Our grandmothers battled for the right of women to partake fully in the economy and to be seen as equals, to be seen as human beings.   Yet, in the past few years, well-educated career women seem to be choosing to become stay at home mums (SAHM’s).

Feminists seem to view this as regression of all that was achieved over fifty years ago.   Why is it that this generation of women are returning to rearing their own children and is it necessarily a bad thing?  Surely, if this is truly their choice, it should not be questioned as we should believe that these women are intelligent enough to make that decision?

For some couples the choice that one parent will stay at home is based upon the fact that they would rather their children where raised with their family values, by someone well educated and in a close knit family environment.  These parents would like their children to develop with a social conscience.

It is unfortunate that, in general, it is the woman in the relationship who has to lay her career on the wayside for a few years, as men are still the main breadwinners in most families – although the numbers of men spotted in playgroups appears to be on the rise.  However, if the choice to stay at home is based purely on the fact that childcare costs far outweigh the financial benefits of both parents working or that women have to downgrade their careers due to the needs placed upon a family, then that is something our government needs to work on.

From a feminists point of view it would seem to be utter madness to choose to leave yourself totally vulnerable.  Gloria Steinem, American feminist and journalist, is quoted as saying ‘Most women are one man away from welfare’.  When looking at it from this perspective, it is worrying that women are not returning to their careers.  What, then, happens to these SAHM’s if the relationship fails and they are left to raise their children as a single parent?  SAHM’s are financially, totally reliant on their partners.

The other concern, of course, is that our daughters and sons are brought up believing that a woman’s place is in the home and that women live for their children.  How can we expect our daughters to be ambitious and strive towards a career which will ensure self sufficiency, yet choose the path of least resistance ourselves?

Sabine Salmon, president of the association Femmes Solidaires, said in an interview with Lizzy Davies in the Guardian , that during school visits over the past two years her employees had noticed more and more French schoolgirls expressing a desire to stay at home. “It’s a very worrying indicator,” she said.

Whether women choose to return to work or not, something has to give.  There are two choices – loss of career advancement or loss of time with your children.    Which choice is the right one?

People often comment on how happy our Little Bear seems.  It is true!  In general he was a happy baby and is now a very happy toddler.  He is quite content to spend his three days a week at nursery and is always smiling when I go to collect him.  He is  social and in the mornings we are met with an enthusiastic ‘Good morning!’.

Of course, he has days or moments where he becomes very frustrated, angry or sad.  Sometimes it scares us just how angry he can get, but I guess that part of parenting is showing a child how to deal with those emotions.

How have we succeeded in growing a happy toddler?

  • A Happy Home:

Well, for one thing I believe that a child’s emotions are closely linked to their home environment.  A happy home equals a happy child.

Many people do not realise how a baby or toddler soaks up the emotions of both parents.

I only noticed this when Little Bear was around five or six months old.  It really became clear to me, that if I got stressed by his crying he would get worse and worse.  Since then I have learnt to stay calm (well on most occasions anyway!).  Now that he is entering the terrible twos and has already started throwing tantrums, it really helps.  I can deal with him calmly and, when needed, ignore the tantrum.

  • No Resentment:

I have had one rule since Little Bear was born.  This rule is that no matter how we are feeling – whether we are sick,  slightly hungover from a deserved night out or suffering from lack of sleep because Little Bear was up all night teething – we have to greet him happily.  Little Bear has to wake up in a happy environment.  There must be no resentment.  This rule is very important to me.

It is easy to slip into a grumpy, resentful state of mind in those first few months after having had a baby.  You are sleep deprived and, especially if breastfeeding, totally exhausted.  It is easy to project your irritation onto your baby.   I have my Mom to thank for making me so aware of this.

Shortly after Little Bear’s birth, she travelled over here to spend some time with us.  One day she saw how upset and irritated I became when Little Bear had a crying session.  She gently told me to calm down and said ‘Remember he is just a baby’.

I know! It sounds so obvious – but when you are a new mom, caught up in the repetitive cycle of your day it is very hard to keep this in mind when your baby is screaming often and for,  what seems to be, no reason at all.

  • Respect:

We try to always remember to treat him with respect.   He is, after all, his own person.

We do not snatch things away from him just because we are in a hurry.  We build in extra time for getting from point A to point B when walking so that we can take our time and let him explore his surroundings.

We always try to tell him what we intend to do.  On some occasions this is very difficult to apply because of how rushed and time driven everything is for our generation (and a toddler learning to dress himself moves at a snails pace), but we try!

