Archive for January, 2013

Elsie felt suicidal.  Her son was sitting his A-levels at the time it happened, so she tried to be strong and support him whilst attempting to make sense of the overwhelming feelings she was experiencing.  Every day at the hospital where she worked Elsie says she was being undermined: colleagues would shout at her and leave her out when they went off for a break, with some speaking unkind words about her to others behind her back. Although well qualified in her field, and with much experience, she was treated like an idiot by those in charge. This persistent dragging down knocked at her inside resulting in her reaching the point where she no longer wanted to live. It was only upon acknowledging that the behaviour she was on the receiving end of was bullying that she was able to seek some support and help.

Bullying is not confined to childhood when youngsters name call, hide pencil cases or push someone over, it is also a sad reality for many adults.

Types of bullying:

1. Cyber Bullying

Clare befriended a guy on the internet through a Christian page and began to get to know more about him, even sending him a present at Christmas time. However their blossoming relationship turned sour when he suddenly blocked her from communicating with him online, making accusations of her being a stalker and love cheat – all of which were done publicly. His behaviour, she believes, was that of a bully. Other Christians turned against her as they read his thoughts about their online liaison, resulting in her self-esteem being knocked. She was harassed by people sending messages saying unpleasant things about her so she contacted those in authority on the site to report their behaviour. She says she has forgiven him but that the experience was extremely hurtful.

In the 21st century chat rooms, social networking sites, blogs and websites have all been used to bring about good but they are also common tools for abuse. The rise of smart phones and 24hr internet access means that a victim of bullying can be targetted any time of the day or night.  It might be a case of publicising information about someone, hounding them, ridiculing them or highlighting them to others. However, with news stories emerging of prosecutions being brought about for bullying tweets made or unpleasant facebook pages being set up, some adults have been caught being nasty to one another online and had to pay the price.

2. Spiritual bullying

Bullying can be conducted in the most unlikely of environments, including in the home or even at Church. Spiritual bullying is when someone in a position of spiritual authority manipulates a situation or person, crediting God or scripture as being the reason for a particular decision or behaviour.  This can result in someone feeling guity if they don’t hand over a certain amount of money, attend certain meetings, or hold a particular view, leading them to feel that somehow they are letting their faith community, God and themself down.

3. Physical bullying –

This type of bullying in its most extreme form would likely be labelled as ‘physical abuse’. Milder forms might be when a person repeatedly and deliberately knocks or pushes you when they walk past.

4. Emotional bullying –

Just a few weeks ago in the South West of England a bullying boss reportedly came before a tribunal after one of his employees accused him of telling her to stay single and not have babies, inducing fear over whether she would keep her job if she failed to comply with the command.

If someone is an emotional bully they might repeatedly instil fear into you, try to control you, or speak negatively about you to your friends, family and colleagues.

When adults treat each other badly we often consider the word ‘bullying’ to be inappropriate.  Perhaps the reason for that is because we associate the word ‘bully’ with our schooldays.  Maybe that needs to change.


1. National Bullying Helpline – 0845 22 55 787

2. ‘Insight into Child and Adult Bullying’, by Helena Wilkinson (Due out Jan 2013 – I have not seen a copy but it covers coping techniques and bully traits.)

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

p.s. The words with the huge speech marks next to them are my own, I just used the speech marks to highlight the points.


Age 7

You have probably heard of women who breastfeed their babies into their toddler years (something which is either frowned upon or celebrated depending on the circles in which you mix), but opinion remains divided on whether the practice is perverse or beautiful when it comes to older children.  Breastfeeding in public has always been a point of contention but more recently the debate has changed its focus to become a discussion about the age at which it is healthy to stop giving a child ‘Mummy milk’.

Recently I met a lactation consultant who is a former midwife.  She has a passion for singing, knitting and breastfeeding, which has led her into some rather quirky projects.  I was given a private rendition of a few of the songs she has written on the topic of breastfeeding, which were essentially poems put to well known tunes.  One of the pieces she sang for me contained the line “get me to the breast on time” which went to the tune of I’m Getting Married in the Morning.  As well as her musical skills, her knitting ability has been put to use as a tool for promoting the ‘breast is best’ slogan… with her often being found armed with knitted breasts and knitted baby poo, which serve as visual aids when helping mothers learn how to get their baby to latch on or to understand how to assess the contents of a nappy!

Singing and knitting aside, perhaps the most significant thing which happened during our short time together was a statement she made suggesting that we were created by God to be breastfed far longer than is traditionally done in the 21st century.  Health professionals often recommend that a mother stops offering the breast to a child once they reach their 1st or 2nd birthday but this consultant says, “Children need milk until they are about 7.  After the milk teeth have gone… that may be a more normal time to think about giving up the breastfeeding”.  Yes, 7 years old – the age at which young people in the UK take SATs exams, are part of sporting teams, or attend Brownies and Cub Scouts.  (See photo above of me at that age.)

She suggested that mothers be open to breastfeeding as long as possible because “women have been given breasts to produce milk… [children] need milk and what better millk than a mother’s own.”  The argument drew on insight from the animal kingdom as she explained how polar bear babies are given milk for the first few years concluding that, “as we have a longer life cycle it seems natural that our babies could be older than 2 & 1/2 and still need milk“.  Looking back throug history was also a way of building her case as she shared how in years gone by there were no dairy animals to provide milk so getting calcium from a mother’s milk strengthened a child and created a special bond.  That said, the singing midwife did acknowledged that it is necessary to work with the child and feed them for as long as they want, realising that some school aged children may not want to be fed in this way*.

What is perhaps surprising is that this passionate lady is not a mother herself: “I haven’t had a baby and I haven’t breastfed”.  The main objections such an idea has received – besides the potential nips from a 7 year old’s teeth on the mother’s breasts – are that it is unhealthy and socially unacceptable, with some saying that it potentially becomes sexually unhelpful for boys.  So what do you think?  Have we lost sight of what God intended when he created woman with the ability to lactate?

For advice and help:

National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0210

* Please note that she was not suggesting breast milk as the only source of food, but as a supplement, like a vitamin, to a healthy diet.

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth