By myself

I’ve come away on holiday for the first time by myself since being a mum. Despite feeling anxiety about leaving Jenson, I knew it was right to have time by myself.

I need it to be at my best.

And I’ve already had such breakthroughs and moments of clarity with the time I’ve had by myself.

I’ve started to read a brilliant book called Soulcraft which is enlightening and mirrors what’s going on for me in my life (here’s a few lines that inspired me):

“the wanderer must move beyond her dependence upon others and upon her social roles. She will no longer adopt, in whole or part, other’s identities or ways of belonging to the world. She will no longer sacrifice her one true life in order to make herself or others comfortable. She knows what she has to do. She must leave her old home and step out into the wild night of her life”. 

Amidst the joy of this holiday, I’ve also been challenged by a difficult interaction with someone in my life. And while it isn’t spoiling my time away, I’ve been thinking about my reaction to what’s going on.

What I should do.

What might allow me to not sacrifice my one true life whilst also being kind to the other.

This morning, I did a meditation – it’s one with drums (and one that I’ve enjoyed lots recently). But as I laid there, listening to the rhythmic beats as I usually would, I was struck anew by all the sounds going on in the background of the track that I had never heard before.

The clinking and clanking of what sounded like someone eating cereal or stirring a cup of tea.

And as I laid there, I also heard the sounds of people around me. Others walking, talking, banging doors.

It reminded me that, whatever is happening on the surface, there’s always a cacophony of things going on beneath.

The interactions I have with others and with myself are layered with rich textures.

Assumptions made based on past experiences, hurt from other things going on that seep into interactions, illnesses colouring views.

And in knowing this, I’m able to be even more detached from the situation.

I’m able to step back and see that what is going on is impacted by a lot of stuff under the surface.

And while I knew this already, it was good to be reminded.

So the question remains, how do I react without sacrificing my one true life whilst acknowledging the complexities of the situation?

One to ponder on…


Thanks to Sara who supported me and bought me the coffee I enjoyed whilst writing this ❤️

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Boundaries

For the past ten days, I have been part of an online challenge with other mothers, focused on tapping more into our intuition. I’ve enjoyed connecting with others, reflecting on the questions set for us (such as ‘what would your ideal life look like?’ and ‘what are the words that your inner critic says to you?’).

The question that impacted me the most was ‘where have you been criticised as a parent and what did you do about it?’. I reflected on the criticism I received from someone about my choice to co-sleep with Jenson, a choice which we intent to make for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think it was meant purposely to hurt me – I imagine that it was a throwaway comment that the other person made but it has stuck with me and influenced how I feel about them.

It made me retreat, trust them less, not want to spend as much time in their presence.

And that also makes me sad.

As I reflected on this in the group, the facilitator asked me what it would take to restore this relationship.

Straight away, I knew what it would take.

Boundaries

And in knowing that, I was made aware that it’s not really anything about them.

It’s more about me.

Knowing what my boundaries are and respecting myself by sticking to them.

And really when I think about it, there’s only one boundary –

I listen to myself and respect my wishes and limits

It’s so simple.

And yet so hard for me as someone who has lived so many years living for what I think other people need and hasn’t listened to my own inner compass.

So I’ve taken some time to ask myself what I need to put this boundary into practice in my life…

Listen to my body

Often I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll feel some resistance in my body if what is going on isn’t right for me.

A tightness in my throat, an unease in my tummy, a quickening of my pulse.

My body knows before my consciousness does that I’m stepping outside of what is right for me and I need to learn to listen to it.

An example of this is something that happened at work on Thursday, when I was speaking to a senior leader. We were discussing something to happen in the future and what was agreed didn’t sit well with me. My throat went tight and I went a bit hot.

So I listened to what was going on and spoke up.

It turns out I had reason for feeling as I did and, as a result we changed our plans.

Take my time

I’m so unused to listening to myself and my desires. And as such, I acknowledge it’ll take time to understand what is going on for me.

It’ll take time to listen to my body and translate what I need – whether that is to be heard, to listen to myself, to do something different, to acknowledge and communicate a need I have.

And that’s ok.

With any new skill, it takes time to master it.

So I need to give myself that time.

Be brave

The scariest thing about having this boundary of acting in the way that I need is speaking up for myself.

But it is possible.

An example of this which springs to mind was when I was going to London to meet my mum a few weeks ago.

It was a belated mother’s day present to spend the day together but I was on my knees with exhaustion. We’d made plans to visit a graveyard that my mum wanted to see and had talked about doing a number of other things together. But I knew that I needed a relaxing day without jumping from plan to plan to plan, and so I spoke up and said that.

Knowing she might be a bit disappointed that her day was being monopolised by my needs.

But I also knew that I was likely to crack if we spent the day running from one thing to the next and so I spoke up.

I said that I needed us to take a more relaxed pace.

And that’s what we did.

She heard me and, as we took it easy, I was able to be fully present with her.

I didn’t have to contort myself into the Amy who was ‘fun’, ‘up-for-anything’, ‘without a care in the world’ – the Amy I wasn’t at that moment.

And it increased my level of trust in and love for her. Knowing that she is willing to meet my needs. Seeing that she is able to hear me and meet me where I am.

No other option

It’s a scary thing to vocalise what I need instead of pushing my needs down to accommodate others.

But the truth is that this isn’t a choice any more.

I’ve ventured into the realm of speaking my truth and, like a butterfly who has burst from its chrysalis, there’s no going back.

There’s no way that I can contort myself into having no needs.

There’s no way I can live to just please other people.

And so on I will go – setting my boundaries, stumbling and getting things wrong but then getting back up again and moving forward.

And I hope the relationships that have been broken or damaged because of my lack of boundaries might be built back up.

I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I can only try.

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Not the whole truth

I’m feeling a bit better since I ranted to you a few days ago. A night out with my husband did wonders for me feeling like an actual human being instead of being in a constant state of mum.

A lie-in has also left me feeling a bit more replenished as well as the day ahead of me – in London with my mum.

From this, I know that:

  1. Feelings are better out than in
  2. I need to get out more with Gregg
  3. Sleep needs to take more priority
  4. I’ll need to ask for more help from people around us to babysit – already two friends, Laura and Ellie, have been amazing taking Jenson for an evening. Big love to you both if you’re reading this.

I’m also left feeling better after a coaching session I had yesterday which showed me that my inner critic has been rampaging around me recently. Due to tiredness, being stretched beyond my means, keeping in all my feelings, I’ve had little resources to keep her at bay and she’s been busying herself.

You’re only a good mum if you manage to breastfeed until he’s 2.

You’ll never be able to express yourself.

You’re broken.

You don’t know how to do this.

You didn’t come up with the best idea for the session and this is the area you’re meant to be an expert at. You’re a fake.

You’ve got no clue what you’re doing.

Hold it together, you need to be perfect.

What would they say if you fell apart. They’d never trust you again.

You don’t have this.

You called your boy a little shit to someone else, what a terrible mother you are.

I can feel these words pressing on my chest like a weight. Making me retreat, feel small.

And I feel the anger towards myself for not managing to hold things together. For not being perfect. For not coping when I think I should be able to bloody well cope with something that appears, on the surface of things, so simple.

And as I spoke to Jenny, we talked through how I might talk to my inner critic.

Acknowledging that she’s just trying to keep me safe by keeping me small.

It’s safe if I measure my life and success by the standards of some external expectation – others, society, perfection.

I’m less likely to trip and fall in front of others if I stay small.

It’s not what I really want. I want an expansive, large, messy, bold, brave life of exploration, courage, excitement.

But that’s really scary too.

I also acknowledge that she’s piping up because I’m reaching breaking point. I’ve been doing too much for too long, giving too much of myself for too long without replenishing myself.

