Happiness. I owe it to my daughter.

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Post Natal Depression is a horribly selfish illness. Not selfish in the way that many assume, not always selfish in the “I don’t want to spend time with my child, I want my own life back” way that is the common perception. But, for me at least, selfish nonetheless.

I feel guilty all the time, I constantly feel like I am failing my daughter, (despite much evidence to the contrary) and I often find myself crying without reason. The selfish side is in my lack of happiness. My daughter is a happy, smiling, amazing girl. At 9 months she is the light in the dark, and thankfully, she seems completely unaware that her mother is a wreck. But I fear this will not last. My PND is selfish because I owe it to her to be happy.

Like all parents I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. She can be rich, famous, intelligent, married, single, unemployed, a stay at home mother, a business woman or anything else she wants, I don’t mind what path she chooses for her life, as long as she is happy.

My daughter will learn from me. Like it or not, I am the most influential person in her life. Therefore, I want my influence to be a good one. My happiness is essential, not for my own mental health, but for hers.

Imagine the following; as a child of six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk the kitchen floor, it smashes and the milk goes everywhere. She says, ‘Whooops, never mind, accidents happen.’ As a child, learning from their mother, you will learn not to panic, you will learn that accidents happen and are not the end of the world.

Alternatively, at age six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk on the floor and she says, ‘Oh no, what a disaster! I keep getting things wrong, I am so stupid and can never do anything right, now everything is ruined, I spoil everything.’ As a child learning from their mother in this situation your learning would be very different. You would learn that mistakes are awful, that there is blame and that when things go wrong it is very difficult to fix.

I do not want this for my daughter. I want her to learn love, to learn happiness and to learn resilience.

I want her to have what I call “bouncebackability”. I don’t want her to spend her life full of anxiety, jealousy, concern, sadness or fear. I want her to get back up after falls. I want her smile and intelligence to change the world.

Therefore I need to be a role model. If I want her to be happy, to be calm and to be confident then that is what she must see in me.

Happiness. I owe it to her.

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How did I fall in love with boobs? How did I get from there to here?

How did I get here? How did I become the breastfeeding obsessed lady that I am today? When and where did it happen?

Let me paint you a picture.

As a child, like most, I bottle fed my dolls. I didn’t really think about breastfeeding so I didn’t have an opinion on it either way.

Until the early weeks of my own daughter’s life I had always assumed I was breastfed as a baby.It turns out that I wasn’t for long. (due to pain- as tongue ties are hereditary I suspect I also have one, but that’s another story.)

Fast forward a few years to teenagerdom. The arrival in my life of Little Britain’s “Bitty” and documentaries made to shock, showing fully grown children tearing at their mothers shirts for milk as soon as they leave the school gates. Again, I was relatively uneducated about breastfeeding, having had little experience or thoughts about it, so I remained fairly ambiguous in my feelings towards it. I suppose I thought it was a matter of choice but there were lots of “crazy hippies” who went “too far” and that was “gross”.

Skip ahead a few more years. Hormones and natural maternal instinct had completely overwhelmed me and I knew, that more than anything in the world, I had to be a Mum. And yet, still, breastfeeding hadn’t crossed my mind one way or the other.

Then, the time came when family and friends were having children and I watched them feed. I was alarmed by how restricted those who breastfed were and when one friend fed well into toddlerhood I was secretly horrified. I was very much of the opinion, sadly like most people, that once baby had teeth or could ask for the milk then it was well beyond time to stop.

I had mummy friends on Facebook who regularly posted about feeding. Always a believer in standing up for people’s rights I read with anger the stories of women who were asked to move or stop feeding, and I started to read and understand the health benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding. I decided I would probably breastfeed my baby when it was little.

Finally my turn came. My husband and I were delighted to discover that we were expecting our baby so soon after getting married. We attended antenatal classes and prepared ourselves for the birth and beyond. At the start of my pregnancy I had to stop taking some medication as it was not tested during pregnancy or breastfeeding. I was managing the pregnancy OK but we knew that if it needed I may have to restart them after birth- meaning the choice to breastfeed may not be in my hands.

The day came and my happiness was born. And I hated breastfeeding. My breastfeeding journey has already been shared with you so I won’t repeat myself, but suffice to say, it wasn’t an easy path. It took a lot of work, and in those early days, (even weeks) I frequently wished that I did in fact need to restart my medication and felt betrayed by a body, that was finally being healthy, at the one time I wanted it not to be.

