Photo by Michele Mateus Photography
Usually by about Thursday night I start to fantasize about how relaxing Saturday morning is going to be. I imagine my husband and I sitting on the couch in our PJ’s drinking coffee and relating to one another about the busy week we just had, while the big kids play together, and we take turns amusing the toddler. Then maybe an early brunch followed by more talking and playing. You know, before the real weekend activities begin, soccer, errands, extended family, church, etc.
Then Saturday finally comes. By about 8:30am I usually start to look forward to Monday.
Today I’ve linked up with some other fabulous bloggers to write posts of 'A Day In the Life'. Read to the end of this post (I know you would anyway!) and you will see a link to all of their posts too. What's better than being invited to eavesdrop on the daily life of strangers or people you sorta know on-line? Absolutely nothing. Enjoy!
I chose a random Saturday and set out to record what I said out loud vs what I was actually thinking in my head. Of course, being a Mom of three children (7, 5 and 1), I wasn’t able to record everything. More like 25%. This post could be more accurately be titled: TidBits of A Day Inside My Head. Or What I Was Actually Able to Record While Still Keeping My Kids Alive.
One more thing, I feel like this post perhaps need a bit of a disclaimer. My disposition, IRL (In Real Life), has been described as calm, easy-to-be-with and cheerful. I share this with you so you can imagine the happy outward personality while you are reading the inner sarcasm that goes on in my brain. Also, the swearing, I'm not one to swear all that much IRL, and I avoid it in my blog as much as possible. However, this post is my inside voice...and my inside voice swears...it's like the swearing and the sarcasm are my coping mechanisms...ya know?
And so without further ado, I bring you...
A Day In The Life of A Stay-At-Home Mom: Outside Voice Vs Inside Voice
6:00 am "Whose turn to get the baby?"
(How can it be morning again? I will give anything to lie here for 5 more minutes and not get the baby. I’m pretty sure that whoever farts and snores all night should definitely be the one who gets the baby...no, that's not me!)
6:05 "Just get him and bring him in here."
(If we just get the child in here, there is a chance of me lying here in the semi dark for 10 more min. It will be cozy and cuddly)
6:10 "Ah, baby feet in my face. Fine. I’m up."
(WTF kid?!?! Can’t you just lie down like a normal human in the morning instead of drinking from our old water glasses and trying to eat the pills on the side table. Like really, no one likes a perky morning person. You will have no life partner. You’re too annoying in the morning)
7:00 "Oh you have to go to work now? That’s sad, we’ll miss you."
(Just great, hubby has a work emergency, where he will no doubt drink cup after cup of hot coffee. Waaaaa. I so wanted to drink hot coffee today. Oh wait, panicking now...Do not get trapped at home in PJ's with 3 kids again like last weekend when the landlord stopped by at 12pm to your disheveled PJ look!)
"I really need to have a shower before you go. Yes, it’s necessary."
(WTH? why is my hygiene always seen as optional? Why do I get the look like I’m so high maintenance? Ya, my 30 min extended weekend shower and dress and make up is just way too much to ask. You know, so I can at least feel like a normal person for an hour or two before the mom pony tail goes in and the shirt is covered in snot. I need to start with a fighting chance. For the love of God, give the lady a shower)
"Thanks Babe, I’ll be real quick."
(Well, I'll shave off 5 min anyway, so it's down to 25 min, because hot water is amazing and so is the sound barrier that is running water.)
8:00 "Morning everyone!"
(omg that laundry pile is still here. I really should’ve folding it last night in front of the TV like I planned.)
8:15 "Bye Hun, I love you. Say bye to Daddy."
(Poor guy, he does not look impressed to be going to work. He works so hard for us. I will miss him today. I will only curse his name for leaving me here with the kids when absolutely necessary, the rest of the time I will try my best to feel sorry for him, that he has to work again. Even though ALL THE HOT COFFEE. But he does work hard and deserves some time off, poor guy).
8:30 "Oh sure, I can cut your toast in 4."
(WTF, yesterday it was in half…must be nice ordering me around…why am I catering to this?…I should berate myself for this flimsy parenting for the next 1/2 hour. But I’m too tired. And it really won’t change my actions, so nah, maybe another time when I have more energy. 4 pieces it is!)
9:00 start folding laundry (I should make coffee)
9:02 start folding laundry (I have a great blog post idea, Oprah show here I come, I’ll just jot down the title real quick)
9:04 start folding laundry (The kitchen table is filthy, I’ll give it a quick wipe)
9:06 start folding laundry (Holy hell, what’s that thing I’m supposed say to myself about laundry piles…”i’m grateful to have laundry to fold because it means I have clothes for my children.” Let me try that. Ok, whateves, not feeling it.)
9:08 start folding laundry "Just a minute." (What now?!?! Can’t you see I’m really hunkering down to fold the laundry?!?!)
9:10 start folding laundry (this is stupid, I’ll just do it tonight when I’m watching TV)
9:12 start writing the best blog post ever written "What are you yelling about? Don’t make me come in there and turn off the TV." (Shoot, why did I say that? Please don’t make me follow through and actually turn the TV off, then I’d be really screwed.)
11:30 "You're hungry?"
(Holy hell I have to feed them again?! After that non stop stream of snacks since breakfast? I have nothing to make for lunch. Why? Why do they eat so often?)
11:45 "Ok, I’ll make some lunch. Please go play with your brother so I can make something. You are not going to die from hunger."
