Getting rid of the Mummy Martyr

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Is it just me who sometimes falls into having a victim complex? Sometimes I start thinking I’m a martyr and forget I’m mum.

So I’m at a BBQ and another Mum asks me about how my baby is sleeping. I tell her she is in bed by about 8.30 and usually wakes up twice during the night.

“Mine is in bed by 7,” she replies. “Otherwise he becomes over tired. Actually its great, he’s been sleeping through since 6 weeks.”

My first reaction is to think that this mum is so judgemental. She thinks I’m a bad mum because my baby doesn’t sleep through the night. She thinks she’s so bloody superior!

Well lately I’ve been telling myself to just get over it. I’m not a victim and I should have confidence in myself as a mum. The other mum is probably just proud of her own child. And even if she does think I’m hopeless – who cares?! I know I do my best.

If a mum tells me they adore co-sleeping, it doesn’t mean they think I’m evil for using a cot. If I talk about how I love breastfeeding it doesn’t mean I think mums are bad people if they use formula. It’s great that mums have the freedom to talk about their opinions with each other. I actually love it when a mum is informed and passionate, even if I don’t agree with everything she says.

I don’t want to waste another second worrying about feeling judged. I would hate to pass on insecurities to my daughter. I hope she always does her best, does what she loves and what she know’s is right. Only she can truly judge the integrity of her actions.

So goodbye mummy martyr. I never liked you much anyway.

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Why I love Baby-led Weaning

Anyone who knows me well knows I probably take food too seriously. I just can’t help it.

Food is one of the great joys of life. It’s not just fuel. Food is bound up with family, talking, laughing, art, passion and traditions.

In Nigella Lawsons recipe book, How to Eat, she talks about her first pregnancy. In a short anecdote she describes chatting to an obstetrician at a party about breastfeeding. She was excited to learn that the taste of breast milk changes, depending on what the mother has eaten. In this way, the baby becomes accustomed to a variety of tastes. Amazing!

When it came time for Eloise to start eating, I hoped I could pass on my love of food. At first I was going to go down the path of making my own purées. However something about spoon feeding mush didn’t seem to work for me. I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I’d heard mothers talking about forcing, distracting, coercing, persuading, shoving and tricking their baby into eating. This made no sense! Why would you need to “force” someone to do something as enjoyable and natural as eating!

You don’t force anyone to laugh, or sing, or look at a beautiful sunset or to play. Surely a baby simply wants to eat.

Well luckily I remembered a friend of mine, whose baby I’d seen eating a bowl of strawberries. The baby had been feeding herself. This friend put me onto information about weaning that can be found on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website. They call it starting with “family foods.” This type of weaning is also called baby-led weaning.

I have loved, loved, loved going on this baby-led weaning adventure with Eloise.

Why do I love it?

Well here are the best things about it.

Little Preparation

Since Eloise has started eating, I’ve hardly had to make any adjustments to my cooking. I’ve just given her what we’re having. My only change is I’ve started cooking with more vegetables – which has to be a good thing. She started off with cucumber sticks, roasted vegetables, avocado, mango, bread and strawberries. Now she can handle pretty much anything. She can suck up spaghetti covered in mince, scoop up rice, loves daintily picking up peas and kidney beans, chewing on steak and (to my husband’s horror) even loves her broccoli.

Food is a time for learning

For a while Eloise did more playing then eating at meals. But this didn’t matter. I would always give her a breastfeed before a meal so she wasn’t frustrated by hunger. Her skills in handling food have slowly increased and she has explored a variety of textures and colours.

I’m never worried about Eloise choking on her food. By letting the baby explore food at their own pace, they learn how to chew and swallow and how much to put in their mouth.

Food is family time

I loved how baby led weaning encourages parents to let babies eat at the family meal. It shows the baby that food is a social activity. It didn’t take long before Eloise was very excited to be put into the high chair. She knew the fun was about to start!

With this type of weaning, there is no need to give the toddler special food, like nuggets or chips. They are already accustomed to eating what the family eats.

Food is for eating

At first baby led weaning can be quite messy. What’s life without a bit of mess? You just need to take a few precautions to minimize the damage. However I’ve found that the mess has dramatically decreased lately. For a while, with Eloise, it was 50% play and 50% eating. These days she does a lot of eating!

My Mums brothers are both very tall men with huge appetites. They love their food. At one family gathering they were enjoying one of Mums meals, and at the same time watching Eloise eat. She must have been about ten months and was sitting up in her high chair feeding herself. In typical fashion, Eloise was eating with great gusto. My uncles looked shocked and I was worried that they didn’t approve for some reason.

