Friday, 11 January 2013

Are pink princesses the new devil?

I have been aware of the concern expressed by parenting experts, psychologists, friends and in the media, that the princess fetish that products for girls seem to promote are terrible for little girls growing up. And I can see their point. I certainly don't want my daughter thinking her life consists of pretty dresses and waiting for a prince to rescue her. And the rainbow consists of more colours than pink.

But I am also aware that becoming comfortable with myself as a woman involved getting in touch with a bit more princessness. I grew up in a family sans Barbie and princesses. Anne of Green Gables was more my style and I used to pretend I was a farmer milking my cows in the backyard. By the time I was a teenager I also felt quite uncomfortable in my own body and puberty was not kind. I was a geeky girl who was a curvy girl and to be honest, I just didn't know what to do with them. They didn't seem to reflect who I was because the picture I had of my identity was not at all about the feminine. And coming from a Christian background, I wanted to be modest and felt like my body was betraying that. (Yes, that is a whole other issue).

When I hit my 20s and University I was blessed to become friends with some women who helped me to feel more comfortable in the body I have been given by just spending time with them. I could see that enjoying femininity and looking good doesn't undermine my strength and belief in all the other parts of me.

So back to princesses. Ella told me yesterday that she wants to be Sleeping Beauty. "Shock, horror" I thought. I don't want my strong and sparky girl to have that as her ultimate goal. But then I remembered that she says "Mummy, do you know what I want to be?" almost every day. And each time it is different. The list has included doctor, nurse, teacher, mummy, fire'man', farmer, vet and the list continues to grow. And I like that. At the tender age of 3 she feels she can dream of being anything she likes, including, God forbid, a princess.

I never thought I was pretty enough or that it was okay to dream of even being pretty, and forget any delusions of being a princess. I now think a healthy sense of the feminine is part of developing a total sense of self. Feminine doesn't mean skinny or blonde or any of the other stereotypes society and the media provide. Hopefully Ella grows up feeling great about all the parts of herself and no one model or ideal will be the example she follows cause she will be her unique self and no part of her will seem out of place. Maybe I am extremely naive but since she gets a big variety of toys, activities and is surrounded by awesome women, I think she has a good chance of not being swamped by being over sexualised.

And to be honest if I am a role model then is absolutely no chance that she will think she has to primp and preen to be acceptable. Heck, I don't even brush my hair most days!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Got the Bad Mummy Blues

I think all parents would agree that we want the best for our kids. We want them to be healthy and happy. When they are sick or sad we want to relieve their pain, to provide them with comfort and security, and if at all possible, fix it.

Today I had one of those days when I stood back and felt like I had done a crap job. And I am singing the bad mummy blues.

Ella has eczema. She has had it for a long time. It has never been terrible but it bothers her at times. The chronic patch behind her knee gets pretty raw and has spread. I have not been good at managing it and she is scared to have cream put on it cause it stings. It got infected over Christmas and it has been a struggle to get her to take the antibiotics and I keep forgetting. She has also had chronic constipation and has been having treatment for this but it seems to be getting worse again.

George has been really unsettled and has developed eczema all over his wee body. He hasn't been feeding well, and he never really has. He is always windy and is waking lots in the night. This coincided with starting solids and me using bought stuff. He is also really constipated and just not his usual settled self. Went to the doctor today and she suspects the problem is a dairy intolerance or allergy. It does run in the family. So now we are trying soy formula for a week to see if it makes a difference. I am lathering him with cream and it is improving.

So that's the outside stuff. What is happening inside my head goes something like this:

Have I been ignoring a possible dairy intolerance in Ella? Am I letting her eczema get out of control and now she is waking in the night? Is her constipation related? Did I ignore this because I just couldn't deal with it? What on earth will she eat since she lives on milk, weetbix and yoghurt and not much else. Is it my fault she does eat well?

