toddler
Uncategorized

Why to Stop Mocking Your Toddler’s Tantrum

I think everyone who has a toddler can recall a time where their child has had a ‘meltdown’, ‘tantrum’, or shed tears over something seemingly insignificant.

You gave them the wrong coloured plate with their lunch. They wanted to button up their own jacket. Or maybe they couldn’t catch the ball that was thrown to them.

An example recently from my daughter was when she wailed before bedtime that she wanted her Wiggles balloon. She hadn’t seen the balloon in weeks, the concert was a month ago, and I explained this to her and explained how balloons deflate over time. It only intensified her cries.

Our Perception of a Tantrum

How we respond as a parent in these scenarios depends on how we ourselves are feeling at the time, and the perception we have of this ‘tantrum’.

Check out my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course

If you view the tantrum as uncalled for, over the top, ‘silly’, and an overreaction, AND you are in a place of stress or frustration yourself, you may respond with anger. Maybe their tears and overwhelm provoke the same response in you, with your own feelings bubbling over. There can be an irritation that your child is acting ‘irrationally’.

Or if you’re in a regulated place yourself and perhaps you find this hilarious? Maybe you even whip out your phone to record it to send to your family or post on social media?

I get it. I’ve been in this place too where I’ve found it particularly funny that my daughter can get SO upset over something seemingly SO small (to me).

Shift Your Perspective on Tantrums

What I’d invite here though is a perspective shift.

A perspective shift helps you stop overreacting to your toddler or laughing at their emotional distress. It will also facilitate their emotional development, invite compassion, and deepen your connection with them.

This perspective shift is about recognizing that your toddler is rarely upset directly over the ‘thing’ that provoked their tears. This ‘thing’ is simply their trigger to release the deeper feelings that were already there.

Think of an equivalent being you’ve had a hard day at work or at home with your kids, and little annoyances, irritations, or upsets add up throughout the day. Each time something happens you ‘keep it together’. You deal with it and move on. You shake it off.

You swallow down the discomfort until something seemingly minor happens… then BAM. The annoyance, irritation, and upset burst out of you. Road rage is a perfect example of this. Something seemingly minor can set off a cascade of emotional reactions in somebody.

It’s the same process in our children. They experience upsets, difficulties, frustrations, and difficult feelings throughout their days. They don’t have the space, capacity, or support to express those emotions. So when they have their emotional outburst because of a seemingly ‘insignificant’ or ‘ridiculous’ trigger, the emotions bubbling over are deeper than they appear.

What Are The Tears Really About?

We can’t always know the reasons behind the feelings – although we can ponder them.

Perhaps when my daughter was so upset about her Wiggles balloon being gone she was releasing a deeply held feeling of loss and displacement? Of how hard it can be as a child when you lose something you love. When something is gone that you weren’t prepared to let go of. When you don’t get the chance to say ‘goodbye’.

Tears can be about their frustrations around not having a ‘choice’, not being able to exercise their autonomy or make decisions. Tears can be about grief and sadness around the changing of a relationship with their caregivers if a new sibling has come along. Tears can be about feeling unheard, lonely, frustrated. Any number of emotions.

Our little children can only process their emotions through tears, laughter, or play. They don’t have the language or the reflexivity to fully express and process their feelings through language. This is something that we as adults still struggle with, and we have fully developed brains!

What I Can Do Instead

The next time your toddler cries over something seemingly insignificant, listen to them. Support them the same way you would support a friend sharing their tears with you (even if you think their tears aren’t warranted).

You wouldn’t laugh at them, dismiss them, tell them to stop being ‘silly’, distract them, photograph them, or get angry at them. You would try to listen, empathise, show compassion, give them a hug, or just ‘be there’.

I know this is hard and I know we won’t be able to respond in this gentle way all of the time. But this is such meaningful work, holding space for them, making them feel safe, heard, and connected, and teaching them that all of their feelings are okay.

