Momfession #62: The first year

Last week, I became an auntie again. My sister gave birth to a gorgeous little boy (her first) and I was (and am) absolutely thrilled for her, my brother-in-law, and our whole family. Over the past seven days, I’ve experienced a range of emotions surrounding his birth. Most of them were to be expected. There was pride, in the way she handled the labour and delivery. Awe, in seeing how easily and naturally she adapted to the role of motherhood. Compassion, in hearing her struggles with sleep deprivation and postpartum mood swings. Joy, in holding the warm, snuggly bundle while he slept. Happiness (obviously). And love. So much love.

But there was one emotion that crept in which I wasn’t expecting to feel at all. And it surprised me. And to be completely honest, embarrassed me.

I was envious.

Not overwhelmingly so, but it was there. A little twinge of envy, at knowing what my sister will experience during her maternity leave. It’s true, there will be stress. And sleeplessness. And fear. And loneliness. The list of new parenthood challenges is seemingly endless.

But when I look back at that first year that I had with my daughter, I can honestly say that it was one of the best times of my life.

It was just the two of us, getting to know each other. Bonding. Figuring each other out. There were days when I spent hours just staring at her while she slept. I crawled under the dining room table with her. I read to her. We went to the park, and to yoga, and on playdates with new mommy friends. We walked my son to school every day. There was no job to go to, no commuting, no real schedule. It was stressful and exhausting but it wasn’t anything like the stress that ensued once I returned to work. It was simple.

And I will never experience it again.

I have no regrets about the way I spent that time my daughter. And I know that I am extremely lucky that I was able to have an entire year off with her, as many moms don’t have that luxury. It’s because I had such a great experience that I feel envious of my sister today, which is a good thing (the experience, not the envy, of course).

It’s just that sometimes I yearn for the days when things were simpler. My life today is anything but, and I can imagine it will only get more complicated as my kids get older, and my career evolves. Balancing work, kids, activities, a marriage, friends, and still trying to find time for myself isn’t easy. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions as life whips by at lightning speed. There are days that go by where I feel like I didn’t get to spend any time at all with my kids, and the time I do spend with them is filled with “must do’s” like eating, and baths, and tidying. I miss having the time to walk my son to school. I miss the freedom of spending an hour in the middle of the day just lying in the grass with my kid. I miss the excitement that came with seeing my daughter learn something new every day.

I think it’s hard to understand the value of something when you’re so close to it. I tried my best to appreciate each and every moment of that first year, but it’s like they say…you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone. I can only hope that my sister has the same experience that I did, and one day, we can both look back with joy (and maybe a little twinge of envy) at the first years of our babies’ lives.

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Momfession #61: A semi-charmed kind of life

I was reading a story to my four-year-old daughter before bed tonight. She, being a fairly typical little girl (and much to my chagrin) loves princesses and predictably chose a story from one of her princess storybooks. In this tale, Cinderella and Prince Charming are celebrating their one year wedding anniversary. In true royal fashion, they are planning an elaborate ball to celebrate the occasion. On the morning of the ball, the Prince and Cinderella have a romantic breakfast together, and he gives her a giant sapphire ring. Which Cinderella, being the beautiful but not-so-smart gal that she is, promptly loses.

By this point I am only two pages into the story, and I am already trying to hold back my negative commentary (you’ve GOT to be kidding me…a friggin’ ball? A giant ring? And then she LOSES it?). But, my daughter is enjoying it, so I swallow hard and press on.

Cinderella can’t possibly look for the ring by herself, so she enlists her two mouse friends to help her find it. They tell her to walk back through her entire day, so they can check each place she visited in order to look for her ring. And as I read on, I begin to realize how closely Cinderella’s day parallels my own days.

