But the protein, what about the PROTEIN????? Parenting as a vegetarian.

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Apparently this week is ‘Meat-Free Week‘ (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either, cheers Mumsnet). The name is sort of self-explanatory but just in case; it’s a week where families/businesses/general people are challenged not to eat meat, like, none at all. As a veggie family this would not be a particularly radical move for us, obvs. And yes, our entire household is meat-free, my 17-month old son included. Dun dun deeeer!

Don’t worry, I’m not one of those vegetarians. I don’t get evangelical or self-righteous about people choosing to eat meat. I pretty much hate self-righteousness in all of its forms (hence the irreverent blog). Plus I eat fish occasionally, so I’m not even a real veggie. I am a sham; that inferior breed known as pescatarian. Or, as I like to call us pesky-tarians. *chortle*

This post isn’t going to about how everyone should go meat-free for ever, or even for a week, but I do think the idea of becoming aware of how much meat you eat and where it comes from is a good idea. Cos, come on people, it has got a bit ridiculouso. Right? Like, apparently Britons eat 1 billion chickens a year. ONE BILLION. I know Nandos is yummy but that just seems a bit much.

But you can read about all that do-gooder stuff elsewhere. All I want to talk about is my family and my life. Screw the planet and animals and crap.*

My husband and I have been vegetarian for a long time now so when Bubs started weaning it wasn’t really a question for us whether we’d give him meat; of course not. We have a generally healthy diet with lots of variety and we know people who have grown-up vegetarian (and vegan) are genuinely fully-functional adults (true story). Plus, we mainly choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons – which I have already promised not to bang on about – but it would seem very odd indeed not to pass those ethical principles, which are held especially dear by Hubs, onto our children. If later Bubs chooses to eat meat, fair dos, but for now we won’t be feeding him any.

So, yeah, he’s a vegetarian, no big deal, that’s just how it is.

Enter the grandparents.

Now, if one of Bubs’ grandparents is reading this, I’m not talking about you, obvs. You are great. I’m talking about the other lot, or the other other lot. (Bubs has 6 grandparents, naturally).

When I was pregnant and talking to, shall we call them The Undisclosed Grandparent?, I made some off-handed comment about how the baby wouldn’t be having sausages or chicken nuggets or something. Oh the horror! In reply I received a contorted expression and the question “Aren’t you going to give him meat??” Now, while I’m not 100% sure said grandparent wasn’t joking, I feel they were just saying what a lot of other people were thinking.

When we broached the subject with most of the family you could see that worried I’m-not-going-to-interfere-but-what-the-bloody-hell-are-you-playing-at look their eyes. I would quickly rush in with some comment about how, obviously if at any time the baby seemed not to be thriving we would consider…blah blah blah.

I can’t blame them for these reactions. Our choice is totally outside the cultural norm. For some the idea of bringing up your child as a vegetarian would be better described as depriving you child of meat. Okay, maybe in the olden days if you were a peasant and could only afford one loaf of bread to share between a family of 14, or if you’re living on a dollar a day in a slum somewhere, but not now, now here! You bloody hippy lunatics! How will they, like, grow and stuff???

Protein is usually the biggest concern in this scenario. ‘Can he get enough protein like that?’ ‘Are you worried about protein??’ or the classic ‘So, what does he eat?’ Protein, protein bloody protein! It’s all a bit over the top if you ask me. I blame Atkins. Not only for the whole ‘carbs-bad protein-good nonsense’ but for the idea that you get only protein from surf and turf. End of.

Well, folks, and I’m gonna blow your mind here, there is protein is lots of food. Even food that is not meat, even food that is not dairy or meat or eggs. Who knew right? (yes, we all did, so why is the whole veggie thing a problem?)

But there shouldn’t be a problem anyway because he’ll eat fish, right? Wrong! I eat fish if I’m out and fancy it occasionally but at home we don’t have it all. Hubs would prefer if Bubs laid off it for now and I have no problem with that. I don’t eat fish for health reasons. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I started to eat fish again I sort of believed it was for health reasons, but really I just like seafood. To be quite honest when I end up eating fish more than once in a while I get a bored with it. Give me veggie lasagne any day of the week.  Mmmm… lasagne.

