The Magic of Holidays with a Toddler

Gone are the days when going on holiday meant late, warm and sultry evenings dancing the night away, nights philosophising about the meaning of life over too many bottles of wine with a loved one or friend, your words becoming a whisper as you hear the birds announcing the arrival of morning, and late morning lie-ins with brunches which become lunches, which become dinners. Those were the days when holidays were one spontaneous activity after another, with no set routines or place to be.

Now we have a toddler and the meaning of ‘going on holiday’ has changed: it means planned holiday outings revolving around napping and feeding schedules. It means finding child-friendly venues instead of cocktail bars and spending afternoons in the pool teaching your child how to swim, the sound of shrieking and laughter filling the air, instead of relaxing on a li-lo, cocktail in hand, dozing off to the sweet sound of splashing water.  It means spending the day indoors cooking or baking, wanting to spoil your loved ones with a special meal, instead of booking a table at the trendy new restaurant down the road.

Being on holiday with a toddler means being awake before dawn, softly reading a book in the hope of letting the rest of the family lie in, the house filled with a peaceful silence, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air and golden rays of light peeking through drawn curtains. It’s realising that this is the best part of the day (and of being a parent) – the allure of a new beginning, of a new adventure and of another chance knocking on the door to your soul.

One morning during our recent holiday, Bean decided to wake up at 04:30 am. It was still dark outside, and after trying to ignore his insistent calls, ‘Mama, MAMA, MAAAAAMAAAAAA’, I decided to fetch him from his cot in the hope that he might doze off again in bed next to me. As I lay down, Bean comfortable in my arms, he popped his thumb into his mouth and I, elated, thinking this plan might actually work, closed my eyes as I let out a sigh of relief, ready to go back to sleep. As I was taking in the sound of silence engulfing us, feeling blessed to have this little body lie next to mine, I felt his soft hand caressing my cheek, then moving onto my eyes and finally landing on my nose, where it hovered for a while until I felt a gentle squeeze, Bean gleefully shouting ‘meep, meep’. Needless to say, playtime had officially started.

Our holidays are now filled with important moments like these and I wish there was a way we could photograph these special never-to-be-repeated scenes in an attempt to keep them in our memory banks forever, instead of the monument or the view which will probably still be there in 10 years to come: the moment when your child shouts out ‘woweee’ every time he sees a flag or when he runs to his sleeping gran’s bedroom door at 4am excitedly shouting ‘Oma, Oma, Oma’, as he knocks on the door and the groggy but happy face beaming down at him as the door opens.

These are the moments which are truly unforgettable and magical and simply wonderful.

 

A Newborn Marriage Challenge

We attended a wedding last weekend and as I was listening to the pastor deliver his sermon, I was transported back to my own wedding day and the feelings of joy and elation I experienced in anticipation of something great. I remembered our priest saying that we had committed to being together, to finding strength in each other through times of abundance and happiness (and lots of wine), as well as through times of drought (and only water). As I took hold of my husband’s hand while we witnessed our friends committing to a life of happily-ever-after, I realised that our own fairy tale had recently started to fade, our marriage being characterised more by drought, than by abundance.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not broken, a piece of shattered glass which cannot be repaired. We love each other, our family and our life. But, having a child has put a strain on our bond, which, if not nurtured, will shatter. Having a child has meant that there is an extra person, a little blessing who needs constant love and attention, in our life and in our marriage. It has meant that we are always tired and it has meant that we have placed Bean first, letting our marriage fall into the background. Nobody functions well when they are tired and an exhausted person can easily become unreasonable, snappy and bitter. Combine this with a lack of fun, romantic activities and added financial pressures and it is all too easy to fall into a cycle of blame and fighting.

Because of this, I have put together a challenge, a few daily actions focused on strengthening our relationship, and as I am sure that most couples (whether married or not) experience this, that A and I are not the exception to the rule, I have decided to share this challenge. So here goes:

  1. Remember that your relationship comes first

Being a mom, it is so easy to place the needs of our children first. That is what being a mom is after all – it means that our children’s needs, their growth and their emotional development are of paramount importance. I am guilty of this a hundred times over. I have however realised, that there would be no child, there would be no family, if it were not for us, for our relationship, for our marriage. I would not be able to give my child the stable family home environment I believe is so important in his upbringing, if A and I are not in a stable, happy and strong relationship.