(Actually I’m kinda hungry now. Wait, I’m starving! I might die from hunger. Did I even have breakfast? Besides the crusts of my kids toast? I will shove this left over half eaten fruit into my mouth now while I have the chance. God knows I won’t be able to eat lunch while feeding 3 wild children…who raised these beasts anyways? I should write about the shame that is my children's table manners. But who wants to read something so depressing. Ugh)
12:00 pm "Lunch is ready!" (Please just eat it, please just eat it, please just eat it)
12:30 "Time to get ready for soccer!"
(How hard is it to put on shorts, shirt and shin pads!?!? It’s the same thing every week. Every week!!!)
12:45 Put baby down for nap.
1:00 (Some sweet rare one-on-one time with my 5 year old while my daughter is at soccer and the baby sleeps. Looking forward to it.)
"What do you want to do? What do you mean nothing? I really want to hang out with you and play anything you like."
(Although…if you watched more TV, I could finish that blog post. After I check out Facebook, of course, that goes without saying. I mean I deserve a break. Look at all that laundry i folded…oh wait, whatever, I still deserve a break, husbands off “working” with his mountains of hot coffee)
"How about we play Connect Four? What? Make you a dinosaur costume?....ummmmmm"
(How many times do I have to tell you. I don’t sew. I don’t make costumes. I don’t do imaginary play. Really, I draw the line at child led play. I’m just not that mother. The boredom. Please, not the mind numbing boredom of child play.)
"Do you want to watch TV? You can pick any show because your sister isn’t here?" (I’m the worst. I better not write that post and instead write about how I know all about attachment parenting and cherishing your kids but I don’t actually do it very well. But man, he is so cute when he’s watching TV. Well at least we are cuddling. And I do enjoy that. No pretending here. Cuddling on the couch with a child whose mind is completing absorbed in mindless TV is bliss. Now just a little Facebook time. Oh look, an article on feeling bad about cuddling kids who watch too much TV, I must read that one right now. Phewf, that was exhausting. I’m just going to shut my eyes for a quick semi conscious mom nap)
2:30 Everyone is home. "Alright, we should get out and enjoy our day together!"
(omg, you are not hungry! omg, you are not tired!, stop fighting, stop fighting, stop fighting.)
"I’m heading downstairs, whose coming to the park? It’s a beautiful day!"
3:30 "Good job on the monkey bars! You are so strong!...Thank you for this rock. I love it. I'm going to keep it forever. No, I’m not going to chase you."
(I’m finally drinking coffee, there’s a reason I birthed you siblings. Go play with them.)
"Chase your sister and brother."
(Oh it’s so much better outside. Everyone is so much happier. Why do I try to have a restful lazy Sat mornings like years gone by? It never works out. Really we should just get up at 6am and head out the door by 9am. Nothing is gained by trying to cling to the idea of rest and rejuvenation on Sat. Will I ever learn?)
3:45 (Look at my beautiful children. They are so precious. I really don’t think there are any children in the whole world as beautiful as mine. Husband is back now and we have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy together. I am so grateful for this moment. I love my life!)
"Keep your hands to yourself please. No potty talk!"
(holy shit balls, what am I going to make for dinner?...I mean, I made dinner last night...so if they all think I’m making dinner again tonight they have another thing coming)
"What should we have for dinner hun?" (say order pizza, say order pizza, say order pizza)
"What, you had pizza at work again? I specifically asked you to stop doing that. Fine. Whatever. I’m just going to make something easy." (Like frozen pizza for the kids, you can find your own food, pizza-at-work-eating-traitor)
4:30 - 7:30pm Everyone who is a parent knows that these hours are full of whining, rage, starvation, bathing people who don’t want to be bathed and bribing children to sleep. So I didn’t actually have a chance to write anything down. But I’m thinking I could write a whole other blog post about 4:30 - 7:30. Or maybe a whole book. I will call it Holy Hell Is Time Going Backwards.
8:00 "Hey, Hun look, I made it on Todays Parents funniest facebook round up. That’s cool, it’s the first time I posted anything there."
(Oh right, husband hates reading... and Facebook. So basically as a blogger on Facebook I lead an entire life in which my husband knows nothing about. A significant piece of myself that he doesn’t see or understand. I’ll have to decide later if this makes us a cool modern couple who balance each other out while preserving a fun sense of mystery or if we’re merely a fractured couple with too much distance headed for two single beds. I’ll save this little nugget to ponder at 4 am after I wake up to pee (again) and can’t fall back asleep.)
9:30 "I’m going to bed. Goodnight, love you!"
(All I need is a good night sleep. Sunday is where it’s at. Church and family lunch and errands and togetherness…what could go wrong? It’ll be amazing and I’ll be refreshed for the week! I'm sure of it.)
Photos by Michele Mateus Photography
5 More A Day In The Life Of Posts for You
Now it’s time for some more Day in the Life Of posts from my Canadian blogging friends. Get ready for some wonderful inspiration on what these phenomenal women do every day:
Codi Lynn: http://www.creativewifeandjoyfulworker.com
Photos by Dogwood Photography
See the full photo session here http://www.dogwoodphotography.com/the-courageous-mother-project/
Motherhood was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. It was such a shock to find that I was a mother who was completely undone, frazzled and overwhelmed. The first 3 years of motherhood were a blur filled with sadness, disillusionment and discomfort. I remember one day in particular, when my children were 6 months old and 2 yrs old (#3 wasn’t even an blip on the radar), and I spent the whole day on the living room floor feeling like I couldn’t move. The heaviness of my despair and exhaustion physically weighed me down. I just lay there praying for the clock to tick faster, for the day to end and for everyday to just please pass me by. I wanted someone, anyone, to come and rescue me from this life.
