parenting

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Trusting Ourselves as ParentsDo you remember the day you first held your child in your arms? And you swore that you would do everything right. But let me tell you, there is no right way. There is listening to your heart, and listening to your instincts. There is trusting yourself. Trusting yourself a a person and as a parent.

But this is easier than said (or written). It feels like we live in a society that encourages self-doubt. We start out as confident babies and toddlers. And as childhood progresses, we start to worry. We begin doubting our capabilities. By the time we are teenagers, we are often drowning in negativity and we have lost belief in our instincts. It can often take years to gain back one's confidence. Some people never get it back. It wasn't until my mid 20s that I started to trust myself.

Becoming a parent is a time when many of us begin to lose faith in our instincts. How can you trust the way you want to raise your child when a million experts are telling you a million other ways. It is not always easy to follow your instincts. But we must. We should trust ourselves, as people and as parents. Trust that no one knows your child better than you. And yes, we all sometimes need some guidance. But if we let go the fear of doing things the wrong way, then we can finally trust ourselves.

 

mumturnedmom

 

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The Burden of Breastfeeding

When I was first pregnant, I would imagine holding my precious newborn baby in my arms, gazing at the person I had created. I wanted to do everything right for my girl, from having a natural birth to breastfeeding.  All the research said that breast is best. For the baby, and for the mother. What I didn't expect was how tough it would be to breastfeed my baby.

You may have read that my natural birth turned to a caesarean section when my daughter proved determined to be breech. It was tough enough dealing with the c-section, the shame and the pain. I didn't expect that it would take a few days for my milk to come in, and by then Moozles was hungry and jaundiced. At the hospital we had to give her formula from a little spoon. It was such a stressful time, and I just wanted to go home.

But the midwives at St Thomas' Hospital, London, did not want me to leave. They kept pressuring me to breastfeeding, even using the pump. But nothing. No milk would come. They told me that I would not get such support at home, that the hospital was the best place for me. Normally one will be discharged from the hospital 3-4 days after their c-section, if there are no complications. I stayed for five days. On the fourth day, the midwife said that my heart rate was high and that I needed to remain in the hospital. And even on that fifth day, they wanted me to remain but Husband and I were united and strong that we would not be staying another night.

At home, my milk came in. But by then Moozles wanted nothing to do with my breasts. She screamed every time I tried to bring her close to me. It hurt my heart. So Husband went to Mothercare and bought a breastfeeding pump and a breastfeeding book. That evening Husband used the new breast pump to withdraw my milk. I remember the pain of the first pump. He had to do it for me (luckily it wasn't a manual pump) as I was crying in agony. But we were able to finally feed our baby with breastmilk. But it was not how I had imagined it.

For one week, I expressed my breast milk for Moozles. And she continued to reject my breast. I planned to quit breastfeeding after the first three weeks. I knew I could not continue with the heart break. The only positive for me was that Husband was getting the opportunity to feed our baby. But then, we followed a tip from the breastfeeding book. I used nipple shields, and all of a sudden Moozles would take the milk from my breast. It was not exactly how I had pictured it, but it was more like the idealised version. I decided to give myself small goals--breastfeed for two months, then four, then six, then we would see. I used the nipple shields until she was five months old, and then I breastfed normally until she was almost one.

I am so glad that I breastfed my daughter (and later my son). But I never felt like I was a better mum than the mothers who fed their babies formula. I think some people don't realise that breastfeeding has its own problems, and many of us struggle and feel inadequate. As mothers, we put enough pressure on ourselves. We do not need other mothers or health professionals putting unnecessary stress. Whether we breastfeed or bottle feed, surely it is about doing what is best for our child and ourselves. As long as a child is well fed, it should not matter where their milk is made. As long as it is given with love.

The Burden of Breastfeeding

 

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Moozles made it clear, from a very young age, who her favourite parent was. I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Daddy. At the weekends, she would tell him to go away, to go to work. She only wanted Mummy. When we decided to have another child, I thought Husband would get his chance at being the favourite parent. It never occurred to me that I would be the favoured parent to both children.

Favourite Parent

Children are fickle creatures. One day they only want mummy to change their nappy, and the next day they are daddy's shadow. But as I am in the throes of the former, I thought I would offer some tips on what not to do.

