Parenting

That Mum

August 10, 2017

 

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photo by kama catch me

I read, quite a lot actually. Which surprised me, especially in those first few weeks with Rafa (who didn’t sleep much). In those early weeks I was devouring books at a pace that surprised me. It’s in my nature to turn to books: for solace and for information. I’ve since read a lot of books about child development and yes, parenting. Growing the human seemed like the easier part. The more I read I notice sometimes subtly and other times more obviously how “that mum” is often mocked, and how that ”other” mum is praised.

It seems easier for people to hear “parenting is hard, this shit sucks, today my baby screamed, pooped on the rug and vomited on me.” This mum seems to be congratulated for her honesty. This mum is the mum literature suggests is an accurate representation of motherhood and the realities of parenting.

Much harder, it appears, for people to hear is “I’m so tired, but we had a great day. I managed to get to the green grocer, got a healthy meal on the table, took my child to the art gallery and got a fluffy and hot chocolate on the way home.” This mum, no one wants to know her. And if they do, it’s only to ridicule her unfair, and dishonest representation of motherhood.

After reading many version of the latter description and the ensuing analysis that this type of mum is unrealistic to aspire to, and the suggestions that this mum is somewhat fictional and not good for herself or her child. I felt disheartened and was left feeling that my experience of motherhood shouldn’t be shared or spoken about beyond my absolute inner circle. Or that if asked how things were going, I must under no circumstance talk about that latter description. No. I must instead mention how tired I am, and then society will comfort me, offer me ‘support’ in the form of tremendously unhelpful words.

You see, friends, I did find parenting shitty – those first few weeks. I didn’t find them joyful. I was over the moon and so in love with my child, but there was no magic in it. He cried, he didn’t seem to want to sleep anywhere other than on me, I was so tired and so sore. It wasn’t until later that he started engaging with me, doing things, interacting with the world that the magic began. Back then, there were so many messages from new mums saying thank you, I was too scared to say this, or yes, this is what it’s like for me too.

Now. Now things are very different and they have been very different for a while. I absolutely love the days that Rafa and I share together. Sure we argue – like in any relationship. But I cross my heart, we manage splendid trips to the greengrocer, read, play, make a mess, get dinner done, enjoy an outing (either the museum, art gallery, or the park, or some place, any place), and then a cafe date, and then at around 4pm we clean up the toys together. Lately, Rafa has loved vacuuming so we vacuum. I might spend the early evening baking. There’s a little bit of time of read, a little more to work (either creative or professional) and some for Patrick and I.

I’m by no means the perfect mother. I’m learning so much from other parents, from books, from Rafa. From failing, spectacularly (often). The reason that I write this is because I truly do not feel like one type of mother should be placed on a pedestal. I can’t talk about shitty, crappy days if I don’t have them (the same way I can’t talk about a child that naps for 3 hours in the day, because I’ve never had one that does that). And being dishonest about my experience would be a disservice to my child, to our children. But for so long I shied from talking about our days because they weren’t full of poo explosion, vomit down my clothes or drama. I felt that, that was all people wanted to hear about. No one wanted to know that Rafa and I spent almost 40 minutes sitting and putting stickers on paper (which really is a wonderful activity to strengthen hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills).

I want to be able to freely express my mothering and my motherhood experience. And you should be able to freely express yours. Whatever it maybe. And however you choose to express yours (expletives and all, if you choose).  What I don’t want to do is say “so tiring” in answer to “‘how is it going?”, I want to answer honestly, which at this point in time is “wonderfully! I feel like we’re both thriving!” The mum that I AM, that’s the mum I want to be and to talk about. “THAT MUM”, is the mum that I am at this point in time. I want to hear about the mum that you are, whatever and however she maybe. We might have a thing or two to learn from each other, or perhaps, we’ll just sit quietly with nothing to offer the other except silent strength and a safe space to be “that mum”.

On Thriving In Motherhood

May 12, 2017

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Initially I was going to title this “On Surviving Motherhood” but I don’t want to survive motherhood. It’s not something that you painstakingly endure, or rather it shouldn’t be. No. I want to thrive in this mysterious, all-consuming, endless journey of motherhood. After talking to friends online and offline about thriving in motherhood, I’ve tried to articulate a few things that have helped me. You may, or may not, gleam something that interests or helps you continue to be that thriving mother that I’m sure you already are.

Just say no. No explanation needed. No to extra work. No to social engagements you really don’t want to go to. Say no thank you and leave it at that. It is extremely liberating.

Baby needs friends. I’m not sure he or she does, well not really at 13 months. And certainly not every. single.day. From the beginning I tried to ensure there was enough balance in our schedule – time with other children for Rafa, home time, mumma and Rafa time, daddy and Rafa time. But as groups grow (in terms of members) naturally activities and engagement increase. I’m scaling back. Not because I don’t like our friends (on the contrary, I love our friends) but I also miss the alone time with Rafa. So, the lesson here is just to keep an eye on how much friend time and group time you end you having. There’s a sweet spot. Too little or too much and you’ll go crazy!

Mumma needs friends. Like baby. Not every. single.day. But I really miss my friends. And I miss spending time with them without children. I also miss conversations about things other than children. Judge if you like – but I talk about and think about my child and how to be a better mother every moment of every day. I need a moment, once a week even, just to talk about work, social issues, what book everyone is reading. A friend mentioned enjoying a book in the sun a month ago – I still haven’t had a moment to ask her what book it was. I’m also aware that you can’t get everyone together and say “okay no talk about children.” We’re making a little more effort to spend time with our friends who don’t have children. Even if we have Rafa with us, it’s natural to talk about him for a while, but then we talk about what everyone else is doing and what we’re doing apart from parenting (and we are doing a lot else, like I’m sure you are too). I feel so much better after having meaningful conversations about life.  I’ve also shared this post on keeping good company.

Don’t forget the other parents/ Don’t forget dads. Involving Patrick in everything has made parenting so much easier. It is almost instinctive to want to do everything for Rafa. Or thinking, I do it better, so I may as well do it myself. Or, I can deal with Rafa quicker, so I should do it. Luckily Patrick has been quite adamant that even if things take longer or don’t get done the way I would do it, he is still going to do them. It has made my life as a mother so enjoyable. I can leave during the middle of the day to go shopping or to a cafe. I can go to dinners and drinks. Or just to a yoga class without worrying about Rafa. He is with his father after all.

Don’t listen to anyone else. Oh the irony. Sharing my opinion is in no way prescriptive. I share because often I’ve looked for information and suggestions and been unable to find it. Often just to get an insight and a glimpse of how everyone else is managing these uncharted waters. Ultimately, you listen to yourself. Your moods, your body, your child and of course the impact your decisions are having on your family dynamics.

These are just a few things that I’ve realised over time that have made me calmer and happier amidst the chaos of my everyday reality.

A Day In The Life

April 27, 2017

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This was a non-work day for me and a day on which I had cancelled our plans in favor of some quiet at home time.

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5.55am I wake up (naturally, without an alarm clock!). Couple time.
6.15am I hear Rafa wake up, I’m in bed reading.
6.30am Get out of bed to get Rafa. He has a feed. Get him dressed.
6.52am Patrick hands me a hot chocolate, made the way I like it, on the stove top. Patrick finishes making Rafa’s porridge.
7am We’re all at the table for breakfast (all having porridge with puffed amaranth. Patrick and I have banana, Rafa is over bananas).
7.20am Rafa excused from the table. Patrick and I sit for a few more minutes and go through our day.
7.30am I go and have a shower and get ready.
7.47am I’m ready. Patrick goes to shower and gets ready. Rafa plays around me while I take some photos for Instagram and the blog. We read two story books. Rafa’s walking around with my old iPhone with the music playing. I edit some photos on my phone. 8.30am Patrick leaves for work. We carry on as we were.
8.45am – 8.55am Breastfeeding. Drawing with Rafa.
9.15am Vacuum the lounge – just a quick 5 minute vacuum. We color, sing, dance and read. I read for a while and Rafa reads around me. Change his nappy.
11.15am – 11.25am I get the dough ready to make rotis later. Cuddles with Rafa.
11.55am Get Rafa ready to nap.
12pm Rafa’s asleep. I start rolling out the roti and cooking them.
12.45pm I hear Rafa. I’m almost done making the roti so I leave him in his cot.
1pm I finish the roti. Breastfeed Rafa.
1.15pm We both sit at the table and have lunch together.
1.45pm I read and Rafa plays.
2.10pm Breastfeeding. Again. Rafa has been feeding quite often lately.
2.18pm Attempting to change Rafa’s nappy. He doesn’t keep still.
2.26pm F
inally! A fresh nappy on Rafa. We go for a walk.
3pm – 4.30pm I swear all I did was constantly feed him in between trying to distract him from feeding.
4.30pm Exhausted from the constant feeding, I decide it’s an early dinner for Rafa boy.
4.45pm Patrick’s home. He sits with Rafa and I at the table, snacking and talking. We then have a little play.
5.30pm Patrick gives Rafa a bath and then we have some wind down time together.
6pm Rafa’s in bed. Patrick and I are chatting on the sofa. We have an early dinner.
7.15pm I leave for my yoga nidra class.
7.30pm – 8.30pm Yoga nidra.
8.49pm I get home, drink a big bottle of water and flop onto the couch with Patrick who is reading.
9.30pm I’m bed bed reading. I’m sure I’m asleep by 10pm.

