Monday, 18 November 2013
Breakfast. I hate it. I've never got in with it really. It's too early in the morning for a start off. I can't do cereals, and toast just gets boring. The only food i really like at breakfast is cooked - fried egg, beans, hash browns - but I just don't have the time or the energy at that time to do anything other than shove cereal in a bowl.
It's starting to cause a real stress at our house, especially on a school morning. The twins have got to the stage where they want to pour their own cereal out, which results in a right mess. Then they decide they don't really want it anyway, and start throwing it at each other and on the floor. Then they want to climb out of their high chairs and sit on the big chairs at the table. I give in, hoping it will get them to eat the what cereal is still in their bowl. It does, but not for long, after they've poked it around a bit, they decide to up and run round the kitchen, which is fine if they're not coming in the school run with me, but if they are, it's a race against the clock to get them back in their chairs and eating.
All the while, poor T2 is trying to finish her breakfast (she's the most painfully slow eater in the world), and I'm clearing up after T1 who despite her 9 years on this planet, still cannot eat cereal without getting milk all over the table.
This is of course, after they've decided what they're going to be eating. their favourite cereal seems to change with the wind. the Dad has also got a real bee in his bonnet about the cereal cupboard. They're not allowed to have more than 2 or 3 boxes on the go at once for fear of overspill. And of course, they don't agree on which 2 or 3 they should be eating right now, so that causes no end of arguments.
They don't want toast. There's no time to cook and eat anything other than a few beans. And leaving the twins to feed themselves results in so much mess we end up being late for school because I have to spend some time at least giving them a wipe down.
What I should do is go to bed early, get up early and prepare them a wholesome fruit salad, or cook some nice sausages. Or something. I've read about people who do this sort of thing.
Or someone could invent something that is yummy, suits everyone's tastes, is quick to make, and is not one bit messy. There's definitely a gap in the market, and It would make millions, I tell you!
What's breakfast like at your house?
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Yes, there is going to be a pilot scheme to see if giving new mums vouchers for supermarkets and high street stores encourages more women to breastfeed their baby. For the full story, please read this.
I have read a couple of other blogs this morning about this very subject and I have to say I agree with them both for different reasons - Sonya of The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock 'n' Roll Mum argues that the financial incentive is insulting to those who genuinely are unable to breastfeed, and also may not be enough to convince those who have already made up their minds not to breast feed through personal choice.
Kylie of Not Even a Bag of Sugar shows that while personal support can have fantastic results on an individual basis and is terribly important, that anything is worth a try in some areas where the breastfeeding rate is shamefully low.
As a mother of four girls who were all exclusively breastfed (or at least mix-fed with the majority breastmilk) until at least six months, I agree with both, however, the economist inside me is screaming and running for the hills.
Bear with me.
See I think the financial incentive is already there - for those who can't receive milk tokens (which is a well-meant scheme with unintended disbenefits in itself). Spending money on formula milk when breastmilk is as good as free is all the incentive I needed. I think there is more value in selling the health benefits of breast feeding as well as the financial ones.
As mothers, we may think that every other mother knows about breastfeeding benefits, for example the immunity the baby receives from the mother's breastmilk, but I'm not sure that they do. My health visitor clinic may be full of happy, breastfeeding mothers who extol the virtues of breastmilk to each other - like preaching to the converted and giving each other a metaphorical pat on the back - but the hospital up the road where the vast majority of us gave birth paints a very different picture of inner-city deprivation and a bottle-feeding culture.
Many of these new mothers would have been bottle-fed themselves - a result of fierce product pushing by formula milk firms through the 70s and 80s. I'm not anti-formula. All of my children had formula milk to some degree of other, whether as a back-up or supplementation when I was exhausted (especially when I was feeding the twins), or between six and twelve months of age before they could start drinking cows milk. I firmly believe there is a place for formula milk. However, the promotion and cultural normalisation of it from the very minute a baby was born in my generation has had lasting, negative consequences.
I remember my mother telling me that when we were all born, the midwives used to make the feeds up and bring them round on a trolley like the babies were on some sort of production line. My mother, being a working-class teenager had little power or confidence to argue.
My mother-in-law told me that when she had her children, she refused the bottles much to the midwives consternation, and was a militant breastfeeder. She fed her boys all by herself while the other mothers looked at her like she'd gone crazy.
