Last week, I fell down a Facebook rabbit-hole. Nothing terribly unusual; I’m sure you know how it works… Read a post, follow a link, click a shared picture, see a link for a group, click on that…
It was with interest that I perused Mark Latham’s latest offering
The title caught my eye, having just guest blogged about Parenting through a Feminist Lens myself, over at a great parenting blog called The Multitasking Mummy. I wondered what possible dark side he could have imagined about parenting while keeping the mindset that women are, you know, human beings.
In another stunning example of ill informed commentary, our PM and Minister for Women has said:
“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of political correctness. Let boys be boys, let girls be girls – that’s always been my philosophy…Above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.”
This was in response to the No Gender December Campaign, which seeks to highlight the fact that the Toy industry, along with toy retailers, are continuing to promote gender stereotypes that research has shown to be harmful.
Ever found yourself saying something you never thought you would? Happens to me all the time. I’m constantly surprised by what comes out of my mouth and is generally aimed at one of the kids.
In no particular order, here are some stand-outs:
And we did!
How about you- what have you said that you never thought you would?
Toy guns, toy knives, toy swords, light sabers, toy battle axes, toy bows and arrows…
We generally don’t allow them; never have. The only exception had been brightly coloured water pistols that don’t really resemble a weapon like some toy guns do, and even then only in summer etc. It actually took me a while to really feel comfortable even with that concession. I don’t like the idea of normalising or glamourising weapons, personally. That’s just my point of view. Just recently though, a lady who lives near me posted on our local community facebook page that an elderly man stopped her in the street and chided her for the toy gun her 3 year old was carrying. He told her that all the reports of gun crime should make her want to move away from that kind of thing for her son. I put the topic out on my facebook page and the responses were interesting.
In the initial discussion, some people passionately defended toy guns and say that it is the way we parent, model behaviours, discipline and discuss weapons and violence with our kids that will affect how they turn out, not what we let them play with. They said it was all just harmless role play. I agree with most of that- but I do think what we let them play with is also a possible factor.
One person said that NOT allowing toy weapons was limiting their ability to role play and therefore they would suffer developmentally and have poor self esteem. That I do not believe for a second!
The other comments defending toy guns seemed to keep circling back to letting “kids be kids”. I don’t understand this one. What is it about a prop used to role play violent acts that somehow completes the childhood experience?
Another person made an interesting comment (which was referred to in one of the above quotes)- you don’t give kids toy illicit drugs to play with to let them role play taking drugs, so why would you give them replica weapons to encourage role play of violent crimes like assault and murder? This was met with general outrage and claims that this was a ridiculous comparison- but it caught my attention. We would be horrified if our kids role played say “drug dealers and users” instead of “cops and robbers”. It seems a strange standard of social acceptance. The consensus among the pro-toy gun camp seemed to be that toy guns and pretend killing are entirely normal and part of childhood- healthy, even. But play acting any other illegal and/or abhorrent act was ridiculous and the suggestion itself was worthy of moral outrage.
Quite a few people said that even though they didn’t allow toy guns, their children would make a gun out of anything- a stick, a rolled newspaper. I do admire their ingenuity here! I can’t recall our older kids ever doing this, though.
I did some searching online to see if there was any research to support my stance or to oppose it. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of study in this area but from what there is, there seems to be some evidence that childhood gun play doesn’t lead to an aggressive adult and some that it does. So like most aspects of parenting, it comes down to what you are comfortable with.
I’m comfortable with a no-toy-weapon policy. Guns do kinda freak me out a bit. I’m a city girl so I don’t have that lifelong respect for the gun as a tool that someone raised in a rural or farming area might. In my experience, guns are weapons. I don’t come from a culture where guns are regarded as the right of each and every citizen; I come instead from a culture where a gun license is a privilege and not a necessity. I see guns on police officers and soldiers and security officers and know that these men and women do not carry or use them lightly and I have great respect for the burden this places on them and anyone else that must carry one as part of their duties. I hear of other people using guns to injure, kill, threaten and intimidate. I have even had one pointed at me in this manner. Am I projecting my fear of guns on my kids by not allowing them to play with them? Maybe. Do I think it will do them any harm? No. If they reach adulthood and declare themselves the victims of a deprived childhood, I’ll be pretty surprised. That said, it’s not something I would condemn another parent for either. They have come to their own decision based on their own reasoning and experiences- I get that.
Do you allow toy weapons in your house?
Yesterday, I read this article about the sadness experienced when weaning and it got me thinking.
