty, like a hungover pubescent teenager. 

Almost half way through the Preggers Journey for the second time, I have roughly 60 weeks' pregnancy 'experience' under my belt and I HAVE NEVER FUCKING GLOWED. 

Lovely growing bump? Well yes granted it is growing. In close correlation with every other part of my chubby body. My 'bump' is more a tyre of pregnant podge around my middle, spreading slowly to unsuspecting areas like my arms. And chins. 

I don't even know where to start with maternity clothes. You can buy some lovely stuff these days. Truly you can. But I reserve attractive items for special occasions (there may be one such occasion per pregnancy if you are lucky). And for every other day, there are LEGGINGS. 

So what are the perks? I can think of only one...well two actually. My boobs are MASSIVE. Not usually blessed in the boobage department this is an interesting experience. The problem is, I know this is short lived. And that post-birth and breastfeeding these bad boys will deflate to saggy socks. Sigh.

Lesson 18: Pregnancy is a blessing. But you may not be 'blessed' with a pregnant glow. Prepare for dull skin, erratic weight spread and an overall unattractive demeanour. Just to compliment the puking and tiredness. Obvs.

The Unmumsy Mum

Friday, 28 March 2014

When Mother's Day is a Hard Day

Every year, there is a big build up to Mother's Day. TV adverts, magazine features, online competitions and general mummy mushiness. Generally, I'm not a massive fan of commercial celebratory days, but hey it's Mother's Day. A day to say Thank You, I Love You and 'what you do doesn't go unnoticed.' 

I have no doubt Sunday will be a lovely day spent with my husband and my boy, our last Mother's Day as a unit of three before Baby Two joins the fold.

But is is also a thoughtful day. And my thoughts will be with everyone for whom the Mother's Day message leaves a slightly knotty tummy, or raises a tearful moment, or prompts nostalgic but sad memories. 

Parents who have lost children. A battle you should never have to face and I am so very sorry if you have. I will be thinking of you.

Children who have lost parents. You don't have the chance to say Thank You or I Love You on any day of the year, and Sunday makes this heartbreakingly obvious. I will be thinking of you.

People who could never have children. The day serves as a reminder of what you always wanted but never got. I will be thinking of you.

People who have difficult relationships with their parents or their children. There may not be any cards or flowers and you may spend the day wishing things were so very different. I will be thinking of you.

On the happiest of days I will be sparing a thought for those who are not able to feel at their happiest. And above all, I will be thinking of my Mum, who I would have spoilt rotten were she still here.

The Unmumsy Mum

Lesson 17: Why I Can't Get Attached to Attachment Parenting

I recognise that not all followers of Attachment Parenting (AP) adopt the same approach and principles. My personal avoidance of the attachment model, is however, heavily influenced by what I have witnessed or read from self-proclaimed attachment advocates.

Whilst I by no means consider myself to be an expert on the Eight Principles of Parenting, I have in fact extensively read the blurb. I actually support the overall mission as stated by Attachment Parenting International:

"to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world"

Well yes please, this sounds delightful and I would very much like my child to become a well adjusted, secure and happy adult. I'm reasonably certain all parents share this common objective(?)

The problem for me is inherent in the application of these principles themselves. Let's take discipline, just for starters *rolls sleeves up*.

AP encourages parents to discover the needs leading to the behaviour rather than 'reacting' and suggests 'dealing with problems together in a way that leaves everyone's dignity intact.' *Spits tea out and snorts at the co-mention of dignity and children.*

Positive discipline does not, apparently, include rewards, punishments, threats, coercion or time-outs' (see Attachment Parenting UK).

BOLLOCKS. That's my discipline locker cleared out then...

Realistically, how the hell does one function without rewards, threats and coercion (and Peppa Pig)?!

When my two-year-old deliberately falls to the floor in the supermarket and pulls display items from the bottom shelf, perhaps I should sit down with him for half an hour and ponder the unmet needs that might have led to this demonstration of anger. When he throws his cutlery on the floor/smacks the cat in the face/refuses point blank to leave the house perhaps I should ask him nicely to cooperate with me in a way that will leave both mine and his dignity intact. I'm sure that would work a treat.
Not yet too traumatised by my methods of discipline

And then we move on to other aspects of parenting, including feeding and sleeping. AP has perhaps become widely associated with parents who breast-feed, baby-wear and co-sleep. I'm a supporter of the first of those three and actually have dabbled in the other two at some point - in principle all have their merits. The problem, as I see it, is the insistence on being led by the needs of the child at all times.

This week, I stumbled across an AP parent who co-sleeps, breastfeeds and 'baby-wears' her 4 year old. Why? Because the child has 'not felt ready' to sleep in her own bed yet, still 'likes a night feed to settle' and for a variety of reasons they 'disagree with the use of pushchairs' (though it is my understanding that the child has fully functioning legs, so why she needs to be 'worn' on a regular basis is a mystery).