But she’s got her wires crossed and instead of saying ‘Hey, Amy! You need to take care of yourself and sack everything else off’ she shouts at me military-style to try to get me to keep on going.

Awareness that what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth

When I’m in this situation, her voice can be all consuming. And I believe what she’s saying – I’m broken, I’m a failure, I’m shit.

But what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth.

For example, it’s not the whole truth that I need to get everything right every time.

It’s not the whole truth that I need to breastfeed Jenson to be a good mum.

It’s not the whole truth that I don’t know what to do.

It’s not the whole truth that I’m broken.

There are part-truths in there for me –

My role requires some mastery but I don’t need to be right every time – I need to have a learners mindset and ask good questions to help others make progress.

Being a good mum to me means putting the needs of my child first – but I can fulfil Jenson’s need for nourishment through other sorts of milk and lots of affection. It doesn’t need to be through breastfeeding.

I don’t always know what to do, but I do sometimes.

I’m struggling at the moment but I’m not completely broken. And it’s not the whole truth that struggling and even cracking is a crime, a judgement of my worth, a sackable offence.

Calling on another part of me

At the moment my inner critic is pretty loud. But there are other parts of me that have something to say.

The wise part of me able to say that breastfeeding is more about nurturing and loving Jenson, which I can do in other ways.

The cheerleader in me who says ‘you’re a bloody brilliant mum, I’m so proud of you.’

The gentle part of me which says that I need to let Gregg step into the nurturing role with Jenson more so that I can nurture myself and continue to be a good mum to him and be an example to him of the importance of putting yourself first. I want that for him – that he puts himself, his happiness, his well-being, his desires, first – and so I need to show him me doing that in action to role model this behaviour.

Will this ever get better?

I asked Jenny if I’ll ever get to a point where this voice isn’t so loud.

And disappointingly she said ‘no’. But she did say that I’ll get quicker at noticing my inner critic and will get better at telling myself that what she’s saying is only partly true. I’ll get better at calling on different parts of myself to give different perspectives.

It’s not what I wanted to hear, but that’ll have to be enough.

A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Good boy

    I’m just on my way back home from a gorgeous wedding of close friends, Jake and Ash.

    It was lovely to have a few hours away from parenthood as my husband and I danced up a storm and didn’t have any parental responsibility for an afternoon.

    But despite being away from my little poppet, I was still thinking about him.

    More specifically about the phrase ‘good boy’.

    I’ve heard Jenson’s nursery workers use that phrase when praising him for something he’s done and I’ve heard others tell him that he’s a ‘good boy’ for similar circumstances.

    But it sticks in my throat when I hear someone say ‘good boy’ to him and it’s not something I say to him when he’s shown skill or kindness or compliance.

    Because I want to know that he is intrinsically good.

    Regardless of his skill, kindness or compliance with my desires.

    Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to do whatever he likes or that I don’t acknowledge what he’s done well.

    If he does something out of line, I’ll say ‘that wasn’t nice’ or ‘be gentle please’.

    And I say ‘bravo’ (I speak to him in French, this isn’t a reflection of my gentleman’s english!) or ‘bien fait’ – well done when he’s done something well.

    I say the behaviour is out of line instead of saying he is out of line for doing something I disapprove of.

    And I say the behaviour good instead of telling him he is good for doing something I approve of.

    It’s semantics, but I think it’s important nevertheless.

    Because I want him to grow up knowing that he is good.

    Regardless of what he has done or not done.

    Words do not do justice to the strength I feel for these words and the intensity of desire I have for him to know that he is good.

    Because I believe this is a foundation – the belief that he is good – which is key for him to stand strong in life.

    To feel able to follow his heart instead of hustling for the approval of others.

    To not overly question his decisions but to trust his instincts.

    To be happy in his own skin knowing that he is ok just as he is.