I hope that as Little Bear grows we can continue to ensure that he becomes a happy child and from there, a well balanced adult who can treat others respectfully.  That would be the big pay off for us.

There is also a lovely blog post here on this subject by Sean Platt of the Writerdad blog over at Zenhabits.

There is something that hides away inside me, a fear that only arrived after the birth of our child. The fear of loss.

The realization that life is very precious and way too short was one of the unexpected hangovers of my childbirth experience.

Before we had Little Bear, living as an expat was exciting and held little concern for settling down.  Of course, I missed my family, but it never dawned on me just how many short precious years you have with the people you love.

That every year you are away from them and do not get to share your life with them is a loss.

That the people we love do not live forever.

We are still not entirely sure what our plans are, we enjoy being expats but I know that I do not want our children to grow up without any close family in their lives.   I want Little Bear to have those special moments only a grandparent can give, knowledge and acceptance from a close uncle or aunt and many precious memories of fun with the cousins.

It does not seem fair to bring him up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) here in England.   England is the middle ground for us right now.

This is not to say that I want to be living on any family’s doorstep, but to at least be within a reasonable distance (time and cost wise) of each other. Only seeing each other once a year – if that – just does not cut it when you have a little one who is building a daily bank of memories of his world!

At times I feel guilty for falling in love and having a child with someone from the exact opposite end of the earth to where I am from.  Burträsk in northern Sweden and Cape Town in South Africa are literally poles apart!

Talk about complicating your life!

Should I feel guilty for having a child in a foreign country?   Will it lead to him being more open minded and accepting of others,  with a diverse range of friends and and and adventurous spirit?  Or could it go the other way and give him a craving for stability?  I guess we will just have to wait and see!

What is the impact, on a child, of living in a nuclear family opposed to an extended one?

The little boy, Stellan, had his heart operation yesterday and according to his Mom, MckMama, his SVT seems to have been cured by the use of a revolutionary technique!

This news has made my day!

Way to go Stellan!

MckMama’s wonderful news

 

Right now I am sister-sick.

These days I have a dull thump in my chest, which I try to ignore as best as I can.  I miss my sister so much it physically hurts.   She is the one person who knows me better than anyone else and is always there for me no matter what decisions I make – good or bad.  And believe me there have been some whoppers!

I miss chatting into the wee hours with her, I miss having a cup of tea and talking endless drivel with her.   Worst of all I miss giggling with her until my tummy hurts.

Sisterly love

Image courtesy of Mrinkk @ Stock.xchng

We were pregnant at the same time, but were living so far apart that we missed enjoying it together.  Knowing we were going through exactly the same things at similar times made us feel closer though.  In some respects we are so alike we could be twins – we often find that we are reading the same book or  buying the same perfume or products without having previously discussed it.

This sadness always worsens around now.  Somehow the knowledge that my favourite time of year is just around the corner creates, along with excitement, a huge hole in my heart.

I have not spent Christmas with any of my close family for over eight years now.  And although I am very lucky in that I get to spend most Christmases in a snowy landscape in northern Sweden with my partner’s amazing family,  who have always made me feel completely at home, I still feel my lips quivering and tears brimming  when calling my Mom or my sister on Christmas morning.

Right now I have not seen either of them for a year.  We are split over three different continents – Africa, Europe and America.  Arranging to get together is neither cheap nor uncomplicated.

When I first moved overseas it seemed a lot easier and I would sometimes only see them every second year, but since my sister and I have both had little ones in the past two years it has got so much harder.  I see photos of my little niece growing up and I know that I am missing so much of her life.  She will not recognize me when we meet again and I will not have any real part in her growing up.

The same goes for my little boy.  It makes my heart so heavy to know that my sister and my Mom do not know him.  They don’t get to see his funny dance moves or hear him singing ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’ to himself.  But this is the huge downside to living life as an expat, although it has many rewards. Thank goodness we live in a world where instant communication via Skype and email is available! I have no idea how early pioneers managed!

So all I want for Christmas this year is a big hug from my sister or at least a set holiday date so that we know when we will be seeing each other again!  Luckily I am getting a really SPECIAL treat this Christmas time, my Mom will be joining us on our trip to Sweden this Christmas!  A gift I can hardly wait to receive!

Two of my favourite sisterhood quotes:

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.

- Author Unknown

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.

- Isadora James

 

Do you live far away from your family?  How do you overcome the barriers of being so far apart?

Holding Hands

Image courtesy of Vancity197 @ http://www.sxc.hu

a little boy called Stellan.  I follow his Mom’s blog.  He is 1 year old and has suffered from SVT all his life.  He spent his first birthday in ICU.  Today he is having heart surgery to try and correct the condition.  If this was my child I am not sure I could deal with it as gracefully as MckMama seems to be.  I cannot imagine seeing your child go through this.