1. Don't say things like 'Don't worry honey, I'm sure he/she loves you'. It just sounds like you're rubbing it in, says Husband.

2. Don't offer reasons as to why your child doesn't favour your partner. Husband doesn't find this helpful.

3. Don't offer your partner 'helpful' tips on how to make your child like them. According to Husband, that is very condescending.

4. Don't say things like 'I hope nothing ever happens to me, imagine how sad he/she would be if you were the only parent'. Husband says that is quite cruel.

5. Don't make sad noises and give your partner pitying looks when your child screams at their very presence. Apparently, it does not ease the pain, says Husband.

6. Don't laugh when your child hits and kicks if your partner tries to read him/her a story. Husband says that it is not funny.

I hope I have managed to shed some clarity on the subject. And if you're not the favourite parent - better luck next time!

 

 

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Son, have fun. Daughter, hope you are learning valuable skills for the future.
Son, have fun. Daughter, hope you are learning valuable skills for the future.

My daughter is six years old, and my son is two. I wish that I could say that I treated them equally. But recently, I have realised that I don't. As I consider myself to be a strong woman, I want my daughter to grow up to be a strong woman too. I am determined that she grow up to be independent and resolute. And my son? Well, I want him to be a respectful man, a kind and happy person. Do you see the disparity?

Dubz is sweet and happy (who knows if he is clever, after all he is only two). He has all the potential of becoming prime minister or a rock star. Moozles is sweet and clever. So I do not want her working in a lowly post in an office, passed over for promotion because she is too bashful. So I am a bit tougher on her. But I don't think this is right.

As a woman, you grow up with so much criticism. From yourself, and others. The way you look, dress, act. It is not fair to have to deal with that from your mother. I want my daughter to have a great life. I want her to be happy. But I also want her to be successful. I know how tough it is for women in the workplace. We have to deal with bosses who stare at our chests and colleagues who comment on our looks. And when we have children, the masses voice their loud comments on pregnancy sickness, maternity leave and any reduction of hours. And to top that off, we are paid 35% less than our male counterparts. Ouch.

There is some sense in wanting to prepare my girl for this world. But while I prepare her, I should not be critical of her. Moozles needs to know that her mother is in her corner, in this big bad world. That I am fair and kind, in a world that can be biased and cruel. She should not grow up seeing me encourage her brother's cheekiness while expecting her to be serious and studious. Mother-Daughter relationships are complicated enough. I don't want Moozles feeling like an outsider as she watches Dubz and I clown around. After all, there is room for all three of us to be silly.

Are Mothers Tougher on Daughters

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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mumturnedmom

This week's topic from MumTurnedMom is 'the mistakes we make'. This really spoke to me. I have made my share of mistakes. I think that I am my worst critic. Especially as a mother. Mothers are continually bombarded with issues of parenting perfection. The perfectly cleaned house. The perfectly made meal. Those perfect homemade cupcakes and the perfectly made craft project. All whilst wearing the perfect outfit with the perfectly styled hair.

Sit down, ladies. I have something to tell you. You see, there is no perfection. There is trying, and doing your best. And mistakes. A whole lot of mistakes. But it doesn't really matter. As long as you try your best at parenting. As long as you love and protect your children. It is okay to make mistakes. Your children don't care if the house is clean. They don't care if you've warmed up fish fingers and peas or if you've steamed sea bass on a bed of spinach. They don't care about the dust on your skirting boards. They don't even care if you wear a messy ponytail every day.

Your child probably does care about the crafts and the cupcakes, though. But they can actually be a bit rubbish, and he/she will still think they are amazing. That's the beauty of children. They see the best in things. They don't see the mistakes. They notice the time you have put in. They notice the attention you have given them. So put down the mop, cast aside the hair straighteners. Grab a glitter glue stick and make your child's day.

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My daughter, Moozles, is six years old. And in her short life, she has taken part in many clubs. There was Ballet for four months. Street Dance for three months. Ballet again for three months. Gymnastics for one year. But there seems to be one common denominator in the activities she has engaged in during the past two years. She has quit them all.