So without further ado, I present to you: How a Princess Spends Her Day (and how closely it resembles mine)

Writing in Her Journal

According to Cinderella, the first thing she did after receiving her new ring was write about it in her journal. Yes, of course she did. I mean, doesn’t every lady immediately write in her journal after something *wonderful* happens in her life? I know I do. Except mine sounds more like, “Dear Diary, today my husband and I managed to speak five whole sentences to each other before one of our children started screaming. How marvelous is THAT?!” I begin thinking that Cinderella and I have a lot in common, minus the bling, of course.

Drinking Tea

Cinderella spends the next part of her day drinking tea. I can’t believe Cindy is a slave to caffeine like me. We could be twins! Of course, hers is served to her in a lovely china teacup on the balcony of her castle while I guzzled my Tim Horton’s medium-coffee-with-two-creams yesterday while driving to ballet class (late, again) and attempting to answer unanswerable questions like, “why is today Saturday?”. That’s almost the same, right?

Spending several hours reading in her library

OK this is where things started going sour for me. So while Cinderella spent, “several hours reading in her lovely library”, I brought my kid to ballet, then a birthday party, then got gas, got my car washed, went grocery shopping, picked kid up from birthday party, wrestled screaming kid from birthday child’s home and into car, drove home, hauled groceries in, growled at second kid because he was still wearing his karate uniform even though karate was over hours ago, growled at husband for letting kid wear karate uniform around the house…you get the picture. So, so, not relaxing. Cinderella wins this round.

Picking flowers from her garden

Cinderella spends a good portion of her day picking flowers from her garden to use as décor for that evening’s ball. While I don’t quite share her enthusiasm for gardening, I do appreciate Cinderella’s effort at some sort of meaningful work. Until this point, her day has pretty much been useless. But the fact that she does her own party décor gives me slight hope that this story might turn around. As for me, I cleaned my house and lit a rose scented candle. I’d call that a solid tie.

Gathering water from the well

For reals? That’s some actual manual labour there. I am thoroughly impressed that Cinderella gathers her own water. Like, lets the bucket down and cranks it back up and everything. This chick is more of a badass than I realized at first. Of course, it turns out that it was the water gathering that caused her to lose her gigantic sapphire. So, I am thinking that’s probably the last time the Prince is going to let her draw her own water. Plus, she makes her little mouse “friends” go down into the well to fetch her ring which feels a bit like child labour to me but with mice it is really hard to tell their age so I will let that one go. Meanwhile, back in my house, I made my older kid set the table for dinner and pour a hefty glass of wine for yours truly. But it’s not considered child labour as long as they’re my kids, right?

So, there you have it. A princess’ life of leisure and my life of…well….life. Who says princess stories are sexist, drastic misrepresentations of reality? In actuality, we’re all leading charmed lives. You just have to look hard enough.

Momfession #60: The return

I stopped blogging a few months ago. I don’t really know why, exactly. At first, I just wasn’t feeling “inspired” anymore. So, I let myself take some time off and told myself that I would write again once the feeling passed. Only it didn’t. I continued to feel uninspired. I felt like everything that I was experiencing as a mom and woman in her mid-30’s wasn’t important enough to write about anymore. I hadn’t had any great revelations of late…no parenting epiphanies, no sudden insight into life as a mom. At the same time, my focus began to shift. A lot of the things I’ve written about in the past stemmed from some sort of challenge that I was facing as a mom, or that my kids or husband were experiencing. I began to realize that I played a very key role in tackling these challenges (I knew this before, but I don’t think I really KNEW it until now). How can I expect things to change and improve if I don’t change and improve? So, my focus shifted inward. I began to take steps to improve myself mentally and emotionally (unfortunately, physically has taken a back seat for now…hence my ever-growing love handles). My husband and I started taking steps to build a stronger partnership so we could face any challenge head-on and come out on top (and still in love). And we have all taken steps to make daily life less stressful, and more fun.

In the last three days, I have had three separate people from different areas of my life ask me if I still blogged. So, I am taking it as a sign that I should get back to it. Only this time, I’d like to take a different approach. I have always intended the Momfessional to be a place where I could provide frank, honest accounts of my experiences as a mom, and I still plan to do that. But in addition to that, I want to start looking deeper inside myself, into who I really am; not just as a mom, but as a woman with strengths and weaknesses, ambitions and regrets, achievements and disappointments. I am hoping that knowing and accepting who I really, truly am (and letting the world know that it is OK to do the same), will help me in every other aspect of my life, from my family, to my professional life, to my friendships.

