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 #54: Come here often?

Last night, I attended an after-work networking event. It was at a bar in downtown Toronto, and while not particularly fancy, it was a kid-free few hours out where I could have a drink and meet new people, and I was excited. At one point in the evening, I was chatting with a young(er) and somewhat attractive guy about work stuff when a much-younger-and-skinnier-than-me girl walked past. I watched with amusement as his gaze immediately shifted away from our conversation and toward the girl in the fitted red dress. I wasn’t at all offended (heck, I was checking the her out too) and I chalked it up to the obvious wedding ring on my finger and my business attire. It was only later that I started thinking about it, and wondering if those were the only reasons why I was no longer worthy of a check-out or some good old-fashioned flirting.

I used to love to flirt. And I was good at it. I was never the hottest, skinniest, sexiest woman in the room, but boy did I know how to flirt. I never had a problem finding men to flirt with on a given night; they always just sort of materialized. And I never for a second considered that the men I flirted with wouldn’t be interested in flirting back.

But once you become a mom, something happens. In fact, several things happen that seem to deter random men in bars from wanting to flirt with you. Apart from the obvious extra poundage, frumpy mom clothes, and wedding-ringed finger, something changes that I can’t quite comprehend. Maybe it is the slightly overenthusiastic look that I must have on my face, because I am out drinking a drink like a grown-up and talking to other grown-ups about grown-up things. Or maybe there are some sort of un-flirtworthy pheromones that a woman’s body produces once they birth a child. In any case, I am pretty sure that my days of being able to command a man’s attention in a room full of other women are long gone.

I would never want to trade the life I have now for my single days. Although it was fun to go out, flirt, and sleep until noon, and my boobs were much perkier then, I actually feel much more attractive and secure than I ever did in my twenties. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a part of me that misses being thought of as attractive by someone other than my husband and kids. It is flattering, obviously, but perhaps more than that, it is a reminder of the person I used to be before becoming “mom”. Sometimes, in the insanity of life with kids, I lose sight of that flirtatious, fun-loving, spunky girl that I used to know. And I miss her.

So if you’re a dude, and you ever see me out in a bar, buy me a damn drink. It won’t get you anywhere, but it will make this frumpy old mom feel a little bit more like a lady.

Momfession #53: Control freak

Last night, while playing volleyball, I sprained my ankle. As soon as I landed (on a member of the opposing team’s foot, after a failed attempt to block a shot) I knew I was in trouble. The pain was so overwhelming I could do nothing but lay curled on the floor for a minute. It was the kind of pain that makes you want to throw up; anyone who has broken a limb or gone through labour knows exactly what I mean. My mind immediately started racing: what if it is broken? What if I have a cast? How will I get to work? Do I need crutches? How am I going to drop my daughter off at daycare? There’s no juice for breakfast…how am I going to go grocery shopping if I can’t walk? And on, and on.

My husband says I worry too much. That I should just relax and accept that sometimes, things just happen that I can’t control. And it is true. But when you have people depending on you, it is easier said than done. For one thing, I recently started a new job at a new company. When I say recently, I mean that today was my third day. And I have already had to take a sick day. I don’t think I have taken a sick day in over a year, and here I am, already taking time off. What must my new company think? I wonder. That I am a complete spaz? That I am one of those people who is always getting hurt? That I am a liability? Of course none of those things are true (although my spaziness is up for debate), and my new job and boss are awesome, but I still worry about the impression that this situation makes.

And then there’s the kids. Although they were really great today (K offered me her “comfy blanket” this morning and G helped me hobble around the house), I feel guilty about my state. I wasn’t able to get to the grocery store last night and they had no juice or milk at breakfast. I couldn’t carry K upstairs the way I normally do before bed. And I was extra irritable tonight with them as a result of my pain and discomfort. I felt like I failed them in the mom department today, although I am sure they didn’t notice one bit.

Maybe this is life’s way of telling me that I can’t always be the one in charge. That things will still be OK, even if I need to lean on other people for a change (literally and figuratively).That I can’t control everything, all of the time, and I need to accept that. And that worrying isn’t going to change any of that.

For me, and I think a lot of other moms, it is an extremely difficult challenge to overcome. We are used to being the ones in charge: running the household, booking the appointments, building our careers, nursing the boo-boos, setting the bedtime routines, and generally managing our lives and those of our family’s. So when I lose even a little bit of that control, I tend to panic. But in reality, any amount of control I think I may have over my life is a bit of a sham; there is really no way to control this great, crazy, unpredictable world that we live in. So why try? There are going to be sprained ankles and missed meetings, lost lunch bags and failed tests, natural disasters and financial issues, whether I like it or not. I guess I just need to put my feet up and accept the imperfection of it all.

