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.

Continue ReadingEnjoy Your Children While They’re Young

Being an At-Home Mother

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:9 mins read

While I was growing up, and during my pregnancy with my first child, Finn, now three and a half, I always thought I would work outside the home as well as having my children. I believed: it would provide ‘a healthy balance’ for me to work part time, that it was important to share in the bringing in of income into the household, that I would avoid the ‘trap of female dependence’ (I’d read a lot of Simone de Beauvoir and other feminist writers), and that it was important to keep my mind active.

I was entitled to one year’s maternity leave, and left work one month before Finn was due. I had discussed the possibility that I might return to work 10 to 18 hours a week. I loved my job, and the people at work were fantastic, encouraging me to leave it open and decide after Finn was born what would work.

Finn’s birth, attended by his father, Loren, my oldest friend, Cilla, and our midwife Yvette, was a truly sacred experience. Cilla’s six week old baby, my godson Ngaru, called Finn out into the world, and the six of us shared that awe, wonder, intimacy and intense physicality of welcoming a new baby. My heart opened so wide! Finn shared our bed, breastfed, lit up our sleep deprived lives.

Somehow when Finn was still tiny, I negotiated that I would return to work 10 hours a week from the time he was six months old. My mother would be Finn’s caregiver. She was going to move back to New Zealand from Scotland to be with Finn while I worked. I had it all planned!

When Finn was three weeks old, a Plunket nurse visited and reduced me to tears, telling me: he was old enough now to be left to cry for up to 15 minutes, he should be sleeping in another room, and if I didn’t keep picking him up every time he cried, he’d soon be off to sleep. She said the only reason I wasn’t letting him cry to sleep was that I lacked confidence.

I’d read The Continuum Concept by J. Liedloff long before I had my children and it made sense to me, but I felt vulnerable and distressed by this home visit, and quickly rang old friends for support. Debbie and Cilla told me to trust myself and that no one knew my baby better than me. A while later, everyone
in my antenatal group was having issues with their babies’ sleep. I wasn’t concerned about Finn’s sleep – he just snuggled into me and had his mother’s milk when he wanted to and we both slept fine but
he was rolling now, and I was worried about leaving him in our bed for a daytime sleep – Debbie
suggested I contact La Leche League.

I started going to meetings at Christchurch West Group, and I am hugely grateful to the Leaders, Anne Isbister and Faith Alexander and to the other women in that Group, not only for having lots of experience and helpful suggestions about cosleeping, but for being with me and for me while I was
tussling with what to do about going back to work.

I couldn’t leave Finn. He’d never seen or touched a bottle. At about five months I’d tried expressing and giving him my milk in a bottle. Wise baby. He would play with the bottle but wouldn’t drink from it. I can remember breastfeeding him to sleep on a mattress he had been playing on, on the living room floor, and saying to myself, “I can’t leave him!” There wasn’t a same time he slept every day, it was different from day to day, and he breastfed to sleep (another thing the Plunket nurse had told me was a real nono).

I couldn’t see how I could do it but more importantly, I didn’t want to. I worked through my concerns about letting them down at work after they had bent over backwards for me, and about my mother having set aside six months of her life to be there for Finn, and booked her tickets which were nonrefundable, and about our family income, and my future prospects in the career world. It all finally came down to me wanting to be with my baby, me wanting to be with him. And my partner Loren wanted that too. I can still remember us doing arithmetic and budgets and working out together what it
would mean, how we could do it. My LLL Group was alongside me throughout. Within the next few months, after not going back to work, Finn had chickenpox, infant measles, impetigo,
surgery for a perianal fistula and developed eczema. Working first with orthodox medicine and then with a naturopath and an anthroposophical doctor we had a 24 hour regime of care for him. Many times a day we administered drops, ointments, things to take with his food. I ate no wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts or tomatoes. We worked on his acupressure points and did other treatments. It was a fulltime

We started Playcentre when Finn was 14 months old. He loved it right away and still does. Our Playcentre whanau has given tremendous support to our family and we’ve seen Finn grow from a very
attached baby and toddler into the independent and self assured (and still very attached) three and a half year old he is now.

When Finn was 16 months old, Lila was born at home with the same awesome team and Julie and Rose, our midwives, as well as Finn and Grannie (my mum) and our friend Cathra. Cradling my tiny wet daughter in the birthing pool and seeing Finn’s look of wonder, my heart was full to bursting. Finn and Lila exchanged a look, of recognition, I thought, and then Finn wanted to show his baby sister how to breastfeed, and hold her little hand. I remember my astonishment when Finn went from breastfeeding about three times a day and not at night, to feeding all day and all night at every opportunity like
his newborn sister. Loren was an amazing support, especially at night. He would bring me whichever child needed their “num nums”, and hold and cuddle the other, settling that child with him. Again, the support of my LLL Group helped get me through. Our current Leaders, Linda Dockrill and Susan Proctor, devoted a whole meeting to looking at how I might wean Finn to one less feed a day, helping me chart each time he breastfed, and suggesting alternatives I might try. Sometimes I was feeding Finn
because I just wasn’t able to put in place all the other things that he needed as well as meeting Lila’s needs.

Thank you Linda and Susan for your encouragement and care that helped me find my way. I am still tandem feeding, and can’t believe Finn is having “num nums” only every other night at bedtime. This was his idea when we were talking about how he is growing up and someday he won’t have “num nums” anymore. He decides and we mark it on a calendar for a week or so ahead whether it’s a “num nums” night or not a “num nums” night. He checks his calendar and proudly lets us know what’s happening that night. Lila is still having lots of “num nums” in the day and in the night, and I am so much more relaxed with her as I realise that she will let me know when she is ready for her next step. I am really loving my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter.

