Parental Guilt

Little is nine months old soon. Once, for two hours, he was cared for by my parents. Every other minute of his life has been spent with his mum or dad.* We haven’t gone out together without him. Three times I have left him with his dad, again for all of two hours. I didn’t want to leave him. He needed me. What if he got hungry? Thirsty? Upset? Tired? I was very much a mum that needs to be with her baby. I felt guilty if I wasn’t with him.

Not only did I have to be with him, I had to be doing the right thing when I was with him. Was I playing enough games with him? Giving him enough independant exploration time? Reading enough? Singing enough? Socialising with other babies enough? Feeding him the right solids? Were they too lumpy or too pureed for this stage or that? Did we get enough fresh air? On it goes, doing my head in.

Music time

Music time

Then something happened. Some kind of unforseen corner was turned at the eight month mark. I needed to get away all of a sudden. I needed real me time, not a longer shower on a saturday morning, but a few hours, even half a day or an evening to myself. I needed to feel like me, Roxanne, Rocky, Roxi, Rox, not mum. It hasn’t even happened yet, the half a day, but I already have pangs of guilt just for wanting it.

Add to this my impending return to work. I’m returning two days a week because we need the money. I’ve had a year off work, and consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to do this, but maternity leave, long service leave and Paid Parental leave are all running out. Again the guilt builds up.

Incredibly it has often been other mums who have added to my guilt. I have been openly questioned by some on my need to return to work. Did we really need the money? Can’t my partner take time off? Can we both go part time? What if Little needed me? Attitudes like ‘why have a baby if you’re not prepared to look after it?’ Even the head of a child care centre felt the need to tell me they didn’t believe mums should go back to work full time. Surely we all know that peoples circumstances differ. There isn’t a one size fits all model. Soon after Little’s birth my partner was made redundant. We had to consider the neccesity of me going back full time and soon. It terrified me and reduced me to tears many times. Fortunately he found a great new job, but to be judged by other mums and child care workers as less of a mum would have been the straw on this camels back. If you could and wanted to stay home for X amount of years good for you! That’s two big things right there, could and want. Not many can afford that luxury. Yes people struggle to keep one partner home, and that’s admiable, but some of us wouldn’t struggle so much as drown. Some want to stay home everyday, some feel they are a better parent if they have time away.

What really annoys me though is my guilty reaction to all of this. I know every parent and every baby is different. Every parent does what they need to do to get through the day or night, and with only some sad exceptions, do well. I know that my son is happy, healthy and developing beautifully. So I’m going to take a step back from this whole guilt trip. I’m going to suspend any judgements I may have once had based on parenting as I thought I knew it. I’m going to remind myself that the fact I even care if Little’s had enough exploration/play/books/singing makes me a good mum. This will at least get me to the frist day of child care. Lets see how I go then.

Got to be doing something right!

Got to be doing something right!

*Since I wrote this post Little’s dad and I had a night out together for a friends birthday, leaving him in the very capable hands of his aunt and cousin. He didn’t even know we were gone, sleeping right through the night! I was like an excited kid in a lolly shop, but also a little manic with worry. This culminated in me talking very fast at people, grasping my phone in one hand a glass of wine in the other and treating both like a lifeline. Practically running from one person to another in my excitment to be out with them and showing everyone way to many photos and videos of our Little. I both wanted to socialise, drink and eat fast and get out of there and home to him and never wanted to leave this adult world that at times I had missed. The next day Little got a cold and I felt so guilty I had gone out the night before. His big green snot candelabras taunting me, saying “we’re your fault mummy, you went out”. So as lovely as it was I just dont know if I can be bothered doing it again for all the guilt. So much for taking a step back from the guilt trips.
let’s try that again shall we?

Posted in My Woffle, On me, Parenting stuff | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Dolls, value and getting lost in tales.

Being the exciting couple we are, my partner and I were watching the Antiques Roadshow. During the programme a doll was brought in to be assessed by the experts. I have to admit I payed little attention to the initial conversation until S directed my attention to it. There she was, a doll. Now admittedly I hate dolls. I once went out with a guy whose mum was a doll maker. On the way into the house through the garage we had to walk the long walk across her doll making area. A large room with shelves full of detached porcelain arms, legs, torsos, faces, eyes. It terrified me and I would run through, refusing to glance at the pale, ghostly body parts.

This doll however, well she was something else.

In 1740 King George the second reigned over the English monarchy, the last British monarch born outside of England. A German born man he was also the last English monarch to lead an army into battle during the battle of Dettingen. He was remembered with disdain and as a boring fellow, achieving little in terms of policy until recently some scholars have deemed him to have been influencial in foreign policy and the military.

Oblivious to all of this there was a young child playing with their doll.