So if you need me, I’ll be at home tomorrow, resting my ankle. I’ll be the one on the couch watching Netflix, wallowing in self-pity and cupcake crumbs.

Momfession #52: Married with children

I’ve had several conversations lately with friends, colleagues, and even my husband around marriage. As in, what makes a good marriage? What to look for in a partner? How do you keep the marriage going through all that life has to dump on offer us? After each of these conversations, I realized something that I thought too important not to discuss. Many of us feel less-than-satisfied about our relationships from time to time. Some people suffer only the occasional relationship slump, while others are dealing with major, possibly life-changing relationship issues. But no one (that I’ve talked to, at least) has a perfect relationship situation.

So why, then, don’t we talk about it more? I find that pretending a relationship is “perfect” happens so much more often than the “perfect parenting” that I write about. On the outside, many couples look like they have it all: an amazing relationship, happy kids, a lovely home, great jobs. But no one talks about the fact that behind the closed doors of their fabulous home lie sexless nights, arguments, and feelings of dissatisfaction.

So let me be the first to admit that my relationship isn’t perfect. I love my husband dearly, and I know he loves me, but there are times when we really don’t like each other. I have a tendency to score-keep (I washed the dishes, made dinner, did two loads of laundry, and all he did was POUR THE MILK= 3-1. What an ass.) and am extremely controlling (as in, everything needs to be done the right way, RIGHT NOW). While he isn’t the greatest communicator and tends to hold grudges. Pair those awesome qualities with two children that love to argue, two full-time jobs, finances to manage, a four bedroom house to clean, dance/karate/swimming/therapy appointments, and a cat that lives to piss us off (literally), and you end up with some not so great moments. There are many nights when we sleep in separate rooms, often with one or more children by our side. We often go days without having a real conversation. I sometimes feel like I haven’t really looked at my husband in a very long time. And sex? It comes and goes, mostly depending on how exhausted I am from the day’s activities.

It might sound like a pretty dismal circumstance, to an outsider. But I am pretty sure that these are all things that most married couples with kids could attest to. Marriage isn’t easy, and once you have kids, forget about it. Life is no longer about you as a couple; it is about you as a family. And often times, the couple part gets put on the back burner for a few years. I think the key to surviving the child-rearing years as a couple is to understand that it won’t last forever. I read a quote somewhere a few years ago that has stuck with me. It goes something like, the days are long, but the years are short. And when it comes to marriage and kids, that is absolutely true. I know I am going to turn around one day and my kids will be grown. I am sure I’ll be a bit saggier and my husband perhaps a bit rounder around the midsection, but we’ll be alone again. And we’ll be able to look back at a beautiful, totally fucked up life that we stumbled through together. The journey is anything but pretty, but remembering that life is not about one single bad day/week/month helps to keep me going through the rough times. And to be honest, it also helps knowing that others have dealt with similar challenges.

So that’s where you come in. Tell me I am not alone. Tell me that you and your husband/wife/partner have had similar issues. Comment below and let’s band together in our imperfect relationships. Who’s with me??

Momfession #51: It’s potty time

My daughter is exactly three years, one month, and 24 days old. And until yesterday, we had never seriously attempted to potty train her. Sure, she’s pooed on the potty a few times; which mostly consisted of catching her in the crouching-quietly-behind-the-living-room-curtains act, quickly carrying her to the bathroom, and plopping her down on her Dora potty seat. But that was the extent of it. Whenever we’d mention the word “potty”, she’d scream and writhe on the floor. When we asked her if she had to pee, she would run away shouting, “Nooooo!”. So, I chalked it up to her being extremely stubborn and decided that she would let me know when it was time. While all of my mommy friends talked about their little ones using the potty, I (somewhat shamefully) admitted that we weren’t even close with K. When I would see kids a full year younger than her asking to use the potty, I would point them out and say, “See K? That little girl uses the potty…don’t you want to?” (to which she would cross her arms, scowl and say, “NO! I NOT WANT TO!”). But although I was slightly embarrassed about it in social situations with other moms and kids, I was actually pretty OK with the no potty thing, and I wasn’t sure why.

