To do list

What Will Cause The Most ‘Pain’ If Not Done By The End Of Today?

To do list
To do list

In ‘ye olden days’, i.e. 2 months ago before the arrival of ‘little dimples’, my second child, I used to ask myself what might seem a slightly dark question when sorting out my plan for work/life balance.

I would think about being elderly and sitting on my death bed, looking back over my life.  ‘What would I regret not doing?’.  Would I miss doing that piece of admin, writing that document, working with that client, or playing with my son.

In some cases, I really wanted to write, or the client session was going to be really interesting and couldn’t be at another time.  But in other cases, the sun would be out and it was definitely time to make a memory and go and have a picnic.

This would really help me to be clear on what I wanted to achieve, and how I wanted to do it.  I’m not the type to go pushing ahead with my business, and put the kids last.  It’s not wrong, it’s just not me, and most of all kids just want us to be ourselves.  I’m also not the type to not have another string to my bow; that is, I’d be a rubbish stay at home mum!

But now my life has changed, and is much more practical and much more short term.  My question is ‘What will cause me the most pain if I don’t get it done by the end of today?‘.  It helps me with the juggling act (which frankly I’m not doing well at), because ‘little pink’ could wake up at any moment and then demand attention for the rest of the day.

Today, I needed the washing dry, but I also needed to write, just quickly, so that I felt that feeling I love for a moment.  I’ve also made myself a long glass of squash and got some snacks ready, as I’m conscious that her milk demands are increasing.  Which also means sod any thought of a diet for another week!

If I get a chance I’ll phone the two mates who left me a voicemail or text.  Max is at nursery today, so I might even get a chance to interview a ‘Mother’s help’, but most of all I need a little peace and quiet after the easter holidays, when I made a couple of fatal mistakes; I’ll blog about them later in the week, but they are all about feeling unappreciated because you do a pile of stuff ‘for’ people and forgot to work out your compensation package ;o)

A great question, can be worth it’s weight in gold.  What questions help you?

The Ideal Mummy Age – 16, 26, or 36?

I was reading a blog by a fellow Mummy Blogger the other day about age and mummyhood; you know, the eternal question about which age is most ideal.  Suddenly it hit me about the weird synchronicities in my life and how there were 3 potential ages and outcomes for my life.

16 – So Nearly A Teenage Mum

It might surprise people to know that I was very nearly a teenage Mum, and therefore can totally understand why young girls make the choice to get pregnant.  Not because of council houses etc, etc, but because of an urge for someone who would love me, for me, and need me for me, not use me. It wasn’t a rational thought, it was a pretty lonely desperate thought.

I was a very bright, slightly serious, very responsible girl, who had been what is now termed a ‘young carer’ from an extremely young age (called an ambulance at 5 for my Mum) and I’d pretty much enjoyed the job, just like all young kids who are so resilient and adaptable to situations.  But when I hit my teens it got much harder to deal with.  During my ‘O’ level revision my Dad had a heart attack, was overdosed by the hospital and ended up in a diabetic coma. Although he recovered, he was pretty sick throughout my exams, plus the family company was being sold.  The day that school finished, my Mum fell over the dog and broke her pelvis.  So I spent the majority of my summer holidays nursing the two of them, as they refused proper help or to go somewhere more suitable.

It was that time of your life where you start to meet loads of new friends and your social life begins to take precedence.  I was lucky, my new friends were willing to come to the house to see me, when I got a break.  But after the stress of exams and a tough summer, I was becoming very resentful.  I remember distinctly the thought running through my head, that if I had a baby, they would want me for just me, not as a potential carer for the rest of their lives.  Now to all the shattered Mums out there, that might sound rather ironic!  But it is different.  I look in my daughter’s eyes tonight and in a way that young version of me was right and I do feel different about nursing her, than I did my parents.

So for the first time I rebelled when we went on holiday, which happened to co-incide with falling head over heels for a summer romance.  The only reason that I did not come back pregnant, was that I happened to fall for someone younger than me (which I didn’t realise), who therefore didn’t take advantage of the potential on offer.  Instead I came back a smoker; hell I needed something!

Wow, life would have been different if I’d tried harder to get pregnant.  I reckon I would have enjoyed being a Mum, despite my age, and as caring came naturally, I would have taken to the role easily.  But so many other things would have changed.  Would my parents have helped, so that I could continue to study my ‘A’ Levels?  I’m not sure, and even if they did, I suspect it would have been delayed.  I doubt the rather disastrous 5yr intense relationship would have happened, as I wouldn’t have been so attractive with a baby.  That would have saved some heartache, but also lost useful lessons.  I might still have met my husband, if I’d managed to continue and do a degree, even if I’d gone for a local one instead, but again I wonder how attractive I would have been with a 4yr old child.

