Featured

Nurturing Your Self as Mother

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 1 comment

Nurturing Your Self as Mother

Last month, in my post Seasons of Mothering, I wrote about my decisions to willingly give up some things temporarily while my kids are young. Then, last week, thanks to Facebook, I was blessed to read I Became a Mother, and Died to Live, where the author eloquently (and accurately) describes how the process of becoming a mother changes us irrevocably, to the point where our old self is actually gone forever. It can be particularly difficult to maintain a sense of self through those years of intense mothering, especially if we are also parenting in a way that sees us making considerable sacrifices for our children (as most of us do in one way or another). Yet, it’s important to remember that the seasons are temporary. Certainly, we have been re-born as totally different people than we were before motherhood, but we do still have identities that should be nurtured. In my post, I said: “Just as the grasshopper was unwise to play and fritter away the summer without preparing for winter, it would be unwise for me to get caught up entirely in this season with my children and to forget that there will come a time when they will need me less. It is important to nurture myself through these times of caring for my children, to make plans for when I have more time and resources and energy to devote to my dreams and goals.” Not only is it a blessing, when we feel resentful or overwhelmed, to remember that it won’t be this way forever, it’s also important to not lose sight of the fact that in the future, we will become less central to our children’s daily needs. In my opinion, it would be a shame for that time to come and catch us unawares. That is the stuff that identity crisis is made of. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily stuff of parenting; just trying to keep the house clean and everybody fed takes up a lot of time. Plus, we’re supposed to nap when the baby naps, and forget the dishes so we can get down on the floor to play with kids. Too often, it’s not the dishes that get forgotten in the endless loop of playing, cleaning, grocery shopping, diaper changing, sleep fighting, and date nighting: it’s ourselves. Finding a way to fit in meaningful self-expression and self-nurturing while also in the trenches with young kids is no easy task. Our interests might excite us to the point of competing with our children for our focus, and we can begin to resent the sacrifices that we’ve made, or to wait impatiently for our kids to grow up so we can get on with it. It might be tempting to chuck it all and just focus on our kids, “for now.” We might have been lulled into complacency by the early days with an infant when it seemed we barely had time to brush our teeth and shower, so we start living our life in stolen moments between everything else, texting, facebooking, playing Angry Birds (that’s so 2011), or watching mindless television after the kids are finally asleep. It must be a conscious decision, and a commitment to carrying on even if we don’t always get it right. We CAN make choices to live more authentically even in this time of intense mothering, to let our new self live, rather than submitting willingly to a second death. At this point, I am loath to invoke the dreaded word ‘balance’ but in humans, it isn’t like balancing stones where a static moment of balance is achieved and only maintained by staying still, which I’m telling you now is the reason why balance feels forever unachievable. Balance for us is more like balancing on a ball or a rail fence, where we can only maintain it through constant readjustments, continuous movement and compensation. This means, that there will be times when we feel that to gain balance we need to drop back on some of our interests...

Read More

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and I knew that I would probably have some sleepless nights in my future. It turns out that I didn’t even know the half of it. No one tells you ahead of time how bad it can be or how to cope, but three kids later, I’ve learned a couple of things: 6. Babies Get Tired Every Two Hours Little babies can only be up for about two hours before they are tired again. Knowing this can make all the difference in how your days unfold. Knowing this can soften sleep struggles. Take note of when they get up and watch them after about two hours. It’s easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than to fight a baby who is either over-tired or not tired at all. 5. Babies Have ~45 Minute Sleep Cycles Thanks to Elizabeth Pantley for teaching me this one. We all sleep in cycles of deep sleep and light sleep, and we all wake up at various times during the night before returning back to sleep. The problems for parents and babies are: Our sleep cycles are different lengths (baby cycles being quite a bit shorter than ours). Babies wake more frequently than we do and often wake when we are in a deeper part of our sleep cycle making it more painful for us to wake up (though breastfeeding and co-sleeping both help to sync mother and baby sleep cycles). Babies don’t always know how to go back to sleep when they wake up during a lighter stage of their sleep cycle. This is why a baby who has a particular sleep association (like say, nursing to sleep as all my children have had) will wake hourly all night long and want to use that same method to go back to sleep. I happen to think that nursing to sleep is normal based on the biological systems that support it. However, it did help to know what was going on when my babies started waking hourly, or why a baby will only take 50 minute naps. 4. Put Down The Sleep Books I’ve said this before, but this one is pretty big for me so I will say it again: the more I read the sleep books, the more likely I was not in a good head space about our sleep situation. I’m not saying that you should never ever pick up a book on baby sleep. Many of them are super helpful. Some of them are not. Also, as I indicated with the two points above, it IS worth knowing a bit about the mechanics and biology of baby sleep and naps. Absolutely. But when you are obsessively reading more than one sleep book at a time, keeping sleep logs, counting wake ups, comparing last week to this week, plotting, strategizing, and reaching for another sleep book, there’s a pretty good chance that you need: support a break to clear your life of commitments to accept that this what is happening for you now, but it won’t last forever I’m glad I read some of the books when I had my first baby. But I’m also glad that I eventually realized that I never needed to read them ever again. (This also goes for googling: how to get my baby to sleep or why is my baby waking up so much). 3. It Sucks When People Tell You That The Baby Years Go Fast, But It’s True You know above where I said that you have to accept that this is what is happening now but it won’t last forever? You might have sworn at me under your breath. I hated, HATED, it when people said variations of “all this will one day be a memory” and I could have punched them in the throat when they even hinted that I would miss it. When I was in the depths of psychotic sleep deprivation, this is about the least helpful thing you could say to me. For someone who is struggling...

