Tuesday 19 April 2016

Men do it better

Not often you would hear me say that a man could do something better than a woman, I don't mean this is any competitive sense, there are plenty of things that my husband is better at than me - changing the car engine oil, map reading, anything related to numbers,  but we all know that women generally can do all these things as well as men.  But there is this one thing that I think men trump us women on.  I am not exactly sure what it is called, maybe it's self-care, or getting me-time, or time for themselves.  Whatever you want to call it, men seem to be able to get it, and get it without feeling guilty about it.

Let me give you some examples.
My husband recently bought himself a new exhaust for his car.  (This in itself is an example of him not feeling bad about putting his interests as a priority.  His car is his hobby and he was happy to  spend a not insignificant amount of money on it.  I on the other hand have not felt able to spend an equal amount of money on the Leonie Dawson Academy that I have been thinking about joining for months because it feels self-indulgent, not a priority, even though it could potentially benefit the whole family.) When the exhaust arrived he decided he would spend a Saturday morning fitting it.  He didn't ask me if that was ok, if I minded looking after the boys while he did it (I didn't mind) He just did it.  It was something he wanted to do, something he enjoyed doing so he just did it.  I never for a second thought he was being selfish or self-indulgent in doing this.

Me on the other hand, when I wanted to spend a couple of hours making some art (for my business) I felt like I had to gravel and grovel with my begging bowl to him to ask for a couple of hours to myself, feeling immensely guilty for even asking.  Not because he would have had any objection but because of my own personal feelings on it. Why?

Here is another example a friend of mine's husband loves mountain biking, he regularly goes to mountain biking events and even takes days of annual leave from work to go and do his hobby.  Does he feel guilty about it?  Does he feel like he is being self indulgent?  I doubt it, because he knows that taking time for himself and his interests is important.
Why don't I feel like this when needing a few hours to myself, when he had no qualms what so ever?

A final third example, we were going on a walk round a lake near us recently and got chatting to a man who was stood with his friend who had stayed over night at the lake in a tent to do his hobby - fishing. We were asking his friend questions about the competitions his friend takes part in and what he was hoping to catch that day.  The man amused us for a while, answering our questions but then confessed that the real reason his friend was camping over and spending the day fishing was to get away from it all and have some time to himself.  I couldn't help thinking that this man had the right idea. But still for me to do something like; going away for a night by myself to do something I enjoy that would not only take a great amount of courage and decisiveness, but also a shed load of guilt. WHY??

I have really been puzzling over the answer to this, I am not sure I am there yet, maybe it's because historically us women have traditionally been the ones to look after the house and children whilst the men go to work and didn't take part much in the child rearing and house keeping and this feeling of responsibility has been hard to shake over the years.  Like some sort of ancient garment we insist on carrying around on our shoulders, or perhaps that society still places on our shoulders; we just haven't been able to shed this relic.

Maybe men are just better at fulfilling those needs than we are.  Maybe through some sort of masochism we insist on pushing and pushing ourselves without taking a break or a rest to prove something to ourselves, our partners, society?  We CAN do it all we insist, and we can do it without a break.  Whereas men don't feel the need to prove themselves in this way because they already receive the recognition through their paid employment.  (Which leads me to wonder if women who are in paid employment as opposed to unpaid (as in the full-time-mother- role) also feel guilty when taking time to themselves or if they are able to acknowledge it as a necessity not a luxury?)  I am thinking out loud now, and possibly rambling a bit.

I am sure there is plenty of studies out there which have asked these same questions, all that I can say with absolute certainty is that we NEED to take time to ourselves, it's absolutely essential, parenting is highly intense work.  And just to clarify I don't think it is the fault of men that we sometimes feel guilty in taking time to ourselves, I think it is something we ourselves need to take responsibility for.  I still haven't worked out how to do this without the guilt, so it anyone has the answer I would welcome it with open arms.  It's something I need to make more of a priority in the coming weeks with the impending birth of our third child, but I am sure some of you will agree with me that's it's really hard to do.

I do have planned another Gentle Parenting Retreat on 22nd of May for this exact reason, so please get in touch if you are interested.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Finding my Tribe

Being a mama has the potential of being a lonely road.  I can't think of many other occupations in which building a tribe of other women around you is so essential.  I mean I literally can't live without my tribe.  They build me up, they are there when I am feeling rubbish, they support me, they help me, they wipe away my tears, they laugh with me at the things that go wrong, they celebrate my successes...I could go on and on.

