Food For Thought

imageYesterday, whilst at the playground I had to admire my 3 year old for her persistence.

It was New Year’s Eve. We took the girl’s and their dinner as well as some snacks and wine for us, to the playground at the back of the beach. I rarely leave the house without food for them as it appears to be the main bribery tool that works when trying to get them to complete the simplest of tasks.

The girls opened up their Peppa Pig lunch box, as they do every day, in excited anticipation to see what goodies lay within the pink canvas casing. Sometimes I can sense (and understand) their disappointment- it’s usually some variation of the same 3 ingredients: yoghurt, pasta and eggs. However today (as it was NYE) I’d tried to make it more interesting. I’d go so far as to say I’d possibly gone a little overboard with the amount and variety; chicken, avocado, crisps, yoghurt, nuts, grapes, cherries, dips and crackers – no egg or pasta in sight for once! Initially most of the contents seemed to meet their approval- this was evident by the way they were busily tucking in. Obviously not all of it was a winner, every now and again an item of half nibbled, sucked, licked or untouched food landed on or near me as they discarded it.

After a few minutes my 3 year old hot footed it to the other side of the playground where she promptly stood and stared intently at a family who were sitting down to enjoy their own picnic. They gave her a couple of token/awkward smiles as they tried to carry on enjoying their dinner in spite of her watchful eye.

After a good ten minutes of some hard core staring and probably making them feel immensely guilty with each bite they took, they caved in and passed her a strawberry. Without hesitation she took it from them and ran back to us, grinning with pride and satisfaction at her achievement/steal.

When I was a child it was drummed into me daily not to take food from strangers. I can’t remember what age I was when I started to understand this. As you can see, I haven’t started teaching this to my girls yet but I guess it may be time to start.

I remember the first few times my daughter got ‘food envy’ when we were out in public. I’d desperately try to explain and show my friend or the stranger she had approached, how much food I had brought so they didn’t think I was a terrible or unprepared mother. The shoe has now been on the other foot as it’s happened to me many times with other children. I have to say I find it a little awkward. I have no issue giving the child some food but it’s often tricky to know what is the right thing to do, especially if the parent is nowhere in sight.

It made me wonder why it is that children get food envy? My youngest will vigorously shake her head from side to side and throw food off her high chair in disgust, 5 minutes later if I’m eating the exact same thing she stares at me longingly and opens her mouth wide waiting for me to shovel some in. Once I do as she requests, she has a look of immense satisfaction on her face and opens her mouth even wider in readiness for the next deposit.

Is it because other people’s food actually tastes better or is it the satisfaction they feel when they get something that isn’t actually theirs? I’m inclined to think it’s the latter however I’m no child psychologist so unfortunately I don’t have the answers. Just food for thought!

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The Truth About Toddlers

Before having toddlers, my perception was that they were little people who ‘toddled’ along, smiling cutely as they went. Sure, I’d heard of the ‘Terrible Twos’ and witnessed the odd tantrum, but I thought they were the exception rather than the rule.

I never realised there was SO much more to it than that. Their autocratic and often teenage-like behaviour coupled with their Jekyll and Hyde mood swings, never ceases to amaze me. Their inability to understand what seems so logical and reasonable and absolute inflexibility, makes time spent in their company a little fraught at times.

Sorry?

I’m aware that we are not alone. I Have enough mummy friends going through similar challenging times and have now read enough articles, confirming our two toddlers are by no means unique in this respect. My simplistic and naive understanding of ‘toddlers’, has gone out the window now that I have 2 of them living under my roof.

My youngest is 15 months old. Having just started to walk independently, I can confirm she is 100% ‘toddling’. Often she does this smiling and laughing as she goes. Revelling in the attention she gets from us and other onlookers. Still a little unsteady on her feet, there are often moments when she falls. We hold our breath and wait…..she looks at us……still holding our breath, still waiting. She smiles, then drunkenly stumbles back to her feet and carries on her merry toddling way. Phew, we are relieved – exhale. Unfortunately there are also many occasions when she falls, looks at us, turns her bottom lip downwards and the tears come. Or, she doesn’t fall, the tears come and we have absolutely no idea why she is crying.

Having no idea why she is crying happens a lot. It’s got to the point where I am so often at a loss, I resort to asking her nearly 3 year old sister if she can shed any light on it. Her reply is consistent, ‘’she wants booby milk Mummy”. Hence why my youngest is a breast-aholic.

