Staying Sane

Part 1 – It’s Not Just You!

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Moo! Just call me Ermintrude!

Breastfeeding can be difficult. It’s tiring, sometimes painful, often controversial and makes me want to say “just call me Ermintrude!” most of the time but I have found one brilliant thing about it… books! Not where you thought I was going with that huh?

Unlike bottle feeding, which requires two hands, breastfeeding is a little more of a hands free option. This means that not only can I use it as an opportunity to do trivial niceties like eating or cuddling and reassuring a suddenly jealous and needy toddler, but I can hold a book or iPad or Kindle (you get the idea!).

Let’s be honest, having children might be totally amazing, it might be a complete honour and rewarding in ways you couldn’t even imagine before and it may be the best thing I have or will ever do, but it’s also extremely hard work! You think penning stories is hard? Well I’d like to see the person who described writing as ‘opening a vein’ try handling a full blown toddler tantrum in the middle of Morrisons whilst wearing a puking baby, having had maybe four hours sleep (and that was a good night!) after spending the previous few hours being made to feel like a Friesian by your cluster feeding newborn whilst being subjected to “Daddy Pig Puts Up A Picture” for the 531st time this week. Even sitting reading through my editors comments on a first draft is a holiday compared to that!

So, though I love my children to the moon and back, as I get used to being a mum of two, I needed to find a life preserver for my sanity before it slipped beneath the icy waves of nappies and spit-up and months of sleep deprivation faster than Leonardo Di Caprio at the end of Titanic!

Books are it. Books will save me. Books will give me a little holiday without the need for a child minder or even leaving the room. Books will mean that I have something else to talk about with people aside from baby poo, mastitis and Peppa Pig. Books let me feel like me and still be mum.

The books that have caught me in the last few months of mummyhood fall in to 2 distinct camps; those that focus on parenthood and those that don’t.

It’s Not Just You

Since becoming a parent I have read my fair share of parenting manuals including ‘The Baby Whisperer’, ‘Gentle Parenting’, ‘Playful Parenting’ and ‘The No Cry Sleep Solution’ but it is another group of books that I have found infinitely more comforting and these I shall call the “it’s not just you” (INJY) books.

The INJY books are by real people, mainly bloggers, who speak with honesty, humour and great compassion about their own trials and tribulations at the parenting helm. They make you laugh, they make you cry, they let you know that placating your toddler with yet another episode of “Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom” so you can make yourself another coffee before resuming feeding your newborn does not make you a monster. You are just like everyone else and you are doing the best you can.

These are the ones I’ve read and I would strongly recommend them to parents and parents-to-be, especially those who are feeling overwhelmed.

Dummy’ – Based on his blog, Man vs Baby, Matt Coyne rampages through the highs, lows and nappy covered middle ground of parenting as he shares his struggles raising his son, Charlie. Rating high on the laugh-o-meter, this is a total tonic!

The Unmumsy Mum‘ – Sarah Turner’s memoir, or rather mumoir, of parenting her two children, based on her blog of the same name, generates some knowing laughs. I laughed and cried with her because I’ve been there… in fact, in many cases, I am there.

French Children Don’t Throw Food‘ – Also sold as ‘Bringing Up Bebe’, Pamela Druckerman mumoir charts her move from the USA to France to the schooling of her daughter and subsequent twins, illustrating the different attitudes to parenting in different countries and the ‘fun’ of bringing up kids in a different culture and language.

Don’t Lick The Minivan‘ – Another book that starts off with having a baby abroad. This is Leanne Shirtliffe’s journey from giving birth to twins in Bangkok to raising kids in suburbia USA. A very honest reflection on the weird and wonderful things kids do and raising them with post natal depression.

Raising My Rainbow‘ – A wonderful autobiography of Lori Duran, an American mum who finds her youngest son is gender creative. This family’s journey is often touching, heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking.

How Not To Be The Perfect Mother‘ – Libby Purves talks about the realities she found whilst raising her kids with characteristic humour. I’ll be honest, when I first read this I was a little horrified. I was expecting my first baby at the time and, funny as I found this, I was a little more shocked than I’d like to admit that parenting probably wasn’t going to look like Pampers commercial! Reading it again now, I give knowing laughs both to what Purves says and to my former self’s blistering naïveté!

But these recollections of parenthood aren’t the only books I’ve been reading/listening to… find out more next time with Staying Sane: Part 2 – Out Of This World

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