Also, I've nothing against bottle-fed babies. I was one myself and I've turned out healthy and intelligent enough. On the whole.
But the normalisation of bottle-feeding and the alienation of breast feeding mothers is a sad story which has produced a generation of mothers who have had no mothers, aunts or older friends to set an example, or to make it a normal part of our mothering culture.
I myself found the courage to breastfeed because my very hippy sister-in-law did it so effortlessly. In our family circle, breast feeding was, and still is, perfectly normal (my sister-in-law is from New Zealand which I think says it all). The men in our family are as fully supportive of breastfeeding as the women, and if they aren't, they get verbally beaten until they agree with us anyway. I do think that fighting criticism from family as well as strangers requires a great deal of strength, and sometimes when you're too tired to argue, going along to win everyone else's approval is often the easier option. Good breastfeeding requires good breastfeeding support.
Anyway, the economist in me says no to vouchers. Here's why....
1) I love the book Freakonomics. If you haven't read it you should. There is a section in there about financial incentives for child-related industries. It focusses on a nursery who introduced a fine for a child being picked up late. What do you think happened?
Conventional wisdom would say that parents started getting better at picking their children up on time. Wrong! Lateness increased. The financial (dis)incentive replaced the guilty feeling the parents had previously through inconveniencing the nursery staff. The financial penalty, which was in effect an extra payment, gave the parents a moral excuse not to have to collect their child on time.
This was not what the nursery wanted to happen - they wanted parents to collect on time - so they dropped the fine and went back to the previous arrangement - what do you think happened then?
Nothing. The parents continued to collect them late, and more often than had happened before the fine. By having an incentive (not to be fined) and then taking it away again, the nursery told the parents that they didn't mind whether they were late or not. By having even a temporary period of financial incentive they had unwittingly and unintentionally made things worse.
Guilt is the winner here, not money.
I am worried that the introduction of vouchers, then withdrawal when they are found not to make one ounce of difference will send out the message that breastfeeding is no longer desirable, which is not what the government is trying to achieve.
But then, what do I know? I am just a mum.
2) Who will check who is still breastfeeding? I doubt the health professionals will just be able to take the mum's word for it. They'll need some sort of evidence.
How do they collect this evidence? By asking the mum to get her breasts out and get feeding so they can see? Maybe, the health visitor will have to video record the act taking place?
I dread to think.
To me it just seems impractical.
Anyway, I think the answer here is to restore the cultural normalisation of breastfeeding that was destroyed during the 70s and 80s.
A big part of this is educating mothers who have no prior experience and have never even witnessed breastfeeding in their own family circle. It may take a couple of generations for the cycle to break all over again, but if it's done properly, will set things up well in to the future.
For me, what would make an instant difference would be better public feeding facilities. I am relatively gobby and strong in character, yet I still found it difficult to breast feed in public. I couldn't afford to pop into a cafe for an overpriced coffee every time I wanted to feed a baby (or two). Shopping centre seating areas are not at all private, and usually very starkly-lit. Outdoor benches are cold and draughty and too public.
I liked the rooms that shops like Boots provided, but I was always conscious of taking up the whole room and preventing other mums from coming in to use the changing facilities. Feeding rooms are few and far between, and never big enough when you find them. Some rooms I couldn't even get a double buggy through the door.
You may have seen feeding rooms in private shops like Boots and Mothercare but how many times have you seen them as part of a public toilet block, or in a public building like a library? As usual, the government, local or otherwise, are behind the curve on infant feeding and providing family-friendly facilities.
It's not ideal, secreting breastfeeding mothers away from sight, but for some, it's essential and helps them to breastfeed their child when they would have otherwise used a bottle and sat in public view - re-inforcing the image that babies should be bottle-fed.
An investment in feeding rooms would enable those who do want to breast-feed to do so as much as possible. A toilet is NOT a feeding room.
So yes, financial intervention is needed but not necessarily in the form of vouchers, more as in investment in facilities. I do think there is huge value in a pilot scheme but the media reporting the mooting of vouchers only for them to be proven not to work and being taken away again sends out a very bad message which I fear will set back the progress that's already being made by some very good health professionals and breastfeeding advocates across the country.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Whoo-hoo! Listography is back.
