Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dear Jim, Please can you fix it for me to be Mother Supporter? (Oh, and to get published would be nice too)

Ok enough complaints about the neighbours and miserable poems for one week. Today I feel like writing about why we mothers and fathers need lots and lots of support, information, updates on the latest research, and encouragement, and a lot less opinionated advice. Someone should create a new position called a Mother Supporter, and when they do, or, if such a job already exists, it should be rightfully mine. Ok I may have absolutely no qualifications for this as yet, but here’s why I know I am right :-).

Oh sorry, one more neighbour-related bit to kick off. It is relevant I promise. While the mad woman next door was yelling again for most of Saturday, James and I began to wonder if we had done something bad in a past life. Because when we looked back over the years we realised that we have been plagued by anti-social neighbours for our entire life together so far. Our last house in Winchester was wedged neatly between two chain-smoking, snarling, gnarling, grumpy old folks on one side, who refused to acknowledge us other than to argue over an inch of grass pathway, and two chain-smoking, snarling, gnarling, grumpy teenaged boys on the other side, who were so foul that they caused their poor single mother to scream at them day and night. Jemima’s last words would have been F**k and Worse had we not fled to Cambodia.

Before that, in our lovely, tiny, just-married attic flat, when babies simply did not come into the equation, we shared our bedroom wall with a small child that cried for hours every night for a year.

I finally gathered up the courage to go over and ask, very nicely, for they were a lovely couple obviously struggling and exhausted, whether there was anything at all they could do?

“Perhaps” I boldly suggested, never having considered anything remotely related to child-raising before, “you might take her into your bedroom for a while? Maybe she just needs to know you are close-by?”

“Oh! We had not thought of that. Yes, maybe we ought to try that”.

Hey presto the problem was solved and I forgot all about it until this Saturday seven years on, when it dawned on me that I was meant to be a motherhood guru extraordinaire all along. Hoorah!

I wrote in my Christmas letter home to friends and family this year that if only there were such a career as a Mother Supporter I would like to have it. I realise I need a lot more experience and am planning to train as a breast feeding counsellor as soon as I am back in the UK, but ideally in some years to come I would love to spend my days helping parents do things exactly the way I think they should be done. I’m joking (or just being very honest?). But seriously, I do think a lovely, part-time, nicely-paid job as a Mother Supporter would be just great.

Well this week it looks like my wish has come true (If a little sooner than I thought and minus the pay of course). For when I returned from my New Year frolics by the river I happened upon no less than five requests to meet up and talk about parenting, in my in-box. And no less than ten positive responses to my suggestion of setting up a breastfeeding group in PP (inspired by a 5am call for help by a very new mother who had been up all night vomiting and her baby had not fed for many hours). And I have sent an average of 20 texts a day since last Thursday to my dear friend Jo who is struggling with breastfeeding her brand-new baby. Poor Jo! I hear you cry. She texts me first I promise.

I am spending my days sharing thoughts and ideas on everything from co-sleeping to breastfeeding to tantrums. What fun. And it gets better. There was a very interesting discussion over how and when to manage the breastfeeding group. Some mothers wanted toddlers and little folk around whereas others, including me, welcomed the chance of finishing a thought, perhaps even a sentence, and so definitely did not. I know that I cannot actively listen (not for long anyway), or contribute anything thoughtful or coherent, with Jemima and friends around me. What seemed like a bit of a dilemma for a while soon became… da da! Two breastfeeding groups! Hoorah, now everyone is happy!

I ran a breastfeeding group back home for a while and it was so brilliant, especially to encourage women who are getting to six months to continue breastfeeding past the difficult, hungry, frequent waking stage (which I am in now, sigh, yawn) and on to the quick and easy bit that so many women never get to experience.

