How a Modern Day Village is Helping Me Raise My Child

  

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve read many articles that explain how important it is to recognise that humans, by nature, are supposed to raise their children as a communal effort with their extended family. But in our modern day society, villages are pretty hard to come by. 

I often close my eyes and try to imagine what an old time village of help might have looked like. Big houses full of people, laughter, good conversation. Children running around playing together. A big pot of soup on the stove, bread in the oven. It brings a smile to my face, at the thought. I imagine during spring and summer, children would be out in the garden, helping their elders grow the food that will be one day cooked up for them to eat and in Autumn they all go out to collect fruit for pies. I imagine mums, who can always take 5 mins or longer, to breathe and take care of themselves, while another member of the family watches the kids. And the joint effort that would go into the general care of the house. I like this place. Something in my blood misses this place.

But now, in a world that focuses on each person being as productive for industry as possible, we find that the people in our “village” are gone. Simply too busy to take part. 

Grandparents, aunties and uncles, our closest friends, all have jobs to commit to. Unless one person in a single family earns enough to take care of the family finances, alone, all parties must find themselves a job in order to contribute and sustain their way of living. This leaves new parents in a bit of a pickle when it comes to sourcing help and support from their village. New parents find themselves alone in the home, to take care of not only the children but the other jobs that need taking care of in the home. Again, something that in days gone by, would have been a shared responsibility. 

We power through, often struggling to raise our children in the way we see fit, whilst trying to understand why this whole parenting thing is so bloody difficult! 

It usually leaves us feeling like we are incapable or like we are failing at parenting. 

Some become anxious, depressed and find themselves needing medical care, either in the form of medication or counselling. Many others don’t even get this far. As a result of poor mental health education and awareness, many continue to struggle through, without ever taking care of their mental well-being, leading to many more problems in their lives. It’s a huge problem!

I don’t have the answers to this. I’m aware that if our government spent a little more time focusing on the importance and value of care in the home, whatever form that might take, then we might not be finding ourselves in such a pandemic with maternal or family-related mental health issues – You can follow Mothers at Home Matter Too to see how one organisation is trying to change government policy on this issue and also The Politics of Mothering to join discussions that surround these issues. – For now, all I can do is hope that many will see the merit that a politician like Jeremy Corbyn would bring to our government, and carry on. But what I do recognise, is that I seem to have created my very own, modern-day village. And many other parents seem to be doing the same.

It’s not as traditional as the villages we humans were once used to. The grandparents are still there, on certain days. The friends still exist. But in this village, there is a special group of other parents, who are all going through the same dilemmas. They are all helping eachother out with advice and personal success stories. They are there when a mum needs breastfeeding advice, when they are struggling to get sleep but don’t want to leave their tiny baby alone in a room to cry, or when they want to deal with their raging toddler without losing the plot. They are there for moral support, when someone has argued once again with their husband or the house is a complete mess and they feel they have no one else in the world to turn to. They are there to support eachother through things like Postnatal Depression. There’s even a library in this village, full of cookbooks, breastfeeding books, weaning books, attachment parenting books, self-help books, a book full of ideas on what clothes they can wear to breastfeed in. It’s quite amazing! 

It’s called the internet. 

As if by magic, this new world has opened, in protest and mourning, at the loss of our physical villages. People are digging through pages and forums, to find a new community that can help them with the hardest job on earth. And these relationships have become some of the most important in our lives. 

There’s a part of me that feels sad at this realisation. There’s a part of me that wishes my village could be filled with the people I love most, in the physical world. But there is also a part of me that is hugely grateful for those who play such an important role in my online life because without those special people, without the library of information, I dread to think of how I would be getting by with my day-to-day life. 

However, this in itself is not a sustainable model. Why? Because behind our screens, these people are alone too and far away. 

One solution I found to this, was to set up a local parent support group. I recognised the need for realtime people, face-to-face support and friendships. And you know what? It’s going pretty well. 

