It’s all getting pretty exciting at More Than A Mum! By now you probably have a pretty good idea of our mission: We want to support women in being brilliant Mums, AND help them to rediscover their own identity.
Well, we have taken this mission a step further and as of today we have teamed up with Pitter Patter The Hub for Bubs to offer a course for Mums to help you achieve those dual aims of being a great parent and rediscovering yourself as an individual. Oh and you’ll get to meet and chat with other Mums in the area over coffee with some lovely Mummy treats thrown in…
The sessions will run on Saturday mornings once a month, beginning on the 3rd March, at the Grove Pub in Ealing.
Sessions will be in two parts, one to support you as a Mum and one to support you as a woman. Each section will have a range of information, guidance, support and activities for you in your role as woman and your role as Mum.
The Woman section will include a range of inspirational talks, confidence building activities, Mum me-time activities and case studies to help you see the ways you can re-discover your own identity and reward yourself for the role you play in your family.
The Mum section will be based around a particular activity that you can do with your child/children. The activities will all be linked to your child’s development needs, but also be an entertaining activity for parent and child alike.
The sessions are designed to enable you to feel better equipped to aid your child’s physical, emotional and academic progress; to help you to develop strategies to create and maximise Mum me-time; and to revive your sense of personal identity.
We are sorry if you don’t live in the Ealing area, but we are in the process of developing online versions of the course as well, so keep your eyes peeled!
Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or @more_than_a for more information.
So I came across another article yesterday that basically blamed mothers for any messed up adults (again!) the headline being – ‘How bond with mother in first 18 months can shape our love life!’ I should probably say it was in the Daily Mail which helped me not to take it too seriously. However, the article was based on research done by a team of psychologists and university professors (The study is published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science) which again doesn’t particularly mean it’s any more true – but nevertheless made it appear slightly more official. The researchers found ‘those children with a secure bond with their mothers were likely to have more successful relationships later on in life’. This much I agree with and I know there has been extensive research that the first years are of huge significance to a person’s life course. There has also been extensive research on how physical touch and love have a massive effect on the brain development of children – see a brilliant book on this called ‘The Science of Parenting’. However, the research in this article goes a step further claiming:
‘Your interpersonal experiences with your mother during the first 12 to 18 months of life predict your behaviour in romantic relationships 20 years later.’
Apparently the ability to ‘trust, love and work through arguments’ is developed early on in these crucial stages. I don’t think a single person could read the article and not end up analysing whether there is a correlation between their mother’s love and the success or failure of their relationships. My problem with this is whether it gives adults an excuse for poor behaviour and encourages a lack of responsibility for one’s actions.
The article does go on to say, ‘Old patterns can be overcome. A betrayed baby can become loyal. An unloved infant can learn to love.’ Which suggests we are not a slave to our upbringing though even this was put in a particularly harsh way.
It is not new news that our childhood affects who we are as adults but when it comes to romantic relationships I would have thought we were more influenced by the opposite sex parent to a larger extent and surely at a much later stage in life? As with most sweeping statements it ignores the multitudes of other factors that influence a persons conduct in a relationship.
If this study is to be trusted then where does that leave every mother who has suffered with post natal depression and was unable to bond with her child during that crucial first year? Feeling pretty crap I would think!
I’m a firm believer that most things can be turned around with a big, and consistent, dose of love and that we have the power to change ourselves, break the mould and decide who we want to be!
I read with interest yesterday an article on the updated findings of a landmark report published three years ago by the Children’s Society – ‘A Good Childhood’ which I blogged on some months back – here. The previous study warned that young people’s lives are being blighted by Britain’s selfish society. However, the updated findings say that ‘half a million children in Britain are unhappy at any moment’. Following interviews with 30,000 under-16s it claims those who have deeply negative feelings about their lives are at higher risk of bullying, depression and eating disorders. At first glance it makes for depressing reading and is another stark reminder that we still have unacceptable levels of child poverty in this country are more than unacceptable. But, I then realised that the study was not talking about children on the poverty line but children in general across the board!