For the first year of her life she suffered severe reflux. It was heart-breaking. She struggled to self-settle, needy of me and my boobs and physical in the way she demonstrated her discontent. At first I put everything down to reflux. As she has grown older I’m learning that lots of her tears are because she’s just not getting what she wants. She literally throws her dummy out of the cot, her food off the high chair and toys out of the pram with such force she could compete in the next Olympic shotput rounds.

I have suffered many a bruised foot at the hands of a hurtling Sippy cup, flung onto the floor for the 10th time that sitting. I’m often left scrabbling around in the dark in her bedroom or under cars searching for her abandoned dummy. Luckily she is not of an age where she can repeat the swear words coming from my mouth!

We have a bedtime ritual. Forgive me, I know how ridiculous this must sound. I put her dummy in my mouth by the handle, carry her into her room and wait until she decides she’s ready to take the dummy from my mouth, before attempting to place her in the cot. If I try to put the dummy into her mouth before she’s ready, onto the floor it goes. If she won’t take the dummy from me, I know it’s time to retract back to the lounge and try again later. Often she teases me, taking it from me and then flinging it in disgust across the room.

When she decides she wants a breastfeed, she climbs on me, pulls my top/dress up or down and helps herself. She hates to be restrained, in the pram, cot, car seat or high chair. Sometimes food provides a distraction, but that’s short-lived and she soon starts wriggling and screaming leaving me no choice but to set her free.

Our eldest daughter (nearly 3) was relatively tantrum free until she reached 18 months. She’s making up for lost time now. This coincided with the arrival of her baby sister. I have heard that how she felt could be likened to how you would feel if your partner brought home a new lover, moved them in and had them attached to them the entire time – ouch!

Occasionally whilst at the playground, if she fell over, I’d go to comfort her – she’d scream and run away, turning up the volume the closer I got. Aware that each step nearer resulted in her becoming more upset, I stopped. Seeing her this way and feeling so helpless broke my heart. Gradually I’d begin moving towards her again, desperate to take her in my arms and console her. This made it worse. She’d run away screaming as though I was some crazy stranger attempting to abduct her.

I willed her words to come in the hope we would understand each other better and relieve her frustrations. At first her repertoire of words was limited; ‘dummy’, hot milk’, ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’ and ‘MORE’. Often she’d sit in her throne/ high chair and have me run ragged as she shouted her orders. As we chatted more I started to toughen up, realising that she did understand the meaning of the word ‘no’ perfectly well and it was ok for me to use it. With the implementation of ‘no’ came the arrival of the truly terrible twos.

I began seeking advice from parenting Facebook groups and reading more articles about how to deal with toddler behaviour.

  • Get down to their level
  • Remain calm
  • Explain why you are saying no
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t raise your voice

Every time I read a new article, I felt inspired and hopeful.

The tantrum begins:

Deep breath, bend down, stay calm

“I’m sorry you are feeling upset sweetheart, I understand you want a whole biscuit but unfortunately it was broken when I took it out of the wrapper”

Following the advice to the letter, I’m ready for the current mood to change so we can continue with our day.

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I want a whole one, I want a whole one now. I want a whole apple biscuit NOW”

Be patient, I remind myself. Try again.

The screaming gets louder, leg kicking and lashing out begins. We are attracting the attention of passers-by who look at her with pity, like I’m the one being unreasonable.

“Poor thing, bless her”

Bless her? My patience fading and my frustration increasing. Often, against my better judgement and with a quick risk assessment, I give in.

“Fine- wear your shoes on the wrong feet”

Unfortunately, I have to confess, there are occasions when all my good intentions go out the window and I lose it. I raise my voice and get angry.

I have learnt, she’s not a morning person. Upon waking she rubs her eyes, grunting, refusing to look at me. I hold my arms out towards her but am met with,

“Meh”, whilst shaking her head vigorously from side to side. Consequently I’ve encouraged her to call for Daddy when she wakes (especially as it’s been getting earlier). He talked me through their morning ritual:

  • She demands to be placed on a particular sofa
  • He tries to take her sleeping bag off and is met a stern look, head shake and grunting
  • She demands hot milk (usually sending it back saying it’s not hot enough)
  • She demands he sits on the other sofa
  • She demands to watch Peppa Pig on the IPad – when he says no to the iPad she starts to scream
  • He gives in

The toddler timeframe is generally considered to be between age 1 and 3. Ironically whilst I’m willing an end to the tantrums I’m also wishing time would slow down. With our youngest I love seeing her drunkenly toddling along, stopping to examine everything in her path. Whilst her neediness of me can at times be exhausting, I’m also aware that it is not going to be forever and it is her unique connection with me that creates this need. With the eldest, whilst the ability for her to converse has at times resulted in a stroppy, demanding child, it’s also enabled a hilariously cute, slightly bonkers little girl who cracks us up daily with her commentary and constant questioning to emerge.