There’s around 200 members in this group and around 30 volunteers. As volunteers, we aim to come together and help any parent we recognise to be struggling on their own. We make batch meals and deliver them if a parent is too tired or too busy to cook. We arrange playdates in eachothers houses, so that no parent ever has to feel isolated. We go for walks in the park together, meet up in coffee shops and at playgroups. We wash pots and hold the baby so mum can take a shower. And we’re also there for that all important online support. 

I’m really proud of what the group has achieved and feel it’s a great attempt to claw back a little of what has been lost with our sense of community. I urge any parent who feels the same to do similar. Find your village! Find that help and give it back. There’s a huge community of parents out there, just like you, feeling alone, stressed, believing they aren’t capable of this job. But they are. YOU are! We just a need a little help. We just need to find our village. 😉

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How Not to ‘Mess’ Up Christmas.

  
  
Messy and sensory play, is so great for our little people, isn’t it? Letting them get their hands sticky and their feet muddy, nourishes their minds and their souls. It helps develop their physical skills, enhances communication skills and allows them to be creative until their little hearts’ content! We know that. But what we seem to be forgetting, as parents, is how good a bit of messy play can be for us, too.

This year, like many before it, has brought with it a few learning curves. This is my second Christmas as a mother and I’m already learning bigger lessons than I did last year. 

Last year was great! I mean, Baby’s First Christmas? Only 6 weeks old? It was, of course, very special! But I won’t lie, it was also very hard. 6 weeks in, after lots of initial feeding problems and an oversupply, disguised as “colic”, life certainly wasn’t without stress. Last year, my concerns were for the physical pressures I was faced with. This year, I’m more focused on the social and psychological pressures, especially for us mums. 

Christmas is an amazing time of year and I’ve always loved it. I’ve especially looked forward to Christmas with my own children. But everywhere I look, all I see are stressed parents! Parents who are trying so hard to get things right and still feeling like complete failures. Don’t get me wrong, some people are absolutely nailing it. Their houses are perfectly prepped! Their doors, draped in holly, they’ve had their Christmas shopping done since June and had their gifts wrapped since July! But if most of us are honest, most of us aren’t nailing it. Or at least, that’s what we think! 

The problem is, the parents who truly believe that Christmas is a huge failure, are the ones that stand out to me as good parents. They always have their children at the heart of everything they do. They work hard, to bring in extra money for holidays or to set a good example. They’re always talking about their children, posting photo’s of them on Facebook and trying to cram as many festive activities in, as they can. They are great parents! So, what is missing?

I’ve come to the conclusion, it’s a matter of perception. These parents are trying to achieve perfection and perfection can not be achieved by anyone. 

It was once explained to me (in therapy) that being a perfectionist doesn’t mean you are perfect at everything you do but that you try to be perfect at everything you do, which would literally be impossible. We are not super heroes. And what is perfection? Well, I guess it depends on what you’re talking about but, mainly, perfection is a matter of perception. It isn’t achievable and is very self-destructive to attempt it. 

Putting pressure on ourselves to be perfect at absolutely everything, does nothing but lead us to, well, feel pressure! 

Do you really think your kids care that the gingerbread house fucked up? That the painted Rudolph foot didn’t look anything like Rudolph or that the minced pies didn’t taste quite as fruity as they should have?

Next time you sit down to a bit of messy play with your little ones, watch how free they are! Watch how absolutely nothing else matters but getting messy and watch how much fun then are having. Do you think they care that they are getting messy? That their hair isn’t perfect or their clothes are dirty? No. Because they are free.

How about, this Christmas, we take a leaf out of our children’s books and let ourselves get a little messy. Or a lot. And let ourselves know that it’s ok. We’re still great parents! Possibly even better ones.. 😉

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Articles

  

Stop Waiting for Your Milk to “Come In”. It’s Already Here!

Patriarchy for Mothers

My Letter to MP Andy McDonald Regarding APPG for Infant Feeding and Inequalities

Self-Soothing for the Gentle

A Mother’s Rest

A Poorly Toddler is Never Too Old for Some Skin-to-Skin

How Formula Avoids the Urgency of Creating Better Breastfeeding Support

Messy Moments

How Not to Mess Up Christmas

What That Article Should Have Said

I Just Got Kicked Out of a Breastfeeding Support Group for Supporting Breastfeeding!