Now I am not saying that said child is not happy and secure. She is certainly 'well-attached.' The reason I will NEVER allow this to happen within my own family is simple:

Other family members have needs too.

I don't disagree that the needs of children should come first. Where I disagree is when those needs are prioritised to the exclusion of all others.

Yes my toddler sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and climbs into bed with us. If he needs a snuggle, he gets one. But I would not allow this to become the norm. Why? Well, I don't want to end up sharing my marital bed with a school-aged child - I quite like sharing it with my HUSBAND.

Equally, I will never find myself breastfeeding a 4 year old. I am probably hugely unpopular in my assertion that this is unnecessary, and my suspicion that breastfeeding a near school-aged child satisfies the attachment need of the parent more so than it does that of the child *cowers in corner awaiting backlash for this comment.*

Where are the boundaries? I like to consider myself a reasonably well-adjusted adult (you can make your own minds up there), and yet my sister and I were brought up with a very clear understanding that our parents made the rules. This started from an early age - we slept in our own rooms, we were put on reins when we were old enough to walk and if we did something naughty (AP probably forbids the N word, but I've said it now) THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES.

I do acknowledge that not all supporters of AP employ the same methods, but if you are lucky enough to find any one of the vast number of AP support groups or forums available online it is fair to say co-sleeping, baby-wearing and extended breastfeeding all feature heavily as encouraged 'tools.'

Unfortunately AP, for me, goes against encouraging a respectful parent-child relationship because the child's needs clearly re-write all the rules. Above all else I disagree that your entire life should be dictated to by the needs and wants of a small person.

I'm a good parent. Not always a great one, but I love my boy and I do my best. I am quietly confident that the odd reward, punishment and soft coercion (bribe) will do him no harm.

And he will sleep in his own room, walk on reins, get 'told off' and sometimes sit in his stroller. Because I am the adult and those are MY RULES.

The Unmumsy Mum

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Full Time Toddler (Permanent Contract) - Job Description

How the job description would read if being a toddler were considered a profession...

We are currently looking to recruit an experienced toddler to join our team. 

Person Specification
The ideal candidate will be a professional whinger, ideally with previous experience of planning and executing public tantrums. Fluent in the art of saying No, you are likely to have a proven track record of Food Refusal and Unhealthy Snack Manipulation. You will need to possess the strongest of wills and a fiery temper. Nap-takers need not apply.

Primary Duties
- Delaying all excursions from the house by at least 30 minutes.
- Following assigned caregiver to the toilet. And watching. 
- Demanding Peppa Pig on repeat.
- Regularly collapsing in a fit of unexplained rage.
- Asking for something and then changing your mind (then changing it back again).
- Managing the sleep cycle for the whole family (5am Parent Bed Invasions may be required).

Hours: Full time (distinction between night and day not always made).
Contract: Permanent. They can't fire you.

The Unmumsy Mum

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Lesson 16: More Than Just My Bump

Well, 14 weeks pregnant and I still haven't spread the news to all interested parties. 

Immediate family - check. 
Close friends - check
Line manager - check.

The Others. Not so much. 

When people say 'is it public knowledge yet?!' what they really mean is:

Have you posted it on Facebook. Ideally with a due date announcement and a scan picture?

Well no, I haven't. I'm not being disrespectful to excited FB baby news posts (I did one first time round, and watched happily as 'likes' and comments came in from people we barely know).

The truth is, I don't like the fact that pregnancy takes over as your defining characteristic.

'Have you heard from Sarah lately?'
'No, but see she's pregnant again!' 

As if being pregnant is all I have been up to lately. Forget achievements at work, the ongoing house renovation and day to day LIFE. From this point forth my single purpose on this planet is to grow a foetus

Don't get me wrong, it is of course all terribly exciting. But forgive me if I'm not content to put ALL OTHER CONVERSATION on hold for 9 months. 

At work, a high proportion of colleagues I probably should have told don't know yet, purely because I quite like being asked for my input at planning/strategy/update meetings based on the job they pay me to do. 

I'm all up for the 'congrats, when are you due?' chat, but experience informs me that people actually stop asking you about ANYTHING else. 

Sure I am pregnant.
I am also a young woman. An employee. A Rape Crisis volunteer. A mother. A wife. A lover of antique furniture waging a war against cats shitting in my garden. 

Be excited for me - I appreciate your kind words. Please just remember that my very existence is greater than the sum of my pregnant parts.

The Unmumsy Mum

Monday, 3 March 2014

Lesson 15: 'Having Another One'

'So when are you having another one?'

It's like the unwritten rule in our family. You have two. Because, well, because that is just what you do. I'm one of two, the husband is one of two, our respective siblings each have two of their own.  
One is lonely. 
Three is too many. 
Two is just right. Normal.
It's the gospel
From the moment Baby One arrived, I was quite clear I didn't want another one. I regularly told anybody who would listen that we had no plans for a second. GOD NO! We would stick at one. I had no desire to do it again, thank you very much...
'Oh you'll change your mind!'

