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The List: Ethical kid’s clothing

Now that my kids are exiting the toddler years (well, two of them anyway), finding ethical kids clothing that is affordable is becoming somewhat of a task. Speaking to my cousin recently, she also expressed difficulty in finding ethically made clothing for children aged 5-15. It can be difficult to pass up the $5 t-shirt in Kmart, especially when kids seem to get through so many clothes because they grow 10 cm every three months or get grass stains on the knees of all jeans or food stains that just won’t come off. Is it worth spending a little more on ethically made clothing for kids?

I think it is.

Non-organic cotton fabrics, and other synthetically produced clothing contain toxins (given the chemicals they are treated with) that can seep into the wearer’s skin. I also think that if we teach our children to wear less but cherish and value their clothing from a young age, this will teach them good values that they can carry into adulthood.

I know, I know. These days it seems that, as parents, we already have SO MUCH to be concerned about, from GMO, pesticide sprayed food, to the dangers of screen time, and so on. But given the great ethical companies out there, that are online as well, purchasing ethical clothing for your kids is truly made that much easier.

So! Having scoured the internet for ethical kids wear, we present “The List: Ethical kid’s clothing.”

1.Hubble and Duke

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A West Australia based label, they make a beautiful collection of clothing ethically made in Portugal and Bali. I especially love their shoes, and the stunning prints and colour palette.

Ages: 0-8 years old, boys & girls

2. Nature baby

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Based in New Zealand, Nature Baby have the best basics for baby, up to four year olds. All ethically made, and with organic cotton, I just loved their soft track-pants, singlets, underwear and onesies for my own kids.

3. Boden

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Though I haven’t personally shopped from this store before, their clothing looks bright and suitable for children, and reasonably well-priced. I’m tempted to pick up some summer dresses for the girls. Importantly, they have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative and also outline their production processes in a detailed manner on their site.

4. Industrie Kids

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I was surprised when I saw Indie Kids with an “A” grading on the Shop Ethical consumer guide. They have a detailed outline of their commitment to responsible manufacture on their website. Although they mainly do boy’s clothing (from 0-14 years of age), I have seen them stock girl’s clothing in their stores.

5. Etiko

Etiko is a well-known ethical clothing manufacturer. Although their children’s clothes are limited, they do stock shoes, and ethically made trainers can be notoriously diff’icult to find, particularly for children.

6. Elves in the Wardrobe

This multi-brand online site stocks a range of ethically made, organic cotton children’s clothing, up to 12 years of age.

7. G.Nancy

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A recent find, G.Nancy are an Australian company who make beautiful sleepwear in distinctly Australian prints.

8. Minouche 

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Another Australian brand, Minouche make some lovely pieces (mainly for girls, but they just released a unisex collection). I love their soft, beautiful dresses for girls. They are ethically made in Australia and go up to size 10.

9. Everlane

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Everlane makes incredible clothing for adults, but also make a limited range of great basics for the little ones too. And they ship to Australia now!

10. Numero 74

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This company makes the most beautiful but simple clothing for women and young girls. More importantly though, the brand is the love child of two cousins who have set up a Thai Women’s Self managed Cooperative employing over 400 women each of whom are able to work at home whilst caring for family.

11. Love it love it love it 

Actually affordable, ethically made, organic cotton, cute, practical kids wear… basically sums up this brand. They do children’s wear from 0-10 years old, and they also do clothing for adults, and homewares too. So something for everyone!

That’s it for now… There are so many more beautiful labels out there. If you know any ethical children’s clothing stores that are not on this list, please do add them below in the comments section.

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A generous baby shower

I’ve always had two thoughts and emotions about baby showers. I’ve felt somewhat uneasy about them, what with the fanfare, extravagance that seems to be the trend these days and potentially lots of unwanted gifts, but I’ve also loved the concept of gathering a budding mother’s closest female friends and family to initiate her into motherhood- or if it’s not for a first baby, having them around to share wisdoms, celebrate the start of new life and simply to shower her with love. 

Our dear friend Sana was expecting her first baby (she’s since given birth) and asked me to aid her in running a flower crown workshop for her baby shower. The day focussed on giving, generosity and creating beauty- a perfect focus for celebrating a woman on the cusp of motherhood, methinks. 

Read on to be inspired by Sana’s baby shower with a difference…

What was the inspiration behind organising this event?

Once pregnant, a few of my friends expressed interest in assisting to host a baby shower for me. I don’t mind attending baby showers and participating in the usual activities that go along with them, but I personally felt like doing something different. I wanted the focus of the gathering to be on bonding with my friends in a final farewell to child-free life. I also didn’t want the focus to be on collecting gifts. Although this is a well-intentioned tradition with much generosity expressed, I felt like channeling this generosity to those more in need than me. I decided to ask for a gift of donations towards maternity charity causes by the CARE charity which would benefit pregnant women, infants and new mothers in regions facing poverty and instability. This was a great success and we managed to raise a significant amount of funds towards this cause.

What was organised for the day?

