Having had baby girl #3 recently, I have spent the past five years receiving many a judgmental look, sigh or complaint about how and why we parent the way we do. I often shrug, possibly roll my eyes and move on… But after reading this post about sleep from the lovely Brittany, I decided a littlest to speak out would be good for the soul.
It’s secret that when you become a parent (or even pregnant), EVERY ONE has something to say and some advice or opinion to give.I love chatting to seasoned parents, grandparents, teachers, midwives etc and listening to things that have worked (or not worked) for them along their parenting journey and adventures but I am not a fan of being judged.
We’ve all heard them before…
“Eat chicken and egg whites and lots of water if you have severe morning sickness, it’s good for your body”
“C-section births are the easiest and less painful option”
“Your baby is sick because you didn’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed for long enough”
“Sugar is bad for your children and they should NEVER have any, especially at kids parties”
“You are too strict”
“They are too young to go to play school, they should rather be at home”
“Why won’t you let them watch TV all the time?”
“Your routine is too rigid, they shouldn’t be running your lives”
“You are going away without your kids, again?”
“Let them sleep in your bed, they are only small once”
“Shame, they shouldn’t be playing there all on their own”
“Don’t let them climb that, they will fall!”
“Don’t let them walk in a walking ring, it will affect their muscles”
“Take that dummy out, it’s bad for them!”
“They are doing too many activities for such a young child”
I could go on for days, but you get it…
Before I get started on how we parent and what works for us – my one and only simple reply to all of the above is – this is my child and I will do what is best for me, my child and our family. What YOU do for YOUR child is your decision, is wonderful, and I commend and support you (with no judgement)*
This is how we parent, because this is what works for us and our family:
When I eventually could stomach food during my Hyperemesis Gravidarum through pregnancy, I ate white rolls with cheese and pickles, salt and vinegar crisps and Coco-Cola.
I didn’t take one pregnancy vitamin or supplement because it would make me nauseous and get sick – I had three healthy births and healthy babies.
I had three emergency c-sections and if I hadn’t, either me or my baby were at risk and could have died. I had three major surgeries, lost a lot of blood and birthed three healthy baby girls.
I breastfed for 5 months, 6 weeks and 9 weeks because that is when my milk dried up and I couldn’t feed anymore. I introduced formula bottles within those time frames so that I could have a break during the day and get some sleep at night and MC could help. SJ was super healthy, EN had an immune deficiency and so far ZB is well.
My girls eat sugar as a treat – on the weekends, at play dates and parties. They don’t eat sugar during the week. We tried to avoid sugar on all levels and all it did was make our child be the first and last one at the sweetie table at every party – they became obsessive! All in moderation works for us.
My girls don’t drink fizzy drinks or juice. They drink water and as a treat can have ice tea, which we have no found a herbal sugar-free ice tea that they love! There are always exceptions with fruit juice or milkshakes at parties or as a holiday treat. They LOVE water!
We are strict – they used to get the odd smack on the bum or threat of a smack but now our girls have a time out in their showers in their bathrooms (the shower has her distractions in it) and it works! Our girls are mostly polite, obedient and well-behaved. They are kids and they are human, and they throw tantrums and sulk and have naughty streaks but they respond to our firm voices and discipline. No one wants to spend time with a brat and being strict is the only reason our girls behave the way they do.
SJ and EN started a play school from the age of 20 months and then progressed to Playgroup at age 2 and then on to Grade 000, 00 etc. They went and still go from 7.30/8am – 12/12.30pm every day and they absolutely love it. They have learnt so much, made special friends and have extreme fun. They are always stimulated at school and don’t get bored. They respond to a teacher figure a lot better than they do to me or MC trying to teach them at home. We have fun in the afternoons, weekends and holidays and that is special quality family time. They never cried settling in at a young age, and they didn’t get any sicker than your average child.
