You Make Me Feel Like An Average Woman

averagewoman

Dear Bec,

You don’t know me. At least, I’m pretty sure you don’t. And if you do, then you might know what I’m writing to you about. Yeeeeahhh, about that post of yours….

So, I’m a mum too. It’s both a rewarding and challenging gig, all at the same time. It can be tougher for some, definitely, and there’s a whole generation of mums that are now more exposed than ever, with judgement being thrown about like comical cream pies.

Back in the days without the interwebs (srsly, I was alive for that, it isn’t that long ago), it was our immediate family, friends and neighbours that were free to cast aspersions on our parenting prowess, not people we didn’t know. Magazines had ideals and most of these were based on trying to sell us something, but generally, everyone just got on with it without fear of what someone across the country might think about it. So I agree with you in lamenting the phenomena of mummy shaming.

I know you meant well, but I think perhaps being Rebecca Judd got in the way. I’m one of those ‘average women’ you refer to, whom the Miranda Kerr’s and Giselle’s of the world are “duh”, naturally hotter than. I know that in your world, you are judged by your looks and size. But let’s all just agree to stop bringing this into the real world, where mum’s come in all shapes and sizes and our main focus isn’t to “bounce-back” to our pre-baby bodies. Puh-lease.

Can we also just stop a second and think about why we want to look like we’ve never HAD children? Like we’ve never grown a whole human (in some cases, a third of our actual size – I’m looking at you Amy) and carried it around for 9 months? These bodies should be worn proudly, like badges of honour and those hot scars that women love. I stand by my belief that my friends who have either aged gracefully or had children and are happy (tired, but happy) are looking better than they ever have in their whole life. Yes, that’s INCLUDING their early 20s.

Let’s all keep fighting the good fight, but perhaps pause for a second to make sure we’re not actually contributing to the cause. Cause we’ve all got so much more to do (like dancing, eating vanilla slices, taking photos of our kids and writing letters to celebrities)

Srsly,
Caroline

//————-//

Dear Bec,

Oh hey, I’m Amy the one Caroline referred to earlier. Small lady, big baby? Yeah, that’s me.

First up, I know what you were aiming for with the whole ‘let’s quit shaming each other’ article. I get it. We’re all mums. We’re all doing our best. Let’s hug it out.

But I’m going to point out a glaring omission in your piece. Because, dude, it needs to be said. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. No pun.

First of all, a basic recap:

Mums who breastfeed are great! | Mums who can’t breastfeed so they formula feed are also great!*

Mums who birth naturally are great! | Mums who know their limits and take the damn epidural are also great!

Mums who partake in pre- and post-natal fitness are great! | GLARING SILENCE.

I’ve heard you say in the past that you’re just ‘lucky’ that you look the way you do and it’s always kinda jarred me a little. Because… I don’t look the way you do. In fact, I was born looking quite different to you. I’m 5 foot tall for a start. I have red hair and freckly skin. And while I’m of a petite and (relatively) proportionate build, I’m no supermodel. By your definition that somehow makes me, um, unlucky. Me and a vast majority of women on the planet. I know, I know – don’t hate you ’cause you’re beautiful. But maybe don’t ignore me ’cause I’m not.

Did I get into physical fitness while I was pregnant with my babies? Nup.

Did I get into it after I had my babies? Ah, not particularly.

Do I feel exasperated by all those beautiful celebrity mums popping up on my Facebook newsfeed with their tales of how they got their pre-baby bodies back? ‘Lil bit.

I live a vaguely active lifestyle and I’m not overweight. I view exercise as a way of being physically and mentally healthy and because of those pesky ‘unlucky’ genes of mine, if I wanted to look like you and Miranda and Giselle and be ‘celebrated’ (or noticed at all) I would need to spend a lot more time working on my body and a lot less time doing other perfectly healthy things I love – like reading, writing, letterpress printing and watching cat videos on YouTube. And here’s the kicker: there’s a lot of money to be made by making the unlucky ones feel like they could look lucky if only they worked a little harder. I think you may even be making a bit of that money.