I write this letter from my present day self to myself 5 years ago on that day, my darkest day.
Dear Mom on Your Darkest Day,
I see you on the living room floor and I know that what you are experiencing right now is crushing and heavy and guilt ridden. I also know that you will survive it. Becoming a mother broke you, stripped you bare and pulled into question everything you believed to be true about yourself. It made you think you were a really bad person who had somehow managed to fool everyone in your life into thinking that you were a good person. It made you think that deep down you must be an angry resentful wallowing pile of self pity and it took two tiny little humans to prove it, and to expose you to yourself. I have a message for you, because I lived through it and made it to the other side. You will eventually get your life back and it will be even better than the one you had before.
You’re in your living room today totally bare, with all of your former self in pieces on the floor around you, with only the raw inner core of who you are left. You feel vulnerable, raw, ugly and exposed. The thing is though, is that before you were stripped down like this you didn’t really know what that inner core contained. When you passed through this transformative and painful time you were stripped of all of your masks, your unrealistic ideals, and your perfectionism. You were left with only the true core of yourself. When the worst is over you will get to pick up the pieces of yourself that you want to keep and leave the rest on the floor of that messy living room. Motherhood tore you down but it also gave you the chance to rebuild a better and stronger and more contented you.
Postpartum depression was your cocoon, tight and binding and suffocating but you will emerge a butterfly.
You began this journey into motherhood wanting it so badly. There were awful moments in the difficultly conceiving that you thought you might never get to have a child. So then when you find yourself 3 years later with 2 beautiful, healthy children, but you’ve never been so miserable, you begin to wonder what is wrong with you? What could ever make someone like you happy if not these beautiful children? Why can’t you feel joy? What kind of a monster are you if you can’t find joy and peace in loving your own children?
You are on the floor in your pj's with messy hair and giant bags under your eyes, the baby is on the floor beside you while the toddler is watching TV (again) and eating fish crackers (again). You just want to close your eyes for a few minutes. When you finally do your mind is flooded with images of all the other Moms who are out there with their kids. They are all learning, playing and laughing outside, while you are in here just wanting the day to be over. You torture yourself with comparison to these utopian Moms.
You can’t see the bigger picture because you are in the middle of it. But I made it through that day to the other side and so I can see what you can't.
Let me tell you what I see.
I see a mom who is too exhausted and depressed to play but who uses physical closeness to let her kids know she is there. Yes they're eating crappy snacks and watching TV but you're right there holding them and responding to their cries and utterances. All you can muster in that moment is meeting the most basic of needs and giving physical affection. But you know what, at the core, that's all your kids really need from you right now. Like you, they will survive this time and they will be ok.
If you zoom out just a little bit more you would see the whole townhouse complex in which you live and I assure you that there are other moms at home on their dirty living room floors feeling as lonely and as failure-y as you are. You don’t see them when you go out and so you think you’re the only one. You are not the only one.
Zoom way way out and you will see the context of where you live in time and culture. In a society that puts you in an unfair place of high expectations and little support. Society says motherhood is beautiful and natural and effortless. You find it beautiful and relentless and all consuming. All of your circumstances combined to result in where you are. It is not a deficit in you.
You thought maternity leave would be a vacation because up until you had children, your home was a place of rest and rejuvenation. So logic said when you got to stay home everyday it would be restful and relaxing. But actually maternity leave is more like bringing your work life home with you...to live. Moving your desk and phone and computer and colleagues and boss right into your bedroom and working 24 hour days for the next 2 years. All of your colleagues get to go home and shower and dress everyday while you have to stay and work in the same pyjamas with no shower or meal breaks.
But it won’t stay like this. Do you know what the key to your redemption will be? A mommy group of faith where women who are awesome and amazing will share that they struggle and fail at motherhood all the time. At first you will think "well they must not actually be as bad as me because I see them as amazing.” Yet you will hear about their struggles and be surprised to see lovely peaceful women who speak of rage and yelling. You almost won’t be able to believe it.
These women will surround you with love and grace until it sinks in and you begin to feel it for yourself. You will wonder how they can’t see for themselves how great they are. You will extend grace towards them and wonder why they can’t do that to themselves. You will extend encouragement and support to them and wonder why they can’t be more kind to themselves. Then it will click, why can’t you allow all of those things for yourself?
Over time you will find out that you are more like these amazing women than you thought you were. Brave, faithful and grounded.
I will leave you with this, dear struggling Mama, your future contains 3 (yes 3!) amazing beautiful children. Even in your darkest days your children felt your love for them. On your darkest day your spirit feels dull and distant and you’re worried this is the new you. It's not. It's temporary, like your spirit is at the shop for a tune up. You'll get it back even better.
Much love and hang tough precious Mama,
My last blog post was about women who have “let themselves go” and I challenged the idea that this was a bad thing. Maybe, in fact, letting yourself go is a step towards freedom and something to celebrate in one another? (If you missed it, scroll down and see Let Yourself Go: The Last Makeover You'll Ever Need). But something is still bugging me. There is still a piece I need to Spill. So for the next few paragraphs, please imagine me getting up on my soapbox and using lots of arms gestures when I say...
Why?! Why are so many good well meaning women sending out ‘positive’ messages for other women that basically say; "look your best and dress well in order to feel good about yourself."