I chose to make the event an afternoon tea, and to centre it on a creative activity where you get to go home having learned new skills and something to show for it. Keeping within the “baby” theme of growth and new life, I was inspired to hold a flower crown workshop.

I researched professionals who offer the service of running workshops for your events and found them to be quite costly. After speaking with some kind friends, they offered to run the workshop as a DIY exercise. How had can making flower crowns be, right?

After following a few online tutorials and guides, I ordered the materials we’d need (floral tape, floral wire etc.) and my friends went to the flower markets on the morning of the event to purchase a selection of flowers which would light up our home and be used for the crowns. The activity was a grand success. Saltanat (my friend who ran the workshop) did an excellent job of engaging the guests and getting their creative juices flowing. Everybody appreciated the opportunity to make a beautiful crown with their friends.

We also prepared DIY seed packets as party favours. We created hanging leaf garlands to decorate the space with, as well. I also got an old cork board, painted the base of a tree on it and asked guests to pin on a leaf with their pre-baby well wishes and words of advice for me and my husband.

I don’t believe baby showers need to be an exhaustive and extravagant affair. As in my case, it can be simplified by harnessing the skills and generosity of friends and family. I had friends prepare sweets for me on the day, run the flower crown workshop and assist in creating the decorations. Unless you use a registry, collecting gifts in an unstructured manner can lead to excess and wastage, which I wanted to avoid.

Sana, thank you so much for sharing your lovely baby shower with us! It truly was a beautiful day and I was honoured to play a small part in it… 

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Clothes with Baraka

Here at The Modest Life we are passionate about supporting local businesses, women-run businesses, ethical-minded businesses… basically businesses that kick butt 🙂

Baraka Women is one such business. Designed by Eisha Saleh, an all round incredible lady, the clothes are made with the modest dresser in mind, with the most beautiful fabrics, made right here in Australia.

With the release of her new “Pollyanna vintage” collection, my sister and I jumped at the chance to play dress ups over a little catch up at my place…

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This print is so pretty and the fabric is luxuriously soft. Also, given that it is a wrap dress, it makes feeding baby easy. So basically it ticks all the boxes for me. Stylish, pretty and comfortable…

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We love the details on these pants, made from a vintage fabric.

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I’m wearing the Afternoon Wrap Dress.

My sister is wearing:

Outfit 1: The Emerald Day top with The Cornflower Pant in cream

Outfit 2: The Envy Layered skirt.

Photography: Z by Zahrah.

A simple health trick

Hello everyone!

I have been absent for a few months around here. What with Ramadan, a new baby and the general demands of life with three kids, friends and family; things have been busy.

More than this though, I have been struggling to be motivated to do anything outside of just getting through each day. Writing seemed like an insurmountable task that I simply could not be bothered for. I had no inspiration and just felt bogged down from the daily grind.

In the past few weeks, I came down with a nasty viral infection which took some time for me to recover from and was really a reminder that I needed to take proper care of myself first and foremost.

I think this is true of any mother, that we constantly place ourselves last. That we don’t take simple steps to ensure that our own health is sound. We know the oft repeated phrase, “if mum doesn’t look after herself she can’t look after anyone”, but I think that mostly, it’s something we just hear and not put in practice. We get on with our lives with a subconscious thought that we are infallible (physically). Until of course, our bodies just about get enough of being ignored and then start acting out for attention.

My recent (non-serious, yet still difficult) illness was the perfect reminder of this. And throughout that week, I had no choice but to take out the time to look after myself- even with all three kids at home with no one else to help me watch them.

It was also the perfect reminder for me to always, always be grateful for good health.

Basically, it was exactly what I needed to get my out of my rut and get me moving, get me active, to push me out of my low spirits.

So! One simple trick to looking after your health if you feel like you don’t know where to start is to drink warm water with honey first thing in the morning. It has to be on an empty stomach.

It’s not a difficult thing to make into a habit, and of course it has loads of health benefits. Read up on it here.

I also give “honey water” to the girls, so it’s become habit for them too. My own mother was the one who got me onto this, and now it has become part and parcel of our day.

What simple thing do you do everyday for your health? I’d love to hear what you all do.

High-tech bassinets are totally a thing now

For those of us who have kids, think back to your most difficult child, the one you brought home from the hospital terrified of because from DAY ONE they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else but on your chest. Or in your arms. Or only in the car.

Or they didn’t sleep at all.

If you were told back then that there was a bassinet that would:

  • strap your child in safely
  • detect when your baby moved and ROCK BABY GENTLY
  • “chooses” which motion your baby likes best
  • play soothing white noise
  • simulate the sensation of a car

how quickly would you throw your screaming baby into one?

Half a second it’d take methinks.

Anything to get some blessed sleep.

Recently, one ultra high-tech bassinet, developed with MIT engineers (that’s what you need to get your baby to sleep people, a team of MIT ENGINEERS) has hit the market and another has been made by Ford. The car company.

Yes.

A car company has made a bassinet that moves your baby from side to side in a motion that mimics a car. 

Just so you, I mean, your baby, can sleep. I’m pretty sure those LED lights that simulate the lighting in a car that surround the baby wouldn’t really help the baby go to sleep. It just might be a little distracting.

