Parenting

There’s no “cool mom” or “mean mom”

24 March, 2017

…there’s just parents who understand how the brain works, and those that don’t, yet.

Last week my husband made two cheese toasties and one of my daughters thought they were both for her- when they went on two different plates, one toastie for each kid, my daughter Lost Her Shit in the biggest way. Bigger than I’ve ever seen. An hour of violent, ear splitting shit losing. I think the trigger was the toastie, but that toastie unleashed four years of having to share every damn thing with the newest member of the family. The emotions were deep and dark and frightening for her.

For whatever reason that day, the surprise spare hour I’d found in between places I had to be or the little lie-in I’d had that morning, I was an ocean.

Immeasurably calm.

Encompassing.

Enough.

Her emotions were just one drop in the big sea of my empathy and solidarity. I held her, stopped her hurting someone, rocked her, repeated back to her the one phrase she couldn’t stop shouting.

It might feel funny to start a blog post like this, like “look, let me tell you about this one time I was amazing!” But you see, at the end of it all, I felt like I’d been through labour. (I’m sure she was just as wrecked.) I felt like I’d climbed a humongous mountain, and I’d smashed it. There was something required of me, and I’d rose to it. Honestly, without sounding like a dick, it was surprising and humbling. And I want to be able to do it more and more and more. Every. Single. Time.

I need to celebrate these moments, because littered around these mountain topping achievements are the times I snap, the times I’m grumpy all day, the times I exhaustedly reach out for a quick threat “if you call your sister baby one more time I will take away your internet!” and it is HARD work trying to change your mindset from the dominant one (parents must be in control! Children must obey! Children mustn’t steal a whole hour of your day with their meltdown!) to a more empathetic, power-sharing one (we are in this together! I am here to guide my children, to show them kindness so that they can thrive!) and we’ve got to give each other a high five when we rock it.

The truth is, it is only when I am able to keep in my head all the insights from neuroscience that I am able to rise to what is needed of me as a parent. This stuff is the gas in my tank, without this information I resort to a totally unjoyful, fearful, disconnected parenting.

(Story told with permission.)

***

This week I read the article “7 Reasons I’m a “mean mom” not a “cool mom” – all I had in my head after reading it was the phrase ‘There ARE no mean moms, or cool moms, or good moms, or bad moms (or mums!) there are simply those that have had the opportunity to learn about our children’s brains and those that haven’t.”

When I say there are parents that understand the brain and those that don’t, I’m not being patronising. I just absolutely believe that you can’t hold the information that neuroscience is bringing us and still proudly be the “mean mom.” And it’s no ones fault, so there is no judgement. I mean, it’s not as if you have a baby and someone hands you a little pamphlet about how to raise your baby according to the latest research and people are actively ignoring it. Nope. The opposite is true – you have a baby and the majority of people; health visitors, family members, mainstream media, actually give you advice that is the very OPPOSITE of what recent studies are telling us. I guess this is because society churns along smoothly if everyone just does what has always been done. So I want to speak kindly, empathetically; I truly believe 99.9% of parents make their choices because they want the very best for their child. But I also want to do what I can to highlight what people are discovering about the brain and how the different ways of raising children can impact them for the rest of their life.

Also, you can have all this information about the brain and still sometimes be the mean mom, ‘cos you are having a bad day and you can’t shake the blues or you’ve run out of time and you have Cocopops stuck to the soles of your feet constantly and it is Winding You Up. ARGH! Those days happen, but you still aim to do best by your child’s brain.

But to actively CHOOSE disconnection over connection with your children – that makes me think not enough parents know this shizzle.

(Sidenote- the article claims a bit of science itself, the “fact” that nagging works. I have spent alot of time looking into this in an attempt to find the source of this claim, I’ve even emailed the researcher, and only ever get ultimately directed to the Daily Mail. Not a single scientific journal has covered this piece of research and you can’t even find the original study, or even a reference to it, apart from in the world’s most crappy pop media. Plus the claim “nagging works” goes against everything neuroscience is telling us about relationships. So can we just chuck this claim out the window?)

So let’s get in to the good stuff.7 things about the brain that you can’t unknow…

I could choose ANY number of gamechanging brain things, but these are the seven that really struck me from an event I organised last week with Ruth Beaglehole, the founder of Nonviolent Parenting.

7 facts about the brain that could transform your parenting

 

1- Our brains can flip us from rational human to grunting ape in a couple of seconds.