    Part of me thinks ‘is this really important enough for me to raise this with his nursery?’

    It’s just semantics.

    And it’s not the only thing that will decide whether he has good self-esteem or a knowledge that he is fine as he is.

    It’ll be Gregg and I showing him that we love ourselves, trust ourselves, believe we’re intrinsically ok.

    It’ll be us respecting him and giving him enough freedom as he makes decisions for himself.

    It’ll depend on us engaging in dialogue when he questions our boundaries.

    Not to bend to his will, but to show him that he has a voice, is important, is intrinsically worthy of love and respect.

    But stopping the ‘good boy’ comments seem like a good start.

    And my gut tells me to raise it with his nursery.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, dear friend.

    A note from myself in 2017

    I found a piece of writing I did in 2017 – and thought I’d share it with you, my friend.

    I hope it speaks to those of you who struggle with people pleasing and low self-worth…

    You feed on the affirmation of other people; their praise, encouragement, confirmation of worth and you feel that this is enough to fed you. But in truth you’re starving – the fast-food, soul detracting opinion of others is not enough, not nearly enough to sustain you.

    Yet, dear one, there is enough here within you – I have plenty to share from a source that will never know scarcity.

    Inside is a banquet of love, joy, abundance, generosity, confidence, surety – if only you would stop bustling around collecting the scraps and crumbs from others, you would be able to stop, to rest, to feast on these delights.

    All you need is to stop.

    To turn your hearing inside and listen. To notice the beat of your heart, the beat of love, continually drumming for you.

    Then you would go to things, join in with things, not to exchange your authenticity for acceptance, but merely to experience life.

    You would pour yourself into experiences by wouldn’t be attached to the outcome for your worth would not be defined by it.

    Your worth would be anchored in yourself and you would know how fully and extraordinarily worthy you are.

    ❤️

    I was wrong

    I’ve had the best day by myself. I was cocooned in my introverted bliss for most of the morning and most of the afternoon.

    I did what I set out to do… had a haircut, blogged, went to the cinema, did some exercise, read, ate, treated myself to some new mascara – my old one getting the boot because of wearing it when I came down with conjunctivitis and sinusitis earlier this week.

    And during the day I had plenty of time to think…and my pondering led to me a few things I’ve been thinking about for a while and to the realisation about an area where I’ve been getting it wrong in life.

    What is it, you ask?

    Money.

    Some of you may remember that I’ve vowed to not buy anything unneeded for twelve months (a vow I have broken twice and regretted twice – perhaps a blog on that later).

    Although I said I could spend money on experiences, this didn’t stretch in my mind to spending money on my own wellbeing.

    I’ve had no problem stocking myself up with goodies to eat, trips to cafes, yummy additions to my lunch at work.

    And I’ve done things that were essential to me functioning – a massage when my shoulders and neck were locked up from sling wearing a hefty 13 month old, for example.

    But I have almost felt a lack of self-permission to spend money on things that weren’t essential but would support my wellbeing.

    It could be anything – paying for a ukulele class, a trip to the theatre, but most specifically for me at the moment, paying for a regular exercise class.

    It seemed frivolous to spend £20 a month on a gym membership or £8 for an exercise class, but that would have been so good over these past months – having a class to allow myself to let off some steam and exert myself physically.

    This thought has been brewing for a while, I just wasn’t aware of it until now. It started forming when I was laid in bed sick earlier this week.

    My mind drifted to how much pressure I put on myself at work, compressing almost a full working week into 4 days in order to save – for the future, for Jenson, to pay off our mortgage early and then this thought hit me –

    What’s the point of working so damn hard, packing so much work into my week so that we’re not financially strapped for cash, if I don’t live life?

    Sure, it’s so that we can have holidays. It’s so we can save for the future. It’s so we can afford to run a car if we need one for our jobs.

    But I know there’s an imbalance with how I currently use my spending money and I want that to stop.