This whole no-fish policy (which isn’t even completely the case since Bub’s formula had fish oils in it) is more contentious than I first thought. I think some of my relatives (no not you, obviously, you are totally cool, the coolest of all) think that I will at some point rise up against the vegetarian tyranny and restore my child’s right to eat salmon. Well, I won’t. When he’s old enough to express a desire to taste fish? Sure, go for it. But til then I’m just not that bothered. Because I know he is absolutely fine.

Anyway, yeah, Bubs gets plenty of protein. He gets plenty of everything. Fruit, veg, bread, beans, dairy, eggs, the occasional rich tea biscuit. And, in my assessment, he’s doing alright on the whole growing-up front.

Poor thing, he's basically wasting away...

Poor thing, look at those hollow cheeks and dull eyes, he’s basically wasting away… Oh wait…

And if my unprofessional opinion isn’t enough then let it be known that even the NHS says it’s okay to bring your kids up on a vegetarian diet! And the NHS says loads of shit that I do/did is not okay (see every other post I’ve ever written for details). I mean, they don’t unreservedly celebrate vegetarianism; they say stuff like “If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat they’ll need a varied diet to make sure that they have enough nutrients to grow and develop”. But, frankly, that’s a pretty weak statement because I’m pretty sure it applies all children, in fact to all people. I doubt you’ll find a paediatrician or health visitor in the land who says “If you’re feeding your children meat then don’t worry about a balanced diet or nutrients or anything.”

Still, despite being very assured in the fact that my toddler is not having his growth stunted or missing out in anyway, I still feel a bit self-conscious when I tell people. I here myself saying “he’s vegetarian” and think “God, she sounds like a pretentious dick.” But ho hum, them’s the breaks. As long as I’m aware that people disapprove of some of my parenting choices, there’ll probably always be a little voice in my head that agrees with them. The trick is to that voice to sit down and shut-up, then go and make a veggie lasagne. Mmmm….

What’s your experience? Were you brought up vegetarian or doing so with your kids? Or perhaps you think a life without meat is not worth living? Either way get involved by commenting below. Or…

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*P.S. don’t screw the planet or animals or crap, that would be really bad.

Weaning in Pictures. #WickedWednesdays

In case you hadn’t noticed, this week (and a bit) I shall posting all about weaning. So as it’s #WickedWednedsdays I thought I’d share some pics to give you a bit more insight into what you can expect from the day-to-day of administering solid food to a small human. Enjoy!

'First foods', Easter style.

‘First foods’, Easter style.

weaning mess

Be warned, to a baby, EVERYTHING is finger food.

weaning protest

There may be the occasional (daily) protest.

weaning spoon

Then there was this phase. I have no words.

The classic 'saving it for later move'. Oh yes, they'll throw delicious fresh food at you to, ahem, politely signal they're done eating. But don't think for a second that they won't consume that half-chewed cornflake.

The classic ‘saving it for later move’. Oh yes, they’ll throw delicious fresh food at you to, ahem, politely signal they’re done eating. But don’t think for a second that they won’t consume that half-chewed cornflake.

Don’t worry though, it’s mostly a bit of a laugh…

Well, at least I amuse myself.

Well, at least I amuse myself.

Like this post? Then why not like me of facebook and keep up with future hilarity.*

*hilarity not guaranteed.

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This post is linked to…

brummymummyof2

Parenting: It’s actually a bit boring.

 

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As a parent, you will experience more contradictory emotions than ever before. This little person that you love most in the world will, in all likelihood, also drive you to complete and utter distraction (destruction??) on multiple occasions. You may be infinitely happy that your baby was born whilst still remembering actually giving birth to them being the worst. The absolute worst. But that’s parenting for you isn’t it? It’s just a roller-coaster. From the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, all in one afternoon.

Well, no, not quite. That would leave out one important detail.

