Together Early and Often

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply. Nadine has written about her mothering beliefs to give to her daughter, Elora when, in the years ahead, Elora first becomes pregnant.

Dear Elora,
I looked at you, I touched you, I smelt you. How perfect; what a miracle; you.

Babies need their mothers. Just as strongly mothers need their babies. I remember sending you off to the nursery for my well earned rest. What a complete joke! Every time a baby cried I would ask a passing nurse, ‘Is that mine?’ I lay wondering, ‘Is she alright?’ ‘Will they give me back the right baby?’ After an hour or so of lying wide awake and being totally uneasy I asked to have you back with me. Peace. I needed you – you were mine!

Bonding is a strange and amazing thing. For some women this happens instantly, for others it takes a while. But one obvious thing seems true – you can’t bond with something that isn’t there. The more time you spend with adult friends the better you know them – this is also true for mothers and babies.

We need to use all our senses to come to understand and care for each other. This relationship is like no other in its intensity, and is perhaps like no other with regard to the mental, emotional and physical health of both mother and baby.

Early contact for the baby reduces stress. The mother’s voice, skin to skin contact and warmth all calm the baby as does that first feed. And for the baby the sooner these things can happen the better – birth must be a fairly frightening experience.

Early contact for the mother reduces stress too. To be able to hold such a beautiful ‘prize’ after such a lot of work makes it all worthwhile. To see your baby studying you in that first hour as if to imprint you on their brain is like magic. That first feed releases hormones to calm you and to help deliver the placenta.

Over the next six weeks it is important to spend as much time together as possible so that your understanding of your baby’s needs are clearer to you. A young baby (presix weeks) needs at least eight feeds every 24 hours but frequently they require more. This six weeks is when your body learns to produce milk to satisfy your baby’s demands, you learn correct positioning and you establish your relationship with baby. It is at this time that a woman begins to understand that her body is truly remarkable in a new way. However hungry her baby is, if she puts it to the breast as often as requested her body just increases production of milk. And if the baby slows down its demand so the production slows. It is like a dance between a mother’s body and a baby’s.

Many women say that once they reach the six week mark both they and the baby settle down, understand each other and life seems less demanding. This six weeks is an important ‘season’. As with all things there will be good times and difficult ones during this time – but it passes, sometimes all too soon. Many countries treat this time as a special occasion and a relation or a professional moves into the house to care for the rest of the family and household so that these bonding weeks can be optimised. Mother and baby stay together 24 hours a day, sharing sleep and cuefeeding.

I believe this is something our society could learn from. An important thing I learnt and it took both you and Lucas to teach me was that there is no such thing as a manipulative baby. Many people in our society
believe that during this ‘bonding season’ we need to teach the baby who is boss and fit it into a schedule so it will not end up running the household. What I learnt was that there is no such thing as a spoilt baby, only a secure baby, who knows its every need will be attended to as soon as possible. I also learnt that babies’ wants are needs – there is no differentiation. Babies are designed to demand that their needs are satisfied otherwise the human race would have died out hundreds of years ago. It is common for people to suggest a mother takes time out from her newborn baby for her sake. I believe that if they truly understood this ‘season’ then, for her sake, they would give a mother time out from societal  commitments and housework instead.

‘Tis a season to enjoy,

By Nadine Walmisley,Christchurch South
Originally printed in Aroha March/April 2003, Volume 5 Issue 2

Continue ReadingTogether Early and Often

Satisfying the Needs of the Baby

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.

When I think of what is entailed in mothering, I think of loving the baby – of  caring for the baby physically, emotionally and spiritually. It wasn’t that I thought I couldn’t mother by
bottlefeeding; it simply seemed that breastfeeding was so clearly what Hannah needed and what I was pre-programmed to do.

