Category Archives: doing your thing

little nagging things

As I feel my energy returning, I feel the urge to write here, but because I have not been writing much, I start to feel certain internal pressure to write an amazing post. But this only works to stop me writing anything, so I decided to take the pressure off and slowly warm up again, and write something, you know, light. Here it goes.

So today I was thinking about our house move, and how I could decorate r’s room. We have been toying with the idea of a seaside theme, since r. LOVES fish and anything sea-related, and we are going  to be living by the sea. All well and good until I get this nagging and stupid, but real, thought: but it is going to be BLUE, and that is more like a boy’s room. And it actually makes me wonder if we should not keep the room as it currently is, with reds, oranges, purples, and more forest things like owls, elephants, mice and butterflies things.

But actually, this is not the first time that this stupid normalising, colour-coding hegemony thought came to haunt me. When we were thinking of decorating the nursery for the first time, I went for what I like. As I said above, reds, oranges, purple, green, rather than pink. First, because I am not a fan of pink, especially the pastel version of it, fuchsia is more of my taste, but I thought it might be bit strong for a baby’s room. Second, pink is not such an easy colour to combine, so almost everything has to be shades of pink and white. And that would be too much (for me). Third, all the stuff that was pink is mainly fairys, and ‘cute girly’ stuff, and I wanted to expand her senses, her colours, her themes, before (and if -here is me hoping) the marketing machine got us. I figured that if later on she wanted a pink room, with barbies hanging as mobiles, we could think about it, but for now, I chose what I was most comfortable with. But I had some moments of doubt.

And here it is again. Me, a feminist mother, stopping to think that I am making her room like a boy’s, just because it is blue. And the doubt is a kind of guilt at not creating her a ‘feminine’ room, and instead creating one that might be confused for a boy’s room, horror of horrors! And I had to stop and think what was I guilty about. Because I was not depriving her of something she wanted, on the contrary, she loves the sea and its creatures. So, why the guilt, the nagging feelings and thoughts that come unnanounced?

I think this unguarded thoughts reflect how categories such as colour coding become so entrenched that doing something different, even such as small thing as decorating a room, can bring about these beliefs and values that come attached to gender, and to being a good mother at the moment we are living, even to someome used to critically examining these issues. Have you found instances such as this one happening to you?

Lucila

What do feminist mothers fight with their partners about?

This post by blue milk came so at the right time – or wrong time -that it made me want to contribute my bit – or more honestly, rant.

First, I will say that we don’t fight much, and that we get along pretty nicely, mainly because my partner is very very patient and he is the kind that diffuses fights rather than escalates (like I do). But we do have our moments, obviously, especially when we are both tired and overwhelmed.

One of the most frequent fights is about sleep, which inevitably leads to discussions about how much we each do and contribute – both of us probably feeling and proclaiming we do more or that our work is not valued. And for me it ends up being about feminism too.

Here is why.

Let’s put it in context first. R. has always woken up several times a night until very recently – that is almost 2 1/2 years without proper sleep. The nights are my domain, mainly because I breastfed her, and because she would yell like she was being killed if my partner went, and even if I know that if we kept it up she would get used to it, I could never reach the point of letting the process happen. So it was and is mainly me. He wakes up, true, because he is a light sleeper, but stays in bed and can roll over and go to sleep again -unless it is the screaming type of wake up. My partner usually takes r. in the mornings, and I sleep in an hour or sometimes –pleasure of pleasures- two, which are very precious to me.

However, he expects loads of brownie points and brings it up at times when we discuss what we each do ‘you sleep in every morning’ type of thing. As I am a slacker for that. And I am grateful, and it is true in many ways. But so why is he then not grateful about my all night work? So my reply is as true (or truer– it’s my blog, ha!) ‘I let you sleep every night and that is much much harder’. put up the volume for the reply… and a rich description of what waking up every nigth implies. But it does not seem to get through, the message – for either of us- since we always come back to that. Of course then we go onto other niceties. Who needs to sleep more – he works, brings the money home. I work too, but not on well paid things –like my PhD, a few classes, consultancies, or even worse I spend time doing this blog, which does not bring any ‘profit’. So he needs more sleep, while my sleeping in is a luxury, a treat. He never actually says that, but for me, it is implied. so my reaction is not that afable, as you can expect. 

