Tuesday, 24 March 2015

What not to say to a sleep-deprived mum

dealing with sleep-deprivation
The twins have me on my toes again. Just when I thought we were past the worst of the night-waking in our house, here I am, back in the land of sleep-deprivation. Make that accumulated sleep-deprivation. Because a one-off night of waking up to children can be recovered from with an extra coffee the next day and an early night. But when it's multiple nights of interrupted sleep, it starts to affect everything.

For starters, it makes me feel unwell. My eyes sting, my head hurts. I feel like I'm coming down with something. But it's not just the physical stuff that hurts. Sleep-deprivation is emotional. It's lonely, frustrating and crazy-making. And that's before you start comparing yourself to mothers of babies who appear to be doing alright in the sleep department. Because then you start adding guilt and inferiority to the list.

It's not surprising that I'm in this place again. I don't do myself any favours with the sleep thing, because I go to my babies the minute they start crying. I'm sure you've been there - that moment when a crying baby wakes you at 3am and you think, 'I will do whatever it takes to get you back to sleep right this minute'. It's a desperate moment but quite a clear one. I want to sleep. At night-time, I want to sleep. Even if it is on my stupid couch-bed. And I don't want any other children woken up. So off I race to silence the crying child.

Anyway, I get it. I know it's a short-term thing. It can be fixed. It's probably something to do with teething or they're too cold or they becoming unwell. It's something that will come and go, and one day soon I'll be sleeping more than an hour at a time.

But geez it makes me ratty. And sensitive. Irrational.

In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that the whole situation gets me a little bit BITEY.

Especially when people stay stuff that really doesn't help. Stuff that just BOTHERS me.

dealing with sleep-deprivation

For example:

'When you're up, I'm up too.'

When I hear this one come at me in the morning, it honestly takes every tired ounce of me not to start barking. I actually feel myself bristle. Yep, I get what makes it hard for you - wife getting up all night, babies crying every other hour. Wife swearing furiously under her breath. It can be tough to take. But I bet all the LYING DOWN WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED HELPS!!!!!!

'I couldn't sleep last night. It was my back/my dog/my neighbour/the wind.'

I can't relate to this. I could fall asleep in a building site - I don't even need a pillow. I don't get why you can't sleep in these circumstances, and if you ask me, it all sounds a bit far-fetched. If children are asleep, there is no other noise. I don't see the problem. Just close your eyes, snuggle down and enjoy your bed, dammit.

'If it's any consolation, you look great.'

Um...no I don't. This is a bullshit token sentence and I'm calling it. I'M NOT SLEEPING. My body isn't resting. I'm not eating because all the caffeine I'm consuming has messed with my appetite. Not even industrial strength concealer can help hide the dark, monstrous circles under my eyes. I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Me looking great therefore, is very unlikely. So please don't bother. And hang on a sec, how come I only get told I look great when I feel like shit? What about when I'm not tired? Nothing then, huh?

'You look tired.'

Maybe just leave my appearance out of it all together, yeah? No one likes to be told this one, especially when it's right on the money. A check-out lady at Woolworths told me this last year. I don't make eye contact with her anymore.

'My baby self-settles/sleeps through/is a good sleeper'

Why would you even??? These ones have reduced me to tired, emotional tears on more than one occasion. Look, it's an unwritten rule amongst mothers of babies - DON'T BRAG ABOUT how good your baby is at sleeping. For us mums struggling with sleep, we're just going to think you're an arsehole, lying, or bitch about you to someone. Sorry. I'm sure you're very nice, really.

How about you? Being up all night with a baby or child recently? Feeling my pain? What do people say to you that drives you mad??

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Sunday, 22 March 2015

How to help your child become more resilient

how to help your child become resilient
Have you got a sensitive child? Mr B is super sensitive. I remember telling a child care worker this when he first started at his day-care, aged 2. She virtually rolled her eyes and said 'They all are!', which I thought was a bit harsh at the time.