‘Mothering through breastfeeding’. One of the very obvious things that strikes me about the phrase is how inextricably linked, physiologically, breastfeeding and pregnancy are, in that the body starts preparing for breastfeeding as soon as the woman becomes pregnant. Nothing could be more natural and to not breastfeed is to go against nature. Similarly, the development of the baby’s
sucking reflex in utero and its rooting instinct prepare it to be mothered through breastfeeding. It also is the only thing that only I can do, short of a wet nurse, which seems to me to point to its being at the heart of mothering the baby. It was also the only thing I knew I could (eventually) do well by virtue of
simply being Hannah’s mother and that was a huge comfort to me. I was taken aback at how strong my determination to breastfeed was – my belief that it was absolutely essential for Hannah’s wellbeing
and that I would persist no matter how painful it was. Perhaps this was hormonally influenced. That Hannah knew exactly how to extract the milk she wanted, cracked or inverted nipples or not seemed
miraculous to me.

That breastfeeding is an effective way of meeting the needs of the baby seems to be
proved by the fact that a baby survives and thrives on nothing more than breast milk for at least its first six months. Even though I had early difficulties with breastfeeding Hannah regained her birth weight quickly and has had few ailments.

As far as understanding the needs of the baby is concerned, breastfeeding Hannah reinforced and enhanced the bond between us even though in the worst moments of the early days it felt at times as though it was weakening it. When breastfeeding started to go well for us, the bond became much
stronger on my side. It was a continuation of the physical and emotional connectedness that had begun in pregnancy.

With regards to satisfying the needs of the baby, the letdown reflex when the baby cries
seems significant. The mother’s body doesn’t distinguish between physiological and emotional needs. That Hannah stopped crying when I breastfed her confirmed to me (rightly or wrongly) that her needs were being satisfied. I’m not sure that my understanding of those needs progressed much beyond that, especially around the stomach upsets, but the contentment that breastfeeding brought Hannah when she was distressed was and continues to be tangible. It wasn’t that we didn’t try other methods to comfort her when she was crying with her stomach ructions. We walked up and down for hours, sang soothingly, drove for miles. Nothing else worked for any length of time.

It would seem logical that breastfeeding on demand helps the baby to trust its own instincts and environment and that trust must help the baby to feel secure in itself and in the world. Conversely, if the baby cries to express a need in the only way it can and is ignored, then it would seem logically to lead to a distrust of the baby’s carers and environment. The psychological need for security, that knowing one is loved, seems to be met at least partly through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding satisfies the physiological needs and seems also to meet the psychological needs of the baby. Nutritionally, it is unsurpassed; it provides immunological protection and the physical closeness of skin-to-skin contact.

Liz Lightfoot, Chartwell Group Hamilton
Originally printed in Aroha January/February 2003 Volume 5 Issue 1