Previous A Day In The Life posts here.

Interview with Skinfood New Zealand

April 21, 2017

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We don’t really have a bucket list. Instead we have a criteria as we often keep going back to places we’ve already traveled to as we love getting to know these places better. Timor Leste was a country I really wanted to visit and we went a few years ago. We try to vary our travels and look at it in terms of three countries/trips per year: there’s usually a trip home to Fiji, a trip back to somewhere we’ve been already and a trip to somewhere new. One year the priority was traveling around Fiji so we stuck to that. We’re hoping to do more of the Pacific, especially the Micronesian islands, as a matter of priority given the effects of climate change on them.”

I don’t do interviews too often, but in the last few months I’ve done a few that I’ve really enjoyed. In this interview with Skinfood New Zealand I talk about blogging, working and mothering, travel and how we decide where to go and some favorite skincare tips for mum and bub.

The full interview is available here.

Birthdays, Culture And Traditions

April 19, 2017

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Rafa has a vibrant mixture of cultural heritage that we’re keen on incorporating into everyday life. In addition to cultural heritage, there’s also a variety of religious influences, variety in family lifestyles and languages (we speak three different ones in our home). We’re doing our best to make as much of it accessible to him as we can.

For Rafa’s first birthday we tried to incorporate a few different elements of culture and new activities that we hope will become tradition over the years.

Clothing Rafa’s auntie and god mother sent him the traditional masi pieces to wear, and my mum sent him the traditional garland salusalu. Rafa managed the masi for a few minutes but wouldn’t let us get the salusalu on him. For his party in Fiji he wore the traditional Fijian sulu vakatanga (skirt with pockets – pictured here).

Candles The priest who baptized Rafa suggested that we light his baptismal candle every year on his birthday. We loved that idea, it would be such a wonderful way to actually use the candle. We took his candle to Fiji and had it lit next to his birthday cake. The other new tradition we’ve added is to keep and re-use his birthday candle. I bought 100% New Zealand beeswax (non-drip) candles from here for this purpose. We have decided not to have a party for him every birthday, but it’ll be nice to bring the candle out each year and put it on a muffin or a slice of cake.

Gifts and Giving This year instead of gifts we asked friends to contribute a book to the children’s reading space we support in Fiji. Each year for Rafa’s birthday we hope to help Rafa contribute to community projects and to embrace the spirit of giving. Obviously we aim to do this throughout the year, but we want to move the focus from receiving on his birthday to giving and helping him see the value in that.

Words I’ve been writing to Rafa since he was Peanut, just a little wriggly baby in my tummy. Patrick and I each contribute a letter to his box of special things for him to read when he’s older. From his first birthday party there are notes for him to read when he’s 18. There’s a letter from me for him to read when he’s 21. And a letter from Patrick describing the day Rafa came into the world.

It is quite early to say which will become traditions. Time will influence these, as well as Rafa’s personality and interests. And of course where we’re living. Introducing elements of culture, religion, language and creating traditions need not be complicated. They might include a certain cultural dish, happy birthday sung in the vernacular or the presence of a special object placed on the table as you share a family meal.

Patrick and I thought a lot about throwing Rafa this birthday party. We tend not to celebrate birthdays, choosing instead to try to make each day special. By finding meaningful activities to incorporate into the day we were able to create something that was truly special to us as parents and helped us create a gathering that went beyond a ‘birthday party’. We were able to create a celebration that encompassed our family values.

Rafa’s First Birthday Party

April 17, 2017

It’s almost the middle of April, but it takes a while for the dust to settle on some things. Rafa only turned one in March. We had two birthday parties during which to comprehend our new born turning into a walking and talking human. And three birthday cakes to help sweeten the bitter-sweetness of moments gone. Once the presents were dealt with, the thank you notes posted and the keepsakes securely tucked away the reality of having a one year old in the home finally hit us. For the moment though, I wish to revisit the simplicity of his first birthday party.

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Venue Like many of our past unfussy gatherings (such as this one and this one), we wanted Rafa’s birthday to celebrate not only him and our first year as parents, but also community. Our community of friends here in Dunedin and the Dunedin city community, especially the cafe culture, that is so integral to the lives we live. We ended up having the party at Wolf At The Door. The owner Troy is a kindly, creative soul who has catered a few of our past gatherings with great success. It was a real treat being able to have the cafe all to ourselves for a few hours.