On the other hand, the MIT engineered Snoo claims to be a self-soothing bassinet, doing everything from rocking the baby slower or faster depending on what it “thinks” your baby needs, to ‘choosing’ which white noise your baby likes best.

Both bassinets sound simultaneously crazy and brilliant, and I’m still trying to figure out which one I ultimately think they are. They sound crazy because it seems like they are interfering with the natural bonding process of a mother rocking her baby to sleep, and the mother figuring out how her baby likes to be rocked, and what “white noise” baby likes best. Like the sound of mama’s voice softly singing, for example. It also seems sort of dangerous- all that rocking and moving up and down, side to side.

But also, it sounds brilliant because I know what it is to be a desperately sleep deprived mother who just needs her baby to go down for more than 20 minutes at a time and if these robo-nannies were around back then I would have convinced my husband to spend $1800 if it meant we could get sleep for the first six months of our baby’s life.

That’s right. The Snoo costs around $1800 and it will only last the first six months of a baby’s life.

Is it really worth it? Can we really put a price on getting sleep and retaining our sanity? Do the makers of the Snoo know this and are therefore maybe exploiting our desperation by selling us this MIT engineered ultra high-tech device that guarantees it will put our child to sleep but is maybe messing with the natural arc of motherhood…

Yeah. Possibly. Totally.

Will robotic bassinets be a thing of the future? Will it only contribute to a detachment between mother and baby? Isn’t it kind of creepy to envision babies strapped in these devices, their needs met by technology, and their parents relying on these robotic bassinets more and more to soothe their children?

What do you think about these high-tech bassinets?

A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

The hijab has been getting a lot of attention lately. Women who wear the hijab (Islamic head covering) are becoming more vocal, asserting their existence in a world that has attempted to define them. Women who wear the hijab are speaking, shouting, writing, running, jumping, strutting, fencing, dancing and singing their way to recognition, in an attempt to redefine themselves on their own terms, to show the world that hey, we wear the hijab and we can do anything.

Anything and everything. NOTHING holds me back. 

I am a proud, hijab-wearing, independent, Muslim WOMAN who can make her own choices and do whatever she wants. 

And the world is seemingly responding. People seem to be accepting the fact that (believe it or not!) Muslim women who wear the hijab are. Just. Human. Female. Girls. ETC. who happen to cover their heads and most of their bodies.

Which is of course a good thing. Right?

The “modest fashion” market is recognised as a booming niche that big corporations need to tap into. From Nike, to MNG, corporations are wholeheartedly embracing (or cashing in on, whichever way you prefer to see it) Muslim women by creating collections specifically for them, all touting the #diversity trend.

Hijab style bloggers are now found in abundance and are making waves by normalising modest fashion.

In fact, we just had our first hijabi model strut the runways at NYFW, with many applauding this “huge step forward” for the Muslim, hijab-wearing woman.

I happen to be a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and somehow, I do not think this is a huge step forward for us. I think this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Why do I think it’s wrong? Because it reveals this desperate need to “show” the world that we hijab-wearers are “completely normal” and more so, that we can also do “anything”.

Furthermore, it still espouses the concept of the “self” that is the object of worship in this 21st century.

Most of these things that we seem to be stamping our presence into are things that have all been done before by women, who just happened to not wear the hijab. And I’m saying hijab specifically because there are models who are Muslim, but just do not observe the hijab. There have been Muslim female athletes who have competed in the Olympics, but they just don’t wear the hijab. There are Muslim female journalists, professors, doctors etc who just do not wear the hijab.

I know the struggles and difficulties that hijab-wearing women face, the stigma that is attached to this choice of ours to cover ourselves and how much we have needed to work to bring down these walls of misunderstanding, of ignorance, of fear, outside our culture, and within it.

But simply throwing ourselves into EVERYTHING is not going to help us either. When we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us. Our religion is based on guidelines that clearly show us the limits of what we can and can’t do. This is something that we should have confidence in, that we have a framework that shows us how to tread the middle path, not throws us into an open field, leaving us to meander along aimlessly. We shouldn’t be trying to mould the religion to suit our desires and wants in this life, we should be trying to mould ourselves to do what our Creator has decreed for us.

I’m going to take the example of modelling and fashion. It is by its very nature an exhibitionist, shallow and demeaning industry. It uses women’s bodies with the intention to objectify and exploit. How then do we applaud and cheer when a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman has now been “accepted” by this industry? How do we say to ourselves, YES, this is progress, when the whole situation is such a contradiction. When a Muslim hijab-wearing woman can strut Kanye West’s runway and met and was styled by him and his wife Kim Kardashian. Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our “steps forward”.

As we seemingly take these “steps forward”, in reality, we are taking steps backward as the more we engage in such acts, the further we move away from a core tenet of our Deen; the need for humility.

And the great irony is that as we scramble to show the world that we can do “anything”in our hijabs because we are striving to smash the Western narrative that Muslim women are controlled by men and were forced to wear the hijab, we are simply doing this in a way that still frames us within their narrative, within their definitions of what being a successful, independent, strong woman is.