Why?! I hear messages like "take time to dress well and put on make-up because you are worth it.” And ones like "reflect who you are on the inside by the clothes you wear.” And “take time to pamper yourself by shopping, plucking, moisturizing, blow drying, etc…"
At first glance these messages appeal to me, in that I want mothers (all women) to take time for themselves and to feel good in their skin, but something about how the focus of women’s self care is still fixated on outward appearance bugs me. Just really really bugs me.
These messages accept our image driven culture and urge us to show up as contenders, with our images ready, to jump in the ring. But these "self care" messages do nothing to look at the big picture or to challenge the core beliefs our culture places on appearance (especially especially for women). What if I don’t want to put on any image to get in the ring? I think most of us have gotten on board with challenging the media and it's picture perfect image of women in hollywood and in magazines. It is relatively easy to get on board with this because it is just so obvious. But the more subtle message that "self care = taking time for your appearance” is a little more sneaky. It’s a watered down version of the over the top hollywood message, but it’s the same message. At the core of the messages is this:
“You are deemed worthy or not worthy by how you look. Accept that and make yourself the best looking version of yourself that you can. Only then will you feel good in the world and be accepted. Only then will others be able to hear your words, give you credibility and accept your ideas"
That’s crap. That's not empowering to women. I’m ready to pause and challenge it. Will you join me?
Ok, so help me down from my soapbox…thank you...I feel a lot better now. If you made it through that and are still reading, then here are some of the tricky bits that I brush up against in real life while I balance precariously between buying into the hype and resisting it.
Tricky bit #1. I respect women who have transformation (make-over type) stories and who feel rejuvenated by new clothes and new hair cuts. They’ve come from frumpy, and giving there all to others, and have decided now to take time for themselves. And that is a good thing. A very good thing. I want women to feel good about themselves. But maybe I also want to remind us that this type of image self care is only satisfying because we live in a culture that is consumed by appearances. What if we didn't have to spend so much time (and money) on our appearance at all? In the busyness of creating our image let’s also make time to stop and challenge the world we live in. So carry on and do the makeovers, and the capsule wardrobes, and the pedi/mani’s just don’t forget to also pause and reflect on the big picture and question it and challenge it sometimes too.
Tricky bit # 2. I want it…the nice clothes and the great hair cut…I do want it. If someone had a magic wand to grant me a fabulous wardrobe I would take it. I’m not above it. I just resent the fact that I feel I need it in the first place…and I double triple resent the time that it would take for me to actually go out and build it for myself.
Let me leave you with this. I have experienced first hand great wisdom from the mouths of frumpy moms in sweatpants. I have seen creativity and passion from messy women wearing clothes from last decade. I have read intelligent academic studies by women who are pale and have greasy hair. I feel like these contributions are so valuable to us and the day to day appearance of their creators is just not that important. Imagine if these women spent more time on their image and less time being their creative, smart and innovative selves? What a loss for all of us.
Maybe I’m just defensive because I don’t want to spend time shopping or grooming in order to feel present in the world or to be taken seriously. As a Mom with very young kids I’m lucky if I get an hour or 2 to myself a week. I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend it shopping or organizing clothes or getting my hair done. I’m going to walk near the sea or have a nap or head to the library to write. Like I am now. With my jeans that are too big (and maybe a little too short) and my slip on runners from Payless Shoes.
"She's really let herself go."
It’s meant as an insult. It’s said in the workplace, the sports bar, the mommy play group and to your own reflection in the mirror. It's said by men and women about other women. Whenever a woman gains weight, or stops dressing in a particular way, or wearing make up, or styling her hair then "she has let herself go." Like she's not taking care of herself. She's sloppy and lazy. But what it really does is call out a woman for not living up to very particular standards of what she should look like: thin, well groomed and for gods sakes 'put together.' I mean, if she does not care enough about her looks, then she really can’t possibly have anything worthwhile to share with the world.
But hold the phone here one second...let me get this straight…letting yourself go would mean breaking free of all of that? The judgement, the standards, the pressure? Ummmmmmm, let me think on this REALLY hard here…
“Hell ya, I'm letting myself go!”
Whose with me?!?! I’m done with Let Herself Go as an insult. I’m ready for Let Herself Go as a celebration!
Let’s use our imaginations for just a couple of minutes (the minutes I have in between putting on under eye concealer and waxing my upper lip, cause right now I’m only halfway there) and dream of this:
Next time we hear "she's really let herself go” let’s think "oh yes, thank God, another one is free! she has let herself go! We should have a party for her and celebrate her new freedom!"
Maybe we could even actually throw a party for her? Imagine throwing a “Let Yourself Go” party for every woman who crosses that marker to freedom? Wowza. What fun would that be!?!?!
At the party we will say things like:
"Wow. Look at you! You've really let yourself go! Congratulations! How does it feel?"
"Do you know it took Susan 3 babies but she's finally let herself go! We are so proud of her!"
"I hear Dana is thinking about letting herself go. Wouldn’t that be amazing?"
And what exactly will we do at this party? Now that we have so much more time because we’re not shopping, grooming and cleaning out closets? Well, here’s what I want at my “Let Yourself Go Party:"
And really lets think about this. What’s the opposite of “letting yourself go?” Holding it together. Towing the line. Maintaining the status quo. Pffffft. I'll choose letting go over that any day.
Let yourself go. Whatever that means for you. Go! Go towards what makes you feel whole, brings you peace and brings you joy.
Next time you overhear “she’s really let herself go” can you celebrate for her? I know I will.
