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The Power of Mindful Affirmations

Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve been talking about the power of mindfulness and affirmations lately. Mindfulness, of course being the practice of paying attention (more or less! it’s a state of being consciously aware.) and affirmations — a tool to create positive change in our perspectives and in our lives. The idea is that the more we repeat an affirmation, and really create a belief that the statement is true, the more that it comes to be realised in our lives.

We love this quote by Amit Ray,

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

This is the idea behind being mindful and so we have put  together a collection of colouring affirmations pages. We hope that as you pause and take the time to colour each page, you will also spend that time meditating on the affirmation. We hope this brings you some calm, clarity and happiness.

As you finish colouring in your pages please share a photo with us at our usual online places 🙂

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{Click on the image below to join our mailing list and receive this collection of colouring pages, our gift to you}

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Wishing you a lot of love and happiness today!

From all of us at The Mother magazine . . .

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Mothering and Intuition

“Listen to yourself – you know best”

Mothers are flooded with ‘advice’. The moment we announce a pregnancy we become a recipient of unsolicited wisdom.  This advice comes from strangers, family, neighbours, and passionate friends who are more than happy to click ‘share’ on dozens and dozens of parenting articles. Sadly, both for the giver and the receiver, this advice is often unhelpful, conflicting, and discouraging.

Once in a while –  in the midst of the information overload – a voice will ring out above it all gently saying: follow your intuition.

This is the most important idea we can take into our mothering journey. Mothering and Intuition is the theme we have taken for our latest issue of The Mother magazine. Mothering-Intuition, the words are almost synonymous and we have come together with some of the most influential writers and professionals today to explore this topic.

COVER-Facebook

Inside this Issue:

“Even if we don’t consciously seek out our intuition, it will influence our behaviour. Even if we have no knowledge of it, it is still there.” – Laura Schuerwegan from Authentic Parenting.

***

“Keep in mind that when friends or family make suggestions about your baby’s sleep they could be wrong.  People often base their opinions on hearsay, or they are basing their advice on vague memories from years ago” – Elizabeth Pantley author of  The No Cry Sleep Solution. 

***

“We should emphasise that the newborn baby ideally needs a mother who is in a specific physiological state just after giving birth, before hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin, endorphins, vasopressin and so on are eliminated.” – Dr. Michel Odent author of Do We Need Midwives.

***

“As humans we have favoured the mind and its interpretation of our experience over the simplicity of experience itself which has led to a slow decline in our sensory and intuitive capacities.” – Lucinda Warner from Whispering Earth.

***

“Children should play, jump, talk, make noise, read, paint and feel- this is their childhood- a time to dream, dance and laugh on a whim, when the sun shining on a dusty path can bring pebbles to life.” – Camilla Rutherford from The English Mother.

***

“Perhaps the most difficult aspect of trusting yourself as a parent is knowing to recognize your inner guidance. Some inner voices are your true being guiding you, others are fears, habits and often, a need for approval and its related anxiety.” – Naomi Aldort author of  Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.

Read This Issue:

Our Mothering and Intuition issue will arrive with subscribers at the end of September. To begin a subscription with this issue subscribe before the 10th September 2015.

SUBSCRIBE NOW!

You can also subscribe to The Mother magazine digital version and also receive digital access to the entire collection of back issues – 13 years worth of holistic parenting wisdom – for just £6.99

THE MOTHER DIGITAL!

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The Birthday

Written by Sian Reardon

When I turned five, I got a shiny, red bike as a birthday present. I was so deliriously happy that I took it out every day, come rain or shine, and we were firm friends until the frame rusted and the wheels fell off.  At eighteen, I got  flowers and champagne to celebrate the coming of age and my parents treated me to a medieval banquet in a fairytale castle.  Being a “Princess” for the evening  was pretty cool and I still have vivid memories about a huge log fire,  amazing jugglers and a lively band of singing minstrels.  At 21, wearing an elegant new watch and gold, sparkly earrings, I danced on a table in a nightclub and sipped cocktails until the early hours – just able to remember what a good time I’d had.  Some birthdays you never forget!

However, as I grew older and had children of my own, the emphasis shifted away from “What am I getting?” to “How can I share my special day with the people around me?” – making them feel connected and trying to keep our little family close.  With that in mind, I’ve decided on a “No-Spend” celebration this year, encouraging good old fashioned conversation and any creative efforts that family and friends might want to share on the day.

“What shall I do for your birthday mummy?”, asks my five year old son. Last year, he painted my portrait and “Mummy without a leg and a wonky mouth”,  has graced the fridge for the last twelve months.

“Maybe you could do me a little job”, I tell him, explaining how important it is. “I need you to find something for me”.

“What is it?”he asks, reminding me how good he is at finding things.

“Well, it’s not very big. In fact, it’s quite small but it sparkles and dazzles and can light up a whole room. Just like a diamond”.

“’Have I got one in my toy box?” my son asks, looking puzzled. I shake my head and tell him he’ll have to look a bit further.

“But I can help you if you like”.

The offer is most welcome and over the next few days Daniel is keen to get his hands on my present. When we go to the beach, he digs in the  damp sand and looks under rocks trying to find that “something special”. He splashes in the water with his wellies and runs off after throwing seaweed in my direction, picking up shells washed up on the shore.  When we visit the forest, he explores every inch of the land, climbing trees and searching under plants and bushes with a stick that uncovers all sorts of natural wonders. We spot sheep, horses and cows out in the fields and follow long winding paths bathed in sunlight hoping to find something dropped in a puddle or left on a fence.

“Is this what you want mummy? “ he says picking up a shiny hook left from a hiker’s boot. He holds it up and it catches the light.

“That’s interesting, but I think we have to keep on looking” I tell him, as he skips away to take a closer look at a wild rabbit that has been brave enough to come out into the open.

We get dirty and hungry on our travels, but we’ve never had so much fun. We were pirates on the beach and superheroes in the forest. We ate sandy sandwiches (but we didn’t care!) and laughed together even when we got drenched in the rain.

candles-71089_1280

When my birthday finally comes round, Daniel wakes me up early and holds out his hand.

“This is for you”, he says, opening his fingers to reveal a tiny ladybird.

“That’s a beautiful gift” I tell him, letting the insect walk slowly over my arm.

“I couldn’t find what you really wanted so I got you this”, he says, shrugging his shoulders as he plonks himself down on the bed.

He doesn’t know it, but he gave me exactly what I wanted. Spending time together and discovering new sights and sounds made him happy every day on our “Great Birthday Hunt” and a smile was all I needed to see. Thats the greatest present any mother could wish for.

“You just made me the happiest mummy ever!” I tell him and that magic smile is back again.

Later that day, my guests arrive for an afternoon of love, hugs and  homemade carrot cake. My son helped decorate it with a T-rex  which makes everyone laugh and  my husband has hung up some heart-shaped ceiling decorations with kind words to describe his wife. Thank goodness, he’s left out “Terrible Cook”and “She Cheats at Boardgames!”. My teenage daughter has cleaned the house from top to bottom and when it gets a little bit dark, lavender candles fill the air with a calming sweet aroma. Some guests have made their own hats out of crêpe paper and coloured feathers and someone has made an elegant bow tie for my french bulldog which is a talking point for all.  I’m delighted with my “No Spend” presents which range from a  homemade scarf made from recycled wool, a free manicure, a pebble paperweight, breakfast in bed, No-walking- the- dog- for- a- week voucher and strangely, a piece of string.

