Worrying About Losing Your Identity?

I spent the afternoon with one of my favourite people, who is also very heavily pregnant.  From being a pragmatic, grounded, sensible girl the ‘Mummy Worries’ are beginning to creep in (it happens to the best of us!).  This one was all around ‘being out of the loop’ and ‘not getting back to life’ or basically losing your sense of identity. 

Now it is easy for an existing Mum, who is a little bit further on to say ‘Don’t worry, you’ll make it through, and out the other side, and do you know it isn’t that bad!’, however, logically she’s not daft, so she knows that.  But it isn’t going to make her FEEL any better.

Do you worry about never getting your ‘old life back’ etc?  If so, here are some quick ideas to help you really feel that you will be OK.  You might need a mate to give you some objective ideas to work through it, or you can always ask me for some assistance.

First some bits of information for you to think about:

Info 1 – Break the Myth – Life is not ‘better’ or ‘worse’ after a baby or any life-changing event.  It’s just different.  Just as good.  Just as bad.  So don’t fall for the myth that life is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ afterwards, because that will cause you pain and discomfort.

Info 2 – Identity can’t disappear – Nothing disappears – try making water disappear, you are only going to get steam or ice, but not nothingness.  It can change.  It just can’t disappear.  So you will still have a network, just made up of different people (and not everyone talks about puree and nappies all the time!).  You will still be sexy, but for some it will change from a Kate Moss kind of sexy to a Nigella Lawson kind.  You’ll still be able to work/party, but it is likely to be slightly different.  But then think about it this way – wouldn’t life be boring if everything stayed the same for the rest of your life?

Info 3 – Don’t get scared about stereotypes about Mums.  Yes, even the most ‘sensible’ can get excited about poo, but that doesn’t mean it is the only thing they think about.  It’s just like normal life, there is a broad spectrum of mums, and you are bound to meet someone you click with.  

Here are the steps to work through in order to calm those worries, they may take a couple of hours, but you don’t have to do them in 1 fail swoop.

Step 1 – List where your network/role/identity/loop is now – whatever you are scared about losing.  E.g. work mates, partying mates, body shape etc

Step 2 – List where it could go e.g. baby classes, Mums groups, gym, coffee shops, church, online (e.g. netmums, mumsnet, twittermums – loads!), seeing more of your family, maybe neighbours.  Keep going until you can see there is ‘as much’ of the new identity/loop etc as there was before.

Step 3 – What are the downsides to the way that life is now, or just before you were pregnant?  Did you get hung over lots?!  Is there a lot of pressure to deliver at work?  Were you at times feeling dissatisfied?  Were you broody?  Do you not actually know many people near by?  Were you always to-ing and fro-ing?  Are you beginning to feel it might not be such a bad idea for a change?  If so, go on to the next step.

Step 4 – What would the benefits of the new network/identity/loop/way of life be?  You’ll know what you are doing every day.  Just having a shower can be a major achievement!  You appreciate the small things in life, like having 30 mins to yourself.  It’s a brilliant way to learn about life, you and people in general.  It can mean a change of work.  And of course there is the baby!

Tip – Join LOTS of Mums groups e.g. anti-natal swimming, yoga, NCT, local Mums & Babies, music classes, baby swimming, everything you can.  Plus, my most successful place to meet mums was Starbucks!  As the time goes by, people go back to work, people move, some Mums become unpleasant (hey, they are just human), and some you just won’t click with.  So start with a big network, to give yourself plenty of space for pruning over the first 18 months!!

I hope this helps for any mums worried or worrying about life having changed or being about to change.  Let me know if you have any feedback.

We are the same but different

One of the things that I feel would enormously transform our world today, is if as women, especially Mums, we stood together, allowing and embracing our differences, rather than pulling each other apart.  Becoming a Mum has been the one where I most felt the judgement from around me, and most astonishingly much of it came from the Mums.  Now, I know that whilst some were judging, others were appreciating, and that is the way of the world.  However, I see ahead a potential where Mums learn in their security with each other to hear the wisdom of their own hearts, thus creating a strong foundation for their families to grow from.  And here’s why ….

Whatever happens, we will always have different values.  Thats the point to life, because nature would see no need for us to all be the same.  It’s not wrong to be an attachment parent or a gina ford lover.  They are just a matter of choices.  The most important thing is that we as Mums pick options that work for us (and our families), rather than forcing ourselves to live the way that we ‘should’ do.  There are going to be as many benefits and downsides to all of our strategies, so there really isn’t any need for us to feel better than the next mum.

Plus, if you think that a Mum is disconnected and uncaring because she uses Gina Ford, and it really bothers you, then check out the other areas of your life.  You might not be a Gina Ford with your kids, but you are somewhere.  Perhaps you are a tough boss, who follows a strict schedule and has clear boundaries with your staff.  Or are you sometimes not present with your partner? 

If you think that your local friendly attachment parent, is just weird and freaky and will produce a clinging child, then where are you creating the same thing?  Do you have friends who are always texting or facebooking you?  Do you find that your clients need to be in touch with you all the time and won’t let go?

I have followed attachment parenting, but not because I planned to do so, just because that’s what worked.  I so planned on Max being in his cot and own room by 3 months, it’s just not the way we ended up.  If however, I was a single Mum, having to go back to a full time job, I would totally have relied on a much more scheduled routine.

So what would I love?  I would love to see Mums being true to themselves and what matters to them.  And other Mums backing them up.  Because we are a powerhouse that is needed in this world, and currently we aren’t doing ourselves any favours.  Yes, we don’t currently have much power in society.  However, if we change our own perception of ourselves and our value, then society will change the way that it sees us.