Well, Baby One has hit the terrible twos and...(drumroll please):
I am thirteen weeks pregnant.
Baby Two is in the oven, and once again I have spent most mealtimes with my head stuck down the toilet and most daytimes with a slightly greyish skin tone (on really special days the gift of acne has presented itself, always a pleasure).

On the one hand, I suppose they (the 'others', the Two Children Enforcers) were right - I am, after all, once again With Child.
But on the other hand, I fear I haven't really changed my mind at all.
Deep down *whispers* I still have little desire to do it all again.

So why did we get back on the babycoaster? This was, in fact, all planned.

I could bore you with The Complete Works of Second Child Reasoning but ultimately it comes down to The Vision.

What is it that you see when you picture your life in five or ten years time?

For me, there have always been two children in this picture. Two children in the back of the car, two children on holiday, two children at the dinner table...a happy family of four (plus our smelly cat).

I never have a Vision involving babies, simply because (and I'm not even sure if it's excusable to say this) I don't really like babies all that much. Needless to say I haven't been longing for another maternity leave, or deliberating names, or feeling broody watching One Born Every Minute.

But I have been content in our decision that we should start the completion of our family now. LET'S DO THIS.

Said Bun in Said Oven
You see, the ups and downs of those baby years are what shape The Vision of my complete family. Already with my toddler I look back at what has been the steepest ever learning curve of my life so far and I don't regret it.

I just find it all so HARD. Super bloody difficult...*Starts shaking at memory of zero sleep, problems breastfeeding and a loss of all meaningful conversation*...

So have I changed my mind about wanting another baby? Well no, not exactly.

Am I excited at the prospect of this new Being who is currently straining my top button?
Well YES actually. I am excited. This is the start of our new chapter as the family I'd always imagined - and I am going in with Oh So Realistic expectations this time.

Lesson 15: Despite what people tell you, there is no hard and fast rule about Having Another One. Perhaps keep in mind the 'end game' and where you see your family further down the line (had I focused on the whole baby bit, I'm not sure I would ever have done it all again).

The Unmumsy Mum


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lesson 14: Your Child Will Behave Impeccably for Others

It’s one of life’s leading injustices.

Not that your child behaves nicely, because of course *forces smiles through gritted teeth* we welcome good behaviour. Rather the injustice lies in the fact that your child will appear to save all disruptive, angry and frankly INTOLERABLE behaviour just for you. Joyful.
I have to be honest here, at times I have concluded it MUST BE ME. As already outlined in Lesson 8 I am not a natural ‘Coper,’ in fact more often than not I think I am not coping at all. Perhaps my child knows this, and chooses to push my already weary buttons…

However, in the last month or two I have turned this conclusion on its head and I am now one hundred percent certain that parents simply get the worst of their bundles of joy.

We get the bundle, minus the joy.

Often a snotty, angry, clingy bundle who is seemingly on hunger strike and throws his cutlery across the table…maybe that’s just mine - he turns two this week, and quite frankly I am at my wits’ end with his general behaviour *reaches for wine.*
It doesn’t matter who else looks after him for the day (grandparents/child-minder/postman), he is invariably well behaved. Comments on collection/pick-up range from ‘he’s been good as gold’ to ‘isn’t he easy to look after?!’ The latter is nearly enough ammunition for me to claw both my eyes out in a frustrated rage. Said rage is also accompanied by marginal guilt that I am almost willing him to behave poorly for somebody else, so I can report back quite honestly ‘THIS IS MY WHOLE LIFE!’  

When I have him for a day on my own, I don’t successfully manage to do anything (he kicks off in every shop/at the doctors/in the library - purposefully collapsing face down on the floor is commonplace). When his grandparents take him shopping/to the library/out for lunch he is, by all accounts, helpful. Say what?

How my child behaves for others
His 'special' behaviour reserved for me

On Sunday, I had the luxury of a lie-in (sorry to mums who have not had one of these in a while, I won’t dwell on it). Anyhow, I surfaced at 10am and ventured downstairs with the promise of a nice family day stretching out before me. I had been downstairs for no longer than two minutes when Helpful Henry turned into Hurricane Henry, and yet another breakfast was eaten with him hanging off my leg and snivelling on my dressing gown.

Me: ‘What’s the matter?’
Henry: ‘I WANT BUZZ’
Me: ‘You want Buzz Lightyear?’ *fetches Buzz Lightyear*
Henry: ‘NO! Take it AWAY!!’
Me: ‘Okay, Buzz has gone away’
Henry: *screams* ‘BUZZ!!’
And so it begins.

Not an unusual turn of events, you might think, until my dear husband (obviously in my good books for facilitating my lie-in), stated:

'He was absolutely fine until you came down. Good as gold.’

I won’t repeat my reply.  

The Unmumsy Mum