**Here you can see I've chosen to "let myself go" in order to spend more time cleaning my kitchen and spending quality time with my children**
How much TV do my kids watch? Are you ready for this? I hope you’re sitting down. The answer is: I don’t know, I don’t care and I don’t count! That’s right. I’m willy nilly with the screen time folks. Willy. Nilly. The TV goes on whenever I need it. Like when the kids are up really early (which is everyday), when I’m tired, when they are tired, when they are sick, when I’m sick, when I’m busy, when I need a break, when I need to shut my eyes, when they won’t stop fighting, when I feel like strangling someone, when it’s been raining for days, when it’s too hot, when I can’t answer anymore questions, when I’m on the phone, when I need to cook (ok, microwave), when I need to read a pointless article on Facebook, so you get it. It’s on a lot. A. Lot.
When my first child was born, like any decent human being, I was determined that MY children wouldn’t watch TV. And of course, like many parenting resolutions, that completely changed when my second child was born. I had to take care of the baby now, and so, the toddler got to watch TV. Maybe in another time and culture there would be another human in the house to do the job of the TV, but where I lived at that moment I had TV as my helper. I mean, I guess I could’ve of stayed up at night and searched Pinterest for homemade activity ideas like sensory boxes, busy books and yogurt paint (just threw up in my mouth a little bit, excuse me). But selfishly, I chose instead, to speak two words to my husband ("pass remote"), shove some much needed calories into my mouth, and try to sleep in between the cluster feeds and the night wakings. So you know, I had to shelf all my grand ideas of enriching my daughters life and producing the next revolutionary world changing feminist leader that I had always wanted. Instead I would have to settle for a toddler who watched mind numbing cartoons about The Man in the Yellow Hat and Bubble Guppies that float in water but never look wet. Mind numbing and mind bending. Double ouch.
So everyday my daughter would watch too much TV and I would beat myself up and vow to be better tomorrow. Then tomorrow would come and inevitably I'd be stuck with a nursing infant, a bored toddler and I'd be begging the Man in the Yellow Hat to please take me back. "I’m so sorry for what I said last night. I was just so tired. I didn’t mean it, I love your cheery disposition and the way you demonstrate unconditional love to a monkey who destroys everything you own and then provides you with a life lesson. So precious. Please come back!"
AND THEN when the toddler doesn't want to watch TV I would bribe her with grab and go snacks, many of which had questionable nutritional value. Yes, I bribed my child with unhealthy food to watch TV. The shame burned deep my friends, to the core of my mommy consciousness I was ashamed. I would not admit this to anyone, not even my husband.
To punish myself further I would seek out research about how bad too much TV was for kids. How does one determine too much TV you might ask? Well the almighty 2 hour a day recommend time limit of course. Any more than 2 hours a day and the consequences were staggering. It would delay language and reading ability, cause seizures, lead to obesity and cause high blood pressure. Even worse, your child would lose interest in social interaction and eventually become an anti social serial killer. Ok, maybe not that last one, but that’s how it felt. I even read an article about how more than 2 hours of TV a day increased the chance of premature death. Really, Man in the Yellow Hat, till death do us part?!?! Talk about the ultimate guilt trip for a mother.
But then I started to notice something really really strange, none of those bad things were happening to my daughter. She was still bright and delightful and ready to play outside and smile and hug her family. Huh, that’s weird, surely she should be starting to show some of the side affects of too much TV by now? Hmmmmm….I better watch this. I would say to myself “ok just one more week of 'too much TV' and that’s it!” That week would pass, I still felt barely human, and the TV was still on too much. But what the hell was this? My daughter was still not showing the tell tale signs of too much TV? She is happy AND healthy. I must be doing it wrong. How could this be?
Then a revolutionary idea hit! Maybe these researchers don’t know everything? Not about my kids anyway. After all, scientists used to say the world was flat and smoking was harmless, so let's keep that in mind when we're trying to live up to all these recommendations, shall we? I wonder, do these scientists even have kids? And do they live in a city where it rains 80% of the time and housing affordability means your family is squeezed into small home you can just barely afford? Well maybe they do, but they also get to go to work everyday and be scientists! They’re all smug at work in their fancy lab coats while their spouse is probably at home trying to nap while their kids watch Dora in a continuous loop. “Oh no Honey, they didn’t watch any more than 2 hours I promise! See Sally looked up when you came in, and she still responds to her own name, so obviously I spent all day doing child led play. How was work dear? Any revealing findings from your study 'Kids Strapped in the Car While Mommy Drives Around Drinking a Latte will Never Finish High School?' That one sounded so promising!"
So here I was with my thriving child despite the mind rotting TV. I made a pivotal decision. I decided to stop measuring how much tv she watches and instead to look at her life as a whole and measure that. I devised a checklist of my child’s baseline for being healthy and happy and as long as I can check off this list then I know she is ok. (Disclaimer: All checklists will be different for different kids depending on who they are. For example, eye contact might be relevant for this child but not for a another child.)
This was the checklist for my daughter and I would review it once a week:
Does my daughter:
To this day I do not measure the hours of screen time in our house. There are seasons in parenting where it feels like the TV is always on and there are seasons when it’s barely on. Surprisingly my kids don’t seem to love TV all that much. It usually goes on at my suggestion! And if I suggest another activity, most of the time they are happy to oblige. Maybe I just got lucky that they haven’t turned into obese anti social blobs or maybe there is more to the story than the conclusion that more than 2 hours of TV a day will lead to premature death (or whatever). Maybe there are more factors at work here. Let’s look at the big picture.