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When is it okay to quit? This is a dilemma that most parents must face. We all know how beneficial it is for children to engage in extra-curricular activities. And it can be terrific for children to be able to take part in many different activities. It is a great chance to find what you are good at, what you enjoy. But what if your child wants to quit the activity they had previously begged to join? How long is enough before you allow your child to quit? One month? Three months? One year?

I understand the importance of learning persistence, perseverance and commitment. If children are allowed to quit activity after activity, they might not learn the importance of steadfastness and dedication. Surely this will influence them later in life, quitting relationships and jobs at any sign of adversity. I certainly do not want to raise a quitter.

But I also think that children's opinions and feelings should be taken into account. It is tough, especially when you are little, to judge which activities you will enjoy. The image of doing beautiful ballet dancing might not match up to the real life of practicing a plié and a jeté. I remember being made to continue with piano lessons, as a child, long after I wanted to quit. I do not regret quitting. I do regret that I never got to try dance classes or gymnastics. Maybe I would have wanted to quit those too. But I will never know as I was busy playing the violin and piano.

As parents, we are constantly bombarded with the 'best way' to raise our children. But I think it is important to understand your individual child, to examine what makes him/her happy. Sometimes our children are driven by fatigue, laziness, fear, lack of ability or just a lack of interest. We need to pay attention to our children, rather than expecting them to persevere.

Some children are lucky enough to find a beloved club or activity early on. Some children need longer to find the activity they really engage with. No one wants their child to be a quitter. But we all want our children to be happy. Sometimes, it is okay to quit.

 

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Can one judge the value of parenting by gender? Are there biological benefits to being a female that makes one a better parent? Are women more nurturing, caring and loving? Are women born with an instinctive ability to better care of children? After all, women are the ones who grow life. Surely they are better able to take care of the people they have brought into the world? Right?

Wrong. Being a great parent is about showing love and understanding, not about your gender. Though Husband helped to 'make' our children, let's be honest, I did most of the work. But that does not mean that my love is any greater. As a Stay-At-Home-Mum, I spend a great deal of time caring for my children. Husband works 45-55 hours per week. I know more about our childrens' routines, their likes and dislikes. But this does not make me the better parent. Husband is an amazing father. He gives our children so much love and attention. And if he was the Stay-At-Home-Dad, and I was the breadwinner, we could not care for our children any more or any less.

Parenthood is an equalizer. None of us are ready or prepared. We have children and we either thrive or flounder. By thrive, I mean that we do our best and love the hell out of our kids. My flounder, I am talking about the parents we read about in the news. The ones that make us cry and shudder, and hold our children a bit tighter. There are some great mums and equally great dads out there. Being a great parent is about doing our best, loving our children and helping them grow up to be happy adults. What do you think makes a great parent? And do you think gender makes any difference?

Have a look at Mum Turned Mom for more posts discussing this week's topic, 'Are Women Better Parents Than Men?'

mumturnedmom

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This week Mum Turned Mom offered 'Shine' as the topic of The Prompt. This made me think about how I raise my children. How my friends raise their children. We want our children to do well. Many want their children to excel. But how much? Do you want your child to be the star of their class? The prima ballerina or the black belt in karate? Perhaps you just want him or her to be the best person they can be. Whatever that means.

But what happens when they do shine? What do you do when little Wilfred or Freya is the best student in their class? Do you make a Facebook announcement? Do you send an email to your family and friends? Or do you just keep the knowledge between you and your partner, and gush about your little darlings in the evenings? Recently, parents were announcing their children's GCSE grades on Facebook. Although I did not grow up in the UK and am not overly familiar with GCSEs, I didn't think that some of the grades were very good. Parents seemed thrilled nonetheless.

And what about your child? Are they allowed to tell everyone that they are a candidate for Mensa or even that they can now ride a bike? Or are you teaching your child to be modest and self-deprecating? A few weeks ago, my six-year old daughter was mentioning how clever and beautiful she is. Husband was aghast to hear such outspoken self-admiration, such high esteem. But shouldn't children have healthy self-esteem? How are they to succeed if they do not think highly of themselves? How can you shine if you are not confident in your intelligence or your abilities? I understand that too much self-esteem can lead children thinking they have greater abilities than they do, but I think we need to find a balance. As parents, we should give our children the confidence to feel that they can shine. How do you find the right balance?

