Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Why would you not vaccinate your children? I really want to know.

M had his first jabs today. It was surprisingly ok.  For both him and me.  My mother-in-law said to me, when L had her first jabs; "You've introduced pain into her world" and I of course remembered that again today.  But despite the crumpling of his face, and the indignant look he gave me, and the tearless wailing,  I can't feel guilty for doing something that I believe can only be of benefit to him.

But it made me think about something I read in Juno in the first few weeks after he was born.

Juno (which was very sweetly sent to me by its editor Saffia, of Motherhood and Anarchy) supports and reports on a natural approach to family life and in many ways it doesn't sound like it's aimed at me.  I didn't, and was never tempted to, eat any of my placentas, whether fried or encapsulated (who knew you could even do that?), my kids will go to school,  they eat meat and were born in hospital, I use disposables.  Our family life is often chaotic but not, in the parenting sense, always very natural.

But other people do do these things, and it is interesting to read about them.  As Saffia said in the editorial to the Spring edition, "there is no absolute right way to live... no parenting formula that will ensure you will raise 'perfect' children".  If I do something and others don't, that's fine.  We're all different.  We don't need to judge.

And I read that, and nodded, tolerantly and probably smugly.  And then I read this letter.  And I realised that I do judge.

I have not vaccinated my baby girl and I feel very much in the minority. With so much ignorance surrounding vaccines I feel as though I have to keep justifying my decision, or just keep quiet so as not to invite judgement and criticism...

Because if I met that woman I would judge.  I would want her to justify her decision.  I would criticise. Because I just don't get it.  More than that.  I think, and I know this will offend, but bear with me, that not vaccinating your children is verging on the criminal.  If I have my kids at home, or I don't send them to school, or I feed them meat I'm not harming anyone else. You might not agree with my decisions for my children, but they affect only ourselves.  I am not putting anyone else in danger.

But if I don't vaccinate my children and they get measles, and they pass that measles on to another child, that child could die.  He or she could be brain damaged.   Or wind up deaf or blind.

If I choose to put my child's life at risk, that is my choice. Whatever others might think of me and my attitude to parenting, it is only my child who is affected.  But if I make a choice that could potentially harm someone else's child, and I do it with disregard for the harm it could do to someone else's child, I honestly don't see how that is different from drink driving.  Honestly.  If drink drivers only ever killed themselves, would it be seen as such a heinous thing to do? I don't think so.

But before you lynch me for my outrageously blinkered judgementalism, read on. Because Saffia's right. We all parent in our own way, and we shouldn't judge others' choices.  And although I am judging at the moment, it is only through ignorance.   So can anyone explain it to me?  Why do people choose not to vaccinate their children?  Even if they still think, despite all the evidence, that MMR is bad for their children why would they also choose not to vaccinate against meningitis, or tetanus, or polio?  I honestly don't understand.  What are they afraid of?  What is it that they are choosing to protect their children from that is worth potentially exposing them to these hideous diseases?  I've never read or heard anything that has made me even question my decision to vaccinate my children, but maybe I should have done.  What is it that I don't know?

Please do tell me.  I don't promise to change my mind about what I have done for my children, but I do promise not to judge.  And if I understand, maybe I will be less likely to judge in future.

Friday, 22 July 2011

It's official. Blogging made me a bad mother.

I've read quite a bit recently about Jojo Moyes' article in the Telegraph saying that blogging and hands-on parenting are incompatible.  All parent bloggers are, according to Ms Moyes, plonking their children in front of CBeebies while they fritter their lives away online criticising people they've never met for the choices they've made for their children (who, of course, they've also never met).

Bloggers are bad parents.  Allegedly.

And I would have ranted about this. And pointed out that I am only blogging this evening because B has put Clash of the Titans on and there's a limit to my tolerance for really dreadful special effects.  And that in so doing, I am only ignoring him,  my children having been put to bed at a sensible hour after a home cooked (ish, it was fishfingers) meal with real vegetables (broccoli and peas, if you're interested).  Or how I never turn the computer on while they're awake (with good reason, sticky fingers can cause havoc on a keyboard). Or how television is only allowed for fifteen supervised minutes or so a day.  Or when they're ill.  As A was last Friday.

But unfortunately Ms Moyes is right.  Blogging has made me a bad parent. 

Cast your mind back to last Friday, when A was feeling poorly, and sitting wrapped up in a blanket in front of Toy Story.  Friday is officially a working day for me so the girls (when not ill) go to nursery and I get a break from the cooking of fish fingers and the breaking up of arguments; but as M is only seven weeks old, I'm giving myself Fridays off.  This means I could do the unthinkable - I invited to my house someone who I had met online.  Unprotected and unchaperoned, I met a real blogger. 

I was terribly nervous, but she, (am I allowed to name her?) was just as lovely in the flesh as in the word and we had a delightful hour or so in the sunshine, admiring my baby, eating chocolate digestives, and talking, oddly, about pretty much anything other than being a mum.

