Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Numbers Game

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a mother of one and we were discussing if and when she would have another.  With one out of the way, isn't this the first question on everyone's lips?  How about number two?  Number three?  Once you start popping out kids, it seems one is never enough, at least for other people.  But maybe for some it is.  Think of all you could give to just one child, how quickly your life could become more your own again.  Think of how much more time and money you would have.  As a mother of two, I think about these things from time to time, but ultimately I know I'm happier with what I've have gained than what I may have lost.  The truth is I probably would not have realized whatever benefits there may be to having only one child - I would have been just as stressed with one as I am with two.    
I now struggle with the thought that I may be done having kids?  I'm just not sure.  Saying yes fills me with both relief and sadness.  Saying no makes me think I might be crazy, but it also thrills me to consider the crazy love I would have for another.  
When I got pregnant with my son I was really worried that I wouldn't (couldn't?) love him the same as I love my daughter, that she would always be my special girl and I might resent him for taking time away from her.  Of course, everything changed when my little Buddy was born - I love him just as much as my Best Girl, and I am so proud to see their friendship grow.  
Back to the question of more kids.  If I see a woman strolling around with four kids, a very pregnant belly and a huge smile on her face, I wonder 1) Is she on medication and where can I get some?, or 2) Is she a better mother than me?  Bottom line, at least as I see it, there is no magic number, no algorithm for motherhood.  In the immortal words of Xtina, "Whatever makes you happy and sets you free."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Second Time's the Charm

My son just recently turned one and continues to grow and change at record speed with each passing day.  I am sad to see him growing up so quickly because I have really enjoyed him as a baby.  My daughter was more challenging during her first year.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, she was 7 weeks early and I was a first-time mom ridden with anxiety.  Putting those things together can make a bit of a bumpy road.  I had always expected that my son would come early, and was happy to have carried him 3 more weeks than Jane.  The labour was quick, he latched right away and grew like a weed.  He was happy and relaxed and continues to be most of the time.  I am not sure how much of that had to do with my attitude and experience this time around, but would guess that he gets most of the credit for the positive time we've shared.  My husband always says that if we'd had Dillon first we would have thought we were the greatest parents.  Luckily, our daughter let us know early on, and continues to remind us, that we really don't know what we are doing.  This is not because she is a particularly difficult child, she is actually quite wonderful.  It is because she is the trailblazer.  Everything she does, good or not so good, is a first for us as parents.   The second time around there are fewer surprises, less time spent worrying about things you can't change and a better understanding of how quickly it is all over.  People always talk about the second child sympathetically because he doesn't get the same attention that the first one did and that there aren't as many pictures of him.  I think that these things are most likely true, but I don't think that they are necessarily detrimental.  In my experience the second gets less attention because I don't have time to hover over him, wipe his hands a thousand times a day and worry about every little thing.  There are fewer pictures because I'm out in the world with him, living.  When Dillon was born, Jane was 2 and her life did not stop because his began.  He went everywhere that she did - to the park, the pool, play dates, everywhere.  When Jane was born, there were days when I didn't even leave the top floor of the house.  It would seem, that in my family, that the second time's the charm.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I was happy to let bedtime linger tonight, not wanting to let my daughter go to sleep.  It is her last night as a 2 year-old, and I want to savor it.  When she was born, I couldn't imagine ever getting out of the NICU, let alone envision the person she would become.  I remember looking at her tiny swaddled body in what seemed to be an enormous crib on her first day home from the hospital and thinking - now what?  Her first birthday was an emotional milestone for us, not only for the passage of time but that we had made it to that moment.  Raising children is a real experiment in time and space.  There are moments, usually between 5 and 7 o'clock, when time seems to stand still.  Then there are moments, like tonight, when I look back over my three years as a mother and cannot understand how it has rushed by so quickly.  A year or so ago I was walking with Jane and an elderly woman smiled at me and said, "This is the best time of your life and you don't even know it.".  The problem is that I do know it, and that is why it is so hard to have it speed along so fast.  Watching my baby girl sleep her way to being a 3 year-old is bittersweet.  I am proud of the fact that she is healthy, strong and most of all, happy, but am sad to see the baby in her disappear.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Update

I have received a lot of emails from people inquiring about the status of my daughter's transition to Nursery School, but I've put off responding due to my superstitious nature.  In my experience, whenever something is going well the surest way to end the hot streak is to talk about it.  The more smug  I am, the quicker it disappears.  I think my kids are trying to keep me humble and appreciative of the simple pleasures they provide me, such as 6 consecutive hours of sleep, a 10 minute break during the day, or a 3 minute shower.