The brain is a mega complicated thing. (Ha, that sentence – I can hear the squeak of the chair as my neuroscientist readers squirm!!) But let’s simplify it for a sec. Humans essentially have three brains that make up their brain. Our early brain, the first brain we got, is a bit of an animal – almost purely focused on survival. Then we evolved a bit, and on our way to our higher brain, get a midbrain, a bridge between our survival brain and our rational, analytical, poetic, artistic brain. This higher brain is also where all of our ability to empathise is located.

You know the phrase “fight, flight, or freeze” – that is what happens when all of our thought process sinks back down to our survival brain. When triggered into a big emotion, or when panicked by an emergency situation, we take a dive down to this lower brain and it is common for all rational thought to leave us.

This simplified brain picture is important for a couple of reasons:

When our kids experience big emotions, trying to bring them out of it with logic (Hey, don’t worry about it! I’ll make another cheese toasty!) will commonly not work, and will commonly only make the child feel more isolated, as though you don’t understand the bigness of what she is experiencing. When your child is in their lower brain, when they are little this is often, they need you to be present, to be with them, as their survival (all their brain is thinking about!) rests on you being close.  We can also help them make the transition back to their higher brain – see number two.

But the second reason this 3 brain image is important is for our ability to parent wisely. If we are panicked by something (in a rush or external pressures) or triggered by a big emotion (something that child has said or done has pushed a button and made you see red!) where do our thoughts come from? Yep, the lower brain. We sink there and, lemme tell you, nothing good comes from there when you are parenting! That’s when we blow our top, or say something to shame or threaten, or just act like a big ridiculous chimp.

Our job as a parent is to keep pulling ourselves up from our brain’s urge to take a dive!

2- Regulation is key.

At one point during the Nonviolent Parenting Workshop, Ruth said “And this, THIS, is the work of the parent” – we all shuffled to the edge of our seats, desperate to hear the silver bullet. “The work of the parent is REGULATION.” If we focus on one thing, if we can only focus on one thing, our job is to keep ourselves regulated – in this higher brain. Because if in the face of our children’s emotions, actions and words, we can keep our empathy neurons firing (and they are ONLY in our higher brain) we will be able to provide what they need from us. (What do they need from us?? See number 6!)

Once we have entered a disregulated state, it is hard to come back from.

So actually we need to get real good at listening to our bodies and trusting the signals we are getting, the warning signs that tell us we are about to sink into disregulation.

My warning signs are a fastly beating heart, short breath. This tells me I need to tap into my Regulation ToolBox. I am an auditory regulator. So I play music and say a mantra over and over under my breath.

We are also here to help our kids understand their warning signs. There is sometimes a clue in what people do when they are in a disregulated state.

If you fight and move your body when overwhelmed, you are possibly a movement regulator and doing something physical – punching something or having bath- will help.

If you swear and scream or sigh then you may be an oral regulator and singing or chewing gum might help.

Do you pull at things, your hair or your top? You may be a touch regulator and it might help to have a stress ball or pat your pet.

If you do a death stare or need people to look at you, you may be a visual regulator and it may help to have a favourite painting you can turn to, or a book of photos to look through.

Getting our heads around what is in our own, and our child’s regulation toolbox, and knowing when we need to turn to it, can save some really shameful crap happening.

3- Everything gets wired in.

Oh, gawd, this one. Our brains are amazing. And awful. They never forget. Every word, every action, every experience gets wired in somewhere in the brain. If things happen every now and then, it still goes in there. Obviously, it changes the brain less than when things happen often. When things happens often, say your child never knows when you are gonna erupt at them, their brain will be wiring itself up to protect itself from harm, to do what it needs to do around you, and possibly others, for the rest of life.

We all shed a few tears at this revelation. And even more at the next.

4-  It is never too late.

Even though everything gets wired in, it is never too late.

Because; neuroplasticity.

Whilst everything is in there, the brain continues to rewire until the very day we die. It is ABSOLUTELY possible to change the effect we have on our children and help them wire their brains in a healthy way. It is possible, as an adult, to observe that we are wired up for insecurity or anger or distrust, and to begin the work of rewiring. I’ve mentioned this book a few times, but the book 4 Ways to Click by Amy Banks is the most excellent and readable thing I have read on neuroplasticity and relationships.

The significance of neuroplasticity is that no matter our worst parenting moments, no matter what has gone down for our kids, no matter the shame and punishment that’s been dished out, kindness can always win.7 facts about the brain that could transform your parenting

5- What goes in, comes out.

