Ok so admittedly, what I am about to talk about is a mish mash of ramblings that have been like a tennis match going on in my mind since my almost 10 year old made some statements that floored me.
“I am going to ask Santy for a fitbit!” Cadhla-Rose announced as I was cooking spaghetti for our dinner. I think I probably paused for longer then I should have before I answered her with a loud and concerned “WHY?”
With that statement she certainly stopped me in my tracks.
Almost Ten! Almost… Why in the world did she want to know how many steps she was walking or running in the day?
It brought me back to being about 13, when I used to stand in front of my mirrored wardrobe, crying because I thought I was fat. I wasn’t. I was a normal, healthy child. I just wasn’t one of the skinny ones. Spice Girls had just hit the charts and I idolised them. Five members of the best girl gang ever, all individual and beautiful in their own right and even though it should have made me realise that you can be different to be beautiful – All I could see was that they were all skinny and gorgeous.
Cadhla-Rose has always loved fashion and she does have a pretty good sense of style. However, at age 3, if she didn’t like what I dressed her in, she would strip off and appear at the front door in her own outfit which for the most part did not fit the days weather forecast… Always trying to brighten up the day with colours even on the days she probably needed thermals. Then trying to explain to her preschool teachers, who would glare disapprovingly when we arrived late at school as a result of negotiating what she wanted to wear.
Why did I think those days were tough? I would take the crazy outfit choices over the body image worries with open arms.
So what is it all about? We’re all sold an image by the media, and young women and children are taken in by this and want to conform – we’ve all done it, so why are our children any different? I think most of us do care quite a lot about how we look. Our weight, the clothes we wear, the condition of our skin and hair… Our children model themselves on us, more than we could ever imagine or more than they’ll ever admit.
It is so difficult to break the cycle. I like to encourage my daughters to be individual, to be original and to just be themselves! We have always told them they are gorgeous because (well they are) and also, if you’re going to have a self-fulfilling prophecy, we might as well make it an over the top positive one.
Trying to push now more then ever details about body positivity so I have listed a few things I will be doing below…
- Listening – When a child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then it is serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a little bit more.
- Technology – This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed and nearly all kids have free use of the internet. Thankfully Cadhla-Rose only seems to use her iPod for music and Netflix but I know the time will come when she asks for certain accounts – What ever they maybe at that time. I read a horrendous statistic in an article that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yet we can educate our children to perhaps follow appropriate people. People who promote kindness!
- Self affirmations – About a year ago, one of my best friend’s said to me that we must believe in ourselves and love ourselves first. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself daily something incredible. I thought it sounded crazy, but it was so spot on. I recently bought Daily affirmation cards for the girls from Monkinya and the girls also write out something special about themselves each day. When we have a down day we can get them out and read them.
- Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically. We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look and what they are good at.
- Food – An essential part of life is eating. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food and also by having some treats. Let them see you ‘treat yo self’ to a big burger and fries. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
- Self Love – I cant preach that I am remotely good at this one. I do know that it is super important. We must try and show that we are brave, confident and happy in our skin, easier said than done, I know. While researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (Helly the hypocrit) it got me thinking that we should try to be more confident for the sake of our children. I think the more we do it, the more we will believe it. Remembering that our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!
I hate to imagine my three girls being unhappy with their perfect little bodies but I think we have to accept at times that this will be the case. It is about us dealing with their questions straight away, reassuring them, boosting their confidence and making sure they know they can come to us with any concerns they have no matter how silly they may think the problem is.
If they could only go through life feeling as beautiful as how we see them…
Love, Helly x
Last night was hard. These past weeks have been stressful. This time of the year my husband is pretty much a goner (everyone else gets excited about apple launches) I literally hate them!
Trying to be both a stay at home and a part time working Mammy has gotten the better of me. I have started to feel like I am not doing my best at home with my littles or at my job.
I can’t dedicate my ALL to one thing. It’s like that saying “Jack of all trades, Master or none!”
After getting up to work early these past few days (earlier then the kids) I am starting to feel defeated. I am lacking “me time” and I have become overwhelmed. I am tired. I am sleep-deprived. I wanted a clean home. I wanted to not have any jobs to do. I wanted zero Mammy responsibilities.
I began raising my voice at my kids because their rooms were not clean. Late for school. There was a pile of laundry in Aoibhie’s room that needed to be folded and put away. My downstairs is a mess as they left all the toys scattered across every corner of the house. Cadhla-Rose was complaining she couldn’t sleep because Aoibhie was kicking her … (on purpose I might add) so of course she couldn’t sleep. Aoibhie was screaming at the top of her lungs because she wanted Cadhla-Rose to pay attention to her. They were testing my limits for sure. I asked my Mr O for help because I was feeling weak and just over it. And that was my breaking point…
I just wanted to be alone.
Then while alone I imagined I had no kids.
If you asked me 10 years ago if I wanted to be a mother I would instantly tell you yes. It really is the only thing I ever wanted. A wife. A Mammy. Loved by those special people closest to me. If you asked me last night? Last night I would have screamed NO.
A girl I work with asked me, “how are all your girls doing?” and “How do you handle life with all three?” My reply was, “You do what you have to and it is mental some days but every Mammy survives.”
But ‘Am I surviving?’
She is single. She doesn’t need to hear about my struggles. My many struggles. What possible struggles could she have going on at home? None… I thought.
A part of me envied her a little.
