Monday, 18 February 2013

The joy of 'selling out'

I have been mulling over this post for months. It seems that the dust is settling since George's arrival and life is seeming 'normal' as a family of four. Something I have given a lot of thought to is how the ideals I may have had before Ella arrived and again before George arrived have had to be dropped or let go of over the last few months. And 'selling out' on some of my ideals has been fantastic!

With Ella a big ideal I had was not too much or no t.v. That quickly went out the window and we joke that t.v is one of our most useful parenting tools. Being too sick to move during most of my pregnancy with George made me a great fan of Kidzone. That experience really taught me that it is not all or nothing. Sometimes t.v helps us get through the day. Ella rarely is left in front of the t.v alone and we had lots of lovely naps and cuddles on the couch as my tummy got bigger. Since George was born Ella often watches t.v while I am getting George to sleep. He finds his big sister way too entertaining to be able to sleep with her around. Since he has arrived I have tried to reduce how much we watch but some days it is on more than others.

I also told myself I wouldn't use food rewards. Well when it came to toilet training and specifically Ella and number twos, icecreams were magical. And at the moment they are also helping us get Ella used to going to sleep without her Daddy or me lying beside her. Maybe she will reward herself with food when she's older, but hopefully not. 

Feeding George has been the biggest challenge to my ideals. Letting go of breastfeeding and then slowly realising that it wasn't the end of the world, has been an eye opening journey. It has forced me to question a lot of the rhetoric used to 'encourage' (guilt trip) mothers about breast feeding. I am still a hand on heart breast feeding advocate, but not because of the evils of formula. (If you want to read more about this check out The Fearless Formula link in sites I like). Accepting formula and bottles helped me to stop stressing and focus on bonding with George and having time for Ella again after being so absent while I was sick and pregnant. It has been really tricky to navigate the new world of formula types, bottle feeding and all the pro breastfeeding but actually anti formula stuff I have had in my head which I have needed to work through. But it has also been so freeing to realise that so little about being a Mum and the relationship I have with George is about boobs or no boobs. Feeding him is just as special as it was with Ella. I had also these ideas about how not breastfeeding would change how I parented. But it hasn't. I find myself still cosleeping and feeding him to sleep. I have dabbled in changing that due to burps waking him but have come back round to the fact that he likes to go to sleep that way.

Doing things differently this time has freed me up to let go of some other ideals - like cloth nappies. Mine are currently listed on trade me. It is tough enough to get the washing done and hung out. So I am letting that one go. George loves his food. Ella wouldn't let a spoon near her mouth so she never had baby food. But with George I just couldn't face the pureeing so he is on commercial baby food and finger food from our meals. And it is great. I think I felt bad about it for a day. Then I just decided it worked best for us and moved on.

I think changing ideals is a normal part of parenting and so many things I thought I would 'never' do or 'should' do, I have either changed my mind about, couldn't actually manage or have decided were basically stupid. And instead I have tried to focus on being the parent I want to be rather than 'doing the right things". My kids want me, not a mother who does the 'right' things. Enjoying our life together is more important than meeting some expectations I used to have or thought meant I was a good Mum.

I guess I have said goodbye to ideals and got back to my values. What is really important to me and to our family? I guess some 'doing' things do matter - like eating food we have grown, spending time together, keeping things simple. But there is no prescription for how that looks in practise and no rules about how family should be. Kids want their parents to be present, to be loved, warm and fed. That's it. That is why kids who grow up in all sorts of families all turn out ok. And kids who don't know they are loved, all suffer for it. So it isn't about how you do being a parent. I'ts that you love your kids and they know it.

Letting go of ideals is another step in my quest to banish perfectionism from my life and on the other side of idealism there is a much more peaceful and joyful reality. As I drove along the motorway today I thought "I am truly happy and relaxed" and George has a cold, and I am tired and I have work tomorrow. So I think that is worth celebrating. No more ideals. A bit more real.

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