A Letter to New Mothers

Hello there, I can’t believe this will be my 6th post in a row this week.  If you have not been following, I am almost at the end of a creative habits challenge – to post everyday for one week called the #YourTurnChallenge.

Instead of going with a plan, I have decided to release some of the many many things that I had wanted to write about but had placed in the back burner of my mind for reasons like:  “Oh I’ll need to take beautiful photos for this topic, or will people actually be confused because this has nothing to do with parenting even thought I feel a strong urge to share, or oh I need to fix this theme up because the font is driving me nuts,  (I am a designer, I can’t help but find a need to make everything and anything look and feel better) basically your typical perfectionist way to thinking.

This week I have committed to letting it go and to free myself from all the things that had been holding me back from sharing and not caring what other people may think, I feel empowered.

Today I want to send out some love and big hugs to all the new mothers out there struggling to make it through the day/night.  Ones with hearts that are frightened but also filled with love for their newborns yet still physically a mess from recovering from just having birthed a human.  Hello there, this post is for you.

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ITS ALL A BLUR ISN’T IT

My heart goes out to you.  There is nothing easy or simple about being a mother for the first time.  For me, it felt like being out there all alone like of the story of Jesus out in the desert for 40 days but instead of being tested with temptations, it was my strength and resolve that was up for questioning.

Yes of course everybody wants to help you, that is our society’s instinct to welcome and help new mothers and babies but are they really helping you in a way that you felt you needed to be helped?  That is questionable because you probably don’t even know what kind of help to ask for yourself.

Outside of the trivial things like food, laundry, changing diapers, holding the baby while you go to the bathroom/shower, not one person can truly help you get more sleep or nurse your baby.  You and your boobs are up for bat for what feels like never ending and technically, this all is physically abusive in my opinion.

Yes you can be in bliss but feel like crap at the same time!

I can safely say that this first newborn business is the most overwhelming feeling that one can ever experience.  No one can prepare you for this.  You can read all the books you want, buy all the things you think you need, none of it will help you feel less overwhelmed and that is the truth.

So today I want to acknowledge to all those that are feeling bogged down and tired with some encouraging words:

  • wrap yourself in a protective bubble for the next 3 months and feel as bad and good as you need to feel.  Cry with your baby.  Keep only the people you feel you can be vulnerable with around you for the first 40 days (minimum), and if that person is not your mother, she can only stay for short visits.  I know this may sound harsh but it is the time to kick start and unleash your mama bear instincts.  Protect your family at all costs, even if you may offend somebody close to you.
  • there will be a lot of opinions but know that your gut instinct will always win.  This is your baby, one that had been with you and not any other person for 9 months, you know him/her the best as he/she know you as well.
  • remember to let people know if you are feeling sad or scared and go for a walk to get fresh air even though the baby may be crying non-stop because they need a mother that knows when to say no and be good to herself.
  • drink lots of soup!  Like all day everyday for the 6 months (at least!!) if you can.  I know it may sound crazy if you are not Chinese but since now Bone Broths are so hip and trendy, I don’t feel like I have to prove my point as much as I used to.  Which brings me to another great blog post idea – to share with you all my go-to easy-as-hell postpartum (or not, for I still make/drink/eat today) soups.  I truly believe it can be a huge asset against PPD (postpartum depression).  Here is one recipe I found that is quite good to get you started with.
  • sleep WITH your baby.  Please I beg you to let go of all the fears and scary “incidences” portrayed in the media about co-sleeping.  Cribs are a first world modern invention, in my opinion, just something extra you have to spend money on.  Enjoy cuddling up to your precious gift this most fleeting time.  Soak up all that amazingly intoxicatingly sweet baby smell.  Treasure and devour this time with gusto.We never had a crib.  There was really no need.  If you have a high bed, just lower it and live like this for a few years.  You and your family will live. (and later on, if you need more room in your bed, add a little cotton futon next the bed on the floor, put a nice wool blanket (you can get one of those well used one from the thrift stores, get it cleaned and use that is a mattress protector, and put the sheets on top.  Voila, you have an all natural, non-toxic baby bed that also fits you and there will be no smells or mess if pee goes all over it, just wash the sheets and hang dry the wool blanket and start all over again.  (Oh gosh, I just realize I have to write a whole post on why wool is THE BEST for baby bedding!!)
  • keep your sleeping quarters really dim and as low light as possible.  Your baby had been living in total darkness since conception, the harshness of daylight in itself would be so uncomfortable, let alone bright interior lights.  We had dimmers put on most of our interior lights for this reason.  This will help with the quality of your sleep (if you do get to sleep).
  • Embrace the heck out of the dirty messy-ness of your baby, even if it gets all over you.  Have lots of thing towels around for wipe ups.  There are much dirtier and smellier things in this world than baby poop and urine.
  • in keeping with the theme of this blog of keeping things simple, most people do not believe us when we tell them that we have never used baby wipes. ( I always thought about my mother and what she had used when my brother and I were young, just soap and water and not a drop of cream)I rather you spend the money for baby wipes on pampering your own skin!
  • read this amazing post on my #1 favourite parenting blog.  Just scour her archives when you are up in the middle of the night.  I owe so much to Carrie Dentler’s words.  She is a serious inspiration and I owe her for helping me feel right about my parenting direction and choices.  Oh and of course THIS post.
  • I LOVED the sling mostly because I love being hands free.  Spend some time looking up tutorials (here is one for ring sling, this one is with a wrap, which I loved using especially when I wanted to cook ) on how to nurse your baby hands free.  Work with your baby and practice finding that special position that works for you both.  This will really help you get out of the feeling of feeling “trapped” with a baby 24/7.
  • Do not forget about your partner.  He or she is most likely feeling just as scared and overwhelmed as you are.  Stay close and keep the conversation inclusive.  Keep them in the loop.  Empower them because they are the most important part of raising this new baby, besides your boobs.
  • Last but not least, when the crying is relentless, and baby is fed, pooped, diapers changed, hold them close and as they cry, close your eyes, breathe deeply and visualize yourself as a rock in a running river as the water moves through you and you, the rock, does not waiver.  This was inspired by a written piece I was given by a Waldorf educator, which helped me figure out how to weather the ebbs and flows of a rapidly growing and changing little human.  When I find the article, I will post it here.