Continue ReadingSatisfying the Needs of the Baby

Mothering Through Breastfeeding

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:6 mins read

When I had my first baby, I had already decided to give breastfeeding a go. But the main
focus for me during pregnancy was coping with sickness, and the approaching labour.
The antenatal classes had dealt with labour pain and management and the stages of
labour but my birth plan went out the window, when at 37 weeks, I had a haemorrhage at
1.30am (whilst in bed trying to pretend to be asleep). I ended up having a very scary time
trying to make the midwife believe my story over the phone. She said, “Is it just a show
dear?” I really had to convince her that it was more of a flood than a show!
So my husband and I raced to the maternity ward and met the midwife shortly after. She
spent the next half an hour reassuring us, “Baby is OK”. Shortly after, my Lead Maternity
Carer (a General Practitioner) arrived looking very brassed off at being woken up at this
hour. He heard my story and decided to break my waters. It was incredibly painful. I was
in constant agony and I couldn’t feel the contractions through the pain. The waters
contained blood among other things, so the he rang the specialist on call who then
suggested they prepare me for a Caesarean. A general anaesthetic was required because
of the speed needed and blood pressure problems.
Suddenly everything moved very quickly. Going into the lift I remember saying to the
anaesthetist, “Am I going to die?” and him replying, “I don’t think so”. At 4am, Kieran was
born rating just two on the Apgar scale. An hour after he was delivered, I returned to my
room – no baby there yet. He had been put into the special care ward. He had also been
given formula as his blood sugars were low.
I was lying down feeling so drugged I could hardly stay awake. I was wheeled down to
special care to be handed my son and give him his first feed five hours after he was born.
I will never forget that feeling for as long as I live – holding and feeding for the first time
ever. All I can say is thank goodness for breastfeeding.
Kieran was a baby who liked to be up all night, and sleep for long spells during the day for
the first few months. I fed him on demand and felt this was one major way to regain the
loss I felt from not witnessing his birth. I found breastfeeding very challenging. I suffered
frequently from mastitis. I became quick in recognising the symptoms and promptly sought
help after a couple of bouts. I found homeopathic remedies worked sometimes
(Echinacea, Erysidoron, and Phytallaca). But most times, I needed antibiotics. My doctor
provided me with a backup
prescription just in case. He was an excellent support person.
I also had nipple trouble initially and I used Lansinoh cream which was fantastic with
healing them. I found the ionozone treatment at Hutt Hospital a great help too.
When I was desperate with doubts I had a great mentor in La Leche League Leader, Fran
Crossland, who gave me fantastic advice and support, and a Plunket nurse who took time
to more clearly explain how babies feed. Luckily my husband was also in favour of me
providing the best food for his child.
However I had my lowest point when Kieran was 10 weeks old. I phoned the Plunket line
desperate for help. The nurse advised me (after hearing my story of recurring mastitis) to
give up. I put the phone down and burst into tears. My husband (also my rock) turned and
said, “You do what you want to do!”
I felt breastfeeding this unsettled baby was the only choice, and so I continued. I made the
right choice. He was rarely ill and it made us into a unit. At 15 months he weaned himself
when I became pregnant with son number two.
The next story is very different. Callum was born after an easier pregnancy, and a
reasonably easy labour. I fed him immediately after he was born. What a different
experience. To actually see my baby born plus feed him straightaway was a double
I had a much more relaxed and confident attitude with Callum. I decided to breastfeed
again, although I had mastitis when he was two weeks old, caused I think by a blocked
duct. I have had few blocked ducts since and have been able to clear them myself. I also
always feed two sides every feed as this keeps me balanced. This balance helps the milk
flow more regularly on each side. I wasn’t always able to do this with Kieran because he
always preferred the right side (the left was often the one playing up) so some feeds were
one side only and when he was very young he would go to sleep after this single side.
Another two things happened: Firstly, I had campylobacter food poisoning when Callum
was eight weeks old. This was horrific for me. I couldn’t eat, and basically lived in the toilet
for a week. However the human body is amazing. I just kept producing breast milk for my
baby. In hindsight I am wonderfully impressed. The second thing was that I slipped a disc
in my back so I had to deal with that one as well. Looking back I am pleased that I
continued to breastfeed Callum. I have a very healthy boy who is now nearly two years
Things I have learned
· Have a relaxed attitude. (If your child needs feeding then feed him – generally it is only 20-30
minutes – don’t worry about waiting 10 minutes for him to scream)
· Feed babies when they want to be fed.
· Don’t necessarily give solids first – give the child what they want first (breast milk is fine)
· Be proud to be a breastfeeding Mum
· Listen to your own instincts not other people’s
· Watch the baby not the clock
· Relax and go with the flow
· Experience gives you heaps of confidence
· Ask questions about breastfeeding but don’t always believe the answers
· Don’t worry if you (like me) can’t express milk
· Breastfeeding is a total package
· Breastfeeding is for such a short time in your life – it is over so quickly – enjoy it while it lasts
· Be aware of medication and make sure that it is safe to take
· Wean together

By Deb Williams, Lower Hutt
Originally printed in Aroha, March/April 2004

Continue ReadingMothering Through Breastfeeding

Friendship Challenges

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:11 mins read

“My friend and I have babies only a few weeks apart. It was great supporting each other throughout our pregnancies but now it has changed as I am breastfeeding and she is not. I know she had a tough time so I am careful not to talk about breastfeeding too much in case it makes her feel bad, but it has still become a barrier between us.

It’s irrelevant to me how she feeds her baby – she is a wonderful, loving mother, but when she’s not telling me how “lucky” I am, she’s telling me how I should be introducing an evening bottle to my own baby to help her sleep better. Every conversation we have about our babies has become a minefield and it’s really getting to me. How have other mothers coped with this situation?”


Rose Davis, Waiheke Island – I have found that some friendships become difficult because of differences in approaches to parenting. I decided to spend more time with people whose parenting I feel comfortable with, because I enjoy their company more.