As I read on what actually concerned, and frankly annoyed, me about the report was the findings that;
‘Children who worry that they do not have the right clothes to “fit in” with classmates are three times as likely to be unhappy with the way they look, with the problem affecting girls more than boys.’ And ‘Those who received less pocket money than their peers reported lower levels of well-being, but so did those who were given a lot more cash, suggesting that children want to be similar to their friends more than they want to be rich.’
I’m sorry but since when did we not balk at the idea that our responsibility for making our children ‘happy’ lies with providing them with the right ‘clothes’ and enough pocket money? Is it just me or is something amiss here? Should it not be more cause for alarm that the emphasis and importance placed on image, labels and material things in general is completely out of control and endemic? Instead of being encouraged to revise our children’s opinions we’re being pressured to adhere to their demands and (in my opinion) helping to compound the problem.
Don’t get me wrong; I do understand the mortification of not having a ‘puff-ball’ skirt, ‘Wallabies’ or a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ sweatshirt at school because we were a single-parent family who lived on a council estate! However, despite our low income, my mum always dressed us ‘well’ albeit not the latest labels. My mum, instead encouraged us to be individual and suggested it was cool to be different – just as well seen as we were the only mixed-race kids in our entire year! I remember my aunt made us some ‘flares’ just before they heavily came in fashion (I’m talking the second time round in the 90’s – I’m not that old!) and although we were a little nervous at wearing them in the first week, the ‘top girl’ of the school came up to us asked us where we got them from and if our aunt would make her some! There is a lot you can get away with if you’re confident and this attitude has got me a long way in life ever since. I just think it’s a much more helpful trait to encourage in your child – confidence, individuality and setting the trend rather than following it.
There is a big difference between not having any shoes at all (real child poverty) and not having the ‘right’ shoes. And as for pocket money – don’t even get me started. They don’t know they’re born!!
Yesterday a survey by OnePoll for I CAN, the children’s communication charity, and Openreach revealed that children in the UK are suffering as the recession forces parents to take extra work.
According to the findings the recession has forced 81% of parents in London (72% of British parents nationally) to take on extra work to make ends meet putting pressure on home life and time with children. Worryingly, parents surveyed said this impacts on the time that they have to talk and interact with their child aged 0-5 years, which could potentially impact on their child’s communication development and their school readiness. Evidence shows that children’s understanding and use of vocabulary at 2 is very strongly associated with their performance on entering primary school. More than 50% of children start school without the communication skills they need to achieve particularly in some areas of social deprivation within the UK.
Key stats from survey in London:
• Over a third are working longer hours, one-fifth have found themselves with no option but to take on a second job and a quarter of parents surveyed are now doing extra work from home.
• More than half (57%) say they have less quality time with their children as a result of their work.
The survey shows that parents of children 0-5 years old, understand the importance of regular, quality conversation with their children. However:
• 44% say they rarely have time to talk these days and blame increased workloads.
• 20% are too tired to chat with their children by the time they get home from work.
• Around a third state that either answering work calls or responding to emails often interrupts attempts to chat with their children.
• Although parents in London recognise mealtimes as one of the key occasions to engage in conversation with young children, nearly 40% are regularly missing out on these meals due to work commitments.
The survey aims to encourage as many families, nurseries, child minders, children’s groups and others across London to register and take part in I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge 2012 ‘Kids in Motion: Get Active and Make Chatter Matter’. the 11th annual Chatterbox Challenge, from 1-7th February 2012. The Chatterbox Challenge, developed by speech and language therapists, aims to develop children’s communication skills, through songs and rhymes, in homes, nurseries and childminding groups across the country.”
With support from Openreach, donations raised during the Chatterbox Challenge go directly to I CAN’s work with children with speech, language and communication difficulties. I CAN aims to ensure that no child is left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding.
Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Lead Advisor says, ‘There are many quick and simple ways to help your child’s communication and we’ve put together 10 tips on building talking and singing into a busy day’:
10 TIPS FOR DEVELOPING SPEECH, LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION
GET YOUR CHILD’S FULL ATTENTION FIRST
Get down to the child’s level and engage their attention before speaking or asking a question – say their name to encourage them to stop and listen. Talking about what your child is interested in will also help to gain their attention.
