Bite your Tongue.

There are many times where one will need to put this into practice. Often with total strangers, sometimes with friends and colleagues. Usually it’s with the people closest to you – family.

The people that supposedly know you the best seem to be the ones that overstep the mark on a regular basis.

I’ve talked many times on here about boundaries. My family overstepped every boundary I set for myself; they themselves rarely kept any.

From telling me every intricate detail about their private lives to offloading their problems at work on me or irritating friendship issues at every opportunity to the sicker elements of boundary crossing where they’d expose details of their bowel movements while I ate my breakfast or moaned about the constant itching they felt ‘down there’. How is that appropriate? Just because I am here doesn’t mean you can use me as your confidante, your doctor, your therapist.

I cannot give anyone medical advice and even if I could, it would be fairer on your child to see a professional.

As adults and parents ourselves, we too have everyday stresses and problems. I especially know that you need to find time to work through those sorts of stresses in order to get some happiness. You set personal boundaries to protect yourself, to assert your personal rights.

You can be close to a parent without overstepping these personal boundaries. You can share, talk and listen to each other but each of you know where to stop. You know when it becomes suffocating or stressful or inappropriate. Who would want their child feeling stressed out or worried to talk to them?

Not having a proper social interaction and taking a real interest in your children can massively affect them. My family on greeting me, never asked me how I was or what I had been up to – they only used the time they had to talk about themselves. If I dared to mention something to do with me I’d either be accused of and berated for being insensitive or selfish. This would only prevent me from ever offering any information up about my life so when things went wrong in relationships, work or home – it would solely be my fault for not opening up to them sooner.

How could I? It was an impossible vicious circle. If I revealed it all they’d use it against me or feel it was their right to delve as far as they could. Rarely did I receive anything helpful or thoughtful. Usually it was anger and criticism – probably why I don’t deal so well with it now.

I have bitten my tongue for many years and continue to do so now.

My father was a racist, homophobic chauvinist. He hated people from Africa, women drivers, lesbians, politicians, the police. He was critical, opinionated, angry, spiteful, dangerous and very tricky. Talking to him about anything was a risk. Sometimes it was a risk I had to take for my own sanity. In the weeks where he was ignoring me over some “mistake” I’d made, the silence was almost excruciating. If I attempted to make conversation with him he’d either leave the room or stay and utter nothing. He would not even look at me. He’d only break his stubbornness – his rancour – his belligerence if I weakened myself and asked his advice on some other mistake I’d made.

Power is everything to people like that.

When I do not speak of myself is when my family talk to me the most. When I show an interest in their lives, I am heard but only for an opinion on their matters and they’ll be pretty miffed if that opinion is anything other than supportive.

Conversation never flows with my family. Therefore I go through life biting my tongue.

Would be nice if others did the same (!)

 

The Right to: Have some ME time.

Whether you have a hectic career, you are a busy mother, you work late or just have too many things to do: everybody needs some ME time. Stress is a killer. It is one of the causes of high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, depression. Stress is a part of everyday life and we meet it at times when we’d rather not, usually when everything seems to be happening at once. The best way to take control of it is to have some time away from it.

Taking ten minutes to read a bit of your favourite book or watch that programme you saved on SKY + can be the difference between keeping your sanity and reaching breaking point.

It is not selfish to have some time to yourself. Yet the pressures around us tell us we don’t deserve to put our needs first.

Last year I posted something on Facebook about wanting to pamper myself – haircut or massage, can’t remember. Many mummies liked it and could empathise greatly. One woman found her way to it and commented that I should be more focussed on my daughter and should not have time to think about myself. This kind of comment was not meant maliciously but it was written sarcastically and it did bruise me. I really struggled with being a preemie mum especially in the first few months. I had only worried about my daughter, so much so that I hadn’t left the house in ten weeks for fear of infection. I was neglecting my mental health which was clearly starting to affect my relationships with others.

If I hadn’t taken any time out for myself, seen a friend for a coffee, gone shopping, had a haircut, I would have gone insane. The stress was overpowering me and I constantly felt ill. I can deal with not brushing my hair for three days or eating lunch at four in the afternoon because my exhausted baby refuses to nap. I can handle waking five times through the night not knowing what is upsetting my baby or wearing an unchanged, sicky t-shirt all day. I can do all that as long as I have some time for myself.

I have been lucky. Even during the worst times with my husband this year, he has always given me a bit of “time-off”. He has taken baby our for a little walk or watched her while I read a magazine with a cup of coffee for ten minutes. In that sense, he was amazing.

Channel 4 in the UK, shows a programme called, ‘The Three Day Nanny’. The nanny goes and helps a desperate family in need of her services. Last week, they showed a couple at breaking point with twin girls. The mum looked after the girls for the majority of the week, solely on her own. She barely left the house and was unable to complete the simplest of tasks as the toddlers were such a handful. In an interview at the start of the programme you could see tears in her eyes as she seemed so anguished at not having any time to relax and do something exclusively for her. Sadly, she did not have a husband that offered her this. In the two years since the children had been born, he had NEVER offered her a hour on the weekend to have the girls and give her a break. He admitted it freely like it was a norm. I’m sure it does happen and many mums are put in this position.

To have a healthy relationship with anyone, you need to have breathing space. That includes your children. Many women get that when they return to work but like the struggling mum on the show, I will be at home every day looking after my little girl. It was my choice (to a point, we could not find affordable childcare) so some will say, “Deal with it” but I am entitled to have a break.

Thank you David for all those breaks you have given me.

And to the woman who told me off for wanting to take care of myself, like I said to you before:

Happy mummy = happy baby.

The Right to: Disagree.

We can’t all agree on everything otherwise what would be the point of having opinions? What kind of a life would it be if we all just nodded in agreement with each other even when we believed differently. I know people who do this – conflict haters. Shamefully, I have acted this way before as some situations deem it, especially when confronted by an aggressor; nodding along can save hours of torment. However, in the actual world, away from abuse and when dealing with people of trust or friendship, you hope that your opinion is taken and respected whether others agree with it or not.

Recently, a “friend” on Facebook un-friended me. I use the term “friend” pretty loosely here. We were friends once, maybe not close friends but good friends. She was a good enough friend to be invited to my wedding and clearly I was a good enough friend for her to accept and attend it.

(Although after my recent discoveries that many a so-called ‘friend’ only really showed up for free food and a party, I can pretty much put her into that bracket).

I had noticed she un-friended me the week before but thinking, perhaps hoping, it had been a mistake, I re-requested her back. She accepted which led me to believe albeit naively that the prior case was true. That was until a week later I was “dumped” again. She hasn’t had a request from me since and she won’t.

There are several reasons I believe she has done this.

Six weeks ago and as something I often do, I asked some mummy friends on Facebook for some advice about my daughter’s sleeping patterns. We discovered that she was going through something called “Sleep Regression” where at a certain point in their first year, when baby is learning to sit up and crawl, they will find it hard to switch off their brains at night therefore will spend many hours waking up on all fours VERY upset and frustrated. It’s frustrating and incredibly upsetting for the parents too. No one wants to witness their little one so distressed and unable to do the one thing that brings them so much peace. We all need our sleep but especially babies. It is crucial for not only their physical development but their mental strength too.

Having witnessed my daughter waking every hour on all fours three consecutive nights and rife with worry, I asked my mummy friends for their take on what was happening. Many responded with past and current stories, sympathies and support. A few contrasting comments were made and many we could not all agree on. Much advice was offered too and I was extremely thankful for it. As a mum you question everything that you do and worry you aren’t fully doing your best so to hear different techniques was incredibly welcomed. I answered as many mums’ responses as I could, embracing each offering. Some were quick to dispel others but for me, any advice was good advice; I was at my wit’s end!

A couple of nights later I realised that some of the techniques that were suggested were not suitable for us as a family. They went against what we believed was right for us and our child and I posted that on Facebook. Something that was suggested that we did not agree on was given by the woman who has now disowned me. I was so shocked that she seemed to have taken personal offence to my words. All I had said was a certain technique was not for us. It was her choice to be offended by it.

I have the right to disagree.

I have the right to realise something does not suit me.

It does not question or disapprove someone else’s beliefs but it’s my right to make that decision for my daughter. After all, we know our own children better than anyone else.

To delete me is absurd but perhaps your motives were something else entirely?

You barely uttered two words to me after my wedding, joining the gang of pathetic girls who did the same. Yet, foolishly, I believed you were better than that. Educated, caring and responsible are how you came across, people liked and like you. I often hear very good things about you. You even gave me well wishes when my daughter was born prematurely.

There are many people that do things that look good.

What about just doing good?

No questions. No expectations. Just true.

Thank you to all the mummies who helped me last month. Your advice is very much appreciated.

xxx

The Right to: Have Boundaries.

In recent months I have forgotten about my one vow two years ago of being assertive and actively pursuing my personal rights. For many many horrible years, my rights were abused and I neglected what most humans do for themselves without thought.

My husband and I are re-assessing ourselves.

He wants to change and so do I. We know that what we’ve been doing isn’t working so something needs to shift. Happy that we are on the same page, I need to build my confidence, self-belief and assertiveness to become strong and secure whatever our future may bring. My husband’s aims are confidence, communication and drive. We all have personal goals we long to achieve. I am more of a talker than a doer sadly but all that is about to change.

We all have the personal right to have boundaries.

My father encroached on my personal boundaries daily. He regularly interfered with all aspects of my life from reading my bank statements to rifling through my drawers and bin (trash), from checking the bath’s cleanliness after my every use to locking me in his bedroom to “think about my behaviour”.

He had no sense of boundaries when it came to me. It all began as a child. He was always too tactile and it always felt too much. Sometimes a child needs reassurance not with a cuddle but with words, with support, with laughter. He never respected that and I was wrong to question him if I dared. So I didn’t.

