Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Culture of Pink

Do you know how hard it is to find anything that isn't pink for your little girl? From day one girls are forced into the culture of ponies and fairies and pinkness. Parents become eager to buy into it too it seems, probably because it is what is deemed to be 'normal'.

Recently I stumbled on Heelarious, a site where you can purchase high heeled shoes (made of foam) for your newborn, to help them get that 'shoe fetish' underway. I can see the amusement factor in them. But mostly they just make me cringe.

Why? Because it is another step towards the indoctrination of the culture of pink.

The shoes, the clothes, the fantasy pink bedroom with the dreams of handsome princes, the bras and undies sets for tweenies, the early sexualisation of girls, the hero worship of such worthy icons as Paris Hilton, the springing up of Playboy shops (anyone want a t-shirt for their daughter with 'made for men's entertainment on it? No? Well actually, yes it would seem) and general acceptance of the Playboy label (bed linen for single beds in pink playboy bunnies - bought by parents for their young girls. Do they think it is funny?) are all part of the same thing.

It worries me that if you ask young girls who they admire and who they wish they could be like, they are likely to say Paris Hilton or someone similar. Children have always had dreams - there are plenty who would also say Hilary Duff or Miley Cyrus I am sure, at least they are dreaming there of being a singer or an actress. But we are creating a pathway that leads directly to a person who is famous for doing very little except being a society girl.

I am sure that Paris Hilton is in fact a perfectly intelligent person who does a lot of things behind the scenes. (Her recent video mocking the republican candidate points to a good wit). But it not those things that make little girls want to be her (and older girls attempt to be her).

Little girls can wear pink - and should wear pink if you want them to or they want to. There is nothing wrong with loving butterflies, and pinkness and fairies and castles and dreaming of girliness and having big eyes staring up at people. It jsut shouldnt be a career option.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Sick Days in this Job

Yup. Being a mum means no sick days. Even if you are a working mum and can send your child to the carer, chances are you still have to get them up, dressed and off to the carer before collapsing into bed. Even then you have probably already used all your sickdays taking care of your child when they have picked up yet another bug so you just keep on dragging yourself along to the office.

And if you are a SAHM then you have to suffer through the day with a little one who has no concept of 'not right now, mummy's sick'. Or doesn't understand why mummy has to have a coughing fit after reading every 5 words.

If you have it, this is a good time to draw on the support of friends and family - you get better a lot quicker if you can sleep a little extra, and eating decent regular meals helps too.

But basically, once children are here, you are years away from your next real sick day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spare the Rod

It saddens me that there is a fairly decent sized group of people in New Zealand who think it is a worthwhile investment of their time and energy to attempt to get the repeal of section 59 overturned.

Just think what could really happen in society if those very people turned their time and energy to supporting the people who are identified as being at risk of child abuse. There could be mentor schemes set in place, where an at risk family is visited weekly by a normal family person. Not a social worker or other official, but a person who could model normal family behaviour. Perhaps that could make a difference? There are over 300,000 people who seem to think that the repeal of section 59 is not helping the child abuse statistics go down at all, that is an awful lot of families that could be matched.

But then again, perhaps matching an at risk family with someone who believes that parents need the right to physically punish their children is precisely what isn't needed.

If only the change in law had been matched with a huge advertising campaign and support for families in other methods of discipline as it was in Sweden, perhaps instead of facing a meaningless referendum (for neither main party sees any need to change the way it is now) we would be seeing the beginnings of a paradigm shift right now in society.

It isn't about losing the right to give your child a tap on the bottom, it is about realising that children are people too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Village to Raise a Child

I visit many parenting forums and chat a lot with mums from all walks of life and something I have noticed is the problems with extended family support.

Almost every site has the discussion regularly on how unsupportive the in laws are. Either they are very rude to the daughter-in-law, or interfering in parenting choices, or showing complete lack of interest in the children.. the list could go on.

This made me wonder what is behind this seemingly huge problem. What is it in society that has lead to the development of such poor relationships? And it is a huge problem. It does take a village to raise a child, and increasingly it seems that our villages are being reduced to immediate family only. This at the same time as there are huge issues with PND, increases in difficult births (over 40% of first time births end in Cesarean) which means a longer recovery time, tightening belt buckles with the economy in trouble meaning more primary caregivers are having to consider working. Again, the list could go on!

