Very conscious, very mindful mothering

Very conscious, very mindful mothering.

That’s what last week was. Some very conscious, very mindful mothering from me. Less earthy and worthy though than mantra and reminder. I did a lot of deep breathing and active pausing to think before I spoke. I reminded myself often that I was the adult here and I was the one who needed to remain in control. Because I had to. If I didn’t, I would have been shouting and possibly throwing things. I felt a hot, angry frustration building up, unlike anything I’ve felt in my adult life, and it gave me a fright.

The chicken pox descended on our house for the second time in as many years. We got away with a very mild dose the last time, I think thanks in part to the fact that I was still breastfeeding at the time and it provided both comfort and resilience to the virus. This time though, it was back with a vengeance and we had one very sick little boy on our hands with some really awful spots all over his body. His back reminded me at one point of a teenager with that horrific angry, blood-headed acne all over his shoulders.

Along with sickness came high temperatures, loss of appetite and extreme, relentless irritability, nicely compounded by the smothering humidity outside. While the country enjoyed a sun-kissed weekend in the great outdoors, myself and Pip stayed in and suffered each other. I was clearly wrecking his head as much as he was wrecking mine.

The most popular phrase in our house was “go away mama” with a wail of “mamaaaaa” following a swift second. I spent the guts of an hour on Friday night literally hopping from one foot to another, dipping in and out of his eyeline between ferocious screams of “go away mama” with flying fists in my direction followed by heartbreaking gulping tears calling me back to him. This was one of many wakenings that night and I was too tired to do anything else except follow whichever command was hurled in my direction.

Mixed between lovely moments of cuddling together and some much needed quiet time, were hysterical fits of what can only be described as toddler unreasonableness. There was no pleasing him. He wanted everything and nothing. Not that, not that and definitely not that. Go away mama! I was slapped and kicked. There were many full body slams on the ground when his temper took over. It was just insanity.

Very conscious, very mindful mothering. Deep breathes. Mutter, mutter. He’s just a baby. He is sick. Don’t snap. Don’t shout. Don’t storm. Don’t blaspheme to the high heavens or pull your hair out while evoking the vocabulary of a sailor. Like I wanted to.

I got mad once. The exhaustion got to me. My husband was away working so the absence of the other half of my tag team got to me in the end. I snapped back. He wailed. I instantly regretted it. No good came from it – I didn’t feel better and he certainly didn’t understand my own frustration. It felt pretty shitty actually.

Very conscious, very mindful mothering.

I actually learned a lot about myself. I know now there’s new buttons to push that probably only my mother could activate before. I also know that I need to hold the centre and let his little toddler chaos erupt around me. I can do it. I mightn’t like it but he’s relying on me to be the rock when he’s in melt down and to still be there – untarnished – when the clouds have gone and he needs assurance and comfort. It was fucking hard though.

Very conscious, very mindful mothering.

 

www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog Very concious, very mindful mothering
photo credit: mdanys via photopin cc

An open letter to Senator Mary White about her shared maternity leave bill

Dear Senator White

I’ve sat on writing this letter for a week since I first read about your “Parental Leave Bill 2013” because I needed to chew it over.

Well, that’s not necessarily true.

As soon as I read this article on Journal.ie, I immediately tweeted

An open letter to Senator Mary White about her maternity leave bill www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog

But then I thought I’d let it sit with me and evaluate its merits, after all I am 100% supportive of paid paternity leave for the benefit of families and Irish society as a whole.

Here’s the thing though. Your press release managed to successfully talk me out of supporting your bill.

This is what did it for me:

“The greatest challenge facing the country is to create employment to offer hope and a potential living to the 300,000 unemployed and the young people in our schools and colleges. The only way we can create jobs is to encourage new enterprise”

followed swiftly by:

“The biggest untapped source of enterprise is 50% of the population which are Irish Women who face multiple barriers in becoming entrepreneurs and developing business”

and then this corker, which to be honest, really pushed me over the edge:

“This flexibility in the maternal leave scheme would allow women entrepreneurs to devote more time to their enterprises.”

Are we noticing a theme here, Senator White? Jobs, enterprise, business, entrepreneurship. I thought we were talking about maternity leave – the time a mother takes out of the workforce to give birth to and nurture her tiny newborn. But reading your comments, I actually realise we’re talking about “the economy“.

Can we get real about your bill here for a minute please? Becoming a mother – be it for the first or tenth time – is a physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually challenging time. It is exhausting and all-consuming. Most new mothers may find that it takes months – not weeks – to adapt to their new role and I’m fairly willing to bet that unless they’re a participant in The Apprentice, getting all entrepreneurial and starting a business is probably the last thing on their mind. There’s two exceptions to this – 1. the woman who already runs her own business and you can be well sure she’s not taking 26 weeks maternity leave in the first place and 2. the woman who realises that, for her, life isn’t all about working for someone else Monday to Friday, 9-5 (or 6 or 7) once her baby comes along and she looks for a new working solution that will keep her at home with her family. The latter lady most likely only swings into action with this when the end of her maternity leave is fast approaching and the idea of having to go back into the workforce is a frightening and unappealing prospect.