Do something for your partner every day: whether it is making a sandwich for work, or it is taking 5 minutes out of your day to hear how her day went, do something which is only for him/her.

  1. Tell your partner you love them

This should be done every day, at least once. And not in parting, out of habit, as you say good bye. Look your partner in the eye and say it. Mean it.

  1. Choose your partner

Being in a relationship with someone is a choice, a choice we make every day. Whether it’s an easy subconscious choice (as you wake up in your partner’s arms with a smile) or a more difficult conscious choice (after a fight), it is a choice. Be sure to always choose your partner, your relationship and your family.

  1. Give your partner a compliment

It is so easy to criticise and to harp on the negative as the pressures of daily life get too much. But instead of focusing on the negative: the fact that your partner is not helping with the dishes (again) or that he or she is late from work (again) leaving you with all the house hold chores and kids to take care of, for example, focus on the good. Tell him how much you appreciate him working late to provide for your family. Tell her how beautiful she looks today.

  1. Be grateful

Take a moment every day to say thanks. There is always something to be thankful for.

  1. Take care of yourself

My mom always reminds me of the oxygen masks and their rule of use in an aeroplane: the air hostesses always say that in an emergency, first place the oxygen mask over your own face before helping others to fit theirs. The reason: you will not be able to help them if you pass out due to a lack of oxygen. Similarly, you cannot take care of your family, if you are not taken care of. Every single person has needs and desires, dreams and aspirations and they are all equally important. Do not lose sight of yours simply because you have a family to take care of. Find a balance and be sure that you are happy – a happy parent leads to a happy family.

Do something every day that makes you happy (even if it is just a hot cup of coffee).

 

 

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety

My son suffers from separation anxiety: I always imagine us literally looking like a pair of monkeys when we go anywhere: the mother monkey walking along the road with the baby monkey attached to her, its little arms and legs wrapped around her upper body so tight that there is no way this little baby is being left behind, forgotten or dropped. Similarly, Bean wraps himself around me, clinging on for dear life, when someone comes to visit or when we first arrive somewhere.

In Afrikaans we use the term ‘ma vas’ to describe a child who suffers from separation anxiety and it describes this phenomenon perfectly: being stuck to mom. Although I secretly love being so needed and loved, it can be very traumatising (for both my son and I) at times. When I have to go somewhere (anywhere, even the toilet) and I leave him with our nanny or his grandmother, or aunt, or sometimes even dad, he becomes hysterical. Granted, the crying does not last long and he soon gets distracted and carries on playing, but it is heart-breaking seeing those big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks, hearing his heart-sore cry. It also makes nights difficult when he wakes up crying needing to be assured that I am there.

Although I have accepted that for now, my baby simply needs me and I will therefore do my best to be there for him, it is just not possible to be with him 24/7. I have therefore implemented the following steps to help mitigate Bean’s separation anxiety:

Build a relationship of trust

Before I leave, I pick Bean up, give him a big hug and tell him I am leaving, where I am leaving to, why I have to leave and most importantly, when I will be back. I make a point of telling the truth and I do not lie about any of the timelines given. I know that he is still small and does not understand it all, but there will be a time when he does, so for now I am laying the foundation for him to trust me.

Although it seems easier to quickly sneak out instead of saying good bye, I feel that this would create even more anxiety as he would never be 100% sure of my whereabouts.

Let him get accustomed to people and surroundings

This sounds logical but I have noticed that when we get somewhere, people in general, as well as family and friends, immediately want to hold Bean. In the case of people being newly introduced to Bean, they either want to get to know him and get a cuddle (because there is nothing better than baby cuddles) and in the case of family and friends, they love him and want to spend time with him. And I, of course, understand this – when I see him, I also immediately want to snatch him up and give him love! But he needs to first get used to his surroundings, get used to the new faces and be assured that I am not going anywhere. By doing this, Bean, confident that I am around in case he needs me, will start exploring and going to people on his own, within a short amount of time.

Socialise

I take Bean to a weekly music class as well as a mom and toddler class, and he loves it. Although he was a bit shy and very attached to me in the beginning, he now runs to the teachers and the other kids the minute we arrive. He does still walk back to me every so often, thumb in mouth, to grab hold of my shirt collar or scarf while laying his head on my shoulder to recharge, but for the rest of the class he confidently struts around, exploring anything new while he excitedly participates in all the activities.