MAKE LEARNING LANGAUGE FUN
Funny voices, rhymes, noises and singing all help children to learn language. Be silly – often the daftest things gain their attention
IMITATE CHILDREN’S LANGUAGE
With very young children, simply repeat back sounds, words and sentences. This demonstrates that you value all they say. This can be anything from “ba” to “Oh, you liked the apple?”
USE A FULL RANGE OF EXPRESSION
Speak in a lively, animated voice and use lots of gestures and facial expressions to back up your words – you’ll give clues about what your words mean
USE SIMPLE, REPETITIVE LANGUAGE
Keep sentences short – as you talk about what is happening (“We’re driving in the car” or “Wow, you’re building a tower”)
MAKE IT EASY FOR YOUR CHILD TO LISTEN AND TALK
It is easier for your child to know what to listen to if your voice is not being masked by the television or music. Give your child quiet times to help them focus on your words. If your child uses a dummy, make sure that it is not in the way of their talking. Keep dummies to sleeptimes
BUILD ON WHAT CHILDREN SAY
Talk very clearly and add one or two words to your child’s sentence – if your child says ‘look car’, you could say ‘look, red car’
GIVE CHILDREN TIME TO RESPOND
Children often need time to put their thoughts together before answering, so give them longer to respond than you would with an adult
BE CAREFUL WITH QUESTIONS
Try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you’re constantly testing the child, or where you already know the answer
DEMONSTRATE THE RIGHT WAY
Praise your child’s efforts, even if the results aren’t perfect – if the child says “we goed to the shops” the adult might say “Yes we went to the shops” of if child says “look tar” the adult could say “yes, car!”
I thought these were pretty good tips but I’d add avoid baby talk. I honestly have never understood the thinking behind teaching two versions of words when you can teach the correct one from the start! Why say ‘Choo-Choo’ when you can say ‘train’? Why teach ‘Ta’ when you can teach ‘thank you’. Some baby talk words are more difficult to say than the real ones i.e. ‘Bow wow’ V ‘dog’!!!! My son’s speech has always been fairly advanced (a real chatterbox) and although he loves using funny voices, making up words and silly rhymes (which I encourage) he has a great vocabulary and loves learning new words and their meanings. I’m sure this has been largely down to us taking advantage of his inquisitive nature and explaining things properly when he asks about them rather than palming him off with kiddy answers – that are often not true. Sometimes adults can assume a child will not understand and therefore over simplify an answer which can actually end up confusing a child – especially if they’re on to the fact that you’ve made it up! I also found responding to a question with a little bit of additional information but not too much helps to add interest and fun into learning. I also have talked a lot to my son from him being a tiny baby and I believe this helps them with their speech and understanding.
What tips would you add to encourage development in your child’s communication?
How did you find your hospital’s post-birth care before you were discharged? Did you have a nice chat with a friendly midwife who ensured you had a good understanding of the needs of your baby and the possible challenges to come? Did you find that you left hospital armed with all the information and advice you were going to need?
I had a brilliant birth experience, but the brief stay in hospital after the birth left something to be desired. Granted, I was pretty knackered and I don’t remember every moment and every chat, but even in this state, I can safely say that all my knowledge about what was to come once I had left the hospital and we were our own little family came from the NCT course that I had attended whilst pregnant. They even discharged me with a notes saying the breastfeeding was “established” when no one had seen me feed and Munchkin and I were back in 24 hours later because she wouldn’t…
Long gone are the times of my parents, where new mothers were kept in for over a week, and taught how to feed, wash, change and generally care for their new baby. Not that I really fancy spending more time than necessary in a noisy, hot hospital ward, but I would like to think that someone has a duty of care over new babies and their families.
So, when I saw a BBC news story entitled “Leicester hospital’s new mothers DVD attracts NHS interest“, I read it with mixed feelings. Leicester General Hospital has created a DVD for new parents and apparently other trusts are very interested in it. It appears from the BBC report, that new mums are given the DVD on a laptop prior to being discharged and that this DVD gives helpful advice and information about how to feed and care for your new baby. The report then states that parents are also able to ask other questions if they wish.