My first child was weaned at a few days old. I did feel sad that I wasn’t able to breastfeed her- but the predominant emotion was guilt. I knew it was considered bad to formula feed by the midwives because they kept referring to me as an “artificial feeder” and shaking their heads- they pretty much stopped coming near me once I switched to formula. I had a severly tongue tied baby. I knew I might as my mother in law had warned me that they ran in the family and told me what to look for. My daughter could not latch at all, couldn’t lift her tongue at all. Breastfeeding was excruciating and fruitless- she lost weight, turned yellow- you name it. At 21, I didn’t know what else to do so I bottle fed and it was fine for us in the end. Not one of my health care providers mentioned tongue tie revision, expressing, nipple shields- in fact, as a first time mum, not one of the midwives I saw listened to me about the tongue tie. I think it was day 4 before a trainee lactation consultant, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, deigned to have a look then agreed it was actually a pretty extensive tie. That was all the “action” that she took though, so we went straight to formula. There was such a short, painful and fruitless breastfeeding relationship to mourn that I don’t think I really did. I thought about it from time to time, told my friends about the awful breastfeeding-pressure from the midwives (that came with no help, unfortunately) and moved on.
My eldest ‘baby’.
Ten years later, with my second baby, we are still breastfeeding at 22 months. It has not been a trouble free exercise but I am better educated and better supported than I was 10 years ago so the experience has been vastly different.
We aren’t considering weaning-we aren’t even close to that point. Little Miss has had an ear infection and has spent the last few days eating very little- it’s times like this I’m super thankful to still be feeding her because otherwise, she wouldn’t have had anything much at all of any nutritional value. At this point, weaning will probably be her choice.
This isn’t because I want to cling to the breastfeeding relationship or keep her a baby; she is more and more a little girl every day and less my little baby. There is definitely nutritional benefit to breastfeeding her through toddlerhood and there is also the emotional comfort it brings her and it is these reasons that keep me breastfeeding- it’s good for her, it makes her happy and calms her, it comforts her when she feels sad or sick or is in pain- and all this costs me nothing.
The thought of no longer breastfeeding though… It does make me sad, because, like the author of the article I read yesterday, she is most likely my last baby. Even here I find it difficult to say she definitely will be. I’m holding out hope in case we win the lottery, I guess. It’s not a choice I’m making because I feel like I’m done having babies, it’s a choice we are making because we simply cannot afford to have another baby. I am blessed with an older daughter from a past relationship, I have two step children from my husbands first marriage. The three are close in age and get along really well. Then we have Bennie, our one baby that is “ours”.
The three ‘big’ kids
Once breastfeeding stops, I’m officially out of that phase of my life- the door to babies will be closed and yes, that makes me sad. When the time comes, I can see there will be benefits- I will wear normal bras, take whatever cold and flu tablets I want, buy clothes without considering how I will get my boobs out of them in a hurry- I might be so over it that weaning will be a happy milestone for us! But for now, weaning is still very tied in with a phase of my life, my “child-bearing years” I guess, and I’m glad it’s not over just yet.
All 4 of our kids
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT
I did it again. I read the comments. Dear God, why did I read the comments? Nothing good can come from reading the comments, am I right?
It all started with this image:
Then 600 odd comments (at the time of writing this) ensued.
Apparently, according to the posters on the BellyBelly facebook page, breastfeeding beyond 12 months is:
Disgusting, gross, wrong, dangerous (teeth, ya know), weird, and sexually abusive.
Feeding beyond 12 months will:
Stop your child from being independent, leave them without coping skills, make them backward, make them socially inept, hold them back, and not allow them to grow up.
The decision to breastfeed beyond infancy is:
Selfish and only benefits the mother, pointless, devoid of nutritional value and something you need psychological help for doing.
While I really wanted to engage in a caps-lock punctuated rant about the terrible ignorance and offensive sentiments I saw expressed- I didn’t. I tried very hard to be polite. I posted links, information, excerpts from studies. I explained. I gave examples. I talked about how breastfeeding past infancy is normal and healthy and beneficial and safe. Because for all I know, the women talking in this thread have never researched breastfeeding. Many of them did not know of the World Health Organisation recommendation to breastfeed for two years and beyond. Many were unable to see that breasts are not a primary sexual organ.
In this conversation, women who breastfeed longer than a year were ridiculed, judged, criticised and abused. At one point it even became racially motivated. I’m not even joking. And this is one discussion among many.
I’ve banged on a million times about the right to breastfeed and the benefits of breastfeeding. I’m not wanting to do that again (just now- I’m not ruling it out for future posts!). What got to me was the willingness of women to tear down other women over something that has no impact on anyone else’s choices or life. The bloody, freaking Mummy Wars. If it’s not working vs stay at home it’s breast vs bottle or routine vs on demand or slings vs prams.