Bean is still ‘ma vas’ but since I have implemented the above guidelines, it has gotten a lot better.  He knows that he can trust me and he can trust that fact that I will be there for him when he needs me.

Life Lessons from War

My grandparents were both born in Germany before the second world war, in a time where everybody was taught to live a life of duty and sacrifice. By the time the war was over, my grandmother was 12 and my grandfather was 10. At such a tender age they had both seen and experienced atrocities and loss which a grown adult would struggle to comprehend and process, let alone a child. After the war, their country ravaged, everybody hungry, they had to help build again what once was, help source food for hungry siblings – there was no time for self pity or for psychologists. All they could do was survive and be strong enough to live another day.

Because of this childhood, duty, sacrifice and the pursuit of perfection was something so ingrained in their very beings that they often struggled to comprehend our current world of entitlement and feelings. Although this lead to a number of arguments, one generation not understanding the next, they did teach us the following life lessons – lessons which are the life-blood of our family, lessons which I will pass on to my children and which will hopefully be passed on for generations to come:

You are much prettier when you smile, than when you frown
(Viel schoener bist du wenn du lachst, als wenn du eine Schnute machst)

There is so much power in a simple smile, it helps to not only make yourself feel better, it also helps all those around you. Whether it is meant as a simple greeting, or as something deeper like ‘I love you’, a smile brings warmth and brightness into the world. Imagine how much happier this world would be if we all just smiled a little more and complained a little less. Instead of focusing on the negative, being grateful for the positive.

There is no such thing as ‘Impossible’

Through persistence, everything is possible. It might not be possible right this instance, but do not give up. If you really want something badly enough, persist and the seemingly impossible soon becomes possible.

My gran recently had a car accident and because of her age (82), the doctor insisted that her broken leg will take months, if not years, to heal properly. Yet, 2 months after the accident, she is at home, in a moon boot, carrying on with her life. She could have succumbed to feelings of self-pity and frustration and given up on ever getting better, but she wanted to go home and that meant being mobile. So, she became mobile.

Do not procrastinate – do what can be done today, today
(Was du heute kannst besorgen, das schiebe nicht auf morgen)

Every day brings with it its own set of priorities, tasks and duties, so make the time to do them. It does not help pushing things onto another day as that day will be filled with new things and if you keep on procrastinating, you will never get everything done.

Do not be lazy – a little work never hurt anyone

We are a family of busy bodies – not one of us is able to sit still for very long without finding something that needs to get done, because, there is always something that needs doing. Whether it is doing a load of washing or packing the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher or walking through the garden picking up dead leaves, if you do not do it, it will not get done.

We were taught that we cannot walk through life expecting ‘someone’ to do things for us. If we wanted something, we needed to work for it. This taught us independence and self-reliance – values I believe to be very important.

Be proud of yourself and your surroundings

Whatever you do, do it in such a way that you can be proud of it (and of yourself). Whether it is the way you look or your house and your surroundings, be proud of it. Own your life, own the way you live and own the work you do – be proud.

A love of art and all things beautiful

My grandmother has a love for beautiful things and a keen eye for art and her own creativity and passion has (in various forms) filtered through to her children and grandchildren.
What this has taught me is that we should go through life with an appreciation for the beautiful. Take the time to soak in the sunrise or sunset, turn up the radio and dance to that song you love, listen to your children – be sure to appreciate every beautiful moment this life has to offer. There is beauty in all things – all you need to do is look for it.

Love is shown through actions

I don’t think that I have ever heard the words ‘I love you’ being spoken by either one of my grandparents, but I have never not felt loved. We need to realise that love can be shown in numerous ways – not everybody thinks the same and not everybody shows affection in the same way. We need to accept and appreciate all the various ways in which love can be shown.

We have a family business and when we were children, the company driver would pick all the grandchildren up from school on a Friday and take us to work.Once at work,we would first greet our grandfather and every time, he would open his lunch box and give us his delicious sandwiches. When I eventually joined the company as an employee, my grandfather made me a sandwich every day. They were his token of love.

Now, that my grandfather has passed away, we still talk about those sandwiches when we as a family get together. They were the epitome of wholesome goodness and warmed all of our hearts.

Reflecting on my grandparents lives and their life circumstances, it makes me wonder whether we as a society have not become too soft. Although personal feelings are important, life can be so hard and so cruel. I do not want to raise my child in a way that he expects to always win because it might hurt his feelings when he loses –  one day, he will have to face life’s difficulties on his own. The simple truth is that I will not always be there to catch him when he falls – he must learn to get up and dust himself off, by himself. My task as a mother is to teach him to find his own inner strength so that he can stand tall and walk through life proud and strong, regardless of what life throws at him.