On one hand this seems like an impersonal way of interacting with new mums. I have an image of being shattered and bemused, newborn in arms, whilst a midwife sets up a laptop, presses play and says, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes”. Alone with a small potentially screaming bundle and a laptop spouting information-overload may not be the most useful learning environment!
…and yet if a DVD means that you are given access to information, rather than just packed off home to make space then perhaps it is a good thing. Perhaps a short DVD that you can watch and then consider the sorts of questions you might like to ask is a useful idea. Perhaps a DVD which can be paused or fast-forwarded depending on prior knowledge, rather than the brisk chat from a midwife who has a hundred other things she needs to be doing is in fact a good thing.
I am in two minds. I don’t think that this impersonal should replace the personal, but is the impersonal better than nothing when it comes to ensuring you are well informed about looking after your child?
Well we do hope you’ve all noticed our fancy new banner and logo…have you? We like it a lot! And it’s all thanks to a lovely and very talented lady called Rachael Jane (@rachinald). She’s a textile designer, photographer, graphic designer, vlogger, blogger, poet and overall creative thinker. Talk about an inspiring lady!!!
One of our aims and commitments as More than a Mum is to not only help you to be a brilliant mum but to help you rediscover your identity as a woman too. We want our posts to be practical as well as informative, constructive as well as inspiring.
I’m conscious we could easily neglect the identity issue as it is incredibly easy for us to become absorbed, and dare I say, all consumed in being parents. Sometimes without even realising it. But who are you without your child? Do you sometimes wonder what to talk about or even what to do with your hands when you don’t have your child with you? People lose their identity for all sorts of reasons; a dominating partner, a demanding career, a busy parent. However, it’s worth remembering we are only in danger of losing who we are if our identity is wrapped up ‘only’ in what we do.
As parents we long for our children’s successes to surpass our own, for them to have the opportunities we never had and we do everything in our power to help them along the way. However, as we’ve said time and time again in our posts ‘a happy and fulfilled parent equals a happy and fulfilled child’. The best thing we can do for our children is to lead by example. To live what we want to teach them – not just talk about it. Not only do we owe it to our children though, but we owe it to ourselves to reignite our passion for our dreams, to dig them up from the depths where we, or life’s pressures, have buried them and to start to construct a plan towards achieving them.
Maybe it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten your dream. Maybe you think you don’t have one anymore. I’m confident with the right kind of digging you can uncover it and be on your way to rediscovering your identity as a woman in the process.
The following steps are just for you. You don’t have to share them with anyone yet but I do encourage you to write them down to make it more real.
Step 1: What did you want to be as a little girl/boy? (Try to remember the self-belief and abandonment you had as a child – that the world was your oyster and you could do or be anything you wanted to be.)
Step 2: What would you do if you were guaranteed you wouldn’t fail?
Step 3: What do you wish you could be doing this time next year? (Your short-term goal)
Step 4: What do you wish you could be doing in 5 years time? (Your mid term goal)
Step 5: Where would you like to be and what would you want to be doing in ten years time? (Your long-term goal)
Step 6: What is something you would quite like to do that you know you can do you just haven’t got round to doing it or made time to do it?
Step 7: What would you love to do but it seems like too much hard work/effort/time?
Step 8: What’s your crazy dream you secretly would love to do but struggle to believe it’s even possible?
Step 9: Look back over all your answers so far.
– What small step could you do tomorrow towards any of these things?
– What medium step could you commit to do in the next two weeks towards any of these things?
– What big step could you take by Christmas towards any of these things?
Step 10: The important thing is to just get on and do it. Stop talking yourself out of it or looking at the obstacles or difficulties in the way – Just get started.
Wake up tomorrow and take that first tiny step.
This week is National Adoption week. To mark it, on the radio station where I work I interviewed 3 ladies for the women’s programme. They were; a retired clinical geneticist, a former family lawyer who now works for a well-known family charity – Care for the family – and a post-adoption team social worker. All are also mothers. We were tackling the age-old debate of Nature Verses Nurture in the light of adoption. When we have children, or adopt, we hope and believe environmental forces i.e. parenting, above all else excels a greater force on our children than nature. That their personality will be shaped by love and discipline. But is it really?