Our 2 toddlers have very different temperaments, therefore what worked at times for one hasn’t worked so well for the other. It has taught me that as a parent, I have to adapt my parenting style to suit that particular child and situation. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’. There are some similarities, they are both stubborn, strong willed and determined little people trying to find their way. They may be able to transform from darling to devil in the blink of any eye, but the darling bits are delicious and the devil bits – well we’ll put them down to a ‘developmental phase’.

Pink Pear Bear

How to kick the dummy habit in 7 easy steps

Our girls have both had dummies/pacifiers. Originally a hater of them, I was converted. I learnt that they have considerable benefits and aren’t just an unsightly way of keeping a whinging baby quiet (although they certainly do that too).They soon became a vital part of our family.

The problem is, like any comforter, they soon become a habit and therefore difficult to get rid of. There are also some concerns that prolonged dummy use can affect/delay children’s speech.  I talk more about the benefits and potential issues with dummies plus our families love/hate relationship with them in a recent post How WE kicked our dummy habit.

This post is to provide people currently fighting a dummy battle with their toddler, a list of 7 quick and easy steps that REALLY work!

  • Plant the seed. Talk about The Dummy Fairy for a few months. Explain the consequences of giving up the dummy clearly (i.e. it’s forever).Re-iterate it’s their choice, no pressure to do it. Be patient, it can take a few weeks/months. My daughter was 2 years and 9 months old when we did this. I made sure she was old enough to really understand who The Dummy Fairy was and what the implications were.
  • Get a box and leave it out somewhere easy for them to access. Explain that if they would like to receive a present from The Dummy Fairy they will need to place the dummy/dummies in it. I chose to let my daughter do it at her own pace so not all of them went in at once.
  • When they decide they are ready to give one or all of the dummies up make it exciting for them by asking what present they might like and then if they think The Dummy Fairy has been. Wrap up the presents and place them in the box with a note or card from The Dummy Fairy to make it as real as possible.
  • If they know how many dummies they have wait until they have offered them all up to The Dummy Fairy (or lost them). If you get desperate and want to shimmy things along a bit you can be evil mummy like me and cut holes in them so they no longer work.
  • If they have a sibling with a dummy I would suggest trying to remove that one too, at least from sight. Get them joining in with giving up their dummies and receiving presents.
  • Once all the dummies are gone be aware they will continually ask for them. Be consistent in your response and do not falter. Get your partner, kindy, family members on board. Within a few days they will have almost stopped asking.
  • Be aware that it may be harder for them to fall asleep as they have used the dummy as their comforter for most of their little lives. Be patient, understanding and help them get to sleep by staying with them a bit longer, more cuddles etc. They are grieving for the loss of their comforter. However, try to maintain their sleep routine as much as possible and be firmer as the day’s progress so they don’t become dependent on you to get them to sleep.

It will be so much easier than you ever anticipated, I promise!

blog dummy
Cards and gifts from The Dummy Fairy

 

To all Mummies and Daddies – this is your performance review!

As a parent no one ever really tells you that you are doing a good job. It’s the only job in the world that carries so much responsibility yet you receive no monthly, quarterly or even annual performance review of what you are doing well or some constructive criticism around what you could do better.

I remember when I was handed our first born in the hospital. After the initial gushes of love and sheer amazement at this tiny human we had created, the reality that she was ‘ours’ suddenly hit us. She didn’t come with a manual and there was no receipt to send her back when she didn’t do the things we had thought babies were meant to do, like ‘sleep like a baby’ for example.