In Hollywood movies mothers usually either the embodiment of all that is kind, wise and maternal or a hot mess. You know those films, with the friend who has six kids (yeah, that’s pretty much all the character development you’re going to get love, sozzers) who is always arriving late with her hair a complete mess and a child on each nipple? Oh what larks! But most of the time parenting is not an extreme sport. You aren’t either completely nailing or basically dead: there are other options. Day to day, it’s more likely to be just a bit dull. Parenthood is so dramatised at the moment that it’s often these normal experiences that trip us up.

Picture the scene: It is mid afternoon. A child, surrounded by an array of educational and expensive toys, sits playing with an egg carton. A few feet away his mother sits on the sofa. She is staring into the middle distance, her eyes are glazed over and her expression is lifeless. What is happening here? Perhaps she’s got post-natal depression, or has she just received some bad news? Maybe she’s just a neglectful mother.

Erm, no. She’s bored. It’s 3 O’clock in the afternoon and she’s been attempting to entertain her children for the past 8 HOURS. She has prepared two meals (one of which was scraped into the bin and replaced with toast). She has picked umpteen bits of crap from the floor. She has embarked on 3 nap attempts (two failed, one successful). And now, just run out of steam, and ideas. So she’s just sitting there.

If you hadn’t quite decoded my cryptic third-person, hypothetical, throw-em-off-the-scent nonsense, then I shall just clarify that she is me.

Yes, Dear Reader, I too get bored. There, I’ve said it. I love my son, he is great company, but spending all day every day with a one-year-old gets a tad repetitive. I love children’s books, but after the 50th reading I feel I have entered into the subtext of the narrative just about all I can. The suspense is gone. I know it’s not your duck. I know where baby’s belly button is. I know which pet the zoo sent you. I know it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep reading those classics of modern literature, because it makes Bubs happy and it’s educational and all that good shit. But every now and then I’ll be doing it on autopilot.

I do try to mix it up.  I even venture onto the internet for inspiration, even though Pinterest usually makes me want to vomit with jealousy and the creativity and energy some parents seem to have. ‘Today tabatha and I made a fully functioning space rocket using only the contents of our recycling bins and some small pieces of dowelling. #thrifty #ecomum #recycle #educational’ Hashtag keep your parenting successes to yourself, knobend. Ahem, motherly solidarity and all that. Let’s move on…

Honestly, we get all of my scarves out and do lots of wafting and giggling. Or we build towers out of various toys. The other day I actually made corn flour paste and added different food colourings to make a sort of messy play scenario. Of course, Bubs was only interested in eating it and consequently got high on e numbers. The thing is, Dear Reader, that however long I spend coming up with these activities, whatever effort I put in, they only ever last about 10 minutes. 15 max. You look at the clock, you eyes wide with pleading hope, but it was 10.25am when you started playing and now it’s 10.35am. That’s basically the same time.

Then are the excursions. We’ll head off to play groups. I do have some nice chats with mums some of the time but it’s mostly just following Bubs around, making sure he doesn’t poke any babies in eye and that no toddlers step on his hands. Play groups are an absolute life saver, but they aren’t necessarily a particularly social experience for the parents. And what is it with the ones that don’t give mums a cup of tea? I mean what is the bloody point? 

When you have a child, parents of older children will constantly encourage you to ‘cherish every second, it goes so fast’. I have previously expressed my thoughts on saying that to parents of newborns here, but I do think the general principle is absolutely right. Of course you could spend your child’s first years only half-present, scrolling your Facebook feed looking at other people’s kids instead of giving full attention to your own. Of course that would be a terrible shame. I’m not a frickin’ monster! But the idea that every moment, of every day you can be fully engaged with your child, watching their every move and storing it all up as treasure in your heart? Jog on, mate! I’ve got a life to lead.

In all seriousness there are ways I could probably help myself. Bringing some mindfulness into my parenting would be one (there’s a parenting on that, but we all know how I feel about the books). Buying in a massive amount of craft supplies would be another. And I might do one or both of those things, time shall tell.

