1

Stop telling Dads how great they are!

Men are not dogs.  I’m convinced this is the root of this problem; somewhere along the way I remember “advice” circulating that recommended approaching men’s behaviour as you would your dog.  Reward good behaviour and ignore the bad.  Simple!  Soon your man would be cooking up a cordon bleu storm in the kitchen and sorting the laundry like a pro.  We have been told they respond better to positive feedback, and therefore to stop pointing out the negatives.

Things have gotten out of hand.  It needs to stop.  I am taking one for the team and I will confess that my husband does not get trained as a dog.  He gets criticism, both negative and positive.  I’m sure he would argue the positive comments are few and far between, but I believe he is coming from a place where he expects to be applauded for putting down the toilet seat.  The other day I had to stop myself from thanking him for vacuuming while I was out, yes he had indeed vacummed but I don’t think he has ever thanked me for doing it!  By thanking him, I would have reinforced the idea that he was doing my job for me, as a favour.

The generation of women before us play no small part in this.  I imagine I’m not the only one who constantly hears admiring grannies, aunties and random women in the park comment on how great the fathers of today are.

It’s not helping ladies, please stop.

Praise is a helpful tool in encouraging progess and growth.  But it needs to be balanced.  In this case, there is no balance.  Daddies are fantastic for simply being present and playing with their kids, changing a nappy or wiping dirty faces.  And unlike dogs, men perfectly understand language and take all this on board.

They have internalised the notion that they are doing an amazing job and sure wouldn’t their own mammy have given her right arm to have his father tell him a bedtime story every second night?  The mother of his own children is lucky to have him!  Look at him flex his fatherly muscles and reward himself with a cool beer in recognition of his parenting feats.

Except they’re not parenting feats; it’s usually not even an equal division of parental and household labour between father and mother.

There’s probably an up-ended box of Lego at his feet as he puts them up to better enjoy his beer.  Chances are there is a permission slip from school to be signed on the kitchen table that he walked past as he opened the beer, or a birthday present to be wrapped on the counter as he sought out the bottle opener.  He doesn’t see any of it.  His job as a better-than-ever father is done.  Story read and toddler asleep.  Self-congratulatory beer in one hand and remote control in the other, he’s earned it.

I get that the fathers of today are more engaged with and active in the upbringing of their children than our own fathers and those before them.  But that’s not the only change and it needs to be viewed as part of the bigger social picture.  Mothers “back then” did more child-rearing and household management in general (I’m making sweeping statements here, I realise it’s not a one size fits all situation) but they didn’t tend to be employed outside of the home.  The home was their workplace.

Mothers these days are more likely to be working outside the home, commuting to an office where they have to be present and capable in the same way as fathers are expected to.  Yet I don’t hear the platitudes about how amazing mothers are, creating such examples for their daughters and sons, contributing to the household finances.   Why not?  A mother’s role has changed as much as a fathers.

Stay-at-home mothers don’t have it as easy as the ones before them either.  There is a ticking schedule of play-dates, extra-curricular activities, and god knows what else to ferry small people to and from.  There is more pressure than ever on the sort of food the children “should” be fed, screen time, social media and a whole other host of worries that simply didn’t exist before.

Mothers needs fathers to pull their weight.  Not because they will be rewarded and praised, but because it’s their job!  If we keep telling fathers how fantastic they are for “minding the kids” or “baby-sitting” when in fact all they are doing is parenting their own children, they seem to believe they are going above and beyond what is expected of them.  It’s akin to praising a child for learning a-b-c and then never encouraging them to continue with the rest of the alphabet.

We are selling our men short, they are capable of much more.

 

 

 

 

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5 simple steps to less stress

We live in a time of information overload; constantly bombarded by images of what we should look like, what we should be doing and the lives we should be living. All of this can drain you and make you feel like a failure when you’re already struggling to do do your best. As a parent, it just adds an extra layer to the guilt.

Social media is a double-edged sword, it gives mothers a virtual place to find their tribe but also perpetuates the mommy wars in certain zones. A social media and internet ban isn’t realistic as they are powerful, useful tools that do have their place.

Lately, I’ve felt frazzled and burnt out just batting away information coming at me uninvited. Our parents generation didn’t have to deal with this, they just go on with what they knew and the support of the “village”. Nobody is denying that there have been great advances in safety etc. that means we can’t just view our childhood through rose-tinted glasses. I just don’t suspect they double-guessed every single decision they made.

