Judgey McJudgepants

Judgements. We make them and are subject to them every day. I myself have been judgemental, so so so judgemental my entire life. Especially before becoming a parent, of other parents. Because that’s what you do when you don’t have a kid. You look at all the parents with their annoying, horrible, bratty, misbehaving children and decide how you’re going to be SOOOOOO much better at it once you have your own. And very soon you suddenly realise how bitter those words taste. Because you keep having to eat them, over and over again. After becomeing a parent it suddenly hits you with just how difficult it all is, and so I decided that I would no longer be judgemental of others. And just like my New Year’s resolutions, this new found sentiment lasted approximately half an afternoon before I was back to my old ways again.

Last weekend, Stormaggedon decided to fall off the couch. Head first. Onto our tiled floor. And before I go on, let me say this about “Helicopter Parenting”: it doesn’t work. Stormaggedon was on the couch, my husband sitting next to him, and me standing over him, and he STILL managed to fall off before either of us had the reflex to stop him. At first I didn’t think it was that bad. He was screaming straight away. I thought if I picked him up, gave him a kiss and laughed it off it would be ok. Until I saw the planet sized bruised egg that immediately developed on the right side of his forehead. I have to admit I’m amazed at how calm I reacted. Grabbing an icepack from the fridge, we tried to calm him down but after about 10 minutes of intense crying I decided we should call an ambulance just to have him assessed. Of course the second I get off the phone to triple zero, our little bundle of joy stops crying, and actually starts laughing. He then decides he’s had enough of comfort and tries to crawl away, just after the operator told me to keep him as still as possible. The paramedics arrive within 15 minutes and although they think Stormy is probably fine due to the lack of other worrying symptoms, it’s decided that we should still take a trip to the hospital just for observation.

So where’s the judgement? Well riding in the back of the ambulance one of the paramedics is obviously trying to make me feel better about my lack of parenting skills and regales me with a story, “Don’t worry, we see this sort of thing all the time. Why just yesterday we had to take a 15 month old in because his mum sat him up on top of the washing machine while she was washing something in the laundry sink.” And at this I started to scoff, about to comment, “what kind of idiot puts their kid on top of the washing machine. What was she expecting?” Then I stopped myself. Here I was, sitting in the back of an ambulance with my injured child, and I had the gall to laugh at the stupidy of another parent.

This wasn’t the first occasion in the last year where I had let my opinionated parenting feelings known. At the shops a few weeks ago I strolled past another woman who was pushing her toddler around in his pram, the toddler laid back and completely engrossed in the iPhone he held in his hands. And I remember before I could stop myself snorting out loud, quite obviously in her direction. Realising what I had done I looked apologetically awkward before quickly pushing Stormy off in the oppostie direction. 

Another time I was having a discussion about birthing with a group of mothers, where I took aim at “idiots” who have home births, as they are putting themselves and their children at risk. Not realising that one of the mothers had birthed all three of her children at home. In fact with only the help of her husband and a doula, and no midwife or doctor at all. I don’t know who looked more horrified when I realised. FYI, I haven’t spoken to her again. Lesson learned, never be so opinionated around perfect strangers. 

It’s comforting to know that at least I’m not alone on the judgemental bandwagon. The Mummy Mafia is well renowned for their seemingly supportive, yet condescending attitudes towards each other. I’m sure some of you have been on the receiving end of these types of conversations: “Oh, so you only breastfed Rachel for a few weeks? Well I suppose you did the best you could. After all it’s about doing what’s right for you, isn’t it. I myself am still breastfeeding little Tabias. He’s 17 months old you know. And on a completely unrelated topic, he’s so well behaved and calm all the time. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the breastfeeding though. Is that Rachel throwing a tantrum over there? You know you should really reduce the sugar in her diet. It’s killing her you know!” 

And of course the one-up-manship which leads to self judgement: “My Benjamin was walking at 9 months”, “That’s nothing, my Gertrude was singing her ABCs at 2”, “Well my daughter was completing a 40 piece jigsaw puzzle in 10 minutes whilst watching Seasame Street at the same time, and she’s only 2 and a half!”…(ok that last one was my mother talking about me. I was pretty gifted but peaked early)

But here’s the thing. As bad as I feel about all of the judgements that have been directed at me, I still feel the same way about all the judgements that I’ve passed. It’s still a really stupid idea to put your baby on top of the washing machine, regardless if you’re right there. I really don’t agree with giving your toddler an iPhone or iPad to play with. I still feel that unsupervised home births are just playing with fire. But you know the thing about judgements? They are your own opinions, and that’s where they should stay. How someone parents their child is no one’s business but theirs, and opinions should be kept to themselves. Of course this should not count towards a child that is suffering from abuse or domestic violence. If you see a child that you know is being deliberately starved, is having cigarettes put out on their arms, is being abused, or left on their own for hours at a time, then it’s your absolute duty to tell someone. Preferably DoCS or the Police. If however you feel a mother gave up breastfeeding too early, a child is getting more screen time than recommended, or the toys they’re playing with aren’t educational enough, then maybe you might need to remember the old saying “Think before you speak”. 