But we've had several other staff tell us over the years that he is in fact a super-sensitive kid and needs to work on his resilience. Resilience is that ability to bounce back from the moments where things don't go so well - when friends won't share, when games won't be won, when drawings don't go as planned. Mr B's first reaction to these sorts of things has been to cry. In the most beautiful way, he is highly emotional and caring. Even now, we can't get past the opening scenes of Finding Nemo without stopping for a weep and a cuddle.

With Mr B starting school this year, I decided to attend a Resilient Kids workshop to make sure we were dealing with his emotions most effectively. I was familiar with the basics: encourage feelings, allow room for tears and work on problem-solving skills. But it turns out it's not quite as simple as this.

So, how to help your child become resilient? Here are some things that stood out to me:

What's your own resilience like? 

I get that as parents, we're role models, but I didn't think much about my own resilience and what I look like to my son when I'm dealing with life. Do I look like I'm coping? Does he see me stressed out or do I appear to be dealing with things calmly? Geez, there are plenty of times that he sees me wound up. I will definitely be checking myself tomorrow morning during the getting-ready-for-school craziness.

Relaxing

There was a lot of talk about introducing relaxation exercises to the family like deep-breathing and calming music. This sounded very sweet in theory, but in my head I went, 'Yeah right! Isn't relaxation what the telly is for?!' and shrugged it off. But then someone in the group mentioned that they have 30 minutes of quiet time everyday for the whole family, where everyone does something quietly in their own space, like reading books. I really like this idea. I could spend 30 minutes drinking a whole, hot cup of tea....sounds dreamy. I'll put it on my list.

how to help your child become resilient

There are no negative emotions, just emotions

I don't know about you, but I've always labelled emotions as being positive and negative. Happy, excited and energised are positive emotions. Sadness, fear and anxiety are negatives. Now I suddenly see how damaging that is. If we label a feeling as being negative, then the implicit message is that we need to be rid of it as quickly as possible. But this isn't the case. Feeling sad is just another emotion that needs to be processed. It shouldn't be rushed away. And I shouldn't teach my children that there are good and bad feelings.

Let your child find the solutions

I have to admit, I like to help Mr B find answers to his problems. I love helping and demonstrating my worldly experience! But this isn't so helpful if I want to promote his resilience. I need to step back and prompt him to come with his own ideas and solutions. Or he just won't learn to do it himself. After all, I'm not there with him at school for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. He needs to be able to fend for himself (sob).

Give emotions their space

Another light bulb moment for me. When Mr B was unhappy last month about not finding friends in the first few days of school, I dove straight in with the advice: 'Don't ask to play with someone, just join in.' 'Ask someone their name tomorrow.' 'Make sure you smile at people.' But I didn't spend enough time talking through his emotions with him - so going in too early with the problem-solving fell on deaf ears because of the space he was in. Kids who are in an emotional state can't hear reasoning. By spending more time reflecting on his feelings, Mr B can move onto problem-solving with a clearer head. Makes sense, right?

So, what do you think? Have you got a child in your life that could do with some resilience-building? Or have you been able to help your own child develop some of these skills? Would love to hear about it! 

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

An open letter to myself: You are not a Craft Mum. Let it go.

things mums do

There are a few things in parenthood that I hate doing. Because I'm no good at them. I just go along with what's expected of me, dreading the whole thing. And of course, whatever it is turns out badly. Because of my bad attitude. So, I'm ready to call it - I'm no good at these things, do not like doing them, and would rather they happened elsewhere. I decided to write myself a letter:

Dear Me,

Step away from the craft glue. That's right, put it down, and move away from the craft project area. There's something very wrong with this picture - and I don't mean the giant collage you've been frantically sticking bits of crepe paper on to. Here's the problem: the kids are know where to be seen. They've got bored, and wondered off to watch TV. This means three things: 1)You'll feel obliged to finish off the craft yourself to prove it was worth it, 2) It will take much, much longer to clean everything up than it did to do the activity, and 3) The kids will NOT appreciate your efforts.