So today I am sending as many positive thoughts and wishes to this little boy and his family.  Hopefully he will be running around with his buddies in no time!  Good luck little Stellan.

You can find Stellan’s story here:Story of Stellan

 

 


Photo by L Greenwood

Somehow knowing that autumn has arrived and that winter is not far behind, I’ve been spurred into action to get some bulbs planted in time for spring flowers.  So for the past two weekends we’ve been spending some time gardening.

Autumn Planting

It didn’t take much to get our toddler involved and in no time at all he was digging away and watering the bed in preparation for planting.  We chatted about the ants scrambling over the soil, the squirmy pink earthworms we dug up unintentionally and even about the bees buzzing around while we worked, how the earth feels between your fingers, the crunchiness of the autumn leaves and feeling the wind blowing through our hair.

I had to really resist the urge to get upset when, instead of patting down the soil around the seedlings, he smacked down the trowel on top of them.  A few of the seedlings have never recovered, but a worthwhile sacrifice I think in getting Aaron interested in gardening.

Pansies

Aaron had so much fun, which was quite evident from his dirt smeared face by the end of it all.  At one stage we found an eggshell.  I could have said ‘gently’ until I was blue in the face.  Aaron delighted in scrunching it up between his chubby palms.

Egg

The next morning I was surprised to find that the Pansies, with their happy little faces, were still smiling up at me, as we seem to be the all night restaurant for the slugs in our neighbourhood.  I don’t have the heart to use slug pellets and with all the toddlers in our area it seemed organic gardening was the way to go,  so I was just hoping for the best.  So far, so good!

I feel it is important to get toddlers involved in these types of activities, as:

  • they learn about nature, the seasons and how things grow
  • they learn patience and will begin to understand that immediate satisfaction is not always necessary
  • they learn to understand that by nurturing something they can make something blossom
  • they gain confidence in knowing that they have helped plant and take care of something
  • they learn about loss, that not every seedling survives
  • a deeper bond is created between you and your child when spending time together on projects
  • they can see that it is okay to get your hands dirty, as long as you wash them afterwards!

BBC have a lovely site with fun gardening things to do with kids.  Check it out at Gardening with Children.

Below are some general rules and safety for gardening with youngsters:

Throughout their growing years children are learning the rules of life. This applies just as much to gardening as to any other activity.

Some Commonsense Rules

  1. Don’t touch someone else’s garden unless you have their permission.
  2. Never eat anything in the garden unless you know it is okay.
  3. Ask before you pick flowers.
  4. Wear sunscreen and a hat as a routine when you are outside in the garden.
  5. Wear gloves when handling soil or potting mix, when moving anything rough or sharp or working where spiders may lurk.
  6. Wear boots or solid footwear.
  7. Always check inside boots before putting them on, especially if they have been stored outdoors.
  8. Garden in suitable old clothes.
  9. Wash hands well after handling potting mix, soil or compost.

Beware of Poisonous Plants

Some common garden plants are poisonous and their planting should, if possible, be avoided in kids’ gardens. This list is by no means exhaustive, but the inclusion of so many commonly grown plants serves to reinforce how important it is that children are taught never to eat anything in the garden unless they know it is safe. All parts of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Agapanthus
  • Caladium – coloured-leaf indoor plant
  • Brugmansia – angel’s trumpet
  • Delphiniums
  • Foxgloves
  • Helleborus species – also known as Christmas roses
  • Lily of the valley
  • Lobelia
  • Rhododendrons and azaleas
  • Thevetia peruviana – known as yellow oleander or be-still tree

The leaves of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Box (Buxus spp)
  • Calendula
  • Elephant’s ears
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomato

The flowers of the arum lily are poisonous.

The milky sap of the following is poisonous:

  • Frangipani
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia

The fruits and seeds of the following are poisonous:

  • Cestrum nocturnum – night-scented jessamine
  • Clivias
  • Cycads
  • Duranta – pigeon berry
  • Laburnum
  • Melia azederach – white cedar
  • Moreton Bay chestnut – black bean
  • Peppercorn tree
  • Privet
  • Sweet peas
  • Wisteria
  • Yew

These tubers and bulbs are poisonous:

  • Daffodils
  • Gloriosa lily
  • Hyacinth bulbs

What to do in the event of poisoning

Call emergency services

You can review our First Aid section which provides a basic overview of First Aid procedures.

