The Good Old Days

 

The Good Old Days Blog Post - Trampoline Photo

The 2012 Parent

What I didn’t realise until I became a parent is all the second-guessing and doubting yourself that occurs. No matter what I do, I am never hundred percent sure it is “right”. Is being a mummy never black and white?

And even when I think I am doing a pretty good job, I think about all the things that I don’t do. My son is over seven months old and I have probably read to him a dozen times in his whole life. They say that a child should be read to over one thousand times before they go to school.   What???

I very rarely remember to massage the baby. When I do I always think I am not doing it properly. Everyone around me seems to already be taking their infants to swimming lessons and I wasn’t planning to start anything like that until my child was at least two or three years old.

I read all the books, devour the baby and child magazines and go to all the parenting classes. I talk to friends and family who are parents and get their advice and when I am really stuck I call Plunket. Still, I cannot shake off the worry, concern and guilt that it is just not enough.

The 1980’s Parent

Then I think back to my childhood and realise that my parents never went to a single child-rearing seminar. They didn’t pick up a parenting book. They just got on with the job of being Mum and Dad to us.

In fact, back in the 80’s how we were brought up would bring about looks of sheer horror to parents today. My mum smoked through her pregnancies and all through my childhood. She didn’t breastfeed and slept us all on our tummies. All pretty standard thirty years ago and all considered not just wrong but abhorrent today.

Mum tells a story of when she was in the hospital and a nurse came in and asked her if she needed anything to be more comfortable and mum said she would like a packet of cigarettes. She then lit up in the hospital. This is so far beyond my realm of imagination I actually don’t believe her.

Another friend my mum’s age recalls that when you spent time in hospital after birth, babies were cared for by hospital midwives overnight. The particular midwife at her hospital didn’t believe that babies should be hungry overnight so if they woke up during the night they were fed only water. This lady said that by the time she left the hospital after a couple of weeks, her daughter always slept through the night. Horrible but effective.

When my parents took me home from the hospital, Mum held me in her arms while Dad drove all of us home without seatbelts on.  These days they don’t let you leave the hospital unless you show them you have a secure car seat.

I was brought up on dinners of meat and three veges (one of which was potato, the other two usually a choice of peas, beans or carrots) every night, except Friday when Dad would bring home fish and chips. I didn’t even eat pasta until I was a teenager. I didn’t try sushi, avocado or olives until I was in my early twenties. We pretty much only drank water except for the rare occasion when Dad let us sip the ‘ice-cream’ off the top of his glass of beer.

After school we were told to play outside. My mum didn’t want to see us until dinnertime. My sister and I, along with our neighbourhood friends would ride bikes, make huts in the trees, make up games and generally had fun exploring our own backyard. We ran around all summer and I don’t recall ever being told to put sunblock on.

My little sister was almost ten years younger than me and I thought she was my real-life doll.   One happy memory I have is of wrapping up little baby in a blanket and putting her in the back tray of an old rusty tricycle we had and zooming around in circles of our concrete driveway. How she didn’t fall out I have no idea.

Make Today Your ‘Good Old Day’

How come we are not scarred for life? For one thing, it was all that good old-fashioned playing outside. Also, my parents were always there – after school, on weekends, for birthdays. And although we were not a touchy-feely family, we knew we were wanted and loved.

I am not for one instant advocating a return to these ‘good old days’. Times have evolved – mandatory car seats, fewer people smoking and sun awareness are good things. What I am saying is try not to worry about doing it ‘right’ all the time. If your baby cries for a few minutes while you take a shower or watches a bit of TV, it is not going to permanently damage them.

So throw away all those parenting books for the night. Instead, blast the stereo with your favourite song (NOT a nursery rhyme) and dance around the lounge with your child.   Remember that you don’t have to do anything special with your child. Just being with them is sometimes enough.

And I will also try and take some of my own advice.

The Good Old Days Blog Post - Trampoline Photo

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don't Worry Be Happy Blog Post - Parenting Worry Cartoon

The Myth of the Blissful Mum

I wanted to be one of those relaxed and confident mums. The ones who wear nice dresses and high heels and make up. The ones who go to jazz concerts with their slumbering child in a sling. The ones who grow all their own vegetables and use them to make baby food instead of buying readily prepared stuff from the supermarket. The mums who bake wholesome muffins and do creative things with home made play-dough with their children.

I have no idea why I thought that being pregnant and becoming a mother would somehow change my entire personality. You are growing a baby, not a new brain! I have never gone to a jazz concert in my life and am even more unlikely to now I have a baby. I usually kill any plant I try to grow (except mint, thank you mint). And I very rarely cook or bake at all, let alone something fresh and nutritious.

So of course my outlook hasn’t changed and I haven’t become a wonderfully relaxed mum. What has instead happened is that becoming a parent has intensified who I really am, my core personality. And what I really am is someone who worries about everything. Everything.

 

The Worrier

Before my son was even conceived I was good at worrying. I would worry about the weather – if it was raining I would worry how to keep dry. If it was sunny I would worry about UV and melanoma. I would worry about the state of the world – the Global Financial Crisis, possible nuclear meltdowns and Kardashian wardrobe malfunctions are all things we are meant to be concerned about. I worried about when I would get pregnant and whether I would have bad morning sickness and whether I would end up with triplets.

Then when I fell pregnant, the enormity of it released more waves of worry. I worried whether I would be a good mum, what would happen to my relationship with my husband and whether I would be able to breastfeed.

And now I am mum to my gorgeous and amazing six-month-old boy I still worry. I would love to spend the day being awestruck at the miracle of life and grateful for having a healthy and happy baby but mainly fill my time with stupid pointless worry.