Back at the hospital, two and a half hours later Stormaggedon was given the all clear and we were sent back home. Where he immediately made a beeline for the couch. Though this time we were much more weary and instinctively watched over him like a hawk. But just like my New Year’s resolutions, that watchful instinctiveness lasted for all of half the afternoon. 

Please don’t judge me. 

Is it worth it?

It’s all worth it. It’s totally worth it. It’s definitely worth it. For the first few weeks after giving birth, it seemed like this was all I ever heard from other mothers. Usually right after I would start telling them how I was having trouble, or struggling with my new found parenthood, or showing any sort of negative and emotional weakness whatsoever. And out it would come: “IT’S WORTH IT!” Of course I knew it was worth it, but for the longest time I found myself struggling to come to terms with this particular little phrase. Mainly because the “worth it” parts were still so far off and unimaginable to me. Laughing, smiling, dancing, first steps, cheeky faces, baby talk, waving. These milestones were still months off. So in the meantime I was stuck with unending crying, sleepless nights and “what have I done with my life” type questioning. I decided that I would never try to push this type of advice on anyone, knowing just how much it had angered me in the beginning.

So I was quite surprised when recently I caught myself almost saying the exact same thing to a couple of friends who have not yet made the leap into parenthood. The first admitting to me upon reading my first couple of blog chapters that her uterus for the moment has well and truly been snapped shut, barren like the icy expanse of the Antarctic, a cold wasteland forbidden for men to tread. Ok, so I may have paraphrased that a bit, but she definitely said something about her womb being in the Antarctic. Or was it Arctic? In any case, she made it clear that babies weren’t happening anytime soon. The second stated that my posts weren’t the first she had encountered along the subject parental truth telling, and although brave of me to speak up merely strengthened her view of just how hard and difficult motherhood is, how little support we get both from society and from those closest to us, and how maybe it just isn’t for her. Both of the conversations saddened me a little. Now I know that it’s no one’s business to tell someone whether or not they should become a parent. If someone has made the decision that children are just not for them, it is no one’s place to try and tell them otherwise. And yet, hearing my friends talk about deciding they might never have children struck a small nerve within me. And suddenly I could feel the words welling up in my throat. “OH DON’T GET ME WRONG, IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT!” I wanted to scream. Luckily I caught myself just in time.

So what was it that made me almost break my rule? I could think of a couple of explanations. Firstly, I didn’t want my friends to make such a huge life changing decision based solely on my advice. I would feel terrible thinking that someone decided to never have a baby just because they read one little blog post that suddenly turned them off the thought. My blog is only very new and I have only spoken a few times. Yes about some awful and traumatic stuff, but it’s not all like that. I felt like I had to try and explain that there are so many more good times, and that I haven’t got to the good time posts yet. However I suddenly realised that I was being incredibly conceited believing that anyone would make a life altering decision merely based on something that I wrote on the internet. And in the reverse, isn’t it the same thing if I tried to convince someone to HAVE a baby? Surely that would be just as worse.

The second explanation came in the form that it was perhaps some deep seated biological need. Propagation of the species and all that. Maybe every mother has some inbuilt mechanism to seek out the “to have a child fence sitters” and somehow convince them to turn to the dark side of the force. “You hate children and find them annoying? Oh, not your own child, you’ll LOVE them!”    “You hate poo, and the sight of vomit makes you want to vomit? Don’t worry, it’s different when it’s your own child, you won’t notice it at all”   ” Don’t worry, you learn to live with only 2 hours sleep a night. It’s called adapting”   “I used to hate other people talking only about their children and boring stuff like housework. But now it’s ALL I know!” Seriously, get away from us you she-devils. Back to the (ball) pit with you!

Regardless of the explanation, I’m still not sure why I felt the need to say it. In the end whether my friends want to have children is up to them and their partners to decide. I suppose the question they need to ask themselves is, is it worth it?