Getting back to the nursery school issue, I can apprehensively say that things are going well.  I  decided to increase the number of times she attends during the week, which has provided more consistency for her and she has now been three times without tears.  We also have allowed her to take her blanket with her for comfort.  She has four blankets that we used to swaddle her with that she continues rotate through to sleep with every night.  She loves these blankets and I am happy knowing she has a piece of home with her at school.  I was reluctant to let her take a blanket as I worried that it was a crutch and that I was encouraging baby-like behaviour.  After careful consideration, I decided that many kids her age have or need a security blanket in these types of unfamiliar situations and Jane's just happens to be an actual blanket.  There are other children who are there with the support of a close friend or sibling, something familiar to remind them that they are safe.  When Jane holds her blanket, she is not walking into her classroom alone.  It allows her to leave me without crying and once she is inside, I hear that she may actually be having fun.

It is a strange transition to independence.  You want it for your kids and for yourself, but for me, there is a little bit of sadness about my baby girl out in the world without me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hush Little Baby

I love bedtime.  I love my kids and I cherish the time I get to spend with them, but I LOVE bedtime.  There is nothing better than a quiet house with children nestled safely in their beds.  As a mom, down time is a precious commodity.  Since my daughter stopped napping in December, it has become even more sacred to me.  That being said, there is nothing more irritating than kids who are not cooperating at bedtime.  My daughter is about to be three and her negotiating skills are quite impressive.  She doesn't take no for an answer and has a long list of tactics to extend her bedtime routine.  There are nights when I find this cute and enjoy reading "just one more story".  There are others when all I want to do is pour myself a glass of wine and see what the Kardashians are up to.  My cousin recently sent me a link to some bedtime reading material that may come in handy on such an occasion.  Pre-order yours on Amazon today;)

A sense of humor is an important tool for motherhood.  I hope that this appeals to yours.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I just wanted to say thank you to all the moms who have reached out to me in response to my last post.  Being a mom can become very isolating and it can be hard to keep perspective when the majority of your conversations are with a 2 year old.  It is wonderful to feel the support and encouragement of others like me, who sometimes struggle with the decisions we are faced with as parents.  I have enough trouble trying to put together the perfect outfit for my daughter each morning, never mind the decisions that have real impact (although, the polka dot leggings she wore today made quite an impression).  It is so reassuring to hear about similar situations and to be reminded that I am not alone in this.  I love it when a woman, especially a mom, can admit her struggles and is willing to share them.  It is like a weight lifted off my shoulders when I hear someone talk about her child keeping her up all night, or throwing a fit in the grocery store.  This is the news we need to share.  It frees us from the pressure to be perfect.  Good moms are not perfect.  They make mistakes.  Good moms need and accept help.  I am so thankful for the help I have received from all of you good moms and good friends.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just Keep Swimming?

I spent most of my career as a Kindergarten teacher without children of my own.  A big part of my job, especially when dealing with a child's first time at school, is communicating with parents.  Looking back, I am appalled at how judgmental I was and how easily I gave advice that, I now know, I was not fully equipped to give.  When you are not a mother, there is no way to understand the life of one.  There were many days in September and beyond, where a had to tear a crying child from their mother or ask that a parent leave because it was what was best for the child.  What was I basing this on?  I am not really sure.  Eventually the child would stop crying.  Some in minutes, for others it would take months.  But eventually they all adjust.   

Now I am a mom.  I have been taking my daughter Jane to different programs since she was 3 months old, and continue to enroll her in everything from gymnastics to art.  She recently completed a gradual separation program where she had no problems and loved going to "school" for an hour, once a week.  When I take stock of all of this, I feel like I have done things as best I could.  So when she was ready to start nursery school last month, I thought the transition would be fine.  Not so much.

Today was her fifth time there and it is not getting any easier.  She cries and clings to me and asks me not to leave her.  The mother in me is holding back tears while my heart is breaking, but the teacher in me pries her little hands off of me and walks out the door.  The whole time she is there I feel sick and anxious.  When I pick her up she cries when she sees me, but seems otherwise okay.  The teachers tell me that she is crying less throughout the morning and seems to be having some fun.  Back at home she has become increasingly worried about me leaving her and we have been having trouble getting her to go to bed.  She is so afraid that I am going to leave.

After I dropped her off this morning, I went to see my mom at work and just broke down crying.  This is killing me.   Who am I doing this for?  She is upset, I am upset, but everyone tells me that it is "good for her" and "she'll be fine".  These are things that I once said as a teacher, but now I am on the other side of it - now it is MY child crying.  It is so much harder to follow the advice than to give it.  Of course I want Jane to be independent but I am confused about whether her independence needs to be forced upon her in such a way.