So here I would be, 40yrs old, with a 24yr old child.  They would definitely have left college by now, so I would be free to enjoy my 40’s and make the most of them.  They would have known my Dad for 4yrs and might remember him, and would have had 20yrs with my Mum.  Plus, I would have had a Mum to talk to when I was tired, and upset, and a Mum to babysit or help out when I just felt like I couldn’t cope.  However, my escape from home was combined with going away to do my degree (that was kind of what I’d been working towards since very young), so I might never have got away and stayed as her carer until she died 4yrs ago.  But maybe as I learnt more about her from becoming a Mum myself, we might have found a more balanced way?  Nahhh, I was too young, and I’ve needed to learn a hell of a lot in order to understand human behaviour, especially when it gets all twisted and knarly.  But I reckon I would still have loved being a Mum.

26 – Why Not At The ‘Ideal Age’?

Ironically 3 yrs later I was told by a doctor that I was ‘barren’ and had to take pills for the rest of my life otherwise I would get ‘brittle bone disease or cancer and die’.  So at 26 when I was ‘meant to’ be having kids, (we’d been together 6 yrs, married for 1yr) I wasn’t.  My husband knew from the beginning that there were problems, but I did double check just before we got married.  The specialist said that IVF wouldn’t work, but I could try fertility treatments.  However, ironically if I did fall pregnant there was a high probability of multiple pregnancies, but he thought it unlikely I would be successful.

Now, by this stage I was a stress junkie.  I did not deal well with my Dad’s death, and had a huge discovery about my Mum which turned my life upside down and back again.  I was doing really well in a mega stressful job, and working long days and hours.  I organised my wedding in conjunction with my in-laws, which is just not ideal, however nice your in-laws are.  There was NO WAY I could have handled twins or worse, it just wasn’t worth the risk.  The problem was that everyone said it had to be in my 20’s, and that the slimmest of chances was slipping away.  But we weren’t ready, I was too stressed and it wasn’t a priority for my husband.  I insisted it would be ‘wrong’ to try for a baby just because of age (please do not think that I am criticising anyone who makes that choice – just wrong for us, that’s all).

I am SO glad that we didn’t try at that point, because one thing I am sure of is that I would not have handled it.  I would have been filled with brain noise, and been a prime candidate for Post-natal depression, with no idea on how to tackle it.  I wouldn’t have had time to heal the rift between myself and my Mum, which would have just added to the whole messy emotional state.  Plus, my husband and I went through a key, although uncomfortable, shift in our relationship 10yrs later, and without it, I don’t think we could have had the family that we have today, or the future possibilities.

36 – Miraculous (and again at 40!)

So then we come to the 36 year old, walking up and down a corridor saying ‘Oh shit’ and starring in disbelief at a pregnancy test that is definitely positive.  By now, I’d got so used to the idea of being ‘barren’ that I had totally accepted it, and was sure it was because I’d be a rubbish Mum anyway.  Our marriage had been through some tough times, but my husband had also got his head around the lack of children, and we were just planning our very hedonistic mid-life together when I discovered that I was 2 months pregnant!

I didn’t get much chance to think it through, because during the next 7 months my Mum died (she did see me pregnant) and we moved house.  So there suddenly in my arms, was this little boy.  There was no family to rely on, not many local friends, but most crucially no one to interfere. Everyone said I was lucky to have a boy, because they are so affectionate, and they were right.  I spent 3 months holding him, because he screamed if I put him down, and this little creature taught me how to just ‘Be’ in a moment.  It was certainly hard, but I immediately found out this amazing thing; I LOVED being a Mum, and I reckon I’m pretty good at it what a surprise!

So It’s Extremes That Win For Me

Ironically that means that at 26 I’m sure, I would have been miserable, and perpetuated all the problems I’d seen in my childhood.  Whereas the extremes of 16 or 36, were either before there was too much emotional baggage, or after it was ‘fixed’, giving me the chance to really enjoy being a Mum.  So they are the ages that work best for me.  Makes sense, as I’m not that traditional anyway!

If I’d been 16, I would have no worries about seeing my grandchildren grow up, and would have had more energy, which would be a big advantage.  I had older parents (Mum was 43 when she had me), and there were definitely hardships that I felt due to their lack of health.  But this is where I have some power over the situation at 36, because I have the gift of hindsight.  So, I’m hoping that in the next couple of years (giving me some time to recover from the arrival of another surprise baby 7 weeks ago at 40!) I can shift my pretty good health up several notches, thereby ensuring I still get relationships with my grandchildren.  It’s going to be hard work, but I’m sure it’s possible, wish me luck (ooh, and this time, I might be a bit more careful with that thing called contraception for a while!)