I love a good debate and this is one I’ve revisited time and again particularly since I became a parent and especially since I became a ‘single’ parent. The radio discussion was fascinating: The geneticist, understandably, argued that there is a limit to what good parenting can do as genes do affect behaviour characteristics. However, she added we are never programmed fully by our genes. Ironically, the social worker had done a thesis on nature V nurture years ago and concluded that nurture was the prevailing factor. However, after years of social work she admitted her view has changed somewhat and now believes a lot is down to nature. The ex-family lawyer and charity worker felt, like the other two ladies, that in the early years there is a key opportunity – in particular the first year and continuing until age 5 – when good parenting and a lot of love can have a profound effect.
My problem with this debate is there are very strong arguments on both sides. There is no doubt certain traits and characteristics are passed down through our genealogy and we only need do a case study of our own familes to see it. But, I also believe our environment and circumstances (in this case love and good parenting) can go a long way in shaping the people our children will become. Our genes do affect who we are but the bit I’m interested in is, are we a slave to them or can bad genes be overcome with good parenting for example? How much of children’s behaviour is due to parenting and how much is due to their innate character?
Lionel Shriver addresses this beautifully, if not darkly, in the brilliant ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ book. (By the way don’t read it if you’re pregnant with your first child). The book doesn’t really provide clear answers but wonderfully explores whether a child can be ‘evil’. Furthermore, if this is possible, is it an innate evil that cannot be overcome or a result of experience and circumstance? It’s just been made into a film starring Tilda Swinton if you can’t be botehred to read the book!
Studies suggest that many temperamental and behavioural tendencies are ultimately 30 to 50 per cent genetic and five major personality traits are identified which show the strongest influence called the Big 5: Extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness to experience. Others with a significant genetic legacy include altruism, shyness, accident-proneness and even self-esteem.
I guess we could all frantically go through this list and analyse our children trying to see if they have that same ‘look’ in their eye that mad uncle George had and end up paranoid and fearful. However, it was in fact the geneticist who pointed out in the interview that although good parenting goes a very long way indeed it is helpful to acknowledge that genes play a part because despite our best efforts sometimes our children do go off the rails and parents are the first to feel guilty and ask the question ‘Where did I go wrong?’
As it is National Adoption Week, I have to also mention that I was astounded to learn that despite numerous research concluding that early years are the key time to provide, love, consistency and lay firm foundations for children, there are 3600 children in care under the age of 1 and only 60 babies were adopted last year! I find this disturbing and quite frankly disgusting. Apparently on average children have to wait 2 years and 7 months for a new home by which time a considerable amount of damage will already have been done. It angers me that red tape is getting in the way of these babies having the love and stability they deserve especially when there are adoptive parents put there waiting to provide it.
To end on a more positive note, the family charity worker gave some great tips for making sure your child not only knows they are loved but feels it too. She said we can tell when our child’s ‘love tank’ is empty when they start acting up (at this point I did think Bearcub must be running on empty a lot of the time lately!) but she then went on to quote a fantastic book, which I’ve read called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Chapman explains that it is imperative that we learn our child’s (or partner’s or friend’s) ‘love language’ and communicate to them using it to ensure the message gets across. The Five Love Languages are – Time, Touch, Words, Gifts and Actions. It’s about learning how an individual wants/needs to be loved. I for one found this quite a helpful tip for making sure that BearCub’s Love-tank is regularly and fully topped up!
So the BritMums blogging prompt this week is: In 100-200 words WHO are we? (Really got to cut the waffle for this one!)
We are More than a Mum. We want to support women in being brilliant Mums, AND help them to rediscover their own identity.
We are Loretta and Ruth, two Mums who love being parents, but don’t want to lose our own identities or stop thinking intellectually. We both work part-time, to varying degrees; we both love a good socio-political debate; we both love sharing the hints, tips and traumas of motherhood and that’s what our blog is about.
