A – Awesomeness
I believe strongly that we are all Awesome Mothers. We are all Goddess-Mothers. If we live, we have experiences. These experiences do not define us but shape us. We learn, grow and cultivate our own advice. We become knowing and wise. You do not have to be a mother to mother others. Mothering moves through us. If you love, if you care, if you show compassion, you are connected to the greatness of Mother Mary and Mother Nature and everything they stand for. We are Goddess-Mothers.
Mother Mary and Mother Nature have a unique role to play for rural mothers. Rural Mothers are uniquely placed to tap into the emotional reactivity of nature and the cycles of life. Rural Mothers face challenges including drought and death that doesn’t make them immune to hardship, but grateful and appreciative of life and the fragility of it. However, without connection to others, resilience and hope cannot survive. It is through our connection to others that we feel seen, heard and valued, where change and strength is made. Where we thrive. We need to connect with wise women and goddess mothers to become the greatest and most peaceful and content versions of our selves. We need to do it as a debt of honour to the magnificent journeys we travel and the ability we have to share it with others. Cultivating our awesomeness.
B – Bedtime
Always have a spare bed for co-sleeping to allow at least one of you to get some sleep. Speaking of sleep. Yes, you can sleep during the day. It is a myth that you can not sleep when you want to. Just like babies, adults need to sleep train during the day. And just like anything in life, it take persistence, and practice. Here's how to do it; bed, doona, curtains closed, ear plugs, eye mask, electric blanket, heat pack, teddy, hot milk and honey, magnesium, get rid of the time and screens. Speaking of sleep again, at some point you need to change the white noise; classical music, ABC radio cricket, put it under the cot, audio books, accents, Aust country music. Podcasts and Ted talks.
C – Care - We need to practice daily self care & pay for it.
Yes, those dreaded self care words. What I’ve learnt from heart break and soul break is that self-care is quantum and it radiates out of you like fresh rejuvenating energy. Pay for your health. Or you will pay the price for it. In an ideal world we would live a balanced life. Being good people, making good decisions, being caring, generous and raising a family in the ideal way we want to. We all lived a privileged life and existence. We are born in a wealthy country. A lucky country. But health is not always about luck, it’s about wealth & situation. Use your wealth on your health. So, please, pay for your health. Invest money in whatever form of wellness does it for you. Yoga, meditation, gym, swimming, rowing, running, walking, massages, acupuncture, life coach, counsellor, whoever or whatever. But don’t just pay a little, thinking that whatever you have left over, you might be able to treat yourself to that massage, or gym membership. But don’t. Don’t put yourself at the bottom of the list. When your body cries out for help, respond to it the way you would to your own children. Invest everything you have in it. Thousands of dollars. Extend your mortgage, ask relatives for financial help, extend your credit card, borrow. This is your time to shone. This is the one chance we have to be the best we can be to our children. Our children need us. Without us in top form, no one else can replace us. No one. So do it for yours children’s sake. Pay for your health.
D – Daydream - Day-Dream.
Never let go of your dreams. No matter how big or small they are. But you don’t have to have massive long term goals that change the world, change science, redefine religion or cause global peace. The path to these dreams can be long and tedious, they can be all consuming or so difficult to attain, you constantly feel frustrated, unsatisfied and you loose perspective on our ability to change as we grow. Dreams change. And if we hold onto the same dreams we had when we were young, and were still fighting for them at 40, what have you missed along the way? Besides, I would not want to be the same me 10 or 20 years ago. I would hope I have grown and changed a little, and the same with my dreams. Keep your dreams. But I strongly advocate for the passionate pursuit of short term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride or whatever is in front of you. You never know where the treasure trail of life may take you. Simply follow one clue after another. Surrender to the elements of surprise knowing you never know what you can make of it. Remember, life happens for you, not to you. You never know when the next treasure chest could be sparking out of your periphery if you are still looking at the long-term goal. You might miss it. Keep busy, practice random acts of kindness and aim to make someone else happy and you might get some as a side effect
E – Exercise for endorphins
Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones. When my babies were little I found it hard to leave the house to exercise sometimes. They may have been asleep or it could have been too cold or windy. The $25 exercise bike from the tip shop was my saving grace. I had to build myself up to it. 10 minutes a day, then 15, then 20 and then half an hour. Finding the motivation for it was also hard. However, the television, a tedtalk or a podcast was always a good distraction. I cant say I always enjoyed it at the time. But later in the day I would get that delayed reaction from the endorphins it released and I would feel less tired, a little more energised. They help you with the 3pm slump. I often find this with meditation too. It can be pretty hard work trying to clear your mind of clutter, relax, and somehow enjoy the process. But like anything, it just takes practice, and even if I felt the 10-15 minutes sitting cross legged on the floor mentaly trying hard not to think of anything was hard work, it is always worth the clarity I would experience later in the day. The delayed reaction of trying to clear my head at the beginning or middle of the day, seemed to create more space for peace at the end of the day. Exercise and meditation were and are the 2 best things I can do for myself. I don’t know why I sometimes procrastinate on them. But they really do work. I promise.