So, is there an ‘ideal’ age?  The obvious answer is no.  But it’s not that easy.  The ideal age for me, was when I was going to enjoy it the most, but I was lucky to get a second chance.  Now that I know what having kids is like, I would probably still go for 26 if it was my only chance, and hope that given time I would be able to fix the problems caused by my stress junkie status.  Maybe that is one of the reasons why I’m so driven to help other Mums who are stuck in that place of discomfort at whatever age; I suspect it has a lot to do with it.

Here’s the link to the blog that got all this going in my head: A Modern Mother ‘Becoming a Mum in Your 40s’)

Have You Remembered To Ask Yourself?

When in the midst of attempting to make a decision or solve a problem there are a number of things that we often do:

  1. Worry & Panic!
  2. Ask Friends for advice
  3. Ask So called Specialists/Guru’s for advice
  4. Research ideas in books or the internet

But something we often forget to do is ask ourselves!  Do you know what, we are quite wise really, and one of the reasons why it is often a good idea to ask yourself, is because you are really the only person who knows you, your situation and the surrounding issues intimately.  I love a bit of brainstorming in order to sort the facts in my brain.  But ultimately, actually remembering to ask myself what I would say to me if I was a friend/client in the same situation is the beginnings of discovering a solution.

The wisest people balance learning from both outside sources and themselves.  Only listening to your own counsel would mean that you will happily ignore any concepts that are a little uncomfortable for you.  Plus there is no way that anyone can know every possible fact or option!  But only listening to other people, means that you are disempowering yourself and not believing in yourself.  So what you are looking for is a little bit of both as an ideal balance.

Now sometimes I know we literally can’t hear ourselves think, because of all the brain noise in our heads. If that is your current problem, have a quick look through my blogs, because the whole reason for the ‘Mummy whisperer’ is to help you clear all that noise, and I may have blogged already on your current issue, or something similar.  Meanwhile, find a pragmatic (grounded, down to earth & practical) friend, who will help you get a reality check on your fears and guilts.  I’d recommend avoiding the sympathetic ones, because although we need a little bit of support sometimes, it doesn’t tend to actually get us out of the pit we dug ourselves.

Or is it because you can’t see an option which works for you and your family?  Then quite likely you are in one of those situations where more time is needed, because you just don’t have all the necessary information yet.  Check out my blogs about decision making, because they may help you on how to identify the missing information.

So, what would you tell yourself today if you had a chance to chat to yourself?

If I was talking to myself today (whilst awaiting the arrival of No2), I would say:

– Have a cuppa and a cake, whilst enjoying watch some more back issues of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.  But remember to drink lots of water as well.

– Don’t worry about all the well meaning ‘has she arrived yet’ messages – that doesn’t translate to ‘FFS don’t you know your own body well enough to know whether she is coming or not’!

– She just wants to make an grand entrance, plus after all the noise at that chaos/mayhem called a 4yr old’s soft play party at the weekend, she probably thought she was safer staying inside for a bit longer ;o)

– If your instinct is to stay in, be quiet and be a hermit for a while, then go for it; This is probably the last time you will have a baby in your tummy again or a chance to rest for about 4yrs, so try to make the most of it.

TV is BAD, no TV is GOOD, which is it?

Many Mums stop their children from watching any TV, and feel very good about themselves for it.  Is that the ‘right’ choice – NOPE.

Others have the TV on all the time – is that the right choice – NOPE.

Actually, I’m just being controversial, because I don’t believe in ‘mistakes’, so I don’t think that either parent is ‘wrong’.  I just think that many are probably unaware of the potential downsides to both options.  Therefore the option of moderate, monitored TV watching appears to be wise to me; take advantage of the Pros to TV, but avoid some of the cons and vice versa.

The first group of Mums will quote scientific research which suggests that children who watch a lot of TV will grow up to be obese TV addicts.  Which is totally a possibility, but there are some other factors which have been ignored in the statistics, like family health, food, job choice, genes etc.

They will wonder, what could possibly be the upside to watching TV?  Well, I’m mainly focussing on baby-toddler TV, but there are some huge advantages.  They are highly educational, Max can speak in spanish and chinese now.  No big deal you will say, until I also caught him talking in persian with the kids at nursery – it’s created a habit in him to be open to other languages.  He knows what a ‘tapier’ is, which I totally wouldn’t have known about at his age.  I can easily suggest that tooth brushing is cool because sportacus does it, and he definitely associates ‘energy’ with apples.  It gives him a way of bonding with children he meets at the park, or in his new nursery, as ‘spiderman’ (we have the old 1970’s cartoons) is like a universal language for boys.  The thing about TV is that it is colourful and in 3D and can teach things in a way, that I would never think of doing (or even remember to do).  Plus, just like his Dad, he loves films, and disney has a totally magic feel to it, which is lovely.

