Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three lessons about breastfeeding

Having successfully nursed two babies through a total of 3 1\2 years, with some hurdles along the way, I thought I knew everything there is to know about breastfeeding. I've lived through plugged ducts complete with high fever, over-supply, suspected under-supply, overactive letdown, tongue-tie and D-MER (a condition which I understand is very rare, and which, blessedly, has not appeared this time). But... it turns out I'm still learning:

Co-sleeping - never tried it with my first two babies, was convinced I couldn't do it... had to do it this time because it was either this or no sleep at all. Now Israel is almost 6 months old (where does the time go?!) and we're still co-sleeping for most of the night. That is, he goes to sleep in his crib (progress!) in the evening, wakes up sometime in the night, I nurse him lying down and fall asleep again together with him. 

There are many morning when I wake up with him right next to me and know I must have picked him up in the middle of the night, but don't remember doing it at all. Which means my sleep wasn't very much disturbed. 

Nutrition and rest - I confess, I used to think that the immediate effect of food and sleep on breastfeeding is overrated. I mean, obviously it's important to eat enough and sleep well, but I didn't really notice that it affected my milk supply before. Lately, though, I realized that I have a significant increase in milk supply on Saturdays (a day when I eat more than usual and take a midday nap) and Sundays (which follow our day of rest). This made me pay closer attention to being properly fed and rested during the rest of the week, too. I thought just eating more would do the trick... nope. A nice cozy nap together with baby really does wonders. Isn't it great to take a midday nap with no scruples, knowing you're doing it for your baby's sake? 

Mint - Somehow somewhere along the road, when I've just had my first baby, I heard mint has a negative impact on milk supply. Ever since I avoided mint completely while breastfeeding. Some time ago, however, I really craved a nice hot cup of mint tea. Israel was a newborn and I happened to have very abundant supply, so I figured that even if I have a little less milk, it will still be more than he needs. Well, it turns out mint has no effect on my milk supply whatsoever, or at least not in the quantities consumed in a cup of tea now and then. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Parents, education and the government

Educational expert Dr. Gil Gertel in an interview to Israel Today (translation mine): 

"I begin by stating that the family establishment has been altogether repressed by the state for years... the government comes and says, 'give me your children, I know what to do with them' - but it doesn't know, and not everything works well. Think on the deep meaning of compulsory state education. It is an open threat - 'if you don't give me your child, I will put you in jail.'

"Once state education was compulsory from the age of 6, today the age is down to 3. Once we would come home at one o'clock, today we have an extended school day, after school programs and whatnot. Actually, from the state's point of view, the more the children are under its protection, the better."

It looks like most parents are pretty happy about this, right?

"That's just it. The influence of parents on children is crucial, whether the parents are active or absent, active or passive about their child's education.

I don't think anyone doubts that.

No, but the moment the government tells parents, 'give me your children and go out to work', it removes the parents from their position, and then the message is that children can be educated without parents."

~ What can I say? Only that I'm extremely happy someone is given an opportunity to speak and say these important things, especially in Israel, a country founded on communist ideology, where many people are still nostalgic about the kibbutz arrangement of enforced "gender equality" and the separation of children and parents from babyhood. ~

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Beauty and more beauty

 Another hen with her newly hatched chick. This one is actually a purebred White Leghorn - they aren't supposed to go broody at all, but I guess social influence goes a long way!
Two exceptionally beautiful birds my husband caught on his camera. I wish I knew what they are called. Just look at these colors.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why I stay home

Can I say, "I don't go out to work, and that's why my home is always in top order"? No... not really. Actually, on the contrary - although I probably put more hours into housework than someone who works outside the home, our house is messier because we don't just walk out in the morning, lock the door behind us and disappear for a number of hours. Someone is always here to mess the place up, fill the sink with dishes and litter the table with paper, crayons and glue.

Can I say, "I'm a full-time Mom, and that's why my children are better behaved/more accomplished/better adjusted than the children of working mothers"? You've got to be kidding. I love my children with all my heart and genuinely appreciate them, but sibling fights can really escalate around here, and don't get me started on the number of social situations when my kids made me cringe. I'm definitely not raising little prodigies or perfectly bred specimens.