F – Formula - Using formula is not a failure.
How quick we are to forget that breastfeeding is not taught these days. That after giving birth you are discharged from hospital before your milk even comes in. That mothers and grandmothers are not pottering around the kitchen passing on old wives’ tales and the tricks and tips of the trade of mothercraft. That home-help and post-natal care has gone out the door, and that mothers are pushed out the door for school runs and appointments. Don't blame mothers for formula feeding. Look at the world we live in. We need to fix the systems around them. We need to change the way we dish out simple slogans and messages of how mother correctly and look at what we can cope with. Be as kind to yourself as you are with others. I'm going out on a limb here, I love formula, it is just as much a lifesaver for the mother’s soul as it is for the babies growth. It is fuel, energy, strength, and peace and calm for the mother and baby when our overdose of 'should-do's' is not backed up with support and guidance. When breast is not best, fed is best. We are all doing our best.
G – Grace always bats first
I would like to open a discussion today by letting you know I am a self-crowned ambassador for world peace.
We are all advocates for peace, and we are all responsible for freedom. And for world peace to occur, it starts here, in our own hearts, and in our own home and in our open lives, and it starts with one thing; forgiveness.
On Remembrance Day, we remember the fallen, the sacrifice and the pain. But we also remember, the love, the commitment and the stories, and ultimately, the peace. For forgiveness in war, the opposite of forgiveness is not forgetting, but remembering. Remembering the pain and the love. And we need to teach ourselves this too. Love ourselves, and our stories, forgive our messy and screwed up selves, and remember that we loved, right from the start.
We may be struggling parents, but also self-forgiving parents – as role models to our children. Our stories, our difficulties are not a reflection of our personality or our motivation, they are just that; challenges, holes in the road, falls, the past. I may have been unstoppably teary, unable to function, lonely, scared, ashamed and sometimes, absent, but through this, I also unimaginably loved, I lay with the children at night, and on the grass during the day. This is self compassion and forgiveness. And we need to be just as kind and gentle on ourselves as we are on others.
When we feel angry towards another, do not hold on to your annoyance and pain, but remember who else they are, what they are made of. Remember who they really are; brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends. As privileged citizens of this world, it is our duty to set the example and turn the table for our fellow community members and children.
Parenting challenges us with life lessons, and, the hardest of all what we learn and remember can turned into a greater good. Let inner peace and world peace start with us and children. And we can simply ask ourselves, ‘Whats Important Now?’ Write it on the back of your hand. Ground yourself with it and let the answer come to you. It will help simplify and clarify things and the next step appears a lot simpler.
My final thoughts on how parents can forgive their messy screwed up selves; practice forgiveness and empathy and contribute to the greater good and peace; take control of your thoughts. What we choice to remember, and hold on to, will determine our feelings, opinion and actions. When we feel ashamed of our personal failings or mistakes, suppress them and try to forget them, we need to remember; that it was but for a moment, it does not define us, it may help shape us. We are more than a downfall, are still loved, are worthy of love, and worked and reached out for help and connection. It’s what we choice to remember and renumerate on that creates our memories and perception of history, ourselves and the people around us.
I want to advocate for the support of parents to get through the early stages of parenting, but I also want to turn this into life lessons; that what we can learn for ourselves will help our children and the world. Grace always bats first. Self compassion and forgiveness can be turned into unity and peace. It starts in our home and community right here.
H – Hang in there!
Starting a breast fed baby on the bottle;
In my last article I spoke about the second thing we need to teach our babies after they are born; how to sleep. I'm writing these articles in a whimsical mum kinda way, so we are going to go back and talk about the first thing we teach our babies; how to feed. We decide very early on whether we want to breast feed or bottle feed, and then we are off! By the time you get to this article you have probably sussed it out. However, for those who have chosen to bread feed, at some point you might need to introduce a bottle if you would like that a sneak peak movie, date night or you are returning to work. Oh my goodness do the conversations start with which bottle and teat to get! No doubt you have plenty of advice and words of wisdom from friends, but I'm going to add a little more to the mix based on stories I have heard from clever mums and what I have seen.
- Breast fed babies do not only handle a teat with a wide base well as they are not used to opening their mouths that wide and cheeky little bits of air can get in and make the baby a bit windy.
- There is not one way that is going to work for every baby so try a varied approach to positioning. Some babies will take the bottle from the breast feeding position, others might need to be held in from of you with their legs to your stomach, either with one hand under their head or lying on a pillow where they can still have eye contact with you.
- When placing the teat in the babies mouth make sure the lips are flanged just like when breast feeding. With the hand that is holding the bottle you can use your middle finger under their chin to support the chin and mouth to hold the teat in place. It's a tricky thing to do, but if you can, you can also use your fingers to gently push forward the checks to support the teat in the babies mouth while they get used to the unfamiliar teat that not quite as flexible as a nipple.