I consider myself lucky to have a positive relationship with my in laws. Yes, there is always going to be some squeezing of the lips shut, biting back retorts to the throwaway comments the MIl gives as she sees how different bringing up a baby is today, but it is worth it to keep the peace in what is pretty much an excellent relationship.

So what makes my in laws different to some of the horror stories out there? I think it is in part to do with the fact that they are both still working and enjoying their work. It helps that my MIL thinks that she was a barely adequate mother (she was wonderful!) so doesn't feel she has anything to offer me other than support (that means no advice, bliss!) They are also very much a happy couple who still spend a lot of time together, very secure in their relationships.

Is the secret to becoming a good in law (for if we are mothers, then most of us will be in that role some day) making sure that your life and relationships are full? I think it is.

Maybe if you are having problems with your in laws, think about what is behind that problem, what is making them controlling/vindictive/ unsupportive/disinterested etc and acknowledge that they are a creation of their experiences even if just to yourself. Also realise that time moves on and things change, but that doesn't make their experiences invalid, you can learn a lot by looking at what was done in the past and knowing that you Will/will not do it in the future. Hopefully doing that means that when it is your turn, you won't repeat the same mistakes of your in laws.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Child of our Time

The other night I watched the first episode of the latest series of Child of our Time on TV one. It was looking primarily at the 'Gender Divide'. It considered things like marketing to children, body image, values and how these differed between the 8 year old boys and girls.

Like all of this series, it was very interesting to see the children's perspectives on things. It was heartening to see the girls choose health and kindness as the most important values - and amusing to see the boys choose being rich.

However, I was very disturbed by the negative self image many of the girls already had. Shown 8 different body types in increasing size, all the children selected a smaller body size than their own as ideal, and most chose a much larger one to illustrate their perceptions of their own bodies. Remember, these were 8 year olds. (I do have to mention that the 8 year old boys were choosing things randomly, like the 'fat' one because then they could bash people, there was total disinterest in this exercise).

One child in particular was in tears at least twice in the programme at the idea of being fat - fat people are unliked, mean and not good friends apparently.

It was interesting that the Bratz dolls one child played with was behind some of the feelings - although the little girl would love to wear the clothes her doll does, she couldn't because she is too fat. I have long had a dislike of these dolls and others like it as I have believed that they encourage that sort of feeling. It was good to see proof that I was right with my instincts, though I would prefer to be proven wrong when it means one little girl has obvious self image issues because of it.

In the series there is one little boy whose parents have gone out of their way to raise their children without obvious gender stereotypes. The toys are shared, the parents share roles and there is obvious equality. It was so pleasing to see that it does work - the little boy chose the same values as the girls and throughout his time on screen seemed well balanced and sensitive to others, very different to his peers.

This programme raised many issues for me, as the parent to a girl. I want my daughter to grow up believing that she can do pretty much whatever she wants in the world, while remaining compassionate towards others. I want her to love herself, no matter which genes she has inherited for her physical makeup. Most of all, I want her to be happy.

For me, this programme reassured me that my instincts in parenting in some areas are spot on. There will be no Bratz dolls or similar here (though I might be OK with Barbie type dolls, after all, I had them!) and I will attempt to minimise exposure to music videos (another big issue for the children in the show). Most of all, I will continue to do my best to develop my daughters self belief, so that she can be the best her that she can be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mother Wars

What is it about motherhood that brings out the worst in so many?

You have:
breast versus bottle
extended feeding vs weaning
SAHM vs working mums
MCN vs disposable usage
CIO vs responding to every cry

Obviously most people have a way of parenting in these areas that they have chosen. Often, in the case of some of the choices perceived as more alternative, there is a belief and values system that underpins it. For example, I know many people who use modern cloth nappies (MCN) because they see it as their way of helping with the environmental impact a new baby can have, I really respect that.

But why can't people on one side of the fence see that the people on the other side have their reasons for their choices too. And just because the reasons behind their choices don't match with their own, doesn't make them any less valid or important. It simply makes them different.

A bottle feeder might have many reasons for not breast feeding. They might have had difficulty with milk coming in or with feeding, their baby may have had trouble feeding from the breast, there might be a deeper reason behind their choice including previous sexual abuse. Imagine asking someone why they chose to bottle feed their baby and getting a response regarding sexual abuse. Imagine how bad that would make you feel - now imagine what it would be like to be that person constantly facing judgement for a choice they have made for a very good reason, and a very personal reason.

