My child lives on Wotsits. There, I said it.
I am fully prepared for the divulge of abuse I will receive for opening up with this post. I am fully expecting the Perfect Mum Brigade to appear with their bells and whistles, lining up to tell me what a terrible parent I am, and how I have created a rod for my own back. I am prepared for it, because TRUST ME, nothing you can say to me is something that I haven't already said to myself.
I hate taking my daughter out for meals. In fact, I hate dinner time almost as much as I hate bedtime.
When meeting up with friends, I watch in awe and with a slight vein of jealousy, whilst they retrieve from their bags a variety of little pots and packets - slices of cucumber, raw carrots, raisins, breadsticks, some thinly sliced ham and little cubes of cheese. I watch, through slightly glazy sleep deprived eyes, as their child picks them up and contently shoves them into their mouth. Sure bits go on the floor, in fact, LOTS of bits go on the floor, but their child sits, happily, eating NORMAL food in a relatively normal fashion.
I had a bad eater first time around with Erin in that she was fussy. I was determined to make baby led weaning work 2nd time around, and spent a lot of time reading about all the fun finger foods we could try. Unfortunately for me, Neve then arrived with the strongest gag reflex known to man, and as such, things didn't quite go to plan.
I feel embarrassed reaching in my handbag. I have officially become a "pouch mum". A mum who could be wrongly assumed to be lazy and one who is voluntarily filling their child full of sugar because they can't be bothered to get out a blender or chop up some veg in the kitchen. Whilst I am far from a domestic goddess, trust me I have tried.
I pull out a packet of Stage 1 puree. Yes - my daughter is almost 1 now, and is still eating the stage 1 puree that most children would have as a pudding. A nice fruity pudding to wash down their healthy balanced lunch.
I pour the pouch out into a bowl trying not to make eye contact with anyone around me. Even when dining alone, just me and her, I am worried what others will think.
As usual she doesn't open her mouth. I give her another spoon to hold. Nothing. I try and prise her mouth open, nothing. There is more puree on the floor around me than there is in her mouth. She rubs her eyes and ears, and pulls on her hair, spreading thick puree all over her face to the point where a full body wash is almost always inevitable.
I open the Wotsits or snack, and she suddenly springs into life, but even then, with just a small amount of puree speedily sneaked in with every single open mouth.
But what people don't see behind the packet of Wotsits is what goes on behind the scenes. The mum who has tried desperately for her child to eat ANYTHING. The child who is awake most of the night breastfeeding because she is quite clearly ravenous. The child who gags on anything with any kind of lump whatsoever, and the child who is waiting on referral to a specialist. The mum who lays out a variety of normal food at tea time such as carrots, sweetcorn, broccoli, bread and cereals, only for every last piece of it to end up on the floor, or for her child's attempts at eating leading to a high chair full of vomit, along with the small pieces she has managed to consume.
I am embarrassed; but Wotsits and other dissolvable snacks have become my go to, without which, my daughter starves all day and drains me dry at night.
I know something has got to change, and I know I may need to refuse the pouches and snacks in order for that to happen. But when you are as sleep deprived as I am, you will do anything to avoid your child going to bed hungry.
So please, before you judge, please stop with the lunch shaming. I'd love to be stamping star shapes into my daughter's cucumber with the rest of you (really I would!) but for now those efforts would be completely wasted.
The next time you see a mum feeding her child Wotsits or a pouch in a café - take a moment to try and see the bigger picture.
There is always more to a story than the cover.