Just to be clear: I’m not talking about unhealthy behaviours or obesity here. I’m talking about regular folk.

When my body started changing during my first pregnancy I was faced with a choice: I could obsess over my appearance and approach the coming months with fear and dread. Or I could keep living my life. I chose the latter. By your omission, I shouldn’t be celebrated for that fact and I wholeheartedly disagree. That choice was the best decision I ever made. It’s not only great for me, but a great example to set for my daughter who, I hope, will live by my example and not grow up feeling ‘unlucky’. Because she’s a quirky little redhead, too. And she’s FABULOUS.

So, all you ordinary mums of the world, I’m just gonna put it out there – you are great. Maybe you got the lucky genes, maybe you didn’t. Maybe who gives a shit, you are ace. You know that there are only so many hours in a new mum’s hectic day and you’d rather spend your downtime reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist than punishing your body to look lucky. You know that you make a mean lasagne. You don’t need to buy into this post-baby body crap because you know that the people who love you don’t give a hoot if your tummy sags a bit after having those beautiful babes of yours. And you are setting an excellent example for them that they are so much more than just their appearance. Your eyes sparkle when you watch your friends having their babies, and it never occurs to you to check out how quickly they snapped back into shape. Or didn’t.

Ordinary mums, let’s get together over a cup of tea, a green smoothie, a full-fat, full-caffeine latte or a straight up martini. And let’s talk about things more interesting than our thighs. Which is, let’s face it, pretty much everything.

With ya not against ya (mostly),
Amy

* I’m gonna add mums who formula feed by choice in here. Because, you know, free will and all.

The Flipside Of Love

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I love my family. I love my husband; by jove I love that man. I love my friends, the whole crazy lot of them. They’re our village.

But this kid…. This kid is different.

Maybe it’s the instant nature of it. I felt it the moment I held him, and I know it’s not like that for some people. It can take a little while to get your head and heart around this new being in your life. But it hit me full force, crazy pregnant lady hormones or nay.

And almost with the same force, I felt the fierce grip of fear.

I looked into the eyes of this tiny baby and realised that although I could with all confidence say that I would do anything for him, be the best kind of parent I could possibly be and give him all the love and support he would ever need – his future was not entirely mine to design.

And that scared the bejesus out of me.

I don’t mean this in a scary-dance-mom kind of way. I don’t have my sights on his career or academic/sporting life (though, I have a big plans for the use of novelty outfits and the like). I mean that I realised all of the things that could have been his life and that could still be his life simultaneously. Every news story, horror story, health warning and natural event that I’d never taken much notice of suddenly hit me like a tonne of bricks. Talk about an empathy baptism of fire.

But what to do with this fear? It can devour you whole if you let it, and dampen that pure love that made you radiate. But I think recognizing that it comes with the territory, that being able to love with such force has to come with a flipside of fear, makes it somehow bearable.

I suppose it may sound melancholic, but it’s important to discuss it. It’s only when we talk about our fears that we can recognise them, understand why they’re there and figure out how to live with them. I don’t want to helicopter around August, or instill a fear of the world in him. I don’t want to bang on about what could go wrong, and I don’t want those thoughts to consume me either. I want him to develop a healthy curiousity and interest in what’s happening around him, in other people and I want him to find his own place in the world.

I still worry. I will worry. It’ll probably give me more grey hairs and the like. But I deal with it knowing that it’s going to be there regardless, that all I can do is love him with everything I have, and that in order to enjoy this beautiful gift of bursting love, I have to accept it will always be there.

I think I can be cool with that.

 

August – 3 Months

 

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Time flies when you’re having fun. Or perhaps more accurately, when you’re feeding, rocking, singing, crying, loving, sighing and breathing baby.

We knew we’d love this kid, but we didn’t know the extent of this love. At times a heart-wrenching love, when it seems the world is so big, and your baby so small.