 

Sample of My Worries

Here are just a very small smidgen, a tiny percentage of the things I worry about. I worry about things in the NOW. Is he taking enough breast milk? When he was first born he lost a lot of weight and did not feed properly for a couple of months so didn’t gain back the weight he lost easily. He is still small for his age. I worry despite the fact that all the signs say he is fine – wet nappies, sleeping reasonably well and happy.

I worry that I don’t play and interact with him enough. I always forget to do baby massage and I have barely read to him at all, and when I do it is not usually a children’s book.

When he is in the car, I worry that I am a bad parent for wanting him to sleep and when he does sleep I worry that I have left him the car seat too long. Why is that bad again??

I am terrified that one night he won’t wake up. This is a horrible fear that no matter what I say to myself does not seem to go away. Does this improve with time? Maybe I should have bought a fancy gadget like a video monitor or one of those under-blankets that beep if there is no movement.

But my worry doesn’t end there.   It extends to the not too distant future. I have just started solids and I worry that he will become constipated or become a fussy eater. I worry that he will choke on stuff, not just food but anything he finds on the floor. I am especially fearful I will leave one of the plug socket protectors out of its socket and he will find it and choke on that.

Then he will grow up and become a teenager and young adult. What if he gets bullied? Even worse, what if he is the bully? How will I help him not to be too shy but not too arrogant either? How will I react if he takes up risky activities like base-jumping, motorcycle racing or rock fishing?

I also worry about other things. I worry that I will lose or delete or somehow misplace all the thousands of photos and videos I have taken of my son. Even though I have backed them up and done a back up of the back up.

I worry that I overthink things.

I worry that I worry too much.

 

Where to From Here?

I wasn’t going to write this section but it may help other worriers out there to end on a good note. Try to worry about things that are within your realm of control. Even then realise that 99% of what you worry about will not happen and if it does you will handle it, or at least be able to ask for help. And although you know intellectually that we live in a beautiful country in the 21st century and have a lot to be thankful for, really try to embrace this knowledge. Feel it in your soul. Remind yourself every day about the good things that you are grateful for. Because as we all know what we focus on is what we get.

Don't Worry Be Happy Blog Post - Mark Twain - Worries

Sleep Sleep Sleep

Sleep Sleep Sleep Blog Post - So Tired Cartoon

Well Meaning Advice

When I became pregnant I was given a lot of very well meaning advice for impending motherhood. But when it came to the recommendations about sleep, I disregarded them all.

I am one of those lucky people who happily thrived on five or six hours a night so I didn’t think that having a newborn baby would impact on my sleep that much. I really wondered what everyone was complaining about.

How wrong can one woman be?

 

Sleep Bank

I ignored some of the advice because it didn’t make sense. When I was pregnant, I kept getting told things like ‘sleep as much as you can now’ or ‘get lots of early nights’.

But what is the point? There is no such thing as a “sleep bank”. You cannot get in extra shut-eye before baby so as to save it up for after the baby comes. Sleep doesn’t work like that. It would be lovely if it did.

 

Sleepless Nights

I also disregarded the warnings because there was nothing I could do. “When the baby comes there will be many sleepless nights”. This phrase or was said to me so often when I was pregnant that it was almost a cliché.

But how does that help? There is simply no way to prepare yourself for how little sleep you may get in those first few weeks with a newborn.

 

Sleep When The Baby Sleeps

And I stopped listening to the tips because they were not all that helpful. You get told to forget about housework and the hundred other things that you want to do and “sleep when the baby sleeps”.

But this implies that as soon as I put the baby to bed I can go to bed and instantly fall asleep myself. It totally disregards the common situations where either baby doesn’t fall asleep or only sleeps for a short nap or (this is the worst) where baby is happily snoozing away but I cannot fall into a slumber myself.

 

Sleep Stress

So I developed what I coined “sleep stress” (try saying that ten times fast). What the books and other parents didn’t say was how difficult it was to know whether Dylan would have a 15-minute catnap or sleep for three hours. In those first few weeks, I got to the stage where if I had two hours of sleep in a row it was an amazing miracle. Sometimes I would be happy if I managed to lie down and close my eyes in a dark room for ten minutes.

Having a baby is like an alarm clock with absolute no set pattern. You cannot just swat the snooze button – you have to promptly get up and work out what baby needs and be in some semblance of wakefulness to do it.

Sleep Jealousy

In those first few weeks with the baby, I developed “sleep jealousy”. I would get a visit from friends who had told me they had a sleep-in or an afternoon nap and I would literally see green.

I didn’t care about fast cars, sparkly jewellery or fine cuisine, but if someone told me that they had had eight hours of sleep in a row the previous night I would almost break down in tears at the thought of such an unheard of luxury.

 

Sleep Deprivation

I now understand why sleep deprivation is used as method of torture during wars. You simply cannot function without sleep. During the nastiest times in those first few months I actually found myself hallucinating. I thought I had a conversation with my husband sitting on the couch, but he wasn’t even home. I made stupid mistakes like trying to towel dry myself off in the shower before I turned the water off.

I worked out that I could handle anything, anything at all with enough sleep. The baby can cry for three hours and I will usually be fine, but five minutes of woe will destroy me if I have not had enough sleep.

The icing on the cake was one book I read on getting your child to sleep that pointed out that if you are tired you probably couldn’t fathom how tired your child must be. Yes, nice – throw a heap of guilt on top of the torture of sleep deprivation.

One final thing I disregarded was the old cliché that “it does get better”. But it really is true. Now I have a happy little boy who does have at least one long stretch of sleep during the night and on a good day he will bless us with two or three naps. I have a newfound appreciation of sleep. So much so that I am now terrified of reverting back to that newborn sleep deprivation state ever again.

Sleep Sleep Sleep Blog Post - So Tired Cartoon