Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Update

It's time for me to fill you in a bit on life in the past...well, frankly, I don't know how long it's been since last I posted.

First, an update on Bird. He's awesome. Just bloody awesome. I mean, he's a two-year-old, so obviously life is not always sunshine and roses, but on the whole, he's just blossoming beyond all imagination.



He has this enormous personality to match his enormous vocabulary.
  • He loves vacuum cleaners, mops, pretending to drive the cars, his sandbox, the playground, his gymnastics class, etc.
  • He still enjoys his "Mookie-za-zas" from me (yay breastfeeding!)
  • He now sleeps in his Big Boy Bed (his crib-turned-toddler-bed) and no longer needs to be rocked to sleep - not even for naps. We have experienced some mild growing pains when he figured out how to use the door knob, but over all, he is really good and will just go to sleep when it's time. I realize this is subject to change.
  • He takes Parent and Tot gymnastics classes because we wanted to encourage him to be more confident in his physical abilities. It worked. He climbs and runs like other children his age now.
  • He speaks in full sentences, and his memory is scary. Like so scary. He can tell you exactly what he did a week ago if it stood out to him.
  • He is full of silliness - he has recently taken to telling "jokes" which are hilarious statements such as, "Daddy says pork chop!" He loves to laugh and giggle now.
Now onto other things. When Bird was a year old, neither he nor I were ready for me to go back to a full-time job. I didn't think he was ready to be in care full-time (although in retrospect, he would have been fine), and I certainly did not want to return to a job I wasn't passionate about.  We were able to financially make it work for me to stay home, but only just barely. It has been tight.  I temporarily had a home business selling tea, have been doing some odds and ends from home, and every cent that comes into our house has been put to good use.

A year later, it feels different. Bird is older and more like his peers now in terms of how he gets to sleep, etc. He is way less dependent on exclusively Mama or Daddy. I can see him being able to adjust well to full-time care. And as for me, well, I'd sleep better at night if I knew we were saving toward some of our bigger upcoming financial goals, such as a newer car, home improvements, and let's face it, an eventual posting for my husband which would mean selling this house and buying in an unknown market elsewhere. Finally, I don't want to kid myself here - I love being home with Bird but it's not easy, and a big part of me misses working toward my career goals. Ideally, I'd be able to work part-time, but there aren't many part-time jobs in line with what I want from a career. 

As wholly as I know being home with Bird is ideal for him, I also know that we have to do what is best for our whole family. Our finances and my personal goals are part of the family so they deserve consideration as well. No matter what I choose to do, ultimately, it will be in the best interest of our family. At this point, I am job searching actively, but I have the luxury of time to be picky about what I choose. So for now, I'm still Bird's stay-at-home parent, with the knowledge that this could change at any time.  

I hope that no matter what happens, we can all find some degree of balance as a family. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely sad to see my face time with Bird diminish greatly as it likely will.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Let's put this Mom War to bed.

More than any other mom war out there (breastfeeding or bottle feeding?  Attachment or traditional parenting? and so on), the one that bothers me most is the "Stay at home mom" versus "working mom" war.

There are so very many reasons why people make the choice to work or to stay home. Let's look at a few of those reasons.

Staying at home:

  •  For some people, it doesn't make financial sense to work due to childcare expenses. This can be true for one child, but often comes in play for those with two or more children of day care age.
  • Others feel more fulfilled spending their time with their children and are fortunate to be able to afford it (with lifestyle sacrifices for some).
  • Various therapies for special needs children require a parent to be available for multiple appointments weekly.
  • Some have a spouse who strongly values a stay at home parent.
Working parent:
  • Some folks feel more fulfilled by remaining in the workforce.
  • Others need to work to pay the bills.
  • Many choose to work to provide a more financially affluent lifestyle for their children. For instance, to be able to afford two vehicles instead of one or to pay for extra-curriculars.
  • Some remain in the workforce because their spouse may not be fully supportive of having a one income family.
Other variables include:
  • Availability of work for each person's chosen profession in their geographical area (for instance, a military family may be posted to a base where work is difficult to find).
  • Availability of suitable childcare that can accommodate shift demands (nurses, emergency services providers, etc).
  • A feeling of being torn between staying home and working - unfortunately we may have to choose one way or the other while strongly identifying with both sides. This is a reality I face each day, and I'm certainly not the only one who feels that way. 
Why, then, do so many mothers spend so much time having to defend their choice or their requirement to stay at home or to work? Neither choice is easy. 

We are equally MOTHERS at the end of each day, and all day long. Being a mother doesn't get put on pause when you go to work, just as staying home qualifies as work many days.

I bet that when you are home, you give your child your attention and your love. I give MY child my attention and my love, too. I bet you make them meals and do their laundry just as I do. I bet you help them learn and grow every day in unique ways just as I do. 