In the mean time I’m not going to stress. You know that thing that people used to say when you were a kid? Only boring people get bored. Well, that’s crap. Everyone gets bored sometimes. Just because you’re getting bored in the presence of your child it doesn’t mean you we need to have an existential crisis. I imagine train drivers, or accountants, or nurses, often get a bit bored doing repetitive tasks. But it doesn’t mean they suddenly become paralysed with shame and think ‘What have I done? I never should have become an accountant, what if I’m no good at it? Oh my God, I’ve ruined multiple lives!’ Being a parent is a job, and all jobs getting boring for time to time. I bet Beyonce wakes up some mornings thinking ‘Oh damn, another makeover a photo shoot? How dull‘.

So, yeah, just be bored for a bit. There’s no shame in it. Your child will inevitably doing something funny, adorable, stressful or a combination of all three, and that’ll soon snap you out of it.

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What bores you the most about childcare? Do you feel guilty about the duller days? Or maybe you think I should shut up moaning? Whatever your thoughts let me know. Comment below, go to my Facebook page or tweet me @aafew.

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Birth stories: why you won’t be hearing mine.

*trigger warning: despite the title there is a bit of birth talk in this post*

When I was a new mum doing the drinking-coffee-with-one-hand-rocking-pram-with-the-other-attempting-to-maintain-a-half-decent-conversation-thing was part of the deal. Admittedly a much nicer part than the crying at sleep-deprivation and poo-handling bits. It helped me bond with my fellow mums, mostly because we frequently did the too-much-information-thing. You know, talking about the colour of poo; the state of your boobs; your distinct lack of lobedo. Oh yes, small talk becomes a whole new ball game once babies are involved.

Of course, on the top of all our over-sharing lists was the birth itself. With slightly pained expressions, we’d ask each other if the birth was ‘okay’ and wait to see what was divulged. Some would give a short account; 40 hours, exhausting, natural delivery. Others would go into much more detail. This was not because they wanted the attention, nor were they playing bad-birth top trumps, they just needed their stories to be heard, especially by those who could have some genuine empathy.

In those early months I talked birth a lot. The funny thing was I never really wanted to talk about it at all. For me, labour was traumatic. About a thousand people tell you ‘nothing can prepare you for it’ when you’re pregnant, to this you might nod sagely in agreement. But then it happens and you realise: nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing. This isn’t to scare any one or say that antenatal classes are useless; I am very glad that I went to NCT and in some ways it did prepare me. But this is the queen of visceral experiences and, as such, no one can quite put it into words. And I’m not just talking long labours or assisted births (I’ve given my two pence about ‘good births‘ before). I know women who have had 7-hour labours and delivered in the pool and felt, well, frankly, fucked. Feeling like that myself, but not really being able to articulate it, meant it was not easy for me to talk about births, or hear about them. A swell of dread would rise in me at the mere mentioned; sort of like a flashback. It was not pleasant.

Despite my internal panics, I continued with the chat. In fact, often I would initiate the chat. Why, Dear Reader? WHY? Someone would make an offhand comment and I’d follow it up with a question. Then, before you know it, BOOM! This is a proper conversation with details and what not. As if nursing a baby whilst simultaneously trying to drink a luke-warm cappuccino weren’t enough to cope with on 3 hours sleep. Deary me.

The thing is, I wanted to have these conversations with my new friends and I’m sure they brought us closer together. It is an honour to be admitted into that most viscerally private of experiences, even if all that you learn is that they were scared, or shocked, or awed by the whole thing. I’m glad I know what happened to my friends and that many of their experiences resembled mine. I never thought I would shout I shout the words “I had an episiotomy too!” quite so loudly, or enthusiastically over a table in a public place. Once all of the babies were born our groups’ catchphrase became “where are all these ‘natural births’ then???” as 7 out of 8 of us had some complication or other. Sharing it meant we could laugh about it, just a little bit.

But sometimes, when these type of chats were in a group rather than one-to-one, I’d would feel myself slowly disappearing into an internal world. I remember meeting up with a group once, and a mum who I didn’t really know talking about her birth. I had thought we had passed the ‘how was your birth’ stage by then – I desperately wanted to be – even though it was probably only about 3 months after the fact. I found myself not bloody caring that she’d been sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough, and I certainly didn’t want to know home much hypno-birthing helped her. “Yah, so I started doing my meditations…” Meditations?? WTF??? after 2cm I couldn’t bloody see-straight! (FYI I do not think hypnobirthing isn’t good/genuine/etc, but because at that point I was still in the ‘if I’d done that it would have been better’ place. That place is crap.) The more she shared, and others shared with her, the more urgent the sense of dread became in my body became. If we’re talking ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, mine body was definitely telling me to catch the next flight to Kazakhstan.  So I just sat back in my chair and nodded at the appropriate points, trying to do my best interested/sympathetic expression. But I wasn’t really there, I was hiding somewhere in my head. Which was sad.