- You can also tilt the bottle down so that the teat gently you he's the roof of the babies mouth and gently stroke the roof to stimulate the baby to suck. There are a different set of cheek muscles used in sucking a bottle as opposed to suckling a breast, so, like any new experience, the baby may take some time to learn this new technique.
- It can be frustrating if the baby does not want it, but please take it gently and it will happen. First thing in the morning is a good time to practice because the baby will be at its brightest self and most likely hungry from having a few long stretches throughout the night. If you are breast feeding, make sure you take your time to have a jolly good pump.
- There are thousands of bottles on the market. Find the right one for you and your baby. I have had many recent positive experiences with the Minbie brand of bottle and teat that, to me, most resembles the curved shape of the nipple when in the mouth and is very flexible. Absolutely love this innovation! You can only buy them online.
- Talk to your baby. I know that sounds a bit funny, but talk to him/her about the changes you are making and way and talk to them while introducing the bottle and give them beautiful words of reassurance that this is an okay change and they could learn to love it. Sounds strange, but the sweet loving tone of your voice gives a baby reassurance that the new thing they are trying is okay. Besides, it's good practice when it comes to our children try in any new thing, that we can support them through it.
- Don't beat yourself up. If it doesn't work the first time, try, try again. Don't go out buying a million bottles yet. Stick to the one bottle, try everyday at the same time. Like a lot of new things, consistently and persistence is the key.
- Enjoy seeing the love your partner or someone else has in giving your bay a bottle, and know that you've given them that gift of intimacy. It's a beautiful heart moment.
- As our babies become less physically dependent on us for nutrition, you may experience funny feelings of grief, that they don't need you as much anymore, or that you are a little redundant; please trust me, you're not! Your mothering role will continually change and evolve and as the physical dependency changes, so does the emotional aspect; they will begin to reach for you for emotional security, safety, warmth, love, wisdom and strength. To see them reach for you and not just your boob is another of the pure bliss moments of mothering where nothing else feels nearly as important as raising a baby created from the best version of yourself.
I – Inspiration - ‘If you are tired, get inspired!’
I understand what a tough time this is for everyone. If you are a parent at home with little ones you may feel restricted in what you can do and where you can go. Social isolation may kick in. And when this happens, so does the remuneration. It can be easy to slip into negative thinking; the boredom, lack of stimulation and fun, thinking about how tired we are and how things could be better.
We then start to feel more tired and less hopeful. Time goes a lot slower and sometimes we do not know what to do next. The lack of energy can be exacerbated by the lack of inspiration. When we are distracted through our friends, connection, activities creativity or exercise, we are more inspired, more motivated and have more energy.
So, keep finding your mojo. Find the things that give you joy as part of the simple pleasures of life. Find those cook books, scrap books, that bit of craft you didn't complete, the photos you haven't sorted, or that old playlist that makes you want to dance. Please also reach out. I am unable to do Puddleduck at the moment but I would like to stay connected to you all. I can still do home visits or phone calls or just answer a message.
J – Jumping in too soon; hitting and biting
This is a really sensitive controversial subject. I think we are awesome at talking about some hard personal issues such as anxiety, depression, transition to motherhood and changing relationships with loved ones. But how to react and what to do when your precious baby starts unsocial behaviour is such a tough one. Its not just about how we react, but how we react differently when we are on our own, with our partner, our mother, father, in laws or friends. We assume that we will be true to ourselves and parent in our own way, but it quickly becomes messy when our instincts are corrupted by the views of others. How we respond can see change to how we react to someone’s opinion, and we can soon question our mothering instincts and what feels right for us and our own babies.
Between the age of 6-18 months our precious bundles start to be more like little people of the world, with their own emotions and curiosity. All consuming emotions of joy, frustration and curiosity can lead babies to take toys or food from other babies, to hit other children, to bite them or bite us. But is this behaviour malicious and how do we respond age appropriately? Not only this, how do we respond in a way that is acceptable by other parents or family members. Does it matter?
My view is that you just need to relax, and not over do it. They are still babies. They are not spiteful, they do not intend to hurt. We need to lead their play and behaviour but its not necessary to teach them lessons. That can come later. When a child takes a toy from another its only because it is there, and they are curious about it. The same with food. If they hit another child at this age, its because it a movement od their arm, part of their play in feeling and experiencing an action.
Let children be children. Teach them not to sweat the small stuff, its no big deal they lost a toy, don’t encourage self-righteousness. If they are not crying over the loss of a toy, let them go. It does not mean that building resilience is making them a push-over, but they then learn how to play independently, problem-solve and self-regulate.
They look up to us (parents) as to how we react as to how they respond. They are not bothered at this age if a toy or food is taken from them. The taker is only being curious and reaching for what is in front of them.