So in a bid to release myself from the chains of, well e-mail chains, I made a few small changes which have helped:

  1. Unsubscribe from a couple of e-mail services a day – my inbox used to fill up regularly with unsolicited advice that robbed me of a few precious moments.  I don’t need a dozen hotel special offers emailed to me weekly when the chances of me staying in a hotel are more of the annual variety.  Click that unsubscribe option down the bottom.  The information is still out there if you need to go looking for it and if you really miss those updates you can always sign up again.
  2. Unfollow a few online pages.  Perhaps there are a few pages you followed but now find their posts are not of interest to you or if you do read them you end up irritated and frustrated at their style or content.  Select that unfollow button.  If you’re going to be spending time reading posts, try and ensure they’re the sort you really care about.
  3. Read a book – have a book to hand, so when you have a few spare moments you can read a chapter rather than some inane drivel online.  Even with good quality and information, well researched online pieces, you can’t beat a book.  Even the kindle app for a smart phone will do, and there are loads of books available for free.  Or try our your local library.
  4. Unfriend those people that make you roll your eyes so often you fear they might get stuck.  If you don’t feel you can unfriend them, just hide their posts.  You will still technically be friends but you don’t have to look at the incessant drip-drip of posed, less that truthful over-sharing of their lives.  #blessed I’m looking at you…. You can still click back into their page to check what they’re up to if you feel like a good eye roll, but it’s on your terms.
  5.  Delete apps from your phone – I can’t be the only one with a myriad of unused apps I down-loaded when I felt I couldn’t possible manage without them.  It turns out I can manage perfectly well and I’ve waved good-bye to several of those little squares that had been taunting me from my over-loaded phone screen.  The apps are still in the cloud (which one day I will understand) and can be brought back to life if I realise they were imperative.  So far this hasn’t happened at all.  Most apps are just another way of making the information which is available on a web-site more readily accessible.  The info hasn’t gone anywhere, you just need to actively want it.

Simple steps that you can do so quickly and reverse just as quickly should you have major regrets.  Quality over quantity wins out.

 

This post originally appeared on The M Word

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Away with the fairies.

Before you condemn me as an opponent to imagination and creative play, let me stop you in your indignant tracks.  I’m all for fairies and am not about to banish them from my house, but I do fear that I opened my arms too widely when I invited the magical beings into our home.  I should have laid down a few ground rules before just letting them take up residence willy-nilly.

Our resident fairy is called Twinkle Fairy Night and she arrived into our home ceremoniously via a fairy door from the Irish Fairy Door Company.  I don’t think a small painted piece of wood has ever inspired such greatness before.  I have gifted these doors to a few children and I hope each time a fairy found their forever home.

Life with a fairy can be wonderful, the conversations and games which come from this set up is beautiful.  We discovered shortly after Twinkle moved in that her cousin, Tallulah Flower Belle, is the local tooth fairy!  Letters to Santa can also be sent to the North Pole by fairy post.

All this fairy dust is intoxicating, but very quickly your new house-mate can give you a headache.

The fairy and humans can sign a lease agreement which was provided with the door, which is very sweet and entertaining.  However, if you are taking on a magical lodger I would recommend you tag a few extra terms and conditions to the end of that bad boy.  In my experience it is best to get some matters resolved in advance, and save you from magical mayhem.  Nobody wants fairies running riot in their home.

  1.  Clearly defined visitation schedule – put it in writing that the fairy can only visit on certain days and those days only.  It does no good for weary adults to discover that unbeknownst to them the child left a note out for fairy which the fairy never came to collect.  Nobody likes tears first thing in the morning before they even get a sniff of coffee.  To prevent this, make sure the child and fairy are clear on the days notes and gifts can be exchanged.
  2. A deposit box – in order to ensure that no notes or gifts are missed, have your child create a little box to leave them in.  This can be decorated to their hearts content.  This is closely related to point 1, and means that when you think that that scrap of paper lying there is just rubbish your error is quickly corrected.  If it’s in the little box, it’s for the fairy.
  3. Weight limits – a fairy can only carry so much at a time.  It is not reasonable for a little fairy to be expected to collect 3 notes, a pair of barbie shoes, a conker, paper flower and sticky jewel all in one visit.  And if by some feat of strength that little fairy manages to carry it all, there can be no expectation that she returns something that same day.
  4. Tit for tat – follows point 3, you don’t just give to receive.  A good life lesson!  This means no whining because the fairy hasn’t left anything for your enthusiastic fairy fan despite all the junk gifts they left out for their winged pal.
  5. Parental approval – fairies don’t have space for an awful lot in their little fairy homes.  Parents have a good understanding of what a fairy family can or cannot cope with.  Therefore, final approval must be sought before the brand new toy that Nana bought is left out to be taken away with the fairies.  The same goes for objects the child is trying to get rid of – homework, uneaten vegetables and so on.