To be fair, I had worse. Friends without babies who I told I was ‘upset’ by the birth (and the award for understatement of the year 2013 goes to…) and didn’t really want to talk about it, would often respond by asking questions about the birth or, worse, telling me about ‘really bad‘ births they knew of already. I shit you not, Dear Reader, I shit you not.

And you know, I’m beginning to feel all weird as I write this. I’ve got the anxiety tingles. A year on I still find it hard to think about this stuff. And I’m not even thinking about the actual stuff, I’m thinking about talking about the actual stuff. What strange creatures we are.

Now, I shall get to the point. A lot of bloggers writing eloquently and movingly about their births. Some have managed to turn their traumatic experiences into dark comedies for our enjoyment, whilst others have shared their most profound tragedies in order to raise awareness and comfort others. All of these things are wonderful. But I won’t be reading any of them, I’m afraid. Not for a while yet, any way. And (obvs) I won’t be writing one either. Because it is not a day I want to relive.

I used to feel deeply sad and intensely guilty about not being able to remember my son’s birth fondly. But why should I? It was defo, totes, 100% the most physically traumatic experience of my life (and it wasn’t even a ‘really bad‘ one, bleurgh). Yes, afterwards I had my Bubs, but as I mentioned in the post I have just reblogged, my bond with him took time to form. I didn’t feel the Hollywood-sudden-rush-of-love sensation that makes it ‘all worth it’.

Now,, of course, I couldn’t be happier to have my Bubs (okay, I could be a bit happier when he is screaming in my face). As I may have mentioned before; he is the best. person. ever. (Sozzers other mums, but that is an objective fact!) And thought I am happy about the fact he was born (understatement of the year 2014) ; I will never be happy about the act of that birth. ‘The fact, not the act’, is actually a little phrase I coined to help me come to terms with my feelings about the it all. Pretty nifty, dontcha think?

When I realised that I never had to be happy about the labour and delivery, that I didn’t need to amalgamate the memory of a horrid stitches infection (TMI?) into some grand “isn’t motherhood wonderful at all times” narrative, it was a major relief. It is probably not a radical statement to say that women don’t  always have to smile fondly and say “it was all worth it!” when recalling the birth of their children, but it feels radical to me! Because, yes, or course it’s bloody worth it, but sometimes I just want to say it was fucking traumatic without a caveat, without any “but now he’s here and…” stuff. Sometimes, things are just shit. And I think going through labour earns us the right to say so!

So, just in case you were hoping to hear all about my birthing experience (weirdo), you won’t be. But I have created this visual aid, just so you’re in the loop:

Nuff said.

 

If you feel confused or upset by your birth then it might be an idea to talk to a Supervisor of Midwives at your hospital, see more info on my help for you page.

How to feel about retelling your birth? Maybe you adopted and feel left out in these conversations? Have your say by commenting below, go to my facebook page or tweet me @aafew

“The mummies on the bus go ‘natter, natter, natter.'” Really? REALLY?!?!?

Picture the scene, Dear Reader: In an affluent area of South Manchester a dozen women gather at a children’s centre for a ‘stay and play’. These are intelligent women. Many of them are educated to a high level. These are kind, interesting, socially aware women.

After a fruit plate snack (which was free, big up Manchester City Council for that one) these women take their places, children on laps, for story time. Aw, sweet. ‘Shall we sing some songs?’ Asks the kindly play-worker. Any requests? After a few rounds of Old MacDonald (more on him later), The Wheels on the Bus is requested. Classic! That is, without doubt, the nursery rhyme equivalent of a BIG TUNE. Me and Bubs sing it in the bath regularly (okay, I sing it, he splashes along semi-rhythmically). So, the chorus begins. The wheels on the bus go round and round; the horn on the bus goes ‘beep beep beep’; the wipers on the bus go ‘swish swish swish’; the mummies on the bus go ‘natter, natter, natter’; the babies on the bus… hang on, hang on, what was that last one??