A little task for you to do in the next 5 seconds – have a think about all the things you want your child to be when they grow up. Here’s mine. My honest list:

kind
empathetic
able to connect with people
to trust herself
to love herself

Guess what?

If I want those things out, I have to put them in!  It is literally how the brain wires itself!

Lists like “Reasons I’m the Mean Mom” completely ignore this fact about the brain. People think they are doing the tough love thing in order to make their child kind.

Oh!

It s the opposite of how it works. You simply CAN’T think that raising your child with severe consequences, with anger, with micro controlling, is going to result in a kind adult.

The only way a brain learns kindness is to experience it.

The only way my child will learn to trust herself is if I trust her.

It is that simple.

6- Empathy cells grow only by our brains receiving empathy

One of the characteristics that has been really delved into in recent neuroscience is empathy. I guess that’s because people realise that if humans could be raised with more empathy our world would be a far better place to live. There has been some incredible work on empathy to show that we have empathy centres in our brains, a little hub that is added to and built up every time we receive empathy. And knocked down a little every time empathy is not given, and shame and punishment given instead.

Read more about empathy and in particular empathy blockers here. 

7- Anger is an important state.

Firstly, anger is never just anger, but unmet needs.

Dan Sigels “H.A.L.T” is helpful – is your child hungry, angry, lonely or tired? It is a good one as it recognises that needs are not just physical, but that some of our BIGGEST reactions can come from emotional needs that aren’t met.

Anger is also a good thing. The impetus to ask ourselves what is really going on, what can we change.

Anger also gives children the chance to learn – to figure our problem solving. If we try and immediately quench all anger, what do they learn?

Anger also gives us the opportunity to let our child know that we love them unconditionally, that we accept them 100%. I love this quote from Gordon Neufeild, author of the incredible, highly recommended book Hold On To Your Kids. 

“Unconditional parental love is the indespensible nutrient for the child’s healthy emotional growth. The first task is to create space in the child’s heart for the certainty that she is precisely the person the parents want and love. She does not have to do anything or be any different to earn that love – in fact, she cannot do anything, since that love cannot be won or lost…The child can be ornery, unpleasant, whiny, uncooperative, and plain rude, and the parent still lets her feel loved. Ways have to be found to convey the unacceptability of certain behaviors without making the child herself feel unaccepted. She has to be able to bring her unrest, her least likable characteristics to the parent and still receive the parent’s absolutely satisfying, security-inducing unconditional love.”

Understanding where anger comes from, what role it can play can hugely impact our response to it.

***

Eep, I feel I could go on but I have actually been writing ALL DAY!!!!!!

Just quickly though, I do want to say that everything that applies to the child applies to us too. Our brains are the same. Human Brains, y’know? They require kindness and empathy. And the best person to deliver that is us!! We must be kind to ourselves. Give ourselves a break. Forgive ourselves if we’ve flipped our lid. Be compassionate about the fact that we haven’t had this insight about the brain so have been proudly parenting meanly. And encouraging to ourselves, remembering, It Is Never Too Late!

This is my latest video – it goes into all this brain stuff PLUS it includes another 4 letter word that can really help us with our desire to parent well.

Finally, I would love to hear from you. If you have had any mountain topping moments, I would love to give you a big juicy high five. And if you found this helpful, and want to help spread these insights, why not share this article somewhere?

Parenting

Rants in the Dark (Parenting; the dark side and the dawn of change!)

16 March, 2017

Here’s something I struggle with the most as an online parent-y person:

How to share the tougher parts of motherhood without either harming my children’s dignity, undermining my family’s privacy, or making people worry for us.

But sharing the tricky stuff is such an important thing to do. It’s why I love being with Channel Mum- a team of vloggers whose very tagline is “the honest face of motherhood”- and why I LOVE the groundswell of realness happening at the moment.

I was recently sent Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes and as I’ve been reading it, watched it smash into the Number One spot in the book charts. And I’m cheering for a bunch of reasons.

Rants in the dark Emily Writes

Rants in the dark Emily Writes

Firstly, it is hilarious and I love to laugh. There is a chapter, It Has Been A Day, where I fully oinked with laughing so hard. Secondly, Emily manages to share stories from her family life without pushing the boundaries of sharing. Do you know what I mean? All that stuff above, the stuff that is so hard to do, she manages. I didn’t wince once on behalf of her kids. Some of the other well known internet people sharing the real side of their life don’t quite pull this off, there’s stuff on the internet that is gonna make their kids cry once they can read, and I think that’s a problem. Emily manages to tell the funny or tough stories without compromising her children’s dignity. Thirdly, it normalises the intense feelings of motherhood – the epic highs and the I-absolutely-suck-at-this lows.