What values and life lessons are integral to your family?

Going Back to Work – Hacks to Help you Survive

It’s the one day that every new mom dreads: the day you have to rely on someone else to take care of your little baby; the day you have to go back to work. I remember crying for days, no, weeks, before going back to work. Not only was I anxious about not being there for my little Bean 24/7, I was worried that I would never be able to do it all in one day. How was I going to manage our household, be a mom, a wife and go to work? At that stage I was at home all day and I was barely able to put dinner on the table, let alone get dressed (nicely, not simply leggings and a t-shirt), work (well) and still take care of the Bean and my husband.

Luckily I did survive and although I struggled in the beginning, I did learn to manage it all. Here is my list of survival hacks:

Plan and plan and then…plan some more

Being a working mom is hard and there are a lot of things one needs to juggle. In my experience, the only way to manage all these things is to be organised:

Set up a detailed meal plan and a detailed routine for the baby as well as for the rest of the family.  Plan your shopping trips in advance and always go with a list (there is nothing worse than forgetting something and having to go back). Whether you have a cleaning lady or not, set up a cleaning schedule as well as a schedule for family chores.

Whatever needs to be done: it needs to be planned and put in a schedule. Write the schedules down and make sure that everyone involved is following them.

Online shopping

Online shopping is officially my new best friend. After I set up my meal plan, I make a shopping list and I order what I need online. When doing this, I take into consideration the time it takes to deliver so I never order at the last minute (again, it’s all planned). I also buy all our clothes online.

A big positive for this type of shopping is that I am not rushed (so I do not forget things) and I do not buy unnecessary things while browsing (saving money).  Best of all is that I can do this in the comfort of my own home, in front of the TV, with a glass of wine in hand.

 Do a little every day

One of my Gran’s favourite sayings is: ’Was du heute kannst besorgen, das schiebe nicht auf morgen’ which translated means: ‘never push onto tomorrow what can be done today’. It does not help to procrastinate as tomorrow will have a whole new set of priorities which will need to be attended to.

So, I do small things every day: for example, I do a small load of washing every day while washing up bottles (to prevent it from turning into a huge pile which will take days to wash, dry and iron), I wipe the counters every time after cooking or preparing something in the kitchen and I pack toys away as they have been played with. These small actions take hardly any time at all and just keep everything neat and tidy and organised.

Cook smart

I prefer to make home cooked meals for my son and while I was on maternity leave I had enough time to cook separate food for him. Now however, time for cooking is limited and so I plan our meals in such a way that whatever I cook for my husband and I, can be given to Bean as well. It means that often our food can be slightly bland but a little bit of salt and pepper can fix a lot.

There are of course meals for Bean which we do not necessarily want to eat ourselves and meals for us which he cannot eat –  so for these meals, I cook in bulk and freeze. For the bulk cooks I also buy all the vegetables pre-cut to save time.

Have a support structure

I have a domestic helper and nanny to look after Bean and to help around the house while I am at work. She is a huge help and luckily Bean loves her.

We also stay very close to my husband’s family so if the nanny is sick, or my husband and I are both stuck at work, there are enough people in close proximity who can help.

Establish boundaries at work

Before I was a mom, I was always working until late at night or on the weekends. After Bean was born however, I soon realised that I simply could not work longer hours than necessary as I now have a family to take care of at home. I of course still work to the best of my ability while at work, but when it is time to go home, it is time to go home. My family is simply more important and I have accepted that I cannot put all my energy into building a career and into being a mom at the same time.

Be flexible with your working hours

Having flexible working hours is of course not always possible but having a baby brings with it certain time related problems at work (for example the baby is sick and needs to go to a doctor in working hours). In times like these it is important as an employee (and an employer) to be flexible. In the example at hand, you could take your child to the doctor and work from home for the rest of the day, or you could work in a couple of extra hours at night after the baby is asleep.  Either way, be flexible with your time, making sure that your work is done.

 Stay Strong

As clichéd as this may sound, going back to work and by default leaving your baby in the care of someone else is hard, no matter what the circumstances. It is hard trusting somebody else with a life you hold so dear, it is hard realising that you will not always be able to be there when the baby needs you and it is really hard to know that you will possibly miss out on a number of firsts. In order to prevent this situation from becoming more difficult (for yourself and your baby) than it already is, it is important to stay strong, push through and adapt – it will get easier.