The mummies on the bus go natter, natter, natter. Um, okaaaay. Here we are, this intelligent group of human beings, making that ‘nattering’ hand gesture (which, incidentally, is the same motion we make for a duck’s quack: rude), singing sweetly to our children about those noisy mothers on the bus. Women, hey? Once they get together, you just can’t shut ’em up!

The song moves on and we then hear that the babies on the bus are fast asleep (yeah right); the children on the bus make too much noise (what a negative message to send our youth); and the daddies say ‘shh, shh, shh.’ Good job the men are there really, or those negligent chattering women would let their children run a muck!

I must confide that I do not sing such derogatory things about the mummies on the bus. I refuse on principle. So, I either sit mumbling the tune for that verse or, on my more bolshy days, I sing ‘people’ instead of mummies, loudly enough so my neighbouring parents can hear. I also scan the assembled crowd for someone who will exchange a knowing eye-roll with me. I usually find one. I should probably scream at the top of my lungs “Come on people, it’s 20-bloody-14, what are we doing???” But I’m rarely that bolshy without the aid of alcohol.

As you are probably aware the Wheels on the Bus debacle is not an isolated incident. If only. I am constantly suppressing outrage at the a thousand subtle sexisms that assault my son on a regular basis. Actually, some of them are not so subtle. For example, below is the second page of an Old MacDonald book I got from our local library. Bubs loves that farmyard tune, so I was already singing enthusiastically as I turned the page to discover that the first thing Old MacDonald had on his farm was a…

A WIFE!!!!!

A WIFE!!!!!

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought women stopped being included as part of livestock inventories some time around the industrial revolution. Just saying. And a ‘kiss kiss’? She has her own noise? Bleurgh, a thousand times bleurgh! Now *spoiler alert* the last page of the book is ‘Old MacDonald had a baby’, which makes the inclusion of this wife a bit more logical, but still. Well, at least her noise isn’t ‘natter, natter, natter’. Needless to say I skipped this page. Also considered ripping it out, but I restrained myself. I won’t let the casual sexism of a children’s book turn me into a literary vandal!

I do despair, Dear Reader. For all of of the brilliant progressions made in the past century, women in children’s fiction are still all too often the wife, or mum, or the sensible one (yes, that’s you Hermione). Unless the book/song is about a girl defying her restrictive gender roles. There are plenty of those books; books that make a feminist statement. And I love them (Jane and the Dragon, what a book!). The thing is I was kind of hoping we’d be past statement making now, but it seems instead we’ve regressed.

Of course, literature is probably the most enlightened aspect of the cash-cow that is the children’s market. Occasionally I wonder over to the girls section in Asda/Sainburys/Boots to see if there is anything I could dress Bubs in. WALL TO WALL PINK. Maybe a bit of green and white too; plenty of frills and hearts and bows. I’m a feminist but I’m not dressing my son up like a social experiment.* And it doesn’t have to stop at the obvious clothes and toys; any product can be marketed in this kiddy-gender-enforcement way. Even Airbus are doing it, apparently.

Little girls, take note: You too can be a pilot. But you CANNOT HAVE SHORT HAIR OR WEAR BLUE!)

Little girls, take note: You too can be a pilot. But you CANNOT HAVE SHORT HAIR OR WEAR BLUE!

It’s all around us folks, and it troubles me. I am raising a boy and I want him to grow into a man who sees women as equals. I’m dreading the day he discards a toy, telling me “that’s for girls”. In a way I am more concerned with him being exposed to these images and ideas than I would be a little girl. Because if in 30 years we still have a situation where there are over 20,000 reported rapes a year,   or women still only make up a fifth of MPs, or, God forbid, programmes like ‘snog, marry avoid’ still exist , then my son will be one of those who hold the balance of power. He will be a man in a patriarchal society. #winning

So, Dear Reader, what can we do to stem the tide of mummies who ‘natter’ and wives who go ‘kiss kiss’? Well, I have started with a little DIY project concerning my son’s book ‘When I Grow Up’.