Don’t foster the victim mentality. Give them resilience, perspective, a care factor, ‘its all going to be alright’
Don’t teach our babies that everything is fair, that there is always justice.
You are not promoting ‘roll-over’, but ‘who-cares’?
Let them problem solve, work it out, find an answer, find the next best or bigger thing.
Don’t conform to the need to be the judicator, judge or peace maker all the time
Don’t sit on the edge ready to battle, don’t white knuckle your way through parenting.
Reactivity feeds the anxiety-virus.
Relaxing means to chill-out. Be proactive, rather than reactive. Even saying to yourself that you are going to relax for the day or the outing, is being proactive, you are consciously setting your intention. Write a big fat R on your arm or hand if you need to. When you consciously relax, move your body posture back rather than slumping forward towards your child, you are able to achieve a 360o look at the world. Not only that, you feel better, you look relaxed, and you will be surprised at how others take your lead.
What we fear in relaxing, is that others will assume we are being irresponsible or disrespectful.
I disagree and believe that the most powerful person in the room is the most relaxed one. She is alluding that everything is going to be alright. Because it will be. It does not mean you do nothing. It means you don’t keep looking for the next thing to do, the next reaction, instead, you wait for that intuitive voice that tells you what you want to do and when. It becomes a reaction of your heart, not an expectation of how you think another parent thinks you should behave or act.
K – Keep going!
When you put your baby down listen carefully to her cries. There are usually 3 types of cries; a grizzle, a protest cry and a scream. During the protest cry listen for any little pauses in her crying. Little pauses are when you jump for joy because that means she will actually go to sleep. (Pauses in crying are a self-settling technique, sometimes they need that little cry to get themselves to sleep. Other self-settling/nesting techniques are the shaking of the head in bed – don’t forget to pick up their cute little hairs with sticky-tape and put it in their baby book – and kicking their legs up and down. We often think these are signs of distress, but lots of babies do these things, it is normal, and usually a self-settling sign). It may take 10-15 minutes but he/she will get there. The more you practice the sooner she will learn it. When she gets to the screaming stage try some of the settling techniques such as patting the cot, shushing noises, your quiet voice, patting etc. When he/she is calm, leave the room. If you cant get he/she to calm down, pick him/her up and console him/her until he/she is relaxed again. Do this 3 times (listening to cries, going in, settling techniques until calm, leaving room, 3 times may take up to 45 mins) and after that do whatever you need to do to get him/ her to sleep, feed her, take her outside, rock her etc. At this stage you only need to practice it during the day and as he/she learns he/she will naturally do this at night.
It is important to have a good frame of mind when you are practicing the settling techniques. If after 3 attempts you end up picking up your baby and feeding or rocking him/her to sleep, please do not think they have won, you have given up or given in. Its not the case at all. They are not manipulative. Simply, you have practiced, tried, it did not work this time, you will try again next time. Like anything in life, you don’t practice until breaking point, you practice until you have had enough, and you try again next time, and the more you try, the easier it gets. Until sometimes it just clicks, and you think, wow, we’ve made it!
L – Life Lesson
Life is hard…but I’ve learnt that earth is forgiveness school and we may as well forgive ourselves first then the people around us. I’ve learnt the opposite of forgiveness is not forgetting but remembering. Remembering the good stuff as well as the bad. Remembering what we did well, and not focusing on where we think we failed, let ourselves down, our shame. What you choose to remember about yourself defines your self-esteem. We want to be role models for our children. We need a good healthy self image. It’s what we choice to remember and renumerate on that creates our memories and perception of history, yourself and the people around you. Remember we are all lucky. We can not fully take pride in our successes, nor can we be solely responsible for our failures. Keep this in mind and we practice empathy. Empathy is intuitive, but it is also something we can work on passionately.
M – Music
Try different music. If they have had the same music or white noise for a while, change it to something else and put the music device under the bed so he/she can feel and hear the vibrations of the music. Sometimes music played from a table in the corner of the room can get lost in the space. It’s a small trick, but a good one. So, when you are thinking of changing the music, think of what is familiar to your baby. Children often love the cricket on the radio and the ABC radio as it will remind them of a grandparent or parent, and that comfort and reassurance can be enough to make them feel settled during winding down time. You could try classical music, gospel or even a tedtalk or podcast if that is what they are used to in the car. I had one parent tell me meditations always worked for her baby. I often like to ask parents about their caregivers, usually grandparents, and what accent they might have or language they might speak. I saw one little restless baby that was often cared for by her Spanish grandmother, and when we decided to play audiobooks read by a female in Spanish, the bay loved it and went to sleep! You could even ask a grandparent to read and record a story for you to play back to them. They are never too little to recognise voices.
