Is there ever a time where you don’t feel like you just fail as a mom? For me, it started right from the beginning and I get a fresh rush of it every other day. I doubt myself as a person, as a mother, constantly. And then, the other day, after a little “all fall down” on Instagram and Facebook, I had you awesome mamas reminding me that I was not alone… It made me stop, and think about WHY I felt that way. It isn’t because what I am doing is wrong or dangerous for my child or anybody elses, it is simply because I know that there are a million people out there that believe that their way is the ONLY way. I still feel like I fail on the regular, today included, but I remind myself that how I am raising my girl is not the wrong way or the right way, it is just MY way. So I have my little meltdown and then I shake it off. So here are some of the things I do MY way… and why I don’t care if you think I am wrong.
My way – Charly uses a dummy (and she is almost 4!!!!!)
This drives me mad. I get genuinely furious every time somebody shames me or Charly about her dummy. Firstly, who the heck are you to make my child feel ashamed about ANYTHING! We teach her right from wrong and manners and anything else she needs to become a loving, generous and productive member of society. A dummy is not going to affect any of that, now is it?
Charly never took a dummy until I started trying to wean her from breastfeeding just before she turned 2. And even then, it was an occasional thing for naptime and bedtime. Then I put her in nursery school and all the other children had their dummies and soothing object with them. Charly struggled separating from me for school the whole of last year, even though she loved school, and there was no way I was taking away anything that offered her comfort when I was abandoning her every day at school (yup, I know, I suck…).
The reasons people say she shouldn’t have a dummy?
It can affect her speech… My child speaks better than roughly 90% of the adult population – I am not worried.
It can affect her teeth… Simply put, she doesn’t use the thing all the time. She uses it for comfort when she is upset (and puts herself in a space to calm down), she uses it quite a bit when she is going through some kind of developmental leap, and she uses it for sleep. I am not worried.
One that people use a lot, but didn’t with me because of the age she started, is that a dummy use can affect breastfeeding. There is mixed research on this, and if it is a concern for you, then by all means avoid it or only use it after 6 weeks. For me, that first attempt at weaning failed terribly, and let me tell you, Charly breastfed without any confusion for another year while using her dummy.
If you should see my 10 year old daughter walking down the street with a dummy in her mouth, by all means, make your nasty judgy comments then. You may think I suck as a mom because Charly still uses a dummy; that my way is wrong and your way is smart and right and agrees with some research or another. I am not worried. I believe that depriving my exceptional little girl, who is all of 3 years on this planet, of something that gives her a bit of comfort in this world WOULD make me suck as a mom. Hell, if I thought a dummy would work to help me deal with the things life throws at us, I would be using one too! This is MY way – if my baby gets comfort from something that isn’t dangerous to her health or wellbeing, I won’t be taking it away from her.
My way – Charly watches
a lot of TV
OK, wait. Not TV. She has never watched an adult series, show or movie, other than a few episodes of Masterchef and the first Guardians of the Galaxy. (To be clear, she didn’t actively watch and understand GOTG, she was about 9 months old I think and she stared at the raccoon and Chris Pratt, drooled, (duh) and then fell asleep.) What I mean is, Brett and I have never just had our stuff on TV while she was playing in the room with us. We also don’t have “TV”. We have YouTube and a ChromeCast. Since she was little, we always had something on in the background while we got on with life. Nursery rhymes teaching colours, numbers, alphabet and shapes mostly, Barney, Curious George, Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse, that kind of thing when she was younger. At the moment, PJ Masks. For the past few months. All. The. Time.
I made a conscious decision NOT to make it a big deal. We have never had to fight to get her to switch something off or chase her outside to play. She spoke well ahead of anybody else her age, she is better with a ball than anybody I have ever known, she can do full size monkeybars multiple times without stopping and climbs to the top of any climbing wall she encounters. She loves reading and colouring and she will embarrass you with her puzzle abilities.
If you want to stop your kids from using TV or screens, or limit the time, or watch Days of Our Lives while your kids try to figure out how the people never age – that is your way. My way is to avoid making something a big deal, so she doesn’t feel the need to push back or rebel or sulk over it (believe me, we have PLENTY of that already). As long as she is well-balanced, loves physical activity, learning, playing, using her imagination and doesn’t decide she wants to watch reality TV, I am not worried. So, yes, if you think people who let their kids watch TV care less or aren’t very smart or are turning their kids into little zombies and that this means that my way is the worst… I don’t care.
My way – I abhor the gender neutral fad
Yep. I said it. I do. SO so so much. I understand why people feel they need to go that way. I just don’t agree with it. I have many MANY friends who parent this way. I love them and their kids to death. This is their choice, their decision, their way. My way, as with the TV thing above and even the dummy thing… I believe that pushing anything too hard that isn’t a danger to your child, is going to backfire. I hated pink for most of my life. My sister was the beautiful princess feminine little girl who loved pink and dresses and handbags and heels. I liked blue and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and climbing trees. And then when I got older, blacks and reds. Until I fell pregnant. And found out I was having a girl. I blame the hormones…
Pinks, mauves, flowers, butterflies (I became OBSESSED with butterflies), dresses, onesies. I LOVED it. I went mad. I bought every soft, precious, perfect little girl thing I saw. And I have absolutely not one single regret about it.
I also LOVED dressing her in greys, reds, blues, blacks and Batman. I didn’t choose her clothes by what I thought people might think or say or because I thought I needed to break some or other stereotype; I bought things I loved that would look ADORABLE on her.
Charly at 3 LOVES prettty things. She adores tutus and princess dresses, her favourite colour is pink, she loves playing with dolls and makeup (yup, I have even bought her makeup) and Barbies and ballet. But she also loves Spiderman and Batman, wearing camo cargo pants, being the kick-ass Owlette superhero, playing soccer and basketball, skateboarding, riding her bike full speed and playing with cars and blocks. Since we bought her her first Doc McStuffins set (pink, purple and GLITTER) to combat her fear of doctors, she has never waivered from her goal of being a doctor when she is big. She is the perfect balance of sugar and spice and snails and puppydog tails. Her bed and her dollhouse are pink and white, the way she wants them, but she has Spiderman bedding (that she alternates with pink Minnie Mouse bedding) and her Batman nightlight and Stretch Armstrong are often hanging out drinking tea with her Malaville dolls in the dollhouse.
My way is to give her the space and the choices to decide what her way looks like. Not by never showing a preference for anything or protecting her from everything or trying to pretend that pink Barbie clothing isn’t a thing. And not by resisting dressing her up in pink fluffy rainbow and unicorn stuff when she was tiny and adorable and didn’t know or care, simply throwing up on anything regardless of colour or style. But, by the way that we treat her and her choices and show her that they matter. When I see people boycotting clothing stores for having ballerina dresses for babies I want to shout at them to find something that MATTERS to shout about. You won’t catch my child dressing inappropriately for her age in bum-showing shorts while I have a say in what she wears. But it wouldn’t occur to her, because her only criteria for clothing is, “Can I do monkeybars in this?”
My way – Charly has and gets a LOT of toys
One of the first things that people say when they walk into my home is, “Oh my goodness, look at all these TOYS!” Or sometimes the slightly more passive aggressive, “Charly, you have SO many toys, where on earth do your parents keep their things!” When I was growing up, we didn’t have extra money for lots of toys. We didn’t go without at all, but we patiently (probably not so much at times) waited for Christmas and birthdays for the things many of our friends had. And then, often it wasn’t an “original” Barbie or My Little Pony. We loved our things and we played with them just the same. But we knew they weren’t the same.
Contrary to what many people might think, I bought 90% of Charly’s toys. We have been incredibly blessed to work with amazing brands that send us toys to try out and review and provide feedback on, but most of it is me. Because they are things that I watch her light up when she sees. Or sometimes because I remember how desperately I wanted that very thing as a child and I nearly explode with excitement when I see they are still around (hello My Little Pony, Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kids, Sylvanian Families, Disney ANYTHING). I am a marketers DREAM nostalgia consumer, only I am very aware of it.
Charly LOVES her toys. She will ask to play with something that she hasn’t looked at since she was 6 months’ old. She will search until she finds it. Her memory is beyond belief. She plays with all her toys, including her moo cow rocker and balls I gave her for her first Christmas when everybody rolled their eyes at “wasting” money on things. They bring her joy and excitement and hours of imaginative play and long in-depth conversations about occupation choices and frogs in the rainforest. It brings ME joy to watch her and listen to her, while I brush Twilight Sparkle’s mane or dress up Barbie in a ballgown before she teaches the little girl in the little desk on the Barbie-sized chalkboard.
Is Charly spoilt? Yes, very likely. Is she a brat? She certainly can be. Does she mostly look after her toys, use them to explore the world, to learn and share with family and friends? Absolutely. Again, I think this is a case of how we teach them rather than the things we give them or take away from them. My house is piled from floor to ceiling in every room with toys and books and puzzles and crayons. I walk into it and sometimes it is all just a massive mess and I huff and think we should give or pack stuff away. And then, usually, I “tidy up”. I brush the My Little Ponys’ hair and line them all up, I change the Barbies into their proper clothes, I build a Duplo house and erect the fence to keep the farm animals together. I let myself play for a little while and be in the moment. She loves her toys. I love her toys. Gift-giving is my love language. This is my way.
My way – I work A LOT
I know everybody says it. And I know there is this movement of people who say that “busy” is an excuse or exaggeration or whatever. Those people obviously don’t work for themselves. I LOVE my businesses. I love that this platform and Tums 2 Tots Online allow me to share things that affect me as a parent and as a mother and to educate people and help and support people. I love getting to review awesome products and services, and to help build up and support businesses I believe in. I like sharing what I learn. #CarseatFullstop allows me to literally save children’s lives and change the potential outcomes for entire families. I am being given the opportunity to really make a difference. In between keeping these three up and running; I consult and write and advise and create strategies and train people and give talks to small businesses and bloggers. I do what I need to do to keep the lights on. (Literally sometimes… Like last month Eskom switched off my electricity because of an ERROR that required me to pay almost R8,000 before it could be resolved and our power could be put back on. I still need to be paid for a few projects before my credit card recovers from that!)
I work from the minute I open my eyes until I cannot keep them open anymore. I stop to get Charly ready for school, to collect her when I need to, to have lunch with her every day, to make dinner and to put her to sleep. I stop if she cries or needs me in the day or if she runs upstairs to show me something. I stop when she is sick and needs me to hold her all the time to feel ok. I stop to read her stories or build puzzles with her or build Luna Girl out of Bunchems, in the late afternoons once my mom leaves and between preparing dinner. Sometimes I don’t stop at all, when there are deadlines and I have made commitment. Sometimes the guilt kills me.
And then she will turn to a stranger in a queue in a shop, and very loudly and proudly tell them, “My mommy is #CarseatFullstop and her work saves kids’ lives.” Or she will snuggle into me on the couch while I work on the laptop and tell me I am the best mommy and her best f(w)iend. Or she will tell me with her hands on my face, looking me right in the eyes, that even though I worked all weekend, it is ok… Because I still helped her build a puzzle and read her stories and that I am always right there if she really needs me. And that she ALWAYS knows that I love her “more than the whole wide world”.
I work all the time, so that I can be there for her when it matters. When working on a contract for an upcoming project, I had no fear of saying that my family comes first and I will never attend an event or travel if it is over a special occasion or if she is ill or has a school concert. And they were completely happy with that. Because of the nature of my work. Everything I do is family-orientated. This is MY way.
Even when I am working, I am a full-time mom. If a mom works in an office 8 hours a day, she is still a full-time mom. If a mom travels regularly for business, she is still a full-time mom. Being away from our children, physically or mentally, does not make us part-time parents. Our children still come first, they are still the reason we do everything. So, if you feel like my way is in some way wrong and I have my days where I believe I am failing terribly and everybody else’s way is better than mine. But these are my choices. I have calculated as best as I know how, how to do the best I can do for my baby and for my family AND for myself. This is my way.
Many of you will remember I attended the Baby Dove launch a few months ago. I am working on a project with them at the moment, a review and giveaway of the Baby Dove products. Part of that was sharing my instinctive responses to certain phrases; these were my responses –
Lying down to sleep with my baby… is our thing. Some nights she drives me mad, but I hope I get to do it ‘til she’s all grown up.
Making home cooked meals for my baby… lasted a week. We were both miserable. We happily moved to baby led weaning sharing our food.
Parenting advice… should never be unsolicited! If somebody seeks you out, share. And then, add value or walk away.
Going back to work… or not… both hold hard decisions and sacrifices. A full-time job doesn’t make you a part-time mom.
I know the Dove brand seems to be in trouble for one thing or another and I think whoever does their advertising copy is one of two things (neither are very nice). However! At that event, I listened to the people who actualy create the products and their passion and belief in the science of what they do. I listened to real moms talking about the things that we all face, including incessant judgement about every single aspect of the way we choose to parent. I believe in the message they are trying to convey and it resonated enough for me to write this; most of which I have been bottling up for quite some time.
That message is that, as moms, we do whatever we believe is the best thing for our children. We do our research, we model the behaviour of family and friends we consider good parents… We try to avoid repeating the mistakes we feel other people have made. Every one of us takes all of that and then tries to find a way to make it all work for our lives, for our babies. And, let’s be honest… We do whatever we need to, in order to survive. None of us are perfect, we are too tired and overwhemed with love and stress and mom guilt to be perfect. The fact that we strive to be as perfect as we can be for our kids is what matters. The Baby Dove message is that they support moms learning to trust THEIR way, no matter that way might be. And that we should stop trying to force everybody to do things in our way, which we beleive is the best way – because otherwise, what does that mean for our kids?
The only time I fight people on “their” way, is if it is knowlingly putting their child or mine in danger. #CarseatFullstop is proof of that. I don’t think that a child’s physical safety is a “style” of parenting. But outside of that? Trust yourself a little more. Take a moment to stop and consider where the rush of mom guilt or failure has come from. And if it is from somebody else’s expectation or judgement on what the right or wrong way of doing something for YOUR child is – walk away. Trust YOUR way!
Sending all the love xxx
*This post is not sponsored by Baby Dove. I am working on a paid project with them that has brought a lot of this very real and personal stuff to the surface for me. So inspired by Baby Dove, but not sponsored.