Aw, cute!

Aw, cute!

It’s part of a lovely set of six M&S boards, which he loves. However, I felt that this particular volume needed a few changes made. Observe:

 

Yep, I actually did this. I could have been watching Downton, or playing Candy Crush, but I cut out little bits of paper with the correct terms (not politically correct, just correct) and did an edit on a board book. And I loved every minute of it. Fight the power!

Now, do I actually think me papering over the gender-biased terminology in one book will have any real effect my son’s vision of the world? No, I’m not a mad woman. As long as there’s a woman presenting the cookery show on CBeebies, whilst men run zoos and have Dinosaur adventures, I feel I’m fighting a losing battle. (Yes I know there’s a female pirate captain, and yes she is ace). As long as the Super Mario Brothers are rescuing the princess from the castle and women computer games critics are subjected to terror threats,(yes, that’s an actual thing that happened) I reckon me doctoring a few pictures isn’t going to have the greatest impact. Even posts like these, just a mum rambling on about being a mum and feminist, invite such serious trolling that bloggers stop writing (also a real thing, bleurgh). So I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to stemming the misogynist tide

But these little things make a difference to me. I probably can’t change the world, but I don’t have to lie down and take it either. So my son will be subjected to ‘girl’s toys’ and female heroines for a long time yet, and I hope he’ll be a better man for it.

 

What sexist songs/books/toys are grinding your gears? Share the rant! Comment below, tweet me @aafew or like my facebook page and join in the fun!

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* FYI. If my son later chooses to wear women’s clothing, or informs me that he is in fact my daughter, that is 100% okay with me.

Making a Millstone Out of Milestone.

millstone

If you have never read a piece of information that said your baby “should” be doing something that it isn’t yet then I’m pretty sure you’re in the minority. (But congrats to you, you have the mythical unicorn child).

For me it was sleep. When my son was tiny he woke pretty much every 2ish hours. This was for the first, maybe, ten weeks, so pretty normal but still exhausting. As you may imagine I spent rather too much time googling and looking up baby sleep solutions. We all do it – even though basically it’s up to our babies when they decide to sleep and wake- we cling to the hope that there must be some sure-fire technique to give us a stretch of sleep more than 3 hours long (or even one hour long for some of us, solidarity sisters!). So, any way, I’m reading this stuff and I find some helpful hints, but mostly unhelpful ones. For example, this helpful little factoid:

“By about six weeks your baby could be sleeping for at least one stretch of up to 6 hours.”

Well really? Could he? He bloody isn’t! The problem with telling us that ‘some babies’ do X at X weeks is that if our baby isn’t one we either feel cheated or, worse, that we’ve failed in some way (there goes that guilt again!)

Currently, I am sick of reading that by six months “your baby shouldn’t need to be fed in the night-time”. Shouldn’t he? What if he is hungry in the night time? Bubs is now 11 months old and each night is different. Some glorious, wondrous nights he sleeps through. Aaah, bliss. But on others wakes up when he is hungry and he doesn’t go back to sleep until you give him food. You can cuddle him, you can give him a dummy, you can leave him to cry, but nothing will soothe him because, guess what? He’s hungry! The books (gggrrr, the books!) say he shouldn’t be because he’s almost one. But he is, so there. Also, to be honest, sometimes it’s just bloody easier to feed him. Every now and then I muster up the energy to so half-an-hour’s soothing in the dead of night, but I usually have to feed him eventually any way. So why waste time? Whatever gets you through the night, that’s what I say!

I write that last paragraph as if I don’t worry that I’m doing something wrong in feeding my boy in the night. As I don’t get that “oh, are we doing it wrong?” pang on a regular basis. Of course I do. Because when you’re a first-time mum it’s hard not to doubt yourself, especially when the “experts” dole out their shoulds and shouldn’ts so liberally. But I don’t think the sleep stuff is half as harmful as the other developmental ‘milestones’ we’re told about.