It is all so worth it! Being at home and out in the community, at Playcentre and other places with my children means I am there with them in all or most of their experiences. I know what they are talking about when no one else does, and what they are remembering because I was there with them. I am rewarded by events such as: coming home from a busy morning at Playcentre and going to bed in the middle of a Finn and Lila ‘sandwich’ (with a few extra “num nums” to keep them sleeping); stopping what I am doing to help make a hut or build blocks or read a story or play in the sandpit. For a time, I was doing nothing much else except being with them, seeing them roll, crawl, walk, learn to eat solid food eventually after playing with it for a long time. Yes the laundry did somehow get done and sometimes meals on the table too, though we share with Christie Means (Aroha Vol 5 no 2 – March/April 2003) the fish and chip solution. Articles, such as Christie’s, in Aroha have been uplifting, inspiring and also very practical support for me over this last year when it hasn’t been easy to get to meetings.

I am grateful to be able to live life to our timetable, to know (or at least have an intuition or instinct) when tiredness, hunger, teething or getting sick affects my children’s behaviour; and how to comfort them. I am able to support their development at their own pace, knowing it is right for me to be with my
children, right here, right now. And what of my development? I have learnt not to blame the children for what they do, not to get angry with them when I get hurt. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it seems hard, especially when I’m very tired, and I imagine walking out the door in the morning dressed beautifully and spending a day achieving something tangible. But I am sure deep down that this may be the most important work I will ever do, together with my partner; the raising of these two human beings to be all they can be, and along the way to strive to be all I can be.

By Robyn Madden, Christchurch West
Originally printed in Aroha, March April, 2004

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Musings on Mothering

Musings on Mothering, edited by Teika Bellamy, is a fundraiser for LLLGB. The book is an
anthology of art, poetry and prose about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. It is 196 pages of
beautifully crafted stories of mothers and babies, of loss and joy, of love and experience. Each
page tugs at your heart and connects you to another mother on the planet who has laughed and
cried and struggled and celebrated amazing moments in life’s reproductive days. Some stories are
heart wrenching, some you will love; some will jar you and challenge you.
The book has many contributors of various ages which create richness and depth. One essay
called ‘The Other Side of Sleeplessness’ by Linda Hassan Scott is worth the price of the whole
book since one of the frequent challenges we hear about time after time relates to sleep (or lack
thereof) and pressure from our culture to engage in sleep training or early weaning. This piece
captured the depth and wisdom of why we are responsive to our babies 24 hours a day.
This collection is well indexed and organised so it is easy to locate material of interest. The Index
in the back includes photos and biographies of the contributors which gives information on the
many gifted contributors.
This would be a wonderful addition to both a personal and Group Library. The anthology would
make a great gift for a retiring Leader or a new mother. Sometimes you gain more information
from a poem, short prose or piece of art than from a technical book. This book will be treasured
and could be utilised in many, many mother support meetings to engage, connect, and evoke
feelings and discussion.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 15 Number 3

Musings on Mothering
By Teika Bellamy (Editor)
Mother’s Milk Books, UK, 2012
Reviewed by Connor Kelly and Lorraine Taylor, LLLNZ

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Attached at the Heart

Attached at the Heart is written by the co-founders of Attachment Parenting International (API),
who began their parenting with LLL and first learned about attachment parenting from the books
of William Sears. Thus the book is an excellent fit with LLL philosophy. It not only discusses
breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for babies, but also talks about breastfeeding in the
context of developing healthy relationships and becoming attuned to our babies by responding to
feeding cues and being in close physical proximity. Weaning ‘gradually, with love’ is encouraged.
Starting solids is mentioned, along with LLL philosophy – almost word for word – of nutritious food
being in as close to its natural state as possible. The chapter on positive discipline fits with LLL
philosophy around loving guidance.

It covers API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:
1. Prepare yourself for pregnancy, birth and parenting
2. Feed with love and respect
3. Respond with sensitivity
4. Use nurturing touch
5. Ensure safe sleep – physically and emotionally
6. Provide consistent, loving care
7. Practice positive discipline
8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life.

One reviewer mentioned Chapters 7 and 8 in particular. In Chapter 7 the authors list their top 25
tips (pp 225-240) for practising positive discipline. This list is extensive, understandable and
practical. Many families will also appreciate Chapter 8, ‘Strive for Balance in your personal and
family life’. We know that many well meaning friends or family may recommend separation from
our babies as a healthy choice for ‘me time’. This chapter offers much support for our style of
parenting while respecting the needs of our children and again offers many practical ideas. There
is also a section on the myths and facts about attachment parenting and Appendix B is a list of 12
questions for parental self-reflection. This is a wonderful tool for assisting parents to really
understand themselves and their behaviours and is highly recommended to all parents-to-be.

The book is written in an easy-to-read style. It has extensive references and a long list of
recommended reading, including many familiar books from our Group Libraries. It is highly
recommended by both reviewers for inclusion in Group Libraries and could also be of interest to
health professionals. Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker have done a beautiful job of articulating
the philosophy, offering practical suggestions and encouraging us to connect with our own hearts
while trusting our instincts as parents.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 13 Number 6

Attached at the Heart – 8 Proven Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children 
Barbara Nicolson and Lysa Parker
iUniverse.com, USA 2009
Reviewed by Donna Henderson and Connor Kelly
Combined review by Rosemary Gordon, LLLNZ Book Review Convenor

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