    I want greater wellbeing.

    I want to feel like I’m living, not just functioning.

    I want more fun.

    So by writing this post, I publicly give myself permission to invest in my own wellbeing.

    I’m stating that investing in activities to make me glow (ok, more like sweat like a pig!) is important.

    And to kick this off, I’ve subscribed to MoveGB, an app which allows me to go to a class a week in a variety of locations for £28/month (there’s a free 10 day trial you can do and a £1/week membership if you’re interested, don’t mind going to a lot of different classes but are on a budget).

    And since I’m paying for this app, I know I’ll hold myself accountable to get out there and attend a class (or more!) each week.

    It feels right, good, bloody brilliant to give myself permission to invest in my own wellbeing.

    And so my parting question for you is this: what do you need to give yourself permission to do, dear friend?

    Today

    I’m off work today!!! Yippee!!!

    Not that work is a bad thing – I enjoy what I do – but I’m so excited because this is the first ‘me’ day since Jenson came on the scene.

    Yes, Jenson is at nursery, Gregg is at work and I’m able to spend the whole day doing exactly what I want to do. So I’m sat here, just after nursery drop-off, having a cup of chai tea and thinking about all the things I’m going to do today.

    And, gosh, from the photo I just took to accompany this post, I can see that I need it! I can see the tiredness on me, the stretch of the last few weeks, the bleary eyes from too little sleep and the sinusitis I’ve been suffering with.

    I’m going to do an exercise class – I know, not how I’d have planned to spend time alone a year ago. But I miss moving, I miss sweating, I miss feeling strong and accomplished physically (although I’m not sure how accomplished I’ll feel – I might be more of a hot, snotty, sweaty mess!).

    I’m going to spend some time in a cafe with a huge slice of cake, writing and reading and pondering without a time limit on these thoughts!

    I’m going to go to the cinema to see any frivolous film I fancy.

    I’m going to get my hair cut.

    I might even contemplate breaking my no shopping ban and looking for a new pair of trousers.

    As I’m writing this, I feel a voice inside me saying how selfish this is, how stupid this will seem to you – all this bother over 8 hours alone -, how ungrateful I must sound to have such a gorgeous baby, such a supportive, caring husband and yet to crave more than anything time just by myself.

    But then again, I think it’s important to share my truth. The truth that this day feels like EVERYTHING at this moment in time.

    Because when you’re a parent, you don’t stop being yourself.

    You don’t stop having needs.

    And my need for quiet, for solitude, for time alone has grown bigger and bigger over these past months.

    But this need doesn’t negate the love that I feel for my boys.

    It doesn’t cancel out all that I do for Jenson and Gregg.

    It doesn’t invalidate all the love I pour into my family, my work, my friends.

    And so, without regret or shame I’m going to get this day started.

    I can’t wait!

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    A path for finding truth

    Religions are not truth. Their just a path. And different people follow different paths.”

    This is a sentence from a book I was reading last weekend – it really spoke to me and has been in my thoughts since.

    As someone who was raised in a Christian family and who believed that Christianity was the only ‘truth’, this was a really interesting thing to read.

    I’ll be honest with you, dear friend. I shy away from writing about religion here because I know some of you who read my words are Christian and I don’t want to offend you with my views.

    But in line with my recent post about loving myself enough, I’m going to write about it. Because, when I loved myself enough, I gave myself permission to express my thoughts, even when they differed from the thoughts of other people.

    I know from my own experience the danger of living as if my own religion is the only truth. I put judgements on other people and alienated myself because of thinking that I was right and they were wrong.

    I’m sad to admit it, but I judged people who weren’t heterosexual when I was a Christian, thinking they were somehow wrong for loving who they loved and being who they inherently were. And in doing so, I locked myself down to a heteronormative label when I think that human sexuality is more fluid than the black and white ‘hetero vs. homo’ line that we so often draw.