“You said you were fed up with the tap. This is a quick fix until you get a plumber in”, says a male friend who advises my DIY challenged husband to tie it around the head of the faucet, let it hang down to a bowl, thus creating more ear friendly drips in the middle of the night. I’ve been complaining for a week now, so this is a very welcome gift. There follows a silly conversation about what  else we can do with a piece of string.  Some of the novel suggestions that make people smile include taking a tiger for a walk, making a macaroni necklace or  towing your car when it breaks down.

When it comes to making my Birthday Speech, I thank everyone for their lovely efforts and hope that we can all do it again next year. It’s been a great success and it proves that we don’t have to run to the nearest shop in order to make someone happy. The drinks flowed, the snacks got devoured and my husband amused the kids with his crazy guitar playing – Baa Baa Black sheep “rocked up”, sounds pretty awesome for a bunch of five year olds! My livingroom was crowded, noisy and strewn with party poppers , but that day, we made a thousand good memories and a house that glowed with laughter and joy. Even the pets had a good time. The cat moved from lap to lap, content with tickles under the chin (until he fell asleep in somebody’s handbag) and the dog got a few sneaky treats under the table from a generous guest.

Sometimes, our loved ones get scattered like leaves on a windy day – they grow up, they move away and we don’t see them as much as we’d like to. But when  my guests  arrived and  I helped them peel off their coats, hats and scarves at the front door, I felt like I was unwrapping the best gifts of all – Them!

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MOTHERING IN REAL LIFE

words by Starr Meneely

This article first appeared in issue 61 (Nov/Dec 2013) of The Mother magazine. Starr Meneely is the editor-in-chief of The Mother magazine. She is lives in a quiet village in the South East of England with her husband and four children. Subscribe to The Mother magazine HERE

One mother, one journey…

When I was seven years old, my parents decided to try homeschooling. I left my tiny elementary school where I had spent one pleasant year as a kindergarten student, joined my siblings at home, and for the following 11 years I was a ‘homeschooler’. I enjoyed it. I had a wholesome childhood education. When the time came, I flew the nest and went to university to become the ‘homeschooler who succeeded’. I had children, and grew into the ‘homeschooled-homeschooling mother’. I read about home education, I wrote about it. I talked and studied and theorised. I was excited to teach and share education with my children, and daydreamed about someday helping my own children educate their children. But life has a funny way of shaking things around, and there is something about mothering that continues to catch me by surprise. I am learning that it is easy to not be what we seem, and surprisingly difficult to be anything else.

My mothering life has been spent on a different side of the world to where I grew up. My husband and I have never known what it feels like to have extended family support while we parent our very young and rapidly growing family. There have been moments when I have collapsed on the kitchen floor: pregnant, exhausted, holding a fussy toddler, and sobbed helplessly out of sheer frustration and tiredness. The reality of mothering has surprised me on an unprecedented scale.

Despite this, I tried, with every sliver of energy I could find, to parent consciously and wholesomely. My ideals soared above me; a mountainous cloud of expectations, until I finally felt like I was living two lives: one in my head, and one in real life. Perhaps this is a fault of our generation. Maybe it has become too easy to paint the version of ourselves that we want to be, and then publish it on the Internet. We are constantly surrounded by images of such perfect parenting that it is easy to feel like we are failing in uniquely individual ways. The truths of our mothering journeys are often difficult to find; hidden away in the fine balance between the beautiful things we photograph and our lives behind the lens.

In 2012 my mother passed away. Even though we had lived thousands of miles apart for many years, her passing sharply shifted my perspective, and I began to yearn for a gentle flowing life. But wasn’t I already living a gentle flowing life? I had been putting huge amounts of thought and energy into creating one. I began to realise that my thoughts and energy did not tell an entire story. A blatant truth began to stare me in the face and then shout at the top of its lungs until I couldn’t help but to take notice of the way things really were.

I would have days, sometimes a string of days, where everything was perfect. I parented perfectly. My house was perfectly tidy. We learned and talked together. We did projects. We sang, prepared healthy meals, and worked through disagreements calmly and sensitively. These were lovely days. I was proud of these days. These were the days I wanted to talk about and share. But as I started to have more children, and my children grew older and bigger, I started to have fewer of these days. Instead I was having these other days, misfit days where everything fell apart. Days where I was certain I just wasn’t doing it right. Frustratingly, these ‘other’ days began to outnumber the lovely ones exponentially.

My house was messy: disastrously monumentally disgusting. We couldn’t find things. We didn’t have clean dishes. We didn’t have clean clothes. My husband would get up for work in the early hours before dawn and be unable to find clean socks or matching shoes. Our meals slipped into a steady routine of pasta, and bread, and then more pasta. The children were wild, jumping and fighting and screaming. They had outgrown our tiny English garden like a puppy outgrows its first kennel, and took to running the house like a racetrack. I couldn’t scrape together the energy needed to take them for much-needed walks and rambles, and I resorted to snapping, growling and shouting. I shouted a lot. I couldn’t find time to do anything. I had four children under the age of six, and our life was mostly chaos, full of shouting, filled to overflowing with the disappointment of not living the ideal life. This was not how I had always imagined I would be as a mother. I was failing.

I have been fortunate in this life to be married to a man who can see through chaos and find clarity. He looked at me one evening and said simply “We could send the children to school?” I stared at him blankly, my soulmate suddenly speaking in Martian. I was a homeschooler. You don’t just stop being a homeschooler. I would be seen as a massive hypocrite. What would people say? The ones who always thought we were crazy to homeschool? Or the people who thought we should homeschool? What if it didn’t work out and we changed our minds again? Everyone would certainly say things like “See…” followed by something that equalled our failure as parents.

“But we aren’t homeschooling or not because we care what other people think.”

Of course, he was right, and I knew that. But somewhere lost in the enchantment of beautiful blogs and holistic parenting books, I had forgotten this; and as I looked around at our life, our life as it really was, I couldn’t help but just nod. I still believed all the things I had ever believed about human-scale education and wholesome learning environments, but my husband was right: something wasn’t working.

There is a story in The Continuum Concept about a father who builds a playpen for his toddler. The point of the story is that when the father put the baby into the playpen and the baby hated it, the father immediately took him out and destroyed the playpen. The message is: how important it is to listen to your instincts and respect your child’s needs. I have always thought of this story and wondered: what if the baby hadn’t minded the playpen? The father would have probably been quite pleased with his structure and might have continued to use it until it was no longer needed, which means that there must have been a reason he felt they needed a playpen to begin with. He was actually just a normal father trying to muddle through normal family life.

If I had a playpen I would be ashamed that my natural-parenting friends might come over and see it.

I have begun to feel a quiet, painful bitterness towards this phrase ‘natural parenting’. As I have slowly come away from my homeschooling self, I have started to see a side of this alternative point of view that leaves me feeling strangely sad and lonely.

