Double Standards- are our expectations of babies and kids too high?

Double Standards- are our expectations of babies and kids too high?

Double Standards

Adults can have rough nights where they toss and turn and struggle to get to sleep. The adult is not having fun. It leaves the adult feeling frustrated, tired and sorry for themselves. When a baby has some rough nights, adults feel frustrated with them, not for them. The adult may feel that the wakings are on purpose and are unnecessary or annoying. The adult complains about their own feelings of tiredness the next day and blames the baby.

Adults seek comfort, company and support through meaningful, intimate relationships with other people. Many adults do fall asleep or would prefer to fall asleep in the arms or near proximity of a loved one. I know myself, I sleep much more soundly when my husband is home in bed than when he is away. In new surroundings, we often look for familiar people and keep them close by as we navigate and find our place in this new setting. If something big happens in our lives, be it happy, sad, momentous, life changing or even the little things that bring our emotions to the fore, we will often look to share these moments with someone we hold dear. They are our buffer, they are our safe place. When a baby or child, only sleeps in the arms of their parent or in their bed, they are seen as too dependent. When they don’t want to be put down and hold on tight in new surroundings, they are called ‘clingy’. When they come crying, asking for cuddles, brimming with stories, insisting on being heard, they can be called, ‘needy’ or ‘attention seeking’.

Adults can be in a bad mood. They can have days where they are off- angry, sad, lacking energy. Adults can lose their temper and yell, curse and stomp off. Adults can have days where they are on the verge of tears and sometimes those tears fall. This is considered normal. We all have good days and bad days. But when our baby or toddler is in a funk, when they are cranky or tired or teary or simply not up for company, adults often get annoyed with them as though these normal human feelings are an inconvenience to them. Adults often don’t acknowledge that it’s okay and normal for our children to feel angry and to want to yell and stamp or even lash out. We try to quash these emotions instead of helping and guiding our children to face them.

Adults can choose what they will and won’t share with others. They can have things like phones and cars that are solely for their use. Adults would feel quite uncomfortable and very probably upset if a visitor or maybe even another family member waltzed on in and picked their phone up and started using it or grabbed their keys and took their car for a spin. These are the adult equivalent of our children’s precious toys that adults so keenly encourage their child to offer up, hand over or stand back and say and do nothing whenever other children are around to play. We call it sharing.

As an adult, we all have our different threshold of patience when it comes to waiting. Some of us can find our zen and wait it out without too much ado. Others, find their limit reached very quickly. I had a recent reminder of how hard it is to wait when you are completely relying on others to help you do everyday tasks. I did my back and for a couple of days, I was stuck wherever I was until someone could come and give me a hand up. Wow! It was a real eye opener. I frequently ask my toddler and baby to wait for various things while I tend to the other. I ask it like this patience and waiting should be freely given … Having had my own reminder of how hard it is to wait, I intend to ask it but know that their limit may be reached well before the wait is over.

Qualities adults admire in other adults include- empathy, decision making, tenacity, resilience, honesty, higher level thought and the ability to speak up for oneself and for what is right to name but a few. But many adults prefer children who are quiet, compliant, control their emotions to prevent the adult feeling embarrassed by big feelings (tantrums) happening in public, follow instructions without question and absolutely do not answer back and do as the adult says not what they do (eg. Smacking a child while ‘teaching’ them not to hit). It makes it difficult to see when the desired qualities of an adult are actually to be acquired.

Adults feeling sleep deprived, anxious or depressed need to do what they need to do to get their own mental health in check. A baby or child’s mental health is important unless it needs to be ‘temporarily’ ignored to get the adult’s own mental health back.

Adults can show a preference for certain foods. They can say when they are hungry and when they are full. This is considered normal. If a baby / child does not eat what they’ve been given, they’re seen as picky or ungrateful. They have to eat meals at times designated by someone else and volume and pace are also set by someone else. What their own body tells them is sometimes overridden because they still have food on their plate.

Sooooo many double standards that are commonplace in society. What’s lacking to have caused such a mismatch? I suspect the major missing piece is – Empathy. The ability to put ourselves in our baby’s or children’s shoes and look at things from their side.

Some of these double standards are deeply entrenched, deeply held beliefs that have crossed generations. Many are not questioned or even considered when making day to day decisions and interactions with children.

