I’ve never really considered myself much of a feminist before. I have always been quite happy for men to be chivalrous and when I became a parent, I stayed at home to look after our children whilst my husband went out to work. However, maybe it’s something to do with raising two girls that has brought out the feminist in me, but recently she was raging!
The other day I sat down to watch Disney’s Frozen for the first time with my eldest when it was grey and rainy outside and we only got half an hour in before I had to zone out in case I got all shouty at the TV. I know we’re late to the party but seriously what is all the fuss about? I thought it was rubbish! Thankfully the only thing that my little one (who is just over two and a half) seemed to take away from the film was that there was a big scary snowman.
I seem to be the only person to diss the film from a quick scan of online reviews so maybe I missed something when I zoned in and out. If I did, feel free to put me straight, and I will watch it again and give it my full attention! However from what I saw, I completely disagree with the Telegraph’s review that it’s ‘boldly feminist’ for the story to be centred round two sisters. Really? If this is considered ‘boldy feminist’ then it doesn’t feel like we’ve come very far! It seems it’s just me and Jake Wilson from the Sydney Morning Herald that thinks it’s not as progressive as it would like to think.
Here’s a list of what really annoyed me about the film…
• The two main characters, the princesses, were both big eyed, impossibly narrow-waisted and big boobed. Can they not draw young women with more lifelike proportions?
• The one thing Anna, one of the princesses, is obsessed with when the kingdom finally opens up for her sister’s coronation ball is meeting ‘the one’. News flash! It’s not all young girls think about.
• Anna gets swept of her feet by a handsome prince and despite having known each other a few hours they decide to get married. I know love can be whirlwind but she’s supposed to be teenage I think or at least in her early 20s so seriously?
• Poor Elsa is made to feel a monster from childhood for having ‘powers’ (read something not ‘normal’ about her) when she accidently hurts her sister, and later gets banished from her kingdom for it. I understand this is the crux of the story which sets everything else in motion but it just seems so out-dated to me as a storyline!
I just think these messages are disappointing for impressionable young minds. I was looking forward to some Disney magic but it left me feeling frustrated! I know I’m in my late thirties so not their target audience and young girls who are a bit older than my toddler seem to love it but I think surely there are some better, more interesting stories to be told?
I don’t want my girls to feel that they need to conform to a certain stereotype to attract men. I don’t want them to dream only of getting married. I sincerely hope that one day they do both find their ‘one’ but not before they’ve enjoyed life without the responsibilities that come with getting married. I want them to be strong, independent women (now I’m sounding like Beyonce) who are happy in themselves instead of waiting for someone to make them happy. I want them to dream big and not be held back by anyone or anything from fulfilling their ambitions. It’s these wishes that are bringing out the feminist in me and making me want to scream ‘Let it go Walt’! Ditch the impossibly perfect Princesses whose only goal is to find their Prince.
So have I completely divided opinion? Do you love the film or hate it too? I’d love to know.
If I were to give out awards for ‘Best Supporting Organisation’ for parents-to-be or those who are settling in to their new role, there are two that I would like to credit. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that without them I’d probably be in quite a bad place right now. They are the NCT for their brilliant antenatal courses who introduced me to some wonderful people who I’m sure will be life-long friends, and an amazing charity called Home-Start who ‘helps families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them’.
You see, when I became a parent, I had no family or any of my existing circle of friends nearby. My lovely Mum came and stayed for just over a week after I’d given birth both times to help us out but once she went back home and my husband was back at work, it was just me and the baby and then once I had no.2 me, baby and a toddler. It was certainly tough at times and felt like the sh*t was hitting the fan and splattering everywhere!
When the sleep deprivation was turning me in to a crazy lady, I didn’t feel like I had anyone that I could call on to take one or both of the kids out because everyone I knew also had a baby to look after. It wasn’t just that, admittedly, I was also too over-protective to consider anyone else taking them out in those early weeks unless it was a close family member.
However what I do have, and what I am eternally grateful for thanks to NCT, is an amazing circle of local friends who just ‘get’ exactly how I am feeling because they are now parents too. Who get me out of the house for days out or invite us to theirs for a hot cup of tea so I can have some down-time whilst the ‘babies’ play together. We chat about how we’re feeling, the issues we are facing that week and provide support for each other.
I know some people have judgements about NCT but it was one of the best things I did as a parent-to-be. I will dedicate a whole post to NCT at some point so I can try and convince the sceptics otherwise! I’ve mentioned it before but sharing the journey from parents-to-be to fully-fledged members of this crazy parenting club is pretty special in my opinion.