I have read many times, on forums and threads, questions such as “when do you know that your baby no longer needs to be carried in a sling?” I can’t understand how we have come to a point, as conscious, mindful parents, that we ask this question. A ‘mainstream’ parent would never ask “How will I know when my child no longer needs to ride in a pushchair?” The answer is patronisingly obvious. A child will no longer need it when they no longer need it. We have circled around. As we strive to be parents who listen to our instincts, we have stumbled into a whole new world of just the opposite. I can only cringe and sigh as I see our well-placed efforts to be attached parents manifest in such detached ways.

Truthfully, many of the alternative, natural, attached, hippy things that are a part of my parenting, I do because it is practical for us, and when they stop being practical I stop doing them. In too many ways we wear these descriptions like badges, proud that they set us apart, happy to refer to everyone else as mainstream. The truth is that I have grown weary of the term ‘mainstream’. No matter how many alternative elements there are in my life, I never feel that far away from the main current. My life is a healthy collection of Mother Nature, Spirituality, Pop Culture and High Fashion. Labelling ourselves and then labelling each other has to be one of the most terrible things we can do as mothers and as women. How hurtful to create such division between ourselves. How painful it is that healthy, loving mothers ever feel like they are doing it wrong: that they are judged by those of us who should be lifting each other up the most.

Is this what we’ve really come to? Has alternative parenting become just an elaborate pageant and whoever performs the most beautifully is the winner? I realise that it seems to be our human nature to be competitive, but I find this particular strain of competition sad and destructive. Mothers need each other. We need encouragement. We need love. We need to hear: “you are doing a beautiful job”.

How often do we see brand new mothers as the perfect target audience for a display of our opinions and advice on natural parenting? We pass the suggestions amongst ourselves, whispering to each other our disappointed disapproval whenever we see a mother choosing to do things otherwise.

“Give her a sling!” we say. “Give her a breast feeding book!”

“Forward this link to her. Invite her to this group!”

I remember myself as a brand new mother: tired, emotional, trying desperately to perfectly care for my brand-new little person. Motherhood was an overwhelming challenge of balancing my own upbringing with my husband’s upbringing, while trying to raise our baby with deep understanding. I don’t remember wanting advice on how to do it differently or better. I hardly wanted to hear how to make it easier. I just wanted someone to bring me a meal or hold the baby so I could shower. I wanted to hear people say that my baby was beautiful and intelligent, and that he must be that way because of the attention I paid and the care I took. I wanted love, and that was all.

I can see that this has not changed even as my children have grown and I have matured as a parent. The topics are different but the words around me are the same. Parenting often feels like I am navigating through a dense fog. As I feel my way along, I hear voices around me clicking and sighing. Perhaps some of this is in my imagination, but how often it feels like this. The message we should share with each other should be a message of love and not of judgement.

I believe that the most important thing we can do as parents is love our children. This sounds simple, and perhaps it is this simplicity that causes us to think that we need to complicate it with all sorts of philosophies and rules. I don’t think there is much more we can do than just parent with love, because, no matter what we do, we are bound to make mistakes. We will choose things now that we wouldn’t have chosen before and wouldn’t choose again. We stumble and flounder as we grow and our lives and families grow and change. I do not believe it can ever be black and white: right parenting and wrong parenting. We ebb along, changing as our family changes, adapting and flexing as we need to. I want my children to grow up believing that it is okay to think outside the box: my box, that is. I want them to question and seek out the things in life that are meant for them and their happiness. How can they ever do this if all they ever see is me, boxing myself away with labels and unforgiving opinions.

Motherhood takes us on a journey of adventure and growth, but ultimately, my life is my journey, my child’s life is their journey, and the thing we share is love. If we parent from a place of genuine love, we are as close to doing it right as we will ever be. Everything else is just extra. Parenting with high intentions and high ideals for a better world is wonderful, but it must be balanced with common sense and flexibility. It must walk alongside us, and not lead us.

These days, I meet my children in a school playground every afternoon at a quarter past three. When I see my child, we exchange huge smiles, and I collect them into my arms, close to my heart, and immediately shower them with questions about their day. I talk to them. I listen. I hold them close. A school playground is a place I never even imagined I would be. But as I wait, I feel a little flutter of excitement. Allowing this change to occur in our lives has done what it needed to do: my days have indeed become gentler. My house is a little tidier, our meals are healthier, and I am more patient. I am beginning to feel like I might have a chance of being the kind mother I always thought I would be, just with different variables. It has been important for me to accept that my husband and I are really just normal parents trying to muddle through normal family life.

Despite the labels I thought I carried, and the person I imagined myself to be, I am really just one mother on one journey.

Reference:
Liedloff, Jean. The Contiuum Concept. England: Duckworth, 1975. Print.
©photo by CIA DE FOTO is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

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Technology and Young Children

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Technology and Young Children by Dorothy Marlen from www.dorothymarlen.net as published in issue 64 of The Mother magazine, June/July 2014. 

This question is one of those “hot topics” at the moment and there is a huge difference in opinion as to whether we should be concerned or not. For me, who spends many hours on the computer everyday to make a living, I would not have thought there was any argument to be had. I know that too much computer time, especially into the evenings, makes it difficult for me to fall sleep. I know that it causes me to feel brain dead and I notice a general low depressive mood creeping in if I don’t take regular breaks to walk on Mother Earth.

Since having to use the computer a lot for professional networking and writing, I know my memory and my eyesight has deteriorated and that I suffer from various sorts of stiffness. I can see similar symptoms in my 24 year old son who’s livelihood is also computer based. I can also see how seductive, insistent, and wonderfully convenient my mobile phone is. If I can feel these types of effects form technology use, what are the effects on young children who are much more impressionable and sensorily sensitive.

New technology is produced and sold much faster than research on their effects can keep up with, and each generation of this screen based technology is more magical and compelling. Not only do we have computers and smart phones, we now have tablets too. Can we imagine that only a few years ago ipads were not even invented? In just one year ipads have found their way from 20% to 50 % of our homes. (Ofcom 2011).

Professionals, who work teaching young children and healing troubled ones, are beginning to notice disturbing symptoms in children. I worry about the effect of these wonder technologies on my health and my son’s health, and it worries me when I see computers, video games, mobile phones, and tablets used around and by young children.

Cris Rowan a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Biologist, Speaker, and Author lists 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned around young children. Handheld devices include: mobile phones, electronic games, and tablets. (Rowan 2014).

The reasons she lists include:

There is the possible hijacking and distortion of brain growth, which is phenomenal in the first three years by overexposure to technology. Causing symptoms ranging from attention deficit, cognitive delays,and increased impulsivity.

Over exposure has been linked to cognitive delays and disruption of the development of memory in a crucial stage of learning in a young child.

Danger of obesity from passivity.

Danger of addiction.

Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that young children would need to be treated for addiction to technology? If you have a toddler or child of any age for that matter who “melts down” if they have not had their technology fix you know what I mean. There is also the issue of sleep disturbance – from overexposure to  technology and from the possible effects of wi-fi. Sleep disturbances in babies, infants, and young children are now accepted as fairly normal! Other reasons include: increase in aggressive tenancies and digital dementia. Finally there are the effects of radiation emission particularly on young children who are much more open and vulnerable than adults.