  
So what can be done about it? I like to imagine the future world of our children who ARE being parented with compassion, empathy and respect. I hope they can pass on some different wisdom to their children and their children’s children.

The change starts with us, these double standards need to end. Our perfectly imperfect little people should not have to be more than we expect of our fully developed adult self.

It’s a work in progress though. The first step is really to stop and think. So the next time you catch yourself feeling frustrated with your little one or you making a demand of them, take a deep breath and put yourself in their shoes. Get down to their level and show some empathy. Be the adult in the situation and model for your child the desired outcome while recognising we all have our limits including our children.

To give a shit or not to give a shit? That is the question…

To give a shit or not to give a shit? That is the question…

As many of you would have gathered, I take this mothering gig very seriously and strongly believe that ‘giving a shit’ about the important stuff is absolutely essential. However, I do believe there is also a lot of peripheral ‘shit’ that is simply not worthy of our time, effort or brain space. Here are some things I seriously don’t give a shit about … Some I used to care about, some I used to obsess about, some barely entered my radar…

1. Duration of day naps

• Seriously, who gives a shit. I used to. Back when I was sucked into the vortex of trying to make my baby sleep the ‘required’ amount of sleep in chunks that are seen as essential to get quality of sleep but also to give mum a good break I absolutely DID give a shit, and you know what I got for all hours, days, weeks and months of obsessing and dedication to the cause? I got to go bat shit crazy, I got angry, I got frustrated, I got disappointed, I got tired. I most certainly did not get a baby who said, ‘oh, ok mum, sleep time is it? Rightio, well just time it right, tuck me in, shush me a little and I’ll drift off and give you 2 hours to yourself.’ Was it worth my time, effort or brain space? Hell no! With this baby, I seriously couldn’t give a shit. I get him down when he’s tired. If he wakes after 20-40 mins who actually cares? He sure as shit doesn’t. I have a toddler to get around with so even thinking of trying to resettle is limited to the baby’s lunchtime nap (if he has one) while the toddler is sleeping, sometimes I can sneak a boob in and get the baby to give me a good long snooze, other times he happily sucks away and finishes with a big milk dribbly grin that says, ‘nice one sucker!’ Some times he’s a bit grizzly and probably could have done with a bit more sleep, once again, who cares? I simply get him back to sleep a bit later when he’s good and ready. Oh, but don’t I know that ‘sleep breeds sleep’? Um, yeah. I’ve heard that one many times and actually it’s complete and utter horseshit. Maybe, some babies do sleep a bit better if they have these whopping great day naps but there are many babies who sleep perfectly well at night who run on catnaps and kips through the day. Some of these catnapping/ kipping kids do sleep like shit at night too, but you know what, it’s got sweet bugger all to do with the days. They are who they are. My two are a total mixed bag right now and I see absolutely zero correlation between ratty days and ratty nights vs good days and good nights. They like to mix it up to keep me on my toes.

• One thing I simply can’t get to the ‘I don’t give a shit’ stage with is waking a sleeping baby! It seriously upsets me. Big shout out to all those mamas doing daily school runs and having to disturb sleeping kids! What a freaking nightmare!

2. How baby gets to sleep or back to sleep

• Cuddles, carrier, boob, pram, car whatever works, I’ll do it. Getting a baby the sleep they need in the way that works best for them is all I give a shit about. How I do it, I could not give a shit. Is it always convenient? No. Do I sometimes wish my babies would just be popped down and drift off peacefully? Sometimes (although I know I’d actually miss the cuddles most of time). But babies aren’t here to be convenient. They are little people, with busy minds and an intense need for comfort. I sometimes struggle to get to sleep first up at night, or after I’ve ducked to the loo and for me day sleeps are extremely hit and miss. Sometimes, I am awake for hours, tossing, turning, feeling frustrated about the fact I should be asleep. Sometimes, sleep doesn’t come easily to me. And yet, we expect total consistency from our little ones … If they take too long, or fuss about or ask for extra help to get to sleep, we so often feel cranky with them. Particularly if you feel like you’ve given all that you have to give. But they aren’t doing it to drive us bat shit crazy. They are having trouble. They are human. Give them the help they need to get the rest they need. It’s that simple. I don’t give a shit how.