Now to Home-Start! It was my Health Visitor who put me in touch with this fantastic organisation. Having discussed my situation and my parenting fears with her, she initially contacted them on my behalf. I would like to shout about them from the rooftops as I’m not sure many new parents are aware of them. They don’t seem to be in my experience.
Home-Start supports any family where there is at least one child under the age of five. Their support is free, confidential and non judgemental. In my case, we qualified because I had two under two and was quite isolated in terms of local support, plus I was a bit overwhelmed and exhausted! They not only help families in my type of situation but those facing all kinds of problems such as:
• The effects of post-natal illness (on mums or dads)
• Illness or injury – of you, your children, your partner or another family member
• Disability or mental health issues – of your children, you, your partner or another family member
• Bereavement – of your children, you, your partner or another family member
• Relationship problems
• Multiple births – twins, triplets or more
• Substance abuse
• Domestic violence or abuse
• Teenage pregnancy or being a young parent
• Poverty or financial difficulties
• Poor housing
• Or anything similar
After my Health Visitor contacted Home-Start a lovely lady came to see me in my home to chat through my circumstances. It wasn’t too long after that she got in touch to say they had found a volunteer for me. They visited together to help introduce us and from then on she has been coming to see us once a week, for a couple of hours. Initially I thought she could help with my newborn whilst I spent some missed quality time with my toddler but as it turned out, my toddler was so excited to have a weekly visitor that she plays with her whilst I look after my youngest. However, if she is napping it means I get a break from my childcare responsibilities and can either get on with some household chores, or even get time to sit down with a hot cup of tea! Yes you read correctly, a HOT cup of tea – amazing!
Having a Home-Start volunteer is wonderful. Seeing as I only have quite a small circle of friends in my local area, if everyone is busy, it can get quite lonely sometimes. However, just knowing that I will have one visitor a week at least helps. My toddler loves our volunteer and it helps with the dreaded guilt to see her have two hours of solid play-time with someone who is giving her undivided attention.
You get to decide how your volunteer can help but as a guide they can help with practical tasks, and emotional issues such as:
• Getting to appointments
• Establishing routines
• Accessing benefits, grants and financial support
• Using local services or specialist support
• Getting involved with your local community
• Encouraging play and reading with your children
• Listening to your worries, concerns and hopes for your family
• Offering a shoulder to cry on
• Sharing their own experiences of parenting and family life
• Being there because they want to be – not because someone has ‘sent’ them
• Giving you a break
• Offering advice if you ask for it
• Providing support, friendship and encouragement
What’s really great about Home-Start is their volunteers are parents so they understand how hard it can be. Not only that but they are also very committed and will keep visiting until the youngest child turns five or starts school, or until you feel you can stand on your own two feet. I think we’re almost there now as my toddler will be starting nursery in Spring next year. We will be sad to say ‘goodbye’ and we will never forget our lovely volunteer and all that she’s done for us but, I’ll also be happy knowing she’s going off to help some other family in need.
If you are a parent-to-be in a similar situation, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to try and build your own support network. It’s a cliché but no one can prepare you for what life will be like once you have a baby. What will really help though is being able to talk to people in the same life stage as you or those who have been there and got the t-shirt. I honestly think that without the help I had I would be a bit un-hinged! It’s wonderful being a parent but it’s also exhausting – mentally and physically, and can be lonely at times. You really do need all of the help you can get!
P.S. We never properly looked in to it but you can also access free support from students on childcare courses who need work placements in family homes. It might be worth contacting your local college for further info if they offer these types of courses. I did a quick Google and the results weren’t very forth-coming but here’s an example from the renowned Norland College – http://www.norland.co.uk/college/about/childcare_for_your_children/student_placements.
P.P.S. Neither NCT or Home-Start has asked me to write this post or contributed in anyway. I just wanted to give praise where I thought praise was due!
The first rule of, oh no wait, that’s Fight Club! (Some might say the two are similar, anyway, I digress…)
Before I became a parent, I was oblivious to this club. Quite a few of my friends had joined but I was an outsider and I had no clue regarding the benefits of membership. There are, I’ve found out, some downsides (no lie-ins ever) but for this post, I’m going to focus on the positives. You see I’ve been a member now for just over two and a half years and I have to say that I’m pretty happy about having joined this privileged group. Which is lucky really, seeing as I’ve signed up to a lifetime membership!
