It’s only the first day of the holidays and I’ve regressed to doing what I do best, relying on good old Maccy Ds to feed my kids, whilst I hide my lack of lunch with a black coffee. A trick of the trade that I’ve perfected over the years. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t feed my kids like this every day, it’s only when I’m on my own and feel like I can’t cope with the kitchen. I’ve never been the typical anorexic that cooks amazing meals for everyone, for me meals are a nuisance and trying to raise children with a positive attitude to food is probably the hardest part of parenting for me.
Over the years I’ve been through the whole spectrum of an eating disorder. Today I feel I am somewhat near normal, for me that is, thin but managing to hold down two jobs, bringing up four children, whilst managing a mental illness that will probably never go away.
Acknowledging my weaknesses and identifying bad parenting strategies help, however realising that I will make mistakes is the only way I cope today. My girls are the ones who I worry about the most, one eats too much junk food and two who don’t eat enough food. My conscious decision to not talk about weight, bad/ good foods or restrict treats has definitely backfired. I have girls who eat too many treats, not enough fruit and copy my emotional relationship with food. My children know there’s something not right no matter how much I try to hide my defect. My youngest the other day stripped off all her clothes to stand on the bathroom scales. It’s true they learn by example. My most shameful memory is my child walking into the bathroom cuddling my back as I threw up my Christmas dinner. I’ve read countless research articles that show eating disorders can be genetic which doesn’t help, no one wants their child to live a life like this. So it means I need to rely on others to help, their dad does the lions share of food shopping as well as cooking and very close friends support as role models for “normal eating”.
So whilst I come to terms with how my children will remember me; a mum who constantly has a cup of coffee ( appetite suppressant) in her hand; listening to arguments if their dad has put too much food on their mum’s plate; having a mum who never cooks proper meals and not experiencing real baking with mum, I have to look for the positives. Maybe not to justify myself but to know they do have a good mum; a fun mum who takes them to maccy ds or Costa coffee on a whim; a mum who never restricts their choices ( I may grumble at times about the junk they choose); a mum who doesn’t talk constantly about new fad diets, exercise regime or losing weight for the summer/ Christmas/ holiday etc and most importantly a mum who is slowly winning the daily battle against the desire to stop eating altogether. Whilst I can’t guarantee that my children won’t end up with eating disorders I won’t beat myself up over how I choose to bring them up with food or my illness. I choose not to talk about my illness with them or seek therapy anymore, my illness is a very small part of me, I refuse to give it the power it craves. I am so much more than that as a mum. There are days when it overwhelms me but with support it becomes less and less part of my life.
If there were two things I’d wish for, I would want a support network of mums who are battling the same illness, to have eating disorders as widely recognised as depression or anxiety and for my children to never experience this waste of an illness.
I am an antenatal teacher, doula, baby massage instructor, postnatal educator, life coach, writer, mum, wife, friend and, sometimes, just me.
As an experienced and qualified practitioner, I specialise in pregnancy, birth and early parenting - my aim is to listen, inform, support and reassure when needed.
I have worked with parents since 2002 and I set up Birth, Baby & Family in 2011 to provide good information, a different perspective and links to the best products and services for families.
I set up the Birth, Baby & Family Centre in 2014 to provide a welcoming, friendly and supportive space for parents across Tyneside.