He didn’t watch much under 2yrs old, because he wasn’t very interested.  I think that about 18 months he discovered ‘Baby einstein’ and ‘In the Night Garden’.  Many parents worry terribly about the success that is INTG because it is a bit odd!  But in my investigations of it, I did discover that there are some very sensible and philosophical ideals behind it.

I do use it as a ‘baby sitter’, because that way I don’t have to put Max into full-time nursery, but can do the odd bit of urgent work.  Plus, when you have a house full of tired toddlers in the ‘witching hour’, with a pile of tired Mummies to boot, it does mean that we can have 30 mins for a cuppa and a natter – very important for retaining sanity!  Who knows, some of our TV watching kids could grow up to be film producers or TV show creators.

One disadvantage to not watching TV is that for some children it will create a ‘void’ in their life, which they will go overboard on later on.  You’ve all heard the stories about children of very strict parents who become party animals later on?  Well, my parents decided that saturday morning TV was a definite No, No, so I wasn’t allowed to watch it.  Apart from meaning that I couldn’t join in with social conversations at school, it also meant that I spent huge amounts of my 20’s and 30’s watching saturday morning TV in bed.  We all need to rebel somehow, but some of us delay the rebellion a bit!

Hows about the Mums that ‘over-use’ it?  Well first off, what would be considered ‘over-use’?  I reckon that if Max will always choose a bike ride, or park visit over the TV, then he’s still in the ‘healthy usage’ range.  But I am aware of the fact that as he gets older, it gets a little trickier.  At the moment he only watches stations with no adverts, but it wont be long before he understands how many other channels there are!  Then, I suspect I will need to bring in some boundaries for him about his watching.  I know of a parent of teenage kids who watches things like the discovery/biography channel with their kids and then has a discussion afterwards.  Maybe in the ‘olden days’ that would have been done with a book, but it’s very sociable to be sitting together watching it.

So whats the answer?  There are up & downsides to everything.  My bias is towards a well thought through and considered plan of action.  If when considering your family circumstances you decide to be totally against or totally for TV, fair enough; because by having thought through the strategy you will be able to counteract the downsides of your choice.

The only thing I would therefore warn about is to not think through the strategy and just self-righteously criticise others with different opinions.  I can pretty much promise you that this will go wrong, in that you will be surprised and caught unawares by some of the consequences.

Right, thanks to Justin from cbeebies for giving me a chance to write this post, now we are off to make pancakes!

Choosing Schools, School Assessments and Potential Rejections

So this is a blog very close to my heart at the moment, having just been through an incredibly stressful 2 weeks, with a few more to go!  So I can vouch for the exercises I am going to take you through, as I totally had to use them myself to clear the ‘brain noise’ out ;o)

First some background information.  Our original plan was to go for a state primary where we live, however, a baby boom means that we will not be able to get into any of our preferred schools, and the only option is not an option, if you know what I mean.  So the first thing we had to get our heads around was paying for school for a 4yr old.  Ironically, having paid for nursery over the past couple of years, so that I could work, it’s pretty much the same fees, so financially it isn’t such a stretch, until you look at their whole school life – ouch!  Plus of course there is another baby on the way, which at most will get us a 10% discount, heh ho!

Now around us, the good news is, that there are tonnes of private schools.  However, mistake number one on my part was to not understand the ‘game’ that is played between them all and the parents, plus to get pregnant and potentially have a baby arriving in Feb at one of the most crucial ‘game playing’ times!  So I had a look at all the schools, ruled out some immediately, then visited a few, and ended with a short list of ONE.  I assumed everyone picked their favourite school, and that on the assessment the school would see what all his nursery teachers have seen, and obviously want him – MISTAKE NUMBER ONE, oops ;o)  What actually happens, is Mums apply to loads of places, then get offered and keep the place, just incase they don’t get their preferred option a few months later (all the schools offer over a period of 6 months).  Plus, some apply to nursery, change their mind and then ‘defer’ the place until reception year.  So they have automatically got themselves a place, without any of this scary assessment stuff!

So if you are looking at choosing a school for your child, or are in the middle of assessments, then this blog is for you, with lots of hints and tips about how to deal with it.  For all of these, you could do with a notebook or a spreadsheet; there is a magic in writing stuff down, which gets it out of your head and into a manageable format.  So right from the start, get organised (even if you aren’t generally an organised type about these sorts of things!).

Step 1 – What would you ideally like?

