I was siting at a kids birthday party on the weekend. We’d just enjoyed the most wonderful snacks at the beautifully laid out party table. I was discussing parenthood with a new mom in my daughter’s class.
She mentions to me that she thinks my husband is a great Dad and very hands on, which he is. Case in point - I fondly recall the month our third child was born. Emily was 3 weeks old and I was breastfeeding exclusively and had had a caesarean section, which meant that I could not drive for a few weeks. I was feeling properly cooped up, feeding on demand and immersed in the nitty-gritty of new motherhood (for the third time).
My mom popped in and offered to take me down to the shops for an hour. I was delighted and flew out the door to escape for a snippet of ‘me-time’. I left Philip with three kids under the age of 7. Newborn Em had just been fed and I was certain she was comfortable enough to be left with Dad.
On my return half an hour later, the sight that met my eyes became for me a symbol of what a great Dad my kids have. Philip was playing pirates (with James all of 7 years old) while little Emily was peacefully sleeping in her favourite spot – the Baby Sense Sling.
Philip is a great dad in so many ways and I do credit him with a lot of the good I see in my kids. So I was not surprised to learn this week of new research from Oxford that shows that children of Dads who are involved and loving and close to their kids have a much stronger emotional and behavioral outcome. The research was done with babies of three months old and their behaviour was measured at a year of age and according to the researchers, when dads are involved and loving at 3 months of age, the babies had ‘lower levels of behavioral problems’ later on.
“This research makes sense to me”, I said to the new mom in Em’s class. She looked shattered and simply answered – “my kids dad was completely uninvolved in their lives until they were toddlers. What does that mean for them?”
Wow, it was such a reality check for me. I come across research so often that promotes the ‘ideal’. But the reality is that the ideal is sometimes not possible or the reality for many. I considered myself duly chastised and try to remember when I read the research that it is the benchmark but that there are so many factors that affect development that none of this must be seen in isolation.
My new friend’s kids are awesome human beings. Their Dad was absent in the early days but their Mom was there for them, they are resilient and happy kids.
As a baby care advisor, it is my duty to keep up to date with the latest research and to be involved when there is the opportunity to learn more and inform people about new research.
Last month I was asked by the Excellence in Paediatrics (EiP) conference to load their survey to our website. I have completed the survey and believe the information it seeks to survey wil be interesting to us as parents, medical professionals and also to brands who are responsible for influencing parents choices responsibly.
For this reason I would like to direct you to their survey and encourage you to take part.
Babies take up so much space! How is it that such a tiny person can do this?
Space when travelling - BC (before children) I could happily pack a small weekend bag and throw it in the car 30 minutes before leaving for a weekend in the mountains. Suddenly James came along and we had to pack a trailer to take the camp cot, the pram, the high chair, the feeding pillow and an assortment of toys to keep him happy in the car for the journey! It is laughable how much space you need when travelling with kids!
Space in the home - BC, we could live in a loft apartment and it would always look neat. Three kids later, we need a huge house, space for the dogs (kids have to have pets, really?), two TV’s because the thirteen year old is sick of CBeebies and a double door fridge for all the food three kids consume.
Space in your mind - BC I could complete a patient report in a couple of hours, no sweat. Now it takes a week, in between the school lifts, parental musings and maternal guilt.
Space in time - BC I took a bath for half an hour, cooked slow meals and exercised! Now I can’t find a moment in my life to go to the loo on my own.
So my little Space Invaders… would I trade the cramped space, limited time and disorder for those BC days - not a chance! You are a wonderfully rich part of my life…
Everything in life is framed by our expectations. When you were pregnant, you had an expectation of how your baby would be born and what type of baby you would have. Others seemed to have all sorts of expectations for your pregnancy too – how much weight you should put on, how you should feel about being pregnant and even what baby you were going to have.
Between society and our own expectations we are set up for failure or success. You see, success seems to be measured based on how close the experience is to the expectation. And it is awesome, if you meet expectations. If you have the dream natural delivery you dreamt of, you feel elated and empowered. If you bloom in pregnancy and regain your pre-pregnancy weight a la Nichole Kidman (makes you wonder if was she was actually pregnant?) you are meeting society’s expectations. If you are a serene mother who appears to cope all the time, you feel successful. And on it goes.
But what if you don’t reach expectations? What if your blissful birth turns into an emergency drama? What if you feel low, if there are days when you don’t feel like being a mom or facing the world? What if you take three years to get back into shape – or never do? If this all comes to pass, are you less successful? You will certainly feel less successful!
So what’s the secret? I think we need to carefully measure our expectations of ourselves and of others. Being a new mom or in fact a mom at any stage is a tall order. We do expect way too much of ourselves, our partners and our children and even our friends. Lower the game plan and be more accepting. In the long run you will be happier!
Why are we so insecure?
Isn’t it amazing how motherhood affects us? For most of us, we come to motherhood from as a capable human being in some area of life – a proficient businesswoman, a successful student or a competent mother of another child. Then along comes a baby and suddenly the strangest insecurities raise their ugly heads. If you have never felt insecure about your role as a mom, I would hazard a guess that you have either forgotten, are lying or are a serious exception to the rule. I have never met a mom who doesn’t doubt herself.
The realms of insecurity include: Do I have enough milk? Am I stimulating my baby enough? Does he love me as much as the nanny or dad? Did I cause that nappy rash by not changing him soon enough? Did I make the right decision to vaccinate? The list goes on and on.
I have no idea why we feel so insecure when we are actually the best possible mum for our baby! Maybe you have an idea – is it because this role is so vital that we fear we will make a mistake or could it be that we are over educated and too cerebral about decisions or maybe the inundation of information completely confuses us? Whatever it is, I was insecure with baby one, two and three and I know that had I had 11 children, I would still be second guessing myself.
Such a strange thing – I have no idea why we are like this, maybe you do?
How many times have I wished for a parenting manual? A baby guide that comprehensively covers it all and conclusively tells me just what to do. Of course I wished for this when breastfeeding was tough with my first baby, when my second baby didn’t crawl by 10 months and when my third baby cried with painful reflux. There really is no such manual because simply every baby is different.
Likewise, no mom is the same. We are all so different and bring a whole lot of ‘stuff’ to our mothering journey. However in my years as an author and therapist I have come across mothering issues that raise their heads again and again and funnily enough at similar times for us all.
About 6 years ago, I first asked friends and family to write me weekly diaries of their experiences as new moms. Each of them did it pretty much religiously for around six months after their baby’s birth – some longer. I promised these diaries would remain confidential and they are but as I read them, I realized that there are ‘things’ we go through as new moms that are totally universal – fear of germs, weight gain, the weight of responsibility, isolation, fear of harming the baby, distress over lack of sleep…. And on and on the list goes. I realized quickly that these issues are universal.
So when I was writing my new book (Your Sensory Baby (SA)/The Babysense Secret (USA &UK)) I decided to put a section into each age band chapter called Mum Sense – I based this on these weekly diaries but took my research a step further – as some of you will recall, I would ask my facebook mums to describe their week – “Calling all mums of 2-6 week olds – how are you feeling this week?” Your responses helped me write these sections of this book.
My new book is not a baby manual – every baby is different but it will provide insight not only into your baby but also into your own mothering journey. As Your Sensory Baby launches in South Africa this week, I want to thank you all for being with me on the journey and happy mother’s day – you are all on a crucial journey and part of a family of motherhood.
View our May Newsletter online now:
This week, my husband is riding the Epic – a grueling 8 day endurance cycle race in which primed athletes, eager novices and well paid professionals race against each other and the elements. As I write this description of the Epic, I realize that being a parent is an Epic event too:
· Its an “endurance race” of note – when last were you as exhausted as you are chasing after a toddler for a twelve hour day? And it doesn’t end – we have to endure for - a lifetime!
· “Primed athletes, eager novices and well paid professionals” – I have always said that the parenting game is a great leveler – whether you approach parenting as a super achieving business woman/man, an over eager, young, newly married person or from a background of experience in childcare or as a doctor, the road is equally challenging! We all battle with the hurdles and second guess ourselves all the time as we make parenting decisions.
· The “race against ourselves and others” is also so true. I have never felt more analyzed, criticized and anxious in any other role. Am I good enough? Why is her baby gaining weight better than mine? When will my baby say his first words? All the pressures we feel in the parenting game!
There is another area where becoming a parent is like the ABSA Cape Epic cycle race: the cycle race is done in pairs and teamwork is essential. You cannot be more than 2 minutes apart at any time and you have to work together. How true of being a mom or dad or any other configuration of family structure – you need a partnership!! I could not do this race alone and would certainly not enjoy it as much.
This week, while Philip is away, I am playing mom and dad. I am a single parent for the week. It makes me think of how hard it must be to do the grueling race of parent hood alone. Did you know that while May has mother’s day and June Father’s day – March has a single parent day – 21st March? I didn’t either and so since I missed it – I want to honour all single parents this month – on the 17th April. On this day, I will think of all the single parents I know and send a shout out to them! You are all amazing and take on the role of parent in a way that takes a brave and very resourceful person.
So here’s to all the single moms and dads!
Congratulations to Megan Faure who launched her new book today - “The Babysense Secret” at the Baby Show in London . This is Megan’s first solo book and it is stunning. Well done Meg. Your family and the Baby Sense team are so proud of you and your achievements.
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