That she must be beautiful. That she is valued for her appearance. That she must exhibit herself to the world in designer labels and a contoured face with fake eyelashes and lip fillers and plastic surgery, that she must strut down a runway to be an object, a clothes hanger… with a hijab on and an IG feed full of selfies to document all this.

It actually makes me incredibly sad. It makes me so sad because I think about the example that we are setting for our young girls. Are we showing them anything different? Are we showing them that we need to hold onto the rope of our Deen, and that this might (or does) look different from the “norm”, and that no, we don’t need to strive to be styled by Kim and Kanye, and that this is something that we should be thankful for, that we should be confident in, as Muslims.

As Muslims.

Not as women. Not as hijab-wearing women.

But as a Muslim. As a servant of Allah (swt).

That we are able to be confident in what Allah (swt) has decreed for us and not just attempt to “break down barriers” simply for its own sake. Not because “hey, I want to be the first so-and-so to do this in a hijab…” so that I can “go viral”, oops I mean, “break stereotypes” and “empower women…”

What we are taking away from ourselves and our youth is the history, the beauty, the wisdom, the incredibly unique culture and religion that they come from and we are telling them that this is superseded by the need to fit into this (Western) world.

We are not taking back our own narrative. We are not redefining our selves. In fact we are fighting to be permeated, assimilated, obliterated into a culture whose values are against everything that the religion that we so obviously parade and hold up the flag with our hijabs, stands for.

This is not to say that “Western culture” is “wrong”. What I’m referring to is the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, of Hollywood and so on.

Delpozo’s Fall/Winter 2017 Ready to Wear collection was interesting for me because the collection included this…

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Hijab? Nope. Just “art”.  Just “fashion”. Just “ready-to-wear”. Just Vogue.

How different is it from this?

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It’s not.

Both are art and fashion. Both are simply garments. Both objectify women by placing them on a platform strutting to fast-paced music. One is designed by a non-Muslim, the other by a hijab-wearing female Muslim designer. Sure the intentions are different, but the outcome is the same. Both place the woman as an object to be gawked at.

And so, “hijab” by any other name is simply…fashion.

Unless, we define ourselves, our hijab, in the terms of the religion that we claim to follow. Unless we take back the definitions of what it means to be female and Muslim.

There is another way to “break stereotypes”. There is another way to engage with the fashion world. A way that does not compromise the values of the religion that we proclaim to want to teach the world about. A way that is confident and uncompromising and unique.

Yes we live in this world, but we do not live for this world. And our attempts to be seen as “normal” should not come at the cost of our values. We should revel in the beauty of our religion and go out into the world confident in it, not for the sake of this world, or for society, or culture, or breaking down stereotypes, or acceptance, but for the sake of pleasing our Creator.

I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century, “you can be anything you want to be…” I want to raise my daughter to spend her life seeking what it is that Allah swt has decreed for her, and to fulfil this purpose, not for her to pursue her passions, her desires and her whims, which can ultimately lead her to folly. I want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…

Featured image source.

Conversations with kids

Kids say the most hilarious things, and I wish I wrote down some of the things my own kids say more often. Here are a few things my little ones have spilled recently…

When I came back from the hospital and J said to me:

“Mum, why do you still have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Umm… there’s no baby in there J. My tummy is just going to take some time to return to normal.”

J: “Oh, ok. I don’t like it like that. It needs to be flat again!”

Me: *tears streaming down my face… “This tummy stretched to carry all three of you!!”

When asking why her 16 year-old uncle isn’t married yet…

J: “Why isn’t Emmi (short for ‘Amja’ or ‘uncle’ in Turkish) married yet?”

Me: “Because he is too young J, he’s still in school…”

J: “Oh, so he can get married in the school holidays…”

A few weeks ago she suddenly piped up with…

“An-ne (or mum), I want to be exactly like you when I’m older…”

Me: “awwww that’s so sweet… but why baby?”

J: “Because I love you more than anyone else.”

And when putting her to bed tonight:

J: “I can’t sleep anymore An-ne…”

Me: “Oh why not baby?”

J: “I just feel different these days…”

Me: trying not to react “Why?!”

J: “I think it’s because I’m going to turn 5 soon…”

And a few one liners from Z, who is talking so much these days…

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Z: “Just leave me An-ne, just leave me…” as she shuts the door on my face in defiance because I wouldn’t let her do something. 

This morning…

Me: “Z what do you want for breakfast?”

Z: “Chocolate. I WANT CHOCOLATEEEE!!!”

And lastly,

Z: “all the girls love me An-ne, all of them!” 

 

What social media is really about

I am on social media a lot.

Recently I admitted to myself that I am addicted to it. That I spend way too much time on it. That it is taking over my life and turning me into an automaton. Yes my eldest has yelled at me numerous times to put my phone down. And yes, I’ve written before about how allowing kids screen time is madness, and yet here I am, admitting that I am addicted to social media. Hypocritical much?