There’s another reason I think Rants in the Dark is an important book, and that’s to do with making the work of the parent a real, valid, legitimate thing. If we want stuff to change in society, if we want better parental leave and flexi working and funding for families – policies that give parents the support they need to be the best, kindest parents they can be, we need to be clear about how central a pillar parenthood is.

Society is a community building and one of the pillars that holds the whole thing up is the way that children are raised. If that pillar is strong and protected, the whole building stays standing. When it is used as a punching bag, it gets chipped and cracked. When the pillar is forgotten about, it begins to crumble. History shows that time and again we fail to remember how the whole of society rests on this post, then someone comes along with a spray can and scrawls KEVIN WOZ HERE on it and a few years later society isn’t being held up by that central pillar but by two new hastily erected walls built out of hate and fear.

If we want a fairer, more empathetic world, we need parents to understand that their work is the Important Work and we need governments to get that raising children with care and empathy is critical for a world without war and terror.

This is why I love books about parenting, why I eat up their pages, both advisory books about child development and also the records of life with young ones like Rants in the Dark – they validate the experience of parents, carve out space, they put yellow tape around the pillar to protect it. Rants in the Dark says “all the things you are feeling are okay, parenting is a big deal, a big messy deal, but its important, let’s support each other.” It is emotional and hilarious and inspiring all at once.

There is one bit in there that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, and it is the pop at Natural Parenting. It is so far off the wall that I’m sure Emily didn’t see it as a pop, just a funny play on the Gwenyth Paltrow brand of wellness, but as I read it I thought of all the mothers I know that are big into natural health, who do spend all their earthly treasures on whole foods and quite mystical remedies, and I wondered if Emily knew she might alienate them. This would be a huge enormous shame as Emily is CLEARLY a natural parent in my interpretation of the term, ha! Someone who trusts their gut, trusts their children, sees children as 100% human and worthy of dignity and respect, validates their child’s needs and priorities attachment and connection.

I had a bit of a chat with Emily about that chapter and she says “I would be devastated if it alienated anyone, it’s only meant to be a laugh at nobody’s expense. It’s completely off the wall for that reason!”

Buy Emily’s book here at a discount with my affiliate link and we are all winners!

***GIVEAWAY***

I’m doing a giveaway of Rants in the Dark (kiwis only, I am so sorry, I will be the first to do a worldwide giveaway when this book goes global!) over on Facebook. Click here to enter!
And, just before you go, here is my latest video!

Feminism

10 Everyday Acts of Feminism

8 March, 2017

It is International Women’s Day 2017!

Like other years, today I am hosting an IWD blog link up. I love reading about the inspiring women in your lives or the ways you strive for gender equality. Please head to the bottom of this post to add your link. Remember to visit the other writers!

Here is my own contribution for IWD 2017 – 10 Everyday Acts of Feminism
10 EVERYDAY ACTS OF FEMINISM10 everyday acts of feminism

The last thing women need is a list of stuff THEY need to do to right the world. More unpaid labour, THANKS LUCY. Some of this might inspire you, and I hope it does. But I didn’t write this list so you felt you have to do more work. I write this in the hope that you might pass this on to the men in your life too. Not because we need rescuing but because gender inequality is a shared burden and we all need to fight to make the world more fair.

1- Get your head around the terms “privilege” and “intersectionality” I say this as someone in the process of getting to grips with these terms! It is a long, hard journey. This is no Woe Is Me moment, don’t get me wrong, but it a tiring journey dismantling some of the framework in my mind. I grew up pretty poor, so still carry that blueprint around – this makes it hard to be told about my privilege. But the truth is – as a white person, I have no idea how hard it is to live in an extremely racist world. Over this last year I have been confronted and triggered and now want to be the kind of feminist who knows I can’t speak for all women. I don’t think I’ll be able to edit out all my privilege – even this post includes stuff that involves privilege (I realise that not all women will be able to cause mischief in a shop, for example) – but recognising white privilege is an important first step. Here is a little intro – 7 things women of colour want white feminists to know.

2- You don’t have to be the voice for the voiceless – just pass the mic. My mission this year is to promote the writing of women who aren’t like me. Do you live or work in an arena where you can pass the mic? Do you organise conferences or events? Do you curate stuff? Make a deliberate effort to get a variety of women’s voices heard.

