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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A Mother’s Rest

 

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Attachment Parenting is Not ‘Just Another Parenting Fad’


If you want to be an attachment parent, you have to breastfeed, babywear or carry your baby constantly, sleep with your baby, never have a life and shit baby pink unicorns, right?

Wrong!

In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with how you feed your child and has a lot to do with how you respond to your child’s needs.

Do you play with your child? Hug them when they cry? Feed them when they’re hungry? Always keep them nearby during their first 6 months of life? Guess what? You’re an attachment parent!

I first learnt about attachment theory when I was studying my Early Years diploma, many moons ago, and it’s the kind of thing that once you understand, just makes a lot of sense.  Since then, I guess I never really gave it much thought, other than, that’s probably how I will parent.

I was reacquainted with attachment theory, once again, when I became pregnant and a friend mentioned this ‘new trend’ called co-sleeping. Co-sleeping? What’s THAT all about?

It was explained to me that co-sleeping means you either sleep with your baby or baby sleeps by your bed, meaning when baby cries, they are never far from comfort and food, two very essential things for this early stage of life. Well, yeah that makes sense. So, I did my research. This is when I met my old friend Attachment Theory, again. Only she’d changed a bit. Got older, got some new jeans, changed her hair, got married and changed her name to Attachment Parenting. Oh and it turned out, we had a lot more in common than I ever realised.

We both recognised that when babies cry, they are communicating a need. Be that hunger, pain relief or simply comfort. We both felt that it was always a safer option to keep baby close-by, during those early months, so that you can better regulate silly things like breathing, temperature, heart rate, hunger and so on. We also both agreed, it was kind of ridiculous to think a baby, whose brain does not yet have the tools to create manipulating behaviour, could cry just to ‘get their own way’. Have you seen the size of a baby’s head? Their brains are so small, they only have room to work completely off their basic human needs. There’s no room for negotiation. If they cry, they are literally just communicating one of their basic needs. Simple! It is literally, physically impossible for a baby to attempt any form manipulation or negotiation.

I think attachment parenting has recently been getting a bit of bad press, through what I believe to be a little misunderstanding and I think it’s about time we cleared this up. Attachment parenting isn’t a fad, it is just parenting, without all the, ‘Don’t pick the baby up too much, you’ll spoil him’, crap. I think most people assume, because a lot of parents who identify as an attachment parent tend to breastfeed, co sleep or babywear, that you have to do one or more of these activities in order to join the club. In fact, the problem is simply that not enough people, and most specifically, those who don’t breastfeed, co sleep or baby wear, are identifying themselves as attachment parents.

The other problem we have is that many people view attachment parenting as if it is something really demanding and difficult, when it’s the exact opposite. In fact, it’s kind of lazy parenting! By answering your baby’s cries with a hug or a feed, guess what? They cry less! Not constantly trying to put your baby down for a sleep, when they’re not tired, actually makes your life a lot easier. Understanding that babies don’t respond well to sleep training, prevents you from going through the heart-ache that comes with leaving them to cry and more importantly, the disappointment that comes with them waking and crying every time you try to put them down.

Studies show that when a baby cries, both the mother’s and baby’s cortisol levels in the brain, are raised. This means mother and baby are stressed! This goes against what nature expects you to do. It is your body’s way of telling you something is not right.

So what do we do? We follow our instincts to pick baby up and hold or feed him. And as if by magic, those cortisol levels are immediately reduced and are replaced with the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also know as the love hormone, acts as a natural anti-depressant. So, in essence, attachment parenting can reduce a mother’s risk of Post Natal Depressiom (PND).

Being a parent that responds sensitively to your baby’s needs, I think, deserves some recognition. If you do this, well done! You have learnt that following your instincts and listening to your child works better than following the surrounding rules and opinions of others.

It’s easy to lose track but I have found that the less I listen to the advice of others and the more I simply watch and listen to my baby, the smoother things go.

So, in summary, trust your instincts. They know best. Attachment parenting is NOT just another parenting fad. It IS just parenting. Exactly how it was meant to be, which is why when parents practice it, they find they are less stressed and that their babies cry less. This in turn makes it easier to understand exactly why your baby is crying, upset, grumpy, and also recognise everything that makes them happy.

It’s like I always say, Happy Baby, Happy Mammy! 😉

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Bed Sharing is NOT Co Sleeping!!

  
I’m a big believer in co sleeping to help alleviate stress for the whole family.

Let me just get one thing straight, first. Co sleeping is not bed sharing. Bed sharing is a FORM of co sleeping. If your baby still sleeps in your room, no matter where they are in that room (unless you have a really really huge room) then you are co sleeping. Obviously, the closer the better but still co sleeping. 

The reason the closer the better, is because it is natural for our infants (notice I said ‘infants’ not ‘babies’) to want to be near to us, for security and protection. They are small, helpless little animals and in our caveman days, prone to being eaten by predators. They crave to be near us, hence, lots of crying when they aren’t. 

This isn’t to make you feel bad, it’s to help you understand why your baby cries and how you might be able to solve it and get a better nights rest!! 

Crying stresses me out, to the point I can’t think straight and I feel sick. So does a really disturbed nights sleep! I know I’m not the only one, and I believe that it is partly down to our instincts as parents to feel like this. It is instinctive to answer our baby’s cries and keep them close. 

The best advice I ever got was to follow my instincts and I know, I have just discovered I have PND, at almost 12 months in, but I truly believe that if I hadn’t have been co sleeping with Maya, I would have delved into a great depression a lot sooner than now! 

It makes me feel better when I don’t hear my baby cry all the time. And did you know, that a hug, a kiss, a touch, skin-to-skin contact, and/or breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin into YOUR body. Oxytocin work as a natural anti-depressant, alleviating stress and helping us to feel generally much better than we otherwise would.

Did you also know that sleeping with your new born helps to regulate their breathing, body temperature and heart rate? Without you there, they have to try and do this all on their own. Another reason to keep them near!

Again, you don’t have to bring them into your bed, all the time, to do this. You can simply just keep them nearby!

This article explains, really well, how western culture has messed up the way we were supposed to do things with out children, biologically, as humans. 

Follow your instincts! Do what feels right. I PROMISE it will make you feel better! ✌🏻️

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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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