If George is dairy intolerant maybe he would have been fine if I had kept pumping breastmilk? If I had introduced one food at a time and used home made maybe I would know what caused the eczema? Now he is on Soy Milk which I really don't feel comfortable with but am I prepared to not use it even if it means he is not in pain and eating properly?

And is it totally selfish to make this all about me and how I feel as a Mum?
And this is really stressful and I can feel my anxiety coming back and I don't want to get depressed again but does that make me a useless Mum if I can't just focus on my kids and what they need without losing the plot?

Don't you love those bad mummy blues.


 I know these thoughts are just thoughts. They take me no where. And they are my feelings rather than reality. They are the harsh and critical voice of self blame that tries to gain control by accepting blame about something which has no culprit or "baddy". Shit happens and life is what it is. What matters now is how I respond to both the practical situation and to the feelings I have.

So though I may have sung a few verses of the bad mummy blues today it is just cause I love my kids and sometimes I wish I had super powers so that I wouldn't make the very human mistakes I do and that life was simpler and easier than it is.

So tomorrow when I have to try to get Ella to take her medicine and watch hopefully as George changes to soy, I will remember that I love my kids, I do my best and they do feel loved and safe. And I might need some cuddles myself as I navigate another bump in the road.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A year I am proud of but never to be repeated

The last few weeks have been in stark contrast to this time last year and with the new year it is not surprising that I have found myself reflecting on 2012 and its impact on me. I have to say I am really proud of myself. It was a year full of challenge but also of me consciously taking on those challenges and coming out stronger with a new faith in my ability to deal with life and not succumb to the temptation of that dark pit that is depression. I definitely don't want to leave the impression that sheer will has led to this. Instead a combination of therapy, an awesome husband, family support and an amazing midwife, along with the decision to keep taking antidepressants, have all made this possible.
But in the end I chose to do these things. I chose wellness and to never go back to the horror of depression and stuck to it. I have had to make some really hard decisions to get here but I regret none of them.

Over the last year I have been in hospital three times, been really ill for the whole pregnancy with George, faced the terror of the prospect of a relapse of depression, planned to birth at home despite most people thinking I was "mental" and struggled with feeding George, eventually letting go of breastfeeding. And put my hubby and daughter through all of this too.

But I am so proud of me. I am proud of the tough decisions I have made but I have no regrets. I made decisions that were right for me and my family despite what others may think or what I may have wished for. I have had the courage to face my reality, to be honest about my fears and feelings and to stay present to what is happening right now in my life. I have had to face up to all my faults and weaknesses, many of which are still things I have to deal with every day. But through it all I really believed it could all be okay. I believed it without putting my head in the sand or leaving my life in the hands of others. I took responsibility for me and my baby and I am so proud of me.

The real test for me was the completely unexpected and very difficult time we have had with feeding George. I have had to accept that there is no "right" way and that the "best" thing to do is different in different situations. I have to look myself in the mirror and say I chose not to provide my son with breastmilk because the toll it would have taken was too high a price to pay for myself and my family and ultimately George.

Because in the end kids need parents who are ok, who are well enough to be able to loved and laugh and be present in their lives. And I am. I am well. I don't fear depression. I feel empowered to recognise the signs, to take the steps to be well and enjoy my life.

So 2013 is looking bright. I am enjoying each day as it comes. I don't have big plans this year. Just living life. Enjoying now. Cause I feel like I am living my dream. I have dreamed for so long of enjoying family life but ever since we lost our first baby that dream just seemed distant or even impossible. I thought I was faulty as a Mum and would never truly enjoy having kids. I would just learn to "cope" to "survive". Yes, I have had to learn to have more realistic expectations of myself and do less. But instead of feeling disappointed by that, I feel free. I can live how I choose without perfectionism being the monkey on my back.

So hear's to enjoying life and living. Being present in my life right now and celebrating all the simple everyday joys I appreciate so much, as I could have lost them all. And that is truly a miracle. Under all of this is God's constant faithfulness. I hope I can truly reflect the love I have been shown in my life and actions this year.

Bless you in 2013.