Here are the things that I love about parent club…
A new-found empathy
Not that I was a cold-hearted biatch beforehand! But the empathy I have for others now is often on a whole new level. Becoming a parent seems to have made it easier to relate to others which has made me a nicer person I think (I hope)! News stories for example, affect me more profoundly than ever before.
The caveat to this is that it doesn’t always mean I act accordingly (if a certain team of little people have been winding me up for example I am not always the picture of calm serenity, more exasperated and shouty) but it does mean I’m trying really hard to understand them!)
A silent respect and understanding
I may be wrong, I may be being judged, but on the occasion when I am out and about with my little ones and they are being ‘difficult’, often if I catch the eye of someone, they will give me a smile or roll their eyes with me which I like to think communicates ‘don’t worry, we’ve all been there’ and that’s just fab!
The social scene
We moved to a new area a few months before our first baby showed up and if we didn’t have children, I think we would probably still not know anyone. Being a parent has helped me get to know people in my community. Through NCT my husband and I met some fab friends. The whole experience of sharing the journey from being parents-to-be to fully fledged members has been lovely. Some of the Mums are amongst my closest friends and were an amazing support during the early weeks of baby 1 and 2 when it got a bit dark at times!
As we’ve found classes and groups to go to it’s given me the chance to meet more local parents which is great. Being a parent can feel quite lonely and isolating if you’re struggling to get out and about, which I do at times, but knowing I have at least one or two things to go to each week helps, a lot!
Now I know we don’t always want to talk about our kids but I find it wonderful that I have something in common now with so many people! I talk to more strangers now than I ever have because we share the same job title – parent. Pretty much anytime I leave the house I will have a conversation with someone new. I wasn’t always such a talker. In fact I’m not always that comfortable in social situations because I am rubbish at small talk. It makes me feel awkward. However, it is much easier now that there is always something to talk about.
The ‘in-jokes’ & camaraderie
Get a group of parents together and it won’t be long before you’re laughing at each other’s parenting mishaps – the latest embarrassing thing your kid shouted out in the supermarket, whose baby did the biggest poonami, the monumental effort it takes to get out of the house, how we can be so exasperated with our kids come bedtime but how once they’re in bed we start looking at that day’s photos of them; that sort of thing. I find it hilarious and comforting to hear other amusing stories and it’s only really funny now that I’m a parent. How life has changed is always a good one. From well-turned out, business exec to eternally denim clad & parker wearing nose-picker and bottom wiper! No-one ‘gets it’ quite like another parent. It’s a great leveller, parenting, and I find it brings us closer together which is pretty special.
What do you love about parenting club? I’d love to hear your take on it.
Even though one of our NCT classes did mention the phenomenon of ‘mummy guilt’, I don’t really think I gave it too much thought at the time. However with hindsight, I was already suffering from it as I used to worry about what I was eating, whether I was sleeping in a good position for the baby and if I was generally providing a good home for her whilst she was onboard. I’d feel guilty if I lay on my back for too long for example.
When Babe E was born, I don’t think I quite appreciated what I had signed up for despite the early tip off – a lifetime of guilt! Sometimes it sneaks up on me over just inconsequential things and other times I think it’s rightly so that I feel remorse for my actions. What I am interested to know however is, firstly do all Mums feel ‘mummy guilt’? And secondly, is it just Mums that feel it or do Dads get it too?
I did ask my husband when I decided to write this post whether he felt guilty about his parenting and he rarely does. He’s hard-wired differently to me. I am a natural born worrier something which I would rather get over! (Yes I do have the mindfulness colouring book on my bookshelf. No, I have yet to use it. Who was I kidding when I thought I’d have time to just blissfully colour it in?!).
Anyway, to give you some insight, here are just a few of the things I feel guilty about on an almost daily basis:
Leaving them on their own for too long whilst I get ready in the morning / or when I’m doing household stuff
Doing household stuff rather than playing with them
Putting one of their needs above the other e.g. getting one washed and dressed whilst the other cries for me
Not doing enough activities with them and for not getting out of the house often enough (because I find it such a mission to get out sometimes)
Rising to their meltdowns rather than staying calm
Being short-tempered due to tiredness
Forgetting to change a wet nappy until its full to bursting
Giving them pizza toast for lunch
Allowing my youngest to eat foods that I would not have allowed my eldest to eat at her age
Arguing with my husband in front of the girls
Only reading to them at bedtime
Letting my youngest watch TV when her older sister has cartoon time
Not spending enough one-on-one time with my youngest like her sister used to have
Not being able to spend one-on-one time with my eldest like I used to when it was just us
So there you have it. These are just a few of the flashes of guilt I have! Do these sound familiar? Do you have others? Am I bonkers? Is it just a Mum thing? Or are you a Dad reading this and nodding?
