I am a thirty five year old woman, with two children, a five year old girl and a boy who is nearly two. I will have been married for six years this summer. I work full time as a specialty doctor in emergency medicine, and until very recently I worked as a teacher on top of that, teaching the newly qualified doctors. I officially live in a city, but in honesty it’s more like a small country town, close to the sea. My daughter is now at school full time and my husband is a stay at home Dad, looking after our boy whilst I’m out at work.
If I am expected to state my motherhood tribe I suppose I would be an ‘attachment parent.’ That wasn’t necessarily my choice, but rather the choice of my nuclear bomb baby. I chose survival over whatever idealised views I had had on motherhood before another human being had emerged from my body, and I suppose I am now a full blown convert. I am staunchly not the sort of convert who thinks I know all the answers, who thinks that everybody else needs to join up too, who thinks that what works for my family will obviously work for everybody else’s families, or who thinks that finding a way to survive being a mother makes me, or my children, special or super! Anybody who ever tells you they have found the magic answer to parenthood, just laugh and walk away.
I co-sleep. With both my children and my husband. We have an enormous bed that is actually three beds, and one big bedroom that houses us all. About six months ago, for the first time ever I attempted to get my children into their own room, and after six weeks of no sleep for anybody I was very happy to give in and go back to what works for us. I may give it another go in another five years, but I’m in no rush. Recently I have started sleeping downstairs in the spare room occasionally when I have a shift that finishes very late, and I have come to treasure those nights as a little treat to myself, though as an incurable insomniac I don’t necessarily sleep any better.
I full term breastfeed. My daughter fed till she was over three years old and I was 34 weeks pregnant. One morning she went to latch on and it was as if she had forgotten what to do. The next time she tried the same thing happened. Then she stopped trying. Even now occasionally she’ll ask for boob, I always say yes, but she can’t latch, it’s more like a quick kiss and then she gets on with her day. Her brother is still going strong, with no end in sight, though last week we had two nights together where he didn’t feed at all in the night, which was new. I’m happy to take it at his pace. Part of being beaten into becoming an attachment parent in the first place, was about doing things the easier way, and withholding boob from my boy against his will, definitely isn’t the easier way!
We use cloth nappies part time and elimination communication the rest of the time. It means my boy spends most of his life half naked with his penis wafting around. Again it was a parenting decision we stumbled into during a period of horrendous teething nappy rash, and it turned out my then eight month old quite like sitting on the potty for a wee. Again it made our lives easier, easier than wrestling a pooey nappy off a wriggly baby and washing nappies every other day. It doesn’t make us or him advanced, it just makes us lazy. Plus it’s pretty cute now that he toddles himself off to the potty for a wee without being asked. And I never get tired of his wrinkly baby bottom roaming free.
We don’t home school. I thought for a long time that we would as I have issues with sitting four year olds in classrooms and dividing them up into good and naughty, clever and stupid, from such an early age based on such arbitrary goalposts. My daughter also seemed like somebody who would struggle terribly at school. She is exceedingly shy and reluctant to engage with anybody who she is isn’t genetically linked to, and even then she has to force herself to interact at times. She has had huge issues with anxiety at times, freaks out if her routine isn’t followed exactly, and is so easily overwhelmed by excessive stimuli. School felt as if it would be a disaster. However, it felt as if we’d got to a point where we had no alternative. We were really struggling to cope with her at home full time, her intense mood swings sapping all our emotional energy and making it almost impossible to give any attention to her brother. As my husband was at home with her full time, often on his own with both of them, I really worried for his mental health not being able to get any time apart from her. So very reluctantly we decided that she would start school, full time, with the rest of her peers. And she LOVES it! She has come on brilliantly, learnt so much, changed so much, had some of her corners just slightly rounded off so that she seems so much happier, and whilst she isn’t the centre of the party she is beginning to learn how to interact with the other kids and it is making her really happy. So, once again she had shown me the error of my ways and shown me that she knows what is best, and this is definitely been the very best option for our entire family.
so, that’s enough about my parenting and my children, what about me? This is something that is occupying my thoughts an awful lot right now. I’ve been through my metamorphosis from woman to mother, and that was quite a transformation!! Now after five years of just focusing on mother, or worker, all of the time, I’m feeling like I need to bring woman back into the balance. The more I think about it, the more I start to think that I may not really have been much of a woman before I had children, more a very old teenager. I went from school, to a very full time university course with very little in the way of holidays, a very full time, stressful job which seemed to encroach on every second of my time, and then into motherhood. I had lots of different roles, but not sure that any of them were the real me. So, whilst trying not to sound too hippy about the whole thing, I am hoping to spend some time trying to find myself, trying to nurture myself so that I am more able to nurture others. I have particularly found, since returning to full time work with two children at home, that I find my thoughts quite confused and fragmented, that I find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. I guess that’s only to be expected. For example, this blog post, which is something I really want to do for myself, has been a week in the writing already. I have been doing it during breaks at work, whilst peeling oranges for a demanding toddler, whilst colouring Octonauts pictures for a demanding child, whilst talking to my husband about our finances, is it any surprise that my thoughts feel fragmented? Anyway, I am attempting to improve the situation through a combination of meditation, yoga, reiki, journaling and blogging, time outside, time alone, and trying to reach out and establish my friendship circles. I quit my teaching job, with the hope of spending those extra four hours a week on myself. So far I managed that the very first week, and ever since those extra hours just got swallowed up by my children, my husband, extra shifts at work, anything except myself really. It is so easy to put myself last, I see my mother habitually doing it, and it has always been my place within the family as well, so trying to put myself first, just for a couple of hours a week, has proven too hard so far, but hopefully I’ll be able to let you know how I get on with my mission, and what I learn about myself in the process, as I carry on with this blog. So now I will stop, finally, as I’ve just noticed my daughter eating chocolate spread from the jar with a spoon. Should probably do something about that…