    My fixation on the ‘truth’ hurt me and it hurt others.

    I also judged people who followed another religion – worrying for their soul and, if I’m honest, feeling superior in my ‘rightness’ as a Christian. I read about how other religions were wrong, even Catholicism which has the same ‘God’ at the heart of it, just because they pray to saints.

    This makes me feel so sad – the fixation on showing how others were wrong in their beliefs.

    With this belief that Christianity was the only truth, there wasn’t much room for debating and grappling with what I was taught. It wasn’t discouraged, but it wasn’t encouraged either or something I engaged in.

    I take heart from Christian bloggers I know who are challenging, debating and seeing where the teachings and beliefs fit with them (Clotilde, my sister’s friend is one of those – her blog is here).

    I think a truth which hasn’t been tested personally and intellectually is dangerous but that is how I lived for the most part as a Christian.

    Looking back, I see such a strict black-and-whiteness about so many things in following the ‘truth’ of Christianity.

    Beliefs about sex before marriage being wrong, the danger of being friends or in a relationship with ‘non-believers’, the importance of converting those I knew who didn’t share my faith, the ability to be healed being based on the strength of your faith.

    In fairness, not all these teachings came from my church. Some views came from visiting preachers, discussions with other believers, Christian festivals and me taking the word of the bible as truth without grappling with it.

    But the one thing that bound all of these issues is the focus on Christianity being the ‘truth’, not a path to finding personal truth.

    This is something I’m still grappling with. My experience of religion, my current knowledge of Christians as being more flexible, more inquisitive. My search for a ‘church’ like community which comes together for the beauty of being in community.

    And as someone grappling with this, I’d be interested to know your views on this, dear friend.

    All I know is that this feels right for me, right now. That religions are just paths to personal truth.

    And I take great comfort in the clarity that this small sentence brought to me. It sums up a belief deep inside me that I hadn’t been able to voice until now.

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    Relief

    I’m part laughing to myself writing this – as soon as I took the pressure off myself and said that I wouldn’t be writing to you until my Christmas break, I have something that I want to get off my chest…the relief I’m feeling about Jenson’s feeding.

    I’ve been fretting for a while now that he isn’t eating enough. He just doesn’t seem that interested in a lot of food and isn’t fitting into the pushed mantra that he should be eating three meals by now and two snacks.

    We’ve seen a nutritionist partly due to Jenson’s vegan diet and partly due to the small variety of food that he’s eating…and it’s been on my mind more than it should.

    Why won’t he eat?!

    In my head, every other baby I know is eating. I see babies stuffing their faces with roasted vegetables, full-blown meals and fruit pieces when Jenson is just not there.

    He eats a massive breakfast and then picks at this and that throughout the day.

    It had got to a stage where we were almost forcing food into him (despite the alarm bells ringing in my head that this was not respectful to him as an individual) and were putting so many thoughts on him:

    • He is mistrustful of the new food we’re giving him
    • He’s holding out for sweet food
    • He isn’t open to trying new food
    • He’ll never get better at eating

    But then a few things happened.

    My good friend, Charlie, recommended a book called ‘My Child Won’t Eat’ which has been so interesting and a real relief, talking about the realities of childhood eating.

    She shared with me that eating is not always easy for her with her son – making me feel not alone in this.

    Another good friend, Jess, talked about how her son doesn’t fit into the NHS approved regime. She’s spoken before about how her son loves pasta (something that Jenson has no interest in) and I’d envisaged him eating it by the bucketload and eating everything in sight while I’m at it. It turns out that it’s not the case – he’s a bit particular too.

    I suddenly felt not alone and saw the ‘three meals and two snacks a day’ exactly as it is – a framework, a guideline, a theoretical model which will not fit every baby.

    What a relief!

    And so I’m sharing this for all the mamas and papas out there who are maybe worried about their baby’s weight (or future mamas/papas) so you know that you’re not alone if you go through this.