This weekend, K went cold turkey. We took away the diapers, put on some princess underwear and hoped for the best. And except for a few accidents (she peed on Mike while at the park, and peed on the basement stairs), she was fine. She went from screaming and running away from the bathroom to peeing on command in a short 24 hours. I could see how proud she was of herself; she wouldn’t let me help her with the toilet paper, or her pants, and she even brought her favourite doll into the bathroom to show her how it’s done. And I was proud too; although I knew there were kids much younger mastering the same skill as my three-year-old, I was still absolutely blown away at how quickly she caught on.

Last night, after the kids went to bed, my husband and I were talking about how proud we were of our little girl and the progress she had made. All of a sudden, I burst into tears. Right then and there, it hit me. My baby was no longer a baby. She was becoming a beautiful, independent, smart, awesome little person that needed her mommy just a bit less every day. And as proud as I was of her, it was also heart wrenching. As I blubbered about time moving too fast, and my little girl growing up, my husband calmly said, “but Col, that’s a good thing.” And he’s right; it IS. It is a good, beautiful, amazing experience to see your children flourish before your eyes. But for this mommy, it’s also bittersweet.

So perhaps that’s why I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of potty training success up until this point. Maybe a part of me wanted to keep her diapers, as a last-ditch effort to keep my baby a baby just a little bit longer. A subconscious attempt to grab onto time and slow it down, just a little, until I felt ready to have a “big girl”. Completely unrealistic, and totally selfish, but it’s the truth.

On the bright side, I’m going to save a lot of money not buying diapers. Which will come in handy, as I think I am going to have to step up my weekly wine consumption. This parenting thing is a freaking emotional rollercoaster sometimes!

Momfessional #50: Me, me, me

Nurse. Teacher. Friend. Professional. Sister. Daughter. Judge and jury. Cruise director. Housekeeper. Cook. Policewoman. Accountant. Interior decorator. Party planner. Veterinarian. Travel agent. Wife. Sex symbol. Bank machine. Commuter. Businesswoman. Blogger. Tailor. Laundromat. Organizer. Secretary. Mediator. Psychologist. Dictionary. Hairdresser. Doctor. Career woman. Student. Moral compass. Landscaper. Dietitian. Mom.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I really am. Maybe it’s because it is the most depressing time of the year, or maybe I’m having an early mid-life crisis, but either way I can’t stop thinking about ME. As in, what makes me happy? What am I good at? Can I really have it all? And if so, what does that even mean? I’m not just talking about a career, either. But life in general. What is the f**ing point of it all?

I’ll spare you the philosophizing. Suffice it to say that I have had some pretty deep thoughts running through my head recently (thankfully, I have watched enough episodes of the Real Housewives this week to balance out all that cerebral activity). And I know I am not alone. Fellow mommy bloggers and friends Not the Only Mama and Average Working Mom both posted recently about similar topics. While one mom asked herself if she’d ever feel on top of her game, and in control of her life again, the other wondered if she should be more career-oriented and focused on her job. But I think the thing that they were both really asking was the same thing that has been bothering me: am I doing enough?

Why do we beat ourselves up over that question? Why do we feel that we have to be everything to everyone? And to make matters worse, why, while we are carefully juggling about a thousand different labels —from cook, to career woman, to wife, to mother— do we stop and think, “shouldn’t I be doing MORE, or doing it BETTER, or making it more MEANINGFUL?” Why can’t we just accept that this life, right now, is the best life there is?

Maybe it is the curse of our generation. We were raised to believe that we could do anything we wanted; we had options like never before. We didn’t have to stay home and raise our children; we could have an education, high-powered careers, a husband that was also a hands-on dad. As fabulous as that all is, it is also incredibly unsatisfying. Because I never really feel like I am fully committed to one thing. Instead, I split myself into teeny, tiny pieces (one for my company, one for my husband, one for my family, one for my kids, one for my friends…) in an attempt to “have it all”. Only the more I think about it, the more I realize that “having it all” might actually be an unachievable myth.

I’d like to say that I am going to let it all go, and decide to live in the moment and never wonder if what I am doing is enough. But, I don’t think that is realistic. I may never feel totally satisfied about where I am in my life, and I might always wonder if I could do more. But, at least I know that I am not alone, and that there are moms just like me out there having the very same thoughts every day.

So this one goes out to you, fellow philosophical, overachieving moms. You might think too much, and you’re certainly all a little nuts. But you’re also all awesome and absolutely perfect, just the way you are.

So go open a bottle of wine and turn on some reality TV. The laundry will still be there tomorrow.

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”