N – Nesting -
O – Openness -
P – Perspective -
Perspective: sugar, packet mixes, bbq chickens, frozen meals, disposable nappies, formula, etc are all apart of our modern day survival tool kit. Don't put pressure on yourself to do things the more ideal way, some days you will, some days you won't. It's more important to get through a day and take the wins when they come. Just remember to take the time to enjoy the simple things in life. Cups of tea and coffee is one of them. There will be a time when you can have the ecofriendly- mindful-yoga-save the planet, rainforests and animals’ lifestyle, but maybe not all of it right now.
Q – Quiet winding down time
I would like to talk about winding down time. Just as we spend time winding down before we sleep. So too do babies. When they are wee-little we teach them to self-settle. There is lots of info out there on that. But what we forget to teach our little cherubs is how to nestle, how to fluff their nest, how to wind down. I do it at night with a hot shower, herbal tea, reading a book or playing on my phone. Sometimes a candle and soft music. I have been so busy throughout the evening I need to do this otherwise I cant sleep or my brain doesn’t wind down enough that I wake up frequently. Babies are the dame. Once they start moving around on the floor, engaging more and playing, their brains take a little longer to slow down. Then, when we put them in the cot, their brains have not slowed down enough to get in to a self-settling groove. They don’t know what to do.
The other thing that occurs later in a baby’s first year, maybe around the 8-10 month mark, sometimes we are still treating them as newborns or maybe we haven’t changed their sleeping space since they were a newborn. I have walked into so many babies rooms that are not being used because they now sleep with the parents or in the parents room but the parents are so sleep deprived and yearning for private space, they are trying to get their baby to sleep in their own room. However, the feng shui or the energy is not right. It is not warm and inviting. There is little colour or fun and no happy memories in the room. When they are little, we minimise the colour and things in their room believing if we over stimulate them, they wont sleep. I don’t believe that at all. I think that when we provide colour and toys in a room they have lovely things to look at, that may grab their attention, they may focus on, concentrate on, relax with, and eventually drift off to sleep. I have seen so many babies stare up at a mobile above the bed, focus on it until their eyes are too heavy to keep open, and eventually they drift off to sleep. Imagine too, if they have a memory of a nursery rhyme or a lullaby that they remember their parent sang to them about the mobile, that happy memory will also comfort them. I have seen many babies in the hospital concentrate on a photo of their family stuck to the cot, or many babies play peacefully with a blanket, soft toy or comforter in their cot before they go to sleep. Remembering though, to always keep it safe. Wait until they are at an age where there is no SIDS risk or if you just have the one toy in their bed, stuff the bottom of it down the side of the cot so it wont flop onto them.
Make some memories and have some fun in the cot, pop your wee-little one in the cot to play. Pop heaps of soft toys in the cot for them to look at, play games with them, sing them songs. When you feel comfortable tell them you are going to the toilet, and then comer back. Give them a little time on their own to take in their environment. If they caal out, call back and tell them you are on your way. Next time leave for a little longer, make yourself a cup of tea, and come back again. Let them know that whenever you go, you always return. Another thing you can do is fold the washing up while you are in the room. Use the room as another room in the house to be in, not one that is shut off. Sit on the floor and see what it is like. Babies loves textures and warmth. How does the floor feel. Children love rugs they can put their fingers through. Some of the rugs at Kmart are awesome for this, and because they are not expensive you wont stress about the amount of wee or vomit it gets. While at Kmart you could also get a pull-out couch you can put in the corner of their room that you can also use as a change table/mat once they are rolling and crawling. Add a few baskets of toys, a little book shelf etc and you have a room you want to be in. While you are on a spending spree, grab some fairy lights, some dangly things to hang from the curtain rods or blinds, pictures or picture frames for family photos and some chocolate, because you can never have enough. Have playtime in the room through out the day and practice putting your baby in their room on the floor or in their cot for winding down time. Hopefully, with these changes to their room, it will be a space they wont to be in. Inviting, warm, playful, peaceful and conducive to sleep. Have a think what you can do to make it feel good. A new quilt, flowers by the bed, pictures on the wall. Make it feel like their own quiet relaxing place. I know they seem like little trivial things but its nice that sometimes the little things can make all the difference. It needs to be a place they want to be in as well.
R – Reassurance before separation
A couple of years ago I attended a Circle of Security Facilities course in Melbourne. After the first day I was so bewildered; how the hell did my children survive! Light bold moments were going off everywhere! I thought I knew most of the principles, but it was not until I really delved into the idea of filling up my child emotional cup, releasing them into the world and then filling their cup up again with my arms and warmth, did I really get it. A circle! This is the best analogy I can use. A baby or child that only wants you, not even your partner or grandparent is exhausting. And honestly, after, having six children my best advice is to go with the flow. Accept it. Embrace it. Give them what they need and you will find they will quickly refill their cup and move away from you. Don’t push them to go to another. It is unpleasant and exhausting. Take the time to give them what they need. Of course, there are going to be times when you have to let them go to another. I believe communication and reassurance is the key. There are two schools of thought on this one; sneak out when they don’t see you or give them a hug, tell them you are going and painfully leave. Depending on the situation, both are fine! My mantra is always, ‘do what’s best for you and your family as long as its safe!’. Only you will know the best way of going about it at the time. As they get older I am a firm believer in holding eye contact, letting them know where you are going and when you will be back. Always give them the reassurance you will be back. This is not from a traumatic episode when you may have left them, it just comes from an innate need for comfort and connection. Our eyes do that. That’s why places like Big W & Kmart have those funny looking colourful animals with goggly eyes. I swear its so kids make eye contact, connect, and then must have it! Reassurance at this young age is great practice for when they are learning to self setlle. Our voice also gives reassurance.
