Posts Tagged "motherhood"

To The New Parents

Posted on May 12, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 9 comments

To The New Parents

There’s something that no one will tell you. They don’t want to scare you, or be a downer, or maybe they don’t remember, really truly, what it was like. They will wait for you to bungle through it, and hopefully figure it out yourself at some point, though I think a lot of us never do. I’ve been through the new parent thing three times now and no one ever told me, that’s for sure. It’s hard. Wait a minute. Wait. That’s not the secret thing that no one will tell you. Sure, not many people honestly talk to a couple expecting their first child about how hard it is. It’s all congratulations and calling every day asking, “Any News?” Nevertheless, there are probably a few people in your life who tell you that it was hard for them, or maybe you witnessed some friends or family go through it and you were surprised and appalled by their transformation from happy and excited (even glowing) parent-to-be into weeping zombie. I’m sure you sort of expect that it isn’t going to be a cake walk. But part of you just doesn’t get how hard it can be, and part of you doesn’t even care because you’re all hopped up on the delicious anticipation that is pregnancy. Not to mention a little self-absorbed with the idea that pregnancy is really hard and you can’t wait for it to be over. I’ll tell you the secret now. The secret is that there is no solution, no fix for the hardness of new parenthood. (I’d almost go so far as to say that it is supposed to be hard, though it’s possible that wasn’t as true in the old days when we lived more communally.) After the marathon, whirlwind, ordeal, or ecstasy of birth (whatever combo of those you are blessed with), and the initial nights of parenting while you wait for your milk to come in, already exhausted from not sleeping through labour, and then not sleeping because you’re staring dewy-eyed at the new piece of your heart cradled in your arms, and the back-to-back visits from family and friends, and the meconium, and the euphoria of 9 months of waiting has finally worn off, you may find yourself staring into the eyes of a bunch of new challenges. Challenges like: poor latch, mastititis, postpartum depression, failure to thrive, GERD, mother-in-laws, sleep deprivation, growth spurts, pumping, isolation, child care, identity crisis, colic, returning to work, car rides, diaper rash, marital strife, and never having a single moment to pee or shower without bouncing the baby on the damn exercise ball. You’ll call the midwife, the lactation consultant, your mother, your BFF and the nurse hotline. You’ll ask for help, and you’ll receive it (with meals). And you’ll cry alone in your room (and no one will know to help). You’ll read books, and ask google and chat rooms. You’ll fight with your partner. You’ll beg your partner to just tell you what to do, or to stop telling you what to do, or to just take the baby for five freaking minutes even if she’s screaming. You’ll wonder why it’s so hard, and what to do to fix it. Here’s the thing. We’ll listen to you. We’ll help when we can. We’ll offer solutions from our own experience (when we can). We’ll bring you meals. We’ll tell you “Yes. It was this hard for us too.” We’ll loan you our books, and suggest calling the midwife. We’ll share websites that helped us. We’ll tell you to call any time, even though we know you probably won’t know how to ask for help when you really really need it. But we can’t fix it. For the better part of the next year (or two), it will stay hard. You will solve some problems and gain more confidence. And then there will be new challenges. New arguments with your partner. New surprises with the baby. You’ll sort those out. You’ll figure out how to eat a meal while holding a baby. You’ll get used...

Read More

On Grief and Dying

Posted on Apr 29, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 6 comments