Our TV is switched off from Monday to Thursday. And their time is limited on weekends and holidays. They never ask for it during the week, it is all they have ever known. We are lucky to live in a warm climate so playing outside is an option all year round, they have a beautiful play room that they love, we organize weekly play dates and they have smooch fun without the TV during the week. Our TV is in our separate TV room so it is not seen every day which helps keep it out of mind.
We follow a strict routine during the week with a little more flexibility on the weekends. Meal times, sleep times and bath times are non-negotiable. We all thrive on this structure and routine, the girls know what to expect every day and it keeps us all with enough food and sleep to keep us happy. I can see the difference in my kids at the end of a holiday when there has been a little more sugar, little more TV, little less sleep and more lenient routine – they become over tired and miserable.
MC and I do our very best to keep putting each other first – we make time for weekly date nights, weekends or holidays away to share quality time as a couple. It is so important for our marriage and for our girls to look up to. We also make time for ourselves to enjoy a time out to relax and get away from the madness (pamper days, mornings alone and gym) and this ensures we come back even more enthusiastic as parents. We make time to socialise with our friends, without our kids to enjoy adult conversation and a good night out. This is important to build and maintain friendships and let your hair down. Our girls are always left in the best hands with grandparents, family friends, our nanny or au pair – and they love their fun times when we are away.
Our girls never sleep in our bed. We find it very uncomfortable, neither of us sleep if they are with us and our bed is our sacred place. It is ours as married couple. There is always an exception to this and we have had nights with extremely sick kids in our bed and we like be with them to check on them. They also spend some time if they are scared when there is a storm or have a nightmare but after calming them and comforting them, they go back to their beds. They know this so well that they don’t even try and come to our bed, unless it is in the morning to jump in for cuddles before starting our days.
Independent play is one of the most important things for a child to learn. Our girls have the wildest imaginations and they happily play on their own or together without an adult for ages – they make up wild stories, get creative with arts and crafts or play with their toys. We are never far away and they are always safe and supervised – but we don’t always have to be standing over them.
Kids need to get dirty, they need to bump themselves and they need to learn that failure is a part of life. It is not easy as a parent to watch your child get hurt or fall but they learn so much from it – even at a young age. We have always had a stair case in our house and never a baby gate – our girls have learnt that stairs are dangerous, that they can trip or fall and they stayed away from them as toddlers and now navigate them well as little girls. They have had to learn. We always keep them safe from any major harm or hurt.
SJ and EN both spent the in their walking rings – they loved scooting around the room on their toes. They weren’t left unattended or left in the ring for hours but it really helped strengthen their little legs and gave them some added independence as babies to be able to move around, before they could walk.
Babies need to be able to self-sooth – be it a dummy, a blankie, a teddy or their thumb. Self-soothing gives them a comfort other than a person – this is important for sleep patterns and for when parents are not around. SJ had a little blankie that she slept with and loved at night, EN had a dummy and a bunny that soothed her. When they were 2,5-3 years old, we gave their soothers to the Easter bunny and Father Christmas and they were happy to let them go (they asked for them a few times but without any major melt downs).
Our girls are busy little poppets – they loved to be busy and doing activities. This is the same at school, home or out at play dates. As they have grown, they have attended swimming lessons to make them water safe and we have encouraged trying out different activities. SJ currently has something on every day of the week after school – ballet, swimming, art, gymnastics or hockey and she loves it! Yes, she has days where she doesn’t feel like it or her friends don’;t go and she wants to back out – but she is encouraged to finish what she has started, not to give up when it gets hard but every term, she has the option to cancel and yet every term, she wants to go back!
We aren’t perfect, but we love and adore our girls and we want the best for them and our family. Parenting isn’t easy and some days are a lot harder than others, but putting in the hard work now and sticking to discipline and routine only produces children that are well-rounded and well-behaved, children that develop and mature into delightful young girls and children that others want to be around. This works for us.
Thank you Heather Fitchet for more gorgeous family photos.
*I may be a little judgemental when you are dead set in your ways and it’s not working and constantly complain to me. Then I may get a little frustrated trying to be supportive*