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Baby: Eva, 18 months
What does being a woke mama mean to you?
Empathy. I really like this quote that’s been doing rounds on social media: “Your child is not giving you a hard time, your child is having a hard time.”
I can remember from personal experience that being a kid is not easy. That’s why I don’t dismiss her needs and emotions as invalid. I respond in a way that I’d want to be responded to myself in that situation.
I like to have an “open arms policy”. It doesn’t mean obliging to every whim, but being there when my daughter needs help processing whatever she’s going through.
Hopefully I can maintain that approach beyond the early years.
It’s also about learning to be kinder to others around us. Which isn’t always easy when you’re tired and have a lot on your plate.
What made you choose gentle parenting? And what is your favourite aspect of it?
Like many mamas, I didn’t necessarily “choose” it. By the time I learned the term “gentle parenting,” I was already doing it.
I guess it stems from my childhood and the fact that my parents were very responsive, so I was just doing what felt natural to me and finding ways that make being responsive easier, like co-sleeping, babywearing, etc.
But I take my hat off to parents who had a very different experience in their childhoods and managed to overcome this and to do better by their children.
My favourite thing about gentle parenting is its simplicity. Parenting is demanding no matter what style you follow, but here you don’t have to stick to any arbitrary rules from a book.
You just do what feels right and what is the easiest way of doing it, while keeping in mind your ultimate goal of ensuring your family healthy and happy in the long term.
Most awesome moment so far?
It’s hard to single out one moment as parenting is so rewarding! Her displays of affection are adorable, whether it’s sloppy baby-kisses or spontaneous cuddles, or when she looks up at me with eyes full of adoration while breastfeeding, for example.
Biggest struggle so far? How do you cope with stressful moments?
All our extended family is overseas, so my husband and I only have each other for support. We really share the workload between us, but it can be easy to get prickly with each other when both are tired.
So when that happens it becomes important to recognise the reasons, to apologise, to forgive and to remind ourselves and each other that we’re in this together, we’ve got each other’s backs, and we’re bound by something stronger than the circumstances – love. Humour helps too.
How do you juggle work with gentle parenting?
It’s hard. I’m still figuring it out, to be honest. I had to return to work after Eva turned 1. We weren’t keen on day-care and were lucky to be able to find an alternative solution.
I wanted to work part-time, but wasn’t allowed by my employer, so the compromise was to do full-time hours in four days, so I can have three full days with Eva.
My husband stays at home with her two full days and two half days – he works full time hours doing weekend and afternoon shifts. She really enjoys her time with dad.
The remaining two half days are covered by a nanny. We specifically looked for a nanny that would respect our parenting style and was happy to rock Eva to sleep and respond to her other needs.
The advantage of this arrangement is that our daughter has responsive one-on-one care at all times that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. On the downside, we hardly ever have days as a family, and virtually no couple time or downtime.
We remind each other it’s only temporary.
Breastfeeding is a great way for me to bond with my girl after a long day apart. A clear advantage of returning to work once the bub is older is that you can continue the breastfeeding relationship without the hassle of expressing at work (other than to relieve discomfort in the early days).
You also don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll take a bottle, as a one-year-old is capable of drinking from a cup and doesn’t need milk so often.
Both Eva and my supply adjusted well to the new routine with a couple of weeks. I continue nursing on demand when we’re together.
We co-sleep to keep night-time disturbances to a minimum, and even if she’s waking often due to teething or growth spurts, she usually settles down quickly at the breast.
One thing we’ve been really falling behind with is housework. We’re only doing the bare minimum and are currently considering whether getting a cleaner once a fortnight or so is an option.
Any advice you would give to new mums?
1. Gentle parenting is not a one-size-fits-all kinda gig. To best respond to the needs of your unique child and family, you often need to be flexible and open-minded.
2. If there’s a will there’s a way. While flexibility is key, be clear about your non-negotiables, and make everything else work around them. Sometimes that means making sacrifices in other areas or finding creative out-of-the-box solutions.
3. Find like-minded people who share your values, ask questions, share experiences. Even if it’s just an online community – tapping into the collective knowledge and finding some encouragement can really make a difference. Stay away from the toxic ones that stress you out.
What’s on your soundtrack to your first year of being a Woke Mama?
I wish I could say something classy, but I’m going to go with Wheels on the Bus. My girl loves nursery rhymes and this one in particular. She also does all the action.
Read Ally’s awesome parenting blog Midnight Mommy Stories
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