Everyone wants to convert people to their way of thinking, especially if they feel they have experienced an epiphany. I know that I am a breast feeder extraordinaire these days - funny, as prior to giving birth I always said I would give it a go but not push it if it became too hard (well, i had to pump after every feed for weeks and had the bleeding cracked nipples and I still kept going - but that was right for me, I don't need a mother of the year award). But where does that pressure end?

Information is power. It is very important that choices that people make are as informed as possible. So if you have a cause that you want to push, give information, not judgement. I hope that is what I do with the things i am passionate about.

Some days it seems that we have enough to fight without fighting each other.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

First Sickness

Lily has just got over her first serious bug. I thought that she had vomited before - but no, until you see a tummy bug spew you have not seen baby vomit.

Of course it occurred with brilliant timing - my husband had to spend the weekend (day and night) at a continuous cricket game aiming for a world record (which they achieved), so I was home alone.

Fortunately, there was only one day where Lily was very clingy with the bug. We basically spent that day lying on the couch with her snuggled up with me. Actually, it was kind of nice as she is usually far too much into everything to snuggle. I did have to change my clothes twice, but that is all part of the job!

The next three days were much better. She would spew, then zoom around the room happily. No more nice cuddles for me!

I took her to the doctor on the first day of the bug, just to rule everything else out (although friends had had the bug so I knew what it was). Which got me thinking about how great my doctor is. I have yet to be unable to see a doctor at my doctor's practice whenever I need to. And if my usual doctor is unavailable, then I can get in to see one of the others. They also do not charge at all for under 5's.

I think it is really important that people feel they can take their children to the doctor whenever they need to. I believe that places that can't give appointments on the day you call, or charge for under 5's create increased illness and children slipping through cracks.

There seems to be plenty of places out there that don't charge, so I wonder why people continue to see doctors that do. And why some doctors need to charge and others don't?

My advice would be to check if your GP charges for under 5's, check if they keep slots free for emergency visits and what constitutes an emergency/late notice visit and if you are not happy, look at other clinics.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Working and Breastfeeding

There was an interesting article in the Herald today, discussing a law change which will force employers to provide facilities and breaks for breastfeeding mothers.

Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said yesterday all employers would be required to provide breastfeeding breaks and set aside appropriate facilities, where reasonable and practicable.

This part concerns me - how easy is it going to be for a work place to say - oh no, sorry, not reasonable or practicable to have that set up here. I am a teacher when working, and I would almost guarantee that most, if not all, schools would argue that they cannot (a) find room for a woman to feed/express in relative private; or (b) cover breaks that fall outside the normal daily school breaks. Certainly I would expect there to be complaining around how unfair it is that breast feeding mothers do not have to do playground duty as they are expressing/feeding. Breaks would be unable to be lengthened to allow mothers to whip down the road to the child's care place as there are 30 children waiting for their teacher to return.

I have a friend who is a lawyer and is returning to work later this year, when their child is around 7 months old. They will be able to continue feeding if she chooses, due to the nature of the job. The daycare is nearby and she has the power to choose when she takes breaks and for how long, within reason, without any change to the law.

Isn't it somewhat ironic that a so called 'parent friendly' job like teaching will be unable to support the new law like other professions? And what could be a way to enable them to support breastfeeding continuation?

Don't get me wrong, I completely support any changes that make the workplace more mother/child friendly. I just feel that laws like this are somewhat naive in thinking that it will go beyond the people who already have better conditions than others.

Dr Judith Galtry points this out:
"The people this provision will help will be those who have clout in the workplace and whose employers don't want to lose them. People working in the biscuit factory or as night-shift cleaners are going to find it hard to get that right."

And not just the real blue collar workers either. If I can instantly see problems with teaching, a huge employer of women, there must be thousands more women in jobs that the law change will not make the blind bit of difference to, and as usual, the women that need support the most will be the ones least likely to have positive change.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Formula Debate

Before I get started I want to make it clear that I do not have any problem with people who need to use formula for whatever reason. I do not even have a problem with people who choose to use formula for any reason, so long as it is an informed choice, made with the knowledge of the difference between breast milk and formula. This is not intended to beat up those mums at all (but I will look at mummy wars in postings to come).