I’ve got loads more to say about this!!!  Keep in touch.

Bullying Pt 3 – Balance at Home?

So do you share the load with your partner of supporting / challenging and being nice / mean to the kids, or does one of you do more of one than the other?

In terms of being a parent, if you are always challenging your kids, and being the tough one, it is a shame for you because they are less likely to be open and affectionate to you. But your partner, or another member of the family will fill the space and ensure that they do get some support. Remember, it goes vice versa, if you are overly supportive of your kids, you will find that someone else appears to be always unreasonably harsh.

The ideal, is to do a bit of both, and be both fun and disciplined, soft and harsh, nice and mean.

When you find that you are tipping the balance into more being more supportive or challenging, then you can find that if you just stop, your partner will automatically pick up the slack.  For example, if you are finding yourself always telling the children off.  You can either stop, and watch them do it automatically, or explain the effects to your partner and ask them to help.  (I’ll talk about communication another time!).

When you feel guilty for the boundaries, rules, or just being bad tempered and grouchy, try to think of what they will gain from it. Responsibility, something to kick against, and an emotional intelligence of when people are not going to be open to their ideas or wants.

When you feel full of yourself for being so generous and kind to your child, think of the downsides, maybe a lack of independence, lack of financial responsibility and understanding, not wanting to experience things without you, or becoming over-reliant on you. It can even bias them against other members of the family and stop them from learning or gaining from interacting with them.

Ironically a child that has parents who over protect them at home will often end up bullied at school.  Rather than kindly helping a child that appears ‘weaker’ than the rest, it is human nature to find them irritating and have a go; hence probably making them feel worse and weaker about themselves.  So although you might have a sensitive child who needs gentle handling, remember to not be too over protective of them, as they will need to develop some strength of character when at school.

Do you think that you balance the support and challenge, or is it mainly one way for you? Need any hints and tips to tip the balance back to a more moderate approach? Disagree with me, or want further explanations? Let me know your thoughts.

Bullying Pt 2 – Where Does Bullying Come From?

(I wrote this post a few years ago.  It’s not looking at the more obvious reasons behind bullying, but more the energetics behind it)

In life there is always a balance of support (stuff we like happening) and challenge (stuff we find difficult or don’t like happening), just like a magnet with North and South.  But we do not always see it that way, as we tend to only see one or the other at a time. We also have a tendency to prefer the support, and dislike the challenge, but is that really fair, because sometimes without a bit of a push, we wouldn’t achieve our greatest days?

Bullying at it’s simplest, comes from there being too much support in one area of the child’s life, so it ends up being balanced by the ‘challenge’ of the bully. The ideal, that as parents we are looking for, is for the bullying to be spread across all areas of life, so that there are no extremes either at home or at school.

In the simplest situations of a little ‘light’ bullying, it can simply be a matter of looking at he child’s life like a set of scales, and adjusting the weights of support in one area versus the challenge where they are being bullied.  But in other circumstances there is a little more to be done to redress the balance.

Even Kids Need a Purpose

I wrote this a year or so ago –

I was watching my little 2 and a bit year old today filling the washing basket full of washing to be cleaned, and realised that the same truths for adults apply to babies, toddlers and children. 

We all need a ‘Purpose’. When we feel ‘purposeful’, we feel a sense of confidence and settlement with our lives, which spreads out into all other areas of life. 

So if you find your little one appears to be going through a dissatisfied period, one tip is to see if they have a ‘place’ in the family, a little responsibility, something to feel they are contributing to the world with. Maybe it is stirring a pot of dry pasta while you cook, so that they are included, or maybe they like to feed the dogs, or maybe empty and fill the washing machine. Max loves to ‘rescue’ people in trouble with hugs – he loves to pretend he is a superhero like ‘Sportacus’! He is rubbish at spreading butter on bread, but really enjoys doing it ;o) So it can be a made up purpose, anything that suits them and what they love to do.

It is amazing what a child can be responsible for, and undoubtedly there is a balance to maintain to ensure that they do not become overwhelmed with adult type worries. However, if there is no choice, and your child becomes one of those young carers, do not worry. They will regain their childhood at a later time, because nothing is ever lost forever. Plus, it will definitely teach them skills which they will be able to use at a later date.

Looking at my childhood, I would not be the same, and loving my life so much if I hadn’t been left with my very sick Mum at 5yrs old, and worked out how to call an ambulance when she collapsed. Later, I expanded to running the whole household at 10 when she had one of her numerous trips to hospital. Ironically, the hardest time was as a teenager when I was nursing my parents just after my ‘O’ levels – that was when I started to rebel and suggest they get a nurse so that I could go party! But do not fear for my ‘lost’ childhood, in my case I regained some of it in my 20’s, and the rest is steadily returning with the arrival of Max, my little boy.

If you would prefer to not include your little ones in the household tasks because it takes 3 times longer, just think of the potential downside of them not being included; In a few years you might be regretting that choice when they refuse! I did just that, when my Mum returned from hospital and kicked me out of the kitchen at 10yrs old – I vowed strongly to never cook again, and the power of that belief turned me from a 10yr old who could cook a full roast dinner, to someone who struggles with scrambled egg! I know many a 16 yr old who appears to be incapable of doing their own washing, or using the dish washer.

If you think that a baby doesn’t have a purpose, then I’m not so sure. Max was never happier than when he was making me learn to ‘Be’, by spending hours being cuddled on my lap. Maybe your baby’s greatest purpose is to teach you about yourself by giving you strong hints as to what makes them feel contented or loudly dissatisfied?

What do you think? Need any hints on finding a purpose for your family members? Let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts.