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.