Nakedness Dens and Food

My life with four little boys

Forgiveness

on June 15, 2016

Confession time. My name is Helen and I am a rubbish blogger…

Excuses –

  1. I have four kids. Some days it’s a bonus I manage to leave the house fully clothed, with everyone who should be with me actually, well, WITH me. (I have totally only left my child behind once. And only for a few minutes. In his car seat. At the entrance to a swimming pool. I realised AS SOON as I got in the changing room. Well. I *might* have been part way through getting changed. But the important thing is that I DID remember. Eventually…. And hey, fourth babies need to learn mummy can’t be everywhere at once, right….?)
  2. We moved house. Most. Stressful. Thing. EVER. Given the nature of number 1, coupled with the nature of husband’s ability to suffer a migraine at the slightest hint of anything major happening in our lives, it’s a small miracle the move actually happened. Indeed, for some time, the fact we are now in a new home accompanied by all our stuff has formed the basis of my entire faith-based meta narrative of the world.
  3. For about the last 9 months I have been unwell. Not something I have been shouting from the roof tops. But unavoidable to admit no longer. Might go into it more in future posts, but for now it’s enough to say that these days my health is not in the state I wish it was.
  4. Do I need a number 4? Do you forgive me yet? Well in case I do, because you don’t, I might also add that our home computer has been having THE most epic meltdown ever since we moved house (PTSD I wouldn’t be surprised) meaning it’s been really difficult to get it to even make eye contact with me, never mind be persuaded to publish anything.

Aaand exhale. All good now? Anyway, to update, in case you’re wondering what’s been happening –

  1. My kids are well, y’know, still here. And –
  2. I’d like to say almost a year on everything is unpacked and sorted in our house. But that would be… A big fat lie. However –
  3. I am refusing to let the limitations of my physical body continue to dictate how my soul is nourished. And –
  4. A lovely young man in a technical shop has managed to, I dunno, perform some sort of magic, I guess, on our computer. He’s quite possibly a computer-whisperer (well shouting at the sodding thing never worked out so presumably whispering is the way to go…)

So, basically, I’m *back in the game*. I hope. I realise I’ve said that before. Let’s see. But at least for now, I’m definitely *back in the game* (add your own fanfares).

Moving swiftly on from the fact I used the phrase *back in the game* – TWICE – What is WRONG with me? – it’s seemingly appropriate that I asked you to contemplate whether or not you forgive me for my repeated absence. Not because I’m a desperate sado who needs affirmation. Although possibly that is also true. It’s because this is kind of one of my “words”. You most definitely don’t remember, but last time I blogged (like, a gazillion months ago) I mentioned that I was going to expand a bit more on the words which make up my general “direction of travel” when it comes to parenting. If you need your memory jogging, here is a link . But in case you can’t be arsed to read it (hey, we all have lives…) in summary, I believe parenting advice should generally be welcomed with caution. Or at least received with a hefty dose of salt. And instead, it might be more helpful to create some sort of mood music to which we dance the steps of raising our children. More life nurturing banners and fewer lists of dos and don’ts. Enter stage left, the first of my parenting words (or notes, if you like): Forgiveness.

From when they went in to how they come out… from what you put in their mouths to what you put around their bums… and from who looks after them to how much you spend on them… It seems that from the moment we dare to contemplate starting a family we are bombarded with things to feel guilty about. Accidentally went horse riding before realising you were pregnant? Birth not quite what you hoped or planned? Didn’t manage to breastfeed as long as you’d hoped? Snuck a bottle of formula in to “top up” before bed? Secretly a bit disappointed with your baby’s gender? Actually, on some nights, go to bed fantasising about life before babies? Desperate to go back to work? HAVE to go back to work? In case you’re wondering, tick, to feeling guilty about ALL of those myself at different times. But, and admittedly this took me a while to realise myself, such things don’t require a feeling of guilt. They simply mean that you are a human and a parent. So please, please, please don’t waste time carrying around guilt for things that ultimately don’t matter. Trust me, they really don’t. When your child is 18 do you think they’ll care how you brought them into this world, whether you used a dummy, which nappies you put them in or if you fed them formula? (Yes, I know all things being well, breast is best… But sometimes, life is well, life….).

Listen:

Admitting you want to give birth with all the drugs known to humanity rather than swinging from a tree in the woods whilst primitive tribes welcome the new life in with pan pipes is…  absolutely acceptable. (Anybody else found themselves in the middle of what feels like a game of competitive birth stories with other mums? Really, however you choose to do it or have to do it, does not require a value judgement from ANYONE.) Using paid childcare is also… totally OK.  I clearly remember having to excuse myself at work on a number of occasions to go and sob like a drunk man in the disabled loo because I felt so bad that I wasn’t with my boys. And yet I equally remember times when I couldn’t wait to leave the house in proper clothes to see proper grown ups to discuss proper things. And in both seasons of parenting, my boys were absolutely fine. More than fine. They thrived.