In another article Rowan concludes, “Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Sedentary bodies bombarded with chaotic sensory stimulation are resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, with subsequent negative impact on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy. Hard-wired for high speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom” (Rowan 2013).

Apart from the possible long term effects of letting our young children play freely with what is primarily adult technology, there are also the increasingly observed cases of parents not being “present” to their children because they are also addicted to these wondrous screens. You can read about what children and young adults have to say about the long-term effects when their parents are hooked to their mobile or ipad in a new book by Catherine Steiner-Adair called Big disconnect- Protecting Childhood and Family Relations in the Digital Age. Is it being too dramatic to suggest it may have a similar effect to being in a family with a parent suffering from depression? We know now the long term effects on children from these difficult family situations.

Of course there are strong counter arguments in this debate – the strongest suggesting that these technologies are educational and that young children need to understand technology when they are young.Which ever side of the argument you finally end up on, we owe it to our children to think about the issue of the appropriateness of technology very carefully. When it comes to our young children’s long term mental, physical, social, and spiritual health (it will  be the young children now who will need to cope, and hopefully thrive, as adults 30 years from now in conditions we cannot yet imagine), we need to consciously decide what we want in our family life right now.

The American Academy of Pedriatics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics recommend that children under 2 have no exposure to any technology and that from 3-5 years old only up to an hour a day. In the Steiner Waldorf circles, it is recommended that exposure to technology is held off until at least the second phase of childhood (6 1/2 – years old) and then severely limited into young adulthood. This is based on an understanding of the young child which takes into consideration the multi-layered and subtle unfolding of the child’s physical and energetic constitution and their sensitivity to all sensory impressions. (I wonder whether part of our reluctance to really see the dangers to young children’s health is that we assume that young children are like small adults. Steiner Waldorf education convinced me that nothing could be further from the truth).

If we truly confront the issue of technology and young children it won’t be just our children who may have to go “cold turkey” without technology ( it only takes a couple of weeks!) – it will necessarily involve us changing our habitual use of technology around our children too. If you wonder how your children will be amused, if the magical technology is put away, then I recommend Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting. Here you will find many reasons and ideas to help give your children plenty of time to naturally play and grow, at their own pace, in the real world, while holding off the cyberworld.

Further Reading
Big Disconnect- Protecting Childhood and Family Relations in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair.
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne’
Zone’in Programs Inc www.zonein.ca.
Cites Listed
UKCCIS “Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes.” saferinternet.org.uk. Ofcom, 2011. Web. 2014.
Rowan, Cris “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.” huffingtonpost.com. Huff Post, 2014. Web. 2014.
Rowan, Cris “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child.” huffingtonpost.com. Huff Post, 2013. Web. 2014.
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Raising Feminist Sons

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Raising Feminist Sons by Mandy O’Brien from livingpeacefullywithchildren.com as published in issue 66 of The Mother magazine, October/November 2014. Artwork by Anna Petrova www.etsy.com/shop/pastelanna

As the mother of both sons and daughters, I can tell you that raising boys is different from raising girls. The joys of children are there regardless of what gender your child is, but the obstacles one faces in raising children changes with your child’s (perceived) gender. Many things remain the same whether you have a son, a daughter, or a transgender child still figuring out with whom they identify.

Children require love and guidance. They need encouragement to chase their dreams, make mistakes, and try again. They need plenty of time to play and plenty of time with loving adults. They need opportunities to muck about in the dirt, get messy with art supplies, and plenty of time and experiences to figure out exactly who they are and what they believe.

The difference between raising sons and daughters has nothing to do with who they are and everything to do with who society believes they should be or what they should do based solely on their gender. The way people interact with our children changes with that gender status, starting at birth. A baby boy is strapping, handsome, and strong, while your baby girl is adorable, cute, and sweet. The differences in how they are treated only increase from there.

Walk into most children’s stores and you will notice a disparity between the girls’ and boys’ sections. Girls can safely choose between pink and purple toys, generally consisting of baby dolls, dress up, and art supplies. Boys have a wider range of colours, excluding the aforementioned pink and purple, with emphasis lying among science and technology or gross motor skills. Marketing campaigns are well-versed in keeping the genders separate; gender specificity in everything from toys and clothing to car seats, cutlery, and bedding yields higher profits. In the event that a girl still manages to cross that invisible line in the store over to the boys’ section, it can occasionally be overlooked or presented as a way to support our daughters through feminism. The same cannot be said on how society views those boys who take a stroll across that border, crossing a line which is not meant to be crossed.

Feminism, the seemingly radical notion that men and women, boys and girls, are equal and deserving of the same rights, treatment, and aspirations, is important when raising daughters. I want my daughters to be strong and capable. I want my daughters to have the same rights as my sons when they grow up: voting, the ability not to be subjected to physical violence from their partner or others, or just to dream about having the job which calls to them and to receive comparable payment to their male co-workers or contemporaries. I don’t want their views, or their personhoods, to be dismissed because of their gender. Those reasons alone are reason enough for me to raise my sons in feminist theory. However, citing our daughters as reasons for feminism overly simplifies the matter while failing entirely to address the direct implications of feminism, or the lack thereof, on boys.

As men are not suffering from systemic oppression based on their gender, society as a whole often ignores how misogyny affects our sons. Boys don’t experience the same prejudices inherent in patriarchal societies in the same way as our daughters. The symptoms may be more subtle, but our sons also suffer from these beliefs. The sister of a boy can cross that imaginary gender divide in the store much more easily than her brother. Pink and purple, both equally valid choices among the plethora of colours, are verboten to the average boy. Instead of viewing doll playing in boys as great practice for future dads, it is still viewed as unacceptable by many. The gender stereotyping doesn’t end with play.

Emotions are not considered a masculine trait. Anything other than anger, a secondary emotion resulting from unexpressed feelings, is expected to be hidden. We’ve all heard the phrases ‘Don’t cry’ or ‘be a man muttered at some point by someone. Besides the very primal emotions which boys and men are expected to ignore, other behaviours are also grossly affected. Any culturally deemed effeminate behaviours are discouraged, limiting men in many ways from expression to profession.

Simultaneously, while pressure is placed on boys to act in stereotypically masculine ways, society also encourages a lack of responsibility and ownership through its perpetuation of rape culture, acceptable violence towards others, and cavalier phrases such as ‘boys will be boys’. The expected façade has boys and men donning stereotypical masks and hiding their true selves in an effort to avoid being ostracized by a society which has attempted to control others to the detriment of itself.

Our sons need feminism.  They need to grow up hearing, not only that their sisters and mothers and women around them are people deserving of equal treatment, but that they too, are deserving of equal treatment whether they fit stereotypical gender roles or not. Feminism encourages our children, including our sons, to view everyone as individual people, full of talents, beliefs, and dreams.

Raising feminist sons is not so different from raising feminist daughters. In fact, it is the same. There are many things you can do to raise your children in a manner which values them for the people they are in spite of living in a world where everyone is still not considered equal.