I know it’s only April now, and Christmas is a long way away yet.  But a word of warning – one regular fairy is enough to keep a family busy.  Stand firm and resist the lure of Elf on the Shelf when December rolls around.  Ben and Holly might show fairies and elves living in harmony but in my house it was a disaster.  Take it from me.  Nobody has time for that much magic.

This post first appeared on the lovely M Word site.

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Sun-cream, we need to talk…

Dear Sun-cream,

I need you more than you need me, I get that. I know you could decide to walk away and leave me exposed to the elements with the children, but please don’t act so callously. I fully accept that life (in the summer) would be worse without you around.

But that doesn’t mean you have to can get away with treating me so badly at times. We need to talk about our relationship; I think you need to make more of an effort. You’ve become complacent and lazy at times. I feel like you take me for granted.

I dutifully give you your many days out, slathering you on small (and not so small) bodies at prescribed regular intervals. You are not neglected; I do all I can to help you achieve your purpose in life. Nobody is arguing that you don’t help me with my parenting objectives but this is a two way street and I need to you to hear me out.

I’m just going to be honest and bite the bullet, you’re a total bitch to apply. As soon as the kids even spot you, the whining starts. They don’t like you. I think you could make more of an effort to hold their interest, perhaps a musical twist, the transfer of temporary magical powers or production of mini-unicorns or rainbows might suffice? Have a think about it and come back to me, I will help out where I can. I want the kids to have a good relationship with their SPF lotion.

Your consistency could do with some tweaking. I know that to have the full benefits of your protection, the gloopiness is a pay-off but it’s wreaking havoc on hands, hair and clothes in the family. I spent almost as much time scrubbing sun-cream stains out of clothes as I do applying the lotion in the first place.

Perhaps we could talk about your longevity? Could you not work a bit harder to last a little longer? I’m not taking any satisfaction from batting around words like premature erosion of ability, but I feel if I don’t say it nobody will. I’m hopeful that a medical team somewhere may be approaching the problem (as I have heard other mother’s bemoaning the frequency of the re-application process without feeling they got much from it) so please pay attention to any developments.

I’ve heard other women talk about aspects of sun-cream in a boastful way, to be honest I’m not even sure I believe them. But I want you to be aware of the sort of things other women see as part of the sun protection relationship. There’s no pressure here, I’m just filling you in on the playground gossip. There are whispers of intense, long-lasting moisturising abilities, self-tanning properties, skin smoothing and polishing features among others… all with the same protection from UVA and UVB rays that we have come to know and love. There I’ve said it now and it’s out there…

I want us to enjoy many more summers together, mutually making the most of the sun when it goes deign to appear. I am sorry if this letter has shocked you, I’ve been muttering these things to myself over and over lately but I don’t think you’ve been listening.

We’re in this together, neither of us wants sizzled skin.

Yours,

A sticky-handed mama

3

Mammy Summer Camp – the dream!

It’s the time of year when brightly coloured flyers promising to make our children singing sensations, Oscar winning stars or Olympic athletes in one short week abound.  The (annual) age of the Summer Camp has dawned.  As I waded through the collection of leaflets, ads and notes about various camps on offer in the area, it got me thinking about how nice it would be to go to a summer camp myself.  A Mammy Camp.

I’ve put together a sample schedule and description, I don’t think I’d have any problem selling the spaces.  Who’s in?

Mammy Camp!

Introducing the first of its kind, a camp designed solely for mothers to cater to their every need.  We promise to help you make the most of your precious time with a focused and intensive programme guaranteed to assist you in being the best mother you can be.

The camp features several modules which women can attend, but there are also break-out areas dotted around the campus.  We have taken on board requests from interested parties and located the camp in a luxury spa to best meet the needs of our attendees.

Come join us, relax and feed those souls!  The relaxation modules include:

  • Sleep pods – you will notice the cocoon shaped sleep pods artfully arranged around the campus, each is fitted with a millon thread count Egyptian cotton bed-linen for your comfort.  The sleep pods feature integrated music and meditation sound-tracks and also have an in-built refreshment station to help prolong your stay.
  • Yoga, pilates, aqua-aerobics, milk-shake making and chocolate eating classes run throughout the course of the day.  All our instructors have been approved by the accredited model agency.
  • A fully-equipped library of every published book awaits to help ignite your imagination.  Escape to another world.
  • Your personal assistant is trained in all types of massage, therapy and the ability to change toilet rolls.  Just ask and you shall receive.