We parents can drive ourselves mad with movement and speech milestones. That’s one of the reasons the Ages and Stages Questionnaire winds me up so bloody much. If you believe your child ‘should’ have been doing something months ago that they still aren’t then it is difficult not to let the anxiety fairy in. Mothers may feel themselves become self-conscious in groups of children of a similar age, as if their child’s stage of development reflects on them. We seem to have created a timetable for rolling and crawling and standing and using words. This timetable can become a tyranny. Because ‘milestone’ timings are just averages. That’s all. Instead these milestones become millstones around our necks (thanks, I’m pretty proud of that one), weighing us down with worry.

Now, before you scroll down and type furiously into the comments section, I am not saying that if an 18-month old can’t sit up or make noise we should just ‘you know, give the kid some space man!’ But we all know loads of kids who took longer than average to roll-over, start speaking, pick up a bloody Cheerio between their thumb and forefinger or what ever. In the end they got there and it just wasn’t a big deal!

Next time I see a ‘at X months your baby should…’ sentence anywhere I am going to give myself two challenges. The first will be not to panic, or at least not to respond to my panic, if Bubs isn’t doing whatever he ‘should’ be. But the second is not to feel any pride if he is. A healthy, happy baby is an achievement to be proud of but beyond that if we start congratulating ourselves on the milestones then we will inevitably berate ourselves when our babies don’t meet these approximated deadlines. Worse, we will promote a culture in which mothers with babies who walk at 15 months rather than 12 will feel ashamed.

So many of us were professionals before we were mums and this skews our vision sometimes. We see milestones as targets to be met, rather than just stuff that will happen for our babies at some point.

There are very few concrete shoulds or shouldn’ts when it comes these little humans; they just do what they do, and we can trust them.

How do you feel about milestones? Have you been unduly worried about your child? Or maybe they flagged up something you’re glad you know? Comment below or Tweet me @aafew

Getting Deja Vu? Back in the annals of time (well, actually, in July), when my blog about 3 followers, I wrote a post called ‘Ssshh to the Shoulds’. And seeing as a) it is apparently #archivesaturday b) a few more people might read it this time round and c) I just really really hate the word ‘should’ being applied to children, I thought I’d rejig, rename and reblog it. So, there you go.

One small step for Bubs: One giant headache for mumkind. #WickedWednesdays

Any new mum is eager for the ‘next stage’. For weaning, for sitting up, rolling over, standing up etc. Mums of older children must look upon us with a sort of knowing sympathy because, as one mum said to me when I got all excited that Bubs was on the move: “Oh, you don’t want them crawling.” (Imagine that sentence is said is a sort of war-weary voice. Yep, that’s it).

Actually the first ‘milestones’ are brill. Smiling, giggling and sitting up all make your baby seem more human and less like a screaming, pooing creature sent to test your last nerve. For many of us there is a period of grace between newborn insanity and crawling, when your baby manages to have a personality AND will also stay wherever you plonk him/her. Aaaah, bliss.

For Bubs and I those days are over. And I’m not actually sad. Watching him grow into a little boy is a strange mixture of exciting and heart-wrenching. He hasn’t taken his first steps yet, but he is now a seasoned furniture cruiser. This week he took it to the next level, though and learned three new things:

1) To stand for a few seconds unaided. Well done there.

2) To climb up onto the sofa. Oh wow, that’s clever.

3) To climb up over the arms of the sofa and launch himself head first onto the floor below. Aaaah, panic, panic, catch, phew!

So, yes, whilst I still naively look forward to those first little toddles, at least I now know it’s naive. I’ve made my peace with that.

But let me illustrate how Bubs’ new found strength and agility with a little video. First, the context: I have a playpen in our kitchen, the bottom of which is removable and washable. This is fab, as I’m sure you can imagine. However, without the fabric bottom the sides are more prone to movement. They won’t collapse in on themselves but they will move if pushed, changing the shape of the pen and making them hazardous for babies not sure of their feet. However, I thought Bubs was strong enough that he’d be fine in his, and he was. It was my kitchen that was at risk! Observe:

So, there you have it. My hulk of a son can command his play pen and, needless to say the bottom won’t be getting washed again for a while!

brummymummyof2