Read More

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

{When I was pregnant with Silas, I decided that for this baby I would try not co-sleeping. I had co-slept with my older two children and had suffered through 18-24 months of hourly wakings. I knew I had to try something different, just in case it worked. At first, it worked beautifully but eventually, Silas developed the same sleep routine as his older siblings. When Silas was 16 months old, we moved from a 1900 sq. ft. house into our 300 sq. ft. converted school bus. Sleeping arrangements changed drastically. The most practical solution for all of us, considering that Silas was still waking to nurse between four and eight times each night and there was no room for a crib, was for me and Silas to share the queen-size bed, and for Aaron to share the double bed with one of our other children.} Here I am, a co-sleeper, once again, through practical necessity. I confess that I appreciated the time Silas spent sleeping in a crib. I appreciated the early days when he slept multiple consecutive hours and I was able to sleep soundly across the room but still wake when I heard him rustle around in search of me. I can attest that I appreciated the space in my own bed to fall deeply asleep for 45 minutes at a time between his hourly wake ups that went on for a year. I relished being able to get comfortable in any position I wanted without anyone touching me, even as I dreaded the many times I had to get up and down in a night. Those blissful deep sleeps free of a head in my ribcage, an arm across my throat, a foot in the face, or an entire body on my chest made the crib worth it, even when it didn’t do the job I hoped it would. As a reformed co-sleeper, I confess that I am grateful that our living situation re-imposed co-sleeping on me. I admit that I no longer tiptoe into bed for fear that the stirring of the duvet will wake the baby, as I once did in my first incarnation as a co-sleeper. I confess that now when I climb into bed, I wrap my son in my arms and pull his sleeping body up against my own. I confirm that a bury my face in the curve of his neck and inhale the smell of him. I do indeed pass my hands softly over his silky baby hair and rub them over him, feeling the ridge of his spine, the hollow of his back, the fullness of his belly, the way his little foot fits in the palm of my hand like a secret. I acknowledge that I hold on a little tightly, squeezing him into me, absorbing him, for just a fraction of a second as I breathe in his ear, “I love you.” I confess that as he stirs, and becomes aware of my presence in his sleep, I return him gently to his pillow, smoothing his fuzzy blanket over him, and patting him back into his dreams. I confide that I take his hand, heavy and limp with sleep, into my own hand, closing my fingers around his fist, as I settle into my own pillow and close my eyes. I confess that I am ok temporarily not sharing a bed with my husband. I wouldn’t sleep as well if there were another adult body in the bed. Alone in the bed with a toddler, I have the luxury and space to roll away from Silas between nursing sessions and get comfortable, just as I could when Silas was in a crib. I acknowledge that I have been given a gift: the chance to reclaim all that I lost during the year Silas slept in a crib. I even admit that sometimes I love it when he sits up in the night and says, “nurse. mama.” because it means that I have one more chance to memorize the weight and shape of unconditional love, that I...