As we were driving home from school today, Jane was watching her favourite movie, Finding Nemo.  In the opening scene, Marlin is holding Nemo's injured fish egg and claims that he will never let anything happen to him.  Later  in the movie, Marlin recounts this to Dory who tells him "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.".  Am I Marlin?  Have I worried too much or kept her too close to me?  And if I am Marlin, is that such a bad thing?  

I am so conflicted about sending her to school and feel like no matter what I decide, it'll be wrong.  If I listen to the teacher in me, I will persevere through the pain and hope that in the end she is happy at school.  But in the process I feel like I am losing her faith in me.  She doesn't understand that I am trying to do right by her.  All she knows is that I am leaving her scared and alone in a place she doesn't want to be.  If I listen to the Marlin in me, I will stop taking her and try again in September when she may be more ready to handle it.  But even if I do this she may still cry and I'll know that I should have just gotten it all over with now.  And then there is the added pressure of what the other moms will think - that  I'm a bad mom dragging my poor child to school when she isn't ready, or that I'm a bad mom for indulging my child's fears and sheltering her home.

My mind is racing, my heart is in pieces and I am trying to figure out what is right.  When it comes to parenting, I have learned that the word "right" is not an absolute.  What is right for our family may not be right for another.  What is right for my first child may not be for my second.  I have to try not to worry about how my decisions are being perceived but rather how they are affecting the people who matter most to me.  Once again, advice that is much easier to give than take.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

False Start

It was track and field day in the seventh grade and I was standing at the starting line for the 100m dash.  I was never an athletic superstar and had no inclination that I might actually win - I was more of a "middle-of-the-pack" girl.  The gun went off and I started to run.  As I was running I noticed that I couldn't see anyone in front of me.  I ran faster.  I looked to the crowd of my peers jumping up and down and cheering.  I ran faster.  I was winning.  I couldn't believe that I was actually winning.  I felt amazing;  so happy and proud. When I crossed the finish line and turned around to accept my accolades, I died a little inside.  I was alone. The rest of the heat was still at the starting line.  It had been a false start. The cheers of encouragement from the crowd had actually been pleas for me to stop.  I had run my heart out, in front of EVERYONE, alone.  The walk back to the start line was probably one of the longest in my life.  Oh, the shame.  To make it worse, I had run the race again, placing fifth.  To this day, this moment is burned in my soul as the most humiliating of my life.  I think about it from time to time and am able to laugh about it now.

I liken this experience to that of being a mother.  There have been days when I feel like I have it all figured out.  My kids are happy and healthy, the laundry is put away, and I may have squeezed in a couple of stomach crunches.  Life is rolling right along.  Then I have the days where I feel like I'm going back to the beginning and all of the things I'm hoping and working for (a good night's sleep, a toddler who isn't crying, a clean house, and eating a salad instead of an entire bag of Doritos) seem 100 miles away.  There are days when I can hear the roar of the crowd and feel so connected to and supported by my friends and family. And then come the days when people are busy with their own lives or nobody seems to understand what I am feeling and I am once again alone on the track. As mothers, some days we win and some days we lose.  I have an idea of the mother that I want to be, for myself and for my family, and some days I am that mom - I'm out in front.  Other days, I lay awake with my thoughts and think of all the mistakes I made that day, and it's like I'm on the track walking back to the start line.

As I am writing this, my husband asks me if I think that I am losing as a mother. The answer I give him is no.  When I take some time to look at things I can see that I am doing just fine, but I also know there will continue to be moments of doubt and regret.  But everyday is another race and a chance to start again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Teething Bites

My mom tells me I was a terrible teether.  I was in so much pain, the doctors misdiagnosed me with ear infections more than once.  My mother-in-law claims that my husband was the worst teether in a family of three children.  If you are good at addition, you can guess what that adds up to - the most miserable, nightmare of an experience cutting teeth.  I hear that some moms don't even realize that their kids are teething until they just happen to see one or two.  I have to say, when I am told this it makes me want to punch them in the face.  I am not a violent person by nature, but one who most likely has been up countless times the night before with an unhappy baby and who has permanent bite marks on her nipples.  You can understand where my aggression is stemming from.

Both of my children are decent sleepers,  but this fact is obliterated when a new tooth is on it's way.  Lucky for me, both kids started teething at an early age and the fun didn't stop with Jane until she was over two.  Sure, there are breaks here and there, and that is usually when they will catch a cold or the stomach flu.  My little guy has been on quite a tear lately.  He was sick for almost a month while simultaneously cutting two teeth.  The boy can multi-task and I have the bags under my eyes to prove it.

As a veteran of dealing with teething babies, I have learned some tricks along the way.  Namely, there are no tricks and if something works for you one night you can count on the fact that it won't work the next.  Truly, the only real solution to teething, at least in our house, is patience.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Are We There Yet?