I don't really join in with linkys but Listography is one that I have, and more than once. Not every week. But you know, that's as good as a recommendation around here. If you want to join in too, pop over to Kate Takes 5 to take a look-see.
This week's Listography is 'Top 5 life lessons'.
So, what would I tell my daughters about what I've learned from all the 36 years of my life?
1) Get good at maths. I know you might hate it, or feel that it hates you but try and take the time to understand it a bit better and get good at it. Being good at maths impresses lots of people, especially if you're a girl. Don't know why, but it's true. Maths is so important in so many areas of life and it gives you way more career options. Please try. For Mummy.
2) Try and see the bigger picture - details are nice, they truly are, but you mustn't lose sight of your dream or vision. Bad things are glitches, temporary obstacles. You don't have to walk a straight path to get to where you want to be, but stay focussed on getting there in the end. With everything - parenting, career, your home, marriage.
3) Other people are idiots. Or at least too many people can be idiots. Even clever people have idiotic episodes. Always assume everyone else is an idiot and it'll make you look at things more critically and help you not to rush into things emotionally. It'll make you take a step back and think when everyone else is rushing headlong into something stupid.
4) Know how to budget - this one is simple enough.
Your budget is.......
"what you earn" - "what you spend" = "leftover cash".
It's incredible how many people ignore this simple concept. Again, focus on the bigger picture. Don't be cutting coupons for 10p savings here and there when you could be looking at your career and how to increase your income. Don't spend on things you don't need if your spendings are higher than your earnings.
5) Men are pillocks. Stay away from them. Apart from your dad. Mind you, he can be a pillock on a regular enough basis too. Join a convent. Be a lesbian if you want. At least stay away from anything male until you're old enough to know what you're letting yourself in for and are happy with it.
Love you, my girlies.
Saturday, 2 November 2013
Last week, Trouble Two turned six.
It was the most eagerly anticipated birthday ever. I think she was ready to explode with excitement with a few days still left to go. I don't know why being six is so important, but what do I know?
We didn't do very much. It was a school day, being the last day of half-term, and she got her school birthday card in the Friday assembly and the whole school (the whole 50 of them plus the teachers and some parents) sang Happy Birthday to her and a boy who was due to turn eight during the half-term break. She was grinning so hard, I expected her face to swallow itself. If I smile like that, I get jaw ache.
After school, we had a princess party for her and some friends. There was only seven of them here, including Trouble One and her friend from across the road but it was very stressful. Long story but now we are never having another house party.
I am very proud how Trouble Two is doing. She is the most like me out of all my children, which isn't necessarily a good thing for her, but at least I understand her and might be able to help her a bit better.
She is a storming intellect. She moved from the foundation unit into year one in September and is working mainly with the year two children. They go to a small school with three year groups in one class so moving them about as appropriate is very easy. Her numeracy skills are incredible. Her uncle bought her a maths set with a pink calculator for her birthday, and she's taken it everywhere with her. It had to be pink. Everything has to be pink.
She's a very girly girl. She loves clothes, hair, nails, and make-up. Her main birthday present from us was a grown-up ballerina musical jewellery chest. She adores it. She has her own sense of style. Flowery dresses and wellies are a favourite.
She has an awesome sense of humour and a booming laugh. She totally gets sarcasm, and irony. I am so proud.
Her foundation teacher once told me she'd not encountered anyone like Trouble Two for a long time. She's confident without being overbearing, and intelligent without being smart-arse. She leads groups of children effortlessly, and remembers tiny details, usually using them against the foundation unit staff later! When the unit needed a new nursery assistant, the teacher jokingly said that Trouble Two could conduct the interviews as she would be more thorough than MI6. She was gutted when the teacher said she was only joking. She had her notebook ready and everything.
She's a craft monster and I really struggle to keep up with her appetite for making stuff. I could build an entire house using her art projects as building materials.
Trouble Two is a real mini-me. Cuter, obviously, and with complete and utter middle-child syndrome at home, but I don't worry about her at all - now or for the future. She can work things out for herself, and doesn't need help in any areas of her life. I worry about her less than her sister who is three years older.
So a belated Happy Birthday to Trouble Two. This week they have been away with my mum and dad on a six-day tour of relative visiting, and I have missed them. Not too much but more than T2 would have missed me, but six days is a long time. Especially when you are only six!