This information has been kindly supplied by Yates Australia. For more comprehensive information on gardening, water conservation and much more visit the Yates website or you can join the Yates Garden Club for free advice, competitions and promotions.

Source: French Grey Interiors

Source: French Grey Interiors

First is this beautiful throw I found on French Grey Interiors.  Pure romance!  Could think of some wonderful Autumn evenings cuddled up under this throw with my loved one.

Source:  Susie Watson Designs

Source: Susie Watson Designs

I just know that Aaron would absolutely adore this little bowl from Susie Watson Designs.

Photo by Lynn Greenwood

Photo by Lynn Greenwood

Our lovely new kitchen table from Indigo Furniture.  Finally we can sit down as a family!

Photo by Lynn Greenwood

Photo by Lynn Greenwood

Things that have brought me joy this week:

  • My 17 month old saying ‘tank yooooou, mamma’, ‘tank yoooou’
  • Getting blogging!
  • Bank Holiday weekend in the UK
  • Our kitchen table arriving, finally somewhere to sit as a family
  • Booking our Christmas flights to Sweden
    Courtesy of Phill4 on Flickr

    Courtesy of Phill4 on Flickr

    Last Sunday John and I got to spend some real time together.  More than we have had for a good number of months.  A wonderful friend volunteered to take Aaron off our hands for a few hours.  It was BLISS!

    Summer decided to visit our island and thus, my mood! It was beautiful and warm as we crossed the bridge hand in hand, it felt like a first date.  Me in my heels and a little dress.  Heels…wow, did they feel good.  I never seem to get around to wearing them anymore, possibly in fear of toppling over while running to avert my toddler from walking himself straight into the river.

    We sat outside along the river and lunched on steak and humitas – my favourite corn dish.  After the first Caipirinha (which was delicious), we were totally relaxed.  John was not worrying about his up and coming exam, I was not worrying about my, now overdue, assignment.  We tried to avoid talking about our little bear, but you know how things go. We found ourselves chatting about what an obviously bright and intelligent toddler we have, as do most loving parents.

    After a few glasses of good Shiraz, however, we moved onto deeper discussions of our future plans together and how we would like to improve as parents.  Finally moving on to some of the more memorable times of our first year together in Amsterdam.  I blame this totally on the red wine!

    For a few hours we got to stop and watch the world go by for a change.

    I realized after that lunch, that John and I had been connecting on a much deeper and sweeter level than we had for a while.  Silly things seem to get between you in the mad daily rush of ensuring that everything is done.  Why was there water left on the bathroom floor after showering?  Where are the clean socks?  It is only once you step away from it for a while that you even notice it.  Having a baby has been a beautiful part of our lives so far, but it is easy to forget what you treasure about each other.

    I heard a beautiful quote recently -  “The best thing that parents can do for a child is to love each other”.

    So from now on John and I will be dating once again, well at least once a month.    Any volunteer babysitters?

    Tips to Rekindle Romance

    • Remember why you fell in love. Did your heart skip a beat the first time you saw him across a crowded room? Remember your first weekend away, or when he introduced you to his best mate for the first time? Recalling what attracted him to you in the first place can help when things get tough – and they always do when the pressures of family life get too much.
    • Use kind words. It’s easy to take each other for granted, especially with the demands of work and kids. Often that means snapping over little things and getting angry over nothing. Try to be nice to each other and give each other compliments when possible.
    • Make time for each other. It doesn’t have to be a weekend away or even a fancy evening out. It could even be a once-a-week romantic meal at home once the kids are in bed, with the telly switched off and a bottle of good wine on the table. Try not to spend all the time talking about the kids or complaining about work, use this space to get closer together.
    • Do something nice for each other. Offer to take the kids out on Saturday so he can watch a football game with his mates, or stay home and babysit so he can go to the pub. He’ll enjoy spending some time alone, and hopefully he’ll reciprocate. Spending time apart and giving each other time alone can be an effective way to nurture a relationship.
    • Renew your vows. Letting the whole world know why you chose him can be an exhilarating feeling. And anticipating some wedding night fun and frolics can be exciting too!
    • Get physical – without having sex. If you’ve been together for years, it’s easy to go to bed without kissing each other goodnight. Get physical again by holding hands or giving each other foot massages without the pressure of sex. Close contact helps couples feel closer, and hopefully passion will follow – eventually.
    • Get kinky. You don’t have to swing with Charlie and Edna next door, but it might be worth getting in some massage oil or sexy lingerie to re-energise your lovemaking and rekindle those fires…

    Originally posted on www.aworkingmum.co.uk

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