3. How often my baby feeds- day/ night

• Yeah, so, I can’t actually tell you an answer to this as it varies so much day to day, night to night. And you know what? I don’t give a shit because this is exactly as nature intended. A breastfed baby feeds/ nurses in an erratic fashion because it meets virtually every need they have, from nutrition to comfort, to sensory input, to immune building and many more. This can not be timed or timetabled and nor should it be. Who actually gives a shit that my baby who went 5 hours yesterday with out nursing wanted boob 3 times in an hour this morning? Certainly not I.

 


(Courtesy of The Milk Meg)

 4. Where I feed

• I feed/ nurse wherever and whenever my baby needs. I don’t give a shit where this may be. Home, bed, park, shop, church, pub, café, playgroup, beach, train … Wherever. Whenever.

5. Having a spotless house

• I do cheat this one a bit because I got myself a cleaner (seriously a life changer if you can afford one, get one!!)

• Despite having a cleaner, there is still the endless day to day cleaning and tidying you have in any house with two adults, a toddler, a baby and a big hairy bugger of a dog. There’s always loads of washing, dishwasher to stack or unstack, plastics that won’t go through the dishwasher, tidying after a never ending snacking and playing toddler, sweeping up dog hair of a dog who seems to be malting year round etc etc. There was a time where I would not have dreamt of having people around to visit or for a meal unless I had my house in order … Now, they’re lucky if they can find my sink and you know what, I actually don’t give a shit. My friends and family know and love me anyway and anyone else, I couldn’t care less. My house will be clean and tidy again one day … Probably when the boys leave home.

  
6. Feeding my toddler only home made healthy foods

• Yeah, I seriously don’t give a shit on this one. My husband and I are healthy people. We have a healthy lifestyle and diet. Having said that, we both love our food. Sometimes the food we eat isn’t exactly top of the line healthy. Sometimes it’s downright naughty but you know what, we aren’t big people because we out weigh the bad with the good and we have a healthy attitude towards food and eating. Since we are a family who embraced Baby Led Weaning, my toddler’s diet very closely resembles our own (sans wine and coffee). I was very conscious of his salt and sugar intake prior to turning one and to an extent I monitor it now but mostly, we just eat. My little Grubby Bubby will soon be joining us for meals and fingers crossed he is a cruisy little eater too.

7. How much or what my toddler chooses to eat in any one sitting

• This one is one I was surprised to find my self almost alone on with my family and friends. I have fully embraced the idea that it is my job as mother to provide my children with food and it is their job to eat it. This idea sits particularly well as a breastfeeding mother, as up until the introduction of solids, I had trusted my baby to control the when and how much side of eating so why would I stop trusting him now?!? Sometimes my first guy ate a lot in a sitting, sometimes he ate bugger all. Sometimes he became obsessed with one type of food and refused all others. I just kept putting a range of food on his plate and he decided what he would eat and how much. I refuse to buy into mealtime battles. My babies don’t HAVE to eat anything. I will not bargain and I will not threaten. I refuse to give a shit about something beyond my control. I know sometimes there are other issues at play here and I have been very lucky to have not had to face an underweight child or one with many aversions, however, I would hope that even if I did, we could find a way to allow the child to still control their food intake because after all, listening to your own body is a key part of learning to eat what you need to be satisfied as opposed to an empty plate.

8. Toilet training

• Of course, we will have to do it but I’m just not into it being a battle. I don’t give enough of a shit. I’ve been told that when your toddler is ready, it will be easy so call me lazy, but I’m waiting for the easy! We do all the lead up groundwork everyday but currently my guy is simply not ready. He’ll get there though and in the meantime, I refuse to stress about it.

Looking back on this list, I am relieved to know this is not where my head is at. As a mum it can be so easy to get bogged down in the nitty gritty. Hard to decipher the things that warrant our time, energy and head space. It is okay to let some things wash. Working out what is actually important and also what is within my control was a big part of my surrender. It’s liberating to simply not give a shit sometimes.

