Māmā Muse: Zazi from Zazi Plays
We spoke to mum-of-one (with another on the way), Zazi from Zazi Plays about birth, the transition from one child to two, her respectful parenting philosophy, and navigating mum guilt while working full time.
Kia ora Zazi. Can you start by introducing yourself?
Kia ora! Well I go by Zazi which is a nickname I’ve had since I was about 10 – I’m rarely called my real name these days! I’m a Mam to my 2 year old, August and I’m very close to giving birth to my second, a little girl, who is due in September. My partner is called Jon and we’re both originally from England but we met and fell in love in New Zealand – a whirlwind of a romance story that I’ll save for another day! I’m a trained Speech and Language Therapist and I started my Instagram blog, @zaziplays, during my maternity leave as a way to keep my brain active and to help out other mums. Speech and Language delays are much more prevalent these days for a number of reasons, one of which being that we’re all just so much busier. I wanted to create a safe space for parents and caregivers to re-learn how to play and interact with their child in order to further their communication development.
Can you give us an overview of your birth with your son, August?
August kicked the hell out of me in the womb – he was always a strong baby! My blood pressure had been steadily rising from around week 26 of the pregnancy and there were traces of protein in my urine, so I was scheduled to be induced at 38 weeks to avoid getting pre-eclampsia. They tried a handful of ways to induce me over a two day stretch but nothing worked and I never went into labour – I never found out why. They tried using a foley catheter (essentially a balloon inflated inside the cervix) which was excruciating for me, and at one point they even hung a bag of water from that (yes you read that correctly – a pendulum of water being held up by my cervix) and still no labour progress. When, after over 48 hours, they said “we can break into your cervix or we can offer you a c-section” – I signed on the dotted line without hesitation and we went into surgery! Auggie was born on a Friday evening and he was perfect! I took a while to recover but he was worth every second.
What is your plan and your preferences for your daughter’s impending birth?
I’ll be planning that (as much as it can be – babies are unpredictable) in the next fortnight – but I know that I’m opting for a planned c-section at around 38 weeks as I have high blood pressure again. I’ll be asking to play a playlist that I should really get onto making, and for delayed cord clamping and skin to skin as soon as possible. I’ll hand express some colostrum from 36 weeks so that Jon can offer some milk in a syringe from the beginning because latching a newborn is hard when you’re lying down and covered in wires! I’m really interested in maternal-assisted caesareans, which is where the person giving birth is allowed to lift the baby out of their tummy. I’m going to enquire about that but I also know that the drugs you get in the surgery can make you shaky and feel pretty yuck, so I wouldn’t want to risk being part of the birth if I wasn’t feeling 100%. We’ll see. As long as she’s healthy and someone can take 1000 pictures of the process – I’ll be happy.
How do you describe your approach to parenting? What are the core values you practise?
Respect is the most important thing for me. I started learning about the RIE approach when August was a couple of months old and it really resonated. I remember reading “if you wouldn’t speak to your friend like that, why speak to your child like that?” and that was a real eye opener – it can stop you in your tracks if you’re feeling like you might lose your cool and shout. I’m also about being realistic and surviving – parenting is hard and it’s something we’re not trained for, so I try to be gentle with myself and continuously open to learning. We do our best until we know better and then we do better. My goal is to be a safe space for my kids, for them to always feel that I’ve got their backs and that I’m not going to shout at them – it takes a lot of consistency and a calm approach to not break that trust with a child.
How does your parenting style look practically for your family, in terms of sleep/feeding/emotions/play etc.?
Firstly – Jon and I are on the same page which really helps. We both read the books and listened to the podcasts and learned how to be the parents we wanted to be, and we’re always learning.
When it came to sleep, we read about age appropriate wake times and good sleep associations and ran with that! We’ve (controversially) never owned a cot! August slept beside me in a next2me crib for the first five months or so then transitioned straight to a floor bed and we’ve never looked back – it really has been the ultimate in us respecting his body’s need to move and we’ve taught him to want to go to bed as opposed to being stuck in one. Hopefully that pans out for baby number two!
Feeding led me to being super passionate about supportive high chairs and I blog about those a lot! It’s honestly scary how many highchairs are on the market that are awful for feeding – being ‘easy to clean’ is not the key thing a parent should be looking for. As a Speech Therapist, I’m trained in oral development and swallowing so I did my best to show my followers how I used a mixture of purée feeding and baby-lead weaning to expose August to different textures. Now-a-days with a toddler it’s still all about offering lots of variation alongside things I know that he loves. Are mealtimes always a success? No! But we roll with it and stay consistent in our approach.
Play is so important to me and where my whole blog started. What looks like simple play to us adults is an incredible amount of learning for a little person, so I’m passionate about providing August with lots of opportunities to explore new places, resources and textures. We also have a whole lot of fun just doing chores together around the house – with the right mindset, boring stuff can be play too!!
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The transition from one to two is a milestone for everyone. How are you feeling about welcoming a new baby soon? What are you most nervous about and what are you excited for?
