mucking in the mother guilt

Becoming a mother leaves you open to all sorts of criticism and unwanted advice – some good, most not. Whether it be what age you introduce solids, how long you should breastfeed, how you discipline your child (or don’t), or what you should do to get your baby to sleep through the night.

There’s a lot of pressure on mamas to make the right choices. Having people constantly asking you whether your baby sleeps through the night is one of these pressures.

Sleeping like a baby?

My little girl was a cat-napper, woke numerous times (at one stage hourly) through the night which she could only be coaxed back to nod by a breastfeed, and didn’t respond to any of the gentle sleep cues we worked so long and hard at. At nine months of age, in desperation due to undiagnosed post-natal depression and in response to much prodding from family & friends, we tried Sleep School. It didn’t work for us.

Then something wonderful happened. I talked to a couple of mums with older kids, who had exactly the same trouble as me, and guess what? Their children now slept through the night. There was an end in sight.  Instead of cursing her for disturbing my sleep – I took on the role of soothing her back to sleep. Acceptance, and knowing that others had been there before, helped me.

The reason I’m writing this is because I often post articles on my personal facebook page about gentle sleep techniques, as opposed to controlled crying, to help a few other mums who I know are going through the same thing, and let them know it’s alright. There have been numerous articles recently about controlled crying, like this, this and this.

Unfortunately, I’ve inadvertently ostracised a few mums who have had to go down the cc route – especially one wonderful mum who has been such a great support for me the last couple of years. I really didn’t mean to do that – after all, I tried the Sleep School, too. I know it works for some people, but it doesn’t work for everybody.

The headlines (‘baby torture’, ‘could damage brain development’) are not helpful to the people that actually need that information. Even though I was trying to provide support and information to some mamas, I was actually adding to the mummy-war arsenal, albeit unintentionally: there is so much guilt and negativity in the headlines alone.

So what do I do? Do I remove the articles, or do I add some sort of disclosure/warning? The content in the articles is still valid, but I don’t want to make other mamas feel guilty because they’ve taken a different route in this crazy car called Parenthood.

I hope my friend will forgive me – I will try and work up the courage to call her, but I’m still having a rough time with anxiety at the moment, and the thought of an unanswered call makes me jittery.

My philosophy is that we all do things differently. Each kid is different, and each parent is, too. We should do what we feel is right for our own families. We get defensive about our choices as parents, when, really, we should just accept them as done and move on. Easier said than done, when everybody wants to put their own two cents in, but then again, isn’t it wonderful that we have so many choices to make as parents, that we can all do things differently? I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice. There’s just life, and you do what you do to get on with it.



Momentary inspiration

I’m not really into football. Certainly not footballers, and wouldn’t know an ex-footballer if he went up my Cazaly.

So when my boss excitedly told me that they’d booked Sam Kekovich, an ex-footballer, as keynote speaker for an event, I think  looked something like this:

I had seen Kekovich years ago on The Fat, but wasn’t a regular viewer – what with it being a show about sport. Sport and me? Nup.

Yet, when he turned up to speak at our little event, there were a few things he said that I really needed to hear right now. I’m feeling a bit stuck – a bit torn as to whether I try to keep my hand in any theatre performing (don’t get excited, it’s just fringe), or whether I just keep my head down and work. Kekovich talked about the need to feel free to be ourselves – to inject our own personality into our work. He talked about maintaining the larrikin sense of humour within our Australian culture. Kekovich is known for speaking his mind, being  brash and obtuse. He’s one of those older men who believe political correctness has gone too far. He’s also surprisingly eloquent and used a helluva lot of big words that I’d only ever seen in Dickens novels.

Anyhoo, he’s right, to a point.

I know I tend to censor myself to check that I’m not ostracising/offending anyone, and that gets a bit tiring sometimes. Whether it’s writing about natural birth, breastfeeding (lawd, the breast v bottle – don’t get me started!) or a comedy skit (don’t ask), I’m always aware that some people will take things the wrong way. The problem these days, as opposed to Sam’s 70’s hey days, is that the internet allows everyone to publish their anonymous opposition without necessarily:

  • determining the actual issue (most comments contain responses saying ‘you didn’t discuss [insert irrelevant-but-slightly-connected-tangent-issue-here]’)
  • debating the issue (as opposed to simply insulting the author)
  • using their common sense to just go to another website

Yet we still need to hear the truth, and truthful thoughts, rather than hiding behind what you think other people want you to say. So, I guess from a blog perspective, I’ve realised that I don’t need to be so worried about getting it wrong or offending someone. I need to be braver to say what I think (once I’ve worked out what I think, of course).

The Australian sense of humour is traditionally self-deprecating (or self-defacating – an expression someone once used to describe an affable monk. I kid you not), while, at the same time, not being afraid to ruffle some of the tall poppies’  petals. I haven’t even opened my comedy files since my little boy was born, but I’m thinking it might be a good time to do that and see if I can inject some of that Kekovic larrikinism into it. I’m feeling the need to be a bit more creative – and I don’t mean with toilet rolls, glitter pens and animal stamps.

…then again, I might just check my facebook…