If I ever do start to resent TV. I always focus on adding in and not taking away. I don’t try to cut down on TV but instead try to add in more of something else. For example, add in more play dates or park outings or reading or whatever it is I want to see more of. It's never about cutting out something. Cause that’s like restrictive dieting, totally sucks and never stays off.
This is how we usually watch TV. Photo by: Michele Mateus Photography.
I was 6 months deep into complete sleep deprivation, after the birth of my 3rd child, when I received an Evite for a friends baby shower. In that moment I was really only a shell of the person I used to be. I was running on automatic mommy robot mode, and so I admit, that my reaction was less than ideal. Dread and panic. Not because I didn’t want to celebrate my friend, but because I didn’t want to have to pretend for 2 whole hours that motherhood was AMAZING and that I LOVED it and that getting away from the kids in the afternoon (and being dressed) was NO BIG DEAL.
Is there any social situation more awkward than a Burnt Out Mom of 3 (BOM3) attending the baby shower of a bright eyed Brand New Mom To Be (BNMTB)? I can’t think of one, but I’m pretty much a hermit that drags around an infant by the breast, so I could be wrong. I don’t get out much. But the whole experience of being a BOM3 and attending the BNMTB baby shower really shook me up.
It’s like this; hey ladies, I have a great idea! How about we help our friends PREPARE for motherhood by throwing them an afternoon kid-free party where we dress up pretty and nibble on snacks while balancing drinks precariously on our knees? Oh and how about we bring gifts, like frilly outfits and peepee teepees, so that when the baby gets here she’s all ready to care for an infant. We will be giddy and happy and talk about how much she will LOVE motherhood. We will pretend that an afternoon spent with girlfriends is nothing. No, no, finding childcare? It’s a breeze! Oh arranging the breastfeeding and nap schedule to coordinate with a 1 o’clock party?…piece of cake! This outfit I’m wearing? I have a closet full of cute clothes that fit me perfectly post baby so really the hard part was choosing which one to wear!
Ok, so I’m a little cranky, but really how is this supposed to help our dear friends step into Motherhood? It doesn’t. Not at all. One could even argue it does a disservice for the BNMTB by maintaining the picture perfect ideal of motherhood that society serves up to us everyday.
But on this particular occasion I was too tired for critical thinking. I decided to pull myself together and just show up for my friend. I prepared myself to uphold the Sisterhood of Silence which says motherhood is effortless and natural and excessively wonderful. I tried to squash the fantasy of offering Lucifer as a baby name suggestion should I be asked. Nope, I was going to Hold. It. Together.
I somehow managed to arrive looking calm and competent. Not long after I arrive, we are, of course, sitting in the obligatory gift circle around the giddy BNMTB. The teeny frilly outfit makes it’s way around the circle to me. Did anyone notice grimace that passed my face before the wide smile? Are my Oooohs and Ahhhhs passing for sincere while my inside voice screams "are you kidding me? This outfit will fit for 2 minutes and that white ruffle will be annihilated on your first poo-nami! What you really need is a good baby thermometer, washcloths and a marriage counselor. But ANYHOOOO!"
No, no reign it BOM3...I try again with the tiny stack of onsies. I manage not to hurl them aggressively to the next person like a game of survivor hot potato. All I can think about is how there are bottomless laundry baskets full of these all over my house. I mean why the hell would I want to touch this? Oh no, Hold. It. Together. Deep breaths. The good news is that there is wine here and I’m actually childless right now. Except I keep panicking that I’ve left the baby in the car until I remember he is home with Daddy. What’s with that? But I digress.
The thing is that I do want to be supportive and excited for my friend, but I’m just too weary (and maybe a little jaded) to gloss over the real experience of parenting. I mean I kinda get the whole baby shower thing and I don’t want to be the kind of friend to tell war stories of doom and gloom either. It isn’t all terrible. I’m pretty sure last weekend there was 10 whole minutes where everyone was playing nicely while my husband and I sat on the same couch drinking hot coffee, and we looked at each other and said “This, this is what we dreamed of.” It was a snippet in a crazy week but it was beautiful. So I guess what I want to give the BNMTB is a more balanced idea of what motherhood is. I want to celebrate with her and at the same time let her know that it might be really hard.
I see that BNMTB and I remember myself in just the same spot 6 years ago. My own expectations were so high that the reality of motherhood shocked me, made me feel like a failure, and I thought I was all alone. No one I knew at the time admitted to anything less than motherhood bliss. (I thank God a few years later I found woman friends who tell it like it is! I love to hear their stories of epic tantrums and packaged foods and endless tv and think that maybe my own kids might just pull through this.)
But seriously when I was the BNMTB I thought I was going to glide through motherhood and it would be the best years of my life! I imagined endless time to care and nurture my little family by gardening and making delicious food, playing and laughing all day long in my beautifully tidy home. Who knows maybe I’d even take up running? Yes, running, I thought, I would look amazing running along the sea wall pushing my BOB. It didn’t seem to matter that I didn't do any of these things currently (or live near the sea) because somehow the miracle of motherhood and maternity-leave would open up so much space in my life that I would be able to do all of it. And be f-ing awesome.
It was such a blow when it didn’t quite pan out like that. I think it would have helped if someone had whispered “call me if things get hard when baby is comes”. I would’ve been like “haha, no thanks weirdo, I’ll be great!” but I would’ve remembered later when I was in bed leaking with a crying baby and eating frozen pizza for the 3rd day in a row. "I think I’d better call that friend now. Maybe she could bring me a vegetable and help me get the dishwasher unloaded."