First and foremost, talk to your children. Talk to your daughters. Talk to your sons. They need to hear us say that they are worthy. They need to hear that we support them in whatever it is that they do, that they dream, and that they are. You are your child’s best advocate, and they need to know that you are there for them, so that when they need it, you are there to listen to them. We need to acknowledge that the world is not perfect and that there are things we can do to change that. Share your views. Listen to theirs, and be there for them.

Share with your children media which offers a feminist view point. Looking for books with strong female characters for your daughters? Share those same books with your sons. There are plenty of books on the market which show boys in strong roles. Expose your children to the strong girls, too. Don’t equate strength with only sword wielding heroes and heroines, though. Sometimes the greatest strength is required to be yourself in a world which says you should be otherwise.

Honour physical autonomy. Everyone deserves to know that their bodies are their own. Whether we are discussing abuse prevention or personal preferences, it is important that we recognize that our children’s bodies are theirs and to be mindful about respecting their decisions regarding their bodies. When it comes to their personhoods, children should be encouraged to say no to others regarding issues with which they are not comfortable, including forced affection from relatives who insist on hugs or kisses.

Embrace a man’s ability to be a positive role model. Whether those role models are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or friends, break through the oppressive view that says how men should act with their children, handle their emotions, or what activities they should enjoy. Men can be just as loving and gentle with their children as women. We just have to break through the barriers that say otherwise. At the same time, embrace women as positive role models, too. Boys should look up to people worthy of being respected, not because of a person’s gender.

Be gentle with your children. Conventional parenting with authoritarian rules sets up a false dichotomy of power over children, leading into a culturally oppressed patriarchy. Free your family and embrace everyone for the people they are. Oppression doesn’t merely exist; it is forced upon others. When we release ourselves, and our children, from the mainstream view point of powering over others, we allow ourselves to have power over ourselves. By doing so, we raise a generation who does not struggle to grasp control from others.

Your children will experience many things during their lives, and they need to learn how to deal with their feelings rather than turning them off. Allow emotions. Help children recognize different emotions and come up with strategies to deal with different situations. Emotions are never wrong. Acceptance of different emotions allows us to be true to ourselves. Acting in appropriate ways is learned, and something with which we can help our children.

Work for social change. When we, as parents, actively work for social change and set that example for our children, we are working toward equality from the inside out. Check your privilege. Most of us have some type of privilege. Recognizing that allows us to better understand others. Don’t hide differences between people. Embrace them. Talk about them. Learn from them. Only when everyone is equal will we, as a society, truly be free of oppression.

Feminism isn’t just for women. It is for everyone.

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Hope in the Heartache, Light in the Darkness

Welcome To the The Mother magazine’s Blog Carnival: “Friendship and Connection” The Mother magazine is a holistic, natural mothering publication. It is with great pleasure that we share this topic with such a talented group of bloggers. You will find links to the each of the other posts at the end of this one. We hope you enjoy them!

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In the dark hours you sit.

A child heats your lap with a fever that rages fire. Your chest heaves, holding an unimaginable weariness like a weight pinning you to the floor. Tears threaten at your lashes. In this moment you want to cry out; for help, for understanding, or just to hear the sound of a voice to bring you into reality – to remind you that it is just the darkness, the worry, and the exhaustion that makes this night seem so long and so lonely.

Daylight comes, as it always does, and you drag yourself into your group. Mothers, with their little ones, greet you with fresh smiles, embraces, knowing glances.

yes, coffee please, something much stronger than tea…

Compassion and laughter appear out of thin air and someone hands you cake and a hug.

up all night with a fever…

No one judges you for your rumpled clothes or your clean, un-made-up face. Just words of friendship and knowing – there is another mother who is the same – you lock eyes, your faces soften.

This circle, these women, they lift you up. They nurture you. You have this in common: strength, love, understanding… and you draw on each other in a cycle that makes each of you stronger.

Mothers need each other. These moments, these hours, these years of our mothering journey lay open our hearts to a deep expanse of growth and transition, and as we reach out for each other across these spaces, we blossom.

Our friendships and connections form foundations. They give us hope in the heartache and light in the darkness.

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Starr Mag Photo

 Starr Meneely is the owner and editor of The Mother Magazine and the author of the children’s picture book “What A Lovely Sound!” (illustrated by Susan Merrick). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Alaska where she studied under Dr. Timothy Smith. She is excited to be working on a project to help Mothers connect with other like-minded mothers. Visit the Indiegogo page to learn more MOTHERS CONNECT

©photo by George Duncan is licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0

 

 

Thank you for visiting The Mother magazine blog carnival, read further and enjoy the other fantastic bloggers!

 

Hope in the Heartache, Light in the Darkness

“A child heats your lap with a fever that rages fire. Your chest heaves, holding an unimaginable weariness like a weight pinning you to the floor. Tears threaten at your lashes. In this moment you want to cry out; for help, for understanding…”

Follow Starr and The Mother magazineFacebookTwitter

The Mama Club

“The internal battle between the nurturing unconditional Mama and the pregnant woman who watches pandemonium unfold from outside of her own body is already raging at this early morning hour. I can feel myself unraveling. I know I am going to yell. I know I have to contain myself. Pull it together. Breathe. Get the Coffee in the Cup. Try to Connect.”
Follow Kati from THE BEST THINGS • Facebook  • Twitter 
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The Dream Friendship

“For me a true friendship is built on honesty, love, trust and belief in each other.  When you have a friend with this kind of connection life is so much easier, especially the journey of motherhood.”

Follow Vicky from MOTHERING A DREAM

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Twins and Friendship

“After I had my twins and the weeks turned into months I began to feel afraid the words may ring true. I began to feel estranged from my old self, as if she had died but I had just then realized it. I felt as if I were imprisoned in my own home…”

Follow Miranda from Twinning It • Facebook • Twitter

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The Red Thread

“I feel blessed by the integrity of those women who I call friends, and am deeply thankful for the bonds that knit our lives together, even when we’re separated by long distances and busy lives. We connect at a heart level.”

Follow Veronika Sophia Robinson • FacebookTwitter

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On Kindred Spirits

“At times, I envy the ease with which my toddler makes friends. When we are at the park, now that we’re (mostly) past the how-dare-you-play-on-MY-slide phase, making friends is generally as simple as “I’m small; you’re small; let’s play!”  And off Bug goes with whatever other little kid happens to be there that day, while I look on wistfully.”

Follow Holly from Leaves of Lavender 

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Where Moms Make Friends in the Digital Age

“Before the Internet, moms met each other at Mothers’ Centers, when they dropped off and picked up their kids from nursery school, at child birth classes, in their neighborhood where moms used to knock on each others’ doors for tea and a chat, and at work”

Follow Laurie Hollman, PhD  • FacebookTwitter

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Flirt with Utopia, interview with Michel Odent

starr and michel for blogIn a London Victorian terraced house I sat opposite one of the greatest minds of our time. Progressive and brilliant. Fearlessly challenging the conditioned cultural belief that “Women have not the power to give birth by themselves”. Dr. Michel Odent presents his theories founded on research and hard data. His suggestions are inspiring and his message is clear: “if we understood the importance of what a labouring woman needs it might dramatically change the history of childbirth”.

What an honour to hear his views in person. I could have easily said goodbye to my camera crew and sat for hours listening and theorising with this childbirth hero. It is with sincere pleasure that I host a few of his words in this issue.

When a first time mother enters into her own first labour, she is often walking blindly, having only heard stories of birth but never witnessed one. If we are able to encourage just one mother to believe that she is capable of giving birth naturally, without intervention, then we have succeeded.

Please enjoy this rare opportunity.

Starr Meneely, Editor-in-Chief of The Mother magazine

What Are The Challenges Women Face in Pregnancy and Childbirth?

think to answer this question about challenges women have during pregnancy, we have to wonder first what are the basic needs of pregnant women? I realise through experience that pregnant women need to communicate with other pregnant women. They need to talk with pregnant women and young mothers with babies.

I realised this in a hospital in France where we introduced the concept of singing sessions for pregnant women. Women were invited, once a week, to sing together around a piano. Interestingly, after each session the women were happy to say “see you next week”. After singing they were talking about themselves and their babies. They were happy to meet other young mothers. I think it’s a basic need to talk about baby.

The emotional state of the mother is an important factor, influencing the growth and the development of a baby in the womb. We understand that ideally a pregnant woman needs to live in peace. She needs to be in a positive emotional state, to have joyful experiences. I go back to our singing sessions, We could see joyful faces. The emotional state of a pregnant woman is vital.

Today the emotional state of women is, to a great extent, influenced by new factors special to our society; the medicalisation of pregnancy. Pregnant women have

many prenatal visits, but prenatal care is a new concept. We observe that many pregnant women have difficulties living in peace because of this dominant style of prenatal care. The dominant style of prenatal care is testing … testing … testing, an incredible amount of tests. Testing the development of the baby, testing the health of the mother, trying to detect possible health problems in the mother. We are reaching a time when it is almost impossible to meet a ‘normal’ pregnant woman. It is difficult for a pregnant woman to live in peace because of this style of prenatal care.

When we talk about the life of pregnant women we have to consider all of these factors that are special to the 21st Century and that it is difficult for pregnant women to live in peace.

Describe Birth and Fear?

When we talk about childbirth often the word ‘fear’ appears as well. Fear of birth is an aspect of human nature. But what we have to understand, is that Nature found a way to overcome this fear of birth. The part of the brain called the neocortex, is highly developed among humans, so developed that we can understand that the fear of giving birth, and many other fears, are special to our species. During birth this part of our brain is supposed to stop working. Giving birth is the business of archaic, primitive brain structures.

The main handicap during the birth process among humans is the activity of the brain of the intellect – the neocortex. The brain associated with conditioning and cultural fears; fears of death, fear of giving birth. Stopping this activity, this ‘fear’, is exactly what makes birth possible in humans, by eliminating the cultural conditionals, particularly the fear of birth.

The basic need of a labouring woman is to be protected from anything that might stimulate the neocortex, the brain of the intellect. It means that, in practice, silence is a basic need. Language is the enemy when a woman is giving birth. Also, light, for example. Today we can explain the effect of light. Light inhibits the release of melatonin. One of the properties of melatonin is to reduce the activity of the neocortex.

To contrast the way we understand the birth process, when we think like physiologists, is to contrast the basis of our cultural conditioning – that a woman has not the power to give birth by herself. That a woman cannot give birth without some kind of interferences, help, or support.

How Important is the Birth Environment?

It’s important to emphasis at which point environmental factors are important when a woman is giving birth. In order to give birth you need to release a mixture of hormones, one of them is particularly important; oxytocin. But this hormone is a ‘shy’ hormone. Oxytocin is like a shy person that does not appear among strangers or observers. You also need to release this hormone is other situations, for example, to make love both partners have to release oxytocin. It is well known that in general you need privacy to make love. To give birth you also need to release this shy hormone. It is incredibly simple. It’s important to realise the importance of the environment. It is important that there are few people as possible around.

What is your Opinion on the Participation of the Father at Birth?

During the 21st Century when we talk about childbirth, we are obliged to refer to the particularities of childbirth in our cultural environment, in particular the participation of the father at birth. It is Important to recall that this is something absolutely new. Young generations must realise that the issue of the participation of the baby’s father at birth is special to our society. This started to become a popular request from mothers at the time when birth became more and more concentrated in huge hospitals, the beginning of the ‘institutionalisation of childbirth’. Historically speaking, we can associate the participation of the baby’s father at birth with the institutionalisation of childbirth.

It was also the time when the nuclear family became smaller, so that in the daily life of many modern women the baby’s father was the only familiar person. However, there was a question that was not asked during this time. When the baby’s father participates in birth, what kind of influence will this fact have on the sexual life of the couple. This is a difficult question, a question of sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is mysterious, and perhaps sexual attraction needs some kind of mystery. At that time the only people who raised this question were women from a previous generation. Women who had babies in 1920 at home. When they were told of this new behaviour of young couples in birth their reaction was “ I cannot imagine my husband watching me when I gave birth.”

At the present time I have special interest in another question that has not been raised. It is about the health and behaviour of the father in the days and weeks following baby’s birth. I am convinced there is male postpartum depression which is not recognised as such. Male depression is a hidden, covert depression. Men often have symptoms of depression just at the time following birth. This is just an example of the many questions, regarding the participation of fathers in birth, that have not been raised properly.

Regarding the effect on the birth itself, we assume that if the theoreticians of the 1970s, had had a better understanding of birth physiology, they would have anticipated that when a man loves his wife it will be normal for him to release stress hormones. A high level of adrenaline is contagious. It is transferred to the labouring woman and if she is producing adrenalin she cannot release oxytocin, the main hormone needed for giving birth. This is exactly what we need to understand today, when we speak like physiologists. You cannot help an evolutionary process. Birth is an evolutionary process and archaic, primitive brain structures need to be protected. This is why the issue of the participation of baby’s father at birth is very important at the present time, especially in our society. It is much more complex than we could have imagined.

In general we can say that the duration and difficulty in labour is proportional to the number of people around. We need scientific explanations, to discover what has always been known in many cultures. I know a Persian proverb which says “Two midwives and the baby’s head is crooked”, a Hungarian proverb says “When there are two midwives baby is lost”, and in Chile, traditionally they say “Too many hands kill the baby.” This has been well known in many societies. But now this is culturally almost unacceptable. When I talk about this with other professionals they only consider the obstacles saying that this situation is utopian. The question is “What about baby’s father?”

We are in a strange paradoxical situation where it is politically correct to say that we must reduce the rate of Caesarean section. But if you describe a birth situation that is as easy and fast as possible; to feel secure without feeling observed, to be protected from language and light, you are at the limit of what is politically correct. You have to flirt with utopia.

Does The way We are Born Have Life-long Consequences?

The possible long-term effects of how we are born is not a question of opinion. Today it is a question of hard data. I have to mention our database (primalhealthresearch.com) which specialises in studies that explore correlations between what happens at the beginning of our life and what happens later on. When I say the ‘beginning of life’ it’s what we call the ‘primal period’ which goes from conception until the first birthday, it includes the birth itself. What we can learn today for sure is that the way we are born has long-term consequences, and when we say long-term consequences, it is not just lifelong effects. Today we are starting to consider trans-generational effect of what happens at the beginning of life.