Lily is now a little over 8 months old and I continue to breastfeed. It is easy - free (bonus for a SAHM) and works well for us.

What I am finding interesting is that breastfeeding support follows something like this:

Pre-birth: 'Oh you are going to breast feed, aren't you, it is the best for the baby...'

Birth: 'It is so great that you are giving breast feeding a good go, it is the best for the baby...'

3 months: 'Great that breast feeding is working so well for you, it is the best for the baby. So, when do you think you might introduce a bottle - it will help baby sleep through, give you a break...'

6 months: 'Wow, you have been so good with breastfeeding. So when are you going to start weaning?'

8 months: 'Oh, still feeding then, will you stop at a year?

1 year: *uncomfortable silence*

Why does this happen? Why is it great to start feeding your baby, but then have to move onto a formula so that other people feel comfortable? And why do some people feel uncomfortable about such a thing anyway?

For the record, I used to think it was a bit icky when people fed past 2 years. I still don't think it is a choice i would make, but now I can see why they might choose to feed. Not to mention the longer you feed, the better the health benefits are for the mother!

I think that it is no coincidence that the general societal acceptance of weaning onto formula at around 6 months occurs at the same time that formula is allowed to be advertised. Currently formula companies cannot advertise new born products. Most maternity carers are very limited in the information they give so they can push breast feeding. That means that many people who need advice on formula early on, when their milk supply is low or non existent for example, cannot access information easily.

Then at 6 months they suddenly come out of the woodwork - ta da! Formula time! So it becomes more normal to give formula than to breastfeed.

There is even an ad for a 'follow-on' formula for babies over a year - so you can be sure as to give your child all the nutrients they need.

Perhaps their parents haven't heard of food? You know, vegetables and fruit and well balanced meals? Why are they guilting parents into getting something they don't actually need?

So, next time you see someone feeding past 6 months, a year, 2 years... stop and think about why you feel the way you do, especially if it is negative. Chances are that the feelings are created by advertising, rather than from something you really believe.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sleeping, sleeping, sleeping.

Well after such a long break, it seems best to return to the most recent topic. Sleeping. Ah, dear to my heart indeed!

We have had success here - Lily is now sleeping through the night from around 7.30 pm till 6.30 am, with a feed at 10.30 pm and a brief wake up around 5 am where I resettle her. The wake up is due to her new skill of crawling - she prefers to sleep on her tummy now but when she wakes in the early hours of the morning to find herself on her tummy, she forgets that she can get back to her back by herself. So in I trek, flip her back and off to sleep she goes.

Every now and then she doesn't wake at 5, and that means a longer stretch for me - bliss! Of course it took ages for me to sleep through - i keep waking, expecting her to wake and would lie there trying to hear her. That has stopped now, thankfully.

The key for us was getting to the end of a tether! After trying to settle her for 45 minutes at 1 am one night, I decided I had enough! So I put her into bed and left her to it, popping back in every 5 to 10 minutes to put her back on her back and giving her a pat. Within 30 minutes she was down to intermittent grizzling, then by 40 minutes she was asleep! Less time than I had just spent rocking her!

So further to my post on doing what is right for you, I really want people to know that you will probably know when you can change things without getting upset.

Trying to settle Lily this way any earlier would have been too traumatic for us all and would have failed. But this was the right time - and I just knew. Night 2 she resettled in about 10 minutes, night 3 it was about 5 - and now she goes off to sleep each night happy, even on those nights you would swear she was wide awake!

We do still have to pop her on her back at times, but as she gets better with crawling, she learns how to do this herself.

I know the reason this was so successful was the nights spent stretching her out beforehand (as discussed in the previous entry), so it wasn't too much of a shock to the system.

Of course now I actually sometimes miss those snuggly middle of the night feeds where you feel like the only 2 people alive. You can't win really, can you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting Babies to Sleep

Now this is an issue close to every mother's heart: how do I get my baby to sleep?

I am afraid that I don't have the answer either, though I will share various tips I have learnt by reading and doing.

The first thing I have learnt is that you will not set yourself up for a lifetime of misery by feeding baby to sleep sometimes (or even often in the early days), or by rocking the to sleep, or cuddling them even. While I know that bad habits can develop (no one wants to have to rock their baby to sleep for the next five years for sure), they can be broken quite quickly once you personally have the time and energy to devote to it.