I don't know why you do it to yourself. Because I know your secret: you hate craft. And all the fiddly bits of sequins, paddle pop sticks and felt that goes with it. You hate that it's such a huge hassle, makes a massive mess and always turns out a bit shit.

No, that's it. I'm calling it: CRAFT IS BORING. Furthermore: YOU AREN'T ANY GOOD AT IT.

Pack away the googly eyes, crepe paper and confetti, once and for all. And repeat after me: craft is for day-care. That's what you pay them money for, right? And the same goes for painting. There is no sense putting out the easel, paper and paints, only for your kids to paint their feet when you're not watching and laugh as they run around making painty footprints. On the carpet. You are not a Craft Mum. Let it go.

And while we're at it, here's a couple of other things you're not. You are not a Baking Mum. Baking Mums do not cry while making cookies from a box mix. It's not meant to be difficult. So here's the thing - if it's hard, stop doing it. Repeat after me: cookies come from Woolworths.

There are plenty of things you're good at doing with your kids. Why aren't you spending more time doing them? Like reading books together. Puzzles. Hide and Seek. Outings. Dancing. Singing (actually, while we're on the subject, you're tone deaf. But the kids don't seem to notice and you know way too many Wiggles songs to let this one go).

You are not a Creative Play Mum. When the kids are bored or want you to play with them, you feel stumped for ideas. Despite the parenting magazines and websites you read daily, you cannot come up with anything on the spot. Secretly, you'd prefer them to amuse themselves while you make a cup of tea. Don't feel bad about this.

You don't have to be the mum-of-all-trades. So you hate all the mess that comes with craft. And you consistently over-bake your baked goods. Making up games causes you to sweat under the pressure. Let it go. Play to your strengths.

Enough of this idea that you need to be good at everything for your children. Kids don't need everything - they only need you. In fact, I'll let you in on a little secret: you don't actually have to try very hard at all. In their eyes, you're amazing just as you are.

Love,

Me

P.S. You are also not a Sewing Mum

Over to you! Got anything that you're rubbish at? Or that you just hate? Or maybe you're really good at something?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Catch-up Post


I don't know about you, but with all these wonderful blogs around to read, I find it hard to keep up with who is saying what and how many kids everyone has. So I thought I'd write a re-cap post for you so we are all up to speed.

For those of you who've just joined The Laney Files, here is what you've missed so far:

Marriage

Mr Laney and I met in a pub nearly 8 years ago. We bonded over beer and music. We had loads of fun going out to concerts, pubs and dinners. It was the first time I'd been in a relationship where there were no games. Cards were on the table from word go and everything fell into place. We got married a couple of years later. In a pub. It was very fitting.

Babies

We had Mr B - ahem - before we got married. He was nearly 2 at our wedding, and when Miss P arrived, he was just gone 2.5. I found going from one to two children really hard! For the first six months, getting out of the house with two kids, trying to breastfeed Miss P in peace and making sure I had time for Mr B were all huge challenges. Once she got more mobile, things got easier. But despite how hard I found it all, something else was going on. I was obsessed with getting on with baby number three. I'd decided three was 'our number'.

More Babies

So it turns out that four was the number. We became pregnant with twins. This was a huge shock. I really thought twins were about heredity and didn't think for a second it could happen easily to anyone else. The pregnancy was considered high-risk and was pretty scary. It was a very stressful time in our lives. Due to complications, the babies needed to come out at 32 weeks. Thankfully, we had a great team looking after us and we were fully prepared for the early delivery. The day our babies arrived was beyond amazing. It was really confronting to see tiny babies arrive into the world when they weren't quite ready. I felt intrusive, like I was fooling around with mother nature.

Over the next month we began to get a picture of what life would be like with four kids. Our twins couldn't have arrived at a more challenging time. It was December, fast-approaching Christmas and both the kids were just finishing kindy for the year. When we finally took our twins home, it was a FULL HOUSE.


Terrible Tuesdays

We have a fantastic day-care that we use. But in those early months, there was one day each week that I had all four kids at home. It became known as Terrible Tuesday. It was HARD. Four needy kids, that all needed their bums and noses wiped. All day. Weirdly, we've stopped using this term now.  Somewhere along the way, things have got easier.  I am used to the craziness in our lives now. Life is messy, noisy and funny.

Back to work

When the babies were 10 months, it was time for me to go back to work part-time. It was around the same time I turned 37, and became the subject of my first ever blog post (cringe - I'm not even going to link it). My employer is really supportive, but I find work hard. The work/life balance thing is very difficult when the 'life' side of things is so full-on. I can't completely leave things at home when I get to work - something always manages to trail in the door behind me. I know things will get easier as the kids get older. I'm doing my best to keep the need for work at a minimum, so I can stay on top of things at home and enjoy my kids while they're still little.

Big school

Mr B started school this year. I don't know why there's this idea that things get easier once they start school, because this has been a new challenge in itself. Not so much the getting our heads around school thing, but the logistics of it all! It seems that by the time we get home after school drop-off, followed by a quick grocery shop, it's time to get back for pick-up! Very often the poor babies won't have a decent sleep the whole day because their naps keep getting interrupted. Aside from these issues, it has been great to see Mr B transition into this new environment. School suits him.


 This blog

I started this blog because I wanted a creative outlet. It's been a huge learning curve that I am still travelling. There is so much I still have to learn, which gets frustrating because I have so little time to sit down and do it in. I didn't know anything about blogging before I started this one last September. This is pretty obvious in my first few posts. I like to think I am getting the hang of things with some practice and patience with myself.

Other stuff

On here, you'll read a lot about my coffee addiction and red wine dependency. I am ok with both of these things. Rather than get in the way of my life functioning, they do the total opposite: they make life work for me! I figure I am allowed a vice or two while I get through these early years of child-rearing.

If you have time for a bit more of a read, two of my most popular posts are Secret Parenting Behaviour and 8 Lessons My Threenager Can Teach Me About Life. Enjoy!


Ok, caught up? Great! Let me know if you have any questions!





Friday, 13 March 2015

8 lessons my threenager is teaching me about life


living with a threenager

Threenagers are getting a lot of bad press lately. And rightly so - I have one. I get it. Mine is defiant, stubborn and determined. Noisy and slightly naughty. Incredibly demanding and prone to loud outbursts of crying if she doesn't get her way. She is full of contradictive behaviours. One minute she refuses my help with anything, the next she is clamouring for a carry or a cuddle. Miss P is a teenager spliced with a baby.

Oh and the other thing is, she's beautiful and charming. She will win you over with her cherubic smile before throwing sand in your face and running off with a giggle.  It's a tough gig to parent this one. Living with a threenager comes with its challenges.

But I'm wondering...is it at all possible to shine a positive light on the threenager? Maybe find some good qualities?  I wonder if the threenager can offer us adults anything, besides the need for a Panadol?

I've thought about it. To be honest, I've had to think really long and hard about it. It hurt my head a bit. But I've managed to come up with a list of lessons we could learn from the threenager.
1. Wear fabulous clothes. For any occasion. In Miss P's case, this means over the top, flouncy, bright dresses. Sometimes with wings, sometimes with a tiara. Sometimes with costume jewellery. No matter the occasion, Miss P always goes to a special effort. She will also request a wardrobe change at least 4 times a day. Sometimes this is because a drop of water has landed on her dress. Other times, there's no explicit reason. She will just start stripping off and ask you to get her another outfit. NOW. I must admit, the idea of wearing beautiful things at all times is very appealing. Maybe it's time to look at the 'special occasions' section of my wardrobe. Let me tell you, if they made some of Miss P's dresses in adult sizes that cost a maximum of $35, I would be ONBOARD.