Here in PP where women are far away from family and close friends and where there is no formal breastfeeding support network, this kind of group, along with other Mother Supporter activities, is essential. Because basically being the kind of mothers we want to be requires a lot of support and encouragement. My own mother is a regular on this blog, probably my greatest Motherland fan actually. And she often emails me lamenting the way she did things with us, recognising that, in those days, it was the done thing to park your pram outside a shop for half an hour, or to put the babies in their cots awake and move out of earshot. And there was no support if you felt uncomfortable about following the advice.

This is why I wrote my book. (Oh, to answer all those lovely people who have asked me when it will get published, I have yet to convince an agent that there is a market for it. If you think there is please say so!) I was so disillusioned with the Gina Fords and even the softer Baby Whisperer type ‘manuals’ out there, which seemed to allow no room for parental instinct to love our babies as we want to, that I decided to write my own story, to encourage other women like me. I thought maybe a simple story of an ordinary mother who ignored all the mainstream advice (on sleep, feeding, solids, safety, discipline… hmm, yes, pretty much everything) and decided to follow her nose, while also investigate the more ‘alternative’ (how ridiculous) and evidence-based research out there that is not so easily accessible, would be a nice thing for other new mothers to have.

Phew long sentence, sorry, but Bella about to wake and Jemima about to come out of school so no time to edit. Got to go now, and that’s it really anyway. Here’s to parents supporting and helping each other to listen and respond to their babies and children. I am off to eat lunch with my girls before meeting a new mother whose baby is suffering from terrible colic. Perhaps I could do what the scary woman from
Channel 4's Bringing up Baby did and forge some qualifications and charge $1000 a day. Hmmmmmm...


JaneyV said...

Don't even be tempted - you already have all the qualifications necessary - you're a Mother. And a darn good one too by the sound of it. I'm past the baby phase now as my youngest is 4 but if I was going through it all again I'd buy your book because the people who want to follow their heart with Parenting need the validation that it would bring. Oh too frequently I was undermined by "expert" advice and didn't follow my own nose only to regret it in spades not long afterwards. Even as an experienced mother I fell prey to doubt in the face of opinionated others. Keep at it Georgie. Believe with all your heart it'll happen and it surely will. One suggestion that I would make is that you set up and advice website and forum for all the things you've mentioned. When it's innundated - which it will be - that'll make your agent sit up and listen!

Best of luck to you. I'll be a regular from now on

Jane Volker (East Sussex, UK)

Georgie said...

Wow thank you so much! What a lovely comment you have really boosted my ego today! And a great idea! Though given that it took me a year to get my head around setting up a blog it will be a while yet before I muster the energy methinks! Thank you again :-)

Anthony G said...

Georgie, come and have a coffee and lets talk about using some of your content. we can spread it across the 4 countries we cover. Sound ok to you?


Kat said...

Hi Georgie,

I think there is the market for it. If you look at US centric books like Attachment Parenting you can see the screaming gap in the UK market for some alternative ideas from a Brit - US authors however well edited never quite seem to understand the psyche. Also, look at Jools Olivers' book. That had fantastic success and was essentially just about what she did. Ok, she had a little head start by virtue of who she is but the book is successful because it is genuinely lovely and not proscriptive. Get your agent to look at all the blogs and groups dedicated to non-mainstream parenting ideas, surely that should convince them!

There is a petition about programmes like bringing up baby here: which closes this month on 27/01/08.

Kat x

kasia said...

I think you would make a great mothers supporter. I had the pleasure of reading your book to provide feedback and it was the first time I read a parenting book that didn't make me feel bad about something I was/wasn't doing as a mother. Mothers and fathers need all the support they can get. I didn't necessarily do everything the same way you did but the tone of your book made me more excited to be a mother and encouraged me to listen to my intuition instead of a book. It was an empowering feeling. Keep up the good work supporting other parents and hope one day they have the opportunity to be empowered by your book.

Georgie said...

Thank you so much Kat! You have inspired me and I shall quote you in my publishing proposal!

Kat said...

That's very kind of you Georgie!