Thursday, 27 April 2017

YES YOU CAN! A book to fight gender stereotypes

"The boys don't let me play football because I'm a girl."

My heart sank when ild told me that. She loves playing football. She's been going to a football class since January, and long before then would beg available adults to have a kickabout in the garden with her. She's pretty nifty with a ball. But, whatever had been said to her, she was getting the idea that the game wasn't for her.

Encouraging children to find their own interests is relatively easy in the early years, when they're oblivious to stereotypes around them, but as they get older they start to become more aware. I remember her coming home from nursery school saying that, "blue is for boys," despite it being her favourite colour. Luckily she doesn't seem too deterred yet, but I know as she gets older she'll feel the need to conform more and more.

I try to tell her that colours are for everyone, and boys and girls can be interested in whatever they want, but it sometimes feels like I'm swimming upstream.

I recently saw a tweet about a Kickstarter campaign for a new book called 'Yes You Can' by Cheryl Rickman and it sounds like just the book I need to show Girl Child that she really can be interested in whatever she wants. It features three girls, one who plays football, one who climbs trees and one who skateboards and loves to be creative. (There are also boys who love dolls and diggers.) They are transported to a world where interests and hobbies are separated by hair colour - an indirect nod to the absurdity of gender stereotypes.

Cheryl was inspired to write the book after hearing all sorts of gender stereotypes aimed at young children, including her own daughter:

“Football? You should've been a boy!”… “Why do you play with boys' stuff?”… “You don’t want Spiderman painted on your face, that’s for boys…  how about a lovely butterfly?!”… “Boys don’t wear pink! That’s for girls!”… “Boys don’t cry!”… “His hair’s a bit long for a boy!"

This video tells more about the project:

Cheryl explains, “The aim of this project is to show children how silly gender stereotypes are, and equip them with tools to enable resilience, self-compassion, self-awareness and self-belief to let any gender-specific teasing wash right over them. To tell kids they don’t have to change who they are to fit out-dated expectations.”

Sounds great, doesn't it? The only catch is that money needs to be raised through the Kickstarter campaign in order for the book to be published. So if you can help, and think this is a project worth supporting, you can donate to the campaign here. Rewards for donating range from a free eBook aimed at parents to a school workshop.

I really hope the campaign is a success, I think Girl Child would love this book and it would be great to see lots of other children feel empowered to make their own choices about their interests and hobbies.

Happily the boys now let Girl Child play football with them. But she is still in a minority and very conscious of that. Armed with this book, I think she would feel proud to be herself and follow her own interests.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Six things I love about cloth nappies ... and one thing I don't!

A mini Eleanor stomps beneath a line of her nappies!
This week is Real Nappy Week 2017 and as I've now been using cloth nappies for a total of three years I thought I should mark the occasion! Girl Child was in cloth nappies from 4 months until around two and a half ( when we rather disastrously started potty training) and Toddler has been in cloth to some degree since he was about 4 weeks old.

But why do I do it? Isn't it a faff? Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely do things that make life hard for myself, so there must be some good reasons for using cloth! Here are the reasons I love reusable nappies ...

1. There are loads to choose from

Seriously, loads. When you're first dipping your toe into the world of reusables it can be dizzying. Luckily there are now lots of nappy libraries dotted around the country so you can try different types. I didn't know of any when Girl Child was born but Bingley Nappy Library has since opened up for West Yorkshire people and I got some great advice from there when I was struggling to make cloth work with Toddler. I'd really recommend looking up your local nappy library if you're considering switching to cloth.

The great thing about the variety of options is that there is something for everyone. Babies come in different shapes and sizes (I should know, I make them big) so not all nappies will fit every baby, but you're bound to find some that'll work. And you can use different nappies for different needs: I use a combination of Bumgenius Freetimes for a smaller fit but shorter periods, some very old-school Totsbots cotton nappies with a wrap for longer stints and used to use Totsbots Bamboozles as a night nappy (more on the 'used to' in a bit). I also have a few others if I fancy a change! Here's a picture of most of my stash on a rare day when Toddler hadn't pulled them all down off the shelves:

You can see I use washable liners and wipes too (bottom shelf) - this is in part due to the sensitivity of both my children's skin but also it's just easier to chuck the lot in the wash!