I’m not going to lie – there’s some trepidation! It’s crazy to think that my heart will somehow have the capacity to love another one when it feels like August has all of it but I’ve been reassured it’ll happen! I’m know that we’re going to be tired and that some things will be a huge juggle. I expect August will experience some jealousy and I plan to acknowledge that valid emotion and do everything I can to prepare him for the changes. I’m nervous about juggling two plus breastfeeding out and about. I’m really excited for August to meet his sister as he talks about her every day and is forever role-playing cutting her out of my tummy. I know he’s going to love her. It’s going to be exciting to revisit old play activities with the two of them and I’m so curious to see whether she’ll be as active and full-force as her brother!
How are you preparing August for the arrival of his new sibling?
We talk about the baby every day and I tell him stories about what will happen. I make sure to stress that she’s coming to live with us as I believe that’s something we take for granted that kids will understand! He opens all the parcels that arrive for her and he’s helped to sort out her things. I talk about where she will sleep and that she will cry a lot and sometimes I’ll be busy looking after her. I’m also careful to mention that sometimes she will have to cry whilst I look after him.
A year or so ago I made him a photo book with pictures of his c-section and of his first few weeks – so we’ve been revisiting that a lot recently. I’ve also been showing him pictures/videos of him as a baby and him breastfeeding on my phone. Hilariously, he’s also been learning about where milk comes from recently and we’ve been talking about cows’ udders. He’s getting the two processes mixed up and now thinks that I’m going to express milk and then it’ll be for sale in shops!!
You offer excellent ideas, advice and resources on your Instagram and website, Zazi Plays. What are the top two or three things parents can do to best support their baby’s development, in terms of communication skills?
- Be face to face as much as possible. Choose a parent-facing pushchair, get on the floor with your baby when they’re there, make your face the most exciting thing in the room. Communication starts with eye contact!
- Sign to your baby – even if it’s only one or two. Many babies understand lots of language and could express more if only given a method of doing so. The oral skills required for speaking take a long time to develop, but hand movements develop sooner. Teaching your baby to express their early needs with their hands is super rewarding for both parent and child and it DOESN’T slow down speech development. It’s a no brainer – do it!
- Talk a lot!! Even if it feels like it’s just to yourself in those early months. Point out and label things that you can see. Try a running commentary when you’re doing daily tasks, e.g. “I fancy a cup of tea. Fill the kettle up up up. I think I’ll choose this orange cup. Pop the tea bag in!” Psst – baby wearing is so great – you can have your hands free and get stuff done and your babe can see what you’re doing as you speak.
And for toddlers?
- Cut out the questions. Every time you ask a question it’s like a little pop quiz. It’s squeezing language OUT of your child’s language bank instead of putting language in. Try to make more comments and ask fewer questions.
- Don’t put pressure on your child to say things perfectly – speech sounds take a long time to develop. If they say something not quite right, just say it back to them in a sentence and keep the conversation going.
- Routines are magic and they can really help with behaviour and communication. If you always say and do similar things every time you go and fetch the post or every time you go in the bath, your little one is going to hear lots of repetition. Repetition is key for learning and predictable activities make children feel safe and ready to learn.
What are your go-to parenting resources?
Podcast: ‘Unruffled’ by Janet Lansbury
How do you juggle your career with motherhood? How has your outlook on work changed or evolved since having August?
I work full time and it’s a real juggle. I experience a lot of mam-guilt for not being around him all the time. I’ve really had to learn the importance of work/life balance and trying to stick to work hours – I do everything I can to not bring work home or let it encroach on family time. My blog has lead to us starting our small business selling sign language resources and feeding essentials and I’m so proud of that. Jon and I run the business together and though it’s stressful sometimes, we’re such a good team and I’m enjoying tackling the challenge together!
Does mum guilt come up for you? If so, in what respect and how do you manage it?
Yes – when I work (as above) or when I’m not feeling myself and don’t feel as present/fun as I’d like to be with August. I know that I set high expectations for our quality time together so I’m learning to calm down a bit and cut myself some slack. Us mams can’t be everything to everyone at all times! So I just do what I can. My house is consistently a mess, sometimes we eat tinned soup for dinner, some days we don’t make it out the house. I try to reflect at the end of the day – and if August is happy then I’m happy. The rest can wait.
What has motherhood taught you about yourself?
Err that I’m a powerhouse?! That we all are?! We grow humans from scratch then raise them – it’s truly amazing what we’re capable of, even through really hard times.
I’ve learned that I’m a control freak and I need to work on that. I’ve learned more about how my parents’ parenting style impacted me and how that’s shaped me as a mam. I’ve realised that I really like to read all of the research and half the internet before I make a parenting choice! Mostly, being a mam has just clarified for me that I LOVE being a mam.
Tell us about a parent who is your muse.
My own māmā. She wasn’t perfect and we don’t always see eye to eye but I take the best parts of her parenting and implement them with August. He adores her.
I love following @lovefromyourdads. I think we parent really differently which is fine – but also refreshing. They’re unapologetically themselves and a bloody good reminder that we also need to prioritise our own lives as we do our kid’s. They’re always having a cheeky cocktail and making their social lives work WITH little Frankie in tow – there’s a lot I could learn from them.