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Food Troy put together vegetarian and salmon crostini featuring beautiful local and fresh ingredients. Troy and his team also took care of the birthday cake, a dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a raspberry coulis. We left the cake as it was, only added a simple cake topper with Rafa’s name from Love From Seventeen and this 100% beeswax (non-drip) candle from Black Bird Goods.

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I put together little boxes of treats for the children in these window boxes from Pop Roc Parties. The children had snacks of rice crackers, cheese and grapes. For drinks, the children had the Rebel Kitchen Kids Mylk from Natural Things. The boxes were also perfect for sending people home with leftovers!

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Decor We didn’t worry too  much about decorations as the cafe had amazing art work and beautiful flower arrangements from Twigs n Twine. We did however have some helium-filled balloons with photos of Rafa as a baby hanging from them. This was ultimately a lovely addition for those who didn’t know Rafa in those early weeks.

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We asked our friends not to buy gifts for Rafa, instead we invited them to help us continued to build the children’s reading space we support in Fiji. Our friends were so generous in the thought and quality of books they chose for the space. We wanted Rafa to have special reminders of his birthday party, so in addition to asking our friend Veronica Eastell to take photos on the day, we invited our friends to leave Rafa little notes to read when he’s 18. They are all safely stored in his special box (which we got from Keeps NZ).

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We attempted to get Rafa into the traditional Fijian masi and we were successful albeit for a few seconds. He wasn’t unhappy for too long though. Once the masi was off, and he was on the floor playing with his friends and eating Indian doughnuts which were made especially for him by a friend he was in absolute heaven…

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…and he had a dirty face and messy clothes to prove it!

Rafa also had a birthday party in Fiji, but there’ll be no more parties until he’s ten…Patrick said six. We’ll work it out!

Why I’m Not Using Cloth Nappies

March 13, 2017

When we were preparing for Rafa’s arrival I didn’t consider cloth nappies. Not for a moment. It’s not that I don’t care about the environment – I do. It’s just the work required didn’t fit our family situation. You see, it’s just the three of us. Patrick, Rafa and I. We didn’t have family or friends over to help once he was born, or afterwards. We were doing everything, including working, and having to run nappies in the wash wasn’t something that we had time or the mental clarity for. We also live in a city apartment and all our washing gets done in the washing machine and then the dryer, with only a little drying rack on the side. It didn’t make any sense for us to use cloth nappies and have our energy consumption increase dramatically. It just seemed counter intuitive.

Luckily, these days there are so many eco-conscious alternatives that fit situations like ours. We’ve tried a few brands and tried to balance what they offered with the price point. The last set of eco-friendly disposable nappies we tried were the Naty Nappies along with Naty Sensitive Wipes. To be honest, many disposable nappies that are eco-friendly end up being disappointing because they aren’t as effective at doing what they’re supposed to do. They sacrifice effectiveness for eco-friendliness, which means you ultimately end up having to use more and more of these often quite expensive nappies. I saw that Naty products had the tag line “go green without giving up performance” which I was hopeful for but wasn’t convinced of.

We’ve had a really good experience with the Naty nappies. They are only available online via The Baby Bag (which in itself is a fantastic company that delivers weekly baby supplies and has a great range of products for families). We got two different sizes to try on Rafa, as he was straddling the weight ranges. The Naty nappies are hypoallergenic, disposable and naturally breathable. Patrick and I were really curious about the outer layer of the nappy, it felt so soft – I did some research and found out it was made from organic, GMO-free corn. In addition to the nappies, we also tried the Naty Sensitive Wipes, which are cholrine-free, perfume-free and completely compostable.

Products like these eco-friendly nappies and compostable wipes, made it easier for me to not feel guilty about not wanting to use cloth nappies. These products provide an eco-conscious yet convenient alternative to cloth nappies. In terms of price point, Naty nappies are more expensive then the run of the mill disposable nappies (a pack of 26 Naty nappies are between $20-$22) while the wipes are incredibly reasonably  priced at $4 per pack (of 57 wipes). While eco-friendly nappies are more expensive, they work out cheaper for us compared to having to run the washer and dryer constantly, and it also works out cheaper for us to use these nappies then it would be to spend our time dealing with cloth nappies, when we could be working or spending time doing fun things as a family.

I think cloth nappies really are a great alternative to disposable nappies, without a doubt, absolutely no arguments from me on this point. If your daily lives allow for the realities that accompany cloth nappies, that’s perfect. But where it does not, it’s nice to know there’s an effective and reasonable middle ground. To also help the situation along, we’ve introduced Rafa to the toilet and try to get him on it a few times a day. If he’s able to start using the toilet sooner, then we’ll be done with nappies and wipes sooner too.

You can find out more Naty products and other eco and child-friendly products at The Baby Bag.

*This post was created in conjunction with The Baby Bag, all opinions are my own.

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