Check out my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course if you’d like to learn more about:

  • The real reasons why toddlers have tantrums
  • How to release yourself from stress and guilt related to tantrums
  • How your own emotional state relates to your child’s
  • Strategies to not only support your toddler through their tantrum but help prevent the frequency of these outbursts

The course is just $44, takes only 15mins a day over 14 days to complete, and the first 5 to sign up also get 5 days of free one on one support. Sign up here.

feminist birth pregnant woman
Blog Post, Pregnancy and Birth, Uncategorized

Birth is a Feminist Issue

There are many ways that mainstream feminism has not adequately addressed the concerns and needs of mothers. This is what maternal scholars have been challenging for some decades now. Part of a feminist interest in motherhood means an interest in how women experience birth. Birth is a feminist issue because the systems that women birth within are causing them (and their babies) harm.

The Maternity Consumer Network in Australia are doing amazing work in this area on uncovering the abuse, trauma, mistreatment, silencing, and violence that occurs in birth care settings. Ms Staines from the Maternity Consumer Network said that feminists have dropped the ball. This is because of the focus on abortion rights at the exclusion of women’s treatment during birth. Birth is of course the biggest example of an issue that ONLY impacts those who are female.

What is a Feminist Birth

Embedded within patriarchy is an inherent connection of females and femininity with weakness, vulnerability, and fragility. That women need rescuing. That we are plagued by a lack of confidence in ourselves and our bodies – this rippling out much further beyond the birthing realm.

Interlinked into these narratives of patriarchal passivity is the question of: okay well how do I DO birth as a feminist? As an empowered, strong, confident woman?

Would a feminist birth look like a highly medicalized one where we take advantage of the modern medicine and opt for the epidural straight away, and challenge the martyrdom of pain?

Or would a feminist birth look like rejecting all medical input in what is a normal physiological progress and opting for a freebirth?

You know what the answer is? Both, and neither.

Giving birth like a feminist does not mean birthing in a particular way – as Hill puts it: “just as doing anything else – career, relationships, parenting – ‘like a feminist’ doesn’t require a one-size-fits-all approach.” 

Birth, Systems, and Choice

A feminist birth is about how YOU frame your birth and yourself as a woman in labour. But it is also about the way you understand the system that you birth within. It is the challenging of a system that perpetuates the expectation of laboring women to be vulnerable, complying, cooperative, powerless vessels who are under medical authority.

I am mindful here of highlighting the language of CHOICE. I think it would be easy for me to say that a feminist birth is about CHOOSING the way you’d like to give birth. That it’s all about CHOICE. But there are problems with choice feminism. There are problems when reducing our conversation of birth decisions and outcomes as boiling down to choice.

Hill highlights this through drawing our attention to this age old debate between highly medicalized birth versus completely natural and intervention free. As to which is more liberating and empowering. Or ultimately, which is ‘better’.

Once this argument has gone round the houses a few times, at some point you’re bound to hear the refrain ‘Of course, it’s all down to personal choice’, and everyone will nod with satisfaction as if the matter is settled. But personal choice is complicated. We all like to think we are making free choices but, of course, we are all a product of our culture, of the stories we have heard, the adverts and TV programmes we have seen, and of the expectations we have therefore built of any given event.

Milli Hill, Give Birth Like a Feminist, from Chapter 2, page 23 of the e-book

I think that HAVING these discussions can be highly loaded and can also be received very tenderly by women who have given birth depending upon how their birth went. There are those who were prepared for their labours. Who made conscious decisions about care providers and had the resources and perhaps privilege to make certain decisions around care providers. And these women were able to birth in a supported, positive, and rewarding way. So they may highlight their experience to demonstrate what IS possible.

But this can be received as judgement and insensitivity for women who also made all of these same preparatory decisions and steps but faced complications or interventions.

Similarly, for women who faced challenges or trauma and did not have the knowledge, awareness, education, resources, or support to make informed choices, hearing these stories can accentuate the grief and pain for a loss of their experience that perhaps could have been.

Birth as Polarizing

Talking about birth therefore CAN be polarizing. Of course these polarizations are in and of themselves constructed. They are based on stereotypes. Individual women are more dynamic and complex than to fit into a prescribed boxes. Hill argues that these polarizations only act to be divisive and to distract us from the real issues. A focus on real issues would drive change of the SYSTEM to collectively improve birth experiences and outcomes for women in the future.

