Mum guilt

I have been thinking of writing a post about mum guilt for some time, but I keep putting it off. Partly because I don’t have all the answers (far from it!) but also because it’s something I struggle with time and time again. But I have felt particularly burdened by it in the last week or so, so thought it was time I say SOMETHING, as something is better than nothing.

I think this is something that all mums feel right from the very beginning – possibly it is something to do with hormones, but I think there’s something in our culture that really ratchets this up to a high level. I can remember being in the hospital a few days after having Scarlett, having read all of the leaflets the midwives give you about breastfeeding your baby and how formula is essentially poison that will not allow their gut to form properly. That was all well and good but my milk hadn’t come in yet and there was this three or four day old baby who was screaming her lungs out day and night because she was hungry. Eventually the midwives almost insisted I give her some formula, whilst simultaneously handing me leaflets about how dangerous it is to do so. The guilt started… and it hasn’t really gone away two and a half years later.

I gave her formula. This time I had a planned c-section. I didn’t swaddle my first baby. I did swaddle my second baby. I moved her into a forward-facing car seat one month before I was supposed to. I gave her some chocolate. I let them watch TV. I gave my two-year-old a slice of pizza for dinner. I left my two-year-old in front of the TV so I could cook and not give her pizza for dinner. My laundry basket is piled high. I left the baby crying so that I could do some laundry. I didn’t sterilise that dummy before giving it to the baby. I gave the baby a dummy in the first place. I never lost the baby weight after my first baby. I dieted whilst breastfeeding my second baby. I sat the baby in a Bumbo. I introduced solids before six months. I’m behind on the housework. I’ve not had a proper conversation with my husband because I am too tired from making sure I’m not behind on the housework. I went back to work. I only went back to work part time. I didn’t cut a grape in half one time…

It’s endless. It’s exhausting. And it doesn’t achieve anything!

This is the image that set me off this time. You may need to click on it to read it properly. It is meant to be warning mums off the ‘advice’ to leave your baby to cry, as if you keep picking them up you’ll spoil them. That sounds reasonable. Obviously we want to respond to our babies when they cry, and that has to be a good thing. But then the smaller print mentions that not leaving your baby to cry creates positive associations that lead to good brain development. Great. But what if you do leave your baby to cry? What if you don’t always cuddle them? It left me feeling really guilty about all the times I’d left Harvey crying so I could just get dinner in the oven. Or go and hang the washing out. Or because I was supervising Scarlett in the bath. Is he going to have hampered brain development because of it?

I felt like even this post designed to encourage mums has left us (or at least me) feeling guilty, when really we are doing the best we can. We try and try and try until we are locking ourselves in the bathroom while our kids are crying, just for five minutes of quiet. But everything around us is telling us it’s not good enough. It feels like every time we come across something that makes our lives easier (TV, wet wipes, ready meals, Bumbos), the government tells us that we shouldn’t be using them. And so the guilt continues because we do need something to make our lives easier, or because we have stopped using them but did use them at one time, or because we have stopped using them and are finding it harder now. It feels like there is so much pressure from every angle to eat organic, cook from scratch, be perfectly skinny, be fashionable, have a spotless home, have a job, have well stimulated children, and also keep a smile on our faces, and if any part of this slips, the guilt stabs at us.

Sometimes it feels like even the Bible is perpetuating this, or at least Christian culture. Every time I read about the wife in Proverbs 31 I feel guilty that I’m not getting up at daybreak, spinning my own yarn, trading in the market place and being called blessed by my children. But that’s not where we should be focusing. Sure, we can aim at these things, but the Bible isn’t a moral guide book full of people to copy. The more I read the Bible the more I realise that it is full of flawed people who have mixed motives at best. Except for one, the one who the Bible is really about. Jesus. We can read all the rules in the Old Testament, and we can look at Jesus’ life in the gospels and we know that we fall hopelessly short of God’s standards for us. But that’s OK, because Jesus kept the law so that we don’t have to.