3- Dive into the art of women. Read books by women. Buy paintings by women. Go to shows by women. There is huge discrimination in these fields – apparent at award ceremonies and stats for exhibitions. When we support female artists and writers we rebalance the scales. Check out these 59 novels by female authors put together by Sacraparental.

4- Support the work of women in industry. Women who are pioneering with their presence in certain industries talk of being discriminated against because of male bias. If you know a female mechanic, take your car to her. Get a female crew to paint your house. A female sparky or take your tech business to a woman. Help women get better footholds in industries that are hard to be a woman in.

5- Look for and celebrate every body shape. I recently saw the documentary EMBRACE. It is a great film, if you can get to a screening, or host a screening, please do it. My one big takeaway was how I need to LOOK for different body shapes and skin colours in order to celebrate the full diversity of womanhood. No one is going to hand me this on a platter, no one is going to normalise diversity apart from us. (Normalising diversity?? It sounds like a misnomer, an impossibility but I beleive in us!) I loved this photo celebration of fat love. Simply letting our eyeballs rest on this stuff can reset our own minds towards diversity in body shape.

6- Curate your children’s books and media. I am generally pretty wide open when it comes to loving what my kids love and going with the flow. But there is a BIG problem in the world of kids books – they are dominated by male characters and when females do feature they are princesses. Love what your children love, celebrate all their joys, of course, but also ask them questions. “Why are the three little pigs AND the big bad wolf all boys??” and take the opportunity to fill their bookshelves, and your local library bookshelves, with strong, powerful female characters. (When Ramona was really little I actually used to cut and paste parts of the fairy tales to make them less sexist!)

7- Don’t laugh at sexist, ableist or racist jokes. It’s awkward when you don’t laugh, but what is a little akwardness when you are trying to change the world? I once went to a comedy show and their was some awful homopohobia in there. I told the comedian afterwards that he crossed a line and it was pretty awks but I thought “phew, at least I will never see him again!” A few weeks later a friend bought him over to meet us, she didn’t know we’d already met in the smoky aftermath of his homophobia. OMG. A great way to up the pain is to always follow up their joke by asking “What do you mean?” – hopefully the discomfort of having to explain their prejudism will open their eyes.

8- Make a noise about the little things. When you go to the shop and you see ridiculous gendered messages on the kids clothing, re-arrange it all and then share your work on Facebook. Make a fuss. It might seem like a chore but I swear this kind of mischief is fun!

9- I’m going to take that mischief to the next level now: Walk around with a marker pen. When you see a painfully stereotyped advert, scribble on it. It feels SO GOOD. I have done this a few times in my life, but don’t often admit to it as I’m sure it is a bit illegal. One time I wrote “The 1950’s called and they want their sexist stereotypes back” on an advert on the train. (See vandalism for my daughter’s sake.) This might seem a bit frivolous but this kind of micro civil disobedience was present in the suffragette movement and the civil rights movement.

10- Talk about emotional labour. Let’s get that phrase “emotional labour” in everyone’s minds. It is the mental burden that often falls to women. The oil on mechanism of life that should be everybody’s job but largely falls to the woman in the household. The dental appointments for the kids, the birthday cards for extended family, the hummous for the dinner party, the Christmas plans, the World Book Day costume sourced. Have a read of this for some good examples and thoughts on emotional labour. Send it to the adults in your household. Even the right-on feminist dads. Could you have a frank discussion about this? I feel like it is a MASSIVELY important thing, because it is an insidious sexism that will only get addressed through hard conversation.

Would absolutely LOVE to hear about your every day little acts of subversion. Please tell me in the comments!

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY BLOG LINK UP
Here is the 2017 International Women’s Day Blog Link Up – Please add your link AND go around and visit the other writers and comment. The best part of this every year is meeting other women who want to change the world. You might need to use something like bit.ly to shorten your links as my tool below has a problem with long URLS!

Parenting

The great Night Weaning post

28 February, 2017

I’ve been planning this night weaning article in my head for about a week and the whole thing is basically hung on song lyrics:

    • “All night long, all night! ooh! All night Loo-oo-ong.” (Matter of factly, perhaps even brightly. Breastfeeding all night long is just the way it is for some of us. Thanks Lionel)
    • “Night Weaning! Deserve a quiet night” (sung with melancholy. For when you are fed up of the nightly milk bar. Thanks REM.)
    • “Night weaning, night wea-niiiing. We know how to do it!!!!” (Beejees. This is when you still believe in yourself and your ability of getting a complete nights sleep.
    • “BOOBY BOOBY BOOBY BOOBYYYYY!!! Aaaahaaahhaaaahaaahaaaaah.”  (Your kid, in the middle of the night. Louder than Kaiser Chiefs.)
    • “Morning has broken. My boobs are broken.  Everything’s broken. Like the first bird. Which is probably broken tooooo.” (This is a hymn. These aren’t even really a bit like the words but night weaning is hard and you are more tired than the person that first ever wrote “Morning has broken like the first morning” because really, that person was tired, to write morning twice like that.)