Can I say, "I stay home, so we always have really nice, perfectly nutritious meals"? That's a real good one. During the week, dinner around here is usually some variation of eggs (laid by our hens) - omelette, French toast, scrambled eggs, fritters, pancakes, a simple quiche - and some sliced veggies. So much for gourmet meals.

So what does it come to, at the end of the day? I stay home, doing full-time what others seemingly manage to do very well part-time, and I don't have much to show for it. Those around me who work? Their homes aren't falling apart, their marriages seem to be fine and it doesn't look like their kids are any worse off than mine. So why do I still do it?

Am I choosing the easy way? No, I don't think so, not really. I've heard too many women say, "I've stayed home for X months after my baby was born, and I eventually went to work because I felt I'm going crazy." It can get lonely, staying home when all your friends work. Nobody applauds you for doing the dishes and there's no paycheck at the end of the month.

Of course I could point at some practical/emotional/financial benefits we have, as a family, thanks to my staying home. We never had to pay for daycare. We never have to figure out who stays home with a sick child. There's always someone around to make sure a stray dog doesn't mess with our chickens. And of course right now there's the baby, taking care of whom is full-time work by itself. But most of all, I feel that my home is like a very, very strong magnet tugging at all the strings of my heart and soul.

I feel that what I do is important. Important enough to do it full-time; important enough to do it myself, rather than delegating it to others. And I think that's the key here. It's not like free daycare or free available transportation would induce me to go out to work. I'd still be here, because that's where I belong.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stay-at-home mothers, social pressure and feelings of inferiority

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, and I only hope I have enough eloquence to express myself properly.

In the first neighborhood where my husband and I lived as a young couple with children, it was lonely during the day. Most women worked, except those who stayed home with the really tiny babies. Most children were in daycare by 6 months of age. When people heard that Shira, then less than 3 years old, wasn't going to attend any type of daycare or preschool that year, they were shocked. No, more than shocked - scandalized. Certain that I'm depriving my child of a very important developmental step. "You'll have to work very, very hard with her at home to be as good as a daycare," one Mom told me. I didn't work hard. I just enjoyed life and we did fine. 

I felt very much alone. In all the time we lived there, I didn't meet one person who shared my views about education and family life. Still, I was convicted that what we're doing is the right choice for our family. This gave me strength, though at times I reverted to what I now call "the no choice tactic" - telling people "I'm staying home to watch over my children because daycare would be too expensive"; "I'm not getting a job because there aren't any good jobs available locally, and I don't drive". Call me weak, but sometimes it was just easier to do that instead of arguing with people.

Then we moved to our next neighborhood, where I instantly felt at home. Most women were homemakers. Most children were home at least until they were three years old. There was a homeschooling family with girls the same age as mine, and we immediately hit it off. We hosted sleepovers. We hung out in the mornings, watching over the kids. Until I was there I didn't even realize how good it feels to fit in, to be - if not like everyone else - not a freak either. 

Seasons passed, and due to a combination of various circumstances we were forced to move again, to the place where we live now. Socially, I now find myself in the same place as in our first neighborhood, with one further disadvantage: my children are now older, which makes my desire for us to stay together and learn as a family stand out even more. Also, I keenly feel the loss of that environment in our old home which was so supportive of our educational choices. 

I see the women all around me. They are all such good women, mothers, friends. They all love their children, take care of them and teach them, just the way I do. They all nurture their homes, cook nutritious meals, and bake delicious treats, just the way I do. Only they do it part-time rather than full-time. They also work hard outside the home - as a personal sacrifice rather than a career achievement, I must add. Many of the men here struggle to provide for their families, and so their wives step in and work extra. Several are nurses working night shift, sacrificing their sleep so they can later be with their children during the day. The families all manage on a very tight budget, even with both parents working. 