Handy Hints and Helpful Tips.

This week I thought I’d take it down a notch and rather than scaring the pants off everyone (as I’ve been lead to believe that I’m doing), I thought I’d compile some handy information that may actually be useful and practical to some. This list is probably something that I will revisit in the future as my son grows and goes through different stages, but so far everything below is either something that I have used, developed myself, or sourced from other people. So enjoy.

Google Nothing! When you first get that little newborn home they will display characteristics you never thought were possible or likely for a baby. They will have moods, physical reactions, and basically act nothing like what you thought babies are supposed to be like. So of course you turn to your old friend Google. And before you know it, your baby DEFINITELY has some sort of rare and ancient disease, never before seen by the likes of man. Over the last 15 months I thought my son had GORD, a leaky oesophagus, a punctured lung, epilepsy, autism, cancer, milk protein allergy, ringworm (actually, he did have that one), and other various ailments. And looking back he’s literally only been sick three times with not too severe colds (yes, I know I’m very lucky for that. Don’t hate me). If you think your child may be ill, I strongly recommend leaving the computer alone and just taking them to the GP. If still concerned then take them to a child health nurse, or the local children’s hospital.

Ryan’s Rule. (This is for Queenslanders only). On the subject of worrisome conditions, did you know that if you feel your concerns are not being heard or taken seriously by health officials then you can invoke Ryan’s Rule. This is for the state of Queensland only and more information can be found here: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/cairns_hinterland/html/ryan-home.asp.

Also on the subject of computers, I’d suggest staying away from “Mummy” forums. Ok, yes I know there are some really wonderful and supportive groups out there. But sometimes as a new parent you can feel a little overwhelmed, so you decide to seek out fellow mums for advice and assurance. Unfortunately you can sometimes come away with feelings of inadequacy and further insecurities. I’ve come across mothers who will brag non-stop about their children. That’s not a bad thing. In fact I love to brag about my son all the time. But you have to be careful in what context you’re bragging. If you come across a forum where a mother is desperately seeking answers about why her child is crying non-stop, won’t eat, won’t sleep and they are feeling generally down about being a “terrible parent”, now is probably not the time to chime in with how your child was sleeping through from two weeks old, never cries, is a perfect angel, and how fantastic your life is. Also if you’re worried about your child’s development, it’s probably not a good idea to go on these forums only to be confronted with “My child walked at 10 months” or “My child was toilet trained by one year” because all of a sudden, you’re consumed with how “behind” you child is now. Seriously, just stick to the information booklet given to you by the hospital. Children will do things in their own time.

Ever heard “Sleep while the baby sleeps”? Forget that, it’s rubbish. I prefer, “Rest and relax while the baby sleeps”. And even that’s not all that practical a lot of the time. A lot of people will tell you that all the housework (cleaning, cooking, laundry) can wait. I do agree with this to some degree. But if you’re like me then you really don’t want to do this type of stuff at night after bub has gone to sleep, or after you’ve arrived home from work. That’s “Me” time. I’m lucky that I’m at the stage where day time naps can last between 1-2 hours. Currently I might rest for a bit, feet up on the couch, read a bit of internet, watch some TV, then go and do a bit of baking or hang the laundry. The newborn stage is a little trickier as they tend to sleep more but for shorter periods. But hopefully you have a supportive partner or friends and family to come and assist. If not, remember it’s important to still take care of You as well. Give yourself some time to rest. I’m sure the dishes can wait a couple of extra hours.

Invest in a bouncer. Depending on size and agility of your baby these usually last around 6-8 months. Mine was great. I’d stick Stormaggedon in his bouncer and he’d watch me hang the laundry or put it away. All the while I would talk or sing to him. It’s good bonding time, and they still have a nice view of the world.

Once the bouncer is gone, invest in a playpen! Seriously, do this. Ok, so depending on the size of your living arrangements it might not be practical, but if you have the space, please get one. I actually didn’t put mine up until Stormaggedon was about 11 months old. Why didn’t I do it much earlier?! It gives you peace of mind when going to the toilet or doing other household chores that they’re not trying to kill themselves when not in your field of view. Though then again, Stormaggedon isn’t big enough to climb out of his yet….