So what are your key and secondary wishes for a school?  This is down to your values, and you aren’t ‘wrong’ in any of your choices, it’s just important to know.  Some Mums around me are most keen on the academics, others sport.  I’m looking for my son to love it, get the option to try lots of things, have lunch (some are packed), and swim from early on.  Academics are important, but not above ’roundedness’, because he is a fan of sport AND art AND reading.  Keep track of this list and compare to your assumptions below.  Plus, remember what your child would like.  My son is very sociable, loves telling stories, needs a lot of space around him and likes to go outside every day, so this is important for me to factor into the decision.

Step 2 – Keep a List of Your Assumptions

As you investigate your options, make sure that you list your assumptions.  You may have to come back and adjust some of these later!  Mine were mainly, that I would prefer Co-ed, that Steiner education was too risky as we might move before my son was taught to read at 7.  But sneaking in there were a lot of assumptions about the scary nature of the Mums at some of the schools!  Now this is where there was an important clash with my Sons values, as I had ruled out several schools, that in the recent months we have met the potential children for, and he adores them.  My current situation is going back through all of my assumptions and deciding which ones are ‘real reasons’ for ignoring a school.  I was just trying to simplify the decision, but now I’m going to broaden my horizons.

Step 3 – Pros and Cons List

For each school start writing the Pro’s and Con’s for each.  Now there is an important DIFFERENCE to how you have done this before.  This time, you are aiming to get as many Pro’s as Con’s for each school.  If you have more of either, then you do not have a balanced viewpoint of the school and something is going to catch you by surprise.  Plus you are looking for the same total number for each school.  If one has less, then there are lots of things that you don’t know about them.

I absolutely promise you that there ARE as many Pro’s as there are Con’s for each school.  By doing this, you will see each school clearly.  If your decision is still hazy, then you haven’t found all the pro’s and con’s yet.

The mistake I made, was not to continue with the list as I got more information – so look on it as an ongoing project.  Where you have unequal lists, move onto the next step.

Step 4 – Unknowns List

As you make assumptions and list pro’s and con’s, you will realise that there are things that you don’t know about each school.  Keep a list of these, and then you can start to fill in the blanks.

Step 5 – What to do in the case of rejections

So I have been refused jobs and all sorts of opportunities and generally been quite pragmatic about it.  But it is a totally different even when your son gets refused!  One Mum is terribly upset that her daughter was rejected from a school, even though she wouldn’t have picked that school!  The other Mum, still has assessments to go, but is panicing, because the first school have only offered a waiting list.  I’m ‘lucky’ in that my son has been offered a ‘waiting list’ (long) for one school and reserve list (short, but they over offer) for another.   However, I may not get the results until Feb, which is when babyno2 is due, so there is a big handful of hormonal worry going on ;o)

So if you are upset over the rejection, here are some ideas for tackling it, because the upset and brain noise associated with it, will drain you and get in the way of you making a plan as to what to do from now on.  I’m going to list some potential reasons why you might be upset and how to tackle it.  Even if you have a different situation, you will probably be able to get a clue from these examples, if not, feel free to contact me.

a) You are upset over the ‘rejection’.

This is a sign that you are really sensitive about the times that you have ‘rejected’ your child.  Now we ALL ‘reject’ them at some point, but you are feeling really guilty about it.  When I say ‘reject’, I mean things like when disciplining them, you stick to your guns, even though they are upset.  Or when you have to leave them for nursery or to so something important and have to ignore their cries.  Or when you are over tired and just can’t face any more.  There are loads of different times that we might have done it.

If this is how you feel, then there are 2 things that I would like you to look at.

How the ‘rejection’ from the school helps, benefits or works for your child?  For example, are there other children you are not keen on going there?  Is it very strict?  Is it a long way away?  Is there something missing from it?  What’s important to them, that the school doesn’t have?  What’s important to your family that the school doesn’t have?

How has it helped your child when you have so say ‘rejected’ them.  Ok, so they were upset at the time.  But, did they gain independence, learn that you would come back, or broaden their horizons about who they could turn to?  Why is that important in the long run for them?  What would happen if you didn’t do it?  Might they end up spoilt, clingy, or lacking in confidence?

b) You are upset because it didn’t work out straight away, even though you know there will probably be somewhere for them.

My ‘brain noise’ was.  ‘It would just be so much easier if rather than being put on a waiting list, he had been given a space immediately’.  So I had to keep thinking, ‘Why is it for the best that he didn’t get a place straight away’.  It took me some time.  Hubby mentioned that it had got him more involved in the whole decision, which started me off, and then I got a key insight.  I realised that it gave me more time to rethink my own decision, and to investigate a couple of options that I hadn’t looked at beforehand.  Otherwise I would have to hand over £500-£1000 to keep a spot, and then find out later that there was an option that would work better for Max.

c) You are worried that there will be no-where for your child.