 

My Wish for You {A Letter to my Child}

I have wanted to write a letter to my son for a while now because although we as parents often tell our children how much we love them, we do not really elaborate on this statement. I also feel that we are so pre-occupied by teaching our children how to behave and how to physically do things that we never get to the heart of what it means to live. We get so caught up in our daily tasks and routines that we forget to teach them about what is really important in life.

This therefore, is a letter to my child, reminding him of how much he is loved, reminding and teaching him (as well as myself) how beautiful life really can be, how important it is to seize every moment and to be grateful.

My Wish for You

My wish for you, my child, is that you wake up every morning realising that every day unfolding is a new beginning, a promise of a new adventure, a chance to learn something new.

My wish for you is that you realise that you carry your fate in your hands, that you have the power within you to make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.

My wish for you is that you never lose the sense of wonder, intrigue and pure joy that now accompanies you everywhere you go.

My wish for you, my child, is that you will always have the inner strength to deal with life’s difficult situations with maturity, love and gratitude. Life can be hard, but there is nothing that you cannot handle and there is nothing you are not capable of. You will (and must) fall, but true strength of character lies in getting back up and trying over and over again.

My wish for you is that you never lose sight of the importance of family, friends and love. May you find the joy and comfort that comes with having good, lifelong friends. May you find happiness, confidence, strength and mutual respect in love and may you experience the absolute adventure of having your own loving, supportive and loud family one day.

My wish for you is that you stay blessed and that you realise how blessed you are. Every day brings with it something to be grateful for. Never forget to be thankful.

My wish for you is that you stay honest, that you are never afraid to tell the truth, no matter what the outcome. Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts.

My wish for you is that you never lose hope. May you always be a bright light, shining through the darkness and negativity of this world.

My wish you for is that you never stop smiling. So much power lies in a simple smile and you, my son, have the most beautiful smile. A smile that lights up and warms people’s hearts (and souls).

My wish for you, my heart, is that you never forget how much you are loved. Never feel that you cannot influence the world or that you are too insignificant to make a change – you have already changed my world. And it is so much better with you in it.

You, my perfect child, have proven to me that it is possible to live while a portion of my heart beats outside of my body. You filled and completed an empty space in my soul I never knew existed before you were born.

You are my bright light, my heart.

I love you,

Mama

 

Photo Credit: http://www.canva.com

The New Me

It’s 4am and I can hear my 8 month old stirring in his cot, talking (or rather babbling and gurgling) to himself. I ignore him and the talking becomes louder, more incessant, as if to say, ‘Mom, I am awake….Mom, can you hear me?….MOM!’ I realise that I can forget about my hope of him going back to sleep, he is awake and he wants to start his day, regardless of how tired his parents are. I throw the blanket back, groggily climb out of bed and walk over to the nursery. As I lean over the cot to look at my little monster, he beams at me. His little arms start flailing around excitedly, his legs are kicking furiously and his face has turned into one big smile. Suddenly, I am not tired anymore, I am overcome with love and I am happy that I am awake to spend another special moment with my son.

As I pick him up and he throws his arms around me, holding on so tight, I laugh and realise that I have changed. For example, I love my sleep and if anybody had dared to wake me up at 4am pre baby, I would have been very rude and grumpy to say the least – my husband in warning, would probably have told you that you are about to unleash the Beast. Now, I of course have to distinguish a random person waking me up from my baby doing the same. Yet, I now no longer wake up angry if my sleep gets interrupted (regardless of who wakes me up). I seem to have accepted that not sleeping is simply a part of life.

This made me think about all the other, more significant changes I have gone through since becoming a Mom. Not the typical changes like household routines or the lack of a social life, but the really important ones – changes which affect my view of life and the world.

I now strongly and convincingly believe in a Higher Power. I have to mention here that I have always believed to a certain degree, but faith or spirituality has never really been a cornerstone of my existence. Yet, nothing quite makes you believe in the miracle of life like a little human growing inside your belly. The mere thought of having created life with life is mind boggling and although it can so easily be explained by science, my heart simply will not let go of the idea that a divine power has to somehow have a hand in creating something as profound as a living human bean, with his own personality, heart and soul.