My daughter was born 7 weeks early.  Right from the start I worried incessantly about her development.  Granted, I am a worrier by nature, but after spending my first 15 days as a mother in the NICU,  my anxiety reached a whole new level.  Due to her small birth weight, we were  included in a Neonatal follow-up clinic to track her progress.  In some ways this was a positive experience, but it was also feeding into my paranoia.  The checklists, the questions, the pressure. I understand the reasoning behind tracking a child's milestones, however, I feel like there can be too much emphasis placed on the timing in which they are achieved.  Also, quite frankly, some of them don't hold much merit.  I never crawled, and yet somehow am a functioning member of society.  My daughter was "late" to crawl, according to experts, both medical and self-appointed.  I tried not to worry about it, but it was all anyone asked about once she was about 8 months old.  As the months wore on and my response was still "not yet", the looks of pity I received would stir up a panic inside.  Why was she not crawling?  Was there something wrong with her?  Was I doing something wrong?  Then low and behold, at 11 months she was on the move.  After that I was able to breathe a brief sigh of relief before the next onslaught of pressure and questioning.  Is she pulling herself to stand?  Is she walking?  Many times, these questions were coming from people who weren't parents themselves, just in-the-know about gross motor development.  She began walking, finally, at 14 months and hasn't stopped moving since.  

I remember sitting with my mother in the NICU a few days after Jane was born and her telling me about a dream she had of Jane as a toddler, running around in the kitchen.  I just started to cry when she said this because I felt like it was a dream that I would never see.  This sounds very dramatic, I know this and admit that can over-dramatize, but it can be hard to have perspective when you are clouded with fear.  I wish I could have known then how quickly she would grow, how strong she would become (and perhaps always was), how fast she would run and how high she would jump.  We took our own time and a few extra miles to get there, but we are here now and I wouldn't change a thing.

You'd think that after having this experience I would be a little less stressed about milestones with my second child, born 4 weeks early, and I was....a little.  I still find the anxiety creep in when I am asked about what he's doing or when I compare him to others.  My husband is always telling me that I shouldn't worry about what others are doing, but the comparison is unavoidable with things like Facebook.  Isn't that what Facebook is - a place to show how much better you are doing than your friends?  Regardless, the pressure to compete is there and once again we are not leading the pack.  My son has been slightly ahead of Jane with rolling, sitting up and just started crawling a week shy of being 11 months old.  I must admit, part of me is thrilled that he is crawling, because it is all anyone has been asking me about.  Another part, the wiser, more rational side of myself, is a little bit sad because I know that he is on the fast track to growing up on me.  Being a mother, for me, is a constant struggle between wanting my children to move forward, but also wanting to hold on to them just as they are.  I am trying to be more present with them and celebrate what they are doing and who they are today and not worry so much about pushing them towards tomorrow.  I know that tomorrow will always come and that I will be wishing for yesterday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ready, Set, Go

I became a mother almost three years ago and my second child is about to celebrate his first birthday.  I may not be as seasoned as some, but feel as though I have some insight into the world of motherhood.  I am currently on maternity leave and therefore deeply immersed in my role as a mom.  I would like to be clear that I do not think that by staying at home I am in any way superior in my mothering, merely that I am consumed by it as I have nothing else going on.  It is the hardest thing I have done, there are many days when I dream longingly of my "old life", but there is still no where else I would rather be.

The word race can mean many things, but most commonly we use it to describe "a family, tribe, people, or nation, believed or presumed to belong to the same stock; a lineage; a breed." as well as, "competitive action of any kind."  The idea of mothers as a breed or a family of women sounds very inviting and supportive.  Although we, as mothers, are connected by so many shared experiences the competition and "race" between women remains.  The race to get pregnant, to gain the least amount of weight, and then to lose the weight.  The race to sleeping through the night, crawling, walking, talking, toilet training, and the list goes on.  To once again quote Jamie Lee Curtis, from one of my daughter's favourite books, "Why are we racing and what are we winning?".  The pressure that we place on one another and on ourselves can become overwhelming.  I am very aware of this race and try hard to stay away from it, but it can be difficult to ignore.  My goal is to talk openly and honestly about my life as a mom, the things I struggle with, things that I have found success with and things that make me happy.  It is my hope that I can continue to resist the inclination to race and slow down with you for a million-way tie for first and last.

I am not sure how this blog will evolve, but I am excited to share it with you.

I would like to acknowledge that in starting this project I have been influenced by the thoughtful work of my friend and fellow mom, Leah Dillon, author of the wonderful blog TOUT(  Check it out today and every day.