When ‘good thanks’ is not good enough…

Good Thanks..

Ok, Thank You..

Fine Thanks…

Not Bad Thank You..

Pretty Good Thanks..

Sound Familiar?!?!

The social curtesy of asking the question ‘how are you’ or…….’are you ok’?  Often has me cringing, as even on a tough day, I hear myself say ‘good thanks’.

Why?!?!  Why don’t I just say ‘having a rough day today’….

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I find myself asking….what does conforming to this habitual way of responding teach my babes? What message does this send to myself? How does this ‘polite’ way of responding feed into the social understanding that tricky feelings, are not to be shared, but to be kept private….and in turn, how does this fuel the expectation that struggle is outside of the norm?!?!

I don’t know about you…but often on a day of tiredness, crankiness, sickness and all the rest…a trip to the local coffee shop for a breather has me floating outside of my body as the kind and polite cafe chicky asks the question ‘hi how are you today’…on these days…i actually want to cry out aloud and say ‘I am soooooooo tired and sooooooo cranky, would you mind playing with my kiddies whilst I drink a hot cup of coffee, and take a few deep silent breaths……..pleeeeeeeeease’!!!!!!!!  But instead what I hear come out of my mouth is ‘good thanks, how are you?’ and what I (looking at myself like I’m watching a bad reality show) see is a fake, try hard, stiff smile appear on my face as I mutter the words that have no meaning.

My partner is honest.  He is a ‘call a spade a spade’ type of guy.  I love this about him.  This is also something that challenges me.  If he is stressed or tired, and asked how he is, he calls it.  I ask myself once again questioning, why does this feel uncomfortable.  Why do I silently will him to put on a fake smile, and say ‘good thank’s!!!

Im a Psychologist.  Teaching people how to accept and express emotions is embedded in the core layer of what I do.  Encouraging people to express truth, in an attempt to receive validation and support…..is what I do.  Dismissing my own feelings, in moments like above, has me feeling like a fraud..

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to encourage a giant verbal and emotional spill of personal stories to the local cafe employees…..but what I am trying to redirect is the social expectation that ‘good thanks’ is the norm.  That saying ‘having a touch day today’ is inappropriate or outside of the norm.

Not long ago, I was in session with a young girl, primary school age.  She said to me that sometimes when asked how things are going at the end of a day, she says ‘good’ just because she doesn’t want to talk about how she is really feeling.  When we spoke about why that is…she shared with me, something that struck a cord which echoes silently through me.  She expressed….that she rather keep her feelings to herself than cause worry to others.

I ask….in what world is it ok for anyone, let alone our children to feel that sharing their honest feelings is burdensome on others.

So here is what I think….Mama Being Frank….

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Expressing how we feel opens opportunity for support and validation.

Expressing how we feel, helps us connect, accept and repair from the emotional state that we are in.

Expressing how we feel shows others that when we have experience periods of toughness, emotions that feel heavy….this is normal.  Normal in the sense that…difficult feelings are ok, and not something to be covered up or hidden, linked with shame or fear of judgement.

Expressing emotions in an honest way, can give permission for others to also share in a real and honest way.

Recently, whilst reflecting on this topic, I came across a fellow mama blogger who shared this;

“Hey there mumma..how are you doing? I know you’d usually answer that you’re good, or you’re fine, but how are you really going? Are you really good? Are you really fine? Or are you hiding behind a mask today?” (Laura Muzza – Mum On The Run)

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So I ask you..for the community of mamas…be true, be real.  Struggle over daily hardships and Gratitude over the humbling moments can exist.  To say you are having a hard day, does not say that you are failing.  To say you are tired and need a break, does not mean you are giving up.  To say that being a mama is hard work, does not mean that you wouldn’t give the world to your babies.

Being honest, being real tells our society, that being a mama is the most wonderfully, challenging job, and possibly one of the most important things you will ever do in your life time.  To do this well, we must take care of us.  To take care of us, we need to practice being honest with ourselves and honest with others.  Celebrate the wanders, share the struggle.

Emotional well being is not a matter of ‘fake it till you make it’!!!!!  Sure some days, heading out into the sunshine for a breath of fresh air can help shift a mood….but talking and connecting is where the real change can happen.  Its through others, we have our deepest needs met, and the right help offered.

Let’s empower each other, our children, by first empowering ourselves.

Ask someone….ARE YOU OK?

And when you answer this question in return…speak with honesty, speak with openness, speak from the heart.

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The Day Care Debate…

When should I send my baby/toddler to care? Where should I send them? What should I be looking out for? What tells me that they are ready? What tells me that they are not ready? What tells me that I’m ready and should this count towards our decision?

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Is it just me, and my occasionally over analytic anxious self….or is it truth that we as a society, engaged in a 180 flip when it comes to the care of our children from a centre or person outside of our immediate circle. Somehow, we have moved from a place where sending your child to care before a certain age, was frowned upon as selfish on the mothers part, too early for the child’s development, and shouldn’t be done. To a place where now, if your child doesn’t attend by a certain age you run the risk of being labeled as an anxious clingy mother who should and should have their child in the care of someone other than yourself, otherwise running the risk of impacting their development. I myself have very often received the comment…. ‘what your toddler hasn’t gone to daycare yet?’

 

Any choice as a parent can be riddled with perceived and real consequences, both positive and negative, and therefore are often accompanied by self-doubt. The daycare debate as to when and where to enroll our biggest little love has been a significant one for me.

 

Without sounding completely ungrateful (because I am so grateful for the option of staying home and raising my babies) a close friend and I have both reflected that the decision to send our big little loves to day care would almost be made easier if we didn’t have the choice…..what does this say??? In a time where choice has become a luxury, could it be that choice has also become a burden. And instead of providing freedom it entails guilt, anxiety and unmet expectation.