2. It saves you money

Yes, the initial outlay might make you gulp. But then you're pretty much set up for the next two years - more if you use the nappies again with another child. Think about how much you'd spend on disposables in that time! Depending on what type of nappies you buy, you could easily save over £1000 by using cloth. And the variety of options means you can go for what your budget can manage - you can even get traditional terries for a couple of pounds a pop, which are surprisingly versatile if you're good at folding! (I'm not, as I discovered.)

3. They look cute

Forgive me for this, but here's where I admit to being a tiny bit of a nappy snob - I just don't like how disposables look. It's not a big factor for me, but I do think cloth nappies are tons cuter. I mean just look at the wrap on this one!

If you've got money to spare you can really go nuts on the cute patterned nappies as there are loads to choose from. I never did but I do have a few exceedingly cute nappies and wraps that I'm rather attached to!!

4. It's not all or nothing

Remember I said I used to use Bamboozles as a night nappy? Well I don't now. They were great for Girl Child when she was little, but Toddler is the very definition of a heavy wetter. Even with three boosters his Bamboozle was still leaking by the wee small hours (no pun intended). So we've switched to disposables at night.

And that's the great thing about cloth - you don't have to use them all the time. Just using one cloth nappy a day could save you 365 disposables over the course of the year. I also use disposables if we're going out just because they take up less space in the change bag and are a bit easier to change on those scary changing tables. 

And even if you do manage 100% cloth (hats off to you) you can use disposable liners and wipes, or use washable ones. It's up to you. You can decide how brave you feel. But you might just find that actually it's not as hard or scary as you thought so then you can do a bit more. And if it all goes wrong, you can sell on your cloth stash - there's a huge market for second-hand nappies.

5. You can't run out of them

I'm chronically disorganised. If I had to remember to get enough disposables in then Toddler would spend an awful lot of time bare-bottomed while I waited for my husband to pick up some more on his way home. But with cloth you can't run out. Well, you can if you forget a wash, but even then, just bung them in and if they're OK to tumble you can have some ready in a few hours. And actually once you're in a washing routine it's fairly easy to keep on top of them.

6. It's good for the planet

I try my best to be a hippy type, but I'm not very good at it. I use surface wipes instead of cloths. I forget we've got food and end up throwing it away. I have the heating on too much. So with cloth I kind of feel like I'm making up for that.

There are debates around whether the carbon emissions caused by washing cloth nappies are comparable to the emissions created when making disposables, but even assuming they're similar, at least you're sending less to landfill. We tend to use disposables when a stomach bug strikes and I'm always shocked at how quickly the bin fills up. That's an awful lot of waste to stick in the ground, and I'm bad enough about chucking things away without adding disposables to the pile!!

Of course, everything has its downsides, and there is one thing I really, really don't love about cloth nappies ...


There's no skirting around it - poo is horrible. It's not so bad with an exclusively breastfed baby because you can normally chuck the nappy straight in the wash. It's not so bad with a toddler on plenty of solids as it's normally hard enough to just drop in the toilet. But the in-between stage (which is taking a while to get through with Toddler) - well, that's just grim. Sorry. But you're wiping it off their bums anyway, so poo is inescapable with small children!

What do you love about cloth nappies? If you're thinking about using them, what puts you off or makes you worry? 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bye Bye Baby Stage

I've been clinging onto the baby stage for a while now, but last week I had to admit defeat.

First of all, I switched from carrying on my front to carrying on my back. A small thing to some, but to me it was an admission that Baby (henceforth Toddler) is really quite big now. Too big to fit on my front any more.

Then we moved him to a bigger car seat. We'd held off as long as we could but it was getting harder and harder to squeeze his broad shoulders into the Stage 0+ seat, so we switched to an extended rear-facing one that will hopefully last him until he's 4 or 5.