Excited calls of  “ooh, come look at this!” still ring and will continue to ring throughout the house, when we want to share with each other this silly face, the first roll, or a huge-mungous poo that this little thing presents to us. We laugh a lot, and now sometimes all together, when August figures a giggle out.

He’s grown in length, but not particularly in girth. His contemporaries are bubbling and bursting at the seams, but he suits his petiteness. He often captures attention because of his likeness to a miniature person, not just a baby. Bottle-shop attendants, key-cutters, and librarians have not escaped his charm, much to my amusement. And he knows how to turn it on.

I can remember life before him, I don’t hold with the adage that you forget. But this is a different life, a one that bring such highs, such swells and a little fear. But it’s all good. It’s where we want to be.

Happy 3 months August. We’re on the edge of our seats to see what 4 brings. And we love you so very much.

Stranger Danger

 

Stranger Danger

Yesterday I went out and about with the kids to a shopping centre. Standard.

I was pushing Freddie in the pram while Hazel walked/skipped/ran/slouched along next to me. I passed a pop-up stall with some really cute kitten slippers so, naturally, I picked them up, asked for a size and chatted with the stallholder. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a middle-aged lady with a concerned look on her face who said: “I don’t want to tell you how to be a mum, but you should be careful turning your back on your baby. You heard about the baby kidnapped… from…” she tapered off, probably trying to recall which baby horror story she was referring to, perhaps realising she was actually thinking of an episode of Law and Order. I stood looking at her a bit dumbfounded. I couldn’t have been more than 15 centimetres from Freddie, the pram was practically touching my coat. The brake was on. Random clothing and other bits and pieces were hanging from the handles and shopping was messily and precariously piled in the basket underneath. Freddie was fast asleep and strapped into the capsule. And the exits were a fair way off. And there were a lot of people around. Hazel was standing in the way of any clear path out of there. And my pram is kinda hard to push when you first take the brake off… and I could probably go on and on and on about how awkward it would be for any would-be kidnapper to steal this particular baby right now, whichever way I was facing. But I’ll stop there.

(Deep breath)

We new parents have a lot to deal with.

There’s the baby, for one. They’re a handful. What with the crying and the pooping and the sleeping (or not sleeping) and the feeding (or not feeding). Who designed them to be so difficult?

Then there’s the rest of the family. Your spouse, perhaps another kid, your extended family. Lots of people need to be thought about when a new baby comes along. Relationships can change. Kids definitely change. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes it’s really challenging.

Then there’s your body. And that… I can’t even…

And then there are the Complete Strangers. On a list of ‘Things Not To Concern Yourself With When You’ve Just Had A Baby’, I’d say that ‘Complete Strangers’ comes in at number 1. Incidentally ‘The Dishes’ comes in at number 2. I just wish the Complete Strangers in question knew just how redundant they are.

You see, it isn’t the point they’re trying to make (I don’t doubt that someone somewhere sometime had their baby stolen from a shopping centre and that it was awful). It’s that these vigilante do-gooders don’t realise that their input is utterly irrelevant, out of context and potentially damaging. If pressed, my nosy stranger would have claimed good intentions; that she was saying it for my own good. But this simply isn’t  true. She was saying it for the feeling of being right, being validated, being important, being wise. She was expressing her own deep-set fears and anxieties, her own agenda. But it is misdirected: there are far fewer babies being kidnapped in shopping centres than there are brand new mums falling into the despair of post-natal anxiety, convinced they’re doing everything wrong. If she really wanted to do something for my own good, maybe just… don’t.

What makes it all so incredibly ironic is that in 2014, we have found ourselves living in an empathetically disconnected world. Where people rarely look up from their iPhones on public transport to offer their seats to the elderly. If someone starts a racist rant on the street, people desperately look the other way rather than speak up. But a frazzled mum gives her screaming toddler a lollipop in the supermarket and hell hath no fury like a complete stranger who just read I Quit Sugar.

So, vigilante strangers everywhere, I say this on behalf of every new parent:

Please shut up.