Follow on Human Milk. Why Everyone Needs to Calm Down When Children By reastfeed.

Attachment Parenting is not ‘Just Another Parenting Fad’

Why I Will Always Give My Girl A Choice 

Bed Sharing is NOT Co Sleeping!!

I Have Postnatal Depression and I’m Not Ashamed of It.

Breastfeeding – Friends and Foes

Thirsty for Thirsk!

A Message to the Family and Friends of the Breastfeeding Mum…

There She Goes…

Hello world!

Follow on Human Milk. Why Everyone Needs to Calm Down When Children Breastfeed.

  
“OMG! Did you see that woman? She was breastfeeding her kid! He was at least 3!”
Somebody call the police! 

Shock, horror! 

Tits. They’re great, aren’t they? Everyone loves them! So much so, they’re put on a huge pedestal and worshipped by all. Women spend billions of pounds, each year, on underwear to make them look pretty, perk them up a bit, give them a bit more bounce, or deceive the men on the town into thinking they’re a cup or two bigger. Men spend a good penny or two to see them unleashed, when they’re having trouble getting a real person to let them have a peak. 

Everyone loves tits!

So, why do we find it so surprising, when our children love them too? 

Currently recoiling in horror, at the thought? 

Ah, ok! I see. That’s because you’re still assuming tits are sexual, even where children are involved. 

Let’s get one thing straight. 

BREASTS WERE MADE TO FEED CHILDREN

That is LITERALLY what they are for! 

Oh, and this…

A CHILD IS NOT A TEENAGER!

There’s nothing ‘bitty’ about it. And by giving women a hard time about it, you do nothing but contribute to ruining a great breastfeeding relationship that was not ready to end yet AND you kind of look like a bit of a bully. Sorry! 

Because of people, who don’t know a thing about breastfeeding, giving women who breastfeed until natural-term a bad name, women feel they must force early weaning from the breast. This can cause upset, tears, long, hard nights, feelings of guilt, stress and anxiety!! Doing it because the mother doesn’t want to do it anymore is fine but doing it because society doesn’t think she should, is just messed up.

Here’s a thought, lay off mums who are trying to do the best job they possibly can for their kids, who are giving up all their time and energy, to take care of them and make sure they are meeting their nutritional and emotional needs. 

Want to question this? Fine. Go do some research, read a book, look up attachment theory but DO NOT slag off the breastfeeding mother!

Whether or not a child can be “put on a bottle” or milk can be “just put in a cup” is irrelevant, because guess what, breastfeeding isn’t just about the food. 

Children get great comfort from breastfeeding. It gives them a sense of security, it helps them to feel loved, accepted, cared for and protected. If they fall, they need boob, if they’re sick, they need boob, if they’re having teething or growing pains, yep, they need boob. And as it happens, it’s a great parenting tool. In most cases it stops them crying, almost, instantly! How’s that for reducing parental stress?

Here’s something else I bet you didn’t know. The natural weaning age of humans is 4-7. Our MILK TEETH fall out at around age 7. Coincidence? Not at all. 

In Mongolia, when a mother has breastfed her child until age 7, she is congratulated and expected to have grown a good wrestler. 

So, why do us Westerners stop breastfeeding so early?? 

How do so many others cultures manage to breastfeed for so long?

There are many reasons, really. Lack of breastfeeding support being a big one, but no, it’s largely down to bottle culture. Our consumeristic society has spent many years advertising and pushing products on us that will make them a few quid, and well, wasn’t someone clever when they realised they could *create* a gap in breastfeeding market?

Formula companies have been playing dirty tricks for many years. Word on the grapevine, tells us they used to be so aggressive with their marketing tactics that they would go into hospitals, give out lots of free stuff, set up training sessions, with our health care professionals, and teach them how to get women to formula feed. In order to do so, they had to convince the woman that formula was better or that her milk wouldn’t be good enough. 