If we have put our faith in Jesus, we can know that God looks on us and sees not our filthy rags, but Jesus’ perfect righteousness, which he freely gives to us. Mums, run to Jesus. Know that he died for your sins so that you don’t have to bear the burden of them any more. And remember that not feeding your children on kale and quinoa is NOT a sin. We don’t have to strive to be that Pinterest-perfect mum that inside we long to be. We just have to do our best. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Breastfeeding

Apparently last week was national breastfeeding week, and I meant to write a blog post then, but time got away with me – as it so often does! I am a bit obsessed with breastfeeding. I became fascinated in the process I guess when my friends started having babies, and even more so when I became pregnant in 2015. Since then there has been less than six months when I haven’t been either pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s obviously on my mind a lot! There is so much I could say, but I’ll try and keep it just to the really interesting bits!

Let me start by saying that I am firmly in the camp of ‘fed is best’. Breastfeeding, especially initially, is HARD! I had problems getting started with both my kids (despite having read all the books – turns out there’s nothing like actual experience… who knew?!) After an emergency C-section and a week in hospital after I had Scarlett my milk just would not come in, so we ended up topping up with formula (which I ditched when I got home, because frankly I’m too lazy to wash and sterilise bottles!) After I had Harvey I had all kinds of different problems and it was really painful for six weeks. I almost gave up so many times. But I’m glad I didn’t! But, if you are someone who has bottle fed – I get it! Feeding your babies is best! Do what you have to do to keep everybody happy! But, that being said, here are some interesting things about breastfeeding!

Interesting things

Did you know that the breasts of a nursing mother analyse the saliva of the baby, and if it picks up that the baby is getting an illness, the mother produces antibodies, which then get passed into the milk and help the baby to fight it off? I think it possibly also stops the mother from getting the illness too – I have certainly noticed that I don’t seem to get colds while I’m breastfeeding! Very useful if you’ve got someone tiny to look after!

Another thing – breast milk has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties! Wowsers! That means it’s great for treating loads of ailments that might affect a baby, from conjunctivitis to ringworm. True story: I squirted some on a mosquito bite that was driving me crazy a few weeks ago – instant relief!

The magical stuff also adapts to the baby’s needs in other ways – it contains more and more calories as the baby grows so that he doesn’t need to drink more and more milk to keep him satisfied. I remember feeding Scarlett in the early days, and she would often take 40 minutes to have her feed. I remember thinking that if that was how long it takes to feed a tiny baby, imagine how long she would feed for by the time she’s five months! But it doesn’t work like that – thankfully! As babies grow they get more and more efficient at feeding and so actually spend less time there – unless you’ve got one of those babies that just likes to hang out on your boob!

There are SO many more fascinating things about breastfeeding, but I won’t put them all here. I also can’t be bothered to go through and find scientific evidence to back these things up (have I mentioned, I have two young kids?), but there are loads out there that are easy to find, if you are into that sort of thing! But I would like to go on to say that I think these facts (and many more) tell us a lot about ourselves.

Very revealing

No, I’m not about to start writing about breastfeeding in public (though I may touch on that in a bit, if the mood takes me). I think that all of that stuff I’ve just written reveals loads about human beings. Firstly, I believe that this all points to the fact that we are created. I just don’t see how such an intricate process could have happened by chance. All of the things work out so perfectly that I think it just has to have been designed. Even down to the fact that in the early days, breastfeeding a baby means you have to spend loads of time sitting down – right when your body really needs to be recovering after giving birth.

And yet it doesn’t work perfectly – it can be painful, there can be problems (hello mastitis! You’re not welcome here!) which goes to show that the world is not as it should be. The Bible tells us that the world we live in is fallen – back in the garden of Eden, people sinned against God, bringing a curse, meaning that things don’t work how they were originally meant to. (Don’t worry – one day God is planning to restore everything to an even better state, and you just need to trust in Jesus to secure your place!)

