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Confessions of a Clingy Mummy

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Happy motherhood
Photo: MyTudut

I am a clingy mummy.

There. I’ve said it. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way it is.

When small one was born, I didn’t want someone to “take her off my hands for a bit”. I didn’t want to “have a night off”. I didn’t want a night out with the girls, and I didn’t want a romantic meal. And when she slept, I didn’t want to put her down and get some things done… All I wanted was to stare into her beautiful blue eyes and snuggle.

Which, to varying levels is pretty normal, I’d guess, despite the friction it caused at the time (rod for your own back anyone?).

What apparently singles me out, is that those feelings haven’t really gone away. Small one is 2.5 years old and I still haven’t spent a night away from her. We went out for Valentine’s day, which was lovely, but I still felt a pang of sorrow that I wasn’t there when she fell asleep cuddled up in her adoring Grandad’s arms.

She goes to a wonderful, small, home-based nursery twice a week, and I still hate dropping her off at the door. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of babysitters, and I wouldn’t leave her in a creche.

This isn’t a criticism of those who do, you understand (I’m aware that I’m the odd one), and it’s not a smug “I love my child more than you do” rant. I often wish for peace and quiet, and a little time to myself – I just can’t quite reconcile that with the idea of being away from her.

I know I fit the stereotypes – I breastfed my daughter until she was 2 (clingy…?), back permitting, I preferred a sling to a pram (clingy), small one only got her own room in November, and she co-slept at least part of the time from about 6 months on (clingy, clingy, clingy… can’t let go…). Admittedly the fact there were five of us in a two-up, two-down terrace had some bearing on that last one, but you get the picture. What’s more, given the finances, I would have loved nothing more than being a stay at home mum.

But I would like to set things straight – I’m clingy, not overprotective. I don’t want my daughter tied to my apron strings forever, but I do have this primeval fear of losing her.

I don’t know whether my pregnancy made that worse – I had wanted a child for a long time before I finally fell pregnant, and only 5 weeks into that miraculous pregnancy I was told I was miscarrying. It doesn’t leave you with much emotional balance, and having spent 9 months focusing on keeping her with me, trusting someone else to take on that care is insanely hard.

But more than that, she grows and changes so fast. I hate missing the little wonders in every day that make her face light up with such joy. When her Dad, and big brother and sister take her into town, I’m not really worried they’ll do something wrong. I’m just jealous that they’re there without me, that I am missing out on some precious, unrepeatable moment in her life.

But there has to be a balance. I – who have always been a “kiddy person”, who dreamed of being a stay at home mum… who technically has been a stay at home mum the last few months – miss work. I miss the variety and, if I’m honest, I miss the status. Because stay at home mumming isn’t just the play and the fun – it’s also the bulk of the housework, the general dogsbodying, and the stress of not working and still not spending enough time 100% with your children.

And I need something to fill the void that will be left when small one starts school.

Because I may be a clingy mummy, but my breastfed, co-sleeping, attachment parented, babyworn, and generally adored toddler is an independent little soul. And one day she is going to walk out of  that door without a backward glance, leaving her poor, clingy mother a gibbering wreck in the corner…

And I will be SO proud.

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Crimes of Breastfeeding

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I intended to write a post a day about my breastfeeding journey. I’m a few days behind, but I’ll get there in the end. Like breastfeeding, I am taking it a day at a time…

The more time I spend on baby and parenting forums, the more often I see the phrase “a rod for your own back”. It seems that everything you do as a parent is setting yourself up for future issues.

This is my guide to the heinous crimes committed by breastfeeding mums:

1. Feeding to sleep
caring mother by limaoscarjuliet - http://www.flickr.com/photos/limaoscarjuliet/154567026/Don’t do this. Not under any circumstances. If you feed a child to sleep, they will NEVER learn to go to sleep alone.

Bad mum tip: Breastfeeding makes babies sleepy. Fast. You get little enough sleep. Why spend hours rocking or try to wake a baby up again when you could have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Make the most of it. They won’t always be so easily manipulated!

2. Feeding for comfort
Congo: A Mother's Comfort by babasteve - http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/4557682552/Don’t let your child use your breast as a dummy. You are just spoiling the child… Mothers are for nourishment, not for comfort!

Bad mum tip: It is OK to comfort your child. Babies need to suck. Don’t tell anyone, but breasts are surprisingly effective for this purpose. They are a similar shape to dummies, cheaper and don’t need sterilising. They are also very comforting… Breastmilk cleverly adjusts in line with your child’s needs so your “atrocious” parenting will have few ill effects. The only time you need to change it, is if it is making your breastfeeding relationship difficult. If it works for you and your child, it’s right.

The facts: Kellymom on comfort nursing and feeding to sleep.
3. Not having a “routine”

Copyright © 2010 Umbrella ShotYou are making a rod for your own back if you don’t get your child into a routine as quickly as possible. Babies don’t need feeding more than 4 hourly, they are just snacking…

Bad mum tip:Feeding on demand” is the most successful way to establish, and maintain breastfeeding. When you follow their cues, babies are less grumpy and give you an easier life, so why fight it? Besides, everyone knows that the ideal place for breastfeeding when out and about is a coffee shop. Treat yourself to cake while you’re there! Baby will settle into their own routine before long anyway. It will change if they’re teething, ill, they’re having a growth spurt, or even in hot weather to make sure your milk always meets their needs.

The facts: Is snacking that bad? Great article by Diane Wiessinger.
4. “Still” breastfeeding (at any age)
At some point in your breastfeeding relationship, you will hear the dreaded, “are you still feeding?”. Depending on your particular circle, it may start earlier or later… but it will start. It usually comes just at the point when you feel you are finally getting the hang of it. It’s sometimes curiosity, often well-meaning, and occasionally downright rude, but the effect is always to undermine your confidence when you’ve worked so hard to get to this point.

Bad mum tip: There isn’t one really. They are wrong. The WHO recommends exclusive feeding to 6 months, and breastfeeding alongside solid food to 2 years at least. The proportion of mothers in the Western world that manage that is tiny so to criticise a mum who is trying to do the best for their child at any age seems incredibly harsh. If you are “still” breastfeeding, whether at 4 weeks or 4 years, you probably know why you are doing it. This is my favourite list of responses for those times when the criticism gets too much.

I have made lots of rods for my own back. I chose them myself and, so far, they are wonderfully supportive rods and I don’t regret the hard work at all. Of course my daughter will probably grow up to be clingy, spoilt and dependent. You are welcome to tell her that… if you can catch her…

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style

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