I think that this division in relation to birth reflects the polarizations and divisions cast over women and mothers in many other spheres. Take for example the supposed division between breast and bottle feeding mothers. The perpetuation – or idea of perpetuation of shame on formula feeding mothers AND shame on breastfeeding mothers. It also supposedly plays out between stay at home and working mothers. It can even go beyond this if we think about Wolf’s the beauty myth and the competition and comparison between younger and older women.  

These polarizations serve only to disempower and disperse the collective wisdom and force that is women who are united.

Trying to turn us against each other only serves to distract us from looking outwards at the broader structures and systems that oppress us and try to strip us of our voice and autonomy.  

I am a huge advocate of physiologically undisturbed birth and know the research on the risks of intervention rates to both mother and baby, and all of the benefits of a so-called ‘natural’ birth. I have an innate belief in a woman’s body to birth her baby. I am also grateful and fully supportive of medical intervention when consented and required. I am thankful that we are afforded medicalized and sometimes life-saving options when millions of other women and babies in the world are not.

But in saying this, and reaffirming my belief in the normal physiological process of labour, I also know that we cannot keep telling women to ‘trust their bodies’ without examining, critiquing, and changing the problems with institutionalized birth.

Practices, Uncategorized

Mundane Mothering Tasks and Numbing Practices

There have been some fantastic moves over the last 5 years in particular to unveil and even use humour to speak about some of the mundane parts of motherhood that pose huge challenges for those raising children, particularly Mums who mother fulltime outside of the paid workforce. But could this humour be just another numbing practice?

I am sure many of us have made or heard jokes pointing to the potential monotony of some mothering tasks such as changing nappies, preparing food, and cleaning. I say ‘potential’ because these tasks are not always mundane for everyone.

Some women who have multiple children may take advantage of nappy changes with her baby to foster connection and eye contact in an otherwise frenzied morning, and get enjoyment from this time.

Some absolutely love cooking and preparing meals and take enjoyment from this aspect of mothering. Some use the act of cleaning as a way of regulating themselves emotionally and working out anxiety or tension.

That is to say – let’s always be mindful of assumptions we may make about processes of daily life that we may find meaningless, but may be imbued with meaning for another.

Certainly though for the majority of us, there are parts of our daily life as mothers that involve completing tasks or performing routines that we do not necessarily enjoy but they are necessary to perform for the care, hygiene and safety of our children.

As a way to speak about parts of motherhood that we may find challenging, monotonous, or dull, we connect with other mothers to build a sense of friendship and community in our shared sense of frustration, boredom, or apathy – and this is often done through humour. I would ask us to look critically at the aspects of motherhood that we complain about or do not find enjoyment or satisfaction from, and ask:

  1. Is this something I really HAVE to be doing? Where has this expectation come from?
  2. What would happen if I let go of, loosened expectations around, or outsourced (shifted responsibility) for this aspect of motherhood? Can I do that?
  3. How can I reframe or reshape my understandings of this task so I find value in it?

An example… I don’t enjoy cooking but have a value on nutritious food and know that I have to do this activity for my daughter as part of her health and development, so I reframe my understanding of making meals to be contributing to something I actually do value. I outsource this task when I can by saying ‘yes and thank you’ whenever someone else offers to cook or provide food for my daughter, and I release expectations on myself from having everything cooked from scratch or organically (this isn’t something embedded within me, but I am aware that the ‘good mother myth’ expects mothers to be cooking goddesses of fresh, nutricious organic produce that of course our children will EAT…:) ) What are some things that you can let go of to make your life easier, reframe, or ask for help with?

Performing aspects of mothering that we may not enjoy is something that is dealt with through connection with other mothers, humour, but also through practices that can have darker sides. I’ll take an example from popular culture and media: the TV series on Netflix – Workin’ Moms, where the main character Kate takes time out of her position in marketing to stay at home with her baby after he suffered a bout of the measles. Part of the depiction of her day at home shows her moving from task to task with her toddler trying to keep him entertained as he draws on walls and throws and smashes an iPad while she – in futile – attempts to have a shower. She counts down, repeatedly clock-watching, until midday strikes, where she then pours herself a glass of wine, before being surprised by her husband coming home and throwing the glass and wine into the sink in her attempts to conceal her drinking.