living with a threenager

2. Don't accept no for an answer. Miss P will battle with you for a yes to her requests. Even if you say no and offer a very reasonable and patient explanation, she will wait until you finish and then simply repeat her question. This could go on for half an hour. It often brings me to my knees. I try to dress it up as a compromise, so that it looks like things are on my terms. But they're not. I'm just giving in for the sake of peace. So, the lesson here is, don't give up if you get a no. Keep asking and never lose your focus. Persistence pays off. Do not let someone try to fob you off with a long-winded excuse. You can break them.
3. Express your feelings. Miss P will let you, and the rest of the street know if she is unhappy, hungry or wants to use the iPad. Her wails are so loud and overwhelming that our entire household will just stopping making their own noise until she is finished. The lesson here - if you're unhappy, do as Miss P does and let everyone know. Don't bottle things up. At the very least, you could end up with a cuddle and a biscuit.
4. Sing like no one is listening. Singing is great for the soul. There's even a Carpenters' song about it. Miss P is really getting into her element with this one. What astounds me the most is that she doesn't even know all the words to these songs. I think she knows about two lines of 'Let It Go', but her version will go on for about ten minutes.  She will sing her little heart out for anyone who's listening. I am all for this. Who hasn't rocked out in their car to really loud, really tragic songs? Feels brilliant, right? 

5. Make your voice heard. Miss P isn't just loud when she cries, she is generally a very loud little person. Why simply speak when you can shout? At least this way people will hear you the first time. I suppose Miss P struggles to be heard in our busy house. This is how she's learnt to communicate. The lesson here is, don't assume that people aren't interested, they just need to HEAR you. So speak up. Make people listen.

living with a threenager
6. Be convincing. Miss P will melt the angriest of hearts. So, if you find yourself in a spot of bother, try smiling disarmingly and quickly follow this up with a sincere-sounding 'sorry'.  Make your eyes very big at this point. Maybe go in for a cuddle too.  They'll be putty in your hands. 
7. Be discerning with your friends. Miss P is very clear about who her best friend is  and the importance of interactions with said best friend. Anyone who is not best friend material or is at risk of having the best friend title revoked is informed by her in no uncertain terms. In adult terms, this means look after your close friends. Don't waste time on toxic or unhelpful friendships. Value your relationships with others.

8. Know your limits. After a long day, Miss P will let us know she is ready for bed by refusing to eat her dinner and leaving the table to roll around on the floor every time we turn our backs. Eventually it clicks: this kid is tired. Game over. She doesn't even protest when we lead her upstairs for a bath. The lesson here is, know when you've reached your limits. There's no point pushing yourself when your body needs to recharge. Take a break.
So there you go. Who knew a threenager could be so wise? I wonder what other nuggets of wisdom she has in store for me.

How about you? Got a threenager? What's yours trying to teach you?

 
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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Magic Moment

Last week, we had a big first for my twin boys: their first time feeling the grass under their toes!
I had been feeling so bad about not getting them to the park earlier for this. It's been surprisingly difficult to organise something so simple. For one reason or another, I just couldn't make it happen. 
 
I was lucky enough  to have a day off work, so once I'd dropped Miss P at kindy and Mr B at school, we were off. Conditions were perfect. Not too hot, nice and overcast. After a quick stop for a coffee, we arrived at the park, where I picked a nice open bit of grass that looked really soft and thick.   


One reason I was holding off was because I thought they needed shoes to protect their feet. I finally got them each a pair but when we arrived at the park I realised that they had to feel the grass under their feet. That was the whole point.
 


As I got them out of the pram, I felt emotional. After such a long build up, and spending so much time feeling guilty about not getting to it sooner, I was really excited for my babies to have this experience. We have no grass at home.  Really, the only outside texture they’ve felt is pebbles from our courtyard. So this was huge for them. 
 