I was lucky enough to have my mum over from the UK for the first 10 weeks of her precious life. This meant I was given a huge head start in comparison to many other new mums. She taught me the basics such as, bathing a tiny baby, how to deal with newborn flaky skin, what to do with explosive yellow poo when it leaks all over everything, she encouraged us to get a routine started and helped us soothe the baby when she was screaming and we had no idea why. She supported me incredibly through those initial, toe curlingly painful breastfeeding days when I was so close to quitting. After having three breastfed babies herself, she knew that in time, the pain would ease and the reward I would feel for persevering would be worth it (this was the case for me but I totally respect and understand this is different for lots of other women).

When my eldest was 10 weeks old, mum returned to the UK.

My husband and I were on our own to care for our baby.

We fumbled our way along, reading various books and haemorrhaging Google whenever we came up against anything unknown to us. The experience, whilst one of love and happiness was also filled with hundreds of questions, self-doubt and worry that we were doing it wrong.

When she was a new-born we worried if she was too hot, too cold, hungry, full, tired or breathing! We constantly checked to see if she was breathing, at times she was so still we were convinced we’d lost her.

As she grew bigger (age 1-2) we worried about the things she did more such as: why does she keep hitting herself, why does she play with buckles all the time? why does she walk on tip toes, why hasn’t she started talking or walking yet, why is she throwing her food on the floor? is that behaviour, dare I say it -NORMAL?  One occasion, when she fell off a climbing frame and banged her head, I managed to convince myself and everyone else that the climbing frame was HUGE!  I rushed her to A & E and she checked out fine. Since then I’ve returned to the playground and am embarrassed to admit it really is not that high after all.

Now I have a 14 month old and a nearly 3 year old I still continually question and doubt myself in my role as a mother.  I am what people commonly refer to as a ‘worrier’ so  this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me reading this. However, I have been surprised to see that some of the strongest women I know, who are full of self-belief and confidence in other areas of their lives, have been affected by the same self-doubt and insecurities as me since becoming mums.

I was prompted to write this blog because a friend of mine contacted me the other day, upset and angered by an encounter with a stranger. She is one of these women I would identify as being strong in character and self-confidence.

The encounter with the stranger went like this:

My friend was in good spirits, doing the weekly supermarket shopping with her toddler in the trolley. Her toddler wasn’t quite so chipper. She was crying and objecting (as toddlers do) at being restrained in the trolley.

As my friend reached the checkout she was approached by a woman who proceeded to tell her that she was a child psychologist and the fact that she was allowing her child to cry and not comfort her was damaging her child. My friend was shocked. Of course she wasn’t enjoying seeing her child upset but she was trying to deal with it in her own way.

That was all it took,  all her self-belief went out of the window and she began immediately doubting herself. No matter how much all of us outside of that situation can say the stranger was clearly a nutter/busy body who had no right to make such a statement, it doesn’t matter. All my friend could hear in her head for the rest of the day were those words, questioning her ability as a mother.

I had a similar incident after having my second child.

I honestly thought, “second child, easy peasy- I know what I’m doing this time, it’s going to be fine.”

Someone once told me the definition of ‘fine’ is:

F****d up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

I can confirm that since having my second child I have been all of the above at certain points.

My second baby was diagnosed with severe reflux, much worse than our first daughter. Reflux is distressing for all involved. Immediately I looked to blame myself for why this was happening again.

“It’s because I was so sick through the pregnancy, I didn’t eat much dairy so  I’ve made her intolerant’’

“It’s because my milk is ‘bad’”

“It must be something I’m eating”

“My milk flow is too fast”

“IT’S MY FAULT”

I joined a Facebook reflux support group and went to see a paediatrician. He made me realise that medication was the only thing that may help her and wasn’t convinced that changing my diet would make a significant enough difference. I was relieved. After 9 months of nausea I couldn’t bear the thought of completely abstaining from all dairy. I’m so selfish, such a bad mum not prepared to  quit breastfeeding (which I loved) or change my diet. Constant self-doubt and questioning ensued.

One warm sunny day I was waiting for the bus at Bondi Junction. I had my newborn in the ergo carrier, my toddler was having a melt-down because she wanted a ‘whole’ biscuit but when I’d opened the wrapper it was broken. I should mention that the lead up to this day was, as any new mum may relate to, severely sleep deprived. I’d been functioning on about 3 hours of broken sleep a night for the previous few weeks and hadn’t been able to master the art of getting 2 kids under 2 to sleep at the same time in the day.

Finally my toddler stopped screaming about her broken biscuit and I heaved a sigh of relief as she began quietly sucking away on her dummy (this is what dummies are for).

