What Others Think

A brief moment of co-operation

A brief moment of co-operation

My whole life seems to be ruled by what other people think of me. Apparently that’s a personality trait of Highly Sensitive People, a category I discovered through one of my blog followers from Setting the World to Rights. I took this online test and, unsurprisingly, scored very highly. At least it’s nice to know there are others who are so sensitive to noise etc and it’s not just me being difficult or highly strung.

This week has been all about other people’s opinions. First I got a one-star rating on Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes – but with no review to tell me why. I don’t mind one-star reviews – in fact I expect them, because most of the time I don’t rate myself as a writer – but I worry what people think and I want to know what they hated.

The same is true of my next two novels. Class Act is with an editor but only one other person has read it and I’m really worried the story is weak and is going to get terrible reviews. Unfortunately I can’t find anyone else to read it and give me an honest opinion, so I’ll have to wait for the public to tell me (assuming they do! Reviews are hard to get: I’ve had 4,000 downloads of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes on Amazon and still only have 8 reviews.)

My poorly knight

My poorly knight

The children’s book I’m in the process of writing is even worse, because it’s aimed at a target market I have no personal experience of. I love reading MG fiction myself, but I’m not 7-12 and when I was I was reading either Mills & Boon and Sweet Valley High or Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I have no idea if the language is pitched right or if the story is authentic and entertaining to that age group. And I really need to know: I need external validation to make up for a lack of self confidence.

Parenting is the same. Yesterday I kept both children home from nursery/school. The youngest had a sky-high temperature and couldn’t go to nursery. The eldest complained of also feeling poorly. She only had a slightly raised temperature and on a normal day I would have taken her to school. But we were all feeling rough and I didn’t want to do the school run with poorly kids. I also foolishly thought if they were both home I might be able to rest as they would entertain each other.

But I did feel bad, so I wrote something on Facebook about having slightly-poorly children home and how they seemed to be instantly better once I’d called them in sick. Some friends came back and said ‘relax, enjoy the day with them’ (!!) while others said, ‘I send my slightly-poorly children to school’. In both instances I felt awful because a) I wasn’t enjoying having them home and would have preferred to be by myself, writing and b) I was a soft mama for not sending them both in to school (like I normally would!). By trying to get a second opinion all I got was a feeling that I was doing it all wrong.

Not so poorly girl

Not so poorly girl

As it turns out we’ve all learnt something: my daughter has learnt not to say she feels poorly just because she wants to stay home from school: a poorly premenstrual mummy and cranky ill brother don’t make good company; and I’ve learned that having two ill kids at home is different to having two happy, healthy children. Because even though they were well enough to play, they bickered and fought and cried and whimpered and had tantrums ALL DAY. Poor hubby walked into a maelstrom when he got in from work. I’ve got just one home today and he’s happily watching TV while I work. Much better.

I know I’m in good company, both with other parents and other writers. We all care and so we worry about getting it right. These posts on parenting – Mother’s Guilt and None of Us are Perfect – could have been written by me on a different day (and you can see I wrote an essay in the comments on both). And I know most writers struggle to appreciate their own writing. In fact, as I’ve been working on my children’s book I’ve been reciting to myself, “Just keep writing – Every first draft is sh!t,” over and over and over. But of course, I still need a second opinion!

Food And Filling Prevention: My Latest Sources of Mummy Guilt

Mummy-guilt trip to Waitrose!

Mummy-guilt trip to Waitrose!

Today I have been obsessing about food and tooth decay. I found out recently that my three-year-old son has cavities. I was horrified. He loves his sweets and juice and though we minimise his intake of both, he is also a fussy eater and so has many other bad-teeth foods like dried fruit and toast with jam.

Probably as a result of latent anxiety, which seems to be the latest phase of medication side effects (or just my natural state), when I saw the hole in my son’s tooth this morning it tipped me over the edge. Even though I later allowed him to eat a muffin (and don’t get me started on the guilt I felt when I saw the 11 lines of ingredients, most of which were unpronounceable) and some crisps.

So while he slept this afternoon I spent an hour on Google. It didn’t improve my anxiety; quite the opposite. Because it turns out that grain-based foods are bad for teeth too. And my fussy child only eats breakfast cereal, sandwiches, toast and pasta. All wheat. (Also all full of salt – and a news report I heard this morning bemoaned how much salt kids eat – is there no end to my parenting fails?).

My sister has started following a Paleo diet (a diet that seeks to recreate the foods our ancestors would have eaten – meat and veg – while eschewing grains, potatoes, dairy, refined sugar and processed foods). She’s the foodie in the family. I hate cooking, I hate thinking about food and I’m rubbish at anything that requires hardship and excessive thinking. A diet without grains falls into all those camps, especially when pancakes and pasta are key elements of happy parenting for me. I have got lazy recently, feeding particularly my son the things I know he’ll eat, like spaghetti bolognaise and cheese sandwiches. I thought as long as he had a few fruit pouches, plenty of milk and some rice cakes, he was getting an okay diet (he gets great food at nursery and eats better for strangers).

But while I figured he would outgrow his fussiness, I hadn’t factored in his teeth issues. And now all my laissez-faire parenting, my not insisting on fresh fruit and vegetables and fish in the hope that – like his sister – he’d come to all the things in his own time, seems to have backfired. Because apparently nutrition can affect teeth. Obviously I knew that calcium was important, but both my kids drink buckets of milk. I didn’t really think about all the other vitamins, like A and D and the Omega fats. My daughter doesn’t like cow’s milk so she has powder milk – fortified with vitamins – as well as happily eating fish and meat. Is it coincidence that her teeth are fine?

Anyway, I won’t try and unravel all the sources of information I ploughed through today. I came away with one relatively-easy solution: cod liver oil, with one concern – vitamin A overdose. I didn’t come to a happy resolution, but I did decide that cod liver oil might be good for all of us (particularly hubbie’s bad back and my dodgy knees). I also decided that if I can’t banish grains from our diet, I might be able to widen them away from just wheat. A bit more maize and rice. Cornflakes (also nicely lower in sugar than most of our current breakfast cereals), rice cakes, some minestrone soup. Baby steps. And eggs, eggs are meant to be good. I used to cook lots of scrambled egg, until my son refused to eat it. He might just have to learn to eat what he’s given or lump it!

Conscientious parenting: so full of pitfalls it should come with a health warning.