And I had such a nice time that I completely forgot to feed my daughter.  Until she had an enormous tantrum and I realised that it was 1 pm and neither of us had had lunch.

See. A bad mother.  Blogging did that.  Ms Moyes is right...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

How long after you have a baby does it take to get your figure back?

My sister asked me this about three weeks ago, with that tone in her voice that only a sister can muster.  The tone that actually says:

"And why haven't you got yours back yet?"

To which the answer, variously, is:

Nine months on, nine months off.  And probably longer if it's your fourth and your stomach muscles are in several bits.

Oh for goodness' sake, he's four weeks old, give me a break

Do I look like bl00dy Giselle Bundchen? 

Are you saying I'm fat?  Weeps... (for the guilt inducing effect only, honest).

But she's got a point.  One of the wonderfully odd things about my experience with this baby is how easy he's been.  He sleeps, he feeds, he smiles.  And it means that I keep forgetting how little he is and how recently I couldn't get through the door with a laundry basket (seriously, it was a great excuse not to do any laundry) and getting cross with myself because none of my clothes do up, and those that do give me a muffin top of which Starbucks would be proud. 

And that's totally unreasonable.  Because I'm not Giselle Bundchen, or Posh (although I get the impression she's in fashion-induced purdah at the moment, and we'll not see her again until she has been starved and winched into a size 0 dress of her own design) and I don't have a nutritionist, or a personal trainer, or indeed the will-power or desire to acquire either in pursuit of some (for me, frankly unobtainable) aesthetic goal. 

Plus what's the point of needing an extra 500 calories a day if you can't eat them entirely in chocolate cake?

The thing is, I don't even know if I could be doing something about it, even if I wanted to.  Is this actually a time to give my body a break and let it do what it wants? There is a little part of me suspecting (clinging to the hope) that it probably wouldn't be very sensible dieting or exercising at this stage, especially given that my body is a stranger to both. Is that right? Or would the boost to my ego of getting back in my jeans actually make me feel better than that extra slice of chocolate cake does?

Whatever the answer, the problem is, my sister's got it wrong. I don't actually want my figure back.  I want someone else's.  Angelina Jolie's would do.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

On helping Mummy

B, on leaving the house:

"L, are you going to be a good girl for Mummy?"

"A, are you going to be a good girl for Mummy?"

"S, what are you going to be for Mummy?"
"A mouse."

Oh good.

Monday, 4 July 2011

I could have been a contender.

M is five weeks old tomorrow.  So I'm going back to work.

No, I haven't gone insane, I'm just self-employed.  And it's not as bad as it sounds.  It's only one day a week, and it won't even be for the full day, but I do feel that I need to keep my hand in, my face known and my brain ticking over, or I won't have a client left when I do go back.  And given that I only have one client, even if that client is my former employer, I kind of need to keep in with them.

So I'm not complaining. Much. 

Actually I'm not complaining at all. I don't have to do this. The government very kindly gives me £120 a week not to work, and by choosing to work, I'm going to lose that (or at least I am after ten days of working), so I'm not doing this lightly.   I'm doing it because I like my job and because I am incredibly lucky to have it.  My client has supported (and indeed made possible) a move to Scotland and is continuing to support my career, even if I'm not technically employed by them any more.  I get to work when I like and for as long as I like; I'm averaging about eight hours a week at the moment, which I get to do from the comfort of my own home, and it pays me enough to keep me in breastpads and floortiles...

So I am unbelievably lucky.  I am out of the rat race.  I no longer have to juggle.  I don't have to make apologies to my colleagues for leaving early and to the nursery for arriving late, or take holiday when someone has chicken pox, or have my heart broken when someone else falls over and calls out the nanny's name rather than my own.  I don't have to feel like my entire life is a compromise any more.  

But then last week I found something out. 

I have only had one real job in my life.  I started on 10 September 2001, a new trainee solicitor with seven others.  Of the eight of us, only three, including myself, are left with any connection to the firm. 

And last week the other two were made partners.

That could have been me.  That should have been me.  I am as good a lawyer as either of them.  I could have had that badge, that validation to the outside world that I am good at my job, that I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use it.

It could have been me. I could have stayed in the jungle of the juggle.  I could, like the one of the other two who is also a woman, have dashed back to work early after maternity leave to  prove my commitment.  I could have stopped at one child.  I could have remained in our little house in London.  I could have stayed late at work to schmooze, to network, to bring in business.  I could have written articles in my spare time, and got my name known and my face recognised.

I could have been a contender.

But I'm not.  And I won't ever be.  And the thing is I didn't, and don't, want to be.  I made a decision to step away from that life, and I did it with my eyes open.  I didn't want to be that person, and I didn't want to do any of those things.  I looked at the future, at the prospect of that life and I decided that it wasn't for me.    And I know that that was, and is, the right decision for us.

So why am I still just a little bit miffed?