  (Source Unknown)

What have I missed that you’d add to this list?
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Holding the mirror up to ourselves on our parenting journey

Holding the mirror up to ourselves on our parenting journey

 
It caught me by surprise the other day just how upset I feel when one of those memes about ‘fed is best’ or something against the ‘mummy wars’ comes up. I’m upset, not because I am anti- formula or anti any particular parenting decisions, but more because these campaigns often encourage a blind acceptance that whatever people choose to do with their children is not up for discussion. This upsets me because as a mother, I talk, I read, I observe, I research, I listen every single day to keep myself on a path that sees me making informed parenting decisions for my babies and my family. I am not the perfect mother, not that anyone is or nor do we need to be but I am a huge believer in self reflection and striving to do better in all parts of my life but most of all in my relationships I hold dear.

  
It offends me that the importance and profound impact a mother has on her children’s lives is brushed off as whatever happens happens. You see, things don’t just happen. Choices are made. Some hastily, some painstakingly, some desperately, some based on information/ advice (good or bad), some half heartedly, some without feeling like we even had a choice at all. These choices can have a long term impact on our small, vulnerable, quickly developing babies and children.

  
Not all mother/ child relationships are ideal. You yourself may look none to fondly on your own relationship with your mother. In my role as a teacher, I found it very difficult sometimes to not jump to conclusions about a family or judge a mother of a child in my class. It sometimes felt so bleedingly obvious what the problem/ root cause of an issue was in fact a child’s family. But, luckily for me, in my very first year teaching, I came across a wonderful Guidance Officer who was able to put things in perspective for me and open up my empathy for these women in some very difficult circumstances. She told me that the way she survives her job each day is to remind herself that ‘we all mother to the best of our ability with the resources we have available.’ So whilst we may not agree with what a mother is doing or can see that her choices are not having a positive impact on her child we can always rest assured that she IS doing her very best at that moment. Does this mean that support personnel should just leave this mother to carry on or is it their role to intervene with support, modelling, information and guidance for this mother? I think in cases of abuse and neglect, most people would quite confidently agree that intervention is required. But this is the extreme end of the spectrum. What irks me, is that more day to day parenting decisions are so taboo in these days of the ‘the mommy wars’ that discussion and research are often ignored and shouted down as ‘judgey’ without any thought.

I know for me, becoming a parent has been a rocky road. With all the bends, twists, jumps, free falls, blown tyres and occasional car wreck of a Hollywood car chase. Would I make all the decisions I made two years ago again today? No. Would I stick by some of them? Yes. I have lived, learned and grown an enormous amount in the past two years and I will continue to grow and evolve as a mother throughout my children’s lives.

Saying that I wouldn’t make all the same decisions I made as a new mum does not mean that my decisions back then were ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. I was simply being the best mother I could be with the resources available at the time. For some of those decisions, particularly around infant sleep, I make very different choices for my second baby. I know better so I do better.

I do not take information, discussion and sharing as an affront if it goes against how I mother. I can separate myself enough to appreciate another perspective whether it sits well with me personally or not.

Does this mean there is a right way to mother? Absolutely not. Individual mothers mothering their own unique babies … How on earth could there be a ‘right’ way? So equally, there is also no wrong way.

I love Pinky McKay’s filter for making parenting decisions,

o Is it safe?

o Is it respectful?

o Does it feel right?

Its also important to acknowledge that it can be hard to parent in a way that we were not parented. A large part of how we parent is built into us like a default setting by the way we ourselves were parented. If we had a very, strict, dictatorial upbringing or a very relaxed, ambivalent childhood of few boundaries this is what we will revert to as parents in times of stress or uncertainty. It is what we know even if it is not necessarily what we feel is ideal.

The parent we are today does not have to be the parent we are tomorrow. We can take the good and build on it and reflect on the bad and grow from it.

  

This is what I wish for mothers. Our work is important. We are growing our future population. World leaders, peace makers, ground breakers were all parented by someone. Equally, tyrants, murderers, corrupt business people were also parented by someone.

Growing our little people with safety, respect and feeling will see their heart and heads full of love and resilience. Ready to embrace the world and those around them with the empathy and enthusiasm for what is good because they know it exists.

As L. R Knost says, ‘ it is not our job to toughen our children to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.

  

So next time you see one of those generic memes that while making us feel all loved up and included also try to dampen our desire to talk, discuss and learn, take a moment to reflect and remind yourself that you are important, you can make a difference and your choices do matter and then carry on being that amazing mother you are to your little people.