It seems like you might need to directly address the issue of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding with your friend, so that it doesn’t lurk beneath every conversation. I would suggest gently telling your friend that you think she’s a great mum, but you believe in breastfeeding and are able to breastfeed without any trouble, so you don’t plan to use bottles of formula.I think some mums who can’t/don’t breastfeed feel guilty and inadequate about it. They tend to keep raising the issue because they want to be reassured that they are still good mothers. Maybe being aware of this might help too.

Lisa Ross, Dunedin – I think I would respond with something like “we are two Mums on different journeys with our children and have to do what feels right for us and go with our maternal instincts. It doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other wrong.  It just means everyone is different with unique situations that they respond to in their own way.”

Raegan Dutch, Kelston Auckland – When I read this it makes me wonder if it could be a good idea for you, your friend and your babies to spend time together at the park or try an activity like playgroup.  This could make it easier to have conversations about the babies’ activities in a specific environment rather than talking about what they do or don’t do at other times in their day. When the discussion is focused on what is happening right in front of you it may help to avoid conversational “minefields”, allowing you to enjoy each other’s company and time with your babies.

Celia Perrott, Hawkes Bay – How mothers feed their babies does seem to be an emotionally charged subject at times, not helped much by media influences which often seem intent on driving a wedge between breastfeeding and bottle feeding mums.  We as La Leche League mothers usually feel very passionate about exclusive breastfeeding, but in the reality of our society, the line is not always clear cut; quite a few mums feed both breast and formula milk, and others may wean from breastmilk onto formula, or others wanted to breastfeed, but it didn’t end up that way.
I think I would tend to agree with your friend wherever possible e.g. if she says how lucky you are, you could acknowledge that you have been fortunate in that respect (even if you don’t necessarily feel that it has been all down to luck!) as sometimes mothers may have faced large obstacles, or a lack of support in breastfeeding. Some mums may also feel a sense of failure or huge disappointment if breastfeeding didn’t work out well, as breastfeeding is so strongly promoted as the ideal, so it’s important to tread carefully and not invoke a defensive reaction. Research shows that the vast majority of mothers do intend to breastfeed, but there are many many factors which may jeopardize this (but that’s a whole separate subject).

On the talk about giving a bottle at night, just say that you have decided to stick with breastmilk for now as it’s working out okay, and if her baby is sleeping long hours at night perhaps say something positive about that, so she feels affirmed in what she is doing too. In this parenting lark I think it’s all about supporting one another and avoiding sensitive and controversial issues, especially if a friendship is valuable.Even if a good friend makes quite different parenting decisions from us, we can all respect difference and still give an encouraging word.

Adith Stoneman, Kelston Auckland – When we become mothers, many of us find ourselves bombarded by well meaning, loving people that give us advice. Sometimes that advice is quite helpful for mothers, however, often it is not, it is undermining a mother’s ability to mother her own baby, it is disempowering her and that is always wrong.

No person knows the baby better then the mother. She is the one that spends the most time with the baby, getting to know the baby better every day.Parenting styles are as varied as “babies”, and we as mothers/parents need to find the style that suits us and our babies best.  Topics of feeding, sleeping, immunisation, returning to work etc are hotly debated issues by mothers/parents and the media. And maybe we need to just agree to disagree on these.

Many mothers find a network of support that has like-minded mothers/parents to help them on their parenting journey. I would encourage you to do just that. Find the women in your community that you can relate and talk to about issues of your parenting choice. If you have an opportunity to share issues with like-minded women, then you do not need to discuss this with your friend and tactfully you can avoid conversations about issues that you know you have different views on. We do not need to lose our friends because we have chosen a different way of parenting, though sadly we often do and I am sure that many mothers can relate to you.

Jill Allan, Melbourne – I didn’t experience this myself, having seen less and less of my antenatal group as they were moving in their own direction and I was taking the ‘LLL’ path.  On the rare occasions I heard about what I considered a less-than-optimal breastfeeding experience, post-natal depression, whatever, in the past, I felt the best thing to do for my friend, in the present, was to listen, and to agree.

