Sunday, 21 February 2010

A day in my life....

6.30am - crawl into the cot to soothe a teething baby and let my night shift working husband sleep in. End up falling asleep, only to be woken by said husband's muffled laughter as he points the camera at us, because, in his words 'I look so funny when I sleep'. Gee, thanks love!
7.30am - decide to sneak out of cot. Extricate my arm from underneath sleeping baby, climb out of cot, open the creaky door without waking her up - then fall over the cat who has been waiting for his breakfast outside the door. Cat 1, Me 0.
8.15am - roused from bed by a shriek of indignation when daughter realises I am no longer in cot. Rush in, debate dressing the screaming wriggling red faced octopus, then decide it'll be a whole lot easier if we all have a PJ day.
8.20am - nappy changed, we make it downstairs. Proceed to wrestle 1 1/2 weetabix and most of a cup of water into daughter. Remainder goes over my face. Ah well, at least it's supposed to be good for the skin.
10am - whilst chasing the cats, daughter trips over and bashes face. Ensuing tantrum can only be eased by whirling around the room to a soundtrack of rock music re-enacting the moves from the last series of Strictly Come Dancing. Favourite is the over the shoulder lift, which has to be repeated 10 times.
12pm - lunch time. Daughter happily eats most of food, and cats rush around eating the bits she has dropped. I consider this a result.
12.30pm - time for a nap, and a HOT CUP OF TEA! Best part of the day. Put feet up, and dream of a nice hot bath, a book and a glass of wine. Nope, not for tonight; that only happened in BC days (before children). These days, daughter's internal siren goes off the instant I dip a toe into the lovely hot, bubbly water. By the time she deigns to go back to sleep, the water has gone cold, and I'm lucky to have time to wash my hair before it's time for her to wake up or the phone rings.
1pm - daughter has had enough of sleep, and alerts me to this fact by dragging her dummy up and down the wall. You think the sound of chalk on a blackboard is bad?! It's got nothing on this.
2pm - a rare moment of quiet, snuggled up on the sofa reading a book together. It is ruined by darling daughter snatching the book and hitting me in the face with the edge of it, then saying 'aaaah, mama' and cuddling my arm. Cannot possibly be cross with that angelic face.
3pm - sweep the floor, assisted by daughter handing me a piece of fluff with a hopeful expression. I know instinctively that she considers this the greatest gift she can give me, and sweep her up for a big cuddle and kiss. This is not appreciated, and she blows a raspberry at me before wriggling away.
3.45pm - we decide to rush around the room yelling 'brrmmmm!'. This is daughter's way of pretending to be a motorbike, and we keep this up until...
4.30pm - teatime. A relatively calm event, due to daughter taking control of the spoon, but unsurprisingly very messy. Pea extracted from nostril, and tomato sauce wiped off bookcase.

There are still two hours until bedtime. I wonder what mischief she can get up to in that time?

And you know what? I wouldn't change a thing.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Extreme parenting!

Surely I am not the only person to have spotted, and been more than mildly horrified by, this new trend for 'competitive parenting'. Of course, I am sure that it must have existed in a lesser form when we were growing up; you know the one - 'oh, my daughter started walking at 10 months!', 'oh, really, my son started at 9 months!' - but the extent to which modern parents are taking it is, frankly, nauseating.

There are so many things about parenting that mothers and fathers seem to feel the need to compete over these days, everything from the basics (when their darling offspring started walking, talking etc) to the number of languages little Junior can babble in, how many different vitamins and minerals he ingests on a daily basis, or how many gnashers he has cut through.

But the one which concerns me the most is competitive breastfeeding. Recently, it seems to have become a competition between modern mothers as to who can breastfeed their child for the longest, and it seems to have become the holy grail for new mothers to aspire to. No doubt this has been heavily influenced by the government's 'Breast is Best' campaign, and I strongly applaud it; if it gives mothers confidence in their ability to breastfeed their child, then it is doing a great job. However, I cannot help but feel that the push for breastfeeding has gone too far in the other direction, to the extent that mothers who bottlefeed, whether by choice or compulsion, can find themselves discriminated against by their smugly breastfeeding friends.

As a mother whose daughter was unable to breastfeed, dropping nearly a pound of her 7lb5 birthweight in the first 5 days of life, the thought of not being able to breastfeed was terrifying. Not only had I had the benefits of breastfeeding thoroughly drummed into me by my no doubt well-meaning midwife, I had received absolutely no information or advice of how to bottlefeed a baby, and I had no idea where to start when my husband kindly but firmly made me understand that ceasing trying to force my newborn to breastfeed would be the kindest thing for all of us. So why was it that I felt a wave of guilt and embarrassment when my health visitor asked how we were feeding our little girl, or felt the need to justify our decision every time a friend or acquiantance asked how she was getting on.

Still, I think I got off fairly lightly. I have heard tales of mums fleeing their NCT meet-ups in tears after finding that they were the only mother to have 'failed' to breastfeed their child, and have witnessed myself the accusing stares and rolling of eyes as a young mother began to bottlefeed her newborn whilst waiting to be called up for his weigh-in. What an awful term, failure, to use for a woman who has just achieved the most miraculous thing that anyone can do, and given life to a beautiful child. Let us be clear, that child will in no way suffer from the 'lack' of breastmilk, and I even venture to suggest that a mother who is happy and content to bottlefeed her baby, certain in the knowledge that he is thriving, will inevitably be a better mother than the one who ends up crying herself to sleep as she struggles to prolong the breastfeeding experience that is not right for her, her baby or even both of them. For the mother and baby who are suited to breastfeeding, then that is absolutely the right option for them, and in fact I intend to attempt to breastfeed my next child. But if it is not successful, then I certainly will not waste my newborn's precious early days beating myself up over the decision to bottlefeed.

I think it is just such an awful shame when mothers and fathers feel the need to judge and criticise the way another parent chooses to raise their child. As far as I am concerned, if said child is happy and healthy, then their parents are clearly doing something right! Parents will inevitably have their own opinions on how their child should be brought up, whether that is teaching them to be bi-lingual, taking them to every baby group under the sun, or being content to sit back and let their child develop at their own pace. All you can do is ensure that your child is one of those happy and healthy ones, and that honour should be more than enough to fill your time, heart and mind without feeling the need to criticise others.