You say women face multiple barriers to coming entrepreneurs. You’re right, they absolutely do, but one of them is not because their pesky maternity leave is just too long and getting in their way. Could I ask you to point out to me the women who are celebrating your proposal and shouting from the rooftops

“well thank God for Senator White. Finally I’ll have a bit of flexibility with my maternity leave so I can devote more time to getting back to work.”

If we’re all so desperate to get started on setting up a business, why do so many women lie about their due date so that they can work as late as possible into their pregnancy to secure those precious extra weeks with their baby at the other end? Why do so many families scrimp and save so that new mothers can take as much of their unpaid leave as they can possibly afford once their maternity leave ends?

Although I admire your efforts, your bill will actually impact negatively on new mothers and babies. What mother in the country is going to deny her partner the opportunity to take some paid paternity leave when their little one arrives if it’s something he really wants to do? How could we? After spending decades calling for paid paternity leave for our partners,  how could we turn around now and say

“oh no sorry, you can’t have any of mine!”?

Women will be forced to cut their maternity leave short to accommodate their partners equal right to spend time at home with their child.

What impact do you think this is going to have on our already paltry breastfeeding rates? Once your bill is in, the pressure to wean babies to formula will be even stronger than it is now and many mothers will feel obliged to give up breastfeeding before they return to work even if they’d prefer not to. Breastfeeding support in this country is so bad at the moment that most women don’t know how to access the expertise to help them keep breastfeeding and return to work.

You call your bill “innovative” but you know, really it’s just sneaky. You’ve dressed it up as a modern, progressive, egalitarian proposal when it’s really robbing Peter to pay Paul and the State won’t have to invest a penny.

Here’s something really innovative. Why not take the brave step of suggesting that paid parental leave is extended to 12 months – or if we’re paying heed to the extensive, international research – 18 months and insist that fathers must take a minimum of three months of that? Our Scandanavian cousins have had huge success with this model. Look at Iceland, paternity leave is now a normalised part of society.

“But we couldn’t possibly afford it!”,

they’ll cry. That’s what they said when the European Union insisted we lift the marriage ban in the 70s. That’s what they said when the concept of maternity leave was introduced in the first place. Yet look at us now. All thanks to the outside influence of our European counterparts.

12 – 18 months of paid parental leave will mean children under the age of one will be nurtured by their primary caregiver in their own home, something that research has proven time and again is best for babies. It will mean that babies are more likely to be breastfed for longer. Just read this report from UNICEF UK to get even the slightest inkling of how much the Government would save on a reduced health bill if our breastfeeding rates increased just marginally. It would mean that society would accept that fathers have a place in the home caring for their children. If they all have to take time off work, then of course it’s the most normal thing in the work. If mothers have happy, healthy babies and they’re not worrying, worrying, worrying, I’d say the chances of them turning their head to setting up that new business are suddenly all the more realistic.

Senator White, please, please, can I ask you to take the summer months, give your bill some serious thought and change it before the Autumn session begins. Change it for the better. Do something good for Ireland’s babies, for its mammies and its daddies, for society and the economy as a whole. Take the long view. Look to the future and see the consequences of your suggestion and then mine.

Don’t rob us of our precious maternity leave to win brownie points in the name of equality.

You’re going in the wrong direction.

Yours sincerely,

Mind the Baby

Mother of 1, Full time employee and budding entrepreneur.

 

The perfection of little bodies

Blogpost: The perfection of little bodies Copyright Mind The Baby blog www.mindthebaby.ie

Look at this! Look at him!

He is a boy. There is some dirt. With sticks and leaves and creepy crawlies and stuff. So where else would he be?

But look at that pose!

A perfectly comfortable, stable and solid, unsupported, deep squat. He could sit like that for hours – and he does. He plays away and then he’ll get up and move somewhere else and go straight back down into the same position again.

No shaking, no stumbling, no pins and needles, no spasming thigh muscle or lifted heels. A poker straight spine and a full range of movement.

I defy you to find me an adult who doesn’t work at this to assume that pose for me for two minutes.

This is how nature intended our bodies to function. We should all be able to do this.

We should all be able to squat like this – have our babies like this, move our bowels like this. We should be able to sit on the ground with our legs out straight in front of us and our backs bolt upright. None of this knees up, hunched over business. We should all be able to bend over from our hips and reach down to touch our toes. I’ve been doing some form of yoga or Pilate for years now and I still can’t do any of those. I was determined to master the deep squat when I was pregnant to gain from its benefits during labour and birth but really by then it was too late. I should have been practising it months, no years, before. I’d give anything to have have this kind of flexibility and intuity with my body. I wish I’d never lost it.

I wonder what age he’ll be when he loses his ability to do this? It starts with hours of sitting in chairs I suppose…

What a thing of beauty though.

I’ll continue to admire it, be envious of it and help preserve it for him, for as long as I possibly can.

A toddler by any other name…is still a cockblocker

Blogpost: A toddler by any other name...is still a cockblocker
You know what I’m talking about
Image courtesy of redbookmag.com

What is it about a toddler exactly, that gives them the ability to intercept a subliminal nod between two consenting adults and then implement a strategic, beautifully executed offensive to scupper any tentative plans for a roll in the hay? Is it some kind of Darwinian, “survival of the fitness” instinct, whereby an only child subconsciously – or consciously, maybe even, who knows! – wants to defend his patch of land from the potential invasion of another sibling? Continue reading A toddler by any other name…is still a cockblocker