Read More

Nurture This Year

Posted on Jan 17, 2013 in Featured | 1 comment

Nurture This Year

I started off this year with a delightful houseful of family guests, and their departure was followed immediately by Aaron’s departure to work for three days on a remote island. For three days, I parented on my own, got my son back into the routine of school after several weeks off, and tried to get my kids back to a normal bedtime after a week of falling asleep at midnight with their much older cousins. Aaron returned from work with a brutal chest cold that left him with chills and a poisonous mood. Somehow in all of that, I managed to find a quiet evening to reflect on the last year and the new year, and thankfully, a word bobbed to the surface of my mind, like a cork. The word was NURTURE. nur·ture Care for and encourage the growth or development of.   This word is so perfect for our 2013 that it actually sings to me. My youngest child is turning 2 next month. I know that this year most likely holds his weaning and his potty training. This means that sometime this year for the first time in 8 years, we will no longer have a baby in our family. For the first time in 8 years, there will be no diapers, no night waking (ok, realistically, there will still be some, but there will be considerably less night waking with the direct result being a drastic improvement in my quality of life), no more breastfeeding. This is monumental. This is me saying goodbye to childbearing. This is our family moving on from baby days. This is me reclaiming some autonomy as a person, not just as a physical baby grower and tender. This is my last baby becoming physically independent: walking, talking, eating, and using the toilet on his own. This is us entering a new season. Yet, none of this is here yet. It is only on the horizon. Now is the time to nurture myself in preparation for the unfolding that will happen next year and the following years when I will have the freedom to explore some of my interests. This is a time to explore what my own hopes and wants and needs are so that when that new season arrives, I will be ready to begin. This is the year to nurture my last baby as he begins all of these tasks of making the final physical separations, to hold him tenderly as he becomes more independent, to honour the slow start-and-stop process that his weaning will likely be, and for me, to cherish the few remaining days, not just of his babyhood, but of babyhood in our family. This year, 2013, is the year my daughter begins Kindergarten so this is a time to nurture her growing independence and to respect and honour her needs and emotions when that process feels frightening and overwhelming. Lastly, we have many projects that need nurturing before they will blossom. We have our family business to tend, our partnership at the farm to develop, our cabin to finish, our yard and garden to cultivate. There is all that and more in our lives that is ready for nurturing. In this moment I see so much of our family life just like the seedling pictured above. We have planted all of these seeds, and we have watered, and we have waited, and now, the first tentative sprouts are peeking above ground. Now is not the time to forget them, to become busy and distracted. Now is the time for tenderness, for love, for attention, for caring, for forgiveness, for grace, for nurturing. Before I sign off, I wanted to share a couple of posts I came across while working through my annual reflection. Some of the things I’d like to do to nurture myself come from this great list of 10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep (though I think it might be a bit much to try to implement all of them at once) and there are some great ideas for nurturing that...

Read More

Seasons of Motherhood

Posted on Jan 12, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 16 comments

Seasons of Motherhood

For some time now, we’ve been without regular childcare. This is partly our own fault: our old babysitter moved back to England, and we tried out some new ones but they weren’t really great matches. Our little ones have also gone through some phases of separation anxiety so we didn’t prioritize finding someone new. We decided to let it go. The reality of this, especially with no extended family living locally, is that I spend 24 hours a day with my children (we even share sleep). For either Aaron or I to go do something (a dentist appointment, parent teacher interview, work, a beer/tea/movie with a friend), we have to schedule it so that the other parent will be home, or we bring the kids along if possible. Of course, this also means that it has been nearly impossible for Aaron and I to go out together. In fact, we have sometimes even resorted to waiting until we had family visiting from 2 provinces away before we would plan to go do something together (like belatedly go out for dinner for our 10th Anniversary). Yes, I know–as I type, I can hear whole parts of the internet bursting into flames over our unwillingness to preserve the sanctity of “date night.” Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this seriously impairs my ability to have my own life in addition to my role as mother. Obviously, I don’t have a career outside of raising kids, I’m not able to return to school, and my hobbies are sporadic at best. I won’t lie to you: sometimes that feels stifling and overwhelming. Sometimes I rage against the whole system (the universe, motherhood, biology–why aren’t men the ones with the boobs!?). Sometimes I just want some time for me. Sometimes I dream wistfully about what I’ll be when I grow up, I mean, when they grow up. Often, I stay up too late in the evenings, just to squeeze in a couple of kid-free hours after the last of our kids has finally (unwillingly) succumbed to slumber. It isn’t always an easy place to be. Lately, and by that I mean, since Silas was born (almost 2 years ago), I feel at peace with this. After 8 years of pregnancy and motherhood, have I finally just given up, and allowed myself to be eaten by the needs of my children? No, it’s more likely that, because Silas is our last child, I am buoyed by the knowledge that the end is in sight. Though, it’s also true that this peace over my voluntary position as a mother has burned as an ember deep inside me from the earliest days, from the first decisions that I made to set aside some of my wants and needs in deference to my children’s needs.Those choices represented an ever-shifting, intricate blend of willing sacrifice and practical necessity. Through it all, despite the times I sometimes fought against it, there was that sense of peace deep within. Call it intuition. I never questioned why I felt that way. I just knew it for what it was. So much of what I read or hear in our culture tells me that I shouldn’t be ok with stepping out of the work force for so many years, that I shouldn’t be ok with being unable to go on a date with my husband, that I shouldn’t be ok with nursing my toddler more than 4 times in a night. I hear the cautionary tale of the housewives who live their whole lives for their children, who exist only for the PTA meetings and to drive the soccer practice car-pool van, who meddle in their teenage children’s dramas, and who find themselves completely lost when their children leave for college. Yet, I don’t worry about any of those things. Ever since Silas was born, that little ember of peace and acceptance for the way things are has grown, and with it my understanding of why every single one of these sacrifices is ok with me. I have...