But finding this tribe has taken time and there were times where I thought I had got it all wrong.  My worst mistake was not following my intuition, my gut feeling.  I was having a particularly hard time when Boris was about 12 weeks old, I had found a trusted group of friends in my NCT group, but was being encouraged by my Health Visitor to branch out more and make as many connections as possible.  I had met another group of women through my post natal classes but never felt I really clicked with any of them, but I persevered with them at the suggestion of the Health Visitor thinking she probably knew best even though my gut was telling me these weren't my people.  My instinct was proven right when I was rejected from the group after revealing some personal information about my parenting choices.  I was really upset for quite a long time, but I learnt some important lessons through the experience:
1. If something isn't working then stop being like the fly that continues to bang against the window trying to get out of the house thinking the harder you try the more chance there is of getting through, and try a different direction - like through the door. I shouldn't have carried on trying to make connections with the group of ante-natal women, I should simply have moved in a different direction and found a different tribe.

2. It is important that your tribe are like minded and that you have things in common. I have stayed good friends with some of my NCT group over the past 4 years not necessarily because we share the same parenting philosophies or life goals but because we shared a close personal experience.  They understood what it was like to have a first child and all the drama, trauma, tears, joy etc that come with it.

3.    If something doesn't feel right then move on.  You know in your gut if you are with a person who is on your wave length or not, you know if you are clicking or not. Listen to what your heart is telling you about the people/person you are with, I don't mean to be unkind but there is no point in pursuing friendships with people who aren't helping you on your journey and who can make a positive impact on your life.

As the time passed my tribe grew, or rather it branched out I suppose, I am still reliant on my NCT friends but have also made strong connections with some other women whom I have met predominantly through Facebook. ( Actually don't know how people ever met like minded folk before the invention of Facebook!)

I realised that I had taken quite a different approach to parenting (with attachment and gentle parenting) to most people and was feeling a bit alone at times.  I could have cried when I had my first encounter with another attachment parent, I remember it so well.  I took myself off to a sling library because someone had recommended it for some reason (can't remember what now or who they were but *thankyou!*)  and I met some women there who were talking about attachment parenting.  I could hardly believe my ears, other real life attachment parenting mothers!  I was over the moon!  I never really forged strong connections with those particular women as they lived a bit far away but it was the start of a journey to finding more women who took on the same parenting philosophy that I did,  I knew they existed now, I wasn't alone!

Through attending other sling libraries, breastfeeding meets and gentle parenting groups I met more and more like minded mothers, such a thrill!  And I now feel I have a fairly strong network of women around me whom I can turn to for help and support when I need it, and for whom I can be there to support them (so important, a friend in need is a friend indeed).

When I ran the first Gentle Parenting Retreat it was incredibly exciting to bring together so many women locally who were not only open to the creative life but also followed the same parenting philosophy that I did, and it is both exciting and touching to see some of these women continuing their creativity at home. It is so heart warming to be with women who you have strong heart connections to, and I am still learning to trust these friendships.  It has been such a long time since I have had a group of strong women friends (maybe even since high school) that it's highlighting my own weaknesses, such as my struggle with asking for help, and the dreaded FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) monster, but I think I am getting there.

Because I am a sort of person with a bit of a split personality I am chronically torn between wanting to be involved in everything and feeling hurt and rejected if I am not invited to things whilst simultaneously wanting to be alone and away from people.

I would encourage all women to get out there and search for your tribe if you haven't found one already.  I promise you there are like minded women out there who are kind hearted and want to be friends with you too, if you just put yourself out there and look for them.  Some won't feel right, but others absolutely will, keep searching until you find them because they are essential for us mamas, especially those, like me who live far away from their families or are the only ones in their families with young children.

As I approach the birth of my third child, and with no family near by to offer short notice support I am relying on this network of strong women to support me on this most important day.  I am so thankful to have found such a supportive, generous and kind group of women.  We need women like this in our lives to build us up and help make us strong, confident in our choices and to help guide us on our journeys.  I am still looking to grow my tribe, particularly to add some more creative mamas to my life who empathize with the struggle of cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood, I am getting there, we are getting there and we are doing it together.