Possibly…

I told myself that I actually do “work” on there (I am the editor/creator of the IG The Modest Bride) and that it’s a way to pass the time. But I think what really pushed me to realise its true nature (Instagram in particular) is consciously admitting that ALL social media is the most pernicious form of advertising. And IT’S KILLING MY SOUL.It’s emptying my bank account. It’s making me anxious and making me feel like somehow my life is inadequate because I don’t have all the eco-conscious, organic, ethical, MINIMALIST THINGS in my life.

Oh the irony.

Or because my children don’t wear perfectly matching and boho, minimalist, stylish clothing and I can’t take Insta-worthy pictures of them in beautiful, natural settings like at a beach or a forest or some hipster cafe BECAUSE I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THREE KIDS.

I scroll through my feed and see one beautiful image after another of perfect children in hip (and expensive) clothes in shades of dusty pinks, autumnal hues of brown and linen greys playing in beautiful rooms of pastel shades with THAT DAMN CANOPY (it’s so pretty though…) and vintage style bed with the same grey bed sheets and the same soft toys and wooden accents and fiddle leaf fig trees with kilim rugs and string lighting and cute wall art of strange and slightly creepy circus figures? Because all kids dream happily about the circus right?

And when I hit the image I can conveniently see where all these beautiful products are from and I find myself on a slippery slope from there… I go onto this company’s IG page, click on their website and before I know it my virtual cart is full of beautiful children’s dresses, soft toys, wooden toy cameras, ethically made children’s shoes and organic flower bath stuff, so that their rooms and their clothes and my house and my life can look like a beautiful Instagram feed from some perfectly put together Instagram Mother.

And whilst this isn’t a conscious thought, it is an underlying subconscious impression that imprints itself on our minds as we scroll through our feeds day in, day out.

What is also disturbing is that everyone’s lives are starting to look the same. Instagram is promoting an aesthetically beautiful (not denying this!) monoculture. Go through any number of Instagram Mother pages and you’ll find that they all look identical. They’ve all perfected the flat-lay with the ultimate prop- their baby- dressed perfectly in cute rompers and vintage style bonnets (which my two year old flat out refuses to wear when I tried to get her on board so she could look IG WORTHY) with some cute toys surrounding them (I just did this myself today lol), and throw in some flowers too, and those new dummy chains that company sent for free so you can add them onto your list of sponsors to advertise and market by sharing every detail of you and your children’s lives for the rest of the world to consume. Oh and under this perfect image of your house and free stuff you’ve been given, have a caption that shares in intimate detail your struggles so that you can ensure that people don’t think that picture is an accurate depiction of your life and so that you are #keepingitreal. There is such a thing as oversharing, and I feel like in the name of ‘normalising’ things, everyone is just sharing too much. It’s one thing to share experiences with the intention of bringing awareness to an issue, and it’s another to simply overshare details that really should be kept private. In the social media world, privacy is the enemy, sharing is the name of the game.

So what is social media really all about?

Instagram is a genius form of marketing which businesses use to push their products in a manner that is incredibly dangerous. We see their products in the lives of “normal” people, who can pick up a camera and create such beautiful images of themselves and their children so much so that people will buy the exact same things so that their lives can look like that too.

Also, I feel that it is totally putting a halt to originality and creativity. Because of Instagram and Pinterest, we see hundreds of images a day and they all look the same, and we copy and emulate those images. When it comes time to do something different, we can’t, because we’ve been so influenced by the imagery put out there and we literally can’t envision something new and unique.

Friends that I have spoken to recently have also aired the same concerns and have admitted that it makes them feel inadequate, and that it results in overspending. They have deleted their accounts and their IG apps from their phones.

I have also been using it less and less, only uploading what is necessary and not scrolling through my feed. For a time I didn’t login at all, and it felt so… calm. I felt peace. No longer did I have a niggling need to check it. I didn’t feel anxious. I called my friends and caught up with them. I cleaned my house. I did some reading. I spent proper time with my children. It cleared my mind of all those images cluttering my psyche and I was able to just have time to reflect and ponder and have gratitude for everything I did have.

So if you’re on IG or Facebook, I suggest taking a break and seeing how that goes for you. Trust me, you’re not missing anything, in fact you will gain so much from it and realise that you do not need it at all.

Here are two incredible analyses of social media and their effects:

  1. Quit Social Media.
  2. Technology is diminishing us.

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Postpartum reflections

I’ve been following Australian actress Teresa Palmer on Instagram lately, and have been reading her posts over on her blog Your Zen Mama. She had her second baby just before I had my third, and she has been sharing her weekly postpartum reflections. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, it reminds me that I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. Her honesty is refreshing and the detail she goes into with her reflections is also actually really helpful.