Feeling sometimes as if you can’t cope or perhaps shouldn’t have bothered with the whole baby thing is ABSOLUTELY normal from time to time. Thinking you could be doing it better is pretty much what we sign up for (or, admittedly, have thrust upon us). Whether it’s the unavoidable things that happen (like the birth or needing to return to work) or making proactive choices to “get you through” (like the formula or the dummy) The best thing you can do is to forgive yourself. In fact the very thing you HAVE to do is forgive yourself. Again. Trust me. I’ve been there. More than you can imagine. But what I found is that carrying around guilt and continually feeling like you have to make up for something robs you of time, takes away joy and is totally exhausting –  and exhausted is not the best note to have in your parenting mood music. What I discovered when I lost the guilt was an experience of parenting which was much more liberating, much more fun and much more gentle both to my soul and my boys’. (Although when I say “lost” I have to admit to the occasional relapse from time to time, which close friends will attest to!)

So. For what it’s worth, these are the things I have concluded over the years about how to get rid of the burden of false guilt to free us up to parent in a much  more life-giving, life nurturing way…

  • Embrace your birth story… if you squatted down in the woods, dropped a baby and went back to the work the next day, fandabbydosey. If you had your legs akimbo on a hospital bed whilst the little blighter was pulled from you with metal instruments, well done you. If you had a c-section to bring your little person in to the world, well thank goodness all was good in the end. In all 3 cases and many more, good for you. Congratulations warrior! You made it! Be proud that you grew an actual person inside yourself and participated in their coming into the world. However it happened, it’s a miracle. And you deserve a medal. Possibly in the form of a VERY expensive present from your partner. Which they might need reminding of! (I settled for his “little procedure” as gift which apparently cost him A LOT – so I’m told…)
  • Make peace with what works for you… sometimes, parenting is about going with the flow and simply doing whatever it takes not to fall of the cliff. Dummies, screens, formula, childcare, informal help, co sleeping, the odd day where all they eat is toast… within obvious boundaries no one is going to die here so it’s ALL GOOD! Move along. Nothing more to see.
  • Don’t read any articles that start with stuff like…”latest report reveals that parents who do ‘x’ Have children who are ‘y’…” This is really important. Reading how babies born by caesarean are apparently more likely to have autism, or how children of mothers who go back to work are more likely to become violent criminals in later life* is not AT ALL helpful or necessary if you are going to chart the parenting years ahead of you well. (*MUST make it clear these are MADE UP EXAMPLES. I am not suggesting either of those things!!) Equally, digesting apparent research which suggests that getting toddlers to eat spinach and learn 3 different languages is the key to their future success, is a recipe for a nervous breakdown before breakfast each day. So, do yourself and you babies a favour and STEP AWAY from the headline/social media click bait. Seriously. You are doing a good job. It will all be fine.
  • Finally, by all means strive for improvement, but not to PROVE you are good enough, only because you ARE good enough. Of course, there are often things to admit we could do better. And good parents are the ones who recognise this. But basically, aside from the very few I have met in a professional capacity or read about in the news, parents I know aren’t doing anything they need to feel guilty about. In fact, on the whole, I find that us parents are doing pretty much OK at all this raising fellow humans stuff. It’s tough out there. So give yourself a break! Pick the brains of others, lap up the wisdom of those around you, accept generous offers of help and agree to keep on keeping on by all means. The best human are, after all, always growing and learning. The same is true for parents I reckon. But, as a tip from me to you, try to approach it as a student of life, rather than as a deranged-hyperactive-zombie who is scared of their own shadow. Learning might well be the wise thing to do. But it is not the answer to neuroticism  and won’t get rid of the sack cloth and ashes approach to perceived mistakes.

Of course we don’t just need to forgive ourselves. There are others who could probably do with our forgiveness along the way as well, if we are going to truly cultivate this attribute. We might need to forgive our partners for GETTING TO LEAVE THE HOUSE AND HAVE A PEE ALONE for crying out loud. We sometime need to forgive our children for being, well, little sods at times if we’re honest. (The “the little sod” is, I believe, a bona fide child development stage not to be taken personally. Although, feel free to double-check this fact with actual proper childhood development experts). And there might be times we need to forgive those “perfect mothers” we come across, doing it all perfectly with perfect children and a perfect house and perfect hair and a perfect husband and a… need I go on? We all know one or two. Or at least we think we do. I bet underneath it all they might be feeling just as guilty and just as afraid and just as lost as the rest of us mere mortals.

So. Forgiveness: One of my key words and foundational notes. The next word in my parenting mood music is Patience. Hopefully you won’t need as much of it this time before I get round to the blogging malarkey again. But just in case it’s a while: forgive me?

See you on the front line,

Helen -x-

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 responses to “Forgiveness

  1. Andy says:

    Welcome back helen, glad you’re back to blogging 🙂

  2. […] sucking ones to drudge through as well. Enter my second “parenting note” (see the first one here): […]

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