It is as if having a baby has made my sense of empathy grow. I now really feel for others (even people I do not know) and the difficulty they might be facing instead of merely feigning sympathy because it is the right thing to do. I care, really care, about the well-being of others, about the future of our society and about the fate of our world.

You will remember the picture of the drowned Syrian boy which was circulating in the press and social media in an attempt to show the world the plight of the Syrian refugees, their country ravaged by war, seeking greener pastures. Although a photo like this would have previously pulled at my heart strings, sparking a brief thought or conversation about how terrible this world has become, it would not have affected my daily life in any real way. Now, however, I could not even look at this photo without crying, without sending a prayer to this poor family and for the little boy. The photo and the corresponding thought that a situation so horrific and unthinkable is even possible, still haunts me. It really makes me worry about the countless horrible events which could affect my little family.

Because of this increased sense of empathy, I now am also much more susceptible to negativity, be it negative people, negative emotions or a negative environment. Where I could previously merely shrug off this negativity as something that did not affect me personally, it now disturbs me and it affects my sense of inner happiness and peace. I am therefore now much more conscientious of surrounding myself, and by default my son, with positive energy and people only.

It is important to note however that although I am a lot more sympathetic, I have also become a lot harder in certain aspects. I remember once when I was a teenager arguing with my mother about the existence of a grey area. I was trying to convince her that in life, most things fall within a grey area as most things (people’s actions specifically) are dependent on the framework within which they occur. More specifically people’s actions are clouded by their circumstances, i.e. a thief for example steals food not because he wants to be a criminal, but merely because he is hungry. When therefore judging a person or a situation, one should look at the whole picture and judge accordingly. In a grey world (instead of the black and white world we currently live in), the thief in my example would thus not be sent to prison, but rather be rehabilitated through education, helping him with a job etc.

My mother did not agree with me and she was of course right (as mothers usually are). The world is black and white and there is only right or wrong, there is no in-between. So even though I have more empathy for others, having Bean (who I am so fiercely trying to protect) has made me realise this: a society in which we can function freely and safely (the type of society I want my son to grow up in) cannot be established based on a grey area. Invading a person’s privacy, or stealing food from someone, food which was going to feed their family, is wrong, regardless of how hungry the thief is. I of course still feel for the plight of the hungry thief and would try and help through various charities, but my son’s individual freedom and safety is of utmost importance.

Becoming a mom has caused the shortfalls of our world and our society to come into stark perspective for me. I am now responsible for a life, a life outside of my own – a life which I, in fact, love more than my own. I want my son to grow up in a better world, in a world filled with goodness, a world where people help each other, a world devoid of negativity.

As Ghandi said, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. By living this, we not only affect our direct environment with a positive change, we set the example for our children.

Picture Credit: http://www.canva.com

Trapped

‘I feel trapped’, my husband said as we were washing up little Bean’s bottles. As any mom and wife will know, these are not words one wants to hear.  He, luckily, did not mean that he felt trapped in our marriage, but rather that he felt trapped in our routine-driven lives. Instead of spontaneously going for a night on the town or a movie, we had to carefully plan every activity we wanted to participate in. Could we take Bean with? If not, who would watch him? If yes, what did we need to pack to be able to go? Our lives had become one continuous routine of washing and sterilising bottles, nap time, play time and cooking food for our little guy, with the odd well-planned and well-packed excursion in between.

This made me think: why did I not feel this way? I experience feelings of anxiousness and stress – yes, often; but never trapped. I fully understood where he was coming from of course: our previously busy, adventure-laden and spontaneous lives had become boring and we had become that settled, married couple we had been so scared of becoming. Yet, I was quite happy with our new ‘dreary’ life.

Upon closer inspection our lives are filled with little bits of wonder, excitement and adventure every day. Bean is growing at such a fast pace and developing so quickly, that every day brings with it something new. On the night in question for example, I was busy feeding Bean his bed time bottle when he had a dirty nappy. Being my compulsive self, petrified of a nappy rash, I immediately placed Bean on his change mat and removed the dirty nappy. Excited by the freedom I had now bestowed upon my son, he decided to unleash the fury and so, in the midst of it all, he pooped in my hand. Hearing my panicked cries from the bedroom, my husband ran up the stairs, saw what was going on and promptly burst out laughing. This was a definite first and a funny, ‘adventurous’, one at that.

