Why would a bloke choose to specialize in Women’s Health… I sometimes ask myself.
I came across a Paediatrician recently, while reading his book, who pointed out that he gets questioned a lot about why he would be so interested in specialising in breastfeeding. His name is Jack Newman and he now helps more than 3000 women and babies each year in his breast feeding clinic in Toronto, Canada.
His response was, why wouldn’t I, breastfeeding is one of the most important times in a developing child’s life and plays a huge role in their state of health for rest of their life. Women must be educated and empowered to carry out this important responsibility.
A simple response really, one which reminded me of the similar reason I have taken a keen interest in Women’s Health, particularly the health of young expecting and new Mums.
Mothers are usually the ones, generally speaking, who do most of hard work around taking care of the health of the family, particularly caring for the children. Generally speaking, it’s the Mums who do the grocery shopping, the cooking and a lot of the housework. They spend the biggest portion of their time with their children in their younger years when their children are babies and toddlers.
Although these days that dynamic is shifting somewhat, you may or may not agree with me on this, but I do think the large majority of young women are in the driver seat when it comes to the ‘nurturer’ of the family.
And I have to say that many Mothers I know put themselves at the bottom of the ‘things to do list’, or totally forget to put themselves on any list for that matter! Because they get caught up in the nurturing cycle, and simply attach a big part of their identity of who they are to this role. They spend so much time taking care of others, they leave no time for themselves, or they struggle to res-establish their own life again after the early days of nurturing young children and babies. It’s entirely understandable, and I don’t blame you for falling into this role, it’s a big responsibility, that is to ensure your children are well looked after and safe and healthy.
I know all this, because I’m a Dad and I work with young Mums, I understand human behaviour relatively well, and in a way I’m a bit of a Mum myself. My values are geared toward that nurturing role and my work enables me to be at home more than my wife can be. I have been a stay at home Dad for 6 months before, so I can relate to what parents experience in this time in their lives. It’s a challenging time that’s for sure.
So what do we do? How do we ensure that Mums or Dads are able to take care of themselves whilst taking care of their wee ones? And why is that even important… What does taking care of yourself have anything to do with taking care of your kids…
Something which motivates me to take care of myself is knowing very well that if I want my kids to be healthy, I have to demonstrate what that entails. So they can grow and develop well, without the burden of sickness and disease we see so much nowadays. I want to teach my children how to take care of themselves, and the only way I can effectively do that is by leading the way.
Children create their values and beliefs from their parents, they learn behaviour largely by mimicking what they see in the world around them, and guess what, we are their world, we are the centre of our little ones lives and if we want our children to grow up with a healthy sense of how to take care of themselves, then it’s up to you and I, to show them how it’s done.
As a parent I see it as my duty to educate myself on why good nutrition is crucial for health, why introducing children to movement and physical play is paramount for growth and development, and as kids start to notice the world around them, you can tactfully guide them through how to treat themselves so that they grow up with confidence and self respect and worthiness.
I was just in the supermarket over the weekend, and my son walked over to the brightly coloured lolly packets and asked if he could have some lollies if he was a good boy. So many parents may have said okay, ‘only if you’re a good boy’ using lollies to reward good behaviour. Alternatively we could say, “no buddy, that’s not actually real food, it’s made to look like food, but it’s not and it will probably make you feel sick, why don’t we look for something else”. He chose stickers in the end.
That may sound extreme, but the thing is I don’t want my son growing up thinking it’s okay to use food, or junk, as a reward for good behaviour. I also want him to understand the difference between actual food which nourishes his body with what he needs to thrive compared with more than half the crap you find on supermarket shelves nowadays (a conversation for another day!).
Sorry, that may sound polarising or confronting, but ponder this, we are now in a time, the first time in history, where our younger generations will die at a younger age than us parents. Why? Disease. Modern age disease like diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, heart failure. All the things which can be traced back to diet and lifestyle.
If you’re a young parent, you have a big job on your shoulders, your job is to help design a blueprint, a map for your child’s life through demonstrating what is and what is not, and that starts with you.
You are their teacher.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”.
My mission is to create stronger Mums and the world’s best role models, and if I can help do just a little bit of that, I’m happy.