S – Support another mother with her feeding choice
It is not a mothers fault if they do not reach their breastfeeding goals. It is ours. Us, women who have been there done that. Us; we have had our sacred time of feeding and growing our children. Our time to nourish and nurture. Now we are the change makers. The nurturers. We need to nurture the mothers. It is the same with climate change and saving the world. It is not a mothers time to save the world. Her time is just to nurture her family. A mother needs to put all her energy into resting, sleeping, rocking, patting, cleaning and maintaining some level of inner calm. Not thinking about how many disposable nappies she is using. How ethically friendly her shopping is. How much water she is using. When you are out the other side and have the breathing space to think outside the world of the home, then she can do that. For now, a mother needs to be able to do the best she can in ways she can manage. And we need to respect and cheer lead that, because her role can not be replaced by anyone else. When you are in a place in your life to think outside of the home, there is room for that. But in the depth of the early days of parenting and survival, it is not her time or place to be changing attitudes, increasing the statistics on breastfeeding rates, decreasing risks of infection in third world countries, improving attachment of mothers and babies or enhancing immunity, improving support systems or structures or saving the world and reversing climate change. It is ours. The parents, individuals, leaders, legislators, politicians and influences, to improve our support services to way-more than what it is now, increase human contact, not just cyber social media contact, and bring back the joy, delight and help needed for the early days of parenting. It is our time.
T – Take short-cuts
When you take short cuts keep remembering WIN (Go to W). You might not feel comfortable in buying your baby packaged or canned food, that's okay, but the short cut can be in the delivery. You don't have to all eat at the table when they are really little. Peace at the table trumps a family dinner if it comes with constant nagging and negotiating. Read stories to them while you feed them, feed them in the bath, feed them outside. Another tip is to not just make the meal in the morning, but to also serve it up, glad wrap it and put it in the fridge.
U – Unique – Step Mothers are unique
I deliberately chose this title to lure you in because there is something vital I need to share with you. Are you ready?
It is never personal. It is not a reflection of you, your personality or your motivation. This is what toddlers do with their step-mum. It is normal. It will pass. You are awesome. You do not need to do anything differently. I would say all of this is resonating with you in some way!
Keep being you’re amazing, beautiful self, and everything will be okay. I know because I have been there, done that. I also know that from the very beginning of fairy tales step mums get a bad rap. Think Cinderella, Snow White or Hanzel and Gretal. But us step-mums do what comes naturally to all women who love and man and his package (the family/children kind) and love the extended mini versions of their partners because we love the man and children are lots of fun, but, like all parenting, it is hard work and you will doubt yourself.
As a step mum you will experience all the same feelings a mother would have, but you don’t get them slowly, they are handed to you in a big over filled bag like a life times worth of dirty washing; guilt and worry, and feeling you are never enough. Guilt that maybe you don’t like the child or aren’t doing the right things. Worry that you will make things worse, won’t know what to do, may never like the child or that your partner will think differently about you. And not feeling enough? Well, that’s just an everyday ego voice that will always know where to grow in the most vulnerable spot we have in our hearts. Recognise it is there, along for the ride, but it never has the last say. Your partner chose you, everything about you, so keep being yourself, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this question; What is important now? Trust me, the answer will come. Move away, let your partner handle it and lick your wounds, let them get their way, after all you need to pick your battles, or sit and play on the floor for a while? There is nothing like getting down to their level.
Stepmothers are unique. You do not always need to act like a mum. Sometimes you can act like an aunty. Have boundaries, but also be lots of fun! One little trick I learnt was to not ask for their participation in an activity, I would do it, leave room for them to join in when they are ready, and not make a big deal out of it. Sometimes I would sit on the floor and start a puzzle, set up a tea party, play with cars or sit on the couch and quietly read aloud a story until they crawled up beside me. I would also have regular treats that only I knew how to do well and they would associate with me, like milkshakes or morning tea platters arranged in the shape of a smiley face. As they got older, I would hide little treats in their bed so when they went to there they would find a little something from me. When they were little it would be something little like a flower but as my stepdaughters got older and the hormones kicked in, it was a book from their favourite series or a packet or lollies or chocolates. They always remember that now.