Your friend wants more than listening and agreeing, I think. She knows that the weight of medical, social and societal opinion is approving of your choice, while your babies are less than six months of age. In one of Pinky McKay’s books she discusses what is called bottle-feeding mothers’ “guilt” because she feels that it is not guilt but grief.  This resonated with me, as having been on the receiving end of some deeply-felt tirades, the vehemence expressed by those mothers did seem more like a side effect of grief, rather than guilt.  In my own experience, guilt doesn’t make me feel threatened or annoyed enough to attack other people, it’s just a faint sort of pang in my conscience which makes me want to apologise and do things differently next time; whereas grief is an actual pain.

Your friend seeks validation from you, as she “knows” she has “failed” and so unconsciously wants someone else to follow her methods so that she is not alone in her failure. It’s very tricky.   If you say “yes, a nighttime bottle is a good idea,” then your friend will expect you to use one.  Saying “I’m happy with the amount that my baby is sleeping right now,” could be seen as re-asserting the superiority of breastfeeding, which is already an open wound for your friend.  “I can see that it works really well for you” is also slightly divisive so all I can think of is a change of subject – “Your baby is looking so well, s/he must have grown/be developing/learnt lots of new things.” Developmental steps forward, which babies make almost every day at this stage, are a good source of conversation. And then… some non-baby conversation! Take the babies out, visit a café, get some fresh air, walk through a shopping mall …

The weight of societal disapproval felt by your friend will ease as the two babies pass the age of six months. In my personal experience; which is outdated, but I am sure vestiges of this attitude remain – breastfeeding a six-month-old baby is a Very Good Thing, and breastfeeding a baby over the age of one is, for society at large, an equally Bad Thing.

As your friendsenses less general disapproval for her use of a bottle, and consequently feels more confident in the general ‘rightness’ of her mothering, you may gradually come to feel disapproval from others for continuing to do the thing that gained their complete approval less than twelve months ago.The same disapproval that your friend felt for not breastfeeding a small baby could swing round and attack you, for breastfeeding a toddler. And this may cause a shift in the friendship, making it even more difficult to sustain. “You should try a bottle” conversations could be replaced by conversations which begin “when are you going to wean?”

There will be more situations that test the strength of the part of your friendship that is not about babies.  In my opinion, developing the non-baby areas the two of you have in common will see you through this and other differences. I am willing to bet that your opinions on the best time to toilet train are not going to be the same….

Robin Jones Greif, Blenheim – This can be a difficult situation, but it’s important to remember it may only be the first of many as your baby grows and your parenting choices increase. There are several approaches you could take, from emphasising the positive way you see your friend interacting with her baby to tackling the situation head on. If you are able to, a frank conversation may be helpful for both of you. You could tell her you can see how much your breastfeeding seems to upset her and you are sorry about this. She needs to know that her comments are damaging the friendship and this makes you sad.  Mothering is not a competitive sport and focussing on all the many things you have in common is the only way you can move forward.

Please realise that your friend is grieving for the loss of the breastfeeding relationship she had dreamed of having before her baby was born and is taking this out on you by trying to undermine your breastfeeding experience. She may not even realise this is happening and may not appreciate how it is impacting on the friendship you shared. Hopefully this will get better with time as she realises that there are other ways to show that she is a ‘good’ mother. It would be great if, by the time she has her next baby, she can approach this as a new chance to breastfeed.

Janet Wilson, Papakura – I was in a similar situation. It became more and more difficult, and because both children were ‘firsts’ there were many situations (coffee groups were the worst) where comparisons were made about everything to do with our babies. I found that LLL became a great place to reaffirm my faith in breastfeeding and talk to my heart’s content about all things breastfeeding!

Gradually I made friends that were in the same parenting sphere. I planned my outings with other friends, and made sure I was feeling confident about my choices. It also helped to NOT get into discussions – not easy, but things like meeting at the pool, walking, and doing activities left less time for the minefield compared with sitting down and chatting.

Continue ReadingFriendship Challenges

Enjoy Your Children While They’re Young

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:11 mins read

“I frequently have mothers of older children tell me to “enjoy my children while they are young” because they regret that they did not savour the precious moments more.  However, I have a very active and busy toddler, and a baby, and while I mostly love spending time with my children, there are moments when I am definitely not enjoying it.

I would love to hear from other women about how they find (or found) ways to enjoy their children. In particular, what were the special moments that mothers of older children remember? What do they wish they had done differently to enjoy it more?”  Natasha


Verity Osborn, Christchurch – I have a little girl who will be three in March and an eight-month-old baby boy. Both are very busy little beings. Our little boy is also just recovering from Whooping Cough so we have had a very intense couple of months. He wakes hourly at night and I am usually very tired and short fused at times. I often feel very guilty that I do not have the energy to give my all to my little girl and I don’t enjoy motherhood sometimes.

I am grateful for the support of my husband and family. I always put my little girl to bed myself and we read stories and tell stories. She also loves to be in the kitchen and as much as it slows the process down sometimes, food needs to be prepared and it’s a great time to chat and share in preparing a family meal. She is always so proud when the meal on the table has been made by her and Mum.

Having more sleep would definitely change the way I handle situations but that will come in time. I think it’s important to be kind to yourself and that these times, as much as they are precious, are often exhausting. You sacrifice a lot and often we don’t take that time to acknowledge the mothers that we are. Simply just being alongside your child is by far the most important thing you can do.

Marcia Bryant, Lyttelton – I only have one son who is now 24, but I’m an early childhood home educator and I wish I had had the skills with him that I have now.  Having young children makes for a very busy life – that’s pretty unavoidable, however keeping things very simple can lessen that a little.  Battles were what I found the most unpleasant with my son. I don’t do that now!

There are a few things that really help me to keep everything as light and fun as possible like playing games at every opportunity.  Wiping sticky fingers?  Try counting them in a silly voice.  Need a hat to stay on outside?  You could sing a song – “Suzy has her hat on today, hat on today, hat on today, Suzy has her hat on today, hip, hip, hip hooray!” and clap (repeat many times – it works!).

My style is firm and very loving. With my son I was a real pushover, but I’ve learnt over the years that children are happier with firm and most importantly consistent boundaries and it makes life much easier for me and them.

If a little one doesn’t want to do something I would like them to do – I pretend I’m an animal or get them to pretend they’re an animal (sometimes animals are more co-operative). For older children I don’t get cross, I just wait until they want something from me and then say “of course, but I need you to pop those toys away first” or if they’re adamant that they’re not going to put the toys away ask them what they will do – “okay, there are three jobs that need doing, which would you like to do?”

I try not to say “No” to anything unless I can offer an alternative. “I’m sorry we can’t go to the swings today, but we can…” or “I know you don’t want to put your boots on but I do need you to put them on now and then you can choose which cardigan baby will wear – blue or yellow.” I think as adults that can help too – if I have my heart set on something that I can’t do or have, it leaves a void of disappointment unless I have something else to think about.

Praising and encouraging makes everybody feel good and I always try to remember that whatever gets attention is guaranteed to be repeated, so it better be something positive!   Treating children with respect is very important to me and children are happier for it and learn a huge lesson along the way.

Amanda Riches, Morrinsville – I was told the same thing many times. I don’t have too many regrets but I do wish the time had not gone so fast. I have a 16 month gap between my first two children so I understand how hard it is enjoying your children while they are young. It can be hard to remember when you are only getting a few hours sleep or while your toddler is screaming as you try to rock baby to sleep or having a tantrum because they decide to want a banana just as you sit down to feed the baby. You end up stuck in a rut and seems like it is going to last forever. But it doesn’t, it flies by so fast, and you wake up a year later wondering where the time has gone.

With a young baby and young toddler most of the activities I did with my toddler were solely with the purpose of distracting her and keeping her entertained. We played board games and did crafts and baking while baby was asleep or in a front carry. Walking to the closest park or a picnic in the back yard was the extent of our exploring most days. But once baby was a little older we could go to the pools or spend time trying out new parks and exploring walking tracks with baby in a back carrier. Places that don’t cost to visit are great. My main summer memories are of picnics by a river after exploring the Karangahape gorge tunnel or Wairongamai (part of the Kaimai Ranges) walking tracks. Winter can also be fun. Going to the park in the rain, splashing in puddles, visiting the snow, discovering ice in puddles, dew covered spider webs on an early morning walk, hot pools. The best times I had with my first two were when they were a little older.