Some people have always known they wanted children; it’s been a lifetime ambition. I have to say that I never strongly felt the urge. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them, I just never felt broody and was always happy to hand them back. I would say that my attitude was more of ambivalence than anything else. Even in my thirties when some people start to hear the ‘tick tock’ of their biological clock, I was happy to leave this decision to fate. I remember saying that if I met someone who wanted family, I probably would have ‘a baby’ (if I could) but if I didn’t or met someone who also didn’t then I’d probably be equally as happy. I enjoyed the freedom that life without children permitted.
As it happened, I met and fell in love with my husband when I was 33 and he was definitely in the ‘yes’ camp when it came to family so that was that! We were engaged a year later, got married within six months and got pregnant two months after that. Bit of a whirlwind, but hey, why hang about?! Neither of us wanted to leave it much later to have kids if we were going to have them. I should say at this point, I still thought I would only have one and would have bet £1,000,000 on it. Thankfully, no one took up the bet as we now have two!
The transition from me to Mum started when I got pregnant as my lifestyle changed immediately. I don’t know if everyone feels it so soon but as someone who was pretty social and liked a drink, I found it quite hard to suddenly be the sober one. Now I realise this makes me sound like an alcoholic but nights out and weekends revolved around drinking with friends, or eating good food accompanied by nice wine or cold beer. Tiredness also meant my bed was more inviting than a late night out anyway. I did find this shift quite tough at first, especially as my husband’s life was as yet unchanged by impending fatherhood. He on the other hand, was very happy about always having a designated driver for nights out!
I was very lucky that my first pregnancy was pretty text book. Apart from feeling tired, I did feel well and like to think I had a bit of a glow going on so consequently I did enjoy it. I was endlessly fascinated by the changes that were occurring in my body and would avidly read my ‘What to Expect’ app which told me if baby was a blueberry, raspberry, lime etc… and what was happening to her each week.
Eventually the time came to go on maternity leave which was the strangest thing. It felt weird to leave my job whilst still waiting to start my new role. However, I was only two days in when Babe E decided it was time for her to make her grand entrance. I had just that day bought all the baby paraphernalia we needed. She must have sensed all was in order! Well, aside from not having a hospital bag and the fact that I was
staying with my parents (over an hour’s drive from our house where my husband was)!
And then all of a sudden we were three. I remember the first night on our own, I was almost amazed she was still ok the next morning – we’d survived one night, perhaps we could do this? Becoming a parent really is a baptism of fire. Unlike any other roles I’ve had, there was no one telling me what to do, I had no previous experience and yet it was my most responsible position to date. I had done lots of reading about being pregnant and regarding the development of my baby but it was only once I had her that I realised we had not given this next step much thought!
If I thought my life had begun to change when I got pregnant, it felt like I had undergone a complete transformation once Babe E had come in to my life. For the record I do love being a Mum but there were dark times in the early weeks when I felt confined to the sofa with my boobs out during growth spurts. Once the sleep deprivation had really kicked in, I did actually hate my husband for being able to just walk out the door every morning to go to work. Again, for the record, I have never been a ‘career woman’, it was just the fact that he could get up, get washed, get dressed and walk out the door. This freedom wasn’t available to me anymore! At times I really did feel like a prisoner in my own home. This shift from not thinking about anyone else when it came to simple things like leaving the house, to ensuring that someone else i.e. Babe E was clean, fed and dressed appropriately with a fully stocked changing bag and array of clothing should she have an exploding nappy or sick up incident was daunting. I was now ruled by a tiny human and it took some getting used to.
It did get easier though and for the most part it was always lack of sleep that was my undoing. I settled in to my new role and despite the bits I’ve just moaned about, I did prefer being a stay at home parent. My new NCT friends were my life-savers and kept me sane and I enjoyed not being office bound for once. I went and had another one so that shows the good far out-weighed the bad!
Having two is another whole dimension. There’s just one extra body in the house but everything takes more than double the time and effort! If I’m aiming to leave at a certain time, I almost certainly have to factor in an hour from the point in time that I think we’re ready. Suddenly both will need nappy changes, both will be screaming for something, once one’s dressed the other isn’t, that sort of thing. But, that’s another story.