On Grief and Dying

{I haven’t talked a lot about the details of our living situation here on the farm, partly out of respect for the privacy of the farmers but for other reasons too. Today I want to talk a little about it, but primarily as background information to discuss my current emotional journey.} We came to the farm in a mutually beneficial arrangement. We were looking for a rural alternative living situation that would be more cost-effective than the urban too-big-for-us houses that we were renting. The farmers were looking for help on the farm. A young couple with a brand new baby, a day job, and a property over 100 acres—they  had a lot on their plates. We spent several months writing up a lease, through multiple dinner meetings and conference calls (as our respective kids took turns fussing in the background). As if being able to live on a working farm for reduced rent and creating community with another young family wasn’t great enough, there was a bonus. The farmers’ mother was actively involved in farm life. My heart has been seeking a local wise woman to play a part in our family for some time. We are alone here; no grandparents or other extended family are nearby. Our parenting sometimes feels lonely. I wish our kids had someone local to bake cookies with (in addition to me). I wish I had someone local to ask questions about canning, knitting, or gardening. Oh so stereotypical isn’t it? Still, I yearn for more of a multi-generational influence in our day-to-day life (rather than only in those intense spurts when our families visit). Not that this woman (with family of her own here) would have become our own personal wise woman, but I looked forward to getting to know her better nevertheless. I enjoyed her presence at our meals as we imagined and fine-tuned the terms of our lease. She is a vibrant, zesty and loving personality and I looked forward to the inevitable familiarity that would develop as our two families ventured into partnership together. I felt so blessed that the couple we had found to explore a collaborative living arrangement with was not another of the many young families that we know who are going it alone. Then, a month after we signed the lease and began developing the site where we now live, this vibrant woman was diagnosed with cancer. And here we are, a year later, watching helpless on the sidelines as these young farmers, now our friends, go through the final exhausting and heartbreaking days of losing their mother. We never did get the chance to get to know her. Shortly after her diagnosis, she began her treatments and we’ve seen very little of her since then. I find myself going through a grieving process for a woman I don’t know. I grieve what might have been more than the loss of something I already had. I grieve for all those hopes and expectations that went into writing that lease last winter. I also grieve for our friends who are in the thick of the process of caring for a dying family member, something that is foreign and intangible for someone like me who has never been through this, who is blessed to have all four grandparents and a step-grandmother still living. Some days I watch their little boy so they can go care for their mother. I hold him and we wave at the window wishing Mama a good day before I remember where she is headed. The reality of her days suddenly contrasts sharply with mine. Spring has arrived here. The sun warms our skin now, the flowers are blooming and there are three new lambs in the fields. Yet, there is a certain heaviness blanketing the farm, as the exhaustion sets in. This young couple stay up all night delivering lambs and leave in the morning, for work, and to care for a mother who mostly sleeps and no longer eats. We try to make sense of their grief, of their tiredness, but...

Read More

Why Are You Yelling?

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 1 comment

Why Are You Yelling?

I want to tell you a little story. I’m with my kids in their bedroom, trying to get them to tidy up and put on pjs before bed. The room is a mess and I’m already a little annoyed when I see the state of the room, but I’m ok. I assign each child a specific job and I start grabbing dirty clothes. My daughter starts picking up. My son starts playing. I ask him to stop playing and pick up. My daughter finishes what she was picking up and now I ask her to get into her pjs and go brush her teeth. She drops her dirty clothes where she is standing, pulls out five things from her pj drawer, drops them on the ground, puts on her chosen pjs and goes downstairs to brush her teeth. I call her back to put her things in her drawer. I remind my son not to play, just pick up. I ask my daughter to put her dirty clothes in the hamper. She starts screaming at her brother. I sort out the scuffle. Remind him to pick up. Remind her to take her dirty clothes. All the while, I am also tidying the room, and dealing with my toddler. I go to help my son and keep him on task.  I’m getting frustrated that he is not listening to me. My daughter has forgotten her dirty clothes. I pick them up and go to put them in the hamper. I discover that earlier in the day my daughter has stashed a bunch of toys at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper. I call her back from the bathroom where she is supposedly brushing her teeth but is in fact spraying water on the mirror with a squirt bottle. This is not that bizarre of a scene. I’m sure something similar goes on in every family. I find that this procedure goes best if I only give the kids one instruction at a time, and if I am as specific as I can be so that essentially, I’m verbally walking them through every step of the process. This way, they can’t get sidetracked or overwhelmed by the task because it’s broken down into manageable pieces. Now, imagine that one step is “Please pick up the necklace and put it on the shelf,” but you can’t remember the word necklace or the word shelf. On a daily basis, my ability to recall basic vocabulary is seriously impaired by lack of sleep. Every step of that clean up routine involves great mental effort for me to just give out basic instructions. Many of my instructions actually come out like this “please pick up the…the… the…gold thing. Yes, that, there. Put it on the…the…shelf.” Of course, it gets worse the more stressed I get. So, for instance, if I’m already a little annoyed that their room is so messy, and as the whole scene drags on, and I just want to get to the part where we are reading stories together, or where they are in bed so I can have a break, the more I begin to stumble over my words. When this is coupled with the frustration of feeling ignored (because kids don’t want to clean up, or go to bed, and because kids get distracted because they live in their imaginations) but which to me feels disrespectful, and means I have to repeat myself when I’m already struggling as it is to say simple things even once, I start to lose my temper. And eventually I find myself yelling, partly to get their attention, but mostly because I’m so frustrated that I can’t form a sentence. This is not an exaggeration. This just happened again as I was typing this. Aaron was putting away laundry that I had folded earlier today and I tried to tell him that the pillowcase, though in a pile with some towels, needed to be put somewhere else. But I was staring at the pillowcase, knowing it was a pillowcase, and yet totally unable to...