There is so much that can be pulled out of scenes and series such as these, but what a description of these short snippets illustrates is the complexities of the way we view and experience full time motherhood at home raising young children. The viewer gets an insight into the often relentless nature of the supervision required, the creativity in facilitating and supporting play, and the struggle in getting anything done for ourselves – such as taking a shower. The countdown to when it may be deemed socially acceptable to pour a glass of wine is telling not only of the way mothers may seek to funnel their behaviour into constructed norms of what is considered socially acceptable, the tension/stress/anxiety that is felt and is sought to be managed, and the popular yet potentially dangerous trope of mothers using wine to manage this stress and workload.

It also points to the hidden aspects of motherhood where we may conceal certain behaviours because of fear, embarrassment, or shame.

This is why Kate hides her drinking from her husband when he walks through the door – there is a sense of shame in admitting this job is hard and we may not be coping. But interestingly, in this episode there is no discussion of what aspects of life at home Kate is struggling with – and this conversation is absent from interactions with her husband, who seems to have little understanding of what the realities of looking after a baby all day entails, and mounts more requests and expectations on Kate while he continues his work and social life, seemingly unaffected by responsibilities of fatherhood. The often misguided cultural assumptions of stay-at-home mothers are also perpetuated later in the episode when Kate’s colleague asks her if she talks to herself at home to break up the boredom.  

I want to take issue with this assumption of boredom and further in my next blog post. But a really important theme that I will talk a little more about has to do with Kate’s wine-o’clock-countdown.

I am sure many of us have heard of or shared in this phrase of ‘wine o’clock’ or indulging in ‘mummy juice’, or needing a glass of wine once the kids are in bed.

Wine and caffeine are almost considered prerequisites for westernized, modern day motherhood.

Much of this is shared in jest and the majority of mothers who drink wine do not have a problem with alcohol. Of course though, for those with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism in particular, an alcohol-centric culture within motherhood can be dangerous.

I’m not going to engage in discourse trying to regulate women’s behaviour in framing ‘dangerous’ or ‘unfit’ motherhood with the consumption of alcohol. We have enough resources telling us what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t be doing. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or would like to explore this further you can look to the resources I’ve linked at the end of this page.

What I want to draw attention to are the ways we are using substances – combined with humour and social bonding over the consumption of such substances – to deal with what are social problems.

Motherhood and the circulation of the ‘good mother myth’ expects women to be self-sacrificing, devoted, all-encompassing, primary-caregiving mothers to their children, keeping track of and responding to all of their developmental, health, physical, and emotional needs. Many mothers reading this won’t be surprised that research looking at mothers of children aged between 5-12 years old work on average 14 hour days – a 98 hour working week. That is equivalent to 2.5 full time jobs. If we think about the intensity of this for mothers who are breastfeeding or those looking after children with additional needs – we can see the relentlessness and absolute intensity of the workload of motherhood is overwhelming.

Motherhood has been challenging – probably since the beginning of time. But the intensification of expectations of modern-day motherhood is only making mothers’ lives harder. This is linked with the not only expectations but often need and desire for women to engage in paid work as well as mothering work. Have you seen the meme about being expected to work like you’re not a mother and mother like you don’t have paid work?

Interesting, working mothers today are spending more time with their children than stay at home mothers did in the past. This is not to say motherhood previously was not unbelievably challenging, and mothers today are privileged enough to have access to many resources and developments in technology that have made our lives ‘easier’. But the rapidly changing world we live in and changes in our community and culture mean we must be under no illusion that we can and should be able to ‘do it all’ – alone.

So is it any wonder that the trope of ‘mummy juice’ exists? It is seen as an avenue for numbing, escapism, and dulling of the intensification of the pressures we face in our daily lives. I think the way we treat alcohol and motherhood today can be compared with the way stay at home mothers were associated with ‘bex’ in the 1950s. Bex was a strong analgesic in powder or tablet form that became known as Mothers Little Helper, with the slogan of ‘a cup of tea, a bex, and a good lie down’ becoming an Australian mothering cultural tradition. This was until mothers started going into kidney failure and Bex was pulled from shelves in 1977. Bex was a way for mothers to suppress their feelings of discontent, exhaustion, alienation, and oppression. Alcohol today is used in a similar way.