On Antiques Roadshow they got down to business withing minutes. How much was this 270 plus year old doll worth? A tidy AUS$30,760. There was also talk of a duchess she may have been modelled on. Would she go home to sit on the couch or be sold or go to a museum?

Somewhere, around the 1740’s, during the reign of a seemingly boring King from Germany in England a young child played with their doll. I stopped paying attention to the details, I was lost in some based-on-a-true-story tale. Before this doll became a family heirloom, before she was worth so much financially and destined to live trapped inside a glass box in a museum to never be played with again, hear a child laugh again, she was loved. She was dragged around a home by one arm. She was made to dance on her wooden, petticoat covered legs in a garden. A garden with English box hedges and fox gloves and forget-me-nots and red robins. Her value was measured in a childs love. The child loved her so much they kept her, passed her on to their child. She was not forgotten. You see, before anything can become a family heirloom it must be loved enough to be kept in the first place.

I was lost in a tale of what those eyes must have seen. The world over 270 plus years. And perhaps her longing to just be let back outside, amongst the hedgerows and flowers to dance on her wooden toes under her petticoat once more.

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The Simple Things

I’d been contemplating writing about the simple things in life. Those seemingly insignificant moments that make life worth living. Then I had two days in a row that rocked me to the core. Life and all it’s complexities had worn me down to the point of having a good teary in the middle of the living room floor. Long story short, this year we celebrated the biggest achievement of our lives, our Little, who brought with him all the life changing events and hormones and tiredness and adjustment and excitment and 24/7 need for attention that new borns do. Only life goes on, with the afore mentioned complexities that at times have also snatched their fair share of attention and worn us down. So there I was. Bit messy, bit snotty, bit worn down by it all. I couldn’t write that post now.

For me there’s only one thing to do when I get to a point like that. Get out. Preferably somewhere in the wilderness, or even just a tree will do. Get away from the house, as far as possible, get in the car, get out the pram, just get out. With Little in his pram we set off, purposely choosing the most hilly path so I could work out the negative. We wound our way around the neighbourhood, weaving up and down streets and in and out of lanes. Somewhere amongst this I thought ‘why not’? Why not write about the simple things in life that make me happy. Now more than ever it’s the time to focus on the good. So here they are. The simple things in life that fill me with that warm golden glow kind of happiness.

1. When Little laughs in his sleep whilst still attached to my breast.

2. Listening to Little and my partner play and laugh in the other room.

3. Watching Little sleep, arms all akimbo, hair standing on end with his little snorts.

4. When my partner and I get a case of the rediculous and laugh until it hurts.

5. When he holds my hand.

6. When my family get together and drink good wine and eat good food and talk over the top of each other.

7. Being on a mountain. Either trekking in warm weather or boarding in winter.

8. Snow. Jumping up and down in it, making snow angels, running in deep drifts, rolling in it, carving through it, feeling it fall on my face, hearing my boots crunch on it or the deep muffled silence that settles on you when standing still in the middle of a heavy fall. It makes me feel the freedom of childhood again and fills me with a heart racing kind of happiness.

There are many more. Waking in a tent, fly fishing with my dad, ocean fishing with my partner, cups of tea and cake with my girlfriends but that will suffice for now. Just thinking about the things I would include made my steps lighten, my stiff arms begin to swing and my forward staring eyes drift to the sunlight filtering through the fruit trees lining the road. I chatted to Little and he babbled back, clearly more content with happy mummy.

Then there was this.

Little and dad.

My Partner came home from work. Little crawled as fast as he could to greet him at the back door and held his arms up to be held by his dad. The three of us hugged all smooshed up together at once, then we went for a walk, with little on his dads shoulders. Could life possibly be any better?

What’s your happy place?

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On being opinionated.

Here’s the thing. I’m stubborn and like to have the final word. I believe truely and deeply that what I have to say is right. My opinion is the right opinion.

As a young kid I would, during said moments of stubborness, set my chin in such a way as to make it jut forward. I would clench my teeth tight relishing the way it felt to clamp my back molars down on each other and lift my chin. My eyes would glare straight ahead, daring you to dare me, daring you to oppose me. Thank goodness I’ve grown out of such poses, ahem.

I seem to have an ongoing struggle between this stubborn streak and my rational understanding of the need for difference of opinion. Difference of opinion leads us to new understandings, builds new ideas and knowledge, stretches and flexes our minds and stops them from becoming firmly closed (uless your opinion is highly discriminatory, then no one wants to hear from you and you can bugger off). I teach my students that being a learner means being able to actively listen to others and take on new ideas and information, to build on them.

I need to practice what I preach.

