Category Archives: Parenting

When strangers question your parenting choices

I dropped my daughter to pre-school and left the car parked opposite with my 5-year-old son inside. It took moments, less than a minute, but I popped back to tell him I was going to the bakery and not to open the doors or windows. He was happy to sit and play with his stick from forest school.

The queue was long and the service slow, but we needed fresh bread and organic eggs for the weekend and I wouldn’t get another opportunity. So I waited patiently, got the goods and returned to the car, only to find an elderly gentlemen and wide-eyed woman on her phone next to my vehicle.

She continued on her call, which I’d immediately gleaned was to the police and declared, “The mum is here now and seems surprised that I’ve phoned you. Do you want to speak to her?”

I asked what the problem was, if he [my child] had done something – and that’s when they attacked. I was interrogated, patronised, accused of putting him in danger. What if a car came around the corner and smashed into the back your vehicle? What if it caught light? Do you know what you’ve done is a criminal offence?

I thanked the kind people for their concern and explained that I understood why they felt this way. I also agreed that the hypothetical scenarios were horrendous, however the risk was very small as I’d only been gone a few minutes, five to seven, perhaps. I kept my cool.

They weren’t satisfied with that and continued: You’ve left your child in a locked vehicle, what if something happened? I’m worried that you don’t even seem concerned about this. Do you understand if anything happened you would go to prison FOR THE REST. OF. YOUR. LIFE…

Actually, the threat of my dear little son being injured or killed is far more of a deterrent than the prospect of life imprisonment. So that was a moot point.

There’s also the risk that someone could break in and attempt to snatch him, or he could escape and wander off into the road. The sun could come out and he would dehydrate and die of heat exhaustion, he could choke or suffocate. I could be run over and he would be left alone, I could lose my keys and he would be trapped forever. Though all of these things were highly unlikely to occur.

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Would you wake these guys up to pay for petrol…?

While I am comforted that there are people in the community looking out for each other, I am similarly infuriated that I was told off for something so trivial in the grand scheme of things… For those of you that know me or have read my other blog posts, you will know that all I ever want to do is the right thing.

Not necessarily the legal, recommended or commonly accepted practice, but what I deem to be morally and/or logically correct under the circumstances. I have given the last five years of my life to ensuring my children are safe, secure, healthy and loved. It has been my mission.

Given that I had weighed up the risks of leaving him for a short time, it did not feel like the wrong thing to do. It was raining and he has just been in hospital due to ongoing pain in his legs.

In most cases, it takes longer to get children out of the car, walk at a snail’s pace and then strap them back in again, than to perform the required activity. Modern life is not set up to facilitate the taking of time. We rush around trying to get things done efficiently and if we need to nip into a shop for a couple of items, particularly with the car in clear view, that should not be a crime.

Surely of bigger concern to the public should be people who regularly put their children at risk. Where are the parent police then? Smoking around them, giving fizzy drinks, drip-feeding sugar into a diet of white bread and processed meat, dosing with Calpol and antibiotics at every opportunity, dressing them inadequately for the weather…

These actions are not only risky, in most cases there is a certain negative outcome (particularly asthma, obesity, early onset diabetes, impaired immune response, and more). Yet because these lifestyles are considered mainstream, there is no uproar. As for the choices people make with babies, I won’t even start…

Children are probably more at risk on a climbing frame or in a swimming pool. But we make judgements; we take measured risks. We assess and act, we don’t plan for the worst-case scenario every time because nothing would ever get done – no driving, playing, cooking, flying, crossing of roads or bathing.

Am I alone? I’ve browsed opinion on mummy forums in the past and the majority seem to take the view that people who leave their children in cars while they pay for petrol are disgusting and don’t deserve to have kids. These are the same mums who think women who breastfeed are smug, and believe co-sleeping is more dangerous than leaving a newborn alone, so I’m not too concerned.

Yes, I get it. And if it had been much longer, then it would have been unacceptable. To me, this was a gross overreaction, but lesson learned: I can’t leave him even for a moment. Not because I have been brainwashed with paranoia, but because the biggest risk is having social services question my parenting.

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Fear of failure – the perfectionist’s flaw

Anxiety and a sense of doom dominate me when I begin most tasks. It could be cleaning the house or starting a new job; my fear of failure kicks in and I begin to panic that I won’t do it well enough, won’t complete it, might let someone down and quite simply, won’t be the best. I suffer these debilitating symptoms of self-sabotage because I am my harshest critic.

When I was in my teens, I was a cocky little shit. I was sassy, confident and saw myself as a bit of an undiscovered genius. I even bought myself a “best at everything” mug. Being a jack of all trades had its merits; I was able to fluke exams, excel at new hobbies and access a variety of employment industries. However, as I entered my twenties, I started to realise that I wasn’t the “best at everything” and maybe I was nothing special at all. At least by my standards.

I was rather good at a lot of stuff, but because of my poor focus, limited attention span and itchy feet, I had never managed to get best at anything. I was a giver-upper. I lacked self-discipline. If I didn’t think I could be the best at something, I didn’t want to try at all. And anything I was good at soon bored me and I moved on to the next fad.

My all-or-nothing mentality meant I would throw myself into a new venture so enthusiastically it cost me more than I couldn’t afford physically, emotionally, in time, energy and money. As soon as something felt uncomfortable or like too much hard work, I would become overwhelmed, hide away, wallow in self-pity and skulk amid a mild depression. Then I would quit.