Then his faltering steps, which for two months had been stuck at a maximum of six in a row, became suddenly more confident. He managed 11 steps. My arbitrary baby-to-toddler threshold is 10 steps. Then a day later he walked across the room. I couldn't deny it any longer. My lovely baby is now a toddler.

I feel very wobbly about it all. Firstly there's the fact that Toddler has just been a wonderful baby. Yes, he's a rubbish sleeper. Yes, he would regularly puke up all his milk for the first eight months of his life. But he was so darn calm. He barely cried and was easily consoled. As soon as he knew what his hands were for he'd happily entertain himself for a few minutes. He learned how to hug - and I mean proper arms-round-your-neck HUG - when he was three months old. He was snuggly and affectionate and laidback. After dealing with a high-needs, often-crying and attention-hungry baby first time around, it was bliss. (I do, of course, love them both equally. But there's no skirting around it - Girl Child was a HARD baby.)

And of course he still is most of those things by and large, but toddler-ness is creeping in. He prostrates himself on the ground crying if you take anything off him. He won't stay still. If you leave him for half a minute he will likely have climbed onto something, or wrecked something, or chewed on something he shouldn't. He's still a fairly easy toddler but, let's face it, all toddlers are exhausting.

Then there's the fact that I know he's my last. I'll never do the baby stage again. I've always wanted more than two, but realistically I know my body can't take another pregnancy. And our finances probably wouldn't stretch to a third child either, especially if I continue to stay at home. I know that this is the right, the practical decision for us. But at the same time I can't quite believe I'll never give birth again, never hold a seconds-old baby, never spend hours just snuggling with a little person.

I'll just have to console myself with the things that haven't changed. He still gives amazing hugs. He still wants my milk (he's even learning to sign for it now). He still sleeps in a cot adjoining our bed so I often wake up to find he's snuggled up to me. And he's still my baby really. Always will be.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Why Take A Positive Discipline Course?

As a lifelong bookworm, I tend to think that the answer to every problem is in a book. From quite early on in my life as a mother, I've turned to parenting books to try and solve the challenges we've faced. I'm quite picky in what I read - I'll happily admit that I only read books that align with my gentle parenting style - but I've lost count of how many I've read over the last five years. And if it's not books, it's articles, websites, blog posts ...

So if I've done all this reading, why did I sign up to an online parenting course? Surely I've come across all the answers already?

Well, yes and no. When I heard about the Attachment Parenting UK Positive Discipline course, I was interested to see how it differed from the many, many books and articles I'd already read. Because, of course, I don't have all the answers, so I'm always on the lookout for new ways of learning more.

The course is broken down into ten modules, each starting with an introductory video from APUK founder Michelle McHale, and including written information and reflection questions for the participant to answer for their own personal use. There is then a quiz to test understanding at the end of each module.

The main difference I found between taking the course and reading a book was the mindset it got me into - the video, reflection questions and interactive quiz led me to actively engage as a 'student' rather than just a reader. I could copy and paste useful quotes into a separate document for future reference, and the reflections got me thinking much more consciously about how I parent, and even how my childhood affects my parenting. I've written before about the parenting style questionnaire which is part of the second module - for me this set the tone of the course, encouraging me to look at my situation rather than passively reading other people's views and experiences.

As for the content, even a parenting book junkie like me could learn something new, and it would be a great starting point for someone who hasn't read half a library's worth already. The course combines information from many different sources, making it a 'one-stop shop' for getting you going with Positive Discipline.

Has it changed me as a parent? That remains to be seen. I'm certainly more consciously committed to making my actions match my beliefs, and I have used some techniques discussed in the course in the few weeks since I started it. And I'm not alone to figure it all out myself - the course includes access to a Facebook support group and a session with APUK's in-house parenting coach. This means that if I come up against challenges I can't figure out, I know I have options for further support that a book on a shelf doesn't necessarily offer.

If you like the sound of this course, you can get 50% off the usual price with the code theishmother50 (I'm not on commission, but if you do use this code I'll get the rosy glow of knowing that I've helped someone else to learn about Positive Discipline!)

Disclaimer: I was offered free access to the course for the purposes of writing this review, however all words and opinions expressed are my own.