Life without responsibility… Imagine? No responsibilities.
So last night I walked away from it all and closed my door and locked myself in the bathroom. I cried it all out. Yes I let it all out. Alone. In a bathtub filled with a mermaid bath bomb which was slightly cold as I hopped in after Aoibhie hoped out! It all got to me and I didn’t know how to handle it but to simply just cry.
So much went through my mind and I started thinking why having kids is hard.
The thought of waking up when your own body woke you up. Spontaneous date nights and weekends away with Mr O. The luxury of finishing a meal without it going cold or being handled by everyone in your home before it hits your lips. Not worrying about anyone only yourself!
Imagining what that freedom felt like…
So much went through my head. Every Mammy with children at some point must feel like this. When they are at their most fragile state. I know having children is a choice, not something that inevitably happened to me without my consent. Some days it is hard though….
I don’t have all the answers. I am not perfect. Patience was not a gift that I was given and having anxiety means I often find myself crying like I did last night. As I am still learning everyday as I go. I am imperfect in my own ways!
After being alone for some time I began to feel better. I wiped my tears, put on new pajamas and opened the door. I went to Cadhla-Rose’s room and found Aoibhie sleeping alongside her in the bed. They looked so peaceful and then I felt the guilt running through my body. How could I want a life without them. I heard a small voice that said, “I Love you Mammy”, it was Aoibhie who was still awake. I went to hug her and told her how I was sorry for yelling at her earlier. It was just me and her awake and the house was quiet and that was exactly what I wanted all along… except I now felt guilty.
That is the opposite of what I expected to feel. So I squeezed her tightly and hugged her one more time as I kissed her goodnight.
At that moment I realized I didn’t want to be without them. That being their Mammy was something I loved to be. They really do give me a daily purpose and everyday their giggles have me laughing like no other.
Three little girls who need me. Who love me and who I am grateful for and I will aim to enjoy the small moments in life that I have been taking for granted. In many ways children make you grow up. They make you want more in life and force you to experience the true meaning of love.
So today (because Sundays are great days to start resolutions)… I choose to look at all the positive and focus on all the happiness being a Mammy has brought me. It has changed my life for the better regardless of being sleep deprived and not knowing went to stop inhaling crumpets slathered in butter.
That life with my 3 girls is so much better.
Someday my girls won’t need me anymore. I want to look back at their childhood and I want to remember the good moments. I don’t want to regret anything I did or said.
Remembering that there are good moments in every day even if every day isn’t good!
We all have our highs and lows, imagining what being free is like… does not make us bad parents.
We are human after all.
Love, Helly x
Before I became a Mammy, I never really understood what being a Mammy meant. Honestly, how can we? We grow up watching our own Mammy’s making it look so easy and I guess we just think it all clicks into place the minute we give birth.
7 months on (who am I kidding?) – 10 years on and I just don’t think that is how it works.
Yes, some of it is natural, but a whole lot more of it is trial and error and I wish someone had told me that from the beginning. Maybe I would have cried less tears and felt a lot less guilt.
One thing we don’t have to learn as Mammy’s is how to love… That is one gift that is just instilled into us. A love that is impossible to explain!
I will never forget the time I was playing netball at a school tournament, I was around 10 years old at the time. It was cold and really early hours of the morning, my own Mam had worked a night shift and still managed to come home, get me organized and put on a ‘you got this face!’ Baring in mind that she had not been to sleep and it was pouring down with rain and so cold. That kind of cold that your face feel’s like it has been burnt.
I’m sure she never gave it a second thought and has maybe even forgotten, but the memory has stuck with me 24 years on. Looking back she could have easily gone for a snooze in the car or left me with one of the other Mam’s and gone home to sleep. I imagine she probably had to go back to work that evening but nothing was going to stop her from being there. Nothing was going to keep her from cheering me on.
Did she always do everything right? No, of course not. We all get it wrong and I’m sure there were dance recitals, parent meetings and parties that she would have missed out on. The point is that when I think back on my childhood, the moments I remember are ones like this. I remember her being there, cheering us on no matter what it was. Do we have photos of these moments? Not really. Any photos she did take, we were all missing heads and limbs anyway – Far from Insta Perfect!
The moments were what was important. The moments are the memories that stuck.
Pinterest birthday parties and all of the things we think make us good Mammy’s? They don’t amount to much in the long run. Gorgeous for photos – Yes.
Ultimately, it is us Mammy’s doing it for ‘The Gram’ or competing with our Mammy pals. I guarantee our little ones would much prefer a Mammy who is less worried about things being perfect. All they want is a Mammy in the moment.
It’s the hugs. It is knowing when to save the day and when to let them do things in their own time and in their own way. It is the one on one chats, or just taking the time to really listen. It is showing up when it really matters and sometimes even when it really doesn’t. It is believing in them and loving them even when they get it all wrong.
When they are parents themselves those are the things they will remember. Those are the things that will matter. They need to know that we didn’t have to learn how to do them. We just did them because that’s what Mammy’s do.
The next time you beat yourself up because you yelled, made a mistake or forgot something… Stop! Then go do something with them that is unforgettable.
Free unforgettable moments like giving them a hug or take time out and listen to them talk about something they love, whether you are interested or not.
Just be there.
In that moment.
Nobody can get everything right all the time and we certainly shouldn’t stress ourselves out by attempting to, but as long as we get a little of it right some of the time… that is what they will remember.