Once they were out, off they went. They LOVED it. It was so nice not to feel worried about where they were going. I've never felt so relaxed about letting them explore. I just followed them around slowly, snapping loads of photos and watching them enjoy their experience.  

I let them get really dirty before loading them back into the pram and giving them a good wipe-down. They looked knackered. Finally I can tick this one off on the list.
 
Next on the list: a sand experience!

 

How about you? Had any first experiences or magic moments lately?


Thursday, 5 March 2015

6 things that surprised me after having a baby

after you have a baby
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read all the pregnancy and birth books, went to the antenatal classes and got all the stuff I needed for when I had my baby. I didn’t think I could be more prepared. But I was wrong. When I brought my baby home, a few things took me by surprise in those early weeks.
While I imagined hours of cuddles and relaxing feeds and long walks during the day, this wasn’t all I got. Looking back, I realise that none of my reading back then covered what would happen to me after the pregnancy. Sure, I had my birth plan done and the nursery was ready. But I was NOT prepared for what would happen to my body after it was done with being pregnant.

Here are 6 things that took me by surprise after having a baby:

1. Whose boobs are these?!? They got bigger during pregnancy, but wow, when my milk came in, they were massive. And no, not in a sexy way. More like a cow with giant udders.  And they were painful! Think really hard, really lumpy, really sore. And while my baby and I got used to feeding. It. Hurt. I'm talking knives-under-skin-type pain that made me grit my teeth. 
after you have a baby
 2. Downstairs. Without going into too much detail, let's just say I was pretty battered and bruised down there after the birth ordeal. And there were stitches. This pretty much scarpered my vision of long walks with my baby in the first few weeks. And sex? Forget about it. It took me weeks months to go back there again. Also, I bled for weeks. They told me to have a few packs of maternity pads handy, not to buy out the local Coles in pads and liners.
3. Pelvic floor. There’s a reason why they get you doing all those kegel exercises while you’re pregnant. Things change down there. There’s stretching. And straining. Find the pelvic floor lifting and squeezing too boring to bother with? Yeah, I did too. Boy, did I get a nasty surprise when I started playing netball again. Think of all that jumping and throwing. My bladder. Couldn’t. Handle. It.
after you have a baby
 4.  Sleep deprivation. People told me what I was in for. But I just shrugged and thought, ‘I get up a couple of times a night for the toilet as it is. How different is it going to be?’  Oh, how little I knew. The first 9 months with each baby I’ve had has thrown the book at me in terms of sleep deprivation. It's been used as torture for a reason. The term, 'I feel like I've been hit by a truck' was designed  for sleep-deprived mothers. You'll see.
5.  Brain mush. They call it 'baby brain', which I always thought was time specific. Meaning that once baby arrived, I could have my brain back. But my brain has never been the same since I first got pregnant. Nowadays, I regularly struggle to finish sentences and quite often lose track altogether of what’s been said. My memory cannot be trusted. I'd make a terrible eye-witness. I used to read gripping, wordy novels that stretched my mind and tested my attention span. Now I exclusively read chick lit (not that there's anything wrong with that).
after you have a baby
6. Crazy hair loss. Apparently, because your hair becomes so thick and lustrous during pregnancy, it starts falling out once you're not anymore. I never really noticed my hair becoming that thick, so I was pretty horrified at the amounts that fell out in the months following the birth. And it would turn up everywhere - on the walls, in food, in my baby's mouth. I have friends that developed bald spots after losing so much hair. I knew it was getting to be an issue for me when my hairdresser whispered that I was getting a bit too thin in the front to carry off the fringe I was hoping for....
You've been warned.  Not everything is rosy after you have a baby.  But it is pretty awesome. I mean, you just made a baby. Congratulations! Just don't forget your kegels. You don't want to be like me, clinging on to your pelvic floor for dear life every time you sneeze.

Can you remember any of this stuff after having your first baby? Or did you get off easy?

Any of it still happening, like it is for me?!?

*First Published on ivillage.com.au
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