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 #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 #55: Shiny People

image

Every Sunday morning, we take our kids to swimming lessons. Our three-year-old’s lesson is first, and we are almost always rushing in at the last minute. I typically burst through the door that leads to the pool deck carrying my unshowered (“too cold, mommy!!”), messy-haired daughter sporting a bathing suit one size too small. I plop her down at the side of the pool and walk as quickly as the wet floor and flip-flops will allow, back to the locker room before she can follow me. We sit for the next 25 minutes in the viewing area and watch a surprisingly happy K as she practices her flutter kicks, before it is our son’s turn to get dressed for his lesson.

In the moments that we have between watching both kids swim, struggling to get them dressed, and waving to them from behind the plexiglass, I get the chance to check out the other parents.

Most of them look like us…somewhat sloppily dressed, overtired, preoccupied with their mobile devices, while periodically commenting that “he’s getting better at his back stroke!” or shouting, “c’mon honey, you can do it, just jump in!!”

But there are a few parents that stick out. I like to call them the Shiny People.

The Shiny People show up right on time. Their kids are wearing perfectly-sized swimsuits. They carry their towels in brand new Lululemon duffels that perfectly match their coats. The Shiny women have gorgeous, thin bodies, and the Shiny men have perfectly-coiffed hair. The couples nuzzle each other and breezily chat while beaming at their beautiful offspring. They look like they just stepped out of J Crew catalogue page 17 entitled “A Sunday with the Family”.

I absolutely hate them.

When the Shiny’s are around, I begin to second guess myself. How is it possible for parents like that to look so put together, get along so well with their spouses, and seem to operate completely stress-free, while I am in the corner wearing oversized jeans and yesterday`s sweater, growling at my husband?

I have always assumed that behind the perfect exterior, every parent/couple is hiding some issues. But what if that isn’t true? What if the Shiny People know something I don’t? What if they ARE better parents, have better relationships, better lives? How does that happen?! And why do they bother me so much??

Maybe it is because I know I will never, ever be like them. I don’t have the money (or the desire, or the body) to dress like them. My husband isn’t the “modern-babywearing-latte-drinking-collared-shirt-on-weekends” sort of man. Our kids our noncompliant at best. And I am a stressed out bitch on Sunday mornings (and most other family outings).

So, I implore all of you Shiny People out there, please stop looking so damn perfect all the time, and let me in on some of the imperfections that you have hiding behind your Ray-Bans. And for the love of god, tone down the cologne. There is no one to impress at the public pool on a Sunday morning. No one.

Momfession #49: The phone call

mom on phoneThis evening, I had to make a quick business call from home. Thankfully, it isn’t something I have to do often any more (once, I had a psycho boss that would call my cell at all times of day or night just to “chat”). I knew it would only take a minute, and the kids were playing relatively quietly in the living room, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. “Hey guys,” I said, to both kids and the hubster who was playing on his iPod, “I’m just going to make a quick call for work…can you just keep it down?” They all seemed to acknowledge that they heard my request, so I dialled the number.

Not two rings in, something happened. My kids instantly went from playing with each other and speaking in normal tones, to running around me in circles, screaming. They became possessed beings, laughing maniacally and chasing me while I ran from room to room, laptop in one hand, cell phone wedged between my shoulder and ear. I apologized profusely to the person on the other end of the line, who certainly must have thought I had 10 kids instead of two, and tried desperately to sound light hearted and playful, while mouthing “STOP IT” and putting on my best mean mom face. I ended up in the only room in our house with a lock on the door: the bathroom. As I attempted to finish my call, with my laptop balanced on the sink, my two lovely children screamed and pounded on the door. And where, you might ask, was my husband this entire time? In the living room, still playing on his iPod.

Continue reading “Momfession #49: The phone call”

Momfession #48: Whatcha want? Whatcha really, really want?

mindfulness

Yesterday, I was working from home when I received a Groupon email. It was advertising a highly discounted, two month membership to a local gym. Since I have been feeling especially disappointed lately with the 20+ post-preggo pounds that I still haven’t shed (three years later), and my general lack of activity, I clicked on it. But as my mouse hovered over the “buy now” button, I spotted the candy-covered gingerbread house that my kids and I made for Christmas, perched nicely on the counter, just five feet away. My eyes darted from the frosting and gumdrops, to the fit, smiling, six-packed lady on my screen. “Sweet, cookie goodness now, and the hope of a tighter ass in two months,” I thought. So, I went for it. I grabbed a giant chunk of gingerbread roof and got ready to make yet another New Years promise to get in shape. But just as I was typing in my billing info, I stopped, and a single, clarifying thought entered my mind.

Do I really want to do this?

Continue reading “Momfession #48: Whatcha want? Whatcha really, really want?”