Early on Lily did a few nights sleeping through, then a few more, until she was giving us a minimum of 8 hours at a little over 3 months. Ah - what bliss! Sadly it lasted for maybe 3 weeks max, and we returned to broken sleep yet again - and we still have it.

I do find the adage of 'good day sleep = good night sleep' is true here. When she can't settle to day sleep and is grumpy during the day, we will have more wake ups that night. So having some days at home to ensure sleep routines are followed is important. I found that out the hard way when I had a couple of exceptionally busy weeks and Lily responded by refusing to fall asleep unaided for any naps. One week at home (except for coffee group!) fixed that and she was back into falling asleep herself.

From the beginning I tried to get Lily to fall asleep by herself, and I admit, I worried when I had to help her out. I soon got over that when I realised that worse than a baby who you have to help to fall asleep is a baby who is overtired and has NO show of falling asleep easily, then once asleep will wake up far too soon. It is far easier to start changing habits in a baby who is well rested than one that needs to catch up on a lot of missed sleep.

CIO = crying it out. This term inspires massive debate and some people can get very aggressive on both sides. Basically, some believe that leaving a baby to cry raised their stress levels (cortisol levels) which damages the baby in the future. Other people believe that going in to a child every time they cry is setting you up as their slave.

Personally - do what works for you. I couldn't do CIO with Lily - she has an on and off switch unless it is grizzling so would scream for hours and I am not prepared to do that. But then some mothers are so sleep deprived that they are in danger, mentally, that unless they get some sleep things could go horribly wrong and CIO might be the only way to fix it. Again I say - use what works for you, and don't let others make you feel guilty if you know that you are doing what you and your family need.

The same applies for co-sleeping - if you have minimised the risks (no drinking/drugs/smoking etc) and baby is safe in with you and it works for you - then don't let others make you feel bad about your choice!

Sometimes babies will chat away in bed for a while, or grizzle or even give a little cry before falling asleep. It pays not to react instantly to every sound. Also, the mum going in can sometimes make them think they are going to feed. If you are breastfeeding then you can smell of milk - even if they are not hungry they might want the comfort of a feed. If possible send a partner or relative in to try and settle them before you go.

We are currently trying to stretch Lily at night by not feeding her straight away when she wakes. My husband gets up and tries to soothe her, if she isn't asleep within 15 minutes then i will get up and feed her. We have gone from waking 3-4 hours to a 6 hour stretch last night. i will let you know how this continues over the next few nights and may elaborate more.

In summary!

1. Don't panic if you are doing everything 'wrong' according to other sleep places, you can change what you are doing once you feel up to it.
2. Time at home is important, don't go out every day every week and expect your baby to be getting good day sleep.
3. It is easier to change sleep habits in a well rested baby than one that is overtired.
4. Use techniques that work for you and don't let other people guilt you.
5. try to enlist other people into helping settle baby so you don't have to do it everytime.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm Back! After the festive season...

Well it has been a very busy time of the year and I have been very quiet. I am sure that everyone else was busy too, so you probably didn't miss me anyway!

Christmas and New Years have been and gone, and my daughter has been through her first Christmas. It was great fun, as you would expect. But I think we are extra fortunate in that I only had to visit one family group on Christmas day. Plus they provide everything and give us a wonderful day.

I have heard from friends who have had to travel from one family to another, covering an insane amount of kilometres. Some have to travel for a couple of hours in each direction just to satisfy everyone. I cannot begin to imagine doing that at all, let alone with one or more children in the car.

Is there not a better way? I know some people who have Christmas Eve with one side of the family, then Christmas Day with the other. Or maybe Boxing Day instead of Christmas Eve. Even so, that is a lot of travelling.

I remember when I was young we would all meet at my grandparents for Christmas Day, a whole heap of us, step-families and all, and celebrate together. They were wonderful days as my Grandparents lived in the country, so there was a bit of room and if you really wanted to be alone, you could find peace somewhere.

It also meant there were cousins to play with instead of mere siblings, once all the grown ups fell asleep, stomachs full of food and brains scrambled by a combination of the Queens message and a few glasses of wine or beer.

Things like this seem less common these days, almost like both sides of the family want to put their claim on the younger generations. If we hark back to the favourite saying that it takes a village to raise a child, why can't the village get together and celebrate as one, instead of creating opposing tribes stretching families between them.

Just a thought.