Can we please take the working parent versus stay at home parent battle off the table? Let's forge a universal understanding that there are so many complexities in why people make one choice versus the other, and that we each do what we feel is in the best interest of ourselves and our children. End of story.

It's time to put this rivalry to bed, and it starts with us.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time Marches On: year end review

It's New Year's Eve, which seems as good a time as ever to indulge in some optimistic and speculative writing.

2013 has been so full of love and light. Let's talk about the highlights:

  • Bird overcame his acid reflux. Hallelujah, this was a big one for our little family. We have seen his true goofy, caring, happy-go-lucky spirit and personality shine through.
  • Bird started walking right around his birthday - and put a complete end to any worry that he might be behind his peers in any way.
  • Bird found his words, and LOTS of them! My personal favourites are "I love you" and "Hug!" and "Hi, Mama!". And don't forget, "Daddy home!"
  • K. went and returned from a 7 week business trip. This was in no way fun, but I learned a lot about my strength as a person and mother and gained a lot of self-confidence as a parent.
Moving into 2014, I feel optimistic. I've been so incredibly fortunate, and for that I am so grateful. Now it's time to figure out how to give back to the world. My 2014 goal is service.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ho Ho Ho, here we go, go go!

The Christmas and Holiday season crept up on us!  We're somewhat ready here in the Bird's Nest, but there is always lots more to do this time of the year.

So far, we have:

  • Done 90% of our shopping, even capitalizing on some used deals and making some gifts.  For Bird, K. and his father made a Little Helper tower from this amazing website by a mom who can do it all and offers free plans so you can, too. 
Source: Ana White homemaker
  • Purchased our Christmas Day turkey. We'll be entertaining my parents on Christmas Day. My mum has so wonderfully hosted most of the holiday dinners since Bird's been born, but I am perfectly able to cook a damn good turkey dinner now.  K.'s brother-in-law has generously offered to do the Christmas Dinner for the gathering for that side of the family on December 22nd. 
  • Ordered our family photo christmas card.
This upcoming weekend, we'll be preparing the decorations and lights. I'm really looking forward to it.

As traditions go, we are planning the following as our family Christmas traditions:
  • Opening one gift each on Christmas Eve. The plan is to make it pyjamas and maybe a Christmas book/movie.
  • Taking a drive or walk and checking out Christmas lights in different neighbourhoods.
  • Baking Molasses Spice cookies.
  • Volunteering/paying it forward in some way, shape, or form. This year I have been volunteering with Feed Nova Scotia. Last year our whole family took up a collection of money amongst ourselves and bought gifts for needy children through our church.
What are your family's traditions? How are your holiday preparations coming along?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

In spite of fear

Let's talk fear of failure. We all have it to a degree, but it's how we deal with it that counts.

A few years ago, I went to a counsellor to discuss how I was feeling generally unproductive and unmotivated in my life. I was genuinely concerned about having attention deficit disorder or another similar issue that was holding me back. After a little diagnostic test, it was shown that I don't. The test did show that I am a type A personality and very hellbent on perfectionism.

This was a surprise to me because I don't like to work very hard. It's not easy for me to admit that on a public forum like this, but it's true. As much as I love to be seen as a hard working, intelligent, high achieving individual, I only work as much as I have to in order to give that outward appearance to others.  This is not because I don't want to be a hard worker, but there is always something - something just out of my mind's reach - that is holding me back from all those things that I truly want to achieve.

But, the counsellor said fear of failure is a very strong restraining force for many perfectionists. We are so afraid that whatever we put our hand to might not come out to our standards or to the high standards of others, that we don't even try.

Lately I've been heavily reflecting on my inner self. I've been thinking of my true inner values, my desired outcomes, all my goals and aspirations, and contrasting it with my behaviours. I've been struggling for years now with the disconnect between what I want from myself and what I actually *do*. It's been difficult.

This morning it clicked, though. It was like jumping into a very deep, very cold pool.

I am so afraid of failure, so afraid of looking bad in the eyes of others, and so deeply afraid of letting myself down. 

I'm also very heavily extrinsically motivated. I'm a people pleaser. I get my sense of value from others telling me I have value.

Right now, I'm not sure exactly where this leaves me. I'm not sure if it's possible to change where I get my self of self-worth from externally to internally. But I do know this: It's time to say a big old fuck you to fear. It's time to say that it's okay to be afraid of failing but to go ahead and try anyway. It's time to realize that nobody will judge me on my outcomes as long as they see I am trying.

And I will always try. I'm too young to lay down and play dead and accept the status quo. I must move forward and live without fear.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How do you keep yourself mentally healthy?