Let’s crack on!

I haven’t really written about night weaning before. The closest I got was Weaning a Breastfeeding devotee, last year, when Juno (3) and I made an agreement to cut down the breastfeeds. Our weaning journey began with Juno giving me an ultimatum – either I give her booboo or I go to Pak N Save (NZ’s budget supermarket); she didn’t like the idea of weaning any more than I like grocery shopping. She had leverage. We found a peace though, in good conversation, and Juno asked me to “write it down” – I scrawled our agreement down on a piece of paper and put it somewhere safe.

Writing about night weaning though, jeepers, it feels like a huge, very personal, subject! My peeps, Channel Mum, have pulled together such an array of sleep stories that show just how different each family is.  However recently lots of you have asked for our story. So first off here is Ramona and Juno’s story, in video form. And then I am going to share everything I have come to believe about night weaning!

1- Firstly, just so we are all on the same page, breastfeeding all night is pretty normal. The very moment I realised that I became SO MUCH more calm about my baby’s night wakings. I was a new mum, in a bit of a stew, trying to figure everything out and the first question from everyone’s lips was “Is she sleeping through the night?” I began to feel like there was a direct correlation between her night wakings and the quality of my parenting. Huh? Babies are meant to sleep all night? So, if she isn’t, does that mean I am doing it all wrong?

Nope! No, no, nononono. I don’t understand whhhhhy people ask that question when we are DESIGNED to wake up in the night! It is healthy for babies to wake in the night! In more ancient circumstances it would have keep babies alive. These days they wake in order to get their emotional and nutritional needs met.

Once I realised that I covered my clock so I couldn’t see and keep track of my baby’s night wakings. Soon enough I just fed her in my sleep and ended up getting a pretty good sleep.

So, let’s be clear:

Breastfeeding at night is healthy and normal. 

2- The point at which you night wean will be different for every family. Some babies are happy to night wean early. Ramona night weaned at around 2 years old (not exactly early but with hindsight it feels early!) possibly because I was pregnant and my milk wasn’t flowing so abundantly. Juno wouldn’t have a BAR of night weaning until she was three. (I continued to feed them both together for some time – see breastfeeding older children together and our experience of tandem breastfeeding here.)

But, on top of your baby’s readiness, there is your readiness as a mother to consider.

If breastfeeding all night is making you feel all out of sorts and impacting your ability to be kind and empathetic in the day time, I would say it is important to consider night weaning. When you are ready, firm in your mind, it will be easier for you to night wean.

Only you can figure out if night weaning should happen now or later.  If you are feeling pressure from society or a health visitor or extended family to night wean and that’s why you want to do it, it is probably not a good reason. Jump on Facebook and search “breastfeeding older children” in order to find a group of encouraging mothers who will help you be the mother you want to be, deep down.

If you know within yourself that it is a good time to night wean, say you have to head back to work or lack of sleep is making your struggle or whatever (it’s personal!), then there are a few things that can help:

3- Validate, even in the depths of night. I am so bad in the night. My night time brain is a monster. Until I come to the surface I am quite the punitive witch! “Will you JUST settle down and be quiet!” And then I wake up a little more and am like “Oh, I can see you are upset, did you have a bad dream?”

If I was awake enough I made sure to validate both children whilst night weaning; “You are sad as you wish you could have booboo. Booboo in the morning, okay?” I think it makes a huge difference for a child to have their upset feelings validated by us – it shows we understand how important breastfeeding is to them.

4- Breastfeeding at night is providing comfort and security and connection to your child. So when you head down the road of night weaning, be prepared for higher needs in their waking hours. No one really talks about this. But it is a big deal. Have a plan that takes this into consideration. Have a lot of connection time with your kid, call on extra support so you have the time and patience to meet their needs. Get someone to cook you meals for a few days. It is a huge change for your child, plan for it like it is.