IMG_0082.JPGNow I flounder about, still filled with dread that I am not living up to my mother’s expectations; all the work she put in to ensure I was educated, secure, had access to opportunities – lost. I have two beautiful children, a gorgeous, supportive partner of 10 years, a house, car and three cats, but cannot shake the sense of shame that I have done nothing with my life. It’s a feeling of uselessness; wasted potential.

I didn’t establish a career before I had children, but I didn’t want to have them too late either, so I made huge sacrifices to be a mother. As many of us do. But almost five years later, I find myself starting from scratch. Although brimming with knowledge and life experience, and enthusiasm to contribute my Swiss penknife of skills, I am as good as on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder.

There is so much pressure on women to be everything, but if I am a “good” mother, invest in my family’s health and wellbeing by cooking from scratch three times a day and exercising, I barely have time to check my emails and Facebook feed, let alone use Twitter and have a successful freelance career.

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There was a light at the end of the tunnel once I knew the older child was going off to school and the younger one was starting pre-school, but as usual my plans were extreme and unrealistic. I became a nervous a wreck just at the thought of getting on with life, already certain that I would fail because there is just not enough time in the day to be: politician; blogger; singer/songwriter; local activist; mother; lover; friend; home cook; perfect housewife; interior designer; social media genius; entrepreneur; fitness enthusiast; and yogi.

How do people do it? If I have a successful week creatively and work out regularly, my house is a mess and the washing up won’t get done. If I nail the housework, plough through chores and homeowner admin, I’m lucky if I get time for a cup of tea and reach the school gates on time.

Everyone tells me I take on too much, not to be hard on myself, to prioritise, but all of these things are important to me. They all need to be done. And I want them done well. Whispers of my to-do lists within to-do lists play on repeat like, “Secure publishing deal, get rich, have time to complete me…”. I have slowly given up on perfectionism as I’ve learned it’s more important that something gets done, than not done at all.

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In an attempt to justify my serial procrastination, I’ve almost accepted that sometimes it’s OK to just do nothing – stuff can wait, my sanity cannot. But my guilt dictates that I at least multitask my “nothing” with checking emails, social media, online food shopping and eBay while boxset bingeing. I have simultaneously come to the painful realisation that unless you are very rich, well connected or just plain lucky, the only route to success is hard work. The magic is in finding the perfect balance.

The world isn’t what it used to be. The Internet has changed everything for the music industry, writers and world politics. So we have to be resilient, overcome challenges by adapting to new trends; hoping we can keep up and keep our heads up. At least not stick them in the sand.

So I have to let go of fear, learn when to say “no”, but more importantly when to say “YES”! I will take risks, seize opportunities and work my wobbly backside off, because I want a better future for my children than a Trump world promises – and the only person that can make that happen is me.

Do you suffer from perfectionism? Can you relate to this? How do you deal with negative feelings of underachievement and self-loathing? How do you measure success?

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Filed under Parenting, Self-discovery

Fever in the morning, fever all through the night

Sleepless nights, as promised. Zombie-like, every hour or so, I reach for the little wriggler and stuff my boob in his mouth to ease the pain and comfort him back to slumber, avoiding the dreaded pink stuff – if possible.

20130415-182921.jpgI was given it, everyone else was given it, everyone continues to give it, and it is the brand synonymous with infant wellbeing: Calpol. They have cornered the market in baby medicine for years and most people pour it down without a thought – anything to shut the baby up. But aren’t there alternatives?

Our little boy was in agony with three teeth coming through at once, crying desperately, whimpering and clingy. It’s awful watching your child suffer, but this is part of life – part of growing up. I told myself if his fever goes much over 38°C I’ll do it, give him some Calpol, but I’ll do my best to bring his fever down naturally.

Why am I so bothered? Well, I think this blogger sums it up perfectly. I do not object to giving my baby paracetamol as a last resort (soluble Disprol is the purest approved option I’ve found, though it seems to have been discontinued), but I do object to unnecessary additives. If you want something less fussy, many pharmacy own brands provide fruit-flavoured medicines without all the Es.

Packaged food everywhere is full of processed rubbish, manmade chemicals, dangerous amounts of sugar and salt, preservatives, you name it… Oh, and guess what, most “medicines” are just the same. I wonder how much tax revenue pharmaceutical companies generate versus the cost to the NHS of repairing illnesses caused by adverse side effects. Does it pay to keep us poorly? I’d also be interested to find out which additives in processed foods are supplied by Big Pharma. Very interesting stuff, but that’s for another day.

What annoys me more than Calpol itself, is the way it has been adopted as the standard solution for any ailment – recommended by doctors, praised by parents. Ear ache: Calpol; tummy ache: Calpol; fever: Calpol; immunisations: Calpol; won’t sleep: Calpol. Really?

So what happened before Calpol? I can hear you now, “progress” brigade: “Infant mortality was much higher…” and the rest. But lots of babies also survived – that’s how we’re here. Funnily enough, people got by. They treated minor ailments themselves, usually using food or herbs and prevented a lot of illnesses before they occurred by living a life harmonious with nature.

The trouble today is that we think we know better. Do we? I’m not so sure. Sometimes, it’s best not to interfere. Our bodies are amazing, evolved with an immune system to protect us against disease. One of the reactions to infection is a fever, which shows the body is fighting it. If it’s not at a dangerous level, why suppress that?

The body also triggers messages to the brain to alert us to problems (which we feel as pain). And although paracetamol may numb that, it disguises the symptoms of illness, tricking you into thinking that everything is fine. Surely that in itself is more of a risk.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions stated in this post are my own and should not be taken as medical advice. I am not a scientist nor medical professional. If you have any concerns about medicating your child, please discuss them with your GP.

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