So how did I get here? I am positively boob obsessed. I am now the friend that won’t stop talking about my boobs, or indeed other people’s boobs. I am the hippy crazy mother who wants to feed beyond teeth and into toddlerdom. What has made me this way?

I think it’s the fact that it was difficult. Had I have found it easy I perhaps wouldn’t have valued it as much.

Perhaps it’s because I like to shock. I like to argue. I long for someone to tell me to cover up, but in reality this has never happened, but I can’t pretend that a small part of me doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to preach to the misinformed.

At the start, the insecure me really wanted other people to have problems too, I didn’t want to suffer alone and I assumed that everybody would be breastfeeding. I really didn’t want this to become yet another area that I was ashamed of.

The true picture is very different and I was surprised to learn how few people in this country do actually breastfeed for the initial six months and even less beyond. 

This gave my confidence a huge boost. I have succeeded at something that not many others do. (despite the struggles) And I guess that’s why. Why I want others to know that I breastfeed.

It makes me proud. I want a “well done”, a “congratulations”, hell, maybe even a “I admire you, I couldn’t do it.”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a little bit superior to those that don’t try to breastfeed, but more than that I want to teach them. I want to educate and inform and share my love of boobs.

But most of all, I’m obsessed because I know, that evidence has shown, I am doing the right thing for my daughter.

A mind marathon?

The Diary of an Insecure Mother

Suggestions needed for a challenge please.

I am forever inspired by and in awe of those who can climb mountains, run marathons or succeed at some other physical challenge.

I can not. Sport is not my thing. I am not physically fit, and although I am in reasonable health I was not designed to put my body through that kind of stress.

I do however, constantly strive to better myself, to rise to, and to complete a challenge. I thrive on the attention and praise of such an event, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and I long for the pride and happiness success brings.

But what can I do? I want it to be something that I need to work at, something easy would negate the point.

I want something with a measurable end result. So I can see success and so others can share it.

I want something…

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The definition of perfect has changed

“I was waiting for the perfect moment, but you are upset, and I am ill, but this is life, and life is perfect. Will you marry me?”

These words, from my now husband, have stayed with me. Not just because, as expected, I remember the moment he proposed, but because he was right.

You can’t spend your life waiting for the perfect moment.

Perfect has changed.

As a young child I dreamt of the perfect grown up life. Playing at house I had a doll that grew teeth when you squeezed her leg and one that wetted nappies on demand. I dressed up in my mum’s shoes and wore peel off nail varnish as a treat. I enjoyed making mud cakes and instructing my toys how to make the perfect sandcastle in the sandpit. I would be rich and famous, probably as a Blue Peter presenter.

Now my house is a mess, my daughter is not a doll I can control at the press of a button and I rarely cook. I do not have the perfect body and I still don’t see myself as a proper grown up.

But perfect has changed.

My house may not be immaculate, but it is mine. Actually it is ours, and that makes it all the more prefect. Every dusty corner, and every overflowing bin was worked for. Every carpet (all of them Storm!) was our choice. Each table, each chair, each coffee matt, has been put their by us. Yes, some may be hand me downs, and they don’t all match, but we have made a home.
And to me, it is perfect.

I have stretch marks, I have scars and at the age of 30 I still get acne. My body is far from the one shown to us in magazines as perfect. I am mismatched and unbalanced. I have boobs so big that they have gone beyond sexy and hit scary, and a chin that sticks out like a witches. But, for the first time in my life, I am wearing size 8 jeans and I am starting to like the way I look. On a good day I can look in the mirror and smile, and my husband always tells me I am beautiful.
To him, I am perfect.

My daughter cries, she scratches and she bites. She does not sleep through the night and she constantly has a runny nose. Her skin is not flawless and her hair is patchy. But she has a smile that can light up the darkest of days and a laugh that sounds like golden raindrops. She is clever and bright and strong beyond all measure. She crawls, and nearly walks, at such a young age and is settled and confident with new people. She is healthy and she is growing well. She smells like happiness and her eyes show a million thoughts in one go.
She is, in every possible way, completely and utterly perfect.

I am not a genius. There are far too many questions on University Challenge that I don’t understand and I nod and smile too often in conversations. I frequently have to look up definitions or ask for my husbands support and I am not as up to date with politics as I would like to be. But I am educated and qualified. I am good (with outstanding features) at my job and students and parents thank me often. I am certainly not a mensa candidate, but my brain does its job, and is working hard to improve itself every day.
And to me, it is perfect.