To everyone either about to have a baby, or if you’ve just had a baby I suggest reading The Discontented Little Baby Book, by Dr Pamela Douglas. I cannot recommend this book enough. This book is designed for parents with babies that are newborn up to 16 weeks old. I only read this book when Stormaggedon was already 9 weeks old, and lamented that I didn’t read it any earlier. Then found out I didn’t read it any earlier because it had literally been published two weeks prior. This book was a godsend and practically everything Stormaggedon displayed in his newborn months was described in the book, and how to deal with it. It helped me keep my sanity and was my first introduction to “It’s not just me that has experienced this!” It gives sound parenting advice, but is not consigned to “This is what is wrong with your child, can be the only thing that is possible wrong, and use X to fix it and nothing else”, which is how a lot of other parenting strategies tend to be advertised.

On the subject of books, if you’re just about to start solids then I also recommend reading Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche. This book has over 100 recipes, and gives you a really good step by step guide on how to introduce solids, and how to help you child develop a good relationship with food. I’ve managed pretty successfully so far as my son will eat practically anything you give him, and he has a very wide range of good healthy foods in his diet. Though I am completely aware that no matter how great the start to food introduction, it is still likely to go completely pear shaped once they hit about 2 or 3 years old. I guess only time will tell for me.

Get yourself a stick blender. If you’re going to be one of those mothers who has every intention of making all baby food and purees from scratch, firstly good on you for you efforts, and secondly if it doesn’t work out or you’re not intending to do that good on you anyway, because regardless of how you do it you are feeding your child. And feeding your child is always good no matter how you do it. But if you were like me and decided from an early stage that it would be far cheaper to just make all the food (and trust me, it actually is) then you can’t go past a stick blender. It’s quick, easy to use, easy to clean, there aren’t a million parts like in a food processor, and will actually pulse your food up to a nice smooth blend (unlike most food processors, which will still leave them a little too chunky for the pallets of 5-8 month olds).

In addition to the above, if you’re making soups or purees I also recommend using a general hand masher first. This way when you go to pulse it with the stick blender it won’t splatter up on you. Which can be a painful experience if you’ve just taken your food creation off the stove.

Have you ever read those ridiculous lists of things parents do that you SWEAR you will never do yourself. The only one I ever came close to was warming up face washers under a hot tap to clean my son’s bottom. But I do have a good excuse for this one. Stormaggedon was born in the winter. A new born babies poo a lot. And if they have colic or other unexplained tummy pains, their poos are actually quite sore and stingy. So heating up a washer under the hot tap may have been a little excessive, but it really helped to calm him down and was also a great help at preventing nappy rash, which can be caused by some of those chemical filled nappy wipes. But if you can’t be bothered doing this (which is fair enough), I’d also recommend Naty Wipes, which can be picked up at your local Coles. Organic, bamboo and 100% eco friendly.

Have you ever noticed that in the winter, regardless of how long you’ve held your baby and rocked them until you were sure they were fast asleep, the second their body hits the crib or cot mattress they’re awake and crying again. If you’re not up for co-sleeping and you desperately want to get them in their own bed, I thoroughly recommend getting a heat pack (one of those wheat packs), heating it up in the microwave for 2 minutes then placing it in their bed to pre-heat it. When you go to transfer them, take the heat pack out and place them on the warm spot. Yes this takes a bit of practise, or having a handy partner on call is very helpful. But it really works a treat. I’d also suggest finding a pack that has lavender in it, as lavender is very calming.

If you’re intending to use cloth nappies, and have managed to find super absorbent night nappies that don’t leak and can be worn all night, then you are a super genius and I must know your secret! If not then don’t feel any guilt for resorting to disposables for the night time. In the middle of winter Stormaggedon would wake up, cold, hungry and saturated, and screaming for a feed. It would take us a good 15 minutes to change his nappy, change his clothes and change his bedding before I could finally get him settled into the boob. Sometimes sticking to a planned parenting decision just isn’t worth it. 

Santa Claus. And yes, I’m going to be a bit preachy here. If you’re going to participate in the ritual that is Santa Claus (as the majority of people do), just remember that some people are worse or better off than you. Perhaps let Santa gives your child the normal every day gifts, like colouring pencils, books and small toys. Because if Santa gives your kid a 10 speed bike, an iPad and designer sneakers, but the kid next door a ball and bucket and spade his parents are going to have to try and explain why Santa is an asshole.

And last, don’t listen to any advice. Including mine. People will jump out of the woodwork and go out of their way to give you parenting advice. Some of it good, some of it bad. Listen to all, but don’t feel you have to take it all in. Take things that may work for you, or just give them a try. All information is valuable, but it’s up to you what you do with it.

And as always, what handy parenting hacks have you used? Any useful tips you’d like to pass on? Feel free to add anything to the comments below.