I’m glad to be back.

Momfession #59: Family vacations

Oh, hello there loyal Momfessional readers. Not sure if there are any of you left, after I  virtually abandoned you over the last several months, but hello anyway. I’ll spare you the “I’ve been busy” excuse and just say that it is nice to be back.

So this week, we took our first camping trip of the summer. I had planned it out months ago; we would be going to somewhere more remote than we had in previous years (well, as remote as you can get while car camping), about 3 1/2 hours from home. I was excited to go somewhere less populated and experience more “nature” and I was certain the kids would be blown away by all of the hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc. that I planned to pack into our three days away.

But, things didn’t quite end up the way I had envisioned.

It started when we were unpacking our car, after driving the 4+ hours it ended up taking to get to the site. And it went something like this.

Me: Ummm, hey dear husband, where’s the other bin with our camping stuff?

Him: What bin?

Me: The bin with our equipment in it. Like ALL of our cooking stuff, our flashlights, matches, propane, tools, etc. The one that we can’t do much without? OMG WHERE IS IT? SHIT!!

I moaned, sat down, and put my head in my hands. I had packed for days, written lists, pre-made all of our meals. And now we were four hours from home, with frozen food but no way to cook it. And no flashlight. And no way to start a fire. And no rope to hang the tarps with for the rain that was supposed to fall while we were sleeping.

I guess you could say I over-reacted a bit. I blamed my husband. I growled at the kids. I might have cried a bit. Then, we hopped back into the car and drove off, searching for some sort of camp store (which we did find, and ended up spending $100 in, just buying essentials).

And that’s pretty much how the camping trip went. My husband and I bickered, our kids misbehaved and were bored, we didn’t sleep, and a massive thunderstorm came through exactly while we were trying to pack up to leave. Thankfully there were some highlights: the surroundings were beautiful, the kids loved the beach, and they were obsessed with the park badges that they got to earn for doing things like keeping the campsite clean. But on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a solid 5.

The funny thing is, while I was editing and later posting our pictures on Facebook, I realized that, to an outsider, it must look like we had a perfectly idyllic trip. There we were: smiling, laughing, hiking, eating s’mores, and building sand castles like the “normal” family I had secretly wished we could be while we were in the midst of our dysfunction. I felt like a fraud.

And then I realized, maybe everyone else is a fraud too.

How many people do you know that actually tell the truth about their family trips? We don’t hear the stories about how mommy yelled at little Jimmy when he stepped in poop on the trip to the farm. Or how daddy got lost on the way to the beach and mommy told him she knew she shouldn’t have let him drive because he always gets lost. Or how the kids woke up every hour screaming because they weren’t used to sleeping in a completely dark hotel room, and mommy and daddy lost their patience around 4am and yelled, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP!

No one talks about that because those things aren’t supposed to happen. And we feel guilty that they do. We feel like terrible parents, jealous of those other parents who seem to have perfect kids and amazing trips  filled with laughter and good times, while we pray for night time to come so that we can break out the wine and have some peace before collapsing into an exhausted heap.

Yet, here we all are, likely going through similar experiences, but only telling the “good” side of things. It’s wrong. We should be more honest about life as parents. It isn’t always perfect. Scratch that; it’s NEVER perfect. We shouldn’t strive for perfection and we shouldn’t pretend we have it.

The other day, a colleague asked me how my vacation was, and I replied immediately, “It was great!”. And then I stopped. “Actually, you know what? It wasn’t great. It was average at best. My kids were nuts, we forgot a bunch of supplies (which I blamed my husband for), and we got poured on. We’ve had better trips. But we did have a nice hike and the park was beautiful.” Perhaps it was too much information for a pre-9am water cooler chat, but it made me feel better.