If you are feeling more energised there are many targeted sessions which may be of interest:

  • Obedient children – we have sourced several child-bots which are guaranteed to pay full attention to your requests and do as they are told; sit back and enjoy the experience.
  • DIY station – the DIY station is fully equipped with professional tradesmen; upon your arrival at the centre you will be assigned a camp husband.  This temporary partner will carry out all sorts of DIY tasks at your request, and demonstrate the best practice in common areas such as the putting up of a shelf.  Leaflets and manuals will be available to take home.
  • Culinary arts – lounge in the state of the culinary arts theatre and feast your senses on all manner of edible delights.  No request is too small.  Please be advised that due to atmospheric qualities in the spa, the calorie content of all food stuffs has been reduced by 75%.
  • Anger management – we appreciate that sometimes it can be hard to switch off from the frustrations and stresses of home life.  In order to best help you achieve the most from your time in the camp, there is an anger management station.  Just input the requested celebrity and their hologram will be projected on the punch bag.  Enjoy the opportunity to vent your irritation with the inflatable mallets.
  • A comedy club is at all times in operation, come and flex your funny bone.  There’s not much in life that isn’t improved with a good belly laugh!
  • The gin and tonic tent is a last minute feature added for your enjoyment.  Become a mixologist and create your own combination from the multitude of options available.
  • The best friends diary room enables you to teleport your friends from far flung places in order to savour their company in person.  Please note that this service carries with it some challenges and best practice has discovered that the consumption of tea and biscuits or wine and crisps (dependent on the users preference) will assist in the optimal service use.

We are open to feedback and requests from our campers, so please feel free to come over and rub the magic lamp!

We look forward to returning refreshed women to homes at the end of each day.

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Baby overdue? A survival guide

The last month of pregnancy is the slowest since time began, it is well documented that it has 74 days. If your baby is too comfortable in the fluid filled home you have created for them, this can stretch to an extra 14 days.  Nobody ever thinks this will happen to them. You focus on the due date as if it is a target you will be lucky to reach, never considering that you might still be lumbering around awkwardly for a further two weeks.

Neither of my babies got the hint that it was time to vacate the premises and both of them had to be evicted!

I was born prematurely myself so having some notion that my first baby would definitely arrive early, I finished up in work four weeks before my due date. And was still pregnant six weeks later. I was climbing the walls (if climbing the walls looks like sitting on a yoga ball, crying and eating crisps). On my second I was more appreciative of the time at home….

I read an inordinate amount of articles on-line about how to induce labour. I was doing all I could to help nature along, but I was suffering with SPD and on crutches so wasn’t too mobile. I had two scheduled inductions at almost two weeks overdue with both babies. Having labour induced is no walk in the park but having been through it twice I have some practical advice.

 This isn’t a list of spicy curries, labour inducing cupcakes or aromatherapy oils, but a more realistic survival guide.

  1. As you will more than likely have gone past your due date, you will be tormented by well-meaning nosey bodies texting and calling non-stop looking for baby news. Buy yourself a large toblerone and every time a text reading something like “any sign of that baby?” pings into your phone, eat a triangle. Sure, you will go through that bad boy in record time but it’s not like you have much else to do.
  2. It can be fun to respond to those “any sign of the baby” questions with “oh god, did we forgot to tell you! It was a …” or have some stock newborn photos to reply with.
  3. Forget the batch cooking enthusiasts who would have you cook and freeze enough meals to sit out a zombie apocalypse and instead find yourself a bubblegum TV series to distract you. Dance moms was my particular poison.
  4. If you are being induced, I would really, really recommend keeping the date from as many people as you can. Being in labour is rough enough without your auntie Jean seeking a dilation update.
  5. Don’t expect to have your baby the same day you are induced. My daughter was two days old when I bumped into another mother who was induced at the same time as me, her baby was only a couple of hours old.
  6. On a practical level, some info on being induced: In most cases, the first thing tried is a gel. Which is basically inserted like a tampon. This may or may not get things going, and may or may not need to be repeated.
  7. Another route is the drip with Syntocinon, I needed this second time round when the gel didn’t work the same magic as the first time. Some people might go straight to the drip, policies differ everywhere. I’m told the contractions from the Syntocinon are three times stronger than natural contractions. Be prepared.
  8. You may end up with a c-section, the chances are higher when induced than going yourself. Just something to have in the back of your mind.
  9. I liked the assurance of being induced, of being in hospital with professionals around me monitoring me at all stages. There was no second guessing of “is it time to go to the hospital yet?” or being sent home because you weren’t far enough along.