“You know it’s quite appetizing watching her eat,” one of my Uncles said.  “She really enjoys her food.” Eloise continued to enjoy her meatloaf and vegetables and so did my Uncles.

And that’s food for you; food that we love, food that brings family together and food that is eaten because it simply makes us happy.

For more information on Baby Led Weaning you can visit the Australian Breast Feeding Association.

Pinky McKay also has a good article explaining the benefits of baby-led weaning.

If you’re really keen, you should buy the book. Baby-led Weaning, Gill Rapley and Thacey Murkett. The book answers every question or concern you could possibly raise. It’s extremely practical and gives excellent guidelines on how you can actually make baby-led weaning work. 

Writing as Mother

ImageThis week I started reading ‘Mary Barton‘ by Elizabeth Gaskell. Five chapters  in I’m loving it.

 
I’ve always loved anything written by Gaskell. During her time she was called Mrs Gaskell which a 21st century feminist might take offence at. However her life as a wife and mother comes across so strongly in her novels.  She includes details that you would never find in Austen’s clean and tidy novels.
 
For example in ‘Mary Barton’ a couple are comforting their baby twins. The mum breastfeeds one baby while the father tries to comfort ( unsuccessfully) the other baby with bread soaked in milk.
 
In the novel Gaskell has strong opinions on class divisions and the apathy of the wealthy towards those struggling with poverty. It’s interesting to see her sometimes apologise for these opinions.
 
I’ve been teaching Fay Weldon this year. She would see this as an example of the “angel of the house” whispering in Gaskells ear, warning her not to be too opinionated. After all, she is just a woman. Luckily Gaskell doesn’t listen too closely to the angel.
 
Early on in ‘Mary Barton’, Mary’s mother dies in childbirth. It made me think how lucky we are in Australia to have such good medical care when giving birth. We don’t need to fear death when we have a baby. Not long ago, death would always be a real possibility.
 
Here in Australia we completely take it for granted. In fact if you listen to some women talk about birth, you’d think it was just a complicated yoga position, a few deep breaths will see you through it. For centuries women never had the luxury of turning their nose up at medical support. Personally I’m so grateful to be alive at this time, in this country.
 
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of ‘Mary Barton’.

My Kitchen Rules

My Kitchen Rules; must admit I like this show. I can’t commit to watching it every night – but I love every bit I see.

It demonstrates the cooking talent of the amateur cook. And it’s quite impressive. I’m captivated by the cooking technique of these “characters”.

It’s amazing to think that all over Australia, every night, men and women are cooking up something marvellous. Flavours and textures are all combined to create beautiful food and all in about 45 minutes after a long days work.

I love meeting people who have a passion for cooking. My Mum’s friend sent me a recipe for lasagna, after I cheekily asked for her secrets. The recipe was unapologetically lengthy and detailed. Another Mother casually told me she was experimenting with baking different types of bread to see which her children preferred! Who has time to bake any more you wonder? Someone who loves baking that’s who.

The other day on a talk show they were discussing whether it is OK to serve take away at a dinner party. Unbelievably some thought this was fine. How does that make sense? Home cooked food is usually cheaper and always tastes better than anything you can buy. The point of a dinner party is to cook, and thus treat, your guests.

This woman on Sunrise also said that if she had more than 6 guests she would call in the caterer. My, my – what a precious approach! Lots of Aussie families have 6 or more people to feed every night. And do these families fork out the big bucks or have to live on some sort of pirate stew? No – they develop the skill to cook for a crowd on a regular basis. After all it’s just a matter of doubling quantities.

At least these cooks are only “judged” by their family – not by two smarty-pants in suits like in My Kitchen Rules.

Back to ‘My Kitchen Rules’  – I’m a big fan of the Bondi guys and the cupcake queens . If you could combine the Bondi healthy, delicious food with the cupcake queens beautiful deserts, it would be perfect.

I didn’t want to make this post about breastfeeding but it did occur to me that in my home, my kitchen does rule. My baby really is being served top quality. It’s food at the perfect temperature, with a taste that has variety; it fulfils her hunger and thirst and comes with a warm cuddle. Perhaps it’s a bridge too far, and I’m not basing this at all on science, but I believe it will set her up for a wonderful foodie life. A life of happy eating, where she will love good food and find the true joy of sharing food with those she loves.

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