Friday, December 21, 2007


I hadn't really felt the isolation that other mothers talk about until last week. It was interesting to experience it, so I thought I would share.

Last Monday was my birthday. I am, by my own admission, a pretty 'look at me, look at me' kind of person. Usually my birthday was either celebrated on a school day, which meant many children, parents and colleagues wishing me happy birthday, or on a weekend day, which meant my husband spoiling me.

One year while I was teaching the children in my class organised with their parents to throw me a surprise birthday party. Not bad for 7 and 8 year olds! Another year we had our end of year shared lunch on the day, and the children all made cards for me. So I am pretty used to having my birthday acknowledged by many, which I love.

This year was very strange. I woke and fed Lily in the early hours of the morning. Then my husband woke to get ready for work at 6am. He gave me my birthday card (my present had been given already, a magazine subscription as requested), then went off to get ready for his day. I fell asleep again (hey, it is hard having a couple of wake ups in the night!) He gave me a kiss when he left and that was it - my day was ahead of me.

If I hadn't planned to meet my best friend for lunch, I could have spent the whole day at home, speaking to no one. That was a strange realisation for someone like me. I had heaps of online best wishes - facebook, the forums I visit, emails. And those friends are awesome, but it was different to usual, which takes some adjusting.

So what I have learnt: it is really important on days like your birthday to ensure that you have something organised. If you usually spend it alone then it probably won't matter. But if it is normally quite a special day, spending it at home going about the daily routine with your child has the potential to be quite isolating, no matter how much you enjoy your life at home with your child.

There are wider implications - social people in working life need to make sure that they have networks around their child that will enable them to stay social. Ante natal classes can lead to coffee groups, you can make friends through plunket coffee groups and parenting classes. There is always playcentre or local playgroups if the others don't come up with some regular groups.

I really believe that if you are prepared to have time alone you will be better for it. Your life does change, that is inevitable, but how it changes is up to how you prepare for the differences.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Judging Mothers

I read an article today in the Weekend Herald about a book by Brett Paesel. It sounded interesting enough, but there was one passage by the journalist writing the article that really stood out to me. I wish I had written it myself. I will replicate it here:

Nothing provokes us like motherhood. Nothing divides us quite as violently. Mothers are perceived to onhabit a separate world from non-mothers, a world that's subject to stringent regulation, to harsh judgement, and to close scrutiny by the state, by the media, by the neighbours. We judge mothers constantly - the ones we know, the ones we don't. We judge them on how harshly the do or don't reprimand their children in supermarkets and on buses. We judge themon how much tv we theing they let their children watch, on the kind of food we think they feed them; on how much they swear in front of them; and how flagrantly they use their BlackBerries. We judge them on the name they've burdened their kids with, on the toys they let them have, on the tastes they encourage in the. We judge them for the way the dress their kids, and the way they cut their hair; we judge them on their bugaboos... (Polly Vernon)

Isn't that just the best truth you have read for ages? it really made me think of the ones I am guilty of - for we are all guilty of these things.

But when it comes down to it, which of these is important? And who are we to say how to love your children? Of course we have to act when there is abuse and neglect, but if a child is fed, watered, clothed and housed, surely all that matters then is that they are safe and loved?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dads are NOT Babysitters!

Last night I had a night away from Lily and went to a friend's house to hang out for a while - like the pre-baby days! So that meant that Jim was solo at home, and that led me to thinking about the phrase many dads tend to use when looking after their babies - babysitting duties.

Why is it called 'babysitting duties' to look after their own children?

Am I on daily babysitting duties then?

If so, when do I get my paycheck for it?

Why is if called parenting when I am at home solo and he is out, but not when the other way around? (I am talking about societal naming here, not my poor hubby, he is awesome at looking after Lily!)

I think that it is phrases like this that effect the standing of 'mums' in society. It is an acceptance of parenting being non-equal. I believe we should think carefully about some of the language we use around children and families as it is almost self-defeating in its negative connotations (even stay at home mum implies a soap watching woman, not the very busy people most SAHM's are!)

So next time you have some time out from the continuous care of children, don't let your other half say they are on babysitting duties, give them another phrase instead:
- parenting alone
- flying solo
- hanging out with the kids

Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who Needs Sleep?

Just when you think you have it all going well, something happens and the little ratbags change it all again.

Lily slept through quite early on, around the 12 week mark. Of course I didn't sleep through - for weeks I would wake a couple of times in the night and lie there, listening out for the call to feed. It didn't come and I think my body was finally getting used to it - there was one night I didn't wake.

And then it changed. Just like that she went back to wanting a night feed. Gone are my big long stretches even - the longest she manages now is a 7 hour period. Now that is from the start of the feed, not the start of the sleep, so even that isn't a full 7 hours. And not a nightly event either.

It is hard getting used to getting up for that feed again, just when my body had decided to believe that a full nights sleep was on the cards. I am almost feeling more tired now that I did back in the first few weeks! It doesn't help that it is getting harder to fall asleep after a wake up. If my brain isn't whirring around, then it is just hard to get that automatic drift. Boo! I had been loving the breast feeding effect of the quick to sleep hormones.

And of course napping seems less acceptable these days, and less worthwhile. I am never sure how long Lily's day naps are going to last, often they are only 45 minutes, the length of her sleep cycle. I can get a longer stretch from her early afternoon sleep at times, but that means I need to resettle her after the 45 minute wake up, so why bother trying to sleep myself?

Broken sleep is hard work for mums. It would be hard work for dads too, if they were being woken (I know not all do wake). So you have to take care of yourself! For me that does mean an occasional nap, it also means having days at home. I aim for 2 a week, although there are some weeks that I have no full days at home - they mess with both of us!

I used to have insomnia, back before Lily. There would be days of little to no sleep, and I have yet to feel as bad after Lily as I did a few times before. but it does make it harder to stay all 'happy happy joy joy'. So if I have any advice to mums suffering from sleep deprivation, it is to find something that works for you - naps, an hour resting, lying down with a book (NOT an overdose on caffeine if you are breast feeding, that can keep you baby awake when you really need to be asleep), a quiet day at home, some time for yourself when someone else is looking after baby. Find it and treasure it, because the home cannot function when the mother isn't functioning!