So you need to double check this assumption.  Has anyone ever not got into a school?  Nope, even in my case, I could still send my son to the state school.  For me, this would mean taking more responsibility for teaching him, doing sport and consistently reminding him that swearing and inappropriate behaviour will not be allowed.  For you, it might mean a longer journey.  But there is an option, and you might then get a chance to get into the school of your choice later.  It’s not over until it’s over!  Go back over your assumptions, have you ignored a location or type of school?  If this happened, it would be time for me to look up the M25 potentially, or into town.  All the private schools near me, will have spaces in Feb, because the most academic school doesn’t offer until then.  Then there will be spaces in April, when some will give up their places because they did get the state school of their choice.

Write down whats the worst thing that could happen?  Face the fear, rather than keep letting it rattle around in your head.  At the very worst I could home educate, move, go to church or change religion (we have a lot of religious state schools in out area).  Even when you think there are no more options, I bet there are some.

By the way, if your child has some very specific problems which might get in the way, like aspergers, or a physical challenge, then you might need a great deal more assistance than just this blog.  But it will hopefully start you off.  It’s key to talk to people who have been in the same situation as you, and find out how they tackled it – so get on that internet and find the support groups with the info!  Feel free to get in touch.

Step 6 – Still Overwhelmed?

If you still feel terribly upset about the whole process, then you are probably over-tired and need a bit of time-out.  Get a friend round for a cuppa or a glass of wine, and ask them to help you brainstorm for some outside ideas.  Focus on some sleep (epsom salts in the bath helps), healthy food, fresh air and taking care of yourself.  Decide that you are going to put this ‘school issue’ into a box for a week, and literally not open the lid.  Each time it crops up, put it back in the box.  You need a rest, and after a good rest, things will not seem so bad and you will be able to cope better.

Let me know if this post has been helpful at all, and how you have experienced this whole school assessment process.

Breast Feeding or Formula Feeding, What ‘should’ I do?

The whole breast feeding debate is often a Mums first introduction to the world of worrisome decisions that are about to land on their plates, and this one is particularly political and harshly debated.

Political Stances

One of the problems with any debate where people take a ‘stance’ is that the stronger they take their stance, the stronger the opposition takes the opposite stance.  To be honest, I do wonder how much the Formula companies created the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), and whether the NCT’s then strong stance has created the continued focus on formula feeding in new mums.  If possible, attempt to ignore any of the politics and focus on your family!

How Did I Tackle It?

To be honest, I had no idea whether I would manage it.  I decided to go for a goal set approach, of aiming for 6 weeks (people often say, if you can possibly do this then at least it is a ‘good start’ for baby – it gets a lot easier and less painful after this), then 6 months (WHO minimum recommended time), then 1 year, then 2 years (WHO recommended), expecting to finish before 4 years (The world wide average duration of breast feeding).  I was unlucky in that I had to stay in hospital for a few extra days after Max was born as the doctors were worried I might have the same blood problems as my Mum.  But this meant that I was lucky to encounter 2 breast feeding teachers, who were really helpful.  Plus, I didn’t have a caesarian or long traumatic birth, which appears to make it much more difficult for Mums to be able to breast feed.  The other advantage I had was that I’m good at using the internet, so could find info on the fact that you have to eat and drink well in order to produce milk.  (Beware parenting techniques that suggest anything other than feeding on demand, as that can affect your supply).

So How to Go About Making the Decision?

1) Will it work for you?

Breast feeding is incredibly easy once you are past the first few weeks.  I rather think that although it is sold as being best for baby, and very ‘earth mother’, it is actually brilliant for rather lazy Mums like me.  It worked for me, because I never had to worry about Max when he was sick, as it is much easier to BF them than give them formula when their tummies are upset.  You don’t have to worry about their weight, or constipation (horrid to see in a new baby, bless them).  There’s no getting up to make bottles at night, which would wake me up, and I’m not good at falling back to sleep.  I didn’t need to prepare anything to go out, and just needed to buy some pretty scarves.  Plus the nappies didn’t pong as bad as formula nappies.  It also meant lots of bonding and sitting on a sofa, and yummy hormones being released, which I probably needed after a rather stressful and sad pregnancy (we moved house, my Mum died, and my husband was made redundant when Max was 6 weeks).  So in all honesty, it was all about me, having the most relaxed time, and reducing the worries!

Would any of those things work for you?  Write down everything that you think will and won’t work for you, and then double check some of your assumptions in step 3.

2) Will it work for family?