Our posts range from the trials and tribulations of our own motherhood, to discussion of news stories that have a family resonance. We are going to blog about recipes (just sorting out my Sloe Gin one now!), craft ideas, and kid-friendly activities as well as parental concerns, me-time ideas and our own experiences. We also want to create a forum for other Mums (and Dads) to discuss some of the big debates surrounding childhood and parenthood.
We fancy being the Marie Claire of Mummy Blogs…We like to aim high!
187 words – done it!
A couple of things have prompted me to write this blog. Firstly, last week I was described and recommended as a ‘black’ mummy blogger to a mum who was looking for the same (apparently there are not many in the UK so identify yourselves if you’re out there!) In case you’re thinking this offended me, it didn’t in the slightest but as a ‘mixed race’ woman it did get me thinking about identity, culture and heritage and how we communicate/pass that on to our children. I have been asked numerous times in my life whether I see myself as ‘more black’ or ‘more white’ and I always find the question puzzling as in actual fact I don’t see myself as ‘more’ of one or the other. Now, I don’t mean that I see myself as separate from both rather I see myself as entirely both. From a young age my twin sister and I have called ourselves ‘brown’. Not sure if this is PC or not but it’s what we always felt was most fitting. Growing up we hated ‘coloured’ and ‘half-caste’ both common in the 80’s. A friend who has mixed race children used to point out to her children, ‘You are not ‘half’ anything – you are fully black and fully white.’ I quite liked this description owning all of your heritage and not just portions of it. Furthermore, I remember from very young age thinking for myself how wonderful it was that just by existing I represented two races coming together who had such a stark history of ignorance, hate and prejudice – I actually announced this to my teacher when I was around 10 years old! (Can you imagine what an annoying kid I was?) Please don’t stop reading if you’re not an ‘ethnic’ – sorry I’m not good at being P.C – because I think we can apply this to any racial background, not just colour. Whether your background is Welsh, Scottish, Irish or much further afield, our heritage is part of who we are and we should celebrate it and proudly embrace it but I strongly believe it shouldn’t and does not define us.
The thing is race and or ‘difference’ to children, if left to their own devices, really isn’t an issue. It wasn’t when I was little and it isn’t now. It only becomes an issue when children imitate adult’s poor attitudes, representations and prejudices. In short; it is learned behaviour. It’s not that very young children are unaware of ‘difference’ or don’t notice it, they simply accept it, get on with it and even celebrate it! I remember in the summer when BearCub noticed a birthmark Munchkin has on her foot when they were playing. After enquiring what it was, Bearcub actually cried because he wanted one too and we had to draw one on his foot to pretend. I wondered how different that conversation would be had the birthmark been on a child’s face and had they been thirteen!
So how can we encourage our children to keep the wonderful, curious, open-mindedness they have towards other looks, ways of doing things and experiences that they have now while they are pre-schoolers? I believe the answer is to expose them to as many different cultures, types of people and experiences as possible. We are spoilt for this in London as society is so vibrantly varied in terms of different cultures and races. However, I grew up in a school where there were only 4 black people in our year and my sister and I were the only mixed race pupils. Going back to the same school now every class has at least a couple of mixed race students! Mixed-race people are the fastest growing ethnic minority group (defined according to the National Statistics classification) in the UK and, with all mixed categories counted as one sole group, are predicted to be the largest minority group by 2020. I guess one day maybe we’ll all be brown! Last week at my local library they held a ‘Roots of the Caribbean’ day to celebrate Black History Month (This month in case you didn’t know!). It was a great event with Steel drums, traditional soul food and a wonderful carnival vibe.
My little boy doesn’t look like he has any black in him at all (his dad is white) but I think it is important for him to understand and explore his roots, not only so he is able to dance in time at the school discos, but so he can appreciate the wonderful diversity of language, culture, colour and life in general. My son has never asked why Grandad is black and Nanny is white or even why mummy is brown (or gold as he likes to say) because it doesn’t even occur to him. Sometimes by being overly P.C we can create issue where there is none. Wouldn’t it be great if adults took the lead from how young children so readily interact with those different to themselves?