I’d love to hear from you if you happen to be reading this (maybe in the middle of the night and feeling desperate to connect, please drop me email (grace at plentyofsimple.com) or comment below.  Let me know if you have any questions or just get the fear out be writing about it.  I want to lend a helping ear.

Until tomorrow.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

 

 

 

 

MISSING: Purposeful Work for Young Children

Hey there, its the 5 day in a row posting here!  This writing a post for 7 consecutive day from the #YourTurnChallenge is quite the regimen to behold.

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Today I want to share with you a topic that really changed my way of seeing children and therefore it has change my life.

Before kids came into my life I was not really interested in them.  I never babysat.  I might hold an infant for about 10 minutes but I always thought I did not habour natural nurturing instincts like other girl friends I knew.  I was always very content with the idea of not having children and just enjoy being a modern working woman.

The story of how I got here, not only a mother to two boys but a homeschooling mama to boot (gasp!) should be written in another post for I want to focus on sharing with you one of the biggest lightbulb moments my my parenting journey.

“Young children from infancy do not need to be entertained.”

Yes that was the message I got – and really needed to hear from a “professional” – on the first day I walked into a Waldorf parent and tot class, nineteen months into motherhood.  While before that day, I was fortunate enough to have encountered some amazing resources (oh I will share those!) that had lead me to find “Waldorf” and the philosophies of Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

Well, if children do not need to be entertained, then what do we do with them at home all day long?! (That is if you are at home with them).  That was the question that came up right after that statement from this amazing Waldorf early childhood educator.

“Young children need to do purposeful work, this is how you help them build their true will and their sense of self.”

Now please note that the “true will” is different than “willful”.  If anything a willful child is actually a child that lacks true will.  This topic was so well explained to me when I went to a lecture by Kim John Payne – the author of the game-changer book Simplicity Parenting.  (I think this is a must read for all parents)  Sorry, I digress so…

The big question:

What is it that we do with children if we are not to entertain them or find them something to be entertained by?

The big answer:

We engage them in doing purposeful work.

What is purposeful work we ask?

Well, isn’t that what is really missing in our modern culture today, especially in first world countries where knowledge and winning trumps everything?

Purposeful work is in my opinion the hallmark work of building true character with strength, values and empathy in our children–and for the rest of their lives– without having to actually verbally teach it.  That is the glorious beauty of engaging your young ones in purposeful, meaningful work.

