On learning humility from my children…

I like to tell new parents, new mothers especially, about attachment theory. How mummy is the centre of her baby’s world. How mummy is the star at the centre of the universe as far as her children are concerned. This is why babies howl when we leave the room, why as soon as we pick up our infants and cuddle them all is right with their world again. Why our toddlers follow us everywhere, even to the loo. I firmly believe that children need responsive parents and that nurturing and prioritising our children’s attachment needs is the right thing to do. 

My children are no longer babies, however.  I like to think I’m still quite important to them, but to prevent me getting grandiose they like to tell me what they really think. Beanie, for example, informed me that she prefers Awesome Auntie to me. I did my best not to look too miffed, and replied that I love Awesome Auntie very much too. I recounted this exchange to my sister, who insightfully remarked that Beanie’s preference comes from the fact that “she’s never seen me grumpy and I say yes to everything”. So I did feel slightly mollified. 

Next up comes Monkey’s opinion. We had been patronising a local shoe shop in search of new wellies and they had a promotion where you could nominate a “super mum”. Monkey was taken with the posters: they involved superhero cape costumes and he is five, after all.  Fishing for compliments, I asked him if he’d nominate me as super mum. He said no, but he would nominate Beloved Husband for super daddy. Serves me right for fishing, I suppose! Then just to make me feel good about myself he told me he likes me because “you’re fatter and cuddlier than Daddy”. Ho hum.

Parents are important. Mothering is a Serious business. But my children are reminding me not to take myself too Seriously. Which sometimes a tough lesson.

Dolly Serious

Health Visiting: Why am I doing this?

Two things have prompted me to think about this question recently. One is an article that appeared in our professional journal, Community Practitioner, called “Does mother know best?” which you can read here: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201503/3617922681.html asserting that there is a mismatch between parents’ expectations of their health visitors and what health visitors are trying to provide. The second was a post on a Becoming Minimalist, a blog I love to read, entitled “If you wouldn’t do it for free, don’t do it for money” http://www.becomingminimalist.com/for-work/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+becomingminimalistcom+%28becomingminimalist.com%2 I shall look at these one at a time.

The writer of the first article, Helen Calvert, claims that “health visitors want us to be happy” and that this is influencing our advice to parents in unhelpful ways. Now, while I certainly don’t set out to make my clients unhappy, I had not considered it my professional responsibility to make them happy either. First and foremost, as a health visitor I believe my role is to promote and protect the health and welfare of babies, children and their families. There are times when I know full well that what I am going to say is not going to make parents happy. It never gets any easier to look a parent in the eyes and say “I am referring you to Social Services”, for example, but there are times when doing just that is my professional responsibility and I accept that as part of my job. I just don’t expect the parents to be pleased about it!

We expect you to give us up-to-date, evidence-based, accurate information on the health aspects of parenting, and this includes infant feeding, co-sleeping, introducing solid food, postnatal depression, toddler behaviour, weight gain and development”

No arguments here: as a health visitor it is my job to provide parents with information to support them in making their own informed decisions about their child(ren)’s health. It is not my job to make those decisions for them. Often I may come across parents who make decisions which differ from my own, or I might not personally consider to be the best way to parent, but, as long as those decisions do not constitute a risk of harm to the child, it is not my job to intervene, it my job to support the parents. Of course, if there is a safeguarding risk, that changes everything.

The second article also made me think: why exactly am I doing this job? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d do it for free – I’ve got bills to pay, Beloved Husband is out of work, and I’ve not made as much progress on my minimalist journey as Joshua Becker has on his. However, I certainly don’t do it for the money. By nursing standards, health visitors don’t do too badly, but none of us are going to get rich doing it either. I think I’m doing it because I really believe that Every Child Matters, http://www.everychildmatters.co.uk no conditions, no exceptions, no excuses. And I want to play a part in making that a reality in the society I live in. I am very Serious about that.

On a good day I also enjoy it!

Dolly Serious

Catch up with Dolly Serious

A lot has happened in the (almost) four years since I last wrote anything here. Beanie Girl is eight years old. Monkey Boy is nearly six. I went back to work again nearly three years ago, so I am a practising Health Visitor as well as a busy mother.  Monkey was diagnosed with joint hyper mobility syndrome and growth faltering. Beloved Husband was made redundant. Both children are now in school. 

We bought a television – still not sure this was a good idea. Beloved Husband and I can barely operate the thing it is so complicated. We usually leave it set to cbeebies and mutter darkly about how there only used to be four channels and one on/off switch and life was much simpler in those days! Then we stomp off to read a book. Our children tolerate these grumpy old person moments with amusement. 

One of the reasons for my radio silence is my general ineptitude with technology. I had saved my WordPress password in my old laptop and promptly forgotten it. Then of course, the laptop died. It took a while to figure out how to recover it. Ok, so four years is a long while, but these things can’t be rushed! 

So why now? What has motivated me to start writing again? Several things: my Beloved Husband’s unemployment has forced us both to think about what’s important in our lives, our children are growing and learning and asking ever-more difficult questions; “Why are planets round, mummy?” “Did Jesus know he was going to rise again after three days?” “How?” And I have suffered further episodes of depression which tends to leave me introspective and Serious. I am hoping that working through some of my thoughts and writing them down will help me gain clarity. I suspect my only readers are my Beloved Husband and my sister, Awesome Auntie, but maybe they will benefit from my musings as well.

Dolly Serious

Postscript: we looked up why planets are round on Google. I’m not convinced I understood the answer. As for the second question I suggested that Monkey ask either his teacher or our parish priest. He opted for the latter because “Priests are clever about God”!