Inspired by her posts, I’ve decided to put a reflection of my own together, but I will not be doing this weekly because I HAVE THREE KIDS. It’s also taken me four and a half weeks (no, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I gave birth) to get this down because I’ve been stumbling around in a mind-fog and drowning in an endless cycle of nappy changes, tantrums, sibling rivalry and swaddling wraps…

So here goes:

The Labour

I’m not going to give y’all a recount of my labour in detail, because, well, who really wants to know how it all went down? All labours are excruciatingly painful- regardless of how long/short they are. There are some things I do want to note though:

  • This was the first labour that I opted to have an epidural. At first, it was wondrous. My husband and I looked over at each other and could only stare in amazement and comment on how this “doesn’t even feel like labour.” I knew when I was getting contractions, but I couldn’t feel their full force. Until I could. OH MY GOD. The damn epidural WORE OFF PEOPLE just when I needed it the most and I faced at least 40minutes to an hour of excruciating pain. The anaesthetist was stuck in a caesarean (later I found out from the nurses that there were SIX caesareans that day) and I had no choice but to scream through contractions that hit me with extreme force. I opted for the gas, which made me nauseous and suddenly I was vomiting all over myself. I was also screaming “WHY THE HELL DID I GET AN EPIDURAL IF THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!” and then profusely apologising afterwards for yelling… because I am an apologiser. More on that another day.
  • Essentially, I had an epidural because they wanted to speed up my labour due to certain risks and having heard horror stories about induction from friends who had been through it, I decided to get the epidural in advance. Sure I felt that guilt, I was anxious about the consequences and side effects, and I was also terrified of having someone stick a needle into my spine. BUT, the memory of the pain of contractions was also much too fresh and came rushing back to me when in that birthing room and I looked over at my husband and said, “let’s do the epidural”, whereupon he replied, “it’s your choice babe. I aint gonna judge you, and nobody else should either. You do what you have to do.” Basically he said exactly what I needed to hear lol. #husbandoftheyear
  • So this labour was different from my other two because it literally had a bit of everything. There was the epidural, the syntoconin, the gas, feeling the full force of contractions and in around four hours or so (my memory of the timeline of this birth is fuzzy given everything), baby was ready to make his entrance. With a top up of the epidural and the midwives telling me when and how to push, my son graced us with his presence.
  • And apparently that is me NOT giving a recount of the birth lol. Too much detail for y’all? I apologise…
  • OVERALL: I hated the epidural. I paid for it after as well (more on that in the next section). Labour is FREAKING PAINFUL AND I NEVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN. Phew. But when baby comes out and they place him on your chest, there is nothing in this world that compares. I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it again.

The Hospital Stay

Because of the epidural and certain side effects, I stayed in hospital for around 3 days. Basically I was getting some major headaches. And when I say major, I mean MAJOR. I was basically forced to stay lying down, as the headaches would hit me as soon as I sat up. This made changing baby’s nappy/clothes and picking him up difficult. But I took all the painkillers they gave me and it helped.

The hospital stay was much calmer and overall a better experience, mainly because I was mostly ignored by the hospital staff, except when they came in to do the necessary checks. Because #BABYNO3

Oh, also, the girls meeting their baby brother was the sweetest. J (the older one) was totally smitten. Z on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. She kissed him and exclaimed his name over and over, but she wouldn’t come near me. I think it was because I was lying in a strange bed, in a strange place, drained of colour, with needles sticking out of me. Maybe…

Once we got Home

Again, things were much calmer as baby slept really well. Actually, he was extremely sleepy and I’d have to wake him up for feeds. He was slightly jaundiced so this probably contributed to his lethargy. It did make recovery for me easier though as I got plenty of rest. Also, my mum came over everyday for around two weeks, which was basically a God send, otherwise I could not have dealt with everything, and probably would have starved.

My mum is an angel in disguise, as every time I’ve given birth, she comes over and does everything for me. She’s firm with this as well. She forces me to rest, and literally does not allow me to do anything. And I mean NOTHING. She doesn’t let me wash dishes, throw in laundry, vacuum, cook… She spends the time looking after my older kids and doing everything. She insists that the postpartum time is for rest, and drinking soup lol. Which she forced me to drink 3 times a day. Breastmilk is mainly water, so drinking lots of soup makes sense.

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What I’m eating

The weeks when my mum was here were great. She made good wholesome homemade food, mainly soups as I said above. My mother in law sent yummy Turkish foods… I tried to get my intake of veggies and fruit, and a snack at night, because breastfeeding makes me really hungry. My friend made me some lactation cookies and sweet potato tarts which were the best for snacking.

Once my mum stopped coming as often, I had to fend for myself lol. I’ve been doing grocery shopping online, or getting the husband to bring home groceries. Haven’t been cooking much, although I’m trying.

This week I’m going to try to go back to a gluten free diet, as eating wheat based foods throws off my digestive system, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also, lots and lots of water!

The Emotions

The first three weeks I went through the wave of hormones and the resulting emotional rollercoaster. I’m prone to anxiety anyway, so I don’t cope well with the postpartum hormonal changes that the body goes through. Plus the stress of keeping a baby alive… basically I obsess over every little detail, dramatise it, and end up in a puddly mess of tears.

This time around I felt completely overwhelmed by the need for me to meet the emotional needs of three children. And I wasn’t even feeding them. Or cleaning. How could I do EVERYTHING once my mum stopped coming?

More tears ensued.

Somewhere around week 3.5-4, the fog started to clear from my brain and I started to feel like myself. My body started to recover and gain strength, and my psyche benefitted from heading out of the house, getting back to some sense of normalcy. The Solly Baby wrap has been great, making outings easier, and I’m also loving the new stroller.