5- Don’t leave them. There is no need to do a short, sharp shock of absence. You can absolutely still night wean and be present to them. I think this is a beautiful, modern progression in what we know about night weaning. It used to be felt that mothers had to go away, or hand over night time to someone else, or let a kid cry and cry without them, in order to night wean. It’s just not the case these days. We have hundreds of stories available to us of mothers who chose to night wean and stay present and connected to their child, even through the hardness of it. Although, of course, if you have another loving care giver on hand to offer presence, cuddlesm and support than that is a winner.

6- You can still breastfeed them off to sleep. Night weaning doesn’t have to involve stopping breastfeeding anywhere near the bed which is what some gentle night weaning advice involves. You can stop feeding all night long and STILL breastfeed them to sleep. With Juno I was just really clear about the boundary. At the going-to-sleep feed I’d say – this is your last breastfeed tonight okay darling? Booboo next in the morning. And she would go to sleep on the breast and then that would be it all night.

7- Talk it through with your child. Let your child know why you are doing it, see if they have any ideas for how to make it easier. For Juno, part of the puzzle for her was me writing it down. As if it helped her have closure or something. Your child is never too young to be communicated with respectfully. It might be a tricky conversation, but you never know where these conversation end up going, and how helpful they can be for your child.

8- You don’t have to night wean in order to have someone else take over the bedtime routine. Some people night wean as they want an evening off now and then. I am going to put it out there that your child can still breastfeed to sleep alongside lots of other ways of going to sleep. When I am home Juno has breastmilk. When I am not home she has cuddles and back tickles from Tim. When she is at Grandma’s she goes to sleep with a story. It isn’t confusing to her. She gets that she can’t drink milk from these peeps.

~

I would love to hear your stories of night weaning. It can feel so immense both for mama and child. I really believe that night weaning can be done in a gentle, respectful way. Sometimes parenting is hard and we have to make calls that feel upsetting for one or both of us, but it can still be done with empathy and connection at the very heart.

Lots of love x x

writing

YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS! (Me, you and clickbait)

23 February, 2017

It has been so long since I blurted out a few of there things spinning around in my brain, without really trying to make much sense. Can I do that for a bit?  Today I was killing time in the river while my latest Youtube uploaded (I should have been working, but my entire computer shuts down for six hours whilst I’m uploading a Youtube video!) thinking about how hard it is to create stuff on the internet and then feel completely out of control of whether people will even SEE it, and how far I’m willing to go to get my stuff seen.

I began thinking about how the internet could be better organised so that the screaming clickbait didn’t drown out the thoughtful polemics.

Imagine if the internet was sorted like a library. Alphabetical surnames. You could turn up at the exact point in the aisle and see all the works by your one favourite writer, or you could run your fingers along the spines and select something because of the hot pink typeface. It’d be orderly and calm but you would have to sneak your snacks in, which is a bit of  bummer. Also, you’d probably get people changing their names so they could get their blogs seen. Everyone would be Aaamelia Aaaardvark.

They’d have to put an end to that.

Perhaps it could be organised alphabetically by online business name.  It would be like the phone book, where there are a million business that have come up with a name that begins with numbers and a letter A. 1234AAAXylophone Makers!

That wouldn’t be any better I suppose.

I don’t really have any suggestions for The Internet. (I’d love to know who I’m talking to when I say The Internet.)

But I do have suggestions for Creators. (That is what The Internet calls people like me – who write and make videos and generally post things online.)

And that is – put your content in the title and trust that people who want to read it will read it!

I try to keep to this, although I know there have been times where I’ve put something really WOWZERY!!! in the title in the hope people will get an important message about connecting with their kids. (See The One Word You Need To Be A Positive Parenting Whizz.) (Oh and there was also YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT SHE TURNED THIS BREADBIN INTO hahahahahahahah – I mean, for reals, can you Adam and Eve it??!!!)

If we were all really clear about what we were putting out there in the world I feel like the internet would be much easier to navigate! We’d be less drawn in to time wasting things and we’d have more time to read about the areas of learning we WANT to read, or we’d have more of a chance of actually getting OFF the internet and watching clouds float along a blue sky.

I really don’t want to be responsible for sending someone into unfulfilling internet rabbit holes instead of poking sticks into real life rabbit holes with their children and all the joy that comes of that.

It’s not an easy vow to keep.

And I consciously break it these days on one of my platforms.

The big gnarly underworld of Youtube.

Places like Youtube massively reward clickbait. They don’t even care what is inside the video, they just care how many people are clicking the video. So here is where I drop my ethical code somewhat. My Youtube video titles seem clickbait-y. I try and make people want to click them. But here is the difference – clickbait doesn’t ever deliver, whereas I try REALLY hard to. The content of my video is relevant to the title and I bust my gut to try and make sure the content of the video is good quality…

Exhibit A, today’s video:

Youtube is a bit of a mess. And if creators want their videos to be seen by people they have to play by Youtube’s messy rules.