Another typical tipping point, which is related to the above, is the one described already in blue milk post and links, and in a much better  way too: the day the nanny gets ill. Not so much the day r. gets ill, because as in the nights, I seem to be the requested one, and it is ok, I also want to be there. But the day the nanny gets ill. And the discussions begin…because it seems obvious that I am the default person. But why is it me who is the default person to take care of r.? Why isn’t it what should we do, how should we split it –unless it is an emergency like the day before my viva? And the fight about what is valuable, what is not, what counts, what not, ensues.

Let me get this clear – I don’t want to get into too much trouble here – my partner does not stop doing tasks all day, just like me. But since r. is little, and since I work mostly from home, loads of things are on my domain, and most of them are those of the invisible kind. And it seems also that my work is more expendable, I am the one to tweak, to work evenings to catch up or weekends. I worry that despite everything, R., as others, see my work as ‘play work’ and her dad’s as ‘real’, and I am not sure how to make that clear, when the reality is that it certainly looks that way many times. Because this is wider than us, it is about how value is given to things that bring in money rather to those such as homemaking and mothering which are enablers of that, rather than bringing money in itself. And old but prevalent feminist fight. And the issue is my partner would not be able to work like he does, and have a daughter with the level of care that we both want for her, without having someone staying at home and doing all the things that I cover, or at least it would be quite expensive – or at least I hope so!

So the resurgence of fights are, I think, even though shit at the moment, quite good to keep tweaking, going over things, and reminding ourselves of not falling into patterns and defaults. And this is mainly brought up through these explosions – though they mostly comes out in one of my rages. But if I react so strongly, it is because these battles reach my core, it feels necessary for me. And I think they are very much part of my feminist work.  And I know it will go on and on, because we haven’t got round that one, nor I think has the world. But if you have, I accept tips!

Lucila

Critical thinking

Natalia’s recent post, as usual, made me think, in this case, about what are we doing when we are blogging. Thinking about my experience of these  first months at it,  I found that a very important, un-planned and unforeseen aspect of writing this blog was to discover another way of doing academic thinking and writing.

Academia’s main tool is critical thinking. For years I would pride myself in finding fault with different ways of thinking, with academic papers, or talks. I am not sure when this happened, but I reached a point, where I found this exercise dry and unhelpful. I then went the other way and had trouble criticising. Or even worse in academic terms – though I suspect this is what many academics do in their practice- I realised I did not like stuff, just because it did not feel right. Then of course I found many rational explanations…but basically this is how it went:

– do I want to throw the book out of the window? Is this because it forces me to think something new, uncomfortable, or because it is bollocks? – this can be a tricky one, though…think Derrida…

However, this is what much of academic work is about: pointing out flaws in others people work. However, in this blog, in our reviews, I concentrate in what I like, what I find useful. Which is obviously part of academic work, as you need to work with something, but not one that is enhanced. It does not mean I do not find things to criticise, but I brush those aside, unless they itch me in a productive way. I have started to accept my body’s reactions to ideas and readings too, as you can see from the language I use. It does not mean either that I get married to these ideas. I use them if they are helpful for what I am trying to do, think and/or write. A more pragmatic way of looking at academic work.

I know there is a host of feminist thinking on what is valuable, rational, important in terms of academic work, and it also links to what Natalia analysed about her experience of academia. But I come to realise- with the help of good talks with friends, counselling, reading – that this is the only way of thinking something original for me. This is the way I work. And this means, I have to work on being afraid of making mistakes, of being vulnerable, of feeling exposed. During my PhD, this was a constant struggle. I had to work at having my own voice, and not being drowned in other people’s theories or ways of writing. My supervisors were especially good in this sense (if you ever read this, thanks!). And during my viva, my examiners commented on how refreshing it was to read some very honest reflections on how methods and how theories worked or not for me (self-inflicted blushing here), which was really nice, and uff, people, what a relief. So it is not that this way of doing this is not appreciated, it is, but it is hard work, and quite scary frankly and tortuous (for me at least!),  and you have, as usual, to find the spaces where this is appreciated. I do not need to tear people up to make myself bigger as others do.

I think that finishing my PhD, and the viva, gave me more confidence. The feeling of thinking it is OK to say what I think and use theory and academic work in particular ways; a feeling I used to have but lost along the way. I hope others don’t need to go through this process to find their voice, and be more confident. In this sense, academic work is like other creative work, I think, in terms of, as a dancer friend said, unless you say/do what’s true for you, it won’t work well, it won’t shine. And this blog hopefully will help do just that. So thanks for listening and leaving your comments, it makes all the difference.

Have you had these struggles too? Have you found your voice?