I have long struggled with mild mental health issues. Of late, it has become very easy to let my self care fall by the way-side, which of course is going to result in a decline in my mental health. One thing I have certainly learned since becoming a mother is that to take of everyone else, I need to take care of myself.

This is what my personal mental health self-care regime looks like at its best:


  • I take vitamin D (2000-4000iu a day, depending on the time of year)
  • I limit caffeine to 1-2 cups of coffee, early in the day
  • I limit refined sugars
  • I get exercise daily. Even a short walk with Bird daily is so helpful. Outdoor exercise is best for me.
  • I take time each day to recognize what I have accomplished and what I feel grateful for. This is usually a list of five items under each heading. Even on days that are barely productive, recognizing small accomplishments keeps me from having negative thoughts about my worth. I write these out in my journal.
  • I often have to limit my social networking time.
  • When negative self-talk becomes overwhelming to me, I take time to write out the most common negative thoughts and then I craft rebuttals to each one. Then, when the thought pops into my head, I already have a planned way to shut it down. This is surprisingly effective. For example, if I routinely find myself thinking, "I don't understand why anyone likes me" I can rebut with "I am a kind person, a good listener, and I deserve to have the respect and love of others".
  • When negative thoughts pass into my mind, I acknowledge the thought and give myself permission to have the thought - but then tell myself that just because I am thinking a certain way does not mean that it is true or that it reflects my true self.
  • I spend time actively pursuing positivity.
  • When I feel like I am having more bad days than good, I re-examine my progress on all these points. If I am routinely doing these things and they are not helping, I know I need to seek additional support or help.
Tell me how you keep your mental health at its peak?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hello? Is there anyone home?

Of course I am speaking to my brain. I envision a hollow, echo-y sound because lately it feels like there's not a lot going on upstairs. Occupational hazard of being a stay at home mom.

First, an update on our dear sweet Bird.

Bird is an unbelievable 20 months old (well, in two days). This utterly blows my mind. It means he's going to be TWO in four short months.

He has become the happiest, funniest child.

Likes:

  • chores - sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, laundry. These are things he actually begs me to do each day. It is so much easier to get these things done when your child is enthusiastic about just watching you do them. He has his mini-mop and regularly parades around with the full-size broom, saying, "'weep! 'weep! 'weep!"
  • Talking. Honey child never stops talking. He's mostly using one word statements, but due to his enormous vocabulary, there is very little he can't get across.
  • Going for walks, either to the neighbourhood playground or to see the duckies at the stream behind our hours.
  • Shuh-shies (french fries). He gets them every couple weeks and LOVES them. Mom of the year over here.
  • SuperWhy and Sesame Street. Hey, his father was away for 7 weeks. Don't judge. We watched a bit of TV twice a day - when we were waking up before breakfast, and when I was cooking supper.
Dislikes:
  • When he is done eating and the food is still in front of him. He pushes it away and if it doesn't disappear he'll  dump the plate on the table or throw it.
  • When I don't let him mess with the washing machine buttons or dishwasher buttons.
  • Honestly, there's very little he just objects to.

Our favourite fall memories so far have been walks "at the speed of toddler," basically meaning walks led by Bird, a glorious trip to a corn maze, the costume party at a local play cafe, and Daddy's first few days back home in mid-October.

An update on me

Well, being a stay home mom is wonderful. And not so wonderful at times. We had 7 weeks where it was just Bird and I. During that time, there was a sleep regression, several teeth, and lots of idle days. Bird's nap falls right when most of the free playgroups and activities happen because although most toddlers nap in the early afternoon,Bird naps from 10-1ish. So we often have a hard time filling our days with things to keep Bird engaged and socialized. And, as a result, I have a hard time keeping myself socialized as well.  While K. was away, I started feeling very isolated and lonely because Bird goes to bed at 7. My friends all seemed to be busy with their families and day to day lives. I had a lot of help from family and a few friends did venture over to visit, which was so wonderful.

The theme of isolation and loneliness seems to be continuing, though. I have not gotten back into the swing of having a social life yet, although it's been a month since K. has been home. I honestly really miss having outside interests such as ballet, outings with friends, my Career Development Practitioner program, and even work. We have discussed the possibility of me returning to a part-time career, but I haven't put much effort into finding one that suits my needs so far. We even discussed me returning to a full time career, but concluded that it is not what either of us prefer for Bird.

I am never sorry I chose to stay at home with Bird. Never. But I do lament that it really doesn't seem possible for a mother to have it all without feeling some sort of role conflict.  I know many men face this as well, but it honestly seems that women have this inborn need to do all of the things and that it can very difficult to be personally fulfilled and the mother we want to be all at once - no matter what path you chose : working, working at home, or staying at home.

Anyway, my upcoming challenge for myself is to find some way to have a little adult interaction on a weekly basis and use my brain. The challenge will be to keep my anxiety from holding me back.