An Open Letter To Those Who Have Gone Before Us: Addressed to Parents of the Past

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Dear All

First up: sorry for not writing more often. And by more often, I mean never. But look, this is a start, and I’m rather ashamed of my tardiness, so let’s not dwell on it in case the baby wakes up before I finish.

I want to say something before I delve into this letter, something that should have been said, and should continue to be said to you more often:

You did a great job.

You guys all did what we new parents are learning to do right now: Raise a child in the best way you know how. You did it with love and with all the tools at your disposal at the time. You did it with cloth nappies, horse and carts, polio, war and depression. You did it without formula, central heating, vaccinations, research and Kaz Cook baby books. And we all turned out alright (sure, some of us might be card-carrying narcissists from too much love – but who knew that would be the outcome?).

The reason I want to say this, and say it loud, is that just as you did your very best – so are we newbies. It would be naive to assume there isn’t quite the gap between parenting in 2014, and the parenting of generations before us. In the baby-rearing arena, when continual research can mean that recommendations change almost yearly – a generation is a long time between drinks. And don’t even get me started on drinking!

So I guess I’m writing to clear up a couple of things:

Sharing is caring, but unsolicited advice is kinda annoying.

We would be nowhere today if knowledge wasn’t passed down through the ages, across the board. Science, literature, cooking  – where would we be without Nonna’s instructions or Great Uncle Kev’s fishing tips. But when new Mums are constantly barraged by conflicting information on how to look after a baby, a gentle suggestion can go a long way, instead of making an assumption that what is being done is wrong. You’d be amazed at what complete strangers have “advised” me so far. “He’s hungry” being a favourite.

I know that there is a fine line between helping and being a pain, but perhaps think about the way you provide any advice you’re giving to new parents. You want to help, not hinder, and statements are a whole different ballgame than a suggestion.

If you’ve had kids more than 4 years ago, and you’re going to be around a new parent a whole lot – do some reading

Just as we’ve had books, blogs and baby forums shoved down our throats, you too might benefit from a little updating of your new baby knowledge. Perhaps things have changed since you were a tired, hormonal mum, or a pensive new dad, and it would be a huge benefit for you to combine your past experience with current recommendations and regulations. Then maybe you can skip the whisky-on-the-gums suggestion and spare us the eye-rolling.

Just because some things might have changed, doesn’t mean we’re saying you did anything wrong

This is a biggie. When a new parent in 2014 disputes your advice about the position baby should sleep in, or the best swaddling method, this is not because they think you are wrong or have done wrong. It’s simply that what we’re being advised now is different to the advice of yesteryear, and we have to follow the safety stats. Please don’t take it personally, and please don’t infer that what you had done (tummy sleeping etc) was something terrible. You were doing exactly the same as we were – following recommendations from the health professionals. You’ll find you’re far less defensive if you do a little reading as suggested above, since then we’ll all be on the same page.

Lastly – don’t stop helping

I don’t know how frazzled I would be now if someone hadn’t showed me some fantastic positions for de-gassing baby, or the body language babies show when they’re in the early stages of tiredness. This stuff doesn’t change. It’s really the things surrounding our babies that change. So keep sharing your homespun advice, but with the new-found knowledge of 2014. We’d love your help.

 

My kid is a jerk, please don’t judge

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Exactly one year ago, I was a pretty smug biatch. I had a two-and-a-half year old daughter exhibiting absolutely no signs of the much maligned ‘Terrible Twos’ and I put it all down to the fact that I was the best mum in the goddam world. Obviously.

She said her pleases and thank-yous unprompted. She was kind and gentle with smaller children. She spoke politely, albeit eccentrically, to her elders. She never ran off – in fact, I often complained of having the opposite problem of her incessant dawdling.

The parents and their rude and rowdy tantrum-throwing toddlers, looking tired and defeated, were doing something wrong. I never said anything aloud to suggest it, but I judged them. And pitied them. And I went and got myself knocked up a second time because I was obviously so bloody good at raising angels.

A lot can change in a year.

Yesterday, my daughter yelled at a friend of mine, who was being so kind as to draw her a picture, that she DOESN’T LIKE GREEN! Not only untrue – she changes her favourite colour as often as her underwear and green has featured heavily – but incredibly rude.

Knowing she was adjusting to life with a new little brother, last week I took her out for a hot chocolate and some quality time with Mama while he slept in the pram. I even threw in a cupcake. Halfway through her drink she LOST HER MIND because she decided she wanted a juice instead.

She pushed a girl’s bike over at the park. She climbed every Ikea display she passed. While dressing her one morning she told me I stink.

She demands treats for breakfast EVERY MORNING. Getting her around the supermarket is a gauntlet of unreasonable demands from lollies to baby socks. She refuses to say goodbye when guests leave our house, instead opting to stomp her foot and make grunty noises. And forget unprompted manners – I’m lucky if I can pry a thank-you out of her.

Impervious to bribes, threats and reason (no you can’t have an apple because we’re fresh out of apples), this kid has no concept of time except RIGHT NOW.