If you don’t fancy getting to the point where any of the above apply to you, the word on the street suggests dusting down your apron to bake some lemon drop labour cookies to scoff after a vindaloo dinner before a night of passion…

This post first appeared on the wonderful M Word

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Bed-sharing – by order of the tiny tyrant

There were three in the bed and the little one said “roll over, roll over” so they all rolled over and Daddy fell out, Mammy took an elbow to the face and gave a shout.  That’s how we roll in my bedroom these days.

I remember us on our honeymoon, putting down time in an airport while we waited for our next flight to some other new fun destination.  Airports weren’t places of torture like they are now, they could be enjoyed to some extent.  We could shop, eat, drink and just pleasantly pass time.  I bought us two of those neck support pillows, one pink and one red, in the hope they would help make long flights more comfortable.

Fast forward seven years and the same neck pillows have been dusted off and are back in use.  Except we are not going anywhere.  Picture the scene – it’s cold and both parents are wearing warm hoodies in bed.  There are no pillows to be seen but both heads rest awkwardly on those damn u-shaped neck support excuse for a pillow.  The duvet only covers both parents to their waist.  And in the middle of the bed, all stretched out and delighted with himself is the tiny tyrant.

Bed-sharing didn’t come easy to me, I was terrified of sleeping with a small baby.  My older daughter had no interest in it whatsoever and while she couldn’t ever have been described as a good sleeper (although her categorisation did go up a couple of notches after her insomniac brother showed us just how bad it could be) she did sleep in her moses basket and cot.  She loved that cot, wouldn’t sleep in our bed at all, even if she was sick and I would have preferred to keep her close.  She slept in that cot until she was 3.5 and had to be prised out of it.  In contrast her two year old brother slept in it for one full night, just the once.  I’m not exaggerating.  Once.  The cot is long gone.

In that scene above we had decided to give bed-sharing a proper chance, seeing as he ended up in the bed with us anyway.  We took all safety precautions we could think of – no pillows, blankets etc., bubs was all cosy in his grobag, we were cold but hey cold and asleep beats warm and awake in my middle-of-the-night parenting reasoning.

From the moment he was born my son knew what he wanted and most definitely knew when he wasn’t getting it.  And what he wanted was me.  Always and forever, me.  I wanted to keep him close too and didn’t have any expectations of putting him down – his sister didn’t have any time for mama’s arms substitutes either.  But I didn’t anticipate that even when he was already asleep he would know so clearly, and so quickly, each and every time he was moved to the crib.

The midwives on the ward saw in him immediately what I would come to accept, and one built me a “fort” of pillows in an attempt to allow me get some sleep while he was in bed with me.  That terrified me altogether as even though they positioned the pillows in a way to make it as safe as possible, I remained unsure.  But he slept, I didn’t really and that was that.

Varying attempts at home to get him sleep in the moses basket failed.  Maybe he hated the moses basket and would like the space of a cot we thought!  But space wasn’t what he wanted, he was happiest when tucked into the crook of my arm.  We also took the side off the cot and positioned it at my side of the bed so he could technically be “in” the cot but still beside me.  That didn’t really work either.

He is two and a half now, and a few months ago we got him a toddler bed.  The very first night he slept through the night in it!  We didn’t sleep of course as couldn’t relax wondering what was going and where he was.  That was a initial anomaly in the sleep pattern though and hasn’t been repeated.

He goes asleep in his little bed after many stories.  When he first wakes he can be easily soothed back to sleep in his bed.  When he wakes a second time he could be helped back to sleep and sometimes is, but depending on the time it is usually just easier to pick him up (along with the three teddies that accompany him everywhere) and install him in the middle of our bed.  Most nights he cuddles up against me and goes back asleep.  Other nights, like last night, he has nightmares are screams out so I like being there instantly to calm him.  He still dislikes blankets and spends a disproportionate amount of time kicking them all off.

He will inevitably sit up and announce he wants to “lie on mammy” so I become his pillow.  Nearly every single morning I wake to a big smile from my little boy.  I may sleep on a 6 inch corner of the bed as he encroaches on my room, but I know it won’t last forever.  He won’t still be sleeping between my husband and I when he’s going his leaving cert.  If he is, we have bigger problems.

Bed-sharing isn’t for everyone and ideally I would prefer if we all slept happily and well in our own beds.  But when the option is sleep together rather than awake apart, it’s an easy one to make.