This exact thing happened to my mother, when my sisters and I were born. A midwife told her not to bother trying to breastfeed because it wouldn’t be good enough and that was that! Of course, my mother believed her. Why wouldn’t she? Don’t we all trust our doctors, midwives, health visitors and so on? 

The big problem we have today, however, is that this was done for so long that all that bad information is still floating around. It’s been passed down generation, after generation, as absolutely gospel! And trying to convince anyone, otherwise, is very difficult.

So, we live in a society that over-sexualises breasts, where a majority of parents bottle feed their babies milk from a completely different animal, and who can’t separate sexuality from biological purpose. 

If anyone is messed up, it’s the clown who thinks he knows it all, when he decides to shoot down the well-educated, hard working mum, sat breastfeeding her 3 year old.

Give it a rest, put down your derogatory newspaper and go read a book!

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I Have Postnatal Depression and I’m Not Ashamed of It. 

    

It’s official. I went to the doctors this morning and we both agreed, I shouldn’t be feeling so low, so teary and sensitive, and so god damn angry, all the time!

I’m telling you this because it’s important to tell you. It’s important to talk about it, so that other women can know, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you, or I, a bad mother. If anything, it makes you a better one, for putting up with parenting AND depression. Double whammy bonus points! 

It’s also important to know that it is not normal to feel angry all the time or to get upset all the time, just because you’re a parent and parenting is hard.

I’ll be honest, it took me by surprise. I had no clue I had it, until I read an article, only yesterday, about a lady who was having bursts of outrage and realised she needed to seek help. 

I have bursts of outrage, too, I thought. In fact, just the other day, my hairdryer felt my wrath and I’m sad to say, is no longer with us.

It’s not the first time I’ve flew off the handle, either. The more I’ve thought about it, since Maya has been born, there has been numerous times I’ve felt I couldn’t cope and 90% of the time, I’ve held it together. I had to! I didnt want my family suffering because I couldn’t cope. What sort of a mother would that make me? 

I know better now and what a relief it is! I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that it’s NOT normal to feel like this. That it’s NOT just a few bad days. That it’s NOT just me ‘failing’! I guess I’ve plodded on with things, until my symptoms, just recently, have became more noticeable. 

I think it’s possibly coincided with the fact that Maya has been reducing her feeds, lately, due to eating more solids, meaning I’m not getting such a high daily dose of oxytocin, as I once was. I’m guessing that’s what has been keeping the depression at bay, until now, and now I just need something else to get me back on track.

I’m slightly gutted, because I thought I would never again be reduced to the slums of depression, however, I know it’s just the result of too many negative thoughts resulting in a chemical reaction in my brain. Something, I simply couldn’t have helped.

We’ve had it tough since Maya was born. For three and half months, everyone around us told us she had colic, distracting us from discovering the real problem, which was that I had an oversupply of milk and she was taking too much sugar from it. This resulted in one very gassy and unhappy baby, who coughed and spluttered when I gave her my milk and eventually hated breastfeeding. It was a problem that was solved within a few days, once we knew what was causing it, but we had endured it for so long because in our culture, colic is the answer to everything and no one seems to quite know enough about breastfeeding. 

All those negative emotions, from such a stressful period, have really stayed with me all this time. I still feel mega stressed the second she starts to cry. It’s almost traumatised me. I get sweaty, anxious, panicky, I can’t think straight and then I get angry. 

Here’s something else, I feel is important to tell you. I DON’T CRY ALL THE TIME! 

You don’t have to cry all the time to be depressed. I smile quite often, actually. I’m generally a positive and happy person and I’m guessing most people wouldn’t have guessed that I am depressed. I’d be surprised if you did, because I didn’t even know, myself! The point is, people handle depression in different ways. Mine took the form of anger, screaming, shouting, breaking stuff and wanting to get away from my baby. Followed by feelings of guilt and disappointment in myself. The one thing I’ve always wanted is to be a good mother and I vowed to never be a ‘shouty mum’. As the occasions of shouting seem to have increased lately, I knew it was time to act. 