Undoubtedly the scientific research is that ideally it’s best for your baby, but you are not going to ruin your baby for life by formula feeding them, even if they do get digestive or weight problems, it’s still not a ‘ruined’ life.  If you would love to feed or love not to feed, then the key here is to explain it to your partner in a way that makes sense to them, not in the way that makes sense to you!  So if your partner is worried about sharing your breasts, then pop to step 3, and find the things that will help him understand.  Perhaps there is a compromise?  Does your partner want you to feed and you don’t?  In that case, you need to explain it to them in a way that they will hear and understand.  A stressed mummy will cause greater problems for baby, than what they are fed on, so you are extremely important in the equation.

3) What Are You Worrying About?

There are some standard worries (read step 4 for some answers to the more scientific or physical ones) e.g.

– People will hate me feeding in public – actually I never encountered a problem, or if I did, I didn’t notice it.  I was mainly in coffee shops with lots of Mums and family restaurants.  If you are worried about this, think about this – do those people really matter?  Does it really matter if they stare at you?  I promise you, that whatever you do in life, only 50% of the world will agree with you or like it.  The worst thing that can happen is that they ask you to leave, which you could refuse to do!

– My partner will feel left out – if you can explain to him that it’s only a short time and will make their lives easier (if that is of value to them), then it may set their worries at rest.  Explain that your boobs will be back for them at some point!

– It’s yukky, because boobs are for sex – actually no, that’s a misunderstanding, as breasts were clearly made for making milk, as they are in animals.  What are you worried about?  That you might get turned on (extremely unlikely!!!)?  That your child will always remember your breasts (I’ve not heard of mentally scared children with this problem, and on average children are fed to 4yrs old around the world, so they must remember).  What is it?  Face your fear, and find out what it actually is based upon.

– I’m a bad mother if I don’t breast-feed – rubbish!  We are all ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers.  None of us do everything that we possibly could, and if we did, we would be so self-righteous and martyred, that no Child would want us!  Be a contented Mum, that is what is most important to baby and make a plan for tackling the downsides.  For example, keep a close eye on constipation, and get advice about it.  Make sure that baby gets held for long times, maybe use a sling.  Make eye contact with baby, and just cuddle them for hours on the sofa.

4) Have you read up about it?

I found this brilliant news article today, which summarises a great deal of the scientific research into breast feeding: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1201285/Sorry-breast-IS-best-As-leading-scientist-questions-benefits-mother-sorts-myths-facts.html

Check all your assumptions, because they may actually be incorrect.

5) Making the decision

Right, now you have all the information.  What I would like you to do is list all the Pro’s and Con’s (good & bad things) on a piece of paper.  It’s Ok if you keep coming back and it takes you a couple of days.  The key to this exercise is to keep going until you have AS MANY Pro’s as Con’s!  AS MANY.  It is only then that you can be sure that you are seeing it clearly.  You may wonder then, how to make the decision.  The point is that at this stage, you will see that one option works for you and the family better, and kind of ‘sparkles’.  You are aware of the opposite side to the story and can prepare for it, but your heart, feels that you would prefer this option.  It’s not logic of the head, or emotion/fear of the gut, but a heart centered feeling of sureness.  If you don’t feel sure, then keep going with the list, there is something that you haven’t included.

Conclusion

You are looking to be sure that you are informed, have cleared out the worry’s about it, and that the solution has been explained to your family in a way that works for them, and that the decision works for you and baby.

The above process is based upon the ‘Fun creation equation’, so you might like to check out my other blogs on that.  Obviously though, I’ve only brushed the surface of what can worry some Mums, or the problems of communicating with a partner.  So feel free to either pop a comment here for further clarification or post a question in the discussions on my facebook fan page.

You might want to check out my blog on why Breast Feeding isn’t always possible, to help reduce your guilt <click here>

The 6 Step Flexible Family Solution

I have created the 6 step Flexible Family Solution as an adaptable process that I can teach to Mums to deal with their unique families and ever changing daily challenges.

There are 6 steps:

1) Step 1 is for the Mum to learn what her needs are

2) Step 2 is to learn what her Family’s needs are

3) Step 3 is to clear the brain noise from the Mum’s head

4) Step 4 is to add a Reality Check

5) Step 5 is a Dash of Knowledge.

6) Step 6 is to learn to Appreciate life as it is

Step 1 – The Mum’s Needs/Values

The reason why it is so important for a Mum to understand herself and what makes her tick, is because that is the only way that she can be sure of maintaining a balance in her life and keeping herself going as well as the family.  When we are really tired from a tough time, there is only a short amount of time available to pick ourselves up.  So if we know what makes us tick, then we can find something to re-energise ourselves quickly.  Also, you can use that knowledge to push yourself to do the things you hate doing or motivate you to do what you would like to do, by linking what you know you love, to doing the tasks.  This improves our energy levels, because hating something, makes it a lot harder to achieve!  Whereas, if you have linked it to something you love, you’ll be much more up for it.  Most importantly, if you know what makes you tick, you’ll know how to balance your needs & the family’s needs, rather than putting the family first all the time (which tends to backfire big-time).