Lucila

Expectations

One of the things that I think has played a major role in how I felt as a mother is the kind of expectations I harboured. These expectations were sometimes based on observations, many created while reading (I am also a member of the ‘you read too much’ club), other were naive ideas or assumptions that I had not questioned or even realised I had until closer examination, and also, my lack of ideas on what to expect. But all of these were important in constructing my experience as a mother, and of many of the mothers I know.

For instance. (I think I have read Mr Bump too many times, I am even copying its style!)

 Sleep.

 Baby sleeping patterns, or the art of not sleeping. I am a person that needs loads of sleep. Before having r., unless I had 10-12 hours sleep, I was not in the best of moods. However, for some reason, which now I don’t remember (might be because of my lack of sleep), I psyched myself thinking that we would probably not sleep much the first year. This was very important, and it helped immensely, even though I erred in my predictions and we are still not sleeping through the night (she is almost two and a half). Many of my friends expected that their babies would sleep better after a few weeks, and many of those suffered, while some lucky ones did actually get the sleep they expected.

Co-sleeping. Before having r., I used to think that I did to want to co-sleep. At all. When she was born, the only way she would sleep was on me. My midwife, different people and books I’ve read made me feel guilty and afraid of doing this, but reading a bit more, or shall I say, different books, and the everyday the practise made me more confident about doing it, and enjoying it. If there is a next one, this is going to be the plan for the start, no question.

Routine.

Oh! How I fell for this one. I was given a book before r. was born, which charted how babies would ‘work’ in terms of routine, which went something like this: feed, awake for a few hours, sleep, and so on, every three hours, and then after three or four months, every four. If this did not happen naturally, I was to stretch it myself. R. was born early, three weeks early, and she was tiny. Her pattern was more like feed-sleep, every two hours. Almost no awake time. It made me worry that she was not awake but for her feeding time, which was, say an hour. Writing this makes me laugh now at my innocence in a way, but it wasn’t so funny then. When she was a three months, she did not do the switch at all to longer time between feedings, and I could not do dreamfeeds, and I could go on on all the ways that neither r. nor I fitted the pattern set in the book. And stupidly, it made my question myself, feel guilty, get frustrated and flustered if I attempted to do what the book suggested. It was very unhelpful. I eventually found other books that confirmed what I was doing, and made me chuck the other ones, as well as release the guilt. Confidence in myself slowly grew too, but this was not instant, and not without that permanent questioning.

Breastfeeding.

Pain. I knew breastfeeding could hurt, because my mum had a rough time, and my sister-in-law, and many other close friends. Although books say it is not supposed to hurt if the latch is right, I think that is actually quite a crap thing to say. I think this is done to not put women off breastfeeding, but really, it is unhelpful for those of us who do get blood, sweat and tears over breastfeeding. One of the things that kept me going was actually reading that it took different women weeks, even six weeks, for it to pass. Even though breastfeeding was torture at the beginning– I dreaded the moment and the ever present comment whenever she cried, ‘I think she is hungry’. Thrush did not make matters easier, or having breastfeeding-ignorant GPs. But knowing that it would hurt, and that it might take time, pull me through (and well, my stubborn streak helped here too probably).

Frequency. I kind of expected that after six months, breastfeeding would tail off, while her food intake grew, as the standard advice seems to go. This never happened, at least not at six months, maybe more like 18 months. R. did follow my expectations of feeding every couple of hours for the first months, but at six months and onwards, she seemed to start breastfeeding more frequently, rather than less, though much less time each time. And this carried on, and even increased after her first year. It was almost every time I sat down. To give you an idea, booby is her second name at home. Everyone around me seemed to follow the other pattern, the books one. But me. And the weaning questions started to come. My expectations, as well as what if felt, the rest of the world, differed from what was happening, and it made me feel that I was doing something wrong – was the food I cooked bad? Was I doing things wrong with my approach to food (coming next)?Should I put limits on breastfeeding? Fortunately, the internet exists, and forums, and books. And I found a book on extended breastfeeding which put me at ease. It seems that her feeding frequently was quite normal, and that there were many benefits to ‘extended’ breastfeeding. Ahhh. I relaxed. And it stopped being uncomfortable, and frustrating. And it started to feel good, and, what it was, joyful (well, not always, but most of the times). It feels strange that I needed this external corroboration, but it helped. It helps to find your pack, it helps to find you are not so weird, or that you are, but in good company!

Food.