I remember at my own BNMTB baby shower one lone person brought me a practical gift: a box of things for baby from the pharmacy (like a thermometer, nail clippers, bandaids, etc) which I thought at the time was super lame. What a delusional dreamer I was! Turns out it was the best and most thoughtful gift of all. When my baby had her first fever and I went to my box to get that thermometer I thanked God for my thoughtful friend. We need more of this. And real stories. With a rounds of “you will succeed and fail at motherhood all the time” “believe it or not, you are the best mom for your baby” and "I'm here for you."
I think I’m going to become the Mom who shows up with a box of important pharmacy items and maybe some important phone numbers too like 811 and Le Leche League and Post Partum Support. And most importantly my number laminated that says "call ANYTIME, chances are I’m up anyway." The BNMTB might think it a lame gift but when the shit hits the fan (by way of the frilly outfit) she’ll remember that box and she’ll know she’s not alone.
But then again, maybe if the BNMTB is not quite as naive as I was, perhaps she's already suspicious. Especially if she’s married and already gone through "the wedding" which totally prepared her for marriage.
Photo by Michele Mateus Photography
From preschool of course. Now, I hope you all LOVE preschool pick up, but if some of you struggle with it here’s a little guide that might come in handy. Well, it’s more of my story of woe and redemption in picking up my #2, than an actual guide, but The Ultimate Pick Up Guide made for a way better title sooooo here it is.
At my son's preschool the kids are released one by one into the hallway at the end of the class. For every child this is a ritual where they step out into the hallway, search out their caregiver, meet their eyes and run gleefully into their arms. All of them except my son. My son steps out into the hallway looking down and scowling. The teacher has to give him a little nudge to get him out the door. He shuffles slowly to me, keeps his distance and then resists and protests loudly all the way to the car. I gotta be honest, this hurts my mommy heart. And not for noble reasons like I’m worried that he’s struggling (he’s not, I’ve checked with the teachers) but because it hurts my feelings and my pride a little bit too. I want the embrace, the running and the smile. I want it real bad. It’s not his fault, or his intention, but I feel rejected. I can’t stop the thought of, I really suck at this and now all the preschool teachers and parents know it too.
Now in the evenings, when the kids are asleep, I can put on my responsible, rational, reader of parent books persona and I understand then that his scowl is not personal. His behaviour is more about transitions being hard for him, and a reaction to the over stimulating environment of preschool, than it is a rejection of me. From the comfort of my own couch, with wine in hand, I could even reach to say that he trusts me so much, and our connection is so deep, that he can feel free to express his insides when he sees me and that’s a good thing. But all my heart hears is...yadda yadda yadda, blah, blah, blah, fffffttttttttt. Where is my hug? My smile? The running into arms? That is the good stuff of parenting and I WANT it. Waaaaaaaaaaaa!
And so I decided, after one particularly bad day, to throw out everything I’ve ever read about parenting, and to just find a way to get my mommy heart what it wants! I stopped thinking and rationalizing and looking for ways to see things through his eyes…just. this. one. time. Noble parenting methods and strategies just leave me alone, you are too much work.
Okay, so how will I do it? Hmmmmm, how can I entice the smiles and the hugs and the running? It came in a flash of inspiration…food, of course! You can call it bribery if you want, but I’m going to call it connecting through food. That sounds way better.
I decided to leave tasty little special snacks in his car seat to discover when he gets to the car. When he is released out of that door the first and only thing I will say is "I have a special snack waiting in your seat." I will give clues about what it might be (it’s round or its orange or its crunchy, etc) but he won’t know what it is until we get there. After only a few days of this new system a new pick up regime was formed.
The kids are released one by one. My son walks through the doorway, his head is up and our eyes lock (yes eye contact!).
He has a glimmer in his eye that says "what special snack is waiting for me" but I choose to see it as "Oh yay, mommy is here!"
He has a half smile that means "I'm hoping there is a fruit bar today" but I misinterpret it as “seeing Mommy fills my heart with joy."
There is a lean in, that is almost like a half hug, that means “I better stay close to Mom so I'm sure to make it to the food" but I relish it as “I’m leaning into Mom to feel her touch and smell her mommy smell".
He skips to the car to "get to the food faster" but I see it as "let's get home to spend time together".
In the car with food in hand I say "What was your favourite part of preschool today?" He says "nothing." Well ok, it's not perfect but I'll take it!
My most valuable parenting advice? Food and self delusion go a long way in getting you where you want to be. Worked for me.
Photo by Michele Mateus Photography
Every now and then I get the rare pleasure of walking my 6 year old daughter to school, just us, no baby strapped to my chest and no 4 yr old, who is either dawdling or bolting (is there nothing in between!?!). But on this crisp sunny morning it was just us girls and my daughter voluntarily grabs my hand. Now this is particularly sweet because I know that at 6 yrs old there aren’t too many days left of this and I just never know when it’s gonna be the last time. So we walk and I appreciate the feel of her hand in mine and the cold clear air on our faces. Out of the quiet my daughter says,
“Mom, someone at school said girls can’t marry girls and that girls can only marry boys. Is that true?"
Now I know I’m feeling all zen and everything, but it's still early, and I’m just realizing that I never drank that coffee I made myself during the morning hurricane of shoes and cereal and toothbrushes. But ok, I got this.