So the next time you’re asked to recount your latest family trip, do me and all of us imperfect parents out there a favour: throw in a story or two about something that didn’t go according to plan. I promise we won’t judge.

 

Momfession #58: No fun

 

I’ve been blocked lately. Not just writer’s block, which I obviously have (please see date of last post for proof), but, just….blocked. I feel like I’ve stalled….run out of gas…in my personal life. Like I am so filled to the brim with things I HAVE to do that I have no space left in my brain for novel thoughts, ideas, or inspiration, or….fun. So I keep motoring on, working hard to make a mark in my career, to make things stable for my kids, to make sure our home isn’t a total disaster, to make a (somewhat) healthy dinner most nights. And on the days where I actually have something planned for myself, I feel like it takes an inordinate amount of energy for me to work up the least bit of excitement about it.

Because honestly? Sometimes all I really want is a day where I don’t HAVE to do anything, even if that thing is something “fun”.

I know I am extremely lucky to have a strong network of people who will watch our kids at a moment’s notice, and a husband who doesn’t mind me taking some time for myself in the least, and that I shouldn’t complain. In fact, I feel ridiculously guilty for even thinking these thoughts, because I actually get way more “free time” compared to most parents.

But hey, it’s my blog, and I can complain if I want to.

So that’s it. Earthshattering news, I know: a mom who is overwhelmed, overworked, and overscheduled, and maybe feels like she’s losing a bit of her fun-loving self in the process. Oh, and who’s feeling guilty complaining about it.

That about sums up my last month or two. Now how ‘bout you all? Any of you feeling particularly guilty or “un-fun” these days?

Momfession #57: Busy doing nothing

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I guess you could say I have been busy, although that seems like a lame excuse. Who ISN’T busy? Lately, though, I have been feeling especially unable to fit anything else into my life. I have a schedule that is beginning to drive me insane. Not only is it packed, but it is so predictable, and so ordinary, it’s maddening.

But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I thought I’d let you in on my daily life. Because if I’m feeling overwhelmed, there’ve got to be other moms that are feeling the same way. As you read, try not to feel jealous over the glamour of it all. And if you can relate, please comment. It will make me feel much better to know that you all have busy, boring lives too!

So without further ado, I present to you…

The Momfessional’s Daily Schedule

  • 6:20am- alarm goes off, I press snooze at least once.
  • 6:45-ish- finally drag myself to the shower. On the way, I not-so-quietly open up the door to our daughter’s room to start her wake up routine. She is not a morning person. My son has already been up for at least 30 minutes, watching some (hopefully appropriate) shows on Netflix
  • 7am- dry my hair while my daughter runs screaming into my room because she doesn’t want Daddy to change her, or look at her, or talk to her.
  • 7:10-7:20am- attempt to simultaneously dress myself and my daughter while my son storms around the house because he either: a) can’t find his Pokémon cards, or b) doesn’t want a bagel for breakfast, or c) can’t wear shorts in 10 degree weather. Then coax/prod/force my daughter to eat at least a few bites of something before we leave the house.
  • 7:30am- drop daughter off at daycare. We have perfected the goodbye and the entire dropoff now takes only four minutes. Unless one of her teachers starts chatting with me about her latest potty training regressions.
  • 7:45am- Run through the train station parking lot to catch the train, which has just arrived. I squeeze through the doors just as they are closing and flop myself into a seat.
  • 8:30am- Arrive at the office. Breathe. Have my first cup of coffee.
  • 8:30am-4:30pm- Work, rarely take lunch, sometimes fit in a call to G’s school, the doctor, or my husband (since morning conversations are pretty much impossible)
  • 4:50pm- Catch the train home. Always board at the last minute, usually sweaty and breathless.
  • 5:30pm- Arrive home, drop bag, immediately start making dinner, attempting to ignore the cat at my feet and the fact that I have to pee. Around the same time, my husband arrives with the kids. They burst through the door, my son asking if we can order pizza (no), my daughter announcing that she peed her pants. I secretly wish I could just pee my pants too.
  • 6:15pm- Dinner. One or both kids complain about one or more things on their plate. I ask my son to sit up straight and eat over his plate approximately 30 times. I unsuccessfully attempt trick my daughter into eating at least one vegetable. Any attempt at adult conversation is thwarted by the two jabbering/screaming/complaining children.
  • 6:50pm- Fight with my daughter to take a bath. Fight with her to brush her teeth. Fight with her to get out of the bath. You get the gist.
  • 7:30pm- Stories are read, kisses are given, dollies are tucked in to bed. My daughter screams and demands I stay for “five more minutes”. When I leave, she screams for anywhere from 5-20 minutes.
  • 8pm- Start bedtime routine for our son. Thankfully, my husband does this as I am just about to lose it and I still have to pee.
  • 8-9pm- Clean dishes, tidy house, do laundry, fill out permission slips, write in son’s agenda, make school lunch, feed the cat, run out to grocery store because we have no milk or bread, again. How is it possible that we use SO MUCH milk and bread?!
  • 9pm- Sit down. Sometimes do work while watching Netflix. Or watch trashy Real Housewives episodes. Or blog (as you know, this one rarely happens anymore).
  • 10:30pm- Start my own bedtime routine. I’m tired, but what makes me even more exhausted is thinking about doing it all over again tomorrow.