On the same day, Bean started throwing his arms around my neck, squeezing tightly, smiling his widest smile, all the while cooing excitedly, every time I picked him up. This filled me with so much gratitude and so much wonder, that it felt as if my heart was going to explode: it could not possibly contain the amount of love I felt at that moment.

A week later Bean started rolling – something I had been trying to teach him for (which felt like) forever. This was another exciting moment which caused me to jump up and down in our lounge, doing my little happy dance, feeling incredibly proud. And all this while Bean smiled at me impassively as if to say, ‘what is the big deal, lady?’

Now, coming back to the question of why I did not feel trapped by our routine– how could I with a living miracle in my heart, in my life, in my home?

It is easy to feel trapped while looking at an empty freezer knowing that you will have to spend the next 48 hours cooking for your child, or when you look at the dirty bottles piling up and you have just received a message from one of your ‘non-parent’ friends asking if you feel like going for a quick drink. I have felt this feeling creep up, threatening to spread a little bit of darkness over my heart – but in these moments all I need to do is look at my beautiful son, his eyes filled with wonder and excitement every time he sees or hears something new (even if it’s just water running out of the tap) and I know, with a knowledge deeply instilled in my soul, that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I would choose my dreary, routine driven and settled family life over and over and over again (and I know that my husband would do the same).

Picture Credit: http://www.canva.com

What to say to Newborn Parents

When our little Bean was born, we were inundated with advice and offers of help. Some things that were said were very helpful and other less so. Seeing as the theme on the blog this week is advice, I have decided to make a list of all the wonderful things people said to me during my son’s first few weeks of life which helped me immensely and for which I am eternally grateful.

So, if you have a friend or a family member who is about to have a baby or just had a baby, here is a list of things which you can say, should you want to help out:

‘I will take care of the baby so that you can get some time to yourself’

Contrary to popular belief, a new parent does not have time to sleep when the baby sleeps. Well, I didn’t anyway. While Bean was sleeping, I was expressing milk, washing and sterilising the pump and bottles, feeding myself or having a shower. If I had 5 minutes left after all my chores were done and before Bean woke up again, I allowed myself the luxury of a warm cup of tea.

Being able to have my hair done and to focus on myself (even if it was only for 1 hour) really helped me recuperate some of the inner strength needed to take care of a little newborn.

‘I will do the chores while you get to spend some time with your baby’

Now, nobody really offered to do this for me. When family came to our house to help out, I invariably ended up doing chores while they looked after the baby. Although the rest of the family of course also need and want to spend time with the new addition to the family, I at times became quite resentful of having to run around while someone else got to spend the precious little time Bean was awake and happy during the day, with him.

I have to add here, that I am very proud and quite a busy body, so I also never asked anyone to help with the chores. I did not want to seem like a useless woman / wife who cannot manage her own household. I therefore only had myself to blame when I did become resentful.

So, if your friend / daughter / sister is like me, just go on over and do the chores. She will be eternally grateful!

And if you are a first time mom, do not be afraid to ask for help with things around the house! Being able to just spend time with your little bundle without having to worry about chores or what needs to be done next is really wonderful.

‘I have cooked some freezer meals for you’

I cannot begin to explain how much this helped. It was one less chore to worry about and it ensured that we got at least one decent home cooked meal a day.

‘I am going to the shops, can I get something for you’

Family would every now and then drop off supplies from the shops. Trying to go to the shops with a new baby is daunting enough as it is and nearly impossible during one of the many growth spurts which newborns go through so this was a huge help.

‘We will give you some space to just be – let us know when we can visit you’

Everybody allowed us some space so that we could find our feet with our little newborn. This was very important to me: my husband and I needed the time to get used to a little baby, to start to get to know his cues and to establish some sort of routine before we could face the world as a family of three.

‘We will bring the cake and some snacks when we visit’

Being a parent to a newborn is exhausting enough without having to worry about entertaining everybody who wants to meet the little baby. Whenever our family came to visit, they brought everything with them, i.e. food, and they would help to make the tea and coffee.

‘Keep calm, your baby feels what you feel’

This is so true. When I cried, Bean cried harder, yet when I managed to calm myself down, Bean calmed down to.