“No, that's not true, girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys. It used to be that only a girl and a boy could get married, but people worked really hard to change the laws because no one should decide who you can marry. Only you should get choose who you want to marry.” Not too bad for 8:30am and no coffee.
"Oh, I think I'll marry a girl then"
"Or maybe a girl and a boy” Did I mention the walk is uphill? A really steep hill. We pretty much live on the side of a freakin mountain.
"Well, the law does say you can only marry one person. But you have lots and lots of time to decide who you want to marry or even if you want to get married at all"
Alright, I’m in a groove, but I gotta wrap this up because we’re at school now and the morning bell is about to ring. But let’s quickly review my first-rate parenting skills. She now knows she can marry a girl or a boy (and I even remembered to add in you can stay single!). She knows that laws can be unjust but people can fight to change them because nobody tells us how to live (Stick It To The Man 101). Clearly all my Women’s Studies classes and life lessons have equipped me to answer these questions with ease and eloquence. School hasn’t even started and I’ve already taught my daughter the most valuable lesson of her day. Really, mother of the year? Why yes thank you, I accept.
I’m suddenly jolted out of my daydream by my daughters incredulous voice. Her face twisted up in a disdainful tween like scowl.
"But Mom, the girls that marry girls will just have just have sooooooooo many babies and nooooooooo money"
Internal face palm. What the…How the…Who the…What the what?!?!
“Ahhhh, that's the bell, ummmm, lots of women have jobs, and ummmmmm stuff”
I can only see her back as she walks into school. Here’s the award back. It was so nice to hold it, if just for a few seconds.
10. Making frozen veg in the microwave requires reading the directions at least 8 times (what?! At least it's vegetables?)
9. Entertaining the baby means scattering Cheerios on your dirty kitchen floor, like feeding chickens (What?! I had to distract so I could read the directions on the frozen veg)
8. When baby discovers an empty beer bottle in the recycling you are thankful for his resourcefulness in finding new toys (what's the worst case?…a few drops of beer soothes those raging gums?)
7. You spend the day at home trapped in this thought loop: "how did I get in this room?" "What am I here for?" "Did I leave the baby gate open!?!" No. "How did I get in this room?"
6. It takes a good 10 seconds for you to register that your child is speaking to you
5. You see an image on TV of an empty jail cell with a single bunk and wonder "what could I do to get in there?"
4. You spy an old Christmas chocolate (it's March) under some rotten fruit in the fruit bowl and it's devoured at lightening speed.
3. Your middle of the night lullabies, while still gentle in tone, contain more F-bombs than an episode of Jerry Springer.
2. The text from your husband saying he will be home 5 min late sends you into a rage so fierce that your revenge plan resembles something you saw once on Criminal Minds.
1. You decide driving is too dangerous in your condition, besides finding pants is also too hard
All characters and events in this list are entirely fictional, any resemblance to my entire day is completely coincidental
This is me in my pj's, bouncing an overtired baby, while reading a sleep book and typing out my sleep plan. Because when I read and write about it I get to enjoy the illusion of having complete control of the situation. At least for those precious 15 min.
Photo by Silvia Photography
Welcome to Spill It Mom! I find life with my little people so amazing, exhausting, overwhelming and hilarious that sometimes to keep my sanity I just gotta Spill It. Once upon a time I was convinced that most mothers had it all together and I was the glaring exception. Best keep this secret to myself I thought. I'll just bottle up my imperfections, keep the lid on tight and no one will ever know how much I struggle with this Mommy gig. But then I discovered something unexpected about letting all those struggles just spill out; it brings me amazing joy! Spilling it is such a relief and it allows for a fresh perspective.
When I share my messy life, my shortcomings and the crazy stuff that happens with my kids there is a vulnerability there which opens me up to making meaningful and real connections with other Moms. And that feels crazy good! Even better is when we can find a nugget or two that we can laugh about...let those endorphins loose to do their work people! And really if I don’t choose to spill it, it’s going to leak out or get knocked over anyway (and still will!). So this blog is my way of consciously choosing to open up, be honest, share the hard, have a laugh and hopefully encourage others to do the same.
I will write mostly personal observations of things that are hard but also funny. My hope is that it will be encouraging to you as you come across bits and pieces that reflect your own life. I vow to always be authentic and write from my own experience, never assuming to know what life is like for someone else.
For now I have decided to not share my children's names (and only a few pictures of their faces), which is hilarious in it's own right because it makes a wild assumption that someone is actually going to read this (Hi Mom!, Mom? Mommmmm? Oh come on, I sent simple intstructions in the email...) Anyway, I have three kids which I will refer to as kid #1, kid #2 and kid #3. This strictly reflects birth order and not personal preference because obviously the latter would get confusing every time I changed my mind. Also, one day my kids will be able to read. Sigh
My writing is done in constant motion on the iPhone in my pocket. Words get built up in my head but because of the constant demands that come with caring for three young children I only get little snip-its of time to write anything down. The majority of what I write is done waiting for the toast to pop, pulled over while baby sleeps, during a midnight breastfeed and even in the bathroom. No wait, not that last one, cause I'm never actually alone in there. Can someone please invent a shower cover for the iPhone? I could get 2 more minutes 3x a week! Can you imagine?!?!
Well, here it goes...please join in and be ready to cry/laugh (craugh?) with me!
Karen Barré is an accomplished mom of 3 that can make snacks ALL day long and still find the time to make light-sabers out of paper and duct tape. As long as the conditions are perfect. And everyone slept the night. And we have groceries in the house. Or paper. Okay, I did it once, it was a highlight.