Instead of talking about our need for ‘wine’ at the end of the day, could we vent and voice our frustrations and grievances?

Could we build a sense of solidarity through shared experience of mothering challenges rather than shared endeavors of numbing?

Could we start to make visible the broader structures and expectations that contribute to these challenges existing in the first place?

Could we look outside of ourselves to see who is not carrying their load in the work of raising these children, and where we can turn to for ‘help’?

Could we brainstorm strategies for making our everyday lives less challenging, more rewarding – or at least tolerable without wanting to numb ourselves?

Could we reframe and reshape our understandings of our challenges to see the value and importance of them in and of themselves?  

If you feel that you may have a problem with alcohol or substance use, please click here to be linked with support services.

Practices, Uncategorized

Ambivalence

When I’ve been asked about whether I would start my own blog or page my first reaction is a subtle internal cringe, and I’m curious as to where that comes from and if others can resonate? The act of writing or posting about our own lives all the time can sometimes feel vain, self-absorbed, and self-indulgent.

I think I should qualify this post by saying I do love reading other people’s work and what they put out into public life. I’m inspired daily but what I see in my newsfeed or read from what others have taken the time to share with us. I follow many public figures on social media as well as plenty in the ‘mummy blogger’ world and enjoy their posts and candor. Sometimes I disagree or find things controversial or jarring, but I also appreciate this aspect of engagement as it challenges my thinking, and gives me exposure to what is going on in other’s lives outside of my own echo-chamber!

But it can be tiring having the same narrative repeated over and over: the one that ‘inspires us’ of the storyline: I’ve been through [this thing] and came through the other side so now I’m going to inspire you to do the same’. I’ve done this and will likely continue to do this! Because it’s a narrative we’re comfortable with and many of us can resonate AND we can feel inspired about using the same tools or strategies to help us on our own journeys. Plus – it feels great to be able to validate and celebrate others’ personal stories of redemption and triumph, and there are so many milestones and achievements that are important to celebrate. It is also useful to have a record of these things that we personally can look back on (Facebook memories… are you a fan or not?)

We also consider that how we perceive/present ourselves through these mediums can come across very differently to others through a screen, and our INTENTION isn’t always clearly communicated through language/a picture.

What we may share innocently can trigger a wave of grief or pain in another.

What we may share proudly may come across as vain.

When we share something hoping to provoke solidarity, it may only serve to accentuate isolation.

When we share our vulnerabilities we may receive an onslaught of criticism.

When we ONLY share moments of joy then we risk partaking in the dangerous-facade-creating myth of the ‘perfect life’ when we all know human experience is far more complex.

Yet if we post our struggles/hardships/pain then there’s the risk of seeming like we’re self-victimizing in a bid for ‘likes’ and comments.

I am mindful of perpetuating narratives that chronicle an (often) linear ‘journey’ from ‘broken’ to ‘fixed’.

Maybe it’s because these stories seem to be providing answers when what we often are left with in reality is more questions than answers. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and experienced the ways my Dad and our family were revered and referred to as ‘inspirational’, which (although a compliment) felt like an erasure/blinding of the ordinary hard slog and pain.

Maybe it’s because so often we are individualizing what are social problems. We are relying on the strength, heroism, and redemption of the individual without being able to acknowledge, call on, and call into account broader structures and areas of responsibility.

What I have come to after grappling with all of this when deciding whether to make my thoughts public or not, is coming back to thinking about the ways in which other people’s public presence has enhanced my own private life. I’ve met some of my (real life) best friends online, whose children will grow up alongside my daughter. I see posts daily that inspire me and uplift me. That put a smile on my face. That put me in touch with resources/articles that help in very pragmatic ways. I have connected with researchers and writers in my area of work.

And I remember in the months after Dad died in the painfully quiet hours of the night when I couldn’t sleep, I would scroll and scroll and search through pages, blogs, pinterest, threads, looking for something to give me hope, to find connection, to find a quote that resonated, to read about the human experience of grief from another’s perspective. Although in small ways, those connections did help…

These platforms – for those who choose to participate – can be another version of community, another way of finding belonging, of catharsis, of connection, and of documenting the parts of our lives we have the opportunity to reflect over, whether that’s for other’s consumption or not.