 

mumturnedmom

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Starting School

You've done it. After weeks, maybe even months, of agonising about it, you have sent your little one off to school. You may have even shed a tear while walking hesitantly into the building. Your child, on the other hand, most likely skipped into the classroom exhilarated with the thought of now being a school boy/girl. Perhaps you've been happily enjoying some quiet time in a coffee shop? Maybe some cake at home while tears drop into your tea?

Well, there's no need to worry about your child. He/she is at school, making new friends, learning new things and generally being quite happy. And yes, they will be quite tired at first and will also be hungry, so very hungry (make sure to always have a snack when you pick them up from school). But you need to worry about yourself. Because it's not just your child who has begun school. You. Have. Too.

  • Making Friends - Your child isn't the only one who will be making new friends. Sure, you could just freeze out the other mums and dads, but that won't be easy. Other parents  can be a great asset if you're ill or running late, and need someone to help with school pick-up and drop-off. It's also nice to chat with others who are going through the same things. And since they normally live near you, it's dead easy to meet up for coffee/gin. But just because your children are friends, it doesn't mean that you will like one another. And just because you like another parent, it doesn't guarantee that they will like you in return. Another tip, if the parents have older children, be prepared that they won't have time for you. It turns out that parents normally make their closest relationships with the parents of their eldest child. Don't take it too personally if someone you get along with, doesn't want to be your new bestie.
  • Homework--If your child has begun Reception, you won't really have to worry about regular homework until Year Two (unless they are at private school--then it's homework every day). But there will be projects. Projects that your child won't actually be doing. They may pick the topic and do some sticking, but it's going to be Mum or Dad doing most of the work. But there will be weekly reading. Some children are happy to do this. Some children need some bribery persuasion. You will need a lot of wine/gin/chocolate to cope with the arguing.
  • PTA - Schools need money to run those fun, educational extras, and that's where the Parent Teacher Associations come in handy. If you work full-time, you will feel guilty for never being able to help run the bake sale stalls or to volunteer in the classroom. If you are a Stay-At-Home-Mum, then you will feel bitter for always having to help. Do as much as you can, but don't feel bad if you can't help.

There you go. Some helpful tips for surviving school as a parent. Good luck. I know you can get through it! xx

 

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Soft playIf you are a parent, chances are that you have been to a soft play centre at least once. And if your child is seven or eight years old, then it's likely that you've been to the soft play at least 57 times. Moreover if you have more than one child. Most adults are not big fans of the noise and chatter of the soft play. Though it can be a godsend on a rainy day when your children are about to tear your house down brick by brick. But I think there are several important lessons that children can learn at the soft play. Practical lessons that will help them in the future.

1. Survival of the Fittest - Despite its name, the soft play can get rough. Children push, shout, kick and spit. And that's your own kids. Other people's children are even worse. The soft play teaches kids how to deal with a kick to the ribs and still get to the slide first. That's how future CEOs are made.

2. There's Always A Bully - In the real world, not everyone will be kind and caring. There is always someone, be they big or small, who will act like a bastard. You might not be able to ignore this person but you don't have to let this person get you down or keep you from having fun.

3. Building Relationships - In an unfamiliar land of play structures, strangers come together to form alliances. There the smaller ones become fast friends in order to protect themselves from that one mean kid. A smaller child will follow an older child around. Maybe they are of the same gender or age, but kids can find common ground easily if they want to make a new friend.

4. Run, Run, As Fast As You Can - Speed is good. Really good. Climb to the top, jump over the thingamajig, race to the slide. Caution is not always best. Sometimes you need to just go as fast as your little legs can carry you.

5. Having Fun Alone - Many children do not want to play by themselves. The soft play can be a way for some children to want to do things, without being attached to their mummy or daddy. Conversely, this can be good for parents who sometimes just want to sit quietly and have a cup of coffee.

So the next time it rains or the kids are going stir-crazy, just take them to the soft play. It's not that bad. Plus you could even get a nice cup of tea out of it.

Soft play lessons

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soft play