I am, truly, full of respect for these women. Seeing them sometimes makes me feel spoiled, indulged. Not that I sit twiddling my thumbs at home; I have three children, one of them just 5 months old. I get no help with household chores or child care. I thrift shop and have become a really economical cook. Still, I sometimes wonder what it is about me that makes it nearly impossible to even let my baby out of my sight, let alone go to work for part of each day. Is something wrong with me?

But I guess that what makes me ache most is the feeling of mental isolation. I would so love to develop close, trusting relationships with at least some of my neighbors. I feel that what we have in common - the love for our G-d, our families, our children, our homes - is far bigger than our differences. Unfortunately our neighbors feel differently. I sense people are wary around us. Like it's not enough to have a lot in common; like you have to be exactly the same to be friends. And I think that's a real pity.

I guess the key here is that nobody should feel threatened by the different choices others make. I don't pass judgment on the Mom whose young children are in daycare from 8 to 4, and then in various afternoon classes from 4 to 6 (though I might think this lifestyle is quite hectic). Similarly she shouldn't pass judgment on me (though she might privately think our lives are boring). We can disagree on some issues, but we can agree on many others. And we can be friends. At least that's what I believe. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

When you are just swamped

You don't remember when you've last had a night of uninterrupted sleep. You haven't washed your hair in three weeks. Your friends send anxious messages asking if they've offended you somehow, because you haven't returned their calls for ages. There's a dark unrecognized sticky puddle under your fridge that you are going to tackle as soon as you have the opportunity - and you've been saying this for two months at least.

It seems you are on a treadmill, running and running and never getting anywhere.

Congratulations! You are a Mom to little ones.

Lately, this is the picture of my day-to-day life. Things are actually more intense than when Israel was just born, because he's hit this age when he needs less sleep and more action. So it's not like things don't get done... but admittedly, very little gets done, and this little costs a major effort. The two things that get me through right now are the following:

1. Appreciate the little things. You've washed the dishes? Emptied the garbage can? Wiped the bathroom mirror? Great! So what if these aren't major projects or fancy meals you can show off at the end of the day (because, you know, a sink can refill itself in the span of an hour around here). You still deserve to be appreciated for your efforts in keeping a clean, livable home.

2. Take advantage of the little snippets of time. If the baby is settled down on the rug with a couple of toys, I know I probably don't have hours to rearrange my closet. But I do have five minutes to take the washing off the line or water the house plants.

And, finally, this too shall pass. From my experience babies get a lot better at entertaining themselves once they start crawling. And, in the more distant future, he might find the company of other people to be more exciting than mine. So I'd better enjoy this while it lasts. :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The only thing that matters

As time passes, it is clearer and clearer to me that the most important work we have to do upon this earth is in loving, and showing love to, and caring for the people around us, starting from the people closest to us.

I am very privileged in this sense, at this season of my life. I have many people to love. I have little children at home, who need me many hours out of each day, and therefore I have no lack of opportunity to give love and care in a thousand practical ways. I also get to stay home and do all those things myself. My children never had a diaper changed by anybody else, except perhaps occasionally a Grandma.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not some kind of perfect person. I have low tolerance for whining. I snap if a child shows open disobedience. I have all these hobbies and projects and things I like to do on my own, and like every mother of young children, I sometimes desperately wish for a good long restful stretch of quiet time.

But then I look back at the time when Shira was a baby and motherhood was new and overwhelming and I cried because I felt as though I'd never sleep again. Now she's a 6-year-old who gets up and dressed on her own, goes out to the yard to feed the dog and collect eggs, and then proudly tells me all about it. She reads, writes, has her own friends and folds her own socks. I have no idea how this happened, but facts are staring me in the face. It's bittersweet, really. Seasons chase seasons, and as much as I'd want to stop time, even for a day, I can't.

All I can do is enjoy. Enjoy the little downy head that is resting on my chest. Enjoy the playdough art and creative spelling. Enjoy the child who is small enough to sit on my lap, because someday soon she won't be. Enjoy the full house, because one day these little birds will fly out to make their own nest.

Live, love and enjoy the gift. The gift of today.