‘Sing ’

I never thought this would work, but whenever Bean was upset for whatever reason, I sang and it immediately calmed him down. It also made me happy as I started remembering all the nursery rhymes from my own childhood. I still sing. All the time.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.canva.com

Advice To My Pregnant Self

“If only I knew then what I know now, it would have been a lot easier, I could have handled the situation a lot better”, is a thought which often haunts me and just this once, I wish I could go back in time, sit my pregnant, ‘know it all’ self, down and give the following advice:

  1. Do proper breastfeeding research

Before Bean was born, I did not really give much thought to breastfeeding. I had decided that I will try but if it was not going to work out, there was always Formula. I did not realise how emotional my breastfeeding journey would be and I definitely did not take into account the guilt a mother feels if breastfeeding is not quite as easy as anticipated.

Once I had Bean, one of my friends invited me to join the La Leche League group on Facebook. This helped me get through all the growth spurt stages and the fear of not having enough milk. Seeing other mommies pushing through their breastfeeding hardships helped motivate me to keep on breastfeeding and expressing in times when I almost gave up.

  1. Spend some quality time with your husband

I was one of ‘those’ pregnant people, the one who was convinced that having a baby cannot be that hard, that it would not affect my life too much and that my husband and I would simply glide into our new roles as parents with ease, while maintaining our relationship as husband and wife.

I was wrong of course.

As parents we now often focus only on our son and we tend to forget that we need to work on our relationship and enjoy each other’s company, as individuals, not parents.

Before the baby is therefore born, take the time to enjoy each other. Take the time to further lay the foundation of your relationship. Trust me, you will need it.

  1. It will get hard, really hard but it will also get better

Having a newborn to take care of is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. There will be times when all you want to do is cry, when you feel so utterly useless and so, so tired. But it really does get better.

It is also oh-so-rewarding. You will find a routine; you will learn to read your baby’s cues and, I promise, you will manage.

  1. Ask for help

I am a very proud, do it yourself, type of person and I did not like asking for help. I told myself that I had to manage on my own. The only person I would ask for help was my husband and this put a lot of unnecessary strain on both of us and in turn on our relationship.

If family and friends offer help, take it. And if they don’t, ask for it. Do not be too proud to ask for help or to accept help.  Everybody knows how hard it is to have a newborn – nobody will look down on you or judge you for not doing it all on your own. In fact, nobody expects you to do it all on your own.

  1. Soak in every minute of this new life unfolding

 The first few weeks with my son were really hard and I often found myself wishing that this phase would be over soon. Then, suddenly it was over and I realised that I had missed so many moments with my beautiful little boy by feeling sorry for myself and wishing the time away.

Please therefore, try and soak in every minute of this precious new life unfolding in front of your very eyes. Before you know it, another miraculous moment, another milestone has passed.

  1. Take a breath and calm down

When my little Bean was born, I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time. So when he cried for no apparent reason or when I could not settle him down immediately or when he wanted to constantly feed, I would go into panic mode and it would just escalate the situation. After a while however, I learned to read his cues and I learned how to settle him down. All that was needed was for me to remain calm.

  1. Don’t be so hard on yourself

 I can be a bit of a control freak and while still pregnant, I read all the books. I had lists and lists and lists of various scenarios which could occur and their solutions and set routines I would follow. Come what may, I would be ready for this child and raising him would be a piece of cake. All I had to do was follow all the advice in all the books.

Needless to say, everything was turned upside down when Bean was born. Not being a robot which could be controlled, he of course would not simply follow the routine which I tried to force on him. The solutions to all the various scenarios which were given by all the books also did not always work. I thought I was doing something wrong and I was very hard on myself because of it.

In reality though, I was doing nothing wrong. I just had to realise that not all babies are the same, that they do not all react the same to the solutions given and that they are little human beings who will eventually settle into their own routine.

  1. Don’t try and be perfect

 I tried to be perfect at everything and I was convinced that I would be able to nurture a perfect baby.

Life though is not perfect, humans are not perfect and, most importantly, babies are not perfect. We have feelings and emotions and we make mistakes. And that’s OK. Learn from the mistakes and move on.

You do not have to be perfect. You just have to try your best. And I promise that you will automatically try your best, as this little baby will mean the world to you.

  1. Cuddle as often and as much as possible

I often placed Bean into his cot or his little crib while sleeping even when all I wanted to do was let him sleep on me and cuddle. I did this because I was told that he should not develop these type of sleep associations as it would be very difficult to break them when he was older. I really regret that now.

These little babies are only so small for such a short time and all they need is love. They cannot be spoiled so my advice is to cuddle. Cuddle as much and as often as you want to.