Everything was calm.

Next thing I know, a random passer by stops and shouts at me,

“You are killing your baby!”

Horrified, I looked up to see a lady, around my mum’s age, staring at me in disgust.

“Excuse me?”I could barely speak but managed to force the words out.

“You shouldn’t have your baby in that outfit or that carrier, I know these things. You are killing her. I know what I’m talking about.”

I looked on in amazement, like a startled rabbit. I’d half expected someone to say something when my toddler was having her tantrum, but this was so unexpected. I froze.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business actually ” I managed to comeback at her with.

She stormed off ranting under her breath that “I was killing my baby”.

I was gob-smacked. When you’ve had no sleep for weeks and something totally bonkers like that happens you start to question whether it was real or not.

Suddenly I felt someone’s arm wrap around my shoulder and heard their voice saying angrily,

“What an idiot. Who the hell does she think she is?”

The tears poured out of my eyes and down my face with such force it was like a dam had just burst. I could barely breathe, let alone speak.

Immediately I believed her – this stranger who had shouted at me.

I must be doing something wrong. I’m a terrible mother. I don’t know what I’m doing.

All those self-doubting and negative words  buzzing around my head making me feel dizzy.

A few other people at the bus stop came over to say how sorry they were at what had happened but it didn’t matter, the damage had been done. She had questioned my ability as mother, and I was hanging onto her every word. What she didn’t know was that I’d spent ages procrastinating about what to dress the baby in before leaving the house. Aware that it was a hot day, she was too young to wear sunscreen but also that I would only be outside for a few minutes whilst waiting for the bus. The rest of the time would be in the air conditioned shopping centre. I’d deliberated for a good few minutes and carefully selected a special summer babygrow so there was no risk of sunburn and she wouldn’t get too cold. Oh my Godness – I’d obviously got it wrong. I’M A TERRIBLE MOTHER!

Of course as time has gone by I have moved on from this upsetting day. I do know that she was just a strange individual and that I was of course not killing my baby by dressing her that way or by using a baby carrier. As I continue on this journey of motherhood I know that there will be many more occasions when I will doubt myself and be affected by the words of others, especially if they get me at a time when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable.

Recently social media has been campaigning to remind us to treat other people with respect and thoughtfulness as you never know what battle they may be fighting. I wholeheartedly support this campaign.

Being a parent is wonderful and challenging in equal measure.

We must be kind and not judge others on how they bring up their children. We don’t know the personal struggles they may be fighting.

And if a stranger takes it upon themselves to question what you are doing, don’t allow that self-doubt to swallow you up.

Instead, remember it’s:

YOU your child asks for when they are sick or upset.

YOU they cry for when you leave them.

YOU they jump into and wrap their little arms and legs around so tightly in excitement and happiness when they see you again – even if you’ve only been apart a short while.

Whilst there may be tough days, tantrum days and downright dire days….for every smile, kiss or cuddle we get from our children, let’s take that as the best and most constructive performance review we could ever ask for. This is our childrens’ way of telling us that we are doing a great job and whilst we may not be perfect,  they love us.

Either that, or we should adopt the self-belief of my toddler, who will not be swayed once she has made up her mind she is right.

They aren't on the wrong feet Mummy!
They aren’t on the wrong feet Mummy!

Case in point. It was an argument I was never going to win.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Growing up I can remember many disagreements with my two older sisters where my Mum or Dad had to step in to referee. We would all stake our claim that ‘SHE started it’. Sometimes I’d side with one of my sisters to say that it was the other one’s fault. Regardless of these assertions usually the outcome was the same – Mum or Dad would insist that we apologised to each other, irrespective of who had ‘apparently’ started it.

It always felt desperately unfair and I can remember even then finding it incredibly challenging to say those two little words, ‘I’m sorry’.

As I grew to be a teenager, the fights with my siblings decreased and they were replaced with arguments with my parents (mainly my Dad). Sometimes I was fully aware that I’d been out of order or grumpy and that perhaps the argument was my fault however I still found it difficult to utter those two little words.

Then came disagreements with boyfriends and friends. Occasionally I’d know I was the one in the wrong but once I’d started down that path it was so difficult to retract what had been said and actually admit that I was ‘sorry’.