More and more studies suggest that the effect can go beyond lifelong effects. This can be interpreted in the light of emerging scientific disciplines like Epigenetics and also modern Bacteriology. We can understand now the hundreds of trillions of microbes that occupy the mother’s body can, to a certain extent transmit to the next generation.

What is also interesting, is that for some pathological conditions all studies give concordant results. An example, if you take the case of autism which is an important topic today. You find that whatever the country and whatever the research protocol, there are similarities in the result. It is that the period of birth is critical. In modern language we can say that it appears that the period of birth is critical for gene-environment interaction. There are genetic factors and environmental factors. The particular question is ‘when’ this interaction occurs. In our database we have enough information to say that it appears that the period of birth is critical.

Today there are also more and more studies that have, what might be considered, ‘mysterious’ results. Referring to what we call the microbiome revolution. In terms of bacteriology there is a real revolution with new techniques used by bacteriologists. We can present homo sapiens in an absolutely different way, it was impossible to do this five years ago. Today we can say that, among homo sapiens, there is a kind of ecosystem with a constant interaction between the hundreds of trillions of microbes that occupy the body; the gut, skin, mouth, and so on, and our genome. Today we realise that our health and our behaviour is to a great extent influenced by these hundreds of trillions of microbes.

It is acceptable today to say that the microbiome is established immediately after birth. To be born is to enter the world of microbe. When a baby is born he is germ free, an hour later billions and billions of microbes have colonised in his body. Originally these microbes come from the mother. The vaginal perineal route is full of microbes colonising immediately in the baby, often in a place familiar for the mother. The first microbes have an important role to play. Immediately after birth they programme and educate our immune system. This is important because the microbes that come from the mother are friendly for the baby, they are familiar microbes and maternal antibodies have easily crossed through the placenta.

From a bacteriological perspective, childbirth is a phase of human life that has been dramatically modified. Until recently all babies were born by the vaginal route in a familiar place. Today some babies are born by caesarean section in an operating theatre in a sterile environment. This is a terrible microbial deprivation. Babies need microbes immediately after birth. Many babies are also exposed to antibiotics which is another way to disturb the way how the microbiome is established.

We can understand now that disturbing the birth process, from a bacteriological perspective, is disturbing the way our immune system is programmed immediately birth. Theoretically we can anticipate more deregulation of the immune system. Today it is becoming easy to explain the importance in the way babies are born.

The one situation associated with a birth that is as easy and fast as possible, is when there’s nobody around the labouring woman apart from one experienced midwife or doula sitting in a corner knitting and that’s all, it’s simple. If this was better understood I think it might dramatically change the history of childbirth.

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BLOG CARNIVAL “Connection”

 

ANNOUNCING The Mother Magazine’s Blog Carnival “Connection”

The Mother Magazine is excited to invite you to participate in our blog carnival focusing on friendship. Friendship is vital between mothers – we need this connection with each other. This Carnival is going to celebrate this theme. We would love to have you participate by writing a post about friendship. The format is open – you can submit thoughts, stories, experiences, poems, or share personal journeys and inspiration. Follow the link below to register.

** REGISTER HERE **

Dates to Remember:

  • Registration deadline – 17 October 2014.
  • Article Submission deadline – 24 October 2014, (email us a copy of your post before publishing – we might suggest editorial changes).
  • The Carnival publishing date –  6 November 2014, (this is the day you will need to publish your post)
  • We will email you specific posting details on 28 October 2014.

 

A few details to get you started:

  • Blog posts must be between 300 – 600 words, focusing on the topic of “friendship”.
  • Blog posts should not contain any advertising or sponsorship.
  • The Mother Magazine and our digital sister magazine “Connect” are both natural, holistic mothering and living publications. Please keep this ethos in mind as you are writing.

 

A selection of the posts will be included for publication in the November issue of our digital sister magazine “Connect“.

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©photo by ANROIR is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0
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Baby Signing to Transform Parenting

If someone told you that it was possible to prevent up to 90% of toddler upset and tantrums, you’d really want to know how – and why.

The ‘how’ is baby signing and the use of four, just four, simple signs.

The ‘Why’ is explained below. 

Baby signing is the use of gesture (or sign), with speech, to enable even very young children to be able to communicate what they may need or want before speech begins. 

The use of signing encourages peaceful, respectful and responsive interactions with happy, confident children who have the resources and capability to ask for what they need with their hands, easily and quickly.

Signing is a wonderful parenting tool for anyone with children under 7. I would go so far as to say that it is one of the most transformative tools for parenting and responsive care-giving that I am to come across.  And with busy modern lives, having an immediate visual point of reference is invaluable as we process visual signals so much more quickly than the spoken word.

Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs in 1943 which is based on Maslow’s theory that Man’s “most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon higher level needs.”

Basic needs are literally the requirements for human survival; food, drink, sleep, excretion, comfort, shelter. Without these needs being met, quite simply the body cannot continue to function.  

‘It has been suggested that up to 90% of toddler tantrums are related to just four things. 

The need to eat, to drink, to sleep and to receive comfort’

Children who are able to communicate their needs and be understood, are able to progress to higher level interests (the important things in life – climbing, gazing at butterflies, and contemplating ants…) which in turn impacts greatly on their learning capabilities.  In reverse, a child who is always concentrating on an unmet basic need will feel “anxious and tense”. This anxiety manifests as meltdown and distress.

As responsive parents, we want to make sure that we are providing as much opportunity as possible for our little people to communicate with us. The use of gesture is a perfectly normal part of speech development (think waving, clapping, pointing)  but has the benefit of supporting our attachment bond by increasing eye contact and the giving and receiving of undivided attention.

Maximise peaceful, happy and cherished interactions by learning and using these four signs:

Eat or Milk (food)

Drink

Bed (sleep)

Cuddle (comfort)

If you are feeling confident, then additional signs that will also help meet immediate needs are:

Nappy Change or Toilet if you EC (excretion)

Home (shelter)

Help 

Hurt

And after that, you’ll want to expand your signing vocabulary as you fall in love with using it.

SIGNING CORRECTLY:

GAIN your child’s attention by saying their name

SIGN so that they can see you

SAY the word as you sign it

WAIT for a response (a turn of the head or body away = no; excited arm flapping = yay!)

REPEAT – again and again and again.

At the very least you will have a great deal of fun and learn a new modern language  – but, with a little effort, I’ll guarantee that you will gain a confident, more communicative child who can let you know what they need too!

4 signs to learn today!

©photo by E.J. Richards is licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0

Shelley Headshot

 

Shelley juggles motherhood, endless washing and wonderful outdoor adventures with a passion for communication and the incredible world of baby signing at Little Signers Club and Online Babysign – www.littlesignersclub.co.uk / www.onlinebabysign.co.uk

 

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Enjoying Summer

Here in the American South, summer is settling in all around us. Eighty-five degrees is considered a cool day, there is forever and always a 50% chance of scattered showers/storms. I strive to get my run in before 9am or after 8pm, else it will feel like running in a sauna. It is during this season that I find spending time outdoors with my son to be a bit more challenging. The woods we love romping through are suddenly filled with critters that fly, slither, or crawl out from every corner and even spending a few hours in the garden can leave us feeling spent due to the often high humidity.