Like all good parents, we took to Google to tell us what’s what and we found A LOT of people in the same boat. Mostly they blamed Day Care, but I knew better; this had nothing to do with being around other badly behaved kids. The simple fact of the matter is this: my kid is a jerk right now.

We’ve labelled her ‘The Threenager’ and we know it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. I know it’s temporary. I know it’s not some long-term personality indicator. But man, it’s rough. My days with Hazel used to be filled with hilarious anecdotes, now they’re filled with power struggles. Sometimes, putting her in Time Out actually makes me glad. I make a cup of tea and get nostalgic about the two-and-a-half year old I once knew.

But there’s always a silver lining, right? Well mine is this: if I see a parent with a rude and rambunctious child, tearing up all kinds of hell, I no longer judge.

I give them that tired and defeated smile of parental solidarity and shrug as if to say ‘Kids, who needs ’em?” Then quickly get my kid out of their way before she tells them they stink or demands their milkshake.

I’m a Feminist and I’m OK

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Whether it’s my bestie or Beyonce, I get really sad when I hear a woman say she isn’t a feminist. Like, really sad. Not because I think she’s probably sitting at home doing her husband’s ironing and foregoing all her girlhood dreams, but because I think it shows just how misunderstood the big, bad ‘F’ Word is in 2014. And I’m sick of it being shamed.

I’m a feminist. And I’m neither ashamed nor afraid to say so. And I think so many women (and men) actually are feminists at the heart of it but they are either unaware or ashamed to say so because they think being a feminist comes with a whole score of seemingly unattractive traits. And that’s sad to me. Sad that women feel their attractiveness trumps their own social freedom. Sad that men feel their masculinity is undermined by supporting women towards that goal.

And so I would like to clarify a few things. There is no singular feminist manifesto written by some mythical bra burner – feminism means different things to different people – but here are a few things that being a feminist definitely DOESN’T mean:

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t shave my legs.
I don’t shave my legs because I’m lazy and the hair on my legs is blonde and I genuinely don’t give a rats.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t wear lipstick.
Right now I’m wearing Nars Heat Wave paired elegantly with trackies.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I don’t like bras.
Because, dude, I’m breastfeeding right now and OMG just… no.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men.
I quite like most of the ones I know personally, and really admire many I don’t know personally – particularly this guy and this guy.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I think all men are out to get me.
That would just be weird and paranoid.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean that I don’t think men have their own battles to fight.
They do. And I will fight gladly alongside them because it’s all the one battle, really.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian*.
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

Being a feminist means I believe in gender equality. And I believe that right now, in 2014, gender inequality still exists to the detriment of women, particularly in the workforce. I know this because I am a woman who once worked a job that demanded so much of me that becoming a mother rendered me useless to that profession. I had no choice but to forge my own path and it occurred to me, about 18 months ago, that my own path better work out because if it didn’t then I would have been screwed. A great many women are faced with that same dilemma, and very few men are. It is one of the most difficult and diverse challenges to gender equality because it requires nothing short of a complete overhaul to workplace policy and domestic culture.

Being a feminist means I believe that we need to consciously move away from the objectification of women. And we need to empower our daughters to know that they have absolute ownership over the body they inhabit; whatever it looks like, and however they choose to clothe it.

Being a feminist means that I believe we need to stand up and speak out when little acts of sexism and misogyny occur. You might say that Tony Abbott’s wink was harmless. You might say that the Nova FM prank on Samantha Armytage was all in fun. You might say that these little acts, perpetrated by men who are not necessarily bad men (insert hilarious comment about our dear Minister for Women here), are not the same as overt acts of sexism such as rape and domestic violence, but these small and seemingly inconsequential acts of sexism creates a culture that enables and normalises misogyny. And we must be brave enough to challenge the little acts, even amongst our friends, without fear of being labelled precious or aggressive. From little things big things grow so I’ve drawn a big fat line in the sand and I’ll be standing my ground.

Being a feminist means I am committed to being part of the solution to an equal society. I refuse to sit on my hands and say ‘that’s just how it is’; how it is now is not how it was 20 years ago, and it is not how it will be in 20 years time. I will be part of the momentum that propels this inevitable change, not the dead weight holding it back.

I am part of the solution by sending positive messages to my daughter and leading by example:

I do what I love with my life so that my daughter may grow up feeling that it is her right to do what she loves with her life, whatever that may be. I never underestimate my privilege in being able to do this.

I cherish my body so that my daughter will learn to cherish her own.

I stand up to sexism so that she will stand up for herself and others.

Being a feminist needn’t be such a provocative thing to be. In fact, I think that raising two future feminists is probably the most radical and honourable thing I can do.

* this is a reference to an episode of Geordie Shore where two of the girls debated whether they were feminists and came to the conclusion that they weren’t because you had to be a lesbian to be a feminist. *slaps forehead*

Welcoming August Gray

If I’ve been a bit quiet of late (though really, with Amy solely holding the fort with some cracker posts – you’ve got a pretty good reason not to have noticed), it’s not because I haven’t been carrying my weight (all 42 weeks of it) – it’s because that weight was finally converted to baby on the Nineteenth of March, 2014.