Recently I’ve been observing my eldest daughter (age 2 years and 8 months) and have been amazed to see how at such a young age the words, ‘I’m sorry’, seem to cause her such difficulty.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Occasionally she does something naughty to her baby sister such as a heavy handed pat (AKA a whack) or grabs a toy off her. Recently she has started to hit out at me and her Dad. Aware we must teach her that this behaviour is unacceptable, we take her away from the situation and talk to her insisting that she says ‘sorry’ to whoever she has upset. Well, you would think we were asking her to jump into a pit of snakes. She will do absolutely everything possible to avoid saying those two little words. She would rather sit and scream in her room for eternity than say those words.

We offer her bribes:

‘’If you say you’re sorry we can all go out and have fun after at the park’’

or

‘’If you just say you are sorry you can come and eat ice-cream with us’’

Sometimes she will slowly move towards whoever it is she is meant to be apologising to, hanging her head, avoiding any eye contact. She will stand like that for ages and no amount of gentle persuasion/bribery will get her to say those words. We have now offered her the option of giving the person a kiss instead of saying those oh so difficult words. Even still she just can’t quite bring herself to do it. Very occasionally we have been known to hear the words we’ve been eagerly awaiting. But those occasions are rare and the words are muttered so quietly under her breath, whilst still avoiding all eye contact, you could blink and miss them.

As an adult I understand that the reason I don’t like to say sorry sometimes is either because I absolutely believe I’m right or I know I’m not right but just can’t quite deal with losing face – that little thing called pride not helped by my stubborn nature. There are occasions, I will concede, that I have been known to have a row with my husband and I’ve completely lost what my initial point was.  Worse still,  I’m suddenly aware that I’m being totally unreasonable yet I just can’t seem to stop myself (it can’t be just a coincidence that such arguments tend to happen at a certain time each month and during the early weeks of both of my pregnancies! I’m of course apportioning all blame for these crazy mood swings and irrational behaviour to hormones). The argument can sometimes carry on in this vein for several minutes. It’s only after some cooling off time that I may be able to swallow my pride, admit I was wrong, and say, ‘I’m sorry’.

So my question is, when my little girl seems to find it impossibly hard to say, “I’m sorry”, is this because she believes she is in the right or is it because she knows she’s in the wrong but doesn’t want to lose face?

Unfortunately, I’m no child psychologist.  I don’t have an answer to this question. I’m thoroughly intrigued by watching my daughter to see how her relationship with these two little words may develop as she grows older. She certainly takes after both myself and her father with her stubborn nature- it’s fair to say she’s a chip off the old block!

The Mum and Wife I Thought I’d Be

I’m not going to lie, I visualised ‘The Waltons’. I thought being a wife and mum would be a wholesome, happy, calm, loving and relatively easy ride. The love I have for my husband and children is immense and overwhelming. I know I’m blessed and we have hundreds of wonderfully happy moments. However, life with 2 toddlers is full on, hectic, exhausting and challenging. I have had to adapt my picture perfect image, lowering my standards and accepting that my perception of a ‘perfect wife and mother’ was a little unrealistic.

I played a big part in my sister’s life when she had her first 2 boys and thought I had a good idea of what life with kids was like. What I was forgetting was that I could walk away at the end of the day, returning to my tranquil haven of calm followed by sleep filled nights. I was an exciting novelty to my nephews who delighted in the attention I smothered them with and all the sugary treats I lavished upon them.

I believed that my pregnancy journey would involve eating nutritious and wholesome food, yoga and other mind and body relaxing/strengthening activities, leading up to the baby’s birth which would, of course, be as natural as possible. I would be a devoted wife and mother, bringing my children up in a healthy and nurturing environment.

The reality has been a little different.

I could barely eat for the duration of my pregnancies, most of what I could face would in no way be considered nutritious or wholesome. Suffering with severe nausea and hyperemesis, the smell of food was enough to send me running to the nearest toilet or bush to throw up. My poor husband was exiled to the veranda to spray his deodorant on despite it being the middle of winter as I couldn’t bear the smell of it. I had acne and ‘bacne’ and the only ‘blooming’ I felt was bloomin’ awful.

I couldn’t face getting out of bed let alone doing yoga. The days dragged and I’ve never wished an end to something as much as I did this. At least in my first pregnancy I had hope, each week thinking surely next week will be better. Second time around my glass was well and truly empty. I was going to be in a permanent state of nauseous hangover for the next 280 (give or take) days.