Step 2 – The Family’s Needs

This helps you to understand the difference between what they ‘Need’ for their basic survival versus ‘Want’, which is unnecessary.  Plus that being ‘Caring’ is not just doing things for people, but doing things that they would actually like you to do!  You’ll be able to negotiate more effectively with your family about those tricky things that you need them to do, as you’ll have learnt how to speak in their ‘language’, rather than your own, which could be entirely foreign to them.  Plus you’ll learn how to tackle those Worry and To Do Lists.

Step 3 – Clear Out The Brain Noise

Brain noise is all the fear, guilt, worry, shame, blame which fills up our brains and makes it difficult to think straight.  You learn how to tackle those very dangerous ‘Should’s about what life should be like and we should be like and break those fantasies that make us miserable.  We also look at tackling the beginnings of depression or feeling down (although for anyone in the depths of full blown PND, more assistance would be required).

Step 4 – Reality Check

It’s important to learn to compare yourself and your family fairly with others, rather than thinking that you are worse or better.  Our home circumstances might not be what society considers as ‘ideal’, but we can make them work for us, rather than punish ourselves for the way that it is.

Step 5 – Knowledge

Finishing off is a dash of knowledge because a little bit of knowledge is always important to give you some ideas for tackling the challenges and because you now understand your family & yourself, you can be much clearer on which options work for you.

Step 6 – Appreciate Life

It’s old fashioned, but counting our blessings has been proved to be great for our health and our day to day well being.  Learning to appreciate life as it is, adds tremendous relief and enjoyment to our lives.

We put all 6 steps in a bowl and mix in with a simple decision making process, and you have a reliable, achievable and sustainable way of tackling the daily challenges that Mums face and making those complicated decisions that we often feel so overwhelmed by.

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.

Decisions Made Easy

The problem with making decisions is that often they go round & round in our heads, and we come at them from the perspective of which is going to be the ‘better’ one.  Here is a new way of looking at making a decision, which is from the perspective that all the decisions are Ok, and have as many ‘good’ things to them as ‘bad’, i.e. pros and cons.

By looking at it in this way, you get a couple of big benefits:

1) You can make a plan for the potential downsides of what you do pick

2) You end up picking the one that works for you at the deepest level, by combining the logic of the head, with the instinct of the gut, to join together with the wisdom at the heart.re you wondering about whether to work or not?

3) You get everything written down and out of your head, and can feel that you have made the best effort to investigate all the options

So here are the steps:

– Take all the options
– Then start to list the Pro’s and Con’s for each one – look through all areas of life and how they might be affected e.g. Physical health, Family & Relationships, Social, Mental knowledge, Work, Financial, and Spiritual/View of Life.
– Make sure that you make them specific, rather than very general by drilling them down.  E.g. If I went back to work, I would earn more money, and with that money I could do x, and x, and x and x, which would help with paying for my child to go to nursery, where they could get different input and learn about art, crafts, water play, sand etc – anything that you don’t like doing.
– The difference to this process is that you then KEEP GOING until you have AS MANY Pro’s as you have Con’s for each one
– You are only finished once all the options are equally as good as they are bad, so it’s OK to take a few days over it.
– You then make the decision, because one just feels more right, it kind of ‘sparkles’, which means it suits yours & your families values better
– The key to this is that you are combining the head, with the instinct of the gut, to get the wiseness of the heart.
– Plus you already know what the potential downsides could be, so you can make a plan of action for them.

– Take all the options

– Then start to list the Pro’s and Con’s for each one – look through all areas of life and how they might be affected e.g. Physical health, Family & Relationships, Social, Mental knowledge, Work, Financial, and Spiritual/View of Life.

– Make sure that you make them specific, rather than very general by drilling them down.  E.g. If I went back to work, I would earn more money, and with that money I could do x, and x, and x and x, which would help with paying for my child to go to nursery, where they could get different input and learn about art, crafts, water play, sand etc – anything that you don’t like doing.

– The difference to this process is that you then KEEP GOING until you have AS MANY Pro’s as you have Con’s for each one

– You are only finished once all the options are equally as good as they are bad, so it’s OK to take a few days over it.

– You then make the decision, because one just feels more right, it kind of ‘sparkles’, which means it suits yours & your families values better

Let me know how you do with trying out this technique.  I promise you it works – there’s a large multi-national company in the USA which pays a coach trained in the same system as myself $3000 per day to take them through this process when making strategic decisions!