It actually doesn’t matter what you say. We’re not going to listen to you. We’re not going to like it. We’re sure as hell not going to act on it. (I have never once known a person to say to me “A lovely stranger told me off for taking my baby out in public today and I’m so glad she did! I’ll be sure to stay indoors for the next few months because random strangers on the street are universally known to be right.”) We’re not going to thank you. At best, we’re going to ignore you and if you see us playing with our phone afterwards then we are most DEFINITELY ranting about you on Facebook. So why bother? Resist the urge to scold and just shut up.

I don’t ask you to shut up because whatever it is you’re pedalling isn’t sage advice. I ask you to shut up for the plain and simple reason that you are a complete stranger, with zero knowledge of the baby or parent or situation in front of you and you should therefore please just shut up.

So the next time you’re out and you spy a parent ‘doing it wrong’ and you’re just itching to be helpful, take a deep breath and say the following:

“Your baby is beautiful.”

Believe me, you don’t know what kind of day that parent is having and saying that WILL help, if only in a small way.

And if you just can’t bring yourself to do that, go for the Do No Harm approach and please shut up.

I say this for your own good.

(This whole scenario ended with me turning my back on the nosy stranger in the hope that someone would kidnap her.)

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

letter writing

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.

Let Me Be Your Daddy Blog

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My husband was actively involved in my pregnancy (up to a point of course, and then the eating of donuts/carrying of child/aches and pains were all mine), and was also involved in the planning of said pregnancy. And now that we have August, we co-parent as much as possible. Sound too good to be true? The fact that to many people, it does, is the issue here. There are heaps of great Dads that are taking an equal share of raising a child, but do we hear about it (apart from when it’s reported in wonderment)? Nope.

Throughout my pregnancy and now as a Mother (always with a capital for marketing purposes), I have at my fingertips an overwhelming amount of information, mostly in the form of Mummy blogs, ranging from the inspirational to the contrived. Some I felt resonated with me, but others were eons away from my way of thinking. But that’s cool – I have a heap to choose from. From the very beginning of this crazy child-rearing adventure, I was learning and absorbing. But I soon realised that my partner hadn’t been worded up on this stuff, nor had he even been invited to the party.

See, he’s a Dad. And therefore, he’s struggled to find a blog for this role. He wanted to be able to connect and share this new experience with other like-minded Dads, preferably in the same country. But it appears that the Daddy Blog is a rare beast. When he did find a ‘group’, the promise of beer, sport or food was apparently necessary to grab and keep a male’s attention, and often overshadowed the main purpose of the group. He was dismayed, and I can’t help feeling that this is hugely patronizing to those men wanting to connect with other fathers, and this certainly didn’t fly at our house.

Why do we do this? I don’t want to downplay the value of the parenting blog or forum, in whatever format it works for you – but it appears as though women have staked a claim in this area, with an almost righteous attitude about it. There are clubs, awards, societies, and everything in between for mothering blogs – in the Kidspot Voices of 2014, the parenting blogs in the Top 100 are all by women, with various forms of the word “mum” in the titles.

The reality is, women are continuing the vicious circle of parenting roles by keeping men out of the loop, and I’ve found that the assumption is continually made that if something needs to be researched or checked in regards to our son, all eyes on me. Why do I need to be the one to Google, call or ask – that’s a BIG responsibility dude. Ask my husband. Get his signature on August’s immunisation form. Have him sign the boy up to a daycare waiting list. His handwriting is much nicer than mine.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that just because a women is writing a blog about parenting, there isn’t a place for that. We have bits that men don’t, and these bring with them a whole range of fun stuff to LOL about (or FML about). But there should exist a more shared experience, where the joys, trials, and hilariously confusing aspects of having a child can be discussed by everyone involved. And this, in turn, will go towards both parents taking on a more equal responsibility.We know of a couple of great fathering blogs, like this one, and we love people like Brian – but we hope ours will also become somewhere for everyone to go and laugh at ourselves and our kids equally.

Spread the love peeps.