What actually is meaningful work one would ask.  Here is a list of example of what it may be:

  • washing dishes
  • cleaning the floor
  • laundering clothes
  • ironing (yes! tell me who irons these days?  Who do you know has the patience to do this job today? Ironically – no pun intended – ironing actually is one of the best activity to develop focus, patience, hand-eye coordination, and last but not least something that most people complain about our youth today for not having: followthrough.  Yes ironing is actually something that can build character!!  Oh but it is so hot and it is too dangerous, I will not let me kid touch an iron.  Well of course you are not going to let a baby or 3 year old actually iron but if you actually do ironing in front of them on a regular basis as part of your weekly rhythm, out of the blue one day when they are 4.5 years old, they will ask if they can use the actual iron and be able to iron and fold napkins better than your grandmother.  True story. )
  • cleaning windows with newspaper (with vinegar diluted in water)
  • taking care of the garden ie. pulling weeds, raking leaves, mixing soil etc.
  • grow food (yes you can do this even if you don’t have a garden or balcony)
  • caring for pets – everything from grooming, taking them for walks, feeding them.
  • setting the table
  • help prepare meals.

Oh the list can go on.  I’ve been asked about how one can make an infant, preschooler actually do purposeful work?  The answer is that YOU actually are doing this purposeful work in front of them while they are by your side shadowing you while they…the drum roll…PLAY ON THEIR OWN!!! (Refer to my post on letting kids be bored and here as well.)

Of course the icing on top would be that you sing while you do these “chores”, but that is asking for a lot isn’t it?!  Okay one lightbulb moment at a time.

I would love to elaborate more on this for I love talking and helping people figure out how to be purposeful at home with young children but it is Friday evening and I am going to celebrate the end of a hard working week hanging out with my love.  Yes the kids are sound asleep and peace has reigned in our home.

Until tomorrow.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

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Birthdays and Parties – A Simplified Outlook Part 1:

Our sweet Leo will be turning 2 next month.

Confession:  I have yet to do birthday “parties” for either one of our boys where invitations were sent, neither via an e-vite nor snail mail.  In today’s parenting culture, from time to time I do feel a bit reluctant to admit that it is actually not something we are very proactive with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, have people over to our house, preparing delicious meals, the sharing and the connection . It is the over-the-top, the more the merrier kind of parties that make me think twice.

Now that I am more aware of my own childhood, as I look back I realize birthdays were not such a big deal in my family.  Partly it is because my birthday is on Christmas Eve (Church and Jesus took center stage) .  Mostly it was because everyone was just too busy.  It was remembered and a family dinner was prepared or dining out was scheduled.  I was not modelled on how a good kids birthday party was thrown.  As I got older, and went to other people’s birthday parties, I didn’t recall having that much of a good time.  It was usually frenzied, chaotic, noisy and rushing to get the candles and cake part done – and then the presents.  It was always tearing out the wrapping and trying to get through the pile before anyone can take a breath.  There was never any order to these parties and it often just felt messy to me.

As our youngest boy will be turning 2 in a month, the idea of “to have or not to have” a birthday party has been circling my thoughts.  The first thing I always ask myself is:

“If we are going to have a birthday party, is it going to be a party for me (the adults) or is it going to be for the little ones?”

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For Leland’s first birthday 3 years ago, I made a rich dark chocolate cake for just us (the grandparents and the two of us) to enjoy.  We did have candles and I did put his name on the cake and we even took photos of him watching us blow out the candle.  It was truly simple and sweet.  We knew that Leland would not remember this particular birthday but the photos will show him that it was important, acknowledged and celebrated.  We didn’t at all feel the pressure of having a big shindig, in fact we felt it was quite authentic to our own (developing) family culture.

Leo1stBdayCake

For Leo’s first birthday last summer, it was a bit different.  Since the older brother was 3 and much more aware, we decided to do a simple birthday breakfast with just the 4 of us.  We made a blueberry pancake tower and sang a few songs.  It felt as though it was Leland that enjoyed the experience the most.  For him, it was all about the candles, lighting them and blowing them out.  There were no presents, except for a birthday ring that had photos of Leo throughout the year and ONE wood decoration on the ring.

So far my goal it still trying to keep birthdays and celebrations as genuine and simple as we can.  While they grow to become more aware of their own birthdays, so will I in regards to how I will be carving out our own kind of birthday traditions.  My goal is to be part of developing with them a healthy, meaningful and heartfelt outlook with their own birthdays as well as the birthdays of their loved ones.