Why do we do this to each other? Why do we feel that we constantly have the right to voice an opinion despite the lack of relevance to our own lives? If a parenting practice is not harmful, not illegal and not impacting anyone else why do we continue to lambaste each other for our choices? No one in this thread demanded that all women breastfeed their children to the age of 5. That is a very personal choice. Yet so many felt the need to voice their disgust and horror at the thought of doing so. So many felt the need to mock, shame and ridicule those that have or are feeding past infancy. Which brings me to my next point: why does bodily autonomy fly out the window in these discussions? You have the right to make your choices based on your opinions, beliefs, research- whatever floats your boat. What you do not have the right to do is to tell another person how they should or should not use their body. We should not be shaming each other over how we feed our babies and children- breast or bottle. I’ll be the first to tell anyone that how you feed a baby is an important decision and that it’s important to learn as much as you can about your options in this regard. However, feeding is just one small factor of parenting. It is a much wider landscape than these ridiculous Mummy Wars paint for us. We would do so much better if we could support each other, accept our differences and share our knowledge without judgement and without ridiculing those who make a choice we would not when it comes to things that don’t affect us. Women face enough challenges in our society without attacking each other; a little understanding would go a long way.
…But you should be clear with him about what’s in it if you want him to drink it, right?
Obligatory not-quite-relevant-but-still-funny image
My friend was in a pharmacy recently and overheard an exchange between a customer and the pharmacy assistant. The customer was attempting to buy a bottle of Infacol drops for wind relief for their child and was instead talked into purchasing a bottle of a homeopathic colic remedy often available in chemists these days.
(Side note: It should be noted that in some places, Infacol- active ingredient Simethicone– is marketed as a colic treatment. This is a result of the belief that colic is caused by wind. While it’s true that sometimes parents might mistake wind pain for colic, the two aren’t necessarily the same thing and studies have since shown that Infacol is not a suitable treatment for colic as it is generally also no longer thought that colic is just caused by wind. Infacol is, however, shown to be an effective remedy for wind- it basically helps small gas bubbles in the stomach form into bigger bubbles that are easier to belch out. But I digress…)
What bothers me about this story is that homeopathy has never been proven to work any better than a placebo.
Homeopathy is a system of complementary or alternative medicine in which ailments are treated by minute doses of natural substances heavily diluted in water and then shaken or tapped. These are substances that, in larger amounts, would produce the symptoms of the ailment. They are diluted to the point that the “active” ingredient is no longer detectable.Then there is the idea that the water’s “memory” of the substance is what will treat the ailment based on a “like treats like” theory. There is a large body of evidence showing homeopathy to be ineffective and studies giving any impression otherwise have thus far been shown to have problems such as flawed methodology or inadequate controls. In short, it’s considered a pseudoscience.
While there can be merit in the placebo effect, it hasn’t really been demonstrated to work in babies . Some might say they felt there was an improvement in symptoms for things like colic, teething or a cold after using homeopathic remedies- the trouble there being that an observation made by a caregiver isn’t conclusive and doesn’t take into account that things like the examples I just gave are self-limiting and of course, observations are subjective.
I don’t know the reason behind this sales person’s recommendation. Perhaps she tried it once, perhaps the profit margin is higher on that product or perhaps she was just impressed by the claims on the bottle. What I do know is that parents, especially new parents, seem to be a vulnerable target group for pseudo-scientific products (don’t even start me on amber necklaces!). We all want the best for our kids and we all want to relieve any discomfort they might be in. So when you see a product that emphasises that it is a natural product, safe to use from birth, free from additives and has natural sounding “active” ingredients, it’s not unreasonable to think it might be the better option. This also comes under a currently very popular logical fallacy called ‘appeal to nature’ reasoning; the idea that if something is natural, it must be good and vice versa. My other issue here is that I have personally known more than one person to buy one of these remedies from a pharmacy on the advice of the sales assistant and been offered these products and not one of these people had it explained to them what a homeopathic remedy was. They were only told it was a “safe, natural remedy” and yes, water is both safe and natural. However, they were paying $10-$15 for a bottle of water that was supposed to remember having once contained some chamomile etc after a good shaking- and no one mentioned that to these customers.
The Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods does not require many homeopathic remedies to be registered with them as the dilution is so extensive that they are considered extremely safe- even when the listed ingredient, such as belladonna, is known to be poisonous. This is because they acknowledge that it is so dilute that it is no longer a risk.
Homeopathic preparations are not inherently harmful in themselves, but reliance on such treatments over conventional medical treatment can be. Some people choose not to immunise their children but instead rely on “homeopathic vaccination” also called homeoprophylaxis. I’ve not seen these for sale in pharmacies (thank goodness) but they seem easy enough to order online and can be purchased from some homeopathy practitioners. The danger here is the complete lack of evidence to support homeopathic treatments as vaccines- it is not even recommended by homeopathic associations.
There have been cases of homeopathic-only treatment leading to the death of the patient, such as the tragic case of Penelope Dingle or the horrifyingly sad story of Baby Gloria. Many other cases are summarised here. To be clear, I don’t think a bottle of colic water will kill anyone. I guess the reason I’m including this paragraph is because I think complementary therapies have their place- but the word complementary is key. I’m no doctor but common sense says to me that if you’re unwell and undergoing medical treatment and a complementary therapy (that won’t cause problems or have negative interactions with your conventional therapy- some herbal treatments might do this, for example) also makes you feel better, then it’s doing it’s job- it’s being complementary.
I do feel its outrageous that people are sold what is essentially water (or sometimes sucrose pills) in the guise of medicine without their knowledge. I think most people who walk into a pharmacy looking for something to treat a symptom expect to see and be advised on a pharmaceutical treatment- with active ingredients. I’m not saying the choice should be removed– I do, however, believe it should be informed. If you know what homeopathy is and know what the science says, but still want to spend your money on it and it makes you feel good- then that’s great. We might well disagree on why it makes you feel good/better- but hey, you don’t need me to agree. These products are labelled as homeopathic but it surely would be more ethical to have information about what homeopathy actually is readily available to consumers to help them make an informed choice?
Linking up with The Multitasking Mummy
Mother’s Day. For many, a day of sleep-ins, breakfast in bed, new slippers and handmade cards. For some, it also serves as a reminder of one of the most significant losses we can experience. For me, it is both of these things.
My mother passed away on May 28th, 2008, the day after her 54th birthday and a couple of weeks after Mother’s Day. I don’t want to relive her illness and passing here, as almost 6 years on it is too raw a wound to re-examine.
I guess what I am doing is talking about why it’s such a hard day, when your own mum isn’t here to celebrate. I will go to the cemetery on Mother’s Day, like I do every year, and lay flowers down on the grave she shares with my maternal grandmother. I will sit there for a while. It’s a nice spot; there is a tree nearby that I’ve watched grow from a sapling these past six years, the grass is always green and it’s tidy and catches the morning sunlight. In my head, I have a little chat with Mum and with Nan too. Sitting there, no matter what day, always takes me straight back to 2008, but there is a special poignancy on Mother’s Day. The cemetery is awash with chrysanthemums and the crowds descend to remember their mothers. Trust me, there is nothing quite like the strange mix of grief, solidarity and loneliness in that crowd.
My Mum and her Mum.
My husband and the kids will still spoil me on Mother’s Day. He will make sure my daughters and step kids have something nice to give me from the school stall or will take them shopping for new bed socks or a coffee mug or chocolates. He will help them to make me breakfast and maybe we will go out for lunch. It will be a nice day- it always is. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort that my family goes to on my behalf. I do, I always do. I love the homemade cards, the little gifts, the treats. It’s just I feel like I’m enjoying the day through a haze of grief and longing. Surely you can’t enjoy something while feeling like that, right? But you can. It’s a strange paradox.
Last year, I wanted to skip the whole day. The sadness at the thought of celebrating motherhood with a baby in my arms that will never meet her maternal grandmother was overwhelming. It still is this year.
The thing is, though, I don’t want that sadness to overwhelm me. Not on that day. Because that day is also for me, as much as it was for my mum, and as much as I celebrated her on that day, she celebrated me, too. We would go out for lunch or I would go to her house for a meal. We’d have a few drinks; we’d laugh and shoot the breeze. My mum was always the kind of person who celebrated life and family. She taught me a lot and most of it probably without meaning to. Some important stuff, too. She taught me to be independent and to think for myself, how to cook, how to clean, how to navigate through the minefield of employment and how to host a great party. She showed me how to grow plants and taught me that, in a pinch, almost anything in the kitchen can become a makeshift microphone for when you really need to sing along with feeling and flair. She wasn’t conventional and she wasn’t perfect. But she was my mum and she is irreplaceable and I will keep celebrating Mother’s Day, no matter how hard, because I am the mother I am today largely because of the mother she was to me.
Linking this post up for Thankful Thursday at Creating Contentment because I miss mum every day and I’m so thankful I had such a good one.