It’s easy to let the signs pass you buy. Especially, if you have well-meaning family and friends around you, telling you ‘it’s ok’, ‘it’s normal to feel like that’, and ‘you’re just having a bad day’. But if you don’t feel you are living up to your basic expectations of coping, that your emotions are out of hand, however they choose to manifest, get yourself to the doctor!

I had a great experience. I know I’m not the worst case of PND the doctor has ever seen, but she was so understanding and got me straight on the waiting list for some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). 

It’s as easy as that. 

I still feel a bit shitty today but I did just find out I have depression! 

Hopefully, I’ll be back on my feet in no time. 

And if you’re reading this and you suspect depression might be looming over you too, don’t doubt yourself, just go get help. Depression effects 1 in 5 adults. It’s so much more common than we realise and absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of. 

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Thirsty for Thirsk!

  
We’ve had a beautiful day in Thirsk, this afternoon. As soon as the husband said he was off that way, for a meeting, I took the opportunity and jumped in the car with him. 

I forgot how beautiful Thirsk is. A small village of cobble stones, coffee shops, bakeries and quirky craft stores. 

The first place we landed was the local book store, White Rose Books. One of my favourite things to do, in the world, is get lost in a book shop, and mentally add every book I pick up to my ‘Must-Get List’. 

I want ALL the books!!

So this was a great opportunity to share one of my favourite hobbies with Maya and I was pleased to see her thoroughly enjoy the experience, as well! 

What a gorgeous book shop it is, too. Two floors and a lovely little coffee shop, offering a range of homemade cakes and food. 

I enjoyed a yummy cherry and cinnamon tea, with a cupcake, and Maya chomped on cucumber, while she browsed their children’s selection, which was fab! 

 

There was so many children’s books, which continued upstairs, where there was also toys, board games, puppets, educational books and a drawing station. Downstairs, there was a table and chairs with a few toys and a basket full of books to read. This one was, quite conveniently,  placed right next to the coffee shop. 😉

  

Maya didn’t waste any time getting stuck in with the toys and books and spent a lot of the time shouting ‘Mmmmm’, which is her version of ‘Moo’. Lots of cows in the books. 

The staff were lovely! It made me realise why it is so important to support local businesses, like this one, rather than spend all our money on online companies, who apparently, don’t even pay tax in this country. 

We’ll definitely be making a trip back down, to stock up on some Christmas presents. 

Next, we hit the duck pond. Wow! Thirsk ducks have to be the most tame I have ever met! From the second we arrived, we were mobbed by hungry-looking feathery creatures, looking for a bite to eat. 

  
What a great, unexpected, little sensory experience for her! All that quacking, flapping and their strange little waddles. I can’t imagine what she must have made of it. It got me thinking, all the time we spend looking at pictures of animals, in books, with our little ones and making the noises to suit each one, what better way to teach them about animals than to show them, first hand, like that. So I’ve vowed to spend more time around animals, from now on. 

Next, we wandered along the high street to look for any hidden gems. We came across a lovely little craft shop, Kristina’s, hidden down one of the side streets. (Check out their Facebook page to see what they have on offer.) They were actually closed but the owner was in cleaning and let us in for a browse. It was a lovely little shop full of really unique craft items. The absolute perfect place to go if you’re looking for something different for the home or a gift for a friend. I can’t wait to see what they get in for Christmas! 

We just had enough time to pop into one of the charity shops, before our lift home arrived. So, we chose Oxfam. Full of wonderful books, toys, as good as new, and even a selection of Halloween costumes. The staff were so friendly and made some lovely comments about Maya and children being carried around in slings. Anyone like that, are our kind of people! 

So, quench your Thirsk thirst! Go and do some Christmas shopping and support your local economy. 

I can’t wait to go back! And we’ve definitely found our favourite book shop!

P.S. Check out White Rose Book’s Facebook page and give them a like! 😉

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