 

 

So like many of my posts, I found inspiration and comfort in sharing my journey and my experiences within this journey both professionally as a psychologists supporting others through similar transitions, and personally as a mama, who lives through the many challenges and milestones that parenting presents.

 

 

 

When it came to the decision of whether and when to send our first born to day care, we were in two minds. She has always been a social and outgoing bub who seems to mix well and play well with others. She has always liked to be close to me, most of the time she seeks me out for comfort and reassurance, she was breastfed to sleep up until the time when her baby sister arrived, she likes me close as she falls to sleep at night and she continues to co sleep with us some of the time.

 

This journey has been a start and stop one for us. We tried our biggest little love in Family Day Care when she was about 16 months. We were expecting buba number two in a couple of months and my partner and I thought it would be a positive step for both our love and our family as a whole. We had chosen a family day care close to our home, and we were happy with the choice of carer and the environment that she would provide. I remember so clearly the gut churning feeling as I dropped her off on her first day. There were no tears from her, but there were many from me as I sat in the car blubbing away to my partner followed closely by my mum. The feeling of leaving my baby with what felt like a stranger, was so very unnatural for me. Our baby girl did so well for the morning, but come transition to sleep time, she needed her mummy. Needless to say, we gave it two more goes, but it was becoming upsetting for all, so we decided that it just wasn’t the right time.

 

Fast forward 12 months and we were ready to try again. We looked at family day care and we looked at day care centers, we explored the option of holding her off until she was over three, and starting at Pre School. Through exploring each of these options, I couldn’t help but question, was I being an overly anxious mama??? Was I looking for things that wouldn’t work, out of my own feelings of separation anxiety??? Was I looking for reasons not to send her because I wasent ready???

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We explored family day care…The family day care we found again felt like a perfect fit as far as the carer and the environment was concerned, but the other children were quite a bit younger than our love, and I felt that she wouldn’t experience the benefits of social interaction with children her age….

 

We explored Day Care…The initial centre we looked at we had actually enrolled and moved through the process of orientation, but something just didn’t feel right. Our love was happy to go there and play, the centre was new and resourced very well. But something about it just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for us.

 

And then we got a call from another local day care centre advising they had a spot for Addie, we went for a visit, and it FELT RIGHT!! At the same time we found out that most preschools in the area were so full that Addie would most likely be four or close to it, before she was offered a spot. Personally for me, the ‘feel right’ part comes from the relationships and connections with the carers. At the center we chose, all of the carers stopped to take the time to talk and connect with both myself and our love, and I truly feel like this has made the difference, for both of us.

 

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We went for another visit prior to starting and again, it felt right. Our biggest little love showed signs of separation anxiety wanting me close as she explored the environment and observed her peers. So I held her hand as she moved around, reassuring myself and her that this feeling of uneasy is normal.

 

Our loves first and second day at day care went better than I could have hoped. When I took her there, she showed the normal signs of separation anxiety, but didn’t show signs of distress. She wanted me close as she entered, but was ok to say goodbye. She had a great day both days and I could see she was forming a strong connection with some of the children and a special bond with one of the carers. The third week we were absent because of sickness, so week four was a challenge. Our baby girl was upset when it was time for me to go.

 

I also feel its important to reflect on how separation makes both us and our child feel, and to acknowledge that this in itself will be different for every parent, every child and every parent child relationship. Have you ever overheard or received the comment   ‘he/she doesn’t cry when dad does the drop off’ or ‘she doesn’t get upset like that with me’. These comments may be true, but that is not an indicator that you are doing something wrong. Most of the time its an indicator of the strength and closeness of the connection you have with your child.   Experiences of separation anxiety are normal. And just because they are normal, it doesn’t mean that we cant feel upset, sad, confused or any other feeling when it comes time to say goodbye.

 

 

Everyone has different ideas about what makes your choice ‘feel right’, but I truly believe there is one thing, we as mother and fathers have, and it’s instinct. We know our children better than anybody does. Each child, and each parent child relationship is different and unique. Which means, there is no exact recipe or guideline around what is going to suit each individual child, and their family unit. So I pose the question, shouldn’t our parental instinct override any other expectations sent from those around society and us in general. In theory, yes it probably should, but in reality, it often doesn’t. Hence why we as parents find ourselves in emotionally pressured situations, feeling uncertain and doubtful about our choices.

 

addie

In fact, MAMA BEING FRANK, being secure in your instinct and parental confidence is probably one of the biggest challenges, parents, in our day and age has to face.

 

 

Feel confident and at ease with you’re right to look around and explore different options of care for your child. Ask questions, visit the centers, talk with the carers.

 

Feel ok about changing your mind.

 

Take an approach that both you and your child are comfortable with. Visiting the centre with our baby girl before starting gave myself and our bub time to adjust to the new environment and begin to build a sense of familiarity and connection with the people who would be caring for her.

 

Continue asking questions. I am one of those mamas who started off by calling at least three times a day to check in. At first I felt intrusive, but with reflection and managing thoughts of self doubt, I feel now feel comfortable that I am not an overly anxious mum, I am a caring responsive mum who has every right to know how my baby is travelling, and whether she needs me.

 

Talk to your child, follow their lead. Its amazing how much our babies understand from such a young age and how much they can communicate from a very young age. Naming and normalizing big feelings can be so reassuring for them and for you. We often talk about how saying goodbye makes us feel sad and that’s ok. Reassured with, mummy will always come back and pick you up, and how fun it is to talk about the day that has been.

 

Trust your instinct!!

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I encourage you to try to notice, when the expectations of society and those around you are placing unwanted pressure on you and your family. Sit back and reflect on how YOU feel about the decision at hand. And make a choice that feels right for you and your partner, and your child.

 

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