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.

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 #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?”

Momfession #45: WWMD (What Would Mommy Do?)

There’s been a lot of talk about Jesus in our house lately. Which is odd, since we are not Christian in the least. In fact, we balk at any idea of organized religion. My husband and I are both products of Christianity: he attended a Baptist church when he was younger, and I spent my formative years in a Catholic school and heavily involved in our local church. But I became disillusioned with the church and my faith once I got old enough to realize that it didn’t fit with who I was and what I truly believed. I could write a novel about my feelings on religion, and Catholicism, but I will leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that when my kids started coming home talkin’ ‘bout the J-man, I was slightly uncomfortable.

I mean, I knew it was coming. We made the decision this fall to take our daughter out of home care and put her in a local preschool. A Christian-based preschool, mind you. But,  we had heard great things about the staff, and I got a warm fuzzy feeling from the moment I walked in, so I did my best to ignore the CD of Bible songs that they gave us when we enrolled, and the “Jesus Loves You!” signs in the hallway. When she came home telling me how “Mary Angel” was her friend, I just nodded and smiled. I even thought it was cute when she decided to say grace before dinner one night, and finished it off with “Ahhh-mek!” (she wouldn’t believe me when I tried to tell her it was Amen).

My son attends an after school program at the same center, and he’s been diligently practicing for their Christmas concert at home. When he came home with the song sheets and I noticed a song about– you guessed it– Jesus, I tried to act normally. But inside I was squirming. On the one hand, I felt guilty that he was singing about something that we completely don’t believe in. But another part of me feels guilty because I haven’t introduced any sort of faith into my kids’ lives.

Growing up, religion wasn’t just about the prayers, hymns and Bible stories. In fact, that was such a small part of what I remember about church. What I really loved was the community aspect of it all- working together to clean the church on weekends, baking treats for the annual bake sale, volunteering to give back to the community, and seeing my friends and their families every Sunday. I have realized that my kids don’t have anything like that in their lives. I mean, they have a lot of close family members and friends, neighbours, and schoolmates, but nothing quite like what I had. And I wonder if they are missing something by not having that. Will they feel less grounded and secure if they don’t have some sort of faith to fall back on? Will they be less empathetic and generous if they don’t belong to a community that encourages morality and altruism?

It’s a tough question, and I am sure I am not the only parent who has pondered it. I suppose the best thing I can do is to keep teaching my kids to be open-minded, and to respect different beliefs, cultures, and traditions. And to have love and compassion for the world and everything in it. After all, no matter what religion you practice, there always seems to be one simple, common theme: love one another. And really, what more do you need?

Momfession #41 : All you need is love (I think)

child giving thumbs up
G and K give love a “thumbs-up!

This morning, I was sitting in the waiting room at the dance studio while my daughter was “doing ballet” (realistically, she was shaking her bum to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse soundtrack while wearing ballet shoes, but whatever). We are still new to the studio, and I don’t really know any of the other dance moms yet. So, I just sit and listen to their conversations. Today, like most days, they talk about what activities their kids are doing, how well they are doing in said activities, and what else they will be signing them up for in the future. They have their daughters doing ballet, then shuttling them off to swimming lessons right afterward, followed by Sunday morning skating lessons. Their sons are in hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. Their little ones all attend Montessori schools (where, apparently one child “aced” her entrance interview). Oh, and did I mention their girls are three- and four-years-old?!

I always feel like I am doing pretty well as a parent until I hear those conversations. Then, our “crazy” life of karate three times a week, dance once a week, and a special after school behaviour program for my son seems tame. Where do these parents find the time? More than that, where do they find the money?! My husband and I make a pretty decent income and aren’t extravagant spenders, yet even we feel the budget tightening with every daycare cheque, and monthly karate bill.

As a parent, I try to live by two simple thoughts: 1. try to enjoy every moment, and 2. all you need is love. The first one is obviously easier said than done, especially in those really, really tough moments. It is something I constantly work on, and admittedly, some days are more successful than others. The other rule is something I have always believed: that no matter how much money you have, or stuff you buy, or what school your kid attends, or how many baby sign language classes you sign up for, as long as your love your kid, and your kid feels your love, that is enough. That one is something that gets challenged every once in a while. And today was one of those days.

Does all that stuff really matter? The sports, organic food, and extra curricular programs, the Chinese lessons and the special swimming lessons (in salt-water only, of course). At the end of the day, are those kids going to be more well adjusted than mine? Smarter? More successful? I’m not really sure, but sometimes it makes me nervous.

I was re-reading Freakonomics the other day and got to a chapter called, “Do Parents Really Matter?”. The first time I read the book, I wasn’t a parent, so I don’t think I really paid attention to the content. But this time, I did. According to the data, it turns out that, other than genetics, not a lot matters when it comes to parenting. A kid can come from a broken family, live in a low-income neighborhood and go to a “bad” school and still have a similar chance of success as a child in a “good” school who has two parents at home. That’s not to say that I should set out to be a bad parent, but it surprised me that all of the things we do for our kids don’t matter as much as we think they do.

So, maybe my theory is OK after all. Maybe my kids will turn out the same as, or better than, those private school kids that speak fluent Chinese. Or maybe they won’t. There really aren’t any guarantees in this parenting job, are there? The best I can do is stick to my beliefs, and attempt to create a fun, balanced, low-stress environment for our entire family. And fill my heart with more love more than I ever thought possible. My daughter still doesn’t know her ABCs, and my son isn’t devouring chapter books like some of his peers, but they are loved, and they know it.