Kelly Stratford , Bay of Islands – I have an 11-year-old, a nine-year-old and two-year-old. I can relate to that busy time you are in right now. The things I am very aware of now and think – ‘wow did I do this with the older ones?’  (Probably not as it was pretty hectic!) …is making time each day to listen to them actively.  Asking “what was the best thing you did today” is okay for my older two, but for my two year old when he’s trying to get me to play with him, I stop what I’m doing (though not every time) and play with him because that is a toddler’s favourite time of the day. It’s okay if you don’t get to do that all the time! But if you can, it can be enjoyable for yourself and you will remember it when they are grown.

Anne Devereux, Dunedin – What was it like for me when our children were young? We did not have a camera for many years so I am eternally grateful to my late mother who was very shutter-happy. Because of her, we do have photos of our babies when they were small. This must seem strange to parents in this advanced technological age but both films and cameras were costly. The other strange thing is that when one is living within a busy family, one always presumes that memories will remain strong!

The precious moments were always there but they did not have to be ‘formal’. I would hate to think that mothers feel they ‘must’ do things all the time with their children when it is really having their mothers as a presence that is most important. Reality dictates certain things to keep the show on the road at home – laundry, meals, shopping, school things, visiting grandparents. That is a reality that can be woven into our mothering by doing things together. Our kitchen was always a focus for the children who did not like playing away from me so I had a large bottom drawer filled with toys which they could play with while I was preparing meals. They were also able to ‘help’ as they grew older – pegging up the washing and mopping the floor with their tiny mops. To our children they were precious times that they still talk about. Yes, we did do other things like going to the park and playground, the swimming pool and museums but the day-to-day adventures which could include an impromptu lunch picnic under the kitchen table on a wet day, planting out vegetables and feeding the cats and hens were important parts of their lives.

What do I regret most? I WISH that I had kept diaries not just of what I hoped to achieve and things I had to do each day but of what was actually happening – something funny that occurred, an unexpected visitor, a new word that the baby tried, the first steps, who we went to visit etc.  This has been brought home to me by our grandchildren who as they grow older want to know more and more about their parents as children, what they did growing up, and who their friends were at school.

Did I always enjoy my mothering time? No. Certainly there were times when I was challenged by frustration at not getting things done, boredom at cleaning up yet another mess of toys or having to think of another meal, shock when dealing with a son who loved fires (!) but through it all was the knowledge that our babies and growing children were as healthy as possible, were greatly loved (and were told even when I felt least like saying it!) and enjoyed each other, their extended family and friends. I had to school myself to leave things undone on many occasions and just go out with the children to feed the ducks or walk on the beach. Work was always waiting when we came back home but somehow the adventure cheered everyone up.

When I talk with friends of my age about their memories of growing up, it is not the ‘big’ things that they remember but the incidentals like mother always being available, the smell of things cooking when they came in from school and the open-door policy that allowed them to bring their friends to the house. Those are the precious things.

Being a mother is a demanding calling in life and greatly undervalued by our society although many pay lip service to the needs of children. Just being you Natasha is the greatest gift you can give your children and your love and gentle parenting will be what prepares them to deal with the world as they grow older.

Janet Wilson, Papakura – I too found there were many times when it all became too much! Looking back I think I could have let go of a bit more housework, let the children play in paint more often, cancel more engagements that weren’t ‘child friendly’, reached out for more help and spent more time with people who were parenting like me. The reality for me was that it WAS hard some days. My best friends were the ones I could offload to, and they would say “It’s okay, it’s another stage, you are doing a great job!” Now with seven years of parenting under my belt I realise that, unless you are blessed with a ‘tribe’, a village style of living, then most of us struggle!

It was not so much a case of ‘having me time’ or ‘someone taking the children’, and I felt it was my privilege to be able to nourish my children with breastfeeding so someone else feeding the baby wouldn’t have helped me at all! I felt it was my choice to be their mother, but it was all the extraneous stuff that piles up that got me down.

We took lots of photos so we can look back on the special moments that we didn’t notice so much when they were happening!  If you can find things to laugh about that helps. Dance more to loud music. Play in the rain. Read more stories. Get into the garden – to dig stuff up! This too shall pass.

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