Immediately after the fall, Adam and Eve became ashamed of their naked bodies, which also has a bearing on breastfeeding. We feel the need to cover up! Whether we should ‘hide’ this act or not is something I’m not going to go into, but it is interesting that we feel embarrassed at bearing certain parts of ourselves to others, just like the Bible shows will happen. It is also fascinating to me that in a society where there is cleavage emblazoned across every bill board and TV advert, we get a bit squeamish about mums feeding their babies. In our glorification of sex, have we forgotten the primary purpose of breasts? Also, as an aside, why don’t people get all huffy about men revealing their bum cracks when they bend over? Surely that is far more offensive to look at than a bit of boob going into a hungry mouth?

What God is like

I think that breastfeeding also reveals a bit about what God is like too. He is kind, he looks after us – that is clear from the way he designed breastfeeding to work, both for the mother and the baby. But also through the times that breastfeeding is mentioned in the Bible. Yes – it really is! Here’s some for you:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15.
Could I forget my baby while you’re breastfeeding him? No way! But I am more likely to forget him than God is to forget his people. Wow!

And what about the story of Moses? He was put in the original Moses basket and sent down a river to safety when Pharaoh wanted the Hebrew babies killed. Pharaoh’s own daughter found him and decided to keep him – but she needed to feed the baby, she need a wet nurse. And, in God’s plan, who did she get to come and feed the baby? Moses’ own mother! God could have got her to find any other woman in the country to nurse the baby – events would have worked out the same if it had been anybody else, but no, it was Moses’ own mother who got to look after him,  which can only have been for the purpose of showing God’s great kindness.

There are more, but I think these two are such strong pictures that I’ll leave it there.

Holiday!

I know what you’re thinking – the fun never stops in the Holloway household! (Trust me – it does! And when it does stop, there always seems to be a lot of extra washing to do!) But I thought I’d share with you all (all two and a half of you reading this!) some of our holiday photos! I know, I know, nobody wants to look at other people’s holiday photos – but if you clicked here, then chances are, you do! I’ll try and make it fun, I promise. Maybe I’ll even throw in some jokes along the way as an incentive to keep scrolling!

We’ve just come back from four nights in the New Forest (wow, what jet setters – we travelled 94 miles! But with a car sick prone two-year-old and a car seat hating three-month-old, you’d cap your travel time at 2 hours too!) Here’s a related joke: What jam can’t you eat? A traffic jam! (or jam with bits in, as my cousin answered when he was five. He’s 23 now – I wonder if he remembers?)

We stayed in a caravan – but it was a posh caravan – with a hot tub! Yes! So naturally we took the kids running, jumping, climbing, swimming and discoing every day to wear them out so we could put them to bed and enjoy the bubbles on the deck without them – for 20 minutes, then we got too hot and ended up sitting inside and reading!

Hot tub!

Disco!

The nightly kids’ discos were a particular highlight for Scarlett, who continually asked if it was her party, and “who’s birthday is it?” She loved spinning in circles, running around and dancing. Happily she didn’t seem to mind that there were only two other children at this ‘party’ and that there was no cake. Harvey absolutely loved his first time swimming, staring up at the trees moving in the breeze, and being fascinated by the disco lights – so the whole holiday was a hit all round!

Naturally, we had plenty of ice creams and picnics, and saw more than our fair share of New Forest ponies! (“Mummy, our holiday is covered in horses!”)

If you’ve never visited the New Forest, you can’t quite imagine just how brazen these horses are. But I suppose it’s fair enough – it was their land first! I was pleased that most of the area hasn’t changed much since my holidays there when I was little (and not so little!) We visited Moor’s Valley Country Park, which I loved when I was a child, and I was thrilled to see the wooden play trails are still there – if updated a little with Gruffalos and fancy play parks!

We had a really relaxing time and especially enjoyed not really having an agenda – just driving and seeing what we came across on the way. Which resulted in some river paddling (Scarlett was convinced she was going to catch a fish sooner or later) and stumbling upon the beautiful town of Lymington, where we enjoyed fish and chips watching the boats… and a herring gull snatched some of Scarlett’s fish out of her hand!

Lymington

Lymington

Here’s to our next holiday! Who knows, maybe next year we’ll break the 100mile barrier! (Sorry, after enticing you with jokes there was only one in there… turns out I don’t know that many, and even that was terrible!)

Fun!

We’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately because we’ve been busy having fun! And tantrums, immunisations, decorating and work! But around all that there has been plenty of fun!

With two bank holidays in May, we’ve been to a dinosaur park/garden centre, a lake, a village day, the official Pooh sticks bridge, a ’90s party, and more! Here’s some snaps for you! The picture above is to prove we are not always all happy! (In fact there’s usually at least one of us crying at any one time!)

Time Travel

Sunning ourselves on Brighton beach!

Cast your mind back to the week before last… yes, the heatwave! (Doesn’t it seem a long time ago now?) Suddenly in the middle of April it was like being catapulted into the height of summer! Which worked out rather nicely for us, as Scarlett was very grown up and went for her very first sleepover at Grandma and Grandad’s house!

Suddenly our firstborn didn’t seem so tiny any more… and she had the time of her life in the playhouse, in the garden and of course on the beach! So naturally, Stuart and I had to have a bit of fun also and enjoy those things that Scarlett finds boring (cue tantrum!)

So we strolled down to the station with Harvey in Scarlett’s old pram and suddenly were taken back in time to what it was like to just have one little baby. Why didn’t we realise at the time how EASY it is to only have one baby to look after? (Because it wasn’t easy, we were brand new at it!). We got to peruse the sights of Brighton and enjoy an ice cream on the beach without having to relingquish any of it to a toddler who just wants ‘a little taste’.

While the weather did some time travelling, so did we, with our reminiscing, and also realising how fast the time has gone too… and of course planning all the things we can do when they are both old enough for sleepovers!

Enjoying her play house at Grandma and Grandad’s

A glimpse into Scarlett’s future?

Pinterest Mum?

I love Pinterest, and spend what I’m sure is too long scrolling through recipes, decor tips and ‘life hacks’. I’ve found some useful things over the years, and also made some truly terrible meals based on what seemed like a good idea. During nap times lately I’ve been watching Netflix’s new cooking show, Nailed It, which shows amateur (like, really amateur) bakers spectacularly failing to copy sophisticated bakes. It’s not high quality television, but it’s enjoyable when your brain needs a rest!

It does, however, point out the unattainability of most of the things we see on Pinterest… but still I never learn. Just this week I made a pasta sauce that somehow tasted of soap. Really. From ‘pinning’ all kinds of craft ideas I’ll never make, to ‘educational toddler games’ that not only end in tears, but also start in them, it has become clear to me that Pinterest is nothing like real life. And yet I, and millions of others, return to it again and again, only to set ourselves up to fail, and the majority of the time not even attempt the project in the first place. Why?

It’s the latest version of Country Homes syndrome – you know, where you browse through the pages of magazines showing posh houses you’ll never afford, or even if you can, your home will never look like the insides of those ones, which have been done up by interior designers especially for the photo shoot. It’s aspirational, is what we’re told. But we don’t really aspire to these homes as we know that we can never attain them. We just look longingly, sometimes translate ideas into our own homes, but mostly just sigh and move on. But Pinterest is different because we are led to believe we CAN achieve these things – the beautiful images of perfect cupcakes and stunning children’s parties have supposedly been put together by regular people, who deign to give us step-by-step instructions on how we too can become domestic goddesses. Only we can’t, and we don’t.

I think we can draw several things from this:

  1. If we put our hope in this, we will be sorely disappointed.
    Caring too much how these things will turn out will lead to us feeling crushed when they do not. But if our hope is based on something else, something sure and certain, we won’t worry too much about a new hairstyle falling flat.
  2. We need to keep it real.
    I am not a 1950s housewife. As much as I like the idea of greeting my husband at the door each evening with a smile, a bow in my hair, and a pinny tied neatly round my teeny-tiny waist, it’s not going to happen. And if I pretend that that is who I am, I will be miserable, and he will be confused. I’ve realised that if I wait until my house looks ‘just so’ before I invite somebody over, I’ll be drinking tea on my own forever more. Inviting people into our homes, politely asking them to step over the clutter, is a much better option. As is serving cakes that have sunk in the middle. Or chucking a half-finished craft project in the bin and doing something else instead.
  3. The Pinterest obsession points to something bigger.
    But even though I have come to the above realisations, I still love scrolling through Pinterest. I think that something within us loves looking at these miniature versions of perfection. We love things that are beautiful, well made or just stunningly practical. I believe that’s because we were created for perfection. We were made not to be satisfied with the brokenness of this world. We were made for something more…

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible talks about the futility of life on earth, but the writer states, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11). As humans, we can know what is beautiful, and long for it, because we were made for a beauty and perfection that is not here, but is to come. The book of Revelation talks about what heaven will be like. In chapter 21 we read that there will be a new heaven and a new earth (verse 1), that God will live there with his people (verse 3), that there will be no more sadness (verse 4), and that God will make everything new (verse 5). Wow!

Our wobbly elephant biscuits

 

This was one ‘parenting hack’ that worked… at least for five minutes!

Long time, no blog!

Hello the internet!

Wow, it has been a LONG time since our last blog! Life has somehow got in the way, but now, having been spending a lot of time over the last six weeks inside the house with a two-year-old and a newborn (yes, that much time has passed, and that much life has got in the way!) I have been feeling a little desperate for a creative outlet.

A few days ago I decided I was going to write a novel. But that seems a little unrealistic in this current season (to say the least!) so I thought some blog posts might be a better idea! So watch this space, and you never know, a novel might appear one day!

Hopefully they’ll get on better in years to come!

Sunny days!

Recently we have been blessed with a few sunny weekends, so thought we ought to make the most of them! One sunny Saturday we went to the beautiful National Trust property Nymans for a walk around and, of course, a cream tea! (Minus the tea, because that’s still gross to me. The horror!)

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After having our friend Will round for lunch one Sunday we decided to go for an impromptu walk at Sheffield Park, which of course resulted in a spontaneous sword fight with various bits of branch.

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Last weekend we had the joy of having my dear friend Connie come to stay for the weekend – what a delight that was! Plus, the gorgeous sunshine made it feel like a real holiday! Activities included a Saltworkz breakfast (extra hash browns), a walk in the woods, chasing grasshoppers, Bible reading, Cluedo, Scrabble and a beautiful (hilly!) walk at Ashdown Forest, followed by a huge slice of cake. (Can you see a pattern emerging?) I promise you – it’s not just cake in my growing belly!

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Overseas visitor part 2

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With much excitement last weekend, I got to catch up with Charlotte, possibly my oldest friend – who moved over to America when we were about eight. It had been a few years since we’d seen each other, and this was the first time that she’d met Stuart! She was staying in Hastings, so we took the opportunity for a good catch up and a traditional Hastings trip to the beach!

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With a paddle in the sea, plenty of ice cream, pirate golf, playing on the penny machines and, of course, some selfies – we had a lot of fun! The pirate golf, especially, was great, with pirate sound effects, cannon blasts and water shooting at you every now and then, it certainly kept us on our toes! (If you’re wondering, Char the sports journalist won, I came second, and Stuart gracefully lost). Maybe this is the start of an exciting new form of sport reporting. What will be next? Ninja Frisbee? Mermaid darts?

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After that had all worn us out, we returned to my mum and dad’s for a roast dinner, some card games and giant Jenga in the garden (while I, actually, had a short nap…). I think Stuart lost the Jenga, too.

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Overseas visitors part 1

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At the weekend we had some visitors come to stay from far, far away… all the way from Northern Ireland! Sandra and Peter (Stuart’s mum and dad for those out of the loop) came to stay for the weekend and we attempted to give them the best of Sussex life!

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There was a classic Saltworkz breakfast, there were ice cream milkshakes, there were walks, there were fluffy ducklings, there were unicorns, there was church, and there was a delicious meal at The Limes in Lindfield, one of our favourite restaurants (well, from the two times we have been there).

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Had to share a photo of the fab PJs they gave me! (I do love unicorns…)
All in all we crammed an awful lot in to two days!

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