Still, I know time outdoors is so important, regardless of the season. And I strongly believe that seasonal adaptation to climate requires spending time enjoying the outdoors in order to adjust/adapt to temperature changes. It’s certainly better than what often becomes the alternative for many children – watching television and/or playing video games.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, “Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom.” I find these statistics unbelievable but notice that the higher our temperatures rise, I see fewer children and/or adults enjoying outside time. In our neighborhood, the hum of air conditioners replaces the sound of children running and playing outdoors each evening. It’s suddenly still and quiet. My son asks, “Where is everyone?” 

“Indoors,” I respond. 

The changing seasons are part of the cycle of nature and not something I believe we should shield ourselves from. There are simply too many benefits to spending time outdoors to avoid it for the entire summer! Some of the health benefits include, but are not limited to –  improved concentration; greater levels of happiness and feelings of mental wellbeing; improved overall health through exercise and outdoor play;  creativity (my son created an entire ‘house’ using found objects in our woods last year, a project he worked on for the entire summer!);  a love and appreciation of – as well as knowledge about – the flora and fauna in one’s environment; and according to Harvard Health Publications (via www.health.harvard.edu) with exposure to natural light, you may even heal faster! And that’s just a very brief compilation of the benefits of spending time outdoors.

While summer is upon the Northern Hemisphere and in many places people are flocking to lakes, pools and beaches, in warmer climates like mine the tendency can be to turn up the AC and spend three months avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. However, I have found that the more time my son and I spend outdoors in summer, the easier we adapt to the temperatures as they rise. Our time outside is not always about being physically active or going to some ‘wild’ local. Our time outdoors often consists of simply:

– Taking a long walk in our woods or neighborhood

– Dining outdoors

– Enjoying time on our patio, where we often  just sit and talk

– Working in the garden

– Going to a local park

– Bird-watching at the edge of the pond

– Reading outdoors

There are so many other ways to enjoy all the benefits of being outdoors, even in summer!  Be creative, protect your skin from the sun, and remember to have plenty of water on hand, and get out there!

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©photo by James Young is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Me

Amy L. Alley is mother to one son, works full-time as an educator and is also a freelance writer. Her blog, www.panpanstudios.com, focuses on maintaining a healthy, balanced, holistic lifestyle through embracing simple living; love of the handmade and homemade; quality time with loved ones and quality time just with ourselves; finding everyday adventures; time in nature; making our homes into sacred spaces; trying new recipes and knitting patterns; and finding beauty and joy in the moments that make up our daily lives. She loves to hear from her readers at amialley@hotmail.com, and you can find her on Ravelry.com under Zenmamaknits.

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Putting Words to Birth Contractions

Contractions. Birth waves. Rushes. Surges.

They’re an undeniable part of birth; a powerful force that brings life and a new season for a woman. Beautiful in their own rite, contractions can emulate a multitude of different feelings – painful, productive, piercing, tight, deep and ever-changing. No doubt, contractions are mighty and I’m often in awe of how a mother’s body partners with baby to accomplish birth. 

Throughout one birth experience there can be quite an array of contractions, at least that’s what I experienced between my two labours. As a first time mother in 2010 I experienced immediate contractions once my water broke. Over the following 40 hours my body worked on my behalf, sometimes in contradiction to my mind, to birth my baby. After my daughter’s birth I journaled many of the moments I wanted to remember, one being the characteristics of my contractions …

During this time my contractions took on a life of their own. At times they felt very masculine in nature and then they’d morph and feel more feminine. Sounds crazy, no? I associated the contractions that were more of a deep, pressure-filled pain, causing me to moan, as “he” and the shorter, sharp contractions as “she”. Delusional described me well by Friday afternoon.

It was in these delusional moments that my body took over. I gave way to the contractions and let them do the work of birthing my baby. They owned me and I let them because I knew the prize they would deliver. I found myself wanting to give up and be buried by the contractions and then I’d remember, with birth, forward is the only option. And those powerful contractions propelled me into one of the most beautiful moments of my life – seeing my daughter for the first time. 

Two years later, I was in the throws of my second birth. Almost an opposite experience. There were no drawn out contractions, no stalling, no opportunity to catch my breath. They were fast and furious, and once again, life-giving. This time, the only memento I have of these contractions are a brief chronicle of the times they came (every 60-90 seconds) and this phrase, “They are coming so fast. I just can’t stay on top of them.”

Yes, very different contraction and birth experiences indeed. 

So often birth stories revolve around the highlight – BABY! And rightly so. But in a recent conversation with some fellow mamas we focused specifically on contractions and how they felt. After all, contractions are the vehicle that make it all happen. Here’s what they had to say in response to the question,

What did your contractions feel like?

Before transition they felt like mild to moderate menstrual cramps. Not bad at all. Transition was like the worst stomach flu and cramps ever. After transition they really didn’t hurt any more. Instead, I felt powerful. So powerful. And out of control. That was scary because I was in a car flying down a freeway trying not to give birth. And when I didn’t have to fight my body – it was amazing. – Rachael

For me, there was a clear difference between my Braxton hicks and labor contractions. BH’s were irregular and would last for minutes at a time. Labor contractions were perfectly timed, with a clear start and finish, even before they became painful. – Mary

Lasting for days on and off. At times feeling like “rush me to the hospital!” And other times “get my toddler away so i can breath through this (but not as intense as hospital-ready). In the end, two weeks overdue and a c-section. So my final words were, what was the point?! – Emily

Like one big, deep Charlie horse from my ribs to thighs. – Jacque

Like menstrual cramps times 10,000. -Ashley

With my second it was an immense pressure right where my pubic bones meet at the front. – Bianca

Like fire in my thighs. – Alicia

Needles in the back. Both times felt like my back was ripping or splitting apart. BUT IT DIDN’T! And pushing was easiest.Lots of work but it felt like I was taking that pain and pressure and using it to get baby out. -Jennifer

At first they felt like I was being squeezed really tight, like my abs were seizing up almost, enough to be painful … It’s very hard to describe other than just CRUSHING pain from the top of my belly down to my knees. Near the end there was also an intense burning sensation, as if my hips and thighs were on fire. -Janine

I had intense back labor. Each contraction felt like a knot n my back. – Bethany

Like the worst ever stomach cramps, that were pressing hard against the tiny bones of my baby, so sharp and hard. -Joy

And yet, with all the mentions of pain and discomfort, all of these mamas share the same sentiment ... they would do it all again if it meant getting to hold their fresh, miracle of a baby in their arms. 

What did contractions feel like for you? What words would you assign to that powerful rush that brought you your little one?

Photo by  LCS PhotographyDSC_0802 bw

Gretchen Bossio – Wife of one hardworking husband and mama of the sweet Jemma (3) and Max (1), Gretchen writes about finding beauty, confidence and rest in motherhood on her blog, That Mama Gretchen.

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