Read More

Reflecting on 2012

Posted on Jan 8, 2013 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured | 2 comments

Reflecting on 2012

At this time last year I was lying in bed trying to think of my word for 2012 and I was terrified about what the upcoming year held. Sure, I was excited, but I was also feeling a lot of doubt about moving back into the bus with SO MANY CHILDREN. A year ago, this plot of land where I am now sitting was a clearing in a forest on the edge of a dirt road through a farm. This part of the forest was thinner, with fewer trees to remove,  a lot of salal and rocks, and unfortunately, plenty of 60 year old glass bottles. Apparently, this spot had long ago been a dumping ground on the farm. Today, where once salal dripped with rain, there is now a toasty warm 500 square foot cabin joined up to our bus. We moved in to the cabin in November after driving Eliza under a little carport and inching her right up against an open door frame on one side of the cabin. Then Aaron insulated the gap between the two structures, and finished it nicely with a pretty jam, and suddenly our space was doubled. I have been waiting to announce that the cabin was finished and we were moved in because it isn’t really finished. Still so much left to do (details, details), and I didn’t want the pictures to show the boxes, the plywood tub surround, the tarp and lumber outside the front window…but I can’t really sum up this past year without the recognition of what we accomplished. Every year, I spend the last week of December reflecting on the closing year, and visioning for the upcoming year. To see what my practice looks like you can read this. Today I also want to share with you some other nice formats: The Liberated Life Project (similar to mine, but includes option for yoga/meditation AND specific goal setting as part of the practice) and The Art of Non-Conformity (if you’re a little bit more Type A – it has a spreadsheet!). And you can always check out these others that I shared in the past. A year ago, none of this was here. A year ago, I was so worried about how we were going to do it, about how crazy it was. Now? We are once again living in a home of our own creation, on land that is shared, in a situation that feels symbiotic, and with a rent payment that allows us some financial independence. Funny how in 4.5 years we’ve come full circle, to echo the very living situation we were in in Vancouver in my sister’s backyard. The place is different, the people are different, and we are different, but the fundamentals are the same. (Now if only we can get my sister close by). And here’s the thing: despite how hard we have worked, despite how tired we have been, despite the tight spaces and lack of amenities, we have loved this year, particularly the latter half of the year, once we finally moved on site. This year we came home to Eliza, and despite my panic and worry, it went perfectly, and we’ve felt perfectly at home, every minute. Honestly. The word I chose for 2012 was Energize and something I’m discovering about the practice of choosing a word of the year is that I’m far better at summarizing the past year in a word than I am at focusing on a word for the next year. What can I say? I have a short attention span – ahem, which is why I don’t like resolutions. While we certainly poured a ton of energy into our project, we never really felt energized. In fact, a more apt word for 2012 might have been ENDURE. We worked really hard and we made something huge out of nothing, but it was mostly a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-slog rather an Energizer-bunny-hop. I also fell off the wagon of my Project Energize posts after one post summarizing 4 months. Alas, once May came around and we were...

Read More