My health is poor, plagued by asthma all my life I am still invariably in need of steroids at least three times a year. Chest infections and throat infections are a regular occurrence. But they are part of what makes me me. And, to those worse off than me, I am sure my health is seen as perfect.

I have an obsessive and jealous personality. I am attention seeking, lazy and and judgmental. But I am kind, I spend hours plotting and planning exciting surprises for family and I lose sleep worrying about my students. When I love it is beyond all measure and I will fight for those that need me for as long as I can breathe. I give second chances and I run with new ideas.
To many, my personality is not perfect, but to me, it’s just the way it should be.

I do not have hundreds of friends. I am not little miss popular and I annoy people easily. People drift in and out of my life and tire of my insecurities easily. But I have friends I can rely on – friends I can turn to and friends that turn to me. Some I speak to daily, others much less often, but regardless of how often I see them, I can proudly say, without any doubt, I have some perfect friends.

My family is closer to that in a soap opera than that in an classic novel. We argue, we fight and we make each other cry. We have secrets and skeletons in the closet. But we make each other laugh and smile. We make each other proud and we share each others achievements. There is no problem I could ever face that I couldn’t find at least one family member to support me.
They are, without question, perfect.

I am not rich and I am not famous. We have enough money to pay the bills, (most of the time) and we work hard for that. I do not host a chat show or perform nightly on stage. But I am respected, I have had a impact on people’s lives and I have made a positive difference. I have money for the things I need and I am rich in love.
To me, that is perfect.

Perfect. Messy hair, handprints on windows, snot on my tights, bills on the doormat, confused looks, stretch marks and washing up piles. Arguing and tears, shouting and screaming. Spots and scars and far too many dirty nappies. And smiles and laughter and, above all, love.

The definition of perfect has changed.

Thank you darling. You have taught me so much, and this is a lesson I will work hard to live by.

Stop waiting for the perfect moment, and make the moment perfect.

In fear of stopping

Doing nothing sounds like an easy achievement. But the ability to just be is one that we find increasingly hard in today’s world.

Am I the only person that is scared of doing nothing? Scared of stopping for fear of what will happen next?

I feel guilty all the time. All the time. When I am working I feel guilty not to be playing with my daughter. When I am playing with my daughter my work to do list is running over and over in the back of my mind. The idea of just sitting, doing neither of these things is an alarming one. Of course, I do, I’m doing so right now in fact. My daughter is asleep and my laptop is off.

But I have not stopped.

When was the last time you just sat? Not listening to music, chatting, reading, writing, working or watching TV? I can’t remember either.

Silence scares me. Instead I over stimulate. TV, phone, chatting and a magazine to the side are a standard for me. Even at night time I need some background noise. In silence I can think. Think clearly and think properly. And then I get sad.

If I am not regularly chatting, on emails, on Facebook or on my phone then I could be missing out. I don’t know what on- but that’s the point. Social anxiety is becoming more prevalent and my fear of rejection makes stopping a truly dangerous thing.

On top of this is the pressure to be perfect. Perfect people do not stop. They are busy all the time. Even when they are relaxing they are busy. They make relaxing look like a fine art, something that I strive to achieve. Massages, holidays, food and usually ‘nice’ things become a pressure to do right.

As a result I am always doing. Scared to stop for fear of failure. Failing to stopproperly, failing to complete the to do list. Failing to be included, failing to be perfect.

If I stop, then, with no paraphernalia of life surrounding me, I am just me. And that is the scariest thing of all.

A life of contradictions.

Does anyone else battle internally on a regular basis? My life appears to be one big contradiction.

I want to be a feminist and the perfect little wife.

I want to be strong, but I want to be looked after.

I am proud of judging people on merit not looks, but I so want to be beautiful.

I want me time, but I don’t want to give up my commitments.

I want to be noticed, but I want to hide away behind an invisibility cloak.

I want to stand out, and I want to be “normal”.

I want to be happy, but not forgotten.

I want to be fit and healthy, but still vulnerable enough to be looked after.

I want to be honest to the world, but I also want everyone to think I am great.

I want to be a grown up, and a fairy.

I want to be whisked off my feet, and be the only two people in the world, but I want everyone to know how happy I am.

I want to be myself, and to be someone else.