Introducing, August Gray Kennon. We think he’s a bit scrummy.

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In addition to a long labour, birth plan that went out the window and a longer stay in hospital than anticipated, well, you know, I have a newborn. It’s pretty much all consuming, and he has taken my time and breath away faster than you can say grazed nipple.

So I’ll be back in the swing of things with a post tomorrow, and since Amy has her own impending baby to birth, you might see a bit more of me when she disappears into the newborn haze.

I’ll leave you with the moment Hazel met August (this was taken just before August started crying and Hazel took the hands-off “I didn’t do it!” approach to baby-holding)

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Hating on Friends with Kids

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So here’s a thing that’s become a total THING. Hating on friends with kids. Especially friends who post things about their kids on Facebook. And I’m here today to tell you it’s weird, guys. Hating on people who have kids is weird.

Look, I remember 2007 like it was yesterday. I remember when Facebook was all travel photos and hilarious status updates that had to start with ‘is’. I remember being nervous about being tagged in photos from Friday night because I could barely remember Friday night. I remember being relieved to discover that although I didn’t remember it, I still looked (mostly) pretty hot. I remember giving myself the goal of posting one funny thing about cats every day. I remember. Oh yeah, I remember.

Then 7 years passed by, and a bunch of us did a few big ‘life’ things. Like getting married and having babies. And because those things were suddenly a lot bigger parts of our lives than Friday nights on the piss and LOLCATS (though for me personally, nothing will ever be bigger than LOLCATS. Nothing, you hear?) our posts started to evolve as well. We started posting about the things that were going on in our actual lives rather than, oh I don’t know, lying about going out on a Friday night when we weren’t. Or posting travel photos of places where we weren’t. Or disappearing off Facebook altogether in shame.

And the response to our change of social media direction? Haters. You may be shocked to hear that there are entire blogs dedicated to complaining about parents talking about their kids on Facebook. Entire blogs!

Haters, I’m not going to psychoanalyse what your problem is (well, I already have but I won’t present my findings in a public space), but if you’re offended/annoyed/disinterested by stuff that your “friends with kids” post on social media, I am going to give you just a dash of parental advice: you don’t have to look at it. Just like we don’t have to look at your lame selfies.

How you go about it is this: in your Newsfeed, identify a post containing a simply disgusting child who has the audacity to be starting kinder today. Hover over it and you should see a little downwards arrow on the right. Click on it and you’ll see the “I don’t want to see this” option. You can then opt to completely unfollow (without unfriending) a person who notoriously posts stuff about their abhorrent child.

How you don’t go about it is this: dedicate an entire blog to complaining about the thing you’re so offended by. It seems to me that it will actually make you far more involved in the topic that you apparently don’t like. As in, it would become your JOB to write about the thing you HATE. Where’s the logic? I ask you, where’s the logic?

These ‘friends with kids’ were presumably your ‘friends’ first and foremost. It’s not like total strangers are knocking on your door and parading their children in front of you and demanding you ‘like’ them. Why be so offended by a cute/funny/gross/uninteresting photo of a kid you know? Why be annoyed to hear that they just took their first steps? If you feel that there’s too much talk about them going on, seriously, just unfollow and stop being a jerk.

Haters, I’m sure you’d rather peruse your own profile pictures than look at photos of someone’s kid. And that’s cool. But the bottom line is this: Facebook was invented for people to connect with each other in their own unique way and talk about the things going on their actual lives. It wasn’t invented for YOU and only YOU to talk about and connect with YOURSELF and the people who think exactly the same way as YOU, are doing the same activities as YOU and are at exactly the same life-stage as YOU.

If we were friends on Facebook, I would unfollow you without ceremony. I wouldn’t start a blog about self-righteous and immature jerks, though. I’ll take this opportunity to rant about it, but an entire blog seems a little overboard. And lame. And frankly, I’m a parent now so I don’t have the time.

FFS Friday: The Havoc That an Unborn Can Reap

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1. This is just one of series of images that my husband took of my foot in which he had made an indentation with an inanimate object. In this instance, his thumb. Oh, the humanity!

Now, it wouldn’t be right to say that I’m renowned for having a well-turned ankle and a good set of calves – but I will say that I have always been happy with the shape, size and general look of anything below the knees. And for most of my pregnancy, indeed really all the way up to about 38 weeks, I thought I’d escaped the curse of the fluid retention.

Clearly, I was wrong.

So here we are, at 41 weeks with the legs resembling the trunk of a native tree and fingers the size of soy-sages.

And before anyone has a heart-attack about potential pre-eclampsia – I don’t have it. Blood pressure etc all normal – just storing up fluid like the Hoover Dam.

FFS

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2. How many towels does it take to soak up the overflow from a bath you left running after dozing off because that new book you purchased was SO BORING …. oh, about this many.

FFS!