Parenting styles and reality

Now, I am aware this post may be controversial. Parenting trends are all the rage and each has to have a name it seems. ‘Gentle’ parenting often seems to go hand in hand with attachment parenting which includes baby wearing, baby led weaning and bed sharing. And I am fan of many aspects of these styles of parenting. Some things make a lot of sense and I want to make that clear from the start. I am not disputing the benefits of such parenting trends nor am I criticising them. 

I like holding my baby close and carrying her in a baby carrier. I often use a front carrier rather than a sling of any kind, as both of my daughters and I found it a lot more comfortable. But what I don’t like is the strict ‘rules’ that some like to assign to attachment parenting which suggest that this is not deemed to be baby wearing and so is somehow less beneficial. My baby is happy, it works for us, so it is best for us.

I like cuddling my baby in bed next to me but I believe she is safer, happier and better placed generally in her cot to sleep. This, again, doesn’t comply with attachment parenting philosophy and therefore must mean I am from that harsh camp of parents who likes to banish her baby away from the maternal embrace into her own, (mighty expensive and comfortable, I might add,) cot to sleep. 

I think baby led weaning works best hand in hand with traditional weaning. Some foods work best eaten with hands, some delivered by a spoon. Finger foods allow for manual dexterity practices, spoon feeding for tastes and ensuring she actually eats. A recent debate I read focussed on whether ‘spoon-loading’ was allowed if you were truly doing baby led weaning. What a waste of mental energy to work out if it’s ‘OK’ to put food on a spoon.

I try my best to give my toddler daughter choices, speak to her in as equal a manner possible allowing for her age appropriate emotional development and maturity, and involve her generally rather than bark orders and instructions in her direction which I don’t think is cool. But do I always manage it?

No. There are times when I believe that children need to learn to follow rules or procedures in the same manner adults needs to; it’s how society works. Or simply to follow a set of age appropriate instructions so that the rest of the people in the family can coexist. Life is not always a case of, “Well, I understand your opinion so let’s discuss it.” It might sound a harsh lesson to learn, but as adults we do not get this privilege of always doing things our own way. Sometimes, we need to do certain things and listen to certain people, and by giving a child too much autonomy when they lack the emotional maturity to cope, we are not benefitting them at all. As a teacher, I have seen plenty of children who have never been taught that they need to follow instructions previously which makes for unpopular and uncooperative children amongst peers and teachers alike.

I give my daughter choices such as, “Would you like to eat a banana or grapes for snack today?” This, I believe, gives her a choice she can handle and some control over her life. She is a well behaved, social, lovely little girl so I think we must be doing something right most of the time.

I read recently about gentle parenting involving avoiding arguing with your child or telling them off as is damages the parent-child relationship and makes the child afraid. Everything should be along the lines of, “I understand why you want to do this but let’s try this way.” I believe this works to an extent but sometimes once mummy has said this for several hours already, there is simply nothing left to negotiate and it doesn’t do a toddler any favours to give them more choices than they are emotionally mature enough to handle. I do not believe asserting parental control via clear instructions instills fear if said in a calm and controlled manner. Yelling, hitting and bullying instill fear, not being told clearly and calmly what to do by a loving parent.

So I wonder why we have to give these parenting styles names and a set of rules at all. Or why we have to choose one. Can’t we just do our best and use common sense? Do what’s right for our own family? Lets stop assigning labels and judging everyone else by our own values and assume most parents want what’s best for their child and do the best they can.


Musings from the supermarket battleground……

It’s funny where the mind goes on what should be a fairly routine trip to the supermarket. Unfortunately, with two children under the age of three, there is no such as a ‘routine’ trip, or a straightforward task. Every task has to be planned with military style precision in order to avoid a toddler standing in a puddle of wee as she didn’t think to tell mummy she needed the toilet. Whilst mummy is busy breastfeeding a screaming baby and so cannot easily clean up the puddle of wee without exposing herself to the general public. True story. 

1. Why is the only trolley that doesn’t have a coffee cup holder the one which is designed to carry both an infant and a toddler side by side? Surely if a survey was conducted, the people who would need coffee the most would be people using a trolley that holds two pre school-aged children?

2. And on a similar note, why are the aforementioned trolleys the least accessible of all? How exactly is a mother with a baby bag on her shoulder, a toddler holding her hand and a baby strapped to her front supposed to climb over half a flower display and move several other trolleys in order to access the one trolley in the whole place that allows her to do actually do a shop?

3. The fleeting but unmistakable look of solidarity that passes between mothers  wrangling toddlers and babies as we pass each other in the aisles. A look that manages to say, ‘I know where you are coming from, I’ve got your back, sista,’ without actually opening our mouths at all. A look that equates to an understanding usually only achieved through friendships spanning decades.

4. The few angels we have encountered who stop to distract baby girl when she is screaming so loudly I feel sure we are about to be asked to leave, or offer to help me get my children to the car when we are trying dash between the rain drops without a coat amidst a torrential downpour, or stop to tell my big girl what a great big sister she is to hold her baby sister’s hand all the way around the supermarket. You know who you are, angels, please don’t stop restoring my faith in humanity.


Mummy guilt, sleep deprivation and the Buddha.

‘The Tibetans don’t even have a word for guilt – only ‘remorse’ and this is different. Whereas guilt plays out as a mindless and repetitive attack on our worth as a person, remorse is simply a clear acknowledgement that we have made a mistake, taking full responsibility without taking it quite so personally, (Sarah Napthali, Buddhism for Parents on the Go.)’