I came from the generation and background where adults made every decision for the child even if it infringed on their personal choices. There was a lot of sitting on laps at parties and gatherings even up to the age of ten. I was a child who had to do as they were told. After all, these people were friends, not paedophiles or child abusers…………well would anyone have ever known otherwise? I never liked hugging strangers. I resisted many a time only to be reprimanded for doing so. It was deemed rude to refuse a kiss or cuddle from a male or female friend of the family no matter how uncomfortable I felt. My feelings were rarely acknowledged as a child in these matters.

On a trip to see family abroad and when an important member of the family passed away, my refusal to kiss the lifeless body of this relative was deeply frowned upon and angered some of the people closest to me. However, I was a young girl who had never seen a dead body before let alone someone I knew. It was terrifying. I desperately wanted to leave the room where everyone else was weeping. I was out of my comfort zone, awkward and numb, there were no tears, only a need to be elsewhere. On my abnegation, I was almost forced by one family member to approach the bed to “pay my respects”. It was only then that I felt emotion. I was embarrassed and angry that my personal rights were being ignored and disregarded. It did not matter what I wanted at that point. The extreme anguish my family were feeling was not mirrored by me and for that I became a monster.

Death is not something any child should have to come face to face with but if they do, it should be dealt with calmly and in a controlled environment putting the child’s feelings and needs first.

A child should not be condemned for not acting as you would. They are their own person and that should be celebrated.

I couldn’t assert my boundaries as a child. I wasn’t allowed any. My family broke boundaries as often as they breathed. Everyone was far too involved with each other and crossing endless emotional lines.

As we grow, we put up barriers, guards to protect ourselves. Having a life where boundaries do not exist makes you more open to letting people through your fragile borders. The lines of infringement become blurred thus allowing people to take advantage of your weaknesses. Boundaries can be established at any point in your life. You only need to know them and assert them when the need arises.

Saying is often easier than doing but ultimately, placing down rules of what is acceptable and comfortable to you will only make life better. We all want to feel safe and boundaries do just that.

They are your personal right.

A woman’s right to vote.

Thankfully, times have changed. Women are given the right to vote. Today is the European Elections voting day. Since the age of eighteen, voting has been a part of my background. My parents have always voted. I never took a great interest in Politics growing up. My sister knew more about it than I did. I think most teenagers would find watching daytime T.V more interesting but times are definitely changing. Politics is becoming something people genuinely care about.

The thought that some imbecile could be running our country (*coughs* UKIP) is enough to worry anyone. We haven’t seemed to get it very right recently in the UK.

My father thought he knew a lot about Politics and our country’s system. He would talk rubbish about things he wasn’t entirely certain on but my knowledge was closer to nothing so I never disputed him. He enjoyed ‘showing off’. It made him look powerful. I suppose he saw himself as a leader too, in our relationship he was the one who ran it, he had the control.

During the years I lived with my father, he made it very clear that I would have to vote. I hated being forced to do anything by him. Voting is a choice. Yet, around him, my choices were limited. If I dared to refuse or say I had other plans I was made to cancel them. He then mocked me at my disregard for my country. He was not a Royalist. In fact he hated the royal family. He just wanted to find another fault in me. I would have gone on my own. I was capable(!)  But my father didn’t trust me. He would analyse and interrogate until he got the truth; his truth. I hated going anywhere in public with my father. He would even warn me to make the “right decision”. God forbid I voted for someone I actually liked or valued(!)

Ultimately, voting has not been my choice for many years. Perhaps now it will be.

The personal rights we forget we deserve.

You and I have the right to:

  1. put my needs first – there are times in our lives where we have every right to be selfish. It is our life after all. It is essential that we have concerns and care for ourselves. Within reason, we need to be selfish in order to be happy.
  2. be treated with respect – I spend most of my time worrying about how I treat everyone else that I forget I deserve the same treatment. For years I feared my father who demanded constant respect. I associated the word with him and that there was no justification for me to get it. I know now that I deserve it too, I deserved it all along. Respect is a basic right.
  3. express my feelings whatever they may be – Anger, hurt, sadness, fear, happiness: I have the right to feel these things and not have to justify them when I do.
  4. say NO – If and when I need to, this is an essential right for me, one that I am only just getting to grips with, one that will take more time to develop but one that I hope will strengthen in me. Someone called me a “walkover” recently. It hurt me. I am not a walkover or a pushover. I have a soul and I have rights and I do not appreciate being perceived in that way.
  5. have opinions and values – they count. They are relevant and as important as yours. They are mine and should not be dismissed at any whim. I am a woman with a mind. Accept it.
  6. not take on other people’s problems – A very significant right. At times, we want to and will be there for others. That may be part of our character but like anything else, we have rights to refuse this when it becomes too much. Mentally, there is only so much a person can take on. Other people’s problem bring a new stress into our lives, we worry and fear for them, we become consumed by their issues often neglecting our own. It seems selfish and unkind but this is not a right that we demand constantly. I have spent hours listening to the trials and despairs of my family wishing they’d factor in that I have problems too. They didn’t and I was left dealing with theirs, feeding them advice and becoming a confidante to them. A position I was so desperate not to be.
  7. make mistakes – it’s okay to be wrong. It happens. I have the right to be wrong. Do not punish me because I am not perfect. No is.

Not even you.

Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.
Bob Marley