So, in the middle of a tantrum, in the middle of rejection when the tears start to well up, remember your special unique role, try to help manage the situation, but you don’t need to try too hard. Like anything in life, it takes practice, and the more you practice, the more responsive they will be. But just like anything you practice, sometimes you will nail it, and sometimes you will need to give up or stop and think, ‘I’ve tried, it didn’t work, better luck next time, I didn’t fail, I gave it a go, its not a big deal.
And just remember, rejection is not a sign of failure. It is not a sign of your personality, motivation or care. It is just a toddler doing its stuff. And you are a step-mum doing your stuff; navigating your unique creative way! Step-Mums are Mums; loving, generous, kind, hardworking and sensitive. But that’s what makes them so totally awesome!
With all my love and cheer leading pom-poms in hand,
From one totally awesome step-mum to another. Xo
Ps. A few practical tips;
- Away from screens – You know they are going to spit the dummy as soon as you take it away or turn it off, children seem programmed to do that, so distraction is the key. Have something ready to take their mind off it. Preferably something creative or where they use their hands. If you are new to step parenting, pintrest will be your ‘go-to’ source for creative play and you will be stock-piling craft supplies like never before! Just embrace it and make room for it in your life and house. You will find your own inner child will start to come out and you will have so much fun! No matter what you do, they will be noisy in their transition between screen and creativity. Accept it. Embrace it! Tell your self ‘bring it on, I’ve got this, I am so all over this’, harness your inner girl power, your inner Beyonce! And remember, its not personal!
- Discipline – The word “discipline” originates from the Latin word disciplina which means “instruction” and derives from the root discere which means “to learn. So rather than punishing, firstly remember children do not need to feel bad in order to do good. Connect with them and them correct their behaviour. Get down to their level on the floor. Look at what is happening to the children and ask yourself what you would like them to learn from this. Look at what they need and what they are struggling with. We encourage them to use words, so in the heat of the emotion (annoyance, anger etc), try and find yours. If they are just need listening. Try and remove and contain them. This is a hard one for a step mum to do. It feels like you are crossing a line. You are! It’s called bravery, and parenting! Pick them up, move them to somewhere safe, quiet and small, like a bedroom. If you can, stay with them on the floor while they contain themselves. In the Circle of Security this is called ‘being with’. Wait until they are ready to be comforted. If you need to, stand outside the door, but reassure them you are still there and won’t leave them. Reassurance is such a key component to teaching a child anything; that they can learn on their own but that you will help them just enough to get there.
V – Values
What I’ve learnt as a Mum is that my values are the basis for everything. -
My values make me the Mum and wife I am and that if I want to live and work wholeheartedly and authentically, I can not to ever let go of them. Value your time, your heart, your family, your peace of mind and clarity, your space, space for other people, health, safety and saviour moments of absolute pure joy. I did not mention happiness. Go for joy. Adela Rogers St Johns said that ‘Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love’. When deriving your values for living and parenting wholeheartedly, it is as easy as asking ourselves, ‘What’s Important Now’, do it, write it on your hand. These three words will ground you. Simplify your situation. Give you a clear message of what you should do next. It gives clarity and satisfaction that you really are doing the important things in your life, day or moment.
W – WIN
I want all parents to WIN. This means, to ask themselves, What’s Important Now? Before making any minute decision. Physically plant your feed on the ground, take a deep breath, and ask this very important question. Most of the time we will know the answer, and if you don’t, just sit with it and put the kettle on. When we ask those three words, what we really want or crave will come to the surface. We want sleep, we want peace, we want control. And how do we do that? By asking what we need. Not anyone else, not the whole world. I believe strongly that it is a new parents place to nurture their baby wholeheartedly. It is not their time to save the world, create world peace or solve climate change. Leave that to us. The rest of us who have been there done that and know how crippling sleep deprivation and guilt can be in caring for a newborn baby. By asking what is important such as sleep so that we can have the mental energy to handle our children, it might feel mor acceptable to use a dummy, because your sleep ultimately makes you a better functioning parent.
X – The X Factor
We are walking a path less trodden. We are paving a way. We are sometimes walking blind. Sometimes not walking at all. We’ve fallen in a hole. But please, be your own X Factor.
Run your own race. When you have a passion or purpose you are bound to be confronted by disappointment, shame, a sense of failure. We are all experiencing our own form of grief letting go of our jobs, our positions, our meanings and our sense of worth. But it is possible to let go of purpose for a while. And I strongly encourage it. Having too much purpose is once again setting your goals so far ahead that you can not always see what is right in front of you. You do not always need to wake up and know what you are going to do for the day. It will happen. Let it unfold. Go with the ebb and flow. Allow the gut-instinct, the curious and inquisitive side of yourself to take over for a while. It is so much fun. This will be different for you all. I had no idea until recently how gratifying it was to take ticks out of blue-tongue lizards, how many people wanted to stop and talk to me as I gardened out the front of the house and how many opportunities there are to help people until recently.