Motherhood sometimes feels like a thankless task. But the Buddhist advise shows that this is actually a creation of our own minds, rather than a true reflection of our relationship with our children or our ability as a mother. Show me a person who hasn’t made mistakes and I will show you a liar. It is what we do with this mistakes that matters. Errors in judgement, mistakes, things we wish we could do differently – however we word them, there is a litany of things we might do differently if we weren’t sleep deprived, harassed by an inquisitive toddler and generally running on empty.

I would love to have endless patience. My patience levels have certainly improved since having children through necessity, although it is much easier to practise patience, mindful parenting and calmness on days when everything is going well. 


Breast is best but formula isn’t so bad either.

I know that the heading of this article puts me in the firing line from the breastfeeding mafia. And even writing this article actually makes me a little bit of a fraud, as I haven’t actually made the switch from breast to formula yet. My daughter is still small, although in a few weeks, we will need to make the switch when I return to work. However, the reason we haven’t made the switch yet is simple. Guilt.

It doesn’t feel like it is my free choice to make. Every time I try to search for tips on how to make the switch, the advice starts with judgemental statements reminding me that breast milk should be the only thing my baby has until she is six months old. What about financial commitments that necessitate returning to work and make this impossible? Regardless of all the other factors I have discussed in my previous posts, it is important to remember that formula is a viable option and things aren’t always as simple as parenting websites like them to be.

Considerations such as wanting my body back at some stage make me seem like a selfish mother and are so rarely voiced by other mums that even having the thought pass through my mind makes me feel like a hideous mother and ever so alone. The only woman honest enough to voice this that I have found is the unmumsymum. How I wish I had found the post below with my first daughter. Our breast feeding journey has been infinitely simpler with my second daughter and I will sorely miss the night time feeds and closeness when we no longer have it. But things evolve. Babies grow. New stages occur. And I could certainly do without being made to feel like I am deciding to make a poor and unhealthy choice of my baby by other mums and the medical profession. Unmumsymum, I salute you.



‘I want to do it this way.’ The toddler answer to everything

‘But I want to do it this way.’ My toddler daughter’s way of asserting her independence. And that’s fine, a natural stage in development as far as I am led to believe. But does it have to be the reply to everything? Believe it or not, there are some times when mummy might know best and that really don’t need arguing about. And yet I haven’t found an answer that works yet.

 No, you can’t put your shoes on the wrong feet because you will fall over and hurt yourself. No, you can’t put both of your legs in the same trouser leg as it simply won’t work and again, you will fall over and hurt yourself. I guess the sensible answer is to let her do it her way and learn for herself, although when the possible result means falling literally flat on her face onto a very hard floor, this seems a little harsh. Answers on a postcard please. 


Staring isn’t helpful……

So I was that mother today. The one in the supermarket with a small, screaming, red-faced baby strapped to me that everyone was staring at. At first I thought it was my imagination, but then it became more obvious and harder to deny. They were definitely staring at me. 

And for anyone who finds themselves in the position of the bystanders, staring isn’t helpful. Even if it was well meant or sympathetic staring, which I still can’t decide if any was, I am well aware my baby is screaming and no, she isn’t hungry or wet or being painfully tortured. All the staring does is to make me more aware of the spectacle we are causing and more eager to finish my shopping and leave. As quickly as possible.

Thankfully, a well meaning security guard stepped in to help me pack the bags as quickly as possible, (not an easy task with a baby strapped to my front and semi deafness in one ear due to aforementioned screaming.) I don’t know if this was to help me, or to move me along as quickly as possible to save the ears of the other shoppers, but however it was meant, the help was gratefully received.

And of course, as soon as we left the shop and were in the privacy of the car with no judging or curious eyes on us, what did I hear? Silence. With no witnesses to prove it. Thanks, baby girl. Impeccable timing as always. Calmness restored, at least until the next outing…….


Back to Breast versus Bottle again

The breast feeding process has been a whole different experience this time. My second daughter latched on immediately in the recovery room after delivery and apart from a difficult second week when I had to revert to expressing to allow some open wounds to heel, we have had a ‘successful’ experience so far until our six week ‘birthday’ today. Long may it continue.

Although finding the correct word to adequately express how I feel about Brest feeding is tricky. ‘Successful’ could have been substituted for easy/wonderful/straight forward. Except none of those words really sum up the process fairly. Easy? I am not sure if mums are allowed to share how trapped breast feeding can make them feel but here I am admitting to just that. Breast feeding inevitably means a complete lack of any time away from the baby, another thing I am not sure mums are supposed to admit to needing to or wanting. But not a single hour can be spent away from a baby when you are the sole food source.

Wonderful? The best way I can describe breast feeding is like a drug. The highs are truly wonderful, better than anything else I have ever experienced. The bonding, the sense of achievement at successfully feeding my baby, the skin to skin contact. The lows? Pain that forces mummy to scream out loud and cry every time the baby latches when the latch goes wrong. Aforementioned complete lack of time away to recharge. Guilt that if I make the ‘choice’ to stop, I will be doing my baby harm and putting her at increased risk of diseases. 

Straightforward? I had been prewarned by a friend that breast feeding was the hardest thing they had ever done. I agree. It certainly ranks amongst the top five. Strange for something that everyone thinks is so natural.

My sole goal? Take each day as it comes. Do the best I can and when breast feeding becomes untenable, think again.