Baby-led weaning. When the time came to start thinking about feeding her food, rather than breast milk, at six months, I rather liked the idea of what is called baby-led weaning (BLW). I am glad I did, because no spoon would cross her lips. I had a very skilled spoon-avoiding baby. But I did not care so much, because I had another option. BLW implies feeding babies what you eat, and giving them finger foods, instead of purees, and letting them feed themselves, from the very beginning. At the same time, breastfeeding (in my case, bottle feeding instead), is kept up on demand. What I had not realised is that sometimes BLW comes with small print. Some babies do not eat and just prefer to toss all the food away after playing with it, and just go for the good old boobs when talking business. And not for the expected first months, but for much longer. And this happened until, well, she was more than a year old. Not that she did not eat at all, but very little. She still does eat little. But she has always been fine somehow. And I had to adjust my expectations once again. Once I did, I again, relaxed.

And after. This one is harder, because I cannot benefit from hindsight. For me, the natural step after BLW is intuitive eating. But I am still working at it, and get confused on the how to, and tinker with it. What I am trying to avoid is the struggle over eating, and the bribery and negotiations, the categories of good and bad foods that are so common, but not sure how this will pan out yet, as I still need adjustment myself. I find it hard though, as she eats little, and sometimes does not eat her meal, but does eat heartily her ice-cream, and I feel the questions coming – from within and from outside. Though many times, she eats both at the same time. And it is not so normal….

This rambling post had at some point a purpose. Hmmm….maybe that expectations matter, and adjusting them is painful, but powerful. And that there is no other way, at least for me, but to be attentive, to change, to be flexible, to read, to find my pack. This, in hindsight, is called to trust your instincts, but somehow, it feels more complicated than that, and more of a process of knowing what your instincts are in the first place.

Lucila

Words of wisdom

One of my friends is pregnant with her first baby, and talking with her made me think about things I wish I had known, what things I would buy/not buy, how I would prepare knowing now what I know, and what I would do differently.

And I remembered this brilliant video. A longer post is coming, but I leave you with this for the minute.

Lucila

You read too much

 When I asked my mother which essential books about pregnancy and mothering mothers read when they were pregnant, she looked at me and frowned. She said that she never read any books about it. All she did was ask her mum for help and advice on most things and follow the doctor’s recommendations about feeding and sleeping, as long as they did not go against her instincts. So here I am, the living product of my mum’s intuition regarding the education, feeding and raising of healthy children.

A couple of years ago I told my mum that a friend of mine with a year-old toddler had started attending classes on “crianza natural” (rearing children naturally). My mum looked at me and laughed, saying “You are very complicated. If bringing up a child is a natural thing, why do you need to attend a course?” She is right. When it comes to raising our children we don’t rely on our feelings and emotions any more. I’m not saying that checking and revising is wrong, but giving a great deal of importance to other people’s opinions might affect our capacity to listen to our son/daughter. In this process of reading and looking for the best advice we lose our spontaneity, our connection with our own children and our awareness of the process we are living through.

However, I confess that when E. was little I read a lot, especially about babies’ sleeping, as he was a dreadful sleeper and we would spend hours trying to put him down in his cot again after feeding him at night. However, after reading many books, talking to friends, blogging in Spanish and English on how to get your baby to sleep and some eventual crying out of tiredness and desperation, the only thing that worked in the end was patience and the sense that I was doing my best. Whenever I’ve tried to follow instructions in a book I’ve just got nervous, so I’ve ended up adapting bits and pieces from here and there to make them fit my current situation. In fact, I did just what my mum suggested, but I managed to make it look like a very thoughtful and sophisticated process coming out of a new theory of bonding and attachment. My mum has never commented on this, but I’m sure she’s still laughing at it.

Sometimes I think that all those hours spent reading and searching through Internet blogs and forums would have been more usefully spent with another mum beside me to give me a great big hug and tell me: “This will pass: do what you think best for you and E.: and for God sake, stop reading!”

Natalia

just go out

You know how people often say you should make time for you, and for your life as a couple, and you know they are right, but somehow it never seems to happen?

Well, yesterday was one of the days when it happened. But not for a romantic meal, or the cinema, but to a gig, to see a great good old band, The Levellers, in a small venue.

Typically, I did not feel like it, I was tired, it seemed that sleep was as elusive as ever in the last weeks (and years!), as r. has been poorly, and well as I said before, we have many things to do, to plan, to worry about. The duvet sounded much more appealing than going out in the cold to a concert. And I could have done that.

But, luckily, I didn’t. Because within minutes I was jumping around with the crowd and shouting along to ‘there is only one way of life and that’s your own, that’s your own’.

And you know, I suddenly felt very much alive, young, raw, light, present. I am not one to be prescriptive, but you know, in this case, do it.