As for my natural birth, that was going to have to wait. Our first daughter was breech at 37 weeks. The obstetrician and midwives attempted an ECV to turn her around. It didn’t quite go according to plan -her heart rate dropped alarmingly (and my husband’s too as he looked on helplessly beside me turning green). The hospital informed me I had no other option but to have a C-section. Our baby was measuring small and appeared to be stuck. She was also potentially traumatised from the ECV and they felt she wouldn’t cope/survive a vaginal delivery.

I was devastated. It took me a few days to get my head around the fact I wouldn’t be pushing my baby out. Guy Sebastian’s voice wouldn’t be playing out on the CD player nor would my fiancé be massaging my shoulders as we’d practiced in the weeks of ante natal classes leading up to this point. Reluctantly, I agreed. Her way out into the world didn’t change the fact that I loved her immediately, just as much as I love her sister who I did push out 18 months later.

When I first became a Mum I wasn’t married to my now husband. It was strange for me to accept that I would be finishing work and no longer have money coming into my bank each month. In Australia most companies don’t offer maternity pay so, on top of the fact I wasn’t receiving financial support from the government as we weren’t permanent residents, I also wasn’t receiving anything from my employer. At the age of 34, having been financially self-sufficient for as long as I can remember, I was freaking out, aware of my dependency on my fiancé.

Luckily for me my fiancé (now husband) was wonderful. From the minute my job ended and my maternity leave began he gave me a bank card with full access to his bank account which he informed me was now ‘ours’. Regardless of his generosity it still felt alien to me. I continually asked if it was ‘ok’ for me to buy things, feeling guilty when I made purchases that felt like luxuries.

The fact that financially he was entirely supporting us made me take my role in the home very seriously. I felt that our daughter and everything ‘home related’ was my responsibility, an old-fashioned view I know but mine nonetheless. Luckily for me he was not so pre-historic in his views. He adores our girls and helps out in every way possible whenever he’s around, regularly chastising me for overdoing it in my bid to be ‘the perfect wife and mother’. He gets frustrated with my guilt at spending money and encourages me to treat myself from time to time.

Whilst I did manage to achieve most of the day-to-day tasks I set myself when we had one child it soon changed with the arrival of our next daughter 18 months later. My daily walks to do the grocery shopping have now been replaced with online shopping. The children’s dinner is last minute, usually thrown together from whatever I have available in the fridge (my eldest was so hungry the other day she started eating frozen fish fingers out of the box #badMummy). Our dinner is way down the pecking order and if it wasn’t for my husband being such a good cook it would probably be beans on toast most nights. The washing basket is never empty, ironing is a foreign word, the children’s toys remain scattered across the apartment and the jobs pile up.

Before I had the girls I thought the following:

  • No processed food
  • No eating in the pram or car seat
  • Limit watching TV
  • Not IPad
  • Clean snot from their noses immediately
  • Never let them cry themselves to sleep
  • No dummies
  • Read to them every night
  • Brush their teeth twice a day
  • Breastfeed
  • Having girls I would enjoy washing, brushing and accessorising their beautiful hair
  • I would lead by example not shouting at them or my husband

The reality:

  • Food is whatever is to hand as quickly and easily as possible
  • Eating in the pram and car seat is standard (often the only way to negotiate with them to get in or stay put)
  • Dinner is in front of the TV most evenings
  • Dummies are essential
  • Snot regularly pours from their nose (It’s impossible to keep on top of)
  • Brushing teeth has become a form of torture to our eldest
  • Brushing hair has become a form of torture to our eldest
  • I’m often not calm or patient and sometimes I LOSE IT!

Occasionally I joke with other mums that being a parent is about survival. Whilst I know I have only their best interests at heart, sometimes the journey to get to the end point is harder than anticipated and it is necessary to employ any tactic possible to get there. It doesn’t mean that they won’t turn out ok or that my love for them is any less, just that we aren’t quite ‘The Walton’s’.

TV Dinner

The words every parent dreads hearing when they are stuck in traffic with a toddler in the car

My initial feeling of inner calm that we had left in plenty of time for a birthday party, which according to Mr Google Maps was a 51 minute drive away, soon began to fade when the traffic started to pile up. I could see the minutes on the Sat Nav “Estimated Time of Arrival” slowly increasing as my calm and relaxed state of mind was doing the exact opposite.Read More »