Momfession #56: Heartbreaking work

It all started with a conversation I had with a potential client over coffee. Both being mothers, we began talking about the challenges that we and all parents face when raising kids, no matter what stage those kids are in. She has a teenaged daughter, and, after telling her about how hard I felt those sleepless-nighted, poop-ridden, hyper-vigilant baby and toddler years are, she proceeded to enlighten me about life with a teenager. She painted a less-than-pretty picture which included slammed doors, secrets, and still sleepless nights (I guess some things never change). While we talked I began to feel a slight shiver spread across my body, but it left as quickly as it came. I have years before I have to deal with that stuff, I thought.

A few days later, a friend of mine posted this video on their Facebook wall. If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch. It so poignantly revealed how fast life goes, and how quickly your kids grow from sweet-smelling, helpless beings to independent, responsible adults. Again, I felt it: this time, a bone-chilling sensation that made the hair on my arms stand up, coupled with a tightening in my chest and a wave of nausea. What the heck is wrong with me? I thought. Why am I so bothered by the idea of my kids growing up? They’re still so little!

But last week was the real clincher. I received a phone call from my son’s school one afternoon. I was told that he and another eight-year-old were “being silly” and were making sexual-ish gestures and innuendos. I dealt with the teacher quickly, assured her that he was not exposed to any sexual material in our home, that he must have heard about that kind of stuff from his friends, and that we would have a conversation with him that evening.

When I got off the phone, I was shaking so hard I had to leave my office. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the belly. And one thought began running through my head.. “Not yet. He can’t grow up yet.”

The longer I am a parent, the more I realize how hard this job really is. When the kids are little, you think it is tough. And it IS. Sleepless nights, screaming babies, and diaper explosions are not for the faint of heart. But as they get bigger, it gets harder. True, once they start taking care of themselves the morning routines become a bit easier, but the tradeoff is that they begin to lose their innocence. They need to become independent, and you have to let them go a bit more every day, releasing them into a harsh, often confusing world filled with innocence-killers around every corner.

They will hear and see things you wish they hadn’t. They will learn about adult topics from their friends, no matter how many times you give them “the talk”. They will make bad decisions and you won’t be there to stop them. It breaks my heart every time I think about our kids growing up and losing their innocence. It makes me want to grab them as tightly as I can, and squeeze them as long and hard as humanly possible, for the rest of my life. But that’s not what being a parent is all about. I think it’s about building your kids a solid foundation, so that when it comes time for them to make their own decisions, they are well-equipped to make good ones.

And as I am learning more and more each day, it is simultaneously the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced.