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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Here’s something you won’t hear me (or any other liberal, leftwing feminist) say very often: I read an article that I liked and agreed with in the Daily Mail. The article, ‘Not now, Darling, Mummy’s Tweeting‘, unsurprisingly stirred up a lot of discussion amongst the mothers I follow on Twitter. Understandably, people felt defensive. The article has a strong headline and some of the tone is harsh. ‘Neglect’ is a very strong term and nobody wants to be accused of neglecting their children. But look beyond the moments of harsh rhetoric and I think that Liz Fraser makes an important point.

Since I acquired my iPhone around 2 years ago, my craving for constant information has become increasingly persistent. First thing I do when I wake up is check my email. Then I check Twitter. I look at the Guardian iPhone app, my RSS reader, and most recently, Instagram. Whenever I get a spare five minutes I repeat the whole process, checking all of these for updates repeatedly through the day. While I eat my breakfast I scroll through Twitter; sometimes I tweet, but often I’m just reading what everyone else is up to. The thought that there are people out there, conversing with each other, and that I might be missing out on the latest must-read blog post or bit of juicy gossip makes me a little nervous. As I potter through the day, my internal monologue converts my thoughts into concise, faintly amusing tweets.

All of this didn’t worry me too much. There are a lot of positives to being online: before I had my iPhone I just wouldn’t have had time to read the news (with a toddler who wants to be involved in everything I do and baby who likes to get up to mischief, using a laptop or desktop through the day with my kids is a near-impossibility). Twitter has connected me with some fantastic people: creative, funny, interesting and supportive. Blogging has given me a new layer of purpose and fortified my sense of self.

But recently there have been times when I’ve been sucked into Twitter too much. When my two-year-old is saying “Mummy, put your telephone down. Mummy, don’t send a message”, it’s a big reminder where my priorities should lie.

Coincidentally, just two days ago, I imposed a new rule in our house: no TV between 10.00 and 4.30. I’d been giving in to requests for Cbeebies too often and our TV time had crept up and up. It’s actually worked surprisingly well – giving a firm rule seems to have removed a lot of the “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”, “I want Cbeebies”, “No”… [repeat ad infinitum] that had previously plagued our days at home. But a side-effect of this has been that I can’t spend the time I used to hanging out on Twitter, or otherwise absorbed online. We’ve spent more time keeping each other entertained, and today has been surprisingly peaceful.

Dealing with demands for attention from your kids can become a vicious circle. Sometimes I find that the more they demand attention, the more desperate I get for five minutes to myself, but of course they sense this and their demands become more persistent. Sometimes trying to get that online fix causes more of the stress I’m trying to avoid. Snatching five minutes to catch up on Twitter while the TV blared in the background was supposed to give me a chance for peace and quiet, but the results are often more chaotic.

Some of the points in the article seemed exaggerated. The image of “playgrounds and toddler groups suddenly being full of parents not playing with their children, but texting friends, or chatting on the phone” doesn’t ring true to me – I was at toddler group this morning and can’t recall seeing one person on their phone; we all talked to each other and talked to our kids. The sort of ‘neglect’ and ‘damaged children’ that the psychologists talked about represent rare and extreme cases.

However, I really agree with the overall point of the article. It is important to spend time with your kids, and give them the respect and attention they deserve. Some of the conversation I saw on Twitter today seemed to interpret the article as “if you’re on Twitter, you’re a crap mother”, but that isn’t what I got from it at all. Liz Fraser admitted that she’s just as bad as the rest of us, and worries that she spends too much time online herself. I thought her tone was thoughtful and supportive.

It seems that spending time online is just one more aspect of the constant motherly conflict and guilt – balancing working with caring for your children, defining yourself as a person and fulfilling your role as a mother. Personally, I really appreciated the reminder to appreciate my time with my children and balance my priorities.

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1. At home, baby is learning to pull himself up to standing, but takes a tumble. As he cries, Toddler races over. “Don’t worry, Baby”, he says. “I’ll give you a cuddle.”

2. Baby naps for two hours in the morning. Toddler and I have lots of quality time, getting dressed at his pace, doing his beloved jigsaws, playing with toys and baking chocolate cupcakes.

3. Very early morning. About 4.30, in fact. The baby is awake and refusing to go back to sleep. I give in and play with him. We cuddle and I squash my face against his cheek and he laughs lots. Eventually he does go back to sleep.

4. Toddler gets up early today. He has boundless enthusiasm, constantly talking to me about what is happening, what he would like and what we might be doing next. He keeps going and going, through toddler group, lunchtime and a walk into the village. As we’re walking along the street, he points to a drainpipe.

“That’s a drainpipe, Mummy, spiders fall down them, like Incy Wincy Spider, like my Incy Wincy Spider jigsaw at Granny’s, like my Humpty Dumpty jigsaw.”

I love that he can tell me what he’s thinking; the connections his mind makes, and the things he’s been doing when I’m not there.

5. My kids are getting better and better at playing with each other. Getting ready for the bath, Toddler ‘chases’ Baby, both of them crawling along the floor and laughing uproariously.

6. My Mum comes round in the morning to collect Toddler. He’s staying with her overnight. She sneaks me £50 in cash, to spend on shoes for Toddler and maybe a treat for me. The best bit? It’s the money she’s saved by not smoking for the past four weeks.

7. At Nana and Granddad’s house. Baby and I look at our reflections in their shiny silver kettle and he waves at himself, grinning and gurgling.

These Seven Beautiful Things are taken from my Three Beautiful Things posterous blog, where I post three beautiful things every day.

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This post is part of Silent Sunday at Mocha Beanie Mummy.

 

*whispers* If you like what you see here, why not take a look around my blog? You can subscribe or ‘like’ my Facebook page using the links on the right.

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Questions, questions

My son’s favourite phrase at the moment is “Where do we get ..?”.

It started with food: “where do we get carrots?”, “where do we get bread?” and so on.

Our diet isn’t varied enough to sustain this line of questioning indefinitely, so “where do we get ..?” has moved on to encompass whatever is foremost in his thoughts (basically, for a two-year-old, whatever is in his line of sight). “Where do we get microwaves?” “Where do we get toys?” “Where do we get paper?”

 

I always try to be honest in my answers, hence the following exchange:

Toddler: Where do we get meatballs?

Me: They’re made from pigs; farmers get meat from pigs’ bodies and squash it into little balls.

Toddler: Where do we get peas?

Me: Peas grow on plants, people pick them.

Toddler, brightly: And squash them into balls?

 

We also had an unexpected question as he scrutinised his brother sitting across the table:

Toddler: Where do we get babies?

Me: ‘Baby’ came from Mummy’s tummy. Remember, when my tummy was really big, and the baby was inside?

Toddler: Yup. Daddy came from MY tummy!

 

I think we still have a lot to learn.

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1. Lying in bed feeding the baby, I remember a time when the length from the top of his head to his toes was less than the current length from head to bum.

2. After a disastrous bedtime with baby and toddler both demanding attention and each keeping the other awake, I finally get the baby off to sleep. Toddler and I have a cuddle in bed; he tells me he’s my friend and he loves me. He falls asleep smiling.

3. We’re very lucky to get the vast majority of our kids’ clothes as hand-me-downs or gifts. Today the toddler actually wears something that I’ve bought and chosen for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. On his way to bed, my husband takes time to stop and tell me that he loves me.

5. The toddler tells me that Daddy is old, but Mummy is young.

6. I throw caution and frugality to the wind and add both chicken and bacon to the pasta sauce.

7. We go to a birthday party. The cake is covered in fondant icing; to get a vivid ‘lego brick’ colour, it’s been painted with neat food colouring. When we eat it, our fingers, lips, teeth and tongues turn bright blue.

 

These Seven Beautiful Things are taken from my Three Beautiful Things posterous blog, where I post three beautiful things every day.

 

This post is also linked up to the British Mummy Bloggers’ January Blog Hop. You can follow the links to read a selection of funny, interesting and diverse posts from a host of brilliant bloggers.

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“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

*baby whinges. baby rubs his eyes*

ok, well if you can stay downstairs and be quiet while I put the baby to sleep, then you can have my undivided attention and we can do whatever you want

“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

well then just be quiet for five minutes, so I can put the baby to sleep

“No no NO my wake him up”

but if you give me a minute’s peace, you can have a whole hour

“I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy I want YOU Mummy…”

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Ranting away about gifts over Christmas, I think I’ve worked out clearly where I stand on the ethics of spending on gifts. I think that everyone should have the right to buy whatever they like, for themselves and for others. If they want to spend a large proportion of their wages (or indeed a small proportion of a very large wage) on hundreds of pounds worth of presents for their children, they should be free to do so. However, I am also free to make the judgement that excessive spending is morally wrong. I can judge that they’ve made a bad choice.

Personally, I don’t think that spending hundreds of pounds on gifts for young children is necessary. There are only so many toys they can play with and appreciate, only so many clothes they can wear. I’m nowhere near perfect but I think that living sustainably is important, and I think that buying big pieces of plastic for little babies who don’t care either way and would be happy to play with a cardboard box (or, indeed, with their older siblings’ outgrown toys) is wasteful on a lot of levels. However, not everybody agrees with me; people can and do choose to buy all manner of ‘stuff’. Logically, morally, I have to be cool with that.

The same applies to parenting choices. I choose to raise my children in an ‘attached’ way: I breastfeed, I carry my baby in a sling rather than a buggy, he sleeps in bed with me at night and often naps in a sling in the daytime (now that he’s bigger, mostly on my back in a Rose and Rebellion). I don’t choose to leave my children to cry (obviously sometimes it can’t be helped, but I’d never ever deliberately leave them to ‘cry it out’).

Again, not everyone agrees with me. I saw somebody on Twitter tonight saying that they were about to start ‘sleep training’ their 17 week old son. He was planning to use ‘controlled crying’. I think that what he’s planning is horribly cruel: teaching a tiny baby that nobody will come when he cries, so that he finally gives up and stops crying. But obviously some parents think it’s a good idea: teaching a tiny baby to fall asleep by himself so that everyone can get a solid night’s sleep and be well-rested for daytime. Short term pain, long term gain?

There’s no absolute to decide who’s right. Obviously I think I’m right, or I wouldn’t be parenting the way I am. But that doesn’t mean I am right. If I want to say “people shouldn’t be allowed to make this choice for their babies” then there’s no logical reason why the ‘rule’ couldn’t be “people shouldn’t be allowed to co-sleep” or “babies must be independent from week 1”. I want the freedom to parent the way I choose, so I have to allow everyone that freedom.

My instinct was to say to the guy on Twitter “Are you crazy? Why would you want to train a tiny helpless mammal to sleep in his own room by himself all night?!”. But I wouldn’t appreciate it if people started challenging my parenting choices. If I want the right to raise my child the way I choose, I have to afford that right to everyone else. So I said nothing. I just try to carry on doing my thing with my kids, tend to gravitate towards like-minded people, and relax about everyone else.

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