I want people to like me, and I want to not care if they don’t.

I want a fight, but not a reason for one.

I want to stand up for my beliefs, but not to have to defend myself.

I want to be recognised for my intelligence, but also seen as “girly”.

I am beginning to see why my brain is so confused. Perhaps I need to pick a side. What is more important to me?

Snot on my tights, my life as a working mother.

I often read posts arguing why being a stay at home mother is harder than working full time, or why working from home is tougher than being a working mother. Well, here is my argument.
Why working part time does not make me a part time mother. (and is, in my opinion, the hardest of the lot.)

Context first. I am a teacher. I work 3.5 days a week and ‘finish’ a day without meetings at 3.30. I have no more than 7 weeks in a term before at least a week ‘off’. (those who teach, or know teachers, will understand the irony of the terms ‘finish’ and ‘off’.)

I work at home in the evenings. This means that despite getting home at 4.30 and having time with my daughter, my working day often does not really finish until gone 11pm.

Lack of sleep. Being a breastfed 8 month old my daughter still wakes at night for milk. (about which I am NOT complaining before anyone tells me to ‘stick her on the bottle’). Functioning at home on limited sleep is tough. Functioning at work, surrounded by other peoples teenagers, when I have had less than 4 hours sleep, or been awake since 3am, requires patience in bucketloads.

Early and rushed starts to the day.
I get up, (when I’ve not been woken up already) at 6am, run the bath then breastfeed my daughter while it runs. My husband takes over while I bath and then I dress and dry my hair while she watches. (her favourite acitivity of the day!) She has breakfast in her vest before a full clean up and being dressed herself. On a day when I work a full day, we are, all three of us, out the house by 7.20. At some point during the morning dance her nappy is changed, my lunch is made, our bags are packed and she plays. She wipes her nose on my tights and is sick on my top. Sometimes I have time to change before work.

Meetings and parents evenings. There are days I don’t get home until gone 6. Missing lots of quality time. Worse still are the parents evenings when I am not home until gone 8.30. Returning to a sleeping baby that I want so badly to wake and cuddle.

I can’t switch off. Ever. About either role. I’m a teacher because I care. I worry daily about grades, assessments and planning. I worry more about the pastoral side of matters, finding myself lying awake worrying about X’s fight with their parents or Y’s low self esteem. I spend my weekends thinking about how to differentiate for those with additional needs, while still making sure that the gifted are stretched and reach their true potential. THEN, while at work, I can’t switch off mummy mode. Constantly wondering what my darling is up to. Does she miss me? Is her cough OK? Did the nursery remember that she likes to be cuddled to sleep for her afternoon nap? Has her nappy been changed? Is she getting enough attention? Will she forgive me for working and not spending time with her when she is old enough to understand?

Disjointed social life. In the evenings I don’t want to go out drinking with my teacher friends, I want to be at home with my girl. In the day I can’t go to soft play with my mummy friends as I am stuck at work.  On my days off I cram in as much as I possibly can, but feel sad when they plan events on days I have to work.

Missing moments. I hate missing my daughters firsts. This needs no further explanation and is one of the things that makes me want to stop working the most.

Part time teaching is never really part time. If you work part time in other fields, for example retail, 3.5 days a week would mean that on the 3.5 days you are not working, you do not need to work. You show me a teacher who does not work weekends, or a part time teacher who does not work on their days off, and I will show you their mammoth, never to be completed, to do list. Emails don’t stop being sent because it is your day off, and deadline don’t change. Staff forget that you are not in school and expect work turned around as quickly as it was when you were full time.

Aspirations do not go part time. I want to get involved with everything in both roles. Having always been keen to help others this now works in both of my lives. At work I will volunteer to mentor, to give up breaktimes for homework support, to call parents and help with revision. At home I want to join committees, I want to run groups, to organise coffee mornings and to take my daughter to every group and session that I can possibly fit in.

Two way guilt and lack of me time.
When I am working I feel guilty that I should be playing with my girl. When I am playing then the pile of marking stares at me, shouting at me to remind me that I have year 11 again tomorrow and they need their feedback. At the end of the day, when little one sleeps, and marking is complete, I finally have some time to myself. But it is now 11pm and I know that if I don’t sleep now then two lots of year 9 first thing could be my breaking point.

The truth is, I am not part time at either job. I am a full time mummy and a full time teacher. And, despite how much I love my job, there is no question in my mind about which I prefer.