Our new family of five braved dinners out, a wedding, a picnic at a beach, visiting interstate guests who had arrived, doctor’s appointments etc within the first few weeks of baby’s life.

Baby

Our new baby has coped with entering this world like a champ. He is very serious, always frowning, and has a gaze that is so knowing. He is totally wise beyond his…weeks lol. He sleeps really well, clocking over 4 hour stretches at night, basically waking twice a night for a feed. Some days he feeds more, which I suspect are times of growth spurts. Currently he has longer waking hours, he can hold his neck up really well, and is starting to follow movements with his eyes.

Everyone keeps telling me he will change as he grows, and this I know. Right now I’m just thankful for this phase and taking all that I can get, because I know what a fussy baby who does not sleep, who cries all the time, is like.

I’d forgotten how much you need to plan in advance before leaving the house with a newborn, trying to squeeze in a feed before leaving or else face a screaming baby in the car, getting the baby bag ready… now I had two more kids to prep. Once we did it a few times though, we got the hang of it. Although, if we go somewhere that is quite far, we have had to pull over just to feed baby, because if he’s hungry, he will scream till he is fed.

The girls

The girls are coping in their own ways with this new phase. J struggled the first week, as she kept asking me when I was going to play with her, sit with her, read with her and she also kept telling me that she loved me over, and over, and over again. She did the same when her younger sister was born as well. There was one heartbreaking moment around two weeks after we brought baby home where she just got really emotional, threw her arms around my neck and told me that she was worried about me…because I just kept sleeping, and having my own mini-breakdowns. Since then, she’s been back to her usual, 4.5 year old, sometimes annoying, always chatty and playful, self.

Z on the other hand has been acting out in different ways. Tantrums over random things are on the rise, her attachment to me has increased, and she’s also displaying violent tendencies toward her older sister (the other day she bit J’s finger so hard it bled). She just hit 2 so I know this is normal for her age, but it’s just compounded by having to contend with a new sibling in the house.

We, the parents, are barely scraping through. Trying to maintain our own patience in the face of SO MANY EMOTIONS has been tough, and to be honest, I know that I have had many, many bad parenting moments. Lots of shouting, and dramatic moments, using the TV to get things done, like feed my newborn, cook and clean have been my worst vices. Just this week I’ve made the conscious effort to keep myself calm in the face of Fight No. 1000 between the two girls in the one day, or a tantrum because Z doesn’t want to sleep. And I’m getting rid of the TV. That’s right. We are going cold turkey. Please pray for me lol.

Lastly…

Yes. Three kids is definitely tough. Slowly though, I feel like we are getting into a rhythm, and adjusting to this new phase. It helps that baby is sleeping well and feeding well, and I have nothing but gratitude. As with babies, I know things will change as he grows, and starts teething and so on, but as I said earlier, I’m taking whatever I can get now.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, the physical recovery from labour, and adjusting to three children, I do feel that this postpartum period has been the easiest out of all my kids. Experience has definitely been a factor in this obviously, as has sleeping enough lol.

I feel a lot more comfortable and confident and I know that has made a big difference.

I’m looking forward to the next few months, and just enjoying having another baby in the house, especially knowing how fast it passes…

Mostly, I am incredibly thankful for all the loving and supportive and helpful people around me, without whom all this would be infinitely more difficult and challenging. Still, with all the support, there have been moments of sheer desperation, frustration, tears, where the mounting responsibilities of three children has felt so overwhelming. I know that there were many times where I didn’t cope with it all in the best way, and I’m learning from those mistakes and trying to move forward now. But honestly, watching my family grow, work together, cooperate, help each other and settle into a new phase is truly a beautiful gift. As is being able to kiss soft newborn cheeks 🙂

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I am not enough…and that’s ok

Practically everyday at some point, the thought will cross my mind that, “I am not enough…” that “I don’t know enough…” or that “I am not smart/knowledgable/wise/patient enough…” That I’m not doing enough outside of the children. That my ‘career’ is not progressing, that I’m not doing enough for the community, that I don’t maintain connections with my friends enough, that I’m not helpful enough for my parents, that I’m not showing my care and concern for my husband enough… ETCETERA.

I worry that I don’t do enough for the children. That I don’t spend enough quality time with them, or that I don’t organise enough activities for them, or teach them enough (I want to homeschool them, but haven’t really started doing anything homeschool-y yet).

I face up to the gaping holes in my knowledge and wonder how on earth I am even going to homeschool my kids.

And with a third on the way, I wonder how I’ll find the time to organise a homeschooling curriculum for them, or even lessons to do with them.

Beyond just the homeschooling though, I often find myself questioning whether I can even mother them properly. So many times a day I catch myself in ‘bad parenting’ moments/ACTIONS and I feel that guilt.

Oh yes.

That ‘mum guilt’. That creeping sense that I am totally traumatising my children with my horrible parenting, with the impatience, with the shouting, with the harsh discipline that I can mete out…

I also have major control issues. I totally overthink many aspects of how to parent them, and I struggle to let them go, to be carefree, to be easy with them…

For example, my eldest (she’s 4.5 years old), does not go to a childcare of any sorts, at all. She hasn’t since she was around 1.5 years old.