Read More

8 Ideas to Nurture Your Self Through Motherhood

Posted on Feb 15, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

8 Ideas to Nurture Your Self Through Motherhood

Yesterday, I posted about how difficult it can be to nurture our own identities while mindfully choosing to make sacrifices in the season of mothering young children. So then, how do we maintain a sense of self, or prepare for the future, when we are busy living a life on hold? (Yes, I know Life with Young Children is not really a life on hold; it’s more of a beautiful, chaotic, heartbreaking and life-sustaining dance in time lapse photography that, sped up, becomes a dazzling and breathless blur of colour and sound). Today I give you 8 Ideas to Nurture Your Self Through Motherhood. These may be common sense to some, but I hope at least one strikes a cord with you. I’ve tried to include things that require various levels of involvement and capital. A word about the links I’ve included: I’m neither affiliated with nor endorsing any of these people, but wanted to give some examples of places to get started so you’d have an idea what’s out there if you hadn’t considered some of these ideas before. Read—Novels are ok (and could be coupled with a book club perhaps so that you also have some adult interaction to look forward to) but I’d also recommend reading on subjects that might interest you as a career, hobby, or course of study when you feel the time is right to venture into more time away from your kids. If you want to go back to school, or start a new job after mat leave, or start a business or a new hobby, you don’t have to wait to learn about those things. You can read up on it now. Plus, it gives you something interesting to talk about when you find yourself at parties (if you ever DO find yourself at parties—I know I don’t) and you’re worried you might mention poop or the laundry. Take a Course—If you have occasional childcare, or a partner with a flexible schedule, and the cash, you could take a continuing education course at your local college for one term, either just for fun (like wine tasting, or Expressionism) or to gain a skill you might want to use if you decide to return to work outside (or from) the home (like Illustrator, or bookkeeping, or First Aid). Another option for fun classes is your local community center. Similarly, if childcare is an issue, you could sign up for all kinds of online courses (photography, writing, web design, project management, or even dreaming big). The benefit with these is that they are often self-paced and can be completed at night or during nap time, and they usually feature an active social network online so you won’t feel too isolated. Volunteer—Even once a week, or once a month, without the children gives us something to occupy our minds that is about us, and our gifts, not about being Baby’s Mom. Ideally, try to find something that isn’t kid-related (i.e. not the PTA or soccer team) unless those kid-related volunteer opportunities give you the chance to practice or gain new skills (like chairing a meeting, organizing an event, acting as treasurer, designing and writing a newsletter), rather than just baking for the bake sale or organizing the bottle drive. Exercise—Exercise is proven to make both our bodies and minds feel better. It reduces depression, helps with motivation, and often, gets us out of the house. It might mean a precious kid-free hour at the gym or hot yoga class, or it might mean doing Wii fit in your living room with your toddler “helping” or maybe just going for a brisk walk instead of driving to preschool. It’s going to be good for you no matter what, but if you have the time and energy to take it a step further, I would recommend trying a bunch of things until you hit on the physical activity that you really love, that you can look forward to for it’s own merit (not just for the break from parenting and for fulfilling the list of SHOULDS...

Read More

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