Remember to Day-dream. I highly advise the pursuit of short-term goals. Purpose can be anxiety provoking. Don’t white-knuckle your way through social isolation asking ‘when’, but embrace the now. This is the time. The only time. The only time we have got. And time is a gift. We long for time. We wish we had more time. And now we have it. Run your own race with passion and integrity. And have faith in that. Faith is about mystery. It is about having the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go. Letting go of certainty and purpose is pivotal in believing in our selves and this time.
Y – Your Journey
Every day you get to gather the ingredients you need to create and map your very own journey. It becomes your very unique recipe for health and wellbeing and living wholeheartedly.
A defining moment I didn’t get at the time…
My journey takes me back to when I was pregnant with Douglas. I was in a reading group and we read the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. I could not relate to it at all. I was almost annoyed that someone who was married and had stability and health could leave her husband for no obvious reason, be paid by her employer to travel the world, find herself, fall in love again and write a successful book out of it. Yet, years later, I get it! I really truly get it. I now know what it is like to be so overwhelmed by life that you can’t breath. You can’t make a decision for yourself, not even about how you like your tea, you can’t sleep, you have no energy even though you want to get up everyday and do the things you love. You feel like you are suffocating and your body does not want to work anymore. You know the rationality of your existence, there was no definitive problem, there appears to be no clear solution. Everyone else has an opinion about how you got there and how you should get well again but you know that somehow you have to find your own way. You also realise that very few people actually know you at all, let alone yourself. You want a way out and don’t know what you are running from…
But now I get it. I now know what it is like to find your soul and through this darkness of uncertainty, fear, failure and shame, to come out feeling the pure joy, sweetness and deepness of your life, your existence and your purpose. To finally live my life, my way, obeying my heart and destiny and living whole heartedly…
When you are down and under, everyone has something to say, advice to give, methods to try. What I do know is that the search for wellness is like a treasure hunt (Caroline Sunderland )- the next clue will show up when you need it, and it will lead you onto the next treasure. All the clues to wellness are found along the way. So is the healing journey, it is rarely a single treatment. It is a combination of several things working together. This then creates our own individual recipe for health and wellbeing and living wholeheartedly. The ingredients will come from all the resources we can find in own pantry, which is different for everyone, and thus, the result, our cake, will always be a little different. This is the beauty of our individual stories…
What really pulled me through and gave me the confidence to wake up every day and know everything would be okay was two beautiful gifted wise women, my life coaches, who loved me, nurtured me and helped me to move on from the past and gain confidences and tools for my health and future…
I believe the root of my healing came from the love and healing of these beautiful women. It came through their connection and shared experiences. I want more of this for all the mummas out there who lack the strength and energy to get up everyday…
What I want to finish by saying…
My message is this; When life gets hard, you take a wrong turn, you fall flat on your face, you can’t go on or you are just sad and hurt…find your heart, find your home. Whatever it is that grounds you, drives you, is worth more than life itself, and build your castle on it and then bake your cake. Find your ingredients you need to live healthily and whole heartedly and have the utmost faith and trust that all will be well. Everything will be okay. If you find yourself being pulled away from home, fight as hard as you can with every available resource you’ve got to get back to it. Don’t give up!
Z – WiZardary
I’ve been sitting with my sorting hat for a while now as it tries to work out where I belong. I thought that once I decided to enter the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and embraced a journey of vulnerability, bravery and authenticity that I would be slotted into a house group that would help define my mission and values and pull me into a certain direction with the right like minded people. I thought that just being brave enough to expose yourself, put yourself out there and put your best foot forward would be enough.
However, the sorting hat is having trouble. During this time of social isolation I can no longer run my small business and be with all the parents involved. I can not run my Airbnb and help pay the bills. I can no longer do my advocacy and volunteer work. I do not know where I belong. Am I one of those women they talk about that has put her career to the side while the corona carries on. I am. And that’s okay. This is when magic is wanting to happen. And it is. Every single day. It took me a few weeks to let go of my purpose. The sense of self that was productive, useful and helpful every day. And do what the monks do up in the hills. Just be still awhile. Let the sorting hat do its thing. Magic can only happen when we open our eyes and believe. Mothers who are at home. I believe in you. There is magic happening everywhere. And your time is not only now, but is waiting to come. Magic comes from the heart. Just like gratitude. It is a feeling. Appreciation is a knowing, it comes from the head. You know you have it, but it is only when you feel it, that gratitude fills the heart. You may know that magic can happen. It might be in your head. But it is only when you smile at the mystery and beauty, that it seeps into the heart. When you see and feel this magic, catch it. Don’t let it get a way. And I promise, when you open your heart to it, more will come your way. Remember Peter Pan? If you ignore him, he will soon lose interest and not visit again. Be that sleepy soul that opens the window and lets it in.