You see, a friend posted a meme on Facebook that was aimed at Abbott and Gillard in reference to asylum seekers. The thread that followed was several very opinionated people voicing their views. Someone questioned the appropriateness of the meme and I went straight into a rant based on both sides of goverment having appalling policies in terms of the treatment of refugees. I got on my high horse, which stood on a soap box, with a pulpit before it and off I went. I talked about the inhumanity of mandatory detention, of offshore detention, the need to have onshore processing with refugees living and working in our society, contributing to society, being part of society, being welcomed, cared for, and on and on. I pointed out Abbott’s failings. I pointed out Gillard’s failings. I…I had it pointed out to me the the meme was prejudice and made an assumption about the leaders of our major political parties that had nothing to do with their asylum seeker policies.

I was embarrased I hadn’t seen it. I stepped away from the thread. The final word this time was not mine. It was a very intelligent and articulate voice that spoke of the prejudice of the meme and that this has no place in the discourse on asylum seekers. I totally agreed. I had not seen it. I left the thread. Without saying a thing more. I didn’t want to sound like an ignorant bigot because I didn’t see the prejudice origonally. Sometimes, it seems, I do practice what I preach. I listened, my understanding grew from listening.

Here’s the thing, the sad truth of me and my stubborness and my great big fat need to have my oh so right opinion heard. I struggled to leave the thread. It ate me up inside that my oh so right opinion on asylum seekers was lost due to my lack of analysis of the meme itself. I am ashamed to say, I wanted the last word. So badly. It burnt me because on the topic of asylum seekers I feel I was right, both major political parties asylum seeker policies miss the mark. My opinion was right so I should get the final word.

Sometimes, it seems, I do. Ah blog, where have you been all my life.

What about you? Are you able to step back from debate without having the final word or are you compelled to like me?

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Fingers Poised.

So here I sit with fingers poised, wishing I could just start tapping away at the keys.
Only two hours ago I was walking along a mountain trail with my 8 month old bub on my back and a head full of fantastic ideas for my first ever blog. You know, groundbreaking stuff. I was surely going to win over an audience with these gems. Now I’m sitting in my inner city home with the opposing sounds of traffic and classic FM intermingled whilst Little sleeps and my gems have gone and left me. If I’m honest, and I want this to only be honest, I feel compelled to defend why I am contemplating taking up a blog at all. Why would I? What on earth have I got to say?
My world is full of words. When I walk, run, ride, board, lie in bed, sit on the toilet, whatever, my head is full of words. Untold sentences. Never to be heard conversations that I have ready to go next time I see so-and-so. It’s time I let them out.
My world is full of stories. From classic novels and poetry read to me as a child, to dad’s yarns of long gone days in shearing sheds or never to be gone days of fly fishing, to a love of literature and film in all its genres. A.A. Milne, Kipling, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Banjo Paterson, Jeanette Winterson, Suzanne Collins, Larsson. They are all here. They and many others allowed me to escape and enter worlds that amazed me or challenged me. They led me to a double major and honors degree in English. They then led me to become an English teacher. Something I became more passionate about than I could have ever imagined at the start.
So here we are, back at why blog. I love writing. I love words. I want in on this blog caper so I can indulge my passion. Simple.
Well, nothings ever that simple. There are days that are so wonderful I want to share them with the world. The days you want to throw your arms open to the sky and with an up turned face shout out how lucky you really are. Like when I realised I had finally found my true soul mate, or when I sat above Everest base camp gazing at the face of the world’s tallest mountain. When I held my son; my broad shouldered, black haired, purple skinned boy and breathed him in. Oh my, what a day.
Then there are also those other days, the flip side. The days where life kicks you, and then kicks again for good measure. The days where being at home alone with my baby loses its shine. That one day in every hundred when terminal illness in the family makes me lose my breath and panic. The days when I want to be like a child and stamp my feet and scream at the world “it’s not fair”. I want to write about those days too. Acknowledge them and then hold on for the roller coaster to begin its upward swing again.
Then there’s this. I am growing into another version of me, and I don’t know this person yet, but I’m curious and want to explore her in my word driven way. The 35 year old new mum, with her new mum shape, new priorities, new and very different life, who sometimes wants to feel like the old her. There have been so many stages. The cuddly baby, typical teen, confident student. I have been the peroxide spike haired, black eyed girl with bondage pants living in a Bedford van in NZ. I have been the global backpacker for a year. I have been the dredlocked young women teaching in London. The bushwalker from Tassie, career driven teacher, wife and divorcee. Where to next? Like I said, I want to explore, in words.
When my partner asked me why and I explained all the above to him, minus the editing and in the tired been-with-the-baby-all-day vague and rambley way he succinctly said,“Oh, you want a creative outlet”. Well. Yes. But writing just that isn’t much of a first blog now is it. Is it?
So that’s why. That’s what I have to say, at least for now. If you’re a blogger why did you start?
Till next time my fingers are poised and tapping at the keys.

Cuddly baby me.

Spikey, black eyed me.

Mum me.

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