I also figure that if people are hanging about on Youtube already, I am not driving them away from stuff they really want to be doing with their lives by having them check out my video! I hope that they will click because they think WTF? And then they get a big ole lesson in normalising breastfeeding!Me, you and clickbait

I’m not apologising, I’m trying to be conscientious about my clickbait code. But I am justifying myself to you, because I care about you and the relationship we have in this little internet community.

When it comes to myself as a consumer and participant of The Internet, I try hard to curate the things that come into my view. I have got rid of my Facebook Feed and now only use the groups I am a part of to see what they are reading and doing. I use Pocket Hits to read the latest long form and once a week I read all the news on the Guardian. I use my subscribe page on Youtube, and have bookmarked my favourite blogs. All this means I don’t have swarms of information coming at me every day. It’s not perfect – it also means I might miss some important stuff and am less likely to find a new creator to fall in love with.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you navigate a clickbaity world? Do you have a way of steering clear of things that are irrelevant to you or time wasting? Does curating your internet so rigidly like I try to mean we’ll just end up in big echo chambers?

Natural Beauty

Freedom Face – join the beautiful resistance

14 February, 2017

Yeooow! My new book Freedom Face hits the shelves today and I hope it hits the self-hate of the mainstream beauty industry in the guts too!Freedom Face

It’s not about hairy armpits, although that IS in there, and you DEFINITELY don’t need hairy armpits to read it! But I feel like body hair is a great example of where choice has been taken away from women and we’ve been forced to accept a ridiculous beauty ideals.

Also, I do just still think it’s funny. I must be the hairiest beauty columnist Cosmopolitan has ever published, and here I am writing a beauty guide. Mwwwahahaha.

Freedom Face is about shaking off the shackles of that beauty industry in a few different ways- the expensive products we get locked into, the toxic ingredients that are often in them, and the self-hate it perpetuates. There are recipes for everything from shower gel to deodorant to lipstick and mascara, along with my own story and some commentary. Copy of FREEDOM FACE (1)

You can grab Freedom Face in THREE different ways, all of them worldwide in any currency:

Through my e-store as an Epub $9 USD (if you want to read on an ebook reading app like Kobi or a Nook) or

through my e-store as a PDF $8 USD (if you want to open on a laptop or tablet and possibly print out – it is a little cheaper so you have some spare to cover ink costs) or

on Amazon Kindle $9.97 USD

I’ve also put together some packages for people who want to bite off a whole hunk of beauty resistance…

So the first bundle, Beauty Rebel Bundle One,  includes both my e-books, Freedom Face AND my first ebook Happy Hair AND access to my Hair Detox e-course which is packed with video tutorials and worksheets to really help you get to grips with your natural, shampoo free hair.

Beauty Rebel Bundle

The next bundle, Beauty Rebel Bundle Two, includes all of the above AND one to one support from me. This is aimed at people who don’t have much support around them for making these kinds of beauty choices, it is some serious hand holding from me. It includes two skype chats that you can cash in whenever you like and email support. I’d LOVE to connect with some of you this way. Beauty Rebel Bundle Two

(If you have already pre-ordered Freedom Face on Kindle, no worries, you can still get the bundles minus Freedom Face and the Freedom Face cost – Beauty Bundle One and Beauty Bundle Two here.)

I would absolutely love any help in getting the word out there about Freedom Face. I feel more excitement and more nervous anticipation about this than any ebook of mine so far! It is huge, for starters, I also feel a bit vulnerable too, as if I am laying it all bare. If you like it, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon and tell your friends and share this link on social media. Every single little mention of my ebooks makes a huge difference to me! I am also doing a Facebook live on 14th Feb 9pm British time – that is 10AM 15th Feb NZ time! Would love to join in and happy to answer all pressing questions!

THANK YOU! I feel so very grateful to you all, I wouldn’t be here getting to write about things I am passionate about if it wasn’t for so many of you encouraging me. THANK YOU!

Here is today’s Youtube video – it is all about being one hairy mutha!

There is a movement afoot that says every person is valuable and worthy and that the world is more beautiful when wobbles and leg fuzz and different skin tones and hair types are celebrated.
I hope you’ll join in.

Natural beauty guide - recipes, experiments and stories from Cosmo columinst