I struggle to take on help from people outside their grandparents. And even with the grandparents I’ve spent years trying to control how they are looked after by them, when in their care.

It’s exhausting, you know.

Knowing my controlling ways, I wonder if I’m constricting my children too much and possibly stunting their development, character-wise. Am I giving them enough opportunities to learn things on their own?

Another part of my strongly believes that although children should be tested, and allowed “out in the world”, that this also has its own time and place, and if it happens too early, the consequences on their development can actually be harmful. You have to know your child well enough to decide when they are ready to exposed to certain things.

So I vacillate between trying to control their surroundings and allowing them *limited freedom to experience different things, and be exposed to different people.

When J (my eldest) was around 10 months old, I decided to go back to work. Full time high school teaching. It was a difficult decision. I panicked for weeks before I started work. I drove my husband crazy by being concerned about minute details of how J would be cared for. I was an emotional wreck at the thought that someone else would be caring for her, feeding her, playing with her for long hours. My mind conjured up horrible scenarios where things would go wrong and she’d suffer short and long-term impacts of being separated from her mother, or from watching too many hours of tv, or eating foods that I had not “approved”.

At the time my husband took it all in his stride and his advice is one that I still try to remind myself of today.

He patiently told me that first of all, I needed to calm down lol. Then he told me that the reality is that I could not be everything, and teach everything to my daughter. That her being looked after by her grandparents, extended family, even childcare could teach her things that I had no capacity to, simply because I am just me, and not them. That every person who cares for her has their own unique qualities, knowledge, life experience etc. that J could benefit from. That they all make up the patchwork of life lessons for her.

And most important of all, my husband reminded me that she would be in the care of those who loved and cared for her dearly, completely and sincerely. And that therefore, she would not be at risk of any major harm. That in fact, she will grow to be a more rounded, fuller individual having been exposed to this love.

Armed with this advice, I threw myself back into teaching, and I do not regret it. Sure there were challenges, but all in all I could see J flourishing, I could see that she was happy, she had no major anxiety or stress, or problems adjusting to the fact that I was no longer around full time.

Ultimately I did make the decision to quit work at the end of that first year of going back. The reasons were myriad, and not all connected to my child, but one major consideration in relation to her was that I felt it was important for me to look after her full time at a time when she was approaching 2 years old, a time that would require an emphasis on disciplining her, on dealing appropriately with her tantrums, and in establishing a diet that was nutritious and quite frankly, low in sugar.

I did not want the grandparents to have to take on this burden, when they’d already raised children themselves and I knew that what they really wanted with their grandchildren was to simply love and enjoy them. Not to raise them.

As her parent, that was my responsibility.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that as parents, particularly as mothers, we need to find that balance between doing our part as being our children’s primary source of parenting, discipline, love and so on, especially in the first 7 years of their lives, but also of fully understanding the importance of reaching out to extended family and trusted community members for help.

To admit that no, we can’t be everything for our children by the very limitations of who we are. That no, we can’t do it all. We can’t juggle our households, our jobs, our children, ourselves, on our own.

We need help.

The very nature of our existence is hinged on dependence on others. We could not function in this world without other people. From the rubbish that gets taken out every week, to the roads that we drive on, to the shopping centres that we shop from, the maintenance of our suburbs…everything requires us to depend on others doing their bit.

Why do we try to function as mothers on our own?

We need to let go of the fallacy of perfection. Perfection lies only with One Being, and for us to strive for it is a form of arrogance.

Knowing our own innate limitations as human beings, in comparison to the Absolute Perfection of our Creator should comfort us. Not cause us anxiety.

So yes, we should reach out to our family to play a significant role in raising our children. And we should do this with tact, with wisdom, and with trust. We shouldn’t be giving our husbands (yes, I totally went there) instructions on how to look after our children, or hold them, or feed them, or play with them… We shouldn’t reprimand him for doing things differently. We should trust him to do it in his own way because hey, he is also an intelligent, thinking human.

If we have extended support in grandparents, aunts and uncles, we should be grateful for this support system and also give them the opportunity to teach our children that which we cannot. For our children to experience and grow and be nurtured with their love as well.

And if we are fortunate enough to have a community beyond family, we should also reach out to them and be honest enough to admit that we may need help, and to be humble enough to ask for it.

Being a mother can be an incredibly constricting experience, because of the depth of our love for our children, because of the nature of our concern for them, and at times, this can make it difficult to sustain over years of parenting. It may manifest in controlling behaviours, it may prevent us from taking on the advice from other concerned and sincere people who should have a role in raising our children as well.

We, on our own, are not enough… ultimately, left to our own devices, we will do something wrong…but this is how it should be, and we should respond accordingly and reach out for help.

We should allow people around our children to contribute to the richness of their lives, and to help us nurture them.

Not only will it result in children who are better rounded in their characters, but it will also go a long way to help ourselves do this thing called parenting…