My point is that now I have a baby and a toddler, I feel there is even less of me left at the moment. I am consumed by being a Mum. I used to be really in to music and even had a spreadsheet of music that I wanted. Now I can’t remember the last time I downloaded anything and I don’t really know who’s worth a listen these days. I would love to take up Spanish lessons again but I can’t get out of the house early enough in the evenings yet to go to an evening class. I love to read but have had the same book on my Kindle for I don’t know how long. Somewhere along the line I seem to have lost my sense of humour. I think at the moment, I genuinely am so exhausted mentally and physically after a day of childcare that there isn’t much left to give.
It’s this that I mourn. I’m not sad about being a Mum, I love my girls to bits but I am sad that I don’t feel like me anymore. There is light at the end of the tunnel however. My youngest turns one shortly so the baby bit is almost over. She’ll soon be off the boob and independent of me (mixed emotions!!) which means that I am clawing back some me time. I have started yoga at the weekend and try to go each week. I enjoy every second of it from the moment I leave the house, the drive there, the class, the shower after etc… etc… It’s fab!
A while ago a friend asked me about being a parent, how did I know that I was ready? How is it? This conversation has really stuck with me and made me reflect on the way my life has changed many a time. What I did say in response to the second question is that life is just very different now. That I think I would have had a happy, carefree life had I not had children but that I am also happy and content with how my life is now. Life was good before kids but it was quite empty or unfulfilling sometimes. Having children has given life more meaning & purpose. That’s why overall, I am very happy that I have made the transition from me to Mum.
What are your thoughts on the transition to parenthood? Do you feel sad about your old life? Or simply happy to have left your child-free days behind you? Would love to hear from you.
Inspiration for this post came from something @TheUnmumsyMum said on Instagram about how her children had “eaten her boobs” (she’d just had her post breastfeeding bra fitting).
As I’m coming to the end of another year’s breastfeeding, I thought I’d chronicle the ups and downs (literally) of my boobs because motherhood has certainly changed my relationship with them. I thought you may also be able to help me with a couple of boob-related questions!
When I was much younger, I thought I’d never get boobs which had me in tears on occasion as I was quite a late developer. Then, fast-forward to when I finally went on the pill, they ballooned to comical proportions for my size which I found quite embarrassing. Suddenly people weren’t talking to my face anymore. I will never forget the moment my friend literally laughed out loud when we both tried on a white, crochet halter neck top and she saw me in it. Whilst I looked more porn star she looked the epitome of boho chic.
Anyway, they did eventually settle down and we were pretty happy together up until I got pregnant with my first. Inevitably they grew as they prepared to take on their most important role to date. It was quite weird watching their transformation but nothing could have prepared me for the rock hard bazookas that arrived once my milk came in. Ouch that hurt! It took a few days for me and baby1 to get used to the whole breast-feeding malarkey as neither of us had a clue but one night at 3:30am she finally latched and it was a pretty special moment – worth being up that early / late for! Luckily there was no looking back after that.
I got pregnant with my second whilst I was still breast-feeding my first so my poor boobs never really got any down-time. And so they grew again. Feeding second time around was ok but I have to admit, at times not quite so enjoyable. It’s hard to relax and enjoy the bonding time when you have an active toddler running about the place. There was no sitting on the sofa watching box sets for example when baby2 was having a growth spurt!
All in all, I have enjoyed feeding my two and feel proud to have made it through another year but at times I have cursed it. I couldn’t express very well second time around so there has been no escape. I long for one night away to catch up with friends and do feel like I’m in some sort of mummy hibernation. Not for too much longer though. It feels quite strange because on one hand I’m desperate to stop and on the other I know I shall feel sad about it. I know I could continue but feeding a toddler is just not for me.
Now the feeds are winding down, so inevitably is the boob size. As the Unmumsy Mum said, it does feel like they’ve been drunk dry. They are not what they once were which is rubbish but not a shock. However, I am secretly hoping that they will make some sort of a recovery. Which brings me to my first question, will they?! The bra lady I go to, who is something of a local celebrity amongst the Mums around here, swears they will after about six months. But I’m sceptical! However, it’s a little glimmer of hope so I’m clinging to it for now.
My second question, slightly more embarrassing, has to do with nipples. Since feeding they are pretty much always ready for action. I admire their commitment but will this stop once I stop breast-feeding? It was ok when I needed to wear breast pads but now I don’t and it’s a bit disconcerting having them on show as it were. At least autumn is here and I can cover them with a nice chunky jumper or something! I haven’t really noticed this phenomenon with other mummy friends but then I haven’t really been staring at their boobs so it would be good to get some feedback from anyone whose boobs are now in retirement.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to hopefully getting some answers!